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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

Editor: D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.  Telephone: Priddy 369.

The Editor, The Belfry Collators, Sue, 'The Post' wish all our readers A Very Merry Christmas and A Prosperous New Year…

Swildon's 13 in 1980?

Cuthbert's 3 in 1980

Tyning's Extended in 1980?

Cuthbert's Survey in 1980?



Don't forget your subs. They are now due……

Full Members:   £8.00
Joint Members   £12.00
Junior Members £6.00

Pay up and look big!                   Merry Christmas, after you've paid your subs


The BEC Get Everywhere - Gibraltar

From the Belfry 'horror' (worse than Zot ever was!) Trev Hughes gives us an account of his recent visit to the world famous Rock of Gibraltar.  I'm led to understand that it is still standing……

By Trev Hughes

A three week working visit to the Rock of Gibraltar by HMS Bulwark over the period 22 Sept to 12 Oct provided plenty of spare time to plan and carry out a reasonable amount of dives, caving trips and walks/cycle rides about the upper Rock.

As most people won't have been to Gib I'll start off with a few historical and geographical details to help set the scene.  The earliest known inhabitants were Neanderthal Man and various stone age animals known, by their remains found in various caves, to have lived on the Rock up to 40,000 years ago.  The Romans called the Rock "Calpe" as one of the Pillars of Hercules, believing it to mark the edge of the world.  The next owners of the Rock were the Moors under Tark-ibn-Zeyad after whom the Rock was named: Gibel-Tarik (Tarik's Mountain). They held the Rock until 1462 when it was surrendered to the Spanish.  The British, under Admiral Rooke, captured the Rock in 1704. Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 following the treaty of Utrecht and became a Crown Colony in 1830.  The work to turn it into a modern naval base began 1893, most of the subterranean fortress was dug during World War Two. Today about 31,000 people live on the Rock.

The Rock is basically a limestone peninsula lying N-S about 55km long by 1½km wide, the highest point being 424m above sea level.  The shape of the Rock, a sharp ridge, was determined by the near vertical dip and a major fault which caused the east of Gibraltar to slip into the sea, hence the steep eastern cliffs and water catchment.  The top outline was affected by frost shattering in the Ice Age which lowered the height of the Rock by several hundred feet. On the western side the land drops-down, in a series of levels, to the reclaimed land just above sea level.  On the rugged Upper Rock there are many wild flowers including the Gibraltar Candyfuff - a unique in Europe.  Lower, in pockets of ochreous soils grow pines, Eucalyptus, Hibiscus, Oleanders and other Mediterranean plants.

I'll go through each type of activity separately and what better to start with than caving.  Being a big ship Bulwark has its share of cavers and apart from myself onboard there are Geoff Ford (BEC and Ex HMS Daedalus) Len Tyler (ex HMS Daedalus) and Chris Waterworth (Manadon Caving Club) all known to Belfyites.  Of course there are the forty or so people prepared to "give it a go" for whom trips to lower St. Michael's cave (more correctly called New St. Michaels) were arranged.  By far the best cave visited was the lower series of Old St. Michael's Cave (the lower lower series).  Geoff, Len, Chris and myself with a local caver called Tits spent a most energetic 2½ hours in this cave.  It is not very extensive but has a vertical range of 240ft and is comparable to a Fairy Cave Quarry cave turned on its end.  It is a superbly decorated system whose chambers are joined by a collection of fine sporting squeezes and boulder ruckles, it also contains the finest tasting water on the Rock.  I must mention it is not a cave for the Chris Batstones of this world.  Apart from the St. Michael's caves other caves visited included Martin's Cave which is full of huge bats and, as Tony Jarratt will know, there is a fine engraving available to those who search - I bought a print in a local junk shop for a most reasonable sum.

Another interesting cave visited by Chris and myself was Fig Tree Cave No.2 (we couldn't find No.1) marked No.3 on map.  This cave has very good dig potential, a low sand and pebble choked crawl heads into the Rock.

Many smaller caves were visited while out walking and to this aim I recommend the Mediterranean steps which descend the steep Eastern Cliffs - rather like the path up to Crib Coch but with the additional hazard of huge cactus bushes at every corner.

There are many other caves worth a visit especially, so I hear Georges Bottom, not found this time but I have marked the location on the map (No.4).  It is said to be tight and sporting.

The best person to get in touch with reference to caving is a local shopkeeper and part-time soldier: Ernest (Tits) Serra

SPQR Tobacconists
146 Main Street,
Gibraltar            Tel.4395 (shop hours).

Its is a very helpful contact and will arrange trips for any visiting caver, most easily at weekends.

With so many cave sites on the Rock (about 170) a fair selection can: be found on the Upper Rock especially if the show cave bar is visited first where there is an excellent cave location map (1:5280).

Key to Cave Sites on Map

1.                  St. Michael’s Caves

2.                  Martin’s Cave

3.                   Figtree Cave No.2

4.                  George’s Bottom

5.                   South Cave.

6.                  Gorham's Cave

7.                   Boathoist Cave

8.                   Pocci Roca Cave

9.                   Haynes Cave

For the sub aqua enthusiast there is plenty of scope around the rock.  In general the underwater visibility is good (10-14m) and the water fairly warm, about 19OC at 10m. Even in the winter months the water never drops below 15°C.

The tidal range is about 1m and as a result, of this a moderate current sweeps round Gibraltar Bay just after the turn of the tide, the strongest currents are off Europa Point and at these times this area must be avoided.

The best diving is to be had off the Western side of the Rock and I'll go through the better sites visited.

At the Northern end of the detached mole are two wrecks (site A) - the "inner" and "outer".  The inner wreck may be located by swimming out about 25m from a green water tank on the mole.  The outer wreck is linked to the inner by a rope tied to both, it bears 290° magnetic from the inner wreck.  The depth of water is about 20m, vis. good, and the current negligible except at turn of tide springs.  Both wrecks are well shattered and much dived on.  A first world war Enfield machine gun has been recovered from this area.

Further down the remains of a gate across the mole gives the location of the SS Excellent (site B) about 25m out from the mole in 20m of water.  She is upside down the sandy bottom.  Both sites are good for octopus but beware of large conger eels.

By far the best wreck to be dived on is the SS Rosalyn on the Southern side of S mole (site C). She is very easily found by swimming out about 20m from the mole leaving it at the northern end of the central casemate. The wreck is largely intact, sits upright on the bottom in 21m of water.  I don't know her exact history but Rosalyn dates from about World War 1 and was sunk in World War 2.  Her stem and stern are complete but her centre castle has been demolished in recent years.  The wreck may be entered but extreme caution is required.  The engine room and holds are open but "finds' will be limited as she is dived on regularly,

Moving off wrecks and onto the delights of nature.  The Seven Sisters rock pillars in 10 - 22m of water are well worth a visit (site D). Many varieties of fish are to be found and all are so used to seeing divers that you will be treated with total disinterest.  The occasional octopus, some of a fair size, are to be had in deeper water.  They live in such things as old car tyres and the like. The occasional stone gin bottle may be found in deeper water (25 m +).

Further south at Camp Bay (site E) are two sunken barges in 10m of water.   This site is where the old Men-o-war used to anchor for victualling purposes.  In 15m of water many stone gin bottles and for the lucky, glass Hamiltons can be found.  Of our four dives in this area with about 25 man/dives we collected seven Hamiltons and 'enough' stone bottles.  This area is also good for fair sized octopus but in deeper water the current is N-S and fairly strong.


Scale 1:20,000


Further south Little Bay (site F) is an interesting dive site, shelving steeply to 23m, it is well worth a visit to study the marine life.  The current (N-S) is fairly strong here at times.

Further south there is a good reef dive to be had in 13m of water off Europa Point (site G).  A guide is needed here for location and for checking the current which runs up to 1½ knots here.  I have not dived on this site.

The Joint Services Sub Aqua club of Gibraltar containing a mix of service and civilian divers are the mainstay of resident diving on the Rock.  They are a very active and social bunch and meet on Monday evenings at their superbly equipped (also has a bar) hut on Coaling Island.  They may be contacted on Dockyard Phone No.4460 any day except Monday and Tuesday. They have charging facilities and plenty of gear and make visiting divers most welcome.

Points to note are that boat cover is needed at most sites for accessibility and safety, diving is not permitted in Rosia Bay and for diving off the moles the AQHM should be notified on Dockyard 5901.  The best way of diving in the area is with JSSAC and ask for their assistance for boats etc.

I hope all this has been some help to anybody thinking of visiting Gib.  As a postscript I must add that there are over 200 pubs and bars on the ROCK “Everything to Excess".


The Odd Note

Alderley Edge Mines by Chris J. Carlon.  Paperback book on these interesting mines 144pp, photographs, surveys and diagrams. Useful bibliography included. Published by John Sherratt and Son Ltd., Altringham.  Price £2.85.

It has been fairly well documented that Jerry Murland has dived to a depth of 160ft in the Magpie Mine Shaft, Derbyshire thus beating the 150ft depth record in the U. K. by Martyn Farr in Wookey 25.  With only 10ft in it one wonders how accurate the depth gauges are.

Cerberus break through in Maesbury Swallet.  First dug by BEG about 1969.  The CSS have re-opened the site and have discovered about 150m of passage.  This club is also at work attempting to connect Fairy Cave with the now blocked Fernhill Cave. Though they have not found Fernhill itself they appear to have found new cave over the position of Fernhill.

More new books of interest to members: Bath Stone - A Quarry History by J. Perkins, A. Brooks and A.McR Pearce.  Kingsmead Press 1979.  Price £1.25. The Situation Level and Future of caving in Wales – A Strategy for caving by Frank Baguley, 28pp.  Price 25p + 13½p postage, available form the author.

From the latest British Caver -

'Any caver who wants a rope for a climb I do without it is chicken.
Any caver who climbs a pitch that turns me back is reckless'

New Members

967 Mike Breakspeare, 7 Red Pit, Dilton Marsh, Westbury, Wilts.
968 James Tasker, 281 Canford Lane, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.
965 Gary Chubb, Wheels, Southwater St., Southwater, Nr. Horsham, Surrey.
691 Dudley Herbert, 20 Rundwick Rd., Brislington, Bristol.
964 Lawrie O’Neil (nee Hiscocks), joint with Kevin O’Neil, 99 Forest Rd., Melksham, Wilts.
969 Duncan Innes, 18 Davids Close, Alveston, Bristol.
966 Pete Johnson, R & IT Section, HMS Daedalus, Lee on Solent, Hants.

Address changes:

Martin Grass and Glyn, 13 Granville Rd., Luton, Beds. (Tel. Luton 35145)
Jim Smart, 73 Queen's Rd., Clifton, Bristol.

FRIDAY NIGHT TRIPS might fill the bill….

For those that want to get in that extra trip over the weekend then the

The programme for 1980 is given below…..only make a mental note where to find this programme as space in the B.B. may not be there to reproduce all tips in detail.

Jan 4th - Manor                          Jan 18th Cuckoo Cleeves

Feb 1st - Lamb Leer                               Feb 15th Tyning's                                   29th - Swildon's (Black H)

Mar 14th - Fairy Cave Quarry                  Mar 28th S. Wales

Apr 11th – Reservoir                               April 25th St. Cuthbert's

May 9th – Stone Mines              May 23rd GB (Great Chamber)

June 6th - Longwood                              June 20th Barbeque - Candles in Burrington

July 4th Singing River                             July 18th Cow Hole

Aug 1st - Tyning's                                  Aug 15th Swildon’s Round. Trip   29th Pinetree

Sept 12th - S. Wales                              Sept 26th Thrupe Lane

Oct. 10th - Eastwater                             Oct 24th St. Cuthbert's

Nov 7th - Rods and Read's                      Nov 21st GB                                          and finally

Dec 5th - Longwood.

Meet at the cave at 7.30 p.m. or contact Brian Prewer, tel. Wells 73757


Letters To The Editor

Dear Dave,

I agree with Tim Large's comments in the October B.B. about Life Members.

It was because I considered the B.E.C. offered the finest value for money on Mendip that I became a Life Member.  The Life Membership fee seemed realistic at the time, but there is no doubt that soaring inflation has made it look silly.  I look forward to reading my copy of the Belfry Bulletin but have no wish to be subsidised by today's youngsters.  Why not work out the estimated cost per member per year and, at the same time as you ask for annual subs, you could ask for a magazine levy from long-time Life Members.  I for one would be quite content to pay up, and I reckon most of my contempories would too.

Yours sincerely,
Len Dawes
Matlock Derbyshire. 2
8th November 1979.

P.S. Please thank whoever it was who posted the sweatshirts to me.  They’re great – worth the 12 month wait!

Thanks Len for your letter.  Roy Bennett and myself have been preparing a letter to be sent to all Life Members suggesting the same idea and this should be in the post by the time this B. B. is published.


From Cross Bob.

Dear Dave,

By popular request, I have contacted our friend Mr. Sanderson at Chapel Stile in the Lake District with a view to renting his superior dwelling for our annual Lakeland Epic in February next year.  If for some reason he cannot accommodate us, I propose to try Yorkshire Mountaineering Club at Copper Mine Cottages at Coniston, or possible Fell and Rock at Solving House, Borrowdale – unless anyone has other suggestions.

The dates, by the way are February 14th - 18th inclusive, and the activities will no doubt take the same form as on previous winter meets so sharpen up your winter ice axes and crampons, and shake the mothballs out of your Duvets!

Let's try to arrive at some numbers etc., as soon us possible so we will not be disappointed.

Bob Cross, Mountaineering Sec.


Some Smaller Yorkshire Pots

From Derek Sanderson comes another of his interesting articles on the smaller caves and potholes of the Yorkshire Dales.

Often, the smaller caves and potholes can give as much fun as the more frequently visited deeper systems. They can also give much needed practice in use of ladders.  Here are three such caves.

HARDRAWKIN POT - Map Ref. SD 745 768 Length 780' Depth 200' Grade III

I first visited this cave two years ago.  We (Keith Sanderson and myself) parked the car just north of the Hill Inn and followed the footpath towards Ingleborough.  The entrance was soon reached at a loop in a drystone wall where stream rises from High Douk Holes and drops down a gulley into the cove mouth. The climb down can be slippery.

The cave is a simple one, being linear, yet there is considerable variety to be found.  The passage varies from narrow meanders to crawling over black cobbles in the streambed.  There are some remarkable 'cauliflower' deposits on the walls and whole streamway is clean.

After about 700', we arrived at the head of the first pitch of 90' where we found a choice between two bolts and a metal bar for belay points.  We chose one of the bolts for the abseil rope as it gave an almost free hang. The descent of the magnificent shaft was invigorating and wet.  The first 15' is not quite vertical, but below the descent is one of the best I have encountered.

The landing is a flat circular platform from where the stream drops into some narrow cascades. Beyond the cascades is the second pitch of 45'.  We belayed to a bolt on the right.  The takeoff point is an exposed little ledge.  The stream drops away to the left giving a fairly dry descent.

The chamber into which the pitch loads is a strange place.  It is formed in cross-rift with the stream falling directly into the sump pool at one end.  The sump itself is a flooded shaft of considerable depth.  The presence of the sump is unexpected because beyond it the stream drops over 150' in less than half a mile before it reappears in Hurtle Pot on its way to God's Bridge.

The climb back up the big pitch is wet but the ladder hangs perfectly against the smooth grey rock for a fairly easy ascent.

The cave is one of the best of the smaller ones we’ve done, though I have visited it when the pitches were impassable due to flooding.  The trip takes about 2 hours - which gives you ample time to get to the Hill Inn before closing time!

PENYGHENT LONG CHURN - Map Ref. SD 811 753 Length 1000' Depth 226' Grade III

Situated about half a mile north of Sell Gill Holes, a few yards off the Pennine Way.  We first visited this cave with Roger Wing in the hot summer of 1976.

The entrance is an impressive 75' shaft with an elliptical top about 15' by 10'.  A stream normally flows into the hole but on this occasion it was dry.  Establishing a belay point can be a bit difficult, and we experimented with some timber posts across the corner of the pot before we finally settled for an outcrop of rock 10' away in the dried-up river bed.  Roger is a bit sensitive about belay points, but eventually he accepted it.  We also had to protect the rope from abrasion on the lip of the pot.

Eventually, we all abseiled to the boulder floor below.  The shaft bells out slightly and the wall are smooth with occasional beds of coarse black limestone.  The view up to daylight is particularly pleasing and the climb back looks inviting.

From the base of the shaft the rest of the cave is governed by rift development.  Easy walking leads to a traverse on ledges over a deepening rift. The traverse develops into a passage about 3' square formed by the washing out of a decaying shale band - that white pasty stuff.  We dropped a 25' ladder down the rift just before this passage was reached.  Below, the rift continues to drop over a number of climbs, one of which, according to Northern Caves Vol.2, needs a 30' rope, though we didn't use one.

By now the rift is quite narrow with rough brown walls.  Beyond the rope pitch is a false floor of wedged boulders with numerous holes down. Ahead, the rift is choked and a tight 40' descent is necessary.  The first 25' we did on a ladder and then traversed onto a wedged boulder from where the last 15' was free-climbable.  The floor of the rift then becomes a painful crawl over pebbles until the way on is too tight.  A disappointing finish.

JINGLING POT - Map Ref. 699 784 Length 200' Depth 220' Grade III

If you need experience of long pitches, then this is where to start practicing.  It consists of a magnificent daylight shaft which gives a free-hanging pitch of 140'.  Once down, there's not much else to do except climb up again!

Roger and I first plucked up enough courage to do the pot about a year ago.  It is situated just off the Turbary Road, a short distance from Rowten Pot.  When we got to the entrance, I think we could easily have been persuaded to go somewhere else standing by the tree on the S.E. side and looking down the shaft we felt very exposed and vulnerable. However, we soon made the decision to go ahead with it, and with slightly wobbly knees we rigged the pot using the main stem of the tree as the belay point, the abseil rope being belayed about a foot above the ladder.  We had the rope protector with us, but this was not needed as the lie of the rope was completely free.

The abseil was a good one, but I was a bit too anxious to enjoy it very much!  For much of the 140' descent, the dark walls are out of reach. About 50' from the bottom, one of the walls leans towards the rope to form a sloping ledge which is not quite suitable as a resting place, and the last part of the pitch is a bit awkward due to swinging.  The rope creaked horribly, as is the habit of Marlow ropes when dry.

The base of the shaft is a narrow rift.  We dropped down the lower end to the deeper part of the rift and grovelled about in the blind pots at the bottom, but we were too preoccupied with the thought of climbing up the ladder to spend too long exploring.  The climb, however, turned out to be very enjoyable and not particularly difficult.

Roger climbed first. Silhouetted against the daylight, he would have made a good subject for a photograph.  When it was my turn to climb, I found the first few feet awkward, but once I'd got started I found the free-hanging ladder fairly easy to deal with, though I grabbed onto the rungs for a rest a few times towards the top. One such resting point was about 80' up, where I could still just see the foot of the ladder, and where the walls were at least 20' away - a position of exposure which I found very satisfying. The climb itself took us little more than ten minutes each.

Jingling Pot is only a small cave, yet it gives a good introduction to long pitches, and the trip is a memorable experience.


The last date for payment of subs is 31st December 1979.  If you HAVE NOT PAID, PLEASE send yours to Sue Tucker, 75 Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock, Avon.  Those not paying by the above date will not receive their January B. B. and. will have to re-apply for membership.

Full Members £8.00; Joint Members £12.00 and Junior Members £6.00



To catch up with the news over the last few months we present an extended version of

Compiled by ‘Wig’

B.C.R.A. Winter Meet, Wells on December 8th 1979.

About 100 cavers attended this mini-conference organised by Jim Hanwell for BCRA.  The programme was wide ranging and including last minute change of the programme with Bob Cork outlining recent events in Wookey.  Fred Davies gave his account of the marathon dig in Swildon’s Cowsh Aven that was eventually opened up to within 20ft of the surface.  ‘Prew’ demonstrating his radio location gear; Chris Hawkes summarising the work at Westbury Quarry and Willie Stanton propounding a theory of the increase in ground water flow on Eastern Mendip.  In an adjacent room an exhibition of old caving prints and postcards gave a new insight to armchair caving.  It looks as if a selection of those caving prints will be on display at the 1980 BCRA Conference to be held at Nottingham University next September.


Martyn Farr's first attempt at being an author will make its appearance early in 1980 in a 224 page book entitled 'The Darkness Beckons' - The History and Development of Cave Diving'. The Forward is by Mike Boon.  In addition to the 50,000 word text there are 60 black and white and 16 colour illustrations plus 20 maps and illustrations. Price £8.95.


'Rocksport', the cavers shop in Wells, has entered the book market and books are changing hands at quite high prices.  This is not because of their individual pricing, but due to price changes in the book market generally.  Recent prices from various sources will give an idea of what the market rate is at the moment.

Wookey Hole, Its Cave and Cave Dwellers.  Balch, 1914

£40 - £45

The Mendip Caves.  Balch (Somerset Folk Series, 1927).


Caves of Ireland. Coleman, 1965


Mendip, Its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters.  Balch 1937 1st Edition.


Mendip, Its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters.  Balch 1937 2nd Edition.


Delineations of Northwest Somerset, Rutter, 1829

£40 -£50

Heart of Mendip, Knight.  1st Edition.


Seaboard of Mendip, Knight.


Cave Hunting, Boyd-Dawkins.


Cave Hunting, Boyd-Dawkins (reprint)

£2 - £3

Caving. Baker


Netherworld of Mendip.  Baker and Balch


The Mysterious World of Caves, Bauer, 1971


Subterranean Climbers, Chevalier, Dub.  Faber & Baker


Mendip Caves, Balch (bound copies of the three books)

£10 -£12

Mines of Mendip, Gough (1st Edition)


Casteret - various books and reprints

£5 - £8

Les Abimes, Martel


Perhaps you should have a look at your old caving books and insure them


Yorkshire ‘79

From the pens of Martin Gross and Stu Lindsey comes a summary of their activities in Yorkshire since la Easter….

After many beers and a puncture, four B.E.C. members arrived at Brackenbottom during the early hours of Good Friday.  As Graham Price was sleeping like a babe, Graham W-J decided to abuse Liz, 'to help me sleep' as he stated in the morning.  Still, back to caving.  On Saturday Graham, Jim Watson and myself descended Birkwith Cave, Old Ing and Dismal Hill.  The intention had been to visit Red Moss Pot but when we arrived at the farm to obtain permission we were turned away by the fanner because he said that if he gave us per mission to cross his land he was legally responsible and we could sue him.  It looks as if insurance problems have reached the north as well as Mendip.

Although Birkwith was short, but interesting and the water bitterly cold.  By the time we came out poor Graham was near to exposure!  Dismal Hill starts with a series of interesting free climbs and a very tight bedding plane which Jim could not pass, ending in a large but short section of streamway.  We had the impression that the bedding plane flooded quickly and quite often.  Old Ing was stomping size in the streamway with an interesting inlet (Rough Hill Inlet) containing an interesting duck – quite pleasant.

That night we were joined in the Helwith Bridge by Stu Lindsey and Sue Jago inviting us down Link Pot the next day.  A very fine trip was had and a detailed report on the cave is given below.  Sue didn’t go down but went into Calf Holes and Browgill, her first caving trip in 11 years (and I didn't think she was old enough!)

Having separated Graham and Liz, given him a cold shower, a peaceful night was had by all!  Graham, refreshed, descended the Buttertubs to the great delight of the tourists who snapped away with their cameras at him in his bright orange suit.  When all the excitement was over, we went down Cliff Force Cave.  The entrance to the cave was completely blocked by snow and some time was spent making it large enough to emit Stu.  We found this site to be rarely visited and very dismal, everything being covered with a thick glutinous mud showing signs of complete flooding.  One very interesting part of the cave is Shower Chamber with fossils the size of side plates projecting from the walls and roof.

Monday saw us all off to Mongo Gill making a trip from Shockle Shaft to North Shaft.  This is a reasonably sporting trip taking about 1½ hours if the route is not known.  The cave has some good stal, but considerable quantities it was removed by the 19th century miners.  The route is not complicated but old mine workings tend to be confusing.

Link Pot - to find Serendipity (the Big Pitch) ....

The day began with the YES contingent set to clear a blocked cess pit!  So a slightly depleted group assembled at Bull Pot Farm, where the mud of two weeks hence had improved to become unpleasantly cold but firm.  Soon the intrepid quartet marched off across the moor, the old pores oozing sweat under the blistering midday sun but eventually this tract, from Lancaster to Link will become easier as a thousand feet blaze a new trail.

