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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general


First apologies to all anoraks who noticed the error in the last BB, which was wrongly numbered.  It should read as follows: June 2000 Vol.51 No 2. Number 507.   My mistake entirely.  A prize will be winging it's way to the eagle eyed member who spotted this terrible gaffe!.  Please alter your copy accordingly.

Other editorial gibberish is that your Editor might see you a little more often on a Wednesday evening at the "Hunters" from now on. I found out what was causing the problem .....

Do keep the articles coming please.  A quick look in the club hut log is enough to convince me that BEC members actually do go caving - despite rumours from other tea drinking clubs and so on.  These short notes can easily be…….nuff said, it's your magazine!!  Also, pictures and articles are BEST sent to me on disc or e-mail, pictures as jpeg files and articles as Microsoft word for windows format.  I can deal with Corel, but files written in notepad (er Pete Rose please note and thanks for the last one) take a lot of editing.  In fact, I have rejected one or two recent articles due to their being excellent but computer written paper copies that I haven't the patience or time to copy out again!!  Send me the bl***dy disc!!  Short articles accompanied by a photograph and totalling LESS than a page are quite acceptable if you have no access to a computer (thank you Roger Haskett). Please keep them coming.

Last copy date for articles and pictures for the December issue is 15th of that month.  Electronic preferred!- Ed


E-mails and other Snippets

Priddy Mineries Reserve

Richard Witcombe and Tony Jarratt have recently been appointed as joint managers of this Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve.  They will be looking for volunteers in the summer months for various projects such as repairing the Minery Pool dam, weed clearing from Waldegrave Pool, etc. These will be excellent public relations opportunities that need your support.  The fact that Stocks House Shaft Upstream Level may soon pop out in the Reserve had absolutely nothing to do with their appointment!

Sad news is the reported death of one of the cavers known to anyone who visited the Philippines as a caver.  The report I received is short and to the point.

Hey Mike,

I would just like to inform you that Erwin "Ugadz" Ginson of the Philippines died from neck injury while rafting.


"Its either you live with it or you can eat your heart out"

This E-mail came to me from Dave Irwin.  It refers to Simpson's Pot, Kingsdale

Hi guys, please spread this around to anyone who might need to know the place is a bit scary right now, and is an accident waiting to trap the unwary or inexperienced or unlucky.  If anyone can put up notes in club huts, web-sites etc, please do.  If some wally goes getting clumsy in there, it'll take a long time to dig them out!

The area below the Great Aven in Simpsons Pot, Kingsdale is dangerously unstable.

A number of large boulders and a quantity of mud has fallen from beneath the huge jammed boulder which forms the 'floor' which you land on descending the Great Aven pitch, threatening to block the way down into KMC.  One very large boulder (-3 cu M ) is perched just above the squeeze down at the base of Simpsons/Swinsto final pitches and seems likely to be knocked further by any more falls, effectively cutting off this way on.  Philosophers crawl may remain open, but if the huge boulder comes down this will also likely be blocked.  Looking up, it is difficult to work out what is holding the rest up, and further collapse seems likely.  For the time being it seems sensible to avoid descending the Great Aven, and potential through trippers should be aware that Simpsons/Swinsto through trips may well be impossible, and should bear this in mind if contemplating one way trips. I've sent this to Descent, but that's not out for a bit, so we printed some notices at Bernies and put them at the entrances and on the gate and in Bernies and Inglesport.  Difficult to know what to do, apart from a very big bomb to sort things out one way or another.  Any Ideas?

It's the BPC Presidents meet this weekend (in Kingsdale) so a couple of us might go have a look see, if anyone wants to join in, get in touch.  Dave.

Also from Dave Irwin, a short note about the library.  He writes; Several missing copies of B.S.A. Speleo Abstracts have been replaced by Jim Smart - very many thanks.

Dave has donated a photocopy of "Cave Illustrations before 1900" by Trevor Shaw - an essential reference work for antique cave print collectors.

Hidden Earth conference September 15-17th John Williams and Joel Corrigan will be giving a lecture on their exploits in the Dachstein.  This will be on Sat 16th in the evening


"Sago" and "Tich"

By Jan Setterington

As reported in the last BB, Sago Rice died recently and I also have news of the death of Tich Setterington.  This obituary is for both of these two "giants" of The BEC.

I'm going to live forever ... you will remember my name!

Words from the song that are a fitting description of both Sago Rice and Tich Setterington who both died earlier this year.  They were both "giants" of the B.E.C. and just as well known and well loved in many areas where their numerous interests lay - they will both be long remembered and stories will long be told of their many exploits, achievements and disasters!  Each one of us will have our own particular memories - let us share them.

Tich was the archetypal "laid back Englishman".  Never rushed or harried, he always gave the impression of calm serenity (although paddling like Hell under the water - like the proverbial duck) happy in any situation or climate, conversing ably with the natives in their own language- often in accents and dialects they couldn’t make head or tail of - but getting his point across anyway: as happy and at home in Spain, Africa, Russia or Germany as he was in England.  Some people might say he was happier in Spain, especially when he had a seat in the shade for the corrida: how excited he was the first time he saw Manuel Benitez - El Cordobes - in the early sixties. Tich recognised that this man would change the face of Bull- fighting and re-instate it as an art form that matched a newly emerging modem Spain.  Whether or not you approve of the corrida, Tich was an aficionado - he understood bulls, recognised the bravery and artistry of bull and man, and followed the careers of matadors, picadors, banderilleros and bull breeders through Spanish publications, building an extensive library on the subject.

Although he took to driving late in life and never understood the workings of the internal combustion engine, Tich was an accomplished navigator of elderly motor cars. With his friend Alan Hancock he regularly took part in the London to Brighton Veteran Run and travelled to rallies around Europe in Alan’s 1901 Rolls Royce.  Tich once assured me that Alan had allowed him to drive his old Elmore (an electric car of great age) because he naturally abused gear boxes and could "bang the thing into drive".  I can testify to this inability to come to terms with a manual box when "sitting in the hot seat" while he was learning to drive .... Maybe it was better that he always settled for an automatic ...

Tich was a microscope man - working for Beck and then for Zeiss - if you wanted to wind him up you whispered "Hilgar and Watts" and he exploded: it worked every time to any child's delight!

Tich was a bachelor and "uncle" to many adoring children, especially Julian and Nessy "Sett".  He treated them as little adults and never doubted their intelligence or appreciation of any given situation.  This respect was returned and uncle Tich was more popular than Father Christmas in many households!  Because of his rare blood grouping, the antibodies it produced and the fact that he was a blue baby, Tich had a link to thousands of children around Britain, he saved their lives by manufacturing life saving plasma in his blood system - hence his frequent visits to be wired up at the blood donor centre.

Spending most of his working life in London and living for many years in a flat overlooking the "Poly" ground, Tich was first and foremost a Rugby player - playing way beyond the time most blokes hang up their boots.  When he finally retired from the game he took up golf and spent many happy days trying out various courses around the country then sampling the local food and beer!

Tich came home to Somerset a few years ago and had latterly been working on his family history from a flat situated very conveniently, just behind the Somerset County Cricket ground in Taunton. Whether caving, playing rugby or squash or golf, navigating those old cars or managing the "pits" for his friend Alan during a brief motor racing career (a pit manager - he didn't know what a spanner was for!) Tich was always a sportsman and as age and general wear and tear took its toll he became an informed supporter.  It was but a short stroll to a seat in the stands to watch his team take on the country and the world!  And that, I suppose, is the abiding memory that I will carry of Tich - a man strolling through life, happy and secure in his station, without prejudice and offering friendship to all he met.

Sago exhibited many of Tich's traits, especially in his ability to accept all men on their own terms. He appreciated the other fellow's point of view whilst maintaining his own, but his opinions could be swayed if a logical enough argument was produced.  Sago's Mendip activities, caving, climbing and motor cycling exploits are well known, often embellished a little by the man himself!

But how many people on the "Hill" know of his extensive knowledge of geology and the respect accorded him by university staff in Bristol and Aberdeen. His geological education started late in life with a University of Bristol extra - mural class and progressed through "O" levels to University Certificate standard.  He could have taken his degree, but said he was not dedicated enough to keep up the work - then set out to make some quite exceptional geological slides and concentrate on sedimentary rocks and was never happier than splashing about in contemporary water courses pointing out newly forming structures replicating those lower down the sequence.

Sago travelled extensively in Britain, Ireland, Europe and the USA in pursuit of his geological hobby, and the high point of these exploits must have been his visit to the Grand Canyon.  He took a very bumpy flight through the Canyon and produced some brilliant photographs.

Photography was one of Sago's many interests and for a number of years he and Graham Robinson belonged to various societies and could be seen lurking around Bristol, waiting for the perfect shot.  Some of the best pictures that he took were of English churches and cathedrals giving life to his love of architecture and history. A trip to a castle or other old building with "Uncle" Sago was a lesson in history and he enthused many youngsters (and oldsters) with his graphic stories of long ago battles and intrigues.  He had the knack of making history come alive, although he was always a little bit biased towards the English! Historical discourse with Sago was always a pleasure - especially when one was arguing against him from a socialist stance!!

Ancient man and archaeology figured highly amongst Sago's interests and for a number of years he was involved with Peter Reynolds on the Butser Experiment in Sussex.  Latterly he had been working on pollen samples from the site.  He shared an interest in ancient astronomy with "Sett" and Aubrey Burle and he was enthusiastic about and confident in ancient man’s ability to erect accurate observatories and "calculators". I remember how thrilled he was when Sett took him to see the Menec stone rows in Brittany - their exact purpose provided many hours of, eventually, fruitless speculation!

For an essentially outdoor man - caving, climbing, motorcycling, the T.A. (following a period in the Army) and geology - Sago had three other passions - music, books and art. I remember accompanying him around galleries in Paris and his delight in the brilliant colours of the Impressionists and of his visible pleasure when holding a rare book - his own library was extensive and included many treasured volumes - especial favourites were a limited edition of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom and The Washing of the Spears, Donald Morris's story of the rise and fall of the Zulu nation.  Sago's taste in music was catholic, Bruckner to Brubeck and all stations in between!! There is a story, true, not apocryphal, that many years ago a young man walked into the Hunters and said "I've just heard the best record ever made".  Another young man replied " Summit Ridge Drive on one side and Special Delivery Stomp on the other".  Sago said "How did you know that"?  Sett replied" You stated a fact"!  It has to be said that Sett was the mathematician and statistician and Sago was the romantic, but that was how a lifelong friendship began - a friendship that led, ultimately, to Sett selling Sago his old Matchless. Years after the accident that cost Sago a leg and the demise of the Matchbox, he was in a pub in Cornwall talking to some modern bikers about the machines he had owned and, pointing out his missing limb explained to reason - the bikers nodded in sympathy - not for the loss of the leg but for the wrecking of a beautiful vehicle, an attitude Sago understood.  He never dwelt on his disability but faced each day as a challenge - many are the slightly timorous geology students who, faced with a steep climb down a cliff path would much rather have stayed put at the top but were forced to descend in the wake of a trail blazing Sago who sat down, pushed off and slid down to the beach below.

Sago had many friends all round the world - it didn't matter where he went there was always someone who would pop up and say "Hallo Sago, Fancy seeing you here!" he was gregarious, good natured and generous.  A friend.  My favourite memory of Sago is sitting on a rock on a beach on the Dingle Peninsula surrounded by extra - mural students happily identifying the rock samples they brought to him.  He was a natural teacher and took time to explain always appreciating that students needed to learn at their own pace.

Tich and Sago.  Two friends with many friends and beliefs in common.  Neither was a Christian and neither believed in an existence on another plane after death. This formed the basis for philosophical discussion between us - I am a Catholic and believe that there is a life after death and that our thought process goes on (possibly this is why the Universe is expanding).  Two friends who died within a couple of weeks of each other.  Both strolled through life, confident and accepting.  How fitting then that Sago should be the first to take the next step - he will have been waiting and when Tich arrived he would say, quite naturally, "Hello Sago, fancy seeing you here."

Jan - Wiveliscombe


Do all Cavers Have Beards?

asks Adrian Thomas
(first published in Cavers Digest)

Here in Ireland we have a relatively small caving population and cavers from across the country come together from time to time to practice rescue techniques.  Not so long ago a small group gathered at the appointed place and time on a dull wet day with mist blowing across the bleak karst landscape that is known as the Burren. We headed into a small shake hole in the forest and as we dropped the 3m (10ft) into a small canyon carrying a stream one diligent lad counted us in - EIGHT cavers.  After a few hours of wrestling with simulated injuries and manipulating stretchers round tight comers and through flat out crawls in the water, we emerged into a slightly brighter dull day.  The same diligent lad counted us out and got NINE !!  After a few moments he exclaimed that we appeared to have gained a caver but very quickly went on to identify which one!  His task was made easier by the fact that the caver who had arrived late and found his own way into the cave was clean-shaven. In fact eight bearded cavers had gone into the cave and the late comer was the only one without a beard.  I wonder if anyone has ever done any serious research on beards in caving.  Quite a lot of (male) Irish cavers are either bearded or were at one time.  But the question arises - is it a fashion - are cavers copying one another?  To some extent this might be an attempt to be "macho imago" and maybe many cavers are actually insecure wimps who just want to look tough??  I have had a beard since I was a student (almost 30 years ago) and although I have always loved caves, I only started caving properly about 10 years ago.  Is the fact that I always had a beard significant?  Maybe I was always a caver and just didn't realise it??  I know that I would have great difficulty parting with it even though my wife would love to see it go.  It can't be that I'm lazy although the thought of shaving every day does frighten me.  Perhaps I need psychiatric help?  I'd be most interested to hear what other cavers, and particularly the ladies, think on this subject and whether any of them have ever wished they could grow a beard so that they'd be proper cavers like the rest of us bearded ones?  If this is an inappropriate subject for the cavers page then I apologise.  I have been reading the digest for many years and don't recall this fascinating and deeply personal subject being dealt with.  It would help my research enormously if those males submitting to this digest would not alone indicate where they are from but also their bearded status - maybe just for the next few months?? (eg Bearded, non- bearded, was-bearded).  Females could be excused this ritual at their discretion?  Rude and insulting replies can be directed to me at adrian.thomas@[removed] Interesting replies to the Cavers Digest!

Adrian ( Ireland, Europe, bearded )



"How Not to Go Caving in Northern Spain"

by Pete Rose

"Donde es les Cuevas?" (to the tune of 'West of Santander, down ole Picos way') a famous cowboy song.

Sue, my wife, had always wanted to go to northern Spain and had convinced me that 24 hours on the Plymouth - Santander ferry was good for my health.  Our sons, Martin and James wanted a free holiday after finishing Uni, and having a negative bank balance, I was forced therefore to embark with only a copy of "The Caves of France and Northern Spain" by Sieveking, and "Beneath the Mountains" by Rose (no relative) and Gregson, plus several torches.  This was too much of a contrast to result in any success in finding suitable Fairy cave type situations .... as it turned out.  The ferry contained various members of a biker group from the North strolling around, flexing tattoos etc.  I had been listening in on one conversation that started with how they were motoring down to southern Spain and one had got lost on the way somewhere near Accrington!  (IMPORTANT FERRY TIP.  Do not have a cabin with a low number, like 200 to 300.  These are way down below the car decks and this only results in one contemplating the escape route all night.. .. If something catches fire etc.) We met some friends in Santander, and decided to camp near them for the first week and then go to our farm cottage in the mountains for the 2nd week. We duly drove off to Llanes on the coast west of Santander and set up in a luxury campsite next to some New Zealanders on a world tour (lonely types).  Martin and James had two tents and one set of pegs, so one tent secure or two tents half-done?  I had read the exploits of Oxford Uni. down the Sistema del Xitu by now and thought it highly unlikely I was capable of this sort of stuff with torches and a Petzl headpiece so we offed to Ribadesella, west of Llanes, to see some cave paintings in the Tito Bustillo cave early one morning, but not early enough!  Our friends had missed the cave last year as there was a queue and a quota on numbers (don't breathe over cave paintings or they disappear or get fungal growths or something) this year there was a 100yd queue at 9.30am.  The 250 per day had gone, and I guess everyone buys tickets for groups etc. The Dave Irwin "get us a postcard" factor clicked in but no cards, no nothing.  Eventually found a few at 50 pesetas each in the town and drove off into the mountains nearby looking for caves.  The signpost said Cuevas, 5km ... so we followed it. A large overhang swallowed the car, 100ft high.  A drive in cave!  The road disappeared into 250 metres of high stream passage.  We stopped and climbed up a steep rock slope to look at huge stal, we scrambled around gour pools next to the car!  This was a well-known route for tourists and various Spanish cars came in and tooted.  We drove out into the next valley and the village called Cuevas.  A days caving eh lads!  Next day we started out even earlier allowing for the quota factor, and together with the Jonathan Woods family drove to Cangas and the Cueva del Buxu (pg. 224 in the book, Northern Spain etc).  The road from Llanes meets the Arenas de Cabrales to Cangas road and a few km before the town of Cangas, turns right into the hills.  We zoomed up the hill for miles until it petered out and zoomed down again until someone spotted the word Buxu on a small sign in a small hamlet. We walked up the track for a km passing a Spaniard on the way down.  It was midday by now and this was the guide going for lunch.  This was a maximum 30 per day quota, and his maximum was up! We saw the entrance however, a steel door in a bluff, and retired to a restaurant.  I found a few postcards of Altamira Cave in Cangas, but nothing else.  This town has a nice Roman bridge.  The road to Covadonga nearby was the route to the top of the Picos and the Xitu etc but. .. the wine/beer had got to us.  We drove off to Arenas de Cabrales and passed a Sherborne school bus and on to Panes, where we turned south along the Rio Deva towards Potes.  We got to our converted farmhouse/barn complex beyond Potes at a place called Lerones along an unmade road.  Anyone know any caves around here?  Next day we foolishly followed another sign that said cueva nearby. It was a village, not a cave.  So, we did our up the cable car bit at Fuente De, to the west of Potes, followed by our friends and the New Zealanders (lonely types) this cable car goes straight up a cliff for 800 metres to 1800 metres. Very Impressive!  Any caves up here?  We walked down again carrying rucksacks full of water to drink, in a clockwise direction to Espinama in 3 hours and contemplated caves again.  Our lift back to the cars at Fuente had missed us by minutes so we hid in a bar again.  The Cares gorge walk was next day and is really spectacular!  Three hours along a track carved out of the gorge, with a canal next to you carrying water for a hydroelectric scheme.  From Puente Poncebos (near Arenas de Cabrales) to Cain and 3 hours back again.  The track rises 250 metres at first and then meanders along the wall of the gorge to emerge at the village of Cain.  Along the way one can see resurgences below and above.  Halfway along, the Culiembro is the resurgence for the Xitu, and here was a cave above the resurgence if we could find it.  We lunched at Cain and on the way back (there's even a bar halfway along the gorge) we climbed up to look for the cave.  The map showed a stream - the Culiembro, surely a cave up there! We didn't try hard as we were late for the return drive. (Determination and drive at a low level).  We watched a spectacular rockfall across the gorge along with hundreds of other tourists and it was 3 hours back from Cain to the car and to Sue (who had looked dehydrated and had returned back earlier).  We waved to the Sherborne school bus again.  Still no caving!  Later in the week we tried again ... off to la Hermida, a village in the gorge between Potes and Panes.  A bar owner in la Hermida tried to be helpful and explain about the Cueva de Cuenda?  We set forth again looking for a track across the river and up the hill near Rumenes. Jamie led the way until the path petered out and acquired various ticks. Anyone know this cave?  It wasn't where we were!  Next day the final effort was to be the Cueva del Indal showcave.  This was in the book.  On the coast at Pimiango, 4km from Unquera, 24 km from Llanes. We set off down the road from Potes to the coast, and Unquera is where the road joins the coast road to Santander (there is another show cave at El Mazo, 2km from Panes, called Cueva de la Loja, and we drove slowly through El Mazo, on route for Unquera and the Pindal without seeing any signs).  We had set off late - a mistake let's face it!  The Spanish are up and at 'em early, and in the restaurants for lunch.  The cave is on the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Biscay, in a narrow valley.  Several bars are located here.  The entrance sign mentioned its quota of 20 or 30 as usual - no postcards, no nothing!  No pretty cave paintings again.  We gave up and retired to a local beach.  That was it really ... and we drove slowly through El Mazo on the way back looking for 'la loja' but I had the leaflet which stated 'cupo maximo diario de 30 personas', so I wasn't hopeful at all!  We did the beaches after that, plenty of sea caves of course!  We returned on a Thursday/Friday via Santander and the new Hypercor supermarket.  This is near the ferry port and had 2 caving books. I bought both, 'los colores de la oscuriadad' by Ortega is superb, and was 5500 pesetas.  It has descriptions and magic photies - all too late, of course, but I can sit in my armchair and translate the Spanish slowly - 'the colours of obscurity'? It's all perfectly clear.  (The bikers were on the ferry on the way back, don't get lost looking for Accrington lads!)  It was a holiday and we didn't waste the batteries.

Cheers, Pete Rose


Nostalgic Wanderings

by Roger Haskett

Doolin, Ireland circa 1967.

This was my first ever trip to Ireland.  Accompanied by Alan Butcher, Bob Craig, Pete Bowler and Dave (The Piggy Wig) Irwin. We flew Aer Lingus from Bristol to Cork.  We knew we were on the right plane because when they took the boarding ladder away, the plane fell over!  One of the (clever buggers) had hired us a tiny Vauxhall Viva to take five hairy cavers from Cork to Lisdoonvarna.  We made it with no tread on the back tyres, and no dirt or dust on the fronts, they never touched the ground!

We stayed at McCarthey's Cottage, which in itself wasn't too bad in those days.  However we did have some problems with an old Toppy who lived up the road.  He broke into the place and stole lots of bits and pieces, including The Wig's camera. This is probably why there is not a lot of photo evidence of the trip.  Of course, we only discovered this after we had returned from O'Connor's Bar, say at around 12.30 am.  Pissed as puddings, but nary a daunt, we collected our few remaining lights and, intrepidly, set off across the Clints in hot pursuit.  After falling down a few times, and expending lots of bad language, we eventually sobered up enough to go home.  I might add that we did not find any of the gear, although the Cops did recover some of the stuff at a later stage - knackered of course!

Apparently the old man that did the job was an anti - British and used to write allover the road, "Go home Black and Tans", but as we didn't mind drinking the stout without the brown ale, we stayed!

We did actually do some caving whilst we were there.  Sort of in between the drinking, fishing and fishing and drinking.  We did Catherines, Doolin, Coolagh River, Catherines Two and one of the finest trips I have been on, Aille River Cave.  I can only remember swimming the canals, but it sticks out in my mind as a really memorable jaunt.  Last but not least, there is always the story of one member of the party, who spent an evening trying to shove sharpened sticks up a certain crustacean's private orifice, after one of the fishermen had told us that it would stop the meat from going mushy when it was boiled!

Feanor Strand

Left: Doolin circa 1967
Right: The author showering outside the pub in


65 Years Of Cave Diving At Wookey Hole And Graham Balcombe's Wake

By Tony Jarratt

The evening of Friday 14th July saw some seventy people gathered in the 3rd Chamber of Wookey for the unveiling of a brass plaque mounted on a limestone plinth to commemorate the first dive here on 14th July 1935 by hard-hat divers Graham Balcombe and Penelope "Mossy" Powell.  It was also an opportunity for some of Graham's ashes to be spread on the sump pool of the 9th Chamber - the rest going to Swildon's and Keld Head.

The event started with a champagne and canapes reception in the 3rd Chamber with a steady trickle of vintage and modern cave divers and others appearing throughout the evening. Characters included Ann - Graham's fiancé, the BEC's own Sybil and John - the son of Gordon Ingram-Marriot (one of only two divers who have drowned here in the last 65 years).

Peter Hayling, one of the Cave's directors, then gave a short introductory speech followed by a longer historical account given by Jim Hanwell - much appreciated by those present. The plaque was then unveiled by long retired cave diver Sett.  Everyone then got stuck into the beer, wine and buffet while members of the Historical Diving Society re-enacted Balcombe's dive by sending a brass helmeted, bottom walking diver through to the 4th Chamber (and back!).  He was fed air from a heavy hand pump similar to that used on the original dive when Balcombe made BBC broadcasting history (and instant removal from the airwaves) by shouting back to base "Pump you bastards, pump!"  This re-enactment was very atmospheric, especially with the surpisingly clear water conditions.

Many of the assembled went on to the Hunters to continue the evening in traditional style and a well attended wake was held there, in the back room, on the Saturday night complete with a last minute singsong.  A dedicated few finished the night off at the Belfry - some to drown their sorrows after losing the annual cricket match to the Wessex!

Many thanks to the management of Wookey Hole Caves, the Cave Diving Group (Somerset Section) and the Historical Diving Society for their hard work.

See also "Jade Green Water", Descent 155, Aug/Sept 2000, p35

Attendees at the PlaQue Unveiling! Ceremony - Wookev Hole Cave

Ann Turner, Terry Dickenson & Maureen, Sybil Bowden-Lyle, John Ingram-Marriot, Tony Setterington, Dany Bradshaw, Angus Innes, Dave Irwin, Peter Stewart, Clive Westlake, Tony Jarratt, Jim Hanwell, Clive Gardner, John & Audrey Buxton, Rich West, Chris Howes, Judith Calford, Clive Stell, Jonathon Roberts, Fish & Liz Jeanmaire, Dave & Rich Warman, James Cobbett, Tim Chapman, Tom Chapman, Malc Foyle, Mike Thomas, Nick Mitchell, Roger Haskett, Willy Stanton, Mike McDonald, Keith Savory, Carol Tapley, Bob Cork, John Williams, Kev Jones, Sean Parker, Pete Mullholland, Ben Holden, Pete Bolt & family, Martin & Sue Bishop, Chris Batstone, Nigel & Viv Taylor, Amanda Edgemont, Margaret Chapman, Mike Merrit, Roz Lunn and others - (Graham's family, friends, cavers and cave divers). Peter & Cheryl Wingett, Adrian Barak, John Smillie - (Historical Diving Society).  Peter Hayling, Barney & Mrs. Butter ( Wookey Hole Caves directors) and the guides and staff.

Scanned article from the Wells Journal of 20th July 2000, page12.

The article and picture have suffered as a result of scanning a photocopy of the original! Ed

Plaque unveiled paying tribute to cave dive pioneers


Dreadful ditties

by REG

Where is this beautiful cave scene, photographed by Robin Gray?

In Cuthbert's Chas had quite enough
At the rift he'd run out of puff
But the reason was clear
He'd drunk too much beer
And stuffed up his snitch box with snuff!

Caving is not for the masses
And there's often a shortage of lassies
The reason is clear
They drink gallons of beer
Which results in some horrible gases

In past days cave painters were found
In secret grots far underground
For paint they used mud
Saliva and blood
Small wonder their work is ever found!-Ed

There once was a caver called Dave
Who went to the pub on his bike
And on the way home
He damaged his knee
When he missed the right hander in Priddy!

A poetical painter called Gonzo
Did pictures of the Matienzo
His pictures were fine
And they sold every time
But his poetry just didn't quite sound right.


Travels in America Part 2

by Rich Long

Well, as you may remember, I was in New Mexico, with new chums who were going to deliver me into the Guadalupe Mountains, for camping, hiking and contemplation, brought on by not having loads of money to stay in large hotel complexes, not that there were any about.

My friends were true outdoor types, not content to pay the extortionate $5 to park at Sitting Bull Falls, we exited the three 4x4's we were distributed in and seven adults, three children one pit bull terrier and all our caving gear piled into Gus's pick-up. If ever a bunch looked like a cross between the Beverly Hillbillies and the Manson family, it was us, hungover and still covered with yesterdays cave dust and bar-b-que grease.  Caring parents were seen to clutch their small children to their bosoms when we rolled into the car park.  However, the car park attendant never turned a hair, he was about 5' 2", around 65, clothed in jeans, a brown windcheater, zipped to the neck, mirror sunglasses and wispy grey hair sticking out from an old faded baseball cap.

"Five bucks for parking friend." he said to Gus.

"Good Morning, Sir," said Gus, the politest man I've ever met "I have a yearly pre-paid sticker to the Falls."  Pointing at the front windscreen of the truck, cracked all the way across, which seems to be an obligatory feature in this part of America.

"God-damn it, you durned city slickers, ooh, O.K. Park up."  He did seem somewhat peeved for a second or two, but soon cheered up when Gus asked Warren, which was the gentleman's name, if he would keep an eye on the truck as all my worldly possessions was in it. "No problem, I've got a .357 Magnum in the truck, if anyone tries anything ... why I'll give them so much grief." said Warren.  We thanked him and walked off to see the falls and splendid they were.

Time raced by and it was time to bid my chums farewell and I hiked off into the sunset carrying my pack up the cliff path past some excellent climbing spots.  I walked towards the Last Chance Trailhead until it was getting dark and found a very pleasant bit of flat land close to the river, set camp and listened to the canyon start to wake up in the coming dusk.

There were still a few bats about, some as big as Jack Russells, so, I kept my hat on, I didn't want any of them getting tangled up in my luscious, flowing locks.  It was awe inspiring laying out on the rock looking at the night sky, it was still warm in the early evening and you could still taste the warm trail dust and then catch the sweet scent of the trees overhanging the gently flowing river.  Every now and then as the earth cooled I could see the breeze coming up the canyon ruffling the tops of the trees and moving on, just like a huge invisible hand stroking through the leaves.

Jeeesus Christ, I've got to stop drinking so much, I'm turning into Ernest Hemingway.  Still, perhaps I'm not drinking enough!

Well, for the next several days I hiked, trying to do all the trails into the mountains, picking up on the old sites of interest, going to all the viewpoints I could make within a days travel.  It was excellent, unfortunately, as I was drinking river water cleaned by chemicals, not the most pleasant.  Then, one day I didn't drink enough and as you know dehydration, doesn't do you a lot of good, especially as you are about 50 miles from the nearest known habitation. So, I decided to hike back down to Sitting Bull Falls, where I knew there was water at the picnic site.  Head aching, I reached the top of the cliff walk above the falls and looked down.  I knew it had been the last weekend of the season when I had been dropped off, so I didn't expect to see anyone.  Rightly so, no one there, except, in the distance I could see a white pick-up truck, with a guy leaning on the back of it, it had to be old Warren!

I reached the tap after the climb down, had a tentative few sips and filled up my five gallon container, then, walked over to say Hi to Warren.

Warren was dressed the same as the day I'd left the falls several days before, elbows resting on the back of the truck he watched me approach.  "Hi, Warren, how are you today?"  "Fine and yourself?" he replied.  "Pretty good, thanks.  I filled up with water if that's O.K.?  Not too many people around now the seasons over, I guess." I said.

"No, that's just how I like it!" he said, he seemed to be sweating a little "It allows me to do my own thing.  In fact, I'll show you!" then he stood back from the truck and pulled down the zip on his beat up old windcheater and there, stood in a car park in New Mexico, 50 miles from town, I see my first transvestite!  Well, that's what the big boys told me they were called.  He's wearing a red Basque with black lace trimming. He leans towards me and glances round furtively and says, "I've got black lace panties on too!"  It would have been pretty damned attractive on a woman, but with half a dozen grizzled old hairs poking out from his skinny little chest, somehow it didn't do a thing for me!

Now, being brought up in Farrington Gurney, you don't get a lot of cross dressers and if you did they'd damn well keep quiet about it.  We did get one guy transported to Australia years ago for doing something to a sheep, but, I think he married it later and it was all sorted out amicably.

I honestly can't remember what I said but I think it was something feeble like " .. As long as it doesn't do anyone any harm etc."

I quickly took my leave and headed back up the cliff trail, thanking God that I didn't tell him where I was camping.  I looked back from the trail head and far below he was still leaning on the truck, windcheater now zipped up.  I hurried on thinking about the film Pulp Fiction, before I left for America my youngest son would think it highly amusing to play the CD featuring the track "Bring on the Gimp", the part where Marcellus Wallis has very unpleasant things done to his bottom area!  I in turn started to think about Deliverance another film about the great outdoors and equally unpleasant things.  Reaching my camp at a canter, not an easy feat with five gallons of water strapped to your back, I settled down for the night with my brand new Spider co knife attached to my wrist, cuts a tin in half, no problem!  Just what I need tonight!  Still, I can handle Warren, but what if he has pals, Oh dear!!!

