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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Dave Turner


If you have not yet paid you 1986-87 subscriptions then enjoy this-BB as it is the last you will receive - you have been warned! ! .


7th March          Austria meeting in the Belfry - see page 3

7th March          Cuthbert’s leaders meeting - back room of The Hunters at 7pm. - see page 3

13/21 March      8 1/2 day camp in Daren Cilau - see page 5

6th June            Wessex Challenge - Belfry ground at 4pm. - see page 2.

Dinner referendum

As requested, we are including a referendum (skilfully prepared by Trebor) asking for members comments concerning the annual dinner.  Please find the time to fill it in and return it to Mike as otherwise we shall continue with the same format as in previous years.

BEC Sweat and T Shirts

Tony Jarratt has a number of the new sweat and T shirts still for sale.  If you want one (or more) then contact Tony a.s.a.p.

Membership Changes

New Members

1080     Tony Church, Shepton Mallet, Bath
1081     Phillip Provis, Paulton, Bristol
1082     Robin Brown, Cheddar, Somerset
1083     Nicholas Sprang, East Street, Worcester
1084     Richard Stevens, Worcester, Worcestershire

Address Changes

890       Jerry Crick, Leighton Buzzard, Bucks
1001     Graeme Johnson, Cosby, Leicester
1046     Dave Shand, Penarth, Cardiff
949       John Watson, Wells, Somerset
1019     Lavinia Watson, Wells, Somerset
1068     Jon Whiteley, Denbury, Devon
1031     Mike Wigglesworth, Wells, Somerset

Ratified Members

1070     Mary Robertson                         1073     Clive Lovell
1072     Mike McDonald                         1074     Tracey Newstead

Membership Changes

See Alfies notes on page 21 for corrections to the list published in the last BB.



Pierre's Pot

This was first banged open by Pete and Alison Moody in 1983 giving 300 ft. of large passage.  A very strong draught was followed down a tight rift to a choke with distant sound of a stream (Flange Swallet is only 50 ft. away). Andy Sparrow started digging there with Pete and Alison in the spring of 1986 and the breakthrough occurred on January 17th this year.  100 ft. of passage was found leading to the water which was followed downstream to an aven and a sump.  Upstream there is a larger streamway and extensive dry series ending in well decorated chambers. Total length is 500 ft. - work continues.

Andy Sparrow 

Gough’s Show Cave

Andy Sparrow and Chris Castle have opened up a new route to the water in Lloyd Hall.  Starting at the top of the 70 ft. pitch is a descending rift to a chimney landing on a chockstone.  From there it is a 35 ft. pitch to the water.

Andy Sparrow

Wessex Challenge

As members are aware it is our duty to organise the Wessex Challenge for 1987, this being the "prize" for winning it again last year.  The theme of the challenge will be "The Quest for the Rusty Tankard" and will be held on 6th June at 4pm.

St. Cuthbert’s

The on-going clean-up down Cuthbert’s is plodding on at a leisurely pace but it isn't until you start bringing rubbish out that you realise exactly how much is down there.

After a consultation with Brian Prewer, I've brought out quite a bit of the old telephone wire, especially between Wire Rift and Gour Hall.  It was broken in so many places it was more of a nuisance than an asset.  In any event, for rescue purposes we have the mole phone so the telephone is presumably not now needed.  If needed it would be quicker to lay a new line than repair the old one.

Although regular specific cleaning-up trips exist everybody can do their bit by shifting stuff they find scattered about "uphill" as it were.  Every bit helps.  In particular, there's a few bags at the bottom of the Entrance Rift; a filthy great long piece of tubing at the bottom of Pulpit Pitch and a dump of stuff just downstream of the main streamway duck.  I've also found a carbide dump in Lower Mud Hall which will be cleaned up next visit.  Who the hell's using carbide down there?

Mike (Trebor) McDonald

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting

This had to be postponed and is now due to be held in the back room of The Hunters on Sat. 7th March at 7pm.  It is a long time since we last held a meeting and I hope that all leaders will make a positive attempt to attend.

For those who are not sure how the leader system works here are a few notes.  The leader system was set up soon after the cave was opened in 1953 with the prime objective to protect the cave.  It was realised that if unrestricted access was allowed many passages would be pushed which although appearing 'virgin' have either been carefully pushed to avoid damage to formations or were known, through the survey, to re-enter the known cave after after a very short distance.

Leaders have to make a number of trips into the cave, showing that they are familiar with all the major routes and have their 'leaders' form 'ticked off' by current leaders. The prospective leader's attitude with regards to conservation etc. is also taken into account before they are issued with a key.

Originally leaders had to be members of the BEC but back in the late 60's we extended the scheme to cover people outside the club providing that they had adequate insurance cover. This move was taken on two accounts; firstly, to head off accusations that the BEC were keeping Cuthbert’s as their own private cave; and secondly, to allow other clubs to provide their own leaders for their trips, thus taken some of the 'tourist trip' load from the BEC leaders.

I think that the leader system speaks for itself, there have been relatively few accidents in spite of the problems of the entrance rift, and the cave is not being spoilt quite as fast as most of the other caves.  This doesn't mean that we should be complacent and pat ourselves on the back. In fact we should be ashamed at the amount of rubbish etc. that has remained in the cave after digging pushes (I am as guilty of this as anyone!), and I am pleased to see that present members intend to do something about it (see Trebor's notes above)

Dave Turner


There will be a meeting in the Belfry on Saturday 7th March, for anybody interested in corning to Austria this summer.

The trip will revolve mainly around connecting last summers discovery - Weisalmschacht, with the Hirlatzhohle, making one of the deepest through trips in the world.

We hope to keep the numbers reasonably low this year as 3 car loads of BEC, the same number of NCC and a coach load of South Wales CC. tourists somewhat upset the local cavers and made a mockery of our host, Robert's "camp where you like but don't let the Foresters see you" policy!!  Those wishing to go should be proficient in S.R.T.

Mark Lumley

Treasurer's Report

Since the last B.B. little has changed on the financial front, we still have regular and quite healthy income arriving from the Belfry Bednights and deposit savings now total some £750.  The current account goes up and down like a yo-yo and there is little point in telling you what's in it, but suffice to say we're in a generally comfortable financial position at profit.

However, with the winter and cold weather now with us, guests and members staying at the Belfry may decrease which together with increased coal consumption and lighting etc. will affect income somewhat.  In addition, some £500 has just disappeared from the current account to pay for the new sweat and T-shirts and although this will be recovered in due course from sales, the cash flow has been hit a little.

Furthermore, following the fire in the Belfry over the New Year, the Committee decided it was necessary to update the fire prevention/tackling situation.  Hopefully we won't have another fire but we might as well learn from this one.  Some observers on the night of the fire mentioned a few pertinent matters which may need up-grading and changing.   This could cost £500 or so, thus proving a further drain on resources.

If you keep supporting the club by buying the new sweat and T-shirts and by using the Belfry, I think we'll survive a little longer,

Mike (Trebor) McDonald.


Our thanks go to Ron Wyncoll for the donation to the club of an Oldham charging rack, many thanks.

Black Holes Expedition

A 200 hour (8 1/2 day) sponsored camp in Daren Cilau has been organised starting on Friday 13th March. The team will be digging to try and get the Aggy connection over and done with.  Money raised will go towards the Black Holes Expedition to Mexico.  BEC members on the expedition will be Bob Cork, Dany Bradshaw, Tim Gould, Steve Milner and Mark Lumley.  All donations gratefully received.  Visitors at the camp are welcome.


Jill Tuck

It is with the deepest regret that we must record the passing of Jill Tuck, who died on Friday, January 9th of this year.  To her husband, Norman, we extend our heartfelt sympathy.

Jill Rollason, as she was before her marriage, joined the B.E.C. in 1949 and was one of the first girls to do so.  From then on, the club always occupied a special place in her affections and throughout her life she remained one of its most loyal supporters.  She became a Life Member in 1973.  From assisting in the work on the excavation of the Roman villa at Kingsweston, she went on to take part in the early exploration of Stoke Lane Slocker, and pioneered some very tight passages, including one which became known at the time as " Rollason's Romp".  She took an active part in a number of club projects; wrote for the B.B. on a variety of topics and was elected as Ladies' Representative to the club committee in 1951.

Jill was forced to resign from this position the following year due to ill health, but came back to play an active part in the surveying of Redcliffe caves and the opening of Pen Park Hole.  On a lighter note, she was responsible for the expression 'The B.E.C. get everywhere.' and her wide range of interests included submitting entries for the song competitions of 1961 and 1962.  She played a very considerable part in building the stone hut at present used by the M.R.O. and the gargoyle at the end of this building was her work.

After her marriage to Norman Tuck, they moved to Wales to live at Llanfrechfa, where they became noted for their work in the Roman mine at Draethen, near Machen, Newport.  Their discovery that this is the only known Roman mine not to have been worked subsequently was a notable 'first'.

In later years, when her health began to fail; her mind remained as active as ever and was keen and alert to the very end.  It is no exaggeration to say that Jill played a very great part in creating the club spirit for which the B.E.C. is justifiably proud.


Fame At Last???



Extensions On Llangattock Mountain

By Mark Lumley

A few months ago the Crew started speculating about likely places to dig in Agen Allwedd with a view to a Hard Rock Connection.  Superimposing a grid of probable fault lines onto a survey of caves of the CWM Clydach Catchment, it became apparent that both Daren and Aggy largely follow a set pattern through the mountain.  Passages head predominantly from NNW-SSE interrupted by minor holdups and switchbacks which almost invariably head off to the East.  A logical assumption was that the 12 O'clock High boulder choke was held up on a major fault running down through the Trident passage in Aggy. I drew on a passage heading NNW from this point and, assuming that it behaved in the same way as those on either side projected it through a point very closed to Gothic Passage (Southern Streamway) and on up to Midnight Passage (Just off the second boulder choke in Aggy).

Fish used to dig Gothic Passage back in the 60's.  His description of it sounded very much like parts of Hard Rock. Blitz and I went to look at Midnight Passage.  I burst out laughing when we climbed into it.  It's identical to the Rock Steady Cruise - crystal covered walls, constricted switchbacks, undulating red roof etc.

We wrote to Bill Gascoigne of the Aggy Committee requesting permanent key and permission to dig Gothic Passage and Midnight Passage.  The key was granted, Midnight was O.K. to dig but the Gloucester C.C. and Chelsea S.S. had both started digging in different parts of Gothic.

Preliminary digs in Midnight by teams of BEC and UC4 made minor extensions but a large rubble cone fallen from an aven blocks the way on.  Work continues and looks very promising.

Meanwhile, on the 11th of January, the two Rival digging groups down at Gothic Passage both made breakthroughs, the Gloucester finding 400ft of Railway Tunnel sized passage and the Chelsea about 1200ft of wide bedding passage with occasional chambers.

The following weekend Jim Smart and I drove over to Whitewalls and were amused to see two somewhat over manned digging teams heading down the cave in search of 'caverns measureless!!'  We followed them down early in the evening.

The Chelsea extension (Renaissance) is excellent despite several long, low crawls.  Crystals cover the walls and there are some fine walking passages.  Again, it's similar to Hard Rock.  Jim and I arrived at the end to find the four remaining Chelsea cavers digging out a sand choke.

We joined in and an hour later broke through into another 180 foot of open passage ending in another straightforward sandy dig.  The end of this passage is right next to the first sump in Aggy and it looks likely to connect to 'a dry' inlet between sumps in the May time series.

Meanwhile, the Gloucester group had broken through again into extensive walking passage broken up with occasional crawls.  Large Avens in both extensions suggest the presence of a higher series.  This extension is heading South East, straight towards the terminal boulder choke of the Hard Rock.

In all about a mile of passage has been explored so far.  Both extensions follow the lines of our projected passage extensions with almost alarming accuracy.  Needless to say, the crew are back down at Hard Rock next weekend as a race is clearly on with a connection definitely on the cards in the near future.


The Exploration Of West End Series. May 1983 – May 1986

The following article was intended for inclusion in a Caving Report to be published on completion of the survey of the West End Series.  Due to present caving politics it would seem that any future publishing of surveys of S.S.S.I’s would be against the interests of the Mendip caving fraternity and so it has been decided to include this write-up in the B.B.  My apologies for the somewhat monotonous nature of this report but it has been written essentially to record details of the exploration of the series for the benefit of future speleo­historians.  Should an Eastwater Caving Report ever come to fruition this article will be updated and included.

Tony Jarratt.      4/7/86

"Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough to mask thy monstrous visage?"    Shakespeare

From the B.E.C. Log(8/5/83) - Keith Gladman and Andy Lolley visited Ifold's Series, via Dolphin Pot and Harris's Passage, where they had a "frig in the boulders'!


On an uncertain date, probably the 28th May, KG and AL dug into several hundred feet of roomy inclined bedding and rift passages after a total of some six hours of excavation in the low tube at the end of Ifold's Series.  The two main rift passages in the new SOHO and THE STRAND series were named SOHO and THE STRAND the extension itself being christened WEST END SERIES due to its position relative to the rest of the cave.

The following week KG and eight B.E.C. entered the new stuff intent on surveying, unfortunately forgetting the tape in their excitement!  Tim Large's compass bearings showed the dip to be 210o.


Most of the obvious side passages were explored to gain a couple of hundred feet of extensions, one of these leading to an 80ft high aven free climbed by TL and Stuart MacManus to where it became too tight. This was later estimated to be almost directly below the club's Morton' s Pot Dig.  The new series was dry at this time.

Phil Romford, Tony Jarratt and John Watson followed the first team after a liquid lunch.  It was raining on the surface as they entered the cave.  After route finding problems they met KG’s team at the breakthrough point, continuing on into the West End as the others left for the surface.  The downpour had by now travelled through the cave and entered West End from the 80ft aven (Snotrom Aven), sinking in a tight bedding plane below.  The three tried to follow this water, the most likely route being an awkward bedding (the ORGAN GRINDER) which PR pushed for some way to a very tight squeeze.  AJ passed the squeeze after a struggle and he and JW pushed two further squeezes to reach a descending canyon passage with a 20ft pitch in the floor which was traversed over to reach an eyehole above a deep pitch.  This was estimated at 60-80ft deep and the stream could be heard clearly below, though blasting of the eyehole was deemed necessary to allow access.  The 20ft pitch was free climbed to a short passage and further tight pitch estimated at 30ft.  This section of cave was named GREEK STREET after a low thoroughfare in Soho.  A tiring exit was made and the heaps of froth in the 380ft Way testified to the amount of floodwater that had passed through the cave.  A third team of Jim Smart and Mark Lumley never reached the new series, getting lost in Ifold's en route.


June 11th saw a large team, I.G, AJ, AL, JW, TL, SM and G1yn Bolt (W.C.C.) on a 7+ hour trip attempting to push Greek St.  After widening the top section of the 30ft pitch AJ descended to a wider section with an extremely tight inclined squeeze entering the side of the un-descended 75ft pitch.  He and KG passed the squeeze and laddered 25ft to the floor of the pitch, christened GLADMAN SHAFT.  They went off to explore while the others attempted to widen the eyehole above with a hammer and chisel as it was thought the squeeze could not be reversed.

The explorers entered a high rift passage where a 2ft sta1agmite column was- removed to pass a constricted section.  Beyond lay some 200ft of larger passage with many loose boulders, ending in another tight section.  This and various climbs in the main rift were left for the future and the two had a desperate struggle back up the inclined squeeze as the chisellers had failed to open up the eyehole - the thought of being blasted out of their predicament losing all appeal when the strong inward draught was noted!  A slow, tiring exit was made which set the trend for all future trips in this awkward and exhausting series.  Before leaving the eyehole was "banged" by TL.

The results of the bang were checked the following day by JW a Darren Granfield who found the eyehole to be “comp1etely demolished.”   They laddered the resulting 25ft rift to reach a ledge with a further roomy 50ft pitch to the bottom of the shaft.  The passages below we re-inspected but nothing new found apart from some fine helictites.


Returning to the squeeze out of the Organ Grinder, an up-dip passage with a stalagmite false floor was pushed for some 30ft to junction with a large rift passage - REGENT STREET - 8ft wide by 3 high and liberally decorated with flowstone, helictites, cave pearls etc.  At one point the passage was barred by a series of foot high crystal cones - the TERMITE HILLS.  Its delicate beauty earned this area the title of CRYSTAL PALACE.


The two completely mind-boggled explorers returned along Regent St. little expecting to almost walk into another 100ft of high level rift 15ft above the floor of the main passage.  This was later named WARDOUR STREET.  A major boulder choke sealed the end of this passage but JW looked at possible climbs to reach higher levels that could be seen above.  The rift was estimated at probably 100ft high in places.

Hardly able to believe their luck the two started out but soon met Graham Wilton - Jones, Jane Clarke and “Bucket” Tilbury.  These three were dubious when told of the new finds so were dragged off to Crystal Palace where they were forced to repent.  The Termite Hills were passed with care and a short stretch of formation filled passage entered which dropped down to yet another marvel - an emerald green lake 3ft wide by 30ft long with a drop beyond to a further pool and stalagmite choke.  Following the mode of London place-names the pool obviously became THE SERPENTINE.  All then made an excited exit to spread the good news, though anyone who was familiar with Eastwater was found to be difficult to convince!


On 15th June PR photographed Crystal Palace and Regent St.  A few small rift passages nearby were examined and named THREADNEEDLE STREET eighteen months later!

These rifts were again looked at three days later by AJ, TL, GB, JW and Andy Sparrow.  They were pushed in various directions for some 200ft and found to be well adorned with thousands of small helictites.  As established, a handshake connection from a tight hole in the floor of the entrance to Regent St. to the "dog-legs" at the head of Greek St.


This team then continued to the end of Greek St. to attack the terminal squeeze with hammer and chisel.  When widened to the size of AJ, he was poked through to discover 20ft of tight, potholed canyon passage which abruptly doubled back on itself at the head of a beautiful 40ft pitch - LOLLEY POT.  His screams of ecstasy lured AS and JW through the squeeze and while GB rushed back to Gladman Shaft for a ladder the three admired the new pitch.  Perfectly oval and some 20ft long by 8ft wide the pot was a free-hanging one in black lime­stone.  A real classic.  On receiving the ladder all three descended to find 80ft of slimy keyhole passage, a 6ft pot and 30ft of roomy phreatic tube ending in a body sized tube with a howling draught whistling in.  This was half full of water and obvious signs of recent sumping to some 30ft up the walls precluded any investigation at this time.  Great difficulty was had in reversing the muddy 6ft pot and keyhole passage and another weary exit was made.  To quote the B.E.C. Log "…with much moaning and cursing.  A bloody fine trip.”

Work on mapping the new finds commenced on June 22nd when Trevor Hughes, Rob Harper, Edric Hobbs and DG completed a grade 5 survey from the Serpentine to the Greek St. / Organ Grinder junction.


25th June. AJ, SM, TL, PR, JW, Matt Tuck and Brian Prewer.  JW continued his series of climbs into the roof of Wardour St. to find an ascending low passage - UPPER WARDOUR STREET - which was not fully explored.  Two teams surveyed from the squeeze above Lolley Pot and from the head of Greek St. to the 35ft pitch below Dolphin Pot.  A draughting hole above the "Lolley Pot squeeze" was banged by TL.

The following day JW and Mark Brown found a further 100ft in Upper Wardour St. to a point where loose boulders blocked the way on.  Some small red stalagmite flow was noted and it was assumed that the end was not far below the surface.  Meanwhile TH and RH surveyed Wardour St. and the remainder of Regent St.  It was on this trip that the name Wardour St. was first used.  From the Log "….Rob says it's where Blue Movies are made! Also from the Log TH pleaded “Will somebody stop Quiet John discovering passage quicker than we can survey it.”

Three days later TL, Dave Turner and Paul Hodgson inspected the results of the previous week’s bang, which had done little, and looked at other holes in the roof of Greek St.  PH photographed the pretties in Regent St.

July saw continued enthusiastic exploration.  On the 2nd, DG, JW, Andrew George and Ian Caldwell carried on with investigations in the Threadneedle St. area.

On the 7th Barry Wharton was conned into dragging RB's diving gear to the Serpentine where a dive was made to 12ft depth and all parts of the pool checked.  “Definitely NO way on!”

Two days later a large party entered the cave. GB, Pete Hann and Julie Wootton (all W.C.C.) photographed in Regent St. while JW, AJ, TL and Dave “Skunk” Newsome (U.S.A.) took radio - location equipment to the end of Wardour St, where a successful fix was established by BP and helpers on the surface.  The point located is 150-200ft below ground level at a point near the E.S.C.C. hut. Also on this trip another 30ft of rift was found off Regent St. and a visual connection made from the top of Soho back into Ifold's Series.  Only a few rocks were moved to open this up revealing that the new series has always been virtually open!  The connection was not physically passed due to its loose nature but may be useful in the event of a rescue.

On the 13th July (!) Pete & Angie Glanville and Tony Boycott (C.S.S.) failed to find the new series. On the 21st JS and Neill Scallon (C.S.S.) at last succeeded but light failure ended their trip.  They returned the following day with fresh lights and visited Regent St.

AJ, TL, Martin Grass, Chris Castle, Steve Lane, Debbie Armstrong and I.C.C.C. members Chris Birkhead and Hark Bound followed them a day later to photograph and place a further bang on the "Lolley Pot II Squeeze.

With the continued good weather, an attack on the end of Greek St. was planned and on 6th August AJ and Graham "Ug" Summers (N.C.C.) moved eight sandbags of liquid mud and gravel from the tube before disillusionment set in.  Very strong draught was evident.  JW extended his examination of roof passages to the Greek St. area.  On the same day JS, NS and ML visited the "pretties" but light failure again forced a retreat.  Will they ever reach the bottom?

Work on the dig continued on the 27th when TL, AJ, and Peter Bolt (C.U.C.C.) accompanied by Howard & Debbie Limbert, Alan Box and "Noddy" (N.C.C.) removed more bags of mud and gravel to allow AJ to squeeze along 15ft of foul, muddy crawl into 20ft of roomier phreatic rift passage.  The stream sank behind mud banks just below this and a nearby hole appeared to connect with the continuation of the streamway but this was too tight to pass. TL yet again banged the "Lolley Pot squeeze.  PB photographed the pretties and got lost three times.  He also lost most of his overalls and the arse of AJ's furry suit which was underneath!  The N.C.C. team were suitably derogatory about Mendip caves.


October saw the next visit to the series when, on the 8th, AJ, and BW were there in wet conditions. No water was entering via Snotrom Aven but a stream was heard in Soho.  This reappeared in the 20ft aven off Greek St. after appearing briefly further back as a 6ft waterfall seen through a rock window high on the south east wall.  Beyond the "terminal dig" some 50ft of inclined tube was pushed and named BLACKWALL TUNNEL - neither for its ample size or cleanliness.  Smoke bombs fired at the draughting rift above "Lolley Pot squeeze" were not detected in Regent St. or anywhere else.  Other bombs lit in the Strand succeeded merely in asphyxiating those present.

29th October. TL and AJ, later assisted by Alan Taylor (W.C.C.) re-excavated the old route from the Boulder Ruckle straight into Boulder Chamber to give an easier access route to parties working in West End.

As a result of five months of almost exclusive Eastwater trips and with the approach of winter, visits to the new series tailed off and it was not until 15th April, 1984 that the next important trip took place.  TL, AJ, AL and Robin Gray went to bang the draughting hole above "Lolley Pot squeeze" but were foiled by lack of wire which it was forgotten had been removed from the cave some weeks before!  AL and AJ surveyed from the end of Blackwall Tunnel to the aforementioned squeeze - a filthy and arduous job.  All left the cave at 8.20pm, one and a half hours overdue, to be met by a prospective rescue party of Alan Downton and Fiona Lewis.  On this trip a hibernating bat was noticed in the passage between Soho and the Strand.

On the 5th May TL and AJ surveyed up-dip in the Strand to a terminal 20ft aven and down-dip to Snotrom Aven.  The cave was bone dry apart from the providentially continuous trickle at the “Magic Fountain” in Ifold Series.

Surveying continued on the 26th with JW, AJ and Nick Hill (S.M.C.C.) completing Upper Wardour St. Smoke bombs lit in Morton's Pot were not detected in West End but produced a faint smell at the “Magic Fountain”.  The new series was now one year old.

On the two Wednesday evenings of 13th and 20th June PR and TL dug and banged at the sharp bend just before Regent St.  On 24th these two plus AJ and Mike? (ex M.C.G.) rushed to this site for the breakthrough.  PR shifted about half a ton of boulders, blocking both his own exit and that of those below him for over an hour!  A short section of open passage was entered but was blocked by more loose boulders. A couple of narrow escapes resulted from this trip - large "Henrys" and gravity being responsible.  To cure this PR, TL and Jeremy Henley banged the offending boulders on the 27th noting that fumes were evident at the top of the strand.

This area saw its final visit on 11th July by PR, TL, JH and Tim Swan.  The last bang had removed some of the boulders but many more blocked the way on.  An aural connection was established through the choke to a similar blockage in the floor of Wardour St. above.  The dig was then abandoned.

With a distinct lack of enthusiasm from B.E.C. members who had worked bloody hard in the cave for over a year and with a tight and muddy crawl being the only feasible way on, it was decided to invite the W.C.C. in the shape of Pete and Alison Moody to assist in further exploration.  Accordingly on 30th June they went to the end of the new series with AJ, JW and Rich Websell (WC.C.).  Alison managed to pass the terminal squeeze at the top of Blackwall Tunnel to be stopped by another squeeze after 6ft.  The stream sink and nearby hole were investigated but need banging.

Meanwhile work on the survey slowly progressed.  On 11th August AJ and JW surveyed the loop passage off Organ Grinder and the remainder of Soho.  TL and P & AM returned to the Blackwall Tunnel to place 2lb of bang on the two end squeezes.  The result was inspected within half an hour as the fumes quickly dispersed in the strong draught.  AM passed the final section to gain 10ft of tight passage and a further constriction which was then blasted with another 21b.  All then left the cave.

A return was made here on 15th September by AJ, P & AM and Pete Watts (W.C.C.).  The terminal squeeze was chiselled out and passed by AM to yet another squeeze which PM banged.  AM then conquered this to jubilantly emerge in a 10-15ft high, well decorated cross rift with a descending bedding plane ahead. Loneliness, pools of bang fumes and the instability of the floor gave AM good excuses for an honourable retreat, but before struggling back to sanity the last squeeze was again banged.


Further exploration here was then delayed due to an unfortunate club squabble which lasted for a few weeks until resolved in the traditional manner at a convivial Wessex barrel party.  Thus on 27th Sept. a combined team returned to the "wide" open extensions in very wet conditions.  JW, AJ, P &. AM and Paul Whybro (W.C.C.) all passed the squeezes to CHARING CROSS.  The promising bedding plane closed down both up and down-dip though an extra down-dip section led to a small static sump.  The cross rift was not pushed far up-dip as straws and loose boulders partially blocked the route.  The down-dip continuation, to the south east, was a fairly level and crystal floored rift with a profusion of formations similar to those of Regent St, somewhere above. AJ doffed his filthy boots and oversuit to follow this for some 60ft to a junction with a much larger gallery.


This sealed the fate of the crystal floor and all were soon assembled in this 10ft high sandy floored passage admiring a stalagmite resembling a cricket ball on a stick.  With the 50th anniversary of both clubs being upon them it was unanimously decided to christen this major new passage JUBILEE LINE. Some 60ft further, after a traverse over a collapsed area of floor, the edge of a 50ft pitch was reached.   The large black space below issued forth the siren call of an active stream. Not having any tackle the area was searched for alternative ways down resulting in the discovery of two more pitches, 30ft and 20ft deep but definitely not free-climbable.  On the way "out an interesting hole" under a flow stone bank in the up-dip rift of Charing Cross was chiselled open to allow AM to force another squeeze to the head of a 15ft phreatic pot, assumed to connect with the unknown route below the other pitches.


After a suitable rest the attack was resumed on 10th November with a strong party of TL, AJ, P & AM, Pete W, GB, Geoff Newton and Jeff Price (W.C.W.).  Passage versus body size left GB at "Lolley squeeze" and JP in the Blackwall Tunnel.  The rest reached the new stuff with a struggle and an awkward descent of the 20ft pitch Pot was made into a large but gloomy and obviously flood prone chamber at the base of the two larger pitches.  This instantly became the CHAMBER OF HORRORS.  The enticing stream entered from a tiny crawl only to sink into a tight rift some 20ft below the boulder “floor.”  This inlet proved to give a visual connection back to JP in the bottom of Blackwall Tunnel which could be blasted to provide much easier access. The whole of the chamber was coated in sticky mud and small bits of polythene bag perched high up on boulders are evidence of recent flooding to a depth of around 60ft above the stream sink. The intermittent Greek St. stream can hardly be the cause of this and so a hidden streamway beneath the chamber is assumed to be the villain of the piece.  The area bears a distinctly unhealthy appearance to parts of the flood prone Ogof Hesp Alyn in North Wales.  Beyond the chamber PW climbed 20ft into the continuation of Jubilee Line and followed a fine section of passage some 200ft long. Partly of walking size and with fine though muddy formations, its main claim to fame is an immaculate nest of cave pearls set off by their presence on a wide mud bank.  Conditioned to accept the worst the team were not surprised when the passage lowered to about 5 inches high in a descending crawl.  AM again proved to be the best invention since drain rods when she forced the crawl to a small chamber and wet u-tube beyond. PH then took over and pushed this after a struggle up the steep and muddy far side.  He gained a further 50ft of fine passage ending in an impassable wet squeeze with a stalagmite choke above.  Just prior to this a strongly draughting rift is undoubtedly the way on but requires bang.  Back at the climb up, various side passages were examined to reveal a sumped inlet with descending phreatic ramps below leading to a mud choke and a small active sink. Time and exhaustion then forced the team to leave the series without descending the 15ft phreatic pitch or checking possible up-dip routes towards Regent St.


A return visit was made on 17th November by P & AM, GN, PW, GW-J and JC, when the 15ft pitch was laddered to reach another typical Eastwater bedding plane, choking down-dip in the direction of the Chamber of Horrors but developing up-dip into a slippery, mud covered incline - ABERFAN PASSAGE.  Across the bedding from the foot of the pitch a dried up streamway with large sandstone cobbles led after 100ft to the superb CENOTAPH AVEN, 20-30ft in diameter and at least 60ft high.  Meanwhile, in Charing Cross, QW-J and JC gave up their attempted survey work in muddy frustration.

GW-J and JC were back again on 9th December together with BT and Mike Davies (N.U.C.C.).  They rigged a fixed rope traverse above the Chamber of Horrors to link the two sections of Jubilee Line and once again surveyed the dreadful Blackwall Tunnel - by mistake!

On 15th JW, GN, PW and PM spent some time chemically widening the squeeze to the 15ft pot, Blackwall Tunnel squeezes and the hoped-for by-pass to Blackwall Tunnel itself. JW not appearing with the others was found on the way out at Dolphin 35ft Pitch with “light pox.”

The following day ML and the L.A.D.S. descended upon Chamber of Horrors where a muddy squeeze was dug open into a 6ft wide by 15ft long and 40ft high aven with possible passages off at the top.

This was looked at again on 30th December by ML, Steve Milner and Lisa Taylor and after being climbed was found to have no ways on.  The rest of the team, Andy Lovell, Dave Shand, Tim Gould and Nipper Harrison were stopped by the Blackwall Tunnel Squeezes.

The new years work commenced on 5th January with a climbing attempt on Cenotaph Aven by GN and AJ. The latter free-climbed the notch at the far side of the aven to a height of 30ft where it could be seen to close down some 15ft above.  This is merely an alcove to the main part of the aven which will need bolting from floor level.  GN then pushed the inclined Aberfan Passage to his limit but thought that someone very thin and determined could get further.