Again navigation was spot on and it wasn’t long before we set about tackling the entrance (which looked bigger! – 9 – 10”).  The beck was dry, and according to rumour even when in full spate, Link Pot remains free of water.  Soon, with Martin G and Steve Throstle, muted shrieks of delight was echoing form the depths. Stu L did a quick ‘free fall’ before landing again on the most trodden part of the cave.  Graham W-J brought up the rear as we headed down passage toward the boulder slope where we met NPC bods photographing in the chamber that leads to Lancaster.

The two chaps from NPC hinted that they would take us into China Dog Chamber and maybe beyond. Using the ½ tube route we gained the 'T' Junction and Rybers Bypass (this is only 30 feet from the entrance!). The way on is via Night Shift Chamber, through a black hole in the floor.  This awkward but short bouldery crawl leads, after a bit of stooping, to the aptly named 'China Dog'.  This is at floor level, so beware, do not step on it – it bites!  It was here that NPC Bod No.1 requested a ladder; No.2 Bod hung it exclaiming that it was too short, used another and descended. Meanwhile Graham and Throstle, much to consternation of Bod No.1, had traversed out along the very dangerous traverse route and back again while looking for 'this very dangerous traverse'! Back at the pitch Martin followed Stu L down the ladder and through the meandering traverse trench to the Chamber where the rest of the party were in the throes of ‘piccy’ taking - Graham and Throstle being the willing models.  The 'hard traverse' route is the best to follow bringing you out level with the fixed chain and the main way on.  If a ladder is necessary, a 20ft belayed to a dubious stall boss is sufficient as the pitch is not exposed.

At the bottom or the chain we were in a decidedly muddier section and with the departing words of 'turn right, up a passage' echoing in our ears we endeavoured to pick the right 'Right' from the three or four available.  The chosen passage, the most obvious, led into a superbly decorated mud floored passage, the ends of which appeared choked.  Entry into this panoramic vista was delayed as Stu modified the position of a jammed boulder.  After a brief exploration we disappeared down a 2ft diameter 'phreatic drain hole' which became bigger and bigger, and bigger, till we suddenly turned a corner and found a pile of maypoles - we had spent over ½ an hour going round in a circle, but it was worth it.

Venturing on up the passage, we left all the gear at a three-way junction.  Stu and Martin’s route led to a boulder choke and Stu was saved from a flat-out crawl in a wet, gravely 10ft wide bedding plane, by Throstle’s shouts.  Investigation found Graham and Throstle at another three-way junction, this one marked with a cairn.  Splitting up again, Martin and Stu’s exploration of yet another bedding plane was curtailed by the muffled shouts of the others.  Pursuit was in a low (8'' - 15" high) bedding, superbly decorated with stal pillars and miniature straws.  After what seemed like 1,000ft (more probably only 100ft) a 'T' Junction was reached.  The way to the left in a more spacious passage where eventually the roof began to rise and the passage became really big with the floor dropping down 25ft into a cross-rift.  Opposite, the passage carries a large stream which cascades down the rift and disappears off to the right.  Martin was first down and soon back again with the news that 20ft down the passage was the Big Pitch (65ft?).  We had only brought one ladder this far (the remainder was at 3 way junction) so we might go as far as the head of the pitch only.  A quick view of the pitch gave us the basic tackling requirements.  To belay the ladder a small natural bridge can be used.  The take-off is very exposed but the pitch is dry.  A lifeline is necessary - 80ft, doubled, for the return.  Time was running out and so a quick exit was made without fuss or mishap and we surfaced in 50 minutes after an interesting five hour trip.

Later in the year, Stu L journeyed north again, it being the epitome of his achievements in the Dales. Snugled down on the back seat of the car between two of my mates and buried under a massive framed rucksack, was a reel of 'Bluewater 3'.  Nearly 500ft of prime nylon, untested, and my passport to the spectacular confrontation with the beauty of the main chamber of Gaping Ghyll.

Next day we despondently left the Y.S.S. cottage at Helwith Bridge accompanied by a fine drizzle.  Would we be denied the Main Shaft?  Could the weather thwart an ambition I had nurtured for nearly two years since that fatal day when all my ideals had been smashed and I did my first SRT descent?  By the time we had reached the wild expanse of the Clapham 'Free' car park, the drizzle had lost its fizzle, but the sky was still heavily laden with black storm clouds.

Q.  Oi! What are you doing here?

A   Oi! What are you doing here?.

Q . Oi!  Oi! What are you doing here? – I thought you were doing Otter with Graham W-J et al.

A.  No! That’s next week wasn’t it?

Well, if his wasn’t is, or his is, wasn't, Bit Jim perpetrator of Eric Watson has dipped out of that one!

So began the sheer hell of trudging up the nature trail in sweaty wetsuits with sensitive shin being chaffed from sensitive parts, aching backs arched arc under bulging; rucksacks swollen with tackle, on we pound, on and on and on, leaving the hardcore roadway to crawl laboriously up Trow Gill to the slippery mud walkways that deposit us at the entrance to Bar Pot.  Making our way over to GG with the plateau hidden under a thick blanket of cloud and the air full of fine drizzle, it was trying so hared to rain – an hour, one hour is all we needed, no rain for an hour!  We closed in on the fenced in shaft, our haste leading us occasionally to peat bog mantraps.  The fence was reached and the view marvellous… the beck was quiet – it was a dribble, a big dribble flowing meekly into the abyss -- it looked really good.

Walking upstream we inspected a couiple of sinks taking water and were able to relieve their burden by clearing natural blockages in the stream bed, thus allowing a quicker flow. My heart began to beat faster, all systems go!  The ‘pit of the stomach’ feeling increased; it could rain now, I didn’t care.  The rope, belayed to a rather rusty looking angle iron bolt some three feet out over the drop, had been carefully fed down through the swishing waterfall after checking the back-up belays – a bolt on the left and a large boulder outside.  It was friendly in Jib Tunnel, its water hissing off into the spray filled void.  My anxieties eased, the first man was down; a few seconds to get off….pulling hard….oops, too early, an aggressive tug from below warns me he is not off yet.  I wait.  I held the rope – it jerks, it’s free.  Am on my way.

Checking, double checking my knots, my gear, my screw gates.  It's difficult to feed the rack, rope heavy, hands cold…..the last bar is on. I begin inching out, out towards that frail looking belay, forcing my rack higher up the rope and squirming towards the pitch head, searching forlornly for footholds on the slippery rock. My time had really come.  I was hanging on my rack, poised above an abyss of roaring spray.  The rope, a thin blue line disappeared into the quagmire of emptiness – there was no return, for me at least as I had never changed from abseil to prussic before, and not wanting to try it on this glorious free-hanging 340ft.

Four feet down.  The weight of the rope is difficult to feed, legs dangling helplessly in the torrent pouring from Jib Tunnel.  Eight feet down, still fighting to feed the rope. Now totally immersed in the water; fighting the rope, freezing water, heavy and cold, bouncing  - ‘Oh gosh’ I thought ‘The belays, the rope….’ 20ft, 40ft, 70ft, gentle bounces, cold icy fingers, now spinning gently, turning, the rope is easier now.

Oh!  How majestic are the waters of Fell beck as they cascade effortlessly into this spray filled void, now whispering peacefully and beauty in slow motion painted against the back-cloth of the fluted shaft.  Ten million diamonds were sparkling on their afternoon dance of delight.  A wall accelerates by – a wall – no resistance – wet rope – must brake – not too fast – easy.  I look still braking, a shout from below '30ft'.  Splash - bump - a bit fast - I'm down - it's over!

Pulls from above, the next man is waiting.  Time to get off the rope and into the warm - its cold standing under the 340ft waterfall and in the howling gale.  I want to do it again.

The last member of our party is descending.  A thin needle of light appears, very slow, seconds melt into minutes.  At last he is down.  We’re all down and did we enjoy it – thank you – YES!

Ed Note.  Next month Stu L will be reporting on a visit to October Grotto in the Kingsdale Master Cave; Tim Large on work in Marble Pot, Cuthbert’s and sometime in the future there promises to be articles on visits to Ireland and Florida.  Lastly though not least a Jottings column dealing with



from Tim Large

Club Sweat Shirts - As many of you will have already seen, the first order has now arrived. Those members wanting to order should contact John Dukes as soon as possible.

Carbide:   A new supply of carbide has been purchased. Price will be 45p a lb.

Digging Competition: This was eventually won by the Wessex with 700ft against our 400ft.  A celebration barrel was held at the Belfry on the 2nd of December.  The competition is being held again over the next 12 months.  All new cave gratefully received from all members!

Eastwater Cavern. The cave is now open again after a fine engineering job by the Wessex making a 15ft shaft.  It is about 3ft square and drops to a more stable section of the ruckle in the lower reaches.

C.S.C.C.  The Hon. Secretary, Dave Mockford has resigned. A meeting is to be held in January 1980 to elect a replacement.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

The Odd Note



REVISED LENGTH OF LANCASTER SYSTEM – about 30 miles.  The grapevine says that SWCC is re-surveying OFD as fast as they can to add the odd couple of miles in an attempt to retain the No.1 status.

Pete Moody and Alison Hooper are digging in both Swildon’s Pirate Chamber and Shatter Chamber


MID-SUMMER BUFFET 23rd June, Saturday at 7.30 at the Hunters in the side room.  Buffet food, cost about £2.50 (limited to 70). Tickets from 

Martin Bishop
The Batch,

Telephone Priddy 370

The only other wholly club event during the year other than the annual dinner on the 1st Saturday next October.



Banwell Bone and Stalactite Caves are closed until further notice until the Axbridge Caving Group have been able to repair the doors to the caves.  Permission has been obtained from the new landowner enabling cavers to visit these historic caves - on Sunday as well.  You’ll remember that the previous owner had a thing about his Sunday.  Before the Axbridge members were able to get to the caves, a lock has been placed on the Bone Cave door by the Dundry Caving Group without leaving any address for people to contact them.  This was done apparently without the knowledge of the landowner. From the grapevine it would appear that the Dundry group is an off shoot of the South Bristol Speleos and, so they are cavers who should know better.

Jonahs Travels.  Wig recently received a letter from our old friend Jonah - who has sent his sub for the next five years - hint(!).  Apart from requesting a key to the Belfry which he has tried to get for the last twenty years or so, he writes to say that he would like one so that he doesn’t have to chase around the Priddy area to get a key just for a bit of cooking.  He says, “Had a week in Clare mid-Jan.  Much too cold to do anything.   Did the 420 miles to Stranraer non-stop on the motorbike and froze to death.  Spent most of my time in O’Connor’s at Doolin between walks…."  Not bad for a young 74 year old!  Keep it up Jonah.

Cheshire: Alderney Edge Mines.  Access details:

West Mine - P. Sorensen, White Barn Farm, White Barn Road, Alderney Edge.  All parties must be led by key holders.

Wood Mine - controlled by Derbyshire C.C.  Contact Nigel Dibben (address in Nov. '78 BB)

Engine Vein Mine and all other mines: National Trust, Mr. G. Noel, National Trust Office, Attingham Hall, Attingham Park, Shrewsbury.

Mexico: New American depth record (-870m).  No pitches 13km long descending down the dip, following the side of the mountain.

The latest volume of Current Titles in Speleology 1978 (International) is out.  254 pages, covering over 4,000 references to articles published in 1978 culled from about 300 caving jounals and books from all areas of the world.  There is a feast for those interested in equipment and techniques (260 entries). A copy is in the club library. For those who want a copy for their library will cost you £4.00 from Tony Oldham.

Spanish cave in world depth league.  GESM Abyss reaches ‘terminal’ lake at -1074m.

Austrian reaction to 'foreigners.'  In a recent issue of the Salzburg area Magazine one of the editors writes at length on the Foreign Problem. These cavers are finding the Austrians best caves in new areas and suggest a permit-cum-quota system as used in the Himalayas.

Wig received a Xmas Card from Helmut Planer in which he wrote that his club have explored and surveyed 4-5km of ‘newlands’.  Die Schonste Hohle is a wet cave with formations and some 2.2km long.  And later, they explored in the Hocklecken-Grosshohle to a depth of about 1,000metres!!



If you have not paid by the time the next BB is issued YOU won’t get one.



Joint member £3.00

Under 18’s £1.50

Send your subs to:         Sue Tucker, Hon. Treas.,

                                    75 Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock, Avon

So it’s up to you – pay up and keep your membership to the liveliest club on Mendip.


Cavers Bookshelf No.2

Caves Of South Wales

By Tim Stratford

Published by Cordee,

Leicester, 1978.  92 pp

Photos, maps.  £2.75

Reviewed by Graham Wilton-Jones

This new publication is similar in size to the recent spate of caver’s guides stitched and bound in cloth cover like Mendip Underground.  It is always easy to criticise something so I will note the points in favour first.  It is about time someone brought out a new guide to the caves of Wales, and the author is to be praised for making the effort.  As fate would have it (according to rumour) Caves of Wales and the Marches, Edition No.3 is in preparation and Caves of South Wales may have been turned out in rather a hurry, as will; be seen.

In the 90 or so pages, South Wales has been divided into nine distinct regions, more logically than C. W.M.  The layout of information on each cave is excellent name, grade, grid reference and maps, length and depth, location, access, description, tackle and history. The writing on each region is preceded by an area map, most of which could show a little more detail.  Caves of over 200ft. are described in detail together with a few similar, but important sites, while the majority of caves of less than 200ft. length are simply listed with map references at the end of the appropriate section.  Small surveys would have been useful with some of the larger systems, but there are none. The author has generally adhered to the idea of a main route through the cave and side passage descriptions are brief and in italics.  For bibliographical reasons the history is important (not merely for interest) but this is usually too brief.  There are insufficient bibliographical references, e.g., there is no reference of the UBSS publication on Little Neath River Cave.  Information on surveys is scant, e.g. the BCRA Aggie survey is the one noted as containing a survey for Daren Cilau and the much better SMCC one is not mentioned.  Access notes are not always given despite, on p.7 'remember that the land always belongs to someone'.  Wig was irritated that for LNRC says 'Wet  suit essential.'  Though not irritated, I must agree.  Wet suits are not tackle and rarely essential.

What of my guess that the guide has been turned out in a hurry?  Some of the info is already out of date, some by several months, some by years. Rock and Fountain goes no further than the 3rd choke, passed in summer ’78.  Turkey sump bypass in Aggie is not mentioned.  Ogof Pen Eryr was extended in summer ’78, another fact omitted.  There is no reference to the Paul and Barnabas extension in Tunnel cave.

The length of description relates in no way either to cave complexity or passage length.  Rock and Fountain (6,400m+) has no more description than Bridge cave (311m).  The Ogof Cynnes (915m) description is very detailed as far as the main chamber (150m) while five more lines deal with the rest of this complex system.  The totally inadequate description of Summertime in Aggie suggest that the author has never been there.

A precedent is set with the description of the entirely submerged caves of the Hepste area and yet there is no description of the New World Series in LNRC – just '8,000ft of sumps and passage'.  Another precedent is set with the inclusion of Carregwylan Cave; this is a sea cave in the Ordovician volcanics.  Similar long caves are exceedingly numerous in the contorted belts of Pembrokeshire coastal and island cliffs.  Surely it is a case of all or nothing?

A detailed description of the complexities of OFD are wisely avoided, but at the same time many important parts of the system are omitted.  The section on Dan-yr-Ogof has a brief reference to the Mazeways and Dali’s Delight and yet these are perhaps the most significant areas of the whole cave, being the key to the elusive DYO 4.

The 100m long Cathedral Cave on Caldy is not described, nor the very significant 200m of Sink-y-Giedd.  Ogof Coel-y-Ffyrnau (70m) is missing altogether, along with Ogof Craig Ddu, Ogofd Cwmafon and probably several more.

However, he has made a guide book and a very useful one at that.  Hopefully the 2nd Edition will follow close on the heels of the first (I am sure that the 1st Edition will sell out rapidly) and will show that the author has found more time to do the job properly, and has paid attention to the inevitable barrage of comments and criticisms that such a guide book heralds.

If you are a collector of cave books then obviously you will buy this one.  If you want a cave guide for the area, perhaps your will wait for the rumoured Caves of Wales and the Marches to appear before you make a decision.  Me?  I shall usual do as usual.  Pinch someone else’s copy!

Cavers Bookshelf No.3

Descent NO. 40


Price 50p.  43pp.,

Photos, surveys, etc

Size A4.  Pub. By

Mendip Publishing

Reviewed by ‘Wig’

At last the long overdue issue of 'Descent' makes its appearance to a mixed reception on the Hill.

As a magazine its contents are excellent except for the fact that they are at least six months old (Los Tayos expedition report is nearly three years old!)  If the Editor, Bruce Bedford, had been able to get it out when he promised as a September/October 1978 issue he would have been on top of the news.  The contents include Los Tayos, mentioned above, in itself a superb article, notes and sketch surveys of two recent Northern discoveries - King pot and Vespers Pot and the usual round up of news from the U.K. and abroad.  Also, three of our own members have material published or are mentioned in the text (G. W-J: Dachstein, Wig: Trat’s Obituary and Tim Large reported as 'stuffing the NCA!')  However, having complained about the news content perhaps it is worth mentioning that some 75% of British cavers are not member's of established clubs linked closely to the 'national grapevine' and so the contents will be NEWS to them.  Anyway, if Bruce would get his digit out and produce Descent every two months then most of his news content will be news to many of the regulars of the caving regions.

The important improvement by increasing the size from the old imperial sixmo to A4 is great to say the least, better page layouts results and somehow makes the adverts seen less obtrusive.  With competition being offered by BCRA’s 'Caves and Caving' and 'Caving International', the presentation is equal to any professionally produced magazine at a price that will certainly hurt no-one.  (BCRA’s Caves and Caving costs 50p for effectively a 'home-type' offset magazine that simply is not in the same league and the new Canadian produced Caving International with its colour cover and internal photographs at between £1.00 and £1.50 depending on your source seems very expensive.

I for one, am eagerly waiting to the March/April issue (probably it will make its appearance as Jan/Feb 1980) with its news up to date.  If this is achieved and Descent appears regularly every two months then it can only be a winner to the point that it might put club and international organisation’s own publications out of business!


The Banwell Caves

New information has been found regarding the opening up of the caves at Banwell which changes the importance of the roles played by a number of people at the time….

An introduction by ‘Wig’

This month we are able to publish an important addition to Speleohistory by Marie Clarke on the opening up of Banwell Stalactite and Bone Caves.  To put the reader in the picture, I’ve put together a number of relevant extracts from John Rutter's 'The Delineations of North Somerset' published in 1829 to set the scene for Marie's paper together Rutter’s account of the Sandford Hill 'Gulf'.

During the past decade, Marie Clarke and Chris Richards have done sterling work by unearthing information that has led to the re-opening of two of Mendip's lost caves.  Their successes were the rediscovery of Bleadon Cavern and Hutton Cavern.  Now the discovery of a letter from Dr. David Williams, Rector of Bleadon and Kingston Seymour has upset the general knowledge of the opening of these important sites.  The extracts from Rutter that follows have been used by many Mendip authors; Gough (Mines of Mendip); Balch (Swallet Caves of Mendip etc.); Knight (Seaboard of Mendip) etc.

Rutter writes, “The Hill in which the caves exist, contains ochre, calamine and lead….which were obtained from the mines in considerable quantities.  A tradition was prevalent amongst them (the miners, Ed.) that about 30 years since, an immense cavern had been discovered in the north-west extremity of the hill; the entrance to which being difficult, it excited no further attention. (Ed. note Catcott records the discovery of this cave as being 1768, not about 1800 as implied by Rutter).  But when the discoveries of Professor Buckland opened a new era for research, a respectable farmer named Beard, who lives at Wint Hill…… remembered hearing of this cavern when a child, and happening to meet with John Webb the miner, who now lives at the Bishop’s Cottage (Ed. note – now the house called The Caves) was directed to the supposed entrance, which Webb and another miner, named Colman (Ed. note- other sources spell his name Coleman) commenced clearing out.  After re-sinking the shaft to the depth of about 100ft, they came to the entrance, or first landing place of the cave, where they found two pieces of candles, evidently left there by the original explorers….The cave thus re-discovered is the one distinguished as the Stalactite Cave; and from its description by the modern discoverers; attached the attention of Dr. Randolph, the vicar of Banwell; who, conjointly with the Bishop of Bath and Wells, resolved to improve access to it, for the convenience of visitors from Weston and other adjacent parts, whose donations on viewing it, might increase the funds of a charity school, just then opened at Banwell.

A horizontal opening was accordingly made lower down the western point of the hill, where a fissure about eight inches wide was observed in the rook, running in the direction of the cave.  The workmen followed this fissure, until it gradually became wider, but filled up with a loose mass of stones and earth.  About twenty feet from the surface of the rock, unconnected with that which they desired to approach, the fissure expanded into a small cavern, being of mush less extent, though ultimately proving of far greater interest than the larger one.  (Ed. note – this was the discovery of Bone cave)…

This unexpected discovery of the smaller cavern, now became the subject of attentive research and curiosity.  The Bishop of Bath and Wells, proprietor of the ground, and Dr. Randolph, together with some other gentlemen, set foot on a subscription for exploring its organic contents, and their exertion's were most zealously aided by Mr. Beard, by whose unremitting attention, the bones were secured as they came into view, and preserved for future examination.

In proceeding from the cottage to examine the caves visitors usually place themselves under the guidance of Mr. William Beard, who evidently appreciates the scientific and interesting characteristics of the scenes of which he was in some measure, the discoverer

It is worth noting that there are references, describing Beard and Professor Beard - this was conferred upon him by the Bishop because of his 'zeal and enthusiasm' and in 1825 presented, him with a silver embossed tankard, having the following inscription.


Finally; a word about the Gulf or Gulph.  Rutter writes:

The mouth of the largest, which the miners call ‘The Gulf’, lies, they say, 80 fathoms, or 480 feet below the plane of Sandford Hill; they also affirm, that they have let down a man, with a line 240 feet deep, without his being to discover top, sides or bottom. Miners, like other men, are very superstitious and wonder working, when they cannot fathom….There is another extensive cave further to the westward, in this hill, near which, the skeleton of an elephant was found, in 1770, four fathoms deep, amongst loose rubble.

So, having these extracts………..

West Mendip Worthies

By Marie Clarke

It was an advertisement in the Weston Mercury announcing the sale by auction of the property known as ‘The Caves’ Knightcott, Banwell, on July 25th 1978 which prompted the writer to narrate its absorbing history.  The residence, described by the auctioneers as a country mansion with coach house, clock tower and two caves, among other embellishments, has alas, become sadly depilated and immediately brings to mind the former glory that vanished many a summer ago.  Only a small part of this mansion has been occupied, whilst the remainder was shut off and left to fall into decay.  The surrounding grounds, once well tended shrubberies and winding paths are now a tangled wilderness hiding ruinous summer houses and a tower, whose top finally disappeared in December 1976.

It is sad to have to record the downfall of Bishop Law’s paradise, and as late as the 1840’s he intended to make further ‘splendid alteration’ and envisaged many house parties yet to come.  It was here that numerous horse drawn carriages shed their fashionable occupants and elite of the day.  All this has faded away – houses live and die.

But beneath the mansion lie the two caves and it is here that the story begins, indeed, if it we’re not for the Stalactite and Bone Caves, this house would never have come into being at all.  Having followed the history of the house and caves, for they are inseparable, its distinguished occupant, George Henry Law, Bishop of Bath and Wells for whom this house was built, we now turn our attention to three other gentlemen, all of considerable importance and all playing a major part in this story.  Dr. Francis Randolph, Canon of Bristol and Vicar of Banwell, the Rev. David Williams, of Bleadon and Kingston Seymour, also a fellow of the Geological society, Mr. William Beard, one time farmer and guide to the caves, each now laid in his narrow cell, but all notable personages in the 19th century.

It was in 1808 that Dr. Randolph became vicar of Banwell, he had his connections with the Hanoverian Court, being chaplain to the Duke of York, son of George III.  At about this time he resided in Germany, apparently teaching English to the Princess Royal of Prussia, who later became the Duchess of York.  It was due to the influence of the Duke of York that Dr. Randolph was appointed Canon of Bristol, he then became Vicar of Banwell.  His association with the court lasted for forty years; however, this relationship was not altogether a cordial affair.

