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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover:              No comment.


1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor


Inside Cover:      Emma Porter (a prospective member) is “interviewed” by J-Rat & Jingles.


April fool it the Belfry Bulletin!


Hello again folks, BB time is here ... whoopee!!!

Judging by the response to the last issue I considered it wise to let "Spike" loosed again so he'll take over in a minute.  I'd just like to appeal to you all for some more articles.  This has been the main reason for the delay in this issue, or rather the lack of articles has.  I know that there are those that that have promised and are indeed at this very moment scribbling away, but I could still do with more input.

I'd also like to apologise for the poor print quality or some of this ish .. .its cos I'm between computers at present and I’m having to beg borrow and steal time on other systems (once a hacker etc.)  I’m hoping to improve the look of the BB with the next issue, thanks to Dave Turner’s Laser printer so I hope that will make up for it.  Oh and if there is any smelliung pisstakes in the prunbtong its cos I was in a Harry!!

Spike's Corner:

I managed to escape from my cage to attend Rich Blake’s Birthday bash at the Belfry, little did I realise that it was the official Belfry "Winter Olympics.  (See Belfry Walls for evidence!?!?!?).  I was greeted at the door by a wall of sound, the first time I’ve seen a stereo that size in The Belfry (and some would say hopefully the last…ed).  Having struggled through the almost solid decibels I was nearly fried alive by the resident fire breather and flame thrower…Ivan.  I hear tell that Zot was banned for this many moons ago!!  When the flames had cleared I realised that the kitchen had been transformed (as usual) into a ski jump.   The kitchen had been transformed into a ski jump.  A highly lubricated Belfry tale was mounted at a ”Black Run” angle at the far end and extreme mirth was had watching Snablet, Rich Vince et al Luging, skiing and falling down it.  This degenerated into a tennis/cricket match where anything that could be thrown became a ball, including certain individuals!  Once the throng were knee deep in broken crockery etc. (including Ivan’s suspected broken shin!!) things slowed down a bit. Just before I departed someone put the Sex Pistols on the stereo (always a recipe of disaster) and I have a vision of Blake, Snab and Vince “dancing” to the beat.  At least they say it was dancing, all looked a bit iffy to me, needless to say various individuals were differing shades of green the next morning.

I also Went to Sian Menab’s 21st "Rocky Horror" party at the village hall the other weekend. This was a dammed good bash and can be summed up quite succinctly.  "Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders, Beer, Dancing, Nurses, Stockings Suspenders, Food, Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders and ......... Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders. (Get the idea???)   If you can't imagine what its like I suggest you speak to Snablet or Dave Lennard as they are both reputed to have had "First hand Experience" later in the evening.

A good time was had by all who attended; even Andy Sparrow was depressed up, tho’ I have to say that Mrs Sparrow looked better in her gear than Andy in Basque.  (As Snab said to me, if one testicle fall out either side he would have been a Basque separatist!!)   I also saw the editor of a BEC magazine dressed to the nines, best dressed woman there weren't you jingles. (Lies lies all lies…Ed).

Personally I can’t wait for the next one, Nurses, stockings, suspenders ... ad infinitum.



By Phil Romford.

Sandpit is a unique solutional feature on Mendip, situated at the top of the catchments between Swildons Hole, Eastwater Cavern and St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and at the head of Ebbor Gorge above Wookey Hole.  It is a large, roughly rectangular solutional depression about 50 by 23 metres and 11 metres deep, the longer axis is North to South.  Sand Pit may be an ancient collapsed cavern; the possible evidence for this being the vertical cliff sides, the highest being about 8 metres, and, the vast amount of boulders infilling the floor.  It is shown as a small walled in feature on sheet 280, Wells area geological map at NGR ST 533497.

Sandpit is of great interest both in geological and potentially hydrological terms.  It is situated only about 150 to 200 metres south of the South Western Overthrust fault in Burrington Oolite (BO), which is faulted against the Clifton Down Limestone (CDL) to the north.  The South Western Overthrust fault trends approximately North West from near Cheddar, to the South East at the Emborough Thrust near The Hunters Lodge Inn, where it is offset by the Stock Hill Fault.  The fault dips at an angle of about 60 degrees SW.  In Sandpit the BO apparent dip is approximately 350, bearing 2600.  The name Sandpit no doubt derives from the fact that the limestone rots in localised lenses to a fine pale yellow/grey siliceous sand.  Generally, the limestone beds visible in Sandpit are massive, averaging about 1.5 to 2 metres.  The rock is fairly easily broken, unlike that at White Pit; my assumption is that the limestone in Sandpit was not sufficiently close to the fault to be affected by localised frictional heating and consequent metamorphism.

Sandpit is owned by Richard Masters of Lower Pitts Farm and is scheduled as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  The basis of the SSSI schedule being Geology and Biology.  It is therefore, a site of some considerable sensitivity in ecological and conservation terms.  The land owner asked me to discuss the prospect of digging with English Nature (EN) who are the body administering SSSI's.  After careful discussion I was able to ensure EN that digging would be carefully considered to take account of the fragile nature of the ecology.  This was agreed on the basis of a very small team of diggers who would continually update the landowner of progress.  EN granted a formal consent to the land owner allowing our team to proceed with caution.

There has been a sporadic history of digging in Sandpit since 1907 when the MNRC dug a small cave in the SW corner; in 1940 the UBSS dug a 3 metre shaft near the centre; the SMCC dug near the UBSS shaft in 1962 and later in 1965 (My old dig); the WCC in 1968 and finally in the late 1980's by EMI Caving Club.  None of the digging revealed anything of significance.  The current dig, started Spring 1993 is at the lowest point of the hole near the western cliff.

Tim Large and I sited our dig on the exact spot that I had previously dug nearly 30 years earlier. This was following the West wall down vertically; we very rapidly found that below infill level, the cliff was stepping out in well defined ledges about 1/2 metre wide and deep.  At a depth of 3 metres we had to dig outwards away from the wall to gain more depth. By now Brian Murlis and Chris Towser had joined us on a regular basis.  To date we have excavated to a depth of approximately 5 metres at the deepest; at that point we found that once again we were hitting solid bed rock.  The decision had to be made whether to tunnel following the rock down at an angle, or, whether to move out another couple of metres and dig another shaft.  After a lot of soul searching we decided on the latter, which will most likely be concrete lined for safety. We are now getting down into large blocks which may be promising. It least it may make it easier to consolidate the shaft.  The soil infill seems looser and with less clay than the upper levels and is certainly undisturbed by previous diggers. Since there may be items of archaeological interest, we shall take soil profiles as we dig the new shaft to build up a picture of the prehistory of the depression.


The situation of Sandpit is an interesting one: Since it is more or less in the centre of the Swildons, Cuthbert’s, Wookey Hole triangle, it gives rise to speculation on what lies beneath the Sand Pit infill. The drainage patterns of the major swallets feeding Wookey Hole indicate that there may be a major confluence probably nearer to St. Cuthbert’s sumps than any other swallet (see St. Cuthbert’s Report-Geomorphology).  The three major cave systems all terminate at sumps north of the South Western Overthrust fault.  This indicates to me that the confluence may be in the fault itself, at a depth of around 180 metres, at or near the saturation zone.  This means that Sandpit could be directly above major cave development. Indeed, White Pit, which is only about 500 metres to the NW, has a high level well decorated passage which trends due East. It is certainly possible that the two features may link, ultimately joining with The Master Cave (sic).



Tax changes affecting caving clubs.


Press Release:

Tax changes affecting caving clubs.

Following further investigation the details of the likely effects of the changes in tax legislation are becoming clearer.

The basic requirement of clubs and societies is simply to inform their local tax office of their existence. The tax office will then send a form on which the club can declare the amount of any taxable income, along with instructions on how to fill the form in. So long as the form is completed and returned within the time scales required there should be no further action required on the part of the Club and in many cases no tax will be payable.

Clubs should note that there are penalties for not filing their return within the specified period, but that these are only applicable if the local tax office has sent out a demand for information and this has been ignored.  On the other hand, treasurers and chairmen of clubs and societies may become personally liable for penalties and any tax due if they wilfully attempt to evade tax by failing to inform the tax office of the existence of their club.

A recent article in the NAMHO Newsletter (No. 24, January 1994), written by one of the Inland Revenue team responsible for the changes in the regulations, clearly describes the action which should be taken by treasurers and other responsible people in clubs and societies.  Copies of this are available, free of charge, by contacting the NCA Treasurer at the address below, enclosing an SAE. The names of people requesting the information will be kept on file and if there are any developments in the future the Association will try to keep people informed.

Nick Williams
Treasurer, National Caving Association,

Wednesday, February 9,1994

New tax changes affecting clubs and associations.

1.       Introduction.

A new piece of tax legislation became effective on 1st October 1993 (CT Pay and File).  This legislation applies mainly to limited companies but it also includes unincorporated associations, i.e. voluntary clubs, associations etc. In the following text the following definitions are applicable: -

Organisation - any voluntary club or association

Inspector - the local Tax District of the Inland Revenue.

2.       Previous treatment.

In the past, organisations have been strictly bound by the same rules as companies but the inspectors have exercised a lot of discretion.  Although income from subscriptions is not taxable, bank or building society interest is.  Most organisations have a deposit or building society account but the total annual interest received, and thus the tax due, is minimal. In most cases the interest is paid net of tax anyway.  Since it would cost more to assess and collect the tax than would be received, the Inspector, sensibly, did not pursue clubs where the tax liability was minimal.

3.       New Rules.

In respect of accounting years ending 1 October 1993 onwards, organisations, other than charities, are bound by the same rules as other companies. These rules are as follows: -

a.                      Within three months of the organisation's accounting year end, the organisation will receive from the Inspector a tax return (form CTIOO) and a formal notice to make a return.

b.                      Within nine months and one day of the organisation's accounting year end, the organisation must pay any tax due. They will calculate the tax liability themselves on the tax return (CT200).  Interest will be charged on any tax paid later than this date.

c.                      Within twelve months of the organisation's accounting year end the organisation must send the tax return (CT200) to the Inspector.  Nil liability must still be notified on a CT200.  A penalty will be charged where the CTIOO is returned later than this date as follows:

- £100 where returned up to 3 months late;

- £200 where returned over 3 month late.

4.       Charities

Registered charities must still return accounts to the Charity Commissioners as before but they are obliged to make a return on form CT200 if sent one by the inspector.

5.       Compliance

At present, Inspectors are only aware of the existence of a very few organisations.  The Inspectors can only issue a notice and Form CT200 if they are aware of the existence of the organisation and it should be noted that the penalty for late return of Form CT200 is only applicable if the organisation has received an official notice.  There may, therefore, be a temptation to refuse to notify the Inspector of the existence of the organisation in the hope that the organisation never receives an official notice.

This is NOT advisable since the Inspector may discover the existence of the organisation at a future date through the activities of investigation units. In such cases the Inspector can not only assess the unpaid tax for back years but also charge interest and penalties. Where an organisation is unincorporated the person assessed will be the Chairman or Treasurer personally on behalf of the organisation.

6.       Recommendations

For both organisations and the Inland Revenue to comply with the new legislation would involve a great deal of non cost effective work.  However, the legislation cannot be ignored completely. The answer is to obtain an "Extra Statutory Concession" from the Inland Revenue whereby they agree that the organisations need not send in details if their taxable income is below a de minimis amount.  I have sent a submission to the Inland Revenue Head Office asking them to consider an Extra Statutory Concession.  I will keep you informed of future developments.

Adrian Pearce.

Reproduced from NAMHO Newsletter No. 24, January 1994


From Chas Wethered

A little over three moths ago I met an old friend, Martin, in The Hunter's for Saturday lunch.  We decided it would be a good idea to take his two sons, James and Edward, for a look round

Goatchurch cavern, a gentle trip, as this would be the boys' first underground adventure and Mart's first trip in about 20 years.

We went to Brian Prewer's to borrow helmets and lamps for Mart and the boys, in exchange for a modest donation to the M.R.O.  Martin and Brian then recalled that they had caved together all that time ago, some reminiscence was indulged in as they got their kit sorted out, then off we went to Burrington Combe where we changed into our caving gear in Mart's van.  My first trip to Goatchurch (see BB 470) had been on a Tuesday morning in summer, Saturday afternoon in autumn found the cave 'inhabited' but nowhere near as busy as on my earlier visit.  In we went by the main entrance, Mart and I kept up a running commentary of sensible advice and naming sections of the cave for the boys, interspersed with 'witty' asides in Goon Show voices.  Members of 'a certain age' will be familiar with the antics of the Zany characters invented by messrs Milligan, Secombe, Sellars et al. (B*gger off Chas!! I can remember that myself and still have my copy of 'The Ying Tong Song'…certain age indeed!!...Ed.)

The humour and daft voices were to allay any fears that 'Little Jim' & 'Neddy' might have had. They said later that they weren't worried as they had enjoyed our jokes (poor deluded children) and had found their first adventure in the depths of the hill great fun and wanted to go again.

Next day, Sunday, lunch again at the Hunter's then to Priddy Green.  To Brian's for kit as before, then after changing in the barn we crossed the field to Swildons Hole.  Being the last man and being detained by a call of nature (Butcombe), not wanting to delay my companions, I suffered a hiatus of my mental process and dropped heavily into the entrance.  I landed on a small loose rock with my right foot, that ankle refocused my remaining brain cell with a sharp stab of pain.  A severe reminder to be more careful, later diagnosed by my G.P. as damaged ligaments, not serious but bloody painful.  Once exploring and pointing out the formations and intricacies of the dry ways to the lads (again with Martin & I sounding like 'Eccles' & 'Bluebottle' etc….."Oooooh…..He's fallen in the water?!?!") my hurt all but disappeared only to return with a vengeance later.  We took the boys to the top of the 20' and back, here was a good but light flow in the streamway giving the lads another new experience.  James wrote the imaginative poem (which follows, Ed) based on the weekends exploits, which I hope will give enjoyment to all us Belfryites.



Down Swildon's Hole.

With heavy belts and mining boots,
With nife cells, hats and lamps,
Down Swildon's Hole go one, two, three,
Hoping now to chance,
The trip down Swildon's hole and back,
But what dangers will there be?
Said one to others; Let us go,
And from all the things that I now know,
The trip all round, both to and fro,
Will take too long, and so,
I have thought another route,
That more our plan it does now suit.
Three boys they clambered down the hale,
And searching all throughout their soul,
They found no fear, or just for now.
The Rift, the Pipe, the tightest crawl,
Now would not divide them all,
But later, and now that is here,
The boys did not find cause for cheer,
And running out now was their hope,
'Cause one of them had dropped the rope!
Now here they stand, just down a climb,
And all they could now do was whine,
And holler, bellow, scream and shout,
In hope that someone could get them out,
But alack, outside the rain did fall,
And forced these boys only to crawl
Through flooded chambers, pipes and rifts,
Come up for air or catch the drifts,
And float along until they saw,
What looked a lot like a smooth glass door.
A closer peer revealed the clue:-
The water now: backwards it blew!
This was the hole the boys came in!
Oh how they made a terrific din!
One by one, they clambered out,
And there and then they gave a shout,
Because now all of them were free,
And had not come to misery.
Now on this world were three less graves,
But there are some terrifying caves!

James Torbett – Aged 12 – 25/10/93 -


Skiing In Crans Montana

When Jingles requested more articles for the BB I bemoaned the fact, in the Hunters one evening, that I could not help out as I had never done anything remotely original or interesting in the caving world about which to write an article.  "Why not write an article about skiing" says J-Rat, who like me believes that Jingles has a lot to be thanked for the rejuvenated BB and who, of course, is dependent on others for material to be published.

Well just as in the caving world I have never done anything interesting or original so in the skiing world, but I am aware that not so many cavers have skied so an article on the mundane will do just as well.

Are there any similarities? Well I suppose so, both sports depend on going downhill and then up but in the reverse order; both involve getting cold and sometimes hot, but for very different reasons; both require some nerve to enjoy to the full; both involve boozing for added pleasure; both have seen an amazing development in the fashionability of the cloths used; both depend on specialist gear to some extent and finally in the case of an accident requiring rescue both involve some trauma to the victim unless, in the case of skiing, you are taken off the mountain in a helicopter and then the trauma is whether your insurance policy covers the cost.

The main difference is the accommodation and food associated with recreational downhill skiing which s normally quite luxurious, and, even if it isn't, very expensive.  This I know puts many cavers off the sport when they think of the weeks or months, for the same cost, that they could spend enjoying themselves in the discomfort of the jungles or arid zones of the world under canvas, living off the land and drinking with the natives.  Well there's none of that in recreational skiing, rather superheated chalets or hotels, five course dinners, coffee at £2.00 a cup, a half of beer at more than that and a plate of chips at 3,000m for a fiver.  Now for someone, dare I say it, who has never stayed at the Belfry, these disadvantages are not serious rather they are positive advantages (excepting the cost).  You can of course hire an apartment and self-cater but even that isn't cheap.

The other main difference is that most downhill skiing could under no circumstances be considered "natural".  Purists who consider the fixed aids in Cuthbert’s an outrage would have nightmares at the sight of the uphill transport systems, the massive reshaping of mountains to produce skiable pistes (originally French for paths) and the bashing of the snow by amazing tracked machines (once seen in operation you would never bother to buy a 4WD vehicle) that seem to be able to go anywhere and work all night to produce easily skiable conditions.

What other differences are there?  There are far more women skiers than cavers and many are better than the men.  I am not sure whether this makes its difference for the better or worse as far as the readership is concerned!  The cost of going uphill is astronomic once you are anything more than a beginner.  In a resort with 100km or more of marked pistes a lift pass for a week will cost about £100.00.  If you don't own skis and boots you will have to hire both, if you've never skied before it makes sense to have lessons.

Skiing is very weather dependent with a short season, except on glaciers, on which you can ski all year - during the 1985 Berger trip I took off for a day to ski the glacier at Les Deux Alpes its often too cold, too sunny, too limited visibility, too much snow, too little snow but for all that it is often just right.

Off piste skiing, of which I have no experience, would I am sure appeal to cavers more as it is natural to the extent that you are skiing the untouched mountain snow.  It requires a different technique from piste skiing.      Of even more attraction   to BEC             members would be ski touring, or mountaineering, in which you go uphill as well as down on your skis and move from hut to hut.  You need an excellent knowledge of the mountains, or better still a guide, and joy upon joy the accommodation and drinking habits get much closer to caving as mountain huts, though warm, cannot be described as luxurious and the camaraderie and boozing legendary if a bit expensive.


This resort is on the north side of the Rhone valley about 80km east of the eastern end of Lake Geneva.  We sometimes fly from Heathrow in the morning to Geneva and then take the train from Geneva to Sierre and then a bus or rack and pinion railway up the mountain to Montana in time for tea.  More often than not now we drive leaving Somerset late Friday afternoon, catching an evening ferry at Dover and then driving

through the night arriving in Crans in time for breakfast, a journey of 550 miles across French motorways, then lesser roads across the Jura and finally more motorway in Switzerland.  Travelling this way we can be skiing by lunchtime on Saturday.

We tend to go to the same place most years for a mixture of reasons.  We have a friend who lets us his luxury apartment, three bedrooms and two bathrooms for the two of us.  On a day when there is no cloud the sun shines for eight hours when in other resorts less well positioned it will shine for one or two hours.  The resort is the biggest in Switzerland but hardly used by the Brits.  It is difficult to understand why except that it all faces south so that when the sun shines the snow melts quickly, but in the early season, provided there has been a good fall of snow the sun and snow can be a wonderful combination - from 10.00am to 4.00pm in hot sunshine in mid February on a mountainside between the altitudes of 1,500m and 3,000m can be magic.

The guidebooks say that Crans lacks challenging runs and this is true to some extent but for us this is compensated by the fact that Maggie and I can ski the whole mountain together, over 100 kilometres of marked piste, without Maggie getting scared and the views across the Rhone Valais to the Southern Alps with their rows of peaks higher than 4000m is spectacularly beautiful, to say the least.  Whatever the guidebooks say, in certain conditions the runs are challenging and sections of some of them are always challenging at least for the intermediate skiers that we are and always will be.

The apartment we hire is 50m from the "Les Violettes" lift from the resort, a six seater gondola, which takes just over 10 minutes to lift us from 1, 500m to 2, 200m initially over banks of fir trees and then, above the tree line, rugged mountain scenery.  From there we can transfer to a cable car which, in another ten minutes takes us together with 100 other skiers, packed like sardines, to 2,950m and the edge of a vast, aptly named glacial bowl, "Plaine Morte", which has little attraction to us downhill skiers.  Instead we head off down the one route from the glacier.  This is reasonably steep but wide in most places, interspersed with short, narrow and scary tracks traversing the more precipitous sections, the more daring players ski over the edge of these tracks but not us.

The view down and outwards is one mass of snow covered mountain with no trees and across the Valais a vast range of high alpine peaks.  Further down our route cuts into a wide valley, on either side of which we can now see other ski lifts and other skiers taking other routes from these lifts that mainly stop at about 2, 500m.  Towards the bottom of the valley, which is still a good 700m above the resort, it levels out and we ski faster and in a straighter line, not having to turn continuously as we have had to until now to avoid going too fast and losing control. We ski out onto a mountain path which is almost flat, past the "La Toula" lift, at the tree line and pole along for about a km until the track reaches the "Cabain du Bois" lift and then tilts down hill on narrow paths between the trees in the forest. These tracks are fun when we are on our own but horrid when there are lots of other skiers as there is very little room to manoeuvre and much danger of collision.  We are always pleased when we reach one of the many open spaces, which in the summer are mountain pastures, which allow some relaxation whilst skiing down to the door of our apartment.  From the glacier to the door it is an uninterrupted run of just over 11km and takes about half an hour if we ski non stop but we seldom do this as it is very tiring and misses all the point of being in the mountains, enjoying the views, the fresh air and the sunshine if we're lucky.  It can take much much longer if it’s snowing hard and a white-out with the only guide as to where we are the posts that mark the centre and edges of the piste, no view, freezing cold, mind chillingly frightening and requiring vast quantities of gluwein at the first mountain restaurant we come across.

Most of our skiing is above the tree-line from 2, 500m to about 1, 900m across the wide southern facing, interlinked mountain slopes of Petit Bonvin, Cry D' Err, Bella Lui and Chetseron, with some on the tracks down to the resort through the trees most of which end at one of the four main lifts out of the resort.  If we time it right and the snow is good we can always get back to our apartment on skis from wherever we are on the mountains but normally we ski into the centre of town to spend an hour or so in the late afternoon at Gerber's, a wonderful tea room with a three piece band playing gentle afternoon music, with a stunning array of Swiss cakes and confectionary and a range of fizzy beers that would look out of order at the Hunters.

Still wearing cumbersome skiing boots, we leave Gerber's suitably refreshed to window shop at Cartier, Gucci and other elite houses of consumerism before picking up the planks and heading off for the apartment on the bus, the cost of which is covered by the ski-pass. The day ends with a long lie in the bath, supper cooked by one or other of us and a good book.  Sleep comes easily after all the fresh air and the need to wake early the next day to get the best of the skiing.

Jeremy Henley


(Under) Ground Rules.

Purloined from 'The Mendip Caver'

Make of these what you will ...

Do not question the leader's decisions - Obey his instructions! Always stay in sight of the party - Do not lag behind - or rush on.

If you are Cold/Tired/Sick/Scared or Hungry - Say so!!  There is no room for pride or martyrdom - so be honest.

Distraction can cause trouble - Focus on the task at hand and stay concentrated.

Know where each step is going before you take it.

Relax at every opportunity. Conserve physical and mental energy.  Panic worry and uneasiness waste energy!  Stay calm and collected.

Apathy and boredom are your enemies - they will exhaust you very quickly - keep a positive and vital attitude.

The only barriers are those you create for yourself!!!  Believe you can do something and create the possibility ...... Intend to do something and create the probability .....

- Then create the reality ..... do it!!!


The Butcombe Blues.

By Mike Wilson.

Its pleasant to spend weekends just pubbing,
Doing the rounds with friends and he likes,
Pots clinking, people chatting, shoulders rubbing,
Jake and Blake wobbling around minus bikes.

Having drank all night at the Hunters,
And managed to stay standing up,
You find to your horror some punter's,
Gone and purchased a barrel to sup.

So you stagger to the bog in a stupor,
And manage a fumbling pee,
Then back to the bar for another,
Is this twittering wreck really me???

Last riders are called and the lights flash,
Finish your pint at a push,
Chip in for the barrel with hard cash,
Then have a last pee near a bush.

The nights not finished till morning,
You crawl out of your pit looking grim,
Climb over the bodies still yawning,
All having indulged alcohols whim.

Short of cash and totally exhausted,
Let’s go down to the caff for a bite,
Last night couldn't really be faulted,
Shall we have another barrel tonight???


Blasts From the Past.

Some more entries from the club log, from years gone by ...

16.6.64             Barry Lane, Oliver Lloyd, to St Cuthbert’s, the latter trying to learn the way.   During 3 hours any holes were entered, bottomless pits explored and a lake waded. The level of the lake was very low. O.C.L. found a way of getting up the entrance rift: with one foot in the bottom rung of the ladder - he recited one of Ramsay McDonald's speeches, the hot air so engendered rapidly got him to the top of the rift. - O.C.L.

26.8.64             Chris Harvey + Novice - Trip to Trat's Temple, Swildons Hole. - As we came back to the streamway, I noticed a hole high up in the roof and tried to climb to it. Unfortunately on the way up I slipped and fell about 15 feet where the novice was there to stop me.  Otherwise an uneventful trip.  Chris Harvey. (Who??? ..... Ed.)

22.11.64            Eastwater. R. Stenner, Joy Steadman, Brenda Plummer, Jock, Paul Morrel, Peter Fich, Dave Connolly, leader: Joyce Rowlands.

A miserable trip (inevitable in this cave) made hilarious for a while when one of the party (not the writer) got well and truly jammed.  Roger.