The night passes, no visits from anyone except the usual snuffly animals, which I only assume wasn't Warren, swift hysterical kicks to the side of the tent and a lot of screaming soon got rid of them, so everything was fine, as soon as I had stopped crying.

I kept on with my hiking, one day seeing a mountain lion from close quarters and I wouldn't have seen that if it hadn't made so much noise running away, it had obviously heard that us BEC members get everywhere!!  No bears though, shame!

Time came for me to leave and I had to go back to the falls where Gus had arranged to pick me up. No Warren though.

When I told Gus he thought it was hilarious and quickly stated that it had been the first time he had ever met the man!!

We stopped to look at Apache petroglyphys on the way back to town and eventually ended up in Lucy's Mexican restaurant.  Gus suggested the platter, which was a bit of everything and we would have medium strength, well, we downed a couple of Mexican beers with slices of lime stuffed down the neck of the bottle, pretty nice, and proceeded to tuck into the meal. After a few mouthfuls, my nose started to run and I casually wiped it with my serviette, ever the gentleman. Now my head started to sweat, profusely, I now wished I hadn't wiped my nose, sweat and mucus across the top of my shaved swede, not a pretty sight in a restaurant.  More beer!  It turned into a vicious circle, fortunately by now I had plucked up courage to actually look up and Gus was suffering the same fate as me, sweating and nose running. My, what a pleasant sight for the rest of the clientele, fortunately the more beer consumed the less we worried. Still come the end of the meal, we didn't dare move for at least half an hour.  A couple of days later I met one of the greatest guys.  I was doing my washing on a Sunday morning, the nearest thing I get to organised religion, when I got a phone call from Michelle, "Would you like to come climbing?"  Now, let me see, doing the washing or going climbing?

Hmmmmmm!!!! Tough decision! I'm ready!!!!

Curtis picks me up and once again we head off up into the High Guadalupes where we meet a gentleman called Danny Moore, he lives in an Apache Hogan, all on his own.  His Hogan is filled with chess and climbing books, there are skis hanging on the wall, bows and arrows, one bow he has made himself, a black powder musket, "The same kind we chased you British out with!" he said.  "Well, we didn't want it any way!"  I lied.

"O.K. lets go!  I got some great bouldering I want you to try!"

Danny said "Who's coming in my truck?" in the absolute silence and the rest of the group drawing pictures in the dirt with their toes, I in my absolute naivety volunteered.  Danny all this time was walking around in bare feet, mainly because he only had one pair of boots and they were being fixed.

"Only need one pair Bub!" he assured me.

Well, we set off and it soon became apparent why I was the only passenger in Danny's truck, whereupon normal people approach a rock step of approximately 18" on a dirt road, they slow down, fix 4 wheel drive and crawl up over it, Danny floors the pedal and we gun it as fast as the truck will allow.  My head hit the cab like a scud missile, fortunately it didn't explode, but I got a hell of a bruise.  So I learned swiftly and jammed myself in and held on!  My pals were easily amused at the lump already growing on the side of my head, fortunately it didn't spoil my good looks, as it kind of balanced up the lump I already had on the other side of my head, you know, the one where I had the steel plate put in.  Ahhhh, the memories, I knew I shouldn't have camped at Rorke's Drift.  Mr Haskett did warn me!!

Oh yes, the story.  We climbed and sadly I climbed like a caver and ended up with bleeding knees, they were really good about it and only ridiculed me greatly!

Well after I'd lost about three pints of blood we settled down and watched the sun go down from Ridge Road, Curtis broke out cold beers and believe it or not the coyotes started to howl.  Wow, this was everything I had dreamed of.

This was magnificent, me, I'm easily pleased, give me beer, good company, a beautiful sunset and a pack of coyotes and that was heaven!  Look, I know we are cavers and this should be about caving, but, next time I'll tell you about Big Manhole and the hundred mile an hour descent!!

Rich Long


Glanvill’s Photos

Two pictures from the camera of Peter Glanvill of a lighter humour.


Song: The Young Mendip Caver

Tune: German Musicianeer
Author: P. MacNab
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol 32 No 2 February 1978

Well I'll sing you the song of a young Mendip caver
And of the adventures that overfell ' e.
Though he'd led a good life, he was hardly a raver
Until he went caving with a girl called Betsy.

Sing fal da ra lal de ra lal de la laddy
All kinds of holes this young caver'd been through
But the ones he preferred, they were both wet and hairy
And his favourite trip was to do Swildon's Two.

Now these two went down Swildon's, the boy and young Betsy
The bike of the Belfry, invariably free.
They slipped on their wet suits and went down together
There was no-one else with ' em, there was just he and she.

Now he'd charged his nife cell and she took her stinky
As down to the dark this young couple did go.
He thought he was hard and she thought he was kinky
And they both hoped the other one wouldn't be slow.

When the Forty was passed he led over the Twenty
Down to the streamway past ruckle and squeeze
But he found the sump wider than he had expected
And very soon after he was down on his knees.

Then it's "Oh!" she did cry, "Well me lamp it has failed me.
Have you got a pricker to bring back the flame?"
So he pulled out his wire and tackled her stinky
And very soon after, 'twas working again.

But this trip down below, it got wetter and wetter
And time after time she cried "Do it again!"
Till he'd tried every way and he could do no better
And then she did say "Try the first way again."

Now when they came out, they were both tired and weary
And the charge in his cell, well it almost was through.
And there's only the moral to tell of my story
Wet stinky's need pricking down in Swildon's Two


Minutes of the 1999 B.E.C Annual General Meeting.  Saturday 2nd.October.

The meeting was started almost on time, at 10.40 am, by the Hon. Secretary (Nigel Taylor).  He advised the AGM that insufficient persons had responded to the Request for nominations for the 1999/2000 Committee, and therefore 8 of the outgoing Committee are automatically re-nominated. However he had received three late nominations in the last 48 hours (Mike & Hilary Wilson - seen by the Committee as prospective replacement Treasurers, and Rich Long - interested in the Post of Caving Secretary).  He explained that now presented twelve candidates for election.  He asked the AGM to consider having all twelve candidates. Vince Simmonds (VS) Spoke in support of this idea, and it was accepted 'On the nod' by all present.

The Hon. Secretary noting that 35 members were present, called for nominations for a Chairman, Martin Grass was the only nominee, and was dually accepted.  P:Mike Wilson (MS) s:Roger Haskett (RR).

Angie Dooley (AD) then successfully proposed and Brenda Wilton (BrW) Seconded that " .. .it should be a 'Smoke Free' AGM" Voting: 14 For, 8 Against, 8 Abst

The Secretary had received apologies from: Rob & Helan Harper, apologies were given from the floor for: Fiona Lewis, Ivan Sandford, John Buxton, Kevin Gurner, Dave Glover, Bob Cork, John Freeman and Jeremy Henley.

The following members signed the BEC AGM Attendance Sheet: Colin Dooley, Angie Dooley, Brenda Wilton, Barrie Wilton, Nick Gymer, Dany Bradshaw, Trevor Hughes, Emma Porter, Mike Wilson, Hilary Wilson, Jim Smart, Graham Johnston, Mike Willett, Greg Brock, Mike Alderton, Stuart Sale, Brian Prewer, Bob Smith, Toby Limmer, Martin Selfe, Helan Skelton, Dave Ball, Ruth Baxter, Roger Haskett, Chis Smart, Ron Wyncoll, Nigel Taylor, Vince Simmonds, Roz Bateman, Estelle Sandford, Chas Wethered, Martin Grass, Rich Long, Roger Stenner, Dave Turner.

Item 4, Minutes of the 1998 AGM:- The Secretary pointed out that these had been printed in the BB just after the AGM .. these were P:BrW, Seconded Trevor Hughes(TH), Carried nem.con.

Item 5,Matters arising from the Minutes:- There being no matters arising, these were P:Mike Wilson (MW) & S: Ron Wyncoll (RW) and carried unan.

Item 6 Hon Secretary's Report:- Nigel Taylor had published this in the B.B.  There was surprisingly no debate upon this, and the report was carried nem.con. with one abstention, P: Graham Johnston @ 'Jake' (GJ) S: Angie Dooley (AD).

Item 7, Hon Treasurer’s Report: Chris Smart (CS) apologised for his missed attendances and asked the meeting to accept that there was a valid reason for this.  He then told the meeting that he had won an 80% rates rebate, and were not due any Inland Revenue taxation.  He added his concerns as to the High cost of the BB.  TH queried if we received any monies back from the BB, the Treasurer said no. NT pointed out that the recently renegotiated St. Cuthbert’s lease may have some extra legal cost implications but he awaited invoicing from the Club Solicitors.  However he was pleased to inform the meeting that he had negotiated with the Landowner, Messrs; Inveresk Group not to pay their costs, a generous consideration by them.

Item 7 Continued: Stu Sale (SS) Asked why the phone was on Business rate, but our rates were Domestic.  Both CS & NT explained.  TH asked about Heating Oil, NT advised that there had been no purchases and he monitored this.  The treasurer thanked Roz Bateman for her fundraising and membership money collecting. P: Estelle Sandford (ES) S:TH All in Favour, 2 Abstn.

Item 8, Hon. Auditors Report: Barry Wilton then discussed this with the meeting.  Voting then was P: RH, & S:Brian Prewer (BEP): Unan, 3 Abst.

Item 9, Caving Secretary's Report: No Report given or attendance.

Item 10,Membership Secretary's Report: This was then read to the floor by Roz Bateman.  She advised that there were 170 Members in total, 132 Paid-up members, 38.  Life She spoke on the availability and usefulness of Membership Cards and the Members Handbook.  She particularly thanked younger members for their suggestions. P: AD, S: Martin Torbett (MS) Carried Unam.

Item 11, Hut Wardens Report: The Hut Warden (Vince Simmonds - VS) then gave a verbal report to the meeting based on his joint six month tenure of the post. P:Dave Ball (DB), S:Helen Skelton (HS), Carried Unan.

Item 12, Hut Engineers Report.  No report and No appearance.

Ron Wyncoll asked that the movers of the Fire Extinguishers replace them from where he had positioned them ASAP!  ( Battery charger relocation!).

Item 13, Tackle Masters Report: Mike Willett (MWt) gave a verbal report to the meeting.  He thanked Jake (GJ) for his assistance this year.  Jim Smart (JS) Asked why there was no 'Booking out' Book maintained, MWt said that it was a new system.  RW stated that he thought the system had improved.  The report was voted: P:MT, S: SS. and carried Unan.

Item 14, B.B Editors Report: Estelle Sandford gave a verbal report to the meeting.  BEP Proposed Estelle a vote of thanks for the excellent Club Journal, P:bep S:CS carried Unan.  The report was then taken: P:Toby Limmer (TL) , S:VS. Voting: Unan.

Item 15, Librarians Report:  No Report or appearance.

Item 16, Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report:  No Report or appearance.

NT asked the AGM if it was happy with the levels of payments.  BEP suggested that the Committee liaise with Mike Palmer and Tony Setterington (With the Caving Sec, these are the three man IDMF Committee). VS suggested that many new and younger members were joining the club, and they should be encouraged to claim whatever they can.

Item 17, Election of Officers 1999/2000: The Floor accepted the following: Roz Bateman, Chris Smart, Vince Simmonds, Mike Wilson, Hilary Wilson, Rich Long, Martin Torbett, Toby Limmer, Mike Willet, Bob Smith, Nigel Taylor.

Item 17, Election of Officers Continued: As is customary, this was done from the floor of the meeting, and Nigel Taylor again declared a possible 'conflict of interests' to the meeting prior to any vote; He reminded them that his explosives business was working in Limestone areas, he was aware that it could be a conflict of interest.  The AGM declared this laudable, and agreed that they did not see it as a conflict of interest.  He further advised that he would shortly be working away in the Falklands and should miss both the November and December meetings, again the AGM accepted this.

Voting for the posts then followed:

Hon. Secretary: Nigel Taylor.P: CD, S: Dany Bradshaw (DB) Carried Unan, 1 Abstn.
Hon. Treasurer: Chris Smart.P:RH, S:RW , Carried Unan, 1 Abstn.
Caving Secretary: Rich Long P:MW, S: NT, Carried Unan.
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman. P:CS, S:MW Carried Unan.
Hut Warden: Vince Simmonds, P:N/K,S:GC, Carried Unan.
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer P:NT, S: GC, Carried Unan
Tacklemaster: Mike Willet, P: VS, S:ES, Carried Unan.
B.B Editor: Martin Torbett, P:ES, S: Bob Smith(BS).

Non -Committee Posts Confirmed:

Hon.Auditor: Barrie Wilton. was also reaffirmed as Auditor, P:NT, S: RH, nem.con
Librarian (Not filled, Committee to oversee until volunteer came forward).
Hut Bookings Officer: Fiona Lambert.
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock

A Vote of Thanks was proposed by CS FOR Dave Irwin for his Unofficial Librarian role over the last twelve months, this was seconded by BEP, Carried Unan.

The Hon. Secretary then excused himself from minute taking in order to prepare the AGM lunch, and Chris Smart stepped into the minute takers position:

Item 18, Members Resolutions: Much discussion re removing the whole of Section 'D' from Paragraph Section 5. The floor debated whether some jobs were ‘... more important than others?...’ TH felt that ‘We need one person accountable…such as Secretary or Treasurer…’  After lengthy discussion, the proposal was P:CD, and S: GJ, voting 4 For, 24 Against, 1 Abstn, this failed.

A further proposal to delete the single sentence from the Constitution: "Change of Office….General Meeting" From 5D, Was P: Roger Stenner(RS) S:ES, Voted 28 For, 1 Against, 1 Abstn.  This is therefore a Constitutional Amendment to be raised at the next AGM on the 7th October 2000.

Chris Smart (Member 915) Proposed, and Nigel Taylor (Member 772) Placed a Members Resolution forward as follows:  (See also 1998 AGM Minutes Item 21)

"That the Constitution be amended as follows: Section 3a) Classification of Membership to include an additional group 'G - Temporary Members'.  This group to have membership limited to a maximum of one period in 15 days in anyone calendar year, and to have no voting rights whatsoever and to pay normal guest Hut rates.  The Temporary Member to pay a fee to cover this expense." Both CS and NT outlined their concern and reasons for this proposal (Effectively to cover an Insurance position when prospective members cave with Members -NT).  The Proposal was put to the AGM and Carried Unan. This is also a Constitutional Amendment and must be raised at the 1999 AGM

The meeting then adjourned for Refreshments for half an hour, and on resumption 31 members were present:

Item 19, Details regarding the Annual Dinner, the AGM was told that all tickets had been sold.

Item 20, Any Other Business:

TH proposed A £1 increase in Club Subscriptions as a guard against inflation supported by NT, 12 For, 19 Against 3 Abstn.  Motion Failed.

TH then expressed his worries about the Cost of building an Extension.  NT presented the meeting with the Approved Plans, reminding TH that this had been discussed and approved at the last two AGM's, and further that a full costing would be undertaken before any main part of the Construction started (This does not include minor ground preparation! footings work).  DB was asked to comment by NT on the MRO Position respective the Old Stone Belfry Lease, and other club's attitudes.

TH was concerned about the 'Public Perception that the BEC was having a new extension built at the cost of the MRO - NT (Himself an MRO Warden) was outraged at this "ill informed and perverse attitude"  He added that the BEC at cost only to itself had welcomed the MRO in the Old Stone Belfry for more years than most could remember, and had never charged the MRO a penny for rates, rent, electricity or anything else in that time. Now MRO had a requirement to as it were ‘Take over the whole of the Old Stone Belfry’ and therefore the BEC would lose its only Tackle Store and Workshop space, then The BEC would build its own extension at its own cost. However, in return for an all encompassing 21 Year Lease on the Old Stone Belfry it was only fair that MRO, and indirectly now, other Mendip Clubs should pay towards that MRO lease. Further this fee, which had yet to be agreed, was to the BEC as Lease dues.  What the BEC chose to do with those funds was at the BEC's own discretion.

RH suggested that the BEC thought about obtaining lottery funding for a new extension.  BEP, Dave Turner (DT), TH, AD, also expressed similar views on the subject.  NT commented that he would explore the situation and report to the AGM.

CS Thanked Ron Wyncoll yet again for his 'at cost' Servicing of the BEC Fire Control systems.

NT asked the AGM to confirm the proper appointment of Martin Grass (Committee appointed Acting Trustee). As one of the Four Club Trustees, this was seconded by Chris Smart and carried unanimously.

Nigel Taylor as Hon. Secretary, announced the details and date of the 2000 AGM, as 10.30 am, Saturday 7th. October 1998 at the Belfry.  Martin Grass as Chairman then declared the AGM closed at 2.00 pm.

Minutes recorded by Nigel Taylor and Chris Smart, and later typed:

Nigel Taylor, Hon. Secretary, Sunday 3rd. September 1999.


Tackle Masters Report

2"" October 1999 AGM

Hello all and welcome another AGM.  First of all I would like to start this brief report with a big thank you to Graham Johnson ('Jake') for all of his hard work in the tackle store; Repairing damaged tackle, and making more replacement ladder for the surplus store.  The new system for obtaining tackle, set up by the previous tackle master Richard Blake, bas been successful, as no ladders seem to be disappearing.  In the main tackle store (the old MRO carbide store) which all BEC members have full access to there is: -

  • 2 ten meter ladders.
  • 1 five metre ladder.
  • 2 spreaders.
  • 2 wire belays.
  • 2 Lifeline.
  • 1 tackle bag.





The St. Cuthbert’s ladder, which is tagged, is also still kept here and must only be used in St. Cuthbert’s.

In the surplus store we have: -

  • 12 ladders, between 5 and 10 metres in length.
  • 7 spreaders.
  • 11 belays of various lengths.
  • 4 life lines.




Jake is also in the process of making three ten-metre ladders, which are almost finished and will be added to this surplus store.

For people with digging propjets, there are also various lengths of digging rope which may prove useful, if so, then any committee member on site with the key will gladly let you have access to the digging rope basket.  Failing that, contact the Tackle Master and arrange access.

This is the current status of the tackle store at the time of this AGM.

See you at the pub!

Mike Willett


Report Of The Hon. Secretary 1998/9

Those of you who were interested enough in your club to attend last year's AGM, will no doubt recall that I stated my intention to stand aside this year should any member want to take on the role of Hon. Secretary.  This was not because I was fed-up with a post that I actually enjoy, but rather as an expression of my concern for the best interests of the Club as a whole, and to enable the BEC to have a fresh face for the new Millennium should it so wish.

Unfortunately, we could not even raise any interest in getting nominations for the Committee this year.  On the evening of 'close for nominations' there remained two vacant positions, the seven existing committee members being automatically re-nominated as is the custom of the BEC.

Estelle Sandford encouraged Toby Limmer to stand in the Hunters that night, and Martin Torbett's nomination arrived in the post the next day.

Thus miraculously, we had a Nine person committee with no requirement for an election to be held. However, and this is a point that I will already have addressed the 1999 AGM upon - I have in the last week been advised of three persons who are prepared to stand.  These are Rich Long, and Michael and Hilary Wilson.

Now if you consider that on most Committee meetings this year, we only had three or if lucky four elected committee members attend, much business was transacted on behalf of the many, by the few!  This caused great difficulty in actually effecting the efficient running of the club, and also ensuring that any decisions taken were democratic.

I suggest that if we now have more than the statutory Nine candidates prepared - albeit at a late stage - the AGM might care to adopt them all, in order to ensure that if last years disgraceful situation reoccurs then at least the club should not suffer the indignity of such committee support.

Last year's AGM directed that committee members attendances should be recorded and passed to the club's AGM, these appear as an addendum to this report.  I make no further comment upon them, except to point out that members are volunteers, and they are entitled to their private lives and associated commitments, some of which unfortunately may not have been apparent to them when they stood for election last year.

Rebecca Campbell unexpectedly had to resign her Hut Warden's post in mid turn due to a relocation in Scotland, and I believe that the BEC owes a great big "Vote of Thanks" to Fiona Lewis, who stepped into the role of Hut Bookings Officer both efficiently and without portfolio!

In a similar vein, both Vince Simmonds and Bob Smith were co-opted onto the committee and have been stalwart in their roles as joint "Hut Wardens".

I have this year finally renegotiated the completion of a new Ten Year lease upon St. Cuthbert’s Swallet with Inveresk.

Martin Grass was offered and accepted the vacant position of a Trustee of the BEC, and I trust this AGM will endorse this action.

Clive Stell and Alan Butcher (SMCC and Ex-BEC) should also receive the AGM's thanks for their efforts in preparing architectural drawings and obtaining planning permission for the proposed extension to the Belfry (New Tackle Store, to replace the Old Stone Belfry being possibly taken over under an MRO/BEC lease still under negotiation.)

Please, please remember it is your Club try to do your bit however small that may be, to ensure that the BEC goes from strength to strength in the 2000's !!!!!!!

Nigel Taylor Member 772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club,
1998/9 Saturday 2nd. October 1999.


Stock's House Shaft - Summer Madness

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BB’s nos. 502, 504-507.

"Day after day the hole grew deeper - which is the right direction for holes"
The Goon Show (The Evils of Bushey Spon) 1958

The last trip of the Spring (by official Hunters Fireplace Time) was made on 31 st May when 104 bags came out on the hydraulic winch.  Some fun was had in the concrete entrance pipes when an errant boulder which had forsaken its bag threatened to return to the bottom and had to be recaptured.

The Summer season began, literally with a bang, next day when the collapse at the end of the Upstream Level was attacked.  The debris was cleared by the writer and Jonathan Davies (ex Camborne School of Mines c.c.) on the 4th June.  Ahead seemed to be a major choke with the stream issuing at high level through huge boulders.  It was decided to leave this to settle but on reversing out a huge slab of apparently solid rock ceiling dropped without warning onto the writer's head and upper back - with a stupefyingly crushing weight.  Luckily Jonathan was immediately behind and was able to dig away floor gravel with the long crowbar.  This took several minutes, during which time the stream backed up over the writer's nose and mouth giving him more concern as to being drowned before getting slowly squashed!  In shouting, or rather gurgling, panicky instructions back to Jon he drank a fair amount of Mineries water - not his preferred beverage.  Being wedged in a tiny space under one side of the slowly descending boulder the pain from his wedged Oldham cell was adding to the misery but just before the pressure and water became overpowering Jon shifted enough gravel to allow him to desperately thrutch backwards to safety and a much needed fag.  This was a closer call than the "Rat Trap Incident" and the writer is exceedingly grateful for Jonathan's clear-headed action - apparently this is a regular occurrence in C.S.M.C.C. digs!  In this instance there had been no time for an M.R.O. callout. It cannot be stressed too much how unstable the local dolomitic conglomerate can become once the supporting debris or stempling is removed and that it comes down noiselessly with no prior warning.  Thin beds of lubricative clay do not help matters.

Work was now concentrated on clearing the Shaft area and the Downstream Level and on 7th June 75 loads were winched out.

The 11th was devoted to photography and Pete Glanvill took record shots of all the workings, including the dropped roof slab in the Upstream Level.  A faulty flashgun ruined some of these.  Some tidying up was done underground on the following day and on the 14th eleven diggers, including four Wessex visitors, moved a vast amount of spoil along the Downstream Level and back to the Shaft.

The next few trips were dedicated to deepening the floor between the sumped end and the Rat Trap so as to gain maximum reservoir capacity for the forthcoming "big push".

98 more loads came out on the 19th June when the team was honoured by the presence of it's most vintage member, Sett - smartly attired following a lunchtime gathering of lots more Vintage Belfryites at the Hunters.  More bags would have been removed but for yet another unfortunate accident which stopped play and resulted in the writer (who else?) being carted off to Wells Cottage Hospital, by Tangent, to get five stitches in his eyebrow.  The wound was caused by the snapping of a cord loop attached to a Clog jammer used to clamp full bags to the hauling rope.  Due to greed and over enthusiasm each Clog bore two bags - giving a maximum winch load of fourteen!  One pair had jammed in the entrance pipe and were being cleared when the cord broke, the Clog shot upwards into the writer's head and the bags returned to join Vince at the bottom - along with a liberal quantity of blood.  Another lesson had been painfully learnt and future loads were reduced by half.

Over the next two days another 72 loads came out and then a week was spent in further deepening of the Downstream Level floor and removing the main dam.  A rock floor was eventually reached with an apparent, possibly natural, stream gully on the NW side.  A strong Sunday team on 2nd July winched out 135 loads with a further 42 coming out next day - a breakage of the winch starting cord suspending operations. The Wednesday Nighters were thus forced below to move another vast amount of bags back to the Shaft.

The winch was repaired on the 6th July by Trev and the writer and used to remove 105 more loads from the Shaft.  A local walker, Les Watts and his wife kindly delivered several plastic containers to the site for modification to digging skips.  Over the next few days further clearing took place until, from the Rat Trap to beyond Heinous Hall more solid rock floor was revealed.  Lots of old timbers were found in this area including one with a finger-sized drill hole in one end - presumably to take a wooden pin. Wednesday 12th saw another 100 loads out and the completion of the Loop Level "through trip" by Tangent. The next day, while on another clearing trip, the writer used a long crowbar to easily dislodge the 3ft long by 2ft square roof slab which hung over the Shaft loading area like a Sword of Damocles.  This was banged, together with a large rock buried in the floor on the 17th.  With a small stream still flowing work at the end was temporarily abandoned and a project of clearing the Downstream Level, to the rock floor, from the Rat Trap back to the Shaft was initiated.

124 more bags came out on the 19th July when passing North Wales caver John Robinson was collared to drive the winch.  Further clearing operations took place over the next few days with the rock floor being exposed almost all of the way back to the Shaft and on Monday 24th July another 104 loads reached the surface.  Two days later 117 more came out and lots of full bags were moved along the Level.

Whilst clearing the Shaft bottom on 27th July a wooden plank floor was revealed and this was further exposed over the next four days.  Where it abutted into the Downstream Level two hand made red bricks (8 1/4" x 2 1/2" x 3314") were found edging the planking. 64 loads reached the surface on solo digging trips over the next three days and the UBSS hand winch was dismantled and taken to the Belfry for storage.

August began with 109 bags out in the first two days and the disinterment by Trev of the handpump - buried in silt near the end.  After the removal of a small stone this was put back into action and, with the new Heinous Hall dam in place, the residual pool was pumped back and a few bags filled. All was now ready for a concerted attack on the terminal blockage.

Further clearing of the Shaft bottom on the 3rd August led to the finding of a 6 3/8" (162mm) long section of clay pipe stem above a distinct bed of blue/green clay in the undercut north comer.  This clay was later used to puddle the leaking Heinous Hall dam.  The hydraulic winch was removed to the Belfry and padlocked as Jake J. had spotted "Three scum bags in a pick-up truck" taking an interest in it.  This reminded us of the imminence of Priddy Fair and the resultant spate of petty thefts.

A surprisingly large team, including new boys Gary Seaman, Chris Connors and ex-MNRC member Ray Deasy (now resident in Australia), turned out on Sunday 6th and dragged all the bags stored downstream back to the Shaft.  Further clearing of the plank floor here was later done by Alex and the writer - three hands being better than one!  Two visiting, hungover Grampian men (Fraser Simpson and Graham Marshall) helped out the following morning when the dam was plugged and several bags filled at the end. It was certainly novel to hear the lilt of Fife accents in subterrenean Somerset!  The dam was found to work perfectly and water ponds up all the way back to the Shaft.

A three man team removed 105 loads on Wednesday 9th August and during the following week water was pumped back several times to enable a considerable amount of silt to be bagged up at the current end.  This was stacked in the level to displace water when the dam was broken.  Further clearing of the Shaft bottom took place and another pipe stem 4 1/2" (109mm) long was found.  Greg's Level was also dug to give more reservoir capacity. 117 bags were hauled out on the 15th.

The next day work started in earnest on clearing the last of the in-washed winter silt behind the terminal choke.  The capacity of the reservoir gave over two hours of digging time and good progress was made in atrociously slimy conditions by Gwilym and Neil.  Plans were laid to hire a submersible pump to make life easier but a very favourable deal from Brown's Tool Hire enabled the writer to purchase a new one along with an extra 50m of cable.  This was put to good use on the 20th August when a B.E.C./Crewe C.P.C. team eventually pumped the end of the level "dry" after a few teething problems.  About twenty bags were filled and stacked and last year's terminus was within sight.

The same team continued on the 21st and after winching out 149 loads repeated the pumping exercise. Another twenty or so bags were filled before a stray boot unfortunately knocked the bung off the dam outlet resulting in a rapid evacuation to the Hunters'!  Operational hiccups with the winch and pump caused some delays but were eventually (hopefully) sorted out.

A solo Shaft clearing trip by Alex next day revealed several more bricks laid alongside the floor timber and apparently acting as a barrier to deflect the stream from the planking. Better even than this was his unearthing of a broken iron shovel blade wedged vertically behind a boulder.  It had probably been used to prise out the rock but had been snapped off in the attempt and left in situ. It was hammered out from a single sheet of iron and may have been a long handled, Cornish-style, tailings shovel - used to clear sediment from the wooden floor (picture next page).

On 23rd August a strong team avoided the fleshpots of Priddy Fair, pumped out the Downstream Level and filled about fifty bags with chocolate mousse-like slurry until the collapse reached last year was again within their grasp.  A distinct draught encouraged the diggers.  Four days later the operation was repeated and a fair amount of rock was removed from the choke, as was a short length of very sturdy wooden stemple put in by the Old Men as a roof support.  There are at least two more of these beams in place which will be replaced with scaffold shoring if necessary.  It is planned to clear out the whole working face to standing height to allow us to dig in comfort and safety.  Much of this was accomplished on the 30th when much more rock was removed from the choke - which appears to be at the base of a shaft, natural rift or roof fall, time will tell - following the hauling of another 106 bags to surface the previous day.  These pumping extravaganzas have cost several hundred pounds so far - any donations to the "Digging Fund" would be gratefully received!

Work has also continued in emptying the Upstream Level of infill, around ten feet having been done so far. A plan of the Shaft bottom and updated survey of the workings will hopefully appear in the next BB.

Additions to the Digging Team

Jonathan Davies (ex C.S.M.C.C.), Tony Littler (M.N.RC.), Nick "Mushroom" Powell (M.N.RC.), Matt Cook (Cheddar Cliff Rescue Team), Kate Lawrence (Somerset Wildlife Trust), Dr. Peter Glanvill, Sean Briscombe, Neil Wooldridge (W.C.C.), Simon Richardson (W.C.C.), Emma Heron (W.C.C.), Kathy Glenton (W.C.C.), Tony "Sett" Setterington, Ray Martin (S.M.C.C.), Crispin Lloyd (So'ton U.C.C.), Helen Hunt, John Robinson (Grosvenor C.C.), Neil Usher, Ray Deasy (ex-M.N.RC.), Gary Seaman (Cheddar C.C.), Chris Connors, Fraser Simpson (Grampian S.G.), Graham Marshall (G.S.G.), Richard Wright, Chris Binding (Cheddar C.C.), Glynn Rowland (C.C.C.), Alan Allsop (Crewe C.P.C.), Kate Hughes.

Additional Assistance

Wells Cottage Hospital staff, Jane Jarratt, Mr & Mrs Les Watts, Ray Mansfield, David Gilson, Jane Allwood (Archaeology Officer, N. Somerset Museum Service), Les Good (Curator, Medieval & Post Medieval Archaeology, Bristol Museum), Adrian Sharman (Brown & Partners Ltd), Dave Walker (Curator, Somerset Rural Life Museum), Heather Coleman (Clay Pipe Research Society / Dawnmist Studio).

The Clay Pipes

Enquiries as to the age and origin of these have been made to several museums and individuals and have elicited a good response - unfortunately, so far, without any positive result. It is generally agreed that both pipes date from the late 1700s - 1800.

Tony Jarratt
Priddy 1/9/00

The pipe found at the bottom of the dig – date circa 1790 – photo P. Glanvill

Tony Jarratt examines the shot-hole – photo P. Glanvill


Scratchings from the Club diary

Compiled by Ed- any mistakes in names etc, entirely mine!

6-7-00 Dan yr Ogof

Vince, Trebor, Rich Long, Sean Howe, James Weir.

Excellent trip to the Risings via Flabbergasm Oxbow, Grand Canyon, Cloud Chamber.  The canal was a pleasant puddle.  Out via the Lower Stream, Bakerloo etc.  The Lakes were one lake and very damp and deep; water had risen during the trip by approx 9 inches.  Great way to spend a wet Sunday morning in West Wales.  Cheers to our leader Trebor!  VS

11-7-00 Thrupe Lane Swallet

John (Tangent) Williams, Paul Brock, Pete Hillier.

