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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

1990 - 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Stuart McManus
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
                               Ian Caldwell 


If I hadn’t been so idle I could have made this BB much longer, but it had to be out in time for the A.G.M.  This means that with the articles I hope to receive soon the Christmas BB, whoever produces it, should be a bumper one!  Locations will include such places as Yugoslavia (did the BEC start the fight?) Jamiaca, Sima, Vimy Ridge, Guernsey and many more.

In the last BB, I included a political article (Wig's) and in this one are included differing viewpoints (from Bryan Ellis and Andy Sparrow).  Wig's article was included because the committee thought that the membership should be aware of what is going on nationally in cave politics and the replies are included as members must have the right to reply.  In future, however, I would suggest that articles on national cave politics be sent to nationally distributed commercial caving publications such as Descent (the caver's magazine).  Caves & Caving (the bulletin of the BCRA) or Speleoscene (the newspaper of the NCA).  After all, the BB is merely a club bulletin, almost entirely funded by the club, and to spend more than £10 a page on something that few will read is unproductive.


St. Cuthberts Swallet

The St. Cuthbert's Report and Survey have now been published.  Copies will be on sale at both the Club Dinner on 5th October and the Vintage Dinner on 26th October.

Copies are also available from committee members, Joan Bennett and other responsible members of the club at the Hunters and the Belfry.

If you require a copy by post send to Joan Bennett whose address is given below.

Surveys sent by post will normally be folded.  Others may be flat or folded on request.  Surveys are only available with the report, and are not on sale separately.

The retail price for the report and survey is £10, but is on sale to members for £8.  Postage of 50 per copy is payable.  Members who pre-paid £5 per copy will be supplied at that price, but it would be appreciated if payment of the difference could be made in order that production costs are recovered as soon as possible.

Joan's address is: -

Joan Bennett.
Nr. Cheddar.


Caving In The Raw

Dave Yeandle

Things were not going according to plan.  The night before, in the Hill Inn, it had seemed like a great idea to offer my services as a bottle carrier on Alan Downton's proposed Hammer Pot dive.  Now I was regretting my involvement as outside the Bradford Pothole Club hut, at Brackenbottom, Alan and myself desperately tried to motivate a motley collection of hung-over cavers.  When they had tried most possible excuses, all of which we rejected, they simply drove off with a vague story about doing Simpson's instead.

It was a beautiful summer's day in the Dales.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing and a very gentle breeze was rippling through the abundant flowers and trees.  Why go caving? - and I very nearly didn't!  Alan still wanted to do something though and mentioned that the NCC were doing Strans Gill Pot. with Rupert Skorupka diving a sump.  They had already set off but we could follow them down; see the Passage of Time and help de-tackle.  "O.K. lets do it" and we set off.

After driving a while it became clear that we weren't at all sure where Strans Gill was.  I thought it was in Littondale while Alan assured me that it was in Langstrothdale.  He had been to the entrance several years ago but couldn't quite remember the way.  So we drove to Langstrothdale looking for the NCC or their cars.  With no sign of either we asked a farmer for permission to visit Strans Gill. "Well it wasn't on his land was it", but he told us whose land it was on "and could we please leave his rapidly".

After some fairly aimless wandering around the right farmer's land we found a stream-bed which seemed familiar to Alan.  Following it upward gave us some enjoyable climbing at around severe standard.  This turned out to be an unnecessarily hard approach when we intersected a footpath along which a family with young children were walking.  We followed this path and surprisingly found the entrance.

We quickly changed and I set off down the entrance pitch.  After a short distance (actually my head was still above ground) I came to an abrupt halt.  This was a tight entrance.  I climbed back out and tried entering in a different position.  I still couldn't get in and tried several more times before deciding that the entrance was too tight for me.  What an excellent excuse!  Anyway I was probably getting a bit old for this sort of thing.  Time for the pub.  Why did I find myself taking off my wetsuit jacket and having another try? In any case, I was soon fully underground and committed.  The rest of the entrance pitch was slightly less desperately tight and at the bottom I was able to put my jacket back on.

Alan started down the entrance pitch, with none of the traumas I had experienced, while I carried on into the cave.  It was still tight and I was totally appalled when after about 5m.  I encountered an absurdly tight squeeze leading directly to a pitch.  The wetsuit jacket was taken off again with difficulty and the pitch descended after a struggle.  "What a silly carry on" I thought "never mind, that must have been the tightest bit".

At the bottom of the pitch (inappropriately named Hope Pitch) I once again put back on my jacket while Alan came on down, again with no trouble whatsoever.  The cave really did appear to be getting bigger as I moved forward and I started to enjoy myself.  My illusions were shattered when I found myself jammed in an upward squeeze ending in an insanely small hole through which I could see a descending slightly larger tube.  I didn't really want to accept that this was the way on so I reversed out and had a chat with Alan.  He managed to convince me that this was indeed the way on, that I was doing very well, and he was enjoying caving with me.  Reassured I yet again started to peel off my wetsuit jacket; feeling now a little bit like a tart in a French brothel on a busy Bastille Day.  I set off into the tight upward passage pushing my jacket in front of me.  My progress was O.K. but the jacket jammed in the tiny hole.  Annoyed, I punched it hard.  It shot through the hole and I followed, having to exhale almost totally. The downhill section of the squeeze was bearable and I was pleased to see that my jacket had already carried on down the next pitch.  Trouble was, when I reached the pitch, there was no rope going down it and the way on was around to the left.

It turned out to be a short distance to the top of the big pitch of 50m.  I decided that the pitch descended by my jacket must connect with the main shaft.  I felt confident that I would catch up with my jacket at the bottom of the pitch or at worst find it waiting on a ledge.

The pitch turned out to be a moderately wet spacious rift.  I swung around a bit keeping a lookout for my jacket.  I touched down after a superb abseil in high spirits only to suffer a complete attitude collapse upon finding no sign of my wetsuit jacket. I had lost it!

All through my years of caving this sort of thing has happened and as I waited, now shivering, for Alan to descend my mind went back over some of these incidents.  Like the fin that fell off in Tatham Wife sump or the numerous line reels dumped in haste prior to speedy exits from various sumps. Or the complete set of diving gear, mostly borrowed, abandoned in Langcliffe after major floods delayed our exit. The more I remembered the worse I felt. Why only a few weeks previously I had dropped a battery for a Bosche drill in an impenetrable rift in Long Kin West. As a result the trip had been a total waste of time for five people with no progress made at the dig more than 500 feet from the surface.

By the time Alan reached the bottom of the pitch, which is called Charity Pitch (again, in my opinion, inappropriately!) voices could be heard ahead.  The NCC were clearly on their way out.  The lads were surprised and pleased to see us as we strode along the impressive streamway towards them.  They found my state of undress very amusing, “I can see your gear hasn't improved" said Lugger.  Rupert had had a desperate dive in a tight sump and it was clear that the lads wanted to get out as soon as possible.  It was agreed that Alan and myself carry on down to the Passage of Time and then follow the others out de-rigging as we went.

The cave was now easy and impressive and we soon reached the Passage of Time.  A large, dry, wonderfully decorated passage.  We followed it until it became low, and turned back.

We found ourselves to be an effective de-rigging team and quickly reached the top of the big pitch. Things continued smoothly until the squeeze where I had lost my jacket.  I simply could not get through even with near total exhalation.  I reversed back and undressed some more. Wearing only underpants, kneepads and boots and feeling rather foolish I launched myself into the squeeze.  I made it, and we got the tackle through the obstacle. I was, by now, getting rather cold but reasoned that I might as well leave my trousers off for the rest of the trip. I had had enough of dressing and undressing for one day.  I did however put my helmet and light back on. Alan now decided to remove his wetsuit jacket as he too was having more trouble going out than in.  We seemed to have lots to carry what with ropes. ladders, SRT gear and articles of clothing.

In what seemed a short space of time we reached the bottom of the entrance pitch.  On looking up I was shocked and thought, "How did I get down that!" it looked impossible.  One metre up I found I couldn't bend my legs sufficiently to make upward progress.  This was solved by removing my kneepads.  The middle section of the pitch was impossible with helmet and light and these were removed as well.  I was now left wearing underpants and boots.  Nothing else!

I knew I could make it out but I did have one fear.  The NCC could well be lurking near the entrance ready to mount some sort of attack. In the past they have put slugs in my helmet, stolen my Mars bars, pushed me into a sump (without bottles) and thrown rocks at me.

Pushing my head back into the World, wondering what life was going to be like without that nipple I felt sure had just torn off; I looked gingerly around.  No NCC!  They had gone.  I soon found out why when hordes of midges descended upon me.  As I leapt for my surface clothing, madly hitting myself in an attempt to be rid of the pests feasting on blood from hundreds of small cuts, I reflected that some days really don't run according to plan.


Digging News

Tony Jarratt


Following much drilling and blasting beyond "Butch's Arse" (Quote - Wigmore will never go as long as I've got a hole in my arse - Alan Butcher) a breakthrough was made on the 12th of August.  Rich Blake, Graham Johnson and Vince Simmonds eventually squeezed through the terminal rift and descended the 35' deep Black Pudding Pot - named for the colouring of the conglomerate walls.  This fine pitch was followed by an inclined thrutch and the attractive Yeo Pot, 25' deep and formed in scalloped white calcite and red and black conglomerate.

The explorers were now excited to fever pitch by the noise of roaring water and. climbing down into a passage at the base of the pot, were confronted with a rare sight a large stream cascading out of a roomy passage into a 10' diameter sump pool.  They restrained themselves from exploring the streamway (for which I am eternally grateful!) and laboriously climbed out to celebrate in the traditional way.

The following evening Jake and Vince were joined by Trev Hughes and the writer who followed the upstream passage for 220' to a shallow sump.  This streamway is the upper River Yeo, the top end of the Cheddar Master Cave and carries a lot of water - at present about as much as Swildon's 4 in wet weather.  It lies at 300' depth and is trending towards the sinks at Red Quar, though there is little water sinking at present and the source of such a large stream is something of a mystery.  It is all in conglomerate and is a superb bit of passage.

On 18th August Vince, on his first cave dive, passed Upstream Sump 1 after some 8 feet into a large airbell and Upstream Sump 2.  This was then dived for about 15 feet by the writer who had been forced out of cave-diving retirement by the nature of the discovery!  Both sumps were free-dived by Jake, Vince and Pete Bolt and the team explored a further 150' of aquatic streamway to the deep Upstream Sump 3.  (This has been looked at by Trev Hughes and Tony Boycott but not yet passed. It is about 12' deep and the visibility deteriorates rapidly).  Pete and Jake investigated Downstream Sump 1 but did not fancy a long dive using single bottles.

After much hammering and a tremendous amount of colourful expletives, Dany Bradshaw was eventually delivered to this sump which he dived for over 100' until complete lack of visibility forced a retreat.  This is not an easy dive due to the silt problems and a selection of roof pendants. Future dives are planned at both ends of the streamway - now about 500' long altogether.

Most of the cave has now been surveyed and various loose ends tied up.  A report will appear in a future BB and the survey and photos will be on display at the A.G.M.  Anyone visiting the cave is reminded that while only 1600' long and 300' deep it is a fairly severe trip.  Upstream Sump 2 is a dangerous free-dive and the use of single kit is recommended. There are no formations and lots of mud but much of the lower series is very photogenic as Pete Bolt's slides have proved.  No tourist trips are allowed between October and March due to the pheasant breeding and murdering season.

Potential: - at least one mile upstream and five miles downstream.  Another 680' depth to go to the bottom of Sump 3 in Gough's.  We await the barrel of beer from the Wessex diggers in joyful anticipation.


A new surface/underground dig has been commenced due to the remoteness of Wigmore for evening trips. This mineshaft is on Forestry Commission land at Stock Hill.  It was pointed out to Vince and the writer on the 28th. of January by Bob Elliot who stated that it had been open at least four years.  A 25' deep. partly lined (ginged) "lead mine" shaft led to a crawl in thick clay and what seemed to be an infilled natural passage, choked with large rocks and draughting strongly.  After a couple of tentative digs the site was left to await official permission to explore.  This was gained in August.  In the meantime a locked steel lid had been cemented onto the shaft top.

Digging commenced on the 19th of August and to date (18/9/91) we have hauled to surface 540 skip-loads and 56 heavy winch-loads (each the equivalent of 3 skip-loads). The mud and rock infill would appear to be the result of some 20' of ginging having collapsed and it looks like we are almost through this.  The shaft has been mined to take advantage of a natural rift and bedding plane and there is some stalagmite wall coating.

The mine is probably post 1680 as shotholes are much in evidence, indicating the use of explosives. For this reason it is unlikely to be one of Thomas Bushell's 20 shafts  ( Complete Caves of Mendip P.173. Wheel Pit).  Digging takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights and during weekends.  Check with the diggers for access procedure so as not to upset the Forestry Commission or local residents.


Work continues here. Gonzo. Karen and Zot are quietly beavering away in search of the middle bit of the Cheddar Master Cave.  A dam has been built to deflect the stream from Corner Dig and assistants are doubtless welcomed on Tuesday nights.


Quiet John's and Tim Large's dig at the end is temporarily postponed due to an excess of “Cowsh” in the cave.


Martin Grass and Trebor et al have re-started work at this site.


Wot No B.E.C.

Over the years a large quantity of the "BEC GET EVERYWHERE" stickers have been placed in all sorts of places.  But, alas. very few have been placed in sumps.

During the last 3-4 years two poor northern divers have been placing signs in sumps stating "WOT NO BEC" with a picture of a diver peering over a rock.  The divers, namely John Cordingly and Russell Carter, have been dismayed that no BEC member has taken up the challenge and placed BEC stickers next to their signs.

Well the quest has started! On 8th June 1991 I dived upstream from Keld Head towards Kingsdale Master Cave, accompanied by Russell Carter and Malc Foyle (A tall Wessex member).  At the 440m. tag, I found the "WOT NO BEC" sign and duly hung a BEC sticker on it.  One down, seven to go!

The number and position of the other signs is as follows:-

1. Edmunds Rift, Wookey Hole.

2. -53m in the final sump, Wookey Hole.

3. Far Sump, Peak Cavern.

4. 700m from base in Malham rising.

5. Dead Man's Handshake, Keld Head/ Kingsdale Master Cave.

6. Emergence Du Ressel.  800m from base at -50m.

7. Doux De Coly,  1800m from base at -60m.

This one could be a problem! Anybody got access to a submarine? As and when these are crossed off the list I will let the readers know.

Bubble, Bubble for now

Robin Brown


Hon Secretary's Report 1990-91

This has been my second year as secretary and I am very pleased and proud to be the secretary of the Bristol Exploration Club who after 25 years can actually say that the St Cuthbert’s Report and survey has been published and is available for sale.  I would like to thank all those involved in getting it to its final state - it was certainly worth waiting for!

1991 has been a relatively quiet year for the club politically so I do not have a lot to report. Work has continued on the hut and the club has been very active on the caving scene.  Both these areas will be covered in more detail by the relevant officer’s reports.

Unfortunately one member has been banned from the club by the committee this year and has not sought to explain actions before the committee.  It is assumed he has lost interest in the club.

Ten committee meetings have been held this year and the  attendance has been as follows;

Martin Grass                 9
Jeff Price                       9
Chris Smart                   9
John Watson                 8
Chris Harvey                  8
Stuart MacManus          8
Nigel Taylor                   8
Ted Humphreys             8
Ian Caldwell                   7

I intend standing for the Committee for the forthcoming year although I, with the other Committee members, recognize the necessity for new blood on the committee.

Martin Grass


The Complete Caver

The following was written to celebrate the appearance of "St Cuthbert's Swallet", 25 years after the complete survey was begun - Kangy.


If you're anxious for to shine and be a caver fine and a man of prowess rare,
You must build a firm foundation on a mass of information and your intellect prepare;
There's some very special matter - not the common caving chatter - found compact in useful guides,
Truth that's far ahead of fiction clad in rich and varied diction that the BEC provides,
And the caving crowd will say,
As you walk down Priddy way,
"If he has carefully trained his mind when muscle is enough for me,
Why what a many sided, versatile, all round man this caving man must be".

When you're drinking in the Hunters and you're telling all the punters of your latest Club Report,
Every caver’s greatest dream is to go down in your team just to be there for the sport,
For there's not a rock or slab'll make you writhe or gasp or scrabble or disturb your grace serene,
Whilst they pant in struggles frantic you'll observe the grotte's romantic quoting Irwin in the "Speleo Scene",
And the Belfry crowd will say.
As you stroll down Priddy way,
"If he reads "Mendip Underground" when the "BB" is good enough for me.
Why what an almost over-cultivated caving man this caving man must be".

And the twenty thousand hours at the limit of man's powers spent amongst St. Cuthbert’s drips
And the drawings made of surveys from the earliest of days cannot fail to check all slips,
So the Report about this Swallet is worth the contents of your wallet to complete your mastery,
Of the subtle sinuosities and wriggling rugosities known to the BEC.
And the caving crowd will say,
As you stride down Priddy way,
"If buying the Cuthbert’s Report is good enough for him which must be good enough for me,
Why what a very wonderful report this Cave Report must be".


Kangy, 11th September 1991

(With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, sing to “The Aesthete" from "Patience")


B.B. Editor's Report 1990-91

I've just been reading the report I made last year and was sorely tempted to retrieve it from disc and just change the date!  In other words, the number of BB's produced during the year was again five, the total distribution is still about 250 and J'Rat still saves the club lots of postage by kindly volunteering to hand out as many as possible.

However, this year, many more people have put pen to paper so that I have actually had more material than I could publish for the last six months or so (but don't tell anyone!). Thank you very much to all of them and please keep the articles coming!  Please don't think that an article not published immediately is being rejected.  It's just that I, for the first time, can try to balance humour, information and controversy. I'd also like to thank the committee for their support, especially Blitz, who has a computer compatible with mine and has put several articles on disc for me during the year.

I will be standing for the 1991-92 committee but agree with other members that changes to the committee are desirable.  All the present members of the committee have been members of the BEC from at least the 1970's, so where are the more than a 100 members who have joined since then? Surely some of them would like to have a hand in helping to run the club!

Ted Humphreys


Hut Engineer’s Report 1990-91

Every year on Mendip one can guarantee to witness the sight and sound of the "Lesser Spotted Mendip Wyndger".  It is an unusual species, often its "cawing" sounds repetitive. Doubtless, the species is often confined to only one solitary example flitting through its nesting habitat at or near the Belfry, or seen regularly at nearby watering holes.  Not dissimilar from the Common Magpie, or Crow, this creature also hops about making a lot of noise, but makes little or no constructive contribution to the local community.

The individual of the species can often be seen in the company of other genus, twittering away furtively about the state of its habitat, and decrying the efforts of the more social members of its nesting site.  But, ALAS! when attempts have been made to domesticate it, the creature flits away mystifyingly to other domains.  Indeed, watchers of this species have recorded that in the last two years a migration of the breed occurs for a twenty four hour period ... just prior to any Belfry working weekend! ...... ENOUGH SAID?

As I outlined in my Hut Engineer's report in 1990, I decided to continue the 'One day Working Meet' linked with a Belfry-binder or Barbeque.  This has proved successful again with the few stalwarts who always turn up for the work on our hut.  I am also grateful for the 'Out of Sight' work undertaken quietly by some of the younger members mid-week, off their own bat.  It all helps to keep Our Hut up to a minimum standard.

However, there is no room for complacency.  On the most recent working meet at the hut, on the August bank holiday, the condition of both the end windows and fire door, when stripped-off, showed them to be so badly rotten that our subsequent painting serves only as a temporary measure. They will need replacing within the next twelve months.  I formally propose that the A.G.M. takes this opportunity to replace them with hardwood double-glazed frames.  These should then be 'Sadolin' or similar type treated, thus reducing long-term maintenance costs for heating and painting.

Gradually other frames can be replaced as required should the A.G.M. agree.  The entrance porch roof must be stripped-off and rebuilt and the A.G.M. may well consider if it is worth enlarging the porch at the same time.

At last year's A.G.M., a proposal was accepted instructing this year's committee to examine a fire extinguishing system for the Library.  I have undertaken this task and three separate site meetings were held at the Belfry.  The three quotes obtained will be presented to the A.G.M. as an item for discussion. I expanded on the A.G.M. brief and have also obtained secondary quotes to cover the whole of the Belfry with an alarm system. These costings will also be presented to the meeting.

Furthermore we have now signed up AEGIS FIRE PROTECTION to make annual inspections of the hut and service the equipment and, over a two hour period at the hut, all the extinguishers were examined.  What he discovered gives me, and I hope the Club, serious cause for concern.  The main fire extinguishers were found in the following condition:-

Extg: 1 DISCHARGED, but possibly refilled with water, but no chemicals.  (Note: this cylinder was also in a corroded state, and has now been replaced at a cost of £59).

Extg: 2 CHARGED, but with a foreign metal object apparently deliberately inserted into the hose nozzle, totally preventing its discharge.

Extg: 3 DISCHARGED but awaiting a re-charge having been discharged as a prank a few weeks ago.

This left the club with only one operational fire extinguisher, by the changing room.  On Sunday the 8th. of September, a water fight occurred at the Belfry, and the re-filled fire extinguisher was then set-off by a member!  At the risk of being branded a stick-in-the-mud is this what _Y_O_U want at the Belfry?  Water fights O.K ... but to deprive the club property of any fire-fighting appliance, in my book, is tantamount to sheer lunacy!

The discharging of fire-extinguishers has now occurred no less than FOUR TIMES in the last two years that I have been Hut Engineer.

The local District Fire Officer, Mr. Brown, has advised me unofficially that under section 10 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971, if it is deemed that "an excessive threat risk exists to persons in the event of fire" then a prohibition of use under the Act can be imposed immediately!  This could be an instant closure of the Belfry.  He further advised me that new proposed legislation is in hand to encompass 'Hostel type' accommodation, bringing it under closer scrutiny and inspection by the fire service authorities, though this is not yet set down in law.

I ask the A.G.M. to consider carefully the action it wants committee to take with regard to this 'Horseplay' and to take a positive decision at the meeting to prevent any re-occurrence.

I had intended stepping down from the post of Hut Engineer this year to make way for fresh, and hopefully, younger-blooded members, however if no one steps forward for this position, I shall offer myself for re-election to whatever post the A.G.M. has on offer.  May I close in thanking the present committee for their continued support throughout the year, and also those individuals who unstintingly have done much work upon the Belfry over the last year, too many, I am sure, to name in person,

everything to excess!

Nigel Taylor


Caving Secretary's Report 1990-91

My first job was to update the St. Cuthbert's Leader's List.  The one I was given was several years out of date!  This was done, published in the BB and displayed on the Belfry notice board.  To date we have 25 BEC leaders and 11 guest leaders.  This enabled me to clear a backlog of trips that had built up. Rogue keys had been in use, and some damage was done in Victory Passage (this is now closed until further notice - repairs are being done) therefore a new lock was put on the entrance and a leaders meeting arranged.  Most of the leaders actually attended!  There were a few rule changes, the current rules being published elsewhere in this BB. Everything now seems to be working well. Zot and Mike Wilson have repaired/replaced the fixed tackle in St Cuthbert’s, a very big thank you to them.

A meets list was arranged with an average of one trip, home or away, each month.  This was slow in starting but, now established, things are picking up.  If anybody wants trips arranged get in touch with next year's Caving Sec., A.S.A.P.

We are currently paid up with our subs. for BMC and CNCC so permits are no longer a problem.  On the digging side of things Mendip and South Wales have been continuing, see J'Rats bit on Digging News.  On the away expedition side, members have been active in Jamaica, Australia, Austria, France, Cuba, Spain, Scotland and Ireland.  Ted is chasing these people for articles for the BB. (Ed's note: Some of these I've already received, some are on the way and some, including my 5 week trip to the U.S., are still to be written).

The IDMF granted Graham Johnson (Jake) £100 for the BEC Speleo Philippines Exp. later this year, the report should be interesting!

Regards & Good Caving

Jeff Price

It was requested by last years A.G.M. that the Caving Secretary publish the IDMF rules for application: -

I.D.M.F.  RULES etc.

Trustees/Referees :- Sett, M. Palmer, Current Caving Secretary and Treasurer.  (Sett is happy to continue but I haven't heard as yet from Mike - JRP).  The fund's purpose and conditions are as follows: -

Purpose :-

To assist junior members to cave on the continent (or anywhere else abroad - ed.)

Conditions :-

  1. Applications to be submitted (in writing) to the current caving secretary.
  2. With applications, a prospectus should be included of work to be carried out.
  3. A report of the trip to be sent to the BB (at least four A4 pages) within SIX weeks of return.
  4. The applicant must be a fully paid up member of the BEC.

A meeting is being arranged for the trustees to discuss: -

1.                    Who is eligible

2.                    Destinations

3.                    Limit of grant

4.                    Program of work

5.                    Reports

6.                    Future of fund

7.                    Any other business

When the meeting has taken place.  I will report back to the BB.

Jeff Price, Caving Secretary.


St. Cuthbert's Swallet Rules

After the last St. Cuthbert's leaders meeting the rules to follow on any trips into the cave have been revised as follows :-

  1. Parties are limited to five cavers per leader.
  2. Trips into Rabbit Warren Extension and Canyon Series are limited to 3 persons plus the leader and even with these numbers great care must be exercised.
  3. No novices.
  4. No carbide lights to be used.
  5. If visiting a particularly muddy area of the cave try to wash off in the streamway to avoid muddying other sections of the cave.
  6. All tourist trips into the cave must adhere to one of the recognised tourist routes.
  7. Only take parties into September Series if requested as this area is suffering particularly from damage.
  8. Do not take parties into Victory Passage unless requested.  If you do so, take no more than three people and a leader must be present at all times. (Until further notice Victory Passage is closed owing to damage)
  9. Do not use vulnerable routes such as :- Rabbit Warren Extension to Struggle Passage via Erratic Chambers, Vantage Point to the Cascade and Rabbit Warren to the Fingers.
  10. Write all trips in the Cuthbert's log.
  11. A 50p tackle fee IS payable by all non-BEC members.
  12. No digging is to be undertaken in the cave without the permission of the Caving Sec/BEC Committee.
  13. No more than three cavers at a time should enter Curtain Chamber.
  14. No persons under 16 years of age should enter the cave.



5th September 1991

Dear BB Editor,

"Belfry Bulletin"

I don't know how else to address you!---- Ted perhaps.

In the BB just out you published a piece from Dave Irwin which I cannot let pass without making some comment upon it.  I fully understand, and agree with Dave, that the last subject you want filling the BB is caving politics but as Blitz said, this is an important issue and that piece was, in my view, full of inaccuracies.  In fact it was very unlike something from Wig.  My guess is that he cobbled it together in a hurry without checking the accuracy of his statements.  I think a gauge of how strongly I feel is that it has caused me to write my first piece for the BB in nearly thirty years!

Anyway, my piece is attached.  I tried to keep it short (honestly) but did not succeed very well.  I hope you will manage to find space for it as it is an important but boring subject and as many views as possible should be made available.

Here's strength to your elbow in the thankless task of producing a “Belfry Bulletin".

Yours, etc

(Bryan Ellis: Memb No 322 - a long time ago)


Re-Structuring Caving's National Organisation

Bryan Ellis

I must keep this brief! Please refer to Wig's article in the last "BB".

1)       I wish to endorse Dave's plea that if and when cavers receive the questionnaire he mentioned they do take the slight touble and expense to complete and return it.  He and I may disagree on details but we do agree that the final solution must represent the views of the majority of cavers – as far as that can ever be ascertained.

2)       It should be remembered that there is always a number of viewpoints on a topic like this.  Dave's was one; here is another; there must be more!  Read about it, think about it, and make up your own mind. It’s boring but the future of caving DOES depend on getting the right answer.

3)       I think that any new national organisation for British caving - which may or may not be the NCA - should have both club and individual members.  So ...

a)       A less parochial view than Dave's is that while 'serious' caving is still club based, especially on Mendip (and long may it continue that way), the club dominance is slowly waning.  These days an increasing number of cavers nationwide are not members of a club - a pity but a fact - and while I think they should be less selfish, I do not agree that their views should be ignored.  At the moment they put nothing back in to caving but that could just possibly change if they were members of a national body. And where did the idea of a National Caving Club come from?  Certainly not from the Gang-of-Eight.  (Incidentally, Dave's 'opponents' did not say "the club has no importance ... " but " ... clubs still play a major role in caving although this is very gradually diminishing with increased mobility ... Any new national body should both protect and encourage club participation in the sport."  Rather different!)

b)       If club membership is the accepted form of electing the executive you will be disenfranchised unless your club is prepared to join the national organisation.  I have refrained from the capital letters but that should sound familiar; it is the opposite side to Dave's statement.  But if there is also an individual membership cavers do have a way around the problem.  Further, if one has to go through a club to contact the executive, what if your club doesn't (for any reason) support YOU?  Again, individual membership is one answer.

c)       "_the existing system...can be streamlined simply by enabling clubs to contact the national executive directly_"  Why not streamline it further?  Simply alter "clubs" to read "individuals", after all, the Regional bodies have already been removed from the direct reporting line.

d)       How will any new body be financially viable overnight?  But with two types of membership there will at least be a larger pool to dip into.

e)       What is wrong with an individual membership? Dave didn't say.

f)        More important than arguing about classes of membership is to resolve points such as: stopping one group being able to impose its will on the whole by removing the veto, etc; making the executive committee a true Executive by giving it authority (as we do a club committee) and making cavers' contact with the Executive as direct and rapid as possible.

4)       What was the relevance of the 'let's praise the existing NCA comments in the middle of a discussion on the future structure of a governing body?  And its accuracy, well.  Currently NCA does not provide legal advice, insurance, a library, overseas contacts, expedition planning, meetings and conferences, published reports, or a glossy magazine.  What are these?  The eight services it was thought should be provided by the national body, as specified by half or more of the respondents to NCA’s questionnaire.  And on another point, 24% of respondents thought practical caver training should be provided at a national level, 29% at a regional level and 31% by specialist organisations (which might, or might not, include commercial ones) not overwhelming but hardly Dave's "little support".

5)       Similarly, what was the necessity or relevance of Dave joining the "let's bash BCRA" bandwagon in the middle of his paper?  But he did, so here are a number of comments:-

a)       Dave knows that the attendance at most AGMs is inversely related to members' satisfaction.  If Dave asked himself why he hasn't attended BCRA AGM’s when he is so unhappy, he may find the answer to his own comments.  Why not vote out the existing Council?  Or, on a lesser scale, there are currently vacancies on council that could be filled.  It's not a lack of democracy but that dreaded apathy again.  But the AGM attendance has never, at least in the last ten years, been as low as 30, let a lone 20, as stated; and it has never been inquorate, which is more than can be said about some clubs (and Regional Councils).

b)       Dave knows that over 25% of BCRA's individual UK members answered the second NCA questionnaire and that this level of response gives, statistically, a high level of confidence that the results are reasonably typical of the whole.  He also knows that 56% of those respondents positively (i.e. not by default) indicated a preference for individual membership.

c)       Dave knows that SCRA Council's current policy to prefer a future structure incorporating both individual and club membership "is based on the response by Association members to questions in the recent NCA questionnaire." he has access to the Council Minutes where this is stated (also in C&C No 52, page 44).

d)       In fact this paragraph doesn't read like Dave's style; it lacks his usual coherency and is more like the ravings of a bigot!  What got you, Dave?

Finally, hope am right in assuming that the club committee has already listened to alternative views on this question?

'Nuf said.

September 1991



Andy Sparrow

Belfry Bulletin Editor

Dear Sir,

I am prompted to make some comments having read Dave Irwin’s article on NCA re-structuring in the last issue.

My first point concerns Chris Smart's introduction to the article which contains grave warnings about the seriousness of this issue and even manages to raise the spectre of losing cave access.  Mendip cavers are justifiably sensitive on this point and it's very easy to play on these fears.  I would like Chris to explain how the issue of cave closure relates to NCA restructuring.

On the broader and emotive issue of individual membership versus club based membership: surely who votes and how is largely irrelevant when there are so few individuals prepared to stand for executive posts. Lets face it, at the end of the day it'll be the same old familiar names in the same old jobs.  If a new membership structure seceded in introducing a few new faces would that be such a bad thing?  I think not.