Threadneedle St. once again became popular on 12th when TL, AJ ,EH, RH and Chris Batstone visited the area. A brief dig in the left hand rift was followed with an even briefer detonation of 1+lbs of bang in the right hand rift where a stubborn boulder blocked the way on.  The very strong outward draughts in both these passages could be evidence of a connection with the Cenotaph Aven area below.

To test this theory SH, JS and ML smoke-bombed the Aven on the next day but nothing was detected by TG who was waiting in Regent St.

A Wessex team of P & AM, PPW, GE, Martin Buckley and Paul Sutton tied up some loose ends on 26th.  A 20ft draughting aven in Whitehall closed down in small tubes.  In Jubilee Line the passage to the left, by the pearls was pushed to some tubes heading back to the start of Jubilee.

A B.E.C. team of AJ, John Dukes, Pete Rose, Pete "Snablet" Macnab and Tom Chapman removed bang debris from the Threadneedle St. dig on 3rd February.

On 9th Feb. a prospective aven-bolting squad of ML, GN and SM got as far as "Lolley Pot squeeze" where PW and PIM informed them that the grovel before Blackwall Tunnel had sumped back up the passage - very off-putting and unfortunately the shape of things to come!

The next attempt here on 2nd March nearly ended in disaster.  P & AM and PW met TG and DS on their way out; who told the newcomers that the Blackwall Tunnel grovel was open but pretty wet.  They passed the grovel with 2 inches of airspace and carried on to Cenotaph where GN, ML and SN had just got their first bolt in.  PH told the others of the state of the duck and they told him that it was okay on the way in.  Both club logs here state that each thought the other was “bullshitting!” Suddenly realisation dawned on the assembled and a dash for freedom was made, discarding all the bolting kit in their rush.  On arrival at the duck it was found to have unusable airspace but PW miraculously managed to get through.  After 2 hours of damming and bailing the interred ones managed to escape, having learnt a valuable lesson for the future.

Hoping to by-pass this obstacle AJ, Andy Cave and Tim Robbins (S.V.C.G.) went to Regent St. on the 9th March and removed more debris from the Threadneedle St. dig to create enough space for AJ to squeeze into a vertical rift where a climb up 20ft of loose boulders reached a short level section containing a superb solitary stalagmite - cream with an orange top and about a foot high.  This made up for the lack of any way on.  TR managed to reach the same spot by squeezing through the tight rift above the dug way in.

April saw only a tourist trip by PM, TC and Rich York, and a potential pushing trip on 4th May by GN, MB, Bob Lewis, Dave and Hike (S.V.C.C.) was dogged by minor disasters and aborted.

Trips really began to tail off now with the treacherous nature of the duck giving many weary diggers a chance to escape to a change of scenery.  GN, P & AM, Doug Mills and Simon? had another bash though on 8th June. The choked drain-hole in the duck proved to be un-clearable and even approaching it from the crawl in the Chamber of Horrors didn't help as the crawl became too tight.

25th August saw the next working trip with AJ, GN and Duncan Frew tackling the cave in preparation of the duck drying out.  The duck itself was well sumped up and all of the series was very wet - Lolley Pot being particularly impressive.

Only two Wessex trips occurred in September.  On 21st PN and DF again found the duck to be sumped back 20ft despite only a tiny stream flowing into it.  On 28th GN, on a solo trip, had a good look around the upper passages looking for “worthwhile leads!.”

JW and CC made a visit to Soho on 8th October with similar ideas. November and December 1985 saw only de-tackling trips by P&A.M and G.N. and the latter led two tourist trips in January 1986 - that on 27th resulting in the rediscovery of the voice connection between Regent St and the head of Greek St.

In April (appropriately enough on All Fool's Day) GN, DF and Maggie McPherson found the S-bend still sumped and rigged the pitches in preparation for a dam building exercise to alleviate the situation.

Two days later GN end DF transported cement, polybags and a length of pipe to the site and commenced work on the dam.

In June 1986 the cave was closed due to meddling by the Nature Conservancy Council.  It is hoped that work will continue when this problem is resolved.

Tony Jarratt,   4/7/86.


Oliver Lloyd Memorial Fund

University of Bristol Spelaeological Society

Prof. R. J. G. Savage,
Department of Geology,
The University

The Secretary
Bristol exploration Club


The UBSS Committee recently resolved to establish a fund to commemorate the memory of our late Treasurer and Editor, Oliver Lloyd.  In view of the importance Oliver attached to the Proceedings we see it as highly appropriate that we use a substantial part of the annual interest on the fund's capital to help with the shortfall in publication costs.

Since the founding of the UBSS in 1919 we have published 50 issues of the Proceedings.  Its standing in spelaeological and archaeological circles is very high, because of both the quality of the contents - it is one of the very few refereed journals in the caving world - and the quality of production.

As we are a student society, student members receive free copies as of right and the price to others is kept low to ensure adequate sales among cavers.  The University provides an annual grant in aid of publication and from time to time other small grants can be obtained.  But with the present stringency in academic finances there can be no increase from these sources; nevertheless printing costs continue to rise.

The quantity of good material suitable for publication continues to increase and it would be sad to have to reject any of it solely on grounds of poverty.  The 1986 issue will be large with the second group of papers on Gough's Cave in addition to other caving contents.  In the coming year we shall be facing a shortfall of around £500 in the printing bill. In attempts to avert this, Oliver recommended increased membership subscriptions, and we are currently seeking advertising and other sources of grants.

Readership and influence of the Proceedings spreads far beyond the UBSS; it is one of the major British caving journals and has an international circulation.  Oliver's activities and reputation also extended far beyond the confines of the UBSS.  It is this wider context therefore that we appeal to all cavers for support.

We aim to raise £7,500 and use the interest to aid publications.  So if you are still active in caving, or if  you still have a nostalgia for the good old days with Oliver, do please give us your support in perpetuating the memory of a very much loved caver.  Cheques small and large should be made out to Oliver Lloyd Memorial Fund and sent to me at the above address.

Bob Savage UBSS President


Corrections To 1986 Membership List





P. Blogg



R.G. Brown (1957 - 1960)

F. Darbon



G. Blankhorn (1960)

P. Ford



B. Glocking (1976 – 1979)

G. Ford



J. Watson (1979 - )

D. Glover



Jane Glover (1967 – 1971)

Tony Hollis



Liz Hollis

Liz Hollis



Tony Hollis

M. Jaenmaire



I. Rees (1967)

D. Statham



W. Stanton (1963 – 1096)

In addiction, Pete McNab is quoted as his original number on first joining in 1967.  He left in 1971; rejoined in 1985 and was given No 1051. The list is correct, since he should have kept his original number, but now the number 1051 is vacant.  However, there is NO TRACE of any membership number for Trevor Hughes.  He is given as 92 which is Pat Woodroffe (1946-53) arid the other '92's are as follows:

192       Bob Crabtree (1950 - 53)

292       B. Goodwin (1953)

392       Mike Baker (1958 - present day)

492       Sheila Paul (1961 - 1971 )

592       Eddie Welch (1965-1979)

692       Roger Toms (1968 - 1979)

792       Ken James (1972 - 1981)

892       Marion Barlow (1976 - 1980)

992       Mark Brown (1981 - 1985)

I’ve looked all down the list, but can't find him anywhere.  It might help to know-which year he joined.

Hope this helps.


Editor's Note: Trevor Hughes has membership number 923, somehow his number lost a digit in my computer – sorry Trevor and Alfie.    


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Dave Turner

In the next BB I hope to have an article on the Trou de Glaz through trips and Wig's history of Gough's Cave.

Also I hope to include a report on the 1200' of new passage found in Daren Cilau at Easter by Mark and crew.  It could be a lot more by the next BB as the end of the new passage looks promising and is heading straight towards the Clydach Gorge.


I'm told by Trebor that the response to the Dinner questionnaire can hardly be called overwhelming - in fact I think he's only had about 6 replies.  This BB contains a letter from Jock strongly condemning the committee for even sending out the referendum!

The current feeling of the committee is that the location and style of the Dinner is okay but that we want a main speaker and after dinner entertainment.  The sketches, such as Oliver, done in the past have all proved very successful.


The new revised version of Mendip Underground by Wig and Tony Knibbs should be on sale by the time this BB is distributed.

Austria 1987

Due to problems with the local cavers last year, the Austria trip will be split into 2 groups to keep the number of people on the mountain to a minimum.  A small combined party of BEC, NCC and possibly MUSS will set off in the last 2 weeks of July to rig and push Wiesalnschacht (Hunters Hole).  The work will be taking over and continued by a second team of DEC, NCC and MUSS for the first 2 weeks of August.  They will be joined by a small group of SWCC members who were active on the mountain last year.  It is most regrettable that numbers have to kept to a minimum but the local cavers were quite put out by having what appeared to be an army of Brits descending on their territory last year.  All clubs involved have agreed to keep numbers low so as to safeguard future access.  MUSS were turned off the Terigberge last year for no apparent reason.  Lets hope the same does not happen to us with the Wiesberghaus.

Mark Lumley.


The Quest for the Rusty Tankard


This year's competition will be a Chariot Race followed by a 'Treasure Hunt'.  The theme is ancient myths & legends, so come appropriately dressed.  The object of the quest is to locate each of the Seven Sages of Mendip, who may require particular gifts to be presented to them or tasks to be fulfilled.  The final Sage will reveal the location of the mystical Lost Tankard, the recovery of which wins the game.


1.                  Each team must bring a Chariot & a Standard.  The Chariot must have both wheels mounted on the same axle (no Shepton bicycles!). The Standard must be of Sturdy Wooden construction being at least 8 feet high and must bear the Emblem of the Clan.

2.                  There is no limit to the size of the teams.

3.                  The Sages shall only converse with the Standard Bearer.  The Standard may be passed from one Bearer to another at any time.

4.                  The Standard and Standard Bearer are not to be interfered with or assaulted, neither are Chariots to be ‘nobbled’ while parked at The Belfry between the opening and final races.

5.                  The 1st, 4th and 7th Sages will be located at the Belfry.  The remaining Sages will be in secret locations within one mile of The Belfry.

6.                  The Standard Bearer must travel by Chariot during the opening race and from the 7th Sage to the hiding-place of The Tankard.

7.                  The Quest is complete when a Standard Bearer holds aloft The Tankard. 

Please register entries with Andy Sparrow, Priddy.  Queries possibly answered.


Sec's Notes

Bob Cork

Jill Tuck Bequest

In the last issue of the BB the club recorded the sad loss of Jill Tuck, as is traditional in the club her life membership has been transferred to her husband Norman.  In Jill's will she has left the club an amount of money with the suggestion that the club does something positive with it. After discussion with Norman it has been decided to use this bequest to upgrade the club library.  Our grateful thanks to Jill for her kind thoughts.

Tackle Store Roof

Wind has always been a problem in the BEC and this month is no exception.  The strong March gales removed a part of the tackle store roof causing sufficient damage that the MRO stores had to be temporarily evacuated to the library.  Owing to the problems incurred with this roof in previous years it was decided to replace the entire roof, an agreement was reached with the MRO to ensure this was done with all speed.  This task was completed in a matter of two weeks (a record for the BEC?).

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting - Sat. 7th March 1987

A Cuthbert’s Leaders meeting was held in the back bar of the Hunters on the Saturday evening to sort out a number of issues which needed attention.

1.                  Firstly I pointed out that as BEC Caving Sec. I had issued myself a key prior to completing all the required trips as I wasn't prepared to take responsibility for a cave I had no access to.  This met with general approval.

2.                  Dave Irwin told those present that the Cuthbert’s report should be completed by May and would contain approximately 44 pages of text with photographs, surveys etc.

3.                  Two trips were arranged to remove digging rubbish from the cave and to repair fixed aids and replace missing tapes.  These trips will be on 4th April and 13th June.

4.                  The question of leaders insurance was brought up with regards to whether all leaders were covered by BEC insurance.

5.                  It was decided that the number of guest leaders should remain at 2 per club.

6.                  It was agreed that although preservation of the cave was of paramount importance, the existing system for becoming a leader was too rigid.  It prevented some people with a sound knowledge of the cave from becoming leaders as they had not done a certain route through the cave with a leader (even though they may know all the elements of the route intimately).  Also it was considered unwise that a person could become a leader by completing all the trips under the supervision of just one leader.

Accordingly, the system will be changed while trying to retain the spirit with which it was originally intended and still safeguard the cave.

The leadership application form will be amended subject to BEC Committee approval.  It will be pointed out that in addition to a knowledge of the main routes through the cave the attitude of the leader is of paramount importance.  A prospective leader is unlikely to be accepted before he has been assessed over 15 trips.  This form must then be signed by 3 different BEC leaders.  Final approval will come from the BEC Committee.

The above amendment was carried unanimously with one abstention.

7.                  Finally, it was decided to make the Leaders Meeting an annual event.

If anyone has a copy of the original Cuthbert’s Rules (if there were any) I would be most grateful for a copy.

Mark Lumley.


Eastwater Cavern

Recent work at the top of the '55 ft' Aven in Ifolds' Series has led to a further 15 ft being found at the top - making the total height about 90 ft.  There is a voice connection from here to our dig in the Boulder Chamber. Hopes are high for a passable route through - probably into the area at the top of the Canyon.  Also, just below the bolt for the ladder - 60 ft. up the Aven - a low side passage was cleared to give access to a narrow, parallel aven 30 ft. high - Aven Skavinski.  Both these sites need more banging to progress further.

A major slip has occurred in Boulder Chamber within the last two weeks ­ large boulders and debris having slid down the chamber leaving a precarious bank of gravel holding up most of the scenery - take care here.

On our last banging trip a party staying at Upper Pitts came down without paying or even having the courtesy to inform Mrs Gibbons.  They were very lucky not to have received the full force of 1/21b of H.E. right under their feet.  Ignorant cretins like this do not help the caver/landowner relationship.

Tony Jarratt


Nine Days of Hard Rock Hospitality

By Mark Lumley

Friday 13th March - not the most auspicious date to begin an extended caving trip but at 11.50pm Clive Gardener and myself (Gonzo) headed into the entrance crawls of Daren Cilau loaded up with piles of BBC camera kit and personal gear.  Pete Bolt was several hours ahead and we were hotly pursued by the fiery breath of 'Enri (the Camp Drunk) Bennett, Tim Allen, John (Big Nose) Palmer and Steve Thomas.

The nine day camp had been planned a few months before.  Andy Cave had the unenviable logistical nightmare of catering for the crew and over several weeks Cardiff Universities' UC4 members lugged in over 40 loads of dehydrated food, thermal gear, carbide and booze.

The main objective was to push west from 12 O'clock High and Acupuncture with a view to an Agen Allwedd connection through the Gothic Passage extensions.  The dig was also used as a sponsored event raising £600 for the Black Holes Expedition to Mexico next spring.  £100 was also raised for Gwent CRO.

We split into three groups on day 1.  Tim, John and Steve went up to Aggy Passage with Pete O'Neill & Dave King who were down for the weekend and continued a long term dig through the boulders at the end. This choke has great prospects for a major extension but it is big, vertical, unstable and self clearing. Over 8 trips more than 400 tons of boulders have come down!  Meanwhile 'Enri and I opened up the crawls through Hard Rock while Pete tackled a climb in the Kings Road, which ultimately led to 60ft of well decorated passage - Pixie Boot Grotto (What's in a name?)  Clive stayed in camp and tried to clean a mixture of rice and orange juice off the filming lights we had so painstakingly carried in.

Day 2, saw the departure of Steve Milner, Dave and Pete O'Neill.  Clive had filmed the arrival of 'B' & Hugh in camp, the reel was taken out and used by John Cravens Newsround (Stardom!)

We split into groups again, some pushing the shattered beds of Acupuncture, others opening up the 12 O'clock High boulder choke.  (Overzealous digging on my part resulted in a meaningful relationship with a large lump of limestone).

We found the idea of day and night irrelevant over the course of the week and gradually adapted to days of 20-30 hours with 8-10 hour sleeping periods in between.  Dehydration got the better of some of us during the interim period and back at camp on night 3, I became commode-hugging drunk in five minutes flat on a couple of shots of rum much to the amusement of Clive who was recording 'the Camp Atmosphere:'

Our workloads increased dramatically by Tuesday and we found ourselves eating vast amounts of carbohydrates to compensate.  The arrival of several groups of UC4 cavers with fresh veg and bread during the week was most welcome.

Wednesday saw the departure of John Palmer and Steve Thomas.  Andy Cave and Steve Allen arrived for the, second half of the week.

During the midweek period we found some difficulty in co-ordinating sleeping times and work shifts, so the labour intensive chokes at the western end of the Hard Rock had a reprieve, while small groups pushed straight forward digs in the area around camp, one of which is 40ft in and looks quite promising.

A lot of work was also being done at Aggy Passage and we sorted out a team to film the progress. This proved to be quite character building as the choke started to collapse while Tim Allen was inside and Clive & I were lying on our backs filming and lighting him.  Tim had a near miss and Clive and I legged it down the rubble heap with the BBC's pride and joy an odds-on favourite for becoming a pile of scrap.  Half an hours sound recording of people removing the spoil was rendered useless by the premature arrival of a Half-Ton Herbert to a chorus of 'F* .. K Me!!' from those on the receiving end.

Thursdays 12 hour work period was spent removing more spoil from 12 O'clock High and looking for high level leads around Catnap Rift (above Oregano).  Banging 12 O'clock didn't sound as though much had happened but we all noticed that the draught had increased on our way out.

By Friday we decided to cut our losses.  There was no way we were going to get through Hard Rock in the two remaining days (although the dig is by no means abandoned).  The same went for Aggy Passage.  We only had about 200ft of new passage to show for a hell of a lot of work. Putting connections to one side we just wanted to break into a big healthy horizontal Welsh Virgin and see how far we could go!  Accordingly we split into two groups, Pete, Enri, Clive and Tim tackling the choke at the end of Frag Street (High Level off Bonsai) while Andy Cave, Steve Allen and I pushed the shatter that blocks the way on in a bedding near the start of Forgotten Passage.  This proved after 30' to have as much appeal as a weekend in Slough so we disconsolately went to help the others.

Meanwhile, the Frag Street dig had broken almost immediately into 400ft of low, crystal covered bedding ( Frig Street) with an extremely strong draught.  This heads east and the end is easy digging.  Potential is superb with an interception of the missing lower reaches of Darens' big fossil passages on the cards in the next 100 metres (The Clydach connection gets nearer!)

Friday night was an extended celebration party night with appearance of hidden stashes of Southern Comfort, Glace Fruit in Brandy, Spiced Rum, Champagne and Caviar.  We swore undying allegiance and crawled drunkenly to our mould riddled pits (a caver-friendly 20 metre stagger).

After copious amounts of Tea, Coffee & Anadin, Saturday was spent taking photographs in the Time Machine, then filming & digging in Aggy Passage.  Pete Bolt completed a long climb in the roof of the passage (it didn't go).  We then sherpered piles of filming kit to the top to the ladder pitch to make life easier on Sundays' mass exodus.

Dave King had rejoined us during the day and while we slept Steve Milner, Bob Cork & Dany Bradshaw arrived to give us a hand out with the kit.

We were up after two hours sleep.  A busy couple of hours then ensured that every scrap of litter was packed up to go out. Cooking and sleeping gear were then stashed and there was little to show that we had been there at all except for an emergency brew kit and the all pervading smell of paraffin.  Then we headed out of Daren with a mixture of excitement and genuine regret at leaving the place that had become our home.

A team of porters who were coming in to help never arrived so we dumped an enormous pile of personal gear near the entrance crawl and carried on with the camera kit (a soul-destroying array of heavy, 12inch ammo boxes).

We emerged into daylight after 210 hours with a shock.  We all expected to be dazzled by the brightness but having lived in a world of greys and subdued browns for so long, anything blue seemed fluorescent and our eyes found it difficult to cope.

I lost a stone I never knew I had during the week.  Celebrations in the pub that night amounted to little more than a pint there just wasn't room for any more.  Over the next few days we all ate voraciously.  Several of us found it difficult to readjust to a 24 hour clock and a normal working environment.

In conclusion I think that the camp was a great success.  We raised a lot of money for two good causes, found one of the most exciting leads under the mountain and put the Daren/Aggy round trip several hundred man­hours nearer to completion.  Morale was high throughout and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

I would suggest to critics of the 'Hard Rock Approach' that the media interest the project generated (National TV, Local T.V. in several areas, John Craven, Radio 1, numerous local radio stations, National & local papers) showed cavers and caving in a much more favourable light than the usual 'Sill sods .. dark muddy 'Oles ... always need to be rescued .. 'image with which the sport is normally portrayed.

Many thanks to Troll, Speleo Technics & Bat Products for their kind help with equipment. We'll be back down at Easter.




Hypocrisy is not dead

Letter to the editor (BB Vol:32 No.9, September 1978 (No. 365)

To the Editor, B.B.

Arriving at the Belfry on the 28th July (Friday afternoon) I was somewhat staggered by the absolute chaos and filthy mess within.

The furniture, such as it is, was completely soaked and thrown about the room, every article of cutlery was dirty and left in a heap on the worktop.  The whole hut smelt like a cow shed with rotting food, stale air and a general smell of filth.

I'm not saying that the type of piss-up that resulted in this mess should not happen in the shed but the members involved (some of them of many years standing) should ensure that the place is cleaned up afterwards.  I hope other members will support any action that the Committee might care to take.  If anybody thinks this is the pot calling the kettle black - I clean up my mess.

Trevor Hughes, Aug 1978.


Thixotropia Blues

Rescued from the Jaws of Death in two Show Caves in one day but out in time for the pub - or “Thixotropia Blues”

I'd been looking forward to March 30th; it was the day the summer staff started their sentences at Cheddar Caves.  Part of the morning was spent witnessing them taking the Oath of Fealty to Sandra Lee, then we old hands introduced ourselves with a few words (or in Andy Sparrow's case, a lot of words).  Finally I had to sit through Chris Bradshaw's introductory lecture in Bullshit; things never to be mentioned (rocks falling on people, Wookey Hole); and how we must never talk to the press because they have a way of twisting statements, especially if something has gone wrong.

That over, I was free to get on with the job for which I had been trained at vast expense: painting handrails.  Down at the Speleological Wonder of the World, Cox's Cave, I happily slapped the Hamerite on the railings, floor and formations with only a few breaks for meals, coffee, craps etc. until about 4.45pm when ZAP! all was darkness!  Of God, I thought, I've been struck blind. They said it would happen, but I couldn't stop.  Then I thought, oh deary, deary me, the lights have out.  Ever resourceful I used the handrails I'd just painted to guide myself to the light gone and the main entrance which was, of course, locked. It was vital to get out, it was Monday, and Monday night is digging night!

Cheddar seemed deserted, but soon the rest of the staff started to go home, so I waved and shouted at them, receiving friendly waves in return.  Eventually the occupants of one of the cars thought I was behaving in an even more erratic manner than usual and returned.  Informing them in carefully moderated tones that I was locked in the cave I dispatched them to the office.  Soon Mr. Bradshaw drove up to release me.  He explained that John the maintenance man and two of my "mates" who were helping him had skived off early, forgetting about me. He also found the incident most amusing, but I was soon to wipe the smile off his face.

There was a good turnout for digging that Monday night.  One of the new guides had been digging before; he even claimed to have done a bit of caving and said his name was Tom Chapman.  Another new guide was a sexy student called Carol who said she enjoyed a dirty night out so Tom had asked her along to the Far Rift Dig.  Also present were Grahame from Bath, a graduate from Adventure Caving and owner of the Far Rift Pump last used in World War 2; Adrian Brewster, restorer of the BEC's first log; Miles Barrington, now a spy from a minor show cave down the road; Robin Brown to supply vocal amusement; and Oliver Conte, a Frog guide who was apparently there as a result of his imperfect English.

Far Rift Dig in Gough's Cave was started by Andy Sparrow a year ago, and we've been making steady progress towards Daren Cilau ever since.  It's only inches away from a breakthrough (according to Andy) and (again according to Andy) has a slow draught despite the fact that bang fumes take a week to clear and after two hour's work the air becomes so foul that diggers are forced to recover in the Gardeners Arms.  Unfortunately it flooded during the winter and we've spent the last couple of Mondays pumping the water out until we were left with some superb slurry. On this Monday we were to remove the slurry by "Plan "A", which involved myself, wetsuit-clad, thrashing about in it to make it runny enough to pour into 25 litre containers. The thrashing about went well, but the damn slurry wouldn't pour because it was like thick, lumpy custard, so “Plan B” was put into operation.  I crawled to the dig-face and started digging out mud to mix with the slurry so that it would be thick enough to move in bags.

Well, that didn't work either, the mud wasn't thick enough and there wasn't enough of it but 'nil desperandum' I had a third plan which after much thought I had called "Plan CR.” This was to get myself firmly stuck in the mud so that the MRO would have to rescue me and they'd get the slurry out in the process.  All started well - Tom tested the mud and only got out by abandoning his wellies. The air was becoming nicely foul and dangerous, so I lowered myself into the mire and got my right leg firmly stuck. Miles, Tom and Adrian couldn't get me out so Tom; went off to realise his lifetime's ambition and made an emergency call.

While waiting, Adrian and I chatted comfortably about Neil Moss, but the air became worse and I started to hallucinate because I saw Tim Large underground!  A damn solid hallucination, the miserable sod put a rope around my trapped foot and he and some others pulled me out.  The mud is still there, and "Plan D" is to leave it there.  Hell, even Chris Bradshaw was down the cave, whoever next?  Wig?

A great reception committee was waiting at the cave entrance ­ the MRO in force, the police, an ambulance, reporters, probably even Lord Weymouth.  I was sorry to have missed Richard Stevenson with his bottles, I was told it was a sight to behold, and Lori was left to push his Land Rover out of the way.  Receiving a glacial smile from Sandra I splodged up to the Caving Room, got my wetsuit off, put my clothes on over the mud and got to the Gardeners Arms with the digging team for a bit of peace and quiet.  Holy shit, now what?  In bursts a papparoggi and being too pissed to resist I get myself photographed.  I did manage to prevent him getting my hooter in profile, but the damage was done.  HTV, the Western Gazette, the Daily Mirror, even the front page of the Cheddar Valley Gazette, who treated the affair like the Second Coming.  Oh well, its fame of a sort.

The next day I sidled up to the Caves, threw my helmet into Sandra's office and grovelled on the carpet. (This is, of course, standard procedure).  She was very nice about it, actually; we can still go digging so long as we operate a written check-in and­out system.  She was a bit put out to see strange cavers appearing from holes in all directions, so everyone who digs there please note.  A book or blackboard will be provided and must be filled in.

There's a lot to do in Gough's - the Font's team are continuing to find body-shredding passages, the new extensions above Lloyd Hall are not worked out, the Sand Chamber dig is a comfortable place and may even go somewhere; and Andy has his eye on a new patch of mud off the Boulder Chamber.  I just hope I find more than notoriety.

Finally, to everyone who was at the rescue, thanks.

Chris Castle - April 1987



Sturton by Stow,

The Belfry Bulletin Editor
Mr. Dave Turner,

26th. March 1987.

Dear Mr. Editor,

It seems to me that during the past few years there have been those around with good intentions who have been allowed to get away with poking their sticky little fingers into the guts of this club and ending up making a bugger's muddle out of what they think they are about.

Prime witness to this is the present state of the Belfry which started its life as a carefully thought out club facility and proved to be in practice a model caving club hut in all respects, and continued so, until it became the unwilling recipient of grandiose improvement schemes grafted into its traumatified interior.  The prognosis looks even worse.

It might be recalled by my contemporaries that a higher echelon management was mooted to keep the eye of wisdom on corporate Club interests during the annual incumbency of successive executive Club Committees.  I have often thought it a great pity this idea was never implemented.

And now I see that we are about to undergo unwarranted intervention with the institution of the annual Club Dinner.

I find myself in total opposition to any change in the conduct and traditions of the formal dinner proceedings.  The only area outstanding in obvious need for improvement is the after dinner entertainment which has always been well within the province of the Committee and organisers to do something about without invoking this ridiculous referendum.

I urge long established and senior members to make themselves heard on the subject of this Referendum on the annual dinner.

Yours sincerely, 624 R.H.S. Orr.

Sweetwater Pot

by Peter Glanvill

Since its closure some years ago the quarry at Berry Head and Berry Head itself continue to provide interest and opportunities for discovery.  At the end of July 1986 Brian Johnson, myself and respective families converged on the quarry, ostensibly to do some diving and photography in the sea caves.  Despite the unpromising weather the dive was accomplished successfully although poor visibility caused the resulting pictures to be less than satisfactory. After a barbecue lunch, Brian wandered off with some SRT rope to examine a hole in the west wall of the quarry whilst I did some more marine life photography in Garfish Cave.

After completing my work and de-kitting, we drove up the ramp to see what Brian was up to. The background to his exploration goes back some months to when Chris Proctor and Tim Lee noticed a possible cave entrance below an overhang 40 ft above the quarry floor.  Attempts to climb up to it had previously been thwarted by loose rock which was piled up in a natural rift breached by the quarry and which threatened to avalanche down on the unfortunate climber.  Brian had tried traversing along a bench at the same level but again failed because a Neptunian dyke interrupted the bench.  It was therefore a question of abseiling down the quarry face when we could get the rope and manpower organised.  Brian was the first to get it all together.

I arrived near the top of the ramp to see Brian emerging and bellowing that he had found the finest cave in Devon and a diveable sump.  I kitted up in record time and was soon gingerly abseiling off the top of the quarry hoping the fence posts used as belays were well secured!  Landing on the ledge beside Brian, I was quickly briefed.  The cave was a rift and had been breached and de-roofed at a point where it dropped steeply.  This meant that one had to climb down and cross a pile of mobile rubble before entering the cave proper.  It emitted a noticeable draught, the origin of which is uncertain.  Inside, the rift was 10 ft wide and about 25 ft or more high. Straight over a lot of shattered rock was a continuation of the rift, both up and down.  Downwards seems to close down into small fissures whilst upwards the rift led to a branching of the ways.  In the left hand wall was a complex of sculpted tubes containing shattered rock whilst on the right lay a small short rift.  Brian feels it may be worth pushing one of the tubes which seems to draught.

Back at the entrance, the rift also descended back towards the quarry face as well as ascending to another impassable upper entrance.  A downwards extension is the piece de resistance of the system. A free climbable mud free rift steadily drops (penetrating at one point a Neptunian dyke) until a sump pool is encountered.  The pool contains fresh water, which is surprising when you consider that only 50 metres away horizontally lies a tidal sea water resurgence!

Feeling extremely chuffed; Brian and I called it a day.  After a period of wracking his brains, Brian decided to call the new find Sweetwater Pot. We returned the following weekend with Brian’s "lads" and John Whiteley plus diving kit.  Chris Proctor turned up to survey and photograph the cave as well as push the remaining side passages.  Before we did anything underground, Brian and John cleared a lot of loose rubble before a traverse line was rigged around the dyke on the bench level with the cave.  A rather cramped diving support team assembled to watch Brian kit up for the sump dive.  He bravely submerged head first on a base fed line.  The line steadily wound out and the muffled boom of bubbles became more muted. At last, tugging on the line indicated Brian's return; fifteen metres of line had been laid out.  A brown glow preceded Brian as he surfaced.  He announced that the sump was a vertical continuation of the rift and bottomed out in a mud bank.  The rift appeared to have lateral extensions.  The sump depth makes Sweetwater Pot one of the deepest in Devon and raises the question of what else might we find in the quarry.

More recently Chris Proctor has abseiled into a couple of other caves in the quarry, both quite short but making up for this by being surprisingly well decorated.  He will be making a separate report on this.