An SRT trip on Mendip! Planned in the Hunter's, that actually happened!  We had an excellent time down this cave, descending Slit Pot, Atlas Pot (from Marble Streamway to one side) and then Slither Pot.  This was quite muddy, the water obviously backing up a way during floods. Despite a roaring draught, none of us felt inclined to squeeze through a wet slot into the streamway.  Back on the ropes our exit went smoothly, Paul doing all the de-rigging, and my glasses steaming up which caused me a few route finding problems.  Overall a great evening, a little hurried at the end as we got out just before midnight! JW

15-7-00 Eastwater

Mike A and John W

Nice trip in Upper Series, climbing Rift Chambers and looking for climb to Dark Cars ... completed round trip, coming out for some beer and cricket!!  MA .. Absolutely, the way on to Dark Cars remains elusive, and rather dark as the Speleo Technics lamp I'd borrowed was even worse than mine! (Sorry Bob) so as usual my trusty LED lit the way.  A great trip  JW

15-7-00 Tynings Barrow Swallet

Vince and Roz

Steady trip downstream. Had a poke up into muddy passages above streamway and up Drunken Horse Inlet did NOT go into Mountbatten Chamber. Air quality not 100%.  Pleasant enough trip.

As for the annual cricket match the BEC gallantly managed to lose again.  Too many potential players decided to go caving only returning to drink beer!!!  VS

11-8-00 Swildons Hole

Rich Long, James Wear

Went to sump 1 as MRO (Bryan Prewer) asked us to change pull through rope, it certainly needed it!! Replaced with nice black SAS rope, we used full camouflage face paint while handling it and spoke in tough manly voices.  Swildons was dryish and formations below Tratmans' were drying out - the coffee coloured crystals were spectacular.  RL

28-8-00 Swildons Hole

John Williams ,Chris Holmes

A splash down the wet way, pausing along the way to admire Barnes Loop.  A little persuasion! description of sump 1 was all that was needed to encourage CH to try diving through it. .. An excellent trip, complete with the usual light hassles  (Speleo - Technics related - Princeton lee saved the day again!)   JW


Dachstein Caving Expedition 2000 Eistumen Hohle (G5)

- An interim report and some ramblings from Tangent -
(photos by Joel Corrigan)

Over the first three weeks this August 17 cavers returned to the wonderful wooden Weisberhaus (a bit like the Hunter's except at 1883m).  The main objective of the trip was to continue pushing G5 towards the Sudwestern Series of Hirlatzhohle, in the hope of making a connection.  This year pushing trip were going to be staged from an underground 4-person camp located at -300m. With the comfort (?) of a cosy campsite to return to, it seemed that the expedition was destined for success.

The Cast of Characters (in no particular order)

Pete 'Snablet' MacNab (the one responsible for this gathering) Mike Alderton, Annette Brecher, Greg Brock, Joel Corrigan, Chris Densham, Tim Francis, Rob Garrett, Rich Gerrish, Lev?, Pete Hall, Peter Hubner, Rich Hudson, Tim Lamberton, Mike 'Quackers' Duck (as surface support 'cos TSA don't make oversuits big enough anymore), Paul Windle, and John 'Tangent' Williams.


The expedition had received generous sponsorship and support from numerous sources: -

A grant from the BCRA purchased the underground camping equipment

Total Access supplied 1000m of rope at very reasonable rates

Various members of the B.E.C. were recipients of money from the Ian Deer Memorial Fund to help with transport costs.

A big thank you to our host Wolfgang & Alfi of the Weisbergahus for their kindness, hospitality, and support.

Thank you to anyone else involved in the preparation, planning or execution of this expedition..

Tangent at the entrance ofG5 (IC)

Deep, Dark, Dachstein ..

By John 'Tangent' Williams

Only for good reasons did the cavers travel along the roads and invisible footpaths within the stonewalls of the cave.  The cavers were like moving shadows.  Exploring, bolting, rigging, and digging.  Scattered dots of yellow-orange light cast by the caver’s carbide lamps were the only signal of their presence.  The occasional bolt and rope, the only sign of their passing.  The caver’s lamps were like small islands separated from one another by an enveloping sea of dark and empty cave.  The caver’s lights were soon swallowed by the blackness of their surroundings.  For them, what existed beyond the beam of their lights could only be imagined. Here was the familiar darkness of a cave; but on an incomprehensible scale.  After their passing, the cave could then return to its original icy silence once more; as it had always been in the time before men came to explore. Their activities were insignificant and soon vanished in the width of the eternal night of that cave.

During the expedition we were able to study the Dachstein from a distance, from up close, and -unique to cavers- from beneath.  Like the Poles and desert regions, the underground environment is one of the few places on Earth where on first acquaintance the landscape is truly desolate, barren, and seemingly devoid of life.  A much closer look shows this impression to be utterly wrong.  On the surface the karst is swathed in forest, only the larch trees are barely 12 inches high, being forced to the ground variously by crushing snow pack or fierce unrelenting winds, their growth stunted further by the aridity of the karst during the short summer growing season. Hidden and small are the well camouflaged animals that occupy the landscape, the occasional droppings or hoof prints just hinting at their presence.

Everything on the mountain requires intense study if it is to be understood at all.  This is very true of the rock, especially if you're trying to follow a new cave system beneath the mountain.  The place both above and below ground is one of extreme diversity and richness; it is also a harsh and unforgiving place, which demands the utmost respect.  The landscape here has far more meaning than that which can just be described through geology, geography and ecology.  Through our little explorations deep under Dachstein, I have gained a better appreciation of this place and its landscape.  Over the past years, through our mapping of the caves, we have made our own invisible contribution to this landscape, and in some small way maybe we have become a part of it also.

In the Dachstein Daze ...

By John F. Williams

After hours of sleep deprivation, combined with a ceaseless tide of Boris Yeltsin-like consumption, my mind was in a fog.  This was due to a night of righteous partying that had been triggered by returning to the sanctuary of the wonderful wooden Weisberghaus after a 3 day long pushing trip in G5.  Later on feeling wasted, distant voices filtered through the fog.  They suggested preparing to push other leads and of the impending demands of the de-rigging trips.  Our retreat from the cave was like the Americans' evacuation of Saigon but without the helicopters, and with even less glory!

Charlotte Bronte once wrote; "Life is so constructed that the event does not, cannot, and will not match the expectation ... " However I don't think she ever had the opportunity to drop into the depths of one of nature's subterranean skyscrapers whilst in the grip of the attendant intense gravitational forces!  On occasions one's expectations are entirely overwhelmed, such moments tend to hit you when you're unsuspecting, and thankfully, only very occasionally.  One such occasion happened to me whilst leaving camp at the end of a pushing trip in G5.

Rich had gone on the ropes ahead leaving me to replenish the water supplies at the camp and fettle my carbide lamp by which time he would be finished ascending the big pitch out of the Hall of the Mountain Numpty.  There was just one slight problem; I couldn't locate the rope that would provide my passage up and out of the place!   A lot of aimless wandering around I sat down on a large boulder in the centre of the chamber and thought about my predicament some more.  Deciding to renew the batteries in my spare torch I then methodically shone its bright beam around the vast cavernous room until the slim silhouette of the rope appeared at the top of a debris slope, hanging within metres of where I had searched several times already.  Keeping its location firmly transfixed in my vision, to the exclusion of everything else, I moved speedily across to it and attached my jammers to the rope in readiness for the climbing.  My mind is now on autopilot.  My nerves are calmed by the prospect of the repetitive routine of ascent. Especially after the uncertainty and isolation of the past half-hour, whilst searching for the way out.

I slide my top jammer up as far as it will go.


Weight foot loop.

Pull with right arm.

Stand up ...

OH ...

... FUCK!

The words are instinctively ejected from my mouth.  They are nearly my last.

My surroundings accelerate past me.  The silence of the cave is shattered.  My cry is soon drowned out as tons of rocks begin to fall, the chamber echoes with the sound of crashing, crushing rocks.  My mind barely registered the frenetic sequence of events that brought me back to my resting-place, looking upward.  My immediate landscape appeared to have taken on a radically new orientation, as if torn by some cataclysmic tectonic force.

Ah ... yes.

The Hall of the Mountain Numpty ...

The Mendip Numpty ...

My mind slowly registering my whereabouts, new thoughts keeping time with the gentle bounce of the rope, hanging there just inches above the ground.  From above Rich's voice boomed down.

'Tangent are you okay?'

'I'm okay ... I'm safe!'

The veteran French speleologist Robert De Joly captured the mood of the situation well when he wrote:

"Life is decidedly precarious in these fateful depths." De Joly (1975: 17)

I began the ascent once again, this time with a lot more caution.  During the long climb, my mind played and replayed the events that had just happened at the base of the pitch, haunting my every motion upward.  It would seem that just as I stood up in my foot loop to leave the deck, I lost my footing on the slope and pendulumed across the slope only inches above the ground, but completely at the mercy of gravity and inertia.  Above me, the sudden movement on the rope must have dislodged tons of precariously poised rock from the chamber walls.  What was it Snablet had written about this place last year?

"It is at this point that the walls turn to sugar and the boulders are held up by plasticine."

I vividly recall a T.V. sized rock glancing off my shin as the tempest of falling rocks commenced. By good fortune the rope must have come taut at that moment and I pendulumed back out of the way just as the falling rocks were in full flood ... Phew.

Later on that day Rich and I eventually reached the surface.  By the time we emerged from the confines of the entrance the darkness had extended from the cave to regain a foothold over ground.  The sun having long since slipped silently away over the horizon.  It was also time for us to slip away in the direction of the Weisberghaus where our friends would surely be awaiting our return with bottles of beer at the ready ...

Pushing at the limits of explanation

You are 300m deep inside Eisturnen Hohle, a cave of severe character buried beneath the Dachstein mountains of Austria.  In front of you at the bottom of a slope of broken boulders is the camp.  Behind you lies the Hall of the Mountain Numpty, a massive black void that you have just abseiled through to arrive at camp. According to your companions, once you get through the passage called Only fit for insane worms and gecko's, you've done the hardest part and there's no good excuse to turn back from the trip - a rest at camp followed by pushing at the current limit of exploration awaits you. On the surface the mountain climate generates a seemingly endless torrent of thunderstorms.  The weather, your caving friends tell you has no impact on the lower portion of the cave, unlike nearer the surface where normally dry pitches can transform themselves into cold cataracts of wild water.  Some have been there; trapped at the base of pitches, pinned down until the flooding subsides, or else have fought for air and ascent against the floodwater.  Your confused:  It's cold and damp, and the view in every direction disappears into waves of blackness beyond the glow of your torch, but something inside you is relishing every moment, part you is actually enjoying it!

You soon begin to question your sense of time and space.  Rebelay's that appear close take half an hour of repetitive motion to reach. You quietly question your own significance in this underworld.  Why you choose to spend your entire summers' holiday away on a caving expedition. Just you and your deluded caving friends and the darkness.  The American climbing writer Michael Bianchi describes a similar situation:

"You mentally compare the void outside to the one inside"

Down in the Birth Canal you look ahead and realise that there is nothing to focus on anymore. Only blackness and varying shades of brown from the all-pervasive mud. In this place the rock recedes and is replaced by layer upon layer of thixotropic mud.  Pausing for a moment to recover from a particularly savage series of manoeuvres amongst the mud, you take a 'look' around.  Above you the rift twists and turns, mirroring that below, a signature to the waters power.  Ahead is more of the same, two sheer walls separated by a strip of black.  In cave exploration there is no horizon to strive for, only a icy draught to chase and sometimes water to follow.  Eventually you stop relying on your eyes, amongst the mud and darkness, other senses take priority.  What you feel: soft mud, sticky mud, dry mud, wet mud, and cold dictate your next move.  What you sense is a feeling of being at the edge of something far bigger than you are. This time you have pushed the 'current limit of exploration' a little further forward, but in doing so the 'limit of explanation' has been exceeded.

Extract from the log 9/8/00: Rich Hudson & Tangent go pushing G5.

"Our descent passed by fairly smoothly, until we reached the heinous Birth Canal.  I'd been labouring with the misapprehension that it was a long vaguely phreatic walking passage named in honour of the Vertical Guru's daughter (born in '99 on the day the passage was discovered).  It certainly is not.  The walls are coated in thick sticky mud, some parts are narrow, some high and exposed, all of it is desperately gruelling.  Some distance in, feeling decidedly unnerved and intimidated, I told Rich that maybe I should call it a day.  After a little discussion (and a song from Rich) we agreed to carry on a bit further.  Soon we were at a pitch head, and once more on rope, dropping down some 50m into a vast chamber.  At the base of the pitch a short drop was descended.  Rich went first followed by some scary flying rocks knocked by a careless Tangent stumbling around in the 'daylight' glow of his Princeton Tec L.E.D. lamp.  From the base of the pitch a steeply descending 1-2m wide rift, about 40ft high, carrying a small stream, led off into the unknown - or as Peter Hubner says' ... "To the final frontier ... "Unfortunately this was G5 not Hirlatz, so the 'final (fucking) frontier' was a gruesome collection of awkward birth canal esque rift, coated with a hefty dollop of mud. This mud was not your average friendly cave mud ... It was more like some slobbering Jabba the Hut manifestation, consisting of hideous plastic clay which could easily conceal or consume two cavers and all their gear without effort or trace.

The work of 'pushing' began.  Rich started rigging a high level traverse line.  His work was hampered by a very badly packed tackle bag, the aforementioned mud, and trying to stay in place perched amidst the mud.  (Did I mention the mud?).  After organising the gear between us the 'Traverse of a 1000 spits' was made and a short pitch (35') dropped.  Much, much, more of the same awaited.  The only redeeming features were some mini mud formations created by flakes of rock protecting their tops allowing the development of little cones beneath.  These were mostly squashed by Tangent whilst explaining how they'd formed to Rich. The return journey awaited.  The second time around the Birth Canal didn't seem so bad (I'd gone 'off route' on the way in by the ladder).  Back at camp we ate and then slept." J.W.

The following 'day' Chris Densham and Pete Whitaker continued pushing from where we had finished. Their logbook entry reads:

10th Aug-

"Set off for the bottom at 2.30pm.  With no great enthusiasm we pushed beyond Rich and Tangent's limit.  But first to put off the evil moment, Chris pendulumed across to a floor c.10m from the top of Total Access.  After 10m proved to be a blind alcove.  So we had to go to the bottom.  Foul walls of slime.  Pathetic immature streamway at the bottom of rift, slimy mud higher up.  Continued about 30-40m beyond Rich and Tangent's limit with a further couple of sections of traverse line.  Pete was most determined, and reported the streamway to cut its way down steeply and narrowly.  The traverse level also appeared to pinch out shortly after an area of collapse.  We decided the cave was concluded so derigged out .... " C.D.

The limit of exploration / explanation had been reached in G5, the depth being somewhere around the -600m mark.  The passage seemed poorly developed, and the mud severely hampered progress in an already desperate piece of cave.  Attention was now focused on pushing possible phreatic leads higher in the cave between -300 and - 400m.

Some ideas on the hydrology of G5 and its relationship to the Hirlatzhohle drainage system.

The Hirlatzhohle system has three distinct levels of phreas.  Each of these developed in conjunction with the prevailing hydrological and topographical conditions of each glacial / interglacial cycle.  For example during the earliest phase of cave development ('level 3') the altitude of which is between 1300-1500m in the east (rising to the west with the hydraulic gradient) the surrounding topography would have been quite different.

During each of the subsequent interglacial periods a new lower phreatic level evolved.  This was in response to changes in base level and hydraulic gradient as the land surface, cave passages, and hydrological regime were modified by the effects of glaciation and the associated climate change.

The relevance of these phreatic levels to G5 and its potential for connecting with the Hirlatz system, is that the altitude of the 'level 3' phreas in the west could be intercepted by the much younger G5 development anywhere below -300m.  For example the phreatic passage met at the head of 'Only One Can Hold Me'.  With this knowledge pushing various phreatic leads that appear in the cave became a priority. It also has the advantage of expanding the cave laterally as the G5 passages at present have occupied a very narrow vertical column within the rockmass by spiralling around on themselves.

On a final note Peter Hubner pointed out that if nothing else, establishing that the water in G5 is flowing away to the N.W. refines our understanding of where the watershed / catchment for Hirlatz lies.  It would seem that the present water in G5 drains to the hydrological connection that is known to exist between the Gosausee and Waldbach Ursprung. Following a flowpath beneath the Hosswand AIm area, where it could collect further water on its way to the resurgence (Waldbach) which is at an altitude of 910m and seems to be fairly young having only been established at the close of the last glacial maximum (c.15-20ka.).  During winter conditions the resurgence is dry and has been explored to a depth of -40m terminating in a low (O.5m high) bedding some 20m or so wide.  These observations lend support to the idea that the conduits behind the resurgence are young and poorly developed, which corresponds to the active passage encountered at the present limit of exploration in G5.

Levels of Phreatic development in Hirlatzhohle:

'Level 3': Highest, oldest, 1300-1500m altitude (in the E. rising in the W.)

'Level 2': Middle, main level, 1100-1300m (in the E. rising in the W.)

'Level 1': Lowest, modern level- completely flooded and still evolving (poorly developed) *

*The fact that in time of peak flow during times of thaw/flood, the water levels rise dramatically by at least 100-200m to completely fill the Western part of Hirlatz (level 2) suggesting that the modem phreas has a small storage capacity and is still immature.

Key to schematic diagram of the levels in the Hirlatzhohle:

•••        Large fossil passages with significant mud fill

////////    Large fossil passages which are still active (no mud fill)

_____   Large passages of probably younger origin

………. Passages with high gradients connecting different levels Mainly rift dominated.

John (Tangent) Williams

Pete Hall (Red Rose), Snablet (BEC), Quackers, Greg Brock (BEC) at the Weisberghaus ( photo JC)


65th Annual Dinner

The Market Place Hotel, Market Place, Wells.
Saturday, 7th October 2000, 7.30 for 8.00 pm.

I produce below a sample ticket with actual menu on the night, sent from Mr Nigel- Ed

To reply to this dinner offer, you must return the tear off form- this will give you a BB with half a page missing!




Breast of CHICKEN on a Cream of Mushroom Sauce  or  Braised Blade of BEEF In a Red wine & Shallot Sauce

Iced LEMON PARFAIT with Mulled Black Cherries  or   BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING


We are Limited to 100 Persons for Comfort, so PLEASE BOOK Straight away, First Come First successful!

Please enclose a stamped address envelope with your form as there will be no tickets on the night.  I want to enjoy my meal as well! (SORRY, NO Phone Bookings OR e-mails)   A Coach will leave the Hunters Lodge Inn at 7.15 pm PROMPT!!......Please book names only, with the Booking Form Below. please note:- Bookings CLOSE By Saturday 30th. SEPTEMBER

Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

Sept 15-17                 Hidden Earth 2000, NCC Bristol

Oct 7                         AGM and annual dinner

Oct 20-22                   ISSA Workshop, North wales


January 1                   Columns Open Day OFD

12-14                         ISSA Workshop and AGM, Mendip



The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Club members should note: There is now a digital keypad as well as the key lock on the Belfry door.  Please do not compromise club security and members privileges by giving this number to non-members especially those who may already have a key!!

Editors Plea

I would ideally like someone to assist with the compilation of articles, collection of same from authors and help with the rolling calendar.  Also all of you out there, it is your magazine - thank you to all regular contributors but I need more from you.  A small read through the log shows that many trips take place but few get to my in tray!  If you can write, please send it in!  No articles, no magazine.  It's up to you!

Editors Page

Like all editors in the entire world, I have been extremely busy and have had little contact with the world of caving recently other than to take youngsters down Goatchurch as part of my work at the Charterhouse Centre.  I can often be contacted there during the day on 01761 xxxxxx.  I do have an e-mail address though and a lot of things come to me through that medium.  First a message from GREG BROCK, who has been hard at work on the club website.  Greg writes the following.  The new BEC website is now fully up and running.  Please Log on and give your comments on it so that it can be improved. Also please sign the visitors book. The address is 

You can contact Greg at the address below.  Greg@[removed]


Pete Rose has sent me a picture of the new entrance to Withyhill Cave before it has been fully covered over and profiled.  This seems worthy of a caption competition to go with the photograph.  Best entries either suggested in the Hunters Lodge or sent to me with judging by a totally partial panel.

From an e-mail received from Rob Harper.  As you may, or may not, know, there was a trip by several BEC members to Chile during February.  I was just discussing this with J’Rat in Bat Products.  Between us we worked out that we were in the Atacama Desert while he was in Cherrapunji.  Thus the BEC had the distinction of having club members at both the driest and the wettest places in the world at the same time!

Also on a sad note, I publish three obituaries

Arnold (Sago) Rice died on Thursday 25th May - Full obituary to follow next issue.  Ed


Graham Balcombe

Francis Graham Balcombe was born 8th March 1907 and died 19th March 2000.

Graham as he preferred to be called, was an engineer with the Post Office, and spent a lot of time installing aerial systems around the country.  He teamed up with a fellow engineer, Jack Sheppard, the CDG surviving President, and they formed a formidable climbing team.  They pioneered and improved many climbing routes in the Lake District and Wales.  Graham was credited with a number of unorthodox solo climbs, church steeples, office corridors etc., not always appreciated by officialdom.  As their prowess increased, their climbing activities were practised whenever they could; and when working at the Daventry site on the AS, in good weather they would climb a radio mast to eat their lunch on the top.  There is a story of a handstand being done on the flat top of a mast.  While climbing in the North, they met members of the Northern Cavern and Fell Club who were on Great Gable.  In discussion they were invited to try potholing (1932).  They liked it and now spent weekends down potholes instead of up mountains.

Eventually they were sent to work on radio stations in Somerset.  There they contacted the local caving expert, Herbert Balch who introduced them to the leading caver of the area, "Digger" Harris.  He was a respected solicitor in Wells, but he broke out at intervals to drive the town fire engine!  He introduced them to many local caves, including Swildons Hole which soon became important to them.  This had been explored as far as a sump by 1920.  This sump they tackled by conventional means, looking for a by-pass; but eventually they resorted to explosives.  This was not entirely appreciated by the locals as one charge had to be re-primed due to a misfire and went off a bit late on a Sunday morning during the service in the church - vertically above the sump, the congregation "felt the earth move" and the vicar was not amused.

By 1934 they had decided to try diving and Graham constructed a sort of snorkel part of which incorporated part of a ladies bicycle frame. It had non return valves and was connected to a piece of garden hose.  This was not successful firstly by reason of physics and secondly by the attachment of the hose coming undone underwater!!

On these first attempts they wore the caving gear of the time--old clothes!


Graham balcombe photographed recently in Bat products

Cold was a vital factor. Jack went on to produce a complete dry suit fed by a football inflator, and he used this to pass the sump. 1000ft further on he met a second sump but could go no further as he lacked a pump operator.  Spurred on by this Graham later attached a small oxygen cylinder to his device, and on a solo trip, passed both the 1st. sump and most of the 2nd sump.  He used synchronised breathing with opening the valve on the cylinder, and the gas ran out as he got back.  He nearly died of hypothermia on the way out.  The sherpa party found him shivering over a candle part way out of the cave.  In 1935 they were loaned and taught to use Siebe Gorman standard diving gear.  Due to its weight and bulk they explored Wookey Hole as far as they could drag their hoses.  During and after the war Graham built an oxygen re-breather and used it in various Yorkshire caves.  His transport was a tandem and trailer that his wife helped him to pedal push from Harrogate and other railheads.  By 1946 his diving equipment had been supplemented by some commercial sets and a number of enthusiasts met in S. Wales in an attempt to tackle a resurgence called Ffynnon Ddu. While there they decided to form a group.  The Cave Diving Group was born!  For several years Graham was Chief Diver, Trainer, Secretary and Treasurer--and he was what one would call a benevolent despot!  (Some were heard to refer to him as the Fuhrer behind his back)

Eventually the strain got too much and a more conventional committee took his place, and he was kicked upstairs as President, more or less his words.

I first met Graham as a comparatively raw recruit, and I was somewhat in awe of him, but found like a lot of rather abrupt people, his bark was worse than his bite!  He must have approved of me because we were diving partners on two dives before he handed in his gear and "retired".  On one of these we found an air filled chamber and a lot of passage underwater.  Although retired he was always pleased to see visitors and talk shop.  My wife was amazed by the wide range of his interests and his persistently enquiring mind.  I kept in irregular contact with him and took him to diving functions and AGMs etc. until his recent illness.  He will be sadly missed by his friends and leaves a large legacy of books, reports and articles that will take a lot of sorting and cataloguing.  He is survived by his stepson.

John Buxton



On 25th February this year Richard Websell committed suicide.  He was not a member of the BEC but he was well known to many of the members.

Richard was born and raised in Salisbury and started caving while at school.  Together with Andy Sparrow, Dave Walker and others he founded the Salisbury Caving Group whose members eventually joined mainstream Mendip Clubs. His academic years in London brought him into contact with SWETCC in the heyday of such characters as Aubrey Newport, Trevor Faulkner and the unforgettable Brian Quillam.  This as much as anything influenced his move into the Wessex.

I first met him in the late 70's.  Our views on caving and its ethics were identical and together with Paul Hadfield we formed a very active caving partnership during the exciting, and occasionally fraught days, of the development of SRT.  We both joined the CDG.  With Al Mills loaning equipment and giving advice ("Don't go below thirty feet those bottles are filled with welding oxygen") embarked on a series of "learning" trips - also quite fraught on occasion.  When I defected to the BEC we still carried on caving together on a regular basis.

His short stature and reserved manner tended to obscure the fact that he was a very hard caver. Although primarily a tourist caver both in Britain and Europe he did take part in original exploration - most notably in the pushing of Gough's cave in Cheddar and in Norway.  No underground hazard or problem seemed to bother him and his sense of humour never seemed to fail however grim the situation.  I remember one occasion in Mangle when it appeared that we would both be trapped by my inability to get back through the squeeze out of Aldermaston Chamber even after stripping off my wet-suit.  Eyeing my pink body apparently irrevocable wedged, Rich was heard to comment that it was like stuffing a marshmallow into a piggy bank.

In his youth he had been a bit "wild" and his life had not been without its problems. However we all thought that was behind him since he met Anne twelve years ago.  He seemed settled and thus the news of his death was a terrible shock. At his funeral the chapel was crowded and overflowing.  A testament to his popularity and not solely within the caving world.

On a personal note. He was my close friend; a kind, funny and totally dependable man who was always good company.  I still cannot believe that he has gone.

Rob Harper


"New Beer Warnings"

Club members may have problems relating to this compilation of beer warnings-Ed

From an e-mail received from the former editor Estelle

Due to increasing products liability litigation, beer manufacturers have accepted the Medical Association's suggestion that the following warning labels be placed immediately on all beer containers:

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may make you think you are whispering when you are not.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol is a major factor in dancing like a Wan*er.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may cause you to tell the same boring story over and over again until your friends want to smash your head in.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may cause you to thay shings like thish.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may lead you to believe that ex-lovers are really dying for you to telephone them at 4 in the morning.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may leave you wondering what the hell happened to your trousers.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may make you think you can logically converse with other members of the opposite sex without spitting.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may make you think you have mystical Kung Fu powers.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may cause you to roll over in the morning and see something really scary (whose name and/or species you can't remember).

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol is the leading cause of inexplicable rug burns on the forehead.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher, more attractive, and smarter than some really, really big guy named Franz.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may lead you to believe you are invisible.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may lead you to think people are laughing with you.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may cause a flux in the time-space continuum, whereby small (and sometimes large) gaps of time may seem to literally disappear.

WARNING: Consumption of alcohol may actually cause pregnancy.

Skittles Night

Craven Pothole Club joined Wessex and BEC members for a skittles match at the New Inn, Priddy on 27m May 2000.  I was a late arrival, but found the members and guests in great form, both skittles and beer going down well.  On the scene reporter Greg Brock managed to preserve the final outcome on his arm!  A fun and enjoyable night was had by all. No formal competition was set up just a social event with prizes for the highest scoring participants.  A £1 entry fee was taken from each person and the profit of the event will be donated to Sarah Blick to help her get to the Advanced base camp of K2 on the 26.07.00.  In amongst all the social drinking the winners of the event were: -

Cliff - Highest male scorer.

Judy Clark - Highest female scorer.

Judie - 2nd highest scoring female who won the boobie prize.

Don Mellar - 2nd highest scoring male who won the other boobie prize


Stock's House Shaft - The Spring Offensive

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BBs nos. 502, 504-506.

February 2000 commenced with the escorting of an MCG Wednesday night tourist party around Five BuddIes Sink and the Shaft.  Needless to say they were then conned into assisting with the dig and 50 bags were hauled out while, in the depths, vast amounts of rock was being moved along the level.  Some of them even threatened to come again - but haven't yet!  During the rest of the month and early March another 160 loads reached the surface and four more new diggers were recruited.  Much of the work involved transporting full bags and rocks from Heinous Hall to the Shaft.

On the 13th March the last two boulders from the Heinous Hall collapse were banged and on 15th another 46 loads were hauled out.  Analysis of water samples by Roger Stenner seemed to indicate that the Upstream Level inlet is fed by water from Waldegrave Pool - as is the flow from the Treasury of Aeops.  As these levels went in different directions this seemed odd.  Further water samples were taken on the 19th, both underground and on the surface.

During the rest of March another 214 loads were laboriously hauled out on the man winch but life improved considerably on 2nd April when Ivan arrived with the newly fettled, trailer mounted hydraulic winch and painlessly removed another 74.  The following day, with the assistance of two press-ganged Grampian men, down from Inverness, another 74 came out on the hand winch - in a rapidly worsening snow blizzard.  Work continued on clearing the Upstream Level on the 4th and the terminal inlet sump was drained to enable an airspace to be felt beyond.  This was investigated further the following day and found to be the continuation of the Level.  With high water conditions it was left for the stream to excavate for us.  Another 75 bags reached the surface.

On 6th April the writer, digging in the floor of the Upstream Level on a solo trip, was fortunate to find an almost complete and nicely decorated clay pipe buried in the silt on the RH side of the passage just upstream of the 5m aven (now named Pipe Aven).  Its fine state of preservation may be due to its having been protected by wooden shoring along the Level wall - now rotted away.  Being still intact and useable it is postulated that the pipe may have been put down by its owner and fallen behind the timbers.  The cherry-like designs on the bowl are stylised tobacco plants and on one side is what appears to be a church window or bishop's mitre with a star below.  The circled W on the other side may be the initial of the pipe maker.  Further research is being done on the date and origin of this minor treasure and the current "guesstimate" is late 1700s - possibly from the Oakhill area.  It will eventually be displayed in Wells Museum. A small piece of clay roof tile was also found.


On this trip the now drained sump was further enlarged to gain access to another 20ft of level, bearing to the WNW under the road and towards the ruined Stock's House.  This now added weight to Roger's drainage theory. It was pushed further on 9th by the writer and Greg Brock who demolished a small roof collapse to continue for another 15ft to a choke. Next day the backfilled naturale (?) passage on the SE side of Pipe Aven was partially excavated.

Another 46 loads came out on the hydraulic winch on 12th April and a set back occurred next day when a fairly major roof fall just beyond Pipe Aven luckily happened while the writer was having a fag break at the Shaft.  The 16th saw 74 loads out, more water samples taken and the new collapse banged.  A follow up blasting project the next day was curtailed by more raining boulders.

This is another example of the roof of the level coming down when the supporting infill is removed. Bits of rotten timber and black staining show that all these dodgy areas were previously timbered up by the Old Men who were fully aware of the consequences of leaving them unsupported.

On 26th April Trev and team cleared most of this fall, despite having to dodge more rocks, and hauled 30 loads out.  May started with 87 bags out on the 3rd and the next few days were spent in lowering the floor of the Upstream Level to gain access to the visible continuation. This was entered on the 8th May in high water conditions and found to be aloft long section of apparently modified natural streamway with an attractive section of scalloped grey limestone at the start.  51 more bags came out two days later. Three clearing sessions were then done in the Level during which some natural/mined alcoves were revealed directly under the road. These will be fully excavated at a later date.  The arrival of summer and associated problems was heralded by the stealing of our modified wheelbarrow and the throwing of a full bag of cement down the Shaft by some pathetic pratt.

The hydraulic winch was in operation again on the17th when 66 loads came out after considerable experimentation with tying-on techniques.  Eventually a system was devised whereby ten loads could be hauled up in one go.

