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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



Well it looks like I'm stuck with the job for another year!!  As I said in my report, I am fully prepared to do this year, but will not be available to continue for a third year.

We need to be looking for a candidate to take on the editor’s position from next October, I know it seems like a long way away, but it's only six Belfry Bulletins away.  I feel that it would be of great advantage to the incoming editor to get involved in this year's editorial team and get an idea of what is involved.  In case anyone is under any delusions that I use a fancy desktop publishing program to create the BB, they would be wrong; I am using Microsoft Word 97.

I am getting a lot of promises for articles for future BBs, please can you try and get these to me as soon as possible so I can plan ahead for the contents of the BBs.

The cut of for the next BB is 2nd December.  The February one will be about a month late as I am in India, so unless anyone fancies doing the BB for me, it will have to wait until I get back!!

(Note: I have put the cut off and due dates for all next years BBs in the rolling calendar- hopefully this will help a bit with the timing of articles).


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

Members News

Congratulations to Gwyn and Chris Taylor on the birth of their son, Samual Joseph on 28th September.

Pete and Anita MacNab's daughter Sian, was married to Dave Annakin on the 10th October.  Although neither are currently members of the club, about half the BEC must have attended their wedding reception at Priddy Village Hall.  (Wow what a spread, I don't think I've ever seen as much food!)  Sian's married name is now Sian Annakin - make of that what you want!!!

Here is the photo of the typical 'BEC Bride'!  (photo by Chas Wethered)


It has been noticed that an awful lot of cavers have nicknames.  Some have taken them on instead of real names!!  I would like to create the definitive list of BEC nicknames and how they got them for future publication.  I want information about all nicknames in the BEC, so no matter how incriminating the nickname or the reason behind the nickname may be, I want to know.  Ed.


This was held on Saturday 3rd October.  The AGM was just about quorate.  The minutes and a copy of the accounts will be issued to members with the March BB. The new committee is as published in the front of the BB.

BEC Computer

Some of you may be aware that about a year ago, the BEC acquired enough second hand bits and pieces from donations to make a PC for the club library.  This PC is unable to do what the club now requires from a computer - it is too old!  Dave Turner and Wig are working on putting BEC logbooks and general caving information on CDROM and at the moment we are unable to use this as a resource.  What I am looking for is any spare computer bits that anyone has had removed after an upgrade.  We need a 500MB or larger HDD, a Pentium motherboard and processor and memory. If anyone does have ANY unwanted computer bits, in any make, size or form that they would be prepared to donate to the BEC, I will make up the best PC I can for the library, and use any extras to make up systems and sell on, with all proceeds from this going back into the library.   Ed.


To make it clear to all members of the BEC.

The financial year for the BEC ends on the 31st August each year.  All receipts and account records held by any members of the club must be submitted to the treasurer as soon as possible after this date.  We do not want a repeat of what happened this year, with no full set of accounts being able to be submitted to the AGM.  This was because the hut warden failed to give hut accounts until 2 days before the AGM, and the treasurer did not have time to complete the accounts.  The committee has now viewed the accounts at the November meeting and is satisfied with their content.  If any member wishes to view the accounts before they are sent out in March, please contact the treasurer.

Annual Dinner

The dinner was at Langford Veterinary College again this year and as far as I am aware was an enjoyable event for all those who attended.  Tony Jarratt won the Boar of the Year after spending all of the last year trying to get everybody digging in Five BuddIes and Pete Glanvill did a 'guess the cave' photo competition.  The impromptu, out of tune, singing session at the Belfry afterwards was enjoyed by all those who came back, as was the bar.  Many thanks to Nigel Taylor for organising the dinner.


Photos are still required for the photo board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in - Ed.

BEC V Wessex Cricket Match

The cricket match was declared a draw as rain stopped play during the BEC's second innings.  The teams seemed happy to play on, but the umpire left the field, so there was no choice but to finish.

The cricket was followed by a very damp barbecue at the Wessex, with the barbecue outside and everyone huddled inside!!

BEC Website

Is accessible at the following URL http://www.mendipnet.co.uk/BECWEBSITE/BEC.html

The links from most of the main caving web-sites are now pointing to the correct site.

Other Websites

If you are connected to the Internet, you are probably aware of some of the many caving related Websites that are available.  Pick of the month must definitely be the new Descent Website at: http://www.caving.co.uk.com/

It has loads of information on what is going on in the caving world, information about caving shops, cavers, training, photo and art galleries, and loads of links.  Another site worth a look if you are a cave diver or interested in getting involved with cave diving is the 'Official Website of the Cave Diving Group of Great Britain' which is located at: http://www.demon.co.ukIstoneweb/cdg/index.htm/

The Mendip Newspage hosted by Andy Sparrow can be found at:


BEC Stomp

On the 12th September the BEC held a stomp to raise money for replacement of the fire and help with the library. Unfortunately this was poorly attended and we broke even rather than raising funds!  I guess everyone must have been spent out after a hard summer's caving!!!  There will be another stomp on 30th January 1999.


Burrington Cave Atlas - Photo / Picture Competition

I am running a competition for the front cover photograph or picture for the new updated Burrington Cave Atlas, which is due for release towards the end of this year.  I am looking for something that will give the feel of Burrington Combe.  The prize for the winner will be a copy of the Atlas and also a copy of the new Mendip Underground when it is released, so come on all you photographers, get snapping or delve into those archives for that picture.

(I am also looking for suitable photos for inside the Atlas, so if you don't win, you photo could still be in the Atlas, fully credited of course!)

Please send any pictures to the Estelle address in the front cover - I will return all pictures that are sent to me.   I need these as soon as possible so as to try and publish in Dec/Jan.

BCRA Meeting

Regional One-day meeting to be held in Priddy Village Hall at 9:30am on 21/11/98.  Topics include in-depth lectures on Swildons and St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Enquiries to Dave Irwin, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.


It's that time again! Time to pay your annual subscription. For members there should be a loose membership form enclosed and also a pre-addressed envelope enclosed. Membership rates are £28 for single with a reduction of £4 to £24 if you pay before the 31st December and £42 for joint membership with a reduction of £4 to £38 if you pay before 31 st December. Please return the form as this is being used to check your address is correct.

Please note that if you do not pay your membership fees before the 31st December, you will receive no further Belfry Bulletins until you have paid; we cannot guarantee to hold any Belfry Bulletins you may have missed due to late payment.

Life Members

There is also a form enclosed for life members to fill in.  We received several Belfry Bulletins back with 'not known at this address' on them last year, so please make sure by filling in the form that your address is current with the Membership Secretary.  There is also a short questionnaire for life members on the back of the forms.


Dr. Peter Glanvill had a bit of an accident during the week.  He was in his car and was hit by an ambulance.  They had to get another ambulance to take him into hospital, one to take the paramedics to hospital and one to go to the original incident as the one that hit him was on its way to another casualty.  Pete escaped with bruising and whiplash injuries.  Business must be a bit slack if ambulances are having to create their own casualties!!

Hazelnut Swallet

Hazelnut Swallet diggers had a recent breakthrough of 40ft.  The total surveyed length of the cave is 76ft.  The current end is a tight streamway, which needs digging, but is an ongoing situation.  A report and hopefully the survey will appear in the next BB.  Contact Mike Willett or Nick Mitchell for more information.


The last few weekends have caused some very high water levels in many of Mendip's caves. Swildons at one point was flowing over 6ins above the entrance in the blockhouse.  Priddy Pool in Nine Barrows Lane was flowing over the road to the Pump house by Swildons where there was a 100yd-diameter lake.  The water was running overland to Swildons entrance.

Swildons was at this level twice in a week.  If the water is going in the blockhouse, the two danger areas are 'The Eyehole' below the old 40' and also 'The Shrine', which is just below the 20'.  Photographs of the midnight white water trip will be on Andy Sparrow's Mendip News Website shortly and a selection will appear in the next BB.  Longwood had a large lake that ponded by the dry stone wall.

Eastwater was flowing 6-8in over the entrance.

In GB you could swim into the ladder dig from the oxbows.

Wheel Pit was flooded to within 10ft of the road level and at the dig in Five BuddIes it was neck deep, but not backing up.  This means that the difference between Wheel Pit and the water level at the bottom of Five BuddIes is about 24ft.  It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in the dig in here when the water levels get back to normal.

In Burrington Combe, East Twin and West Twin streams were both flowing well onto the road and most of the water coming down the road was sinking just above Aveline's in the ground opposite the car park.

New Members

We would like to welcome new members John Williams and Tim Lamberton into the club.

Diggers Dinner and Disco

This will be held at the Wookey Hole Inn on 21st of November from 8pm 'til late.  There are a few tickets left.

Please contact Vince Simmonds on 01749 xxxxxx if you are interested in coming along.

Belfry Stove

Anyone who has visited the Belfry in the last few weeks cannot have failed to notice the new stove. Many thanks to Ivan Sandford for building and installing this new fire.  The Belfry now has it's own climate - tropical!!!


Is anyone interested in snowboarding?  Carol 'Whitemeg' White is looking for people who are interested in snowboarding in the Alps during the first 2 weeks of February.  Caravan accommodation is £250 divided by the number of people sharing. Carol can be contacted during the day on 01452 x

BEC gets $100 Million!!!

(This appeared in a Newsletter from the Bahamas Tourist Board and was submitted by Martin Grass)

BEC to Cut Sulphur Emissions

The Bahamas Electricity Corporation will be decreasing its sulphur emissions at Clifton Pier by almost 50 per cent.  Texaco won the contract to supply BEC from Esso who has held the contract for more than 10 years.

BEC says its switch to low sulphur fuel is in compliance with the environmental requirements of the Inter-American Development Bank who have provided a $100 million loan for the expansion of BEC.  Sulphur Dioxide is responsible for creating acid rain.

Otter Hole

Otter Hole is now closed for the remainder of the season due to pollution and bad air.  Smells of diesel have been progressively getting worse over the year and what appears to be an oxygen deficiency has dealt the final blow for this season.

Goughs Cave, Cheddar

On 27th August, Clive Stell supported by Jon Edwards reached the boulder choke in sump three of Gough's cave.  Things have changed little since Rob Palmer made his dives to the "end" on19/20th May 1990 and 8th July 1990.

During the intervening years, various members of the Wessex have dived the site but this is the first time that the end has been revisited.  It is hoped that progress will be made through the boulder choke over the next few months.

Bat Grilles

It now looks as though Box Stone Mines may be the next in line to be fitted with bat grilles. English Nature have confirmed its wishes to install grilles at this site and is in negotiations with the owners at present.  An enquiry revealed that no decision has been made, so there is no time scale at present for this, but access would naturally be affected by such an action.

Bolt Update

Resin anchors have been installed on the Entrance, New Atlas and High Atlas pitch heads in Thrupe. The climb to Ladder Dig in GB has now been resin anchored and work will begin on Rhino Rift soon.  There are two stripped spits in Hunter's Hole; one over the main pitch and one above Far Right Pitch. Coral Cave has recently been SRT bolted.



The Uamh an Claonaite Annual Dinner Rescue

The GSG Annual Dinner was thrown into semi-disarray when a cave rescue callout was initiated only a couple of hours earlier.  This was the 24th October.  The rains hit Sutherland in the way they had hit Mendip all day as well.  Water levels rose dramatically during the day and 4 cavers, including Alan 'Goon' Jeffrey's were trapped the wrong side of the Sump I bypass.  Fortunately the rains stopped for a while, allowing the levels to drop enough for the trapped party to be brought out through the sump using diving gear.

Definitely a case of Uamh an Claonaite - 2, Goon - Nil!!

Below is the Newspaper cutting from the 'Press and Journal' of Scotland on the 26/10/98.

A full report from the Mendip GSG members of the week in Scotland will appear in the next BB.

Downpour leaves potholers trapped in Sutherland cave

by Dawn Thompson

FOUR potholers walked laugh­ing and joking from a Sutherland cave yesterday after 14 hours trapped Underground by rising floodwater.

As they tried to make their way out of the Clayonite cave system in Sutherland, they found their exit blocked.

But help was not far away ­more than 50 members of the Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation were in Inchnadamph for their annual dinner.

When the potholers - two men, a l5-year-old boy and a woman - from Edinburgh­based Grampian Spelaeological Group, also in the area for the dinner, failed to return, mem­bers of the SCRO went out to look for them.

The four escaped when the water level fell and two divers, also association members, helped them duck underwater and out of the cave.  Assynt Mountain Rescue Team and offi­cers

from Northern Constabulary were also in attendance.

David Warren, 46, of the SRCO, said the group had gone in at about noon on Saturday.

"There was basically an extremely large downpour of rain which blocked the cave, about 300 yards from the entrance.

"At about 5.30pm, we real­ised they were overdue.  We sent up four cavers and four cave divers, who worked out that the cave was blocked.  The cave divers went through to the party and spoke to them."

Mr Warren said two of the cavers were very experienced, the others less so.

One knew the cave extremely well and the group, all equipped with wetsuits and lamps, sat tight in a cavern - about the size of "a small bedroom", with a dry mud floor - above the water level.

"We had communication with them

with the cave divers right through.  Hot food was taken through to them, and warm clothing, and we knew the water level was dropping," Mr Warren said.

He added that· the higher chambers had not had water in for thousands of years they had known they would remain dry.                    

"Once we knew they were in these caves, we were quite relaxed.  You can hear the roaring of the water but you're not being splashed," he said.            

"It was a matter of sitting it out until the water level dropped.  By 2am, it had dropped sufficiently for them to exit the cave.  It was quite uneventful.

"They had to hold their breath and go underwater just for a few seconds."

Once out, the four were able to walk, smiling and joking with rescuers.

They were quite cold, but they were chatty - pleased to be out. The whole thing went very well," Mr Warren said

"The only real problem was they missed their annual dinner.  People in the rescue party were coming back from the cave, changing, having dinner and then going back afterwards.  It was all in the best possible them and taste."

One of the two divers who took part in the rescue even returned to the Inchnadamph Hotel and - still wearing his wetsuit - ate his meal.  Hotel owner Anne Archibald said: "The dinner was planned for 7.30pm and, obviously, by the time we were ready to serve the dinner, there were only half there.

"We knew there were quite few missing. We said we'd hang on for another hour to see what happened.  At 8.30pm, we started serving the dinner and the majority of them had their food then.

People kept coming in dribs and drabs.

"We ended up laughing about it because if we hadn't we'd have cried."



Note from Harry Stanbury

In BB 497, Dave Irwin mentions the missing First Volume of the BEC Log.  Whilst I can't solve that problem, I can clarify details of the original Dural Ladder construction.

I had read Casteret’s "10 years Under the Earth" and thought that his Electron ladders were incredible - small, light and strong.  At that time I was one of a team renewing the electrics in a large factory that had been converted to turn out 'bits and pieces for aircraft' - parts of the fuselages for Horsa gliders (to be used in D-Day) tail planes for Baracudas and lots of other similar things.  This was 1942.

Incidentally it was there that I first met Dan Hasell and Roy Wallace and introduced them to caving.

Among the 'bits and pieces' that were 'scrapped' were lengths of aircraft control wire and short lengths of Dural tube.  I was able to 'scrounge' two lengths of control wire - about 50ft each and enough Dural tubing to make a 40ft ladder.  Problem!!  How to fix the wire to the rungs (or the rungs to the wire) so that we could use the ladder without the rungs (or the person on them) sliding in a heap to the bottom!!

Answer: NUTS!!  (Plus bolts)  This is before the days of ferrules and crimping!  Holes were drilled at right angles.  Bolts pushed through, flux, solder and heat applied and Voila! - a permanently attached rung.


The ladder was tested and was successful.  Angus told me sometime ago that this original ladder was still at the Belfry (not in use of course).  Is this still true??

 (Note from Ed. - We have checked the Belfry we cannot find the ladder!  Does anyone know the whereabouts of this ladder??)


Feedback on Bertie

From Harry Stanbury

I haven't a clue on how many 'different' Berties there have been, but I can possibly cast a little ray of light on the earliest ones.

Very early in the club's history it was decided that we needed an 'emblem'.  A bat was obviously the beastie, as our parents/friends all thought that we were 'batty' to want to crawl about in the dark, wet and cold. It was also regarded as ideal because of its ability to navigate underground.

'Bertie' first appeared on our 'Rules and Constitution leaflet' in, I believe, 1937, and was used for many years.  I have no idea what happened to the original block.

The next Bertie appeared when we made a small number of car/motorbike badges.  These were 3" diameter metal discs.  Hand painted with 'BRISTOL EXPLORATION CLUB' around the perimeter and 'Bertie' in the centre.  There is a photograph of this one on the front of my old Ford, taken when the club's exhibit won the first prize in the annual Bude Carnival.

The first 'pin-on' badge was thought up by Ken Dobbs, who made a number in 'Wood's metal'.  They were about an inch across.  I still have mine and I saw Dan Hasell wearing his last time we met.

I'm sure since those days there are others that can continue the Bertie saga with details of the later Lapel Badge and of course the 'current' car badge.


BCRA Regional One Day Meeting

All are welcome




09.30 Coffee and biscuits

09.45 Photographic portrait of Swildons Hole - Peter Glanvill

10.15 Coffee break

10.20 Early ideas on the geomorphology of Swildons Hole - Les Williams

10.45 Diving the Swildons Sumps in the 1950s - Fred Davies

11.10 Coffee break

11.15 Exploring Swildons Sumps since 1965 - Mike (Trebor) McDonald

11.35 The Geomorphology of the Wookey Catchment - Andy Farrant

12.30 - 14.00 Lunch break - food and beer available on the premises plus Videos and computer slide shows compiled by Maurice Hewins and Dave Irwin


14.00 Early exploration of Swildon's Hole - Dave Irwin

14.30 Photographic portrait of St. Cuthbert's Swallet - Peter Glanvill

15.00 Coffee break

15.15 The Hydrology of the Wookey Catchment - Roger Stenner

1600 Early attempts at digging in the St. Cuthbert's Swallet Catchment - Dave Irwin

16.30 Coffee break

16.45 General discussion

17.15-1730 - clear up!

Bar, refreshments, displays and club stands

NOVEMBER 21st, 1998


Admission £1.00 at the door.

Further details from Dave Irwin, Priddy, Somerset.

Clubs wishing to set a sales or display stand should contact Dave Irwin


Climbing? !!!!!

By Kangy King

Stunned by the esteemed Mr. Wilson's climbing article, because I'd become accustomed to reading 'All About Caving', I hunted out some old BBs.  Sure enough those edited by Harry Stanbury in the '50's had lots of interesting climbing stuff in them Dennis Kemp wrote about duff (note for the young, duff means crap) karabiners, Jack Weadon warned about the lack of belays on 'Tyro's Crack' on the Rock of Ages in Burrington (there was nothing to hitch a sling around until the top of the climb was reached at 140ft, climbing ropes were then uniformly 120ft in length and chocks hadn't been invented, leaving twenty feet in which to become creative.  Leaders were considered to be expendable) and Tom Fletcher wrote a huge article about Spitzburgen for the l00th BB.

In those days a primary interest of many members was climbing.  My first climb was 'Piton Route' in the Avon Gorge pioneered by the amazing Balcombe who was also very active in primitive cave diving.  There were very few climbers and lots of opportunity to explore.  The very first Guide to our area "Limestone Climbs in South-West England" by Hugh Banner in 1954, thanked Pat Ifold and Dave Radmore of the BEC for their "great assistance in the production of this guidebook". I still have my copy of this Guide, which listed 98 climbs, from the Avon Gorge to Ebbor and Cheddar, most of which we'd done anyway before the Guide was published.  We met two brothers, Admiral and Commander Lawder, who cheered us on at Cheddar while we fiddled about trying to find new routes and who later showed us the Dewerstone near Plymouth.  The Lawders were wildly enthusiastic and the last time I heard of them they had fallen off 'Square Chimney' - guide book quote - "loose and filthy but provides good exercise" fortunately only breaking bones.

We went frequently to North Wales at weekends in a variety of hired bangers, or by motor bike, with enough support to warrant maintaining a small hut near Llyn Ogwen in the Nant Ffrancon valley.  That collapsed and during the '60's we used the Bunkhouse at Gwern y Gof Isaf.

There are plenty of BEC caving reports but the only BEC climbing guide that I can remember was a Club Report entitled "Some Sandstone Climbs in the Upper Frome Valley at Bristol" which has action photographs of "Eaves" showing heave-ho moves under and over an overhang.  I went back to the area later and dug out more.  An article in the 50th Anniversary Belfry Bulletin described these. The best was called 'Golden Daffodil'. It is interesting to see our more heroic efforts picked out in chalky hand marks.  The climbs have been renamed and described again in the latest South West Guide.  We spent hours ripping ivy and loose rocks from the steeper bits and picking out lines. The re-discoverer must have been really pleased to have found these nice bits of bare rock just waiting to be climbed! However I must admit that, now the adrenaline of exploration has subsided, scrambling up the loose rock, dust and dirt of the final yard or so of subsoil was fairly unpleasant.  Nice steep energetic climbs though.

Since those days we haven't really had an organised climbing section which is a pity as "We are The Exploration Club", which sounds as if it ought to be more than just a caving club.

Despite this, I know that some of us individuals still stick together and have tried to sail in a small dinghy to Lundy to climb the 'Devils Slide'.  And thought better of it in mountainous seas!  Or more recently on treacherous terrain, to feel pretty nervous about an unforgiving mountain called Balaitous.


The Priddy Green Song!

Tune: Wandering lrishman
Author: M. Hollan
Source: Alfie

As I was a-walking one summers day o'er Mendip's pleasant face,
I came across a village green, a sylvan sort of place,
I met some cavers rough and rude, all singing this strange refrain,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

The Entrance it is narrow, boys, fed into by a drain,
Connected by some sewer pipes to some cows by Farmer Maine
The smell it is fantastical, some say it is unclean,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

The dig was started in '59 by a fellow called Hanwell, James,
Who had a reputation, boys, for playing peculiar games,
We dug it ten times over, boys, our language was obscene
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

The Entrance it is a fearsome thing, 'tis a circular concrete pot,
It's easy if you're six feet tall, for the likes of me, it's not!
There's a nailhold halfway up, my boys, only it can't be seen,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

Now someone started a rumour, boys, that you've doubtless heard before
They said the dig on Priddy Green would connect with Swildons Four,
There's only five hundred feet to go, but there's limestone in between,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

We've used ten tons of gelignite, and we've lost a man or two,
I expect well lose another, boys, before this dig is through,
But we've added a hundred feet or more to the subterranean scene,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

Additional verses compiled by A. Jarratt after the breakthrough.
Author A. Jarratt

For many years 'neath bovine waste the cave was then interred,
Until the BEC arrived - another noisome herd.
They banged the upper level to what no-one else had seen.
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

After squeezing through the bastard on the virgins they went down.
They're tight and wet and filthy and a likely place to drown.
Though they weren't the first to get there where a million worms had been.
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

So now there's a connection from the Green to Swildons four,
Created by a host of blokes O' er thirty years or more,
Though it's not an easy option if your neither fit or lean,
At least you'll never have to come and dig on Priddy Green.


A Bit of History

From Harry Stanbury

Harry sent me the following cutting from his local newspaper regarding one of the BEC's earlier 'exploits'. The 'cave' mentioned is probably a trial hole for mine workings and very rare in this part of Cornwall.  A plan was made by Don Coase and published in an early BB.

50 years ago. Aug 21, 1948

Haunted Cave - A cave about one mile along the coast to the north of Bude is reputed to be haunted.  Members of a Bristol exploration club penetrated to a depth of 70 feet from the entrance which lies at the bottom of a 200 foot cliff.  It is said that the cave extends underground to Maer Down, 1½ miles from the cliff.  A quarter of a mile nearer Bude, extending in a long slope from hundreds of feet inland is a spot locally known as 'Earthquake' the appearance of which, with its deep chasms and upheavals of rock, convey that at some previous date there was a terrific fall of cliff or eruption of earth, and where it is reputed a monastery once stood.  In the village churchyard of Poughill, three miles inland, a large stone denotes the burial place of a skeleton of a big man found at 'Earthquake' many years ago and reburied in the churchyard.  Finds in the cave, considered to be a genuine smugglers hide-out, include part of a donkey's climbing shoe and an iron spike which had been driven into the wall of the cave.  The exploration team are also diving at Wokey Hole.

Guess the Cave

Photo by Pete Glanvill

(Answer next BB)



Sleepless in A Skoda

By Vince Simmonds

A tale of a wet week in Ireland (Northern and Eire).

Saturday 5-9-98.

A bright early start saw Roz Bateman and Vince Simmonds starting their journey to Ireland via Cairnryan to Lame.

On the way we decided to spend a couple of days in Cumbria arriving at about 11 0' clock.  We headed to Fairy Cave, a site we had visited a couple of years ago and where we had noticed an interesting hole.  Located on the road to Witherslack, just below Catcrag.

Decent enough cave, easy going along mainly walking, horizontal passage.  However, we had forgotten just how deep some of the mud was. Set to the task of enlarging the hole, turned around to find Roz sinking into the mud.  As she was struggling to extricate herself a small hole low at floor level was noticed.  An extremely muddy squeeze, after some modification, led into a chamber.  Well-decorated 3m wide, 8m long and 2m high to a sump, no open passage led off.  Could not be sure whether or not this chamber had been entered before.

Sunday 6-9-98

Not such a pleasant start, low cloud and windy.

After a stop in Keswick headed for Helvellyn.  Started walking from Thirlmere water.  Steady ascent to the summit where we encountered very strong winds and low cloud. Decided against walking Striding Edge and descended via Nethermost Pike and a stroll through the forest alongside Thirlmere.

After a couple of pints we decided to head on to Cairnryan.

Spent a less than comfortable night sleeping in the van listening to the wind and rain.

Monday 7-9-98

After a very rapid crossing on the Jetliner (less than an hour) to Larne we headed for Co. Fermanagh. Still raining.

Stopped in Enniskillen for swim and shower, got some supplies and the first pint of real Guinness.

On arrival at Belcoo tried to find somewhere to pitch our tent, no luck, so out to Boho to see Brian MacKenzie at the Linnet.  He was very helpful but said his fields were too wet to camp and suggested the Quarry in Belmore Forest.

From the Quarry could not resist a walk up to Pollnagollum Coolarkan (Co. Fermanagh) the area around the entrance had been cleared since we were last here.  The 12m waterfall was very impressive swollen by the heavy rain.

Back to the Linnet for refreshment and another night in the van.

Tuesday 8-9-98

After breakfast in the Quarry we got ready to go to Coolarkan.

We spent 3 hours on, in and around this enigmatic cave once cast as "a slur on Irish caving".

For those people who haven't seen this cave a brief description.  As already mentioned a 12m waterfall enters from one side of the large entrance arch which leads onto large walking passage.  Easy going leads to a massive choke; there are no side passages. Beyond the choke there is potential for 1.8kms of cave passage.

After spending some time having a few tentative prods in the choke we decided to return to the surface and have a look at the shakehole that forms part of the choke.  It was a bit of a struggle through thick scrub to reach it and on arrival it was obvious the only way into the choke from here is with a Hymac.

We then decided to visit Pollnagollum (of the Boats).  Located on the Marlbank scenic loop road this cave is close to, and part of the Marble Arch Cave system (Co. Fermanagh).

After picking one of several routes through a couple of chokes the way on opens into large stream passage and a swim across the first lake.  Water levels were rather high and so we tried to progress by avoiding the full force of the water as much as possible.  Good fun trip with some fine formations and incredibly marbled limestone.

Back to the Linnet, the quarry and the van, it's still raining.

Wednesday 9-9-98

Started to head towards Donegal via the scenic route and locate a cave in Co.  Sligo spotted by Roz a few years ago when travelling with her brother.

Driving around the Gleniff Horseshoe loop road Roz was talking about this huge cave entrance. All I could see were a few tiny openings halfway up the hill.  We eventually decided to park the van and have a brew, then as the clouds lifted slightly we saw the entrance high up at the top of the hill.

Diarmaid and Grainnes Cave (Co. Sligo) involves 1000ft climb up a very nearly vertical peat bog to a slippery rock scramble to a big cave entrance 100ft wide and 30ft high. Climbing over large boulders leads to a side passage and an ongoing rift at the rear.  Unfortunately we were not equipped for caving.  A very impressive spot and well worth a visit if the opportunity should arise.

Following the coast road we stopped for lunch in Donegal before resuming our journey.  We visited some caves at Maghera Bay (signposted from the main road) formed in white quartzite, superb white sandy beach even the sun was shining just for a change.

Eventually stopped for the night at Dungloe where we found a good campsite with hot showers

Thursday 10-9-98

Miserable day!

Went to a small sea cave at Melmore Point (Co. Donegal).  The dead porpoise was more impressive.  We made several attempts to walk and look at other things but the weather defeated us.  Did find a decent boozer, which was the best place to be on a day like this.

So fed up with the weather we stayed in a bed and breakfast on the shore of Lough Swilly, very pleasant spot.

Friday 11-9-98

At last some half-decent weather.  We set off to Doebeg, a bay situated on Fanad Head, Co. Donegal.  Spent a good while scrambling around the rocks to reach some interesting sea caves.  The longest was about 30m.  The entrance is next to a very impressive rock arch.  Most of the caves were 10-15m long and many contained good formations - mainly flowstones and straws.

Picked a bag of winkles for lunch.  Roz wasn't so sure so she settled for a cheese sandwich.  Had a late afternoon, early evening stroll up to Murren Hill which gave us stunning views of the Donegal coastline from Bloody Foreland right round to Malin Head, and inland to the mountains of Muckish and Errigal highlighted by the setting sun.  Marvellous!

Saturday 12-9-98

Maggie's wedding, lots of Guinness, a flat battery ... that' s another story, a jolly time was had by all.

Sunday 13-9-98

The journey home, bumpy ferry crossing and a long drive back to Mendip.

There's plenty for everyone in the northern counties of Ireland, be it caving, walking or whatever - try it out sometime.

The locals are friendly and we have permission to explore land where there are rumours of caves.


A Brush With Darkness



The Basang Cave Survey, Aldan Province, Philippines

By James Smart

The 1992 BEC expedition to the Philippines generated a lot of media coverage and brought us to the attention of the prestigious Prudentialife Corporation of Makati in Metro Manilla.  They had recently acquired some land in northern Panay Island, and in return for a survey of a short cave here, we were treated to a luxury weekend on the nearby paradise island of Boracay, frequently voted as having one of the world's top ten beaches.

Unfortunately for international relations, the completed survey was mislaid during the preparation of the expedition report (Speleo Philippines 1992).  It is reproduced here for completeness.

Basang Cave is well known locally and is situated at Basang about an hour drive from Boracay Island. The Prudentialife Corporation were hoping to tap into Boracay's tourist trade by developing the site as an attraction. Wishful thinking.  The cave has long been visited by locals and where the walls and formations aren't spoilt by graffiti, they're soiled by bat guano.  The grandest formations are found in Bat Chamber and Scorpion Grotto but they are rapidly disintegrating due to the resolution and a visit• here is marred by the presence of thousands of bats and their guano.

Our surveyed length came to 765m. Another mention of the cave has subsequently come to light (Ferret, 1991) which gives the length as 909m and depth of 10m.


Ferret, Gerard, 1991:

Expedition Philippines 91 - (preliminary report); unpublished.

Speleo Philippines 1992:

The Journal of the Joint Bristol Exploration Club (United Kingdom and the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines expedition. Bristol Exploration Club; 46pp maps, photos, and surveys.

James Smart can be contacted by e-mail






Swinsto at Last!

By Rich Long

Things didn't bode well, Zot WAS READY! AND WAITING!

This is just not the correct beginning for a Zot trip.  Unfortunately, my ex-P.O. van had just conked out an hour before when I had gone to pick up my brother, Brian.  He is an AA man for his sins.  This put me in the right frame of mind for a nice drive up the motorway to Yorkshire on a Friday evening!

"Diesels don't do that!" Brian said, after the van switched itself off and refused to start, "Perhaps it knows where it's going and who's coming with us."  I whispered.  Speaking loudly and pretending we were going on our own, the gullible little beauty started and caused no other problem there and back.

Well, as I said Zot and Mark were indeed waiting and without a fuss we were off.

Of course the usual navigation problems and choice of route was broached, this time I just went wherever they said.  After a stop at a very welcome hostelry, we arrived at Horton-in-Ribblesdale at 12.15am, only to be greeted by the very nice lady who runs the guesthouse opposite the pub and Craven Cottage.

Zot was in the Craven's cottage; poor innocent Mark was standing in the road when the 'Lady' approached.

"Can I help you, young man?"

"Oooh, no thank you." said the ever polite Mark.

"What is he doing?" pointing at the growling van and me.

"Just turning around, Madam" replied Mark.

"No he isn't!!! He's parking!!!!"

"Oh, I don't think so," said Mark, sadly unaware of my full intentions.

"HE IS!!!" said the increasingly anxious proprietor, now thinking she was being overrun by travellers, "Oh my God!!!  Now he's blowing his hooter and he's switched off his engine!"

"I'm sure it was an accident, I'd be glad to ask him to move it if you require?" said Mark.

"Oh dear God, No!!!" tears welling up in her eyes "I have a hotel full of guests, just get him to move it first thing in the morning, Please!!"

"I surely will, Good Night."

Well, I did move it first thing; do you think 6.45am was early enough?

By l0am the sleeping beauties were up and we were on our way to Swinsto via Ingleton and the excellent Fountain Cafe.  At 2.30 Zot was changed and we were parked near Valley Entrance almost ready to go.

Zot said "I'll meet you at the top."  I must admit I was getting a little concerned, up to now nothing had really gone wrong and this was a 'ZOT' Trip!

With much panting and several stops due to the excessive heat (nothing to do with the fact that we are big, fat, unfit Herbert's) we reached the top, straining at the leash to get underground.

"Hello!" said Zot, sitting by the wrong Pot, "I've just got to find the entrance and we're off!"

I love the Yorkshire Hills and Dales but not when you're walking about, kitted up for caving, in what must have been at least 120 degrees in the shade, well, it might not have been quite that hot, but after 45 minutes and several different promising holes, it felt like it.  Now, this was more like it, the true Zot trip had arrived.

Suddenly, Swinsto was found, damn me, it was right where Chris had left it last time, with a fine healthy stream flowing into it, a reminder of yesterday's heavy rains.

Well, it was sporting to say the least, the water kept us nice and cool and the abseils were excellent in that volume of water.  The double pitch with the ledge was a good place for group hugs as the pictures may show. Mark had a fine time at the bottom of the second pitch swimming around in the pool trying to continue his abseil, shades of Free Willy.

We continued on to the last small pitch, where Simpson joins and met two other intrepid cavers.  In the excellent spirit of the Mendip caver, my little Brother offered them our rope to descend on, for which they thanked him. The first started to descend using a Petzl Stop descender.  Now, whether he was unsure of his equipment or he was an excellent gymnast I do not know, as part way down this small descent, he decided to show us he could abseil completely upside down at high speed in this very respectable force of water, remarkable!  I would imagine his sinuses will be clear for several weeks.  The ever-vigilant Mark whispered to me, which was quite a feat in that chamber, "Perhaps I should have mentioned that rope doesn't work too well on Petzl kit for some reason."

"I think he may know that now Mark, lets just keep that information to ourselves, shall we?  Just to avoid embarrassing the poor fellow." and on this we agreed.  The two said goodbye and continued on their way, shortly followed by us.  Excellent sporting streamway, better than "Bridgwater splash", back out into the sunlight and back to Horton.

Whereupon we spent the evening at the "Brass Cat" with jolly nice people from both the Bradford and the Craven clubs.  We eventually left when the bar staff stole our drinking vessels and turned out all the lights, which is apparently Yorkshire for "Bugger off, I want to go to bed!"

Next day Brian, Mark and I popped up to Gaping Gill to watch the Craven set up the winch.  Well, after we had left Horton, got to Ingleton, Chris realising he had left his bum bag containing his worldly possessions at the club house, gone back to Horton and then come back to Ingleton for the second time, now it was a real Zotty trip.

Chris stayed at Clapham as I think the travelling may have tired him out and made sure the Pub was still there.  It was, everything in its place as it should be.

Well, its taken four years for Zot and myself to do Swinsto together and it was great.  Thanks Chris, it's always an experience, we all agree, well the other two will agree when they are off the medication and are able to communicate again, there is nothing more interesting and fun than a Zotty Trip.

Of course, now, we've got to think of somewhere else to play.  I haven't been to Spain caving, so who knows?

Have we got an extradition treaty with the Spanish?


Gough's Cave Booklets. 1922 - 1934

Published by Arthur George Henry Gough

Compiled by Dave Irwin

For some time the writer has been compiling ephemera catalogues of the handbills, booklets, posters etc., that are known to have been published by the three principal Mendip showcaves.

Cox's Cave was discovered by a workman named Cooper, and opened to the public in 1838 by George Cox, owner of the gristmill known today as the Cliff Hotel.  Cox's Cave was then known as the Stalactite Cavern until the late 19th Century. Posters of Cox's Cave sometimes come on the market but are rare. Luckily there is a fine selection to be seen in local libraries.  Longleat Estate regained control of the cave in 1939. (note 1)

Gough's Old Cave or Gough's Great Stalactite Cavern was operated by John and Ann Weeks (Jack and Nancy) until their deaths in 1877 and 1876 respectively.  Gough gained control of the site about May 1877 and by the end of that year the large entrance to the Concert Chamber was cleared for public viewing.  The lack of formations, except for three very small grottoes, forced Richard Gough to adopt unconventional methods of attracting his customers.  The chamber was decorated with Chinese lanterns and fairy lights, fountains were erected and popular concerts were often held there including a family of hand-bell ringers!! Posters are known as are handbills in both private and public collections.  The cave was closed to the public sometime during the first decade of the 20th Century. (note 2.3)

Gough's Cave (Gough's New Cave) was opened to the public as soon as the first extension, to the Fonts, was made in November 1893.  Then known as Gough's Great Rockwork Cavern, Richard Cox Gough displayed the magnificent gours decorating the entrance passage with Chinese lanterns and held concerts which entertained up to 900 people!  A year later he had blasted his way into Heartbreak Hill and the Swiss Village area.  In November 1898 he broke through to the St. Paul's and Diamond Chamber with its magnificent Solomon's Temple and Niagara Falls. Following Richard's death in 1902, Arthur Gough, his eldest son, took over management of the cave with Gough's widow Frances.  Arthur remained in this post until a court case in 1933 when he was replaced by Captain Brend of the Air Flying Corps.  The lease agreed by Richard Gough in 1877 ended in 1927 when control to Gough's Cave returned to the Longleat Estate. (note 4,5)

The earliest booklets published by Arthur Gough were published between 1910 and 1913.  The next group was published in 1922, using photographs by J. Harry Savory, (note 6) and remained in print, in various editions, until 1934.

The recorded booklets are listed below and bear the reference number allocated them in the full ephemera catalogue prepared by the writer. The more common pictorial booklets published by William Gough, with the oval cut-out in the front cover, will be discussed in a future Belfry Bulletin.


The Arthur G.H. Gough booklets. Left - GCB020 and GCB030; centre - GCB040 and GCB050 and right GCB060 and GCB070

Ref. No.: GCB 020

Date: 1922 mss

Title: A Pictorial Guide Gough's Caves Cheddar. Sole Publisher AG.H. Gough, Cheddar Somerset.  Author: AG.H. Gough (?)

Illustrations by AG.R. Gough and J.R. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs:

Page     Title

2          The Pre-Historic man & his flint implements

3          "The Fonts". A wonderful series of stalagmite basins.

6          "The Archangel's Wing". A stalactite curtain 15 feet long

7          "The Zambesi Falls." and Nature's work underground: Marvellous colour and form

10         A group of pillars showing wonderful variety of form and In "Solomon's Temple".  A magnificent column 11 feet high.

11         A beautiful reflected group in Gough's Caves.

14         In "St. Paul's" a cascade of stalagmite 90 feet high and The Frozen "Niagara Falls"

15         In semblance [sic] of a frozen river. Sparkling like Diamonds and of surpassing beauty.

18         In the "Diamond Chamber" showing part of the "Niagara Falls."

19         "Aladdin's Grotto" reflected.

22         "The Peal of Bells." and A forest of fine stalactites.

23         A specimen stalactite and curtain of purest white and "The Fairy Grotto" unique reflections.

26         A great mound of stalagmite with curious erratic pillars and A peep in "Aladdin's Grotto."

27         A new discovery. The most wonderful curtain in Gough's Caves. and Still reflections in a silent pool.

30         A forest of stalactites on the waterwom limestone roof and Pools and prolific stalactites in the wonderful "Aladdin's Grotto."

31         "The Organ Pipes. "

Cover: buff card with red and black text and black sketch of 'Reflected group' all inside red, single line frame. Text printed in black

Printer: E.W. Savory, Bristol

Binding: saddle stitched

Size: 12.5 x 15.3cm

NOTES: Earliest possible date for this booklet is 1922 as a number of Savory photos. Were taken during February 1922.  Copy recorded bearing manuscript date September 1922

There is no title page

Two versions of this booklet has been recorded

a)       - Inside covers bear advertisement for Gough's Tea Gardens (inside front) and Llewellyn Gough's advertisement for sale of cheese (inside back cover)

b)       - Advertisements for sale of cheese by AG.H. Gough pasted in on inside both front and back covers Ref.: Men Bib Pt. IT, No.197C similar

Ref. No.: GCB 030

Date: c.1924-1927

Title: A Pictorial Guide Gough's Caves Cheddar. Sole Publisher AG.H. Gough, Cheddar Somerset. Author: A.G.H. Gough (?)

Illustrations by AG.H. Gough and J.R. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs: same as GCB020

NOTES: Page 9 differs from GCB 020 by the addition of a final paragraph relating to Jacob's Ladder thus: " Of the new Cathedral at Westminster.

A few paces beyond there is a cleft ... "

Inside covers bear an advertisement for Gough's Tea Gardens (inside front cover) and Llewellyn Gough's advertisement for sale of cheese (inside back cover)

All other details as GCB 020

Ref.: Men Bib Pt. II, No.197C similar

Ref. No.: GCB 040

Date: c.1928

Cover title: Pictorial Guide The Caves Cheddar Opposite the Lion Rock A.G.H. Gough Manager Cheddar Somerset.

Title page: Pictorial Guide to The Caves Cheddar Author: A.G.H. Gough (?); see notes

Illustrations by AG.H. Gough and l.R. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs:

Page     Title

2          Skull of the Cheddar Man

3          The Grandeur of Cheddar Gorge

6          "The Fonts".  A wonderful series of stalagmite basins.

7          "The Organ Pipes"

10         The most wonderful curtain in Gough's Caves.

11         "The Peal of Bells"

14         A beautiful reflected group in Gough's Caves

15         In semblance of a frozen river

18         Wonderful stalactite drapery

19         Reflections in a silent pool.  The fairy Grotto

22         In "Solomon's Temple."  A magnificent column 11 feet high

23         "The Archangel's Wing."  A stalactite curtain 15 feet long

26         "The Niagara Falls"

27         A fallen giant in the great Boulder Chamber

30         A specimen stalactite and curtain of purest white

31         Aladdin's Pool

Cover: buff card with red and brownish-black text inside red, single line, frame all surrounded by background sketch of Solomon's Pillar, this too inside a red single lined frame.

Printer: E.W. Savory, Bristol

Text printed in sepia

Binding: saddle stitched

Size: 12.5 x 15.3cm

NOTES: It is possible that the archaeological notes may have been written by R.F. Parry. The textural style changes markedly in the short archaeological note.

P .16 - caves stated as being discovered in 1877

P.17 - " n. an interesting excavation was carried out during the winter of 1927 n. in November last ... " The infers that the text was written in 1928, probably for publication that year.

Ref.: Men Bib Pt. II, No. 197D similar

Ref. No.: GCB 050

Date: c.1930

Cover title: Pictorial Guide The Caves Cheddar Opposite the Lion Rock AG.H. Gough Manager Cheddar Somerset.

Title page: Pictorial Guide to The Caves Cheddar Author: AG.H. Gough (?); see notes

Illustrations by AG.H. Gough and l.H. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs:

Page     Title

2          The Lion Rock, Cheddar Gorge

3          The Cheddar Gorge

6          Rising of Cheddar water at foot of caves

7          Hartstongue fern growing in the caves

10         The Fonts

11         The Niagara Falls

14         Stalactite drapery

15         The Archangel's Wing.  A stalactite curtain 15 feet long

18         In Solomon's Temple.  A magnificent column 11 feet long

19         Stalactites & Curtain

22         In Solomon's Temple

23         Reflected group

26         In the Diamond Chamber

27         View of the boulders

30         Skull of the Cheddar Man

31         Implements of Magdalinean Age found at the cave entrance

Cover: buff card with red and brownish-black text inside red, single line, frame all surrounded by background sketch of Solomon's Pillar, this too inside a red single lined frame.

Printer: E.W. Savory, Bristol

Text printed in sepia

Binding: saddle stitched

Size: 12.5 x l5.3cm

NOTES: It is possible that the archaeological notes may have been written by R.F. Parry.  The textural style changes markedly in the short archaeological note.

P.16 - notes on the cave discovery corrected thus “….Gough's Old Cave was discovered in 1877, and those now shown to the public in 1898 .... '”

P.17 – “…..an interesting excavation was carried out during the winter of 1927, and the work has been continued each year since ... “

Ref.: Men Bib Pt. II, No. 197D similar

Ref. No.: GCB 060

Date: c.1930

Cover title: A Pictorial Guide Gough's Caves Cheddar. Opposite the Lion Rock A.G.H. Gough Manager Cheddar Somerset.

Title page: Pictorial Guide to The Caves Cheddar Author: A.G.H. Gough (?); see notes

Illustrations by A.G.H. Gough and J.H. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs:

Page     Title

2          The Lion Rock, Cheddar Gorge

3          The Cheddar Gorge

6          Rising of Cheddar water at foot of caves

7          Hartstongue fern growing in the caves

10         The Fonts

11         The Niagara Falls

14         Stalactite drapery

15         The Archangel's Wing. A stalactite curtain 15 feet long

18         In Solomon's Temple. A magnificent column 11 feet long

19         Stalactites & Curtain

22         In Solomon's Temple

23         Reflected group

26         In the Diamond Chamber

27         View of the boulders

30         Skull of the Cheddar Man

31         Implements of Magdalinean Age found at the cave entrance

Cover: buff card with red and brownish-black text inside red, single line, frame all surrounded by background sketch of Solomon's Pillar, this too inside a red single lined frame.

Printer: E.W. Savory, Bristol

Text printed in sepia

Binding: saddle stitched

Size: 12.5 x 15.3cm

NOTES: It is possible that the archaeological notes may have been written by R.F. Parry.  The textural style changes markedly in the short archaeological note.

P.16 - notes on the cave discovery corrected thus “…. Gough's Old Cave was discovered in 1877, and those now shown to the public in 1898 .... “

P.17 – “… an interesting excavation was carried out during the winter of 1927, and the work has been continued each year since ... “

There are no advertisements on the inside covers

Ref. No.: GCB 070

As GCB 060 but for sticker pasted at foot of front cover, printed in red: Under the direction of Viscount WEYMOUTH, M.P. Manager: Capt. P. BREND, A.F.C. Phone - Cheddar 74.

Ref.: Men Bib Pt II, No.197E


1.                  Irwin, David J., 1987, Cox's Cave, Cheddar: a history UBSS Proceedings 18(1) 20-42(Nov), maps, illus., survey.

2.                  Irwin, David J., 1987, A brief history of Gough's Caves, Cheddar. BEC Bel Bu141(440) 8-17(Jul), illus.

3.                  Irwin, David J., 1986, Gough's Old Cave - its history UBSS Proceedings 17(3)250-266(Nov), map, illus., survey

4.                  Irwin, David J., 1986, The exploration of Gough's Cave and its development as a show cave. UBSS Proceedings 17(2)95-101(for 1985), illus., published Jan 1986

5.                   Irwin, David J., 1987, A brief history of Gough's Caves, Cheddar. [as above]

6.                  Savory took a number of photographs of the cave in 1913, which were published as picture postcards by Gough's Cave in that year.  A further selection of photographs were taken by him in February 1922.  It is the use of the later photographs that help date these booklets.


Jokes Page


ON TESCO'S TIRIMISU DESERT - Do not turn upside down.  (Printed on the bottom of the box.)

ON MARKS & SPENCER BREAD PUDDING - Product will be hot after heating

ON PACKAGING FOR A ROWENTA IRON - Do not Iron clothes on body

ON BOOTS CHILDREN’S COUGH MEDICINE - Do not drive car or operate machinery

ON NYTOL (A SLEEP AID) - Warning: may cause drowsiness

ON A KOREAN KITCHEN KNIFE - Warning keep out of children

ON A STRING OF CHINESE MADE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS - For indoor or outdoor use only.