Taking climbing gear and some helmets with us, Brian Johnson, myself, Brian's sons and Jim Durston visited Chudleigh in late August (1986) with the intention of inspecting the Palace Quarry side of the Kate Brook.  Apart from Clifford's Cave there are no significant caves in this area despite it being a large lump of limestone.  After a brief and friendly meeting with Mr. Shears, the owner of Glen Cottage, we were given permission to enter the quarry.  We started our trek by examining an entrance at the edge of the quarry (West).  Here, Brian had noticed an entrance some time previously.  He felt this was probably associated with a tiny draughting hole on the other side of a rocky spur here.  We hacked our way through the undergrowth to Tramp's Hole, an excavated archaeological site about fifty yards or so further on.  This has a large (3 metres by 2 metres) entrance but goes back only 5 metres to a heavily stalagmited boulder choke.  The cave looks as though it might have been a resurgence.  Further struggles brought us to Black Rock, where Bruce's Burrow was found to have disappeared, possibly under over burden removed prior to quarrying.  We then climbed up the hill to emerge at the top of the quarry.

What greeted us there was a large entrance only a few feet from the top of the Eastern face of the quarry.   Mr. Shears informed us that it could not be far from the Black Rock Shaft filled in when quarrying began.  Brian and Jim abseiled into the cave and found it to consist of an eight foot square chamber with two choked passages leading off.  Not surprisingly, it seemed to be a popular bat roost.  Inspection of other caves on the quarry face showed them to be choked but diggable tubes.  Well pleased with the day's efforts, we went off and did some proper climbing.

Brian returned later in the following week and started to dig out one entrance of the draughting cave. He found the cave to penetrate the spur but halfway along noticed a tunnel leading into the hill into which he dug on another visit.  The discovery of some animal bones meant a halt to the proceedings until in mid-September Dave Curry could take a look and pronounce on the dig.  He felt the bones were modern and that digging could continue. Brian forced his way to the end of the main tunnel and found that it terminated in a sloping, mainly earth filled tube.

Since then, digging has widened and lowered the entrance crawl whilst the end is now being attacked. The cave continues to descend, with the fill being soft easily dug earth.  Points of interest are the presence of a slight draught near the end and a narrow aven which seems not to close down as rapidly as one would imagine. Scallop marks on the walls indicate a vigorous inward flow at some time.  The cave lies 12 metres above Cliffords Cave and does not seem to be associated with it.

Peter Glanvill


Skullcap cave.

Progress Report. January 8th 1987.

Chris Proctor, myself and Pete Rose have been steadily digging in Skullcap Cave at Chudleigh, and a progress report is necessary whilst I remember to do it!

In late November we were digging in a steeply descending, metre diameter tube which was getting very awkward.  On the tenth of December we found our first airspace, which just seemed to be a pocket to one side of the passage.  However, on December 17th, we broke through into longer airspace and a passage continuation - we had reached the bottom of the tube.  Gravel, shale and flint in the floor beneath the mud seemed to confirm stream flow through the cave.  On the next trip we moved forward another two metres to a point where an arm could be stuck through into yet another airspace which appeared larger.  This was entered by Brian Johnson on January 3rd 1987 and turned out to be a passage going off into the distance, with a continuous foot or so of airspace.  Unfortunately the triangular passage shape precluded further progress until digging had lowered the floor.

Digging was recommenced on January 7 1987, assisted by Wendy Sampson and a small group from Rock House. Several hours were spent removing spoil before Pete Rose was let loose on the end.  After an hour or so's digging, Pete broke through into a small grotto.  Directly in front was a stalagmite bank, whilst a tiny aven could be seen to have been the source of the stal.  The way on is through the stal bank or under it and I fear it is doomed.

One can peer through to one side of it and the passage can be seen to continue in the same direction, i.e. into the hill.  I squeezed through and photographed the stalagmite flow for posterity, whilst Chris Proctor surveyed the cave to Grade 5.

Digging will continue, as there is a quite definitely discernible draught at the end.  The problem now is that we will have to start enlarging the approaches to the terminal stal bank.  Interested parties should contact Chris Proctor ( Exeter 58467), myself (Chard 4262), Pete Rose (Crediton 2284), or Brian Johnson (Ottery St. Mary 3212).

Would be diggers might also find it worthwhile calling at Rock House to see if anybody there is free to dig.  There are plenty of digging implements at the site.

Peter Gianvill


1986 Austrian Expedition Report For Ian Dear Memorial Fund

It was 31st July and we were due to leave between 5.30 - 6.00 pm but we were still re-packing the car for about the third or fourth time at five past six.  We had a bit of trouble with tying down the cover for the 'Lads Away' roof rack; it had a tendency to cover up the front windscreen. I was travelling in Trebor’s car with Trebor, Gonzo and Steve.  We eventually got going, a bit behind schedule, only to stop at a kebab house and off-license for a pit stop.  We were followed along the M4 by Clive Gardener (off in search of the Holy Grail somewhere, little did he know it, had he followed us he would have found something equally as sacred 'STIEGL').

On our scenic route to Folkestone we managed to arrive late for the ferry.  Luckily due to the usual summer industrial dispute the ferry had not yet left.  It was a calm crossing; we managed to find the bar.  It was named the Wessex Bar (must have been because you got a free cup of tea there).  We left a BEC sticker behind the bar and partook of some of their stronger refreshment.

We continued on our long journey to the Wiesberghaus.  We eventually arrived in Hallstatt between 12.30 and 1.00 on the early morning of the 2nd, after the 1000 driven miles which was only interrupted by a short break, a yop and a scenic tour 4 times around a one way system in a German city.

We drove around Hallstatt looking for the others who should have arrived earlier that day.  We set out by looking for a pub with two British cars parked outside, then a camp site with them in.  But we had no luck.  Little did we know they had parked in the Police car park and were in the divers bar, pissed and buying drinks for the whole pub.  Meanwhile, we hadn't been able to find them at a camp site open at that time of night, so we slept on park benches on a beach by the Hallstattersee. We were up at the break of dawn before the park attendant came round at 6.30.

We ordered a full breakfast of croissant etc and got horseradish and ham rolls and a bottle of Stiegl.  We ate breakfast outside a Hotel on the edge of the “see”, the weather was hot and the place was superb.  We met the others in the village while stocking up on fresh food.  We retired under the shade of the umbrellas at the divers bar and decided on our plan of action.

Blitz and company were to go up the mountain straight away to see Robert and Laura about getting our kit up on the materialseilbahn.  While the rest of us loaded it up, then some went up the mountain before it got dark leaving J’rat, Tim, Andy and me to stay and finish loading the next morning, forcing us to go to a party in Obertraun which we had been invited to by members of the local caving club, it was their annual Forest Festival.  We went with six of the local cavers out of which one of them drinks.  It was a really good night.  There was a drunken tank driver swinging around, 30 feet up in the beams of the beer tent and people generally acting like we do in the Belfry.


I got roped into doing a Morris dance on stage to music from the Umpa band and got free beer the rest of the night.  There was a disco afterwards.  The next day we finished loading the materialseilbahn and went up the mountain by the passenger selbahn via Eishohlen.  There's an amazing 3D survey of the Mammothohle and Eishohle systems.  We arrived at the Wiesberghaus in the early evening and were greeted by Robert and Laura and had a drink with them and spent that night around a fire outside with bottles of Stiegle and Bratwurst. Tomma Dave and Pete (NCC) arrived that night.

In the morning I went over to the Titians carrying rope for Gonzo, Steve, Blitz and Duncan then went prospecting for caves all over the place with Tim and Andy.  Started several digs then went down HI C33 Miztendorfer Hohlen, a cave which is still going explored to a tight double bend and a flake in the way.   Looks like the cave floods with the first drop of drizzle. Tim and I discovered Marmutsnitenhohlen in a cliff face so named for obvious reasons - Asshohlen was found then almost collapsed on top of Dave.  It wasn't pushed because of the way it moves in its own draught.

We had a barrel of stiegl kindly brought for us by Herbert the sailor who due to a misunderstanding unloaded our kit off the seilbahn at bottom of the mountain, about half an hour after we loaded it.  Trebor had lost his clothes somewhere in the transporting up the mountain and was stuck with only a T-shirt and a pair of yellow shorts for the whole Expedition. At the bar large amounts of drink were consumed and an Austria melodeon player provided the music for me in another Morris dance, ending up with more free drinks.  Extract from the log about 4.30 am ­"Snablet demonstrated the traditional art of Morris Vomiting, retching all night to the accompaniment of bells".

The next day we suffered from tremendous hangovers not helped by Robert dishing out Garlic schnapps as a hangover cure.  Wiesberghohlen was discovered on the 6th (pointed out by Robert).  This was the only cave to go any major distance in the first week.  250 m deep 600 long at its last push.  Also in the first week Titan Schacht (C.38) was pushed to - 150 m deep and ended. Blitz, Steve and I spent a day going down a hole in the C.38 area.

There were three caves of interest; one was a small canyon - but it way in the same type of fault as C.19 and draughts well.  The second was a shaft at the bottom of a massive rift, it used to be full of snow put the heat had melted it, and we could throw stones down at least one hundred feet.  We couldn't descend because there were no natural belays and we didn't have any bolts. The third was a large shaft that we did descend.  We also found another entrance to Titian Schacht.

The next day Blitz pointed out C66 so we pushed it.  The only good thing about it was that it was so close to the Weisberghaus you could send people back for bottles of Stiegl while putting bolts in.  It ended in a tight bouldery choke in a 40 foot high moon milked covered rif.  Wies Alm hohlen as it's now known (formally Jager Hohle) was found half way through our stay by Chris Fry of the Croydon and SWCC.  The Welsh? (most of which were from London area), mad!  I pushed the cave to the 2nd pitch and ran into difficulty and we were asked if we'd like to help rig the pitch so we jumped at the chance and pushed it to 5th and Surveyer followed along a couple of pitches behind.  That's where they stay (at the third pitch) until someone took over from the Wessex - (who included lengths of rope protectors in the survey???)

Over the next week all our efforts were cantered on Wies Alm Hohle while the MUSS were off finding interesting depths of cave as well, they had now joined us on the Dachstein, they found Orllan Hohle (pity - we could have done with that rope down Wies Alm Hohle). Also in the same area the Austrians found a large cave 260 m or so breaking into an active stream needing digging.

During the second week we had a lot of problems with thunder and lightning storms, forcing us to spend a lot of time in the Wiesberghaus (Oh shame!).  I got friendly with Roberts daughter Sandy, we drank the Wiesberghaus dry, an outstanding feat if you’ve ever seen the amount of beer he keeps there. The rest of the expedition party had turned up at the beginning of that week.  Our two weeks stay was too short by we all had a superb time.  We left Wies Alm Hohle at the 21st pitch, Dany, Alan and the Yorkys continued on to the top of the 25th pitch finding a 250 ft 23rd pitch.

Pete (Snablet) MacNab

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr Wells, Somerset.
Editor: D.P.Turner

As no one else was very forthcoming when Robin resigned as editor at the AGM it seemed a good idea at the time for me to try out my new word processing program on my computer - so it looks as if you will have to put up with me as editor for a while.  I’ve never been very prolific with caving articles and I hope that I do not have to start now.  What I am good at is pestering people and so all of you who promised me articles - beware!!  As all editors will tell you, this is your journal and it’s up to you to let me know what’s been happening.  I don't mind how you give me material, handwritten will do if you can't type, even on toilet paper (clean only if you please!). I  apologise for the quality of the print of this BB, next month I hope to have a better printer on my computer.

I was sorry to hear of the death recently of Oliver Lloyd, a life member of the BEC for many years. Oliver had considerable influence in the caving scene, particularly cave diving which he ran almost as a benevolent dictator for many years, and I am pleased that we have managed to persuade Mike Jeanmaire (Fish) to write an obituary for the B.B.  I started my caving at the time Oliver was pushing Vicarage Pot in Swildons and can still remember the way he led the trips with authority and thoughtfulness.

Club Committee 1985-86

Hon. Sec.                                  Bob Cork
Hon. Treasurer                           Mark Lumley
Caving Sec.                               Jeremy Henley
Hut Warden                               Tony Jarratt
Hut Engineer                             Dany Bradshaw
B.B. Editor                                Dave Turner
Tackle Master                            Steve Milner
Membership Sec.                       Brian Workman
Asst. Hut Warden                      Tim Gould

Committee members                  Phil Romford
                                                Ian Caldwell


Further Belfry Improvements

There are still a lot of jobs still to be done on the Belfry and everyone is urged to lend a hand - if only for a couple of hours or so.  A selection of jobs to be done - only a few of the many - are as follows:-

Main Hut

1.                  Paint inside walls to toilet in entrance hall

2.                  Fix hat and coat hooks to Changing Rooms

3.                  Paint rest of Changing Rooms

4.                  Lock to Changing Room External door

5.                  Clean out and fix hanging rail to Drying Room

6.                  Repair lock to loft

7.                  Internal painting to Bunk Rooms and Entrance Hall


1.                  Ridge tiles to Carbide Store  (to please the Fire Inspectors)

2.                  Vent holes to Carbide Store (to please the Fire Inspectors)

3.                  Fix frame and door to External Shed

4.                  Cut grass

5.                  Clean up Belfry site

Contact Dany before starting jobs as he will then provide all necessary materials.

If none of the above jobs take your fancy then I’m sure Dany will find you something else to do.




Sec’s Change

by Bob Cork

As you are probably aware Tim Large has resigned the secretary ship as from the A.G.M.  As his successor I have a high standard to upkeep if I am to do the job half as well.

Tim has served the club as secretary for a period of 8 years since 1977, in which time he has not only carried out the day to day running of the club, but has also been a major contributor to all the club’s projects.  Two of the more recent ones that come to mind being the Belfry improvements and the 50th Anniversary trip to the Gouffre Berger.

In recognition of his services to the club it was proposed by the committee and ratified by the A.G.M. that he be made a honorary member of the club.

I have recently received a circular from that most wondrous of organisations - the ‘National Caving Association'.  It is basically a census of cavers and caving clubs, the information from which will be used to support Sport's Council grants etc.

The first part of the form concerns itself with the usual rank, name, and serial number type questions relating to the club.  The second part is more difficult to answer, it manifests itself in the form of a table down one side of which are a list of age groups, under 18’5, 18-21, over 50’s etc. This poses no problem if all our members have been truthful about their age.  I mean everybody knows Alan Thomas is under 40 and J’Rat is 102 or would profess to be.  The next four columns adjacent to the ages refer to "grades" of cavers. They are headed "Grade 1" (hard caver), "Grade 2" (fairly active caver), "Grade 3" (occasional caver) and last but not least "Grade 4" (armchair caver). We have been asked to list numbers of our members who fall into each category, i.e. the number of armchair cavers we have who are under 18.  This as you can imagine is a delicate and awkward task.  I would appreciate it if the more modest of you would put pen to paper and send in to the B.B. editor what you think your personal grading should be and the reasons why.  Also if you have a grading in mind for another member, let me know.

Dr. Oliver Lloyd

On a more serious note, it is with great regret that we hear of the death of Dr. Oliver Cromwell Lloyd, a member of this club for many years.  He was respected throughout the caving community for the "true" character that he was and will be remembered by all of us for his contributions to the caving world.

Berger 85

The club's 50th anniversary expedition to the Gouffre Berger this summer proved a great success as all who came along will testify.  The cave soon realised it had met its Waterloo and allowed 28 of the team to bottom it.  A full account of the trip 3 will hopefully be published in a future issue.  [Only if some one sends me one!! – ed.]

Business and Pleasure

Stu McManus, who is the effluent side of his new company "Water and Effluent Treatment Services" or W.E.T.S. for short, has recently returned from his first overseas project in Brunei, Borneo. Whilst there he managed to take time out between work and running away from snakes, to visit the " Sarawak National Park" and its caves.  We hope to see an article and slide show from him in the future.

50th Anniversary Dinner

Alan Thomas has written an account of what must be one of the most enjoyable and historic club dinners most of us have been to.  The quality of the after dinner speeches was excellent and Alfie's splendid men who "drink like ten" surpassed themselves in the performance of "Oliver".

Another Golden Jubilee

The 6th October saw our 50th celebrations attended by many names from the past.  Most of whom had also spent the previous night in the third chamber of Wookey Hole celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first cave dive. The evening was organised by Jim Hanwell and all who had had an association with the cave were welcome. A demonstration of the sump rescue apparatus was given by Bob Drake and Geoff Price followed by much reminiscing between C.D.G. members, past and present.

Belfry Brew

This high gravity specially labelled beer may be now obtained from the Hunters or the Belfry at 90p per bottle or £1 if you are generous.  There is a limited number so it is wise to purchase early.


Members will be pleased to know that the Barengasse Windschacht, a BEC find, was bottomed this summer at a depth of 640m, where it terminated a tight sump, by a team from the in Northern Cave Club.


AGM Minutes

Minutes of the Annual general meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club held at the Belfry on Saturday, 5th October 1985

The meeting was convened by the Hon. Sec. Tim Large, there being sufficient quorum present at 10.40am.


Tim Large, Joan Bennett, Bob Cork, Dany Bradshaw, John Dukes, Paul Hodgson, Ian Caldwell, Axel Knutson, Dave Pike, Andrew Middleton, Richard Payne, Alan Turner, Dave Turner, Jeremy Henley, Brian Workman, Kangy King, Chris Batstone, Steve Milner, Mark Lumley, Tony Jarratt, Keith Gladman, John Turner, Andy Lovell, Georgina Ainsley, Tim Gould, Frank Darbon, Laurence Smith, John Watson, Greg Villis, Pete (Snablet) Macnab, Brian Prewer, Stu McManus, Pete (Snab) Macnab, Chris Smart, Bob Hill, Martin Grass, Glenys Grass, Robin Gray and Chris Castle.

Apologies:- Pete Franklin, Richard Clarke, Edric Hobbs, Mike Wigglesworth, Dave Irwin, Rob Harper, Lavinia Watson, Fiona Lewis and Phil Romford.

Nominations were requested for a chairman Stuart McManus and Kangy King were nominated.  A vote was taken which Kangy won by a large majority.

Minutes of 1984 A.G.M.  There had previously been published 'in the B.B. They were taken as read and accepted by the meeting unanimously.

Matters Arising. Tim Large pointed out that these would be dealt with elsewhere during the course of the meeting.

Hon. Sec’s Report. Tim Large read his report to the meeting.  No questions were forthcoming.  Proposed Chris Batstone, seconded Stuart McManus that the report be accepted. Carried unanimously.  A vote of thanks for Tim’s work for the club was proposed by Stuart McManus, seconded Chris Batstone - carried.

Hon. Treasurer’s Report.  Jeremy Henley produced the financial accounts which were distributed at the meeting. He highlighted the need to raise as much money as possible to reduce the overdraft taken out to cover the costs of the Belfry improvements.  At present this stands at £2750.  Proposed Dave Turner, seconded Stuart McManus that the report be accepted - carried.  A vote of thanks was expressed at the meeting.

Hon. Auditor’s Report.  Joan Bennett had examined the accounts and found that they represented a fair and reasonable record of the club’s financial position.  The report was accepted by the meeting and a vote of thanks given.

Caving Secretary’s Report.  Stuart McManus read his report to the meeting.  Proposed John Turner, seconded Martin Grass that the report be accepted. Carried and a vote of thanks given.

Hut Warden’s Report. Chris Batstone read his report. Stuart McManus highlighted the need for a full time hut warden for the smooth running of the Belfry.  Proposed Dany Bradshaw, seconded Paul Hodgson that the report be accepted.  Carried and a vote of thanks given.

Tackle Mater’s report.  Bob Cork said that last year we had 26 ladders.  We still have 26 ladders - but not necessarily the same ladders!  Some appear to have been swapped for ones of other manufacture.  There are several lifelines and two tackle bags missing.   Some tackle is still in Eastwater Westend series.  Abuse of spreaders and tethers still continues. He considered that the system started last year whereby the tackle is more freely available to member is working reasonable well.  The only expenditure this year has been the purchase of tackle bags.  New lifelines will be needed soon.  Proposed Dany Bradshaw, seconded Tony Jarratt that the report be accepted.  Carried and a vote of thanks given.

Editor’s Report. Robin Gray read his report to the meeting.  He highlighted the problem of the shortage of articles without which the B.B. could not be produced.  Joan Bennett said that she was disappointed by not seeing an obituary to Oliver Lloyd. Tony Jarratt agreed to ask Mike Jeanmaire to write one.  Proposed Stuart McManus, seconded Dany Bradshaw that the report be accepted. Carried and a vote of thanks given.

Hut Engineer’s Report.  Dany Bradshaw said that work on the Belfry went well with much effort being put in by members to save expenditure wherever possible.  There is much finishing work off work to do, which members will have to do as no funds are available to pay contractors anymore.  Some work includes outstanding maintenance items.  Stuart McManus pointed out that Dany did much work on the Belfry in his own time without charge.  Also that we have thank John Dukes for the electrical wiring work. A vote of thanks was given to both. Proposed Keith Gladman, seconded Chris Batstone that the report be accepted - carried by meeting.

Librarian’s Report. Tony Jarratt read his report to the meeting.  Proposed Paul Hodgson, seconded Chris Smart that the report be accepted - carried.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund.  Stuart McManus explained the purpose of the fund - being to provide grants to younger members, or these not in full time employment, to enable them to travel and go on foreign expeditions.  This account is kept separate from all other finances.  This year only one grant was given of £60 to Lisa Taylor who went on the Gouffre Berger trip.  Proposed Dave Turner, seconded Brian Workman that the report be accepted - carried.

Election of Officers

Treasurer :                     Jeremy Henley
Hon. Sec.:                     Bob Cork
Hut Engineer:    Dany Bradshaw

Ordinary committee members: Brian Workman, Phil Romford.

These were the only persons standing from last year's committee.  As no nominations were received the following co-options were made at the meeting.

Caving Sec.:                  Mark Lumley
Hut Warden:                  Tony Jarratt
B.B. Editor:                   Dave Turner
Ordinary members:        Tim Gould, Ian Caldwell.

Proposed Bob Cork, seconded Dany Bradshaw that the A.G.M. instructs the new committee to examine the constitution with regards to the methods of election of the officers and committee of the club.  Passed unanimously.

Any Other Business

1.                  Proposed Bob Cork, seconded Stuart McManus that Tim Large be made an Honorary Life Member of the club in recognition of his work far the club.  Carried unanimously.

2.                  Jeremy Henley asked the meeting to consider raising the subscription, although it was not necessary for running the club at present.  It has been several years since it was last raised and we do have an overdraft. Better to raise it often and in small amounts rather than wait for a large rise when it is unavoidable. Proposed Brian Prewer, seconded Ian Caldwell that the annual membership subscription be increased to £12.  A vote was taken.  For 27, Against 7, abstentions 2.

3.                  John Dukes advised the meeting of our need for some new night storage heaters. Donations welcome.

4.                  Brian Prewer proposed, Paul Hodgson seconded, a vote of thanks to all those who helped organise the club’s Gouffre Berger expedition - carried.

There being no other business the chairman closed the meeting at 1.27pm.


Hon. Sec’s Report.

Club Officers’ Reports – October 1985.

During our Jubilee Year much has been accomplished.  Our membership has risen from 163 to 191 with many past members rejoining.  At present that total includes 50 life members and 34 joint memberships.

The main achievement this year has been the completion of the Belfry improvements, on schedule, as directed by the AGM last year.  The cost of this work has exceeded our original estimations.  The committee was put in the position of accepting the go-ahead to do the work without a firm quotation.  Several builders were approached but all said that by the nature of the work it was difficult to give a quote.  In the end it was decided to give the work to Bradshaw and Baker of Priddy. As work progressed, problems were encountered which could not have been foreseen.  These incurred extra costs.  Wherever possible costs were minimised by doing jobs ourselves and obtaining several items very cheaply or for nothing.  Once it was realised that the costs were going to exceed the funds we had available then a decision had to be made.  Whether to stop at our financial limit or consider further funding for the project.  It was therefore decided to approach our bankers for overdraft facilities.  This we have taken advantage of although not up to the limit allowed.  The committee then circulated the membership for substantial donations which have helped to reduce the overdraft.  Other income has been found from profit made at the Jubilee Barbecue, Souvenir Beer and various fund raising activities.  I will leave the Treasurer to advice you of the exact financial position to date. Although the structure of the improvement is complete there are still many jobs to be done to put the finishing touches to the Belfry.  Also it is necessary to consider the installation of an automated central heating system to maintain the fabric of the property and provide an acceptable environment for the Belfry in keeping with the other improvements.  For this winter our existing storage heaters will be installed but only as a stop gap measure.   There will be no heating in the changing and drying areas.  I hope this illustrates to everyone that besides having no money to make expensive purchases at present, we also need the assistance of members to complete the finishing touches.

During the year the Belfry insurance was increased to cover its improved value and our Public Liability Insurance was changed to the BRCA policy.

Negotiations regarding the Mineries land and around St Cuthbert’s are still in hand, if somewhat slowly.  Any delay is purely as a result of the landowners.  Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise as should they have come up with an offer to purchase or lease the land, we would not have been able to find sufficient funds.

As those of you that attended know, “the Jubilee Celebrations” have gone well, despite the weather with our Barbecue and the Berger trip being successful.

Unfortunately, one action from last year’s AGM has not. been possible to carry out.  This is the Cuthbert’s publication.  Two reasons account for this - (1) lack of money – (2) the heavy workload on the committee and others.  Perhaps further thought should be given to the project at this meeting.

This year there are three resignations from the committee, these being myself, Stuart McManus and Chris Batstone.  Despite being circulated no nominations were received by the closing date.  Therefore, as has been the trend for too many years now, there will be no committee elections and co-options will be necessary to make the committee up to its usual number of 9.

The final Jubilee event - our Dinner takes place tonight when I hope everyone has an enjoyable evening.

Tim Large


Hon. Treasurer’s Report.

By far the most important event has been the modification to the Belfry.  During the year this cost £9,892 and a further £840 was owed at the end of the year for work done.  This changed our fortunes from being in credit to the tune of £6,090.21 at the end of last year to owing £1,633.82 (plus £840) at the end of the year. However, our income (including donations and fund raising) exceeded our revenue expenditure by over £2,000 in the year. The club should make every attempt to payoff its overdraft, which is likely to peak at about £2,750 before the next A.8.M.

So far only 19 people have responded to the appeal fund and they have contributed £630.  The message is quite clear.  Donations are needed.

Remember we have to pay interest on the overdraft which will cost somewhere near £400 a year at the present level.

Meanwhile there are other fund raising activities on-going which must help the club, not only to payoff its overdraft, but to move back into surplus so that normal operations can continue without borrowing from the bank.

Ensure you buy all the bottles of Belfry Brew and sell all the Balloon Flight Raffle tickets.

We should thank John Dukes for the electrical work that he has done on the hut free of charge; a major donation!  And Dany Bradshaw who did not charge for work done in overtime.

Jeremy Henley


Caving Secretary’s Report

Well, this our 50th anniversary has certainly brought a busy year for caving in the BEC.

Digging has continued throughout the year in Westend in Eastwater but not without mishap with diggers getting trapped the other side of the duck.  It looks like further work will have to wait until next year - don't forget the 50p tackle fee (we'll all get pissed).

Some of our younger members, Snablet and Tom Chapman have discovered quite a lot of passage in Swildons and promising digs continuing there.  Good luck to them - as usual caving activity has been going on amongst individuals of the club.

The two major works have been digging/pumping in St Cuthbert's with over 100 cavers spending >1,000 hours in attempting to pass the sump, as you are aware we did not succeed, but there again; caves are where you hid them!  But it did show that you can take a 2" hose pipe >3,000 ft and pump water at 500 galls/min.!  Our thanks should go to not only club members but to the Shepton (who brewed tea for us!) and to the Wessex who supplied teams, in fact during the height of activity over 20 different clubs were helping and my thanks go to all of them.

The other major event has been the club’s expedition to the Gouffre Berger.  I think I should say that without Tim Large's particular efforts here, we probably wouldn't have succeeded in achieving the level of success (over 25 out of 60 people to the bottom) and to Phil Romford in organising the tackle.  This trip was particularly successful bearing in mind other regions attitudes to Mendip and pitches!

Again, trips to st Cuthbert's have been busy as usual and the same old people have come up to lead. We have 4 new keen leaders and more cavers have shown keen interest in becoming one.  Perhaps its time to modernise the leadership system to enable members to obtain it and the form being updated to take consideration that we are now in 1985.  Perhaps a general form taking in the cave generally as opposed to step-by-step route by route.  And a proposer and seconder system - something to think about in the next year.

The only problem with the general activity is that the monthly trips have disappeared, and as I stated last year, its important that these trips shall be carried on since this is the only time that some members will actually meet others and with a club of 200 you can be excused if you miss one or two people!

Finally, when I took this job over I did it because somebody had to do it - but funny, I actually grew to enjoy it, organising trips to Cuthbert's etc. but I always knew that the job should be done by somebody who has more personal commitment to ensure that the monthly trips can be organised.

My personal circumstances have recently changed (I'm now working for myself) and because of that I can't guarantee that I shall be available to organise Cuthbert's trips etc. and therefore it's with regret that I shall have to stand down from the committee. The good news is I think we have found a younger (well about years 6 younger - he's 24 years) who'll be ideal in taking over the post.

Well all again I'd like to thank all members who have made my job easier to carry out.

Stuart McManus


Hon. Editor’s Report.

It is indeed true that the Belfry Bulletin is the main, if not the only link, that some BEC members have with the club, and therefore in an ideal world BB’s should be produced regularly.  Many members would shout "once a month".

However, we do not live in an ideal world.  I see little purpose in concocting a monthly magazine composed almost entirely of the little information gleaned from the Hunter’s and other caving publications together with editor's drivel.  For this reason the BB has been produced as and when there has been enough material to produce something readable.  (It is probable that the BEC saved on postage in this respect).  Thanks to many contributors, the BB has been produced on a more regular basis this year than last and I am very thankful to those who sent in excellent articles, especially those of you who have taken the trouble to have your articles typed.  My apologies to these who have still to wait to see their work in print.  It is not easy finding someone willing to type lengthy prose, often in unfamiliar tongue.

While an the subject of articles, I find it strange that write ups have appeared in magazines like Descent, concerning club's finds and digs while no articles have been sent for publication in the BB.  The club is active, and it is true to say that a caving club is often judged on its published work.  This is one of the main purposes of the BB.

Unfortunately, the job of editor is not just one of editing.  It almost always includes the tasks of typing, illustrating, paste up work, delivery of masters to our volunteer printer, collating, stapling and then taking all the flak concerning typing errors, spelling mistakes, late editions, lost copies etc. etc. etc.

On behalf of the BEC I would like to thank Jeremy Henley for getting the mag printed so often, and Brian and Lucy Workman for addressing and sending the copies out.  Also those members and the many little girls at school who have staggered round the table getting the thing put together.

I have enjoyed being editor to the BEC over the last 2 years, but now I feel it is time to hand over the task to someone with new enthusiasms and a different style.

Once again, thanks to the many friends who have helped.

Robin Gray N.D.D. ACVA.
Hon Editor to the BEC.

Librarian’s Report

As usual the library has “ticked over” with exchange publications and donations of material from members and other clubs, for which - many thanks.

The new library room is complete but much work needs to be done before it becomes the comfortable armchair caver's hideaway which is envisaged.

There were no requests for purchases of particular books this year and due to the present financial position of the club nothing has been spent en the library for some time. It is hoped to remedy the situation on completion of the room.

Tony Jarratt.


Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner

by Alan Thomas.

The Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner of the B.E.C. was a night to remember, as those who can remember will agree.

Dan Hasell, who has much previous for it, was the Toast Master.  Phil Hendy of the Wessex proposed the Toast of the Club on its Golden Anniversary.  After listing several items of gold which he had considered giving to us and then rejected, he finally presented Dan, on behalf of the club, with a piece of Fool's gold mounted on a plaque.  Kangy then presented Harry Stanbury, our founder, with a plaque marked "B.E.C. 1".  This reminds me of a phase a few years ago when all the waifs and strays of the B.E.C. had Christmas Dinner in the Belfry; after dinner, we used to ring Harry up and thank him for forming the B.E.C.  The next very long time was occupied by Bob Davies who introduced us very wittily to an apparatus called an AFLO which he had brought with him.  I was not clear if this had ever been a serious piece of apparatus or if it had been designed especially for his speech. Anyway, in the end he presented it to our Guest of Honour who seemed to be a Scotsman who had survived from the early days of caving and was in fact Graham Balcombe.