The Scene on 3rd April at Stock Hill (you can just sees the winch)

Andy Elson emerging from the "natural" section of the Upstream Level.  Photo by John Williams, 22nd April

Visitors from Kent Underground Research Group were shown the workings on 20th May (and persuaded to shift a few bags) and the next day a mere 3 loads were hauled out by Rich Witcombe who was excavating a trench across the flat ground behind the winch to see if it could have been a horse whim circle.  He found no evidence for this so this ground can now be used to extend the spoil heap.  Down below work was continuing on clearing the Upstream Level and on the 22nd the collapse at the end was poked with a long crowbar to bring down another supply for our regular rockery customers. Caveable passage could be seen above the collapse but it was deemed prudent to leave it to settle - the healthy water flow continuously washing out the fine silt and gravel.

An exciting evening was had on 25th when 87 loads came out, generally a dozen at a time, on the hydraulic winch.  The weight caused the scaffold tripod to slip - heavy bits of metal narrowly missing the unloading team.  At the Shaft bottom a couple of head sized boulders had the same effect on the loading team as they ricochetted into the two different levels where they were sheltering.  Valuable lessons were learnt for future winching as having two thirds of the digging team wiped out in one go would be counter-productive!  The last rock out to surface contained a superb shothole section, 23mm in diameter and 116mm long to the bottom of the hole - which still contained a greasy black deposit.  This was collected for possible analysis as it is likely to be the residue of the burnt gunpowder charge.  The spring session ended with 104 bags to surface on 31st May.  Hopes are now on the weather drying up (some hope!) for a late summer push downstream.

This section will be walking sized when the floor spoil is removed ..

Additions to the Digging Team

Wayne Hiscox, Arthur Spain, Greg Smith, Roger Wallington, Mick Lovell, Brian Pittman, Viv Beedle (all MCG), Dave Boon (Frome CC), Barry Hewlett, Danny Burnett, Steve Windsor, Fergus Taylor (ex Camborne SMCC), Mark Denning, Estelle Sandford, Martin Parsons, Ken Ansty (Blackmore CG), John Moorhouse (Soton DCC), Jim Conway (Grampian SG), Dave Hodgson (GSG), Mike Merritt (SMCC), Chris Franklin, Ian Butler, Dave Morgan, Phil Spice, Nick Smith, Peter Burton (Kent Dnd. Res. Group), Mark "Gonzo" Lumley.

Additional Assistance and Photography

Graham Mullan (UBSS), Lou Maurice (DBSS), Marek Lewcun ( Bath Arch.Trust), Maurice Hewins (WCC).

Diggers always welcome to J’rat's Digs (or the many others!) Especially welcome, thick arms and a natural propensity for grovelling in waist deep mud!  Contact the diggers at the Hunters Lodge Inn, Priddy any Wednesday evening.  Ed


Tales of a lesser known caver Part 2

by the Editor.

As no doubt many of you know, there are lots of cavers who go climbing or walking up mountains.  I know of quite a few.  Perhaps it is some of the yearning to visit beautiful places, perhaps it's the thrill. Whatever it is, I was a relative newcomer to the climbing part of this scenario until quite recently.  As part of my work, I needed to attend a course in first aid and since others at the centre where I work wanted similar training, a group of four instructors drove to North Wales last year and booked up the Climbers Club cottage at Helyg near Llyn Ogwen, Snowdonia.  On arrival late on Friday evening, we were greeted by a terrible smell; similar to one that used to lurk at the Belfry some weekends after a group had visited.  We fumbled around for light switches and got the place warm by lighting the fire - coal supplied, and the smell gradually faded.  Further unpacking took place and then a fridge was opened and the smell came out and seized me by the throat or was it via the nose.  Yes cavers, you have guessed, it was a very former piece of chicken, still in its wrapper that had been left in the icebox.  Later, after gagging and cleaning the suppurating mess out of the fridge, I looked up the date of the last group.  Two weeks ago!  They had dutifully turned off all the power and complied with the plethora of little notices, forgetting to empty the icebox, but remembering to open the fridge door!  Nature had taken its course, but had been frozen once again when we arrived and powered up the place. Appropriate notes were left in the log!  Anyway, back to the point of the tale.

Snowdon from Plas y Brenin (many mines, few caves)

By now it is nearly 11pm and my comrades suggest a freshen up outside.  Packing two full ropes and a rucsac of bits, we are rapidly off up the road to stop at a blurry shape in the dark.  "Milestone Buttress," Chris exclaimed, Off you go Torbs, it's just like caving as it's so bloody dark you can't see anything.  So, Petzl on, up we go!  After about three pitches, I arrive at something akin to the entrance of a cave. In I go only to find I am snuggling up against a large boulder and a wall.  Well it felt safe, so on we go. More ropy things, a traverse across into nothing and a haul up and I can see a glow below.  F**k me it's a bloody great lake!  I am miles up!  Faint tremors of the legs are followed by turning the light out.  Can't see anything so nothing to worry about. "Off you go Torbs", so off upwards I go, finally reaching somewhere called the top.  By now I cannot see the bottom or the top so it is most cave like.  I can see I am on a ledge and there are a couple of other lights, one above, one below, and then we are all together.  "OK, time to get off and to bed", says Chris.  It's now 1.30 a.m. and I am tired.  A long icy, wet gully descends at a steep slope angle, far to slippery to do without a rope, so tie on and down we go, good cave practice this! Soon I am on a flat bit, then on a path, then I see the road and we are back, hot, sweaty and happy, just like a caving trip but in reverse (you go down to get out).  Well that was all fine and we are still alive so home we go.

About a year later, I am in Snowdon again doing some training and drive past Milestone Buttress.  I stop and go up to find the climb but cannot.  Just like a cave you visit in the dark with friends in foreign places, you can never find the entrance!


Extract from the Sherborne Mercury 1816. 

Sent in by Sett.


On Tuesday the 12th day of November, 1816, on the premises, at Priddy Minery, in the parish of Chew-ton-Mendip, in lots:

Lot 1. A STEAM-ENGINE, with a 16-inch Cylinder, Air Pump, and Condenser, standing in a wood frame, with a wrought iron boiler, cast iron round top, 6 feet and a half diameter, nearly new, with a grate thereunto belonging.

Lot 2.  A STEAM-ENGINE, with a 12-inch Cylinder, a wrought iron boiler, six feet diameter, cast iron flat top, with steam pipes, brass cock, and piston.

Lot 3.  Two 8 inch PUMPS, that lift about 30 fathoms with buckets, clacks, and iron rods to the same.

Lot 4.  A LIFTING CAPSTAN, with cogs and nut, standing in a wood frame.

Lot 5.  A STEAM-ENGINE, 6-inch Cylinder, worked with a flywheel & crank, and a 4 feet wrought iron boiler.

Lot 6.  A 6-inch PUMP, that lifts about 15 fathoms, with buckets, clacks, and iron rods to the same.

Lot 7. Sixty yards of INCH-ROPE, nearly new.

Lot 8. Sixty yards of Ditto,          ditto.

Lot 9. Sixty yards of Ditto,          ditto.

Lot 10. A quantity of Hods.

Lot 11. Shovels, Sledges, Mattocks, &c. Lot 12. Iron Screws, Nuts, and Pins.

Lot 13. A quantity of Iron.

Lot 14. Sundry Windlasses.

Lot 15. A quantity of Timber.

Several Servants Beds, Bedsteads, and Bedding, in lots.

Sale to begin precisely at eleven o'clock in the fore-Noon.



By: Ted Howard, manufacturing adviser and R.S. King C.Eng. Aerospace structural specialist.
January 1999

This summary presents facts about the design of karabiners


It is worth reminding ourselves about the function of karabiners used with ropes.

A karabiner is a much used link in a chain of components intended to provide a life support system either potential, to guard against inadvertent fall, or direct employed in a rigged system intended for rescue, access or industrial use.

The potential life support system is only intended to be used in case of a fall. The gear and its placement is more of a hindrance than a benefit apart from its moral support once placed.  Some risk is accepted.

The direct life support system is gear used dynamically for support as a controlled method with full knowledge of its characteristics.  Risk is not acceptable.

The acceptance of risk is the reason that recreational users are content with less robust and lighter gear than the industrial user.

Fitness for Purpose

The choice of a karabiner in a given situation must be its fitness for purpose.  When it is needed it must work.  It must have adequate strength and stiffness and continue to provide these in the working environment.

It is not the purpose of this summary to give the statistical results of tests readily available through the U.I.A.A., nor to arouse the wrath of manufacturers, but some salient points are given in the hope that they will aid selection of karabiners for specific purposes.


1.                  Many karabiners are made of aluminium alloy by user demand in the pursuit of lightness and also to gain a competitive retailing edge.  They have become lighter and lighter.  Advances in manufacturing and materials technology allow this but gradually the load carrying ability of specific karabiners has decreased.

2.                  Given their working conditions, aluminium alloy is probably one of the worst materials that karabiners could be made from.  Weight advantage has been gained by using increasingly higher strength alloys. These alloys are one of the strongest materials on a weight to strength basis that can be utilised currently for their manufacture.  However in the compromise required to achieve higher strengths these alloys also have reduced ductility and tend to crack more readily, with higher crack propagation rates.  This has the consequence that once a small crack appears then because of the concentration of stress and the nature of the material then the high tech. alloys can rupture easily, even under working loads.

3.                  All aluminium alloys have approximately the same low modulus of elasticity so that improvements to stiffness can only be made by careful detail design of the overall shape and the shape of the local cross-section.  Low stiffness means that the gate can deform requiring a screwed gate to restore some strength by providing a load path.  The size of the pins limits the magnitude of the load that can be carried.

4.                  Aluminium alloys are highly prone to corrosion which has given rise to a huge amount of effort devoted to the problem.  Aircraft in particular use these high tech. alloys and are sometimes grounded for weeks while corroded parts are repaired or replaced.  This means being aware of the various types of corrosion.  These are many.  Only three main types are considered here;

a.                  Surface, is caused by an impurity exposed at the surface making a small electrical cell in the presence of water.  The aluminium becomes an anode and corrodes.  The appearance is a flaky white powder.  The repair is to remove this mechanically and polish the exposed surface until no black pitting shows.  Restore the protective finish.

b.                  Sub-surface is caused by corrosion along the grain boundaries, starting at an edge or a hole. Sometimes called exfoliation corrosion, because the metal flakes, it is hard to detect in the early stages when a simple repair might be possible. The undetected corrosion represents a loss of strength.  Usually the repair is to throw the affected item away.

c.                  Galvanic corrosion is caused by dissimilar metals in contact in the presence of water. For example steel hinge pins in aluminium, unless they are coated with cadmium, will cause corrosion. Unfortunately aluminium will be the anode and will corrode.  It then becomes another throwaway job.  Water, particularly with salts, is damaging.  The simplest repair is to remove all corrosion but please note that both strength and stiffness are reduced by material removal!


5.                  Weight.

Design is usually a compromise between a number of conflicting requirements. The best link might be a closed steel loop tested safely at 100kN.  Anything less is a compromise but we are obliged to compromise.  A gate is required, that adds weight and reduces strength.  Weight is always a consideration if someone has to carry it, but how light should we go? Constructional rigging and rescue work recognises more readily that the strength of the links is paramount and in such situations weight can be tolerated if adequate personnel are available. After all, lightness is of no benefit if it leads to failure!

In climbing or caving the choice becomes blurred, with the decision being biased towards lightness in the interest of success.  How often do we contemplate falling off!  Remember too that a direct belay or an abseil point where one or more lives are at risk can be considered to be a direct life support system which needs higher security.

It is a useful exercise for a climber to weigh a rack of twenty lightweight karabiners say 20kN rated, and compare the difference in weight with a rack of twenty 28kN rated.  With due consideration it may be decided to leave a bar of chocolate behind and take the stronger rack - unless chocolate drives you on!

6.                  Material.

Steel is a much more robust and reliable material than the high tech, aluminium alloys and the red rust of corrosion is more easily spotted with less damaging effects.  Stiffness is a function of the material and also of the detail design.  If we assume that an aluminium and a steel karabiner have the same shape (or volume) the following comparisons can be made. The steel unit will be about twice as strong and three times more stiff but three times more heavy than aluminium.  So, for the same strength the steel karabiner would be about 50% heavier.  You'd get about 18 of these aluminium karabiners to the kilogram or 12 steel ones.  Steel is harder than aluminium and better resists abrasion and impact damage.  It's your choice.

7.                  Detail Design.

Since the advent of competition sports climbing, the availability of longer nosed karabiners, to aid fast clipping of protection points, has increased. This may be why they feature prominently in shops and that there are so many of them.  Are they fit for your purpose?

Karabiners are essentially like crane hooks.  The load is intended to be carried through the back which is shaped for maximum strength.  It is also designed for stiffness so that the hook will not deform and allow the load to slip out.  A karabiner has to have a gate and modem design makes it part of the strength but it is also a weakness.  It should not deform so much under static load that it cannot be opened intentionally, in an emergency.

The loaded rope is reacted by transferring a direct tension force across the link.  The sketch (fig. 1) illustrates this.  Any offset from the line between where the load is applied and where it is reacted will cause additional, weakening, bending forces.  The highest strength is achieved by keeping the line of action of the load as close as possible to the back of the karabiner.  This will give the lowest offset bending.

Pull or tension tests to destruction, are done with a karabiner mounted under ideal conditions.  Tests are done with the karabiner mounted with twelve millimetre rods tucked tight into the corners of the back.  This gives the least offset and consequently, the highest strength.  In practice extra offset bending can arise because the loading geometry is different.  If the same test is done with a twenty-millimetre tape in place of the rod then the point of application of the load is displaced from the ideal position and has an extra offset which significantly reduces the breaking strength (fig.2).  If the karabiner is jammed against something so that it can react force sideways then the rope or tape can slip towards the gate.  The offset is now far more than it was designed to be.  In these circumstances there is a danger of premature failure, (fig.3).

The figures illustrate the fact that the greater the offset from the line of action of the load the less the potential strength of the karabiner because extra bending forces arise from leverage.

8.                  Dynamic Performance of the Gate

A good 'open-gate' strength is difficult to achieve.

Consider the gate design.  It is made so that the latching end of the gate (as opposed to the hinge end) has its latching pin in a design distance clearance to the receiving slot in the nose (fig A ).  This allows the back to build up resistance as it comes under load.  The deflection of the back then allows the gate to engage and start to offload the back.  This device delays the build up of strain in the gate so that this weaker component can add its strength just before the back starts to yield (or permanently deform) on its way to failure.  This gate feature greatly improves the resistance of the karabiner.  However because of the reduced stiffness of aluminium alloy with the resulting deflection, avoid screwing up the gate when under load.  It may be impossible to unscrew it without loading it again.

Dynamic testing, involving a given load dropped through a specific distance, fastened to a rope running through a karabiner gave some very interesting results.  These were analysed in slow motion and it could be seen that as a result of the vibration set up in the karabiner the gate oscillated open with increasing amplitude. This sympathetic response would significantly reduce the unit's strength should the impact occur with the gate open. It might also allow the rope to escape. Without a gate to help, the integrity of the unit can be compromised making a sort of Russian roulette.  This should be enough to encourage the use of screw gates, twistlocks or any other gate locking device.  Again, more fuss but a reduced risk.


9.                  Care in Use

Where karabiners are made for a specific purpose they are not necessarily fit for multi-purpose use.

Avoid linking karabiners together.  They have a way of twisting against each other, especially when on a ledge, getting a back against a gate and opening it.  They can then slip apart.  This has been recorded many times.  It is a very real danger.

Lock the gate - against the rope slipping out - against vibration and to improve strength.

A lot of thought and experience has gone into the design and manufacture of karabiners.  They are made more and more for specialist purposes which may not be compatible with your requirements.

Different features often arise not as a technical improvement but as need to produce a new product and stay commercially ahead. "A karabiner is a karabiner" is not necessarily true.


10.              Will they last forever?

No, they do not last forever.  It is essential that any safety equipment, including karabiners, be treated with respect.  Karabiners need cleaning regularly.

·        After use, especially near salt water, wash in warm water with detergent, rinse in demineralised water, dry and lubricate with a water repellent including the gate hinge pin. Remember that soft waxes (WD 40) evaporate and need regular replacement.

·        Check for distortion, bent gate pins, fractured noses, surface damage such as indentations or cracks.

·        Check that there is a take-up clearance (fig A) at the nose latch, particularly if the karabiner has had a shock load.  Lack of clearance may indicate that the unit has permanently deformed and has a reduced strength.

·        Don't forget that one long abseil on a rope which is wet and dirty or covered in mud can scour a groove so deep that it puts an alloy karabiner beyond safe use. Cut it in two and throw it away.

·        Guard against sympathetic vibration by checking the spring resistance against the gate opening in comparison with a good quality new one.  If in doubt contact your supplier to have a new spring fitted. It is a simple job.

·        Karabiners are like any other mechanical device.  They are prone to failure, need maintenance and eventually are unsafe to use.

Choose your equipment carefully with its purpose in mind.  If it is to be part of a direct life support system where weight is not a problem then it is safer to use properly maintained steel.


Meghalaya 2000

by Tony Jarratt

Tom Chapman and the writer were the BEC's representatives on this year's expedition (Brian Johnson and John Whitely being the Club's agents on a separate Devon/Yorkshire trip to the south of the country which I am sure they will write up for the BB!)  The rest of the team consisted of our leader, Simon Brooks (Orpheus & Grampian), Fraser Simpson, Dr. Kate Janossy, Roger Galloway, Pete Dowswell (Grampian), Mark Brown, Dr. Kirsten McCullough (Sheffield Uni.), Kevin Garwood (Canada) and Dr. Mandy Edgemont (S.W.C.C.)  The Meghalayan Adventurers contingent were Brian Karpran Daly (leader), Donbokwell Syiemlieh (organizer), Ronie Mawlong (token small boy), Bokstarland Franklin (organizer/guitarist), George Nongkhlaw, Spindro Dkhar, Betty Chhakchhuak, Neil Sootinck, Lindsay Diengdoh, Andy Tyler, Adora Thaba, Myrkasim Swer (chef), Larsing Suklain (guide, caver and bigamist) and a host of cooks, assistants, drivers, guides etc. Hospitality and entertainment were once again provided by the ever popular Ladies of Shillong.

This trip had two primary aims: - 1) Continuation of the work done by Wells Cathedral School C.C. (1999) in the Sutnga area, Jaintia Hills, east Meghalaya (recced. by us in 1998 and 1999).

2) Recce. in the Garo Hills, west Meghalaya, following on from work done by earlier expeditions.

Aim one was accomplished very successfully, despite a total lack of surveys or information from the Wells team but aim two had to be cancelled due to insurgency problems in the area.

The BEC contingent left Mendip on 9th Feb. after getting a lift to Heathrow with Tony Boycott (who we had exchanged this year for three young and attractive lady doctors - good swap eh?)  Here we met Simon, Kate, Kirsten, Mark and Fraser and flew on to Meghalaya via Amman ( Jordan) Calcutta and Guwahati ( Assam).  A luxury coach then took us on the four hour drive to the capital, Shillong, where we met Pete, Roger and the local lads at the Embassy Hotel.

11th Feb. was a shopping and equipment sorting day followed by party number one at Brian and Maureen’s house.

12th Feb. hangover number one was suffered on the coach to Cherrapunjee (Sohra) where we went for a day trip to a proposed holiday resort owned by Brian's friend Denis Rayen.  Its spectacular location near the village of Laitkynsew gave views of the towering escarpment cliffs of Meghalaya which were as impressive as looking at one wall of the Grand Canyon - greatly enhanced by the endless flat plains of Bangladesh below.  The nearby sandstone cave of Krem Wah Sang was explored and surveyed by Simon, Tom and Mark to a length of 106m and depth of 32m.  Meanwhile, above, the rest of us sat around a bonfire drinking and listening to Roger playing Irish and Scottish folk tunes on his tin whistle as dusk fell over the plains below - we'd arrived!

Next day we left by coach for the five hour journey to Sutnga taking with us Betty (of the unpronounceable surname!) and Kevin - a travelling Canadian who expressed an interest in caving and, more importantly, was a computer programmer (we had two lap-tops with us).  On arrival we established HQ at the village Inspection Bungalow, some 3/4 hours drive from the main limestone block of the Nongkhlieh ridge.

The 14th saw the whole team pushing leads left by the Wells students though the lack of information from them was to frustrate us throughout our time in this area.  Near the village of Lelad, on the north side of the ridge, the horrific boulder maze of Krem Sniang was surveyed for 90m length and 47m depth to the head of a probable 10m+ "pitch".  Any attempt to descend this would have meant dislodging keystones holding up the 47m of boulders above!  It was abandoned in disgust as the strong draught indicated a big cave below.  The name, " Pig Cave", relates to an aberrant porker rescued from the entrance pit before providing sustenance for a village feast.

The nearby Krem Umsohtung was also visited and a pitch descended and surveyed to the head of a second pitch.  We later discovered that this had already been done more lack of information.

Today's best find was Krem Mawshun where a split 20m pitch (left un-descended by Wells C.S.C.C.) led to an extensive horizontal system - see later.

The 51.5m deep Krem Kdong Moomair was bottomed in one pitch by Tom, Mandy, Kirsten and Fraser to a choke. The long snake skin at the top of the shaft caused the explorers, especially Fraser, some concern as to whether its previous occupant was awaiting them below!

On the following day, after a long drive in our Mahindra 4WD pick-up, we arrived at Litien village where a couple of local lads were found to guide us to Krem Wah Sarang ( Rusty Water Cave).  A dry entrance above a small resurgence led to a fine 200m long, 3m wide and 4m high stream passage to another entrance on the far side of a ridge, near the sink. Other small caves nearby were investigated but found to be choked or sumped.  As our pick-up had gone back to HQ we were forced to hitch a lift home in the diesel soaked back of a monstrous 4WD Shaktiman truck - driven by a lunatic who was obviously late for his tea.  This was the most exciting part of the day!

Continuing our recce of this area next day, we went in search of Kut Sutiang - a hill fort with stone-barricaded caves which was stormed by the British in 1862 to eradicate the last of the Jaintia "rebels".  With the hill in sight we made a courtesy stop in Shnongrim village and had tea with the headman. Unfortunately he had previously been approached by the Jaintia Adventurers Assn. - a breakaway group from the Meghalayan Adventurers - and they had requested that the area be reserved for them only. Having experienced India's first case of "caving politics" we beat a diplomatic retreat after bribing the headman with Polaroid photographs of his family.  This short sighted action by the Jaintia cavers will do little to further serious exploration as they have practically no equipment, no vertical experience, no survey kit and very little intention of actually doing any serious caving. They do have a great interest in seeing their names in the papers and encouraging sponsorship though!  This problem will be resolved by next year as we have "friends in high places"

On February 17th-18th survey teams worked in Krem Mawshun to map several hundred metres of impressive streamway and a maze of wet tubes and boulder chokes leading to a large flood resurgence entrance in jungle covered pinnacle karst.  This system's total length was 3.3km.

The 19th was a rest day and we were invited to the village church/school fete very like a typical English one with folk dancing, hoop-la, tea and cakes etc. but with the exciting addition of a couple of fighting bulls let loose in the crowd and no safety fences!! Fortunately no-one got gored and the local bull was champion of the day so the villagers were in fine form, especially after celebrating with the traditional rice beer.  That night another party and sing-song developed.

Scenery above Krem Wah Ryngo

Next morning, late, the whole hung over team travelled by bone shaking Shaktiman for two hours to the remote village of Umteh.  Here we were shown the dry flood resurgence of Krem ah Ryngo ( Charcoal Cave).  With a name like that it was just begging for passage names with a Beatles theme.  On this first trip about 1km of impressive, walking size and up to 10m wide tunnels were surveyed and at least eight main ways on left unexplored.

We returned the next day replete with camping gear and cooks and established ourselves in a deserted coal miner’s settlement consisting of several bamboo framed huts devoid of roofs or walls. While the cooks rebuilt the place we returned to "Ryngo" and split into two teams to survey a further km or so including a huge, well decorated and sparkling chamber, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, and an attractive Gothic-arched phreatic tunnel-Abbey Road.

That night the jungle resounded to the joyful sounds of yet another party - this time with a roaring camp fire.  The departed coal miners would have been impressed as their ghost town sprang back into life for a brief period.

The morning of the 22nd saw the team breakfasting off baked beans, rice and bananas to the accompaniment of monkeys howling in the forest.  Another km was surveyed in "Ryngo" and a short but impressive shaft to surface climbed by Tom.  This was the dry main sink entrance, situated on the south side of the Nongklieh ridge above the camp.  In a plantation here we met three local rice planters who gave us tea, betel nut and biris (Indian fags).  In return we gave them Wills cigarettes and demonstrated the joys of lighting lumps of carbide.  Luckily we had George, a Meghalayan caver with us, who spoke to them in Khasi as they admitted that they were ready to run off and hide on first seeing the strange white men appear from nowhere!  We returned to the camp through the cave and completed a long closed loop to Abbey Road en route.

That evening four of us and the two cooks opted to stay for another night while the others returned to Sutnga.  A huge bonfire and limited rum and fag supply kept us going as we fondly thought of the body-destroying Shaktiman ride our colleagues were suffering.

Corned beef hash, noodles, oranges and bananas set us up for the day and while George and the cooks decamped Tom, Roger and I mapped another 300m of fine passages, loops and a large chamber - The Magical Mystery Tour - which fortunately led back to known cave after a committing climb down in its floor.  A low and wet route upstream from Lucy in the Sky was left unsurveyed due to lack of time and we came out via the top entrance to walk on up the ridge to the dirt road above.  Here we met George and the cooks who had built a roadside fire and prepared tea and biscuits.  As night fell and the strains of Roger's whistle soothed the savage beasts in the surrounding jungle we saw the welcome sight of the pick-up's lights in the distance. Bung, our faithful off-road driver arrived bearing fags and beer and took us back to Sutnga - tired but happy!

Meanwhile big things were happening at the nearby Krem Shrieh ( Monkey Cave).

Mark had rigged the gobsmacking 97m deep entrance shaft to enter a huge stream passage with lots of fossil galleries leading off.  In the adjacent Krem Um Sngad Fraser, Larsing and team had found over a km of streamway, fossil passages and a large downstream sump.  This cave eventually yielded 2.4km.

On 25th four of us drove for, surprisingly, only one hour to our old stomping ground of Lumshnong village. Here a fruitless recce. was done to try and find the resurgence of India's longest cave - Krem KotsatilUmlawan.  A shaft reported by local caver Spindro Dkhar was also not found.  The lower altitude here resulted in tropical temperatures and clouds of multi-coloured butterflies which made up for our lack of discoveries.  The plateau above Krem MaTom (Mf. Tom's Cave) was also looked at and the top of the impressive 30m+ Yorkshire Pot aven (found last year) was located on the surface - shown to us by immigrant colliers.  After tea with the villagers in Thangskai, where we had to arrange guides for the next day, we returned to Sutnga to find that Krem Shrieh had now grown to 1.6km with no sign of an end.

Back to Thangskai the next day for a long recce. in the forest with local guide Moon Dkhar (who we decided got his name due to his arse hanging out of his trousers) about 1 1/2 hours walk from the main road.  The first, Krem Pui Pui (pic above) was found by following a dry river bed downstream to what the non-English speaking Moon seemed to indicate was a small hole

Simon going over the edge at Krem Pui Pui

As we stood, suffering from vertigo, on the edge of an awe inspiring shaft, 34m deep by some 40-50m in diameter we realised that our interpretation was not correct!  With only 10m of ladder and a short length of rope we left it for another day and went to look at the second cave, Krem Thloo Mawriah.  At a mere 13m deep by 25m diameter this was a baby but still too much for our feeble amount of equipment, despite valorous attempts to lasso the top of a tree growing up from the base of the shaft in an attempt to shin down it to the floor. The third cave, Krem Khlien Wah Shyrtong, was reached after a long trek through dense undergrowth.  A small entrance in a cliff led to a 10m+ pitch which Simon found to be capped with loose debris and again needing more tackle than we had with us.  These three pots were formed by breaching of the thick sandstone cover and being in a previously unvisited area held great promise for potentially large cave systems filling in the gap between the Lumshnong and Sutnga karsts.

With the arrival that night of the party-loving Ladies of Shillong, plus a few more Adventurers, the inevitable happened.  Gorged on beer, betel nut and Beatles songs a few hardy souls were suddenly surprised to find that it was daylight.  After staggering off to bed at 6am it was not long before we were up again and on the road to Lumshnong where Brian and I visited the extension in my dig in Krem Umkhang/Kharasniang.  This was to confirm Tony Boycott's report of last year that it was too tight to push further without more banging or awkward hammer and chisel work.  Four other party survivors managed a Krem Kotsati tourist trip.

On 28th Simon, Fraser and I were back at Krem Pui Pui with plenty of rope, SRT kit and a video camera. Simon abseiled first into this mini "Lost World" followed by Fraser, our cameraman.  I joined them to find that the only way on was a sink passage almost completely choked with trees, boulders and bamboo.  I managed to dig through some of this to reach a blind 4m aven and then down through the floor into a most unpleasant section of draughting, spider-infested crawls over rotting vegetation which would need a considerable amount of digging to progress further.  A similar result occurred at Krem Mawriah where the pitch was laddered to reach a boulder choked draughting hole in the floor of the main shaft which would be a suicidal dig.  We had no time left to descend the third cave and our hopes for the potential of this area now having been drastically reduced we headed back to Sutnga to find that the others had had more success, Krem Shrieh now being over 5km.

29th February -St. Alactite's Day.  To celebrate this rare event I joined the Krem Shrieh team on a survey trip.  As my last SRT trip had been a year previously in Synrang Pamiang I was a bit rusty on the changeovers on the 97m entrance pitch so had plenty of time to admire the view and ridiculous amount of exposure!

At the pitch bottom we first mapped 120m of low inlet passage containing a couple of small animal skulls.  Tom then noticed a complete and very dead racoon-like creature curled up in a nest of leaves and still with all it's fur intact.  How did it get here?

On downstream to survey a series of large oxbows and smaller inlets for another 1.5km leaving several huge upper levels unlooked at.  These were in the Orang Utan Series, the cave having a "monkey" theme.  The prusik out in the dark was even more of a "ring clencher" than the descent as tiny spots of light signified colleagues on the chamber floor and lower ropes.

The next day Kate, Fraser, Tom and Mark continued with the survey - three of them opting to stay in overnight to make the most of the time available.  Another 2km was added to bring the final total to 8.66km and the title of India's fourth longest cave, a just reward for the effort and enthusiasm put in by them.  There is still potential for a few hundred metres here by surveying various small inlets.

Brian, Simon, Kirsten and I, led by Larsing, had taken the easy option and returned to Litien village to continue the survey of the impressive Krem Iawe - a river cave partly explored and mapped by the Wells team.  Our only information was a good thumbnail sketch by Kate and a write up in Caves & Caving.  A search by Simon and co. the previous day had failed to reveal the cave and it had become a matter of honour to finish the job.

The redoubtable Larsing took us straight to it and, resisting the temptation to go off looking for another wife to add to his collection, accompanied us underground in dry grots.  We had read the poor description provided and wore life jackets and wet suits!

The deep entrance pot was entered halfway down by a crawl from the surface and a steep slope then followed to a short climb and huge river passage.  On the LH side, facing upstream, we surveyed over 200m of labyrinthine, dry, phreatic passages ignored by the Wells explorers.  Leaving Larsing and the fag supply on a bit of dry ground we then commenced surveying upstream in a waist deep canal.  As we progressed the canal passages multiplied to become a fantastic flooded maze with the chilly water held up by a series of bright orange rimstone dams.  A very large black bat insisted on sharing the same airspace as ourselves and at one point missed the tip of my nose by the thickness of an After Eight mint. With 188m in the bag the maze became even more complicated, time was running out and we were all cold so we left the place with scores of ways on in an underground reflection of the street-like grykes in the pinnacle karst on the surface above.  There will be a few more kms in this place yet and we haven't even looked downstream! The shivering Larsing was collected on the way out and in true form had a bonfire raging at the entrance within seconds.  It’s a wonder that there is any forest left in Meghalaya with the amount of fires visible at night from any high ground.  A surreal walk back across the flat paddy fields in the dark was followed by tea and shortbreads at the local chai shop and the usual Polaroid donation.