ON A JAPANESE FOOD PROCESSOR - Not to be used for the other use

ON SAINSBURY'S PEANUTS - Warning: contains nuts

ON AN AMERICAN AIRLINES PACKET OF NUTS - Instructions: open packet, eat nuts.

ON A SWEDISH CHAINSAW - Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands

ON A PACKET OF SUNMAID RAISINS - Why not try tossing over your favourite breakfast cereal?

Ever Wonder Why???

Tell a man that there are 400 billion stars, and he'll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint, and he has to touch it.

How come SUPERMAN could stop bullets with his chest, but always ducked when someone threw a gun at him?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "Lisp" to have an "S" in it?

What's another word for synonym?

If a man speaks and there is no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?

If a turtle loses its shell, is it naked or homeless?

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?


Jon Snow: "In a sense, Deng Xiaoping's death was inevitable, wasn't it?" Expert: "Er, yes." (Channel 4 News)

"As Phil De Glanville said, each game is unique, and this one is no different to any other." (John Sleightholme – BBC1)

"If England are going to win this match, they're going to have to score a goal." (Jimmy Hill - BBC)

"Beethoven, Kurtag, Charles Ives, Debussy   -  four very different names." (Presenter, BBC Proms, Radio 3)

"Cystitis is a living death, it really is.  Nobody ever talks about it, but if I was faced with a choice between having my arms removed and getting cystitis, I'd wave goodbye to my arms quite happily." (Louise Wener (of Sleeper) in Q Magazine)

"Julian Dicks is everywhere. It's like they've got eleven Dicks on the field." (Metro Radio Sports Commentary)

Listener: "My most embarrassing moment was when my artificial leg fell off at the altar on my wedding day." Simon Fanshawe: "How awful!  Do you still have an artificial leg?" (Talk Radio)

Interviewer: "So did you see which train crashed into which train first?" 15-year-old: "No, they both ran into each other at the same time." (BBC Radio 4)

Presenter (to palaeontologist): "So what would happen if you mated the woolly mammoth with, say, an elephant?" Expert: "Well in the same way that a horse and a donkey produce a mule, we'd get a sort of half-mammoth. Presenter: "So it'd be like some sort of hairy gorilla?" Expert: "Er, well yes, but elephant shaped, and with tusks." (GLR)

Kilroy-Silk: "Did you mean to get pregnant?" Girl: "No. It was a cock-up."

Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald: "Sex is an anti-climax after that!" Desmond Lynam: "Well, you gave the horse a wonderful ride, everyone saw that." (BBC)

Ponder this one!!

If you love something, set it free.  If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours.  If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.  If it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, uses your telephone, takes your money, and never behaves as if you actually set it free in the first place, you either married it or gave birth to it!


Carbon Dioxide Concentrations in the Air in St. Cuthbert's Swallet

R.D. Stenner and R.G. Picknett

When Bob Picknett, his friend and I reached the surface at the end of the 4½-hour trip on Sunday evening, 30th January 1972, the rim of the entrance lid was glistening with frost. As we hauled ourselves out into a glorious frosty scene, flood-lit by a full moon and a sky full of stars, our boiler suits stuck to the lid - instantly frozen to it.  The trip had been made to collect a set of air carbon dioxide measurements, using Draeger gas analysis equipment.

I can't blame people who knew me when I was so ill in 1987 for doubting my memories of what happened more than twenty years ago.  So I looked up the phases of the moon in an old diary.  There was a full moon on the last day of 1971, so the moon was full on the evening of the trip, just as I remembered.

There was another feature of the trip, which had an important bearing on the set of results, and which I have not had a chance to verify.  Brilliant clear skies in January are linked to an anticyclone, and high atmospheric pressure.  This was noted in my own caving log entry for the trip.  The consequence of this weather system was a blast of bitingly cold air into the cave. This is what took the temperature of the entrance lid down below freezing point, and caused the current of cold air we commented on as we stood by the stal graveyard in Pillar Chamber, looking down into Mud Hall on the way out.

The Draeger apparatus was used with tubes for measuring low levels of carbon dioxide.  A length of rubber tubing was used to make sure that our breath did not affect the results, and at Arête Chamber it was used to draw air from the boulder ruckle behind the North-East Inlet.  We took the Old Route to Mud Hall, and from Lower Mud Hall we went into the Rocky Boulder Series, where we sampled the air in a dead-end passage, and at the lowest point of the passage leading to the Traverse Chamber false bedding plane.  From here we went to Traverse Chamber, where we took another measurement beside the waterfall from the Maypole Series.  Bypass Passage and Stream Passage to Stal. Pitch, where the deepest measurement was made, and then we filled in with measurements in odd chambers on the way out. Curtain Chamber and the Cascade were chosen to see if the presence of major active stal formations might affect carbon dioxide concentrations (only a slight possible elevation in Curtain Chamber was found).

Some of the data has been quoted previously (Bridge et al, 1977) but the full set of results has not been published previously.  The sample sites are shown in the Figure (produced, with his permission, from Irwin's survey) and the results are in the Table.  The co-ordinates of the sample sites were measured from the survey (Irwin 1991) and original survey notes.  The sequence of sample numbers in the Table reflects the route followed into the cave and out again.  The Imperial units of the survey have been used in this report to make it easier for readers to locate the survey stations on the Irwin survey, with its Imperial grid.

The results show that, while the carbon dioxide concentration below the Entrance Pitch was very close to the normal atmospheric value of 0.03 %, the value very quickly increased to 0.08 % on progressing to the Ledge Pitches.  Perhaps the extra gas was being drawn in from the boulder ruckles around Arête Chamber, seeing that the highest value obtained in this trip was recorded in the boulder ruckle behind the North-East Inlet in Arête Chamber.

Between the Ledge Pitches and Quarry Comer the concentration was unchanged at 0.08%.  In the Wire Rift the air passed straight over Wet Pitch. From the Wire Rift, the stream of cold air passed over Mud Hall, via Pillar Chamber to Quarry Comer.  In Pillar Chamber, the blast of cold air was very plain to us as we stood by the stal graveyard overlooking Mud Hall.  The result beside the foot of the ladder in Mud Hall was 0.10%, while cold air from the Wire Rift with 0.8% carbon dioxide was flowing over-head, with no mixing with the warmer (and therefore less dense) air underneath.  This result, a temperature inversion, is an indication of the high speed of the airflow at this point.

Beyond Quarry Comer, the directions taken by the incoming air could not be felt, and the carbon dioxide values do no more than suggest that from Boulder Chamber, some of the air flowed into Traverse Chamber.  It is reasonable to assume that, in a single entrance cave containing many very large chambers, when the surface air pressure increased, a large volume of air was drawn into the cave to equalise the pressures.  This air could only be drawn in via the Entrance, and it is suggested that the results presented here have mapped this airflow from the Entrance to Quarry Comer. From Quarry Comer the airflow would have split up as air was pushed into all of the huge voids in the cave.

Table of results.  The concentration of carbon dioxide in the air in St. Cuthbert's Swallet on 30/01/1972, when surface air was entering into the cave.



Survey Co-ord.




E, N., Ht. (ft)

% vol.lvol.


 Bottom of Entrance Pitch




 Arête Chamber, entrance of Pulpit Passage




 Pulpit Passage, source of N.W. stream inlet




 Arête Chamber, boulders behind N.E. inlet




 Below Lower Ledge Pitch




 Mud Hall, beside foot of fixed ladder




 RB. Series, nr. Traverse Ch. false bed. plane




 RB. Series, dead-end passage




 Traverse Chamber, middle of chamber




 Main Stream Passage, top of Stal. Pitch




 Cerberus Series, lowest point Cerberus Hall




 Curtain Chamber, behind large stal. boss




 Cascade Vantage Point




 Boulder Chamber, Quarry Comer




 Pillar Chamber, entrance to RB. Series




The overall observation is that the air carbon dioxide values are much lower than those obtained in other caves (for example, the value of 4.3 % CO2 reported recently from White Pit; Anon, 1997).  The results of 30th January 1972, however, are mutually consistent, and are important in that they clearly demonstrate how air flowed into the cave on this occasion.


The authors believe the results show the response of this cave to rising atmospheric pressure during an anticyclone.  If this conclusion is correct, then in a cyclonic event, a fall in surface air pressure would result in the reverse situation.  Air would be blown out of the Entrance as the air pressure in the great chambers adjusts to the surface pressure.  The air blowing through the passages leading to the entrance would be at the normal air temperatures deep in the cave, and fully saturated with water.

It follows that atmospheric conditions will have an important effect on studies of small trickles of percolation water near a cave entrance. In cyclonic weather, drips are likely to be surrounded by a flow of air, which is saturated in water, with a higher carbon dioxide concentration than the normal atmosphere, and a constant temperature of about 10oC, irrespective of the season.  In anticyclonic conditions, however, the air around the drip will have very different characteristics. Whatever the season, the air will usually be unsaturated with water, and with a lower carbon dioxide content than the usual ambient cave air.  Loss of carbon dioxide from percolation water to the airflow and evaporation will both increase the likelihood of the water becoming supersaturated, leading to the possibility of calcite deposition.  However, in winter the airflow will usually be colder then the ambient temperature, while in summer the airflow can be expected to be warmer.



Finally, the results showed that the air in the boulder ruckle between the N.E. Inlet in Arête Chamber and the Soak-away Sink on the surface contained more carbon dioxide than the open parts of the cave.  In water flowing from this sink to Arête Chamber, an increase in hardness in the form of calcium hydrogen carbonate has been measured, this change being accompanied by an increased concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide (Stenner, 1997). This amplified Ford's observation that St. Cuthbert's Stream appeared to be supersaturated at the surface, yet it emerged in the cave slightly harder, yet slightly aggressive (Ford, 1966). When it was proved that concentrations of dissolved oxygen could be shown to change in short distances in streams going underground (Bridge et aI, 1977) this discovery applied equally to the ability of gaseous carbon dioxide to dissolve quickly in the physical conditions of the caves which had been studied.

To sum up; measurements of air carbon dioxide concentrations in the air in the cave have been taken in conditions of rising atmospheric pressure, and these indicate that the air entering the cave due to the pressure change rapidly picks up carbon dioxide in its journey through the cave.  Air in the Boulder ruckle, protected from rapid dilution by the inflow of air, showed the highest carbon dioxide concentration measured. This suggests that when little air is flowing into the cave, the carbon dioxide content of the cave air will be somewhat higher than those reported in this paper.  It is deduced that calcite deposition from water should be enhanced by the presence of in-flowing air.


ANON., 1997 Diggers Comer, Belfry Bulletin No. 493,49(12), p.4.

BRIDGE, J.L., COOPER, C.M. KELLY, S.D., MARSH S.D. and STENNER, RD. 1977 Limestone solution and changes of dissolved gas concentrations at stream sinks of three caves in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. BCRA Trans 4(3), p.355-359.

FORD, D.C. 1966. Calcium carbonate solution in some Central Mendip caves, Somerset.  UBSS Proc 11(1), p.46-53.

IRWIN, D.J. 1991. St. Cuthbert's Swallet. Bristol Exploration Club, pp82.

PICKNEIT, RG. 1973. Saturated calcite solutions from 10 to 40°C: a theoretical study evaluating the solubility product and other constants. CRG Trans 15(2), p.67-80.

STENNER, RD. 1997 Changes in distribution of water between surface sinks and stream inlets in St. Cuthbert's Swallet, Priddy, Somerset. UBSS Proc. 21(1),9-24.


Left: Arête Pitch minus the fixed ladder Photo: Pete Glanvill
Right: Pete Rose on the Lower Ledge Pitch Photo: Pete Glanvill


The Digger's Song

Tune: Original
Author: Kangy King
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol. 36 No 617 June / July 1982

I wanted to go down a cave
And now my ambitions I've got 'em.
In Cuthbert's I'm all the rave
At the dig in the hole in the bottom.

Digging away, digging away all day,
Dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig.

I only went out on a spree
Thinking to sup and be off, when
I encountered a crowd, BEC
All lewd and licentious and tough men.

They said - "Young man it will go
If you carry these ladders and drop 'em.
Into a hole that we know,
That's not really too much of a problem. "

Now the entrance pitch is divine
So long as you're skinny and narrow.
The walls are all covered in slime
From the drippings of Walt's old wheelbarrow.

We continued on down the Arête,
The shaky old ladders appalling.
But, as the other blokes said
''It's a ruddy sight better than falling."

Two ladders and then the Wire Rift
Were next on the menu they brought me.
To traverse I needed the gift
That my ape-like ancestors had taught me.

Mud Hall and Stal Chamber too
And Boulder with boulders abundant.
My mates disappeared from my view
As they hurried to show me what fun meant.

A hole at the end gave the clue
Leading to Ev'rest and Gravel.
We slid down the scree in a queue
 More or less in the right line of travel.

I staggered along in a daze
Dimly noting the Sewer in passing
They'd knotted me up in a maze
When I suddenly noticed the splashing.

A wall immense and quite tall
Traversed the passage we trod in.
Blocking the flow in the hall
And changing the level of Oggin

At the side stood a large bucket wheel
Fixed in it's bearings by packing.
This fiendish device seemed to deal
With the drive of a pump, double-acting.

So sloshing the water about
It pumped from one place to another.
A muddy great hole was washed out
Without any effort or bother.

A spade all corroded and rough
I was given to my consternation.
They invited me kindly enough
To get digging and start exploration.

So now I'm a digger of note,
To be found at my post every Tuesday.
On cave exploration I dote-
I'm sure I'll be digging till Doomsday.


More Adventures of Another Pooh.

By Dave Yeandle

When I was a schoolboy and had just started caving, I took a book out of the public library called 'Potholing Beneath the Northern Pennines', by David Heap.  One chapter was devoted to the through trip from Providence Pot to Dow Cave, via Dowber Gill Passage.  This writing inspired me, as David Heap managed to not just describe the cave, but to get across the excitement of the venture, and the beauty of Wharfedale.  He took the reader, along, with the caving group, as they walked through the picturesque village of Kettlewell, in winter, and with crisp new snow on the ground.  I could imagine their anticipation as they trudged up the hillside, leaving footprints in the snow, to the entrance of Providence Pot, there to disappear underground.  I wanted very much to follow in the footsteps of these cavers; and a few years later I did.

Late summer in 1970, I was back in Leeds early from the University's long break.  Predictably I had failed some of my first year's exams and in order to continue as a student at Leeds I had to pass these exams as "re-sits".  I had nowhere to live and was dossing at Tony White's place.  (Tony had failed some of his second year exams and he too was back in Leeds early).  He was annoyed at me because I wasn't helping with the rent.  I had spent all my money caving in France over the summer and was trying to live on porridge, potatoes and some sort of powdered gunge that was supposed to provide all of the bodies' nutritional requirements when mixed with water. It tasted dreadful and Tony was wisely guarding his food, should I be tempted to "borrow some".

I was concerned that I would be chucked out of my course and have to leave the exciting world of Leeds Caving.  This motivated me to actually do quite a lot of swotting.  One evening though, I got overloaded with some particularly hard calculations to do with Quantum Mechanics, and I started to read a mountaineering book by Walter Bonatti instead.  I was very inspired with this hair-raising account of his solo assent of The Dru.  A total epic and it made me want to have an exciting solo adventure.  I had wanted to do a long solo trip since reading in some caving text book that one should under no circumstances go caving alone. Besides, my friends had recently been doing it and had been having some pretty mad times.  Both Dave Brook and Tony White had gone a few miles into Mossdale, on different days, and alone.  Dave had not even bothered to take a spare light, or even any carbide to refill his one lamp.  Ian Gasson had gone to the end of Langcliffe on his own and actually pushed a tight passage. As for Alf Latham, he had gone down Swarthgill Hole alone and had ended up feeling his way out when his one light, an unreliable Nife Cell had cratered on him.

I had still not done Dowbergill Passage, and it was high on my tick list.  I knew that this was considered a fairly hard but not extreme trip and requiring no ladders or ropes.  So this would be a nice solo challenge.  Quantum Mechanics abandoned, I started to pack my rucksack in readiness for an early departure the following morning.  I mentioned to Tony that I was planning to 'solo' Dowbergill.  He grinned a bit and said something about me not expecting him to come on the rescue.

It rained a lot in the night but I set off anyway, having convinced myself that the trip would be more sporting if wet, and that anyway people didn't seem to drown in Dowbergill, only become trapped for a while.  I was a bit hungry but I had the good fortune to find four bananas lying in the road.  It was not long after sticking out my thumb that I got a really good lift all the way to Skipton.  The trip was going well and Walter Bonatti would no doubt have been most impressed so far!

I arrived in Kettlewell early in the afternoon and started up the hillside for Providence.  It was raining very heavily by now, but I tried not to worry too much about this minor detail.  Anyway I was busy conceiving a very cunning plan!  ULSA were having difficulty getting permission to go down Langcliffe Pot.  We had always walked up to Langcliffe from Scargill.  Now if we continued to do this we would very likely be seen and told to leave the area.  But what if we were to start the walk in to Langcliffe from Kettlewell and pretend we were doing Dowbergill?  Once up on to the Limestone Benches, and out of view, we could traverse along the Dale to Langcliffe, undetected.  In fact we did later implement this plan with great success until we were daft enough to get trapped by floods in Langcliffe.

I was soaking wet by the time I found Providence Entrance.  I hurriedly found a place to hide my rucksack and changed into my wetsuit. I had collected together an assortment of dubious torches and other spare lighting including candles and packed these items in a small ex army haversack, along with the obligatory Mars Bar and one or two tasty tit-bits I was sure Tony would not miss.  Also, I carried plenty of spare carbide and some carbide light spares.  Was I well equipped or what!  With a last look around at the rain swept fell, I set off into the cave.

Once my eyes had adjusted to the gloom of the poorly lit cave, I started to make good speed. I found Providence a friendly enough cave.  There was some crawling, one or two short squeezes and some nice easy passages where I could walk or at least progress at a stoop.  I frequently wandered off route, along side passages, but soon realised I was going the wrong way and retraced my steps.  I knew for sure I was on course for Dowbergill Passage when I reached The Palace, a large chamber, described briefly in my battered copy of Pennine Underground or PU, as we called this inadequate and incomplete volume which passed for a guide book back in the early seventies. I confidently strode down this chamber, to a small hole in the floor.   This I entered and climbed on down into a place called The Dungeon.  With ease I descended further down a calcite boss into Depot Chamber.  After a short look around, I exited right under some excellent formations into a crawl.  I could now hear the welcome sound of a large stream.  I knew I must be close to Dowbergill Passage now and feeling very pleased with my navigation scampered along the crawl.  Very soon I popped out at Stalagmite Comer.  I was in Dowbergill - I had it in the Bag; or so I thought. I had been mildly worried about finding my way through Providence.  I had seen a survey and it had looked a bit complicated.  But Dowbergill was shown as a straight line, going straight to Dow Cave. How could I go wrong now?  My optimism was confirmed when after setting off down the stream passage and scrambling easily over some boulders I entered large easy walking passage - a doddle!!.  I ran along this blissfully unaware that I was about to become rather confused for quite a few hours.  Here is a quote from Northern Caves published sometime after my minor epic in Dowbergill.

"The traverse of Dowbergill remains one of the classic caving expeditions in the district.  It has also been the scene of many rescues. The survey plan of a simple straight line belies the intricate and at times exasperating problem of route finding within a twenty metre vertical range in the high rift passages".

Well, really the memory of my fraught journey through the hillside to Dow Cave is somewhat blurred. Here are a few highlights!

This bloody confusing boulder choke with really well worn, incorrect routes, to nowhere!  And when I did find the way through it was in the first hole I had investigated and dismissed as too tight.  Or the really annoying traverse with no apparent handholds or footholds, which I fell off.  Then there was a definitely exasperating climb up over muddy flowstone, which was so slippery I kept sliding back down it.  Indeed there were many really "interesting" intricate route-finding problems in the vertical plane of this perfectly straight rift passage.  These were all solved in the fullness of time but with only slightly more expertise than the Physics problems I had so recently been attempting.

My carbide lamp kept playing up but all of my collection of battery powered lights were even worse. After regaining the stream after another confusing boulder choke I stripped the carbide lamp down and gave it a good fettling.  It started to behave after this and I celebrated with a Mars Bar.

Still I was making progress and going fairly well overall.  I was getting a bit concerned though.  Once in a while I would find myself back at stream level and every time I did there was more water than the time before.  The cave seemed to be flooding.  I decided to stay as high as possible in the rift.  As I progressed forward I gradually gained height until I had climbed right up to the top of the rift and I could tell from the texture of the passage that few people had been this way.  I knew I was off the normal route (again!) but felt I should try to force it through at this level because of the high water below. Thrashing along on my side with my lower shoulder and arm stretched out in front and the other arm trailing behind I made slow progress along the rift.  Unfortunately, instead of the passage size increasing as I had hoped it would, it gradually got tighter and tighter until I realised that I would have to reverse back out.  I knew this would be very strenuous indeed but at this stage I was merely annoyed, not scared.  Then my right foot got jammed in a small keyhole shaped hole in the floor.  I could not move forward or backward.  I thrashed around to try to free myself. This was a serious mistake because my carbide light fell off my helmet and down into the rift.  I could see it below me in a slot only a few inches wide; out of reach in my present position.  Then the flame went out.  I told myself not to panic, lie still and think things through.  A logical analysis of my plight was required.  I itemised the good and bad points of my situation and came up with something along these lines.

Bad Points:

I am badly stuck.
It is totally dark.
I am off route.
I am on my own.
I'm feeling exhausted.
Come to think of it, since stopping moving, I 'm feeling rather cold.
Six bad points are enough for now lets move on to the good points.

Good Points:

I've got spare lights.
Tony White will call out the rescue team if I do not turn up at his place after another 24 hours or so.
I can move upwards and downwards for as much as three inches.
That seems to be about it for the good points.

More Bad Points:

7a. My spare lights are all crap, and anyway I can't reach them as they are in this bag which is jammed between my chest and solid rock.

Then I had a plan!

I started to move my chest slowly up and down in the tight rift I was trapped in.  As I moved upwards I breathed in.  As I moved downwards I breathed out.  Very slowly the bag containing my spare lights moved upwards.  After several rests and what seemed like an hour, the bag had moved sufficiently upwards to enable me to shuffle around in the passage and to my delight I was able to wrench my right foot free.  I then was able to reverse out of the tight section, pulling the precious bag along at arms length.  Once back to a place I could sit up in I carefully opened the bag and found the least crap torch.  I switched it on and it seemed like a searchlight after the total darkness from which I had thankfully emerged.  I now had a quick rest and the last of my food.  To make myself as manoeuvrable as possible I removed my boots and helmet and re-entered the tight rift to rescue my carbide.  To my utter relief I retrieved it after many contortions and just as the torch flickered to final extinction.  I reversed backwards out of the rift to where I had left my boots and helmet and in a short while had my carbide light operational.

Well I had wanted an adventure, and here I was having one.  Not quite so hair raising as some of Walter Bonatti's but non-the less a good story for the pub.  I realised with pleasure that it was ULSA club night in the Swan with two Necks in a little over 24 hours time.  I was going to be there for sure.

I started to climb back down towards the stream and at the same time take the best route making progress upstream.  I realised that I was probably going to have to stay at or near stream level, flood or not. Pretty soon I was back in the streamway, but at least it was still possible to move against the power of the water.

The route finding started to get easier now and I moved along the rift, mostly at stream level. Rather worryingly I could tell that the water level was still rising and sometimes I had to traverse above fast moving deep water.  Still this was much more fun than getting lost and stuck and I felt fairly confident that I was getting close to the link with Dow Cave.  I started to compose in my mind the tale of this solo journey I would tell my friends in the pub back in Leeds.  No need to dwell too much on the more incompetent incidents.  I was sure that even Walter Bonatti would have edited the stories of his epics a little.

All this fantasising came to an abrupt halt when I entered a sort of a chamber, really just an enlargement of the rift.  Ahead of me was a near vertical wall below which the inky black water of Dowber Gill emerged from a rather definite, no nonsense sort of sump!

It was a long way back to Providence Pot and I was tired.  I simply could not accept the idea of having to go back.  I had a quick look around for a bypass of some sort but I was almost sure there would be none.  This was just procrastination really, side passages not being much of a feature in Dowber Gill.  I had a look at the rock wall above the sump.  I felt it could perhaps be climbed, also the sump pool would make falling off slightly less unacceptable.  So I set off tentatively upwards.  About 3 metres up I found a small slot going in the direction of the upstream rift. Unfortunately, it was far too tight and a very strong wind was screeching out of it.  Depressingly this indicated to me that this was most likely the only above water continuation of the rift.  I carried on anyway, the climbing getting harder and harder, until I was in a position, 4.5 meters above the sump of not being able to go up and not able to reverse my last move.  I lingered for a while getting increasingly scared.  Just as I felt I could hang on no longer I plucked up the courage to jump clear of the rock.  To my utter relief I made a great landing in the sump pool making a most satisfying splash.

Charged with adrenaline, I took several deep breaths and dived into the sump.  I don't think it was very long and I emerged on the upstream side in total darkness (carbide lamps are crap in sumps) with the sound of a large underground river roaring in my ears.  Also I could feel spray upon my face from a very proper draught.  I staggered along a walking size passage in the dark until I felt I was mostly out of the water.  With difficulty I ignited my carbide and set off in the spray and wind towards the roar.

Very soon I connected with Dow Cave.  It was scary to see a fast flowing river; charging towards me from the right and disappearing to the left into a bedding cave with only about 30 cm of airspace. It was draughting though so I knew that the airspace should, in theory, continue to the world outside, that I now so wanted to renter.  Theory and reality are not always the same, but I liked this theory and jumped into the torrent.  Swept along in the flood all I had to do was to try to navigate through the best looking route by flapping my limbs.  I was actually out of control, but very soon I saw daylight.  Just in time I saw I was about to be washed over a waterfall.  I grabbed hold of a branch of a tree and my momentum swung me out of the cataract and neatly onto the path up to the entrance of Dow Cave.  I was out! Just as well too, it was raining torrentially.

When I arrived back in Kettlewell, it was dark and I was too tired to want to hitch back to Leeds.  I camped in a field in my very small plastic tent that I had picked up for £1.50.  It was a very low tent and very hard for farmers to see.  This was useful and I used it often when hitch hiking. That summer, in France, I had camped in a field and I had been waken up by the sound of heavy machinery.  I had looked out of the "door" and to my horror saw a combine harvester heading straight towards me.  I leapt out and waved my arms frantically.  The huge machine had ground to a halt, and a most irate operator climbed down from his cab and started shouting at me and waving his arms about.  I tried to explain in broken French that I was a Speleologist on my way to explore "Grandes Grottes", no less!  His mood changed and he started to laugh.  Not quite the reaction I was after, but a great improvement from ranting. I was only wearing underpants; perhaps this in some small way affected my credibility.  Any way he let me off without calling the gendarmes.

This most recent doss ended less embarrassingly, but it was not a good doss.  At about 5am the field flooded.  Still this meant I got off to an early start the next day and ensured my presence at the Swan with Two Necks that evening.


Access to the Open Countryside

If you have e-mail you will no doubt have had messages from any other caver/climber regarding the Government's plans to introduce new laws regarding Access to the Open Countryside. (I received the same e-mail 11 times and at least another 10 with additional comments!)

The planned changes will obviously affect cavers, so there have been a lot of moves by cavers, climbers and alike to address the problems with their local MP.  By the time the BB goes to print, the Government may well have made decisions on this.

To give you more idea of what all this is about, I am printing the whole list of proposals and the NCA's comments regarding these proposals from the NCA Website.

This may seriously affect the future of caving in England and Wales, so please read on. (The NCA's comments are indented and in bold print)

Access to the Open Countryside - A Consultation Paper Comments of the National Caving Association

The National Caving Association (NCA) is the national body representing the interests of caving in England, Scotland and Wales.  Formed in 1969 as a federation of four existing Regional Councils of Caving Clubs, together with five other established organisations accepted as being nationally responsible for a particular aspect of caving, in 1994 it was reconstituted into a federation of five Regional Caving Councils, three National Bodies with specialist interests, and over three hundred Caving Clubs, each of which have autonomy in their own fields.

The Regional and National members of the Association are:

Council of Southern Caving Clubs
Devon and Cornwall Underground Council
Council of Northern Caving Clubs
Cambrian Caving Council
Derbyshire Caving Association
British Cave Research Association
William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust
British Cave Rescue Council

The Association has a National Council which appoints an Executive Committee to carry out the administrative business of the Association, and Special Committees to cover Conservation & Access, Training, Equipment, Insurance and Publications & Information.


The NCA welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Governments Proposals for access to the open countryside.

In making comments on the consultation paper we wish to express our concern about the perceived definition of 'open countryside'. In itself this would appear to exclude caves and abandoned mines.  This was also the case in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. Over the years this has resulted in problems with respect to the acceptance of caves as a recreational resource similar to any other part of the countryside to which access is required.  There now exists an opportunity of addressing this injustice, and accepting caves as an important educational and recreational part of our national heritage.  The same applies to abandoned mines and their industrial archaeological and recreational value.  It is our hope that both may be recognised in any new legislation.

Our comments on the document are as follows:


If legislation is required, it should be introduced to give the same extended rights of access in both England and Wales.

Agreed.  It would seem illogical not to do so.


The scope for achieving greater access through voluntary arrangements should be carefully assessed against the criteria set out in paragraph 2.6.

The criteria listed in 2.6 are very comprehensive and give a good basis for assessing the potential of an agreement on a voluntary basis.

Q.l Can voluntary arrangements deliver cost-effective access of sufficient quality, extent, permanency, clarity and certainty?  If so, how?

Q.l  It has not been our experience that such arrangements have been very effective or easy to negotiate or implement.  We believe that some sort of statutory approach at the minimum, to form the basis for an agreement would be better and more financially viable.


A new right of access should apply to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land.


Q.2 Are the terms "mountain, moor, heath and down" used in the 1949 Act still appropriate?  How may these types of open countryside best be described and defined in legislation?

Q.2 We would fully agree with this proposal but do believe that the existing definitions as used in the 1949 Act are no longer appropriate and need redefining and extending to cover all state owned and public land.


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should report in the year 2000 on the extent to which there is access to other types of open country.  The Forestry Commission will report before this on access to forest and woodland.  The Government will consider extending access to other types of land after these bodies have reported.  Any primary legislation should be drafted to permit extension to these areas of a right of access by secondary legislation if necessary.

No comment.

Q.3 What types of open country should be included in the proposal to extend a right of access by secondary legislation if necessary?  How should they be defined?

Q.3 Natural cave entrances, and approaches to abandoned mine workings used for study or recreational purposes would benefit by inclusion in the extension of these rights.  The acceptance of the principal that natural underground passages be treated in the same manner as mountain, moor and heath needs consideration.


A right of access should not extend to developed land.

It should be made clear that caves, including those entered through active and abandoned quarries, and abandoned mine workings should not be excluded.

Q.4 Is the list of exclusions satisfactory?  If not, how should it be varied?

Q.4 Accepting the above it is considered that the list is satisfactory, except where mineral surface workings provide the access to abandoned underground workings or natural caves.


A right of access should not extend to agricultural land other than that used for extensive grazing.

We do not agree with this proposal since it is often the case that it is necessary to cross such land to gain access to a cave entrance.  The suggestion is that in such cases access might be negotiated with the landowner by agreement, in much the same way as access agreements have been made to open moorland in the past. Equally there may be a case for similar compensation arrangements.

Q.5 How may the agricultural land which needs to be excluded best be described?

Q.5 The description of agricultural land to be excluded, should itself specifically exclude natural cave entrances.


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales would have a statutory duty to issue guidance to enable walkers and the owners and occupiers of land to identify open countryside to which there was a right of access.  Such guidance would be taken into account by the courts when considering any disputes involving the status of land.

The proposal uses the term "walkers", whereas a term such as "recreational user groups" would perhaps be more appropriate. The emphasis should be on recreational enjoyment of our heritage, rather than narrowing it down to a specific user group.


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should make recommendations to Government on the identification of access land, together with any appropriate advice on its definition, by July 1998. This will be useful whether a statutory or a voluntary approach is adopted.


Q.6 What would be the most helpful ways of describing the types of land?

Q.6 Only simple definitions would be needed, along with the sites being shown on a statutory map such as the 'public rights of way' maps maintained by the County Councils.

Q.7 What practical examples of good guidance are there?

Q.7 No comment.

Q.8 How important are maps, and on what scale?

Q.8 Maps are extremely important and should be of a reasonable scale large enough to show clearly the smallest site.  It is likely that 1:2500 scale will be necessary.  Consideration needs to be given to including the information on a GIS (Geographical Information System) accessible at, for instance, public libraries.


There should be provision for suspending a new right of access for short periods if the owners or occupiers of land so wish.

This provision would seem reasonable, on the proviso that there be some accountability to both user groups, and to the statutory bodies, in order to justify such actions. "Short periods" would need some definition (See below).


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should issue codes of practice for owners and occupiers on the use of closure powers.

It is important that the previous proposal is not used as a means of obtaining subsidy or compensation, and then legally withdrawing the access on which the agreement is based.

Q.9 Should there be a maximum number of days and/or a maximum area of open countryside over which the owners and occupiers of land could seek closure?

Q.9 Yes

Q.I0 Should local authorities be required to determine whether closures should continue when a limit on the number of days has been reached? How far should the public be involved?  Should owners and occupiers have a right of appeal?

Q.I0 Yes

Q.11 Should the Secretary of State have reserve powers to deal with unreasonable restriction of access to open countryside by occupiers generally?

Q.11 Yes

Q.12 Are there existing freedoms of access which need to be safeguarded under any new arrangements?

Q.12 The danger is always that often it is the case that freedom of access where currently enjoyed is not necessarily with the permission or knowledge of the landowner per se (often they simply ignore the situation), and that if it is brought to their attention access may be denied.  Some provision should be made to maintain the status quo.

Q.13 How should members of the public fmd out about closures and thus avoid inadvertent trespass?

Q.13 Relevant bodies and organisations should maintain lists of contacts who can circulate the information widely.  Information Centres, user-group journals and publications, and the media should be used.

Q.14 Should the codes of practice issued by the Countryside Commission and Countryside Council for Wales have some statutory force?

Q.14 This could be useful if they were suitably revised not as to maintain some individual freedom; after all we do not want to have a 'police state'.


Statutory authorities should be able to close land when necessary for health or safety reasons.

This would only be acceptable providing a suitable system of consultation and notification is devised.  The circumstances and powers to be used need to be identified.

Q.15 Are existing powers adequate?  Does there need to be a special power to exclude, if necessary permanently, land where there is a danger to the public?

Q.15 Existing powers may be adequate for existing situations, but the unique circumstances underground necessitate looking at the situation from an entirely different point of view.  The two issues of "powers of exclusion" and "danger to the public" are of great concern to cavers.  In pursuing caving as a recreation, there is an acceptance of the inherent and associated risks.  Any dangers, if properly expressed, ought to be acknowledged as their own responsibility. In practice, occasions arise where members of the public wish to have the benefits of such access, but not to shoulder the accompanying responsibilities.  In the case of caving a primary responsibility is acquiring of the skills and knowledge necessary to undertake such a venture in a safe and responsible manner.  In the case of caves and abandoned mines, the only "powers of exclusion" necessary might well be inclusive in the conditions relating to the access rights or agreements.  The National Caving Association has produced guidelines that cover both safety and conservation issues.  The use of the term "permanently" is inappropriate where caves and mine workings are concerned.  Natural caves are constantly evolving, as are some abandoned mine workings and the degree of danger changes.  Permanency is an anachronism.  It would be preferable to have a system of regular review.


The Ministry of Defence should be able to close land when necessary for military purposes.

This can only be considered acceptable when absolutely necessary. Who would make the decisions and be consulted user groups, central or local government, conservation bodies etc? This needs clarification.


The nature conservation and heritage agencies (English Nature, the Countryside Council for Wales, English Heritage and Cadw) should have powers to limit access to particularly sensitive sites either permanently or temporarily.

The National Caving Association tries to maintain a positive working relationship with the statutory conservation agencies.  In all cases it is a conservation interest that we hold in common.  Limitation of access to particularly sensitive sites on a temporary basis is supported in both principal and in practice.  However, our basic premise is that progress should always be made toward developing access that is of minimal impact and a sustainable nature.  Again, the term permanent is totally inappropriate in the case of caves and caving. A system of regular review is essential.

Q.16 If there is legislation, should it specify limits in terms of the number of days and/or the amount of open countryside, which may be covered by closures?

Q.16 Every case is different and no limits should be specified.  Each case should be regularly reviewed and decisions made only with the full support of all interested parties.

Q.17 Should such legislation provide for individual occupiers to seek access limitations to protect the wildlife and archaeological interest of their land?  Should this depend on the type of occupiers, for example whether they are wildlife organisations?

Q.17 Yes, providing everything is agreed with the statutory conservation bodies and other interested parties.

Q.18 Should there be a right of appeal against restrictions?

Q.18 Certainly.


Where parts of open country cannot be reached by any legal means, local authorities should consider whether to provide a means of access.

This proposal is fully supported.

Q.19 Are local authorities' powers sufficiently flexible to provide means of access to inaccessible islands where needed?

Q.19 Existing provisions need to be strengthened and simplified. The unique problem of caves and mine workings needs to be acknowledged and identified in order that caves and mines receive due consideration under these proposals.


Freedom should be granted only for access on foot for the purpose of open-air recreation.

This is the most appropriate category that cavers would fall into, in that they 'walk' to a cave or mine.  These walks are often quite long and sometimes involve crossing extensive areas of land.  The problem lies with the expression "open-air recreation".  Taking part in caving activities must be included within the definition of this. It is not relevant that the activity takes place below the surface and hidden from sight.

Q.20 Does the list of restrictions in the 1949 Act need up dating?  If so, how?

Q.20 If the list of restrictions is updated care must be taken to ensure that caving and directly associated activities are excluded.

Q.21 Should local authorities/owners/occupiers be able to limit the number of people allowed access to certain places in order to protect their tranquillity?  How else might tranquil areas be protected?

Q.21 There is a danger in this, particularly in respect of caves and abandoned mines.  In these cases local authorities/owners/ occupiers are not qualified to make this sort of decision and advice from the NCA should be sought.


A member of the public who took part in any of the activities specifically proscribed in legislation should be treated as a trespasser while undertaking the activity and for the rest of the day in respect of the land on which the activity took place.



The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should produce a code of practice for walkers.

The term "walker" is not considered sufficient or appropriate. The NCA has a 'Minimal Impact Caving Code' and a 'Code of Ethics'.  These are comprehensive and have been agreed with English Nature and the Countryside Council for Wales.  The Countryside Commission were invited to have an input when they were under discussion but declined.


Local authorities and the statutory agencies may need to use bylaw-making powers to prohibit inappropriate activities, especially where guidance produced by the countryside agencies has not been followed.

This proposal is of great concern.  If implemented it would have to be only under very strict control and within agreed guidelines.


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should draw up model bylaws for local authorities.

Only if essential.

Q.22 Are further by-law powers needed?

Q.22 This needs very careful consideration in respect of caves and abandoned mines.


In undertaking work to seek and improve access opportunities, local authorities and others should consider the needs of disabled people so that they do not put unnecessary obstacles in their way.  They should make themselves aware of their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act and take account of the advice in the BT Countryside for All Good Practice Guide.



Greater access to open countryside is for people: it should not automatically mean greater access for their dogs.



The codes of practice for owners and occupiers on closure (proposal 10) and for walkers (proposal 17) should include guidance on the need to control dogs.

No comment.


The owners and occupiers of land should, in general, remain free to develop and use it, subject to the constraints of planning and other legislation.

Agreed in principal however there is a need to be aware of the situation where a landowner may do something specifically to avoid having to allow access.


If a statutory approach is adopted, it would be an offence for the owners or occupiers of land to prevent or obstruct access to open country, including putting up signs to prohibit access, except where covered by authorised closure arrangements.


Q.30 Do any particular means of obstruction or threats need to be specified?

Q.30 Blocking or obliterating cave and mine entrances, and the tilling of open surface depressions needs to be specified.

Q.31 Do any threats or any legitimate management activities require particular controls, for example, occupiers' dogs, bulls, geese, operations such as heatherbuming, pest control?

Q.31 The use of pesticides, dumping of animal carcasses, and any pollutants likely to affect cave or mine systems may well need special controls.


Occupiers of land would continue to be liable to those exercising a right of access to their land as if they were trespassers.

This requirement has been the cause of many failed access agreements in the case of caves and of abandoned mines.  This is particularly the case when the owner is "in the business of providing access".  The Occupiers Liability Act 1984 went some way towards alleviating this situation, but we tend it difficult to fully support such a proposal unless amended.


Local authorities will have an important part to play in managing increased access in their areas and any legislation should provide new powers for them to do so if necessary.


Q.32 Should local authorities have wider powers to provide means of access such as stiles and gates?

Q.32 Yes. Mineshaft capping for access is another example.

Q.33 Should there be a specific power to appoint wardens/rangers in relation to access land?  If so, should the wardens/rangers be given any specific powers, for example, to impose fixed penalties for litter, noise or dog offences? Should such powers be restricted to local authority staff?

Q.33 Agreed.


Any legislation would place clear statutory responsibilities on the countryside, wildlife and heritage agencies in accordance with the outcome of consultation.


Q.34 Do the agencies need any fresh powers, for example, to make bylaws?

Q.34 The agencies probably have sufficient powers at present however in our experience they are often not inclined to exercise them.  The problem is likely to be exacerbated due to the significant increase in workload which will inevitably result.


Owners and occupiers should not be eligible for general compensation for access to their land.



The owners and occupiers of land may be eligible for grants or for payments under access agreements to cover certain costs incurred to enable, improve or limit access to open country.  Payments will continue to be made under existing agreements under other legislation to provide access to open country but new agreements will need to take any legislative proposals into account.  They should not provide for incentive payments for access in the event of it becoming compulsory but they may provide for payments which will enable legislation to bring maximum benefits.  MAFF will take account of the impact of any new legislation in their review of access arrangements in schemes covered by the Agri-Environment Regulation. Welsh Office Agriculture Department will take account of any legislation in the implementation of the new all Wales Agri-Environment Scheme announced last year.

The availability of grants to enable or improve access is reasonable, however to make funds available to limit access could be contradictory and would require very strict control and needs some clarification.  Once again reference to "open country" would appear to exclude caves and abandoned mines and the definition of the expression requires amending to include them.

Q.35 Are there particular costs which should be eligible for grant aid?

Q.35 Capital costs only unless there are special circumstances.

Q.36 What changes might be needed to existing schemes to ensure that they complement a new right of access to best effect?

Q.36 Farming subsidy schemes might be linked to access, particularly in the case of hill farming.


The costs to local authorities will be taken into account in drawing up proposals.  Only those proposals which ensure that the best value is achieved for public money will be taken forward.

Who is to say what is 'best value for money'.  A preferable system would be to operate a criteria based assessment where all schemes meeting the criteria would be eligible for prioritised consideration.  This assessment would look at both qualitative and quantitative factors, and all schemes meeting the criteria would be considered "good value" for public money.


The costs to the statutory countryside, wildlife and heritage agencies will be taken into account in drawing up proposals, to ensure that the best value is achieved for public money.

Same comments as for Proposal 30.


The costs of court action will be taken into account when drawing up proposals to ensure that they represent the best value for money.

Same comments as for Proposal 30.  There is the added danger that value is associated with cheapness, and that the qualitative value may be overlooked in considering any such actions.  It may be possible for the wealthy to buy their way out of the legislation by knowing that any legal costs may not be regarded as justifiable.  Safeguards are necessary to prevent this?


Walkers should not normally be required to pay to enter the land over which access is granted.

As stated before, the term 'walkers' is inappropriate.  This needs to be expanded to include other users including cavers.


Local authorities, other public bodies and the owners and occupiers of land should be able to make reasonable charges for the use of facilities as a contribution towards the cost of those facilities.

This would appear inconsistent with the spirit of the proposed legislation. The facilities given as examples, if imposed on the user groups, would appear to be being charged for twice.  If public funding, and grant aid (as mentioned in earlier proposals) is made available, then it appears that the same public are then being asked to make a second payment for facilities that they may not have required or requested.  The principal of grant aid being available for necessary facilities is not in question.  The matter that needs resolving is the divisive issue of whether only the wealthy should have access to a national heritage which has already had an indirect contribution from the not so wealthy via public funding and involuntary contribution.

Free car parks assist in containing parking and reducing obstructive roadside parking.  From a traffic pollution point of view, it is the traffic jam that is often the problem, rather than the traffic volume.  To charge for such a facility merely results in the traffic parking back on the roadside. Examples of this are abundant in the Peak District since the introduction of paid parking schemes.

The local authorities referred to would probably benefit more from the local spending of the increased and repeat visitor volumes generated by adopting a "no pay" policy.

Q.37 Should legislation specify the types of facility for which charges may be made?

Q.37 Yes, if it is essential to charge

Q.38 Should legislation limit the level of charges in any way?

Q.38 Yes, see comments above

Q.39 Do local authorities and other public bodies have adequate powers to levy such charges to help meet their costs in providing such facilities by agreement with the landowner?

Q.39 Yes

Q.40 Are there any other circumstances in which it should be possible to charge for entry?

Q.40 If, in order to gain access to a cave or mine, it is essential to cross land that does not fall into the categories under discussion; then it may be acceptable for a landowner to charge a small fee.  There are current examples of this.


Together with their statutory advisors (the countryside, wildlife and heritage agencies) the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Welsh Office should make an environmental assessment of the proposals.


Q.41 Are there any other environmental costs and benefits which should be taken into account?

Q.42 Is there any evidence of the values which should be assigned to environmental costs and benefits?

Q.41 & Q.42.  One benefit that inclusion of caves and abandoned mines would have is to ensure that Cave Conservation Plans (a current NCAIEN/CCW initiative) are developed for sensitive sites, and that the plans involve the sustainable development of the sites. Fewer caves would be polluted, or have entrances obliterated.  Unsightly gates on caves would be less prolific. Mine-shaft capping would be undertaken with far more regard for the full environmental impact, particularly on bat populations.

Greater access to caves would encourage discovery and development.  It would make visits less exclusive, but more manageable.  It would make monitoring and impact assessment far easier when assessing or implementing Cave Conservation Plans.

The added values listed relating to health and understanding between town and country are relevant.  The educational value of caves, at present, is only minimally exploited Improved access would allow for educational development in geology, industrial archaeology, biology, hydrology, geomorphology, palaeontology, geography, to name but a few.

The above comments were submitted by the NCA to DETR on 3 June 1998


Words of Little Wisdom

•           A closed mouth gathers no feet.

•           A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.

•           A penny saved is ridiculous.

•           All that glitters has a high refractive index.

•           Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.

•           Anarchy is better than no government at all.

•           Any small object when dropped will hide under a larger object.

•           Be moderate where pleasure is concerned, avoid fatigue.

•           Death is life's way of telling you you've been fired.

•           Death is Nature's way of saying 'slow down'.

•           Don't force it, get a larger hammer.

•           Earn cash in your spare time ... blackmail friends.

•           Entropy isn't what it used to be.

•           Fairy tales: horror stories for children to get them used to reality.

•           Going the speed of light is bad for your age.

•           Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

•           Herblock's Law:  If it's good, they will stop making it.

•           History does not repeat itself, historians merely repeat each other.

•           It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.

•           It works better if you plug it in.

•           It's not hard to meet expenses, they're everywhere.

•           Jury:  Twelve people who determine which client has the better lawyer.

•           Let not the sands of time get in your lunch.

•           Mediocrity thrives on standardisation.

•           Reality is the only obstacle to happiness.

•           The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

•           The 2 most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

•           Everyone has a photographic memory.  Some don't have film.

•           When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.

•           Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

•           He's not dead, he's electroencephalographic ally challenged.

•           You have the right to remain silent.... Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.

•           I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.

•           Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool.

•           A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

21/11/98                     BCRA Regional One-Day Meeting Priddy Village Hall. 9.30am Lectures on Swildons and Cuthbert’s -BCRA

21/11/98                     Diggers Dinner, Wookey Hole - Vince Simmonds

18/11/98 - 28/11/98     A Brush with Darkness - Paintings of Mendip's caves - Wells Museum - ISSA

20/11/98                     MRO lecture – Orthopaedic Trauma Part 1 Hunters Lodge 7:30pm.  All cavers welcome - MRO

26/11/98                     Underground painting techniques /demonstration. Wells Museum 7.30pm - Robin Gray

2/12/98                      Xmas Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/12/98                      BEC Committee Meeting

5/12/98                      CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am -   CSCC

11/12/98                     MRO lecture – Orthopaedic Trauma Part 2 Hunters Lodge 7:30pm.  All cavers welcome -  MRO

12/12/98                     Xmas Bulletin Out - Editor

18/12/98                     Axbridge Stomp, Village Hall - ACG

8/1/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

30/1/99                      BEC Stomp, Live band – Buick 6 Priddy Village Hall 8pm -Roz Bateman

5/2/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/2/99                        CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

5/3/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/3/99 (provisional)      Cave Science Symposium -BCRA

10/3/99                      NCA AGM 10.30am - NCA

10/3/99                      March Bulletin Cut off - Editor

19/3/99                      MRO Annual meeting, Hunters Lodge 8pm - MRO

20/3/99                      March Bulletin Out - Editor

4/4/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/4/99                        April Bulletin Cut off - Editor

9/499                         BEC Committee Meeting

10/4/99                      CCC Ltd. AGM, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CCC

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Out - Editor

2/5/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/5/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

15/599                       CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns day

2/6/99                        June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/6/99                      June Bulletin Out - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

28/7/99                      August Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Bulletin Out - Editor

31/8/99                      Committee reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Sorry for the BB being slightly late, but as you can see this is a bumper edition and hopefully well worth waiting for; it comes complete with the Thailand 98 caving report.

