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

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

1990 - 1991 Committee

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




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

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

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

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

Bulletin Exchange / Complimentary List

As of 07/02/92.

Axbridge Caving Group, Axbridge, Somerset


BEC Library - 2 Copies

Bradford Pothole Club,

Cerberus SS

Chelsea SS

Croydon Caving Club


Devon SS

Dr. H. Trimmel, Obere Donaustrasse, Austrta

Grampian SS

Grosvenor Caving Club

Hades Caving Club

Mendip Cave Registry

Bristol Exploration Club

Mendip Caving Group


Northern Pennine Club

Plymouth Caving Group

Red Rose CPC


South African Spel. Assn.,


The Florida Speleological Soc.,

Tony Oldham.


Wells Museum,

Wessex Cave Club.

West Virginia Caver.

Westminster SO


Sima G.E.S.M.

By Rob Harper,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Club News

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

Expeditions. There are lots this year.


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


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


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

New Mexico.

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

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

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

Others in the pipeline

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


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

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

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

The Belfry

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

Belfry Refurbishment.

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

Membership Changes

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

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

Addresses etc. are in the membership list.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Cuthbert’s Report

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

Mendip Farmers 'do'

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

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

Working Days

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

Committee Meeting

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

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

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

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

Cave Access Changes

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

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


Underground In Guernsey

By John King & Jo Hills

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

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

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

Letter to B.B. Editor

Dear Ted.

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

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


Alan (Thomas)


Casteret’s Ice Cave

By Trebor

Le Casque, Spanish Pyrenees

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

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

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

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

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

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


St. Cuthbert’s leaders list

B.E.C. St Cuthbert's Leaders

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

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

St Cuthbert's Guest Leaders

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


News From The Philippines


(News from the front)

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

20: 1:92.

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


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

(This one was to Steve Redwood)


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


AGM Minutes

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of The Bristol Exploration Club

Held at the Belfry October 5th 1991.

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


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


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


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

Minutes of the 1990 AGM:

Previously published In the BB soon after the AGM.

For acceptance of the 1990 AGM minutes by the meeting.

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

Matters arising from the minutes:

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

Secretary’s Report:

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

For acceptance of the report by the meeting. 

Proposed: Tim Large
Seconded: Chris Batstone
Carried unam.

Caving Secretary's Report:

Previously published in the BB

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Nigel Taylor
Seconded: Phil Romford
Carried unam.

Hon Treasurer's Report:

Handed out at the meeting.

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

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

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

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

Auditors Report:

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

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

Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report:

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

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

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

Hut Warden's Report:

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

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Paul Hodgson
Seconded: Tim Large
Carried unam.

Editors Report:

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

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Jeff Price
Seconded: Rob Harper
Carried unam.

Librarian's Report:

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

Membership Secretary's Report:

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

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Vince Simmonds
Seconded: Ian Caldwell
Carried unam.

Hut Engineer's Report:

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

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Les Williams
Seconded: Chris Batstone
Carried unam.

Tackle Master's Report:

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

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Dave Yeandle
Seconded: Richard Blake
Carried unam.

A vote of thanks was given to Mac.

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

1991-92 Committee:

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

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

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

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

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

The following were nominated from the floor: ­

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

The meeting then voted as follows for co­option: -

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

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

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

Motion defeated.

Non Committee Posts:

Auditor - Barrie Wilton Carried unam

Archivist - Alan Thomas

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

These were not discussed at the meeting.

Members Resolutions:

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

For 7, Against 15, Abstentions 11.

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

i) the kitchen and cooking facilities,

ii) the showers and changing room.

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

For 18, AgaInst 25, Abstentions 13

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

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

i)          future direction of the club.

ii)          the use of the Belfry.

iii)         finances and budgeting.

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

For 15. Against 10. Abstentions 10

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

For All. Against 1. Abstentions 0

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

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

Any Other Business:

St. Cuthbert’s Report:

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

Carbide Store:

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


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

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


Librarians Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Booked out

Dudley Herbert

Darkness Beckons 09.10.91


SRT 09.10.91

Martin Grass

Various CPC Vols & Trans. 21.08.91

Descent 32, BEC Cave Report 9. 31.05.91

Tim Large

Proceedings UBSS Vol 16:2 04.08.91

OFD Survey & Description 17.03.91

Brian the Hippy

Exploration 06.09.90

Journey out of Asia 13.12.90


RRCPCJourna1  5. 14.04.91

S. Beattte

South-West climbs 25.05.91


MCG newsletter 208. 07.07.91

Bill Cooper

History of Mendip Caving 07.12.91

Caving Practice & Equipment

Cave Science 18"


Meets List - 1992

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

Bristol Storm Tunnel.                 Thursday 4th June. 1pm

Birksfell Cave. Yorkshire.           Saturday 6th June

Link - Pippikin. Yorkshire.          Saturday 18th July

Penyghent Pot. Yorkshire.         Saturday 1st August

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

Other outings in the pipeline are :-

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

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

PSM 92

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

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

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


Membership List  06/04/92

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

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

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

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

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

Cover by Gonzo

1990 - 1991 Committee

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



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

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

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

Club Bits

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

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

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


Digging News

Tony Jarratt


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

Mr. H. Sheppard




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


Alfie’s Christmas Crossword




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


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


The B.E.C. Go Mad in Lundy

by Rachel Gregory

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wigmore Swallet

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

by Trevor Hughes


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps its time to get the shovels out again?



Sanitaria According To Valuable Standards

Chris Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


St Cuthbert’s Swallet

  • this 84 page report is now available
  • comprehensive guide to all aspects of the cave
  • over 40 diagrams including plans, elevations, sections and maps.
  • PLUS A1 separate sheets of the cave plan and elevations
  • over 50 photographs depicting all important aspects of the cave
  • anyone with an interest of the Mendip caves cannot afford to be without this publication
  • PRICE : TEN pounds (non-members) post free
  • SPECIAL PRICE for BEC members – EIGHT pounds post free






Available from Joan Bennett, Draycott, Somerset.



Westbury Park

Dear Ted,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jim Smart.


Re-Structuring Of The Governing Body For British Caving

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

Why voting by individual members is not the best system:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Irwin


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

What services should be provided, and by whom?

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

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

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


Digging in the Clydach Gorge

by Mark Lumley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jamaica - "Cool Runnings"

(or in the local patois, "mellow")


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

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

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

Roaring River Cave   Petersfield, Westmorland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



By Martin Grass

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

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

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


Divers - Martin Grass and Danny (a Cuban).

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

Total dive time 35 minutes. Maximum depth 18 metres.

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

Ireland. Easter  1992

by Martin Grass

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

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


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

by  'Slug' (Ian Gregory)

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

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

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

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

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

The history of the allied network is equally interesting: -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information can be obtained by writing to:-

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


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


Wot No Cookers


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

In the Dordogne August 1991.

by Phil Romford.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Lascaux II.

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

Grotte Pucelle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Bec Summer Holidays In The Pyrenees.

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

                        To do various canyons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PART 2. The Pierre St. Martin Epic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pierre St. Martin Summer 1992.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information and bookings contact:-

Phil Romford

Go for it!  It’s well worth it


Tackle Master's Report, October 1991.

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

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

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

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

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

S.J. McManus. October 1991.

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

1990 - 1991 Committee

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


Apologies to those who did not get their May BB’s until July!  This was due to me being out of the country (the U.S. and I will write it up!) and nobody could find my mailing list.

On my return I found lots of articles, not all of which I could get into this BB.  Please keep them coming, more will be needed for the October and Christmas BB's.

The biggest recent news is that Wigmore Swallet has 'gone'.  See article and survey, pages 12 to 25.  I was hoping to have a colour picture of Wigmore on the cover of this BB but the cost was prohibitive!  Much more is expected soon, possibly the Mendip 'Main Drain' and, who knows, maybe eventually, a through trip from Wigmore to Bowery Corner!

On the subject of the cover. Its about time the picture changed was. Has anyone got a black and white print I could use?  Preferably of somewhere on the Mendips.

The St. Cuthbert’s report is at the printers!  I've seen a couple of sample pages which were tremendous.  It sets new standards for caving reports and will certainly become a collector’s item.  The report is due to "hit the streets" in mid-September, in time for the BCRA conference.

The only other item (I didn't know where else to put it!) is that the IDMF is giving Jake £100 for the Philippines expedition.  See Jim's begging letter on page 19.


Membership List Amendments

We welcome one new member, who is:-

Robert Taff. Erdington, Birmingham

We also welcome one member who has rejoined: -

870  Gary Cullen, Southwater, Nr. Horsham, W.Sussex

There are also five address changes, as follows: -

1144  Sophie Crook.        Batheaston. Bath
1116  Stuart Lain,            c/o Andy Cave
1128  Vince Simmonds,  Wells. Somerset
1154  Karen Turvey.       Wellington. Somerset
683 Dave Yeandle.         Eastville. Bristol

A.G.M. and Dinner, 1991.

The Annual General Meeting of the BEC will be held at The Belfry on Saturday, 5th October at 10.30 a.m. prompt.

You are reminded that nominations for the 1991-92 committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 7th September 1991.  All nominations must have a proposer and seconder.  Present members of the committee are nominated automatically if they wish to stand for re-election.  There are some vacancies this year, however, as not all the present committee wish to stand.

The Annual Dinner of the BEC will also be on Saturday the 5th of October.

The venue this year is again the "Webbington Hotel", Loxton. The tickets are £15 per person and are available from Nigel Taylor.  With this BB you should get inserts detailing the arrangements that have been made for the evening, sample menus and an order form.  Please order as soon as possible.

Proposal for A.G.M.

Proposer Nigel Taylor. Seconded B.E.C. Committee

"That the A.G.M. consider the creation of a membership category of "Retired" or "County" membership and that this be on a cost only basis"

Working Day

There is a working day at the Belfry on Saturday 24th of August. Lots of jobs need doing!  Mr. N is planning a barbecue for the evening.


Congratulations and best wishes to Tav and Gen who were married on Friday the second of August.


The BEC sends its congratulations to Steve and Fran Milner on the birth of their daughter, Sian Elizabeth, who weighed In at 8 lbs. on the 21st of May.

and to :-

Chris and Liz Batstone on the birth of their second son who weighed in at 8 lbs 12 ozs on the weekend of 13/14th July.

A space-filler

from Alan Thomas

'When I wrote an article on nicknames a few months ago I said that I had never had one.  To bring it up to date I am now (thanks to Barrie Wilton) known as "Big Al"'.


Steigl Boot Boys On Tour

Austria Xmas 1990 – 91
"What do you get if you cross Snablet, Richard Blake. two pairs of skis and several bottles of Steigl?"

We set off with the great intention of pushing last years find, Bleistiftspitzerschacht (Pencil Sharpener Shaft), hopefully to a depth of -400 metres or more and of leaving the place wide open for the big summer push when we would know a little more about the place, but things didn't quite work out as planned!

The idea for going out to Austria for the second time in one year came to life at the BCRA conference over a pint or six whilst waiting for the boring lectures to finish and trying to decide between which one of the four interesting lectures to go to (the expeditions that have found kilometres of cave) that were all on at the same time.

It turns out that Tuppa of the NCC has pushed Verborgen Hohle (Hidden Hole) above Orkan Hohle (Hurricane Hole) to -250 metres which is a must for going deep next season and he is dead keen on going down Bleistiftspitzerschacht.  The others sitting around the table are fairly interested too.  Plans for the summer are afoot but we can not wait that long as there may be access problems.  Hallstattersee Caving Club are planning to initiate an access system similar to that of the Salzburg Gruppe Caving Club and although we have sent letters. reports and surveys to the Austrians we don't know if this has worked.

A short time later at a stomp in the Hill Inn a Xmas date was decided on.  All we needed was a strong enthusiastic BEC team to push the cave. We thought that this would be no problem as everyone was saying, after the last Xmas trip, "It sounds like you had a great time, count me in for a trip sometime next year"  So the word was spread and in true BEC fashion the huge party of Richard Blake and myself constituted the expedition .... What's wrong?  Don't the BEC like going down caves any more? or could it be people remembered the famous Blitz and Harper winter drinking expedition to Austria back in the dim and distant past. However help was soon on the way in the guise of the NCC.  So it was that the team of Richard Blake, Steve Brown, Ruth, Paul Ibbertson, Mark Wright and me (Snablet) was formed.

After a long train journey only broken by a long ferry delay (Apparently P & O, had forgotten to put any oil in the engine at Oostend ..... Viva la tunnel!) saw RB, PI and Snablet arrive in Halstatt.  It took no time at all for us to down our first statutory pint or two (or was it a litre or three) in the Diver's Bar and to stagger up the road to our five star hotel. We awoke the next morning in the Seilbahn hut nursing sore heads and with a distinct feeling of deja vu.  It was however a great feeling seeing our kit disappear up the mountain by Seilbahn.  In fact almost as good as a helicopter but the photos aren't quite as spectacular.  What was most spectacular was a certain Mr A Nerd's beer being carried up by Seilbahn at the same time (Remember him from Caves and Caving?).

Mountaineering skis were hired from Dachsteinsport for our journey to the Wiesberghaus as some b*st*rd had thoughtlessly left one and a half metres of snow everywhere.  There is a knack to ski mountaineering.  Once you have got it then you can go anywhere and everywhere.  It obviously helps if you know what you are doing and we found that we had to learn the hard way.

Richard had what can only be termed a crash, and I mean crash course in downhill skiing from the Krippenstein to Gjaid alm huts from Paul Ibbertson and me.  Then the interesting bit began, the uphill struggle. We slapped the skins on the skis and set off uphill cross country in the direction of the Wiesberghaus.  It was dark by now. Within 500 metres of Gjaid alm RB had lost his second skin and had resorted to walking the uphill sections. This may well sound like a good idea to you but as anyone who has been to the Dachstein in winter will tell you, the neck deep powder snow makes life just that ever so little bit tedious. The powder snow meant that his forward motion soon became a crawling exercise and unfortunately it wasn't long before the rest of us had joined him.  Its really good fun crawling out of Barengasse pushing your skis in front of you and with a rucksac on your back at nine o'clock at night in temperatures of -17 degrees Centigrade!

It was a six hour epic to reach the Wiesberghaus and the Steigl went down particularly well that night. All ideas of hard expedition pushing caving were filed in the bin for the while and we settled down to enjoy the Xmas festivities.  The Christmas dinner of Red Deer was particularly enjoyable.  The next couple of days were spent in skiing lessons from Elfie and an Austrian family who were staying at the Wiesberghaus such that we acquired some basic skill. However Richard still found it easier on occasion to head for the nearest snowdrift as a means of stopping.

We met up with MW, SB and Ruth at Gjaid alm on December 28th to make sure that they didn't have the same problems that we had.  A mega session was had by the six of us and Hans, our personal ski coach. Sixty five Steigls, some Schnapes, some wine and any free drinks that came our way left us wondering with the few brain cells that we had left between us if this was to be a sign of things to come.

