Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

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

“Driver of the Year” award looks like going to old member GRAHAM PHIPPEN – captain of the Antarctic Expedition “Southern Quest,” now residing at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, thus proving that the BEC once again “get everywhere” and “do it to excess”.  Beat that Trevor Hughes.

Tony Jarratt says that we have negotiated member’s rates at the following club huts:-

Chelsea, Bradford, TSG, Pegasus, and NCC

The arrangements are unofficial at the moment so it may depend on their Hut Wardens.

Membership Changes

New Members

1071     Clive Lovell, Keynsham, Bristol
1072     Tracey Newstead, Mount Pleasant, Devon

Ratified Members

1053     Steve Milner
1055     Oliver Wells
1057     Mark Lumley
1059     Alison Ainsley
1061     Kerry Wiggins
1054     Tim Gould
1056     Chris Larkin
1058     Ron Wyncoll
1060     Peter Crawley
1062     Andy Cave


I must thank Alfie for checking the membership list printed in the October 85 BB and noting the following membership number errors

364L Peter Blogg shown as 348L who is R.G. Brown

405L Frank Darbon shown as 454L who is George Blackhorn

1038 Alan Downton shown as 1039 who is Lisa Taylor

947 Phil Ford shown as 949 who is John C. Watson

647 Davce Glover shown as 648 who is Jane Glover

668 Mike Jeanmaire shown as 669 who is Rees

575L Dermot Statham shown as 547L who is Willie Stanton

Alfie has also sent an interesting graph showing that the BEC is on the way up (see page 21)



Outstanding Belfry Jobs

Main Room

1.         Re-fix padlock bar to roof access
2.         Repair damaged ceiling and re-plaster
3.         Repair leak in roof
4.         Fix wall units to wall
5.         Put up signboards

Showers and Changing Rooms

6.         All doors to be cleaned down and re-stained
7.         Fix lock to entrance door (same key as main door)
8.         Put up hat and coat hooks
9.         Make up and fix new benches
10.        Shower curtain to third shower
11.        Finish off painting
12.        Re-fix toilet to floor
13.        Rod drain pipe
14.        Clean out gully
15.        Lag pipes
16.        Fix toilet roll holder to wall
17.        Clean out drying room
18.        Install extractor tan and ducting

Bunk Rooms

19.        Patch up render by meters
20.        Finish oft painting
21.        Patch up holes in ceiling and walls
22.        Fix bunks to wall

Entrance Hall

23.        Tile floor
24.        Finish off painting
25.        Hat and coat hooks on toilet door
26.        Lag pipes


27.        Lag pipes


28.        Put up new shelving


29.        Build external gas bottle store
30.        Clear away rubbish
31.        Re-build manhole to soak-away
32.        Stain front door
33.        Remove facia and replace with U.P.V.C.
34.        Repair rainwater guttering
35.        Fix frame and hang door to shed
36.        Take down timber shed and remove from site
37.        Cut grass in the spring
38.        Fix sand buckets to wall
39.        Build small roof over sand buckets
40.        Fix new sign on Carbide store

Dany Bradshaw

Personal Column

Mary Ham (from Peter and Mary Ham and family) an ex member of about 11 years ago now living in Australia, called in at the Belfry recently.  Greetings to lot, Jock, Alan Thomas, The Riley, Martin Bishop, Barrie and Brenda et at.


Subs are. now well overdue - if you still haven’t paid then you had better send your money now to Brian Workman or you are unlikely to get another BB


Caving Secretary’s Notes


I've put together a more up to date meets list.  Some of the dates have changed because the caves were already booked.  Others are still waiting for replies and permits from the various governing clubs. Accommodation will be entirely up to those people going on the trip.






Black Shiver



Lancaster/County Pot



Juniper Gulf (not a club meet, but the cave is booked if anyone wants to do it)

Easter W/E

South Wales

Craig-an-Fynnon (unconfirmed).  Daren Cilau

Apr 19/20


BEC members weekend and barrel at the Belfry


Wye Valley

Otter Hole



Pasture Gill (unconfirmed)



Gaping Gill (unconfirmed)



Nettle Pot



Giants (Unconfirmed)

Aug 1-17





Providence - Dow (Dowbergil)



Birks Fell



Penyghent Pot



Marble Steps (Unconfirmed)


South Wales



South Wales



A combined BEC and NCC trip to the Dachstein Massif has been arranged for August 1st-17th.

With the Barengassewindschacht finally pushed to conclusion by the NCC last summer, the expedition will turn its attention to some of the leads left unfinished on previous trip,s as well as looking for more entrances in the same area.  Hopefully we may also have a chance to look at the extensions in the Hirlatzhohle at the bottom of the mountain.

At the moment there are about 15 NCC members going and from our end we have just 4 who are definitely on for the trip, with another 4-5 who hope to be going, finances permitting. If you would like to be on the trip then get in touch soon because the NCC need numbers to sort out a Sport's Council grant.  We are particularly looking for people proficient in SRT and someone with a knowledge of the area from one of the previous expeditions would be most welcome.

Accommodation is being organised at the moment and we should be staying in the Glocken Hut, next to the Wiesberghaus as before.

Nothing has been finalised with the NCC about equipment for the expedition, but we hope to be able to beg, steal or borrow as much as possible to keep costs to a minimum.

References to the previous expeditions can be found in the following copies of the B.B .

BB 214 - Dec 65
BB 366 - Oct 78
BB 370
BB 379 – Nov 79
BB 388/9
BB 412/5 - Nov 82
BB 417 - J an 83


The "Jolly Roger" flew defiantly above the snow covered slopes of Leck Fell on a crisp Saturday morning, denoting the presence of the BEC Cave Pirates in Notts Pot.

The pothole was found to be rigged for a major push beyond the "terminal" Sump, so the four stalwart (cave dogs found themselves at the bottom in no time at all, whereupon they met up with John Cordingley and A.N. Other kitting up for the 700ft dive to the new extension.  Rations be scarce in that there cave so the team tapped the weevils out of a ship's biscuit and drank each others urine before setting back for the surface.

Once out, First Mate Trebor (Avast Behind) McDonald set sail for the N.P.C. Dinner via the Marton Arms and New Inn where lashings of Grog were quaffed and bawdy Shanties sung 'Ad Infinitum' !

The next day was a belter with the brilliant sun shining over us as we tacked up the side of Ingleborough towards Nick Pot, whereupon we descended through the 80ft Thornber's Entrance, leastways, Capn. Gonzo - he descended, Trebor - he descended, Long John Wobbley - he descended too, but the Boatswain (Aah - Clever Fucker he were!) he turned a pear shaped Krab into a useless L-shaped piece of scrap, shat himself and set sail for warmer climes!  The rest of the crew crossed the Traverse in the Gods, descended a magnificent 280ft shaft to the bottom before a-hoisting the mizzen and heading for home.


In the wake of Cave Conservation Year the committee have decided that the club should adopt Eastwater Cavern. There are numerous BEC members active within the cave every week so it wouldn't take much effort for people to pick up bits of rubbish in passing and bring them out.

The dig at the end of the first Rift Chamber eventually broke through into a further 30ft of high rift passage closing down to a tight flooded bedding plane.  A way on looks doubtful.

J. Rat and Tim Large have an interesting project going in the Boulder Chamber.  Tony pushed a route through loose boulders for about 30’ to a point where a way on could be seen but was too unstable.  A smoke test was tried from the aven in Ifold Series and this came through very strongly in a boulder choked rift directly below the Wind Tunnel.  A connection here would make the West End Series far more accessible for pushing trips (and rescues! - see Tony's article)

Tony also tried to divert the water at the entrance to make it go down through the Boulder Chamber as it did when the cave was first opened.  So far this has only been partially successful but it enables a dry exit to be made from the cave even in wet weather.


Mrs Gibbons requests that all cavers visit the farm BEFORE going down the cave so that she knows who is down there.  Don't forget your 10p goodwill fee.


Below is a list of Club Leaders for various caves throughout the country.  I am aware that it is very incomplete but it’s a start.  If you know of any other access arrangements please let me know.


            Charterhouse     Alan Downton
            Reservoir Hole   Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Brian Prewer
Cuthbert’s    See me for details


            O.F.D.              Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Mike Palmer, Graham Wilton-Jones

            Dan-yr-Ogof       Martin Grass, Tim Large, Graham Wilton-Jones

            Craig-an-Fynnon            Martin Grass


            Peak Cavern      Martin Grass

            White Scar        Martin Grass

Mark Lumley

Club Tackle

The following is a list of the club tackle currently accounted for and available for use:-

9 Wire tethers (11, 2 and 15ft)

3 spreaders (1 and 2ft)

17 standard ladders (L9, LI0, 21, One in oil, No ID, L5, L17, 20, No ID, 30, L44, 29, No ID, 23, L5, Cuthbert’s, No ID) (2 withdrawn L7 and No ID)

5 expedition ladders (L42, L24, L35, L26, L41)

Ropes: 1 x 150', 1 x: 200' (new) 2 x 120’ (new)various digging ropes

2 tackle bags

Suunto compass and clino

6 ice axes

2 pairs snowshoes

If anyone knows of, or has any other club tackle please let me know as we are attempting to compile a complete inventory of all club property.

Steve Milner


Longwood Tragedy

On Saturday, 11th January 1986, about midday, a party of five cavers from South East London descended Longwood Swallet.  The water level was quite high and it is likely that they decided to explore Longwood Series rather than August Hole where the chimney and drainpipe would probably be impassable.  They had explored the Wet Series Passage below the Main Chamber when, on the return, four of the group successfully negotiated the stream passage beneath the chamber.  Atilla Kurucz was the last of the group and on pulling himself up into the chamber, a large slab of rock, weighing about half a ton detached itself, pinning Atilla beneath.  His friends quickly realising the seriousness of the situation were eventually able to wedge the rock up and get him out from underneath it.  He was given mouth to mouth resuscitation and cardiac massage. Within a few minutes another group of cavers from Imperial College arrived and gave valuable assistance. Several people left the cave to raise the alarm at this point (see postscript).  The police at Yeovil alerted the M.R.O. at about 2.00pm.  No details of the incident were available from the police at that time and the informant could not be contacted by phone. Among the first to arrive on the scene was Trevor Hughes, who had been dragged from his pint in the Hunter's and then managed to demolish his car (and someone else's) en route to the cave.  By 3.30pm Trevor and a small party arrived in Longwood Main Chamber. After previous careful briefing by Donald Thomson, the M.R.O. Medical Warden, it was decided that Atilla was in fact dead.

It took another six hours to get him out of the cave, with four teams of cavers being used for hauling. Over two hours were spent in getting him through the bedding plane squeeze near the entrance.  This manoeuvre was only successful when the bag, in which he had been placed, was removed thus allowing his arms to be placed over his head.  Finally a rope puller was used to lift him up the constricted entrance shaft.  The whole operation was over by 10.00pm.

P.S.  Although on this particular occasion a delayed call-out of the M.R.O. would not have made the slightest difference to the outcome of this tragic incident, as Atilla probably died within five minutes of the rock landing on his chest, it should be pointed out that a delay did occur because the cavers sent to raise the alarm did not know where Lower Farm (now known as Longwood Grange Farm) was located.  They, in fact, drove their car to one of the houses near to Manor Farm and received quite a cool reception from the occupant when they asked to use the telephone.  The call out saga didn’t end there, the outcome being that the M.R.O. were not given the full details of the accident.

Longwood Grange Farm can be reached by walking up the valley, following the stream and not crossing the little wooden bridge.  After a few hundred metres (yards for the non-metricated) Mr. Trim’s lawns and farmhouse will be found. Mr. Trim is a very pleasant gentleman and is quite prepared to help out in any emergency situation.  It must be stated however, that under normal circumstances he does not want his privacy invaded or his lawns damaged by cavers.