I then gave a very bare outline of what I had intended to say on the topic of Absent Friends because I felt that we had already heard a lot from people who had far more to reminisce about than I had and that because we had been starved of culture for seven years, the important thing was to get on with the play whilst those in it were still sober enough to perform it.

I said that I would have liked my thirtieth Absent Friends to coincide with the club's fiftieth and blamed Bobby for a lack of foresight.  However, when I looked at my diary I found that Bobby was only one year out. Later I was informed by Joan Bennett that when we changed the date of the Dinner to October we actually had two Dinners in one year.  So that my thirty Absent Friends did in fact coincide with the B.E.C.'s Golden Jubilee. Next year Absent Friends must have an official birthday like the queen.

However, I was thwarted in my attempt to shorten the proceedings by numerous presentations and raffles that followed Absent Friends.

The first presentation was made by Jim Hanwell who presented a photograph of Sump 1 to Jack Sheppard. Rob Harper then presented "Driver of the year" to Andy Lovell.  I was very to see that the shield which originally said "champion dormitory" and I had modified last year to present it to Rob, had been further modified to make it applicable to motor" cycles. Chris Castle then presented "Boar of the Year" to Andy Sparrow for becoming a professional caver.

Tony Jarratt then ingeniously presented "Sticker of the Year" to Alfie.  The presentations were followed by raffles.  Trevor Hughes did his usual striptease accompanied by his lady.


Oliver Cromwell Lloyd

Oliver was an epitome of English eccentricity, the popular view of the rest of the world is that we are a nation peppered with characters like Oliver.  The man was a part of English culture, fast disappearing, submerged by the transatlantic idiom.  Oliver was educated, refined, gifted but above all surreal.  In any setting his surrealism made him stand out, charismatic but alien, lovable but peculiar.

His settings were so varied that any caver who read his obituary in "The Guardian" would have wondered if it was the same O. C. L.  We could only glimpse one Oliver, he did not foster exchanges across his many universes.

Each meeting with the man was fascinating, each one - and there were hundreds - I can recall vividly, as if he were playing a cameo role in each encounter.  Was this projection done consciously?  If it was, and asked directly if it was, he would only smile in answer.  I was first drawn to the man by his deep interest in the people around him, what they were and their adventures.  We spent many hours comparing notes, filling in on missing episodes.  At one stage he had albums of photographs, using each picture as a cue to describe the people he had met.  In all this there was a golden rule, accept people as you find them, never attempt to prejudge or categorise the un-categorisable.  In this way life becomes the 'moveable feast', a surprise at every turn.

Oliver could be humorous, humanly sensitive or ruthless.

Banquo at the feast of the king

One night at my table, after a C.D.G. meeting on training, the meal was interrupted by the news of a fatal accident at Wookey.  The meal resumed with the gallows humour, which active divers share with minions, the same fatalism that keeps anyone in the firing line from falling apart.  It was his turn, thank God it wasn’t mine, pass the wine over here.  Oliver rose from the table, visibly shaken and left for his room, commenting as he left that we were like "Banquo at the feast of Macbeth".

Later, intrigued by what he had said, I looked up the reference.  In Boece’s original account, Banquo was deemed as bloody and cynical as Macbeth.  Shakespeare, however, exonerates Banquo of his crime.  Oliver had merely cast himself as the king; his fellows at the feast were bloody but forgivable - even if the king was murdered.

The Wooding Affair

In 1966 Mike Wooding, at that time, secretary of Somerset section was believed by Oliver, who had loved Mike as a son, to be using C.D.G. as a vehicle for his own ends.  Oliver wrote to Wooding asking him to resign as secretary thus disproving the abuse of his position.  Oliver threatened complete character assassination if Mike did not comply. Wooding refused to relinquish the secretaryship.  The assassination as promised was total and to the letter, socially and academically.

Mike Wooding was forced to leave the Mendip scene.  Having read the letter I advised Mike to ignore it, believing that no one would act in such a way, and that my eyes and senses were at fault.  I was wrong I had unwittingly betrayed a friend and at this I could never forgive Oliver.  We had grown up quickly.  Oliver had blown his innocence.  Others, when they found that they had been used as pawns in his game realised that his motive had been to protect the group.  We ensured that Oliver never pulled the same stunt again.  The price was too high, but the independence of the group was preserved from any would be or imaginary tyrant.

In 1967 the focus of attention in British caving was the assault by various British expeditions to the Gouffre Berger especially that of Ken Pearce complete with royal patronage. His expedition was to push the sumps at the bottom of the then deepest cave in the world.  For the C.D.G.’s annual dinner at Wells, Oliver had prepared a skit on the entire scene, knowing that he had a captive audience.  As Ken had enlisted not only the N.C.D.G. for this purpose but also stars from the other sections who would in fact form the sharp end of the effort.

Oliver casting himself as Ken Pearce was very convincingly interviewed by Eleanor Bronn, whom he had invited to the dinner, in a make believe radio interview.  The expedition was not set for the Berger but was an expedition to put the first Briton on the moon.  Yes, the Brit in question was Ken!  The method of reaching the moon had that stamp of plausibility that was Pearce's trademark.  They would use ladders and scaling poles to the midway point then abseil down to the surface.  Eleanor probed the logistics of the food and equipment, at every would-be snag, Ken would have an answer.  Any weakness in plan or personnel was covered, getting to the moon was merely a formality.

It became obvious as the interview developed that Ken could not take into account possible failure because of his belief in his own infallibility.  Oliver had put a gentle mocking finger on Pearce's Achilles Heel. Finally, Ken was asked about patronage. Ken declared that not only did he have royal assent but that he had "God on his side".  With this simple line Oliver had turned the barb on his own antagonists, even me, thus proving that Oliver could laugh at himself. Events were to overwhelm Ken Pearce. Mossdale not only robbed him his 'sharp end" but the tragedy demoralized his team.  "If Ken could have learned to laugh at himself, the British caving spirit would have hammered at the gates of Sassenage to be let out", Oliver remarked later.

One morning, Oliver was leaving my cottage he met my next door neighbour who, in shirt sleeves, and a year or two older, was busy mucking out in the cool Peakland air.  For a second both men observed the difference in their physical state.  Oliver looked at both of us ruefully and said, "It comes for us all in the end, age.”

I met him for the last time in May at the Cross Streets in the dales.  "I will come up soon and let you have a look at my manuscript for a piece for a brass band I have written," at 15 separate lines, he was especially proud of fitting all the instruments on one script and that he had been invited to write the piece for the band's centenary.  I smiled, Liz groaned at the prospect.  It was Oliver's little game - an impish smile and he was gone. Oliver had physically deteriorated noticeably.  I was not surprised or even sorry at the news of his death, such a man would have found a lingering death an obscenity.

Let the curtain fall quickly and leave the stage with grace.  He would have delighted to the fact that people so young loved and respected him that would be memorial enough.  The man was a feast we must learn to go without.






Forthcoming Caving Trips

I’ve just taken over Mac's job as Caving Secretary and I thought it best if I get cracking straight away and organise some meets for the next year.

The people I’ve talked to so far have expressed an interested in a few more Yorkshire trips, and with several members making frequent visits to the Dales already I'll organise this on a fairly regular basis.  I’d appreciate it if people would get in touch with me and let me know if they are going or if they want any specific caves booked.

In the meantime though, there are no SRT ropes in the tackle store so it's horizontal trips for the next couple of months while I try and remedy this!  Could people let me know of any personal ropes, hangers etc. that they don't mind being used on club meets.

Let me know the type of trips you want me to organise - I can only use my initiative until I get a clearer idea of what is expected.  I would also like to know where exactly you’d like to stay in the various caving areas. Unless people say otherwise I’m going to book the NCP hut, Greenclose, Clapham for Yorkshire meets, probably the Pegasus for Derbyshire and, obviously the huts for Wales meets will change according to the caves being done.

I’m writing for access at the moment and until I hear from the C.N.C.C. and the various landowners, no dates or cave bookings can be counted on.

Provisionally club meets will be as follows:







Notts Pot

N.P.C. Hut



Nick Pot




Lancaster/County Pot

N.P.C. Hut



Juniper Gulf



South Wales


Camping near Chrickhowell



Daren Cilau



Wye Valley

Otter Hole

Trip over 2 tides



Gaping Gill.  Winch Meet.

Camping by main shaft



Nettle Pot








Providence-Dow (Dowbergill)

Camping at Kettlewell



Birks Fell








Marble Steps

N.P.C. Hut






South Wales


South Wales Hut

It had been hoped that a trip to South Wales could have been made on Nov 23-24 but unfortunately it has been impossible to arrange it in time.

In addition to the trips above, Steve Milner, Rob Harper and myself are doing a bit of work in the far reaches of the Time Machine (Daren Cilau), both digging and pushing high level stuff.  We'll be doing trips on a fairly regular basis and anyone who wants to come and lend a hand will be most welcome.

If anyone wants to contact me for information or with any idea (Don't tell me, I can guess) my address is 39B Apsley Road, Clifton, Bristol, Tel (0272) 742994 (Evenings), 293849 (Work).

Mark Lumley.


Majorca 1985

Jeremy Henley

Whilst I was making my geriatric way to camp 1 in the Gouffre Berger my wife was sunning herself in Puerto Pollenza, Majorca.  She so enjoyed the place, very small, very personal service with quite sensational scenery.  In front of the hotel a bay, almost totally landlocked, with a small channel to the sea hidden by hills to the left.  On the far side of the bay more hills and an area of flat land off to the right and then all way along behind the hotel a range of hills on the other side of which more sea.  This spectacular scenery, hot sunshine and lack of grockles, so enchanted her that she persuaded me, though she insists that I persuaded her, that she should return three weeks later taking me along.

The night before we left I packed quietly - in the garage - a tackle bag of caving gear.  I knew that Majorca is limestone and had heard of all the famous show caves.  I had no intention of going there though.  I had phoned Ray Mansfield - that international directory of cavers on Mendip - and he had given me three contact addresses.  I intended to go real caving.

The hotel staff were somewhat taken aback when I pulled the tackle bag out of the boot of the taxi but were more helpful when I asked them to try to contact the three names I had been given.

Firstly the committee Ballear de speleologia turned out not to be on the phone, neither was the first of the two individuals named but, fantastic, the third was and was phoned by the hotel management.  Mateo Alemany was most amicable, spoke perfect English, tried to get someone to go caving with me but eventually gave up. "I am sorry," he said, "but at this time of the year we are all very busy - I work every day in my restaurant my friends can only cave on Sundays.  If you had given us 4 to 6 weeks notice we would have fixed something".  In the summer on Majorca plan a long way ahead!

However the hotel staff were now enjoying this and on their own initiative they arranged for me to meet Pere Llobera, the head of the northern section of the Majorca mountaineering club.  His club address is Seccio de Muntanya, del club Pollenca, La Placa 1 - Pollenca, Mailorca.

Margaret and I got a taxi to Pollenca village and spent a very pleasant evening with the young men of the Seccio de Muntanya conversing in poor French pouring over speleo maps of north east Majorca, a copy of a small section of which is now in the library.  Unfortunately there were no active cavers in the north east of Majorca so if I was to go caving it was going to be on my own and I marked on my map four entrances to easy caves, photos and surveys of which I was shown, needing no ladders or ropes and being about 1000 feet or so long and the deepest about 300 feet.

I spent the next afternoon in blazing sunshine scrambling through dense prickly undergrowth searching for the nearest and easiest cave, eventually I got so scratched that I donned my waterproof overall as protection and managed a good imitation of a sauna. In the end I found an entrance too deep to attempt to climb on my own without aids and another entrance blocked with stones.  I returned home scratched, bleeding and muddy to the immense amusement of some and bewilderment of other guests in the hotel.

After that it was all downhill, cycling, swimming, discos and believe it or not I managed to tack about a bit on a windsurfer after some exceptionally good lessons from a laid back Englishman with a pretty Spanish wife.  Caving?  Not a bit of it.  As they say: "You don’t want to explore all the caves at once".


Log Book Ramblings

JayRat and others have been down Upper Flood and he say’s the formations are magnificent.  Access is closely controlled by the MCG who limit parties to a maximum size of 4 including the MCG leader.  Tony has promised an article for the next BB.

Hunter’s Hole has been visited recently by Tim Large etc with a view to possibly digging there again to bypass Cuthbert’s sump.

Ian Caldwell and John Watson have been back to their greasy hole at the bottom of Manor Farm - maybe it’ll go this time.

St. Cuthbert’s has had a few trips recently but it appears that no work has taken place in the cave since the marathon pumping epic in the summer.

Hut Fund

Things are looking up! Thank you all you good hearted friends and I might add that you are not all members of the club.  32 people have now donated £999; the smallest £5, the largest (two) £100 each.

The retiring secretary, latent life member, Tim Large told us at the the A.G.M. that we have 191 members of which about 32 members were joint so there are still a lot of you out there who I would like to hear from.  No donation is too small.  Don’t be shy, Shylock Henley's here and he will accept any sum from anyone.

B.E.C. Balloon Flights Raffle

The draw for the Balloon Flights raffle took place recently and the lucky winners were as follows:-

1st prize of 2 basket places                                            Ticket

            G.Fish, Weston super Mare.                               (1021)

2nd prize of 2 basket places

            Lil Romford, Bat Products                                   (233)

3rd prize of 1 basket place

            A. Hayward, Wilton, Taunton       (1447)

Jeremy will be contacting the winners shortly and Dave Turner and Brian Workman will fly the lucky few as soon as possible, bearing in mind that ballooning is most probably the most weather dependant sport there is.

The draw made £130 which is very disappointing as the current price for balloon flights is about £60. So we have donated £300 worth of flights for under half price!  If we ever do it again I shall expect a bigger effort from members as here was a missed opportunity to boost the club funds at a time when it is so badly needed.

Dave Turner.


Bristol Exploration Club - Membership List October 1985

828 Nicolette Abell                  Faulkland, Bath

1059 Georgina Ainsley            Redland, Bristol

987 Dave Aubrey                    Park St, Salisbury, Wiltshire.

20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw            Knowle, Bristol, Avon

392 (L) Mike Baker                 Midsomer Norton, Bath, Avon

818 Chris Batsone                  Bathford, Bath, Avon

390 (L) Joan Bennett               Wesbury-on-Trym, Bristol

214 (L) Roy Bennett                Wesbury-on-Trym, Bristol

998 Crissie Bissett                 Exeter, Devon

364 (L) Pete Blogg                  Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey

145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle       Calne, Wiltshire

959 Chris Bradshaw                Cheddar, Somerset

868 Dany Bradshaw                Eastwater Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset

1005 Jane Brew                      Sutton-in-Craven, Keithley, West Yorkshire

751 (L) T.A. Bookes                London, SW2

992 Mark Brown                     St. Andrews, Bristol

924 Aileen Butcher                 Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

849 Alan Butcher                    Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

956 Ian Caldwell                     University College Cardiff, Cardiff, Wales

1014 Chris Castle                   Little Manor, Downhead, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

1062 Andy Cave                     Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset

902 (L) Martin Cavender           Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset.

1048 Tom Chapman                Barrows Road, Cheddar, Somerset.

1003 Rachael Clarke               Ardross, by Alness, Rossshire

1030 Richard Clarke                Normans Green, Plymtree, East Devon

211 (L) Clare Coase                Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia

89 (L) Alfie Collins                   Litton, Somerset

862 Bob Cork                         Stoke St. Michael, Somerset

1042 Mick Corser                   Woodbury, Exeter, Devon

827 Mike Cowlishaw               Micheldever Station, Winchester, Hants.

1060 Peter Crawley                 West Wickham. Kent

890 Jerry Crick                       Reaseheath, Nantwich, Cheshire

680 Bob Cross                       Knowle, Bristol

405 (L) Frank Darbon              Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. VIT 6M3

423 (L) Len Dawes                  Main Street, Minster Matlock, Derbyshire

815 Nigel Dibben                    Holmes Chapel, Cheshire

164 (L) Ken Dobbs                  Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon

829 Angie Dooley                   Harborne, Birmingham

710 Colin Dooley                    Harborne, Birmingham

1000 (L) Roger Dors                Priddy, Somerset

1038 Alan Downton                 Sundon Park, Luton, Beds

830 John Dukes                      Wells, Somerset

996 Terry Earley                     Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire

771 Pete Eckford                    Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset

322 (L) Bryan Ellis                  Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset

1064 David Evans                   Didcot, Oxon

1063 Peter Evans                   Abingdon, Oxfordshire

232 Chris Falshaw                  Fulwood, Sheffield

269 (L) Tom Fletcher               Bramcote, Nottingham.

894 Phil Ford                          Yeovil, Somerset

404 (L) Albert Francis              Wells, Somerset

569 Joyce Franklin                  Stone, Staffs

469 Pete Franklin                   Stone, Staffs

1049 Gerard Garvey                Fulwood, Preston, Lancs

769 Sue Gazzard                    Tynings, Radstock, Nr Bath, Avon

835 Len Gee                          St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire

459 Keith Gladman                 Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

1069 Angie Glanville                Chard, Somerset

1017 Peter Glanville                Chard, Somerset

648 Dave Glover                      Green Lane, Pamber Green, Basingstoke, Hampshire

1006 Edward Gosden              Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, Hants

1054 Tim Gould                      Redland, Bristol

860 Glenys Grass                   Sawbridgeworth, Herts

790 Martin Grass                    Sawbridgeworth, Herts

1009 Robin Gray                     East Horrington, Wells, Somerset

432 (L) Nigel Hallet                 Address not known

104 (L) Mervyn Hannam           St Annes, Lancashire

999 Rob Harper                      Hanham, Bristol, Avon

4 (L) Dan Hassell                    Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset

893 Dave Hatherley                 Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset

974 Jeremy Henley                 Leg Square, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

917 Robin Hervin                     Trowbridge, Wiltshire

952 Bob Hill                           2441 B6 Wassennaar, The Netherlands

373 Sid Hobbs                        Priddy, Wells Somerset

736 Sylvia Hobbs                    Priddy, Wells Somerset

905 Paul Hodgson                  Pennybatch Lane, Burcott, Wells, Somerset

898 Liz Hollis                         Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

899 Tony Hollis                       Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

920 Nick Holstead                  Trowbridge, Wiltshire

387 (L) George Honey             Address not known

971 Colin Houlden                   Bruton, Somerset

770 Chris Howell                     Edgebaston, Birmingham

923 Trevor Hughes                  Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset

855 Ted Humphreys                Moorsite, Marnhull, Sturminster Newton, Dorset

73 Angus Innes                      Alveston, Bristol, Aven

540 (L) Dave Irwin                   Townsend, Priddy, Somerset

922 Tony Jarratt                      Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset

668 Mike Jeanmaire                Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire

1026 Ian Jepson                     Beechen Cliff, Bath

51 (L) A Johnson                    Station Rd., Flax Bourton, Bristol

995 Brian Johnson                  Ottery St. Mary, Devon

1001 Graeme Johnson            East Park Road, Leicester

560 (L) Frank Jones                Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset

567 (L) Alan Kennett               Henleaze, Brsitol

884 John King                        Wisborough Green, Sussex

316 (L) Kangy King                 Pucklechurch, Bristol, Avon

1007 Jonathan King                Pucklechurch, Bristol, Avon

542 (L) Phil Kingston               St. Mansfield, Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia

413 (L) R. Kitchen                   Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon

946 Alex Ragnar Knutson        Bedminster, Bristol

874 Dave Lampard                  Horsham, West Sussex

1029 Steve Lane                     Bamford, Derbyshire

667 (L) Tim Large                    Wells, Somerset

958 Fi Lewis                           Wells, Somerset

1056 Chris Larkin                    Innesfree Way, Constantia, 7800, South Africa

1015 Andrew Lolley                 Kingsdowm, Bristol

1043 Andy Lovell                    Rowan Walk, Keynsham, Bristol

1065 Mark Lovell                     Keynsham, Bristol

1057 Mark Lumley                  Clifton, Bristol 8

1022 Kevin Mackin                  Yeovil, Somerset

1067 Fiona McFall                  Knowle, Bristol BS4

651 Pete MacNab (Sr)             Cheddar, Somerset

1052 Pete MacNab (Jr)            Cheddar, Somerset

550 (L) R A MacGregor           Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants

725 Stuart McManus               Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset

106 (L) E.J. Mason                 Henleaze, Bristol

558 (L) Tony Meaden              Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset

704 Dave Metcalf                    Long Eaton, Nottingham

1044 Andrew Middleton           Harrow, Middlesex

1012 Al Mills                          Ston Easton, Wells, Somerset

1053 Steve Milner                   Clifton, Bristol

936 Dave Nichols                    Address not Known

852 John Noble                       Tennis Courts Rod, Paulton, Bath

624 Jock Orr                          Sturton-by-Stow, Lincoln

396 (L) Mike Palmer                Yarley, Wells, Somerset

1045 Richard Payne                Sidcup , Kent

22 (L) Les Peters                    Knowle Park, Bristol Avon

499 (L) A. Philpott                   Bishopston, Bristol, Avon

1037 Dave Pike                      Luckinbgton, Chippenham, Wilts

337 Brian Prewer                    West Horrington, Wells, Somerset

481 (L) John Ransom              Patchway, Bristol, Avon

682 John Riley                        Waramanga, ACT 2611, Australia

1033 Sue Riley                       Waramanga, ACT 2611, Australia

1046 Gerard Robinson             The Common, Patchway, Bristol

986 Lil Romford                      Coxley, Wells, Somerset

985 Phil Romford                    Coxley, Wells, Somerset

921 Pete Rose                       Crediton, Devon

832 Roger Sabido                   Lawrence Weston, Bristol

240 (L) Alan Sandall                Nailsea, Avon

359 (L) Carol Sandall               Nailsea, Avon

760 Jenny Sandercroft             Victoria Park, Bristol

237 (L) Bryan Scott                 Havestock Road, Winchester Hants

482 Gordon Selby                   Wells, Somerset

78 (L) R Setterington               Taunton, Somerset

213 (L) Rod Setterington          Chiswick, London W4

1046 Dave Shand                    Easton, Bristol

926 Steve Short                      Ashlea Park, East Huntspill, Highbridge, Somerset

1036 Nicola Slann                   P.O. Lane, Flax Bourton, Bristol

915J Chris Smart                    Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts

911 James Smart                   Clifton, Bristol

1041 Laurence Smith              West Horrington, Wells, Somerset

823 Andrew Sparrow               Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset

1 (L) Harry Stanbury                Bude, Cornwall

38(L) Mrs I Stanbury               Knowle, Bristol

575 (L) Dermot Statham          Westcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

365 (L) Roger Stenner             Weston super Mare, Avon

867 Rich Stevenson                Wookey, Wells, Somerset

583 Derek Targett                   East Horrington, Wells Somerset

1039 Lisa Taylor                     Weston Road, Bath

1035 John Theed                    Staple Hill, Bristol

284 (L) Alan Thomas               Nine Barrows Lane, Priddy, Somerset

348 (L) D Thomas                   Little Birch, Bartlestree, Hereford

571 (L) N Thomas                   Norwich Rd., Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk.

699 Buckett Tilbury                 High Wycombe, Bucks

700 Anne Tilbury                     High Wycombe, Bucks

74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark  Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex

381 (L) Daphne Towler             Nyetimber, Bognor Regis, Sussex

157 (L) Jill Tuck                      Llanfrechfa, Cwmbran, Gwent, Wales

382 Steve Tuck                       Coxley, Wells, Somerset

1023 Matthew Tuck                 Coxley, Wells, Somerset

1066 Alan Turner                    Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon

678 Dave Turner                      Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon

912 John Turner                      Launceston Rd., Tavistock, Devon.

925 Gill Turner                        Launceston Rd., Tavistock, Devon.

635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury          Boundstone, Farnham, Surrey

887 Greg Villis                        Banwell, Weston-super-Mare, Avon

175 (L) Mrs. D. Whaddon        Taunton, Somerset

949 John Watson                    West Horrington, Wells, Somerset

1019 Lavinia Watson               West Horrington, Wells, Somerset

973 James Wells                    Yorktown Heights, New York, USA

1055 Oliver Wells                    Yorktown Heights, New York, USA

1032 Barry Wharton                Yatton, Bristol

878 Mne White                       Royal Marines Police, Hamworthy, Dorset

1068 John Whiteley                Holnepark, Ashburton, Devon

1061 Kerry Wiggins                Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, Hants

1031 Mike Wigglesworth         Keynsham, Avon

559 Barrie Wilton                    Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset

850 Annie Wilton-Jones           Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent

813 Ian Wilton-Jones               Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent

914 Brian Workman                Little London, Oakhill,  Bath

1011 Lucy Workman               Little London, Oakhill,  Bath

477 Ronald Wyncoll                Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.

1050 Richard York                  Cheddar, Somerset


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Dave Turner

My apologies for the delay in this BB - pressure of work and all that.  I am prepared to carry on but feel the Club would be better served if someone, with more time took over as editor.  I would be only too pleased to assist them if anyone fancies a turn.


Notice of Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the BEC will be held at the Belfry on Saturday, 3rd October at 10.30am prompt.  You are reminded that nominations for the 1987-8 committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 5th September 1987.  All nominations must have a proposer and seconder.  Present members of the committee are nominated automatically if they wish to stand for re-election.

Note: the posts of Hut Warden, Caving Sec. and Membership Sec. are up for grabs! Don't delay in submitting your nomination.

Annual Dinner

The annual dinner will be held at The Caveman Restaurant, Cheddar on Saturday, 3rd October at 7.30pm for 8.00pm.  The cost will be £8 per head, excluding wine and there will be a charge of about 50p for corkage - bring large bottles!!  It is hoped that Sid Perou will talk and Alfie's band will provide entertainment. Martin Grass will be MC and anyone wishing to make awards or speak must contact him before the start of the dinner. Tickets may be obtained from Trebor (Mike McDonald, 28 Priory Road, Knowle, Bristol BS4 2NL.  Tel: Bristol 716690).   (See article on Dinner Referendum - ed)

Attendance at Committee Meetings

The attendance of committee members during the last committee year (excl. Sept. & Oct) is as follows:

Bob Cork 10; Mark Lumley 8; Steve Milner 5; Dany Bradshaw 9; Andy Sparrow 8; Mike McDonald 7; Tony Jarratt 8; Dave Turner 6; Brian Workman 7; Phil Romford 5.

Cuthbert’s Photos

If any members have any photos (including slides) of St. Cuthbert’s which they think may be suitable for the Cuthbert’s report can they let Barry Wilton see them.  He needs over a hundred photographs and will obviously take great care of anything lent.  Historical photos etc are all needed together with photos of digs and formations etc.

Thanks to Jim & Mary Rand for the etched glass in the Belfry. front door.

The Quest for the Rusty Tankard, was won by the BEC by devious means as most members are aware.


Caving News


The short extension found at the end of Frag Street on the 9 day camp looked so promising that at Easter Clive Gardener, Peter Bolt and myself went back to push it.  Henry Bennett came in too but 300ft in through the entrance crawl the mournful cry "Mark….I've just shat in my furry suit!" was followed by a hasty exit.

After a few hours of digging through a shattered, draughting bed we'd gained about 30ft and things looked long term and fairly hopeless.  We persevered however and a couple of hours later we were rewarded by a small, open passage ahead.  This led up a sloping crawl to the base of an aven.  40ft up this we gained access to a tight high rift with a good draught which was heading east into the blank area between Daren and Craig a Ffynnon.

We were held up about 100ft further on with no obvious way ahead.  Eventually I found a tight rift ending in a formidable squeeze which was finally passed by a committed Clive pushing with his feet against my nose (well it comes in useful sometimes!).  The way on was open in big rift passage and we stormed past a couple of boulder constrictions and up a tight version of the Cuthbert’s entrance rift. The way on continued large but progress was made difficult by the large number of boulder chokes, several of which we had to dig through.

Finally, after a total of 1200ft we ended up in a large collapse chamber with the way on blocked by fallen roof crud (Rock Steady geological phenomenon found extensively in the lower reaches of Daren along with 'Choked Bastards', 'Staled up Herberts', 'Hanging Laxatives' and 'Crystal Crinkly Bits').  The passage heads parallel with the Kings Road and lines up with Half Mile passage.  The draught would suggest a separate entrance in the Clydach Gorge.  The floor deposits are of a thick grey mud which I haven't seen elsewhere in the cave.

Two weeks later we returned in force to push the end of the chamber and after several hours of hard work we gave up, the draught emitting from a tight crack in the floor.  The way on would appear to be in passage buried below the chamber.

The place lives up to its new name of Remote Chamber and a trip from the Daren entrance to here and out again without doubt is the most strenuous in the country.

After several weeks layoff we returned to the Hard Rock Cafe on July 3-5, banging in Red River passage (Clive's project), and digging the formidable Agen Allwedd Passage chokes where the spoil heap has now gone up to an estimated 400-500 tons.  Clive and I only managed to remove a trifling 2-3 tons in 2 hours.  The rest of the trip was used to make a photographic record of lower Daren on a 2 1/4" Hasselblad.

An uneventful exit from the cave was followed some hours later by the removal of my appendix – food for thought if it had gone while we were still down the cave!


Hunter's Hole

J’Rat et al have put a lot of work and chemical persuasion into Sanctimonious Passage in Hunters Hole recently.  They made a breakthrough which leads to a static sump.  Apparently the air was bad due to carbon dioxide and bang fumes and Tony nearly met his end.  Steve Milner went down on 8th Aug to dive the sump but could not get through the squeeze. Tony emptied the bottle near the sump (now dried up) to try and clear the fumes.


Bob Cork has returned after the BEC's first week in Austria.  They have rigged Wiesalmschacht up to last years limit and ran out of rope.  More rope has now reached the team and so they should be well into new ground by now.  Hirlatzhohle has been extended and a connection with it now has a potential depth of 1200m.

Bob says that they also rigged Orkan Hohle as far as the 10th pitch and that its looking good with bigger size passages than usual for Austria and a potential of 1300m.  A full report in the next BB.

He also said that it took a while to patch up relations the Austrians particularly due to the graffiti and rubbish including carbide everywhere which was left by the last people out last year


Andy Sparrow and other BEC members have pushed the 'Final' chamber beyond the "Drainpipe" and have entered a new chamber.  They decided to dig here as they followed the draught all the way to this point from near the entrance.  As Andy reported in the log, "After an hours work the roof fell out of the dig and onto Sparrow's head - he retreated bloodily and left Tom to squeeze up into the echoing void above - results as follows:-


New chamber is quite pretty and has two obvious leads/digs - not bad for six hours digging!  (AND OUT IN TIME FOR THE PUB!)

Ogof Capel

Of interest to the Daren & Aggy - watchers - welsh cavers have pushed Ogof Capel towards Perseverance Passage.

Agen Allwedd

Sump 4 has been passed by Ian Roland to a short large passage ending in a boulder choke.


Membership Changes

New Members

1085     Duncan Price, Edgebaston, Birmingham
1086     Richard Neville-Dove, Keynsham, Bristol


The following members were ratified at the August Committee meeting: -

1074     Jerry Jones        1077     Brian Wafer
1075     Tony Williams    1078     Mike Hearn
1076     Roz Williams     1079     Henry Bennett

Address Changes

1005     Jane Cobrey (nee Brew), Keighley, West Yorkshire
868       Dany Bradshaw, Haybridge, Wells

The Library

Many will know of the very generous bequest from Mrs. Tuck, a considerable amount of money which was to be put towards "the Club".  A good number will have heard that the Committee decided to put the money towards re-fitting the library completely, with new bookcases, cabinets, map chests etc.  It was thought that this would be a fitting memorial and something that was both tangible and practical.  She also requested that a tree be planted in her memory in the garden.