We were awoken the next morning at 6.30 am! by Hans with the idea of going up the Dachstein.  The six of us in perfect unison told him where it was that he could go!  However in the twinkling of six hours later we got up and practiced skiing in the general direction of Bleistiftspitzerschacht but we failed to get there.  A discussion followed and a decision to give up caving for the remainder of the visit was made unanimously.  We however noted some good ice flows on the north face of Oxen Kogel, the south face of Niederer Grunberg and the east face of Hirlatz and considered the possibility of some winter ice climbing.

The following day we visited various entrances.  Orkan Hohle was only draughting slightly, this suggested to us that the majority of the air movement was coming out of PL1 (Polish numbering system), its presumed higher entrance.  Wies alm Hohle was draughting strongly and was a lot easier to find in winter. Magnum Hohle had no wind whatsoever. We returned to the Wiesberghaus and found that skiing the path from Wies alm to the Wiesberghaus was a lot easier to do than walking it.

A quiet night was had in the Wiesberghaus that evening and we had all crashed out by 12.30 in preparation for a 6.30 start up to the top of the Dachstein.  Believe it or not we managed to get up at the correct time. We had breakfast in the Simony Hutte while the weather cleared.  The skiing to the glacier only involved two major steep uphill slopes, both of which caused major epics.  In general we were not doing too badly despite a lot of falling over which we found a little unnerving when one is traversing just above a large cliff. Indeed the glacier was a lot steeper than I remembered it!  We got to Niederer Dachstein and the weather closed in completely.  We soon reached the Bergschrund of Hoher Dachstein and yet another expedition discussion was held.  It was decided that discretion was the better part of valour and we decided to jack it on the head.  It was beginning to get dangerous as the weather conditions were deteriorating, we were losing sight of people in white out conditions and there wasn't a lot of daylight left.  All in all a case of bad weather, bad light and very steep slopes stopping play.  One of the main factors in our deciding to wimp out was seeing the trouble that the very competent local skiers were getting into!

Its quite exciting skiing down a 50 degree slope littered with crevasses in zero visibility but the journey down was easier than the one up except for the steep bits.  Indeed we had nearly as much of an epic going down as going up!  In fine BEC tradition we stopped for a celebration drink at the Simony Hutte and found ourselves benighted.  Skiing at night is simpler than skiing during the day as you can't see the gullies or the cliffs to fall over!  We arrived back at the Wiesberghaus at 5pm and proceeded to continue with the celebrations. It was Sylvester, the Austrian Festival for the New Year, and we were forced to celebrate through the night for the next 12 hours.  Its great being abroad at New Year as you have to celebrate it twice.  The only problem is that I'm waiting to have the photographs developed to find out what actually happened!

New Years day didn't exist, well not much of it anyway, but we got up just in time for the evening session. Elfie prepared a massive spread for us as it was our last night as we had to go off down the mountain the following day.  We had spent virtually all our money and a huge bar bill each for New Years Eve night hadn't figured in the calculations.

The morning we left to go down the mountain, we said our goodbyes and had one customary leaving schnapes, two more for the road and three more for the gutter.  All this before breakfast left us slightly unstable for the journey home.  It only took us one and a half hours to Gjaid alm - much more respectable than our first efforts.  Another couple of schnapes (Cheers Hans) and a bite to eat put us in the right frame of mind to descend the 11 kilometres to Obertran, apparently the longest ski run in Upper Austria.  We considered it as a fitting end to a fortnights skiing.  Hans was a great help in ferrying the six of us and our gear to Robert's house.

Robert. an ex-guardian of the Wiesberghaus, was in fine form.  He is still as wild as ever and instead of shooting his Magnum at German soldiers, he has taken to shooting at Rotweilers that shit on his lawn!  A night with Robert left the six of us pooling our remaining small reserves of money to buy a crate of Steigl for the train home and the journey was spent in an alcoholic haze.


Austria - Summer 1991

There will a continuation to this saga in a few months when the Steigl Boot Boys and friends return to do battle with crates of Steigl and rounds of schnapps, oh yes and to push Bleistiftspitzerschacht (Pencil Sharpener Shaft), and Verborgen Hohle.  We will be taking a very strong team of hopefully 15 - 20 cavers but anybody is welcome and the area is great for walking.  The potential for Bleistiftspitzerschacht is good and a breakthrough is likely (hasn't every expedition to Austria said the same)!

Bleistiftspitzerschacht is at an altitude of 2000 metres and is directly above Wilder Wester Series in Hirlatz Hohle.  Hirlatz Hohle is now a 50 kilometre long system with a 988 metre vertical range (1987 figures) and we were told that it has recently been connected to Kessel giving a lower entrance at 517 metres.  It resurges lower than that in the lake so would give us the deepest through trip in the world!  Anyone interested in joining the Steigl Boot Boys for their summer tour needs to contact either Rich Blake (BEC), Mark Wright (NCC); Paul Ibbertson (NCC) or me, Snablet (BEC).


Ski Hire Tips.

Ski hire is quite a complicated business.  It consists of getting Wolfgang and Elfie to phone up in advance letting Dachstein Sports know what exactly you need i.e. type of skis and boots etc.  This hopefully gets you a little discount as the shop then doesn't consider you as a run of the mill tourist - could they ever I ask myself?  Are we not that wild bunch who annually get pissed up in the Diver's Bar and throw up in the gutters in the early hours of the morning while singing six different songs in eight different keys?

When you get to the shop wander in with as much tatty kit as possible. i.e. ice axe, crampons, caving lights, tackle sacs etc as it looks like you know what you are doing - again another possible chance of discount.

When asked if you are good at ski mountaineering answer "YES".  This means that you will end up with a set of half decent skis and not a set of pine planks, i.e. the cheap rubbish that they keep for beginners which are nowhere near fast enough for the likes of the BEC.

Beg, borrow or ask them for a spare set of skins as these come in exceptionally handy.  Then make sure that you have got your full BEC discount and your long hire discount before asking them how to ski!  Seriously it is worth asking them to show you how to put the skins on as this involves warming the skis and skins before putting them on.  This does however blow your cover as an expert skier somewhat!


The Future Of The Bristol Exploration Club!

A Committee viewpoint

The following is an article by Dave Irwin, known to most of you as Wig.  It is published with the knowledge and endorsement of the present committee.  It concerns a forthcoming questionnaire that will be sent direct to you in the near future. It will probably be ignored by most of you as it is to do with caving politics.  However if you have read this far the committee would ask you to read on and not adopt the head in the sand attitude of - "It doesn't concern me".  Some of you might remember a previous heads in the sand time when the issue of SSSI's and the NCC was ignored with dire consequences.  Two of the caves closed at that time have never been reopened.

Chris Smart


Re-structuring for British Caving

Dave Irwin

As far as cavers are concerned politics is the last subject they want to read in their caving magazine but I’m afraid that the situation OUT THERE is past ignoring and that you read on - bored or not or, at least, turn the page and read the last paragraph!


The argument that NCA needs re-structuring to reflect the current interests of cavers throughout the country continues.  In all regions, including many of the constituent members of NCA, it is generally believed that an overhaul must take place.  Even the most conservative CSCC (Council of Southern Caving Clubs) of which the BEC is a member, believes that some form of change should take place. Others, already pre-empting the situation are calling for individual caver membership and club membership.


Now for some indisputable facts.  In all the discussions I've been involved with in the last couple of years there is a general agreement on the STRUCTURE of a national body.  The constituent bodies i.e. the regional bodies (CNCC, DCA, CCC, CSCC, CDG, BCRA, BCRC etc.) will remain basically the same as now. The regional variations of cave access and other local difficulties are best handled by regional bodies, perhaps with different geographic boundaries to those existing at the moment, each having total autonomy but accountable to the annual meeting of it's own structure and, if necessary, to the annual meeting of the national association. It is also generally agreed that the executive should have the powers to act as an executive without the need to have to refer everything to the constituent bodies before progressing the problem.


Many of you will remember the questionnaires issued by the NCA Working Party on the possible re-structuring of the Association.  The results clearly showed the requirements of cavers and apart from a couple of issues all were currently carried out by NCA. e.g. Sports Council Grants for expeditions (administered on behalf of NCA by Ghar Parau Foundation) grants to maintain entrances, contact with external organisations both national and international and NCA have almost completed a third party insurance policy that is much better than BCRA's and so on.  On the training front there is little support for national training or commercial training. The second questionnaire clearly showed that the club was the best place for this to be done.  That is not to say that locally organised events by NCA is not out of the question - two such events will be held on Mendip during the Autumn of this year.


The point of disagreement is HOW THE EXECUTIVE SHOULD BE ELECTED.  Don't let anyone try to persuade you otherwise that the WHOLE structure requires overhauling.  It doesn't and when protagonists of the individual member system are pressed you will find only minor differences of emphasis.  The electoral system is the root of the argument.  There are two basic structures being debated: INDIVIDUAL AND CLUB and on the other side CLUB ONLY.  Basically the followers of the individual caver membership believe that the CLUB HAS NO IMPORTANCE IN MODERN BRITISH CAVING BECAUSE OF BETTER TRANSPORTATION AND THE GENERAL USE OF SRT MAKING THE CAVER INDEPENDENT OF CLUB TACKLE. The growth of the independent non-club caver, particularly in the north is the core of the argument. They also believe that a NATIONAL CAVING CLUB should cover the needs of the modern caver.  In other words change its name to British Cave Research Association minus the research element - though many will retort it's not a caving club!  Some acknowledge that in certain areas of the country clubs still play an important part in the caving scene but in Yorkshire and Derbyshire we are led to believe that the influence of clubs is fast fading from the scene.  The supporter of individual membership has included the clubs in the voting structure rather begrudgingly but believes as the individual membership grows the influence of the club will fall by the way-side.  On the other-hand, even if the club influence is diminishing in the north it certainly IS not in the south who have the greatest number of cavers by far.

In my view, if the NCA was to suddenly change its membership system and adopt an individual member structure, it would take a long time to accumulate enough members to make the organisation a viable structure.  At least when the BCRA was formed it accumulated the membership of the two bodies that merged to form that organisation amounting to some 450 cavers.  What these supporters want is an overnight transition which is clearly impossible; it takes time to accumulate members - the caving world in Britain would be left in a vacuum.  Whatever membership system is adopted I feel that a phased transition is the only pragmatic solution.  What the supporter of the individual membership wants is to replace the NCA with the BCRA structure; there is no other conclusion.

Readers of the last issue of Caves and Caving will have seen an outburst from its editor - Andy Hall, inferring that the National Caving Association is a dinosaur and that it must go. Presumably he means that the structure should be the same as the British Cave Research Association - a monolithic and undemocratic structure.  Frankly how the BCRA and supporters can say that individual caver membership is a more democratic voting structure than the existing system when they only get some 30 or so members out of 1100 to attend their AGM beats me - hierarchy rules OK. Further how the BCRA Council can have the nerve to state that BCRA policy is to support a form of individual and club membership for the national body without reference to its members beats me. This form of arrogance would not be tolerated in a club - but as only 20 - 30 members attend their AGM who on BCRA Council worries.  If this resolution ever comes before the BCRA Annual Meeting then I suggest that the CLUB supporters flood the meeting and throw it out.


The other side of the coin are those that support a CLUB BASED STRUCTURE.  I firmly believe that the basis of British caving is still the club. Loyalty to one's club remains as strong today as it always was.  Club competition is still much to the fore, even though groups of cavers from various clubs frequently cave together.  Further, who is involved with most cave discoveries, maintain the entrances, sort out landowner problems etc. - in the vast majority of cases THE CLUB.  How clubs vote for the executive is a matter for further discussion.  FURTHER, IF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERSHIP IS THE ACCEPTED FORM OF ELECTING THE EXECUTIVE YOU WILL BE DISENFRANCHISED unless you are prepared to join the national organisation. At the moment you are represented by your club through your regional body.  For those cavers that do not belong to any formal club there is no reason why they cannot form themselves, for electoral purposes, into a non-aligned body and join in the same way as other clubs.

At the moment if you wish to have your say at national level you can easily contact your club representative and get it passed through the Regional Body direct to the NCA Executive. Try to persuade a national body comprised of individual members and, unless there is support from the officers you'll be a voice in the wilderness.  The existing system is unwieldy but it can be streamlined simply by enabling clubs to contact the national executive directly for consideration of any points they wish to be raised.  This allows you the club member to have a say in the national body directly through your club.  This boils down to allowing clubs to vote directly for officers and members of the executive and not rely on the Regional Council.


Eight cavers who are known to be worried at the state of the NCA arguments, now known as the 'gang-of-eight', were invited to a meeting in Derby during May to discuss the problems associated with NCA. The idea was good and I fully support it if their findings can help to resolve the current and seemingly endless round of arguments.  However, only one maintained that a club based structure was the best solution for membership to NCA - me!  Let me make it quite clear that those who support individual membership are very sincere in their beliefs and should not be the, subject of flippant criticism. Take their views seriously. During the next few months you will be receiving another questionnaire financed by the 'gang-of-eight' asking which voting system you would wish to see for a 'new type' NCA.  I urge you all, yes even all of us golden oldies, to spend 17p on a stamp and respond with a firm reply in support of club based membership for the National Caving Association and settle the matter once and for all.


Meets List

Sat 17th August                   Brirks Fell Cave, Yorkshire.

Sat 24th August                   Otter Hole, Chepstow.

Sat 7th September               Box Stone Mines.  Leader Blitz.

Sat 21st September              Lost John’s, Yorkshire.

Sat 16th November               Juniper Gulf, Yorkshire,

Sun 8th December                Peal Cavern, Derbyshire.

For further information contact Jeff Price Tel: 0272 724296


Cave Diving in the Yucatan.

Oliver C. Wells

The idea of seeing stalactites and 'mites underwater has been something of an obsession with me since seeing photographs of them in Robert Palmer's book "The Blue Holes of the Bahamas."  I suppose it was inevitable that I should go for a cave diving holiday in the Yucatan peninsula (May 3-10, 1991).

I spent the week with my wife Pamela and six cave divers in the cenotes within a few miles of Akumal, which is about 100 km south from Cancun.  The sea level was about 400 feet lower than it is now during the last Ice Age, rising to about the present level between 18,000 and 6,000 years ago.  During the Ice Age these caves were dry and 'tites and 'mites were formed in great numbers.

I found myself to be totally unprepared for how wonderful these caves are.  Imagine a flat country with impenetrable jungle on both sides of narrow, straight roads.  Here and there an unpaved road (if you can call it such) or a path leads off into the jungle to a cenote, which is a pool of water typically 50 yards across and 20 feet deep.  There may be an upstream cave underwater at one end and a tunnel downstream at the other (who knows? JGC).

Everything is highly organised in cave diving these days.  At the entry level is the "cavern diver" who stays within sight of daylight at all times.  Typically this involves a large underwater cave entrance sloping down to 50 feet depth, and with large stalactites on the roof.  An impressive underwater notice in two languages asks that people with no cave diving experience should go no further than that point.