March 2nd was our last day in Sutnga and Fraser wanted some video footage of local coal miners. Adora accompanied us to one of the nearest workings to the LB. to act as translator - the miners being immigrant Nepalese. They were delighted to be filmed and much of the medieaval methods of mining such as hauling coal carts, filling baskets etc. was recorded.  We then crawled underground with them to film a collier hand picking a shallow coal seam.  In return they were given Polaroid snaps and lent our Petzl helmets - probably the first head protection they had ever worn!

Later that day we returned to Shillong via the hundreds of impressive, ancient monoliths at Nartiang village.

On 3rd March a day trip to Cherrapunjee (now once again officially the wettest place on Earth) was made to tidy up the survey of the Krem Lumshlan/Rong Umsoh/Soh Pang Bniat system. In three teams we mapped over 700m of ongoing passage in the two main arms of this complicated cave network. Some fine, superbly decorated streamway was found leading to yet another maze of low passages.  Mark had a nasty fall when a bamboo maypole we had persuaded him to slide down snapped under his weight.  We later realised that it had been used as a canopy support over an active limekiln and had subsequently been baked brittle!  Moral - always use green bamboo.

The weekend was booked for a coach ride, ferry trip and beach party to the Ranikor River, near the Bangladesh border.  With the Ladies of Shillong in charge and several crates of beer on board it promised to be a memorable occasion!  We took the scenic road via Mawsynram and eventually reached the river at dusk. This was just enough time to board the ferry for a short voyage to the nearest upriver sandbank where camp was established, huge bonfire built, chef put to work, chicken sledge hammered, food eaten and beer drunk.  The usual sing-song was dampened by heavy showers which necessitated crowded tents of revellers and the omnipresent, whistle playing Ronie.

We awoke to a fine, hot day and chicken curry for breakfast.  A Garo fisherman was hired to take some of us across the river to look at an impressive rock shelter, Lieng U Blei (Gods' Boat), the legend being that the gods were building a vessel but were interrupted by a cock crowing and left it unfinished, upside down -which is exactly what it looks like.

Gods' Boat

Two wooden canoes and their Garo oarsmen were then hired to take us 1 1/2 hours upriver to the first river junction.  It was here that we found out that the caves and limestone were actually at the second river junction, two days paddling upstream!  Making the best of it we spent the day festering, swimming, drinking and admiring a couple of working elephants which appeared from the side valley dragging huge tree trunks.  One also carried Mark and the dreaded Ronie as the mahout had offered them a lift. One of the boats had returned downriver and on to the Bangladesh border post to buy more beer at double the usual price as it was a Sunday.

On the way back to Shillong that night Fraser, Mark and I got dragged into a "shebeen" in Mawsynram to sample the delights of rice beer.  This is sold in a poly bag and looks like a fairground prize without the goldfish!  It was apparently good stuff as none of us went blind.

On 6th March the last caving trip was made to Cherrapunjee where Simon, Kirsten and Mark added 100m to the Umsoh system survey and the rest of us recced the hills above the cave. Some small but interesting sites were found for further investigation next year.

Once again a magnificent time was had and some world class cave explored and surveyed - 20.34 km in all which was well up to standard considering that there were fewer cavers than last year, much more travelling to the caves was done and there were several unprofitable but necessary recce days.  With the 3.8km (snigger, snigger) found by the Devon/Yorkshire team the Meghalayan total is now well over 150km.  Who said there are no significant caves in India?

Our undying thanks must go to the Meghalayan Adventurers - especially Brian and Maureen, the Boks, Rose, Swer, Neil and Betty, Barri and all the cooks, drivers, assistants, Ladies, chai shop owners and beer suppliers (in the words of Fraser "swally wallahs").

REFS:- Edmunds P. "Earthquakes, cobras and marsala tea" Caves & Caving no 85 (Autumn 1999) pp21-23.

Various expedition reports, articles in the BB and International Caver and MSS Logs (A. Jarratt)


New Scientist Radon

A recent article in New Scientist (5th April) warns about the exposure to Radon that cavers could be subjecting themselves to.

"Researchers from University College Northampton and Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon measured Radon in a popular system of caves in the Mendip Hills in Somerset. They found that cavers who spent just 40 hours a year underground could receive a radiation dose of as much as 4 millisieverts - four times the annual safety limit for members of the public recommended by the UN ..... Guides and instructors spending 800 hours a year underground could receive as much as 120 millisieverts five times the safety limit for radiation workers"  (Journal of Environmental Radioactivity vol 49, p235).  Worried cavers should read the article!

White Pit

A new entrance lock has been fitted to the cave as the intellectually challenged have been dropping stones down the entrance shaft.  If you were a previous keyholder either call on Tony Jarratt at Bat Products or contact Rich Long (the caving secretary).

Waterwheel Cave.

Following an act of vandalism in this cave, the access controller, Charterhouse Centre, Near Blagdon, BS40 7XR on behalf of Somerset County Council the landowner, have further restricted access to the cave.  The lock has been changed and the key will only be available via Charterhouse Centre as before.  In future, all visitors will be asked to fill in a log.  Further work on strengthening the lid, retaping sensitive areas and recording formations will take place.  This work will be carried out by Cheddar Caving Club under the guidance of CSCC/Charterhouse.  No novice groups, leader plus six members only.


West Australia 2000

by Mr. Wilson

Rich Long and myself, plus our respective wives decided to visit W Australia in March 2000.  The plan was to visit the various relatives, go walking and fit some caving in.  Rich was going to stay somewhere near Rockingham (south of Perth) and we were staying with Hillary's sister at Yanchep (north of Perth).  As it worked out I never did find out where Rich and his wife managed to stay but I am sure that they really enjoyed themselves!  Hilary and I plus Pat and Neville went down to the Stirling Ranges and camped at the only site there.  I managed to fall foul of "JOYCE" the idiot site owner who seemed to think that customers were there to be patronised.  This was a shame because the site was in a good location in a National Park (hence the monopoly).  Her name was not Joyce but she reminded us of Joyce Grenfell of St Trinians fame.

Hilary, Neville (the brother in law) Pat (the sister in law) and myself managed to ascend two of the major peaks.  Neville did really well - he just took two of his live longer pills and then proceeded to climb (Bluff Knoll 1073m and Tolbrunnup 1052m) Tolbrunnup was the hardest of the two.  These mountains are very much like the Snowdonia range in Wales, but they have their own eco system which is totally opposite to British mountains.  The approach walks are fairly dry and featureless but as you get to the 500m mark the undergrowth starts to sprout, getting more and more lush until the top is reached.  This is due to the cooler temperatures and cloud and rain around the top of the range. It is possible to have difficulty pushing through the thick lush growth on some of the lesser-walked peaks!  This range stands alone in the south west of OZ as the highest points, but 60k south of the Stirlings lie the Porongorups which resemble the Malvern hills, these hills have many more roads leading to the start of the routes and have several camping and caravan sites on or nearby. The region is basically a farming area, mostly cattle on a grand scale probably like the small American ranches.

We liked this area and would have been happy to spend a couple of days more exploring the soft and accessible hills, in the end we managed to ascend two routes here, Castle Rock a super route with a boulder finish and good views, and a short Karri Tree walk through the forest towards Devils Slide.  For those who have an interest in forests the Karri tree walk in Walpole is a must, you walk 30m up on a walkway high in the treetops, we really enjoyed our afternoon there.

Having toured the south coast a little, Hilary and I visited Jewel Cave on a private tourist trip.  This is a stunning cave, very well decorated and well worth a visit.  There are many caves nearby which I visited later. North of Perth in a National Park is Yanchep, a caving area (mostly small caves similar to Burrington). Hilary and I went on a very good walk in the National Park which encompassed most of the caving area (we also found a really superb bunkhouse in the middle of the bush, which would make a good base for cave exploration, see photo).  The major caves in the region are for the tourists, that is Crystal and Cabaret Cave, not overly long.  There are 500 caves in all, mostly numbered.  The principal explorer of the region, Lex Bastian told me that it would be impossible to name all the sites and caves, so you have this quaint situation where someone says we are going to visit no. 54 today, meaningless to anyone else, but very practical!  For example Carabooda Cave (yn 485, the largest cave in the area to date from my map would be 260m 027deg magnetic from yn 484.  This cave is a short distance out from the western foot of a fairly steep ridge, the entrance being the largest solution pipe in the centre of a solution doline with several exposed pinnacles.

The Western Australia Speleo Society were very helpful to me and I managed to spend a busy long weekend with them at Margaret River, the principal caving area at the moment with 300 caves listed at this time!  Their shed is big and roomy but has no water or sanitation plus no lighting, this means every thing has to be brought with you (it also has these quaint tree squirrels that run up and down the tin roof at night - very noisy)!  The toilet consisted of a spade and a beer crate with a toilet seat attached to the top, the plan being to walk as far away as possible, dig a large hole, place the crate on top, sit on the seat and perform, backfill hole and return to shed with crate under your arm.  "No one would possibly know where you have been." The club took me to the flat roof extensions in Jewel Cave, a totally wonderful place with floor to ceiling pretties everywhere.  The cave itself is a fairly easy trip but the high humidity and CO2 levels can make it seem hard going, the series is about 40m deep and in total 3k long.  The water table has been dropping for about 12 years now and there is a great deal of discussion as to what is the cause (it is now a good metre lower).  Our next visit was Moondyne which is an "adventure cave".  It was also well decorated and contained some extremely good cave coral, it used to be called Coronation Cave for many years but has now reverted back to its original name. The cave would not put anybody to the test but is worth a visit.  It has fairly high CO2 levels and is only approx. 400 m long.  The next day I visited Easter Cave. This was the highlight of my trip (I have subsequently discovered that this is the most well decorated cave in Australia).  We spent some time wandering in the bush trying to find the entrance.  This is not surprising as the cave is only open 4 times a year to parties of 4 (very tight access).  I was privileged to get a trip on this visit many thanks to WASS.  It is a superb cave, stunningly decorated, 2k long and about 40m running depth.  There were some small lakes and ducks, but the steady drop in the water table has made the trip easier and dry with a lovely draught.  We have nothing like this in Great Britain, 15 to 16 degrees temp and 80% humidity. There is more beauty lying on the floor than in the whole of GB cave on Mendip; the crowning glory being the LEMON, a wonderful rounded stalagmite with a reddish coloured base.  Apart from the 10m entrance ladder pitch and several dry crawls the trip was not hard as we know it.  I sincerely hope that the tight access arrangements keep this cave safe from mindless idiots.  Deepdene was my next cave which involved a walk in the bush but we found it first time. WASS have been doing access checks with little trigger machines powered by batteries.  This was basically a trip to help them retrieve the kit.  The person who is conducting this survey is a WILLET CLONE right down to beer pot smile and general build, I couldn't believe my eyes so I head butted him and got a Willet result "GRUNT GIGGLE hit me again."  This guy John is Willet's doppelganger!


Hilary Wilson in the hut at Yanchep

We had a look at the cave which at one time must have had some really superb gours they have now all dried up.  The whole system was only 160m long.  Years ago people used to light fires to illuminate the formations (in the 1890s it was common practice to illuminate the King's Chamber with burning rushes. They would then retire from the cave and watch the smoke drifting lazily from the entrance!).  Luckily this practice has died out now!

My last cave visit was Brides, a 50m deep hole doline with a small cave at the bottom right hand side. There used to be a wooden ladder / staging which served as access, but it burnt down in a bush fire (probably the same fire that demolished the first WASS hut).  Perhaps this was the same fire that burnt the BEC hut down!  The access is now a 50m abseil via some bollards - quite pleasant.  This concluded our tour of West Australia and I drove back to Perth in the borrowed 4 - wheel drive Nissan Patrol. (Thanks Neville I could not have managed without transport).  We intend to return in the near future and go north where there are even more caves and good walking.  I cannot thank all the Western Australia Speleo Society cavers enough for their efforts and the Retirement Rellies who we sponged off for four weeks (so they say!).

Mike Wilson.

NB I am going to buy some of the brother in law's livelong pills just in case they work.

Ross (WASS member) in Easter cave

Mike Wilson’s Map of the area visited in Western Australia

 (Apologies for the quality – Ed.)


Male Pin-ups?

Some Pin-ups for the female club members – all in St. George’s Cave in Assynt. 

Photos by Peter Glanville.



by Peter Glanvill

The following comments were prompted by features in the last 2 BB's.  First of all with regard to Wig's article on lost caves (BB Dec. 99 Vol. 50 No 12) I would suggest that the cave Trevor Knief found on Cothelstone Hill which was subsequently dug at and photographed by myself and Tony Boycott is that mentioned in 19th century writings.  The cave we found consists of a large chamber about 10 metres long and 2 metres wide the entrance of which had been obscured by a cliff fall which has now slumped into it forming a scree slope which obscures the natural height of the chamber - probably 2 metres plus.  When we dug at the end we found the remains of a clay pipe.  I know this doesn't prove habitation but does suggest the cave has been open in the past.  The size of the cave suggests extensions may be possible and there are choked side passages but they would need quite a bit of digging.

Elsewhere on the Quantocks we have Dodington House Cave.  I have visited the area and you can see the engine house in a field - a little piece of Cornish landscape on the Quantocks.  Of more interest is that Nick Chipchase's research revealed that the mine was closed but mothballed and the shafts capped.  The adits remained but have all slumped in except for one.  This opens into a lane in the Dodington area and is invisible to the casual eye.  Unfortunately this low drainage adit was bisected by a brick lined water extraction shaft.  This presented an obstacle to exploration up the adit until local cavers chiselled away a course of bricks either side of the shaft to enable progress upstream. Unfortunately when the site was visited in 1987 the diggers were chagrined to find after another 5 metres that some of the stone lintels roofing the adit where it ran under the field above had collapsed blocking the way on.  Further digging just produced more collapse.  This would be an ideal site for a Hymac dig at the point in the field where the adit enters solid rock and would allow access to a perfectly preserved mine (and the cave of course).  Nobody has visited the site for 13 years.  If you want to know more contact me or Nick Chipchase.

See - Men and Mining on the Quantocks by J.R. Hamilton and J.F. Lawrence 1970

Beer Caves

Rob is to be congratulated on re-inventing the wheel with regard to the caves at Beer.  These were originally mapped, listed and surveyed and the descriptions published by Chris Proctor in The Caves of East Devon. The cover has a nice drawing by the author of the largest cave.  I have got photos of some of them but cannot find them at present!  I did try to match up all the names but Chris has listed more than Rob and the grid refs are more detailed.  He lists over 40 caves, the longest of which is known as the Hall and runs through the point north of Beer Head.  Another cave nearer Beer Beach is known as Tooth Cave and has about 67 metres of passage with several levels.  I strongly recommend visitors check tide times before having a look here.  It is possible to traverse the entire distance from Beer Beach to the Hooken Beach (the beach below the Hooken Landslip) on a low spring tide and then walk back over the top of the cliffs.  Visit on a falling tide for obvious reasons.

Finally, on the next page, for those looking for curiosities take a look at the adit running off the beach just to the east of Sidmouth.  It lies about 100 metres along the beach from the river mouth and may be obscured by cliff falls.  The tunnel was driven from somewhere inland reasons unknown.  The entrance to the adit was visited in February 98 and at that time there was an easily negotiable grille over it.  You will probably find notices telling you not to use the beach if you go there.  I haven't been down the adit - the fact that it is in red marl is just a teensy off putting but it is down for a 'nothing to do on a wet day' visit some time.

Sidmouth Adit

Looking out of Sidmouth Adit


From a Belgian magazine given to J’rat detailing articles on Priddy Green Sink.

Het beste uit andere tijdschriften

Doorsteek Priddy Green – Swildons Hole.

Vincent Coessens vertaaide voor u dit artikel met de ‘officielle’ versie van deze doorsteekm vorsachen in de ”Belfry Bulletin”  Het is zowat het meest scabbreuze dat ooit ib Spelerpes vewrscheen.  Lees ouk het virige artikel en heb medelijen met de Belgische speleo’s die zich lieten meeslepan.

The best from other magazines

Through trip Priddy green – Swildons Hole

Vincent Coessens translated the official version of the explorations that led to the through trip from BEC’s  Belfry Bulletin.  One of the darkest tales Sperliepes ever published .  Have a look at the previous article and feel sorry for everyone who has ever been there!

Flash sur les autres revues

Traversee Priddy green – Swildons Hole.

Vincent Coessens a traduit pour vous cet article qui est la version officielle de cette traverse.  C’est vle texto le plus scabreux ayant jamias paru dans la Spelerpes.  Lisez aussi l’article precedent et ayez pitie de ces pauvres speleos beiges qui vse sont fait savoir.



Pages From The Belfry Log

15/4/00             Swildons 2

John Williams and Andy Smith

Down to sump two and back: Met a party on the 20 whose lifelining technique was similar to fly fishing!

16/4/00             Swildons 2

Down to sump, in via the wet way with high level detour to avoid a large group.  Once through the sump we left our tackle bags at the turning for the Black Hole and continued down towards sump 2.  We climbed up to the Landing and continued on up to the Troubles.  We ducked through quite a few ducks until we got to the one which appeared to be the last of them all, and certainly the worst of them all.  JW sumped it, but me - no way!  After a quick baling session on the other side, JW returned then we went to what appeared to be Vicarage Pot.  On the way back passed what seemed to be the descent to NW stream passage? Got back to the bottom of the landing and looked at some very muddy passage that didn't go far - thankfully, then back to the tackle sacks where both our batteries ran out!

After changing to fresh lights we went up Approach Passage and then came back and went up Howard's Dig crawl instead!  At the T junction we turned left down Mayday Passage and then headed back up towards the Black Hole.  My battery turned out to be not so fresh, and so the Black Hole remained black (for me) and we turned around and headed back out, never having used any of the tackle we'd brought with us!  A cool trip, which finished off even nicer when Taylor produced some hot food for us. Cheers!

16/4/00             Wigmore

Vince and Greg

An excellent sporting trip down to the upstream and downstream sumps.  My first time in the cave and I was impressed.  I'm sure I will do it again (Greg Brock)


Mike and Tim’s silly Northern Adventure

We did playing on string and other silly games in:


Cowpot (Easegill),

Gaping Ghyll,(dihedral route)

Tatham + Vin (Northern Bird 1)

Bore Hole and Split Sinks + other silly hole in Easegill Beck

Juniper Gulf + Liz (Northern Bird II)

County Pot + Liz

Marble Steps + Liz

Alum Pot + Liz

Had a top time even though most of the entrances took many hours to find.  Best trips were Dihedral route - amazing exposure and great views; once Mike ran back to Clapham to get his helmet! and Juniper Gulf (we found it at 7.30 pm!)

22/4/00             Ogof Draenen

Vince, Bob Smith, Mr.Smith, Dave Fear, James Adie

Down to Megadrive for a bimble!


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

June 10-11                 Cavers Fayre Priddy

16-18                         BCRA Conference

18                              Pwll Du CMG meet: 10.30 Gwesty Bach, Brynmawr

July 7-9                      NCA Cavers Fair, Pindale Farm, Derbyshire

14-18                         1st NAMHO International Conference, Truro School

August 1                    BCRA research fund deadline

25-28                         ISSA Workshop, Yorkshire Dales – Robin Gray

27                              Columns Open Day, OFD

31                              Ghar Parau foundation grant application deadline

Sept 15-17                 Hidden Earth 2000, NCC Bristol

Oct 20-22                   Issa Workshop, North wales


January 1                   Columns Open Day OFD

12-14                         ISSA Workshop and AGM, Mendip

New members

Welcome to the club and meet soon in the "Hunters"

Ian Matthews, Frome, Helen Hunt, Glastonbury, Philip Middleton, Nailsea James Weir, Wells, Dave Fear, Wookey.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith
Librarian: Alex Gee
Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert

Any alterations, additions or mistakes are entirely due to copy spacing-Ed


Hullo folks, welcome to the first issue produced by your new editor.  Not many changes you may say.  Well, I discussed changes with a number of people and finally came to the sensible conclusion that there is little point in changing things when the previous Editor produced such a good magazine.  All that I can try to do is to produce a similar quality product and that is surely what you want.  However, I cannot do this without articles from YOU the membership.  So, please send in those pictures, write up that report, or jot down that anecdote.  If you can send it to me on disc with a hard copy, so much the better.  I can be E-mailed but my line is usually busy with other users so replies may take a few days.  Articles can be dropped off at the Hunters Lodge or at Bat Products if that will help you.  I can scan pictures if you wish to put an article on disc and include pictures that you cannot scan yourself.  I am aiming to produce issues in March, June, September and December with a deadline for issues about the 20th of the month before e.g. Jan 20 for publication about February 15th.  If you send me enough material there will be another issue, so your help is needed NOW!


Cuthbert’s leaders- An appeal to younger members out there who may wish to become leaders.  Some of the current leaders are wearing out their weekends doing tourist trips. Others are withdrawing into the warmth of the pub for the winter season.  The club relies heavily on the goodwill of a few to keep this superb cave accessible to visiting cavers.  If you think you might be able to get up to leader standard soon, please let the Rich Long/ Mike Wilson know.  Also new leaders for Welsh caves needed. -Ed

A cartoon inspired by a conversation between the old ed. Estelle and the new ed. in the Hunters one night


I have had a request from a Mr. Teagle of Wells.  Phone 01749 xxxxxxx.  He says a member has borrowed some of his photos of caves and caving and not returned them. This was a few years ago. Anyone out there got them?

Stop press -Barrel Assured! 150 ft passage found in Balch cave by John Walsh

Finally, have a good Christmas and lets have those articles please- especially those of you who roam now you no longer work!!- Martin


Club News and Events

Conservation conversation at the Hunters Lodge

The evening of November 20th saw an interesting event held in the backroom of the Hunters (with thanks to mine host Roger).  Speakers Dave Irwin and Graham Price presented separate views to do with caving and conservation.  Dave spoke about the Mendip Cave Registry first implemented in the 1950's and which continued until about 1968.  Its task was to record all the Mendip sites of caves and karst features, which were currently known.  By its cessation this quest had resulted in the production of 12 copies of a complete cave registry.  This was all done in the days of pre-computer when everything to be copied had to be laboriously done on Gestetner stencils - resulting in the impressive and highly valuable document known as the Mendip Cave Register.  (Costing £70 then).  He went on to discuss developments in the Registry which came about by his own research from 1995 onwards whilst compiling information for the production of Mendip Underground.  By then technology had advanced to the point where computers were a valuable tool.  He now uses the power of cross-referencing databases to store and correlate the mass of data needed for a new registry. He has now restarted the Registry and already produced and published a bibliography of cave references compiled from the press.  The registry has been widened to include Wiltshire, Devon, Bath and Bristol. A number of areas have already been completed with regard to known cave features and this work continues.  As well as the mammoth task of recording cave features, the survey work done by all the major caving clubs on Mendip either as survey sheets or in club magazine is to be cross-referenced with the registry. This will be produced on CD-ROM within the next 2 to 3 years.

Questions followed and then Graham Price spoke about cave conservation and the work done by the NCA in association with bodies such as English Nature and Scottish Nature.  He has been conservation officer for 16 years. In 1986, it was agreed within the NCA to increase people's awareness of cave conservation.  A policy for cave conservation was worked out to enable statutory bodies to "measure conservation".  (My words-ED).  A number of initiatives were proposed including a cave conservation handbook, an educational pack and a film- the lost caves of Britain was made by Sid Perou.  He discussed the problems that had to be overcome to enable the production of a cave conservation policy.  A cave conservation handbook has been produced which should help other conservation officers and interested people to produce their own conservation plans for particular caves.  Guidelines for many associated activities such as camping, digging and walking and including how to look after the flora and fauna in the area near to a cave have been produced.  Graham talked widely about the conservation handbook and how it could be used.  He talked about the work of the NCA as a co-ordinating body for cavers working for the good of cavers.  This was followed by a short break and then an open forum under the chairmanship of yours truly took many interesting questions from members of the audience.  A good discussion followed this lively debate with all retiring to the main bar at 10.15 p.m. Many thanks go to Vince Simmonds who organised the whole event, Dave Irwin and Graham Price for their time. Let us hope that we have other similar events in the future.

Fairy Quarries

Pete Rose writes the following account of his exploits leading up to the discovery of the new passage in Fairy Quarries.

On the 21st September I drove Pete Glanville up to Mendip, via Tesco's Chard for some batteries for his flashgun. We collected the keys from Prew.  The trip was marred by the usual incidents ... I had brought two left boots with me - I used my walking boots instead.  We opened up the grill over the entrance ... swore we could hear a stream there.  By Diesel chamber Pete's light failed.  At Tor Hall we detoured for piccies.  The first flashbulb went off in Pete's face, the 2nd in mine, the 3rd in mine when I strategically placed a slave gun on a ledge.  The 4th in Pete's hand- burnt fingers.  After a count of 9 bulbs going off by themselves I took some pictures of my own.  I led him back to the entrance, hear that stream again Pete?  He then fell on me while I was locking the grill - fell off a rock and damaged a thumb.  I told him not to buy lottery tickets for a while, as his luck was out (ask him about car engine warning lights sometime ... he ignores them!)  He rang me the following day ... Lucky he had forgotten to put a film in the camera he said.  The 10th of October loomed .... I was leading the Orpheus down Shatter. Pete G. took Nigel Cox (brother in law) and some Orpheus, I took my nephew Jonathan and some Orpheus.  We all stopped at the entrance .... Stream rumbling somewhere.  Pete took photos that worked.  I bet he bribed everyone to tell me that! We returned on 31st Oct. to look for digs, with Nick (nine lives) Chipchase and Mark Faulkner and Martin Webster.  Yupp, same stream at the entrance.  We went to Tor Hall and beyond.  Nick scrambled up a rift to look at 20 ft of passage trending back to Tor Hall, and then Chippy proceeded to attack the entrance chamber, while I looked around the next chamber.  He could hear the stream all right.  A rift opened up while he was sitting on it.  Pete G. had a homemade light on a cable to lower (he thinks it works most of the time) - definitely rifts measureless to man.  These things tend to become smaller on subsequent visits so we thought 20 ft deep would be O.K. to taunt people with.  We could have descended but for a ladder.  I had a rope to lower Pete G. on.  (It was an early rope from the 70s and I tow the car from time to time with it).  He thought a few feet lower down and decided against it.  The top of the rift certainly was loose.  We could always get Nigel or Martin Grass down it next week! As it was 4 ft or less from the entrance, we thought of the next party disappearing down one by one ... you sit down in the entrance and back into the cave and slide ... so we put a small sheet of corrugated iron over it.  That stream certainly roars at you!  It must head towards Conning Tower (but there is only a small stream in there) but what was upstream?  Next Sunday and a bolting kit would solve it.  Pete G. can write the descent up.  (Or down).


Exciting new dig in Shatter, very recently opened by Pete Rose, Nick Chipchase et al. Warning.  The dig is very close to the entrance.  Don’t fall in.


The picture below shows the actual rift descent – decent eh!


The Undergrounders

By Rich Long

Well, here we go again on another trip to wonderful Yorkshire - and not learning from previous experience I took Zot again!  No, honestly, only joking!

The last time we went it was only Zot, my chum Tommy and myself on the trip and everything was planned to split second military timing.  Unfortunately, when we got to Zot's house, only five minutes after speaking to him on the phone and telling him we were coming, we were greeted by the distinguished Mrs. Harvey who said "Sorry, Chris has just gone to Camerton to water his tomatoes"!

Well, who can argue with that?  It was a great trip though, with the help of the solid and imperturbable Mr.Wilson - who, with whatever Fate throws at him, conquers all (even me and Zotty descending on him asking for a trip).

So this time I used a cunning ploy.  Instead of going on Friday evening we went early on Saturday morning and this time I was late - Zot actually phoned me and wanted to know where I was!

Well: Zot snuggled down in the back of the van and slept like a baby (you know, breaking wind and dribbling) until we almost got to Settle where we stopped for the traditional Lottery ticket purchase, breakfast and a leisurely visit to Alum Pot - then all of the pubs that we could think of in the area.

We had been advised to go to the Gamecock in Austwick by Big Roy - which we duly did.  However, the landlord's manner was very similar to that of Basil Fawlty.  When asked by a chap along the bar from us "Could I order a meal?" he looked up, glanced around the totally empty restaurant and said, "If you haven't reserved I will see if we have a table".

I looked at Zot, then at the tables with serviettes and several sorts of cutlery and said, "I don't think so Chris".  He heartily agreed and we left Basil to his one customer and empty restaurant.

However, it didn't take Chris long to upset a poor little waitress in the Golden Lion who had unfortunately brought him the wrong end of a chicken for his tea.  "I specifically asked for a wing, not a leg. Kindly take it back!"  She did and I am sure that I could hear her sobbing in the back room for hours.  When our food came we quickly checked it for spit and broken glass but none was found and it was excellent.  Next day my party set off for Gaping Gill for a nice trip on the Craven winch meet and Chris jacked up a trip to Swinsto, taking Toby and Guy with him, and I believe a great time was had by all.  I am not saying that they had difficulty gaining access to Swinsto again (perhaps you read the previous article on our Swinsto trip) but I think it was beneficial for all concerned that Mr.Wilson just happened to be passing on his way to the Three Men of Gragareth.  Mr. Harvey, however, vociferously denied being lost, and I believe him - (tee heel).

So, in the evening it was the landlady of the Crown whose turn it was but she won the contest with Zot hands down.  I believe that she has had her sense of humour surgically removed.

In the pub tales were filtering back of the Craven members' outrageous behaviour towards the Ingleborough slug population.  Last year they were competing in the amount of slugs that could be balanced on their heads - I believe that 27 was the winner - and at least the poor little chaps could slither away to enjoy whatever slugs get up to.  This year the Craven had begun to devour the cuddly little creatures between hunks of bread!  Apparently several have been reported seeking asylum in Kosovo. Wow - what seven or eight days on the fell does to people!

So, once again the trip was a great success and we all lived to tell various versions of the same tale - and that is a success in my book.

P.S. Thanks to Estelle for her excellent BB’s (ooh, er) and her editorship of the Belfry Bulletin (!)

A Bounced Czech! Tomas Svoboda e-mailed to say that he is home in the Czech Republic due to a sprained ankle received after jumping down the first waterfall in Claonaite, Sutherland.  He is hoping to arrange a two-week trip back to Mendip, S.Wales and Yorkshire next year along with his fellow club members. He sends his regards to all, especially Roger Haskett, J.Rat, Mike Wilson, Jim Smart, Keith Savory Gary Cullen, Joel Corrigan and little John (who he?).  His Internet address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rich Long and Zot's adventures continue next issue -Ed


Stock's House Shaft - Part the Third

By Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BB’s nos. 502 and 504.

Ten digging trips during the last two weeks of August '99 saw the Shaft bottom and all four levels being further cleared of tailings and 526 loads of spoil reaching the surface. On one memorable occasion Mike Willett winched up 183 in one session!  Lots of new diggers were recruited and others assisted in a variety of ways.  A rough survey was done by the ex -Camborne School of Mines contingent to establish the position of the downstream choke - named by Trevor "the Rat Trap". Here the fridge¬ sized boulder which had slid onto AJ was demolished after four shot holes packed with cord were fired over two trips.  Revenge is sweet.

The smaller choke some 25ft along the Upstream Level was cleared to allow AJ access to an apparently natural aven some 15ft high with the choked level continuing beyond.  (It would seem that all the open spaces above the level have been formed by relatively recent collapse along natural rifts or joints due to the failure of the Old Men’s stemples.  These obviously did a magnificent job when first installed but time has caught up with them!)

The whole of the Shaft bottom was gradually excavated and Jake Baynes was inspired to dig the tiny stream inlet adjacent to the Upstream Level.  This turned out to be yet another (short) choked level in a calcite vein with a boulder choke above.  After some careful but exciting digging this was passed to reach a 15ft high by 15-20ft long collapse chamber.  A couple of possible ways on were dug at a later date - see below.  Jake's earlier fervid rantings about an imaginary lost cavern called the "Treasury of Aeops" gave it its name! (Sad in one so young .... )

September started well with 200 loads hauled out in the first eight days and lots of press-ganged new diggers.  The Rat Trap choke was banged several times and on the 6th September some "brown trouser" inducing work with a long crowbar saw the whole lot collapse with a mighty roar!  It was then possible to look up into a large, c.20ft high chamber and not the expected collapsed shaft. One more bang was fired to clear the access point.  A Wessex team took photos of the mine for use in a Mendip digging talk at this year's B.C.R.A. Conference.