Towards this end, a flexible system of mahogany bookcases have been ordered comprising solid door base units, for storing "unsightly" papers, periodicals and newsletters, and glazed upper shelving for book display.  We've ordered slightly more than we presently need; firstly to do a complete job worthy of the bequest and secondly to allow room for our library to expand into.  Providing we don't lose books though "wastage" (i.e. people pinching them), J-Rat can gradually increase our collection.  All glazed shelving will have locks and a plaque to Mrs. Tuck will be put on the door.

For those who are likely to criticize the project, a refitted library was considered most appropriate for a memorial - a tangible and useful feature, rather than re-fitted showers, drying room or tackle, for example.  We need decent cupboards and bookshelves in any event.  An expensive and quality set of shelving was chosen mainly because the alternatives were rubbish - formica garbage hardly worthy of a memorial or inflexible bookcase stack systems.  We'd much rather spend all the money on a good quality, useful, flexible bookcase system, rather than tatty stuff at two thirds the price that wouldn't last very long.

The new units should be ready in 10 weeks from the date of order (10 June 1987).

Whilst on the subject, and not wishing to impose on J-Rat's job, he tells me there's a load of missing books; either missing and not booked out, or booked out for months and not returned. Can all these be returned as soon as possible.



Outstanding Belfry Jobs

Main Room

1.                  Re-fix hasp & staple to roof access

2.                  Cut & fix supalux around flue pipe

3.                  Repair leak in roof

4.                  Fix worktop

5.                  Repair water heater over sink

6.                  Wire in fridge

Drying Room

1.                  Clean out

2.                  Fix hanging rail

3.                  Build in air bricks

4.                  Clean and paint window

Bunk Rooms

1.                  Patch up render by meters

2.                  Finish off painting

3.                  Patch up holes in ceiling and walls

4.                  Fix bunks to walls

Entrance Hall

1.                  Tile floor

2.                  Finish of painting

3.                  Fix hat & coat hook on toilet door

4.                  Lag pipes


1.                  Lag Pipes

2.                  Install time switch to immersion heater

3.                  Clean out rubbish

Showers and Changing Room

1.                  All doors to be cleaned down and re-stained

2.                  Re-fix lock to entrance door

3.                  Put up hat & coat hooks

4.                  Make up & fix new benches

5.                  Fix shower curtain to third shower

6.                  Finish of painting

7.                  Rod drain pipe

8.                  Clean out gully

9.                  Fix toilet roll holder to wall

10.              Clean of walls and re paint

11.              Fix tiles to wall

12.              Re-move cement mixer and put in shed

13.              Install new coin meter

14.              Fit new 0 rings to shower


1.                  Build gas bottle store

2.                  Clear away rubbish from site

3.                  Re-build manhole to soak-away

4.                  All windows to be cleaned & re painted

5.                  Remove facia and replace with U.P.V.C.

6.                  Repair rainwater guttering

7.                  Fix frame and hang door to shed

8.                  Cut grass

9.                  Build roof over fire buckets

10.              Fix sign on carbide store

11.              Clean out shed

Tackle Store

1.                  Clean out "all rubbish"

2.                  Rewire electric ring main and lights

3.                  Fix shelves

Did you know, it was June 1985 when the alterations at the Belfry were finished apart from the panting, which the BEC membership agreed to do.  Now 2 Years later we still have not finished giving the Belfry a first coat of paint, despite organizing several working weekends and members weekends in which we hoped you would turn up and go caving, see your mates then spend some time doing a job or two.  The last members weekend only 1 person showed up, which is less than a normal weekend, so much for members weekends!

One Sunday lunch time, a few months back, there was a rescue callout and lots of people came back to see what was happening.  I managed to talk all those with nothing to do to doing some work on the hut.  I think it’s a sad day that the only way to get people back to the Belfry to work is have a rescue!

Perhaps you want to let the Belfry get in such a state that the only way out is to run round and raise the money to renovate the Headquarters every few years.  The old saying "A stitch in time saves nine" which is very true because a small job now can be a major job later. I have not got a magic wand, so I need MEMBERS to come along and do these jobs, because I am buggered if I will do them on my own.

After the roof was replaced on the tackle store, some MRO people did what work was necessary, i.e. rewire lights, and moved straight back in.  After 11 weeks what have the BEC done, fuck all.  So why not pick a job off the list, give me a ring and come down and do it. 

Dany Bradshaw - Hut Engineer.


A Brief History Of Gough’s Caves, Cheddar

by Dave Irwin

The history of Gough's Old and New Caves is a story of two caves that were destined to become among the best known public show-caves in the country; the earlier of which is now closed to the public.  The caving world has long appreciated that these are part of the same cave system in geomorphological sense, but to the public the two separate sites in print, at least, was assumed to be the same cave that has been progressively extended leading to confused reports in the past.  This has been based on contemporary information, full details of which have bee given in separate papers by the author published in the U.B.S. Proceedings (Irwin, 1986a, 1986b).

The caves at the lower end of Cheddar Gorge lie in a region that was known to 19th century inhabitants of Cheddar as Rock-End.  Another interesting name that has emerged is the point we know today as Black Rock was known in 1805 as Stag’s Cross.  Rock-End is the area from what is now the car parks in the Cooper’s Hole area to the bottom of the Gorge by Birch’s Bridge.  There were several paper and grist mills in the area utilising the water from the resurgence; contemporary maps show that there were about 10 limekilns in the Cliff Road area. The remains of one of the limekilns still exist below Lion Rock.  The people living in the area were housed in no more than single roomed cottages, some built against the walls of the cliffs.  In these hovels they eat, bred and slept.  A hole in the roof acted as a ‘chimney’ which appears to have rarely worked and must have filled the premises with smoke when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.  To scrape a living the men worked as agricultural labourers or in the quarries and mines.  The women made a few extra pennies by acting as guides to the caves and by selling spar to the visitor.  There are numerous accounts of the trouble caused by these unfortunate inhabitants, many of which would not take ‘No’ for an answer greatly irritating the visitors. Guide books of the 1840’s warned visitors of the problems likely to be met when they visited Cheddar Caves and some even wrote to the local newspapers complaining that no one could visit the Cliffs in peace.

The earliest reference to cave guides appears in the 1780’s and the commonly visited site was Long Hole.  Remember at this time and up to 1933 the scree slope from the Slitter which lies to the west of the cave entrances, spilled out to the modern road edge thus making the ascent to Long Hole a relatively easy climb.  In the early 19th century steps were cut into the soil near the top of the slope to further ease the climb.  An interesting sketch (1816) by the Reverend John Skinner, of Camerton, of the Slitter clearly shows the entrance to the Long Hole and Gough's Old Cave (Irwin. 1986b).

The less fortunate individuals and families were forced to inhabit the caves.  They boarded up the entrances to protect themselves from the weather and were able to eek out an existence by selling spar and potatoe stone. One such site was Gough’s Old Cave.  There are several documented references to a woman and her son who lived in the cave between c.1810 and c.1839.  In 1839 the son is reported to have married and moved into a cottage built against the cliff wall outside the cave entrance.  A newspaper reports says that he died in January 1877.  The identity of this man has yetv to be investigated but when this is done it should clarify the Jack and Nancy legend.  Was the son Jack Beauchamp (possible Beecham) or, as we shall se later, John Weeks?

Phelps (1836) describes the caves that were known at the time.  Briefly these are long Hole, Saye’s Hole, Gough’s Old and New Caves.  In addition Cooper’s Hole (said to be named after a family by that name who once lived in the cave) was referenced on maps that are stored at Longleat House.  Both Cooper’s Hole and Gough’s New Cave entrances were closed by wooden frames and used for long periods as cart sheds (c.1872).  It is most unlikely that either were long used for habitation as both were, and still are, subject to regular winter flooding.  During the 19th century Gough’s New Cave was known as Sand Hole, Saye’s hole was called ‘The Hall’ or ‘Cheddar Hall’; the earliest record of this name was noted by John Strachey of Ston Easton c.1736.

To make matters clear the names of Gough's Caves shall be used as we know them today.  Gough’s Old Cave needs no explanation but Gough’s Cave (that which is now open to the public) was originally known as Gough’s New Cave between the date of discovery and about 1910; by then the Old Cave appears to have been closed for public viewing.

Visitors to Cheddar had the opportunity to view several caves in the neighbourhood from as early as the 17th century.  This situation continued until George Cox (1800-1868) discovered Cox’s Cave in 1837. For the next year he developed the inside of the cave and opened it to the public in 1838.  At the same time George developed the Pleasure Gardens associated with what is now known as the Cliff Hotel.  This grist mill was bought by James Cox (George's father) in 1823 as lease-hold property, then known Harris' Mill changing its name to Cox's Mill when the ownership changed.  Most of the land at Cheddar at this time was owned by the Longleat Estates and thus most properties were 1easehold.  The tithes (or rates) were paid annually to the Marquis of Bath.  However, following the discovery and development of Cox's Cave, George Cox created the pleasure gardens making the site an attractive place for the mid-19th century visitors.  The impact of the expansion of the railways had yet to make its mark felt but suffice to say by this time that Cheddar was a well known and popular place to visit.

Back to the Gough's Old Cave.  A photograph of Jack and Nancy Beauchamp exists on picture postcard (Page 8).  It is a copy photograph of an original taken in 1860 and was probably placed on sale by Charles Collard of Cheddar about 1905. From this photograph we can clearly see the entrance to Gough's Old Cave and above the entrance is a board that could be a signboard.  The photograph has been closely inspected by Chris Howes but he cannot determine what is written on it.  The photograph also suggests that the cave informally operated as a show cave at least by 1860.  Though the contemporary guide-books mention Cox’s cave (then known as Stalactite Cavern) none mention the existence of a second show cave until 1869.  For example, Stevens in his A Guide to Cheddar and Neighbourhood (1869) makes no mention of a show cave other than Cox's Cave; remember his material probably would have been collected during the previous year. However, in 1869 a book The Tourist’s guide to Cheddar Cliffs published by E. Green of Wells confirms that a second cave was open for public viewing.  The cave was called The Great Stalactite Cavern.  The fact that a second cave was open to the public is independently confirmed by Eric Hensler's paternal grandfather, a certain Robert Russell Green.  Green visited Cheddar in 1869 and recorded in his diary “…There are tow chief ones, one kept by one Weekes certainly the larger of the two but not so beautiful as those by Mr. Cox…” (Hensler, 1968).  So we have definite proof that Gough's Old Cave was open to the public by 1869.  The existence of John Weeks (as spelt in the tithe records) has been confirmed by the tithe records at Longleat House.  He is recorded as a leaseholder of the land in front of the cliff where the modern cave offices and restaurant have been built.  The land contained a hut, garden and cavern.  Now assuming Jack and Nancy existed thy could have lived in the hut on Weeks’ land and ‘managed’ the cave for Weeks.  Weeks could also have taken control of the land from Jack and Nancy and operated the cave for himself.  The man who was born in Gough’s Old Cave is reported to have died in January 1877.  Who was he?  Weeks could have also been the son of the woman who lived in the cave.  Research continues into this fascinating subject. Some conclusions have been drawn but it is too soon to carry the subject sny further until some more checks have been made.

Anther early record of the Great Stalactite Cavern is an entry in the diary of the Reverend KiIvert, the great 19th century traveller.  He visited Gough's Old Cave in 1873 but was not impressed.  He describes the place as being wet and damp, full of slippery rocks ready to hurl one into the Bottomless Pit.  The man who guided them through the cave was white haired, deaf and had a bandaged jaw - obviously suffering from toothache!


 Richard Cox Gough, born in Bristol in 1827, moved to Cheddar about 1866; this is two years earlier than previously thought.  It is said that to make ends meet he worked in the mines and quarries higher up the gorge.  His mother, Lydia, lived near Lion Rock and was the sister of George Cox.  She had married James Gough and presumably after the death of her husband moved back to Cheddar in her retirement.  Richard Gough, and his family 1ived with his mother and eventually came into possession of the house after her death in 1871. What was Gough’s occupation between 1871 and 1877?  What is certain is that he was in control of Gough’s Old Cave by the summer of 1877.  When he took over the cave and from whom is still unknown.  By this time he was a man of moderate means for he entertained the villagers to a sumptuous meal in June 1877 and during the following month he entertained the Good Templars of Westbury and Cheddar to a picnic and in the evening showed them round “ …the Great stalactite Cavern.”  He now operated a show cave that was constantly being, and poorly, compared with Cox’s cave, now operated by his cousins after the death of their father in 1868.  Gough realised that he needed to do something pretty damn quick to combat the competition of he was to make a successful commercial venture from the cave.  Gough’s Old Cave at this time terminated at the top of the rift passage beyond the entrance chamber.  At the top of the rift he noticed that water pouring from the boulder and stalagmite choke in wet weather and so he employed men to remove the debris and in November 1877 he was rewarded by the discovery of a large chamber which he eventually called “The Convert Chamber.”   His advertising handbills of 1879 stated that he had re-named the cave as “The New Great Stalactite Cavern.”  The new chamber was quickly made ready for public viewing and admission to the cave was now 1 shilling and 6 pence, or for more than one person 1 shilling each. Cox's Cave was even more expensive at 3 shillings a visitor.


Photograph of Jack and Nancy Beauchamp said to be taken in 1860.
Notice Gough’s old Cave entrance (upper centre)
(from an old postcard c.1905)

The railway came to Cheddar in 1869, and with cheap excursion tickets during the summer months, the many visitors making Cheddar a popular tourist spot.  Works outings particularly from Bristol were common occurrences and the caves were among the highlights in addition to Pleasue Gardens and Church.

In addition to the showing of the cave, Gough organised several events in the cave during the off-peak season.  In September 1877 the Welford Family gave a hand-bell concert in the cave and in 1881 E.R. Sleator, a photographer an exhibition of his work on local views in the Concert Chamber.  For this occasion the cave was decorated with Chinese Lanterns and additional lighting was provided by oxy-hydrogen lights.  The photographs were described as being very realistic.

Gough installed gas lighting in the cave in April 1883.  The gas was obtained from petroleum by the use of a special apparatus.  The conversion apparatus was installed in the entrance chamber and for this action Gough was hauled before the Axbridge Magistrates because he did not possess the necessary licence to store petroleum and because the apparatus was a potential danger to the public.  Gough claimed that he had been advised that a licence was not necessary for the quantity that he was storing but he was nevertheless fined 10 shillings and the petroleum confiscated.  He was warned that if he did not place the apparatus in a safe location he would not be granted a further licence.  Gough asked that if he complied the Police requirements would he get his petroleum back?  Gough said “I have committed no crime.  It is like taking the bread out of a man’s mouth to take the petroleum away.” Colonel Luttrell (chairman of the Magistrates Bench) replied “You would have been fined much more heavily if the petroleum was not forfeited and the Bench will therefore reckon that your fine your petroleum is forfeited.”  The newspaper report continued " ... The defendant said he would like the Magistrates to visit the cave, and Col. Luttrell replied that he should be afraid to do so under the present circumstances.”  (Weston-super-Mare Gazette, 1883, 2nd May).

Gough’s next breakthrough came in 1887 when he discovered the Cathedral Chamber and the Queen’s Jewel Chamber at the end of the cave.  The route to these chambers was already open and only required crawling through to find them.  The original route is still there to see.  To make assess easy for the public, Gough excavated at the top of the Concert Chamber and cleared a passage below the two chambers.  He opened them to the public in 1888 hence they became known in the advertisements of the day, as the 1888 Chambers.  The first newspaper account of the new chambers appeared in the Weston-super-Mare Mercury (26th May 1888) which said

"Through this passage (the excavated one) the members were now conducted and emerged in what might be termed two grottoes of stalactites…..these were well illuminated and the beauty of the effect difficult to describe.  In one place a small natural fountain played in the centre of stalactites and stalagmites."

Gough employed his sons to act as guides and William Gough recalls in a letter to Thorneycroft (1949) “…before I was 12 [c.1883] I was able to conduct parties through the caves as well as the next.,"  It is reported that augment the formations in the cave Gough purchased cart-loads of stalagmite from Loxton Cave which had been open to the public for a short time to the public in the 1860s.  In addition to the added formations Gough used various devices to enhance the cave such as fountains in the chamber and reflected pools in the entrance chamber.

The last discovery was St. Valentine's Chamber - a side grotto at the entrance to the Concert Chamber (February, 1869).  The existence of the chamber was probably not unknown to Gough but to add to the 'latest important discovery' the grotto was opened up sufficiently to enable the public to peer into it.  This grotto seems to have been enhanced with foreign stalagmites!

Competition between the Cox's and Gough rose to unprecedented levels.  The cave proprietors made exaggerated claims about the merits of their respective caves for by now Gough's Cave was obviously biting into the takings at Cox’s Cave, the proprietors of which had a monopoly until 1877. Even then Gough probably made little impact on Cox’s Cave but by the mid 1880’s the situation was changing. Between 1877 and 1887 Gough had 20,000 visitors to the cave.  Edward Cox tried desperately to play down the importance of the discovery of the Concert Chamber in Gough's Cave typified by the following advertisement:

Cox's Stalactite Cavern.


NOTICE - There is no truth in the announcement of the discovery of a new great cave in 1877.  It is one of the original Cheddar Caves shown to the public before Cox’s Stalactite Cavern was accidentally discovered 1837-38.  Both caverns were described in 1868 by Mr. Nicholls in "Pleasant Trips out of Bristol."

Edward Cox, the then proprietor, was not being wholly truthful as Nicholls' book only mentions Cox's Cave and Long Hole!  The outburst from Richard Gough is not unexpected:


Visitors Read this before Seeing Caves.

GOUGH'S CAVES of 1877-1888-1889,

are the most wonderful .. ,

Visited by H,R.H. the Prince of Siam and the Colonials

..CAUTION: Station Drivers and others who are interested in other Caves are not my Colleagues.  I employ no "Touts."  I received a letter from the EARL OF KIMBERLEY, dated June 9th, 1888, contradictory of a Statement posted at another Cave.  H.R,H. the Prince of Wales has not visited Cheddar since a youth, with his tutor ..

Gough’s Entrance (c.1927 showing scree slope from slitter. (Courtesy of Cheddar Caves).

Neither of the proprietors were being honest with the public.  Touts were employed and the drivers received a ‘back-hander’ from the respective proprietors.  This technique continued well into the 20th century.  In fact fighting between the drivers was a regular event if local memories are to be believed!

To develop the site still further Gough and his wife, Frances, opened a formal tea garden outside their house and so were now in competition with the Pleaure Gardens at the Cliff Hotel.

Gough made no further discoveries at the Old Cave.  By about 1830 his attention had turned to Sand Hole, the large choked entrance some 40 metres east of the Old Cave entrance.  Why he had not attempted to excavate the site before is unknown but it has been suggested that a woman living in the adjacent cottage had prevented him doing so.  The site had long been a cart shed and according to Balch had been used as a gambling den.  Early 19th century initia1s and dates have been recorded scratched in tufaceous stalagmite close to the entrance.  The cave was partially choked but sufficiently clear so that the curious could penetrate at least 150ft. into the cave.  In January 1892 Gough had excavated at the end choke and broke into what is now known as The Fonts.  Gough cleared the passage and installed gas lighting by November 1892.  This section of the cave he opened to the public as Gough’s Rockwork Caves, because of the beautiful scalloping that exists there particularly in the two large rifts.  In fact he had removed so much material (much of it if archaeological importance) that he organised a concert on the 21st, November to which over 600 people attended.  The cave had by now been re-named and called Gough's New Cave. The newspapers were enthusiastic in their reports after the concert.  The Weston-super-Mare Mercury, for example wrote:

NOVEL CONCERT… The numerous audience was delighted with the cave and its decorations, which were profuse and tasteful and the geni of the cavern came in for numerous and well-deserved compliments for the manner in which the novel concert hall was illuminated consisting of fairy lamps, Chinese lanterns, gas and candles, the whole interlaced with hundreds of bannerettes. The devices were few but good, meeting the eye on coming up the cliffs was the 'Setting Sun" at an elevation of 100 or 200 feet over the entrance.  In the cave, at a height of about 60 feet over the placid water, was the "New Moon" and at the cave entrance to the left was the device "Praise God" illuminated in blue, red and pink ... "

Gough was to make two further major discoveries.  In April 1893 he discovered the passage up to and just beyond Swiss Village and in 1898 he broke through to the then terminal chambers. Gough cleared the passage Swiss Village in a very short space of time and on 29th July 1893 an advertisement in the Weston-super-Mare Gazette read:

NEW DISCOVERY- The extensive and beautiful cave, several hundred yards long was discovered by Mr. Gough on April 12th 1893 and now shown to the public at a moderate charge.

But Gough's crowning glory came in November 1898 when he and his sons; after sporadic digging; broke up through the end choke into St. Paul's and the Diamond Chambers with their beautiful formations. At the time there was nothing in the country that could compare with the Cheddar discoveries.  Gough obviously knew this.  The cave was ready for public viewing in May 1899 and, novel for the time, this section was illuminated by electricity.  The old gas lighting was gradually replaced with electricity over the next few years and for many years, certainly up to the outbreak of the 1st. World War the cave was frequently advertised as being illuminated by this means. In fact the method of lighting brough about another advertising slant by the cave proprietors.   Cox claimed that his carbide lighting was more brilliant than electricity!  But this did little for Cox's Cave. The press was ecstatic with the newly discovered cave and went over the top in their descriptions of it.  A correspondent in a Clevedon paper wrote (1899)

 “When I visited the scenes, some five years ago, this particular cave was esteemed of no importance, another cave, Cox's Cave, so called, was the popular one. Now all is changed, it is simply a case of transformation.”

Among the important visitors to Gough's New Cave included Balch, Martel, Bamforth, Puttrell, in 1904, and Winston Churchill in 1911!

Following the discovery of the new cave, Gough commenced re-organising the approach to the caves. The old cave notices were removed and an arched gateway built by the edge of the road.  Inside the perimeter of the ground he erected several rustic buildings housing the offices and museum.  Entrance to the cave was by a downward flight of steps to the left of the entrance archway.  Winter flooding of the cave, which still plagues the modern cave management, was hoped to be overcome by excavating further into the infilled sand and gravels in the Vestibule.  In 1903 during this clearing operation the Gough brothers accidentally discovered the skeleton of Cheddar Man in the area now known as Skeleton Pit into which the water was hoped to drain.  This discovery made Gough’s cave a household name.  Handbills, picture postcards (which had now become exceedingly popular with the public) all mentioned or showed photographs of the skull and bones. Eminent archaeologists studied the skeleton and estimated its age between 40,000 and 80,000 years.  Today, researchers have suggested, after radio carbon dating, that it is about 91,000 years old.


Approach to Gough’s caves c.1927.  (Note change of cave name).  (Courtesy of Cheddar Caves),

Minor ‘discoveries’ were made in 1908 when Aladdin's Grotto was opened and in 1935, after an archaeological dig at Pixie Forest a couple of hundred feet of low passage was discovered. This was claimed to be a major discovery by the then manager, Thomas gill, and he announced that a circular route to St. Paul’s Chamber was being considered; this idea not was not to materialise for another thirty odd years.

Richard Gough died in February 1902 at the age of 75 years.  The well known photograph of him was taken some eight years earlier by Stanley Chapman of Dawlish.  Chapman had long been a friend of the family and produced the earliest interior photographs of Gough’s Old Cave about 1890.  At this time the interior photographs of the caves were becoming available to the public.   The humble picture postcard did not come into use until about 1902.  The cave proprietors soon realised the importance of the picture postcard as they formed a very cheap form of advertising quite apart from the increased revenue the sales would bring to their pockets.  Both national and local publishers were employed to produce the cards but it is to the local photographers we look for the more interesting speleological photographs.

The major part of the collection at the Cheddar Caves Museum was discovered in March 1911 when the Gough brothers were excavating gravel to surface a car-park between the cave entrance and the river rising.   In doing so they unearthed many human bones and pieces of pottery half-way up the Slitter, just below Long Hole.  In addition they found some 200 coins including 1 gold example.  The archaeological papers merely record that bones and coins were found at Gough’s Cave in 1911.  But the newspapers and the local photographer, Charles Henry Collard come to the historians rescue.  So far 5 different photographs have been discovered and recorded.  Some are general scenes of the dig showing Herbert Balch, William and Arthur Gough inspecting the site, and another being a photograph of the finds layed out for display.

The Gough lease ran out c.1927 and the property returned to the Longleat Estates who have been operating the site ever since.  The first change enacted by the new management was to re-name the cave Cheddar Cave but this was unsuccessful – Gough’s Cave had stuck in the public memory.  Several marked changes were made in 1934 when the new office and restaurant complex was built.  Largely of novel design at the time the designer J.A. Gellicoe came in for much praise. The restaurant was opened on the 23rd. June 1934 with a V.I.P, dinner and it was said that there were more Rolls-Royce cars present than any other make!

Sympathetic management at Cheddar Caves for the last few years has enabled cavers virtually free access to the caves for further study and this has resulted in the discovery of the magnificent River Cave including two large chambers.  At long last Gough's Cave is breaking out into a major cave system.  What the future will bring is a matter for speculation - but no doubt it will not be disappointing.

Selected reading matter:

Balch., H.E.      1927 The Caves of Mendip.  London: Folk Press [The Somerset Folk Series No.26]

[Green, E.]        1935 Mendip - Cheddar, its gorge and caves. Wells: Clare, 1st. Ed.

Hensler, E.        1869 The tourist's guide to Cheddar Cliffs. Wells: Green

Irwin, D.J.          1968 "Ninety-nine years ago", WCC Jnl 10(118)102

                        1986a The exploration of Gough's Cave and its development as a show cave.

                        Proc. Univ. Bristol Spelaeol. Society 17(2) for 1985, 95-104

                        1986b Gough's Old Cave - its history. 17(3)250-266.  Proto Univ. Bristol Spelaeol.  Society

North, C.           1968 Cheddar Caves - some early impressions. Society Newsletter, Aug. 1968.  Axbridge Caving Group & Archaeol.

Phelps, w.         1836 The History and antiques of Somersetshire, Vol.1, part 2.

Stevens, N.E.    1869 A Guide to Cheddar and the neighbourhood.  Cheddar: Bryne

Thorneycroft, L.R.          1949 The story of Cheddar its gorge, caves and ancient history.  Taunton: Barnicotts.


France 1983

The following article has been published in the Axbridge Journal recently but I make no apologies for publishing it here even though the trips described were done four years ago.  My only apology is that I have been unable to copy the main survey and include it with this BB.  Unfortunately it is too complex to be worth reducing, I suggest that anyone going to the Dent-de­Crolles contacts Paul Hodgson and copies the survey. (Ed)

After much deliberation and reminders from friends over several years, I have finally finished this trip report of our visit to the Dent-de-Crol~es and the cave systems of the Trou-de­Glaz.

We had planned this trip over several months and had decided on transport arrangements, the route, how much food, camping kit and the tackle required.  The longest part of the preparations was obtaining BCRA Insurance Cover, I recall it having something to do with the diversity of Caving groups which we individually belonged to.

Suddenly the day of departure arrived and we had to make our final preparations during that day.  An old Bedford van was borrowed for the trip and we stuffed all this kit and five people into it and set off for the late ferry from Dover.  The trip to Dover was uneventful, although we took it in turns to drive the van to get used to it.

Customs passed, we found ourselves travelling through the night towards Paris.  At about three in the morning I was woken by John, who was driving, because the van had started running on three cylinders.  With the Bedford van the engine is easily reached by removal of the engine cover inside the van. So whilst still moving I took it off and woke everyone else up.  With the aid of a caving lamp we found the problem – one of the spark plugs had unscrewed itself and was dangling by the HT lead.  We tried re-fitting it while still travelling and didn't get very far.

After a short break we were back asleep again while John drove on through France.  We hit Paris during rush hour but managed not to get into any trouble.  We continued to the Fontainbleau Forest where we had a couple of hours kip, a late breakfast and then made our way to one of the boulder groups in the Forest and spent several hours "bouldering".

An uneventful journey followed, we travelled along the Autoroutes to the outskirts of Grenoble where camp was set up in a motorway service picnic area.  Early next morning we made our way through Grenoble and along the Isere valley to take a steep road up to the ' Col du cog', which is the closest point by road to the Dent-de-Crolles.  The views across the valley to the Alps were impressive as was the Dent-de-Crolles itself.

The Dent-de-Crolles is part of the Massif de la Grande Chartreuse which is an elongated mountain block some 45 miles long by 15 miles wide and is located between Grenoble in the south and Chambery in the north.  It is flanked by the Isere Valley to the east and south, while the D520 and N6 form the western boundary from Grenoble through Voiron, St Laurent du Pont, Les Eschelles to Chambery.  Beyond the high ground falls away to the Rhone Valley.  Sassenage and the Gouffre Berger are to be found to the south-west about five miles beyond the Isere valley. To the east the ground rises sharply to the Crests of the Massif d'Allevard, a part of the French Alps.

Provisions were picked up in St Pierre de Chartreuse and a suitable camp site located in St Hughs de Chartreuse, a few miles up the valley.  Previous club trips have used a variety of camp sites, especially at perquelin which gives easy access to the Guiers Mort but a long drive or trek to get to the Trou-de-Glaz and P40.

St Pierre de Chartreuse





Our first trip was a 'pull through' trip from the Trou-de­Glaz to the Grotte Annette Bouchacourte.  The van was taken to the Col-du-Cog where we got partially changed before setting off on a well defined track, through the woods, which shortly disappeared leaving us to force a way through to reach the grassland beyond.  We climbed up the steep slope to the track at the foot of the cliff faces and followed this to the Trou-du-Glaz where we found a snow drift in the entrance and a good cold draught.  Once kitted up we descended the large gently descending phreatic entrance tube to a short maze.  A well marked right hand turn leads abruptly to the first "Lantern Pitch" (11 m). This was already rigged with 'bluewater' so we abseiled down on it.

The second pitch (12 m) follows immediately after, again rigged, and after a short crawl the third pitch (13 m) is reached.  Here we met a party from Hadies Caving Club ( Bristol) coming up.  Another short crawl brought us into the main gallery, although wide it was not very tall and the fossilized stal in the roof made it necessary to stoop.  The fourth "Lantern Pitch" (12 m) was reached and quickly descended.

The large dry passage which we were now in was suddenly broken by a shaft which replaced the floor. A short climb into an oxbow on the right took us to a traverse past the "P36" shaft and back into the continuation of the passage via an eye hole.  The passage continued only to be broken by another hole in the floor, this time by " Lake Shaft" (52 m).  An exposed traverse with a bold step was negotiated on the left.  The passage continued.  We noted the Cairn which marked the start of the meanders to "Pendulum Pitch" which we would use for our through trip to the Guiers Mort.

The next shaft to replace the floor was "P60", the traverse on this was larger and on a sloping muddy ledge, fortunately there were plenty of handholds.  Just up a side gallery was "Labour Shaft" (63 m) which was about 10 m diameter and well watered by a small stream from a considerable distance above.

The main gallery was followed to "Fernand Shaft" (25 m) which is an easy broken pitch.  A short way along we found ourselves traversing along an earthen ledge above a deep rift, plenty of handholds but tricky in places when carrying tackle.  A narrow sporting rift followed and ended in a 20m drop which was free climbable, although we abseiled/climbed using the fixed rope at the top of the pitch.  At the bottom were two pots, one was blind, and the other leads to "Gallery 43" (4 m wide, 2-3 m high) a steadily ascending 'railway tunnel'.

"Traverse Shaft" is next.  This is bypassed by a crawl along a ledge on the left with a stretch to distant handholds. The passage is followed to another hole in the floor, "Climbers Shaft". An exposed traverse along the left hand wall leads to a fallen slab across the shaft.  Moving across the slab a 6 m climb on the right wall, with few hand and foot holds, leads to the passage continuation.  At the next fork in the route we turned left and the following two forks the right hand turn was taken, this brought us to the head of "Corog Shaft" (30 m).  This was a pleasant pitch of 10 m to a ledge and 20 m free.





