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


More of a ramble really, as I write anything that comes to mind that I think might be of interest to the membership.

This Belfry Bulletin is late and small because of lack of material.  Members keep asking me when the next one is coming out but very few actually contribute anything.  Please, please send me your articles.  They don't have to be about great new discoveries or even about caving just about the adventures, travels, explorations and so on, of the members. Articles about well known caves would be appreciated as well, maybe pointing out features not mentioned in the guide books.

For example: -

G.B. is a well known cave, or is it.  At the end of Bat Passage, or at least where the sumped old dig is, the obvious onward continuation is in the roof about 7 ft. up.  This can be followed to the end, passing two ways down into tight rifts which end in chokes, or do they?  However, at the 7 ft. climb, looking the other way it can be seen that the continuation passage doesn't go back down Bat Passage but goes into the right wall (looking down-cave).  A hole at the top of the muddy bank can be entered and leads to a parallel phreatic rift at least 20 ft. high.  It is not obvious from the bottom whether this peters out at the top or whether it slopes over.  Does it lead to an unknown passage?  I haven't yet chimneyed up it and don't know of anyone who has.  Perhaps you know better!

There are similar instances in most caves, as well as more in G.B.  If you know of any, write about them, please:

The day after I wrote the above, Jim Smart's article arrived from the Philippines so the BB is not as short as I feared. His letter also enclosed the newspaper clipping, the card you may have seen at the Hunter's and a note to me. I've included part of the note (edited highlights!) between his article and the clipping.

On the digging front, Bowery Corner is progressing slowly.  Daren Cilau quickly and Welsh's Green not at all.  I hope to have surveys of all three for the next BB.  B.E.C. members, and others, have been busy producing them.

The news from Bowery Corner is that the sump mentioned in the last BB has been passed, over the top, and so has the second one.  The end now is tight and very wet but, for the first time, the sound of falling water can be heard from ahead. The end is also well past the point that dowsing indicated that the passage should turn right and is continuing in a straight line.  Perhaps it turns back on itself at a lower level.

New Members

There are quite a few new members.  Those listed below are the ones that have been given membership numbers, that is, have paid their subs.  I've included Jim Rands and Gwyn Timson again as they hadn't been given numbers in December.

1109 Jim Rands, Stonebridge Park, London NWI0.
1110 Gwyn Timson, Rumney, Cardiff
1111 Graham Johnson, Wells, Somerset
1112 Catherine Wood, London
1113 Arthur Griffin, Alperton, Wembley
1114 Peter Bolt, Cardiff
1115 Robin Mark Taviner, Whitchurch, Bristol
1116 Stuart Lain, Yeovil, Somerset
1117 Peter Christopher Alan Hellier, Chew Stoke, Bristol

Some Caves and Characters in the Eastern U.S.A.

Following the reconnaissance trip by Trebor, Mac and Stumpy (BB 445) the main expedition - J'Rat and Jane arrived in the U.S. of A. on 8th September, after eventually negotiating the dreaded immigration and the large photo of Ronnie welcoming all AIDS - free tourists to the New World.  After an overnight stop in Washington D.C. we drove to Front Royal in Virginia - an attractive old town where we managed to find a proper pub, a 1933 "Caverns of Virginia" and a supply of camping gas.  Our cups runneth over.

The first show cave visited was just out of town, at the start of the boring Skyline Drive.  Appropriately called SKYLINE CAVERNS this is an extensive phreatic system carved from very light grey, chalky limestone and possessing very little in the way of normal formations but famed for the hundreds of large anthodites or "cave flowers" in one short section of the tourist route.  The other attraction was the young girl cave guide full of sparkling wit and repartee and wearing white ankle socks!  Where were you Snablet?  A further novelty was a tape recorded recitation on the Glory of God who had created this magnificent underground marvel.  Fair enough, I thought, but he also created Hunter's Hole. Parts of this cave also suffer from poor coloured lighting and algae growth though it is still worth a visit. The anthodites are advertised as unique in the world but those who have visited Napp's Cave at Ilfracombe will know better!

An early start the next day saw us at the famous LURAY CAVERNS near the town of that name.  This is one of the world's great stalactite caves consisting of large phreatic chambers packed with immense formations some of which divide the chambers into smaller rooms.  Their colour, variety and profusion are incredible and there are some fine examples of the rare "shields".  Not content with their visual attractions the management allowed a Mr. Leland W. Sprinkle to attach rubber trip hammers to a selection of stalactites operated from an organ console.  The strains of "Shenandoah" echoing around the largest chamber, interspersed with the tinkle of dripping water is particularly atmospheric.  The Great Stalacpipe Organ, an awesome bit of vandalism, should not be missed.  (I have a tape recording for those without the air fare).  Other gimmicks here are the underground war memorial, a huge notice board painted with camera lighting settings for the snap-happy and, on our trip, a short and fat cave guide with some entertaining chatter and a Deep South accent.  A most worthwhile experience.

As we were camping at the nearby ENDLESS CAVERNS it was only fair that we went in them.  Another extensive solution system with superb pendants and formations - particularly the "shields".  A young and knowledgeable lad guided us and spouted the customary American show cave jokes ("If that rock falls on you don't worry about insurance - you'd be fully covered" etc) and showing his one-upmanship over other guides by walking backwards all the way out of the cave. To add to the fun of our visit there were plenty of active bats to upset the lady tourists and a few narrow sections to wedge the obese ones (about 90% ).  There is supposedly over 6 miles of passage in this system.  In the 1920's the Explorers Club of New York worked here and exploration is being continued by the owner and his son, both cavers.  A further treat is the gift shop where rubber rocks, bat hats and lurid T-shirts may be purchased (and was).  Incidentally the camp slate here is excellent.

Our next cave was further south near Keezletown.  MASSANUTTEN CAVERNS was recommended by Trebor (Thanks mate:) mainly because of the great character who owns it.  Mr. Brad Cobb is an old time caver badly crippled by a stroke and arthritis but who manfully guides tourists round the ¼ mile of paths on two sticks.  It is not a large cave but is extremely well decorated with thousands of straws, cone shaped and bulbous stalactites.  Mr. Cobb would stop every few seconds to point out items of interest ("Weird, weird, weird") and to continually damn cave vandals ("Buzzards").  After fulfilling his main ambition of owning his own cave Mr. Cobb has two more ambitions left - to live long enough to see the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the cave in 1892 and to visit the Mulu caves!  I hope he succeeds in both.  ( See letter following this article).

We now temporarily left Virginia and after violating the traffic rules in Staunton crossed into West Virginia en route to the FRIAR'S HOLE CAVE SYSTEM near Renick.  Owned by another famous American cave man, Gordon Mathes, this is a 47 mile long wild cave with five of its seven entrances situated on Gordon's 600 acre farm. Like Trebor and Co. we were fortunate to stay at the private caving hut situated near the farmhouse - an old haunt of caver’s world wide, none of whom were around at the time.  Our first trip here was into the huge trunk passage of SNEDEGAR'S CAVE via the SALTPETRE ENTRANCE, where Jane and I were accompanied for a time by two spelunking cows sheltering from the outside heat! Negotiating the piles at breakdown was easy enough but the plies of cowsh was a different matter.  We followed this passage for several hundred feet as far as a low section which leads to a sumped connection with the rest of the system.  Many bats, a crayfish and our first cave cricket were seen en route.

While Jane then sunbathed and drank cold beer (a mandatory American pastime ) I explored the adjacent NORTH ENTRANCE and after giving the complicated Saltpetre Maze a cursory examination continued down the obviously flood prone main passage until stopped by a wide, 15 foot deep pothole with a slippery traverse ledge which I couldn't attempt on my own and without a rope.  This is a very attractively water worn swallet system and connects with Snedegar's Cave via the Saltpetre Maze.

On our way back to the hut the huge, impressive entrance of CRUICKSHANK CAVE was examined.  This is notable for its 100 ft. entrance shaft and nearby sign warning SRT cavers that "Rats may chew the rope"!

Later that day TOOTHPICK CAVE and ROLLING STONES CAVE were visited.  The former is a Yorkshire type swallet connecting with the main Friar's Hole System.  It was followed along 400 ft. of cricket infested canyon to the head of 50 ft. Toothpick Pot.  Rolling Stones was briefly looked before an imminent thunderstorm and the desire for a gin and tonic caused a retreat.  This cave is not yet connected Friar's Hole due to a constricted passage.

Having bid a sad farewell to this great spot we continued on our way via LOST WORLD CAVERNS - a superbly lit and fantastically decorated show cave near Lewisburg.  First entered down a 120 ft. pothole in 1942 this large breakdown chamber boasts magnificent pillars and tall stalagmites - all lit by 30 ft. high double lamp standards.  The tour is usually self-guided.

Next on the list was ORGAN CAVE - the complete opposite of Lost World. Having over 40 miles of passage this is one of America's longest systems with the main entrance and associated trunk passage as a rather tatty show cave.  With its wooden shack ticket office, obtrusive electric cables strung with usually bare light bulbs (though some have apparently ex jumble sale lampshades) on and sawdust covered paths this place seems to be unchanged since the hey-day of the American show cave in the 1930's.  The passages visited are essentially two huge bore tubes forming a Y-junction with a smaller side passage leading off and containing 37 wooden saltpetre leaching vats installed in 1861 when Confederate soldiers worked the sand deposits for nitrates to make gunpowder.  The wood is still in excellent condition.  This cave has little in the way of formations but the tour was made well worthwhile by the "Deputy Dawg" southern drawl of the owner/guide and his fund of tall tales.  At one point a solution pocket was pointed out as the mould of a dinosaur, now removed for display in an un-named museum!  Despite - or rather because of its old-fashioned grubbiness this tourist cave is a must.

Farewell W. Va. and on to Kentucky and the MAMMOTH CAVE National Park.  Volumes could be written on this place (and many have).  At 325 miles surveyed so far this is the world's longest cave and roughly a mile a month is the going exploration rate - a bit like Bowery Corner. From a selection of eight different tours Jane and I selected two that would cover the most extensive and interesting regions without covering the same ground.  Our first trip was the "Echo River Tour" and was led by a woman guide with a trainee male guide in tow, both wearing smart "Baden Powell" uniforms.  Our party of 44 was shepherded from the Historic Entrance, through the Rotunda (saltpetre mining ) past the Giant's Coffin ( Indian gypsum mining artefacts) through Fat Man's Misery to Relief Hall (underground bogs!).  From here a roomy bore passage was followed to the Dead Sea and along a series of paths and catwalks above Echo River - this last section being negotiated with all except the guides wearing bright orange life jackets - their’s were National Park khaki!  Everyone then boarded a couple of large punts for a 50 yard boat trip before returning from whence we had come and out of the cave via River Hall.  Mammoth Dome and Historic Entrance.  My main impressions of the cave were of magnificent flat roofed trunk passages and large, dry tunnels.  The lighting is discreet and gives one the feel of actually caving - in fact, due to electrical faults, Mammoth Dome was hardly lit at all!  The guides are well trained, informative and capable of dealing with any type of questions - and at least one of them was much prettier than Chris Castle.

When in this area it is an obligatory caver's duty to indulge in a spot of morbidity and visit SAND CAVE where Floyd Collins was trapped and died in 1925.  I explored the somewhat eerie entrance chamber in a heavy rainstorm and found the cave passage proper to be sealed by a welded iron grid.  Denied a trip I spent ten minutes photographing the hundreds of huge cave crickets hanging upside down in various niches around the entrance chamber.  Being alone in this atmospheric spot it was difficult to visualise the 10,000 rowdy onlookers who gathered here to watch the abortive rescue attempts over 60 years ago.

Our next Mammoth Cave trip was the "Half Day Tour", via Carmichael Entrance and along the mile long tunnel of Cleveland Avenue - covered in gypsum crystals and flowers and giving some idea of the vast extent of the system.  This passage ended abruptly in the Snowball Dining Room where an underground restaurant and more bogs satisfied the needs of the 200 strong party.  Our route march then continued along Boone Avenue to reach Mammoth Gypsum Wall and yet more bogs after another 1.6 miles.  Beyond here a large collapse is surmounted to reach Grand Central Station where a lecture was given by Duke, the chief guide.  Another character, he has worked here as a Ranger for 20 years and really knows his stuff.  Anyone who can keep control of 200 assorted, American tourists must be good.  The final part of the trip took us to the spectacular flowstone cascade of Frozen Niagara and then out via the entrance of the same name.  This had been a four hour tour and some of the merry throng only just made it!

Returning to Virginia a couple of days later we camped at NATURAL TUNNEL - an 850 ft. long, 100 ft. high and 100 - 175 ft. wide cave passage used as a short cut by the Stock Creek and, more recently, the Southern Railway.  It is quite an experience to be halfway through a cave when a hundred truck freight train comes through - especially when the driver waves a friendly greeting.  For more information on this cave see the recent article by Tony Waltham in Cave Science Vol 15 No 1.

Nearby, across the border in Tennessee is the grotty town of Bristol and its own BRISTOL CAVERNS.  How could we not visit this?  Once used by Cherokee Indians as a water supply and hiding place this is a well decorated show cave with a fine streamway below the main chamber. What a place to be without a Bertie sticker!

The last show cave of the holiday was DIXIE CAVERNS in Virginia.  A mediocre cave but with yet another attractive lady guide.  The ¼ mile long trip through narrow passage and larger chambers was somewhat spoiled by the coloured lighting.  The novelty of this visit came when the guide discovered I was a "spelunker" and I ended up leading the party!  Of some interest here are examples of calcite "boxwork" and the rarely seen Dixie Salamander, one of which was spotted atop a stalagmite.

The next week was dedicated to deep sea fishing, snorkelling and vast alcohol consumption off the Florida coast and of little interest to B.E.C. members though we did find America's only drive in pub - "a six pack and two pints to go buddy". Clutching our beers we drove off into the night.

Save up your bucks - the States and the Yanks are a real treat.

Have a nice day y'all     Tony Jarratt


EDITORS NOTE The letter below was on nicely headed notepaper but I've typed it because Mr. Cobb's writing is not always perfectly legible, probably due to his arthritis.  It was addressed to Dave and I've not altered anything.

Keezletown, Virglnia 22832
Oct. 6. 1988

Dear Dave Turner,

A few weeks ago, I received a second visitation, this year, from the membership of B.E.C.

They were generous enough to bestow a copy of the BELFRY BULLETIN for my somewhat sketchy library of things Speleological (Volume 42 No.3 Number 445 July 1988 ).

I was highly flattered to read your kind words about an earlier visit by other members of B.E,C., in April.  It made me feel as though my efforts to do a good job of guiding was actually appreciated by people who know caves.

Commercial Caves in the States tend to have suffered greatly at the hands of the public.  MASSANUTTEN CAVERNS, also, has received it's share of vandalism by the "Hands On" approach to collecting souvenirs over the years.  During the past third of a century, I have tried to develop a modicum of concern in the minds of our visitors.  Sometimes Success!

It is an uphill fight and every good word is treasured.  The cavalier treatment of all of our environment is pervasive in countries through the world.  This is rather short-sighted, don't you agree?


Bradford ( Brad ) Cobb    N.S.S. 2513


Caving Under The Thames

by Jingles

At the foot of London Bridge - on the north side of the river, next to the MONUMENT, is a building called REGIS HOUSE.  It is the H.Q. of the A.A. as well as being the home of CITIBANK N.A. where I work in the computer department.  In the sub-basement is yet another downward flight of steps leading to a locked door. On the other side of this door is what used to be King William St. Station, which has been closed since 1912.

It was, however, used as an air raid shelter during both wars and there is still evidence of this down there (Posters dating to 1941).  As one wends ones way through the labyrinthine network of corridors, one eventually comes to what can only be a disused railway tunnel. 50 metres into this there is a concrete bulkhead - this is so placed because at this point you are directly under the banks of the Thames!  On the other side of this - the formations begin. The tunnel runs parallel to London Bridge - all the way to London Bridge Station.  It also connects with other access tunnels and eventually to the active Circle Line terminals.  There are two well decorated tunnels - each approximately ¼ mile in length and containing some surprising straw and helectite formations as well as a few columns although admittedly not of the same calibre as those in OFD! These tunnels have been extensively investigated by Jingles and Stuart Lain on several occasions.  If anyone is in the area and wants to have a look then I can take them down too!

Call John Williams to arrange a visit


Windsor Great Cave Trelawny - Jamaica

From the Caving Log, with some editorial licence

27 .11.88

Bob Bidmead (just in case anyone thinks I don't cave any more).  Having been in Jamaica since the 23rd of September with a hurricane relief team I at last managed a Sunday off work.  The original plan, to cave with Ian Mason (Bradford P.H.C.) and Barry Poyser (Jam. Spel.) was unfulfilled as the other two were working.  Barry arranged a local guide, however, so I went with Alphonse and the Sheriff - two local lads from Sherwood.

The cave is a major resurgence, with the lower entrance carrying a stream during the wet season, and drying for the rest of the year, when the water rises through the river bed about 300 yards from the cliff face.  The human entrance is about 60 ft. up the cliff face and represents an older level.  The entrance series is much like Peak Cavern, but with a narrower opening.  Having left the twilight zone the roof became covered with calcite tracery, making it look like a church roof.  The passage wound up over a collapsed boulder ruckle, with the streamway a long way down, perhaps 120 ft. or so.  The temperature was high - in the 60's and surprisingly there was a large population of insects, the usual shrimps and hoppers, but also millions of very tiny flies, like fruit flies.  These took to wing as soon as a light beam struck the surface of the rock they were on, and were so small and so numerous they got in eyes, mouth and nose.  Not so surprising were the colony of Rat Bats, so called by the Jamaicans due to their small size and appearance.  These obviously had a built in food supply with the flies, and also took wing when the light hit them.  We ended up dodging an aerial ballet of bats and flies which seemed to fill the chamber - about the size of the main chamber in G.B.

At the top of the ruckle the roof came down, and a strong draught indicated the way through.  Unfortunately at this point my two local guides chickened out - no way were they prepared to carry on through 2' by 3' crawls or duck under the obviously stable boulders.  It transpired they normally took rich American tourists on grockle trips, which was unfortunate.  The thought of being 30 miles from the coast and having a Land Rover with hiccups did not encourage me to continue alone, so the day was curtailed after 1½ hours. Great cave though, and a return is a must.

Several smaller holes were looked at during the work period, but obvious commitments to the restoration of electricity to the island precluded any further detailed trips. If anyone has a free air ticket I have free accommodation available - offers please!

Bob Bidmead - returned 2.1.89


Daren Cilau

Another  week long camp in December by Andy Cave, Gonzo, Snablet, Gwyn and Jake (Graham Johnson) resulted in Snablet and Andy pushing Shit Rift for a further 90 metres.  The passage is currently Anorexic Whippet sized, draughting and heading south.

A lot of work was done on other sites in the extensions.  Friday 13th boulder choke was worked on and now looks promising but not for the faint hearted as the keystone of the massive choke is now cracked in half and right in the firing line.  Gwyn unfortunately sustained a minor skull fracture when the roof of one of the 'Sand' Digs collapsed on her.  She opted for the relative comforts of the camp rather than a painful, premature trip out.

Shit Rift was revisited by Snablet and Nick Pollard over the Christmas period.  Jake and Andy took Fred Davies down on a tourist trip (Fred's first visit to the cave since his and Boone's breakthrough back in the 60's)

Next camp 10 - 19 Feb (I'm too late again - Ed.)