Permanent nylon lines with a diameter of perhaps 0.125" start at some distance inside the dark zone. The dive leader lays a line from a belay point (plus backup) in the open water of the cenote to the near end of the permanent line in the dark zone in the cave, and reels it in again when it is time to leave.  The "main line" goes in along a chosen passage with triangular plastic arrows at intervals to the closest exit to air (there are numerous entrances and exits in most caves there).  In other words, these arrows either may or may not help you to come out again by the same route as you went in.  Lines into side passages start at various distances from the main line and can be reached with a "gap reel" if you know where they are. "Decoy lines" guide visitors away from places where the 'tites and 'mites are especially fragile.  The passage size inside the cave might be twenty feet wide and high (sometimes larger, sometimes smaller) at depths generally between 50 and 70 feet.

The halocline is at a depth of about 50 feet, where the fresh water lies on top of salt water. Initially the interface is quite sharp, but it widens to a few feet after divers have gone through.  Within the mixed zone vision is blurred.  The most curious thing is the way in which you must let air out of your buoyancy compensator (BC) as you go down through the halocline, and put some in when you come up.  This is as opposed to the normal situation when you put more air into your BC from time to time as you go down and let it out again as you come up. (You progressively lose buoyancy with depth in water of constant density because the air bubbles in your wet suit are compressed.)

The other divers wore the standard Florida cave diving rig with twin back-mounted 80 cubic foot tanks and a high capacity BC between the diver and the tanks.  They did not wear helmets, and one diver did not wear a hood (the water was quite warm).  Dive lights were in the range from 30 to 50 watts with the battery on the waist strap. Reels, dive computers, backup flashlights and other items were attached appropriately.

I was surprised by the arrangement of the manifolds.  The two tanks were permanently connected together with a separate valve for each of the two regulators. In other words, if the rupture disk on the tank blows out, then the air supply is gone.  I mentioned that I had seen a diver lose all of his air in this way in an open water dive a few years ago, but this information was not too cheerfully received. One of the divers told me that he preferred a manifold with one regulator on each tank and with an equalizing valve between the two.

I had two side-mounted 80 cubic foot cylinders with a separate regulator and pressure gauge on each of them.  The use of totally independent respirators avoids the problem mentioned above, but does not give access to the contents of a cylinder if a regulator should go wrong. The reason for doing this (as recommended by the Cave Diving Group) is that while carrying two completely independent bottles and regulators does not give access to air in a failed system while the diver is underwater (between sumps, yes!) it does however leave adequate air in the remaining working system for a return to safety if 'the rule of thirds' is used correctly during the whole dive.  (I describe this below.)

Obviously I am not intending to criticize anyone in this article.  Redundant respirators of equal size were first suggested, I believe, by Michel Letrone in 1955, and have been developed in various forms since that time. They are in use widely in the North-eastern USA, for example.  On the subject of rupture disks, Billy Young writes: "Your concern over loss of air from blow-out disks is one that cave divers have overcome by 'double-disk' installation.  This raises the safety factor considerably."

My greatest difficulty was in swimming on the surface of the water across the cenote to the entrance of the cave.  The other divers with their high capacity BC's and no weight on the head floated cheerfully with head and shoulders out of the water.  I had a small BC on the chest and the weight of four flashlights on the helmet (two primary plus two backup).  The result was that I floated with my mouth about level with the surface of the water.  On the second day I took my snorkel tube and the problem was solved.

Entering the water was a bit of an adventure at times.  For example at the Temple of Doom, a hole in the ground about twenty feet across gives access through the roof into a chamber containing water about 15 feet deep. The approved method of entry is to jump in.  In the event, I found the THUMP on arriving at the water surface after a free fall of 12 feet with two side-mounted 80's to be more violent than I had expected, but survivable.  (Cave divers have been known to enter the water from even greater heights than this.) A wooden ladder was provided to get out again.

My wife Pamela came for a swim at the Temple of Doom, being nibbled by the little green fishes when she was in the water and bitten by insects when on the ladder (there were very few biting insects anywhere else).  The instructor told us that in some of the caves these fishes had learnt to follow a diver into the dark zone where they eat the defenceless animals that live there.

On the checkout dive I swam slowly admiring the view, showed the instructor when I changed to the second mouthpiece at two-thirds pressure on the first tank, and called the dive when I was equally down on the second.  It was becoming clear that my objectives were different from those of the other divers.  I was there strictly as a tourist to admire the 'tites and 'mites and I had no interest in going too far from the cenote if I could possibly avoid it.  The other divers had studied the cave surveys and had decided to visit the more distant points.  In addition to the disparity in objectives.  I did not have one of my regulators on a long hose, which is considered to be essential for helping your companion by the Florida divers.

The other divers were courteous and helpful but it was clear that our aims were not compatible.  We solved this problem in the obvious way. My companions swam along the line at their own speed and vanished in the distance while I operated solo between them and the entrance.  Typically I would swim slowly for half an hour or so at depths between 50 and 70 feet through the wonderfully clear water and large chambers, admiring the 'tites and 'mites at leisure, being quite enchanted by these places.  My procedure was to swim in until I reached thirds, swim out again to the warning notice, recalculate thirds, swim in a second time, and so on.

I am not worried by the idea of solo cave diving.  This is a decision that divers must make for themselves.  You go into a different mindset being more careful about everything and being much more willing to stop where you are for minutes at a time if this is necessary to consider a question that might have arisen.  I shall not tell you how long I stopped at the line junctions and at some of the more intricate belay points, checking the arrow out, looking along the lines this way and that way, and examining the situation until I was sure that I could find my way back to the cenote even if all five of my lights had failed.  (The "arrow out" may or may not indicate the way that you actually went in and this can cause difficulties if you overlook the fact.  In the event the instructor explained the layout of the lines and the other divers held detailed discussions of the line junctions also. This is a serious matter.)

My final dive was in "Carwash,” so called because cars were washed there in the past (but fortunately not now).  This was unusual in having algae in the top six feet which was therefore a brightly illuminated light green colour with a visibility of about six inches.  You hit colder (but still quite warm) clear water below this where you can see for tens of yards below a bright green ceiling. By this time my companions had gone on ahead, so I swam around in the massive cave entrance until I found their line, and then on in.

After five consecutive days of solo cave diving my breathing rate was less than half of what it had been on the first day without my having made any effort to improve it whatsoever. My buoyancy control was much better, and I had finally learnt how to swim with my feet high to avoid stirring the silt.  Removing my ankle weights had been helpful here.  I swam slowly admiring the view for about 700 feet to a place known as Luke's Hope where you can see a bright green glow from an air surface.

Luke's Hope was discovered by a diver who was lost and almost out of air, rather in the way that Bob Davies discovered Wookey Thirteen in December, 1955.  He surprised his friends by taking a taxi back to where they were staying and greeting them long after they had given up hope of ever seeing him again.

While I was looking up at the bright green glow from Luke's Hope I became aware that the newer of my two regulators was free-flowing.  Not very rapidly, but an unwanted bubble every two seconds or so certainly clears the mind.  There was no line to the inviting green glow up above and I had no idea whether it would be possible to get out at that point.  I would have had to lay a line from my reel if I had wanted to investigate that matter.  On the other hand, I still had 2,000 psi in each cylinder, both regulators were otherwise working properly and the free-flow was nominal.  This was one of those occasions when I stayed where I was for several minutes to decide what to do.  At one point on the way out the delinquent regulator started to bubble away quite merrily, so I gave it a knock and it settled down to its previous slow pace. Back at the warning notice it stopped free-flowing altogether.  I also dived twice in Maya Blue and once at Naharon.

In our non-diving time we visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum and at X-Caret.  Many thanks to Steve Gerrard for organising the diving and for lending us his car on our day off, to Tony and Nancy DeRosa and Shelley Baker for the other arrangements, to my fellow divers and to my wife Pamela who has put up with this sort of nonsense for so many years.

I would like to thank Peter Schulz, Kevin Wills, James Coke, J. Billy Young and Michael Madden for their comments on early drafts of the above, and JGC for his more detailed comments given below.  If you are qualified as a cave diver, then you should not miss a visit to these caves should the opportunity arise.

Comments on the above by James G. Coke IV of the Akumal Dive Shop, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77710:

(1)     Luke Boissoneault made his historic dive on Nov. 21, 1985 in the company of two advanced open water students and an open water instructor.  They planned to reach a slate attached to the permanent line about 400 feet into the upstream section of Carwash.  I had explored that region originally 3 or 4 months prior.  The team of 4 (NOT trained in Cave Diving) reached their goal and signed the slate.  I still have this slate in my possession.  Silt flew at this point and three divers exited in confusion while Luke went exploring in the wrong direction where no one had been before. As he ran out of air he found the hole bearing his name; got out, cried and thanked God; and walked out of the jungle carrying his equipment!  He caught a cab to his camp ground where his initial hellos to the assembled group were treated like the salutations of an apparition!  I still keep in touch with Luke; he is a SCUBA instructor living in Quebec.

The other three divers also had their problems. One of them ran out of air shedding his equipment in the cave.  Moments later his guide found him (after assisting the other out of the cave) and brought him out.  He was resuscitated at the surface.

(2)     The "little green fishes" that follow divers into the cave are Mexican Tetras (Astyanax mexicanus).  They are found in almost every cenote in this region. There are some colour differences between the fish occasionally, from cenote to cenote.  They are very aggressive and will take advantage of a cave diver's lights when looking for small and large troglodytes to eat.  They will attack and devour the smallest to largest animals, including Typhliasina pearsi (a blind fish that occupies these caves).

I have seen Tetras as far back as 2,500 feet from air and sunlight; either lost fish or ones who have followed me in. BOLD little gaffers!!  This behaviour appears to be confined to the cenotes that are the most popular.  Carwash, being the most popular site, has the biggest problem with them.  Temple of Doom, Maya Blue, Naharon etc. are less popular, so fewer fish follow a diver into the cave.  So on the whole, the problem becomes more widespread as the site becomes more popular!

Tetras cannot follow divers through the halocline because the lack of oxygen in the lower salt water kills them. Amphipods and Isopods make short work of their carcasses should they remain in the lower salt water for too long.

(3)     There are areas of certain caves that have been declared sensitive; therefore divers have been asked not to visit these areas if they are not engaged in a worthy study of sorts.  For example, less-than-perfect buoyancy control and bubble damage from open circuit SCUBA plays havoc with fragile soda straw formations! Nobody likes to be told that they are not wanted, but what else can we do?

(4)     The underwater warning signs in Spanish were donated by the Cave Diving Section of the NSS.

(5)     The halocline is shallower in caves that are closer to the ocean.  There is a lens of moving fresh water laying on a static base of salt water, basically. At The Temple of Doom (TOD) (4.5 km from the ocean) the halocline is at 50 feet; the Carwash halocline (11 km from the ocean) is at 65 feet.  Often the interface is sharp; however there is a mix zone in some caves where the fresh water flow strips water from the lower zone.  Current-deficient areas such as in the Madonna passage in TOD display a sharp interface.  A Line Maya shows a distinct mix zone.  I am studying these phenomena with U of New Orleans currently.

(6)     The wooden ladder out of the water at TOD was installed by Mike Madden.  He also maintains the guidelines at Nohoch Nan Chich.  He installed the TOD cavern circuit guideline.  I maintain the guidelines in Carwash, Naharon and Maya Blue. All of the above have been surveyed (except TOD) with maps published; except for Maya which will be in print by the end of this year (46,600 feet of passage surveyed to this date with the Maya Naharon system --- Sistema Naranjal).  Many others have explored in these caves also.

(7)     The algae/tannic bloom in the top few feet in Carwash only occurs in the summer months.  In winter, the entire pool is clear.  The bloom is a by-product of the man-made clearing around the cenote. The natural sponge of the jungle has been removed; now all the rainwater washes tannic into Carwash.  Five years ago the cenote was clear all year round.


The Excavation And Exploration Of Wigmore Swallet

This article attempts to bring up to date the history of this dig.  Several previous B.B. articles have been summarised numbers 356, 357, 368, 371, 391/2, 393/4 and 406/7.

This classic swallet cave is located in a small wood at NGR 5571/5256 at an altitude of 880 ft ASL. It was originally dug from 1934-7 by the M.N.R.C. and in 1938 by W.C.C.  The shaft was then abandoned at a depth of around 30 ft.

When the B.E.C. arrived on the scene the shaft was filled with rubble, bones and assorted rubbish to within 6 ft of the lip - the position of the present concrete cap.

The dig commenced on June 25th 1977 (not the 21st as stated in B.B. 356).  With the aid of the M.C.G. motor winch and an assortment of technical digging equipment the shaft was cleared out until a relatively solid iron ore and calcite vein partly blocked the way on.  This was widened with bang and on 12/12/77 Hesitation Chamber was entered, at a depth of 40ft.  Two days later the lower of the two 10ft climbs below here was opened up and on the 24th, Christmas Crawl was entered.  The squeeze into Santa's Grotto was passed on 28th December.  During this period much work was done on "ginging" the entrance shaft and this continued throughout the summer.  On 16th September 1978 almost three tons of concrete was mixed on site and used to cap the shaft.  A steel grating from the road leading to the Isle of Skye was eventually delivered to the site!

The amount of work done in 15 months was remarkable, even for a Mendip cave dig; scores of members and friends being involved, including many overseas visitors.  (A Wessex man, meeting a Dutch caver in the Pyrenees was once asked "How iss Vigmore going?").  Digging tales of this period are legion - a notable one being the free-fall descent of a lager keg full of spoil which missed Trevor Hughes by 1/4 inch! (our aim was not good that day .... ) .

The surface work being completed it was noticeable how the number of enthusiasts suddenly decreased. A survey to B.C.R.A. grade 5C was undertaken and digging in the floor of Santa's Grotto started during early 1978. On the 17th October this "went" and Pinks & Posies was entered.  Work was then concentrated on enlarging this passage to crawling size until the Smoke Room was reached on 9/12/78.  Many months were spent digging here but all was in vain due to continuous roof collapse and this area was abandoned on 6/2/82, being used from then on as a spoil dump for the new dig in the floor Blitz Passage.

On 3/3/78 the stream was dye-traced to Cheddar Risings with a flow through time of approx. 42 hours. This gives us a depth potential of 980ft to the bottom of Sump 3 in Gough's Cave arguably the deepest cave in England!  The distance from sink to rising is over 5 miles.  The Blitz Passage dig occupied our time for some 5 months until the discovery of West End Series in Eastwater Cavern lured us away - the last visit here being on 16/7/82.

Work resumed on 17/5/86 and continued unabated for the next seven months.  A lot of hard digging, blasting and shoring was involved including the use of the Acro Jacks which have given their name to a small chamber. The last working trip of this session was on 6/12/86 before the delights of other digs in Hunter's Hole and Bowery Corner Swallet caused an eighteen months break.

On 31/7/88 work recommenced but ceased on the next trip of 6/8/88 Bowery Corner proving to be marginally more attractive!

A four month session from 26/6/89 - 2/10/89 saw more work in the foul conditions of the lower part of Blitz Passage where huge fallen marl slabs and a quagmire of red mud seriously delayed progress and put off a lot of diggers.