In April 1795, the Prince of Wales, who later became George IV, married Caroline of Brunswick, and in August of that year Canon Randolph was given some letters by the Princess to deliver to Brunswick. Unable to undertake the journey, the letters were returned by coach to Brighton, where the Princess was in residence.  Unfortunately, these letters were mislaid on the way and their contents revealed with undesirable results.  At the time it was rumoured that Dr. Randolph parted with the letters having been promised a Bishopric, but if that were so he never became a bishop.  It is possible that this occurrence was the outcome of a sermon which roused eager interest in its day.

It will be seen that Canon Randolph was much more than an inspiring speaker being concerned as he was with the controversial matters of the period.  He published a pamphlet urging the abolition of the slave trade; Bristol being one of the main centres he has ample opportunity to investigate this.  Another pamphlet he published advocated the redemption of the National Debt which has risen alarmingly during the French Wars.

When he became vicar of Banwell, the church was in desperate need of repair – to make it even safe; and decorations to give it a more pleasing appearance.  The semi-circular railing round the altar from the formidable spikes running round the top would have been more suitable for the fence of a garden or courtyard.

Rev. Francis Randolph, in 1812, “gave £100 towards the repair of the church, and was at great expense in removing the painted glass from the windows of the church, and placing it (with a large quantity of other painted glass purchased at his own expense) in the arches of the altar screen.”  It was from 1812 onwards that £2,000 was spent in effecting repairs to the church.  It is considered that the present church was built by Bishop Thomas de Beckington (1443-1465) from his Arms, appearing in a painted glass window that existed in the north aisle before the renovation work started in 1812.  The Bishop’s Place, too, at Banwell is thought to have been built for that Prelate, for occasional residence and was situated to the east of the church.  George Bennett, an early 19th century solicitor and antiquarian of Banwell, onetime churchwarden, remembered seeing in the east window of the north aisle, a pained glass, the Arms of Bishop Beckington.  Mr Bennett wrote (c.1825) “I well recollect the last mentioned glass in the East Window of the North Aisle, but sorry I am to say that in all probability it is now lost, as I do not find it among the glass preserved in the Scree.”

The village school was founded by Dr. Randolph with the generous support of Dr. Beadon, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who died on April 21st 1824 before its completion, and it was left to his successor, Dr. George Henry law to open the school on August 1st 1824 and so became its first patron.

The funds for this school were raised as follows: - Dr. Beadon (the late Bishop) gave the ground on which the building stands, also timber to the value of £50; the National society in London for Promoting Education amongst the Poor, £100; the Rev. Dr. Randolph, Vicar of the Parish, £150; The Rev. C. Whatley, Curate, £20; George Emery Esq., Churchwarden, £20; Charles Emery Esq., £10; George Bennett Esq., £5 – in all £355.  The care and management of this institution was for the present placed with the Vicar, Curate and Churchwardens, together with other inhabitants of the parish and to be maintained by voluntary subscriptions.  Funds were urgently needed, and Dr. Randolph conceived the idea that if the legendary cave under Banwell Hill could be rediscovered, it could be re-opened as a show place.  Weston-super-Mare was rapidly expanding from a fishing village to a fashionable resort; the cave would be a profitable attraction for visitor, whose donations could be expended on the charity school.

It was Dr. Randolph who contacted two miners to clear out an old shaft that led to the lost cave beneath Banwell Hill.  Thus it was that the Deep or Stalactite Cave was rediscovered in April 1824.

Dr. Randolph and Bishop Law decided that if access to the Stalactite Cave was improved this would further encourage visitors.  It with this in mind and the assistance of two miners, Coleman and Webb that their labours were amply rewarded by the accidental discovery of yet another cavern.  This cave, although of smaller dimensions was bar far the more important, containing as it did, immense quantities of bones distributed throughout the ochreous rubble almost to the roof of the chamber.  This event occurred in September 1824 and the cave was given the descriptive title of the Bone House.  This cave, with similar later discoveries was destined to become famous.

It is not known exactly how and when William Beard, farmer of Wint Hill, Banwell, became involved in the activities of the miners, Coleman and Webb.  But by now he had taken more than a casual interest in the undertaking by securing all the bones as soon as they saw the light of day.  He yclept house, Bone Cottage, which no doubt accurately described it.  Geological specimens and cave formations decorated the garden wall, while others peered through the undergrowth like gnomes in hiding.  Trophies were seized and large collections of antiquities were the order of the day.  Below ground Beard's activities appear to have been confined to that of guide to the Bone and Stalactite Caves, there is no proof that he set foot underground in any other capacity.  He was responsible for the visitor’s book and donations on behalf of the bishop. “Gentlemen and Ladies, I have to inform you that I rec’d a  letter bearing date 22nd of June 1826 – from Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells wherein he request that all money that I have and receive of visitors who see the caves and to be expended in exploring and improving the same.”

The land on which Banwell Caves were discovered belonged to the See of Bath and Wells. Bishop Law soon obtained this land where the caves were situated and in May 1827 work began on the Bishop’s Cottage, which, though at first was intended for visitors became in the course of time, with lavish embellishments, his own residence.  The age of folly and grotto had arrived with Druidical Circle, trilithon erected upon tumulus, ornamental arch and summer house.  While the grounds were ‘tastefully laid out’ with lawns, walks and terraces; the woods were mainly planted in 1825 and the tower soared towards heaven between 1835-40.  The Bishop resided intermittently at the cottage from 1832 onwards.

The Bishop’s Circle was at times yclept “The Caves”, where there is a window lighting the staircase: “Argent, on a fess azure between in chief three buck’s heads caboshed gulea and in base as many pheons sable a mitre with labels expaned or, for Thomas Beckington, Bishop of bath and wells, 1443-65.  The buck’s heads have been done in yellow stain.  The shield is supported by angels.  Fifteen century.  The glass was brought to the house by George Henry Law, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1824-25.” This explains the disappearance of the glass form the church where George Bennett searched for it in vain. In 1825, Dr. Randolph had erected a summer house within Banwell Camp, but this was removed and re-erected on Banwell Hill on the estate of the Bishop.  An appropriate inscription, in Latin, being placed above the doorway in memory of Dr, Randolph who had died in 1831.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Weston was a fishing village where the cottages were constructed of timber from shipwrecks.  There were few track ways, but the coach road was at Cross.  The postman rode a donkey and put in a weekly appearance to deliver and collect letters; while the watercress grew in a ditch in the main street. Smuggling was rife and the local witch lived in a cottage with tree branches growing through the roof; Worley Hill was then treeless.  The route across the sand tots was the only way of reaching Weston from the south, when the tide was out and the traveller was directed by a signpost almost buried in accumulated sand.  When the tide was in, travellers waited at the Half Way House where the Royal Hospital now stands.  For the benefit of strangers, a finger post was erected amidst the sandy regions of Weston to direct the traveller.   This was useful information when not submerged!

It was about this time that the first batch of invalids arrived in Weston, having being sent by a Bath medical man.  This event launches Weston as a health resort and fashionable watering place.

Upon this scene rode the Rev. David Williams who was Rector of Bleadon and Kingston Seymour and from his abode in the Mendip Hills his scientific researches began.  Williams explored the caves of Uphill and Hutton (where his initials are just inside the entrance) and investigated many fissures in the Bleadon and Hutton areas.  He also took an interest in Sandford Hill and Goatchurch Cavern and was one of the earliest visitors to the Banwell Caves.  It was Williams who surveyed the Bone and Stalactite Caves and those at Hutton and Uphill, and there is a reference, years later, to his ‘old brown handkerchief’.  These surveys were later engraved by William Barnes, the Dorset poet, for inclusion in Rutter’s Delineations of N.W. Somerset. Williams referred to these surveys as his cave ‘sketches’.  Of the pre-historic relics he un-earthed together with his geological investigations he wrote many important scientific papers and was elected Fellow of the Geological Society in 1828.  He collected material for a comprehensive work over a number of years which consisted of the geology of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.  These manuscripts were later purchased by the S.A.N.H. Society for publication, unfortunately this never materialised.

Davis Williams frequently travelled to Weston, on horseback, meeting friends at a curious greengrocers in the High Street, perhaps then known as The Street, for it is uncertain when it became ‘High’.  These premises were known by the fanciful name of ‘Gentleman’s Club’, being the haunt of the local intellectuals.

In a London magazine an absorbing account of a visit to the geologist is described:  “We remember to have made a pilgrimage to Bleadon with a distinguished member of the British association.  We found the retreat of science encumbered within and without, with the imperishable exuviae of the ransacked hills.  Not a table, a chair or a sofa without its antediluvian occupant.  The very lawn and the approaches to the house strewn with fossil remains such as few museums can boast.  In the midst of a large room so densely tenanted sat the geologist, as on a narrow isthmus between the labours of the past and the triumphs of the future; like Marius amidst the ruins of Carthage, or (if you will) like a half-tide rock in a mountain sea.  He told us that we saw only his inferior specimens that the best were already in London in the engraver’s hands.  He was actually engaged in transcribing ‘fair’ the last sheets of the work to which we have alluded.  It was in gazing wistfully on the sharp grey outline of the Mendips, that he had first yearned to pierce the hidden secrets of the hills.  On parting from him, our friend exclaimed that is was good to talk with so clear a spirit, so un-hackneyed a nature.  There is a science in earnest!  With all the simplicity inseparable form the sincere and strong!  What an honour to the country!  But the world knows nothing of its greatest men!”

After 1829, Williams and Beard seemed, to have pursued different courses, but before this event Beard must have gained considerable knowledge from Williams.

Being a geologist, Williams horizons widened, which resulted in a geological study of the southwest counties.  These manuscript notebooks are in Taunton Castle Library but some of his notebooks are missing.  These most likely contained the earlier years of his explorations on Mendip.  His son, who in later years, was to become the Rev. Wadham Pigott Williams, found fossil bones at Bleadon Quarry.

From Beard's disordered manuscript book, with its confused dates, we learn that he began work on Bleadon Hill in January 1883, which resulted in the discovery of Bleadon Cavern.

“15th January 1883.  Paid JnO Heal of Shipham for Dialing the second cavern at Hutton….5/-“

and later that year, Williams explored this same cavern.  Beard’s latest discovery was on Sandford Hill in 1838.

In 1829, John Rutter of Shaftsbury, published the Delineations of N.W. Somerset.  This work undoubtedly involved many visits and considerable correspondence, and so here is included a copy of a letter written by David Williams to John Rutter.

Bleadon January 4th 1829


As our progress on Hutton Hill daily increases in interest, from the abundance and variety of the organic remains we discover, I shall be happy to forward to you a paper on these figures to the topographical work you are about to publish.  I have been required to do it by some very influential men in the neighbourhood but I wish to know from you first whether it will suit your wishes – if it should I shall defer publishing my account of them ‘til you come out.  Be kind enough to let me know when you require the Paper(s).  We have specimens of all sizes and varieties from the Elephant to the mouse.  I hope you will give the “quantum merit” of the discovery of Banwell Caves where it is due.  I regret to say, tho’ he assumes the merit, Professor Beard had nothing to do with it.  Dr. Randolph, wishing to ascertain the truth of a rumour that such a cave existed, offered two men a pound to clear out the shaft that led to it.  The men worked a week or ten days without success - it was abandoned - subsequently Coleman (who now works on Hutton Hill) and another, thinking the minerals might repay them, continued clearing out the chimney and ultimately came to the large Cavern, or the “ Deep Cave” as it is called.  This is the simple truth – I am sure our Professor has too much respect for his really high reputation to wish to sully by purloining what belongs to another.  I have lately obtained other evidence from Uphill Cave authenticating its history.  I hope before you publish, I shall be able to give you some account of an immense Cave on Sandford Hill, which has never been explored, near which an Elephant was found in 1770.  The mouth of it is said by the miners to be 80 fathoms below the plane of the Hill, and they have let down a man upwards of 300ft from its verge, without coming to the floor, nor could he see any sides or termination to it - they call it the Gulph.  They deal in the marvellous, I know, and I am determined to find out this mare's egg.  When you see Mr. Patterson, I will thank you to give him my best assurances.

                                                            I am Sir

Doctor Williams

Attention is immediately drawn to the fact that it was Mr. Randolph who paid £1 to two miners (Coleman and Webb (?)) to dig out the shaft to the Stalactite Cave.  Beard had nothing to do with it.  It should also be borne in mind that Dr. Randolph’s sole intentions on opening this cave were to admit the public, and in doing so raise funds for the charity school. The ultimate finding of the Bone Cave was accidental and profitable, and hence forth it appears that Beard and the Bishop took charge.  When George Bennett visited the Stalactite Cave in February 1825 he understood that “money is intended to be applied for the purpose of purchasing cloathing for the use of the second poor of the Parish and I know not a better purpose to which it could be appropriated.” However. Beard was instructed otherwise, and it is not known whether any money was contributed to the charity school. Also from this letter we have the first intimation of the finding of the Gulph on Sandford Hill.

This enlightening letter of Williams must have caused Rutter much consternation, as he and already committed the dedication of his book to Bishop Law, having placed the Bishop beyond any shadow, if only on account of his exalted position.  It could be argued that more credit should have been given to Dr. Randolph.  So it was Dr.Randolph was deprived of a notable place in the history of the discovery of Banwell Caves, while Beard was congratulated and dubbed ‘Professor’.  Law’s letter regarding the channelling of funds speaks for itself; he at least did not seem perturbed by the temperature of hell!

Dr.' Randolph's disappointment must have been great; and it is remarkable that Williams' letter should, have, survived for 150 years, containing the true           facts.


Baker, E. E. History of Weston-super-Mare (various publications):

Beard, W. MSS

Bennett, G. MSS

Brown's New Guide, Sed. Ed. 1854.

Robbins & Scotney's New Handbook to W.s.M. & the Neighbourhood.1865

Rutter, J. Delineations of N.W. Somerset.  1829

Taylor, C.S. Banwell Parish Magazines.   Oct & Nov.  1970

Williams, D. Typescript copy of letter in Woodspring Museum

Woodforde, C. Stained Glass in Somerset.  1946

Marie Clarke,

Banwell, Feb. 1979


Will members and guests staying at the Belfry please make sure that the Belfry is locked and all lights switched off before leaving at the end of their stay.

Members will realise that it is impossible to lock the Belfry during the weekend and so they will make sure that any valuables left lying around is done at their own risk.  The hut warden has requested that members lock any valuable item in their cars or better still, don’t bring them.  The building cannot be ‘policed’ and so to prevent ‘undesirables’ entering when everyone is out at the pub or underground.

Sue Tucker is currently clearing up the backlog of subscription receipts and should be in the post in the next few weeks.  There is a shortage of membership cards and a new supply will be available as soon as Tony Corrigan gets them printed.

The editor apologises for the late publication of the April B.B. – his greenhouse has taken priority and so members have had their April B.B. combined with the may issue.


A Trip

Stu Lindsey has been grazing in pastures north; trips to Kingsdale and now the first report on Mendip of the new discovery connecting Pippikin with the great Lancaster Cave System…….

After the Friday, past midnight, excursion into valley Entrance to retrieve tackle left in Swinsto Great Aven, it was a sorry looking bunch that assembled at Bull Farm later that day. Fortunately this was not to be another trip into County Pot (see March BB) where; contrary to the Ed's comments was STRAW CHAMBER and not Easter Grotto (my apologies - Ed).

Finding the Red Rose Cottage locked (all had gone caving) the awesome task of pulling on a soaking wetsuit in ankle deep mud was executed in deathly silence, faces contorted with the harsh realty of cold clammy neoprene against warm flesh!  With a clear blue sky over our heads we bounded off toward the Beck, passing the unimpressive opening that leads to a superb 110ft free hanging pitch of Lancaster Hole.  Putting up a few grouse we soon reached our goal, an entrance on the far side of the beck, now a dry, dull rock littered river bed.  The entrance shaft we were going down was a tight (8-10" wide, 10ft long, 50ft deep) finely fluted rift, 8ft above the beck; and is the key which has opened the door to Britain’s longest cave system…. yes, this tight slot I was so snugly fitted in was Link Pot.

Steeping from the ladder I found myself in a box section passage same 20ft square and 100ft long. After a little time our ‘leader’ became unwell, and so with another not too fit member of the party returned to the surface to join yet another non participant with and ailing zip!  By this time Martin W. (YSS) and myself had moved from a sea of mud floored phreatic half tuber into a walking passage containing some fabulous ‘old’ looking formations.  At the first I went to the right and found myself in Night Shift Chamber (30ft x 30ft x 15ft) sloping down to the left and the way on to 1½ miles of Link Pot.  Backtracking I soon rejoined M.W. who was a little reluctant to press on and find Pippikin Pot’s hall of Ten.

From here on we rarely got off our hands and knees, a couple of rifts did give some respite from the knee grating sand and gravel mixture.  The passages, low phreatic developments were adorned throughout with straws etc.  After a few hundred feet we came to a Stu L. special …..9” high, 9ft long and 2ft wide duck containing 4” of cold muddy water……UGH!  This was followed by a squeeeeeeeze in boulders and we were in a cross rift.  There appeared to ways on to the right and left but we squeeecezed our way down through more boulders, still flat out crawling, less gravel in the passage. Passing a muddy pool (2nd one) my feet disappeared under the wall when I dipped it in.  I managed to get my leg in up to the knee but M.W.’s shouts sent me off up the passage to investigate, it began to look tighter, starting to trend upwards…..there was a chamber (30ft x 15ft x 7ft high) my eyes were transfixed, there before was a single crystal column, white and glistening, 2ft high and 3” in diameter, in contrasting attendance were glistening various stals and straws – grubby ones!  The way on proved to be through the stal’s bedding plane at the top of the chamber, which we passed through with great care because of the straws and stal.   The way on suddenly reduced to a 2ft square tunnel, no problem here with sand and gravel….the flat out crawl was in mud, filthy, gluey, dirty, suckerous, choclaty, spongenous gloop – 6” of the nasty stuff.  Our progress for the next one hundred feet was liberally splattered with expletives, some unheard before! – then we turned back for more of the slithering and ‘sluddering’.  Time was against us but we were only 20ft short of the Pippikin System.

At the sump, Stu L. with his digging hoe, rescued from the mud, began damming the obvious feeder stream and hacking hell out of the floor.  He called it a day after enlarging it to accept his ample ‘bum’! (At this point there are two streams merging.  One from the Squeeze Rift with a fair flow of water.)   Braking the dam did not increase the depth of the pool to any great extent, drainage there being, or appearing quite 'free'.  Further examination showed the water from the rift to be flowing along under the wall and with phreatic development, in general, doing as it pleases, one day this sump might go.

We regained the entrance chamber and crossed the stream to get to the ladder.    Stream, one from the left and one from the right? – they were not there earlier, were they?  The excitement of the trip to ‘pip’ must have caused us to miss them on the way in, so up I climbed, no bother – surprise, surprise, but my eyes peeped over the lip to see the beck in the throes of a ‘pulse flood’ yet the sky was blue; the sun was low across the moors and the shadows were lengthening, we were going home, but I’m going back, back to find that water down in the depths of Link Pot.



Tim’s Retreat - an ochre mine at West Horrington

OR - EMI Electrocutes SRT caver….

The following report by the B.B. regular – Graham W-J – describes the exploration of a newly discovered mine near West Horrington.  It also puts the BEC well ahead in the digger’s barrel competition with the WXXXXX….

We heard about this mine from Prew, as it was discovered by his son.  It had been looked at by Albert Francis and Tim Large but large quantities of ginging had fallen, making the entrance shaft even less safe than previously. Some of Albert’s new climbing rope was destroyed by the falling boulders and Tim beat a hasty retreat from the shaft when it attempted to bury him with stones.  With that any ideas of exploring the mine were abandoned and forgotten. However, some of us are stupid enough to believe that the odd boulder on the head is incapable of sever harm. Besides, Prew IS the MRO, so he could rescue us.  There was no reason or excuse not to descend.

It was decided to use single rope technique largely because with this method it is possible to move extremely slowly and carefully and thereby avoid touching the ginging. Martin Grass obviously did not like this idea.  He therefore cunningly left his key with me saying he would follow us over to Horrington. Thus he was unable to get his SRT gear and could not make the descent.  And he had the audacity to blame me!

The mine is situated on the south-eastern edge of Horrington Hill, amongst cow-trampled mud and unkempt coppice.  Best bluewater was belayed to a couple of dead looking, shallow rooted bushes. Just in case these should make us over-confident we laid a piece of angle bar (meccano?) over the shaft and hung the rope over this, causing it to bend in a slightly disconcerting way.  By tensioning the rope to another bush we managed to get hanging plumb down the centre of the shaft.  Tim had made the mistake of hanging his rope on the edge of the shaft.  Descending gently John reached the bottom at -17m without incident, leaving me no excuse.

Avoiding touching the sides was fairly awkward in the confined shaft (less than 1m in diameter) and we both caught beards in racks at the same point, trying to look behind us. Below the ginging, which looked as it a puff of air might bring it tumbling, it became clear that the mine was worked in an orchreous filled rift.  While the width of the shaft diminished to about 30 or 40cm at one point, its other horizontal dimension increased to over 3m.  The soft mud at the extremities of the rift showed many pick marks, while the solid rock walls were cut with occasional shot-holes.

John has hidden himself from falling bodies and boulders in a low, narrow passage which headed roughly east.  Crawling by several animal skeletons he came to the end of the working after 20m. Across the rift from this passage and slightly higher was another working, both wider and higher, but ending after 16m. I climbed a short drop over ginging at the base of the shaft and entered a third working, heading roughly north-west. After 14m there was another shaft, but the top was blocked with large boulders.  Old, black, rotting stemples could be seen across the shaft, which seemed to be about 10m deep.  Lacking rope, ladder or a means to remove the boulders we surfaced into the chill evening air.  We were led back to Prew's via some devious route through the brambles.  The rigours of the day were compensated by one of Brenda's superb Sunday teas.

Week 2.  My turn to back out of the trip, but if I’m not going then nor is anyone else. "Isn't it cold”; I don’t fancy walking over there in the rain”; In front of the fire, cat burring its tail; “That rain looks its turning to snow"; "Look, that's sleet on the windows”; Prew began to assist, "Temperature's dropping.  This is just what happened before, and the village was cut off for three days:" They eventually succumbed.

Week 3 - John's turn, "I've left my boots behind". Unfortunately for him, Martin drove him back for them.  20m of bluewater was fed down the shaft while the remaining 50m was wrapped and knotted, macramé-like, around several bushes.  As John descended, first again, the multitudes of knots began to tighten, juddering him down the shaft.  We were soon gathered at the head of the second pitch, also with an acro-jack, ladders, hauling rope, hammer, chisel, etc.  John tried to break up break up the boulders blocking the top of the pitch, and these fell to the bottom, taking with them several stemples.  We descended to find the boulders blocking the way on. John and I swapped places and we de-rigged and lowered the acro.  With its help or hindrance, John moved the boulders aside and squeezed head first into the hole, only to find the horizontal continuation closed down after 1 metre.  After we had carefully retrieved the acro and fixed the ladder once more John decided o free climb out.  Typical.

On the surface Prew arrived with half of Mendip plus a new communication device.  While we surveyed the mine he lowered his device down the hole. We could hear Prew reasonably clearly, but when I pressed our transmit button it gave me an electric shock. Prew apologised and informed us that it operated on 110 volts!  “Perhaps you have wet feet,” He suggested.

Martin is of the opinion that the miners were after ochre.  The mine has been worked in a yellow mud-filled rift trending wnw/ese. Some of the rock at the sides of the rift, mostly limestone, is very soft and contains patches of a red mineral, presumably haematite, or red-ochre.  Above the second pitch a narrow band of calcite could be seen running along the line of the rift.  There are several other spoil heaps on this southern side of Horrington Hill, evidence that this area has been well worked at some time in the past.  However, we know of no records of mining activity here.

A survey of Horrington Hill Mine – Tim’s retreat

NGR  ST 44/45 – 5775.4775       an ochre mine, West Horrington, Nr. Wells, Somerset.


Length of the mine is about 250ft.

Surveyed by John Dukes, Martin Grass and Graham Wilton-Jones.

BCRA Grade 3   Scale 1:200


The Annual Report of M.R.O. Activities

by the Hon. Sec. Jim Hanwell…..           

Rescuers were called to just one incident underground during the year.  As the log accompanying this report shows, the decade enters its final year averaging less than a callout every month.  Hardly one in six calls prove to be potentially serious on Mendip according to this record.

On the surface, however, MRO preparations have been undiminished whilst even elsewhere in the country offer clear portents of the next decade.  Firstly, we look back to review the effectiveness of the former and, secondly, glimpse beyond to preview what holds for the future.