Hundreds of feet of new passage were discovered on this camp.  Daren is now very close to Aggie Sump 4, Gothic Passage and to Priory Road.  A full report will appear in the next BB.


On The Oregon Trail

As a change from Butcombe, I nipped off to the Pacific North West of America to have a few Budweiser’s - and also a bit of walking in the Cascade and Olympic mountains and along the Oregon coast.  Superb walking, especially in fresh November powder snow.  The place is a backpacker's paradise, particularly in the summer.  Unfortunately there is not a great deal of speleological interest at this time of year, except respectable caves on Vancouver Island, some lava tubes and Ice caves.  I thus failed to get underground in a speleo sense at all.

One aim was to travel down the central spine of Oregon, the Cascades, to look at lava tubes, fossil beds, Crater Lake and other morsels but unusually severe snow prevented me from getting even remotely close, let alone a look-see, I did have however get 'underground' three times.

** In the late 1890's, Seattle in Washington State was blessed with a wonderful sewage system whereby the gentry on the hilly parts slopped their stuff downhill in hollowed out tree trunks. The mess then settled un-firmly on the lower parts which had been re-graded and built up out of mud and sawdust from the thriving lumber business.  Muck and sawdust do not make good foundations so various events, primarily a bit of a blaze, prompted the almost complete re-building of the city in the early 1900's - 12 ft higher than the previous level.  You can thus descend into the depths and walk along the old streets, see original shop fronts, walk through an old speak-ezee cinema etc. Irwin and Knibbs would call it an easy stroll with no technical difficulty, no specialist knowledge or equipment.

** Hailed as the biggest sea cave in the world (some hope - what about Fingal's) this one in the wilds of the Oregon coast contains literally thousands of sea lions.  Technically it is a littoral cave (formed by wave cut action).  Access is by the ultimate SRT experience, a lift down 250 ft into a Semtex blasted passage that would put Bowery to shame. There is no problem with route finding - you just follow the smell and the noise.  The smell really is overpowering, very much like the Belfry bunkroom after a Saturday night barrel.  You don't stay down there for long - a bit like Jim Smart's caving. The sea lions push and barge, honk and wallow in the mud. reminding me instantly of Chris Castle. "Moderately Interesting" on the Irwin/Knibbs scale.

** An island of the Pacific coast is now the proud owner of the most secure BEC sticker - under the bunk bed of cell 48B. Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. A past occupant was Al Capone. They now let you down into some of the earlier dungeons, easier to get out of the West End, Piers Pot, Coral Squeeze or the Hunters.  In 1963 four inmates did a wondrous bit of digging and squeezing to get out of their cells through enlarged ventilation grills.  I couldn't even get my head through, not that that's saying much.  Needless to say they perished in the swirling, treacherous streamway known as ' Fricso Bay.  "Hours of fun for the intrepid digger and one hell of a sump outside" is how Irwin & Knibbs would have it.



Direct Debits For Payment Of Membership Fees

The committee has been instructed by the membership at the 1988 AGM to investigate the possibility of using Direct Debit as a procedure to collect membership fees.  This procedure is fraught with difficulties and liabilities and really, as a club we are too small an organisation to make it worthwhile. Some points to consider:

As we are not a corporate account, the committee members (and the trustees) would be responsible in the case of a claim against the club, be it from payers or a bank.  An unlimited indemnity must be arranged.

Strict rules must be adhered to.  A mandate must be produced, printed and sent out to the membership.  When completed, the records must be kept on computer and the discs submitted to the bank in the format required to instruct the debiting of an individuals account.  (We would originate the DD. the bank doesn't get involved, hence the unlimited indemnity).

A fee of approximately £50 p.a. is involved (assuming 200 members) and then there's the cost of the printing of the mandates etc etc.

It is better to use the Standing Order method of extracting money from people, there are fewer problems. It is proposed to Instigate Standing Orders for membership fees as from next years AGM.  Instructions will appear in a future Belfry Bulletin along with the Standing Order Mandate in plenty of time for next years fees!

Steve Milner (Treasurer) 7:12:88


Three Unrecorded Sinks At Priddy

This brief article is purely to place on record the existence of three well known but - to the best of the writer's knowledge - previously unrecorded swallets, two of which have been eyed greedily by factions of the digging fraternity for some years.  The third is a less obvious dig site but as the writer lives almost directly opposite it he has had plenty of opportunity to notice it’s propensity for taking water in wet weather.  Descriptions conform with those in " Complete Caves of Mendip" with the exception of altitudes which are in metres . Please note that the first described is not the one that Mrs. Dors washes the empties in!


At 250m. Priddy, SE end of the Hunter's Lodge Inn, adjacent to the wall at S corner of "function room".  Wet weather drainage from the crossroads and inn car park sinks in a waterworn rift occasionally blocked by rocks and silt.  Once took drainage and effluent from the inn stables.  At present being cleared by the landlord.  Dowsing indicated a minor streamway heading towards Hunter's hole.


At 248m. Priddy.  On the S side of Wells Road opposite the cottage at the end of the drive leading to the "Belfry"/Underwood Farm.  A large wet weather stream sinks here after draining from the road.  Presumed to drain into the St. Cuthbert's Swallet system.  Permission to dig has been refused.


At 248m. Priddy.  On the SE side of Pelting Drove opposite cottage "The Homestead".  A concrete lined depression, used as a dewpond, takes a considerable amount of road drainage in wet weather which fills up the pond and depression but does not overflow and is presumed to sink away below the dewpond into the unknown further reaches of Swildon's Hole.

NOTE: A fourth sink in Dale Lane, noted by Roger Dors, has been searched for in vain.  This area needs visiting in wet weather.

If anyone knows of any similar, unrecorded sinks, digs or caves please write them up for the B.B.

Tony Jarratt    27/1/89


Speleo Reconnaissance, Antique Province, Panay Island, Philippines

Prior research of the speleo literature available in the UK had revealed no information on caves in Antique Province apart from two caves marked on a tourist map: Tulingan Cave in the north and an un-named cave near San Remigio in the south.  I had no plans to visit Antique Province but the vagaries of Philippine shipping schedules brought me and Rhona Lacsinto to Antique, both of us island hopping in whatever small boats were available.  We were trying to get to Palawan Island which had been cut off to regular shipping for a month.  We never got to Palawan but we did hear of a few caves.

Some Definitions

Jeepney - Utilitarian pickups, originally converted U.S. army Jeeps now mostly Ford Fiera.  Able to transport an unbelievable number of passengers and personal effects.

Rebel-country - There is a very serious insurgency situation in the Philippines.  No-one can tell me which side is winning but the death-toll is colossal, and includes the civilians who are caught between the two sides.

Bgy = Barangay - The smallest official socio-political unit with an elected administration, usually a village.  A Sitio is a smaller section within the bgy region - e.g. a nearby hamlet.

Tuba - Palm Wine.  It tastes foul.

Friday Jan 20, 1989.

Early evening arrival at Libertad after a scorching day aboard Aida 1, a large outrigger pumpboat.

Sat Jan 21.

4 am. jeepney to San Jose de Buenavista.  No one here knows when a boat will be leaving ("maybe next month") but we do get some information on the cave at San Remigio.   We decide to visit it tomorrow.

Sun Jan 22.

Heavy thunder rain; trip postponed.

Mon Jan 23.

Rhona's birthday - i.e. a day to relax.   Change to a lodging house with better vibes, e.g. "Rule 4: Observe silence and cleanliness most of the time".  In the evening our Bistro meal is interrupted by a boozy journalist who writes me up for the local rag. (see paper clipping - Ed.)

Tues Jan 24.

It's only about 30 km. from San Jose to San Remigio Cave but it took us two jeepneys and more than four hours to get there.  The cave is known locally as BATO CAVE and is located behind La Reunion Elementary School.  It is well known locally everyone saying it has "many rooms and goes deep". So I was rather disappointed with the grubby little rift entrance we found, and further disappointed when Rhona announced she'd come down the cave with me (she dressed in all her snow-white finery).  Thus our exploration was perfunctory and we crawled barely 60 m. into the muddy hole, Rhona insisting that I leave candles every few metres. I decided to leave the girls at home in future.

Wed Jan 25.

I'd been told of some interesting caves in the mountains near Valderama.  This is rebel country but most people thought I'd be "fairly safe", so I set off early and by noon I was in Valderama and had secured the services of a guide and porter for the 12 km. walk up the river to Bgy San Augustin.  After lunch we set off, me wimpishly clinging to the hand of my 60 year old guide as we crossed and re-crossed the swiftly flowing River Cangaran.

San Augustin is extremely impoverished: no work and nothing for sale.  I'd brought my own food and this was prepared for me alone.  I'd eat before the gaze of the entire population of about 150 people.  When I'd finished, my leftovers would be triumphantly carried away by my host to share with his family, and everyone else would go home for about thirty minutes to eat.  This was the only opportunity I got to be alone.

Thurs Jan 26.

Although I'd made it clear that I was only paying one guide about a dozen people set off to MAYBUJO CAVE, about an hour's steep climb away.  This was the cave I'd heard about several times in San Jose and Valderama.  It was reported to be a long cave ending in a shaft that no-one had descended; you can hear running water down there, they said.

That's as maybe.  When we arrived there was a swarm of bees at the entrance and the visit was abandoned.

No problem though. Someone knew of another cave higher up the side of the valley: TABAY CAVE.  This was soon located about 120 m. above the river near sitio Datag.  A 4 metre limb was hacked off a nearby tree to facilitate my descent and the entrance pitch was bottomed to reveal a small steeply descending cave ending with a draughting squeeze negotiable with a lump hammer.  I had no lump hammer, length 10 metres.

We headed back to San Augustin waded the river (hold hands) crossed a few low grade rice fields and began the steep ascent towards sitio Boho where two caves were reported to be located.  My entourage of kids and old men infuriated me, laughing and talking and shouting at each other while I could hardly catch my breath or keep up with them.

About one hour from San Augustin in a tumble of deeply weathered limestone boulders and hidden by trees we found our first cave: BOHO CAVE I.  The larger of the two entrances was the only one negotiable without equipment; even so it was a bit of a nasty climb.  Someone kindly provided a piece of thick string to aid my descent . About 15 metres below the surface I gained the floor and was immediately hit by the horrid smell of batshit: my flashlight revealed their scarey orange eyes.  Within 15 minutes six brave souls had joined me at the foot of the shaft and we commenced exploration, one light between seven of us.

Although the passage was large (say 4½ m. wide and 10½ m high average) the bats were so numerous that we were successfully forced back by them: they flew into us, pissed on us, dropped ticks on us and were generally quite beastly.  I pondered histoplasmosis.  We took refuge behind a rock.  Shall we go now?, my companions asked.  No, we'll give it one more try.

Only two men accompanied on my second attempt and we got to a point where the passage shrank to about two metres square for a few metres.  There was an almost solid tide of bats flowing through here.  My companions started swiping at them with sticks, making great sport of the whole adventure.  The carnage was sickening: I called a halt to the attempt.  Length 100 metres and still going; depth 12 metres.

On the surface we all had a good laugh about the bats, drank tuba, and proceeded to another cave nearby in the same about clump of trees ( BOHO CAVE II ).  A short descent led to 45 metres of crawling maze; depth c. 9 metres.

We returned to the river to wash and then home to San Augustin for lunch ( more eyes, more leftovers).  No one knew of any more caves within safe walking distance (remember the insurgence ) so we clowned and festered away the rest of the day.

Fri Jan 27.

With my guide and porter I set off back to Valderama at 6 am.  I was in San Jose by eleven and found Rhona still sitting on her luggage and hoping for a boat. No news yet, she said, so I said goodbye, abandoned all thoughts of Palawan, and by evening I was enjoying the sultry air and bright lights of Iliolo City.

Other Caves of Antique Province.

Information has been received on other caves in Province Antique, as follows:-


A cave mined for guano located about 4 km. north of Libertad and 4 km. Inland near a river.


Two caves reported here: TURU-ONG CAVE and DAPA CAVE


A cave mined for guano.  Deep water "You have to swim the in cave”.

Jim Smart   Feb. 1989

This is an extract from The Daily Start in the Philipines.

A member of the Bristol Exploration Club, affiliated with the British Cave Research Association based in London, England is in Bacolod city to explore Negros caves.

British’s speleogist James Smart, 40, has 25 years of' experience in exploring caves.

Smart, in a DAILY STAR interview, yesterday, Smart said he is in charge of the foreign section of the B.E.C., which was founded in 1935 and has about 280 active members at present.

Tourism Staff Officer Edwin Gatia is supplying Smart with information on the, locations of caves in Negros.

Smart, who has explored caves all over Europe said that the Madagascar and Austria caves are the most interesting there.

In the Philippines, he said, the Latipan-Lokohonmg cave system located in Sagada, Mt. Province is officially recognized as the deepest at 163 metres, with a length of about 3,975 meters, while the St. Paul subterranean cave in Palawan, he said, is the country's longest cave system with a length of 8,200 meters.

Smart said he intends to visit some caves in the south of Negros, particularly those in Mainit and Konog-Konog in Candoni, Kabankalan, Hog, Cauayan and Hinoba-an areas, and in Escalante and San Carlos in the north.

His research work on Negos caves will be published in the "Cave Science Magazine" circulated in England the official magazine of the B.C.R.A.

Smart has also visited some of the cave systems found in Antique.  GR Gumban

Another snippet said: -

That Somerset County Council road signs do not disappear they merely go underground in pot-holes near Priddy.

Letter From The Philippines

Dear Ted,


If you think the enclosed news clipping is a bit off the mark, this is the second rag to give me coverage. Furthermore the 7 o'clock news the other morning went something like….llong-go, llong-go. llong-go .... Breestol Explortion Club sa England ....long-go, llong-go .... Professor Jims Smart llong-go .... etc." for FIVE MINUTES.  Lord knows exactly what was said but I gather I'm leading an expedition!  Also apparently I've been in the "Towns Talk" column, but I've not seen it. I can't imagine what I'm doing there something about discos or music I expect.

Lotsa caves here on Negros but all the ones I've visited have been small. Travel is naturally slow here and I have to tread cautiously both to satisfy the locals' curiosity and also because of the military situation.  Things are VERY heavy and I can see caves that it would be suicide to walk to.  For my sanity I like to retreat to a city a couple of nights a week to mellow out (= get pissed) and relax (= have my nails manicured).

See you



Club Matters

This is a list of items that the committee have asked me to put in the BB, dating from the December, January and February meetings.  Some may now be irrelevant!

1.                  Hut Bookings - These must be done through the Hut Warden (Snablet).  Anyone else must check with Snablet first.  We've had double bookings and aggrieved people!

2.                  Kindling and firewood are always in short supply.  It would be nice if all members visiting the Belfry could bring a sackful with them.

3.                  The general behaviour of BEC members and/or guests is causing concern.  We must maintain good relations locals as access to some caves might depend on it.

4.                  It is important for prospective members to turn up at the meeting during which their application for membership is discussed  (7.30 pm. on the first Friday of the month).  If they don't bother, their application is likely to be turned down.

5.                  Members are reminded of the availability of I.D.M.F. funds for expeditions etc. Young members don't seem to apply any longer.


The Bowery Corner Song

(to the tune of Old Man River)

Belfryites dig in de Bowery Corner.  Belfryites dig while de Wexxes play;
Pulling dese sledges from de dawn to sunset, gittin no beer and gittin no pay:
Don't get squashed and don't dare drown 'cos that'll make de Diggin' Boss frown:
Shovel out all dat gravel and glass an pull dat rope or he'll kick your arse.

Let me go way from de Bowery Corner, let me go 'way from dat poxy sink.
Show me dat pub called de Hunter's Lodge dat's where I'll drown myself - in drink!

Bowery Corner, dat Bowery Corner, it must go somewhere. but ain't gone nowhere.
It just keeps going, it keeps on going a-long ---It ain't got chambers, it ain't got pitches.
It ain't got limestone, it ain't got pretties;
That Bowery Corner, it jes keeps going a-long ----
You an' me, we sweat an' strain.  Body all achin' an' racked wid pain.
"Carry det det!  Shift dat tamp", lie down in de streamway 'til you die of cramp.
Ah gits weary an' sick of shale.  Ahm tired of diggin' an' want my ALE.
But Bowery Corner, it just keeps goin' a-long!

words by Uncle Tom J'Rat. With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Paul Robeson and the BEC.

(printed music and cassette of Paul Robeson's version available for anyone desperate enough to want to sing it!)

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

1988 - 1989 Committee

Hon. Sec.                      Mike (Trebor) McDonald
Treasurer                       Steve Milner
Caving Sec.                   Mark Lumley (Gonzo)
Hut Warden                   Peter (Snablet) McNab
Tackle Master                Stuart McManus
B.B. Editor                    Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer                 Nick Sprang (co-opted)
Membership Sec.           John Watson
Librarian                        Tony Jarratt
                                    Dave Turner


This is my first attempt at editing anything and I expect to make somewhat of a pig's ear of it, but anyway here goes!

The first thing I must say is that the views and opinions expressed in the B.B. are either those of the editor, who must not be taken too seriously, or of the authors of the articles (typing errors may be by the editor).  You will notice that I have not typed Gonzo's meets list or retyped Mr. N's ode.  This is either idleness or a belief that the work of artist's and lyricist's should not be tampered with!


Membership Secretary's Report

Due to late payment of Subs. last year it has been agreed that a deadline for Subs. will be the end of January 1989.  Any member who has not paid will receive ONE reminder, if they do not pay they will have to re-apply to join the club.

Would all members please notify the MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY of changes of address.

Please send your correspondence and money/cheques (£12 ordinary or £18 joint - ed.) to :-

John Watson, Wells, or to the Treasurer, Steve Milner.

Payment by cheque (made out to the B.E.C. - ed.) preferred as it is easier to trace (proof of payment).

New Members

Two new members were accepted into the club at the November committee meeting. They are :-

Jim Rands, Stonebridge Park, London
Gwyn Timson, I haven't got Gwyn's current address yet.

It was pointed out at the meeting that prospective members and their proposer or seconder are expected to attend the meeting after their application is submitted.  The only exceptions being those who are well known to committee members and live too far away to be able to get to the Belfry by 7.30 pm on a Friday evening.

Digging Barrel

It looks as though we're losing again this year.  J'rat et al got through the tight bit in Sanctimonious into about 50 ft. of larger passage ending in a hopeless looking choke.  Much effort in Bowery has resulted in getting to what appears to be a sump.  Prospects there do not seem too good, it's a case of draining or roof removal and praying for a right hand bend with a removable barrier leading to a descending rift!

The Wexxes had success at what I believe was an old BEC dig 30 ft. up the first rift chamber in Eastwater. They applied chemical persuasion and found a couple of hundred feet of well-decorated passage which I think they've called, 'Fast Cars and Dark Glasses, well why not!


Llangattwg Update

by Mark Lumley

The project to connect up Daren Cilau and Agen Allwedd is still going strong for the Rock Steady Crew with a phenomenal amount of man-hours put into digging this year. Since I left for Mexico some individuals have done the equivalent of 2 months underground, including several 10 day trips.

Numbers have dwindled, with fewer people capable of overcoming the considerable physical and psychological pressures of a sustained push.  For any worthwhile digging to be done it is necessary to go down for at least three days anything less is just travel, sleep and recovery time, with a token visit to the dig site.

The nucleus of diggers left are certainly considerably fitter than when the project started. The trip to Milliways - The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - takes 4 to 5 hours if you push it.  This means getting to the Hard Rock Cafe in 2 hours. (If you don't know the cave and you're considering a tourist trip to the end and back, be prepared for 24 hours underground - the worst bit's beyond the Hard Rock Cafe!)