However, my principal reason for writing has little to do with NCA structure, though it was a line in Wig's article that motivated me. Quote: "On the training front there is little support for national training or commercial training.  The second questionnaire clearly showed that the club was the best place for this to be done."  Absolute nonsense.  There are lies, damn lies, and statistics; this statement is a combination of all three!

As I recall, the questionnaire revealed substantial support for training.  It is hardly surprising that cavers felt this should provided by the club; who wants to pay for something which should be provided for free? Had the questionnaire also asked: 'does your club offer adequate training?' the answer would surely be an overwhelming 'no!'.

Let me provide some alternative statistics.  Last year over 150 cavers attended training courses run by myself (and I mean serious cavers, not novices).  Most of these trainees were members of established clubs; even the BEC was represented!  Several club committees had advised new members to attend training courses. 

I am only one of about 6-8 caving instructors offering such courses in Britain.  The total number of cavers attending courses last year was almost certainly over 1000. I believe this is about three times the number who bothered to fill in the questionnaire!

If the NCA, and others, choose to believe that cavers training requirements are being met by the clubs, fine. In the meantime I, and several other instructors, will continue to prosper by offering an unwanted service to a non-existent market!

Yours faithfully

Andy Sparrow

PS I do believe that clubs should provide training.  I also believe that cavers have a right to choose between professional and club training, and that fair and healthy competition between these options will raise standards to everyone's benefit.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

Cover by Gonzo

1990 - 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Richard Blake
                               Ian Caldwell
                               Graham Johnson
                               Vince Simmonds



Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.  I've managed to put together probably one of the biggest BB's ever.  A big thank you to all those who helped!  Due to the size I've had to leave out the membership list, St Cuthbert's leaders list, the librarians report and a couple of good articles I still have in hand.  They will be in the next BB.

In the last BB I suggested that the BB was not the place for politics and yet I include another article. The reason is that the issue is very important for the club.  In future years there is a strong possibility that large grants will be made available to the NCA who will then decide who gets the money.  We must try to ensure that the lion's share goes to the caving clubs who, after all, do the most for caving.  Read Wig's article!

You'll notice that there's a crossword in this BB, thanks Alfie.  I was chatting to the lads in the Hunter's the other evening and they suggested that there ought to be a prize.  We couldn't decide what and people won't want to tear up their BB's (I hope!) so if there are any suggestions as to how it could be organised, please let me know.

Club Bits

At the moment it looks as though next years dinner will again be at the Webbington.  Not all people are happy with this, however, so if you have any ideas for an alternative venue please write to Mr. N who will investigate.

Vee Swallet and the Maypole and Plantation Junction digs in St. Cuthbert’s are now official club digs.

There is a meeting at the Belfry on Sunday, 29th Dec to discuss cooking facilities and other changes at the Belfry.


Digging News

Tony Jarratt


The lower part of the mineshaft has been deepened to about 50ft from surface following a wall of miner's "deads".  Most of the boulders removed from here are destined to be used at the Belfry for future building work - a small gesture to the "Old Men" of Mendip.  A combination of sticky clay and wet weather has caused a temporary halt here due to ponding of water at the shaft bottom. Various artefacts (bits of wood!) have been rescued for display in Wells Museum

Halfway down the shaft the natural phreatic tube blocked with clay has been excavated for some 15ft in an attractive and roomy passage dipping fairly steeply.  It has an infill of compacted clay, sand and stream deposits and pieces of galena have been found.  For a short time this was quite a pleasant dig but recent heavy rain has reduced it to normal Mendip conditions.  The passage appears to be of great age - possibly predating the St. Cuthbert's depression and could be associated with both the adjacent Stock Hill Fault and the nearby, infilled, Stock Hill Swallet.

Diggers welcome on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday evenings, Sundays and Mondays.


Situated between Pelting Drove and Sandpit Hole, this attractive depression has been blitzed by Tusker Morrison using his now famous "Hymac" technique!  A strongly draughting choked rift was found which is being dug by Andy Sparrow and Co.   Access is via a 20ft concrete pipe and a ladder is required.


Chris "Bollix" Castle is digging a (quote) "completely useless dig that will re-discover the show cave". Let us hope the mud isn't too sticky ....


Trevor Hughes is struggling on here and attempting to mine through solid rock to reach Wookey Hole. If ever there was a labour of love (or rather hate) this is it!


Gonzo informs me that he has airspace in the Corner Dig and that it's looking good.  I seem to have heard (and said) that before - every few weeks for the last 5 years!  He is planning to let it dig itself over the winter by using the abundant water supplies.


Vince, Jake and Gobshite, when not in the Wells Way (Harptree) can be found in the Wells Way (Welsh's Green).  This extremely promising streamway is still fighting back and recently took revenge on Jake for deflowering it.  While digging at the end he was pinned to the floor by a lump of ex-ceiling.  This would not have bothered him too much had not the floor been covered by a foot of water! He will soon get his own back.


Zot, Mike Wilson, Dudley Herbert etc. are digging a couple of sites of interest.

The first is a few yards up cave from where the plantation stream appears near Plantation Junction (site suggested by Wig).  The dig went downwards and regained the stream, any further progress will be difficult!

The second site is opposite the top end of Sentry Passage near the bottom of the Maypole Series. It could be the ancient continuation of Sentry Passage, predating the Maypole Series.  The dig is progressing nicely in a horizontal. mud-filled passage with some old stal. heading into unknown territory.  Zot tells me that they now have a draught which could mean that it's more than just an inlet!


The Piss Pot dig has been abandoned.  Vince and Jake, on an exciting wet trip when the whole Wigmore streamway was flowing, found that the water sinking in Piss Pot reappeared halfway up Yeo Pot, through an impassable rift.

Dany Bradshaw and Keith Savory are planning future dives in the Upper River Yeo and the latter is gradually progressing through the cave studying and mapping the fascinating geology. Trev Hughes has tidied up the survey and it is hoped to produce a report next year.  Any good photos of the early years at the dig would be appreciated.


Quiet John's and Tim Large's dig is in abeyance due to closure of the cave.


Recently reopened by the Tusker/Hymac  Foundation this old B.E.C. dig is back "on stream" after some 10 years of peace and quiet.  Martin Bishop has thoughts on continuing work here.  It is interesting to note that this site lies over the drainage line from Wigmore and Bowery Corner to Cheddar.

The Flower Pot entrance is locked and is a 20ft. pitch.  The key and permission to enter must be obtained from: -

Mr. H. Sheppard




I've recently been underground and I'd like to tell you what I found,
A story more than yarns or lore, of what I found in Swildons Four,
A place quote, about which Alfie wrote, a Speleode that
Instead, to you, the truth I'll tell, of how I found a living Hell,
Deep down under Priddy Green, the most awesome sight that I have seen,
For in the year of Ninety One, the streamway, somehow, ceased to run.
The water, pumped away elsewhere, left our streamway dry and bare,
And Weegees wearing bright tracksuits and trainers more than welly boots,
Goatchurch and Sidcot both did shun, and headed off for Swildons One.
And so, above the Twenty Foot, were millions who had lost their route,
Who, armed with less than a parbuckle, had formed a giant people ruckle,
Though, if you got below the Twenty, you found the occasional cognoscente.
The braver ones, or those half pissed, knew that if they did persist,
With survey in their mind engrained, would find a Paradise Regained,
And on and on through more and more they'd come at last to Swildons Four.
Throughout the summer I tried in vain to reach this long and lost domain,
But, beaten back by stagnant stench, and a place called Wigmore that did wrench
Me downwards, just for Vindication, and away from all this degradation,
I uttered oaths and noisy chunters, and spent the summer at the Hunters.
But then one day the water came and Swildons almost looked the same.
The Weegees ran off by the score and I headed down to Swildons Four.
Through Blue Pencil, down the chain. There I was in Four again!
With water flowing in some measure, the trip began to be a pleasure!
Down the stream I gave a shout "This is what it's all about!
Those Weegees just don't give a shit. Make way for cavers!  This is it!
There's no need here for consternation. It's cavers only!  Conservation!
The streamways still got all its glory. No bloody Weegees!  No furore!"
But then I got down to the sump. "My God!" I said "Who's had a dump?"
For, hanging round was an aroma that nearly put me in a coma,
The place was full of noxious gases, the sort that only comes from asses.
"It's from the farm.  I know the vapour.  Hang on.  Do cows use toilet paper?"
The mystery and the gas grew thicker. "That methane's got a hint of Liquor!"
"I think it's Butcombe, maybe Farmers. God, someone's dropped some bloody Brahmas!"
I shone my light around, looked up Cowsh. "There's someone up there, at the crouch!"
And then I knew that smell was Bass, when purified through someone's ass.
For, staring up from Swildons Halls, I recognised a pair of balls,
Seen at many a hut and dinner, but never quite declared a winner.
And now, my entry in the log, "I've found the sump of Butchers bog!"


Alfie’s Christmas Crossword




7.         This pub is older than it sounds (3, 3, 3)
8.         Might you get stoned if you drink from this? (5)
10.        Part of energetic limbering up (5)
11.        A wee start for a Mendip cave (9)
13.        Bled cream? No! Progressed over boulders (9)
14.        Quite opposed to strike action geologically (3)
17.        Burrington had one.  Wells had two.  A cave survey has many ( 7 )
18.        The 'streaky bacon' curtain in Rod's Pot has been this (7)
20.        These caves are found under glaciers (3)
21.        Where one might find club members (4,5)
24.        Club members once met here in Bristol each Thursday but were never on it! (3, 6)
25.        Mendip gorge (5)
27         The rev. Toplady asserted that a rock in Burrington Combe had been this for him (5)
28.        Let E.C. vote for an old British motorbike (9)


1.         Rock found in Devenish ale? (5)
2.         Lion ate me - erratically perhaps? (9)
3.         Boring device (3)
4.         Goatchurch is. Cuthberts isn't.  Dug neat is somehow (7)
5.         Do Australian caves have warts instead of this stalactite formation? (5)
6.         A caver might depend on - or from - these (9)
9.         Essential part of an active cave system (9)
12.        Huge broom deployed for a lake on Mendip (9)
15.        High ground on Mendip apparently used for animals? (5, 4)
16.        Sam bleeds if the letters are this another way (9)
19.        Excavation will perhaps do this to a cave (7)
22.        A this half should not be confused with a swallow! (5)
23.        Another Mendip hill close to 15 down (5)
26.        High ground in Shepton Mallet or Glastonbury (3)


The B.E.C. Go Mad in Lundy

by Rachel Gregory

Well that's certainly how it appeared to me when we (Dany, Mac, Quackers, Martin, Bassett, Rich West, Wormhole, Geoff Crossley and Bob (Rachel) set off for a five day trip to the peaceful island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel.  The peace wasn't to last long!

After a few hair raising moments as we sped out of Priddy on two wheels, inflatable in tow, we headed off for Barnstable. Upon arrival at the ferry dock we had a mere two punctures and a deflated boat, what a great start which set the scene for the rest of the trip.  Next problem, how do you persuade a rather miserable boat crew to load the inflatable onto the ferry?  It would appear that communication between the ferry company and the Landmark Trust who run Lundy is minimal, or in fact non-existent as no message was relayed but they begrudgingly agreed to take the boat and we were off.

Next stop Lundy and the problem of getting 8 sets of diving gear and an inflatable off the ferry. This was solved by the still miserable boat crew lowering our dinghy into the water with Mac and Dany aboard as the rest lowered the gear down in between the large swell which was happening. This provided us all with great amusement as one of the passengers was left in mid-air as the swell took the shuttle boat away, but they eventually landed safely.

The landing bay at Lundy is the beach and the only way up to the top of the island was on foot. Naturally by the time we had all reached the top the first stop was the shop which just happened to have the pub inside it.  Being the B.E.C. I should not have been surprised that tent erecting was put aside so that the drinking could begin!  This was the start of our downfall and the pub was going to serve as the focal point of our trip.

So, settled into Lundy at last, the holiday really began to happen.  The diving started off with a shore dive which resulted in nearly everyone finding out that they needed loads more weight, and a fight for the remaining weights.  Next was the launching of the inflatable ... well the term inflatable may not be that correct as it did appear to continually need pumping up.  By the time you got 3 divers and a driver in the boat it would race along at a stunning 5 miles an hour if we were lucky, thus dives became limited to sites within a 2 mile radius of the landing bay.  On one day as the aptly named "ZIMMER RAIDER" left, Concord flew over on its way to New York.  After 2 dives covering a total of 4 miles Concord was seen coming back from New York, this was the point at which we realised the boat was incredibly slow.


Can Quackers really swim against a 5 knot tidal race?  No! The solution was only to dive on that wreck during slack water.  When 3 divers and a driver are in the Zimmer Raider it looked as though 4 people were sitting on top of the water as no boat was in sight.

Only one sighting of a seal was actually made underwater although numerous attempts were made to swim with the cheeky seal who would come close to the shore long enough for everyone to put their kit on and get in the water whereupon it would duly swim off, only reappearing when all had returned to dry land.

The wrecks were apparently only twisted bits of old metal according to one person.

The visibility was so good on one day that none of the 3 divers could find one another, contact was only made when eventually all 3 surfaced at the same time asking where all the others were.  Good teamwork!

Other activities involved a quick walk round Lundy.  This proved to be slightly larger and took a bit longer than we had all thought but still worth doing.

The climbing also proved exciting as Quackers down climbed the bottom pitch of the Devil's Slide which we were then going to climb up with ropes!  This seemed silly to me and Bassett so we let Geoff climb down to belay Quackers which was silly as well as he put no runners so had he fallen no one would have been able to stop him.  The climb was impressive though and well worth doing.  It was truly the classic climb of the island.

The only other entertainment on Lundy was the pub.  This provided us with meals and numerous pints of the local brew "Puffin Piss" and "Old Light".  This was also where the majority of our money was spent especially in the provision of "Bankers" for when the pub closed.  Getting drunk every night seemed to be a necessary part of the trip as were the half hourly trips to the toilets, battling through the swarms of Daddy Longlegs which appeared to be in epidemic proportions on the island.  So, what exactly happened in the pub when the B.E.C. got drunk?

First it seemed that the other people in the pub needed entertaining so jokes were told to set everyone off laughing including Dany, whereupon tapes were requested of the noise being made and the whole pub was watching the antics being displayed. Next job was to clear the pub, easy, just sing a few caving songs and everyone vanished.  The placing of the stickers then occurred being placed everywhere via the use of the human pyramid or the Dany special scaling the window, I don't think the pub will ever be the same again.

Finally came the time for us to leave, and not too soon for the people of Lundy who all said goodbye with big grins all over their faces.  The reloading of the ferry involved us finding that the Lundy warden actually came from Wells (It's a small world).  Back on the ferry we sailed off with a sticker firmly in place on the Puffin on the ferry's funnel, everyone with fingers crossed that the ferry was actually going to go to where we left the cars (there seemed to be no guarantee as to which port the ferry returns to so the crew actually take their mini car with them so they can get back).  Luckily we returned to the cars and the quick drive was made back to Mendip and in time for the Hunter's, a great end to the holiday.


Wigmore Swallet

(Notes on the survey and some thoughts on further work)

by Trevor Hughes


Digging at Wigmore has been a long, hard slog, thousands of man hours have been spent breaking rocks and hauling spoil.  The Bosch drill has come of age and the digging team are now quite skilled in shothole placement.  A superb draught throughout the duration of the dig held out great promise.  Once the dig had well and truly 'gone' it was time to clear away skips, sacks and shovels and dust off the compass, 'clino' and Fibron tape.


The field data for the survey was collected on four separate trips, June - Sept '91, keeping pace with the rapid progress of discovery and exploration. A calibrated Sunto compass and clinometer and 30m. Fibron tape were used to collect data to BCRA grade 5d. Leapfrog compass readings were taken in the Marl section of the cave in case of any ore-body induced magnetic deviation but highly consistent readings and the confined nature of the dug passages meant that forward bearings only became the norm, a system I maintained throughout the larger conglomerate passages.

The 1991 survey was commenced on 5th June at the entry point of Christmas Crawl into Santa's Grotto, following hot on the heels of the initial breakthrough on 3rd June.  A seven hour marathon session by Pete McNab (Snab), Chris Castle and the author surveyed to the deepest point available the temporarily blocked Hernia Pot and the large high level chamber discovered that day and named Drake's Hall in honour of Bob Drake (W.C.C.), a keen digger, whose tragic death had occurred twelve months previously.  A provisional plot was available on 10th June having coupled the new work to Dave Irwin's survey of April 1978 (see BB N° 371 p.15/16) having metricised the earlier drawing (plotted originally at 1:120 horizontally and 1:75 vertically).

The next session on 28th July by Steve Redwood, Mark Simms (S.M.C.C.) and the author surveyed the narrow rifts and inlets below Hernia Pot.  The deepest point available was the bottom of the cross-joint pot, so far only descended by J'Rat, at -73.2m.  The survey stopped at the tight U-tube, now christened Butch's Arse in recognition of the names verbal gaff in the Hunter's one night about the likelihood of Wigmore ever 'going' as a dig.

The time consuming rift-widening beyond Butch's Arse continued until mid-August when the two superb pitches and streamway were discovered.  The survey of this section as far as the first upstream sump was carried out by the author, Tony Jarratt, Rich Blake and Max Midken on 9th Sept. The stream section was a delight to survey, 8-10m. survey legs being the norm, the passage width averaging 2m. and 1.5m. high in the silt floored phreatic tube of the Upper Yeo.

Work commitments prevented me from joining the fourth trip but the field work was ably completed by the boys from the black stuff, Vince Simmonds, Graham Johnson and Rich Blake on 15th Sept., when the upstream sumps I and II and the final streamway section to upstream sump III was surveyed.  The two short sumps presented little problem if the air space survey stations were carefully positioned.

The Upper Yeo streamway is bounded upstream and downstream by sumps which will require some concerted effort to pass due to the atrocious visibility. Dany Bradshaw has penetrated the downstream sump for 35m. at approx. 3m. depth (but see the survey for the latest. Dany passed the sump to a short length of passage with a dry inlet on his very next dive - Ed) and Keith Savory has achieved 6m. of upstream progress at 4m. depth.  The zero vis' conditions of these sumps means that producing an accurate survey through them will be somewhat difficult.  Radio location is the obvious answer here: a fix at each end of the sump, established on the surface will enable co-ordinate differences to be plotted onto the master survey, coupled with a measured sump length to minimize error.

The master survey has been drawn up at 1:200 well filling the AO sheet.  The plan fits well but the projected elevation of the streamway runs off the sheet and will be drawn displaced on the finished article.


Wigmore Swallet has a passage length of 474m. so far surveyed if the terminal sumps are included, of this 402m. has been entered for the first time in 1991.  The deepest point of the cave, 93.5m. below the entrance shaft cap, is the bottom of the 3m. deep downstream sump pool.  The drop in water level between upstream sump III and the downstream sump is only 1.25m. suggesting that in winter flow conditions a considerable proportion of the Upper Yeo may sump. The hydraulic gradient of this section is 1.09% compared with the 2.06% mean gradient of Tor Hole to Wigmore and 1.6% Wigmore to Cheddar Risings (These figures assume straight line flow and are indicative only).

The inlet downstream of upstream sump III is speculated to be seepage water from the slurry tank adjacent to the large cowshed but this cannot be confirmed, it does however smell somewhat foul.  The source(s) of the main streamway need to be located by hydrographic tracing, possible sites being Red Quar Swallet, the adjacent His Lordship's Hole both taking water in mid-Sept. and, of course, Tor Hole.

There are other large depressions to the north of Stock Hill which should be investigated.  A large depression to the south of Red Quar Swallet is dry in summer but may repay digging especially if "Tuska Tactics" are used to expose the underlying rock strata.

In the space of nine short months Wigmore has been transformed from a squalid dig into a big league cave a demanding trip with plenty to offer tight rifts and squeezes, superb airy pitches and climbs, spacious chambers, a large streamway and open ends.  By my reckoning Wigmore is Mendips 13th deepest cave although this figure could be eclipsed when the Twin Titties Swallet survey appears.

With so much depth potential remaining (the downstream sump surface is 171.4m. A.O.D.) Wigmore could soon be in the top ten.  If a connection to Gough's could be made a system with 265m. vertical range would result.

Perhaps its time to get the shovels out again?



Sanitaria According To Valuable Standards

Chris Castle

While in Bat Products reading caving. magazines without buying them, some members may have noticed a heap of leaflets promoting a campsite for cavers in Slovenija, Yugoslavia.  A glance inside one gave the information that the place possesses "Sanitaria according to valuable standards".  Well, that certainly beat the Belfry, so when Andy Sparrow approached me to join him on a brief visit (he didn't want any damned amateurs with him) I decided it was worthy of further investigation.

We flew out on 4th May from Heathrow to Ljubljana, rather unfortunately landing 2 hours late at Pula due to the vagaries of the airline, JAT.  I'd never heard of Pula, but later found it was in the south, a long way from Ljubljana. After some arguing we got places on a coach, but because we weren't on a packaged tour we didn't fit into the scheme of things and they didn't really want us.  However, after a four hour journey across what was doubtless magnificent countryside, but a bit difficult to appreciate in the middle of the night, we were kicked out at Ljubljana Railway Station at 3am.

Carrying our rucksacks and international cavers' recognition symbols (tackle bags) we walked forlornly along the wet pavement to be suddenly greeted by a bearded character wearing a fibre-pile jacket who, although not holding a pot of Butcombe, was obviously a caver.  In fact he was Franc Facija, the owner of the campsite.  JAT had, against all expectations, contacted him.  We piled our kit and ourselves into Franc's Yugo and drove south along the motorway we'd just driven north on, to Speleo-Camping, Laze.

Laze village is composed of surprisingly large houses, one shop and one pub.  Franc told us that the pub had been closed by the health authorities because of sanitaria according to invaluable standards, a great blow; but he had a good stock of beer at the camp, which cheered us up.  All we could see of the campsite was a wet field and a wooden hut, which turned out to be a superbly-built chalet intended for use as a kitchen and common-room.  Franc lit the wood burning stove and we dried out and chatted till 5am, when we climbed up to the loft to sleep.  This had a trapdoor which I closed, only to find it had no handle on the inside, and we were trapped.  Although a bit past caring I managed to lever it up with Andy's underpants and we spent our first night in Slovenija.

The next morning I got up at about 9am. to find what we had come so far to see - Sanitaria according to valuable standards.  This was not a squatter, thank goodness, but a first-class, western-style bog with - Oh joy! soft bog paper!  The block also had a working shower definitely better than the Belfry.

After a good dump I returned to the chalet to find we had a visitor Dr. France Sustersic.  I don't know if the BB can reproduce the accents on his name, but I've never known anyone with so many.  (Ed's note - Unfortunately I've only got the IBM international character set which does not include the Slav languages. you'll just have to imagine a tiny V above all the S's and C's in the surname!  The best I can do is;- ŠUŠTERŠIČ)  He is a lecturer in geology at Ljubljana University, an authority on Classical Karst and an ardent Slovenian nationalist.  In between ranting about Serbs he gave us much useful information.

Later on we went for a walk with Franc to view the flooded PLANINSKO POLJE.  There had been much un-seasonal rain, which was a bit of a sod. We were surprised by the apparent affluence of the village.  The houses were enormous; many were in the process of being built and few seemed to be finished.  The construction process consisted of erecting a concrete framework, putting on a roof, building the walls very badly with large bricks, then finally rendering the whole lot to hide everything.  Franc told us that everyone builds their own houses, with major work being done by a co-operative effort.

The state prohibits selling the houses at a fair market price, so they cannot be regarded as an investment.  What was a far more interesting piece of information was that house-builders frequently find a cave when digging the foundations, but these are never followed up.

Andy insisted on going caving, so off we went into the forest to look for caves.  We actually visited eleven caves so I won't describe them all, although all are worth doing.  I'll just pick out the highlights.  Dr. Sustersic, or Franz as he asked us to call him, had waymarked a trail through the forest, passing several caves.  It was just as well, the land is so heavily forested that many caves are extremely difficult to find.  The landscape is described in Jim Eyre's "The Cave Explorers", but I still found the extremely dense forestation a surprise.  It is all managed, which encourages a wealth of wild flowers; the trees are mostly broad-leaved, there are outcrops of cretacious limestone and dolines of all shapes and sizes everywhere.  The forest is a very pleasant place.

Our first cave was STOTA JAMA, a small and easy choked at the end with massive calcite deposits, quite typical of this area.  There was some vandalised stal and a saucepan in a muddy abandoned dig, which made me feel quite at home.  Next, we walked on to VRANJA JAMA, a site made famous in scientific circles by the studies of early geomorphologists.  It has a big entrance 20 metres high at the bottom of a massive doline, and is usually a through trip, but we couldn't do this as it was flooded.  Vranja is part of the best system in the area, NAJDENA JAMA, but not yet joined to it.

On May 6th Franz drove us to the other side of Planinsko Polje to visit PLANINSKA JAMA, the resurgence for Postojno.  The river, the UNICA, was in flood making an enormous and spectacular resurgence, better even than Goughs.  The huge cave passage was once a show cave, but with Postonjo down the road it is now abandoned.  A nice pathway led to a gate with a notice saying "Danger. Keep Out", in Slovenian, but Andy and I couldn't read it so we climbed over the gate.  Franz could read it, but he would obviously be at home in Fairy Quarry.  The path continued over bridges and through artificial tunnels built by the Italian POWs to a confluence.  The left-hand branch leads, we were told, to a huge rising where the water flows both to the left and right - thought to be the only known cave in the world where this happens.  The path followed the right-hand branch until it ended where a wooden section had collapsed. Although further progress would be possible with difficulty, a fall with the water at that level may have been fatal. Near this point the path followed a dry oxbow by-passing a short sump into which a girl had been sucked in and drowned a few week's previously.

After caving on May 7th we visited Franz Sustersic for a chat.  He has produced a catalogue of caves in Slovenia, which now exceed 6000.  There are only a few hundred active caves there so there must be a lot more to find; in fact, from his studies Franz knows there are. He gave Andy a copy of his catalogue on a disc, so the information will be available to British cavers.  He then took us into the forest in his car to show us the entrance to NAJDENA JAMA, difficult to find and with a very small entrance.  It was discovered by Franz and he is very proud of it.

We intended to go down the next day and were instructed to bring out the spare base to his carbide generator which he'd left - he couldn't bring it out himself as his next trip would be his 150th into the cave and the occasion of a grand subterranean piss-up!

Next day we walked to the cave and a free-climb and 20m pitch led to a big passage with two ways on. We looked at both ways, but regrettably couldn't go far because of the flooding.  The cave was rather marred because of carbide dumps, graffiti and mud sculptures.  One was a superbly-crafted pornographic model which admittedly caused us great amusement. Down another passage we saw a huge stalactite which must approach the one in Pol-an-Ionian for size, and looked at one of Franz's digs, which only J-Rat would enjoy.

That afternoon Franc drove us to SKOCJANSKE JAME Showcave, not far from Trieste.  The tour did not start auspiciously the guide dressed in jeans led us down a rough track to a building that looked like a bunker, then along a grotty, spider-infested adit to the first part of the cave a fossil section called the Silent Cave. Things improved rapidly, with formations of increasing splendour culminating in vast, complicated stalagmites over 20m high.  This led to the River Cave, a vast canyon which must have been over 100m high, spanned by a spectacular bridge just asking to be jumped off.  We left that for another day, but my professional interest was excited by the halogen lights - installing and servicing them must be fun as they would only be accessible by rope.  We followed the river noting the traverse wires put up many years ago leading to the many holes in the walls.  The river resurged in a great doline, then disappeared again to resurge near Tieste 40 km away.  We left the doline by means of a funicular railway.

The following day, May 9th, we visited the Postojna Showcave a much more professionally slick operation, but not as spectacular as Skocjanske Jame.  The train ride is fun, though.

We spent the afternoon on a maniacal walk through the forest with Franz Sustersic, who wanted to show us some sites and explain the geology.  I'm sure it was most interesting, but his talk was delivered at high speed in sometimes idiosyncratic English while on the gallop.  "Here is fine doline", he would say charging down, "Hey how many Serbs needed to change a lightbulb?"  Then up he would go, finding a fossil on the way to show us when we gaspingly caught him up.  He introduced the interesting concept of Holiday Digging.  There are many excellent draughting holes which have never been looked at because of the shortage of Slovenian Cavers.  He's keen to lead visiting cavers to likely sites and let them get on with it.  With luck some may go after a few hours digging, but of course others may take over fourteen years.

The morning of our last caving day, Friday 10th, was spent in a cave just outside the village called MACKOVICA, a bit of a shithole becoming much like Swildons Upper Series to pursue to the end.  Exit was made amusing by the route through a boulder ruckle hiding itself for a while.

The afternoon was quite different, when Franc took us to KRIZNA JAMA.  Access is only permitted to this well-known river cave with a guide, and we picked up ALOJZ TROMA on the way.  He was doubtful whether we would get far in the wet conditions, so we had a good look round the dry passages near the entrance which contain many bones of cave bears, they were excavated in the 19th Century, but many remain, sticking out of the sediments.  At the River Alojz, hummed and haared for a while at the water level, then decided to cross the first lake at least.  We all piled into an inflatable dinghy and paddled a short way to solid ground. From here we had to transfer to two smaller boats, and after a brief reconnaissance through a low section Alojz decided to go for it.

He is used to non-cavers and was a bit cautious, but some of our BEC spirit must have rubbed off on him. As it was there were no great difficulties - in fact, I suspect things were made easier by being able to paddle over shallow sections where you normally have a porterage.  I had the dubious pleasure of sharing a boat and the paddling with Andy, which meant we spun around for a while and nearly tipped over, but eventually we were able to maintain a straight line, the usefulness of which was rendered null and void by the fact that the cave didn't.  However, progress was easy and the novel way of caving was great fun.  Large stalagmites grow out of the water, as the river has built natural calcite dams and raised its own level.  We went as far as a confluence and landing place called KALVARIJA ( Calvary) with many fine stalagmites, before returning.  The boat trip can go much further, but a whole day is needed.  Although physically easy Krizna Jama was the highlight of the holiday.

Next day Franc drove us to Lubjlana airport, and apart from being stung 250 dinar airport tax which was unexpected and cleaned us out of cash, the journey home was mercifully uneventful.

Andy and I were able to carry enough caving kit within our 20 kg baggage allowance.  The hardwear was in our, or at least, my, hand luggage which got Heathrow security a little excited.  Laze was very peaceful - perhaps too peaceful for the BEC, but the locals hoped that the pub will re-open this summer.  The campsite is excellent, the sanitaria unforgettable though more bogs and showers were to be installed.

Franc is an excellent bloke, a caver and drinker of beer.

He was planning to convert the lower story of his huge house into bunkrooms which would be quite an improvement.  Of course, all these plans are now buggered up, temporarily we hope.

If anyone wants to visit this excellent caving area, tough shit, you can't at the moment. When the civil unrest is over it will again be a destination for a first-class caving holiday, and Andy and I have plenty of information we can pass on.


St Cuthbert’s Swallet

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Available from Joan Bennett, Draycott, Somerset.



Westbury Park

Dear Ted,

How does one become a member of the BEC nowadays?   There seems to have been a subtle shift in procedure.

When I joined, you had to hang out with members until the day arrived when an application form was thrust into your hands and a couple of established old lags proposed and seconded you. By that time you had usually been around so long that you were vaguely remembered by a committee member or two from a furniture-smashing session at the Belfry.  Ratification of the application appears to have been a mere formality.  Those who didn't make the grade never even got to see an application form, and, in committee, the endorsements of the proposer and seconder appears to have sufficed. Of course there was the occasional rejection (I was one).

Times have changed. Last year I attended a committee meeting and was appalled at what I witnessed. The applicants had to sit through what to them must have seemed interminable waffle before; at last, the matter of membership applications was reached on the agenda.  Along with the application form (duly signed by the proposer and seconder) the applicants had to present their case to the committee before leaving the room while the application was considered.

Over the years the number of applicants I have nominated can be counted on the fingers of one hand.  I don't have nearly enough digits to record those whom I have advised to "wait until they've been around a bit longer."  I am not aware that this advice ever caused any ill-feeling.