The passage continues, with various side galleries, through five boulder ruckles.  The first of which is the "Cistern".  This is a well concealed hole in the ruckle and the only way on.  The other four ruckles present no real problems, the passage finally leads to a loose spiral stone chute leading to a self blocking squeeze - "The Spiral Staircase".  Route finding was made easier by following orange marker tape and the remains of some cotton thread (first noticed on "Fernand Shaft").  The other side of the squeeze we ascended more loose stones, which were kept back by motorway crash barriers, to exit in the Annette Bouchacourte Grotto.  The Isere valley is 1400 m below, most of which appears vertical.  The view from the cave, exit is impressive.  The Isere valley below and the snow covered French Alps rising the other side.

After de-tackling we trekked along the sometimes non-existent path around the Dont du Crolles and eventually back to the van at the Col du Cog.  Total time underground was somewhere in the region of 8 hours.


We drove the van to the Col du Cog and parked, this time lower down to allow easy access to the usual approach to the steep ascending grass slope to the track along the cliff base. By the time we had got the tackle bags sorted it was about 07-30 hrs.  We followed the same route to the Trou du Glaz as before, and concealed our change of clothes in the entrance.  The path continues upwards, up a couple of chimneys and a few scrambles to the plateau.  By following the red painted arrows we arrived at the summit, took a few photos and then searched for the entrance of P40.  By following the valley down from the summit the entrance was easily found just beyond the first trees.

Pete and I melted snow for the carbides, got changed and rigged the entrance shaft whilst Tony, John and Steve searched for the Gouffre Therese (without much success).  We descended the large fluted shaft (40m) and searched for the way on, a narrow blasted slot.  We eventually found it at the top of the rubble slope and not as the description said, the bottom.

A short crawl leads to "Kid Shaft" (8 m) which we free climbed down into "York Gallery".  This is a mud floored, wide bedding plane with several local collapses.  In places it was possible to walk, otherwise we had to stoop and crawl.  At the end a 'no hold' 30 m climb leads into a short meander to a ledge around a 3 m diameter shaft.  Directly after, a slippery slope, with a fixed hand-line, leads abruptly to the head of the "Three Sisters Pitch" (45 m).  The rope is belayed to a buttress to give a free descent of 10 m to a ledge, then 10 m to another ledge.  Here we met the stream and since little water was flowing we continued to the floor rather than traverse the ledge and rebelay to descent one of the other dry shafts which met at the bottom.

Two ways on were found, one following the stream, and the other through a partially blocked bedding plane into a meander.  Taking the latter we soon found ourselves traversing a deep rift at a high level. The stream dropped rapidly away below and the meander gained a floor at an intermittent level.  The meanders continued and we decided that the description we were following was inadequate so as a precaution we left the odd pitch rigged as we continued until we could verify where we were.  We then had to go back and pull the rope through.

A boulder blockage was next, some went over; some went under to reach a chamber - "Orbitalina Shaft". The meanders continued to a 6m shaft and beyond to two short slippery drops and finally a pitch.  John went down and declared it was "Balcony Pitch" (40m).  The first part of the pitch is descended in three stages, 10m to a ledge, a further 10m to a narrow ledge which has to be traversed for 6-7 m to a re-belay point for the final pleasant 20 m descent to a wide ledge.  The stream cascades down a gully at the side of ledge into the next shaft.  The water is avoided by traversing along the ledge and up an awkward 5 m climb to "The Balcony" a 1 m x 1.5 m ledge. From here we could see the passage by which Chevalier first approached "Balcony Pitch".  It is some 7-10 m lower and in the opposite side of the rift.  The pitch is an easy 25 m drop to a chamber from which a short piece of rift passage is followed to "Shower Bath Pitch" (30 m).  The stream can be avoided for part of the descent, but you get drenched just the same.  Pete tried a bit of aerial bombardment on his way down dislodging a few large rocks.

Two passages exit from the bottom of the pitch and we followed the lower - they both met at a junction of five further along.  After a scout along the passages we took the most obvious route and noted that we passed black painted numbers in descending order.  The route involved a lot of stooping and there were a large number of side passages which were not marked on the survey. 











Eventually we carne to the turn to the "Lantern Pitches" and familiar ground.  Back through the maze and into the main gallery. Just as we approached the exit a large ice stalactite tried, unsuccessfully, to impale itself in Pete, missing him by a mere five feet.

We changed in the late evening warmth and made our way down to the van and back to the camp site. This trip, although enjoyable, was marred by the inadequacies of the description which we had obtained and as a consequence our time underground was much longer than it should have been.


The next day was a day of rest.  The following morning we were up early and on our way through Grenoble and up into the Vercors.  Eventually we started to descend the Bourne Gorge, the road stayed about halfway between the floor and the top of the cliffs.  Just after the turning to the Choranche Show Cave we turned down a narrow steeply descending road which led down to the hydro-electric power station at the bottom. The descent was in the order of 700 ft. After changing in a small car park, we followed a footpath up to, and around, the Bournillon Cirque, ducking under the water feed pipe for the hydro-electric station.  The cave entrance, one of the largest in Europe, is hidden in a corner of the Cirque. The last bend in the path, when you are at last able to see the cave, is practically inside the entrance.

We ascended a large scree slope into a large fossil passage, at one side of the main entrance, and followed it until it degenerated, from about 100 feet diameter with boulder infill, to a boulder ruckle.  Dropping through the boulders we entered a passage which gradually assumed large bedding plane characteristics.  The end of the bedding plane would appear prone to flooding judging by the black deposits over everything.  A short climb through boulders brought us into the main passage.  Turning upstream took us to a large black sump pool.  The way out was to follow the main gallery and the stream.  The passage became vast and had a few attractive formations, the largest of which was the " Negro Village".  We didn't stop to get any pictures because of the swarms of midges and mosquitoes etc. which were crawling up your nose and other places.

The final section involves some relatively easy traverses around some deep pools before reaching the large entrance lake.  This is crossed at its narrowest point by a fixed bridge.  Time taken: about 2 1/2 hours.  After changing we drove back up the narrow road and up to the Chorancle Show Cave car park which is in the 'Cirque de Chorancle' where a number of cave exits may be found.  We dried our kit in the sun and had lunch, then went to the show cave to ask permission to descent the 'Grotte de Gournier', this was given.


The Grotte de Gournier is a resurgence cave and from it issues the larger of the two permanent streams in the Cirque.  Wearing only swimming trunks and boots we set off from the car park and made our way to the entrance, picking up a large crowd of inquisitive tourists.

The entrance arch leads to a large clear lake between 60 and 75 m long, 15 m wide and about 10 m deep and COLD.  After swimming around the left hand wall of the lake for about 50 m we climbed onto a small ledge where John and Tony climbed up 8 m to another ledge which they traversed along to the top of a huge gour.  We swam to the next ledge and climbed up the ladder which had been lowered over the gour.  NOTE: If water is flowing over this gour then the cave is flooded.

We decided to follow the main gallery as far as we could, and not to bother with the stream access points, then return taking photographs.  The fossil gallery starts as a 'railway tunnel' about 10 m wide with a large gour bank starting on the left and eventually dropping over a lip into what may be the lake continuation.  A little way on the passage takes on enormous dimensions, the roof being over 20 m high and the walls in excess of 15 m apart.  The floor was nearly always of boulders, some enormous - the size of bungalows - some distance further in we came across another well decorated section where a series of massive gours stretched across the passage, beyond this the passage size increased and we found ourselves in a chamber strewn with huge stalagmites on flowstone covered boulders.  An oxbow on the left contained some very good formations.  Further on, something like 2 km in, we reached a huge chamber into which we descended and then climbed up a steep boulder slope the other side to find ourselves at roof level with the main gallery choked off.  A hands and knees bedding plane crawl on the right brought us to another parallel (!) passage which shortly gained the same stature as the previous one.









More gours were found when a trickle entered the passage from an aven and the number and quality of the formations increased.  Large boulder heaps now had to be crossed and some of these brought us near to the roof. A 5 m drop halted all of us but John who somehow managed to climb down and have a look further on.

The way out was the reverse of the way in, but I stopped frequently to take photographs, in fact I could quite happily have taken many more.  This gave time for the other members of the party to explore side passages and to find two of the four ways down into the active streamway.  The trip took about 4 hours and was very enjoyable.


Our next trip was the through trip from the Trou de Glaz to the Guiers Mort.  Tony and John went into the Guiers Mort entrance and traced the way back to the bottom of "Chevalier II" the day prior to the through trip, as we had no wish to spend a long time in the labyrinth.

We drove up to the Col de Coq again and unloaded all the kit, including Tony's, who then took the van to a car park in the Forest above Perquelin and joined us at the Trou de Glaz entrance later.

We followed known territory descending all four "Lantern" pitches and the traverses around "P36" and " Lake Shaft".  A short way after " Lake Shaft" we found the cairn marking the meanders to "Pendulum Pitch".  We descended and found that although the passage was not too constricting the shelving made it difficult to haul the tackle bags after us.

After 50 m the passage came abruptly to a shaft, "Pendulum Pitch" (60m).  There are two excellent bolts above a small hole in the floor which give a free 60m descent in the middle of the shaft.  At the bottom the meanders continue for about 220 m which took us 45 minutes to negotiate.  At the end was "Petzl Shaft" (20m) which was free.  A few meters on, at the bottom, was "Trap Shaft" (15m).  The abseil was slightly awkward and made worse by a trickle from above.  By halting part way down we were able to pendulum over to "Dubost Halt" instead of climbing from the bottom. This is a small platform, just big enough for all five of us, overlooking "Chevalier Shaft I" (35m).

The descent was in a large chamber and it-was noted that there were some rock flakes which were very thin and intricate.  We landed on a jagged floor with a huge hole in it - "Chevalier II" (20 m). On our right, looking down the second shaft, we saw a traverse guarded by a heavy duty handline and we think that this is the connection with the "Metro".

We climbed down 3 m to a ledge in Chevalier II before abseiling.  At the bottom we found Tony and John's marker placed there the day before. A short traverse in a rift leads to a sandy crawl to the top end of the Guiers Mort main passage.  On the right the stream sumps to the left, we followed the large abandoned streamway crossing numerous deep water filled potholes. The largest of which being called the "Swimming pool".  Using the fixed handline and a lot of stretching this was passed without getting too wet.

The stream appears shortly after and the gradient steepens.  We came to the remains of a French ladder hanging.  Tony and John free climbed and dropped our ladder down - it was short.  Eventually got a start on the ladder and climbed up into the stalagmite traverse which is a wide bedding plane running on top of the vadose stream canyon and is covered in formations.

A rift begins to develop in places - "Marmite Gallery" - and we maintained our level in traversing along it.  A traverse over a pot requires delicate footwork, fortunately there was a fixed handline.

The passage continues into "Bivouac Gallery" and the main streamway is gained from a wide balcony via a short climb.  Another broken ladder hanging down from "Syphon Gallery".  Again Tony and John free climbed and hung our ladder down. A short way along we found yet another broken ladder hanging in a recess and we used our ladder on this occasion more as a handline to gain "Syphon Gallery I".

Following the obvious way we came to an awkward 2.5 m drop to re-join the river.  The streamway can be followed to a long low duct - " Christmas Basin" - we took the " Christmas Basin" bypass by traversing at a high level into a tunnel ending at a platform next to the "Elizabeth Cascade Waterfall" (6 m).  After abseiling down we followed the stream until it disappeared under boulders while we went over into the " Grand Canyon".  Holes develop in the floor and after about 50 m we ascended (10 m) by ladder into a low roofed tunnel.  This marks the start of the labyrinth and is a series of muddy crawls and crouches. Tony and John picked our way, and we came to the end via the hurricane which was sufficiently strong to keep our Petzl carbide lights from staying lit.  An 8 m drop into "Climbers Gallery" follows, a fixed handline aided the descent.  This regains the main passage the other side of the sump.  A narrow section connects with the "Grande Salle", where a large tree trunk makes the high level escape route when the sump rises to fill "Climbers Gallery".  A series of large chambers lead down to the Guiers Mort entrance which is a 6 m diameter tube exiting 10 m up a cliff face.

Tony retrieved a bottle of wine from the streamway which he had placed there on the way up, to join us at the Trou-de-Glaz.  This went down a treat.

We then walked down to the van.  Trip time about 8 hours.


Since we went to the Trou-de-Glaz quite a lot more passage has been found and some of the trips described have now become non-preferred routes.

The through trip from Trou-de-Glaz to the Annette Bouchacoute Grotte is hardly ever done because a connection has been made with Grotte Chevalier which cuts out the boulder ruckles on the Annette trip.

The preferred trip from the Trou-de-Glaz to the Guiers Mort now uses the "Metro" and by-passes about half of the trip described.

If I get any more details I will pass them on to the Editor for inclusion in a subsequent BB.  Our primary information for these trips came from the following references:-

1.         Survey by G. Grosseil

2.         LUCC journal Dec. 1966

3.         LUCC journal Spring 1969

4.         WCC journal Vol. 16 No 183

5.         CSS journal Vol. 10 No. 6 1980

Letter via the Editor

Graham Johnson,

Hello to all at the B.E.C.

Glad to see (from the B.B.) that you’re still an all-action club.  I’m pretty isolated up here don’t even know how you faired in the ‘Quest for the Rusty Tankard’.  I suspect by traditional devious, sly, and underhand means you regained the trophy. Well done.  The reason for this letter – I’m off to the Canadian Spelofeast, leaving U.K. August 24th and will be happy to take any messages etc. to the cavers out there - nothing that a fork-lift truck can’t handle.  Best of luck.

Yours sincerely,



The Annual Dinner Referendum

Eighteen responses out of how many members?  Two hundred odd?  Not that good.  Folk obviously don’t really care about the Dinner.  The Committee decided to consult the membership about the Dinner to see if any useful comments came out of the exercise.  Rumblings of discontent had been noticed in the past, particularly since last year, so we made up the questionnaire just to see what the reaction would be.  Since only eighteen replied, the results are hardly representative but here goes anyway.

I do not intend to set out vast columns of statistics but rather I have gone though the returns, picking out the various trends and salient points and adding them to the ideas I’ve received just chatting to people.  The comments and conclusion are not necessarily mine or the Committee’s.

The basic conclusion noted was overwhelming - the vast majority of people were not satisfied with the last dinner.  This is not due to any particular aspect, rather the "whole".  It transpires however that if one or more aspects were better, then the "whole" would become, or seem to become, more enjoyable.  So for example, if we had good entertainment or riveting speeches then peoples’ minds would be taken away from an indifferent meal or a dreary restaurant.  People tend to remember the good times.

a)                  Taking the Meal first. Most require a £12-13 maximum.  This obviously provides a constraint to amount, choice and quality so it will have to be up to the Organiser to get the best value for money as possible. Nobody expects an amazing spread, just value for money nosh - hot, tasty and quick.  Cavers are not rich?  A sit down meal is almost unanimous.

b)                  The Venue.  I thought most would probably want to stay on Mendip but many say they wouldn’t mind going much further a field if we get a good meal, a good atmosphere (which we would generate ourselves) and enough room to play about.  The Caveman is pretty dreary but we can’t please everyone and get all aspects of the Dinner right and at least its convenient. Sitting 100 or so is a constraint in itself but the organiser this year will perhaps widen his horizons a little. In any event, if we’re going to mess around and play about as is inevitable then we need room, i.e. a Caveman type place or a Village Hall that doesn’t mind getting dented a little.

c)                  Guests. Nobody seems to have any particularly strong views but most would rather leave it to the Committee or Organiser with perhaps a hint that it’s no more than two from each Mendip Club.

d)                  Entertainment and Speeches.  This naturally provoked much discussion.  Discos, Fancy Dress and Bands are certainly out.  The consensus is a play or plays, say made up of three or four groups of friends of say three or four each, interspersed with speeches and awards. This would have the effect of eeking out the speeches which invariably get dreary.  There is little doubt that speeches must be better considered and planned so that they mean something (a guest speaker? - Sid Perou?) not just a tipsy body standing up and spouting forth.  Plays must not offend.  One returnee hinted that a play some time ago deeply offended some people so they should not be too personal (unless previously agreed) or slag the Wessex too much.  We're all reasonably intelligent and can sense when our actions are likely to offend.  We don’t want to be seen to be louts.  Perhaps a play(s) every other year?

e)                  Wine. Apparently most request it to be ordered separately.

f)                    Two Dinners.  Some have suggested two dinners.  One formal sit down affair and one less formal, fancy dress mad affair.  I feel most reject this.  We are one club, despite the age groups represented, and it’s the only function in the year where everyone can get together under one roof. The older members may prefer the formal do, while the younger ones a disco or fancy dress but this will only serve to divide the club.

g)                  A few pertinent points made by some people:

1.                  "Speeches, awards etc. (except guest speakers) to be made at intervals during the meal."

2.                  "Any radical change to the format, will probably lead to the fall off of older members attending."

3.                  "Other clubs (eg .... ) have Xmas Dinner, Diggers Dinner etc where fancy dress is the theme."

4.                  "No smoking (I really suffer)."

5.                  " .... last year some of us couldn't bear it (a speech) and had a good pee instead."

6.                  "Best BEC Dinner, excluding 50th, in recent years was at Croscombe Village Hall in 1984 because the food was excellent."

7.                  " re: "wine included".  This means wine on table prior to meal and a general grabbing of reds by early arrivals leaving unspeakable and virtually undrinkable whites for those unfortunates who arrive late."


I get the impression that the style, format etc. should not be radically changed.  We cannot hope to suit everyone and in a way the present style has probably endured naturally over a number of years.

How about?

a)       £12-14 (increase from popular £10-12 bracket due to inflation since last year).

b)       Mendip venue, but widen horizons slightly and not necessarily the Caveman.  Something a little original within the obvious constraints.

c)       Plan and restrict the speeches and get a guest speaker (not necessarily to do with caving) - during meal?

d)       Provide our own entertainment with sketches and plays during the meal?

e)       Make sure the bar doesn't run out

f)        One Dinner only a year - although the "Diggers" etc. could hold their own additional do if they want.

Mike (Trebor) McDonald.


Mendip Underground

The much awaited but never the less very welcome Mendip Underground is at long last on the market. Priced at £5.95 (the first edition was £2.95 in 1977) the 212 page guide is very good value, particularly in view of the improved presentation and increased number of photographs.

The guide has been extended by a brief description of those smaller sites of interest to cavers. This makes the book far more comprehensive and greatly increases it’s value as a reference work.

The authors, Dave Irwln and Tony Knibbs, have put in a great deal of effort and should be congratulated on producing an up-to-date and eminently readable guide.  The introduction has been kept to only eight pages, very desirable when the trend is towards increasing use of guidebooks to promote personal band wagons.

I have only two minor criticisms of the book.  It would be useful if a different type-face was used for descriptions of side passages, authors notes etc. The surveys are a little difficult to follow, particularly where complex multi-level systems are shown.  Cavers can buy detailed surveys of individual caves but I am sure the vast majority would be content with something only slightly more detailed.

No doubt an army of pedants will unearth a plethora of typographic and other errors.  The only two I am aware of are both on surveys. The Upper and Lower Series of Eastwater Cavern have been transposed, as have the entrances of Banwell Bone Cave and Banwell Stalactite Cave.

Richard Stevenson


A Case For Easier Egress

There very nearly was a very nasty moment in the evening of Wednesday the 15th April when a situation requiring the MRO was averted by a hair's breadth.  The embarrassment of two potential rescuees would have known no bounds for one was an active MRO warden, another was an elderly member of the BEC not quite as accident prone as Chris Castle but who has been known to give other members an occasional nasty turn, and the third, just a nice guy who would have felt just as foolish.

We had started out late for Longwood and had been further delayed by the fact that I had to stop at the stream to soak my boots as they were rock hard.  We had then meandered gently through the cave after being delayed for a while by another party below the shower bath and eventually got back to the entrance after one of us had got inextricably muddled in the letter-box squeeze. We were pretty sure we were going to miss the pub but there was still a chance.  Or was there?  I couldn't open the lid.  Nor for that matter could anyone else.

We fettled away quietly, cursed a bit, wondered how the party we had met had got out and what they had done to the lock afterwards.  Then, we realised we were going to miss the pub.

We didn't beat hell out of the lock with boulders because the engineer amongst us told me rock was no match for cold steel so the third party went searching for anything that could be used .as a crowbar and came up with some very rusty angle iron.

"Did you tell Pat where we were going?"

"No. did you tell Maggie?"

"Yes, but I don't think she'll phone Pat till two o'clock"

"Pat will tell her to wait another hour before doing anything so it will be about 4 o'clock before the MRO will get here".

"Shit!  We’ll be here until morning then".

That was enough; the strong man lay on his back on the little ledge in the block house and gave an almighty kick.

"I've done something awful to my leg but its open"

"It’s what?"

"It’s open"

"You must be joking"

"No I'm not"

And he wasn't, one kick had broken the weld on the block house door and we were on our way home by midnight.

Longwood is not locked and should not be relocked with an Abloy key.  The whole affair could have been embarrassing for the whole caving community and most worrying for three caver’s wives.


As it happened Trebor came to look for us as one of the cars was still at the Belfry when he got back after the pub.  We'd gone by the time he got to the parking area so he didn't callout the MRO who would have been with us by midnight.  Honestly, we wouldn't have broken open the cave if we'd known.

Jeremy Henley.


Virgin Gorda Copper Mine British Virgin Island Caribbean

" Ere wang, look e here. There’s a copper mine under that there 'ill", says Trebor.  "Aaargh, wang and yackaboo" replies Stumpy.

Such is the language caving breeds in simple folk as they pour over a map of Virgin Gorda prior to jetting out for a fortnights diving in the warm, clear waters of the Carib.

The map says "Copper mine", "ruin", "copper mine point", "Copper mine bay", and "Mine hill" so we thought it safe to assume there was a mine somewhere abouts.  Little more to be done until we got there.

On a break from diving, Pat and I sought out the local library, full of well soiled books in the centre of Roadtown, the capital of Tortola the largest of the Virgin Islands some 60 miles east of Puerto Rico and nowhere near the Blue Holes.  Apart from a few common-as-muck caving books we found nothing on mines, mining, copper, silver, gold or Butcombe.  We were however directed to the Institute of Caribbean Studies around the corner, essentially a small room with books in it, where a little girl was very helpful.  Out came three or four books with some useful facts and good references.

It transpires that this particular mine was opened up by the Spaniards in the early 1500's on the way back from obliterating the Aztecs.  They came over from Puerto Rico to explore the southern tip of Virgin Gorda, an island some 10 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide at its widest point.  It is the second largest of the Virgin Islands and 1 1/2 hours sail from Tortola given a hefty breeze.

The mine is located only some 75ft above sea level and little more than 50yds. in from the very rocky shore on the very southern tip of the island in a remote location served by a rough track.  Nobody has any great cause to go there.  Written terms like "sporadic", "reactivated" and "reopened" infer that the mine had a rather cheque red history.  Our knowledge of events between the 1500's and 1840's is nil and we hope to obtain further information but at present we only know that in 1840 some 40 imported Cornishmen, assisted by 150 locals, re-opened the mine.  A British Virgin Island Mining Company was set up at an unknown date, presumably in 1840, based in Liverpool but as it went bankrupt in 1842 "operations were suspended."  This fact does not tally however with a reference which states that "between 1860 and 1862, exports valued at £16,224 were sent to Britain, consisting mainly of copper ore obtained from the reactivated mine on Virgin Gorda."  Somebody else must thus have taken over the Liverpool based company's operations.

A limited reference to quantities was forthcoming - 90 tons of copper was produced in 1841 and geologists have estimated that 10,000 tons of copper ore were taken out altogether during its history.  A survey carried out in 1858/60 by an unknown group estimated that a small quantity of copper and molybdenum was still present in the area.  "A copper mine on Virgin Gorda was also believed to be a potential source of great wealth" (Ref: Calendar of State Papers, America and West Indies 1724/25).

After the research, the action.  Pat and I were dropped off by yacht and dinghy onto a beach so we could hike across a couple of miles of thick scrub in 90 degrees of heat to get to this blessed mine (mad dogs and Englishmen).  The anchorage on the correct side of the island was positively dangerous with reefs and swell so there was nothing to do but hoof it.

Despite its total lack of maintenance and the misuse over 100 years, the mine buildings were remarkably recognisable; with a chimney, machinery housing, the boiler and other odds and ends but no evidence of housing to accommodate Cornishmen or natives. A systematic search to find a shaft or adit proved unfruitful.  The ruin of a small building on top of mine hill had what could have been a blocked shaft but, subject to further research, we suspect the area could well have been open cast.  The disappointment of not being able to use Petzl zooms, compasses and surveying gear will no doubt the tempered by the possibility of further research with the defunct BVI•Mining Co., formerly based in Liverpool.

Pat Cronin and Mike (Trebor) McDonald.


i)          A Guide to Historic Places in the British Virgin Islands (1979).

ii)          Tales of Tortola and the BVI by Lewisohn.

iii)         A History of the BVI 1672-1970. by Dookhan.

iv)         Various letters 1841, 1859, 1862 and 1724.


Letter via the Editor

To Mr. R.H.S. Orr via the Editor.

Dear Jok,

Worry not about those who are involved with "unwarranted intervention with the institution of the annual Club Dinner".  I have seen them in action and can assure you that they are as obnoxious as you were when you infested the Belfry.  One of them even draws cartoons!

This Club is a living tradition - let us support those who make it what it is, whatever their generation, in the knowledge that everything will always be done to Excess. (Mind you - if any of the more senior members joined in more often then perhaps some of the "lost" traditions - like singing - would not have died out).


922 J.Rat.

P.S. Superb article Chris, and many thanks to Trevor for offering to clean up his mess!


Scaffolding Bar Pot!

The following planning application may be of interest to BEC members as an indication of the sort of problem we have yet to face!  The BEC has lodged a complaint as requested and has received a not too hopeful reply from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  Latest information is that it has been rejected at the local level but has been referred.

Planning Application: Reference Number YO/5/17/156

Planning Application for the erection of scaffolding structures underground, to allow access in Bar Pot for adventure caving.  No surface works involved,

The application is for permission to erect underground scaffolding structures in Bar Pot to allow access for groups of people to enjoy adventure caving.

This is an increasingly popular recreational and educational activity for all ages, which will allow the inexperienced to enjoy the sport of pot holing or caving in safety.

Similar schemes are also operated commercially by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority operating from Whernside Manor in Dentdale.

The structures will comprise 2 major elements.  A 40 foot high access scaffolding structure to negotiate the first part of the pot hole along with a further 100 foot structure for the major vertical section of the pot hole.  Scaffolding of aluminium with intermediate platforms constructed so as to avoid corrosion and encased in wire mesh for safety purposes.

It will be secured against any unauthorised use.  Other minor works such as a safety hand rail will be needed at the top of the 100 foot vertical section and rope hand rails here and there for general assistance.

No surface buildings or structures will be required.  Underground there will be little or no environmental damage whatsoever, apart form securing bolts drilled into the limestone and miscellaneous support work for the scaffolding.  The work will not be visible from the surface.

It is envisaged that small pre-booked groups of 15 to 20 in number and suitably equipped will be conducted down the cave by an experienced guide for a 2 or 3 hour caving trip. Facilities should be very useful for educational groups and for local hotels and guest houses wishing to offer caving or pot holing activities to their guests.


Reasoned letters of protest may be sent to:-Mr. Mitchell, Craven District Council Planning Department, Granville St., Skipton, AND Mr. R.G. Harvey, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorebridge House, Bainbridge, North Yorkshire.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr Wells, Somerset.
Editor: D.P.Turner

A veritable feast of articles for you this month!  My only problem has been to try and type them all up and get this B.B. on your door steps in time for it to be called "The Christmas BB".  My thanks to everyone who have given me articles and I apologise if it does not reach you until after the festive season.  I wish you all an alcoholic Christmas and here's to some more BEC discoveries etc in the New Year.

Late News – Notts Pot

It is rumoured that the downstream sump in Notts Pot has been passed after 300 metres by Barry Sudell and/or Rupert Skorupka and an estimated mile and a half of main passage found.  There are apparently lots of inlet passages which have not yet been investigated.

from Rob Harper 10th December 1985

Membership Changes

New Members

1069 Mary Rand, Perivale, Middx.
1070 Michael McDonald, Basingstoke, Hants

Members Rejoining

            553 Bob White, Wells, Somerset

Address Changes

956 Ian Caldwell, Clifton, Bristol
1063 Peter Evans, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 5JH
971 Colin Houlden, Brixton, London W2
874 Dave Lampard, Horsham, W. Sussex RH 12 2PW
1036 Nicola Slann, Clifton, Bristol

Ratified Members

1048 Thomas Chapman
1049 Gerald Garvey
1050 Richard York
1051 Peter (Snab) Macnab
1052 Peter (Snablet) Macnab


Belfry Jobs

Please could you make a special effort to paint the inside of the hut as the paint will be affected by the freezing conditions, so the cheap deal we had on the purchase of the paint will turn into a very dear one.

As I am off to Mexico on the 13th December.  I will not be around to chase you, so please make a special effort to turn out.


P.S.  Insulation needs finishing off.                                              Dany Bradshaw


WARNING         B.E.C. SUBS    WARNING         B.E.C. SUBS    WARNING         B.E.C. SUBS

This will be the last B.B. that you will receive if you have not paid your 1985-86 subscription.

WARNING                B.E.C. SUBS   WARNING        B.E.C. SUBS    WARNING   B.E.C. SUBS

Hut Fund

If I include those people (4) who have given considerably in kind or time, then the number of donations is 37 and the sum received so far £1042.

It is unfair to single anyone out and definitely not en to list those who have donated but I must single out one person who has given (he, in fact, matched £1 for £1 the donations given at the dinner).  Graham Balccmbe has been most generous but instead of us thanking him, which we do, he has asked me to thank the B.E.C. for the help that the then newly formed club gave to him and other early cave divers.  To quote G.B., "As for the amount, well, when I lack at what my successors in the CDG have done, veritably altering the face of modern caving, it dwindles into insignificance".  What more can I say.

Jeremy Henley


Mendip Events

Oliver Lloyd

A farewell party was recently held in the back room of the Hunter's.  Dan Hasell, using appropriately a diving knife and scalpel, the cake which had been specially decorated for the occasion.  He then proposed a sherry toast to Oliver.  A memorial plaque will he mounted in Wookey Hole at a later date.

Shepton Mallet

As in years gone past, this year's event was held in, the orderly and sophisticated manner to which we have become accustom.  All food that was not consumed was passed to the next table, who in turn would pass it on. The games followed the bun fight, the B.E.C., gentlemen as ever, allowed the hosts to win~ even though the Shepton seems to be short of large membered members at present who can fart "pennies" into jars at twenty paces.

Committee Matters

The following were co-opted to the committee as directed by the A.G.M.

Steve Milner      Tackle Master
Tony Jarratt       Hut Warden
Mark Lumley     Caving Sec
Dave Turner       Hon. Editor
Tim Gould         Assistant Hut Warden
Ian Caldwell       Committee member

St. Cuthbert’s Survey

This is to be revived by the club now that the Belfry improvement project is nearing completion. Dave Irwin hopes to present the committee with a complete package containing everything needed to produce the survey and accompanying publication before the next A.G.M.


Dany and myself are deserting Mendip this Christmas and flying south to Mexico City and then from there to Xlitla on the San Luis Potosi plateau, to join the British expedition who have been there since mid November.  We shall be looking at a new area not far from •••• [he never said! ed] where a new road recently laid across the plateau gives access to a previously difficult to explore area.  Aerial photographs show large surface depressions and it is hoped that these may prove fruitful as caves found in this area have a 3000 metre depth potential..

To quote Tony Jarratt, "The Shepton Buffet marks the start’s of the Christmas sessions", so I take this opportunity to wish all members a Happy Christmas etc. etc.

During my absence, Jeremy Henley will take over the secretarial duties for the club.

Bob Cork.