The present bout of enthusiasm began on 10/9/90 and was heralded by the purchase of a Bosch cordless drill.  Using this magnificent tool the offending roof slabs were converted to handy sized lumps and dispatched on their long, slow journey to the surface via a series of plastic dragging skips.  After some nine trips a breakthrough was made on 20/2/91 and the small chamber now known as Baghdad was entered.  This relatively comfortable spot marked the end of the notorious Blitz Passage but below it a similar bedding plane crawl led tantalisingly onwards with the usual howling inward draught.

This crawl was vigorously attacked with all the available tools and after a further nineteen digging trips the next "open" bit of cave was reached.  This took the form of a 5ft deep open rift just wide enough to get a boot into.  It stretched right across the crawlway and seems to have acted also as an inlet. Several trips were spent digging and blasting along and down into this rift as a wider section seemed to exist at its base.  On 24/5/91 a small, blind chamber (Ghandi's Pyre) was entered above this rift.  Work now concentrated on deepening the rift and on 31/5/91 some twenty feet of tight open passage was entered ending in collapsed wall slabs.  Two charges were fired on this blockage and on 3/6/91, after 1/2 ton of shattered rock was hurled into space (!) the cave proper was entered - almost 14 years since the start of the B.E.C. dig.


After the long, muddy man-made crawl from the entrance and the tight and awkward Sheep Dip it was almost awe inspiring for A.J. (Tony Jarratt) and R.B. (Richard Blake) to be suddenly confronted with a roomy 20ft pitch some 15ft across and 4ft wide.  An easy free climb down Blackbird Pot (named after the current residents of the entrance shaft) led to some 30ft of "WALKING" passage and the head of another, larger pitch - Vindication Pot. In high spirits the explorers returned to the Hunter's to celebrate and gather all available Monday diggers, six in all, for the afternoon push.

The second wave of explorers descended full of adrenalin and Butcombe to bottom Vindication Pot at 35ft. Below this a dangerous boulder choke in the floor was excavated to reveal a loose 25ft pitch which was descended by V.S. (Vince Simmonds), A.J., T.H. (Trevor Hughes) and R.B. leaving the cripples (G.J. (Graham Johnson) and P.M. jnr. (Peter Mcnab to attempt an extremely hairy traverse over the top of Vindication Pot.  The third pitch, Hernia Pot, ended in a strongly outward draughting rift with a short and muddy inlet adjacent.

Meanwhile, above, P.M. had conquered the traverse by using fragile calcite finger holds and after 30ft or so had reached a large chamber beyond the pot and christened it "Don't Feed the Ambulance" (We may never know why!).

The floor of the chamber consisted of a wide crater and a 30ft deep free-climbable pitch blocked at the bottom.  Beyond this the impressive washed-out mineral vein continued to a 10ft high vertical mud wall which defeated the climber's attempts to scale it.  The smugly grinning team then left for the delights of even more Butcombe.

The following day the draughting rift was banged and on 5/6/91 a five man team returned to survey the cave from Santa's Grotto and continue work at the end.  The first project succeeded admirably but the latter suffered a setback when it was found that Hernia Pot had collapsed!  The whole floor of Vindication Pot had dropped some 5ft and filled the chamber below.  Several rolled ladders were luckily rescued from the mess but a bag of tools was lost.  Despite our disappointment it was evident, on consideration, that the best thing had happened, the collapse could all too easily have occurred on the first descent when four people were directly below the tons of boulders which had moved.

Our next plan was to continue with the exploration of D.F.T.A. in the hope that it would drop back down to the far side of the terminal dig.  While trying to scale the mud wall R.B. received the full benefit of a two foot long rock on the head but despite this he was still usable as a stepladder to enable A.J. to reach the top.  A short boulder slope led to a blocked crawl which was soon cleared to reveal a huge black space beyond. Named Drake's Hall in memory of the late Hillgrove Swallet digger, Bob Drake, the chamber now entered was very impressive for Wigmore.  Some 50ft long, 25ft high and 15ft wide it has a breakdown floor and ends in a massive choke.  Two roof inlets exist here, one of which was later climbed but ended in a hairy choke after 10ft.  The inward draughts from the entrance and bottom dig both go up into these inlets so there could be extensive but choked passages at a higher level, possibly corresponding with the choked rift below Hesitation Chamber and the postulated passage above the Smoke Room.

When the survey team arrived a further bit of useful work was done by digging out a short and muddy by-pass which connects the bottom of D.F.T.A. with the bottom of Vindication Pot - avoiding the traverse.  A climb in a rift behind the pot led down to a small chamber which was chiselled open into the pot to provide a free climbable but awkward by-pass.


Construction work now began by the insertion of a scaffolding frame to support the Hernia Pot collapse.  This was accomplished over a few trips and access regained to the terminal dig. A tight upward squeeze was passed directly above an impassable 20ft rift. Beyond the squeeze a short length of rift with two side passages was entered one choked after 15ft and the other partially blocked with mud but with a tremendous echo and the sound of what seems to be a large stream.  This was particularly encouraging considering the very dry nature of the other Mendip caves at the time.  Another minor discovery at this time was some 20ft of loose passage heading upstream from the top of Blackbird Pot.  (The three baby Blackbirds in the entrance shaft had now left the nest, one having to be manually assisted from the bottom of the shaft!).

On 22/6/91 - a Saturday evening! - a team of six forsook their beer to break into the huge extensions expected beyond the muddy crawl at the bottom.  Some desperate digging and a tight squeeze enabled A.J., pushed by G.J., to enter the new bit.  BIT was the operative word as a 4’ wide rift leading off into the distance was revealed! So much for the booming echo.  The stream could still be heard in the distance .... At least we made it out for a few beers.

Since then work has concentrated on blasting the roof off the muddy U-tube/crawl - known affectionately as Butch's Arse and in widening the rift in the floor below Hernia Pot.

This was blasted out and descended for some 20ft to where it became too narrow and choked with debris. Digging continues. The siren like stream still echoes ahead and the diggers are confident of a lot more cave to come; even if it takes another 14 years.

Tony Jarratt.


Assynt Antics

"Ye're all doomed", "Is that so?"  Comment and riposte the catchphrases of this year's Sutherland trip.  The first delivered by Pete Rose as a rising eldritch shriek whenever a diver entered a sump and the second in the soft Tannochbrae tones of Willy Morrison from behind the bar at the Inchnadamph Hotel, usually in response to some breathlessly sensational outburst from a member of our party.  One hilarious post pub session was spent delivering ever more unlikely tales to be completed by this unlikely punchline.

But what of caving you cry? Ah, the caving.  Well, we did do some - and some cave diving as well so this article will stretch over the page.  Peter Glanvill's enthusiastic descriptions of the glories of Assynt resulted in double the number of visitors to the GSG hut this year.  More came from both Devon and Mendip and the result was a minor explosion in digging and diving activities.

For the first two days Pete Rose survived on a knife edge, his odd Scottish accent winding up certain Grampian members (up for the weekend) to a fever pitch.  The only thing that kept him from dismemberment was that they could not really believe he existed!  Things improved as the hut numbers shrank to manageable proportions for most of our stay.

On the first glorious morning Pete Rose and Tony Boycott were dragged off to Firehose Cave by yours truly who for, the past year, had convinced himself that there was a viable dig at the far end.  10 metres up the vertical jetwash which is Firehose, Pete ("caving is a cheap sport") Rose's wetsuit began to act like a reverse colander and he opted out of playing insey winsey spider.  Tony would have left as well only I was behind him with a crow-bar.

We struggled to the top and I took what must be some of the very few pictures of Firehose in existence. The dig proved to be a dead loss particularly as after an inspection of the roof at the end of the cave - where it gets quite roomy we realised that apart from one wall it was in cemented breccia.

Meanwhile Brian Johnson and Pete Dowswell tried to dive Lower Traligill again. I will draw a veil over this episode. Other bods did tourist trips in the Traligill valley in the process visiting Tree Hole.  In the prevailing dry conditions Tony Jarratt forced a downstream bedding squeeze into 60 metres of new cave (surveyed later in the week) which contained the main stream inlet.  Further prospects exist here and the squeeze is now passable by average sized cavers who do not mind an intimate acquaintance with underground streams. Waterfall Rising which looked good for an underwater dig was excavated by Vince, Jake and Tav (BEC) but despite spasmodic work during the week it never became passable for a dive - worth more digging tho'.

The next day was our Durness day with the prospect of another bash at looking for Tartan Holes and digs at Ach a Chorrain on the way.  A leisurely journey up via Lochinver and the Drumbeg road gave us superb coastal views.  Thankfully dumping Peter Rose with the diggers for a few hours Petes Glanvill, Mulholland and Cox plus unfashionably named Brian Johnson headed for Smoo. Another sparkling sunny day although with a cold wind blowing so no sun-bathing this time.  The Petes all went down to Smoo Geo while Brian concentrated on chatting up the local coastguard and doing a bit of spuddling about in the Smoo pools.  It was low tide and we were able to walk a long way down the geo before starting our dive. The mini resurgences seen last year were high and dry.  We finned out on the surface past my point of entry in 1990 and submerged to follow the eastern wall at a depth of 10 metres.  The marine life encrusting the geo walls became more prolific as we got deeper and diving was a real pleasure in the 15 metre visibility.  When we had got into about twenty metres of water things got really interesting.  The limestone walls smothered in a five o'clock shadow of brittlestar arms, hydroids and anemones were prowled by nudibranchs starfish and orange sea urchins. The odd small cave inhabited by shy navy blue lobsters could be seen.  On one rock ledge was a proper cave though - only 15 metres long it penetrated the cliff and seemed to be solutional in origin.  A few fin strokes further on and, like some magnificent cathedral nave, daylight streaming through its kelp fringed apex, reared a 20 metre high arch. It is at times like this that the weightlessness of scuba diving can be truly appreciated as one swoops from floor to ceiling with a couple of flicks of the leg.

All good things come to an end and regretfully I turned for home indicating to the other two that I had used up half my air.  The endless fin back on the bottom and the surface kept me warm in the chilly sea. The Petes made the mistake of surfacing early - they discovered we had been nearly 400 metres offshore.

Meanwhile, back at Ach a Chorrain, Pete was demonstrating how we dig in Devon.  Over 30 metres of passage was discovered and explored - spread over 5 caves just like Devon.  Still it isn't often you can discover and explore so many caves at once.

The day finished with an abseiling session at Smoo and a visit to local hostelries where Pete R. started his "Good Pubs to Shave in" guide - publication date from Pete. After a brisk walk back to Smoo from the final pub most opted for a night's kip in Smoo Cave while Pete R. and I opted for a tent over the entrance in the company of nesting Fulmars.  The next day the chuckling birds woke me and I found I could peer through one of the skylight entrances to Smoo onto Tony Boycott snoozing 25 metres below.  A brew-up soon had us all loosening up our sleep stiffened limbs before the journey back to Elphin.

While various team members surveyed Tree Hole, Brian decided to dive the Waterslide at Traligill where the stream disappears on its way to Lower Traligill Cave.  With help from Julian Walford, Pete Cox and others we humped gear down the steeply inclined and, in its lower sections, awkward bedding to the sump.  This trip was jinxed. Pete Mulholland saw one bottle take the fast way down when it slipped out of his harness, shattering the nerves of those below this novel bouncing bomb.  Then various valves began playing up and bottle pressures seemed to have strangely dropped as Brian put kit together.  A collection of glum faces including “Ye're all doomed” stared at the scum coloured pool.  At last a whip round got Brian into the sump.  He emerged briefly to sort out a gag before returning to the fray.  He explored 30 metres of passage which ended at 4 metres depth in an area of break down.  Using the remains of his air I went in for a look losing the line reel in the process - habit of mine!  We will return.

That night, it must have been night cos I must have been drunk to have volunteered, Julian Walford, the master of ANUS cave, arrived and assured us that the number one Scottish cave diving site lay in his domain i.e. upstream ANUS.  With charts, diagrams and tales of wondrous caverns his silver tongue beguiled us and Pete Mulholland and I found ourselves volunteering to push the sumps I had least expected to visit.  A trip to Lochinver for air the next day was called for.  Jimmy Crooks at the harbour nonchalantly pumped our collection of midget tanks while regaling us with diving anecdotes. He even fixed the damaged pillar valve on the Waterslide bottle.  The three diving Petes then stopped for a dive on the Drumbeg road on the way back. Scallops for the evening meal plus two dinner plates were brought up.  Long evenings mean you can pack a lot into a day.

The stroll to ANUS was pleasant with minimal kit and a host of sherpas.  Stripping in the chilly breeze was not quite as nice.  The carry to the Pit where the upstream sump begins is short and easy although the traverse down to the sump appears daunting to the first time visitor.  Soon, with the help of YAD ("ye're all doomed"), we were ready to dive. Suddenly a loud bang punctuated the quiet gurgling of the stream.  Pete Mulholland's high pressure hose had ruptured.  The option was to scrap the entire trip or for me to do a tourist dive through sump one.  The temptation was too great.  Waving goodbye to a seriously disgruntled PM, I gently pushed my head into the sump.

Clear water and good lighting made the dive along a gently meandering tube quite delightful.  At one point an inlet on the right could be clearly seen.  In low water conditions the wallow between sumps 1 and 2 was rather muddy while sump 2 was just a low duck.  At last I could dekit in a nice roomy stream passage and off I went to visit sump 3. Not having read the survey very carefully I was rather surprised to see a stream cascading from an aven near sump 3. Closer inspection of the aven suggested it would be a fairly straightforward climb so up I went. After 8 metres of back and footing I emerged in a sort of chamber (named Sotanito by Farr) formed where a section of partially filled horizontal upper passage had been washed out and enlarged by the stream inlet.  To the left beyond a delicate scramble over a mud bank the rumbling of a distant waterfall which I guessed was Thunderghast led me to a dodgy looking climb.  I turned back and looked at the right hand passage which ended in a sandy crawl.

Calling it a day I reversed the climb and rekitted.  A high pressure leak meant a rather unnerving single bottle return through the sump in low vis.  Elation greeted my discovery especially when I thought I had discovered a major sump bypass. The big put down came from Julian when it was pointed out that the aven was discovered by Martyn Farr 15 years ago. The only new thing I had done was actually use the route which in fact removes most of the hassle in getting to sump 4.

Over the scallops that night Julian persuaded us it was our duty to survey the downstream section of upstream ANUS to establish the link point with known cave.  Brian Johnson was dragged reluctantly away from a planned dive in Lower Traligill and the morrow saw a team of BEC diggers and cave divers shiveringly donning soggy wet suits outside ANUS.  The trip was uneventful apart from minor light failures.  The survey was accomplished, sump 4 reached and many acceptable pictures taken.  Meanwhile back in the main cave YAD was in digging frenzy mode.  I predict it will not be long before there is a dry way into upstream ANUS and we have Scotland's second mile long cave. Surface digs also could make the breakthrough.

The next day it rained - all day.  The three Petes went to Kylesku (pronounced Kile - Skew) and bravely kitting up in the vertical water entered the horizontal salty version lapping the south ferry slip.  Pristine clay pigeons littering the sea bed testified to the local hotel owner's lack of marksmanship while in deeper water and in a slacker current than last year we were able to explore a near vertical wall smothered in multicoloured feather stars. The whisky and Chicken Tikka in the pub afterwards were equally as good!  The evening was spent in a soggy fester with YAD again in digging mode trying to excavate a minute resurgence low down in Traligill.