14.3.65             Eastwater - Balch Memorial trip.

Party: B. Wilton, C. Harvey, K.& P. Franklin, D.&K. Searle, H. Kennett.

60 years ago Eastwater was opened up by Balch et al.  To commemorate this fact a party was assembled in period dress to descend the cave. The illumination consisted of standard no. 7 candles carried between the thumb and forefinger.  The route taken was the 380' way, Traverse, Canyon, S Bends, Top of verticals and out via Halleluiah hole.  Time of trip one and a bit candles length = 2hrs.

13.8.65 Friday, Withybrook - Henry Oakey, Nick Miller.

By dint of taking off all our clothes we were able to get through a certain squeeze and get down into the streamway.  Extraordinarily tight, painful etc ... ' Better than flagellation!!!'

19.9.65             “Do not put in B.B.”        (Couldn't resist it could i? ... Ed)

At 1.30 precisely Messrs. Palmer, Kingston, Wilton & (Snogger) Hall - were supping ale at the Hunter's Lodge Inn, when a phone call was received with information about an exhausted caver below the 40' pot in Swildons. The above four, plus Biddle & Petty, descended to the water rift and found the bloke had already got up, so the party was guided out. - A half hour fiasco.  P.Kingston.

1.1.66 Hunter's Lodge Inn.       WIG HONKED!!!!



Trebor received a letter from Steve Milner in Australia, here is an excerpt which may be of some interest.

I noticed in Descent, that there is a slightly warped account of the blowing up of a cave in Sellicks Hill, just down the road from us here in Adelaide.  True, the cave was blown up by the quarry, but it was in an attempt to avoid the possibility of a conservation order being laid on the cave by the elected government. (The blast was on the eve (almost) of the election).  Nevertheless the majority of the cave exists and we are negotiating access, conservation orders, independent enquiries etc ... The Australian quarries are far more brazen in their activities than Hobbs quarries on Mendip.  The damaged cave is in the same limestone as the new cave that we have found on Kangaroo Island and really is quite beautiful, well worth preserving.

Speaking of Kangaroo Island, we are off for 10 days at Easter to push the caverns measureless to man; I expect we should have lots of success.

Happy Caving ..... Steve


Working Weekend.

The Belfry (as regulars will know) is currently in desperate need of some 'tender loving care'.  Well we all know its not going to get any of that but it might just get the once over at the next working weekend.  The date has been set for the weekend of 21st & 22nday.  Members attending and working will not be expected to pay hut fees (the usual arrangement) and hopefully there will be a meal on the Saturday evening as there was last time.  Trebor & Estelle have prepared a provisional list of tasks and these were agreed at the last committee meeting ......

Interior ...

1.                  Investigate and rectify intermittent hot water to left hand shower unit.

2.                  Investigate and rectify lack of hot water to shower room and hall we wash basins, in conjunction with defective immersion heater/hot water tank in roof space.

3.                  Shower room wash basins loose.

4.                  Replace various missing tiles to shower room walls.  (May be difficult until walls are allowed to dry out thoroughly.)

5.                  Continual problems with right side shower coin box - always breaking, jamming etc. Suspect left side shower box would be similarly afflicted if that shower was used more. 

6.                  Central heating erratic - radiators very hot on mild days.  Still significant smell from CH boiler.

7.                  Shower holder to right side shower loose/incapable of holding shower head. 

8.                  Flourescent tube in changing room needs replacing.

9.                  Dented/Broken inner face of changing room external door needs plating like the external face.

10.              Repair broken right side bulb holder in guests bunk room.

11.              On going repairs to hall WC cistern.

12.              Two electric bar heaters in boxed-in section of roof space not on during cold weather recently.

13.              General all round spring clean required.


1.                  New porch roof.

2.                  Up-grade front door to security door.  Wired safety glass??

3.                  Tune up delay mechanisms to external lights so they stay on for 1 minute?

4.                  Form gulley to base of front left gutter downpipe.

5.                  Replace missing downpipe to rear left corner of building, together with repairs to rotten/missing soffit and fascia board in this location.

6.                  Rectify bad leak to gutter/downpipe to front right corner of building.

7.                  Replace rotten sill/frame to guest bunk room left end window.

8.                  Re-decorate externally.

9.                  External emergency light over main fire door working??

10.              Replace poor quality, broken guest bunk room external door.

11.              Belfry site.. General clear up and disposal of rubbish.    (Big bonfire ... ???)

Obviously these repairs etc are ongoing so some may have been taken care of by May.  But as always there will be plenty to do and the support of the membership is needed, so make a note in your diaries.


OO- ER Missus ... !!!

About four or five weeks ago (maybe longer by the time you read this) we had a party of students staying at the Belfry from Kingston Uni. in London.  They have stayed at the hut on a number of previous occasions and aren't a bad bunch at all.  Unfortunately this time the hut was 'oversubscribed' resulting in too few bedspaces. On the Friday night some of them had been happy to sleep on mattresses on the bunkroom floor.

The saturday in question there was a barrel at the Shepton hut, which is another story altogether and I don't intend to go into that here, save to say that the party got continued at the Belfry and lasted till quite late .... During this time some of the Kingston lot, who had been asleep in the Belfry kitchen were wakened.  The high spirits of the partygoers resulted in a lot of crockery getting smashed and all of Kingston’s food being eaten.  It was awkward the next morning when not only did they not have anything to eat their breakfast off, but also had no breakfast to eat.  They were understandably upset about this.  The result being that Estelle had to buy replacement food for them as well as reimburse hut fees to the tune of about £20.00.  It would also seem that we have lost what had become a regular hut booking.

This was discussed at the last committee meeting and it was felt that there is a balance between having a good time (even a wild one) and the upsetting of paying guests to this extent. Need I remind you that we need to have guest parties stay at the Belfry for financial reasons let alone anything else.

It seems a shame that this sort of thing has to happen when even a modicum of control would avoid such situations in the future.

Digging Fund.

It was suggested at the last committee meeting that a digging fund be set up for the regular digging teams.  No decision has yet been taken but comment and feedback are invited from the membership ........ what do you think?????

A possibility would be to subsidise the purchase of tools and equipment for use on club digs, with individuals or teams being able to approach the committee and request funding for projects.

It is important to stress that this would be a club fund for club digs only and not a 'top up my tankard please' fund .....

Any comment is welcomed and can be forwarded to the committee via the BB editor, whose address is at the front of the 'rag'.


Martin "I'm not a yuppie Honest."  Grass would like you to know that his new Carphone (Poseurphone) number is 0385 xxxxxxx.


Sarah Bennett

1st October 1959 - 27th January 1994

The Caving world has suffered a sad loss with the death of Sarah Bennett on Thursday 27th January. 

Sarah clearly derived a great deal of satisfaction from her caving activities, particularly with the Chelsea on Llangattock and the BEC on Mendip.

A pleasure to cave with, she not only contributed with her considerable expertise, but with cheerfulness and an exemplary team spirit.  Her positive attitude was never more remarkable than on the Daren rescue in the winter of 91/92.  Faced with the daunting prospect of the journey from the Restaurant at the end of the Universe to the surface, with a dislocated shoulder, she was clearly concerned with the wellbeing of her rescuers as with her own predicament.

Sarah enjoyed the social side of caving with equal enthusiasm.  Barbeques at Whitewalls, singsongs at the Belfry, parties at the Restaurant - all were entered into with admirable high spirits.  The caving world will be all the poorer in her absence. Our sympathies go out to Henry, Sarah's family and her many close friends.

Mark Lumley


"And the lion shall lie down with the lamb"

Luke William English DEVENISH FIExpE
18 October 1920 - 24 February 1994

Mendip today is a sadder place for me, L.W.E. DEVENISH, known to many affectionately as "Dev" or as I have had the honour to have known him simply as "Luke" has died.

I have known Luke for only a fraction of the time that others have known him, just a mere 25 years in fact, but I have lost a dear friend and one of "life's gentlemen" is no more.  However, Luke's wife Norma, and their children Peter, Colena and Janine, and grandson Sam have a greater loss, and it is to them that we must send our deepest sympathy and respects.

Everyone that I have spoken to, that was fortunate enough to have known Luke, admits to having been touched by that magical spirit of his.  He was a perfectionist in all he attempted.  He would endure great discomfort, yet never complain of this. He would chide me for failing to wear ear-muffs or a dust mask when we were drilling and blasting, yet he would then sacrifice his own health and insist I use his equipment, when there was only one set in the Landrover, as I had mislaid mine.

One of the many tales that cheers me now is that of a young James HANWELL, Esq, who having been spotted walking at Priddy, towards Wells, was accosted by Luke and summoned to sit up in his open-topped windscreen-less jeep.  Together the pair tore off at break-neck speed, headlong down over Deer Leap towards Wookey Hole, as they neared the lower part of the road a thunderous and blinding crash occurred, shards of wood and curses profound ............... Luke is alleged to have exclaimed a great oath and cried "that's the third bloody gate I've hit across this road!!"

In recent years, in the coldest of weather, Luke could be seen about the City of Wells, in a bright lumber-jack type short-sleeved shirt, he was at that time hardy in health, but always with a soft nature. As a tutor and mentor he was like a lamb, gentle and considerate.  In recent years, after terrorist incidents, Luke would often telephone me at odd hours with valid suggestions and say, “I wonder, have you considered this?" He always kept a keen, sharp and active mind and he was ready with a suggestion that others would have overlooked.

L.W.E.D was a man whose interests in life were so strong, rich and colourful, it was almost infectious. He was a student of H.E. BALCH and with Oliver LLOYD and both Richard and Howard KENNEY, acted as pall bearers to the great pioneer on his death.

Luke was one of those characters in Mendip Caving, that dwindling Hall of Fame, who gave us much of our caving heritage on Mendip.  He was one of the discoverers of the Black Hole series in Swildons Cavern.  An ardent caver, not just on Mendip but also in the early days of speleology in France.   He once showed me, back in the late 60's, part of an early electron ladder he had constructed, and may well have been the first maker of such equipment.

I was fortunate in being Luke's next door neighbour in Chilcote, and one day on being offered employment by him, I readily accepted and there followed one of the most rewarding and formative periods of my life.  Luke's constant stream of tales and anecdotes could, with little effort, be encouraged from him, and often he would gruffly conclude these and dismiss them as being of no great import, yet to a starry-eyed youngster, this was history in action.

At work Luke's sheer physical strength and grit always manifested itself.  There are countless tales that those who resorted to his services of blasting, diving and demolition, or like Mike THOMPSON and Ian JEPSON, who have also assisted him, can recount.

I shall always remember seeing the dumb-struck awe that even hard-boiled Irish Navvies and site workers would hold him in, on the many construction areas we worked on.  A job well done was Luke's own satisfaction and reward.

On leaving a muddy, icy, wet site, tired, aching and with thumping "bang-heads" we would travel many miles at the end of the day to return to Washing pool Farm at Chilcote, Luke puffing in his King Edward cigar.  He would tell me of days long past, digging with H E BALCH at Badger Hole, Wookey, or when he had lived at the Star Hotel in Wells, and as an M.N.R.C member, he would spend hours at Wells Museum sorting out bones under BALCH's tutelage, or walked from Wells to Loxton, and after caving, slept the night in a cavern prior to his return to Wells.

Luke was the man who helped build the Wessex Cave Club Hut at Hillgrove, in one mad weekend, and later held the club together and took over the Chair of the Wessex from George WILLIAMS.  He later became President of the Wessex.   He was the man who, with Howard KENNEY, resolved to re-establish the Mendip Rescue Organisation after the War and was the number one call-out Warden until he retired on his 50th birthday.

Luke had a strong conviction that a man should always retire when he reached his peak, rather than overstay his welcome and thus was a man of his convictions.  He found the Roman lead pig ingots at Rookery Farm, which now lie in the Wells Museum, he was also the maker of the first underwater cave diving photograph at Wookey Hole in 1959.  He was the man who could move at all levels and not seem out of place with those in any section of society.  He was the man whose vision and interest and sheer downright professionalism, lead to the foundation of the now firmly established “ INSTITUTE OF EXPLOSIVES ENGINEERS".  He was the man who was always fair, honest, earnest, truthful, jovial, loyal, strong and loved his family, of whom he was immensely proud.  He was a lion of a man, called Luke DEVENISH.



Odds & Sods ...

Address Changes ...

Brian Murlis, Weston-Super-Mare
Andy Sparrow, Priddy, Somerset.

N.B. Andy requests that any 'visitors' do not park outside his house, but park at the Green and walk up to the house from there.


From Estelle, The Hut Dragon, oops sorry, Hut Warden.

Four lockers are still unclaimed but still padlocked.  If contact is not made with Estelle or they remain un-emptied by the 1st of May they will be forced open, emptied and given to someone else.  (There are people waiting for lockers)  So if you have a 'Guilt Factor' and have not yet paid your locker fees (£2) get in touch with Estelle.

Also ...

Anyone visiting the Belfry is requested to bring old newspapers for fire starting as long as the cold weather persists.  We need cups and plates too, preferably plastic and UNBREAKABLE if anyone has any spare.


BOB HILL is active (as ever) over in Oman and has written to me with the following ....

I have recently visited Majli's AI-Ojinn 'Meeting hall of the spirits'.  Second largest chamber in the world I am told.  900' by 600' with a 520' free hanging abseil, which was pretty impressive.

The sinkhole I mentioned in my last article has been pushed to 120m in.  We are now at - 50m and the passage continues downwards, with the roof appearing to level out at about -55m.  We intend to push it again soon but need some more gear and a few workup dives in the sea first as it will probably be a 60m dive.  An article on this and a survey and on Majli's trip will be forthcoming shortly.


I had a letter from John Nicholson a non member who visited recently with his son Martin and two Venture scouts ... an excerpt follows ....

 “Please thank the others for the friendly way in which we were welcomed to your HQ and shown the ropes.  A highlight of the weekend for me was to visit the Hunter's (after at least 35 years) and to find myself talking to someone who recognised me from the '50s. This last visit and a couple of other trips made in the last year, have wetted my appetite for some more caving and I would be interested to know if there are any other 'Antique Veterans' who would be willing to let someone of my ilk join them occasionally.

Once again thanks for all your assistance and for helping to make it a great weekend. I hope it is not too long before we all meet again on Mendip."

I have John's address and telephone number if anyone wishes to contact him …..Jingles.


Quote of the Month….

From a Caving Secretary who wishes to remain anonymous, on introducing the committee to a new member ....

"Nigel's not here but he takes all the Cuthbert’s trips!!!!"




More Odds & Sods ...

St Cuthbert’s Reports .... for visiting Parties....

There is now a locked box, fixed on top pf the key cabinet at the Belfry, containing Cuthbert’s reports and surveys.  It can be opened with the Cuthbert’s key.  Money for the reports should be put in an envelope, marked as such, and “posted” to into the hut fees box.

(In the event that there are no surveys available, take a name and address and the survey can be forwarded.)


BEC T-Shirts and stickers are now available from Tony Jarratt.  (Usually to be found at Bat Products….surprisingly enough).


The editor apologises to any members who have joined recently, I am still working on the updated Membership list at the time f publication.  As soon as I am able I will publish details.


Local members are reminded of Cheddar Folk Festival, taking place in Cheddar, of all places, 7/8/9/May 1994.  See “Snab” for more info.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover:               Left:  Barrow rake and ‘that’ Vacuum cleaner.
                        Right:  A Dutchman in Wire Rift St. Cuthbert’s
                        Bottom:  Treebs and pal at Gour Hall St. Cuthbert’s


1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor


New Years Eve.

For the benefit of those who either weren't there or were there but can't quite remember what happened (though Lord knows why that should be!) what follows is a brief report on the festivities that were perpetrated at The Hunter's Lodge and The Belfry on the night of 31.12.93 - 1.1.94.  My informant wishes to remain anonymous as he does not wish to be sued or beaten up as a result of this article, though the editor may be persuaded to divulge his identity at agreeable price.

By ten o’clock the Hunter's was in full swing, all bars were open and pretty full, 'speleology corner' in the main bar had become a fairly non negotiable people ruckle and great fun was had 'groping' my way through it.  Most people, it seems, were in fairly high spirits by this time, indeed there was not a great deal of 'ebriation' to be seen at all!

The majority of BEC members had congregated in the back bar, the list of names and faces being far too long to detail here save to say all the regulars and then some were there, even some Dutch cavers who had stayed at the Belfry over Christmas had come back from Wales in order to share in the fun.

About ten thirty sounds of harmonious singing could be heard emanating from a corner of the bar; the 'Belfry Boys' were at it and before very long this developed into a full fledged sing song with all and sundry joining in.  Cries of 'They Words' filled the air 'twixt ditties and at one point the lights were turned off, presumably as a request from the Landlord to keep singing' they words’.  The highlight for me being a particularly sweet and harmonious rendition of 'The Exploration Club' I haven't heard it sung so well by so many for a long time. Much Ale and snuff were consumed amid the sounds of singing swearing and raucous laughter, and then suddenly it was time.  A disorderly exit from the pub preceded a totally uncoordinated 'Auld Lang Syne' (I swear there were at least three different versions going on at once) which was followed by that good old New Year tradition the 'Snogathon'!!!  It would seem that any fears of intimately communicated virii went out the window as most people got down to it in true style. (I went round twice and suspect I was not alone in this.)

Then it was back inside for the freebee beer and more carousing.  During this time a whip round for a barrel was organised and quite a lot of money was raised, funny that, people wanting a barrel tonight of all nights?!?!?

The festivities continued till about one o’clock when in time honoured fashion they were transferred to the Belfry.  (Presumably to give Roger and Jackie a chance to put the pub back together.)

The assembled crew became more and more impatient as for minute after minute the beer did not materialise, soon there was an angry baying mob awaiting the arrival of 'the Trevor'.  Had he not shown up when he did we would not have been able to stop the lynch mob that was being formed for his benefit, but to his credit he arrived and amid cheers and cries of ecstasy the barrel was installed in its rightful place.

The effect of this was stunning,  I have not seen a fifty person beer serum in some time and I can assure you it was a sight to behold.  From this point on things degenerated quite well, people no longer walking and talking so much as wobbling and slurring, lots and lots of kissing, groping and ****ing were going on.  (I can't help but wonder if there were a few red faces on Jan 1st).

By about three o’clock your reporter decided to retire as it was getting close to the time when people start hitting each other for no apparent reason.

Someone was having a good time singing the Novice Rap in the snake pit (see lyrics in this ish .... ed) as there were definitely sounds of rhythmic grunting and gasping emanating from the tents therein.

(Photo below ..... Estelle carves the turkey on Xmas day)


‘Nuff sed.  I think a splendid time was had by almost everyone, I know I enjoyed myself and al though I’m not going to mention names here I’ve got some great blackmail material for certain individuals .....

For example a certain member had an interesting way of losing his voice in that it appears to have become attached to a certain other members tonsils during the course of the festivities, names may be revealed at a future date unless money changes hands pretty quickly!!!

Apparently Babs left her camera at the Belfry and some very interesting photographs were taken in the small hours, unfortunately Rich Blake was so keen to see them that he opened the back of the camera before anyone could stop him, so it remains to be seen what photographic evidence still exists.

see you all soon .......



White Pit

Minutes of a meeting held between the Bristol Exploration Club and the Wessex Cave Club at the Hunters Lodge Inn January 2nd 1994.

Martin Grass read out a letter from the WCC to the BEC which suggested the need for a meeting with reference to formulating a management/access plan for White Pit.  He then called for suggestions for a Chairman. Pete Hann suggested Martin Grass and this was accepted with no further nominations.  It was accepted that this meeting should only deal with White Pit. Apologies have been received from Phil Romford.

Tuska outlined the history of the site.  He had been informed that Cuckoo Cleeves was for sale and made contact with Mr Masters. This was a most convivial meeting and permission was given to dig 18 Acre field and White Pit on the understanding that if anything was found there would be a need for preservation/access agreements.   A meeting had taken place with Mr. Masters at end of 1992 following discoveries in White Pit but no plan had been formulated.  Some confusion re fencing the site, dry stone walling, a stile, planting trees and spoil removal had arisen with a lack of communication between different groups of diggers.

There then followed some considerable discussion as to Tuska’ suggestions of an annual photographic record, liaison officers, digging records and access arrangements.  Blitz and Phil Hendy said it was essential that all agreements were kept as simple as possible.  Martin Grass suggested that essentiality we require one Liaison Officer and an annual meeting.  It was suggested that Tuska be the Liaison Officer on the understanding that this was only in respect of White Pit with the BEC and WCC, i.e. not a CSCC hat.  Tuska accepted this and said that in early 1994 he hoped all the Major Mendip clubs should have a Conservation and Access Officer and in future this might be dealt with by the BEC and WCC + A representatives.

The following was then agreed:

ACCESS:  The cave will be kept gated.  No Novices.  Party size to be a maximum of four plus leader/guide.  This person will have prior knowledge of the cave and appreciate the no go areas.

ACCESS CONTROLS:  The leadership/key situation was discussed and it was thought that currently Tony Jarratt has 2, Mark Helmore 1, Tuska 1 and Phil Romford 1.  J-Rat said that the MRO will need a key.  After discussion it was agreed that the WCC and the BEC would keep two keys each on Mendip, the BEC keys would be held by Tony Jarratt and Tim Large.  The WCC will inform both Tuska and the BEC of the key holders.

TAPPING:  Done.                                   ROUTES:  Obvious.

DIGGING/EXPLOSIVES: Not a problem as it is covered by Access/Access Control.

CARBIDE:  No carbide to be used.

NOTICES:  One already in place.  J-Rat to talk to Brian Prewer about an MRO entrance sign.

PUBLICATIONS:  No restrictions on publications.

CLEANING ARRANGEMENTS: Not a problem as it is covered by Access/Access Control.  Cleaning trips can be advertised in the BB and WCC Journal.

FIXED AIDS:  Currently rigged (Thanks to Bat Products). Entrance ladder to be removed.

PRESERVATION/MONITORING: Pete Hann will initially photograph the cave keeping a record of all photographic details.  At each annual meeting it will be decided whether or not this need repeating.  In any case it will be repeated at least every four years.

COMMERCIAL CAVING:  No Commercial trips to be permitted

Chris Smart        January 2nd 1994


Review of the Swiss Cave Congress (1991)

By C.J. Lloyd.

 (I know this is well out of date but felt it to be of interest nonetheless ......... Jingles)

In September 1991, Snablet & I attended the 9th Swiss Speleo Congress in Charmey, Fribourg Caton. It was a two day affair of lectures/presentations, slides, movies, gear and book sales and of course drinking and socialising, with two days of caving excursions both before and after for those who could attend.  The whole thing was put on by a small but energetic team from the local caving group - one of 39 clubs in the country.  Accommodation of all types was available with us chappies sandwiched into the camping area.  (A typical European camp site of postage stamp sized piece of 'grass', wall to wall with tents!!)  Some were even cheaper. .. dossing in their cars in the car park.  It was nice to see that some things can be free in Switzerland and one of those taking advantage of that was the 76 year old former president of the Swiss National Caving Association.

We arrived a day early after a few more than the standard number of wrong turns - actually they were the right turns, just the wrong town in the wrong Caton - but we were in the right spot for the first day of caving, which actually left the parking lot on time at the un-caver like hour of 08.00.  This part of Switzerland is not blessed with roadside caves so we had to walk up to the alpine hut below the cave, arriving at 11 ish in time for lunch.  This was a fully served soup and bread affair with wine (this being the French part of Switzerland) and coffee in bowls.  Suitably stuffed everyone moved a little further up the meadow to the caver's barn where we changed into our kit.  The cave was a short hike up the talus with its entrances spread out over 150m of almost vertical cliff.

Our group got to do a multi-entrance through trip in Reseau de les Morteys which started with a rope climb up the outside of the cliff to an entrance discovered only a few weeks previously.  A short way inside, a rope dangling onto a big cone of snow led up a 100m pitch to daylight, which was now solidly in the clouds.

An exposed traverse took us across to another entrance which immediately took us down a series of nice 10 - 30m pitches in tight belling meanders.  Then there was tight stuff in which some people had to take off their vertical gear to get through, and another spot where you wished you could but needed it to clip into a very awkward pitch head.  Quite a sporting cave which of course had to finish with 100m of frogging to get out.  The whole of the group wasn't out until 10.00, which was not a problem as most of them were planning on sleeping in the hut - which we must've missed hearing about. .. not speaking French.  So we had to tromp back to the car and bivvy in the car park.

At least we saved ourselves the drive for the next day and provided some amusement for the new arrivals, who discovered two soggy, wet body bags when they tried to park their cars in our spots.  Knowing the schedule we didn't rush up the hill, but did arrive in good time to hook up with a group going into the same cave again.  At 8.6Km and 300m deep and going, with multiple entrances, numerous trip combinations were possible.  I took an easy option and went in to see the Grand Salon, a room 60 x 60 x 50m high, which they had had to dig through a sand sump to find. I really kicked myself this time for my lack of French as it made communicating with my tall blonde beautiful guide quite difficult!

The next two days were busy running back and forth trying to catch all the interesting talks and slide shows.  They had the whole array of presentations and papers on Karst geology, hydrology, biology area reviews and new exploration.  If they didn't have slides or overheads I didn't stick around too long listening to languages I didn't know.  But I still saw lots of interesting presentations, spanning literally the whole globe .... the Swiss sure get around!  The main feature films and multi-track slide shows were excellent with the film of the French diver with five back mounted tanks and three on the front, and the Lechiguilia show being particularly memorable.  (The Swiss photographers were there as well, pushing their Lechiguilia book - which is excellent).  There was of course the customary banquet and drinking sessions where you could meet cavers from a dozen different countries including Russia and Romania.  French was the host language but most of the non French or Swiss communicated in English. I was approached by a German on behalf of an Austrian who wanted information from the British on caves they had explored in Austria.  Almost too much to take in two days.  And if you still had money there was a good selection of gear to buy including a bunch of titanium gizmos the Russians had brought and more books on caving than I ever imagined existed.