My apologies to the people who have sent me articles that I haven't printed in this BB.  The printing company's saddle-stitching machine can only cope with 72 pages (original) so they will be in the next BB.

How many of you guessed the cave in the last BB.  It was Shatter Passage in Swildons and the individual in the photo was Pete Rose. Have a go at this one and you could actually win a prize if you get the cave locations right.

I am getting a lot of promises for articles for future BB’s, please can you try and get these to me as soon as possible so I can plan ahead for the contents of the BB’s.

The cut of for the next BB is 10th March 1999.  This is about a month late as I am in India, so unless anyone fancies doing the BB for me, it will have to wait until I get back!!  I would really appreciate if anyone has any articles for this one to let me know during January so I have a bit of an idea what to expect.

(Note: I have put the cut off and due dates for all next years BB’s in the rolling calendar- hopefully this will help a bit with the timing of articles)


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

*** Reminder***

Don't forget to pay your membership fees by the 31/12/98 to take advantage of the reduced rates of £24 for single and £38 for joint.  Please note that anyone who has not paid their membership will receive no further Belfry Bulletins, until their fees are paid. We cannot guarantee to hold any Belfry Bulletins you may have missed due to late payment.

BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match - 2nd January 1999

Don't forget to come along and support your club for this annual challenge.  As usual it is being held in the New Inn at Priddy.  'Ball bowling' will start at 7pm.


Photos are still required for the photo-board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in.  Ed.

BEC Stomp

The BEC are holding a stomp on 30th January 1999.  This may well be fancy dress, so keep an eye open for the posters nearer the time. Tickets will be available from the usual outlets: Bat Products, Hunters and Committee members.  Please contact Roz Bateman for more information.


Burrington Cave Atlas

I am hoping to get the Burrington cave Atlas out in the early part of next year.  I am still lacking in photos for this, so if anyone has any Burrington photos, recent or historic please send them to Estelle address in the front cover - I will return all pictures that are sent to me.

Diggers Dinner and Disco

This was held at the Wookey Hole Inn on 21st of November.  For anyone who didn't attend, you missed one of the best party nights of the year.  Well done to Vince Simmonds for organising a very enjoyable event.


Is anyone interested in snowboarding?  Carol 'Whitemeg' White is looking for people who are interested in snowboarding in the Alps during the first 2 weeks of February.  Caravan accommodation is £250 divided by the number of people sharing. Carol can be contacted during the day on 01452 xxxxxx


I have had some response to this, but I know there are many more of you out there who have nicknames, so come on tell me how they came about.  Ed.

BEC Computer

We should have a computer, capable of doing what is required, in the library before the New Year. (As long as I get time to build it!!!) Thanks for the donations of bits so far. Ed.

Cave Diving

For anyone wishing to try cave diving, read P.46 of the new Bristol Yellow Pages.  Neatly located under the 'Highs and Lows' (as opposed to the 'Fun for Kids') page, along with the Wookey Hole Showcaves advert ('Fun for Kids'!) and Cheddar Caves' 'Adventure caving' advert, Dany (B.O.W.) Bradshaw has an advert for his 'Regular cave dives' using 'some of the most advanced equipment in the country to negotiate the caves flooded tunnels and passages’.

Feel free to contact Dany for more details!!  I 'spec he will not be amused!!

Excess Hot Air

Readers will be pleased to hear that one of the hot air balloons soon to attempt the Trans-world challenge, and piloted by Andy Elson of Wells, will be sporting several "Bertie" stickers.  We hope it brings them luck and that they get 'Everywhere' they want to go.

Out thanks to Andy (a Hunters' devotee) for sticking them in the gondola where larger and richer organisations have been refused.  Watch out for them on the telly.  J'Rat


Mike Dewdney-York and P.B."Jesos" Smith - reminiscences.

In a bad week during November the writer lost two good friends of over thirty years standing and the caving world lost two great Characters.

Mike York, renowned Wessex Cave Club hut warden and librarian died instantly of a massive heart attack.  I am informed that he had a smile on his face and we can only speculate that at the time he was foreseeing the banning of the BEC from his wake barrel!  Never famous for his caving enthusiasm (not many caves being big enough for his massive figure) his contribution to the Mendip scene lay in his personality and knowledge of speleological literature.  His bookbinding skills were appreciated by many.  His physical size and hirsute nature ensured that he stood out in any pub. I well remember a trip to Co. Clare many years ago when, decked out in his usual tatty fisherman's smock, he was photographed by hordes of American tourists as he whittled a bit of wood in O'Connor's Bar.  They obviously couldn't tell the difference between a Jewish Portland, Dorset accent and that of a Clare man!  Still, he was kept in Guinness for the day .....

The Hill, and particularly Upper Pitts, will not be quite the same without him.

Pete "Jesus" Smith, generally known as PB, was a character of similar vintage and obstreperousness.  He dedicated much of his caving career to digging in the Peak District - especially in Peak Cavern - as a member of BSA and later TSG.  He, also, had a great interest in caving literature and put much work into the BSA/BCRA library.

He died from the results of an eight foot fall from scaffolding while at work in Leeds an ironic death for such a skilled engineer and digger whose magnificent scaffold headframe was much admired at the last BCRA Conference.

I always considered him to be immortal.  On an early Berger trip his van full of (probably pissed) Derbyshire cavers left the track to La Moliere and was stopped from a 2,000 foot drop by a tree - from which one of the doors had to be pulled out as it was embedded like an axe blade! He drove the van back to Sheffield.

Not long ago he broke his ankle in Cuthbert's and had the further misfortune of finding that Jane was casualty nurse at Weston A&E.  Being of a thrifty nature he refused to have his wet sock cut off and the air turned blue when Jane, delighted with the opportunity, pulled it off instead.  He was later very grateful for her services.

As a mainstay of Derbyshire caving and an old Shepton Mallet CC member he will be sorely missed in both areas.

Cheers fellas - see you in the Big Hunters' in the Sky.


P.B. Smith

PB was a good friend of mine and I know will be sadly missed by many people.

I have many good memories, but the picture that will always stick in my mind of PB, is the Cuthbert's rescue.  I was leading the trip and just up from Plantation Junction, this voice from below calmly called up saying, "This rock just fell out of the roof, brushed past my shoulder and landed on my foot and has broken it!"  My comment back was something about damaging the cave and to get a move on up the slope, as I didn't believe him, as he was so calm! He assured me that he was serious, and apart from a lifeline up Arête pitch and the Entrance Rift, he did the most fantastic self-rescue I have seen.  The hospital trip afterwards was very humorous as Jane Jarratt was on duty in casualty and didn't give him any sympathy, as was the pub after; he took great pride in using it as an excuse to get everyone else to go to the bar for him!

Derbyshire and the BCRA conferences will never be the same without him.

Estelle (Ed.)

P.B. Smith

On 19th November 1998, Derbyshire and the caving world lost one of its 'real' characters, Pete Smith (PB) after a fatal accident on a building site whilst at work.

PB was one of the first cavers I met when I started caving in 1993.  He introduced me to the art of digging and when I was back in Mansfield during university holidays, I joined him on several occasions in Blue John Cavern on digging trips.  He was always a very active caver, digger and a supporter of caving events.  I have so many good memories of antics at BCRA conferences, digging, caving in France last year and in particular the way he always greeted me with a big smile and a hug.

Most cavers who have been on the caving scene for years or those that have caved in Derbyshire will have known PB, and know that he will be very much missed.

Emma Porter


Hazelnut Swallet

By Mike Willett

This interesting cave is situated in Biddlecombe valley, the foot of which lies just outside Wells, and rises past West Horrington.  It can be accessed at the top on the opposite side of the road from Pen Hill Mast. Digging at this site first started in 1986 by the Independent speleo Group, who opened up the entrance chamber to the cave after much hard work damming it off from the stream, and securing the entrance.  Our interest in this dig site was aroused in the Easter period of 97, after Adrian Hole, Nick Mitchell and myself were forced out of Beryl Rift a few hundred yards down valley from Hazelnut Swallet, due to regular flooding of the dig.  The ISG kindly allowed us to have Hazelnut Swallet, as they had not made much more progress since their last efforts in 1988.  The dig is situated about halfway down-valley just past West Horrington in the left-hand bank; it has a grill over the entrance.

It has been proven that the water sinking in Biddlecombe valley resurges at the springs at St Andrews Well in Wells.  It would be true to say that the hopes for the dig are, that Hazelnut Swallet could give us access to whatever cave system there is under this part of Mendip, draining the Pen Hill, Haydon Drove and West Horrington area.  It certainly does not seem improbable that a streamway could be met holding the water from Haydon Drove and Slab House Swallets and other sinks in the area.  Either way the potential is there for a sizeable cave system in this area.  If it will lead us storming down great cave passages, to the underground river that feeds the springs in Wells, only time and digging will tell.

Sadly for his friends, Adrian had to move to Gloucester for his career in teaching.  When Nick and I took over the dig in April 97 we knew after looking at the body length section of passage at the bottom left hand comer of the chamber, that we had a long job on our hands.  The way on looked much smaller than body-size, but continued for as far as our lights could see, so the next few months went as follows:

Hazelnut Swallet Digging log for 1997


13TH  We prepared the dig, clearing the streambed and leaving a digging skip and ropes.

19TH  Banged by John Attwood and Nick.  This was a very effective bang, which shattered the rock and calcite for a few feet. After the initial spoil was cleared, our next twice weekly visits until the end of April were spent chiselling the well fractured rock and clearing the stream bed of loose rocks.


3RD  Due to a bang shortage we decided to give Hilti caps a try.  This method worked very well for the first two bangs gaining a couple of feet, until the third attempt when I managed to blow a neat hole through my little finger, and peppered the side of my hand with shrapnel. Nick and I left for the pub at this point, leaving a spoil heap to clear on our next trip.

10TH  Cleared spoil from last visit.

13TH  Had a session chiselling with some success.  A large calcited slab was pulled out making the way on easier to see.

15TH  Drilled two good shotholes ready for banging. 

17TH  Banged by John Attwood.

18TH  Cleared bang gaining a few feet.

20TH  One hole was drilled 14mm diameter the full length of bit. (600mm)

22ND  A second hole was drilled 14mm, but only half the length of drill bit, due to a weak battery.

25TH  Banged by John Attwood.

27TH  Clearing trip.

29TH  Drilled two and a half holes 12mm diameter.


8TH  Re-drilled holes increased length to 600mm and banged by Nick Williams and friend.

10TH  Clearing trip.

12TH  Drilling trip, not successful due to lack of room for manoeuvring.

14TH  Used a Kango hammer after carrying Nick's generator to the dig, which made us a little more room for drilling.

17TH  Nick Mitchell showed Pete Flannagan of the ISG, the progress we were making.

19TH  Carrying Nick's generator down to the dig and running the cables to the dig face, we drilled six good shotholes.  (14mm diameter, 600mm long.)

22ND  Dig banged by Tony Jarratt.  (Very loud.)

27TH  Clearing trip.  Lots of spoil to clear, of which we cleared about half because Nick and I were feeling a bit rough.

29TH  Second clearing trip.  After removing all the spoil and chiselling away at a calcite constriction, a breakthrough looks inevitable into roomier passage after the next bang!


1ST  Carried Nick's generator to the dig again, and drilled four holes (600mm long 14mm diameter.)

2ND  Banged by Tony Jarratt.

3RD  Breakthrough!!  Cleared debris to get an estimated eight feet of small passage with a little grotto on the right. The way on is straight ahead and looks like it will mean more banging again.

10TH  Antony Butcher helped us with a lot of gardening work in tidying up the breakthrough squeeze and clearing digging spoil from the entrance chamber.

15TH  Antony accompanied us again, although not much was achieved.  We had a go at chiselling and cleared a couple of bags of gravel.

17TH  Helped again by Anthony we carried the generator to the dig and drilled two holes 600mm long. There was no good surface to drill a third because of manoeuvring with a long drill bit.

This marked the end of our efforts for 97, due to a long spell of very wet weather and the beginning of the drinking season.  I have noted on my calendar a visit in February of 1998, when Nick and I cleared the dig of washed in debris and had a hammer at the end.  Our efforts in 97 had given us a total dig length of 47 feet. The end of the dig carries on smaller than body size for about twelve feet where it looks as though a cross rift or comer will be met.

Hazelnut Swallet Digging log 1998.


14TH  Dig Banged by Nick Mitchell and Graham Johnson (Jake).

16TH  Nick, Jake and Becca Campbell.  Cleared spoil, drilled and banged again.

17TH  Nick, Mike, Jake and Blue (Nick's dog.)  Started clearing shite of which there was plenty.

19TH  Mike, Nick, Becca, Jake and Blue.  Carried on clearing then drilled and banged.

21ST  Nick, Jake and Becca with subterranean Blue.  Partial clearance, drilled and banged.  Becca pushed to inlet soon to be reached by the rest of us, which appears interesting but we have yet to see round the corner.

26TH  Nick, Mike, Jake and Paul Brock.  Clearing trip.

29TH  Nick, Jake and Becca.  Enlarged calcite squeeze to allow passage of the digging skip to the end. Hammered at the end.


1ST  Tony Jarratt, Jake, and Nick banged the dig.

2ND  Nick, Jake, Becca, Paul and Blue x 2 cleared the end of a bit of rubble.

4TH  Jake and Chris of the Oxford DCC.  Banged dig ("Biddlecombe did fair echo." Wrote Jake.)

9TH  Mike, Nick, Jake and Richard Blake.  The future looks good, the last bang did better than most.  We managed to see around the comer at a low calcite constricted duck.  To get at the duck properly we need to bang off the comer.

14TH  Jake, Rich and Tony Jarratt banged the comer.

15TH  Nick, Jake, Becca and Richard.  Cleared the bang but it still needs another.

16TH  Jake and Mike returned to drill and bang the dig.

21ST  Nick, Christina, Jake, Becca and Mike.  The last two bangs had made us good progress along the passage to a point where the small stream turned right, into a very low duck.  The debris was cleared and the low arch of the duck hammered, this enabled me to just squeeze my head through and look into a small well decorated chamber. Becca Campbell managed to sit up in the chamber.  It was decided to return with a good chisel to enlarge the duck.

23RD  Nick, Mike, Jake, Becca, Richard.  We managed to enlarge the duck and slide through it into a small chamber, enough to sit up in, with a nice grotto. The way on is down a small rift opposite the duck, which will require a couple of bangs.

25TH  Banged by Richard Blake and Tony Jarratt.


5TH  Nick, Mike and Jake.  An unexpected breakthrough!  Cleared the debris and after a lot of smashing about and falling loose boulders, squeezed into a sizeable chamber, although still low the chamber is about ten feet wide sloping down dip with a vadose trench in the floor.  At the bottom end of the chamber there are two passages, the way on appears to be in the left passage which needs rocks hauled out of it. It was getting late for the pub so we decided to push it on our next trip.

7TH  Nick, Mike and Jake.  Nick pushed the left passage and passed back lots of rocks to produce a flat out crawl down to a calcite constriction, which you can look through into a hands and knees size passage bearing a sizeable stream, most probably the water sinking in Biddlecombe Swallet and the stream bed outside the cave. One good bang and we should be through!

8TH  Tony Jarratt and Ivan Sandford banged the constriction.

11TH  Becca, Jake, Nick, Mike.  The bang obliterated the squeeze to allow access to about eight feet of streamway, coming from a small inlet passage on the right.  The stream flows straight ahead for its short length, and at the end appears to turn sharp left under what looks like another duck or low, very wet crawl.  There appears to be a good draught, which is good but makes digging a cold, wet job, so it looks like wetsuits all round.  Jake and Becca surveyed the cave to the duck.  The way on for now needs more chiselling and the streambed dug out.



BCRA Regional Meet



Tai Rom Yen 1998

Editor – Rob Harper, BVM&S, MRCVS, FRGS.


This is an account of a short reconnaissance trip made during January of 1998 to assess the speleological potential of the Tai Rom Yen National Park in Surat Thani Province in Southern Thailand.  It was a joint project involving both Thai and British cavers as well as employees of the Royal Forestry Department of Thailand.

The Tai Rom Yen National Park is situated near Surat Thani approximately 640km south of Bangkok on the eastern side of the peninsula.


Tony Boycott - (UK)                          Bristol Exploration Club

Rob Harper - (UK)                             Bristol Exploration Club

Dean Smart - (Thailand)                    Royal Forestry Dept.

Anukoon Sorn-Ek - (Thailand)            Royal Forestry Dept.


We are very grateful for all the help and generous hospitality received from the employees of the Royal Forestry Department in the Tai Rom Yen National Park.

In particular ....

Chief ..................................................................... Sunlit Sirichot

Assistant Chief ...................................................... Somsak Suphanpradit

Head of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station .................. Racheng Ranthaphun

Head of Khong Ngai Ranger Station ......................... Nara Kongkhiaw

Rangers ................................................................ Saming Musikawong

............................................................................. Banjong Niyarat

............................................................................. Jetsada Maneechai

............................................................................. Jarin Meunsawat

............................................................................. Saengthawee Hanprachum

............................................................................. Somcheua Romkhiri

............................................................................. Somyot Saejeu

............................................................................. Somdet Saejeu

............................................................................. Liem Kaeonark

............................................................................. Chorb Chaidet

............................................................................. Prayut Lorbthong

............................................................................. Chaliew Klingklaow

............................................................................. Sithichoke Heetket


The karst and caves of Thai Rom Yen National Park are all formed in limestones of Permian age (c.275-235ma) called the Ratburi Group.  This limestone is found throughout Thailand, except for the north east. It is hard, massively bedded and light to dark grey in colour.  At Tai Rom Yen, metamorphic processes have altered the rock to marble and many, white calcite-filled fractures criss-cross through it.

During the Permian period, Thailand was positioned upside down on the equator.  Tectonic activity was quiet and a stable platform developed in a warm, shallow sea - an ideal habitat for shelled marine creatures. The shells of these animals accumulated up to 2,000m thickness. Fossils of the Ratburi group include brachiopods, corals, gastropods and fusilinids.

Later, during the Triassic period (c.225-190ma) Thailand drifted northwards, span around 180 degrees and collided with Indo-China.  Marine sandstones and shales were deposited on top of the limestone as the sea became deeper.  Granite plutons pushed upwards through the Earth's crust.  Heat from the granites turned the limestone into marble and the increased pressure fractured it severely, forming the calcite veins.

Further tectonic movements in the Cretaceous period (c.135-65ma) faulted and uplifted the rocks into mountains.  Erosion began and the karst landscape we see today started forming.

Finally, in the last 2 million years, rivers eroded sediments from the mountains and deposited them as the flat plains surrounding the area.  Relative sea level changes of up to 300m in amplitude have also helped to shape the local scenery.

Karst in Tai Rom Yen National Park presents a variety of forms.  There are isolated remnants of limestone on top of a granite base, as seen near the headquarters.  Caves here are short, inactive parts of much older, longer systems which carried underground streams.  Erosion of the limestone broke up the old caves and diverted the streams onto the surface.  Tham Ngu is a good example.  A single active cave, Tham Nam Lod, is small and probably young in age.

More extensive areas of karst in the northern part of the park contain longer underground cave systems up to 4km in length.  Here, dolines capture rainwater falling on the limestone and streams flowing off the granite and sandstone sink at the edge of the karst.  The water emerges again at caves such as Tham Khlong Wat, Tham Huai Khang Khao and Tham Huai Sit.  These caves are quite small in size and their passage shapes suggest that they are also young in age (especially Tham Huai Sit).  Large, inactive, upper level caves do exist as at Tham Men. These caves are much older.

Khao Nan Daeng is an example of a karst ridge, aligned with the general geological structure of the area (N-S).  Bedding planes in the limestone are near vertical and also aligned N-S, but the ridge probably formed by fault movement on either side.  Caves here include ancient, inactive caves, such as Tham Men, and younger, active caves carrying a stream through the ridge, e.g. Tham PIa.

All of the caves in Tai Rom Yen have an origin in the phreatic zone (beneath the water table). Round chambers and smooth walls (Tham Men and Tham Men) are evidence of this.  The younger, still active caves are developing partly in the phreatic zone when rainy season floods fill the caves to the roof (round to oval passage cross sections in Tham PIa, Tham Khlong Wat, etc.) and partly in the vadose zone (above the water table) during the dry season.  Tham Kraduk is also originally phreatic.  Here though, the cave has a very flat roof due to near static water from the surrounding marsh entering the cave and evenly dissolving away the roof.





The caves examined were in four areas.

1. Khao Nan Daeng

This sharp limestone ridge starts approximately 1 km North-East of the town of Amphoe Ban Na San and runs approximately North for about 5 km rising to a height of 300m and varying in width from 0.2 to 0.5 km.   Although many cave entrances are visible, only three systems were visited on this trip.

Tham Men ("Smelly Cave")


The Buddhist temple beside the lower entrance to this cave is easily seen from the main road from Amphoe Ban Na San to Ban Khlong Ha.  Drive towards the temple and then follow the road beside this temple to the North until a signpost on the right hand side with a picture of the cave.  From here, an obvious path leads up the hillside to the main entrance.


From the large entrance chamber two passages lead on.

To the right, a complex maze of small phreatic passages eventually leads to single low passage heading to a lower entrance directly above the temple.

Straight ahead, a low stoop leads to a rift approximately 10m deep, (fixed ladder in situ).  At the bottom left leads to a small series of rift passages which were not pushed to a conclusion while right leads to a series of large dry fossil passages with good formations.

At one point, a series of pitches can be seen descending to a possible lower level but these were not descended owing to lack of tackle.

This cave was not surveyed owing to a lack of time.  A Grade 1/2 survey done by local cavers would indicate approximately 2km of known passage.

Tham Kraduk ("Bone Cave")


From Tham Men follow the road North paralleling the western side of the ridge for approximately 3kms then turn right along tracks heading towards the base of the cliff.  At the narrowest point of the ridge below a col is a stream resurging from a cave (Tham Pla) Tham Kraduk is found at the base of the cliff approximately 300m to the South. Local guidance is extremely useful.


Depressing series of low phreatic mud floored passages and occasional crossrifts.

From the entrance crawl a passage to the right 2 to 4m wide and approximately 1m high parallels the cliff face and daylight can be seen through a small hole on the right hand side.  This passage ends in a wide chamber.  About 10m from the start of this passage, another passage on the left-hand side can be followed past several cross rifts to a small sump in a rift in the floor. The passage to the right of the sump closes down within a short distance


Tham PIa ("Fish Cave")


See Tham Kraduk


Follow the stream to its resurgence, underneath a huge boulder, at the base of the cliff.  Climbing over this boulder allows access to a rift dropping into waist-deep water.  A stooping sized passage quickly leads to a short gravel floored crawl and after approx.  10m this opens out into a large river passage.  This can be followed upstream.  Passage dimensions vary between l0x6m to 5x5m with occasional low stoops and a short section of swimming at a duck to end in a large boulder ruckle.  Several small passages and low ducks allow penetration of this ruckle but no way through could be found.  There may be a passage over the top but this could not be reached.  According to local people, this boulder ruckle is only just inside the entrance of the stream sink on the opposite side of the ridge.

Several parallel/oxbow passages were noted.

2. Near Tai Rom Yen National Park Headquarters.

Tham Ngu ("Snake Cave")


At the "T" junction at the end of the road from the Park Headquarters turn right and stop at a rubber plantation on the right after approx. 3km. The cave is located high on the hill behind this plantation.  Follow the path from the plantation across the stream and follow a poorly defined gully. Local guidance is essential.


A large and very well decorated entrance chamber leads to two short walking passages either side of a pillar.  These quickly unite shortly before the cave ends at a series of dry gours home to a sizeable snake.

Bamboo Rat in Tham Nam Lod – Photo: Tony Boycott

Cave Racer snake in Tham Ngu – Photo: Tony Boucott


Tham Nam Lod ("Stream Cave")


In the slopes directly opposite the Park Headquarters.  From the road drop down into the valley and cross the stream to an old abandoned banana plantation.  From here, follow the small stream up to the cave from which it resurges. Local guidance is extremely useful.


From the entrance a single stooping height gravel floored passage ends after about 30m at a small sump.  A small phreatic tube to the left of the sump rapidly becomes too tight and is home for a bamboo rat!

3. Near Phetphanomwat Field Station.

Tham Khlone: Wat ("Temple Stream Cave'')


From the field station, follow the obvious path on the opposite side of the road down into the valley meeting the stream at a small Buddhist shrine. Although the cave can be entered via the resurgence of this stream, it is simpler to follow the small cliff around to the left for approximately 30 to 40m to an obvious flood resurgence.


The walking sized passage is followed until the main stream passage is encountered.  From here the stream can be followed along a winding passage via a series of pools some of which require swimming to a stal blockage with the stream emerging.

A short crawl and two ducks under the stal blockage lead to a short cascade and then a deep sump.

Above the stal blockage, a rift passage can be followed to a second stal blockage probably at the same level as the sump.

On the left hand side of the passage about 20m towards the entrance from the stal blockage is a short inlet passage.

There are several inlet and outlet passages near the entrance.

Tham Huai Khang Khao ("Bat Cave")


This cave is located in the hill behind the field station.  From the field station head slightly right up the hill and follow a shallow streambed, and a black water pipe, to the entrance of this resurgence cave.


A large passage with silt banks leads to a gloomy stream passage with many bats.  Walking and wading eventually leads to a sump after approximately 170m.

Near the entrance, there are several outlet passages some of which lead to alternative entrances. In one passage a fossilised elephant tooth was found.

The only inlet passage on the right hand side about 35m downstream from the sump rapidly ends in a loose boulder choke.


Fossil Elephant molar in Tham Huai Khang Khao – Photo: Tony Boycott

Frig in Tham Huai Khang Khao – Photo: Tony Boycott     

4. Huai Sit

Tham Huai Sit 1& 2 ("Sit's Stream Cave 1 & 2")


From the village, follow the obvious river upstream to its resurgence from underneath a pile of boulders.  The entrance to Huai Sit 1 is an intermittently active stream passage in a 3m deep cleft approximately 30m along the base of the hill to the right. Huai Sit 2 is the obvious 2mdiameter passage heading into the hill about 10m further round and about 10m higher up the hill.


Huai Sit 1

A narrow hading rift passage is followed to a cross-rift which debouches into the large main stream passage.

Upstream the passage enlarges at a boulder pile with the stream emerging from a sump immediately beyond.  A sand-choked rift above the sump emits an impressive draught.  Downstream swimming around a comer leads to a further 30m of swimming to another sump, which must be very close to the surface.

Huai Sit 2

The impressive passage rapidly deteriorates into loose tight muddy rifts with bad air to a sump. The side passages revealed nothing of significance.

Tham Men (“Porcupine Cave”)

Rob Harper in entrance to Tham men (Huai Sit) – Photo – Tony Boycott

Gecko on curtain in Tham men (Huai Sit) – Photo – Tony Boycott


From either Huai Sit 1 or 2 head directly upslope for about 40 to 50m. The cave is located in an indistinct gully at the base of a small cliff.  This is not easy to find - even the locals did not know that it was there!


The entrance squeeze leads down slope over hard packed silt passing over a blind shaft in the floor (bad air) and enlarges to approx. 10x10m at a chamber. Much evidence of porcupines throughout the cave.

From this chamber, a walking passage can be followed to a stal obstruction. A low crawl on the right leads to a short hands and knees crawl to a static sump.  This passage contains many dusty formations including gour pools and false floors as well as evidence of intermittent flooding.

The only significant side passage leads from the true right hand side of the large chamber near the entrance.  A rising passage leads for 40m through a series of small chambers to a point that must be very close to the surface.

5. Other unvisited caves in the area:

Unnamed Cave


Southern end of Khao Nam Daeng


Flooded in all but the dry season when a very muddy, wet passage can be followed for several hundred metres.

Tham Mek


In cliff face above and behind the park headquarters.


Rock shelter containing gour pools and bees' nests.

Tham Khi Khang Khao


1 hrs walk E of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station.


Small dry cave used by locals for extraction of guano.

Tham Nam Sap


1hrs walk N of Tham Khi Khang Khao


Probably a stream sink cave.  No further details.

Tham Nam Lod


To the E of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station the Nai Chong, Wat and Kong Chang streams join and sink into a cave at about G.R. 584 874.


A large stream sink which is possibly choked with logs.  No further details.


The caves explored contained a large population of animals.  The high-energy tropical environment of most caves with frequent floods and multiple entrance systems favours large populations, mostly of troglophiles and trogloxenes, but some true troglobites were seen.  Many bats were seen, of at least two different species, but surprisingly no fruit bats were seen.

As a small reconnaissance expedition, we were not intending to collect any biological specimens.  The elephant molar found in Tham Khang Khao has not yet been specifically identified.  However, a bat skeleton found in Tham Men ("Smelly Cave") has been identified.  It could be one of four similar species, but we are most confident that it is a Hipposideros lekaguli.  This is quite a rare species of bat that is native to Thailand and this population would probably merit further evaluation.

Fauna List

(Species without cave name in brackets were seen in most caves visited.)


Fossil elephant molar                                               (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

Porcupine spines and tracks (Hystrix spp.)                (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

                                                                              (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])

Rhinolophus bats (at least two different species)

Bamboo Rat (Rhizomys sinensis)                                                (Tham Nam Lod)


Cave Racer Snake (Elaphae taeniura)                        (Tham Kraduk)

                                                                              (Tham Ngu)

Unidentified tube-nosed turtle                                    (Tham Khlong Wat)

Frogs & Toads (pigmented surface species)               (All stream caves)

Banded geckos                                                       (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])


Fish (surface species, pigmented with eyes)              (All stream caves)

Catfish (surface form)                                               (Tham Khlong Wat)


Crabs (Pale orange)                                                 (Tham Khlong Wat)

                                                                              (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

Huntsman spiders                                                    (Tham Men ["Smelly Cave"])

Tarantula spiders                                                     (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])

Ixodid ticks

Millipedes (white and pigmented)

Crickets (white)


Whip Scorpions



Diptera larvae



All the surveys were to BCRA Grade 3b unless otherwise stated.  Bearings and inclinations were measured using a hand held Suunto compass and a hand held Suunto clinometer both of which were read to the nearest degree. Distances were measured using a 30m fibron tape measured to the nearest 5cms.

The survey data was processed and a centre line plotted using "COMPASS" software.

The UTM co-ordinates for the cave entrances were obtained by using a GARMIN "12XL" hand held GPS receiver.  Because of the difficulty of using these instruments in thick jungle terrain in some cases a rough surface survey was made to the nearest clearing where the requisite number of satellites for an accurate fix could be located by the GPS.

So for .....

THAM HUAI KHANG KHAO the cave entrance is approximately 100m from the UTM coordinated position on a bearing of 050deg. mag. 

THAM HUAI SIT 1&2 and THAM MEN the cave entrances are approximately 500m from the UTM co-ordinated position on a bearing of 045deg. mag.

The cave plans published in this report are intended as a map for future explorers. There is sufficient information provided to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of the work already done. Plan view has been used throughout, as there is little significant vertical range in any of the caves surveyed.  If further details are required then please contact the expedition members.


In a period of less than two weeks four cavers with help from the employees of the Royal Forestry Department mapped and photographed over 2.7 Km of cave passage.  Because of the constraints of time efforts were concentrated mainly on the easily accessible resurgence caves.  However, information from the National Park Rangers indicates that there are many other sites worthy of investigation.  In addition, topographical maps of the region show a number of streams sinks in the higher parts of the park with considerable scope for both long and deep cave development.

Besides sporting interest, the caves provide a home to many species of animals including a rare species of bat.  They contain potentially important palaeontological and palaeozoological data - as evidenced by the fossilised elephant's tooth.

This short reconnaissance trip has shown that there is significant potential for further speleological exploration in the Tai Romyen National Park.  It is vital that these caves are mapped and surveyed so that they can be integrated into the overall management plan for this beautiful area.



Five Buddles Sink - A Lost Cave Rediscovered - Part 2

(Continued from BB 494, Vol. 50 no. I, December 1997.)

By Tony Jarratt

"The Mendip Lead Mines was our attraction,
In those days there was no compulsory education.
To the mines we had six miles to walk and very poor pay,
For ten hours work we got sixpence a day."

Jesse Lovell of Compton Martin - born in 1847 and referring to the Charterhouse workings before 1871. From Coal Mining in Bishop Sutton, North Somerset. c. 1799-1929 by ~J. Williams, 1976.


Throughout December 1997 and January 1998 work continued on clearing the shaft and repairing the roadside walls with the extracted rocks. A long miner's iron bar was found by Estelle and used again after over 100 years of inaction.     Various large boulders were banged including several which slid into the shaft from the natural area above the connection point during the Christmas holiday week.  The slow but very powerful winch used at Stock Hill Mine Cave was erected on site and used to haul six loads at a time from the shaft.  With the surface wall repairs complete the excess rock was dumped across the road for future use by Somerset Trust in repairing the Mineries Pool dam.  Continued wet weather ensured that a healthy stream regularly ran through the Old Mens' Passage (as the enlarged natural streamway had been named) to flood the low passage above the "sumped" area below the mineshaft.  When there were insufficient personnel for hauling spoil, work concentrated on clearing this passage to reveal the timbered floor and miners' stone walling along its sides (photo 7). 

Left Photo 1. The MCG Winch at Cornish Shaft - photo: Tony Jarratt

As "man-hauling" and the use of the slow winch were both becoming, literally, a pain, we approached Wayne Hiscox of the Mendip Caving Group for the loan of their motorised winch - not used since the Wigmore Swallet dig twenty years ago!  They happily agreed - for which our grateful thanks. This was fettled by Ivan and on 31st January a strong but distinctly wobbly team converted the shaft tripod into a coalmine-like headgear and, after attaching the winch, successfully hauled out about 20 full skiploads.

On the following day a big team winched out over 80 more loads to the entertainment of hordes of walkers.  A three-man team repeated this performance in peace and quiet on the Monday.

The huge limestone slabs wedged across the connection point between the shaft and Old Men’s Passage were banged and removed to leave a very impressive junction far bigger than that seen by the nineteenth century miners.  On 5th February more clearing of the shaft revealed a shothole 12" long x 1,1/2" wide at the top x 1,3/8" at the bottom which had been driven vertically downwards in the NE wall near the shaft floor.  A small wooden "spatula" was later found near this and was presumably used to scrape clay from mining equipment.

Having now reached the (temporary) base of the shaft at a depth of over 30ft work commenced on clearing the lead tailings-filled crawl downstream.  The drop down to the "sump" was flooded at 5ft depth so for want of anything better to do a muddy alcove above it was cleared out by Jake Baynes to reveal it as the start of an almost completely filled natural/mined passage trending back towards Wheel Pit across the road.  A 7" x l" shothole segment was found in the ceiling and the infill of thick, sticky black and ochre clay contained many pieces of wood and two more wooden rollers - these having metal "cogwheels" on one end and small axles on the other.  They matched in size that found previously and illustrated in BB No.494. They resemble the rollers from an old fashioned mangle (but are shorter) and may indeed be such, though what they were doing at a lead washing plant is open to question - perhaps the "slaggers" wrung out their wet clothing at the end of the day.  A more likely possibility is that they were purpose built for some form of winding or haulage system, despite the fact that they show no signs of rope wear.  They are in the writer's possession and available for inspection should any reader care to speculate on their purpose.

Very wet weather during the next two months restricted our digging activities but despite this several hundred bags of spoil, generally from the area near the shaft bottom, reached surface. The Old Men’s wooden floor at the start of the downstream section was once again revealed and cleared of mud and the dug "dry" level earned the name Tailings Passage as we couldn't think of anything more fitting!

In this passage, once the hot and dry weather commenced, a vast amount of the custard-like infill was dug out.  Part way along a wooden prop was unearthed on the N side - still failing to support the perfectly solid ceiling beneath which it was wedged over a century ago! (Photo 5 and 6)

On April 1st, appropriately, Helmut, Michele and Anette Potzsch visited the dig to assist and take stereo photos of the operation with which to impress their Basque and German colleagues.  Meanwhile, above, a curious passing policeman was almost persuaded by Trevor to help with the bag emptying!

On 13th May the Tailings Passage dig reached a blank rock wall with large planks of timber buried in the clay below.  These were pulled out by Rich Blake, as was a 4" diameter section of prop with a nail in the end.  As the dig started to fill with water he realised that he had literally "pulled the plug out" but luckily there was only a trickle and even this may have been caused by the raging thunderstorm on the surface which was driving the hauling team to unaccustomed labour underground.

The following week Jake B. removed more wood here to reveal an apparently natural flooded rift below - previously capped by the Old Men.  More wooden floor was revealed in this passage and later found to extend its full length.  It was almost certainly installed throughout the workings to make shovelling and sledging of the tailings easier as in Upper Flood Swallet (Stanton 1976).  Above the floor the infill generally consisted of around 3" of up to fist-sized stones set solidly in red clay, an inch or so of black and coarse gravel, a couple of inches of fine grey or black laminated mud and a few feet of sticky black and ochre clay - this latter deposit possibly being a direct result of sudden floods such as those which occurred when the nearby dam burst in 1900 and 1935.  The former date would account for the abandonment of the wooden sledge and the layer of potentially valuable lead deposits left in situ on the wooden flooring - it being more economically viable to cease operations than to dig out all the inwashed sludge.  A section of these deposits was left under the higher wooden floor near the base of the shaft but further work later required its removal.

On 1st June a double-acting hand pump was installed in Tailings Passage and four large, blue "grot bins" were rapidly filled with water from the rift.  This resulted in the lowering of the flooded "sump" area thus proving their connection.  Further pumping operations continued throughout the month, using the dammed off Old Mens' Passage as a temporary reservoir.  A hired submersible pump, driven by a generator on the surface, proved to be an expensive disappointment when it failed to push the head of water from here up the last 3ft of shaft - 30ft being its limit.  The Cornish Shaft was fitted with scaffolding to enable more concreting to be done below the entrance pipe and to act as a platform to store water drums halfway up the shaft (photo 3).  This was used to good avail on 16th and 17th August when the hired pump was again put into action - this time pumping in two stages. After much frustrating rearrangement of hose-pipes the water was despatched to the surface where it sank near Snake Pit Hole.  Digging then continued below the miners' platform (at the current foot of the Cornish Shaft) which had been measured, photographed and removed to give access to this area (photo 4).

During the next two months digging, pumping and water hauling using 5-gallon drums continued and the underside of the concrete lid surround was consolidated.  One keen, 12-year-old digger even brought his own seaside bucket and spade!  A genuine Cornish miner in the shape of Paul Newcombe, joined the team and became the first "Cousin Jack" in the workings for over 1 00 years!

During the few weeks either side of Priddy Fair the winch and headgear had been removed for safe-keeping and so on 28th September a new headframe - complete with a professional looking steel winding wheel (photo 1) - was erected and most of the bagged spoil stored underground was hauled out.

On 19th October Rich Blake descended Cornish Shaft to find the bottom levels neck deep in water and a large stream flowing in from the Old Mens' Passage.  This put paid to any further work so the cave was emptied of digging gear, the headframe was taken down and the winch removed.  The writer dived in Tailings Passage in the hope of locating the underwater stream exit but was defeated by nil visibility.  It is encouraging to see that the flood levels only back up so far and the incoming stream escapes as fast as it enters. On 1st November the Tailings Passage water level was some 24ft below the flood level in the nearby Wheel Pit Swallet indicating that there is no immediate connection between the two. The large stream flowing into the wheel pit entrance of Five BuddIes is shown in photo 2.

In the meantime digging is being concentrated on the adjacent Stock's House Shafta choked mineshaft with a conspicuous spoil "collar" located on the edge of the forest directly opposite the ruins of Stock's House (an old cottage) and the track to the Waldegrave Works.  A c. 6ft diameter, rock walled shaft is being revealed with an infill of loose rocks - some bearing the remains of shot holes.  A further report on this fascinating area will follow at a future date.

Photo 2. The wheel pit entrance during the heavy rains in November - photo: Tony Jarratt

The Survey

Both of the entrances and that of the adjacent Wheel Pit were levelled to on 3rd June by Trevor Hughes, assisted by Carol White.  They then completed a BCRA grade 5 survey of the cave just as the digging team had cleared the last of the spoil from the impressive wooden floor in Tailings Passage. The writer also assisted Trevor when a surface survey was done soon afterwards.  The survey at the end of this article is the first draft and more details within the cave, such as the wooden floorboards, will be included in later surveys.  It has been photo reduced for BB purposes and will be reprinted in full scale in a later report.


One of the rusted steel milk chums recovered from halfway down Cornish Shaft in the latter part of 1997 bore a 65mm diameter copper plaque - as illustrated.  It may be coincidental that, like the large "botanical beer" container, it originated in Wolverhampton. Perhaps one of our Midlands members would like to research this company?

Thanks to Roger and Jackie Dors, the wooden "skip" recovered from the Cornish Shaft is now on permanent display above the "Sunday Night Table" in the Hunters'. The wooden rollers have been treated with preservative by John Cornwell.


Additional Diggers and Providers of Assistance

Barrie and Daren Jones, Graham Bromley, Bob Cottle, Rich Witcombe, Paul Stillman (WCC/ATLAS), Don Pickrell (MCG), Gary Ford, Daren Whitfield, Ryan Hennessy (the three Gurney Slade Apprentices), Toby Limmer, Mark "Gonzo" Lumley, Wayne Hiscox and the M.C.G., Skippy, Helmut, Michele and Anette Potzsch, Roger Haskett, Carol White, Gwilym "Taff' Evans (Frome CC), Rich Long, Vicki Parker, Mick Barker (Lincoln Scouts CC), Kevin Jones, Ron Wyncoll, Paul Newcombe, Barney Slater, Malcolm Davies, Boo Webster (Orpheus CC) and Tony Boycott.

Tony Jarratt, 17/11/98.



Five Buddles Sink, Chewton Minery (Provisional)
ST 5481 5138  BCRA Grade 5d  June 1998
Original Scales 1:00, 1:120.  Phot reduced for BB
Surveyed by: T. Hughes, C. White, T. Jarratt
Drawn: T. Hughes


From the Austrian Log

Written on the occasion of Vince's birthday by the members of the 1993 Dachstein Expedition while being snowed in at the Weisburghaus.

Ode to Vince on his Geburtstag

And now the end is near,
And so I face the final Stiegl.
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, which I know is feeble.
I've had a right skinful,
I've sampled each and every Goldbrau,
And so because of this
I'm very pissed now.

Schnapps, I've had a few
But then again too few to mention.
And then I tried a brew
A strange colloquial invention.
It seemed to dull my brain
But thankfully it has all gone now,
And so because of this
I'm very pissed now.
For what is a man, what has he got
If not a beer then he has not


Gwyn and Hilary's Xmas Grot Cavine Menu

By Gwyn Taylor and Hilary Wilson - with the help of a few friends in the pub!!


Poached Wetsocks on Toast

Beer Can and Condom Hedgerow Soup

Carbide and Cheese Dips

Mendip Mud Soup

Main Course

Stuffed Wetsock and Shreddie Souffle

River Shopping Trolley Trout with Almonds

Marinated Mudballs and Rock Chips (Diggers Surprise)

Bat Breasts in Aspic Accompanied by Broken Fingernail Salad

Split Wellington Simmered in Red Wine

Quackers A L'Orange speciality of the Day


Warmbac Sticky Zip Meringue

Crotch Rot Surprise with Custard

Harnessed Chocolate Balls with Ice Cream

Whillans Wedged Itch with Devon Cream


Cheesey Underwear and Biscuits followed by Butcombe and Belch


And then. there is the cave under my cellar ...

By Anette Becher

Having made friends with five German cavers during Meghalaya 1998, I decided to do some proper caving at home, and invited Snablet and myself for a visit.  In the last two weeks of September 1998, Snablet and I set off on a tour of the southern limestone regions of Germany.  We first went to the Franconian Jura (Fdinkische Schweiz).  This limestone area is spectacular with great cliffs and fantastic eroded limestone needles. There are plenty of caves, including some fine showcaves, but most seem to be short and fragmented.  The Franconian Jura is an eastern continuation of the Swabian Jura, the two areas being interrupted by a giant meteorite crater.

Daniel, Georg (Schorsch), Ritschi, Thilo and Uwe are from the Swabian Jura (Schwabische Alb).  From their stories of caving at home, I imagined the Swabian Jura to be fairly similar to Mendip.  We heard of a small, isolated limestone plateau, and of a town, Laichingen, full of cave(r)s.  There were tales of hut building, and of managing and working as guides in a showcave, the 'Laichinger Tiefenhohle' (The deep cave of Laichingen).  Driving up towards the Swabian Jura, still hung over from a night on the Oktoberfest, we quickly realised that there appeared to be a slight difference in scale perception.  The 'small' plateau turned out to be vast.  We later spent hours driving alongside it on our way towards France. The 'town' was medium city size, perhaps as big as Newport, complete with smoking furnaces and giant factory warehouses.  As for being full of cave(r)s, we had difficulty finding the showcave, as it was only signed out at one end of the town.  When we finally got there, it had just closed for the day. Finally, unlike the Franconian Jura and unlike Mendip, this region does not look much like a limestone area.

Fortunately, help in the form of Ritschi was on hand.  A telephone call and a Doner Kebab later, we met at the showcave.  To our great delight we went on a private tour straight away.  But first Ritschi had to count in, and record, his five regular bats. The Tiefenhohle is an -80m deep shaft with several pretty formations and bags worth of history and a museum to boot.  Perhaps the most unusual piece in the museum was a 3m tall replica of the geological strata in the Swabian Jura, built from rock fragments collected by various cavers and geologists.  Using this, Ritschi explained the reasons for horizontal development above a certain impenetrable rock band, and showed the potential for depth across various limestone layers.  Theory predicts that caves would not break into the delta layer, and until recently, Tiefenhohle was considered to have attained the maximum depth potential.  We were then shown the club hut, a lavish affair. Not a bunk or washroom in sight, but instead a modem office with computers, photocopiers, Venetian blinds, etc., etc. Downstairs is entirely devoted to the library and survey library. Ritschi is in charge of both.  I was amazed.  The library is professional and must have cost a fortune; shelves are on rollers with giant wheels to move them from one end of the room to the other. On the caving front, however, things were less amazing. Ritschi admitted to being the only active caver in his club!

Finally, Ritschi showed us the cave under his cellar at home, a mere ten minutes walk from the Tiefenhohle.  I think he said it needed blasting, but his mum was not keen on the idea for some reason. Personal caves seem to be all the rage in Germany.  The next day we pushed a cave under someone's garage.


This cave was found in June 1996 (Domke 199).  While excavating foundations for his new garage near Laichingen, house owner Willi Mueller broke into a large rift.  To investigate the extent of the rift, Willi called the Hohlen und Heimatverein Laichingen (HHVL), Ritschi's club.  However, as the club consists largely of amazingly competent magazine editors and hut builders, they delegated the surveying of the new cave to a neighbouring club, the Kahlensteiner HV.  Karsten Kuschela and his friends happily took on the task, which turned out to be rather more demanding than initially expected.  Laierhohle rapidly overtook Tiefenhohle in depth, with potential to go even deeper.

I felt almost guilty, driving up to within 5m of the cave entrance (after a sumptuous brunch at Schorsch's) and getting changed in Willi's garage; not only were we cosily protected from the elements, but it was also splendidly furbished - with crates of beer!  After a small libation, we stepped outside.  Karsten lifted a grille immediately next to the garage, and we descended into a beautifully concreted bunker with cave telephone, tackle pulleys and electric light.  Proper light switches were attached to the cave walls, down to about 15m into the cave. This entrance has got to be the most perfectly engineered natural cave entrance I have seen in a non show cave. I wondered whether the rationale underlying this incredible amount of work was the hope that this cave might develop into the second (and deepest) show cave of the area?  Beautiful, heavy-duty fixed ladders led us down to nearly 40m.  At this point, the cave shows a fair amount of horizontal development.  A large (>20m wide) and amply decorated passage, the Amphitheatre, eventually degenerates into a tight and squishy mud bath.