But times change.  I have just received a lot of grief from a committee member who instructed me to countersign a membership application for a bloke in the changing room.  I am not sure which of the five strangers was the applicant.  I refused and a lot of embarrassment was created all round as the same committee member informed the five that I'd always been a miserable bastard. The negative feelings continued in the Hunters all night.

I am sure that I am not the only member who takes care in who he nominates for membership of the BEC. If our signatures are to be a mere formality then this must be openly understood.  It would probably be better however to advise potential members to apply directly to the committee with their subscription and by-pass the involvement of the regular members altogether.  Nowadays new members never become Belfry-ites, we rarely see them, so who cares?

Meanwhile I shall continue to exercise my own discretion on who I will nominate but, to avoid any future embarrassment.  I will happily second any applicant proposed by a committee member in return for the traditional pint.


Jim Smart.


Re-Structuring Of The Governing Body For British Caving

The work. of a national body, not I hasten to add a national caving club, has six primary topics to which it must address itself:

  • Access & Conservation
  • Equipment
  • Training
  • Legal and Insurance
  • Communication with cavers
  • Communication with Government and other outside organisations





The current structure of the National Caving Association (NCA) covers these subjects in depth except that of insurance which is currently handled by BCRA; NCA does though scrutinise the BCRA insurance policy.  Ask a thousand people how the Governing Body for caving should be organised will present one with a thousand answers - so, fair enough Bryan has his view - though it's largely in the politician's language rhetoric.  I personally prefer to call a spade - a spade, and not cloud the issue with irrelevant details e.g. library and glossy magazines.

I was most certainly not thinking solely of the Mendip 'parish' when considering clubs - ask CPC, BPC, Chelsea SS, WSG, SWCC and many other clubs whether they feel they have little importance in today’s caving world.  Clubs would certainly have something to say about the inferred 'waning' influence.

Bryan didn't say why he supported nor justified why individual members should vote for the executive; avoidance of the central issue is a sign of a lack of conviction.  Further, he tacitly agreed that the structure/framework of the national association is not a point of disagreement confirming the central point of debate which lies solely with the voting procedure at the Annual Meeting. As a famous American president said (amended slightly) "Read my words, Bryan".

  • An individual voting structure, whether it be clubs or individual members, or a combination of both, voting at the annual meeting of a national body will REMOVE the dreaded VETO.  I fully endorse this viewpoint and my paper stated that clearly, though in a less direct way than Bryan would have liked.
  • The executive must be able to act as a responsible body without reference to constituent affiliated bodies in the first instance unless it requires specific/specialised advice.  The Regional Councils must retain their autonomy on local issues and be represented on the national executive.

Why clubs should form the basic framework for the national body:

  • Collectively they (clubs) form a stable framework: they have been on the caving scene for a long time and know and understand regional problems - a pretty big must for the basis of a national body.
  • Club members contribute greatly to caving as a whole.
  • Club members are responsible for most cave exploration.
  • Clubs (sometimes in conjunction with Regional Bodies) maintain cave entrances and negotiate access arrangements with local landowners.  The major exception is CNCC which was formed solely to negotiate collectively with the Dales landowners in the mid-l960s.
  • Clubs monitor caves and prevent the excesses of the commercial organisations

Why voting by individual members is not the best system:

  • The average active life of a caver is about 2-3 years and therefore does not create stability
  • New cavers coming onto the 'scene' means that re-education is a constant problem e.g. conservation rules etc.
  • Non-club cavers offer little now - what is the likelihood of these individuals changing in the future; the possibility that they MIGHT offer something to caving is a pretty big risk considering that they have no proven track record.
  • If individual members require contact communication from the national body then there is no reason why they can't join as ASSOCIATE MEMBERS.
  • Short life cavers can easily be exploited by the excesses of commercialism which has little regard for the overall limited resources.

Bryan conveniently left out details of how the new organisation would become viable if the NCA were to change it's constitution overnight.  You can drag a horse to water but. .. !  A phased period of transition is the only pragmatic solution.  Perhaps associate members can be gained from subscribers to 'SpeleoScene'

The BCRA (a constituent member of NCA) structure cannot be left out of the discussion as they are a nationally organised group involving both club and individual members; each having one vote.  How the affairs of this organisation is effected is its members problem and not part of this discussion.  But - because it has a voting and annual meeting structure exactly the same as that proposed by some for the national body then its operation can be fairly compared. To use the figure often quoted that there are 12,000 cavers in the country then BCRA's 1100 membership is hardly representative of the whole.  Neither are the 150 or so member clubs, though this is proportionally better, hardly representative of cavers.

What guarantee is there should the individual member voting membership of the national body be accepted that it would be any more representative of cavers?  I think none.

Another point I wish to make is one of funding.  Bryan has not mentioned it but it is one of the other reasons for wanting to see changes within the NCA structure.  The NCA as it exists at the moment is severely limited on the activities it can embark upon.  Due to the way it was originally structured it is limited in funds. The administrative funds it previously received from Sports Council has been removed and today it has to submit four year plans for its main activities.  The money from the Sports Council is currently frozen due to Government cut-backs and so inflation will take its toll.  Thus, should it find itself in a position to support an unforeseen activity, it will not have the funds to support it.  This is a worry and the idea of having individual members (persons or clubs or a combination of both) would overcome this problem by enabling the subscriptions to be pitched to cover such contingencies.

In brief.  Clubs form the basic framework of British caving and should be encouraged to continue this good work. That the club be reflected within the national organisation will ensure that a small group of politically motivated cavers cannot possibly usurp their powers through ignorance as happened only 10 years ago within national organisations.

Dave Irwin


Cavers, understandably, are not interested in politics until things go wrong - remember the SSSI problem and the closure of the Priddy caves.  When cavers are confronted by arguments on the structure of the national body they are expected to make decisions based upon the information supplied by their representatives. As a result of their lack of interest in caving politics they are vulnerable and can be manipulated by selective use of 'facts'. A fine example is to be found in both articles by Bryan Ellis and Andy Sparrow (see last BB).  Both Bryan and Andy stated 'facts' that were half-truths - a typical politicians ploy.  To Andy - there are lies, damned lies, and statistics - be careful how YOU use 'facts'. What I stated in my paper was the truth with regard to caver training.  The question in the NCA Questionnaire on practical training asked amongst other questions:

What services should be provided, and by whom?

9.1 Training (advice): National 49%; Regional 32%; Specialist 30%; Club 50%; others 6%.

9.2 Training (practical): National 24%; Regional 29%; Specialist 30%; Club 70%; others 6%.

I think that my statement was clear, truthful and unambiguous.  The vast majority of cavers DO want practical training kept within the club.  In the case of Training advice the emphasis was for both National and Club.  I do not, and have never said, that cavers cannot have choice.  If they wish to attend a commercial training session then so be it - it’s their money. Commercialism in caving must stand on its own two feet.  If cavers do not wish to receive their services then they flounder.  I rest my case.


Digging in the Clydach Gorge

by Mark Lumley

Over the past 18 months, a considerable amount of work has been put into Clydach pushing minor sites in the northern bank of the Clydach Gorge in the section from the big layby down to the path opposite Ogof Clogwyn.

The first site was at stream level, 20 metres upstream from a small resur­gence known as Tucks Rift (21160 12411).  10 metres of easy progress was made by the author, Trevor Pritchard, Steve Tomalin, Karen Lumley and several members of UC4 (Cardiff University).  The fill was easy to clear but had been passed before by the entire population of Brynmawr i.e. Sewage interspersed with the occasional condom (in fact Trevor swears to this day that he is related to the contents of one particularly fine knotted, ribbed specimen!)

The name Tradesmens’ Entrance was deemed appropriate and the diggers await the installation of a shower at Whitewalls enthusiastically! The end of the passage is choked to the roof with a sandy fill but progress could be possible along the draughting right hand branch of a cross rift.

In November 1990 our attention turned to a surface collapse 10 metres closer to Tucks Rift.  Progress was initially slow until the combined brawn of UC4 & the Rock Steady Crew moved a number of unfeasibly large boulders from the entrance using numerous pulleys, levers, cocktails & a selection of short­lived car jacks.

A tight strongly draughting rift was revealed, spurring the diggers on to more ingenious methods of rock removal, inviting the name Scorched Earth Rift (sorry Saddam!)  This was a particularly squalid winter dig thanks to an unavoidable heavy drip along its' entire length.

The sound of running water could be heard ahead.  This was reached after 10 metres.  Unfortunately it turned out to be no more than an enlarged section of the same rift (5m long 5m high 1.5m wide) with a small stream cascading into a pool which was subsequently dived by Malcolm ("is that your idea of a joke, Gonzo?") Stewart.

There was no way on and we believe that the stream feeds the Tucks Rift resurgence.  The rift above the pool could possibly be pushed by an anorexic whippet that eats limestone & craps bang!

Overhang Cave (21244 12431) was next on our list.  25 metres upstream from Waterfall Cave Resurgence at about the same level, a small stream issues from a tight, draughting phreatic tube beneath a large overhang.  The site is summed up in 'A Cavers View of the Clydach River' with the phrase "the site has some potential".

The site was prepared & dug by the author with occasional help from Trevor Pritchard, Karen Lumley, Angela Garwood, Peter Bolt & Tony Boycott.

A breakthrough was eventually achieved on 28th Sept.  After a tortuous 39 metres a roomier section was reached, similar to the end of Scorched Earth with the way on visible along a tight rift in a rotten shale band. However, with the strong, ever present draught this site will be dug until it goes again.

Possibilities in this section of the gorge are intriguing.  A 'dry' back door into the cave systems that resurge at Fynnon Gisfaen perhaps?  Also, it's worth noting that this is the logical area for the further sites in Daren, such as Downdweeb and Spaderunner to re-emerge, although, my limited geological knowledge of this part of the mountain suggests that to do so they will have to step up a level.

If there is no such connection then we are left with the enticing prospect of Daren's westernmost fossil passages passing right underneath the Cydach Gorge, leaving the Rock Steady Crew with mixed feelings at the thought of even more arduous sherpa trips, longer camps and party venues to tax the enthusiasm of the keenest gatecrashers.


Jamaica - "Cool Runnings"

(or in the local patois, "mellow")


(The above title is plagiarised, with amendments, from a write-up by Trebor and Stumpy in BB452 page 7 - J'Rat)

This years recce expedition to Bob Marley land was sponsored by Jane Jarratt who kindly allowed the writer (J'Rat) to accompany her on her free holiday for two, won in a draw at Lil and Glenys's "Rumpy Pumpy House" New Physique, Midsomer Norton (ADVERT!).  Also on the trip were Martin and Glenys Grass, taking a holiday at the same hotel, belonging to Martin's holiday consortium (Cries of FIX, FIX).

Due to various factors, i.e. lack of transport, time, decent maps, lots of booze and food etc., little caving was achieved but herewith a few notes on sites visited, for the benefit of the Jamaican file kept in the library.  Further information can be gained from "Jamaica Underground" by A.Fincham.  A copy is in the Wessex library and a part photocopy in the Belfry library.

Roaring River Cave   Petersfield, Westmorland.

This is a show cave with recent improvements (concrete steps, walkways and electric lighting).

Arriving at the village we were accosted by a young Jamaican motorcyclist who ditched his girlfriend and escorted us to the cave where his mate, Steve, offered his services as a guide. The entrance area was milling-about with would-be guides, "Security Guards" and small boys.  We donned our Zoom lamps and followed Steve and his girlfriend Eunice through an old phreatic network covered in soot from the burning torches of earlier tourists.  The cave consists of a couple of large chambers with connections to a low streamway.  One of these led to a large sump pool which has supposedly been dived out to the surface. A "skylight" aven is passed beneath and the main route ends in a stalagmite choke with tree roots in the roof. A large pile of old bottles was evidence of earlier lighting methods - Molotov cocktail torches!

Throughout the cave there were plenty of bats (Rat-bats in the local lingo) and cave crickets.  The walls were well endowed with graffiti dating back to the 1800's.  Off the beaten track a nice phreatic tube led eventually to a low crawl which Steve, Martin and I pushed for a few yards.  Some attractive crystals were noted here.  In general rather a poor show cave but enlivened by the sudden appearance of a gentleman known as the "Dragon Man" who proceeded to fill his mouth with either rum or paraffin and lighting it to illuminate the cave with a great puff of red flame!  This would go down well in Gough's.  He then rolled a burning brand across his teeth and posed for photos before bragging about the West Indian cricket team.  It cost a fortune in tips to get rid of him.

Another short cave near the entrance led to a downstream sump pool.  Upstream was low but could be possible.  This cave probably connects with the tourist section.  Just above the cave a large stream rises from a blue hole and a couple of hundred yards walk through the village led to a second blue hole with a strong resurgence above it (see Pat and Trebor's article) .

Our second caving trip was to the Ginger Hill area, St. Elizabeth.  The drive across from Negril took ages but was mostly through spectacular cone karst with presumably lots of cave potential.  On arrival it took about an hour of questioning locals to locate Me No Sen Cave - also known as River or Water Sink.  A local lad, Tony, guided us to the cave and was joined by his mates Wayne and Maxwell. The cave was located close to the Montego Bay to Kingston railway line along which young Maxwell propelled himself on a home made, two wheeled skateboard.  Three quarters of a mile down the track from Ginger Hill towards the next village of Ipswich we scrambled down the SW bank to reach the large sink entrance.  The last scramble down rotting bamboo poles proved too much for Martin's "bedroom - slippers" and he slid gracefully on his arse into the stream. The barefooted locals fared much better.

The tunnel-like entrance passage was followed for 300' to where the usual sump had dried up to reveal a choked sink full of rotting bamboo.  A passage to the right was entered by climbing warily over a huge heap of rotting, stinking bamboo poles to reach a couple of filthy, muddy crawls. The slit and 20' pot leading to the main cave was not found.  It was decided to look for another cave.

Seemenomore was reached by continuing along the railway, through a tunnel to a point where a steep path to the NE dropped down 200' to an area of large sinkholes.  Wayne and Tony hacked a way through the dense bush using the "fist and bread knife" technique and led us to a 30' deep shakehole which we descended with the aid of a rope.  A large entrance below led straight to a deep and muddy sump pool with no other way on. We were told that it had been visited by "50 American cave divers" in 1980.  It is not specifically mentioned in Jamaica Underground but "Seemenomore" is listed as an alternative name for Me So Sen Cave.

After a desperate struggle back up the path we continued down the track for another 1½ miles, admiring the tropical forest covered hills of the Cockpit Country surrounding us, to a second railway tunnel.  Halfway through a cave entrance was noted in the NE wall.  This is not mentioned in J.U. but will be referred to as Duanwarie Tunnel Cave. This was later explored for 100' or so to a stal choke. It contained helictites, crystallized stal. and parasite-infested Rat Bats.

Just round the corner the commercial Ipswich Cave (Duanwarie Cave No.1. in J.U.) was found to be locked and inaccessible, it being Sunday. The nearby Duanwarie Cave No. 2 could not be found.  "It slipped me, Man" shouted a disgruntled Rastafarian voice as Tony hacked through the undergrowth with his trusty breadknife.

We had now had enough so we trudged back up the line with Maxwell scooting along the track.  After a wash in the stream and a chew on a lump of sugar cane we handsomely tipped the lads and gave them a lift to a presumably alcoholic funeral, before heading back to Negril via an atrocious "road".

A great day out with some colourful characters.  Anyone visiting the Jamaican karst is advised to take plenty of tips, information and endless patience as communication can be a trifle frustrating.  It's a great place though.

(The following, although a chronological continuation of the above is written by Martin Grass - Ed).

After Tony had left I moved up to the North Coast of the Island staying at Runaway Bay. Once I had convinced my boss's son Chris Cavanagh to join me we explored THATCHFIELD CAVE and OLD THATCHFIELD CAVE, situated about 40 minutes drive from Runaway Bay, inland.  Thatchfield cave is easily found after a 10 minute walk though thick jungle.  A low entrance and crawl followed by a 4 metre climb led to a massive passage full of large stal and hundreds of bats.  After about 200 metres, daylight is seen from a large shaft 30 metres deep by 30 metres across, the top hanging with large old stal and jungle vines.  The cave from here continues steep and large, levelling out after about 100 metres. Eventually a low crawl is encountered before more large passage is gained, finally ending in a 50 metre shaft. The cave is very well decorated throughout with all types of stal. It is also home to thousands of bats so the floor is a few feet deep in guano!  This in turn is home to cave crickets and one (it was all we saw), rat.

Thatchfield Old cave is next to its larger and longer cousin and is very similar in size but ends in a boulder chamber full of columns up to 5 metres high.  The entrance to this cave is home to a large colony of very noisy swifts. We also found a rope useful for a short pitch just inside the entrance to this cave.  Both caves make an excellent days caving and having made enquiries of the locals it appears our visit was the first for about 12 years. Certainly neither cave showed any sign of previous visits although both are listed in Jamaica Underground (1977). Total passage in both systems is 4600 feet.

A few days later Glen and I visited this limestone area again looking for Dunns Hole (a deep pothole) and to get a feel for any potential the area may have.  It is certainly worth any expedition spending some time in this area as I am sure there is still lots to find.



By Martin Grass

On a couple of recent working trips I managed to visit two caves, one a show cave and one a dive. Both are situated in an area of Cuba about 90 miles East of Havana.  This area has a lot of low lying Karst with many caves and a lot of diving potential.

A vast amount of Cuba is limestone but most exploration has been centred on the far west of the island around Pirar Del Rio.  This is where the cone karst can be found, big river caves and deep potholes. (The Westminster S.G. have had an expedition here for the last three years).  The rest of Cuba, however, has a lot of high limestone mountains much of it waiting to be explored.  The first one I visited was BELMAR CAVE the only show cave in the VARADERO area. The entrance is a shaft with a spiral staircase taking you down into a large boulder strewn chamber, from here a series of large well decorated chambers lead off culminating in a good but basic light show in the final chamber.  The whole trip is about 45 minutes.

On my second visit to the island I visited the following flooded cave, it is not tidal.


Divers - Martin Grass and Danny (a Cuban).

A large entrance slope and chamber in daylight, full of old dry stal and swifts, leads down to a large green pool.  Three routes lead off underwater in crystal clear visibility and have been well lined by the Cubans.  Two branches are about 30 metres long each through small chambers with good formations. The main route is about 80 metres long into a large chamber with excellent underwater columns and straws. Looked at various side passages and alcoves off this main route but could not find the way on.  Water in the cave is brackish and warm enough to only need a wet suit vest.

Total dive time 35 minutes. Maximum depth 18 metres.

NOTE. There are lots of "open" "blue holes" like this in Varadero and an expedition would certainly prove worthwhile.  I am currently working regularly in Cuba and anyone interested in a trip should let me know.

Ireland. Easter  1992

by Martin Grass

For the second year running Blitz, Mac and myself will be returning to County Fermaragh, Northern Ireland for about 10 days over Easter.  If anyone is interested in joining us please let one of us know.  We have an excellent cheap cottage booked right in the heart of the caving region and about a mile from the border with Eire.  (The pub we use is in the South).  The limestone area is one of the least visited in the U.K. and probably Europe, so the potential for new cave is enormous.

There are plenty of sumps for diving and no one has really started digging seriously (we were told by locals, that if a dig did not go in a morning they left it!).  The known caves are a mixture of big river caves and deep pots and some high level dry stuff with stal so it’s a real mix.  See you there and bring a battery drill. (see Mac deep pots details).


Vimy Ridge, Grange Tunnel (A Show Cave With A Difference)

by  'Slug' (Ian Gregory)

It must be somewhat unusual to feature a report on a show cave in the B.B. especially as this is not a true cave, but a network of man made tunnels. I thought, however, that it may be of general interest, particularly to those who study the development and history of mining.  So, here goes.

During a recent holiday in northern France it was decided to take a tour around the First World War memorial to the Canadian forces at Vimy Ridge.  The scene of the first major victory by the young Canadian Army, in early 1917.

Situated at the top of HILL 145 is the monument bearing the names of 11,285 Canadians who went missing during the battle.  Surrounding it are the remnants of the battlefield, still cratered from the massive artillery barrage at the prelude to the attack.  The craters also lend a real threat to the KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs which are backed up by "DANGER UNDETONATED EXPLOSIVES"  (Two days prior to our visit a local Frenchman had found two live shells).

However, of more interest to myself was the extensive system of tunnels dug by both sides during the war, and by others in more distant times.

If you take the D51 road from Vimy to Givenchy-en-Gohelle, as the road climbs up through Givenchy you will pass a concrete bunker, this was the entrance to the German tunnels which are now sadly blocked and flooded (maybe the CDG could help).  The largest chamber in the network was the Vimy Cavern, mined not by the Germans during W.W.I, but by successive people from the middle ages onwards.  At first by flint miners and chalk burners and then by the Huguenots, who used the passages as an escape and place of sanctuary from religious persecution. They were also used for defensive purposes in the 18th and 19th centuries but were either collapsed or booby-trapped by the Germans in W.W.II to prevent their usage by the Maquis.

The history of the allied network is equally interesting: -

In October 1916 the Royal Engineers commenced the construction of tunnels big enough to house large concentrations of troops beneath the allied held slopes of the ridge. The work was completed by Australian and Canadian soldiers in mid 1917.  The allied network amounted to more than TWENTY TWO MILES of subways, on four distinct levels (for which the Germans bought the Digging Barrel that year).

The upper level is approximately 20 to 30 feet below the surface, level two is at 75 feet down and levels three and four are at various depths below this.  On the lowest level ran a narrow gauge railway used to bring up ammunition and supplies from the store rooms to the upper tunnels, and then by hand to the trenches, by way of joint ventilation/supply shafts. Incidentally the Germans on their own side of the lines were just as busy.

On the upper levels twelve infantry subways were constructed each of an average length of over ½ mile though some were over a mile.  During the months of October 1916 to March 1917 over six miles of passages were dug 6'6" high and 3' wide, lit throughout by electricity supplied by the Royal Australian Engineers.  Inside this maze were built Assembly Chambers, Headquarter dressing stations and First Aid Posts, Accommodation for troops, Ammo Stores, Signals offices and much more.  Water was laid on as was a telephone network.

Because of the size of the network and the amount of people in it a one way system operated (Perhaps this wouldn't go amiss in Swildon's Hole!) and it could take a runner up to two hours to get through.  Going was best described as heavy as the original floor was of Duckboards which, when they sank into the mud, had new Duckboards laid on top of them.

Of all the tunnels dug over the centuries only a tiny part, Grange Tunnel, is now accessible.  The entrance to this is situated just down from the memorial and is administered by the Canadian government, as the ground in which they are dug was ceded to Canada in perpetuity by the French in the 1920's.

The tour guides are mostly Canadian students and are quite well informed about the history of the area, and the tunnels themselves.  Our guide even apologised to us that it was dripping wet at the time because it takes three days to rain below surface after it has done so above ground.

Grange Tunnel is entered on the upper level 33 feet down and is 800 yards long; it has many minor offshoots and 3 exit points to the front line trenches.  Grange Tunnel runs on the first two levels and in those you can see all the features previously mentioned plus a large calibre shell, which penetrated 30 feet through the so-called bomb proof roof but failed to explode (It has since been disarmed).  Some improvements have been made like electric lights, reinforced concrete pit props to replace the wooden ones (long since rotted away) and a concrete floor.

Grange Tunnel is open to the public during the "Tourist Season", entry is free of charge as is parking.  The Vimy Memorial Canadien is well signposted and easy to find but do not drive off the roads and never walk where you are told not to, as you may come home in bits! (20-30 French and Belgians are killed each year by old ordnance going off).

More information can be obtained by writing to:-

Pat Geisler
Public Affairs, Canada,
284 Wellington Street,
Ottowa, Ontario


On the way back from Vimy Ridge we stopped to look at Lochnager Crater, caused when the British, having tunnelled below the German lines, on the 1st July 1916, detonated over 60,000 lbs. of gun cotton.  That’s a lot of BANG, more than J'Rat has used on Bowery Corner, or is it?!


Wot No Cookers


"Wot no cookers!" they all cried,
as search in vain no-one had spied
a means of heating up their food,
sophisticated, basic or crude.
As one lit up a primus stove,
another to the chip shop drove.
The tired ones plumped for bread and cheese,
eighteen for the Hunters Faggots and Peas.

So when they all had had their fill,
In the pub they met to drink Oakhill,
Bass, Butcombe, Badger and discuss
the problem that was stated thus:­
how thirty cavers could cook breakfast
Who'd be the first and who the last.
Forty eggs scrambled, pots of tea,
fried bacon, mushrooms, toast, coffee.

Not daunted by the task in hand
they drank (and drank) and made a plan,
the problem they would have to beat,
in order everyone could eat.
All this because their time was short,
and they were the brave and daring sort,
visiting Mendips with just one plan,
to find caves measureless to man!

This needed much more thought that night,
so a barrel was purchased - Butcombe Allbright.
To drink at the Belfry, and work on
a satisfactory action plan.
Eventually it was seen
at 3 'O'clock, by all the team,
Breakfast would start at 4 'O'clock,
on primus stove, cooked in the wok.

Come 9 'O'clock those who had had nought
would simply have to go without,
and those who wanted lunch that day
would need to start without delay.
At six, the caving done, they'd hurry,
to shower and change and make a curry,
and aim to finish well by eight
to get to the Hunters and not be late.

And in the Mendips that weekend,
like a beacon visible from each bend,
as cavers cooked breakfast through the night
the Belfry windows blazed with light.
When Sunday came and they went home,
all tired (but not hungry) was heard the moan;
"If they charge fees for a Belfry booking,
can't the BEC buy rings for cooking?"


The Worm Turns.  Or An Old Member Gets His Comeuppance.

In the Dordogne August 1991.

by Phil Romford.

It was time to go on holiday yet again.  This time it was Tony and Jane Jarratt and Phil and Lillian Romford.  The idea was to have a holiday generally looking around the place, do some show caves and for J'Rat and I to do some real caving. What happened was not actually planned for..

Well, we got to Le Bugue in the Dordogne at 0630 Saturday morning after a long through the night drive, we all felt a bit ragged but had time to kill before we could go to the house we were renting in Montferrand du Perigord.  So breakfast was had in a local hotel, then off down the road to our first show cave, Bara-Bahau.

Bara-Bahau was discovered in 1951 by Norbert Casteret and was found to have some cave art in the form of engraved images of horse, bison, deer, beer and human hand representations. The cave although short, is well worth a visit by those interested in Magdelenian art.  Located on the western end of Le Bugue, well sign posted.  Cost 22FF.  Duration around 35 minutes.  Tips taken. 

We emerged to what was now a very hot day, clear sky and the temperature rising rapidly.  It was now that I realized that I did not have my hat to protect my bald pate, ah well thought I, I'll get one some time. However, once we had done the shopping etc. then drove to Montferrand and found the local bar, it was time to install ourselves in the house, sort out gear and plot our movements.  Tone and I most particularly intended to do the Grotte Pucelle near Gramat, 'why not Tuesday' I said.  Sunday was spent just festering around in the sun feeling tired after the night drive.  We just read, read and drank, read drank and ate and drank!  A lot.

Monday we drove to Padirac which Lil and I had not seen, while Tone and Jane went to Grotte de Presque. If you have not been into Padirac, do so, it is superb.  Cost 33FF. It was during this day that I started to feel lousy, feeling nauseous, tired and seeking shade.  Jane, our itinerant nurse diagnosed heat stroke. The drive back to base was a bastard, two hours of sticky heat while I got worse and worse, then thankfully getting home to collapse in bed for 15 hours or so.

The Tuesday plan was now totally changed, I couldn't go caving, Tone couldn't go by himself.  So some time was spent in Les Eyzies buying all the caving books and visiting the speleo museum . J'Rat left a nasty example of a descender with the museum, this then gained us free entry!

By this time I had not been able to eat anything for two whole days, the girls prepared barbecued trout for us all.  I was not appreciative.


Wednesday I felt a little better so Tone and I decided to visit Font-Anguilliere.  This cave is 2km south east of Rouffignac de Sigoules, between Bergerac and Eymet.  (See location plan).  The entrance is in a low cliff next to and slightly above the obvious resurgence and is about 2.5m wide and high, starting off in dry passage one soon comes to the stream, which at the time was flowing slowly.  However, most of the trip is wettish with a lot of shallow wading through the interminable meanders.  The far end of the cave gradually reduces in size to low crawls and muddy tubes, terminating in a choke.  The cave is basically one 3400 metre long meander with only very small and insignificant inlets.  As we neared the end of the cave, the twisting and turning was getting to me and making me feel sick, so I had to slow down a lot so as to retain what little was in my stomach.  Once back to the entrance tube the bats were very active, dozens of them, probably Horseshoes.  A good trip that took 3 hours.  Dry grots in summer weather, possibly a wet suit in high water conditions.  No tackle required, carbide lamps possibly best avoided because of the bat population.

Lascaux II.

Thursday we went to Montignac to visit Lascaux II and the museum at Le Thot.  Lascaux II is a reconstruction of sections of the cave proper, being detailed in structure to within 5mm of the original and painted to accurately emulate the art.  It is extremely well and convincingly done, albeit only depicting part of the cave. The museum at Le Thot shows how Lascaux II was constructed using models to demonstrate techniques and video film to show the actual work done.  Since the chances of getting in to Lascaux proper are dissappearingly small I would strongly recommend visiting these sites.  Cost ????

Grotte Pucelle.

At last it was time for us to do the Grotte Pucelle.  I was still feeling fairly grim with the after effects of the heat stroke. However, J'Rat and I packed our gear and went for it.  We took my ancient piece of 10.5mm Troll SRT rope for cutting as we went, Tone's length of 9mm rope and 2 ladders plus various slings, belays, hangers and krabs. We also carried a full set of SRT gear each, plus grub, water and fags.

The entrance is huge, about 6 metres wide and 3.5 metres high in the bottom of a large depression. The dry entrance series is followed for about 350 metres to where the floor rises up to more or less block the way on.

Just before this a low arch is entered in the left hand wall, after about 50 metres of various ducks and meanders one comes to the streamway.  We saw it in fairly dry condition with only a small amount of water flowing.  However, this was made up for by the profusion of pools and lakes.

The first pitch is encountered about 300 metres down the streamway.  A party of French were rigging this with traverse lines to skirt the pool; we did it the wet way.  4 metres of rope is enough to tie into a large natural belay at the top of the basin. A swim of 3-4 metres gets one to the second pitch.  Here 4 metres of rope on a natural belay, is again sufficient to gain the ledge below. The third we rigged with 5 metres of rope and an 8 mm anchor, the fourth pitch was roped with 6 metres of rope to a natural belay.  The fifth pitch we rigged with 5 metres of rope, although this is only as hand line. The sixth pitch we rigged with 25' of ladder and a 3 metre tether to a natural belay.  The seventh and final pitch we rigged with 30' of ladder and tape slings to a natural belay.  Although 8mm bolts are in profusion on all pitches, we saw no point in using them when perfectly good and strong natural belays were in the right place.  In between pitches there are a number of short drops into deep pools, it is useful to leave a sling on some to assist getting back out.  From the last pitch the river continues on down for a long distance to a large boulder breakdown just beyond which is the sump pool, thus terminating the trip.

As I said just now, I was feeling rough before entering the cave.  Now that it was time to about turn and go out I was absolutely knackered, feeling well but having no strength.  This showed up at every climb up and pitch, J'Rat had to replace rope with ladder at all the rope pitches just to help me, this was necessary even, at one 5' climb up.  Really embarrassing for me.  As I said to Tone, normally it's me helping some other person out.  Shades of the PSM trip, I now feel suitably humbled.

However, it was a cracking trip that is said to be the Swildons's of the Dordogne.  It took us 6 hours, at least half an hour was spent waiting for the French party.  Had we not been held up and if I was performing properly, we could have done the trip in say 4 1/2 hours.  We are unsure of the length of the cave since we could not obtain a survey.  However, I would say that it is around 4.5 km to the sump.  A highly recommended trip.  See location plan.

Saturday was pack up and vacate the house day.  That done we set off on the trek back home.  En Route we detoured to see the Grottes de Villars near Brantome.  This is an extremely well decorated cave with some simple cave art.  Worth seeing if in the area, duration of trip 45 mins, cost 22FF.