An additional instruction to the M.R.O. notice in Longwood blockhouse will be put up as soon as possible giving details of the location of the farm.

Brian Prewer.


Eastwater Cavern

Ongoing situations in Boulder Chamber and Ifold’s Series

With the lower parts of West End Series being almost permanently sumped off at present other projects in the cave have been initiated with intentions of providing a new route from the entrance area directly into the Ifold's Series.  Apart from bypassing much awkward passage this route would allow a change of scenery to those who have used the standard trade routes continuously for the past three years.

Work started on the 7th September when, with the assistance of Dave Nicholls and Mark Lovell, Tony Jarratt climbed the 55' Aven at the head of Harris's Passage in Ifold's Series.  A fairly easy but damp and exposed climb led to the top of the aven via three roomy ledges.  Two ways on at the top were both impassable without bang but draughted strongly inwards.

A return was made on 3rd January with Phil Romford and the aven was re-climbed and rigged with 60’ ladder. (The more exposed, stal covered part of the aven was also climbed and found to close down at 35'.  Initials on the wall showed this to have been looked at twenty years earlier).

The following day AJ and .John Dukes returned with hammer and chisels and spent some time removing rock from the larger of the two ways on in preparation for banging.  John continued hammering while AJ went to the Wind Tunnel at the top of the Canyon where the hammer blows could be distinctly heard emanating from the rock.  In the Boulder Chamber - a black hole was noticed below the boulder floor and this was investigated on the 10th January, when with the aid of a sledge hammer and rope winch a 12' deep hole was engineered leading to a loose, strongly draughting choke in a rift.

Next day, Jim Smart, Harold Price and John Chew lit a smoke bomb in the 55" Aven while AJ and Tim Large opened up the draughting choke in Boulder Chamber, getting through into some 30' of horribly loose descending passage with only one solid wall (and that’s dubious!).  This dropped down a wide rift which was not entered due to the frightening mass of boulders above it  This passage has since been renamed “Death Row”.

No smoke was evident here but as TL emerged back into Boulder Chamber he noticed it seeping out of another hole directly below Wind Tunnel.  This small vertical hole lies at the start of Keith Gladman and Andy Lolley's old dig which oxbows back into the Canyon.

The hole was attacked with hammers and chisels and good progress made, continued on the following Wednesday by TL, Tim Gould, Mark Lumley and JS.  More work was done on a solo trip by AJ on 23rd January and Death Row revisited.  After a lot of deliberation the loose boulders at the head of the rift were passed and the rift followed down for some 15' to where a low arch led into larger passage.  Unfortunately the arch was composed of loose boulders and as it was being gently prodded the earth moved.  So did AJ who shot out of the passage with large and small boulders literally brushing his legs as they parted company with roof or walls.  Not a nice place!

Back at the 55" Aven two days later, TL banged the larger way on with an appreciative audience of JD, AJ and Andy Sparrow.  Not so appreciative was the unknown poor bugger who was at that time sitting alone at the top of the Canyon and probably only about 20' above the bang!  The results were checked the following day by AJ, Trevor Hughes and Snablet and the now open rift found to close down after about 6'.

Work is continuing when lethargy permits - assistance welcomed.

Tony Jarratt.

Terminal Rift area, Ifold’s Series

Further investigations have also been made in the area off TermInal Rift below the 13 Pots.  Jim Smart first looked at this old digging site where the stream sinks.  To the right is a tight rift which further closes down after about 10' but could be chemically enlarged.  Also Sand Chamber was inspected.  Considerable amounts of spoil have been deposited in the chamber from previous digging activities - maybe they are obscuring a possible digging site.  At the eastern side of the chamber is an ascending rift which appeared possible providing some form of stemple could be inserted at intervals to assist progress.  Jim and Mark investigated this, managing to pass the constriction to passage beyond which appeared not to have been entered before. Unfortunately it soon closed down.

Another interesting area is the small rift in the eastern wall at the base of the 55' aven previously mentioned.  This leads into another small rift at right angles to it.  This area takes on a more phreatic appearance.  At the lower end the rift drops into a small chamber with a boulder floor - several interconnecting avens appear in the roof. In the northern corner is a squeeze into an ascending phreatic rift. This area is leading into the unknown, outside the boundaries of existing cave.

The current survey of Ifold Series is very sketchy and appears inaccurate.  Perhaps it could do with a re-survey from Dolphin Pitch onwards.

Tim Large.


Daren Cilau Extension

(The story so far)

As you have probably read in the last BB, members from the BEC had joined forces with a group from Cardiff University to dig at a remote site off the Kings Road.  On the 8th February we went down again for a hard digging trip.  At about 10am Jim Smart, Neil Scallon, Nigel Burns, Andy Lovell and Wobbley entered the cave with photographic equipment and were taking the scenic route via Epocalypse Way and Antler Passage.  Then around 10.30 to 11am Mark Lumley and Tim Gould, then Steve Milner and me (Snablet) went straight to the dig, closely followed by the Cardiff team, Andy Cave, Steve Allen, Pete Brown and Henry Bennett about half an hour later.  We struggled through icicles and frozen floor and walls in the entrance series, then hammered through the rest of the route as far as the 65ft pitch.  We had to wait an hour at a diver ruckle, meanwhile Mark and Tim had overtaken the divers and were well on their way to the dig.  When we eventually got going again, the Cardiff team floated down Red River Passage and walked along the roof of the Time Machine with their little pipe.  Mark and Tim had got an hour or so digging in, with Mark managing fill the passage behind him with spoil!  We arrived over an hour later, ready for a brew-up which was already on the way.  A steady flow of people continued for the next few hours.  The primus stove was working overtime with constant demands for cuppa soups.

The dig was making steady progress in a phreatic passage filled with sand and clay on top.  The sandy spoil was used to fill in a steeply sloping floor in the existing passage to make a large level and fairly comfortable campsite, it was enough room for the 13 people who had been down there. We were well prepared for a breakthrough into “caverns measureless to man” with tape to mark off any formations we found, SRT kit and rope for pitches and climbing gear for any avens and surveying and camera equipment etc.

Jim Smart and Nigel Scallon arrived after their photographic trip with a large supply of Ovaltine, which was followed by shouts from in the dig that they could see a passage or chamber a few feet ahead.  Mark then went into one of his digging frenzies, while the rest started to brew up some Ovaltine.  Just as the water was coming to the boil Mark broke through into a passage 5 foot high and 10 foot wide at 9.20pm.  Everyone dropped everything and rushed into the new passage, a decision was made to explore the passage all together since we had all dug at some stage.  Photos were taken of the virgin passage with its mud formations and occasional crystals on the walls and ceiling. The passage continued around a couple of bends, then ended in a squeeze.  A passage could be seen continuing on the other side.  The squeeze was enlarged and I was pushed through to dig from the other side.  The team, some wearing woolly hats and carrying carbides by hand (leaving their proper lights and helmets behind in the rush) and armed with digging tools and cameras, were

trying to think of names for the passage.  After names had been flying around the passage from all directions, someone suggested the "Ovaltiney”, and it stuck because of the almost made ovaltine back at the base camp.

Once through the squeeze the passage continued for a short distance a similar size to the passage before and ending in another larger squeeze with passage on the other side. A message was passed back that it looked fairly big, but by the time it had reached the last man the message had changed from fairly big to massive.  The passage beyond was similar but slightly smaller also ending in a squeeze with an awkward twist in it.  The passage on the other side was slightly larger than before with a cold draught coming along it.  The passage went around a couple of bends, and then ended in a large pile of sand forming a choke.  There was a small air space with a howling gale going through.  Further investigation revealed blackness beyond (it must be a chamber or mere passage).  The next push should hopefully uncover caverns measureless to man, and another, nay, either Agen Allwedd or Llangattock Swallet.

The extension is a high level passage like Trident in Aggy and about 200 foot long, heading in a North West direction like all the other big stuff under Llangattock Mountain (it got to be a good sign).  We didn't push the extension any further because it was getting late, lights were getting low, we were tired and it would take a good few hours to dig out the choke, so we thought it appropriate place to leave it so we meandered on out fairly slowly, having to break our way through the ice in the entrance series.   We arrived back at 5-30am. after an 18 hour trip and celebrated the initial breakthrough by getting pissed on wine and beer and waking up half of Whitewalls.

To be continued in the next BB when we will probably have found more. 


PS. Wormhole, you're going to have to buy some new kit now!



The following is a brief account of the 30 strong Mexico '85 expedition which visited the Xlitla plateau, North Mexico over the Christmas period.

After a two hour coach trip to Heathrow, a 16 hour flight via Amsterdam and Houston to Mexico City, a night in a hotel and a further day by bus Dany and myself along with other members of the expedition arrived in the large town of Ciudad de Valles, situated 220 miles north of Mexico City.

Sunday morning we went in search of the café "Don Juan" to rendezvous with members of our advance party, who over the past 5 weeks had driven our 3 expedition vehicles down from the States, cleared the expedition gear through customs (this took 21 days) set up base camp, and started the serious business of prospecting and caving.  The cafe was easily located, parked outside was a 4x4 Chevrolet truck bearing the insignia "MEXICO 85 British Caving Expedition, sponsored by Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey", everything to plan, amazing!  We entered.  "Where the bloody hell have you been", we were greeted by the soft and gentle voice of Alan Thomas who had cunningly followed us from Priddy, "The rest of your lot are asleep out the back", he went on. "I have had lots of adventures getting here, I must tell you".  Some time later, after a meal and Alan's story, the Chevrolet was put through the pain barrier along the Pan American Highway as we headed for Xlitla, the nearest town to our base camp.  Alan was installed in a hotel here and we carried on up a very unmade track for a further 50 minutes to our base in the small picturesque village of Tlamaya.  The following day was spent setting up camp and preparing for the caving proper.

Tuesday morning, we drove to Tampajal, from there 3 hours walk into the mountains gained us the village of Los Horneas, the site of one of our satellite camps. The weather was unusually bad for Mexico, very wet and misty, for this reason we decided to live in one of the cave entrances, this became very squalid during the four days which we were in residence.  Dany and myself had a very good photo trip down a cave found by the team who we had relieved.  April 5th cave has a large entrance ramp 50-60m high leading down to a sizable streamway, this was followed past a previous stal blockade, which had fallen victim of a lump hammer (in the name of exploration), into large well decorated stream passage.  This extended some 3km to the head of a 25m pitch, at the bottom the cave terminated 100m further on at a depth of -400m in a non free divable sump.

We spent the next day doing some bread and butter work, following a young local lad through very wet and soggy jungle at high speed, descending each shaft as he magiced them out of the undergrowth, most of the shafts proving to be choked with rotting vegetation.  All would probably go with digging but we had not come this far to do that.  We returned to our cave home to find that a shaft shown to the others had gone to a 100m pitch, two of them had walked back to Tlamaya for more rope and would return later that night.  It was decided that one team would push on down the pitch the following day, while we investigated a second draughting shaft situated nearby. This we did, and after the passing of a squeeze at the bottom of the entrance climb by John Palmer and Debbie, both anorexic whippets!  A further hour was spent enlarging it to Bob and Dany size, this gained us a large, steeply descending fluted passage carrying a small stream.  In an alcove on the right hand wall two brawn calcite formations closely resembling hedgehogs gave the cave its name, Queva de la Erizo ( Hedgehog Cave).  We took it in turns to explore the cave ahead; it meandered steeply downwards in fine passage for a further kilometre with many free climbable pitches.  We were halted by a lack of tackle at the unstable head of a 7m pitch.