One of the competitions they had was for the best produced map, which was won by a Swiss caver (and congress organizer) and depicted their latest and 1100m deep find in Mexico.  It was superbly done with artistic details added to give a 3-D aspect to the big pitches and open spaces as well as big blocks on the floor.  Simple things really, but adding greatly to your visualisation of the cave.  They also had a mini -congress on mapping which included practical sessions underground, on paper and on computer.  It looked like they have a pretty whizz bang software package for mapping and plotting incorporating colour aerial photos, 3-D surface topography and map plots at any scale or rotation.

The following two days featured more caving trips for those who could attend.  We signed up for the longest, hardest rated trip which was limited to six people.  It was back in the same cave and very similar to the first day's excursion, but we finished the longer trip in less than half the projected 12 hours due to a competent party.  Mind you it was telling who was used to walking passage caving and those of us used to much squeezing and vertical work.

A word of special mention and thanks is due to the organizers who along with sorting out the weekend presentations, also had to rig this and the other caves for us to do our sporting tourist trips.

The last day we finally went to a different valley and hiked up to a new cave, Cournielles Cave.  This one was mainly vertical and we were quickly down to almost -200m.  The trip was punctuated by a series of OKs, as that was the only way all the nationalities knew that the rope was free. Afterwards Pierre regaled us with tales of 200 and 300m deep pushing trips that had produced his award winning map.  And of course before we all parted company we stopped in at the local cafe for a last beer together.  Again I was amazed at how small the world caving community is becoming when I found out that here in a cafe in Switzerland were sitting people from three different countries who had all been fortunate in visiting the hard to access Lechiguilia cave, which is in yet a fourth country.

A very worth while and enjoyable long weekend.


The Novice Rap.

Sally Humphreys.

If you're going down a pot-hole -
Then you'd better take care,
If you haven't been before, oh,
Then you'd better beware,
There'll be trouble in the tunnel,
There'll be stress under the ground,
If you miss your hand or foot holds,
You'll go down without a sound,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.

(sounds of rhythmic gasping!)

Don't you moan or gasp or stagger,
'Cos you know the rest'll grin,
Don't you grasp that shabby stal flow,
'Cos you know that it’s a sin,
And you're sliding down a rock face,
With your battery round your neck,
And there's nothing gonna save you,
As you scream 'oh bloody heck' ,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.
(sound of rhythmic gasping, crashes and swearing.)

So you're sitting at the bottom
Of a great big sodding hole,
With a bruise upon your tailbone
And a blight upon your soul,
And you think 'what am i doing -
Down this dismal pit of fear?',
But we recognise the symptoms,
You'll be back within the year,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.


Nobel Corner

It was with interest and appreciation that I read, in the Christmas issue of the Belfry Bulletin, of the achievement of Richard Roberts in winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine. I know from my own work experience how important it is for sufferers of a complaint that brings people together to share their experiences and for which a journal is published regularly (keep it up Ed) to read of the success that people make of their lives outside coping with the condition that afflicts them.

I have been a member of the Bristol Exploration Charity (BEC) for getting on for fifteen years and this is the first report I have read of a person's general success.  In the past Editors have only published articles on how members have coped with the condition from which they suffer.

For example we have had information on how to overcome the trauma of discovering a cave system unknown to the natives of a remote province of Mexico only to find that within 500 ft of the entrance there is a 25ft overhang for which no ladder has been brought - poor imagination.  Likewise there have been reports on coping with the humiliation suffered when unable to find the entrance to the cave currently being explored on an Austrian mountain after a night in a mountain hut during which just a little too much recreational drug has been consumed, even though the entrance is in sight of the hut.

I could go on endlessly - the sump reached without diving gear; the 300ft pitch reached with 500ft of rope but no bolting kit - even how to cope with the agony of living with having discovered fifteen kilometres of cave passage under the Llangattock escarpment after years of digging, camping and adulation.  Every issue of the Bulletin has been filled from cover to cover with these articles on how it is to live with the condition of caving.

I could like to congratulate the new Editor, young John, on the change of editorial emphasis to the successes people have made of their lives.  After the clutch of Nobel prizes that I am sure he could find amongst past and present members could we have articles on some of the other successes of the members of the charity (BEC) such as:

"How I lived on the dole for ten years whilst holding down steady employment"  "How I lost a fortune in property development and recovered it by returning to what I was doing before"  "How I made a million from privatised Water Company inefficiency"  "How I retired early with a full company pension and was then employed as a consultant earning more than I had ever done when on the books"  "How I held down a well paid job for twenty years without the qualifications for doing so"  These and many more success stories would show the members of the charity (BEC) that they need not spend the whole of their lives worrying about the condition with which they are afflicted, namely caving, but that when they overcome the stigma, social discrimination and physical disability associated with caving, such as inebriation and sore knees they can make something of their lives.

I am sure that regular articles in the Nobel Corner would do more for our members' self esteem than issues full of stories about the condition from which we suffer.  Well done again Editor.


Publicity and Promotions Manager
Bristol Exploration Charity (BEC)

A charity promoting the cause of cavers and caving

As a result of the Nobel prize-winning BEC member some doubt has been expressed as to the stories authenticity ..... You cynical people.

Turn this page and doubt no more.

Thanks to Angus Innes for providing the info ....... Jx



Sharp (left) and Roberts realised genes included “junk” DNA

THE DISCOVERY of the highly unusual structure of genes in higher organisms has brought a Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine to two British and American rivals.  The impact of the discovery, made a decade and half ago, has been enormous: it helped to fuel a revolution in cell biology, both at the fundamental level of understanding the basic molecular machinery of cells and in certain areas of medicine, such as inherited diseases and cancer.

The prize-winners are Richard Roberts, who moved to the US in 1969 to work at Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York, and Phillip Sharp, head of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Roberts is now research director at New England Biolabs, in Beverly, Massachusetts.  The two researchers worked independently, and published their results within weeks of each other in the spring of 1977.

In an atmosphere that was more party than press conference, Sharp commented on the length of time the Nobel Committee had taken to award the prize for the work.  "There's a lot of research our there that warrants the prize," he said.  "Naturally, I'm delighted that they finally recognised our work, and the work of others."  In fact, several recent Nobel prizes have been awarded for discoveries that would not have been possible without the work of Roberts and Sharp.

In the early 1970’s, molecular biologists' understanding of the structure of genes was based on research with Escherichia coli, a simple gur bacterium that was relatively easy to study in the laboratory.  The picture of gene structure and function that emerged from the work with E. coli was straightforward.  A gene was known to be built from a continu­ous sequence of nucleotides.  The basic building blocks of DNA.  This sequence was copied into a stretch of RNA, known as the messenger, which contained essentially the same genetic information as in the original gene.  Next, this genetic information was used to direct the assembly of a protein molecule.

Molecular biologists assumed they would find the same system in higher organisms, or eukaryotes.  No one predicted that, instead of existing as a continuous sequence, eukaryotic genes would be split into several pieces separated from each other by long stretches of DNA that apparently contained no genetic information.  This is what Sharp and Roberts saw in early 1977.  "It was so unexpected that you not only had to be smart to see it but also bold to- announce it," David Baltimore, of Rockefeller University in New York, told New Scientist!  "Nevertheless, the insight made sense of a lot of puzzling data."

One of the puzzles was that the nuclei of eukaryotic cells are often awash with long strands of DNA that are far too big to be messenger molecules.  These could be explained by the discovery that the initial DNA transcript of the gene contains both the coding units of the gene (known as exons) and the non-coding sequences between them (introns).  Most genes are built from just a few exons, but some have more than fifty.  The true messenger molecule is made by the removal of the introns and the splicing together of the exons (see Diagram).  Although some of the details of the splicing process have been worked out, much of it remains a mystery.

Sharp acknowledges that had neither his team nor Robert’s team the discovery when they did.  Others could have stumbled on it within a few months. As it was, considerable rivalry developed between the two teams.  The result was nearly a dead heat.  Sharp recalls that the importance of the discovery was "obvious to anyone", and laments that he and his colleagues did not have longer to savour it. ''I'd worked ten years on this problem, and within two months of solving it, everyone was running around saying ‘Oh Yes, we've found split genes too’.

The fragmented structure of eukaryotic genes has far-reaching significance, and brings problems as well as benefits to higher organisms.  One conse­quence is that errors in the splicing process may lead to disease.  About a quarter of the 5000 known inherited diseases, such as beta-thalassaemia, result from mutations that arise during splicing.  Errors in splicing can also lead to certain forms of cancer, such as chronic myeloid leukaemia.  The splicing mechanism is also known to have occasionally transformed normal genes into cancer causing genes, called oncogenes.

Organisms benefit from splicing in several ways.  For instance, a gene that is made up of several exons may be "edited" in different ways during the splicing process to gener­ate different proteins. This allows a more flexible and creative use of genetic material.

In the longer term, evolution may be speeded up as a result of the existence of split genes.  If several exons from different sources are brought together in a novel combination, this may instantly produce a new gene coding for a new function.  This is potentially faster than the slow accumulation of a long series of mutations in an existing gene.  This evolutionary scheme, known as exon shuffling, was proposed by Harvard biologist Walter Gilbert within a year of Roberts and Sharp's discovery, and is now supported by a lot of experimental evidence.

The origin of introns is a puzzle.  Were they present from the very beginning of life, but were trimmed out of simple organisms as an act of molecular economy?  Or are they a form of molecular parasite which has infected eukaryotic cells but not those of simpler organisms?  Proponents of both ideas have some evidence to support their views, bur neither side yet has a convincing case.

Roger Lewis.  Boston


A minor Mendip Centenary

a snippet by Dave Irwin

Excuses for celebration amongst cavers on Mendip are never very difficult to find and as we all know are frequent occurrences; caving celebrations though are slightly less common. However, in 1994 we can celebrate the centenary of the incised 'T. W. 1894' that can be found in Cave of the Falling Waters in Lamb Leer.

Lamb Leer Cavern is one of The Mendips' earliest known caves.  It was discovered by miners and was first explored about 1675 by John Beaumont of Ston Easton.  Beaumont published a full description of the cave as far as the Cave of Falling Waters in 16801.  After this date interest in the cave dimmed and by the early years of the 19th century the cave entrance had been lost.  Following an intensive search in 1879 the cave was re-located and a full re-exploration of the cave took place by McMurtrie who, in 1881, had published an account of the cave together with the first survey2.  Several trips followed during the time when the cave was being considered being opened as a public show cave.  Several visits were made to the cave soon after its re-opening including a correspondent from the Times newspaper3 in 1882 and the monks of Downside Abbey in 1883, the latter publishing a report on their visit in 18844.

Cave exploration on Mendip was then in its embryo stage and one of the early enthusiasts was Thomas Willcox, manager of the Priddy Minery, who with the young Herbert Balch, descended the cave on a number of occasions during the remaining years of the 19th century. On one of these visits, during 1894, Willcox engraved his initials5 into the stalagmite bank in the Cave of Falling Waters.  This event is well known to most Mendip cavers from the 1934 photograph6 .

By 1897 Herbert Balch had become one of the acknowledged cave explorers in the district and together with his regular caving companion, Willcox, accompanied a party of individuals from Wells and the surrounding area, including Frank Sheldon, Mr. Selemann and Mr. H. Willcox, into Lamb Leer Cavern, near West Harptree.  The local paper7 published the following account [slightly abridged] which must have typified many that Balch would have led at this time.  The account is interesting in that it gives the reason why Willcox made the inscription and details of the improved tackle arrangements on the pitch from the windlass into the Main Chamber:

1.                  Beaumont, J., 1681.  An Account of Okey Hole.  2 Philosophical Collections, No.2, pp 4-5. Published: Royal Society, London.

2.                  McMW1rie, James 1880 On the Lamb Bonom Caverns at Harptree, Somerset. Proceedings of Somerset Archaeological Natural History Society Vol. 23 ii pp 1 - 16, (1881); annotated survey inset between Parts i and ii : copies may be viewed i" Wells Public Library reference section.

3.                  The Times, 10th August 1882

4.                  Anon, 1884 A visit to the Mendip Caves at East Harptree, Somerset; on July 17th 1883. Downside Review Vol. 3 pp 102-107.

5.                  The date was added by Balch in 1895.

6.                  Ashworth, HW.W., 1965 Lamb Leer 1. MNRC Journal, Vol. 2, No.1, 58pp [upper photo. opp. p.16]

7.                  Wells Journal. 2nd December, 1897. The author is unknown but it is probable that Balch wrote it himself.  For many years local papers relied on individuals to submit news items relating to their activities; the editorial staff merely tidying up the text where necessary.

On Tuesday last, under [the] guidance of Mr. H.E. Balch visited the furthermost recesses of the great cavern of Lamb Lair ... A preliminary inspection of the upper parts of the cavern had been made a week or two since, and workmen employed to repair the windlass and platform which were in bad condition.  The beautiful stalactitic forms of the upper cavern being duly seen and admired in the searching light of the magnesium lamp, a halt was called at the entrance to the large chamber, to which access is only to be obtained by a drop on a rope of some 60 feet.  The old style of lowering with its terrible swinging and spinning was vastly improved by a heavily weighted guide rope which proved an inestimable boon, and so with much lowering and raising of men and of chattels, the whole party soon stood at the bottom of this great chamber, which whilst surpassing all others in its inaccessible position, also still more surpasses them in its grandeur and its beauty.  Time flies swiftly underground and by the time all had merely looked around it was time for tea, which was gladly partaken of.  Next the several parts and beautiful passages, without the addition of mud unlimited to the already mud-bespattered clothing of the party.  At 5 p.m. after one or two photographs had been attempted, the party moved on by slippery ladders and narrow and muddy ways in the beautiful chamber which lies still further beyond, where stalactite and stalagmite of exquisite beauty rewarded them for their pains.  Here it is, that what may be in time to come, a measure of the rate of deposit of the stalagmite, has been cut in the huge bank which comprise one side of the chamber: 'T. W., 1894" cut by Mr. Willcox ... Perhaps a century hence some visitor who is hardy enough to penetrate to this depth will find it still but little changed in such an infrequented spot, should be sufficient basis for a perfectly accurate estimate of this rate of deposit on this huge bank of stalagmite, which by the way, reaches some 50 feet in height.  Tired out, through the smallest passages and difficult of ways, the party slowly made their way to the waiting windlass once more and hence burdened and tired to the upper world again, which was reached at 9.35 p.m., Wells being reached at 10.30 p.m ....

The party of eight had been in the cave a total of eight and a half hours - considering their clothing and lighting - a remarkable achievement.  On a similar trip to that reported above Balch accompanied Lady Waldegrave and her companions into the caves - such was the interest in caves at that time.

The photographs taken on this trip may well have been used later by Balch in his later accounts of this cave.  It is worth pointing out that the cost of taking a photograph at this time was prohibitive for most people and so the case for a re-take would be generally out of the question.  Several pounds (£)9 would have been spent on each shot; bearing in mind the average wage of a man at the late 19th century would have been between 60p and 75p per week, thus in real terms today the cost would be about £500 - £600 per photograph!! Perhaps in 1994 someone ' ... who is hardy enough ... ' will find time to have a look and determine how much stalagmite has been deposited since 1894, with the landowners permission of course, and publish their results in the 'BB' .... and, what about a drink on 'Tom' Willcox and 'Herbie' Balch for their pioneering spirit.

Ashworth, H.W.W., 1965 Lamb Leer 1. MNRC Journal. Vol. 2, No.1, 58pp [lower photo. opp. p.16]

Wells Journal, 3rd February 1898


I was going to use this space to print a particularly incriminating photograph of two of Mendips native creatures, the 'Biffo' and the 'Wessexus Bonkum' engaging in what can only be described as 'fraternizing' on New Years Eve, but am unfortunately unable to do so for two reasons, one being that Babs won't give me the photo and the other being that I wish my testicles to remain attached to the rest of me for the foreseeable future!!

So instead I would like to use the space to say thank you to all of you who have contributed to this and other issues of the B.B.  Please don't stop writing ... your articles are the lifeblood of the journal and it can only be as big and/or as good as the articles I receive.  Keep it coming ..... Jingles.

Well now I've managed to fill up another half a page .... on with the rest of it ....


Radon in Caves

An article from the New Scientist magazine concerning Radon in caves.  12 September 1992

Cavers risk cancer from underground radon.

Radon gas in British caves is exposing thousands of potholers and other cave users (what?. .. ed) to levels of radiation up to 800 times the official safety limit in homes. Radon increases the risk of contracting lung cancer.  The Health and Safety Executive is considering what action to take after a survey team recorded the world's highest radiation reading for a natural limestone cave in Britain.

In a letter to New Scientist this week, Robert Hyland, a PhD student and a member of Manchester Polytechnic's Limestone Research Group, reports the conclusions of a year long survey of Britain's caves. Hyland found the average level of radiation was 2900 Becquerel’s per cubic metre.  The limit at which Britain's National Radiological Protection Board recommends action to remove Radon from homes is 200 Bq/cu.m.

The highest figure averaged over the year was 46000 Bq/cu.m. for Giant's Hole in Derbyshire.  Readings at this cave peaked at 155000 Bq/cu.m., during the summer when airflow is reduced and Radon, released by Uranium in rocks, remains trapped underground for longer.

This figure is the highest ever recorded for a natural limestone cave.  By contrast the highest figure for a limestone cave in the U.S. is about 54000 Bq/cu.m.  Hyland wants all cavers to know the risks before they go underground. "Children and people on management training courses are not always told of the risk”, he says.

The 1985 lonising Radiation Regulations limit workers to a dose of 15 millisieverts a year.  Such a dose increases the chance of contracting lung cancer by 0.05%.  This is about four times the annual risk of being killed in a road accident. With radioactivity of 155000 Bq/cu.m., a caver would pick up this dose in around 1 3 hours.

Over a year, keen potholers can clock up hundreds of hours underground.  Dave Edwards, chairman of the NCA's working party on Radon, cut his time underground from 200 hours per year to about 26 hours in the past year as he has become aware of Radon's effects.  He sees no reason for anyone to stop caving entirely, but says "We are changing our habits."  He has advised outdoor centres using Britain’s 20000 caves "to quietly find out about Radon levels and informally change the caves they use."

The Health and Safety Executive, still waiting to see the full results of the survey, is considering whether employers who send people underground are liable for any health problems caused by radiation.

Local education authorities may be at risk for the schoolchildren they send caving on trips and holidays. The Department of Education has provided no guidance and most education authorities are unaware of the risk.  Derbyshire County Council, however, recently stopped school parties from visiting caves while it checked Radon levels in the peak district.

Installing fans will reduce Radon in caves, and the HSE is satisfied that the installation of fans has averted any problems at tourist caves with high levels of Radon.


News from the Philippines ....

Jim Smart has written (to Trebor) from Iloilo City in the Philippines on his two month jaunt which includes a brief excursion over Xmas to Australia and Tasmania. After having been side tracked by the delights of Manila for ten days, he made his way to the province of Aklan on the island of Panay to suss out some promising stuff touched upon in Speleo Philippines '92.  Unfortunately, he found his exploring companion in Aklan riddled with sickness, possibly Typhoid.  A few weeks were spent nursing his companion, in and out of hospital, but some exploration was done and some caves found - a few 700m long caves in the Guimaras region, one with a 50m shaft to a second un-descended pitch.  Jim has been hampered by heavy rain in late November/December, although this should get better in the New Year.

I am informed that he is due back some time in February, so I hope publish more of his exploits then.






Blasts from the Past .

.. . some excerpts from the club log from years gone by ...

31 .7.71 Goatchurch.

Bill Cooper + 3 ...

Only went to beginning of drainpipe as I was just wearing swimming trunks!!  1 hour ... Bill Cooper.

2.11 .76 Eglwys Faen

Bob Cross, Mr N., Garth, Dell, Ross White, Batspiss ...

After wandering around the Llangattock escarpment, arrived at cave entrance.  The party being well equipped with a cigarette lighter, proceeded about 100’ into the cave before giving up and returning to the surface. 5 mins.

16.7.77 Conning Tower & Hillwithy

Batspiss, Ross, John King, Claire, John T. ,Chris Smart.

The hut warden threatened to go caving, so we went along to make sure he did.  It's not surprising that these holes are not locked, when Batspiss takes people caving he makes sure they never want to go with him again. Lovely grovels in the mud & slime. N.B. the mud is good for sticking on caving lights so you can’t see where you are going ... it seemed better that way!! J.K.

 (I must repeat John's remarks & say how eternally grateful am to Mr Batstone for taking me to such pretty & interesting caves ... I shall certainly go with him to another cave ... if I’m lucky ... Claire.)

Easter '79 South Wales ...

23 BEC, 2 WCC, 3 NWCC, 6 Pegasus, 1 GSG, 2 TSG, 8 Eldon, Countless NCC etc ...

There were no winners ... Only survivors!!!

Dec ‘83

(Following 2 entries made by Q????ers)

... We can all learn a lot from 'Quackers', anyone who can sum up 3 hours of caving in 6 lines, and that includes his name and the date, all written in Sanskrit (with a Somerset accent? !?!) - can't have all his marbles!!!  Anon.

2.1.94 Upper Pitts Hole, High Moral Ground series. 

Trevor, Dickfred, Jake, Estelle + 3CCG + Joan the sec +JR MCG.  Jingles at The Belfry as callout.

At 01.00 the party set off in miserable weather conditions, very wet underfoot, with the intention of surveying the Upper Pitts kitchen for an alleged barrel shaped formation. Unfortunately in the entrance series they met with an impenetrable barrier, since named Ebboracum (sic ... check your Latin ... Ed. ) which prevented any further progress.  The barrier spoke in granite (or limestone) tones, “This is a private function, the BEC are not welcome" it said.

We came, We saw, We were refused ......

But the High Moral Ground was ours!!!

Time 20 mins ......... Rating P.G.



Odds & Sods ...

Address Change ... Doug Cunningham has moved, his new address is as follows ....

Doug Cunningham (Brighton Explorers Club), Withersea Beach, East Sussex.


Blitz (Chris Smart) has asked me to point out that the telephone number published last month, for him on the Cuthbert's leaders list was incorrect.  The correct number is as on page 1 of this journal.


Of possible interest to those living locally is 'Folk in the Bath', a folk club hosted by Pete and Anita Mcnab, held on Sunday nights in The Bath Arms in Cheddar.  It is regularly attended by quite a few BEC members; indeed it seems to have become something of an unofficial gathering.  An act appearing in the near future is 'Fred Wedlock' and I can highly recommend this as a grand evening’s entertainment. (Unfortunately this may have been before you receive this B.B ..... never mind.)


BERTIE BAT.... Ever wanted your very own Bertie, for a badge, or for your tankard???  'Dave the Box' will make them to order a 'Bertie on a Barrel' comes in three sizes........

I must apologize to Dave for having lost the price list, but you can check with him in The Hunters if you are interested.  (They are original copper pieces and quite distinctive ..... Ed)


From Dick-Fred ... further to the meeting at the Hunters on 1.10.93, concerning the growing number of thefts from cars, the feeling of those that attended was that some form of Mendip Hillwatch should be set up.  The first meeting is to be held at the end of January.  I am attending as the BEC rep. and will report back to the committee so that the membership can be informed as to the results. Hopefully we will be able to formulate a plan to help reduce all crime on Mendip.


Related to the above, Les Davies has provided me with the recent crime figures, these may be of interest.

Theft from motor vehicles ...                    Burrington: (General)      92

The link:                        11

Goatchurch:                  8

G.B.:                            12

Total                             123

N.S. The Burrington general figure will include cave parking sites, but have not been specified by reporting officer I we can therefore assume that the individual figures for The link, Goatchurch etc .... to be higher!!!


Also from Les, as previously published, it was proposed at a meeting of the Burrington Conservators that the following steps should be taken ....

1)       The closure of Goatchurch car park with a soil bank close to the road, this would prevent access for fly tipping and deny a secluded car park to the car thieves.

2)       The closure by soil banks of the small unofficial pull ins that have been created on the North side of the Combe, again these sites have been targeted for vehicle related thefts.

3)       A Bat Grille to be installed at Fox's Hole to prevent access by unauthorized persons who have been using the cave for parties etc.. and causing considerable damage.


AND FINALLY ... (MIS) QUOTES OF THE MONTH!! both overheard at The Belfry on the night of January 1st/2nd (in the wee hours ... so called cos by then Trevor is usually so pissed all he can do is 'wee', often over some other poor unsuspecting belfryite ... !!!) by your dutiful reporter (sic) ....

T.Hughes: "We are here to chastise The Wessex .... Not to eulogise!

Joan (MCG Sec.) to J.R. (MCG) ......”Put it away john .... I don't want that up my nose .... !!!”


See you all for more fun and frolics in the next ish! (Hopefully late Feb) ... Jingles.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover: Mr. N  by REG


1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Nigel Taylor


The Bristol Exploration Club Subscriptions for 1993-94 are now due

Single Membership    £24 Joint Membership      £36

Discount for early payment (before December 31st 1993

Single membership      £20 Joint membership        £30



Hello everyone. Well; now i find myself the official B.B. Editor and thus in need of the creative input of the membership!  This is basically a plea for articles of any kind from anyone who feels the urge, desire, compulsion or need to write.  This is the club journal and should therefore, in my view, reflect the activities, views opinions and imaginations of the members.

I have a small stock of articles that i inherited from ted that will be published in future issues but these will dry up fairly quickly so i will need more.   The B.B. Will only be as interesting as the articles i have so in a sense the ball is in your court ... It is after all your journal. ('nuff said).

I hope to include some regular features such as a song per issue - this issue due to many requests i've included the 'other one' sung at the dinner, by dickfred & myself, as well as an odds & sods page.   I'd be interested in opinions on this as well as ideas for other features.

Unfortunately i'm not on the 'phone at present but hope this will change shortly.   I can usually be contacted via the Belfry at weekends and my address is as published on page one.

