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By Tim Large

New members:

948       Axel Knutson Jnr., 21 Milford St., Southville, Bristol

Address changes

933       Di Beeching, 15 Waterloo Road, Shepton Mallet, Somerset.
Bob White, Cedar Hall, Henley Lane, Wookey,'Nr. Wells, Somerset.


At the recent annual, meeting improvements to the indemnity chit and permit system was agreed.  To overcome the constantly increasing files containing the application forms a revised form will be produced which incorporates the permit as well as a tear off slip.  In the case of temporary permits one of these will be completed at each application.  For club members the complete form will be completed once every 5 years.  In this way the files can be greatly reduced. From the issuing point of view we can be sure: that an application (indemnity? - Ed) has been signed. Whereas before we have often taken a persons word for it.


The UBSS have now informed us that the new bolting arrangements are complete.  They write, “We have now re-bolted the Ladder Dig with two new bolts with removable hangers.  The lowest of these is about two metres above floor level an the next is a reasonable distance up and to the left.  From the second the series of existing three eyebolts and chain can be reached.”

"The bolts are TROLL punch-bolts.  Take with you two hangers having 3/8"holes and an open ended spanner.” Eventually the club will provide these for members use.  More details when they are available.


Following the concern shown over the new tackle arrangements some modifications to the system have now been made.  The box in the Belfry which holds the tackle store key has had its lock changed.  In the past, the lock was the same as the Belfry door and so the Belfry key would fit this lock.  Now this has been changed and a security lock fitted.  The key for this is available to members on personal application to the committee.  It is intended particularly for those caving mid-week as the key can be obtained from any committee member at the weekends.  I would stress that by mid-week etc., it means on a regular basis. The number of keys being issued will be kept as small as possible, so if you are a once in a blue moon mid-week caver, it is doubtful that you will get a key.  Also if there are two or three members who normally cave together, then only one key will be issued under the names of the three, so that anyone of them could use it.  The cost of the key will be the cost of having a key cut.  Currently it is £1.00


An illustrated talk by Jack Culvert entitled….


The talk will last about an hour and a half, so there will be plenty of time for the pub.  Jack says that he has about 300 slides.  This should be a good evening.  REMEMBER 7.00pm at the BELFRY, 7th APRIL.

Cuthbert's Insurance

Some concern has been expressed by leaders and members regarding this topic.  The Committee have enforced the recommendation made by the 1976 AGM but when the matter was discussed again at the March Committee Meeting some points were raised which should be seriously considered.

  1. The Cuthbert's leader's are, now insured, but what about the ordinary member?  The 1976 AGM also recommended that they, too, should obtain suitable insurance cover (third party, at least) but no pressure has been placed them (you, the reader!) to do so.  The whole question of this insurance was sparked off by the Lamb Leer incident.  Although not tested in court, the parties were sufficiently worried to settle the matter, with a substantial payment; and this was an ordinary caving trip.

    Having gone to all this trouble in respect of Cuthbert's, it could be disastrous if a claim were made against a member on an ordinary caving trip, and that person was not insured.  Are we absolutely sure that in those circumstances there could be no claim against the club?  (NO. - Ed)
  2. The main reason for not including the person - person liability in the club insurance was the question of cost.  At present we pay about 60p a member, as opposed to about £4 if it were included.  At the present subscription rates this would mean if we went for the ‘gilt-edged’ policy, similar to what we had prior to 1976, the subscription rate would have to be increased to about £8.50 allowing for the necessary proportion for life members.  In this day and age is that too much to pay by comparison with other activities?  Another question for you.  Isn't one of the reasons for joining a club to obtain the benefit of access, information, equipment AND insurance?
  3. When Cuthbert's leaders take a tourist trip requested by the Caving Secretary what happens if one of the members of that party does something that injures the leader?  Should the club ensure that party members are suitably insured?

    It appears that the matter is very far from being clear and a meeting has been arranged primarily with the Cuthbert’s Leaders and the Club Committee on Sunday 20th May 1979 at 2.30pm in the Hunters.  All members interested are asked to attend.  This, meeting, obviously is only a fact finding gathering and though the Committee can take a certain course of action within Club policy it cannot take any major policy change without first going to the Club by an EGM or wait until the AGM.

(Ed. I must point out that though Tim’s the Club Secretary, this column does not represent the official view of the Club Committee and are Tim's own reports and thoughts on any Club matter).


Meeting Of The Cuthbert's Leaders And The Club Committee

To discuss the matter of insurance for Cuthbert leaders…………….

SUNDAY MAY 20th AT THE HUNTERS AT 2.30pm.  Any member, leader or not, is welcome to attend.

Letter To The Editor

Dear Sir,

I would like to draw to the attention of readers of the B. B. to a joint project by the Council of Southern Caving Clubs and Wells Museum.

It has long been thought by several people on Mendip that a permanent collection of caving equipment etc., relating to this area, should be gathered before they become dispersed and lost.

We are therefore planning two phases:

1)                    A large exhibition in the Museum Lecture room for about a month, opening for Easter this year.  This will include donations and short term loans of equipment.

2)                    A permanent display at the exhibition of those items donated on long term loan.

Would any readers who can assist, either with exhibits or information please contact Chris Bradshaw at Wells 74382 (evenings) or Mr. Cooke at Wells Museum during opening times.

Yours sincerely,
Chris. Bradshaw. Feb. 1979


Belfry Jobs

As everyone will know only too well, there is always work needing to be done at the Belfry and for those with a few minutes to spare, Mr. ‘N’ has produced the following list.  If every member gave up an hour of his time the task could be finished by the A.G.M.

  1. Septic Tank: - land drains to be laid out on top of stones and these in turn to be covered with a plastic sheet or poly bags.  The whole lot to be covered by earth.  Topsoil to be made and graded.
  2. Tackle Store: -

a)       Old Stone Belfry - rear wall to be made up to roof and sealed up.

b)       New steel frame/mesh door to be made up and fitted inside main entrance door.

c)       Store to be cleared and re-fitted.

  1. Men’s Bunkroom Fire Door: - To be repaired, sealed and new panic bar fitted.
  2. Night storage heaters in men’s bunkroom to be repaired and brought into use.
  3. Upper tier of Alpine Bunk to be repaired.
  4. Shelving to be fitted in Library – liaise with ‘Wig’
  5. Potholes in car park to be filled with rubble and re-graded.
  6. Formica strip or other suitable covering to be fitted to front of sink units.
  7. Stone wall around heart to be repaired.
  8. Door to men’s bunkroom to be fitted with door closing spring.
  9. Sound proofing to be fitted to interior wall of men’s bunkroom and main room.
  10. Shower and toilet area (including changing room).  Area to be improved as per Committee decisions (see Hut Engineer)
  11. Proper allocation and identification of lockers and cabinet in main room of Belfry.
  12. Carbide store – job complete.
  13. General tidying up of site.
  14. Manufacture of an A-Z wall cabinet to place members BB’s for collection.

The Odd Note

CG is still in the throes of house building are managing to get some work carried out in the oxbows in August hole.  Apparently the perched sump is now a ‘suspended duck’ giving free access to the far ends.

Willie Stanton is at long last revising the Swildon’s survey – probably due to Milch’s continual prodding!

            Refuelled after the Christmas ‘blow-out’ Graham Wilton-Jones and Tony Jarrett set off to tackle the longest cave system in Europe.        

Day 3 – Hölloch
Day 4 – Eiger, North Face.

An account by Graham Wilton-Jones

It’s J-Rat’s fault. He asked if I would go to the Hölloch. Then Milch explained that it was a Shepton trip and everything was arranged.  As it was only two Shepton members were going (Rich Kemplerer and the Block of Wood).  Additionally there were two Wessex (Pete M and Alison H) one Westminster (Jim Watson) two Liverpool University (Nigel Anderton and Max McDuff) and three Grampian (Ivan Young, Pete Dowswell and Dave Warren).  I went along to represent the BEC and prove that we get everywhere, while J-Rat represented and all of the other clubs you can think of!

Fore a mere £280 a minibus was hired and a multitude of forms and certificates filled in or collected to please the EEC bureaucracy.  On Boxing Day, Block and I drove the bus on a circular tour of southern Britain, from Winchester via Mendip and Aylesbury, to catch the Ramsgate-Calais hovercraft early on December 27th.  We even had a tachograph to play with, its little lights and dials telling us that if we’d been driving too long or too fast and us supposedly telling it where we were driving, eating, working or sleeping. Occasionally we were confused by this wonderful invention, or we confused it – if you were a tachometer what would you do with both drivers asleep and the wagon doing 110kph down a frog auto route?  We eventually arrived outside the Hölloch-grotte Gasthous in the small hours of the 28th.  The house being shut for the night, we slept in the van, in the snow, under piles of logs, in the wood shed, on the van roof, on the Gasthaus steps.  Around 5am (they haven’t heard of the British ‘lie-in’ in Switzerland) and the landlady discovered Block on the steps and gradually the rest of us stirred and crept into the comfort of the guest house and the mattresses on the floor that had been prepared for us.

The Hölloch is situated at the head of the Muotatal valley, near Schweitz (Schwyz) which is 27 miles south of Zurich. Its single entrance (the little hole 30 feet above is supposed to be walled up) leads to over 135km of galleries, making this the third longest known cave in the world.  It was the longest until Flint Ridge and Mammoth were connected, and now Optimachenka looks like taking this title.  (Sorry – Peschtschers Optimistitscheskaja!)  The Hölloch also has a very respectable depth/height making it one of the world’s deepest caves as well.  In spring, summer and autumn, when snow in the shafts above is melting, most of the cave is inaccessible for the first kilometre as the entrance passage drops down to the bottom of a deep phreatic loop; this sumps in the thaw or in wet weather.  At times water even comes flooding out of the entrance, nearly 100m above the winter water level.  In winter time the greatest danger is to become trapped between the aforementioned phreatic U-tube and a second one ten minutes further into the cave.

We were aroused for continental breakfast at 9am and then began the hassle to actually go down the cave. It seems the same as elsewhere in Europe – you arrange everything in minutest detail, preparing for every contingency and when you arrive ‘ees not posseeble’ (the weather too bad, the guide in drunk, they’ve heard of your club, no way can you go down.  And what a string of excuses we had this time: too many people in the cave already (35, though the NSS Euro-region Grotto newsletter, suggests that 300 to 400 cavers at one weekend in the cave is not unusual) bivouacs 1 and 2 full up; bivouac 3 no longer in existence (true) and a dangerous site anyway; the great deity, Prof. Bogli in residence at Bivouac 1 and not wanting to be disturbed (why not, we wonder?); the weather warming up and set for a thaw.  Finally we persuaded the landlady, Frau Suter, who controls the access to the cave, to let us go in as far as the Wasserdom and then return, which we did.

From the Gasthaus a walk over, the river and then on a path criss-crossing a small ravine and zigzagging up its sides takes you to the cave in a few minutes.  The gated entrance is at the head of the ravine.  The first kilometre of the system was once equipped as a show-cave and much of the roof is marred by the decaying remains of cable insulators.  In places the floor is of level concrete and there are many concrete steps on the main route and around some of the oxbows.  Rusting and rotten steel cum wooden steps, with the odd wire handline, lead eventually down to the Sandhalde and the bottom of the first phreatic loop. Up to this point much of the beauty of the cave, apart from some excellent potholes, has been obscured by the show cave fitments.  There are no formations worth speaking of anyway and it is not surprising that the show cave venture failed.

Many of the upward flowing phreatic slopes, like the Sandhalde (Sand Slope) are littered with debris, particularly gravel and pebbles.  On the other hand most of the downward flowing slopes are broken only by large scallops and sometimes single vadose runnels, very useful for climbing up. The passages in the next section are frequently wide, arch bedding planes as the loops zigzag within their narrow band of limestone.  Names like Zimmermanns Angst (Dread) and Bose Wand (Evil Wall) with its 114 rung steel fixed ladder, reflect the danger of delaying in this flood pone section.

Several ups and down and another fixed ladder later we reached the next danger point – the bottom of the second phreatic loop – at the Keller (Cellar).  Like most of the region of this cave it was nearly dry.  Climbing the Alligatorenschlucht we found the Aquarium dry, a healthy indicator.  Entering the Seengang (Lakes Passage) we at last began to climb away from the entrance passage.  A small steam chattered form the two lakes, Langensee ( Long Lake) and Drahtsee ( Wire Lake) and also from a cleft in the wall, dispelling all my preconceived ideas that the Hölloch is either flooded or totally inactive. Drahtsee had no wire but a ladder was perched horizontally across it, although it was possible to traverse round the water.  The passage continued steeply upward following a bedding plane and joint forming a typical diamond shaped cross section.  Still the passage remained a fairly homely size – no squeezes or constrictions, but no huge passage either.  Even when we entered the Riesen Saal (Giants Hall) there was no impression of hugeness, just a wide elliptical passage with ceiling at ceiling height type.  We met a large party of Swiss cavers (or were they skiers?) and one Australian who had come to ski in Switzerland, on the non-existent snow.  There is little doubt that, apart from the length, the cave could be graded VDC.  The Aussie spoke of a squeeze – we think he did not take off his pack.  Finally we arrived at Wasserdom, a high chamber where the water cascades out of the roof, forms a gravely pool on the floor and disappears down a low cleft.

The Hölloch is formed, basically, in the lowest of three bands of tilted limestone, each band being interspersed with impervious layers of rock.  At a very few points an independent vadose system within the middle limestone band has broken through into the lower phreatic system.  Here at Wasserdom is one of these points.  The top layer of limestone is the surface lapiaz, in which there are many shafts, including one which could provide access to the middle layer vadose system via a wet, loose boulder choke.

From the Wasserdom we slithered and slipped our way back to the entrance.  The cave is noted for its slippery smooth rock – Hölloch is alleged not to mean Hell Hole as some suppose but Slippery Hole.  Four and a half hours after entering the cave we were changing in the warmth and comfort of the Gasthaus.  Not many caving huts can boast a bar and restaurant among their facilities. Wiener schnitzel and beer to round off the day became a catching habit.

The following day it still did not look as if we were going to manage a long trip and bivouac in the cave. The weather being reasonable, a small group of us set out to scale the cliffs behind the Gasthaus, while the remainder went down to the sumps of the resurgence series, accessible from just inside the entrance to the Hölloch.  First of all, by mistake, they travelled round into the next valley to the narrow slot of a resurgence which has no accessible passages.  We ran into bother too.  The cliff, about 1,000m high, proved to be covered in nasty slippery grass, loose boulders and rotting tree stumps, and we only made it about halfway up. Besides, there was no beer at the top.

Day three found us all in the Hölloch again.  This time route finding was no problem and we were 2km into the system in about one third of the time.  There was now more water in the cave – a stream flowed into the now full Aquarium and the reason for the ladder over the Drahtsee was abundantly clear.  Just short of the Wasserdom we turned into the Domgang.  This passage is more the size one would expect of a cave such as this.  Domgang can be compared with Aggy Daren Cilau for size (the 1,000ft crawl? Ed.).  At Glitzertor (Glittering Gate) were the passage is coated with Aggy like encrustations of selinite, four Swiss were in bivouac, undertaking the exploration of a new access point into the upper series.  One of them showed us the route, via Hexenkessel (Witch’s Cauldron) and Regenhalle (Rain Hall) to the Himmelgang (Heaven’s Way) where we lifelined Alison up an awkward little climb beside an exposed shaft – Todesschlund (Death Hole). The Himmelgang was of normal size, three metres high and wide.  In a smaller passage, just off one corner, we found the Ruebli (Carrot) one of the Hölloch’s few formations, a 30-40cm long translucent orange stal.  Just around the corner of this beautiful, if lonely stal, was a pile of festering filth – carbide, poly sacks, tin cans, old batteries, etc.  There was a similar dump in the Riesen Saal.  So many of the continentals do not seem to care about their caves in this respect. In search of the Galerie des 1001 Nuits we became confused in a maze of, believe it or not, crawls, so we headed out. We had promised Frau Suter that we would be no more than six hours, and so we were.

Day four – New Year’s Eve – was warm and blue.  Though the dreaded Fohn was not blowing from the south, a high pressure pocket had developed just over the Muotatal and this was holding off the European snows, so they told us.  Several of us decided on a tourist visit to the Eiger while Jim and the Grampian hard men prepared to wade through the lakes and bivouac in the cave regardless. In the Hölloch the waters flowed even more strongly and the happy campers were repulsed.  Other bivouacees were seen making rapid exit from the cave, many having made extra long detours to avoid the flood waters that were now creating sumps in various sections of the cave.  Meanwhile, at the Eiger, three of us managed to reach the Nordwand station, braving blizzards and spindrift to do so.  Others walked to various heights on the approach walk to the face according to their whims.  Using low, devious cunning I avoided much of the blizzard by walking through the railway tunnels but none of the drivers would offer me a lift.  J-Rat, using even lower cunning, kipped in the van all day!

Then came New Year’s Day proper.  Before too much alcohol had been consumed we decided to head for home the following, travelling via the odd show caves to make up for what we had missed in the Hölloch. We brought in battery and cassette player from the minibus and saw the New Year in to the wail of pipes. Actually we did this twice – once for New Year local time and an hour later for New Year White Man’s time. Frau Suter presented us each with a bottle of Neujahr wine, while J-rat shared round the whiskey and tried the Highland Fling.  Someone loaded the alcoholic, somnolent Rich with half full glasses and bottles, then disturbed his humour with a nudge, much to the delight of the landlord and the company.

The sore heads of New Year’s Day found it difficult to grasp that it was snowing hard and Dave was trying to drum up enthusiasm for a three day trip in the Hölloch.  However, eventually the Grampian contingent plus J-rat, Jim and I headed in towards bivouac 2 with packs and three days supplies. We began to realise that the Swiss spared no expense or energy in equipping the cave for the season’s explorations.  Just short of the Riesen Saal we took a short cut to reach the Styx and found a handline of best Bluewater.  Down a short muddy slope to the Styxsee and there was a fibreglass dory, which must have taken ages to man-handle there.  We pulled ourselves individually across the lake, waded round and through several muddy hollows and then began the long struggle up the Innominata. The series of several long handlines is virtually essential on these steep, mud covered phreatic tubes.  Two and a half hours from the entrance we arrived at bivouac 1, which we studied with awe.  We had to move on though, now through the wide, elliptical Titanengang, until this petered out close to the Seilgang (Ropeway).  Here the passage meets with one of the few faults encountered in the cave and drops down with unusual steepness via rope and fixed (by faith) ladder, to the second fibreglass dory, this on the Burkhaltersee. Soon after, at 6.30, after a 5¼ hour trip, we reached bivouac 2.  Just around the corner was 2a, and next to that the newly built extravagance of 2b.

On our first two visits to the Hölloch there had been a reasonable draught.  On this occasion there was a howling gale, making a noise like raging floodwaters at one constriction, and more powerful than anything I have seen emitting from the EDF Tunnel of the Pierre.  The bivouacs are in corners and hollows of the main passage and have been protected somewhat from the wind by the creation of large polythene sheet shelters.  The floor has been levelled using sand carried form other parts of the cave, and there are foam mattresses permanently in position in sleeping quarters.  Permanent water supply is laid on via polythene pipe form the upper reaches of the system.  Steel and wood tables, vinyl covered, are concreted into the floor with foam and steel covered seats.  Cutlery, stoves, pots and pans, racks, bowls, buckets etc., are all brand new - £100’s worth. We settled down to our dehydrated goo, mouth watering as we watched the Swiss residents consume salad, ravioli, spaghetti and so on.  After a cool (6°) game of cards we retired.

In the late morning, as we lazily breakfasted, the Liverpool contingent arrived.  They had come in and stayed at Bivi 1 overnight.  While they settled down to a second breakfast we moved off along the SAC gang.  The memory is of wide, elliptical passages and very little else.  There was a fair amount of breakdown as we reached Bivi 3, which seem to comprise a pile of slabs, a poly sank and a rusty tin can! Not even a level spot in sight! We were then very glad that Frau Suter had dissuaded us from staying there with the words ‘there is nothing there and it is too dangerous.’  Apparently it was erected one winter and there was no sign of it the next.  They tried once more but once again the summer flooding destroyed it, so they gave up.  As we descended through the dark brown, worm infested mud towards the lower sections of the cave once more, the carbides began to run low on water.  This is one of the hazards of the place, but we were lucky to find a pool at the Schuttdom.  Climbing the Faule Wand (Rotten Wall) by its equally rotten ladder and then an electron ladder we dropped down to the Dreiecksee ( Triangle Lake).  Two days earlier this had been sumped but now we were able to walk around one side with ease. On we tramped, along the scalloped rock or solid mud floor passage, where the general brown-ness effectively soaked up the glow of our mega-carbides.  At Minster wall a handline strung directly from an insecure and bendy piton did not inspire confidence.  The wall was free-climbable anyway.  Finally we arrived at the clear, pebble floored pool that is the SAC siphon. One does not dive through Hölloch sumps. Two hours of extra caving could have taken us to the other side but we decided to head back towards Bivi 2.

Just above the Schuttdom we left the SAC gang for a low tube where we actually had to drop down onto hands and knees.  This was to cut out a large loop of the SAC gang and big Jim really lapped it up, soon learning that Zwerhstollen had something to do with a dwarf.  A cold, clear pool, almost invisible, smooth, white rock, stretched right across the passage and some distance along it. Everyone now got wet feet and blamed me for leading them that way.  We climbed up through the mud banks of the Lehmtal (Clay Passage and back to the Doline in the SAC gang.  It was decided to try and return to the bivouac via the Lehmschollengang ( Clay Way) but, unlike other part of the cave, the pitches in this were not tackled. However the passage is adorned with fascinating forms, all man made, carved out of the fine clay deposits. Even A. Bogli has a sculpture there, above all the rest.  Naturally we left our own, in our own inimitable way.  Returning to Bivi 2 we met up with Block, Pete and Alison who had entered the cave that morning, when it was still snowing.