We then drove to Melle which is 25km S-E of Niort, to visit the medieval silver mines.  An interesting site, evidently totalling 20km of mined passage, the visit only takes in 350m of it.  However, that short section is representative of the whole mine.  The guide shows how fire setting was used to break the rock.  The silver was found in association with Galena at just 3% proportion.  The silver was used for minting coinage, examples of which are on display in the museum.  An interesting mine with a museum which is still being developed. Cost 20FF.

In conclusion it was an interesting holiday.  However, the heat and humidity was overpowering, even for Jane the sun seeker. Next time will be spring or autumn.


The Bec Summer Holidays In The Pyrenees.

Objectives:        Pierre St. Martin from SC3 to EDF Tunnel.
                        Sistema Badalona (B15) in Spain

                        To do various canyons.

At last we are packed and ready to go.  Just two vehicles go from Mendip on 13th July 1991.  I took my 4 x 4 UMM (Yum Yum) that magnificent orange machine that regularly rescues J'Rats Landrover (sorry Tone!); with me were Graham Wilton-Jones (Basset), Carole White (Meg), Mike McDonald (Trebor) and Ian Cooper (The Antipodean).

Dany Bradshaw took his infamous blue van; in it he took Bob Cork, Andy Carruthers, Howard & Deb Limbert and Mick Numwick.  We were joined by Pete McNab (Snablet) who is on his caving tour of Europe, and Ian Caldwell (Wormhole) and Nicola.

We arranged to meet at the Belfry where we load up and depart from.  No sign of Dany's van yet.  We leave in the Yum Yum to arrive in Southampton at 1400 hrs, have tea and crumpet, natter about life and await Dany et al.  The ferry was due to leave at 1600 hrs, still no blue van at 1530 hrs!!  Then, lo and behold there they are, the van was still in the garage being fixed at 1230.  However, all is OK and we board ship and set sail into the eventual sunset.  Usual boring sort of crossing but a cabaret was put on, the last act being a stand up comic who rendered a few heart rending jokes. We land at 1200 hrs to get straight on the road and get on down to PSM.  We pass the infamous blue van; Dany had forgotten to adjust his headlights for driving on the left.  We reckoned by now that Dany had used up a whole years worth of swear words.

13th July.  The faithful Yum Yum gets us to PSM Bracas de Camping at around 1700 hrs.  No sign of the blue van yet.  Ah well, lets camp says us and get on up the pub.  Near the top of the hill is the ski station that is blessed with a bloody good bar/restaurant.  We settle in for a few beers and excellent grub, quite cheap too.  Still no Dany, hmm.

14th July. Very stormy during the night but our spirits are good.  No Dany yet. So we trundle off to Tardets for shopping and call in to see Ruben & Martine Gomez (Gonads).  They offer coffee and booze and give us the keys to the EDF Tunnel, nice to see them again.

Everyone wants to see the Lepineux entrance so we take a look and a few photo's and remember Loubens. A poignant sort of spot, since we must all have read the account of his death.  From here we walk up to Pic D'Arlas from which most of the PSM catchment can be seen, staggering stuff.  On the way up Meg declares that she suffers from vertigo; merde, we thought!

Back to camp, still no blue van.  By now concern for their well being is coming to mind.  Up to the ski station again for beer and grub.  Wormhole and Nicola turn up after their two week holiday on Corsica.  Both were brown as berries, of Nicola Basset is heard to say 'disgusting, look at the state of that', I made an aside to The Antipodean, 'Looks alright to me!' he grins approval.  I phone home later to find out if any message had got through, 'no' says Lillian, 'nuffin'. Nothing more could be achieved so off to pit with us - after wormholes whiskey, Jamesons it was, it didn't last too long.  Trebor went to bed while the rest of us got steadily stewed, and then.

A satellite was spotted in the beautiful clear skys, Wormhole says 'Bright init', yeah we say, then he says 'I spose they must have lights on em to be that bright'!  'Silly bugger' we say in unison.  Meg says lots of daft things so I christen her Nutmeg. The Antipodean grins a lot, Basset rocks on his heels gyrating wildly, then farts and swears a lot, quite out of characters for him!  As usual I was good.

15th July. Suddenly and rudely awoken by Dany!  In fact they got to PSM Monday morning after fighting with an errant exhaust system and camped at Licq, the pillocks.  While we drove to Tardets they had seen us and ranted and raved to no avail.  'We see'd you lot in thik Yum Yum' says Dany, 'Well, we didn't see or hear you lot, amazing really init', 'I spec' says Dany.

So all our fears had vanished, road deaths and all, we were much relieved.  Well, they were just off to rig SC3 Belfry Entrance and get on with the trip.  Their party comprised; Dany, Howard & Deb, Bob, Snablet, Carruthers and Mick. Dany left his van with us; they expected to be out around 1200 to 0200 the next morning.  In the meantime we did a little 2.5 km canyon called D'Harzubia, plenty of little pots and a few of 10 metres or so.  The whole thing is done as a pull through using the bolts and bits of tatty cord and webbing left by others.  Some of it is dubious to say the least.  At this time of the year things are fairly dry which means that many static pools are left festering away harbouring all sorts of nasties as well as the dreaded slime!  That's what got me, that bloody slime; did the classic banana skin slide, both feet in the air and land on my head, no helmet of course!  A massive bang on unyielding limestone gives me a mild concussion for the rest of the day.  I couldn't understand why everyone was laughing at my wonderful new knots, and novel methods of descending the ropes after that bang on the head!!  Just as well my skull is thick and that my brain is lodged elsewhere I suppose.

We decided that ditch crawling is none too pleasant, the next canyon would be nice and wet.

However, we go to the ski station yet again to have the ubiquitous Gratinee au Fromage and turkey or pork or whatever.  Very little beer this night though since we are due to make our descent of PSM in the morning.  We thought it would please the others if we drove Dany's van to St. Engrace and take the Yum Yum up to the EDF Tunnel and wait for them.  Trebor and I set off down the hill at 2300 in a thick, thick fog driving at 6 mph!  Me still feeling groggy.  Parked the Yum Yum and wander up to the EDF hut to meet Dany, Snablet and Mick who had only just come out.  They had taken 15 hours to rig and do the cave, pretty good going; they said that the other four were about two hours behind.  Dany et al walked down the hill while Treebs and I dossed in the hut to await the others, they came out at 0130.  Bob and Carruthers were pretty knackered, Bob muttered a few garbled words, Carruthers said even less.  So we drove them down that rough old track to Dany's van, they were grateful for the lift. Trebor and I wend our tired and weary way back to the camp much too late and get a few hours sleep.

PART 2. The Pierre St. Martin Epic.

We all awake to another bright sunny new day with the impending realization of what we had come to this amazing place for.  I was still feeling a bit groggy and very unsociable, so I took breakfast in my own spot and dared anyone to invade it.  After an hour or so it was clear that we were not ready for the early start hoped for; The Antipodean had no wet suit. The others had worn wet suits all the way through to the dry chambers after the Tunel du Vent since, some swimming is necessary in Vasques and the Tunel du Vent.  From there they changed into dry grots, they suggested that we do the same.  So, Wormhole took The Antipodean down to Licq where they borrowed Snablets wetsuit. Wetsuit?  More like a vague assemblage of oddments of ancient neoprene and much glue.  However, it would do.

They got back to camp around 1330 hrs.  We gathered up our various packs which contained food, carbide, SRT gear, inner tubes for floatation, a bicycle pump for the tubes, first aid and dry clothing. One large tackle bag each.  The six of us load the Yum Yum and drive up to the Lapiaz via the jeep track to find the entrance.  Basset scuttles around a lot making noises like a baby with a new rattle.  Remember of course that Basset was on the 1975 BEC team that found and explored SC3. He finds it, we are able to park the Yum Yum within 100 metres of it.  It is now 1415 hrs with the sun just past it's zenith and bloody hot, we had to change into wetsuits, a painful process in that heat!  At last at 1445 hrs the time had come to descend the first pitch, Basset was given the honour of first in the queue, followed by Trebor, The Antipodean, Wormhole, Nutmeg then me last to ensure the ropes were left OK.

Nutmeg generally buggered about taking off from daylight onto that first rope, making various nervous rodent like noises.  Eons later I hear 'rope free' and am able to launch myself into the hole. Fantastic!!!  So from here we continue in much the same order descending pitch after pitch after pitch, a great deal of waiting at each bolt change with dark murmurings from Wormhole about what the f*** was going on.  Nutmeg was not doing all that well at some bolt changes due to her unfamiliarity with some techniques, such as mini Tyroleans and the exposure which I for one, love.  And then!!!

Much loud remonstration form Nutmeg.  Wormhole yells Phil, come up front quick, a bolt has popped while Meg was on it'.  Oh shit, thought I.  However, Nutmeg was safe and was landed back at the top of Belfry pitch.  I had a good look at what the problem was; it was quite simple yet potentially nasty. The top of the pitch is in an exposed rift about 0.7m in width, the rope was rigged as a 'Y' hang between the two walls using standard 8mm hangers.  However, one of the anchors was in fact 10mm, the bolt could literally be pushed into the anchor!  How that was missed remains a mystery; anyway the solution was simple.  I re-rigged the 'Y' hang on one wall using two 8mm anchors and set a deviation from the other side to hang the rope dead smack in the middle of the rift, no problem.  From here I go in front to check things out since Basset and Trebor had bombed on. Above Belfry pitch proper, the biggish one, is a ledge.  The rope from above had a knot in it about 3m above the ledge, not a problem really, just a minor juggling act with jammers and descender you may think.  Not so, Nutmeg showed me how to do tricks like the monkeys in the zoo do, you know, like when they show off their prowess at getting tangled in bits of string?  Evidently the knot was of dubious parentage, at least according to Nutmeg.  By now it was becoming clear to my poor numb brain that a problem was developing, so I prusik up to her to see what the hell the mess was.  Couldn't really do a lot except say get rid of some of the junk and try again.  After 45 minutes or what seemed like a geological age, Nutmeg is freed from her bondage.  Phew!

Belfry Pot is pretty good but Liberty Bell is the winner, 54m of sheer delight.  I could see Basset and Treeb's light gently glowing at the bottom, always an impressive sight.  The take off is through a slot and straight onto the big one, fantastic. Eventually we all assemble at the bottom having done all the SC3 descent; we took stock of our progress to discover that it had taken 5 cold hours to descend that 1000 feet!  Not good, not good at all.  Already our time schedule was badly set back.  Dany was to pick us up at around 0600 hours in the morning, we could still do if we tramped on we said.  But, big but.

From the bottom of SC3 one enters the Bassaburuko series, which is a maze of rifts, bedding planes with small streams.  This is obviously a very old part of the system, the formations are all rotting and things are generally breaking down and grotty looking.  Route finding is not a great problem but the way on is tedious with a lot of crawling and grovelling around while shoving your pack in front of you. I was quite surprised at this section, in that I was expecting us to get straight into fairly large river passage. However, it is not too long, a few hundred metres of this leads one into the river passage proper.  By now the party has got fragmented with Basset, Trebor and the Antipodean romping off leaving Wormhole and me cursing at Nutmeg’s pack that we were carrying for her.  She was knackered already.  She said to me 'I think I may have taken on more than I bargained for', I said  'But surely you must have read up on the system before coming?', 'No' she says.  I felt that I should point out that this is still the seventh deepest cave in the world and a long one to boot, and this sort of trip is not to be untaken lightly!!!

We took with us a set of survey sections and descriptions that Howard and Deb had prepared, they were just the ticket, no route finding problems were experienced, not even at ARSIP Hall which presents the most crucial choice where one could get lost for hours.  By now we had gotten into the big and beautiful river passage, very Yorkshire like in character.  This eventually leads into the Grand Canyon, absolutely superb stuff, big wide river passage with lots of wading in water up to the waist.  Very impressive, it is worth the trip for that alone.  From there we entered the fossil high and dry Marmites with its superb pots, or Marmites.  Just like 'Marmite' jars.  Basset reckons that this is where Marmite got its name from.  Mmm, I wonder?  Near the end of this section is a very nasty looking rope traverse terminating in a nastier ladder with mouldy old rungs falling off it, we hummed and hahhed a while, then I was just about to launch into the thing when Wormhole declares that he has found a bypass.  He had. Amazingly, it appeared that no-one had used it before!  It did the job for us nice and safely.  After that there a one or two climbs to negotiate one of which we lifelined.  By now it was 0630 hrs the morning after we started, I felt deadly tired from no sleep and muttered about lack of strength and will, so got pulled up the climb by Trebor.  I can't help being old can I!  One more nasty ladder at the Shunt and we pop out into the river again upstream of Vasques.

Vasques is the first point at which one must swim, hence the need for wet suits.  We spent an age pumping up the three inner tubes, two of which we use to ferry the tackle bags, the third is used by The Antipodean as buoyancy since he does not like deep water.  Evidently he had a bad experience in Australia; he fell off a rope into a sump pool, sank like stone and had to bottom walk out!  We had 100m of thin nylon cord to pull the tubes back and forth.  It worked but was deadly slow.  We found that the water was indeed as cold as expected.

Next is the Tunel du Vent. That is a much longer swim, about 30m of devastatingly cold water.  Wormhole goes first towing his tackle bag, I can't be bothered to fart about with the tubes so follow suit, all very quick for us.  The Antipodean's turn is next, he goes in with his inner tube but doesn't appear at our end, funny.  We shout and yell but to no avail.  Evidently he had got half way and his carbide goes out, not having his torch handy panic sets in.  In the meantime Basset et al thought he was with us and pull the string in, thinking 'Christ, this is tough to pull', to find Ian attached to it with no light! He did the same trick again just to entertain the troops, before finally getting to Wormhole and I.  By now Wormhole and I were desperately cold and miserable, so we found a dry bank out of the howling gale - it sure lives up to it's name - to change.  Fleece suits and thermals are just wonderful, especially with a nice hot carbide gobbler inside.  The others get to us safely to change, we eat lots to warm up and recharge our weary bodies and set off into the enormous dry chambers.

The first section of the dry chambers via Salle Navarre to Lepineux is somewhat tortuous but well marked with reflective tabs.  Indeed these markers were to be seen throughout the rest of the system.  By now it was clear that Wormhole, Trebor and The Antipodean were straining at the leash to really get on with it.  Basset and I would also loved to have got on with it but Carole was now totally buggered and going at a snails pace.  So I said to Worm, Treb & Ant to get on with it and leave Basset and I to escort Carole.  In any case it was a good idea to get someone out as quickly as possible to inform Dany's party that we were OK.  So they were off the leash at last.  Basset and I wistfully watched them go.

Lepineux shaft can be vaguely seen coming into this great chamber with its massive rubble cones and litter dating back to those heroic days of Loubens et al.  A very unattractive place for all that, we felt no desire to linger here, after all time was pressing.  So it was now a dreary plod up and down massive rubble heaps, the action being that Basset rushes ahead route finding while I follow in fits and starts whilst helping Carole along and carrying her pack a lot. The scene is set now for the rest of the trip, except that the action gets slower and slower.  Merde, it was a bore.  Every time I stopped to wait I would lean back on my pack and instantly nod off, the lack of sleep was telling.

We traverse Salles Casteret, Loubens, Metro and Queffelec, all are truly immense at around 40m. width and up to around 50m. high, the distance is about 1.5km. but when travelling the grand speed of 300m. per hour it seems to go on for ever!!  Somewhere in Loubens I think it was, we saw lights appear, three of them.  I wonder who that is I thought, it turned out to be our three lads off the leash.  They were sort of lost; they had followed the river all the way into La Verna to the head of a waterfall and could see no way on. So they came back to find us for instructions, off they went again.  Queffelec terminates in a more or less blank wall, very odd.  Basset climbs up to the right while Carole and I wait to see if that is our route.  Basset disappears for a time then re­appears around to the left.  He was most relieved because the climb he did was totally committing.  In fact the correct route is a scramble up to the left which leads to a 10m. ladder followed by a traverse down into Adelie which leads to Chevalier, another tremendous chamber.  At the waiting stops now I lie back and gaze at the sky, or what appears to be sky. It is a vast expanse of black starless sky with fluffy grey clouds drifting.  Hallucinating?  Yes, I reckon so.  In fact the clouds were random areas of white calcite and gypsum.

We have now reached the end of Chevalier, here the markers get a bit thin on the ground.  Basset has disappeared, I spend a while searching for the route, then 'Ah, that's it, I remember it from last year'.  This is where Worm, Treb & Ant had gone wrong, they followed the river and missed the ledges on the right.  From here it is only a short distance to La Verna and the EDF tunnel.  We lingered a short while to admire La Verna, our carbide flames were lost in there. After 27 hours underground were emerge to brilliant sunlight.

Basset dashes off down the track followed by me but more slowly since my feet and knees were ruined. For me wet socks inside wellies was not a good idea, I should have done as on the club Berger trip.  That was to wear wool socks and light weight walking boots. As for the knees, they are just old and knackered.  I then met Dany, Howard and Deb, it was great to see them, they said to leave my pack etc. while they went on up to help Carole, they carried my pack down for me later. Everyone is now at the vans at the bottom of the track.

Nicola supplies us hot beer, Howard supplies fags bless him.  Bob Cork had gone up to SC3, found my keys and drove the Yum Yum down to us, bless him too.

Well, was it all worth it? Yes of course it was in retrospect.  However, there was a time in the cave that I seriously thought to myself, this is it give up this bloody caving lark, set fire to all the gear and take up tiddlywinks.

Tired as we were a PU was a necessity, so after a minor wash and change we invade the ski station bar again. After a long wait we have a gigantic meal, lots of wine and even more beer.  Replete, tired and pissed we crawl into our pits for 10 hours kip.  The following day, Friday, we fester around, wash our kit, go shopping in Tardets and return the keys to Gonads and then go for our last meal at the ski station.


Saturday 20th July. Wormhole and Nicola left early in the morning to return to England having had a good time.  It was now time for us to strike camp, load the Yum Yum and drive into Spain and head for Badalona a day after Dany's team.  We got away before mid day to drive over PSM pass and down the Roncal valley, very much lovely limestone to be seen with systems such as BU56 in it.  Once out of the valley and on the plains the heat was excruciating.  The Yum Yum was unhappy with it, so I had to remove the thermostat to keep the temperature down.  We eventually get to the town of Ainsa to meet the others at the camp site.  A proper one this time with a swimming pool, fabulous!

Sunday 21st July. Dany's team had been out on the hill locating B15 entrance but had the misfortune to bump into the park rangers. They insisted that the paperwork be fetched from the van for them to peruse.  They declared it invalid! expect Dany used up a lot more swear words.  The upshot was that contacts had to be made with the appropriate people to try and sort out the mess.  They waited up at the bar for a phone call, eventually at about one in the morning they were told that permission could not be granted. They made the decision to do the system anyway.  While all that was going on, we had a pleasant day up around Revilla walking, photographing and generally enjoying the scenery. 

Monday 22nd July. Dany's team set off at 0600 hrs for B15.  We had decided to do a canyon, this time a good wet one.  We chose the Contusa bottom section which debouches into the Yaga.  The Contusa section contains all the pitches, descending about 300 metres in a horizontal distance of about 600 metres.  The last pitch of 30 metres is into a superb amphitheatre with a pool at the bottom. Now in the Yaga it is a mixture of clambering over boulders, little traverses and a great deal of swimming in the narrow gorge.  The longest swims are up say 100 metres, we reckoned that the total amount of swimming was around 2.5 km!  Once out of the narrow gorge it is a longish walk along the winding river valley to - THE BAR.  The total length is about 8km.  Very enjoyable wet suit trip and not having to carry a great deal, just abseil gear, food and cameras.  Both Trebors and my knees in bad shape.

Tuesday 23rd July. At some unearthly hour Howard wakes me to say they had done it and were safe, I was relieved.  Supplied with him roll up tobacco much to his pleasure.  He then started telling us of the horrendous ropes and anchors in B15, in fact they all told the same grim tale of tatty knots, worn out sheaths, lumpy rope and loose bolt anchors.  They felt lucky to have survived intact.  That was the last part of the equation that stopped our party doing the trip. Besides the ropes etc. we were concerned about pirating in case we were caught, being Spain that could have had serious consequences.

It was now time to strike camp again and move off to Gavarnie for a couple of days.  Once through the Bielsa tunnel Trebor takes over driving and gets into tourist murdering mode.  The first instance was in a town with a narrow high street with people milling around and traffic oncoming, he chose run down the tourist rather bend a car, catching this bloke a mighty swipe with a large and strong side mirror - he lived though.  The next one was up the hill toward Gavarnie, a bunch of walkers three abreast.  Trebor decides he has right of way and just drove at them at 30 mph. they try to disperse, he got one though!  Again with that mighty side mirror.  Did Trebor stop?  No carry on regardless, after all the lad was still alive.

Wednesday 24th July. Trebor, Basset, the Antipodean and Carole go up the hill to do Casterets Ice Cave while I fester around nursing a bad knee. They did it and were back at camp by evening.  See Trebors account.

So, that it folks, everything done that could be done and a good time had by all.  Time now to plan the return next year with a large BEC contingent, I hope.


Pierre St. Martin Summer 1992.

I have started the ball rolling for another caving holiday in the Pyrenees next year.  The objectives being to traverse the PSM system again from SC3 to the EDF Tunnel, then to move on to Cavarnie to do a number of ice caves including Casterets.

The likely dates will be the first two weeks of August so that our school teacher members can participate.  I have already had positive response from around 12 to 15 people, so provided I can obtain the permission the trip will be on.

I am anticipating a fairly large group possibly including families, hence we will probably camp at Licq where full facilities are available.

Costs are as yet unknown however; insurance cost us £21.50 each this year from BCRA.  Evidently the NCA now does a more comprehensive and cheaper insurance that I will look in to.  The SC3 entrance requires 430 metres of rope, it may be that the BEC will have a proportion of this that could be used, failing that we must purchase at the best price.  Hangers and Maillons may be available from personal equipment.  Carbide will be purchased in bulk to obtain the best price. If sufficient cavers book I would say the total cost would be no more than £50 per head.

If permission is granted I shall be asking for deposits to be paid by all cavers.  This will be held in a building society account gaining interest until purchases are made.  Any cash difference will be refunded or collected at a later date.  Disposal of group rope will be by consensus opinion.

For information on the system see Speleo Sportive 3. Pierre St. Martin.  A translation is available for those requiring it.

For any member who is rusty on SRT, practice sessions can be laid on.  Otherwise the caving is basically straightforward but very, very long. 12 to 14 hours is the approximate through time for most people, so good caving fitness and stamina are essential.

For further information and bookings contact:-

Phil Romford

Go for it!  It’s well worth it


Tackle Master's Report, October 1991.

The tackle has been in almost constant use indicating the clubs very active year as usual.  As I mentioned last year additional life-line rope and new tackle bags would be purchased and these have been placed in the store.  The six ladders kept in reserve have been reduced to two, the other four going into the store to maintain the usual ten that we try to keep there.  However, tackle is still being taken and not booked out by members.  The amount of tackle remaining in the store at the end of the club year does not tally with all the tackle that was in the store at the beginning of the year and any additional tackle put into the store during that year!  Members please remember to book out tackle and bring it back after the trip.

We have replaced all the SRT rope bags with the better two strap design the original bags have gone into the store - only two remain!

The SRT rope has been used as usual only a few times throughout the year.  The committee sanctioned the use of the 100M bluewater SRT rope for use on the club trip to the PSM to supplement the rope being purchased by the members who went.  I would like to see greater use of club rope on exploratory caving expeditions as well as tourist trips abroad as this would help those younger members who cannot afford the expense of rope purchase for a single trip - food for thought.

The SRT rope is nearing the stage when it should be tested and I would recommend that a drop test rig is constructed to test some samples of cut off lengths of the rope we have. The rig could also be used to test ropes belonging to members and other caver's, a fee could be charged for the hire of the rig.

Finally, I have held the position of Tackle Master for some years and I have decided that the time has come to let some one else have a go. I will therefore, not be standing for the committee this year and would like to thank all those members who have assisted in tackle making and the like which has made my job easier. I would like to give particular thanks to Jake and Richard Blake who have been making ladder over the last few months.

S.J. McManus. October 1991.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys


This Belfry Bulletin is late again because it can only be produced when the number of contributions received makes it worthwhile.  If you want to have a regular BB then you have to contribute.  It does, however, include the second article from Jim Smart in the Philippines, about his adventures on Negros.  I haven't heard from him since his capture by communist guerrillas on Mindanao, except what was in the press at the time (see the news clippings on page eight).

A lot of caving is being done by the Club.  The Aswan Dam in Cuthbert's II is coming along nicely and another attack on sump 2 will be mounted shortly. Bowery Corner is progressing slowly but a lot of hard work is still to be done.  The big news, however, is that Kangaroo Swallet (Welsh's Green) has 'gone'.  I hope to have a full report for the next BB.  All I have from Graham at the moment is as follows :- "It's gone, 350' to 400' ish, biggish & shitty but probably the longest cave (in the world?) in Blue Lias Limestone".

Tony and Jane Jarratt have taken over Bat Products from Phil and Lil Romford (who are shortly leaving for sunnier climes - Portugal!).  The new management took over on 1st. of May, though Phil and Lil are staying on for the time being to show J'rat the ropes (and the krabs and wetsuits and all that). Steve Milner is also preparing to leave the country, and travelling even further (Oz) (cheap foreign accommodation for wandering members?)

Alan Thomas's book 'The Story of Priddy' is finally in print and contains quite a bit about the local caves including some previously unpublished stuff.  Copies can be obtained from Alan.  It was only a small print run so copies could become collector’s items.

Another example of things not mentioned in the guide books that people may not have noticed: -

When going down Longwood Swallet you descend the two ten foot drops, turn left to the Showerbath and then right down the narrow rift.  When you get to the approach passage to Longwood main chamber (on the left) a narrow passage goes straight on and turns to the right to the bottom of a high aven.  This is the furthest the cave goes down the Longwood Valley. The aven is free-climbable, with care, and ends at chokes.  The question is, are these choked inlet passages from a now abandoned swallet, or if dug, would they lead to old passages leading further down the valley? I don't know but wonder if anyone has ever tried.


Library Notes

Dizzie Thompsett-Clark has very kindly donated the following books to the Club library.  They were personally delivered by motor cycle despatch rider Angus Innes!

10 Years under the Earth (1940)
Gough's Caves - early guidebook
My Caves (1947)
Underground Adventure (1952)

Jock Orr visited recently and gave the Club a pile of Smithsonian magazines.  One of these has an article on Lechuguilla Cave and will be in the library.

The library is being regularly used these days and providing a useful service to Belfryites.  Please do not forget to return books A.S.A.P.

Other additions to the library are: -

Deep in Blue Holes - Palmer
Legal Aspects of Access Underground - N.C.A.
The Story of Priddy - Alan Thomas

Tony Jarratt


Speleo Reconnaissance, Negros Occidental, Negros Island, Philippines

I arrived in Negros with no cave expectations.  I planned to visit maybe two or three tourist sites and to be off the island within five days.  I have now been here 20 eventful and unhurried days and have not even visited the alleged cave country of Negros del Norte.  If I haven't exactly found any earth shattering caves I've had fun looking for them and the two caves at Km 107 (Ilog) Tubig Cave and the resurgence cave would make the Philippines top ten for depth and length respectively if surveyed.  This is not particularly clever; there are hundreds of known caves in this category. What is needed is the tools and the time to make the survey.

Most of Negros Occidental comprises a wide coastal plain a few metres above sea level, largely given over to sugar and rice cultivation.  But in the south, beyond Ilog, this plain becomes quite narrow, virtually non-existent in places, and inland the terrain rises in a series of sierras to maybe 4,000 or more feet.  I have been unable to locate any maps or find out if any name exists for these highlands.  Similarly many times I enquired after the name of a cave or a creek or a prominent hill I was told that there is no name.

Due to various interesting hassles itemised in the following report my explorations were limited to the first (coastal) range of sierras where the maximum elevation was probably no more than about 300 ft.   Without exception, all the caves I visited had been previously fully explored by the local people.

Log, Monday Jan 30 to Feb 14, 1989.

Day 1.

The 7.30 a.m. arrival in Vallidolid was not very inspiring.  The three hour crossing had been cold (COLD!) and wet and in choppy seas. Under the heavy skies the beach and sea and tatty food stalls all looked miserable and dirty.  Worse; the boat was overloaded and grounded before we reached the jetty.  We waded ashore.  All the public transport was packed with Monday-morning commuters and this was no weather to ride on the roof, so I took coffee and waited for a jeepney with a spare seat.

Although it rained almost incessantly for the next 48 hours things began to look up as soon as I arrived in Bacolod City (BC).  By 10 a.m. I'd located clean lodgings, and by noon I had enough cave-leads to keep me busy for a fortnight.  At 4 p.m. I was being interviewed by the local press and this was followed by an invite to a local bar.  Midnight found a bunch of us nightclubbing and I went merrily to bed at 4 a.m.; an eventful 24 hours.

Day 2.

Prepare to go south and look for caves.

Day 3.

Arrive at Ilog, settle in, and meet local officials.

Reasons for not caving:  Part 314

You can’t just breeze into an area and set off in search of caves. People are curious/suspicious of you and your motives particularly in view of the current political situation (see below).  Anyway a guide will take time to locate but he will save time in the long run.  Also courtesy demands that certain bigwigs must be visited and that can lead to long, long chats in this leisurely country. Typically, in a 12 hour daylight period you will be lucky to get in three hours field reconnaissance.  No problem though: plenty of booze and good vibes.

Day 4.

Local transport in this area is mostly by tricycle - i.e. a Kawasaki 125 equipped with sidecar and capable of carrying an unbelievable amount of luggage, livestock and people who cling on like a circus acrobatic act. I once counted 19 uniformed high school girls floating down the palm-lined road on one of these contraptions: lucky driver.

I'd rented a tricycle for the day and was waiting for it to arrive when I heard " ... Bristol Exploration Club sa England ... " on the seven o'clock news.  I didn't understand what bull they were putting out but the publicity was to prove useful.  With local man Ramon Laforteza and by driver we set off at 7.30 intending to visit a cave at Bgy Delicioso and some others at Sitio (So.) Km 107.  At the local army HQ permission to visit KM 107 was withheld.

Reasons for not caving:  Part 793.

Government confesses it has an "insurgency situation". I would describe it more as a cross between Civil War and Anarchy.  The New Peoples Army (i.e. communist guerrillas) are fighting to overthrow the Government.  The civilians are trapped in the middle and both sides commit what we would call terrible atrocities.  But the Army's hands are tied by the International League for Human Rights.

So "private armies" are encouraged to protect large businesses and plantations, and vigilante groups protect local communities from any outside interference.  There are a lot of guns here.  You have to tread gently.

We headed off in search of the cave at Delicioso.  Leaving the tricycle in the sugar cane we set off on foot up the high sierra and within an hour we had located a guide who in turn had located the cave for us.  The ILAG SHAFT turned out to be a vertical pot located in a pleasing patch of bare and nicely weathered limestone.  Descent was impossible without at least a lifeline.

With Km 107 closed to us we adjourned to a bar to discuss tactics: it was still only 11 o'clock. Somebody recognised me as the face in the paper, somebody else had heard the 7 o'clock news and soon the bar, and then the village, was abuzz.  Cave information came too quick and too fast to assimilate I don't speak Ilong-go.  I decided to buy extra fuel for the tricycle and investigate as many villages as possible along the foothills.  We ended up travelling 50 km. as far as Caliling, picking up information all along the way, and exploring a couple of uninspiring small caves at Tuod and partially exploring Cave 1 at Caliling.  My guide at Caliling spoke of many caves and offered his services as a guide.  I arranged to meet him in three days time at his house.  So concluded an interesting 10 hour field trip.

Day 5.

The tricycle is late (puncture) and the priest happens by, sees me, and invites me to lunch.  Thus is a planned 10 hr trip reduced to 3½. It's pouring with rain.  The army has now cleared Km 107 of landmines and combed the area for insurgents.  Furthermore, they have a civilian guide waiting for me there.  We set off into the dripping forest and soon find a shaft, impossible without gear, but it turns out to be an alternative entrance to walk-in Tubiq Cave.  We explore as far as a pitch. "Many caves here", says our guide.  The nearby "creek" is about the size of the Little Neath River.  It disappears merrily below ground.  Across the valley I can see another large cave entrance.  But it's already 11 and my lunch date is for noon: exploration postponed.