Kat, Nr 7325/75
350/291/0 toporobot

© 1997 by Kahlensteiner Hohlenverein e.V
Bad Uberkingen
Alle Rechte vorberhalten

Further down we squeezed through a draughty, tight hole, which had been chemically enlarged.  At -80m, we finally started rigging, to the present end of the cave at -120m.  This is well inside the infamous delta layer.  The red mud, first encountered in the horizontal passage, a heavy, fatty, red clay that stuck to everything with a vengeance, became more evident the deeper we went.  Near the end, we reached a hanging re-belay.  As Karsten was descending on a figure-of-eight, he had brought his own two-rung ladder with him. Standing on his ladder converted this old nemesis of mine into something about as difficult as getting up from a sofa.  While this took all the fun out of it, at least the others did not have to wait for me.  Schorsch then proceeded to drill a hole for a final bolt at the last pitch. Interestingly, he ignored the perfectly nice free hang in the right-hand wall, but went for a place to the left instead, straight in the semi-liquid red mud.  We sloshed down the rope and found ourselves in a sizeable chamber.  At its end, an obvious 40m tall rift provided the continuation.  Our aim was to bolt along this rift.

With a stinking cold and disinclined to traverse through the complex rift, I pottered around at the near end, where a tiny stream sinks into the bottom.  Meanwhile, Schorsch and Karsten were drilling way above, while Snablet and Ritschi traversed along, in an attempt to find a way on. Perking up a bit, I later traversed out to where I thought I had heard Snablet's voice, and promptly got lost.  After a while, Schorsch called for the hangers I had in my bag.  A dim suspicion overcame me.  Before going down, I had taken a large amount of hangers out of my bag, having been told we need not bring our own hangers.  It turned out that, although they did have a label on them which made them look like ours, these were the hangers I was supposed to have brought.  It has to be said, I felt particularly useful on this trip.  Without any hangers, and with the drill battery run out, we were ready to go out.  However, Karsten was not intent on giving up just yet.  He summoned Snablet, and together they disappeared into the rift for over an hour.  Sadly they did not find the way on, but at least they convinced themselves that the way on lay elsewhere, perhaps through a window across one of the pitches or, more sensibly, following the draught to wherever it had disappeared to.  There are many more leads in this cave.  We then had lunch.  A vast loaf of my favourite German bread appeared, as did a whole salami and an entire cheese in a Tupperware box.  They don't do things by half in Swabia.

Our way out proved interesting.  The mud-coated ropes were incredibly slippery, and at several points I ended up having to hold both jammers shut to prevent myself from sliding down.  I was rapidly running out of hands!  As I slowly made my way up, mud was literally peeling off the rope in great big sheets.  The others behind me must have fared worse with the rope getting progressively muddier, for after a while I was on my own (we didn't bother detackling).

I reached the amphitheatre and first pottered around for a bit, then nodded off.  Eventually, Ritschi and Schorsch appeared and proceeded to have a 'philosophical' discussion about marriage, i.e. Schorsch tried to talk Ritschi out of it (unsuccessfully).  At this point Snablet and Karsten appeared.  Karsten had developed a godawful cough that sounded as if he was about to throw up.  Luckily, he knew just the cure: a swiftly rolled cigarette soon made things worse. We had a quick look round the Amphitheatre, and Ritschi pointed out interesting folding in the rock, when we realised that it was much later than we had thought possible.  We had been down for 8 hours.  A swift exit up the ladders completed the trip.  I optimistically attempted to clean my SRT kit of the sticky mud in a handy tub that seemed to have been built into a wall outside for just this purpose.  Unfortunately, the mud turned out to be a perfect sealant, and all I managed to do was to clog up the drain.

I then had the honour of signing the cave guestbook.  Well in line with my other achievements of the day, the only thing that sprang to mind was to call it a 'muddy shithole'.  My lame explanation that this was really a compliment merely produced disbelief.

Falkenstein Hohle

We had been warned about this cave by Jonathan Simms, who described it as so cold that he could hardly bear it.  Given my state of health, I wasn't exactly looking forward to this trip, and even considered jacking it for a second.  But then again, I didn't want to be a whimp.  So, armed with Thilo and Becca Lawson (CUCC), who happened to be in the area, Snablet and I made our way to Bad Urach.  This cave has an impressive entrance.  A sizeable river spills out from a resurgence into a tall and leafy forest. Built for comfort, these German caves. We drove up to a convenient lay-by, got changed, and walked all of 200m up a large forest track to the cave entrance. It was a relief to wash off that red mud from my SRT kit and oversuit.  It was also fortunate that by then I was thoroughly damp, for not far into the cave was sump 1, which turned out to be a wet crawl.  We were somewhat amused, as Thilo had just told us frightful stories about people being trapped behind this 'sump', and how water levels could unexpectedly and massively rise within an hour.  When we got there, it really looked quite innocuous.  Thilo, from past experience, took it very seriously indeed. The three of us crawled through and waited and waited at the other end.  What was Thilo up to?  Just when I thought of going to look for him, we heard a great splashing and puffing, and Thilo appeared.  He had changed into a warm top and hood, and had also belayed a line at the other end, in case the weather changed.  The cave itself is wet throughout and runs in a straight line, with a couple of cascades and waterfalls.  Just like Meghalaya; no wonder they feel quite at home there.  It was good fun, except perhaps a little lacking in the excitement department.  I had caught Karsten's cough somehow and was struggling to keep up.  Perhaps a rollie might have helped, but unfortunately we had no smokers on the trip.  The streamway proceeded between ankle and hip-height, with one place where I nearly went under, although nobody else seemed to have a problem.  There were a couple of chokes to climb, and finally we halted at Sump 2.  Throughout the trip, Thilo entertained us with stories about the region and the cave and the exploration of its many, many (26?) sumps.  I can't say I was particularly cold.  Becca even complained about being too hot, and kept heading for deep water to cool down at every opportunity.  Perhaps Jonathan did the cave in winter.

Daniel and Anette in front of Rellman's Hohle  - Photo: Snablet

The following day we went to Schwabisch-Gmund, the home of Daniel Gebauer.  He lives right in the city centre, on the market square.  The square has a statue bearing a sword.  If you follow the direction of the sword, you walk straight into Daniel's house.  Daniel shares his quarters at the top of the house with an unknown quantity of people.  The whole apartment has this fantastic 1960's commune feel about it.  Daniel's rooms are crammed with caving paraphernalia, largely literature, various lovingly executed examples of his craftsmanship as a carpenter/cabinet maker, and uncountable souvenirs and tidbits from travels in Nepal, India and elsewhere hippieish and exotic.  He did not mention a cave under his cellar.  Daniel explained that finding caves in the Schwabische Alb was not quite as easy as perhaps in Britain. Most caves are filled with sediment and success, so he said, is really only found at the very edges of this plateau.  This is where he took us after a filling brunch.

We drove up to the Rosenstein and parked in the car park. A map of the area and its footpaths showed several of the cave entrances.  All of these are situated along the cliff edge.

Finsteres Loch (Murkv Hole):

A sizeable cave.  More than 100m long.  A (gated) 3m high entrance leads into phreatic development past a skylight in the right hand wall to a second entrance.  This cave houses hibernating bats and is closed from October until May. Daniel told us a gruesome story of how in the Middle Ages this cave was used to lock up people sick with pestilence; out of sight and out of mind.

Grosse Scheuer (Large barn):

Much further along the same cliff edge.  A magnificent 5m tall, 5m wide phreatic passage with three entrances. Sadly only about 30 m long.  You never leave daylight.

Anette in the entrance of Die Grosse Scheuer - Photo: Snablet

Daniel and Anette at Die Grosse Scheuer – Photo: Snablet

Das Haus (The house):

A few metres further along the cliff edge.  Another phreatic hole.  A huge boulder sits at the end.  This cave was used by Celtic tribes and many artefacts have been recovered by archaeologists.

Fuchsloch (Foxhole):

A 6m deep, 5m long hole at the bottom of a large, bifurcating tree

Hellman's Hohle (Hellman's Cave):

Further along the same escarpment.  A 1m wide, 1.5m tall washed-out rift.  This was once filled with sediment, but dug out by cavers.  Sliding on one's side down a passage to the right leads to a second entrance.

Kleine Scheuer (Small barn):

A few hundred meters further along the walk, near the castle ruin.  The rounded pebbles from its dry riverbed show that this was once a resurgence cave (Daniel says).  A large slab, the 'table', in the back can be climbed.  Bear skulls and tiger canines have been found behind the slab.

Drei Eineaneshohle (Cave of three entrances):

Further along from the ruin. Popular with climbers, this cave is in beautiful white limestone.  Again only a few metres long, it has two obvious entrances and a third that can be reached by squeezing through a very tight and mosquito ridden passage to the right.

Daniel also mentioned two other caves in the area, but was keen to keep their location secret.

Secret cave1:

A tight squeezy crawl leads into a small chamber, crammed with formations and fossils.  Daniel has only been in this cave three times, each time to draw some of the fossil skulls.  He feels very strongly that this cave should remain inaccessible.

Secret cave2:

While digging on a frosty morning, Daniel noticed a frost-free patch in the forest floor.  A few hours of digging revealed a small passage going into a rift.  This has not been dug any further.

Some random thoughts:

Daniel claims that the Schwabische Alb has been searched metre for metre for caves.  As most caves are filled with sediment, he feels that there is not much more to be found in this region.  Although I admittedly know nothing about the area, my first impressions make me wonder whether one need be quite so pessimistic.  First of all, the area is huge, many many times bigger than Mendip.  There are only few active cavers compared to Mendip (but this may have been different a few years/decades ago).  Surely they can't have looked everywhere?  In addition, it seemed to me that German cavers (as elsewhere) are very keen on, and incredibly knowledgeable about, the geology of their area.  I imagine that a lot of the searching for caves was carried out with the prevailing geological theory in mind.  However, we do know that theories can be wrong (although they are a good starting point).  The fact that Laierhohle went much deeper than ever expected, and might still go deeper, shows that even German theories can sometimes have exceptions. So perhaps there is room for further surprises.  I also got the impression that there is no digging culture as such in Swabia.  Daniel described a three-year dig as long.  Compare this to Wigmore (yet another exception to theory) or Hillgrove. There are also plenty of rules and regulations we do not (yet) have in Britain that complicate digging in Germany. Almost all of the resurgences are off bounds, as used for drinking water and owned by water companies.  Spoil heaps are strictly verboten, and many digs had to be abandoned, because they represent archaeological sites of interest. If digging in Swabia was carried out on the scale of some areas in Britain, who knows what they might find. In short, I am convinced that there are still big caves to be found in the Swabian Jura.  Ever the optimist.

I'd like to thank my hosts for putting us up, feeding and watering us, and for showing us a truly great time.


Domke D (1998) Die Laierhohle bei Geislingen-Weiler, Schwabische Alb. Mitt. Verb. dt. Bohlen u. Karstforsch., 44,88-91.


Ode to Belchine Black Betty

By Mike Wilson
Tune "Black Betty"

Oh centre piece of our desire
Tall and round - full of fire
A work of art, of that I'm sure
With a shape so basic, sweet and pure

Those iron sides giving out great heat
With a huge top lid, "that's hard to beat"
Plenty of room for wood "divine"
And perhaps a Wessex gnome "supine"

Thy frontal maw set in a grin
Hiding a furnace that lies within
"Belfry Boy", stoke her well
Feel the heat of the radiant spell

Ivan's artwork is there to see!
Set in all its symmetry
So Belfryites all shout "Hurray"
Belching Black Betty is here to stay.


Song: Goon's 40 Years

Tune "Union Miners"

He read a book about hard caving
Went and joined the B.S.A.
He swore he'd be a bloody hard caver
And he's still one to this day

Chorus: Mendip Cavers rise together
Stand up now and sing this tune
When you've done forty years of caving
You can be as hard as Goon
Two hundred mile each way he'd travel
Then he'd hit those Yorkshire pots
He'd move like shit flying off a shovel
First you'd see him then you'd not

I've seen him falling down Hardrawkin
I've seen him diving from Meregill
Seen him break a foot in Cuthbert's
Seen him drink more than his fill

In Lancaster he hit the bottom
After taking the long drop
But armed with nothing more than Eric
Made his way back to the top

A boulder nearly made him armless
Way below in Claonaite
But this hard man still goes back there
Sometimes he stays down overnight
Mendip cavers heed my story
Never go below with Goon
'Less you search for death or glory
Landslip, earthquake or monsoon.


Song: Heeland Cavers

Tune "Heeland Lady"

Whaur ha' e ye been a' the day
Heeland cavers, hard wee cavers
Doon Claonaite or so they say
My hard wee Heeland cavers

Chorus: Way hey it's here we go
Heeland caver, hard wee cavers
Seventeen hours way down below
My hard wee Heeland cavers

Whaur ha' e ye been a' the night
Underground and in the shite
Whit were ye daen in yon damp hole
Down wi' Goon, god bless my soul

Is yon no' a cave that tends to flood
When it rains or with Goon's blood

You'd be far better off going doon Glenbain
J'Rat's done it on his ane!

 Did ye no ken it was the Grampian dinner
You missed it!  Man that was a skunner!

A' that food doon at the Inch
Thrown to the fish that's in the minch

The back up team is in the bar
Thought they'd better have ajar

The polis nearly lost his rag
Said he'd make them a' blow in the bag

The moral of the story is quite clear
If Goon goes down, go on the beer.


The Wee Caver Wha' Carn Fae Fife

Tune "The Wee Cooper" etc.

There was a wee caver wha' come fae
Fife Nickety nackety noo noo
Was pushing a hole ca'd Batty Wife
Hey Willy Wallicky ho John Dugal
A lane rashity roo roo

He pushed ye hard, but it wouldn't go
He couldn't get in or doon below
An then one day he thought that it might
But try as he would it was still too tight
And so in frustration he danced a fine jig
Saying, "I know the trouble, it's me that's too big"
Then he gave a shout saying, "no it's not me
I know the trouble, the hole is too wee"

So with some petroleum gelly-ignite
He banged and he banged at that hole a' the night

And noo that wee Fifer aye bottoms his goal
It's straight to the sump when he slips in that hole

(Although Goon is not actually a BEC member, he is known by many of the club and he decided to celebrate 40 years of caving at the BEC hut after the Hunters on the 14th November, joined by many of his friends from all over the country.  Pete 'Snab' MacNab, modified or penned the above songs to celebrate the occasion and Pete Glanvill took the photos.)


Nullarbor '98 Australia

The Land Of The 'Roo. Possum & Wombat

The BEC makes a nuisance of itself with the Cave Exploration Group of South Australia.

By Mike 'Trebor' McDonald (Honorary Oz)


Steve Milner, that erstwhile ex-Pom, e-mailed me a while back and asked if I fancied a flying visit to Oz to join him and the Cave Exploration Group of South Australia (CEGSA) on their annual pilgrimage to the Nullarbor Plain.  As I recalled my last visit to Oz with J-Rat was a most pleasant episode, as I had been reading Francis Le Guen's book on diving exploits in Cocklebiddy, as the British weather was sending me loopy and since I needed a break I said "why not, go on, treat yourself, it's only umpteen thousand miles away".  The CEGSA plan this year was to consolidate work done last visit, look at leads found last time, survey stuff discovered and to look for new holes.

Personnel included Steve, myself obviously, and five members of CEGSA one of which was Mark Sefton who has been about a bit, has been to the UK and whom some Mendipites may know. Also present was Tom Wigley, an Aussie now living in Colorado. He was one of the original Nullarbor explorers in the 60's and 70's with John Dunkley and this was his first trip back since then. He was attending a work conference in Melbourne so he thought it a good idea to attach a trip to the Nullarbor to his visit.  It's hard enough getting around now with a 4 wheel drive Land Cruiser and GPS (Global Positioning System), God knows what it must have been like in the 1960's with old bangers and suspect maps.  He worked in the UK for some years and thus knew of some "mature" Mendipites when I reeled off names, especially Jim Hanwell.  Some Mendipites may also know John Dunkley who now lives in Canberra. They were the joint authors of the first Nullarbor caving publication.


Nullarbar Cave – Trebor. Photo: Steve Milner

Getting There

There was no time to be lost, this was supposed to be a tight, efficient, well-drilled Expedition to make as much use of the time as possible.  On landing in Adelaide at 9am, Steve's wife Fran, daughter Shaun and I had breakfast in a nice hostelry in town before heading up to their house amongst the Eucalyptus in the Eden Hills overlooking Adelaide.  I found the vehicle already packed up so I chucked my bag in the back and Steve, Mark Sefton and myself piled in and drove the 8 hours to Ceduna (about half way to the Nullarbor) a nondescript town in the middle of nowhere, to rest at the home of Max Meth (the guy who's been looking for an S all his life).  Max was a real character (he looks like Gonzo will in 20 years time) who, unlike Gonzo, was the fount of all knowledge and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the karst features of the Nullarbor.  Over a number of years he has logged and GPS'd virtually every known karst feature on the Nullarbor whether it be a cave entrance, a blow hole or an Aboriginal site on a bit of limestone pavement.

In the morning the other guys arrived from Adelaide and we consolidated transport into suitable cars and Toyota Land Cruisers.  One of the guys had a trailer to drag all the water we required, as there is no water at all on the Nullarbor, only some at the bottom of the internationally known Weebubbie and Cocklebiddy caves.  Off we thus set on the second half of the journey along the Eyre Highway that stretches in virtually a straight line all the way to Perth a few thousand miles away. This road was named after one of the intrepid explorers in the early 1800's and runs on a level coastal plain with the Nullarbor offto the right (North) up on a higher plateau.  Some way along we took a short detour to the spectacular Great Australian Bight Southern Ocean coast to watch Right whales playing in their seasonal breeding grounds.  Very impressive.

After several hours we reached our turn-off point to the Mundrabilla homestead of our farmer host, a few kilometres from the highway.  After telling him roughly where we would be camped we set off up the escarpment (quite comical with heavily laden vehicles, even four wheel drives) and on to the Nullarbor Plain itself.  After quite a while negotiating very indistinct tracks in the dark we finally reached our intended camp site, just an area in the middle of the bush amongst Eucalyptus trees on the edge of a clay pan and reasonably equidistant from various caves.  In a jiffy my tarpaulin was erected as a shelter, the bivvy bag laid out, the gear stowed, firewood collected and a campfire built with the billy puffing away for tea.

As an aside, we had one obstacle to hurdle on the trip in - the question of the Fruit Fly.  South Australia is trying to keep the little beggar out of the State to save its fruit and veg. industry so there are rigorous controls at the State boundary.  You may not take fresh fruit and veg through, or bottled honey for that matter, unless it has been officially inspected and decontaminated. Don't ask me why they check you on the way out of the State but there you go.  As we were going out of the State into West Australia, were heading into the middle of nowhere where there was no fruit or veg farms or any other form of habitation, and as the stuff would be eaten in a few days we did not feel too bad about beating the system.  I won't tell you how we got around the "C for Charlie" checkpoint in case a Western Australia Agriculture border guard is sent a copy of the BB by that nasty Estelle (hiss).  What we did have to do though was clean the dirt from our digging tools.

The Area

Nullarbor basically means "no trees" but this is not strictly true.  It is a flat semi-arid limestone plateau, probably as big as the UK, occupying the central southern part of Australia straddling the states of both South and Western Australia.  The eastern third is virtually treeless with rough scrub and blue bush only, the remainder is quite heavily wooded with Eucalyptus and other trees, blue bush and scrub with the occasional quite large grassy area, usually on slightly lower lying clay pans, and the occasional limestone outcrop. The southern edge is delineated by a c.100m high escarpment, which rises up above the c. I0km wide coastal plain, along which the Eyre Highway runs to Perth, with the Southern Ocean and the Great Australian Bight on the southern side.

The plateau is all but flat with the usual hollows, depressions and irregularities.  The basic appearance is characterised by myriad clay pans (usually covered with blue bush or sparse grass) lying only a few metres lower than surrounding ridges with small limestone outcrops covered with sparse scrub and Eucalyptus.  The cave entrances tend to reveal themselves at the edges of the clay pans or in the rocky ridges. We found no cave entrances in the clay pans themselves.  The water table is at about -100m so unless a cave reaches that depth it will be dry and dusty with the occasional flowing water in times of heavy rain only.  The only two caves that I am aware of that have meaningful water are the well-known Cocklebiddy and Weebubbie Caves, each about 50 miles from camp.

Trebor near Aboriginal Waterhole. Photo: Steve Milner

The Nullarbor is a protected landscape and as we cavers are of course responsible people and mindful of the environment certain measures had to be taken.  Spent carbide and waste products of the intestine had to be buried at least a third of a metre deep and more than 100m from camp.  Containers had to be taken into caves to catch the contents of ones body as and when required.  All litter had to be brought out or burnt on the campfire and despite charging around the landscape in Toyotas damage had to be kept to a minimum, especially to growing trees.  Wombat warrens had to be avoided as they can collapse under the weight of a vehicle and we had to be mindful of 'roos which had the unnerving tendency to bounce towards the vehicle when frightened rather than away.  Small brains I suppose.  A hit from a big Red in mid-bounce at 50kmph may have written off a vehicle.

There is apparently no indigenous population any more on the Nullarbor.  Aborigines vacated the area many years ago, presumably when farming and fence enclosure started.  Ancient aboriginal sites were seen scattered around the area, invariably centred around a small depression in a slab of limestone pavement which made a convenient water container.  A rock slab placed over the "watering hole" to prevent evaporation or animal use was the usual evidence of old aboriginal activity.  Other artefacts have also been found such as fire sticks and flints.  Aborigines did not apparently use caves, they feared the Snake God, but they would presumably have used cave entrances and rock shelters.  The only habitation now on the Nullarbor is the occasional farming homestead, usually a few hundred miles apart.

Our particular farmer host has not actually farmed his land for many years.  Apparently he found scraping a living from sheep and cattle, and repairing fencing damaged by 'roos, too much of an effort on the sparse grass so he now carries out contract shearing work elsewhere.  For a number of years now he has not even been up on to the plateau and cavers, and the odd 'roo hunter, are the only people that go there. Indeed, it is only the cavers who keep his tracks open.

The Caving

The caves are varied, as to be expected, mostly horizontal with little vertical development. Ladders and ropes are seldom needed. There are no particularly large, dendritic systems, apart perhaps from Homestead Cave in the northern Nullarbor. The average length is I suppose a few kilometres.  Several caves, including Weebubbie, have massive Oriental-type passageway, often 30m wide or so, but tend to end suddenly in large blank walls or rock piles. Dress is merely a T-shirt and light trousers under a boiler suit with suitably stout shoes or boots.  Knee and elbow pads are essential.  Lighting is by the usual carbide system with electric back up. As there is no water in the caves containers have to be taken in for the carbide, or a full bladder.

A feature of most of the caves was their tendency to blow and suck quite dramatically. Differentials in atmospheric pressure are very marked in this part of the world causing sucking or blowing at the entrances and in constricted areas inside (we called one new cave "Monica's Cave" as it was sucking something rotten when we dug into it.) The entrance to Thampana Cave for example is a 3m diameter, 10m deep circular pothole and great amusement was had by throwing large bushes down only to see them being forcefully ejected some 10m into the air.  We even managed to weigh a bush down with a rock and succeeded in making the bush hover in the pothole.  Quite bizarre.  An SRT rope for self-life lining thrown into the entrance promptly appeared again like some flying snake and we had some difficulty keeping the electron ladder down. 

Tauatarus species in Windy Hollow Cave. Photo: Steve Milner

We also found deceased birds inside the entrance which had been sucked in whilst flying overhead and were unable to fly out.  It is easy finding good places to dig - you just wander around the bush until you hear a little crevice or hole whistling at you.

The cave fauna was also very interesting.  Numerous modem and ancient animals were found within, usually washed in by old floods. However, some dog-like creatures were found in high level dusty areas not far inside so they probably lived there. Many were very well preserved with bushy tails, skin and whiskers still fully visible.  Kangaroos also tend to fall into entrance pots whilst bouncing around the countryside and unable to extricate themselves.  One cave was named "Bleeding Pit".  A 'roo, serenely hopping across the landscape, had jumped in and splattered blood all over the walls of the pit.  Either that, or in its anxiety to get out it kept dashing itself against the walls until it bled to death.  A few years back in "Stinking Rift" Steve and team came across a 'roo in a hole that had presumably panicked and forced itself further into the cave to sadly expire.  It was very ripe so they retreated.  This year we returned to see if the smell had subsided and Steve was able to dismember the beast leg by arm and squeeze past.   Unfortunately the cave did no go far.  We also found an almost perfectly preserved mummified cat creature curled up as if asleep amongst stones on the cave floor 100m or so in.  Possums also take refuge in caves, or use them as short cuts, and trails of droppings and black urine were everywhere.

Some of the formations encountered were staggering and many I had not seen before, mainly mushroom stals on the floor of a low chamber in Bug Hole, lots of Stegomites (shield-like calcite growing out of the floor which I've only seen in West Virginia) and gypsum crystals and chandeliers as opaque as ice.  I will be getting copies of underground photographs taken by Steve in due course so I will exhibit them on the photo board in the Belfry (and in this BB if they arrive in time.)

Bat and swift guano was also a potential problem.  Strangely we saw virtually no bats, they seem to have gone elsewhere millennia ago. Plenty of swifts but no bats.  I was used to the stinking heaving black  stuff  you find  in  tropical caves but this was the finest, moon-dust powder,  you could imagine that rose in clouds at every step, clearly ancient stuff.  At first I just thought it was ordinary cave dust.    I am told though that Histoplasmosis spores can linger for aeons.

Calcite mushrooms in Bug Hole. Photo: Steve Milner

An interesting technique the Aussies use for defining routes through caves is small fluorescent way markers made out of reflective road signs.  They punch 20mm diameter discs out of two different coloured reflective road signs, stick them back-to-back so one colour means "In" and the other colour "Out" and wedge or stick them to a convenient rock or stal, either to show the way in complex caves and/or keep cavers on a defined route to minimise wear.  Quite good I thought but perhaps rather sissy for Mendip.


The vehicles used were two four-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruisers and a car.  Despite the remoteness and terrain it was actually quite easy with a car and cars have been used in previous visits.  You have to be more careful with a car of course to prevent damage and punctures but as the ground is surprisingly flat weaving a way through the bush and around limestone outcrops is quite easy.  However, the Toyotas were obviously much better and we were able to drive in more of a straight line and just charged around knocking over bushes and small dead trees with the Kangy cruncher on the front.  It was also useful being able to stand on the back of the Toyota to get a better view, to work the GPS and to keep an eye out for entrances, 'roos, wombat warrens etc.  One of the Toyotas had a GPS mounted on the dash together with a short wave radio and a CB.  Both had double fuel tanks, two batteries each, two replacement tyres and loads of spares.

Despite their robustness we did actually get a puncture to one of the Cruisers.  The ubiquitous blue bush is 90% soft but it has some very hard, sharp and evil twiggy things poking up from its root ball.  We showed no mercy in flattening them with our Kangy cruncher but they got their own back by puncturing one of the tyres.  Imagine, dear reader, your intrepid correspondent sweating away in the middle of nowhere changing a big heavy tyre, lovely it was.

After initial scepticism I now think GPS's are the best thing since Butcombe was invented.  I never got used to them since the time I took one I-Rat had in the shop out into Tucker Street and found I was 10m below sea level.  A good quality instrument in the right hands is brilliant in certain circumstances. Steve had a Garmin 45 XL and it proved absolutely vital for safe, time saving and trouble free navigation through the bush.  Finding known caves could not have been easier and readings could be taken at the junction whenever we left the faint tracks that criss-crossed the area so we could find our way from the cave back to camp without an Xkm detour.  Steve's machine was accurate to about 20m and performed really well but at his request I've just sent him the Garmin high performance magnetic antenna from the manufacturer for greater accuracy and control. He tells me his instrument works very well in tree cover.

The Day

As is usual in camping situations, the day starts early.  As an early riser I was always up first at dawn (c. 5.30am) and a quick poke at the fire embers and a few dry twigs soon got a blaze going for the tea. Tom Wigley was always next up and some very pleasant times were had sitting around the fire, drinking tea, watching the sun rise, discussing Colorado where he lives and putting the world to rights. There was a chattering group of Budgerigars in our particular bit of Eucalyptus plus lots of parrots and other nice birds so it was a treat watching their antics whilst supping morning tea. Steve and the others then usually crawled out of their pits at about 7.30.  Breakfast was then cooked on the fire; some had eggs and some a revolting mishmash of whatever was available.  Steve, Mark and I were a bit more organised and lorded it with cereal and powdered milk.  I did a wicked Nepalese scrambled egg with chilli and ginger once or twice just to get the morning off with a bang and on a few occasions Steve made a very tasty unleavened beer camp bread in a large iron potty set in the embers.

We were out of camp by 9am, usually in two teams heading off to respective destinations in the two Toyotas, either to look at a new find, to push on, survey and photo a find from last year, to go on a tourist trip or to do some recce work.  Sometimes two teams took the Toyotas whilst a third team walked to a cave or caves within a few kilometres.  Day rations were usually Muesli bars and fruit.  Everyone had their own water bottle and a flagon of water was always kept in each of the two Toyotas.  We tried to be back at camp for 6pm to give enough time to get the fire going again and prepare nosh for the evening meal.  Then a congenial powwow was had around the camp fire discussing the day's news and deciding on a programme for the morrow, usually assisted with libations of Scotch and Irish.  Most were asleep by 9pm, not many hostelries, TV s, take-aways or other distractions in this part of the world.

One potential problem was not always knowing where the other team(s) were.  Most days one team would know which cave the other one was in by prior agreement but on recce days this was not possible.  Despite each vehicle being self-sufficient as far as spares, water and GPS's were concerned, only one had a CB/radio.  One day the team without the CB/radio were late back and the team at camp had no idea where they were.  A search was out of the question, especially in the dark, and the only thing to have done if they had not arrived by morning was to have driven to the nearest homestead (or radio if the safe party had the right vehicle) call the authorities and get a helicopter or plane to make a search of the bush to spot the vehicle.  There is certainly a case for mobile 'phones (possibly too far from transmitters?) or walkietalkies .... or even bush telegraph (sic).


I only have two words to say, "Go there".

And yes, they really do say "G'day mate", "fair dinkum", "sheila" and "strewth".  I just fell about laughing.


Assynt in October - and Yet Another Tale of the Goon!

By Tony Jarratt

This year's Grampian SG annual dinner was held at the Inchnadamph Hotel, Assynt, Sutherland.  A Mendip contingent of Jake, Becca, J .Rat, Rich Blake, John "Tangent" Williams and Tav headed north for 612 miles to Elphin, horrific weather being encountered near the Lakes and Lowlands areas.

After a day's "acclimatisation" - mainly in the Alt Bar - work on ongoing projects commenced. Four visits were made to Rana Hole where over 160 skip loads of peat and rocks were hauled out and dumped, plus 10 frogs!

At one point a pool of water was easily drained away to the depths of Uamh an Claonaite below by using a long bar.  On a later banging trip here, during the worst weather of the week, the hole could not be re-opened and shotholes were filled and charged underwater as the rapidly rising stream poured down the pot.  The resultant explosion sounded highly aquatic!

This was the Saturday of the dinner when the infamous Alan "Goon" Jeffreys and three others had just entered the superb stream way of Claonaite on a tourist trip to the dry series.  Rich, Julian Walford and the writer had trouble walking back down the valley in the worsening weather and at one point Julian's helmet and Headlite were blown away! It was obvious that Goon and Co. could be having problems so tentative rescue operations were put into action. These later developed into the real thing with the Police, Assynt MRT and SCRO (most of whom were just sitting down for the dinner) all being involved.  By 6.30am the next day it was all over and the trapped ones were off the hill - having been "dived" out of the flooded cave by Fraser Simpson and Simon Brooks who had been luckily collared while walking down the valley following a dive in ANUS Cave.  Needless to say the dinner was a bit of a flop but the opportunity to mercilessly take the piss out of Goon (again) was found to be well worth it.

The vast horde of Grampian dinner goers carried out lots of tourist and digging trips over the weekend despite the weather conditions - which were apparently the best in Britain at the time. Book now for the April Invasion.

Lines inspired by a previous Snab song ...

The Goon has got his mask on.
Hip, hip, hip, hooray.
The Goon has got his mask on
And he may get out today.

Tony Jarratt 29/11/98


Actual Business Signs

On an Electrician's truck: "Let us remove your shorts."

Outside a Radiator Repair Shop: "Best place in town to take a leak."

In a Non-smoking area: "If we see you smoking we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action."

On Maternity Room door: "Push, Push, Push."

On a Front Door: "Everyone on the premises is a vegetarian except the dog."

At an Optometrist's Office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

On a Scientist's door: "Gone Fission"

On a Taxidermist's window: "We really know our stuff."

In a Chiropodist's window:  "Time wounds all heels."

On a Butcher's window: "Let me meat your needs."

On another Butcher's window: "Pleased to meat you."

At a Used Car Lot: "Second Hand cars in first crash condition."

On a fence: "Salesmen welcome.  Dog food is expensive."

At a Car Dealership: ''The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment."

Outside a Car Exhaust Dealer's: "No appointment necessary.  We'll hear you coming."

Outside a Hotel: "Help!  We need inn-experienced people."

In a Dry Cleaner's Emporium: "Drop your pants here."

On a desk in a Reception Room: "We shoot every 3rd salesman, and the 2nd one just left."

In a Veterinarian's waiting room: "Be back in 5 minutes. Sit!  Stay!"

On a Music Teacher's door: "Out Chopin."

In a Beauty Shop: "Dye now!"

On the door of a Computer Store: "Out for a quick byte."

In a Restaurant window: "Don't stand there and be hungry, come in and get fed up."

Inside a Bowling Alley: "Please be quiet.  We need to hear a pin drop."

On the door of a Music Library: "Bach in a minuet."

In the front yard of a Funeral Home: "Drive carefully, we'll wait."

In a Counsellor's office: "Growing old is mandatory. Growing wise is optional."

Early ladder manufacture! (see Mike Wilson's article!!)


Manuel du Speleologue - By Robert De Joly

By Mike Wilson

Robert De Joly was the founder President of the Society Speleo De France.


Robert De Joly - by Kay Wilson

The book 'Manuel du Speleologue' gives information for when you descend underground, the materials you use and the methods or manner in which to use them.

As some people including me experience difficulty in reading the extensive French coverage of speleology, I decided to translate some extracts from de Joly's 1950s, 3rd edition manual.  It makes quaint and interesting reading.  Here are some of the extracts from the manual:

Exterior Clothes

In order to protect the clavicles in the event of a rock fall it is a good thing to place a band of rubber on the shoulders.  They will also serve to support at times the many ropes which you carry, and prevent damage or wounding to the shoulders.  It is indispensable that the costume has numerous pockets.  These pockets judiciously placed should be about 12 in number, placed thus: Two near the chest for the notebook and cigarettes if you smoke.  One near the stomach for the small watch.  Two on the rump, one left and one right, for the small pliers and a Swiss army knife (modified).  Also high on each buttock two pitons and a ball of 25m of lashing thread.  In the other pockets a flint one length of leather containing blue marking in a turned wooden tube, a whistle, a big candle, a gas lighter, one general small pocket notebook.  On the back you put a bag of reserve stock.  At last on the inside of the jacket a pocket containing the hankies, and a metal container held vertically by a special flap, the thermometer sealed with a roll of wax paper, and a fragment of ephemeride for repairs in the labyrinth.


The beret is no good because it does not have the shape to, take a front lamp.  We use in the caves, an English Made 'fibre helmet' (Richard Bathgate of Liverpool).  It is extremely light (275g) and not hot.


We have never used the commercial type of ladder made for Well Sinkers and Miners.  Put off by their exaggerated weight lkg per metre, their size, and above all, the bars of several centimetres beyond the fixing cords. You can understand that in effect this fault produces hang ups, making each movement difficult, the weight is a double enemy.  The effort it entails and the fatigue it causes, the rope is also heavy and expensive. Transporting the ill-natured ladders and manoeuvring them in the shafts is nearly impossible.

(De Joly goes on to describe what he regards as a good wood and rope ladder)

Size: Of a size of 30cm allowing two feet to rest on the bars. The bars should be 25mm diameter then the profile is studied for the best use of the ash wood, and mounted on various diameters of rope.  This type will be used as the ladder for deep shafts.  The rope is 12 or 13mm; the weight is about 370gms per metre length. We have also a model of 25cms length rungs and some rope Ilmm weight 350gms per metre.

Steel and electron: Sadly the relative convenience of this model depends on availability of present material.  I have invented a type which is nowhere near the weight per metre of a strong rope, practical to manoeuvre, is light and does not encumber you.  The electron metal alloy of a density of 1.8 is near the physical qualities of strong steel.  A rod of ultra light type weighs 7.5gms.  This metal is that which braced and spread the Zeppelin Carcass. Each man can carry easily more than the normal 10 to 15metres of ladders.  (Heavy bars 12mm cable 3.2mm weight per metre 1l0grarns - medium bars 12mm cable 2.4mm weight per metre 90grams.  Light bars l0mm cable 2mm weight per metre 56grams.)  All these ladders have proved themselves over 17 years and our colleagues in many countries in Europe have them now.  R De Joly is credited with inventing the electron ladder, as long ago as the early 1900's.


Like our boss E. A. Martell who said, "the windlass is a dangerous object," and, I add, above all if it is not adapted to its specific use or work, it is its force that creates the danger.  This is why we have made a winch without multiplication, and will not be worked with less than two men, it follows thus they will not risk crushing the explorer. This rig weighs 15kg, holds 150metres of cable (wire Hon breaking strain) on a drum, a brake of jawbone and a ratchet for going up.  Its feet are metal tubes to level up on unequal ground.  The tubes do not hold the winch it is secured by ropes to a tree, rock or flake.  The descent is controlled by telephone.


De Joly goes on to say that he prefers Acetylene lamps with an electric torch as back up.  He describes a magnesium lantern with strip or ribbon magnesium providing the light.  I wonder if any of these lanterns still exist?  He is totally against hand held lamps of any type and goes on to describe an imprudent expedition in the cave.  (Grange Lens by J. J. Pittard and J. Della Santa) At 200metres from the station of Grange Lens, in the direction of Saint Leonard, near the top of a cliff, which dominates a gypsum quarry, you can see the entrance of a deep hole.  This opening is a section of the roof portal of the cavern, inside there is an enormous pile of rocks steep and sloping, at the bottom of which we found a big sheet of underground water.  We decided to make a simple reconnaissance, because our lighting material that we had that day was insufficient for a big exploration. The lake had numerous ledges so we did not take the boat to avoid damaging it on the rocks; we were also hoping to not get ourselves wet because the water is very cold.  The water reflected light from the large opening, so we profited from this feeble glow to make our preparations.  We have only one hand held acetylene lamp (the other one had some old damage therefore its function left a lot to be desired) and a box of matches.  Starting along the rock ledges we almost immediately had to put our feet in the water to find purchase, soon the limbs are covered and then we have the water up to our chests.  The two men go on to describe crossing a lake to an island, then a second lake which seemed vast, then in front of them a long band of ground formed by rocky boulders. They decided to carry on, reaching a small cliff, which they climb - slowly in wet clothes.  Below them is a vast arch and a third lake they can hear a waterfall in the distance.  Shall we go on?  It is imprudent.  Our matches are wet, our lamp not reassuring and we are in a cavern very big and full of "ambushes".  Let's go just to the promontory, the water is not very deep, because it is a kind of ford that separates the second lake from the third.  They go on and eventually think they have bottomed the cavern, but in fact, "the base of the enormous arch is pierced", the stream in effect leaves by a cave where you need to swim and crawl for 20metres.  We decide to complete the exploration another time, also our lamp is running badly.  Upon turning back the inevitable happened, just when they anticipate seeing the lake, "pouf, a little explosion" and our unique lamp went out. Plenty of wet matches!  Several heavy silent minutes later interrupted only by the small waterfall, which seemed to laugh quietly, as it leapt from rock to rock.  Do you hear the sound of the fall?  Yes it is running to our right, it is necessary to rejoin the fall and use it to follow the water route to the lake.  Using the lakes and voice sounds for direction, the two managed slowly, in pitch blackness, to cross two lakes and one island, worrying about echoes, (voice wise) and the wisdom of blundering about in the dark.  They also knew that the cave was unknown and no one knew what they were doing!  They crawled over rocks, fell into the water, time after time, damaging elbows and knees, fell in holes and finally thought they saw a glimmer of light.  Freezing cold and exhausted they saw the pale reflection on the water from the opening in the cliffs.  They had been 5 hours in the dark, and the daylight had only 1 hour to go (impossible to find the exit).

Quote "We decided to remake a detailed expedition in this cave, but with all the necessary equipment."  The lesson has been learned!  In 1946 an adventure followed in the cave of Verna (near Cremieux Isere) a very modest cave. Some young imprudent people nearly lost their lives.  Their hand-lamp fell to the bottom of a lake during a spill and they stayed more than 50 hours marooned.  A friend of De Joly rescued them.   Casteret states "No hand-lamps" in one of his books.

For the final extract from this quaint manual which covers all aspects of caving including boats, photography, scientific observation, underwater exploration, etc.  I decided to précis the translation.  On materials for nautical exploration (For the BEC Divers) the rubber boat is described in detail.  But page 31 paragraph B is entitled 'Scaphandre Flotteur' - this is a costume for cave divers consisting of two layers one of waterproof canvas the inner layer of pure cotton.  The sleeves ending in vulcanised rubber and the neck rubber muffed.  One has here a piece of clothing, allowing one to confront all the difficulties presented by the underground rivers.  "Listen well it is necessary that the feet are encased with boots of lead soles of a weight to be set by the user.  It is about 2.5kg each foot for a bodyweight of about 65kg.  This is to maintain the man in a vertical position when he is floating, and to avoid see sawing in the backwaters when the costume holds air.  It will hold at the same time a balancing force.  But anticipating the difficulties you may encounter it would be advisable to wear a waistcoat of rubber with air pockets it protects from the cold and is remarkably buoyant even in rapids.  In America we found some clothing for floating which was absolutely airtight, but being based on another principle they don't float with air this is the part that makes them very dangerous in case of puncture."  (Early wet suits?)

'Scaphandre de Plongee' - the Count Le Preur has established an ingenious outfit "with a mask and a bottle of compressed air."  Allowing you to swim and breath, but it suffers the inconvenience of a tall reservoir and if the gas fails, it is prudent to be roped up. Therefore any method which you use to force siphons or sumps is dangerous.

'Sounding Sumps' - A practical procedure consists of attaching a little bottle (empty) to the end of some twine fixed on the end of a pole you feel clearly if the bottle reaches the surface on the other side of the sump.  (Now that's a good idea for sump I in Swildons)

Finally some extracts from a chapter covering descents into potholes or pits.  When the avens are very deep and above all if the absolute verticality is long more than 100metres deep, it is necessary to take special precautions.  Ladders made end to end, the ladder elements chosen with the strongest cable diameters in mind.  That is to say, the most resistant, strong high up, and the least resistant below on the bottom.  Having made this judgement you must be certain that the unit is well held.  We have always done the same as our Italian colleagues 'when we can', in reinforcing the ladders by one or two cables supplementary attached in the middle of the grand verticals.  Having done this, we have followed two aims, one given some extra security, two limit the vertical elastic movement of the rope. At the Chorom Martin where we have put this system, the vertical movement of the ladders when a person goes up or down, was in the order of 50 to 80cm at near 140 metres of depth.

This manual which resides in the BEC library (in a delicate state) is really quaint, but gives anyone who has the time and patience, an insight into the long-winded, and sometimes cumbersome methods which the early cavers laboured under.  It also puts into context the fact that perhaps 3 or 4 people would go down the avens backed up by a team of labourers on the winch and telephone others rope hauling.  It would be fair to assume that many early explorers would have to be fairly well off to pay for the retinue.  De Joly was also very keen to stop any destruction and pillage in caves and in fact as early as 27 September 1941 the French government passed a law to this effect.

My thanks to Harry Stanbury for his help with this article.  He in fact went to France in 1948 with Frank Frost and Paul Dolphin and did a tourist trip with De Joly in a mixed party including some Swiss scientists. After the trip Paul chatted to De Joly and explained that the British party, were (quote) 'sporty cavers'. Harry Stanbury says that as a result of the chat the three Brits plus some others were invited to visit the 'Tres Dangereux'  parts of the cave.  Harry states that it was the most hairy afternoon he could remember and Paul Dolphin called it the most terrifying experience of his caving career.

My apologies for any grammatical errors in the translation; I just hope this makes interesting reading.





Guess the Cave Competition


Send your answers giving the number, the cave name and the location within the cave to the Editor.

(address in the front of the BB)

Closing date is 25th January 1999.  If more than one person gets all the answers right then the winner will be pulled form a hat.

Answers next BB.


From the Logbook

(Any Hazelnut Swallet notes and Scotland notes are included in the relevant articles, so have not been reproduced here.)

Winford Ochre Mines.  Vince and Roz (31/8/98).

Cycled over to Winford to visit the impressive mines – not a place often visited.  Roz located the entrance to another mine, not previously recorded.  A small body sized hole drops into a chamber (mined) 15; wide, 30’ long and 15’ high. (1h)

Welsh Green Swallet.  Tony Boycott, Charlie Self (UBSS) and Graham (31/8/98|)

Photographing Selenite needles and brought out some samples that Mr Self found “hmm interesting.”

5/9/98 Charterhouse trip via Midnight Chamber, etc, to Dripping Stal Chamber.  Estelle, Mr Wilson and Chris.  Nice cave.

12/9/98 Stuart, Toby and Patrick (possible new member?!)

Started off with Manor Farm, only as far as the 20ft rift, with an interesting exit for Patrick.  Made up for it with a wet trip to Swildons 20 and out for tea and medals at Roger Dors Beer Shop.

16/9/98 North Hill Swallet Vince and Roz

Wet – puddles no deeper, just longer.  Could do with a couple more bangs.  Air not 100%.

10/10/98 David and Jim went down Longwood.  Crawled down to the bottom streamway and then had a look around the big passage down there.  Used a couple to get up and down pitches.  Saw a few good stalactites, etc.  Very good trip as I got to test out my new kit as well.

11/10/98 David and Bob went to GB and walked down to the arch, went down some side passages and then climbed up the waterfall.  Very interesting trip, didn’t get too wet either.

Sun 18thy Gonzo

Came up for a shower with a small boy……..Am I in the right club???

Sun 1 Nov.  Chas and Martin Torbs.

Swildons to 20.  Wet and fun.

Tues 3 Nov. John W + Caving Sec.

Swildons.  Wet was in and as far as twenty.  Lots of water, GREAT FUN!

7/11/98 Black Hole Series – Martin Selfe, Mike Wilson, Toby Limmer and Jeremy.

Some sketchy bold step sees some very nice pretties.  Crystal clear and no muck.  Well worth the adrenaline rush while hanging precariously over nothing.  Normal but cold water levels and very good fun. Very good trip to see some rarely visited curtains, etc, and worth a photo trip.  SRT down might make the crossing into the series some what easier! V. Good.  3½ hrs.

10/11/98 Martin Grass, Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson and John Williams.

Reservoir Hole.  A very pleasant scramble down, along and up!  Very impressive views of Topless Aven, etc, along with some nice formations. Quite remarkable walling and rock stabilisation by Stanton et al! – Lots of handy footholds made it all very comfortable.  Saw a stunning shooting star on exiting!  Ahh!  2 & a bit hours.  JW.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

2/1/99                        BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match. New Inn, Priddy.  7.00pm

8/1/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

30/1/99                      BEC Stomp, Live band – Buick 6 Priddy Village Hall 8pm -   Roz Bateman

5/2/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/2/99                        CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

5/3/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/3/99 (provisional)      Cave Science Symposium, Nottingham - BCRA

10/3/99                      NCA AGM 10.30am - NCA

10/3/99                      March Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

19/3/99                      MRO Annual Meeting, Hunters Lodge 8pm - MRO

20/3/99                      March Bulletin Out - Editor

4/4/99                        OFD Columns Open Day

7/4/99                        April Bulletin Cut off - Editor

9/499                         BEC Committee Meeting

10/4/99                      CCC Ltd. AGM, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CCC

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Out - Editor

2/5/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/5/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

15/599                       CSCC AGM Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns Day

2/6/99                        June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/6/99                      June Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

28/7/99                      August Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

31/8/99                      Committee members reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

10 – 12/9/99               Hidden Earth 99, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Rich Blake
Deputy Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



For those of you who have not visited the Belfry recently, the mystery photo in the last BB was taken in Cuthbert’s streamway.

I have included a song for the benefit of our Belfry Boy, Bob Smith and his apprentice, Toby Limmer, who has recently joined the club!!

It’s nice to see articles on activities other than caving (see Mike Wilson’s article).  If anyone else has articles on non-caving subjects as well as caving, then please send them to me.  I am particularly interested in responses to Dave Irwin’s article on the 1968 floods.  It would be interesting to hear recollections and have a few photos so many of our younger members can get an idea of what Swildons was like with the ‘old forty.’