The last day dawned bright and sunny.  It was go for it day at Lower Traligill.  Brian and I decided to go down unaccompanied while everybody else dug at ANUS or went down Claonite.  While I was taking a snap of Brian outside Traligill a fully grown male otter leapt out of the plunge pool and sleekly scrabbled past me to lunge into the Traligill flood sink.

The water level seemed ominously high at the entrance but we pressed on regardless with a small amount of kit.  Bitter disappointment struck when we found the diving line was submerged beneath 3 metres of peat stained water.  The jinx was still operative.  We spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures and gorge running down to Firehose.

Pete Mulholland returned to base in the evening very satisfied with his day's work.  He had made a detailed survey of ANUS sump 1, spending so much time underwater that the sherpas had begun to worry. Now plotted, this survey confirms that a dry link should be imminent.

Sadly we had to leave the next morning.  It was an extended farewell as we stopped periodically on the Ullapool road for pictures in the clear rich morning light.  We will return.  Finally if I have left anyone's activities out, my apologies - you can write it next time.

Personnel: Peter Glanvill (DSS,CSS,CDG,BEC), Peter Mulholland (DSS) , Peter Cox (CSS), Peter Rose (CSS,BEC), Tony Jarratt (BEC,GSG,CDG), Brian Johnson (BEC,CDG), Vince Simmonds, Rob Taviner, Graham Johnson (all BEC) , Julian Walford (GSG,UBSS, CDG) , Tony Boycott (BEC,UBSS,CDG)

Peter Glanvill June 1991


Tree Hole

Situated in the Traligill Valley, Sutherland, this cave was 80m. long until our extensions of 28th and 30th April, 1991 brought the passage length to 120 m.  The cave has formed across the dip of the Main Treligill Thrust plane and carries part of the underground Traligill River, entering from a low sump (7) at the upstream end and disappearing into a roomy downstream sump which would be a worthwhile dive.

The writer entered the extensions by passing a flat-out squeeze in the stream not far from the entrance (Section C on the survey).  It was not realised then that the attractive walking-size streamway beyond was new stuff! After a hundred feet or so the passage narrowed down to a tight rift with the stream roaring into it.  The water was now augmented by what seems to be the main flow of the Traligill River pouring into the extension from a slot in the roof, creating a superb 5ft high waterfall.  On a later trip the terminal rift was pushed for 15ft to a clear, diveable sump below a dangerous boulder choke with black spaces visible beyond - a dodgy digging site!

The whole cave was later surveyed by Tony Boycott (BEC/UBSS), Julian Walford (UBSS/GSG) and the writer (GSG/BEC) hence the credits on the survey.  There is potential here for links both up and downstream with other caves in the valley.

Tony Jarratt



Speleo Philippines

Bristol Exploration Club's Third Caving Expedition To The Philippines

Supported by the Sports Council

Please reply to:
Westbury Park
July 11, 1991

Dear Ted,

A couple of points for the next BB please:

  1. Please note my new address above - I shall be here until October.
  2. As many members will already know a small group of us - namely Trebor, Snablet, Jake and myself - are off to the Philippines later this year.  The expedition was planned as a low-key affair with members of the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club with whom I explored and surveyed the country's fourth­longest system last year.

Things have escalated since planning commenced and we ~ now in full partnership with the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines.  Our equipment requirements have expanded to meet the stature of our new partners and, like all serious expeditions; we find that we have to resort to sending out begging letters.

We have promised the NMFP that we will provide them with four sets of personal SRT rigs - i.e. harnesses, jammers, descenders, crabs etc.  I wonder if any of your readers have any of these items surplus to their requirements?  For example, they may have recently up-graded their gear but the old stuff is still serviceable, or maybe they have simply got too old to need it.  Whatever, Speleo Philippines is after bargain-priced and free gear and donors will be rewarded with the knowledge that they have helped and encouraged enthusiastic cavers in an under-privileged nation.

All expedition members will be happy to supply further information to anyone who feels they can help us. What might just be an old crab to you will be a prized possession in the Philippines.



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

1990 - 1991 Committee

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


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

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


St. Cuthberts Swallet

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

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

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

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

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

Joan's address is: -

Joan Bennett.
Nr. Cheddar.


Caving In The Raw

Dave Yeandle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Digging News

Tony Jarratt


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


Wot No B.E.C.

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

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

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

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

1. Edmunds Rift, Wookey Hole.

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

3. Far Sump, Peak Cavern.

4. 700m from base in Malham rising.

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

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

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

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

Bubble, Bubble for now

Robin Brown


Hon Secretary's Report 1990-91

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Grass


The Complete Caver

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


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

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

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


Kangy, 11th September 1991

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


B.B. Editor's Report 1990-91

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

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

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

Ted Humphreys


Hut Engineer’s Report 1990-91

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

everything to excess!

Nigel Taylor


Caving Secretary's Report 1990-91

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

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

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

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

Regards & Good Caving

Jeff Price

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

I.D.M.F.  RULES etc.

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

Purpose :-

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

Conditions :-

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

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

1.                    Who is eligible

2.                    Destinations

3.                    Limit of grant

4.                    Program of work

5.                    Reports

6.                    Future of fund

7.                    Any other business

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

Jeff Price, Caving Secretary.


St. Cuthbert's Swallet Rules

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

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



5th September 1991

Dear BB Editor,

"Belfry Bulletin"

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

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

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

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

Yours, etc

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


Re-Structuring Caving's National Organisation

Bryan Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Nuf said.

September 1991



Andy Sparrow

Belfry Bulletin Editor

Dear Sir,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours faithfully

Andy Sparrow

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

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

1990 - 1991 Committee

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


The BB is late, again – a combination of excuses which I won’t bore you with!!  I’m afraid the synopsis of digs which was promised has note yet arrived.  Jake sloped off to Scotland with a large party of BECites – caving they said.  Perhaps an Article?  This is a larger BB than usual for the time of year thanks to the and a bit page American article that I’ve included.  I’m sure you’ll agree that it was worth it.

At this point I must remind you that any opinions expressed in the editorial are those of the editor and in no way should be taken to reflect those of the committee or of the Club.

The fact is that we seem to have a couple of problems which will, no doubt, be discussed at length at the A.G.M.

The first is non-payment of subs.  This year between twenty and thirty people have not paid, costing the Club at least £400. We always expect some to lose interest or to move away, of course, but it seems that some have discovered that they can pay every other year, say, and still have all the benefits of membership with the possible loss of a couple of BB's during the summer  (A great loss? - spare copies are always available in the library!).  I'm not saying it is deliberate but, whatever the reasons; it makes the job of the Club treasurer, and other members of the committee, very much more difficult and is unfair to those members who always pay on time.

Secondly, the problem of vandalism.  If you read the constitution (Item 7c) you will find that the Belfry and its contents (other than the property of individual members) belongs to the Club and is not the shared property of the members.  The Belfry has always been a fairly boisterous place, especially on Saturday nights, (Sofa Rugby etc.) but it should be remembered that replacements of crockery, furniture and such items usually depends on donations of the items to the Club from individual members.

There have been several examples of what I would call unacceptable vandalism of Club property in recent months.  I shall cite three cases: -

1.                    Using coffee mugs as balls for indoor cricket.

2.                    Chopping up furniture for firewood because the individual concerned thought it looked 'tatty'

3.                    Setting off fire extinguishers 'for fun'.

In the first case, the mugs were replaced, but the person who donated them in the first place will think twice before donating any more.  In the second case, I don't know the outcome but we're always short of seating.  I wonder why?  The third case is more serious as injuries could have been caused to other members.  The person concerned did present the treasurer with a blank cheque to repair the damage but what he probably didn't realise is that if a genuine emergency had occurred and it was found that the Club had, at the time, no useable extinguisher then our insurance policy would probably be invalidated.  I wonder if the blank cheque would have covered the cost of a new Belfry?

I seem to have gone on a bit though I still feel that some comment was needed.  If there are any differing views I will gladly put them in the BB.


Membership Changes

We welcome three new members, who are ;-

New      Karen Ashman. Bury St. Edmunds
1155     Rachel Gregory. Wells. Somerset
New      Brian Hansford. Weeke. Winchester. Hants

We also welcome two members who have rejoined.  Actually Bill rejoined almost a year ago but I had no address!

727       Bill Cooper. Totterdown. Bristol
691       Dudley Stuart Herbert. Corston. Bath.

The following members were either incorrectly listed or have changed their particulars since Christmas.

1082     Robin Brown. Woolavington. Bridgewater. Somerset
827       Mike Cowlishaw.  Micheldever Station. Winchester. Hants
405L     Frank Darbon. Vernon, British Columbia. Canada
704       Dave Metcalfe, Whitwick, Leics.
921       Pete Rose, Crediton, Devon
1067     Fiona Thompson, Stoke Gifford, Bristol
1154     Karen Turvey, Cullompton, Devon
1096     Brian van Luipen. Littlehampton, West Sussex
1061     Kerry Wiggins, Basingstoke, Hants
1031     Mike Wigglesworth, Oldham, Lancashire
477       Ronald Wyncoll, Hinckley. Leics


Simonds Mine. Biddlecomee - a Re-Discovery Feb 1991

Went over to look at a site Graham Johnson had been digging about 10 years ago.  We decided not to continue with this but to excavate a filled shaft in the floor with marks (shot-holes) of the "Old man". Three of us, Graham, Robin Taviner and Vince Simmonds went over on the 12th Feb and cleared about 4ft. of easily removed rocks.  We returned a week later (19.2.91) with a skip and some more muscle power, J'Rat and Rich Blake.  We hadn't been digging long when we made an intriguing discovery, 2 star drills and a slater's hammer with a length of nylon rope and an old, battered biscuit tin. We tried to fit the star drills to some of the shot holes, they didn't fit, and then enlightenment!  Above the pit, barely discernable, was an ancient carbide inscription "BEC DIG" and around a rock "NT 1974". We had found the legendary Nigel Taylor's long lost digging kit.  We had thought of cleaning them up and presenting them to Wells Museum but decided to re-unite them to their owner who was thrilled to see them again which prompted reminiscences of solo digging trips.

The nylon rope came in handy when J'Rat's car (one of Wilfs courtesy numbers) broke down and we had to tow it back to the Hunters, which is happily on the way back to Wilfs garage.

On the 26.2.91 we (Tav. Graham & Vince) reached a solid floor at about 8ft depth and decided that was as far as we could go, so we cleared all our gear out and called it a day.

Meets List

A. Sat May 18th.                       Wookey Hole Evening. 6pm – Belfry.  Leader - Martin Grass.

B. Sat June 15th.                      Penyghent Pot. Yorkshire.  Contact Andy Sparrow.

C. Fri 14th June - Sun 30th June.            France: Pyrenees & Dordogne.  Caving, Walking. Climbing Etc. Contact J.R. Price.

D. P.S.M. July.                         Details from Dany Bradshaw.

E. Sat 17th August.                   Birks Fell Cave.  Yorkshire.

F. Sat 24th. August.                  Otter Hole.  Chepstow.   Names to J.R. Price.

G. 21st September.                   Lost John's.  Yorkshire

H. 16th November.                     Juniper GulfYorkshire

I. 8th December.                       Peak Cavern.  Derbyshire.  Min 15 places - Names to J.R.P rice.

Also Devon weekend July 12th - 14th.  For further details contact Jeff Price.  Tel: 0272 724296

Coming Events

June 1st. Wessex Challenge.  Organised by ACG this year.  The theme is Star Trek and there will be a Starship Race.  The venue is Priddy Village Hall at 7pm.  Price £4 inc. food - tickets from ACG.

30th June - 5th July. N.A.M.H.O. Conference.   Llechwedd Slate Caverns.

13th - 14th July.  British Cave Rescue Conference, Derbyshire.  Contact D Gough, 26 The Lodge, Newthorpe, Notts.

19th 26th August. RESCON  '92.  International Cave Rescue Convention. SWCC Hut, Penwyllt, S. Wales


Rocky Acres Cave

While finishing off the exploration of Skullcap Cave at Chudleigh (see DESCENT Christmas 1990) we began to search for pastures new for evening digs in the same general area. One of the most enticing areas is that to the east and north of Kingsteignton.  Here exists a large enough area of limestone to have developed a karst type drainage pattern with significant vertical differences between sinks and the main rising.  However the landscape has been so modified by man that only juvenile swallets are readily identifiable and digs have so far been unsuccessful.  The many years of effort at Lindridge have so far been un-rewarded.  The only major cave system is the 300 metre long Coombesend Cavern which lies, typically for Devon, in a disused quarry now being used as a waste disposal site.

However above the rising at Rydon (to which the Lindridge water drains) is the disused Rydon Quarry which breached a large cave passage over thirty years ago.  The cave was reputed to contain rifts descending to water level but accounts are sketchy and what remains of the cave lies under 40 feet of overburden dumped during the construction of the nearby by-pass.  A number of small cavities above the old quarry were revealed by top soil stripping and blasting for the by-pass and the land owner John Jones who became fascinated by the story of the original cave has spent six years digging in them.

Assisted by members of the PCG and DSS he concentrated mainly on one cave now dubbed Rocky Acres which by the time we first visited the site last summer had reached a depth of 15 metres and a length of 30 metres.  This was achieved by using a compressor powered rock drill and rock splitting wedges to enlarge the narrow phreatic rift.  What has lured diggers is the draught which the cave possesses plus the fact that although narrow it is still going.  On cold frosty mornings steam billows from the entrance.

Our contribution was to entice an assortment of individuals into blasting through a particularly hard band of limestone at the head of a narrow rift.  Prior to our first visit the cave ended in a wriggle into an excavated pot off which led the rift.  It had been originally approached from an alternative direction by Geoff Chudley and Co. but they had backfilled this to get a more direct route to the bottom. The dig had begun to look so daunting that at that point they had gone elsewhere.  Altogether about 15 visits have been made to the site since last June and the cave has been blasted 8 separate times by members of DSS, BEC and WCC. Rock and spoil removal has been mainly by Pete Rose and myself and members of the Rock House team.

Back filling has been accomplished by using stemples, drystone walling and stabilisation with liquid cement.  As we go deeper removal of spoil for a pair of diggers gets more tricky although there is plenty of room to stack boulders.

By the time we had squeezed into the wider part of the rift the floor was covered in a layer of rubble which was added to by successive bangs, slumping in of back filled material and digging in the wrong place by persons unknown!

However as the spoil and fractured rock was removed tantalising holes in the floor began to appear and the slight draught increased.  The floor now consists of soft mud and water worn boulders which can be removed without blasting and the rift bells out to a width of 3 feet at floor level.