Andy Cave, Angela Garwood, Pete Bolt, Steve Allen & co. pushed numerous digs between the Restaurant and Friday 13th passage in the early part of the year.  The most successful of these was the Warren which gave a few hundred feet of tight, very pretty passage ending in a chamber with an 'undiggable' choke (we're going back with scaffold poles, all sherpas welcome!!)  This has a storming draught and looks as though it could go to Trident Passage or the more distant Midnight Passage.  It is our considered opinion that there is something very big in between the two.

Star Bar chamber is being pushed along a tight, draughting rift.  This looks promising for a connection to Trident (God forbid!)  Andy Cave and Steve Allen pushed Machu Picchu for a few hundred feet.  This ends in a frustrating, draughting, sandy maze.  Dig 43lb is being pushed west.  This appears to draught with no airspace (remember Acupuncture Passage).  Crystal Rift dig is immediately below the ladder in Big Chamber II and looks 'interesting'.  Sand Dig looks good too.

The most promising lead, however, must surely be Friday 13th.  This is the furthest point west in the cave, an hour from the restaurant. Large walking passage deteriorates to a low sand crawl which we dug out in January (whatever happened to Mongo?) to reach a small chamber with a draughting boulder choke.  This has been banged and dug on several occasions. August bank holiday saw Andy, Pete and myself back at the choke.  A couple of charges were placed here (and numerous others elsewhere in the extensions) and we fired our last with a way on visible beyond a boulder.  As for the Gothic diggers, they've had enough of digging at the bottom of Aggy for the time being and are looking at the very promising Aven Series/Copper Passage dig with Geoff Newton and Clive Gardener.

The Gloucester/Hereford boys are still active in Aggy.  John Cooper and Arther Millet are putting a lot of work into a draughting rift on the surface above the Tram Road, with a view to a possible back door to Daren.  We have put a lot of man-hours into the BEC/RSC dig in Midnight Passage. The boulder cone has been 'stabilised' and we now intend to dig under the right hand side of it (Pass the Andrex!!)

The divers have had a frustrating season, being plagued by bad weather, but there are still dives to be done in Daren, not to mention the terminal sump in Aggy.  (Damn, I didn't mean to mention the terminal sump in Aggy!) Arthur Millet has virtually completed a grade 5 survey of the entire known system - a really dedicated piece of hard work without which we wouldn't have had half the success.

With any luck a connection will be made in the next year - I hope so because we then intend to push the system West, under Llangynidr ... now there's a system!

P.S.  A seventy hour trip was carried out from October 6th  - 9th by Pete, Andy, Angela, Nick, Snablet and myself.   Friday 13th boulder choke was pushed for about 30ft vertically and 50ft horizontally. We all aged about 5 years in the process and the way on is back to blasting.

Snablet extended the Shit-Rift by 70ft of tight crawling; started a new, draughting, very promising dig at the top end of Friday 13th Passage and another charge was set off (after a misfire and another 2 years of ageing by Pete!) in the Star Bar Chamber. This should be open on our return.

P.P.S.  If you ever get the opportunity, go and see the blue formations in Pain Killer Passage - they are without doubt the best erratics in the country!


Deepest Hole - follow up

In the last B.B., No.446, there was a newspaper cutting sent in by Matt Tuck from India concerning the discovery of 'The Deepest Hole on Earth'.  J'rat wrote to the International Union of Speleology Commission of Large Caves and in reply received the two letters reproduced below.  We thought the BEC membership would be interested. I didn't even know that such an organisation existed!  Before you start criticising Daniel's grammer/spelling, I wonder how many members of the BEC could do as well in German!

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

Tony Jarrraatt

Schwabisch Gmund, den  9.9.1988

Dear Tony,

Thank you very much for Matt Tuck's newspaper cutting concerning the “deepest hole on earth found in MP”.  If I do not err, which is likely to be (for there is too much mystics about India that anybody could be sure on anything - except he is a straightforward fool) well, I think I would identify that hole with the Kotomsar-, Kutumsar­or Kotamsar-Cave (18°52' 10”N/810 56’ O4”E) which was not discovered by Prof. V.S. Vakankar, of course not, he was a Professor and A Hindoo, and neither of those kinds would degrade himself by any actual work - but he was told of a not too small cave by Dr. Andrej Kozik, member of Kanger  ‘87', a Polish expedition organized by the Polish Society of Friends of Earth, with no report published so far.  Unfortunately!

The newspaper says the tunnel is about 100ft wide and it is actually almost 30m broad at it's broadest intersection - not too bad for a newspaper report.  And it says its more than 1000ft deep and it actually is 42m deep; you only have to add a single zero, which should be no problem for a serious journalist.

At least he is absolutely correct in revealing that this hole, like all karst phenomena, are miracles coming from the outer space, a fact most cavers tend to neglect: its gravity, a cosmic force, that uplifts submarine limestone deposits and induces the weathering! 

We only have to think around sharp bends to make things straight!

Thanks, Tony, for this wonderful peace of popular science!  Sometimes it's boring, but most often it is funny to follow the maladaptations between different worlds of thought.  Even in the European languages the layman tends to say a cave is “deep”, when a caver says it is long.

It would be great if you could trace the original newspaper reference – for the Hindustan Times is only quoted, and filing through past newspaper editions is such a tedious task. I just mean: ask Matt if he remembers where he found it –

Good caving


c/o H.D. Gebauer, Markplatz 32, 7070, S. Gmilnd

Tony Jarratt

Schriftleitung:    H.Oaniel Gebauer
                        Marktplatz 32
                        0-7070 Schw. Gmiind
Bezug:              Rainer Hoss
                        Esslingerstrasse 26
                        D-7310 Plochingen

Dear Tony,

About a month ago you have sent me a newspaper-cutting referring to a "Deepest hole found on earth in MP", and I offered the suggestion that the cave mentioned there could be identical with 'Kotomsar cave'.

Well Kotomsar cave (81o56' 04"E/18o52'10"N) lies in Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh which is supposed to be in Dewas district, which is actually 600km away, like the crow flies.

And the Dewas District is close to Bhopal, where the mentioned Dr. Vakankar lectured at the Ujjain University.

It might be two different caves!

Is you famous roving reporter Matt Tuck still somewhere there?  Would he perhaps like to gain some insights in Indian academic society while checking at the Ujjain University ( Archaeological Survey 7) if somebody else is aware of Dr. Vakankars speleological efforts?




Caving Secretary's Report

Those of you who can remember as far back as last year are probably wondering why I'm here giving the report, it's because I stood in for Richard Neville-Dove when he went to Mexico, and have ended up doing it ever since.

The Bad News First: -

We lost the digging barrel last year to the Wexxes - so let's not do it again. (we are - ed.)

Now for the rest of it

The response to the club meets was a bit disappointing, apart from Easter and Whitsun.  It ended up as two or sometimes three people going on them.  We ended up joining forces with a couple of the taller Wexxes to make up the numbers, incidentally, they were also on their club meet!

Work started again in the West End in Eastwater earlier this year.  A joint BEC WCC project, of digging, surveying, aven climbing etc.   An emergency food dump has been taken down and left at Charing Cross in case of flooding.  Eleven of us were flooded in for a short time in the early spring, hopefully it will not happen again, although we've had a couple of near misses since.

St. Cuthbert's has been busy with lots of people being led on trips.  A big clear-up operation is being organised by Trebor.  The place is looking a lot cleaner.  There's also been some small amounts of passage found around the Rocky Boulder series.

Other hopeful digs are that of Sanctimonious Passage down Hunter's and Bowery Corner, both are not without their problems - bad air in Hunter's and dodgy roof in Bowery.

Extensive work has been going on in Wales, with the likes of Daren Cilau and Aggy.  There's no need to go into any detail about Daren as you've probably already read about it in Descent  (I think it's mentioned on every page, also Midnight Passage in Aggy).

There's still diving in Cheddar and the usual caving activity has been going on amongst individual members.

Many members went on expeditions far a field this year, to China and Mexico and got great results.  Unfortunately, no one from the BEC went to Austria this year and so missed out on the pushing of Orkan Hohle to 750 m. deep.

There are going to be expeditions to Romania and Jamaica sometime in the forthcoming year.

Thank you to all those who made this job easier to do.



Bristol Exploration Club Accounts For The Year Ending 31st August 1988
















Gain from Dinner & AGM

Gain from Wessex Challenge


Building Society Interest





































B.B. Printing

B.B. Stationary & Postage

Public Liability insurance

BCRA Insurance

Belfry Insurance – 50%

Rates & Water Rates – 50%

Tackle & Cave Keys Purchased

Less tackle fees & CCC permits sold

Other subscriptions and donations

IDMF Transfer

Carbide Licence

Library Purchases (books etc)

Misc. Postage & Stationary

Telephone Charges

Less receipts

Misc & Bank Interest

Net Sales loss/(Profit)

Transfer to Cuthbert’s Fund



































Opening balance

Transfer from General fund



Closing Balance






N.B.  An injection of £100 from General Fund due 1st November 88















Service Bednights

Other Receipts


Special Item – Insurance for Tackle
































Household Goods & Misc

Belfry Insurance – 50%

Rates – 50%

Repairs & Improvements

Fixtures & Fittings

Special Item – Purchase of Library Units


Special Item – Tackle Roof Repairs






























Pre-sales Income to 31.7.88

BEC Contribution from General account


Less, expenditure (computer equipment)








86/87 Profit/(loss)






87/88 Profit/(loss)













Sweat & T-shirts


















"The Ode of the Commercial Caver", 

By Nigel TAYLOR, B.E.C.  22nd. October 1988.

Sung to the tune of - "I'd like to teach the World to Sing", or to the Viewer at home 'The Coke advert' !!.

I’d like to teach, the world to cave,
if only I knew how,
To get underground, and smash around,
like I’ll learn Commercially.

Commercially, …..its the real thing,
Commercially, …..its the real thing.

'I'd like to cave, and misbehave,
and muck formations about,
When we run amok, and all get stuck,
M.R.O.’ll get us out.

Commercially, …..its the real thing,
Commercially, …..its the real thing.

We've been down Cheddar, Goatchurch and Zoo,
So were off to Twenty-Two,
and if we get stuck, we don’t give a F***,
'cause we're taught just what to do.

Commercially, …..its the real thing,
Commercially, …..its the real thing.

We learnt to "Ab-up", and "Prussik" down,
by a caver of 'Great Renown' ,
The main clubs shunned him, even called him a clown,
-but we learnt, Commercially.

Commercially, …..its the real thing,
Commercially, …..its the real thing.

We don’t need the Wessex, Shepton or B.B.C,
'cause we learnt Commercially,
To hell with conservation, to the main clubs' consternation
We do it, Commercially.

Commercially, …..its the real thing,
Commercially, …..its the real thing.

I've done FIVE trips now, and BOUGHT the 'Know-How’,
and am really experienced,
So I'll teach others, sisters and brothers,
-to do it, Commercially.

Commercially, …..its the real thing,
Commercially, …..its the real thing.

I'd like to have learnt, from Cavers to cave,
-if only they'd taught me,
Cause now I'm dead, N' buried,
cause I learnt, Commercially

Speleology, …..its the real thing,
Speleology, …..its the real thing.


Meets List 88/89


I’ve tried to come to a happy equilibrium between the digging cavers, the sporting trippers, the caving & social weekenders and the piss-artist.  I’ve also taken into consideration that we are an EXPLORATION Club and not just a caving club.





Sat Nov 5

Daren Cilau.  Tourist trip followed by Chelsea Firework Party (£8 to Chelsea)

Camping by Whitewalls

Sun Nov 19

Agen Allwedd – Dig in Midnight Passage


Sat Dec 3 

Sun Dec 4

Members weekend – Charterhouse & Upper Flood


Sat Dec 24 – Mon Jan 2

Severe liver abuse

Who cares

Sat Jan 14

Sun Jan 15

Yorkshire.  Pasture Gill & White Scar

Bradford Hut

Sat Jan 21

Sun Jan 22

Working on hut with help from Butcombe Brewery.  Agen Allweldd – Dig in Midnight passage


Sat Feb 11

Sun Feb 12

Scotland.  Winter walking, probably in the Torridons – This will involve some serious whiskey drinking – book early.

Bothy Accommodation

Sat Feb 25

Sun Feb 26

Llanelli Quarry Pot – Sporting/Photo Trip Agen Allwedd – Dig in Midnight Passage.


Fri Evening Mar 17

- Easter Mon Mar 27

IrelandCo. Clare.  1st 8 people in cottage, the rest sort out their own accommodation


Sat Apr 8



Sat Apr 15

Sat Apr16

Parachuting weekend.


Sat Apr 22

Sun Apr 23

Otter hole

Agen Allwedd – Dig in Midnight passage.


Sat Apr 29-Mon May 1

(May Bank Holiday)

Yorkshire.  Penyghent & King pot


Sat May 15

Sun May 16

Members weekend at Belfry – Banwell caves

Working on Hut (Barrel assisted)


Sat May 27–Mon May 29

(Spring Bank)

Gower.  Caving, drinking and surfing


Sat Jun 10

Sun Jun 11

Ystradfelte.  Little Neath & Pant Mawr

Croydon Hut

Sat Jun 24

Sun Jun 25

Lundy Island.  Climbing, diving & vegetating


Sat Jul 1

Sun Jul 2

Daren Cilau – Agen Allwedd round trip (if its on the cards by then)


Sat Jul 8

Sun Jul 9

Snowdon Horseshoe – Llangollen – Lilo race down the Dee (bring a helmet)


Sat Jul 22

Sat Jul 23

Yorkshire – Quaking & Hags Dike

Bradford Hut

Sat Aug 5

Sun Aug 20

Romania – The BEC go over the wall!


Sat Sept 2

Sun Sept 3

Steep Holm

Agen Allwedd – Dig in Midnight passage


Sat Sept 9

Sun Sept 10

Derbyshire – Peak & Nettle

Pegasus Hut

Sat Sept 23

Sat Sept 24

Devon.  Fishing trip, probably from Dartmouth.

Bakers Pit , Reeds & Pridhamsleigh


Sat Oct 7

AGM – Lynch mob to get rid of Caving Secretary



Bristol Exploration Club - Membership List 1/12/88

828 Nicolette Abell                      Faukland, Bath
987 Dave Aubrey                         Salisbury, Wiltshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw                 Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                      Midsomer Norton, Bath, Avon
1095 Craig Bale                           Knowle, Bristol
818 Chris Batsone                       radstock, Avon
1079 Henry Bennett                     Pimlico, London.
390 (LJ) Joan Bennett                  Newtownmore, Invernesshire
214 (LJ) Roy Bennett                   Newtownmore, Invernesshire
769 Sue Bishop                           Tynings, Radstock.
998 Crissie Bissett                      Ottery St. Mary, Devon
731 Bob Bidmead                        East Harpytree,  Bristol
364 (L) Pete Blogg                       Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle            Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                      Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Bradshaw                     Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                     London, SW2
1082 Robin Brown                       Cheddar, Somerset
1108 Denis Bumford                    Westcombe, Shepton Mallet
924 J Aileen Butcher                    Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
849 J Alan Butcher                      Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
956 J Ian Caldwell                        Clifton, Bristol
1036 J Nicola Slann                     Clifton, Bristol
1091 William Curruthers               Holcombe Bath
1014 Chris Castle                        Axbridge, Somerset
902 (L) Martin Cavender               Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset.
New Richard Chaddock                Butleigh, Wooton, Glastonbury
1048 Tom Chapman                     Cheddar, Somerset.
1030 Richard Clarke                    Axbridge, Somerset
1102 Nicholas Cline                     Wells, Somerset
211 (L) Clare Coase                     Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                       Litton, Somerset
862 Bob Cork                              Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1121 Nicholas Cornwell-Smith      Oldham Common, Bristol
1042 Mick Corser                        Cringleford, Norwich, Norfolk
827 Mike Cowlishaw                    Winchester, Hants.
1060 Peter Crawley                     West Wickham. Kent
890 Jerry Crick                            Wing, Leighton Buzzard, Bucks
896 Pat Cronin                            Knowle, Bristol
680 Bob Cross                            Knowle, Bristol
405 (L) Frank Darbon                   Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. VIT 6M3
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
830 John Dukes                          Street, Somerset
996 Terry Earley                          Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                       Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
1063 Peter Evans                        Abingdon, Oxfordshire
232 Chris Falshaw                       Fulwood, Sheffield
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                    Bramcote, Nottingham.
404 (L) Albert Francis                  Wells, Somerset
569 J Joyce Franklin                    Stone, Staffs
469 J Pete Franklin                      Stone, Staffs
835 Len Gee                               Stockport, Cheshire
1098 Brian Gilbert                        Chingford, London
1069 J Angie Glanvill                    Chard, Somerset
1017 J Peter Glanvill                    Chard, Somerset
648 Dave Glover                          Pamber Green, Basingstoke, Hampshire
1054 Tim Gould                           Leith, Edinburgh
860 J Glenys Grass                     Ridgewell, Essex
790 J Martin Grass                      Ridgewell, Essex
1009 Robin Gray                         East Horrington, Wells, Somerset
1089 Kevin Gurner                       Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                        Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam               St Annes, Lancashire
581 Chris Harvey                         Hanham Lane, Paulton, Somerset
4 (L) Dan Hassell                         Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset
893 Dave Hatherley                      Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset
1097 Charles Hay                        Crosscombe, Wells, Somerset
1078 Mike Hearn                         Bagworth, Axbridge, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                         Nempnet Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol
974 Jeremy Henley                      Shepton Mallet, Somerset
952 Bob Hill                                Assen, Netherlands
1105 Joanna Hills                        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                       Wells, Somerset
855 Ted Humphreys                     Wells, Somerset
73 Angus Innes                           Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                        Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                          Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                     Buxton, Derbyshire
1026 Ian Jepson                          Beechen Cliff, Bath
51 (L) A Johnson                         Flax Bourton, Bristol
995 Brian Johnson                       Ottery St. Mary, Devon
1001 Graeme Johnson                 Cosby, Leicester
560 (L) Frank Jones                     Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                    Henleaze, Brsitol
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
667 (L) Tim Large                        c/o Phil Romford
1015 Andrew Lolley                     Kingsdowm, Bristol
1043 Andy Lovell                         Keynsham, Bristol
1072 Clive Lovell                          Keynsham, Bristol
1057 Mark Lumley                       c/o Chris Smart
1100 Sarah McDonald                  London
1067 Fiona McFall                       Fishponds, Bristol
106 (L) E.J. Mason                      Henleaze, Bristol
651 Pete MacNab (Sr)                 Cheddar, Somerset
1052 J Pete MacNab (Jr)              Alexandra Park, Redland, Bristol
1090 Robert McNair                     Otley, Yorkshire
550 (L) R A MacGregor                Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                   Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                   Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
1106 Simon Mendes                    Droitwtich, Worcestershire
704 Dave Metcalf                         Long Eaton, Nottingham
1044 Andrew Middleton                Earlsfield, London.
1053 Steve Milner                        St. George, Bristol
1099 Bill Murkett                         Buckhurst hill, Essex
1086 Richard Neville-Dove            Bristol
936 Dave Nichols                         Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
852 John Noble                           Paulton, Bath
624 Jock Orr                               Sturton-by-Stowe, Lincoln
396 (L) Mike Palmer                    Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Richard Payne                    Sidcup , Kent
22 (L) Les Peters                         Knowle Park, Bristol Avon
1107 Terry Phillips                       Denmead, Hants.
499 (L) A. Philpott                       Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1103 Mark Philpott                      Wells, Somerset
1037 Dave Pike                           Yarley, Wells, Somerset
337 Brian Prewer                         Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1085 Duncan Price                      Edgbaston, Birmingham
1101 Christopher Proctor              Radstock, Bath
1109 Philip Provis                        Barh Rd., Paulton, Bristol
481 (L) John Ransom                   Patchway, Bristol, Avon
682 J John Riley                          c/o Barry Wilton
1033 J Sue Riley                         c/o Barry Wilton
1070 Mary Robertson                   Stonebridge Park, London, NW10
986J Lil Romford                          Coxley, Wells, Somerset
985J Phil Romford                       Coxley, Wells, Somerset
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                        c/o J’Rat
915J Chris Smart                         Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
907J Karen Jones                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                             Clifton, Bristol
1041 Laurence Smith                   West Horrington, Wells, Somerset
823 Andy Sparrow                       Priddy, Somerset
1063 Nicholas Sprang                  East Street, Worcester
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                    Bude, Cornwall
38(L) Mrs I Stanbury                    Knowle, Bristol
575 (L) Dermot Statham               Shepton Mallet, Somerset
365 (L) Roger Stenner                  Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stephens                c/o Trevor Hughes
867 Rich Stevenson                     Wookey, Wells, Somerset, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                        East Horrington, Wells Somerset
1115 Rob Taviner                         High Street, East Harptree
1039 Lisa Taylor                          Bickley, Bromely
772 Nigel Taylor                          Langford, Avon
1035 John Theed                         Farmborough, Bath
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       Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
381 (L) Daphne Towler                 Nyetimber, Bognor Regis, Sussex
1093 Gary Trainer                        Hampstead, London NW3
382 Steve Tuck                           Coxley, Wells, Somerset
1023 Matt Tuck                           Coxley, Wells, Somerset
1066 Alan Turner                         Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
678 Dave Turner                          Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
912 John Turner                           Tavistock, Devon.
635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury               Boundstone, Farnham, Surrey
1096 Maurice van Luipen              Hayes, Middlesex
887 Greg Villis                            Banwell, Weston-super-Mare, Avon
175 (L) Mrs. D. Whaddon             Taunton, Somerset
1077 Brian Wafer                         St. Pauls Cray, Orpington, Kent
949 J John Watson                      Somerset
1019 J Lavinia Watson                 Somerset
973 James Wells                         Yorktown Heights, New York, USA
1055 Oliver Wells                        Yorktown Heights, New York, USA
1032 Barry Wharton                     Yatton, Bristol
553 Bob White                            Bleadney, Nr. Wells, Somerset.
1092 Barbara Williams                 London
1068 John Whiteley                     Denbury, Devon
1031 Mike Wigglesworth              Chamberlain Street, Wells, Somerset.
1087 John Williams                     Northwood, Middlesex
1075 J Tony Williams                   Leigh on Mendip, Bath
1076 J Roz Williams                    Leigh on Mendip, Bath
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                     Draycott, Cheddar, Somerset
877 Steven Woolven                    West Chilington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                     Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                     Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.