Due to a constant trickle of water from the Upstream Level a foot deep pool now covered the floor of the Downstream Level making digging and hauling more unpleasant than usual.  This problem was solved on 7th September when RL and AJ took down a hand operated diaphragm pump and got it working on the first attempt (a miracle).  The ponded water was pumped forwards through the choke and into the level beyond. Further clearing of the boulders gained access to the 20ft high chamber but a lack of shot holes or other signs of previous visitation led to the conclusion that this wide rift was formed by yet another collapse of the walls of a natural joint into the Old Mens' level below.

The level beyond the choke was re-entered on 8th September after TH had been allowed to play with a 10lb sledgehammer for an hour or so.  Unfortunately he was slightly too big to pass the boulder squeeze beyond and had to be content with watching AJ ambling down the classic mine gallery ahead and admiring its single remaining stemple wedged across the passage while he counted the adjacent shot holes.  The point previously reached on 27th August was re-examined to find that the sink hole in the floor was merely a step down through banks of grey mud which partially block the level.  Tonight the draught was strong and blowing inwards and this, combined with the natural look of the passage ahead, shows great promise.

Between the 12th and 20th September there were seven more clearing trips with banging operations at the Rat Trap choke, the partial choke just beyond and the heap of large boulders in the Upstream Level aven.  Another 91 loads of spoil reached the surface and a vast amount more was stacked at the Shaft bottom.  On the 19th some dismay was suffered when two streams were found to be entering the mine from the Upstream Level and Treasury of Aeops, resulting in the Downstream Level being flooded to within a foot of the ceiling as far as the Rat Trap.  The debris pile here was lowered a foot or so and the stream gaily plunged forwards to the end of the level where it flowed onwards to the huge cave system, which doubtless lies beyond.  There was no sign of it backing up.

With no hope of the place drying out until next summer it was decided to take advantage of the high water to assist in spoil removal.  After failing to get a too large orange lifebelt (H.M.S. Defence) down the entrance pipes a 2' x 1'4" blue grot bin was successfully taken to the Downstream Level and tied to the centre of a 60ft rope.  Wet-suited diggers then shoved two full spoil bags/boulders inside and rammed on the lid.  Non-wet-suited diggers then towed the "Semi-submersible Skip" back upstream with considerably more ease than the dragging methods previously used. On the 22nd some 40 loads were shifted in an hour or so.  Even Trevor was impressed!  More clearing was done here on 29th with Paul Brock joining the team.

Two days later AJ, on a solo trip, dug in the floor of the Treasury of Aeops (continuing on from a previous dig by TH) to reveal the ongoing level below

This was followed upstream on hands and knees for 30ft to a collapsed shaft.  The stemples had rotted here to leave the stone ginging hanging wedged together with large boulders filling the shaft centre above.  A large stream poured down the shaft that had been flourescein tested to come from the flooded gully across the road.  This gully also feeds Five Buddles Sink. Further work here will require major shoring and ideally dry conditions.  It may be too close to the road for comfort but is still 20-30ft deep.

RL and AJ were back downstream on October 4th and after filling and dragging back many bags of mud they used these to form a temporary dam around a Cuthbert's type steel valve. The stream way could then be turned off at will to allow drier digging at the end.  When the valve was closed the sump at the end of the level rapidly drained with encouraging gurgling noises.

On the 6th a large team hauled out another 100 bags and dug at the end and the following day a second dam was constructed near the end of the Downstream Level by AJ and Jake (Johnson). This was made from a 6ft length of 6" diameter plastic drainage pipe with an adjustable pipe bung and was found to be more effective than the first dam, so much so that the steel valve was later replaced by another pipe and bung system.  Water levels had dropped slightly due to drier weather in the middle of October so a fair amount of digging was done at the end.  A grade 5 survey was also started which revealed that the downstream end is situated beneath the deep rake 75ft NE of the Shaft. The positions of the two upstream passages can be seen on the enclosed surface plan.  Both may lead to buried entrances across the road (HGV drivers take note!). Roger Stenner took water samples from these streams for analysis. The end of the Upstream Level was banged to reveal a 2ft long extension and miniscule sump!  It will be looked at again in dry weather as it may be diggable.

With the onset of winter and disappearance of light-fingered low life from the area it was time to install a powered winch.  Bob and Greg retrieved Alex Gee's "lawnmower" winch from the temporarily abandoned dig at Hallowe'en Rift and it was ensconced in its new home. By 27th October it had lifted 127 loads out - slower than man hauling but a lot easier.  The whole site was fenced off to stop tourists garrotting themselves on the cables.

On 25th October a third temporary dam was begun at the mouth of the Upstream Level utilising the steel valve and three days later a clay pipe bowl was discovered amongst spoil on the surface.  (Tentatively dated to c181O-more information to follow) Work from November onwards will be documented in the next BB article.

Left: Looking up the 50 foot entrance shaft.  Note the shot holes


The almost complete bowl of a clay pipe was providentially found on top of a surface spoil heap, having been partially cleaned of mud by recent rain.  It obviously came from underground but the exact location is unknown. Robin suggests that it is from 1865-1870 and further opinions will be sought on this.

Amongst the piles of crushed and rotten wood at the base of the Shaft was found a 350mm X 90mm X 178mm lump of timber with a wrought iron bracket-like attachment.  This is thought to be the top section of one of the "stillions" or windlass supports from the Shaft top.  (These are also called "stillings" or, in Derbyshire, "stows").  They were in general use from at least the 16th Century up to the 20th essentially unchanged - and can still be found on some wells.  There is a more modem, single example of one of these in a west Mendip ochre mine and the windlass from the stillions used on the miners 1880 Lamb Leer exploration is in Wells Museum (a photo of this in use can be found as plate 16 in H.E.Balch's "Mendip - Its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters" and on p.97 of "A Man Deep in Mendip").

"Two timbers a little longer than the shaft are placed beside it, the one in the front of the shaft, the other at the back.  Their extreme ends have holes through which stakes, pointed at the bottom like wedges, are driven deeply into the ground, so that the timbers may remain stationary. Into these timbers are mortised the ends of two cross-timbers, one laid on the right end of the shaft, while the other is far enough from the left end that between it and that end there remains suitable space for placing the ladders.  In the middle of the cross-timbers, posts are fixed and secured with iron keys.  In hollows at the top of these posts thick iron sockets hold the ends of the barrel, of which each end projects beyond the hollow of the post, and is mortised into the end of another piece of wood a foot and a half long, a palm wide and three digits thick; the other end of these pieces of wood is seven digits wide, and into each of them is fixed a round handle, likewise a foot and a half long. A winding-rope is wound around the barrel and fastened to it at the middle part.  The loop at each end of the rope has an iron hook which is engaged in the bale of a bucket, and so when the windlass revolves by being turned by the cranks, a loaded bucket is always being drawn out of the shaft and an empty one is being sent down into it.  Two robust men (or one Willet!) turn the windlass, each having a wheelbarrow near him, into which he unloads the bucket which is drawn up nearest to him; two buckets generally fill a wheelbarrow; therefore             when four buckets have been drawn up, each man runs his own wheelbarrow…..and empties it.  Thus it happens that if shafts are dug deep, a hillock arises around…the windlass. "

Geogius Agricola, De Re Metallica, 1556 (1912 translation)

In the sides of the solid level, just before the Rat Trap, the observant John Williams noticed a fine set of stemple hollows cut in the opposing walls.  These are identical to those noted by Willy Stanton in Grebe Swallet Mine, Charterhouse (Stanton 1991), who refers to them as "egg" and "slot" hollows, dating those he found to the 1750s.  The circular "egg" depression measures 50mm in diameter and is 25mm deep, the "slot" is 120mm high by 50mm wide and also 25mm deep.  A wooden stemple (in our case 755mm long) had its pointed end inserted in the "egg" and the other, squared off end was beaten down into the "slot".


Stanton experimented to find that a simple hollow could be battered into limestone in about five minutes. Those in Stock's House Shaft are in softer (?) Triassic conglomerate.  There are more of these in the downstream level beyond the Rat Trap.

Shotholes in the workings have been measured at c.20mm diameter and up to 300mm deep (long) compared to those found by Stanton in Grebe Swallet Mine which he measured at 23mm diameter with lengths of up to 480mm (Stanton 1983).  He also dated them to the late 18th century.  (Those interested in Mendip mining should read all of Stanton's exceptionally well researched papers on the subject).

ADDENDUM:-  The picture shows Trevor demonstrating some mid-air Morris steps to a confused Gwilym while Tangent entertains Simon with an obviously fascinating conversation (wow).  Above, Bob asks Toby where he should drop the full airsick bag and in the background J. Rat gets his revenge.


STANTON W.I. 1983 Shot holes Containing Lime in a Mendip Lead Mine.  Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, 16 (3),185-189

STANTON W.I. 1991 The Habitat and Origin of Lead Ore in Grebe Swallet Mine, Charterhouse-on-Mendip, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, 19 (1), 43-65

AGRICOLA G. 1556 De Re Metallica (1912 translation, re-published 1950 and reprinted c.1980)

Additions to the Digging Team

Matt Head, David Blayshaw (Australia), Mark Smith (Macclesfield), Ryan Moor (CSMCC), Chris Morris (CSMCC), Phil Massey, Stuart "Mac" McManus, Dave "Wig" Irwin, Greg Brock (ESCC/BEC), Kevin Tomlinson (Essex Scouts C.C.), Jonathan Driscoll (E.S.C.C.), Paul Brock, Bob Lewis (Tone Valley C.C. - Doncaster), John Renner (T.V.C.C.), Paul Johnson (T.V.C.C.), Alex Livingstone, Anthony Marsh, David Loefler, Tom Chapman.

Additional Assistance

John Cornwell (Bristol Mining Archive), Peter Burr ( Germany and ex-ULSA), Mark Helmore, Dave Edge, Mike Holmes (W.C.C.), Roger Stenner, Alex Gee (unwittingly!), Tony Oldham, Jim Smart.

Research and article by A.R. Jarratt



Mendip Mines of Long Ago


Further material on mines in the Mendips was researched a while back and passed on with the editorship post.  This I am now printing as it bears relevance to Tony Jarratt's excellent article on Stocks house and many others previously published in this magazine.

Being extracts from the Agreeable Historian, or the Complete English TRAVELLER: by Samuel Simpson, GENT. from LONDON, printed by R. Walker, in Fleet Lane, 1746.

Now quitting Cheddar Rocks, again we rise
On Mendip Hills, and breathe serener skies

THEY are called in old records Moinedrop, from the many knolls or hilltops there, and the steepness of their ascents.  Leland calls them Minerary Hills.  They stretch out a great way, both in length and breadth, and are the most famous in Britain, both for lead and coals.  They were anciently a forest, till, as Bishop Godwin writes, they were disforested at a great expense, by Ralph de Shewsbury, Bishop of Bath and Wells. As for their lead mines, any Englishman may work in them who has not forfeited his right by stealing any of its ore.  The Grooviers (for so its miners are called, as the pits they sink are called grooves) living at some distance, leave their ore and tools; open all night upon the hills, or at least in a slight hut.  If any of them be found guilty of theft, he is shut up in a hut, which is surrounded with dry furze, fern, etc., and set on fire; when the criminal, who has his hands and feet at liberty, may therewith pull down the hut, and make his escape through the fire and begone; but he must never have more to do there.  And this they call burning the hill.

Those employed in melting the lead, if they work in the smoke, are subject to a disease that will kill them, as it does the cattle too that feed thereabouts; for which reason the owners set persons to keep them off.  And Dr. Beaumont writes that they who live near where the lead ore is washed, cannot keep either dog or cat, or any sort of fowl, but they all die in a short time; and that children some times in those houses have did suddenly.  When the miners have got the lead ore, they beat it small, wash it in a running stream, and sift it in iron rudders; then they set a hearth, or furnace, in the ground, made of clay or firestone, and on it put some young oaken Gads, which they light with charcoal, and blow with bellows that are worked by their feet.  When the fire-place is hot they throw the lead ore upon the wood, from whence it melts down into the furnace; and then, with an iron ladle they take it out and throw it upon sand where they cast it into what form they please.  The veins of some of the mines have been known to run into the roots of trees, which, neverthe¬less, look as well at the top as other trees.

The air here is moist, cold, foggy, thick, and heavy; the soil is red and stony, and the stones are either of the nature of firestones or lime¬stones with not the least of clay, marl, or chalk.  The trees near the mines have their tops burnt, and their leaves and bark dis¬colour'd and scorched, and grow to no bigness.  The stones that are washed by the brooks and springs are of a reddish colour, and ponderous.

Snow, frost, and dews stay upon Mendip longer than upon any of the neighbouring grounds, except near the mines, where snow and frost melt quickly; and thunderstorms, nocturnal lights, and fiery meteors are more frequent here than elsewhere.  Sometimes when a mine has been very near the surface, the grass has been yellow and discoloured.  Damps are seldom met with in these mines.  If in sinking, they come to a Moorish earth, they expect a jam, i.e., a black thick stone that hinders their work, and to be closed up with rocks.

Their grooves are supported by timber, a piece of which is no bigger than a man’s arm, will prop up ten tun of earth and last a long while.  For a supply of air they have air boxes exactly closed, of about six inches in the clear, by which they carry it down above twenty fathom.  They make use of leather bags of eight or nine gallons apiece to draw up by ropes to free the water, and if they finds a swallet, i.e., a quantity of water breaking in upon them, they drive an adit, or a new passage upon a level until it is dry.  When they can’t cut the rock they anneal it with a fire made of wood and coal, so contrived that they leave the mine before it begins to operate and take not to enter the groove again before it is quite clear of smoke, by which some have been killed.

Their beetles, axes, wedges, etc., unless so hardened as to make a deep impression upon the head of an anvil, are not fit for their use; and yet they sometimes break them in an hour, other last three or four days as it happens.  They work in frocks and waistcoats by light of candles of 14 to 15 to the pound that will last three or four hours if they have air enough, which if they want to keep in the candles the workmen can’t stay there.  A vein being lost, they drive two or three fathoms in the breast, as the nature of the earth directs them.  White, yellow, and mixed earth are the leaders to the country, as they term it; changeable colours always encourages their hopes.  They go sometimes 12 fathom deep before they meet with stones.  A black stone they reckon a bad sign and leads to a jam, the nearness of which they also guess at by short brittle clay.  They carry out their materials in elm buckets, which hold about a gallon and are drawn by ropes.  Their ladders are also of ropes.  The ore runs sometimes in a vein, at other times it is dispersed in banks and lies many times between rocks.  Some of it is harder and some softer.  There is spar and chalk about it and another substance they call crootes, a mealy white stone, marled with ore and soft.  The spar is white, transparent, and brittle like glass; the chalk is white and heavier than any stone.  The clearest and heaviest ore is the best, and 3,600 of such of ore may yield a tun of lead.  The hearth for melting the ore is about five foot high, set upon timber, to be turned as a windmill to avoid the inconvenience of smoak upon a shifting wind. It will hold half a bushel of ore and coal.  There’s a sink upon the sides of the hearth into which the lead runs, that holds about one hundred and half.  They have a bar to stir the fire, a shovel to throw it up and a ladle made red hot to cast out the melted metal, which, when formed into what the miners call sows and pigs, is conveyed to Bristol, and form thence exported elsewhere…… On the highest part of these hills, which is a flat of some length, there are several swamps, very troublesome and dangerous to man and horse; and in some places are grooves, into which drunken fellows sometimes fall.

As to the coal mines, of which there’s the greatest plenty with five miles of Stone-Aston, we shall make use of the words of the learned Dr. Beaumont, who was born there, lived amongst the Mendip Hills, and made such frequent visits to the dark worlds in the caverns of Mendip, that no man upon earth was better qualified to satisfy the curious with respect to these mines than he was.  About two miles to the S.E. of Stone Aston at a place nearly bordering on the Mendip Hills, begins a running of coal of several veins, which extends itself to the east for miles.  There is much working in this running, and fire damps continually happen there, so that many men of late years have been killed, many others maimed and a multitude burnt.  Some have been blown up at the mouth of the works.  The turn-beam which hangs over the shaft has been thrown off its frame by the force of the blast.  The middle and most easterly parts of this running are so very subject to these fiery damps that scarce a pit fails of them.  To prevent mischief, the colliers keep their air very quick and use no candles in their works but those of a single work, 60 or 70 to the pound, which, nevertheless give as great a light there as those of 10 or 12 to the pound do in other places; and they always put them behind them and never present them to the breast of the work.


Drawing photographed at the Charterhouse Centre – original believed to be in Weston Museum.


Caving in Burrington during the 1960's

I was living in Hengrove during the 1960's and was lucky enough to hang around with a reasonably adventurous group of people.  Transport was always a problem.  Basically all of us were on poor money; some of us were apprentices (including me). None of us could afford a car, so we cycled everywhere or thumbed lifts where possible!  One of our more bizarre stunts was to regularly race from the Bali Cafe in Union street Bristol (the IN place to be) to Piccadilly Circus in London starting when the cafe closed at midnight.  The idea being to get there by walking and thumbing lifts.  The last person to arrive would have to stand a round of beer in the White Lion pub at midday (in those days quite a dive).  My friend and myself never managed to arrive first but we used to run to the BRS depot in Bedminster and cajole drivers to take us as far as the infamous Golden Arrow cafe on the A4 in their clapped out lorries (quite an experience and mega uncomfortable!)

Back to the Combe!  We had very little money, but possessed a 1 inch to 1 mile ex army map of Somerset, a grotty cotton tent, and an American Army sleeping bag which my Uncle Bob had brought back from the Korean War.  We carried our rag tag camping kit in an old rucsac - the canvas and leather type.  One Friday night my pal Gary Moulder and 1 decided to thumb and walk to Burrington Combe and find the caves marked on the map.

By the way I still possess the aforementioned map (sadly I have mislaid my early Caving Log.)  We were forced to walk up the main Wells road as far as Whitchurch but just beyond the humpback bridge two men, who were going out drinking gave us a lift to Blagdon - which was rare luck in those days. Stopped for a beer in the Live and let Live (it's still there but much cleaner now) then walked the rest of the way to Burrington past the Cafe which in those days was just a grubby shed with dirty windows. Past the Rock of Ages and up towards Goatchurch, making camp on level ground partway up the valley near the stream. By now my shoulders were sore due to the pack straps rubbing and Gary had blisters on his heels.  Having brewed up I climbed into my luxurious sleeping bag while Gary, muttering about jammy buggers, rolled himself up in a grey blanket complete with blanket pins (Who remembers those?). Dawn arrived with a frost covering everything.  We cooked breakfast over the highly dangerous meths stove and drank our tea which was real leaf tea and sweetened tinned milk (I still have a soft spot for this kind of milk probably because it can be spread on bread and eaten while it drips down your arms).  Warning. My brother, a few months later tried to refill the same stove while it was still alight (hard to tell the difference in daylight ).  The pint bottle of meths erupted burning his hands, he dropped the bottle inside my tent and the lot burnt down in about 11 seconds flat.  Luckily we were outside trying to cook a meal.  All that was left was two charred tent poles, some metal eyelets, one half burnt guy rope and some partially burnt sleeping bags (they were probably damp which saved them.)

Back to the trip ... We caved in grots in those days - dirty old clothes and the lighting consisted of two old Raleigh cycle battery tubes with 3 U2 batteries in.  These were connected to cap lights by thin cable.  We were lucky to have 2 very battered Miners hats which a neighbour of mine had given us.  He was going to put them out for the dustman!!

Three spare U2 batteries in the combi jacket pocket and off we go.  Combat jackets had just arrived in the surplus stores due to the end of the Korean War.  They were very cheap and if you bought one with holes in which could easily be sewn up they were dirt cheap.  Gary said he knew the way to the cave so we walked up the streamway which was quite overgrown in those days looking for a cave on the left.  It took four attempts at climbing up the left hand bank before eventually we found the lower entrance.  Luckily we then walked up higher to find the main and what used to be a tourist entrance complete with some steps and a hand rail - now missing.  Pull on an old pair of trousers over the good ones, put on an old pullover tie light tube to belt with string, spare batteries in pocket and in we go.  What an adventure!  Reaching the bottom of the tourist bit we slid left into the cross passage and cautiously went right onto the end then ascended left and to our surprise emerged into daylight at the tradesman's entrance.  My first round trip!  Bloody Hell said Gary, have we tramped all this way just for that!  So we sat and had a fag (I smoked in those days).  While we were debating whether to go down again and risk getting lost in the huge labyrinth a man arrives with 2 young lads.  He is a youth leader from Bristol at the old Co-op Hall behind Redcliffe Church. Nice guy who kindly offers to show us the cave proper so we go underground again and discover the coal chute the maze the coffin lid water chamber etc.  On the way back down the valley he shows us Sidcot swallet and describes Reads Cavern.  We thanked him for the trip and brewed up at the tent then decided to walk to Reads Cavern on Saturday afternoon and locate it.  This proved to be a question of thrashing about in undergrowth until the stream way was located.  From then on it was simple to approach the rock wall and find the cave.  The main chamber was explored and a note was made of the passages leading off but we decided to explore it properly at a later date. Pottering back to camp we packed up and walked down the Combe to the main road.  As it was opening time we decided that the Plume at Rickford would do and then we would walk as far as we could that night.  Lo and behold! a van stopped and offered us a lift to Chew Magna. What a piece of luck!

So we ended up at the Crown at Chew - quite hard to find near the old Gas Works.  Wobbling out of there just before closing we walked through Chew Magna to the cricket ground and crashed out there in our respective bags - Gary still using his grey blanket with blanket pins.  The wall was an ideal place to sleep unobserved from the road. Woke up at dawn cold and damp brewed up tea with no milk.  It was common practise in those days when walking to liberate milk from doorsteps but only if there were more than two bottles as this implied that the occupants were probably stinking rich.  Sadly the milkman was late that day.  Nipping over the wall we tramped back to the Happy Landings on the Wells road in time for last orders midday.  Home Brewed or Simonds being the popular brews.

Having caught the Bug we returned many times to the Combe and eventually met Zot who took me on what was a big trip in those days down Swildon's via the 40 foot pitch to sump 1. On the way back I really struggled on the 40 trying to climb up in grots and a large waterlogged mohair sweater my wife Hilary had spent hours knitting.  This magnificent article of clothing unfortunately reached my knees -Zot was not impressed with my final feeble thrust to the top (because he had been standing in the dreaded hole soaking wet to his waist lifelining me. Still it was the beginning of a lengthy friendship and we have caved off and on for a long time now.

We had great fun in those days and some of us are still having fun now.  I hope that my modest meanders on Mendip have not proved too boring for all you tigers in the club.

PS. Meths stoves are still dangerous nowadays despite soothing noises from the manufacturers.



Mr. Wilson refers to past days within memory, but Robin's cartoon below needs some small explanation, so for all of you tigers who haven't read "Ten years Under the Earth" by Casteret, here is a small clarifying extract.

... Being hardened to cold water and to the negotiation of difficult underground passages, I did not hesitate to pursue the watercourse on its way under ground. Undressing completely (clothes hold water, catch on projections, and are hampering and dangerous in caves) I slid head first into the descending fissure which swallows the brook.


Past exploits of a (not very bold) caver

by your Ed.

Like many other people, my first experience of caving was at college, when 1 decided to try a taster course from one of the many sport and club activities on offer to freshers.  It was with some trepidation that I joined the hard men of Portsmouth Poly cave club and braved the journey over to the Cerberus SS cottage in East Mendip.  Along with a number of other students-long hair, old boiler suits and a pair of ex¬army boots from Sams we were shown the delights of caves such as Hillier's and Conning tower in the quarry, with a trip down Swildons Hole on the Sunday.

(See pic at end of article for definitive student wear).  My memories of the first few trips are vague, but 1 soon found myself caving with the likes of Rose, Price and others from the Poly.  It must have been 1968/9 and Eastwater was the cave to be in.  I think I did a large number of trips into the cave but cannot ever remember my way through the boulder ruckle.  I clearly recall sliding across the traverse with an old NiFe cell strapped to my waist, pursuing some incredibly slim and lithe leader who seemed to vanish into a hole. Who he was I do not recall.  My caving continued for by now I had got the bug, bought a lead acid Oldham and risen to the heights of equipment officer.  This largely involved getting your fingers all soft and gooey as you checked the alkaline cells and neutralising them when you serviced the Oldham.  It was better this way round!  I had also purchased at great (student) expense, a plan and neoprene sheet and glue to make my own wet suit.  With a fellow student, Paul Buckley (where is he now, I wonder?) we put together two suits and bootees.  I chose Paul because he was the same size as me and we could measure the cut but unglued sheets alongside each other.  I upset the landlord of my digs here, not because of the glue on the carpet but more because it had a back panel shape cut out of it where the Stanley knife bit through the neoprene and into the carpet below.  (Actually he didn't discover it for quite some while). Having constructed two grand suits, it seemed that caving took on a new (warm) dimension.  I recollect quite clearly my first time going down through sump one in Swildons.  Standard wear apart from the articles mentioned earlier was a pair of old jeans and a woolly sweater.  The trip out (and in for that matter) involved balancing on ledges above the streamway and the water at the junction above the well was always knee deep at least. The old 40 had gone just before I "arrived on the scene" so I have no recall of that but I spent at least thirty minutes at the twenty pushing a motley collection of people up the ladder.  The way out was always via the letterbox and then the zig-zags - which I was usually quite glad to see.  Although I never really suffered from a right soaking and chilling, the new wetsuit was a marvel.  My status in the club reached dizzy heights now for with a few Swildons trips logged I was now a "leader".  This largely consisted of taking the best looking birds down the streamway until they began to quake and then assisting them out with appropriate après cave gratitude and pints in the Hunters Lodge.  Yes, I had discovered the dread drink and really went to town caving weekends with Rogers roughest cider, which was about all I could afford (I drank too much).  Memories of the pub come over very strongly on the side of masses of singing and getting pissed on 8 pints of beer for a quid.  We were still resident at the decrepit Cerberus hut and it was now winter. A dreadful "genny" supplied the light in those far off days.  One of the first jobs on arrival at the hut was to set about the "genny" with spanners, bits of pipe and so on in an attempt to make the bugger start.  It usually took to its task once the carb had been stripped down, the plug warmed in the fire or someone's car.  It was started (laugh) on petrol and you had a two way or was it three way tap to change it to paraffin.  Often a "new boy" would be set the task of subduing the genny and they would spend hours trying to start it on paraffin.  It certainly warmed you up pulling the cord which ALWAYS broke and skinned your knuckles on the shed door.  Two particular experts were Trevor? (now deceased) and Tony - he was the lithe thin one.  Another great expert caver, raconteur and drinker was Tony Powell, whose father owned a pub in Portsmouth (the Volunteer?).  Perhaps someone reading this will know him.  The other way of staying warm was to gather wood locally and get the f**cking awful useless stove to light and bum.  This produced much smoke.  Had it produced even equal amounts of smoke and heat it would have been bearable, but no. Finding the axe and chopping wood was one of the other first jobs you did.  There was also trying to get the water to work but I am vague here.  Our nearest non driving pub was the Jubilee Inn - called something else then and now.  Coming home quite pissed and wobbly with a few other reprobates one afternoon and finding the stove OUT (a great sin) I recall someone took a swipe at the bloody thing with the axe.  This bounced off the stove and bit a large hole in the back wall.  On trying to remove the axe - pissed and with the usual precision of the drunkard - the bit of wood panelling got ripped out to reveal a very old, dirty but highly serviceable range which was lurking behind the panel.  Someone cleaned it up and we never saw the old stove again.  I believe I may have a photograph of same.


     Note interest in fire- desperately lacking in old one! Ed.

Back to the caving. There was always someone attempting to push a tiny slit of an entrance called St. Dunstan's Well cave, although I can comment with hindsight that even then when I was a bit slimmer could never have got into it.  I needed bigger caves.  Since they were so local, I delighted in the quarry caves.  Shatter was absolutely stunning and I suspect that it is due another trip by me soon now access has been re¬granted.  Although strictly forbidden for some unknown reason, I still have somewhere a set of slides of this very beautiful cave.  The originals were lent to someone.

There was one particular incident that I remember well-very lucky at the time.  I was down Swildons with two or three others on a trip to the Black Hole.  The water was quite high and necessitated care at the lavatory pan.  I was wearing my new wet suit so didn't mind being the bung for a while.  I passed through a ladder and two ammo boxes then moved on to negotiate the quite tricky duck that it was.  Forging forward on the held back water I was rammed through the hole and firmly wedged under water in the streamway.  My companions were a little way on and didn't immediately see my plight.  Finding myself under water wasn't too much of a problem for I was an excellent swimmer but the wedgedness of my situation demanded action which I performed in the way of actually twisting myself out of the vice like grip of the rocks.  In doing so I severely damaged my sacro iliac joint (where the back joins the pelvis I think) and widened the cave slightly.  At the time it didn't hurt and my companions helped me up and asked how I was.  I said OK and carried on.  A few minutes later, I asked them if they wouldn't mind stopping as I needed to empty the water out of my boots and proceeded to unlace one boot. Very wisely they both realised the gravity of the possible situation and helped me out back to the entrance via the short dry way.  On reaching the surface it took me nearly half an hour to walk across the fields doubled up with pain.  An evening of blurred liquid painkiller followed.  On getting back to Pompey, the doctor declared all was well and gave me pain killers which I was on for 6 months.  I only discovered the extent of my injury some 15 years later when it seriously flared up again.  It nags a bit now and then but what should I expect?  Daft bloody caver!!  I hope to bore you with more reminders of the past next time.  By the way, we used to get the key for the cottage from a Brian Prewer, I wonder if he is still around?!

      A trip down Eastwater sometime in the late 60's



An overview by Dave Irwin

It has been sometime since anyone has published a review of the lost caves of Mendip - that is, in my definition, sites that have been recorded in the past but whose location is now unknown.  Some sites are well known because of their inclusion in the commonly used references such as guide books, but others are new to caving publications, details of them only recently coming to light as a result of researching early documents and publications.  It is worth noting that records relating to some of these sites deserve a more detailed examination in the hope that the odd fact might just give that lead necessary to 'home in' on the entrance location.

There has been surprisingly little written on the subject, most seemingly contented to accept what has been published, mainly writings associated with Balch.  The only other person to write on the subject was Howard Kenney of the WCC. (note 1) His coverage of the topic was superficial and fearing to upset Balch failed to analyse the topic any further than that taken by him.  John Beaumont in his letters to the Royal Society during 1676 and 1681 said that he knew of many caves, excepting Wookey Hole, on Mendip but the largest of them all was to be found on Lamb Hill. (note 2)

Our Miners in digging daily meet with these Caverns, which are of different widenesses, some of them being very large, but the most considerable Vault I have known on Mendipp hills is on the most Northerly part of them, in a hill call'd Lamb, lying above the Parish of Harptry ...

Only five of the lost caves are truly legendary: Maskall's Wood Cave which is said to lie in the wooded area between Cheddar and Draycott; Elborough Cave near Banwell, Rickford Lost Cave and the lost caves in Burrington Combe and Ebbor Gorge.  As far as I am aware there is no written evidence that these legendary caves ever existed, only reports based on local 'hearsay'.

Tales, which are related to the 'shaggy dog' stories that suggest that Cheddar caves are connected to Wookey Hole, or Ebbor Gorge to Wookey Hole, are not discussed in this article.

When the author commenced this paper it was thought that there were a dozen or so sites that came within the definition set above - however, surprise, surprise the number almost trebled!

Burrington Combe and neighbourhood

Blagdon Fissure

A bone fissure excavated in 1872 and located (note 3)

‘ ... near the top of Blackdown ridge, above the village of Blagdon .... '

Miners, searching for iron ore, accidentally broke into the fissure at a depth of 40ft.  Pleistocene bones were removed from the site but the entrance has since become blocked and its exact location is now unknown.  E.K. Tratman of the UBSS searched for it but was unsuccessful. (note 4)  Shaw suggests that it may be one of the fissures in Swancombe Wood and Morecombe Wood. (note 5)  References to the archaeological finds are given in the UBSS Proceedings for 1953-54, 1964 and 1988. (note 6,7,8)  The site is also mentioned in BSA Caves and Caving. (note 9)

Burrington Hole

Previously listed as an unidentified BEC dig during 1945 - 1946.  Now shown to be Lionel's Hole, Burrington Combe.