Digging conditions are a lot more pleasant than Skullcap and the site is far more promising.  As we go down it seems to me that the entrance passage is feeding into something much larger and partially choked.  This would seem to support the hypothesis that large phreatic passages should exist near resurgence level.  We are an estimated 20 to 30 feet above the rising, at the bottom of the cave, which puts us very near the estimated level of the original Rydon cave - we are also virtually at or below the original quarry floor level. With a depth potential of 85 metres and 2 km. straight line distance to the furthest feeder sink there ought to be a significant cave underneath us!

Diggers are welcome and tools are on site.  However do not be tempted to climb over the gate from the bypass - cars can be driven to the entrance and John Jones is pleased to welcome bona fide cavers.  To find Rocky Acres drive up Rydon Lane past the primary school into the new housing estate but just before the top of the rise turn right through a wooden gate marked Rocky Acres.

Perhaps we'll see you down there sometime.  Pete and I normally go on Wednesdays.

Peter Glanvill February 1991


Tales from County Cork

I arrived in Cork in October of last year.  My only other visit to Ireland had been a week caving in Fermanagh with Neil and Paul from the RRCPC.  This time was slightly different from that visit as I expect to be spending the next three years over here.  First things first, get in touch with the local cavers.  The only information I had on caves and cavers in the area was Tony Oldhams' Caves of Co. Cork.  I tried ringing one of the people mentioned in the guide, Cian O'Se, after practising pronouncing his name on various people.  He was very helpful and put me in touch with the active members of the Cork Speleology Group (CSG).

One week later and I had a trip arranged down Pollskeheenarinky.  This cave lies east of Mitchelstown, just within the borders of Co. Tipperary.  The situation of this cave is typical of many caves found in the east Munster area, it is in a ridge which runs along a limestone valley with hills of Old Red Sandstone on either side.  One of the other caves found in this ridge is the Mitchelstown show cave, the wild part of which is supposedly well worth a visit if access can be obtained from the owner (he prefers small groups).  This trip as mentioned was my first outing with members of the CSG, a very elusive lot, who when eventually contacted turned out to be a real friendly bunch.  I had arranged to meet them at 11 pm on the Sunday morning.  Most cavers who have visited Ireland have probably noticed the laid back attitude to time, well in this respect these people are the epitomy of Irishness. They turned up at 12 noon and told me this was early!.  Any rate we set off and after getting lost outside of Mitchelstown eventually ended up asking a local farmer for directions.  The man put us right but also added that he had large depressions on his land and asked us if we would take a look and see if there was any cave potential.  He said if there was he would use his JCB to dig the holes out (IR£ signs and show caves could be seen floating in front of his eyes).

The cave entrance to Pollskeheenarinky turned out to be a real classic.  It consisted of an old Wolsey!!.  To go into the cave you opened the back-door, clambered over the front seat and plopped out of the drivers door.  It was put there to stop cows falling down the entrance pitch.  This cave is a real entertaining trip, it is very similar to Mendip caves as throughout the cave the bedding plane slopes away steeply.  A small pitch, lots of scrambling, bridging, crawling and pretty bits, well worth a visit.

Back at work there were a few people showing interest in going caving so we decided to have a short caving trip locally.  Beaumont quarry cave was ideally situated in that it is within the bounds of Cork city.  The trip turned out to be good fun but realistically the cave is a short, smelly, well trodden hole.  This description contrasts completely with Tony Oldhams description in Caves of Co. Cork as small but interesting.  The only small but interesting bit in my opinion was a small pool at the end of the cave which might have potential.  The length of the cave is 400 feet.  When subsequently chatting to some members of CSG they informed me that this pool was just a mud pit that occasionally fills at times of high rainfall.

My next Co. Cork caving trip was down Carricrump quarry caves, these are near Cloyne, south-east of Cork. These eight caves run parallel with the quarry face and it seems that a lot of the system has been quarried away. Just into the entrance of the most easterly cave is quite a deep lake which I think has been dived by some British CDG members quite recently.  The caves are quite entertaining and much more fun in a wetsuit.  There are a few pretty bits, lots of traversing (if you want to stay dry) and some amusing climbs (most of the caves are water floored). My next jaunt with CSG was to Carrigtwohill Quarry Caves approximately 5 miles east of Cork city.  This is where CSG had their most recent breakthrough (last year).  The new cave Carriagtoughil A Do was found in the adjacent quarry to the old Carrigtwohill cave when some brambles were cleared away.  This clearing up revealed a man size entrance leading to a classic Cork caving trip.  The cave hasn't been fully explored yet!  Lots of crawling, scrambling and mud and quite a few formations to gawp at on the way.  The old Carrigtwohill quarry cave is well worth a visit and has numerous attractive bits. The CSG has a fair number of digs in these quarries and I think with some scouting around there is quite a lot to be found.  Another classic Cork caving trip which I haven't been able to do yet, is Cloyne cave.  This is the longest known cave in Cork and from the old survey (a 1990 survey is in the process of being published) is a maze of passages.  Most of the caves that have been found in Cork seem to be in quarries, there is quite a bit of potential about the place as the density of cavers is fairly thin on the ground (there are about five active CSG members).  A CSG member invited me up to north Co. Cork the other day to look at a potential cave site on a farmers land.  The farmer had told him that there was a stream disappearing into a hole and reappearing two miles away, would he go out and have a look?  We were planning to go up on Sunday but due to a job callout we couldn't go.  Hopefully next weekend.


Anyway. if any cavers fancy a look around the area maybe on the way to County Clare or whatever I could provide some information and Cork contacts (not forgetting Irish fiddly music and a good pint of Guinness) and would be interested in any trips planned. I can be contacted at either.

University College Cork, Zoology Dept. Postgraduate laboratory, or by writing

Jane Evans, Cork, EIRE


Ex Climbing Secretary Reports


Ice climb up Priddy Slitter in mid-February, exit from gully onto snow field and dramatic views across Sunny Somerset Level.

Strung out like washing on a line on Glydr Fawr in blizzard beginning of March.  Escaped to be strung out by last minutes of England/Ireland rugby match on radio.

Classic climb "Wil O' the Wisp.  Craig Cywark, Arran.  Hot spring sun, warm rock, shirts off, balmy breeze.  Exhilaratingly unexpected easy line stepping up through the overhang amongst V.S. mess.  Then pioneering scramble following diagonal line up heathery buttress to ridge to summit. Heaven will be like this!

Nullarbor Expedition

Steve Milner is organising a trip to the 12km+ Old Homestead Cave in the Nullarbor Desert, Australia at the end of September 1991. Anyone interested in going can contact him at: - Eden Hills, Australia



Mendip Rescue Organisation

Cave Rescues and Incidents for the Year ending 31st December 1990

A year of bric-a-bac with only three actual cave rescues requiring underground parties. The following table lists all sixteen call-outs received through the Police; half being for overdue parties, mostly for good reasons and needing action.




Thrupe Lane Swallet


Fall, broken leg





Cheddar Cliffs


Fallen cows trapped

( -)




Sally Rift, Warleigh Woods


Missing body, search

( -)




Read's Cavern


Lost, trapped, light failure

( 8)




Longwood Swallet


Overdue party

( -)




Swildon's Hole


Overdue party

( -)




Eastwater Cavern Entrance


Fallen cow trapped

( -)




Shute Shelve Cutting


Crashed motorcycle

( -)




Swildon's Hole


Overdue party

( -)




Swildon’s Hole


Overdue party

( -)






Hospitalised climber

( -)




G.B. Cavern


Overdue party

( -)




Swildon's Hole


Dislocated shoulder

( 7)




Swildon's Hole


Fall, injured ankle

( -)




Spar Pot, East Twin


Overdue party

( -)




Dallimore's Cave


Presumed overdue

( -)

The figures in brackets to the right show the numbers of cavers going underground on the rescue incidents.  This data has been required for insurance purposes in the past.  It is worth noting that insurance cover is not provided for people involved on the surface nor when recovering trapped animals.  The following log of each call-out has been compiled from the notes made by the wardens in control.  Full details are given as MRO believes that it can be misleading to simplify the causes.

Saturday 13th January                            Thrupe Lane Swallet

Martin Scott, aged 28, from Aylesbury descended to the bottom of the cave with a well equipped and experienced party of six from a geophysical research firm in the Swindon area.  He had done the least caving before and it was his first time on long ladder pitches underground.  On ascending Atlas Pot at about 2.30 p.m., he fell about twenty feet onto a fortuitous ledge and broke his leg.  He also damaged a wrist.  The lifeline only slowed his fall because the incorrectly rigged Stitch Plate belay gave way under the strain.

One of the party left the cave to raise the alarm through Mrs Butt.  Yeovil Police alerted Brian Prewer at 3.30 p.m.  Dany Bradshaw and rescuers from both the Belfry and Upper Pitts were called.  All left for the cave with basic equipment.  Richard West was contacted at 3.35 p.m. to take over surface control and organise further rescuers and hauling gear.  Dr Tony Boycott was informed.  Eric Dunford set up communications links between the surface and underground parties with Brian Prewer.

Rescuers entered the cave at 4.15 p.m.  Dany Bradshaw, Nick Williams, Dave Hilder, Pete Evans, Mike Wilson, Jeremy Henly, Richard Blake, Richard Stevens, Chris Harvey, Nick Gymer and Sara McDonald carried in the First Aid and hauling equipment.  Duncan Frew and Pete Hann went down with the Grunterphone.  The patient was reached by about 4.40 p.m. and communication established soon afterwards. Tony Boycott and Rob Harper were accompanied underground by Tony Jarratt at 4.50 p.m.

The patient was found to be in fair condition and able to do a lot to help himself.  However, he was large and so a long haul out was anticipated. A back-up team assembled outside the farm comprising Stewart McManus, Nigel Taylor, Tim Large, Trevor Hughes and Ian Caldwell.  Richard Witcombe and Clive North turned up and opened their diggers' hut as a refuge. Soups were heated at the Belfry by Anne West, Hilary Wilson and Glenys Grass then ferried to the cave by Helen Harper and Joss Large.  Further rescuers stood by at the Belfry and their homes.  The local Police provided flood lights on the road.  Nick Woolf of the Ambulance service attended so that his crews could be radioed when needed rather than waste valuable time hanging around. A freelance reporter turned up and was given the basic facts by Jim Hanwell.

Martin Scott was reported as being at the top of Atlas Pot by 5.55 p.m.  He reached the head of Perseverance Pot at 6.55 p.m. and was out of the cave by 7. 40 p.m.  The ambulance left for the Royal United Hospital, Bath, five minutes later.  Those left to clear up managed to make the Hunters just before closing time!  When a lot of gear is used, it takes a long time to clear up.  Many useful lessons were learnt from this incident and Martin's "thank you" letters soon afterwards were much appreciated.

Sunday 4th February                 Cheddar Cliffs

Two yearling cows belonging to Cheddar farmer Ian Cambridge slipped down the cliffs behind the Wishing Well Tea Rooms at the bottom of the Gorge and became trapped in the 15 ft by 3 ft slot between the buildings and bluff.  Cheddar Fire Brigade were first alerted and suggested calling MRO.  The farmer concerned lets his animals roam, much to the annoyance of some villagers.  Cavers have helped before by recovering his goats off cliffs.

Taunton Police requested assistance from Brian Prewer at 9.30 a.m.  A team comprising Fred Davies, Nigel Taylor, Dany Bradshaw, Chris Harvey, Graham Wilton-Jones, Chris Smart, Martin Grass and Stuart Lain went to the scene with hauling tackle.  By cunning use of bales of straw and ropes, the reluctant yearlings were lifted onto the flat roof, tied to metal farm gates and lowered down a pre-constructed ramp to the open road.  The task was completed by 12.30 p.m., and everyone seemed happy, save for one ungrateful beast who shat upon Nigel for his trouble!  No "thank you" has been forthcoming from the farmer either.

Sunday11th March                                 Sally Rift, Warleigh Woods

The Police at Bath were checking out the possibility that the body of the missing woman, Ruth Stevens, was somewhere in these woods near Bathford.  Old stone mine workings associated with Sally Rift occur in the area and Bob Scamnell volunteered to check the known sites.  He was accompanied by Nick McCamley, Derek Hawkins and John Greenslade.  

A thorough two-hour search of every old shaft and rift was undertaken but nothing untoward found.

Sunday 1st April                                    Read’s Cavern

Eleven members of the Golders Green venture scouts from London descended the cave at about mid-day.  The suitably equipped party was led by Jim Rands and supported by Dave Morrison; both highly experienced members of the Wessex Cave Club. On reaching the Main Chamber, several then decided to return to the surface and were escorted out.  Whilst this was happening, Pete Wilkinson, Julia Waxman and Samira Abbas, aged seventeen, decided to explore Zed Alley without telling anyone.  Wilkinson was unable to follow the two slim girls when they forced several squeezes beyond the boulder ruckle.  He stayed to guide their return to the ruckle, but then left the cave ahead. For some reason, the girls did not follow.  Once out of earshot, they became lost and scared.

The missing pair failed to surface behind Wilkinson and he was unable to describe where he had left them. Jim Rands made a rapid search of the regular routes in vain.  He requested help and Brian Prewer received the call from Yeovil Police at 4.15 p.m. Nigel Taylor was contacted at Langford and reached the cave to establish surface control by 4.45 p.m.  Rescuers from Priddy had to run the gauntlet of heavy holiday traffic in Burrington Combe.

Pete Hann, Ian Marchant, Tony Deacon and Jim Rands went into the cave at 4.48 p.m. to search Zed Alley as now the most likely location for the missing pair given the earlier search by Jim.  Brian Prewer, Andy Sparrow and Martin White arrived shortly afterwards in support and communications were established with the Belfry through Stewart McManus and Chris Harvey should further rescuers and equipment prove necessary.  Andy and Martin went down the cave at 5 p.m. to check out the less likely Browne-Stewart Series.

The missing girls were soon located at the bottom of the boulder ruckle and reported to be well but rather cold and frightened at 5.15 p.m.  They were given food and drinks to boost their morale.  Alison Moody arrived at 5.25 p.m. and stood by.  All were safely out of the cave by 6.12 p.m. Needless to say, those concerned showed their gratitude in many ways, not least back at the Hunters!

Saturday 28th April                                Longwood Swallet

Yeovil Police contacted Fred Davies at 11.22 p.m. to say that a woman from Keynsham had reported an overdue party.  She described the car being used.  Brian Prewer was asked to drive to Longwood to check whether the cavers were still underground.  Other rescuers, including Stewart McManus, were stood by at Priddy.

No car was found at Longwood.  Meanwhile, the informant contacted the Police again at 11.40 p.m. to say that all the party had returned home.  After all, it takes about forty minutes to reach Keynsham from Mendip after closing time!

Thursday 31st May                                Swildon’s Hole

Brian Prewer was contacted by Yeovil Police at 1.45 a.m.  They reported that a party from Beaminster, Dorset, was overdue from a trip to Sump One as they had been expected home at 11.30 p.m. The girlfriend of one of the cavers had raised the alarm from a call box in Dorset but could provide no further information.

Leaving the Police to try and obtain more details about any vehicles used, Brian went to check for any parked on the greens in Priddy.  All likely places were empty.  The Police were told later that the caver concerned had got home at 2.36 a.m.  It takes even longer to reach Beaminster from Mendip after closing tine, of course!