Editor's Postscript

Well that's all I've got at the moment, though a couple of interesting articles have just appeared for the next BB.

I've tried to get rid of all my typing errors.  What most worries me is errors in the membership list, but I expect Alfie will put me right.

Please could you all (or as many as possible) send in articles, anecdotes or anything you think may be of interest to the members.  It can be written, typed, on a 5.25 inch Amstrad compatible floppy disk or even recorded on a cassette tape!

You'll notice that all the page numbers have been hand -written.  That's because the computer thinks there are sixty-something lines to a page and the printer thinks there are fifty-something and I've not yet had time to get them to talk to each other

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Dave Turner

I must apologies for the lateness of this BB, working as I do for myself means that I am not always able to put the BEC first, and in the last couple of months I have had a continuous stream of rush jobs.

I don't feel I am giving the post of BB editor the attention which it deserves and so am intending not to stand for the post at the next AGM.  I think that the time has come for one of the younger members with more time and enthusiasm to take on this job.  I have kept the BEC membership records on one of my computers for many years and am quite prepared to continue doing that job and producing labels for the BB etc.  I can also then concentrate on helping to typeset books such as the Cuthbert's Report.

The Cuthbert's Report

To assist financing the Cuthbert's Report, a Building Society Account has been opened in the name of "Cuthbert McDonald".  If you have £5 to spare why not give it to J-Rat and secure your copy when it arrives?  This will also help finance its actual production.  J-Rat and his magic book will note down your particulars.  Full refunds will be available if the worst should happen, God forbid.  If you dilly-dally, it will cost £6 over the counter.  Cheques should be payable to "Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society" please, and not the BEC.


Membership changes

New members

William Curruthers         Brewery Lane, Holcombe
Barbara Williams           London
Gary Trainer                  Hampstead, London
Peter Hopkins               Keynsham, Bristol
Craig Bale                    Brislington, Bristol
Maurice van Luipen        Hayes, Middsex
Charles Hay                  Croscombe, Wells, Somerset
Brian Gilbert                 Chinford, London
Bill Murkett                   Buckhurst Hill, Essex
Sarah Macdonald          address unknown
Christopher Proctor       Radstock, Bath
Nicholas Cline               Wells, Somerset
Mark Philpott                Wells, Somerset
Dr. Tony Boycott           Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol
Joanna Hills                  Billinghurst W.Sussex
Simon Mendes              Droitwich, Worcs
Dennis Bumford            Westcombe, Shepton Mallet
Terry Phillips                 Demead, Hants

Address changes

Roy and Joan Bennett   Newtonmore, Invernesshire
Ross White                  c/o Mike Palmer
Chrissie Bissett            Ottery St Mary, E. Devon
Richard Clarke              Axbridge, Somerset
Dr. Peter Glanvill           Chard, Somerset
Robert McNair               Oltley, Yorkshire
Rob Harper                   Wells, Somerset
Brian Prewer                 Priddy, Wells, Somerset

[Editors note: some of the changes may not be exactly correct ­ the note containing them was illegible!]


Flooding Incident In Eastwater Cavern

On the 16th April a party of eight B.E.C. and three W.C.C. members were undertaking various climbing, digging and surveying projects in the remote parts of West End Series, Eastwater Cavern.  Another Wessex team were digging in the upper passages of West End and two tourist parties were also in the cave. Those working in the bottom had enjoyed a relatively easy and dry trip, there being only a trickle of water at Lolley Pot and through the flood-prone crawl into Blackwall Tunnel, the writer even remarking to Kevin Gurner that Lolley Pot is much more entertaining when it is taking a stream.

On the surface, during the early afternoon, there occurred a brief, torrential downpour which seems to have been centred over the Priddy-North Hill area, only steady rain being noted at nearby Wells.  This fell onto hard, dry ground and the major Eastwater catchment took much of this excessive rainfall, causing the entrance to become impassable and temporarily trapping all parties in the cave.

In lower West End the B.E.C. team were commencing a survey of the deepest part - the Chamber of Horrors.  At about 4.30 p.m. a roaring mass of water erupted from the too-tight inlet passage leading in from Blackwall Tunnel and the floor of the chamber rapidly began to fill up - possibly helped by water from a theoretical streamway below the chamber floor.

Tom Chapman was hastily despatched to the Tunnel to check on conditions and use his own judgement on whether to try and get out and organise a possible rescue.  In the meantime the Wessex team was contacted by the writer and warned of conditions.  Being only four bolts away from new passage at the top of an eighty foot aven they were at first sceptical, and then reluctant to leave - they were already prepared for an overnight stay in the cave.  Graham Johnson, though, accompanied the writer to Blackwall Tunnel, and both realized by the tremendous draught and the roar of the stream that things could be serious.  Tom had not returned and it was assumed that he had got out, so all those remaining slithered down the Tunnel to the low crawl.  Here the previously dry passage was now occupied by a swirling mass of inflowing, brown water with a foot of froth on top - like a Guinness drinker's dream! After watching the four inch air-space drop half an inch in fifteen minutes it was decided to “go for it”, as on a previous occasion the crawl had been sumped up for over two years!

With considerable trepidation all passed the tube to be confronted by an almost solid column of water hurtling down Lolley Pot - proving to Kevin that it was indeed much more entertaining with a stream in it.

The ascent of the pot under these conditions was something of a frightening epic, especially when the flood water and Trevor Hughes both began hurling T.V. sized rocks down the pitch. From here everyone made their way out at their own speed, noting scores of small streams entering West End and Ifold's Series from unexpected places.  No further problems were encountered on the way out, apart from those of a normal trip in this strenuous cave, and upon reaching the entrance the water was down enough for an easy exit.

In the meantime the other Wessex party, Pete and Alison Moody, had only got out of the entrance because of three rescuers sitting in the stream to form a temporary human dam.

Tom Chapman had valiantly fought his way out to summon assistance and a goodly team of prospective divers and rescuers was standing by at Upper Pitts and the Belfry, with the possibility of Fire Brigade help not being ignored.  Our grateful thanks to all concerned.

The tourist parties in the cave had not realized that the flood had occurred, being in drier parts of the system at the time of the pulse.

All those involved agree that this was a very close call.

Anyone in Blackwall Tunnel squeeze or climbing Lolley Pot at the time of the initial flood pulse would have been very lucky to survive.  The easily blocked sink at the bottom of the Tunnel was fortunately operating fairly well thanks to the efforts of Wessex digging teams over the last year and the flood may even have helped to clear it.  Should it have become blocked and the whole stream backed up the consequences could have been disastrous.  The wet and extremely draughty conditions could have easily led to hypothermia if anyone had been forced to stay beyond the Tunnel and, as stated before, rescue from this remote and difficult area is nigh on impossible with an incapacitated person.

Those working here have learnt several more important lessons from this event and a rescue dump will shortly be installed beyond the Tunnel.  This should be used ONLY in emergency.

It is once again stressed that this is arguably the most difficult Mendip trip - one of those present on this occasion stating that, in comparison, "Daren Cilau is a piece of cake ... "  Add to this the ever present danger of flash floods and you have a bit of cave to treat with the utmost respect.  Also be warned of the dangers of the cave entrance flooding and the ever present possibility of movement in the Boulder Ruckle and Boulder Chamber the latter being actively "on the move" at the present time.

Have a nice trip.

(also reproduced in Descent)

Tony Jarratt


Council of Southern Caving Clubs

At the recent CSCC AGM Martin Grass was defeated in the election for Secretary.  With over 120 clubs the voting was 3 for Martin and 4 for Alan Butcher.  So Butch is now the new Secretary.

So Near but Yet So Far


During an enforced clear-out of my loft recently I found my old Belfry Bulletins dating back to the year I joined the Club (1955).  One particular journal stood out because of its bright yellow cover, a BB Digest dated 1959.  In it were many articles dating as far back as 1951 and one article in particular, by John Ifold, caught my attention.  His article, dated 1951, described the discovery of the Ifold Series in Eastwater and his thoughts on the future possibilities.

Now read on.

A New System in Eastwater Cavern

J.W. Ifold

If Harris's passage is followed up-stream, the canyon formation merges into a steeply inclined bedding plane, which is sectioned off by loose and dangerous boulder chokes. During Easter l95l, the author removed a small boulder choke and penetrated into further extensions. Whether these extensions are of the same bedding plane or not can only be settled by a survey.  At present the system appears to penetrate for about four hundred feet, and there are possibilities that it may be further extended. An interesting observation is the presence of two streams which seem to disappear in a North Westerly direction.  Another feature unusual to Eastwater is the presence of large eroded stalagmite sheeting. This is eroded not only on its upper surface, but at many points is completely hollowed out from beneath. Its markings include scalloping and several concentric circles, which are possibly the remains of completely eroded stalagmites. This discovery led to a discussion of the complete absence of stalagmitic formations in Eastwater as compared with the abundance in nearby Swildons.  An interesting point is the phreatic sponge-work, smaller than that in Ffynnon Ddu, but otherwise very similar.

One member of the party advanced the theory that at one time Eastwater had taken a very much larger proportion of the North Hill drainage than it now does, while near-by Swildons was left comparatively dry. This heavy flow might have caused very rapid and complete erosion, thus explaining the almost complete absence of formations in Eastwater, and these strangely eroded sheets.

The direction of the system leads to the belief that it is under the boulder maze, but it is possible that the two small streams at the end of the series may come from the 380 foot way.  This system may yield to further exploration.


BEC Parachuting Weekend

Would anyone interested in going on a weekend parachuting course please get in touch.  When we have a rough idea of numbers we'll start sorting out dates and a venue.  There's a list in the Belfry so just sign your life away and try a BEC first of falling off things while sober.


Club Trip Abroad 1989 Or 1990

So many people enjoyed the club trip to the Berger a few years ago that it is about time we did something similar.  One possibility that comes to mind is a trip to the P.S.M., or perhaps the Trou de Glaz area, maybe even the Berger again.  If anyone is interested in this idea then let me know, tell me which area you'd rather go to.  There's no reason why this should get in the way of the Austria project, it’s just a more caving holiday type of trip that can be arranged as well.  Also there's a distinct possibility that the Dachstein will be closed to foreign cavers in the near future.

While on the subject of Austria, I don't recollect having seen a report in the BB about the trip there last summer!


Article For Sale

Alan Thomas wishes to sell 6 berth Conway Trailer Tentin excellent condition including Calor stove with full cylinder of Calor Gas and Tilly Lamp.  Reason for selling - Too difficult for Alan on his own.  Price £400

West End Series - Eastwater Cavern


Diggers And Explorers - Cast In Order Of Appearance

Keith Gladman - BEC

Andy Lolley - BEC

Tim Large - BEC

Stuart Macmanus - BEC

Phil Romford - BEC

Tony Jarratt - BEC

John Watson - BEC

Jim Smart - BEC

Mark Lumley - CSS

Glyn Bolt - WCC

Darren Granfield - BEC

Graham Wilton-Jones – BEC

"Bucket" Tilbury - BEC

Jane Clarke - BEC

Andy Sparrow - BEC

Trevor Hughes - BEC

Rob Harper - BEC

Edric Hobbs - BEC

Matt Tuck - BEC

Brian Prewer - BEC

Hark Brown -BEC

Dave Turner - BEC

Paul Hodgson - BEC

Andrew George - BEC

Ian Caldwell - BEC

Barrie Wharton - BEC

Dave Newsom - US of A

Pete Hann - WCC

Julie Bolt - WCC

Pete Glanville BEC

Tony Boycott – UBSS

Neill Scallon - CSS

Angie Glanville - BEC

Martin Grass -BEC

Cnris Castle - BEC

Debbie Armstrong – BEC

Steve Lane  - BEC

Chris Birkhead - ICCC

Mark Bound - BEC

Peter Bolt - BEC

Howard Limbert - NCC

Decbie Limbert - NCC

Alan Box - NCC

"Noddy" - NCC

Mike Duck - BEC

Robin Gray – BEC

Nick Hill - SMCC

Mike ? - ex ACG

Jeremy Henley - BEC

Tim Swan

Pete Moody - WCC

Alison Moody - WCC

Rich Websell -WCC

Ian Mackenzie - Alberta SS

Alistair Neill & friends – PCG

Chris Larkin - S. African SS

Pete Watts - WCC

Paul Whybro - WCC

Geoff Newton - WCC

Mike Davies - NUCC

Andy Lovell - BEC

Dave Shand - BEC

Tim Gould - BEC

Lisa Taylor - BEC

"Nipper" Harrison

Steve Milner - BEC

Chris Batstone - BEC

Martin Buckley - WCC

Paul Sutton - WCC

John Dukes - BEC

Pete Rose - BEC

Pete "Snablet" Macnab - BEC

Tom Chapman - BEC

Andy Cave - BEC

Tim Robbins-SVCC

Rich York - BEC

Bob Lewis - SVCC

Dave ? - SVCC

Mike ? - SVCC

Doug Mills - WCC

Simon ? - WCC

Duncan Frew - WCC




Aggy at Easter, one foot deep and flooded

The sun was shining at 7.40 a.m. as I drove across Mendip to Crickhowell to breakfast at the corner cafe with Mac, Bishop, John Dukes and others.  At 8.59 a.m. I walked through the cafe door to cries of, "He’s a minute early," and the rain that had emptied on the campers that morning started again.

Breakfast took an hour, arrived lukewarm in slow relays as the cafe staff struggled inadequately and the air grew steadily more foul from partly digested beer and an unhealthy food eaten the night before.

At about 11.30 a.m. a motley crew of eight signed into the cave and, exhausted by the walk to the cave and wondering what I was doing there, I immediately took up the rear. Aggy really is the ultimate bore for great stretches between little climbs that require longer legs than I seem to have, and sections of stream passage with lively water.  Water - there seemed to be a lot more than I could remember. An hour or so in there were mutterings from the aficionados, "It sometimes sumps before the third boulder choke. Just as well we decided to go this way rather than through Southern Streamway first."

We entered a long canal of deep water which nobody could remember. "Perhaps there was a climb out of the water further back," suggested one. "No, it’s straight on down the streamway," asserted another, so we went on a few yards to where the passage widened and progress could only be made by swimming, the three non-swimmers in the party buoyed up by their wetsuits and encouraged by the rest of us.  The roof came down to a foot from the water.  We turned left, went on for just a few paces, and the roof met the water. Sumped.  Consternation.  Another party caught us up.  We chatted awhile but there was only one thing to do and that was to head back out, disappointed.

However, there was a problem which had delayed us about ten minutes.  Whilst swimming I had kicked off a wellington boot which promptly sank in eight feet of water.  A search had revealed nothing so a makeshift boot of four armbands had been wrapped around my right foot.  Finally, with jokes in very poor taste about spare boots being available from a late cave diver we set off to find that the air space of a foot was now a matter of inches and urgency and much encouragement was needed to get everyone through.  Even amongst the hard-nosed there were signs of singular relief.

Two hours later we were back at the entrance.  My makeshift boot had served its purpose and, for the record books, I became the first person to do one third of the Grand Circle on one foot, four Mars bars, a currant bun, six slices of toast, two cans of coke and a shot from a disposable syringe.

Jeremy Henley


Notes From The Librarian

Tony Jarratt

Two new trends have been started in the Library.  One of these is the hopeful collection of a selection of caving videos.  Anyone who has videos which they would care to donate or lend for copying should see the Librarian.  Likewise anyone with video copying facilities would be welcomed with open arms.  Mark has started the ball rolling.

The other new idea is the collection of copies of members personal caving logs.  Much useful information may be contained in these and if they are lost or destroyed it cannot be replaced. Should anyone care to let the club have a copy of their log they will receive their own photocopy free as a safeguard against loss.

Additions to the Library

* 3 mss Logbooks (Xerox copies) A. Jarratt - donated by J.Rat.
* Video - Hard Rock Cafe, Daren Cilau & extract from "Blue Peter"
* Irish Speleology Vol 4 No. 1 1987
* The Jewel Cave Adventure (American Caving)
* Beneath the Mountains (Expedition to N.Spain)
* The Mysterious World of Caves
* Caves and Caving in Britain (written by E.J. Mason a BEC member)
* Trapped! (the attempted rescue of Floyd Collins - gripping!)
* Cave Photography - A Practical Guide (Chris Howes new book)
* SRT (by D. Elliot - tells you how to place red bolts)
* Devenshire Sump Index 1985
* Devon Caves Vol 1 East Devon
* Devon Caves Vol 2 - Chudleigh & Kingsteinton
* Devon Caves Vol 3 - N. Torbay
* Local Caving - Caving in the Crickhowell area
* Speleo Sportive dans Ie Vercors (useful French guide)
* Caves of Derbyshire (1984 edition)

All the above were bought by the Club to enhance the new library.  They were chosen by the Librarian. Anyone wanting a specific book please inform Tony Jarratt.



Though not a novel idea, it is nice to see the dedication of two of our new members who now each proudly sport a Bertie tattooed on their chests.  Perhaps some of the lady members ....


Thanks to all those who helped on the hut over the past week. We managed to do the following jobs:-

* Mowed lawn
* Cut down nettles
* Chucked out all rubbish including old lockers and heaters
* Disinfected and cleaned floors in Main, Shower Drying & both bunk rooms
* Cleared rubbish from Hut Warden's locker
* Cleaned walls of Drying Room
* Cleaned all woodwork ready for painting
* Cleaned bunks and repaired 2 bunks. Bolted bunks to wall
* Raised furniture so main can be hosed down
* Fixed temporary step outside Main Room Fire exit
* Painted bog walls and cleaned bogs
* Fitted First Aid box
* Fitted new signboard
* Inspected Roof
* Repaired second shower
* Replaced third shower
* Repaired Main Room water heater - installed new tap
* Rewired storage heater time clock
* Replaced hose
* Hung up 3 new mirrors
* Preparation for 1 new socket in large Bunk Room
* Rodded out drains
* Cleaned out gully
* Cleaned cookers
* Refilled Fire Extinguisher
* Cleaned all crockery
* Stocked up on cleaning materials
* 40w bulbs in Bunk rooms & hallway
* Lampshade in big bunk room
* Painted windows in Women’s Bunk Room
* Removed all gas bottles to store, re-piped all gas feeds to store
* Painted walls of Main Room
* Removed old cupboard & ordered new shelving

Wanted For The Belfry

Digging tools
Coat Hooks
Benches for shower room
Extractor Fan
Bags of cement to stabilise car park
Tins of white emulsion paint
Tins of white undercoat and gloss
Carpet for Library (10ft. square)



BEC Pens


Pens are constructed of £2 x 1” Keruing (Malayan Hardwood) throughout with a “2 x 2” bucket rail complete with hoops of 5/16ths” steel rod.  Joints in key places are double bolted for extra strength.

Standard pens are 6’ x 3’ x 3’6” high, giving an 18sq.ft. floor area.  They can be tailor made to fit existing buildings in single or double rows of any length and with slatted or solid sides.  If the walls of the buildings are suitable they can be used, thus eliminating the need for wooden pen backs and sides at the ends of the row. This type of unit makes the most economical use of the building.

There are two bucket openings per pen, preventing the fouling of dry food.  Fronts are completely removable or can be hinged either way, allowing easy calf access.  Pens can be dismantled simple in seconds, without the use of spanners, for cleaning or convenience.


e.g Based on a row of 20 standard pens with slatted sides: -

Complete Pen £33.64/pen

Without Backs £24.55/pen

Without Backs & End Sides £23.10/pen

Double Pen Front £19.91 each

Double Hayrack £19.91 each

2 Gallon Bucket £19.91 each


West Virginia. U.S.A April 1988

" Ere Wang" says Stumpy, ''Where's that atlas and that pin?"  'Wot do yer want that for?" replies Trebor.  "To find out where we’re going for our hols, of course." "Ah so" says Trebor.  STAB. "Ok, West Virginia it is" says Trebor triumphantly. 'Where's that?" questions Stumpy. Trebor leaves, exasperated.


So commenced the "Pesky Critture" caving expedition to Monroe, Greenbrier and Pocohontas counties, West Virginia, USA which by this time had accumulated that varmint, Stuart MacManus. A bit of research soon threw up a good number of caves and contacts, so after some letter writing and favourable replies, off we went.

Unusually for a BEC trip, our vague plan of campaign held together and we spent days mellowing (‘moseying’ in US slang) on down the Blue Ridge Mountains, 100 miles west of Washington, heading south west for West Virginia.  Mac thoroughly enjoyed the cold night air up in the Shenandoah National Park, particularly as the Bishop had neglected to include the feathers when he sold Mac his apology for a sleeping bag.  Just as well Bish was 3000 miles away.  Mac it seems doesn't like bogeyman that go bump, rattle or roar in the night so he wouldn’t relieve himself from his tent. Pat and Trebor were snug as a bug, giving extra credence to the well known local saying that '' Virginia is for lovers".

TIPS FOR TRIPPERS. Hire a car.  They are pretty cheap and smart but insurance can be about 10 dollars a day.  Speed limit slow at 50­55nph depending on the state.  Petrol very cheap at 85c a gal.

On our way down the Shenandoah Park, which straddles the Blue Ridge Mountains, we took sideways excursions down into the Shenandoah Valley to visit show caves, of which there are numerous good ones e.g. Luray Caverns.  The Massanutten show cave was probably the most memorable as it was a little private one with the owner, Mr Cobb, as guide - a grand old man on sticks shuffling through the cave at minimal miles per hour: very proud, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  We were his only visitors.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS. Visit show caves.  They are well done, plentiful, interesting and often spectacular.  You invariably find you are the only customers, especially in the week, thus receiving preferential attention.

We visited the Grand Caverns Show Cave at Grottoes, south of Harrisonburg (a regional centre) and as the only spectators received a fascinating trip with the guide who asked us to tell him how the thing was formed and what this and that were, especially wonderful disc-like projections coming out of walls and ceilings.  We heard that there was a proper cave just alongaways a bit so we obtained permission from the show cave manager, obtained an indemnity waiver form and fired on down this Fountain Cave.  Obviously once very spectacular but somebody had tried to make it into a show cave at same time in the past and it didn't work out.  Our first 'proper' caving trip in the US.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS.  In show caves, if you want to wander off beyond the lit bit, you are asked to sign an indemnity form absolving the management from any liability.  Some charge dollars, but we resisted paying on principle.

Off the Blue Ridge now and heading south west'ish towards Bath County, West Virginia on our way to the main caving area.  A lovely scenic county with apparently 100,000 trees to every human.  Lovely hidden valleys, babbling brooks, nooks and crannies and cave potential.  I should have been a poet.  A good days amble, camp, cave spot and musing was had before moving on via Lake Moomaw but not before Pat shimmied up a cliff to suss out a likely hole, only to utter the immortal words - "This rock looks a bit naff".  Two tons of it promptly fell off, narrowly missing our intrepid companion.

SPIRITS FOR TRAVELLERS Bath County has respectable caves and is certainly worth a closer look and extended stay.  Local base is either Warm or Hot Springs and there is camping available.  Americans are very well set up for the outdoor life so there are campsites liberally deposited.   Visit Sam Sneads restaurant in Hot Springs, superb and cheap.  No more carbide left in Hot Springs - we pinched it!

To our initial chagrin, carbide was impossible to obtain but after the 450th attempt we decided to have one last go in this little hardware store in Hot Springs we were passing after an early breakfast.

"Do you have any calcium carbide my good hardware vendor?" says Mac.  "Gee, I had sane here waysback.  Jus' hunker down there and I'll go out back and looksee!

Bless his heart, he cane tack with a dusty old tin of the stuff for the grand price of a rock.  On now to the Greenbrier River and our caving area, centred around Lewisburg and route 219 which runs north-south through the cave region, embracing Monroe, Greenbrier and Pocohontas counties.  Sojourned at Lost World show caves - the only one we've seen totally lit up.  25 rocks for a 'hardcore' trip for cavers which is outrageous but a spectacular show cave nonetheless.  We left rapidly after Trebor did unspeakable things to a toilet in the show cave cafe, but less said the better.  Lewisburg is a pleasant hick town and we contacted Bob Liebman of Bob & Bob (cave supplies) by phone in Sinks Grove, a village 15 miles south of Lewisburg.  He said come on down so down we went and he kindly let us stay in his brothers 'house'; typically timber, pleasant, semi derelict, outside dunny and no water but it was a roof over our heads and certainly better than the Belfry.

Bob was hosting the local Grotto (caving club) meeting that Friday evening in his house around the corner so we were invited along to meet the boys and have a tube or two.  They gave us some tips on where to go, people to see, things to do and invited us on their club trip down the local mega cave, Organ Hole, the following Sunday.

TIPPLES FOR TRAVELLERS.  Not much water about in huts etc, so take the opportunity of ablutting in cave entrances, puddles etc, also cafes.  Carbide not allowed on planes so use petzl zooms until you can get to Bob's where there's loadsa carbide.  But beware you cannot get flat Duracell-type petzl batteries in the USA, so take plenty.

Armed with all the info, off we went the next day caving.  Too many to relate individually and far too many to even hope to do in two weeks but we saw enough variety in styles, picturesgueness, severity, size and dampness to whet the appetite.  Over 3000 known caves in the state and vast potential for more.  We didn't even dent the surface.  The locals can't cope with what they've got, let alone systematically look for more.  Two or three trips stood out in the first week.

BRANTS CAVE.  Not much of a cave but a little SRT entrance pitch.   Accompanied by one of the Organ Hole show cave guides.  All well until the prusik out when our American friend had trouble with his apology-for-a-rig.

"Cut the rope, cut the rope - I'm dying!" came the anguished cry.

Trebor looks over the lip and says with remarkable restraint, hoi-polloi and nonchalance,

"'The BEC don't cut rope, dear boy" .. (and under his breath, "not even at 75p a metre")

Pat and Trebor untied the belay, lowered our guide all of two feet to the floor while Dan "I'm a warden" Dare McManus descended to sort the bloke out.  First MRO overseas rescue?

ORGAN CAVE.  Some forty miles of biggish stuff, not rivettingly interesting but has to be done and of course we only did a bit of it.  A small part is a rather poor show cave but it does contain old timber vats from the Civil War when they used to leach out saltpetre for gunpowder.  The main significance was that it was our first trip with the local caving group, a great bunch.  We did a 6 hour through trip which was pleasant enough, but mainly because of the company.  The jokes and banter began to flow.  I never knew Mac had such a dirty mind.

WARM RIVER CAVE.  We had heard that this one breathed fire and brimstone from the entrance with hot Spring water frothing deep below.  It had to be checked out by these fearless Belfryites, wearing good old wetsuits in the mad dogs and English tradition.  After some initial difficulty with route finding, we promptly found the froth - hot spring water at 86F running to meet a cooler inlet.  Luckily a cooler lake allowed some respite but we only just exited before heat exhaustion took over.  Now we know why all the roots were covered with condensation. Well worth a visit.  Needless to say you can get away with dry grotts or perhaps just wet suit bottom.

SCOTT HOLLOW. One of the recent finds, a short distance from Sinks Grove, discovered by a farmer clearing his land with a bulldozer for a lake/reservoir.  Entrance series similar to Mendip, but bigger, breaking out into really stupendous river passage, bigger than Darens Time Machine with the river Thames flowing down it.  We couldn't see roof, walls or floor.  Magnificent.

Mac to local: ''What's this chamber called George?"  Local: "'That's no chamber, it's a passage!”

Mac again: ''How does it end George?"  George: "Oh. We haven't got to the end yet.  It goes on for five miles like this and still going"


So endeth the first week. At the Grotto meeting we had met Gordon Mothes owner of the Friars Hole Cave Preserve, some 30 miles north and our aim for the second week.  He gladly let us stay on the Preserve in his log cabin caving hut - a lovely peaceful spot deep in the forest on the Pocohontas/Greenbrier County border, just off Route 219.  His 600 odd acre farm is slap bang over the Friars Hole Cave system, all 45 miles of it and one of the longest in the country. He has some 5 or 6 of its entrances on his land.

TIPS FOR DRIVERS. When passing through Ronceverte, just south of Lewisburg, beware funny junctions with strange signs which plead 'stop'.  If you don't then Officer Rudd will kick your ass.  The County Judge is not amused at 11.30 pm.  Also watch out for sneaky one-way systems which they slip in here and there when you're least expecting it.

The Friars Hole cabin is a classic - outside dunny, spring water nearby, a bunk area and a Belfresque log burning stove, plus a huge bull who conveniently stands between the hut and the dunny - a formidable sight at 3 in the morning when a bleary ex­caver wants the john.  Only a few minutes walk away are 4 or 5 of the Friars Hole Cave entrances, except the main Friars Hole entrance which is a few minutes drive back down Route 219.  Two dollars a night for the hut.   What more could a caver want?  Even an arm chair caver.

We then had three very pleasant days at the Preserve, exploring as much of the cave system as we could (probably only 10%?) via 4 of the entrances.  Mostly mega stuff, some dry, some wet and quite a bit (3 miles) of crawling if you want it, just to make Mendipites feel at home.  Also loadsa bats, SRT available, saltpetre vats - it's got the lot.  A traverse of the system, from Friars Hole to Canadian Hole is supposed to take 14 hours, for Americans that is.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS. Budget for white water rafting on the New and Greenbrier Rivers.  We were quoted 70 Bucks but in the proper season it may be less and different outfits will have different charges.  Shop around. Wait for a nice wet spell to add a bit of froth, spice, spills, stained underwear and excitement.


A quick run tack to Washington, roughly along the way we had come (Pat had forgotten something at Luray) but utilising the Interstate highways a bit more.

We had a few hours to kill on that day plus a few the next morning to have a look round Washington; various monuments, Arlington Cemetery, Ronnie's house, Smithsonian etc.  Well worth it.  A good fast, clean metro.  Avoid taxis. Two feet is the best way to get around.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS. Common courtesy with landowners still applies.  They are very friendly and delighted that speleos come all the way from England to go down their holes.  So spend a bit of time chatting - they're usually very interesting, e.g. Mr Cobb at Massanuten.  All locals are very friendly too and only to willing to help and talk turkey.

Beware certain TV channels on Motel telly sets.  Big satellite dishes allow them to pick up hours of triple xxx fleshy coloured porn, all sweat and gore.  Certainly far too strong for Belfryites.


A West Virginia file has been made up in the library, giving all sorts of useful and useless info such as show caves, addresses, local contacts, police cell dimensions, as maps places for plans, eateries, etc. Please leave it all intact in the file for others to use.

Trebor, Pat & Mac


The Lava Caves Of Lanzarote

Overcoming my puritanical instincts which dictated an Englishman should sit out an English winter, Angie and I took off for Lanzarote this January.   Lanzarote, the northernmost of the Canary Islands, lies roughly on the same latitude as the Bahamas and the Spanish Sahara and has a climate aptly described as eternal spring.  Apart from its climatic benefits the island also sports some extensive lava fields of varying vintage.  These are the consequence of volcanic eruptions in the recent geological past - so recent that the islands are still seismically active.  Although the last major eruption on Lanzarote was two hundred years ago the last eruption in the Canaries occurred within the last two decades. Lava fields often contain lava tubes i.e. caves.  Not long ago Caves and Caving contained an article on the lava tubes of Lanzarote and this helped to stimulate my interest.

The largest, and most recent lava field, can be found in the Timanfaya national park to the south-west of the island.  The problem about exploration here is that the park is out of bounds to the average tourist apart from guided coach tours through the dramatic landscape.  One of these tours is a must for any visitor to the island.  It is a bit like being in an above ground show cave if you can envisage such a thing! The tour starts at a discreetly and tastefully constructed restaurant overlooking the park - shades of Ailwee. Here the park guides demonstrate the proximity of hot rock by throwing furze into excavated pits, letting it burst into flame, and by tipping water into metal pipes let into the ground to create artificial geysers.  If this was not enough the restaurant grills its meat on a volcanic barbecue.

The coach drive, with appropriate good music, meanders through the genuinely lunar landscape - dunes of ash, frozen lava falls, panoramic views of craters, ash cones and collapsed lava tubes can all be seen.  At one point the coach goes through a collapsed tube on the walls of which can be seen lavatites.  The lava field extends to the sea on the west coast and this is accessible via rough tracks - probably worth looking at for new caves.

To the north of the island is the extinct Monte Corona and a lava field extending to the east coast. This field is much older and has become covered with vegetation, mostly succulents.  One of the world's longest lava tube complexes extends from the base of the volcano and can be entered at a number of points.  Beside the road to the coast is a huge collapse doline from which both the 'upstream' and 'downstream' sections of the tunnel can be entered.  They are spectacularly big and made me regret not having a torch with me.  I could walk into the downstream tunnel for 50 metres with daylight still penetrating.

Down the road a bit further and marked only by a car park is the show cave Cueva Los Verdes.  Here the doline has been planted cut with exotic plant life.  The ticket office is a cunningly concealed hole in the doline wall - easy to walk past until the hand shoots out!  An engineered descent through a boulder ruckle enters a large dry meandering tunnel with more discreet mood music (Brian Eno ambient style) and concealed lighting. There is a notable absence of the ferns one sees normally in limestone show caves.  The tunnel looking every inch like a vadose canyon debouches into a much larger hall containing a concert platform.  The cave can be seen to continue beyond a pile of boulders. The way back is along a high level passage with an absence of safety barriers which would make a HSE inspector blanch.  Joe feature here is an artificial pool which by reflecting the high roof above creates the optical illusion that one is peering down a deep pit.  Quite a few people were taken in by this despite the fact that they had just walked from that direction at a lower level.  One leaves the cave by a separate entrance in the doline past the biggest Swiss Cheese plants I have ever seen.

Right down near the coast is the Jameos del Agua - an entertainment complex in a cave.  One enters the Doline via a spiral staircase. A restaurant covers most of the middle level whilst ferns and cacti grow around the walls.  On the seaward side of the dance floor is a descending boulder slope to an illuminated sump pool which is tidal.  This is the start of the Atlantida tunnel extending 1.6 kilometres out under the sea to a depth of 64 metres.  On the other side the restaurant is another flight of steps down to a short tunnel almost completely filled by a deep blue tidal pool.  This pool contains thousands of tiny crabs (or squat lobsters) which are blind and white.  A path along one side of the pool leads to yet more steps up into another doline containing mere exotic plants and a swimming pool more appropriately coloured for a zoo's penguin enclosure.  The place was spotlessly clean - we were amused to see somebody vacuuming the stone steps of the doline.  If you visit Lanzarote try to get off the beaten track and take some walking boots, helmet and torch.  I am sure you will be rewarded.


Nam Khong, North West Thailand

For the twelfth time we waded across the Nam Khong.  Green-brown water snails slid lazily over the green-brown pebbles.  Brilliant emerald-winged damsel flies perched on floating leaves, all facing upstream like battle ready helicopters.  Squadrons of huge pond-skaters darted hither and thither, investigating our ripples, while bee-eaters and dragonflies swooped and buzzed above us, engaged in dog-fights with their prey.

It was actually a peaceful, idyllic scene; not at all war-like, but my mind kept straying back an hour or so, to when we started our journey down the river.  We had arrived at the Nam Khong bridge and police check point by public bus.  Most people on that crowded bus - Thais, hill-tribe villagers and the occasional Buddhist monk - were continuing to the border town of Mae Hong Son.  Two 'farangs' (foreigners), each with enormous packs, caused quite a lot of interest, and everybody tried to be helpful.

"On which side of the river is the path?"

"There is no path, but you could use one of these bamboo rafts."

The rafts were flat bundles of 15 to 20 foot lengths of bamboo, which are poled downstream and, maybe, hauled back up.  They are notorious for sinking, and anyway, at this time of year the the river is full of gravel shallows making navigation a drag literally.

"There is definitely a path, and it leads to a cave."

"No!  There is no cave down the river."

"Yes.  It is in the cliffs, at the head of the first tributary."

"You cannot go into any cave.  They are dark."

"We have lights.  It is O.K. Can we leave one pack here?  We will return in the morning."

"You cannot sleep in the jungle."

They were beginning to run short of deterrents!

"We have camping equipment and plenty of food."

"The mosquitoes are really bad.  You will catch malaria."

This last ditch attempt was actually quite serious, but ...

"We have pills and repellent and nets."

They eventually accepted that we were absolutely determined (and probably mad too) and my pack was deposited in a bamboo and palm shelter where it would be completely safe: the shelter also contained several members of the Police Special Force, together with their arsenal of M16 sub-machine guns, Smith and Weston .38 revolvers, and stacks of ammunition.  The surrounding hills are constantly combed for insurgents (Kuomintang and Shan United Army) and bandits.

We soon found the path, which was fairly well trodden as many of the local villagers wandered up and down the river in search of fish.  The river meanders gently, heading south in a deep valley below massive cliffs to the east.  It drains several hundred square kilometres of karst stretching right up to the Burmese border.  A number of the tributaries that join the river from the east emerge from caves in the cliffs.  Twelve river crossings, each one made to cut off a meander or avoid small cliffs and steep sections, and we had reached the first tributary down the river from the road bridge.

We followed up the stream on a vague path to the left.  The stream flowed very slowly, straight and level; mud-floored shallows under a canopy of exotic greens.  We disturbed bright orange forest birds, whose clear calls echoed amongst the trees, and a large black and white kingfisher shot away ahead of us. Chipmunks played in the branches that overhung the water.  It was quite obvious that few people ever came here.

Suddenly we carne upon deep pools of milky-blue, and in front of us the stream cascaded noisily among large, rounded boulders of limestone.  We clambered steeply up the rocks, finding ourselves at the base of a huge slope of fallen blocks.  Above the slope we could glimpse the tall, reddish cliffs that marked the edge of the limestone plateau.  There was no sign of a cave.


The stream was lost among the boulders, its resurgence being from dark hollows between the rocks lower down. For a while we could still hear it, churning and falling, somewhere deep within the bouldery mass, and then we were climbing on, far above it.  After half an hour steadily working our way up the slope we reached a more-or-less level section; the cliffs now towered directly above us and a yawning overhang filled our view ahead.  A short distance across the top of the slope and a great chasm opened below.  To our left the wall dropped vertically for seventy five metres to the glint and subdued rushing of the underground stream, bubbling along in the gloom.  Forty metres across to the right an easier slope led over boulders, earth and mud to a wide, sandy ledge almost at the threshold of daylight - an ideal site for a bivouac.

Tham Nam Lang (Cave of the River Lang) is Thailand's second longest cave, surveyed at nearly eight and a half kilometres. Although not of world class length, its volume is some two million cubic metres, which is certainly respectable, and its catchment is four hundred and twenty five square kilometres.  The main sink is three and a half kilometres to the east, and is impenetrable.

Having levelled and laid out our bivi site we kitted up and made our way down to the stream.  Here, close to the exit, the water has cut itself a canyon, in one part only four or five metres wide; not far above us the cave is thirty to forty metres wide, and this canyon is a quite unusual feature. For two hundred metres the passage is straight, creating a long, tall, cuboid chamber.  At the inner end the cave turns a sharp corner and the daylight can penetrate no further.  We each had three forms of lighting, and none of these were sufficient to pick out the roof except in a couple of places where it dropped to less than thirty metres. The air was full of a fine mist whose droplets reflected back our light, and millions of tiny white flies horned in on our headlights, making it worse.

The roof was a roost for large numbers of bats and swifts, and their incessant squeaking filled the cave with noise for at least the first kilometre.  They were only seen when they flew around us at head height, catching insects.

There is very little stal to be seen.  Around the entrance there is plenty in the roof but, if there is stal on the roof further in, it is too small or too dark to pick out.  Much of the rock surface is coated with a slimy, black substance, making it dangerously slippery.  It probably results from the breakdown of organic matter, both vegetable and animal; it is worst near the entrance, where bird droppings add to the problem.  Any stal is likely to be coated with black and obscured.  New stal growth, so rapid in the tropics, is always vulnerable to the incredible flooding that occurs every wet season.

In spite of this we did come across particular areas of massive stal banks and gours - just over one kilometre in, Mekhala's Palace is a fine set of large, white gours, rising tier upon tier to a level platform close to the roof.  Nearly four kilometres in, up a dry, flowstone oxbow, is a huge stalagmite, Khan Thai.

I took in my wine bag for flotation in the deep water sections, but these are only short in the initial reaches of the cave.  There are long sections of splashing in knee-deep water, or wading from waist to chest deep, while in several areas it is possible to avoid the stream altogether by traversing on slippery ledges or clambering over rocks at the sides. There are some long, gravel banks where the going is easy, which we found a great relief.

We both felt that the cave was somewhat monotonous; it is certainly not sporting.  Having got the flavour of the cave we turned back for our bivouac. The late afternoon sun shone straight into the entrance, lighting up the whole of that vast cavern.  Even so, the moist cave atmosphere had left a layer of damp on everything, and we settled in for a chilly night.  Much later, from out of the dark, the low, throaty growl of a big cat awakened Jane, and we hoped we had not ousted a tiger or a panther from its favourite -resting place.  Who said monotonous?

The end of the cave is actually some six and a half kilometres in, beyond a long section of deep water.  The stream emerges from narrow fissures and rocks, and no way on has yet been found. The main sink is a further half kilometre to the north-east, at the western end of the long Nam Lang polje. More than sixteen kilometres upstream from here the Nam Lang has already come through another cave, Tham Lot. Close by this cave is the settlement of Ban Tham ( Cave Village) and Cave Lodge, where we stayed for several days.

Throughout this north-western corner of Thailand live numerous hill-tribes; the Lisu, Lahu, Karen, Meo and Mhong are just a few.  They are essentially nomadic peoples, who neither know nor care of international boundaries.  They live by 'slash and burn' agriculture: as they move into a new area the existing vegetation, often virgin jungle or primary forest, is cut down and burned totally to make way for crops, such as rice or opium.  The land is steep, and the fields are frequently just an area of hillside, which is left un-terraced.  The soil is thin and poor in nutrients.  The goodness from the ashes of the first burn is soon used up, and the whole tribe must abandon their village and move on.

Ban Tham, like some of the neighbouring villages, seems to be unusual in this respect: the people have been persuaded by the Thai government, who have supplied water tanks and irrigation schemes, to settle down, and the village has become more or less permanent, even boasting a school and a shop.  Many of the women still wear their traditional costumes (each tribe has its own distinctive 'uniform', bright embroidery and dresses with wide double and triple borders of contrasting colours, woven hats decorated with beads and jewels, and necklaces, bangles and earrings of silver and turquoise) but a lot of the men wear western clothes - T-shirts and baseball hats.

A little below Ban Tham, perched on the craggy edge of the Nam Lang valley, Australian John Spies and his Thai wife, Diu, have built a lodge for travellers.  It overlooks the river, which meanders gently across a wide, flat valley floor.  The air is thick with the noise of cicadas and the sweet smell of ripe, jungle fruits. The horizon is limited and blurred by the blue haze of dozens of forest fires, and the heat and humidity drains away all energy.  We were glad of the wide, deep swimming hole in the river down below, when the brown skinned boys had gone fishing elsewhere and the water-buffalo had moved out.

Quarter of an hour's gentle amble down-river, past women washing clothes on the wet cobbles, and a solitary fisher collecting crustaceans in a wicker basket on her back, and over paths swept clear of leaf litter daily by Buddhist monks, brought us to a sharp bend in the river.  Ahead was an ancient wind gap but, beneath the limestone cliffs to the right, the waters ran calmly into the hillside.  This is Tham Lot, meaning 'through cave'.

The cave opening is about forty metres wide but only ten metres high.  We climbed a rickety bamboo ladder to reach a long, level platform of sand-filled gours.  These stretched away to one side of the river and, sixty metres in, rose to an area of large stalagmites overlooking the water.  The shelf ended and we dropped to an extensive gravel bank which disappeared into the darkness.  Before we finally lost the daylight of the entrance a steep slope led up to some big side galleries.

Climbing through the high, but relatively narrow archway we entered a chamber some one hundred metres long and more than tall enough to accommodate the imposing twenty metre stalagmite standing sentinel there.  Large, brown millipedes crawled over the old, flowstone floor in search of hapless beetles. Behind us various routes led up to balconies high above the stream, while ahead lay a rockfall blocking any possible exit to the hill above.

This side passage may have been an old stream route, long pre­dating the river's present course. Immediately across the river, a thigh-deep wade, more high level passages led off.  Two bamboo ladders took us up to roof level, fifteen metres above the river, onto a heavily stalagmited shelf.  The stal was quite good, though it is being damaged by frequent visitors (the only equipment required is a torch, which a local entrepreneur will happily supply - he even has a small number of tilley lamps, especially for tourists).  Although dry now, all the stal will probably be very much alive again in the wet season. The passages gradually become smaller, no more than five metres wide and deteriorating ultimately to squeezes and crawls, with some bad air in one branch.

Back in the main river passage we avoided the deeper water by walking on the long, gravel banks, and soon daylight appeared at the resurgence.  The passage, rectangular in section, varied in width from twenty to thirty metres, while the height gradually increased to twenty five metres. A big colony of bats clustered together in the centre of the roof, their little eyes glowing red in our torchlight, and a noise of screaming swifts intensified.  Large stalactites, green with mosses, festooned the ceiling near the exit.

Up on our left lay the last of the side passages, again, perhaps, a fragment of the old stream route. Two more bamboo ladders took us to an extensive shelf, layered deep with swift guano, and a single passage led narrowly through to a chamber. In the alcoves and around the edges of the chamber were the remains of long, wooden containers.  Each was dug out from a single piece of wood in the form of a cuboid box with handles at each end.  Some archaeologists believe them to be coffins - in section they are just about adequate for a body - but they are up to three metres in length.  Others have suggested that they are possibly water tanks. Certainly their age is measurable in millenia, and they represent an ancient and forgotten people who lived in or near the caves.


We returned to the river, past the little piles swept together by the guano collectors, and out into the fading sunlight.  The river wound itself placidly away through deep, verdant undergrowth, and trees and bushes of brilliant greens. Having swept through a thousand metres of cave the air was now moist and cool, creating a micro-climate around the cave exit. Laughing thrushes cackled amongst the leaves, and dark, secretive birds skulked along the river banks.

As dusk approached we sat and waited in the cave mouth, watching the swifts circling in the sky above. A large bat hawk swooped down from the trees, intent on supper.  The swifts began to return from their aerial hunting to their nocturnal roost in the cave. The air was soon thick with screaming, madly circling birds, for a quarter of a million of them spend every night clinging among the stalactities.  Some tore into the darkness, only to turn at some incredible speed and sweep just above the underground river, dipping in their beaks for a momentary drink.  After an hour the cacophony had died away, and the last, late swifts spiralled down from the heavens to find their appointed spot in the roof of the cave. We returned to the lodge through the cave, and along the dark paths, listening to the night orchestra of crickets and geckos.

East of Ban Tham about seven kilometres lies the village of Ban Mae Lana.  This is another fairly permanent settlement, for it stands on some raised ground in a large, level floored polje.  Like most poljes, the soil is rich and fertile, and the nutrients are renewed seasonally.  The floor is divided up as well ordered farmland. A river, the Nam Mae Lana, flows from the north and sinks towards the southern end of the polje.  The sink is impenetrable, for the annual floods wash down huge quantities of sediment, along with bits of trees, including whole trunks.

A ridge of limestone separates the Mae Lana polje from a deep, closed depression a little to the south. This doline is two kilometres long and one wide, and the Nam Mae Lana is seen again in the bottom.  In the dry season it is no more than a little stream, and is first seen at the bottom of a fifteen metre deep hole in the limestone. Further south, but still in the doline, the stream resurges from a rock-pile, flows for a few hundred metres through bamboo forest, and enters a cave in the west wall of the doline. This is Tham Nam Mae Lana, and was the highlight of our caving in Thailand.

A brief topographical study suggests that the Mae Lana stream should continue its southward course and resurge at the Nam Lang polje, only two kilometres further south.  In fact it heads west, meandering underground for seven kilometres to cover the five kilometres across to the Nam Khong valley. Twelve kilometres of passage are now known in Tham Nam Mae Lana, making this cave the longest in Thailand.  It was our intention to do a through trip, inflow to resurgence.  Only two people had done this before, two 'hard' Tasmanians who also helped to explore and survey the cave, in May '86.

John Spies discovered the cave in early 1986 and he probably knows more about it than anyone else.  He had lots of useful advice, of which we only rejected one item - that the cave was too dangerous an undertaking for only two people, neither of whom was familiar with the system.  He tried his best to put us off (in blissful ignorance of the B.E.C. motto), but when he realized that we were absolutely determined he was extremely helpful.

He suggested various, easily identifiable features as an aid to route finding, and we were able to study the original, full scale survey two metres of paper.  More importantly he drew from memory a detailed map of the walk out from the cave resurgence back to the nearest road.  Without this we could have faced several hours', or even days', walking on a compass bearing through teak forest, scrub and jungle, searching for a way up the cliffs and back onto the plateau.  Someone else at the lodge lent us their day pack to carry gear and food underground, and we packed it with boiled rice, noodles and veges, banana cake and buns, carbide and numerous batteries, all carefully triple wrapped in poly bags.  We were taking no chances.

From Ban Tham we travelled by Land Rover over the rough forest track to Ban Soppong, a colourful, lively village that acts as a meeting point for the various hill-tribes.  On the main road west, the so-called 'short', hilly route from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, we used a combination of local buses and hitched rides, one with a learner driver and the other on the back of a lorry amongst rolling drums of leaking diesel.  This last would have been fine, had the driver not been Nicki Lauda's cousin, and had the road not been a playground for diggers, bulldozers, tree­fellers and rock smashers, all trying to improve the old Japanese war-time route to Burma.

It is really good to walk after these sorts of lifts, and we left the main road for a side track (actually in much better condition than the former) to Ban Mae Lana.  The track wound slowly downwards and the jungle thinned to offer extensive views of tower karst and big dolines.  A little bamboo and thatch village appeared, set against a magnificent backdrop of two enormous, perfectly proportioned towers.  The doline and polje of Mae Lana dropped away to our right, but we had to skirt the cliff edge of these for several kilometres before reaching the polje floor at Ban Mae Lana.

The rice fields were rock hard and dry, and the stream practically non-existent.  We would be visiting the cave in ideal conditions. There was not a cloud in the sky and the threat of impending monsoon, when it rained a few days earlier, had vanished.  Crossing the low ridge between the polje and the doline, we descended first through stone forest, then across a hot, dusty area of still smouldering, blackened tree stumps, and finally steeply among bamboo, whose dry, pale-brown leaves crackled under our feet.  The little stream brought a welcome coolness to the heavy, still air, and we paddled our way along it to where it was swallowed through the three metre square entrance to Tham Nam Mae Lana.

We entered the cave soon after midday, and everything was comfortably familiar.  Only a few days previously we had covered the first couple of kilometres of cave, and had explored and surveyed a further kilometre of side passage and large chambers.  For the first two and a half kilometres it is generally easy going, following the stream, often in passage fifteen to twenty metres high and wide. There is just one slightly awkward boulder pile three hundred metres in, involving a bit of boulder balancing and simple climbing.  Occasionally the passage roof soars (as side avens) to thirty metres and more, accommodating long fluted columns of stal.  These are probably pouring with water in the wet season, but the cave, like so many in this area, is inaccessible then.  There is very little stal down the main stream-way, except for a few massive flows and gours; the annual floods quickly destroy the delicate formations that are created so rapidly only months earlier.  Several hundred metres downstream the roof dips with a heavy inflow of calcite-rich water forming a portcullis between one and two metres above the floor.  Most of the stalactites are rounded and abraded by gravel laden waters of the wet-season stream, and are blackened with organic matter.  Small straws have grown several inches during the last few months, but their life is very short.

It did not take us long to cover the first two kilometres, to where a forty metre wide stretch of gours and deep, rimstone pools almost blocks the passage.  The stream has maintained a low, aqueous route beneath the gours, while there is a more straight­forward, dry route over the top and through a low, oxbow lake on the uppermost rim-pool.  Without their monsoonal streams many of the caves in these tropical regions would soon be blocked with stal; long fossil systems seem to be rare here for this reason.  Should the Mae Lana stream change its course, then the cave would rapidly be blocked at these gours.

The gour-top lake is fed by a tributary via sumps two kilometres to the south.  Quite clearly the flow does not vary greatly according to the seasons, as the whole of the passage is richly decorated with pristine, white stal.  There are numerous pools up to neck deep with floors of thick mud, and lots of blind, white fish and crays live here.

Continuing downstream from the gours we soon came across rapids, and the roof lowered again.  The passage became narrower and the stream suddenly tumbled down a three metre waterfall and disappeared along a narrowing rift.  Up to our right large passage could be seen, and we climbed to a shelf and across boulders into the edge of a chamber three hundred and fifty metres long, and varying between forty and seventy metres high and wide.  Although this sounds vast it did not seem so at the time as the floor is composed of huge mounds of boulders, and we skirted the base of these.

Now that we had entered this dry sump-bypass of huge, old, abandoned passages and chambers route finding became a problem.  With no handy stream to follow and the possibility of a myriad hidden ways behind house-sized boulders our progress slowed dramatically.  We left frequent cairns in case we had to find our way back, and our compasses were in continual use, checking the trend of whichever wall we had decided to follow. Looking for routes onwards across sixty or seventy metres of passage takes time.  We had eventually climbed a crumbling, fault-shattered slope until, close to the roof, an almost imperceptible draught revealed a loose, descending traverse to a recognisable landmark - the Red Crystal Stream.  This is the only feature named on the survey, and is a relatively insignificant ochreous orange stal flow along the floor at the edge of the passage, but we now knew exactly where we were, at approximately the half way point through the cave.

The floor became sandy and the boulders less frequent, and then a short stretch of scalloped bedrock led down to water, with the stream resurging from among boulders on the opposite side of the passage.  Only a couple of hundred metres further on we left the stream once more, for a second sump-bypass.  The stream itself continues for five hundred metres in large, meandering passage to a deep, green-blue sump pool, and enters the main passage again further on.  We climbed a sandy bank to the edge of a well decorated series of dry galleries.  The first section contained some good, white flows, stalactites and thin curtains, well worth seeing after the comparative paucity of stal in the stream cave, but we were more fascinated by the next chamber.  The level, mud­brown, stal floor was littered with cave pearls, ranging in size from marbles to golf balls.  Each sat, free to rotate, in its own little calcite cup.  Taking care not to tread on any, which was not easy considering their profusion, we made our way on compass bearings to the base of an enormous pile of heavily stalagmited boulders.  Heading up these, occasionally following the faint marks of the original explorers, we were fortunate to find one area of constant drip, where we could replenish our water supplies.  We were drinking quite a lot, and maintaining a two to three inch flame on the carbides, which needed frequent topping up.

Ahead of us the cave opened up yet again as we entered the side of another big chamber.  Stalagmites more than ten metres high would have dominated most chambers, but here they were almost lost, tucked away near the bottom of a three hundred metre long slope, which rose through extensive rockfall for over one hundred metres to the right.  Our way lay down to the left where we dropped quickly to a level mud floor. After another brief route finding delay we climbed down more boulders to the sound of flowing water, and found the stream once more, moving sluggishly through muddy hollows among rocks.

We had been caving steadily now for six and a half hours, and it would be dark outside, so there seemed little point in pressing on yet.  On the descent to the stream we carne upon a sandy shelf in a little alcove of black, scalloped rock - ideal for a bivouac.  Wrapped up in a polythene sheet, we slept comfortably for four hours or so.

We awoke soon after midnight, had "breakfast", and set off downstream.  Thus far we had not had to swim, but we understood that there were numerous deep pools in this lower section of the cave and short swims would be necessary.  To begin with the passage was quite wide and about fifty metres high, but it rapidly narrowed to a few metres and varied from around ten to forty metres in height. The swims were in the narrowest parts of the passage, where it was just too wide for traversing and not wide enough for ledges as well as water, but each swim was only a few metres long. Jane, whose total confidence in water never ceases to amaze me, went first through the clear pools, treading carefully and finding all sorts of underwater projections and boulders. This procedure eliminated most of the swims, although we were still often wading in neck deep water.

The cave was all easy going in the streamway, with no route finding problems, and after two and a half hours we could smell the fresh air.  Leaves and earth had dropped down through crevices in the bouldery roof, and a long, straight, pipe-like root drank water from the stream bed.  We had made it after only nine hour's caving.

It was still dark outside, so we waited in the exit chamber until the bats, in their dozens, carne flocking past us to their roosts deeper in the cave.  We emerged to a pale, grey light which brightened quickly to a pink dawn while we climbed through the cliffs of the Nam Khong valley.  The raucous cries of hornbills disturbed the morning air as they flapped their ungainly way among the tree-tops, and we stood awhile to watch the early sun pick out the limestone towers and ridges, stretching away into the misty blueness of Burma.

Graham Wilton-Jones
9.7.1987 Kuwait


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Dave Turner

Annual General Meeting - 1st October 1988 at 10.30

There will be an election for the Club committee this year and voting forms are being sent with this BB. Please either send them to Bob Cork or bring them to the AGM.

Annual Dinner - 1st October 1988

As everyone already knows the dinner will be held at The Star, High St, Wells - 7.30 for 8.00.  Tickets £11 from Trebor last date for booking is 25th September, choice is veal or beef.  At the last count Trebor has already sold 105 tickets.  The coach from The Hunters ts being organised by Mr. Nigel as usual.


Thanks are due to Roger Dors for supplying the sleepers for the Chariot Race and for organising the bar.

Treasurer’s Report 1987/88

Again we have had a very busy financial year with considerable turnover, generated by such events as the Wessex Challenge, Dinner, advance sales of the Cuthbert’s Report and repayment from our insurers for part of the cost of the tackle store roof. Also a ‘donation' from the MRO for their share of their part of the roof.


a)       As far as expenditure is concerned, this has mainly involved the purchase of more library units, continued Belfry improvements, the provision of more fire prevention measures and of course the usual bills.  We still have to persuade the Electricity Board to come around and check the equipment for fault to try and explain our high bills.  I suspect we will have to re-arrange and consolidate our electricity system as per Pat Cronin's recommendations to try and get the bills down.

b)       The Belfry has not quite been self-financing, but not far from it.  It shows a deficit of only £184.  Considering we have spent a lot on Library units and Belfry units we've done pretty well and under 'normal.' circumstances it would finance itself quite easily.

c)       Last year the BB cost £753 to produce, this year it is £930, due in part to more BB' s, inflation and the change in printers.

d)       There is only one more library unit to purchase - just as well as they seem to be taking longer and longer to churn out. This large drain on resources will thus soon evaporate.

e)       The telephone cost us £342 this year against £8 income.  This is another slight anomaly which is being investigated.

f)        As set out during the A.G.M. last year, we have spent much more on 'caving' this year i.e., tackle £400 instead of £182 last year.  This was made up of SRT rope bought cheap in America, ladders, ladder making gear etc.

g)       £540 has been 'spent' on the Cuthbert’s Report, that is a transfer of £400 to the account from our General Account to help bolster it up, plus sundry expenses such as computer equipment to allow Dave Turner to set up the production.

h)       Last years expenditure on Tackle Store repairs has been partly offset by an insurance cheque and MRO donation, but we still have a deficit of £625 which will have to be written off.


a)       On the income side, the main item is of course Hut Sheets/Bednights.  The main problem this year has been the gradual collapse of the Hut Sheet system.  Members seem incapable of filling it in properly.  Names and other detail is either illegible or in 3 ft high letters.  Failing to put 'M' for Member and 'V' for visitor means we cannot monitor increases in bednights and the Hut Warden cannot tally the money in the box with what’s on the sheets.  The situation has not been helped by the change over in Hut Warden or the theft in the Spring when 3 Hut Sheets and at least £100 vanished.

I regret that I cannot therefore return any meaningful analysis on the numbers that have stayed at the Belfry nor the exact monies derived from bednights.  Not exactly satisfactory, i.e., will tighten up the situation with the new Hut Warden.

Bednight income last year was some £2226, this year it is about £1820 (taking into account the theft).  Oddly member and guest bednight income is almost exactly the same as last year (as far as the garbage written on the Hut Sheets can tell us) the difference being the income we don't now get from the Army and Navy who we have succeeded in frightening off.  A salutary lesson?

b)       We made a profit of £18 on the Dinner last year - should we make more?

c)       The Wessex Challenge profit was £188 - an acceptable level?

d)       We sold more Tee and sweat shirts so our excess of original expenditure over income is now down to £92.

e)       I have not included advance sales of Cuthbert Reports here as this 'income' will soon become expenditure in due course when the report is printed.

f)        The St. Cuthbert’s Cave fees only amounted to £22.  Did only 73 people go down this year?


This is still bumbling along but no takers in 1988.  The fund is now £308 with another injection of £100 due in November from our General Account.

4.         Our General Fund Building Society Account currently stands at £790.

5.         Our financial priorities I feel are as follows for this year:

a)         Complete drying room.

b)         Sort out telephone and electricity expenditure.

c)         Finance the Cuthbert’s Report.

d)         Sundry repairs and Belfry improvements.

6.         I can find no justification to raise Subscriptions or Hut fees this year. Please, please help cash flow by paying both on time and when required.  The Membership Secretary this year will rigorously enforce the situation this year and Subs are due by Jan 1st 1989.  Non-payers by this time risk having their BB’s withheld - it's only £12 for heavens sake.  Why should we spend money on postage etc chasing non-payers?


7.         Advance sales of The Cuthbert’s Report is now £804, including a £400 BEC injection, thus £404 divided by £5 equals about 80 pre-sales.

M C McDonald (Trebor) 6.9.88


Hut Warden's Report

Seriously though, in the past few months a great deal of work has been done on the place by the few notable regulars who are prepared to get off their backsides and contribute a bit of hard work to their club, as opposed to the vast majority who just gob-off about the state of the place over a beer in the Hunters and do sweet F.A. to remedy the situation.

Most of Dany's recommendations have been carried out since May along with numerous other jobs.

I shan't be living locally next year and so it's pointless for me to stand as Hut Warden, although I'm quite prepared to take some other post on the Committee... or perhaps I'll just gob off about the state of the place from behind a tankard in the Hunters ... !

Special thanks to Stumpy without whose help we wouldn't have a gas bottle store, a secure key cupboard, 3 working showers, hot water in the kitchen, unblocked drains and someone who's short enough to rest your tankard on their head while gobbing off about the state of the hut in the Hunters.


Tackle Master's Report 1988

This year, a big thanks must go to Tom Chapman who has looked after the Club's equipment during the months that I have been abroad.  He has also found time to construct some spreaders, tethers etc which were desperately needed to compliment the stock of ladders.

The BEC SRT ropes have been used on a few occasions.  They are freely available for those wishing to cave off Mendip, simply get in touch with the Tackle Master.

Additions to the store are 3 lifelines (various lengths), 4 tackle bags, 100m Bluewater II and as mentioned above, spreaders and tethers.  Andy Sparrow has generously donated a new Lizard SRT rope cleaner.

As usual people simply do not book out equipment and so as usual I am unable to account for the whereabouts of some of the equipment.  Perhaps they will all miraculously re-appear on the day of the AGM (as usual).

The Tackle list is on the following page.

The tackle list is as follows (2/9/88): -



x 16

(+ 2 retired and 2 missing)



x 6

(lots missing)



x 12




x 2

(+ 100’ and 80’ missing)



x 1




x 1


Tackle bags (med)


x 2

(+ 2 missing)





Bluewater II


x 1




x 1




x 1




x 1

)  Held by Tackle Master



x 1




x 1


Tackle bags


x 5


Hangers and maillons


x 20


Rope protectors


x 4


Steve Milner

B.B. Editor's Report

I have only managed to publish 5 BBs, including this one, since the last AGM.  I have found it increasingly difficult to find the time to compile and type the material given and this is the reason that I have decided to stand down from the post at this year's AGM.

As in the previous 2 years I have had a lot of support from a number of members who have taken the time either to write articles or to hand me interesting cuttings for me to publish. My thanks again to all the people who have taken the time to contribute - a club bulletin can only be interesting if members actually write for it.

I wish my successor every success and offer my help to get him, or her, started.  I shall now concentrate on working on the typesetting of the Cuthbert's Report.

Dave Turner.


Important notice to st. Cuthbert's leaders

I have been asked by the Committee to change the lock on St. Cuthbert's Swallet and issue keys to all leaders.  As the current list of leaders appears to have been lost (Notice how things have gone downhill since I gave up the job!)  I have listed below the names of as many as I can remember.  If you are not on it, please contact me urgently. The new lock will be placed on the cave on Saturday 3rd September.  This will have given everyone plenty of time to read this notice and contact me [You're joking - it’s already 19th September as I key this! - Ed].  A new key will be issued when you send a stamped addressed envelope to:- Martin Grass, 80 White Post Field, Sawbridgeworth, Herts CM21 OBY.

A separate letter will also be sent to all leaders.

Martin Grass.

Club leaders

Dave Irwin

Brian Prewer

Martin Grass

Chris Castle

Ted Humphries

Steve Tuck

Tim Large

Ian Caldwell

Nigel Taylor

Mike Palmer

Tony Meadon

Brian Workman

Dave Turner

Andy Sparrow

Chris Smart

Pete Glanvill

Roy Bennett

Alan Butcher

Greg Villis

Stuart McManus

Mike McDonald

Chris Batstone

Graham Wilton-Jones

Guest Leaders

Alison Moody (WCC); Ken Gregory (CSS); Graham Price (CSS)

Cave Leaders

As the club has gained a lot of new members in recent years I thought it would be useful to publish a list of club leaders for various caves.  If you require a trip please give the leader as much notice as possible.

Dan yr Ogof and Tunnel Cave

Graham Wilton-Jones, Tim Large, Mike McDonald, Martin Grass and Richard Stevenson

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1

Graham Wilton-Jones, Greg Villis, Mike Palmer, Richard Stevenson, Martin Grass, Brian Prewer and Dave Irwin

Reservoir Hole

Graham Wilton-Jones, Martin Grass and Dave Irwin

Charterhouse Cave

Jeremy Henley and Chris Castle.

If anyone would like a trip down Ogof Craig y Ffynnon or Peak Cavern I can also organise that.

Martin Grass


Letter from Pat Cronin

Enclosed in the last BB was an article about the CSCC AGM.  I took offence at its lack of accurate information.  If that is all you can extract from a five hour meeting of such importance as this one was about perhaps either, you should have attended or sent someone in your place, so as to gain a true record.  What happened will have a direct affect on how Mendip deals with the growth of the commercial interests in the Caving of Great Britain.

[Ed's reply - whilst agreeing with the importance of such meetings I feel it is totally unreasonable to expect the Club's editor to attend them all.  It surely is up to Club members who attend, especially those with strong feelings, to make a report for the BB.  I approached a number of members for a report of the meeting but all I received was as published in the last BB.  The usefulness of the Club's bulletin is in the hands of those who write articles for it - so perhaps Pat you could write a rather belated report for the BB.]

Deepest Hole on earth found in MP

The following extract is from our roving reporter Matt Tuck (who gets Everywhere)

(Cutting from an Indian newspaper)

NEW DELHI - A more than l000-ft­deep hole, claimed to be the deepest in the world, has been discovered in Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh state.

A Hindustan Times reporter quoted Dr V S Vakankar, who discovered the hole, as saying "it is a rare geological phenomenon".  The hole is a natural tunnel about l00-ft-wide and more than 1000ft deep.  'So far no such deep tunnel was reported anywhere in the world" Dr Vakankar was quoted as having claimed.

Dr Vakankar, who died last Monday opined that some miracle must have come from the outer space, hit the space and made the hole.  No geological phenomenon can account for the formation of such a hole.


Belfry Bulletin No. 48

A short note by Dave Irwin

In the recently published index of the B.E.C. Publications it stated that Belfry Bulletin No. 48 was not published.  Soon after I received a letter from Roy Poulson, librarian of B.C.R.A., enclosing an incomplete copy of Belfry Bulletin No. 48!  The photo-copy I have has been copied and is now in the Club library.

The BCRA copy, obviously part of the former C.R.G collection, comprises the first two pages. The copy is dated June 1951.  A search of the subsequent Belfry Bulletins (Numbers 49/50, 51 and 52) gave a clue to the summary below.

Belfry Bulletin No. 49/50, a. combined issue, states on page 1 "We would like to apologise to members for the delay in the June issue.  “We are combining the July and Aug. numbers to keep things moving.  We would also apologise for the way we have to split Pongo’s article to finish the last B.B.”  Above this apology was hand-written the following  “PLEASE.  WE HAVEN’T PUBLISHED THE START OF – “FESTIVAL CAVING”. CAXTON.”  It would appear that part 1 of "Festival Caving" was never published.  A manuscript written across the top page states “I’ve sent a copy of this back to Shorty.  Ken.”

The content of the first two pages of Number 48 is as follows:

First page:

Mendip Rescue Organisation

G.B. Restrictions

Caving Section News [including Avon Gorge caves]

Bats by John Ifold

Page two:

Club Library

Inquiry [ Stoke Lane – who was digging in Bone Chamber?]

Some caves near Bristol by Merv. Hannam

However, the notes on M. R. O., Club Library and the note by John Ifold were reprinted in Belfry Bulletin No. 51.

So, it would appear that at least the two pages of Belfry Bulletin No. 48 was printed.  Was it published?  A copy has got into the B. C. R. A. Library.  It is unlikely that this copy was circulated in the usual way as it would not have had the note written by Ken at the top of page 1.  It must be assumed to be an accidental copy, one given to the C.R.G.  Further, so many of the more important notes were printed in Belfry Bulletin Number 51.  I can only come to the conclusion that this is an accidental copy that has' leaked' out of the editors hands at the time. The issue was partially printed but never completed.


A letter from abroad.

After reading the many articles of daring exploits of tough cavers enduring hardships in exotic places, I packed my wife into the car, bought a ticket to France, and headed south.  The trial began almost immediately, with the realisation that we were facing a 9 hour crossing to St Malo, but there, I should have read the small print.  No problem I thought as the Ship slid away from the quiet city of Portsmouth into the teeth of a force 9 gale.  I, breakfast and two stomachs later we bumped into France and began a fortnights game of pinball with the French drivers. After assuring my wife that we would not avoid the beaches altogether we arrived near the West coast of France, Nantes.  Very old city, I believe that at one time we [the Brits] owned it, sometime around Henry the Umpteenth.  After spending a very pleasant overnight stop and half the next day around the city we once again went toward the coast, Fouras, La Rochcelle.  The place would make your toes curl, as far as the eye can see you have one of the most attractive tourist traps I've ever seen, steeped in History, after some long siege 5000 were left out of an original 28,000 a bit on the expensive side.  Once my obligations were completed i.e. the seaside bit we left the barest of fronts [kwoo kwoo] for the pleasant climes of the Dordogne. I had no idea where to start, I had with me much info on everything, I was carrying a library to be proud of. What turned out to be the deciding factor was time, we didn’t have a lot left.  So wanting to see some painted caves instead of painted women for a change I settled on the following.


This site is 26 Km Northwest of Les Eyzies.  The centre of the caving area, for those of you who are saying “we know where it is” will have to be patient.  I was advised not to waste my time by several English cavers, but I'm glad I found out for myself.

Montignac comes over as another Cheddar Gorge, fascinating but too many tourists.  It’s here in the centre that you buy your ticket.  The times of the various language tours of the site are listed so if you are early enough you can have your pick of approximately 4 English speaking tours.  I was lucky, no queue, and the next trip was in 2 hours, time enough for dinner.

Lascaux II is constructed in an old shallow quarry 400 yards from Lascaux I, to the right of the car park as you enter.  It was created because of the effect the early developers had not seen in altering various aspects of the entrance of the cave.  The insertion of the staircase into the Hall of the Bulls meant air temperature and flow were no longer anything like the chill environment of the original site.  Likewise when the air ventilation system was installed this brought in the spores from the wood surrounding the site and accelerated vegetation growth within. This was realised early on and steps were taken but it was ultimately decided that until they completely understood how the place could be maintained as close to it's original condition the site would be closed.  So now the only people allowed into Lascaux are scientists dignitaries and politicians.

Lascaux II has been reproduced by taking stereoscopic photographs every 2 inches along the passages. From these wooden profiles were made. Once these were assembled they were checked to see if they were accurate to the shape of the original passage. Having assured themselves that these profiles were correct they were reproduced in steel.  Once these had been set into position, they were covered in steel mesh and finished by having concrete poured into the gaps.  If you like, imagine a passage through a pack of cards, the cards then being spaced apart.  As the concrete was setting "plasterers" worked the surface of the concrete to be as faithful and as accurate as possible, they boast of an accuracy of +-5mm.  The paintings were created using similar styles, materials and techniques as early man. The effect is quite a shock.  The tour begins with a 10 minute talk within the first two airlocks.  From here you step through into the Hall of the Bulls.  See it.  There is still, however a chance to gain access to Lascaux 1, that is to write to the gentleman, whose address appears at the end of this article.  Five, yes five persons are allowed each day, five days a week.  When you write you must also state any professional qualifications and your reason for wishing to see the paintings.  Being a plumber isn’t enough apparently.

Although I'd been impressed by seeing the art of man reproduced, it was still not the real thing so delving into the mobile library I came upon Grotte de Font de Gaume. After Lascaux this is the next best and still open to the public.  It is stated at the entrance that only 340 a day are allowed.  I have my doubts as to how many went in on the day I was present.  At 9am there was a queue some 100 yards long when I arrived, this slowly increased a further 30 yards.  3 hours later everyone had a ticket.  An estimate of around 400 I guess.


This site is located at the Eastern end of Les Eyzies on the Sarlat road, at the side of the road. This cave was well worth the visit. The paintings mostly of Bison and deer are quite vivid.  The cave does not have any chambers like Lascaux, so it is difficult to stand back to get a good look at them.  Even so examples such as the bear are quite clear from a distance of 3 feet.  This is without doubt well worth a visit.  Get there for your ticket around 8 am, I mean it, to avoid disappointment.


The only reason I stopped for this site was that I had never heard of it.  Just West of the road at Manaurie.  It is a small and expensive family business.  The cave consists of a low passage some 300 feet of which is given over as the show cave.  The guide assured us the passage carried on for many kilometres, beyond the squeeze. It is a well decorated cave of I believe some antiquity.  Length of trip 18 minutes for 18 Francs [1.80].

Beyond these torments there’s not much to tell of really other than hardship and privation, in local hotels.  Oh one point of interest was that we ran out of cash whilst in Les Eyzies due to not informing VISA that we were going to use it for cash abroad, don't make that mistake.  You may not be as lucky as Pauline and I in persuading the local Bank Manager into lending yourselves £50 of his own money [with no security] to get you back to the coast.  Was it my pleading eyes or Paulines short skirt or mabye it was because we were in his office for 2 hours and he just wanted to stop Pauline talking?

One last thing I would like express my thanks to all those people who made this trip possible, A R Jarrett, accommodation, illumination & phrase book,  S J J P C McManus, things that you inflate, & and world atlas. Last but not least my employer, who allowed me the time off of work an allowance and who held my position open [snigger] until I returned, me.

Pat Cronin.


UBSS Sessional Meetings 1988/9.

I would be grateful if you could publish the following talks in your newsletter and we will be pleased to see any interested persons at these meetings which are held at 8pm at the UBSS Spelio Rooms, Students Union, Queens Road, Bristol (all dates are on a Wednesday).

19th October 1988. 'Cave Diving and Natural History in the Bahamas' by Chris Howes.

30th November 1988. 'A Look at Decorated French Caves' by Andy Buchan.

1st February 1989. 'Caving in China', by Chris Smart.

3rd May 1989. 'Bats- Above and Below Ground' by John Hooper.

The UBSS AGM will be held at 4pm on Saturday, 11th March 1989 and the Guest Speaker will be Andy Currant of the British Museum but his topic is not yet known.


The Trans-Exe Canoeing Drink

Kangy, June '88

My experience of the BEC is that it is peopled by people who use impeccable logic.  Like 'I need a drink with whatsistoddy where's the nearest'.

If you are at Dawlish and you have to sort out great things with your mate at Exmouth then a round trip of about 40 miles awaits you and the return trip ought to be made sober. However, just think, it's only a mile across the Estuary.  And the return trip needn't be restricted.

Jonathan and I had dined and wined well with his landlord at Dawlish and thought about seeing Gareth who was running an outdoor pursuits centre indoors at Exmouth and needed to get out.  Jonathan said "We could take the double" and I smiled about all sorts of things.  Wine, sons, alternative points of view, the pleasure of sea canoeing, being afloat at night.

We launched off the beach at Dawlish Warren at 9.30.  It was dark but there were plenty of shore lights to aim for.  We paddled parallel to the coast until we worked out what the tide was doing and then really punched the canoe along until we were warm and happy.  Almost there (it seemed to me) we grounded on a sand bank.  Jonathan towed the canoe and I became concerned about water creeping into my welly-boot.  The shore loomed ahead as a shadowy lighter grey band, the house line was black and lights twinkled.  The water was ankle deep and so I sprinted for shore leaving Jonathan to it.  As I dived into the fast flowing deeper bit, tripped by the bottom falling away, I heard delighted laughter which stopped as I submerged.  I'd failed to realise that the main channel cut us off from the shore and now I had to fight the tide as it gripped, trying to sweep me away.  My embarrassment was made worse by Jonathan's grin but I was lucky, stayed on my feet and swayed forward pushing against the tug of swift water until I could grab the safety of the canoe.  The distance remaining to the shore became obvious as we paddled hard to counter the rip.  Suddenly it was all over and we dragged the canoe up the beach and hid it by a fence.

We made our rendezvous with Gareth at The Deer Leap pub.  (Sitting outside in our wet gear, little skirt-like spray decks about our waists and peering over our buoyancy aids I had an insight about posers, - they wouldn't look at us.)  Had a good drink.  Went back to the beach, launched, said cheerio to Gareth, and two paddle strokes later lost sight of him in the shadow of the shore.

The tide must have been out. We marched over sandbank after sandbank. Fell about pissed.  Launched and re-launched.  Found a lead which we could follow home, enjoyed a flat out burst of speed, sang, and then the lights went out.  Well, we were near enough to make out the outline of the necessary seawall so that was all right and so were we.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Dave Turner

This is rather a small BB as it is being sent out with Dave Irwin's index of the BB from 1947 to the end of 1987.  As stated in the last BB the committee decided that it should be issued to all current members.  It has cost the Club a reasonable amount to do this and so if any member doesn't want to keep it please give it to Tony Jarratt rather than chucking it in the bin.


I've heard that Dany has burnt his arm on his cooking stove soon after he arrived in Mexico and received third degree burns.  In stead of caving he apparently has a four hour bus journey each day to the hospital to have it dressed.  Our commiserations and good wishes to Dany - I hope he will soon be his usual self.





Caving Secretary’s Notes

A lot of work has been going on in St Cuthbert's with Trebor's massive clean-up campaign which is really going well, but he still needs lots more help.  Also, on the 2nd of Jan, just too late for the digging barrel, a party consisting of Martin Grass, Blitz, Basset, Dick Gurner, Kevin Gymer and me (Snablet) had a small find of a 100 ft of passage in the Rocky Boulder area, which connected Surprise Passage to Pilar Chamber and Rocky Boulder Pitch.  Also a small connection between Oubliette Pitch and Coral Chamber.

Hunter's Hole is still steadily getting bigger nearly every weekend with the help of J Rat's noisy persuasion.

Eastwater's West End Series is now experiencing a renaissance of enthusiasm.  A joint BEC/Wessex team consisting mainly of Jim Smart, Matt Tuck, Graham Johnson (WCC), Nick Pollard (WCC), Tom Chapman and me are working at making a Grade 5 survey, bolting up Cenotaph Aven and digging everything in sight.  Small amounts of passage have been found so far, also a small but high chamber, which has been named "The Temple of Doom" due to the fact that the floor seems to be moving and when you have a closer look you find it's covered in thousands of worms.  We've been lucky so far with the tunnel (it still looks dodgy) but we've had one ladder break on us.

Forthcoming Trips

April 1st - 4th:

Easter in South Wales.


Camping at Criokhowell.



April 22nd - 24th:

Cwm Dwr to OFD II on the Saturday.


Staying at Croydon Cottage, Ystradfellte.



April 29th - May 1st:

Yorkshire weekend including a trip to Mere Gill.


Accommodation to be arranged.



Saturday May 7:

Rescue Practice at St Cuthbert's.



May 13th - 15th:

Derbyshire weekend.


Staying at the Pegasus.



May 27th - 30th:

Gaping Gill Whitsun winch meet.





June 3rd - 5th:

Daren Cilau.


Staying at Whitewalls and/or underground.



June 17th - 20th:

Yorkshire, including trip to Juniper Gulf.


Accommodation to be arranged.



Ju17 1st - 3rd:

Daren Cilau.


Staying at Whitewalls and/or underground.



July 15th - 17th:

Yorkshire, including trip to Blackshiver.


Accommodation to be arranged.




Austria Expedition, dates to be arranged.

For further details contact The Caving Secretary



Cheddar River Cave

Since the discovery of the river cave in Gough's I have maintained a detached interest in the proceedings mainly because I could not see myself diving in through Dire Straits. I think my feelings about the site were shaded by watching Martyn Farr emerge unimpressed from this sump nearly ten years ago.

With the opening of the dry route into Lloyd Hall my interest was rekindled although I still was not in a tearing hurry to get in.  However recently I seemed to have run out of excuses not to dive and felt if I did not do some cave diving soon I was going to become very rusty indeed. The discovery that exploration had reached the point where diving sherpas were required gave a point to my awakened enthusiasm and so it was that two weeks ago with dripping nose and cough I rolled up at Cheddar to help carry in gear for a push the following weekend. As I tramped through the show cave I thought "This is just like Wookey"; this delusion stopped at St. Paul’s where the caving begins.  On this trip again bulb failure meant I was groping about on a side light in unknown territory.  A crawl through a stal grotto leads to a drop into another chamber and a hole in the floor. This is passed to a low exceedingly muddy bedding passage which becomes extremely tedious with kit especially when it starts to go uphill.  At the top is a short rift to an excavated choke.  This was the breakthrough point.  A climb up through now thankfully stabilised boulders takes one into Makin Progress a boulder chamber from which the original explorers had to dig their way out.  Here we dumped the bottles and took a look at the top of Lloyd Hall.  A climb down a rift at the top of the chamber ends on a sloping ledge which on the right terminates abruptly in a seventy foot pitch into Lloyd Hall.  On the left a further narrow rift opens onto a traverse which looked horrendous with my dim light.

I spent the week having nightmares about the traverse rather than the dive but eventually Saturday dawned. Brian Johnson came along as a late recruit and we arrived early at Cheddar only to find that the heavy brigade probably should not be arriving for another hour or so.  When they did arrive poor Richard Stevenson turned out to have an appalling cold so the adventurous part of the diving programme had to be curtailed.  Clattering sherpas including Chris Proctor {thank you Chris} staggered into the cave until a huge kit dump had materialised at St. Paul's.  Brian and I led off into Lloyd Hall after Quackers, the dive controller, had rigged the short pitch on the far side of the traverse.  The traverse proved to be extremely tame in a good light and I was soon descending the forty foot pitch into Lloyd Hall.  The pitch descends a rift in the corner of the chamber and drops almost straight into the water.  A traverse round the wall leads to a shallow area and some ledges where scaffolding poles provide some support - not as good as the Prid diving platform!  The kit then had to be lowered item by item down the big 70 foot pitch using a large pulley.  The pitch enters the centre of the chamber so gear had to be swung across before it hit the water.

Lloyd Hall is a large chamber the floor of which consists of a deep lake.  It is L shaped with the short arm of the L being much wider than the long arm.  The diving base is at one end of the short arm and the short pitch in is at the other. The upstream exit is reached by a swim across to the far side of the chamber.  The rock is pure limestone - a welcome change to the curious conglomerate of Wookey.  The water level in this chamber can fluctuate immensely - a consequence of the restricted outflow from the resurgence of this presumably enormous cave system.

Much shouting and bellowing accompanied the transport down the pitch of all the paraphernalia required in cave diving exploration.  Soon a mound of bottles bags ammo boxes and rocket tubes surrounded our tiny perch and it was time to kit up.  We swilled mud off pillar valves and started connecting valves.  Disaster'!  One of my high pressure hoses started to hiss ominously even after some turns with a spanner and, in unison or sympathy, so did one of Brian's.  Fortunately some spare valves were available although one of them was an octopus rig (two second stages on one first stage I for which I drew the short straw).

We continued kitting up, disparaging remarks being made on the disparity between my 100 cu. ft. of air and Brian's measly 80 cu. ft.  This was a consequence of Brian discovering, at 6 a.m., that day, a note on his bottles saying “Thanks for the air - I owe you a refill" - and having to scrounge what he could at the last moment.

At last we were ready; bags of kit to be ferried through were handed aver, valves were checked, lights switched on.  We sloshed our way across the lake to the diving line.  Impatiently I dived; the cold was a shock, as was haying my gag ripped out of my mouth at 4 metres.  This was due to the octopus rig living up to its name by wrapping itself lovingly around the line.  Untangling everything I set off again kitbag in one hand line in the other.  Before me stretched a blue line and a light green impenetrable haze; no rock walls, and initially, no floor.  There was a surprisingly strong current much more noticeable than in Wookey, then a floor appeared - a bedding consisting of huge black scallops.  The line veered off in another direction and I was ascending then swooping down into a black walled rift before levelling out again.  Holes loomed up in the floor over which I drifted like a cloud before the tightly belayed line led upwards again.  After several hundred feet of zig zag switch back progress the bottom became sandy and a gradual ascent began.  Suddenly a water surface appeared and I popped out, Brian a minute or so behind me, into a low chamber.  In front was a shallow, but slippery mud slope and the usual bits and pieces of kit one usually sees on the far side of regularly used sumps.

Shucking off our gear we looked around.  In front of us was a wall of mud coated boulders whilst on our right a powerful stream flowed silently out at the base of the boulder pile.  The mud formations created an impression immediately - they ranged from mud stals to strange regularly spaced knobs coating the rock. In some places the rock was covered in separated mud ribs.  Brian set off up through the boulders and I followed.  We discovered we were at the base of a 15 metre high boulder pile which had fetched up at the narrowest point of one of the biggest chambers I have seen under the Mendip - or elsewhere for that matter.  This was Bishop's Palace.  In front of us was an eighty foot wide boulder chaos, the roof in the distance lifting into blackness.  We picked up our bits of kit and gingerly scrambled up over the pile, taking different paths as we went.  I ended up at the top of a steep climb down a tilted wall which I realised when I reached its base was an enormous "Berger sized" boulder.

Brian and I united at the top of a fixed rope climb over more big boulders.  It was the start of a 5 metre wide 30 metre high rift passage which took us past an extraordinary display of mud stalagmites.  The fresh look to the cave, the black coating on the walls and the size of the passage combined to give a sense of grandeur and isolation.  Signs of civilisation loomed ahead in the form of a bottle dump.  Beyond a boulder pile lay a deep flooded rift, one of the Duck Ponds, beyond which the cave continued as another deep sump.  I dug out my camera and Brian went off to pursue the sound of a healthy stream.  A rock window led into a ledge above a parallel rift with lethal looking mud coated walls.  4 metres below ran the underground river flowing tantalisingly out of reach. Apparently in lower water conditions no flow is apparent.  I began taking pictures although it was difficult to know where to start.  Brian poked about, at times patiently posing as I discovered a particularly photogenic vantage point.  Several rock windows overlooked the Duck Ponds and these provided great photographic opportunities.  Despite the absence of any sta1 the variety of erosion features provided plenty of close up material.  Chert ledges protruded up to half a metre from the cave walls, and in places bridged small rifts.  Protruding like black frozen worms fossil crinoids smothered the walls in other locations.  Many of the mud formations seemed disturbingly fragile but it seems clear that this part of the cave floods reasonably regularly so one hopes that they are self renewing to a certain extent.

Approaching voices indicated that the other members of the team, Howard Price, Malcom Foyle and Rich Websell, were starting to sherpa kit through.  Watching their lights descending the rift was impressive.  We exchanged enthusiastic remarks and then Brian and I set off back to the sump.  On the way back we could see more of the sights.  Perched 10 metres above the floor on a precarious ledge was a boulder jutting out like some casually placed diving board.  At the top of the big boulder, Rich showed us how the roof soared to incredible heights which may explain the incredible drip formations. The top of the big boulder is littered with pits bared into the rock, from which run deep grooved channels like horizontal fluting.  In other places the drips have initially hit mud which or angled boulders, creates the most amazing splash features.

We gently scrambled down the boulders to the sump and prepared to leave, still babbling enthusiastically.  Our final turn of the day was to pose for Rob Palmer as he continued his video filming for what I gather will eventually be a film documentary on the site.  We then slid beneath the waters of the sump and made our uneventful return to Lloyd Hall.  Here we reversed the process we'd performed on the way in by hauling our kit back up the pitch.  I was grateful for the size of the pulley when hauling the 60 cu. ft. bottles back up the shaft.  Pete Rose: like the US cavalry, then appeared at the last moment to help us get our kit out.  He had several moments of embarrassment before finding Makin Progress.  These included having to ask a cave guide the way and then trying to make conversation with the caving dummies in the show cave!  He insisted on leading Brian and I out past the dummies, a route which turned out to be about the filthiest in the system.

All in all this was an excellent return to cave diving and Cheddar now ranks alongside Wookey as a British classic.  It is interesting to speculate how much progress would have been made by now if the Cheddar River had been discovered many years ago. There is no doubt that Extremely advanced cave diving techniques are going to be required in the near future. Cheddar is still wide open.

P.S. Your correspondent has also discovered that the Cheddar cave management are also extremely sensitive about publicity so do not make the mistake that I made of mentioning to the press that you are visiting the cave if you are sherpering or diving.  Strange as it may see, you can apparently have too much publicity!  Brian and I are very grateful to Quackers (Mike Duck!) for baling us out with spare valves and for his sterling work as dive controller without which any dive in Cheddar would be something of a mini epic.

Peter Glanvill  March 1988




Dear Dave,

Just a note to say that I enjoyed reading the 'Imaginary Tale' in the last B.B.  Your anonymous writer copied the style in which I wrote the original pieces very well, I thought.

Might I also congratulate the artist who did the present B.B. cover?  I think that the bat is an interesting blend of old and new and the whole cover is probably the best ever.  A pity about the low definition of the photographic material but this is doubtless due to the printing process.

Cheers, Alfie


March 12th.

Buenos dias, Poco Rascals!

I'm just spending a couple of days around base camp on antibiotics as I’ve had a weeks worth of Martini arse (any time, any place, anywhere).  Its hell here, with the temperature in the 90's, not a cloud in the sky, bananas, oranges, papayas and pine apples brought into camp by nubile Nahuat Indian girls, and four different local brews for 12p a bottle!

The mountains around here are mostly planted with coffee and bananas, but judging by the reaction in one or two remote spots there may be some more lucrative but illicit crops! Anything that hasn't been cultivated is covered in thick jungle.  The sierra in the area rises up to over 3,000 metres but it looks like there is a realistic depth potential of about 1,500 metres.

The caving around here is superb!  Five weeks into the expedition we've found about fourteen kilometres of cave and well over 150 entrances.  We've only scratched the surface so far though - people are now beginning to understand why we are here and are going out of their way to show us the really big entrances.

Of the caves and shafts discovered so far there are a few that are particularly noteworthy.  Sotano Poco Mendip was an Alum Pot sized entrance in the heart of the jungle.  A superb 200 foot free hang landed on a ledge with a second, 300 foot free-hang in a big shaft.  This hole was pushed by Steve Milner and I, and closed down after a third, 40 foot pitch.

Meanwhile Rupert Skorupka, Tim Gould and Steve Thomas were pushing Sotano Hermanos Pelligrosa (Dangerous Brothers!)  This closed down after a 400 foot pitch, then a 600 foot pitch and a few short drops.

Some big resurgences have been pushed for a few kilometres and some large, well decorated fossil cave has been found.  Steve M., Slug, Big Nose, Noddy, Pat the Canadian Bug man and I pushed Sotano Xochiotepec for 2 - 3 kilometres of really good, sporting cave including an impressively large, well decorated fossil passage called Bertie's Promenade!

We've done a lot of reconnaissance and have a great number of really good leads to go at.  Yesterday Mongo descended to the end of a 600 foot rope and dropped a stone which descended for a further five seconds!! The shaft, now named EI Sotano, The Shed Spreader, looks like it should be about a thousand feet deep.

One cave around here has been particularly aptly named ­Cueva de Wessex.  This is small, insignificant, wet, smelly, full of shit, noisy and doesn't go anywhere!

This 'British Expedition' now has two cavers from Vancouver, one American, two Dutch, ( Lawrence 'It's all happening guys' Smetz and Wim Hoody-Hoody-Hoo), two Belgians (the Belches!) a couple of Mexicans and a couple of extraordinary characters from a place called 'Unterslodge.  Nobody can understand them but we think their names are InthatrightDarn and I-fu .. ingspect!

The latest thing in Base Camp is expedition regulation haircuts, but as usual Mongo has gone over the top and had his head shaved - he's the spitting image of Buster Blood-Vessel!!  Bob and Darn have just got back from a remote jungle village where 'ze Englishman who cannot ski' is the talk of the town and we've just received a postcard from Blitz in China.

Ignore anything anyone else tells you ... THIS is the best place in the World!!

Cheers  Gonzo

P.S. Big Jane sends her love to Zot.

P.P.S. One of us has got to go on Wogan when we get back!