Keep the articles coming. I can never have too many!!

The cut off for articles and letters for my last full BB of this committee year is 22nd July.

Last minute news and dates can be taken until 25th July

The next BB is slightly earlier to work round the bits that have to be published 8 weeks before the AGM (nominations for committee etc.)  There will be a short issue out 4 weeks before the AGM which will contain committee member’s reports and voting forms for the committee, if there are enough candidates for a vote.


Letters and Articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


The Belfry Boy

Tune: Sweet Lorraine

Author: P. MacNab

Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol. 92 No 2 February 1978

Well, I'm the Belfry Boy,
I'm every other buggers favourite toy,
Oh how it always seems to give them joy,
To put me in bloody pain.

Oh how they treat me hard,
Kick me all around the Belfry yard,
Lord you ought to see how I am scarred,
From when they shoved me up the drain.

And when a member calls,
I dash inside so they can black my balls,
And splatter me around the Belfry walls,
Till I've nearly gone insane.
            They sit me in a chair
Rub jam and marmalade into my hair
I sit and smile as if I couldn't care,
But later hang my head in shame.

And then they all insist,
That I am something called a masochist,
Especially when they all come back pissed,
And want to play their silly games.

But now I sit and wait,
Because I'm glad to know that some day fate,
Will bring along a brand new inmate,


Caving and BEC News


Photos are still required for the photo board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in - Ed.

BEC Website

Is accessible at the following URL www.mendipnet.co.uk/BEC.

If you try to access it from links from other Websites, you will probably still get the old WebPage. It takes a little while to get other sites to change their links for new addresses.

49ers Party

For those of you who are not aware, there are quite a number of BEC members and other regulars from the hill who were born in 1949 and are therefore 49 this year.  They have decided to celebrate in style Midsummer's night (20th June) with a mass party at the Village Hall in Priddy.  Tickets are available from Tony at Bat Products and Quackers in the Hunters Lodge.  Here is a list of some of the known 4gers: - (apologies to any I have missed (or added!) - list was compiled in the pub!!!)

Mike 'Quackers' Duck, Tony Jarratt, Phil Hendy, Martin Bishop, Pam Watson, Pete Moody, Tim Large, John Dukes, Pete Slater, Wayne Hiscock and also Tricia Walker who sadly died recently.

Committee Members on the move

Nigel Taylor will be moving to Cheddar, Somerset in mid June (-ish).  The telephone number is unknown at present, but will be advised soon.  If you need to contact then the phone number will be listed under Mendip Demrock at directory enquiries.

Nick Mitchell has moved to Priddy, Somerset.  He can be contacted on his mobile.

Sea Diving and Fishing

There are a few of us regularly going to the seaside at weekends to go diving.  There are also plans afoot for a couple of weekends in Cornwall, one in July/early August and the other late August/early September. If you are interested in coming along either on the weekend stuff or the weekends away, please contact either the Estelle or Quackers.

Note also that sometime in July/Aug there will be a fishing/diving/walking weekend at Prawle point, contact Robin Gray for more information on that one.

Burrington Cave Atlas - Estelle

For those of you who are not aware I am updating and revamping the Burrington Cave Atlas. This was originally released as a BEC caving report in 1973, and has been sold out for quite some time.  All profits from the updated report will go into BEC funds, mostly for the library.  Obviously there have been quite a few changes in Burrington Coombe area since 1973, so I am hoping that some of the membership of the club would be prepared to help me in getting some of the information updated.  I am planning a Burrington Atlas working day Sunday 19th July. There is plenty of work to be done, not all caving, so feel free to bring noncaving partners and make it a day out.

If anyone can help me with information or photographs from the Burrington area I would be very grateful. I would like to use different photos from the original, and also will be looking for a good quality cover photo, painting or drawing.  Jobs to be done include:

  • Surveying of several extensions.
  • Checking locations (NGR) and descriptions of cave entrances match the references from 1973.
  • Photography, both inside and out of the caves.

If you can help me out on the 19th July or at any other time, or have information or photos that I can use, please contact me at the address and phone numbers (or e-mail) in the front of the BB - Ed.

Another Question from Blitz

Does anyone know how many Bertie Bats have we had over the years? e.g. on headed notepaper and on the BB etc?  Contact Blitz at the Treasurers address if you can help him.  (If someone can give me/Blitz copies of as many of them as possible, I'll publish them in a future BB Ed.)

Speleoscene No.33

This is available from caving shops and is free, but how about a donation to the local Cave Rescue Service.

Included in this issue is an incident report for last year from the British Cave Rescue Council. Mendip had a quiet year with only 6 underground incidents, of which all were rescued with no serious injuries. There is also information on the Cavers Fair to be held at Priddy on 3-5 July, 1998.  Life-lining systems are studied and the general results are listed in a table of what is kit is recommended in varying situations.

BCRA Meeting

Regional One-day meeting to be held in Priddy Village Hall at 9:30am on 21/11/98.  Topics include in depth lectures on Swildons and St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Details to be arranged.

The Cavers Fair is Coming!

The weekend 314/5th July sees the Cavers Fair being held for the first time in Priddy.  Organised jointly between the NCA Training Committee and CSCC this event is all about getting underground, learning something new, and having a wild time!  You can book a weekend ticket in advance for only £12.00.

For more information on what is going on, see the plan of events later in the BB.


The Mud Sump drain hole was attacked again recently but remains pretty well blocked.  There was a small airspace recently but bailing is still difficult from either side, and parties completing a reverse Round Trip or Priddy Green Sink through trip may find exit this way impossible.

It has been free-dived by groups attempting reverse-round trips but this is VERY DANGEROUS as the sump can be up to 10 metres long.

Mendip Technical Group

A meeting was held at the Hunters Lodge on Saturday 31st January 1998 to try and hammer out a bolting policy for Mendip.  General conclusions were that re-bolting with resin anchors will generally only be carried out when existing anchors are no longer safe - i.e. no program of systematic bolt replacement although Rhino Rift is an exception as CCC have already approved a complete re-bolt.  The technical group will not have an independent identity (not another caving committee) but will be a loose association of cavers prepared to get involved. Further details from Andy Sparrow.

BEC Library

There has been a disappointing response to the request for donations to help out with new cabinets for the library.  If anyone wishes to donate contact Alex Gee, but it is looking as though we will be needing to look into alternative methods of raising funds for the library. Another stomp maybe, or has anyone got any other ideas???

Caving Trips

Check out the rolling calendar on the back of the BB - Andy has listed some dates for caving trips, mainly on Mendip.  Please contact him if you wish to go on any of the trips.  Hopefully we can encourage new members to get a bit more involved.

Working Weekend

The recent working weekend saw the same old faces who turn up to most working weekends.  Lots was achieved, including replacement outside door on the bunkroom, work on the kitchen, painting and a general clean up inside and out.  Thanks to Roz and Becky for organising the BBQ.  Next working weekend will be 21st/22nd August, it would be nice to see a few fresh faces there!!!

Club Rescue Practice

Saturday 13th June Tyning’s Barrow Swallet. Meet at the Belfry at 10.00 am. Contact Andy Sparrow, Club rescue team leader for further details.


Scotland 98 - The B(e)are Bones version

By Pete Glanvill, May '98

25th May saw Quackers and I leaving Mendip for the annual Scottish migration it being Quackers first but hopefully not last trip to Sutherland.  It was a no frills journey with only one planned detour to collect (huh!) a dive light from Stuart Kirby's place near Gloucester.  Stuart turned out to be in Wales, the light was not constructed and my cheque was buried under a pile of invoices on a cluttered (that's polite) workbench.  Quackers conducted a major but successful dig to find some bulbs for his light before we departed muttering under our collective breaths.

Many hours burning up the motorways, A9 etc. got us surprisingly early to Taig nam Famh (the Grampian bothy) where despite dire prognostications we manage to elbow out some bunk space before departing for the Alt and a meal.  Eric was presented with a photomontage of Northern Lights and a couple of individual shots of Simon Brooks.

The next morning dawned sunny but with a low cloud base.  I opted for Canisp while Trevor Knief (who arrived the previous night with Peter Rose) opted for Ben More Assynt.  In the end we went our separate ways both getting some good walking in and fine views as the cloud base lifted and the sun appeared.  After the descent we repaired to the Inch for beer and Jimi Hendrix on the stereo.  He was still playing when Trevor and Pete staggered in 3 hours later!

By this time J-Rat, Estelle and Tony Boycott had arrived. Julian Walford appeared in the morning to announce that we had a blocked drain - serious stuff when it's feeding the cesspit. After obtaining some rods from Nicky at the tea rooms Pete Rose wearing rubber gloves got down to it.  Leaving him to it we had to think about caving. By mutual agreement the cave divers decided a good attempt should be made to find a by-pass to sump 6b in Claonaite so the plan was to transport bottles etc. up to the entrance and then do some digging in Damoclean.


Pete Rose giving the cesspit a good rodding.

As we disappeared down the drive Pete shouted the glad news that he had cleared the obstruction and we could again freely empty our bowels into the toilets of Taig nam Famh.

The first of several long slogs up the ANUS valley then took place with Quackers tagging along muttering about peat bogs.

On the way up J-rat and team rediscovered After Dinner Hole and an assortment of old bones.  By the time we reached Damoclean Quackers was distinctly unimpressed but cheered up when we started digging - he hadn't got caving gear!  Several cold hauls later and with several hundredweight of crud dumped on the spoil heap we sat down for soup and cake before packing up and returning to the Alt.

Very little cooking was done this year partly because the food in the Alt is so good and partly because Trevor seemed to have gunned down the contents of a country park.  One evening we had duck, on another pigeons were on the menu and on yet another venison.  Trevor claimed they were road kill put out of their misery but I have my doubts in view of the fact that he arrived at the hut armed with fishing rods, shotguns and probably had the odd Kalashnikov stowed away in Pete's glove compartment.

That night everybody retreated to another bunkroom - the one Trevor was not going to be snoring in. We got away with it for the rest of the week until J-Rat let him in 6 days later to create a serious insomnia epidemic.

Tuesday looked very promising to the point of becoming a shorts day.  This has nothing to do with stuff in optics but that critical point where the weather temps one to bare one's legs.  Not today I decided.  J - Rat and co headed for Traligill with a full programme of attacking Whinging Dog Dig, digging in Birthday Hole and wallowing in Waterfall Rising.  After a brief scrabble in Birthday Hole the wokless team left, before giving WDD some stick and plaster.  Having gained an appetite they had a quick lunch at Glenbain and returned  suitably wokked  up  to Birthday  Hole.   Quackers did sterling surface work again (how could he forget his caving gear) and J-rat was just about to consider inspecting the end and the effects of Tony B's last bang when a loudish aerial rumble brought the proceedings to a halt.  A huge thundercloud had materialised over Conival (think Close Encounters OTTK) and big sparks started flying everywhere.  Wallowing in the streamway of Birthday Hole seemed suicidal so a rapid retreat was made to Glenbain where Quackers was entertained by seeing JRat twitch as he was hit by a secondary strike.  I suppose it's one way of getting your fags lit!

The storm over Conival, (the one that zapped J'Rat)

Meanwhile in Claonaite Julian, Pete and Tony were oblivious to all this.  All went well until we started kiting up at which point a loud crack and hissing from every orifice on Pete's brand new virgin, never used, pristine Oceanic demand valve indicated some kind of catastrophic first stage failure. Dive aborted apart from a quick dip by Julian.  Serendipity as far as I was concerned because I managed to get some excellent pictures of Cavity Wall passage on the way out.  The sun was shining as we wandered down the hill and back to the hut.

On our way to Lochinver we noticed the clouds building over Traligill and took several interesting pictures of the storm creeping over the limestone block.  Down at the harbour we found Jim Crooks removing a knackered engine from his boat - bang went thoughts of asking him for a boat dive.  However he was happy to fill our tanks and we repaired to his shed that was unbelievably tidy apart from a half constructed wood panelled pond made with Jim's usual ingenuity from odds and ends lying around the place.  The usual "craic" developed.  Apparently the last winter had a been a time of strange aerial sightings - not just displays of the Northern Lights but a variety of spectacular UFO sightings (perhaps Pete Rose did see something last year!) of a cigar shaped space ship and silent bright lights in the sky seen by a variety of witnesses.  Sounds like a case for Mulder and Scully.  Eric at the Alt was happy to confirm that, yes, it had been a strange year in the sky.

Bottles filled we did the seafront timber collection crawl before buying pies at the bistro which now boasts a conservatory.  Did you know the proprietor is an ex Mendip caver?  Put my name on the list for mail-order pies - just in case. 

Tony Boycott by the Montego at Kylesku

By the time we had reached Inchnadamph the flood pulse had come through and the river was a raging torrent although the storm was very localised for the trout farm stream at the ANUS valley remained at the same level it had been earlier in the day.

On An Teallach Pete and Trevor aborted their ascent on seeing the approaching storms.  According to the log a vagrant sheep advised them to go no further.  So they retired to a hotel to chat up an Aussie barmaid instead.

Quakers, Tony, Estelle and I rounded the day off with a pleasant sunny dive at Kylesku although Quackers and Estelle had bad attacks of ear pox.  Over the grilled langoustine one of the local barflies admitted to sinking the blue Montego I had photographed last year.  She wants photos perhaps the insurance will believe her now!

The next day dawned seriously sunny.  This was the biz - shorts and sandals on and an early start to attack Claonaite.  The terrible trio of Boycott, Glanvill and Walford headed for the hills.  The Bone Cave route is quicker than walking up the valley to Claonaite is my tip of the year.  Down at Sump 3 all the kit worked and 3 divers arrived in 4 ready for business. Julian and Tony tore off to 5 while Pete took a leisurely trip through looking for possible side passages. Some boulders were pulled out of a hole to the right of the choke at Sump 3 and a possible way on seen - later inspected by Tony and pronounced unpromising. Fawlty Towers looked interesting but loose and PG was not keen on a solo scrabble so moved onto 5 where photos were taken.  He then located a dig off an oxbow just before the ramp down to the pool.  This let him out of having to free dive 5 as Julian's promised air space had not materialised.  After taking some excellent photographs of the area around the sump and armed with gloves plus suitably shaped bits of pebble he began excavating a crawl ending in boulders while Tony went to 7 to engineer a route he thought might get into Treen Scene.  However although he could hear Julian, Julian could not hear him over stream noise and the route looked too tight.

I, meanwhile, was working my way into the boulders armed with a crowbar Julian had found.  Several rumbles and high speed reverse wriggles later a large spoil heap was accumulating over downstream sump 4. I handed the tool to Julian and Tony when they returned.  After a spell Tony handed the weapon to Julian who started to get really mean with the boulders which came trundling down the crawl in increasing size and numbers.  Suddenly Julian vanished and after a tentative look at the walls and roof of this highly unstable passage we climbed into a small ascending breakdown chamber which must be very close to Edward Concretehead in 7.  I decided the extension should be called 'The Rock Machine turns you on'.  A few desultory pokes at the boulders later we decided either bang or more digging energy was needed for further progress.  It was time to slog on out.

Back on the right side of 3 the roar of water was ominously loud and the stream from Rising Damp just before the climb down to Sump 2 seemed to be flowing well. The struggle out against the high water was entertaining and the Sump 1 bypass was a nose in the air job to pass. On the surface the sun was shining but my shorts hung out to warm in the sun were soaked (as was all my gear).  The area had copped a thunderstorm similar to that that had hit Traligill the previous day and we were lucky not to have been trapped by the flood pulse

Tony Boycott at Sump 3 m Claonmte

Other members of the team dug in Waterfall Rising or went for walks.

On the Thursday an enthusiastic team including Peter Rose and Trevor Knief hauled clag out of Rana watched by an inflatable sheep - well you need some home comforts.

Tony, Estelle, Pete G. and Quackers went for a coastal walk out to Kirkaig Point near Badnaban.  This proved to be a superb location for watching sea mammals including seals, porpoises and dolphins.  On the way back we did our bit to keep Scotland's beaches tidy by removing all buoys, boulder nets and digging skips (cans) that we could but having to leave the drums of oil (!!) behind.  Coffee and browsing at Achins book shop was followed by another air fill and twenty questions about the strange bones Jim had found on the beach; the current consensus is that they are a whale's pelvis.

Later in the day another visit was paid to Kylesku for wreck photography and scallops.  Pete found a large lobster - it's still there.

In the Alt that evening we learnt firstly that the services of the GSG dog rescue section were needed at Strath Kanaird and secondly messages had been left at various locations regarding a boat dive in the Summer Isles.  I had been phoning Andy Hobrow at Achiltibuie all week but he seemed to be involved in continuous S&M practices - the voice on the answering machine kept telling me he was tied up. After some fiddling with Eric's phone I got through to Craig Barnes and booked a dive for the Saturday morning.

Quackers at Kylesku - Note the Gaelic underwater god of farts following closely behind!

The next day a strong rescue team went to look for Peggy the entombed Jack Russell.  They found a possibly previously overlooked area of limestone, a small hole and no dog. However J-Rat and Trevor did explore another new cave nearby.  There is a sequel to this tale but I will leave you in suspense.

Claonaite 8 consists of a short series of muddy, roomy but very gloomy tunnels with a side passage ascending to a bouldery choke.  At the far end of a spacious chamber another big ascending tunnel probably ends in a solutional hole.  The streamway is a narrow canal and the contrast to the noise in 7 is striking. The canal ends in an impressively large sump pool into which Simon quietly sank.  We stood shivering patiently until the twitching line and a dim orange glow indicated his return.

Meanwhile a hard team consisting of Tony, Julian (back from a day's work at Dounreay), Simon and Peter were back in Claonaite.  Simon had designs on 8 while the rest of us planned a bypass to 7 some surveying and photography.  Simon and Tony dived the sump while Julian dived into a hole above it and started digging. Pete took photos and by the time he'd packed up everyone including Julian's feet had gone.               

Tony Boycott - Far side of Sumo 3 in Claonaite

He wriggled into the muddy hole Julian had excavated to confront a very awkward squeeze a couple of metres in.  Then his lamp started to go dim!

Feeling a wobbler coming on he reversed out, got a spare light and after some judicious digging wormed his way up a crumbly corkscrew to within earshot of the others who had completed the exploration of Claonaite 8 rather quickly and were patiently waiting for Simon to find Claonaite 9.

The sump seemed to close down he reported but he decided to have another look in view of the amount of air he had. After another cold wait he surfaced to report that the route was choked by a roof collapse but could conceivably be crow barred.  The flow went through the choked section.

Tony, a hard task master, then insisted we survey 8 so with chattering teeth and a borrowed Q-light I crawled up various passages carrying the tape then made up likely figures to shout out.  An attempt to survey out through the by-pass was aborted when I dropped my loaned light through a hole in the floor and Julian had to dig it out!

Eventually all the kit was packed and we headed out with photography next on the agenda.  I got some excellent pictures of the Twin Falls of Jabaroo, the area round the bones and some of the bones themselves as well as Portobello Promenade.

Tony Boycott at the Watershute in Claonaite

The trip out from Treen Scene was painfully slow and we eventually reached the surface after 9 hours underground.

After a trip to the Alt - in shorts by yours truly, some us returned to the hut to savour the scallops lovingly prepared by Trevor earlier.  Here's a tip though Trevor - never boil scallops!  They should be fried with wine herbs and shallots and served on a bed of rice, which is what we did when we got back.

Next day the technical training section of the CDG and BEC went on a boat dive from Achiltibuie with Craig Barnes.  A nice sunny day to travel over to the Fairweather about which I have written before. All dived successfully except for Simon who sustained an attack of cold (from a strategically placed hole in his dry suit crotch) agoraphobia, and negative buoyancy all at once after hitting the water.

After some coffee and cake we chugged across the bay to a rock known as Latto's Island and had our second dive.  We were told it would be very unlikely that we would complete a circuit of the island so it took me a minute or so to realise that the wall Tony and I were swimming past 40 minutes into the dive was one we had passed at the beginning.

Tony Boycott at the Cascade in Claonaite

The underwater scenery was nice with lots of starfish and burrowing sea anemones. We surfaced and seeing the dive boat some way off, headed to the island until we were rescued.

Meanwhile the caving contingent did some surface work, dug or went walking.  That evening in the Alt it was learnt the Peggy the deceased Jack Russell had reappeared emaciated but none the worse for her period of incarceration. The pot will have to be renamed Resurrection.

The Saturday evening could be the start of a long tradition.  Eric and Christine laid on a mega curry session with umpteen dishes which was rounded off by a slide show from Pete and Simon.  Pete showed local slides and Simon showed some of Pakistan but was more successful by playing to the gallery of boozed up Glaswegian fishermen who cheered every time fish was mentioned.  Simon was a little frostier when pictures of Jenny appeared.

The Sunday was Pete and Quackers' last day.  Quackers mouldered in the hut while Peter joined Estelle, Ivan, Tony and the inflatable sheep at Rana Hole for another hauling session.  On the way downhill Estelle, Pete and Ivan had a good job of changing the boulders at the rising - so now you know who did it.

Pete and Quackers rounded the day off by attempting to find the Kylesku lobster.  We failed but Pete found Quackers a large crab as a consolation prize before proceeding up the hill to dive for scallops in the harbour. He also earned brownie points from a local skipper by removing a rope from his prop.

Well that's it from me but Estelle can have fun now doing a re-edit on the rest of the log.


Tankard Hole Song

Tune: Ain't Gonna Need This House No Longer
Author: R. Lawder
Source: Alfie

Last summer a dig was started by some blokes from the other Club,
In a shakehole by the roadside not so far from the Hunters pub,
With occasional draughts of cider, diggers soon had piled a heap,
To the envy of the weegies and the puzzlement of the sheep.

Chorus:            Ain't gonna need this cave no longer,
                        Ain't gonna need this cave no more,
                        With it's stalactites on the ceiling
                        And it's stalagmites on the floor,
                        Ain't gonna force this squeeze no longer,
                        Ain't gonna bang this sump no more
                        'Cos our Tankard Hole is going
                        and it's going to beat them all.

Oh the Entrance it was narrow, so there wasn't much need to shore,
But further down it's ample, twenty feet by sixty four,
It was tedious to climb the pitches and a risk the gulf to jump,
So we built an elevator from the first pitch to the sump.

You can keep your Tratman's Temple, and your Devil's Elbow too,
And your Morton's Pot with stemples, and your Cuthbert's entrance queue
For our Tankard Hole is going, going steadily down the dip,
Taking Swildons as a feeder and St. Cuthbert's as a drip.


Funny Insurance Claims

•           Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have.

•           The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intentions.

•           I thought my window was down, but found it was up when I put my hand through it.

•           I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way.

•           A truck backed through my windshield into my wife's face.

•           A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.

•           The guy was all over the road.  I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.

•           I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.

•           The gentleman behind me struck me on the backside.  He went to rest in the bush with just his rear end showing.

•           In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.

•           The accident occurred when I was attempting to bring my car out of a skid by steering it into the other vehicle.

•           I had been learning to drive without power steering.  I turned the wheel to what I thought was enough and found myself in a different direction going the opposite way.

•           I was on my way to the doctor's with rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident.

•           As I approached the intersection, a stop sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before.  I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.

•           To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front, I struck the pedestrian.

•           My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle.

•           An invisible car appeared out of nowhere, stuck my vehicle, and vanished.

•           I told the police that I was uninjured.  But on removing my hat, I found that I had a fractured skull.

•           When I saw I could not avoid a collision, I stepped on the gas and crashed into the other vehicle.

•           The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.

•           I saw the slow-moving, sad-faced old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.

•           I was thrown from my car as it left the road.  I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.

•           The telephone pole was approaching fast.  I was attempting to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.

•           I saw her look at me twice; she appeared to be making slow progress when we met on impact.

•           No one was to blame for the accident but it never would have happened if the other driver had been alert.

•           I was unable to stop in time and my car crashed into the other vehicle.  The driver and passengers then left immediately for a vacation with injuries.

•           I had been shopping for plants all day and was on my way home.  As I reached an intersection a hedge sprung up obscuring my vision.  I didn't see the other car.

•           I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.

•           I was sure the old fellow would never make it to the other side of the roadway when I struck him.

•           The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.

•           The trees were passing me in an orderly row at fifty miles per hour when suddenly one of them stepped out into my path.

•           I ran over a man, he admitted it was his fault since he had been knocked down before.

•           I ran into a lamppost that was obscured by human beings.

•           The accident was caused by me waving to the man I hit last week.


The 49ers 49th Birthday Party



A Letter From Harry Stanbury On Early Exploration In Stoke Lane Slocker

Harry and Glynn Stanbury
Bude Cornwall


Dear Estelle,

It is a long time ago that I wrote to the B.B. - so here goes!

First - Congratulations on the "New Look" a great improvement!

I had intended to write this some time ago but Glynn is recovering from a serious operation & so my time has been rather fully occupied.

I was very interested in Dave Irwin's article in BB 494 on Stoke Lane & feel that I could clarify a couple of things.

When we made the "recce" trip to Sump 1 it was only the three of us - Graham B., Don C. & myself who went through Browne's Passage to the "dark & horrible pool" the others only went as far as the entrance to Browne's Passage.

We did not take down diving gear - the object of the trip was to assess the feasibility of doing so.

When we reached the "dark & horrible" after feeling about Don eventually vanished from sight - Graham & I waited & waited - Graham turned to me & said, "Well, I suppose we'll have to get the silly bastard out" & with that Don re-appeared triumphant.  Graham & I followed him through & the rest is history.

Regarding the survey. Don decided not to publish the survey because there was a strong movement locally to turn the cave into a show cave.  The survey showed that the Throne Room was adjacent to a shake hole in the field above. The alternative would have been to "throw" the survey by several degrees, but this was regarded as unethical & was rejected.  Regrettably I have no information of the whereabouts of the original drawings.

On a lighter note; for several years I was on the extramural circuit in Bristol & N. Somerset giving caving talks to groups ranging from Scouts to O.A.P.S.  I took them on a tour of Mendip & of course this included Stoke Lane.  When I called for questions at the end one question invariably cropped up "How did that man who went through first know that it was safe to do so?"

I pointed out that he knew it was safe as when he put his arm through first he knew that there was air space because when he brought his hand out it was dry!!

This was usually met with a sagacious nodding of heads.

I hope you can read this, Estelle, I regret that at 82 my writing is not more legible.

All the best in 98



Stoke Lane Slocker - History

By Dave Irwin

The short extract from my notes on the history of Stoke Lane Slocker prompted 'Tommy' Thomas to send some extremely useful info on the relationship between Max Unwin and the newly formed SMCC and of the extraction of the human and animal bones from Bone Chamber in Stoke Lane II.  Harry Stanbury has also made some comments in a letter, published elsewhere in this BB, and, by the time members receive this issue I shall have been to Bude and talked to Harry, as I've done on a number of occasions in recent years relating to early club activity.  The note relating to the diving gear is quite correct and it was a slip of my memory - related to a comment made once by Don Coase's younger brother, Alan.  Many apologies to all readers.  Alan told me that Don felt cheated by the Stoke Lane sump as it was so short!  The question relating to the location of the remaining members of the party, in Cairn Chamber or at the beginning of Browne's Passage is one of the points that Harry and I will be discussing.  All will become clear in the final text of the full version history which commences in the 1880s and records the first descent in 1905.

Whilst we are in a 'remembering mood' perhaps older members may be able to help on a number of queries: -

Stoke Lane Slocker:  In 1949 there were two rescues in this cave, one involved Sybil Bowden-Lyle, of which there is plenty of independent information - what happened to cause the other? No records exist in MRO files and no mention of a problem is to be found in the local papers.  The reference to these rescues come from," no sour jokes please ... a note by Frank Frost in the then Wessex Circular.  No clues have been found in their caving logs for that period.

Burrington digs:  Snogging Hole and Burrington Hole.  References to these two 1946 dig sites are to be found in Volume II of the BEC Caving Log. Does anyone have details of their exact location?  It seems from various comments in the Logbook that Snogging Hole might well be the entrance to the site now known as Pierre's Pot.  An additional note to the entry implies that the digs were started sometime before and the reader is referred to Volume I of the Caving Log.  I have to report that the first volume of the BEC Caving Log is missing does anyone have any information relating to this invaluable record? It contains details of activity during the years immediately after the reforming of the club in 1944; early electron ladder construction and subsequent trials on the 40ft Pot in Swildons among several other importance references.  Any information to either Alex Gee, the club librarian, or to the writer.

Swancombe Hollow Dig:  Dug by BEC members, including the late Dan Hasell, during 1946-1947, the site is in the Swancombe Valley near Blagdon.  Does anyone have any notes that might relocate the site and any details of the work?

The area surrounding the St. Cuthbert's Depression has several features that have attracted cavers in the past.  Bog Hole, originally opened and dug by the UBSS was later continued by the BEC. Where exactly is the site, it is said to be under the farmyard laid by Walt Foxwell but that's only hearsay. Any offers of information. Further, another site, this time a shaft was recorded by the UBSS and an entry in their caving log for the 7th August 1944 contains the following note: 'The shaft opposite the old mine workings was also examined and found unpromising .... '  Where is this?


Thirty years ago - the great flood.

By Dave Irwin

Seems like only yesterday that one of the most talked about occasions in the history of 20th century Mendip caving occurred.  At the time it happened I was caving in Ireland with a bunch of BEC, SMCC and WCC members.  The weather had been perfect and several wet caves had been visited or pushed, including St. Catherine's II with its thrixotropic mud filled passage.  Just before our return we met a party of UBSS who told us of the rain storm that had hit the Bristol area a couple of days previously.  Hardly had we got in the door to the flat in Bristol, with our sodden rucksacks, than Tim Reynolds and I were set upon by Roger Stenner!  'You know about the floods in the area' he commented.  Then suddenly with great excitement he uttered 'The Forty's gone!'  'Settle down Roger.  What do you mean the Forty's gone?  It can't go anywhere.' Gradually, regaining his senses, he told us the story that the Water Rift in Swildons Hole had been scoured out by the flood waters and that no-one any longer needed to ladder the pitch.  A way had opened up near the bottom.

There then followed a few days of intensive caving in the evenings and as a result the BB, published a week after the flood, contained the first detailed article, written by the writer of this note, on the changes that had occurred in the caves about central Mendip.  This was reprinted in the CRG Newsletter and British Caver shortly after.  To amass a good summary of this famous occurrence perhaps caving members who were about at this time would put down on paper their observations and perhaps Estelle could published the lot as joint article in the next BB.  Just to give a gentle nudge, Pete Rose, Nick Chipchase and Pete Glanvill were among the last to see the Forty Foot Pot in action, Dave Turner and Brian Prewer were among the first down G.B. Cave and Swildons Hole respectively - so get pens to paper - or fingers on those computer keys.

Just to whet your appetite here are a few piccies from my photo archive collection of Cheddar Gorge the day after!



Scotland 98 - The Alternative Report from the Log Book

By Estelle Sandford


Pete Glanvill, Mike 'Quackers' Duck (25/4 - 6/5)
Pete Rose, Trevor Knief (25/4 - 2/5)
Tony Boycott, Estelle Sandford, Tony Jarratt (26/4 - 7/5)
Julian Walford (27/4 - 29/4, 30/4 - 3/5)
Simon Brooks, Nick Williams (29/4 - 4/5)
Robin 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Richard 'Rubberman' Blake (1/5 - 10/5)
Ivan Young (1/5 -4/5)
Pete 'Snablet' McNab, Anette Becher (1/5 - 3/5)
Steve Bellhouse, Kate Janossy, Dave Robinson (1/5 - 4/5)
Fraser Simpson (1/5 - 4/5)
Roger Galloway, Liz Millet (1/5 - 3/5)
Rebecca Campbell (4/5 - 10/5)
Martin Hayes (5/5 - 10/5)

On Tuesday 28th J'Rat, Estelle and Quackers went to Whinging Dog Dig and then to Birthday Hole. Firstly to Birthday Hole where an attempt was started on reopening the cave after the winter floods.  We moved all the large boulders, but needed the wok to progress any further. It had been left in the car at Glenbain.  On to Whinging Dog Dig via the Waterslide, V.C.P. and Deeply Depressed (thoroughly blocked).  W.D.D. was given some chemical persuasion, and then back to Glenbain.  After lunch, back to Birthday Hole with the wok. J'Rat dug in the thrust plane while Estelle hauled the spoil out and Quackers built an anti-flood wall.  After PA hours of bloody hard work the digger booted his way through into the streamway, but was then put off going to inspect Tony Boycott's last bang by the resounding echoes of a major thunderstorm. The froth on the roof also discouraged lying in the stream while it was pissing down above!  The team then made a rapid retreat to Glenbain and just beat the rain (but not the lightning as AJ found out to his distress as he lit up and tingled near the power pole at Glenbain.  He has had 2 past "strikes" to his credit already!) With spectacular lightning, thunder, rain and hail hammering the mountains a further rapid retreat was made, this time to an unlit Inch to drink bottled beer as the electric was down. An interesting day (all thoughts of diving/digging Waterfall Rising   were abandoned.)

Wednesday saw a visit to Waterfall Rising by Estelle and J'Rat.  Each did about 20minutes worth of underwater digging, clearing out a lot of the silt that had been washed in over the winter.  Caution beware of swimming towards the waterfall in flood conditions - it nearly ate Estelle.  This dig is very cosy in a dry suit.

After the initial 'callout' on the Thursday night in the Alt, Friday  1st May saw Nick W, J'Rat, Estelle, Quackers, Pete Rose, Trevor, David the Gamekeeper, attending an attempted Dog Rescue.


Ben More and the Storm that zapped J'Rat!

An introduction from Eric at the Alt, who got wind of a dog having been lost in a pot near Strath Kanaird. It turns out the dog actually went missing last week so our chances of finding it alive were slim, but it was a chance for a look at an area none of us had seen before and the gamekeeper was grateful for our efforts.

The land is managed from Langwell Lodge but access is gained by driving up to the hydro dam and walking N.E. onto the ridge.  The area is the normal peat hag, but about 5-10 acres of top of the ridge is limestone with numerous dolines and depressions.  Above 50m level in altitude, travelling NW off the ridge, is a small resurgence where water appears between boulders, could be interesting for a days digging, although we did not have time to investigate.

Work concentrated on the hole that David said the dog ("Peggy") had disappeared down. We worked for about 4 hours, but all we were doing were chasing a hole about big enough to roll a grapefruit down. No sign or sound of the poor dog, and so we called it a day at about 3pm.  Not a bad day nonetheless: splendid weather.  About 50m from Peggy's Demise an open pot about 10m deep was explored by Trevor and J'Rat - through a bedding to a conclusion in a small chamber.  The obvious name is Strath Kanaird Pot.  This could be a new limestone area if Jim Salvona hasn't been there first.

View of Sutherland area from Strath Kanaird

On Saturday J'Rat walked from Ledmore Junction to the obvious limestone area near the pine copse behind Ledbeg.  At 233, 141 is a small open hole in a doline with a possible 10' deep open pot below. Needs digging.  PLEASE AVOID TillS AREA FOR THE TIME BEING as the writer let free a caged crow found nearby and he assumes the local keeper will not be happy! There is some superb limestone pavement and a possible mine or quarry tips in this area.  J'Rat's suggestion was to call the cave "Pot of the Relieved Crow" or something similar.

In the bar (Alt) the day after the failed dog rescue David the Gamekeeper appeared to let us know that Peggy had appeared on the doorstep this morning - very thin and bedraggled but also very much alive.  The digging and noise must have helped in some way.  We were bought beer as a reward, which combined with Christine's mega curry and Simon and Pete's slide show (with Glaswegian fishermen heckling) made a great night.  So, mucho brownie points for the GSG and we'd better re-name Peggy's Demise as Peggy's Pot.

Nick, Kate J. and Steve B spent more time on Sunday prospecting at Strath Kanaird.  Fine limestone pavement, but no real speleological potential.

A bang clearing trip to Whinging Dog Dig on the Bank Holiday Monday.  Removal of the debris gained view into about 12' of low thrust plane. This was pushed to conclusion on the following day, as it ended in a foot sized pool of shite.

Tav and Nick Williams returned to the obvious sink by the footpath just before the footbridge over the Traligill near Lower Traligill Cave.  Hilti'd a couple of boulders and dug down between 'solid' rock walls to reveal a practically penetrable passage for 6ft.   Reasonably promising prospect but looks a watery place. Name awaiting inspiration.   The following day Tav returned with J'Rat and removed a few more boulders to access the 'open' passage revealed yesterday. Just as the team were about to progress, the 'solid' rock roof dropped an inch or so and they had to collapse it over the way on.  To regain the lost ground they dug a round hole down on the other side of the sinkhole and after a couple of hours, uncovered a sizeable open cavity which took the whole stream and looked very good.

Simon Brooks and Tony Boycott on the Summer Isles diving trip

Just as they were about to go in however, the entire sinkhole shuddered and collapsed big style taking one crowbar, tonnes of bloody big rocks and nearly two diggers with it. The way on is now effectively blocked. There is definitely a cave under here but scaffolding is essential as it's a seriously dangerous place.  As it doesn't appear to have a name Tav and J'Rat suggested Earthquake Sink.

Birthday Hole was then blocked at the entrance with loads of boulders and left to fend for itself; it was taking a good sized streamway.

Wednesday arrived and finally Estelle extracted Rich from the bar and got him underground!  Filled up quite a few bags at Damoclean, but the spoil behind the shoring is collapsing in.  Needs a lot of attention before removing move gravel from the floor; scaffolding and cement may be the safest way forward.

Tony Boycott visited Snablet's dig in ANUS cave and gave it some more chemical persuasion.  He also lost his watch somewhere in there, but after a later attempt to find the watch, it was assumed that the bang probably blew it into space wonder what the altimeter thought of that???! ! !

Tony Boycott at Waterfall Rising

Rana Hole was also attacked again and another 60 odd skips in 5hrs or so removed.  A haulers seat was constructed above the entrance using the Mole Hole tripod, a fish box lid and a small boulder net.  The parasol, ashtray, etc. are yet to be provided. There are small holes appearing under the floor boulders.  This should hopefully provide the non-divers route into the Great Northern Time Machine (one day!!).

The last day for most of us saw Estelle and Tony in Waterfall Rising emptying bottles.  Water rose 6 inches while underwater and flow increased considerably.  Reached the bottom of the loop and can look up ongoing thrust plane.

J'Rat and Martin went to ANUS Cave to Jim's Drip Chamber Dig (Snablet's dig).  Cleared bang debris using new skip (left in situ) to find infilled passages trending ahead and uphill to the left.  Banged 3 boulders to enable Snablet to dig the crap out for the foreseeable future.  Tony's watch still not found (Probably vaporised)

The weather had deteriorated and the remainder of the team, were forced to seek refuge in the Alt and the Inch for most of the last 3 days.


Edward Whymper

Climber and Alpine Traveller

By Mike Wilson

I decided to write a segment for the BEC climbing division because: -

1.                  Some people probably know that the climbing division exists.

2.                  I have yet to see anything written in the BB by said division – let’s hope the climbers may respond!

This extraordinary young man was born in London in 1849 and became a wood engraver.  This skill and artistic ability inherited form his father served him well throughout his life.  When he was 20 years old the publishers William Longman asked him to make a series of Alpine Sketches.  The year was 1860.


Edward Whymper, aged 25 years - Courtesy of the Alpine club

The result was Whymper's first visit to the Alps, which fired up his climbing interest in the peaks! Bearing in mind that many summits had not been reached!  His prime target was the Matterhorn and in all he made 8 ascents of varying heights - from 1860 to 1865.  (More of July 1865 later!)  He also ascended Mt Pelvoux!

A sketch of Michel-Auguste Croz by Kay Wilson

The Breche de la Meije - Pointe des Ecrins - the Col de la Pilate - and Mont Dolent!  All of these were first ascents in the French Alps by a young 25 year old Englishman!  Albeit aided by local guides.  He also managed the first ascent of the Grand Cornier - latterly of course, in 1865, he is credited with the first ascent of the Matterhorn with the following guides: - Croz, Peter Taugwalder and his 2 sons (as porters) Lord F Douglas Hadow and Hudson, a top amateur climber in 1860.  He travelled to Paris by boat and train then from Paris by train via Sass and Stalden to Zermatt in Switzerland.  Travelling alone with just a sketchbook and his diary.  Fortunately he had a working knowledge of French, which stood him in good stead during the short 5 years from 1860 to 1865.  A gentleman called Hinchcliff who had recently climbed the Riffelber kindly offered to teach him some rockwork.  He agreed to accept this kind offer which proved to be his first step towards alpinism.

I feel that this mans subsequent exploits are amazing bearing in mind that up until 1860 he had only read about mountains and had never seen any, or attempted to climb some of the highest peaks in France!  He very humbly describes his scrambles in his diaries.  In those days, the 1800s, rich tourists travelled the Alps on mule back but Whymper had to use his legs and hire the occasional guide.  One such guide 'Inho' had agreed to get Whymper from Bionaz to Valtournache via a mountain pass accompanied him to the top of the pass and then refused to go any further, making off with Whymper's rucksack and all his sketching gear.  He was forced to buy all new equipment and (make do) with his sketches!  He returned to Bionaz managed to find the errant guide and retrieve his kit!  Needless to say the guide received an earful for his pains.

Whymper's first serious ascent was Mt Pelvoux 12,973 ft in the French Dauphine Alps.  The start point being the town of Briançon. Whymper then walked up the valley Aile Froide to the village of La Pisse.  Here he engaged a guide (common practice in those days) called Semoind. He then walked up to the Sapeniere glacier and camped for the night with his companions Reynaud and Giraud.  His other companion Macdonald had not shown up. The group then spent a day casting about on the approaches to Pelvoux.  Eventually Semoind admitted he was lost and they returned to the bivvy.  Macdonald was discovered on the next day!  So at 0400 on the 3rd day a second attempt was mounted.  By midday they had reached the snowfields and a previous cairn, the limit of the route 30 years ago.  At 1345 they finally climbed the last precipice and stood on the summit of Pelvoux. The return was not without incident. Macdonald fell at the glacier but fortunately was roped up, also the bivvy was not reached by nightfall and the group spent the night at 10,500 ft in very miserable conditions with no food or cover, just some wine, a spirit lamp, and some brandy and water.  They all contrived to sleep under Whymper's plaid shawl.  The next day the camp was reached and a descent to La Ville was completed. Whymper and his companions all suffered from fleas picked up in dirty inns and guesthouses the problem being discussed from time to time.  His guide Semoind stated (quote)  "As to fleas I don't pretend to be different from anyone else, I have them!"

In 1861 Whymper revisited Breuil and discovered Antoine Carrel, who lived in the village of Valtournanche, he had already attained a height 12,650 ft on a previous attempt at the Matterhorn in 1859.  Whymper also knew that that had been 3 previous attempts at the summit, one by 4 Frenchmen guided.  One by 2 Englishmen unguided who reached 12,000 ft and were only forced back by high winds and bad weather.

The third attempt had been made by Vaughan Hawkins and Carrel Bennen.  The latter was to die in 1864 on a mountain called the Haute de Cry. The 4th person in the party was Professor Tyndall who engaged a poor quality guide but only managed to reach the Chimney above the Col de Lion.  His guide gave up and he was forced to retreat.  Needless to say he resolved to return with a small team and use Carrel as guide.  So ended the first attempt!

There were several more abortive attempts on the Matterhorn by Whymper which are well documented. The final important ascent was on the 13th July 1865 at 5.30 in the morning when he set out in a party of eight: - Croz, Peter Taugwalder and his 2 sons, Lord F. Douglas, Hadow and Mr Hudson. Hudson and Douglas being the experienced alpinists along with Whymper and Peter Taugwalder.  So there were five experienced alpinists and three relatively inexperienced people.  Two being engaged solely as porters.

The first day was taken up by just attaining height in a steady manner and the group decided to camp at 12 o'clock approximately 11,000 ft up.  The afternoon was spent sketching and waiting for two of the party who had gone ahead to recce the route for the following day.  In good spirits they all settled down to sleep 4 in the tent and surprisingly the other 4, by choice(?) slept outside!  At dawn they all started out, 7 going on up and one of Taugwalder's sons retreating back to Zermatt.  The original intention was to leave the two boys at the camp.  Sadly the arrangement was changed, allegedly "over a problem with food distribution".  At 9.55am they reached a height of 14,000 ft, the experienced men leading and step cutting where necessary.  Croz now took up the lead followed by Whymper, Hudson, Hapow, etc.

Hudson was going well but Hadow required continuous assistance, probably through lack of experience!  Eventually a bold step around a corner led the group within 200 ft of the summit. Foremost in everyone's mind was the fact that an Italian group had set off from Breuil on the 11th July.  Four days earlier there had been talk of sightings of "men on the summit".  Croz and Whymper ran neck and neck up the slope and reached the top most ridge at 1.40pm.  "The peak was theirs".  "A great achievement".  They saw the Italian group 1,200 ft below on the Breuil side led by a Signor Giordiano. This group turned back!  But Giordiano tried again on the 17th July with 3 other people and gained the summit!  Whymper's victory had been a narrow one!

Whymper actually stated that Giordiano should have stood on the summit with him, which was generous. The party spent one hour on the summit and then Whymper and Hudson decided on the order of descent (a crucial decision in the light of the following events!).  Croz 1st, Hadow, Hudson, Lord F Douglas, old Peter Taugwalder, young Peter Taugwalder and Whymper last.  At the first difficult section, Whymper noted the additional rope had not been tied to the rocks as had been previously agreed.  They descended for some distance then Whymper tied himself onto old Peter at the request of Lord Douglas.  What happened next is history and tragic, Croz was helping Hadow by placing his legs in the proper footholds, apparently a common practice then!  Whymper states the end of the party, him included were unsighted by a mass of rock but he believes Croz must have turned round to descend a couple of steps himself when Hadow slipped, fell on him and knocked him (Croz) over.  They flew downwards dragging Hudson from his stance and Lord Douglas after him!  Peter Taugwalder and Whymper took stances, kept the rope tight between them but the rope parted between Taugwalder and Douglas.  Whymper was forced to watch his companions fall one by one from precipice to precipice, 4000 ft onto the Matterhorn glacier.  The 3 men left were transfixed by fear and stood for half an hour unable to move.  The young Peter being in front would not go down.  Eventually old Peter moved to a rock fixed a rope and they managed to reach a stance together.  Whymper states (quote) "I asked for the rope and found to my horror it was the weakest of the three and should not have been employed for the purpose which it had been used".  It was just a reserve to be attached to rocks and left behind if necessary.  For 2 hours they descended totally unnerved, fixing hand lines and cutting the rope when necessary.  Finally bivouacking on a ledge and spending a miserable six hours, then at day break descending via the Hornli ridge to Zermat.  On the 19th of July the bodies were recovered but Lord Douglas was never found.  So the first ascent of the Matterhorn occurred and the mountain claimed its first lives.

Whymper suffered a great deal because of the accident and was accused, rightly or wrongly, of "cutting the rope" to save his own life.  If Taugwalder's account and Whymper's are to be believed this is not possible because it would have been old Peter Taugwalder who would have had to cut the rope.

Whymper stayed in Zermat for 8 days then returned to England, "blasted by the Times Newspaper", in spite of the fact that the editor and staff knew very little, except reports from Switzerland with no factual backup.  The Punch Newspaper later apologised for their "scurrilous" attack.

Old Peter Taugwalder, who was exonerated of any blame by Whymper, left his country for America and subsequently returned to Schwartzee in 1888 and died there and Young Peter lived to a great age.  Whymper returned to Haslemere in Hants and spent 6 years writing "Some Scrambles Amongst the Alps".  He revisited the Alps between 1877 and 1886 just walking the valleys and glaciers.

Several visits to the Arctic were made in 1867 and 1872.  He also made 2 trips to Greenland which were regarded as failures in his eyes! The Matterhorn was revisited in 1874. He ascended with the guide Carrel and took photos to illustrate his lectures in England.

Five years later, 1879, Carrel and Whymper went to the Andes.  They ascended Mt Chimborazo, camping at 16,000 ft, where they tried to study the effects of high altitude.  Sadly although having spent 2 weeks at 10,000 ft all three suffered terribly from altitude sickness.  Carrel states "I thought we were dying".  Eventually they managed to camp at 17,283 ft and finally reached the summit "the highest climbed peak at that time".  Carrel and Whymper both suffered frostbite due to poor quality clothing at altitude.  The Andes tour was a success with several more mountains climbed accompanied by the Carrels.

Andean Indians were not Whymper's favourite people.  A dirty and impoverished country with even dirtier natives is how he described them. His views were not improved when he was “ripped off” by a hotel keeper who locked the expedition mules in a compound and made him pay "an exorbitant bill".  Whymper was not a man to be crossed.  Subsequently Whymper returned and horse whipped the man in the main street as revenge!  Poor Carrel was paid off in the port of Suayanquic and warned to "take care". He and Bersagliere went out drinking and gambling, ending up "like you do" at the local police station "penniless the next day".  "A warning to all young climbers" Whymper returned to Haslemere and spent twelve years writing "Travels Amongst the Great Andes of the Equator” (Read it - ED).  The Times applauded the double volume in 1891.  Wood engraving declined as a profession, Whymper used books and lectures as a means of income.  His lectures were well attended and his grand appearance in later years plus his dramatic flair held people spellbound.