Caving Programme


A BEC trip to the Dachstein Massif is being planned at the moment for next summer.  The idea is only in its formative stages, Bob Cork is currently trying to contact the NCC to find out if they plan to return there next year - if so~ perhaps we could join forces.  There will be more details in the next B.B. but in the meantime if you're interested in going let Bob or myself know and don't book your holidays!

Club Meets.

I've written away for access to the caves on the provisional meets list (B.B. Oct 85) but the only confirmation I have had so far are as follows:-

Sunday 9th March                      Juniper Gulf
Sunday 1st August                    Birks Fell Cave
Saturday 27th September           Penyghent Pot

I shall organise accommodation as and when I get confirmation that the various trips are on, but let me know if you're going (to give me some idea of numbers).

As for the January Yorkshire meet, we'll be going up on Friday night (29th Jan) but whether or not we do Notts Pot and Nick Pot is entirely dependant on how soon I get replies from the C.N.C.C.

Daren Cilau Dig

Small world isn't it - we hauled digging gear, primus stove etc. to the far end of the Daren Cilau extensions only to find that Andy Sparrow, Andy Cave and a group from Cardiff University also had their eyes on the same digging site!  The place is so remote that we decided to join forces and work on alternate trips.  Progress is looking good, the passage has an intermittent draught dependant on the water levels in the area.  The two Andy's dug a considerable distance in soft, sandy mud.  The following weekend Steve Milner, Snablet and Tom Chapman continued the push for several feet with the passage heading upwards.  The dig looks as though it may well hit the predicted stream passage from Llangattock swallet some distance above the furthest point that Martyn Farr managed to dive to beyond the Gloom Room on 6/7/85.

Work continues. Anyone interested in visiting the Time Machine and beyond would be well advised to take a couple of cow's tails as the lifeline on the 70ft pitch is inclined to snarl up.

Rescue Practice

Brian Prewer thought it would be a good idea if more people (including myself) became more proficient in the various aspects of cave rescue.  Accordingly, we're going to go ahead with a straight forward rescue practice (probably from Nine Barrows) for the younger and less experienced members of the club in order to familiarise ourselves with the equipment etc.  This will take place on Saturday 22nd Feb.  Later in the spring we shall be organising a full scale rescue practice from a cave with a greater degree of difficulty. Indirectly, it’s for the benefit of every member of the club so it’s important that we get a good number of people turning up on the day. Your attendance will be much appreciated.

Mark Lumley


Visit the Classical Karst Caves of Yugoslavia in 1986

We have received a circular offering trips down the "Caves of Classical Karst" from a Yugoslav bod named Franc Mateckar in Postojna who is a member of "SPEGU".  These are guided trips and the cost per trip is $5 USA per person for groups of five or over. The trips are to be run daily during July and August starting every day at 2pm from the museum in Postojna.  He mentioned a dozen or so caves by name and reckons on guiding at about 150 caves.

He also offers speleo weekend at $7.5 USA/person and a 7 day coach excursion for approximately $175 USA/person which includes guiding, travel, accommodation in hotels with breakfast.

Anyone interested better let me know and I will send them a copy of the circular - he wants replies by the end of February "because we don't have enough qualified guides".

Dave Turner.


ARE YOU FEELING GUILTY? if so, perhaps it’s because you haven't given Jeremy your contribution to the hut fund.  Solution - send Jeremy your donation now.


A song to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Bristol Exploration Club

This is the song Alfie sang at the Anniversary Dinner in October - words and music by Alfie.

One evening, fifty years ago, inside some Mendip pub
A bunch of caving lads from Knowle
Who’d recently been down a hole
Decided to achieve their goal
And start a caving club.
Said Harry Stanbury,
“On a name we must agree
I've got one here that'll raise a cheer
We’ll call ourselves the B.E.C.”

Soon, lots of blokes arrived to join the finest club you’d meet
When caving, they discovered Stoke
When drinking, they all records broke
And knew more songs than any bloke
From Compton Martin down to Street.
The Wessex learned to flee
Whenever they did see
Those splendid men who drank like ten
And called themselves the B.E.C.

Yet, though the Exploration Club was noted for its thirst
At digging caves it knew a lot
And pretty soon, its lads had got
Deep down inside St. Cuthbert's Pot
Another Mendip first.
The Shepton made them tea
Then sang in harmony
"When we can say we're good as they
We'll join the B.E.C."

And now that fifty years have passed, we are here to celebrate
And drink a toast to Harry, and
Those others of that caving band
Who changed the face of Mendip’s land
And made the club so great
We are the B.E.C.
And hope that there will be
Folks like us, who will hold a 'do'
At its centenary!


Poms potholing in Waitomo, New Zealand

Waitomo gets quoted in about every other general caving book, its claim to fame being the glow-worm grotto show caves. We had heard the name, naturally, and it was on our proposed itinerary.  On arrival in New Zealand we were made extremely welcome by cavers in Auckland and were pointed in the direction of Rangitoto Island, a recent volcanic scoria cone, like an enormous cinder heap.  Near the summit cone were some short but interesting lava tubes.  Having dispensed with these caves we were quickly ferried back to the city in search of caving boots - rare and expensive for we were being taxied to Waitomo in the evening.  We had managed basic SRT kit, helmets and Premier stinkies in our flight weight allowance and were banking on scrounging a few grots.

There is a lot more than just the glow worm caves in Waitomo.  It is one of the major caving areas of N.Z. and has a great variety of all grades of caves.  The limestone is younger than ours, softer and less strong, very thinly bedded and becoming almost gravelly at one horizon.  In many areas it is overlain by deep deposits of unconsolidated, unstable volcanic ash giving rise to plenty of yellowish mud underground.  Where the surface has not been cleared for pasture it is covered in dense temperate rain forest.  Apart from trees and shrubs there are tree ferns, liverworts, vines and tangled creepers, and every trunk and branch is festooned with mosses, lichens, orchids and other epiphytes.  Most caves have been found in open pasture, because of difficulties of exploring the bush.

Waitomo boasts two caving huts - ASG, Auckland Speleological Group at the top of the hill - and HTG, Hamilton Toms Group five miles away at the bottom of the hill, but nearer the village and the pub.  We reached the ASG hut in an ailing car (many N.Z. vehicles seem on their last legs) around midnight, to find all gone to bed.  A wet misty morning revealed several families staying at the hut, which was a farmhouse vacated for more modern premises.  The countryside around is lumpy with limestone cliffs and hills separated by deep dolines.

Everyone uses grots, particularly woolly underwear and boiler suits.  Very few people have purpose tailored caving clothes.  Carbide is universal, the majority of people using little Premiers while one or two have forked out on Petzl gobblers.  The carbide comes in big lumps and lots of time was spent smashing it into smaller pieces.  Once prepared, seven of us set off over the paddocks (fields), climbing several electric fences on route.  No flimsy strands of wire carrying a few volts these, but substantial stuff connected to the mains that quickly instils a healthy respect.

The entrance tomo (tomo - hole, pothole, aven, doline etc.) to St. Benedict’s was a narrow shelf surrounded by typical fence and a few trees, dropping into a 70ft rift.  Kiwi cavers shun the use of bolts and their expensive ropes are hard to come by and personally owned, so the pitch took an age to rig.  The pothole walls were beautiful; the fluting accentuated by the alternate dark and light lines of narrow bedding.  The confines of the shaft soon enlarged as we entered a large chamber, packed with beautiful big stal, creamy white and glistening.  It is unfortunate that access is so easy, for a muddy path is gradually spreading over the stal.  The formations easily rival Otter Hole but are only in the one chamber.  It is one end of an extensive series of sizable passages, nearly all walking, many tens of feet wide or high.  Half way along the series fluting in the floor becomes deep enough to require some careful traversing.  Passage character then changed to narrower, lower, sandy floored tubes.  At several points bat skeletons had been protected by a semi-circle of boulders. A wet and muddy side rift, negotiated by traversing, quickly led to a very high rift, 10-15ft wide and 50-60ft long. At the far end a passage could be dimly seen entering from another system.  Once again the rigging took an age - slightly awkward floor level take-off for a 70ft pitch after a 40ft climb down took us to the base of the rift, where we found the others prepared to go out.  However we discovered that the real bottom was only a further 20ft pitch away, and three of us had this rigged using three chocks and a flake, and the others were soon enthused into following us.  We had landed in a river, like DYO in flood.  Beyond a quick struggle upstream lay a deep, black sump pool, while a trickle from above came down a 300ft entrance shaft - by now it was dark so no daylight came through.  Downstream we could not go, for the river was too deep and the current too fast, so exit was made.  We emerged to mist, but fortunately one amongst us was the local farmer's son and he led us unerringly through the paddocks until his father appeared in a Landrover.  We missed the pub by over an hour.  Eight hours caving that should have been done in three.

Our second day on the hill had cleared a little, and a vast group of us assembled in the bottom of a steep sided doline at a small, revolting muddy entrance taking a little stream, Ringle- fall.  We tagged on to the end of the line, and followed down a slippery climb into a large chamber with mud covered stalactites. 

A wet hands and knees crawl took us into a little streamway, which soon dropped down a rift to the side. Ahead, dry passage continued, by zig-zagging, and despite our delaying tactics we soon caught up with the front of the party at a ladder pitch.  Clearly, a long wait was in the offing.  Was this what Kiwi caving was all about!  A small group of us went back a way and found an alternative to the ladder pitch, a tight climb down and a short rope descent via flying angel into the stream.  The passage reminded us of Longwood-August or Stoke Lane - low and aqueous with cobbles on the floor, but it eventually began to enlarge.  After a couple of kilometres the roof was invisible in the gloom of a high, narrow rift, though the streamway itself was fairly narrow.  An occasional undercut in the wall gave a low roof where we saw our first N.Z. glow-worms, a fly larva like a transparent worm whose bioluminescent end attracts prey into a trap of sticky hanging threads.  Without a close look, all you notice is a little blue dot. The stream finally disappeared down a narrow rift - a thirty foot climb then a fifty foot ladder pitch, but we had no ladder.  We therefore traversed on boulders, high above the stream to reach huge, long collapse chambers.  We missed the way on here but it is grovelly and narrow, so we were not disappointed. Its significance is that Ringlefall ends only a few metres short of St. Benedict’s, but there are so few trips to the far reaches that it has yet to be connected.

After the weekend, we moved down the hill to the HTG hut - nice and peaceful during the week, but full of kids at weekends as it doubles as a Youth Hostel.  Being nearer the village we took the opportunity to visit the show caves.  There are three around Waitomo but one has the famous glow-worm grotto.  The limestone is a warm creamy-white coarse grained rock with beautiful phreatic tubes.  At the lowest point in the show cave we climbed into a boat and were propelled slowly and silently along and around a wide, low, phreatic canal by the guide pulling on overhead ropes.  On the roof above us hung tens of thousands of glow-worms, their little blue lights resembling the Milky Way seen through a telescope.  Though we have since seen myriads of glow-worms elsewhere, both in the bush and underground, nothing has come close to matching the awe inspiring sight in Waitomo.

Gardener’s Gut is one of the longer systems of N.Z. and we made a couple of trips into the lower part of the cave.  Through trips are easily possible, but on both occasions we used a lower entrance or the resurgence.  Our first trip was with the Waitomo Adventure Caving.  Two Americans were paying and we just tagged along.  It was a very slow, careful journey underground, all easy caving, but under superb leadership.  The fragility and uniqueness of the cave environment was constantly stressed. Glow-worms, wetas (like crickets with enormous feelers) and crayfish were pointed out.  Like so many N.Z. caves, there is still much potential for further discoveries, and we noticed several possible leads.  Having entered the cave late at night via a concealed doline deep in the bush, we emerged from the resurgence by a river (Waitomo stream) still deep in the bush.  Home was down river past a 100m long natural arch, and out of the bush close to the two other show caves.

On the second trip into G.G. six of us entered the resurgence carrying some very substantial maypoles.  Although we discovered some new passages off high above the main stream, and re-found some that had not been recorded or widely published, the main find was at floor level.  A low phreatic arch was nearly blocked with thixotropic, sumpy mud, but passage could be seen beyond.  After much discussion the most stupid member of the party was inserted into the hole. A quick, complete muddy immersion, and then jubilant cries disappeared into the distance.  He was stopped by a 50 foot aven.  Such is the potential in a very well visited cave.

Millar’s Waterfall Cave was yet another 'cast of thousands' job - an introduction to the delights of caving for loads of young farmers.  The entrance series was very pretty and, although much good stal remains, a lot has been muddied or broken by heavy novice traffic.  A sixty foot entrance shaft is the only access obstacle, located in a doline at the top of the hill.  Less than half an hour's caving, mainly walking, but not in large passage, and we had descended to the stream.  Several passage had joined, mainly from one side, but the cave was now linear.  Passage size enlarged, the width generally being a comfortable six feet and the roof up to 60 feet above.  Occasionally the width became 20 or 30 feet.  A couple of hours of streamway and we climbed up a wide, muddy slope to emerge 50 feet above the resurgence, where the stream trickled away over flat meadows before disappearing into the bush.

Exploration in the Waitomo area seems to yield results surprisingly easily.  One find spring day four of us went to check out an unexplored region using aerial photographs.  Although our largest find was only a 50' shaft, there were many sites which deserve a little digging.  In a small area of five paddocks, there were so many dolines that we frequently lost sight and sound of each other for some time.  Unfortunately, lambing was taking place in one or two paddocks~ and we had to leave one section for another day.  The native bush has been cleared from here in the last few decades and some holes have had boulders rolled on top to prevent animals falling down.  One shaft could not be treated in this way.  The Lost World is 300 feet deep, and is so long and wide that trees grow in the bottom.  A herd of bullocks fell down it recently, but you don't see them unless you search especially.  Another shaft, over 200 feet deep and dropping into a streamway still being explored, had been covered and forgotten, but on certain winter mornings a column of steam would rise high into the air.  When local cavers started asking around the farming community, the site was unburied.

On another day of exploration, five significant new sites were looked at.  Although cavers knew nothing of these caves, all had been noted or even explored by the farming community.  By the end of the day we had notched up several hundred feet of "new" passage.

Undoubtedly, our best trip at Waitomo was The Mangowhitikan.  We were a party of four, and we two had borrowed wetsuits especially for this trip.  We entered via a 100 foot damp pitch where a small surface stream sank and made our way along narrow passages to a muddy area where we dropped into the river.  It was bigger than anything we have seen in Europe.  The current varied from difficult to impossible and we had to travel upstream.  There were rapids, deep pools with swift undercurrents, waterfalls and almost impassable canals.  We struggled along by traversing above the water, climbing one or other wall, jumping into the eddy of pools, swimming, pushing against the current and hauling each other.  The water was dangerous in the extreme and a slip could easily have been fatal.  Had the water been higher we could not have made the trip.  We had a half hour's respite when we left the river for a narrow sump bypass series, but further upstream the current seemed no less.  A twenty foot waterfall looked impossible, but we jumped the narrowest gap of raging torrent and climbed up beside the fall.  In places huge tree trunks were wedged across the passage, and flood debris and branches above our heads indicated the extraordinary flood levels. Gradually the passage enlarged from its two to six feet wide and ten to twenty feet high to become ten to twenty feet wide and sometimes forty to fifty feet high.  The stream slackened and the floor lost its potholes, becoming flat and sandy, or gravelly.  The heavy sculpturing disappeared, signs of flooding were less and stalagmite appeared on the walls.  Glow-worms, who prefer to live close above organically rich, slow flowing streams, became abundant.  Suddenly the stal was festooned with ferns, and the glow-worms were replaced by stars. A steep climb and we were out into green fields.  We both reckoned this was our most sporting trip ever.

We hope to be in the Mt. Arthur region for Christmas, where there will be the annual expedition, this time searching for a link between Nettlebed (the deepest down here) and the recently discovered Windrift.  Sometime in early 1986 we want to return to Waitomo. Amongst other caves, we intend to do The Lost World and the river at the bottom, known as Mangapu.  It is the same river as that in Mangowhitikan~ and is reckoned to be even more sporting.

the Bassetts.


The BEC Get Everywhere - Crete

"Where are we going on honeymoon?" said Jane.   " Crete" said Phil and Lil.  "There’s over 4,000 caves on Crete!" says I.

For cheapness and to avoid crowds and heat we went in May.   The girls took suntan lotion and historical novels.  Phil and I took Rennies and "The Caves of Crete" - a xeroxed abstract.

Our happy holiday villa was located miles from the limestone in the small coastal village of Matala, some 60km south of Heraklion.  Our first walk down to the beach boozers and boobs led past at least fifty cave entrances in three rows in the sandstone headland.  These man made single chambers are thought to have been excavated by early Christians and have latterly been used as a hippy colony. Some have carved niches, bed-spaces and shelves, others are decorated with psychedelic paintings and all stink like the legendary Ystradfellte public bog.  Some small natural cavities exist in the cliffs above these caves, notable only for their grandstand (!) views of the topless talent on the beach below.

After three days of ouzo, sun and Minoan palaces the wives were deserted and a 50km drive took Phil and I to Sarchos, near Heraklion.  Our description of the local cave bore no location so we found the "local". Following beer and political discussion (spitting on the floor) with the village boozers we managed to understand enough to find our way to Sarchos Cave. The 6 x 8m entrance lead to 1/2km of undulating phereatic passage ending in a clear, green sump pool.  "Damn, we forgot Bob Cork".  10m of new passage (oxbow) was found and a previously visited upper level full of bats investigated before returning to the entrance to be confronted by a large buzzard and a population of very active bees necessitating a quick retreat.  There is doubtless much more passage to be found in this cave and all around the eastern end of the Psiloritis mountain range where Sarchos is located.

Two days later, the full team assembled on the amazing Lasithi Plateau at the east end of Crete.  The plateau is actually a 6 x 12km swallet with two tourist caves (and many others) located around the mountainous sides.  Kronio or Trapezas Cave is a miserable little grot hole supposedly of archaeological interest.  Inside is a two inch long scorpion and outside an old rat bag who cons gullible English tourists (but doesn’t make much profit from them).  The other "show" cave is on the far side of the windmill covered plateau and is famous as the birthplace of the god Zeus. Called the Dictaean Cave it is now also famous as the place where two English tourists posing as famous international speleologists got a bollocking from the manager.  By lending him a newly published Greek caving book (in English) and letting him take the girls to the cafe he was eventually persuaded to give the two the run of the cave.

A steep rock "staircase" led up the mountainside to a 4 x 20m entrance - a typical collapse feature leading to a vast inclined chamber well decorated with huge, ancient and soot covered stalagmites.  A tourist trail of stone steps leads around this chamber and while one of the guides escorted his party, Phil and I guided a passing Royal Navy officer around before scrambling off to explore the further reaches - essentially an extension of the entrance chamber but with better and cleaner formations.  Before our departure the god Zeus was left, with a small black and white sticker as a votive offering.  An impressive cave despite its modest length.  Longer, sporting systems are believed to exist further up in the mountains behind this cave.

Near Rethymnon, on the central north coast of Crete, we found the show cave of Gerani to be locked and deserted.  This may be due to damage from reconstruction of the main coast road which runs directly over the cave.

Another disappointment - though not in the way of scenery was the lack of speleological sites in the 18km length of the Samaria Gorge, south of Chania.  Carved through solid limestone and with cliffs up to 600m high, it makes an incredible walk from the mountains near Omalos to the boat departure site on the coast.  Local geological conditions seem unfavourable for large systems in the gorge itself, though Tzani Cave, near Omalos, is reputed to be a lengthy swallet system.

The Kamares Cave, situated high on the mountains above the village of the same name, was visited after a crippling uphill walk on the evening of the 10th May. It was only found by asking directions from a Sheppard and family inhabiting a cave lower down the hill. The huge, gaping entrance of Kamares Cave opens into a cavern 60m wide, 80m high and 70m long which was used as a place of worship on Minoan times and gave its name to the famous “Kamares Ware” style of pottery, much of which has been found in the cave during Greek and British archaeological digs.

Knackered by the climb up and prepared for a night on the hill, Phil and I decided to move into the cave. A floor of assorted goat, swift, chough and batsh from the cave's assorted populace made a nice soft mattress and hot whiskies brewed over a chough's nest fire in the entrance provided a suitable nightcap as we sat and watched darkness descend over the plains and coast of southern Crete - the whole of which was visible from our eyrie.  As we and the noisy choughs got our heads down for the night the bat population began to leave for their nightly hunt.  Their occasional squeaks and the odd drip of water punctuated the otherwise soundless night.  Our awakening was heralded by the choughs again, who were hurtling in and put of the entrance with apparent unconcern for collisions.  Following a brew of hot chocolate (and whisky) we explored all corners of the cavern including various forays into the massive boulder ruckle flooring the chamber.

Our proposed climb from here to the peak of Psiloritis ( Mt. Ida) was called off on reaching the summit of the "Saddle of Digenis" above the cave when we realised how far we still had to go across very difficult and unpleasant ground.  Plan "B" was executed and we descended to the village and the bar of one Mickaelis - ex World War 2 pilot, whistle player, dirty old man and pinhead extraordinaire.  Here we met the girls and got completely plastered, my last memory being of Lil Romford dancing with an 80 year old drunken Greek Orthodox priest in the middle of the road.

Our last cave visited was also advertised as a show cave and from a point 23km east of Heraklion signs pointing to the site were followed for miles up progressively worsening mountain tracks.  Eventually a small white chapel on the edge of a large collapsed doline was reached - this was Skotino Cave.  The enormous and well decorated passage descending from the entrance was followed for a hundred metres until lack of boots and adequate light forced a retreat -all show cave facilities being absent!  The end of the cave is believed to be not much further and for anyone visiting Crete it would be worth a look to confirm this. Again, this cave was a major Minoan archaeological site.

Thus ended a superb and festerous holiday on this very friendly island.  For the casual visitor there are plenty of short, easy and interesting caves but anyone considering a serious expedition should do plenty of research beforehand to avoid barren areas and duplication of effort.  I have more detailed information on all of the show caves and some others if anyone is interested.

Tony Jarratt.


LADS Trip to Clare – Easter ‘85

As a group the LADS have been going to Clare on a regular basis since shortly after St Patrick drove the snakes out.  We have found a reasonable amount of new caves in several areas around the Burren but did not consider it to be of any great interest to cavers back home. Accordingly, apart from writing our trips up in our club journals and letting the UBSS know of any new discoveries for updates of "The Caves of County Clare", we have never bothered to publicise our finds.  It was therefore with some amusement that I saw the heading "Cerberus on the Brink" in the latest Descent followed by an inaccurate and incomplete description of our trip this Easter, written by some nurd who doesn’t know us and clearly wasn’t there.  The following is a slightly more accurate account.

Our arrival in Doolin was greeted with a most welcome whisky, courtesy of Doll in the kitchen behind O’Connor’s Bar.  Then suitably fortified we staggered down Pol an Ionian before retiring to our cottage for an evenings drinking.  The next evening (after an agreeable day down Poulnagollum) saw us firmly ensconced in the bar with that all important Guinness.  It certainly lived up to all expectations, that creamy white head daintily clinging to the upper lip with the right hand quivering excitedly but holding the cool, straight glass in a vertical mode in anticipation of the delectable sensations to come, then suddenly, with a smooth but firm movement the wrist tilted the glass back gracefully.  The taste buds burst into life as the first black waves of the dark; life giving liquid rolled across my tongue and spread an euphoric ecstasy across my palate.  The throat leaped into action to speed this ebony nectar on its way to the rest of my waiting body. My heart exploded in a war dance, a chorus of angels sang in my ears as my brain roared with sensual delight.  The deeply religious experience of my first pint was over.  I sat back contentedly, taking in my surroundings.

“Hmm,” I mused, "shame it makes you fart".

The next couple of days saw a routine trip down Doolin River Cave and the start of our digging on Western Knockaunsmountain, while the evenings saw Steve, Trebor and myself deep in conversation with Pat Cronin at the bar.  We theorised about our dig's potential excitedly, half empty glasses foaming in our hands, half poured pints waiting in line at the bar.  Froth dripped gracefully from Pat's beard into his Bushmills Chaser as he waved his little arms and legs expressively from his high stool, demonstrating his digging technique and gurgling contentedly.

By Friday we had made our way into two shafts at the Poulnagrinn site, but the third depression down which we could throw rocks and hear them crashing below still thwarted our efforts (one for next year). Sitting on the surface, tired but satisfied at finding what was clearly a major site taking a good stream; we passed the bottle around and admired the view.  To our right we could see the foaming Atlantic breaking on the white sandy beach in front of the little, distant brick walled dot that was O’Donohue's Bar. To our left looking past Ballynalacken and over the little hill above McGanns, with its well kept, creamy stout and smooth, peaty malt whisky we could see the Strand, and our hearts, minds and livers went out to O'Connor's and the alcoholic delight that awaited us there.  Oh well….stuff the digging!

Saturday saw us sober enough to find two new entrances to upper Poulnagree along the line of sinks near the TRT Eagnai Mouncat inlet.  Further on towards Polballynahown, my mind concentrating on the possibilities of a Guinness and Pernod cocktail, I slipped and fell down a small hole (now named Polna Garsuin) which led to a stream passage which Steve eventually managed to push past two squeezes to a point about 250ft from the entrance while I was suspended unceremoniously by my wedding tackle at an s-bend some 50ft behind him.

The cave took a strong draught and will certainly be revisited on our next drinking trip to Clare.

As for the Descent heading 'Cerberus on the Brink'- Cobblers!!  There were two B.E.C. members, one Cerberus and one MNRC. Maybe the editor would like a list of all our projects? digs, half finished surveys, new areas etc. so that he can publish them and let some other bugger get in there before we have a chance to go back and finish them.  At the end of the day our Gaelic colleagues are bound to agree that "Tien na Garsuin Naide Faide!!" and Descent can bloody well wait until we've got something really worth printing - next year!

Mark Lumley.


Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner

The article by Alan Thomas in lat B.B. was incomplete as the second page of his manuscript had been mislaid – so for all of you who have patiently waited with baited breath to find out what happen after Trev Hughes; can t now read on –

The presentations were followed by raffles.  Trevor Hughes did his usual striptease accompanied by his lady assistant (Lil Romford).  Kieth Gladman raffled a lamp glass with a bat on it.

And at last we were able to see the Pantomime, which was a rewrite of "Oliver".  As a historian I would have liked someone to explain the historical significance of the line; "Consider yourself------part of the tackle shed".  There were many people present, including some of the cast, who did not realise that when we had "Oliver" before, the B.E.C. had only got the tackle shed and to prove, like the Windmill Theatre during the War, that we never close people slept on hastily bunks in the tackle shed.

Another thing from those days that shows the resilience of B.E.C. is that after the Dinner that year we went back to the Belfry as was our custom for a barrel of beer that was consumed in the burnt out ruin.

The cast of "Oliver" some of whom had been in the previous production were: Pete Franklin, Alfie, Simon Knight, Mac, Barrie, Zot, J.Ratt, John Chew, Batspiss, Bob Cross, Jeni Sandercott and apologies to anyone I have omitted.

This was followed by much drinking and singing in such company as Roger Biddle, James Cobbett et al.

Alan Thomas

Logbook Ramblings

Most of the activity recorded in the Caving Logbooks this last month has been in 2 caves, Daren Cilau and Eastwater.  In Daren Cilau our new Caving See and others are trying to make a name for themselves and find yet more miles of new cave.  In Eastwater, Tim and Co have been pushing the end of the main rift and hope seem high for a breakthrough here in the near future.

Cuthbert’s! - well only one trip has been recorded here in the last month or so, I know that a number of people want to become leaders so we may soon see more activity here.


Berger 85 – getting there

7.25pm, Friday 26th July, Frome - gentle rain is steadily falling whilst driving between Stoke st Michael and Frome.  At Frome it turns into torrential downpour, drain covers hover 6 inches above the road as drains flood.  Cars grind to a halt because drivers can’t believe what they see and ten minutes from home driving frustration sets in.  Crawl across Frome to come to an abrupt stop at end of queue of traffic by the station.  The river is flooded and everything has stopped.  Traffic crawls slowly towards us but our lot steadfastly refuse to move. Eventually, nearly half an hour later (or that is what it seems like) pull over and drive recklessly down centre of road and through flood.  At Warminster, no sign of rain at all.

In the suburbs of South East London we stop for one of the greatest portions of fish & chips ever received; arrive at Dover well ahead of schedule and search out a pub.  Easier said than done; you'd have thought with all those sailors, stranded lorry drivers and associated "you know what’s" pubs would abound.  We eventually find one stuck behind a supermarket.  The pub itself is heavily disguised as a video cinema; heaven knows what the beer is like.

After that it is pretty uneventful.  My companions insist on sitting on the most uncomfortable bench on the ferry just outside the lady's john with a view to observing the talent.  Can’t understand it myself watching a load of tired, harassed, scruffy birds in a state of discomfort going in through a door and then emerging a few moments later no longer uncomfortable but still looking tired and harassed - seems rather pointless!

Many hours of darkness driving across Northern France on by- roads because too mean to use motorways, sees us just north of Dijon for breakfast.  Before we stop, when dawn eventually breaks Jarratt and I wonder where the third member of the party has got to.  Cork turns out to be buried under a pile of tackle on the back seat.  He swears that he has slept comfortably under it; perhaps the beer was better than I thought.

Breakfast now that is the highlight of the trip!  We sit the terrace of a cafe beside the Seine with trout making their telltale rings on the surface in the hot morning sun.  We eat large chunks of baguette with creamy butter and pre-packed jam (what a let down) and drink wonderful French coffee. Serious doubts emerge about going further, long debate, serious lack of will and then - what the hell, we may as well keep going on.

About stop for a only other bike!!

About 150km further on and we are on the motorway, a short stop for a sandwich for lunch and we are at the camp site. The only other souls there are two who have arrived by coach and bike.

Back down to the village to victual and then return to set camp and off to the pub of the Deux Vallee for a scrumptious feast eaten outdoors - quite something after the journey - so good in fact that I am seen eating French fries with my fingers, drinking more than is good for me and smoking a cigarette.  The problem, of course, is that whilst we three in my tank have arrived at a reasonable hour, the other two, MacManus and Bradshaw, have had a slightly longer journey and only get to the restaurant when we have nearly finished.  So we have to keep drinking whilst they eat.

What a frightful night - I have not slept in a tent for 30 years and it is infinitely worse than the NCC hut, which is bad enough.  But here we are on the morning of Sunday the 8th in brilliant sunshine on the Sornin plateau ready to go and there I nearly stay for the whole week.

Twenty eight b •••• rs get to the bottom, so one of them can write about the cave.

Jeremy Henley


Berger 1985 – “An alternative View”

"Book your transport early", they said. So we did; months before the trip 10 “Bergerers” got together and hired a nice new VW minibus from Bristol.  A week before departure day someone casually observed that this VW had no "tachograph".  "So what!” said the hire man - "You must have a tachograph when travelling abroad with a minibus having more than ten seats, or your vehicle may be impounded, etc~ etc. etc.", said the Bus and Coach Council.  Panic! - find another vehicle - but nobody hires minibuses for continental travel.  Vincent’s in Frome do.  "With only one weeks notice?"  "Yes they will and they've one with a roof rack".  Panic over - at least for the time being.  The night before the departure the minibus was collected - with a tachograph, but without; a spare tyre, windscreen washers, a jack and a complete exhaust system.  After several frantic phone calls, a couple of journeys to Frome and some clever wiring of exhaust pipes, all was ready.

Ten people for ten days in France, caving, camping and cooking equals one large mountain of kit.  Thank goodness for that roof rack; we couldn’t have got it all in the VW!

All went well with the journey and we arrived in at Quentin.  By now it was getting late, about 3.00am, most people were asleep or at least dozing off. Two navigators and the driver were not quite asleep when the centre of St Quentin loomed in the form of a large roundabout.  Brian Workman, the driver, decided to approach it in English fashion and turn left at the roundabout.  The first circuit failed to reveal any road sign for Riems.  All ten people were now wide awake.  "Brian, you're going the wrong way round!"  "I know, don't panic, there's no one about and I feel more at home going this way round!"  Second time round and still no sign.  On the third circuit someone casually observed that we couldn't see the road signs because we were going the wrong way round!  Everybody dozed off again.