That is enough waffle for now, i hope this issue is up to scratch ... If not let me know ... !


Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club held at the Belfry October 2nd 1993

The meeting was convened by the Treasurer, Chris Smart at 1045.  The meeting was not quorate at its opening.


Chris Smart, Tim Large, John Buxton, Chris Castle, Andy Sparrow, Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson, Jingles, Hilary Wilson, Babs Williams, Jeff Price, Rob Harper, Bob Cork, Ted Humphries, Kevin Gurner, Dudley Herbert, Ian Gregory, Nick Gymer, Richard Payne, Ron Wyncoll, Terry Early, Phil Romford, John Watson, Pete Hellier, Colin Dooley, Barry Wilton, Dave Ball, Dave Glover, Brian Prewer, Dave Aubrey.

Present(Later ):

Nigel Taylor, Matt Tuck, S J McManus, Alan Kennett, Andy Sanders, Fish, Dave Turner, Alan Turner, Ian Caldwell,


Martin Grass, Glenys Grass, Chris Batstone, Lavina Watson, Jim Smart, J Rat, Lil Romford, Ruth Baxter, Chris Harvey, Robin Grey, Rich Long, John Freeman, Jeremy Henley, Steve Tuck, Alan Thomas, Trevor Hughes, Martin Gregory, Clive Betts, Graham Johnson,


Bob Cork was elected as Chairman with the full support of the meeting.  There were no other nominations.

The Chairman noted that the meeting was inquorate.  It was decided to continue with the AGM with the proviso that the minutes are published at the first opportunity for discussion and comment.

Minutes of the 1992 AGM

Previously published in the BB

John Buxton noted that he had been missed from the attendance list.

For acceptance of the 1992 AGM minutes by the meeting.
Proposed: R C Harper.
Seconded: Phil Romford.
Carried with two abstentions.

Matters arising from the minutes

1. Long Term Plan: Phil Romford asked as to the progress of the Long Term Plan.  Various discussions ensued.  The AGM was told that a meeting was held and that work has progressed albeit not to the exact letter of the resolution.  It was suggested that the Committee put forward a 1-2 year plan of immediate priorities.  The AGM agreed to continue discussion of this item in AOB following the Treasurers report.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Brian Prewer.
Seconded: Dudley Herbert.
For 31, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Secretary's Report

Previously published in the BB.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Jingles.
Seconded: Rob Harper.   Carried unam.

Caving Secretary's Report

Previously published in the BB.

Mike Wilson asked about Jeff's Stand at BCRA.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mike Wilson.
Seconded: Mac.
For 31, Against 1, Abstentions 1

Hut Warden's Report

The Hut Warden was not present, no report was given to the meeting and none had been published in the BB. It was agreed that this was an utterly disgraceful state of affairs and there was no excuse.  Nigel and Mac asked the Committee to either obtain Zot's report or publish a summary report as soon as possible in the BB.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting. Proposed: Nigel.
Seconded: Mac.
For 32, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Dr Andrew Newton was given a unam vote of thanks for obtaining new mattresses for the Belfry.

Brian Prewer was also given a unam vote of thanks for his midweek policing of Belfry usage.

Pete Hillier asked about bednight totals.  Blitz replied (later) that the numbers were as follows:





















Hut Engineer's Report

The following was read out at the meeting:

The Belfry is now over 20 years old and gets subjected to heavy use and abuse.  During the year minor repairs and routine maintenance have been carried out but there remains much to be done. 

The major work has been:

  1. Completion of repairs to Changing and Drying Room ceilings following water leaks during the previous winter.
  2. Installation of a new electric shower which is working well.
  3. Modification of the coin meters to accept the new 10p coin.
  4. A start has been made on the repairs and replacement of floor and wall tiling in the Showers and Drying Rooms
  5. Painting of the Main Room.  Thanks for this go to Terry Early and Dave Aubrey, especially for the novel paint work on the Hut Warden's locker.
  6. Rationalization of the plumbing system to simplify the pipe work and eliminate problems.
  7. Removal of the old night storage heaters and white meter now that the central heating is in place.
  8. The purchase and installation of a thermostatically controlled radiator to provide separate heating for the Library
  9. Installation of a new cooker and 2 hobs.  The cooker has been professionally fitted as our old pipe work was less than safe.

One working weekend was held during the year which was attended by about twenty people. Grateful thanks to one and all. Much was achieved including painting, repairs and some serious cleaning.  As always much time was spent on clearing rubbish away from the Belfry site.

There is always much to be done and hopefully in the coming year we can complete more essential maintenance and repairs.  Then perhaps, money permitting, we can move onto improvement projects to enhance the living conditions further and encourage more people to stay at the Belfry.

Tim Large 2nd October 1993

John Buxton asked about the hot water supply to the hand basins.  Bob Cork expressed surprise that older members were getting soft and wanted hot water.  Tim said that Mac would look at the immersion timer clock.

Phil asked about maintenance and repairs to the exterior.  It was decided that the Committee would need to look into this following more discussion under AOB.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Nigel.
Seconded: Jeff Price.
For 33, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Membership Secretary's Report

Previously published in the BB.

Quiet John expressed his disquiet as to non payers of this year who had said they would rejoin next year, that is they have had a free year.  After much discussion it was proposed that the 31st December is a warning date.  A letter will be sent out with a second class sae informing the non payers that their membership will be terminated on January 31st, and that they will therefore loose any rights to publications, their Cuthbert’s leadership, Club insurance, their use of club tackle and the right to members rates at the Belfry, the return of their Belfry key would also be requested.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Dave Turner.
Seconded: Nigel.
For 35, Against 0, Abstentions 0

The Chairman asked the Committee to look into individual membership cards and to consider hardship cases on their merits.  It was agreed by all that the Club took a dim view of people taking it for a ride.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Tim Large.
Seconded: Dave Turner.
Carried unam.

Tackle Master's Report

Previously published in the BB.

Rob Harper informed the AGM that he had recently left two ladders in caves and was unlikely to retrieve them in the near future

.............. except it was probably OK as they were Wessex ladders!

Mike Wilson said that:

1.                    The drop tester was nearing completion

2.                    Tackle bags are still going missing.  Brian Prewer suggested yellow bags and a permanent marker.  Phil Romford also suggested we could probably buy customized ones at the same price.

Blitz asked as to the current locations of our survey kits.  Mike replied that one set was with Blitz, one set had been stolen from Trevor's car and was probably not covered on any insurance.  The third set was missing.  There was some considerable discussion.  Blitz said that he had one set that had been given to him by the Philippines expedition, that this was used in India last November and taken to Pakistan and China this summer.  It would be required for India in February 1994.

Rob Harper proposed that the club buy another set as soon as possible and consider buying a third set if our third set did not appear following a plea in the BB.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Rob Harper.
Seconded: Blitz.
For 25, Against 6, Abstentions 5

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Jingles.
Seconded: Mac.
Carried with one abstention.

BB Editor's Report

Previously published in the BB.

Ted asked that the meeting appreciate that J Rat has saved the club a small fortune in postage by distributing BB s.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac.
Seconded: Rob Harper.
Carried with two abstentions.

A vote of thanks was then proposed to Ted for all his work over the last few years.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Blitz.
Seconded: Mac.
For 35, Against 1, Abstentions 1

Hon Treasurer's Report

This was handed out at the meeting and the Treasurer explained that due to his only having received the last batch of hut sheets from the Hut Warden that week and that the Auditor having been on holiday the accounts are not audited.  It was agreed that the meeting would vote on their acceptance subject to auditing and that Barry should publish his auditor's report as soon as possible.

Dave Turner asked as to why we had so much money in the Cuthbert’s Account.  He then proposed that we pay back 50% of the pledges now. Blitz explained that the original 22 pledgers had been written to and of those 5 required their money back, these had been paid.  The other 17 people agreed to loan their money for an additional year.  Ian Caldwell said that probably the only people who should be discussing this were the 17 people concerned.  Blitz said that only six of the 17 were present.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Dave Turner.
Seconded: Mac.
For 19, Against 4, Abstentions 9

Dave further also proposed that the new Committee consider paying back another 50% if the balance rises above £800 in the coming year.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Dave Turner.
Seconded: Mac.
For 24, Against 0, Abstentions 9

Dave Turner next asked about BMC membership.  The Treasurer replied that as no one had so much as mentioned membership, staying in BMC huts, High magazine etc he had not rejoined.  The AGM accepted that Blitz had not followed the letter of last year's proposal but appreciated the saving that had been made.  Dave also proposed that the new Committee review this decision.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Dave Turner.
Seconded: Phil Romford.
For 25, Against 1, Abstentions 8

Dave then asked about the high printing costs of the BB.  It was agreed that the next BB Editor would look into this.  Dave suggested that Alan Turner may be able to provide a cheaper service.

Bob Cork asked about the £10 we pay to Lloyds for looking after the Deeds to the Belfry.  Blitz suggested that as this was the only bank charge we incurred it was best left well alone.  Dave Turner suggested that we could take out a minimal mortgage on the Belfry and use the Deeds as security.  Blitz also suggested they could be lodged with the Club archives.

Jeff said that he would take Cuthbert’s fees in advance at the time of booking in an attempt to not lose income.  Blitz accepted that some of this might be in the accounts as donations from the box on the Changing Room.  The fees would be £1 per head.

Blitz said he would investigate income from hut keys and that this would be presented to the auditor in the final accounts.

Blitz suggested that we acknowledge the free fire extinguisher service that we had received this year, with grateful thanks to Ron Wyncoll.

The subject of Belfry electricity was next raised.  There was a long discussion as to the possibility of operating a coin meter system for the lights.  The debate went around in the usual ever decreasing circles as per previous years until Mac suggested that this was another job for the Committee, that the electricity consumption be reviewed in the light of the removal of the storage heaters.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac.
Seconded: Rob Harper.
For 29, Against 3, Abstentions 3

Somebody, probably Dave Turner asked about Central Heating costs.  Blitz answered that no oil had been bought this last year but that we would need to buy some soon.  Nigel explained that he buys in bulk, at discount, for the Belfry and a consortium of houses.  It was suggested that the Committee look into buying the oil prior to the imposition of VAT in April.

For provisional acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Rob Harper.
Seconded: Tim Large.
For 32, Against 0, Abstentions 3

Auditor's Report

The Auditor was unable to comment on the accounts for the reasons given in the Treasurer's report.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report

Jeff gave a brief verbal report.  He stated that no grants had been given in the last year.  He undertook to publish the conditions for a grant.

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

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac.
Seconded: Rob Harper.
For 34, Against 1, Abstentions 3

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Phil Romford.
Seconded: Rob Harper.
Carried unam.

Librarian's Report

Previously published in the BB.

The Treasurer read out a letter from the Librarian saying that he is not happy to continue.  It was requested that the new Librarian publish a list of Library contents and any new acquisitions.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac.
Seconded: Mike Wilson.
Carried unam.

St Cuthbert’s Report

Blitz said most of this had been covered already in the Treasurers report.

Dave Turner said it was essential that we must accept that the St Cuthbert’s Report is going to be a long term issue.

Andy Sparrow asked what was happening about a locked box, locked with the Cuthbert’s lock, containing Cuthbert’s reports that leaders could sell.  Nigel said that this was in hand again after our experiences with the Belfry thief.

The Treasurer again drew the meetings attention to his report.  If it were not for the 17 pledgers who are carrying the club we would be £1800 in debt.  Everyone must sell them.  Rob Harper suggested repaying the 17 people's pledges in Cuthbert’s reports.

1992-93 Committee

Bob said that only six of last years Committee were prepared to stand again additional nominations were required.  Blitz informed the AGM that Jingles had been proposed and seconded by Martin Grass and himself but not in sufficient time to meet the AGM deadlines.  A nomination for Estelle Sandford was also received from the floor.  Her nomination was supported by the Committee.

For acceptance of Jingles to the Committee.

Carried unam with 2 abstentions.

For acceptance of Estelle to the Committee.

Carried unam with 3 abstentions.

It was then announced that Estelle was not yet a ratified member and in the light of this information the vote was called again.

For acceptance of an un-ratified Estelle to the Committee.

Carried unam with 1 abstentions.

Post                                                       Proposer                              Seconder

Secretary:            Martin Grass.              Phil Romford.                       Mac.
                            Carried with 1 against.

Hon Treasurer:     Chris Smart.               Mike Wilson                         Andy Sparrow
                            Carried with 1 against and 1 abstention.

Caving Secretary:                                 Jeff Price                             Mr. Nigel   Blitz      Carried unam.

Tackle Master:     Mr Wilson.                  Phil Romford.                       Mac.                     Carried unam.

Hut Warden:         Estelle Sandford.         Babs Williams                      Mike Wilson          Carried unam.

Hut Engineer:       Tim Large.                  Phil Romford.                       Mr Nigel.
                            Carried unam.

BB Editor:             Jingles.                      Rob Harper                          Jeff Price
                            Carried with 1 against and 1 abstention.

Membership Sec  Mr Nigel.                    Brain Prewer                        Mac
                            Carried with 1 against.

Possible commercial interests/conflicts of interest were then asked to be revealed.  Chris Smart declared that he was no longer the Treasurer of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs.

Non-Committee Posts


Post                                                       Proposer                              Seconder

Librarian:             Dave Turner.               Mike Wilson.                        Mr. Nigel.
                            Carried unam.

Auditor:                Barrie Wilton.              Mac                                    Mr. Nigel
Carried with 1 against and 1 abstention.

Mid Week Warden: Brian Prewer.
                            Carried unam.

Archivist:              Alan Thomas.             Mac.                                  Mr. Nigel
                            Carried unam.

At this point Rob Harper suggested that the Chairman be instructed to discuss the club archives at length with Alan Thomas.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Rob Harper.
Seconded: Chris Smart.

This was then amended that both Alan and Bob come to the next convenient Committee meeting to discuss the archives.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Barry Wilton.
Seconded: Mr Nigel.

The Chairman over ruled both the proposal and the amendment and no vote was taken.

MRO Team Leader: Phil Romford and Alan Turner were elected by the Committee as joint team representatives earlier in the year, to be reviewed at the AGM. Both stated that they were happy for this sharing to continue.  The AGM accepted this arrangement.

Carried with 1 abstention.

CSCC Representative: This was deferred to AOB.

Members Resolutions

  1. The BEC instructs the BEC Committee to invite only one guest per club to its annual dinner.

Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Tim Large.

Nigel explained that inviting guests (from three other clubs and the guest of honour) incurred a penalty of over £1 per ticket buyer.  There was considerable discussion and Dave Turner suggested no guests at all.

For acceptance of the resolution by the meeting.
For 32, Against 1, Abstentions 1

  1. This AGM instructs the BEC Committee to write to each life member to ascertain their current interest in the club

Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Brian Prewer.

This was originally part of a larger proposal that sought to request a voluntary annual donation from the life members.  In the discussion this second part was withdrawn.  The feeling of the AGM was that these members did now represent a financial liability but that we have made a moral, if not a legal, contract with them and this must be binding.

For acceptance of the resolution by the meeting.
For 20, Against 11, Abstentions 3

  1. This AGM instructs the BEC Committee to receive only cash type subscriptions.

Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Tim Large.

Nigel explained that in the last year there had been an element of confusion as to whether or not certain members were paid up or not, their subs having been paid in kind.

Blitz and Quiet John agreed that there had been some confusion but Blitz thought that the system was workable and that we did in fact benefit overall. The AGM disagreed.

For acceptance of the resolution by the meeting.
Carried with 1 Against and 1 Abstention.

Any Other Business

Direction of the Belfry

This had been held over from Matters arising from the 1992 AGM minutes.  There was a general feeling, following a heated discussion that we should not be pursuing exclusive private hire of the Belfry at any time, but that we should not exclude commercial use midweek on a commercial basis. Mac said that this was very much against BEC feelings in the past.  He suggested that as this AGM was inquorate then this subject needed a full airing in the BB.


The Treasurer proposed no increase this year.  After some discussion it was proposed that the subs were kept fixed at £24 single membership and £36 joint membership for people paying between January 1st 1994 and January 31st 1994.  The early payment discount to be £20 single membership and £30 joint membership for payments received up until January 1st 1994.  The AGM proposed that the full membership fees would stand after the January 31st 1994 deadline but the renewal of membership was at the discretion of the Committee.

Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Tim Large.
Carried with 1 Against and 1 Abstention.


Alan Turner asked Blitz to confirm that he and Kirsten Turner were joint members as she did not appear on the membership lists.  Blitz said that joint membership had been agreed at the Committee meeting immediately following the 1992 AGM and said he would look into the membership lists.


Andy Sparrow asked about the club's representation at CSCC and said that little if anything was published in the BB.  This was accepted by all.  Bob Cork informed him that this was not a fixed position but that the Committee usually sent either the Secretary or Caving Secretary.  Blitz added that as the ex CSCC Treasurer he had kept an unofficial eye on events over the years.  Andy proposed that the Committee nominate a representative so as to ensure continuity.

Proposed: Andy Sparrow. Seconded: Mac.
Carried with 2 Abstentions.


Brian Prewer informed the AGM that car theft was a major problem on Mendip with up to 17 in a single weekend. Action is needed by both cavers and ramblers and he requested that the BEC send representatives to any relevant meetings.  The AGM fully concurred with his sentiments.

Use of the Belfry

It was proposed that no accommodation would be offered or tolerated in the loft.

Proposed: Alan Turner. Seconded: Dave Turner.
Carried with 6 Abstentions.

Belfry Break in

Nigel informed us that a gentleman had been arrested last Monday and was helping the police with their enquires concerning two thefts at the Belfry earlier in the year.

There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting at 1614.


Diving In Oman.

From a letter from Bob Hill written earlier this year .....

Oman has a mountain range along its North-East coast with peaks up to 3000m.  A lot of the surface geology is limestone and the potential for caves is enormous. Unfortunately due to the rather waterless environment, cave development is not what it might be.  Having said that though, I have had some very interesting trips to a few sites and am planning some more.  Distance and terrain are a problem here and the sites visited up till now are all close to roads.

Khaf Guhbrat Tanuf is a small stream cave about 1Km long with a year round stream of VERY warm water. It is much too hot in just a thin overall in this place.  A single stream passage is entered at the resurgence and followed for about 600m through one duck to a flowstone pitch of about 6m which is easily free climbable. After another 300m or so the cave used to end at a sump, obviously perched, with a good stream issuing from it. This was obviously worth a dive but I had to wait until my then caving buddy, and local BS-AC club diving officer, had left the country as he promised to expel me from the diving club if I started dragging my pony up this passage.  He went to Norway a few months ago and I revisited the sump soon after. A dive of about 8m (no depth) leads to 30m of passage followed by the stream coming out of a six inch diameter hole in the wall, which may yield to digging.

That same weekend I visited Khaf Hoti, a 5Km through trip in large cave with several abseils, classic fossil and stream passages and a 1km swim near the end.  6 hours fun caving and a lot of Batshit (Batspiss' brother????-Ed.) near the resurgence exit make this an interesting and moderately sporting trip.

Recently I have turned my attention to an altogether more challenging prospect.  Near the village of Tiwi along the coastal track to Sur is a large sinkhole about a kilometre from the sea. The hole is almost certainly the result of collapse and is completely flooded.  It is also very large and very complex with many big chambers and passages. It has been dived in the past to a depth of 60m with a major passage still going down and has had many visits from sports divers, all on base fed line, looking for something challenging - and they all come back with a different description of what it looks like.

I have managed to recruit a couple of like minded souls and we have started by laying line in one direction through a layer of absolute nil vis about 5m thick (this varies) to a depth of 16m in the direction of the sea.  The major problem is now the depth and we are building side mounted kit sets to carry twin 10 or 121 cylinders as we expect to be operating at 30m + before we have laid much more line.

More news on this if; I make any

Bob Hill.


"Them Muddy 'Oles"

By Chas.

"You won’t get me down one of them muddy 'oles."  This is more or less what I said to Robin (Gray), less some emphatic expletives, back in 1976, when I accompanied him and a group of our sixth formers to the Mendips.  They had come to cave, I to booze.  Seeing them emerge, each looking like "The creature from the black lagoon" from what looked to me impossibly small, wet and rocky holes, I could not imagine how seemingly intelligent, normal people could actually enjoy this activity.

I had like most tourists visited walk in, walk out show caves on various holidays.  Cheddar and Wookey Hole, St Clements Cave in Hastings, the Blue John Mines at Matlock Bath, Crystal Canyon Cave in Sequoia National Park California.  There were too, many evenings spent playing Skiffle, listening to Jazz, boozing and wenching in Chislehurst Caves Kent but that's another story.

In recent years, coming down to Somerset and visiting The Hunter's, meeting the amazing collection of characters who congregate there, a disturbing and nagging notion had started to grow ... maybe I might like to look into one of them "muddy' oles" after all.  I was teetering on the edge of sanity.  After a lengthy period of hints and begging (not quite on bended knee) my old mate Robin said we would go and have a look at Sandford Levvy .... "We'll see if you like being underground and take a few snaps.  "One of my raisons d'etre being photography, I readily agreed.

So we set out on a sunny Sunday afternoon in June this year.  We drove to the dry ski slope near Sandford, parked and kitted up.  I forced myself into a strange one piece garment decorated with soil and well placed holes.  It seemed two sizes smaller than me and was, it appeared, a PVC coated nylon oversuit.  A site helmet with Petzl lamp and battery pack, my walking boots and I was dressed as a caver, so far so good!

"It's somewhere along this path" says Robin.  We hiked for what seemed like hours along a densely wooded hillside, my oversuit emitting vast amounts of steam!  "I think we've missed it somehow" admitted Robin.  With a merry quip of "Oh how very vexatious!" on my part, we retraced our steps.  A good three quarters of the way back, and nearly hidden by a fallen tree and a kids 'camp' we found, at last, a lowish hole.

In we slid, me on my backside.  The well placed holes allowing a quantity of mud and water to lubricate my nether regions but it didn't seem to matter.  We were in a tunnel, both high and wide, partly paved and about three or four inches deep in water, at least my boots didn't leak.  We strolled to the far end of the passage not attempting to climb a fixed chain in a cross tunnel, as we were assessing possible points to take my snaps.  A light tripod, the camera set on B, the lens at about f8 and 35mm on the zoom range. We fired two small flash guns several times for each of about fifteen exposures, of which two or three are not too bad, great room for improvement.

After what seemed like a few minutes but was in fact two hours, we emerged into daylight. "Where are we going next" says I with the enthusiasm of an innocent.

A few days and a phone call later, Robin and I now joined by Trev, set out for a trip to a "real" cave.  Clad this time in a furry undersuit beneath the oversuit (which was now four sizes smaller than me!!) helmet and wellies.  Across a field and into a bushy dip, there was an iron box which we entered. Down the fixed ladder into a "great Big Cave". "Gor Blimey!!!"  I thought as I followed my companions down and saw, horrified, Rob ooze into and disappear through what looked to me a tiny mousehole with a floor of loose stones and water.  A silent prayer and I slid my bulk after him.  To my great surprise and relief I found that I barely touched the sides and roof.  With much bashing of elbows, knees and helmet I slid, slithered, stumbled and clambered along with my easy moving friends.  Trev and Rob called out the facts that we were in various places with some odd sounding names (well known to those bothering to read these ramblings) . I took their words for it, they had, after all, been there before and anyway I couldn't see!!  Two layers of clothing and many layers of Butcombe inspired flesh equals a very hot lad.  This, coupled with cold cave air caused my specs to achieve a total opaqueness. Sliding my glasses down over my nose and peering over them I saw, in very soft focus, some attractive formations. I voiced my enthusiasm greatly, although somewhat incoherently as my nose was being pinched by my specs.  I sounded like one of life's less fortunates.  Arriving a little breathless at the terminal choke, I was amazed at Trev and Rob's touching faith in me as they suggested that I should lead out!  I have since come to the conclusion that this was so I could be shoved from the rear if necessary.  Off I went, being told to go left, right and up at the appropriate places.  Sweating profusely and gasping like a leaky boiler, with a bit of squeezing and a lot of climbing, a dip through the 'mousehole' and we arrived, all too soon, at the iron box.

What fun!!  I was hooked, even next day when every joint and the bits between were aching.  Bruises and scrapes appeared in picturesque patches on elbows, knees and other places. Sanity had now given way to a troglodyte madness, I had enjoyed myself greatly.

About a fortnight later I was back in Somerset from my S.E. London home, to play washboard with 'The All Weather Welly Band' at Priddy Folk Fayre.  It was, of course, only natural that another trip was mooted ... to the realms of subterranean Mendip.

Robin suggested that Goatchurch Cavern would be different to my previous excursions, it was ... !!! The nearest I can get to a description is Piccadilly Underground station in the rush hour .... hordes of people, it seemed, rushing hither and yon.  Rob and I entered by the Tradesman’s entrance, he lifelined me down a fixed rope and away we went.  Dodging groups of boys and girls of assorted ages going in many and various directions. One group was being led by 'Snab' and we heard his dulcet tones reverberating from above and below, left and right from time to time.

The surfaces we passed over (with, in my case, very unusual parts of my anatomy) were, by much use, glacial in their slipperiness.  Excellent, I found, for going down.  Getting up was going to be something else though.  Rob called out various names.  Caves seem to have some oddly named sections.  One, "The Coffin", loomed large in my fevered imagination.  I was, of course, by now boiling hot and misty spectacled again.  All too soon we were on our way out/up.  It was then I found that my boots had minds of their own, wanting to go mostly .... down!!  With the help of Rob's knees, shoulders, head and whatever else of him I could stand on, we arrived at the entrance again, in spite of my ineptitude on the rope.  I emerged hot and totally shattered; a great morning’s fun.  Next morning ... the agonizing joints and muscles, bruises and scrapes appeared in glorious Technicolor and almost stereophonic sound!