Monday 16th July                                   Eastwater Cavern Entrance

Mrs Dorothy Gibbons rang Brian Prewer for assistance to retrieve a heifer stuck in a narrow gully on the cliffs above the cave entrance.  He requested help from Fred Davies, Andy Sparrow, Pete Moody and a party staying at the Belfry, including Ray Mansfield with a visiting Czechoslovakian couple.  By chance, the husband, Jan Sencer, was a vet!

Mr Gibbons and his family had managed to get a heavy rope around the animal's neck to a JCB on the cliff top.  The heifer did not like this.  Being more familiar with such problems in Czechoslovakia, no doubt, Jan descended the cliff and succeeded in getting a tape halter over the head with help from Fred.  Two more tape slings were passed around the front legs. Jan’s wife acted as interpreter for the hauling instructions, given in Czechoslovakian, for which we do not have much call on Mendip.

The heifer was soon lifted about 10 feet to safety suffering from surprise, a few cuts and bruises, and a lame leg.  But it did not shit on anyone, which is a great compliment to Jan's "bedside" manner and expertise.  Mr and Mrs Gibbons were especially grateful and appreciative.

Monday 23rd July                                   Shute Shelve Cutting

Brian Prewer received a call from Taunton Police at 5 p.m. requesting assistance to investigate a crashed motorcycle.  It had been abandoned in the disused railway cutting on its approach to the old tunnel between Axbridge and Winscombe and was lodged in bushes about 30 feet above a sheer cliff.  There was the possibility that an injured rider was in the vicinity below.

Brian, Nigel Taylor, Rich West and Dany Bradshaw went to the scene with ropes.  Nigel abseiled to the motorcycle and attached a hauling line for it to be pulled up by the others.  No person was found and the incident was over by 7 p.m.

Sunday 19th August                   Swildon’s Hole

Ian Butcher rang Brian Prewer at 1 a.m. to say that a party was overdue by about four hours according to the notice board in the Shepton Mallet Hut.  A group from Guildford had not returned there.  After making enquiries, it was discovered that the party had been based elsewhere on Mendip.  They had only called in at the Shepton Hut on their way to the cave, but left directly for Guildford without cancelling their notice!  The Police were not informed of this incident.

Friday 31st August                                 Swildon’s Hole

Force Control in Bristol alerted Brian Prewer at 5.45 p.m. to an overdue party of Wiltshire Police from Swindon that should have returned there at 4.30 p.m.  He checked out both village greens to see if the reported car being used by the cavers was still there.  It was not. At 6.45 p.m., the Police called again to say that they had got it wrong as the trip was to take place the next day!

Sunday 2nd September              Alert

A caver abseiling at Underwood (or "Split Rock") Quarry near Wookey Hole was concussed and so admitted overnight to Wells and District Hospital.  He was worried that other members of his group staying in the MCG Cottage at Nordrach might callout MRO when he failed to return there.  The Police were informed and they advised Brian Prewer of the situation.  Brian then contacted the cottage to let those concerned know what had happened.

Saturday 6th October                 G.B. Cavern

Yeovil Police contacted Brian Prewer just after midnight to report an overdue party expected out at least two hours earlier.  Shortly afterwards, the informant reported that the four cavers concerned had turned up. They had been delayed on entering the cave and then could not find a telephone box on getting out late.

Saturday 6th October                 Swildon' s Hole

The Police alerted Brian Prewer at 2.50 p.m.  Miss Ceili Williams, aged 24, was caving with an Oxford University Caving Club party and dislocated her shoulder in Barnes’ Loop.  Apparently, this had happened to her before, though not whilst caving.  A strong BEC contingent was called out from their AGM.  Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork and Stewart McManus organised the underground team, Nigel Taylor stood by at the Belfry and Tim Large took over surface control on Priddy Green.  Dr Tony Boycott was asked to attend.

Pete McNab, Kevin Garner and Nick Gyner formed the advance party with First Aid, comforts, the baby-bouncer, lifeline and ladder.  They entered the cave at 3.10 p.m., only twenty minutes after receiving the callout. Tony Boycott and Graham Naylor closely followed them.  Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork and Stewart McManus left at 3.32 p.m.  Wessex Cave Club diggers from Cow Hole arrived in support. Entenox was obtained from the Ambulance in attendance and Don Thomson provided a demand valve

At 4.15 p.m. a message was received that Tony Boycott had succeeded in relocating the shoulder and the patient was on the way out, mainly helping herself.  She surfaced at 4.51 p.m. and it was considered that no further treatment to her shoulder was required.

Wednesday 24th October                       Swildon’s Hole

Yeovil Police informed Brian Prewer at 10.25 p.m. that a report of an injured caver had been received. They had no further details of the injuries or of the location in the cave; so, the informant herself was sought out on Priddy Green.  She explained that John Swift from Weston-s­Mare had fallen at the Double Pots and injured his ankle.  There was some concern because the person hurt had a pace-maker.

A rescue party was assembled from the Hunters, including Dr Tony Boycott.  Many stood by.  On arriving at Priddy Green, they were confronted by the patient limping along the road.  A rapid about turn ensued!

Wednesday 24th October                       Spar Pot, East Twin

Brian Prewer was alerted by Yeovil Police at 11.40 p.m. because a party of three from the Swindon area had not returned when expected.  Nigel Taylor was raised to see if any car was still parked at East Twin in Burrington Combe.  None was found in a likely place.  At half-past midnight, the Police rang again to say that the party had returned safely to Wiltshire.  It appears that someone misunderstood the callout procedures.

Wednesday 31st October                       Dallimore’s Cave

The farmer at Ores Close Farm became concerned because a car belonging to cavers he knew, who had gone underground the previous evening at 7 p.m., was still at the farm sixteen hours later.  Yeovil Police informed Brenda Prewer just after 11 a.m. and she advised Brian at work in Wells.  Tony Jarratt was contacted and able to provide a simple explanation, much to everyone's relief.

Oxford University cavers had been surveying the new extensions to the system the previous evening, had come out late then returned very early the following morning to continue the task.  They had understandably not bothered the farmer in the small hours.  No further action was taken.

J. D. Hanwell Honorary Secretary and Treasurer Wookey Hole Wells


Under England's Mountains Green

The article that follows was lifted from The Florida Speleologist. Vol. 27, No.3, Fall, 1990

by William Sibley-Dem~ NSS 23516

I didn't think as we stepped on the plane that I would have many opportunities to get underground during my vacation this past August.  My wife Laura and I were married about a year ago, shortly before moving from Pennsylvania to the vast, still only partly explored karst landscape of Central Florida.  Now I was finally going to meet my in-laws, all of whom live in the south of England and none of whom are cavers.  The night I first met Laura, I showed her some of the photos that I helped Ed McCarthy and Carl Samples take in the big caves of West Virginia -- Friars Hole, Organ, Buckeye Creek.  She must have been impressed.  One of our first dates was a trip back to the waterfall in Casparis Cave (Fayette Co., PA).  She was unusually quiet inside.  While walking the mile back to the car, in the rain, she said "I've never felt so grotty in all my life".  She later confessed to being a bit claustrophic.  She married me anyway, and knew she was marrying a Caver.  We were married above ground.

Anyway, Laura hadn't been home to see her family in nine years, so we just figured on spending three weeks establishing (for me) and re-establishing (for her) family ties with no firm itinerary.  I did manage to do a bit of research on the side, though, and packed along a few recent issues of Descent and Caves and Caving.  Thus I was armed with addresses of caving clubs, in case I found myself near any caves with time on my hands.

Naturally, we spent a lot of our time relaxing in domestic surroundings with family and old (new) friends. We stayed with Laura's sister, Ann, who lives in Uckfleld, East Sussex, on the River Uck, which flows through the lovely South Downs into the Ouse (pronounced "ooze"). Here there are few proper caves -- mostly medieval storm drains, disused railway tunnels, mysterious prehistoric chalk mines and "deneholes", hermits' grottos, and the occasional 280 foot deep Roman well.  Many are associated with wonderful old legends (although, some times, it seems that smuggling must have been the primary industry at some point in history). All have been carefully mapped and documented by groups like the Chelsea Speleological Society ... whose defination of "caves" might be "circumscribed, air filled void, explorable (subterranean)" .

Actually there are a few solution caves in the chalk, including Beachy Head Cave with over 1,100 feet of crawlway, but these are rare and invariably small.  Cavers without caves will push anything dark though.  Growing up in Pennsylvania I found culverts under the highways that were pretty long.  We have a different dilemma here in Florida where unchecked sinkholes greatly outnumber cavers and it's hard to get a mapping party together to mop up a few sandy crawls in a known cave because of the lure of finding something like Briar Cave, The Catacombs, or Warren Cave under the next hole down the road.

The natives have been caving in Britain for a long time (King Arthur is rumoured to be waiting to make his reappearance in some hidden chamber and, who knows, Caesar may have toured some show caves after the invasion) and the easy discoveries have already been made.  Florida is new to speleology.  Our cave legends have to do with things like Johnny Weissmuller swimming into Ocala Caverns and coming up at Silver Springs during the filming of "Tarzan and the Lost City".  But to get back to my story.  Between hikes and day trips to sip wine in the shade of centuries-old oaks surrounded by roe deer near stately homes in the countryside, we learned to identify unfamiliar birds, go hedgehog spotting, play cricket, and spin on spinning wheels. Laura's sister Ann spins all of Paul McCartney's wool.  (He keeps sheep you know.)  Linda McCartney phoned one evening while we were there.

I got my first good look at limestone when we drove west to visit Laura's brother, Roy, in the quiet village of Combe Martin on the rugged north coast of Devon.  Here, under prehistoric tumuli-studded foggy moors, we found the remains of the ancient silver mines that some believe were first worked by the Phoenicians.  Be that as it may, we had a smashing time wandering about the coast with it's dramatically tilted Devonian (of course) Limestones and Shales thrusting into the crashing surf, picking up “cuttlebones”, and chatting with seaweed collectors.  There are a number of fine littoral caves in this area, reportedly much used by the old smugglers, but many are accessible only by boat.  There is one small entrance in Lester Point that is easily visible from the pebble beach of Combe Martin Bay.  It is not marked on the "Pathfinder' topographic map, or even listed in Tony Oldham's "The Complete Caves of Devon" (which I acquired for my library).  Roy describes it as a fine place in which to hide and surprise curious beachcombers, but high tide: prevented us exploring it ourselves.

I asked some older locals about a cave shown on the map half-way between the partly thirteenth century church and the old rectory on Clorridge Hill, but they said that the entrance had been covered up by recent construction.  I had no way of knowing at the time that just west of the village on top of Napp's Hill, above Golden Bay, is Napp's Cave -- the longest and most exquisitely decorated cave in the district -- full of unbroken helictites and big clusters of irregular branch-like aragonite crystals locally referred to as "flos-ferre".  Nor did I know that in Buckfastleigh, south-east of Dartmoor, is the William Pengelly Cave Studies Centre, situated on the edge of the greatest concentration of caves in Devon, some of which contain the richest deposits of interglacial mammalian remains yet found in Britain.  Oh well, I'll be better prepared next time.  On the way back to Sussex we drove right around the Mendip Hills that I had read so much about.  I remember pointing out the window and saying, "Somewhere over there is Wookey Hole, and Swildon's, and Eastwater."  No one with me knew what I was talking about.

Two thirds of our stay went by and I still hadn't gotten underground.  I was having trouble concealing the symptoms of "cave withdrawal syndrome" and hadn't even a lump of carbide to sniff.  I cleverly suggested a trip to the town of Wells to see the magical old cathedral and it's wells (springs).  I could at least touch some real cave water.  Also I knew that there was a caving shop nearby to which I could escape and talk cave with someone.  I rang up "Bat Products" as soon as we arrived and went over straight away. Outside was what once must have been a sort of Land Rover, but was now a vehicle shaped collection of cave bumper stickers and decals.  I knew I had found the right place.  Inside was Mr. Tony (J-Rat) Jarratt, Proprietor, Caver, and Model (he appears dynamically posed in exposure suits on many Bat Products adverts).  He looked to me like a dreamy­eyed Mitch Miller after a cold rinse cycle.  Tony was about to close up shop and head into the hills for the afternoon, but we chatted for a while and exchanged Bulletins.  I said I was going to wander around town for a bit with the family and he invited us up to the Hunters' Lodge, "the best pub in the Universe", to meet the rest of his brood -- the Bristol Exploration Club (BEC).

Caving Areas of Great Britain

After seeing the "wells", a resurgence in the garden of the Bishop's Palace in the shade of the great cathedral, we made our way to Cheddar Gorge with its fine limestone cliffs and show caves.  We found it a busy place full of tourist types, but a good opportunity to get our whole party underground.  Gough's Cave is nicely lit, well decorated, and tastefully guided by disembodied voices. Later, we retreated to the top of Cheddar Gorge (a perfectly wizard spot for knadgering about) to picnic and "down a few tubes".

We arrived at the infamous Hunters' Lodge Inn, Priddy, shortly after it opened for the evening. We found it surrounded by all manner of caving vehicles and at the centre of a migration of slightly damp-looking shapes on foot coming over the hilltops from all points.  Inside it was practically standing (crawling or chimneying) room only.  Over the fireplace hung a collection of carbide lamps, above the bar a row of tankards with Bertie the Bat Insignias on their well worn sides.  From one room seemed to radiate the unmistakable sounds of Morris Dancing to fiddle -- but this may have been hallucination or mass hysteria caused by the dense concentration of cavers.  

The first order of business was, of course, to obtain from the barman (also a caver) a pint of the best -- "Butcombe Bitter" -- a spunky, aggressive bit of foam that rewards repeated, if not continual consumption.

We soon found Tony, who took us round to meet the remaining members of the BEC (whose mottos are "Everything to Excess" and "The BEC Get Everywhere") the Wessex Cave Club (who seem to have just come from a tea party), the Shepton Mallet Cave Club, the CSS, MCG, and MNRC, etc.  All flock to the Hunters' when not digging in the dark.  Digging and singing are common amongst cavers on Mendip, digging in shakeholes and crawlways because most caves and nearly all new finds were first entered that way, and singing mostly in the Hunters' Lodge after being revitalized by a healthy dose of Butcombe's.  Sadly, this is slowly declining (the singing not the drinking). Storytelling is alive and well amongst cavers everywhere, and I took my turn telling of adventure under West Virginia and Florida.  At one point someone said, "Have we got a trip for you!", and it was proposed that I accompany the BEC the following morning on a descent of Saint Cuthbert's Swallet to remove the inadequate pump from Sump Two.  It sounded a sporting trip and hardly one to be passed up.  Laura had no reservations about leaving me in such hands and she soon departed for Southampton with friends.  I hadn't planned on an overnight stay and so was without so much as a toothbrush or change of clothes.