The others had also done well and their cave was still going at -300m.  We returned to base the next day and another team took over at Las Horneos, we had had atrocious weather but a good four days caving.

Christmas was fast looming on the horizon, Alan Thomas had searched high and low in Xlitla for a cafe that would serve roast turkey and Christmas Pud on Christmas Day.  He had even applied his shouting in a silly accent technique, but not even this, combined with his school teacher stern look, brought any joy.  We finally had to settle for spicey chicken, assorted vegetable and sala served on Christmas Eve. Some compensation was gained in the fact that the red wine we had ordered arrived in the form of Bacardi and Coke, oh the joys of the language barrier!  Dany and myself returned to the local bar at Tlamaya to carry on the Christmas Eve festivities.  Christmas passed in a haze.

On the 27th December, Dany and I plus three others set off to an area to the northeast of Xlitla, near the large town of Jalpan, some four hours drive from base camp.  Our main objective was to investigate some sites found previously by a reconnaissance party.  We arrived in Guayabos, a small village situated 6km up a very rough track, here we were instantly taken in by a local family, seated down and fed before we had time to ask for permission to camp.  The friendliness of the local people in this part of Mexico made an impression on all the expedition members.

The following day we carried our tackle up into the surrounding hills aiming to descend the reported shafts above.  We systematically worked our way through a number of these, all with the same result, all were very dry and dusty, adorned with bat shit and choked around the 50m mark. Our resident geologist, Alf Latham, weighed up the situation and declared in best scientific terms, “this is a real bum area”, we all agreed and returned to our truck.  Our next port of call was Puerto de Animas on the main road north of Jalpan, here locals had told us that there were large caves where a river disappeared and then re-emerged on the far side of the hill. They were right, the problem was that they had been previously explored by the Americans, all the same, they were well worth the visit.

We spent the following day in the sink end, this proved to be about 1km of mega passage, well decorated, brought to a sudden end in a very stagnant sump.  Before returning to base on the morrow, we visited the resurgence cave, this was  a very picturesque railway tunnel carrying the main stream, opening out into a large decorated chamber.  The streamway terminated 1/2km further on in a good size clear inviting sump pool.  A dry flood overflow passage, explored on the way out, gave another 1 1/2km of big mud floored passage ending in a muddy chamber. This must be close to the upstream sump but no connection could be found.

We returned to base for the New Year, a group of us decided to celebrate by going to a dance advertised in Xlitla, this proved to be in a building site (the Spanish influence, I suppose!).  Everybody stroved towards their desired state of drunkenness and the locals looked on in amazement at our rendering of "Auld Lang Syne" as the magic hour passed, six hours after the real English one.  All was well until the return journey in the early hours, the vehicle in front of me sprung a puncture, I swerved around it and drove off the edge of the track.  I sat there in amazement as the thing rocked on the edge of a rather steep drop above the valley floor many feet below.  "Oh dear", said everybody and deserted the vehicles to walk back to base. The next few days were spent persuading a rogue from a Tamzunchale rescue truck company, firstly to lift our truck out of its predicament, and secondly to let us have it back.  During this time our third truck had broken down leaving the expedition rather immobile although teams still managed to get out by using local buses.

With the New Year’s problems behind us, and two vehicles back on the road, a team of 10 were off again, this time to visit Ixtacapa, an area not far from Xlitla.  There were two caves still going here, left by a team on a day trip to this area.  On arrival we asked permission to use a half built hut as a shelter, this was granted. Before we had finished erecting our poly sheet, a woman appeared from the mass of spectators that had gathered and told us that she had a house we could use.  As I have said before, the friendliness of Mexicans is amazing.  The house was a large wooden one, just right for our needs, we accepted it gratefully.  At a team discussion that evening Dany and I volunteered to go with a local guide the following day to explore the caving possibilities of the Tancuilin river gorge.  This proved a major undertaking, it took us about an hour to reach the top of the gorge, we then descended 300m plus down the steep, heavily vegetated sides, at the bottom it was apparent that finding entrances would be impossible in the short time available as the gorge was so immense and dry water courses emerged from the jungle in all directions.  After a quick dip in the river we lugged ourselves and our un-needed caving gear back up the gorge, arriving some hours later back at the house, hot and sweaty.

Our remaining two days here were spent shaft bashing, photographing and surveying the two going caves which were now finished, and also exploring some short, but well decorated, caves that we had found.

After our couple of days back in base we set off on what would be our last trip out into the hills. As you have probably realised, the system is to spend 4 days out and then return to base.  This gives everybody the chance of going to different areas and doing a wider spectrum of the expedition work,  i.e. photographing, surveying, pushing etc.  The time at base camp allows for getting cleaned up, shopping, drawing of surveys, and generally relaxing between caving bouts.

Since we had last been to Los Horneos, the caves there had been pushed to their conclusions and attention had been moved lower down the hill to a village called La Mesa (the table), tucked into a high valley. Two large caves, both 3km long, had already been found here but had sumped around the 300m mark.

We spent our usual day shaft bashing, this paid off towards the end of the day with the discovery of a large draughting shaft, Lawrence, of Speleo Nederland fame, descended this.  It proved to be 50m deep with two ways on, both pitches.  He returned to the surface to report his findings.  Owing to the lateness of the hour, it was not worth returning to the camp for more tackle.  Dany and Lawrence looked at some other shafts nearby which proved to be part of the same system while John Palmer and I bolted the head of one of the second pitches.  On our way out we noticed two large snake skeletons at the base of the entrance pitch, hence the name "Cave of the Dead Snakes".  We returned the next day and descended the second pitch; this was 50m broken by a re-belay.  On from here we followed good sized scalloped passage carrying a small stream, passing a duck gained us the top of a series of photogenic flowstone cascades.  More passage and a final 10m pitch dropped into a huge chamber, well decorated in its higher levels, 1km from the entrance. No way on could be found from here.  Lawrence caught us up having had no luck with the second of the ways on.  John Palmer and I exited while the Flying Dutchman and Rupert Skoupta finished the survey.  The cave was photographed by Dany the next day whilst I sunbathed, sorry, looked after camp!  The locals are reasonable honest but it's best to keep an eye on things.  Whilst on our return journey to base we took the opportunity to look at Guaguas (Parrot Shaft), a very impressive 200m deep, 200m wide daylight shaft which has the reputation of giving a greater sense of exposure than Golondrinas.

It was now Saturday, the 18th January, we had to have all our kit in Mexico City by the 24th January for shipping, which meant that everything had to be well dried and packed by the 22nd.  Anything left wet, with the prospect of three months in transit back to England, would smell horribly at the least.  For this reason we must start closing down the satellite camps and start the process of washing ropes etc.

While this was going on we managed to fit in a trip down Hitchuhuatla cave, an American find near to our base camp.  A 130m entrance shaft is followed by a 50m second pitch, at the bottom of which 3km of magnificent stream passage can be followed to a terminal muddy sump - a fine trip by any standards.  Also during this period Golondrinas was visited and descended by a few of the brave. There are problems here with locals demanding money and a guard on the rope is well advised, I quickly volunteered for this job.  The depth of the shaft does not become totally apparent until a boulder is observed disappearing downwards for 12-14 seconds.  I abseiled over the edge on a 30m rope to get some shots of the heroes on the main ropes.  The walls bell out after the first 4m and are 30-35m away 25m down.  I sat on the end of the short rope and did a very careful changeover, emptied my trousers and tried to hold myself still enough to take some snaps.  A few minutes later we were treated to the very impressive sight of thousands of swiftlets returning to their nests, they circle in the sky above the shaft and dive bomb at high speed into the hole, this causes a loud roaring noise which resonates around the walls.  The marathon task of hauling up the special 400m ropes followed, some Yorkshire wit remarked that we could do the 20' in Swildons with one of the ropes in its plaited state, this is quite true.

A large truck and driver had been hired to transport our gear back to Mexico City.  The plan was to load up early evening on the 22nd then return to the bar where the landlord and his wife were holding a farewell meal/party for us.  The truck would then leave around 4am with as many drunks that fancied the 15 hour trip on top of the mountain of gear.  The pair of us decided to stay along with a few others and leave the following day.  We were awakened from our slumber from under the porch of the bar by locals arriving for their early morning draughts of Cana, a fire water made from distilled sugar cane.  No member of the expedition had managed more than four of these and walk back to the camp site.  The landlady’s beaming smile greeted us as we entered into the back yard, in her hand she held a tray bearing glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice topped with a raw egg. We grinned and took our medicine bravely.

There were now about twelve of us left in Tlamaya, five of us to catch the night bus from Xlitla to Mexico City, and the remainder to drive our two remaining vehicles (we sold one) back to the US of A.  We loaded the vehicles, said our tearful goodbyes to the very tearful locals and drove out of the village past the school where the children had been brought out from their lessons to line the track and wave goodbye to us. Leaving this beautiful place with its super people was difficult.

The night ride to Mexico City passed quickly, arriving at 6am we booked into a hotel so that we could wash and brush up for a lunch engagement that had been arranged with the Johnnie Walker distributors in Mexico City.  The meal was excellent and the company of the Mexican businessmen bearable, after lunch we were treated to a tour of the earthquake damaged sector.  This resembled a film set showing the aftermath of the blitz in the Second World War.

The following day we left for England, again via Amsterdam, landing early Sunday morning and so to the Hunter's by lunchtime.

The final score was 20km of new passage explored and surveyed, over 100 entrances noted, the deepest cave was over 600m and most importantly a good time was had by all with no deaths, injuries or diseases.

Bob Cork


Letter to the BB

S.R.T. Tackle

Whilst welcoming Tim Large’s comment about the proposed S.R.T. equipment in the last BB., I would like to put forward the other side of the debate.  I should first take issue with some of the points he has raised.

1.                  No record of a discussion about S.R.T. at an AGM has been found so, presumably there is no set club policy about the equipment

2.                  The suggested tackle would not be for general club use.

3.                  a. The tackle would be stored off Mendip and would only be used on organised club meets in Yorkshire, Derbyshire etc. (This is a system already used very successfully by other Mendip caving clubs).

b. The Tackle Master would administer it and keep a log of usage. He would also check for damage and say when a rope is unsafe.

c. There is a demand for group S.R.T. equipment amongst the younger, less wealthy members of the club.  In real terms we do not have the facility to teach the up and coming keener members the basics of modern vertical caving techniques, let alone bottom any respectable Yorkshire pot.

d.  A basic stock of maillons, hangers etc should be kept a a foundation to be supplemented by the individuals on the trip.

4.                  On the Berger trip, worries were expressed for two reasons, the main one being misuse of equipment due to the inexperience of various members of the team.  I would have thought that their experience should have been gained closer to home in order that they may not jeopardise an expensive and well organised trip abroad.  The Berger S.R.T. training meets showed up a lack of basic knowledge in several members of the party.

5.                  If the tackle were kept in the Tackle Shed for general use, would be inclined to agree with Tim that its safety would always be suspect and the hardware would disappear in no time.  However, as I suggested in point 3, this would not be the case.

6.                  What can possibly be more important than caving equipment in a caving club??  We have just spent a small fortune in refurbishing the hut (and very nice it is too), but surely the ultimate objective 15 to get people caving proficiently.

In summary, it is unrealistic to expect the younger members of the club to cave solely on ladder when a much wider scope to their activities is offered to them with S.R.T. There is, of course, a responsibility to the individual to equip himself with a reasonable amount of equipment but you cannot expect anyone to be self sufficient in ropes, bolts etc for a long Yorkshire trip.