At breakfast time, a stop was made at Nuit St George, a pleasant little town, south of Dijon, in the heart of the wine growing region of the same name.  It was most enjoyable sitting having breakfast on the pavement in a place that had given its name to a well known wine.  Saturday morning saw us travelling down through the Saone valley to Grenoble.  As we journeyed south, the temperature rose and the minibus was now full of hot sweaty people.  What we wanted was a nice quiet lake for a swim.  Using her superb navigational skills Lucy Workman guided us successfully to a nice quiet lake just north of Grenoble where ten people stripped off to their 'shreddies' in preparation for a swim.  Dave Turner was the first to hop over the wall and onto the beach - where he, clad in his typical English gentleman's baggy shorts, was confronted by two rather well endowed topless young ladies sunbathing.  Keeping a stiff upper lip and eyes front, Dave ceremoniously entered the water to the amusement of the onlookers.  The rest followed, eyes definitely not to the front.  One of the young ladies quietly informed us in English (they were English) that the strange purple 'gunge' floating in the lake was in fact harmless bacteria.  After a short meal break we were off again to find Sassenage and to wind our way up the hill to La Moliere car park.  The minibus struggled a bit with ten people and kit as it wound its way up to Engins. Engins turned out to be about three battered houses - I wondered which one the mayor lived in - wasn't it the mayor of Engins, who we had to contact on arrival at the Berger?

By Saturday evening we had settled into the campsite at La Moliere.  Fears of trees smothered in pink (or was it brown) Andrex were soon allayed, in fact, the site was excellent, being very close to the car park and situated right on the edge of a pleasant pine forest.  The general appearance of the site was clean and tidy with, a good water supply from the spring on the hill above.  This water, in fact, later proved to be pure enough that we eventually stopped worrying about purification and boiling etc.  (This, of course, may not be the case every year).

By Sunday, most of the expedition members had arrived by various means of transport, including bus in the case of Jerry Crick and bicycle for Jim Smart.  Sunday also saw the start of tackling, with the first party getting as far as the top of Aldo's shaft.  The telephone line was also checked and found to be somewhat poor. Radio communications from the campsite to the entrance of the cave were successfully established with the aid of VHF radios, Ric Halliwell's car battery and an aerial stuck together with adhesive tape on the roof of our frame tent.  The radio sets, for future reference, were not CB but operated somewhere in the high VHF band, possibly around 150MHz.  Communications, despite the profusion of trees between the campsite and the cave entrance, were extremely good, good enough in fact to allow reliable all night listening, and for me to be woken up in the middle of one night to be told that Bob Lewis had at last come out of the cave suffering from mild hypothermia.

On Monday, another tackling party went in and reached Camp 1, the telephone improvement party were unable, at that stage, to sort out the jumble of wires they found just beyond the Meanders at the Boudoir.  From now on, trips were made with great regularity with the telephone greatly improved due to the sterling efforts of Brian Workman and Dave Turner.  Camp 1 was now coming through loud and clear.

It was during the next few days that many people reached the bottom of the Berger and many others, like myself, came to realise their limitations.  However, no doubt there will be many a tale told over a Hunter's pint during the next few years and I'm sure many people will want to go back again one day.

Along with the caving activities, many people decided to explore the Vercors area.  Obviously high on the priority list was a good village for shopping.  Autrans turned out to be the best bet, with a small supermarket and a campsite where hot showers could be obtained for a small fee.  A reasonable restaurant, the "Auberge of the two Wallies" (Vallees), was situated on the road to Lans en Vercors quite close to the Berger campsite.  It was here that one of the group nearly came to grief.  After a heavy evenings drinking session a certain young lady managed to "manoeuvre" her car onto the wall of the Auberge car park.  J Rat nearly got run over during the retrieval proceedings.  The journey back up the winding road to the campsite must have been quite exciting.

Over the next few days, sightseeing parties made forays into Vercors.  A visit was made to the Gorge de la Bourne and the Routes de Econges as well as to the Grottes de Choranche and Bournillon.  The Bourne Gorge is a must for anyone going to that area; it is a magnificent limestone gorge with cliffs rising thousands of feet above the gorge floor. The road, sometimes perched on narrow ledges hundreds of feet, up or cut through tunnels, winds splendidly downwards passing the great valley leading to the entrance of the Grotte be Bournillon. This amazing cave entrance, reputed to be the largest in Europe, is over 300 feet in height and equally as wide.  Although dry on the day of our visit, signs of immense water activity could be seen, including a hydroelectric station at the valley bottom.  Clearly this cave must be an incredible sight in flood. 

A visit to the Grottes de Choranche is well worthwhile for any caver in the area.  Next door, the Gournier with its entrance lake and climb is a must.  Turning out of the Bourne Gorge at La Balme de Rencurel, the Route de Econges is fascinating.  With the road here and there cut into the cliff face with little viewing windows giving superb views of the valley, hundreds of feet below.  It was here, during the Second World War, that eleven of the French Resistance held a whole army of Germans at bay many days.  They all perished in the end, and a plaque on the side commemorates the spot.

Swimming facilities in the Bourne Gorge are good and several pleasant 'dips' were taken in natural pools in the river bed.  After such a swim, the minibus party descended on a small but recommended restaurant at La Balme de Rencurel.  The decor was somewhat primitive but an excellent umpteen course meal was had at no more than about £5.  The locals in the restaurant were somewhat bemused by ten dishevelled English visitors. At first, they thought we were being a bit disrespectful and a few sidelong glances were noticed.  However, after we had noted that the locals helped clear the tables and assisted in the kitchen we joined in and the atmosphere completely changed to the extent that when Brian Workman showed his delight at being given a large bowl of raspberries, the waitress gathered up all the uneaten raspberries from all the other tables and dumped them straight onto his plate.  Brian, for the first time, was speechless.  Several 'Franglais' conversations were started up with the locals as more 'vin rouge ordinaire' was consumed, with one local insisting that her grandmother had been English and came from ‘Borne-a-mooter’. We later realised she meant Bournemouth.  A visit to La Balme is certainly worthwhile and it pays to get Away from the “touristy” area when it comes to meeting locals and eating and drinking.

The caving activities had reached their peak and by now someone had realised that he didn’t like SRT anyway.  Lisa Taylor had strained her ankle and Geoff Price of the Wessex preferred his feet without any skin covering. Someone else retired hurt with a pulled Ham String and Bob Lewis was still down the cave - somewhere.  Peter Glanville was very unhappy - he had had his tin of self-heating soup eaten at Camp 2.  Ken Dawe and Bob Pyke reached the bottom along with many others.  Jerry Crick tried to carry enough kit for an army and finally Lisa and her ankle got as far as “Little Monkey” pitch.  Well done Lisa.

On Saturday, the minibus team regrettably had to pack up in order to be at Calais by 4.00am on Sunday.  The return journey was uneventful except that we passed, going the other way, the longest traffic jam that any of us had ever seen.  The minibus made it without mishap and the improvised exhaust repair made back in England held together for the 1500 mile journey.

We arrived home at Sunday lunchtime in pouring rain to a Swildons rescue.  Brian Workman, Dave Turner and myself being dragged out only 10 minutes after arriving home.  But still, we did manage to escape the hail and snow at the Berger on the Monday and Tuesday.

Finally, note: - if anyone wishes to take a hired minibus onto the continent, then contact Brian Workman. He is now the world's expert.

Brian Prewer


A Flying Visit to the Berger

Due to work commitments and family holidays, I could only manage to join the Berger trip for four days over the middle weekend of the trip.  Fred Weeks was in a similar position and agreed to come with me.

We boarded the 9pm ferry at Dover on the Wednesday evening, and then spent the rest of the, night driving through France to the Vercors.  We arrived at La Moliere on Thursday morning and made our way towards the Bertie flag which was just visible over the brow of the hill. Contact was made with Tim and Co. and we were informed that the cave had been bottomed the night before and was rigged ready for the big rush.

Our camp was set up and after a meal we tried to catch up with our sleep.  This was not to be.  The first interruption was Dave Turner, leaping about and inquiring if we would like to go to the bottom with him in about an hour's time.  Various other people came and enquired about our journey down, after which Fred und I realised that we were too keyed up to sleep. We decided to that we would take our sleeping gear etc. down to the bottom of the entrance pitches, ready for our trip to the bottom which was be on the Friday.  Having collected our gear together we made our way to the control tent and signed in for the trip.  While we were doing this, J. Rat appeared from his bottoming trip of the night before. The walk to the cave is pleasantly downhill through trees and the cave entrance is situated at the edge of an open section of limestone pavement.  We booked in at the entrance tent and then set off down.

The entrance is a scramble down over boulders, then down a short ladder pitch, which can be done using the timber log ladder which is permanently installed.  If the log ladder is used, care must be taken otherwise the rest of the cave may not be visited.  From here a thrutch through an old door leads to the top of the first pitch. We enjoyed the first pitch and were glad to be underground at last.  On round a corner and straight on the Holiday Slides which were laddered.  At the top of Cairn pitch we were brought to a halt by Dany who was having a bit of a struggle on the pitch.  He admitted to being f •••• d and added that we were welcome to the cave.  At the bottom of Cairn pitch we emerged into a soaring rift chamber which for some reason most people find enjoyable. Following the passage on from here into the Meanders, Fred and I were both disappointed with these after all that we had heard and read.  All that can be said is that carrying full sacks through them can be a bind.  Soon we reached Garby’s, which is a nice free hang all the way down.  We pressed on from here to the top of the next pitch which we thought was Alda's, and stowed our sacks on a ledge above the pitch.  We set off out at a cracking pace (for me} and regained the entrance after an enjoyable trip.  We then learnt that we had left our sacks at the top of Gontard’s and not Aida’s.  The walk up to the camp is a drag after being underground and the path can be easily lost in the dark - which we did, twice!

On the Friday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we found that half the camp had left at various times for the bottom.  As we had left most of our gear at the entrance the night before, we had very little to get ready other than a camera box, and were soon on our way, in a state of anticipation.  As we were changing, Trev, John and Phil. arrived to go to the bottom so we joined them. The cave was very busy at this time and there were delays on most of the pitches.  As we passed Gontard’s, Fred and I picked up our gear and arrived at the top of Aldo’s.  At the bottom of Aldo’s we met Pete Glanville, who was returning from the bottom without a stop for sleep.  John hauled his sack up for him and then John and Trev proceeded to give Pete a hard time by telling him his gear was all on the rope wrong and that he was not in a fit state to get out.  We left him sitting at the bottom of the rope looking at all his rope gear, mumbling about what goes on first!

A short section of passage from the bottom of Aldo’s leads you out into a large passage which disappears into the gloom in each direction.  We turned to the right and set off past Petzl Gallery, with our sacks on our backs.  The going was easy along a fairly level floor with boulders to scramble over or round.  Except for the size of the passage, this section I found rather uninteresting and was a little surprised when Trev announced that we were standing in the middle of Lake Cadoux.  A slight climb up from here and we entered a section of passage where the roof was much lower and there was a large amount of stal, both large and small.  When passing through this section of passage on the way out, I had the impression that these stals were walking along beside me and disappearing into the darkness!  We made good time down over the Little General's Cascade which had a ladder on it and through to the Tyrolienne Cascade where John had to recharge his light.  Trev, who had already done this section a number of times before, shot off for Camp 1 to make a brew.  His parting words were "Follow the right-hand wall".  When John was with light again we set off up a boulder slope, as we approached the top the roof rose majestically away and the sides melted into the darkness.

We moved on over the boulder floor to the right until the wall appeared out of the gloom.  John and Phil, both of whom had done this section of the Great Rubble Heap, moved on and when they were a long way off their lights seemed to be stars moving in the blackness.  Fred was very impressed to say the least.  The only other place I have been which made me have that feeling of insignificance was the Salle Verna chamber at the end of the Pierre St. Martin. The floor gradually becomes steeper and we passed by huge boulders the size of houses, Camp 1 came into view below as we rounded one of the boulders.  It was a welcome sight as we would be able to leave our sacks here for the bivvy on the way out.

The most note worthy thing about Camp 1, apart from the smell, is the large mound of spent carbide in the middle around which everything seems to happen.  A number of people were asleep in their pits after their trips to the bottom.  While we had a brew and something to eat, Trev changed into his wet-suit for the bottom section.  He cursed and changed back into his dry grots as there was something wrong with the wet-suit and he had carried it all the way to Camp 1 for nothing.


With the minimum of gear, we set out from Camp 1 straight into the Hall of Thirteen.  As we walked over the dry gours in the floor the large stals came into view, first as faint glimmerings as the light catches them, and then as stals that grow and grow as they are approached.  I did not think that the pictures I have seen do justice to this group of stalagmites.  As we were going to take pictures on the way out we pressed on down a well decorated passage to the Balcony Pitch.  This was passed quickly and we pressed on down until the passage levelled out and the roof came down to join us.  The cave, for me, from this point on never seemed so huge and overpowering as the section above. Because of this, the passage sections between the pitches and obstacles do not stand out in the memory as the top half, or perhaps it was too much of a good thing to take in all in one go.

After some scrambling through stals and up and down stal climbs we came upon a staled in wall with a small (for the Berger) hole with a rope disappearing over a stal bank.  This was the Vestibule pitch where one clipped on to the rope and slid off on ones arse over two large stal banks.  At the bottom of the second stal bank a scramble had to be made to a ledge on the left otherwise a fast descent would be made to the floor below without the aid of the rope.  The ledge is followed on a traverse line diagonally across the wall until the floor is reached.  We pressed on down the passage which became a high rift, and on rounding a corner we met the stream flowing at our feet.

"The canals, lads!” said Trev, leaping up and down on a boulder in the middle of the stream.  He continued to bleat on about the state of the existing traverse lines when he was on the previous rigging trip, and finished by saying,  "They are all right now as I have sorted them out", whereupon he leapt up at the right-hand wall and clipped into a tatty old piece of nylon rope and disappeared along the wall.  Phil followed on, but after some distance came to a halt.  The cause of the problem as received from Phil was “ a sodding great knot in the rope which needs a large krab.”  He was using a small krab!  Large krabs all round and on, trying to ignore the lack of external sheath on the rope here and there.  All along this section the stream fills the bottom of the passage, it was very clear going down into the blackness - the sign that says "I'm bloody deep!" The next entertainment was a crossover to the opposite wall.  Two lines crossed the stream with a bulge on the other wall to duck under as you crossed. Trev, Fred, John and Phil managed with some trouble depending on the length of their legs.  Me, I suffer from ducks disease, no way would my legs stretch to obtain a hold and I ended up hanging like a spider in a web, with my arse in the stream, praying that the rubber inner fixed to the belay would hold. A big effort and I reached the other wall and continued after the others.  A cross back to the right-hand wall was made easily this time and I caught up with John, who was watching Phil perform acrobatics round a stal column which ends 18 inches above the water.  The trick was to brace your feet at water level and then lean back in your harness until your back was level with the water, and then move to your left and stand up on the other side of the column.  The rope at this point was horrendous, all inner and no outer.  (We all used it both ways on all the trips and it's still there!). A quick scramble over a boulder and the canals ended in a fine cascade and pool, which was interesting to descend and cross on a single line from the top - much more fun going back up!  Large passage was entered here and we had a break for a change of carbide.

We set off again in high spirits down Cascade passage to the top of Claudine's.  The water spills out of the passage and tumbles down over the wall to land in a large shallow pool at the bottom.  The rope is off to the left at the end of a short scaffold tube wedged into a crack in the wall.  The descent is a walk down the wall by the side of the stream and very attractive when watched from below.  We followed the passage via various short pitches and climbs to the Grand Canyon, which is a steep descent over a boulder floor. At the bottom we arrived at Camp 2.

A rest was taken here and after a discussion it was decided to have a brew on the way out.  From Camp 2 the passage closed, down rapidly and we dropped through a hole in the floor to a series of pitches where one moved from one rope to the next with hardly a break between.  I found this section quite wet with spray on the return, and think that they would be very hard in high water conditions.  We were all getting bitten by bottom fever at this point and went charging down the passage looking for the last series of pitches. Before these are reached the roof lowers and a short section of passage has to be negotiated on hands and knees with even a bit flat out under a rock arch.  The streamway is soon regained to the ominous noise of water falling a long way. We had to wait here as Ken Dawe and Bob Pyke came up from the bottom.  We had a chat when they arrived, then set off ourselves.  A short climb up to the right leads to a traverse on a rope to the head of Little Monkey.  The rope sails down over a deep pool with the stream crashing down on the right hand side. After the edge of the pool is reached, a steeply sloping wall/floor is followed down until the stream suddenly shoots over the edge into blackness.  Hurricane!!

A move to the left is made to an alcove where a change over is made to a traverse line.  A move down and round a bulging corner of rock of rock and I found myself on a small ledge with nothing but black space to the side and down.  I moved carefully along the ledge to where John was sitting in a small eagle's nest type of place with room for only two people.  The head of the pitch is further out along the ledge the other side of the eagle's nest and the roof is about 2 feet above it.  Getting on and off the rope is a real pig and everybody had some trouble with it.  Once on the rope the pitch is a beautiful free hang.  When I reached the bottom I had that feeling that I was a long way from home!  This soon passed as we set off down a large passage floored with boulders.  After some distance, a large inlet came in from the right pouring water down a short pitch.  [This is the water from Fromagerie - the other major cave on the Sournin plateau and containing a 600 foot. plus pitch!  Next year a British team are going to try and link it with the Berger - what a round trip that would be!! - ed.]  The passage shape changed to a high rift and pools started to appear in the floor.  When we reached a pool that came to above Fred and Trev’s waists I stopped.  Fred’s waist is my chest and I did not feel like going out soaked through.  John and Phil agreed.  Trev and Fred went on a short distance but quickly came back with the report of a deep pool and duck.  This was the bottom for us.

After congratulations all round we set off out, our first objective being Camp 2 and a hot brew. As with most trips out of a cave, we gradually became strung out as the people in front pushed on to clear the pitches for those behind.  At Camp 2 we all assembled again and had a welcome brew.  We cleaned up the camp which was a bit of a mess and after a lamp fettle set out for Camp 1.  Again we were strung out by the pitches and my mood was very sombre as I was travelling alone or with just one other person and the little incidents that are amusing when in a group become annoying instead.  Also by now we were all becoming very tired.  We all eventually struggled into Camp 1 and had a brew and something to eat, what it was I have no idea but it was hot and tasted okay. Camp 1 was full to bursting with sleeping bodies all over the floor and strung in hammocks on the wall.  I found a flatish area on the rocks off to one side and set out my sleeping gear.  Trev left the camp at this point as he was going all the way out, I was glad it was him and not me.

We all settled down to sleep but I only slept very fitfully.  I had those lurid dreams about floating in a dark space and then dropping down on Camp 1.  At another point in my sleep, I awoke suddenly with my hand outstretched trying to hold up the roof which I thought was falling in!  At last it was time to get up - which I did, whereupon half the rest of the residents got out of their pits.  They were all waiting for someone to make the first move.  A meal was cooked and eaten along with lots of hot drink and we all felt much better.  Time at this point had ceased to mean anything and the meal we had just eaten had no point in being called breakfast or anything else - it was just a meal. After a general tidy up and much fettling of lamps, I dragged out the camera and Fred and I set off to take piccies. Some time was spent photographing the camp and the Hall of Thirteen, along with a large group of other flashers everywhere.  Fish had turned out of one of the hammocks and was giving Phil a hand firing the flashes but there was one problem,  Fish was using his personal stereo cassette to listen to music and had no idea what Phil was telling him.

After taking all the pictures we required in that area, Fred and I set off out taking photos as we went. Phil and John were going to follow doing the same thing.  Eventually we reached the bottom of Aldo's, only to find that Ken and Co. were still using the rope.  Fred had just started to ascend when Phil and John arrived.  This section of the cave was now rather congested and became very slow.  I enjoyed the steady plod up the pitches and through the Meanders, even though I was in desperate need of a crap from Gontard’s on.  The surface was reached and it was bliss to change with the warm evening sun to dry us out.  I had been underground for 31 and a half hours, not much by some standards but one great time for me.

Those of us who did the trip together, plus others, spent the evening having a communal meal and drinking numerous bottles of wine etc.  On the Sunday, Fred and I cleared up our camp and very reluctantly (we both would have liked to have stayed to the finish) set off on the drive back through France to the ferry. 

The crossing was rough and I nearly smashed into the back of a lorry when I went sleep at the wheel as we came into London - a good thing Fred was awake at the time!  We arrived home just about in one piece after a truly unforgettable four days.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who organised the Berger trip which proved to be well planned and carried out.



Letters To The B.B.

Found – One 20’ ladder

You might be tempted into thinking that this is a new lost and found column in the BB - it's not!

This note is an attempt to find the persons who left their ladder on the 20' Pot in Swildons some time in October and caused me to be woken up in the middle of the night five weeks later by the police who were concerned that someone was lost down the cave. They can buy me a pint.

The saga began one Wednesday evening in October when a party of cavers, exiting from a Blue Pencil trip in Swildons, noted a ladder and lifeline on the 20'.  The same evening a party was reported overdue.  The whole event came to nothing, the overdue party having left the cave earlier in the evening.  The only other consequence was that a few extra pints were hurriedly downed in the Hunters.  The ladder and lifeline remained.

During the next five weeks the offending ladder and lifeline were noted by several late parties exiting from Swildons.  Things came to a head when a caver from Bristol did a late night trip to Sump 1 and arrived back at the 20' about midnight to find one broken ladder and a lifeline and rope still on the 8' Pot.  He informed the police of his concern that someone might still be down the cave.

The following evening, the MRO Hon. Sec. and I removed from Swildons the following tackle: - one very tatty ladder, broken in four places; one lifeline and one handline.

And the moral of this tale of woe: - take your rubbish, tackle included, out of the cave and home with you and I shall not lose my beauty sleep.

Incidentally, the condition of the ladder gives rise to considerable concern; the wires were eaten away with corrosion and in four places were completely broken.  On the Thursday evening before its removal a party actually used this ladder.

Brian Prewer.


Gentle Reader, some of you may be so culturally uncouth as to need an explanation for the following letter.  Back in the days when men were men but people didn't make such a fuss about it, beer was a shilling a pint and creosote held the Belfry together, the B.E.C. conducted an occasional correspondence with His Grace the Duke of Mendip through his secretary Pongo Wallis.  In order to get His Grace off our backs (or wherever it was that His Grace intended), Alfie Collins, who was obliged to be Editor during this Golden Age, would reply. (At that times scribes were common as people didn’t reckon much on writing and Alfie knew someone who could). Anyway, Alfie generally managed to weasel-word his way out of trouble by being frightfully polite and kept us informed through the pages of the B.B.  Will there be a later-day Alfie to reply to this letter one asks oneself?

FROM  Kangy King, Secretary to His Grace, the Duke of Mendip, 2nd. Baron Priddy, K.C.B., W.C. & C., Hon. M.B.E.C. Aspirant.

TO  The Honourable Secretary of the Bristol Exploration Club.

Dear Sir,

His Grace, having recently succeeded to the Title was informed by his solicitors of correspondence with the B.E.C. undertaken on his behalf in the 1950's by his Father's Secretary Mr. Pongo Wallis.

Mr. Wallis then a notorious cave photographer is now well embarked on his retirement career as distributor of coloured photographs.  These or at least the ones that he chose to show me one evening at the Star Inn in Wells, he described as blue, which puzzled me somewhat as they were in fact sepia in colour.  I took them to be old medical photographs as they were well thumbed and almost exclusively of females of a certain age unclothed and presumably demonstrating physiological phenomenon.  The purpose of my meeting with him was to clarify the relationship of his late Grace with the B.E.C.  I attempted to ease the discussion with liberal hospitality but in spite of a second barrel of Kingston Black being hastily made available by mine host I gained nothing except a curious twitching oscillation of his left optic as he placed his right forefinger alongside his nose.  I remember little more of the evening as the sight of Mr. Wallis consuming what he described as his pudding, a mixture of rough and orange and ice cream caused me some distress.

His Grace then suggested that I should stay, incognito, at your headquarters.  This I did during the August Bank Holiday.  My appearance was somewhat spoiled, I fear, as I was forced to abandon my high heeled open toed red patent court shoes with the lovely filigree silver strap around my ankle and borrow a pair of gum boots.  One of these contained a piece of fleece but I was not able to ascertain why this should be so as there were no Club Members to be found.  They were Australians, Londoners, Crewe Caving Club, a dozen or so in all, staying at your salubrious premises and they suggested that I might try looking in the Hunters Lodge Inn where Members might be found at that hour sitting on the steps waiting for the Landlord (another Member I was told) to open the bar.  I repaired thither and although the bar was in fact open I could only identify a small but distinguished group who introduced themselves as Old B.E.C. members.   The spokesman for the group was a Mr. Alfred(?) Collins and I had the great pleasure of meeting Mrs. Collins and their charming daughter together with Mr. and Mrs. Ransome and a suave gentleman, Mr. Bagshaw by name, who touched me for 25p, an old habit I believe, for he had had, the honour formally, I learned, of being both Secretary and Treasurer of the B.E.C .  I was informed that Butcombes was 'on' and I was treated to a quantity of this admirable amber liquid whilst they regaled me with tales of long ago.

Resuming my Enquiries at your Caving premises, I was startled by two wet young men in rubber wear which they assured me was caving apparel.  Their fresh eager faces and clear eyed comportment persuaded me that here, at last, were the Members that I sought.  I presented my card and my Letter Introduction from His Grace and they in turn introduced themselves as Mr. Batstone and Mr. Castle.  They very civilly showed me around the Headquarters and we took tea whilst the visitors disported themselves in the palatial new recreational room curiously known as the Dirty Changing Room.  Was this, I wondered, so called because of the mixed bathing available?  A banner announcing “Vacances Propre” which was translated for me as "Clean Holidays" added to my confusion.

I felt it necessary that evening to check what is obviously an adjunct to the Headquarters and once again was allowed into the Hunters Lodge Inn after only a short wait on the doorstep.  I partook of Butcombes for its excellent restorative qualities and was delighted to make the acquaintance of more charming people who

had heard of B.E.C. Members. Feeling quite restored I heard myself agreeing to conduct a party into a cave the next day.  This did not seem odd at the time especially as they were kind enough to buy me more refreshment to help cure my knees.  Mr. Jarratt showed me how to find what he called The Belfry and too late I realised that he too might be a Member.  At The Belfry I learned how to put my legs behind my neck and that the difference between an Australian and yoghurt is that yoghurt is cultured.

The Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club arrived at ten o'clock the next morning led by a girl called Maria who assured me it was all compressible.  Whilst I inwardly regretted my rash words of the evening before no one would have resisted forcing a squeeze with such a lovely young woman.  Suddenly, Mr. Castle, as impressed as I was by the potential of the R.F.D.C.C., offered to help us in the squeezes.  We descended Saint Cuthbert's Swallet to the September Series Boulder Ruckle and had a marvellous time in the squeezes until we were tired out.

That evening, in the Hunters Lodge, knees with more Butcombes.

I was able to assuage my Sir, I am now better able to understand the necessity of the relationship between Caving and Butcombes but I am still unable to explain, to His Grace, that of his dear departed Father with the B.E.C.  The Dirty Changing Room did not exist in those far off days.  I should be glad of your comments to oblige,

Yours Truly,

Kangy,  (Sec'y, His Grace the Duke of Mendip.)


SRT Tackle

I have heard recently that the question of whether the club should purchase and provide for members use SRT rope and pitch rigging accessories (krabs, mail Ions, hangers, bolts) has been discussed by the committee.

May I make the following points which to me appear very relevant to this matter.

1.                  At an A.G.M. within the last few years the question was discussed.  From memory the decision taken was that the club would only supply the traditional caving tackle of ladders, lifelines, tethers and spreaders.  This decision I interpret as forming club policy which has never been revoked by any subsequent A.G.M.  Therefore no committee can override it or take any different action unless a future A.G.M. decides so.

2.                  Many times discussion has taken place on the desirability of group SRT tackle for general club use.  Even very recently at a meeting to dispose of the Berger Expedition equipment those present considered that the club could not control such equipment.

3.                  Where will it be stored?
Who will administer it and keep a log of usage? Who will check for damage etc.?
Who will say when a rope is unsafe?
Is there a big demand amongst members for group SRT equipment?
Are krabs, maillons, hangers etc. group tackle or should individuals use their own?
Would you use club tackle for SRT?

4.                  Even in the reasonably well controlled situation of the recent Berger Expedition where over 50 people used the SRT tackle many people expressed worries about the rope and more particularly worries over individuals treatment of it; their different SRT techniques which could cause damage to the rope and the lack of care with it.  I would suggest that the control over club SRT tackle would be less diligent and therefore more prone to misuse, loses and damage.

5.                  Our ability to look after our gravitational caving tackle is not very good.  Much goes missing never to be seen again.  I was in the tackle store recently and noticed only 1 lifeline - where have all the others gone?  Tethers and spreaders are abused and twisted beyond use.

6.                  Can the club afford it?  Are there not more important expenses?  I suggest that the only action the present committee can take now is to air the matter amongst members and in the B.B. for consideration at the next A.G.M.

Tim Large  5th December 1985.


Hut Warden’s Report

Club Officer’s report – October 1985

I was co-opted onto the committee after volunteering for the post at the 1984 A.G.M.  At the meeting I pointed out that I would not have the same amount of time to devote to the job as in previous years in the post, due to other commitments.

My main objective, has been to attempt to simplify the running of the Belfry, so that the Warden does not have to stand over Hut users and crack the whip to ensure that jobs are done.  A modicum of common sense, with the application of a small amount of initiative on the part of some hut users would have made the job run a little smoother in some instances.

This year the Belfry has been re-styled to the design approved at the 1984 A.G.M.  A much more functional format, I think, I am sure those of you who have seen or used the new style Hut will agree that an excellent job has been done.  The work was carried out in the matter of about six weeks, and although the hut was at times almost uninhabitable, a few diehards maintained a presence, either sleeping in the wreckage or camping.  Thanks are due to those people, both members and guests, for allowing themselves to be begged, cajoled or browbeaten into working on the hut. Actually some did volunteer.  Also deserving of thanks are Dany Bradshaw and his partner for taking on the major works contracts and doing an efficient job. Also to John Dukes who spent many hours rewiring the hut.  It should be noted however that a number of small jobs still remain to be done by the club, and we still have to maintain the hut.  Hut fees were raised as from the 1st June to £1 for members and £2 for guests.  Although the payment of Hut fees has been good this year a number of people seem to forget that day fees and tackle fees exist, this money goes to provide the club with better services and facilities.  Whilst on the subject of finances, Belfry receipts for the twelve months from October 1974 stand at around £2,500.  However, it must be noted that expenditure such as rates, electricity, insurance and the transfer to the Hut Building Fund are not included in this figure; reference must be made to the Belfry Profit/Loss sheet in the Treasurer's report for a true reflection of hut finances.

Attendance at the Belfry run to a total of 1474 bed-nights, this figure can be broken down as follows:-

Members bed-nights                   665

Non Members bed-nights            809

Of the Non Member figure, 156 bed-nights were taken up by the Navy Resource and Initiative Training parties making mid week use of the Hut.

For the past six months I have been trying an experimental Hut fee system, relying on the hut users to pay their fees into the conscience box and entering details of their visit on a sheet.  This system relies on the honesty of our hut users to make it work.  We have had some surprisingly honest members.  I would urge my successor to carryon with this system on a more refined basis.  I would be pleased to help in this task.

Finally my thanks for all those too numerous to mention who have helped in the past twelve months. My apologies to our treasurer for my system of accounting which must have been totally alien to him.

Chris Batstone October 1985

If this B.B. is not big enough, how about putting pen to paper and sending me that article you keep promising.