After exhausting the Pubs's consumables, we retired to the Belfry, the "hut" that the BEC maintains as their digs.  It is one of six such club headquarters on Mendip that stand ready to accommodate any number of local cavers and visitors.  I rode over with Tony; listening to Vivaldi Concertos under an incredibly stary sky.  The Belfry is easily recognized as the building with the human skeleton mounted as if climbing the flag pole from which hangs a red bat flag, perpetually at half-mast.  Inside were benches and bunks for dozens of troglophiles, an extensive library and communications centre, kitchen; shower, and meeting room with decorated by show caves 'round the world, and many appropriate (if sometimes out of context) signs and warnings like "It is forbidden to climb on these walls", and a caution about explosive bolts on the toilet seat.  One wall sported a partially completed heroic mural depicting intrepid twentieth century explorers in characteristic poses (Butcombes' in hand). Altogether comfortably like a well­equipped West Virginia Fieldhouse.

The Belfry

Tales were told and I learned much about the local style, which occasionally includes the judicious art of passage modification in the interest of science and exploration -- with explosives.  The euphemisms have only begun to be catalogued: Bang, Wonder Hammer, Chemical Encouragement or Persuasion, Boulder Laxative, etc. Some told stories of great doings in the huge, Welsh systems.

Apparently a few industrious individuals have spent up to two months a year underground (in ten day stretches) pushing and digging in caves under Mynydd Llangattwg.  I brought out my best snaps (yes, I am never without my briefcase) and entertained with tales of Florida Safari Style Caving - about being chased by Cape Buffalo into caves only to run into trogloxenic alligators in close quarters.  Eventually, the sound of an empty barrel being thumped signalled the time for a period of unconsciousness before the morning's activities.

The Mendip Hills upon which we slept consist of four great domes that have been eroded to form a gently rolling plateau almost 100 square miles in area and about 800 feet high on average.  A few valleys and gorges (as at Cheddar) are incised into the rim.  Virtually all drainage is subterranean.  In the steeply-dipping limestone, this has produced a profusion of caves typified by precipitous tight rifts, wet pitches, high gradient roaring streamways, and lower down, sumps requiring SCUBA or, in some cases, extraordinary bravado.  The local chemistry provides for a plethora of calcitic - enhancement in many a stal-covered grotto.

 “ England’s Mountains Green" have been a bit brown of late due to two consecutive years of unprecedented drought.  The drought has eased the cavers' labours somewhat, but certainly didn't dry up these caves completely, as I would soon find out.

Everyone was up at a surprisingly decent hour (for cavers) and there commenced a quiet flurry of preparatory activity as trips were registered on the blackboard with their estimated times of emergence.  Tony appeared with a lovely selection of gear to equip me with.  I crawled into my grots and kit, all of which miraculously fit perfectly, and fortunately did not include a weighty pair of "wellies". I had dreaded the prospect of being presented a pair of Wellingtons and having to cave/climb in what I imagined to be something like fireman's boots.  I had somehow managed to never have been caving in a wet suit, and I knew this was the time to try it.  I am thin and used to Florida's temperatures.  Kitted up (and looking fairly butch in black foam) we walked the short distance to the vertical cement pipe that marks the only entrance to Saint Cuthbert's Swallet (dramatic chord here).

Mural in progress  BEC Belfry

St. Cuthbert's is a far too recent discovery for the seventh century monk to have been involved in its penetration.  Actually, apart from my own cleverly forged mock manuscript, there is no evidence that he was a caver at all, although he did excavate a partially underground home for himself on the Isle Faroe during one of his antisocial periods.  The cave is named for the ancient St. Cuthbert's Lead Works which lie above it.  This mine is thousands of years old and may actually have been a significant factor in the Romans' decision to invade Britain.  It probably supplied the lead plumbing, for the famous Roman spa in the nearby town of Bath. Later, in 1927, the sudden disappearance of the sizeable, St. Cuthbert's Pool, and the occurrence of a large collapse ten years later confirmed for modern explorers the suspicion that significant passage lay below.

Digging began in the 1940's and was finally rewarded when the entrance series was breached in 1953 to reveal the most complex cave system on Mendip.  At over 2,200 feet, it is second in length only to Swildon's Hole. Major discoveries came fairly regularly through the '50's and '60's with the once terminal sump, (Sump One), being conquered in 1969.  A map of known passage was published in 1972.  Subsequent work has been on the production of a CRG Grade 6d survey, forming the basis of the soon to be published "Saint Cuthbert's Report", and a determined effort to, pass Sump Two.  This is a major project, involving the construction of a system of dams in the streamways to lower the water in the sump where divers have been digging for ten years in a slurry of mud and water.  Periodically, the pent-up water is released all at once to flush through the sump.  The water that St. Cuthbert's swallows reappears in Wookey Hole, a mile or more to the south.  Our task on August 27, 1990 was to descend and effect a removal of the inadequate and mud choked pump from Sump Two and to and be back to the surface before the pub closed for the afternoon.

Unlike a trip into Swildon's, the going gets easier the deeper you go in the St. Cuthbert's system, but that makes for a good bit of sport at the top.  Waiting your turn to climb down the pipe, you can't help noticing that the exposed limestone outcrop dips at about a 45 degree angle. You can follow that line a long way down in your imagination.  The fifteen foot climb through the pipe is an abrupt transition to the underground environment.  Within moments we were presented with our first (and later our - last) obstacle, the Entrance Rift.  Those ahead of me disappeared into a narrow crack in the bottom of a small chamber and called up when they were though.  A shadowy face told me where the best place to start was.  I climbed down and slipped myself into the 30 foot deep vertical slot.  A cable ladder hung to one side but was of little use, there simply was no room to climb. Sandwiched between well worn walls, the dilemma was not how to go down, but how to go down at some controlled rate. Every conceivable body surface was used in a sort of ropeless body rappel, the most interesting part being the narrow middle section where there was hardly enough room to flex my legs to form a wedge.  This can get a bit dodgy when a lot of water is cascading down the crack.  Everyone wonders on their first trip down how they will fair going against gravity on their way out.  Being in close contact with the walls reminded me how cold, dark, and hard limestone can be, not at all like the porous, white, rock I had gotten used to after caving for a year in Florida.  Clambering rather awkwardly, for the first time in a wet suit, over and through boulder ruckle quickly brought me to a 25 foot drop and the first of four heavy steel ladders that have been put into place with what must have been great effort.

It is not common practice on Mendip to fill wild caves with mechanical contrivances of convenience, nor is St. Cuthbert's being made into a sort of show cave.  The cave is almost unheard of outside Britain and because of its complexity and difficulty is in near pristine condition and not much trafficked.  Access is carefully controlled by the BEC on behalf of the landowners.  Trips are limited to small groups of experienced explorers led by one of about 25 designated leaders.  The construction of semi-permanent ladders on a few of the many pitches near the entrance was deemed acceptable to facilitate the difficult ongoing project of exploration and mapping in this complex system.  I am told I am probably the only person to have made a trip into St. Cuthbert's Swallet as my first trip underground on Mendip.

We decided in the breakdown-littered Arête Chamber to forego the "New Route" with it's impressive but time consuming 60 foot abseil of Pulpit Pitch and took the quicker "Old Route" through an exhilarating (and somewhat disorienting) sequence of climbs and traverses.  I nearly lost my sense of direction -- except for one: we were going downwards, relentlessly and precipitously.  The "Wire Rift" began as a narrow canyon going straight down­dip, and is traversed on steep damp ledges.  "This will be a bit of exercise on the way out", I thought.  Then I was chimneying out over the deep dark space of the Waterfall Pitch and Wet Pitch (where there used to be a steel wire for a handline) and appreciating the occasional word of advice on what not to do from my guides up ahead.  A few horizontal moves and a climbdown brought us to the ladder into Mud Hall, where routes again diverge in many directions.  We elected to climb up into the Pillar Chamber, well hung with stal and featuring a splendid calcite column.  From there an interesting climb-down through a slot took us through some low passage that was soon deepened by a vadose trench.  Where it widened again, we stopped to drink from a cold tin cup that is left under a trickle of fresh falling water.

I paused to look around and realized that we had emerged into a large breakdown room.  This was the top of the Boulder Chamber, one of the largest rooms in the cave, and we were taking a break under Kanchenjunga, a mountain of a block of stone that had come to rest on the floor.  The Belfryites enjoyed pointing out to me the many openings that we had passed that led off to extensive series of passage networks.  The Boulder Chamber is a major central landmark for exploration in all directions.  We had made good time so far, so they decided to show me a few of the nearby sights. On the south side of the room we approached the "Cascade", an immense wall of pure white, convoluted organ-pipe type flowstone about a hundred feet high!  Not far away I climbed up a slope into the bottom of a room whose decorated walls rose high out of sight.  I crouched directly beneath an amazing display of dripstone draperies, 'many at least 20 feet long and possibly the finest collection of calcite curtains in the U.K.  Nowhere did I see even a single formation broken by carelessness or malice.

Exiting the bottom of Boulder Chamber past "Everest", another huge block, brought us finally to the Main Stream. This meanders for a few hundred feet beneath the Rabbit Warren Series to Stalagmite Pitch.  We avoided the 25 foot drop by chimneying down between flowstone walls and crawled into Sewer Passage -- a low gradient muddy section of streamway. Here another stream adds itself to the flow, the passage turns south and becomes a nice rift that is soon nearly blocked by massive flowstone, which we climbed to enter the Beehive Chamber with it's namesake, a 20 foot high stalagmitic mound.  On the far side of the room we climbed a smooth rounded stal slope with the aid of a heavy chain anchored at the top and was rewarded with one of the most dramatic vistas St. Cuthbert's has to offer.  We stood on the brow of the Great Gour of Gour Hall -- a monstrous rimstone dam 20 feet high!  Above rose a high Aven [dome] almost filled with formations.  Below, the awesome cascade of calcite plunged steeply into the Great Gour Rift, a high stream washed canyon stretching straight into the darkness beyond.

Dwarfed by proportion gone mad, we carefully descended the face of the Great Gour and set off, splashing down the echoing canyon.  The cold water deepened as we approached a dam constructed across the stream to increase the airspace through the once impenetrable Sump One.  We left the rapidly diminishing rift and entered a cobbly crawl on hands and knees for the first time in the frigid water.  This became a flat-out crawl through the sump with a comfortable amount of air space.  Far from the warm daylight above we arrived in the impressive High Rift Passage of St. Cuthbert's 2 -- the world beyond the sump.

I was assured as we splashed and occasionally swam through delightful, high, gently sloping clean canyon that so far no one had as yet encountered alligators in the remote wet passages beyond Sump One.  I was much relieved because at this point my hands were really too numb for wrestling with giant reptiles.  Our progress was occasionally slowed by crawls in the streambed under flowstone chokes and: sporting climbs down waterfalls to invigorating plunges into deep pools.  Swimming became the most common means of travel as we approached the Aswan High Dam -- an impressive bit of work and quite a feat of shoestring engineering this far down.  A scramble over the wall of the dam to get out of the chilling water and we reached the now terminal Sump Two, that even today is being silted up by particulate debris washed down from the ancient lead works nearly 500 feet above on the surface.


Maps taken from: Mendip Underground: A Caver's Guide, 1977; Mendip Pub., Somerset, England

The relative inactivity while work was completed at the terminal pool was enough to set me to shivering once or twice despite the well-fitted wet suit (and they say the water in Welsh caves is twice as cold!).  This crew would just love skinny dipping in Blue Canyon or Briar Cave, I thought.  It wasn't long before the pump was out and we were retracing our steps, swims, crawls, and climbs, toward the surface so far above. Behind each dam, some poor sod was talked into diving down to pull the plug, to the sound of much cheering and applause just audible above the thunderous din of the escaping water.  Out of the blue (actually black) I heard, "How about a game of catch then?", and we began passing an American football back and forth to liven up the long swims in the downstream end of the cave.  I never did find out where the pigskin appeared from, or whether this was a traditional Mendip pastime or something planned to help me feel at home.

A few of us stayed in the stream passage up past the Boulder Chamber to climb the thinly-bedded walls of the Water Shute toward the Pulpit Pitch on the " New Route".  The drop itself not being rigged, we back-tracked to a climb up into Mud Hall and the beginning of the return thrutch up the steep ledges of the Wire Rift -- the sort of not quite vertical caving, requiring no SRT, that is common on Mendip but rare in my own personal experience.  I was probably mildly hypothermic and less efficient in my climbing than the Bellfryites ahead of me.  I know I was fighting the unfamiliar restrictive wet suit and using my arms too much.  I'm sure that I lagged behind the advancing column at times, but was never without a patient route finder.  The occasional rigid steel ladder provided a welcome means of expeditious vertical progress. From the Arête Chamber, we took a quick break before the final push to day light, and went over to peer down the 60 foot Pulpit Pitch for one last glimpse into the depths.

My friends in the BEC won't forgive me if I don't admit to being suitably knackered as I looked up the long anticipated final effort of the Entrance Rift.  Once in the slot, I managed a sort of halting abrasive wriggle by alternately advancing my knee caps, shoulder blades, and chin against the rock, with periodic gropes for the cable ladder.  Halfway up I heard the sound of approaching water as the flood gates at the entrance were opened to provide a final bit of interest.  A slow blur of cold stone and hot sweat and my small momentum carried me right up the entrance pipe to birdsong and sunlight. It should here be recorded that during this particular trip down St. Cuthbert's, not a single living alligator was spotted by any living member of the team in any passage whatever ... again. [Lest this reference to alligators seem odd to some readers the editor notes that the author has a very disconcerting habit of confronting large vertebrates, both above and belowground.  Anyone who can find an African Cape Buffalo in Levy County, Florida could find alligators in England. Ed.]

Back at the Belfry we untrussed our grots, stowed our kit, and without even towelling off, sped straight to the Hunter's for pints of Butcombe's and plates of Faggot and Peas. That afternoon I spent rooting about amongst the ruins of the old lead works and reading "The Caver's Tale" by Geoffrey Chaucer.  (Sorry. Actually, I found out that Thomas Hardy did write a novel about caving: "Our Exploits at West Poley" -- a children’s book and certainly not one of his best efforts).  We all found ourselves later at the Hunter's (of course) for an evening of balladry and the telling of stories about doing everything to excess - everywhere.  After spending a restful night in my choice of bunks high in the Belfry, I re-entered the one set of clothes I had with me (now a slightly different colour), dropped a handful of pounds in the collection box (the BEC doesn't charge enough for lodgings), and went down to Bat Products for a chat with Tony before leaving to join Laura and her family.

If the boys at the Belfry accept my invitation to cave with the FSS in central Florida, they will almost certainly "Get Everywhere".

The best of luck in their digs, dives, etc. and innumerable thanks to Tony Jarrett and all the members of the Bristol Exploration Club who spared not a jot in showing me the depth of hospitality extended to cavers from around the world in the huts on Mendip. I hereby authorize the Editor of the "Belfry Bulletin" to utilize as he sees fit any or all of this essay and its illustrations if he is in need of filler.  I apologize for the occasional, very American use of the exclamation mark (!) which he may delete with my permission.  I am currently at work composing a symphonic suite entitled "An American on Mendip" with lots of nifty parts for pewter percussion, which I plan to premier at the Hunter's Lodge Inn during my next visit to Mendip. With the help of Saint Cuthbert, it will be soon.