On the 3rd day we all headed out, enjoying a most exhilarating slide down the Innominata. Water levels were low everywhere. Two and three quarter hours later we blinked at the snow and the sunshine from among the long icicles of the entrance, after just over, 48 hours underground.  The next night we were struggling through the artic wastes of France with only dim memories of our rapid passage through the damp and draughty tubes of underground Switzerland.


Ed. note: For those wishing to see a survey of the Hölloch should refer to the W.S.G. Bulletin


8 Year Olds View of Caving

For a change from the regular Belfry Bulletin scribe here's a report of a caving trip by Stu Lindsey's eight year old lad David.

In December I went to the Belfry, and it was cold outside.  On Saturday dad took me caving down Swildons Hole.  We went over the top of Jacobs Ladder and comes out at the wet and the dry way.  After then it was a pretty part of the cave.  We came out at the wet way.

In the afternoon mum cooked the diner, and while my dad painted the doors.  I helped run around the table making Belfry Bulletins.  We went to the pub at night I slept in the car and drunk lemonade.  I slept in the little room.  In the afternoon John Dukes and Sue took me down Manor farm Swallet.  First we went down a 58ft ladder climb, and then some passages, and down a 20ft climb, and then we seed a curtain, and down another climb. I slipped so John lowered me down. Then through Albert’s eye, up through a passage to a beautiful bit.  Then we went up through a hole in the seeling into NHASA gallery.  It was hard climbing out.  I think my stay at the Belfry was mint, and I am going to come again.


That was Davis first visit to the Belfry and by the sound of it, it won’t be his last – perhaps Stu is thinking of making an advance application for Dave’s membership to the club.


New Year, Caving, The Dales

While other members of the BEC were spending their New Year Celebrations in Switzerland and the other Belfry regulars spending their time in the Hunters, Stu Lindsay was wallowing in the underground waters of the Easegill system…   

We, my wife Susan and I arrived at the Helwith Bridge Hotel 2 pints to closing time on Wednesday night. The drive up the M5/6 being a rather hectic though exhilarating experience in the adverse weather conditions. My battered 101 in its three and a half hour jaunt negotiated the perils of gale force winds, torrential rain and zero visibility when overtaking convoys of monstrous, mist spreading, juggernauts.

Thursday, the 28th, greeted us with howling winds, more rain, sheets of it pulsing the Ribble to a raging torrent of foaming, peat stained, water 5ft over its norm!  Yet 72 hours later this destructive force was relegated to a small, gentile stream, gurgling effortlessly amidst a million snow capped rocks…alas! to day was caving day, UGH, the prospects of attaining one or more of the goals in Easegill (together with Lancaster, Pippikin and Link Pot is reputed to be Britain's longest cave system) looked decidedly bleak. Indeed with water everywhere, a diversion via Ingleton due to a flooded road, made me wonder if we would even get there!

Setting off from Bull Pot Farm an hour later, twelve one time keen, eager souls were being slowly whittled away by the sudden drop in temperature.  The rain became noticeably heavier, driven relentlessly by the increasing wind, stinging……chilling…..BBBrrr.  It was crossing the top of the Fell that it really hit us with a vengeance, the open moor offering no respite from a million stings a minute, snowflakes, gentle snowflakes, frozen into needle sharp missiles, projected by force 9 winds, yes, these violent, poundings in my left ear were being caused by frozen snow…..Painfully, eyes squinting and teeth chattering we covered the final half mile to find the Beck a 2ft deep and 12ft wide torrent……yeh!

Entry into County Pot was swift, its warmth beckoning like a magnet to the shivering multitude waiting to descend.  Progress to Straw Chamber (does he mean Easter Grotto? Ed) was slow but sure, the novices doing quite well.  The water level in the Main Drain was quite high, although after visiting S.C. the level had receded about 3 inches.  Straw Chamber proved to be a large, mud/sand covered bouldery ‘passage’ with a bedding plane roof liberally covered with straws to 2ft in length, best viewed form the far end.  Small bedding plane grottos decorate the higher parts of the chamber sides, whilst behind the ‘view gallery’ a breakdown passage reveals numerous sections of false calcited floor (yes he does – Ed.).  A visit to trident Passage in full spate proved fun but the water was very cold. The oxbow passage yielding some superb formations, equal to some of the better known stals in the system.  The rest of the trip proved uneventful, although the water from Spout Hall outwards was conspicuous by its absence, the first pitch being almost dry.  The desperate weather conditions on the surface became increasingly more apparent as the ascent of the entrance shaft was made, now the moor, ice covered and darkness provided another hazard, ‘Peat Pits’ knee deep hiding in the dark, in the freezing wind, the cold………..hot stew………the pub…….warm fire…….a few pints. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz a day to remember.

SELL GILL - With the Bar Pot trip being cancelled due to weather problems, the 29th was taken up with a dinner time session and a walk to liven up the system for a renewed attack on the evening guzzling record.

So to the snow covered 30th, when four of our intrepid little band set off intent on doing Sell Gill. In normal friendly conditions one can imagine how pleasant the walk up from Holm Farm must be.  But on the day my fortune took me up to savour its delights; the snow had drifted, drifted and drifted….thus making the simple walk really hard graft.  Yet for the second time in two days I was caught with my wet suit exposed….the delights of being battered, frozen and fatigued crossing Casterton fell had taught me nothing!  A cagoule protects those parts other wets suits do not….YOH!  The perils of caving – the blizzard swept the fells in sub-zero, howling winds are manifold, so be prepared and do not underestimate the weather.

Eventually we reached the Pennine way track – so I was told as it lay under a couple of feet of snow. Huddled behind a wall enjoying a brief respite form the wintry ‘breeze’ the harsh realisation suddenly dawned, we were light on tackle.  One of us was guilty of forgetting a couple of ladders, so Neil R…peeled off his tackle and bolted off down the hill like a spring lamb, diving into large snowdrifts en-route, he soon disappeared from sight.  Progress to the hole was achieved regretfully demolishing a number of fine snow formations, the wind having moulded the drifts into arêtes and cornices.

Rigging the First Pitch proved to be very hazardous indeed, Alan T., at one time appeared to be standing on a snow bridge, it was in fact the ‘bar belay.’  The ladder rigging was completed as Neil came bounding over the rise with the missing ladders and a rosy glow to his cheeks!  In contrast, the lifelining job I had undertaken was becoming desperately uncomfortable, the cold wind blowing down the beck cutting into my neck like a razor sharp knife, the rigid, ice covered rope proving more and more difficult to manipulate – it stuck to everything including my gloves! Once inside the entrance, the warmth of the cave soon had us tackling the second and third pitches.  Pitch 2, an easy 12m, is mostly a gentle free hang, the first bit against a well broken wall, the third pitch follows straight away, the 14m broken by a steep cleft at the top while the remainder of the climb being a superb lightly fluted shaft.  The floor of the chambers below the pitches are of the cobbly type so beware when ascent/descents are being made!  Left, down cave, a roaring 23m waterfall is encountered; this enters the big shaft about half way down and marks the start of the main chamber.

Huge, mud choked blocks litter the floor of this 40 x 40 x 30m (est.) chamber.  The stream follows the left wall down into a walking side passage that gradually reduces in size to force the caver to a series of wet crawls under stalagmite bridges and ends at a sump – very promising – oh! for a Mendip dam and…. Not much exploration was carried in other parts of the cave due to obstinate failure of a Mendipian’s ‘magic eye’ when photographing the Main Chamber.  Nine times the slaves on two guns failed…oops.  So it came to pass, an hour later, poor Mike B. was chipped from his perch by the waterfall, and thawed out under a handy carbide.  A rapid exit of the cave was then accomplished, the undaunted photographer trying to salvage his pride and previous efforts, by snapping some candid action shots on the pitches.

At the First Pitch it was found that more snow had been blown in, the top half of the ladder was frozen into the ice around the top of the entrance making the last four or five feet extremely tricky.  The final climb up onto the dark, cold, snow swept moor, in the face of an icy wind, on an iced up electron ladder (sticky with a dry ice effect) was quite enthralling. To me both trips were great fun never having experienced such extreme conditions before.  The walk back was far from an anti-climax, the snow drifts now deeper and more spectacular in the mellow glow of our cap lamps acted as ramps to propel powder dry snow particles, at bullet speeds, into our cold stinging faces.  The final coup de goop was not the frolics of the ten foot drifts but the task of trying to pack ‘sticky’, stiff tackle into the car! Have you even seen the old comedy sketch trying to get rid of toffee paper?

Unfortunately the next few days were enforced non-caving day, the weather began to get bad, the wind was dropping and the snow storms becoming more intense, but shorter, interspersed with clear blue skies and sunshine.  Yes, the sun does shine on the dales (in 4 days throughout 1978 I saw sunshine about 5 times!)

After the New Year’s Eve festivities, black pudding and polony with your ale in the pub and savoury baked taties at the party afterwards it was with long faces, that a number of sleepiness bodies out into the crisp dawn air to start the flaming car! Thirty minutes of wasted sleep time was spent in trying to open the rear engine compartment of the offending VW. THE BATTERY is located UNDER THE BACK SEAT!!!  And so it was, we were all ready two hours later when it snowed, but this was soft snow, soft, white un-driven snow, fluttering ceaselessly and silently earthwards.  Some three inches fell in under an hour.  It was still falling when the convoy left the ‘Bridge’ after a record breaking clean and pack fiasco, destination Leeds.  And so, the last of my first (last?) visit was spent in the hospitable comfort of Mike Gisby’s residence.

That night we celebrated our close escape with a few pints of Darleys Ale at the ‘The Rook’, the YSS local boozer.  The snow had stopped, it was freezing and time was, we should be heading home……south, the centre of the universe.


St Cuthberts Trip

The following account of a wet trip into St. Cuthbert's only to find that the entrance rift was impassable is given by Martin Grass….          

At approximately 0200 hours on Saturday, Feb. 3rd, Jim Watson and I entered St. Cuthbert's for a night time trip, the weather was freezing and Mendip was blanketed in snow. Although the stream was cold it was not particularly high for winter conditions.  The party exited at about 0700 hours, just as the sun was rising.

At 1000 hours a walk to the entrance showed the water rising rapidly as the sun was quickly melting the snow and by 1200 hours the depression was completely flooded with a pool about 60 feet across in the bottom of it.  The dams were out and completely submerged.  I laddered the entrance rift and tried to descend but could get no more than three rungs down the ladder before I started swallowing large amounts of water as it was not only going down the rift but shooting horizontally across it.  Water was even entering at the base of the entrance pipe.  Graham put the dams in to see if the water would subside and although submerged, a considerable difference was made to the rift, in fact enough to get a party who were down if the need had arisen.  By 1700 hours the pond had disappeared and the swollen stream was following its normal course.  It was interesting to note that a visit to Swildons on the same day showed the water was only slightly higher than the normal winter level.

Editors note; This is the first time for several years that a report of the cave being in spate has been recorded.  The last I know was in January 1974.  The rift is passable by experienced cavers under these conditions.  Breathing is difficult but the entrance series to Mud Hall is worth seeing under these conditions.   The water entering at the foot of the entrance pipes sweeps across the passage from the pipe and forms about a 6"-8" deep stream along the entrance passage.  The top of the entrance rift is swilling in water and about 6 feet down from the top of the rift, a large jet of water streaks across the rift from a stal hole in the wall.   The waterfall in Arête is large by any standard and the Ledge Pitch stream sweeps across the rift hitting the far wall.  The Wire Rift steps are not visible as the water forms a white foaming streak down the passage, so loud that you can’t hear anything else.


Cavers Bookshelf No.1


Edited by Ivan Young

Published by Grampian Speleological Group.  Special Publication Number 1 (Oct.’78).  Price 50p + p&p from G.S.G., 8 Scone Gardens, Edinburgh, EH8 7DQ.  30pp. A5 saddle stitched.  Printed by off-set.  5 area maps and 9 surveys (un-graded).

Appin peninsular lies west of Glen Coe.  Many of the caves having been opened by the G.S.G. in the last couple of years – though they were not the first to explore in the area.  Though not many of the caves exceed 1,000ft they are said to be able even the most demanding caver some good sport.  This concise booklet gives a brief description of each cave together with surveys of the larger and more important systems.  Each cave is located by an eight figure grid reference and is graded numerically, similar to the northern cave guides.  One occasionally jolts at the use of Americanisms, for example Speleothems.

Apart from my old platform where the surveys are un-graded, though they look well drawn though a little cluttered making the detail difficult to read clearly, the main criticism must be at the size of type.  Six point is too small to read comfortably and would have appeared much better had the type been 8 point, this would not have increased the area of printed matter much and it could have been easily accommodated in the same number of pages. Still, one should not moan too much when the booklet only costs 50p.


Wigmore Swallet

recent digging and breakthroughs.

Again this month we have another episode in the fight to extend the latest B.E.C. discovery

by Tony Jarrett

Since the breakthrough of 28th December 1977 (B.B. No.359) most of the work at the site has been in the nature of solidly shoring the entrance shaft by means of stone and mortar walls, and of constructing a secure concrete capping for safety reasons (see Stu Lindsay’s article in B.B. No.368).  The wisdom of this move has been amply demonstrated by Lord Waldegrave’s delighted thanks to the team and his offer of any other digging sites on his estates.  Thus, as a public relations exercise this has been more successful than we had hoped and it is essential that all visits and further digs in this area are continued in the same tradition.  Incidentally, anyone wishing to visit Esker Hill and Buddles Wood mining areas should arrange permission first via the Estate Office at Chewton Mendip.  A refusal is now doubtful, allowing for the shooting season.

Once the engineering section had been completed their noble edifice it was suddenly and sadly realised that we may had to go back underground!  During the early part of the year various visits had been made to the end, including ‘Wig’, Graham W-J and Martin Grass's surveying trip and odd digging visits by Ross White, Claire Williams, Chris Batsone, Trev Hughes and others.  These investigations had shown that water sinking at the far end of the terminal chamber could be heard flowing under the boulder floor in the far left hand corner. Partial removal of these boulders had been attempted but it was suggested that any further work would require a good dollop of ‘Irish marzipan.’

On 14th October the writer went for a recce dig at this spot, accompanied by Chris Batstone, Chris Smart and John Turner.  A vast quantity of mud and rocks was removed leaving a low black hole with a view into open passage and a sofa sized rock precarious balanced above said hole.  A good draught could be felt (a peculiar thing about this dig is strangely that the normally ‘four letter word’ men, burst forth with amazingly long and intellectual words rarely heard before!

The following morning, accompanied by Alan Thomas, I went back to the offending boulder, which was duly demolished and an afternoon’s work by Simon ‘Woody’ Woodman.  Steve Plumley (the Apprentices) Chris Smart and myself enabled the debris cleared and a better look at the way on obtained. Unfortunately three more boulders just prevented access, though some ten feet of clean washed bedding could be seen.

On the 17th, the writer directed Wessex member, Rob Harper, from an Aggy trip and soon cleared more gravel from a bang arranged by Al Mills (also Wessex) during that morning.  We soon squeezed into the inviting hole to gain some 30ft of low, rock strewn bedding crawl, identical to Christmas crawl further back in the cave.  A collapsing roof bedding at the end prevented further progress and was a textbook illustration of passage formation by breakdown along small joints.  Some clearing of this new crawl was started to enable more ‘portly’ (i.e. blood fat) diggers to reach the working face.  The crawl was christened ‘Pinks and Posies’ as that was what the vocal duo were murdering at the time.

More clearing trips on 20th – 22nd drastically altered the height of the passage and amount of hairy roof and wall at the end.  Diggers and sledge haulers were Stu Lindsey, Chris B., Trev, Tim Large, Kevin, Lorraine and the writer.  Some eight feet of collapse were cleared and the low bedding plane continuing to draught strongly.

On the 28th November, Trev Hughes, ‘Tuska’ Morrison (WCC) Rich Maskell (hijacked matelot) and the writer cleared a further four feet of collapse to reveal an open section of tunnel. This was entered by the two B.E.C. men two days later after gardening the roof and walls.  The crawl here is low but wide and after some twelve feet is obstructed by a large slab.  Work continues-

WIGMORE - The formation of the cave.

The writer has a theory on the formation of this small but interesting cave which he would only be delighted to have further informed opinions on.

He suggests the initial development began with the local drainage following a weakness in the mineral vein down which the entrance shaft was excavated.  This relatively major joint continues below the vein to the head of Christmas Crawl, being intersected in hesitation Chamber by several cross rifts, forming minor inlets from further along the vein.

Reaching the softer marl (?) bed of the crawl, the drainage gradually eroded this material, following the dip of this bed.  Initially the passage was very low, though fairly wide in places.  Weakening of the roof caused collapse into the passage as is at present happening in places.

A junction of small oxbows and inlet in the Santa’s Grotto area created a much wider section, considerably enlarged by roof collapse to create a fairly roomy chamber.  The combined drainage leaving this area once again is concentrated in a single conduit and the collapse in Pinks and Posies may be due to a continuation of the entrance joint again reaching the crawl.

It is suggested that the cave will continue its gentle dip along the bedding being still a low passage until it meets the limestone junction and then…who knows?

WIGMORE – notes on the survey

by ‘Wig’

The survey was carried out on a single trip during April 19768 and the field notes gathered by Martin Grass, Dave Irwin and Graham Wilton-Jones using Suunto compass and clinometer and a 50ft fibron tape.  Both the clinometer and compass were calibrated to conform with the BCRA Grade 5 requirements.

Due to the constricted nature of the lower passage (Christmas Crawl) the bearings were always forward through leap-frogging was carried out from the top of the climbs to the entrance shaft.

The extension from the chamber (Santa’s Grotto) was surveyed by Tony Jarrett et al (Pinks and Posies) soon after it was opened up.  The original is drawn at 1/120 and prints will be available through the Mendip Survey Scheme.

Total length 237ft; depth 78ft; BCRA grade 5c-d


B.E.C. Caving Reports

some of the 21 issues that are in stock at the Belfry or at ‘Wig’s’ at Townsend Cottage..

Caving Reports have not appeared regularly since about 1972 although there has been plenty to publish - mainly parts of the Cuthbert's Report.  Though we had access to two printing machines people are not apparently prepared to prepare the plates or stencils for printing the mass of material in the stock pile.  The last part of the Cuthbert's Report to appear was the Rabbit Warren Extension (Part H) in 1972.  Parts on the stocks include Cerberus Series, Maypole Series September Series and the complicated Long Chamber Series.   The New and old Routes and Rocky Boulder series surveys are complete and await the hands of the printers.  This leaves the Main Chambers and the overall plan and elevations.  The plan is virtually complete - a copy can be seen at the Belfry and the elevation is currently undergoing its fifth redraw in an atternpt to produce a clear and uncluttered appearance.

The reports that are available-are:

Report No. 14

Balague 1970 by Roy Bennett.  This reports the club trip to a little known area in the Pyrenees together with surveys of the discoveries made.  One of the feats of this expedition was the descent of the Coume Ferrat - a 680ft deep shaft which had previously descended by the French using a winch.  The intrepid BEC group decided that they would go by ladder - just to chuck some water tracing material into the stream at the bottom.  However, that was the plan, the stuff didn't turn up so they went down because it was there.  Anyway down they went and found some new passage.  A good read.  11pp plus 4 pages of surveys Price 30p.

Report No.3A

The manufacture of Lightweight Caving Equipment by Bryan Ellis (1962). Though ladder manufacture has progressed to the use of epoxy resins and other forms of swaging or crimping the rungs to the wire the method employed in this booklet’s still the most popular form of ladder construction.  23pp illustrated.  Price 30p.

Report No. 15

Roman Mine by Jill Tuck.  This unique mine discovered by the Tucks in the mid-sixties is a superb example of a Roman excavated lead mine just north west of Newport in South Wales.  The report explains the areas where very gold miner’s remains were discovered.   Illustrated with many illustrations and photographs including that of the 6th century bone comb which is now at the Welsh National Museum at Cardiff. A must for those interested in the South Wales area or in mines generally.  Price 60p.  50pp plus photos and survey.

Report No. 13

Part F St. Cuthbert's description of Gour Hall area photos, survey
Part E similar to Part F of the complicated Rabbit Warren
Part H similar to Part F of the complicated Rabbit Warren Extension
Part A Discovery and Exploration currently under revision.

Report No. 17

Burrington Cave Atlas by Chris Howell, Dave Irwin and Doug Stuckey was one of our fastest selling publications (just under 500 in under one year!)  The Atlas has just been revised by ‘Wig’ and is only awaiting the survey of Lionel's Hole.  If all goes to plan (!) the revised edition should appear (A5 size) about June this year.

Report No. 16

Mendip's Vanishing Grottoes is a unique collection of photographs of the now destroyed Balch Cave in Fairy Cave quarry together with a collection of photographs of Shatter Cave.  3 COPIES LEFT.  £1 each


Dates for your diary:

March 11th: Lancaster/Easegill; April 29th: King Pot and May 5th: Disappointment Pot & Far Country.

These trips are being arranged by Dave Metcalfe and his Northern Speleos, who offer a cordial invitation to any BEC member who wants to join than to just turn up for times and further details phone Dave at Blackpool 65985.

March 10th: BCRA One day symposium on Limestones & Caves of South Wales.  Fee for day £1.00 includes morning coffee and afternoon tea.