Snogging Pot

The earliest reference to this site may be an entry in the BEC log for the 31 st March 1946  (note 10) and was simply recorded by R.A. Crocker as 'Burrington Hole 2'.  At this time Crocker, D. Howell and Chas Lloyd made' ... a strenuous attempt on the large boulder blocking the way ahead .... '  The only other reference to this site is to be found in the same caving logbook and the visit dated 11th May 1946.  Don Coase made the following entry:

A trip to Swancombe  (note 11) for survey followed by a [?] to Burrington.  Snogging Pot was examined also the U.B.S.S. Dig.  D.A. Coase & THS examined entrance to East Twin Swallet. ...

UBSS Burrington digs at this time were scattered around the Burrington and Charterhouse area.  They included Bath Swallet and Plumley's Hole so little help from the location of these sites.  A further dig was made later in the summer.  The log entry by Don Coase is headed 'Burrington Hole, Snogging Pot, Sidcot Swallet & the Tunnel in W. Twin Valley.  Sun. 18th Aug 46' .

... The Snogging Hole was inspected.  Hasell getting stuck & after various manoeuvres he retreated. Coase & Pain went down & came straight out with emphatic ideas of what to do with the 'ole ....

Harry Stanbury, the founder member of the BEC in 1935, is sure that Snogging Hole was named after H.S. 'Snogger' Hawkins, a post-war club member who was known to be a misogynist!

Guy Hole

An unpublished manuscript housed in the county archives at Taunton by John Strachey, c.1736, tells of a cave lying below the fortifications at Dolebury near Burrington Combe.  He wrote: (note 12)

... under this fortification is an hole or Cave called Guy Hole, altogether as remarkable as that at Woky but the former being near a City & this remote from any place of Entertainment is not often visited by Travellers ...

A discussion, with extracts of Strachey's work, was published in 1987 and shows that Guy Hole was known to him as early as c.1720. (note 13)  It is difficult to place this site but in the view of the author it is likely to be Goatchurch, for it lies below the Dolebury fortification, i.e. at a lower level, and travelling up the West Twin Brook valley would have been the most direct approach to Dolebury itself.  Further it was compared with that of Wookey - and not unfairly for the entrance passage with its stalagmite deposits and the immediate lower chambers which would appear quite large in poor light.  No other record of this cave has been found.

Further, Williams, in his discussion relating to the this site, and another known to Strachey as Goechurch, came to the conclusion that both names were alternatives for the same site, that which is known today as Goatchurch Cavern.

Dolebury Cavern

There was extensive mining activity on and around Dolebury; several mining sites and shafts may be seen close to the hillfort.  In 1830 the Reverend John Skinner recorded in his extensive diaries (note 14) details of a lead mine adit at Dolebury.  This site may subsequently have been called Dolebury Cavern.  Today the mined tunnel, half way up the valley from Rowberrow, is known as Dolebury Levvy.

Knight in Heart of Mendip records a deep mine shaft midway from the fort to the eastern end of the hill which he thinks was opened up for lead. (note 15)  He also outlined the horizontal gallery driven during the period 1829-1831 and infers that at the time of writing (1915) the entrance to it was blocked.  This is probably the same site referred to by Skinner, i.e. Dolebury Levvy.

A tiny cave was found, c.1975, on the hillside above the adit, whose very small entrance had been walled up.  This was explored by Chris Richards and the writer.  The total length of this site is barely 50ft and the floor is covered with thermoclastic scree.

Lost Cave of Churchill

There have been rumours of a lost cave at Churchill but the writer can find no evidence that such a cave existed, excepting those that lie on Dolebury itself.  There is a 20-30ft long cave in a little quarry at the rear of the houses that line the edge of the A38 at the Churchill cross- roads. This is known as Churchill Cave. (note 16) A small cave, whose entrance was once closed by an iron gate, was mined for brown ochre and pyrites about 1865. (note 17)

Lost cave of Burrington - 1: the 'famous' one!

The 'lost' cave of Burrington is a superb example of researchers relying solely on secondary sources thus perpetuating the errors.  However, Boon and Donovan, carried out independent research and arrived at the same conclusion.  The standard references commonly used for information relating to early cave discoveries are Balch and Knight.  In the case of the Burrington 'lost' cave these authors used Rutter as their principal source.  Several cavers have written about the lost caves of Mendip, notably C. Howard Kenney, in the 1950’s but most seemed to have spent more time in the field rather than inspecting the written evidence which changes the picture dramatically.

Rutter outlined the discovery of Aveline's Hole and then makes the, now well-known, statement: (note 18)

... About half a mile distant another of these curious places of sepulture was discovered, which was calculated to contain not less than one hundred skeletons; and higher up the Combe, not far from Goatchurch, is


but little known.  Its entrance on the side of the hill is small...

If one reads this note carefully it becomes clear that Rutter is not inferring that the other burial site is higher up the combe as assumed by Balch and others.  He is simply changing his subject matter and point of reference to another part of the combe called Goatchurch and the cave entrance that exists there - today known as Goatchurch Cavern.  Note the all important semicolon that divides the topics.

During their researches, Boon and Donovan located a copy of Seyer's Memoirs of Bristol  (note 19) which included an account of the discovery of Aveline's Hole and a reference to the source material is given.  The result of their research is reported in the 1954 UBSS Proceedings. (note 20)  An independent search for the 'lost cave' was carried out by Lennon of the Wessex CC and he arrived at the same conclusion quite unaware that the answer had been found some eight years previously. (note 21)

Lost cave of Burrington - 2: Axe-head Cave  (note 22)

Shortly after the discovery of Aveline's Hole in 1797, (note 23) not 1795 as stated below and in a number of other publications, (note 24) a second site some 50 yards away was explored and a bronze axe-head was found on one of the side ledges.  Reference to this site, now lost, was given in Mr. Urban's column  (note 25) in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1805. (note 26)

The instrument was found in a natural cavern, 28 feet below the surface, on a ledge in the rock at Burrington Coomb [sic], in Somersetshire, about five miles from Stanton Drew.

Within 50 yards of it, in 1795, was found in another cavern, 80 feet deep, an ancient catacomb or interment of the dead, consisting of near 50 perfect skeletons lying parallel to each other, some of whose bones were petrified.

It is of Corinthian brass, and weighs full 8 1/7 times its bulk in water, and I apprehend was an interment of war.

Yours, &tc. H.W.

This reference is of particular interest in two ways.  It records an unknown cave site and illustrates an important bronze tool. Who found this and where the instrument is currently stored is unknown.  The location of the cave clearly indicates it not being Aveline's Hole or Fairy Toot but another site that was probably located in the zones of the two quarries that were worked either side of the promontory in which Aveline's Hole is located.  One wonders why Aveline's was not quarried away - possibly a requirement placed upon it by the landowners of the day, Whalley and, later, Somers.  There are fragment caves in the immediate area such as Pseudo Aveline's - a small vertical feature at the top of the quarry face immediately east of Aveline's Hole entrance.  It is highly unlikely that Pseudo Aveline's is the 'lost' site as cave explorers of this period would not have penetrated such a small feature; their principal use of caves was for the purpose of discovering bone material which might be associated with the Diluvian ideas of the late 18th century. Further, it is not Plumley's Hole for this cave was not opened up until December 1874.

Lost cave of Burrington - 3: Mystery Cavern

In 1948 H.S. Hawkins published an extraordinary article on a new 'lost' cave of Burrington. (note 27)  Entitled 'New Mystery Cavern in Burrington Combe, Somerset', Hawkins claimed to have unearthed a previously unrecorded site, the details of which were embedded in a paper published by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1864.  The paper was written by William Boyd Dawkins entitled 'On the Caverns of Burrington Combe' (note 28) and in it Dawkins described the work carried out by W. Ayshford Sanford and himself at four Burrington caves, namely, Aveline's Hole, Foxes Hole, (note 29) Goatchurch Cavern, and Whitcombe's Hole. (note 30)  Hawkins wrote two papers dealing with the 'mysterious' elements of west Mendip caving and patently did not know that there were two Plumley caves in Burrington Combe. The upper, Foxes Hole [Plumley's Den] and the lower site, Plumley's Hole - the cave where poor Joseph Plumley met his untimely end. (note 31 32)

Hawkins failure to realise that there were two caves named Plumley created his illusion of a lost site and so his argument that Dawkins had used the name Plumley's Den, in error, for the upper cave which he, Hawkins, knew as Foxes Hole falls apart at the seams.  He further argued that Dawkins and Sanford's Plumley's Den could not be Foxes Hole for the latter had three chambers, whereas the site described in the SANHS paper had only two. There is a low extension off to the left of the first chamber, which undoubtedly Hawkins classifies as the third chamber. However, the Dawkins survey is an elevation, which shows the chambers in which he had excavated.

Lost cave of Burrington - 4

To the south (left) of The Link, leading to the Plain, lies a shallow valley.  In it a cave was said to have been opened and filled almost immediately.  It is thought that the information relating to the site came from the late E.K. Tratman. No other details are known.

Lost cave of Burrington - 5

In his well-known ' Swallet Caves ... " Balch in his delightfully vague manner discusses the probability that the famous lost cave of Burrington was not in the Combe but in the valleys.  However, his final thoughts on the matter related to a thirty foot deep hole - but is described without any definite point of reference.  However a clue is gained from the preceding paragraph where he explains that the lost cave of Burrington might be located in the Twin Brook valleys.  Balch wrote: (note 33,34)

There is a hole, however, on the other side of the Combe, in solid rock, with evidence of much wear by passing of feet, which might expand below its present depth of 30 ft., if some clearing were undertaken ....

If this assumption is right and that the 30ft deep cave is on 'the other side' then the hole could be one of two mined shafts  (note 35) that can be located east of Foxes Hole: Toad's Hole and Lizard Hole.  Both of these are 'opposite' the East Twin Brook valley. J. Harry Savory, in 1911, also refers to a site opposite Ellick Wood. (note 36)

It is three quarters way up cliff opposite Ellick Wood just above S curve above E. Brooklet.  It shows a bush of yew and some bare rocks from the road.  After zigzagging up to it over loose surface scree we found it to be a vertical drop slightly inclining in to the cliff, avo 5-6 ft diameter all the way down, silted up at the bottom, resembles Plumley's Den but larger, 30 ft deep shown by reflected sunlight, shows promise of further galleries from one or two recesses now choked, a little work might clear these ....

One wonders whether Balch had the details of this site from Savory - the descriptions are too close for comfort!

Lost caves of Burrington - 6: Boyd Dawkins' Hole

J. Harry Savory noted the following in his diary -  (note 37)

Balch had told me of Boyd Dawkins' hole on opposite side of W. Brooklet to Goat-church.  We looked for this and found a promising crack among loose boulders and in the nettles 15 ft above foot of path leading to Goatchurch, could see but a few feet in here and there, imperfectly examined by B.D., might get in by excavation. Took photo but it wants a distant one taken with morning light from other side of stream.  We then took immediately below this the swallet at present acting for W. Brooklet.  When this cannot take all, there are one or two subsidiary swallets further down W. Brooklet gorge.  We took higher road to Morgan's and had tea.  We were looking for Squire's Well and M [Morgan] reported this to be beyond lake at Rickford, but we could only find a dry trough, which takes drainage of wood on W. of Blagdon Combe.  Still to do swallets behind Mendip Lodge Wood and Squire's Well.  Found no other signs of caves.

In all probability this was the jumble of boulders that now mark the entrance to Sidcot Swallet.  The path to Goatchurch gently ascends from a point on the east side of the valley today cavers generally take the 'direct' route further up-valley.  A photograph, taken by Ralph Reynolds in 1925, clearly shows the Sidcot site before excavation began. (note 38)

Rickford Lost Cave

A cave has been rumoured to have been open in the area.  No other details are known.  It is possible that the site is one of those recorded near Blagdon.

Swancombe Hollow Dig [Hole] (note 39)

Active diggers of the BEC were working at a small site in Swancombe Hollow, near Blagdon.  Members, including the late Dan Hasell worked at the site on 22 December 1945, 10th February and 11th May 1946.  A survey was made on the latter date but this has not been located; the exact spot of the entrance is unknown.

The area was extensively mined and a number of sites have been recorded by Stanton  (note 40) including Swancombe Hollow Hole - it could be this site and may also be the lost cave of Rickford.

Central Mendip

Cheddar Hole

The first note of a cave on Mendip is to be found in the many versions of the book Historia Anglorum by Henry of Huntingdon who wrote his work, in Latin, about 1135. (note 41, 42) The famous description of the cave at Cheddar occurs in the section dealing with the four wonders of England; Cheddar Hole is listed considered the third wonder

Tertium est apud Chederhole; ubi cavitas est sub terra, quam cum multi saepe ingressi sint, et ibi magna spatia terrae et jlumina pertransierint, nunquam tamen ad finem evenire potuerunt.

The English translation reads:

….The third is at Chedder-hole, where there is a cavern which many people have entered, and have traversed a great distance under ground, crossing subterraneous streams, without finding any end of the cavern ...

Recorded as 'Chedre Hole'  (note 43) in the Domesday Book it is also the 12th century name of the modem village of Cheddar.  The earliest reference to this site in caving literature was in Balch's 1935 Cheddar book (note 44) and since that time it has become known as the 'Lost Cave of Cheddar' - a purely 20th century invention.  There are no caves in the Cheddar area that fulfil the 12th century description and, though there is a sizeable stream flowing from the risings near Gough's Cave it is quite impossible to follow any stream underground, except by diving the underground river at Gough's Cave, this having been first explored in the mid-1980s.  It is most unlikely that Henry actually visited the area, let alone the cave but gained his information from an earlier unknown source or by word of mouth.

There are many interpretations of his writing, but two of them are worth mentioning.  Willie Stanton suggests that the description given may have referred to the Cheddar Gorge.  Before the Enclosure Act in the 1790s the gorge would have been so overgrown and full of scrub that it could have been quite dark and cave-like before goats and sheep were allowed to roam freely removing most of the vegetation. Jim Hanwell, on the other hand, has suggested that building of the waterfall by the hotel, at the time of it being a grist mill, has artificially raised the stream floor between it and the risings by some 10ft or more.  If the stream were lowered to its original level access to some of the river passages in Gough's Cave may well be gained.  However, these explanations are really 'shootin' from the hip' without any serious investigation of the historical evidence.

The Wonders as written by Henry, were plagiarised / copied into many other manuscripts of the 12th - 14th centuries.  These include the 40-odd copies of Historia Anglorum, now in the British Library, and also in a miscellaneous collection of manuscripts collectively known as the 'Wonders of Britain'.  These were written at various dates mostly in Latin, but some were also written in Norman French and Welsh all of which include details of the Four Wonders including the Chedre Hole reference. Shaw has summarised these documents in Mendip Bibliography Part II. (note 45) Polychronicon (Many Chronicles) by Ranulph Higdon (1327) was copied / published in a number of editions.  The first English translation of Higdon (1480) by John Trevisa was the earliest printed reference to an English cave. (note 46) 

The final reference to list the Wonders is to be found in William Harrison's  (note 47) contribution to Raphael Holinshed's The First and Second [and Third] Volumes of Chronicles, 1577.  The Wonders were not repeated again in any topographical book of the 17th-19th centuries; excepting of course 19th-20th century reprints. Why did such a famed site become lost to local memory, let alone its claimed national importance, so suddenly? During the course of the 16th-18th centuries many travellers kept private diaries of their tours of the country - very few of these had any contemporary influence upon other travellers as their notes were not published until much later, generally during the 19th century.  Significantly none of the travellers who had visited Cheddar and its Gorge make any mention, let alone describe, the Wonder cave'.  Further, the earliest note of caves having been explored in Cheddar Gorge is to be found in the letters to the Royal Society by John Beaumont in 1676 and 1681. Possibly earlier than Beaumont, John Aubrey of Chippenham described and prepared a map of Long Hole, c.1670. (note 48)

(note 49) In the early editions of Camden's Britannia, first published in 1586, there is no mention of any caves at Cheddar or in the gorge.

Coincidentally as the demise of Henry's cave came about an increase in the available information relating to Wookey Hole is to be found.  William of Worcester  (note 50) visited the cave in 1478 and outlines the cave features and that guides were available.  The names of the three principle chambers are as we know them today; permission to enter the cave though had to be obtained from 'Mr. Porter', an upright stone at the cave entrance!  The fact that the cave appears to have been a place of tourist interest for some time and that it had in the 'dark ages' been used as a place of sacrifice and burial would imply that the cave was well rooted in local memory and that its fame had spread far and wide before William made his visit at the end of the 15th century. All of the diaries and topographical books of the 17th and 18th centuries relating to Somerset have a description or at least a mention of Wookey Hole (in all its various 'ancient' spellings).  I have long held the view that it is more likely that Henry was referring to Wookey Hole, a mere five miles away and that a cave in Cheddar Gorge does not exist.  The large wide passages and river would fit his note that many:

... have traversed a great distance under ground, crossing subterraneous streams, without finding any end of the cavern ...

Further, Henry admits that many visitors had visited this site prior to the production of his book for he says:

... there is a cavern which many people have entered ...

Henry does not mention Wookey Hole at all in his manuscript,

Daccot's Hole

Alexander Catcott, 1725-1779, a Bristol vicar in his later years, amateur geologist and brother of George Symes Catcott of Pen Park Hole fame, made a lifelong study of geology and in particular the formation of caves.  He recognised that the caves had been formed by water action and concluded that they were formed during the rising and draining of the waters of the great flood of Noah.  Catcott was a supporter of the Diluvian ideas, outlined by Hutchinson, and he summarised his field work studies in his book, more so in the 2nd edition that was published in 1768. (note 51)

Catcott had spent much of his time wandering the Mendip Hills and explored the, then, newly discovered caves in the Bleadon and Hutton ochre mining area, fully describing them in his Diary of tours. (note 52)  On the 10th August, 1756 he, accompanied by Mr. Gore of Charterhouse  (note 53) visited Blackdown after which he wrote a long description of the hill, (note 54) the valleys descending into Burrington Combe and the mining area then known as Pits Close, today best known to cavers as Groffy Field.  In August 1757 he revisited the area with a ' stranger' to show him the wonders of Cheddar Gorge and the local hills.  On this occasion he met a miner by the name of Will Hares who was at that time digging for ore in the caves that had been opened at Pits Close. The cave was briefly described stating that water was met with and that the caves' depth was about 40 fathoms (240ft). Catcott wrote:

…. One Will Hares told me that he was digging for ore in Daccot's Hole in Charterhouse Mineries .. , he came to a spring of water, in which they threw all the rubble, which so muddied the spring at Cheddar, that it could not be used ...

Of the three caves known in Gruffy Field could Daccot's Hole be one them?  Both G.B. Cave and Charterhouse Cave show signs of being worked by these miners.

Dick Turpin's Cave

A fabled cave said to exist on Shute Shelve.  A friend of John Chapman's father, named Faulkner, living at Axbridge, remembered when as a child playing in a cave (c.1900) which they knew as Dick Turpin's Cave. Its exact location is unknown.

Green Ore Cave

The single reference to this cave is in a travel guidebook first published in 1856. (note 55)  The cave is mentioned in passing and is said to exist on Green Ore Farm.  In the vicinity of the farm a number of mineshafts have opened up and have been recorded from time to time; all are now effectively capped.  The lost site may well have been one of these.

Lost cave of Axbridge

Miners recall that in the 1920s a cave was opened with a chamber as large as Axbridge Square. Members of the ACG accompanied one of the old men in order to locate the cave.  This resulted in the opening of Triple-H Cave in 1952 and Large Chamber Cave in 1954; both of these sites were shown not to be the site of the lost cave.  However, in 1992, the ACG systematically searched Shute Shelve for any possible sign of the lost cave.  One particular site, at the base of an old ochre working gave good results leading to a cave with large chambers and signs of the 'old man' - Shute Shelve Cavern.  This discovery is now assumed to be the lost cave.

Maskall's Wood Cave

A rumoured cave said to exist in Maskall's Wood [ST/470.537], east of Cheddar.  No written evidence has been traced of this site.

Priddy Lead Works Shaft

During the August Bank Holiday week, 1944, members of the UBSS commenced digging at Plantation Swallet. Though they achieved little they managed to investigate another site - its location was not recorded.  The log entry for the 7th August, 1944 contains the following note:

… The shaft opposite the old mine workings was also examined and found unpromising ....

Can anyone offer any information?

Rift Cave, Compton Martin

A general account of the 1921 UBSS Christmas holiday activities, appeared in the Wells Journal for the 12th January 1922. (note 56)  Twelve members were present and on one occasion they went on a cycle ride visiting a number of cave sites including inspection of Lamb Leer Cavern entrance, which was then in a poor state and was blocked.  Embedded in this account is a visit to a quarry owned by a Mr. Bath at Compton Martin where a number of holes had been exposed.  One of these emitted the sound of a running stream.  It would appear that the UBSS worked at this site for the next five years, how frequently and what results were obtained is unknown for their logbook covering this period was destroyed in the Bristol blitz early in the Second World War.  It can reasonably be supposed that not very much was achieved for no mention of the site was made in the Field Work notes that appeared regularly in the UBSS Proceedings during this period.  The only reference to establish the fact that members of the Society actually worked at the site is recorded in their Logbook Volume 4 1927. (note 57)  Which quarry is unknown but it is likely to be one of the group to be found at the lower reaches of Compton Combe on its western fringe.  The writer is carrying out further research.

Rowpits and Small Pits

In the forested area of Stockhill lies the Chewton Rabbit Warren.  This area was extensively mined for lead in the 16th and 17th centuries. Between 1657 and 1674 Thomas Bushell sunk up to 20 shafts in the area but regular flooding severely hampered work. In order to drain the water, an adit level was driven out from a natural passage at the depth of 120ft.  Currently, the BEC have opened a site on what Stanton thinks is the lower edge of the working area in the hope of entering this lost swallet.  A report of the current situation has been published. (note 58, 59) (see also the recent series of articles on Stock House Shaft in BB’s. Much of this is natural cave enlarged by the Old Man -A. Jarratt)

Site near St. Cuthbert's Lead Works found and closed by miners, c.1900

C. Howard Kenney in his article on the lost caves of Mendip written in 1953 suggests that a cave had been found by the miners at about the time they had excavated Plantation Swallet around 1900. He wrote:

... It seems that the miners at the old Priddy Lead Works discovered a cave or chamber, but owing to the lawsuit Nicholas v. Ennor, (note 60) restraining the miners from polluting the Axe at Wookey Hole, they were anxious that its discovery should not be known. and they hastily concealed it. ...

Kenney's source material came from Balch's Swallet Caves of Mendip  (note 61) and there we find that the location of the site is fairly well described.

The miners had regular problems of flooding in the floor of what is now known as St. Cuthbert's Depression. About 1900 they opened up Plantation Swallet but failing to excavate a successful drainage path for the water overflowing from the Mineries Pool they turned their attention first to the South Swallet [now commonly known as the Maypole Sink for it is the stream sink of that which flows through the Maypole Series in St. Cuthbert's Swallet] and then to the lowest part of the depression.  This section of the depression still floods in wet weather conditions to the east of the present entrance to St. Cuthbert's Swallet. After clearing out the lead bearing mud a collapse occurred revealing a passage or chamber.  This was quickly filled for fear of infringing the High Court Injunction granted at Wells in 1863.  Two collapses have occurred here since that time. (note 62)

Ubley Farm Rift

In his wide ranging paper on the bone caves of Mendip, the Reverend William Jones outlined the frequency of bone bearing fissures opening up in various parts of Mendip.  He wrote that in some cases  (note 63)

... the fissures are open and on the surface.  An instance of this kind occurs in a field on Ubley Hill farm, on the Eastern side of the range.  A stone dropped into the hole may be heard for several seconds in its downwards course ....

The site location was not given except that it was not far from the farm buildings but an indication of what Jones had observed may be related to an exploration by the MCG close to Ubley Hill Farm.  In November 1984 Tony Knibbs et al explored a 5m deep shaft that had opened up and found that it was part of an open rift aligned 15° - 195°. Knibbs wrote that the ‘…. magnetic bearing of the rift corresponded to surface indications of a filled-in rift and it was concluded that the hole had been caused by slumping of this infill ....’ (note 64)  Similar occurrences of this type may account for the 'lost' caves of Blagdon and Rickford.

Eastern Mendip

Emborough Cave

The only reference relating to this site is to be found in an article written by E.E. Roberts in an early British Caver published in 1943, entitled 'Legends, Dead & Alive.'  (note 65)  It appears to have been brought about by a prank played by Platten on Devenish and Roberts.  No other reference to the cave has been found.

Fairy Slatts

These natural fissures were first recorded by Collinson but can hardly be considered caves. (note 66) Partly natural, partly mined, open fissures said to be up to 21 ft deep.  They were partially filled about 1860 to protect livestock.

Poking Hole

John Strachey records a cave at Great Elm the so-called Poking Hole. (note 67)  This appears not to be natural for, he writes, ‘... but made with hands ... '  The description indicates that it is on the north side of the Wadbury Valley. Williams has suggested that it could have been one of the Clinker Caves, but this seems unlikely that such a small feature would have been recorded for such a publication as Strachey's planned 'Somersetshire illustrated.'  (note 68)

Stoke Lane Fissure

Balch noted in the 1907 Netherworld of Mendip  (note 69) that he had been notified of a potential bone fissure above Stoke Lane Slocker and that it might possibly connect with the cave below.  The slocker cave had been first explored about 1905 and its extent known.  In 1909 Balch and Troup recorded that an excavation had been carried out at the spot but no bone remains had been found. (note 70)  Its location is now lost though it is possible that it is Stock's Hole opened by MCG in 1961. (note 71)

Western Mendip Bleadon Cavern

This cave has been rediscovered and is currently open to cavers.  It was discovered by Beard and Williams in 1833.  They originally entered the cave via an entrance on land within the Hutton Parish boundary.  Instability problems forced the excavators to sink another shaft nearby but within the parish boundary of Bleadon - this is the entrance open today.  Once the 19th century excavations were complete the entrance collapsed and was lost until being reopened in 1969.  At first it was thought to be the lost Hutton Cavern - 1 but later proven not to be.  A full report on this and other sites in the area has recently been published with a bibliography and so no further discussion is required. (note 72)

The Gulf, Sandford Hill

The earliest record of this site is to be found in two letters from the Rev. David Williams of Bleadon to the vicar of Shaftesbury - William Patteson, dated 4th January and 16th February, 1829.  Rutter used the latter letter as the source for the information relating to the lost cave in his book. (note 73)  Summarising the sites found by the miners at Banwell and Hutton Williams continued:

... The mouth of the largest, which the miners call the "Gulph," lies, they say 80 fathoms, or 480 feet below the plane of the Hill.  They also affirm they have let down a man, with a line, 240 feet deep, but that he could see neither top, sides, or bottom. Miners, like other men in their station of life, are very superstitious and wonder-working, when they meet with any thing like this fissure, which they cannot fathom ....

Though so well known surprisingly little has been written about this site.  Various ideas have been proposed as to the likely known sites that may be the whole or part of the lost cave.  The most persuasive argument put forward has been that of Stanton which states that the dimensions must be wrong or that the rift feature in the Levvy might be part of the lost cave. The plane of Sandford Hill is only about 420ft OD and the water table only some 20ft below the lowest part of the valley beyond where it is near sea level. Therefore there must be something wrong with the figures!  However, in 1981 the writer, accompanied by Marie Clarke of the ACG, surveyed the hill using the Williams' measurements in the way in which they were intended to be interpreted.  Oh ! you may well say - if the entrance lies 480 feet below the plane of the hill and the height of the hill itself is only 420 feet how can you mistrust the Stanton argument?  Simple.  Up to and well into the early 19th century the height of a hill was commonly measured by the distance you have to walk up it!!  Hence Blackdown is about one mile high, though today we would say it was some 1000ft vertically above OD.  During the earlier centuries a vertical measurement is frequently referred to as being 'in the perpendicular' .

Using this rule of measurement, the late Marie Clarke and the author surveyed the hillside and found that Mangle Hole was 470ft from the edge of the plane of the hill - measured down the slope of the hill. However, that still leaves the 240ft of line used by the explorer.  Letting a man down on a 240ft long rope does not necessarily imply that was the vertical range of the descent - it could also mean that the man penetrated into the cave that distance.  A full discussion will be found in an article on the subject published in 1984. (note 74)

Hutton Cavern - 1 and Hutton Cavern - 2  (note 75)

The lost Hutton Cavern -1 has been searched for since the 1930s by a number of societies including ACG, UBSS and WCC.  None found the elusive cave.  However an intensive period of digging by the ACG between 1970 and 1974 produced some good results, Hutton Caverns -3 and -4.  They succeeded in reopening the lost Bleadon Cavern [q.v.] and two other natural sites, both of which had been worked by the ochre miners of the 18th century. (note 76)  Alexander Catcott became aware of Hutton Cavern -1 being a source of bone material in late 1756 but it was not until 10th June, 1757 that he actually visited the site.  There are three accounts of the cave, the first written about 1761 in the form of a letter to an unknown recipient. (note 77)

From the 16th February, 1829 letter of Williams to Patteson we know that the cave was lost and it was not until a miner pointed to the spot that workmen were hired and excavation work commenced.  The cave was re-entered in 1828 and the results of their work reported in the letter. Since that time location of the entrance has been lost.

Not so well known is the second site, Hutton Cavern - 2, explored by Alexander Catcott - it lies some 40 yards west of the Hutton Cavern - 1 entrance.  But until Hutton Cavern -1 has been rediscovered this site, too, remains lost.  It could have been the second of the two ACG sites, Hutton Cavern - 4.

Lost cave of Elborough

The background to this site was given to the author by John Chapman of Cheddar.  He recalls, when a lad, that a man living at Canada Combe, Charles Ponsford, told him of a cave that was said to exist near Elborough ' ... which goes back under.'  The cave is supposed to lie close or in Benthill's Wood.  Mining activity was undertaken in the area in the early 19th century; it is possible that the cave was an old mine working.

Loxton Cavern

There is often confusion between the lost cave and the cave known today as Loxton Cave.  However, there are two caves known to exist on Loxton Hill, the second, quite different, site being the lost cave - Loxton Cavern.  The cave was famed in its day for its copper stained formations.  For the record the lost cave was first recorded by Alexander Catcott in 1757. (note 78)  The second, that open today, was found by quarrying in 1862 and its discovery was widely reported in the local press; it bears no resemblance to the lost site.

The lost cave was found by miners associated with William Glisson of Loxton and who accompanied Catcott on his visit on May 19th, 1757.  An outline description of the cave is to be found in Catcott's Diaries The cave was still accessible as late as 1794 when C.I.H. [name unknown] made a descent. His account of experiences and an outline description of the cave was published in the Gentleman's Magazine. (note 79) Accompanied by the farmer on whose land the cave entrance lay C.I.H met the guide who cleared the brambles spanning over the entrance.  Once done and a rope belayed to a stake, the party commenced the descent.

... Our guide (whose father was the discoverer of the cave about fifty years ago) went in first; and, as I had been told there was no difficulty or danger, I readily followed; and, having slid down a steep slope for about six yards, found myself at the mouth of a very awkward black-looking pit, down which I was to swing by means of the rope.  I got down a few yards more, where, fixing my feet in the crevices of the rock, I stood astride the gulph; and there I thought I must have given up the scheme.  I could see nothing but a dark chasm, which appeared to be bottomless .... [At the bottom of the shaft] we then lighted our candles, and followed the guide, who carried us along an narrow passage towards the West. The sides of the rock were here covered with beautiful stalactites, very similar to what I have seen in a cavern at a village in Italy called Palo, near Folingo, but much more delicate.  Having explored the passage for some yards, we turned aside into a small chasm, just large enough to admit my body with a great deal of squeezing, and which, as we advanced, did not permit me to go on all fours. I was obliged to crawl like a snake, and could not have proceeded much further, as I found my breath getting short from the fatigue and heat of the place; but was at last relieved by reaching a large arched room most beautifully covered with sparry incrustations. The rock (a limestone) was so hard, that our tools were unequal to procure me the specimens I wanted, and I was sorry to find those we saw had been much defaced by Cornish miners, who, in trying for copper a few years ago broke off the finest pieces to send to their friends.  For the satisfaction of your readers, who delight in the Quixotic and marvellous, let me assure them, that I here saw the Magician of the Cave, in the form of a bat, clinging to the cieling [sic] of his crystal palace.  That our return might be prosperous, I would not suffer him to be disturbed .

... Our descent was difficult; our return neither arduous nor dangerous; perils once known are half conquered. However, I made a firm resolution never to make another attempt to explore the place, in which I was joined most heartily by the farmer, who by no means liked crawling ten fathoms underground. we visited the other branches, diverging in different directions from the main shaft; they contained petrifications more or less beautiful, and of different colours, as tinged with iron or copper, of both which there are veins in the cave.