Another visit to Somerset, this time to play with the band at "Folk in the Bath" at Cheddar and to celebrate Anita and Snab’s 25th anniversary.  The opportunity for more caving was demanded by me. Rob said "If there is some rain 'Swillies' should be good."  England were losing a test match to Australia so, of course, the heavens opened for several days.  The following Wednesday evening, among several vehicles parked on Priddy green, our party assembled, six in all.  Along with your chronicler were Robin, Trev, Davey and two lads from Felsburg, Jens and Amin.

Once kitted up we set off across the fields to the entrance of the famous Swildons Hole.  (I'd seen this cave, with many "faces" from The Hunter's, on 999 on the telly so I knew it was famous.)  In we went, a distant sound of rushing water accompanying my wheezing.  Not a great deal of water at first but as we got further down the others made gleeful sounds of approval as the streamway gushed over our wellies.  The way was, of course, all downhill, so slithering and crawling, down we went.  My knees, elbows and bum coming into frequent violent contact with unyielding rock, as did my helmet, without which what remains of my brain cells could have been totally disposed of.  Then came a ladder pitch, a new experience for me.  It was, of course, in a waterfall so I twisted and spun down, with a reasonable impression of Niagara entering first one ear then the other.  Not content with flooding my memory, it entered my oversuit (still several sizes smaller than me) went down my neck and filled my boots from the inside.  The next highlight was Double Pots.  I negotiated the first with "great skill" only to become a fully baptized "Son of Mendip" at the second.  Completely wet, inside and out, my glasses by now had become almost vision proof so all was exceeding well!  Real caving ... Great fun!!

After much squeezing (and bumping by me) as well as straddling apparently bottomless chasms and wading through raging torrents we arrived at our goal for this trip .... Sump One.  By this time I was puffing and blowing and feeling somewhat "Cream Crackered", unlike my companions who had barely broken sweat.  With closing time looming up at a fast rate of knots I realised with horror that it would be all uphill!!  After a short "blow" and a bite of snickers, we proceeded up.

Those familiar with cycling will have heard of a rather rude sounding condition .... "The Bonk". It is far from being a state of sexual arousal, but is a total draining of the body's energy.  I was at the start of the inclined rift when it struck!!  I tried to ease myself up only to get progressively lower, not what was intended at all.  My legs seemed to be made of jelly as did my arms and I began to feel a little apprehensive.  With a little help from my friends (a lot in fact) at length the obstacle was, at last conquered. Then with frequent rests and pounding heart I gasped squeezed and clambered onward, until there was a strange smell to the air and we surfaced. A hurried paddle through some particularly soft and aromatic cowpats back to the changing room at the farm.

Wet things off, dry things on and a quick dash to The Hunter's for a reviving pot of Butcombe and many thanks to the other chaps for helping an exhausted, bruised but very happy idiot.

I should now confess to those who haven't met me that I am not quite in the first flush of youth, but am a lumpy fifty three year old who in March of 1992 had a quintuple heart bypass operation.  (There is a rumour that when the surgeons opened me up and proceeded to reroute my plumbing, a B.E.C. sticker was found in my Aorta!!  All I want to know is how and who??!!)

It would seem to be a rather daft time to take up a "dangerous sport”, but I have never been cursed with a lot of sense, so why not?

I have now also visited Waterwheel Cave and Brownes Hole and can't wait for the opportunity to get down one of "Them Muddy  Oles" again.

Chas; a new and proud member of the B.E.C


My Mate He Is a Caver

Sung to the tune of "The Smuggler" by Ian Woods.

My mate he is a caver, he goes down underground,
He squeezes and he thrutches, new passages he's found,
Oh and he climbs down them pitches with his hands upon the line,
Is a mendip caver down where the sun don’t shine.
He goes down to Bat Products to buy his caving boots,
And then he visits Kermit to get his oversuits,
There is carbide in his Fisma there is charge in his NiFe cell,
He knows about them ladders and S.R.T. As well.

He goes down into Swildons all on a Friday night,
Where he do find a boy scout, who hasn't got a light,
Oh and if he cannot move him he do give him the heave ho
Then goes to Brian Prewer - to call the M.R.O.

On Wednesdays he goes digging, with Snablet and with Jake,
He takes his vacuum cleaner down into Barrow Rake,
And when he turns it on - it sucks out the CO2,
Then Alex tumbles down the pitch and turns the air quite blue.

The Wessex and the Shepton, he treats them with disdain,
But he do like the Hunter's, yes he'll go there again,
Whenever he is able he is caving fast and free,
And ask him which his club is, he'll say the B.E.C.

My mate he is a caver, he goes down underground,
He squeezes and he thrutches, new passages he's found,
Oh and he climbs down the pitches with his hands upon the line
Is a mendip caver, down where the sun don’t shine.

Jingles '93.



By Fish.

The Earth hath bubbles, as the water has and these are of them.  Wither are they vanished? 

Macbeth Act 1. Scene 4.

Dan gazed out from "Crook's Rest" control into the mists of Avalon's Vale, today the view brought him no pleasure.  As acting controller of the 2020 Wookey push, he was feeling old and alone in having to give account for the loss of Faith Gail Berg.  She had not died, Dan could have coped with that ,Gail's existence had simply ceased.  Time and again he had followed her inertial guidance track on the log, only for it to stop to be replaced by the computer's infernal green blip.  Gail's young life's trace had ended 0505 December 24 whilst complying with a routine decompression stop at the shallow/deep junction, shortly after her last communication recorded on the vocal log, a request for the relay of a video to help her pass the time.  Subsequent searches had failed to reveal her body or to shed any clues as to her disappearance so close to journey's end.

Dan felt her loss sharply. Gail had arrived out of an undergraduate's obscurity and it had been his help and sponsorship that had gotten her the coveted diver's status.  Physically she was both powerful and slender, her face held striking pre-Raphaelite Celtic features, excepting her hair, no not long red tresses but worn short, within millimetres of her scalp.  It gave her a boyish air which coupled with an impish playfulness had driven the boys wild. Gail was also fiercely independent, if she had a lover she was discreet, choosing to keep her Mendip peers strictly at arms length.

Another part of her crafted mystique was her beloved 916 Ducati, archaic transport today but her skill with the motorcycle could not be denied.  Gail had passed him on several occasions whilst riding around.  Dan recalled vividly the image of the curved arc of her back arched gracefully between the seat and the bars, her thighs forced astride the scarlet fuel tank.  En passant she would raise the tip of her boot and scribe a small circle in the air, as to whether the gesture was in greeting or contempt, Dan could never decide.  Then in a single fluid movement she would lift her lithe body up onto the foot pegs, her pert derriere climbing up over the saddle as she hauled the bellowing beast down into the next bend to exit in a crimson blur.

The stage within Dan's mind darkened with the fading of the Ducati's booming exhaust.  Enter the magician who could procure her release with spells weaved in the logic of coincidence and fate that cohabits so uneasily with reason in the twilight of all our minds.  Dr Sefton A. Longwood.  Imperious Sefton whose intellectual arrogance had commanded Dan's subordination.  Sefton: thin features, thinner hair and an unpredictable tight bound aggression that he shared with his father and Dan hadn't liked him either.  By training Sefton was a geophysicist and he was also Mendip's current geological guru.

"Know anything about Bouger anomalies?" Sefton had asked.  Dan had responded in the negative and received the condescending answer, “It's a geology student's trick question, not your province exactly, is it Dan!?"  Sefton continued with a layman's definition by describing them as local gravitational distortions that occur when bodies of greater or lesser density are found within strata of uniform density, a useful fact to have at hand when prospecting for metallic ores and you happen to have a gravimeter.

Sefton went on to explain that his current research was into the lighter, or to give it its proper term, the' negative Bouger anomaly’.  He was exploring the known chain of both negative and positive Bougers beneath Avalon and their relationship with Mendip's southern scarp.  He was hoping to prove that the negative anomalies were remnants of the paleozoic era's subduction event that had given birth to the batholiths of magma that had pushed up through the fresh devonian sediments to form the granite moors of Devon and Cornwall.  Further north he was proposing that plutons had become trapped like hot air balloons filled with magma floating beneath a sky of tougher carboniferous rocks and were now the sources of radioactive gas that had leaked out into the Mendip area.

As Sefton's survey progressed he could not help but notice that his work had been duplicated several thousand years before him.  He noted that the focus of each negative anomaly always coincided with one of the area's mystical sites.  Bemused by the fact that wherein he was armed with state of the art technology, his ancient predecessor's unerring accuracy was achieved with little more than a hazel twig.

Thus Sefton had been drawn into realms of mysticism, of laylines, legend and how those Celtic priests could manipulate the fabric of time at the sites of what they believed were the gateways to the other world.  Sefton began to toy with the relationship of observed time within an increased field of gravity according to the laws of relativity and contemplated what time was inside a negative Bouger, perhaps those old beliefs should not be so easily and curtly dismissed.

Sefton began a speculative search of the areas literature and was rewarded by serendipity whilst browsing through Savory's journal of early Mendip exploration and the brief mention of something that had happened on a visit to Wookey in 1911.Savory did not dwell on that occurrence although he went on at length to give reasons for similar phenomena witnessed at a later date.  The author does however refer the reader to his report on the 1911 incident that was to be published in Balch's forthcoming book on the cave.  Intrigued, Sefton turned to Balch's book to find the eerie account of a phantom party that could be heard but not seen.  In Sefton it sparked an uncanny parallel with the C.D.G.'s record of their first fatal accident at Wookey.   Could it be possible that Savory's party had been eavesdroppers on a tragedy that was not to happen until almost 40 years into their future?  Had Balch inadvertently published what Sefton was seeking, evidence of the distortion of time?  Sefton produced a photocopy of the original caving diary entries made by other members of the 1911 expedition that he discovered in the M.N.R.C. archives.  At a glance, Dan could see that the entries would not have made sense in 1911, they included diving terms that did not exist in the English language until after 1920.  The ensuing silence between them was broken by Sefton pronouncing, with a distinct chill in his voice, "Just such an event may have put Gale out of phase from our observed time frame!"

Sefton strode up to the survey of the known cave mounted on the wall and declared "Do you know what this place possesses other than legend, well I'll tell you Dan, although the cave lies within a Bouger anomaly that has an overall mean value of -1, its focus is one of the most powerful yet discovered!"  Sefton pulled out a notebook and began a series of quick-fire questions, stabbing a finger at the survey all the while.  "Is this the place called the junction where Gale was last known to be?  The time about five after five a.m.?  This feature here, is it the limestone - conglomerate boundary? “He muttered aside "God's transistor."

Sefton said "Do you know what occurred just after five 0 clock this morning?  It was high tide Dan, maximum local terra gravitational flux, that was the trigger for the 'event' and Gale was unfortunately in its field."  He continued "Savory gave us not only the date in 1911 but also the time, from the diving logs we can derive the time when that hapless party dragged a lifeless body onto the floor of the third chamber, on their respective dates both times correspond with the high tide of the full moon!"

There was concern in Dan’s voice as he asked how Gail fitted into Sefton's scheme of the universe. Sefton slowly drew his breath, considering his answer, "Gale is still here in Wookey, only the clock she now observes is that of the sun, sidereal time.  She will be aware that she has left Wookey 20, she suspects that her dive and communication systems are down, her onboard computer will dictate the need for a decompression stop and she has decided to do so at the shallow/deep junction.  Gale can approach but never quite reach that nexus as that rendezvous is now in her past. She will dimly know that something is very wrong but her awareness is that of the cave diver, no past, no future only the battle for 'now'!"  Sefton’s eyes were glazedly fixed on the survey as he said  "Oh yes, time's sea will give up its dead, come the tides of spring's equinox her body will be found, corrupted, her gas supply long exhausted; it's not the first time it has happened is it Dan?"

Dan detected an unasked request in Sefton's soliloquy, very gently he said “Sefton, what are you trying to tell me to do?"  Sefton swung his gaze back onto Dan, he became animated saying “You have three hours, the next high tide is the spring tide of the new moon and with its extra power Gale could be released or, "Sefton hesitated .....”  Be replaced, beyond that window of opportunity it doesn't matter as we both know that Gale will dead.  Sefton turned suddenly for the door, its closing slam was like a blow that left Dan in a confused desolation.

It was high tide minus two hours; Dan decided that he needed to be out in the sharp, razored air, he needed to think and decided to walk along the path toward the cave.  It was on the path that Dan encountered Gail's familiar, the pale winter light glinted on its scarlet bodywork ... wheels of fire! Involuntarily Dan reached out to touch it, to be reassured by its existence.  Out of the mist Sefton appeared beside the machine, his former arrogance had deserted him, now he seemed as mad as Lear on the heath, blinded by an incomprehensible personal grief.  Sefton held out a time worn envelope saying "I swore that I would never do this but now there is no choice.  Dan recognised the handwriting, it was addressed to him and as he read Sefton added "My mother died two years ago, Gale is my sister, and she chose to use her grandmother's maiden name."  Dan looked up from the letter and watched the slip sinking sun, there would be no visible moon tonight but her invisible force, now, was ever rising towards her unforeseen zenith in the beckoning darkness.  Dan shuddered; knowingly he had to relinquish control of his own destiny to that of the moon and sun's conspiracy.  Sefton was right, there was no choice.

"Crook's Rest, I have arrived at 13!"  Dan could hear within the confines of his C. D. G. systems helmet, the muffled clack of a distant keyboard back at the base.  The sound helped to suppress the feeling of surreality that threatened to push him over an unknown edge.  The swim to 13 had been made on automatic inertial guidance, a mistake, as it had given him time to reflect, turning the journey into a pilgrimage through his own life. Dan's mind became refocused by the ever changing time base on his face plate, ticking away at him in dumb accusation. In his vision's periphery another series of figures on the head up display reduced his existence to mere numbers within this Mendip hill.  The coordinates of his being calculated by satellites to be logged by computers; his slightest movement would allow the third decimal place to race and its spinning helped to induce a whirl of vertigo as he peered down the unearthly shaft into the mystery of the subterranean river axe.

Dan hated the virtual reality screen's representation, it was real enough to make him feel as though he could fall into that river below him and be swept away forever.  He squeezed a sensor in his glove; his eyes immediately narrowed in the fierce white light of the helmets lamps as they obliterated that hellish view.  Dan squeezed his glove again, now there was only the dark glow of the instruments bathing his features in a deathly pallor.

In the darkness Dan thought that perhaps this thirteenth chamber did not exist, it had never existed, until that fateful night when its existence meant life or death for its discoverer, perhaps it was like an Aboriginal song line and that Davies' sheer will to survive had dreamed it into being.  This barren place served no purpose other than as a refuge.  Then Dan became overwhelmed by a feeling of foolishness, had Sefton lured him here with his weird reasoning?  A young Hamlet's revenge on a man whom he perceived as wronging the memory of his father.  Dan was about to call up control but hesitated, the time base display had stopped its ceaseless run, it was now locked in a flashing insistence; it was time!

The soft whine of hydro turbines filled the shaft as Dan began his slow descent into the stygian river. A phrase from Dylan’s parable of betrayal between the sexes ran as an endless loop through his thoughts “Lilly had taken all the red dye out of her hair" ... it was the point in the narrative when Lilly and Rosemary are revealed to be one person and Dylan acknowledges the loss of his wife as a lover as she becomes transformed into the Goddess Isis; custodian of all that men most fear within the feminine mystery; desire, fertility, the future as yet unborn and ultimately redemption. Isis daughter of the moon, sister, wife and mother of Osiris; Dan too was ensnared in her web.  In 13's green twilight Dan saw a vision of Clare as he had known her all those years ago.  A small dark look of doubt flickered across her face; an eerie backlight illuminated the highlights in her long auburn hair.  She turned towards him with a radiant smile of recognition.  Dan yearned to reach out to her, to tell her why they had parted, he unknowing that she was carrying their child.  Gail was his daughter, he knew that now.  The circle was almost closed, Dan owed God a death and if this was the tryst that fate demanded, he was prepared to give his life so that Gail might live.  Clare's spectral vision began to fade from his consciousness, only then did he become aware of the sound.  Dan's throat tightened as pain stabbed across his chest and terror strangled the fibre of his being.  He could hear it plainly now as it came towards him.  He knew that sound so well.  The thin metallic hiss followed by the explosive rumble of exhausted compressed air.  A sound forgotten by cave divers for almost 20 years.  Whoever it was below him was not of this time.


B.E.C. Team Practice Rescue

Saturday 4th December 1992.  1000 hrs. at the Belfry.

The objectives of this day are to familiarise ourselves with a range of equipment held in the MRO store. Brian Prewer has kindly agreed to allow us an open day, provided that this doesn't conflict with a real rescue!

I would like to see all new members attend this day, since you may not have seen or used much of this specialist gear.  It may also be useful to older members who are out of practice.  In particular we will look at the Hot Air Kit, Entenox and the stretcher.  An emphasis will be on the proper implementation of the drag sheet and stretcher and, carrying/hauling techniques.  If it is available to us, we will learn to use the Molephone and conduct correct and effective radio procedure.

After looking at and using this kit, we will progress to a surface exercise, where we can put some of the ideas into practice.  This will be doing rigging and hauling in the nearby trees where, we can all clearly see what is going on.

After an early evening break, Andy Sparrow has offered the use of the Gym at the Wells Blue School.  Andy will have a scaffold erected, from which we will demonstrate various lifting methods. We are all free then to try these methods and form our own conclusions as to their efficacy.  This session will be from approx 1900 to 2100hrs.  Then, if you really have to, you may go to the pub!

This session costs you nothing, but will offer you valuable knowledge ready for the real thing. PLEASE MAKE THE EFFORT.

For further information or to book your place, contact Phil Romford


I am aware that some people may have a problem with Saturdays.  I would therefore like to obtain a consensus of opinion on whether we run these sessions Saturdays or Sundays.  Perhaps we should alternate?  Please give feedback.


Phil Romford.


Odds & Sods ...

This page, which will hopefully become a regular feature, is a forum for any notices, announcements or info members wish to make public.... Lost & Found, For Sale etc. Feel free to make use of it.

The AGGY key is now kept in the locked key cupboard at The Belfry. See Committee members to book it out.




ROBIN GRAY would like to invite all cavers to view an exhibition of paintings, drawings and photographs (by Robin) at the Woodspring Museum Gallery, Weston-Super-Mare.  Every day between 10.00 and 5.30 from Weds 3rd November until Sun 28th November.

Signed copies from original drawings will be available.... could make interesting Xmas pressies.


GLENYS GRASS would like it known that as a result of the 'uncalcified ads' run in the last B.B. offence has been taken.

The editor would like to apologise unconditionally for any problems that may have been caused to individuals as a result of this.  It seems that the telephone number published for Glenys' visiting massage service was incorrect and business has been lost due to this.  The Correct number (for those of you suffering from 'Executive Stress' and in need of 'relief') is WOOKEY 12  0 0 OOHH.


Warmbac Oversuit .... missing from The Belfry.  New Warmbac with yellow & blue patches on the bum, if anyone has inadvertently removed this please contact Jingles C/O The Belfry.


And Finally ..... overheard at the A.G.M. from a certain chairperson (who shall remain nameless) to a certain new librarian (who shall also remain nameless) .......

"Look, I wrote the F***ing Amendment .... so shut up!!!"

Nice to know the membership still flexes its intellectual muscle from time to time!

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams


1993 - 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor


The Christmas Editorial

Well i'll start by wishing you all a very merry christmas and a happy new year, seeing as how its that time of year (yet) again.   It doesn't seem like five minutes since the last one to me, still it's the festive season again and this is the xmas ish.   I've had to cobble this one together quite quickly to get it out in time (hopefully), i apologise in advance to anyone who gets it after xmas, i'm doing my best.   You will notice that some articles have not been retyped, this again is due to lack of time on my part but i felt it better to include them anyway.   Many thanks to those of you who have contributed articles - please don't stop writing - and also to anyone who has helped out in other ways, particularly J-Rat for his help with the distribution (and others too numerous to name here).

This being the xmas ish i'd better report on the xmas dinner held at the Wellsway on 11.12.93.

By 8.30 there were some 65 of us assembled at the aforementioned hostelry, most already getting stuck into the (cheap) beer.   The atmosphere being one of general conviviality.   There seemed to be a contingent from each of the local clubs (even the Wexies!!).

Xmas dinner was served up and in some cases actually eaten, but it is true to say that a fair bit found its way to the Wexie table by other methods that were to say the least airborne, resulting in the temporary evacuation of a table or two by those not wishing to wear dinner.  (Vince knows nothing about this at all !!)

Eventually dessert was served, the wait caused by the highly attractive waitresses (not that i noticed them you understand) having to remove quantities of the first course from the walls.

By this time people were getting 'into the swing of things' - which roughly translates as pissed.  B.E.C. Get everywhere stickers were doing just that, getting everywhere, including onto dubious parts of other pubgoers anatomies and i gather the inside of Glenys' trousers!?!?  And things deteriorated nicely from thereon in!!!

At least Glenys still had trousers unlike Estelle who had hers forcibly converted into shorts (culprits anonymous see Estelle for details)

The rest of the night was a disco/pissup which seemed to be enjoyed by all, i even saw Rich Blake "dancing" at one point (i use the phrase loosely).   This went on until the early hours of Sunday morning generating a few king sized hangovers in the process.   Those that did surface the next day had had a good time.    I can't speak for the rest.

A vote of thanks to Estelle for her efforts in organising it.

Well thats about it from me, on with the rest of the issue, save to say comments are welcomed, also please note my new address inside cover.  Estelle has also moved and i will publish her new address as soon as i can, she can be contacted at the Belfry/Hunters in the meantime……….ta ta for now & Merry Xmas…..Jingles



Mr & Mrs RP. & M Hill,
Sultanate of Oman.

The Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

September 5, 1993.

Dear Sir,

During my recent brief visit to Mendip I was interested to hear some of the banter in the Hunters concerning the membership fees for 1993.

Out of interest took the figure for 1978-79, when I joined, which if I recall was £8, and compounded it at 8% per annum.  I think this is a reasonable average rate of inflation over the years.  The result was £25.38p.  I think those who complain about £20 a year should think again.  I cannot remember what Hut fees were in those days but I suspect that they have barely kept pace with inflation as well. The phrase that springs to mind to those perenial complainers about membership fees is “You get what you pay in real terms for"!!

It would seem to me to be logical to assume that as The Belfry gets older the cost of maintaining it will increase.  Therefore we should be anticipating raising a real term increase in income to pay for this. The argument for how to collect this money, Hut fees or Membership fees, is of course an emotive one in this club. My own opinion is that, without a base, the club would cease to exist in very short order.  It must therefore be the responsibility of all members to ensure the continued survival of our headquarters.

On a sour note for a minute I have been "accused in public" so to speak of not paying my hut fees.  This I have found out today when I received my April BB!!!!!!!!!!!

It was sent to me surface mail!!

I did receive a BB in February but unfortunately there was no mention of the fees fixed at the AGM I wrote to the Membership Sec. (Airmail) receiving no reply and finally deposited a Cheque in the Hut fees box on a visit in May.  This cheque has not been cashed so I expect it to be returned or destroyed.  I have since paid my dues for this year and will willingly pay those for next year as soon as the amount is decided provided somebody has the wherewithal to let me know how much!!!

What I really object to is the manner in which my name is highlighted in the BB as a bad boy when a personal approach would have prevented me from having to point out where the incompetence really lies.

To sum up then: Please fix the fees sensibly this year, put them in the BB, send it to me Airmail, and if you want me to pay extra for this service?, I will willingly do so!

Sorry I can't make the Dinner, enjoy it for me!

Bob Hill.


How to fit a new one!!

By an anonymous contributor.

A Peeping Tom overheard this conversation in a lay-by near G.B. Cavern

There was a van and two B.E.C. members

One male and one female!!!

(He)      “Shall we strip off here Lover?”

(She)    “O.K. perhaps we should stay in the van.”

(He)      “Can you give me a hand? I always find this a bit difficult.”

(She)    “Sure, but I have never opened one of these packets before.”

(He)      “No worries, you just tear off the strip and pull it out.”

(She)    “WOW!!  It’s big and black!!”

(He)      “Yes, I thought you’d like it. Perhaps you’d like to peel it over.”

(She)    “Bloody Hell!!  I didn’t think I’d need two hands for this.”

(He)      “If you sit on my stomach and pull really hard, it will fit.”

(She)    “Oh God!  I’ve gone and torn it!”

(He)      “That’s totally ruined our fun for tonight, I could only afford one!!”


                        …and that’s how a B.E.C. member tried on his very first wetsuit.

                                                (I ‘spec… pervs…..!)


1993/1994 B.E.C. Committee meetings

These will be held at 20.00, at the Belfry, on the following Friday nights..

5th November

3rd December

7th January

4th February

4th March

8th April

6th May

3rd June

1st July

5th August

2nd September

The A.G.M. and dinner will be held on Saturday 1st October 1994

The A.G.M. will start ay 10.00am at the Belfry


Over The Edge

It was all Brian's fault. 'Grotte de Moulin Maquis - that's something different.  I bet few British cavers have been there! he announced.  It transpired that this particular cave opened from a ledge 3/4 of the way down a 400 metre cliff in the Vercors region.  The idea simmered at the back of our minds until one afternoon last summer I suddenly found my legs dangling ever 400 metres of nothing with the Bourne gorge below me.

The Vercors National Park south west of the French city of Grenoble is a cliff girt limestone plateau riven by deep gorges. The mountain peaks at the fringes rise to 2000 metres and are popular with walkers in the Summer - while the winter months provide excellent opportunities for skiing both on piste and cross country.

Cavers have spent decades exploring the subterranean complexities of the region, in the process discovering some of the deepest caves in the world.  Several cave systems emerge in the walls of the Bourne Gorge including the spectacular grottoes at Choranche.  Opposite Choranche the 100 metre high portals of the Grotte de Bournillon are the biggest in Europe but are dwarfed by the cliff adjacent to it over which tumbles the Moulin Maquis waterfall. Our descent would take us down the line of the waterfall.