Clearly it is a subject that is open to debate.  As Caving Secrtetary I have been asked to organise some Yorkshire trips and do not propose to bottom large systems on ladder.  Nor do I intend to leave it to chance that the Individuals coming might just be able to muster up enough ropes, hangers etc. for the job.  The only alternative as I see it is to forget the ideas of meets elsewhere in the country and let the club potter around the hill on ladder with individual members taking the initiative upon themselves for more ambitious trips - but doesn't that make a mockery of the existence of a large caving club in the first place?

The committee will not go ahead with the purchase of Club Meet S.R.T. tackle without first publishing its exact proposals and ensuring that it is carrying out the wishes of the caving members, so let us know what you want.



Upper Flood Swallet

Upper Flood is a conservationist’s headache.  Now read on ...

Originally known as Blackmoor Flood Swallet this cave was one of the bonuses of the 1968 flood that washed away the Forty and the road at Velvet Bottom.  The heavily choked passage was originally explored by the MCG and subsequently dug by both Willie Stanton and that club whose headquarters lie conveniently within walking distance.  Although the cave promised much, lying at the head of the Velvet Bottom catchment area near the limestone/shale boundary with a potential 700 feet of vertical range, it became clear that siege tactics were required. The once roomy ancient stream passage was choked with fill, stal obstructions and lead tailings.  It has taken nearly 17 years of digging, blasting, wall construction and back filling to gain access to the present cave.  It has paid off for the MCG who now have in their grasp potentially one of the deepest caves on Mendip, if not the country, and despite the length of the known cave the depth potential still remains.

The entrance lies on land controlled by the county council which is why access arrangements are fairly tight.  Parties of four including a MCG leader are allowed down but due to the nature of the cave overcrowding and damage to formations can be a risk if more than one or two groups are down the cave.  My interest in the cave was photographic and it must be said that it lends itself to photography magnificently.

A concrete barrel shaft drops two metres into a small chamber from which a flight of steps leads to a rift passage.  A further short drop intercepts a small stream.  Upstream can be followed for a short distance while downstream continues as a stooping or crawling size passage on a very shallow gradient.  At various points evidence of the Intensive excavations can be seen In the form of walls.  Malcolm Cotter tells me that in places the passage has been back filled to a depth of 1.5 metres or more.  Eventually after 275 metres or so the roof lowers to a muddy grovel partially full of water.  However, the enthusiasm of the explorer is more than stimulated by the draught of cold air and the sound of running water.  A wriggle up a mud covered stal slope and a squeeze through stal curtains leads to one of the most dramatic entrances on Mendip.

One stands (carefully avoiding the numerous straws above ones head) on a big stal slope in a roomy well decorated chamber.  On one's right a large stream gurgles out of the wall, crosses the chamber~ and splashes off at bottom left into the enticing darkness. This is Midnight Chamber, the breakthrough point. 

Upstream the passage is a low crawl to a sump whilst downstream the cave continues as a crawl. Here the damage to stal formations is most evident and I suspect that although this is by far the most vulnerable part of the cave that much of the destruction was caused by the excited first explorers.  This is hardly surprising because the passage consists of a crawl about 1.5 metres high and 1 metre wide along the walls of which are arranged a mass of stals on a false floor whilst the roof is studded with a forest of stalactites.  Delicate crawling in the stream leads to a boulder obstruction through which one gingerly worms into the next section.

Here the streamway widens a little but the roof remains low.  Some attractive stal bosses can be seen on ledges on the left and there is enough exposed limestone to observe the nature of the rock.  It is extremely shaly and it seems to me that the best formations can be seen in the shaly sections.  Stal formations and shale seem to go together – does anybody know why? Anyone also cannot fail to notice the black marks on many of the stalagmites.  Closer examination shows the marks to have legs and that they are the remains of dead flies.  Presumably flies hatch from eggs carried in by the stream on rotting vegetation and then die from lack of food.  Incidentally there is little evidence of flood damage to the formations which suggest the streamway can cope with large volumes of water of that the ingress of water is limited.  Now that there is an excavated entrance to the cave a repeat of the 1968 floods could destroy the decorations and the MCG have already thought in terms of constructing some kind of flood gate to the entrance.  The streamway turns a corner passing a massive stal bank on which are arranged numerous numbers of totem pole stalagmites, some at angles suggesting breakage and re-cementing.  The straws in this section are some of the best on Mendip.  Just before the stream dives into a bedding crawl one can see clumps of stal on the floor.  If one looks closely one can see straws that have been formed, broken off, and have been re-cemented before the floor they were on was broken off, and washed into the stream.  I must say that this suggests to me that the cave is pretty ancient!

Beyond the bedding crawl one enters the second largest chamber which is really a washed out shale bed. Some nice false flooring remains here. A squeeze under boulders at stream level leads to another bedding passage which suddenly develops as a rift at a corner.  Here one can walk upright for only the second time since leaving Midnight Chamber. This state of affairs doesn’t last long because another crawl looms up.  Here the roar of a waterfall can be heard but disappointment soon supervenes as the stream is found to drop 3 metres down a narrow slot into a low sumped-up crawl which has not been passed since I last visited the cave, just before Christmas.

All is not lost however for above the waterfall is a short climb into a small decorated chamber.  A low excavated crawl leads to the current terminus – a tube filled with stal false flooring and mud.  It is possible to gaze into the promised land beyond and feel the hint of a draught.  The spoil heap in the chamber has been decorated with examples of cave art ranging from the obscene to the ingenious.  At the end of the cave one is less than 30 metres below the entrance with most of the depth potential of the system unrealised.  God knows what will happen to the pretty bits if the system gets really massive – hence my initial statement.

Peter Glanville – January 1986


The Gouffre Berger

The first time I heard rumour of an expedition to the South of France was in an art lesson at school. At that stage I had no idea that I would be a participant, but on hearing that it was to be a club trip with everybody involved, I was determined not to be left out.  I borrowed and begged as much as possible and the rest I was; able to buy due to the “Ian Dear memorial Fund” grant.  The few SRI practices I was able to go on, because of my exams, indicated that my SRT was very poor, in fact, the only time I was confident of it was at the top of Ruiz.

The journey down to the South of France as tiring but enjoyable.  We avoided the motorways~ sticking to the country lanes, thus seeing a little more of France.  The second night of travelling we broke down, but luckily it was only half a mile from the campsite.  When we did arrive the following morning, I couldn’t believe the view from the plateau where we camped, as I’d never seen mountains before.  The Alps appeared so close, yet high and majestic.

The afternoon we arrived I managed to damage my ankle, and so was forced to sit around for a couple of days, resting it and cursing.  The first trip that I managed was to the Gournier with Robin, Paul and John, my travelling companions.  The cave was superb.  In the entrance was a beautiful, crystal-clear lake which had to be swum to gain entry to the cave.  The freezing swim was followed by a short ladder climb into extensive passages With powerful formations.  As my ankle coped with the Gournier I was ready to have a go at the Berger.

The hike from the campsite to the cave entrance almost finished me off but putting my kit on brought the adrenalin pumping back!  After a year of Mendip cave entrances the entrance to the Berger was quite awe inspiring. A large hole in the ground surrounded by scaffolding and memorial plaques to those who have died there.

I started descending the Berge, midday on the Thursday, with Robin G., Paul M., Edic H. and John C. We each had kit bags for food, sleeping bags etc.  Mine seemed to weigh a ton, I think I took too many packets of glucose sweets!  I really enjoyed the descending of the cave - that was until we reached Aldo’s.  Aldo’s terrified me.  After traversing over the top I sat shaking at the top of the pitch.  I peered ever the edge to see the others but all I could see were pinholes of light.  I took a few deep breaths and with great care abseiled down.  At the bottom I felt completely overwhelmed and couldn’t say a word.

The Gouffre Berger was big! The passages were on a mega-Yorkshire scale.  The boulder piles and pitches were of a size I’ve never seen before and personally wouldn’t mind not seeing again.  The formations were spectacular, especially the Hall of Thirteen.

At Camp 1 we had a welcome cup of tea before carrying on.  Just after the Hall of Thirteen Paul slipped and twisted his ankle.  Robin volunteered to return with him whilst John, Edric and myself carried on.  I thought the second half of the cave was similar to an overgrown Swildons, but more exciting.  As the cave grew wetter my furry suit grew baggier and soggier.  I had a slight hiccup with my SRT 8ft off the ground on one of the wetter pitches but by standing on Edric I was able to unhitch myself. As we ventured deeper and deeper into the cave, the feeling we got from meeting people coming from the bottom spurred us on.  Finally we arrived at the top of Little Monkey and stopped to check our carbide supplies but found that they were low.  We decided we ought to turn back two pitches from the bottom.  It wasn’t until we started going up the pitches that I noticed how tired I was.  Edric hurried on as he was cold, whilst John and I ambled back to Camp 1.  I found myself getting slower and slower and dropped off to sleep if we stopped.   After 19 hours underground we reached Camp 1.  I felt absolutely shattered.  We stripped off our damp kit and crawled into sleeping bags.  I didn’t sleep but to stop moving was reward enough.  Six hours later we started making moves to go out. I think one of the hardest things I’ve ever done was crawling out of my warm sleeping bag into damp cold kit with the feeling of dread from knowing what is to come and that it’s all up hill! From Camp 1 to the surface I ate glucose tablets by the packet so that now and again I had spurts of energy.  At Aldo's I had a panic.  My chest jammer would not run up the rope correctly and kept coming off.  John calmed me down, sorted the jammer out and convinced me that I could do it. Finally, after what seemed a lifetime, I clipped my cow’s tail in at the top of Ruiz.  I vowed then and there not to go down again.  The elation and relief I felt was immense, only comparable to seeing daylight the next morning or to using Dany's udder cream on my "Berger" hands.

Other caves we explored whilst in France were the BournilIon and Padirac.  Bournillon must have the most impressive cave entrance in Europe.  Padirac, a show cave, had too many steps and too many people waiting to see it.  The rest of the holiday was spent discovering French cuisine, sight-seeing and doing tent duties.  The area in France where we were staying was beautiful.  I found it difficult to adjust to waking to a view of the Alps each morning.  Their character constantly changed during the time that we spent there. During the sunny days they appeared inviting, at night time a vague outline but during the spell of freezing weather only their awesome presence could be felt.

Thinking back now about the Berger, I don’t think it was as physically difficult as people tend to believe but more psychologically difficult.  The feeling of desolation at the bottom of Aldo’s and the desperation to get out was much harder to cope with than any of the caving done within the Berger.  All in all, it was an experience I’ll never forget and a superb trip.

When’s the next one?

Lisa Taylor


Daren Cilau.  The Story so far ….

Andy Cave, Steve Allen and crew had made such a fine job setting up the Hard Rock Cafe, many miles down in Daren Cilau that we, Steve Milner, Mark Lumley, Snablet, Dave and Alan Turner, had to go and pay them a visit.  The Hard Rock Cafe was superb; good food, plenty of whisky, good sounds from the Ghetto Blaster and most of all, good company.

As a minor distraction we turned our minds to a little bit of digging, just to break up the hilarity. Steve Allen and Andy Cave made the first breakthrough into new stuff at 3pm on Saturday, the second breakthrough came 2 hours later into Agrophobia Airbell (say no more).  The time came however, for the (Hey, You, the) ♫ROCK STEADY CREW♫: Steve Milner, Mark, Snablet & Henry to start work.  After 2 hours digging in soft sand, Steve, threatened with burial, broke through into low sandy passage, inadvertently kicking in the passage behind. It took some time for the remaining crew to catch up with the elusive caver.  The Rock Steady Cruise, a lofty phreatic passage adorned with minute aragonite, gypsum and selenite crystals was discovered.  Unfortunately, the passage closed down around the next corner leaving a 6" airspace draughting strongly.