Day 6.


Day 7.

Today is the day I have arranged to meet Angelico de la Cruz in Caliling.

Reasons for not caving:  Part 794.

Public Transport in the Philippines is never boring.  Breakdowns, punctures, missed connexions, amended "schedules" and the total lack of movement after dark can turn a 100 km. trip over indifferent roads into a two day adventure.  No problem, there's always somewhere for a beer and a chat, we'll get someone to fix that flat.

It took me four rides and four fours to cover the 50 km. to Caliling, the last section spent desperately clinging to the side of the bus (the side with the cliff below) this being the Filipino response to the new military ruling that riding on the roof is henceforth forbidden due to a few unfortunate encounters with NPA snipers. Angelico had given up waiting for me and was somewhere working in the forest.  He returned at four but there was only time for me to complete my exploration of Cave I, Caliling.  A relaxed evening of rumcola followed in this electricity-free village by the sea.

Day 8.

It transpires that Angelico can only show me three caves as the others are too far away (more than 1 km.) and in NPA country.  We travelled through some pleasing limestone valleys and plateau and carried out complete explorations of BAHAY CAVE, Caliling Cave II (for which I have lost my notes) and Caliling Cave III.  By 9 a.m. the day's work was done.  Angelico announced that he had to go to work now, but tomorrow morning he would show me two more caves at a nearby village.  This was not very cost-effective for me.  It would be nice travelling slowly from village to village, exploring a few caves each morning, but my time was limited.  Besides I had to be in BC the following evening and that meant an early start.  I had a date with a gorgeous slender chinky-eyed chick and I didn't want to disappoint her.  I said goodbye to the de la Cruz family and took the first bus north.

Note: "Chick" is the Filipino word for "young woman".  It is not offensive, on the contrary it is the polite expression.

Days 9 & 10.

The little bitch stood me up.  I spend my time preparing a return trip to the Ilag Shaft and the caves of Km 107.

Reasons for not caving:  Part 943

The Filipinos are very gregarious: invite one out for the evening and chances are the best friends or family will show up also.  Invite a couple of members of the "climbing club" and the whole defunct organisation will want to come along with maybe a dozen "prospective members".  I sit in the bar with a crate of beer and 16 would-be cave explorers. The beer has been flowing freely, I still don't speak llong-go and everywhere there is chaos.  I slap the table and try to explain that they're all welcome but this is a serious project and there is a schedule to keep: 10 people take longer to descend a pitch than two.  I will cave with just one or two companions: the others must find a different cave to play in.  Mayo Monteza, a veteran of overseas climbing expeditions, understands the logistics and says he will take charge of everything.  Unfortunately he is critically injured in a shooting incident the next day and is unable to join us.

Day 11.

Set off for Candoni in the heart of the high sierras.  Miss bus connexion and spend the night in Kabankalan.

Day 12.

The bus travels the long dusty road to Candoni very laboriously and cave potential is everywhere. Unfortunately so is the insurgency as the frequent belligerent military checks testify.  In Candoni the Police Station Commander hails me as I get off the bus.  He knows who I am and he's friendly enough but he cannot let me travel anywhere outside "town" (about the size of Priddy).  Furthermore after dark I find I am confined to my lodgings.  It's Fiesta Day and guns + booze = trouble. I'd be an understandable target,

Day 13.

Return to Ilog and await climbing club.  By nightfall they've still not arrived; buses have long since ceased running so I crack open the rum.  I'm half pissed when a posse of school kids arrive at my gate.  With them is a jeep and a motor cycle and a dozen pissed-up climbers.  It's just like Saturday night in England.

Day 14.

We lose three hours over a welding job for the jeep and then find the army major is at Mass so are further delayed before security clearance is given for us to visit Km 107.  We have only 5 hours to complete our (my) project. With my friend Ramon Laforteza, the guide and his son we are 14 people in the Jeep.  Never mind, it's a nice day.  The Negros Mountaineering Group possess only one rope.   I send everyone down Tubig Cave to look at the pitch while Agnes (Anec) Montano and I set off to explore the exciting looking swallet.  Anec can't swim but I assure her there will be no deep water.  I climb down the first simple cascade still in daylight and fall into a six foot pool.  No problem though: Anec turns out to be a superb climber.  (Later in the day she led me on some climbs that I only completed to protect my dignity.)

In the cave a couple of short climbs brought us to the head of a pitch after only a few metres.  The water cascaded merrily down, but without at least a lifeline we could not follow.  We surfaced and headed down the dry valley in search of the resurgence.

And a fine resurgence it was too.  Beyond a walk-in entrance we found about 350 metres of fine river cave, lofty and wide, the water generally about knee deep but occasionally five feet or so. Unfortunately it terminated in a silted sump and we could find no by-pass.

We return to Tubig Cave and find the others have still not surfaced.  Underground we find that they have all successfully descended the pitch (lifelined) including our guide and 61 year old Ramon. Descending from the pitch led to a third (high level) entrance and a fourth walk-in one not far from the resurgence. In the opposite direction I explored alone into some enormous chambers 60 ft or more in height and found a spectacular fifth entrance more than 100 foot up to daylight the shaft opening in the centre of the dome-shaped roof of a particularly large chamber.  I stupidly tried to climb to some high level leads picked out by my penlight torch (my only light at the time) and prayed a lot on the retreat.

Back at the resurgence Anec led everyone while I volunteered to look after our gear.  I foolishly forgot I was employing a guide for these menial chores.  Anec and I had taken about 20 minutes to explore the resurgence.  It was more than an hour before people started re-emerging with feeble flashlights and tales of caverns measureless to man.  A flat-out crawl at the top of a mud bank near the sump had led to enormous fossil passage.  I set off for a look meeting the stragglers on their way out and picking up Anec to show me the way.  The fossil stuff was truly enormous with railway tunnel side passages left unexplored. Anec reckons she showed me about half the stuff they'd explored and we used a length of rope to measure the distance on the way out: 700 metres.  There was no time left; we had done nothing I'd planned, but smiles abounded.

Day 15.

Moved south to Hinoba-an. The bus was packed and my view was limited but the country around Sipalay looks particularly interesting (plenty of large scarp-foot springs).

Day 16.

My contact in Hinoba-an is out of the area for a few days.  Tired of travel I visit Ubong Cave and Secret Cave and take the bus back to BC.  Time to look for another area.

Caves of Neqros Occidental

The caves are listed under the name of the municipal town in approximate north to south order.  Bgy - barangay (village)  So. = sitio (a more precise location).


Reported to be an area of many beautiful caves and waterfalls.  Visit impossible at the moment due to heavy military action.


Frequent reports of caves here as follows:

1.                  Bgy Buenavista Himanaylan. So. Kamlented Detachment.  A cave mined for guano by the Lopez family.

2.                  Bgy Delicioso. ILAG SHAFT  Depth 70 ft. Alt c. 300 ft. Visited Feb 2 '89  Un-descended.

3.                  Bgy Magballo. Many caves in this area including one named Molobolo.  Security clearance refused Feb '89.

4.                  Bgy Tampalon. 6 km from Candoni; reputed to have many caves especially at So. Lordes Hornada.


Bgy Dancalan.  Said to have seven caves (a common tale in the Philippines).  There are certainly more than seven caves here including:

  1. Tubig Cave.  Length c. 1,500 ft. depth 120 ft.  A cave with three vertical entrances and 2 walk-in ones.  The through-trip is interrupted by a 25 ft. pitch; one of the vertical entrances is more than 100 ft. deep.  Visited February 1989.  (Sketch survey, J.S. Log)
  2. Swallet Cave.  Length 50+ ft. Depth 30+ ft.  In creek near Tubig Cave.  Terminates in an un-descended wet pitch. Visited Feb 1989.
  3. Resurgence Cave.  Length c. 1 km. Depth (i.e. vertical range) c. 30 m.  A large river passage giving access to aven loftier fossil passage.  Visited Feb '89.
  4. Cave.  A large entrance is seen on the far side of the valley opposite the upper entrance of Tubig Cave.


  1. Bgy ANGA.  Reported to have river cave with fish and eels:  took 4 hours to explore.
  2. Bgy Caliling.  Many caves here usually mined for guano (a government permit is required for this: their register might prove a useful source of reference).

a)       Bahay Cave. So. Bahay.  Length c. 400 ft.  A simple large passage up to 100 ft. wide and 60 ft. high which soon closes down to become too tight.  Visit Feb '89; sketch survey in J.S. Log.

b)       Cave I.  Length c. 200 ft.  Located behind MEG rice mill.  A large entrance leads to crawling passage and becomes too tight. Sketch survey J.S. Log.

c)       Cave 3.  So. Bahay.  Length c. 130 ft. Depth 20.  Located on ptateau above Caliling.  A 20 ft. shaft opens onto a small chamber.  Westwards a stooping passage chokes after 80 ft. while eastwards a crawling passage with a fine false floor ends in a choke.  Sketch survey J.S. Log.

  1. Bgy Danawan.  A deep cave reported here.
  2. Bgy Isio So. Tuod.  SALACAY CAVES.  In prominent limestone outcrop about 250 ft. above Tuod are two small caves.

a)       A single breakdown chamber L. 60 ft.

b)       A winding body-size phreatic tube c. 70 ft. long. Visited Feb '89.

  1. Bgy Masaling.  Fine exposed white limestone noted here Feb '89.


a)       Two big guano caves have been reported here: Camp Valdez and Tagnoc.

b)       Bgy Maracalom.  Reported to have many caves.


Bgy Bacuyangan.  Two large caves here on the coast; scene of action in WW2: Ubong Cave and Secret Cave.  Visit Feb '89.


Another area reported to have "seven caves", including Mainit Cave and Konog-Konog

James Smart   Feb. 20, 1989.

Philippine newspaper cuttings

Mountain rebels free explorer held as 'spy'

WEST explorer James Smart was yesterday released after being held for a week by Communist guerrillas in the Philippines on sus­picion of being a spy.

Bachelor Mr Smart, who left home in Queen's Road, Clifton, Bristol, in December on a world tour, escaped death when shells ex­ploded near him while in captivity.

He was one of three detained from a party of 300 climbers on their way to Mount Apo, the country's highest peak, 615 miles South-east of Manila.


By Vikki Orvice

day, when they heard shelling near the rebel cam.

"Every time we heard a bang, we dived into the foxhole, maybe seven times," he said.

Last night Mr Smart's mother who lives in Buttles Plantation, Hatch Beauchamp, near Taunton, said: "I spoke to him this afternoon and he said the captors treated him very well "They could go where they wanted and in fact were treated like royalty.  It took so long to release him because the captors did not want others to know where they were hiding in the moun­tains.

They were taking part in the annual convention of the National Mountain­eering Federation of the Philippines.

The rebels ann­ounced earlier their prisoners and a local interpreter would be freed on Wednesday, but delayed for a day when they saw soldiers on the mountain slopes and heard a 105-millimetre howitzer fired.

"Investigations so far have shown that these three climbers are innocent. Thus we are releasing them," they said in a statement

Haggard looking and unshaven Mr Smart, aged 40, said he was not happy to hear he was suspected of being a spy, but added he hoped to return to Mount Apo next year.

Fellow prisoner, Irish chemistry graduate Gerald Ken­nedy, 22, said: ''They treated us very well.  It would take me a long time to describe my experience."

The third freed climber Trevor Anderson, 35, from New Zealand, said they felt safe with the New People's Army guerrillas until Wednes-





Smiling through ... Explorer James Smart, centre, is attended to by a nurse after his ordeal


West man in spy drama

WEST explorer James Smart plans to continue his round-the-world trip - undeterred after being held hostage by Communist guerrillas on suspicion of spying.

Bachelor Mr Smart, aged 40, who left home in Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol in December, was released on Wednesday after being held in a Philippine mountain hide-out.

A keen caver, he was one of three detained from a group of 300 climbers on their way to Mount Apo, 615 miles south-east of Manila.

But his mother, who lives in Buttle Plantation, Hatch Beauchamp, near Taunton, said he plans to stay in the Philippines until April 25 - before heading off to America.

"He was not scared and if he can afford it would like to go back"


Progress In The Far Reaches Of Daren Cilau

by Mark Lumley

Another Daren camp took place from Friday 10th February to Sunday 19th.  Andy Cave and Jake (Graham Johnson) were fortunate enough to be able to stay down for the duration while many others (somewhere in the teens) stayed for between one and five days.

A great deal of important equipment was ferried to the Restaurant at the end of the Universe, including four scaffolding bars with couplings, more sleeping kit, sixteen litres of liqueurs and an inflatable flamingo.  The 'Best Dressed Caver' award went to Snablet who sported a pinstripe suit, trilby hat, tie and sunglasses!

Whilst left to their own devices midweek, Jake and Andy cleared the bang debris in Friday 13th Boulder Choke, moved up, lost the draught and found it again emitting from a tube half way up the choke.  This had been observed and discounted over a year ago.  A day and a half of digging saw them past a rocky squeeze (Another Bloody Valentine) and into 'Payoff Passage' a few hundred metres of crawling and walking passage resembling the Inca Trail.  This led to another constriction.

Next day, the dig was passed with a few hours of digging into 'Still Warthogs after all these Years' - several hundred metres heading south (see survey for details).  This ended in a large rift passage severely choked with roof collapse.  The ensuing dig was named 'Dig of a Thousand Pricks' due to the abundance of those all too familiar selenite needles which permeate those all important places that only your next of kin and the Au Pair are familiar with.

The most significant find for those interested in a connection with Agen Allwedd is a large (5m by 5m) inlet on the western side of 'Warthogs' which ends in a large, impressive 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' boulder choke.

With the arrival of reinforcements on Thursday night a lot of effort was put into pushing various leads both old and new.  A compass and tape survey was carried out as well.  The survey shows the extension to be about 2000 ft. mostly heading south towards 'Against all Odds' and 'Twelve O'clock High' while the 'Electric Sheep' choke is just 60m. From 'Birthday Surprise' in the Priory Road.

As usual the work was done in 8 hour shifts, but this time we were fortunate to have enough people for a night shift as well.

Two weeks later Jake, Gonzo and Mongo just happened to find themselves in Priory Road!  An arch was found 6 metres to the left of the main dig in Birthday Surprise.  This appeared to take all the draught. Back at Severn Beach a small passage was pushed for 20 ft. low on the edge of the boulders and a bottle of champagne was left for the connection.

The next Daren camp began on March 31st.  Dalek soloed in on Thursday expecting to meet up with us at the Restaurant. Unfortunately we were not able to arrive until 24 hours later, over laden with two large tackle bags each, to find the campsite looking like a rubbish tip courtesy of previous, uninvited guests who will be hearing from us soon.




April the first saw an intensive effort on the 'Electric Sheep' choke.  Dalek set the standard with some certifiable crow bar work, 15 character building tons and 30 feet later we reached a small chamber in the boulders.  Dalek and Gonzo continued to push this while Jake and Inspector Gadget (Peter Bolt) went to dig 'Thousand Pricks'.  Andy and White Meg (Carol White) worked on the Bad Bat dig.  During the course of the day several sites were banged and a radio link up from 'Electric Sheep' to Birthday Surprise was tried to no avail.

On Sunday, Dalek and White Meg left for the surface.  While Jake went off to start digging 'Stingray' (close to 'Electric Sheep', draughting and heading west).  Andy, Inspector Gadget and Gonzo put a few hours of intensive tunnelling into Bad Bat. This broke out into 50 ft. of Westerly, low, wide bedding sloping upwards and ending in an airbell and low, draughting arch.

A weary of limb team headed up the extensions again on Monday.  Andy and Jake continued digging 'Stingray' and then discovered another dig (Hot Dog), sloping steeply upwards on the Eastern side of 'Still Warthogs after all these Years'.  Meanwhile Gonzo and Inspector Gadget pushed the dig of a thousand pricks and broke into 'Spaderunner' - 70 metres of draughting passage beginning as a boulder chamber, degenerating from walking to crawling passage and ending in a tight rift. This was given some chemical persuasion and then we left for a celebratory party.

Gonzo and Andy left on Tuesday, reaching the surface ln five hours to find that Clive had laid on a snowstorm for us (the people he knows!)

Inspector Gadget and Jake stayed down for a further two days, putting in more work on Spaderunner and pushing a draughting section of the Electric Sheep boulder choke for a further 12 ft.

The connection with Aggy is an interesting prospect, but more exciting by far is the possibility of reaching the main stream lower down than its current limit at Against all Odds. This would enable us to establish camp 3 (The Last Resort) thereby cutting out the 3-4 hours of dry commuting that is necessary every day to get between the Restaurant and the digs. From the position now, with draughting Southerly and Westerly leads the idea of a link to the Clydach gorge or of going straight over the main streamway and off under Llangynidr no longer lies in the realms of fantasy.


"Diving to Excess"

by Tim Large

Its Friday night again - 9pm - and yes, as usual, Tony Jarratt's Land Rover pulls up at the Hunters - just popped in for a pint.  The BEC commandeer the long table and comfy pew and discuss caves, beer, latest scandals and gossip.  The Wessex haven't arrived yet - still in their hut making tea.  Zot arrives - a relieved grin on his face - Dan-yr-Ogof is cancelled - cave flooded - Mendip's awash - but we must do something.  Lets have more beer.  Tony suggests a Swildons trip to blow up Snablet's dig in Shatter Series - aptly named many moons ago - BAT DIG.  Interest in the site has risen recently since yours truly placed a 3lb. charge in the small sump at the end Snablet was quite impressed by the noise and pebble-dashing only had about 40' of wire.  Ross was in Swildons 7 at the time and heard it - 650' away!

"OK Tone, we do it - Swildons will be nice and wet.  See you for breakfast about 10 am".  More beer!!  Saturday morning dawned - TL rose early and cycled cross country over to Priddy arriving at West Cottage to the welcome smell of a fried breakfast.  The bang was packed another 31b. bomb - Wig arrives - latest postcard in hand  "What the f*** are you going to do with that lot" - "Oh just a little digging Wig".

Its raining still and very cold.  Time to go. Arrive at entrance - water level about 2" below overflow pipe - should be interesting.  Quick dash down short dry way - no hold ups on 20, only had to walk over one party just before the Double Pots.  Reach Barnes Loop where TL has severe cramps in both legs.  Jump up and down a bit, tell legs to behave and on we go.  Engage auto pilot for dash through St. Pauls - stop for a fag at the Mud Sump.  Met two guys just after First Mud Sump disappearing up side passage to Damascus.  One guy stepped aside to let us pass.  On enquiring they thought that was the route for Short Round Trip - they followed us to Mud Sump.  "It's a bit wet Tone".  All the dams were full and the soakaway back up the passage was overflowing back into the Mud Sump.  We waded in to where roof met water at which point we were standing in 5' of water. Tony succinctly expressed his intention of not going any further.  TL being one not to be beaten and forgetting the topography of mud sump decided it would only be a short dip, took a quick breath and disappeared - down – down, down to 6' - eventually found the slot with the familiar nose groove in roof. Too late to turn back - might as well keep going - not very big in here – Ah, through the small bit, now where's the bloody airspace - roof is rising but no sign - getting a bit short of breath - up up - must be there somewhere - it's a bit different doing a sump without a line.  Phew, at last I can breathe panting heavily TL makes for yonder mud bank to recover. That was a long way and I've got to get back.  No bailing buckets on this side not much good anyway when the squeeze is 6' underwater. I wonder how long I would have to sit here before Tony went out to get a bottle and valve.  No, can't do that, it would be too embarrassing - remember the Club motto.  Well got my breath back - better have a look at that murky lake waded in - shoulder deep - waved my legs about - could not find the squeeze - oh well, it's down there somewhere!  Deep breath and duck dive - mm, don't seem to be going down very well - too buoyant - break surface again - no lead weights here.  Could put some rocks inside my wet suit - mm - not a good idea - might cause me to get stuck in the squeeze.  Oh well, nothing for it, just have to have a more determined effort.  Deep breath and go for it, Down, Down, Down, clawing at walls and roof - ah the floor, now where's that squeeze no not there and I crashed into wall - bit more to the right perhaps ah yes, this feels like it - getting short of breath again - through small bit, thank goodness for that now starting to rise, head banging on roof, still rising how much further to air - must be here somewhere - At last oh no - more cramp in the legs - panting for breath lying in water like a drowned whale - "give me fag Tone I don't think we'll be going to Shatter today".  Ten minutes later cramps easing - lighter won't work.  "Lets go home".  Back in streamway find another party who eventually get their lighter going - relax over a fag at last.  Still very wet in here - ah the entrance - no longer, the water level has risen 6" now flowing into overflow pipe.  Tone reflects - "Every time you and I go caving together we have some sort of epic!!!"  "Not really Tone - just living up to the club motto - 'Everything to Excess'''.  "Right" says Tone - "let's go down Bowery Corner now - it must be in flood" - "OK - should be interesting".

On checking the survey, looks like the length of the sump was 30' to 35’.

Cautionary Note: -  It is not recommended that this dive be contemplated.  It comes into the well known Willie Stanton grading of 'Foolhardy and Dangerous' .

Sketch Plan of Mud Sump in Flood.



Caving Choice - Amateur or Professional

Having just recently returned to caving regularly on Mendip after a short sabbatical, I was interested to hear of the debate and objection to commercial caving enterprises which Mendip has recently had to adjust to.   Much of the argument appears to be directed at particular organisations on Mendip.

Cavers have always had an attitude of a God given right of access to caves.  Now, some appear to be taking the same attitude with caving activities outside the caving club environment.

Caving has gone through a revolution in the last 20 years.  When many of us started there was no commercial caving, no caving shops - apart from Tony Oldham's front room.  The most specialised caving shop was the local WD store and cave training was only to be found within caving clubs on a very informal basis.  We could get away with it then when the only technical equipment was ladders, Krabs and lifelines. Now, we benefit from all sorts of sophisticated hardware and protective clothing.  Therefore people need more specialised and formal training. If this can be supplied within the club environment, all well and good.

But we must not forget that these days there are people who are not interested in caving via a traditional caving club.  They prefer a week or day course visiting specific caves or undergoing specific skills training.  Next week, those same people will probably be canoeing, windsurfing, mountaineering or whatever, again on a "professional" course.  There is nothing, as I see it, that the traditional caving club can do about this type of leisure person or should want to do. As long as there is a demand for courses then someone will supply that demand.  The only angle we can be involved in is to influence these caving professionals in their approach to caving with their clients and the skills techniques taught.  Our main concern is always the conservation of caves followed by adherence to a safe caving code.  It is essential that newcomers to caving are acquainted with the basic information about caves - their formation, history, both geologically and exploration - to fully appreciate both the vulnerable environment they are entering and the traditions of cave exploration.  As we all know, many hours have been spent with landowners and others to foster good relations and permanent access arrangements.  These can easily be ruined by ill-informed people.

The second category of professional caving is within the ever increasing number of management training centres who use caves and mountains etc. as learning and management assessment aids.  Again, we cannot stop this kind of activity.  They are financially well backed organisations who are here to stay as long as there is a demand for this type of training.  Again, all we can do is influence them as far as attitudes to caves go and safe caving practice.  Nobody should be forced underground against their will.  Basic information about caves, as I said earlier, must be given to the clients to ensure the right attitudes to conservation and safe caving codes.  In any management training, caving trips should firstly be undertaken to familiarise personnel with the cave environment and basic skills of moving in a cave. Only once this has been accomplished should clients progress to specialised activities such as surveying, ladder-work, SRT or whatever.  Good relations with these training centres should be fostered as they have much to offer traditional cavers if suitable liaisons can be arranged.  Such centres will naturally hold large amounts of equipment, which is well maintained and could be useful in the event of a major rescue requiring extra equipment and facilities.

It is a great shame that cave training ventures proposed within the cream of Mendip caving circles have been shelved because of ill-informed and unjustified criticism by local cavers.  If "professional" cave training is demanded then it is far better to do it from within local caving circles by respected cavers of proven knowledge and experience.

I suggest all those reading this - particularly those doing all the shouting, think again, you could lose more than you gain by further unjustified and unreasonable public denouncements.


Tim Large



Missing Library Books

I received the following note and list from Blitz who has been checking things up :-

I've gone through the Library booking out book and checked the shelves (not thoroughly).  This is a list of the missing books.  It may be that some of these have been returned But they are not signed back in!  If all of these are missing, it would be £150 worth at least, but some are irreplaceable.

Signed Out


Signed out to


1975 PSM BEC Report

Tony Boycott


CCG Famous Wilts. Quarrymen

Chris Batstone


Cotham Box Reports



SMRG Publications

Ian Caldwell



Mark Brown


Skiing '85

G. Wilton-Jones


Sept '84 Climber & Rambler

G. Wilton-Jones


Pegasus Berger Reprint

Howard Price


Cerberus Newsletters 55 & 56

Tim Large


Mendip Hills Local Plan & Maps

Tim Large



Tim Large


The Darkness Beckons (Farr)

Andy Lovell


Caving International (1-14)

Dave Turner


Netherworld of Mendip

Andy Sparrow


Cave Explorers

Tim Gould


Caves of Derbyshire

Andy Sparrow


Pocket book of Photography



Observers book of Geology



The Longest Cave



Down to a Sunless Sea



Darkness under the Earth






West Virginian Caver



The Caves Beyond

Dave Glover


American Caves & Caving



Caves of Rouffignac



Descent of PSM



Niwgini Caver Vol.3 & Vol.4



Excerpt from A.C.G. Magazine.

(with permission)

Ian Mildon and myself (Kevin Wills) took our lives in our hands and paid £10 pounds each for a place on the B.E.C. mini-bus .... !! (to the B.C.R.A. Conference, 1988) What an experience!  Ian's report follows :-

We travelled up with 7 or 8 B.E.C. members and discovered that they had planned to do at least two things during their trip to Manchester for the conference: one was to drink the barrel of Butcombe Bitter they had brought in the van; the other was to steal the sign from a pub near Derby called 'The Belfry' . Fortunately, success in achieving the first objective denied them the inclination to achieve the second i.e. a mega-hangover.

They started drinking on the way up and arrived tanked-up at a local pub near to the hut we were to stay in that night.  The next day we attended the lectures and anticipated the evening’s revelry.  The B.E.C. lot got tanked up again at the stomp at the uni., and we discovered that they didn't intend going back to the hut, only to sleep where they fell.

We dossed down across the seats of the van at about 11.30, only to be woken at 12.00 by the B.E.C., after the remainder of the beer.  Unfortunately, we were disturbed again at 3.00am by the van shaking ... a car had reversed into us, and had run a sleeping B.E.C. body over.  "You've f****** killed him", somebody shouted. However he was unharmed and didn't remember a thing the next morning ....

The next day there were bodies everywhere.  We attended the Sunday morning lectures and travelled home with a van full of subdued B.E.C. members.


More News Of "The Deepest Hole On Earth"

Daniel Gebauer has kindly sent the latest information on this Indian cave.

It seems the B.E.C. have really started something here and though not able to actually go there have indirectly managed to persuade someone else to "Get Everywhere"! Perhaps now that Professor Smart has been released he might like to take up the challenge.

Tony Jarratt

The letters from Daniel Gebaur and Narayana Reddy are on the following page.  The sketch, however, I just glues below on this one.  I hope it’s decipherable!




Correspondent for India & Nepal
H. Daniel Gebauer / Marktplatz 32 / D-7070 S. Gmund / F.R. Germany

Tony JARRAT Prlddy
Wells Somerset

Schwabisch GmUnd, den 13.4.1969

Dear Tony,

About a year ago you have sent me a newspaper cutting (seen by Matt TUCK at Abu Bai in a "Khalees-" or Khaleesi Times") concerning a "Deepest Hole on Earth found in Madhya Pradesh".

I traced down the address of the widow of Dr. Vakankar whom the newspaper report appealed to and got no reply.  And I told an Indian friend of mine, M. Narayana Reddy, a former Police Superintendent, of the story and lately he travelled the 873km from Hyderabad, where he stays, to Dewas and traced the "hole" down.

Enclosed you find a transcript of his letter and copy of his sketches.

There actually is a pit, 16m deep and so far the fourth deepest of India.  And it actually is of unknown origin being developed in the multiple layered "nappes" of the area, not in limestone.

Reddy's description sounds like a subsidence sinkhole, but into which void has it subsided?  I'd really like to go there and have a closer look!

Well, if I can ever help you in questions in questions on India I'll gladly try to solve riddles


Schwabisch GmUnd, den 13.4.1969, Pushkar ( North India).

... I left Hyderabad on 2Jrd and was at the said “Hole”, called KATHAR KUVA (= layer's well), at 7pm on 25th and again at 2pm on 26th.  It is at a distance of 873km from Hyderabad by rail, plus 92km from Dewas by road plus 20km by Jeep through a chick Jungle.  The Supdt. of Police of Dewas was very kind and helpful.  On 25th he himself dropped me in his jeep at Kantaphode, the nearest Police Station.  The Sub inspector from there took me in a jeep to the spot by 7pm, since it was dark we returned to the P.S. and the next day went to the spot by 2pm and measured the pit in daylight.

Location: 77oE/23oN, altitude 328m.  Kathar Kuva lies 6km from Surmanya village (130 houses, mostly hill tribes and labourers), Kannoud (taluk), Dewas (District), Madhya Pradesh (State).  It lies in a plateau land covered with black soil on top of thin shale layers of igneous rocks.

Description: The left rim (as shown in the cross-section) is higher than the right, lower one, since it is situated on the slope of a hillock.  For about 2m the top is inclined due to weathering and covered with dust etc.  From there the rocky phase begins with irregular edges as shown in the sketch. The bottom of the pit consists of flat silt with rocks. There is a small pool of water at the bottom of one wall.

From the inner edge (lower edge) of the slope I measured 31m width and a depth of 76m.  The pit is not known to anybody, not even the S.I.  Luckily the Dist. Forest Officer at Dewas, who visited it, could tell me its location when I met him at Dewas. Sorry, for this is not the deepest pit on earth.  In Tennessee, USA, I bottomed a 500’ pit,

M. Narayana Reddy


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

COVER PICTURE. Grotto In Balch Cave In the early 60’s.  Photo Mike Baker, BEC .

1990 - 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Richard Blake
                               Ian Caldwell
                               Graham Johnson
                               Vince Simmonds




I must apologise for the late arrival of the Christmas BB to those that receive It by post.  Perhaps I should explain!  The BB was 'on the street' the week before Christmas but to minimise postage costs (usually about 50) about half of them are handed out during the following two or three weeks by J'Rat (thanks!!) saving the club another 50 or so.  Then he hands the remainder back to me for postage (I have to stick on the 120 or so stamps!).  This Christmas however I was away from the area for a few weeks which introduced additional delays.

This BB is also late (it should have been the February edition) due to difficulties in getting all the 'bits and bobs' together.  I will try harder!  Details of the current subs etc. appear both in the AGM minutes and at the start of the membership list.

This BB, you'll notice, is mostly in a much more modem format due to the efforts of Phil Romford. He has a desk-top publisher and a superior printer and kindly offered to re-format and print all my initial computer files to create the master copy sent to St. Andrews Press for duplicating and collating.

Please keep the articles coming.  At the moment I've only got two for the next BB (due out in June).  One on Dachstein and one on Central Kentucky.

Bulletin Exchange / Complimentary List

As of 07/02/92.

Axbridge Caving Group, Axbridge, Somerset


BEC Library - 2 Copies

Bradford Pothole Club,

Cerberus SS

Chelsea SS

Croydon Caving Club


Devon SS

Dr. H. Trimmel, Obere Donaustrasse, Austrta

Grampian SS

Grosvenor Caving Club

Hades Caving Club

Mendip Cave Registry

Bristol Exploration Club

Mendip Caving Group


Northern Pennine Club

Plymouth Caving Group

Red Rose CPC


South African Spel. Assn.,


The Florida Speleological Soc.,

Tony Oldham.


Wells Museum,

Wessex Cave Club.

West Virginia Caver.

Westminster SO


Sima G.E.S.M.

By Rob Harper,

Scene: summer 1988, the last television camera wheels out of Cheddar, the free booze is nearly finished and the far reaches of Goughs are set to remain undisturbed for the winter. On reflection, it seemed at that time that I had done nothing speleological apart from diving and related activities in Cheddar for the preceding two years.  It had been a wonderful period but the time had come for a change. Preferably back to real caving.