The French have a name for this sort of activity 'canyonning'; they abseil down cliffs and gorges to leap with glee in and out of plunge pools.  Popular sites have permanent belays and guide books are published to assist the enthusiast.  The Moulin Maquis was no exception; the fixed belay points were reassuringly described as 'bon', and the only warnings were to keep teams to a minimum of three and avoid winter descents when icicles hang suspended over the assailers heads like so many Dameclean swords.

At 4 pm a mud stained trio, who had warmed up in a typical Vercors 'aven' (pothole) could be seen marching through the woods from the tiny village of St. Julien of Vercors.  An ancient muleteers track wends its way steeply down to a choked cave entrance issuing the stream which we, were soon about to accompany. Ropes were laid out, oversuits donned, harnesses attached, and bladders emptied.  The system we were using to make the descent used two ropes, each approximately 50 metres long.  The pull through rope had a loop in one end through which was clipped a karabiner.  The abseil rope was tied to the pull through rope and lowered, the karabiner being used to hold the ropes together below the belay point.  This provided an automatic locking system for the abseil.  When one reached the bottom one pulled on the other rope and theoretically the abseil rope would then be pulled through the karabiner and down the pitch for the next section.

Brian was launched into space first (it was his idea) dropping out of the sun dappled wood onto the brightly lit greenswarded cliff.  A shout two minutes later indicated it was my turn.  After gingerly shuffling about on the tree branch we started from I found myself swinging in space. As I gently dropped I watched the stream splattering over the lush grass growing on its downward path.  Some scrabbly penduluming was required to reach the next ledge where a brief test confirmed the pull through was working before - John the third member of the trio came down.

John arrived.  We tugged the pull through rope and for two minutes it remained obstinately jammed before suddenly snaking down in a heap at our feet.  We were now committed - 360 metres to go and no turning back.  Brian reached into his pocket to consult the hastily drawn sketch map of pitch lengths and belays.  A trouble free descent dropped us onto a wide ledge where the stream provided a cooling shower.  Beyond here we were out of the tree zone with 9 pitches to go.

Progress was slow, for pull throughs became trials of strength.  The sun swung behind a cliff and in shadow the cooling stream lost its attractions.  The pitches began to pass overhangs making the pull throughs even more tricky and each assailer’s arrival would be heralded by showers of tufa and moss tweaked off the cascades.  The ledges shrank and we could understand why, the Guide Book recommended no more than three persons per party.  One memorable ledge was no larger than a coffee table, the only encouraging features being the firmly cemented belay rings to which we attached our 'cows tails'.

Our mood lifted as the lowering sun emerged from its temporary hiding place but sank when on the next pull through the ropes obstinately refused to move even with our combined weights bouncing on it.  The lightest member of the party, Brian (of course) volunteered to prusik back up and release the snag.  We had all taken the precaution of bringing ascending gear hoping we would not have to use it.  We were now glad of our caution.  Even so ascending a single rope which lies over an overhang and which may be rapidly fraying is not a nice experience.  We were both relieved to see Brian again descending at normal speed with the rope running freely.  Things from then on went from bad to worse.

We had started our descent at 5 pm and had asked our wives to meet us near the base of the cliff at 8 pm. Even without problems this was typical caver's optimism for the French gave 4 hours for the descent.  At 8 pm by the light of the sinking sun 2 matchbox sized cars swung into the car park ¼ mile from the base of the cliff.  If we weren't in trouble on the descent we were certainly going to be in it at the bottom!

The wives viewing the cliff were mystified to see dots moving up as well as down.  Unfortunately although we could hear them shouting the sound of the cascade drowned our replies.  The ingredients were in place for what we cavers tend to call an epic (euphemism for cock up).

The situation had now reached the point where we had established a routine in which the last man down was lowered on the down rope to avoid pull through snags.  We landed on the massive ledge from which our original goal the Grotte de Moulin Maquis led.  Time expired, we ignored it pressing on into the deepening twilight. John went first and a few minutes later some shouting suggested he was on the next ledge.  I followed and having located him in the gloom pendulumed across; my residual adrenalin reserves were squeezed dry when I landed on his precarious perch and he announced it had no belay point.  We clutched rock, grass rope and each other while bellowing for Brian to send down the bolt kit (another precautionary item we had packed). It slid down the line like manna from heaven and John began to belt in the self drilling bolts.

Meanwhile, at ground level, the wives were increasingly confused by the toing and froing.  When two lights came on and not a third panic was not far from their thoughts.  There were only two lights because I had decided not to bother with mine - the biggest mistake I made that day.

The bolts were secured, hangers attached and a sling placed, then with a short prayer, John launched onto a pitch of unknown length which thought (hoped) was less than 50 metres! Brian's water stained creased crumpled map seemed to suggest that if we could make the next ledge we could walk off it and scramble down - to the gorge bottom.  John made it with 10 metres to spare and was rapidly joined by Brian and myself.  Rapidly coiling the ropes we blundered our way through bushes and boulders busily concocting the excuses we would need to placate our irate womenfolk and trusting we could still get a cool beer at 11pm.

Canyonning is fun but make sure you give your-self plenty of time for it!



Our guide book for the descent was Infern'eaux published by Didier- and Richard.  ISBN 2-7038-0065-7.  It is available in book shops in the Vercors but not in this country as far- as I am aware.  The techniques for- descent need to be rehearsed properly (as you may have gathered) and one should be prepared for all eventualities.


Letter To All Members

The following letter has been received from Tim Hodgson, an old 'Ex' B.E.C. member.

I have written to Tim saying that I will see if there is interest in an expedition to Costa Rica.

If anyone is keen, please let me know.  I would also like to hear from anyone who remembers Tim, he mentions 'Wig' in his letter so he must be very old!!!

Martin Grass.

Full letter follows on next pages ..............

The Secretary, Bristol Exploration Club.
The Belfry, Priddy, Somerset,

Dear Whoever got stuck with the thankless job.

It’s been many years since I've been in contact with the club, in fact I doubt if anyone will remember me now but I was a member once.

The reason I'm writing is because there are unexplored caves in Costa Rica, and maybe it’s time something was done about it. Costa Rica, as I’m sure you are aware is the country between Panama and Nicaragua, it's not some unknown beach on the south coast of Spain, nor is it to be confused with Puerto Rico.  It’s about the size of Wales.  But, because of its mountains, the highest is over thirteen thousand feet; it has a climate that varies between bloody hot on the coast to freezing on the tops of the mountains.

Between the two extremes are climates to suit everyone.  There are tropical wet forests, tropical dry forests, cloud forests and much more, the country is very beautiful, with a wide variety of fauna and flora.  There all sorts of exotic wild animals, from Jaguars, Tapirs and Peccaries to boa-constrictors, and poison-dart frogs. There are all sorts of tropical fruits and vegetables, most of which are unknown in Europe, but surprisingly things like blackberries and strawberries grow all year round, as does asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower.  San Jose, the capital, is just a little under four thousand feet, and has a very agreeable climate, with an average temperature of about seventy five to eighty degrees all year round.

Costa Rica is volcanic and in an earthquake area.  It is on the joint between the Caribbean and Cocos tectonic plates.  This probably leads to a certain amount of instability in the caves.  Nonetheless there is one show cave with a twenty foot entrance pitch, which fat little old ladies descend on an electron ladder.  Gawd knows how the guides get them out again, but I'm assured they do.

I’ve recently been in touch with a dentist who is an active caver, he tells me that there have been several expeditions from Europe and the U.S.A.  The local cavers assist in every way possible and can usually find horses for transport, and help with accommodation.  They prefer expeditions of a scientific nature but original exploration is not discouraged.  They ask only that they get copies of any surveys or other useful information. They know the location of the bars nearest to cave entrances, and behave like other cavers in that they drink beer, sing songs (in Spanish) and pursue anyone who wears a skirt.  The dentist has promised me more information on the caving association here, and details of the various caving areas.  I’ll send this information on to you as soon as I have it.

It might be interesting to arrange a trip from England in the foreseeable future.  I could help with arrangements at this end, I’m president of a new hotel in the centre of San Jose which could be used as a base.  It’s a very good hotel, and is not to be treated in the same way as some of the establishments we have patronized for our annual dinners in the past!

During a recent tourism exhibition here, there was a travel agent from Bristol called Joanna Clarkson.  She has an agency called Trips, in Clifton Wood Crescent. I spoke to her on the phone about a month ago, and she said she would gladly provide any information she could about Costa Rice, and would be glad to take care of the travel arrangements; should the need arise.  Her phone number is 02-72-xxxxxx.

I would very much like to be able to show the caving association here a sample of the work done by the BEC.  Could you help me be sending me a part of the "Wigs" Cuthbert survey, if he ever finished it, and anything else that might help the locals to know what a good caving club the BEC is.  Keep the cost down, I’m not rich, perhaps you could fax me the cost, and I could arrange for my mother to send you a cheque.

I am enclosing some rubbish about the hotel, and if I can find anything that isn’t too bulky something about Costa Rica.  I hope to here from you in the not too distant future, even if it’s only a copy of the Belfry Bulletin.  I also hope there are some doddering old armchair cavers who still remember me.

Your sincerely,

Tim Hodgson


The Song of the CPS

Tune: The Bold Gendarmes. Author: Dickie Ray

Source: Belfry Bulletin No 104 May 1956

We’re Cavern keepers disingenuous,
Of Stalactites we take good care,
We never do anything strenuous,
When danger lurks we’re never there.
But if we see a moderate pothole,
Not too far, and not severe.

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

Some term our duties extra rural,
And little troglodytes we chase,
And when we see formations mural,
We stretch red tape all around the place,
And if we see a natural fountain,
That’s set in nature holy sphere,

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

‘To lock all caverns’ is our motto,
And save the goodly caves from sin,
But just as we are finished,
Some blighter digs another way in,
But with our rope and tape and placards,
We’ll battle onwards, never fear,

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

(CPS - Cave Preservation Society)


From Desert Sands To Mountain Snows

A Traverse Of The High Atlas Mountains Of Morocco

Expedition Report

Doctor Andrew Newton FRGS


This report describes a traverse of the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco during the Spring of 1993.  The inspiration for this journey came from two previous expeditions to the High Atlas Mountains during the winter months of 1991 and 1992, during which ascents of Jebel Toubkal and Ighil M’Goun were undertaken.  Having climbed in the Atlas mountains with the object of ascending specific peaks I decided that I wished to explore the more remote valleys and uplands of the M’Goun area in an attempt to see more of the "lifestyle” of the local Berber people and document some of the facets of this lifestyle before it is too greatly affected by the development of tourism and trekking within the region.

I set myself the objective of completing a traverse of the High Atlas Mountains from the desert in the south via the Draa valley following the course of the river Draa to its source in the mountain snows of the M’Goun plateau and subsequently descending to the fertile valleys of the Bou Goumez region to the north of the High Atlas chain.

General topography

The Atlas Mountains of Morocco run as a single chain of mountains stretching in a curve from the north-east of the Country to the Atlantic coast near to Agadir in the west. The northern extent of this chain is termed the "Riff". The central section being of moderate elevation is termed the "Middle or Moyen Atlas", whilst the southern section of the range- is known as the "High or Haute" Atlas.  The High Atlas is split into two distinct areas by a mountain pass which runs south east from the city of Marrakech (formerly known as Morocco city).

The south western section of the High Atlas includes the peak of Jebel Toubkal (at 4,165 metres the highest peak in Africa north of the Equator) - whilst the north eastern section of the High Atlas includes the mountainous plateau known as the M’Goun range.


Travel to Morocco

Travel to Morocco is very straight forward with regular air services between London Heathrow and Casablanca, the modern capital city of Morocco.  From Casablanca internal flights serve the other major cities within the Country including Marrakech which is regarded as being the normal starting point for expeditions into the mountainous regions of Morocco.  During the winter months the National Airline (Royal Air Moroc) is the only carrier to fly regularly: however, during the summer months regular charter flights are available to the majority of destinations.

Land travel within Morocco is equally straight forward with an efficient National Bus Company (CTM) as well as a number of smaller local bus and coach operators.

Expedition Report

Marrakech makes a wonderful starting point for any journey.  Constantly bustling with humanity the city acts as a commercial centre for the Central High Atlas as well as being a popular tourist destination. The city is split into two sections, the old part or Red City comprising of an ancient medina and kasbah whilst the modern new city boasts luxury hotels and French-style colonial architecture.  The old town or medina is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways bursting with shops and trade stalls selling both local products and tourist goods.  The nearby square (the D'Jna El Fna or 'meeting place of the dead') is famous for its street entertainers, snake charmers and soothsayers.  Around the edge of the square tented fast food stalls offer an amazing variety of Moroccan culinary delicacies.

From Marrakech I journeyed south with CTM over the Tizi-n-Tichna pass to the city of Ouarzazate (in translation literally the 'place where there is no noise').

Ouarzazate is unfortunately a modern town created for the tourist industry.  However, it does serve as a useful starting place for journeys in the south of Morocco.

At Ouarzazate I managed to procure a slightly battered Renault 4 on rental for a couple of days. Using this vehicle I drove down through the Vallee du Draa to the oasis town of Zagora widely recognised in Morocco as being the starting point of the Sahara desert.

Zagora itself is a modern colonial border town consisting of a military garrison and administrative offices. However, to the south of the town on, the opposite side of the river the ancient kasbah of Amzrou is an entirely different world.  Surrounded by Palmaries and protected from the advancing sands of the desert by restraining walls and fences, the town has been a trading point for desert Nomads for several thousand years. Sadly, the town of Amzrou has recently become the home to many nomads deprived of their life style by the fighting in the Western Sahara and by drought in Mali and Mauritania.

Having visited the point at which the waters of the River Draa disappear into the sands of the Sahara desert, I commenced my journey north through the Vallee du Draa using the old trading route which runs on the opposite side of the Valley to the modern tarmac highway.  This route passes through many Berber villages and kasbahs offering an ever changing kaleidoscope of views of an agricultural way of life which has remained little changed over the last 1,000 years.  The lands immediately adjacent to the Draa river are highly fertile being irrigated by the waters of the river and fertilised by silt washed down by the annual flood cycle of melt waters draining from the Atlas mountains.

Having returned the Renaut 4 (in an even more battered condition), I journeyed by local agricultural transport to the market town of Skoura.  After a frustrating four hours of searching for a mode of transport to take me deeper into the Atlas Mountains, I finally located a transit van belonging to the commune of Irni-n-oulaoun which was due to leave Skoura that evening to take villagers back into the mountains.  After several false starts from the market place in Skoura (and two tyre changes) the transit van finally departed with a load of 22 villagers and their purchases from market, plus a roof rack full of provisions and supplies for the village store, squeezed into the corner of the van with my rucksack, I immediately became the centre of attention and throughout the six hour journey into the mountains, I was constantly questioned about my home, my family, my country and my view on Moroccan politics.  The Berber people are naturally gregarious and hospitable to travellers and even when travelling solo in the mountains of Morocco one is rarely alone.

The transit van eventually arrived in the mountain village of Imi-n-Qulaoun just before sunset so I gratefully accepted the offer of overnight accommodation with one of the families who had travelled up from Skoura. The following morning after a breakfast of unleavened bread and very powerful black coffee served by the 7 year old son of the family with whom I had spent the night (since his parents had already gone out to work on the fields), I commenced my trek on foot. From Imi-n-oulaoun I followed the Ait Moudzit valley north passing through a succession of small villages as I ascended the steeply sided valley towards the M'Goun plateau.

Whenever one approaches a village in the High Atlas valleys one is met by a crowd of Berber children whose daily duties include grazing the flocks of goats and sheep away from the village.  In the lowland valleys it is now normal for these children to instantly demand "un bonbon", "un stylo", "de l' argent", however, in the higher valleys the welcome is much more genuine with offers of food and hospitality abounding.  Long before one actually reaches the village one has gathered a large following much akin to the pied Piper of Hameln.

The upper reaches of the Ait Moudzit valley offer splendid walking at high level with the mountain track skirting precipitous crags perched above an impressive gorge containing the white foaming waters of the river.  All the small hamlets on the way up the valley are surrounded by impressive terraces of fields contained by restraining dry stone walls.  In the spring months the terraced fields are planted with maize and vegetable crops which are irrigated by the spring melt water which is channelled from the river via an ingenious set of man-made contouring water channels built along the field boundary walls.  Each terrace is sheltered by overhanging trees (palms in the lower reaches of the valley and almonds or flowering cherries at higher altitudes).

I reached the village of Tissougune in the later afternoon of the second day of the traverse.  Tissougune is the last major settlement in the Ait Moudzit valley and is one of the most remote settlements in the area.  As with all Berber villages I was met by a large group of children who escorted me into the village where I was met by the local Imam who insisted that I adjourn to his house for mint tea and bread and oil (a typical Berber mid-afternoon snack).  Before many minutes had passed the entire village congregated in the Imam's courtyard curious to investigate the foreigner in their midst.  On discovering that I was a Medical Practitioner the Imam immediately summoned a selection of his ailing parishioners requesting my assistance with medications and treatment.  (Modern health clinics are only found in the major agricultural communes of the Atlas region and even if they make the long journey to visit such a clinic the majority of Berber tribes people cannot afford to purchase the prescribed medications.  Consequently, the only medicinal treatment available in the mountains is that dispensed by travelling Herbal Practitioners and religious Faith Healers).  My afternoon surgery complete, I continued on my way accompanied by the village teenagers who insisted on escorting me up the precipitous waterfall behind their village.  As the sun started to sink towards the snow capped peaks on the horizon I selected a site for my mountain tent and much to the intrigue of the Berber children, I built my house for the night.  My evening meal of dehydrated high altitude rations aroused equal interest; the only time I have ever given a dinner party for ten in a two man tent at 3,000 metres altitude!

The third day of the traverse consisted of a long ridge ascent on to the main M'Goun plateau itself. The plateau consists of a long ridge running from north-east to south-west.  The ridge lies entirely above 3,500 metres with individual summits around the 4,000 metre mark.  Amsoud, the highest point on the ridge has an altitude of 4,071 metres.  The terrain is predominantly scree with limestone outcrops forming craggy edges and buttresses which afford easier walking than the main scree slopes of the plateau.

Unfortunately the good weather of the preceding few days had led to a rapid melting of the snow on the southern slopes, making the last 500 metres of ascent to the ridge a long slow and painful four hour slog through thigh deep wet snow.  My efforts were rewarded however as on gaining the ridge firm neve was reached allowing me to make rapid time to the summit of M'Goun prior to setting up my evening camp in a col at 4,000 metres.

The following morning I made an early start to take advantage of the overnight freeze and maintaining an excellent rate of progress I descended to the north into the Toufrhine valley (a high level valley lying between the two main mountain ridges of the central High Atlas).  I followed the valley north east to the M'Goun gorges which offer a dramatic and rather sporting descent of 2,000 feet over the space of one mile.  (To traverse the gorges it is necessary to climb down in the waterfalls following the exact path of the river as it cascades between limestone walls up to 500 feet high).  At the bottom of the gorges the river emerges from a spectacular rocky defile to flow through open green pasture, my surprise at meeting this unexpected view was surpassed only by the surprise of the small Berber herds boy who looked up from his flock to see me appear from the river soaking wet and somewhat bruised, (but nonetheless elated to have completed the descent).

This young herds boy escorted me to his house in the nearby village where his family made me immensely welcome lending me a warm dry wollen jalaba for the evening and plying me with large quantities of hot food.

The following morning I continued along the course of the river to the village of Agouti in the Bou-Goumez valley.  The Bou­Goumez is one of the most fertile of the valleys of the Northern Atlas and is known by the local Berbers as the "bread basket of Morocco".  The village of Agouti forms the road head of the Azilal road which penetrates the Atlas Mountains from the north.  Although I had initially hoped to be able to pick up a land-rover from Agouti, I discovered to my dismay that the winter snows were still closing the high mountain passes to the north and therefore I found myself compelled to spend a night in the village of Agouti (staying at the Mosque guest house) before continuing on foot to the village of Tabant from where I was able to secure myself a place in a land rover heading north the following day.

The land rover ride out to the regional marked town of Azilal consisted of an eight hour journey on loose stone pistes skirting precipitous valleys and passing through some of the most fantastic alpine-type scenery.  After an unscheduled stop to deal with a blow-out (a common occurrence on Moroccan mountain roads); interesting scenes ensued as it transpired that the only instrument available for re-inflating the tyre was a pair of old furnace bellows provided by the nearby village.

At Azilal I joined forces with a couple of Moroccan school teachers wishing to journey to Marrakech and between us we commissioned the hire of a grand taxi (the Moroccan equivalent of a long distance chauffeur driven limousine) and for the princely sum of six pounds I journeyed the remaining two hundred kilometres back to Marrakech in bone shaking dust ridden luxury.


During the course of my traverse over the central High Atlas I was struck by the unspoilt nature of the valleys and the continuation of the Berbers' traditional way of mountain life. This is by stark contrast to the over development of the valleys in the Toubkal region which have become highly popular with visiting European climbers.

Following my return to Marrakech I was fortunate to be able to meet some members of the Moroccan Mountain Guides Association who confided in me their concerns about the development of tourism in the Atlas.  It seems that lessons are being learned from the mistakes made in the Toubkal region and it is to be hoped that greed and political pressure do not get in the way of the development of sustainable and eco-friendly tourism.

The remote valleys of the central High Atlas are stunningly beautiful but they are also stunningly fragile. Unless treated with respect the high Atlas valleys could rapidly become yet another statistic on the trail-of tourist destruction.


MRO News

Number 5 Nov 1993


***  HELP WANTED  ***

Saturday 15th January 1994


MRO is to host this biennial conference based at Eastwater farm on July 8th,' 9th & 10th 1994. Obviously, it will require a great deal of effort by Mendip cavers to make this event run smoothly and it is essential that work should start as soon as possible.  Individuals, and clubs, who are willing to make a contribution to the organization and running of the conference, are asked to attend a preliminary meeting at The Hunters Lodge Inn on Saturday January 15th at 7:30 pm to start the ball rolling.

Saturday 29th January 1994


Video presentation followed by practical session with MRO kit.  Hunters Lodge Inn, 7: 30 pm.

Saturday 19th February 1994


In view of the response to last years lecture and recent events both underground and on the surface, MRO has decided to hold this workshop annually. As before, the emphasis will be on the practical.  You owe it to yourselves and your friends to be up to date with Artificial Ventilation and External Chest Compression techniques.

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Friday 11th March 1994


Annual meeting of the committee

Hunters Lodge Inn, 8:00 pm prompt.

next evening 

Saturday 12th march 1994


Hands-on experience of MRO equipment for small groups circulating around various demonstrations.  At the same time there will be discussions with club team leaders.  Please ensure that your club is represented. 

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Saturday 16th April 1994


A further meeting regarding the organization and running of the BCRC conference.   Please offer any help and time you can.

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Saturday 30th April 1994


An afternoon session both on the surface and underground with the MRO radios and molefone in use.  Venue and times to be decided.  Watch for more details and posters.

July 8th.  9th     and   10th    1994



Surface and underground sessions, lectures, practical demonstrations, stomp, bars, cave rescue game, hangovers and much, much more.  Watch out for more details or, better still, come along to the meetings on January 15th and April 16th to see how you or your club can help make this event a success.



The Boys of the Hill

By 'Snab'

Lads and lasses come with me,
To the village of Priddy,
In the heart of Mendip on top of the hill.
Have a drink in the Hunter's pub,
There'll you meet the caving clubs,
They're the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill.
Cavers come from miles around,
On Saturday nights they'll all be found
Raising their tankards and drinking their fill.
The Shepton brood, the BEC,
The Wessex and the MCG,
They're the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill.
Why not stop and have a jar,
In that fine old flagstone bar,
There's plenty of barrels of Roger's good ale.
Why not try the Butcombe brew,
That's the stuff for me and you,
We'll all have a pint say the Boys of the Hill.

In the back room you will find,
Music there of every kind,
New songs and old songs that they sing there still.
Some’s all right and some are good,
Some are downright crude and rude,
'Cause we like they words say the Boys of the Hill.

Bodhrans rattle~ singers sing,
They fairly make the rafters ring
Squeeze boxes play and a whistle loud and shrill.
Simon's on the melodeon,
Tony Jarratt's drunk again,
Aren't we all say the Boys on the Hill.

Lads and lasses come with me,
To the village of Priddy,
In the heart of Mendip on top of the Hill.
Had a drink in the Hunter's pub,
There they met the caving clubs,
See you next week say the Boys of the Hill.



Sussex Underground.

By John King.

Back in May 1990 there appeared in the B.B. an article and survey by Andy Garrod concerning Broomers Hill sandstone mine at Pulborough.  Intrigued by the article, Charlie (McQue) and I paid a visit with Jo (Hills) to the site and spent a while just browsing around. Charlie asked me “Where does this go?"  Marked on the survey as 'Mr Badger's House' I said it would probably be wise not to find out. Curiosity, however, got the better of us and so a few days later we returned.  Armed with a diver's knife and a sharp stick for the badger, and a compass and a knotted string for the survey, we ventured through the crawl very warily, the first 100' was very small due to the whole mine being backfilled with earth, through a final squeeze and into more adits like those in the first part of the mine but again backfilled to about half depth.  No sign of badger but we did find a nest of sorts with daylight entering through a small hole nearby.  Piles of rusting 'artefacts', mainly cans and drums, had been dumped here some time ago.  Most areas are passable by grovelling.  Although the survey is very crude it does show the extent of mining to be much greater than previously thought.  Pacing out the length on the surface, we found what appeared to be a cess pit in a field.  This would be over the final adit area which is only 20' down.  Hope it holds out!!!