March 17-18th: Peak Cavern and Wynnat's Head Cave. Staying at Pegasus Hut.

March 23 M.R.O. Annual General Meeting, 8pm at the Hunters.

Easter Weekend: Yorkshire - staying at the Bradford.  Details later.

NEW RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED BY SWISS CAVERS - cavers intending to visit Switzerland to carry out original exploration work should contact:

Societe Suisse de Speleologie,
Bernard Dudan, President Central, Les Chapons 2, CH-2022 Bevaix, Suisse.

For full details see Vol. 72 British Caver (Spring 1979) in Club Library.

Copy of 1978 Current Titles in Speleology now in Club Library.

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.

Next month in the B.B.

Horrington Hill Mine (Tim’s Retreat) and survey.  An important discovery of a 1829 Caving letter.



Dates For Your Diary

April 28th – 1st May

April 29th

April 30th

May 1st

Bank Holiday

O.F.D. 2 – numbers limited – contact ‘Zot’

Otter Hole. – time dependant upon tides - contact Tim Large.

Agen Allwedd – Summertime Series and Southern Stream round Trip.  Contact Tim Large

Tim writes:  Some of us propose to camp or stay at the hut. If the weather is fine I shall certainly camp on the tram road near Aggie on Sunday night.  Will try to book the hut if anyone is interested.

May 12th

May 14th

May 27-28th

May 29th


June 10th


June 17th

Dalimore’s  (Friday niters trip) 7.30 pm

Yorkshire – White Scar

Yorkshire – GG (Bradford winch meet)

Yorkshire – Gingling Hole

Contact Martin Grass for details of Yorkshire meets – tele:  HODDESDON 66966

Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Organised by Phil Hendy (WCC). Details next month.

B.E.C. Mid-Summer BUFFET – see page below for details.

Midsummer Buffet

arranged for Saturday 1st June 1978 at Hunters Lodge Inn at 8.00 p.m.

Members and close friends only.      Limited tickets £2.00 each

Tickets available from Tim Large, 72 Lower Whitelands, Radstock, Avon

MONEY WITH ORDER PLEASE.     Make a note in your diary NOW!!


Caves & Caving In South Africa


Roughly half the size of Europe, the republic of South Africa consists of a narrow coastal plain and an inland plateau, the highveldt, of average elevation of 1,000m in the Drakensburg Mountains in the east.  Latitude for latitude the climate tends to be cooler than that of the northern hemisphere and frosts may occur at anytime throughout the year on the highveldt.

Since most of the country's more important caves are formed in dolomite, only two of the four provinces provide any real speleological interest: the Transvaal in the north, and Cape Province in the south and west.

Cape Province has the largest single stretch of dolomite, a roughly triangular area encompassing Vryburg, Griquatown, and a point some 150 km north of Kuruman.  But much of this area is covered with the Kalahari sands so few caves have been recorded.  The southern part of the province is much better documented, the main caving areas being around Oudtshoorn (480 km east of Cape Town) and in and around Cape Town itself.

Oudtshoorn, the capital of the Little Karoo region, is a pleasant, prosperous, tree lined town and the centre of South Africa's ostrich-farming industry.  A few kilometres to the north the wildly contorted Swartberg Mountains rise to more than 2,000 m and mark the divide between the Little Karoo and the more arid Great Karoo.  It is in this range that the province’s longest caves are found including the world famous Cango Showcaves.  Several caves in this area exceed 700m in length and ladder pitches between 20m and 40m are fairly common: the Fonteingrot/Skeleton Cave system comprises over 4,000m of passage including a gruelling muddy river crawl.

Generally, landowners and cavers enjoy a friendly relationship.  I guess both secretly hope to discover a system as extensive and commercially viable as the Cango Caves which currently attract some 150,000 visitors a year.  One day when I was cave-hunting near Oudtshoorn a local cattle farmer suggested that I help him with his dig instead.  I was horrified.  I wanted a caving holiday not a digging one.  Luckily my fears were unfounded: “going digging” turned out to mean sending some black employees below ground to do the graft while the farmer and I supervised from the surface, he sometimes hauling out a token sack of rubble while I photographed our efforts for posterity.

After about three hours we'd all had enough.  So the digging team was dismissed and the farmer and I descended Waenskloof Cave whose showpiece is a chamber neatly decorated with butter-coloured stal reached by a 10m ladder descent.  Due to the dense covering of bush, this cave remained undiscovered until the late fifties although its entrance had always been open.  Local people are convinced that caves are still hidden by the bush.

Prospects for new discoveries around Cape Town on the other hand are slim.  The Mountain Club of South Africa has been recording caves here since the turn of the century.  And in 1954 a group of enthusiasts who had been caving regularly since the end of World War II formally organised themselves into a club.  The following year they merged with a Transvaal based caving group and the South African Speleological Association (SASA) was born, though two sections retained their autonomy.  A few years later however, personality differences in the Transvaal section led to the formation of a breakaway group, the Cave Research Organisation of South Africa (CROSA). There are still only three caving clubs in South Africa and the current total caving population is unlikely to be larger than 200.

One of the first areas to receive SASA's attention was Table Mountain which rises to over 1,000 m above Cape Town.  Being so near such a large centre of population, sit rugged plateau had for years been the popular haunt of innumerable climbers, walkers and general day-trippers.  It has been claimed that the world's largest sandstone caverns are found here but I have not checked the accuracy of this.  Vertical development is generally stronger than horizontal and in the rocks overlooking Orange Kloof on the southern side of the mountain a depth of 50, is reached in Climber's Cave.

Further south Cape Town's suburbs stretch out along the eastern shore of Cape Peninsular.  On the bare and scrubby hills overlooking Muizenburg, St. James and Kalk Bay are dozens of small caves several of which are worth the attention of any passing speleo.  Like Table Mountain this area attracts hoards of day trippers. Caves used to figure largely in local guidebooks and an (incomplete) list published about 10 years ago described 67 interesting caves.  Modern guidebooks however, perhaps being more concerned for the visitors' safety, tend not to mention the caves or, at most, give them only a passing mention.  But the damage has been done: graffiti and litter mar many of the more accessible caves on these hills.

I hitched the 1,400 km from Cape Town to Johannesburg in the Transvaal in 27 hours.  With a vigorously enforced maximum legal speed limit of 80 Kmph this was remarkably good going.  More to the point though are the fuel restrictions: filling stations are closed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and, as it is illegal to carry fuel in cans, it is impossible to drive all night.  At weekends things are even worse with no petrol on sale between lunchtime Friday and six o'clock on Monday morning.  How far will one tank full of petrol take you?

Luckily caving in the Transvaal has not suffered too much under these restrictions, as it is still comparatively easy to make new discoveries near the heavily populated Rand.  The dolomite here encircles Johannesburg and extends west through Krugersdorp and off into Botswana via Carletonville.  The week before I arrived in South Africa a CROSA member had taken a midday motorcycle ride across the grassveldt of the Kromdraii Valley, a few miles from Krugersdorp, and photographed the hillside with infra-red film.  The following Sunday I joined his party to investigate the cold spots - i.e. potential caves - revealed by this exercise.  We were rewarded with several small caves.

South African cavers are very safety-conscious.  The first cave we discovered entailed a seven metre abseil on which lifelines were used, and when I spotted another cave, with a large walk-in entrance. I had to curb my enthusiasm until the entire party, about nine people, had caught me up before going underground.  Even below ground short solo explorations of side passages were taboo and we were split into groups of twos and threes.  But the cave turned out to be an intricate three dimensional grovel and chaos followed the frequent meeting and passing of other confused small groups.

These 'Fissure caves' mazes strongly influenced by jointing - are the most common type of development in the Transvaal.  Their intricacy can be truly amazing.  For example the Wonderfontein has a surveyed length of 9.3 km but even the most remote parts of the cave can be reached in about 20 minutes.  The Apocalypse Pothole near Carletonville, with a vertical range of 80m, follows a similar pattern: at a length of 10.8 km it is the longest cave in southern Africa.

About 250 km from Johannesburg is the Transvaal's second main dolomite area.  From Carolina it follows the northern reaches of the Drakensburg northward to Ofcolaco - a beautiful country of forests, waterfalls and rolling hills - and then turns westward to Potgietersrust.  This is the only region where horizontal cave entrances can be said to be at all common. But, ironically, the country's deepest open shaft is also found here: the 30m deep Bat Hole near Ofcalaco. With the aid of a black guide, and at the standard rate of approximately 60p per day, I was able to visit this site but I did not descend.  There is only a short passage at the bottom anyway.  On succeeding days, and with a variety of guides, I visited several nearby caves and carried out some original exploration.  Most of the caves I found contained some beautiful formations but none was very extensive.  The Transvaal’s final sizeable dolomite outcrop extends in a narrow strip from the iron mining town of Thabazimbi westward into Botswana.  Until the Transvaal Section of SASA started coming here a couple of years ago the area had been largely ignored by cavers.  Even now the surface has barely been scratched.  I was invited to join SASA on a trip here over the long Easter weekend but had to decline due to the histoplasmosis risk, a particularly virulent form is found here and, at the time I was histo-negative. I think I subsequently caught the disease in the eastern Transvaal (and am therefore now immunised) but I have not had a skin test to confirm this.  Most Transvaal cavers catch histoplasmosis during their first year’s caving but the disease is unknown in Cape Province, as far as I know, except for one case reported from the Goggelgrot in the northern part of the province.

Before I went to South Africa I was advised to steer clear of caves not just because of histoplasmosis, but because of the dangers of 'rabid bats, scorpions, snakes, leopards and bees.'  Careful research beforehand and subsequent experience of the country shows these dangers to have been rather overstated.  As far as I'm concerned the only real 'risks' I ran were those always associated with solo caving.  But I must admit that bees did bother me once.  I was climbing into an entrance when an agitated buzzing warned me that I'd disturbed a hive.  Fortunately it was a frosty early morning and the bees were still drowsy.  By the time they'd got their senses about them I'd decided I didn't really want to do heir cave anyway and was running through the wood to another cave entrance I'd seen about a kilometre away.

Southern Africa is an ideal place for a cheap and fascinating holiday, with some caving thrown in, especially if you don't mind roughing it a bit. For a cost of just under £400 (and this includes the airfare) I was able to travel for three months and take in bits of South Africa, Lesotho and Rhodesia.  My thanks to everybody - including cavers, BEC members: friends and strangers - who helped make it such a memorable experience.


Letter To The Editor

From D.C. Nigel (plod) Taylor:

Dear Bertie,

1)       Firstly, let me state that the following views are purely my own and not those of the club committee; - But I feel after reading the Feb. B.B. that there are a few personal views that I should like to express. Viz, Chris Batstone, our esteemed Hut Warden, appears to suddenly have opened his eyes to a problem that has been with us for many years, even before my reign of terror as Hut Warden in 1971/2. As a search of the Belfry books show, present weekend ‘bednights’ are the same as they were then - yet I feel that 'Chris' new problem' is one that he can easily solve by saying "No" to interlopers and those who buck the system as opposed to playing the Mendip Hardman and charging £1.00 per head for those unfortunate enough not to be able to supply reciprocal accommodation - remember there has always been a welcome for all at the Belfry.  Untidiness and misuse at the 'shed' is for the Hut Warden to prevent and control, backed up by the members present.  In my experience it has often been these themselves that were the untidiest! Let's hope that this new 'policy' does not bite the one who wanted to do the biting, for if we were to turn up at places distant it would be a shame indeed to overhear “That's one of those unsociable. bxxxxxs from Mendip - you know, no booking, no bunk!”  Let's not build ourselves a paper empire and start up weird and wonderful systems for booking, deposits etc.  You're a good Hut Warden Chris, but think carefully.

2)       With reference to Graham's article on Manor Farm's possibilities and my infilling of the sink - this was dons, primarily, for safety reasons as on our first exploratory entry into the lower sections of NASHA Gallery this area was a large unstable boulder pile which I deliberately demolished with 4½lb in 1974 with the intention to stabilise it then and dig it at a later date.  This date has now come!  With my new licence the Mendip Chips Ban and Chisel Company is officially back in life - all assistance welcome!

3)       Cuthbert's Fixed Tackle - Hasn’t enough been said.

Yrs. Nig Taylor.


Tales of Chiltern Chalk Mines.

G. Wilton-Jones

Last spring Buckett phoned me up saying that a chap out at Lane End had found a mine in his garden and would like us to investigate it.  Lane End Common is apparently riddled with abandoned mines, and, quite naturally, the locals were full of tales of the old miners.  'Three men at a time would take a skin of beer down with them and spend several days underground.  'Interconnecting mined passages once honey-combed the common.' However, on-one was related to or seemed to know any of the old miners.  Earlier this century 'Old Man Nix' had been lowered on a rope down the mine in question, and his B.D.I. revealed caverns measureless containing tools, wheelbarrows, buckets, etc.  The mine was capped soon afterwards and a rockery built on top of it.  One semi-alcoholic night the present landowner decided to find the mine, which he did.  He dropped lighted newspapers into the shaft, Casteret style, and saw passages at the bottom and one part way down the side.  He plumbed the depth, finding it to be about 60' to a pile of garden refuse at the bottom.

Investigation of the mine took a matter of minutes for us.  It is clear from the survey that the mine is very limited in extent.  The shaft was just over 60' but there was no passage part way down the shaft.  Nor were there wheelbarrows, buckets or tools.  There was one, interestingly shaped, smooth, wooden wendge, a few iron spikes in the walls, and some old tin-plate oil lamps.  A few other artefacts probably fell down the shaft, and are therefore not worth mentioning.  We reckoned that ‘Old Man Nix' wan probably scared out of his wits on the end of a rope, with his flickering candle in his hand, and did not even untie himself from the rope.  Candles may not cast treacherous shadows but the ones they do cast can be very misleading to the uninitiated in strange places.

It was not at all clear what exactly the miners were after: the mine shaft drops first of all through the Reading beds - mainly various layers of soft sands containing scattered pieces of harder stone, which had been used to line the top section of the shaft.  After some 20ft the top of the Upper Chalk is reached, and the unlined shaft begins to bell out.  It passes through a number of thin bands of flint, which have been ignored. At a depth of about 50ft. are the roofs of the short, main workings.  These are largely level, but do not correspond with any flint bands.  However, if it were flint that the miners were after, no doubt they would have dug out the bands from above, rather than from beneath. If they wanted chalk; why did they not dig an open pit, as has happened in many other areas of the Chilterns.  If they wanted flint what was so special about the flint underground, or what was wrong with the masses of flint stones lying about on the fields.  Furthermore, what were flints and chalk used for a hundred years ago or more.  Clearly many questions required answering.  We continued our close scrutiny of the mine.

The shortest gallery had suffered a roof fall from a sand pocket, and had been filled with deads - in this case, chalk pieces of fist size and less.  Other galleries had odd piles of deads, while two had pits in the floor.  Some of the floor was grooved with wheelbarrow marks.  At the end of two parallel galleries a fault had. stopped progress.  Black mineralization had oozed down the fault, presumably from the sand beds above. Only one gallery had any drip, and there were small drip pockets on the floor there.

During two further trips the mine was surveyed and photographed.  We learned little more about the mine, except that the owner’s house used to be a brick works.  I decided to try the County Library for information about chalk and flint mines. They had practically no literature at all on these subjects.  The only possibly relevant information was that, at the turn of the century, several 'flint contractors' came into existence, but these soon disappeared.

According to Collins Field Guide to Archaeology' in Britain, flint mines are generally Neolithic, and unusually medieval, the latter being worked for building stone.  Chalk mines, on the other hand, are common and date from Roman times, the majority, though, being dug in the 18th and early 19th centuries. From these later ones the chalk was burned to make lime for the fields.

I began to •cap the local knowledge in the guise of one 'Bert Ginger', who lives over the road from me. He confirmed what my landlady had rumoured - that there was a chalk mine right here in Naphill, not a hundred yards from where 1'm sitting to type this.  Bert was not around while the mine was still operational.  He came to the village in the early 1900's, and the mine had been closed a few years by then.  He referred to it as a chalk mine.  Flint, in those days, was mainly required for building roads (our main road was then little more than a cart track).  Women of the village would collect flint stones off the fields and crush it into little pieces to make and mend the roads all around.  Where my own road is used to be the 'Stonefield' - hence the name. The flints from here were a beautiful, shiny white, and one house just a little way away is faced with these flints, and positively shines in the sun.  Who needs Snowcem, Wig?


CHALK MINE at LANE END, CHILTERNS.  Scale 1:168. Elevation WSW – EWE.  BCRA Grade 2.

Most fields in the area at that time had their own marl pits.  Marl is a lime rich clay formed by the breakdown of the uppermost layers of chalk, through an organic process.  It was used to spread on the land, which is surprisingly deficient in lime.

The chalk itself does not generally outcrop anywhere in the Chilterns except on the scarp slope. Even here, us I often notice in an M40 cutting, the chalk may lie at a depth of several feet beneath the surface. Chalk, however, can be easily burnt by a simple process into excellent lime, for use both on the fields and for making mortar/cement.  In places where the top soil and marl are of such a depth to preclude quarrying opencast, then chalk was obtained by mining.

When Bert Ginger was a lad there was no main drainage in Naphill, so most people had a cess pit. This was emptied at regular intervals by a man with a horse, a tank and a stirrup pump.  One man, fed up with the charges for emptying his pit (several pence at a time!) and knowing that his house was built near the abandoned chalk mine, called in the help of the only surviving chalk miner of the village, Jack Free.  In minutes Jack had located the capping on the old shaft and a pipe was soon installed to convey the necessary into the very bowls of the earth.  According to Jack, at the bottom of the shaft, some 60ft. down, passages ran off like the spokes of a wheel, rising higher the further they went from the shaft, until they reached the top of the economical layers of chalk.  He gave no indication as to the length of the galleries.

Others in the village, also decided to use the mine as a vast cess-pit, but one was quite by accident. He had done the old trick of burying bottles in the concrete base of his septic tank when he made it, and had climbed down into the apparently large pit on a ladder to poke the holes; with a steel spike.  Unable to find the bottles he poked harder, and one corner of the pit completely gave way, leaving the ladder and the errant gentleman hanging over the void. Bert saved the man from the ……. you know what.  Just as well the mine roof didn’t collapse while he was making the pit.  It must have been directly over the upper end of one of the galleries.  Since then the man with the horse, the tank and the stirrup pump faded away from old Napton, out of a job, maybe.

Various parts of the mine have collapsed on occasions; one collapse occurred in Bert’s schooldays, early one morning.  He saw it on the way to school - a pit with a pile of earth in the centre and two passages leading off on opposite sides at the bottom.  By the weekend, when he thought he'd go down it and explore, the pit had been filled and levelled; another collapse was right beneath a damson tree.  The tree survived for many years after, and the owner would pick his fruit from the top of the tree by reaching across from the edge of the pit; quite recently two new bungalows were put up near here.  They began to subside into the mine for the surveyors had note taken this into account.  A week was spent pouring concrete into a hole under one of the houses.  There is supposed to be another mine next to this one, and I see that six luxury dwellings have been built over it.  I wonder how long they will last?



Overheard at the Belfry:  When discussing details of the Austrian trip, later this year, a well known Belfryite (J.D.) made it known to one and all "I don’t care what we do in Austria providing we are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge!"

Weil's Disease has struck again in Stoke Lane.  A Yeovil C.C. member was rushed to hospital after he had lost the use of his kidneys and liver.  Luckily, he made a full recovery but others contracting the disease may not be so lucky. Rat’s urine in the water is the usual cause of this nasty disease, commonly known as Sewermans Disease.

This is the second time that a caver has been struck down with it; the first was our own Oliver Lloyd some 12 years ago.  I've spoken to Don Thomson about this and he said that there is no real protection because the virus will penetrate through the skin, whether it is cut or not, as well as the usual way into the body via the usual orifices.  So, be careful, don’t drink cave water, wear gloves and possibly hoods may help in the Stoke sump areas.

Longest Dive. An Australian cave diver has broken the world record for the longest cave dive.  Paul Hadfield states that it was over 2 kilometres in a cave in the Nullaber Plain in South Australia.  The current issue of British Caver (No.68) gives details of other long dives (p.25). A copy is in the club library.

Mike Boon, well known to older members of the club, has at last published his book relating highlights of his incredible caving 'career'.  He tells of diving in Swildon’s Hole, discovery of large sections of the Lokva and Grapa rivers by diving in Yugoslavia, and tales unfold of activity in Jamaica, Ireland and Yorkshire.   Though expensive at £6.75 (112pp; 5 maps, 8" x 6") it makes an enjoyable read.  Available from Brian Woodward, 243 Bloomfield Road, Bath, Avon BA2 2AY.  Brian is also selling Canadian Caver at 85p per issue (a real must for those interested in caving in Northern America. In addition he has for sale 'Cave Exploration in Canada'; this book contains a complete history of caving in Canada, with descriptions of all the major systems, up-to-date maps and superb photographs.  Price £7.  A copy is in the club library.

Still on the subject of bocks - Karst in China (150pp) published Shangai People's Publishing House, is one of the finest 'coffee table' caving books yet published. Contains magnificent photographs (mainly colour) of the world’s largest karst regions in southern China.  The text is pretty feeble and quite short, even so, there's a liberal sprinkling of the Thoughts of Chairman Mao.  Its expensive retailing between £8 - £9.25 - stocked at Rocksport, Tony Oldham and Foyle’s ( London). A new American bock is available through Anne Oldham - Cavers. Caves and Caving.  Edited by Bruce Sloane at £8.14 post free.  It's an anthology of, folklore, history and adventure.  All contributors are members of N.S.S. Plenty of illustrations.