Later in life he returned to the Alps several times, wrote 2 guide books on Zermatt and Chamonix.  He married and had a daughter Ethel.

During 1901 at the age of 60 he made several expenses paid visits to the Canadian Rockies (CP railways stood the bill).  He had a free hand but they were not happy trips.  He turned down several ambitious climbs proposed by his guides.  For example Mt Robinson and Mt Assinbourne. His passion and fire had gone.

Whilst never giving up travel he suffered from dizziness and insomnia which (quote) "troubled him greatly".

In 1911 he did the rounds in the Alps finally stopping at Chamonix.  He locked himself in his room, refused all medical aid and died alone 4 days later.

So ended the career of one of England's most controversial climbers of the Victorian age.

Ref. books:-

'Some Scrambles Amongst the Alps' - Whymper.

'Matterhorn man' - Walt Unworth.

'Travels amongst the Andes' - Whymper.


Correction to Last BB

From Roger Stenner

The maps of the streams which feed St. Cuthbert's Swallet, in Frankie and Roger Stenner's article in last month's BB, was not very clear.  Sorry.  If the following key is used, the links between the article and the two maps should be easier to find.

The grid references of points numbered 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 were measured from the original drawings, and the other references are from the survey data, rounded to the nearest metre.
















St. Cuthbert's Swallet Entrance Shaft

Sample Site 1 Mineries Pool Outflow Stream

Sample Site 2 St. Cuthbert's Stream near main stream sink

Sample Site 3 Fair Lady Well

Maypole Sink

Intermittent overflow channel       From


Maypole Overflow Corner

Intermittent tributary complex


Source of former (pre 1985) St. Cuthbert's Stream

Pool, now breached (not numbered on the 25 inch map)

Lower Corner (wall corner near footpath)

Upper Corner (wall corner near Fair Lady Well)

Wall Junction (behind the Belfry)









54368 54331





















(Apologies - the printers couldn't quite cope with the fineness of the maps - Ed)


Attborough Swallet Progress report

By Dave Shipton

A run down of Attborough Swallet over the last 2 1/2 years. Report 22/11/94

Attborough Swallet like Wigmore Swallet is in an unusual geological location, the cave being located in Dolomitic Conglomerate and marl.  A hydrological connection exists between this site and the up stream sumps in Wigmore.  The cave was entered and explored by the Cotham Caving Group in late 1992, previously the site had been dug by W.C.C., M.N.R.C., and S.V.C.C. between 1956 and 1966. The cave is also known as Red Quar Swallet and was originally dug by the MMRC in the 1930s.  (See "Caves of Mendip")

The concrete piped entrance shaft requires a 15ft ladder and a short belay at the bottom.  A short crawl then gives way to a rift, 40ft long and 30ft deep - a 20ft ladder is required.  15ft from here is a bold step across the rift and climb up via a tight and slippery muddy tube (break through: 7-10-92) great care needed on the climb up, this leads into a small decorated chamber - The Attic (break through: 11-10-93).

A drop in the floor leads down a twisting descent through boulders reaching a fixed ladder which gives access to the second chamber (break through: 4-11-93).  There is a too tight dig in the left corner.  A climb through  loose boulders            and scaffolding supports enables access to the third chamber (break through: 16-12-93).  Directly below the scaffolding is a very awkward and tight squeeze down, entering the Quick Link.  To the left is an inlet tube in the roof that gives a draught. This must be close to the surface, but it's too tight after 10ft.


Attborough Entrance - note the digging bags!!!

Directly below in the floor of the chamber is a 5ft drop through boulders and 20ft of narrow passage (Pain and Passion) ending too tight. Going back to the entrance rift and carrying on down through scaffolding to a squeeze leading under the floor into Happy Mondays (break through: 30-8-93).  To the right Quick Link Passage is entered, 40ft of narrow passage leading back to the upper chambers.  Opposite this is a small connecting tube which leads to Cotham Hall.  Carry on down Happy Mondays 20ft, and on the right you can enter Nigel's Dig, 20ft long ending in a mud filled passage. Continue down the narrowing passage of Happy Mondays and you enter Cotham Hall, 90ft long, 12ft wide and 10ft high.

To the right and down a fixed ladder is the Shower Room, continuing down through boulders to a T -junction.  Left is too tight, but connects with the hole in the roof of the left hand lower passage of Cotham Hall; to the right and you enter "Nasty, Nasty" (break through: 1-9-93).  90ft long and very muddy, 30ft along and a standing chamber is reached, with a squeeze at floor level.  Continuing the crawl through and you reach a passage on your right which goes into a small chamber and a very tight duck at the top end (possibly sumped) this enters Mud Hall (break through: 4-5-93) 40ft long narrowing up a slope to a dig possibly heading towards Nigel's Dig.


Attborough Swallet
Red Quar, Chewton Mendip
Surveyed by BEC Sept 93 - Feb 95
Drawn by T. Hughes
Scales 1:200, 1:2500
Entrance level based on OSBM (accepted value 273.16m) on cottage at road to Wigmore farm


Continue down Nasty, Nasty to what looks like the end and then go up and over a mud bank.  To the right is a very narrow squeeze upwards which leads to May Chamber (break through: 1-5-94) a small calcite chamber. By turning left at the mud bank a small squeeze and flat out crawl leads down to a 10ft pitch, Pit Pot (break through: 13-2-94).  At floor level a squeeze leads to a stream way, up stream is too tight.  5ft down stream leads to a tight sump.  The stream feeder is unknown so it will be very interesting to dye test some of the surface inlets around the area to try and find the source.

Back in Cotham Hall the passage on the left hand side gradually narrows down.  Just as you enter there's a small hole in the roof which leads down about 20ft to an on going dig possibly towards Pit Pot.  Continue down the narrowing passage 15ft to a Letter Box on the left, which floods in heavy rain - possible dig?  Just past this is an elbow which enters Twist And Shout (break through 12.10.93) with a very tight squeeze down an 8ft drop, then a 4ft drop and finally a 15ft pitch down the water rift to a sump 6ft long and 3ft deep which leads back under the right hand wall; this is where all the water flows off.  The rift has flooded up to the top in very wet weather.

Just above the water level there is an inlet on the left which feeds from Pit Pot stream way.  This does not dry up in summer whereas all of the rest of the cave inlets do(!?).  Back up the rift in the roof there is a 20ft tight passage leading over the top of the rift, but it is too tight.


Nigel Denmead in Cotham Hall

WARNING:  In very wet weather beyond the Mud Bank, Nasty Nasty will back up and flood, blocking access.

N.B.  The entrance system was B.A.R.A. dye traced to Cheddar Rising in 1973 (travel time 5 days) Wigmore Swallet (travel time, up stream sump, under 56 hours)

Digging by D. Shipton, D. Bryant and P. Evans.

Wigmore Swallet (top) and Attborough Swallet (bottom) in relation to the surface features.  Based on 1886 and 1903 OS sheets and original survey work (1:25000)


Newspaper Headlines

The following is a bunch of actual newspaper headlines.

  • Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
  • Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing
  • Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
  • House passes gas tax onto senate
  • Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan
  • Two convicts evade noose, jury hung
  • William Kelly was fed secretary
  • Milk drinkers are turning to powder
  • Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
  • Quarter of a million Chinese live on water
  • Farmer bill dies in house
  • Iraqi head seeks arms








Some become unintentionally suggestive:

  • Queen Mary having bottom scraped
  • Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?
  • Prostitutes appeal to Pope
  • Panda mating fails - veterinarian takes over
  • NJ judge to rule on nude beach
  • Child's stool great for use in garden
  • Dr. Ruth to talk about sex with newspaper editors
  • Soviet virgin lands short of goal again
  • Organ festival ends in smashing climax







Grammar often botches other headlines:

  • Eye drops off shelf
  • Squad helps dog bite victim
  • Dealers will hear car talk at noon
  • Enraged cow injures farmer with axe
  • Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests
  • Miners refuse to work after death
  • Two Soviet ships collide - one dies
  • Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter






Once in a while, a botched headline takes on a meaning opposite from the one intended:

  • Never withhold herpes from loved one
  • Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
  • Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984
  • Autos killing 110 a day let's resolve to do better




Sometimes newspaper editors state the obvious:

  • If strike isn't settled quickly it may last a while
  • War dims hope for peace
  • Smokers are productive, but death cuts efficiency
  • Cold wave linked to temperatures
  • Child's death ruins couple's holiday
  • Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn't seen in years
  • Man is fatally slain
  • Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say
  • Death causes loneliness, feeling of isolation






Dicking About in the Desert, or Never Mind the Kalashnikov.What about the Pomegranate Stains?

by Tony Boycott and Peter Dowswell

During late October/early November 1997, Simon Brooks, Peter Dowswell, myself and Daniel Gebauer from Germany participated in the 5th Pak-Britain Caving Climbing Training Expedition to Baluchistan.  Simon has been going to Pakistan since 1989 and has built up a useful partnership with the Chiltan Adventures (sic) Association of Quetta, who were our hosts during the expedition.

Local contacts are essential, as without them the problems of obtaining 'No Objection Certificates' (allowing access to normally restricted areas and providing for native levies) equipment and transport would be virtually insurmountable.

Following a couple of days travel we arrived in Quetta to much razzmatazz at the airport - tinsel garlands, welcoming banner - the full biff.  This was followed by a solemn opening ceremony at the local Provincial Assembly Members Hostel during which Koranic prayers were recited and many fine sentiments were expressed, followed by Suleimani (black) Chai and biscuits. Simon and Daniel were then whisked away to the Pakistan TV studios for an interview - broadcast to over 40 nations by satellite - what superstars!

Quetta (population about 500,000) is the capital of Baluchistan, the largest and westernmost province of Pakistan, and lies surrounded by mountains at an altitude of 1700 metres.  It lies at the junction of the main roads to Iran, Afghanistan and via the Bolan Pass the main more populous Pakistan heartland.  Most of the city is modern, the previous buildings having been destroyed by an earthquake in 1935.  It has the air of a frontier town to it and thrives on the import/export business. Although Pashto (aka Pathans or Pashtun) is the dominant culture it is ethnically diverse and has large groups of Baluchs, Brahuis and Hazaras.


Local transport near Thang Ghara, Kharan

There is a large amount of traffic of all types, including autorickshaws, camels, donkeys, handcarts, bicycles and lorries and a traffic smog tends to hang over the city in the morning and evening.  It is also reputed to be the cleanest city in Pakistan.

The evening was spent discussing the forthcoming programme with Hayat Ullah Durrani Khan, our host and expedition co-leader.  This was then typed out for use in obtaining the No Objection Certificate (NOC).

The following morning was spent obtaining the NOC, after the usual prolonged discussions, and then a late start for Sirkii Kaach Cave in the Zarghoon Range.  A long drive along a rough road up the side of a mountain (the norm) led to 'base camp' next to an old cemetery. Having missed the Halal butchery demonstration (a volunteer sheep having been brought in the Land Rover) we continued a further two miles up the track before walking the remaining mile or so in the gathering twilight (also the norm) to the cave entrance.  The cave (previously described as having a chamber 500 feet by 100 feet) turned out to be a vadose canyon in mudstone with an overlying sandstone cap.  Eighty-five metres of cave was surveyed by PO and TB whilst noting various varieties of wildlife - ghundak (spider) cockroaches, bats (the norm) and a porcupine. Returned to camp to devour the aforementioned sheep and returned late to Quetta (the norm).

Pushto hospitality knows no bounds and is a matter of honour for whomsoever you should call upon - it is never too late to stop for a meal - and justice has not been done unless the guests have had three square meals a day.

Daniel Gebauer climbing up into Gundak Crawl in Pir Ghaib Ghara No I

Thursday 30th saw a trip along the Mastung Valley to Mangochar and a couple of caves in the Mountains.  The first (plus a couple of smaller nearby caves) Kaddi Coo char, was an old remnant about 150m above the valley floor consisting of a very impressive entrance, about 10m diameter, at the head of a gully in the cliff, leading to a series of low crawls.  PO & OG surveyed whilst waiting for the rest of the party to arrive with the cameras. The usual dicking about and food followed before departing for a cave on the Jolan road beyond Kalat (having picked up some levymen on the way).  The cave, Ziarat Sheikh Hadje Ghara, was located at the foot of Koh-e-Maharan (Snake Mountain) about 20 km beyond Kalat, and as it was dark by now, took a little time to locate.  The cave itself, although relatively short (29m) was interesting, being a shrine (ziarat) to Sheikh Hadje (and containing his grave) and being quite well endowed with stal.  Survey and photographs were followed by a return to the vehicles where quite a few local tribesmen had gathered.  They were a little unhappy on two counts, one that a few of our party had failed to remove our footwear in the cave and secondly they appeared not to want word of their holy cave to be spread around.  Returned to Quetta late.

Friday saw us off to Kharan in the west of Baluchistan a good 8 hours away by land rover.  We stopped at Noshki, about halfway and were given hospitality by the local magistrate, a friend of Hayat's, and a couple of levymen.  Shortly after leaving Noshki and the main highway the offside front wheel bearing on the landrover collapsed.  Not daunted, this was soon changed at the side of the road and we continued on our way, the land rover again almost coming to grief, soon after, when the road abruptly stopped at the edge of a wadi where the bridge had been washed away, and it came to rest slightly over the edge.  A little manhandling, however, and we were on our way again, over a particularly rough section of road, eventually reaching our destination about 10 km beyond Kharan after midnight.

Rising early the following morning, we surveyed and photographed Thang Gara, a large remnant at the foot of Koh-e-Bajarat, truncated by a wadi.  A very large entrance soon gave way to a rising sandy crawl with the usual bats in residence which pinched out about 100m from the entrance. Some time was also spent surveying/climbing the upward continuation of the entrance rift which rose to a height of 30 metres or more.  Lunch was punctuated by some impromptu Pushto dancing and singing followed by an attempt at teaching them how to do eightsome reels - one of the more surreal moments of the trip!  After looking at a few promising holes in the surrounding area and talking to a local tribesman and his camels, we set off for Quetta, stopping briefly at Kharan to weld a broken shock absorber, Noshki to return our levymen and buy food and then later at the side of the road to eat, eventually arriving after midnight.

Sunday was used to rest and to feed data into Daniel's laptop.

Monday 3rd November provided a day trip from Quetta to the Lak PasslMastung Valley area.  Whilst looking for one cave, some locals guided us to the nearby village of Bathora to examine a different one.

Although initially regarded with some suspicion (people often think caves may contain treasure and can't really understand anyone wanting to look at them for sport) we were eventually shown to the entrance of Kodi Ghara an interesting little cave of 82m, with some odd little chambers and an interesting low crawl, smelling strongly of porcupine and bats.  Then over the Lak pass to an entrance, previously observed, which turned out to be little more than a rock shelter, Ghosabad Ghara.  Thence back towards Quetta for another two small caves, Kassiabad Ghara 1 & 2.  Back to Quetta in daylight!

The following morning we set off on a four day trip through the Bolan Pass to Pir Ghaib, Sibi and the Nari River.  After the usual stops for supplies, we reached the Bolan Pass at about mid-day.

The Bolan is an impressive place, a deeply cut gorge surrounded by high mountains and with the railway and main road south to Karachi running through it. The railway is a monument to Victorian engineering skills and to the many men who must have built it under extremely harsh conditions.  There are a number of impressive tunnels and bridges, although as is often the case in Baluchistan with its flash floods at least one of the bridges was washed away and has been replaced.  One of the more interesting hazards of the Bolan (apart from the huge potential for installing crash barriers at precipitous drops) is the propensity for overladen trucks (mostly extremely colourful old Bedford lorries appearing to carry about twice their design load of 20 tons) to get stuck underneath railway bridges (where they cross over the road) thereby stemming the flow of traffic.  The usual response is for the traffic then to drive up (or down) the river bed until the problem is sorted.

Continuing down to Mach and the local District Commissioner's office we picked up four levymen before going on to Pir Ghaib. Mach has a thriving coal industry seemingly run under the most basic of conditions with the surrounding hillsides riddled with small drift mines with extremely rudimentary equipment and worked by hand.

Entrance to Snake Cave, Bolan Pass

Pir Ghaib is a pleasant contrast, a beautiful tropical oasis in the middle of the stony desert surrounded by date palms and with a warm spring.  A large pool just downstream from where the water gushes from the rock affords an excellent place to swim and relax.  Close by is a shrine to a local mullah (and grave) which was our base for the next two nights, the only disadvantage to this otherwise idyllic spot being the large numbers of hornets.  Pir Ghaib Ghara, at 1.3km Pakistan's longest cave lies in the steep sided gorge upstream and had been pushed to about 680m on previous visits.  It is reached by climbing part of the way up the mountain and then dropping down into the gorge.  The first night seemed rather a noisy affair, with barking dogs, falling rocks and SB's snoring.  My night was enlivened by being wakened at 2 in the morning by a dog licking my face.

The hillside was duly climbed the following morning and most of the party descended to the cave.  Most of the party returned at around sunset that evening apart from Daniel, myself, Simon and Wali Mohammed (Wallo) who decided to sleep overnight in the gorge, having emerged at dusk and decided that sleeping overnight with minimal food and no sleeping kit was preferable to climbing back up the gorge in the dark with no ropes.  The night was enlivened by a move into the lower cave after a careful inspection for snakes as sleeping on the pocket handkerchief sized piece of karrirnat in the back of the rucksacks was too cold, and none of the party succeeded in getting entirely into their rucksacks despite trying hard. 

White Spider in Pir Ghaib Ghara No 1

The additional benefit was an early start surveying the cave and most leads were fully pushed and Friendship Passage and Golden Jubilee Chamber discovered and surveyed.  The number of bats (small horseshoes, species not identified) in the cave was so great that they interrupted the surveying by hanging on the tape, T-shirts, lips, noses, eyelids etc.  Surprisingly no-one became ill (yet!) from such close contact.  The cave was also inhabited by large white hairy spiders, one of which was observed eating a large centipede, and many cockroaches, three of which were seen dragging away a dead bat.  Meanwhile PD endured the hell of swimming at the pool, enlivened during the previous evening by a snake swimming past him (he was assured that they cannot swim and bite at the same time), and some walking.  The rest of the party returned at about 3.00pm, smelling heavily of bat guano, to much applause, and after a swim and some food we departed for Sibi. Being much lower than Quetta, Pir Ghaib (985m a.s.l.) was hot and Sibi (220m a.s.l.) even hotter.  Sibi enjoys the reputation of being the hottest place in Asia with the summer temperature rising to the mid-fifties Centigrade.  We arrived in the evening to a bustling street market and spent around an hour there sampling the local fast food - jelabi, pakora, samosas, roasted peanuts in their shells - whilst Malik Abdul Rahim Baabai, the Chiltan's chairman and owner of our newer vehicle, a Toyota Hilux, made some phone calls.  We then continued to the Nari river, about l0 km beyond Sibi, camping and eating (after the usual slaughter of our live meat) well after midnight.  We also made a quick recce to the caves as a local hunting party were able to show us their location.  Half the party then decided to return to Quetta as Malik had some pressing business to attend to.

After an early rise we explored, surveyed and photographed the local caves before breakfast.  They lie close to the Nari River near the head works for a large irrigation scheme and a few yards from the main railway line to Harnai.  Formed in bands of soft mudstone between the limestone, they are relatively unstable and full of soft breakdown and some odd mudstone formations, altogether quite interesting and in a beautiful location.  The Nari, apart from providing good fishing is also home to small crocodiles. We then headed back for Quetta, stopping for an hour or two in the Bolan Pass to explore four caves there.  A pleasant time was has by all apart from Simon who had a close encounter of the serpentine kind in Snake Cave (Darah-e- Bolan Ghara no 1).  Having forded the river, barefoot apart from sandals, whilst surveying a snake fell out of the roof, disturbed by some cave swiftlets, bounced off Simon's helmet and landed on his feet.  Daniel was somewhat bemused by this incident as Simon swiftly exited the passage declaring loudly "fucking spiders" (his normal expletive). Two of the other caves, Armoury Cave and Chimney Cave both had extremely large bat roosts and the associated aroma.  Further stops at Bibi Nani for water (the land rover was overheating), Mach for chai, to watch the Bolan Mail train go past and to return our levymen, and the Bolan Pass to collect fresh spring water marked a pleasnt journey back to Quetta.

Entrance to Ghosalabch Ghara, Lak Pass

Saturday 8th November we spent the day at Marri Farsch, an impressive 200m wall at the side of a gorge about two hours drive from Quetta, with Simon and Nigel, a local ex-pat, attempting to provide tuition on safe climbing techniques, in between climbing competitions.  Peter and I wandered around the gorge collecting some plants and looking at a large boulder cave beneath the road.  The Chiltans are excellent natural climbers who seem to prefer free climbing. Wallo played along with Nigel and allowed himself to be life lined up to about 80m.  The effect was rather spoiled, however, when John Mohammed (Johno) free climbed up the wall past them stopping briefly to say hello.  Nigel suggested that he and Wallo should proceed back to the bottom as he could no longer lifeline him, whereupon Wallo offered to climb up the next pitch and lifeline Nigel.  Nigel declined and returned to the bottom whilst Wallo duly climbed to the top in the gathering twilight.  All of which reminded us somewhat of Obelix the Gaul.  A chicken and bhindi picnic lunch was consumed in the dark lit by burning bushes, before returning to Quetta.

The following day we headed east in the land rover for Ziarat and Pui.  A late start (usual dick about) meant that we did not reach our first objective, Kan Tangi, an impressive deep, narrow, steep sided canyon until mid afternoon.  An hour's walk brought us to the entrance, about 10m up the smooth vertical side of the canyon and it proved impossible to reach without pegs or scaling poles. Somewhat pissed off, we returned to the land rover in the twilight for chai and to continue our journey.  Next stop was Ziarat, a beautiful little village high in the mountains (altitude 2600m) surrounded by juniper forest, a favourite summer retreat of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) the founder of Pakistan, and in the time of the British, their summer headquarters in Baluchistan.  It is somewhat reminiscent of Switzerland in an odd sort of way, and we had a welcome coffee at the Shalimar hotel before continuing on to Wani, where we stayed the night in the house of a friend of Hayat's.

Another beautiful dawn and early start, looking at Spedar China spring before heading over the mountain to Shirin and Pui.  The spring itself was quite interesting, coming from an attractive looking rift. Disappointingly it yielded only about 10m before ending in a sump pool with the water issuing from a too tight bedding.  Also noted were small fish and a freshwater crab, presumably remnants from earlier times as the spring water runs on the surface for less than half a mile.  The pass over the hill was yet another woolly track up the side of the mountain, although the scenery was impressive as usual. At Shirin there was a slight delay whilst the caves were not found which enabled us to sample the local apples from the adjacent orchards.  Apples from the Pui Valley are renowned for their quality, a claim well justified. On to Pui and with a little local assistance the caves were found, to the south of the village up a small side valley.  Ograha Ghat Ghara 1 & 2, as usual old remnants, yielded about 160m between them and were quite interesting, Ghara 1 having a pleasant domed chamber with a window to the outside.  After a meal we then started back for Quetta at about 4 in the afternoon, and after a three-quarter hour stop to look at another entrance reached a different pass back to the Ziarat valley - a short-cut to Chauter.  Half way up we had the recurrent land rover problem of choked fuel line and rigged the alternative fuel tank - a plastic canister of diesel in the front passenger well with a tube feeding directly to the fuel pump. Stopping on an incline was always interesting as the vehicle did not have a functional handbrake - the foot brakes being only slightly better.  Power restored we continued to the top and started our descent - a series of tight hairpins with a semi vertical drop of about 1000 feet.  This proved quite interesting on a crumbly uneven track as the hairpins were too tight for the long wheelbase land rover to get round, necessitating taking it to the edge and then reversing back.  The added safety feature was Johno at the rear door ready to jump out and put some chock stones in if things got out of control.  Another interesting feature was that when the land rover leaned over too much the Chiltans in the back would all sit on the opposite side as a counterbalance.  Chauter was duly reached and we continued to Ziarat for puncture repair, diesel and more coffee and apples.  A further land rover refinement was no heating in the back.  Being at high altitude it was rather cold - not a problem for the Chiltans who fired up the gas stoves in the back - slightly negated by us opening windows.  At about 10.30pm as we were coming into Kuchlagh, about 20 minutes short of Quetta, it was decided that we hadn't had enough to eat and would drop in on some Afghani relatives for a meal.  After some excellent food we eventually reached Quetta about 1.00am - altogether a most interesting day.

Tuesday 11th, Simon set off with 3 Chiltan members to have a look at some caves on the ridge of Takatu Mountain.  A successful day surveying 3 new caves, Khazana Takki Ghara nos. 1 - 3, total length 57.5m, as usual descending the mountain in the twilight. Daniel, Pete and myself had meanwhile gone shopping for stuff to take home, to visit some of Quetta's many bookshops and to get tickets for Daniel to proceed to Bangkok and for us to fly to Karachi, and failed to get into the archaeological museum.    

Entrance, Pir Ghaib Ghara No 1

Wednesday proved to be another marathon.  In the morning we all went to the Chief Minister's (of Baluchistan Provincial Assembly) residence for a flag presentation ceremony. After the usual photo calls, TV and chai we eventually set off to climb Zarghoon Mountain, Baluchistan's highest at about 11,700 feet to wave the flag in celebration of the Golden Jubilee and the success of the expedition.  Another long drive round the flanks of the mountain on a dirt road eventually led us, amidst magnificent ancient juniper forest, to the starting point at about 8500 feet, at around 4.00pm.  The approach was somewhat fragmented with several groups setting off up the steep boulder strewn slope at different rates and in different directions. The parties more or less reconvened at the gully marking the obvious route up the last 1000 feet of the more vertical part of the mountain.  With only about 45 minutes of daylight left myself and Daniel decided to return to the camp whilst Simon and five Chiltans pushed on to the verglas coated top, eventually reached in darkness.  Whilst we sat round the camp fire burning juniper wood and, in the absence of suitable provisions, experimenting with ginger tea and juniper berry tea (not a life enriching experience) they made their way back in darkness reaching camp at about 8.30.  Food and then back to Quetta about 00.30.

Our last full day in Quetta was prize giving day, with the ceremony to take place at the Serena Hotel at around 6.00pm.  Most of the day was taken up with the arrangements for this and of course making ourselves look a bit more presentable, but did allow for a visit to the archaeological museum.  Although not particularly extensive and lacking the sophisticated display facilities of a modern museum, it was quite interesting, containing exhibits from Mehrgarh, the earliest known site in the subcontinent (7000 BC - 2000 BC) Moenjodaro, the great Indus civilisation, a display of very old and beautiful Korans and a large weaponry section.  Pride of place was given to the blood encrusted scimitar used to assassinate the British garrison commander in 1919.

The prize giving and exhibition of caving and climbing gear was an impressive affair, the Serena being a particularly fine venue.  Verses from the Koran were sung beautifully by Malik's son, many fine speeches were made (recorded for TV of course), extolling the virtues of international co-operation and recounting our achievements, and medals, trophies and certificates were awarded by the speaker of the Baluchistan Assembly to much applause. Tea and savouries followed and we then spent the rest of the evening at the local Chinese restaurant, the Cafe China. Chinese food - quality and style seems to be something of a global constant and a fine time was had by all.

In true Chiltan style we managed to delay going to the airport for as long as possible and were the last people to board the plane.  We had not been looking forward to our overnight stay in Karachi due to the recent troubles.

View from entrance of Kaddi Coochar Ghara

A couple of senior mullahs had been assassinated the previous week and four Americans slaughtered a couple of days ago in retaliation for the trial of the World Trade Centre bombers.  We therefore spent the day at the airport hotel sitting by the pool before our 4.00am bus to the airport (accompanied by armed guard) and the long journey home.

All in all the expedition should be considered a success, with over thirty new caves surveyed totalling nearly two kilometres.  It would have been nice to find more, and with the amount of limestone present there is still good potential for a lot more.  The large distances to be covered take up a lot of time, however, and can be frustrating at times.  The country itself is ruggedly beautiful and the people extremely friendly.  I have no doubt that further work will eventually reveal some larger systems.


Turner, J (1977) First Field Report from the 1976 Speleological Expedition to the Himalayas. Descent 35, p 42-3.

Orpheus Caving Club (1990) Pakistan 1990.  DCA Newsletter 74 p 2-4

Antonini, G (1991) I "Mulinelli" del Biafo.  Speleologia 12 (24) p 28 - 32

Antonini, G (1991) Speleologia glaciale in Karakorum La Rivista del Club Alpino Italiano 2 p 56 - 63.

Bannert, D (1992) The Structural Development of the Western Fold belt, Pakistan King, J & D. St. Vincent (1993) Pakistan.  Lonely Planet Guide, 4th edition

Badino, G & G. Carrieri (1993) Hunza 93 Prima spedizione italiana nel Karakorum Grotte Torino 111 p 6-8.

Brooks, S. (1994) Observations on the karst & caves of the Karakorum International Caver 11 p 11 - 16.

Ducluzaux, B (1994) Karakorum 1993.  Expedition de reconnaissance au Pakistan. Grottes et Gouffres 132 p 24 - 29.

Vacchiano, F (1996) Pakistan. Grotte (Torino) Year 39 no 121 p 56 - 62.


The Undergrounders - Well Almost! CAVING - What's it all about?

By Rich Long

Over the last couple of months my good friend Chris "Zot" Harvey has been back caving with us, no really, he has been going underground, honest, ask Mr Wilson.

Which prompts me to ask, "What is it all about then?"  Is it the deepest the tightest the longest it's still caves I'm talking about by the way, or is it all that and something else, like a ZOT TRIP. When you cave with Chris it's always an experience, I remember the first time he took me down St Cuthbert's, head first down the rift, what a sight to instil into the virgin caver.  OK, so, sometimes he doesn't have all of his kit maybe he's minus a light, oversuit, belt, krab, descender, rope, sling, key to the cave, but he's always got the essentials a big heart, enthusiasm, a love of caving and that bloody helmet with no chinstrap.

For about three years we have been planning to go to Yorkshire and do Swinsto together.  At last we got it arranged, picked Chris up Friday afternoon, me, absolutely hyper with excitement I like going out to play, Zot totally laid back.

"Hello Chris, everything ready?"

"Well, no, can't find me sleeping bag, but I've got me wellies and wetsuit!"

After a short search, organised by Zot's Dad, a wet sleeping bag which had hidden itself at the back of the garage was produced.  I'm not convinced it hadn't done it on purpose as it had been away with Chris previously.

On we go after we pick up Vicky who had also decided to try the trip.  Well after a Thrupe Lane tip with Mike Wilson, me and Chris she had been lulled into a false sense of security.  After a FIVE HOUR PLUS drive, God damn it, and hundreds of, “Don't let the B******'s back in!"  I am a Saint behind the wheel, we arrive in Clapham, at Big Roy's place.  “That was a long time wasn't it,” I said we should have come the other way and not the motorway.   Chris.

After mugs of tea and then liberal doses of beer and medicinal whiskey at the pub, Chris trying to equal Pam and dismally failing.  Bed time.

Next day, it had rained so hard no one in their right mind would go underground, fortunately Roy was in his right mind and it was decided to go hill walking.  Well everyone except Zot, who thought he would be better off guarding the car at Malham.  Fortunately on returning to the car Zot wasn't dead, although I wasn't convinced, he was just asleep.  Well at least I didn't have to give him the kiss of life.  Thank You God.

We dropped in to Horton, but everyone else had gone hill walking.  But we did see a nice locomotive steaming up the valley and across the viaduct, pleasant sight, but I must admit I didn't get quite as aroused as the hundreds of train enthusiasts who could have done with" ... a long cold shower, Boy!" as my old Reform School teacher Herr Hitler would say.

OK as we were so near it had to be the Hill Inn, where upon much coaxing, I attempted the wheel.  Do you find it amazing how quickly a "Go on, you can do it!" turns into a "Too Bloody fast!" the worst thing was some 'Stick Boy' hill walker climbed through with his coat on, "The ******* ******!"

However I accepted defeat gracefully, well, I considered it graceful even if the others didn't.  Next day more of the same.  More hill walking, this time in snow, followed by gales on Ingleborough then beautiful sunshine below Black Shiver, excellent contrast.

Anyway the trip to Swinsto had fizzled out caving wise, but for us it was still a great trip. Wherever we went we met Chris's friends who hopefully became our friends.  So what's it all about?  Not always being underground but being with like minded folk, like Zot who shares everything, who has shown me time and time again "Hey Rich, No Problem, take it easy."   Thanks Zotty, perhaps next time we can go caving?

P.S. The return journey was just as bad going Zot's way.  Haaa!







QuaecumQue Faciendum: Nimis Faciemus

Having noted the above Latin motto on some old Belfry Bulletins I asked for information in the last BB and I was pleased to receive a letter from Alfie Collins explaining the history and derivation of the motto.  He told me that the motto was his idea and dated from the first BEC Song competition.  (Now there is the next question - when was that?)  He said that he was the first person to see George Weston's contribution and thought that the last lines of the song summed up the club's attitude to life very well.

Alfie explained that the word "Quaecumque" means 'whatsoever' and should be in the feminine as the Latin for thing (res) is oddly enough feminine in gender.  The word "Faciendum" is the gerundive of the verb 'facio' which means 'I do' or 'I make' and its gerundive means 'fit to be done'.  The word "Nimis" means to excess and Alfie said that the 'Red Lion' at Green Ore (now re-named 'The Ploughboy') used to have a motto on its pub sign which read "Ne Nimium" which meant 'Nothing to excess' and was a good reason for the BEC not to drink there!  The final word "Faciemus" means 'we will do' and consequently the motto in total becomes:

"Whatever is worth doing we will do it to excess."

Alfie thinks that the motto was dropped when he ceased to be editor after the 1977 AGM and that the modern variant, "Everything to excess" is not what George Weston meant. i.e. some things are not worth doing!

Chris Smart (with very grateful thanks to Alfie Collins)


This particular Bertie was drawn for the current set of Belfry Bulletins, by Chas Wethered.  See the Caving News Page for Blitz's next history question


Meghalaya '98 - A Survivor's View

By Tony Jarratt 1/4/98

This year's expedition to NE India consisted of Tony Boycott (BEC/GSG), Tony Jarratt (BEC/GSG), Brian Johnson (BEC), Anette Becher (BEC/GSG), Simon Brooks (OCC/GSG), Jenni Brooks (OCC), Ian Chandler (WCC/CCC) and Andy Tyler (CSS) from Britain. Daniel Gebauer, Uwe Kruger, Ritschie Frank, Thilo Muller and Georg Baumler (Hohlen und Heimatverein Laichingen) from Schwabischeralb, Germany. Yvo Weidmann (Switzerland). Corporals Sher and Gurjinder Singh (probably the world's only Sikh cavers!) and the Khasi stalwarts from the Meghalaya Adventurers Association - Brian Kharpran Daly, Raphael Warjri, Donbok Syiemlieh, Colonel Fairweather Mylliemngap, Lindsay Diengdoh, Kyrshan Myrthong, Valerie Lalvula and others.  Our cooks, drivers, dhobi ladies and local guides kept the whole show on the road and enabled the cavers to concentrate on the job in hand.  So much so that after twenty days in the field, the total amount of surveyed passage (some two thirds of which was original exploration) amounted to over 26.4 km (15.3 miles), almost identical with last year's figure.

Our first discoveries were in the Cherrapunjee area where Krem Rong Umsoh (Ochre River Cave) was surveyed for 370m - leaving an extensive, bat infested upper level unmapped due to lack of time.  Krem Phyllut II (434m) and Krem Soh Pang Bniat (Thorn Apple Cave) where the writer was forced to adopt Mendip tactics to reach a large and as yet unsurveyed river passage heading both up and downstream for several hundred, bat filled metres!  The latter will doubtless provide an important piece of the extensive, segmented system known to exist in this fascinating area near the famous Raj hill station - only recently relegated from its title of "wettest place on Earth" by another Meghalayan town nearby.  While several of the team were busy here, a larger contingent had left by Wankhar Roadlines coach (honest) for the Nongjri area where over 5 km was surveyed in the 6.5km Krem Lymput system and associated caves.  A 24 hour "lurgi" began decimating the Cherra team who were now en route for our main area at Lumshnong in the Jaintia Hills.  Here we took up residence in the Soil Conservation Bungalow (C.B) just north of the village during a torrential downpour not good news when one of our projects was to be further exploration of the 19.2 km long, flood-prone Krem Kotsati / Krem Urn Lawan System running practically underneath the main road!

The following day the weather improved but fearing flooding underground we went surface prospecting beyond the known end of the system.  Here the tight and unpleasant Krem Sohmynken Khnai (Rat Shit Chilli Cave) was pushed by Tony Boycott for 30m becoming too small.  An extra treat here were the black and orange striped Tiger Leeches, one of which made a fatal error by biting the scrawny neck of a cigarette addict.  Smoking became a popular pastime over the next few weeks.

The nearby Krem Umkhang / Kharasniang was again visited in the hope of finding a connection to the main system.  This was not to be but as a consolation prize we didn't get wiped out as we squeezed through a dodgy boulder choke during an earthquake!

During the next few days work was concentrated in and around the Urn Lawan System where several km of fine passages were discovered and mapped.  The terminal choke was passed by the "old English gits" to reach two 10m and one 30m pitches with the sound of a roaring stream echoing up from the depths.  This turned out to be a possible inlet stream becoming too low downstream but providing India's first free diveable sump upstream, passed after some 3m Brian "Nobrot" Johnson.  Emboldened by this success he decided to repeat the performance in a downstream sump back in the main streamway above.  After several tries he spotted the tell-tale silver sheen of airspace some 4m into the sump and "went for it".  As he thrust his head into a 2" high, 3" wide airbell he realised his error, lost his mask, blackened his eye, gashed his face and shit his pants - all at once!  Desperately sucking small amounts of air and large amounts of water (most of which had already been through several hundred villagers) he successfully groped for the mask and reached a slightly bigger airspace.  Bigger maybe, nicer - definitely not.  He was only able to get the mask to his face by continued ducking down and wriggling, all of which activity served to use up the oxygen content of the airbell.  Suffice it to say that he eventually escaped - a bloodier and a wiser man!  His Swiss companion, Yvo, was suitably impressed and the reputation of the "old English gits" improved yet again.

On 24th February we fancied a change of scenery so were driven several km up the road to the village of Thangskai and the 50m deep pothole of Krem Malo.  This is the last resting place of a Tata lorry which descended the pot with seven people on board some years ago.  It was left last year at 467m long with lots of ongoing passages including a fine streamway where the way on led off from "Estelle's Dumping Pond".  This interestingly named feature will crop up again later in this tale.


The entrance of Krem Malo

After being filmed abseiling in by Uwe we mapped 230m of big inlet to a sandstone boulder choke guarded by an enormous spider and named it Mega Heteropoda Passage.  Next, the very attractive streamway was surveyed downstream for several hundred metres until Brian heard an odd droning noise.  Not relishing the 50m prusik out we were delighted to turn a corner and find a low entrance (exit?) in the jungle with the sound of lorries passing on the road above.  On hacking our way up to it a passing local indicated that it was downhill to Lumshnong.

Unbelievably, just round the next road bend was the C.B. - our accommodation - where an astonished Uwe found us partaking of tea and biscuits a few minutes later.  Our high spirits were suddenly dampened when we realised the probable source of the tea water - the village of Thangskai - and via "Estelle's Dumping Pond" to two small springs supplying our kettle and the whole of Lumshnong village!  Oh, the Perils of Expedition caving.

Uwe filmed us re-enacting our exit before we went back in to continue with the survey so as to have plenty to impress the Nongjri team who were arriving that evening.  This cave was later the scene of India's first proper cave rescue when, on a major mapping/filming trip, Jenni got lost while soloing out and peeled off a climb, injuring her legs and back.  Several hours were spent searching the cave, jungle and roadside ditches before she was located by Brian and Simon at the end of Mega Heteropoda Passage and assisted to the surface to fully recover after a few days rest.  At least we found several hundred metres of new stuff while looking for her and had the novel experience of being driven the 200m to the rescue by coach!  This incident concentrated a few minds on the possibilities of expedition accidents - but maybe not enough.

A day off was had by Brian J. and I who accompanied Brian K.D. and Bok on a recce to a different limestone area, Ladmyrsiang, which shows promise for a future visit.  A large tract of jungle covered karst rises from the edge of an open, grassy plain with a pleasant lack of the ubiquitous Tata and Shaktiman coal lorries and their continuous horn blowing.  A few small caves were noted here and there are rumoured to be many more nearby.

Back in Lumshnong we tidied up a few leads left over from last year.  The 15m pot entered from the mediaeval style coal mine, Krem Mawiong, was re-laddered and a further 8m pitch descended to reach a too narrow rift. Near the village our drivers spotted a python and later that day a bear was seen - it had apparently been doing something in the woods.

In Krem Urn Lawan Brian J. and Yvo had traversed above the 30m Old Men's Pot to find an inlet beyond and not the hoped for extension to the main system. Raphael, the team cameraman and talented artist, was being instructed by them in cave survey drawing whilst I did my bit by teaching Gurjinder the subtle arts of digging and pushing ridiculously tight squeezes.

The former was in vain but the latter yielded over 100m of superbly decorated inlet passages heading towards the elusive link with Krem Umkhang/ Kharasniang.

The tata truck at the bottom of the entrance of Krem Malo

 In return Gurjinder taught me how to find our way out of the bloody place after we got thoroughly lost. Later, joined by Ian, we surveyed about 220m in the "Anglo-Sikh Series" but again failed to make the connection.

On 2nd March Annette joined the rapidly swelling ranks of the disabled when she fell off a climb in one of the Chiehruphi caves and severed two tendons in her left hand. Daniel had succumbed to Housemaid's Knee and the lurgi had worked its way through most of the European team members.

Surveying continued in Krem Malo and some spectacular high level fossil galleries and soaring avens were found.  One of the many impressive stalagmites here was shaped like a Saguaro cactus from the classic cowboy films.  In Krem Umkhang/Kharasniang a final connection attempt was made by digging a strongly draughting hole in the floor but this failed due to the size of the wedged boulders.  With several small quarries nearby it may be possible to borrow a "bang wallah" next year to sort these out!  Our attempts were filmed by an incredulous Kyrshan who had never before seen such stupidity.

Meanwhile, a few km up the road at Musianglamare, Andy, Ritschie and anyone else they could pressgang had been doing sterling work in Krem Umsynrang (pushed from 1.67kms to 4.85kms) and Synrang Pamiang (from 1.66kms to 6.21kms by the end of the trip - see below). 

Corporal Gurjinder Singh in the Anglo-Sikh series of Krem Um Lawan

Lots of other caves and coal workings in this area were visited and mapped.  The final 2kms of Synrang Pamiang were clocked up on a 15 hour + overnight trip by Ritschie, Andy, Brian K.D, Tony and I on our last night - well fortified by beer, rum and whisky to deaden the effects of the first 500m of awkward caving.  In my case it also deadened the awareness of a deep, open road drain into which I leapt from the coach to gain a few cuts and bruises.

This magnificently decorated system is very much like a major Welsh cave and the lack of multiple entrances makes for a fairly strenuous trip to the end and back.

Some of the cripples at the CB

A second entrance was found on this trip but being a trial coal shaft entering the ceiling of the huge main passage some 30m. above the floor it was not considered an easy way out. One has a certain sympathy for the innocent miner on the last shift.  The 20m high by 2-3m wide meandering river passage, Collaboration Canyon, which was where we ran out of time showed every sign of continuing in this style forever.  This is a tremendously impressive system which may well challenge Krem Kotsati/Um Lawan as India's longest cave if only the predicted high level passages some 20m up in the roof can be entered.  It even has underground leeches!  On the way out Tony severely bruised his leg and jarred his back after stepping into a concealed hole.  His temper was not improved when he later dropped a large boulder on the same leg. It was a slow trip out for us all and a miserable walk back to the road in a downpour but at least we had got our 2kms in the bag.

Another huge river cave, Piel Theng Puok, was left ongoing after 2.5kms in the Lukha Valley area below and to the south of Lumshnong.  This major resurgence system was explored by swimming in long canals formed behind huge gour dams and has great potential.  Other caves in this area are also ongoing and it will be a major target for next year.

India is now well and truly on the world caving map thanks to the dedicated work of these international expeditions and there is plenty more to be found throughout the state and probably in neighbouring states such as Nagaland.  Despite the proximity to Burma these areas are slowly being opened up to adventurous foreign tourists.

Needless to say we enjoyed the usual excess of superb food and passable booze provided by the Adventurers and despite all the injuries and occasional frustrations with the computers, due to a lack of electricity, a good time was had by all.  Our thanks go to all concerned who made it such a success.

This article has been published in both the Belfry Bulletin and Grampian S.G. Bulletin.

Refs. a selection:

International Caver n.22 (1998) pp.3-15

G.S.G. Bull. 3rd series vol.4 n.4 (March 1998) pp.11-18

B.B vo1.50 n. l (Dec 1997)

B.B vol. 50 n.3 (Apr 1998)

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds, the Caves and Karst of Meghalaya, North East India.  Report of the 1992 and 1994 Cave Exploration/Cave Tourism visits.

Compiled by the B.E.C and O.C.C. (March 1995)


Meghalaya 1998 - Synopsis  Updated

29.05.1998, 13:35 Uhr

16 February – 08 March: Georg BAUMLER, S. Annette BECHER. Eleazar BLAH, Antony BOYCOTT, Jennn, A. BROOKS, Simon J. BROOKS, Ian CHANDLER, Sijon DKHAR, Gregory DlENGODH, Jonas DlENGDOH, Lindsay DIENGlJOH, Clive W. DUNNAI, Richard FRANK, H.O. GEBAUER, Badamut HOO.JUN. Anthony JARRATT, Brian JOHNSON, Refulgent KHARNAIOH, Brian D. KHARPRAN DALY, Uwe KROGER, Babha Kupar MAWLONG, Kyrshan MITHUN, Thilo Muller, Fairwaether W. MYLLIEMNGAP, Gurjinder SINGH, Sher SINGH, Donbok SYIEMLEH, Andy TYLER, Valery VALVUlA, Raphael WARJRI, Ywo, WEIDMANN.

Guides & Informants: Kham (Chiehruphi), Nigel (Chiehruphi), Miniren BAMON (Tongseng), Bhalang DKHAR (Thangskai), Lucky DKHAR (Chiehruphi), Sijon Dkhmr {Nongjri}, Kynsai JONES (Cherra Pdengshakap), Agnes LAKHIANG (Sutnga), Robert LAI (Chiehruphi), Milan LAMARE (Sutnga), Wikyn LYNGDOH (Thangskai), Monris NONGTDU (Sutnga), Zuala RALSEM. (Khaddurn). Langspah RYNKHUN (Nongjin), Stingson SH1ANGSHAi (Chiehruphi).


date from

date to



1997- length



vertical range




East Khasi Hills District












































Sohra (Cherrapunjee)



















Lubon – Lum Bnai


























Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Phyllud – Dam Um








Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Phyllud no 2

















Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Rong Umsoh








Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

Soh Pang Bnait








Pynursia: Rana

Wah Sir








Pynursia: Rana

Wah Synrem









Wah Thylong








Jainta Hills District









Citrus Cave








Lumshnong Village









Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 1








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 2a








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 2b








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 3








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Mahabon 4








Lumshnong: Thangskai









Lumshnong Village









Lumshnong: Mynkre









Lumshnong: Mynkre

Moolich No. 2








Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 1








Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 2









Paltan Puok


















Pdieng Salah









Pile Theng Puok








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Pyrda 1








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Pyrda 2








Lumshnong: Thangskai

Romai Synhin








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Lumshnong: Mynkre










Sielkan Puok









Skei ( Lukha Valley)








Lumshnong: Village

Soh Mynken Khnai








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Lumshnong: Village

Umkhan - Kharasniang








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Lumshnong: Village









Lumshnong: Village

Umlawan No.3








Lumshnong: Village

Umlawan No.4








Lumshnong: Village

Umlawan No.5








Lumshnong: Village

Umlawan No.6 a-b








Lumshnong: Musianglamare










Urhulu Puok








Accumulated length of the spring surveys:






Cavers Fair 1998

3/4/5th July at venues in and around Priddy.

Organised Jointly by:
The National Caving Association and
The Council of Southern Caving Clubs

Programme of Events

The Cavers Fair is a national event allowing cavers to meet, socialise, improve their technical skills, and tryout specialist interests underground.

Friday 3rd July:


Registration from 7.30pm - midnight

Social evening with slides and cavers get-together.


Saturday 4th July:


Registration from 8am

*Breakfast served from 8am with refreshments available all day *

Times for the following to be confirmed:

Cave art exhibition

Hands on rescue equipment workshop

Underground first aid

Trade stands

Pre-booking is strongly advised - get the sessions you want and save money by booking in advance!