An old ambition was taken out of the mental cupboard, dusted over and inspected, The SIMA G.E.S.M. in the mountains just outside Malaga.  At 1098m depth, it is only the 26th deepest in the world but its length at just over 2kms, means that it is one of the more vertical.  With memories of freezing conditions in Austria, the fact that it was in southern Spain with guaranteed hot sunny weather was a considerable argument In Its favour, but more of this anon.

I broached the idea on Mendip and no-one seemed very keen but on a trip to the Dales I discovered that it was also an old ambition of Keith Sanderson.  He had even got a survey!

One glance at the survey showed that it was totally out of the question for us without the use of some low devious tactics.  Accordingly we just let the whisper of a rumour of a possible trip at Whitsun 1989 slide into the corner of the conversation in the bar at the New Inn at Clapham.  I'd like to report that we were mobbed by hard men pledging years of free drinking just for the chance to be considered.  However, honesty compels me to admit that interest was just a smidge slow at first although it gathered momentum and by April we had a small team comprised mainly of NCC members, (Tim Allen, Steve Thomas, Mick Nunwick, Simon Brown, JJ Bevan and Mark ?) plus Mark Madden, Kev Clark and Sean somebody (WCC), Keith Sanderson (WCC and BICC) with myself as the sole BEC representative.

Keith took upon himself the bulk of the organisation and began showering us with paperwork.  Soon we were knee-deep in surveys, rigging guides, maps of the area, impressions of first explorers, local knitting patterns etc. But most important he press­ganged the Spanish teacher at Kirkby Lonsdale School into helping to organise all the necessary permissions.

I took upon myself the learning of modern SRT (in a cave with 37 rope pitches it seemed like a good Idea).  The last time that I done any serious SRT we just threw a rope over the edge and whopped on a couple of bits of split garden hose at any really bad rub points.  Three afternoons at Split Rock and I was ready for my first 1000m+ pot.

Helen and I in company with most of the rope caught the Santander ferry a week before Whitsun and took two days driving down to Ronda (the nearest town to Sima GESM) in beautiful weather.  Finding the cave was interesting.  I made the classic beginner's navigational error of taking the wrong track and then manipulating all the local features into confirming that we were somewhere that we weren't (if you see what I mean). Eventually common sense prevailed. Even dago mapmakers couldn't be 90 degrees out on a 4km long valley!  Back to the start.  Turn left at the gates that look as though they are going to lead to a stately home but eventually, after 8km of rough track, you arrive at a campsite and refuge.

There were signs that the NCC had passed through.  Stunned local campers rushed to tell us that they had gone off up on to the mountain. They had certainly left an impression. Everyone kept saying how tough they were, they had drunk two litres of wine and two litres each of brandy and anise (this didn't impress the dagoes at all) but then they had slept out in the open our THEIR SLEEPING BAGS!!!  We pitched the tent, brewed up and watched the last of the good weather push off to North Africa for ten days.

Next morning dawned overcast and chilly.  Quick brew-up and off up to the end of the track.  Up there the weather had changed.  There was driving rain and hail, five metres visibility and it was unbelievably cold.  Being a true gentleman, at least the sort of gentleman who has failed to bring any clothing suitable for temperatures of less than 80 degrees in the shade, I nicked Helen's thermal top, unloaded the rope and set off into the mist whilst she went back to Malaga to pick up the rest of the party.

Some months later I learnt that this type of terrain is known as ‘cockpit’ karst.  Some days later I saw that it consisted of spectacular mountains which are almost treeless.  Enclosed rocky depressions up to 30m deep (presumably the 'cockpits') and varying from five to about eight metres in diameter were clustered together often only separated by a thin ridge and would look more akin to a vast honeycomb from the air.  The larger depressions were floored with flat grassy meadows which had grown on the fine silt and gravel brought in by the numerous small streams which sank into the ground around the edges.

This is all brought to you with the benefit of hindsight.  I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this type of terrain for a navigational exercise in the prevailing weather conditions.  Within an hour of climbing into and out of these cockpits they all started to look the same.  This was hardly surprising as on at least four occasions they were the same.  The entire world seemed to consist of dripping limestone, I was very very cold and the situation had all the makings of an epic. A slight clearing in the cloud enabled me to get a bearing on the automatic weather station and work out where I wasn't which was a marginal improvement on being totally lost. Cutting across country on a compass bearing brought me onto a path where the words "SIMA GESM" and a large arrow painted on a rock were a great help.  More blundering in the murk and there was the campsite below me. Later parties had similar epics; three days later the Wessex blundered around blowing their whistles for several hours before colliding with a water gathering Party.  For anyone else who wishes to go there the large and obvious path from the end of the track is a very roundabout but reliable way of getting to the cave.

Up tent.  Into the only sensible attire, i.e. caving kit. Rest of day spent packing in supplies and rope whilst the hard men set off to rig the first section.  Returning late on with tales of epic pitches and flood-pulses.  Apparently grim enough to leave one member vowing never to go back in again.

Next morning it was clear, bright, sunny and almost warm.  We crawled out of our tents mouthing phrases like, 'This is more like it", "I'll bet they don't often get weather like that at this time of year", "Pass the sun tan lotion" etc.  Before long we threw caution to the winds and were lounging around dressed only in furry suits, Dachstein mitts and balaclavas.  Keith Sanderson and J .J. Bevan (NCC) turned up, alfresco cups of tea were brewed and then the murk sneaked in quietly over a ridge just like it does in the Alps.

There was no real excuse left for not going underground.  The others had proved that despite the extremely fast run-off the upper pitches were grim but negotiable even in really heavy rainfall.  Keith, JJ and I set off down and they rigged whilst I helped carry to about -500m.

The cave started with a large depression and from the bottom a small constricted and muddy crawl which became a duck in very wet weather led to a chamber about three metres long and two metres wide with a calcited slot at the end leading straight onto the first pitch of about seven or eight metres.  From here the large rift passage was a series of small pitches of between four and 20 metres separated by sloping ramps ending at a 115m pitch rigged in several sections with numerous deviations.  Then it was back to the large rift and multiple small pitches (some wet) varying between five and 40m.

I found this first trip somewhat intimidating.  The dark black rock and worries about the threatening weather conditions made me slightly nervous.  My limited experience of modem SRT had been highlighted on the way in when I had taken significantly longer than the others to get down some of the pitches.  What was it going to be like further on when there was a 160m pitch to negotiate.  However things got better on the way up and by the time I got to the last few pitches I felt that I was at last getting the hang of the rope side of things.

Next day was a rest day. The rain had stopped but it was still icy cold and the visibility was appalling.  To add insult to injury we were running short of water.  Keith and I set out to find the spring mentioned in the literature.  The compass bearing took no account of local topography but after hectic scrambling up and down gullies and along the bottom of some low cliffs we eventually found not only the water but also a bedraggled group of whistle-blowing Wessex.  Shortly after this Keith became lost for nearly an hour whilst popping out of the tent for a shit.  This Induced a very mild phobia and thereafter he never went anywhere without a compass.  The full sordid details can be obtained for the price of a pint.

A day's rest.  We forced ourselves to check the quality of Spanish beer (appalling) in numerous bars.  God alone knows why; it is all made in the same brewery and doesn't even have the benefit of an Iberian Roger Dors to add a paranormal quality depredation factor.  However we did have the chance to visit a number of superbly scenic small villages in the area.

But back to the real business.   Stumbling up onto the mountain we found that the Wessex contingent had been in to rig the next section of cave closely followed by Tim Allen and Steve Thomas to rig to the bottom.

Next morning was just another day in sunny Southern Spain.  That is to say that we could hardly see from the tent inner to the flysheet for mist.  Polar bears would have headed for warmer winter quarters and every ten to fifteen seconds somebody in one of the tents could be heard to utter the battle cry for the trip, "Costa del FUCKING Sol!!"  But a man's gotta do etc. so we brewed more tea.  Eleven o'clock came (and went) people stumbled out of tents clutching rolls of pink paper (or in the case of Keith clutching rolls of pink paper and a compass).  Then pandemonium (for the benefit of Snablet and Richard Blake this is not a large lorry for moving people's furniture) the hard men returned bent on vengeance.  We cowered in our sleeping bags pretending to be asleep.  Eventually Mark Madden was hauled out and harangued.  It seemed that he had failed the multiple choice practical on question 30 of the rigging examination.

Now was the time for Keith and I to spring into action with the masterplan.  The cave was fully rigged and we could be in and out on almost a tourist trip.  We were into caving kit like rats up a drain.  JJ was going to join us but he had fingers that would have got him thrown out of a leper colony due to getting carbide into his caving gloves.  Leaving him brewing tea with his feet we headed on down,.

I would like to be able to give you a blow by pitch description of the trip.  However only certain high points stick in my memory. We slid on down without undue problems or even seeing much of each other until -650m where we were confronted by a short crawl out to the head of the 160m, 'EI Toro' pitch.  Keith looked at me and 1 looked at him and he spoke the time honoured words, "I suppose this is it then".  I could not help but agree.  I also supposed that this was it then.

He disappeared from view. A few minutes later he had passed the two deviations and reached the rebelay at about 60m down and could tell me that the rope was 'free'.  I followed, after all, the honour of the BEC was at stake.  A short wriggle brought me out into the head of a ginormous rift ten metres wide and no sign of the far end in the gloom.  Only Keith's light jigging around in the gloom 100m or so below me gave any semblance of perspective.  I don't know if really hard men talk to themselves on long pitches but I certainly do.  Muttering and clamping my buttocks hard together I started away from the apparent security of the first bolt.  Approaching the first deviation I was just starting the second SRT' catechism, the one that goes "Clip in long cow's tall - undo Krab - abseil past - clip in krab - undo long cow's tall - go no down pitch “, when I brushed against a large ledge which promptly became a 10 cwt falling object.  No dramatics at my end just a slow sucking peeling off from the wall followed by a whirling fluttering noise as it gathered speed into the gloom in accordance with Mr. Newton's well known laws.  From the moment I felt it go I knew Keith was dead.  Because it was such a big pitch nothing seemed to happen for a moment or two and then an enormous crash drowned out the falling water for a fraction of a second.  Silence. Then a voice from beyond, words well spaced so that I missed nothing, "WHAT .... THE .... FUCK .... DID .... YOU .... DO .... THAT .... FOR?"

After that it was easy, just down to the rebelay and 100m free hang to the bottom.  It was a bit bouncy on 9mm Edelrid and there were rumours that one of the lighter members of the party had to have four goes at landing but no such problems for me.

A tight rift (the 'Meandro Morales’) led to more shortish pitches up to about 20m.  Here we started to run into problems with too much rope. Every pitch had at least two and sometimes up to four ropes besides ours hanging down and involved at least one rope-cutting epic in mid-air to get out of speleo-knitting.  I now know that this is commonplace on deep trips In Europe and you can usually bank on the pitches being rigged below l000m or sooner if there is a large pitch or similar obstacle to de-tackling.

We were spurred on by the lure of the horizontal ahead.  Around the comer and there it was, the 'Meandro Tolox'.  Not the easy sandy-floored two-abreast walking passage we had been expecting but yet another tight meandering rift.  Eventually we were forced down into a small streamway at floor level very reminiscent of the August streamway in Longwood-August including a foul duck which led to an inclined rift with a rope hanging down.

This rope led down the rift at an angle of about 70 deg. for about five metres to debouch into the roof of a larger streamway.  The rope followed the line of least resistance unhindered by any attempt at re-rigging and passing over the edge of a flake with 'Gillette' written all the way through it and falling a further five or six metres to the floor of a gob-smacking streamway.  Twenty metres high, ten metres wide, clear green rushing river, real continental stuff. Pity about it only being fifty metres to the sump.  Keith not being one to waste a useful phrase said, "I suppose this is it then" and once again I was forced to agree.

Going out did not take forever - it just felt like it!  The apparently never-ending prussiking was just one long blur punctuated by a brew-up at the head of the 160m pitch and a fall onto my cow's tall at the head of the 115m pitch where we met another bottoming party on the way in.  Finally out into the first good weather we had seen all holiday (!) after a 22- hour epic.

As medico for the party I was able to give myself a sick-note for the de-tackling although I had brought a letter from my mum excusing me, just in case.  Both Keith and I had badly infected cuts on our hands which took, in my case, nearly two weeks before they were healed.

In conclusion.  A great trip in a wonderful area if you like SRT. If you are looking for great horizontal big passage continental style caving this is not one for you.  However the eight kilometre Hunidero-Gato through trip is only a few miles away and it is very easy and cheap to get there. Package flight to Malaga and then catch the bus.

I will be putting the details of this trip into the BEC Library for anyone who wants further information.


Club News

My digging correspondent (J’Rat) being out of the country I thought I'd try and inform everyone of what's going on, Ed.

Expeditions. There are lots this year.


Four members of the BEC set out at the start of the year.  The leader is Jim Smart accompanied by Trebor, Jake and Snablet. They seem to be doing well! (see separate bits from Trebor) I hear that Jake and Snablet are intending to proceed to Australia for a few months, if they can find some work there, when they've finished in the Philippines.


Three BEC members joined the British '92 expedition about a month ago.  They are Bob Cork, Dany and J'Rat, Tony Jarrat was just recovering from Chicken Pox when he left!  I have heard nothing about their caving but heard that they were held up in Hanoi for some time waiting for permission to go to the caving areas, in spite of being the guests of Hanoi University.


Alan Thomas is there at the moment, mostly selling books but hopefully will have time to visit some show caves.

New Mexico.

A large expedition is leaving on 30th April, for a month, to explore Lechuguilla, the non-tourist bits of Carlsbad and they also have permission to do some cave prospecting on the Capitan Reef (where both Carlsbad and Lechuguilla are found).

The British personnel are :- Mark and Karen Lumley, Pete Bolt, Henry Bennett, Sarah Macdonald, Andy Cave, Stuart Lain, Vince Simmonds, Richard Blake, Phil (S. WaIes), Nick Wall and possibly Steve Redwood.  As you can see, they are mostly BEC members!

They will be joined by 8 to 12 American cavers for the expedition.  Pete Bolt also has permission to dive the sumps in Lechuguilla, accompanied by an American cave diver.

Others in the pipeline

Later In the year parties will be departing for various destinations in Europe including Austria, France and Spain.


Tim Large recently banged Zot and Dudley's dig at the bottom of the Maypole series.  It still seems to be heading into unknown territory with two possible ways on.

Trevor Hughes tells me there's a lot of water at the dig site In Stock Hill Mine Cave and that they've mostly been landscaping round the entrance.

Tim Large, Phil Romford & Andy Sparrow are working at White Pit now.  A great deal of concreting has been done to stabilize the loose rocks.  A very strong draught is being followed into the 'Master Cave'!

The Belfry

Recent visitors will have noticed that Central Heating is being installed (thanks Stumpy).  Many other improvements are in the pipeline. I also have the following note from Glenys Grass.

Belfry Refurbishment.

Plans are being put together for short and long term refurbishments and improvements to the Belfry. As this will mean a large degree of expenditure a calendar of fund-raising events will be put together to support the work.  If you have any IDEAS or are will1ng to HELP please contact Glenys Grass or any committee member.

Membership Changes

We welcome the following new members:­Jane Baugh. Geoff Crossley. Doug Cunningham, Arran Davis. Malcolm Davis. John Freeman, Nick Hawkes, Joc Large, Hillary Wilson and Chris York.

We also welcome John Buxton (Mem. No. 201) who has rejoined after a lapse of some years.

Addresses etc. are in the membership list.


To John and Lavinia Watson on the birth of their son, Joseph, who arrived at 7.45 pm on Monday the 2nd of March and weighed in at 7lb 5oz.

Rumour has it that Joseph is the secret weapon designed to extend the dig at the end of Manor Farm!

To Zot on his 50th. The party was held in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet with food drink AND scantily clad ladies!!  Perhaps the pictures could be sold, at an enormous mark-up, to boost club funds.

To Loopy who has become a brand new ‘Dad' because of which we are unlikely to see him until the summer sometime.

To Rob and Gen Taviner on the birth of their son, Michael Sutherland, who arrived at 4:58pm on Thursday the 2nd of January and weighed in at 4lb 15oz. (he was a bit early!)

To Mike Hearn and Beryl Brett who are engaged to be married on the 1st of May.

To Snab on his 50th on the 24th of April.  Evil plans are a foot!

St. Cuthbert’s Report

The reports are all numbered.  If you would like to buy the copy with your membership number on it please get in touch with Joan Bennett as soon as possible.  That is, before it's sold to someone else.

Mendip Farmers 'do'

Dave ‘Tusker' Morrison organised an evening out for the local farmers and their wives on March 7th funded by the caving clubs.  The purpose was for them to get to know the cavers and vice versa and to give the farmers a better idea of what it's actually like beneath their farms.

The event was at Priddy Village Hall and was a great success.

Working Days

There will be working days at the Belfry provisionally on 9th May and 11th July.  On at least one of these days the Belfry will be closed to all cavers as the floor of the whole building will be being steam-cleaned.

Committee Meeting

The next three committee meetings will held at the Belfry on the following dates at 8 pm:­ 1st May, 5th June and the 3rd of July.

I've heard several moans recently, mostly at the Hunters, talking about cliques, who's club is it anyway and why doesn't the committee listen etc.

Committee meetings are not closed affairs.  Any member has the right to attend as an observer and arrange to air any grievances they may have and to make suggestions about what should be done. Few ever do so!  The committee needs all the help it can get.

The above must not be taken to be either the view of the club or of the committee.  Unless stated otherwise, anything published in the BB is attributable only to either the stated author or to the editor (and I could veto anything I disagree with - but I don’t).

Cave Access Changes

Eastwater Cavern. Goodwill fee now 50p.  Manor Farm Swallet.  The cave has been reopened.

Swlldon's Hole. Goodwill fee now 50p, payable at the new house opposite Solomon Combe called 'Hornefield Cottage'.


Underground In Guernsey

By John King & Jo Hills

During a recent visit to Guernsey in the Channel Isles, Jo and I were fortunate to meet an understanding chap who fully appreciated our interest in things underground.  He not only gave us some suggestions on where to look but took us on a guided tour of the “Minus Battery” site.  Here the Nazis installed a formidable battery of four guns, each 30.5cm monsters.  The self-sufficient emplacements are not strictly underground but are covered with earth.  Gas-tight doors lead to many rooms and corridors now stripped of any fittings that may have been there.  Only curious symbols and Nazi anti English graffiti remain.  Apparently the small red crosses indicate where slave labour employed for construction had died and were interred in the concrete.  This particular site is difficult to find. Some less interesting places are marked on the tourist map.

As access may be difficult, anyone wanting to visit the sites would be advised to contact Leigh and Rosey Comper, Mapleton Hotel, Jerbourg Road, Calais, Guernsey.  Mention our names and the BEC as this helps to establish goodwill and preserve any access arrangements (or gets you thrown out - Ed.)

Although we never got the chance to get into them, there are apparently a couple of silver mines somewhere in the vicinity requiring tackle.  Again contact Leigh and Rosey and ask for Trevor.  Leigh runs a good bar well into the evening so good luck with caving after that!

Letter to B.B. Editor

Dear Ted.

I think it is a mistake to go to the same place for the dinner every year.  It has deteriorated already and once they think they are the only place that can hold us, it will get worse.  The dinner is what we make it; I don't lice being told with whom I must sit.  I find a series of small (or large) tables most objectionable.  The BEC is one family and should sit at long tables. Many young people find it is too "posh'" (the Webbington), they have to wear suits ­even T-shirts are out.

The 50th Anniversary Dinner was excellent with an outside caterer.  Mind you, if you are going to book Showering's Pavilion you had better be quick because we are fixed to a particular date each year.


Alan (Thomas)


Casteret’s Ice Cave

By Trebor

Le Casque, Spanish Pyrenees

Following on from Phil Romford's write-up of the PSM in the last issue of the BB, herewith is the tale of Casteret's Ice Cave, high up in the Pyrenees just over the French border in Spain.  This write-up was deliberately delayed as I didn't want to show up Phil's account of the PSM (believe that and you'll believe anything).

After the long drive back into France from the Badalona Cave in Spain, we set up camp at Gavarni high above Lourdes in the western Pyrenees.  Phil terrified the happy campers by rampaging through the tents in yellow Yum Yum, the only vehicle around capable of getting up the slope. A 45 degree lean to starboard still failed to up the thing over.

Phil's knobbly, knackered but keen knees were unable to transport the rest of him up hill so Bassett, the Antipodean and myself commenced the long slog up the mountain with basic caving gear.  White Meg took the shorter, gentler route, agreeing to meet us at the Breche de Roland refuge hut.  A few hours later we all met at the refuge and, after a picnic, proceeded across the ice fields up to the spectacular Breche de Roland, a vast gap in the ridge, this being the French - Spanish border.  White Meg turned back at this point as there were a few hairy traverses along the base of the cliff.  There followed an hour or so of yodelling and yo-ing as we looked for the cave and tried to stay in touch across acres of ice field, jumbled rock and general natural confusion.  Bassett eventually found the entrance, lurking under a cliff face.  The map didn't show the entrance but the altitude must have been about 2600m.  The nearest peak is Le Casque at 3006m.  The Breche de Roland is at 2807 m. and the refuge at 2587m.

The entrance is an impressive, wide arch over boulders descending onto what can on\y be described as an ice sheet.  Walls, roof and floor are almost entirely covered with ice and ice formations - an odd sensation, slithering across ice in caving gear.  Now I know why Bambi had such a problem.  Crampons are certainly recommended.  Anyway, the cave goes in for a while through various ice-filled chambers, stuffed full of ice stal, ice flows and cascades.  There is a lower series but we were unable to get into it without ice axes, a blow torch, ladders etc.  Gingerly crawling to the edge of the big ice slope, down into the lower series, is quite frightening - one false move and whoosh.

At the exit, we met two dubious looking gringo's with mexxy moustachios, presumably also looking around. We were actually In Spain of course, so it was not surprising that they looked in blank amazement when we said, "Bonjour, mes amis.’

A quick canter down the mountain completed a very pleasant day out in the sunshine.  The walking and scenery, however, were probably better than the caving but as it was there Ii had to be done.  Well worth a visist.


St. Cuthbert’s leaders list

B.E.C. St Cuthbert's Leaders

Chris Batstone
Ian Caldwell
Chris Castle
Andy Cave
John Dukes
Pete Glanville
Martin Grass
Chris Harvey
Pete Hellier
Jeremy Henley
Ted Humphreys
Dave Irwin
Kangy King
TIm Large
Mike McDonald
Stuart McManus
Mike Palmer
Brian Prewer
Chris Smart
Andy Sparrow
Nigel Taylor
Dave Turner
Greg Villls
Mike Wilson
Brian Workman

If people want leaders for trips down St Cuthbert's they can either do It through me or contact one of the above leaders directly. Jeff Price - Caving Sec.

St Cuthbert's Guest Leaders

Ric Halliwell                CPC
Graham Price             CSS
John Beauchamp        MCG (from Oz?)
Malcolm Cotter           MCG
Tony Knibbs               MCG
Miles Barrington          MEG
Alan Butcher              SMCC
Mark Sims                 SMCC
Tony Boycott              UBSS
Ray Mansfield             UBSS
Alison Moody             WCC


News From The Philippines


(News from the front)

Ed's note: The following is the text of two postcards that Martin Grass received from Trebor.

20: 1:92.

Flight delayed 19 hours at Heathrow.  Missed connecting flight in Karachi.  1 day there. Made our way to Bangkok.  Caught different airline to Manila!  1 day late.  Missed reception committee.  No Jim anywhere!  Spent 2 godawful polluted days in Manila trying to track him down.  Found him in a hut village in pinnacle karst 30 miles east of Manila, place called Wawa.  Here training Filipino’s for 3 days before moving up to the caving area in north Luzon. Lotsa beer.  BEC stickers everywhere - even in PIA flight captains cap. Jake & Snablet always drunk. Foot & Crutch rot already.


3km of cave found so far. In 4 days.  I've had to carry Snablet out of one bar In Manila and rescue him and Jake caught paralytic with the local police chief in the provincial town of Tugugorao where we now are, up in the Sierra Madre mountains in north west Luzon.  A wondrous place.  We don't miss the Butcombe at all.  Loads more cave to find.  Biggest shaft so far 165ft.  All going well.  Everything to excess stickers everywhere.

(This one was to Steve Redwood)


Hi compadre?  Ta for all your help.  We eventually tracked our leader down in the mountain village of Wawa, east of Manilla.  Two days of SRT training and then 500km north to Cagayan Province for phase 1.  A superb area, a bit like Co. Clare really - but with bamboo thickets and the odd coconut tree.  Main find was "Odessa", a fine 7.6km river cave I pushed downstream and James & team upstream.  Snablet pushed down into "Jackpot" to make it the second deepest in the country. Odessa is the third longest but should make second (8 km).  Jake was either ill, drunken or high on spliffs!!  Tell Roger beer is 8 pesos (5p) a bottle, Taduay Rum is 30 pesos a bottle (75p).  Food is awful – Rice, fish, rice, fish. monitor lizard, chicken ass. chicken gizzard, intestines, squid in ink, rice, wild boar, chicken claw, rice .......... I stick to fruit, veg and San Miguel ale.  Please send Hounds &: Beans, milk, wholemeal bread, 100m tape and air freshener for Jake's feet.


AGM Minutes

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of The Bristol Exploration Club

Held at the Belfry October 5th 1991.

The meeting was convened by the Secretary. Martin Grass, there being a quorum at 1045.


Martin Grass, Chris Batstone, Nigel Taylor, Kangy King, Dave Turner, Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork, Nick Gymer, Mr Wilson (Senior), Mr Wilson (Junior), Kev Gurner, Karen Ashman, Chris Smart, Richard Payne, Babs Williams, Jeff Price, Richard Blake, Trevor Hughes, Axel Knutson, Dave Aubrey, Tony Earley, Ted Humphreys, John Watson, Lavina Watson, Steve Redwood, S J McManus, Andy Middleton, Tim Large, Ian Caldwell, Rob Harper, Chris Harvey, Colin Dooley, Barrie Wilton, Vince Simmonds, Dave Yeandle, Paul Hodgson, Joan Bennett, Phil Romford, Dudley Herbert, Mike Jeanmaire, Ron Wyncoll and Les Williams.


Steve Tuck, Steve Milner, Jeremy Henley, A J Butcher, Bob Hill, Glenys Grass, Andy Cave, Graham Wilton-Jones, Robin Brown, Alan Kennett, J'-Rat, Colin the Screw and Dave Pike.


Nominations were requested for Chairman of the meeting.  Bob Cork and Dany Bradshaw were proposed. Bob Cork was elected, on a vote of 19 to 6.

Minutes of the 1990 AGM:

Previously published In the BB soon after the AGM.

For acceptance of the 1990 AGM minutes by the meeting.

Proposed: Mr Nigel
Seconded: Rob Harper
Carried with one abstention.

Matters arising from the minutes:

  1. The idea of publishing minutes early was accepted but it was felt that copies of the minutes should be available at the AGM.
  2. The Roy Bennett Memorial plaque had not been installed.  Tim Large said it was ongoing.

Secretary’s Report:

Previously published in the BB.  No appeal had been received from Mongo. 

For acceptance of the report by the meeting. 

Proposed: Tim Large
Seconded: Chris Batstone
Carried unam.

Caving Secretary's Report:

Previously published in the BB

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Nigel Taylor
Seconded: Phil Romford
Carried unam.

Hon Treasurer's Report:

Handed out at the meeting.

Dave Turner proposed, Blitz seconded, that the club look into the BCRA insurance cover.
Votes for the proposal - For 20, Against 1. Abstentions 5.

Discussions followed regarding payment for the publication of St. Cuthbert’s Report.  Kangy asked how payments back to members would be arranged. Kangy was referred to last year’s minutes.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Dave Turner
Seconded: Ron Wyncoll
Carried with one abstention. Nil against.

Auditors Report:

The Auditor stated that the Treasurers accounts were a true representation of the finances of the club.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting. Proposed: Rob Harper
Seconded: Kevin Gurner,  Carried with one abstention. Nil against.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report:

A verbal report was given by Blitz in his Treasurers Report.  He reminded the meeting that £100 had been given to Jake for the BEC 1992 Phil1ppines expedition. 

A proposal was then made by Mac that the BEC do not transfer any money to the IDMF this year.

Seconded: Chris Batstone
Votes for the proposal - For 24, Against 1, Abstentions 6.

Hut Warden's Report:

Given verbally to the meeting.  Zot suggested that there was mid-week use of the Belfry for which fees were not being paid. It was suggested that the hut warden uses a formal Belfry Hut Book for bed nights.  Next year’s committee to look into a rota system for checking m1d week use.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Paul Hodgson
Seconded: Tim Large
Carried unam.

Editors Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Some concern was expressed that the editor had written that he may not publish all caving politics articles.  It was felt that it was important to publish such articles.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Jeff Price
Seconded: Rob Harper
Carried unam.

Librarian's Report:

No report was available. The lack of a report and the lack of the Librarian were considered a poor show.  However a vote of thanks was proposed by Blitz for the hard work that Mike had done over the past year.  A report should be published in the next BB.

Membership Secretary's Report:

This was verbally given at the meeting.  We have only had three new members join in 1990.  It was agreed to continue the discount for early payment of subscriptions.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Vince Simmonds
Seconded: Ian Caldwell
Carried unam.

Hut Engineer's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  After discussion it was agreed that new window frames should be low maintenance.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Les Williams
Seconded: Chris Batstone
Carried unam.

Tackle Master's Report:

Read out at the meeting. The next tackle master to be asked to publish a list of available tackle.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Dave Yeandle
Seconded: Richard Blake
Carried unam.

A vote of thanks was given to Mac.

The meeting adjourned for lunch at 1230 and resumed again at 1315 hours.

1991-92 Committee:

Only eight nominations for Committee posts had been received so no ballot was required.

Possible commercial interests/conflicts of interest were then asked to be revealed.  Chris Smart declared that he was the Treasurer of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs.

The outgoing secretary then suggested that we therefore nominate people directly into committee positions.

Secretary                        Martin Grass       Pro Phil Romford.        Sec Mr Nigel.
Hon Treasurer                  Chris Smart         Pro Phil Romford,        Sec Dave Turner.
Caving Secretary             Jeff Price             Pro Tim Large,            Sec Trev Hughes.
Hut Warden                     Chris Harvey        Pro Mr Nigel,              Sec Mac.
Tackle Master                 Mr Wilson           Pro Mr Nigel,              Sec Zot.
Hut Engineer                   Nigel Taylor         Pro Dany Bradshaw,   Sec Trev Hughes.
BB Editor                        Ted Humphreys   Pro Phil Romford.        Sec Les Williams.
Membership Secretary     John Watson       Pro Rob Harper,          Sec Chris Batstone
Floating member              Ian Caldwell

The chairman then opened the floor to discussion and asked if there were any members willing to stand as additional floating members on the committee.

The following were nominated from the floor: ­

Vince Simmonds             Pro Dave Yeandle,         Sec Dany Bradshaw.
Richard Blake                  Pro Dave Yeandle.         Sec Dany Bradshaw.
GrahamJohnson              Pro Mac,                      Sec Rob Harper.

The meeting then voted as follows for co­option: -

Vince Simmonds             For 31.            Against 0.         Abstentions 5
Graham Johnson             For 27             Against 3.         Abstentions 6
Richard Blake                  For 20             Against 8,         Abstentions 9

It was agreed to ask the committee to co-opt these three members onto the 1991-92 committee.  Much discussion followed regarding positions on the committee and the purpose of co-opted members.  Eventually Mike Jeanmalre proposed, Andy Middleton seconded that "the committee review the constitution where it relates to the election of committee members".

Votes for the proposal 8 For, 20 Against. 9 abstentions..

Motion defeated.

Non Committee Posts:

Auditor - Barrie Wilton Carried unam

Archivist - Alan Thomas

Librarian – Trebor () not at meeting but should have been – Ed.)

These were not discussed at the meeting.

Members Resolutions:

  1. County Membership.  Nigel Taylor proposed, seconded by the BEC Committee, that this AGM consider the creation of a membership category of retired or County membership and that this be on a cost only basis.