News in Brief. Border C.G. and the Cerberus S.S. seem to have patched up their differences that caused the split a few years ago.  Talks of merging the two clubs seem to be on the way.  Possible a marriage of convenience – CSS have a cottage, Border cannot afford to buy one.  Alan Mills (WCC) has abandoned Pitten Stree because of continual collapse.  Caving lectures entitled “Caving – Sport and Science” at Geology Theatre commencing 25th April – details from Dept. of Extra Mural Studies, The University, 32 Tyndalls Park Road, Bristol, BS8 1HR. National Caving Centre (No.2 if Whernside is No.1!) proposed for S. Wales to be built on DYO property.  Cost £200,000.  Financed by Nature C.C.'

Water Tracing. Willie Stanton has carried out more tests at Cuthbert's and records times to Wookey of 10 hours.  This agrees with the 1967 tests when the time was given as being 11 hours.  However, the 1967 times are not very accurate as the lycopodium spores had reached the resurgence before the 11th hour, so ten hours would appear to be reasonable under high water conditions.  Also, Wigmore was tested over the weekend of 4th - 5th March.  This involved the Belfry regulars in 6 hourly sampling trips to Wookey, Rodney Stoke, Cheddar and Rickford.  Wigmore was traced to Cheddar, taking about 43 hours.

Space Blankets

A medic from the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine carried nut some useful work back in 1971. Details of which have been published in the March, 1978 edition of Climber and Rambler (see copy in club Library).

Basically, he claims that the advantage of the aluminium coated plastic space blanket is that it can be seen from a distance but has no added advantage over the other forms of materials commonly in use for protection against the cold and wet such as polythene or woven nylon.

Testing the space blanket under various conditions it was found that the skin temperature was no different using the blanket than when using a poly bag.  It was concluded that heavyweight space blankets are of some value as a water and wind protector but other materials such as polythene or rip-stop nylon are equally robust.

The lightweight space blanket is too fragile for most survival purposes.  Bags are much better than blankets in windy conditions.

The reflection of the body heat (infra-red) by a space blanket is prevented by the layer of condensation and at sub-zero temperatures by frosting.  In this situation space blankets 0ffers no advantages over cheaper and stronger alternatives.  Lastly, space blankets are of no value as a radar location aid in survival.

Stoke Lane 4. Alan Mills (WCC) has negotiated with the landowner to open up the aven in Stoke 4 to the surface.  A radio location the site was carried out by 'Prew' last year.  The landowner has a condition that the opening should be done within a weekend and it must be gated.

More on the Stoke Lane Weil's Disease

The following is reprinted from the Yeovil Caving Club's Newsletter 'SUMP' - No.5: -

The following letter is from Benny Bainbridge and gives this own personal report on how he caught Weil's disease and also the treatment he received: -

It started as a normal caving trip one Friday night last October (1977).  The trip had been brought forward from Sunday so that I could go on my first trip to Stoke Lane Slocker.....There were four of us in the party~ all experienced.  However, on the return trip after Sump One I began to tire, so the entrance tube was a bit of a struggle.  It was in the entrance tube and again outside that I made my near fatal mistake and swallowed some of the water.  The first time was accidental, the second time it was done quite deliberately to quench my thirst.... Nothing happened for the next week or so.  Ten days after the trip…. that I started to develop pains in my back and 'flu-like symptoms.  On Thursday I went to see my doctor and he gave me some pills to ease my back ache.  However, I began to feel even worse, so on the Sunday I was admitted to the sick bay at my naval base at Yeovilton, Somerset.

It was at this stage that I started by dramatic colour change from normal pink to a bright yellow ...my doctor discussed the possibility of me having caught Yellow Jaundice.  On the Wednesday I was transferred to the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth, where blood tests done on the Thursday found me to be suffering from Weil's Disease leading to acute renal failure (i.e. both my kidneys has ceased to function some 24 hours earlier).

As the Navy has no artificial kidney machine to deal with Renal Failure, I was transferred by helicopter to the R.A.F. Renal Unit at RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire, where I underwent haemo-dialysis (the cleaning of the blood by the use of a kidney machine).

While I was at RAF Halton, samples of my blood were sent to the Leptospirosis Reference Laboratory in London who confirmed that in fact I had caught Weil's Disease which is caused by the virus Leptospirosis and is transmitted to humans in the urine of rats. Fortunately, for us, only 10% of the rat population carry the virus.

I spent a total of four and a half weeks in hospital, two of which were spent in the intensive care unit ... six hours a day for 10 days hitched up to a kidney dialysis machine and for 12 days I was fed by an intravenous drip.  At the moment I still have to undergo checks on my liver and kidneys, but the lasting effect of my illness is the fact that I cannot drink alcohol because of the damage done to my liver.



Or Just a minute with our hon. sec!



The club possesses a S/L Camera which it proposes to raffle to members only.  The value is approximately £50.



CUTHBERT’S TACKLE FEES – for tourist trips organised by the Caving Secretary or privately, the fee will be 25p.  It may appear to be a 'Large' rise (50%) but it is long overdue and only comes up to standard charges for access to other caves.  Perhaps 'tackle fee' is the wrong title and 'access fee' would be more appropriate.

Hut Engineer – Martin Bishop has resigned from this post, but not from the Committee.  Martin Grass has taken over and I am sure will appreciate your help – one immediate task now the fine weather is coming is to paint the outside woodwork of the Belfry.

The new soak-a-way for the shower water is nearing completion and should solve our sewage problems.


Christine Greenall - Minster Lodge, Ruff Lane, Ormskirk, Lancs.
907 Karen Jones, Room 63, New End Nurses Home, New End Hospital, Hampstead, London WN3 1YE.
Ross White, 44 Princes Road, Wimbledon, London SIN 19

NEW MEMBERS - welcome to the mob!

Teresa Rumble, 40 Halswell Road, 8levedon, Avon, BS21 6LG

SOCIAL:  It's nice to see Tony Corrigan out and about again – caving as well in the company of 'Zot' and Tom Gage.  Recently Tony went down GB and as far as the '20' in Swildon's.  He’s currently thinking up ideas of how to fit an attachment on his foot to climb ladders.


Helen Fielding, 175 Bramley Lane, Hipperholme, Halifax, West Yorks.
Roger Sabido, 15 Concorde Drive, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.


The Grotte D'Antiparo, Greece

Tony Jarrett

While holidaying on the Greek Islands last summer the writer took the opportunity of visiting this famous show cave.  Although one of the first systematically explored caves in the world, few British cavers must have visited the system and subsequently articles in British publications are few.

Situated on the ten mile long island of Antiparos, access to the cave is gained by taking a hour and a half motor boat trip from the town of Perissa on Paros Island - via the main village on Antiparo - to a small hamlet several miles along the coast.  From the landing stage here the hardy tourist can either walk the mile and a half track into the mountains or hire a mule.  (The writer being idle chose the latter).  After a forty minute jog in the blazing sunshine and feeling akin to a gold prospector in Death Valley, the entrance is reached on a bare limestone hillside with superb views of the Aegean Sea.

History of the Cave

At around the same time as the original exploration of Pen Park Hole and Lamb Leer were taking place, the Grotte d'Antiparos was fully explored by the Marquis de Nointel, French ambassador to the Turkish Empire then ruling these Greek islands (though graffiti on formations indicated partial previous exploration by the early Greeks).  The audacious Marquis descended on 23rd December, 1673 armed with ropes, rigid wooden ladders, a large group of servants and sailors and even a couple of artists to record the event for posterity (and for his King, Louis XIV). The party explored deep into the cave, discovering en route the large well-decorated hall some eighty meters down. The Marquis was so impressed that he spent three days underground and during this period celebrated Christmas Eve mass attended by over five hundred people!  The cave was illuminated with hundreds of lamps and wax tapers and a novel innovation was the firing of several mortars and cannon in the entrance followed by a wild clamour of assorted musical instruments (shades of the Hunters backroom!)  This incredible pantomime was followed by the removal of tons of formations for display in a Paris Museum - unfortunately a pastime shared by many of de Nointels successors.

In contrast to this first visit, the scientific investigations of the naturalist Tournefort in 1700 were far more subdued, though even this episode has its humorous side. Tournefort - a botanist - formulated a theory of vegetative growth to explain the development of the formations, doubtless due to the resemblance of stalagmite growth rings to those of a tree! He published an elaborate description of his visit and also of that of de Nointel.

A further description was provided by the next distinguished French visitor in 1780, the Count Choiseul-Gouffier.

From this date on visits became more frequent though the upper classes seem to dominate the scene. The Greek king Othon was there in 1840 and another French ambassador, Gobino, in 1865.

Particularly unwelcome visitors descended on the area in 1770 - 1774.  These were Russian occupation soldiers who followed in their predecessors footsteps by removing many formations for a Petrograd museum.  Their Italian counterparts of 1941-1943 continued this vandalism.

Now protected by a stout gate and operated as a show cave for some years the situation has improved - though it is noticeable that one of the main attractions pointed out by the guide is the vast amount of historical graffiti covering nearly all of the accessible formations.  Despite three centuries of vandalism the remaining stals, though generally dry and old, are plentiful and impressive.  Vast pillars, stalactites and curtains proliferate and there are a number of the curious “palette” or “shield” formations only found in the caves of warm climates.

The cave itself is formed in a steeply inclined rift or fault with wider sections forming the heavily decorated chambers.  Its 100 meters of depth is descended on spider-web like concrete steps hanging in mid air.  These are only some two feet in width and provide great sport were the handrails are missing and visitors at the bottom are trying to pass those going down!  The cave ends in a rift blocked with stalagmited boulders and breakdown, though a short pitch in the floor some way back up the passage possibly goes further.  The writer had neither the time nor equipment to investigate this.  The spirited lecture provided by the guide halfway down was unfortunately all Greek to me.

In conclusion I found this a really worthwhile visit - made especially enjoyable by the novelty of mule transport and the remoteness and lack of commercialisation of the cave.  A "must" if you are ever in the area. Incidentally there are many other caves on Antiparos and other islands. Little exploration seems to have been done in the islands and the climate, vast quantity (and quality) of naked foreign females on the beaches and cheap wine make this an English caver’s paradise.

Refs (from the writer's library only)

Famous Caverns and Grottoes - W.H. Davenport Adams 1886 pp. 78-84 Antiparos - the Island with the Cave of Stalactites. - B. Kaloudas 1964  (Guide Pamphlet)

La Conquete Soutterain. - P. Minvielle 1967 pp. 15-21

BCRA Trans. VoL 1 No.1. - J.R. Shaw Cohort History of Speleology)



Notes on the survey of Tyning's Barrows Swallet

by D.J. Irwin

By now the reader will have read one of the several accounts dealing with the breakthrough and exploration of this new Mendip system.  As an aid to exploration a BCRA grade 5c survey commenced on the 26th February, 1977 and during the course of the next few weeks the survey was completed except for Aardvark and Bertie's Paradise.

The equipment used is of some interest to surveyors.  Basically it consisted of the Suunto compass (KB14/360) and clinometer (PM5/360) coupled together in the form of a handheld surveying unit.  This eliminated the problem of handling the separate instruments and in low, awkward passages this was a great advantage.  Details of the connecting bracket is being prepared by Chris Batstone. In use this combination of instruments enabled rapid readings to be made.  The tape was a Chesterman 100 ft. fibron.  Due to the rather constricted nature of the passages and the urgency of getting the main line surveyed it was decided to produce a grade 5c survey.  At each station care was taken to minimise the accumulation of station error by pivoting around the instruments and on occasion using rock features to hold the instruments.  Because the scale at which the drawing was produced (1/480) the drawing error would be considerable greater than the survey random errors.

The instruments were read to the nearest 1O and the tape to the nearest 0.1 ft.  The leap-frog method was adopted.  The data assembled was reduced to co-ordinates using four-figure logs and the survey, plotted and checked on graph paper.  Due to the scale (1/480) no detail of the deposits could be shown on the drawing.

The instruments were not calibrated in the conventional manner due to influences from steel wire and half buried farm implements in the area.  Instead, a fixed bearing was obtained from the compass station near the farm entrance at the start of each trip; any variation in magnetic deviation enabled each section of the survey to be so corrected.  Thus, the survey figures were corrected to ‘compass north’. With the help of Brian Prewer et al, a radio transmission was made on March 12th 1977 from the base of Pyramid Pot and the point located in the field above.  A surface survey then commenced radiating lines to the cave entrance and the corners of the field.  By checking the 6” O.S. map of the area it was then possible to rotate the survey to grid north.  The ‘mismatch’ of the surface point located from the survey line and the signal point was less than 20 feet giving a closure error of approximately 1%.

Due to the complex plan form of the upper series and the general pattern of the main passage the idea of a projected elevation was abandoned and an extended elevation produced. The drawings were then transferred onto a nylon drawing sheet to produce the master original.  This is to be sent t8 B.M. Ellis for inclusion in the Mendip Cave Survey Scheme.

The surveyed length is 4,000ft + 200ft. un-surveyed (1,335 metres + 60 metres) and 433ift. (131.97 metres) deep.

The following table records the dates and personnel involved with whom this survey could not have been produced: -


Entrance to dig. (1 hour) D. Irwin & C. Batstone.


'A Day' to Pyramid Pot (3 hours) D. Irwin, G. Wilton-Jones, N. Halstead and C. Batstone.


Pyramid Pot to Breakthrough and Paton Place. (4 hours) D. Irwin, G. W-Jones and G. Price (C.S.S.).


Transporting radio locating gear to Pyramid Pot C. Hawkes; B. Prewer, T. Reynolds (W.C.C.) and P. Smart (U.B.S.S.).


Drunken Horse Inlet: D. Irwin and T. Large.


Surface survey: D. Irwin, J. Batstone, B. Prewer and R. White


Paton Place & White Dog Passage, D. Irwin, G. Wilton-Jones, J. Dukes, R. Mansfield.


Velcro Passage: P. MacNab & D. Turner.


Sheep's Jaw and misc. side passages: D. Irwin, P. MacNab and R. Halliwell.

The cave became choked with mud below the second pitch during May, 1977 leaving Aardvark and two small side extensions un-surveyed.  These have been sketched in on the plan.



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.




By Tim Large

Summer has arrived, albeit a bit late and wet.  The only complaint beside the weather heard around the Belfry has been that there is too much going on and everybody cannot attend everything as dates clash!

Over the May Day Holiday there were club trips to S. Wales, visiting Rock and Fountain, Otter Hole and Aggy.  Also, the newly formed M.A.P.S. group (Mendip Association of Portly Speleologists) ventured north to Yorkshire visiting Tatham Wife Hole.

On the Committee scene business is booming and the problems eventually being overcome following the advert for our new treasurer, two nominations were received from Sue Tucker and Claire Williams.  The outcome was that Sue is elected to carry on from Barrie at the end of July until the AGM.  Many thanks Claire for your interest - nice to see the girls taking more active interest in Club affairs.

The other advert was for a new Hut Engineer - nominations being received from Bob Cross and " Zot' - Bob being co-opted to the Committee.

The membership list has now officially closed so if you are reading this BB, you must .have paid your sub - if you have not - then you know what to do (£3.00, full member; £4.25, joint members - cheques payable to the B.E.C.)  The number at the close of play was 167 members.  This is about 30 short of the list as at January 1978.

Alan Kennett has kindly donated a small number of caving helmets which will be kept at the Belfry for use particularly by newcomers, novices etc. as there is always a shortage in these cases.  Our thanks too, to Alan Thomas and Martin Grass for donations to the Club Library, including the useful CRG publication of Aggy.  Our thanks to all.

The Committee has agreed that we purchase a quantity of caving boots.  They should arrive in a few weeks, so enquire at the Belfry or via me, price about £8.75/pair.

The Annual Dinner has now been booked at the Caveman, Cheddar costing £3.50 and including Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pud., wine and a free pint or glass of sherry before the meal.


795       Pete Leigh, 5 Armoured Workshops, BFPO 106
Graham Wilton-Jones, 24 Redland Way, Aylesbury, Bucks.


933       Dianne Beeching, 8 Seymore Close, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2JD
934       Colin Williams, Whitestones Farm, Cheddar Cross Roads, Compton BS18 6LD.
935       Lynne Williams, address as above.

DON'T FORGET THE, MIDSUMMER BUFFET – Still tickets available - £2 a head.  8p.m. at Hunters Lodge Inn on Saturday 17th June 1973.  Also a working weekend at the Belfry June 17th-18th - free accommodation for members helping.

The club has been invited to a buffet/skittles evening by Yeovil Caving Club on Saturday 1st July at Glover Arms, Reckleford, Yeovil.  Anyone interested in going please let me know as soon as possible so tha I can book numbers.

REMEMBER: My new address is c/o Trading Standards Dept, 31 South St., Wells, Somerset.

Cheers, Tim Large.


Beneath Llangattwg

by Graham Wilton-Jones

The 1976 extension to Ogof Craig y Ffynnon (Rock and Fountain Cave) raises some interesting questions concerning past and present drainage under Mynydd Llangattwg.  A recent visit to Ogof Craig y Ffynnon prompted me to have another look at Ogof y Darren Cilau, which lies further along the north-eastern outcrop of limestone towards Agen Allwedd.  Perhaps some notes on Ogof Craig y Ffynnon and Ogof y Darren Cilau would be useful.

To begin with I shall refer to Wig's article in B.B. No. 356, December 1977, to comment on Ogof Craig y Ffynnon.   The small rising (IP 2) is not the main rising for the cave, which is actually Ogof Capel (see also IP 8).  This is situated at the bottom of the Clydach Gorge, 500 yards west-south-west of Ogof Craig y Ffynnon entrance.  On my visit to Ogof Craig y Ffynnon the cave was wet.  Between the boulder chokes were deep pools concealing flooded lower passages which can be entered in summer.  These carry Ogof Capel water.  The entrance to Ogof Craig Ffynnon is a rubble rift, the sides of which show superb scalloping, and must once have been part of an impressive streamway approaching a resurgence in the Clydaoh area, or does this section of cave pre-date the valley (see below - Clydach rejuvenation)?  The limestone continues below the coalfield south of the Clydach and I believe that some caves there actually head under the coal.  Ignoring the scarp outcrop to the east, the next place the limestone is seen is in the coast districts, close to sea level.

The lower stream series (IP 4) is not that difficult, and is reminiscent of the more complex parts of O.F.D. One of the streams we pushed (at least, J.D., the wellie-booted worm did) to a choke.  This was under a dripping aven in the other passages of this series.  The sources of the streams down here have not otherwise been traced, but I would venture to suggest that the Ogof y Darren Cilau stream deserves further attention in this respect.  Dye tests have been made, but it should be borne in mind that negative results are not indicative of no connection hydrologically.

The end of Ogof Craig y Ffynnon (IP7) lies after two miles of fairly straight passage (with obstructions) equidistant from Agen Allwedd terminal sump (I or IV, I don't know) Eglwys Faen and the end of Ogof y Darren Cilau.  It is in the same beds as Agen Allwedd, i.e. the Oolitic, having risen up through the Dolomitic (IP 7 and 8) and is similar in character to Agen Allwedd, especially Main Passage, St. Paul's, etc.

I will return to the subject of Ogof Craig y Ffynnon.later.  What of Ogof y Darren Cilau?  For those who do not know this cave, and no doubt, you are many (sensible people) a brief description may be useful (then you won't have to go yourselves).

At the base of the cliff, behind the old limekilns above Whitewalls, is a low, wet entrance, one of eight at the base of the outcrop between here and the valley be the old sheep dip.  It is a taste of things to come.  The lowness and wetness, and narrowness continue for a thousand feet.  One thousand feet of very technical, grovelling, with only a few short stretches of walking.  Finally this small streamway breaks into larger passage, and the stream disappears under the edge of this.  The larger passage leads to a fault guided rift with stal, some old and massive, at this end, and a grey, shaly conglomerate breakdown at the other end, several hundred feet away.  This breakdown is also the end of a huge phreatic passage: remarkably similar to Agen Allwedd Main Passage, but almost immediately filled to the roof with mud. However, a further passage leads from here, zig-zag rift which goes to the final chamber.  This chamber is several hundred feet long and tens of feet wide, formed entirely of collapse (into what would be interesting to know) and floored with boulders and glutinous mud.  There is one similar, but smaller chamber off to one side.

Several interesting thoughts come to mind:

What are the relative altitudes of the caves mentioned?  Unfortunately ‘Caves of Wales and the Marches’ does not give these.  However, following the Tram Road on the 2½ map is helpful.  Near Brynmawr it is at 1175' OD.  At Eglwys Faen it has dropped, and varies between 1100' and 1125' OD. At Agen Allwedd the track is lost, but Aggie entrance seems to be 1275' OD.  (Is there really a 150' climb from Eglwys Faen to reach it?)  Perhaps this is more accurately indicated on the new survey. Eglwys Faen must be 1125' - 1150' OD. Ogof y Darren Cilau, way above the Tram Road, must lie at 1300' OD or more.  Ogof Craig y Ffynnon, 200' below the Tram Road, must be at about 975' OD, while Ogof Capel and Elm Cave, the Agen Allwedd resurgence, must be round about 750' OD.  Someone must be able to find more accurate figures for these.

Several passages run in from the escarpment - Ogof Pen Eryr, Ogof y Darren Cilau stream, Aggie entrance passage - on the strike apparently, or is the dip at the edge of the hill west instead of south?

What is the relationship between the large passages so far known? Are they parts of the same cave, did they undergo similar conditions of formation, or is it simply that they are formed in the same rock?  Ogof y Darren Cilau seems to be too high up in the beds to have any relationship with the other caves, but is it?  The entrance altitude suggests it is.  So does its breakthrough into shale.  However, in the entrance series of Ogof y Darren Cilau and in the long (crawl in Ogof Craig y Ffynnon there is a band of green limestone.  Are these the same beds?