It was time then to retreat and let the next shift have a go.  Andy Cave made the next breakthrough, he too was threatened with sand avalanches but then the Peace Pipe was passed.  The passage beyond, the High Flyer, changed character becoming cleaner but more friable without diminishing in size.  The present terminus (" Brazil" 'cos its a long way away) saw some 6 hours of intermittent digging but no breakthrough was made.  As it draughts so strongly the digging teams will be back very soon.  The Rock Steady Crew emerged from the cave after 32 hours, Steve Allen & Andy Cave after 46-48 hours.

SEE THE NEXT ISSUE FOR - The Story so far…….

Steve Milner

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

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

Late News – Notts Pot

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

from Rob Harper 10th December 1985

Membership Changes

New Members

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

Members Rejoining

            553 Bob White, Wells, Somerset

Address Changes

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

Ratified Members

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


Belfry Jobs

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

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


P.S.  Insulation needs finishing off.                                              Dany Bradshaw


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

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

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

Hut Fund

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

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

Jeremy Henley


Mendip Events

Oliver Lloyd

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

Shepton Mallet

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

Committee Matters

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

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

St. Cuthbert’s Survey

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


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

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

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

Bob Cork.


Caving Programme


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

Club Meets.

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

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

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

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

Daren Cilau Dig

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

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

Rescue Practice

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

Mark Lumley


Visit the Classical Karst Caves of Yugoslavia in 1986

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

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

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

Dave Turner.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Poms potholing in Waitomo, New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the Bassetts.


The BEC Get Everywhere - Crete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony Jarratt.


LADS Trip to Clare – Easter ‘85

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Lumley.


Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Thomas

Logbook Ramblings

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

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


Berger 85 – getting there

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

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

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

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

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

About stop for a only other bike!!

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Henley


Berger 1985 – “An alternative View”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Prewer


A Flying Visit to the Berger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Letters To The B.B.

Found – One 20’ ladder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Prewer.


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

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

TO  The Honourable Secretary of the Bristol Exploration Club.

Dear Sir,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours Truly,

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


SRT Tackle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Large  5th December 1985.


Hut Warden’s Report

Club Officer’s report – October 1985

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

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

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

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

Members bed-nights                   665

Non Members bed-nights            809

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

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

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

Chris Batstone October 1985

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

The Journal Of The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

Editor: Robin Gray

It was good to see so many at the Mid-summer festivities even it the weather was a little unkind. In fact it rained heavily all day but that failed to dampen the spirits of the hairy band of Vikings who turned up to enjoy nights delights.

The chariot race started with a big bang and the chariots thundered away in clouds of liquid mud. The winners were MNRC who fielded a very strong and practiced team and got round in an incredible time to the surprise of all.  Next year it’s their turn to put on the games.  Well done MNRC.

Even in the rain the Belfry grounds were filled with people enjoying the excellent bar and waiting their turn to get at what must rate as one of Mendips finest feeds.  The organisation of this spectacular nosh-up was superb and all those involved are to be congratulated.

At about 10.30 the rain stopped for enough time to enable the firing of a short but lively firework display with some notable shells.

After the fireworks some fine singing of all the best songs was enjoyed until late in the Belfry Lounge.

Further celebrations are to follow soon including the club trip to France and the Dinner, details of which can be found in this News Letter.

This is my last BB before the AGM so to those of you who have sent in articles many thanks.




by Tim Large

Annual General Meeting Notice: The Annual General Meeting of The Bristol Exploration Club will be held at The Belfry on Saturday 5th October 1985 beginning at 10.30am prompt. A quorum of 30 members is required. Please make an effort to attend and become involved with the club's organisation.  Only paid up members may attend and vote.

Member's Resolutions: These can be submitted by paid up members, each resolution needing a proposer and seconder.  The contents of these can be any proposals for a change in club policy, rules or requests for committee action on behalf of the membership for its greater benefit.  Resolutions should be handed to the AGM Chairman.

Constitutional Resolutions:  These are proposals which need a proposer and seconder to amend the club constitution in some way.  These must be submitted to the Secretary in writing as early as possible as they can only be heard at an Annual General Meeting if they have been published in the BB at least one month before hand.

Committee Elections: Nominations are requested for election to the 1985/6 Committee.  They must be seconded by a full paid up member of the club.  Only full members are entitled to stand for committee. Full members are those people who have completed their year's probationary membership and have been ratified by the committee.  Nomination should be sent to the Secretary not later than Saturday 7th September 1985. They must be in writing and signed by a seconder.

Annual Dinner: As previously stated this will be held at The Cheese Pavilion Restaurant on The Bath & West Show Ground, Near Shepton Mallet on Saturday 5th October 1985 7pm for 1.30pm

The Belfry. There is still much finishing off work to be done by way of painting, fixtures and fittings. Volunteers are needed from you the members.  We have no more money to pay outside contractors to do the work.  It would be a pity to ruin a good job for the sake of a lick of paint.  Please contact Dany Bradshaw, Chris Batstone or Tim Large if you can offer any help.

St Cuthbert’s: Pumping operations have been in progress at Sump 2 with the aid of a compressed air water pump.  This was fed by fire hose kindly lent by Somerset Fire Brigade from a surface based road works compressor.  Much progress has been made into the sump - the end now being 60 feet from normal sump level and 21 feet below it.  Conditions are somewhat muddy.  Unfortunately the passage is still descending.

Eastwater - West End Series.  Since earlier this year when The Blackwall Tunnel was pushed and 1,000 feet of passage found which was called The Jubilee Line, not much else of note has been found.  Attempts to climb the aven in the new extensions were hampered by rapid and extensive flooding of the tube at the beginning of The Blackwall Tunnel.  This appears to be caused by mud blocking a small passage down which the stream drains.  It took the party trapped on the other side a couple of hours to bail themselves out.

Definitely a site for dry weather and the drain hole blockage needs dealing with!!

Halloween Rift: Trev Hughes is still making good progress here and is always looking for volunteers.  At present he is trying to get into Wookey before the American divers arrive to attempt the deep Sump 25 again.

Blackmoor Flood Swallet:  Otherwise known as Upper Flood Swallet.  The many years digging here by the MCG has at last yielded them some reward.  They have broken into about 600 feet of stream passage with good formations.  Prospects look good for further discoveries heading towards Cheddar.

Hut Improvement Appeal

About 2 months ago this appeal started in earnest.  We are looking for £3,500 from paid-up and life members.   Well, the good news is that to date we have received donations of £525.   The bad news is (or it could be good depending on your view) that this sum has been donated by just 16 members and none has been from fund raising activities. Where are all of you out there in your pedalos?  Came in the other 160 of you and let us see your money!   Our thanks for the 16 generous donations so far!


Bristol Exploration Club  50th Year Dinner


The Cheese Pavilion, Royal Bath And West Show Ground Shepton Mallet.











Tickets from Brian Workman, Oakhill, Bath.

Please send money with order for tickets stating your, choice of main course, beet or duck.



Bristol Exploration Club Annual General Meeting Agenda

To be held at The Belfry on Saturday 5th October 1985 at 10.30am prompt

1.         Election of Chairman

2.         Collection of outstanding ballot papers

3.         Election of three tellers

4.         Apologies of absence

5.         Collection of members resolutions

6.         Minutes of 1984 Annual General Meeting

7.         Matters arising from 1984 Minutes

8.         Hon. Secretary's Report

9.         Hon. Treasurer's Report

10.        Hon. Auditor's Report

11.        Caving Secretary's Report

12.        Hut Warden's Report

13.        Tacklemaster's Report

14.        B.B. Editor's Report

15.        Hut Engineer's Report

16.        Librarian's Report

17.        Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report

18.        Result of ballot for Committee

19.        Election of Committee Posts

20.        Any Other Business

Minutes of the Bristol Exploration Club Annual General Meeting held at the Belfry on Saturday 6th October 1984 at 11.05am

Present: Tim Large, Alan Thomas, Graham Wilton-Jones, Chris Smart, Tony Jarratt, Brian Workman, Matt Tuck, Greg Villas, Chris Batstone, Bob Hill, Andy Lolley, Keith Gladman, Robin Gray, Alan Downton, Axel Knuston, John Watson, John Turner, Chris Castle, Bob Cork, Brian Prewer, Dany Bradshaw, Stuart McManus, Robin Hervin, Nick Holstead, Jeremy Henley, Phil Romford, Roger Sabido, Joan Bennett, Ian Caldwell, Dave Irwin, Glen Grass, Martin Grass, Nigel Taylor, Trevor Hughes, John Dukes, one other.

Apologies: Oliver Lloyd, Pete & Joyce Franklin, Fiona Lewis, Rich Stevenson, Jerry Crick, Gill Turner, John & Sue Riley, Lavinia Watson, Nicola Slann, Roy Bennett, John Chew, Dave Turner, Miles Barrington, John Theed, Dave Pike, Lisa Taylor.

The meeting was convened at 11.05am with 36 people present.  Nominations were requested for a Chairman two nominations were received Jeremy Henley and Phil Romford.  A vote was taken Jeremy Henley 10 and Phil Romford 15.   Phil was therefore elected to the chair.

Members Resolutions: None

Minutes of 1983 Annual General Meeting:  Proposed by John Turner and seconded by Jeremy Henley they be accepted and t'1ken as read. Carried.

Matters Arising From 1983 AGM:  The shower meters are ready for installation.  After investigation the telephone charges cannot be reduced.

Hon. Secretary's Report:  Read to the meeting.  GWJ queried the claim for lost tackle.  TEL explained the circumstances.  Proposed by S. McManus and Seconded by Dany Bradshaw the report be adopted.  Carried.

Hon. Treasurer's Report:  As circulated at the meeting by Jeremy Henley.

Hon. Auditor's Report:  As circulated at the meeting by Joan Bennett.  Neither had anything further to add.  Nigel Taylor asked what investigations had been made into the thefts from the Belfry.  Jeremy Henley explained that theta was no sign of the culprit or the money.  It was agreed to keep an eye on the situation. Proposed by Jeremy Henley and seconded by Stu McManus that a locked ammo can be bolted to the Library wall for depositing Hut Fees.  Motion carried.  Chris Smart asked about the Navy usage of the Belfry.  Tim Large explained they were just starting to return.  Proposed by Nigel Taylor seconded by Ian Caldwell that the Belfry Rates and Insurance be split 50/50 between subscriptions and Belfry income.  Carried. Brian Prewer proposed a vote of thanks to Jeremy and Joan for a fine set of accounts.  The meeting agreed.

Caving Secretary's Report:  Stuart McManus read this to the meeting.  Martin Grass expressed concern about a lack of Cuthbert’s leaders.  Mac said that we did have several but dates do tend to clash. Joan Bennett supported the caving secretary's want for more expenditure on caving projects and equipment.  Chris Batstone suggested that members may not be aware money is available for club digs and projects.  Nigel Taylor suggested a special fund for digs but Jeremy pointed out that it was impractical to have a separate fund or an upper limit. Proposed by Nigel Taylor seconded by Greg Villas that the report be accepted. Carried.

Hut Warden's Report: Jeremy Henley said that most of the points had been made in the Hon. Secretary's Report.  Only £3 was outstanding in Hut Fees at present.  The Duty Hut Warden system had worked but a full time warden was needed.  Chris Batstone said that in his opinion the system does not work as many wardens don't stay at The Belfry.  Nigel Taylor suggested that you will get less volunteers if you expect them to stay at the Belfry.  Chris Batstone volunteered to be Hut Warden the meeting accepted this.  Nigel Taylor said that a book should be kept at the Belfry with booking in it.  Proposed by Nigel Taylor seconded by Keith Gladman that the report be accepted. Carried.

Tacklemaster's Report:  Bob Cork read this to the meeting.  Stu McManus proposed a vote of thanks to Bob for sorting out the tackle problem. Martin Grass suggested the better marking of lifelines.  Keith Gladman said that he was pleased the new tackle system was working successfully. Chris Smart expressed concern over our liability on ladders acquired by ourselves over the years and not of our own manufacture.  Bob explained that it was the same as on our own ladders.  Tony Jarratt asked about supplying each lifeline in a tackle bag, Bob said that the club did have a need for more tackle bags.  The matter was left to the Committee.  Proposed by Chris Batstone seconded by Robin Gray that the report be adopted.  Carried.

Hut Engineer’s Report:   Dany Bradshaw read this to the meeting.  GWJ suggested paying more subs and having outside contractors do the work.  Bob Hill asked how many people would be prepared to pay extra for outside contractors to work on Belfry maintenance. Joan Bennett said the Hut Fund could be used for

Belfry maintenance once the improvements had been carried out.  Tony Jarratt said that to increase subscriptions drastically might put off new young members from joining.  Martin Grass said that there had been a change in people’s circumstances with members either living locally or off Mendip and not staying at the Belfry so regularly.  The Chairman took a vote on the use of outside contractors FOR 18 AGAINST 4. Proposed by Dany Bradshaw seconded by Tony Jarratt that outside contractors be bought in as necessary for Belfry maintenance.  FOR 25 AGAINST 3.  It was proposed by Stu McManus and seconded by Bob Hill that the report be adopted. Carried.

BB Editor's Report: As published in the BB.  Comments were made re lack of a BB.  Robin Gray said that this was due to lack of material. Tony Jarratt thought that we should keep the standard A4 format.  Chairman took a vote on continuing BB as it is.  Vote carried.  Proposed by Tony Jarratt seconded by Bob Hill that the report be adopted.  Carried.

Hon. Librarians Report:  Tony Jarratt read this to the meeting.  Stu Mc Manus proposed a vote of thanks for Tony's work.  Jeremy Henley proposed, seconded by Stu McManus that the report be adopted.  Carried.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund:  Stu McManus read this to the meeting.  There had been one application from Matt Tuck for an expedition to Norway.  Report is to appear in the BB soon.  Committee considered keeping fund as it always has been and perhaps adding to it in the future.  Proposed by Greg Villas and seconded by Chris Batsone that the report be adopted. Carried.

Election of Officers: Proposed by Dave Turner, seconded by Greg Villas that last years Committee be re-elected with the inclusion of Chris Batstone as Hut Warden.

Jubilee Celebrations: Tim Large outlined the proposals for the Summer Bar-be-cue, Special Dinner, Berger Expedition, Firework Party, Souvenirs, Winter Social, Publications.  John Turner suggested that a sub-committee organise these celebrations. The Chairman asked for volunteers - Tony Jarratt, Robin Gray, Nick Holstead.  Tony outlined plans for St Cuthbert’s Report.  The meeting agreed with the proposals.

Any Other Business:

It was proposed by Tony Jarratt and seconded by Dave Turner that a vote of thanks be given to Tim Large for all his efforts on behalf of the club.

Belfry Improvements: Phil Romford outlined the situation so far.  Plans & costings were circulated around the meeting.  Proposed by John Turner seconded by Alan Downton that the plans be accepted.  FOR 26 AGAINST 1 ABST 3.  The use of outside contractors was discussed but it was agreed to leave this to the discretion of the Committee.  Joan Bennett pointed out the need to keep an eye on the financial side of this project. Proposed by Jeremy Henley, seconded by Tony Jarratt that the improvements be complete by the end of May 1985.  Carried. Stu McManus proposed a vote of thanks to all those who had worked on the project. T he meeting agreed.

There being no other business the meeting was closed at 3.09pm.


Bluebell Quarry Climbs

Dear B.E.C., Happy Golden Jubilee!   Love, Kangy

My present is a collection of short climbs representing some exploration which Pete Johnson, Jonathan King and I completed this year.

The climbs are set in a beautiful beech wood with bluebells by a river.  Locally it is called the Bluebell Wood and it is on the River Frome at Bury Hill, Winterbourne Down, Bristol and by association Bluebell Quarry gets its name.  There are other quarries in the area but this is the best.

The climbs are all about thirty feet long and we have named them from the left and facing the cliff:-

Foxglove Traverse          4c

Foxglove Crack 4a

Bobby's Climb               5a

Drainpipe Corner            3a

Caroline's Slab               5b

Golden Bluebell             5c

Protection is scarce and the rock is still loose, though not as loose as it was.  The grading assumes a top rope, without one Golden Bluebell might be E2 for example.

The story started twenty years ago when I used to take Jonathan for little boy walks along the Frome and poked around the quarries there.  (Reference, "Some Sandstone Climbs in the Upper Frome Valley", B.E.C. 1966).  We are spoilt for climbing around Bristol and the nature of the rock failed to appeal to my friends though some of the climbs done then are challenging and well worth while exploiting in wet weather, winter or way home from work. And its only ten minutes from my home!

The unusual sharp edged incut corner overhang caught my eye and at the time I included it in some film I made.  I imagined how it might be climbed and never quite forgot so I was pleased when Pete in a weak moment was kind enough to come to see.

We cleaned out foxgloves to make Foxglove Crack and enjoyed it.  Later when we were showing Jonathan the quarry he invented Foxglove Traverse and I took a flier when the only proper handhold came away.  The foxgloves remain in place.  Pete and I dug our way up the Drainpipe one wet wintery day and it is probably much easier now.  It is surprising how steep and strenuous the cliff is and while Jonathan reckons the Drainpipe to be 3a, it is an arm wrecker.  Suitably encouraged by the potential of the climbing we devoted several visits to cleaning up some of the lines.  We abseiled to clear ivy until Pete was satisfied and did Bobby's Climb. This starts immediately below the overhang on the left hand wall, pulls over on a good hold which I had to work hard to reach and then follows a crack line steeply to the top.  More work concentrated on improving the finish on the right hand wall by shovelling topsoil, dangling in a harness, from the nice sharp edge of the top ledges.  We paid special attention to the blank bit above the distinguished overhang. It remained blank.  As a reward for our labours we had a go and retired tired.

The team reassembled for an all out attempt on the corner and in turn we inched higher and higher cleaning, trying combinations, dropping off through shear fatigue until the climb to the overhang had been worked out.  Pete had dug out a pebble filled crack which gave a vital finger hold and enabled us to lean back and by bracing the feet try for holds on the face above. The strenuous exercise shattered our arms and we had to leave it.  Two possible solutions, one involving an impossibly high handhold up to the left on the face and the other involving a too low crack around the corner were slept on.

Last Christmas holiday Jonathan felt like having another go and discovered a vital combination which enabled him to brace out on highish footholds to reach for a niche on the edge with his left hand - before shouting "aaaaarrrrgh" or whatever Tarzan said to Jane.  Before his arms went completely he tried another line to the left and completed Caroline's Slab in the middle of the wall.  Well, truth to tell it is not so much a slab as a bulging off balance wall and again it is fingery and strenuous.  His pitiable cries of "Have you got me" from the last few feet at the limit of his rapidly diminished strength nearly caused me to weaken but I remained composed and kept the rope slack so that he climbed it.

Really wound up about The Last Great Problem I went back for another go but you have to be built like a hairy gorilla to cope with the overhang.  It was completely unsuitable for my more refined techniques because I like to be pulled up things like that.

And there it rested for months.

Spontaneously, Jonathan now very match fit and home for the weekend said "Let's go and do it."

He got into shorts and chalk while I set up a top rope.  It started to rain.  He seemed to be obsessively fussy about keeping his far out sticky boots dry and he immediately laid back on tiny holds merely to avoid the straight forward muddy alternative.  Quickly up to the overhang, he adjusted his feet and reached over for the upper notch on the edge and in the same moment rejoined me back on the ground.  He got out his climbing helmet while I stuffed the erstwhile handhold into my pocket as a souvenir.  "Did you see that," he said indignantly, “It hit my head but didn't hurt because we were falling at the same rate!" Back into position, slightly more easily because the hold was now a little lower and cleaner, he could pause to consider the next move.  This was dynamically to move his right hand, from the vertical crack around the corner and pull up with his left, to the new edge hold.  The function of the right hand was to keep his feet braced against the back wall, releasing it to go for the next hold lead to a spectacular sequence of events.  The forces now acting became exclusively vertical and without horizontal equilibrium his feet came off and flailed in the air.  The load coming abruptly onto that key hold displaced it - and Jonathan and I were face to face once more.  He seemed agitated.  Said I'd given him the impression that we'd cleaned the climb.  I said, "Don't forget frost shattering."  He said, "Hold that bloody rope," and shot back up to the place where his legs flailed in the air once again.  It was obviously hard.  Both holds were improved but it needed strength to pull up enough

to get his now slightly damp sticky boots out of space and onto rock.  He pulled up, locked off his arms and twisted to place his right boot at waist level on the lowest of the edge notches.  Several heave-ho’s and an elated Jonathan was able to rest and shout down to me to tell me all about it.  Relatively easily from then on, though nicely positioned, the climb continues up a corner and it was cracked.

The final climb in the Golden Jubilee Collection was named Golden Bluebell.

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

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

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

Club Committee 1985-86

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

Committee members                  Phil Romford
                                                Ian Caldwell


Further Belfry Improvements

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

Main Hut

1.                  Paint inside walls to toilet in entrance hall

2.                  Fix hat and coat hooks to Changing Rooms

3.                  Paint rest of Changing Rooms

4.                  Lock to Changing Room External door

5.                  Clean out and fix hanging rail to Drying Room

6.                  Repair lock to loft

7.                  Internal painting to Bunk Rooms and Entrance Hall


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

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

3.                  Fix frame and door to External Shed

4.                  Cut grass

5.                  Clean up Belfry site

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

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




Sec’s Change

by Bob Cork

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Oliver Lloyd

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

Berger 85

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

Business and Pleasure

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

50th Anniversary Dinner

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

Another Golden Jubilee

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

Belfry Brew

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


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


AGM Minutes

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election of Officers

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

Ordinary committee members: Brian Workman, Phil Romford.

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

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

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

Any Other Business

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

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

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

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

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


Hon. Sec’s Report.

Club Officers’ Reports – October 1985.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Large


Hon. Treasurer’s Report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Henley


Caving Secretary’s Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuart McManus


Hon. Editor’s Report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Librarian’s Report

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

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

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

Tony Jarratt.


Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner

by Alan Thomas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Oliver Cromwell Lloyd

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

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

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

Oliver could be humorous, humanly sensitive or ruthless.

Banquo at the feast of the king

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

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

The Wooding Affair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Forthcoming Caving Trips

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

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

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

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

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

Provisionally club meets will be as follows:







Notts Pot

N.P.C. Hut



Nick Pot




Lancaster/County Pot

N.P.C. Hut



Juniper Gulf



South Wales


Camping near Chrickhowell



Daren Cilau



Wye Valley

Otter Hole

Trip over 2 tides



Gaping Gill.  Winch Meet.

Camping by main shaft



Nettle Pot








Providence-Dow (Dowbergill)

Camping at Kettlewell



Birks Fell








Marble Steps

N.P.C. Hut






South Wales


South Wales Hut

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

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

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

Mark Lumley.


Majorca 1985

Jeremy Henley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Log Book Ramblings

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

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

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

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

Hut Fund

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

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

B.E.C. Balloon Flights Raffle

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

1st prize of 2 basket places                                            Ticket

            G.Fish, Weston super Mare.                               (1021)

2nd prize of 2 basket places

            Lil Romford, Bat Products                                   (233)

3rd prize of 1 basket place

            A. Hayward, Wilton, Taunton       (1447)

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

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

Dave Turner.


Bristol Exploration Club - Membership List October 1985

828 Nicolette Abell                  Faulkland, Bath

1059 Georgina Ainsley            Redland, Bristol

987 Dave Aubrey                    Park St, Salisbury, Wiltshire.

20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw            Knowle, Bristol, Avon

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

818 Chris Batsone                  Bathford, Bath, Avon

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

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

998 Crissie Bissett                 Exeter, Devon

364 (L) Pete Blogg                  Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey

145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle       Calne, Wiltshire

959 Chris Bradshaw                Cheddar, Somerset

868 Dany Bradshaw                Eastwater Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset

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

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

992 Mark Brown                     St. Andrews, Bristol

924 Aileen Butcher                 Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

849 Alan Butcher                    Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

956 Ian Caldwell                     University College Cardiff, Cardiff, Wales

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

1062 Andy Cave                     Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset

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

1048 Tom Chapman                Barrows Road, Cheddar, Somerset.

1003 Rachael Clarke               Ardross, by Alness, Rossshire

1030 Richard Clarke                Normans Green, Plymtree, East Devon

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

89 (L) Alfie Collins                   Litton, Somerset

862 Bob Cork                         Stoke St. Michael, Somerset

1042 Mick Corser                   Woodbury, Exeter, Devon

827 Mike Cowlishaw               Micheldever Station, Winchester, Hants.

1060 Peter Crawley                 West Wickham. Kent

890 Jerry Crick                       Reaseheath, Nantwich, Cheshire

680 Bob Cross                       Knowle, Bristol

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

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

815 Nigel Dibben                    Holmes Chapel, Cheshire

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

829 Angie Dooley                   Harborne, Birmingham

710 Colin Dooley                    Harborne, Birmingham

1000 (L) Roger Dors                Priddy, Somerset

1038 Alan Downton                 Sundon Park, Luton, Beds

830 John Dukes                      Wells, Somerset

996 Terry Earley                     Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire

771 Pete Eckford                    Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset

322 (L) Bryan Ellis                  Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset

1064 David Evans                   Didcot, Oxon

1063 Peter Evans                   Abingdon, Oxfordshire

232 Chris Falshaw                  Fulwood, Sheffield

269 (L) Tom Fletcher               Bramcote, Nottingham.

894 Phil Ford                          Yeovil, Somerset

404 (L) Albert Francis              Wells, Somerset

569 Joyce Franklin                  Stone, Staffs

469 Pete Franklin                   Stone, Staffs

1049 Gerard Garvey                Fulwood, Preston, Lancs

769 Sue Gazzard                    Tynings, Radstock, Nr Bath, Avon

835 Len Gee                          St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire

459 Keith Gladman                 Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

1069 Angie Glanville                Chard, Somerset

1017 Peter Glanville                Chard, Somerset

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

1006 Edward Gosden              Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, Hants

1054 Tim Gould                      Redland, Bristol

860 Glenys Grass                   Sawbridgeworth, Herts

790 Martin Grass                    Sawbridgeworth, Herts

1009 Robin Gray                     East Horrington, Wells, Somerset

432 (L) Nigel Hallet                 Address not known

104 (L) Mervyn Hannam           St Annes, Lancashire

999 Rob Harper                      Hanham, Bristol, Avon

4 (L) Dan Hassell                    Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset

893 Dave Hatherley                 Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset

974 Jeremy Henley                 Leg Square, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

917 Robin Hervin                     Trowbridge, Wiltshire

952 Bob Hill                           2441 B6 Wassennaar, The Netherlands

373 Sid Hobbs                        Priddy, Wells Somerset

736 Sylvia Hobbs                    Priddy, Wells Somerset

905 Paul Hodgson                  Pennybatch Lane, Burcott, Wells, Somerset

898 Liz Hollis                         Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

899 Tony Hollis                       Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

920 Nick Holstead                  Trowbridge, Wiltshire

387 (L) George Honey             Address not known

971 Colin Houlden                   Bruton, Somerset

770 Chris Howell                     Edgebaston, Birmingham

923 Trevor Hughes                  Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset

855 Ted Humphreys                Moorsite, Marnhull, Sturminster Newton, Dorset

73 Angus Innes                      Alveston, Bristol, Aven

540 (L) Dave Irwin                   Townsend, Priddy, Somerset

922 Tony Jarratt                      Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset

668 Mike Jeanmaire                Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire

1026 Ian Jepson                     Beechen Cliff, Bath

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

995 Brian Johnson                  Ottery St. Mary, Devon

1001 Graeme Johnson            East Park Road, Leicester

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

567 (L) Alan Kennett               Henleaze, Brsitol

884 John King                        Wisborough Green, Sussex

316 (L) Kangy King                 Pucklechurch, Bristol, Avon

1007 Jonathan King                Pucklechurch, Bristol, Avon

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

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

946 Alex Ragnar Knutson        Bedminster, Bristol

874 Dave Lampard                  Horsham, West Sussex

1029 Steve Lane                     Bamford, Derbyshire

667 (L) Tim Large                    Wells, Somerset

958 Fi Lewis                           Wells, Somerset

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

1015 Andrew Lolley                 Kingsdowm, Bristol

1043 Andy Lovell                    Rowan Walk, Keynsham, Bristol

1065 Mark Lovell                     Keynsham, Bristol

1057 Mark Lumley                  Clifton, Bristol 8

1022 Kevin Mackin                  Yeovil, Somerset

1067 Fiona McFall                  Knowle, Bristol BS4

651 Pete MacNab (Sr)             Cheddar, Somerset

1052 Pete MacNab (Jr)            Cheddar, Somerset

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

725 Stuart McManus               Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset

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

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

704 Dave Metcalf                    Long Eaton, Nottingham

1044 Andrew Middleton           Harrow, Middlesex

1012 Al Mills                          Ston Easton, Wells, Somerset

1053 Steve Milner                   Clifton, Bristol

936 Dave Nichols                    Address not Known

852 John Noble                       Tennis Courts Rod, Paulton, Bath

624 Jock Orr                          Sturton-by-Stow, Lincoln

396 (L) Mike Palmer                Yarley, Wells, Somerset

1045 Richard Payne                Sidcup , Kent

22 (L) Les Peters                    Knowle Park, Bristol Avon

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

1037 Dave Pike                      Luckinbgton, Chippenham, Wilts

337 Brian Prewer                    West Horrington, Wells, Somerset

481 (L) John Ransom              Patchway, Bristol, Avon

682 John Riley                        Waramanga, ACT 2611, Australia

1033 Sue Riley                       Waramanga, ACT 2611, Australia

1046 Gerard Robinson             The Common, Patchway, Bristol

986 Lil Romford                      Coxley, Wells, Somerset

985 Phil Romford                    Coxley, Wells, Somerset

921 Pete Rose                       Crediton, Devon

832 Roger Sabido                   Lawrence Weston, Bristol

240 (L) Alan Sandall                Nailsea, Avon

359 (L) Carol Sandall               Nailsea, Avon

760 Jenny Sandercroft             Victoria Park, Bristol

237 (L) Bryan Scott                 Havestock Road, Winchester Hants

482 Gordon Selby                   Wells, Somerset

78 (L) R Setterington               Taunton, Somerset

213 (L) Rod Setterington          Chiswick, London W4

1046 Dave Shand                    Easton, Bristol

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

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

915J Chris Smart                    Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts

911 James Smart                   Clifton, Bristol

1041 Laurence Smith              West Horrington, Wells, Somerset

823 Andrew Sparrow               Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset

1 (L) Harry Stanbury                Bude, Cornwall

38(L) Mrs I Stanbury               Knowle, Bristol

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

365 (L) Roger Stenner             Weston super Mare, Avon

867 Rich Stevenson                Wookey, Wells, Somerset

583 Derek Targett                   East Horrington, Wells Somerset

1039 Lisa Taylor                     Weston Road, Bath

1035 John Theed                    Staple Hill, Bristol

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

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

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

699 Buckett Tilbury                 High Wycombe, Bucks

700 Anne Tilbury                     High Wycombe, Bucks

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

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

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

382 Steve Tuck                       Coxley, Wells, Somerset

1023 Matthew Tuck                 Coxley, Wells, Somerset

1066 Alan Turner                    Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon

678 Dave Turner                      Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon

912 John Turner                      Launceston Rd., Tavistock, Devon.

925 Gill Turner                        Launceston Rd., Tavistock, Devon.

635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury          Boundstone, Farnham, Surrey

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

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

949 John Watson                    West Horrington, Wells, Somerset

1019 Lavinia Watson               West Horrington, Wells, Somerset

973 James Wells                    Yorktown Heights, New York, USA

1055 Oliver Wells                    Yorktown Heights, New York, USA

1032 Barry Wharton                Yatton, Bristol

878 Mne White                       Royal Marines Police, Hamworthy, Dorset

1068 John Whiteley                Holnepark, Ashburton, Devon

1061 Kerry Wiggins                Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, Hants

1031 Mike Wigglesworth         Keynsham, Avon

559 Barrie Wilton                    Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset

850 Annie Wilton-Jones           Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent

813 Ian Wilton-Jones               Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent

914 Brian Workman                Little London, Oakhill,  Bath

1011 Lucy Workman               Little London, Oakhill,  Bath

477 Ronald Wyncoll                Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.

1050 Richard York                  Cheddar, Somerset


The Journal Of The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

Editor: Robin Gray

A smaller BB this time/but in time, I hope to let everyone know about the Barbecue.  I think that this year’s event will be one to remember for many years to come.  The chariot race looks like being a rip snorter with a boating section to cool things off half way round.  After the race there will be a great feast for the survivors and supporters alike.

The Belfry improvements are now complete and cavers can change, wash and dress in the lap of luxury. We also have a more suitable library and a more secluded cooking area.

Congratulations to Tony and Jane who linked their jug handles and got married a couple weeks ago. The J'Rat’s I'm told spent some time in Greece after the big day and I understand that Tony spent a night underground.

Sunday 20th May saw a big push on sump 2 in Cuthbert’s with air pump from the surface.  More news of this later.  Also I hope to have some news concerning the big new Mendip find made by MCG.  REG is at the moment working on a 1986 cavers calendar with 13 new cartoons. Beware!  You could be the subject of one.

Lastly is there anyone living near Wells who can lend a hand with typing the BB.  Please let me know if you can help as my typing is horrible and since I have just started a graphic design studio, time is very limited. Thanks.

Till No 4.good caving, Robin




THE BARBECUE. This is to be held on Saturday 22nd June 1985.  The theme will be Viking Fancy Dress.  Tickets costing £2.50 each are available from Brian Workman Tele. Oakhill 840815. Games will be played around The Mineries for The Wessex Challenge Trophy which we won last year.  Tickets will be on sale about 1 month before.  Volunteers are needed to help organise this event.

GOLDEN JUBILEE DINNER.  This will be held on Saturday 5th October 1985 at The Cheese Pavilion, Bath & West Show Ground, near Shepton Mallet.  The room will sit up to 300 people.  I hope members will spread the word to encourage as many past and present members as possible to celebrate our 50th year.

THE BELFRY IMPROVEMENTS.  These are now completed and the remaining work left to do is the fitting out of the kitchen, bunkrooms etc some of which will be left until extra money is available. As you are now aware these improvements have cost more than at first expected, in order to pay these debts off your financial support is needed.  If you are in doubt as to whether the modified Belfry is worth your support do come up to Mendip and see for yourself.  I am sure you will be well pleased with the result. We now have a club hut specifically designed to cater for caving activities which can easily be maintained and cleaned.