While in the area it was decided that a disused canal tunnel nearby would make an interesting diversion. Joined by Barry with the coordinates and other information we were soon searching farmland around Hardham.  A suspiciously double fenced depression in a field was obviously what we were looking for, so, over the fences into a morasse, overgrown and smelly.  The canal route had been filled in almost up to the tunnel entrance.  The thin veneer of water was supported by at least six feet of mud (couldn't find a longer stick!) just inside the brickwork tunnel. Several bricks fell out on being prodded, obviously not the most inspiring waterway in Sussex.  The footpath which followed the route on the surface headed due south and very soon crossed a railway bridge.  On close inspection a cavity on the trackside appeared to be right over the compass bearing. We estimated the time between trains to be sufficient for a recce.  On the trackside we lifted a capstone and descended a fixed ladder, back in the canal again.  Nearly blocked by mud in both directions it was obviously impassable by canoe. In the southern distance was a splash of green light.  Back on the footpath we wondered about the new compass bearing as the metal ladder and the railway line were competing for attention when it was taken. Abandoning the ‘wild’ bearing we headed southish and eventually found the exit, where the relative water level was lower and the water itself quite clean.  This was the point from which any water borne exploration would commence. There was a snag however; the child proof entrance grille had only a small chink in its armour.  The tunnel was also too narrow to turn a canoe in and paddling backwards for half a mile or so did not appeal, so the good old plastic dinghy would have to do.  Some days later the said appliance was smuggled into position.  One tries to avoid drawing attention to oneself, one being a conservative type like all cavers etc etc etc ... As I couldn't persuade anyone that it would be a delightful afternoons boating, I had to paddle, measure the distance and the depth so as not to rip out the bottom, take photographs, all this without aid was quite tricky but I slowly measured my way north to an area of unbelievable beauty.  Red, black, ochre and white curtains, erratics and a myriad of straws with the prize specimen in excess of four feet and almost touching the dinghy as I passed.  The measuring suddenly took a back paddle in favour of photographic frenzy.  A whole roll of film went by, not bad for a brick tunnel.  Considering the delicacy of the pretties added to the fact that I was surely trespassing I think that the location must be withheld but if anyone wants to take a look, at their own risk, then contact me for arrangements.

There are several 'shifts' in the walls but it all looks quite safe, the water is mainly shallow but the silt persists all the way.  It resembles quicksand with water on top and is very deep, so falling out of the dinghy would be serious.  Trains could be heard going past nearby, which is a bit alarming at first.  The water is very clear and as the pretties testify there is little air current and no flooding, not even a rise more than 2 or three feet.

John King



Access & Conservation Round the Regions


If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Derbyshire access, please contact Derbyshire Caving Association’s Conservation & Access Officer direct::

Pete Mellors, Edingley, Newark, Notts


At present there is very serious pollution entering the mine in the region of Ihe old Knollow Engine Shaft and the mine level which connects this to the foot of the Crimbo Hollow (Fourways) Shaft. The water in the level is stinking, brown and carrying some solid matter. The pollution can even be smelt in the open air above the Fourways shaft. The water moving in from Waterfall Chamber carries the pollution from the foot of the Fourways Shaft, down-stream along the coffin level, past Rift Chamber and on down into the Crimbo Swallow. There is likely to be bad air in the region of the pollution and there may even be methane gas since the pollution appears to be organic.

You are strongly advised to avoid this area of Knotlow Mine for the present and, in particular, be wary of using carbide in this part of the mine since methane can form an explosive combination with air.

Derbyshire Caving Association is aware of the problem and is currently taking steps to trace the pollution and to get it stopped at source. Even when the source is found and stopped, the pollution is likely to take some time to clear so you should continue to be wary.


As with all pollution related to agricultural practices and faming, there is a danger of contracting Weil's Disease from the recent episodes in Derbyshire. This is a potentially fatal disease which can be caught from water contaminated by the urine of rats. Cavers should be careful to take precautions: cover all sores, cuts, grazes, etc. and try to wash in clean water as soon as possible after caving. Remember too that, even where pollution is not obviously apparent, there may still be danger, as in the Stoney Middleton caves.  Water in surface streams may also be contaminated.

Cavers planning to visit Youd's Level or Long Tor Grotto should note that both entrances are active soughs which pass below houses in Matlock Dale and rats have been seen in the area,.

NCA has issued a free leaflet giving information on this, including where to obtain medical advice quickly. To obtain a copy send 9” x 4” s.a.e. to DCA Secretary, Jenny Potts. Also is available is a credit card sized information card on Weil’s Disease to fit in your wallet, for this send S.A.E. plus a 20p stamp or bulk orders for clubs are 18p each for 10+ cards, incl. postage. (Cheques etc. payable to DCA.)


Between Welton Mill and Hum the National Trust are currently assessing the value of caves for their paleontological and archaeological deposits and their wildlife interest.     DCA's   Conservation   and  Access   Officer has been told by the Warden of the Trust's South Peak Estate that once these studies are completed, DCA will be invited to discuss with the Trust ways in which caver access and conservation needs can best be met.

Meanwhile cavers are asked not to dig in caves above river level without written permission. The Trust is prepared to prosecute anyone who ignores this request. Access to caves in the river bed remains unaffected, as does access to old mine workings. In some cases permission to enter these may have to be obtained where the Trust is not the owner - consult the DCA Handbook for details.


KNOTLOW SHAFT TOP: This has been "ailing" for some time and the bolts didn't fasten properly. Thanks to the Crewe C. P. C. the top has now been re-fettled and new bolts and nuts provided. You Call either collect the official spanner from the Bull in Monyash or provide your own large adjustable. Just make sure that all is fastened securely when you leave.

P8 LADDER: The fixed ladder which bypasses the 2nd. pitch in P8 has now been replaced. Many thanks to the group from Crewe C. P. C. who did the job. The old ladder snapped when it was taken down, but the pieces have now been removed and are in the possession of the Crewe cavers, so if anyone would like to re-claim them, contact Ralph Johnson 011 0782-xxxxxx.

WATERWAYS CAR PARK: The car park is now re-surfaced so there shouldn't be any problems with bogged down cars for quite some time. Special thanks to the three Darfar P. C. cavers who shifted and spread 16 tons of hardcore in a day!

RAVEN MINE: Some parts of the route through to the new extensions are extremely unstable but Ben Bentham has been doing stabilising work recently and has also rebuilt the shaft top.

You may like to note that the cost of materials for all these access projects is funded by DCA, however the hard work, as always is done by individual cavers from DCA member clubs.

THE DCA HANDBOOK is currently under preparation for publication in 1994.

For information on Derbyshire Caving Association, send S.A.E. to: Hon. Secretary, Jenny Potts, Ashbourne, Derbyshire


Conservation plans involving DCA. English Nature and the Limestone Research Group are to be produced in respect of two newly discovered sites in the region, namely the White River Series in Peak Cavern and the Upper Entrance Series of Lathkill Head Cave (or Lathkiller Pot). English Nature, which sees its role as facilitating this kind of initiative in the regions, will meet any costs incurred.

Conservation plans offer an opportunity to document more fully the scientific aspect of specific SSSI's. They enable the  risk to  sites  to be  assessed  and monitored.  Just as important, they involve cavers in helping to protect for the future a unique environment which they in particular value and enjoy, not least because of the time they spend in exploring and publicising that environment. In the initial stage, the plans will involve locating and documenting the nature and extent of scientific interest. Reliable surveys and a photographic record, if not already in existence, will need producing. While River Series is better off in this respect than Lathkill Head. It is also subject to more controlled access, being located in a remote and not easily accessible part of a large and extensive cave system. You can do a lengthy, exciting and eventful trip in Peak Cavern without going near White River Series, Lathkill Upper Entrance, on the other hand, makes an exciting through trip now possible via a single main passage, and is vulnerable for that reason. The amount of use this cave gets is not yet known. In contrast to Peak, there is no monitored access.

The main danger to regional conservation plans such as these proposed in Derbyshire is that of an uncoordinated approach, to ensure success, the various parties to the plans must work together throughout and carry the support of cavers with them. For their part, cavers must learn to adopt the higher profile in leading the effort to conserve the caves they rightly value.

Peter Mellors, Conservation & Access Officer, Derbyshire Caving Association.


If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about access in Devon and Cornwall, please contact Devon and Cornwall Underground Council’s Conservation and Access Officer direct: A. Neil, Plymouth


There are erosion problems in Pridhamsleigh Cavern and Dog Hole. Both are SSSI’s and the damage has come to the notice of English Nature, who want a conservation plan drawn up as soon as possible.  DCUC are working with NCA to draw up a comprehensive plan. The worry is that if the cavers themselves do not do this, English nature are likely to impose one which may stop access to both caves.

For information on Devon and Cornwall Underground Council send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Mike Hunting, Lifton, Devon,



If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Southern access, please contact Council Of Southern Caving Club’s Conservation and Access Officer direct:  Dave Morrison, Clutton


After recent heavy rain very strong diesel fumes were encountered in the section of cave immediately before Sump 1, so much so that one party aborted their trip because members felt sick.


The Mendip Access Handbook is in production, due out next year.

For information on Council of Southern Caving Clubs, send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Steve Cottle, Clifton, Bristol.


If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about access in Wales, please contact Cambrian Caving Council Conservation and Access Officer direct: Mrs E. Little, Abercrave, Swansea.


This are is extremely “sensitive” as regards access ar present with local residents up in arms about excessive use of the area by cavers, so please make sure you don’t do anything to exacerbate current difficulties.  Welsh cavers are working hard to sort the problems and have been able to prove that many allegations are unfounded.

Part of the problem relates to fears of residents on the Hillside about threats to their water supplies from the activities of cavers.  Certainly they rely on springs but there is now hope that the Welsh Water may be able to provide a mains supply and even public flush toilets at the Daren Car Park.

Please don’t use the road up from LLangatock to reach the car park by Daren Cilau as there are severe traffic problems on this very narrow and steep road. Instead drive along the tramway from Brynmawr.

You MUST park in the Daren car park and not outside the Chelsea S.S. HQ but beware of thieves who are regularly raiding vehicles left by cavers in the car park and take suitable precautions.  Be warned that thieves have recently injured a dog left in a caver’s car and that a policeman in civvies on surveillance has been injured by attackers.


At the request of the Landwoner, access is restricted to weekends only, maximum number of 6 visitors, experienced cavers only.  For further details contact the trips organiser: Andrew Clark, Nr. Monmouth


Currently there is a complete ban on access to the mines in the Clearwell area of the Forest of Dean because of pollution.  The ban will remain in force until the pollution is eliminated.


The new handbook has just been published and is available direct from Cambrian Caving Council Secretary, Frank Baguley, for £1.00 + 50p post and packing. (Cheques payable to C.C.C.)

Also available from Frank is the CCC Journal, “Red Dragon” for £2.00 + £1.00 Post and Packing.

For information on Cambrian Caving Council send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Frank Baguley, Ystradgynlais, Swansea.


If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Northern access, please contact Council Of Northern Caving Club’s Conservation and Access Officer direct: Phil Parker, Leeds.


Recently a group of cavers ripped up turf to dam the stream running into Meregill Hole.  The area is an SSSI so this came to the attention of English Nature and the dam was removed.  The CNCC view is that during rescue situations it may be necessary to dam the stream and it would therefore be acceptable but, during general caving and with modern techniques it is unnecessary to dam the stream.


Please replace the gate over the entrance on departure – it is to prevent dead sheep and other rubbish entering the cave system.


There has been some digging on the Fell recently for which no permission has been sought or given. You are reminded that this area is an SSSI and permission is required for ANY  digging activity underground or on the surface.  Failure to observe this will further complicate an already delicate access situation.


You are reminded that this cave is particularly sensitive to damage from inexperienced cavers and CNCC do not recommend that this cave be attempted by novice cavers.


During busy periods (most days) cavers parking at the roadside by the farm have caused problems by making access to the farm track by agricultural vehicles impossible. Farmers are working 7 days a week! Please allow them adequate access to their property. Failure to park sensibly will lead to parking restrictions and ultimately access restrictions


Current edition on sale in caving shops.  Also available direct form CNCC Secretary, price £1.40 incl. post and packing.

For information on Council of Southern Caving Clubs, send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Les Sykes, Lancs.


Book Reviews

by Nick Cornwell-Smith

KENT AND EAST SUSSEX UNDERGROUND (ISBN 0948193-581) price £5.95  128pp.

by Kent Underground Research Group published by Meresborough Books 1991

One that I picked up recently was "Kent and East Sussex Underground".  Any book about underground activities in the South East of England always attracts my attention as having lived in that area.

Being a South West club, the members of the BEC, seem to disbelieve that caves and underground passages exist East of Watford Gap, unless they are on the mainland of Europe.  But it should be noted that there are many old and new underground excavations in the South East, witness the latest find by a combined French and British team of diggers.  A superb, classic phreatic shaped passage extending from the chalk of Shakespeare Cliff to France.

For many years the Chelsea Speleological Society have been producing publications on underground sites in their area.  Some of CSS are also members of the Kent Underground Research Group and explore many of these passages.  This book is not a guide book on the lines of the Dalesman publications but, mainly a brief narrative history about the various types of underground passages and caverns that can be found in Kent and East Sussex.

The book starts of with a series of chapters about the various mines that are found in the area. Yes, that was right I did say mines. Most of them are old mines used to get at various types of rock and material such as Fullers Earth, sand and sandstone before the advent of easier transport from cheaper sources.  Gypsum is still mined in a vast complex with underground tunnels capable of taking land rovers and was first mined over 100 hundred years ago.  Small deposits of Purbeck and Ragstone Limestone were also mined from early Roman days.  Some of the limestone was used to construct St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

Coal has also been a mining activity in the Kent Coalfields since 1886, and still continues, but for how long?  The miners in the Kent Coalfield mainly from the Midlands. At one time there were between 8 and 10 collieries producing coal in various quantities, but it never really challenged the coalfields of Yorkshire and South Wales.

The most common type of underground mine or quarry was the denehole used for excavating chalk to spread on agricultural land.  These were often dug at the sides of fields for individual farmers.  Chalk was also removed to produce cement, and one of the more famous in the area has been used for this purpose, namely Chislehurst Caves.  This cave was also used during the Second World War as an air raid shelter.  There is a short chapter on military uses of underground passages.  These include forts at Dover and on the River Medway.

The last chapters cover other uses such as water supply, and storage, ice houses, sewers and cess-pits and finally natural caves.  There are a number of caves that have come to light particularly along the sea cliffs. Some are just sea caves caused by the action of the tide, but others are genuine fossil phreatic caves.

This book gives an interesting insight into underground passages in an area of the country that many BEC members just travel through on 'the way to the ferry to France.  A potted History of the various activities is given and in some cases details of the sites, with maps and surveys are included.  Access details are also given in some instances.

If you are interested in other geographical areas, then it is a good read.

CAVES AND TUNNELS IN SOUTH EAST ENGLAND Part 10 (ISSN 0309-409X) price £3.50 74pp.

by Chelsea Speleological Society published by CSS 1992

For many years the Chelsea Speleological Society have been publishing the Records of CSS.  Apart from the first two volumes, they have concentrated on the various caves, mines, deneholes, tunnels and other underground features which they find or research in the South East of England.  This latest volume, number twenty, is no exception to the usual mixture of natural and man-made cavities delved into by the CSS either in person or researched via books and articles.

This years selection of caves include the Hellfire Caves of West Wycombe.  These now public caves were dug as a folly by Sir Francis Dashwood.  They were used as a meeting place for the Hellfire Club, where various "forms of vice and perversion" took place, including "less reputable women procured from London, dressed as nuns." Alas, these activities have now ceased.

Nearby, in High Wycombe, is a bunker, used by the Ministry of Defence during the Gulf War.  Needless to say the CSS have not had a guided tour, but gleaned the information from the London Standard of January 1991.  Other military cavities included are the various types of RADAR bunkers and control centres used during the Second World War and beyond.  Plans are included of some of these and details of their current status where known.  Also mentioned are the tunnels bored by the Royal Engineers in 1916 to test out tunnel boring machines for use in the trenches of the Western Front.

A further interesting man-made structure detailed is the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway.  It is described in many books and newspaper accounts, but the actual site has been lost since the great fire in 1936.

Mines such as the Mote Park Ragstone Mines, Bassingbourne Coprolite Mine and Chadwell Chalk Mines are described, with a plan in the case of the former.

The only natural cave given a review is Seaford Head Cave, in East Sussex.  This fossil phreatic passage has been exposed in the chalk cliffs at the mouth of the River Cuckmere, but is blocked a short way in by a choke.

This gives a hint of the type of underground cavity which is included in this, and other volumes of the CSS Records.  I personally find the series of publications interesting as they give an indication of the underground environment in the South East, an area not noted for its natural caves, and what lengths cavers in the area go to, to get their "underground thrills", and I am not just talking about the Hellfire Club.


St. Cuthbert’s Leaders

BEC September 1993

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

If people want leaders for trips down Cuthbert’s they can do it through me or contact one of the above leaders directly.    Jeff Price – Caving Sec

St.  Cuthbert’s Guest Leaders

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



I have received the following letters from Jeni Galligan, the “Victim” in a recent Mendip rescue. The first was sent to Tony at Bat Products, the second to the Editor.

3rd November

Dear Mr. Jarret

I would be most grateful if you would display this letter of gratitude in a prominent position in your shop to enable fellow cavers to read it.  Many thanks.

On the 23rd October 1993, I found myself in a bit of a sticky predicament.  Whilst exploring G.B., I was unfortunate enough to break my leg in four places at the 40ft pitch.

With the combined efforts and a great courage of several caving clubs, these men and women saved my life, and to them I am eternally grateful.  Although it is impossible for me to thank everyone individually, I shall be writing to each caving club and ambulance crew that was involved in the rescue.

I must express my warmest regards to Vince Simmonds who brought me back to the land of the living, had it not been for Vince and his quick actions, I might not have lived to tell the tale.  Vince, a great big thank you!

I came out of hospital on the 1st November, and thanks to all you rescuers.  I am now on the mend and look forward to resuming my caving activities as soon as I am able, and also look forward to meeting you all again under better circumstances.  Once again a great big thank you.

            Yours sincerely…….Jeni Galligan.



B. B. Editor, C/O Brian Prewer.

To the Editor,

On Saturday, 23rd October whilst caving in G.B., I had an accident.  I sustained four fractures to my right leg.  It took 60-70 men and women five hours of sheer guts and determination to get me out.  I would be most grateful if you would publish this letter to express my sincere gratitude to all concerned.  They are as follows:

My team:

Paul Curtis, Damien Walker & Lynne Niland
Vince Simmons, who administered artificial resuscitation.
M.R.O., M.C.G., W.C.C., B.E.C.
Imperial College Caving club, London.
Roger Tomlinson, Paramedic.
And to anyone else who kindly assisted.

Yours sincerely…….Jeni Galligan


The 1989 Romania Trip - Better Late Than Never

On Friday 8th August Tony Boycott, Richard Stephens, Mark Lumley, Tony Jarratt, Rich Payne, Nick Sprang and Brian Van Luipen flew to Vienna to board the Orient Express to Budapest, Hungary.  Memories of the journey are blurred by the vast amounts of booze consumed but struggling with great heaps of luggage and nearly losing Loopy featured heavily.

The journey on the train from Budapest to Arad, Romania was even mere drunken with a hint of excitement provided by the writer staggering off the (luckily stepped)  train in the middle of nowhere for a piss and nearly getting left behind, passportless.  His last memory was of hanging on to the accelerating train with one hand, clutching his still functioning member with the ether and being shouted at in Hungarian by amazed locals as he was whisked off' into the night.

At 5.30am on Saturday we arrived at Arad and spent some hours wandering around the gloomy, depressing square in front of the station.  The grey skies and greyer buildings and the overall sense of communist oppression were not encouraging.  Armed soldiers and police patrolled the station and streets and the lack of goods in the few shop windows added to the stark reality of life in Romania at this time - only a few weeks before the Revolution and deposing of Ceasescu.

Eventually one of our contacts appeared - Liana, a female member of the Aragonite Club, could speak good English and told us that her friend Pelo was on his way.  Suddenly, at the far side of the new packed square, a huge rucksack could be seen bashing its way through the crowd.  Beneath it the small but perfectly formed Pelo; bespectacled, bearded, hairy and ragged, stomped purposefully towards us.  His English was non-existent but he typified the Caver worldwide and there were few communication problems.

We left Arad on a local train and after some 50kms of flat, boring farmland reached the village of Helod.  A walk along the track took us to a pub with grim draught beer dispensed through a hose like petrol.  After an enforced 6½ hour wait we got a train to Sudrijo from where we bribed a bloke driving a contractor's tractor and trailer to take us 36km up into the attractive limestone Apuseni Mountains near the village of Padis.  The fare worked out at about £1.50 and two packets of fags - no wonder the driver was a miserable sod.  Mind you, with all the other illicit passengers he crammed in he should have been a rich man.

It was 9.30 pm by now. Pitch black, isolated, 1150m up in the middle of Transylvania and we'd forgotten the bloody garlic!  A 25 minute walk with our mountain of kit, get us to our lonely campsite where a brew and food preceded much needed sleep.

The following morning we awoke to find ourselves in a superb, wooded alpine valley Valea Cetatilor, near Grajduri.  While we got organized and acclimatised our resident nutter, Pelo, set off on a 50km walk to try and get some carbide.  He reappeared that night with no carbide and a bottle of Vodka.  His heart was in the right place.

20/8/89 Pestera Neagra ( Black Cave) was reached by a long walk through the pine forest.  Several large entrances led to a pitch.  Dressed only in shorts and T-shirts and with no tackle we could not descend so we carried on a few hundred metres to Pestera Ghetarul de la Barsa (Barsa Ice Cave) accompanied by six Romanian youths carrying torches and a hand held carbide gobbler.  We followed the lads in, using their rope as a hand line on the ice slope at the entrance. Beyond lay several hundred feet of roomy but impressive passage and a traverse to the head of a short pitch with a streamway below.  No ice formations were seen and only a few calcite decorations noted in this well used cave.  Another entrance led us back to daylight and the long walk back to co camp - picking wild strawberries and puff balls as we wen.  These became hors d'oeuvr to a meal of "goulash curry" washed down with Voika, Whisky, Gin and Appeal orange drink!  That night an impressive lightning display preceded heavy rain.

21/8/89 Up early to the sound of sheep bells.  Frankfurters, bread, peppers and tomatoes made an interesting breakfast before another long walk to a series of potholes in the forest.  The entrances of Avenul Gemanata and Avenul Pionier were examined in the company of a horde of Romanian ramblers before we reached our goal Avenul Negra (Black Pot).  This vast open shaft has a fine rock bridge spanning it a few feet down.  We rigged an almost clear free hang of 240 feet on to a huge sloping pile of jammed "logs" - actually trees up to 50ft long.  A delicate traverse between and over these, and a 50ft sloping abseil down an ancient fir tree trunk led to a large stream passage.  Downstream went for several hundred feet to a sump with the names of several Polish clubs written in carbide smoke above it.  A side passage led to a three way junction where two streams entered.  These inlets were followed for several hundred feet to where they both ended in avens. Some of this was very spectacular, beautifully eroded streamway.

A mad rush was made from the pot due to impending lightning strikes and on the walk back we looked at Pestera Caput - later followed for some two hundred feet to a traverse/pitch.

The gourmet evening meal consisted of macaroni cheese, sardines and Angel Delight.

22/8/89   An hours walk brought us to Pestera Focul Viu ( Living Fire Cave _ not Fuckall View Cave!).  A steep ice slope led down through a roomy passage into a large ice-floored chamber partly open to the surface.  A couple of fine 20ft high ice columns are supposedly very impressive when the sun shines directly onto them through the entrance - hence the name of the cave.  A short ice climb with fixed log aids led to another chamber full of ice.  Various side passages were looked at.

Back on the march again down into a deep wooded valley with an enormous entrance at the bottom - Cetatile Ponorului (Citadel Sink).  This was 300ft high by 100ft wide, took a large stream and had fixed but rotten wooden ladders giving access to a massive river passage and another huge entrance.

This was followed for some 600ft, past three more entrances to a series of entertaining fixed aid traverses made from logs, wire and string.  After some 2/3 mile from the main entrance we were stopped by a deep lake. This passage sumps a few hundred feet further in.  A large side passage with an impressive false floor was looked at on the way back.

A tremendous cave and well worth visiting - only marred by our embarrassment at being in the same company as hordes of shorts-clad, torch carrying tourists while we were fully kitted up!

Austrian soup, corned beef hash, Angel Delight and Whisky finished off a great day.

23/8/89 We walked ever the hills to Padis which consisted of a few huts and the singularly unattractive Cabana Padis pub.  Rumanian beer being unbelievably foul we were forced to resort to Vodka banana liqueur, red wine etc. to accompany the local delicacy of scrawny dead sheep soup.  It being the Rumanian equivalent of Priddy Fair Day we get absolutely shit-faced and only by a miracle made it back through the forest in dribs and drabs at various times through the night.  Cut, bruised, battered, lost and with rucksacks full of smashed wine bottles we had had another good day.  No gourmet meal that night!

24/8/89   Only three of us were capable of investigating a nearby 20ft deep pot which dropped into a large cave with the sound of a streamway below a second pitch.  Not knowing its true name it was christened Avenul Mahmur (Hangover Pot).  This slope and 15ft pitch was later descended and the streamway reached.   Upstream a cold duck led to a sump after 200ft and downstream a wet 30ft pitch dropped into another sump.  A nice little system conveniently located near the camp.

25/8/89   We returned to Pestera Ghetarul de la Barsa where a 20ft pitch was descended and a winding streamway followed for some 200ft to a 15ft pitch.  Then several hundred feet of attractive streamway, interspersed with technical climbs and a 30ft deep free-climbable pitch was visited.  A deep sump pool soon barred the way.