The final chamber in Ogof y Darren Cilau is totally dissimilar to the big chambers in the other caves, though perhaps it is a large phreatic passage.  Why does it have such wet mud in it?  Is it because there is no draught to dry it out - we noticed no draught here or because it has an occasional humid draught?

Why should Ogof Craig y Ffynnon be thought not to be a fossil part of Aggie? (IF 8).  I would have thought that that is just what it is. It rises eventually from its entrance (250' above the Clydach) into the Aggie beds.  Why should it not, perhaps, be a continuation of Aggie Main Passage? It has not yet reached near there according to the surveys available.  Pete Bull has done a great deal of sedimentological work in Agen Alwedd and this, more than anything else, seems to be helping to date the passages of Aggie, and to demonstrate the relationship between them.  Similar work in Ogof Craig y Ffynnon to show a comparison would be invaluable here.

Was the Clydach Gorge a product of rejuvenation following glacial deepening of the Usk valley? Cave streams seem now to be the major erosional influence in the gorge.  Could a fossil extension of the present Aggie streamway exist somewhere above the base of the Clydach, possibly on a level similar to that of Ogof Craig y Ffynnon, but maybe to the west of this?

What happens beyond Aggie terminal sump IV?  It would seem that there must be pitches, or at least ways down like those in Ogof Craig y Ffynnon which take Ogof Capel water, except that these for Agen Allwedd would still be taking all the water.  Only a small stream actually goes down those in Ogof Craig y Ffynnon.

How much do the Llangattwg system pre-date the present topography?  Projecting the northern end of Summertime takes it straight out of the hill.

The questions and postulations are endless.  Several of the former can be answered easily by a geologist or someone with more access to relevant information that I have.  The reward for the studious could another Key to Llangattwg - or have written (as we say in my Norfolk homeland) a lood o’ ol’ squit!


All members are reminded that it their responsibility to ensure that the Belfry is always kept locked - remember there have robberies in the past.  Will all members make a special point to ensure that the Library is kept locked at all times, certain items in the collection are quire rare and extremely useful for reference purposes.  Library keys are obtainable from any Committee Member.


Time is going on again – The AGM 1977 AGM Minutes will be included with the B.B.



by Oliver Lloyd

Joe Tasker the mountaineer held, an audience of four hundred in the palm of his hand for two and a quarter hours.  He was delivering the Seventh Paul Esser Memorial Lecture in the University of Bristol on Wednesday 15th February 1978.  He was giving us a step by step account of his ascent of the West Face of Changabang in the company of Peter Boardman, illustrated by over two hundred excellent pictures.

The mountain is well over 23,000 feet in height and was clearly to be the most difficult climb, either of them had undertaken.  Neither would admit to the other that he had any doubts about the possibility of success, but it was not until after 25 days, when they got to the "half-way" snow field at 20,000 ft.; that they knew it was possible.  I think most of us would have given up before that.  At that height climbing is exceedingly arduous. It was only possible to go up five to ten feet at a time before stopping to get one’s breath.  They were averaging four hundred feet a day.  The whole climb lasted 40 days and not unnaturally they ran out of conversation.

Their technique was to establish a base camp at 16,000 ft., to which they would return from time to time for more gear.  Their return from camp to camp was facilitated by leaving a fixed rope and abseiling down.  They had two other camp sites on the way up, each being made by cutting a narrow platform in the snow.  The outside place was not an enviable one, but they belayed themselves to pegs, in case of rolling over.  Repeated journeys to and from these camp sites was necessary to get all the necessary gear up.  Leading was, a very tiring and responsible business, so they took it in turns. Finally after spending a day at Camp 2 they made a dash for the summit with light leads.

The descent was not without incident.  There was the piton that got bent to an uncomfortable angle; while Joe was abseiling down a rope belayed to it.  Pete was not sure whether to remain belayed to it or not.  Each of them had an occasion when he lost the rope on the way down. For Peter it left him in a very difficult position, attached to it upside down by one foot in a sling.  You have to be quite good at single rope work to be able to rectify a position such as this.

After they had got down they were called upon to assist in sorting out four fatalities, which had just occurred in the next valley.  It was necessary to establish the identity of the victims and to bury the bodies.


Don’t eat yellow snow

(Zot - the man who doesn't need to stop at Motorway Service Areas!)compiled by Graham W-J

‘In the beginning there were sent forth into the north western wastes of Lakeland a motley crew, who did purpose to challenge the hills.  And it came to pass that the radio and television and newspapers did broadcast news of doom and despair and snow and ice and wind, and it was good.  But they did speak with false tongues, for the snowline was high above the valley floors.  The B.E.C. did finally arrive, and the hills and the vales were devoid of those who ascend or wander therein, except for the few and foolhardy.’

We reached Chapel Stile, in Langdale, at various times on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and took over five of the Lingmoor View cottages, which are summer holiday homes in an old terrace.

Thursday saw us en route for Patterdale, via devious routes designed by Alis and M.A.P.  (they were lost).  Everyone of us set off on the path climbing Grisedale Brow, with X Bob and Zot making a cracking pace towards Helvellyn.  'Whereupon some fell on rising ground', and these persons, who shall remain nameless, went to the pub.  The snow lay in patches quite low down, but was continuous above 1500 feet; and much of it had a hard, icy coating.  We met with very little snow on top of ice, as had been reported.  Four of us put on crampons which made life a little easier.

 “I wish I had a pair of crampons” said M.A.P., not for the first or last time.  At the Brow Bob had stopped to chat with three other walkers, so we managed to catch up. Sue and Miss Piggy, coming upon ice ground did return, taking with them the faithful hound, Bec.  In spite of advice, John and I decided to have a look at Striding Edge and the 15 foot high cornice leading onto the summit of Helvellyn, and a group of us moved up to the crags.  While everyone else, including M.A.P. (“I wish I had a pair of crampons") descended and crossed the frozen Red Tarn towards Catstye Cam, John and I traversed Striding Edge.  Compared with Crib Goch last winter, it was a cinch and we didn't even rope up.  The final slope was straight forward, and the cornice seemed solid enough.  We watched a couple of walkers managing with one pair of crampons.  Apparently one of them fell on the steep slope ahead of us, but seemed OK when we reached him.  The top of Helvellyn was icy cold and windy.  The previous weekend's footprints stood out above the surrounding snow, whose soft crystals had been blown away, a peculiar sight.  Visibility was fair under the low, scudding clouds, but the ominous looking darker patches in the distance came to nothing.  We moved quickly off the top, down Swirral Edge and up to Catstye Cam, where we met up with "I wish I had a pair….." again.  From there we glissaded down to Red Tarn Beck.

Later on we were discussing with the crampon wisher how to use an ice axe in a fall I demonstrated but he replied, “I don't think I’d have the presence of mind to use the axe properly,” I assured him he would, whereupon he fell on the steep slope and lost his presence of mind!

That evening we visited the…………..at Outgate, where they sell Hartley's Best Bitter (beer and water) and straight bitter (less beer and more water).  It did affect Zot enough to cause him to remark, “Oi ‘aven’t 'ad me 'ole for four years”.  We were all suitably sympathetic.

Guess where M.A.P. went on Friday morning.  You’ve got it.  He is now the proud owner of a pair of Simond crampons.  Strange he couldn’t remember the episode in the Pyrenees with Simond pitons, which split, snapped and bent.  Maybe he will when the point of his crampons begin to break off.

Meanwhile X Bob, Sue, John and I had set off up the stream that flows off Wetherlam.  There were some magnificent frozen waterfalls in the Gorge, with enormous icicles.  It soon became impossible to continue along the frozen stream, but there is an obvious path following an old miner’s track to the north of the gorge.  Most of the walking was on grass, with only patches of snow and ice, but as we climbed up Birk Fell the snow became continuous.  We put on ice gear and traversed very hard, icy snow to the summit of Wetherlam.  A strong, cold wind tried to whip us from the top while we hung around to admire the view, and to consider the irresponsibility of a walker without ice axe or crampons up there.  He said that he was unaware of conditions, in spite of so much publicity about recent accidents.

Bob and Sue decided to cut short their walk because of the ice, and descended directly from Wetherlam.  John and I carried on round to Coniston Old Man.  From Swirl How to the Old Man the ice surface was an unbroken convex sheet sweeping right down to Seathwaite Tarn, but the going was very easy in crampons, Michael.

At this time the said M.A.P. & Co. were in the pub in Coniston thinking of using the new gear to go up the Old Man.  They eventually set out and rushed up Church Beck and did a gully to the summit.  They arrived there just after John and I left. I understand they did not use a rope for the ascent.  "You only need a rope if you're going to fall". (M.A.P. - again).  We descended via Low Water to the Youth Hostel in Church Beck, where Bob met us with the car.

In the evening Fred, Thros, Mick, Griff and John of the Valley Caving Club arrived while we were in the Old Dungeon Ghyll.  Johp Manchip and family turned up from Edinburgh - they'd had trouble getting out of the snow there, but were surprised to find so little snow in the Lakes.  I gather from one of the locals that the Lakeland valleys are always passable in winter-time, which is worth knowing, though the M6 is frequently impassable.

Early on the Saturday morning, very early, seven of us were off along Mickleden with the intention of reaching Scafell Pikes.  We climbed into the snow, and occasions, patches of ice, and soon stopped to don crampons.  Rossett Gill gradually closes to a gully, steepens, and then suddenly levels into a wide col between Rossett Pike and Bow Fell.  Spindrift was being blown across the frozen Angle Tarn and up to Esk Hause. Here we met a couple who had camped the night on Scafell - I thought we did. things to excess!  We climbed onto the back of Great End and walked the ridge to Scafell Pikes, which was just out of the low cloud most of the time  The final climb up and down was fairly difficult without crampons, and plain daft without an ice axe, yet we came upon plenty of walkers without either.  It almost made us feel we were being over-cautious when met two blokes with cheapboots, plastic bike jackets and very little else.  How they managed I dread to think.  From Scafell Pikes to Great End the wind, from the east, was really vicious.  At one point, past Broad Crag, it knocked all of us down simultaneously.

Back at Angle Tarn, after I’d persuaded J.D. that he and I should forgo a desperate crag traverse on Hanging Knotts (maybe it wasn't that bad) we traversed the easier Rossett Crags and descended to Stake Pass, having decided not to cross Bow Fell against the strong wind and ice-spicules.  John Manchip, Fred, Martin and Greg followed Stake Pass and Mickleden back to Langdale, while John D., M.A.P. and I climbed back upwards towards Pike of Stickle.  Part way up a voice came down-wind, “Get off my…..mountain”.  X Bob and Zot had just come from the Pikes via Stickle Gill.  Needless to say we continued our way on ‘his’ mountain and we three soon reached Pike of Stickle.  Under such clear conditions as we had been having maps were largely unnecessary.  We could clearly see each of the places to which we were heading.  We soon walked across to Harrison Stickley from where the view was excellent.  Thence the descent was directly down to Stickle Tarn on a snow slope, and then down the path of Stickle Gill to Langdale once more.

Mike's wagon was at the Old Dungeon Ghyll; while Bob's car was still at the New DG.  As we walked to the Old DG we met the bus, carrying Bob and Zottie from the Old to the New, all of ¾ of a mile.  "Best 6 pence I’ve ever spent," said Zot.

And so a good weekend was had by all.  With news of blizzard and drift from Mendip X Bob & Co. set out early on Sunday for home, but the rest of us found time after a leisurely morning for a few jars in the New DG.  Greg and Miss Piggy spent most of the morning devouring the rest of their food, before joining us and eating yet more.  How does that Midget manage them both?!  Finally we were away, leaving Fred; to spend his day rescuing the foolhardy hordes from Bowfell - that was his story anyway.

Not mentioned before, but they were there, were Pat and Paul, Patti and Co., Keith Newbury, Glenys and even Andy Nichols and attachment for a while.  There must be a pub or two in the Lakes that they didn’t visit!

P .S. Buckett and I went up to the Lakes again the following Saturday, to find the Snow undergoing a rapid thaw, and there was minor flooding in the valleys.  We walked the path up Stickle Gill, which was really in spate, and did not meet snow until we arrived at the Tarn.  The ice, there was melting fast and the path that fords the Gill was well under water. Buckett leapt across from boulder to boulder lower down and I groped my way slowly across too.  The snow was really rotten and we frequently stepped into deep, soggy drifts.  At the back of Stikle Tarn we crossed Bright Gill via a snow bridge and then decided we were too low down so crossed back again.  Higher up we had difficulty with crossing the torrent and had to leap from boulders again.  We used the map to set a compass course through the mist to the top of Pavey Ark, and ended up climbing a steep crag which barred our way.  At various points below we had met up with three men and a dog.  Arriving at the top of the crag we came into a gully with footprints of men and dog leading upwards.  They were taking the longer but gentler route up.  We ended up almost ignoring the compass bearing and following the dog prints, plus occasional cairns, until finally we met the dog, and men, coming the other way through the rain. We continued on our bearing, leaving the dog party looking for the top of Pavey Ark and we headed into the mist, hopefully towards Harrison Stickle.  Going from cairn to cairn we traversed a steep snowfield, often thigh deep in wet snow, peering constantly through the mist at unrecognisable lumps of rock. The dog group caught us up and turned down to the left, looking for Dungeon Gill.  We climbed the small pimple to our right and found ourselves on top of Harrison Stickle, recognisable only from the height carved on a stone.   We crossed the top and searched for a route down.  In fact, although there is nothing on the map, a path exists down the scree via a short climb, and descends steeply to Dungeon Ghyll.  The dog party were obviously lost and were going towards Stickle Gill.

We met a party of lads who had turned back from the Ghyll because the path was hidden beneath a steep sheet of snow.  This traverse was quite hairy, especially since the mist began to clear.  There was evidence far below in the bottom of the Ghyll of recent avalanches - great blocks of snow and large boulders, and the canyon echoed with the rushing of melt-water.

Once over the traverse we glissaded down the wet snow slope to the stream, but, by staying level from here we eventually left the stream below us again as we headed for the end of the narrow ridge that divides Dungeon Ghyl from Stickle Gill.  Who should we see as we descended to Stickle Gill, but three men and a dog, once more.  These hills are small.

P.P.S.  There was one other Quote, again from M.A.P. "I’m glad Peak Cavern's on a Saturday.  We’ll be able to talk about it in the pub afterwards!  As it turned out Mike did not come to Peak, and not a word was breathed about it in the pub on Saturday night.



Tunnel Cave - South Wales

Graham Wilton-Jones

Buckett and I recently visited this fine system, and I felt it would be useful to offer a brief description in the BB, since 'Caves of Wales and the Marches' is rather inadequate and, perhaps misleading.

The location can be found on the 2½" O.S. map, SN 81, at SN 837165, but this map shows and the book description mentions a path from the Haffes.  This path no longer exists, but one starts from the Dan yr Ogof caravan site, past the sheep pens, to a point overlooking the Haffes, and thence onto the path leading over the moor towards the Giedd.  The path follows a wall to the left until it has climbed up the steepest section of the hillside, and then divides.  One part continues beside the wall running towards the dry valley above Dan yr Ogof, and the other branch turns sharply right towards Waun Fignen Felen. From this junction one does as the book says, almost, climbing up to the high point on the right, on the edge of the hillside. The top entrance of the cave is practically on the highest point - a most unlikely place for a cave.  In BCRA Transactions Vol. 4, Nos 1 & 2, March '77 is a surface survey of the area with cave surveys superimposed; including Tunnel.  The location of the top entrance is easy using the lines of shakeholes and the nearby dry valley.  Approaching the entrance even quite closely the only evidence of cave is a low pile of bang debris.  The entrance cover is only seen when you are right on top of it.

The entrance shaft is virtually all mined, square section at the top and spacious, and is 35 feet deep.  A 30ft ladder belayed directly to a railway line at the top is sufficient, the bottom of the shaft being narrower and climbable.  12' down there is a firm railway sleeper platform all round the shaft.  At the bottom the pitch breaks into natural rift at the Courtyard pitch.  After a short piece of horizontal passage, a bolt above and exposed ledge takes a 25' ladder into Cascade Aven.  The Second Cascade (the system was explored from the bottom) is a steep, stal slope littered with bang debris, steepening further until it finally overhangs the First Cascade, which comes in from the other end of the rift.  I found a handline useful on the Second Cascade, descending to the Wire Traverse on the right (looking downwards) having belayed to a eyehole in the right hand wall.  This required about 60' of handline, but 120' as the book says is needed if it is belayed at the bottom of the Courtyard.  The wire on the traverse is fixed, and I belayed 100' of handline to the bolt on 'the far side".  This was also far too much, about 60' being sufficient.  However, this First Cascade is steep smooth, and the handline here is invaluable.  Leading off from these avens are a few passages which constitute the Cascade Aven Series.  At the bottom of the stal slope, the rift is choked up with gravel and and stal but a small draughting passage is the route on downwards.  A twisting hands and knees crawl leads to a couple of 15' climbs down. After the first climb the passage enlarges.  At the bottom of the second is the way into Paul and Barnabas, concealed between the boulders and the wall.  This is the passage leading to the numerous pearls.  Ahead the route continues down to a sandy chamber, but the way on is a climb up just before this.  The passage is now a winding rift dipping at about 10°.  By traversing horizontally we ended up in the roof tube, and this is the obvious place to be for route finding since the draught here is dispersed.  There are one or two places where the passage is too wide to traverse, and it is necessary to descend and climb up again on the other side, but the route is not as complex as the book would have us believe, nor is any of the cave technically difficult.  Normally wherever a decision has to be made the wrong route is a cul-de-sac, and the draught can occasionally be felt. Eventually a stream is reached and soon after is the grille with the show ' Cathedral Cave' beyond.  It would have been possible to have the key for this grille, but we had to collect our tackle from the top anyway, so there seemed to be no point

Returning up the passage the first major opening on the right is East Passage.  This is much easier than West Passage, the route to the top entrance.  Cross Passage on the left starts as walking but soon degenerates to a crawl over sand to emerge in West Passage.  East Passage continues, passing the way to Xmas Grotto on the right, up a climb into a large phreatic tube and into the high Steeple Aven.  We did not continue here, but the passage goes a little further to reach Final Chamber.

The whole of our trip took four hours, during which we covered much of the cave twice - in and out. Next time we shall rappel in, visit Paul and Barnabas and Xmas Grotto, and leave via the show cave beside Dan yr Ogof.

Useful references:

BCRA Trans. Vo1.4, Nos 1 & 27 Mar, 77.  (Survey p.296, plus several other notes)

Caves in Wales and the Marches, 167; .o62


CRG pub. No. 7

Ed. note: I hear, through the Mendip grapevine, that a new Welsh caving guide may be underway.



complied by Niph

Mendip news and notes - Don't forget the Midsummer Buffet on June 17th and the working weekend at the Belfry on June 17th and 18th.  No further extensions have been found in Lionel's Hole but according to Andy Sparrow there are a number of digging points.  On a recent trip in St. Cuthbert's by Wig, Stuart Lindsey and Tim Large, Pillar Chamber Extensions was visited.  Several unex¬plored sites and possibilities were examined, particularly in a de¬corated rift at the top of the 54ft Pot.     In the top chamber of the extension

amid much 'hanging death', Stuart dug through a gravel choke under a low arch to find another small decorated chamber - a bedding chamber some 30ft long by 12ft wide.  A few broken curtains lie on the floor.  At the upper end of the chamber there's a gravel choke that appears to be heading towards the Far Chamber area.  Pillar Extensions make an interesting trip but it’s not for those of a nervous disposition!



Another B.E.C. Extension is on Eastern Mendip - at Waterlip Quarry to be precise - popularly called Ogof Cakin' Fant (we’ll leave you to work out the true meaning of that name).  First inspected by Andy Sparrow et. al, on Jubilee Day 1977 the cave was pushed to a limit of 30ft but in January this year Andy and Ross White returned (to quote the caving log)….”intending to dig final squeeze.  Digging floor proved ineffective, so Sparrow made an attempt to pass it as it was - much to his surprise he succeeded.  The way on was blocked by a flake of rock which soon gave way to a crowbar.  Crawling over the flake led into 15ft – 20ft of muddy crawl to an inclined rift….the cave…..is extremely tight”.

On the 21 of January Andy, Steve Short and a couple of midgets from other clubs returned to the site. Alison Hooper (the wee midget, took the lead.  “…..at the point reached on last week’s trip.  It proved passable without further work and followed by Andy, she pushed on through another 50ft of tight rift crawls and' Z' bends.  'Termination of the cave is now a boulder blocking the way on. Cave length now about 90ft.


Dates For Your Diary

June 9th

Longwood (Friday niters trip)

June 10th

Symposium n Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Organised by Phil Hendy (Hon. Sec. WCC). Tickets £1.00.  Commencing 9.00 am.  Bristol University in the Main Engineering Theatre, Queens Building.  Fee of £1.00 included morning coffee + biccies and afternoon tea.  Cheques and PO’s to Phil Hendy, 5 Tring Ave., Ealing Common, London W5.

June 17th

Midsummer Buffet – Hunter’s lodge back room 7.30.  Tickets for meal £2.00 each or free for those wanting to drink only.  Tickets for Buffet from Tim Large.

June 17/18th

Working weekend at the Belfry – come along and give your active support.

June 23rd

Swildons Hole – CANDLE ONLY! – (Friday niters trip).

July 7th

South Wales (OFD) – Friday niters trip.

July 21st

North Hill – Friday niters trip.