For 7, Against 15, Abstentions 11.

  1. State of the Belfry.  Tim Large proposed, seconded Glenys Grass ”that this meeting consider the state of the Belfry particularly in respect of:-

i) the kitchen and cooking facilities,

ii) the showers and changing room.

and direct the Committee to carry out necessary repairs and improvements without delay" .

For 18, AgaInst 25, Abstentions 13

The meeting was happy to consider this proposal but felt that is should have been discussed at the time of the Hut Engineer's report.

  1. Long Term Plan.  Tim Large proposed, seconded by Blitz --that that this meeting considers it necessary for the club to have a future plan in respect of:-

i)          future direction of the club.

ii)          the use of the Belfry.

iii)         finances and budgeting.

This must be drawn up in the next six months taking into consideration the views expressed by the membership, not only now but as an ongoing consultation.

For 15. Against 10. Abstentions 10

  1. NCA.  Tim Large proposed, seconded by Phil Romford “that this meeting totally rejects the BCRA attempts to organize the national caving body on an individual membership basis.  This club supports the club based structure.  The club shall make every effort to oppose such action".

For All. Against 1. Abstentions 0

Martin Grass stated that the BEC currently follow this approach at CSCC meetings and that it was in line with CSCC thinking.

Two members, Richard Blake and Vince were chastised by the Chairman for leaving the meeting, to go to the pub, without asking.

Any Other Business:

St. Cuthbert’s Report:

The Chairman noted that this was now on sale and urged everyone to sell as many copies as possible.

Carbide Store:

There was some discussion on whether or not we should go to the expense of renewing the carbide license and what the carbide store could be used for.  It was left in the hands of the Committee.


The meeting agreed that the annual subscription should be 20 for single membership (with a £4 discount for early payment) and 30 for Joint membership (with a £6 discount for early payment).

There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting at 1426.


Librarians Report

It was mentioned at the AGM (1990 Ed.) that not enough books were being purchased for the Library - the reason for this was that I did not have any money to purchase them with. The money has only recently been forthcoming and so several books on my list have now been purchased; namely the new "Darkness Beckons", the book on Lechuguilla and the remainder of the set of the French "Speleo Sportif” guide books - we now have an almost complete set of these.

A new cabinet is also being ordered as we have no more room left for the Club journals obtained on a redproca1 basis.

Sooner or later any available money will be required to bind up or otherwise contain the numerous Club journals; these in their own way being our most valuable asset.

A reminder that those books contained in the locked glass-fronted case just inside the door are not to be removed from the library under any circumstances. These are our most valuable books and must not be lost or stolen.  We already have quite a high loss/theft/mislaid/oh dear, what a pity/destroyed rate.

The following list indicates those people who still have books out, or rather are still in the book as not being booked back in.  Could they be returned asap please.  I am particularly concerned about the old "Darkness Beckons", as this went walkies for some months not too long ago.  This copy will go straight into the verboten locked case if it ever returns.

Cataloguing is still progressing, obviously slowly as there is a vast amount of material, especially all the Club journals.

Someone tried to force the door the other week and the lock is all bent and twisted, like some members. Please ensure it locks behind you. Mr. Nigel, can you mend it please (Done - Ed.).

Booked out

Dudley Herbert

Darkness Beckons 09.10.91


SRT 09.10.91

Martin Grass

Various CPC Vols & Trans. 21.08.91

Descent 32, BEC Cave Report 9. 31.05.91

Tim Large

Proceedings UBSS Vol 16:2 04.08.91

OFD Survey & Description 17.03.91

Brian the Hippy

Exploration 06.09.90

Journey out of Asia 13.12.90


RRCPCJourna1  5. 14.04.91

S. Beattte

South-West climbs 25.05.91


MCG newsletter 208. 07.07.91

Bill Cooper

History of Mendip Caving 07.12.91

Caving Practice & Equipment

Cave Science 18"


Meets List - 1992

The following is a list of trips already arranged by Jeff.  If you want to go please get in touch with Jeff Price as soon as possible

Bristol Storm Tunnel.                 Thursday 4th June. 1pm

Birksfell Cave. Yorkshire.           Saturday 6th June

Link - Pippikin. Yorkshire.          Saturday 18th July

Penyghent Pot. Yorkshire.         Saturday 1st August

Otter Hole. Chepstow.               Saturday. 22nd August (overtide trip)

Other outings in the pipeline are :-

Peak Cavern, Devon weekend, Gower weekend, Washfold Pot, OFD, Rock & Fountain, Lancs - County and Hammer Pot.

If you want to go to these or to any other cave not mentioned, get in touch with Jeff and he will try to arrange access.

PSM 92

Pierre St. Martin in the Pyrenees Atlantique is now booked.  The dates are 5th August to rig SC3, 9th August to de-rig.  This will allow plenty of time for through trips to the Verna/EDF Tunnel.

If you are interested contact Phil Romford.  Phone: 0749-344281.  Address below .

It is essential that you book early so as to allow time for BCRA Insurance to be arranged.  £50.00 deposits to Phil please to cover Insurance and equipment.


Membership List  06/04/92

Members with an asterisk (*) before their entry are those that the membership secretary tells me had not paid their subs by the above date!

For those who do not yet know. Annual subs. are £20 for single and £30 for joint membership. These are due in October!  If paid before the end of the year they are reduced to £16 and £24 respectively.  This is to encourage the members to pay promptly as the club always has a cash-flow problem!

If there are any errors please contact John or myself A.S.A.P.

828 Nicolette Abell                    Faukland, Bath
1157 Karen Ashman                  Depden, Bury St. Edmonds
987 Dave Aubrey                       Park St, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Wells, Somerset
1150 David Ball                         Billingshurst. West Sussex
* 1024 Miles Barrington              Clutton, Avon
1145 Roz Bateman                    East Harptree, Bristol Avon.
818 Chris Batsone                     radstock, Avon
1161 Jane Baugh                      Huntley, Aberdeen
1151 Diane Baxter                     Horsham, West Sussex.
* 1079 Henry Bennett                London.
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Draycott, Somerset
1122 Clive Betts                        Clapham, Bedfordshire.
1125 Rich Blake                        Priddy, Somerset
731 Bob Bidmead                      Leigh Woods, Bristol
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Caterham, Surrey
* 1114 Pete Bolt                        Cardiff, S. Gamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Bradshaw                  Wells, Somerset
1137 Robert Bragg                    Odd Down, Bath, Avon
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                  London, SW2
1140 D Bromhead                     Worlse, Avon
1082 Robin Brown                     Woolavington, Bridgwater, Somerset
1108 Denis Bumford                  Westcombe, Shepton Mallet
* 1131 Steve Bury                     Worcester
924 (J) Aileen Butcher               Priddy, Wells, Somerset
849 (J) Alan Butcher                  Priddy, Wells, Somerset
201 John Buxton                       Flitwick, Beds.
956 (J) Ian Caldwell                   Redland, Bristol, Avon
1036 (J) Nicola Caldwell             Redland, Bristol, Avon
1091 William Curruthers             Holcombe Bath
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
1062 Andy Cave                        Paulton
902 (L) Martin Cavender             Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset.
* 1135 Richard Chaddock           Butliegh, Wooton, Glastonbury
* 1048 Tom Chapman                Cheddar, Somerset.
* 1003 Rachel CLarke                Draycott, Nr. Cheddar, Somerset
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
620 Phil Coles                          Totterdown, Bristol
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Litton, Somerset
727 Bill Cooper                         Totterdown, Bristol
* 862 Bob Cork                         Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1121 Nicholas Cornwell-Smith    Oldham Common, Bristol
1042 Mick Corser                      Cringleford, Norwich, Norfolk
827 Mike Cowlishaw                  Micheldever Station, Winchester, Hants.
890 Jerry Crick                          Wing, Leighton Buzzard, Bucks
896 Pat Cronin                          Knowle, Bristol
1144 Sophie Crook                    Batheaston, Bath, Avon
680 Bob Cross                          Knowle, Bristol
1158 Geoff Crossley                  Horsforth, Leeds
* 1132 Robert Crowe                  Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia
870 Gary Cullen                        Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
1165 D Cunningham                  Old Town, Eastbourne, East Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 British Columbia, Canada.
1166 Arron Davies                     North Poulner, Ringwood, Hants.
1167 Malcolm Davies                 North Poulner, Ringwood, Hants.
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
815 Nigel Dibden                       Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
* 829 (J) Angie Dooley               Harborne, Birmingham
* 710 (J) Colin Dooley                Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
* 1038 Alan Downton                 Headingley, Leeds
* 830 John Dukes                      Street, Somerset
996 Terry Earley                        Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
1133 Stephen Ettienne              Hayes, Middlesex
* 1143 Jane L. Evans                 Cork, Eire
232 Chris Falshaw                     Crosspool, Sheffield
* 1148 Roy Farmer                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Stone, Staffs
469 (J) Pete Franklin                 Stone, Staffs
1159 John Freeman                   Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1142 Angela Garwood                Roath, Cardiff
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1098 Brian Gilbert                     Chingford, London
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Basingstoke, Hampshire
* 1054 Tim Gould                      Syderstone, Kings Lynn, Norfolk
860 (J) Glenys Grass                 Wookey, Somerset
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Wookey, Somerset
* 1009 Robin Gray                     Meare, Somerset
1123 Ian Gregory                       Clapham., Bedford
* 1124 Martin Gregory                Clapham, Bedfordshire
1155 Rachel Gregory                 Wells, Somerset
*1113 Arthur Griffin                    Llanrhaeadr ym Mochant, Oswestry, Shropshire
1089 Kevin Gurner                     Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
*582 Chris Hall                          Redhill, Bristol
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             St Annes, Lancashire
1156 Brian Hansford                  Weeke, Winchester, Hants
* 999 Rob Harper                       Wells, Somerset
* 581 Chris Harvey                     Paulton, Somerset
4 (L) Dan Hassell                      Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset
1160 Nick Hawkes                    Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Bristol
1078 Mike Hearn                       Draycott, Cheddar, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnet thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
952 Bob Hill                              Oman LLC, PO Box 82, Sultanate of Oman
691 Dudley Herbert                    Paulton, Bristol
1105 Joanna Hills                      Wisborough Green, Billinshurst, W. Sussex
* 373 (J) Sid Hobbs                   Priddy, Wells Somerset
* 736 (J) Sylvia Hobbs                Priddy, Wells Somerset
905 Paul Hodgson                     Burcott, Wells, Somerset
898 (J) Liz Hollis                       Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
899 (J) Tony Hollis                     Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
1094 Peter Hopkins                   Keynsham, Bristol.
* 971 Colin Houlden                   Briston, London, SW2
923 Trevor Hughes                     Bleadney, Wells, Somerset
855 Ted Humphreys                  Wells, Somerset
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
* 1141 Gary Jago                      Farrington Guerney, Avon
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
* 1026 Ian Jepson                      Beechen Cliff, Bath
51 (L) A Johnson                       Flax Bourton, Bristol
995 Brian Johnson                     Ottery St. Mary, Devon
* 1111 Graham Johnson             Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
884 John King                           Wisborough Green, West Sussex
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
946 Alex Ragnar Knutson          Bedminster, Bristol
1116 Stuart Lain                        Old Mills, Paulton
667 (L) Tim Large                      Shepton Mallet
1162 Joc Large                         Shepton Mallet
1129 Dave Lennard                    Wells, Somerset
* 1015 Andrew Lolly                   Kingsdowm, Bristol
1065 Mark Lovell                       Brislington, Bristol
1043 Andy Lovell                       Templecloud, Bristol
1072 Clive Lovell                        Keynsham, Bristol
* 1057 Mark Lumley                  Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
* 1100 Sarah McDonald             London
1022 Kevin Macklin                   Clevedon, Avon
* 1149 Ian Marchant                  Hove, Sussex
106 (L) E.J. Mason                    Henleaze, Bristol
651 Pete MacNab (Sr)               Cheddar, Somerset
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jr)          Cheddar, Somerset
1071 Mike McDonald                 Knowle, Bristol, Avon
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                 Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
* 704 Dave Metcalf                    Whitwick, Leics.
1044 Any Middleton                   Yeovil, Somerset
1053 Steve Milner                      Eden Hills, S.A. 5050, Australia
* 936 Dave Nichols                    Praze, Camborne, Cornwall
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Rich Payne                       Sidcup , Kent
22 (L) Les Peters                      Knowle Park, Bristol Avon
1134 Martin Peters                    Chew Stoke, Avon.
1107 Terry Phillips                     Denmead, Hants.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
* 1037 Dave Pike                       High Littleton, Nr. Bristol, Avon
337 Brian Prewer                       Priddy, Wells, Somerset
* 1085 Duncan Price                  Exhall, Coventry
886 Jeff Price                            Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1109 Jim Rands                        Stonebridge Park, London NW10
481 (L) John Ransom                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
1126 Steve Redwood                 Banwell, Nr. Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
662 (J) John Riley                      Chapel le Dale, Ingleton, Via Carnforth, Lancs.
1033 (J) Sue Riley                     Chapel le Dale, Ingleton, Via Carnforth, Lancs
* 1070 Mairy Robertson             Stonebridge Park, London, NW10
985 (J) Phil Romford                  Shepton Mallet, Somerset
986 (J) Lil Romford                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                          Crediton, Devon
* 832 Roger Sabido                   Lawrence Weston, Bristol
240 (L) Alan Sandall                  Nailsea, Avon
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
* 760 Jenny Sandercroft             c/o Barrie Wilton
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   Winchester Hnts
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Harpendon, Herts
1046 Dave Shand                      Thornhill, Cardiff
1128 Vince Simmonds               Wells, Somerset
* 881 Alistair Simpson               Yarley, Wells, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
* 911 Jim Smart                        Westbury Park, Bristol
1041 Laurence Smith                 Priddy
* 823 Andy Sparrow                   Priddy, Somerset
* 1083 Nicholas Sprang             Whittington Worcestershire
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Bude, Cornwall
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Shepton Mallet, Somerset
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stephens              Wells, Somerset
1163 Robert Taff                        Erdington, Birmingham
583 Derek Targett                      Wells Somerset
* 1115 Rob Taviner                    East Harptree
* 1039 Lisa Taylor                     Weston, Bath
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
348 (L) D Thomas                      Bartlestree, Hereford
571 (L) N Thomas                      Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk.
699 (J) Buckett Tilbury               High Wycombe, Bucks
700 (J) Anne Tilbury                   High Wycombe, Bucks
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Chelmsford, Essex
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Bognor Regis, Sussex
382 Steve Tuck                         Dousland, Yelverton, Devon
1023 Matt Tuck                         Dousland, Yelverton, Devon
1136 Hugh Tucker                     Westham, Wedmore, Somerset
* 1066 Alan Turner                     Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
912 John Turner                        Tavistock, Devon.
1154 Karen Turvey                     Wellington, Somerset.
635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury            Boundstone, Farnham, Surrey
1096 Brian van Luipen                Wick, Littlehampton, West Sussex
887 Greg Villis                          Banwell, Weston-super-Mare, Avon
175 (L) Mrs. D. Whaddon           Taunton, Somerset
* 1077 Brian Wafer                    Orpington, Kent
949 (J) John Watson                  Wells, Somerset
1019 (J) Lavinia Watson             Wells, Somerset
973 James Wells                      Loisville, Kentucky, USA
1055 Oliver Wells                      Yorktown Heights, New York, USA
553 Bob White                          Bleadney, Nr. Wells, Somerset.
1118 Carol White                      Pately Bridge, N. Yorks.
878 Ross White                        Cotham
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1068 John Whiteley                   Heathfiled, Newton Abbot, S. Devon.
* 1061 Kerry Wiggins                 Basingstoke, Hants.
1031 Mike Wigglesworth            Greenfield, Oldham, Lancashire.
* 1087 John Williams                 c/o Babs
1146 Les Williams                     Yoxter, Priddy,
1075 (J) Tony Williams              Radstock, Bath
1076 (J) Roz Williams                Radstock, Bath
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
1153 Mike Wilson (jnr)               Whitchurch, Bristol
* 559 (J) Barrie Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
* 568 (J) Brenda Wilton              Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
* 850 (J) Annie Wilton-Jones      Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent
 813 (J) Ian Wilton-Jones            Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent
721 G Wilton-Jones                   Watton, Thetford, Norfolk
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chilington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                     Greenbank, Eastville, Bristol.
1169 Chris York                        Thames Ditton, Surrey

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys


This Belfry Bulletin is a month late due to circumstances beyond my control but, strange to relate, for the first time I've got more material to print than can be put into one BB. (The postage per copy goes up if there are more than about 23 pages).

I've got another article from Jim Smart, who is alive and well and still in California, which will be in the next BB.  Aso an article from Jingles about his first (and last?) Daren Cilau trip, one from Trebor about Jamaica and one from Steve about the LADS in Ireland.

Talking about Daren Cilau, I had my first trip there in mid-August, the "Caves of South Wales" guide book describes it as 5+ but this probably means a trip to Spade-Runner. The inside information is that the entrance crawl, though long, is not difficult (just boring) and has only two bits that could be described as squeezes (if you weigh less than 14 stones, you should have no problems!).  We went to see "The White Company" in Apocalypse Way and it took us four hours, two hours in and out of the crawl, one and a half to and from the formation and half an hour getting lost.  The "White Company" you must see, I’ve never seen it's equal.  Anyway, the grading of a tourist trip in Daren is probably not more than VDC, if you've got the stamina.  As far as gear is concerned, wear knee and elbow pads!

Also in the next BB will be an appreciation of Roy Bennett who, as most of you will already know, died after a skiing accident this summer.  Joan asked that any donations members wished to make be made to the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue team.  These should be sent to Wig (Townsend Cottage, Priddy) who will forward them. The BEC has donated £25.

Trebor has a new load of Bertie Bat enamel badges at £2 each and J'Rat has some BEC T-shirts, the old design, which are for sale to club members at Bat Products (J'Rat is selling them at no profit so if you're not quick they'll all be gone!)

Alan Thomas has produced another book (he's the editor) called "The Last Adventure". This is a collection of seven articles by cave divers from the '30's onwards and makes fascinating reading. Each one describes the experiences of people who have gone to places where no-one had gone before.  Copies can be obtained from Alan at £10.50 (they're hard cover with colour photographs).


Bits & Pieces

This bit was sent in by Trebor:-

J'Rat has decided to decline continuing with the library due to Rat Product commitments.  Trebor has taken over the job and will soon be attempting to re-classify all we've got, try and retrieve missing books and tidy up the place generally.  Has anyone got any old, interesting photos of the club house, characters, personalities etc. which they don't want?  If so, I'll stick them up on the walls in frames for posterity, or at least put them in the scrapbook.  Members are asked to return all books as soon as possible and book them out every time. We must keep the library intact. If you want a book permanently go and buy one.  Don't pinch ours.  The Club has always prided itself on a good library and we want to keep it that way.


An appeal from Bassett:-

At some time during the last two years I have mislaid three nife cells.  They are in reasonable condition, giving 8-9 hours of light each. They are labelled with my initials on the cell top clamps, Thus: - G W J.  The numbers on the actual cell labels are: - 560, 588 and LANCSFB L6.

I may have left them in someone's car, at someone's house or in the Belfry.  I could have lent them to someone or they could even have been stolen.

If you have acquired a couple of nifes and wonder whose they are, please have a look - they could be mine.

Thanks, Bassett.


New Members

We seem to be doing well for new members this year!  Here are the details of the most recent ones.  Please let me know if I've got anything wrong!

1118     Carol Yvette White, Cheddar, Somerset
1119     Barry Hanks, North Cray, Kent
1120     Alan Goodrich, North Cray, Kent
1121     Nicholas Cornwell Smith, Oldland Common, Bristol
1122     Clive Betts, Clapham, Bedfordshire
1123     Ian Gregory, Clapham, Bedfordshire
1124     Martin Gregory, Clapham, Bedfordshire
1125     Richard Blake, Horsfield, Bristol
1126     Stephen Richard Redwood, Banwell, Nr. Weston-super-Mare
1127     Bruce Jones, Northville, Bristol

1989 A.G.M. & Club Dinner

Another year has passed and the AGM is once again nearly upon us; October 7th. 10.00 am. at the Belfry.

I do not intend to have a barrel at the meeting this year as the meeting invariably generates into a fiasco afterwards.  By starting half an hour earlier we should get done by the time the pubs open - if not, it will perhaps goad us into getting on with some sensible, concise debate which is meaningful, useful and well thought out.  None of this hurling abuse back and forth across the floor, personal slander and general gobbing off.

The Newsletter Editor hopes to get the next BB out for the 7th October to coincide with the AGM & Dinner so Committee Members are asked to prepare their Annual Reports for that issue.

Election forms will arrive with the next BB or hopefully well before the AGM if I can wangle free postage from work.

Committee Members Resigning.

Mike McDonald, Steve Milner
(and maybe, Snablet - Ed.)

The agenda will be on the normal format as in previous years and a sheet will be given out on the day.

Please hand in any resolutions to me at any time or on the day.  No resolutions have been received at the time this BB issue goes to press.

Trebor  (Secretary )

Other items concerning the AGM & Dinner.  (Ed.)

The dinner is again at The Star Hotel in Wells.  There will be a choice of four starters -  Soup, Melon, Egg Mayonnaise or Pate; four main courses - Roast Turkey, Roast Leg of Lamb, Roast Topside of Beef or Chicken Breast (with all the usual trimmings, of course) and a choice of sweets to follow.  The committee decided that the appropriate price per ticket should be £12, in order to recover costs and overheads (we do have them!).  Tickets will be available from Steve from the time this BB comes out.  Please try to buy your tickets in advance otherwise you may not get in!  Ticket sales will be closed after 30th September.

As you see from Trebor's bit (above), it looks as though we're going to be a bit short on the committee. We therefore will need nominations, proposers and seconders at the AGM.  If you think you can be useful - VOLUNTEER!

The club has four trustees at the moment.  These are: Bobby Bagshaw, Les Peters, Alan Thomas and Barry Wilton.

It seems that Bobby and Les may shortly request to resign from their positions.  I'm not exactly sure about the responsibilities of trustees except that they are legally responsible for the club.  I may have got the wrong end of the stick, so to speak, but if the above is true the AGM should consider replacements.


Cave Leaders

Saint Cuthbert’s Leaders Update from Martin Grass

A few months ago the Saint Cuthbert’s lock was changed.   I wrote to all known leaders (the list had been lost) asking them to supply me with an s.a.e. for a new key.  It was decided to do this as it was assumed that those not asking for a new key were no longer interested in being leaders.  The following list therefore should be considered as the current Cuthbert’s leaders as they are the only ones with access to the cave.

Chris Batstone

Andy Cave

Martin Grass

Tim Large

Mike Palmer

Andy Sparrow

Greg Villis

Ian Caldwell

John Dukes

Ted Humphreys

Mike McDonald

Brian Prewer

Nigel Taylor

Graham Wilton-Jones

Chris Castle

Pete Glanville

Kangy King

Stuart McManus

Chris Smart

Dave Turner

Brian Workman

Guest Leaders

John Beecham   M.C.G.

Alan Butcher     S.M.C.C.

Tony Knibbs      M.C.G.

Alison Moody    W.C.C

Tony Boycott     U.B.S.S.

Malcolm Cotter  M.C.G.

Ray Mansfield    U.B.S.S.

Graham Price    Cerberus

The only thing I have to add to this list is, has Wig retired?

The leaders we have for other caves are as follows: -


and Tunnel Cave



Ogof Ffynnon Ddu I





Reservoir Hole



Charterhouse Cave

Martin Grass

Mike McDonald

Graham Wilton-Jones


Martin Grass

Mike Palmer

Richard Stevenson

Graham Wilton-Jones


Martin Grass

Graham Wilton-Jones


Jeremy Henley

Tim Large

Richard Stevenson



Dave Irwin

Brian Prewer

Greg Villis



Dave Irwin



Chris Smart



Trebor received this letter and has sent Joy the membership list.  Presumably the girls she mentions are Brenda Wilton and Joyce Franklin?

Erasmia 0023
South Africa

The Secretary, B.E.C.

Some years ago I used to be a member of the BEC, as well as a regular caver.  However, I moved to South Africa and lost touch with everyone, and although I have made several efforts to get in touch with old caving friends I have not had much luck.

As I will be coming to England again sometime during the next 6-9 months I have decided to try once more to track these friends down as I would really like to meet up again. This being the case, it occurred to me that there is a slight chance of doing this through the BEC - especially if you still produce the magazine "The Belfry", - or any other publication you may now produce.  At the same time I would be very happy if you could forward a copy to me - for old times sake.

I used to cave with Roger Stenner mainly but other names were Gerald Neilson, Paul Morrell and two girls Joyce and Brenda (but I can't recall their surnames).  My name in those days was Joy Steadman (Mem. No.570, Joined 1964 - Ed.).

Apart from making contact with any of them, I am also keen to do some caving - so any help you can give me will be very much appreciated.


Joy Scovell (Mrs)


China, The BEC get Everywhere

by Chris Smart.

As many of you no doubt know by now, last year, two B.E.C. members, Chris Smart and Graham Wilton-Jones, participated in the 1988 British Speleological Expedition to South West Guizhou. ( Guizhou is a province in South West China about 1000 kms NW of Hong Kong).  Hoping to escape the ravages of a British winter and of Butcombe beer Blitz and Bassett joined the highly successful, and at (all?) times, distinctly odd "independent", Bob Lewis expedition to An Lung County.  This is a closed county (i.e. an area generally closed by the Chinese authorities to foreigners) that Bob and three other members of the Severn Valley Caving Club had obtained permission to visit on a reconnaissance a year or so previous to our expedition.

On his return Bob then set about organising a full scale expedition and if the full story of the pre-expedition meetings is ever told then a book will be needed to detail the intrigues, explain the voting procedures and produce a full cast list (or should that be karst list?).  It would make a John Le Carre novel look simple by comparison and suffice it to say that at times it seemed that the list of the sixteen personnel was changing almost daily.

China abounds with an over abundance of limestone and it has been estimated by the people that take delight in such statistics that there is more limestone in China than in the whole of Bowery Corner, Wigmore and Welsh's Green put together - Oops that there is more limestone in China than in the rest of the world put together.  It is a very sobering experience to be travelling, on what constitutes a Chinese express train, through an area of quite spectacular limestone as the sun sets slowly in the west and to then wake up the following morning still looking out at the by now monotonous limestone.  When expedition members are heard to remark "Oh No, not more cone karst" one begins to wonder about ones travelling companions.

The trains were an education into the Chinese way of life.  I would not have thought it possible for a train floor to change from being pristinely clean to being totally lost under an inch thick layer of peanut shells and husks, sugar cane bark, sweet wrappers, old newspapers, polystyrene food containers, discarded chopsticks and spittle within seconds of the Chinese getting on to it.  They seem to be able to have the same effect that a couple of barrels after the Hunters back at the Belfry have, but in an infinitesimal fraction of the time.

Their spitting habit leaves nothing to the imagination and people of a nervous disposition should stop reading at this point.  They will spend 30 or so seconds hawking and clearing their throats before leaning forward, and with a sly grin, let the spittle slowly dribble from the corner of their mouths onto the floor of the railway carriage or bus or pavement etc. I saw one very near miss when two Chinese were both dribbling and staring at us while cycling on a collision course towards each other (unfortunately one of them realised in time). It is a very definite turnoff when ogling a piece of the local crumpet, purely in the interests of science you understand, to see her lean forward and seductively dribble a seemingly never ending stream of spittle onto the ground only inches from your feet.

Transport within China is actually pretty good considering the problems of terrain, third-world technology, and the fact that there are over a billion people who are not going to spend their lives standing still.  I do however subscribe to the belief that it was a trifle unfair that the entire Chinese population should always want to use the same train/bus/ferry/ticket office/toilet etc that I wanted to and always at exactly the same time. It's probably a good idea that I spent as long as I did in training sessions at the bar of the Hunters.

There is a reasonable network of railways, most of the roads are sealed, and the rivers are used by all manner of traffic.  Costings for internal travel are as cheap as to be ridiculous, as is the internal airline. However tickets for this are a little more difficult to obtain.  Few travellers speak well of the airline and we were told the story that when a stewardess was asked why no safety instructions are given she replied "Not necessary, we crash, you die!!!"

I would however warn you that having obtained your ticket then not only will the entire population of China accompany you on your train/bus/ferry boat/aircraft but that they will be carrying all their worldly goods and possessions with them.  I'm told it's somewhat odd to look under the seat of the bus to see what is causing that odd wet sensation on the back of your leg and find a small pig happily ensconced there.  Certainly I can vouch for having travelled on a train in the company of several live chickens, a duck and a little boy whose mother let him happily piss in the aisle next to my rucksac - and I used to wonder why no one used to help me on with my rucksac ... then my best friend told me.

Enough of this local colour, I hear you say.  We’ve been to China town in Soho. We've all seen The Last Emperor on video.  We've all had a Sweet and Sour from the Wells takeaway.  What about the caverns measureless to man?  Well, and this is where the story really starts.

The first wave of our ten intrepid explorers (including Blitz), nine good men and true and Sara (OVCC), a gynaecologist, left Gatwick and flew to Hong Kong, pausing only to take advantage of the free booze (Everything to Excess) provided on the excellent Cathay Pacific flight and for a quick Rabies inoculation at the Bahrain stopover.  People may be interested to know that no body took the slightest interest in Sara giving us the vaccinations on board the plane and that the cabin crew were happy about disposing of the needles and syringes afterwards.  We stocked up on a few items in Hong Kong, attempted to shake off the jet lag and wondered how we could have been so careless as to lose eight hours and set sail up the Pearl River to Guangzhou (or more commonly, Canton) and our entry into the People's Republic of China.

This was easily done and the Passport and Customs officials expressed no surprise at the fact that we were all visiting China as tourists or at the 28 items of tourist luggage, including a kilometre of rope, gas cylinders, SRT bolts, life-jackets, wet suits and goodness knows what besides that we were carrying between the 10 of us. We had arrived and Martin, another member of the Severn Valley Caving Club, expressed our sentiments in a loud voice when he said “We're here to do the Business!!  We are the Business!!

A week later the expedition arrived at Guiyang, a city about the size of Bristol, the capital of Guizhou province and the location of the University that Bob Lewis had established contact with.  It is easy to write now - "A week later the expedition arrived at Guiyang" but that simple phrase glosses over so many hassles.  In that week we had split into two separate groups, travelled by widely different routes and modes of transport, discovered Chinese alcohol, got drunk, regained consciousness, rejoined the human race, discovered Chinese food with such culinary delights on the menu as "A sort of fish", "Goose intestines in a special sauce", and "Web and Wing", discovered one member of the expedition didn't know how to use chopsticks and more alarmingly didn't like Chinese food, discovered Chinese fireworks (nothing pretty just a big bang - now who did I hear that about?) and had nearly been arrested for smuggling!!  Quite a week and the smuggling was a mistake, honest your honour. How were we to know that it was an offence to transport camping gas cylinders by train?

From Guiyang it was just a short 12 hour bus ride to An Lung.  I was the coldest I think I've ever been in that bus with windows that wouldn't shut and with the temperature just above freezing outside.  Sara gave a couple of us a cuddle at one of the roadside stops but Bob told her off - we don't want to upset the natives, do we?  A 2 hour truck ride the next day and we had reached Do Shan, the end of the road, our nearest village and only a two hour walk from our caving area.  The next day we arranged porters at the princely sum of 50 pence a day and the set off into the unknown, our hearts beating proudly in our chests and our bowels well modesty prevents me from telling you about that.

Bassett had similar problems with transportation when he arrived a month later.  He took fifteen days to reach the caving area near Do Shan. Although six of those days were spent waiting in Guiyang for the other members of the second part of the expedition.  As he says ... "On day two I was within five miles of the rest of the expedition, which had already been in the field for a month. Unfortunately that was thirty thousand feet up in a 747, and the next stop was Hong Kong."  Honestly, don't some people moan, just bad planning that's what I'd call it.

When you finally get there, An Lung County is a magnificent area with cone karst and open inviting cave entrances where ever you looked for as far as the eye can see.  The area is very primitive and from what I have read appears to have changed very little in centuries.  At one house built into a cave entrance we were offered bowls of hot water to drink, the owner being to poor to afford tea.