All Sessions Depart From Priddy Village Hall

Transport may be required! Please check in advance. Short caving trips 9.30am

Upper Swildons, Upper Eastwater, Burrington Caves and other venues according to demand.

Longer caving trips 1.30pm

Swildons Sump 1, Priddy Green Sink - Swildons through-trip, Eastwater and other venues according to demand.

St Cuthbert's Swallet 9.30am - 3pm approx. A choice of trips into this classic cave.

Underground Cave Art

with artists Robin Gray and Mark Lumley - choice of venues

Cave Photography Workshop

(provisionally Swildons Hole) session leader to be confirmed

Guided walk

with naturalist Martin Torbett(1.30pm) Cave video

with Pete Isaacs - shoot 9.30am in Goatchurch, edit 1.30pm using digital technology.

Basic SRT

Surface training Split Rock Quarry - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)


Underground in Upper Swildons - knots, belays, Hand-lines, lifelines - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.3Opm) Ladder and line

Swildons Old 40 foot Pot - advanced pitch rigging lifeline systems - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)

SRT Rescue

Venue to be confirmed - for experienced SRT users ­2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)

SRT Rigging

Venue to be confirmed - for experienced SRT users ­2 sessions (9.30am & 1.3Opm)

Novice and youngsters caving trip

Saturday 4th July - afternoon Goatchurch Cavern Compton Martin Ochre Mine

9.30am - short easy trip for mine enthusiasts

Singing River Mine

1.30pm Longer trip in a complex and fun system (10 metre entrance pitch)


Treasure Hunt for competing teams around Priddy area

*1st Prize £50.00 token from Quipu for Leisure*


with local band TUFF E NUFF


Sunday 5th July – morning:

Registration from 8.30am

Refreshments and breakfast

Hymac digging extravaganza, guided walk and caving trips: venues: TO BE CONFIRMED


Underground in Upper Swildons - knots, belays, Hand-lines, lifelines - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm) Ladder and line

Swildons Old 40 foot Pot - advanced pitch rigging lifeline systems - 2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)

SRT Rescue

Venue to be confirmed - for experienced SRT users­2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)

SRT Rigging

Venue to be confirmed - for experienced SRT users­2 sessions (9.30am & 1.30pm)


Variety of SRT routes to try with advice on hand. time 9.30am - 4pm

Sunday 5th July - afternoon


afternoon trips to visit 40' pot washed away 10th July 1968




Pitches for tents in field adjoining Priddy Village Hall available Friday and Saturday night only


Camping is also available locally at Upper Pitts (Wessex), The Belfry (BEC), The Mineries (Shepton).

Book and pay Clubs direct.

Family camping and caravan pitches are also available at Mendip Heights Campsite, Townsend, Priddy although pre booking is advised.


The WCC (Upper Pitts), The BEC (The Belfry), The Shepton (The Mineries), The MCG (Nordach) and the MNRC all have local huts for which pre booking is advised.




Social evening - FREE!!


morning and afternoon session or activity

£5 per person if pre registered

£6 per person on the day


Mendip Team Challenge

small charge for entry payable on the day


Barbecue and Stomp

£5 per person on the door


morning session or activity Split Rock SRT

£2.50 per person if pre-registered

£3 per person on the day


£14 per person













all cheques payable to NCA Training Account


If you are staying on until Monday 6th July contact Tony Jarratt for local digging trips

 Working Weekend

Cleaning, repairs, General maintenance.

Plenty of work for all!!

BBQ free for all workers

Sat/Sun 21st/22nd August

Meet at Belfry at 10.00am

Contact: - Nick Mitchell

Hut Engineer For Further Details

Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

13/6/98                      Rescue Practiceat Tyning Barrow Cave. Meet at Belfry – 10.00am Andy Sparrow

16/6/98                      Caving Trip – Longwood/August Evening trip - Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

20/6/98                      The 49ers Birthday Party Priddy Village Hall – Tickets £6 - Quackers, J'Rat Via Hunters Lodge or Bat Products

20/6/98                      GB Conservation Day 11 :00am at GB car park - Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

21/6/98                      Caving Trip – OFD Sunday - Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

3/7/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

3-5/7/98                     Cavers Fair, Priddy Village Hall, Mendip - Alan Butcher

7/7/98                        Caving Trip – Hunters Hole – SRT Evening trip - Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

15/7/98                      Caving Trip – Charterhouse Evening trip – numbers limited - Estelle Sandford Editor

19/7/98                      Burrington Day Work on Burrington Cave Atlas - Estelle Sandford Editor

21/7/98                      Caving Trip – GB Evening trip -Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

28/7/98                      Caving Trip – Eastwater/Dolphin Pot Evening trip -Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

7/8/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

July/August 98            Fishing/Diving Weekend at Prawle Point, South Devon Date to be arranged – Contact if interested - Robin Gray

??/8/98                      Austria Expedition Date to be arranged – Contact if interested -Alex Gee Librarian

21-22/8/98                  BEC Working Weekend - Nick Mitchell

4/9/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

18-20/9/98                  BCRA Conference, Floral Hall, Southport - BCRA

30/9/98 - 14/11/98       ISSA Exhibition, St David's Hall, Cardiff - ISSA

3/10/98                      BEC AGM and Dinner

2/11/98                      BCRA Regional One-Day Meeting, Priddy Village Hall. 9.30am Lectures on Swildons and Cuthbert’s - BCRA

18/11/98 - 28/11/98     A Brush with Darkness - Paintings of Mendip's caves - Wells Museum -ISSA

26/11/98                     Underground painting techniques /demonstration. Wells Museum 7.30pm      Robin Gray


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Rich Blake
Deputy Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



Here we are again; it seems such a short time ago since the last one!! !

Since then, we have had an excellent stomp, which raised lots of money for tackle (see tackle report) 26km have been found in Meghalaya (see Synopsis and the article to follow in a future issue) Tuska's (WCC) fall has been captured in a picture, and it appears that some of you have been caving.

Many thanks to the two non-members who have contributed to this issue.  Keep the articles coming, I can never have too many!!!

The cut off for articles and letters for the next BB is 3rd June.  Last minute news and dates can be taken until 6th June.

Regarding the stomp, many thanks to the people who gave the raffle prizes for the stomp and helped with the organisation to make it a great success.  I believe a brilliant time was had by all.

It's nice to see we are getting a few new members this year, hopefully other members of the club will follow Mike Wilson's example and help to encourage the new and prospective members in their caving career.  (See Mike's trip report).

By the way, for those of you who thought we had found a new species of caterpillar in Meghalaya in the last BB, they were wrong, it is actually a spelling error on my part, it should had been a centipede.  Nice pair of legs, pair of legs, pair of legs, etc.!!!


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.

No prizes for this one!!!!


See if you can guess where in which cave on Mendip this picture was taken.

Answer in the next issue, and also on Belfry photo-board if you are visiting the Belfry .

Photo courtesy of Pete Glanvill.


Caving and BEC News

Members News

Chris and Gwyn (nee Timson) Taylor are to become parents in September.  Must have been a good Christmas!!!


Photos are still required for the photoboard at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in - Ed.

BEC Website

Is accessible at the following URL www.mendipnet.co.uk/BEC. (clearly now defunct)

If you try to access it from links from other Websites, you will probably still get the old WebPage. It takes a little while to get other sites to change their links for new addresses.

Stoke Lane Slocker

Further to the article in the last issue, the following information has been confirmed by Dave Irwin:

The Stoke Lane human and animal bones have been found.  After a years searching for them I've seen them and they are being photographed.  Eventually they will be dated - Tratman guessed (1955) that they dated somewhere between late Iron Age to Middle Ages. Dating is important to give date for collapse of entrance into Bone Chamber.  More details in the proposed caving report relating to this cave.  Those who thought that Max Unwin was responsible for the loss of the bones were wrong.

49ers Party

For those of you who are not aware, there are quite a number of BEC members and other regulars from the hill who were born in 1949 and are therefore 49 this year.  They have decided to celebrate in style Midsummer's night (20th June) with a mass party at the Village Hall in Priddy.  Tickets will be available soon from Tony at Bat Products and Quackers in the Hunters Lodge.

Mendip Technical Group

A meeting was held at the Hunters Lodge on Saturday 31st January 1998 to try and hammer out a bolting policy for Mendip.  General conclusions were that re-bolting with resin anchors will generally only be carried out when existing anchors are no longer safe - i.e. no program of systematic bolt replacement although Rhino Rift is an exception as CCC have already approved a complete re-bolt.  The technical group will not have an independent identity (not another caving committee) but will be a loose association of cavers prepared to get involved. Further details from Andy Sparrow.

Speleoscene no. 32

This is available from caving shops (Free - but how about a donation to your local Cave Rescue Service).  This issue contains an article on unsafe maillons, information on karabiner/descender loading, training bulletin on 'Safe Abseiling', also general news and access and conservation issues for all the caving regions.

Thailand 98 Update

Following the stop press in the last BB regarding the recent BEC expedition, "Thailand 98" featuring Rob Harper and Tony Boycott.  It coincided with a very short item in the Sunday Times which also concerned Thailand.  I wondered if there was any connection.  I think we should be told!

The Sunday Times article reads .... "A man who tried to make love to an elephant gave an ingenious explanation to a court in Phuket, Thailand, last week.  Kim Lee Chong, a 61 -year-old chef caught standing semi-naked behind the five-ton colossus, claimed that the animal was a reincarnation of his wife, Wey.  She died 28 years ago.  Chong told the court: "I recognised her immediately ..... by the glint in her eye."  He was given 15 years/jail to expunge his crimes, but they say an elephant never forgets.

BEC Motto - Help

When I was looking at an old BB recently, I noticed the Latin motto "Quodcumque Faciendum Nimis Faciemus".  What does it mean?  When did we adopt it?  When did we drop it?  Where did it come from?  Please contact Blitz (see address for treasurer) if you can enlighten him on this.

Caver Training Facility

A caver training facility for Mendip Wells community education have been successful in their lottery bid to finance a new sports hall which includes a climbing wall and specially designed caver training facility.  This will consist of a balcony with rigging points where SRT, ladder and lifeline or rescue techniques can be practised by local cavers. Completion is due in early 1999.

Digging and Caving News

(mostly courtesy of Andy Sparrow's web site)


Someone has dug out Binney's Link (the direct route into the dry ways in Swildons).  The passage was easy enough as a bit of a wriggle - it is now nearly hands and knees size.  This may be no big deal, but the Mendip principle has always been not to make existing passages easier just for the sake of it - after all where does it stop? Possibly the same persons have tried to open the hole under the hollow tree at the entrance - this will be noticed by the landowner who may not be best pleased at the modification of his property.  Anyone out there who knows the culprits please have a word in their ear!

The Mud Sump. The drain hole was attacked again recently but remains pretty well blocked.  There was a small airspace recently but bailing is still difficult from either side and parties completing a reverse Round Trip or Priddy Green Sink through trip may find exit this way impossible.  Free diving is not recommended as the sump can be as much as 10m long.

Five Buddles Sink

Update - Work continues attempting to follow the stream.  The cave is draughting strongly.

Dave Mitchell's dig

The dig at Charterhouse is progressing well.  This depression was opened with a Hymac and work continues between stal cemented boulders.

Hunters Hole

There is a massive digging operation at the bottom and much equipment left in situ. Several bolts are stripped and replacing these with P hangers will be an early objective of the new Technical Group.

St Luke's

This is a Wessex Cave Club dig at Nordrach (central Mendip).  The dig was hymaced a couple of years ago since when digging has continued steadily.  At -15 metres a small well decorated chamber has been entered.  There is a slight draught and work continues.

Cairo Shaft

This is also in the Nordrach area.  A 17 metre mined shaft enters about 100 metres of partly mined natural passage ending in a sump beyond a tight section.  The sump appears to be a flooded mine level and will be dived soon.

Frog Pot

This is at Chancellors Farm near Priddy.  A surface dig in a depression has revealed a fluted shaft which seems to be exciting everyone who sees it!  Prospects look very good.  Update - a short length of natural passage (10-20 metres) has been entered.

Eastwater Cavern

The bolt in the boulders above Dolphin Pot is very dangerous.  You are advised to use a long tether around a boulder about 8ft back from the head of the pitch.

Flood Alert

Heavy rain earlier in the year produced very high levels; Swildons was up to the second pipe with local flooding in the fields by the pumping station.  At Thrupe the water went straight down the entrance shaft making the Ferret Run and Perseverance impassable.


Tackle Store Report.

From Mike Willett.

Tackle Master. Richard Blake.
Deputy.  Mike Willett.

Hello all.  Firstly I am pleased to say that the BEC stomp was a success and raised six hundred and thirty nine pounds for the tackle store. Thanks to everyone who attended and to those who helped in the running of it, and a special thanks to Roz Bateman for her hard work in the organising of the event.  How the money will be spent has not been discussed in any detail to date, but we'll keep you informed.  As most of you are aware Richard Blake is back with us, and he has been busy sorting through the tackle and engineering a new system to make tackle easier to access, which brings me to the point of this report.

There is now a new tackle store!  This is the old MRO carbide store situated to the left of the old tackle store. The old store is now a workshop for ladder making, or anything related to digging projects.  Surplus tackle is also stored here, but cannot be accessed through your Belfry key. The new store can be accessed in the same way, through the members cave key box; the new key is a padlock key. The contents of the new tackle store at the moment are:

  • 1 x ten meter ladder.
  • 1 x 18 foot ladder.
  • 2 x spreader.
  • 3 x wire belays.
  • 2 x lifelines (new).
  • 1 x tackle bag.
  • For ease the St Cuthbert’s ladder will also be stored here.





Now for the crunch! If not returned, the tackle in the new store will not be replaced!  This new store will run on trust.  You will no longer have to book tackle out!  Simply take your ladder or anything you require, use it, then put it back after giving it a quick rinse under the hose-pipe.  This is for member's convenience but must be respected.  If abused this system will stop; all tackle will be locked away, and as before will only be accessed through a committee member.  Despite the money raised at the stomp, tackle is very expensive to buy, and no amount we could raise would enable us to buy more tackle to replace ladders left in car boots!  Of course the tackle will be inspected and damaged ladders will be replaced.  Common sense will tell you not to put tackle that is obviously damaged back in the store.  The stock is maintained by a small number of members for the benefit of all. It's your tackle, please respect it, not only for yourself but also for other members of the club.

If people require ladders for digging or long term projects, please contact either Richard or myself as we have some older ladders for this purpose in the surplus store. Alternatively for digs, we could supply you with the materials and equipment to make your own ladders to suit your project.  If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to let Richard or myself know as any help is most welcome.



Wookey Hole,

To my fellow BEC members

Following the publication of my letter in November’s issue of the Belfry bulletin, I was informed by the committee that Andy and Nigel felt hurt by some of my comments, and that some of the committee felt my remarks could be misinterpreted by non-members to the detriment of the club's image.

So in the cause of preventing any possible misinterpretation of my remarks, and to repair the hurt to Andy's and Nigel's feelings, I have agreed to clarify and retract some of my comments as detailed below.

With regard to my comments on the post of Club Rescue Team Leader, Andy and myself have discussed this and he has told me that he felt I was inferring that I was unwilling to work with him in the post and questioning his competence as a caver.

I wish to make it clear that I inferred no such thing and I was only giving the reasons for my resignation.

With regard to my comments on Nigel's proposal, I have now discussed this with Nigel and given him the reasons for my comments.  Likewise he has also assured me that there was no malice intended in his proposal and I fully accept that this was the case.  So I fully retract any comments I made in my letter regarding Nigel's Proposal.

In the interests of not boring you all further I will not go into further detail, just to say that Nigel, Andy and myself have now settled our differences and look forward to working together to further the interests of the club and its members.

Regards Alex.

St Cuthbert’s Swallet Maintenance

Date:  Saturday, 28 February 1998

Attendance:  Graham Johnson (Jake), Richard Blake, 1van Sandford, Mike Willett, Alex Gee, Gareth Leadbetter, Roger Haskett, Mr Michael Duck, Dave 1rwin, Roger Stenner & the Hut Warden (Production Manager, Refreshment Division).

Project:  Replacement of the valve on the entrance damn.

Over the past few months there has been increasing trouble with the entrance damn, culminating with Chris Castle proclaiming that the valve was totally buggered on 24.02.98. Jake and Richard investigated the problem during the Saturday morning and found that the fault was due to general wear and tear which had destroyed the thread on the gate mechanism. Unfortunately, the bolts connecting the whole valve to the pipe behind were rusted in place, making a straight forward replacement impossible.  As considerable water was backing up in the depression, they were left with little choice but to remove the internal gate piece and leave the depression to drain over lunchtime.

The workforce swelled over the lunch period and the crew returned in far greater force.  During the afternoon they split themselves into two sections, one working on the valve replacement problem, whilst the other looked to cutting off water flow into the depression through sealing and improving the upstream damn.

The new valve was bolted onto the old and a silt trap was constructed in the form of a low dry stone wall, which conveniently, also serves to direct most of the water down the soak-away.

Further maintenance work is required to unblock the soak-away, but this will not be attempted until water levels drop during the summer.

Report by: Rebecca Campbell


Charterhouse Caving Company Limited

Update to BEC members in respect of the Company's AGM on 4 April 1998

BEC Representative: Rebecca Campbell

The BEC committee has received no correspondence in respect of CCC Ltd activities this year.  As such the only item that we raised was the matter of company budgeting.  The company has slightly excessive accumulated funds that we believe the directors should keep an eye on, in a move to both set and maintain a reasonable level of reserves. The CCC subscription levels will be reviewed accordingly at the next AGM.

Items of interest to General Membership:

1. Conservation Day - GB Car park

11:00am Saturday, 20 June 1998

The company is going to be continuing the cave cleaning work in GB and Charterhouse on the above date. Volunteers are needed to undertake the work.  All workers will need to bring a Daren drum and tackle bag for water carrying.  I would be grateful if any members who have Daren drums would offer them to the caving secretary for use in this event, even if they cannot attend themselves.

Work in Bat Passage will require conservationists to bring a spare clean undersuit and spare clean wetsuit socks.  Normal permit and key provisions will apply for that day.  As all BEC members are entitled to a one year permit this will cause them no extra cost.  If any non-members wish to attend under the provision of a BEC key they will be issued with a permit free of charge.  We have two GB keys so numbers are restricted.  If you are interested please contact the Caving Secretary, Andy Thomas.

2. Rigging in Rhino Rift

Resin anchors are scheduled to be fitted on the first three pitches during the Summer of 1998.  The type of anchor is non-negotiable for insurance reasons.

Finally, on the subject of Rhino Rift, the club has an official dig site at the terminal choke. Little work was undertaken during this year, but Paul Brock is keen to continue the project.  Anyone interested should contact him, whenever.


Membership Secretary

By Roz Bateman

I would like to thank all members who have paid their 1997/98 subs.  In order to up date the membership list printed in the last BB please note the following additions.

New Member:

1237 (P) Jake Baynes, Priddy, Nr Wells, Somerset

Additional Paid up members:

1125     Rich Blake, Priddy Somerset
868       Dany Bradshaw, Wells Somerset
862       Bob Cork, Wells Somerset
1057     Mark Lumley, Stoke St Michael, Somerset
1226     Stephen Ostler, Nailsea North Somerset
1068     John Whiteley, Crediton Devon
1202     Mike Willett, Wells Somerset

I hope that all life and non members have received their new membership cards.  However if this is not the case please contact myself as soon as possible so that you too can be a proud BEC member.   In issuing the last BB to some life members via post, I asked for all undelivered mail to be returned. Does anyone therefore know the current whereabouts of the following members:

  • D Waddon
  • Dermot Statham
  • Pete Blogg




PS. If anyone who has paid after the 31st Jan. did not receive a February BB, please ask Tony at Bat Products as there are still a few left. Ed.

Club Rescue Practice

Saturday 13th June – Location to be arranged

Meet at the Belfry 10.00 am

Contact Andy Sparrow Club Team Rescue Leader for further details


The BEC In Austria 1951/1960 to the present day.

During the preparation for a frustrating, but enjoyable, and for me, first trip to Austria last year, on which we attempted to dive the sump in Magnum Hohle (a report is under preparation for the next BB).  I spent some time in the BEC library looking through old logs, reports, etc., for material relating to the site and the B.E.C.' s activities in the Dachstein in general.

What struck me was the large amount of work and exploration that the BEC has carried out in Austria and the total lack of any definitive collection of reports, surveys etc.  Any records, surveys, etc., seem to be scattered between reports in the BB, some logs in the library and logs, surveys and photo's in member’s private collections.

After reading the comprehensive data, collated by the Cambridge University Caving Club, on their Austrian exploits, I feel that this is a poor state of affairs.

To that end I have started to collate together all the data contained in the library on the B.E.C.'s Austrian activities, with the eventual intention if possible, of publishing a comprehensive book report.

So if any older members who were participants in the Austrian caving expeditions, (particularly those involved in the early sixties to late seventies trips) have any relevant material cluttering up their loft or information of any kind, I would be most interested to hear from you.

I would be particularly grateful if any of you are willing to donate or loan relevant items to the library for this purpose, and to hear your recollections.  If you are loathed to loan items, it is possible for me to scan the items concerned and return them to you within a short period.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Regards Alex

P.S. We will be returning to Austria again this year if anyone is interested.

I can be contacted at email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to my address listed at the front of this BB.


An Appeal from your Librarian.

Those of you that use the library will have noticed that all is not well, journals and publications stacked on every available surface, boxes of reports cluttering up every corner and it is generally in a disorganised mess.  What is the librarian playing at you might ask?  Well the problem is that we have run out of cupboard space, and this is the subject of my appeal.

Some years ago the late Jill Tuck, left a very generous bequest to the BEC.  This bequest enabled the librarian at the time, Trebor, to purchase the existing library bookcases.

Unfortunately these are now full and the un-filed collection of journals and acquisitions continues to grow by the month.

I feel that as so much effort and expense went into providing the club with smart and attractive bookcases that do justice to their invaluable contents and set the library apart from the rest of the hut.  It would be a shame not to purchase similar or identical bookcases to match the existing ones.

I have found through contacting the original manufacturer, that the same bookcases are still available. Here though is the crux of the matter each bookcase now retails at approximately £200.00 plus VAT and we require three at the very least, preferably 5 or 6 for the long term.

I have asked the club treasurer and the committee if there are any fund's available for their purchase, but alas there is not.

So I appeal to you my fellow club member’s generous philanthropic bunch that you are.  To see if there are any of you generous enough to donate some of your hard earned beer vouchers or any odd spare cash you might have hanging around towards the purchase of some new cabinets.

I will start the ball rolling by purchasing one cabinet myself and I look forward to hearing from those others of you that are willing to assist in the upkeep of the library and its contents, please remember no amount is too small and all donations will be gratefully received.

If you wish to donate anything please either contact myself, or post your donation into the hut fees box in a suitably marked envelope.

Thanking you in anticipation, Regards Alex BEC Librarian

You can contact me on 01749 xxxxxxx or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Wind. Vodka And Vomit

by Gonzo

"This is the worst tea I've ever tasted" said Robin, resplendent in his bright cherry floatation suit with matching cheeks, rod and neoprene gloves.

Gradually the cheeks changed to an avocado green and he leaned majestically over the side of the boat to distribute his own special ground bait comprised of vindaloo, sweetcorn, bacon fat, diced carrots, bile, stomach lining and, of course, the tea.

It was late March, 8.30 am, and three miles out in Lyme Bay the sky was leaden, the sea argumentative and the motley fishing party of 5 (those who had actually woken up in time to catch the boat) were grinning from ear to ear, with their rods in their hands as is customary with all Belfryites on a Sunday morning!

Over the next eight hours there were all sorts of entertainment on the good ship Neptune including a 7 lb bull huss, numerous dogfish, pouting, lugworm sandwiches, channel whiting.  Trevor pulling up the anchor when the winch broke, pouting, Butcombe, cuckoo wrasse. Whitbread, more bloody pouting. Gonzo wearing two left wellies, the smallest ling ever, wind, Vodka and vomit.

Arriving back at the Cobb in Lyme Regis everyone agreed that it had been a superb day and we booked the boat for a cracking good tide on Saturday June the 6th.  This will be a day out on the wrecks about 15 miles out (not over-fished, no divers).

If you're a closet angler and you fancy joining us then you're very welcome, empty your freezer and bring beer, butties and a camera to the Cobb at 8.00.

We're trying to make this a more regular occurrence, perhaps 3 or 4 times per year.

The boat costs £180 for the day, rods, reels and tackle included, and will comfortably accommodate 10 fishermen (or fishergirlies!).  To avoid being landed with extra expense when people don't show, anyone who wants to secure a place should send a deposit of £15 well in advance to Robin Gray, Albany House, Cheddar, Somerset BS27 3PT, or put it in his pot at the Hunters.  If you can't make it and we can find a replacement you will get your deposit back, otherwise it will go towards the cost of the boat and bait. In the event of a cancellation due to bad weather, plan B will be a day’s beach-casting and a new date will be arranged for the boat.

We are also organising a weekend down at Prawle Point, between Start Point and Sa1combe.  The fishing here off the rocks is superb, especially the bass fishing at night, the diving apparently is exceptional (don't ask me, I'm not a diver) with very clear deep water straight off the rocks. There is a secluded camp site at Maelcombe House with unspoilt views over the sea which is just 100 metres away, diving gannets and all (twit-free, limited Grockle appeal with the nearest decent beach being 2 miles away).  There are no facilities except water, take your own bog.  2 good pubs are about a mile away at Prawle.  I've seen small boats being taken to the beach from the house by tractor, this might be of interest to the divers in the club.

This trip will take place some time in July or August, dates to be sorted out soon.

I hope that this is all of some interest.  There are certainly a lot of barroom fishermen in the club and it would be good if we could make these sort of meets a regular occurrence and a welcome break from digging, digging and more digging.


Cartoon - Undergrounders



Edmund's Chamber~ Wookey - Further Notes

By John Cordingley (CPC/CDG)

Pete Glanvill wrote a superb article in the February 1998 Belfry Bulletin giving information about various high level possibilities available for further work by cave divers. On page 10 he briefly describes some passages reached by a long climb above Edmund's Chamber.  The ascent to the water surface here is one of the most impressive bits of diving in Britain and the huge aven soaring above is certainly very inviting.  However - a word of caution wouldn't go amiss.  Andy Goddard, Russell Carter and I went there in 1989 and I got "volunteered" to de-kit and go and have a look at the high level dry stuff (see C.D.G. Newsletter No 93, page 35).  I free climbed most of it next to the in situ rope but had to put a jammer on it to protect the final overhanging moves up to the passage.  On arrival at the top the rope was found to be fastened to a single 8mm bolt which was finger tight and would only go in two and a half turns.

Pete had invited us to go and take a look at this area of Wookey and I passed a boulder restriction at the previous limit to explore about another 9m of crawl in a small sloping bedding plane to where it got too low.  It's almost certainly a bang job and there was nothing obvious to aim for and no really convincing draught.  All that remained was to get back down safely which was slightly problematic in that I'd been assured that I could abseil back to water level.  There was no way I was going to trust that bolt and so free climbing back was the only option.  This was eventually managed after several worrying moments but was far from easy. I don't know if anyone has been and sorted out this rope but if not, the next visitors to this particular section would be well advised to ignore the existing rope and re-climb the aven from scratch.  If you rely on the rope and that bolt fails you could fall almost 30m.  There - my conscience is clear ... !


Thrupe Lane Trip

By Mike Wilson

SATURDAY 31st JANUARY 14:00 hrs

Persons present: Zot, MR Wilson, Rich, Vee, Mark, Mike, Toby (Trainee Belfry Boy)

This trip was designed to be a steady bimble on ladders to orientate new and future BEC members into the intricacies of Thrupe Lane.  I had a pleasant surprise when everyone turned up on time, including my right hand man Zot.

We all gathered at the entrance, a positive crocodile by BEC standards, and laddered down the entrance pitch.  Then having tootled down the ferret run, pointing out the Railway tunnel as we went, we then laddered Perseverance pot and pottered down to Cowsh Crawl.  I mentioned that 10 years ago Cowsh Crawl was tight, IT'S NOW AS SLACK AS YER HAT.  The team wandered down Marble Streamway and had a look at Atlas Pot, Zot and I pointed out the various routes and bolt points.  We then toddled back to Butts Chamber had a look at Avalanche Pot, then following some neat little Orange markers, which proved to be Zot's oversuit which was slowly shredding.  Not surprising as he had found it in a ditch somewhere on Mendip.  Clearing up the mess as we went we exited the cave; Toby had a peep at the Railway Tunnel while the rest climbed out. Sadly he declined to have a shower with me back at the shed; I was only trying to save money!! A steady trip with 4 potential BEC members in the group; I intend to jack up another trip on Mendip sometime during the Summer months possibly Stoke Lane or Eastwater Twin Verts the classic way.

I hope other elder members will follow my example this year.


Collecting: Caves or A Crap in Little Tripnell

(as Spooner might have said)

By Peter Glanvill, Jan. 98

The spate of Hymac initiated digs in the last few years seems to have resulted in more digging than caving.  In other words the caves get found, are explored and then quietly forgotten (especially if they aren't listed in a guide for years). While this is great for conservation it does pose difficulties for those who want to know the cave's characteristics before entering it.  I've concluded that any advice from J-rat on a cave's dimensions carries the assumption that I carry cakes and bottles marked 'eat me' or 'drink me' for dimensional alteration during the trip.

Sally in the entrance series in Little Crapnell 

I approached Little Crapnell armed only with information gleaned from one Descent article and some brief chats with one or two visitors to the cave none of whom gave very precise advice. However I decided if somebody could contemplate diving the sump at the end and do the trip out breathing from their bottles due to high C02 levels then it couldn't be too awful.

So, one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago Sally, my daughter, and I arrived at Dave Speed's farm and met the man himself.  The visitors' log only extends to half a page or so, so clearly the cave's fame had not spread far and wide.  There then followed one of those ‘I had a little trouble' conversations with Dave guaranteed to make one think twice about doing the trip at all.  However a recce. trip with Ken Passant a week or two earlier as far as the duck beyond Great Expectations suggested it couldn't be too bad so off we set.


'No worries about carbon dioxide anyway with the recent damp weather', I thought, 'and the streamway will be pleasantly active'.  We dived down the cemented boulders into solid cave.  A coffin lid like slab was the way on with a slither and bump into a crawl past an incongruous galvanised dustbin lid (to protect the drip formations (?)).  The stream is met here and the crawl ends in a climb down through boulders to enter a wide descending tunnel - Great Expectations.  It all looks promising but unfortunately GE seems to be just a washed out shale band.  Beyond is a low gravelly twisting descending streamway which led to the first real obstacle - a low elliptical wallow in the stream a bit like Sump One in Cuthbert’s but narrower.  'Cell off and drag the ammo box' I decided after jamming my head between floor and ceiling.  Once through the first bit it was very straightforward although some minor contortions were required to drop into the rift just beyond into which the water cascades. Sally with her Kate Moss configuration didn't notice it was a constriction; nauseating!

A shuffle sideways reaches a point where the upper part of the passage can be seen to be much wider and formations appear at The Old Curiosity Shop.  The rifty nature of the passage reminded me a little of caves in County Clare although not nicely scalloped.  Another cascade followed ('This is nice' I thought) at which point I was abruptly confronted by a narrow rift passable only at stream level.  A test thrutch with the battery on encouraged me to take helmet and cell off before a snagging wallowing sideways thrash in the water got me through.  My elation didn't last long.  I was lying the wrong way round in a pool facing down a ramp with another squeeze/contortion to tackle.  A few pathetic wriggles later I noticed the stream had gone quiet.  I did a press up - a loud roar from the backed up stream was followed by the realisation that there were two of us, I was leading, and I was the wrong side of an awkward squeeze.  I wimped out and after an interesting reverse thratch (thrash and thrutch) I rejoined Sally.


We had stopped just short of a feature called Ebenezer's Escalator which apparently is 'roomy' and well decorated.  Beyond it the cave sounds like purgatory and according to Estelle probably is although she cannot remember much apart from the pain. (this cave is not a good hangover trip - Ed!!)  On the way out I photographed the very nice chamber above the streamway although this time the damp had got into all the electronics.  Passing the first constriction going out was a doddle, and I certainly would go back again although wearing a wet suit for ease of movement in the constrictions.

Back at the farm we had one of those 'How far did you get?' conversations with Dave Speed when I discovered the blighter hadn't even got as far as I had!  He also told me he is trying to increase the Little Crapnell cave quota to 3 this year when one of the other depressions on his land gets Hymaced. What's the record for number of caves on your land (excluding Lord Bath)?

The previous week Ken Passant and I had visited Honeymead Hole which lies only a hundred metres from Little Crapnell.  There is no detailed description yet available of Honeymead although its total passage length is now a respectable 356 metres with 52 metres depth.  This account is derived from the experiences on our trip and information from a variety of Descent articles.  Honymead Hole is interesting in that the entrance was only located after 30 feet of topsoil had been removed by the standard digging technique. It is unlikely this cave would ever have been found by more conventional means which makes one wonder what else remains buried beneath Mendip.


The concrete entrance shaft drops through boulders to reach a roomy chamber - Slab House with a few stal formations dotted about it.  A hole in the floor was rigged with a ladder which seemed OTT when we descended what was basically a short and easy free climb.  I am told the ladder was to prevent too much pressure on hanging death boulders.  At the bottom a short low section opened into a walking sized rift and within a few metres to another laddered pitch (we begun to wonder if we needed the ladder we had brought).  This again seemed eminently free climbable (especially as the ladder didn't look too hot - more of this later) and at the bottom a narrow rift led into the darkness.

I had a little trouble here and found it easier to do head first as there is an awkward boulder to get over at the far end if you do it feet first (as I did).  At the end a cross rift was entered.  A short but tricky looking drop on the right was ignored in favour of a rift chamber on the left off which led another rather narrow looking rift.  We aborted a climb into the roof when all the foot holds seemed to turn to clag the higher one got and decided to do what turned out be the easy drop back on the right.

Although there is very little water in the cave, at this point we did seem to enter a rather immature twisting streamway which ended abruptly at a pitch partly covered by a false floor with a nice little grotto above.  Yet another ladder hung down the pitch which looked deeper than the rest - and the ladder didn't look quite so superfluous.

A muddy grovel past the pitch opened into a really decent looking rift with some nice stal on the far side (Balcony Pot) and an obvious way on in the floor.  A duck under an arch to the right at the bottom let to an interesting zone of hanging death where the boulders are dry and red (Neptunian dyke (a term which has nothing to do with butch lesbian mermaids)).  Ken and I wormed our way down into the floor following a bang wire and found the cave to end in a too tight rift.  A climb up through the hanging death enters quite a decent sized chamber - Neptune's Hall but the bar placed to prevent one touching the boulders didn't inspired confidence so we made our excuses and left.

Several abortive and one successful flash shots of Balcony Pitch later saw us ready to shove Ken down Keen's Pitch.  This is a nice pitch by anyone's standards and it is disappointing to report that after some nice formations at the bottom the tiny streamway starts to take on Easy Street type dimensions so more excuses and a departure.

On the way out I decided the second ladder pitch would look photogenic.  Several shots later the slave worked and Ken who had been clambering up and down to fiddle with the flash gun after each failed effort started up the ladder for the last time.  2 metres up the ladder broke dropping a surprised Ken back at the bottom yet again.  After this little fiasco we made an uneventful exit muttering about dodgy fixed aids!

Honeymead has numerous interesting side passages and could keep diggers busy for ages particularly as there is no obvious terminal point to dig.  It will be interesting to see if the meadow yields another cave.


Wessex Cave Club Hymn

This is a collection of known verses sung to the same tune and with the same ideas.

Tune: The Church is One Foundation. Author: Many

Source: They Words, They Words, They 'Orrible Words, collected and compiled by Nick ComwallSmith, GSG / Alfie, to name but a few!


We are the Wessex Cave Club, no bloody use are we,
We have a half of cider, and then we have to pee,
And when we're down in Swildons and haven't got a light,
We stand beside the Forty beside ourselves with fright.

The B.E.C. they help us, through every pitch and squeeze.
We like the way they do it with such consummate ease.
And when we are much better at caving we agree
It is our one ambition to join the B.E.C.

We are the Shepton Cave Club, a family clique are we,
Ken Dawe he was our leader, a clever bugger 'ee.
He led us over field and stiles, down potholes vast and deep,
Because we follow meekly we're called the Shepton Sheep

We've dug down South East Inlet, we've dug in Priddy Green,
And in between the digging, we're often quite obscene.
We tell prospective members, with regularity,
To do just as the song says, and join the B.E.C.

We are the Cerberus Cave Club, we are not worth our salt,
Max Unwin is our leader, but that is not our fault,
He lectured us on caving, his wisdom was profound,
He told us that most caves are located underground

Caves are discovered for us, from digging we all shirk,
And when it gets too dicey, other clubs can do the work,
For they can draw the surveys and they can make the maps,
'Cos when it comes to caving, we really are the chaps.

We hold committee meetings, we talk and never cave,
We pass firm resolutions, to show that we are brave,
We very often argue, but on one thing we'd agree,
If only they would have us we'd join the B.E.C.

We are the Axbridge Cave Club, we know we are so good.
We blow up every Elsan, just as we know we should,
But as we go to blow it, in the middle of the night,
When the turds go skywards, we run like f**king shite.

We are the Cotham Cave Club, but not as we may seem,
You show us a cave entrance, and we will start to scream,
For we do not like caving, but give it all the snub,
The nearest we touch caving, is in a Mendip pub.

Additional Foreign Verses

Swildons goes to Wookey, or so they do confide,
There is a sign to say so, on the Sump 1 downstream side,
But this is misconception, there is a brand new sign,
Now Swildons is an Entrance, to Dan-yr-Ogof 9.

We are the Clockwork Cave Club, and South Wales is our home,
And from our native valleys we do not care to roam,
And when we go out caving it is a certain bet,
That we will carry with us a great Meccano set.

We don't go down Pwll Dufn, you'll find no rawl bolts here,
The thought of ladder pitches, it fills us with despair,
And if you go out caving with S.W.C.C.
You'll always find a welcome, if you've got a B.Sc. (in Engineering)

The U.B.S.S. divers, they've found a brand new hole,
They told no-one about it, they did not tell a soul,
And when we found out about it, they said please stay away,
Until they all got stuck there, one dark and wintry day.

We are the Tratmans Fan Club, we are a shower of shits,
We often need the rescue to extract us from a fix,
And when we are in Yorkshire, before we go below,
Our automatic procedure is to inform the C.R.O.

The U.B.S.S. Choir boys, they are a dreadful crowd,
Each song becomes a death march, at volume extra loud,
And when they get a chorus, they chant in ecstasy,
They only trouble being, it's in a different key.

We are the Mountain Rescue, and a bloody fine thing to be,
The only time you'll see us, is breakfast, dinner and tea,
And when we see a climber, we shout with all our might
Per ardua profundo, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go up mountains, they are too bloody steep,
We never go down potholes, they are too bloody deep,
And when we see a caver, we shout with all our might
Per ardua profundo, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

I am a lazy speleo, and a bloody fine thing to be,
My weekends spent on Mendip, in a hut of luxury,
When someone mentions caving, we shout with all my might
Celeriter ad plumen, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go out sumping, it is too bloody wet,
And when we go Black holing, you know how far we get,
And when we see a sumper, we shout with all our might
Per ardua sub aqua, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never help out cave divers, they are a bloody bore,
We set fire to the bat shit, and sleep outside the door,
And as the flames rise higher, we cough with all our might,
Per ignea via asbestos, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go out digging, it is too bloody cold,
And unless Tratty finds it, it's never really old.
But when we find some charcoal, we shout with all our might
Per ardua sub muro, blow you Jack, I'm alright.


Bahamas December 1997

By John Buxton

Some of you will know that I am a geriatric cave diver, and if you have read your BB Vol. 48 No.6. (The 60th) you will know that I have in the past dived in the Bahamas.  This last year in December I went on my 4th expedition, this time I persuaded my wife Audrey to go too of course her baggage allowance did come in useful.  It allowed me to take a full set of diving gear and lighting with me!  All I had to use of the equipment on the boat were weights, cylinders and a reel.  Nevertheless by the time I had 6 torches and a dive helmet, a l2V Nicad dive light (by Stewart Kirbythe fancy coloured one!) and 4 demand valves and all the usual equipment that seems to be essential for serious cave diving these days, we found it quite a load.   We had to use most of our clothes as padding for the more delicate parts of the equipment such as chargers.

I had extolled the virtues of this type of diving, and found out not long before our departure that Robbie Warke from Devon was going on the same expedition.  We had not talked in detail but we found ourselves at Heathrow waiting for the same AM Virgin flight to Miami.  We chatted and found that Robbie was on a different connecting flight to Nassau and we did not see him again till the next morning. International luggage can be "booked through" from one Airline to another, so we had no problems with luggage to worry about; but schedules for change over have to include a certain time for the luggage to travel from one airline to the next.  We had allowed about 2¼ hrs and booked on American Eagle who fly a frequent service to Nassau.  Robbie had booked on Bahamas Air with about l½ hrs between the two timings. Unfortunately the Virgin plane was an hour late mainly due to head-winds.  We had a leisurely walk through the airport to the AA departure area and found that due to violent electrical storms (which apparently started half an hour before our takeoff time, and half an hour after Robbie left - he got to Nassau on time!) most flights were on hold.

Following on from this, one or two planes went unserviceable mainly from weather problems.  With the available day crews running out of hours, efforts were made to get crews who were off duty.  The weather gradually improved, and postponed and delayed planes began to load.  We had now been waiting from 5.0pm to midnight.  We got on a flight that was packed solid - some of the passengers had actually been loaded onto a plane that turned into a shower cubicle just before take-off!  We left about 1.0am and arrived at Nassau about 2.0am.


Brian and Graham in “The Victor’s Pose’

Finding a Taxi who knew where we were going was not easy, we had to share and do a detour through a very upmarket residential area with a security man on the gate.  We had an interesting search in the dark for a "canal basin" sort of mooring at the bottom of someone's garden.  Knowing that it was in sight of Nassau Scuba Centre helped our location directions quite a lot!  Eventually we found our boat the "Ocean Explorer" tied up No.3 from the shore.  By 2.30 in the morning we had carried all our luggage on board over the two yachts, the movement woke the skipper Gene who came down and showed us our cabin.

The following morning we staggered out for breakfast and were introduced to the crew and the two divers who were already on board.  One, of course was Robbie Warke, and the other one was introduced as "Brian"; it was late that day before I realised his other name was Kakuk.  He had explored Guardian Hole in North Andros to a depth of 420ft. amongst many others.  Friday had a fairly easy start, Robbie told us during breakfast he had got to Nassau airport by about 5.30pm the previous evening; but his luggage had not made it!  He soon departed by taxi to do some luggage hunting.  We were also waiting for Kevin Mack and Murray Bilby to arrive from America. I had met them both on previous trips.

Eventually Robbie and his gear were aboard and as nothing much was happening he and I decided to assemble our kit and sort out our buoyancy in the canal, which was fairly clean salt water (with a sea fish population which was quite friendly).  We were allocated cylinders from the large selection on board and we fitted them with the Side Mount attachments for our style of diving.  When the rest of the party had arrived with their gear, we set off for Andros under the early afternoon sun.

When we got into the deep water of the Tongue of the Ocean Gene put on speed and we had a reasonable trip, only rolling a bit when we turned towards the Andros shore and were across the wind.  Progress was halted three times while fish were removed from fishing rods; these had lures which were pulled through the water by the boat.  The first one was a "Wahoo" a local delicacy, and Gene had just started to fillet it when the engine was shut down again.  (The person operating the boat can hear the reel scream when the fish hooks itself, and immediately shuts down the engine to a tick-over).  Those in the know immediately rush to the stem to watch.  The second event had two rods in action with a fish on each. These turned out to be "Wahoo" also.  With three large fish on the stem the cameras were busy - 3 at one time was a first!

Brian's scooter in its 'parked' mode

By the time all three were filleted the stern was a rather bloody mess and the fire hose was exercised to restore order.  When all was clear and we were on our way again another rod started to scream and again the engine was shut down.  A volunteer was called for who had not landed a fish before.  Never volunteer they say! I did.  I was fitted with the pukka leather harness with a socket at the front to hold the butt of the rod (rather like Anna who carried the Banner.. ... I).  I began the familiar process (to those who have seen it/or on the telly) of pulling in, relaxing and winding in, pulling in, relaxing and winding in etc; and I had pulled in some 50Mts. out of some 150Mts., and was thinking this is not too difficult, when there was a terrific pull and despite all my efforts line was pulled off the reel against the brake at quite a rate.  When the pull stopped I started winding in again, and again a vigorous pulsing pull could be felt, but not as bad as before.  I carried on winding and it got easier, I thought the fish was tiring. It definitely was!  When in gaffable range it was seen that a gigantic mouthful was missing from the middle, and the tail piece had gone.  In fact after photographs, it was thrown back into the sea!  It was decided by the experts present that it had probably been nibbled by a large Wahoo - identified by the shape of the bite.  I hesitate to think what would have happened if it had hooked itself.

Quite soon the sun was sinking in its usual Tropical splendour and dark came quickly.  Gene with the skilful use of Radar, Depth-sounder, the odd flashing light and a lot of local knowledge, navigated through the shoal water.  We ended up anchored near the Benjamin Blue Holes, just south of Lisbon Creek.  We moored there for the night.

The following day, i.e. just after midnight, we started our standard routine for the rest of the week. Dive the holes as the suck dies away, if possible, so that the change in direction helps on the swim out.  Kevin and Murray, who both dive back-mounts were paired up together.

Brian was really a one man diving crusade, he had a large customised Aquazepp with twin cylinders underneath it, and it had a stab jacket wrapped round it to adjust its buoyancy as needed.  He himself carried two side-mounted cylinders also mounted on a slender stab, jacket, and usually took with him, a cylinder of oxygen to leave at a suitable place for decompression.  This left Robbie and myself to form a pair.  Robbie had not done any long deep swims before and so he was introduced gently to our first dive.

Benjamin's No 4.  This is the "Cousteau dived here" cave where they all used underwater flares - yes I am old enough to have seen it the first time round!  The dive starts as a wide inclined bedding plane; this soon steepens into a vertical rift where the line runs at about 36M.

The S. line follows the easiest route along a deep rift descending to 46M before rising up to the Stal Chamber.  We turned the dive here after admiring the scenery with my 50 watt light.  We had Nitrox 40 available on all dives for decompression and/or extra safety as we decompressed on our air computers.  Most of our dives followed the same routine.

Our next dive was to be the North passage, but having followed the jump line down we could not find the N. line - so we did the S. passage again.  Robbie said that he enjoyed it probably more than the first time. I found that these big rifts were a bit overwhelming when I first met them.  On most of these dives we were dropped by the RIB in pairs, but sometimes as the boat swung on the anchor with the tide it was much nearer, and we swam back on the bottom at about 3M.

The author after swimming back to the boat from a Blue Hole

The next dive was to be Stargate, - arguably the most awe-inspiring underwater decorations most divers are ever likely to see.  It is an inland Blue Hole, where the diver jumps in and climbs out.  The kit is pulled up by pulley.  Apart from the formations it has a Halocline where the freshwater lens sits on top of the lower salt water.  This has an interesting effect on vision at the junction and also produces a rotten egg taste in the water - hydrogen sulphide. The water gives a greenish hue to daylight filtering from above.  We set out on the S. passage; Murray, Robbie and myself in procession, and found the line, a blue English style poly-prop. on the R.H. wall at about 30M deep.  We followed the S. line, admiring the decorations as we went, until the large passage ends at a narrow rift on the RH. side. There was Brian's scooter parked on end by the wall and a faint haze where he had swum off into the rift. Murray elected to swim down too, but I being the cautious one, decided that as there seemed to be two lines in there already, and Murray had added somewhat to the silt, two was company, so I indicated to Robbie we should hold fast where we were for a while.  When Murray had not returned after a couple of minutes we swam back up the line and by the belay into the greenish twilight zone beneath the entrance and looked for the North line.  It was not easy to spot, it was a white American style parcel-string belayed on a white flow stone sheet.  The delay in finding it allowed Murray to catch us up.  We swam rapidly along the line, admiring as we went as our air supplies were approaching turn round point.  We did get to the Cathedral like end of the chamber and then swam back to the green zone and slowly ascended to our Nitrox deco cylinders hanging on ropes, put in by the shore party.  I had dues of some 35 minutes decompression (we had been at an average depth of 40M for some time) but as usual I did extra. Robbie had a definite twinkle in his eye after this dive.