August 4th

Stoke Lane Slocker – Friday niters trip.

September 9/10th

BCRA National Caving Conference, Renold Building, Manchester.  Accommodation – Booking not later than July 14th – charge £4 per night.  Tickets at door £1.00.  Conference Secretary D.M. Judson, Bethel Green, Calderbrook Road, Littleborough, Lancs.  Make cheques out to D.M. Judson, Conference acc.

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

Editors Note:     The paper used for this issue and future issues of the BB is thinner and not of such good quality as the gestetner paper we've been using.  I hope that members will not be too displeased, but when duplicating paper has risen from £2.65 in November 1977 to £3.60 in April 1978 one can realise the cost of the BB to the club.  Also, 22 pages in the BB will mean a further postal increase. With the thinner paper we can increase the BB to well over 20 pages without any postal increase.



Dates For Your Diary

May 12th

Dalimore’s  (Friday niters trip) 7.30 pm

May 14th

Yorkshire – White Scar

May 26th

G.B. (Friday niters trip)

May 27-28th

Yorkshire – GG (Bradford winch meet)

May 29th

Yorkshire – Gingling Hole


Contact Martin Grass for details of Yorkshire meets – tele:  HODDESDON 66966

June 9th

Longwood (Friday niters trip)

June 10th

Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Organised by Phil Hendy (WCC). Details next month.

June 23rd

Swildons Hole – CANDLE ONLY! – (Friday niters trip)

June 10th

Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain




The Mid-Summer Buffet at the Hunters.

Members and close friends only

Buffet limited to 70 tickets but there will be plenty of time to drink and chat if you do not want a meal.  Buffet tickets £2.00 ea.

Time 8p.m. in the 'new' backroom

Tickets from Tim Large, c/o Trading Standards Office, 31 South St., Wells, Somerset.

Money with order!!

Don't forget to buy your raffle tickets for a camera, worth £50.  Tickets are available now from MARTIN BISHOP, tele: Priddy 370.  Tickets 10p ea.  The draw will take place during the evening of the 17th June.

THE Club Dinner will take place on OCTOBER 7th - 7.30 for 8p.m. at the Caveman - make a note in your diary NOW!

The BELFRY BULLETIN is published monthly by the B.E.C.

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



Mendip Rescue Organization

Cave Rescues and Incidents for the Year ending 31st January 1978

Sunday 6th February                  Swildons Hole

A party of twelve including eight novices were led down the cave by S.P. Tarran from St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University, and Hilary Worth from University College Buckland, Farringdon.  On the way back from Sump I, Liz Ellis, who was one of the novices, lost both Wellington boots between the Double Pots and Twenty Foot Pot owing to the strong stream flow.  She sustained several cuts to her feet, legs and hands and was clearly suffering from exposure on reaching the Upper Series.  The party was met by Martin Bishop, Pete Moody, Pete McNab and Tony Jarratt at the Well and the victim was carried out and given a hot bath at Priddy.  Rich Websell assisted two other novices.  In a subsequent letter of thanks, Steve Tarran writes, “A number of recent novice trips down Swildons recently have gone so well that I become a little overoptimistic.  Obviously, in those water conditions I should not have taken them down.”  The party was not an official Oxford University one and the rescue did not involve the Police.

Sunday 3rd April                        Manor Farm Swallet

Martin Bishop received a call from the Belfry at 8pm regarding a party from Bath 18 Plus group two hours overdue.  He went to Charterhouse with Andy Sparrow and found a very tired and lightless party at the foot of the entrance shaft.  They were lifelined to the surface and it was not necessary to inform the Police.

Saturday 4th June                      Buddle’s Wood, Chewton Mendip

Howard Kenney and Richard Stevenson searched old mine shafts in the wood for a golden retriever dog missing from nearby Grove Farm.  The dog returned home on its own during the evening.

Saturday 11th June                    Stoke Lane Slocker

A party of eight from the Cambridge Climbing and Caving Club entered the cave at 12.30pm  On reaching Sump I, all but one went through, the remaining caver staying in Cairn Chamber to await the return of the main party from Stoke II.  During the time they were visiting the upper chambers, the stream rose so that it was impossible to get within a safe diving distance on the downstream approach to the sump when they returned. They remained on the far side for about four hours until the water level had dropped sufficiently.  By 6.30pm the farmer became anxious and contacted Frome Police who checked the cave entrance and then called M.R.O. at 7pm.  William Stanton alerted Brian Prewer who went to the cave. Richard Stevenson and Alan Mills led a small rescue party into the cave at about 8.30pm and met the trapped cavers safely negotiating the dive as the water had fallen.  All were out of the cave by 9.50pm.  All cavers are urged to note that the quarries upstream of the village have installed automatic pumps which now exaggerate the effects of local floods in the system.  The water level was significantly reduced after the quarry company had been requested to switch off their pumps during the alert.  A helpful resume of the situation appears in the Cave Diving Group Newsletter No. 46, January 1978, pages 3-4.

Monday 11th July                       Swildons Hole

Christopher Bowden, an 18-year old student from Plymouth, accompanied three friends on a Round Trip starting about 3.0p.m.  He had not dived a sump before but was well equipped with a 6mm wet suit.  The party was led by Alan Travarthen.  Bowden declined to dive the sump and became frightened.  Another party let by Bob Lewis chanced across, the scene and Lewis remained to give help whilst others left the cave to alert M.R.O.  Alan Thomas was appraised of the situation and informed Frome Police.  Martin Bishop, Ross White and Dave Irwin went down the cave about 9.30pm and the latter returned after an hour requesting diving gear since Bowden would not go back through the Troubles either.  Chris Hannam took diving gear into the cave at 11.0pm and Thomas alerted other wardens and informed Don Thomson.  Between midnight and 1.0a.m., a strong support team went underground with further equipment and medical supplies.  Final efforts to bully Bowden to make the dive succeeded shortly afterwards and the cave was cleared rapidly by about 1.30a.m.  It seems more logical for first-time sump dives to be undertaken the right way around rather than committing such cavers to a Round Trip and obligatory reverse dive.

Saturday 6th August                  Swildons Hole

A party of four descended the cave at about 3.00.m.  They did not have wet suits and were using carbide lamps without spares.  Only two had any previous experience and had travelled to the area from Crawley with their parents.  Arrangements had been made to meet at Rickford about 5.00pm otherwise the parents had no knowledge of the party's whereabouts.  Before reaching Sump I, the lamps began to dim and so the party started to come out.  They took a turning unknown to them in the Water Chamber and then their lights failed. Before the Rickford rendezvous passed, the parents happened to notice their son’s car on Priddy Green whilst on a tour of Mendip, so when they had not turned up at 8.00pm they returned to Priddy. Finding the car still parked there, they made local enquiries and alerted M.R.O.  Brian Prewer informed the Frome Police whilst Ian Jepson, Phil Hendy, Paul Hadfield and Barry Wilkinson searched the cave.  The missing four were found in the Old Grotto, dispirited, cold and hungry.  Had the parents not spotted the car, this call-out would have been difficult.  It is most important to leave exact details of which cave is being visited.

Saturday 27th August                 Lamb Leer

David Getterling and Paul Lydon from London went down the cave in the afternoon; the former claimed to be experienced but the other was not.  A lifeline was used on the fixed entrance ladder; however, it was not thought necessary to use one on the Main Chamber pitch!  On returning, Lydon was unable to climb the ladder and so his friend alerted M.R.O. through Bath Police.  Brian Prewer was contacted at 5.20pm but could not reach Getterling for further details as the informant had left the phone.  Prewer alerted William Stanton and a party of four from the Belfry led by Graham Wilton-Jones went to the cave finding Gettering at the entrance.  They hauled Lydon up on the winch and the cave was cleared by about 7.00pm.  Quite apart from the conduct of the trip, it is very important that informants remain at the phone until contacted by an M.R.O. warden for further details; otherwise, it is very difficult to initiate an effective call-out.

Sunday 11th September             Reads Cavern

A party of four youths went down the cave during the afternoon.  After leaving one of the party in the Main Chamber, the rest found their way into the Browne-Stewart Series.  The lad left behind panicked when the others did not return so he left the cave and asked a passer-by to contact M.R.O.  Frome Police received the call and alerted Brian Prewer at 5.45pm reporting that two cavers were stuck.  Dave Irwin, John Dukes and Chris Batstone went to Burrington to assess the situation followed by four cavers from the Belfry.  Alan Thomas was stood by.  The rescuers met a Police Patrol there and reported that the overdue party had surfaced. A brief chat ensued about under-estimating the times for trips and about not leaving novices alone in caves!  All were stood down at 6.30pm.

Saturday 24th September           Ham Rising, Derbyshire

Martin Bishop called from Derbyshire to stand-by a caving team to help retrieve a body from Ham Rising if required.  Richard Stevenson was contacted to alert local divers.  In the event, Derbyshire rescuers recovered the body.  (See Cave Diving Group Newsletter No. 46, January 1978, pages 17-18)

Wednesday 28th September       Swildons Hole

Frome Police contacted M.R.O. and reported that a Mr. Trig from Bristol had seen the same ladder hanging at the Twenty Foot Pot during a trip that day as on the previous Sunday.  A quick check of car parks and camp sites in Priddy indicated no one missing nor any parties that had not returned from the cave.  No further action was taken.

Saturday 29th October               Eastwater Cavern

A call was received from Bridgwater Police by Briar Prewer at 10.00p.m.  They were concerned about a call from a woman in cheddar who said that she had arranged to her husband there at 6.00pm after a caving trip somewhere on Mendip.  She thought they might be using a blue 1100 Estate car but was not certain about that either.  Prewer contacted Chris Hannam at Priddy and the latter met a local Police patrol. They made a tour of the most obvious sites but could not find the car.  Meanwhile Andy Sparrow checked at Eastwater Farm and was informed that a party of four were still in the cave and now overdue.  The blue car was parked in the farmyard.  Sparrow and another caver went down Eastwater Cavern straight away and located the missing party at the bottom of Baker's Chimney.  They had taken a long time to reach the bottom of the cave and had lost their way on coming out.  Otherwise, they were all right and were brought but of the cave by about midnight.  It transpired that Corporals Keith Loti and Brian Rawcliffe of the R.A.F. had gone down the cave with Mrs. Barbara Rawcliffe and Alan Whitehead from Henton at about 3.00pm.  Two of the party were complete novices.  The incident highlighted yet again the problems faced by both Police and M.R.O. when insufficient information is left about the exact location and duration of a trip.  It is important that accurate details are given to people preferably cavers, who know the area and its caves.  This saves much time and frustration should an emergency arise,

Sunday 20th November   .           Cuckoo Cleeves

Brian Prewer was contacted by a Mr G. Samways of Yeovil Caving Club at 3.15pm who reported that two of his party were stuck, in the narrow tube approach to Lake Chamber.  One of those stuck was said to be rather distressed.  Prewer informed Frome Police then alerted Martin Bishop to contact Pete Moody and Alison Hooper who were thought to be in Rocket Drop Cave.  Fred Davies, Dave Turner, Alan Mills and Colin Williams were called and Don Thomson asked to standby.  By the time Alison Hooper arrived, the pair had succeeded in reaching Lake Chamber were she joined them with Moody.  With Pete backing along the tube and Alison following, each of the cavers was coaxed out.  Alan Thomas and Martin Bishop organised other parties if required.  In the event, these were not needed and the cave was cleared by 6.15pm.

Sunday 20th November   .           Swildons Hole

After the Cuckoo Cleeves call-out, Brian Prewer received a message from Frome Police at 8.30pm reporting that a girl was unable to climb up the Twenty Foot Pot.  The informant had left the Priddy Green call box when Prewer tried to get further details, so he contacted Martin Bishop there and asked him to locate the caller.  Meanwhile, a party consisting of John Dukes, Chris Batstone, Andy Sparrow, J. Kirby and N. Weston joined Bishop with hauling ropes and the Revival apparatus.  On reaching the Twenty, they pulled the girl up and assisted her out by about 10.00pm.  She was given a hot bath.  The girl, Sharon Gorman aged 21 from Yeovil, was on her first caving trip and only had light clothing on.

Saturday 3rd December Boho Caves, County Fermanagh

Dr. Oliver Lloyd received a call from the Belfast Police requesting him to stand-by a team of divers for a rescue in progress there being organised by Dave Drew and Jeff Phillips. Two cavers had been trapped by floods. The local Fire Service was pumping out the entrance series, the Army were building a dam and Dave and Jeff were the divers.  Lloyd consulted with William Stanton straight away at 10.30pm and proceeded to raise local divers whilst Stanton contacted Frome Police.  It was agreed that, if a diving team was required, the Police would call on the R.A.F. to fly them to Northern Ireland.  In the end, those on the spot successfully rescued the trapped pair in the early hours on Sunday.  A full report on the incident by the divers appears in the Cave Diving Group Newsletter No. 46, January 1978, pages 23-24.

Sunday 11th December             Burrington Combe

Brian Prewer was contacted by Weston-s-Mare Police the previous evening regarding the whereabouts of unknown youths missing from an abandoned tent on Burrington Ham.  It was agreed that the area would be searched on the Sunday during daylight.  Several cavers gave the Police assistance in combing the surface throughout the day and parties visited the caves.  Nothing was found except a set of drums!  The Police informed M.R.O. later that they were concentrating future enquiries elsewhere.


The Latest B.E.C Expedition to Yorkshire

By Paul Christie

That’s a rather grand title for a meet which for a number of reasons bordered on a total washout.

Needless to say the problems started on the day up when the car carrying Gary “disaster follows me around” Cullen in had a broken universal joint at junction 33 of the M6.  You may well ask what they were doing that far up the motorway on their way to the BPC hut.

The rest of us arrived safely in the small hours of Good Friday morning and found bunk space easily. It wasn’t until the Cerberus arrived over the next ten days that the place began to resemble a sardine tin.

We got up Friday morning woken by the phone call of the stranded car calling out the BEC Relay service. Graham Nye put on his patrolman's uniform and set off leaving his passengers Breakfast locked in his trailer. Martin Grass, Graham W-J and myself had our breakfast and set off to go caving.

We had decided to go down Tatham Wife Hole which is near White Scar Cave.  Graham and Martin navigated between arguments and after directing me into a muddy field where we found that my car had a bald tyre we settled for the grass verge as a parking spot.  I took one look at the scar we had to go up to get to the cave and tried to find an excuse to back out of the trip, all to no avail.  We quickly changed and set off up the scar with me bringing up the rear.  I had hoped that Martin and Graham might not find the cave but my hopes were soon dashed when Graham located the fault line that the guide book refers to.  We found the cave entrance in a small depression at the far end of the Tatham Wife fault taking a fair sized stream of melt water.  The tops of the hills were still covered with snow as they had been when we had been here for the White Scar trip earlier in the year.  However, the snow was now thawing quite quickly and we thought that the cave would now be a bit sporting.  Almost excited by the prospect by now we descended the entrance passage and quickly reached the first pitch.  We abseiled this without getting too wet and rigged a ladder for the ascent. The second pitch followed almost immediately but was much netter than the first one because the water was concentrated into a small gully.  We abseiled down again and rigged the pitch as before and left the abseiling rope for self lining on the way back up.

We then set off for the third pitch discussing a possible bypass to it and also who was going to be first up the second pitch on our return.  It was obvious that it was going to get wetter and we decided that even if it didn't it was going to be a desperate climb.  About half way to the pitch Graham’s light went out so with only two lights working and the possibility of more water we turned round and made our way back.  What we did not know at, this point was that it had rained on the surface.  By the time we reached the pitch Martin’s light was working on dip only but he bravely volunteered to make the first ascent.  My light was now the only one working properly, Mike Palmer please note!  Graham was next to go, followed by myself.  The water was now very unfriendly and the ladder hung in the water. The water came down and hit you on the head rather like a lead weight.  I climbed most of the way out of the water by pushing one leg against the wall and climbing while the ladder was swinging out of the water.  The top pitch was a bit easier but we were glad to be up as the water had increased since our descent.

We returned to the surface and began our long walk back to the car.  While descending the scar, a hazardous job with boulders rolling around, I dropped the three ladders I was carrying and they ran off down the hill. However, the high spot was when a boulder leapt up and bit Martin's leg.  Graham was nearest and comforted Martin after this brutal attack and helped him limp off down the hill while I chased after the escaped ladders.  When we met back at the car and looked at Martin's leg we found that the boulder was indeed guilty of grievous bodily harm and that the resultant hole in his leg might need sowing back together.  Having packed everything into the car we set off to the nearest Hospital.

The first Hospital we found was a mental/geriatric Hospital who declined to treat Martin as he was not yet geriatric.  Instead, we were directed to the local surgery where the Doctor had been on duty most of the afternoon stitching up fell walkers and such like.  The Doctor put Martin back together while he wasn't watching and sent him back to the car where we were waiting.  I gather that Martin was not very happy with the sight of a needle going into himself.

Naturally Martin had now provided us with an excuse, as if we needed one, to spend the next day in the pub as it was open all day.  Some of the others went caving but as the thaw had now turned to rain we felt we were safer in the pub.

On Sunday Graham and I were going to explore parts of the Red Moss cave system but Saturday's rain had turned to snow on the high ground and was again thawing.  We went over to the resurgence and saw the amount of water coming out and felt the temperature of it and decided to go for a walk instead. We returned to the hut, put on our walking gear and persuaded my wife to join us.  We left Martin plating cards with the Cerberus and set off up Pen-y-Ghent. Funny, I thought the Cerberus were keen cavers these days.

The path from Brackenbottom was well trodden and consequently very muddy.  As we got higher the mud gave way to snow and the wind got stronger until on the final climb up the wind was whistling round the crag which was covered in ice. The only time we were able to stand up we were nearly blown over the edge.  Pat and I were much slower than Graham who had chosen to walk up a gully rather than the crowded path.  We met again at the top where Graham told us that the gully had been easy because the wind had blown him up it.  On the way down we left the path and slid down the snow covered slope straight across to Hunt Pot which was taking a large stream.  We rejoined the main path until we were nearly into Horton and then cut across the fields to look at the normally dry Douk Ghyll which had been transformed into an impressive waterfall by the rain and melting snow.  When we got back to the hut we found the card school still going strong 4 hours after we had left.  We changed out of our wet clothes and after tea went off to the pub where for the first time in three evenings we actually got a seat.

On the Monday morning we decided to make an early return home as Martin was still unable to use his leg. The Doctor had told him not to get the wound wet which also gave him a great excuse not to have a bath.  It took Graham and two Valley CC members an hour to get my car going and we sat off home.

There was some other caving done by Gary Cullen and friends so maybe we could have another account of the weekend.



Or just a minute with our Hon. Sec.

Tim Large

Don’t forget the Midsummer Buffet at the Hunters on June 17th - see details on page 1 (Diary of Events).

Don't forget the raffle for a S/L Camera worth £50.  Tickets are available from Martin Bishop.

The working weekend went well and quite n lot of useful work was done.  The new soak away has been completed thanks to Nigel Taylor, Ross White, Martin Bishop, John Dukes among many others.  Inside the Belfry ceramic tiles replace the formica above the sinks, outside woodwork has been sanded and cupinol'd ready for the fine weather and a painting session.  The track from the road to the cattle grid is to be tarmaced, the club sharing expenses with Walt Foxwell.  Cost to the club is about £150.

DON'T FORGET THE NEXT WORKING WEEKEND - the weekend of the Midsummer Buffet - JUNE 17th.  Come on up and give a hand.  John Dukes has requested that those turning up to work bring up any tool that they feel might be useful, electric drills, paint brushes etc.


Tim Large,
c/o Trading Standards Office,
31 South Street,
Wells, Somerset

The Committee have agreed to buy 100 reams of paper suitable for the both B.B. and Caving Reports at £1.12p per ream + Vat of 8%  The price of duplicating paper per ream has risen to £3.60.  The B.B. consumes about 35 reams per year so this purchase at £120 is a Good investment and should keep the BB going for the next couple of years or so.  Our thanks to Tony for getting it for us.

It is good to see Chris Smart back from the Middle East and John Riley, back from Aussieland, rejoining the club and swelling the numbers of active Cuthbert’s leaders.


Letter to the Editor

Dear Dave,

I was very interested to read Dave Metcalfe's description of the entrance series of Pippikine (B.B. No. 358).  He's quite right to say that most of the entrance series is totally dry, indeed I would say that most of the entrance series is totally dry, indeed I would say that Pippikin entrance series is quite a suitable choice as a 'wet weather' alternative.  Now having said that, readers may be interested to know what happens to Pippikin in torrential flood conditions.

At about midday on Tuesday the 14th June 1977, I entered Pippikin with four other Cambridge University cavers.  One of the two alternative entrance pitches already had a ladder on it belonging to a Durham University party.  ( Durham were in fact pirating on our permit.  For similar behaviour, I believe that they later got into trouble with the CNCC. The ethics of this sort of situation can be argued out ad nauseam, but I must say that in the light of subsequent events, I was very glad of their presence on this occasion.)  We put a ladder down the other entrance pitch (about 25').  The points to note are that our ladder was about four feet short of the floor, and that neither we nor the Durham had used lifelines.  (Long drawn out arguments on this one too I suppose but accepting the experience of the party, how many people really bother lifelining easy, dry entrance pitches, which have belays that would hold a tank?)  Anyway, we passed: through the wet bedding plane that follows, traversed over Cellar Pot (down which the stream sinks) and carried on to the next pitch.  We experienced the entrance series much as Dave Metcalfe describes it.  We reached the lower cave and inspected ‘Hall of the Ten’, ‘Hall of the Mountain King’, ‘Gour Hall’ and the other ‘big stuff’ down there, but that's another story.  We started making our way out.