Over the next two months all the usual superlatives, ego it must be the deepest, longest, biggest, widest, highest, tallest etc. were heard to issue forth as the usual countless virgin caves were explored and surveyed.

The major find, Ban Dong, which was connected to another two cave systems Chu Yan Dong and Xi Nu is potentially the longest cave in China, with over 17 km. of passages surveyed so far, many passages looked at but not surveyed, and several going leads.  There are, for example, another two caves both over 5 kms in length just awaiting connection.  Included in the system are a sloping chamber over 300 metres long and more than 200 metres wide which was surveyed at 1.6 km in circumference, a 200 metre pitch, a collapse doline 400 metres across with 270 metre deep, overhanging walls and an entrance passage that contained a bank of clouds from wall to wall that forced us to stoop underneath it in order to see where we were going.  Mike (SVCC) carne in for some gentle leg pulling after an episode where he managed to do a 180 degree turn on his way in through the entrance passage and managed to find himself shamefaced back at the entrance.  Chu Yan Dong (Smoking Hole) gets its name from the fact that a constant cloud issues forth from the entrance shaft, like steam from a kettle, visible over 100 metres away.

The caving itself was remarkably easy and all too often we would discover evidence that we were not the first intrepid explorers that we thought we were.  In the main the caving consisted of walking through enormous passages often floored with a crazy paving of dried mud or covered in a shimmering red flowstone but occasionally with cave pearls up to the size of golf balls. I also remember several very black and very crunchy areas of flowstone that were quite painful to walk on in the condom thin rubber that the Chinese use to manufacture welly boots.  There were a few climbs and some large pitches but the overwhelming memory is one of gigantic passage widths - I'm sure that you really don't want to know about Dau Dong (Big Cave) where we found it easier to survey along the two walls rather than the more conventional approach of a centre line with passage widths - measuring a cross-section gets difficult when passage is 150 metres wide.  Our longest centre line survey leg was 160 metres and to be honest, that could have been longer still.  Oh yes there was one short length of crawling and one squeeze which gave us a    very uncharacteristic survey leg length of one metre.  It is all too easy to become very blasé about the passage dimensions and to make comments such as "That's not worth looking at its far too small to go" - that was a passage that was about 2 metres across but there again there were passages 20 metres across waiting.

However the expedition was an outstanding success, maybe because of, or maybe in spite of minor set-backs, Bob lost his passport and the expedition funds, Blitz lost 10 kg. while on a diet of rubbery rice-strips, dog and rape, (this is the green vegetable and should not be taken to indicate a 10 Kg weight loss due to frenzied sexual activity!!!) and many expedition members lost their dignity on potent rice spirit and beer at 10p a pint.  Indeed on one occasion not only did Sara have to be carried out from the banquet, she had to be carried into it first!  Yet another victim of the white spirit.

Supplies of most things were readily available once we had organised the locals and they had organised us. However the first few days at our base camp, lovingly known as Camp Squalor, pushed our resources to the limits.  (The Government says ... No camping in China, so we bivouacked at the back of a large cave entrance - it just meant we had a permanent daylight squad of up to 70 locals who would stand and stare at the crazy foreigners for hours)

For the first week we could only obtain, or so it seemed at the time, a few onions, some rape and eggs, eggs, and more eggs.  It was, to say the least, a monotonous diet.  Later in the expedition we went into the livestock business and become the proud owners of four chickens all destined for the pot.  Fresh pork was available once every six days at Do Shan market but as this would only keep till the next day it meant a binge followed by a frugal four days.  The porters were excellent and were happy to have their wickerwork back packs loaded to over full with pork, beer, and white spirit etc before being dispatched to one of the three or four outlying camps.

We had a post graduate student from the university attached to us, so for most of the time translation was not a problem.  To write that sounds almost as if we had a Government minder with us, but in the event Tan Ming proved to be a good caver and was quite happy to let us get on with the caving where and whenever.  For example Tim (SVCC) and I lodged with a farmer for a week about 5 miles away from the others while exploring a river sink, Lu Shui Dong, about the size of the River Axe at Wookey.  Indeed I remain very impressed with the almost complete lack of bureaucracy and the fact that we could go where and do what we wanted.

What more can I tell you - I could tell you of buying carbide in lumps the size of a sugar bag and how Blitz dropped one of these in a village water supply tank, of the ever present money changers, I could tell you of our journey home taking in the tourist sites of the Stone Forest, an area of phenomenal pinnacle karst and of our boat ride down the Liang river with its fantastic tower karst near Guilin, I could tell you of a local woman who on hearing our plans remarked of her friends "They will laugh so much that their teeth will drop out", I could tell you of our being arrested for cycling into a closed area (but all the signs were in Chinese), I could tell you of our 24 hour ferry ride (we travelled 5th class in a dormitory of 50 beds) across the South China Sea back to Hong Kong blissfully ignorant of 60 Chinese and Vietnamese warships about to commence battle but what more can I write?  You would never believe me.

Blitz  July 1989


Mrs. P. A. Dors

On July 19th. a large number of members of Caving Clubs from all over the country joined the Dors family and other friends at Priddy Church to attend the funeral of Mrs. "Ben" Dors.

It is sad to think we shall no longer see her sitting at the end of the bar talking cheerfully to old friends and new.

We have to thank her for the kindness and tolerance she has shown to us all during her long life.  We shall remember her with gratitude and affection.

Dan Hasell

1989 New Year Expedition to Bulmer Cavern Mount Owen, New Zealand.

The Air New Zealand ticket and baggage clerk looked at the three rucksacks on the scales, then back at the digital display - an indisputable eighty one and a half kilograms. She studied my ticket carefully once more, and asked;

"It is only the one passenger, sir'?"

"That's correct", I smiled, hopefully.

I was on my way to North-West Nelson to join one of the annual summer expeditions in the marble mountains.

The Area.

Currently this corner of New Zealand's South Island holds three significant areas of marble of interest to the caver;

In the north is Takaka Hill, the most easily accessible since a major road runs right over the top of it.  The limestone is a hard, clean, pale grey, and contains such systems as Greenlink whose furthest reaches still defy determined exploration, and Harwoods Hole, with its 200 metre entrance shaft dropping into a sporting streamway exit. The surface is grassland and patches of regenerating scrub through which project "Henry Moore" shapes of smooth-faced marble.*

South from here is Mount Arthur, whose marble top squats above the bush-line.  The major system here is Nettlebed.  Explored from the bottom, an entrance close to the Pearse resurgence, it now offers an 800 metre plus through trip, after Blizzard Pot was connected in 1987.

From the top of Mount Arthur, on a clear day, there are magnificent views of thousands of kilometres of bush-covered hills and rocky summits.  Southwards, beyond karst basins, marble outcrops and peaks, is Mount Owen, beneath whose southern slopes stretches the recently discovered Bulmer cave system.

Getting there.

The nearest main road to Mount Owen runs from Nelson down to the west coast at Westport, and the one decent ale-house en route happens to be the Owen River Tavern.  From this convenient rendezvous at the confluence of the Buller River and the Owen a gravel road leads northwards through the wide paddocks for several kilometres.

* Matt Tuck (+ Nick Hawkes) spent part of the summer here and could be persuaded to put pen to paper, I suspect.

At the last level paddock, just before to climb amongst cobbly hills of glacial moraine, on an afternoon of sunshine and showers in late December, twenty members of the expedition met up and began to stack the mass of gear into helicopter-lifting sized heaps.  While the helicopter would take up most of the food, general equipment and vertical caving gear, we would walk the track begins up carrying all personal kit.

The tops of the mountain were hidden above low cloud when the helicopter arrived, but the camp-site at Bulmer Lake, just above the bush-line, proved to be just below this layer of summer thunder showers.  Unfortunately Poverty Basin, where we intended to have a secondary expedition base, was mist enshrouded and therefore too risky for air-transport.

While the helicopter took only about ten minutes carrying up each load and then returning, we had an ascending walk of several hours to look forward to.

The logic behind not taking a whirlybird ride was that in the event of bad weather precluding aerial assistance at the end of the expedition, or at any other time, by making our own way up we would all be thoroughly familiar with the route.

As the last load disappeared into the sky we set off up the valley and were soon into the shade of the bush.  The variety of trees is mixed at first, but rapidly the southern beech dominated. Initially the path follows an old logging track, and very gently rises along the true left bank of the river. The path dropped at one point to a slippery little traverse above a deep river-edge pool, quite awkward with a heavy, unbalanced pack, but was otherwise straight-forward until we crossed the Owen and started up Bulmer Creek.  This required numerous crossings and whereas the Owen was floored with coarse gravels and small cobbles, Bulmer Creek was generally steeper, and the waters left a slick, brown slime on the much larger, rounded boulders.  For a time we left the stream altogether, where the stream tumbles through a gorge, and climbed up on the true right to follow an indistinct path in the thick beech forest.  The trees are stunted and gnarled  - most are several centuries old - and their roots, half hidden beneath years of leaves and mould, twist over the forest floor, ready to trip the unwary.

After half an hour among beech trees we emerged onto the level cobble floor of the stream, now waterless after weeks of little rain.  In low water conditions the creek trickles beneath the limestone cobbles to emerge further down-valley.  We made our way across the cobbles and among some enormous blocks, fallen from the cliffs that now enclosed us in a huge amphitheatre, and arrived at the edge of a small pool into which dropped a cascade of clear water.  This water, which resurges from the base of the cliffs only a few hundred metres away, is undoubtedly from Bulmer Cave Bulmer Lake water, marked on the map as the main source of the creek, is actually only a small fraction of this stream.

More of the resurgence later.  We climbed north westwards, through quite dense scrub which cloaked old avalanche debris. The ascent steepened, across an open grassy slope and up a little rivulet in a gully, to reach the foot of the cliffs. A substantial ledge led back east, climbing across the face for some distance until it reached a short vertical section negotiated with the aid of a piece of fencing wire and a long, tape sling. Above this the slope lessened as we followed a shallow valley, with a trickle of a stream, through more beech forest.

After a further half an hour the beech forest cleared as we reached the bush-line.   Ahead lay a long, narrow cirque containing the shallow Bulmer Lake, three quarters encircled by steep marble cliffs and screes lowering to tussocky slopes. Earlier arrivals had already pitched their tents among the trees, but most of the group with whom I walked up opted for the open, grassy flat between the forest and the lake.  We ignored the hoots of derision from those who expected the water level to rise in the next rain storm and wash us away down the hill, though I did perch my Space packer tent on the top of a little hummock.

Our kitchen and eating area was created under the slight overhang of a huge boulder, long ago tumbled from the cliffs far above.  Although this only afforded minimal shelter from the rain and none from the wind the area soon came to be used for all communal functions, survey transcriptions and creations, possum hunting, radio-communications room, etc.

The Cave.

The cave system of Bulmer presently has five known entrances: the first to be found, and the largest, is situated in the centre of the system, and is about twenty minutes walk east of the camp-site.  It is a semicircular roofed entrance dropping down a bouldery scree slope to a thirty metre pitch.  At the base of this is a long, sloping scree-floored cavern.  Up cave from here, to the north, via essentially horizontal fossil passages, leads to the vertical series up to Replica Spectacular and the closely connected Castle Keep, highest entrance to the system.  Down cave, southwards, continuing abandoned passages ultimately emerge as holes high in the cliffs above the resurgence, Eye in the Sky and Panorama Ledge Entrance.

First Trip.

My first trip into Bulmer was via Panorama.  Trevor Worthy (N.Z.), Danielle Gemenis (Aussie), Tom Miller ( U.S.) and I climbed through the bush east of the camp to emerge onto wide, smooth, sloping sheets of lapiaz.

We struck out on a more or less level route across this glacially scoured landscape, skirting between the bush below and lines of bluffs above.  The route had been previously marked with streamers of red plastic tape (a route to the toilet, some 200 metres from the camp site, had been similarly marked, explaining the discovery of an anguished, cross-legged Don Fraser being discovered half way up the hillside, crying, "Where the hell's the bog?").  Having passed below Bulmer entrance we dropped into bush and traversed to a drop to a little ledge - Panorama.  A five metre handline made the descent safer, as there is a substantial drop below. Views out across the valley are excellent, the panorama being 180 degrees from west through south to east, where distant snowy peaks of Nelson Lakes National Park complete the horizon.

Turning our backs on the wide, green landscape we crawled into a small passage in the cliff, against a cold, damp draught that is a feature of the cave system.  The low, narrow passage soon enlarged and dropped into a wide chamber, the floor of which was composed of blockfall.  At the far side the chamber gradually diminished to become discrete passage, still with fallen boulders, and the walls covered in large botryoids (botryoids and rockfall are other features of the cave). Part way along a low bedding arch leads down to the right, dropping ultimately via a complex little route to Eye in the Sky, of which more later.  The Panorama route continues north-westwards, roughly paralleling the bluffs and a major fault, and develops into a high, narrow rift.  Fixed ropes enabled us to negotiate the ups and downs of Eurus Rift, and we climbed out into larger passages that heralded the approach of Bulmer Main Entrance.  However, we spent some time "lost" in this area, searching up several avens and rifts for the route onwards.  Some quite large passage did not seem to be on the survey, and a long piece of tape had to be left behind to cope with the retreat down one climb.  Eventually we opted for a route that continued north-west around an exposed but easy traverse to enter Medusa Passage.  Here the route is smothered with huge clusters of helictites up to one centimetre wide and several tens of centimetres in length. From here we quickly reached vague daylight filtering through to the huge scree slope that is the floor of the large Bulmer Entrance chamber.  The thirty five metre pitch proved an easy, free-hanging ascent to a rock bridge, and a wide rocky ledge led round to the entrance.

The food organisers for our trip had definite vegetarian leanings, and each meal was a variation based on one kind of bean or another.  A couple of sacks of cabbages and a huge box of cucumbers slowly diminished throughout our stay, with coleslaw constantly available.  There was some confusion over the original ordering resulting in the purchase of enough tins of fish for one each every day of the expedition.  The menu was a well organised affair and, in spite of the fact that no-one was detailed for "cook of the day", food was always ready when teams emerged from the cave, often at ridiculous times.

Second Trip.

My second trip was to survey a couple of kilometres of passage found the previous day.  Trevor and I. along with Paul Wopereis and Kieran Mackay (both NZ), entered Panorama and thence dropped down to Eye in the Sky.  Turning away from the exit, which I never did get to see, we reached a wide area of breakdown where the passage floor dropped abruptly into a large shaft, the Lion's Den.  Fifty metres of slopes,       ledges and short drops led to the head of a forty metre shaft.  Kiwis tend to use chocks, pitons and natural belays wherever possible, but bolts were placed here in the absence of anything more suitable. Across the base another forty metre shaft led on down, damp and windy, and with a series of re-directional belays to create the best hang and avoid possible deluges of flood water.  Following a muddy traverse and a fifteen metre pitch we entered a high, narrow streamway that twisted awkwardly, dropping two further short pitches including Roaring Lion, before entering much more spacious older passage.

This area is only a hundred metres above the main stream, but we climbed away from this into a phreatic maze and the Speedway. A strong draught through a low section off to one side indicated the extent and significance of the passages we were to survey.  So many of the passages in Bulmer trend north-west to south-east, and these new ones were no exception.  For most of its length we mapped in a single passage, 88-not-out, with junctions turning out to be the beginnings of oxbows.  Everything about it felt old the breakdown, the abundance and sizeable growth of botryoidal stal, the totally fractured stal sheets over the floor, and the section of passage whose floor was covered in a thick layer of white powder, hydromagnesite.  (Higher levels of the cave have been dated to at least 350,000 years).  Our survey ended at a draughting choke, which could be easily dug.  A quick computation of the survey figures and drawing of the map the following day revealed this choke as being close to the Blowhole, a huge phreatic segment in the bluffs.

We emerged after dark, and took ages searching about the bush and lapiaz for red tape, which does not show up much at night.  Eventually we were guided down to the camp by the noise of the Australian Whistling Frogs, who inhabit the lake and keep unhappy cavers awake all night with their din. Tonight, however, we were to be spared this joy, and reminded instead that we were camped at 1300 metres in latitude 40 south.  The wind rapidly increased and torrents of rain swept over the cliffs and into our cwm. Hoop tents wobbled like demented jellies and Tom's U.S. wonder-dome flattened itself into the grass, while Tom himself shivered the night through in a pool of soggy down.


The cold, damp air, the hard, sharp marble, and frequent changes of carbide which penetrated and infected every little cut, combined to shred the skin off my hands and give me an excuse to go prospecting on the surface.  Bulmer resurgence had been discovered in the 70's, along with the huge phreatic passage of Whalesmouth Cavern, next to Blowhole.  Bulmer Main Entrance was found on the first day of 1985 and. since most subsequent work has been towards extending and surveying this, surface work has been limited and sporadic.  Gormenghast, a shaft system north of Bulmer Main Entrance, may well link onto the system.  North-east of the Bulmer Basin cwm, just at the edge of the bluff, lies the Amphitheatre, a deep cliff-fringed pit 150 metres in diameter, that has to be a collapsed cavern.

Oz Patterson. Greg ...... and I worked over the karst between the camp site and the Blowhole, mostly among the beech, where we found a number of shafts, but these did not extend more than a few tens of metres.  Our main objective was to attempt to find a short route into the 88-not-out area, or into the short section between there and Blowhole.  It cannot be claimed that the karst has been thoroughly prospected - in the forest it is easy to miss even quite large holes, while many of the narrower shafts are covered over at the top with fallen trees, mosses and the prolific growth of this rainforest floor.  Much could lie hidden for decades here.

We came out in the drizzle the next day, joined by Kip, but significant new cave remained elusive. The others went into Blowhole to search in the draughting rockfall and to "take the airs" - a team had simultaneously made their way to the end of 88-not-out and were burning kerosene soaked cloth at the terminal choke.  No fumes were detected and the location of this obvious connection is a mystery.  Meanwhile, returning via a higher route to the camp, I found more deep shafts, but their exploration is yet to come.

One of the significant landmarks of the area is the Bulmer Buttress, which resembles a giant, pale tuatara (a long-lived dragon-like reptile, from the age of dinosaurs). This pale limestone outcrop catches the light rather spectacularly at sunset and dusk, changing from grey, to pink or orange.  At night its dark, huddled shape often acted as a guiding beacon to cavers astray on the bare lapiaz.  Just beyond the Buttress is Gormenghast, which was slowly being pushed deeper in the hopes of creating a link with the Bulmer system.  North from here soon drops into the long closed depression of Castle Basin.  Another route into Castle Basin is from Bulmer Lake cwm, via the Amphitheatre and a nearby col.

We chose one of the really good days to carry equipment up to Poverty Basin, ready for a small camp so that this area could be prospected further. With seven of us, the loads were fairly light and we quickly reached Castle Basin, whose grassy floor was speckled with bright upland flowers of yellow and white.  Climbing the steep headwall of the Basin brought us to a rocky outcrop, containing the phreatic segment of Castle Keep - Replica Spectacular.  We traversed through this short section of cave and dumped our loads at the Replica end.  Ahead, separating us from the contorted strata of Replica Hill, was the broad Poverty Basin, grass floored except for a distinctive orange gash in the glacial debris.

Three of the team set off across the Basin to have a look at an obvious cave high in the south face of Replica Hill, and to search for Owen Ice Cave, one of the few caves in New Zealand with permanent ice formations.  With the other three I headed up eastwards, climbing rapidly to the summit of Mount Owen.  Although a few clouds had crept across the sky, and Mount Arthur, far to the north, was obscured, the three hundred and sixty degree panorama of peaks and bush was spectacular, and the limestone country within it every bit as inspiring as European Alpine karst.  To the south the mountain dropped steeply into a chaos of sharp fluted stone blind valleys, vertical sided ridges and deep, narrow shafts floored with loose rocks. Although we searched into various holes none seemed of any spelaeological significance.

Into Whalesmouth.

Chris Pugsley, Joe Arts, Paul and I headed across to Whalesmouth the next day, and surveyed down to the resurgence entrance.  A chill draught spills out of the huge Whalesmouth entrance and funnels down the scree valley below.  We mapped down this slope, and then into dense bush, where the tangle of plants made surveying well nigh impossible.  To reach the entrance involved a climb up a cliff, with shrubs, mud and loose boulders for holds (a hundred kilo block nearly demolished Chris, and much native bush had to be destroyed in order to recover the compass, dropped from the ledge), and then a slippery, exposed but well protected traverse on a narrow ledge twenty metres above the resurging stream.

The ledge ends at a gnarled tree, and a short climb up between the tree and the rock reaches a more substantial ledge, overhung by a huge flake of rock.  Resembling an enormous up-and-over door, only just open, this overhangs the cave entrance.  A short scramble leads through to another big rift, parallel to the cliff edge, and an easy climb up the inner wall of this arrives at horizontal passage and the sound of rushing water.  After a short distance we were in a chamber, with water from the five metre waterfall at one corner running amongst the cobbles of the floor and disappearing into a narrow slot on its way to the resurgence below.  The lowest section of the fall was easily avoided by crawling up through some tubes in• semi-consolidated pebbly fill, and thence an easy climb through the icy water reached horizontal stream passage.  This eventually breaks into numerous routes of a phreatic nature, and the sumps have yet to be passed.

Up above the resurgence entrance is Snarler, a flood resurgence found at the beginning of the expedition.  The current end to this is a boulder choke, which could well deserve further attention, since it may bypass the resurgence streamway sumps and quickly connect into Tropicana, the very lowest section of streamway in Bulmer itself.  Numerous other holes are visible in the cliffs around the resurgence and, looking way across the valley from here, another large entrance can be seen in a cliff in thick bush.  Some thought this could be a continuation of the Whalesmouth/Blowhole phreatic tube, pre-dating the glacial incision of Bulmer Creek valley, while others were certain it had already been checked out.  One fine day I managed to persuade Danielle to join me and check out these holes, and the following, very wet day Kieran joined us.  Two days of thrashing through bush, hanging from branches and vines, climbing up and down cliffs, streams and boulders, made us very familiar with the area but also proved that all these enticing looking entrances were but rock-shelters.

Back to Bulmer.

In Bulmer extensions were continuing to be made faster than they could be surveyed.  The complex area at the of the Lion's Den was developing into a series of roughly parallel passages beneath and to the west of Panorama/Eye In the Sky.  Although the Labyrinth streamway explorations seemed to have fizzled out somewhere beneath Bulmer Lake, the "Main" Streamway upstream waterfalls were bypassed in a huge old breakdown passage beyond Dead Coral Sea.

Survey figures were being calculated daily, with the map being added to immediately after.  A chart of our progress revealed, one evening, that the length so far surveyed had reached 25 km eclipsing Nettlebed, though this latter can still claim the NZ depth record.  Our daily radio schedule with the pair prospecting out at Poverty Basin must have revealed our excitement throughout the mountain radio band.

Some of the best formations in the cave are nearest to the main entrance, and accessible within half an hour.  A large group of us went into the Road to Nowhere towards the end of the expedition to goggle at, and to photograph, the impressive arrays of helictites and anthodite clusters.  They are confined to one short section of this abandoned stream passage, and are quite difficult to capture of film because of the narrowness of the passage. They are particularly vulnerable and it is fortunate that the passage, true to its name, is a cul-de-sac, although Gormenghast is not so very far from this region and a link is not out of the question.

Last Trip.

My last trip into the system was to survey the upstream, left-hand branch above the waterfalls. The right hand branch had been explored and surveyed to sumps, and no route had been found beyond as yet. Tom, Danielle and I made our way over to Panorama yet again and thence along the now familiar Lion's Den pitches.  Some of the ropes here were beginning to show signs of severe wear, either because of bad rub points or because of rockfall - the top series of little climbs was particularly prone to this latter.  Both the solid rock and the ubiquitous grit are extremely abrasive, and the Lion's Den pitches had seen a disproportionately large number of descents and ascents, since they provide the only access to the Main Stream and all its extensions.  The sheath had worn completely through on one of the forty metre drops, and another sheath severed on the de-rigging party.

Chris Pugsley had found the left hand upstream branch, along with another kilometre of passages, and had carefully marked the route to it with cairns and copious quantities of red tape.  Having followed mainly huge breakdown passage, often walking in the roof on enormous boulders that appeared to be the floor until we came unexpectedly to sheer drops of many metres, we entered a more confined zone of short crawls and climbs in collapse.  As the passage enlarged we were confronted by Chris's bunting and soon found the route to the streamway.  A climb down on and under a loosely consolidated pile of boulders revealed the water rushing along several metres below us, but the final descent did not look very easy.  While Danielle went off exploring a high level route above the right hand stream, Tom disappeared to retrieve a rope from a now bypassed climb.  Re-united we discovered that the descent was, in fact, very straightforward, but then confusion set in.  We were not certain which streamway we had entered, so we explored downstream shortly to a waterfall.  We had been told that both branches dropped down waterfalls and immediately linked.  Further, we understood that it was possible to climb around the head of one waterfall directly to the head of the other.  None of this fitted the facts as we saw them - no second stream or waterfall was visible from here.  Much time was wasted searching for an easy link to the other stream, until we decided to link our survey into Chris's cairns.

Now the hard work began: in many parts of the cave thirty metre leg lengths are easily possible; our average must have been three or four; the passage was narrow, it twisted and turned, the water, bitterly cold, could not always be avoided, and occasionally cascades attacked us from above.  Before long Tom and Danielle were chilled (in my Troll oversuit I was smugly snug) and we stopped surveying at a short cascade, beyond which I explored infuriatingly easy, straight passage, with slowly lowering roof, for a couple of hundred metres.  This soon sumps but there are many high level holes which could afford a bypass (see Post-script).

We had a steady Journey out, and emerged just before dawn after seventeen hours underground.  We dawdled through the bush and across the lapiaz, stopping occasionally to watch the sky lighten and to listen to the morning chorus of bell-birds tuning up, their single fluting notes echoing in the still, clear air.  Bulmer was now surveyed to twenty seven and a half kilometres and still going - probably the longest in Australasia.

Bassett, Auckland, N.Z., March 1989.


This sump, at the end of International Streamway, has been passed via the high level holes, and at least a kilometre of passages have been surveyed beyond.  These include numerous small phreatic tubes and the huge "Awesome Avens", whose floor area is several hundred square metres, and whose height is too great to see or even guess.  Perhaps their tops are accessible through as yet undiscovered entrances in Poverty Basin, beneath which the avens climb.

Bulmer is now surveyed to 150 metres short of 30 kilometres, and should be well in excess of this figure by the time you read this article.


A Summary of fauna found inhabiting the Belfry region of Mendip


This elusive animal may be easily identified by its short cropped hair, facial growth and generously proportioned snout!

Although it periodically migrates to South Wales to indulge in its ritual digging frenzies, it may often be found in the Priddy area working hard to convert "Butcombe" (its staple diet) into more organic compounds. (Quote ... "P*ss, Sh*t and pjh*gm!" .. unquote!).


The SNABLET is a strange little creature.  Slightly built yet possessed of strength far beyond its apparent capabilities with a thirst and capacity for liquid refreshment that can only be described as legendary.  It has been said that it can actually lift a pint glass and drain it without any outside assistance, although personally I find this rather hard to believe.

Although small this animal can make a remarkable amount of noise for its size, characterised by its cries of "AAARRRGGGHHH YOU BAAASTAAARDSS" heard on Saturday nights after closing time.  (Usually because the other critters have decided to tie it up again!)

However its size enables it to "Boldly cave where no man has caved before!"  It gets its Latin name from its ability to vanish into the smallest of spaces underground.  (Many wish it would just plain vanish!!!!!)


Probably one of the more dedicated creatures of the area, the TREBOR spends most of its time underground building dams.  When not involved in this activity it may be found cleaning various bits of limestone with an array of collected implements, or busily foraging for scraps of paper and discarded kit that it then transports to the surface and ejects! When above ground it is constantly painting, brushing and cleaning the immediate vicinity in between helping out other local creatures with a variety of tasks.  It is largely due to this animal that the area is as clean as it is.


Genetically ingrained in the Dani is the urge to build.  Thus it may often be found on Mendip erecting structures for other creatures.

At night however its habits change and it may be found anyone of a number of watering holes.  It is easily identifiable by its characteristic headdress ( a piece of checked cloth) as well as its mating calls .... "eeee-hawwww" and "I F*ckin' spect!"


Contrary to popular opinion this is not a member of the Weasel family (That's just a vicious rumour.) although it may be related to the house marten as it keeps getting bigger ones!

Interestingly, it is accompanied by its mate almost everywhere, except on its underground forays when it is usually accompanied by the pseudo mole the SMART.   The GRASS-MARTEN is a natural administrator and is fond of forming committees and attending meetings which it does with a certain flair when allowed to do so.


Not to be confused with the SMART, the JIM SMART is an entirely different animal.  Instantly identifiable by its crowning ring of red fur and freckled features it also has a distinctive odour not unlike that of burning hemp!!

This is another creature prone to bouts of disappearance and indeed has not been spotted in the area for some time now.


Rumoured to originate from Wales this mammal has been resident in the area for some time now.  It may often be seen travelling at great speed (and in considerable style) around the streets of Wells and the outlying area. Like the TREBOR it spends much of its life underground and indeed has been known to lure other creatures into its favoured sub-terranium  haunts.


Until recently this rodent was only to be found in the area at weekends as the earlier part of its life is spent mapping known routes for no good reason I can see.  However now that it has reached maturity (comparatively anyway) it will reside almost exclusively in the Mendip locale.  It may often be found in the Belfry on Saturday nights and is quite friendly, often trying to communicate with other creatures with its cries of "Mineshapintpleesshhhhhhhh!" and "Who' ad-th'f'ckin'barrell".  It will also "sing" on a good night, before slipping into unconsciousness on the floor.


This is probably the most ferocious and unpredictable of all "Belfryites".  It is recognisable by the mass of wiry hair where its head should be (about eight feet above the ground!)

Due to its extreme size and strength there are not many of the local creatures that will cross this ones path.  Impossible to tame or train the BIFFO is a law unto itself and has a penchant for pyrotechnics on its doorstep regardless of its own safety or popularity.

It does have some interesting habits such as rising at dawn to dance on Glastonbury Tor covered in bells and waving bits of cloth, although no-one is quite sure why it does this.

**N.B.**  It is best observed from a safe distance and left well alone.


A relative newcomer to the area the MONGO is nonetheless an integral part of local ecology.  An extremely fair complexion and almost white fur mean that it stands out quite vividly and is not difficult to spot.  It lives on pretty much anything out of a bottle and is very partial to certain 'Erbs of ethnic origin.  It has an interesting habit of screeching "MELLOOOOOOOOW" whilst mating.


This animal is rarely seen as it is usually stuck underground somewhere.


Marked by a striking red mane, (unusual for a female bird) green rubber feet and a green waxy outer skin the BABZ can often be seen roaring around the area in its mate's Land-Rover.  Until recently it was to be exclusively found at the Belfry but has of late transferred its nest to a grotty little hole the other side of Eastwater Cavern.

Living almost entirely on Cider, Consulate and Beefsteak it is an extremely dangerous bird to get on the wrong side of and, knowing no fear, is one of the few creatures known to have tackled an enraged BIFFO


As mentioned above the SMART spends much of its time with the GRASS-MARTEN.  Indeed they may often be seen together, along with their mates, in the deeper recesses of the Hunters Lodge Inn.

The SMART has an uncanny ability to pass on knowledge to the offspring of other creatures (hence 'academica') and spends much of its time doing this.  Periodically however this animal disappears for long periods, it has been hypothesised that it migrates to China during these times, although this has been the subject of fierce debate.

ROMFORD (PHILISOPHICUS - as in 'Phil is off - icus')

Sadly we are down to our last mating pair of these, and they too will soon disappear as the mid-life urge to migrate to sunnier climes takes a hold.

The male Romford is distinguishable by the luxuriant growth of silver fur, almost hair like in quality, around its face and head as well as its unparalleled talent for business ventures. Indeed they have been known to inhabit the same nesting site for years at a time, usually only vacating it when threatened by rodents such as the J-RAT!!

The female of the species, though not similar in appearance, has the same characteristic air of calm and serenity which is only disturbed by the intake of large amounts of alcohol - a pastime both male and female seem to be fairly adept at!!

In later life the Romford will suddenly decide to up roots and quite literally sail off into the sunset in search of a new life, such as property speculation or even electronics.