To look further ahead I can see the next project will be central heating.  This will provide a level of comfort and drying facilities which people these days have come to expect.  It will also ensure that the building is kept dry and also ensure that the frozen pipe problems experienced in recent winters is not

repeated.  This causes both inconvenience and extra expense in repairs.  Some items of furniture, kitchen equipment and shelving for the Library are also required. Any member who has anything which they could donate to the Belfry please consult with the Hut Warden - Chris Batstone. In the past well meaning members have bought along such items to the Belfry for use without consulting the Hut Warden thus resulting in us having more furniture than we had room for and giving us the problem of disposal.  At present as the bunk capacity is reduced we have plenty of mattresses for the time being. One item which too well is the fridge - if anyone has an old fridge in working order and preferably one which will fit under a work surface then it would be much appreciated.


Early Days


Dear Tim

Herewith article as promised on the “Pre-history of the club – please pass to Robin.

I hope that this will stir up others to recall the very early days.

It is such a pity that the other really early members are still untraceable – I’ve waded through the Bristol area phone books, but none of the similar names there “ring a bell”

All the best


Early Days

In this our Jubilee year I felt it opportune that there should be a definitive history of the B.E.C. These notes cover the years to 1949 when more erudite pens than mine can take up the story.

During the Blitz years, one of our members - John (Jock) Kinnear, offered to write a history of the B.E.C.  All the original records, logs, etc., were posted to him; they never reached him and as a mail train was blitzed the same night, it is reasonable to assume that they were destroyed with the train.  As a result of this loss, there is no early record of Club activities and as the only remaining founder-member it has fallen on me to try to put together a record of those early years.  After almost fifty years some incidents remain clear, whilst others are hazy, but I have put down the facts as  I remember them.

It can be said that the B.E.C. was conceived as the result of a love affair between myself and the cliffs and caves of North Cornwall.  As far back as I can remember I spent my early childhood climbing on the cliffs and exploring the sea caves that abound on that coast.

When just after my 9th Birthday I was suddenly transported to Bristol and found myself in a large city, I was, for a time, utterly at a loss in such a strange environment.  My memories of caves and climbs began to fade, to be spasmodically revived by visits "home" to Cornwall.  I found that the "huge" caves that had so excited me in the past had become, usually, quite small and uninteresting holes.  Then, at school during a class on the geology of Mendip, mention was made of Caves!!  All the earlier feelings came flooding back and after asking a lot of rather naive questions I was told of a huge" cave in Burrington Combe called "Goatchurch".

The next Saturday I set out on my pushbike to Burrington to find it.  After a lot of hunting around I found the entrance and was amazed - compared with my previous experience, this was gigantic - it actually had a gate and a handrail!  Having no lights I ventured no further than daylight allowed me and emerged elated by what I had seen.  Subsequently, taking candles and matches I made another trip and managed the through trip, exiting via the Tradesmen's Entrance.

Several years passed. I left school and joined a well-known firm of Electrical Contractors.  Early in 1935 a group of us were discussing hobbies and I mentioned my trips to Goatchurch.  Four of my colleagues

thought that they would like me to take them there and so on record go the names of Tommy Bartlett, Cecil Drummond, Ron Colbourn and Charlie Fauckes, who together with myself began a series of trips to Mendip and the formation of the B.E.C.

We had, at first, no intention of forming any organisation.  We were just a small group who wanted to go underground, but after our first couple of trips to Swi1dons, we realised that there was a lot more to caving than crawling around in semi-darkness.  We managed to find Swildons entrance and after Herculean struggles in the stream, reached the Lavatory Pan!

We didn't like the look of that so we retreated.  On our second Swildons trip we reached the top of the 40' again via the Wet Way as we then knew nothing of either the short or long Dry Ways.

As a result of these two trips we began to realise that we needed tackle to go further; that tackle cost money; that money was almost non-existent amongst Electrical apprentices (average wage 15/- [75p] per week) and that to explore caves regularly we had to get organised.

Getting to Mendip was no problem - we had our push-bikes and so no expense (except energy).  Tackle was another matter altogether - then we heard of another group of enthusiasts who had recently formed themselves into a "Caving Club".  Here was the apparent answer - we would join them!  After much enquiry, the secretary of this club was located and Charlie Fauckes, whose home was nearest, went to see him.  He came away a disappointed man after a point-blank refusal to even consider "your sort" as members.

We held a meeting and it was decided, in June 1935, to form our own organisation.  The feeling was that although our main activity was caving, we had other interests that should be catered for and so the Bristol Exploration Club was formed, with an annual subscription of 5/- (25p) and a charge of 1/- (5p) per trip to cover expenses! Our initial membership was about a dozen which included the five originals.  At this inaugural meeting we drew up a constitution which has virtually remained unaltered through the years.  As an aside to the above, the other interests at that time included climbing - still actively pursued - and a rather bizarre interest in the supernatural. I remember us spending a very wet night under an archway in Bath, armed with cameras and waiting for a phantom coach-and-four, driven by a headless coachman, to come down Widcombe Hill.  Needless to say, it did not 'materialise'.

For a time after our first meeting all went smoothly.  Our subscription enabled us to buy ropes and the materials to make ladders.  We launched into 'official' notepaper and a bat - 'Bertie' - was adopted as our emblem, although he didn't find his way on to our note-paper until much later.

We familiarised ourselves with most of the smaller caves and then we turned to the larger ones.  Here too, we were successful and at the end of the first year we were still in existence and if not exactly flourishing, were holding our own.

Membership did not increase greatly in the following years.  We were not keen, anyway, on having too many members at first as we felt we did not have sufficient know-how or facilities to hold them after they had joined. We preferred to move slowly, consolidating our position as we went, so that when the time came, as we were sure it would, when members started to roll in, we would be in a position to offer them something good.

The outbreak of war in 1939 found the club in a stronger position than ever before although our membership was still only fifteen.  We had suffered one bad loss.  Our treasurer, Dick Bellamy, who was also our 'official' photographer, had developed blindness and this necessitated his withdrawal from all club activities.  His last trip was to Lamb Leer where we went as guests of U.B.S.S.

As the war progressed, most of the older members were called up, so that except for one fortunate circumstance we would have had to close down, as did other Mendip clubs, for lack of active members.  We were fortunate to absorb the Emp1ex Cave Club.  The E.C.C. membership comprised members of the staff of Bristol Employment Exchange who had formed a club for similar reasons and on similar lines as our own.  The leading lights of Emp1ex were Roy Spickett and 'Jones'.  Older members who can recall 'Jones' will remember some of the hilarious escapades he led.  I recall a trip to the depths of Sidcot with a naked 'Jones' crawling over two of us and the sub- sequent boot marks and burns from our acetylene lamps along the length of his body!  I hasten to add that he didn't normally cave naked, especially in mixed company but had just shed his clothes to get back through a hole through which gravity had helped him on his downward journey.

1940/41 saw us jogging along as before, the number of new members usually equalling those called to the forces, but 1942 saw the most severe crisis in the club's history. There was a massive call-up, the result of which left us with only about half-a-dozen active members, all of whom were actively engaged in the war effort and so had very little time for caving. As all members in the forces had their subscriptions waived during the duration, we were badly hit financially.

For six months we struggled on and then came salvation.  A number of persons of fair caving experience applied for membership and from that moment our troubles vanished. It is mainly through the hard work and support of two of these men - Dan Hasell and Roy Wallace - the latter now long dead - that the club was put on the way towards the prominent position it holds in the caving world today.

The club was revitalised and it is from this time that the Membership numbering system began.  We little thought that by 1985 well over 1000 people would have been accepted for membership.

Mendip was still reached by push-bike, the severe petrol rationing precluding any other personal means of transport.  The emphasis was on "push" ropes, ladders and clothes had to be carried and in many cases made the journey more strenuous than the actual caving, especially on the return journey when everything was wet and muddy and consequently weighed more.  So, in 1943 we built what we claimed to be the first lightweight ladder to be used on Mendip - made from hollow duralumin tube and steel wire.  It was supposedly lighter than its French equivalent and was 40' long, to be followed shortly by a similar 20' length.  This ladder, now a museum piece, is held by Angus Innes.

Between 1943 and 1945 our membership again showed a marked increase and it was during this time that we became well known and respected on Mendip.  Prior to this, as one of the very few active clubs, anything untoward that occurred "on the hill" was laid at our door - "You're the only active Mendip Club; it must have been you who broke into Lamb Leer etc., etc."  In reality our conscience was clear, as to our knowledge, no B.E.C. member had been guilty of misconduct.  It was against our principles to antagonise others and although we knew that incidents had occurred, we also knew that we were not to blame.  This fact eventually was recognised and the ill-informed sniping ceased.

In 1946 we felt that it was time to consider having a headquarters on the Hill.  Our first temporary H.Q. was the stone hut across the valley from the present Belfry site.  I believe it had room for just six bunks and although it was completely inadequate for a club membership of 80, it was at least a toe-hold. Shortly after this an old cricket pavilion on Purdown became available and this was purchased, transported and quickly erected on the present site, in time for the terrible winter of 1947.  The journey to Mendip was notable for Angus sitting in the detailer on top of the load.

A hut on Mendip needed a name and what more appropriate than 'The Belfry'?- the home of Bertie and his clan.

The same year our dig at Cross Swallet brought us in contact with The Bridgwater Caving Club, the majority of whose members became members of B.E.C. - Sett, Alfie, Postle, Pongo, Don Coase, Shorty, Dizzie and Freda Hutchinson to mention a few by name.  We also absorbed the Mendip Speleological Group and became, individually, very active in the formation of the Cave Diving Group, in which Don Coase was an outstanding diver and Dan Hasell is now President.  The club also became a member of the - now defunct - Cave Association of Wales and also of the Cave Research Group.

In 1947 the Belfry Bulletin was first published and its success can be judged by the fact that after 38 years it still regularly (well, almost!) appears.

1947 also saw the discovery by the club of Stoke Lane II, Browne's Hole and Withybrook Swallet, and a week's caving in Derbyshire and several weekends in Wales and Cornwall were enjoyed by all who took part in them. During one of the latter, the club won first prize in the Bude Carnival:  Not as cavers, but as babies.  Angus, Jim Weeks and Dick Woodbridge were three of the four babes and their antics wrecked the efforts of the local band who followed them in the procession.

In 1948 membership stood at 98 and there was a considerable increase in caving tempo.  A survey of Stoke Lane I and II was completed, published, and was amongst a number of club items shown at a Caving Exhibition organized by the City of Bristol in conjunction with local caving societies. The exhibition was a great success; the photographs loaned by the B.E.C. which included a number of superb shots of Stoke Lane II by Don Coase, being a crowd puller.

During 1948 we absorbed the Clifton Caving Club and 'Shorty' formed a London section of the club.  Probably the outstanding achievement of the year was the purchase of another hut.  Belfry II (the Purdown pavilion) had become too small for our expanding active membership and was also more than a little decrepit.  A Naval hut sited at Rame Head in Cornwall was located, examined and priced.  It was almost new, even the bolts holding the sections together were un-rusted, and the size was about right.  We bought it and one weekend a party descended on it; dismantled it; loaded it on a lorry and transported it back to Mendip.  My memory of that weekend is - rain, sleeping on a concrete floor in a disused building ankle deep in sheep shit and a car (mine) whose front wheels always wanted to go in the opposite direction to the turn of the wheel.  If anyone is interested, buy Angus a pint and he'll relate more gory details.  This hut became Belfry III and lasted until it was burnt down many years later.

The outstanding event of 1949 was the attendance of a large party of members at the 2nd International conference of Speleology at Valence in the Rhone Valley.  Bob Bagshaw and party were featured in the local papers, complete with rather flamboyant prose and indistinct photographs.

I hope that some readers will have found this article of interest and that I have stirred the memories of some of the old-timers, perhaps leading to further notes and reminiscences of the dim and distant days of yore.


Mid Summer BBQ