We were following the group of four Durham cavers out.  By the time we had reached the third we had almost caught up with them. We took some time de-rigging this pitch to let them get on a little and so avoiding too much congestion.  (No overtaking allowed in this cave!)  By the time we reached Cellar Pot again we were astonished at the tremendous volume of water crashing down the pot.  It was flooding!  The Durham had made it out, and closer inspection showed that the bedding plane above Cellar Pot thankfully had a few inches of airspace left.  We hastened through to reach the entrance chamber.  The formerly dry entrance pitch was now an absolute deluge!  The Durham had again managed to climb out, presumably with at least one not using a lifeline.  We decided to try.  Pulling the ladder out of the water revealed that the Durham had replaced our short ladder with one of their own which easily bottomed, plus a double lifeline. We abandoned our tackle for collection later (we tied it all together and belayed it to a rock) and we proceeded to climb the entrance pitch.  The weight of water was tremendous.  Breathing was between pursed lips in the ‘rain shadow’ of the helmet peak. Visibility was minimal.  We emerged into the evening air thinking we’d been pretty lucky.

Little did we know at the time, but we’d been luckier than we thought.  We caught up with the Durham at Bull Pot Farm, and returned their tackle with many thanks. They then informed us that shortly after they had passed the bedding plane on the nearside of Cellar Pot, a natural dam on the surface was breached by the high water conditions.  A minor flood pulse had then passed along the cave, and the bedding above Cellar Pot was observed by the Durham to completely sump off for some fifteen minutes, with us still below!  We had reached the bedding thinking that it was flooding, and that the water was rising, when in fact it was only just going down! Knowing us to be trapped by the sumped off section, the Durham had alerted the CRO.  We hastily reached for phone and manage the stand down before any action was taken. So ended quite a trip.

Although not quite of the scale of the ‘Great Flood on Mendip’, the freak storm of the 14th June in the Ingleton area was still very significant.  The rain gauge at High Centham recorded 1.7 inches of rain between 6pm and 8pm, and it is conceivable that even more than this fell in other areas. The water level recorder installed in Scar Cave was jammed at its maximum recording level between 5.30pm and 6.30pm.  The flooded fields, swollen rivers and impassable roads, as well as intermittent thunder and lightning later on in the evening, all attested to quite a flexing of meteorological muscles.  As for Pippikin, then I think it probably remains a wet weather trip.  The freak storms required to make Pippikin impassable, like the one I've just described, are thankfully rare.  And since they just about defy prediction, it's just as well!

                        Good Caving, Nick Thorne.

P.S. Further information on the storm of the 14th June, 191'7 can be found in BCRA Bulletin No 17 August 1977, p 6 - Ric Halliwell – ‘The Ingleton Storm and White Scar Cave’.


Floating Cams.

By Nick Thorne

The floating cam is a subtle innovation in prusiking methods.  It was first introduced by American, Kirk Macgregor for the purpose of speeding up a ropewalker ascents.  The modification enabled him to set several records.  The floating cam takes the form of a length of elastic from the shoulder to the knee ropewalker, as shown in figure one.  The knee strap, previously used to raise the ascender, is then discarded, and the ropewalker lifted by contraction of  the  elastic.  This  idea  seemed fine  for    prusik racing, but was perhaps thought of as being a little remote from caving.  Experience has shown this not to be the case.  With judicious attachment of the elastic to the ropewalker, several distinct advantages over the knee strap method arise, in addition to the convenience of the lifting mechanism.  These advantages, of which I will explain later, make the floating ropewalker far superior to the fixed knee variety.  Although racing rigs deal mainly with ropewalkers, for caving purposes, sprung earn ascenders are justifiably popular.  These too can be floated in suitable systems (e.g. the Mitchell method). The floating operation with sprung earn ascenders is much simpler than with ropewalkers, and again, is very effective.

A discussion of the setting up of a floating ascender obviously centres around the elastic. For materials, it is worth experimenting with most types of elastic fibre.  Ordinary rubber bands work well (1).  These may be tied in parallel and end to end, and this allows for convenient alterations to the elastic length and tension.  The major disadvantage is that the bands wear out and break quite easily. They have recommended thick surgical tubing, despite its vulnerability to cuts (2, 3), and I have even seen inner tube rubber used with some success.  The best material however, seems to be shock cord. (1, 2, 3) 5-7mm thickness seems to be the most appropriate diameter.  The elastic properties of the shook cord are perdurability makes it the best choice.  Some makes of shock cord have sheaths that expose the underlying rubber when under tension.  These types would be less suitable for caving, I think, due to abrasion of the rubber.

Once a suitable material is chosen, length and tension considerations occur next.  The two main properties of the elastic that are important are the tension at full working extension, and the slack threshold, i.e., the upper limit of the ascender movement.  The tension at full working extension can be as high as eight to ten pounds force (1).  This may seem a lot and certainly a straight vertical lift of the ascender can be performed with a much smaller force.  Problems arise however on sloping pitches, where only a component of the elastic tension pulls the ascender up the rope.  Consequently, for general purposes, the tension mentioned above is recommended. This tension is not difficult to judge, but for those who cannot estimate what feels 'right', the tension can be measured quite easily using a fisherman’s spring balance.

The other important consideration concerning the float elastic is the slack threshold.  The elastic should come just slack when the foot using the floating ascender is raised well above that involved in normal prusiking.  This makes for a good, clean lift, entirely within the linear region of the elastic.

Some experimentation will be required to obtain the optimum properties of the elastic.  In addition to length variations of the elastic itself, tension and slack threshold variations can be made by altering the position of the upper and lower attachments of the elastic.  This may seem obvious, but a few qualifying statements need to be said.  It is nice to have the upper attachment of the elastic.  This may seem obvious, but a few qualifying statements need to be said. It is nice to have the upper attachment of the elastic within easy reach when the time comes to de-float.  An attachment to the front of the sit harness therefore provides a very convenient attachment point.  Unfortunately, the resulting length of elastic will often be too short to supply sufficient tension.  This in turn can be slightly offset by placing the ascender lower down. This obviously leads to shorter steps, which may be undesirable, and it may also place the ascender effectively out of arms reach, which may prove awkward at times.  Alternatively, the upper attachment of the elastic can be raised to the shoulder as mentioned earlier.  This involves a longer length of elastic and is still convenient from a handling point of view.  For some elastic materials however, the resulting length of elastic may still be insufficient.  If this is the case, then the next step is to pass the elastic up and over the shoulder and attach it to the back of the sit harness.  This attachment may be more awkward to reach, but the ascender can be temporarily de-floated by slipping the elastic off the shoulder.  This action may prove adequate for short sections of cave between pitches, instead of a complete removal of the elastic. The elastic can be prevented from slipping off the shoulder accidentally by placing the attachment more in the middle of the waistband, at the back.


Passing the elastic over the shoulder does however raise a subtle complication the resulting tension in the elastic becomes a function of the friction between the elastic and the clothes worn.  On one surface practice, whilst wearing one of a well known Mendip retailer's plush 'boiler' suits (low friction) I set up the precise length of elastic required for an 'over the shoulder' attachment.  Because of the low friction between the elastic and the suit, the elastic was fairly evenly tensioned along its length.  However, on the first underground outing with this particular set up, I was of course, wearing a wetsuit (high friction). Consequently an uneven tension in the elastic resulted.  The elastic from the shoulder to the back of the sit harness was almost slack, and that from the shoulder down to the ascender was very highly stressed. It didn't take long for the lower attachment to fail.  The solution to the problem seems to be to sheath the elastic with some flexible hose. This I have found does not add to the practical complexity of the set up, and it does make the float elastic performance independent of the clothing worn.

The actual type of attachment mechanism for the elastic at its upper end is not critical.  Any hook and eye arrangement should do.  I have found the hooks from standard car top carriers to be quite suitable, especially after bending over the end to make a more secure, barb type of structure.  Less likely to unfasten accidentally would be some form of snap link arrangement, but the potential increase in awkwardness of operation should be borne in mind.

The lower attachment of the elastic i.e. that to the ascender, is unlike the upper attachment inasmuch as it must be totally secure.  Failure of the float elastic at its upper end is generally fairly innocuous as far as physical injury is concern.  If the lower attachment gives however, the elastic is nicely primed to flick up into the face, bringing with it whatever hooks and the like that may be tied onto it.  Total security I have found, is only genuinely obtainable by actually tying/or lashing the elastic to the ascender.  As well as being extremely unlikely to fail, this mechanism avoids any extra metal or other parts that may be potential projectiles.  The method does however, have certain difficulties associated with its permanent nature.  If the ascender were to be used for other purposes (such gear hauling) the elastic may be a bit of a nuisance.  The permanency of the attachment also makes replacement by a spare more impracticable. Consequently, many practitioners again use some sort of hook and eye or ring and snaplink arrangement just like the upper attachment.  This seems perfectly suitable providing that it can be made secure enough.

As for the exact part of the ascender that the elastic should be tied to, then this obviously depends on the type of ascender.  For all slung cam ascenders commonly available (i.e. Jumar, Petzl, Clog.)  All have krab holes conveniently placed at the top of them.  The only point to note is that with the Petzl ascender, only one of the two top holes should be used.  Any hook placed through both would mean that the ascender would have to be de-floated in order to remove it from the rope.  This is an unnecessary procedure, and should be avoided.

With ropewalkers such as the Gibbs, the ideal attachment position is less obvious, and is subject to several considerations.  These are:- the spring loading of the cam; the attitude of the cam when the ropewalker is disassembled (assuming an a attachment method is used that avoids de-floating to dismantle the ropewalker) and a possible increase in cam wear. Consequently several attachment positions are possible, but here, I only propose to outline what I consider to be the best method.  Other methods of attachment are given elsewhere along with discussions of their various pros and cons. (2, 4).  The discussion essentially hinges on whether the elastic lifts the cam directly or indirectly via the body or the pin.  The former is by far the better method.  Lifting the cam directly is the only way to spring load the ascender (i.e. make the cam action like that of a Jumar) whilst, at the same time, not critically increasing the cam wear.  This can be achieved by the attachment show in figure two.  The cam is sprung onto the rope by the couple of the foot pressure down, and the elastic tension up.  (The weight of the body of the ropewalker is small enough to be ignored.) When foot pressure is released, the upward travel of the ascender is accompanied by some release of the cam pressure on the rope.  This effect is more marked than with other attachment methods and so it leads to lower cam wear.  (Particularly suspect for cam wear would be the attachments to the pin or body of the ropewalker.)  This attachment method also has the added advantage that the cam is held nicely poised in space when the ropewalker is dismantled.  This means that the cam accepts the other parts more readily and so a faster on/off time for the ropewalker is achieved.

Finally, a few words of warning are needed to those who wish to set up a floating cam system. Firstly, check the attachment methods, particularly the one to the ascender.  Before 'Kitting up' test the attachments under loads well above those expected in normal use.  Practise on the surface first-this should go without saying, and be able to cater for an elastic failure.  With sprung cam ascenders this is no problem.  The hand that was freed by the use of the elastic simply comes back into action.  With ropewalkers, a spare elastic or knee strap should be carried.  When it is necessary to de-float the elastic, do so from the upper end first.  The other way could be dangerous if the elastic is stressed and it slips out of the hand.

In conclusion therefore, I hope I haven't deterred any prusiking cavers from trying this innovation for fear of getting a black eye!  To put elastic failure into context, then with a carefully set up rig, it is an extremely rare event.  Once this is appreciated the full advantages of the floating ascender can be enjoyed. Ropewalking cavers can ascend faster than before.  Gone will be that flicking motion required to make the cam bite, and gone too will be those annoying holes on the inside of the knee of the wetsuit.  With sprung cam ascenders, the freeing of a hand will be found most welcome.  There will be no tired upper arm any more, as the hand pushing the upper ascender can be alternated, or both hands can be used in combination.  Additionally, on those sloping pitches, there will be no need to have your nose rubbed into the rock as the free hand can be used to 'fend off'.  Make the initial effort to set up a floating ascender system, try it, and you'll be convinced.


(1)                Macgregor, K. - Personal communication, I.S.C. September 1977.

(2)                 Montgomery, N.R. - 'Single Rope Techniques - a Guide for Vertical Cavers'. pp. 86-88 and p 90.  (N.B. When Montgomery discusses floating ropewalkers, I doubt if he has tried all the methods he shows. His conclusion about cam wear is valid, but not for the reason he gives.  Some of his arguments concerning the 'spring levering' and slippage of the cam are incorrect. (p.86, 87 fig, 131C, fig. 131D).

(3)                Halliday, W.R. - American Caves and Caving. pp. 217-219.

(4)                Thorne, N. Floating Cams for Prusiking. Cambridge Underground 1978



compiled by Niph

The greater part of Jottings is taken over by the latest Mendip discovery by members of the club.

Extension in Lionel's Hole

On Saturday, 22nd April 1978, about 300 - 500ft. of new passage was opened up in Lionel's Hole, Burrington Coombe.  A series of stream and high level passages were explored that can only be entered via two ducks - making it the severest undertaking in the area; certainly thin men need only apply at the moment and Burrington novices should stay clear.



Another BEC extension in another cave will be reported next month!!

Early in February 1977, 'Wig' and Bruce Bedford, working on 'Mendip Underground' heard a sizable stream in the 'Pit' area.  Willie Stanton knew of no stream. Thus things rested until 'MacAnus' and Ross White went and took a look for themselves early in April 1978.  They went on into the Traverse and entered the East Low Level and found the stream at the lowest point.  A week later Ross and Andy Sparrow with an un-named Scot went looking for the strewn again but descended the West Low Level by mistake and found a continuation of the same stream with a way on.  This was on the 15.4.78.  They pushed the Scot through the duck only to find another a few feet further on.  The following day the second duck (Bird Bath) was passed by Andy Sparrow who followed the streamway for some 60ft where he could turn round.  The stream sank into a soakaway but the passage flattened to a low crawl.  Andy felt lonely and so made a brave retreat leaving the crawl for another day!  On the 22nd April Andy returned with an 'army' of thin 'men' - Alison Hooper, Pete Moody Chris Smart et al.  The streamway was pushed for a further 40ft to a diggable choke.  Above Andy's turn-round point a tight rift in the roof was climbed for about 15ft. leading into the high level series of chamber and passages, some of which are extremely muddy and which are thought to flood. Alison pushed a rift and entered a large rift passage some 40-50ft high and 8ft wide leading down to a small chamber followed by a succession of roomy phreatic rifts terminating at a divable sump. Andy will be writing in the next issue of the B.B. giving all the latest details as there are a number of unexplored passages to be pushed.

The rifty nature of the passages shows that the cave is trending to the west.  It is possible that this stream is the same as that heard by the unfortunate Joe Plumley in the late 19th century at the bottom of Plumley's Hole, just below Aveline's Hole.  Is this stream the same as seen in East Twin or is it, more importantly that sinking at Top Sink at the upper end of the East Twin Brook Valley? Anyway the importance of this discovery cannot be underestimated as it might provide a clue to the cave under Burrington Ham.

A sketch survey compiled by 'Wig' based on a sketch by Andy Sparrow

News in brief.

Derek Ford is back again on Mendip and has been down St. Cuthbert’s collecting more samples in the Dining Room area - hopefully we shall be reading of his work in a future issue of the B.B.


Mendip's veteran caver 'Trat' recently suffered a heart attack.  He was rushed to hospital into the intensive care unit.  I'm pleased to report that he's making a good recovery and planning has visit to Ireland later in the summer.  I'm sure that I'm joined by all members in wishing him a full recovery and an active digging future.


A mine shaft opened up on the top of Cadbury Hill back in February when members went over to explore it at the invitation of an old BEC member.  John Dukes and Rog Sabido went down.  Its 150ft deep.  More later.



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.


Tim Large (Hon. Secretary) 72 Lower Whitelands, Tyning, Radstock, Avon.  (Tel: Radstock 4211)

Barrie Wilton (Hon. Treasurer) 27 Valley View, Venus Lane, Clutton, Bristol. (Tele: Temple Cloud 52072)

Chris Batstone (Hut Warden) 8 Prospect Place, Bathford, Bath, Avon.

Mike Palmer (B.B. Postal) Laurel Farm, Yarley Hill, Yarley, Wells, Somerset.  (Tele: Wells 74693)

Dates For Your Diary


January 14th                (note change of date) – White Scar Cave, Yorks.  Contact Martin Grass for final details.

March 11th                  BRCA Symposium – Cave photography. UMIST, Manchester.

June 10th or 17th         Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Details later.

February 15th              West Face of Changbang – Joe Tasker.  Details on last sheet.

Friday Night Trips: - Richard Kenny (Tel, Meare Heath 296) has sent the following details.

January 20th      Manor farm

February 3rd      Eastwater

February 17th    Cheddar

March 3rd          ` Thrupe Lane

March 17th        South Wales

March 31st        Singing River Mine

October – B.E.C. AGM and Annual Dinner– details later.

To ensure that members get their BB's in the early part of the month of  issue would contributors please send their material to the Editor the middle of the preceding month.  Material for future issues is building up nicely thus enabling the editor to produce each issue with a good variety of reading material.  The BB consumes a considerable quantity of material so keep writing – it’s the best advert for the Club we've got!  It has been suggested by one member that we publish the Caving Report material in the BB - what are member’s views on this suggestion?  Let's air it in the BB.



Tim Large

Recovered from the Christmas excesses yet?  I Hope everyone had an enjoyable time in our usual manner.

The Committee cogs are churning away and at the December meeting the position of the Trustees of the Club were discussed.  Although we only have three Trustees now, this does not affect any agreements previously made, but it is desirable that the responsibility is well spread should a problem arise.  We have been advised that 5 is a good number.  (See article later on).

At the Belfry we should have a battery charger operating later this year – at last, many will say! A soak-a-way, for the showers, is to be dug as it appears to be the waste water from these that is overloading the sceptic tank.  ‘Zot’ has been at it again – the alpine bunk in the men’s room has been completed by his fair hand.  All it needs is a door on the front and we have an ideal ‘cooler’ for Saturday night excesses!

The B.E.C. is possibly going into the film business.  Russ Jenkins is investigating the possibilities of hiring a cinema to show good quality climbing films.  Watch this space for more news!

The new Lamb Leer Access Agreement between CSCC and Somerset C.C. was accepted at the recent CSCC meeting. Details of the agreement will be published as soon as the Club receives a copy from CSCC.

The Wessex have seen the light at last - all in one month they have written us a letter - yes, they can actually write and they also have a Wessex Cuthbert's leader,  namely Paul Hadfield - welcome.

The new Cave Rescue Scheme, operated by CSCC is preparing to reopen Flower Pot and Hollowfield Swallet. At present the materials are being organised.  As our club was largely responsible for the opening of Flower Pot, I feel that we should make ourselves available to help with the work, particularly the original diggers.  I an sure that Graham Price (CSCC Conservation and Acess Officer) will be pleased to hear from you with any offers of help or supplies of suitable materials.  He can be contacted at 31 Waterford Park, Radstock, Avon.  Tele. No. Radstock 4251.

I hear through the grapevine that the Peak Cavern trip was a ‘washout’ – slightly damp conditions were met in the show cave section – ever tried walking down steps under water!  It is hoped to arrange this trip again later this year.

For your diary will be the Mayday Bank Holiday, when a trip to Aggy will be arranged.  Names to me if interested.  One of the round trips is suggested.


NEXT MONTH IN THE B.B. - Pippikin (the entrance series) a report on the Iran 77 expedition and an older members comments on the condition of St. Cuthbert's Swallet after an interval of 20 years entitled Cuthbert’s Revisited.  Incidentally BEC member No. 1 spoke to me recently and has expressed a wish to have a look at Cuthbert's in the Spring.   When dates are fixed perhaps some of the other 'golden oldies' might like to join in – details later.



As the Club who has found the two largest systems on Mendip in the last twenty five years, one wonders what 1978 holds for us – Wigmore, Cuthbert’s Three, Tynnings Barrow Swallet Two – who knows?  What ever it is.


Club Trustees

The resignation of 'Alfie' as a trustee of the Club raises several of importance to club members.

  1. The Club 'trustees and their responsibilities are not written into the Club Constitution and so, in theory, are not responsible to the Club Annual General meeting.
  2. Of the remaining three trustees, one is not a member of the Club.  This situation is of course perfectly legal but the members should decide whether it is satisfactory to the Club.
  3. The Trustee Deed cannot be found – there is doubt whether one actually exists, though 'Alfie' believes one does.
  4. Whether the Trustee Deed exists or not, it is the belief of the Club Committee that the Constitution should be revised adding the usual clauses covering Club Trustees (Tim Large has informed the Sub-Committee, currently chaired by Martin Cavender, the Club Solicitor, that they should study the problem and a solution presented to he Club Committee in time for the details to circulated to all members in time for the next A.G.M.)
  5. The resignation of one Trustee does not effect the agreements or the ownership of the property, though the other three Trustees take over the responsibility relinquished by the retiring Trustee.  Tim Large has written to each informing them of the situation.  They are Bob Bagshaw, Les Peters and ‘Pongo’ Wallis, the last being no longer member.

The Club Committee believes that the Constitution should be altered at the next AGM to be brought into line with other similar organisations whereby the mechanism of election of Trustees, resignation, removal, length of term as Trustee, indemnifying of Trustees, refunding of any expenses arising out of the agreements they have signed etc.  The whole clause should be written in accordance with the Trustee Act of 1925. Up ‘till ‘Alfie’s’ resignation there were four trustees (2 being the usual minimum) but Martin Cavender has informed the Committee that 5 is a sensible number.  Bob White, the Clubs insurance broker is also being informed of the situation.