At the beginning of the year, Chris Batstone and Nigel Taylor became Hut Wardens whilst Dr. Tim Lyons joined the team of Medical Wardens.  Soon afterwards, however, Dr. Chris Hulbert had to resign on moving to another part of the country.  In April, we were pleased to entertain Police Officers from the Mendip Division of Avon and Somerset Constabulary for a film kindly loaned by the Cave Rescue Organisation in Yorkshire.  This successful occasion was arranged by Alan Thomas.  During the summer, Dr. Oliver Lloyd checked our cache of rescue sear near Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, on his annual visit to Ireland.  Mid-October saw what was probably the largest gathering ever of MRO Wardens underground to assist the Avon Branch of the Red Cross on their yearly field exercise. Our part in the 'disaster' was to treat and rescue several victims from the Boulder Chamber in Goatchurch.  Since the third casualty was whisked out in half the time it took to move the first one, we must presume that practise pays. David Mager’s purpose designed stretcher showed up well during the exercise.  As much more equipment is acquired, we are grateful to the Bristol Exploration Club for allowing modifications to the Belfry Store.

With the help from local cavers familiar with the old freestone mines in Wiltshire, Dave Irwin prepared annotated maps of all the systems known.  Copies deposited with the police there should help considerably in the event of future searches and rescues in these complex workings.  On Mendip, we were pleased to be of some assistance to our climbing cousins in their founding of a cliff rescue team for Cheddar Gorge and local crags.  It should be noted that MRO's involvement is to handle the call-out of this team to avoid the likely confusion that the alternative of a dual emergency system would bring in the Cheddar area with all its caves and climbs.  It is encouraging that climbers have followed the local caver's tradition of helping themselves in the best manner suited to their sport.

Our glimpse into the future came as a revelation on attending the inaugural meeting of the South West England Rescue Association at Honiton, Devon, last October. The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall addressed the various rescue bodies represented including the RAF, Coastguards, Mountain and Mine Rescue Teams.  What emerged was the need fur a common approach whilst maintaining the expertise and autonomy of each specialist unit with local knowledge.  There are good technical reasons for this trend which we will have to consider carefully…..

J.D. Hanwell
Wookey Hole
10th February 1979

At the 31st January 1979 the Accumulated Funds of MRO stood at £364….

Now follows the incident report ending at the 31st of January 1979…..

As we move into the last year of the seventies, it is worth reviewing, the since the beginning of the decade as follows:












Serious accidents











Minor incidents











General alerts






















Thus, during the last year we have topped over one hundred call-outs since 1970.  The following log based upon the reports received by the Wardens involved brings us up to date with the details of each call-out.

Sunday 5th March 1978.  Swildon’s Hole

Brian Prewer received a call from the police at Frome, ten minutes after midnight.  A Mr. Cooper from Bristol had raised the alarm from Priddy Green about two friends still in the cave!  All three had entered the cave about 5 pm the previous day for a trip to Swildon’s Four.  Cooper had intended going via the streamway to rendezvous with his friends in Four, however, he had turned back on reaching Sump Three and had lost contact with the others.  Whilst Prewer was in conversation with Cooper over the phone, the overdue pair arrived. They had lost the way on the return journey and had been delayed!

Thursday 14th and Friday 15th September 1978.  Wells in Glastonbury.

Fred Davies, Brian Prewer, Martin bishop, Rich Test and Jim Hanwell assisted the police in a search of old wells in and around Glastonbury for a body reported missing.  They were joined by Chris Bradshaw and Bruce Bedford on the second day.  Nothing was found and the search was called off by the police when no positive clues could be found.

Sunday 17th September 1978.  Reads Cavern.

Tim Large received a call from the police at Wells at 2.55pm.  A Mr. R.S. Liddiard from Shipham had informed them of a party of Scouts overdue from Read’s Cavern, Browne-Stewart Series.  The troop had gone down the cave at 10.30am led by Chris Liddiard aged 19, the others being Steve Mansfield (17), Pete Cornish (13), John Benson (13) and Gavin Munnery.  All lived in the Shipham area.

A strong party comprising Tim Large, Chris Batstone, Martin Bishop, Nigel Taylor, Tony Jarrett, Stewart McManus, T. Hughes and J. Crick went from the Belfry to conduct a search of the cave.  Richard Gough remained at the Belfry phone and dave Irwin stood by at Priddy in case others were needed.  The search party was joined by Rich Websell, Pete Moody and Alison Hooper at Burringtion. Nigel Taylor and 6 others went underground at 3.30pm and soon made contact with the scouts.  Apparently, they had lost their way and lights on returning through the boulders in the Brown-Stewart Series.  Their shouts had been heard by another party who had been unable to direct them out of their predicament other than to surface and warn MRO. Nor did they use the call-out procedure posted outside the entrance!

The lost party was brought out of the cave by 5.30pm and every one stood down.  This was the only occasion during the year that MRO had to go underground on a rescue call!

Sunday 1st October 1978.  Mangle Hole.

A call was received by Brian Prewer at 8.00pm from Chris Bradshaw who had heard that a party was overdue, probably from Mangle Hole but not definitely so.  Bradshaw offered to go and look for the car belonging to the cavers concerned and to report back.  Meanwhile, Prewer notified the police that the search was being made. Soon afterwards, he received a call that the party had been found.

Monday 2nd October 1978.  Lamb Leer.

Frome police contacted Brian Prewer at 4.40pm with information that a Mr. Rolands reported a party of seven from the Royal Army Pay Corps overdue from Lamb Leer.  He had expected them thirty minutes earlier! Whilst explaining that this was not unusual to Rolands over the phone, Prewer was told that the party had emerged.

Saturday 9th December 1978

Wells police alerted Brian Prewer at 7.30pm that a Mrs. Baggott in Bristol had informed them of a party overdue from Swildons as she had expected one of them to phone her at 6.00pm.  Prewer contacted Alan Thomas at Priddy to check for cars on the Green.  At 8.00pm the informant rang to say she had heard form the cavers concerned.

Sunday 31st December 1978. Evacuation of snowbound party at Charterhouse.

A party of six 9 - 11 year old Red Cross Cadet Girls with two adult instructors was reported as trapped by heavy Snows in the Venture Hut at the head of Velvet Bottom Valley.  The children had been holidaying in the area from Sussex but not caving and did not Mendip.  Their leader, Mr. P. Avery of Burgess Hill, Sussex, had alerted the Police at Weston-s-Mare that they had food and heating for another day. The Police requested MRO to assist in evacuating the party since severe blizzards were forecasted.  Brian Prewer received the call at 10.40pm and alerted the cavers at the Belfry.  Whilst a party would set out for the hostel on foot from Priddy, it was understood that climbers form the Cheddar Gorge Rescue Team were approaching Charterhouse from Burrington with a police Land Rover.

Nigel Taylor assembled a party comprising Chris Batstone, Alan Thomas, Jo Dukes, D. Bradshaw and Jess Carson, a medical student for the ‘overland’ journey.  With radioed permission from Somerset County Council, Taylor requested a snow plough which got to the Castle of Comfort before deep snow drifts prevented further progress. The rest of the journey was made on foot across the fields and the party reached the stranded cadets at 2.30pm. The Burrington rescuers arrived twenty minutes later having left the Land Rover only a mile away at Paywell Farm.  Taylor decided that all should make for the Land Rover as the children were in good spirits.  This was accomplished successfully by 3.40pm and the Red Cross party was driven to Weston-s-Mare for the night.

The Belfry party reached Priddy at 6.45pm ready for New Year’s Eve Festivities.

J.D. Hanwell,
Hon. Secretary & Treasurer
50 Wells Road
Wookey Hole
Wells, BA5 1DN
10th February 1979.


Equipment Notes

Introducing an occasional series of articles discussing various items of new equipment currently appearing on the caving market…

By ‘ Cam’

There is still silence from Jumar’s to give a date when we may expect their ascenders to re-appear. They are produced to what amounts a ‘cottage industry’, but last year were forced to re-build a large proportion of their ageing equipment.  While they were doing this it was proposed that they would do a re-design to produce a ‘super-Jumar’.  Last information was, however, that they were having second thoughts on the lines ‘we have a good product – why change it?’

They may have to think yet again with the introduction in this country of the American CMI (Colorado Mountain Industries) 5000 Ascender.  This is very much Jumar shape, but has an extruded and. machined, rather than a cast body.  There are double anchor points at the bottom for karabiner attachment, the safety catch is designed for ease of use wearing gloves and is hard wearing, impregnated nylon material.  The cam safety catch and return spring is removable for cleaning or replacement. Points of criticism seem to be the lack or a moulded handle, and the circlip fixing of the cam pin which seems a little flimsy.  They should retail cheaper in caving shops than climbing shops, but are around £30.00 a pair at the time of writing (March 1979).

Also now arriving in quantity from U.S.A. are spring-loaded Gibbs Rope walkers.  The standard Gibbs has been discontinued and they are now all fitted with quick release pins.  The old model (QR) is now the standard, and the sprung model is the same but with the body punched to form a lip on which the body is held back.  Both models can surprisingly be purchased at the same price, about £10 each.

Clam products of Littletown, Yorkshire, are preparing to market an ascender-descender system based on wire rather than ropes.  Details will remain secret until their patent comes through!

Another patented device soon to enter the scene is the Lewis descender.  This is a self braking device, with a ‘dead-man’s’ handle built onto the side.  It can be used on a single or double ropes, but is similarly to a certain well known Mendip ‘Buggery Box’ leads one to think that perhaps Glyn Bolt, of Goldlock fame may have one or two words to say about this patent!  The breaking bar itself is also reminiscent of the Petzl shunt.

Petzl are also said to be experimenting with a self-braker, but no details are known.  Bridon’s Kevlar cored ‘Viking Super Speleo’ rope is now commercially available.  The theory is that the Kelvar fibre, which is very strong and has negligible stretch, will provide a rigid SRT rope, but in the event of a fall it will break and the shock absorbed by the double nylon outer sheaths.  However, the core is said to have the strength of 1000kg, which will give the person on the end of the rope a nasty jolt!  That, together with the very dubious flexing quality of ‘Kelvar’ makes one hope that Andy Eaves, who helped design the rope really does know more bout it than most.  Cost, about £24 per hundred feet.  A thought worth bearing in mind is that a manufacturer of rope using nylon to construct a drive belt for a machine.  The nylon lasted (on average) 1000 hours.  They thought Kelvar would solve their problems, but a belt of this material lasted only three minutes!


Aygill Caverns

By Martin Grass           

Although a little late here’s another Yorkshire trip reported by our Caving secretary….

On our way to the annual BEC Lake District trip this February, Graham Wilton-Jones and I decided to make a detour via the Yorkshire Dales and take a look at the lessee visited caves of Casterton area.  The night before the trip was spent at Fred’s (Valley Caving club) at Padiham, and the following morning an early start was made for the dales after pinching some of Fred’s tethers which are closely guarded by a giant man-eating white rabbit!

The drive was uneventful until we reached Bull Pot Farm road which was only half cleared of snow but, with the help of some university bods the car finally reached the farm.

Once changed we made our way to the pot, not an easy feet as the moor was two feet deep in soft snow and the Wygill stream was completely buried.  All that was visible at the entrance was a small hole about two feet across with a large cornice hanging dubiously above it.  Sliding down a snow slope a small chamber is entered, full (at the time) of small, stumpy, ice stalagmites – these were found up to one hundred feet from the entrance.  From the chamber a small mainly, crawling passage leads to a second chamber and the first pitch.  This is only fifteen feet deep and not thirty as stated ion Northern Caves.  The belay point is a large boulder back in the chamber, and the take-off for the pitch is somewhat awkward.

The obvious way on from the bottom of the ladder soon chokes and the route to the lower streamway is through boulders in the floor of the passage.  A downward squeeze and cascade leads to the top of the second pitch, thirty feet deep.  The belay is a large eyehole at the head of the drop.  The ladder lands in a large stream with fine cascades leading upstream which quickly ends in a choke.

Downstream the water tumbles down some good cascades and flows into a flat-out bedding plane – this can be by-passed by a dry muddy oxbow to the right of the passage. Rejoining the stream can now be followed down to the terminal sump and the Pre-Cambrian Series.  But if the dry oxbow is kept to crawling it ends in a small stal chamber.  Keeping left out of the chamber leads one to the base of a large boulder slope, at the top of which is Curtain Chamber with a good but dry, large curtain.  At the foot of the slope a stream can be seen to sink amongst the boulders but is followed upstream to a low wet crawl beneath cemented boulders and a larger streamway giving way to the New Year Series. A tight wet crawl for about ten feet followed by a tight vertical squeeze between blocks enters the large New Year Cavern.

From here on we had the impression this part of the cave was seldom visited.  More hands and knees crawling inn the stream, past some fine straws and stal leads to a large stream passage again with some good stal and a couple of notable avens to a boulder collapse.  The stream can be followed beneath the boulders and about fifty feet further on the water disappears into an impassable choke, but the passage can be followed over mud and boulders until it reaches the roof.

If this blockage could be past, the large stream passage (which obviously continues beyond) would eventually lead to the Barbondale caves and add another link to the Three Counties System.  An uneventful trip out was made and a quick dash back to Padiham for food and to see the Keld Head film on the box, before we drove on to Langdale to meet the rest of the crew.


Early Observations on the Cheddar Catchment at Charterhouse

By Chris Richards

The Western Mendip experts have excelled themselves this month.  First Marie Clarke with her paper on the Banwell Caves and now Chris Richards presents the following paper which asks possibly more questions than it seeks to answer….         

During the eighteenth century, the Noachian Deluge was regarded as an event of utmost significance in the geological history of the Earth.  Features ranging in scale from continents and ocean basins, down to some minutise of the landscape such as tors and sink-healers were all claimed as part of the diluvial legacy.  The Rev. Alexander Catcot (1725 – 1779) – a Bristol born geologist and devine – sought to uphold the Deluge Theory in his well established classic “A Treatise on the Deluge” (first published in 1761) by reference to his own detailed geological observations made in the field.  Catcott visited the Mendip Hills many times during the 1750’s and 1760’s and in his “Diaries of tours….” left us a view of an area so little described previous to the nineteenth century and which subsequent to Catcott’s writings saw great changes during the realisation of the Enclosure Acts which started to affect Mendip during the close of the eighteenth centre, and during the gradual transition form a mining to an agricultural economy.

For some time I have been studying Catcott's accounts of Western Mendip and attempting (with varying degrees of success) to locate caves, mines and other topographical miscellanea described by Catcott.  In view of the great amount of work, scientific and other, which, particularly in the last two decades, has been carried out in the Charterhouse Swallets, I have not been able to resist with holding Catcotts observations on the natural drainage of that same area even though I have not carried out a detailed analysis of the relevant material, nor of the actual ground (which close study it well deserves).  In presenting the extracts from Catcotts' writings I have tended to treat them as pure topographical description well aware of the fact that they provide a window (so to speak) on the eighteenth century comprehension of topography, a stand point more or less avoided in this, article.

Both of the extracts presented below, with the minimum of editing, are from Catcotts “Diaries of tours made in England and Wales” (MSS) preserved at the Central Reference Library, Bristol.  The first is dated the 2nd April 1756.

"Took a view of Blackdown Hill situated about 1 and ½ mile from Mr Gore’s house, and the country beneath.  This hill is the last and highest on the western side of Mendip, in length about 5 or 6 mile, reaching from the beginning of  ____(2)____Brook Combe, (which has a spring at its head, about a mile from Mr. Gore's house) to Crook's point, which terminates Mendip to the west (3).  This Hill is situated about 4 miles from the Severn or British Channel, and I believe in perpendicular height may be near a mile above the water. On the top of this hill, at different places, is very moist ground, being the ousing of Springs (10).  About a mile from the beginning at Brook Combe (which points eastwards) to the west on Crook’s Point there is a standing pool on the very summit of the hill, 20yds long, 10 broad, and bout ½ foot deep, but the ground very moist all around it and the bottom of the pool so…… tracing the moistish part of which…… I found several little gusts unite into one spring about 300yds down the hill, which meets another about 200yds further; and here begins a small Combe (thro’ which the stream runs pretty fast) which extends about ½ mile further, & there is not deeper than 5yds & about 8 over; and here it is ended by a Swallet (or Swallow as called in the north) which terminates the Comb & receive the spring into it, which never appear again, but passes down thro' the bowels of the Earth, as the water did at deluge, after it had made this Swallet to receive it self, (4).  This Swallet is about half a mile's distant from the top of Blackdown Hill; & is 40yds over and 14 deep (5); & near to it are four lesser Swallets, each about 4yds deep and 6 broad; to which annexed in another lesser comb, coming in line as far from the Hill, & so little…torn by the waters that, in their descent, made these lesser Swallets; as the other comb tending in front of the hill to the larger Swallet.  About 100yds further on, another, very regular Swallet, (6) of an oblong form: 20yds deep: its length at top 30yd 30yds over & breadth 20: its length at bottom 12yds & breadth 7.  It lies oblong, pointing South, as from the hill, with a sudden descent downwards at its entrance & at the farther side it is quite perpendicular; as the waters rushed against this side, & were stopped in its passage directly forwards, & so entered the hole or cavity at the bottom of the Swallet; the mouth of which is now covered over with large loose stones, which were either brought from the Hill or part of the Cavity which was torn to make the Swallet: & as these stones are plainly worn & somewhat rounded & are covered over thick with moss, & turned quite black, they shew, they are of long standing.  The Strata here lies in a position inclined with the hill, ? towards the South, and this way the length of the Swallet is (as having been torn by the water sucking from the Hill) so that the Strata lay this way, & the horizontal fissures directly opposite to the course of the stream, in all probability that waters made their way thro’ a horizontal fissure to the Abyss beneath; had it been a perpendicular fissure it can scarcely have been so broad as it is, we’d have been torn more in length: & narrower (in) breadth; in the manner the….or veins, then they come day, appear on Mendip.  There are hereabouts the appearance of 2 or 3 more Swallets, &  when the ground was dug for Calamin, they found it very cavernous, & many Swallets underground, which were not visible above, being covered & stopped by time or accident (7).  The ground where these Swallets are is about 7 or 8 acrea, & is called Pit-Close; is situated in the middle of a large flat space, about 7 miles in circumference, first at the foot of the declivity of Blackdown Hill, & reaches to Cheddar Cliffs: and the reason why this space or ground was flat & level & not at all torn with combs (which occur in places all about) was doubtlessly the free passage that the water, in descending, found thro’ these Swallets.  The stones in Pit-Close abound with entrochi, (8) & sometimes the shells of this creature are found here, & the branches many and united: & a curious kind of Honey-comb Coral. (7)”


1.                  Where was Mr. Gore's house?  The Gore family were once important landowners, and as this date (1756) land at Charterhouse was held by a Mr. Gore at whose home Catcott stayed for a few days on his Charterhouse visit. (Gough, 1930, pp89 – 90).

2.                  Catcott evidently expected this brook to possess a name & under this conviction left the blank for later inclusion of a name.  To which brook does Catcott refer?

3.                  In Catcott's day the westernmost point of Mendip was regarded as Crook's Peak (= "Crook's point")

4.                  Catcott considered Swallets as being natural drains for and created by (like the dry valleys of Mendip) the retreating waters of the Deluge, rushing powerfully away, through pre-existing lines of weakness, towards the Abyss - a subterranean reservoir lying beneath the surface of the whole world.

5.                  This is almost certainly Tyning's Farm Swallet (Barrington & Stanton, 1977, p.166). At this point I should like to say that great care should be taken in comparing Catcott's text on this and further swallets mentioned with the present - configuration of the ground as this particular area has no doubt undergone modifications effected by man’s activities and natural processes (such as the flood of 1968) which was shown (Hanwell, J. D. & Newson, M. D. 1970 pp) to have effected substantially this immediate vicinity.

6.                  This is obviously the ‘Great Swallet’ (Barrington, N. R. & Stanton, W.I. 1977)

7.                  Dr. John Woodward (1665 - 1728) a geologist and physician had in his possession.  “A mineral map, by means of Veins and Partitions, divided into various cells.  The Partitions are hard, and of a dusty brown, near a Rust Colour.  The Cells are filled a friath, yellow Ochre.  Digg’d up near the Road betwixt Shipham and Charterhouse, Mendip.  They had raised a considerable Quantity of it; but whether for the Ochre, or in expectation of Calamin in it, I cannot tell” (from John Woodward, 1728, p.23).

Juxtaposing this with Catcott’s text, I am led to think that mining on the spot may have commenced decades before the year of Catcott’s visit, if indeed the site referred to by Woodward is one and the same as Catcott’s Pit Close, for Woodward made his mineral collecting between 1684 and 1695 (Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 62  pp423 - 425)

8.                  The name 'entrochi' refers to the class Crinoidea.

9.                  The curious kind of Honey-comb Coral must be one of the Order of colonial cords (Tabulate.) e.g. Michelinia

10.              Of these springs, Catcott wrote: The Pools and moist ground on the very summit of Blackdown Hill (……..& which gives rise to several springs, undeniably refute the opinion of those who, imagine rain to be, the cause & origin of springs.

Catcott believed (like many of his contemporaries) that Springs, on the top of hills proved that such out-flowings of water were created by the condensation of ‘streams’ or vapours rising from the Abyss.

In the following year (1757) on a visit to the same locality, Catcott discovered more about the natural drainage of the Charterhouse area:

“Went to Cheddar Cliffs to show them to a stranger", writes Catcott in his diary (entry date 10th August 1757).  "The Spring at the bottom was vastly shrunk to what it was when I last saw it in March 1756 ..... There had been an uncommon draught & scant water everywhere for several months past.  One Will Hares told me that as he was digging for ore in daccot's hole in Charterhouse mineries (2 miles from this spring) he came to a stream of water, in which they threw all the rubble, which so muddied the spring at Cheddar, that it could not be used: 40 fath: deep.

Where exactly is daccot's hole'?


Barrington, N and Stanton, W (1977) The Complete Caves and a view of the hills. Third revised edition. Cheddar Valley Press.

Catcott, A (1748 - 1774).  Diaries of Tours made in England and Wales.  MS Bristol Central Reference Library.

(1761 A Treatise, on the Deluge.  First Edition. London: M. Withers.

Gough, J (1930)  The Mines of Mendip.  First Edition.  Oxford:  Clarendon Press

Hanwell, J & Newson, M. (1970).  The Great Storm and Floods of July 1968.  Occasional Publication of the Wessex Cave Club, Series 1 Vol. (2)

National Biography, Dictionary of. Vol.62

Woodward, J (1728).  A Catalogue of the Additional English Native Fossils in the collection of J. Woodward. Tome II, London: F. Fayrum.

C. Richards, April 1979.



Last, but not the least Tim Large presents his monthly….

As the year progresses it looks inevitable that subscription rates will need to be raised at the next A.G.M. From all quarters costs are rising. Recently the Belfry insurance was revised and consequently the premium has risen substantially.  When you consider that at least 2/3 of the sub goes on publication and distribution of the B.B., there is not much left for all our other expenses.

At a recent committee meeting the guest rates at the Belfry were raised from 45p to 70p per night in an attempt to cover the running costs.  But the Belfry income will go nowhere towards long term projects of improvement and any structural maintenance that may become necessary. Already the Belfry is beginning to age and fall behind normal domestic standards which it is desirable for us to maintain.  For a property that is now insured for £30,000 we have not much, to show for it. In the past the Belfry, regulars have taken care of this maintenance, but it appears to be a much bigger job nowadays.  Much of the problem is caused by the design of the building, lack of adequate heating and lack of easily maintained facilities.  Basically I think the Belfry needs money spent on it to bring it up to a standard suitable to attract the right sort of members and be worthy of the Club Headquarters.  The running costs are greatly helped by the Navy groups that say midweek.  Take that away and we have problems.  At present we resist any increase in adventure sports trends. Despite our cries it may still continue to increase.  Perhaps the club should have the forthright to be in a position should it occur to take advantage of it and offer suitable accommodation, during midweek periods, to school groups, filed study parties and the like.  Thereby we could relay on a steady income to more than cover running costs and plough the excess back into club activities or future projects.

At present the finances of the club are arranged so that the Belfry has to support all its costs which include rates and insurance.  Perhaps it is not unreasonable for such expenses as rates, insurance, etc., to be borne by subscription.  These are not running costs but necessary and obligatory overheads of having a club headquarters which I consider should be paid for by the membership.

From what I have said some members may think that the Belfry regulars and the Hut Warden are not pulling their weight.  I can assure you that is not so.  With the high usage that the Belfry gets, in particular, by guests, it is not surprising that all is not well.  I might add that the BEC is not the only club to experience problems in running their H.Q.

Consider these points: -

1.                  Is heating and ventilation adequate?

2.                  Is a stove in the centre of the main room desirable – consider utilisation and cleanliness.

3.                  Are the showers adequate?  How often have you found the water cold?  Is it desirable to have the wettest room in the building right in the centre of the building?

4.                  Are there adequate storage facilities for members, bearing in mind the recent losses and apparent thefts.

5.                  As a caving club perhaps more priorities should be given to the changing areas, showers and drying facilities.  A drying room could be incorporated with a locker room!

6.                  Isn’t is about time we utilised the attic, possibly putting the bunkroom upstairs and releasing some space downstairs for other facilities.

7.                  Separate kitchen facilities would keep the main living room more respectable and confine one of the dirt producing factors in another room.

Just a few ideas which I am sure all reasonable members have thought about at one time or another, and could probably add some of their own.  I think I can just about hear the cries of ‘a country cottage on Mendip’ and ‘it’s up to the Belfry regulars to look after the place’.

All I am trying to point out is that we need a practical H.Q. with facilities that can cope with usage and ensure that then fabric of the building is preserved in good order. The facilities at the Belfry I am sure fall below those in even the most modest home.

Soon after the increase in guest rates I heard one person state, ‘Why stay at the Belfry when facilities are better at the Wessex?’  Recently the Committee had the idea of reciprocal member rates with clubs that we visit in Yorkshire, Derbyshire etc.  On discussing the matter with some of our Yorkshire friends their comments was ‘Good idea, but the Belfry facilities are not as good as our.’  So I hope the right message has got home.  To get back to where I started, the subs, when they go up perhaps it is a good idea to have a portion for the Belfry as a permanent feature? (That is the general idea at the moment and has been for many years to build up a fund for capital expenditure on the Belfry – Ed.).

Money is only half the Belfry problem.  As with all jobs in the club, volunteers are always needed.  Since the appearance of Nigel Taylor’s list of jobs (in the BB and on the Belfry notice board) I have seen only a few bods doing some work – the same ones as usual.  Food for thought!  Any comments? (ED. NOTE – please let the committee have your thoughts in writing so that they can be published in the BB during the run up to the AGM).


At last, after much effort by all the diggers the cave has been re-opened.  At present quite a lot of work is still needed to ensure it stays open this time.  The squeeze into the cave from the mud blockage is very tight being difficult on the return.  After crawling up the mud slope which resembles the texture of thick porridge you are not in the best condition for negotiating an uphill squeeze.  Until the entrance is finally stabilised it would be appreciated if anyone wanting to visit the cave males sure of the access position.  We now have to set up an access arrangement with the new owner.  In the meantime cavers should call at the Belfry and find out what the current situation on access is.


948       Axel R. Knutson, 21 Milford Street, Southville, Bristol.
949       John C. Watson, 113 Abbey Road, Westbury-on-Trim, Bristol.
950       Stephen Smith, 39 Tintagel Close, Keynsham, Bristol.
951       Roger Smith, 39 Tintagel Close, Keynsham, Bristol.
952       Bob Hill, 32 Ridings Mead, Chippenham, Wilts.
953       Jim Watson, c/o 15 Farm Close, Southfields, Rugby, Warks.
954       Elaine Ilse, 50 Warren Close, Stockwood, Bristol.
955       Jack Culvert, 19 High Street, Steeple Ashton, Trowbridge, Wilts.
956       Ian Caldwell, 44 Strode Road, Clevedon, Avon.
957       Dave Morrison, 27 Maurice Walk, London NW11.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

Swildon's hole

Pete and Alison Hooper (yes they're now wed and we offer them our sincere best wishes even though they are members of that club at the top of Eastwater Lane - the Wxxxxx!) have made their mark yet again in Swildon’s.  After a number of digging trips they have found a passage leading off Shatter Chamber towards the Seven streamway.   It is said to be about 150ft long and quite bouldery at the end.  The mud stirred up on the stream in the passage emerges under the first boulder pile in the Seven streamway.  Although they were digging at another point the stream they have found what must be the one the SMCC heard, and dug for, way back in the early ‘70’s.

Ian Dear M.F.

Nick Thorne has again been awarded £50 to cover part of his expenses to Austria this month.  Members will remember that he was there last year with the Cambridge University Speleos and the result of their work was published in the September 1978 issue of the Belfry Bulletin.

Programme of meets organised by Dave Metcalfe

12th August Little Hull/Hunt Pot - Two potholes within a short distance of each other providing good SRT trips.

8th ~September Grange Rigg Pot - An interesting pot with succession of wet pitches and crawls to the terminal sumps.

30th September Dale Head Pot - A fine pot, but requiring plenty of energy to transport tackle through the initial entrance crawls to the Main Route.  From there the pitches following in quick succession.

14th October - Eldon Hole (Derbyshire)

20th October Stream Passage Pot - Roomy pot with big pitches leading to stream chamber, sand caverns and Gaping Gill Main Chamber.

25th November Pippikin Pot – an arduous pot with tight squeezes and dry entrance passages and pitches leading to a couple of steam inlets and chambers totalling 4 miles.

Editorial notes

This month sees, I hope, an improvement in the quality of the B. B. as far as the printing is concerned. Back in November 1977 the club purchased 100 reams of bond paper from Tony Corrigan at an extremely cheap price - so cheap in fact that he could not afford to let it slip through our hands. Anyway, as you will all know, bond paper is not sufficiently absorbent for the gestetner stencil printing process and so ‘off-sets’, sometimes badly, on the back face of the sheet.  I hope that the collating team have been selective and not included bad cases in your B.B.  If they have, please accept our apologies.

We have now found a supplier in the London area who has let us have one hundred reams of Croxley duplicating paper at £1.74 a ream - remarkably cheap considering the retail price in Wells for the same stuff is about £4.50 a ream!  Two further price rises were in the pipeline including the VAT increase anticipated at the Budget and luckily Martin Grass got the order placed three or four days before that took place.  The price was £2.20 a ream but providing we collected the paper we could have 20% off.  Thanks to Martin he went and collected the quarter ton load.  Anyway its here on Mendip and hopefully the presentation has a reasonable improvement.

JULY B.B. This issue concentrates mainly on club business in readiness for the 1979 AGM October.  The minutes of the 1978 AGM are included (thanks to Fiona for typing them) and all the available information from Sue Tucker, our Hon. Treasurer, necessary to determine the future subscription rate. A breakdown of these figures per member is given and should give people a good indication of the size of the sub required.  The Committee will be making up mind at the August meeting on Friday 3rd August at the Belfry, when they will formulate a resolution to the AGM.

NEW COVERS: Thanks to Garth Dell for the production of the new cover.  He's printed them on paper to assist in keeping the postal charges down when the B.B. size is over 17 pages.  7,000 covers have been printed which should give us two years supply. My apologies for a lack of cover for the June issue but when I came to print there were only thirty or so left in the pile - the remainder were backing sheets.


Letter To The Editor

from an old friend John Stafford (to younger members he's the Stafford of the Stafford's Boulder Problem in Cuthbert's)

Dear Dave,

Have just returned from holiday in Torridon and Skye and felt that there may be members who would be interested to hear that new licensed premises have opened in a very strategic position for climbers and ridge walkers in the Black Coullin area.

'The Old Inn', Carbost, is run by Steve and Deidre Cooper supplying food, booze and B&B halfway Glenbrittle and Sligachan.

Officially it is a licensed restaurant but the purchase of a sandwich permits one to booze all evening. In actual fact some of the locals appear to have permanent personal sandwiches which are put out for them when they arrive and then cleared away for use again next evening.

For those who actually want food there is a selection of 'basket' meals prices which are reasonable for the area.

My firm is moving me to Kent next month so I hope to be on Mendip more often in the future than I have over the past few years.

Regards to all,

Yours aye,

John Stafford.

P.S. Is my 16 year old son eligible to apply for Junior Membership when we move south?  Yes, Ed. Looking forward to seeing you again.


Club Notes

compiled by ‘Wig’

Tim Large has given me the menu for the dinner at the Caveman on October 6th 1979.  Note the new times: 7pm for 8pm which gives plenty of time for people to get their third pint in before the meal!


Minestrone Soup or Fruit Juice


Roast Ribs of Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

Chateaux & Parsley Potatoes

Garden Peas and Brussel Sprouts


Fruit Salad & Ice Cream OR

Ripple and Raspberry Tart (hot)


Cheese and Biscuits



NB: Red wine (1 bottle between two)

Sue Tucker has given me the following notes:

Annual Dinner Tickets will be available soon.  The Committee have put a limit on numbers of 140 so get your NUMBERED ticket from Sue as quickly as possible.  Please enclose an S.A.E. with your order.  Price for the dinner is £4.50 each.  Sue's address is:

Mrs. S. Tucker,
75 Lower Whitelands,
Telephone: Radstock 35165


Sue writes, again (!) that would members send their subs to her and not give them to the Hut Warden as this results in delays and much confusion when sending out the BB's.  Sue sends her apologies to anyone who has had a reminder on their BB but has already paid (blame it on clerical errors!)

1979 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – official announce of the date---------

The meeting will be held at the Belfry commencing at 10.30am.  The usual lunch of bread end cheese and beer will be laid on.  Members wishing to change the constitution should let Tim Large have the resolutions so that they can be circulated to all members with the August B.B.  The new constitution is included with this issue of the B.B.

Nominations for the 1979/80 Club Committee is now called for; the closing date will be 8th September. Please send your nominations to Tim Large, c/o The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset.

Welcome to the following new or rejoined 'old' members:

753 Sue Jago, West Cottage, Church Lane, Farrington Guerney, Avon.
648 Dave Glover, c/o Leisure, Pamber Green, nr. Basingstoke, Hants.
779 Jim Durston, ‘Hill View’, Old Beat, Maidendown, nr. Burlescombe, Devon

Address changes:

878 Ross White, P038389Y, 5 Troop, B. Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines, Northern Ireland, BFPO 802
935 Lynne Williams, 10 Silver Street, Wells, Somerset.

Thirty Odd Years Ago -

March 20th, 1943 - first trip after re-organisation of Club.  A trip to Goatchurch.  Party went through Drainpipe and examined lowest chamber thoroughly.

A dog marooned half-way up Rock of Ages was rescued by T. Stanbury and C. Drummond.

Members present: - T.H. Stanbury, C. Drummond, D.W. Jones, G. Tait, T. Ward and T. Charles.

3rd April 1943. A trip by cycle to Swildon's Hole.  The Club made its first test of wire and duralumin ladder on 40ft. pot and found that the ladders exceeded all expectations.  On return journey met party of 7 men and 2 girls in Upper Grotto and took them cut as they were lost.

Members present: - T.H. Stanbury. C. Drummond, D. Hasell.

These extracts are from Volume One of the caving log and show that the B.E.C we first again - this is the earliest record of electron ladders being used in the UK.  The UBSS are usually credited with this record about 1946.  This extract from the caving log just shows the importance of keeping a good, detailed log.

AN EXILE RETURNS TO MENDIP.  Oliver Wells has recently paid a visit to Mendip with his son, James.  Caving has been the priority before he gets too old. Anyway, to make up for list time they both got cracking and descended Swildon's to Sump 2 with Phil Davies.  Wayne, of the MCG accompanied them down G.B. and ‘Wig’ down Cuthbert's together with Don Thomson and his son, Justin.  When not kipping on old friend’s floor, Oliver stayed at the Belfry and met and talked with current Belfryites.

AUSTRIA 1979 - Graham W-J, ‘Jayrat’ and about 14 others will be on their way to Austria by the time you read this B.B. and pushing a number of holes left unfinished last year above the south wall of the Dachstein.  No doubt we shall be having all the news from Graham for the September or October B.B.

CORNWALL is a dangerous place - according to the Gospel of Chris Batstone.  On holiday in Cornwall with Sue Jago and kids plus Stu Linseys boy Chris, managed to write off not only his aging car but a 'J' registered Jaguar as well.  Though shaken up there were apparently was no serious injury except for one of the children who suffered a cut requiring stitches.

The 'Hippies' return to Mendip:

About 400 Hippies are at the Mineries Pool area at the time of writing and another 400 is said to be expected.  Lord Waldegrave has given them permission to stay but the local ‘bobbies’ are keeping a wary eye on them.  The MRO store has been stripped of the useful essentials in the way of medical goods and for the time being these are being kept at Wig’s.  Apparently they have already set up a stage of sorts and one wonders if there will be a ‘Pop Festival’ on the Priddy agenda!


Minutes Of The 1978 Annual General Meeting

The meeting was held at the Belfry on Saturday 7th October 1978 and convened by the Hon. Secretary Tim Large. A quorum being present the meeting was opened at 2.10pm.  The Hon. Secretary asked for nominations for a chairman. Alan Thomas and Colin Dooley were nominated from the floor.  A vote was taken and Alan Thomas was elected.

The chairman then asked for any outstanding ballot papers and members resolutions.  Also nominations for three tellers were requested. Sett, Garth Dell and Angela Dooley were elected.  Roy Bennett proposed a vote of thanks to the constitution sub-committee (Kangy, Mike Palmer and John Turner) for their work.  Seconded by Alan Thomas.  Motion carried.  The chairman said that the A.G.M. was a place to air grievances about the club or 'forever hold thy peace'.  He also pointed out that if anyone was unhappy with any point of the meeting he/she should say so then and have the matter righted immediately if the matter was justified.  It was no good complaining when the meeting had ended.

It was proposed by Dave Irwin and seconded by Martin Grass that the 1977 A.G.M. minutes be taken as read. This was carried without dissent. The chairman asked if there were any matters arising from these minutes, which had been published prior to the meeting.

Dave Irwin then said that the B.B. Editors and Treasurers reports for 1977 had not been adopted. Be proposed that they were now adopted, seconded by Joan Bennett -carried unanimously.

Barrie Wilton said that he would like to see the club formally express thanks to Alfie for his many years of service to the club, particularly as B.B. editor.  Kengy suggested a formal letter of thanks to Alfie.  Barrie Wilton then proposed that a formal vote of thanks be given to Alfie for his services to the club and a letter sent to him to that effect, seconded by King.  Carried unanimously.

Tim Large pointed out that last year there was a problem with outstanding Belfry fees.  Chris Batstone said that there were a few outstanding but the position was considerably better than last year.

Joan Bennett said that as the club auditor she was much happier with the present position although some stronger action should be taken with persistent debtors.  Some discussion took place, the general theme being that something should be done to discourage Belfry debts in future.  Joan Bennett proposed that stronger action be taken against Belfry debtors, at the discretion of the committee in order that these debts are retrieved, seconded by Barrie Wilton - carried unanimously.

Joan Bennett then proposed, seconded by Nigel Taylor that the minutes be adopted.  Carried unanimously.

The Hon. Secretary’s report had been published and was taken as read.  The chairman asked the Hon. Secretary if be had anything further to add. Tim Large said he had no further comment to make.  Dave Irwin proposed, seconded by Tom Temple, that the Hon. Secretary's report be adopted - motion carried.

The Hon. Treasurer’s report was published and available at the meeting.  The chairman asked the Hon. Treasurer if he bad any comments to make. Barrie Wilton said he had nothing to add.  Bob Cross asked why £247 had been spent on spares this year with only a small sales figure.  Barrie explained that much of this figure had been spent on the clubs purchase of caving boots which were in the course of being sold.  Although some boots had been sold, the accounts closed before the money was received. Dave Irwin proposed seconded by Joan Bennett that the Hon. Treasurers report be adopted and a vote of thanks to Barrie for his services to the club.  Carried unanimously.

The Auditors report then followed, being previously published.  Joan Bennett said the books showed a fair account of the club s financial position.  The meeting then adopted the Auditor’s report for the coming year.

The Caving Secretary’s report followed this had been previously published in the B.B.  Nigel Taylor said he held nothing to add.  Tom Temple proposed, seconded by Chris Batstone that the Caving Secretary’s report be adopted.  Carried without dissent.

The Climbing Secretary's report was taken next, being published the B.B.  Dave Irwin said that Russ Jenkins had accepted the fact that climbing was no longer an active part of the clubs activities.  Graham Wilton-Jones said that he thought it a good idea for the club to keep itself informed of climbing information, accommodation, contacts, and the likes, though someone else like the Hon. Caving Secretary would have to relay correspondence back to the club.  Martin Grass said there was still much interest in mountaineering and hill walking and that club membership of the B.M.C. should be maintained.  No vote was necessary.  Nigel Taylor proposed, seconded by Dave Irwin that the Climbing Secretary's report be adopted.  Carried unanimously.

The Tackle Master’s report then followed having been published in the B.B.  Graham Wilton-Jones said that more tackle had gone missing and he was in a dilemma as to who could have done it and what to do about it.  Nigel Taylor expressed concern over finding tackle spread around Mendip for long periods of time which had not been booked out.  Jok Orr suggested a deposit system for taking tackle out to encourage people to return it.  John Turner suggested more restricted access keys only being available from a few selected people.  Dave Turner disagreed with the last speaker, as it would penalise the bone-fide member who caved regularly, particularly during mid-week when the select few could be difficult to contact.  Pete Franklin endorsed the idea of a more restricted access to the tackle.  Chris Batstone suggested exploring tighter control on the booking out system.  Colin Dooley asked whether this meeting could give a directive to the new committee to control the tackle more efficiently.  Jok Orr said people should be made more responsible for tackle by paying a deposit.  John Turner and Nigel Taylor both suggested better control over tackle particularly the reserve store which often finds its way into the regular store and subsequently goes missing.  Tom Temple proposed, seconded by Annie Wilton-Jones that the committee be directed to control the tackle more efficiently but at the same time maintain reasonable access.  Carried unanimously.

Bob Cross proposed, seconded by John Dukes that the Tackle Masters report be adopted.  Carried unanimously.

The B. B. Editors report was taken next, already having been published in the B.B.  Dave Irwin had no further comments to make.  John Dukes raised the question of improving printing methods if financially possible.  Dave Irwin replied that the club had so far relied on privately owned machines and perhaps the club should consider purchasing its own.  Sett said he knows of a nearly new machine (gestetner) going for around £15.  The meeting agreed to purchase such a machine.  Pete Franklin said he also knew of a printing machine and would investigate the possibility of buying it.

Colin Dooley said that the B.B. had not progressed and the position was no different from the previous year.  He reiterated the need for the club to have its own printing facilities, also the need for more material from the members in order to improve the B. B. and this was down to individual members.  John Dukes proposed, seconded by Tom Temple that the B.B. Editors report be adopted. Carried unanimously.

Dave Irwin said of the Librarians report that the club had a collection of rare and valuable books. These should be locked away and only be available on application to the librarian.  Nigel Taylor suggested storing these books in a fireproof box even if the club had to purchase one.  Chris Batstone proposed, seconded by John Dukes that the Librarians report be adopted. Carried unanimously.

Hut Engineer’s report which had been previously printed in the B.B. was next taken.  Bob Cross said he had nothing to add.  Nigel Taylor referred to a letter in the B.B. regarding half completed work.  He suggested that people such as these either come and do some work or keep their mouth shut. The chairman endorsed this comment. Dave Irwin proposed, seconded by Wally Wilkinson that the Hut Engineer report be adopted.  Carried unanimously.

Graham Wilton-Jones had nothing further to add to his previously published Publication Officers report.  Dave Irwin proposed, seconded, by Annie Wilton-Jones that the report be adopted. Carried unanimously.

A report on the Ian Dear Memorial Fund was not available as Mike Palmer was not present.  Dave Irwin said that there had been one application from Nick Thorne who had been allowed £40 towards an Austrian trip.  A report on this should soon appear in the B.B.

Tim Large said that Les Peters, Bob Bagshaw and Roy Bennett were prepared to stand as Trustees.  Alan Thomas and Roy Bennett were nominated by the committee.  Sett was nominated by Nigel Taylor and seconded by Tom Temple.  A vote was, called for by the chairman; Les Peters, Bob Bagshaw, Roy Bennett and Alan Thomas were elected.

The committee results were received from the tellers by the chairman.  Those elected were :- Tim Large, Dave Irwin, Sue Tucker, Chris Batstone, Graham Wilton-Jones, Martin Grass, Nigel Taylor, Bob Cross and John Dukes.

The following committee members were given the following posts:-

Hon. Secretary: - Tim Large

Hon. Treasurer: - Sue Tucker

Caving Secretary: - Martin Grass

Tackle Master: - John Dukes

Hut Warden: - Chris Batstone

Hut Engineer: - Nigel Taylor

B.B. Editor: - Dave Irwin

The ballot papers were then burned on the Belfry fire.  Martin Bishop then proposed that Bob Cross take on the duties of liaison with the climbing and mountaineering world in order to maintain useful contacts the meeting agreed.

The meeting then adopted the Hon. Auditors report and elected Joan Bennett as Hon. Auditor for 1979.


The chairman then read a letter from Garth Dell regarding an incident which happened at the Belfry and resulted in his membership being cancelled.  He appealed to the club for reinstatement of his membership. Dave Irwin replied on behalf of the committee explaining the position.  Much discussion ensued.  Eventually two motions emerged.  Firstly by Pete Franklin, seconded by Dave Irwin that the suspension be cut to six months.  Carried unanimously.  Secondly Tom Temple, seconded by Wally Wilkinson that his membership be reinstated immediately.  Voting 17 for - 12 against motion carried.

This motion was carried after prolonged and serious discussion and by no means sets a precedent. It was proposed by Jok Orr, seconded by Val Wilkinson that the original committee action regarding Garth Dell should be fully endorsed by the meeting.  Carried with a large majority.

There being no other business the meeting closed at4.20pm.


Cavers Bookshelf No.4

a review by Martin Grass of the N.P.C. Journal 1979

The N.P.C. Journal has not been published for two years but this does not that they have been idle as this superb publication bears out.  It includes a lengthy account on the discovery and exploration of Link Pot - Easegill with a pull-out survey and black and white photographs of the system. Other surveys included are of Vesper Hole - Kingsdale and Ogof oy Herwheliwr, North Wales together with an article (with surveys) on Belgium caves.  A rather late report on the exploration of Dale Head Pot can be found as well as lesser original explorations in Yorkshire.  Expedition reports on Austria, Ireland and Belgium can be found, though most has already been published elsewhere.  A light-hearted report on Mexico by Jim Eyre is certainly worth reading and his account of descending some of the big shafts there will put the hardest caver off SRT for life.

All this is certainly one of the best journals to be published by a club for a long time and the price of £1.35p is good value for 68 pages of information.  The journal can be purchased from the publications officer of the Northern Pennine Club, Greenclose House, Clapham, via Lancaster, or from the M.C.G. who have a few copies for sale at the Hunters at a weekend.

For of some lighter entertainment here is a crossword sent in by Steve Woolven.  The answers will be in the next B.B.




1. Mendip cavers paradise
10 “A Mist” in 1 across
11 An alternative for alternative
12 A direction in front the Queen could give you this Mendip cave
15 This beautiful wench could be on the boundary
16 Insert the missing word inside the brackets - "Leave (-----) to get through"
19 A possible Mendip cave
21 Derbyshire's “Roadside” Pot, you won't get by
22 Castle? An old B.E.C. dig?
25 Definite article
27 Surrey Heath Caving Club in short
30 Leave it when caving ,
32 Chamber in St. Cuthbert's
33 You do this when 33 down is joined together! It sounds like.
34 Mistake!
35 Throw up!
37 Dog, Owl on Mendip, all in a cave.
40 Scarlet dye in a French reservoir.
41 Lie down and turn in the Cathedral.
42 Staging a mock rescue.
43 Horizontal underground passage.
44 Trog to be lost and muddled in a cave.


2 The way to go when prussiking
3 Wanted?
4 An obscene word in 1 across
5 Proportional term of flow to time
6 Zulu rides the evil explanation
7 Digging’s easy with this.
8 Yemen changed to the opposition
9 A mine in Derbyshire!
13 Bound and jump through pools of water
14 Hesitate!
17 This isn't wanted in 7 down (5,4)
18 Opposite to 26 down
20 Named thing!
23 Animal cave
24 They brew 4 down
26 Negative
28 Chased cad and herd into narrow opening
29 Caves can be formed by this
31 Legendary being wearing caving gear
33 A mine and a wet suit have this
36 It's a rare commodity in the underground world
38 Line twist in the stream is more of a river
39 Glacial phase.












































































































































































a regular column for our Hon. Sec. Tim Large

The Midsummer Buffet was attended by a smaller number than last, but all the same was very enjoyable. Those who preferred a barbecue would have got rather wet that evening!

It is becoming increasingly apparent that our financial situation is not comfortable.  With the shortened financial year reducing the subscriptions to £2.00 it has been necessary to draw from our building society account - in other words - reducing our capital.  It is inevitable that the subscription rates will have to be increased at the AGM - but it is debatable what they will be.

The major expense is the printing and distribution of the B.B.   With the increase in postal charges it will cost each subscription paying member £2.50 per year.  The only way to reduce the figure would be to have a bi-monthly BB.  In the past our paper supplies have been very cheap, but now even buying at the cheapest commercial source the costs bear no comparison. The last AGM agreed to the purchase of a new (second-hand) printing machine.  This still has to be bought and could cost as much as a £100.  Sett is still attempting to get the machine he knows of at his works.  At the present time we could barely afford the machine.

However you look prices are rising, not to mention the recent VAT increases.  In order to make up the losses of tackle and renovating existing stock it is necessary to spend £170 a year (some £1 per sub paying member).  Our Third Party Liability insurance works out at 61p per head at present - next years premium is likely to be more.

At present the Belfry is expected to be self financing but it would appear that disregarding the Navy groups fees it is running at a slight loss.  It would be dangerous to rely on the Navy as their usage is unpredictable.  The Belfry takings at present also cater for the rates and insurance.  It is not unreasonable to expect 50% of these expenses to come from membership subscriptions.  This would leave some money for Belfry maintenance costs.

So far I have not mentioned all the other Club expenses including library purchases; various subscriptions to CSCC, BCRA, BMC etc; Secretarial and the occasional non-recurring costs.

Finally we have never specifically allocated a yearly sum towards the Belfry improvements or structural repairs.  I think it is important we look to the future and make provision for these.  Facilities at the Belfry could be improved but initial could be £1,000 - £1,200.  With inflation running at nearly 2% per year we may never be able to afford this type of project if not catered from the subscriptions now.  With only allowing £1.00 per member per year for any such improvements the subscription works out to be at least £7.00 - £8 would be much better.

Ed. note:  Tim's calculations come as a bit of a shock, I was thinking of somewhere between £5 - £6, roughly doubling the current sub rates. Speaking personally I wonder if there is another approach to the problem of expensive maintenance and improvements to the Belfry.  ‘Way-back’ in 1967 Bob Bagshaw  started a hut fund by getting members to sign a bankers order for £1 a month for three years - this raised about 800 pounds and was a valuable nest-egg when the new Belfry had to financed.  At the current rate this would be about £4 - £5 per month.  I wonder how many of our current Belfry regulars would be prepared to do this?  Perphaps Sue Tucker might like to think about it!

True or false?

Ben Lyon at the Symposium on ‘Caves and the Community’…”Old cavers never die, they just get married or join the Pengelly Cave Studies Trust”


Financial Notes

As has been hinted by Tim Large in his 'Lifeline' it appears that the subscription will have to be raised.  The following notes will enable members to arrive at their own conclusion to what level the sub should be raised.

by Sue Tucker, Dave Irwin and Tim Large

Talking money problems in the B.B. makes for dull reading when the whole Journal could be packed with caving and associated news.  Subscriptions.  There is one fact that stands out like a sore thumb and that is that the subs will have to be raised from the next club year - 1979/80.

What we've tried to do, hopefully, is to summarise briefly the various expenditure that the club incurs in a year and relate this to the current membership.  Note these figures do not allow for any drop in membership due to 'natural wastage' or to the increased sub itself.

In Janubry.1972 the subscription was increased from £1.25 to £2.50 and many members were shocked when this occurred.  Some thought that the world had ended and the BEC would be in severe financial trouble - that did not happen.  Membership is growing at a faster rate than for many years and the Committee foresees the membership at over 250 before long.  The sub was raised again in 1976 to £3.00; the present rate.

Anyway, what we have done is to extract the relevant expenses that is incurred by the club as a whole and not included any item that is part of the Belfry costs except the insurance and rates.  We have also included the same costs as they were in 1973 to show clearly the rise in costs over the period of the last six years and reduced these to represent the costs to an individual member.  These costs per member have been based on a 175 subscription paying members – remember that the club has 50 Life Members.  In a further attempt to stabilise the current situation all the various re-saleable accounts (surveys, boots, carbide etc.) have been frozen and any fresh stocks are to be funded from the profits of the previous sales.

One likely area of controversy is likely to be in the suggested switch of Belfry Insurance and rates to the sub paying member enabling Belfry surpluses to be accumulated for future improvements as well as a levy included in the sub to swell this sum. It is also argued that the Belfry belongs to all members and so the basic annual costs of the buildings should be borne by all members.  This argument is countered by the fact that all members, particularly the Life Members financed the building in the first place and the General financing and upkeep is the responsibility of those people using the building at the present time. The Belfry income and expenditure accounts will be published before the AGM so people will have the opportunity to debate this before the AGM.

Whatever way the argument on the reapportioning of the Belfry expenditures the Club decided the basic problem is how to finance any major repairs in the future.  In theses days of high inflation it is not really practical to raise money slowly over a number of years as the accumulated sum will only chase costs.  Any major work to be carried out on the Belfry is probably better to be raised over one or two years by putting a levy on both the subscriptions and the Belfry bed night fee.

The chart that follows indicates the choice of the make-up of the sub and some do include a proportion for a Belfry fund if it is deemed necessary.  It is clear that the sub has to be raised.  What the Committee will have to do in coming to a recommendation is to assess the amount of floating money it requires for non-recurring costs £100 has been estimated in the chart, and Belfry improvements.  Remember that the Belfry is now 10 years old and will soon need several major repairs and improvements.  Let the BB publish your views before the AGM e.g.  Where can we make substantial savings without loss of service to members?; Should the Committee raise the sub annually to reflect the National rate of inflation? Get your pens out NOW and don't sit there moaning if the sub more than doubles….





























BB Printing & Distribution


















3rd Party Insurance




























Subs (BRCA etc)














Belfry Rates inlc. Water














Belfry Insurance




























Belfry Improvement














Se. Expenses














 Non-recurring costs














SUBSCRIPTION RATE---------------- 6.60   6.95  5.60     5.95     6.70   5.28     5.60    4.60    8.28     6.28

+ = bi-monthly B. B.

@ = Belfry Insurance and Rates

NB; g leaves arrangements as they are at the moment without any support funding for the Belfry.  It also does not allow any income for Belfry improvements.

# tackle – out of position


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

EDITOR: D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset. Tel: Priddy 369

don't forget the MID-SUMMER BUFFET at the Hunters (in the side room) on 23rd June, Saturday at 7.30p.m. (extension applied for)  buffet food (cost £2.50) is limited to 70.

Members and their Guests only.  Tickets from Martin Bishop, The Batch, Priddy, Somerset.  Telephone: Priddy 370

..so don't forget set your tickets now.  Members not wanting food can come along and partake in the boozing.  This event is the only other wholly club event other than the dinner to be held in Cheddar on October 6th 1979 – make a note of this date.


The EGM Minutes have been included with the issue of the BB so don't forget to bring them along with you for discussion for the EGM for acceptance by the meeting.

The AGM Minutes will appear in the July issue of the B.B.

Next issue of the B.B. will include details of two NEW caves – one in S. Wales and other here on Mendip.

Thanks from our Hon. Treasurer - Sue Tucker.  The subs have come in so well this year, that only 15 members on last years list have not yet paid.  Club membership stands at 220 and is rising.  The figure at the AGM could be as high as 250 the highest ever!



Tim Large’s regular feature…

This year marches on all too quickly.  Don’t forget the 23rd June for our Midsummer buffet at the Hunters.  Book your tickets with Martin Bishop (Tele Priddy 370) – price £2.50ea.

Jonah was on one of his now regular trips to Mendip; still as active as ever, recounting a winter motorbike excursion to the Lake District.  He found it a bit cold!  Garth tells me that he recently visited Sybil and found her well and the same as ever!  When are we going to see you on Mendip?

Dave Glover was down recently and has rejoined the club.  The LAMB LEER key is now available at the Belfry and can be obtained by contacting a committee member as it is kept at the Belfry.

The CSCC AGM was held on 19th May at the Hunters.  The new Hon. Sec. is Dave Mockford of South Bristol S.S.  ‘Butch’ is Chairman and Roger Gosling remains as Treasurer.  Some concern was expressed at the meeting over the new access arrangements for Shatter cave.  The Cerberus S.S. have cancelled the guest leadership system. All trips have now to be arranged via Cerberus via Ken Gregory, 30 Kennedy Ave., Sawley, Long Eaton, Notts (Tele Long Eaton 60742 (home); Long Eaton 68511 (work))

On 20th May a meeting was held between the Club Committee and the Cuthbert’s leaders to discuss the question of insurance.  Bob White was present and advised on various insurance aspects.  Many thanks Bob for coming along, it was much appreciated. Various alternatives were suggested from having no insurance at all to insuring every member of the club.  The leaders passed a recommendation for the Club Committee to submit to the next AGM.  It reads, ‘That the Club again considers the possibility of obtaining comprehensive insurance to cover all club members and Cuthbert’s leaders.’ So, perhaps you could all put a little thought to that ready for the AGM.  Other facts and information has already been published in previous BB’s on the matter.

The leaders also passed a resolution that the club seeks reciprocal rights of access, similar to Cuthbert’s Guest Leader system with other clubs who control access to Mendip caves. It’s obvious who that’s aimed at!

It is hoped to complete the tackle store-cum-workshop in the old Belfry, a new door is ready for installation.  With a little help to complete this and the final waterproofing of the roof should make it operational before the AGM.

We still have a few caving boots in stock – sizes 5-8.  Price £8.75ea.  Contact me at 53 Portway, Wells, Somerset.

That’s all folks!


Club Notes

compiled by ‘Wig’

CLUB TIES - new stocks available

New stocks of club ties, in the modern wide fashion, are available from Nigel Taylor (c/o The Belfry, Wells Rd., Priddy, Nr. Wells; Somerset).  The material is similar to the old stock and the colours are the well known gold bat on a maroon background or silver bat on a navy blue background.  There are limited stocks and they are selling well here on Mendip.  To make sure YOU get your order send off NOW with the P.O. or cheque made out to the B.E.C.

The price is very reasonable at £3.50 each or £6.00 a pair (one of each colour).  The ties will be available at the Mid Sumner Buffet. Please add 25p for p & p.  So don’t forget send off now.

CLUB SWEAT SHIRTS - a note from the committee.

Several members have placed orders for the BEC sweat shirt and are probably wondering what has happened to them.  There have been difficulties with the printers and the sample that they claim to have sent has not arrived either at the Belfry or at John Duke’s address. Tim Large has been in contact with the printers and is trying to sort things out.  Our apologies to all concerned for the apparent cock-up.


There have been a number of articles and notes reprinted in the British Caver without any reference their source.  The latest issue has included the Wigmore article by Tony Jarrett together with 'Wig's' survey.  It is published as though the article and survey was written solely for Tony Oldham - they were not.  Any publisher is welcome to reprint any article or note published in, the B.B. providing that an acknowledgement to the B.B. is given, unless stated otherwise.

TYNING'S BARROWS SWALLET - new access arrangements

An access agreement has now been arranged with the new owner of Tynings Farm and it is as follows:

A stile will be built across the hedge and as near the cave as possible with a fenced path leading from the stile to the cave (and around it).  The material for this work has kindly been donated by the farmer.  Keys will be distributed to 4 or 5 of the major clubs on Mendip.  There will be no need to call at the farm and no changing facilities will be available.


It was noted on a recent trip into the cave that parts of the streamway just beyond the Aardvark Trap are in a very loose condition with various large blocks seemingly held up with nothing but faith.

            (Martin Bishop)


During the May Day weekend Jon and Val Ransome were on Mendip and after a visit to the Hunters and hours ‘gas’ of the days of the old wooden shed over coffee (what else!) at the Wigs.  Dave Glover also made a welcome re-appearance and has since rejoined the club.


The Club Secretary, Tim Large and hut Engineer, Nigel Taylor are taking their holidays from July 18th to August 16th this year and staying at the Belfry to enable outstanding work to be done on the Belfry.  They would welcome any member that comes along and gives a hand. 

    (Nigel Taylor)

P.S. Martin Grass said he would travel 140 miles to the Belfry if there was someone there to work with - anyone else willing to come along to give a hand?


This annual conference of BCRA is to be held as usual in Manchester at the Renold Building, UMIST, Manchester between 14 – 16 September 1979.  Accommodation is available at £4.00 per night.  Entry tickets £1.50 for members and £2.00 for non-members.  Note BCRA membership cards must be shown. Send booking to Bob Picknett, 28 Potters Way, Laverstock, Salisbury, Wilts, SP1 1PX and cheques should be made payable to R.G. Picknett – Conference Account.

It is hoped that the club will take one of the commercial stands to sell caving reports and surveys as well as highlighting the activities of the club in general.

Anyone willing to give a lecture should make their offer to the Lecture Secretary, Keith Plumb, 55 Firwood Ave., Urmston, Manchester. Tele. 061 865 6726.,


Many may know that Ross White has joined the Royal Marines and has now passed in basic training making him a fully fledged commando.  God help anyone caught in a squeeze with Ross on the wrong side!  Also on army matters, Tony Tucker is living it up in Canada furthering his career in the T.A. and no doubt wishing he could buy a pint of Hunters bitter.

               (Tim Large & Wig)

NEW MEMBERS – to all a warm welcome

958       Fiona Lewis, 53 Portway, Wells, Somerset.
959       Alisa Hodgson, 15 Cromwell Terrace, Chatham, Kent
960       Michael Phinister, 4 Old Hill Lane, Inverness, Scotland.

….and those members on the move …… their new addresses

959/960 Paul & Alisa Hodgson, 15 Cromwell Terrace, Chatham, Kent
823 Any Sparrow, Hekellan 4, Shertogenbosch, Holland
878 Ross White, PO3838PY, Recruit White, 125 Alpha Troop, Chatham Company, Limpstone Camp, Devon

Club Notes….

As you will realise, this is a new column for the BB for the odd note dealing with the Club and Club Members.  If you have anything to contribute let your editor have it, in writing please.  Where you are going for a holiday; your next planned caving trip; whose been seen on Mendip; any small item of gossip and news. For example two small items – the Bennett’s on their holiday in Scotland stayed with John Stafford for a few days and Steve Grime was on Mendip recently threatening to punch everybody up, as usual! Following the skirmish in the Belfry last year, Garth and Bob X have patched things up even though the beak put them on probation for a year!


Peak Cavern Again

 a report of sorts by Graham Wilton-Jones.

In the midst of the Winter snow Wilton-Jones and Grass fought their way to Derbyshire while ‘Wig;’ and Dukes played safe by staying in comfort here on Mendip!

Traffic news.  Friday March 16th.  1830 hrs - The following roads are now blocked due to drifting snow; Derbyshire - A6, A57, A61, …… Ashbourne and Buxton are completely cut off. Artic blizzards and gale force winds are making driving conditions treacherous.  Drivers are advised to stay at home unless their journey is absolutely essential…..

Since Peak Cavern is not in our part of the world, and was booked for the 18th, it was necessary, nay essential, to go to Derbyshire.  Journey justified.  Besides, some of us have more respect for BEC tradition (everything to excess) than for our necks.

The, Squire of Yarley, having had his fill of snow in the Lakes, proffered the feeble excuse that he was saving for a day’s to trip to Malta.  Rumour has it that he has given up caving unless the cave is brought to his doorstep. However his worthy chauffeur, Greg, set out alone in the Midget at 5 pm.

Martin, Glenys and Graham (hereinafter we) sped up almost empty M1, when Glenys speed watching and the partially blocked carb allowed.  Through the incessant blizzard we watched huge cornices forming on the edge of the motorway cuttings.  Deepening snow on the road surface began to force us over towards the hard shoulder, where a snow plough crept along (did you realise that snow ploughs cannot clear motorways except. in convoy?)  Think about it.  In spite of every thing we reached the Chesterfield Junction at 10.55pm. Unfortunately the snow really began there - and we missed the pub.  Great drifts above us and any tarmac was deep beneath the snow.  We passed the Stags at midnight and ran straight into deep, drifting snow.  On with the instant snow chains and we were away again, passing abandoned lorries and weaving around half buried cars.  Less than four miles from the Pegasus Hut at Peak Forest someone had abandoned a truck right in the middle of the road making it impossible to all but high clearance vehicles. After freezing to death helping a Derbyshire Mr. 'N' and his sergeant push someone out we parked ourselves, in the Stags car park, shifted all the gear to the front seats and settled down for the night.

A cry from Glen, 'I can’t find my contact lens box'.  We rooted though all the buried gear and Martin found a film cassette tin to use instead.  Settled down again.  Then another cry, 'I dropped them again'.  Glenys is always doing this – I believe she enjoys the thrill of the search. Dig for a torch, find the lenses, and beck to repose posture.  Martin spent his waking hours chasing drips of condensation or burying his head in his sleeping bag hoping he’d wake up in one of his villas.  Graham, sandwiched between Glenys and a shock absorber, wiled away the hours watching snow flakes on the window (they’re not all different you know) and commenting on the progress of the snow ploughs.  Glen dreamt she was still in a 5 star hotel and she slept like an inebriated log.

We thought of Greg, either with his car creeping along the drifts or marooned at the Pegasus, and felt it was our duty to try and reach the hut.  A gaggle of snowploughs and various other vehicles passed by so we reckoned it had to be OK to reach Peak Forest.  A few hundred yards up the road we ran into deep snow again – no one had been through that way.  The snowploughs had come up a side road from Tideswell (they breed) where they must have been stuck over night.  We turned round (those snow chains are wonderful).  Thank you, Buckett, and decided to head for home, abandoning Greg to his fate.  In fact he reached Birmingham the previous night, but decided that the snow was too bad to warrant his continuing.  Turning back on a motorway in drifts and blizzards is not that easy.  Greg took an hour and a half to negotiate a roundabout from one carriageway to the other.

Back to the heroes, now struggling through the wastes of Stoney Middleton.  'Ah, Eyam,' muttered Martin, 'John Beck lives there.  I had to write to him to book the trip.  Let’s scrounge some coffee (we had no cooker for breakfast) and tell him we will not be here on Sunday for the Peak trip.'  John Beck is a Derbyshire version of Wig.  His house is a magnet for cavers.  In short we were easily persuaded, over hot soup and beer in the Miner's Arms, to stay, in the house next to the Miner's Arms, home of Mark Noble - his address, The Cottage, Eyam!  It is amazing how many cavers can be crammed into a minute 17th century cottage.  We spent the rest of the day depleting the alcoholic stocks of the village, seeing the historic sites of Eyam, tramping through 12ft high drifts, visiting Waterfall Hole, avoiding catching the Plague and learning barbaric Derbyshire games and customs.

A warm mist crept in overnight and destroyed the Christmas card beauty of trees weighed down by ton of snow.  The combined effect of the mist and snowploughs meant that most of the major roads were now clear, and it was easily possible for us to reach Castleton. The only worry was that the cave would now be flooding.  Arriving in Castleton we went in search of Wig and John Dukes, who were coming up that morning.  However a quick recce of the village revealed sign of them.  Could it be that we were the only representatives of the BEC to reach the place?  Come to think of it, where has Wig been caving of late (carry on thinking -Ed). But we must not be too hard on Wig. Coronation Street, cats, cacti and knitting take up much of his time these days we should not have to expect him to make a special caving trip just to Peak Cavern.  After all, he has not been there before.  John has no excuse though.  He could have stolen, Wig’s car (no comment – Ed.)

I realise that the whole point of this article was to slate the others, but we should mention the cave. Half the TSG (who control Peak) had been with us at Eyam and the other half waited at Castleton.  Glen made for the hotel/pub while Martin and I followed the others up to the cave, where small avalanches were cascading down the cliffs, and the Jackdaws were unleashing lethal icicle missiles which came stabbing down from the heights above.  The cave floor was muddy but the water-level seemed unaffected the thaw. We quickly made our way to the Treasury. Just beyond this, below an aven to one side of the main passage, the TSG have a dig in progress, presently involving the removal of tons of large boulders which are then rolled into the main passage.  Martin and I did not like to interfere with their, dig so we carried on towards the roar of water at Surprise View.   Making a note of the water level, we quickly followed the water down to Buxton Water Sump. This undoubtedly ranks among the finest stream passages in the country.  Today the water was icy cold and we rapidly made our way back upstream to the Far Sump, where one optimist has made an enormously long trench stretching way downstream in an attempt to pass the sump.  It has been reported that it used to be a draughting gravel choke. Back downstream, we entered Lake Passage as far as Lake Sump, which is actually a duck.  Disliking anywhere with less than six feet of airspace I began to remove various boulders and lowered the water somewhat, but it was very cold, so I dissuaded my impetuous companion from continuing. Back at the dig we helped for a while and then carried on outwards till we heard sounds of digging in another passage off to the left.  This hitherto ignored passage is similar to Pickering’s though slightly larger.  It is totally blocked with mud, but I was surprised that more effort has not been made to pass the choke at the end of Wind Tunnel.  Perhaps we should visit Peak more often – those of us that get there, that is.

Back in the main cave we washed off the mud of the chilling stream.  Ours was the penultimate trip before the cave was closed for the tourist season.  Unlike Wookey or DYO apartheid is practised at Peak, but it seems that the present management may be more enlightened.  Who knows; maybe even diving will be allowed again before long.  Treasury Sump, the backdoor to Speedwell, may be old hat but Ink is reputedly to lead into an enormous cross passage, while Far Sump must lead to the continuation of the original main passage.


Viaduct Sink – the opening campaign

After their success at Thrupe Lane the Thrupe digging team turned their attention to Windsor Hill an area always thought to be of great promise by older members of the B.E.C.  Simon Meade-King (WSG & Wxxxxx) has sent the following report for publication in the Belfry Bulletin.

Some two miles north of Shepton Mallet lies an area of limestone scarred by the complex of the Windsor Hill quarries, now disused, and pierced by the track bed of the old Somerset and Dorset Railway on its solitary path over the Mendips from Shepton Mallet to Radstock.

The quarrying operations have revealed various small caves which have attracted the attentions of cavers over the years.  Though small in themselves these caves hinted at the possibility of a large cave system taking the considerable drainage which sinks in the area.

Just beyond the quarries the railway crossed the deep wooded ravine of the Ham Woods Valley by an impressive viaduct.  Almost in the shadow of this viaduct a sizeable stream sinks in the floor of the valley, to re-emerge three miles to the west at St. Andrews Wells after dropping nearly 300ft via the limestone.  Viaduct Sink, as this swallet is known, together with Windsor Hill Sink a few hundred yards away, form the most easterly of the ten Sat. Andrews feeders.  These feeders stretch from Biddlecombe Swallet, just to the north east of Wells to Windsor Hill in the east, and include Thrupe Lane, the only sink to have yielded a major system to date.

The principle geological feature of the Windsor Hill area is the sandstone ridge of Maesbury, a mile to the north.  This provides a catchment area for the streams running off its southern flank. Below the Maesbury ridge is a superficial layer of head, Thrupemarsh, which gathers the surface water before it crosses the Lower Limestone Shales and sinks at the limestone boundary.

Viaduct sink has been known for many years, the stream disappearing in its bed 45yds up valley from the viaduct, and in wet conditions running on down the valley to sink in an intermediate swampy area in the woods.  However, although geologically the top sink is in a textbook situation, the immediate surface area did not encourage digging with an absence of solid rock against which to construct the shoring of a shaft.

The first trial excavations began in January 1976 and brought up sandstone cobbles, shale and finally Black Rock Limestone, until at a depth of 3ft a boulder ruckle was encountered.  Work continued through the boulders and until a buried cliff gradually emerged.  This discovery was of importance if only because it solved the shoring problem.

By the spring of 1976, when Atlas (the digging team) were invited to join forces with the West London Caving Club on the site, a large if unsupported pit has been opened up with on all sides but one, a jumble of mud and rock.  At its maximum depth the cliff was undercut, and as we excavated the down dip end of the pit, a rift was exposed choked with tons of rocky material.

At this point with things beginning to look interesting a halt was called to the digging to enable a proper shaft to be constructed.  This was built entirely of wood using sleepers from the nearby quarry siding and unlike that at Thrupe was built to rather more economical design and with the ends interlocking to provided more strength.

As material was brought up it was dumped behind the shoring to give extra stability and at 18ft depth we fixed the last rungs in place and digging then recommenced at the mouth of the choked rift.  It was down this rift that the most promising point of attack appeared to be.  The left wall gave a feeling of security although on the right a low chamber needed walling up to support the unstable roof.

We then moved forwards and downwards against the solid wall, uncovering evidence of a major stream sink in the form of a huge sandstone cobble.  Large quantities of stal were brought up.  As we deepened the area beyond the grouted wall more grouting and consolidating became necessary.  We concreted in a sleeper at roof level to give additional support to the roof and prevent boulders dropping on us from the rift above.  The instability of the roof made progress rather slow, and several boulders had to be banged – the fumes clearing slowly in the absence of a noticeable draught.  An interesting discovery was a small round tube going off to the left, probably an abandoned oxbow.  Beyond this passage, our way forward was unexpectedly barred by a solid wall, and we diverted out attack to the right.

It was now the sweltering days of August at the height of the heat wave, and the stream had completely dried up making conditions very pleasant.  However, as we probed forward into a mass of loose material we began to undermine our second grouted wall, and another sleeper was cast across to prevent collapse.  The main priority had to be to leave the shaky conditions of the entrance rift and getting something a good deal more solid and here we were lucky.  A few feet ahead lay a small chamber almost filled with rubble and with a roof if not absolutely solid very nearly so, and all our effort could now return to digging.

The following day, with a bit of clearing back we were able to crawl up and have a careful look at the chamber.  Up dip to the right, were two obvious stream inlets – one at least coming direct from the surface.  To the left, at its lowest point, the wall was undercut along its whole length and probing revealed a promising black hole which we enlarged revealing a definite way on. An awkward jammed rock barred access to what appeared to be a more roomy passage below – it looked as if we could be nearly in.  The roof was banged and with hopes of a breakthrough running high we forced our way through.  But alas, this turned out to be a space hardly enough room to admit a body – merely a tiny breakdown chamber with no obvious continuations.  On the east wall was much evidence of botyoidal stal and the place had a generally dry fossilised look about it similar to some of the small caves in Windsor Hill Quarry.  The south wall was of a semi-circular shape indicating erosion by the swirly motion of a descending stream.  The floor consisted of a massive slab, fallen from the roof.

So, with no immediate prospects in that direction we resorted to clearing out the first chamber we had entered.  The numerous cobbles that emerged were a constant source of encouragement and after a few hours digging we uncovered the mouth of a bedding plane under the right wall, draughting slightly, and floored with stream debris.

During the Bank Holiday weekend that followed, this bedding plane, some three feet across by eighteen inches high, was cleared out and was soon roomy enough for one of us crawl in to the edge of a six foot drop where a cross-rift cut across at right angles. To the left and right this rift petered out, but straight ahead a flat out gravel lined crawl was forced to an awkward constricted right hand bend.  By squeezing flat out a man sized space could be seen to the right with apparently stal covered walls.  Stones thrown through made promisingly resonant noises and a crowbar pushed through indicated 3ft of width.  Furthermore, one of the team reported the sound of a distant roar – the omens looked good.



A.G.M. MINUTES will be published in the July B.B.


7.00pm for 8.00pm, an hour pre-dinner boozing and a free drink will be included in the bargain. The price hasn’t been fixed yet but it will be about £3.50 each.  Tim will be giving all the details in the next B.B.

EGM Minutes

Minutes of EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING held at the Belfry on Saturday 7th October 1978 to discuss the Committee Resolution: -

That this meeting accepts the re-drafted B.E.C. Constitution in view of the resolution passed by the 1977 A.G.M. and Martin Cavender’s comments regarding recent changes in legislation.  Further the committee believe that it is essential that the indemnity and trustee clauses be included in the new constitution, the former to protect the club against any potential claim and the latter to ensure that the trustees be brought under the control of the Annual General Meeting of the club.

The meeting was convened at 10.15am by the Hon. Secretary Tim Large, the necessary quorum being present. He then asked for nominations for a chairman.  Colin Dooley and Sett were nominated from the: floor.  The Hon. Secretary called for a vote and Sett was elected by a large majority.

The chairman then read the committee resolution and then suggested that the proposed constitution be discussed section by section.

Dave Irwin suggested adding to the Presents the definition of member, as it, was, not made clear in the new proposals.  Also adding the definition of a probationary member.  Martin Cavender suggested that the probationary member’s clause was not necessary.  Alan Thomas felt that the probationary member’s clause should be left in.  Nigel Taylor proposed, seconded by Tom Temple that the probationary member’s clause be included in the new constitution.  A vote was called for, 25 in favour 8 against, motion carried.

John Dukes expressed concern over the time lapse for some probationary members before they are ratified. Barrie Wilton said that the new clause 3f was intended to prevent this, every probationary member being ratified 12 months after the date of acceptance.

Alan Thomas suggested that the E.G.M., instruct the Committee to publish a list of probationary members in the B.B.

The meeting accepted that clause 3f has added ‘and has not been ratified.’

Roy Bennett proposed an amendment to the existing clause 1, that it be deleted and a new clause inserted (copy attached).  He felt that the new proposal needed much more clarification.  Nigel Taylor said the purpose of the sub-committee was to simplify it from the load of rubbish it has been.  On a point of order Alan Thomas asked the chairman for Nigel Taylor’s comments to be minuted and that he apologise for the comments.  Nigel without prompting retracted his statement and apologised.  A vote was taken 9 being in favour with 32 against, motion defeated.

Bob Bagshaw suggested that there was need for clarification of 'permanently salaried member of the club'. Martin Cavender suggested that the new proposal covered the meaning adequately.  The meeting agreed to delete the last line of clause 1.

Joan Bennett expressed concern ever the exclusion of anyone under the age of 18 from joining the club. Kangy explained that the reasons for excluding minors was connected with the question of indemnity, also that the age of new members has risen.  Bob Bagshaw said that if we were worried about indemnity then perhaps guests under 18 should not be allowed to use the Belfry or, join in club activities.  Dave Irwin said that the problem regarding minors had arisen from the insurance claim over the lamb Leer accident and the problems of taking minors caving.  Tom Temple said that the exclusion of minors from the club activities and the Belfry would prevent many youngsters from using the club who do so as guests at present.  Steve Tuck said that by excluding minors then those who became interested in caving when in the scouts, youth clubs etc. would be unable to join the club during the period of usually leaving these groups at 16 and attaining the age of 18. Martin Bishop suggested that minors could be include by providing member to member insurance cover, but that this would possibly raise the club subscription.  Joan Bennett said that this was not necessary so as we could accept this risk as we always have done without radically changing the club. Alan Thomas proposed, seconded by Joan Bennett that the lower age limit for the club be 16.  18 in favour, 11 against – motion carried.

Kangy proposed, seconded by Steve Tuck that there be no lower age limit for the club.  The motion was substantially defeated with only 3 in favour.  Martin Cavendar suggested that 3(a)A be amended to read ‘Members shall be over the age of 16 years and sub-divided into:-‘  The meeting agreed with a murmur of concern.

Joan Bennett suggested an amendment to 3c so that the financial club year runs from September 1st to give the treasurer time to produce a statement of accounts before the A.G.M.  Joan Bennett and Dave Irwin said that the reason was to rationalise the club finances. Dave Turner proposed, seconded by Martin Bishop that the club year runs from September 1st.  19 in favour, 22 against, motion defeated.  Joan Bennett proposed, seconded by Martin Cavender that the club year runs from October 1st.  Motion carried with a large majority.

Bob Bagshaw said that 3g of the new constitution gave powers to expel any member, but no power to fine – despite the Hut Wardens power to fine.  Roy Bennett suggested adding ‘suspend’ to 3g line 6, after ‘expel’. The meeting accepted this unanimously. The meeting agreed to delete also by majority pass a resolution in line 6 of 3g.  Alan Thomas proposed, seconded by Martin Cavendar that the expelled or suspended person has the right of appeal to a general meeting.  Carried unanimously.

Bob Bagshaw said that 3h could be revised to read ‘sent in the ordinary course of post or delivered by hand’.  The meeting agreed.

Joan Bennett suggested an amendment to 4e line 5 as in its present reading a poll could be held up by 2 members.  Martin Cavendar suggested amending 4e line 4 after seconding – adding ‘supported by vote’.

Bob Bagshaw suggested that 4a needed clarification over the word ‘sent’, but the meeting felt that the clause adequately said what was intended.  4(b) to include ‘at least’ on line 4 after give.  4(d) to include ‘lesser’ to be inserted instead of ‘least’ line 2.  Alan Thomas proposed deleting 4e from ‘unless’ onwards, seconded by Colin Dooley. 30 in favour, 3 against, motion carried.

Bob Bagshaw said re-4h, delete ‘non present’.  The meeting agreed by general consent to insert in 4h ‘whether or’ in line 1 after member.  Dave Irwin pointed out that 4g could be deleted as 4h now covered the point.  The meeting agreed.

Bob Bagshaw said that in 5a some words could be deleted as they were not necessary.  Line 1, delete ‘unless otherwise determined by a general meeting’.  Line 3, delete ‘whatever the circumstances’.  Line 5, delete ‘or reversed’.  The meeting murmured its approval.  Martin Bishop expressed concern over 5a with regard to the membership of committees of clubs of similar aims being eligible to hold office, and whether this included the Cave Diving Group.  Discussion took place and the meeting agreed that the C.D.G. was a national body and not a club.  Martin Bishop proposed, seconded by Dave Turner that the following be added to 5a. This shall not apply to committee members of national and regional clubs and bodies of like aims.  In favour 40, 0 against.  Motion carried.  Dave Turner proposed, seconded by Alan Thomas that 5b line 5 be changed to read ‘the first week of’ after ‘by the end of’.  12 in favour, 0 against motion carried.  Dave Turner proposed seconded by Alan Thomas that line 5b line 2 be altered to read – committee during July.  The members - .  The meeting agreed.  Dave Irwin proposed, seconded by Joan Bennett that the present clause 63 be substituted for 5c.  The meeting agreed unanimously.

Joan Bennett felt that in view of the A.G.M. of 1977’s precedent, the B.B. editor being elected by the A.G.M. that the B.B. editor should be a committee member.  Joan Bennett proposed, seconded by Martin Bishop that 5d have added B.B. editor after engineer.  40 in favour, 1 against, motion carried.

The meeting discussed the question of 5d in respect of the number of posts a committee member should be allowed to hold.  Some felt, that one post was to restricting and that individuals could do more than one job as shown in the past.  Alan Thomas proposed, seconded by Dave Irwin that 5d be changed from ‘not more than one’ to ‘not more than two’.  34 on favour, 4 against, motion carried.

Bob Bagshaw pointed out that the word ‘Honorary’ should be added between ‘following and offices – (5d line 2).  The meeting agreed.

The meeting discussed 5g and generally agreed that ‘Chairman’ should be changed to chairman – as the club has no formal chairman.  Also in 5g from ‘If notice’ to end of clause br deleted.  Joan Bennett proposed, seconded by Martin Cavendar that 5h be amended to include: - Line 2 ‘An audited annual income and expenditure account shall be present at the Annual general meeting’ --- Agreed unanimously. 5h Line 2 reasonable inserted before ‘time’.  5c add ‘members are entitled to attend committee meetings’ – agreed.  The meeting agreed to accept 5j as it stood.

Alan Thomas suggested that 6c should be included on the application form.  The meeting agreed and considered it should be actioned by the new committee.

Bob Bagshaw said regarding 6c that in line 5 from ‘save’ to the end of the line could be deleted as it was unnecessary.  The meeting agreed.

Martin Cavendar suggested that in 6a line 3 be amended – after period – ‘at the discretion of the Hut Warden, subject to ratification by the committee’.

Bob Bagshaw suggested that 6b be deleted – the meeting agreed.

Some discussion took place regarding 7a and Dave Turner, seconded by Alan Thomas said that it should be amended to reads from 60% to 75% of registered members present at the A.G.M. Dave Irwin seconded by Joan Bennett said that 7a should be changed from poll to A.G.M.  In favour 34, against 2, motion carried.

The meeting agreed to accept 7b/c without alteration.

Martin Cavendar and Bob Bagshaw, being experts in the field of Trustees discussed clause 8 clarifying points for the meeting.  The meeting agreed following their advice to: - delete ‘be’ – last line.  That line 2 ‘a general meeting’ shall elect the Trustees. That line 8 from ‘who’ to line 14 ‘Trustees’ be deleted.  The meeting agreed.

Bob Bagshaw pointed out that there were several grammatical errors which needed tidying up.  The meeting agreed that Bob should check it through at a later date to correct such errors, but without altering meanings.

It was proposed by Martin Bishop and seconded by Tom Temple that the new constitution as amended and agreed upon at this meeting, be accepted as the clubs constitution and be effective as of the end of this meeting.  Motion carried with a large majority.

There being no other business the meeting was closed by the chairman at 1.20pm.

Ed. Note:  Our thanks to Fiona for typing the minutes of the E.G.M.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

Editor: D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.  Telephone: Priddy 369.

Editorial notes:

Firstly, I must offer my apologies for the late BB.  This has been due solely to the work I have been carrying out at the cottage.  The complete upheaval in the sitting room, kitchen and end room has caused havoc, so much so, that the BB has taken a second place.  My apologies all round.

As usual with August and September BB’s you will find that this one is cluttered with AGM business, particularly officers reports and details of the Annual Dinner on OCTOBER 6th at the Caveman is given on the back page of the BB.  The numbers for the Dinner are strictly limited to 140 so send off to Sue Tucker as soon as possible to ensure your place.  Many thanks to Garth Dell for getting them printed and numbered.

Whilst in the thanking theme we must offer our grateful thanks to Sett for obtaining a printing machine for us.  Many of you will remember his offer at the last AGM when he said that he knew of a gestetner machine at his place of work.  This was obtained for a very advantageous price together with 13 tubes of ink worth over £30.  The machine is at Wig's and anyone wishing to see it can simply call anytime - within reason. Hopefully this will give a vastly improved printout of the stencils and you will all be able to judge the result with this BB.  Again many thanks Sett.

Please Note!

The article 'The Italian Connection' is the copyright of the author - he must contacted first prior to any reprint. Ed.



- a regular column from our Hon. Sec., Tim Large

During July and early August much work was done at the Belfry.  Greater detail appears in the Hut Engineers report.  Following the setting up of a sub-committee to look into possible Belfry improvements, myself, Nigel Taylor and John Dukes were able to take a close look at the problems and sought advice of one or two experts.  Originally I had looked at the possibillity of putting stairs up into the loft and converting it into the bunkroom with the installation of a dormer window.  This would free the present bunkroom for other facilities.  On consulting the experts, this would cost about £1,200 alone.  By the time the downstairs conversions had been accounted for the sum would be at least £2,000.

Our ideas eventually congealed into one and a revised plan emerged.  That is to confine all alterations to the present ground floor.  The main considerations appear to be:-

1.                  Provision of a background heating system to warm the whole building thus preventing damp and the subsequent deterioration of the internal fabric of the building.

2.                  Improvement of the showers, changing area and toilet facilities.

With the rising cost of fuel, wood is now available to us from various sources at a cheaper cost. The installation of a wood burning stove providing hot water, radiators and a hob for cooking.  This would achieve several purlposes at once.  Our electricity costs would be greatly reduced particularly during the peak winter period of greater caving activity.  Our bottled gas costs would be slightly reduced as some of the present gas burners could be dispensed with in the winter. Present costs of this would be about £800, with members doing the work.

Regarding the improvement of facilities; at present

  1. The changing area is too small.
  2. Showers take up too much room.  Women’s shower rarely used.
  3. Toilets unsatisfactory.
  4. Women’s bunkroom rarely used.
  5. Only the women’s room has a wash-basin with hot and cold water.
  6. Showers are in the centre of the building.

By re-organising the Belfry, excluding the living room these points could be rectified.  This would cost about £300, with members doing the work.

Using a scheme like this we could complete our objectives for the price that originally only the loft conversion would be achieved.  Thus we could bring our facilities up to more acceptable standards and thereby continue to attract a steady influx of new members and guests.

Last month the B.B. published various proposals regarding the subscriptions.  Incorporated in many of the options was an allocation for Belfry improvements.  In most cases only £175 would be raised each year.  This was based on £1 per head.  This money could be spent as it came in and the necessary materials to do the work purchased and slowly accumulated over several years allowing the work to progress in phases.

At the lost committee meeting the sub for 1979/1980 was fixed at £7.50.  This has to go before the AGM for ratification.  This figure includes the £1 towards Belfry improvements. Ideally more money per year would help the work progress quicker.  Obviously other fund raising schemes will be necessary to obtain additional monies.  I hope you will all consider these ideas carelfully and bring constructive ideas to the AGM.

New member:

962  Christine Anne Stewart, 15 Ashurst Road, Portsmouth, Hants.

Address change:

Phil (the Miner) Ford, 40 Station Road, Greenfield, Holywe1l, C1wyd.


Letter To The Editor

Dear Dave,

Thirty years is quite along time!  I had quite forgotten about the Dural ladder, but re-reading the log extract, I felt that a brief note about it would be of interest in these days of more sophisticated laddry and S.R.T.

Dan Hasell and I were fortunate in working in a certain aircraft establishlment (No - not B.A.C.!) We had absorbed Casterets 'Ten Years Under the Earth' and were rather fed-up with carrying the (then) standard ropes and wooden runged ladders to Mendip on pushbikes.

So - aircraft use dural tube, and controls were worked by wire - each of first class quality.  Add to these lots of brass ¼” whit nuts; a lot of 2 BA high tensile bolts and Symonds nuts.  Some flux and solder and we were in business.

For a jig we screwed bits of metal to a mitre block and off we went.  I believe we used rungs 9" long by ¾" dia. at 11" centres. Holes were drilled off-set, the wire passed through them and a loop pulled out of the end of the rung - a brass nut was passed over the loop which was then 'sized' to a 2BA bolt.  The wire was then soldered to the nut, the loop pulled back inside the rung and the 2BA bolt passed through the off-set hole - one rung complete.

We used this ladder for a very long time and believe it or not, when it was scrapped I kept it and still have it - I've also some of the original wooden and rope ladders - any good to the club as Museum pieces?

All the best,
Harry Stanbury
25th July 1979

Many thanks for the letter, Harry.  I have not mentioned this to the Committee yet but I know what their answer will be - yes please.  The UBSS are usually credited with being the first club in the UK using electron ladders but as usual the BEC were in the game first.  I can remember some rope and wooden rung ladder in the tackle store several years ago - what happened to that I wonder?


Hon. Librarians Report 1979

Loans have continued at a reasonable rate this year, sufficient a library such as ours.

However, where lending is a practice, losses are bound to occur from time to time.  But this year we have not lost minor items but expensive books which would appear to be a major oversight (?) - Limestone and Caves of NW England Derbyshire (currently priced at £7 and £11 respectively). Would the members who have these books please return them to the Belfry or the Librarian.  As a result of these losses it has been decided to store all our scare and rare books in a separate cupboard.  These may be borrowed by members on personal application to the Librarian.  Would members please remember that loans are for up to 1 month and that they are asked to record their borrowings in the Library record book provided in the Library.

Having been the Librarian since 1972 I feel that it is time that it over by a younger member.

D.J. Irwin
August '1979

Hon. Secretary's Report 1979

The Club again has had a successful year, in many respects, but some areas have given cause for concern. Financially we have been working on a tight budget due to (a) the reduced subscription of £2 and (b) the fact that inflation has caught up with the annual subscription.  This will necessitate an increase in the sub which the committee has fixed at £7.50.  Membership looks like being maintained at last years numbers, but at present sane members are late in paying.

Subscription paying members number 140; Life members 50.  Although probably a convenient way to raise money quickly Life membership appears to have been an unwise decision.  It is now 10 years since the Belfry burnt down and of our present membership 120 have joined since that date and maintained their membership.

The Belfry and site has been much maintenance and repair work in the main carried out by the usual small number who give up caving time to writ on the HQ.  The Tackle/Workshop has been completed and the battery charger is now operational.

I think it is important for the club to consider the club's HQ; its future facilities with regard to usage, and make provision now for a programme of improvements over several years. The method of financing this is debatable and will I am sure be discussed with the topic of subscriptions.

In past years much debate has ensued regarding projects the club can consider undertaking.  Decisions have been swayed by old ideas and policies. New thinking is now needed to take the club well into the 1960's.

The club's caving activities continue to progress with trips of all types including much digging. Earlier in the year Tynings Barrow Swallet was re-opened after an 18 month closure.  Again this year members are involved in two expeditions to Austria.

The Committee has had a busy year following last years AGM and EGM.  The new constitution has been published and the new deed of appointment drawn up and signed by our new Trustees.

Committee member’s attendances to date which cover 11 months read like this:

Dave Irwin - 11

Tim Large - 12

Sue Tucker - 11

Nigel Taylor - 12

Chris Batstone - 8

Martin Grass - 9

John Dukes - 10

Graham Wilton-Jones - 10

Martin Bishop - 3

This includes an extra meeting held with the Cuthbert’s Leaders.

Bob Cross resigned at the October meeting due to work commitments.  Martin Bishop was co-opted being next in the voting order.


Hut Engineer's Report 1979

It was with extreme trepidation that I undertook the job this year of Hut Engineer - a job which is open to much criticism and sometimes valid complaint.  My own fears of being unable to attend Committee meetings due to carry return to uniform proved unfounded as duty rota changes and a very understanding Skipper permitted me to attend every meeting this year.

The onerous job has been made easier this year - not due to the AGM critics who somehow never are seen working upon the Belfry site, - but by the same group of stalwart Belfry regulars who time and time again give up their weekend petrol and cash to work upon a hut which should be the responsibility of every member of the BEC and not left to those who use the hut, and therefore excuse themselves from doing any work whatsoever upon it.

Though perhaps invidious to mention individuals I feel strongly that the continuous support given to me by the following Belfry regulars is worthy of mention: Tim Large and Fiona, John Dukes, Bob Cross, Neil Weston (incidental not a member) Stu Lindsay, Chris Batstone, Danny Bradshaw, Paul and Alisa Hodgeson, and surprisingly Walter (Farmer) Foxwell.

Hopefully as many members as possible will attend the AGM or manage in the next few weeks to visit their HQ and see for themselves the combination of many hours work upon the Belfry this year.

During the year the following work has taken place:

1.                  Partial tarmacing of the Belfry drive

2.                  Overhaul, servicing and provision of existing and new Fire Prevention equipment.

3.                  Drawing up of detailed site plans of HQ.

4.                  Provision of security locks upon Library and Tackle Store.

5.                  Excavation and construction of septic tank

6.                  Cleaning out and repair of cattle grid.

7.                  Installation of new sink in the women's room.

8.                  Running and routine repairs and maintenance to the site and buildings and general interior painting.

9.                  Re-roofing of old stone Belfry.

Three working weekends were held at the Belfry.  One in April, one in June and the final one in the first weekend of August.  However lack of publicity failed to bring one of these and the Belfry job list to the notice of the membership in time.  During late July - as advertised in the B.B. a working holiday was held at the Belfry attended by Tim Large and Fiona, Garth Dell, Steve Short, Nigel Taylor, Dave Irwin, and in the second week John Dukes.  The third week saw the departure of the first crew and the arrival of Paul and Alisa Hodgeson.  During the course of the three weeks the following work upon the hut was carried out:

1.                  The complete conversion of the tackle store in the old stone Belfry to a workshop and tackle store complete with workbenches, cupboards, tackle racks, 'Prewer' tested battery charger, and the rewiring and provision of the electricity supply 'Dukes' style.

2.                  Construction of stone stile to St. Cuthbert’s across Walt Foxwell’s track, assisted and directed by his brother Jack Foxwell (70 years).

3.                  Cleaning and sconing of shower and toilet facilities.

4.                  Cleaning and repairs to the kitchen area in the main room.

5.                  Repositioning of lockers and provision of B.B. and members Postal rack, Library book shelving 'Wig' style.

6.                  Protection and varnishing of Belfry Murals.

7.                  Cleaning out of 30 lbs of decaying matt or from the guttering and sanding and painting of weatherboards and woodwork.

8.                  Painting of tackle store and exterior of old stone Belfry and carbide store and waterproofing of roof of same.

9.                  Sanding and painting of exterior of Belfry wood and metal work.

10.              Overhauling of night storage heaters.

11.              Insulation of hot water tank and piping in the attic.

12.              Tidying of Attic.

13.              Scrubbing of bunkroom and living room walls to remove fungus caused by damp.

14.              Tidying of Belfry site and removal of rubbish.

15.              One day’s arduous tree felling at Westbury, Wiltshire to provide half of the Belfry’s winter fuel supply.

16.              Thorough inspection of exterior and interior of Belfry for faults (see below).

Though much of the work has been done upon the HQ there is no room for complacency as the fault finding inspection showed up serious problems upon the fabric of the hut; cracks are plainly visible on the end window and the door lintels in the men's bunkroom.  The roof ridge capping tiles have become dislodged from their positions - those are problems which remain to be tackled and are giving cause for concern.

Likewise the ever present damp problem within the Belfry is caused by lack of background heating which must be seriously discussed by the next committee and AGM - the solution I feel would be to have a wood burning stove supplying hot water from a solid fuel burner to radiators and taps.  Furthermore I would like to see the changing and showering area together with the toilets overhauled - preferably with the wet damp area moved from the centre of the virtually ill heated building to an outside wall to protect the heat and fabric of the building.  The toilet facilities are a disgrace and I believe that proper advice should be sought and improvements made with the utmost urgency.

I feel that the provision of a dormer type window and stairway and strengthening of the attic would not only improve the HQ but also considerably enhance it and enable more space downstairs to be allocated to caving and improved facilities,

Such improvements will obviously cost money and in some cases, lots of money - but in improving the club HQ by any such financial outlay, we will recoup the benefit in the value of an improved property - surely a wise capital investment, and after all better to be in bricks and mortar than earning a lesser % interest on deposit.

Extra monies to finance the various improvements could be raised by the setting up now of a Hut Fund as by various fund raising activities.  Therefore I urge each and every one of you to think very carefully and come to a decision with a view to the future of the club, not just now and in five years but for the next twenty years at least.

I close by thanking all who have worked or given items to the Belfry this year and if I am unsuccessful in joining next year's committee may I wish my successor much luck for the year to come.

Nigel Taylor, Hut Engineer 1978/79


Caving Secretary's Report 1979

1979 has been a reasonably active year for the B.E.C. and all major and minor Mendip Caves have been visited at least once by members of the club. Cuthbert’s has seen 33 tourist trips to date and digging is taking place at Sump 2 where Mr. 'N' is blasting away the roof with the help of Butch.  Dave Turner has also been digging at Sump 1, hoping to enter a fossil system and has used various ingenious pieces of piping to direct the water!

During the year the Wigmore site has been tidied up and the cave capped but not locked.  The club has re-opened Tynings and as soon as a stile and fencing has been put up the key (kept at the Belfry) will be available to bona-fid caving clubs.

There has been a large increase this year in the number of club trips to other regions particularly Yorkshire.  Many members have visited the newly found Link Pot at Easegill and I believe Stu Lindsey has been down it at least half a dozen times!!  G.G., Mongo Gill, Peak Cavern are just a few of the sites visited.

The last 2 points worth mentioning are that valid C.C.C. temporary permits are now available at the Belfry.  The club also has its own Lamb Leer key which is available at the Belfry.

A meeting between the B.E.C. committee and the St. Cuthbert’s Leaders was held on Sunday 20th May to discuss insurance and I have copies of the minutes for those interested.

Martin Grass

Tackle Masters Report, 1979

During the last year, 180ft. of ladder has been rewired and all except the ultra-lightweight ladder has been dipped in lanolin.  We have purchased enough rungs to produce 15 twenty foot ladders (ultra-lightweight) and 15 twenty foot standard ladders.  To complete this task of building new ladders we are waiting for the delivery of taper pins and talurits from the manufacturers.

At the beginning of the Club year the tackle key was removed from general access and arrangements were made to enable members to apply to the Committee for a personal key.  Four ladders and 2 tethers together with two lifelines were left in the shower room for general use by members.  This equipment was rotated to even out the wear. Although members were able to obtain their own key to the tackle store by first applying to the Committee only two keys were requested.  This system is by no means perfect but it was felt by me and the Committee that a tightening up of tackle access was necessary due to the fact that we had lost so much tackle in the previous years.  We have had returned 5 ladders but there is still a considerable amount of tackle still missing.

The following list is the accountable tackle as at 3 August 1979:

Spreaders 1, 2, 3

Tethers 7, 10, 12, 13, 16.

Ladders: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 33, 44, 45 and 48

Ultra-lightweight ladder: 24, 26, 28, 41, 42 & 43

450ft of super Braidline Nylon 10mm

1000ft of digging rope.

I would like to take the opportunity of thanking Graham Wilton-Jones and Garth Dell for their assistance throughout the year and also the members who altered the stone Belfry making tackle storage easier.

John Dukes, August 1979


B.B. Editors Report, 1979

This year has been, again, a good year for material. Graham Wilton-Jones, Stu Lindsey and Martin Grass top the authors list, while Tim Large, in his capacity as Hon. Sec. tops the Club Notes section.

The material that we have published has been outstanding and 'speleologically' important and has included the recently discovered 1829 letter from the Rev. David Williams to John Rutter which upset all previous knowledge of the opening of the Banwell Caves and also the extracts from the 1756 diaries of Catcott indicating the existence of a cave in the GB field known as Daccots Hole.  The current series on the Viaduct Dig is also by a non-member!

On the debit side we have had some badly printed issues.  This is not due to the machine but the paper we have had in stock.  As I have said before, in the July BB the paper was offered to us at a price that we could not afford to miss even though it was known to be off-set paper.  However, we now have a good stock of duplicating paper and the improvement in printing should now be obvious to all.

During the year we ran out of covers and a new stock was kindly supplied by Garth Dell at a very small cost.

A couple of criticisms have been received, one regarding the printing (Which I accept) and the other complaining of the lack of club news from a regular Belfryite - obviously he has not read Tim Large’s Lifeline each month.  Anyway this has resulted in a column called 'Club Notes' which is intended to slot in with 'Jottings', both compiled by your Editor as the critic was not prepared to do the work himself!  Seriously though, a monthly journal such as the BB can only survive so long as members are prepared to put themselves out and write and so I urge anyone who wants to criticise the CONTENT to think first to see if he has any offering to publish - if not at least make the attempt to get someone to write a regular column or prepare articles.

The offer of the two printing machines made at the last AGM has not result in anything definite even though the Committee have reserved money for the purchases.  However John Noble has obtained a gestetner machine and has offered it to the club at the price that he has paid for it.  No decision has yet been made at the time of writing.

Finally, I would like to thank all contributors and helpers, particularly Sue Tucker and the Belfryites for collating and posting the BB's.

August 1979


Banwell Caves Survey

a note by 'Wig'

The survey of Banwell Stalagmite Cave and the Bone Cave was made in 1976 by Marie Clarke and Chris Richards.  They used a Prismatic Compass, Clinometer and tape, calibrated thus to BCRA Grade 5.  The passage outline was sketched in from memory.  So a BCRA Grade 5A is claimed for this survey.  The original is shortly to be given to the Mendip Survey Scheme for photocopying.  The surlvey is drawn on detail paper and will be returned to Chris Richards.

The surveys, plan and elevation are reproduced on the following pages.




Viaduct Sink - the end of the Phoney War

by Simon Meade-lung

Continuing with Part 2…

With the entrance shaft securely shored, and a passage negotiated through an unstable rift leading off below, the exertions of the combined Atlas and West London teams could be devoted to digging.  A bedding plane was uncovered leading to a low crawl, beyond which a construction barred access to a stal covered passage.

As the approach to the obstruction was so tortuous banging was dearly the only feasible way of removing it, and so, with the application of the magic potion, the floor ahead was blown away, and as the fumes cleared we prepared for breakthrough.  After a little more clearing, the first man squeezed through into a minute chamber only just large enough to admit 2 people.  The only way on was a miserable phreatic tube at floor level into which flowed a small stream making more of a whisper than the roar optimistically heard by one member of the team.

After this decided anti-climax we decided by general agreement to move back into the chamber out of which the bedding plane had led, and concentrate our efforts there.

There was obviously going to be no quick and easy discovery, and in the following weeks tons of mud and rubble were winched to the surface where Richard (Whitcombe) incorporated this material behind neat dry stone walls, into structures not unlike prehistoric burial mounds - future archaeologists beware!  The pithead daily became more like the surrounds of a small mine, littered with the typical impedimenta of the Mendip dig.  A ramshackle corrugated shelter sprang up to protect the surface haulage team from the worst of the weather.

Everything pointed to the way on being somewhere below the slab in the floor of the small breakdown chamber we had entered in August.  The passage leading down into this chamber was finally cleared out and by the beginning of October this slab had been hanged and the floor probed beneath it. At a depth of four feet things begin to look interesting again with the uncovering of a narrow winding rift leading off under the left wall, partially sealed by a solid looking gour dam.  At the month of the rift we dug up an enormous sandstone cobble - not unlike the exposing of an unexploded mine.

Digging conditions were however growing wetter and wetter - a stream flowing down into the face being ponded up behind the dam in the exit rift.  As soon as this barrier was removed the problem was solved and we made fairly rapid progress along the rift by plastering the left wall.  Once we could wriggle a few feet along, it was possible to look down to the right - and it certainly seemed promising.  A two foot high slab floored bedding plane dropping at a 45 degree angle to where a formation obstructed further view.  A sizeable shale band was in evidence on the right wall as we slowly dug our way down the bedding plane and once past the formation another lower bedding plane developed under the right wall.

But not far ahead our hopes were dashed again.  The passage which had appeared to be leading down into regions unknown ended literally in a blank wall and the bedding plane to the right, the more we probed it the less inspiring it looked.  It was continuously wet from the ubiquitous stream and despite banging large chunks off the roof the headroom was minimal.

It was now the New Year of 1977, and after exactly a year's solid work digging both Wednesday evenings and. weekends we had got nowhere.  The site still seemed perfect for the entry into a sizeable swallet system but the dead ends reached wore distinctly immature, certainly not the main route taken by the water.  We must have missed this route although this seemed improbable at first and every foot of passage was carefully examined.  Various leads were followed until after a titanic crowbarring session Clive (North) and Richard managed to dislodge a colossal boulder from what had appeared to be a solid wall, opposite to the mouth of the rift we had earlier followed.

When the air had cleared a floor level bedding plane was revealed, draughting slightly - it's height of a few inches increasing to the right and in front as the floor falling away. On the following day - Sunday - we decided to break through into this space at a point further to the right and a boulder was banged to enable us to do so.

To our surprise the initial squeeze let into a sizeable rift formed at right angles to the main passage. The rift was almost standing height at the point of entry but a large water eroded slab lay in the middle on end. This must be one of the paths taken by the main stream, effectively sealed off by collapse and silting.  The rift was only about ten feet long, and the floor dropped away into a choked pot.  Digging focussed on this point and soon stones could be heard to drop through into a space below.  We redoubled our efforts and uncovered a continuation of the rift to a total depth of seven feet.  At the bottom a hole led off under one wall down which stones rolled for a short distance. But even after enlarging the access to this chemically, it was still too narrow to got down.

But meantime our attention was diverted to a point in the wall of the pot behind which could be heard the sound of a stream seemingly of a fair size.  Perhaps if we could reach the active streamway we could follow it into the main system even if the present streamway was immature, this might enable us to bypass the older choked passage.

However, before we could pursue this lead, the entrance to the rift behind us began to show signs of instability.  We were forced to devote the next few weeks to building a massive grouted wall to support the roof with days spent carrying chippings along the railway track from the quarry and mixing loads of cement to be to be lowered down the shaft.  We finally set into position a steel arch to give us total security.

When we eventually got down to digging again it was a small hole at the end of the rift above the point where we had heard the stream that we examined first.  It was blocked by a single boulder and although it didn’t lead towards the stream we could see past the boulder into a small chamber.  By the time the boulder had been removed and Richard had inserted himself, the chamber had of course shrunk considerably.  In fact to little more than a large ensmallment. But what was more interesting was that a hole lay on the far side half blocked by a slab barrier.  There was no indication of any draught but we could hear the sound of falling water from ahead and it made a pleasant echoing noise as if it were falling in a sizeable space.  So we set to work with hammer and chisel to break down the slab and discover that lay beyond.

This was particularly resistant, but after several hours work, I squeezed through, and we gradually cleared out a sloping bedding plane behind it until at a body’s length from the squeeze, by looking up through a slot, in the roof we could see into a largo black space –

to be continued.

Resolution For The Annual General Meeting

Change to the B.E.C. Constitution

The Committee propose the following alterations to the B.E.C. Constitution:-

"That the 1979 Annual General Meeting of the B.E.C. approves the following amendments to the Constitution:-

Para• 2, last para, delete "under any circumstances whatsoever".

Para 48, 2nd line, delete "Full details" and replace with "Notice".

Para 5b, line 5, delete ".August" and replace "September".

Para 5h, lines 3 & 4, delete" or if that is beyond the powers of the committee shall be read out at the annual general meeting".


The Italian Connection 1979

Stan Gee's Italian articles have become a regular feature and so here is the 1979 contribution….

My friends, and I use the term loosely, were greatly amused when in February I sustained a broken ankle as a result of attempting to ski on a pair of antique wooden planks which are laughingly called "Cross Country Ski's".  Of course I was going downhill at the time and the cross country bit became obvious when I ended up literally spread eagled 'across country'.  Anyway this effectively put a stop to any thoughts of serious caving for a few months so' this years Italian trip was basically a walking cum poking about for holes trip.  Holes in the ground you dirty sods.

Starting from Verona we ascended Monte Baldo to the east of Lake Garda.  This mountain is about 7,000 feet high and is, in the main composed of Limestone. It has yet to produce a reasonable size cave, though we saw many interesting sinks and dolines.  The whole mountain is dry, no springs or anything and the experts say that no cave can exist, well; they said the same about Monte Corchia 10 years ago, but more of Monte Corchia later.

With only a few days available we next went on a tourist trip of the low Lessini Alps just below the high Lessini and Spluge della Preta.  Here we had an interesting encounter with Attilio one of the original Spluga explorers and he showed us a gigantic cave entrance near to Campsylvano probably about 150ft high and perhaps a 100 yards or so long.  The cave does not continue, at least it is not possible to continue but strong draughts blowing from cracks suggest that major excavation would reveal something big.  These cold draughts produce a very interesting effect by actually forming clouds within the great entrance.  These clouds form to such an extent that sometimes rain falls whilst outside the sun is shining.

From here we went to the Apuan Alps to search the north face of the Monte Corchia for some caves that we thought we had seen the previous year.  These we found after a long hard thrutch through dense undergrowth which was alive with all sorts of nasties.  The entrances proved to be 3 dry resurgences all requiring excavation. They are nicely positioned for a connection with the Buca del Cacciatorm (Abisso Fighera) and if they do connect I would expect them to become active only in the early spring snow melt.

Monte Corchia as I said before was considered, by the experts, as an impossible site for large caves and was thus largely ignored.  Our discovery in 1974 of the Buca del Arturo and Buca del Mami Dandelanti put paid to this theory and resulted in a lot of activity taking place near the summit.  At the moment of writing 23 caves have been discovered, the biggest being Buca del Cacciatorm with 14 Km of passage and a maximum depth of 850ft.  This year an Italian group discovered yet another cave close to the summit.  This is called, for obscure reasons "Abisso Baeder Meinhof" and at present stands at - 450m.  Thus if we consider that the Autro del Corchia runs beneath this lot as well then to use Arthur Conan Doyle's words.  "If we could strike the ground with some mighty hammers it would resound like a giant drum" (Terror of the Blue John Gap).  Well he said something like that.

The road to the Tavolini Quarry which was destroyed by an avalanche in the winter has been partially repaired and it is again passable to drive with care, to within 700-800ft from the summit.  Near to the summit and adjacent to the entrance to the Cacciatorm now stands the "Cappanina Lusa".  This bivouac built to commemorate the memory of Antonio Lusa is provided with bunks for 8 people and can accommodate up to 12 people.  It is open all the time and is an ideal base for the Cacciatorm, it was built with loving care and hard labour, please take care of it for all our sakes.  If you use it before you leave please clear the place out and also sign the visitor’s book.

Unfortunately the bivouac is positioned so that it just shows on the skyline.  From below, perched on top of the 2,000ft face of Monte orchia it appears as just another rock but this apparently, is offensive to certain Alpinists from Lucca who claim it is an affront to the scenery and a danger to the environment.  I find this difficult to understand as Lucca is some 40 miles away, the villagers of Leurgliani are not complaining and the environment of this face of the Corchia is already destroyed by massive quarrying operations currently taking place.  However the Lucca people are pushing the club Alpino Italiano for the removal of this Bivouac and if they are successful then a very useful base will be lost to the caving world.  I shall be keeping an eye on the situation and if required I will ask for letters of support from British clubs, who visit this area for these are the people who will get most use out of the Bivouac.

A return trip was made to the south side of Pania del la Croee to the aptly named Vall d' Inferno and the Borra del Cinallone.  It is difficult to imagine a more inhospitable place than this with the sun beating down most of the day and temperature in the 90's.  However, something in the region of 150 shafts have been noted in this area mostly at an altitude of about 5,000ft.  We noticed at the head of the Vall d' Inferno a number of entrances and a large area of explored Karst with several deep shafts in it. As I have not been able to obtain any written accounts about this area, I presume that although the entrances have been noted no serious exploration has yet taken place.  There are written accounts of the descent of the Abesso Renella (-300m) and of the work of the P.C.C. on the alpine meadow called Face di Valle.

To reach the area from any point a longish walk is involved, long and uphill all the way.  From Garfangnana a rough road may be used for part of the way but even from this side access to the Vall d' Inferno necessitates an hour long uphill slog.  The area is serviced by a small but very effective Rifugro of the C.A.I. and there is ample space for camping and a good water supply near to the Rifugo.  All supplies for the Rifugro have to be taken up by mule and thus the fare is not as elaborate as some of the lower Rifucro's. However though simple it is adequate and has a plentiful supply of home made cheeses.  The Rifugro is capable of supplying the needs of small parties but any would be explorers intending to go in force are strongly advised to make prior arrangements well beforehand.

Recent discoveries on Monte Tanibura are likely to prove interesting with one cave already at 600m. Tanbura is situated to the north of Corohia and is approached by the village of Resceto.  On the lower slopes and in the adjacent valleys many small but interesting caves are to be found whilst bigger caves are to be found high up.  Here again the main problem is one of access and hard walks of 2-3 hours are not uncommon.  The only accommodation is the Rifugo Aronte, a small bivouac with 12 beds that is quite wrongly situated for any caving activity.

In closing I would like to say that I frequently receive requests by letter, telephone and verbally for information and assistance.  These requests usually open with "Regarding your article in Descent" now this confuses me from the start for I have never written an article for that magazine. I have however, written many article for the B.B. and I presume that some of these have been 'snaffled' by Descent. I'm not objecting to this but it would help if people requiring information could be a little more specific in their requirements.

Stan Gee

P.S. The area in front of the Pania del la Croce is reputed to be the home of wild boar.  So watch it!


Club Notes

compiled by 'Wig'

In this issue the notes are combined with the odd note that would appear in 'Jottings' which will back on course in the next issue of the B.B.  The BCRA Conference at UMIST, Manchester in mid-September seems to be as popular with BEC members as in past years.  A mini-bus load is disappearing up the M6 on Friday 14th September to what will no doubt be a rather beery weekend with many hundreds of cavers from all parts of the country attending.  Glenis and Martin, with no doubt a hand from the Wilton-Jones are setting up a BEC stand containing caving reports and surveys for sale and also backboards dislplaying new surveys and photographs supplied by 'Wig' and Barrie Wilton relspectively.  I understand that Martin Bishop, Barrie and Stu McManus are leaving early Friday morning and hope to make it a great pub crawl before settling down for the night somewhere in Manchester. The BEC too, are making their contribution this year among the speakers at the Conference.  Mike Cowlishaw is talking on Ropes; Nigel Dibben will be lecturing on the Alderley Edge Mines and Dave Irwin giving a lecture on 'Isometric Presentation of Cave Surveys'.  On the sidelines will be Graham Wilton-Jones prepared to give a lecture on the BEC Austrian Expedition that took place in July-August of this year.  Not bad - 4 speakers from BEG out of 24!

Congratulations to Roger Stenner on being awarded the PhD for his work on heavy mineral contamination in the Severn Estuary.  During August 'Sett' and 'Sett' Junior, Julian spent a week at the Belfry, no doubt Sett was paving the way for Julian on becoming a member of the BEC in about six years time!  Members who were active in the late '50's will remember Oliver Wells and will have read of his visit to Mendip earlier this year, well the second generation has seen the light, James, his son has joined the BEC - a part rebellion against authority no doubt!

Seen recently on Mendip were Roger Haskings and John Major.  Roger, who was once the Hut Warden of the Shepton in the middle '60's and John, an old BEC member were passing through on their way back from the US of A.

Alan Thomas gave me this note the other day… "Among those to be seen in the Hunters on the night of the Buffet coincidently were Roger Haskett and John Major both of whom now live in S. Africa.  John was returning to S.A. from the states via Priddy".


Twll Gwynt Oer

A Significant Find in South Wales

Having watched the rapid advance of the quarry towards OFD, some members of SWCC decided to take a closer look at some of the shakeholes in the dry valley above the quarry.  The drainage of this region has already been proven by dye testing to feed into the OFD system.  To his surprise Brian Jopling found a hollow that gently breathed cold air.  Cold air hole was fairly intensively dug out over the Easter weekend and later in the week a little Mendip digging fever saw to the breakthrough into a small, fault-aligned passage carrying a sizeable stream, whose sound had previously urged the diggers on.

Upstream has not yet been forced to any conclusion - the size of the stream during the dry conditions prevalent in South Wales at the moment suggests considerable development upstream.  The results of dye tests (a week after Easter) will surely suggest a connection with Cwm Dwr.  On the downstream end.  Unfortunately the way on along the fault is blocked by the debris in the now 50 foot deep pothole that has been revealed by emptying out the shakehole.  The water appears to go round this obstruction in a very low bedding plane.  It is believed that the route onwards will be found by completely emptying the pothole of its glacial fill, and the way will continue via the fault.  Cwm Dwr Jama is some 250 feet lower (my guess) so there must be considerable vertical development downstream, hopefully not in an impenetrable narrow rift.

Whatever happens, it shows that OFD is not finished yet.  While on the subject, may I be bold enough to suggest that the new survey will prove OFD to be nearer 30 miles in length, and not just over 20 miles, as usually quoted.

Access Problems

Visiting the area around Y Gwal and The Hole by the Wall (Hutton Pot) just above Ystradfellte, recently I found that the top of the latter had been almost blocked with very large boulders of grit.  I spoke with the farmer about this and he confirmed that it was his doing, in order to prevent calves becoming stuck in the hole.  He was unwilling to have it re-opened and a fence erected around the site, as cavers rarely returned every so often to maintain and repair such fences. He pointed to the gaping hole of Y Gwal, which had been fenced around by Cardiff University (pseudonym for a more well known Speleo. Soc.?).  The fence was rusted and decrepit.  The farmer had erected a new fence around the old one, and reckoned he would have to replace this every couple of years.  What is the solution?

In Yorkshire at Easter we wanted to look at the Red Moss system. The owner at the farm noted in Northern Caves told us that he did not wish to be asked for permission (he had told CNCC this).  He understood that if he granted permission he could be more liable in the event of accident.  However, what we did on his land was our affair, he implied, so long as he knew nothing about it.


Star Mines, Shipham

These mines have been known by cavers for several years but no actual account of them has appeared before in the caving press as far as the Editor is aware and so Neil Watson's contribution must be regarded as a key article…

Two shafts on an area of gruffy ground opposite the Star Inn on the A38.  One close to a small wood of holly and blackthorn, the second out in a field reclaimed from mine waste.

The first shaft was found last year along with others located along a sunken track leading to Shipham village.  The second is marked by a large block though there is enough room alongside to sling a ladder.


5ft of ginging (safe) to a small slope blocked at 20ft by a mass of tin baths, bones and brushwood. Two levels head off at this point SE and NW.  SE slits into two branches, one leading into a small chamber.  The second is very tight and low, passes a second chamber to finish in a boulder filled shaft - opportunities for clearing good but awkward.

NW is shorter - 25ft. and terminates in a choke from surface.  The shaft itself continues a further 5ft. below this to a choke.


Ginged at top 3' - 4' probably unstable and hanging.  Initial 20ft is vertical with a level leading E.  The shaft continues a further 30ft on to a large boulder choke. An off cut from the foot of the shaft leads into a westerly trending level -roomy and ascends 20ft into a small chamber and a short step leads into a tighter section of level terminating in a choke.  A second level leads back to rejoin the shaft behind a wall of deads.  At the bottom of the 20ft section (vertical) of shaft the E trending level carries on over stacked deads and branches.  Left leads by way of another tube into a small chamber. Right, after a duck under a low roof carries on E and rises to a chocked shaft.