The adjacent Pestera Zapedia was next explored.  A large, square entrance in a deep log filled doline led to a steep ice slope and 30ft ice pitch.  From here a long, awkward and meandering passage full of climbs, crawls and squeezes debouched into a massive gallery boring off into the distance - rather like parts of the Gouffre Berger.  As it was getting late we fought our way back out of this fine, sporting cave intending to return another day.  This was not to be due to atrocious weather - a great shame as we later found out that this system is some 20km long!!

26/8/89   Festered and dug in local dolines - to no avail.

27/8/89   Avenul Mahmur was revisited in the hope of finding new stuff but without diving gear it was hopeless.  A promising surface dig was also started but bad weather later thwarted us here.

28/8/89   A very long walk over the ridge into the valley of Girda Seaca took us to Pestera Ceiba Mare near where the river Girdisoara sinks.  A 180ft wide by 100ft high entrance, the largest in the country, split into several passages.  The first looked at turned out to be a unique slimy, moonmilk covered ramp which was climbed for ever 100ft until it became too exposed for safe progress.

Another passage led through a crawl to the main way on - a lengthy stream passage and large chamber where the river entered.  Several hundred feet of beautiful phreatic river passage ended in a wide, deep and log filled sump pool.  A series of high level phreatic tubes terminated high above the floor of the entrance chamber.

29/8/89    Torrential rain threatened to wash the camp away.  A Romanian sheep milk cheese suffered this fate but was unfortunately rescued by Pelo.

30/8/89    Thick mist failed to conceal the Bad News:- mice had eaten the Angel Delight.  This was offset by the Good News that the shepherds' monstrous dogs had devoured the sheep milk cheese.  We had had enough so packed up the camp - giving much of our gear to the shepherds - and headed off for (relative) civilization.  A desperate 15 mile, 6 hour walk got us to Pietrosa where we caught a very tatty bus to Beius - the most publess town in Europe.  There followed an exhausting train journey to Oradea and eventually Arad.

We travelled back via Budapest and a few days R & R in Vienna where we ate, boozed and festered to excess. We even got underground in the Seegrette at Hinterbruhl - a tourist gypsum mine where Heinkel 162 jet fighters were made during the 2nd World War (which we mentioned quite a lot).  The lower levels of this working are flooded and it is advertised as the "largest underground lake in Europe.”  Even more inspiring was the nearby pub with 100 different beers.

So ended a particularly interesting but thoroughly exhausting caving holiday.  The caves visited were excellent but would have been more so if we had had more surveys and information.  The oppressive dictatorship at that time, lack of food, poverty and overbearing attitude of the police made us glad to get out back to the West and the fleshpots of Vienna seemed on another planet.  Only two weeks after we left came the Revolution and hopefully change for the better.  I can think of one fat police officer in Oradea railway station who almost certainly get put against the wall - and rightly so.

Our very grateful thanks to Florica, Liana and Polo for all the time and effort they put in for us. Florica lives in London but the others are presumably still in Romania and hopefully alive and well.

 (Compiled only four years late from log books written at the time. Some surveys and information can be borrowed from Tony Boycott).

Tony Jarratt     10/12/93


Odds & Sods ...

There is a trailer at The Belfry, and it's been there for some time.  If anyone wants it they can speak to J-Rat and make him an offer, or whatever.  Any money would go to the club.  Any takers... ?


LES DAVIS, the new Mendip Warden and the Burrington Commoners have put forward two proposals for the Burrington Area as follows .....

1)       To close the Goatchurch car-park.  This has recently been used for tipping/dumping and most cars parked there these days end up being broken into, I know several club members can attest to this fact.  The suggestion is to put up a soil barrier, 'one vehicle' back from the road, whilst leaving possible Landrover access for rescue purposes etc...

2)       Fox's Hole.  Due to problems there, involving amongst other things the disposing of hypodermic needles, it is suggested that the site be gated.  Access would be given to cavers on some sort of key basis.  It is also noted that the site is used by bats for roosting ... so maybe a gate wouldn't do them any harm either.

If there are no objections to these proposals/suggestions it is likely that they will go forward in the New Year.  Comments and feedback is welcomed and may be addressed to Les Davis at the Mendip Wardens Service, Charterhouse Centre, Charterhouse, Somerset.


LOCKERS at The Belfry are now numbered.  If you are currently using a locker can you indicate which one is yours to the Hut Warden. If you wish to continue using it next year there will be a £2.00 p.a. reservation fee.  Any lockers not claimed and paid for by 31.1.94 will be forced open and emptied and given to someone else who wants one.  If you don't have one and would like one, see the Hut Warden.


Access to Keys: The lock on the key cupboard (for guest keys) has been changed.  The following people have access to the cupboard for issuing keys and permits to visitors:

Martin Grass, Blitz, Estelle, Jingles, Jeff Price, Nigel Taylor, Mr Wilson (Snr.), Tim Large, Brian Prewer, Ted Humphreys, Jake.

If anyone else feels that they should have, or needs, a key please contact the committee.


EIGHT Ladders have gone missing/are unaccounted for.  They should be in the tackle store and are not!!  If anyone has a ladder or knows of the whereabouts of one or more of these, please contact Mike Wilson.  Please remember to log tackle out of the store in the book provided.  The tackle is the property of the club and therefore available to all for use.



"MEGA BASH at The Old Hill Inn, Chapel Ie Dale, Yorkshire. 19 & 20.3 94!!!

Martin Grass has arranged with John & Sue Riley to have a weekend bash at The Old Hill Inn, like we had when they opened, it would be a weekend of walking, caving, diving & climbing, not to mention the usual barroom activities (Ballet dancing, Whist drives etc.)

I am informed that the Saturday night will be a singsong & P*ss up!!! (no one interested in that I'm sure). John & Sue are holding all bedrooms on a first come first served basis, so members should book through them on 05242 - xxxxx.  (Sounds bloody good to me. - Ed)

Watch this space for any further details.


I am informed by Chris Falshaw that not only do the B.E.C. GET EVERYWHERE!!! .........

They also DO EVERYTHING!! - i.e. Richard Roberts. (See St. Cuthbert’s Report p.17 & reference p.76) A member in the early '60s has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine.

When Chris told Alfie he said" Ah, the Wessex haven't got one of them!"  Kangy asked Chris what he had got it for and was told "Gene (Jean) Splitting". "Well" said Kangy "He could have split them down St Cuthbert’s!!"

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover: An original drawing by Sally Humphries.

1992 - 1993 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphries
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Nigel Taylor




Hello fellow Belfryites. I volunteered at the August committee meeting to try and produce a Belfry Bulletin in time for the AGM in October, the point being to have the various committee Reports published.  At the time of going to print I have most of them so although this has been a bit of a rush job the intended results have been largely achieved.

I apologise for the lack of other material, I have included what I can, but sadly due to time restrictions this is not a great deal.

I would like to thank all those who have helped (too many to mention by name) and also to say that I would be quite happy to take on the editorship full time if this is the wish of the club membership .... obviously this would be decided at the AGM.

Lastly, I cannot finish without expressing my thanks to Ted Humphries not just for his help with this issue but also for his efforts as editor over the past years.


Hon. Secretary’s Report

Martin Grass.

Firstly I must apologise for not attending this years A.G.M. or Dinner but I will be attending a wedding in sunny Jamaica.  I will, of course, phone the AGM but due to time difference I could well be under the influence!  I will try and phone from the beach in true "In Excess" style.

Secondly I would like to say that this was my fourth year as secretary and although I am prepared to stand for 93/94 I would like to say that if I am voted in it will be my last year as I feel five years is long enough for one person to remain in the same post.

1992/3 has been a reasonably quiet year for the club.  I was disappointed that, having raised the subscription last year we have only produced three Belfry Bulletins.  These two factors may be the reason we have had about 40 lapsed members this year. To offer more value for money, it is hoped by the outgoing committee that we can send all members free of charge the Wigmore Caving Report.  We must, however, this year find someone with the time and enthusiasm to produce a regular B.B.  It is a slur on the club that one of the most active U.K. caving clubs cannot produce a regular quality Journal and a monthly newsletter similar to the one produced by Nigel Taylor recently.

Nigel has also been chasing unpaid members by phone and letter and has had a lot of success.  I think that this goes to prove that we need an aggressive membership secretary for '94 who will mug members for their money!!

This year saw the eventual signing of the St Cuthbert’s lease which, believe it or not will need renewing in about 3 years time!

The St Cuthbert’s Report has sold slowly this year and it is a shame that only a few members are really pushing it (I know of one new St Cuthbert’s leader who has sold a copy on every trip he has taken).  Earlier this year we realised we would not be able to repay in full the members' loans at this years AGM so I wrote to everyone asking if the loan could be extended to the 1994 AGM.   Most members said yes and many donated the loan to the club.   Approximately 3 asked for the money to be returned, mainly due to personal financial reasons.  The club has had enough to pay this back without any trouble.

Finally we have had 9 committee meetings this year up to August; attendance has been as follows:

T. Large  

C. Harvey

J. Price




C.S. Smart  

M. Grass

T. Humphries




N. Taylor

M. Wilson

J. Watson




I look forward to standing for one more year if elected.


B.E.C.  Tacklemaster's  Report.

1992 – 3    Mike Wilson.

Hello "Tackle Addicts":

This has been a steady year as far as tackle is concerned ­ the store has been tidied up - and we have scrapped some kit; one ladder and two ropes have been consigned to the bin!!

On the plus side the "Jake & Blake Ladder Factory" has produced four more ladders for general use.  We now have nineteen good ladders in stock for general Club use.  We intend to carryon at roughly four new ladders per annum, until we have a sound supply of numbered and dated stock!!

Two new tackle bags have been purchased for general use and we have acquired the correct number of test weights for the rope test rig.  Hopefully we can now build a rig with some help from club members.

We would like to thank all the members who have taken care of the tackle and returned it regularly.

I will continue to improve the equipment and do my best for the club and I intend to stand for Tacklemaster again next year.

Your Tacklemaster ..... Mike Wilson

B.E.C.   Tackle Report   &  Inventory.

Total previous ladders         16 assorted
Total scrapped                   1
New manufactured             4

Stock Ropes In Store

2 X 75’ dynamic
1 X 120’ dynamic
2 X 26M dynamic

Asst Stock

12 Spreaders
11 Tethers

N.B. 1 X 130’ dynamic & 1 X 120’ static ropes scrapped.

Exploration Store

Stock Ladders

2 X 25’  new

Stock Ropes

1 x 250m  coil
1 x 18m  static
1 x 20m  static
1 x 36m  static
1 x 67m  static
1 x 35m  static
1 x 54m  static
1 x 40m  static

Plus 6 tackle bags and 5 rope protectors


Editor's Report.

Ted Humphries.

This year I have failed miserably as BB editor, there have been only three of them!  John 'Jingles' Williams has volunteered to take over the job and I wish him success.

I have been editor now for five years and I think it about time that a new hand took over.  I have quite a few articles in hand but new ones are always welcome, please keep sending them.  Jingles is producing this BB and the address to which future articles should be sent will be on page one (I hope).

Many thanks to all those people who have contributed to the BB over the years.  I have met and/or corresponded with many BEC members and other cavers since I've been BB editor (I've had letters from all over the world!) and although sometimes the job seemed somewhat invidious, I would not have missed the experience for anything.  I would like to give a special thank you to all those people who have been so supportive over the years but they are too numerous to name so I can only thank you all from A(lfie) to Z(ot).

The BB is the club journal and should reflect all opinions within the club.  Please write on any topic to do with the club.  (Exceedingly rude ones may be left out at the discretion of the editor.)  Best of luck Jingles.

Librarian's Report.


1993 has been a relatively quiet year in the library, probably because everything has been relatively ship shape and Bristol fashion.  Virtually everything is logged and catalogued now and a printout of all the books hangs on the back of the door.  I purchased one more cabinet to house the growing collection of other clubs' Journals, another cabinet will be needed within the next year I think, if finances permit.

Due to financial constraints I have only purchased a few new books which I felt worthy enough and some people, like Blitz, have kindly donated guide books they have found lurking in shops on their various trips abroad.  Not many good, relevant, worthwhile books come onto the market these days, so I have spent the limited money on keeping the guide books up to date and buying covers, binders and other paraphernalia to tidy up the myriad loose reciprocal Journals.  We also need to properly bind our collection of BBs as well, just for posterity.

I am glad to say the theft rate seems to have dropped.  At least we now have a printout of what we actually should have, which was not the case hitherto, so if anything goes missing we should get to know about it.

I shall not be standing for the Librarian's post in 1994 as I still have to find work and I may end up in Timbuktu, Sydney or Scunthorpe.  Far better for somebody else who is guaranteed to be around to do it.  It's not exactly a taxing job, especially as it is now tidy and in reasonable shape and order.  Anyway, if I don't get a job by Christmas I may just throw my hands up in the air, Bull­Roar my frustration and retreat back to the Philippines to attack all those lovely warm, clear sumps floating with coconuts.....

Cheers, Trebor.


Caving Secretary's Report.

Jeff Price.

BCRA Bristol:

We had a stand at the conference, in September, to try and sell some Cuthbert’s Reports.  Thanks to Babs and Jingles for organising this.

St Cuthbert's Swallet:

Guest trips still come in about one per week; this may increase as the new Mendip Underground is now published.  An average of eight trips per week are going into the cave (don't forget to push the reports).

Most of our leaders have taken trips, one or two haven’t..... I shall be chasing them..... !!!

A lot of old digging rubbish has been cleared out.

STAL REPAIRS:  Thanks to Trevor Hughes for the use of the epoxy cement, it has worked very well and Tim Large and myself will tidy up some loose ends shortly.

A St Cuthbert's leaders meeting will be sorted out shortly, and don't forget the rescue practice on Saturday 30th October.... see Tim Large for details.


See the accounts for balance

Jake's Speleo Philippines report is almost ready for publishing.


Our system seems to work well (one set of keys for members and one set for guests) ... Don't forget to issue permits and book keys out please.

PEN PARK HOLE. Southmead Bristol.

Trips into the cave are going ahead, see Blitz or myself for a trip...... It's well worth it.


Not so well attended as I had hoped for but members go off and do their own thing anyway.  Next year I will book Peak Cavern, Notts Pot, Penyghent as well as the usual DYO, OFD Etc...

If you want bookings or permits please let me know ASAP.

Wednesday nights digging seem to be as active as always ... ... just turn up at the Belfry by about 7.30.


I'm thinking of introducing a welcoming letter for new members consisting of:  A brief history of the club, digging action, cave leaders lists with tel nos, publications and meets lists etc.  Do you think this is a good idea.... ???


Membership Secretary's Report

John Watson.

It doesn't seem like six years ago that I was persuaded into becoming membership sec.  A lot of things have changed over the intervening years but not, unfortunately, the attitude of certain members as regards the payment of subs!!

I think in hindsight it was a mistake to put the subs up to their present level - a rash move by an enthusiastic AGM, but I wonder how many members who agreed the amount failed to pay their subs.

Some members have pleaded poverty - times were hard - but to put things in perspective the subs work out at approximately fifteen pints of beer!!  (For some - a couple of sessions!!).  Surely being a member of the best caving club in the country is worth far more than that.

But enough of all the gloom. The club is still attracting new, keen membership and is caving, if not financially, healthy.

I have decided to stand down from the committee and hope to see some fresh faces elected this year.

One final note; I hope the next membership secretary takes a hard stand on non-payers and to all those who have not paid this year and are hoping to get a years free membership. Do the club a favour, PAY UP!!!

Car Break Ins.

Some of you, I hope, have been aware of the car break-ins occurring on Mendip for some time.  Well, the situation is getting worse.  It would appear that more and more people are coming out of Bristol and the areas surrounding Mendip to steal clothes, caving gear and Wallets etc., from cars parked at secluded spots.

Some of us from the B.E.C. have had a chance to try to prevent these thefts.  This has been a case of turning up on spec. and hiding in the bushes.  This has been limited but in every case so far ... successful.

We now feel that the time has come to organise, in conjunction with the Police and the Mendip Wardens, some form of "Hillwatch".  This would basically need to be done on all known "Hit" sites covering weekends.  To this end I have organised a meeting on Friday 1st October in the function room at The Hunter's Lodge at 8pm to discuss the situation.  Les Davies from the Mendip Wardens and Pete Knowles from the Cheddar Police will be there to advise and let us know what help they want from us and what facilities they can give.  I am hoping that somebody from the local Ramblers Association will also attend.

I have also informed other clubs on Mendip through C.S.C.C. and contacts at The Hunter's that this meeting is taking place and so hope to have an interesting meeting.

I look forward to seeing anyone who is interested in helping.



The Droves Of Priddy.



Have you seen the old scrote who hangs out at the Belfry,
Dirt in his hair and his face in Rags (The dirty pervert),
He ain’t got time for walkin’, He just keeps right on talkin',
Collecting his hut fees in two carrier bags ....

So how can you tell me you’re a caver?,
When you know down there that the sun don't shine,
Let Glenys take you by the gland
and lead you down the droves of Priddy
Till at the Hunter's it is opening time.
Have you seen the chappy in his flatcap and his transit,
His Sherry little dog and his EE-HAW laugh,
All ladies should be careful around this fertile local,
Everywhere he goes kiddies spring up in his path ....


Have you seen the batty bloke with his shop down there in Wells
It is full of caving gear and advice he often tells,
He's open on a Sunday, but never on a Monday,
This is so he can recharge all his knackered cells ....


Have you seen the Nightmare who comes up to the Belfry,
Only on a Friday night, they call him Biffo Bear,
When he comes up to the hut and gets himself right pissed up,
We know in the morning there'll be no furniture left there ...


So come and join the boozy crew who hang out at the Belfry,
Often on a Saturday night we'll down a barrel or two,
On a Sunday morning at a quarter past eleven,
When breakfasts on the cooker you can watch those cavers spew!!

So how can you tell me you’re a caver,
When you know down there that the sun don't shine?,
Let Glenys take you by the gland,
and lead you to the promised land (sic)
Till at the Hunter's it is opening time.

Jingling Dick '93.


Assynt Again in August

Due to the Success of the May trip to the Scottish Highlands another Mendip team took the ten hour drive North over the August Bank Holiday.  Jake, Estelle, Alex Gee and J Rat were accompanied by Nick 'Gadget' Williams and Tav (WCC) who, on arrival in Elphin, met a similar sized team of Grampian members.  Unfortunately, the overcast, drizzly weather, high water conditions following weeks of rain and over abundance of man eating midges played havoc with our plans but some good work was done.  See last BB for previous write up.

Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-duile:

This was revisited with intentions of diving the upstream sump but the low crawl (The Compan Sucker) was itself sumped and therefore too dangerous to pass, even with diving gear.

Inclined Rift Cave:

Situated above Lower Traligill Cave this site had potential for a connection with the divers' extensions.  J Rat and Tav extended the cave some 60 ft or so by pushing through squeezes to an impassable and beautifully decorated area.  This seems to be located above the entrance series of Lower Traligill Cave and so a connection would be both vandalistic and pointless.

Damoclean Dig:

The Eastwater-like swallet is interestingly located between the Alltnan Uamh Stream Cave and Uamh an Claonite.  A couple of days were spent banging and digging here but we were defeated by collapse of the huge boulders walling the sides of the dig.  Gaps in the floor, easily swallowing the stream provide hopes of a breakthrough here if suitable shoring can be installed.  It was left to consolidate itself over the winter.

Waterfall Rising:

Alex Gee J Rat and Mike O'Driscoll (Australian Cave Diver) spent a total of some two hours digging underwater at this promising site.  The rock and gravel infill was dragged out to give us an easily diveable and solid cave passage some 15 - 20ft long with a view onwards for another 10 ft or so. Digging will continue in May should the Grampian divers not continue in our absence.  The coldness of the water here precludes lengthy immersion but the potential for a considerable amount of (probably flooded) cave passage is excellent.

Uamh Cul Eoghainn:

Tav did some solo pushing in this cave but only really succeeded in proving that everything got too tight.

Jake and Estelle visited their dig near Croc nan Uamh but were put off from further visits by the midges. Alex inspected the Bone Cave and a dig near the Alt Bar was written off as hopeless. Drink was taken in the 'Inch' (80/-), the 'Alt'(Belhaven), The Wheelhouse Lochinver (Murphys!!) and the Phoenix Bar, Invernen (McClays 80/-, Orkney Dark Island).  The latter was the best of the lot.

A good time was, as usual, had by all despite the climactic and insectivorous conditions.  Book now for next May - divers, diggers and surveyors all required.

Tony Jarratt.

Uncalcified  Ads.


Babysitting and child-minding Personal service .... 0898-696969


Driving tuition. Priddy 999.


Executive stress?  Call Glenys, on Essex 121212.Executive relief a speciality.


Call Gobshite Guzzling Co-op.  'I’m here to drink your beer!' tel: Butcombe 123


Specialists in industrial and domestic cleaning.  No job too small. (Or Hut!!!)


T. Hughes, expert in all forms of demolition & destruction, simply add beer for best results.


Wigmore's   Death   Throes

Following on from recent articles, this is a final piece on Wigmore Swallet drawing some of the threads together and describing the last bit of exploratory work.

On 23rd May, Dig Hastilow and myself had an eventful trip to the terminal boulder choke beyond Sump 9 in the end bit of Vindication Streamway.  I had yet another high pressure leak in Sump 4 en route - this place really is jinxed - and had to go back to dive base to pick up one of Alex Gee's large tanks.  The din fit valve on the tank had suffered a hernia on the carry in and a proper seal could not be achieved so I had to improvise a bit with lots of banging and swearing.  Hand-holding my depleted tank and wearing the other two I re-joined a (im)patient Digger at Sump 5 and we wallowed on to the terminal choke with no further mishap. Digger was impressed with the scenery in Vindication Streamway and especially with the long Sump 7 which he thought worse than Sump 5 - strange fellow is Digger.

Tim Large had kindly given me a back-of-a-fag-packet bang lesson, so Dig wisely waited way back up the passage whilst I set the stuff up with shaking hands.  Martin Grass's nuclear powered, ultra bang box cranked up the power something rotten so the stuff couldn't fail to go off.  How glad we were; I was not looking forward to sending Digger back to check out why it hadn't gone off.  An hour's wait for the fumes to disperse followed - it's amazing how the draught is directional and follows the stream, a gale at water level but as still as night 2m higher up in the choke.  I then gingerly returned to the devastation, gardened a bit and then wormed through dubious boulders to get back down into the stream again.  Along a bit, up into a fair sized chamber, back to the stream, on a bit and then whang, straight into a very large muddy boulder choke with the stream disappearing down a narrow rock letter box at its base, suitable only for an anorexic whippet with gills.  Mud, bits of twig and cowsh 3m up the wall did not bode well; the place obviously backs up horribly in wet weather.  Half an hour looking around revealed no way on.  The letter box is definitely too small and anyway has the whole flow going through it.  We reckoned there was no hope - some 25-30 banging and digging trips might force a way through, but work could only take place in the summer months because of the backing up and the end is not a place to make 30 trips to.

Digger had his mega-light so an examination of avens and shadows was made on the return but with no promising leads.  Visibility in the sumps was quite a bit better on the return for the lead diver, the best so far but that is all relative.

A disappointing end. Thanks very much to Andy Dennis and Steve Redwood for the carry in.

Later on in the summer, in late July, I returned on a spur of the moment, ill-judged, stupid impulse to have a final look at Keith Savory's upstream Sump 3.  I had been in there a few times before and Keith had said he could not find the way on.  Over the spring and early summer months the slot at the bottom of the ramp in the first section of sump had silted up - a strange place for silting to occur?  I suspected the vis would be very poor so I had two ridiculously overblown tanks so I didn't have to worry too much about trying to look at my contents gauges.  Vis was indeed completely zilch, a little strange in an upstream sump.  Water cannot flow through the slot fast enough so the water the other side doesn't clear as it should and just mills around, not helped of course by thrashing feet and groping hands.  Five minutes spent gardening out the slot allowed a wriggle through to Keith's limit (as far as I could tell) - he's done a good job in there in difficult conditions. I spent a good twenty minutes feeling around all walls of the sump beyond the slot, found Keith's little air space, but could not find any way on.  I reckon the place continues in a series of tight rifts, perhaps dividing the flow as I could detect no flow against my face or a glove-removed hand. Not good prospects.

Earlier in the summer, on 4th June, I had dumped an awful lot of Flourescein in Tor Hole, some 1,800m east of Wigmore as the Aardvark trots.  Tor is the main sink in the area and there was always the possibility that it would flow towards Wigmore at least, especially as Attborough Swallet had proved positive to upstream Wigmore.  This trace was negative.  Enough dye was inserted to make the trace pretty foolproof so I reckon it was a "true" trace.  Perhaps the Tor water really does swing around behind Eaker Hill towards the north as Willie Stanton suggests, the Wigmore and Attborough water joining it much further downstream of the present Wigmore limit.  This makes passing the upstream Sump 3 in Wigmore a little less important as it most likely only goes to Attborough.  This upstream passage is likely to get smaller and smaller, so perhaps not too many prospects.  Perhaps, as Willie suggests, the considerable Wigmore flow is indeed made up of drainage and seepage water from the large surrounding catchment together with the relatively small flow from Attborough Swallet.

I shall not be going back in a hurry; my knackered knees kneed a rest, I have to replace the diving and caving gear the place eats with relish and also enthusiasm, sherpas and money have waned.  If anyone wants a few banging trips downstream, please feel free - it's still five miles to Cheddar.

A BEC Occasional Publication or Caving Report thingy is currently being produced, charting everything there is to know about the place.  Since J-Rat was stupid enough to open up the place in June 1977, a lot of people have put in a huge amount of grinding work and dedicated digging so I thought it warranted a publication of some sort.  We haven't produced an Occasional Publication or Report for some years.  The text is mainly done and the photos are ready, I am just waiting for corrections/contributions etc. on the geology bit from Trevor Hughes et al.  One thing I do not have is an accurate survey.  Trevor did a good job of the survey of the dry bits, but vis has been so poor in the damp bits that I haven't been able to do an accurate survey of the downstream sumps.