Letter To The Belfry Inmates


Dear Chris and other Belfry inmates!

Ain't this paper posh! A collector’s piece, you know - they only printed 50 sheets or something incredible like that!  (Ed. note. The paper is headed ASOCIACION MEXICANA DE ESPELEOLOGIA  A.C.) As for their motto, well, they do less caving than the ... (mm, who shall we be rude about ... ) Wessex! (the motto is:- to know the world underground).

So summer is ending - I guess the cooler evenings will be driving you to the Hunters at a more decent, earlier hour now!  For us, the rains have stopped and the sun is really good.  I'm talking about the weather - sorry!  You can tell we’ve got more British teachers out here to influe¬nce us!  About ten young people came out for the beginning of the term - socially, life is much better this year - they're a good lot of beer swillers.  Do you know, after a year of rejecting it, I've at last got the palate for Mexican beer, so life is worth living again!

I haven't written for a while because I wanted to tell you about an important ‘find’.  We had the luck to discover four burial pots in one of our Cuetzalan caves and I was trying to avoid mentioning it until it was all in the hands of the museum.  Mexican laws with regards to archaeological finds are really tough.  We were caving with three eager Mexicans from the club when one of them insisted on pushing a squeeze.  Pete and he got through into a metre wide, metre and half high streamway and followed it to the site.  Farther downstream is a boulder choke - there must have been an entrance there once as there's no way anybody would have shoved their dead through that squeeze.

The four bowls are about half a metre wide, unpainted and all intact.  Inside is a black soil which we presume to be cremation remains, as it is so ‘rich’, which covers an incredible collection of jade and onyx pieces. The most impressive are the 30 or so funeral 'masks' which are typically Teotihuacan (100 – 600 A.D.) – the Teotihuacan civilisation lived just north of Mexico City, and built the infamous pyramids.  These masks were worn on (string) around the neck - if you see the life size diagram on the previous page, you can imagine what a weight they must have been to wear, being made of alabaster/onyx etc.

Most of the other pieces were relatively smaller and of Mayan origin (see smaller sketch) - many of them are made in beautiful green jade.  Hundreds of beads also filled up the pots.

So, it was all pretty exciting!  We decided to keep in with the law, so arranged with Puebla Museum to take it over.  However, they didn’t make it at the time arranged, so it’s still all the cave! One interesting idea about the find is that Cuetzalan must have been on a trade route between Teotihuacan and the Mayas of Yucatan when this bloke snuffed it!  Although there are some pyramids about 30km. from the cave, they’re of a different age – other than that, we don’t know of any other remains around – maybe we’ll have to look a bit closer!

So, what else.  Pete spent 36 hours in jail recently!  A woman smashed into him when he was driving at 15kph! The policeman on the scene watched the women creating in Latin style at Pete, who wound the window and ignored her. Pete unfortunately had no bribe for the policeman, who ushered Pete off to the police station - now 9.00pm. at night. When he wasn’t back at school time next am, I started to wonder where landed himself.  The school lawyer tracked him down, and had bailed him out by evening.  Though not Pete’s fault, he ended up paying this woman just to shut her up!

Looking forward to hearing from you

Love, Sue


Teotihuacan funeral mask (100 – 600 A.D.)

Jade Mayan Figure


What To Do With Your 'OLD'hams

For those of you with a collection of rotting Oldham caving lamps in your shed, perhaps you might find my experiences with Nickel/cadmium cells helpful if not amusing.

Once upon a time there were several caving lamps quietly rotting away in the garden shed.  There was probably not enough life in the whole lot of them to last long enough to go down to Swildons Sump I and back.  Then one day came along a good fairy called ‘Ni-Cad’ who was able to grant them one wish which was to provided light again for some lunatic caver.

Now, let’s get to the point of this article.  Ni-Cad cells have been around in the caving world for quite a while now and those who have used them all have different stories to tell.  As might be expected from a cell with similar make-up to the old faithful NiFe cell these will certainly give as many years service, unlike an Oldham, as long as one or two simple rules are adhered to.

I will deal first with the question of storage, as far as I am aware the cells can be stored either charged or discharged.  However if stored in a charged state at either a high or low temperature a fairly dramatic loss of charge will occur which will have some relationship with the extreme the temperature is.  I keep my cells indoors at normal room temperature which seems to be about right. This loss of charge is of course reversible, but it is important that you should not overcharge this type of cell. When fully charged the cells will make a whistling sound through the vent holes on the filler cap between the two terminals.  Overcharging will permanently reduce the life of the cell.

One minor problem occurs in use.  The cells are used in pairs and no two cells have an equal charge capacity, so that one wilfully discharge before the other.  As the cells are connected in series this will cause a reverse voltage from the cell with some charge left in it through the other discharged cell. This has the same effect as overcharging in reducing the life of the cell so that it is wise when your light starts to dim to turn it off and leave it off.

Having weighed up the pro’s and con’s of converting your dead Oldhams or even that decrepit old Patterson you had forgotten you will probably come to the same conclusion that I did which was that it would certainly save you some money and be worth the small effort involved.  To remove the old cells from their casing simply place the case in boiling water for about 20 minutes and then start pulling the terminal with a pair of pliers.  Do not use a good saucepan for the boiling as it will stain with some of the black colouring from the casing and obviously remove the cell from the water before trying to remove the cells.  The guts of the cell are kept in place by a half inch layer of pitch which makes the initial tug a bit difficult but once past this thin layer the cell comes out without any difficulty.  The liquid left in the casing is acidic and should be treated with care, do not use the water used for boiling the cell to dilute the acid.

Now that you have the empty case all you need to do now is to make a small slit in the central partition to accommodate the connecting wire between the two cells.

Should you decide to use the smaller 10 amp hour cells the casing is about twice the depth you need to accommodate the cells comfortably.  The 20 amp hour cell fits almost perfectly into the case.  The headset of the old cell may still be used as the only change required is the voltage of the bulbs.  The dip bulb is a 2.5 volt flashlight bulb available from most hardware shops, but the main bulb will have to be obtained from the usual stockists of caving equipment.  Some sort of insulation should be placed over the top of the cells because they will move about slightly and if brought into contact with the metal cover will short out and produce a foul smell from inside the case.  A small strip of neoprene is quite handy for this purpose.

The 10-hour cells can be used in fours to give 20 amp hours but the casing has to be altered a bit further. I decided against this and decided to cut the middle section out of the case (see diagram).  This leaves you with the top section so that the headset can still be attached and the bottom section to be used as a base.  Araldite is the most successful glue with which to stick the two pieces back together again.

Paul Christie


Cuthbert’s The Castrated Cavern:

The next item in this issue is a letter from Jim Durston which is bound to cause more than a little disturbance on the apparently smooth waters of the Cuthbert's Leaders:

In most respects the B.E.C. may be proud of the way in which they have acted as guardians for the plum find of St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  The cave has been quite well preserved, while at the same time the leader system allows access for responsible and experienced cavers.  One matter however should be a source of shame to the Club and to the leaders who actually administer the physical control of the cave. I refer to the disgraceful amount of quite unnecessary fixed tackle that litters the cave.

Why must we suffer these rusting iron monstrosities that demean the cave by reducing its natural appeal? Is rigid tackle really indispensable on Ledge Pitches and Mud Hall, or are we breeding a race of cavers (or leaders?) who are too bone idle to carry a few electron ladders?

I will admit that fixed ladders speed the progress of the inept and inexperienced to the more vulnerable parts of the system, and allow him to reach parts which flatter his true ability.  This has the effect of increasing the rate of deterioration of the cave.  Per¬haps I consider this aspect to be of more importance than it is, but I seriously doubt whether a 'caver' for whom a 25ft. ladder pitch is too much, should be allowed into the cave at all.  At least normal tackle will help to reveal inadequacies towards the beginning of a trip.

'Normal' caving tackle allows the average caver the satisfaction 'of completing a 'normal' caving trip, without the feeling that he has been given a tourist trip around some artificially improved second rate show cave.

I have heard the argument that flexible tackle makes for a tired caver, which makes for more damage. I cannot accept this.  With fixed tackle the onset of tiredness may be delayed until such time as he is say stumbling around Victory Passage.  With flexible ladders he should realise that he is in a cave a little sooner.  He should also appreciate its sporting merits in addition to its decorative appeal.

These fixed 'aids' were originally placed to assist the preliminary explorations of the new find, explorations which seem to have taken almost twenty five years.  Their usefulness (and in some cases usability) must now be at an end. The cave must no longer be equipped to take tourist overspill from Wookey Hole and Cheddar.  We must clear out this junk now~ and again make St. Cuthbert's a cave to be proud of.

If you feel as I do, act now!  Bend the ear of your nearest lead¬er and tell him.  Yes, even your Editor.

Jim Durston

Ed. note:           There you have it – straight between the eyes.  Get your pens going for the next issue of the BB with your comments and reasoned arguments!



Please send your subscription to Tim Large, 72 Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock, Avon.


A Visit to South Pembrokeshire

by  Ted Humphreys

Building sandcastles can become boring if done to excess.  So, since we just happened to be within ten miles of the sea cave described by Graham Wilton-Jones in the B.B. (No.343) we decided to investigate.  We chose a day when low tide was at 3pm and got to St. Govan's Chapel (NGR. SR 967929) shortly after mid-day.  It was, of course, raining and blowing a gale which made changing at the top of the one hundred foot cliff somewhat masochistic. Once we had our wet suits on, however, we felt better dressed for the weather than the inevitable tourists, who seemed fascinated by our attire (we even had our pictures taken!).

On reaching the base of the cliffs we headed west, under a rock arch, towards G.W-J's cave but found that the tide was not yet low enough.  After a conference, we decided to explore to the east of the chapel whilst waiting for low tide.  Passing the chapel and going under another rock arch we found ourselves in a small cove containing one large and one small entrance.  The large entrance was at the head of the cove and was about ten feet high by twenty feet wide.  When we entered it we were disappointed to find that the roof gradually des¬cended and the pebble floor gradually rose until they met after some fifty feet. Switching on our lights and inspecting the cave more carefully we found two small side passages on the west side. These both came to an end after about fifteen feet of flat out crawling and were interesting only in that there was some stalagmite (partly dissolved) at their far ends.  Natural cave!  Something must go!  We thought, and proceeded to the smaller cave entrance a few yards to the west.

At first sight this seemed to consist of two small chambers hollowed out by the sea but pointing a light upwards in the second chamber showed a natural chimney.  Climbing up this for about ten feet revealed a horizontal passage going westwards as far as a fault plane (about a further ten feet away) and then apparently continuing along the fault.  This horizontal passage was only about seven inches high and about two feet wide.  Its floor seemed to be of powdered limestone (grey earth?) and would be easily removable to permit access.  We decided not to proceed because of a small stalagmite column halfway along and because the west side of the chimney was formed of stones only loosely bound by some very fragile looking stal ( we got scared off!)  Returning down the chimney to shouts of 'Mind where you are dropping those stones' (gist only) we headed east to the next cove but found no more caves and so returned westward again to G. W-J’s cave.  This time the way was clear and we were able to get into the cave.  The entrance chamber was all sea worn with one or two short side passages and an interesting looking hole about twenty feet up the roof.  Going through the squeeze into the second chamber we found it was again sea worn with one side passage containing some stale flows.  About six feet up in the inner wall was a hole leading to a third chamber which was natural cave (that is, not worn by sea water).  This hole was, however, too tight though some gardening might pay dividends.

Returning outside we continued westwards to a final cave along another fault plane. This looked promising but just fizzled out after about sixty feet.  It contained some nice formations (little ones) that could be seen by poking ones head through a hole in the roof which was an old false floor by the look of it.  Having washed out wetsuits in the spray - the ten foot waves were breaking against a rock shelf and throwing spray up to thirty feet in the air - we returned to the top of the cliffs.

We had noticed that the cliff path through the army range was open and decided to have a look at the caves marked on the O.S. map about a mile to the west (NGR. SR953936).  We thought that, since it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale, no-one would notice wet-suited figures leaving the footpath. When we got there we found some magnificent scenery, huge rock arches, lots of cave entrances and depressions in the ground leading away from the cliffs.  Unfortunately, the cliffs were vertical and up to one hundred and fifty feet high and there was no way down (obviously a job with ladders and ropes). While we were looking for a way down the army arrived (they seemed to think we were invading frogman who had levitated up the cliffs!) and said that climbing their cliffs was not allowed. We thus made a tactical withdrawal thinking that if were again in South Pembrokeshire on a calmer day with a rubber dingy, we would know exactly where to go!




An Oxford Fester

By Paul Christie

The weekend of November 12/13th was finally chosen as the one on which a select group of B.E.C. members would visit a couple of areas not too famous for their miles of underground passage.  We met at Botley, near Oxford, in a small room provided by Richard Round.  Andy Sparrow and friend were first to arrive, followed by Paul Christie and Martin Grass with their respective wives.  Later on we were joined by Graham Wilton-Jones, Jane Wilson, John Dukes and the Tilbury family.  Mike and Pat Palmer should have joined us here, but they were slightly delayed, so in true alcoholic fashion we pinned a note to the door saying which pub we would be in.

At the pub we split up the keen ones going off to see the 'caves', while the rest waited in the pub for the Palmers.  Pau1, recently released from plaster, decided that his newly mended right arm would get more exercise lifting pints of beer.  The Palmers complete with dog and Keith Newbury arrived mumbling apologies and wittering complaints about the lack of tackle in the Belfry Tackle Store earlier in the day. Having sampled the not very good local ale the gang made its way to the 'caves'.

After a couple of hours of digging and dam building on the surface we all piled into Oxford to Jane's house for some refreshment and respective and then went our respective ways.

Mike, Paul and Martin, plus wives, returned to Paul's flat in Ascot with Graham and Keith.  The intercom from the front door to the flat gave several people the chance to act out their secret desire to make obscene ‘phone calls’  We all soon settled down with numerous cups of tea (!) except Graham who is a 'non-(tea)-person', to discuss the days events and why the milk in comes in plastic bags.  Yes, you’ve guessed it - there are plastic cows in Berkshire.

Dinner was served and washed down with quantities of wine and after the customary Saturday night visit to the pub, where they seemed to have mixed up the ordinary and special bitters, we returned to the flat.  Cheese and biscuits was served accompanied by more alcohol in the form of Harry Wall bangers. Martin, by this time, was finding the pace too much and retired to bed while Graham, revitalised by more alcoholic beverage offered to show the two Pats all the different positions (didn’t know Graham had taken up horse riding - Ed.).  Needless to say everybody slept well after all the drinking and eating.

In the morning, Graham acted as Belfry Boy by bringing the tea round and after breakfast and more games with the intercom; we set off to look at some Hearthstone Mines near Reigate.  Paul's route from Ascot to Reigate was rather peculiar and meant that we didn’t arrive at the mines until 12.30pm and for a change, decided not to visit the pub!

We parked in a lay-by on a dual carriageway and began changing.  Encouraged by the others, Martin frightened all the passers-by with his streaking.  We made our way to the mine entrance, which proved to be in true Mendip style, 55ft of concrete tube.  Descending the tube in a variety of ways using ropes, a mixture of ordinary and lightweight ladders, we had hoped to experiment with the new technique for descending pitches known as M.D.T. but we were lacking certain items of equipment. The dog was carried down in a rucksack on Keith’s back and for the next four hours spending its time running around the passages keeping the party together.  The mine is a maze of passages 5’ 8” high, of varying width once used for mushroom growing in the 2nd World War worked by about 200 Portuguese labourers. In places the floor is still covered with peat and mushroom fungus.  Pit props abound but these are so rotten that they serve no useful purpose.  It seems that everyone enjoyed the trip including Pat Palmer on her first caving trip in 12 years and, so it seemed, did ‘BEC’, the dog. Everyone changed, we returned to Paul's Flat by Graham’s route, which was no better than the way we had come. Anyway a good fester was had by all!


Wigmore Swallet Success to Bolde Myners   

Following the initial report (B.B. No.356) the Company are pleased announce the success of their project. To continue the Tale from where we left off in September …..

At around 35ft. the initially loose ends of the rift begun to stabilise into a relatively solid vein of assorted iron ores and calcite.  Various odd bits of steel ladder were begged, borrowed or stolen and welded together into one 30ft. length - creating some problems when transported to the site on the roof of Mr N's car (lucky there were no coppers about!) and installed in the shaft.

Banging continued, courtesy of Alan Thomas, and in early November, a rift was opened at the western side of the shaft.  Though only 6" wide it appeared to be reasonably deep and draughting strongly with varying weather conditions.  The vein material at the side of the rift was chemically removed to make it accessible.

On the 9th November, the dry clad diggers were to have mixed feelings when it was found that a small stream had begun to pour down the entrance shaft and disappear into the rift. Dubious surface work by persons unknown enlarged this trickle to a much more impressive size - much to the disgust of Steve, Pru and Jerry who were instantly 'drowned-ratted'!  Co-incidentally, McAnus had joined the team.

Spurred on by the instant swallowing of the stream and its distant rumbling, the rift was dug for some 10ft., with Tom Temple and George Dixon(?) representing the R.N. contingent. During this time, much of the unstable back wall was faced with stone and cement 'ginging' as permanent shoring with an aesthetic touch.  The late November/early Dec¬ember period saw a lull in excavations - partly due to the need for manpower on the Tyning' s Reopening Dig (YOU ARE ALL WELCOME TO ASSIST) and it was not until 11th December that further serious work commenced. Bob X and Stuart Lindsey spent a day at the site, and the latter opened a small hole in the rift into which he poked his head - promptly receiving a nice piece of roof on the back of his neck. He hesitated!

The following day he returned, accompanied by Jane Kirby (MCG) and J. Rat.  An hours clearing of boulders revealed a view into a sizable chamber.  Stuart studied the roof, walls, floor and his beer-gut and hesitated again pausing only to poke in J. Rat with a forked vermin stick, in order to clear the loose stuff from the far side.  A low crawl over sandy stream debris and underneath extremely loose vein material was passed into a roomy chamber.  The roof of the crawl was gently tickled with a crowbar producing fine sound effects when some ½ ton of it fell in.  After clearing this, the others came through and exploration continued.  The chamber proved to be some 15ft. long by 4 - 8ft high and -12ft. at its widest.  It is formed in a junction of the vein with various cross rifts and has a most unhealthy appearance of loose cherty blocks liberally stained with red ochre.  There are several small, choked inlets.  A small hole in the floor was gardened and Stu. descended a relatively solid rift some 12ft deep to a blockage of large boulders. Photographs were duly taken and the diggers exited for a celebratory pint.  Snab and Anita joined them the folloing morning for a quiet trip and ‘ginging’ session and in the evening Backbone, Clare, Ross and Andy Sparrow arrived on a “Wednesday Night Sortie”.  More cementing was undertaken while the Bath contingent played with the boulders at the bottom of the 12ft. rift.  Feverish cries from the depths soon revealed the success of their effort and all work stopped as Andy led the way through a nasty, loose eyehole into a 10ft water worn pot leading to a 15ft tight crawl.  Still no limestone!

Length: c. 100ft; depth: c.65ft.    

Tony Jarrett (J. Rat)


Paul Esser Memorial Lecture 1978

THE WEST FACE OF CHANGABANG - Lecture given by Joe Tasker

The lecture will be given in the Arthur Tyndall Memorial Theatre in the Physics Dept., ' Tyndall Avenue (opposite the Senate House) at 8.15 p.m. on Wednesday 15th February 1987.  Admission will be free.

Oliver Lloyd


A few more details are now available about the BCRA Symposium - anyone interested contact Jerry Wooldridge, 9 Chelsea Court, Abdon Ave., Selly Oak, Birmingham.


A new guide book appeared on the caving market early in 1976 entitled "GUIDE TO THE SPORTING CAVES, POTHOLES AND MINES OF DERBYSHIRE" by Jim Ballard. Price £1.00.  This book is available from many sports shops.  Purchasers should be warned that there are serious reservations placed on this book by Derbyshire cavers.  It is notable for its inaccuracies.

The following descriptions are so inaccurate that they are mentioned here: -


The description is not that of Sheepwash Cave.


This, cave is regarded as the most severe in the, and is underestimated in the description.  The cave is tight, a number of exposed traverses and is liable to sudden flooding blocking sections of the entrance series.


6th pitch is 40m deep NOT 28m and lands in Pearl Chamber not West Chamber of Oxlow.


This mine is regarded as one of the foulest places in the High Peak and should not have been included.  The description describes a place as a sporting mud slide is in fact a 40ft. pitch.  Quite a slide.

The book is cheap - so is the information - so be warned.


English Cave Depth .Record broken.  East Canal Sump in Giants Hole, Derbyshire has been dived and a vast rift followed downwards to a depth of 100ft.  This makes the depth of the Oxlow/Giants system as being 675ft - the deepest in England.  OFD still holds the British Depth record at over 1,000ft.  G.G. depth is now 640ft.


AGEN ALLWEDD – A bypass has been dug around the first sump at the far end of Turkey streamway.  Diggers are hopeful that there can be a bypass to Sump 2.

BANWELL BONE & STALAGMITE CAVES: New address for permission and keys.  Write to John Chapman, Mendip house, Barrows Road, Cheddar, Somerset.  SIX WEEKS NOTICE PLEASE AND SAE.  No trips on Sundays.


TYNINGS BARROW SWALLET: Bish, Snab and many Belfryites gathered at the entrance and began sinking a second shaft hopefully to break into Dragon Chamber some 60ft. below. This is the first time that a Mendip cave survey has really been put to the test!  Wig’s got a sinking feeling!