The next dive at 04.30 I declined, and slept in.  Brian had another go at Benjamin's No.2, in case he got to No.4 the jump line was left in. Early the next morning I volunteered to take out the jump reel and the marker buoy, so the others would not get large deco penalties.  Brian took me out in the Rib., I had put one cylinder only on my wings and extra weights, but as the hole was in full blow I had to swim hard vertically down the rift. The whole operation took only 9 minutes, but I got to 36.2M!

The next dive was Atlantis where the entrance shaft soon opens up into a very large chamber.  There are three labelled lines in it, so divers have a choice.  Robbie had already elected for a bit of depth so we started on the Highway line and when we were above the deep line we dropped down to it.  Both of us decided at the same time that 57M was enough, and we ascended to the Highway line and followed it towards Murray's chamber. Thirds beat us to it, so we never got there.  The next dive we decided to do Murray's chamber first! but as we kited up Robbie felt "proper poorly" and retired to bed with Aspirin etc.  So left to my own devices I dived solo down the Middle line, this goes down to an arch at 72M and ascends a big white (coral) sand bank.  I went a short way up the sand slope and decided I was far enough for a first time look.

The next dive was Funnel Hole which was discovered and first explored in 1996.  Robbie, after twelve hours in bed declared himself fit.  We turned right (S) along the rift and swam to the end of the line at 68.2M, another deepest for Robbie.  Deco was done in the early dark on a sand slope in front of two large Brain corals and quite a selection of fish.  The next dive was the left (N) passage and again we found the line we had laid in 1996 was in good order, leading down to a mere 65.6M. Deco was made more interesting by a large crab sitting on one of the Brain corals "knitting".

Towards the end of the week we had two quiet calm sunny days, and as the morning sun and the tides coincided, we could see the Blue Hole effect of rising water over the coral heads.  A snorkeler was despatched to check out potential sites, and about six were considered possible and put on the GPS for further investigation.  The last three dives were devoted to some of these new holes, some were named after Alena, the crew member who did the first recce by snorkel, and two were named after Brian Kakuk who was once stationed at the mothballed Autec base on Highpoint Cay.  He could have swum out to some of the holes from the shore in ten minutes! Robbie and I tackled Ellenita No 3 (I am not sure we got the right spelling on the boat).  It was also called "The Cheese Grater" by those who looked at it!  We had a thrutch but failed, we only got down to 12M.  It had a maze of small passages at the top.  Brian had a go later and achieved 146ft (he dives in Imperial units!) he thought he had missed the way on.  We had a go at Ellenita No l  next. Murray and Kevin had tried with back-mounts and had managed about ten feet.  When we started the cave was still sucking gently, and our progress was hampered by our own silt - this was a virgin cave with a fair bit of soft silt on the floor of tightish bedding planes.  Robbie decided he had lost the way on and we turned, as we exited the flow changed and he saw a clean water passage on the right, but by then I was wriggling out of the entrance.  We had achieved a depth of 22M which in England would be quite promising, but in Blue Hole terms was a comparative failure!

Our last dive together was to be Brian's Remorse (North of Highpoint Cay).  Robbie and I started together, but having found a suitable dumping spot for the Nitrox cylinder, I looked around for him and saw him back at the RIB (he had bunged up ears from his bug of three days ago).  As he had the exploration reel, and surfacing would have seriously reduced my air supplies I carried on down and followed a descending line put in by BK a few minutes earlier.  (He was still on the other end of it).  This followed a steeply descending rift which narrowed here and there and was blocked by wedged rocks and coral.  These had made useful belay points for the line.  I was now quite deep, 70M+ so stopped my descent at a largish blockage.  I could see lights coming up from well below me and soon BK appeared.  We exchanged greetings and after an exchange of courtesy (after you; no after you!) we exited in convoy.  RW met us at 55M on our way back, having sorted out his ears. I did a deliberate stop of 2 minutes at 35M and carried on to the entrance shaft to decompress alongside BK- but due to his long deep dive he still had an hour to do when I left.  In fact we both did our dues at 6M where we had a comfortable lie, BK entertained us both by teasing a young Grouper from behind a rock-rather like a pussycat!

I was now to leave the boat and so there was a feverish washing of gear in fresh water and it was all hung up to dry and was packed with some twenty minutes to spare.  At Lisbon Creek we were ferried ashore to catch a taxi to our hotel on Andros, for a short stay.  Of course the phone on the quay would not work; but fortunately Leroy Bannister was at home in the Aqua Marine Club and we used his phone.  Leroy provided accommodation and transport for George Benjamin when he was diving the Blue Holes in the 60' sand 70's. Leroy is now a very old Bahamian, but still has a fund of anecdotes.

Well, that ended my diving holiday; I will attempt to persuade Audrey to describe her impressions.


Janet’s Last Munro - (after the Famous Scottish Poet McGonagall)

From Kangy King who caved with Janet in the 50's

This is the day that Janet has completed her last Munro
Even though she thought she might not have done so a short time ago.
The SMC who seem to have little else to do but revise their lists
Decided to find some more which had been lost in the Scottish mists.
Greta and Janet learnt about this to their consternation just as they were due to finish
And had to fit in a lot more weekends of climbing in order not to diminish
The success of this memorable day when we have all got together
To celebrate Janet's mountaineering triumph against allsorts of awful weather

Even though the SMC had thought that they had found a way
To lengthen the list from 277 to 284 they could not gain the day
Against a very determined lover of the Scottish scene
Who can remember all the mountains upon which she has ever been,
Though it must be said that her memory understandably was not too clear
About whether in 1955 or perhaps later she had climbed Am Basteir,
And I am happily the result of her honest doubt about her labour
Because Janet phoned me to ask if could remember climbing it with her.
This I must say I could not do because according to my log we hadn't
And so we decided to meet after 42 years to climb when it became apparent
That I, a woeful sassenach, needed to experience the splendours of a Northern height
Which I must admit exceed those of the South in quantity and also might.

The most part of the latest Munros were tops, not a separate massive,
And when Janet faces the challenge of the hills she is not passive.
These tops were usually on a splendid ridge which no one of sensibility could resist
So that is why she has respected her original schedule and we are able to get blathered
And enjoy the hospitality that has been given to us here
Both now and later on with things to eat to soak up all that beer.
So friends both recent and quite old now gathered to praise a feat
Which many would admit is a very fine one not easy to repeat
Please lift your glasses and drink a toast with me.
Here's to Janet, mountains, her good companions and present company!

CHEERS (Thank you Mr. McGonagall, R.S.K., September 1997)


White Pit - Prophecy Pot Extensions

By Tony Jarratt


Discovered on 4/11/92 White Pit has seen a great deal of effort put in to extend the cave over the last five year notably in Waist of Thyme, Brian's Attic, Talus IV and above Masters' Hall.  The one place that has received little attention since its discovery by Andy Sparrow on 1/12/92 has been Prophecy Pot - the lowest part of the cave.  It was visited by a large team the day after it was found and on the next day the writer and Trevor Hughes dug here, following loose rocks and gravel downwards, but decided it would be a long term job. A month later the writer returned with Rich Blake but they were again put off by the large amount of spoil to be moved.  Due to CO2 problems throughout the cave the bottom of the Pot was only rarely visited over the next few years and it was only after the proposed abandonment of Estelle's Anticlimax dig that it was once again investigated with a view to digging on 3/4/97.

Four days later the writer and Jeff Price were wielding a pick axe at the lowest part of the floor until thwarted by calcited breccia and boulders.  Probably due to the increased airflow from St Alactite's Hall air conditions were good and the expected mud flow from the Waist of Thyme spoil dump below Forty Backs had not materialised.

On 12/5/97 the writer, Rich Blake, Quackers Duck and Tony Boycott were laboriously hammering away at the floor when they were astonished to feel a distinct draught.  Three solo trips by the writer (one involving a dropped tackle bag, broken drill connections and an ear sliced open by a falling ammo box lid) gained several feet of depth and necessitated the use of bang on the calcited rocks.  A tarpaulin was used to deflect fly-rock from the formations in the Pot above.

He returned again on 2/6/97 with Jake Johnson and Tony to lower the dig another four feet to draughting holes in the floor.  A second, very noisy, charge was fired.  This was cleared on a solo trip on 16th and the dig was banged again the following day.

The 20th saw the writer and Stuart Sale clearing this and filling up the inlet passage at the base of the Pot with spoil leaving very little dumping space without encroaching on the gours opposite.  A return was made on 22/6/97 along with Estelle Sandford, Nick Mitchell, Mike Willett and Guy Munnings and despite a plague of light pox the dig reached over ten feet in depth.

The next day the writer installed four sections of scaffold pole in the hole and carried on digging downwards under a rain of large rocks peeling from the walls.  The draught and echo gave intimations of a large void nearby.

The first breakthrough came a day later when the writer, Estelle and Jake banged the floor and, following a fag break in Masters' Hall, returned through the rapidly dissipating fumes to dig down into a small and heavily calcited chamber below the choke. A couple of ways on needed bang to progress further.  More raining rocks and the onset of closing time saw a late exit from the cave by the elated diggers.

"Our great hopes of yesterday were not fulfilled but once the floor choke is removed I am sure we will be off again!" - A. Jarratt, MSS log, 2/12/92.

The delightfully clean, calcited boulders were drilled and banged on 25th 28th and 29th June, the latter trip being notable for the sudden increase in the outward draught just as we had finished laying the charge.  The writer, Tony B. and Estelle were suddenly enveloped in bad air pouring up from below the dig and were lucky to get out of the cave before they were affected too much. Despite this the charge was fired on the way out!  A temporary new lock was then put on the entrance and the cave left alone for two days until exploration fever stupidly got the better of the non medical pair of the trio!  Candles were taken down and they burned with a bright, yellow flame as the bang spoil was confidently cleared giving no indication of CO2.  Unfortunately other noxious gases (nitrous oxides?) were present and as a fresh charge was laid on the one remaining boulder preventing access to a 10 feet deep by 4 feet wide black hole these took effect on the diggers. Another slow and worrying retreat was made with lots of resting on the way out - at one point to fire the charge. Jane Jarratt was about to raise the alarm as the gassed ones staggered down the drove to West Cott.  Not wanting a third dose of fumes and despite knowing that the way on now had to be wide open, a longer period of time was left for them to clear.

The breakthrough trip came on 6th July when the writer, lubricated with Guinness got firmly wedged in the hole opened up by the last bang.  After being extricated by Tony B and Estelle, he widened the rift to allow the three of them plus Jake to squeeze down into a "walking sized" phreatic bore passage heading steeply down-dip for some 20ft to a choke with a nice grotto above.  At least there was plenty of room in the extension to open and imbibe the bottle of Vintage Brut brought along for the occasion! (note 1)

The following day Andy Sparrow and the writer dug at the choke until the poor air conditions necessitated the usual slow retreat.

On July 9th a larger team continued digging here in improved circumstances and two further trips on the 16th and 21st saw more rock and mud being dumped in the phreatic tube.

The next breakthrough came on 23rd July when the final boulders in the bottom of the calcited choke were barred out to reveal a 12ft climb down into a 15ft long, 6-8ft high phreatic alcove with the only feasible way on being back under the dodgy breakthrough choke.

Estelle, Rich and the writer returned on the following day with a scaffold pole and long crowbar to attack the choke which was eventually passed after some very hairy boulder redistribution to reach another large phreatic tunnel.  This went steeply down-dip, apparently directly to the Swildon's/Wookey Master Cave! Estelle was given the honour of the discovery but after only some 25ft or so the cry "Bastard, bastard" rent the air as a nasty little, un-diveable sump pool loomed up!  Cancel one Master Cave.

The air at this point is decidedly stale and the draught seems to have been lost in "Follow Through Choke" (tastefully named in honour of Richard who was at this time somewhere on the surface contemplating the purgative effects of a surfeit of Butcombe!)

The writer and Estelle returned on 3rd August to vainly probe the Choke in three different places - all of which seem to be dangerous long term options.  At this point we are some 250ft deep with about 300ft to go to the streamway.  The total length of the extension is around 100ft of quality passage, most of which was surveyed to BCRA grade 5c on 13th August by Trevor, Tony B and Estelle until the bad air drove them out.  The job was finished by the latter two and the writer on 30th November when more air samples revealed conditions to be much improved.  An attempt at digging the choke is being co-ordinated by Jake, to whom all volunteers should apply.


Sparrow. A. Feb. 1993 Descent 110 p.11 (Discovery)

Sparrow. A. Dec. 1992 Belfry Bulletin 466 46 (4) (Discovery)

Jarratt. T. Aug. 1993 Belfry Bulletin 468 47 (2) (Waist of Thyme)

Anon.    Jan. 1994 Belfry Bulletin 472 47 (5)  (Access procedure)

Jarratt. T. Mar. 1995 Belfry Bulletin 478 48 (3) (St. Alactite's Hall Simmonds V. & survey)

Jarratt. T. MSS Logs Vol. V 1992 - date.:

Hughes T. MSS Logs and unpublished survey and other diggers MSS logs.

Note 1   Tony Boycott took some air samples with a Drager analyser at the bottom of Prophecy Pot with the results as follows:

617/97             Way in              Way out

C02                  1.5%                 3%

CO                   Nil                    Nil

Nil                    Nil                    Nil

He suspected that the O2 level was lower than normal but had no means of measuring this.  He repeated the readings on 1317/97 (CO2 only):

                                                            Way in              Way out

            Bottom of Prophecy Follow         2%                   2%

            Through Choke                          4%                   4.5%


Wigmore - The Criticism has Landed

By Trevor Hughes

A recent e-mail to the editor from Graham Mullan (UBSS), prompted this computer illiterate handraulic surveyor to study the Wigmore Report and answer his queries in a personal reply and in these pages as the enclosed errata sheet.

The text of the report is, by and large, correct - the odd figure may be quibbled over in the statistical pages, but that is small beer (i.e. for the Wessex).  What lets the report down is the quality of presentation of the surveys.

Keith Savory's geological work is first class, but the survey plans/elevations have no scale. The map facing page 3 does not use the best available information on the downstream passages - The 1:200 sheet (available from Bat Products) gives the better overview.

The Surveys at the end of the report have an incorrect scale - it should have been 1:707 (i.e. 1:500 x -...12 as a result of the photo-reduction from A3 to A4).  The north point of the plan is drawn at 342.5° mag. and the downstream sump passages have been rotated without due explanation.  The foreshortening as a result of the radio location on 4th April 1993 has not been incorporated into the survey plan.

In my reply to Graham I referred him to the original published surveys and reminded him that source material is essential for serious research (I enclosed to him the BB 1:500 and original 1:200 master in my reply).  The small scale surveys used in a caving report are essentially a guide and not a means to an end, but I do feel that more care should have been taken in the preparation of the report's surveys and on that issue, Graham voices a very valid point.

I hope the errata sheet is self explanatory. If anybody is still in the dark then proffered beer and snuff will entice a more comprehensive reply - especially in the Hunters!!

Caving Report Number 23 - Wigmore Report Errata Sheet

Facing Page 3:

Delete: Not to meaningful scale - proportion only

Insert:   Scale 1:3125

Add:     Grid is Ordnance Survey, North point is O/S.

Facing Page 12:

Insert:   Scale = 1:300

Facing Page 13:

Insert:   Scale" = 1:300 N (mag. 1991) = Page long axis

Between Pages 13 and 14:

Insert:   Scale" 1:320

Facing Page 24:

Delete: Scale 1:500

Insert:   Scale 1:707 (141mm reps 100m)

Facing Rear Cover:

Delete: Scale 1:500

Insert:   Scale 1:707


1.                  North point as drawn is 17.50 west of N (mag 1991)

2.                  The downstream passages from sump one have been rotated to fit the page.  The major orientation is 0800 mag.

3.                  The length of the passages/sumps does not take into account of the radio-location carried out 34m downstream of sump 9.



·        In a Tokyo Hotel:  Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please.  If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notice.

·        In another Japanese hotel room:  Please to bathe inside the tub.

·        In a Bucharest hotel lobby:  The lift is being fixed for the next day.  During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

·        In a Leipzig elevator:  Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.

·        In a Belgrade hotel elevator:  To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.  If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor.  Driving is then going alphabetically by national order. 

·        In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.

·        In a hotel in Athens:  Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 AM daily.

·        In a Yugoslavian hotel:  The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.

·        In a Japanese hotel:  You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

·        In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:  You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

·        In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers:  Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.

·        On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:  Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

·        On the menu of a Polish hotel:  Salad a firm's own make; limpid red beat soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion.

·        In a Hong Kong supermarket:  For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service. 

·        Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop:  Ladies may have a fit upstairs.

·        In a Rhodes tailor shop:  Order your summers suit.  Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation. 

·        Similarly, from a Soviet Weekly:  There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years.

·        In an East African newspaper:  A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.

·        In a Vienna hotel:  In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.

·        A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest:  It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.

·        In a Zurich hotel:  Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.

·        In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist:  Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

·        A translated sentence from a Russian chess book:  A lot of water has been passed under the bridge since this variation has been played.

·        In a Rome laundry:  Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

·        Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand:  Would you like to ride on your own ass?

·        On the faucet in a Finnish washroom:  To stop the drip, turn cock to right.

·        In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.

·        On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong:  Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.

·        Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: Stop:  Drive Sideways.

·        In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today -- no ice cream.

·        In a Bangkok temple:  It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.

·        In a Copenhagen airline ticket office:  We take your bags and send them in all directions.

·        On the door of a Moscow hotel room:  If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.

·        In a Norwegian cocktail lounge:  Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

·        At a Budapest zoo:  Please do not feed the animals.  If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.

·        In the office of a Roman doctor:  Specialist in women and other diseases.

·        In an Acapulco hotel:  The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

·        In a Tokyo shop: Our nylons cost more than common, but you'll find they are best in the long run.

·        From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.

·        From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo:  When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.

·        Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance: English well talking.    Here Speeching American.


The Bleadon and Hutton Caverns, West Mendip

A re-assessment

by David J. Irwin and Christopher Richards


Each of the known sites on Hutton Hill, near Weston-super-Mare, is defined and placed in their historical context. Details of previously unrecorded events during the 1970s are given.

In modern times the naming and association of Hutton Hill caves to historic accounts has been confused and frequently misleading.  It came about following the discovery of three caves on Hutton Hill in 1970, 1973 and 1974 by the Axbridge Caving Group and Archaeological Society (ACG & AS). Each cave was subsequently extended on occasion by the Group until work ceased in 1976.  At the time of the opening of each site the ACG & AS thought that they had relocated the two long lost Hutton caverns first recorded and excavated by Alexander Catcott [1725-1779] in 1757.  The earliest of the two discoveries, known by a succession of names, was later identified to be the lost Bleadon Cavern and it was also soon realised, as a result of extensive research by Richards and Shaw, that the site known as Hutton Cavern (1973) was not the lost bone site but a previously unrecorded cave.  None of the caves relate to Catcott's notes and the numerous names by which these sites were subsequently known led to serious confusion.  Details of the fourth Hutton Cavern site, not associated with the Catcott caves, discovered in 1974 by ACG & AS are given for the first time in this paper.  The 1970 and 1973 caves are correctly listed in the Mendip cave guidebooks as Bleadon Cavern (note1) (ST35/3606.5813) and Hutton Cavern (ST35/3603.5816) respectively.(note 2,3)  Incorrect naming of these caves in other published material has led to the current muddle.  The caves are discussed separately and a bibliography is given for each is given in Appendix 1.


Five caves are known to exist on Hutton Hill in the immediate vicinity of Maytree Farm and to avoid further confusion they will be designated Hutton Cavern -1, Hutton Cavern - 2, Hutton Cavern - 3, Hutton Cavern - 4 and Bleadon Cavern.

Hutton Caverns -1 and - 2, were opened by ochre miners in the 18th century and recorded by Alexander Catcott following a visit on the 10th June 1757.  Both sites are now lost.

Hutton Cavern - 3 (ST35/3605.5816) is described in Barrington and Stanton.  The entrance to this cave was sealed on instructions of the landowner in the late 1980s.

Hutton Cavern - 4 (ST35/3506.5818) were opened by ACG & AS in 1974 but the entrance was sealed by ACG & AS in the same year.

The fifth site is now known to be the lost Bleadon Cavern (ST35/3606.5813 )

A sixth site, not associated with the group just identified but has a similar name, is Hutton Hill Hole (ST35/3424.58l4).(note 4)  This was first opened in 1994 by the Bracknell and District.

Caving Club/ACG, (note 5) and is a separate site lying some half mile to the west in Hay Wood and is not considered further in these notes.


Hutton Cavern -1

A certain Mr. Turner of Loxton (note 6) sent Catcott a small collection of Elephant's teeth & bones which made him aware of a bone 'pit' on Hutton Hill then recently opened by the ochre miners.  Catcott received the bones sometime between 27th August 1756 when he returned from a visit to Tenby in South Wales and the 23rd October 1756.  On this date Catcott wrote a letter to a Mr. Price which was subsequently published in the Gentleman's Magazine? (note 7) In it Catcott explained that he intended to excavate at the site at Hutton in the near future.  The planned excavation was delayed until 10th June 1757 when he travelled from Bristol to Hutton with his friend and companion, Mr. Gore.

Catcott and Gore entered the cave with the miner who had found the bones and by the end of the expedition Catcott had gathered together a sizeable collection of specimens. (note 8) During that day they met William Glisson, (note 9) an ochre miner from Loxton with whom Catcott was already associated following his visit to Loxton Cavern during the previous month.  Glisson informed the two men that the mining activities on Hutton Hill had commenced about 1739-1740.  He added that during the course of that time the miners had opened up a number of similar holes.  Catcott entered in his diary' ... The whole hill is full of Swallet holes.'

In the first edition of Catcott's.  A Treatise on the Deluge [1761] the bone site at Hutton is not mentioned for he had concentrated his literary efforts on an explanation and proof of the Deluge as told in the Scriptures. (note 10)

It appears that it was not until about 1761 that Catcott wrote in some detail of his visit. (note 11) This was in a letter to an unknown recipient. (note 12) Seven years later Catcott published a supplement to the 'Treatise' in which the first published account of the cave is given. (note 13) Hutton Cavern was also included in the account of his visit to the cave in the 1768 edition of the Treatise and which has been reprinted on a number of occasions.

The cave had been entered at a depth of about 25ft where a 20ft square bedding chamber was entered floored with a mixture of ochre and bone material.  A three foot square tunnel led downwards for about 50ft into the second chamber, this being about 30ft x 15ft followed by a further descent of about 10-12ft into the final chamber.  Catcott, in a letter to an unknown recipient, noted that the there were great quantities of bone and that: (note 14)

…the whole exhibited an appearance not much unlike the inside of a Charnel House. We staid in this place two hours and being well provided with implements dug out a vast number & a great variety of bones and teeth and different species of Land Animals, but finding the Roof began to yield and the sides much weakened we thought it not advisable to continue any longer but proceeded to return ... but with full intent to revisit the place as soon as it could be secured and propped up with wood-work. Before this was effected the whole fill in and the cavity rendered inaccessible.

Catcott is not known to have returned to Hutton Hill and the cave remained 'lost' until about 1828 when David Williams considered the possibility of re-opening the site. Catcott's geological collection had by that date been given to the Bristol City Library.

Williams, Rector of Bleadon, a local geologist and archaeologist had carried out extensive geological excavations at the famous Uphill Cavern, near Weston-super-Mare and becoming aware of Catcott's work in the Hutton Hill bone caverns, made an attempt to locate the site.  By this time many of the 'pit' entrances had collapsed making it difficult to determine which pit was the entrance to the bone cavern.  Help was forthcoming in the form of Catcott's unpublished c.1761 (note 15) description of Loxton Cavern then in the possession of an old friend, Mr. Richardson of Farleigh which proved of great assistance to Williams. (note 16)  An approximate location of the entrance was given as being .

.. about three hundred paces South of the Gate of a field called Down acres in the parish of Hutton.

Finding scraps of bone Williams became hopeful that he might well have found the spot. However, to start a major excavation would be a costly exercise if it were not the Catcott cavern.  Luck was with Williams when an old miner, William Jones, confirmed that the pit in which he had found the bone was indeed the place; for his help he was paid one shilling by William Beard.  Permission was given to excavate and, in conjunction with William Beard, work began on the 19th of September 1828.  John Webb and Isaac Coleman were employed to re-open the cave and when it was successfully achieved the men were kept in partial employment carrying out exploratory work in the cave. (note 17)  Confirmation that the cave they had opened was that explored by Catcott is given in Williams' account (note 18) of 1829.

After working some time, we opened what may be termed three chambers in the fissure, the floor of the one above forming the roof of the room below, consisting of huge fragments of rock, that have sunk away and jammed themselves between the strata, their interstices being filled with ochreous rubble and bones.

Beard's Notebooks (note 19) contain further details of the excavation and on occasion a number of important visitors went to the site including George Henry Law [1761-1845], the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1829 and Sir Richard Owen [1804-1892] in 1850. The bones were distributed to William Buckland, the Bishop and to various institutions. Many specimens found their way into the collections created by both Beard and Williams. (note 20) Williams wrote a note to Rutter stating that the excavation was brief, lasting only six weeks. However, though Williams may no longer have been involved at the site Beard continued, albeit intermittently, the search on Hutton Hill, employing both Webb or Coleman, on separate occasions, until January 1831.  When work ceased the entrance was allowed to collapse and its location lost and remains so to this day.


Fig 1 Elevation of Hutton Cavern  1 : published in both Rutter and Phelps.

On February 16th 1829, David Williams wrote to William Patteson, Vicar of Shaftesbury, outlining his work at various bone caverns in the West Mendip area including Banwell Bone Cavern, Uphill Cavern and Hutton Cavern.  The letter was published as a pamphlet by John Rutter later that year. (note 21)  It was this work that was the source material for Rutter's description of Hutton Cavern and other sites, in his 'Delineations' and the 'Banwell and Cheddar Guide', both published in 1829. (note 22,23)

The Rev. William Phelps (note 24) in his 'History and Antiquities of Somersetshire', published in two volumes, relied on the Catcott, 1768 edition of the 'Treatise'.  A survey of the cave was drawn by Williams (note 25) and a wood-cut prepared from it by William Barnes (note 26) and used in all the 1829 publications of Rutter and in Phelps' 1836 'History and Antiquities of Somersetshire'.  There have been several reprints of Catcott's 1768 description of Hutton Cavern, three of them appearing in British Caver. (note 27.28)  During the first half of the 20th century at least two searches were made to locate the lost Catcott cavern but to no avail. (note 29.30)

Hutton Cavern – 2

Fig 2. Surveyors notes for the Bleadon Cavern 1833 survey.  Reproduced with permission of the Somerset Record and Archive Service .

This site is lost and was first recorded by Catcott in his diary entry for the 10th June 1757.  In it he wrote: (note 31)

About 40 yards West from the last hole [Hutton Cavern - 1] was opened another, of a similar nature, with ochre, bones etc. - @ about as deep. From this was dug a large long head of an animal; about 3 or 4 feet long: 14 inches broad at the top or hind part & 3 inches at the snout.

A mention of this site is made in the 1768 accounts of Hutton Cavern - 1 by Catcott. (note 32)

One of the men, that had been at work in these pits, brought me a collection of small bones that he had found in a pit adjoining .. The same person assured me that before I came down, he had found in digging in the same place the head of a strange animal that he believed was near three feet in length.

A similar account appeared the same year in a Supplement to the 1761 Treatise. (note 33) Since that time no definite mention of this cave is known except for a passing mention in Richards' 1974 paper. (note 34)

Hutton Cavern - 3

Hutton Cavern - 3 was originally an old mineshaft that was excavated by the ACG & AS and first entered in 1973.  The only published description of this site appears in Barrington and Stanton. (note 35) Initially it was thought, again, to be the lost cave - the Hutton Cavern - 1 known to Catcott.  However, it soon became apparent that this was not the case and, although it had been extensively mined for ochre, no previous record of its existence has been found.  The distinctive three superimposed chambers in the cave known to Catcott, Beard and Williams were not present and further no bone material was found in the ochre and other deposits.  The following account places on record for the first time the sequence of exploration.

In March 1973 an old mine shaft was cleared of infill by ACG&AS. This led into a natural cave passage, steeply sloping, reaching a depth of about 30ft below the surface where there were extensions left and right.  The sloping passage, and the extensions, were heavily choked with natural breakdown and ochreous fill together with detritus thrown into the shaft. To the right (north-east) digging led to the discovery in June of a small passage level at first and then rising over rocks thrown down through a blocked up mine-shaft connecting with the surface.  To the left (south-west) excavation was hindered by overhanging masses of loose debris up against the bottom of a steeply dipping limestone bed.  In September work was abandoned and the entrance shaft into the dig re-filled.

In May 1974 a filled-up shaft lying a few feet south-south-west of the first was cleared and part way down a passage was found leading away in a south westerly direction but partially choked.  Digging led to a breakthrough after about 15 feet on 12 May into the roof of a roomy passage extending south-west for about 25 feet.  The work of the ochre miners was obvious and there were signs that a bone deposit had been dug out.  From the point of breakthrough, and around a corner, a roomy chamber headed north-east and sloped upwards to a choke that lay at the bottom of the shaft that had just been dug out.  The candle-smoked initials "D W" were observed in the roof of the chamber.  Was the Rev. David Williams responsible for these?

The diggers thought that they had relocated the upper chamber of Hutton Cavern 1, and decided to look for a way on beneath the mass of debris on the floor of the chamber.  To do this the shaft first dug out in March 1973 was re-opened for the lowest point of that dig lay beneath the debris in the new chamber.

Efforts were made throughout the rest of 1974, and in 1975, 1976 and 1977 to find a deeper extension, not only under the chamber but in other places in the system.  It was during 1976 and 1977 that the Hutton Scouts became involved.  The shaft first attacked in May 1974 was sunk deeper to connect with the chamber so spoil could be hoisted to the surface.  However, no extension was found and the idea that Hutton Cavern - 1 had been found, evaporated.


Fig 3. Bleadon Cavern 1833 survey.
Reproduced with permission of the Somerset Record and Archive Service

Hutton Cavern - 4

A site, not previously recorded in Speleo-literature, was discovered in 1974 and lay a short distance from Hutton Cavern - 3.  This is the first time details of its existence have been published.  Its length is about 100ft and an overall depth of 35ft.

The site lay about 17 yards north-east of Hutton Cavern - 3. Digging by ACG&AS began in December 1973 and an infilled mine shaft cleared.  At a depth of about 10 feet a breakthrough was made on the 13th January 1974.  A small passage, showing signs of blasting, sloped down into a domed phreatic chamber about 6ft high and with a floor paved with stones by the miners. In the floor was a shaft about 15ft deep neatly walled around at the top with "deads" sunk into an ochre pocket.  No bone deposits were observed.  The entrance shaft was filled in again on the 10th February 1974 by ACG&AS.


Fig 4. Bleadon Cavern 1972 survey

Bleadon Cavern [Or Hutton Cavern Ii]

At the centre of all the confusion is Bleadon Cavern.  When it was re-opened in 1970 it was thought to be the 'lost' Hutton Cavern -1 and understandably called Hutton Cavern. (note 36)  As a result of further investigation following the publication of the CRG Mendip Bibliography Part II prepared by Shaw, (note 37) it became clear that the site was not Hutton Cavern - 1.  In 1973 the discovery of Hutton Cavern - 3 threw the thought processes into turmoil. The following year after an intensive study of available sources Richards reassessed the historical evidence of the 1970 discovery and published a paper on the subject in the Wessex Cave Club Journal. (note 38)  In this he re-named the site Hutton Cavern II in the belief that it was the second site excavated by Beard and Williams in 1833 and known to them as the Second Cavern on Hutton Hill as well as it being known as Bleadon Cavern.  Richards, though, went further and allied this site to the second site outlined by Catcott.

…we do not have the classical Lost Cavern of Hutton but we have re-found the lesser of the two caverns no discovered at about the same time (c.1740)…

No evidence has been found to suggest that this is the second Catcott cave, even though it had previously been entered by the ochre miners, other than assuming that only three caverns were known to exist at the time of Catcott's visit.  This must be wrong for the Glisson evidence shows that a number of caves had been found between c.1740 and 1757.  It could be any of them.

However, the matter did not rest there.  Confirmation that the site was the lost Bleadon Cavern came as a result of a study of a cave survey residing in the archive collection at the Somerset Record Office that had been produced in January 1833.  This survey was compared with that produced by ACG & AS shortly after the cave was opened and similarities were recognised by Trevor Shaw. (note 39)  The cave had been finally proved to be the re-discovery of Bleadon Cavern [or Beard's Second Cavern] a site first opened between c.1740, and as will be shown, not later than 1746, and excavated for the first time in 1833 by Beard and Williams.

During the exploration of the site a lower series was found. This was a new discovery unknown to the pre-20th century explorers.

Bleadon Cavern is unique from the other known Hutton Hill caves in that the cave plan area straddles the boundary of the parishes of Hutton and Bleadon and was known by this name simply because the entrance to the cave lay in Bleadon Parish.  During the Beard-Williams excavation two entrances were opened, the first in Hutton Parish.  This proved difficult to remove the bones so Beard ordered a second shaft to be opened - this lay in Bleadon Parish.  The 'Hutton' entrance was then sealed and re-opened by ACG & AS in 1970. The Bleadon entrance has not been re-opened but its location is known from underground evidence.  Relating this site to the 18th century discoveries by the ochre miners is difficult.  It may well be one of the many caves discovered before Catcott visited the area or it could be the second 'pit' noted in his diary [Hutton Cavern - 2]. All that is known is that Catcott's second cave [Hutton Cavern - 2] is 40 yards west of Hutton Cavern - 1 but as the latter site is lost there is no fixed point from which to start measuring. However, what is fact is that the cave had been worked by the ochre miners for the remains of a candle and smoke-marked date of 1746 were found by the ACG & AS explorers.  Thus the cave had to have been found between c.1740 and 1746 based up on Glisson's evidence.

On the 4th of January 1833 Beard commenced work on the 'second cavern' or Bleadon Cavern and worked at the site in two sessions.  The first was from 4th January- 2nd February 1833, and on the 15th January John Heal of Shipham was employed to produce a survey of the cave for which he was paid five shillings.  At the end of the first session Beard entered the following into his account book:

2nd Febry 1833
Paid Isaac Coleman for 6 days work        £ -        9          0 [nine shillings]
Gave him [Isaac Coleman] to have some Beer when I
finished my researches at Hutton & Bleadon hill where
I discovered a Multitude of bones             £ -        1          0 [one shilling]

Beard also knew the cave as the Second Cavern: (note 40)

Friday the 4th of Janry 1833.  I discovered the second cavern of Bones at Hutton hill.

Much material was removed and at the end of the first excavation Beard had amassed a sizeable collection and of sufficient importance that Buckland thought it necessary to visit Banwell to view them. Beard records the visit and identifies the landowner's name that is indecipherable on the survey of the cave.

Also on Friday the 26th of April 1833.  The Revd. Dr Buckland and the Revd D. Williams and the Revd. Mr. Lunn and Mr. Hyde Whalley paid me a visit to see my collection and last discovery which extended from the Ochre Pitts on a part of Hutton Hill under the boundary wall into Mrs. Fears allotment in the parish of Bleadon the distance of about 250 feet they was much pleased to see it.

Indeed was they?

Work recommenced again on 7th September and finally ceased on the 22nd March 1834. (note 41)

Miscellaneous Sites

Though Catcott discusses Hutton Cavern - 1 in his various papers he added that subsequent to his 1757 visit that Glisson had found several other bone bearing pits but none were identified; the subsequent discoveries by ACG & AS are probably some of these. (note 42)


Strangely Phelps makes no mention of Bleadon Cavern though he records the activities of 1828 in Hutton Cavern -1 based on Rutter.  The discovery of bones in this cave are referred to in many local topographical and guide-books of the middle 19th century.

Buckland (note 43) reprints the Catcott 1768 account of Hutton Cavern - 1 and Dawkins (note 44) mentions it as an important bone site.  A problem is found in Knight's (note 45) account of the Beard-Williams excavation in Bleadon Cavern - this site is confused with the bone deposits found in a quarry close to the village.  The date given in Knight for the discovery of Hutton Cavern - 1 is given as 'about the year 1650' and should be discounted.

Balch too, totally confuses the situation in that to his knowledge there was only one bone site in the area and that in a local quarry.  Balch (note 46,47) compounds the problem by merging the bone finds from both Bleadon Cavern and that from the quarry which he calls Bleadon Cave.  It occurs in his Mendip: its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters fold-out sheet entitled Man and the Wild Beasts on Mendip.

Gough in his Mines of Mendip uses Rutter and Knight as his historical sources and a reference is taken from Catcott's Diaries of tours.  Bryant & Philpot use Rutter and Phelps for their source material. Finally, the listing of Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites published in 1989 should be amended to associate various papers to the correct sites. (note 48)


Bleadon Cavern

Anon, 1970, Mendip News (Hutton Cavern) Cer SS Ntr 6(24)4; brief note on reopening Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip: the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

Haines-Nutt, R. Frank and Mulvey, Christopher, 1963, Not in Barrington - or Oldham WCC Jnl 7(90) 199-207(Jun)

Irwin, David J. and Jarratt, Anthony R., 1993, Mendip Underground: a caver's guide [3rd ed] Castle Cary : Mendip Publishing, 240pp, illus., surveys, maps

Knight, Francis A. 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

Richards, Christopher, 1970, The lost cavern of Hutton - its rediscovery: a preliminary account. ACG Ntr 115-118(Sep), survey

Richards, Christopher, 1971, Notes on the 1970 Hutton Cavern Survey. ACG Ntr 90-91(Dec) Richards, Christopher, 1972, Notes on the 1972 edition ofthe Hutton Cavern survey. ACG Ntr 2526(Jul)

Richards, Christopher, 1972, Hutton Cavern : a reconsideration in the light of recent discoveries. WCC Jnl 12(142)110-118(Aug), survey

Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Mendip Cave Bibliography. Part II Books, pamphlets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to December 1968. CRG Trans. 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Hutton Cavern No.2: a plan of 1833. WCC JnI12(144)199-200(Dec), survey

Bleadon Cavern and Hutton Cavern - 1

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1865, Notice of carnassial and canine teeth from the Mendip caverns, probably belong to Felis antiqua. Gool Mag, Ser 1 2,43 Read before the Brit Assoc. - ref also Rep Brit Assoc (34(1864)

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1869, Rodentia ofthe Somerset caves [abstract] Q Jnl Geol Soc 25,444 Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1869, On the rodentia ofthe Somerset caves. SANHS Proc 15(2)5157(1868-1869), figs

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1870, On the rodentia of the Somerset caves. Q Jnl Gool Soc 26,124-131, fig

Stoddart, W.W., 1870, The quaternary deposits ofthe Bristol neighbourhood. Proc Bristol Nats Soc, Ser 2 5,37-43, map

Hutton Cavern - 1

Anon, 1870, Beedle's popular visitors' handbook of Weston- super-Mare; with walks, rides, and drives in the neighbourhood. Weston-super-Mare: T. Beeble, 128pp, map, illus. Bristol Ref Lib Green Collection 7223 B.L. 16B2

Baker, W., 1850, Geology of Somerset SANHS Proc 1, 127-139 (1849-1850)

Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

Balch, Herbert E., 1948, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. London: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus.

Bryant, T. Charles and Philpott, R. Antony, 1962, Hutton Cave. WCC Jnl 7(83)22-25, survey Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Description [sic] of Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by c.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology, Keele University. 66ff 4to, illus. Originally belonging to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.

Catcott, Alexander, 1969, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] Brit Cav 52,36-37 Knight, Francis A, 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip.  London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

Platten, Gerard [ed], 1948, Lost Mendip Caves Brit Cav 18,26-28

Oldham, Anthony D., 1963, The Caves of Mendip 2nd Edition. Additions, Errors, Corrections, Etc. WCC Jnl 7(88)153(Feb)

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1864, Notice of carnassial and canine teeth from the Mendip caverns, probably belong to Felis antiqua (syn Pardus).  Rep Brit Assoc (34) Trans Sect, 69

Tratman. Edgar K., 1921, Field work Proc UBSS 1(2)95-97(1920/1921)

Williams, David, 1829, Some account of the fissures and caverns hitherto discovered in the western district of the Mendip range of hills comprised in a letter from the Rev. D. Williams ... to the Rev. W. Patterson. Shaftesbury: John Rutter, 16pp, surveys: mentioned. Ref Men Bib Pt II, No.867

Hutton Cavern - 1 and Hutton Cavern - 2

Catcott, Alexander, 1748, Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5cm [1748-1774]. Sheaf 1 138p, sheaf 5 44ff : Bristol Ref. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3

Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement to a book, entitled a treatise on the deluge. Bristol: printed by Farley and Cocking, iv + 65pp, illus.

Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A treatise on the deluge ... London: printed for the Author by E. Allen, 421pp, illus.

Hutton Cavern - 3

Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip : the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

Hutton Cavern - 4

No details of this site has been published

Hutton Hill caves - unidentified

A[   ] ,F S, 1859, Mammalian Remains Geologist 2,219-220: extract from 1756 letter by Peter

Collinson to Gents Mag 1757, p.220 - discovery of Elephant's teeth

Stanton, William 1., 1950, Extracts from a diary of a schoolboy in Mendip. Part 1. Brit Cav 21,6572(Winter)


Our thanks to Chris Hawkes for the loan of a copy of Phelps, 1836, and to Ray Mansfield whose comments were invaluable.

D.J. Irwin, Priddy, Somerset.

C. Richards, North Somerset Museum Service, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

30th August 1997

Revised by D.J. Irwin,

8th February 1998


1.                  Originally the site was called Maytree Cavern after the name of the adjacent farm - a name not now used. When the ACG & AS researches commenced it was thought that it was the second site mentioned in the Catcott diary account - hence for a time it was known as Hutton Cavern. It was later realised that the site was in fact the lost Bleadon Cavern.

2.                  Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip : the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar:

Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

3.                  Irwin, David J. and Jarratt, Anthony R., 1993, Mendip Underground: a caver's guide [3rd ed] Castle Cary: Mendip Publishing, 24Opp, illus., surveys, maps

4.                  Norton, Michael, 1995, [Hutton Hill Hole] ACG Ntr [20](Summer/Autumn)

5.                  The Archaeological Society and the Caving Group decided to separate in 1976 for reasons relating to caving insurance. Since that time the caving section has been known as Axbridge Caving Group.

6.                  Possibly Rev. Turner, who was rector of Loxton at this time.

7.                  [Catcott, Alexander], 1757, [letter], Gentleman's Magazine Vol.27, Pt.1, p.199

8.                  Catcott, Alexander, 1748-1774, Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5cm [1748-1774]. Sheaf 1138p, sheaf 5 44ff : Bristol Ref. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3

9.                  Catcott described Glisson as 'Lord Royal of the Hill'

10.              Catcott, Alexander, 1761, A treatise on the deluge ... London: Withers, xiii + 296pp, illus. general

11.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Description [sic] of Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by C.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology, Keele University. 66ff 4to, illus. Originally belonging to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. The location of the Catcott original letter is unknown, presumably lost.

12.              Stephens, J., 1761, Proposals for printing by subscription a work entitled The Natural History of Somersetshire. [dated February 16th, 1761]

13.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement to a book, entitled a treatise on the deluge. Bristol: printed by Farley and Cocking, iv + 65pp, illus.

14.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [as above]

15.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [see above]

16.              Williams, David, 1829, Some account of the fissures and caverns hitherto discovered in the western district of the Mendip range of hills comprised in a letter from the Rev. D. Williams ... to the Rev. W. Patterson. Shaftesbury : John Rutter, l6pp, surveys

17.              The first shaft opened was not the bone cavern but a passage leading away from it. The original shaft was subsequently found but considered unsafe and so a third was opened up. These are shown in the survey that appears in the Williams (1829), Rutter (1829) and Phelps (1836) publications cited elsewhere in this paper.

18.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

19.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865. [Manuscript Note Books on the caves at Banwell, etc.] Taunton: Somerset Record Office, ref. no. D/P/ban 23/25.

20.              Bishop Law's geological collection was sold at auction in Weston-super-Mare on the 27th September 1860.  The fate of this collection is unknown.  The Beard and Williams' collections were purchased separately by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1864 and 1851 respectively.  The collections are now housed at the Somerset County Museum, Taunton but are not currently on view for the condition of the bones is in need of urgent restoration work. This is in the hands of specialists from the Natural History Museum specialists.

21.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

22.              Rutter, John, 1829, Delineations of the north western division of the county of Somerset, and of its antediluvian bone caverns ... London: Longmans, xxiv + 349pp, map, illus.

23.              Rutter, John. 1829, The Banwell and Cheddar Guide ... Shaftesbury: J. Rutter, [iv] + 78pp, surveys, illus.

24.              Pelps, William, 1836 and 1839, The History and Antiquities of Somersetshire. London: printed for the author by J.B. Nichols and Son. 2 vols [Vol. 1 published in 1836, Pt.1 - xiii + 192pp, Pt.2, vii + 599pp and Vo1.2 published in 1839, [3] + 272pp], maps, surveys, illus.

25.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

26.              Richards, Christopher, 1971, Notes on the 1970 Hutton Cavern Survey. ACG Ntr 90-91(Dec)

27.              Catcott, Alexander, 1966, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] British Caver (43) 15-19

28.              Catcott, Alexander, 1969, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] British Caver (52)36-37

29.              Tratman. Edgar K., 1921, Field work Proc UBSS 1(2)95-97(1920/1921)

30.              Duck, Jack W., 1937, Report for 1937 MNRC Rep (30)45-51, survey

31.              Catcott, Alexander, 1748-1774, [see above]

32.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A treatise on the deluge ... London: printed for the Author by E. Allen, 421pp, illus.

33.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement [as above]

34.              Richards, Christopher, 1972, Notes on the 1972 edition of the Hutton Cavern survey. ACG Ntr 25-26(Jul)

35.              Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, [see above]

36.              For a time it was known as Maytree Cavern after its close proximity of a small-holding - Maytree Farm.

37.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Mendip Cave Bibliography. Part n Books, pampWets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to December 1968. CRG Trans. 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

38.              Richards, Christopher, 1972, Hutton Cavern: a reconsideration in the light of recent discoveries. WCC Jnl 12(142) 110-118( Aug), survey

39.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Hutton Cavern No.2: a plan of 1833 .. WCC Jnl 12(144)199-200(Dec), survey

40.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865, [see above]

41.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865, [see above]

42.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [see above]

43.              Buckland, William, 1823, Reliquiae Diluvianae. London: John Murray. 1st ed., vii + [i] + 303pp, maps, surveys, illus. [1824, 2nd edition: no text change, identical pagination]

44.              Dawkins, W. Boyd, 1874, Cave Hunting. London: Macmillan & Co., xxiv + 455pp, maps, surveys, illus.

45.              Knight, Francis A., 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

46.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

47.              Balch, Herbert E., 1948, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. London: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus.

48.              Mansfield, Raymond W. and Donovan, Desmond T., 1989, Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol areas. Recent bibliography. Proc UBSS 18(3)367-389(Nov)





Meghalaya  1998  - Synopsis


03 February - 08 March: Georg BAUMLER, Susanne Annette, BECHER McNAB, Eleazar 'Leo' BLAH, Tony BOYCOTT, Jenni,  A. BROOKS, Simon James BROOKS, Ian CHANDLER, Sijon DKHAR, Spindro DHKAR, Gregory DIENGDOH, Undsey DIENGOOH. Clive W. DUNAI, Richard FRANK, H. Daniel GEBAUER, Kirmm C. HIWOT, PASSAH, Tony JARRATT, Brian JOHNSON, Refulgent KHARNAJOR, Brian D. KHARPRAN DALY, Uwe KRUGER, Kyrshan MITHUN, Thilo MULLER, Fairweather W. MYLLIEMNGAP, Langspah RYNGKHUN, Gurjinder SINGH, Sher SINGH, Donbok SYIEMUEH, Andy TYLER, Valery VALVULA, Raphael WARJRI, Yv0 WEIDMANN.

Guides & Informants: Kham AA (Chiehruphi), Nigel AA (Chiehruphi), Miniren HAMON (Tongseng), Lucky DKHAR (Chiehruphi), Sijon Dkhmr (Nongjri), Kynsai JONES (Cherra Pdengshakap), Robert LAL (Chiehruphi), Wikyn L YNGDDH (Thangskai), Zuala RALSEM. (Khaddurn). Langspah RYNKHUN (Nongjin), Stingson SH1ANGSHAi (Chiehruphi).

date from

date to



1997- length



vertical range




East Khasi Hills District








Dam Um (Nongthymmai)
















Phyllut No.2








Rong Umso ( Ochre River Cave)







Soh Pang Bnait ( Thornapple Cave)































































Mawkanong (W. Thylong)
















Wah Sir








Wah Synrem








Wah Thylong








Jainta Hills District























Lumshnong: Thangskai








Lumshnong: Village








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 1







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 2a







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 2b







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 3







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 4







Lumshnong: Mynkre








Lumshnong: Mynkre

Moolih No. 2







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 1







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 2








Paltan Puok







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Pdieng Salah








Pile Theng Puok







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi