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

Belfry Bulletin Index

Dave Irwin has compiled and produced an index for the BB up to the end of 1987 (No. 442) and the Committee has decided that it should be issued to all CURRENT Members.  I aim to publish this in place of, or before, the next BB.





A Message From The Hut Warden

It’s good to be able to report a healthy period at the Belfry which is being used by numerous members every weekend.  A problem in recent weeks has been overcrowding and a shortage of bunks ­ there are only 22 places since the alterations.  A booked group of guests turned up recently to find all the bunks taken and a 'hostile attitude' from the members present.  Of course it is our hut but we should stop to think how we would feel after travelling 200 miles to find our bookings worthless.  (And remember - we could hardly afford to run the hut without guest fees).

Following this incident I caused a minor storm by suggesting that booked guests should have priority over members - an emotive issue!  After a stormy debate with hut regulars we reached a solution which should simplify things:-

1.                  The current limit of 12 for guest parties will be reduced to 8.

2.                  The smaller bunkroom, having very seldom been used as a women's room, will become the guest room - where booked guests will have priority.

3.                  The larger bunkroom will become the member’s room ­ priority to members and member’s personal guests (one per member).

The new system will start from 1st March.  No doubt the final demise of the segregated bunk room will cause howls of outrage from some quarters, if the feelings are that strong we will have to review the idea at the AGM.


Andy Sparrow



As the B.E.C. has "adopted" St. Cuthberts it is only too right that we actually do something positive to protect the place and so, with this in mind, a dissertation, illustrated with photographs, has been submitted to the "Eyecatcher Awards" which is the practical base of the 1988 European Year of the Environment. They are offering prizes from £500 to £5000 and the subject can be on any topic of conservation, from conserving a coppice to neutralizing the Wessex's cess pit.

I hope that a novel project like cleaning a swallet hole and taping formations will tickle the judges' fancy. Any monies that may be awarded will be used to finish off St. Cuthbert’s (not in the biblical sense), promoting the 'Adopt-a-cave' scheme, promoting cave conservation generally and also educating cavers on the merits of not dumping carbide, toffee wrappers or sweaty bang.  The dissertation sets out the problems within the cave rubbish, dirty and damaged formations, carbide etc., and the efforts taken to remedy them, including taping and cleaning, education and supporting the 'Adopt-a-cave' scheme.  A number of photographs have been provided so the judges can get some idea of what a cave looks like, plus photos of stals "before" and "after" cleaning.

Progress in St. Cuthbert’s is slow but sure.  Over 175 assorted objects d'art have been brought out - ranging from a six foot length of corrugated iron to (and I'm not kidding) a cuddly toy.  Ten carbide dumps have been found, the 'nearest" in Mud Hall.  Some new taping has been done but there's still a bit to do, plus lots of cleaning with sponges and water.  Taping is hopefully being done sensibly and not indiscriminately.   It is there to make us think before crossing and is not intended as a Berlin Wall.  Photographers please remove muddy boots and overalls before crossing.  Do not cross if you have no valid reason for doing so.

"We do not crap in the place we eat or sleep, so why crap in the place we play?"

In conjunction with the caving Secretary, Martin (Captain of Industry) Grass is changing the lock, collating the list of leaders, issuing new keys and generally sorting out access. This has been found necessary as the key system is being abused and we need an up-dated leaders list.  Anyway the lock is getting a bit manky and needs a change.



Agen, Agen & Agen: A Year Of Gothic.

It all began for me with an innocent 'phone call from John Hunt inviting me on a digging trip down Agen Allwedd - the dig was 'draughting' and reports from other BUSS members said that the passage looked 'just like Daren'.  Since a lift was going from Birmingham, I took up the offer, squashed into a Ford Fiesta with Steve Tooms, Rob Murgatroyd and Jim Arundale, and headed down to South Wales and a heavy night in 'The Brit.'.

10th Jan. 1987.  At midday we finally got 'round to going underground - the four of us from Brum, John Hunt; & some chap called John Stevens ('Spanners') ex-ULSA now with the Chelsea.  After getting lost numerous times, we reached Gothic Passage and commenced operations while Spanners went off to see what the G.S.S. lads were up to at the other end of the passage.  After 15 minutes we'd opened up a low crawl through roof collapse, and gained 70 feet of crawling to a dip in the roof and more collapse.  One of the G.S.S. came back to see how we were getting on, only to be a bit pissed of at our progress when they had got nowhere in four trips to their dig.

Work continued until 6 pm, removing rocks and building a dry stone wall with the spoil. We were just about to head out to the pub when Spanners returned to inspect the dig.  We decided to wait for him by the climb down to Southern Stream.  When he didn't return we gradually drifted back to find him excavating a tight upwardly sloping sandy crawl at the end of the dig.

'It opens out ahead,' said Spanners, ‘I think that I might be able to turn around.’  One by one, we squirmed up into the passage beyond.  A low, wide sandy passage stretched across the point of entry with a forty foot high aven above us - we ran around in circles jumping for joy!  The eastern end was followed to another aven before becoming blocked with sand (unknown to us, the G.S.S. were beyond exploring 400 ft of virgin passage) the western end led to another large aven and a pile of white calcite surrounded by a mud dam ('The Snow Boat’).

Back at the point of break-through a low, wide crawl was noted heading south.  This was followed for over 800 feet underneath numerous small avens to a major roof collapse.  A rift was seen nearby and investigated until it became too tight ('Absent Friends Rift') and a team photo taken.  Tired and excited, we headed out to celebrate.

17th Jan.  A cast of thousands descended upon Aggy through the snow and on down Southern Stream.  Whilst the others were messing around taping and surveying, Spanners and I sneaked off to the end of 'Resurrection Passage' (as the southerly route had been named) and had a go at the end dig.  Using a crow bar and tape slings we pulled out blocks until we could get through into the continuing low passage.  70ft further on, I was stopped by a loose crawl up over boulders, Spanners took the lead and we had company.

50 ft further on, the passage increased in size and we were left standing in a 'railway tunnel' sized passage with phreatic arches and selenite crystals growing in the rippled mud floor.  Stopping on a sand bank, the rest of the party was summoned while we gazed longingly down the passage to a corner.

Re-united, we set off along a wide ledge beside a trench in the floor.  At the corner, we turned south across a rock bridge into the continuing route, dead straight, as far as the eye could see.  After about 300 ft, a boulder collapse was crawled over.  Just beyond, the roof dropped to nearly meet the floor to form a 'sand-swim' until finally becoming totally blocked.

Digging recommenced - it didn't help not having a pull back rope and the drag tray.  Most of the party drifted away until we were left with Clive Gardener at the front and the others lying in the dig kicking the empty bucket back to him.  Jim Smart and Gonzo saved the day by turning up to help, muttering something about 'Upper Hard Rock', their assistance was greatly appreciated and we dug through to a low crawl to a 'final' aven and more sand fill.

14th Feb.  After pulling out rocks from the side of the east-west passage 'Synchronicity' near the start of Resurrection Passage, Henry Bennett and Spanners re-discovered 'High Traverse Passage'.  First entered in 1962 by climbing up from Lower Main Stream, the letters 'C.S.S.' were still blacked in on the slab at the end which they crawled over.

14th Mar.  By poking about in the dig by the Snow Boat, Rob gained a 'low chamber' with no airspace heading off.  Since this dig was small, muddy and tight, we resolved to abandon it forever.  Instead, we made our way to the end of Resurrection Passage to continue shifting sand from the end.  On the way we managed to loose Jim, who got sealed in an aven by falling rock.  Rob extracted him safely and we learned that there was a bat skeleton at the top of the aven.

Joined by Steve and some ULSA lads completing a ' Grand Circle' via the connection with High Traverse, digging progressed through solid fill until we were able to dig up through boulders into a large echoing aven.  The passage continued beyond 'Reverberation Aven' for a further 100ft before becoming totally filled with sand.

28th Mar.  Ian Rollands climbs the Snow Boat aven and drops down the other side into a further 100 ft of passage.

8th Apr.  Mike Wright, Simon Abbott and I climb up the Snow Boat aven on the ladder left there, remove the ladder and use it to climb down into the continuation.  We are surprised to discover that we can see the end of the low-level dig and soon made a route through.

24,-26 Apr.  Spanners and I bivied at Reverberation for the whole weekend.  Our only find of the whole miserable trip was to enter a 50 ft long, low, wide off of Lower Main Stream.  Since it was then Friday and finding a single set off boot-prints, this was christened' Friday's Passage' .

9th May.  John Hilton, Simon, Spanners and I went down to Friday's Passage via Main Stream, Bisa etc.  The aven above the passage went nowhere, but we extended it by 30 ft heading north.

16th May.  Tony Keefe and I enter via Main Stream to meet up with Spanners at the bottom of Bisa near 5th choke.  An exposed climb up Quarry corner and half an hour's digging sees us into 150 ft of new stuff - 'Quarry Crawl' (walking size actually) - ending close to Friday's Passage.  Tony & I go out with Spanners to complete the Grand Circle.

30th May.  Spanners and I returned to the extension found beyond the Snow Boat.  At the end of the passage, the roof almost met the mud floor, but the way on was still open.  After 8 hours solid digging, the route was enlarged sufficiently to gain a small aven. A hole at the side of this aven was cleared to gain a very large aven-cum-chamber with Chinese writing in calcite on the floor.  After the confines of the previous 200 ft this seemed quite impressive; perhaps as much as 50 ft high, 20 ft wide and 60 it long.

Again, the end was blocked with a low arch filled with mud.  Spanners climbed a up a small aven at the end to enter a tight high-level tube ending at another aven down.  Unfortunately, this was less than 6 inches wide, though stones rattled dawn for about 40 ft into the open passage beyond.  At the time of writing, the low level dig has progressed about 15 ft though almost solid mud and we think that we may nearly be through.  The passage is heading up into the blank space formed by the triangle of Southern. Stream, Main Stream and Main Passage.)

3-5 Jul.  A campsite is established at High Traverse.  On the Saturday, Simon, Spanners and I visit Lost Passage found by the ULSA lads near Bisa Passage.  A hair-raising rope traverse high above Main Stream brings us into 150 it of stooping and thrutching close to 5th choke.  Running water can be heard ahead, and the passage may possibly bypass the choke.

Meanwhile, we have been actively digging at the end of Resurrection Passage.  With over a 100 ft pull back on the drag tray the dig is rapidly becoming too much.  Then, we encounter a boulder choke. This is dug around, into, and finally we chisel our way up through.

30th Dec. The dig finally yields after nine month’s effort.  Mike Green (GSS), Simon and myself removed the last few rocks and we were through into 120ft of spacious passage; there were even a few formations! Hot on our heels were Arthur Millet and Rob bringing the grade 5 survey to the end.  A slope of calcited boulders blocks the way on.

7-10 Jan. 1988 A three day camp for me.  On the 9th, Spanners and I have a go at the offending boulder choke.  By following an undercut in the wall we make good progress until the undercut runs out.  At this point, things become decidedly dangerous; boulders keep dropping out of the roof and threaten to squash us!

At last we got through, emerging at the top of a 20 ft high calcited ramp.  Beyond, the passage turned sharp right, leaving the fault visible in the roof and heading due south.  Turning the corner, we half expected the passage to close up immediately. Instead, we saw one of the most impressive sights in Aggy - a passage 12 it wide, 6 ft high disappearing into the glom, bedecked with calcite formations from roof and floor like the ‘Crown Jewels’ in Daren, only bigger and better.

After 300 ft, the roof dropped straight down into the sand and we went back to camp to sleep before celebrating in the pub on Sunday lunchtime.

15th Jan.  A photographic trip to the end of Resurrection Passage with Geoff Newton and Spanners.  The offending boulder choke is made less unstable and the pretties are recorded on film.  Deciding to make a start on the end dig, we clear a trench down until the roof begins to level off.  A small hole in the side of the passage is taking quite a draught, but impossible to enlarge.  Satisfied with our efforts, we head on out.

At Reverberation Aven, we meet Simon and Rob and I'm persuaded to stay while Spanners and Geoff continue towards the surface.


On returning to the dig face, Simon inserts himself at the sharp end while Rob and I clear spoil. Swinging the mattock to the left, Simon discovers that the roof rises immediately under a flake and soon hits a large airspace.  After knocking down more sand, the way on is quickly enlarged and we are into the continuing passage, the same size as before.  Regrouping the other side of the dig.  I spot footprints in our 'virgin' passage.  Virtually at a sprint, we rush down the passage following the trail, 150 ft from our point of breakthrough the route ends as the passage ends overlooking a large river flawing by from right to left – MAYTIME!

This was totally unexpected; the diver’s survey was at least 1200 ft out.  Leaving Rob and Simon to enlarge the tight dig, I hurried back to Reverberation Aven to collect the camera - nobody would believe us unless we had photo's.  Returning to the river, a 'first wading' shot of Rob in the knee deep streamway was taken before we set off to Sump 4.  Just behind us was Sump 3, ahead the water grew deep in places and we had to traverse on slippery ledges in order to keep dry in our furry suits.  At last, at midnight we reached the line reel at Sump 4 - an unsettling place.

More photo's were taken on the way out.  We stopped to have a drink at the stream inlet in Maytime before struggling back to High Traverse where we opened the bottle of Champagne that had been kept for the occasion. Something hot and filling was cooked, then we made our way out.

At 5 am we reached Whitewalls and wake the house up.  We celebrated all day; the conclusion of a year's digging, the beginning of another ...

Duncan Price

Postscript: The following weekend, Spanners and Geoff had to be rescued from Maytime, near Sump 4 after becoming trapped by flood water for over 30 hours.


Tham Huai Klong Ngu - the Snake River System and Swallow Cave, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand.

The string of rattling, third class coaches winds across the creaking, decrepit looking, wooden trestle bridge, clinging precariously to the limestone cliff, high above the Mae Nam Khwae Noi.  Below, on a great bend of the river, houseboats of bamboo with palm thatch drift lazily down with the brown current.  Dense tropical rain-forest stretches away to the distant, surrealistic shapes of tall, karst towers.  The rhythmic clatter slows and deepens as the train reaches the other branch of the river the Khwae Yai - and passes at walking pace between the forty year old steel girders of the famous bridge.  We are travelling along the Burma-Siam railway, built by POW's and coolies during the Second World War, and are crossing the Bridge on the River Kwai.

Seventy kilometres to the North West the waters of the eastern branch of the Kwai are held back by the Sri Nakharin Dam, creating a sixty kilometre long artificial lake, hemmed in by jungle clad hills.  Along the western branch much of the old railway line has been torn up, and where the old road to Burma used to cross mosquito infested swamplands, Thai Electricity have erected a second dam, flooding another huge area, including the road and the original town of Sangkhlaburi. A brand new road, a masterpiece of engineering built in spite of torrential monsoon downpours, skirts the lake, twisting and climbing through extraordinarily rugged limestone and lush forest, to reach the border with Karenni and Mhong occupied Burma at Phra Chedi Sam Ong - the Three pagodas Pass, two hundred and forty kilometres from the bridge.

In between the two lakes is a sixty kilometre wide plateau, much of it limestone, lying at a height of around six hundred metres, with several karst towers rising to eight hundred metres and more.  Last year a small French expedition mapped several hundred metres of a huge cave which had previously been explored by Germans working at a nearby lead mine. We knew nothing of the Germans, but we did have a map produced by the French, and a few, flimsy details, including a mention of the mine.  The map was simple - it had a major series of gorges, deep dolines and large towers marked on it (one with a name, albeit incorrect) and it showed water, sinks, resurgences and karst windows (this last is where subterranean water can be seen crossing the base of deep shafts).  The map had no other details - no roads, no contours, not even a location.  John Dunkley, the Aussie caver who instigated our visit to Thailand, had sketched in probable road locations onto an old map of the area but the site of the cave was rather vague.  Perhaps someone at the mine could tell us more.

John, Jane and I met up in Kanchanaburi, the town near the River Khwae Bridge.  The tourist office personnel were helpful: half way up the eastern lake, on the western shore, a little national park has been set up to cater for (rich) visitors to some waterfalls.  A public bus goes as far as the Sri Nakharin Dam, and from there we seemed to have a choice: a fledgling tourist business ran a boat up the lake to a hotel for the night, and then across the lake to the national park, for which we could pay a small fortune; or we could hire a pick-up for around eighteen pounds a day and attempt to reach the park, and thence the mine, via a rough, dirt road to the west following the latter route.  We opted to hitch instead.


Traffic was somewhat thin from the dam to the park.  Only four vehicles used that road all day.  Fortunately we got a lift in each one.  When a two seater Willy's jeep came by, with three people in it and the whole thing overflowing with provisions, gallons of diesel and a tractor tyre, we could not expect any more than a friendly wave, but this was Thailand.  Somehow we got the three of us on too, plus our huge packs.

The road was deeply rutted from recent rains - this was the end of the dry season and parts of it were hair-raisingly steep.  Large areas of previously virgin jungle had been recently burned and cleared, and poor farmers from the arid and infertile north-east had moved in and were making a go at some ephemeral agriculture.  The land lasts for two or three years, during which time the nutrients are used up and the soil eroded. The farmers have to move on and the jungle does not return.  It seemed that this road only existed for the farmers.

The national park ranger took good care of us, letting us sleep in the park headquarters, providing us with an excellent, very cheap meal, and lots of information. Unfortunately he knew of no caves. The park's waterfalls descend steeply as a whole series of dramatic, travertine cascades, and we thought it quite likely that the stream emerged from a cave further up the edge of the plateau. However, after a perfunctory recce we contented ourselves with a wander down the well trodden tourist path, and a swim in the deep, blue plunge-pools under the cool, green canopy of the forest. That night we shared the park H.Q. with a million flying ants, beetles, moths, roaches and mosquitoes, and two exceedingly fat, foot-long geckos who were happy with only the largest and tastiest insects.

In the morning the Ranger drove us a short distance north, and thence down to the lake shore. Between the white, sun-bleached stumps of drowned trees and the weedy, gravel slopes of the shore was moored a large, steel ferry-boat.  So this was the route the lead mine trucks used, and from here up to the mine is a fast well graded dirt road.  After another good meal, courtesy of the ferry captain's family, the first truck of the day was brought over from the distant, eastern shore, and we climbed onto the back.  It was already full with equipment and stores for a second mine, plus a couple of dozen laughing and joking locals.  The truck roared away up the stony, dusty track, with us clinging precariously atop the piles of sacks and girders and boxes of provisions, dodging the overhanging branches that tried to pluck us from our perches.

Forty kilometres on we were dropped off at a junction where the truck continued to Kletee Mine.  Our destination, Song Toh Mine, lay just five kilometres away.  We sheltered from a rain shower and watched the massive, isolated karst towers slowly disappear into the murk, then emerge once more, washed and gleaming in the sun. The bigger towers can be a couple of hundred metres high, and quite long, tending to take the form of humped ridges.  The old geological maps suggest that the towers are of Permian or Triassic limestone, while Ordovician carbonates lie beneath, as a plateau.  Although there is a vast difference in the ages of the two rock types, stratigraphically they are the same, and there is no reasonable explanation why the younger rocks should have been formed into towers.  The walls of many of the towers are steep, even overhanging in places, and generally vegetation free, while the summits are a tangled mass of trees, creepers and roots concealing viciously sharp spikes of stone. A few cave entrances are usually visible part way up the towers, but often the longer caves are at the base of the hills, and are thoroughly hidden by the thick undergrowth.  We observed patches of mist, maybe from hidden holes in the forest, and pondered caverns measureless.

The rain died away and, after a short wander beside the dripping forest and among smaller karst towers, and a lift in a pick up, we reached the mine.  What a contrast: only a few minutes down the track was thick green, barely penetrable jungle and wild, jagged castles of stone; here, in the middle of the wilderness, was a town of three thousand people, complete with street lights and suburban type gardens, shop, hospital, offices, all the buildings and paraphernalia required to run the most modern mine on mainland South East Asia, and it is not even on the map!

The Germans who run the mine immediately made us very welcome.  Dr. Gerdt Pedall, the geologist for the company, was particularly interested. His hobby back home is exploring old mines, but there's rather a dearth of them here so, over a number of years, he has investigated many caves.  Several of these are of archaeological value, being sites of ancient human habitation and containing remains of wooden coffins (or, perhaps, water tanks) and potsherds.  However, his greatest caving achievement must surely be the explorations of the Snake River and its associated caves.

Accommodation was provided for us at the mine and, over a superb German supper and Kloster Bier by the litre, it was arranged that we should visit Swallow Cave the following day.  The evening was rounded off with Mae Khong (Thai whisky).


The headwaters of the Snake River (Huai Khlong Ngu) drain in excess of two hundred square kilometres, and the majority of the waters become a single river deeply incised into the older limestones, flowing roughly southwards. Most of the significant ridges and valleys in this region trend just east of south.  Two dolines to the east may also drain into the Snake River, although the likely confluence is not yet known. The main river runs through a deep gorge, walled in by huge cliffs of towering white stone reaching up to the base of a wide, shallow valley.  After several kilometres the canyon stops abruptly as the waters vanish underground, to reappear briefly two and a half kilometres further south at Swallow Cave.

Gerdt had sorted out a guide for us, laid on a four wheel drive vehicle plus driver, and drawn us a remarkably detailed, accurate plan of the entrance region of Swallow Cave and the other caves down river. Initially we drove back to the Song Toh - Kletee junction (where we had sheltered from the rain) and then headed up the Kletee road, still on a good gravel surface which has to suffer the pounding of way-overloaded ore-trucks, each carrying twenty two tons of washed and ground galena.  A kilometre to the north a track led into the forest, eastwards, on sun-hardened red laterite mud.  This gradually deteriorated until we were dodging trees, and bouncing over steepening ground with lumps of limestone protruding wheel-jarringly out of the laterite, a kilometre further on.  From here we would have to walk.

Great clumps of bamboo, up to twenty five metres high, towered overhead, and huge, multi-rooted trees swept up to support a vast sunshade of dappled green foliage. Strange flutings of birds, seldom seen, echoed through the forest, and a large squirrel raced nimbly away across the topmost branches.  A small, grey viper wriggled hastily out of our path, while a silent moth, the colour of dead bamboo leaves, simply disguised itself as another piece of forest litter.  Occasionally we glimpsed tall, but narrow karst towers through gaps in the greenery, and to either side of us the ground dropped away to tree-filled dolines, each inviting a more thorough investigation.

After little more than half an hour's hot walking the valley of the Snake River appeared ahead and below us.  We could view across miles of tree tops a wide hollow with no sign of the canyon' or river at the bottom.  The descent was steeper than it appeared, starting with a clamber among rocks, and followed by a laterite slope, still slick from yesterday's rain.  Evidently elephants come this way as we found their tracks, even on the steepest slopes.

Suddenly we dropped into a deep amphitheatre, carved from the rock and linking to the gorge.  The pungent odour of guano filled the air, and hundreds of swifts could be seen circling and swooping, far above the canyon walls, which gleamed white in the sunlight.  Passing through a short cave along one wall of the gorge we emerged onto a wide, flat, sandy ledge on the threshold of a vast portal.  The river, knee-deep and twenty metres wide, filled the floor. From the ledges on either side the cave walls rose straight up for sixty to eighty metres to support a level roof bedraggled with massive stalactites. Above this there appeared to be very little solid rock between the cave and the jungle.

A group of Thais were camped at the cave to collect guano by the sackful, and then drag it, laboriously, up the hill to the road head, an hour’s tough walk away.  At the moment they were relaxing, fishing by that age-old method - a net across the river and an ounce or two of bang upstream.  They gazed at us, unspeaking, as we donned our 'caving gear'.  The only equipment that John and the guide had was CEAG acid cells supplied by the mine. Jane and I caved in T-shirts, shorts and lightweight walking boots.  We had helmets, stinkies (carbide gobblers are not for lightweight trips), Petzl zooms and little Tekna-lites.  Additionally I carried a polythene wine bag (empty, sad to say).  Blown up and stuffed up my T-shirt this served as excellent flotation for me, a natural sinker.

Initially we all tried to stay dry.  After all, I was wearing a rucksack containing an expensive camera.  Even wading across the underground rivers in this region is not straightforward: masses of organic debris accumulate on all the rock surfaces, and underwater this becomes jelly-like and incredibly slippery.  After a couple of crossings and a very slimy traverse above deep water, we had reached the end of the twilight zone, about three hundred metres in.  I dumped my sack among some stal and hoped that the Thai guano collectors were either honest or afraid of the dark.  The next section was most easily passed by swimming, crossing to a long bank of stalagmited rock and big gours.  John found an awkward but dry route along the opposite wall and our guide, determined not to get wet above his waist, followed.  The next section was definitely for swimmers only, and Jane checked it out as far as dry land.  John and the guide decided that they had seen enough, so we two continued alone.

The passage remained wide and high, the roof often being beyond the range of our lights.  After frequent immersions the draught began to chill us, and we were glad to find long, gravel banks where we could put on a bit of speed and get warm again.  Sometimes the river ran deep and swift in a confined channel and we had some awkward climbs to negotiate in order to avoid the waters and their dangerous currents. Occasionally it was deep water over the whole width of the passage and we were forced to swim.  In one place the river did its best to sweep me into a sump beneath an enormous fallen boulder because I had been foolish enough to attempt a crossing in the wrong place.  With awe and muttered expletives we noted the flood debris - whole tree trunks and huge branches throughout, jammed into crevices up to ten metres above our heads - and the wet season was just beginning.

The wild life in the cave was particularly abundant.  We were constantly pestered by millions of small, white flies which were attracted to the light of our carbide flames, and died there like a steady waterfall in front of our noses.  So dense were they that it was difficult to see through the cloud, and we would have been better off at times with hand held torches.  The screaming swifts at the entrance were replaced by various species of bats further in.  On the gravel banks we came across wetas, crickets and long, brown millipedes, and among the rocks lurked centipedes and scorpions.  The centipedes were about ten centimetres long, with yellow and brown striped bodies and long, spidery legs. Thankfully they scuttled into hiding as soon as our lights disturbed them.  Not so the scorpions, who sat tight, usually right on a crucial handhold.  Pale white fish swam in the pools and crayfish stalked along the bottom pretending to be stones. It is highly likely that some of these creatures will be new to science - of three fish collected in the north, one was the first found in Thailand, and one was a totally new species.  A biological collection from caves in this area is bound to be worthwhile.


More than a kilometre into the cave two small inlets emerged from loose boulders at floor level by one wall - perhaps these originate in the large dolines to the north-east.  There was no obvious passage here, and indeed we saw no passages leading off the main one anywhere in the cave.  However, our lights were not all that brilliant, so who knows?

There is little stal throughout the cave.  There is the stal bank near the start, already mentioned, and part way in is a wall of deep, cup shaped gours, dry at present but, no doubt, full in the wet season. Fifteen hundred metres in a tall, lonely stalagmite dominates the passage, and beyond this the passage continues, big as before, with pebble banks beside the meandering river, interspersed with sections of more turbulent, deep water.  After two kilometres there is a karst window, a sort of skylight where the cave has been unroofed for a short distance, and thence it is but a few hundred yards to the inflow entrance.

Having made our way back to the resurgence and joined the others we set off down river to see where it sinks once again.  The waters meandered in deep pools or ran in rapids over a coarse sand and gravel floor, with huge cliffs to one side.  We crossed over, balancing precariously on the trunk of a fallen tree, and soon crossed back where there were shallows.  After a couple of hundred metres there were cliffs on both sides, the bedding clearly showing a gentle dip to the south.  Flood waters had scoured out big, elliptical scallops in the rock.  Swallow Cave was only just out of sight behind us in, the trees, as we rounded a bend to see the next cave in the system.  While we slipped and slithered among the big boulders of the entrance rockfall our guide excelled himself, dancing from rock to rock-and over the stream, first in flip-flops and then in bare feet.  The river flowed fast and deep between wide, sloping shelves and in a vadose canyon, so we stayed well above it on the ledges.  As sunlight appeared through a narrow karst window marking the far end of this cave we reached an impressive array of deep, cup shaped gours, more massive and extensive than those in Swallow Cave, like tiers of gigantic swallow’s nests.  One of these made a superb, pulpit-like stance from which to view the next cave entrance.

In the section down-river from Swallow Cave there are three such fragments of cave, interspersed by canyon, or unroofed cave, and then the river flows underground yet again, now for the fifth time.  It drops down a short waterfall and appears to sump immediately.  This has not yet been explored - these highly flood prone tropical systems are safest explored upstream.  Some two kilometres down-valley it resurges again, but the cave is quite different in nature from those up-river.  The roof is wide and low over deep water, and progress is entirely by swimming against the strong current.  Gerdt explored this solo on a previous occasion, reaching his own, psychological barrier after about four hundred metres.  The cave was observed to continue in the same fashion.

The map shows the river continuing southwards for a few more kilometres, still entrenched within a deep valley or canyon, and then turning abruptly to the east.  It seems to go underground for the last time towards the end of its eastward course.  The map indicates at least one and a half kilometres of cave, while the contours suggest that the resurgence would be close to lake level at the head of a long, deep and narrow inlet of the Sri Nakharin Lake.  None of this has been explored, and the best access to any possible cave here is clearly by boat across the lake, and then up the inlet.  Hopefully the cave entrance will be above the water.

There is to be a combined French-Australian expedition to the Snake River later on this year.  Although there seems to be little potential for long cave in the region, there is certainly more passage to be found, and it is quite likely that this will be via resurgences within the Snake River canyon. The French have surveyed part of Swallow Cave - this needs completing and the other caves need mapping.  There is at least a couple of kilometres of cave to be explored down-river.  There are several dozen other sites already known, unrelated to the Snake, but close by, and some of these are of archaeological significance.  Obviously there is much work to be done.

There can be no doubt at all that the area deserves the status of a national park, and presenting a case for this would not be difficult.  However, the Thai vision of such set-ups is that they are primarily to attract visitors, and must be altered and managed to cater for this.  Here is a unique, wild and dramatic, true karst landscape.  We can only hope that the Thai authorities do not realize its tourist potential before they come to understand the true meaning of conservation.

Graham Wilton-Jones 20 / 6 / 1987 Kuwait.


An Imaginary Tale

Author's Note:  Ten years have now gone by since 'Alfie' was dismissed as Editor of the B~B. at the 1977 A.G.M.  Amongst other things, he was accused of making the club a laughing-stock by his choice of silly material for the B.B.  Around Christmas time he often wrote tales of an imaginary B.E.C., peopled by characters such as Pete Pushem, Fred Ferret and others.  This article, written by a suitably anonymous scribe in Alfie's style, will give younger readers some idea of the rubbish that they have been mercifully spared since Alfie last set foot in the Belfry


It is an afternoon in late July on Mendip.  It is, in fact, the day on which summer has decided to fall that year.  The sun is shining from a cloudless sky, and the unaccustomed heat has cracked off a few more wall tiles from the now rapidly disintegrating buildings of the University of Cave Studies at Charterhouse-on-Mendip - to give that dreadful place its full title. We eavesdrop on a conversation between Dave Dimwit and Mike Moron, two undergraduates who have stayed up during the summer vacation in a vain attempt to catch up with their studies.

 “It’s no use", Mike is saying. "I'll never get my degree in spelaeology.  I just can't understand what's going wrong."

“It’s these new rules." replies Dave.  "The Prof. has been made to increase the academic standard, and he's decided that some of us are actually going to be failed.  It's damned unfair.  When I came here, I understood that everybody got a degree."

“I can't understand it either" says Mike with an imbecilic grin. "How can they improve the standard if less of us get our B.Sp?"

“It beats me.  But you said that you had a problem with your work."

"Yes. It's the paper on lesser-known caves.  You know that we have to write up ten of them?  Well, I put in my paper and the Prof. says that eight of them can't be found at all.  What I can't understand is that they're all in the textbooks."

Dave Dimwit scratches his head.  "Why can't they be found?  They've all got entrances, haven't they?"

“I don't know" mutters Mike. "I don't know anything.  All I do know is that I shan't get my degree.  It's a bloody mystery."


In his study at the same university, Professor Peabrain is equally puzzled.  He has been studying the textbooks on Burrington Coombe.  He has counted a total of 14 lost caves, mostly complete with detailed descriptions.  He seems to remember that when he was an undergraduate there was only one.  In desperation he takes his socks off and counts them again on fingers and toes.  There are still 14.  He lets what passes for his mind wander back to the days when he obtained his doctorate in spelaeology by a masterly thesis proving that all caves were located underground.  In those days, he muses, Mendip was not cluttered up with caves that nobody could find any more.  He falls into a gentle doze.


It is now evening. Sitting in the bar of an old Mendip inn, surrounded by invigorating tankards of beer are four young cavers.  Petelet, son of Pete Pushem is talking to Fredlet, Fred Ferret's eldest boy.

 “Did you manage to swap the new volume of Mendip Underground into the library at Charterhouse?"

“No problem. It's got 3 more lost caves of Cheddar, 5 new chambers in Wookey and a huge extension to Alfie's Hole."

“What I don't understand", says Samlet, the son of Sam Strangeways, "Is why you take all this trouble to photostat textbooks and add imaginary caves to them.  What's the point of it all?"

“It all began," says Petelet, "when my old man found that squeezes were getting too tight for him.  It's due to the Devenish Effect."

“What’s that?"

"The Devenish Effect was discovered by a chap called Luke Devenish.  He used to cave with one of the other clubs.  He found that the cross sectional area of cave passages gets smaller as time goes on."

“It’s worse than that" adds Fredlet, “because the volume of the cave stays the same, and so all the passages get longer as time goes on."

“That’s terrible!” says Samlet, taking a refreshing gulp of beer. "What will happen in the end if all this goes on ?"

" Well", replies Petelet, banging his empty pot down in front of Samlet, who takes this delicate hint and goes up to the bar for another round, " If Ronlet hadn't had an inspiration, and found a way to overcome these effects, then all caves would eventually finish up with zero cross section and infinite length."

There is a lull in the conversation, while Samlet digests this mind-boggling prospect.  Before he can ask any more questions, Ronlet add a further factor. "You've forgotten Balch's Law."

 “Ah, yes," says Petelet. “Another chap called Chris Falshaw discovered that the total volume of all Mendip caves is a constant - which he called Balch's Constant - and that this is the sum of the volumes of all the caves known to Balch.  So, every time some new cave is discovered, its volume has to be taken away from Balch's Constant, which has the effect of making all the other caves a bit smaller."

Samlet thinks hard about this new idea.  He does not like it at all.  It seems to him that Balch's Law is a much more serious threat to the future of caving on Mendip than the Devenish Effect.  He says so.

 “Dead right~," says Petelet, "The Devenish Effect is a slow one, but Balch's Law is a right pig."

"Didn't you say," says Samlet, grasping at the only available straw, "that Ronlet had found a way round all these ghastly effects?"

"Yes, I have" says Ronlet. "but my throat's gone all dry."

It seems to Samlet that it ought to be somebody else's round by now.  He says so.  This remark is treated by the others with the contempt that it deserves.  Eventually, Samlet gets the next round in.  He still has a lot to learn - and not only about caves.

 “The solution to the Balch's Law problem is quite simple" says Ronlet, "once you recognise that all caves are complex affairs."

“Some of them are dead complicated?" suggests Samlet.

“No, not complicated. Complex.  Like complex numbers. Caves have a real part and an imaginary part."

“Eh?" says Samlet, nearly spilling his beer.

"Yes," replies Ronlet, taking no notice of this narrowly averted catastrophe.  After all, it is not his beer that was nearly spilled. “You take the average dig for example.  Now, the real part might only be twenty or thirty feet long but in the diggers' imagination the rest of the cave goes right through to Wookey, taking in some vast Master Cave on the way.  It can be shown mathematically that the average radius of the imaginary part of such a cave is an imaginary quantity."

“Well, I suppose it would be." says Samlet.

“Exactly.  Call this average radius ‘ir’ or ‘jr’ if you are an engineer.  So the average cross sectional area is п(ir)2”

"Which is п(r)2" says Petelet, "and the volume is - пr2-1, where '1' is the total length of the imaginary bit."

“So, when you subtract this volume from that of the existing caves to keep Balch's Constant intact" says Fredlet, "you subtract a negative volume."

“Which is," Ronlet triumphantly concludes," the same as adding a positive volume, so the size of all caves goes up a bit."

Samlet feels as if his brain has been put through a mincing machine.  He is so confused that he buys the next round without thinking.

“But why," he eventually says," do you have to do all this business with the textbooks at Charterhouse?"

“Because,” replies. Petelet, "There are rules which govern imaginary caves.  We soon found that it didn't work if we just sat down and imagined them.  Other people have to believe in them, for a start."

“So," adds Ronlet, "we thought of all those idiots at Charterhouse taking their damn silly degrees in spelaeology, and we reckoned that they'd believe anything if they found it in a textbook.".

" It's not only them," adds Fredlet, " Some old caver came in here the other night and kept us amused with tales about how he helped Don Coase to survey some hole that Ronlet had thought up and which has always been entirely imaginary."

" But", says Samlet, putting his finger on what he considers to be the weak spot of the argument, "You still can't beat the Devenish Effect."

“Oh, yes we can! " says Ronlet, I couldn't explain the maths to you, not even if you bought me another pint, because you wouldn't understand it, but there is also a degree of time reversal."

“Eh? Pull the other one - it's got bells on!"

“Put it this way. Normally, you might go to some swallet or other likely spot and start to dig.  Then you might find a cave.  Then you would survey it and write about it.  Now, with the imaginary caves and extensions, you write about them first and then people try to find them.  This time reversal makes the Devenish Effect work backwards, and squeezes start to get bigger again."

Samlet has the last word. "Sounds daft to me!", he says.


It is now late at night. A small party of elderly cavers emerge triumphantly from Cuthbert’s.  Pete Pushem in particular is delighted with the trip.  “Did you see," he asks Fred Ferret, "how quickly I came up the entrance rift!  I could swear the thing is wider than it was last time.  I'll tell that mine that son of mine that his old man can still cave!  These youngsters think they know it all."

Actually, they do - for, unbeknown to these veteran cavers, the young lads of the B.E.C. have everything firmly under control.

Yorkshire Police" /> 

Abandoned coffin baffles Yorkshire Police.

From the Guardian Dec. 7th.

by Martin Wainwright

A new coffin found abandoned on a lonely stretch of moorland in the central Pennines is baffling police and undertakers in North Yorkshire.

One theory is that it is an ingenious, though macabre, piece of potholers' equipment for ferrying excavated earth through narrow tunnels.

The varnished box, lined with pink plush and fitted with six gilt handles was discovered by a farmer checking his sheep on the slopes of the Ingleborough peak.  Inside, Mr David Gardner found an Indian take­away meal, yards of computer tape, and a large number of Co­op stamps.

The coffin had been dumped a third of a mile from the road at Chapel le Dale.

"There wasn't a body or any sign of one and the coffin wasn't from round here," said a police spokesman at Ingleton.  “We checked with our local undertakers, but they do a different style altogether.

Police inquiries have been extended to Co-ops at Blackburn, Burnley, and Bradford.  But the answer may lie closer to Ingleton, according to Mr. Tom Farrer, who runs the Hill Inn at Chapel le dale.

 “We get all sorts going on up here, especially when cavers are around.  Now this coffin were on the path to Great Dowk Cave.  Imagine if you were a caver digging out a new passage, what would you find handy for getting out the rubble?  A coffin can slide along – nicely and it's got six handles.”

No cavers have yet claimed the coffin, which is taking up most of the lost property cupboard at Ingleton police station.  But other happenings in the here, including the discovery down potholes of a litter bin and a model dinosaur used to advertise local show caves, lend weight to Mr Farrer's opinion.

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

1978 – 1988 COMMITTEE

Hon. Sec.          Bob Cork
Treasurer           Mike (Trebor) McDonald
Caving Sec.       Richard Neville-Dove
Hut Warden       Andy Sparrow
Tackle Master    Steve Milner
B.B. Editor        Dave Turner
Hut Engineer     Dany Bradshaw
Membership Sec.           John Watson
Librarian            Tony Jarratt (co-opted)
                        Phil Romford
                        Mark Lumley (co-opted)


Our club archivist - Alan Thomas for those who didn't know we had one! - would like the following if any members can oblige:-

Folio Foolscap paper

Filing Cabinet

If you can help give Alan a ring.





Daren On The Move

The dig at the end of Acupuncture Passage was finally passed on a 3 day camp from 15-18 October.  A stooping/crawling passage 25ft wide (New Boots & Panties passage) continued for about 150 metres westerly to a breakdown. However, halfway along the passage the roar of Borrowed Boots streamway was heard through a small crack in the floor. The significance of a connection here was not lost on the jubilant (and slightly drunk) diggers.  ( Pete Bolt, Henry Bennett, Matt & myself) and a return trip was planned for the near future.

The following weekend Andy Cave, Matt, Steve Milner, Angie and Richard Neville Dove, camped at Hard Rock.  Those who could fit through the approach constrictions went up to New Boots and started digging down for a connection with the streamway while RND drank rum with Liza Taylor, Pete Eckford and I who were down stocking up the camp.  'The Micron' was dug out and Andy & Steve squeezed through a very tight rift into Borrowed Boots Streamway.

Meanwhile, divers Ian Rolland and Rick Stanton, had pushed a passage from the region of 7th Hour Sump for about 1 kilometre in the fossil levels.  Our connection was very significant because it put the dry divers extensions within our reach.  A meeting was held between the Rock Steady Crew and the divers at which we agreed to give them one last push on their own before going in ourselves, establishing an advanced camp (Restaurant at the End of the Universe) and starting digging operations.

Consequently, two weeks later Rick and Ian, bivvied in 'Agua Colorada' (the dry extensions) for 5 days and were joined by Martyn Farr for 3 days.  They found over 1½ kilometres of new passage going all over the place. There are apparently loads of really good digging sites that may go back to Daren, into Aggy and up the mountain. The Rock Steady Crew didn't waste time that weekend either.  Steve Allen and I dug into a 50 metre extension of New Boots & Panties Passage, Pete B. & Andy C. started stocking the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  Steve M, RND, Pete Hopkins and Angie dug out Miami-Vice to fat-gutted-git size and RND then joined us by the Micron!  Arthur Millet banged the top to the Micron and RND & I helped him dig it out until it collapsed on me (Adrenalin really is brown and makes your voice go up an-octave!)

A dry connection to Aggy is a Quantum Leap closer now, but maintaining the efforts this far in is becoming a problem.  Stocking Hard Rock with provisions is bad enough but this advance camp is a long way further in.  To push any digs in Agua Colorada on extended trips from the surface is really out of the question.  The trip into the dig will take 6 hours for a start and the prospect of then doing 12 hours digging, then going out is, frankly ludicrous.  The project is taking the shape of a Continental style big cave push and may well need a lot of people working long weekends to make it a success.  If anyone fancies the idea of joining us on regular monthly 3 day digging trips then get yourself a sleeping bag down to Hard Rock Cafe and you'll be most welcome.

P.S. With the survey of the Divers extension drawn up, a passage is seen to head back down the mountain to within 200 metres of Priory Road, in the Gothic extensions, Agen Allwedd!

Mark Lumley



Interesting Notes Unearthed by the Librarian

BOWERY CORNER According to Pat Cronin this (very tidy) dig is "ours if we want it".  There is a surprisingly large catchment area apparently.

(Reprinted from Severn Valley C.C. Newsletter November 1982)

Bowery n. District (orig. the Bowery, street in New York City) known as resort of drunks and down-and-outs.

(Concise Oxford English Dictionary p.16)


"The attraction might be great, if the opportunity occurred, to open up a cave close to the highway, but, unless the opening or shaft is more than 25 yards from the highway or is (to use the words of the Act) 'within some house or building or behind some wall or fence sufficient to conceal or screen the same from the highway', to do so would involve liability for as penalty of £5 per day."


(Reprinted from Axbridge C.G. & A.S. Journal Vol.2 No.2 September 1954 p36)


1st. JANUARY 1966



(Belfry Log Book 1964-1966)


Bristol Evening Post 25th November 1980

Whilst working on a Keynsham public house builders suddenly uncovered a cavern, the presence and purpose of which are not known.  The entrance is illustrated.

(from Brit. Caver Vol.80 (Spring 1981) p47)


The etymology of the word "belfry" is from the Latin via Middle English (berfrey) and Old French (berfrie) - a watch tower or beacon and hence has nothing to do with the fact that bells are hung in it.  Belfry did not appear in English until the 15th Century.


*published by Alan Thomas - £3.00 (Advert)


New additions to Library

Cavecraft  - D. Cons

Wookey Hole, The Caves and Mill - guide book

donated by A.J.


Letters Received

From the Editor's wife,

I have attended the Annual Dinner for the last twenty years, but I have noticed over the last few years that people don't wait until after the Loyal Toast before they smoke but puff away between each course. I was unlucky enough to sit surrounded by just such smokers this year.  It spoilt the meal and made me feel sick.  Perhaps one day smoking will be banned in public but until then, please smokers consider the non-smokers around you before you light up next year.  One shouldn't have to vet who you sit by to see if they smoke or not.

Barbara Turner.

 [I have heard other members and friends complaining of the same problem - next year I shall push for either the smokers to wait until the Loyal Toast or to be segregated away from those of us who find it offensive. Dave]


Operation Raleigh
Aliabad 7,500 feet above sea level
October 6th 1987

Hello Belfry Mob!

Its little me, Fiona, if any of you remember me and for those who are not too sure I was the Vampire's Bride at the last Bar-b-cue!  How did this years go?  OK, I hope - I'll be back from Sunny Downtown Pakistan in time for my 21st and Christmas so see you all then!

I've been here for a whole month now and have had the dreaded 'Pakistani Trotts' once so far!! I must admit that I'm enjoying every minute!  120 venturers from all over the world descended on Islamabad airport on 7th September, we were split into 3 groups named after mountain goats, shipped off onto one of 3 projects and promptly bitten to pieces by mossies and all manner of nasty beasties!

My first 21 day project was "trekking"!  Not recommended!  Tramping around the Himalayas with a 44lb pack on your back. The altitude messing your head up and 'RAVEN RATIONS' (THROW UP TIME!) in your belly! The views of ' Nanga Parbat' and surrounding snow capped peaks all over 4 times as GB was breath-taking!  I actually reached a height of 14,157 feet above sea level and I can tell you that the altitude does silly things to your head, legs and speech.  I felt as pissed as a fart!!  We also walked up a valley to a place called 'Fairy Meadows' which is at the base of Nanga Parbat and is paradise.  A BEC sticker has been secreted there for prosperity.  Hard work but worth every blistered sweaty moment!

We're now 2 days into our second project - Community Camp Aliabad.  We have to help the local villages build a road.  At the moment there's a footpath that snakes through the village, we have to fill holes in with rocks that we transport from walls that are demolished to make way for the road.!  Today we 'blasted' 3 big rocks - ace fun!  Digging, wheel barrowing and shovelling.  I'm going to come back like a Russian shot-putter!!

Aliabad is situated along the Karakorum Highway which traces the original silk route between China and Pakistan, our camp is in the shadow of Raka Poshi - the view is fantastic.  On 13-14 of this month I'll be taken for a trek up Raka'Poshi - I'm told not to the top!

Its ace here, the flies don't bother me anymore and I've given up counting my mossie bites.  We've all brought bright materials in the town and in Gilgit and got baggy Pakki trousers made up.  The days are very hot and there's a coke stand right outside the camp.  We’ve made a stove out of an old oil drum and last night I cooked scones for 40 people! Today its apple crumble and next week, chapatti base pizzas!

I'll write again next month to keep you all in touch. Look after yourselves and save a barrel for my birthday!!

Love Fiona McFall (1068 I think!!)

P.S. The Vampire and I are now engaged!!  Bloody Hell!


My apologies to the BEC

I will not be able to attend the AGM. due to the fact the dinner is being held at my present place of work; so I have to stock the bar, test the butcombe etc.

Snablet (1052)


Definition of an optimist

"Someone who thinks Wigmore will go"

Definition of a pessimist

"Anyone who agrees with him"

From the profound thoughts of Gonzo Lumley.


Filming in Wookey Hole

Recently Wookey Hole was the scene of the re-enactment of some of Cave Diving feats of daring and courage so that armchair cavers can experience all the thrills ...... ZZZZZ

ZZZZZ watch BBC sometime next year for Sid Perou's latest epic for the electronic screen.

For those who can't wait,-here is a sample of what they can expect to see.  Dany is now charging for his autograph!



The B.E.C. Get Everywhere - More French Show Caves

This years major speleological expedition by Mr. & Mrs. Rat took in about half of the limestone areas of France, a multitude of booze emporiums, assorted eating houses of various quality and an underground village in sandstone - not to mention a selection of traditional Gallic "squatters", one of which may be the last resting place of Jane's Euro cheque card!  A short itinerary and details of the caves visited follows.

After taking the excellent Truckline ferry from Poole we drove south from Cherbourg via the Troglodyte Village near Doue­la-Fontaine.  This man-made series of sand stone caverns is well worth seeing and there is a pleasant camp site in the town of Doue.

Our first limestone area was the Causses plateau (Lozere and Gard depts.) where we camped near Nant at a secluded site recommended by the Wessex and Shepton called "Le Roc qui Parle".  From here the three famous caves of Aven Armand, Bramabiau and Dargilan were visited.

Miserable weather soon drove us from here and we headed east to the Ardeche region, camping at Barjac, midway between the two fantastic show caves of La Cocaliere and Aven d'Orgnac. This area is well supplied with sporting caves and a brief foray was made into the Goule de Sauvas swallet system until stopped by a 15ft pitch only a few yards in.  The extensive and extremely picturesque Ardeche Gorge is near here but is packed solid with canoeists and the Aven de Marzel show cave on the plateau above the gorge is notable only for its museum of speleaology.

Next stop was the famous Fountaine-de-Vaucluse, a place of pilgrimage for all cave divers.  Low water conditions, tourists, ill considered commercialisation and the ubiquitous dog shit ruined any aesthetic pleasure to be had in seeing this mighty resurgence.  To cap it all the local caving club run a dreadful museum consisting of a man-made fibreglass cave and the Norbet Casteret collection of vandalised crystal~ and helactites!   Definitely a place to visit quickly or avoid altogether.

Hurrying on from here brought us next day to the tremendous Verdon Gorge - a huge limestone canyon but with a seeming lack of obvious spelaeological features and no tourist caves.

Next stop was Vercors where we bumped into Dave and Chris Perkins of the Wessex.  This caused the show cave of La Draye Blanche to be visited under the grip of a paralysing hangover!

A day later, with brains in neutral and stomach linings beginning to heal over, a combined Wessex/B.E.C. team accompanied twenty French school kids through the Grotte de Gaulois - about 300ft of low and muddy passage high in the cliffs of the Bourne Gorge leading to a highly exposed second entrance giving marvellous views over said gorge.

On our way home through France the isolated show cave of the Grotte d'Arcy at Arcy-sur-Cur was visited. An impressive but well vandalised system.

Prospective "show cavers" should note that the production of a club membership card and a query as to whether there is a special price for "speleologues" will usually elicit a discount of around 60p.  At La Cocaliere it got us a free brochure as well because the manager was an old mate of Nick Barrington!


Les Fermes Troglodytiques de Rochemenier (Rochemenier, Doue-la-Fontaine, Anjou)

This underground hamlet consists of two farms, a church, meeting hall and (closed) Cafe - some 19 surface and sub-surface buildings in all.  They are just an example of the dwellings of Rochemenier village, much of which is situated below ground level and still permanently inhabited.  The soft sandstone is easily dug and was extensively quarried to lime the fields - the resulting caves being adapted as houses, barns, stores, ovens, wine cellars etc.  The series open to the public also acts as a museum of farm implements, furniture and old photographs of the area.  These dwellings were obviously comfortable enough but our overall impression was of their extreme dampness.

Aven Armand (Hures-la-Parade, Lozere)

Well described in caving literature this is one of the great tourist caves of France.  Situated on the barren limestone plateau of the Causse Mejean, between the Jonte and Tarn Gorges, it is a very popular cave and an early morning visit is recommended. The original entrance is a pothole dropping directly into a 40m high chamber 100m long by 50m wide and extremely well decorated.  The Virgin Forest - some 400 stalagmites up to 30m in height - is a tremendous sight.  The tourist enters via a 208m long artificial sloping tunnel with a funicular railway in situ. Discovered by Louis Armand, the principal assistant of E.A. Martel.

Grotte de Bramabiau (Camprieu, Gard)

Tourists enter this cave at the resurgence and follow a series of paths mainly along ledges above the fast flowing river.  The passages are generally high, narrow canyons reaching up to 40m in height. Little in the way of formations but the spectacular water worn galleries are well worth seeing.  There are over 15Km of passages in this system and a sporting through trip from the sink entrance is possible by arrangement with the management - except in flood conditions when the whole place is impassable (Bramabiau being the local patois for "bull roaring" the sound of the resurgence in flood!)  Explored by E.A.Martel and team in 1888.

Grotte de Dargilon (Dargilon, Meyrueis, Lozere)

Also explored by Martel and Co in 1888 this cave consists of a series of superbly decorated chambers with most of the formations being in various shades of red, ochre and yellow giving the cave its alternative name of "La Grotte Rose".  Situated at the northern limit of the Causse Noir.

Grotte de la Cocialere (Courry, Gard)

One of the best show caves in France from a caver's point of view and well known to several Mendipites, the tourist section is only part of one of the largest cave systems in France - over 47Km at the time of writing.  The system has been gradually ex­plored since 1850 with Robert de Joly and team extending the cave to 4Km in 1937.  In the fifties the Soc. de Spel. et prehistoire Gard-Ardeche became involved and are still exploring the system.

The concept and realisation of the tourist section was the brain child of Andre Morti who together with his brother and other cavers laid all the concrete pathways and installed lighting etc. to produce a masterpiece of well lit, well conserved and excellently managed show cave.  Most of this is along the middle levels of this multi-level system and there are many fine displays of most types of formations - all still very much "alive" and glistening with water flow.  The gours and shield formations are particularly fine.  Not to be missed if you are in the area and I believe most of the rest of the system is of easy access.

Aven d'Orgnac (Orgnac l'Aven, Vallon Pont d'Arc, Ardeche)

The other reason for visiting this area is this awe-inspiring cave.  Similar to Aven Armand but on a greater scale and, unbelievably, even better decorated.  Entered via a lift and artificial tunnel, the enormous main chamber is partly lit by daylight entering from the pothole in the roof - first explored by de Joly in 1935. Again, part of a lengthy system of which only the first few chambers are commercialised.  The formations are plentiful, spectacular and multi-coloured with stalagmites having the appearance of immense piles of overlapping plates reaching up 35m in height.  One of the foremost tourist caves in the world.

(Incidentally, the BEC were here before - Harry Stanbury had a particularly exciting trip led by Robert de Joly some 37 years ago.  See Belfry Bulletin, June 1950 or British Caver vol 22, 1951.)

L'Aven-Grottede Marzel (St. Remeze, Ardeche)

Situated on the plateau above the Ardeche Gorge.  A rather grotty, small scale version of Aven Armand with plentiful but old and dead formations.  Originally explored by E.A. Martel in 1892 but subsequently the entrance was lost for 50 years.  (Why doesn't this happen to Eastwater?)  In 1949 Pierre Ageron rediscovered the cave and equipped it for tourism.  The BEC, in the shape of Harry Stanbury, were on the scene almost immediately!

Martel was a local shepherd and the bones of "his" dog can be seen lit by ultra violet light. Not a pretty sight.

For those wishing to avoid the cave there is a small but excellent museum of speleology containing many items of equipment belonging to the famous caving pioneers including Casteret's helmet - his other helmet being in the museum at Vaucluse and many more probably scattered throughout France.

For those wishing to avoid both there is a zoo and display of full size dinosaur models.

Scialet-Grotte de la Draye-Blanche (La Chappelle-en­Vercors, Drome)

A spiral staircase leads to a large and well decorated chamber.  Good examples of moon milk and some fine helictites.  "The highest underground cave in France open to the public".  Not recommended with a hangover.

Grottes d'Arcy-sur-Cure (Arcy-sur-Cure, Yonne)

Well off the main limestone areas of France but a convenient stop between Calais and the Vercors - and close to Chablis.

Described by M. l'Abbe Parat in 1666 the cave has been regularly visited and pillaged since then. Buffon vandalised the placed in 1740 and 1759 to decorate artificial grottos in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.  Despite this the cave is worth visiting and is principally a large tunnel forming an abandoned oxbow cave of the River Cure.  There is an active phreatic system below the show cave.  The area is of importance site of Mourterian and Upper Palaeolithic remains.

Tony Jarratt   15/10/87


Cave Photography - A Practical Guide

I have been looking forward to the publication of this book since Chris first mentioned it's gestation to me.  My cave photographic experience is almost non-existent, other than many hours spent lying in cold water for generations of cave photographers.  This book certainly gives the potential cave photographer the information needed to get started, evaluate his (or her) results and gain an improvement on technique.

The photographs used profusely throughout the book are all of the high standard one expects of Chris' work and I thought were in some ways more useful than the text.  It would have been very helpful if more use had been made of these photographs to explain or amplify points made in the text itself. The coding system used to show the positions of the various light sources is a very good idea, but I found it annoying to constantly have to find the chart on page 4 which could have been more conveniently sited inside the front cover.  Perhaps arrows on the borders could have been easier to follow.

I learnt a great deal from reading this book and feel a lot more confident of setting out to take photographs underground.  A careful study of the illustrations has given me an idea of the type of illuminations to use and where to place it.  This was previously a total mystery.  The book was not particularly easy to read but is fulfilling an important gap in the caver’s reference library and it certainly deserves to find a slot on everyone's bookshelf.

Richard Stevenson


The 150th Anniversary of the discovery of Cox's Cave.

A short history by Dave Irwin

This year is the 150th Anniversary of the accidental discovery of Cox’s Cave at cheddar.  It was the first of the three show caves to be fully commercialised, though Gough’s Old Cave may have been open to paying visitors at this time.  Though it has been shown (Irwin; 1987 - BB No. 400) that Gough’s Old cave was known as Great Stalagmite Cavern as early as 1869 a recently located newspaper reference shows that it has been open as early as 1840. However, Cox’s Cave was the first cave at Rock End, Cheddar to be commercialised immediately after its discovery in 1837 (Irwin, 1986b, Fig. 1).  The account that follows is based on a much more detailed paper published in the UBSS Proceedings.


The cave was accidentally discovered by a workman, named Cooper, in 1837, during the building of a coach-house or outhouse for the lease-holder of the now Cliff Hotel - George Cox.  After a considerable amount of effort on the part of George Cox and his workmen, the Cave was opened to the public in 1838.  The original entrance was some 20-30 feet up the steeply sloping cliff face and today is known as Daylight Hole.  This entrance, with a few steps remaining, can be seen from the cliff or just inside the cave entrance.   The earliest recorded description of the cave was published in 1842.  The book was published by the Cheddar Vicar, Richard A'Court Beadon but the description was supplied by George Cox.  A year later, in a letter to Buckland, the Dean of Llandaff Cathedral at Cardiff, the Right Reverend W.D. Conybeare, visited the cave and gave the earliest independent view of the site (Jamieson, 1858)

Stalactite Cavern, Cheddar. 1st July, 1843

Dear Buckland,

... it is the only grateful cave fit for ladies we have; the only thing I ever saw that at all realises my idea of Antiparos.  It has one main porch and three or four lateral branches, narrow fissures, about ten or twelve feet broad, and some thirty or forty feet high, vested and draped with the most fantastic and beautiful marble stalactite one can conceive.  The floor, when discovered, was a mass of stalagmite, covering rounded gravel of the mountain limestone, filling up about ten feet of the bottom.

The owner has cut galleries through this stalagmite, and he is one of the best showmen of a cave I ever saw, lighting the whole with a group of candles on a tin plate, which he raises to the roof, or thrusts through the narrow fissures, so as to exhibit to whole to perfection.  Make this known as the prettiest thing in the island, and come and see it,"

                        W.D. Conybeare,

The present-day entrance, at road level, was cut sometime between 1838 and 1842.

In Hunt (1850) we have an intriguing note in the description of the cave passages, “….the principal of which is easy of access, extending in a zig-zag direction about 200 feet into the solid rock, and is covered by beautiful incrustations ... transparent Stalactites, thousands of quill-like tubes ... ".  This is the only note of the existence of straw stalactites. Many of the roots may still be seen but were probably destroyed during further development in the late 19th century.

The early references to the cave were full of enthusiasm but a solitary note of discord was expressed by one visitor, Thomas Woodhouse of Otterhampton, near Bridgwater, Somerset, who said "This cavern is extremely disappointing, and strikes such a chill that it is a place to be avoided." That was in 1870.  However, the press and guide-books were of one voice that this cave "has no superior in the country" (Worth, 1894).

The initial section of cave open to the public was into the 4th Chamber just beyond the Transformation

Scene in the Third Chamber. Illustrations of famous group of stalagmites were included in Cheddar guide-bocks as early as 1860; published by John Bryne of Cheddar.  There are several editions of this book and the last. two, c.1874 and c.1879 include a different  illustration. The earlier illustration shows the guide holding candles whereas the later shows the Transformation Scene lit with gas jets. Surveys at Longleat House show that the 5th - 7th chambers were in fact known by 1884 but were not accessible to the public.  It is possible that preparations were under way about this time to open this part of the cave to the public as a flight of steps leading to the 7th Chamber are shown on the surveys.  The earliest record of the 4th - 5th chambers being shown is c. 1886. The following year the 7th Chamber was opened and was christened "The Fairies Grotto".  The opening of this ‘new’ chamber was obviously planned to coincide with Queen Victoria's Jubilee and to combat the competition from Gough's activities at Gough's Old Cave that year (Irwin, 1987a)

In 1904, The Times reported the visit of the Martel's thus (E. Cox, 1914): “ ... They were greatly pleased with the kaleidoscopic beauties of Cox's Cave, which will soon be enlarged by the addition of a newly discovered chamber…”   This new chamber was illustrated on three picture postcards published by Hartmann of London in 1905.  The remaining grotto to be developed was the ‘Lady Chapel’; this was first on public show in 1913 about the time the second entrance was blasted out to the side of the cliff.  The Lady Chapel was the last 'discovery' to be made in this cave.

During the winter of 1986/1987 a connection was made from the 7th Chamber into Pavey's Cave (Fantasy Grotto) to allow the visitors to exit through the latter cave entrance.

As the cave prospered and developed an office, stores and refreshment room was built alongside the cliffs at the cave entrance.  Later, about 1884, a photographic studio was built.  The obligatory souvenir shop was also built and no doubt stocked the much sought after collectors item of today.  A handbill (Cox, C & J., c. 1886) describing the cave as far as the 5th and 6th chambers (thus pre-dating the ‘discovery’ of the 7th chamber in 1887) states ‘Photographs of the Cliffs and the Stalactite Cavern, by the Best Artists. In great Variety’.  A later handbill (Cox, E., c.1890) fully describes the cave as far as the 7th chamber, "The Fairies Grotto" which was discovered in Jubilee Year (1887) and lists 18 Frith cave interior photographs being available.  The Frances Frith photographs had a very long life and were continuously on sale in one form or another as late as the middle 1960’s.  The initial selection of prints were available at various prices according to size (Cox, E., c.1890).  By c.1894 (Cox, E.) the number available had increased to 20, and by c.1899 (Cox, E.) a total of 25 views were on sale.  Between 1902 - 1903 all 25 Frith views were progressively published as picture postcards. Edward Cox sent Queen Alexandra a selection of picture post cards in 1910 and received the following reply which was widely advertised (Weston-super-Mare Gazette, 1911, 1st. May and Various issues until 1st July)  (Cox, 1911, p1):

Buckingham Palace,
19th July, 1910

Dear Sir,

I submitted your letter to Queen Alexandra, and I am now commanded to thank you most sincerely for the interesting photographs which you have so kindly sent for Her Majesty's acceptance.

            Yours faithfully, Charlotte Knollys.

                        Mr. Edward Cox.

                                    The Caves, Cheddar.

Certainly photographs and postcards were on sale simultaneously until 1914 and by this date 60 1d postcards were available and the photographic versions were priced at 2d. each.  A special pocket of 14 postcards was available for 1/- and known as The Royal Packet (Cox, 1911, p2;1914, p.9)

Keen to encourage visitors to Cox's Stalactite Cavern and his Pleasure Gardens, George Cox arranged a regular horse drawn carriage from Weston-Super­Mare every Monday, Thursday and Friday during the summer season.  This service commenced in 1861 but probably did not survive the arrival of the railway at Cheddar in 1869.

In addition to the cave, added attractions were arranged in the Pleasure Gardens. In 1861 George Cox organised a 'Grand Balloon Ascent' on the 18th of June, but the day ended in failure as the 10,000 cubic foot balloon could not be inflated due to leaking gas pipes. The Wells Journal (1861, 22nd June) reported "This failure called forth some expressions of angry feeling, which could not excite surprise, seeing that the promised ascent of the balloon was to a majority of those present the great attraction."

Many companies took their employees to Cheddar and in 1868, for example, the annual outing of the Bristol company, E.5. and A. Robinson employees made Cheddar the venue for their Annual Outing.  Travelling in a convoy of horse drawn brakes, one including a brass band for their entertainment during the journey. They left Bristol at 7 am. and arrived at Cheddar about midday (Weston-Super­Mare Mercury, 1868, 1st. August).  They had dinner at the Cliff Hotel and then separated to enjoy themselves according as their tastes led them.  The caves were, of course, the principal attraction and were visited by most of the excursionists"

Early visitors were accompanied by Mr. George Cox or a member of his family, and after their visit were requested to sign the visitors book; though Stevens (1869, p.33) ventured the opinion that since the railway had arrived at Cheddar the visitors book in “which several autographs of persons of note ... will probably be discontinued as the numbers increase.”  Apparently this was not so as the practice continued well into the 20th century, certainly up to 1914, though it may have been produced only for selected visitors.  It is not known whether these books have survived.

The first reported visit of an international figure appeared in the Wells Journal (1852, 28th August) which states "Large parties have lately visited the cliffs, gardens, and cavern notwithstanding the heavy rains and boisterous winds.  Among other distinguished guests who have honoured this neighbourhood with their company, we find the following entry in the visitors book under date of the 12th inst.., "President Fillimore and party, U.S."  This was reprinted in the Wells Journal from the Bridgwater Times.  Millard Fillmore (incorrectly spelt in the account) was President of the United States of America 1850 – 1853.

In the late 1850’s the cave was visited by the teenage Prince of Wales (later King George VII) and his tutor.  From about 1868 George Cox, and later, Edward Cox, regularly advertised the fact that the cave had been visited by the Prince of Wales but only the published date appears in booklets entitled ‘Souvenir of Cox’s Stalactite caves (Cox, E. c.1911, p.3; 1914, p.7) which states “His Majesty, King Edward VII, was brought to see Cox’s cavern in 1857.”

The 1905 Cox’s handbills and picture postcards reminded the public that King Edward VII had visited the cave and photographs of the Cliff village of the time also show clearly painted advertisements on the gable end of one of the building making the same statement.  During the rivalry between the two principal proprietors Gough’s had published the following statement on 1st August 1904 (Cox, c.1906, p.2)

 “Eye-opener for strangers, - His Majesty King Edward never visited Cheddar or Caves. His Royal highness the Prince of Wales never visited Cheddar or Caves.  To make a long story short, visitors should not be misled..”

Cox (c.1906) published the Gough note and added that Cox’s Cave was the cave “that you are advised to be aware of, is the Most Exquisite and Charming in the United Kingdom…”

Providing that the Cox extract is a true copy this grossly incorrect statement by the Gough’s was an appalling act of indecent trading.  It is true that King Edward VII had not visited the cave as King and neither had the then Prince of Wales who was to become King George V.

This play on words was a simply a disgrace.  However, Edward Cox wrote to Buckingham Palace and received the following reply form the King’s secretary:

H.M. Yacht Victoria and Albert,
5th August, 1904


I have had the honour of submitting your letter on the 3rd instant to the King and I am commanded to inform you in reply that His Majesty remembers when quite young having visited the Stalactite Caverns at Cheddar, Somerset.  The King thinks he must have been about fifteen or sixteen years of age at the time

            I am, Sir,

                        Your obedient servant


Though Cox’s booklets state 1857 as the year of Edward’s visit, the date must remain in doubt; on the King’s evidence, bearing in mind his vague recollection, it could be 1856 or 1857.  Jamieson, however, records in April 1858 “..Mr. Cox has laudably determined that the contents of the cave shall not be broken up nor disturbed, anticipating the probability of its being honoured with a royal visit."  This is probably the year of Edward's visit though one cannot dismiss the possibility of a visit by yet another, unrecorded, royal personage.

During 1862 Nicholas Ennor, a Cornish miner operating the Priddy Minery, some 5 miles away. visited Cox's Cave and notes

."..about 26 years since a very beautiful stalactite cave was discovered at Cheddar.  The finder (being an intelligent man) took the best possible means of preserving it not allowing the stalactites (some of them from 6 to 10 feet long) to be broken off. At one point a drop had caused the extension of the uppermost stalactite downward and the lower one upward until they had approached each other so close that there was not sufficient distance between for the drop to fall consequently it trickled off onto the one below.  This circumstance led the finder to imagine that by watching carefully this peculiar phenomenon he would be enabled to measure time.  Shortly after the Bishop (I think) of Llandaff visited the cave…(and said).. "it would be necessary for him to live a thousand years to accomplish his object  Not long since I had an opportunity of seeing both the stalactites and the owner when he freely expressed himself on the wisdom of the Bishop's remark as he could not discover the least perceptible change during the 26 years.”

Ennor concluded that the 'Bishop' is a “useful, thinking man."   The 'Bishop' was the Dean of Llandaff, W. R. Conybeare

The American traveller Elihu Burritt visited the cave about 1864 and published an account of his visit to Cox's Cave comparing it with the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky (Burritt, 1865).

Edward Cox, like Gough, encouraged the public and scientific bodies to visit his cave by widely advertising the names of famous people that had signed the visitor’s book.  In 1880 the Duke of Argyll (son-in-law of Queen Victoria) paid the cave a visit:

(Weston-Super-Mare Mercury, 1880, 28th August) COX'S CAVERN – Amongst other distinguished visitors to Stalactite Cavern on Monday were His Grace the Duke of Argyll and the ladies Victoria Evelyn Mary and Constance Campbell. The Duke and his party remained for some time at Cheddar; partaking of refreshments at the Cliff Hotel, and before leaving, expressed the pleasures afforded them by their visits to the cavern.

By the turn of the century, Edward Cox was able to produce an impressive list of important visitors to the cave (Coc, c.1899). They included H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, T.R.H. the Duke and Duchess D’Aumale, H.R.H. the Prince of Siam, The Duke of Argyll, The Ladies Campbell, the Right Hon. Sir M. Grant-Duff, Lord Avebury (Sir John Lubbock) &c.  In addition to these personages he listed “The two sons of His Majesty the King of Siam and The Lord Chief Justice of England visited Cox's Cavern, 1898.”  The visitors to Gough's Cave have already been outlined in (Irwin, 1986b)

Other visitors of note were Eduard Martel and his wife who visited Mendip in 1904.  They visited both Cox's and Gough's Coves on the 15th June 1904 with 6 strong contingent of Mendip and well travelled cavers.   The host party comprised Balch, Baker, Troup, Bamforth, Botterill and Puttrell.  Of his visit to Cox's Cave Martel wrote in the visitors book (Cox, c.1905):

“Never saw anywhere such graceful and charmingly coloured stalactites in about 600 visited caves. Quite unique.”

Martel later published an account of his Mendip visit in La Nature, 1905.

During the 1913 season Edward Cox (1914.) published a listed of satisfied visitors, probably from the Visitors Book referred to as Cox’s Book, including a certain F. J. Moore from Tasmania. “…We liked it very much better than the other cave.”  A visitor from Cape Town thought that Cox’s Cave was finer than the Janolen Caves of Australia!

The Premier of South Australia, the Hon. A. H. Peake, on a short stay in England, visited Gough's and Cox's caves during a tour of the area including a civic reception at Wells.  The Wells Journal reports (1913, 4th April) that he "signed the book, in which he wrote that he had seen some caves in Australia which were considered to be the finest in the world, but that he was forced to own that those of Cheddar far away exceed them..”  Mr.Peake was referring to the Naracoote Caves in South Australia (Gough, 1900-1918).  On the 2nd June (Cox, E., c.1914) Puttrell, the famous Derbyshire pioneer, again visited the cave and noted in Cox's Book  “The richest and most delicately tinted Cave in Britain, and, remembering its gem-like collection of stalactites, etc, might well be called the Jewel House of Cheddar.”  He had previously visited the cave with Martel in 1904.

The popularity of the cave grew rapidly and it is perhaps not surprising that a certain amount of vandalism occurred.  Two early accounts were reported in the Weston-super-Mare newspapers in 1861 and 1862.  The second case involved a businessman named Eggar in November 1862.  Accompanied by two ladies, failed to obey the admission notice at the cave entrance and entered the cave.  After their ‘private’ tour of the cave, the party left the cave to visit the Cliffs.  Shortly after George Cox noticed that one of the more important stalagmite formations was missing.  The pieces of the four foot long stalagmite were later found to be in a hand-bag carried by Eggar and was immediately arrested by the local police and committed for trial at Taunton early in 1863.  The trial was reported in both of the Weston-super-Mare newspapers (Mercury and Gazette) on the 10th January 1863.  The best account appeared in the Gazette:

MALICIOUS DAMAGE AT THE CAVE AT CHEDDAR  -  William Joseph Eggar, a respectably dressed man, was indited for maliciously damaging a Stalactite in a cave at Cheddar, the property of George Cox, exceeding the value of five pounds, on the 3rd, November last….. enquiries proved that there was no intention on the part of Mr. Eggar to maliciously injure and destroy the stalactite and some arrangement had been come to by which some small compensation had been paid to Mr, Cox and he did not wish to proceed with the case…Mr, Eggar, pleaded not guilty…A verdict of acquittal was taken and Mr. Eggar left the court declaring that he had paid dearly for the Stalactite.  We understand that the terms were £25 and costs.”

Until 1913 the cave had just the single entrance, only one photograph has been found of this taken by F. Frith & Co. Ltd of Reigate c.1901-1910. This obviously was inconvenient to the public as was noted by Stevens (1869, p.31)

..If at all practicable leans of exit should be provided distinct from the entrance so that on special occasions visitors might pass through and much confusion be thereby avoided.

Stevens was also critical of the entrance door (1869, p.31)

At the entrance to the cavern a doorway of modern construction ought to be removed and another substituted more in accordance with correct taste.

A second entrance may well have been considered for some time as the location of "The Fairies Grotto" and its proximity to the cliff face was known as early as 1884 but the actual breakthrough via an enlarged rift from the 7th Chamber did not take place until 1913 coincidently with the opening of the "Ladye Chapel".   Advertisements in the papers (Weston-super-Mare Gazette, 1914, 2nd May) claimed "The New Exit is the greatest improvement" and on the 9th May " ... The first Grand Discovery of the 20th Century, 1913.  The Ladye Chapel.  Much as Cox's Cave has been admired the new chamber (1913) surpasses in exquisite beauty and rich colouring anything yet discovered.  It is close to the new exit, through the postcard room ... "

The second entrance was closed in 1987 and a connection to Pavey's Cave, now known as Fantasy Grotto, has been made.  Visitors may now pass through to Pavey's Cave and exit through the Pavey's Cave entrance.

Before 1870 the cave was by candles but improvements were on the way in the late 1860’s.  Green (1869, p.32) stated that "Gas will be shortly be used to light the cavern." and Stevens (1869, p.31) commented ...

… that an endeavour be made to light this exquisite cavern with gas or at any rate by some more brilliant arrangement than has been hitherto adopted.  With a powerful light increased or diminished so as to produce the best effects; the result would be truly magnificent

Stevens' wish had been answered within a few months for gas lighting was installed during 1869-1870. During the 1870 season Cox's advertisements stated (Weston-super-Mare, 1870, p.101) “ ... (Now lit by Gas) ...” An advertisement appeared in Morris directory (Somerset., 1872, facing p.l72 ) confirming that the cave was illuminated with gas and the Cheddar notes inform the reader that the that the cave “….is now lit with gas…”  All subsequent advertisements and handbills announce that the cave is "BRILLIANTLY LIGHTED WITH GAS".

The method of lighting the cave was to become the subject of the continued rivalry between Cox and Gough during the 1890’s and early years of the 20th century.  Gough had installed gas in Gough’s old Cave in 1883 (Irwin, 1985b) but when the Diamond Chamber and St. Paul’s Chamber were discovered in 1898, he installed electric lighting in these chambers in 1899.  A typical claim by Gough read “Illuminated by Electric Light. Grandest in the world.”  From the same date Cox’s handbills (Cox, E., c.1899)

Superior to electricity

The type of mantle used with gas illumination was important to obtain maximum illumination and at that time the Welsbach was considered the finest available.  Later, Edward Cox re-phrased his adverts to read “lighted with Acetylene, the most brilliant light yet discovered…”  (Cox, E., c.1906).

Electric lighting of the cave had been considered as a possibility when the cave was offered for auction in 1884.  The Conditions of Sale and press advertisements suggested that “the introduction of electric light, easily practicable, would add immensely to the present attractions and income.”  Another thirty years was to pass before electric lighting was installed: this was 1913. A Cox’s Cave advertisement (Wells Journal 1913, 4th July)  “…”The Lady Chapel,” ….now revealed by the ELECTRIC LIGHT, 1913.”  Edward Cox appears to have altered his view, electricity did have some merit!  Cox’s later advertisement read: “the Cave ….is brilliantly illuminated with electric light, …”  (Cox, E., 1914, p.3).  The cave was partially illuminated by electricity in 1913, presumably only in the Lady Chapel area, and was completely wired for electric light in 1929. A contemporary Cox’s advertisement (Guy-Bray, c.1932, facing p.9) states that

Discovered in 1837
by the Installation throughout of

The cave was widely advertised in the mid-19th century the earliest being found in the Wells Journal in 1852.  Admission charges were expensive 3/- for one or two persons and 1/- each for more than that number and continued at this rate until 1874 and possibly later. Stevens (1869, p. 33) commented that "The charge for admission has hitherto been one shilling each person; probably these terms may be revised, but no one need grudge the outlay, as there is not in England a sight so unique as the Stalactite Cavern at Cheddar." Certainly by 1886 (Cox, E., c.1886) the price had been reduced to " ... One Shilling each for a party of not less than three.  One Single Visitor, 2s.  Two visitors 1s. 6d. each.

More than that number, as stated above, viz:- 1s. each.  Children under 12 half price."  Admission charges stabilised in the early years of the century at 1/- person at both Gough's and Cox's Caves up to the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.

The cave was offered for auction in 1884 but a High Court ruling prevented this and a new lease was given to the Cox family that terminated in 1939.  Since that time the cave has been managed by the Longleat Estate. Full details of this event and that of Pavey excavating Pavey's Cave is to be found in the writer's paper published in UBSS Proceedings for 1987.


The author would like to thank Cheddar Caves management for their unstinting help; Miss Kate Harris, Librarian to the Marquess of Bath, Dr. Trevor Shaw, Dr. William Stanton, Chris Hawkes, Chris Richards and many other for additional references and archival material.

NOTE:  All references cited in this paper are to be found in Cox's Cave.  A History by D.J. Irwin, UBSS Proceedings for 1987.


Librarian's Report

Little has been achieved on the purchasing side but thanks to Jill Tuck we now have a superb set of mahogany bookshelves and the next year will be spent in overhauling the collection of books and journals.  Thanks should be expressed to Trebor, Stumpy and Co who fitted the new bookcases. Will members who have books out please return ASAP and as usual the Club would be grateful for any donations - including B.B.s.  There will be a much tighter booking out system this coming year.

Tony Jarratt.

Hut Engineer's Report

Dany Bradshaw

Dear Member

The main problem over the year was the Tackle store roof, being blown off in the high winds we had in March.  We replaced the old Asbestos roof with a traditional felt flat roof with new lead flashing etc.  We also had a small fire just after Christmas, which caused a lot of smoke damage, but it did not take long to clean up the mess and re-decorate. Having said that, some of the fire precautions which were recommend by the fire prevention officer, have now been finished e.g., emergency fire exit door in main room, fire resisting door & door closer main room, emergency signs and fire extinguishers, the rest of his recommendations will be finished as and when monies become available.

We also fitted a new window with a side hung sash to the women’s room, for am emergency exit.

The showers have caused us a lot of aggro, but it is not just the showers but the coin meters which were the source of most of the trouble, we have purchased 2 new showers which are a lot stronger than last ones, one of which has been fitted along with a new coin meter and I have not had any complaints as yet.

The tackle store has still to be finished, along with a great many other jobs.

Working weekends and members weekends don’t work, but some members have done a fair bit when they can and I must thank all those that have come and worked on the hut, because without the small few we'd be in a right state.  I am sorry I have not got the job list up to date, but it is such a long list now, I have not had the time.


AGM Minutes

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club held at the Belfry on Saturday, 4th October 1986

The meeting was convened by the Hon. Sec. Bob Cork, there being sufficient quorum present at, 10.35 hours.


Bob Cork, Dave Turner, Pat Cronin, Chris Smart, Richard Neville-Dove, Martin Grass, Nigel Taylor, Mark Lumley, Andy Sparrow, Chris Batstone, Garry Trainer, Babs Williams, Richard Payne, Andrew Middleton, Robin Gray, Alan Kennett, Tony Jarratt, Nick Sprang, Steve Milner, Ian Caldwell, Chris Harvey, Joan Bennett, Roy Bennett, John Theed, Bob Hill, David Pike, Mairi Rands, Laurence Smith, John Watson. Mike McDonald, Mat Tuck, Dany Bradshaw, Stuart McManus, Andy Lovell, Peter Hopkins, Dave Shand, Henry Bennett, Axel Knutson, Alan Turner, John Dukes, Phil Romford and Mike Jeanmaire.

Apologies: Ted Humphries, Tim Gould, Alan Butcher, Brian Workman, Jeremy Henley, Bucket Tilbury, Graham Wilton-Jones, Lavina Watson, Chris Castle, Tom Chapman, Pete (Snablet) Macnab, Robin Brown, Dave Irwin and Andy Lolley.

Nominations were requested for chairman - Dave Turner, proposed by Nigel Taylor and seconded by Tony Jarratt, was the only nomination and was duly elected as chairman.

The chairman asked for members' resolutions.

Minutes of 1986 A.G.M.  These had previously been published in the B.B.  They were taken as read and accepted by the meeting, proposed Dany Bradshaw, seconded Nigel Taylor and accepted unanimously.

Matters Arising. The matter of the missing log was again discussed; it was decided to approach Martin Cavender once again regarding the matter.

Hon. Sec's. Report. This had been previously published in the BB and was taken as read.  The acceptance of the report was, proposed by Lawrence Smith and seconded by Richard Neville-Dove and was carried unanimously.

Hon. Treasurer's Report  This was previously published in the BB and was taken as read. Mike McDonald produced the financial accounts which were distributed at the meeting.  This gave rise to a short discussion on telephone and electricity costs from which the following resolution was forthcoming: "The new committee to be instructed to assess our present situation regarding the telephone".  Proposed Stuart McManus and seconded by Nigel Taylor and was carried unanimously.  Acceptance of the report was proposed by Chris Batstone and seconded by Gary Trainer, this was carried.

Hon. Auditor's Report.  Joan Bennett read her report to the meeting stating that the accounts were in order and that they represented a fair and reasonable 'record of the club's financial position.  The report was accepted by the meeting.

The club thanked Joan for her many years of service as the Club's Hon. Auditor and expressed their sense of loss due to her resignation.  A formal vote of thanks was proposed by Dany Bradshaw and seconded by Chris Smart and was carried unanimously.

Caving Secretary's Report.  This was previously published in the BB and was taken as read.  A discussion took place on the subject of the Cuthbert’s Leaders meeting held earlier in the year as a result of which the following resolutions were proposed. (1) "That the Cuthbert’s Leaders hold a formal meeting annually and the Caving Secretary shall be responsible for the minuting of such a meeting and report to the AGM", proposed by Dave Turner and seconded by Roy Bennett.  (2) "That the lock on St. Cuthbert’s Swallet be changed, the new lock should be of a non-copyable type and access be restricted to bone fide trips", proposed Nigel Taylor and seconded by Ian Caldwell.  Both resolutions were carried unanimously.  The acceptance of the report was proposed by Andy Sparrow and seconded by Dany Bradshaw and was carried unanimously.  A vote of thanks was given to Mike McDonald for his efforts in cleaning up Cuthbert’s.

Hut Warden's Report. This had been previously published in the BB and was taken as read.  The subject of debtors was raised and discussed at length.  It was the meetings wish that the following debts be recorded:  Tim Gould, an unknown sum not less than £8 and no greater than £50;  Edric Hobbs, the sum of £1;  James Smart who owes £5 and a £10 debt owed by Mike McDonald in respect of a carbide purchase. From the above the following motion was tabled: "that the Secretary writes to Mr. Timothy Gould requesting that he pay his outstanding debts and conducts his financial affairs with the Club in a more orderly fashion in the future".

A further proposal was made "that the Hut Warden monitors outstanding Hut fee debts and reports to the Committee any which exceed the sum of £10 per individual", proposed Nigel Taylor and seconded by Pat Cronin and was carried unanimously.

The report was proposed for acceptance by Mark Lumley and seconded by Andy Lovell and was accepted unanimously.

Tackle Master's Report.  Steve Milner's report was pre-published and was taken as read.  The following proposal was tabled after a short discussion: "that members who wish to leave tackle underground, may only do so by prior arrangement with the Tackle Master", proposed by Andy Sparrow and seconded by Stuart McManus: accepted.  It was proposed by Bob Hill and seconded by Stuart McManus that the report be accepted and it was carried unanimously.

B.B. Editor's Report. Dave Turner had previously published his report in the BB and it was proposed by Nigel Taylor and seconded by Dave Shand that the report be accepted and this was carried unanimously.  A vote of thanks was given.

Hut Engineer's Report.  Dany Bradshaw gave an oral rendition which left the meeting speechless and wet cheeked. The acceptance of the above was muted by Tony Jarratt and seconded by Nigel Taylor and applauded by the meeting unanimously.  A vote of thanks was neither proposed or given.

Librarian's Report. Tony Jarratt read his report to the meeting.  There being no matters arising the acceptance was proposed by Christopher Batstone and seconded by Bob Hill and was carried unanimously as is the norm.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund.  One application only had been received this year, this had been turned down on the grounds that the proposed trip did not relate to the Club or to caving.  It was proposed by Phil Romford and seconded by Chris Smart that the report be accepted and this was carried unanimously.

Members Resolutions. None.

Committee for 1987-88

There being no election required this year the following members were auto elected, committee posts were agreed unanimously by the meeting and proposer and seconder are given in ()

Hon. Sec.                Bob Cork (Chris Batstone, Robin Gray)
Treasurer                 Mike McDonald (Dany Bradshaw, Stuart McManus)
Caving Sec              Richard Neville-Dove (Tony Jarratt, Mark Lumley)
B.B. Editor               Dave Turner (Stuart McManus, Phil Romford)
Hut Warden             Andy Sparrow (Stuart McManus, Robin Gray)
Hut Engineer            Dany Bradshaw (Martin Grass, Stuart McManus)
Tacklemaster           Steve Milner (Tony Jarratt, Dany Bradshaw)
Membership Sec.     John Watson (Tony Jarratt, Martin Grass)

Ordinary committee members: Phil Romford.

The meeting instructed the Committee to co-opt Mark Lumley and Tony Jarratt.

Non committee post: Hon. Auditor Barry Wilton.

Chris Smart proposed that the Librarian be made an officer of the Club.  This would require a constitutional amendment and therefore could not be considered at this meeting.

Any Other Business

1.                  A lengthy discussion took place as to whether the CSCC constituted "a club of similar aims" as specified in section 5 (a) of the constitution. It was proposed by Stuart McManus and seconded by Bob Cork that the CSCC is of similar aims. For 24; against 12, abstentions 6. Therefore carried.

2.                  Andy Sparrow was asked to represent the Club as rescue team leader.  He accepted this position.

3.                  The car belonging to one Mark Lumley which has been parked on the Belfry site for some considerable time is to be removed by the owner as soon as possible.

4.                  The new committee were instructed to ensure that the Club’s insurance is index linked.

5.                  It was proposed that potential members of the Club attend the Committee Meeting at which their application will be considered unless there are any extenuating circumstances why they should not be present.

6.                  A lengthy discussion took place on the availability of cave keys.  From this the following proposal emerged, that the new committee investigate methods of issuing cave keys along the lines of local members holding them.  Proposed Phil Romford and seconded Alan Turner, passed with 6 against and 3 abstentions.

There being no other business the chairman closed the meeting at 14.53 hours.


Bristol Exploration Club - Membership List 1/12/87

828 Nicolette Abell                      Faukland, Bath
1059 Georgina Ainsley                 Redland, Bristol
987 Dave Aubrey                         Park St, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw                 Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                      Midsomer Norton, Bath, Avon
818 Chris Batsone                       Tynings, Radstock, Avon
1079 Henry Bennett                     Pimlico, London.
390 (L) Joan Bennett                    Wesbury-on-Trym, Bristol
214 (L) Roy Bennett                     Wesbury-on-Trym, Bristol
769 Sue Bishop                           Tynings, Radstock.
998 Crissie Bissett                      Exeter, Devon
731 Bob Bidmead                        East Harpytree,  Bristol
364 (L) Pete Blogg                       Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle            Calne, Wiltshire
868 Dany Bradshaw                     Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                     London, SW2
1082 Robin Brown                       Axbridge Road, Cheddar, Somerset
924 Aileen Butcher                      Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
849 Alan Butcher                         Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
956 Ian Caldwell                          Clifton, Bristol
1036 Nicola Slann                       Clifton, Bristol
1014 Chris Castle                        Westlynne, Cheddar, Somerset
902 (L) Martin Cavender               Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset.
1048 Tom Chapman                     Barrows Road, Cheddar, Somerset.
1040 John Chew                          Rodney Stoke, Wells, Somerset
1080 Tony Church                       Shepton Mallet, Bath
1030 Richard Clarke                    Normans Green, Plymtree, East Devon
1005 Jane Cowbrey                     Haworth, Keighly, North Yorkshire
211 (L) Clare Coase                     Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                       Litton, Somerset
862 Bob Cork                              Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1042 Mick Corser                        Cringleford, Norwich, Norfolk
827 Mike Cowlishaw                    Micheldever Station, 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 Angie Dooley                        Harborne, Birmingham
710 Colin Dooley                         Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                     Priddy, Somerset
1038 Alan Downton                      Sundon Park, Luton, Beds
830 John Dukes                          Wells, Somerset
779 Jim Durston                          Glastonbury, Somerset
996 Terry Earley                          Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                       Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
1064 David Evans                        Didcot, Oxon
1063 Peter Evans                        Abingdon, Oxfordshire
232 Chris Falshaw                       Fulwood, Sheffield
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                    Bramcote, Nottingham.
894 Phil Ford                              Greenfield, Clwyd, North Wales
404 (L) Albert Francis                  Wells, Somerset
569 Joyce Franklin                      Stone, Staffs
469 Pete Franklin                        Stone, Staffs
835 Len Gee                               St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1069 Angie Glanvill                      Chard, Somerset
1017 Peter Glanvill                       Chard, Somerset
648 Dave Glover                          Pamber Green, Basingstoke, Hampshire
1054 Tim Gould                           Redland, Bristol
860 Glenys Grass                       Sawbridgeworth, Herts
790 Martin Grass                         Sawbridgeworth, Herts
1009 Robin Gray                         East Horrington, Wells, Somerset
1089 Kevin Gurner                       Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                        Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
432 Nigel Hallet                           Address not known
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
1078 Mike Hearn                         Bagworth, Axbridge, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                         Nempnet Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol
974 Jeremy Henley                      Leg Square, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
952 Bob Hill                                Assen, Netherlands
1021 Edric Hobbs                        Priddy, Wells Somerset
373 Sid Hobbs                            Priddy, Wells Somerset
736 Sylvia Hobbs                         Priddy, Wells Somerset
905 Paul Hodgson                       Pennybatch Lane, Burcott, Wells, Somerset
898 Liz Hollis                              Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
899 Tony Hollis                           Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
920 Nick Holstead                       Trowbridge, Wiltshire
387 George Honey                       Address not known
971 Colin Houlden                       Bristol, London, SW2
923 Trevor Hughes                       Bleadney, Wells, Somerset
855 Ted Humphreys                     Wells, Somerset
73 Angus Innes                           Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                        Townsend, Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                          Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                     Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
1026 Ian Jepson                          Beechen Cliff, Bath
51 (L) A Johnson                         Station Rd., Flax Bourton, Bristol
995 Brian Johnson                       Ottery St. Mary, Devon
1001 Graeme Johnson                 Cosby, Leicester
560 (L) Frank Jones                     Priddy, Somerset
1074 Jerry Jones                         Portishead, Bristol
567 (L) Alan Kennett                    Henleaze, Brsitol
884 John King                             Wisborough Green, West Sussex
316 (L) Kangy King                      Pucklechurch, Bristol, Avon
1007 Jonathan King                     Pucklechurch, Bristol, Avon
542 (L) Phil Kingston                   St. Mansfield, Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                       Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
946 Alex Ragnar Knutson             Bedminster, Bristol
667 (L) Tim Large                        Moorland Stree, Axbridge, Somerset
958 Fi Lewis                               East Horrington, Wells, Somerset
1015 Andrew Lolley                     Kingsdowm, Bristol
1043 Andy Lovell                         Keynsham, Bristol
1072 Clive Lovell                          Keynsham, Bristol
1057 Mark Lumley                       Clifton, Bristol 8
1071 Michael McDonald               Knowle, Bristol
1067 Fiona McFall                       Fishponds, Bristol
651 Pete MacNab (Sr)                 Cheddar, Somerset
1052 Pete MacNab (Jr)                Cheddar, Somerset
1090 Robert McNair                     Otley, Yorkshire
550 (L) R A MacGregor                Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                   Priddy, Somerset
106 (L) E.J. Mason                      Henleaze, Bristol
558 (L) Tony Meaden                   Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
704 Dave Metcalf                         Whitwick, Leics
1044 Andrew Middleton                Earlsfield, London.
1053 Steve Milner                        St. George, Bristol
1086 Richard Neville-Dove            Bristol
936 Dave Nichols                         Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
852 John Noble                           Tennis Courts Rod, 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
499 (L) A. Philpott                       Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1103 Mark Philpott                      Wells, Somerset
1037 Dave Pike                           Yarley, Wells, Somerset
337 Brian Prewer                         West Horrington, Wells, Somerset
1085 Duncan Price                      Edgbaston, Birmingham
1081 Philip Provis                        Barh Rd., Paulton, Bristol
481 (L) John Ransom                   Patchway, Bristol, Avon
682 John Riley                            Waramanga, ACT 2611, Australia
1033 Sue Riley                            Waramanga, ACT 2611, Australia
1070 Mary Robertson                   Stonebridge Park, London, NW10
986 Lil Romford                           Coxley, Wells, Somerset
985 Phil Romford                         Coxley, Wells, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                            Crediton, Devon
832 Roger Sabido                        Lawrence Weston, Bristol
240 (L) Alan Sandall                    Nailsea, Avon
359 (L) Carol Sandall                   Nailsea, Avon
760 Jenny Sandercroft                 Victoria Park, Bristol
237 (L) Bryan Scott                     Havestock Road, Winchester Hnts
78 (L) R Setterington                    Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington              Harpendon, Herts
1046 Dave Shand                        Penarth, Cardiff
915 Chris Smart                          Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 James Smart                        Clifton, Bristol
1041 Laurence Smith                   West Horrington, Wells, Somerset
823 Andrew 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               Westcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
365 (L) Roger Stenner                  Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stevens                  Worcester, Worcestershire
867 Rich Stevenson                     Wookey, Wells, Somerset, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                        East Horrington, Wells Somerset
1039 Lisa Taylor                          Weston Road, Bath
772 Nigel Taylor                          Langford Lane, Langford, Avon
1035 John Theed                         The Street, Farmborough, Bath
284 (L) Alan Thomas                    Priddy, Somerset
348 (L) D Thomas                        Bartlestree, Hereford
571 (L) N Thomas                        Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk.
699 Buckett Tilbury                      High Wycombe, Bucks
700 Anne Tilbury                         High Wycombe, Bucks
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark       Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
381 (L) Daphne Towler                 Bognor Regis, Sussex
157 (L) Norman Tuck                   Llanfrechfa, Cwmbran, Gwent, Wales
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.
925 Gill Turner                             Tavistock, Devon.
635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury               Boundstone, Farnham, Surrey
887 Greg Villis                            Banwell, Weston-super-Mare, Avon
175 (L) Mrs. D. Whaddon             Taunton, Somerset
1077 Brian Wafer                         Orpington, Kent
949 John Watson                        Wells, Somerset
1019 Lavinia Watson                    Wells, 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                            Wells, Somerset.
878 Col White                             Royal marines Police, Hamworthy, Dorset
1068 John Whiteley                     Denbury, Devon
1061 Kerry Wiggins                     Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, Hants
1031 Mike Wigglesworth              Wells, Somerset.
1087 John Williams                     Northwood, Middlesex
1075 Tony Williams                     Leigh on Mendip, Bath
1076 Roz Williams                      Leigh on Mendip, Bath
559 Barrie Wilton                         Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 Brenda Wilton                       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.


Bowery Corner Swallet

This is the latest site receiving attention from the Belfry regulars.  Originally dug by the Wessex in 1937 and then again in 1960, the dig which was all in clay was eventually filled in by the farmer and abandoned. In recent years Pat Cronin has had the site on his list of "promising digs" and earlier this year, with interest waning in Wigmore, Pat and friends turned their attention to Bowery Corner (mainly because the entrance is about 15ft from the road!).

A shaft was quickly sunk through shale and three concrete pipes inserted to stabilise the entrance. At the bottom of the shaft a gradual sloping passage three feet high led down to a junction.  The small stream which flows in the summer sank to the right but J'Rat insisted that we progress to the left.  However after a couple of hours our attentions were directed towards the stream sink.  This proved to be the right place after all, as a short dig led into a roomy (compared to the rest of the cave) rift heading due north.  This ended after 6 metres at a low pool.  This has now been passed to 8 metres of low aqueous passage which is half filled with silt and carries a stream.  Progress is continuing and hopes are high of a major find.

For those interested, the first part of the cave is in shale but from the pool onwards the cave is in good firm limestone.  During the recent wet weather two (yes 2!!) large streams flowed into the cave, it is thought that these are mainly run off from the fields and the road.

Martin Grass  1/12/87


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

My apologies for the delay in this BB - pressure of work and all that.  I am prepared to carry on but feel the Club would be better served if someone, with more time took over as editor.  I would be only too pleased to assist them if anyone fancies a turn.


Notice of Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the BEC will be held at the Belfry on Saturday, 3rd October at 10.30am prompt.  You are reminded that nominations for the 1987-8 committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 5th September 1987.  All nominations must have a proposer and seconder.  Present members of the committee are nominated automatically if they wish to stand for re-election.

Note: the posts of Hut Warden, Caving Sec. and Membership Sec. are up for grabs! Don't delay in submitting your nomination.

Annual Dinner

The annual dinner will be held at The Caveman Restaurant, Cheddar on Saturday, 3rd October at 7.30pm for 8.00pm.  The cost will be £8 per head, excluding wine and there will be a charge of about 50p for corkage - bring large bottles!!  It is hoped that Sid Perou will talk and Alfie's band will provide entertainment. Martin Grass will be MC and anyone wishing to make awards or speak must contact him before the start of the dinner. Tickets may be obtained from Trebor (Mike McDonald, 28 Priory Road, Knowle, Bristol BS4 2NL.  Tel: Bristol 716690).   (See article on Dinner Referendum - ed)

Attendance at Committee Meetings

The attendance of committee members during the last committee year (excl. Sept. & Oct) is as follows:

Bob Cork 10; Mark Lumley 8; Steve Milner 5; Dany Bradshaw 9; Andy Sparrow 8; Mike McDonald 7; Tony Jarratt 8; Dave Turner 6; Brian Workman 7; Phil Romford 5.

Cuthbert’s Photos

If any members have any photos (including slides) of St. Cuthbert’s which they think may be suitable for the Cuthbert’s report can they let Barry Wilton see them.  He needs over a hundred photographs and will obviously take great care of anything lent.  Historical photos etc are all needed together with photos of digs and formations etc.

Thanks to Jim & Mary Rand for the etched glass in the Belfry. front door.

The Quest for the Rusty Tankard, was won by the BEC by devious means as most members are aware.


Caving News


The short extension found at the end of Frag Street on the 9 day camp looked so promising that at Easter Clive Gardener, Peter Bolt and myself went back to push it.  Henry Bennett came in too but 300ft in through the entrance crawl the mournful cry "Mark….I've just shat in my furry suit!" was followed by a hasty exit.

After a few hours of digging through a shattered, draughting bed we'd gained about 30ft and things looked long term and fairly hopeless.  We persevered however and a couple of hours later we were rewarded by a small, open passage ahead.  This led up a sloping crawl to the base of an aven.  40ft up this we gained access to a tight high rift with a good draught which was heading east into the blank area between Daren and Craig a Ffynnon.

We were held up about 100ft further on with no obvious way ahead.  Eventually I found a tight rift ending in a formidable squeeze which was finally passed by a committed Clive pushing with his feet against my nose (well it comes in useful sometimes!).  The way on was open in big rift passage and we stormed past a couple of boulder constrictions and up a tight version of the Cuthbert’s entrance rift. The way on continued large but progress was made difficult by the large number of boulder chokes, several of which we had to dig through.

Finally, after a total of 1200ft we ended up in a large collapse chamber with the way on blocked by fallen roof crud (Rock Steady geological phenomenon found extensively in the lower reaches of Daren along with 'Choked Bastards', 'Staled up Herberts', 'Hanging Laxatives' and 'Crystal Crinkly Bits').  The passage heads parallel with the Kings Road and lines up with Half Mile passage.  The draught would suggest a separate entrance in the Clydach Gorge.  The floor deposits are of a thick grey mud which I haven't seen elsewhere in the cave.

Two weeks later we returned in force to push the end of the chamber and after several hours of hard work we gave up, the draught emitting from a tight crack in the floor.  The way on would appear to be in passage buried below the chamber.

The place lives up to its new name of Remote Chamber and a trip from the Daren entrance to here and out again without doubt is the most strenuous in the country.

After several weeks layoff we returned to the Hard Rock Cafe on July 3-5, banging in Red River passage (Clive's project), and digging the formidable Agen Allwedd Passage chokes where the spoil heap has now gone up to an estimated 400-500 tons.  Clive and I only managed to remove a trifling 2-3 tons in 2 hours.  The rest of the trip was used to make a photographic record of lower Daren on a 2 1/4" Hasselblad.

An uneventful exit from the cave was followed some hours later by the removal of my appendix – food for thought if it had gone while we were still down the cave!


Hunter's Hole

J’Rat et al have put a lot of work and chemical persuasion into Sanctimonious Passage in Hunters Hole recently.  They made a breakthrough which leads to a static sump.  Apparently the air was bad due to carbon dioxide and bang fumes and Tony nearly met his end.  Steve Milner went down on 8th Aug to dive the sump but could not get through the squeeze. Tony emptied the bottle near the sump (now dried up) to try and clear the fumes.


Bob Cork has returned after the BEC's first week in Austria.  They have rigged Wiesalmschacht up to last years limit and ran out of rope.  More rope has now reached the team and so they should be well into new ground by now.  Hirlatzhohle has been extended and a connection with it now has a potential depth of 1200m.

Bob says that they also rigged Orkan Hohle as far as the 10th pitch and that its looking good with bigger size passages than usual for Austria and a potential of 1300m.  A full report in the next BB.

He also said that it took a while to patch up relations the Austrians particularly due to the graffiti and rubbish including carbide everywhere which was left by the last people out last year


Andy Sparrow and other BEC members have pushed the 'Final' chamber beyond the "Drainpipe" and have entered a new chamber.  They decided to dig here as they followed the draught all the way to this point from near the entrance.  As Andy reported in the log, "After an hours work the roof fell out of the dig and onto Sparrow's head - he retreated bloodily and left Tom to squeeze up into the echoing void above - results as follows:-


New chamber is quite pretty and has two obvious leads/digs - not bad for six hours digging!  (AND OUT IN TIME FOR THE PUB!)

Ogof Capel

Of interest to the Daren & Aggy - watchers - welsh cavers have pushed Ogof Capel towards Perseverance Passage.

Agen Allwedd

Sump 4 has been passed by Ian Roland to a short large passage ending in a boulder choke.


Membership Changes

New Members

1085     Duncan Price, Edgebaston, Birmingham
1086     Richard Neville-Dove, Keynsham, Bristol


The following members were ratified at the August Committee meeting: -

1074     Jerry Jones        1077     Brian Wafer
1075     Tony Williams    1078     Mike Hearn
1076     Roz Williams     1079     Henry Bennett

Address Changes

1005     Jane Cobrey (nee Brew), Keighley, West Yorkshire
868       Dany Bradshaw, Haybridge, Wells

The Library

Many will know of the very generous bequest from Mrs. Tuck, a considerable amount of money which was to be put towards "the Club".  A good number will have heard that the Committee decided to put the money towards re-fitting the library completely, with new bookcases, cabinets, map chests etc.  It was thought that this would be a fitting memorial and something that was both tangible and practical.  She also requested that a tree be planted in her memory in the garden.

Towards this end, a flexible system of mahogany bookcases have been ordered comprising solid door base units, for storing "unsightly" papers, periodicals and newsletters, and glazed upper shelving for book display.  We've ordered slightly more than we presently need; firstly to do a complete job worthy of the bequest and secondly to allow room for our library to expand into.  Providing we don't lose books though "wastage" (i.e. people pinching them), J-Rat can gradually increase our collection.  All glazed shelving will have locks and a plaque to Mrs. Tuck will be put on the door.

For those who are likely to criticize the project, a refitted library was considered most appropriate for a memorial - a tangible and useful feature, rather than re-fitted showers, drying room or tackle, for example.  We need decent cupboards and bookshelves in any event.  An expensive and quality set of shelving was chosen mainly because the alternatives were rubbish - formica garbage hardly worthy of a memorial or inflexible bookcase stack systems.  We'd much rather spend all the money on a good quality, useful, flexible bookcase system, rather than tatty stuff at two thirds the price that wouldn't last very long.

The new units should be ready in 10 weeks from the date of order (10 June 1987).

Whilst on the subject, and not wishing to impose on J-Rat's job, he tells me there's a load of missing books; either missing and not booked out, or booked out for months and not returned. Can all these be returned as soon as possible.



Outstanding Belfry Jobs

Main Room

1.                  Re-fix hasp & staple to roof access

2.                  Cut & fix supalux around flue pipe

3.                  Repair leak in roof

4.                  Fix worktop

5.                  Repair water heater over sink

6.                  Wire in fridge

Drying Room

1.                  Clean out

2.                  Fix hanging rail

3.                  Build in air bricks

4.                  Clean and paint window

Bunk Rooms

1.                  Patch up render by meters

2.                  Finish off painting

3.                  Patch up holes in ceiling and walls

4.                  Fix bunks to walls

Entrance Hall

1.                  Tile floor

2.                  Finish of painting

3.                  Fix hat & coat hook on toilet door

4.                  Lag pipes


1.                  Lag Pipes

2.                  Install time switch to immersion heater

3.                  Clean out rubbish

Showers and Changing Room

1.                  All doors to be cleaned down and re-stained

2.                  Re-fix lock to entrance door

3.                  Put up hat & coat hooks

4.                  Make up & fix new benches

5.                  Fix shower curtain to third shower

6.                  Finish of painting

7.                  Rod drain pipe

8.                  Clean out gully

9.                  Fix toilet roll holder to wall

10.              Clean of walls and re paint

11.              Fix tiles to wall

12.              Re-move cement mixer and put in shed

13.              Install new coin meter

14.              Fit new 0 rings to shower


1.                  Build gas bottle store

2.                  Clear away rubbish from site

3.                  Re-build manhole to soak-away

4.                  All windows to be cleaned & re painted

5.                  Remove facia and replace with U.P.V.C.

6.                  Repair rainwater guttering

7.                  Fix frame and hang door to shed

8.                  Cut grass

9.                  Build roof over fire buckets

10.              Fix sign on carbide store

11.              Clean out shed

Tackle Store

1.                  Clean out "all rubbish"

2.                  Rewire electric ring main and lights

3.                  Fix shelves

Did you know, it was June 1985 when the alterations at the Belfry were finished apart from the panting, which the BEC membership agreed to do.  Now 2 Years later we still have not finished giving the Belfry a first coat of paint, despite organizing several working weekends and members weekends in which we hoped you would turn up and go caving, see your mates then spend some time doing a job or two.  The last members weekend only 1 person showed up, which is less than a normal weekend, so much for members weekends!

One Sunday lunch time, a few months back, there was a rescue callout and lots of people came back to see what was happening.  I managed to talk all those with nothing to do to doing some work on the hut.  I think it’s a sad day that the only way to get people back to the Belfry to work is have a rescue!

Perhaps you want to let the Belfry get in such a state that the only way out is to run round and raise the money to renovate the Headquarters every few years.  The old saying "A stitch in time saves nine" which is very true because a small job now can be a major job later. I have not got a magic wand, so I need MEMBERS to come along and do these jobs, because I am buggered if I will do them on my own.

After the roof was replaced on the tackle store, some MRO people did what work was necessary, i.e. rewire lights, and moved straight back in.  After 11 weeks what have the BEC done, fuck all.  So why not pick a job off the list, give me a ring and come down and do it. 

Dany Bradshaw - Hut Engineer.


A Brief History Of Gough’s Caves, Cheddar

by Dave Irwin

The history of Gough's Old and New Caves is a story of two caves that were destined to become among the best known public show-caves in the country; the earlier of which is now closed to the public.  The caving world has long appreciated that these are part of the same cave system in geomorphological sense, but to the public the two separate sites in print, at least, was assumed to be the same cave that has been progressively extended leading to confused reports in the past.  This has been based on contemporary information, full details of which have bee given in separate papers by the author published in the U.B.S. Proceedings (Irwin, 1986a, 1986b).

The caves at the lower end of Cheddar Gorge lie in a region that was known to 19th century inhabitants of Cheddar as Rock-End.  Another interesting name that has emerged is the point we know today as Black Rock was known in 1805 as Stag’s Cross.  Rock-End is the area from what is now the car parks in the Cooper’s Hole area to the bottom of the Gorge by Birch’s Bridge.  There were several paper and grist mills in the area utilising the water from the resurgence; contemporary maps show that there were about 10 limekilns in the Cliff Road area. The remains of one of the limekilns still exist below Lion Rock.  The people living in the area were housed in no more than single roomed cottages, some built against the walls of the cliffs.  In these hovels they eat, bred and slept.  A hole in the roof acted as a ‘chimney’ which appears to have rarely worked and must have filled the premises with smoke when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.  To scrape a living the men worked as agricultural labourers or in the quarries and mines.  The women made a few extra pennies by acting as guides to the caves and by selling spar to the visitor.  There are numerous accounts of the trouble caused by these unfortunate inhabitants, many of which would not take ‘No’ for an answer greatly irritating the visitors. Guide books of the 1840’s warned visitors of the problems likely to be met when they visited Cheddar Caves and some even wrote to the local newspapers complaining that no one could visit the Cliffs in peace.

The earliest reference to cave guides appears in the 1780’s and the commonly visited site was Long Hole.  Remember at this time and up to 1933 the scree slope from the Slitter which lies to the west of the cave entrances, spilled out to the modern road edge thus making the ascent to Long Hole a relatively easy climb.  In the early 19th century steps were cut into the soil near the top of the slope to further ease the climb.  An interesting sketch (1816) by the Reverend John Skinner, of Camerton, of the Slitter clearly shows the entrance to the Long Hole and Gough's Old Cave (Irwin. 1986b).

The less fortunate individuals and families were forced to inhabit the caves.  They boarded up the entrances to protect themselves from the weather and were able to eek out an existence by selling spar and potatoe stone. One such site was Gough’s Old Cave.  There are several documented references to a woman and her son who lived in the cave between c.1810 and c.1839.  In 1839 the son is reported to have married and moved into a cottage built against the cliff wall outside the cave entrance.  A newspaper reports says that he died in January 1877.  The identity of this man has yetv to be investigated but when this is done it should clarify the Jack and Nancy legend.  Was the son Jack Beauchamp (possible Beecham) or, as we shall se later, John Weeks?

Phelps (1836) describes the caves that were known at the time.  Briefly these are long Hole, Saye’s Hole, Gough’s Old and New Caves.  In addition Cooper’s Hole (said to be named after a family by that name who once lived in the cave) was referenced on maps that are stored at Longleat House.  Both Cooper’s Hole and Gough’s New Cave entrances were closed by wooden frames and used for long periods as cart sheds (c.1872).  It is most unlikely that either were long used for habitation as both were, and still are, subject to regular winter flooding.  During the 19th century Gough’s New Cave was known as Sand Hole, Saye’s hole was called ‘The Hall’ or ‘Cheddar Hall’; the earliest record of this name was noted by John Strachey of Ston Easton c.1736.

To make matters clear the names of Gough's Caves shall be used as we know them today.  Gough’s Old Cave needs no explanation but Gough’s Cave (that which is now open to the public) was originally known as Gough’s New Cave between the date of discovery and about 1910; by then the Old Cave appears to have been closed for public viewing.

Visitors to Cheddar had the opportunity to view several caves in the neighbourhood from as early as the 17th century.  This situation continued until George Cox (1800-1868) discovered Cox’s Cave in 1837. For the next year he developed the inside of the cave and opened it to the public in 1838.  At the same time George developed the Pleasure Gardens associated with what is now known as the Cliff Hotel.  This grist mill was bought by James Cox (George's father) in 1823 as lease-hold property, then known Harris' Mill changing its name to Cox's Mill when the ownership changed.  Most of the land at Cheddar at this time was owned by the Longleat Estates and thus most properties were 1easehold.  The tithes (or rates) were paid annually to the Marquis of Bath.  However, following the discovery and development of Cox's Cave, George Cox created the pleasure gardens making the site an attractive place for the mid-19th century visitors.  The impact of the expansion of the railways had yet to make its mark felt but suffice to say by this time that Cheddar was a well known and popular place to visit.

Back to the Gough's Old Cave.  A photograph of Jack and Nancy Beauchamp exists on picture postcard (Page 8).  It is a copy photograph of an original taken in 1860 and was probably placed on sale by Charles Collard of Cheddar about 1905. From this photograph we can clearly see the entrance to Gough's Old Cave and above the entrance is a board that could be a signboard.  The photograph has been closely inspected by Chris Howes but he cannot determine what is written on it.  The photograph also suggests that the cave informally operated as a show cave at least by 1860.  Though the contemporary guide-books mention Cox’s cave (then known as Stalactite Cavern) none mention the existence of a second show cave until 1869.  For example, Stevens in his A Guide to Cheddar and Neighbourhood (1869) makes no mention of a show cave other than Cox's Cave; remember his material probably would have been collected during the previous year. However, in 1869 a book The Tourist’s guide to Cheddar Cliffs published by E. Green of Wells confirms that a second cave was open for public viewing.  The cave was called The Great Stalactite Cavern.  The fact that a second cave was open to the public is independently confirmed by Eric Hensler's paternal grandfather, a certain Robert Russell Green.  Green visited Cheddar in 1869 and recorded in his diary “…There are tow chief ones, one kept by one Weekes certainly the larger of the two but not so beautiful as those by Mr. Cox…” (Hensler, 1968).  So we have definite proof that Gough's Old Cave was open to the public by 1869.  The existence of John Weeks (as spelt in the tithe records) has been confirmed by the tithe records at Longleat House.  He is recorded as a leaseholder of the land in front of the cliff where the modern cave offices and restaurant have been built.  The land contained a hut, garden and cavern.  Now assuming Jack and Nancy existed thy could have lived in the hut on Weeks’ land and ‘managed’ the cave for Weeks.  Weeks could also have taken control of the land from Jack and Nancy and operated the cave for himself.  The man who was born in Gough’s Old Cave is reported to have died in January 1877.  Who was he?  Weeks could have also been the son of the woman who lived in the cave.  Research continues into this fascinating subject. Some conclusions have been drawn but it is too soon to carry the subject sny further until some more checks have been made.

Anther early record of the Great Stalactite Cavern is an entry in the diary of the Reverend KiIvert, the great 19th century traveller.  He visited Gough's Old Cave in 1873 but was not impressed.  He describes the place as being wet and damp, full of slippery rocks ready to hurl one into the Bottomless Pit.  The man who guided them through the cave was white haired, deaf and had a bandaged jaw - obviously suffering from toothache!


 Richard Cox Gough, born in Bristol in 1827, moved to Cheddar about 1866; this is two years earlier than previously thought.  It is said that to make ends meet he worked in the mines and quarries higher up the gorge.  His mother, Lydia, lived near Lion Rock and was the sister of George Cox.  She had married James Gough and presumably after the death of her husband moved back to Cheddar in her retirement.  Richard Gough, and his family 1ived with his mother and eventually came into possession of the house after her death in 1871. What was Gough’s occupation between 1871 and 1877?  What is certain is that he was in control of Gough’s Old Cave by the summer of 1877.  When he took over the cave and from whom is still unknown.  By this time he was a man of moderate means for he entertained the villagers to a sumptuous meal in June 1877 and during the following month he entertained the Good Templars of Westbury and Cheddar to a picnic and in the evening showed them round “ …the Great stalactite Cavern.”  He now operated a show cave that was constantly being, and poorly, compared with Cox’s cave, now operated by his cousins after the death of their father in 1868.  Gough realised that he needed to do something pretty damn quick to combat the competition of he was to make a successful commercial venture from the cave.  Gough’s Old Cave at this time terminated at the top of the rift passage beyond the entrance chamber.  At the top of the rift he noticed that water pouring from the boulder and stalagmite choke in wet weather and so he employed men to remove the debris and in November 1877 he was rewarded by the discovery of a large chamber which he eventually called “The Convert Chamber.”   His advertising handbills of 1879 stated that he had re-named the cave as “The New Great Stalactite Cavern.”  The new chamber was quickly made ready for public viewing and admission to the cave was now 1 shilling and 6 pence, or for more than one person 1 shilling each. Cox's Cave was even more expensive at 3 shillings a visitor.


Photograph of Jack and Nancy Beauchamp said to be taken in 1860.
Notice Gough’s old Cave entrance (upper centre)
(from an old postcard c.1905)

The railway came to Cheddar in 1869, and with cheap excursion tickets during the summer months, the many visitors making Cheddar a popular tourist spot.  Works outings particularly from Bristol were common occurrences and the caves were among the highlights in addition to Pleasue Gardens and Church.

In addition to the showing of the cave, Gough organised several events in the cave during the off-peak season.  In September 1877 the Welford Family gave a hand-bell concert in the cave and in 1881 E.R. Sleator, a photographer an exhibition of his work on local views in the Concert Chamber.  For this occasion the cave was decorated with Chinese Lanterns and additional lighting was provided by oxy-hydrogen lights.  The photographs were described as being very realistic.

Gough installed gas lighting in the cave in April 1883.  The gas was obtained from petroleum by the use of a special apparatus.  The conversion apparatus was installed in the entrance chamber and for this action Gough was hauled before the Axbridge Magistrates because he did not possess the necessary licence to store petroleum and because the apparatus was a potential danger to the public.  Gough claimed that he had been advised that a licence was not necessary for the quantity that he was storing but he was nevertheless fined 10 shillings and the petroleum confiscated.  He was warned that if he did not place the apparatus in a safe location he would not be granted a further licence.  Gough asked that if he complied the Police requirements would he get his petroleum back?  Gough said “I have committed no crime.  It is like taking the bread out of a man’s mouth to take the petroleum away.” Colonel Luttrell (chairman of the Magistrates Bench) replied “You would have been fined much more heavily if the petroleum was not forfeited and the Bench will therefore reckon that your fine your petroleum is forfeited.”  The newspaper report continued " ... The defendant said he would like the Magistrates to visit the cave, and Col. Luttrell replied that he should be afraid to do so under the present circumstances.”  (Weston-super-Mare Gazette, 1883, 2nd May).

Gough’s next breakthrough came in 1887 when he discovered the Cathedral Chamber and the Queen’s Jewel Chamber at the end of the cave.  The route to these chambers was already open and only required crawling through to find them.  The original route is still there to see.  To make assess easy for the public, Gough excavated at the top of the Concert Chamber and cleared a passage below the two chambers.  He opened them to the public in 1888 hence they became known in the advertisements of the day, as the 1888 Chambers.  The first newspaper account of the new chambers appeared in the Weston-super-Mare Mercury (26th May 1888) which said

"Through this passage (the excavated one) the members were now conducted and emerged in what might be termed two grottoes of stalactites…..these were well illuminated and the beauty of the effect difficult to describe.  In one place a small natural fountain played in the centre of stalactites and stalagmites."

Gough employed his sons to act as guides and William Gough recalls in a letter to Thorneycroft (1949) “…before I was 12 [c.1883] I was able to conduct parties through the caves as well as the next.,"  It is reported that augment the formations in the cave Gough purchased cart-loads of stalagmite from Loxton Cave which had been open to the public for a short time to the public in the 1860s.  In addition to the added formations Gough used various devices to enhance the cave such as fountains in the chamber and reflected pools in the entrance chamber.

The last discovery was St. Valentine's Chamber - a side grotto at the entrance to the Concert Chamber (February, 1869).  The existence of the chamber was probably not unknown to Gough but to add to the 'latest important discovery' the grotto was opened up sufficiently to enable the public to peer into it.  This grotto seems to have been enhanced with foreign stalagmites!

Competition between the Cox's and Gough rose to unprecedented levels.  The cave proprietors made exaggerated claims about the merits of their respective caves for by now Gough's Cave was obviously biting into the takings at Cox’s Cave, the proprietors of which had a monopoly until 1877. Even then Gough probably made little impact on Cox’s Cave but by the mid 1880’s the situation was changing. Between 1877 and 1887 Gough had 20,000 visitors to the cave.  Edward Cox tried desperately to play down the importance of the discovery of the Concert Chamber in Gough's Cave typified by the following advertisement:

Cox's Stalactite Cavern.


NOTICE - There is no truth in the announcement of the discovery of a new great cave in 1877.  It is one of the original Cheddar Caves shown to the public before Cox’s Stalactite Cavern was accidentally discovered 1837-38.  Both caverns were described in 1868 by Mr. Nicholls in "Pleasant Trips out of Bristol."

Edward Cox, the then proprietor, was not being wholly truthful as Nicholls' book only mentions Cox's Cave and Long Hole!  The outburst from Richard Gough is not unexpected:


Visitors Read this before Seeing Caves.

GOUGH'S CAVES of 1877-1888-1889,

are the most wonderful .. ,

Visited by H,R.H. the Prince of Siam and the Colonials

..CAUTION: Station Drivers and others who are interested in other Caves are not my Colleagues.  I employ no "Touts."  I received a letter from the EARL OF KIMBERLEY, dated June 9th, 1888, contradictory of a Statement posted at another Cave.  H.R,H. the Prince of Wales has not visited Cheddar since a youth, with his tutor ..

Gough’s Entrance (c.1927 showing scree slope from slitter. (Courtesy of Cheddar Caves).

Neither of the proprietors were being honest with the public.  Touts were employed and the drivers received a ‘back-hander’ from the respective proprietors.  This technique continued well into the 20th century.  In fact fighting between the drivers was a regular event if local memories are to be believed!

To develop the site still further Gough and his wife, Frances, opened a formal tea garden outside their house and so were now in competition with the Pleaure Gardens at the Cliff Hotel.

Gough made no further discoveries at the Old Cave.  By about 1830 his attention had turned to Sand Hole, the large choked entrance some 40 metres east of the Old Cave entrance.  Why he had not attempted to excavate the site before is unknown but it has been suggested that a woman living in the adjacent cottage had prevented him doing so.  The site had long been a cart shed and according to Balch had been used as a gambling den.  Early 19th century initia1s and dates have been recorded scratched in tufaceous stalagmite close to the entrance.  The cave was partially choked but sufficiently clear so that the curious could penetrate at least 150ft. into the cave.  In January 1892 Gough had excavated at the end choke and broke into what is now known as The Fonts.  Gough cleared the passage and installed gas lighting by November 1892.  This section of the cave he opened to the public as Gough’s Rockwork Caves, because of the beautiful scalloping that exists there particularly in the two large rifts.  In fact he had removed so much material (much of it if archaeological importance) that he organised a concert on the 21st, November to which over 600 people attended.  The cave had by now been re-named and called Gough's New Cave. The newspapers were enthusiastic in their reports after the concert.  The Weston-super-Mare Mercury, for example wrote:

NOVEL CONCERT… The numerous audience was delighted with the cave and its decorations, which were profuse and tasteful and the geni of the cavern came in for numerous and well-deserved compliments for the manner in which the novel concert hall was illuminated consisting of fairy lamps, Chinese lanterns, gas and candles, the whole interlaced with hundreds of bannerettes. The devices were few but good, meeting the eye on coming up the cliffs was the 'Setting Sun" at an elevation of 100 or 200 feet over the entrance.  In the cave, at a height of about 60 feet over the placid water, was the "New Moon" and at the cave entrance to the left was the device "Praise God" illuminated in blue, red and pink ... "

Gough was to make two further major discoveries.  In April 1893 he discovered the passage up to and just beyond Swiss Village and in 1898 he broke through to the then terminal chambers. Gough cleared the passage Swiss Village in a very short space of time and on 29th July 1893 an advertisement in the Weston-super-Mare Gazette read:

NEW DISCOVERY- The extensive and beautiful cave, several hundred yards long was discovered by Mr. Gough on April 12th 1893 and now shown to the public at a moderate charge.

But Gough's crowning glory came in November 1898 when he and his sons; after sporadic digging; broke up through the end choke into St. Paul's and the Diamond Chambers with their beautiful formations. At the time there was nothing in the country that could compare with the Cheddar discoveries.  Gough obviously knew this.  The cave was ready for public viewing in May 1899 and, novel for the time, this section was illuminated by electricity.  The old gas lighting was gradually replaced with electricity over the next few years and for many years, certainly up to the outbreak of the 1st. World War the cave was frequently advertised as being illuminated by this means. In fact the method of lighting brough about another advertising slant by the cave proprietors.   Cox claimed that his carbide lighting was more brilliant than electricity!  But this did little for Cox's Cave. The press was ecstatic with the newly discovered cave and went over the top in their descriptions of it.  A correspondent in a Clevedon paper wrote (1899)

 “When I visited the scenes, some five years ago, this particular cave was esteemed of no importance, another cave, Cox's Cave, so called, was the popular one. Now all is changed, it is simply a case of transformation.”

Among the important visitors to Gough's New Cave included Balch, Martel, Bamforth, Puttrell, in 1904, and Winston Churchill in 1911!

Following the discovery of the new cave, Gough commenced re-organising the approach to the caves. The old cave notices were removed and an arched gateway built by the edge of the road.  Inside the perimeter of the ground he erected several rustic buildings housing the offices and museum.  Entrance to the cave was by a downward flight of steps to the left of the entrance archway.  Winter flooding of the cave, which still plagues the modern cave management, was hoped to be overcome by excavating further into the infilled sand and gravels in the Vestibule.  In 1903 during this clearing operation the Gough brothers accidentally discovered the skeleton of Cheddar Man in the area now known as Skeleton Pit into which the water was hoped to drain.  This discovery made Gough’s cave a household name.  Handbills, picture postcards (which had now become exceedingly popular with the public) all mentioned or showed photographs of the skull and bones. Eminent archaeologists studied the skeleton and estimated its age between 40,000 and 80,000 years.  Today, researchers have suggested, after radio carbon dating, that it is about 91,000 years old.


Approach to Gough’s caves c.1927.  (Note change of cave name).  (Courtesy of Cheddar Caves),

Minor ‘discoveries’ were made in 1908 when Aladdin's Grotto was opened and in 1935, after an archaeological dig at Pixie Forest a couple of hundred feet of low passage was discovered. This was claimed to be a major discovery by the then manager, Thomas gill, and he announced that a circular route to St. Paul’s Chamber was being considered; this idea not was not to materialise for another thirty odd years.

Richard Gough died in February 1902 at the age of 75 years.  The well known photograph of him was taken some eight years earlier by Stanley Chapman of Dawlish.  Chapman had long been a friend of the family and produced the earliest interior photographs of Gough’s Old Cave about 1890.  At this time the interior photographs of the caves were becoming available to the public.   The humble picture postcard did not come into use until about 1902.  The cave proprietors soon realised the importance of the picture postcard as they formed a very cheap form of advertising quite apart from the increased revenue the sales would bring to their pockets.  Both national and local publishers were employed to produce the cards but it is to the local photographers we look for the more interesting speleological photographs.

The major part of the collection at the Cheddar Caves Museum was discovered in March 1911 when the Gough brothers were excavating gravel to surface a car-park between the cave entrance and the river rising.   In doing so they unearthed many human bones and pieces of pottery half-way up the Slitter, just below Long Hole.  In addition they found some 200 coins including 1 gold example.  The archaeological papers merely record that bones and coins were found at Gough’s Cave in 1911.  But the newspapers and the local photographer, Charles Henry Collard come to the historians rescue.  So far 5 different photographs have been discovered and recorded.  Some are general scenes of the dig showing Herbert Balch, William and Arthur Gough inspecting the site, and another being a photograph of the finds layed out for display.

The Gough lease ran out c.1927 and the property returned to the Longleat Estates who have been operating the site ever since.  The first change enacted by the new management was to re-name the cave Cheddar Cave but this was unsuccessful – Gough’s Cave had stuck in the public memory.  Several marked changes were made in 1934 when the new office and restaurant complex was built.  Largely of novel design at the time the designer J.A. Gellicoe came in for much praise. The restaurant was opened on the 23rd. June 1934 with a V.I.P, dinner and it was said that there were more Rolls-Royce cars present than any other make!

Sympathetic management at Cheddar Caves for the last few years has enabled cavers virtually free access to the caves for further study and this has resulted in the discovery of the magnificent River Cave including two large chambers.  At long last Gough's Cave is breaking out into a major cave system.  What the future will bring is a matter for speculation - but no doubt it will not be disappointing.

Selected reading matter:

Balch., H.E.      1927 The Caves of Mendip.  London: Folk Press [The Somerset Folk Series No.26]

[Green, E.]        1935 Mendip - Cheddar, its gorge and caves. Wells: Clare, 1st. Ed.

Hensler, E.        1869 The tourist's guide to Cheddar Cliffs. Wells: Green

Irwin, D.J.          1968 "Ninety-nine years ago", WCC Jnl 10(118)102

                        1986a The exploration of Gough's Cave and its development as a show cave.

                        Proc. Univ. Bristol Spelaeol. Society 17(2) for 1985, 95-104

                        1986b Gough's Old Cave - its history. 17(3)250-266.  Proto Univ. Bristol Spelaeol.  Society

North, C.           1968 Cheddar Caves - some early impressions. Society Newsletter, Aug. 1968.  Axbridge Caving Group & Archaeol.

Phelps, w.         1836 The History and antiques of Somersetshire, Vol.1, part 2.

Stevens, N.E.    1869 A Guide to Cheddar and the neighbourhood.  Cheddar: Bryne

Thorneycroft, L.R.          1949 The story of Cheddar its gorge, caves and ancient history.  Taunton: Barnicotts.


France 1983

The following article has been published in the Axbridge Journal recently but I make no apologies for publishing it here even though the trips described were done four years ago.  My only apology is that I have been unable to copy the main survey and include it with this BB.  Unfortunately it is too complex to be worth reducing, I suggest that anyone going to the Dent-de­Crolles contacts Paul Hodgson and copies the survey. (Ed)

After much deliberation and reminders from friends over several years, I have finally finished this trip report of our visit to the Dent-de-Crol~es and the cave systems of the Trou-de­Glaz.

We had planned this trip over several months and had decided on transport arrangements, the route, how much food, camping kit and the tackle required.  The longest part of the preparations was obtaining BCRA Insurance Cover, I recall it having something to do with the diversity of Caving groups which we individually belonged to.

Suddenly the day of departure arrived and we had to make our final preparations during that day.  An old Bedford van was borrowed for the trip and we stuffed all this kit and five people into it and set off for the late ferry from Dover.  The trip to Dover was uneventful, although we took it in turns to drive the van to get used to it.

Customs passed, we found ourselves travelling through the night towards Paris.  At about three in the morning I was woken by John, who was driving, because the van had started running on three cylinders.  With the Bedford van the engine is easily reached by removal of the engine cover inside the van. So whilst still moving I took it off and woke everyone else up.  With the aid of a caving lamp we found the problem – one of the spark plugs had unscrewed itself and was dangling by the HT lead.  We tried re-fitting it while still travelling and didn't get very far.

After a short break we were back asleep again while John drove on through France.  We hit Paris during rush hour but managed not to get into any trouble.  We continued to the Fontainbleau Forest where we had a couple of hours kip, a late breakfast and then made our way to one of the boulder groups in the Forest and spent several hours "bouldering".

An uneventful journey followed, we travelled along the Autoroutes to the outskirts of Grenoble where camp was set up in a motorway service picnic area.  Early next morning we made our way through Grenoble and along the Isere valley to take a steep road up to the ' Col du cog', which is the closest point by road to the Dent-de-Crolles.  The views across the valley to the Alps were impressive as was the Dent-de-Crolles itself.

The Dent-de-Crolles is part of the Massif de la Grande Chartreuse which is an elongated mountain block some 45 miles long by 15 miles wide and is located between Grenoble in the south and Chambery in the north.  It is flanked by the Isere Valley to the east and south, while the D520 and N6 form the western boundary from Grenoble through Voiron, St Laurent du Pont, Les Eschelles to Chambery.  Beyond the high ground falls away to the Rhone Valley.  Sassenage and the Gouffre Berger are to be found to the south-west about five miles beyond the Isere valley. To the east the ground rises sharply to the Crests of the Massif d'Allevard, a part of the French Alps.

Provisions were picked up in St Pierre de Chartreuse and a suitable camp site located in St Hughs de Chartreuse, a few miles up the valley.  Previous club trips have used a variety of camp sites, especially at perquelin which gives easy access to the Guiers Mort but a long drive or trek to get to the Trou-de-Glaz and P40.

St Pierre de Chartreuse





Our first trip was a 'pull through' trip from the Trou-de­Glaz to the Grotte Annette Bouchacourte.  The van was taken to the Col-du-Cog where we got partially changed before setting off on a well defined track, through the woods, which shortly disappeared leaving us to force a way through to reach the grassland beyond.  We climbed up the steep slope to the track at the foot of the cliff faces and followed this to the Trou-du-Glaz where we found a snow drift in the entrance and a good cold draught.  Once kitted up we descended the large gently descending phreatic entrance tube to a short maze.  A well marked right hand turn leads abruptly to the first "Lantern Pitch" (11 m). This was already rigged with 'bluewater' so we abseiled down on it.

The second pitch (12 m) follows immediately after, again rigged, and after a short crawl the third pitch (13 m) is reached.  Here we met a party from Hadies Caving Club ( Bristol) coming up.  Another short crawl brought us into the main gallery, although wide it was not very tall and the fossilized stal in the roof made it necessary to stoop.  The fourth "Lantern Pitch" (12 m) was reached and quickly descended.

The large dry passage which we were now in was suddenly broken by a shaft which replaced the floor. A short climb into an oxbow on the right took us to a traverse past the "P36" shaft and back into the continuation of the passage via an eye hole.  The passage continued only to be broken by another hole in the floor, this time by " Lake Shaft" (52 m).  An exposed traverse with a bold step was negotiated on the left.  The passage continued.  We noted the Cairn which marked the start of the meanders to "Pendulum Pitch" which we would use for our through trip to the Guiers Mort.

The next shaft to replace the floor was "P60", the traverse on this was larger and on a sloping muddy ledge, fortunately there were plenty of handholds.  Just up a side gallery was "Labour Shaft" (63 m) which was about 10 m diameter and well watered by a small stream from a considerable distance above.

The main gallery was followed to "Fernand Shaft" (25 m) which is an easy broken pitch.  A short way along we found ourselves traversing along an earthen ledge above a deep rift, plenty of handholds but tricky in places when carrying tackle.  A narrow sporting rift followed and ended in a 20m drop which was free climbable, although we abseiled/climbed using the fixed rope at the top of the pitch.  At the bottom were two pots, one was blind, and the other leads to "Gallery 43" (4 m wide, 2-3 m high) a steadily ascending 'railway tunnel'.

"Traverse Shaft" is next.  This is bypassed by a crawl along a ledge on the left with a stretch to distant handholds. The passage is followed to another hole in the floor, "Climbers Shaft". An exposed traverse along the left hand wall leads to a fallen slab across the shaft.  Moving across the slab a 6 m climb on the right wall, with few hand and foot holds, leads to the passage continuation.  At the next fork in the route we turned left and the following two forks the right hand turn was taken, this brought us to the head of "Corog Shaft" (30 m).  This was a pleasant pitch of 10 m to a ledge and 20 m free.





The passage continues, with various side galleries, through five boulder ruckles.  The first of which is the "Cistern".  This is a well concealed hole in the ruckle and the only way on.  The other four ruckles present no real problems, the passage finally leads to a loose spiral stone chute leading to a self blocking squeeze - "The Spiral Staircase".  Route finding was made easier by following orange marker tape and the remains of some cotton thread (first noticed on "Fernand Shaft").  The other side of the squeeze we ascended more loose stones, which were kept back by motorway crash barriers, to exit in the Annette Bouchacourte Grotto.  The Isere valley is 1400 m below, most of which appears vertical.  The view from the cave, exit is impressive.  The Isere valley below and the snow covered French Alps rising the other side.

After de-tackling we trekked along the sometimes non-existent path around the Dont du Crolles and eventually back to the van at the Col du Cog.  Total time underground was somewhere in the region of 8 hours.


We drove the van to the Col du Cog and parked, this time lower down to allow easy access to the usual approach to the steep ascending grass slope to the track along the cliff base. By the time we had got the tackle bags sorted it was about 07-30 hrs.  We followed the same route to the Trou du Glaz as before, and concealed our change of clothes in the entrance.  The path continues upwards, up a couple of chimneys and a few scrambles to the plateau.  By following the red painted arrows we arrived at the summit, took a few photos and then searched for the entrance of P40.  By following the valley down from the summit the entrance was easily found just beyond the first trees.

Pete and I melted snow for the carbides, got changed and rigged the entrance shaft whilst Tony, John and Steve searched for the Gouffre Therese (without much success).  We descended the large fluted shaft (40m) and searched for the way on, a narrow blasted slot.  We eventually found it at the top of the rubble slope and not as the description said, the bottom.

A short crawl leads to "Kid Shaft" (8 m) which we free climbed down into "York Gallery".  This is a mud floored, wide bedding plane with several local collapses.  In places it was possible to walk, otherwise we had to stoop and crawl.  At the end a 'no hold' 30 m climb leads into a short meander to a ledge around a 3 m diameter shaft.  Directly after, a slippery slope, with a fixed hand-line, leads abruptly to the head of the "Three Sisters Pitch" (45 m).  The rope is belayed to a buttress to give a free descent of 10 m to a ledge, then 10 m to another ledge.  Here we met the stream and since little water was flowing we continued to the floor rather than traverse the ledge and rebelay to descent one of the other dry shafts which met at the bottom.

Two ways on were found, one following the stream, and the other through a partially blocked bedding plane into a meander.  Taking the latter we soon found ourselves traversing a deep rift at a high level. The stream dropped rapidly away below and the meander gained a floor at an intermittent level.  The meanders continued and we decided that the description we were following was inadequate so as a precaution we left the odd pitch rigged as we continued until we could verify where we were.  We then had to go back and pull the rope through.

A boulder blockage was next, some went over; some went under to reach a chamber - "Orbitalina Shaft". The meanders continued to a 6m shaft and beyond to two short slippery drops and finally a pitch.  John went down and declared it was "Balcony Pitch" (40m).  The first part of the pitch is descended in three stages, 10m to a ledge, a further 10m to a narrow ledge which has to be traversed for 6-7 m to a re-belay point for the final pleasant 20 m descent to a wide ledge.  The stream cascades down a gully at the side of ledge into the next shaft.  The water is avoided by traversing along the ledge and up an awkward 5 m climb to "The Balcony" a 1 m x 1.5 m ledge. From here we could see the passage by which Chevalier first approached "Balcony Pitch".  It is some 7-10 m lower and in the opposite side of the rift.  The pitch is an easy 25 m drop to a chamber from which a short piece of rift passage is followed to "Shower Bath Pitch" (30 m).  The stream can be avoided for part of the descent, but you get drenched just the same.  Pete tried a bit of aerial bombardment on his way down dislodging a few large rocks.

Two passages exit from the bottom of the pitch and we followed the lower - they both met at a junction of five further along.  After a scout along the passages we took the most obvious route and noted that we passed black painted numbers in descending order.  The route involved a lot of stooping and there were a large number of side passages which were not marked on the survey. 











Eventually we carne to the turn to the "Lantern Pitches" and familiar ground.  Back through the maze and into the main gallery. Just as we approached the exit a large ice stalactite tried, unsuccessfully, to impale itself in Pete, missing him by a mere five feet.

We changed in the late evening warmth and made our way down to the van and back to the camp site. This trip, although enjoyable, was marred by the inadequacies of the description which we had obtained and as a consequence our time underground was much longer than it should have been.


The next day was a day of rest.  The following morning we were up early and on our way through Grenoble and up into the Vercors.  Eventually we started to descend the Bourne Gorge, the road stayed about halfway between the floor and the top of the cliffs.  Just after the turning to the Choranche Show Cave we turned down a narrow steeply descending road which led down to the hydro-electric power station at the bottom. The descent was in the order of 700 ft. After changing in a small car park, we followed a footpath up to, and around, the Bournillon Cirque, ducking under the water feed pipe for the hydro-electric station.  The cave entrance, one of the largest in Europe, is hidden in a corner of the Cirque. The last bend in the path, when you are at last able to see the cave, is practically inside the entrance.

We ascended a large scree slope into a large fossil passage, at one side of the main entrance, and followed it until it degenerated, from about 100 feet diameter with boulder infill, to a boulder ruckle.  Dropping through the boulders we entered a passage which gradually assumed large bedding plane characteristics.  The end of the bedding plane would appear prone to flooding judging by the black deposits over everything.  A short climb through boulders brought us into the main passage.  Turning upstream took us to a large black sump pool.  The way out was to follow the main gallery and the stream.  The passage became vast and had a few attractive formations, the largest of which was the " Negro Village".  We didn't stop to get any pictures because of the swarms of midges and mosquitoes etc. which were crawling up your nose and other places.

The final section involves some relatively easy traverses around some deep pools before reaching the large entrance lake.  This is crossed at its narrowest point by a fixed bridge.  Time taken: about 2 1/2 hours.  After changing we drove back up the narrow road and up to the Chorancle Show Cave car park which is in the 'Cirque de Chorancle' where a number of cave exits may be found.  We dried our kit in the sun and had lunch, then went to the show cave to ask permission to descent the 'Grotte de Gournier', this was given.


The Grotte de Gournier is a resurgence cave and from it issues the larger of the two permanent streams in the Cirque.  Wearing only swimming trunks and boots we set off from the car park and made our way to the entrance, picking up a large crowd of inquisitive tourists.

The entrance arch leads to a large clear lake between 60 and 75 m long, 15 m wide and about 10 m deep and COLD.  After swimming around the left hand wall of the lake for about 50 m we climbed onto a small ledge where John and Tony climbed up 8 m to another ledge which they traversed along to the top of a huge gour.  We swam to the next ledge and climbed up the ladder which had been lowered over the gour.  NOTE: If water is flowing over this gour then the cave is flooded.

We decided to follow the main gallery as far as we could, and not to bother with the stream access points, then return taking photographs.  The fossil gallery starts as a 'railway tunnel' about 10 m wide with a large gour bank starting on the left and eventually dropping over a lip into what may be the lake continuation.  A little way on the passage takes on enormous dimensions, the roof being over 20 m high and the walls in excess of 15 m apart.  The floor was nearly always of boulders, some enormous - the size of bungalows - some distance further in we came across another well decorated section where a series of massive gours stretched across the passage, beyond this the passage size increased and we found ourselves in a chamber strewn with huge stalagmites on flowstone covered boulders.  An oxbow on the left contained some very good formations.  Further on, something like 2 km in, we reached a huge chamber into which we descended and then climbed up a steep boulder slope the other side to find ourselves at roof level with the main gallery choked off.  A hands and knees bedding plane crawl on the right brought us to another parallel (!) passage which shortly gained the same stature as the previous one.









More gours were found when a trickle entered the passage from an aven and the number and quality of the formations increased.  Large boulder heaps now had to be crossed and some of these brought us near to the roof. A 5 m drop halted all of us but John who somehow managed to climb down and have a look further on.

The way out was the reverse of the way in, but I stopped frequently to take photographs, in fact I could quite happily have taken many more.  This gave time for the other members of the party to explore side passages and to find two of the four ways down into the active streamway.  The trip took about 4 hours and was very enjoyable.


Our next trip was the through trip from the Trou de Glaz to the Guiers Mort.  Tony and John went into the Guiers Mort entrance and traced the way back to the bottom of "Chevalier II" the day prior to the through trip, as we had no wish to spend a long time in the labyrinth.

We drove up to the Col de Coq again and unloaded all the kit, including Tony's, who then took the van to a car park in the Forest above Perquelin and joined us at the Trou de Glaz entrance later.

We followed known territory descending all four "Lantern" pitches and the traverses around "P36" and " Lake Shaft".  A short way after " Lake Shaft" we found the cairn marking the meanders to "Pendulum Pitch".  We descended and found that although the passage was not too constricting the shelving made it difficult to haul the tackle bags after us.

After 50 m the passage came abruptly to a shaft, "Pendulum Pitch" (60m).  There are two excellent bolts above a small hole in the floor which give a free 60m descent in the middle of the shaft.  At the bottom the meanders continue for about 220 m which took us 45 minutes to negotiate.  At the end was "Petzl Shaft" (20m) which was free.  A few meters on, at the bottom, was "Trap Shaft" (15m).  The abseil was slightly awkward and made worse by a trickle from above.  By halting part way down we were able to pendulum over to "Dubost Halt" instead of climbing from the bottom. This is a small platform, just big enough for all five of us, overlooking "Chevalier Shaft I" (35m).

The descent was in a large chamber and it-was noted that there were some rock flakes which were very thin and intricate.  We landed on a jagged floor with a huge hole in it - "Chevalier II" (20 m). On our right, looking down the second shaft, we saw a traverse guarded by a heavy duty handline and we think that this is the connection with the "Metro".

We climbed down 3 m to a ledge in Chevalier II before abseiling.  At the bottom we found Tony and John's marker placed there the day before. A short traverse in a rift leads to a sandy crawl to the top end of the Guiers Mort main passage.  On the right the stream sumps to the left, we followed the large abandoned streamway crossing numerous deep water filled potholes. The largest of which being called the "Swimming pool".  Using the fixed handline and a lot of stretching this was passed without getting too wet.

The stream appears shortly after and the gradient steepens.  We came to the remains of a French ladder hanging.  Tony and John free climbed and dropped our ladder down - it was short.  Eventually got a start on the ladder and climbed up into the stalagmite traverse which is a wide bedding plane running on top of the vadose stream canyon and is covered in formations.

A rift begins to develop in places - "Marmite Gallery" - and we maintained our level in traversing along it.  A traverse over a pot requires delicate footwork, fortunately there was a fixed handline.

The passage continues into "Bivouac Gallery" and the main streamway is gained from a wide balcony via a short climb.  Another broken ladder hanging down from "Syphon Gallery".  Again Tony and John free climbed and hung our ladder down. A short way along we found yet another broken ladder hanging in a recess and we used our ladder on this occasion more as a handline to gain "Syphon Gallery I".

Following the obvious way we came to an awkward 2.5 m drop to re-join the river.  The streamway can be followed to a long low duct - " Christmas Basin" - we took the " Christmas Basin" bypass by traversing at a high level into a tunnel ending at a platform next to the "Elizabeth Cascade Waterfall" (6 m).  After abseiling down we followed the stream until it disappeared under boulders while we went over into the " Grand Canyon".  Holes develop in the floor and after about 50 m we ascended (10 m) by ladder into a low roofed tunnel.  This marks the start of the labyrinth and is a series of muddy crawls and crouches. Tony and John picked our way, and we came to the end via the hurricane which was sufficiently strong to keep our Petzl carbide lights from staying lit.  An 8 m drop into "Climbers Gallery" follows, a fixed handline aided the descent.  This regains the main passage the other side of the sump.  A narrow section connects with the "Grande Salle", where a large tree trunk makes the high level escape route when the sump rises to fill "Climbers Gallery".  A series of large chambers lead down to the Guiers Mort entrance which is a 6 m diameter tube exiting 10 m up a cliff face.

Tony retrieved a bottle of wine from the streamway which he had placed there on the way up, to join us at the Trou-de-Glaz.  This went down a treat.

We then walked down to the van.  Trip time about 8 hours.


Since we went to the Trou-de-Glaz quite a lot more passage has been found and some of the trips described have now become non-preferred routes.

The through trip from Trou-de-Glaz to the Annette Bouchacoute Grotte is hardly ever done because a connection has been made with Grotte Chevalier which cuts out the boulder ruckles on the Annette trip.

The preferred trip from the Trou-de-Glaz to the Guiers Mort now uses the "Metro" and by-passes about half of the trip described.

If I get any more details I will pass them on to the Editor for inclusion in a subsequent BB.  Our primary information for these trips came from the following references:-

1.         Survey by G. Grosseil

2.         LUCC journal Dec. 1966

3.         LUCC journal Spring 1969

4.         WCC journal Vol. 16 No 183

5.         CSS journal Vol. 10 No. 6 1980

Letter via the Editor

Graham Johnson,

Hello to all at the B.E.C.

Glad to see (from the B.B.) that you’re still an all-action club.  I’m pretty isolated up here don’t even know how you faired in the ‘Quest for the Rusty Tankard’.  I suspect by traditional devious, sly, and underhand means you regained the trophy. Well done.  The reason for this letter – I’m off to the Canadian Spelofeast, leaving U.K. August 24th and will be happy to take any messages etc. to the cavers out there - nothing that a fork-lift truck can’t handle.  Best of luck.

Yours sincerely,



The Annual Dinner Referendum

Eighteen responses out of how many members?  Two hundred odd?  Not that good.  Folk obviously don’t really care about the Dinner.  The Committee decided to consult the membership about the Dinner to see if any useful comments came out of the exercise.  Rumblings of discontent had been noticed in the past, particularly since last year, so we made up the questionnaire just to see what the reaction would be.  Since only eighteen replied, the results are hardly representative but here goes anyway.

I do not intend to set out vast columns of statistics but rather I have gone though the returns, picking out the various trends and salient points and adding them to the ideas I’ve received just chatting to people.  The comments and conclusion are not necessarily mine or the Committee’s.

The basic conclusion noted was overwhelming - the vast majority of people were not satisfied with the last dinner.  This is not due to any particular aspect, rather the "whole".  It transpires however that if one or more aspects were better, then the "whole" would become, or seem to become, more enjoyable.  So for example, if we had good entertainment or riveting speeches then peoples’ minds would be taken away from an indifferent meal or a dreary restaurant.  People tend to remember the good times.

a)                  Taking the Meal first. Most require a £12-13 maximum.  This obviously provides a constraint to amount, choice and quality so it will have to be up to the Organiser to get the best value for money as possible. Nobody expects an amazing spread, just value for money nosh - hot, tasty and quick.  Cavers are not rich?  A sit down meal is almost unanimous.

b)                  The Venue.  I thought most would probably want to stay on Mendip but many say they wouldn’t mind going much further a field if we get a good meal, a good atmosphere (which we would generate ourselves) and enough room to play about.  The Caveman is pretty dreary but we can’t please everyone and get all aspects of the Dinner right and at least its convenient. Sitting 100 or so is a constraint in itself but the organiser this year will perhaps widen his horizons a little. In any event, if we’re going to mess around and play about as is inevitable then we need room, i.e. a Caveman type place or a Village Hall that doesn’t mind getting dented a little.

c)                  Guests. Nobody seems to have any particularly strong views but most would rather leave it to the Committee or Organiser with perhaps a hint that it’s no more than two from each Mendip Club.

d)                  Entertainment and Speeches.  This naturally provoked much discussion.  Discos, Fancy Dress and Bands are certainly out.  The consensus is a play or plays, say made up of three or four groups of friends of say three or four each, interspersed with speeches and awards. This would have the effect of eeking out the speeches which invariably get dreary.  There is little doubt that speeches must be better considered and planned so that they mean something (a guest speaker? - Sid Perou?) not just a tipsy body standing up and spouting forth.  Plays must not offend.  One returnee hinted that a play some time ago deeply offended some people so they should not be too personal (unless previously agreed) or slag the Wessex too much.  We're all reasonably intelligent and can sense when our actions are likely to offend.  We don’t want to be seen to be louts.  Perhaps a play(s) every other year?

e)                  Wine. Apparently most request it to be ordered separately.

f)                    Two Dinners.  Some have suggested two dinners.  One formal sit down affair and one less formal, fancy dress mad affair.  I feel most reject this.  We are one club, despite the age groups represented, and it’s the only function in the year where everyone can get together under one roof. The older members may prefer the formal do, while the younger ones a disco or fancy dress but this will only serve to divide the club.

g)                  A few pertinent points made by some people:

1.                  "Speeches, awards etc. (except guest speakers) to be made at intervals during the meal."

2.                  "Any radical change to the format, will probably lead to the fall off of older members attending."

3.                  "Other clubs (eg .... ) have Xmas Dinner, Diggers Dinner etc where fancy dress is the theme."

4.                  "No smoking (I really suffer)."

5.                  " .... last year some of us couldn't bear it (a speech) and had a good pee instead."

6.                  "Best BEC Dinner, excluding 50th, in recent years was at Croscombe Village Hall in 1984 because the food was excellent."

7.                  " re: "wine included".  This means wine on table prior to meal and a general grabbing of reds by early arrivals leaving unspeakable and virtually undrinkable whites for those unfortunates who arrive late."


I get the impression that the style, format etc. should not be radically changed.  We cannot hope to suit everyone and in a way the present style has probably endured naturally over a number of years.

How about?

a)       £12-14 (increase from popular £10-12 bracket due to inflation since last year).

b)       Mendip venue, but widen horizons slightly and not necessarily the Caveman.  Something a little original within the obvious constraints.

c)       Plan and restrict the speeches and get a guest speaker (not necessarily to do with caving) - during meal?

d)       Provide our own entertainment with sketches and plays during the meal?

e)       Make sure the bar doesn't run out

f)        One Dinner only a year - although the "Diggers" etc. could hold their own additional do if they want.

Mike (Trebor) McDonald.


Mendip Underground

The much awaited but never the less very welcome Mendip Underground is at long last on the market. Priced at £5.95 (the first edition was £2.95 in 1977) the 212 page guide is very good value, particularly in view of the improved presentation and increased number of photographs.

The guide has been extended by a brief description of those smaller sites of interest to cavers. This makes the book far more comprehensive and greatly increases it’s value as a reference work.

The authors, Dave Irwln and Tony Knibbs, have put in a great deal of effort and should be congratulated on producing an up-to-date and eminently readable guide.  The introduction has been kept to only eight pages, very desirable when the trend is towards increasing use of guidebooks to promote personal band wagons.

I have only two minor criticisms of the book.  It would be useful if a different type-face was used for descriptions of side passages, authors notes etc. The surveys are a little difficult to follow, particularly where complex multi-level systems are shown.  Cavers can buy detailed surveys of individual caves but I am sure the vast majority would be content with something only slightly more detailed.

No doubt an army of pedants will unearth a plethora of typographic and other errors.  The only two I am aware of are both on surveys. The Upper and Lower Series of Eastwater Cavern have been transposed, as have the entrances of Banwell Bone Cave and Banwell Stalactite Cave.

Richard Stevenson


A Case For Easier Egress

There very nearly was a very nasty moment in the evening of Wednesday the 15th April when a situation requiring the MRO was averted by a hair's breadth.  The embarrassment of two potential rescuees would have known no bounds for one was an active MRO warden, another was an elderly member of the BEC not quite as accident prone as Chris Castle but who has been known to give other members an occasional nasty turn, and the third, just a nice guy who would have felt just as foolish.

We had started out late for Longwood and had been further delayed by the fact that I had to stop at the stream to soak my boots as they were rock hard.  We had then meandered gently through the cave after being delayed for a while by another party below the shower bath and eventually got back to the entrance after one of us had got inextricably muddled in the letter-box squeeze. We were pretty sure we were going to miss the pub but there was still a chance.  Or was there?  I couldn't open the lid.  Nor for that matter could anyone else.

We fettled away quietly, cursed a bit, wondered how the party we had met had got out and what they had done to the lock afterwards.  Then, we realised we were going to miss the pub.

We didn't beat hell out of the lock with boulders because the engineer amongst us told me rock was no match for cold steel so the third party went searching for anything that could be used .as a crowbar and came up with some very rusty angle iron.

"Did you tell Pat where we were going?"

"No. did you tell Maggie?"

"Yes, but I don't think she'll phone Pat till two o'clock"

"Pat will tell her to wait another hour before doing anything so it will be about 4 o'clock before the MRO will get here".

"Shit!  We’ll be here until morning then".

That was enough; the strong man lay on his back on the little ledge in the block house and gave an almighty kick.

"I've done something awful to my leg but its open"

"It’s what?"

"It’s open"

"You must be joking"

"No I'm not"

And he wasn't, one kick had broken the weld on the block house door and we were on our way home by midnight.

Longwood is not locked and should not be relocked with an Abloy key.  The whole affair could have been embarrassing for the whole caving community and most worrying for three caver’s wives.


As it happened Trebor came to look for us as one of the cars was still at the Belfry when he got back after the pub.  We'd gone by the time he got to the parking area so he didn't callout the MRO who would have been with us by midnight.  Honestly, we wouldn't have broken open the cave if we'd known.

Jeremy Henley.


Virgin Gorda Copper Mine British Virgin Island Caribbean

" Ere wang, look e here. There’s a copper mine under that there 'ill", says Trebor.  "Aaargh, wang and yackaboo" replies Stumpy.

Such is the language caving breeds in simple folk as they pour over a map of Virgin Gorda prior to jetting out for a fortnights diving in the warm, clear waters of the Carib.

The map says "Copper mine", "ruin", "copper mine point", "Copper mine bay", and "Mine hill" so we thought it safe to assume there was a mine somewhere abouts.  Little more to be done until we got there.

On a break from diving, Pat and I sought out the local library, full of well soiled books in the centre of Roadtown, the capital of Tortola the largest of the Virgin Islands some 60 miles east of Puerto Rico and nowhere near the Blue Holes.  Apart from a few common-as-muck caving books we found nothing on mines, mining, copper, silver, gold or Butcombe.  We were however directed to the Institute of Caribbean Studies around the corner, essentially a small room with books in it, where a little girl was very helpful.  Out came three or four books with some useful facts and good references.

It transpires that this particular mine was opened up by the Spaniards in the early 1500's on the way back from obliterating the Aztecs.  They came over from Puerto Rico to explore the southern tip of Virgin Gorda, an island some 10 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide at its widest point.  It is the second largest of the Virgin Islands and 1 1/2 hours sail from Tortola given a hefty breeze.

The mine is located only some 75ft above sea level and little more than 50yds. in from the very rocky shore on the very southern tip of the island in a remote location served by a rough track.  Nobody has any great cause to go there.  Written terms like "sporadic", "reactivated" and "reopened" infer that the mine had a rather cheque red history.  Our knowledge of events between the 1500's and 1840's is nil and we hope to obtain further information but at present we only know that in 1840 some 40 imported Cornishmen, assisted by 150 locals, re-opened the mine.  A British Virgin Island Mining Company was set up at an unknown date, presumably in 1840, based in Liverpool but as it went bankrupt in 1842 "operations were suspended."  This fact does not tally however with a reference which states that "between 1860 and 1862, exports valued at £16,224 were sent to Britain, consisting mainly of copper ore obtained from the reactivated mine on Virgin Gorda."  Somebody else must thus have taken over the Liverpool based company's operations.

A limited reference to quantities was forthcoming - 90 tons of copper was produced in 1841 and geologists have estimated that 10,000 tons of copper ore were taken out altogether during its history.  A survey carried out in 1858/60 by an unknown group estimated that a small quantity of copper and molybdenum was still present in the area.  "A copper mine on Virgin Gorda was also believed to be a potential source of great wealth" (Ref: Calendar of State Papers, America and West Indies 1724/25).

After the research, the action.  Pat and I were dropped off by yacht and dinghy onto a beach so we could hike across a couple of miles of thick scrub in 90 degrees of heat to get to this blessed mine (mad dogs and Englishmen).  The anchorage on the correct side of the island was positively dangerous with reefs and swell so there was nothing to do but hoof it.

Despite its total lack of maintenance and the misuse over 100 years, the mine buildings were remarkably recognisable; with a chimney, machinery housing, the boiler and other odds and ends but no evidence of housing to accommodate Cornishmen or natives. A systematic search to find a shaft or adit proved unfruitful.  The ruin of a small building on top of mine hill had what could have been a blocked shaft but, subject to further research, we suspect the area could well have been open cast.  The disappointment of not being able to use Petzl zooms, compasses and surveying gear will no doubt the tempered by the possibility of further research with the defunct BVI•Mining Co., formerly based in Liverpool.

Pat Cronin and Mike (Trebor) McDonald.


i)          A Guide to Historic Places in the British Virgin Islands (1979).

ii)          Tales of Tortola and the BVI by Lewisohn.

iii)         A History of the BVI 1672-1970. by Dookhan.

iv)         Various letters 1841, 1859, 1862 and 1724.


Letter via the Editor

To Mr. R.H.S. Orr via the Editor.

Dear Jok,

Worry not about those who are involved with "unwarranted intervention with the institution of the annual Club Dinner".  I have seen them in action and can assure you that they are as obnoxious as you were when you infested the Belfry.  One of them even draws cartoons!

This Club is a living tradition - let us support those who make it what it is, whatever their generation, in the knowledge that everything will always be done to Excess. (Mind you - if any of the more senior members joined in more often then perhaps some of the "lost" traditions - like singing - would not have died out).


922 J.Rat.

P.S. Superb article Chris, and many thanks to Trevor for offering to clean up his mess!


Scaffolding Bar Pot!

The following planning application may be of interest to BEC members as an indication of the sort of problem we have yet to face!  The BEC has lodged a complaint as requested and has received a not too hopeful reply from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  Latest information is that it has been rejected at the local level but has been referred.

Planning Application: Reference Number YO/5/17/156

Planning Application for the erection of scaffolding structures underground, to allow access in Bar Pot for adventure caving.  No surface works involved,

The application is for permission to erect underground scaffolding structures in Bar Pot to allow access for groups of people to enjoy adventure caving.

This is an increasingly popular recreational and educational activity for all ages, which will allow the inexperienced to enjoy the sport of pot holing or caving in safety.

Similar schemes are also operated commercially by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority operating from Whernside Manor in Dentdale.

The structures will comprise 2 major elements.  A 40 foot high access scaffolding structure to negotiate the first part of the pot hole along with a further 100 foot structure for the major vertical section of the pot hole.  Scaffolding of aluminium with intermediate platforms constructed so as to avoid corrosion and encased in wire mesh for safety purposes.

It will be secured against any unauthorised use.  Other minor works such as a safety hand rail will be needed at the top of the 100 foot vertical section and rope hand rails here and there for general assistance.

No surface buildings or structures will be required.  Underground there will be little or no environmental damage whatsoever, apart form securing bolts drilled into the limestone and miscellaneous support work for the scaffolding.  The work will not be visible from the surface.

It is envisaged that small pre-booked groups of 15 to 20 in number and suitably equipped will be conducted down the cave by an experienced guide for a 2 or 3 hour caving trip. Facilities should be very useful for educational groups and for local hotels and guest houses wishing to offer caving or pot holing activities to their guests.


Reasoned letters of protest may be sent to:-Mr. Mitchell, Craven District Council Planning Department, Granville St., Skipton, AND Mr. R.G. Harvey, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorebridge House, Bainbridge, North Yorkshire.

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

AGM -10.30am Sat 3rd October at the Belfry

Dinner - 7.30 for 8.00pm Sat 3rd October at the Caveman, Cheddar tickets £8 from Trebor

Dinner Menu

Minestrone Soup with Parmesan Cheese


Liver and Bacon Pate with Melba Toast


Roast Sirloin of Beef Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce


Prime Roast Turkey with Bacon, Chipolata Stuffing and Cranberry Sauce


Brussel Sprouts Buttered Carrots

Roast Potatoes Parsley Potatoes Boiled


Home Made Sherry Trifle


Black Forest Gateaux with Fresh Cream


Viennese Coffee with Fresh Dairy Cream and mints


Annual General Meeting  - 3rd October 1987


  1. Election of Chairman

2.       Apologies for absence

3.       Collection of members resolutions

4.       Minutes of the 1986 Annual General Meeting

5.       Matters arising from the 1986 Minutes

6.       Hon. Secretary's Report

7.       Hon. Treasurer's Report

8.       Hon. Auditor's Report

9.       Caving Secretary's Report

10.   Hut Warden's Report

11.   Tacklemaster's Report

12.   BB Editor's Report

13.   Hut Engineer's Report

14.   Librarian's Report

15.   Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report

16.   Election of Committee Posts

17.   Appointment of Hon. Auditor

18.   Any Other Business

Committee changes 1987

There will not be an election this year.

Resigning:         Mark Lumley
                        Brian Workman
                        Tony Jarratt

New Committee members:

            John Watson                 Proposed Tony Jarratt, seconded Steve Milner
            Richard Neville-Dove       Proposed Mike McDonald, seconded Tony Jarratt

Barry Wilton has agreed to stand as Hon. Auditor as Joan Bennett is retiring from the post this year

A.G.M. resolution

The following resolution has been compiled by the Committee and submitted to the A.G.M. as the M.R.O. has requested that the arrangement for the use of the Stone Belfry as the M.R.O. Store be put on a more formal standing.

Proposed on behalf of the committee to the A.G.M.:-

That we instruct our solicitor to prepare a lease or licence, giving the M.R.O. an official standing, regarding their tenure of the present M.R.O. Store, which forms part of the 'STONE BELFRY'. This document is to be prepared with reference to the following guide lines.

1.                  The M.R.O. may not make any external alterations to the building, excluding repairs to the roof or windows.

2.                  Either party may cancel the agreement, on giving 6 months notice of their intention to do so.

3.                  The M.R.O. may make internal alterations to their allotted part of the store, providing that there is no damage to the structure.

4.                  The M.R.O. will have the right of access to the store.

5.                  Any future proposed changes to the agreement may only be passed at a general meeting of the club.


Hon. Secretary’s Report

Officers’ Reports

The A.G.M. cometh, once again another year has slipped by.  The Club has again been active throughout the year both caving wise and in the other activities in which cavers indulge.  Membership is still rising slowly and it was nice to see that only a few members did not continue their membership this year.

Last year’s meeting requested that action should be taken to secure a lease on the land surrounding the Cuthbert’s entrance.  Work still carries on here, many letters have passed twixt ourselves, Cluttons (Agents for Inveresk) and the appointed "Inveresk" solicitor.  The progress so far has been; a lease being offered at a nominal rent (£100 per annum) covering a rather larger piece of land than we originally asked for provided that we were prepared to pay the legal costs incurred by the mill in setting up such a lease.  We agreed to pay no more than £150 plus VAT and the ball was returned to their court, and we await their reply.

Whilst on the subject of Cuthbert’s, Dave Irwin has been hard at work on the Cuthbert's Report, and has attended meetings of the Committee to update the Club on progress. With the help of Barry Wilton and a small team of publication producing specialists, he hopes to have it at the printers by Easter next year.

Wind is and always will be a problem at the Belfry, but never so much as one night earlier in the year when a cool Mendip breeze removed a large proportion of the tackle store roof (mainly above the M.R.O. section).  The M.R.O. were evacuated to the library and the tackle to the showers. Obviously the M.R.O. section had to be repaired with great haste if the service was to remain operational in its usual efficient form.  The following agreement was made with the M.R.O.; that the Club would bear the cost of materials to renew the roof and would do the work in their own time.  If the M.R.O. required the job to be done in less time the Club had no objections to them paying a builder to complete the work. The M.R.O. instantly agreed to stand any labour costs and the job was done in double quick time.  It is now for the A.G.M. to decide if they want to collect such monies from the M.R O.

After the above, the M.R.O. realised that they have no formal standing in relation to the rescue store, and asked the club if it would be possible to resolve this.  The Committee saw no reason why this should not be done and has submitted a proposal to the A.G.M. giving guide lines on how they feel this should be done.

The tackle store was built for the Club by "Alfie" and Jill Tuck.  The saddest news of the year was that of Jill's death.  She was well known and liked by the older members and, not long before she died, she went on a trip to the Risca lead mines which her husband Norman and a number of the younger members, who all enjoyed meeting her.  She always had the club's interests at heart and in her will she bequeathed us £1000. The Committee decided to spend this on upgrading the library and dedicating it to Jill.  A tree will also be planted on the Belfry site in her memory.  Norman has now taken up Jill’s membership of the club.

On a brighter note the Club organised the Wessex Challenge this year and again won it.  A substantial sum of money was raised by this event and credit must be given to Andy Sparrow and his helpers for organising the event and to Dany and Brian Workman for the catering.

A sad loss to the Club will be that of its long standing auditor, Joan Bennett is resigning from the position this year after many years invaluable service to the Club.  I am sure she has all our thanks for doing such a great Job for so long.

The Committee will also suffer the loss of three or its number who have worked very hard in the Club's interest.  Brian Workman has been Membership, Sec. for a number of years and has put the Club into the age of the computer with his attempt to regulate the membership lists. Mark Lumley, the committee room will be a quieter place without him.  He has been Caving Sec. for 2 years and the emphasis has definitely been on "caving".  Tony Jarratt leaves the Hut Warden's position so he may get to grips with the new Jill Tuck memorial library.

There is no election this year as three people have left the Committee and two have been nominated, therefore these people are automatically elected.  I have again enjoyed the year's work but. I will tender my resignation now in readiness for the 1988 A.G.M. as I feel that holding a post for more than three years you may become a little fed up and not do the job as well as when you are first elected. Bob Cork, Hon. Sec.


Treasurer’s Report

1.                  This year has been a particularly topsy-turvy year with lots of money going in and out of the accounts.  Cash flow, as usual, has been a problem with irregular and sometimes large sums being spent and received.  Members can help by paying Subscriptions and Hut fees on time.

2.                  A feature if this year's income has been the fall off of Bednight income (£1853 as opposed to £2195 last year) and desertion by the Services (Army & Navy) in recent months.

3.                  We made a healthy profit on the Wessex Challenge from Food and the Bar, not intentionally but perhaps we didn't think carefully enough about the cost of tickets and food. I see no reason why we should not make a profit on such events and as it turned out we certainly needed the money, but we ought to set the level of prices a little better next year.

4.                  The electricity bill is another large item which is currently being investigated and the Electricity Board will re-checking the metering for defect in due course.

5.                  Sales of sweat and T-shirts have not been up to expectations and hence we still have a deficit of £214 to erase to break even.

6.                  The Belfry itself has not been self-financing this year principally because we had to spend over £1300 on Act of God repairs on the tackle store roof.  We should recoup some of this expenditure back from the Insurance Company in due course.  If it had not been for this unplanned expenditure then the Belfry would have paid for itself by about  £500.

7.                  The Jill Tuck library fund has now been completely extinguished by the completion of the purchase of new bookcases.  We still need a few more cases to complete the housing of all our material and this will be done as funds arise.

8.                  The Ian Dear Memorial Fund is slouching along slowly.  Our injection of £100 pa from the General Fund is helping to keep the account in the black and as nobody drew on it this year the amount available stands at £298.

9.                  Our priorities this year are recommended as follows:

A)                   Complete the re-fitting of the library

B)                   Purchase caving tackle required by the Tackle Master.

C)                   Complete the numerous Hut jobs, drying room etc.

10.              I recommend that the Subscriptions and the Hut fees remain the same.  The members can help financial planning and cash flow paying subs and hut fees on time.

11.              A major project for 1988 will re the financing of the St. Cuthbert’s Report.

12.              I consider the year financially to have been busy and productive.  We have been able to weather the storm of Belfry fire improvements and roof repairs out of our own funds without the need to borrow. Providing members and guests use the Belfry regularly, remain actively involved in the club and pay all dues on time, we should have a good year in 1988.

M.C. McDonald


Hut Warden's Report

The last year has seen regular use of the Belfry by many members and guests.  It has survived numerous barrels, riots and even a visit from the Fire Brigade!  In general the Hut Warden considers that despite everything the place has been kept reasonably tidy by those staying there and wishes to thank the usual hardcore who clean up the mess and all those who were press-ganged into sherpering the dustbins down the track.  The Hon. Treasurer has details of income, expenditure and bed nights.

The present Hut Warden wishes to resign his post at the A.G.M. as he would like to concentrate more on the library during the forthcoming year.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE ARE CERTAIN MEMBERS WHO REGULARLY AVOID PAYING HUT FEES.  They all know who they are and if they don’t cough up at the A.G.M., it is likely that they will be banned from the Belfry until they pay up.

A.R. Jarratt 1/9/87

B.B. Editor's Report

I have produced 5 Bulletins since the last A.G.M., somewhere during the year I slipped a month or 2 mainly due to pressure of work rather than lack of material.  As last year I have had a reasonable supply of articles and I thank all members contributing to the B.B.  I could always do with more but would rather publish a smaller B.B. with interesting and relevant articles rather than pad it for the sake of extra pages. The B.B. can only reflect the activeness of the Club and so as long as we keep digging and going to Austria etc. my life as Editor will be reasonably easy.

A couple of the articles published this year have already been published in other clubs journals. In general I try to avoid this, but I will continue to print such material if the information is useful or relevant to the B.E.C. and I apologise to members who find that they have already read an article in another club’s journal.

Last year I commented on the time it took to have the B.B. printed, typically 4 weeks.  I am pleased to say that this year we have reduced this to about 2 days by using a small printer in Frome, thus making the B.B. much less out of date by the time members read it.

Dave Turner 23/9/87


Caving Secretary’s Report.

The year got off to a slow start with regards to discoveries on Mendip, diggers plans still being thrown off course by courtesy of the NCC.  However, BEC diggers being resourceful types, crowbars were wielded in more obscure, remote sites where the so called powers that be hadn't poked their grubby little noses.

Wigmore was dug on a regular weekend and Wednesday night basis throughout the autumn and winter and we progressed slowly but steadily through a bedding in the marl.  The site still looks good but attention has been diverted elsewhere for the time being.

Hunters Hole has received a large amount of the club digger’s attention and Sanctimonious Passage has been extended for about 100ft to a tight, wet constriction.  The bad air in this section has turned it into a fortnightly dig in recent weeks (J. Rat's face turned blue from excess of CO2)!

The Cheddar caves contingent of the BEC claimed fame in two ways earlier this year, Andy Sparrow, breaking into 500ft of stream passage in Pierres Pot with the cave family Moody. Meanwhile Chris Castle, made history by being the first man to be rescued from 2 show caves in one day!

In Eastwater 50ft of new passage and the possibility of a new route appeared with J’Rat & Co's discovery of Aven Skavinsky just off Ifold series.

John Watson & Lawrence Smith have been tentatively probing a horrific rift in Manor farm while the Eckford factor has pushed Halloween Rift closer to Wookey Hole.

Meanwhile, the Rock Steady Crew staged a 9 day camp in Daren Cilau and subsequently broke into 1200ft of gruelling passage heading towards the Clydach Gorge.  The club also obtained its own Aggy key and began a long term dig at Midnight Passage.

More recently Andy Sparrow, Tom Chapman and Snablet managed to break into a new chamber in Goatchurch which has a promising site for further extensions.

The Keynsham crowd are determined to get back into caving as soon as the Hunters is drunk dry and there's a race on between the Worcester Boys to see if they can get through Swildons Three before the turn of the century.

One of the major club projects of the past few months has been the stabilising and subsequent push of Bowery Corner Swallet.  The site was in a sorry state when we started, with the loose, shale sided depression threatening to undermine the adjacent field.  With a labour intensive effort under the supervision of Stumpy the Rocksmith we erected a solid, breeze block foundation with a 12ft entrance pitch through three concrete pipes.  The site is now stable and we have mined a passage through the shale for about 50ft into a natural stream washed rift.  Hopes are high for the near future- the way things are going it looks as though the Wexeys will be buying the digging barrel this year!

The club expedition to Austria was a great success this year.  Jagerhohle (last year’s discovery) was pushed to a sump at minus 700m. Orkanhohle is now over 300 metres deep and still going strong while the Croydon’s new discovery, Magnumhohle is down to 200 metres deep with the way on still open.

I shall be in Mexico for 3 months next year; consequently I don’t feel that I will be in a position to do the job of Caving Secretary efficiently.  I'll stand down therefore and wish best of luck to my successor.

Mark Lumley.


Membership Secretary Report

Although the post of membership secretary has only officially existed for a year the job has been mine, along with the distribution of the BB's for nearly three years.  In that time I have tried to make the job more accountable in both the recording of membership payments and the cross referencing of that information to the BB address list.

Needless to say any system you care to devise would be open to the complex problems of extracting money and address changes from some of the members within the club.  It is interesting to note that every year it's the same group of members who fall into this category, and I don't believe there’s an excuse that I haven’t heard.

Most methods of getting subscriptions from people have been tried; one I would recommend not to try again is the standing order.  These are always out of date no matter many times you tell some members.

As most of you are aware the address list is now held on a computer, which controls the printing of the address label you find on the envelope of your BB.  Within the file that holds this information a record is kept of the current members (those who have paid their subs before the following April).  This record is used to control the output of labels which means those who will receive a BB!!!

The current membership statistics are listed below and I’ll leave Alfie to produce any trends and caving habits from these in years to come.  A complete listing of members will be available at the AGM to allow any changes to be marked up before the list is published in the next BB.

I'm sure the next membership secretary will want to change the way things are done but I do hope that the link between the membership and the BB distribution is not broken as the BB is for some people the only contact with the club, especially those abroad.

Finally one address change: Brian and Lucy Workman, Catcott, Bridgwater. I’d better make sure I get this one in!

Brian Workman 


Tackle Masters Report

This year it has become plain that the club does not possess enough tackle for general use.  In particular we are short of ladder and lifelines.  Situations arise when all of the 19 ladders are used: when places such as the West End, Hunters Hole and other ‘active-spots’ are rigged, when ladders are temporarily withdrawn for dipping and when there is the inevitable borrow-and-forget-to-return ploy there is not enough ladder for either members or visitors to use on a casual basis at the weekends.

To attempt to rectify this situation a ladder making weekend was organised.  With the help of a few and the advice of many, a handful of ladders were made and put into circulation and several were put aside for finishing. This was a happy situation until some old ladders were retired and one of the new ones had a rung slip.  We were back to square one with not enough ladders. I am completing the unfinished ladders and we have purchased 4 more ladders as we simply do not appear to have the time and expertise to make more.

Six 150' lifelines have been purchased to complement the 2 x 150' , 1 x 200' and the 1 x 60' (now missing). All the old tethers have been retired and 10 new ones of various lengths  have been made.

The SRT rope (plus hangers and maillons) are in excellent condition and have been used only on a handful of club Yorkshire trips.  It is still available for use, just get in touch with the Tackle Master and the conditions for use will be described (give plenty of warning).

One or two grumbles; some people do not sign tackle in and out, some return it in a filthy or rusty condition (4 ladders were returned 2 weeks ago in this state).  It is your tackle please look after it!

General.  We have two sets of Suunto Compass and Clino's, these are about to be re-aligned.  We have numerous tackle bags, ice-axes, snow-shoes and digging tackle, all are available for use.  If you can't find anything get in touch with the Tackle Master.

Steve Milner


40ft Closer To Wookey,  35ft Closer To Cheddar

Two small but significant breakthroughs have occurred on the digging fronts.  Following another bang in Sanctimonious Passage, Hunters Hole, the writer managed to pass the previous limit to find his supposed sump was merely a 10ft long, 2 inch deep pool.  Beyond this, some 40ft of well decorated passage was explored to a stal blockage. Sadly the passage was not large enough to contain both the formations and the explorer.  A further bang at the end should reveal more cave as there is a good echo.  To make life easier a couple of spoil shifting trips are needed.  Any offers?

At our other promising site, Bowery Corner Swallet, we have recently broken into some 35ft of relatively roomy stream passage degenerating into a low, wet crawl with a floor of mud and stones.  This is being actively dug as the way on seems to be open.  Water runs away easily and there is a traditional "good draught".  Digging takes place on Wednesday nights and weekends.

Wigmore Swallet, Halloween Rift and various sites in Eastwater are awaiting attention.

Tony Jarratt  21/9/87


Eastwater - History Of Terminal Rift Digging Efforts

During research on the history of exploration in Eastwater Cavern it was noticed that there was nothing published on the major digging efforts at Terminal Rift during the mid seventies.  I contacted Keith "Ben" Bentham of Eldon Pothole Club who kindly forwarded the relevant information which was clarified and enlarged by Pete Eckford.  For the benefit of future speleo­historians the combined information appears below.  The remains of the "aqueduct" are still lying at the top of the 13 Pots and as the B.E.C. have taken upon themselves to clean up the cave these shou1d be removed when convenient..

Tony Jarratt  18.8.87

On a visit to the terminal rift, Keith Betham (E.P.C.) Pete Eckford (B.E.C.) and Pete Hiscock (S.M.C.C.) noticed that the water was sinking under the right hand wall some 10ft from the pool.  A dig was started in September 1974 with Martin Bishop (B.E.C.) helping on one occasion and Jeff Price (W.C.C.) logged on two trips (Wessex Journal 157).  Excavation of this sink revealed a choked descending 2ft 6ins diameter passage.  Material from the dig was hauled in one gallon paint containers into Sand Chamber where it was stacked using woven plastic bags – a stacking system which, in other digs, has proved very effective.

In October 1974, the water which had previously prevented digging at the site in wet weather was diverted from the Thirteen Pots by using an aerial aqueduct constructed from 6in diameter plastic pipes and tractor inner tube supported on a tightened rope. This carried the stream from Harris's Passage, over the head of the Thirteen Pots, into the Muddy Oxbow.  The pipes came from the old Cuthbert’s Sump One dig.

In November 1974, the dig broke into two avens about 20ft and 30ft high but they were too tight and so digging continued in the floor.  The dig was hampered by tourists treading on the pipe and breaking it, resulting in about half an hour of each trip being spent in bailing the dig. After some 25ft of digging, the passage, alas, ox-bowed back into the Terminal Rift and the Pool flooded into the dig necessitating abandonment of the site.

In the B.E.C. Log Book are recorded five trips by Pete Eckford and Pete Hiscock, three by P.E. and Ben, and two by P.E alone.  All were of the order of five hours duration so treble that figure would give some idea of the man-hours spent on the dig.  There are doubtless many unrecorded trips.  The last trip seems to have been in late 1975 or early 1976 when P.E. and Ben spent two hours bailing the dig.  It is thought that the site has not been investigated thoroughly since.

Ben belatedly wishes to thank all persons who assisted with the dig and to all the Mendip clubs who supplied equipment.

Keith Bentham (B.P.C.)
Pete Eckford (B.E.C.)


NHASA invited to Windsor

To devotees of the Somerset and Dorset Railway Windsor Hill is the site of the twin single bore tunnels, but to cavers it is the area in which the first 'pretty' was found on Eastern Mendip, now known as Windsor Hill Quarry Cave.  By the 1970's much had of course been located in that general area, and expectations were high for the Windsor site in particular.  The railway and its associated quarries had closed and general access had become easier.

The Windsor Quarry area is roughly three-quarters of a mile by a half and lies at a mean height of 600ft. The surface streams, where present, drain southwest towards Croscombe passing through Ham Wood.  It is a quiet area, peaceful in its new role as an industrial archaeological site, with the exception of the regular vandal who tries to destroy our winching systems.  The tree that supported our derrick was nearly destroyed by an explosion and several efforts were made to cut it down.  [Unfortunately he has now succeeded and the tree is destroyed - Ed]

As usual, interest was developing from several sources.  The B.E.C. represented by Albert Francis, Mike Palmer and others, dug on the north side of the railway in the late 60's and one would expect, others to have tried their luck as well.  In the early 70's, Hedley Hill, Shepton Mallet Scouts Leader, was looking for a dig site, and his ploy when approached by members of NHASA was to pretend that he was the landlord.  Mike Thompson spotted the site on a walk down the valley and he and Jim Hanwell followed up with a spot of dowsing.  NHASA then adopted it after abortive efforts at Doubleback and Rock Swallet.

The site comprises a little valley whose southern side is a minor scarp slope at right angles to the dip, and the other side is the railway on a small embankment.  At the head of the valley is a culvert emerging from the railway.  The floor drains down to a quarry and there are open holes for the water in the scarp and also adjacent to the embankment.  Our site lay in the valley floor and may have been opened by the railway engineers in the 1870's - now there's a thought for the record books!

Say seven years work, or about 350 Wednesday evenings, and it can all be summarized in a few words. One can write pages of detail but unfortunately it must all be compressed into a few phrases.  We work as a team and each person contributes his or her skills and talents, so it isn't generally necessary to mention any particular name in relation to an incident or bit of kit.

The first stage of the dig was to enlarge the entrance in a downwards direction to expose fully the dominant surface features.  This left us with a hole some ten feet deep, five feet wide and fifteen feet long.  A right turn was taken along the strike in a westerly direction, but this was abandoned after a rock nearly killed our future MBE, Bob Whitaker.  We then attacked the dip in a direct line with the entrance, for ease of hauling, and dug southwards at a 30 degree slope.

The passage exhibited a half-tube in the roof and we dropped the floor to give ease of passage, such that it varied from three to six feet in height, and where necessary the tunnel was wall or roof lined by our building expert, Albert, using S&D coal ash for his concrete.  For some distance there appeared to be a fill between the roof and floor and spoil could be freed with a bar without much trouble, and in one section we gained six feet by entering an open passage.  This bit gave trouble in 1980 when there was a minor roof fall and Albert and Prew were stuck on the far side, fortunately they could come out after a few minutes heaving away at the debris.

We used the traditional Mendip sauceboat for transport to the entrance hole, but not the 'Guss and Crook'.  Spoil was transferred to a simple bucket hoist system to reach the surface.  As time progressed the sauceboat had to be pulled by a winch assisted and pulley-guided method.  It became very labour intensive and it had an enormous drag factor.

The culverted stream caused trouble in winter and many efforts were made to get rid of the water down adjacent beds and holes.  It was an odd experience to divert a large stream and see it sink away.  The chief gardener made us build all sorts of walls and dams to control the flow and at one time we tried to bypass our hole and send the water further down the valley by trenching it and by lining the trench with polythene tubing.  Despite all this there were many occasions when digging was impossible by virtue of excessive water.  With so much quarrying in the vicinity the water carried a good load of silt, and at times it could refill the space that had been laboriously dug the previous week. When diverted down an adjacent hole it could be heard from our dig face and it sounded just like the old forty foot, as we kept telling the youngsters.

Eventually the half tube disappeared and we found ourselves staring at a bedded face with no obvious prospect.  The lure of the water sound led us to deviate eastwards and follow some thin gaps in the beds.  Blasting became necessary to give us a decent height and this was our downfall, for having cleared last weeks debris we had to drill and bang again.  Windsor rock is hard, very hard, and we made slow progress. Plaster charges were tried but they did little work and minds were tuned to alternative procedures.

Windsor Hill was probably the first caving site where a compressor, owned by the diggers, was a regularly used piece of equipment.  It was an intelligent cave, for provision was made for the telephone line, the air line, the bang wire and the spoil transfer system.  One day, at some dig or other, we shall have an injector, and we will have a cement line as well.

The first compressor, to which we had access, was a small model designed for underwater use, and it had a hydraulic action, needing a return as well as a supply hose.  It made a useful hole but was not really man enough for our purposes; neither could we afford to buy one of our own.  So, we ended up with the navvy's friend, the typical noisy but effective air compressed version.  It did us proud and is still a good investment after use at other sites.  Earmuffs are essential gear, for the risks to hearing are well proven.  The hydraulic compressor, with its enclosed oil content, had to be sited close to the entrance and this was a disadvantage to the social life of the dig.  The ideal situation is to find a dig where a compressor can be sited at a reasonable distance.

No measurements were taken, but the length of the main hole, down dip, was about seventy feet when we rebelled at the transport system in use and made the experts do something.  A monorail was devised such that the lengths of timber, say five feet long by six inches by two inches, were fixed centrally in a line down the passage with the six inch measurement being in the vertical plane.  The sauceboat was fixed up with bogies that had one wheel resting on the top of the monorail, which latter was steel-capped to reduce wear, and one on each side. The leverage on these side ones was acute from a loaded boat but the thing worked well.  However, unlike mountain railway systems there was nothing to stop a runaway, and the loaded projectile was potentially lethal, especially as it had pointed ends.  Up top a new winch was provided with two or three handle positions at different gearings to suit various stages of decrepitude.

Our deviated eastern passage gave us a further problem.  The floor was very rough, and solid, and spoil had to be passed bucket by bucket to the main passage.  Eventually a lightweight monorail was suspended from the roof from which the buckets could be hung.  All mod con in fact.

Our final session was on Nov 28th '81.  Everything that had been brought out-the previous week was back in situ again, and we retired disheartened.

The area is still full of Eastern Promise for few sites have been worked.  We all have our own interpretations for failure to find a cave, and it's worth while listing a few, for they can also relate to other sites.

1.                  The theory of open joints.  Perhaps there is no cave.  For a hole the size of Swildons entrance, say 3ft by 3ft, can also be represented on a surface 50ft long by 24ft wide.  If the width contains 9 bedding joints each 1/4 inch wide then the Swildons water can in theory disappear within this area, and limited erosional features can lead to wishful thinking about a theoretical cave.

2.                  Surface disturbance.  At Windsor the stream may have been diverted when it was culverted under the railway, and this happened twice as the line was originally single, then doubled.  Any stream near the quarries would have been used and possibly diverted for steam raising in machinery or for shunting engines.

3.                  Streams that appear to sink in well-established holes within the quarry area may in reality have had a short life.

4.                  If one can't actually follow a stream then the adjacent parallel bed may be too low or too high in relation to the theoretical cave.

5.                  The labour force required to work the dig became too large.  No spoil could be stored part-way to the surface for the stream merely washed it to the bottom again.

6.                  One of the best possible sites was too near a possessive cottager.

Yes, we benefited from this experience.  Our current dig has several localities that can be used as temporary dumps with a small labour force.  All spoil is put into poly bags so that it cannot be washed down again, and we don't have a stream, but that's another story.

There is much more to NHASA than a weekly cave dig may suggest.  Our average age is high, because we have been around for some time, and we are no longer in the first flush of youth.  We don't do epic trips; we just have epic spells of survival between trips.  This aspect of caving is not often mentioned, but we have helped one of our group to overcome severe depression, we have convinced another that there is caving after severe illness, we have helped each other to give up smoking, and we cope with all the ailments to which middle aged gentlemen are prone, like a lack of an excuse to go to the Hunters midweek. Some of us are young, though, and romance can blossom amongst the buckets, boats and compressors.  Brian and Lucy will have many happy memories of Windsor.  We encourage doctors, for we specialize in odd accidents, or how to cut your eye with a caving helmet or burst your thumb with a lump of honest limestone.

It's a rule that in order to attend the NHASA dinner one must do some digging, and it is amusing to note the faces that appear at infrequent intervals.  Some of these people are normally busy at their own digs, others are members of the Craven 'A' team, to whom we play host, and others are noted for their shy and retiring habits.  All are welcome, for we are all equal participants in my last statement .

Wednesday evenings are a period of sanity in a doubtful world, and if we find a cave, well that’s a bonus.

(Note for new cavers) "NHASA", or the "North Hill Association for Speleological Advancement" was formed in the 60's when "NASA" or the "National Aeronautical and Space Administration" was a new and upwardly mobile entity in the USA.

Richard Kenney 07/09/87.


St. Cuthbert’s Swallet

Following the gradual clean up of the cave by BEC members and others over the last year or so, the place is looking a lot tidier, especially around the Sump 1 and Gour Hall Rift area.  Eight carbide dumps have been removed together with over 175 assorted pieces of rubbish according to my count.

Now that the place is looking better, it's time to clean and tape the formations.  Past taping has disappeared and a number of nice formations have been trampled over particularly in Long Chamber.  This chamber has now been cleaned and taping is being done imminently.  We'll then move on to Curtain Chamber and September ....... One dirty mud bank recently was accidentally found to actually to be a nice white stal boss!?

Periodic notices will appear in the Belfry or Cuthbert’s Log as to which chamber or part of the cave is currently being spruced up so any help is welcomed.  Tape is available from Trebor, together with sponges and water containers etc.

By the time the Cuthbert’s Report comes out we may have the place in pristine condition again, as its meant to be.


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

In the next BB I hope to have an article on the Trou de Glaz through trips and Wig's history of Gough's Cave.

Also I hope to include a report on the 1200' of new passage found in Daren Cilau at Easter by Mark and crew.  It could be a lot more by the next BB as the end of the new passage looks promising and is heading straight towards the Clydach Gorge.


I'm told by Trebor that the response to the Dinner questionnaire can hardly be called overwhelming - in fact I think he's only had about 6 replies.  This BB contains a letter from Jock strongly condemning the committee for even sending out the referendum!

The current feeling of the committee is that the location and style of the Dinner is okay but that we want a main speaker and after dinner entertainment.  The sketches, such as Oliver, done in the past have all proved very successful.


The new revised version of Mendip Underground by Wig and Tony Knibbs should be on sale by the time this BB is distributed.

Austria 1987

Due to problems with the local cavers last year, the Austria trip will be split into 2 groups to keep the number of people on the mountain to a minimum.  A small combined party of BEC, NCC and possibly MUSS will set off in the last 2 weeks of July to rig and push Wiesalnschacht (Hunters Hole).  The work will be taking over and continued by a second team of DEC, NCC and MUSS for the first 2 weeks of August.  They will be joined by a small group of SWCC members who were active on the mountain last year.  It is most regrettable that numbers have to kept to a minimum but the local cavers were quite put out by having what appeared to be an army of Brits descending on their territory last year.  All clubs involved have agreed to keep numbers low so as to safeguard future access.  MUSS were turned off the Terigberge last year for no apparent reason.  Lets hope the same does not happen to us with the Wiesberghaus.

Mark Lumley.


The Quest for the Rusty Tankard


This year's competition will be a Chariot Race followed by a 'Treasure Hunt'.  The theme is ancient myths & legends, so come appropriately dressed.  The object of the quest is to locate each of the Seven Sages of Mendip, who may require particular gifts to be presented to them or tasks to be fulfilled.  The final Sage will reveal the location of the mystical Lost Tankard, the recovery of which wins the game.


1.                  Each team must bring a Chariot & a Standard.  The Chariot must have both wheels mounted on the same axle (no Shepton bicycles!). The Standard must be of Sturdy Wooden construction being at least 8 feet high and must bear the Emblem of the Clan.

2.                  There is no limit to the size of the teams.

3.                  The Sages shall only converse with the Standard Bearer.  The Standard may be passed from one Bearer to another at any time.

4.                  The Standard and Standard Bearer are not to be interfered with or assaulted, neither are Chariots to be ‘nobbled’ while parked at The Belfry between the opening and final races.

5.                  The 1st, 4th and 7th Sages will be located at the Belfry.  The remaining Sages will be in secret locations within one mile of The Belfry.

6.                  The Standard Bearer must travel by Chariot during the opening race and from the 7th Sage to the hiding-place of The Tankard.

7.                  The Quest is complete when a Standard Bearer holds aloft The Tankard. 

Please register entries with Andy Sparrow, Priddy.  Queries possibly answered.


Sec's Notes

Bob Cork

Jill Tuck Bequest

In the last issue of the BB the club recorded the sad loss of Jill Tuck, as is traditional in the club her life membership has been transferred to her husband Norman.  In Jill's will she has left the club an amount of money with the suggestion that the club does something positive with it. After discussion with Norman it has been decided to use this bequest to upgrade the club library.  Our grateful thanks to Jill for her kind thoughts.

Tackle Store Roof

Wind has always been a problem in the BEC and this month is no exception.  The strong March gales removed a part of the tackle store roof causing sufficient damage that the MRO stores had to be temporarily evacuated to the library.  Owing to the problems incurred with this roof in previous years it was decided to replace the entire roof, an agreement was reached with the MRO to ensure this was done with all speed.  This task was completed in a matter of two weeks (a record for the BEC?).

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting - Sat. 7th March 1987

A Cuthbert’s Leaders meeting was held in the back bar of the Hunters on the Saturday evening to sort out a number of issues which needed attention.

1.                  Firstly I pointed out that as BEC Caving Sec. I had issued myself a key prior to completing all the required trips as I wasn't prepared to take responsibility for a cave I had no access to.  This met with general approval.

2.                  Dave Irwin told those present that the Cuthbert’s report should be completed by May and would contain approximately 44 pages of text with photographs, surveys etc.

3.                  Two trips were arranged to remove digging rubbish from the cave and to repair fixed aids and replace missing tapes.  These trips will be on 4th April and 13th June.

4.                  The question of leaders insurance was brought up with regards to whether all leaders were covered by BEC insurance.

5.                  It was decided that the number of guest leaders should remain at 2 per club.

6.                  It was agreed that although preservation of the cave was of paramount importance, the existing system for becoming a leader was too rigid.  It prevented some people with a sound knowledge of the cave from becoming leaders as they had not done a certain route through the cave with a leader (even though they may know all the elements of the route intimately).  Also it was considered unwise that a person could become a leader by completing all the trips under the supervision of just one leader.

Accordingly, the system will be changed while trying to retain the spirit with which it was originally intended and still safeguard the cave.

The leadership application form will be amended subject to BEC Committee approval.  It will be pointed out that in addition to a knowledge of the main routes through the cave the attitude of the leader is of paramount importance.  A prospective leader is unlikely to be accepted before he has been assessed over 15 trips.  This form must then be signed by 3 different BEC leaders.  Final approval will come from the BEC Committee.

The above amendment was carried unanimously with one abstention.

7.                  Finally, it was decided to make the Leaders Meeting an annual event.

If anyone has a copy of the original Cuthbert’s Rules (if there were any) I would be most grateful for a copy.

Mark Lumley.


Eastwater Cavern

Recent work at the top of the '55 ft' Aven in Ifolds' Series has led to a further 15 ft being found at the top - making the total height about 90 ft.  There is a voice connection from here to our dig in the Boulder Chamber. Hopes are high for a passable route through - probably into the area at the top of the Canyon.  Also, just below the bolt for the ladder - 60 ft. up the Aven - a low side passage was cleared to give access to a narrow, parallel aven 30 ft. high - Aven Skavinski.  Both these sites need more banging to progress further.

A major slip has occurred in Boulder Chamber within the last two weeks ­ large boulders and debris having slid down the chamber leaving a precarious bank of gravel holding up most of the scenery - take care here.

On our last banging trip a party staying at Upper Pitts came down without paying or even having the courtesy to inform Mrs Gibbons.  They were very lucky not to have received the full force of 1/21b of H.E. right under their feet.  Ignorant cretins like this do not help the caver/landowner relationship.

Tony Jarratt


Nine Days of Hard Rock Hospitality

By Mark Lumley

Friday 13th March - not the most auspicious date to begin an extended caving trip but at 11.50pm Clive Gardener and myself (Gonzo) headed into the entrance crawls of Daren Cilau loaded up with piles of BBC camera kit and personal gear.  Pete Bolt was several hours ahead and we were hotly pursued by the fiery breath of 'Enri (the Camp Drunk) Bennett, Tim Allen, John (Big Nose) Palmer and Steve Thomas.

The nine day camp had been planned a few months before.  Andy Cave had the unenviable logistical nightmare of catering for the crew and over several weeks Cardiff Universities' UC4 members lugged in over 40 loads of dehydrated food, thermal gear, carbide and booze.

The main objective was to push west from 12 O'clock High and Acupuncture with a view to an Agen Allwedd connection through the Gothic Passage extensions.  The dig was also used as a sponsored event raising £600 for the Black Holes Expedition to Mexico next spring.  £100 was also raised for Gwent CRO.

We split into three groups on day 1.  Tim, John and Steve went up to Aggy Passage with Pete O'Neill & Dave King who were down for the weekend and continued a long term dig through the boulders at the end. This choke has great prospects for a major extension but it is big, vertical, unstable and self clearing. Over 8 trips more than 400 tons of boulders have come down!  Meanwhile 'Enri and I opened up the crawls through Hard Rock while Pete tackled a climb in the Kings Road, which ultimately led to 60ft of well decorated passage - Pixie Boot Grotto (What's in a name?)  Clive stayed in camp and tried to clean a mixture of rice and orange juice off the filming lights we had so painstakingly carried in.

Day 2, saw the departure of Steve Milner, Dave and Pete O'Neill.  Clive had filmed the arrival of 'B' & Hugh in camp, the reel was taken out and used by John Cravens Newsround (Stardom!)

We split into groups again, some pushing the shattered beds of Acupuncture, others opening up the 12 O'clock High boulder choke.  (Overzealous digging on my part resulted in a meaningful relationship with a large lump of limestone).

We found the idea of day and night irrelevant over the course of the week and gradually adapted to days of 20-30 hours with 8-10 hour sleeping periods in between.  Dehydration got the better of some of us during the interim period and back at camp on night 3, I became commode-hugging drunk in five minutes flat on a couple of shots of rum much to the amusement of Clive who was recording 'the Camp Atmosphere:'

Our workloads increased dramatically by Tuesday and we found ourselves eating vast amounts of carbohydrates to compensate.  The arrival of several groups of UC4 cavers with fresh veg and bread during the week was most welcome.

Wednesday saw the departure of John Palmer and Steve Thomas.  Andy Cave and Steve Allen arrived for the, second half of the week.

During the midweek period we found some difficulty in co-ordinating sleeping times and work shifts, so the labour intensive chokes at the western end of the Hard Rock had a reprieve, while small groups pushed straight forward digs in the area around camp, one of which is 40ft in and looks quite promising.

A lot of work was also being done at Aggy Passage and we sorted out a team to film the progress. This proved to be quite character building as the choke started to collapse while Tim Allen was inside and Clive & I were lying on our backs filming and lighting him.  Tim had a near miss and Clive and I legged it down the rubble heap with the BBC's pride and joy an odds-on favourite for becoming a pile of scrap.  Half an hours sound recording of people removing the spoil was rendered useless by the premature arrival of a Half-Ton Herbert to a chorus of 'F* .. K Me!!' from those on the receiving end.

Thursdays 12 hour work period was spent removing more spoil from 12 O'clock High and looking for high level leads around Catnap Rift (above Oregano).  Banging 12 O'clock didn't sound as though much had happened but we all noticed that the draught had increased on our way out.

By Friday we decided to cut our losses.  There was no way we were going to get through Hard Rock in the two remaining days (although the dig is by no means abandoned).  The same went for Aggy Passage.  We only had about 200ft of new passage to show for a hell of a lot of work. Putting connections to one side we just wanted to break into a big healthy horizontal Welsh Virgin and see how far we could go!  Accordingly we split into two groups, Pete, Enri, Clive and Tim tackling the choke at the end of Frag Street (High Level off Bonsai) while Andy Cave, Steve Allen and I pushed the shatter that blocks the way on in a bedding near the start of Forgotten Passage.  This proved after 30' to have as much appeal as a weekend in Slough so we disconsolately went to help the others.

Meanwhile, the Frag Street dig had broken almost immediately into 400ft of low, crystal covered bedding ( Frig Street) with an extremely strong draught.  This heads east and the end is easy digging.  Potential is superb with an interception of the missing lower reaches of Darens' big fossil passages on the cards in the next 100 metres (The Clydach connection gets nearer!)

Friday night was an extended celebration party night with appearance of hidden stashes of Southern Comfort, Glace Fruit in Brandy, Spiced Rum, Champagne and Caviar.  We swore undying allegiance and crawled drunkenly to our mould riddled pits (a caver-friendly 20 metre stagger).

After copious amounts of Tea, Coffee & Anadin, Saturday was spent taking photographs in the Time Machine, then filming & digging in Aggy Passage.  Pete Bolt completed a long climb in the roof of the passage (it didn't go).  We then sherpered piles of filming kit to the top to the ladder pitch to make life easier on Sundays' mass exodus.

Dave King had rejoined us during the day and while we slept Steve Milner, Bob Cork & Dany Bradshaw arrived to give us a hand out with the kit.

We were up after two hours sleep.  A busy couple of hours then ensured that every scrap of litter was packed up to go out. Cooking and sleeping gear were then stashed and there was little to show that we had been there at all except for an emergency brew kit and the all pervading smell of paraffin.  Then we headed out of Daren with a mixture of excitement and genuine regret at leaving the place that had become our home.

A team of porters who were coming in to help never arrived so we dumped an enormous pile of personal gear near the entrance crawl and carried on with the camera kit (a soul-destroying array of heavy, 12inch ammo boxes).

We emerged into daylight after 210 hours with a shock.  We all expected to be dazzled by the brightness but having lived in a world of greys and subdued browns for so long, anything blue seemed fluorescent and our eyes found it difficult to cope.

I lost a stone I never knew I had during the week.  Celebrations in the pub that night amounted to little more than a pint there just wasn't room for any more.  Over the next few days we all ate voraciously.  Several of us found it difficult to readjust to a 24 hour clock and a normal working environment.

In conclusion I think that the camp was a great success.  We raised a lot of money for two good causes, found one of the most exciting leads under the mountain and put the Daren/Aggy round trip several hundred man­hours nearer to completion.  Morale was high throughout and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

I would suggest to critics of the 'Hard Rock Approach' that the media interest the project generated (National TV, Local T.V. in several areas, John Craven, Radio 1, numerous local radio stations, National & local papers) showed cavers and caving in a much more favourable light than the usual 'Sill sods .. dark muddy 'Oles ... always need to be rescued .. 'image with which the sport is normally portrayed.

Many thanks to Troll, Speleo Technics & Bat Products for their kind help with equipment. We'll be back down at Easter.




Hypocrisy is not dead

Letter to the editor (BB Vol:32 No.9, September 1978 (No. 365)

To the Editor, B.B.

Arriving at the Belfry on the 28th July (Friday afternoon) I was somewhat staggered by the absolute chaos and filthy mess within.

The furniture, such as it is, was completely soaked and thrown about the room, every article of cutlery was dirty and left in a heap on the worktop.  The whole hut smelt like a cow shed with rotting food, stale air and a general smell of filth.

I'm not saying that the type of piss-up that resulted in this mess should not happen in the shed but the members involved (some of them of many years standing) should ensure that the place is cleaned up afterwards.  I hope other members will support any action that the Committee might care to take.  If anybody thinks this is the pot calling the kettle black - I clean up my mess.

Trevor Hughes, Aug 1978.


Thixotropia Blues

Rescued from the Jaws of Death in two Show Caves in one day but out in time for the pub - or “Thixotropia Blues”

I'd been looking forward to March 30th; it was the day the summer staff started their sentences at Cheddar Caves.  Part of the morning was spent witnessing them taking the Oath of Fealty to Sandra Lee, then we old hands introduced ourselves with a few words (or in Andy Sparrow's case, a lot of words).  Finally I had to sit through Chris Bradshaw's introductory lecture in Bullshit; things never to be mentioned (rocks falling on people, Wookey Hole); and how we must never talk to the press because they have a way of twisting statements, especially if something has gone wrong.

That over, I was free to get on with the job for which I had been trained at vast expense: painting handrails.  Down at the Speleological Wonder of the World, Cox's Cave, I happily slapped the Hamerite on the railings, floor and formations with only a few breaks for meals, coffee, craps etc. until about 4.45pm when ZAP! all was darkness!  Of God, I thought, I've been struck blind. They said it would happen, but I couldn't stop.  Then I thought, oh deary, deary me, the lights have out.  Ever resourceful I used the handrails I'd just painted to guide myself to the light gone and the main entrance which was, of course, locked. It was vital to get out, it was Monday, and Monday night is digging night!

Cheddar seemed deserted, but soon the rest of the staff started to go home, so I waved and shouted at them, receiving friendly waves in return.  Eventually the occupants of one of the cars thought I was behaving in an even more erratic manner than usual and returned.  Informing them in carefully moderated tones that I was locked in the cave I dispatched them to the office.  Soon Mr. Bradshaw drove up to release me.  He explained that John the maintenance man and two of my "mates" who were helping him had skived off early, forgetting about me. He also found the incident most amusing, but I was soon to wipe the smile off his face.

There was a good turnout for digging that Monday night.  One of the new guides had been digging before; he even claimed to have done a bit of caving and said his name was Tom Chapman.  Another new guide was a sexy student called Carol who said she enjoyed a dirty night out so Tom had asked her along to the Far Rift Dig.  Also present were Grahame from Bath, a graduate from Adventure Caving and owner of the Far Rift Pump last used in World War 2; Adrian Brewster, restorer of the BEC's first log; Miles Barrington, now a spy from a minor show cave down the road; Robin Brown to supply vocal amusement; and Oliver Conte, a Frog guide who was apparently there as a result of his imperfect English.

Far Rift Dig in Gough's Cave was started by Andy Sparrow a year ago, and we've been making steady progress towards Daren Cilau ever since.  It's only inches away from a breakthrough (according to Andy) and (again according to Andy) has a slow draught despite the fact that bang fumes take a week to clear and after two hour's work the air becomes so foul that diggers are forced to recover in the Gardeners Arms.  Unfortunately it flooded during the winter and we've spent the last couple of Mondays pumping the water out until we were left with some superb slurry. On this Monday we were to remove the slurry by "Plan "A", which involved myself, wetsuit-clad, thrashing about in it to make it runny enough to pour into 25 litre containers. The thrashing about went well, but the damn slurry wouldn't pour because it was like thick, lumpy custard, so “Plan B” was put into operation.  I crawled to the dig-face and started digging out mud to mix with the slurry so that it would be thick enough to move in bags.

Well, that didn't work either, the mud wasn't thick enough and there wasn't enough of it but 'nil desperandum' I had a third plan which after much thought I had called "Plan CR.” This was to get myself firmly stuck in the mud so that the MRO would have to rescue me and they'd get the slurry out in the process.  All started well - Tom tested the mud and only got out by abandoning his wellies. The air was becoming nicely foul and dangerous, so I lowered myself into the mire and got my right leg firmly stuck. Miles, Tom and Adrian couldn't get me out so Tom; went off to realise his lifetime's ambition and made an emergency call.

While waiting, Adrian and I chatted comfortably about Neil Moss, but the air became worse and I started to hallucinate because I saw Tim Large underground!  A damn solid hallucination, the miserable sod put a rope around my trapped foot and he and some others pulled me out.  The mud is still there, and "Plan D" is to leave it there.  Hell, even Chris Bradshaw was down the cave, whoever next?  Wig?

A great reception committee was waiting at the cave entrance ­ the MRO in force, the police, an ambulance, reporters, probably even Lord Weymouth.  I was sorry to have missed Richard Stevenson with his bottles, I was told it was a sight to behold, and Lori was left to push his Land Rover out of the way.  Receiving a glacial smile from Sandra I splodged up to the Caving Room, got my wetsuit off, put my clothes on over the mud and got to the Gardeners Arms with the digging team for a bit of peace and quiet.  Holy shit, now what?  In bursts a papparoggi and being too pissed to resist I get myself photographed.  I did manage to prevent him getting my hooter in profile, but the damage was done.  HTV, the Western Gazette, the Daily Mirror, even the front page of the Cheddar Valley Gazette, who treated the affair like the Second Coming.  Oh well, its fame of a sort.

The next day I sidled up to the Caves, threw my helmet into Sandra's office and grovelled on the carpet. (This is, of course, standard procedure).  She was very nice about it, actually; we can still go digging so long as we operate a written check-in and­out system.  She was a bit put out to see strange cavers appearing from holes in all directions, so everyone who digs there please note.  A book or blackboard will be provided and must be filled in.

There's a lot to do in Gough's - the Font's team are continuing to find body-shredding passages, the new extensions above Lloyd Hall are not worked out, the Sand Chamber dig is a comfortable place and may even go somewhere; and Andy has his eye on a new patch of mud off the Boulder Chamber.  I just hope I find more than notoriety.

Finally, to everyone who was at the rescue, thanks.

Chris Castle - April 1987



Sturton by Stow,

The Belfry Bulletin Editor
Mr. Dave Turner,

26th. March 1987.

Dear Mr. Editor,

It seems to me that during the past few years there have been those around with good intentions who have been allowed to get away with poking their sticky little fingers into the guts of this club and ending up making a bugger's muddle out of what they think they are about.

Prime witness to this is the present state of the Belfry which started its life as a carefully thought out club facility and proved to be in practice a model caving club hut in all respects, and continued so, until it became the unwilling recipient of grandiose improvement schemes grafted into its traumatified interior.  The prognosis looks even worse.

It might be recalled by my contemporaries that a higher echelon management was mooted to keep the eye of wisdom on corporate Club interests during the annual incumbency of successive executive Club Committees.  I have often thought it a great pity this idea was never implemented.

And now I see that we are about to undergo unwarranted intervention with the institution of the annual Club Dinner.

I find myself in total opposition to any change in the conduct and traditions of the formal dinner proceedings.  The only area outstanding in obvious need for improvement is the after dinner entertainment which has always been well within the province of the Committee and organisers to do something about without invoking this ridiculous referendum.

I urge long established and senior members to make themselves heard on the subject of this Referendum on the annual dinner.

Yours sincerely, 624 R.H.S. Orr.

Sweetwater Pot

by Peter Glanvill

Since its closure some years ago the quarry at Berry Head and Berry Head itself continue to provide interest and opportunities for discovery.  At the end of July 1986 Brian Johnson, myself and respective families converged on the quarry, ostensibly to do some diving and photography in the sea caves.  Despite the unpromising weather the dive was accomplished successfully although poor visibility caused the resulting pictures to be less than satisfactory. After a barbecue lunch, Brian wandered off with some SRT rope to examine a hole in the west wall of the quarry whilst I did some more marine life photography in Garfish Cave.

After completing my work and de-kitting, we drove up the ramp to see what Brian was up to. The background to his exploration goes back some months to when Chris Proctor and Tim Lee noticed a possible cave entrance below an overhang 40 ft above the quarry floor.  Attempts to climb up to it had previously been thwarted by loose rock which was piled up in a natural rift breached by the quarry and which threatened to avalanche down on the unfortunate climber.  Brian had tried traversing along a bench at the same level but again failed because a Neptunian dyke interrupted the bench.  It was therefore a question of abseiling down the quarry face when we could get the rope and manpower organised.  Brian was the first to get it all together.

I arrived near the top of the ramp to see Brian emerging and bellowing that he had found the finest cave in Devon and a diveable sump.  I kitted up in record time and was soon gingerly abseiling off the top of the quarry hoping the fence posts used as belays were well secured!  Landing on the ledge beside Brian, I was quickly briefed.  The cave was a rift and had been breached and de-roofed at a point where it dropped steeply.  This meant that one had to climb down and cross a pile of mobile rubble before entering the cave proper.  It emitted a noticeable draught, the origin of which is uncertain.  Inside, the rift was 10 ft wide and about 25 ft or more high. Straight over a lot of shattered rock was a continuation of the rift, both up and down.  Downwards seems to close down into small fissures whilst upwards the rift led to a branching of the ways.  In the left hand wall was a complex of sculpted tubes containing shattered rock whilst on the right lay a small short rift.  Brian feels it may be worth pushing one of the tubes which seems to draught.

Back at the entrance, the rift also descended back towards the quarry face as well as ascending to another impassable upper entrance.  A downwards extension is the piece de resistance of the system. A free climbable mud free rift steadily drops (penetrating at one point a Neptunian dyke) until a sump pool is encountered.  The pool contains fresh water, which is surprising when you consider that only 50 metres away horizontally lies a tidal sea water resurgence!

Feeling extremely chuffed; Brian and I called it a day.  After a period of wracking his brains, Brian decided to call the new find Sweetwater Pot. We returned the following weekend with Brian’s "lads" and John Whiteley plus diving kit.  Chris Proctor turned up to survey and photograph the cave as well as push the remaining side passages.  Before we did anything underground, Brian and John cleared a lot of loose rubble before a traverse line was rigged around the dyke on the bench level with the cave.  A rather cramped diving support team assembled to watch Brian kit up for the sump dive.  He bravely submerged head first on a base fed line.  The line steadily wound out and the muffled boom of bubbles became more muted. At last, tugging on the line indicated Brian's return; fifteen metres of line had been laid out.  A brown glow preceded Brian as he surfaced.  He announced that the sump was a vertical continuation of the rift and bottomed out in a mud bank.  The rift appeared to have lateral extensions.  The sump depth makes Sweetwater Pot one of the deepest in Devon and raises the question of what else might we find in the quarry.

More recently Chris Proctor has abseiled into a couple of other caves in the quarry, both quite short but making up for this by being surprisingly well decorated.  He will be making a separate report on this.


Taking climbing gear and some helmets with us, Brian Johnson, myself, Brian's sons and Jim Durston visited Chudleigh in late August (1986) with the intention of inspecting the Palace Quarry side of the Kate Brook.  Apart from Clifford's Cave there are no significant caves in this area despite it being a large lump of limestone.  After a brief and friendly meeting with Mr. Shears, the owner of Glen Cottage, we were given permission to enter the quarry.  We started our trek by examining an entrance at the edge of the quarry (West).  Here, Brian had noticed an entrance some time previously.  He felt this was probably associated with a tiny draughting hole on the other side of a rocky spur here.  We hacked our way through the undergrowth to Tramp's Hole, an excavated archaeological site about fifty yards or so further on.  This has a large (3 metres by 2 metres) entrance but goes back only 5 metres to a heavily stalagmited boulder choke.  The cave looks as though it might have been a resurgence.  Further struggles brought us to Black Rock, where Bruce's Burrow was found to have disappeared, possibly under over burden removed prior to quarrying.  We then climbed up the hill to emerge at the top of the quarry.

What greeted us there was a large entrance only a few feet from the top of the Eastern face of the quarry.   Mr. Shears informed us that it could not be far from the Black Rock Shaft filled in when quarrying began.  Brian and Jim abseiled into the cave and found it to consist of an eight foot square chamber with two choked passages leading off.  Not surprisingly, it seemed to be a popular bat roost.  Inspection of other caves on the quarry face showed them to be choked but diggable tubes.  Well pleased with the day's efforts, we went off and did some proper climbing.

Brian returned later in the following week and started to dig out one entrance of the draughting cave. He found the cave to penetrate the spur but halfway along noticed a tunnel leading into the hill into which he dug on another visit.  The discovery of some animal bones meant a halt to the proceedings until in mid-September Dave Curry could take a look and pronounce on the dig.  He felt the bones were modern and that digging could continue. Brian forced his way to the end of the main tunnel and found that it terminated in a sloping, mainly earth filled tube.

Since then, digging has widened and lowered the entrance crawl whilst the end is now being attacked. The cave continues to descend, with the fill being soft easily dug earth.  Points of interest are the presence of a slight draught near the end and a narrow aven which seems not to close down as rapidly as one would imagine. Scallop marks on the walls indicate a vigorous inward flow at some time.  The cave lies 12 metres above Cliffords Cave and does not seem to be associated with it.

Peter Glanvill


Skullcap cave.

Progress Report. January 8th 1987.

Chris Proctor, myself and Pete Rose have been steadily digging in Skullcap Cave at Chudleigh, and a progress report is necessary whilst I remember to do it!

In late November we were digging in a steeply descending, metre diameter tube which was getting very awkward.  On the tenth of December we found our first airspace, which just seemed to be a pocket to one side of the passage.  However, on December 17th, we broke through into longer airspace and a passage continuation - we had reached the bottom of the tube.  Gravel, shale and flint in the floor beneath the mud seemed to confirm stream flow through the cave.  On the next trip we moved forward another two metres to a point where an arm could be stuck through into yet another airspace which appeared larger.  This was entered by Brian Johnson on January 3rd 1987 and turned out to be a passage going off into the distance, with a continuous foot or so of airspace.  Unfortunately the triangular passage shape precluded further progress until digging had lowered the floor.

Digging was recommenced on January 7 1987, assisted by Wendy Sampson and a small group from Rock House. Several hours were spent removing spoil before Pete Rose was let loose on the end.  After an hour or so's digging, Pete broke through into a small grotto.  Directly in front was a stalagmite bank, whilst a tiny aven could be seen to have been the source of the stal.  The way on is through the stal bank or under it and I fear it is doomed.

One can peer through to one side of it and the passage can be seen to continue in the same direction, i.e. into the hill.  I squeezed through and photographed the stalagmite flow for posterity, whilst Chris Proctor surveyed the cave to Grade 5.

Digging will continue, as there is a quite definitely discernible draught at the end.  The problem now is that we will have to start enlarging the approaches to the terminal stal bank.  Interested parties should contact Chris Proctor ( Exeter 58467), myself (Chard 4262), Pete Rose (Crediton 2284), or Brian Johnson (Ottery St. Mary 3212).

Would be diggers might also find it worthwhile calling at Rock House to see if anybody there is free to dig.  There are plenty of digging implements at the site.

Peter Gianvill


1986 Austrian Expedition Report For Ian Dear Memorial Fund

It was 31st July and we were due to leave between 5.30 - 6.00 pm but we were still re-packing the car for about the third or fourth time at five past six.  We had a bit of trouble with tying down the cover for the 'Lads Away' roof rack; it had a tendency to cover up the front windscreen. I was travelling in Trebor’s car with Trebor, Gonzo and Steve.  We eventually got going, a bit behind schedule, only to stop at a kebab house and off-license for a pit stop.  We were followed along the M4 by Clive Gardener (off in search of the Holy Grail somewhere, little did he know it, had he followed us he would have found something equally as sacred 'STIEGL').

On our scenic route to Folkestone we managed to arrive late for the ferry.  Luckily due to the usual summer industrial dispute the ferry had not yet left.  It was a calm crossing; we managed to find the bar.  It was named the Wessex Bar (must have been because you got a free cup of tea there).  We left a BEC sticker behind the bar and partook of some of their stronger refreshment.

We continued on our long journey to the Wiesberghaus.  We eventually arrived in Hallstatt between 12.30 and 1.00 on the early morning of the 2nd, after the 1000 driven miles which was only interrupted by a short break, a yop and a scenic tour 4 times around a one way system in a German city.

We drove around Hallstatt looking for the others who should have arrived earlier that day.  We set out by looking for a pub with two British cars parked outside, then a camp site with them in.  But we had no luck.  Little did we know they had parked in the Police car park and were in the divers bar, pissed and buying drinks for the whole pub.  Meanwhile, we hadn't been able to find them at a camp site open at that time of night, so we slept on park benches on a beach by the Hallstattersee. We were up at the break of dawn before the park attendant came round at 6.30.

We ordered a full breakfast of croissant etc and got horseradish and ham rolls and a bottle of Stiegl.  We ate breakfast outside a Hotel on the edge of the “see”, the weather was hot and the place was superb.  We met the others in the village while stocking up on fresh food.  We retired under the shade of the umbrellas at the divers bar and decided on our plan of action.

Blitz and company were to go up the mountain straight away to see Robert and Laura about getting our kit up on the materialseilbahn.  While the rest of us loaded it up, then some went up the mountain before it got dark leaving J’rat, Tim, Andy and me to stay and finish loading the next morning, forcing us to go to a party in Obertraun which we had been invited to by members of the local caving club, it was their annual Forest Festival.  We went with six of the local cavers out of which one of them drinks.  It was a really good night.  There was a drunken tank driver swinging around, 30 feet up in the beams of the beer tent and people generally acting like we do in the Belfry.


I got roped into doing a Morris dance on stage to music from the Umpa band and got free beer the rest of the night.  There was a disco afterwards.  The next day we finished loading the materialseilbahn and went up the mountain by the passenger selbahn via Eishohlen.  There's an amazing 3D survey of the Mammothohle and Eishohle systems.  We arrived at the Wiesberghaus in the early evening and were greeted by Robert and Laura and had a drink with them and spent that night around a fire outside with bottles of Stiegle and Bratwurst. Tomma Dave and Pete (NCC) arrived that night.

In the morning I went over to the Titians carrying rope for Gonzo, Steve, Blitz and Duncan then went prospecting for caves all over the place with Tim and Andy.  Started several digs then went down HI C33 Miztendorfer Hohlen, a cave which is still going explored to a tight double bend and a flake in the way.   Looks like the cave floods with the first drop of drizzle. Tim and I discovered Marmutsnitenhohlen in a cliff face so named for obvious reasons - Asshohlen was found then almost collapsed on top of Dave.  It wasn't pushed because of the way it moves in its own draught.

We had a barrel of stiegl kindly brought for us by Herbert the sailor who due to a misunderstanding unloaded our kit off the seilbahn at bottom of the mountain, about half an hour after we loaded it.  Trebor had lost his clothes somewhere in the transporting up the mountain and was stuck with only a T-shirt and a pair of yellow shorts for the whole Expedition. At the bar large amounts of drink were consumed and an Austria melodeon player provided the music for me in another Morris dance, ending up with more free drinks.  Extract from the log about 4.30 am ­"Snablet demonstrated the traditional art of Morris Vomiting, retching all night to the accompaniment of bells".

The next day we suffered from tremendous hangovers not helped by Robert dishing out Garlic schnapps as a hangover cure.  Wiesberghohlen was discovered on the 6th (pointed out by Robert).  This was the only cave to go any major distance in the first week.  250 m deep 600 long at its last push.  Also in the first week Titan Schacht (C.38) was pushed to - 150 m deep and ended. Blitz, Steve and I spent a day going down a hole in the C.38 area.

There were three caves of interest; one was a small canyon - but it way in the same type of fault as C.19 and draughts well.  The second was a shaft at the bottom of a massive rift, it used to be full of snow put the heat had melted it, and we could throw stones down at least one hundred feet.  We couldn't descend because there were no natural belays and we didn't have any bolts. The third was a large shaft that we did descend.  We also found another entrance to Titian Schacht.

The next day Blitz pointed out C66 so we pushed it.  The only good thing about it was that it was so close to the Weisberghaus you could send people back for bottles of Stiegl while putting bolts in.  It ended in a tight bouldery choke in a 40 foot high moon milked covered rif.  Wies Alm hohlen as it's now known (formally Jager Hohle) was found half way through our stay by Chris Fry of the Croydon and SWCC.  The Welsh? (most of which were from London area), mad!  I pushed the cave to the 2nd pitch and ran into difficulty and we were asked if we'd like to help rig the pitch so we jumped at the chance and pushed it to 5th and Surveyer followed along a couple of pitches behind.  That's where they stay (at the third pitch) until someone took over from the Wessex - (who included lengths of rope protectors in the survey???)

Over the next week all our efforts were cantered on Wies Alm Hohle while the MUSS were off finding interesting depths of cave as well, they had now joined us on the Dachstein, they found Orllan Hohle (pity - we could have done with that rope down Wies Alm Hohle). Also in the same area the Austrians found a large cave 260 m or so breaking into an active stream needing digging.

During the second week we had a lot of problems with thunder and lightning storms, forcing us to spend a lot of time in the Wiesberghaus (Oh shame!).  I got friendly with Roberts daughter Sandy, we drank the Wiesberghaus dry, an outstanding feat if you’ve ever seen the amount of beer he keeps there. The rest of the expedition party had turned up at the beginning of that week.  Our two weeks stay was too short by we all had a superb time.  We left Wies Alm Hohle at the 21st pitch, Dany, Alan and the Yorkys continued on to the top of the 25th pitch finding a 250 ft 23rd pitch.

Pete (Snablet) MacNab