Having been buried alive for more than two hours, I was glad to revisit the regions of mortality, though completely bruised and battered in every part of my body.

Rutter's account is based on a transcription of Catcott's Diary made by David Williams.  From the past tense in the account it would appear the cave was closed at the time of publication of

'Delineations' in 1829. (note 80)  Neither Williams nor Beard are known to have visited the site.

Sandford Bone Fissure

This site was opened by William Beard of Banwell on 29th January, 1838, having been, no doubt, prompted by the knowledge that bones had been found there in the 1770s.

Beard had his men, Robert Brown and William Cuff, working for him removing bone material until the 29th May, 1838. For this they were paid 1I6d. a day (7Y2p). (note 81)  The site was still open in 1863 at the time of James Parker's visit.

There are many trenches and mined features along the plane of Sandford Hill that it would be difficult to identify the actual pit, many of which were worked as late as the mid-20th century.  Some persons claim to have identified the site but this is far from proven.

Lost cave of Worlebury Hill

Sometime during the late 1940s a local caver recorded that he had explored a cave on Worlebury Hill which contained stalagmite formations.  The note is to be found in the Local History Library at Weston-Super-Mare.  Although an intensive search has been made the cave has not been found.

Somerset - general

Cothelstone Hill Cave.

Not far from Holwell Cavern lies Cothelstone Hill Cave.  This, it is reported, was an inhabited rock shelter. (note 82)  Recent work in the area by Pete Glanvill and Trevor Knieff have uncovered a small cave (ST/1866.3199) but it does not resemble the lost site. (note 83)

Dodington House Cave

During the late 18th century Cornish miners migrated to the Mendip area in search of work.  A mining agent, William Jenkin left a wealth of mining records including details of work in the Somerset area.  Among his records is a reference to a cave in the Quantocks ' ... a little above Dodington House.'  A selection of Jenkin's records was published in 1951 edited by AK. Hamilton Jenkin in which the following extract of a letter may be found.

Extraordinary Somerset Cavern.

To Scrope Bernard Esq. 19th Dec. 1795

The surprising cavities and large caverns we have discovered under the beech grove a little above Dodington House are beyond my power of describing.  One in particular which is about 28 yards in length and from 4 - 12 yards high and wide, the top of which is 14 yards below the surface, strongly indicated that this spot must have undergone some wonderful convulsion, and the cracks and fissure we find in the walls of the cavern are no less wonderful, through which fissures come strong currents of air, to the great refreshment of the labourers ...

Oldham noted that the cave must be located in the area on the seaward side of the Quantock Hills where there is a small outcrop of Devonian Limestone [ST/173.405] at an altitude of 400ft. (note 84) Oldham continued:

... The beech grove mentioned still remains above Dodington House.  At the western end of the grove is an old quarry (probably excavated after the account was written), the greater part of which appears to be off the limestone.  At the eastern end of the grove is an old copper mine building, probably constructed after 1795, which also appears to be just off the limestone. The easternmost end of the quarry appears to have bisected an old shaft in the limestone ....

No doubt the idea of rediscovering one of these lost sites will intrigue cavers for many years to come. However, to do so will entail many hours of researching old records lodged in county collections and archives.  The very best of luck!


Many thanks to Ray Mansfield, Chris Hawkes, John Chapman and Chris Richards for their helpful comments.

Dave Irwin,


Originally published in Shepton Mallet Caving Club Journal Series 10 No.3 (Spring 1998) and BCRA Speleo-history Group Journal No.2 (revised version, 18th August 1998)


1.                  Kenney, C. Howard, 1953, "Lost" caves of Mendip. WCC Jn12(39)12-14(Apr)

2.                  Beaumont, John, 1681, "A Letter of Mr. John Beaumont Jun, giving an account ofOokey Hole and feveral other Subterraneous Grottoes and Caverns in Mendipp-hills in Somerfetfhire, etc.", Phil. Collections, [Royal Society], No.2, pp 1-8; extract from pp 4-5

3.                  Anon, 1876. Geological Section. Proc Bristol Nats Soc., Ser 3 1,137-140(1874-1876) pp137-138

4.                  Tratman, Edgar K., 1945. University of Bristol Spelaeological Society Field Work Log. Bristol: Quarto MSS, 2 vols., surveys

5.                  Shaw, Trevor R., 1972. Mendip Cave Bibliography. Part II Books, pamphlets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to December 1968. CRG Trans 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

6.                  Donovan, Desmond T., 1954. A bibliography of the Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol area. Proc UBSS 7(1)23-24(1953-1954)

7.                  Donovan, Desmond T., 1964. A bibliography of the Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol area. First supplement. Proc UBSS 10(2)89-97(1964)

8.                  Mansfield, Raymond W. and Donovan, Desmond T., 1989. Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol areas. Recent bibliography. Proc UBSS 18(3)367-389(Nov)

9.                  Jackson, J. Wilfred, 1937. Schedule of Cave Finds. BSA Cav Cav 1(2)48-51

10.              BEC Caving Log, Volume I, 1943-1946

11.              The survey has not been located.

12.              Strachey, John, c.1736. Somersetshire Illustrated. MSS held at the Somerset County Archive, Taunton. Ref .. No. DD/SH.I07 (1-2) and DD/SH. 108 (1-3)

13.              Williams, Robert G. J., 1987.  John Strachey on some Mendip caverns and antiquities in the early eighteenth century. Proc UBSS 18(1)57-64(Nov)

14.              Skinner, Rev. John, 1788-1832. Journal of Travels and Parochial Matters. Quarto MSS, 98 vols., maps, illus. BM Ref.: Add MSS 33717 Vol. 85 ff182a

15.              Knight, Francis A., 1915. The Heart of Mendip. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xvi + 547pp, maps, illus., figs [p.2IO]

16.               Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William 1.,1977. Mendip: the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

17.              Knight, Francis A., 1915. [as above] [p.2IO]

18.              Rutter, John, 1829, Delineations of the North Western Division of the County of Somerset. Shaftesbury: printed and published by the author., xxiv + 349 pp, map, plans, sections, illus. [p.118]

19.              Seyer, Reverend Samuel, 1821-23, Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol and its neighbourhood. 2 Vols. Vol. 1 : xx + 535pp, maps, illus. [Published 1821] : Vol. 2 : 603pp, maps, illus. [Published 1823]. Bristol: Printed & Published by John Mathew Gutch.

20.              Boon, George C. and Donovan, Desmond T., 1954. Fairy Toot: the 'lost cave of Burrington' Proc UBSS 7(1)35-38(1953-1954)

21.              Lennon, I.G., 1960. The lost cave of Burrington. WCC Jnl 6(76)28-30(Nov. 1959/ Mar 1960)

22.              So named by the author.

23.               Bristol Mercury, 16th January, 1797, page 3, column 4, Vol. VII, No. 360 [account of the discovery of Aveline's Hole]

24.              Irwin, David J., A History of Aveline's Hole. [in prep]

25.              The equivalent of the modern ' Peterborough' or Aunt Agony column that appear in newspapers and magazmes.

26.              H.W., 1805, Mr. Urban. Gentleman's Magazine Pt. II, p.408-409, illus. ; reprinted in Gomme, George Laurence [ed.], 1886, The Gentleman's Magazine Library. Archaeology. London: Elliot Stock, 2 volumes [Vol. 1, p.22-23]

27.              Hawkins, H.S., 1948. New mystery cavern in Burrington Combe, Somerset. Brit Cav 18,29-31

28.              Dawkins, W. Boyd, 1864. On the caves of Burrington Combe, explored in 1864 by Messrs. W. Ayshford Sanford, and W. Boyd Dawkins. SANHS Proc 12(2)161-176(1863-1864), surveys

29.              Foxes Hole was known to Dawkins as Plumley's Den - a name that has fallen into disuse because of its confusion with Plumley's Hole, a short cave located at the bottom of Burrington Combe.

30.              It was Dawkins who named this site. Who Whitcombe was is unknown.

31.              Plumley's Hole was not discovered until December 1874.

32.              Dougherty, Alan F., Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1994. The discovery of Plumley's Hole, Burrington Combe and the death of Joe Plumley. Proc UBSS 20(1)43-58(Dec), illus., table

33.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937. Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 21lpp, illus. figs, surveys [p.121]

34.              Balch, Herbert E., 1948. [as above] [p.97]

35.              Howell, Christopher, Irwin, David J. and Stuckey, Douglas L. 1973. A Burrington Cave Atlas. BEC Cav Rep (17)35pp(Jul), map, illus., surveys

36.              Savory, John. 1989. A man deep in Mendip. The Caving Diaries of Harry Savory 1910-1921 Gloucester: Alan Sutton, xviii + 15Opp, maps, illus., figs, surveys. [p.15-16]

37.              Savory, John. 1989. [as above], [p.16]

38.              Howell, C., Irwin, D.J. and Stuckey, D., 1973. A Burrington Cave Atlas. BEC Caving Report 17, 35pp, illus., surveys, maps

39.              Hasell,D.H., 1947, Swancombe Hollow [Dig]. BEC Belfry Bulletin 1(2)3(Mar) 40Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William I., 1977. [as above]

40.               Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William I., 1977. [as above]

41.              Henry of Huntingdon, c.I135. Historia Anglorum.

42.              Forester, Thomas [trans & ed], 1853, The Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon, comprising the history of England ... London: Henry G. Bohn, xxviii+442pp, illus. [first translation in English]

43.              There are many different ways in which Cheddar has been spelt in the past. For the purposes of this paper only one version has been used - that used by Thomas Forester in his translation of Henry's document in 1853.

44.              Balch, Herbert E., 1935, Mendip - Cheddar, its Gorge and Caves. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., Ltd. The Cathedral Press. 177pp, illus., figs, surveys [p.23]

45.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972. [as above] [877]

46.              Trevisa, John [Higden, Ranulph], 1480, Policronicon ... descripcion of Britayne according to the translacion of Treuisa. [ Westminster] : William Caxton.

47.              Harrison, William, 1577, An Historicall Description of the Island of Britayne ... [in] Holinshed, Raphael, 1577, The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande ... London: John Harrison

48.              Boycott, Antony, 1992, Cave References in John Aubrey's Monumenta Britannica. BCRA SHG Newsletter (OS) (4)2-5(Aut), illus.

49.              Irwin, David J., 1992, A thought about the John Aubrey Long Hole survey. BCRA SHG Newsletter (OS) (4)5(Aut)

50.              William of Worcester, c.1478. ltinerarium sive liber rerum memorabilium. Cambridge MSS Corpus Christi College, no. 210. [Refer to Shaw, Trevor R., 1972 for details [see above]]

51.              Catcott, Alexander, 1761. A treatise on the deluge ... London: Withers, xiii + 296pp, illus. ; Two editions and a supplement exist, 1761 and 1768. Full details of each and the Mendip cave content in Men Bib Pt II, No. 169A & B, 170.

52.              Catcott, Alexander, 1774. Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5 cm [1748-1774]. Sheaf1138p, sheaf 5 44ff : Bristol Ref.. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3. A bound photocopy is available for general inspection.

53.              Mr. Gore lived at Lower Farm, Charterhouse. His coat of Arms may be seen above the front door.

54.              A transcript of the Blackdown description is given in: Richards, Christopher, 1979. Early observations on the Cheddar catchment at Charterhouse. BEC Bel BuI33(372-373)24-27(Apr/May)

55.              Anon, 1856, A Handbook for Travellers in Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire. London: John Murray, 1st ed., [iii] + 235pp, map. At least five editions of this book are known published between 1856 and 1899.

56.              Wells Journal, 12th January, 1922; page 8, column 3. Mendip Caves // Underground Stream near Compton Martin.

57.               University of Bristol Spelaeological Society 1927, General Log IV: 19th April 1927 [p 58 - 59] and 8th May 19/27 [p 67]

58.              Jarratt, Anthony R. et ai, 1997. Five BuddIes Sink - A lost cave rediscovered - Part 1. BEC Bel BuI50(494)37-63(Dec), map, illus.

59.              Jarratt, Anthony R. et ai, 1998. Five BuddIes Sink - A lost cave rediscovered - Part 2. BEC Bel BuI50(500)39-45(Dec),illus., survey

60.              This is an error - should read [Nicholas] Ennor v. Hodgkinson.

61.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937. Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211 pp, illus. figs, surveys [p.170-171] AND
-- 1948. Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. London: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., 2nd ed., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus. [p.135-136]

62.              Irwin, David J. et ai, 1991. St. Cuthbert's Swallet. Priddy, Somerset, Bristol Exploration Club. ii + 82pp, map, illus., surveys, (Oct)

63.              Jones, William Arthur, 1857, On the Mendip bone caverns. SANHS Proc 7,25-41(1856-1857); p.33

64.              Knibbs, Antony J., 1984, Ubley Hill Farm Rift. MCG Newsletter (174)8-9(Dec), survey (elevation)

65.              Roberts, E.E., 1943. Legends, Dead & Alive. Brit Cav (10)95-97

66.              Collinson, John, 1791. The history and antiquities of the County of Somerset, collected from authentick records and an actual survey by the late Mr. Edmund Rack ... Bath: R. Cruttwell, 3 vols. : Vol. 1 : Iii + 45 + 277pp, Vol. 2 : 507pp; Vol. 3 : 650pp; maps illus.

67.              Strachey, John, c.1736. [see above]

68.              Williams, Robert G. J., 1987. [see above]

69.              Baker, Ernest A. and Balch, Herbert E., 1907. The Netherworld of Mendip. Bristol: J. Baker, Clifton, xii + 172pp, illus., map, index

70.              Balch, Herbert E. and Troup, Reginald D., 1909. Report on cave research MNRC Rep (3)23¬27

71.              Cowley, Alan, 1962. Stocks Hole. MCG Jnl (3)58-59, survey

72.              Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997. The Bleadon and Hutton Caverns, West Mendip - a reassessment. BCRA Speleo-history Group Jnl (l)14-23(Autumn), illus., surveys.

73.              Rutter, John, 1829, [as above]

74.              lrwin, David J., 1984. 'The Sandford Gulf A new look at an old problem. BEC Bel Bul 38(426)3-7(Oct)

75.              The numbering system is that adopted by the Mendip Cave Registry to identify the four different caves each known as Hutton Cavern! Refer to Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997. [see above]

76.              Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997. [see above]

77.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Discription [sic] of Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by C.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology, Keele University. 66ff 4to, illus. MSS belonged to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.  The location of the Catcott original letter is unknown, presumably lost.

78.              Catcott, Alexander, 1774. [see above]

79.              H[ ], C.I., 1794, [Loxton Cavern exploration] Gents Mag 64(1)399-400 [author is possibly C.l. Harford, a geologist]

80.              Rutter, John, 1829. [refer above], p.163

81.              [Beard, William], 1824-1865. [Manuscript Note Books on the caves at Banwell, etc.]. Taunton: Somerset Record Office. No. D/PIban/54/C1l93

82.              Page, John Lloyd Warden, 1890. An Exploration of Exmoor. London: Seeley, [ii] + xv + 318pp, map, illus., index

83.              Irwin, David J., 1997. Howell Cavern, Merridge, Somerset. BCRA Speleo-history Group Jn1. (l)1-13(Autumn), surveys, illus.

84.               Oldham, Anthony D., 1968. The Mendip Caver. Men Cav 4(7)9pp(Oct/Nov)


Belfry Extension

Planning permission has been granted for the clubhouse extension.  Ideas for fundraising are required (not stomps)  The target is a cool £8000 which would allow a margin for equipping with up to date utilities.

Completely Bats Beer


A sensible name for a beer that all Belfryites should liked-e-mailed by pete Rose.

Can we have some more please – Ed.  (pictures of cave theme beers that is)


My Photographic Off Day

I hadn't been underground for some months so rang Pete Rose who organized a 2-man trip into Shatter Cave.  The night before I started hurling flash bulbs and guns into my camera box and checked out my nicads.  Then came my new pride and joy - a genuine Firefly bulb flashgun and the insertion of its new battery.  Pete arrived at the appointed hour and after a trip to Tesco's for more batteries and a detour via Clarke's Village in Street for Pete's new shoes we were heading for Bryan Prewer's.  Bryan handed over the keys with detailed instructions and drawings as to how to open and lock the gate securely.  Twenty minutes later we were getting changed by Fairy Cave quarry.  During changing (when Pete found his usual boots were missing) various witticisms were exchanged about my light - which I ignored even when he pointedly put a spare Petzl zoom into an old carrier bag before leaving for the cave.

After a trek past a pond complete with bull rushes and through the evolving wood which is now Fairy Cave Quarry we arrived at the gated entrance which lies beneath a cliff which has been threatening to collapse since it was last blasted 30 years ago.

This was Pete's first visit for many years and he was certainly savouring it.  First a bit of comparative gynaecology was needed to persuade the cave to open its portals.  After some fiddling with the key the padlock's metaphorical G spot was hit and we were able to coax the bolts back and slide into the welcoming darkness.  The distant musical gurgle of a stream could be heard somewhere tantalizingly below the boulders that smothered the floor.  After a false start we entered the First Chamber and, first mistake, dumped the spare light.  A detour was made to West Chamber beyond Diesel Chamber for Pete to show me a potential dig (incidentally a couple of weeks later a turn of the century ginger beer bottle was found in here suggesting a surface connection at some time in the recent past) before we scrambled on past Diesel Grotto into Helictite Chamber en route to Tor Hall.

As everything went dim in front of me a voice behind said 'Well at last it made half an hour' with an accompanying Rose-like snigger.  I switched to pilot, cussed and we headed into Portcullis Passage for our photo session.  The pilot got dimmer.


At the end of the short tunnel cameras and guns were extracted from boxes and the serious stuff started. The new Firefly was given to Pete and the shot set up.  The slave refused to fire and after various fiddlings a disgusted Rose handed me a bulb with a pink spot and we started again.  A case of premature bulb ejaculation then turned the air blue and Pete blind.  2 attempts later I gave up that particular shot.  The next one was framed.  I pressed the shutter - 'Click' - no flash - no nothing.  The camera batteries had picked that moment to die. 'Oh well' I thought (you wouldn't want to read what I actually said) I'll go onto manual. Several Rose sniggers later and the tally was: successful shots 2, prematurely ejaculated bulbs 4, and burnt fingers.  I gave up and let Pete try.  He was having a good day so after a few images had been collected by him we set off back to Tor Chamber where after more attempts I realised my light had packed up pilot and all.

Pete wandered off into Pisa Passage while I sat grumpily in the dark.  There was a dull thud from Portcullis Passage - god knows what that was! Rose appeared and we left the cave, Rose snapping pics and me attempting to do so.  Back at the first chamber Pete dug out the Petzl- not a flicker - time for me to snigger.  We signed off and left.

We popped out of the cave no doubt scaring the living daylights out of a group of kids mountain biking in the twilight.  I completed the day's proceedings by falling on the gate while Pete was locking it and succeed in bruising my thumbnail.  Rose continued to snigger in the pub but that wasn't the worst of it.  Three days later I realised I hadn't put a film in the camera!

Peter Glanvill October 1999


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

12/12/99                     Redcliffe caves trip - Vince Simmonds

7/1/00                        BEC Committee meeting

4/2/00                        BEC Committee meeting

5/2/00                        CSCC meeting - All at the hunters Lodge 10.30

20/2/00                      Deadline March BB – Editor

3/3/00                        BEC Committee meeting

7/4/00                        BEC Committee meeting

8/4/00                        CCC AGM - 10.30 AM Hunters Lodge

6/5/00                        CSCC AGM - Ditto

1/1/2000                     Columns open day OFD

14/1/00                      ISSA meet Derbyshire - Robin Gray

31/1/00                      Deadline Ghar Parau grants


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith
Librarian: Alex Gee
Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general


Club News and Views

Members will receive a new Membership handbook with this issue which has been produced by Roz Bateman.  A lot of thought and work has gone into this small book.  New members especially will be able to draw on club history, leaders and a wealth of other useful information.  Well Done Roz!

All members are entitled to a yearly permit for Charterhouse Caves.  This permit must be renewed and signed every October.  I know, like me, there are many of you out there who have a permit but its 3 years out of date.  Your committee insist that all cavers using Charterhouse caves MUST have a signed permit yearly.  Sorry about that but YOU are NOT indemnified from claims otherwise.  Ed.

If you have not paid your subscriptions by 1st April this year, you will cease to be a member and will have to re-apply to the committee to join as if you are a prospective new member

Recent Break in at the Belfry

A mentally challenged person or persons thought that breaking in to the club house would yield something for the pocket.  A small amount of money was taken, the showers were wrecked and the overall effect is that you will have either NO showers - too dangerous electrically, or free showers - no coin box.  Please note- if a notice asks not to use the showers DO NOT USE THEM.  Hut Warden.

Withyhill and W/L caves are now open for visits. Please use the same procedure as for other caves in this area- contact Martin Grass before your trip.

Apologies to John Williams for not publishing his article about GS cave in the last issue- it arrived too late for printing.  You may have already read a similar article in Descent. John was able to go on this trip due to funds made available to him from the Ian Dear Memorial Fund.

The Ian Dear Memorial Fund offers financial help to cavers who wish to go on expeditions abroad, but who may not be able to foot the bill. Currently there are still funds available. Contact a committee member for further details of how to apply.

Mendip 2000 event - see later article - The club will be promoting open days during the weekend of 9-11 June, specifically for visits to St. Cuthbert's Swallet cave.  It is hoped to run a series of tourist trips into the cave and there will be a display in the Belfry relating to the cave.  Further details later.  Ed


Dachstein Caving Expedition 1999 Eisturen Hohle (G5)

By John "Tangent" Williams
Photographs by Joel Corrigan

Over the first two weeks this August, 11 cavers from various places based themselves at the wonderful wooden Weisberghaus (a bit like the Hunter's except at 1883m).  The main objective of this trip was to continue pushing Eisturen Hoble (G5) towards the Sudwestem series of Hirlatz Hohle in the hope of making a connection.  A quick look at the survey will show that no connection was made this year.  However, the cave was extended to a depth of approx. 520 m., with potential for further discoveries next summer still remaining very good indeed.  Several other cave sites were explored also, however, I'll write about those another time. This was my first trip to the Dachstein area, and my first time caving outside of the U.K.  What follows are some impressions of G5 and its caving.

"If it holds its own weight up it must be safe"

John and Chris Lloyd at the Entrance of G5

Chris Lloyd and I made the first visit to the cave of the trip.  A ladder was fixed in the narrow entrance and down we went.  The ambient temperature of the cave felt shockingly cold. I was surprised by this.  It was an entirely new experience.  Once off the ladder we moved down a short climb and then into a twisting rift.  Presently we found the way on at floor level blocked by ice.

A handy rock was found and the ice plug was slowly broken up.  The dry creeping cold that emanated from the ice began to gradually penetrate through my caving gear.  Lying sideways in the rift on a floor of ice, occasionally moving backwards chunks of ice that Chris had chipped away, I tried to distract myself from the chill by looking at the rock.  It was mostly a yellowy white colour with hints of orange in places, it appeared to be very crystalline, and was spikily sculptured by lots of small scallops. The way it reflected my torch light as I lay there it seemed almost to glow with cold.

Soon we were on the move again, and at a pitch head which we would rig and then call it a day.  This bit of passage was like Eastwater meets Wigmore, except on ice.  After passing Chris various bits of ironmongery he thrutched his way forward whilst I moved along behind to stuff the rope through a hole up on our right.

"Rich sure did a job on this one!" (vertical guru speak) exclaimed Chris as he moved backwards and forwards trying to move to near where the bolt hole was.

"John, why don't you try this instead ... " said Chris as he reversed from the passage for a rethink, which seemed to involve me.  "I haven't got my harness with me Chris, besides I haven't a clue how to rig stuff" I replied.

Chris tried the move again, "I'm thinking of Pacific beaches ... " (more vertical guru talk).

Meanwhile, I searched the passage walls for an alternative belay point.  Picking up some rocks I eventually persuaded one to become a chocks tone in the rift, a plan was formed.  With less ice than in previous years, an alternative approach to the pitch head was possible lower in the rift.  The rope was belayed to the newly created chockstone, another small rock was tied to the end of the rope to help us swing it, and grab at it as it went past the hole we were trying to thread.  I thrutched back up into position whilst Chris slid along on the ice below towards the pitch head.  The cowboy bit was done with the rope and after a bit of "Go, go gadget arms!" I caught hold of the line and passed it back to Chris to do some vertical guru knot work.  After some half hearted ice chipping in the approach to the pitch we made our way back out.  I returned to the surface certain that the next two weeks were going to be very enjoyable indeed (which they were!)

"My kingdom for a carbide rocket pack"

Huw Jones on the entrance Pitch of G5

On the next trip I finally had to put my rather theoretical S.R.T. skills into practice.  Waiting at the base of the "Action Reaction" pitch for my turn on the rope, time seemed to just stand still.

Once I'd managed to take most of the stretch out of the rope, and was left hanging just above the ground, the clock began ticking once more.  The passage of time was nudged forwards by the bounce of the rope as I slowly pulled away from the ground.  After a while the motion became routine and I found myself hanging in the harness kind of adrift.  I sat there spinning in the void barely conscious of the increasing exposure anymore wondering how long it might take to reach the top.

Occasionally I was jerked back to semi reality when my Croll would slip back down the rope, and I would have to pull the slack through the device.  Near to rock once more, I pulled a flake of ice from the wall and sucked on it. Feeling refreshed by this, I suddenly for the first time became acutely aware of where I was.  Far below me now I could see the faint flicker of a carbide lamp amongst some boulders.  All around was both the awesome and sickening panorama of rock, ice, and blackness, being briefly disturbed by the feeble glow from my lighting.  After looking about, I decided to hurry on upwards. Time jumps ahead a little at these moments. 

An insane worm or Gecko in G5

Then a rebelay loomed ahead. As it approached, the world I had briefly glimpsed shrank back to become just the few inches of rope in front of my face, as the procedure for a changeover flooded back into my mind. Time stood still once again, whilst I concentrated on completing the changeover, and then to my surprise shouted, "ROPE FREE!"  I had learnt a few things on the ascent and time had made another jump forward.

The Cast of Characters

(In order of appearance)

Chris Lloyd (the token Canadian a.k.a. Vertical Guru), Pete 'Snablet' MacNab (the one responsible for this gathering) Joel Corrigan, John 'Tangent' Williams, Rob Garrett, Mike 'Quackers' Duck (as surface support 'cos TSA don't make oversuits large enough anymore) Ian Wilton Jones, Peter Wilton Jones, Chris Densham, Huw Jones, & Peter Hubner.


John Williams relaxing after his trip

Thank you very much indeed for the hospitality and support of Wolfgang & Alfi at the wonderful wooden Weisberghaus. "PROST!" to Pilz Robert for flying the B.E.C. flag, and sharing a drink or two with us.

The Ian Dear Memorial Fund for helping me get there in the first place.

Plan survey of G5 – I have only printed this part of the survey as the complete A3 survey would have been too small on reduction.  Ed.


Passages Named Pooh

by Dave Yeandle

During the summer of 1972 I spent several weeks caving in the Pierre St Martin in France.  At the time it was the deepest cave in the world.  Our Expedition planned to make it even deeper.  One day Dave Gill, Paul Everett and I were pottering around near the bottom of a series of shafts called the Maria Dolores.  These shafts were completely separate from the Puits Parment series of shafts, which led to the deepest point in the cave.  Our plan was to push the bottom of the Maria Dolores to below the depth of the Parment and become "The deepest men in the world".  On an earlier trip Dave had found a pitch in amongst some nasty boulders at the bottom of a 35m pitch called Puits Sauron.  On that occasion he did not have sufficient ladders to explore further. As Dave now prepared to descend the new pitch I decided to have a look around the boulder choke.  I found that I could do a tricky, traverse over the new pitch and reach a continuing rift.  My carbide light was very dim by now so I stopped to fettle it.  To my mild surprise I soon had a lovely bright light and could appreciate the nastiness and exposure of the traverse I had just done. I was glad I had had such a poor light earlier as I seriously doubted whether I would have made it into this continuation had I appreciated what I was actually doing.  Still, new cave beckoned so I set off to explore.  After a few metres I reached another pitch.

I set off back to Dave, quaking a lot this time on the traverse.  By now Dave had laddered his pitch and set off down.  I quickly followed and we explored several short, sporting wet pitches to a rift that became too tight.  Still keen for more exploration we rushed back up the pitches and over the traverse to the new pitch.  We hung a ladder down and I set off.  At first it was tight and I thrashed around to make downward progress. Soon though the rift widened and I excitedly zipped down the ladder for 20m to a fair sized downward sloping passage. The walls of the cave were clean white limestone and decorated with pretty cave flowers and calcite crystals. I was very pleased with myself and scampered off downwards.  Soon I came to another pitch, but I had run out of ladder and that was it for the day. This was great, a wide-open cave that was obviously going to go deep.  The icing on the cake for me was that we would not have to carry all the ladders back out as we would clearly be returning.  Unencumbered we could make a rapid exit to our wonderful little world of campsite, sun and cheap wine.

Back at Saint Engrace, word soon got around that we had broken through in the Maria Dolores. Soon a group of most of the cavers in our rag tag expedition were gathered around to hear our tale.  I felt really chuffed for amongst this group were some of my caving heroes; Dave Brook, Mike Boon and Mike Wooding.  I gave a dashing account of our explorations and announced that the word depth record was going to be ours.  This produced a round of cheers.

"Hooray! Well done Pooh" exclaimed Mike Boon.

"We'll call the new pitch, Puits Pooh," announced Dave Gill.

"Good old Pooh, Puits Pooh!" the whole group shouted.

Caver in PSM

All a bit over the top really, but that was how we used to carry on and we were happy enough!  Guess what, we didn't actually break the world depth record.  In fact it all went a bit pear shaped and ended in epics on dangerous, but not deep enough pitches and silly grovellings in passages that refused to go.  At one stage Boon ended up lowering me over the edge of a 30m pitch on a rope because we both thought that we were only above a short drop.  This caused me great alarm and it took a while to sort the problem out.  Boon thought it hilarious.

It was a good expedition though and we had many caving adventures, found quite a lot of new passage and kept getting very drunk and falling over in the field in St Engrace. Apart from that there is a little bit of France that will forever be Puits Pooh.

In 1975 I dived two sumps at the bottom of Pippikin Pot.  These dives happened as a result of a heavy drinking session I had at the Hill Inn with Tony Boycott, Bob Churcher and Tessa Pearse.  After too many pints I had mentioned that I would like to dive these sumps some time in the future.  Somebody outside of our group must have overheard me and started a rumour. Imagine my surprise when later in the evening a guy came up to me and offered to help me carry my bottles on my diving trip down Pippikin the following morning!  The conversation went like this.

"Are you Dave Yeandle"

"Afraid so"

"Can my friend and I come on your trip down Pippikin tomorrow.  We'll help you carry your gear"

This was shocking! " Thanks mate, but we haven't got enough ladders to do the trip"

(Relief an excuse!)

"We have plenty of ladders, don't worry we'll ladder it for you"

Very worried, "Oh great, see you tomorrow"

In the morning I managed to scrounge a line reel off Bob and eventually we got going.  The party consisted of the two guys we met in the pub, Tessa, Tony and myself.

I think our two new friends (J Fox and J. L Preston) were a bit disappointed by the disorganized nature of the venture they had so kindly become part of.  In any case they set off to Leck Fell ahead of us to start laddering up the tight entrance series.

After a large breakfast in Bernie's Cafe; Tessa, Tony and myself drove up the road to the Lost Johns car park and staggered down Leck Fell to the entrance.  We were laden with diving gear and wondering how on earth we were going to manage it all underground.  We were very pleased to find our new friends at the entrance who informed us that they had teamed up with two other cavers.  They did not know who they were but they had volunteered to help.  These new people had gone on ahead into the cave and were laddering it up.  So now we had five of us to carry the diving gear and the ladders for the lower pitches. This trip seemed to be just happening on it's own.  All I had done was to say I was going to dive both sumps at the end of Pip.  People were so willing to help me that it was now actually getting done.

We just seemed to zip down the cave and the diving gear was not a problem.  I suppose we were young, fit and on form.  It was all going rather well.  At the junction with Ratbag Inlet we caught up with our new members and made our introductions.

"Pleased to meet you Pooh, I'm Dave Savage"

I was astonished. "Not the Dave Savage, who pushed Wookey Hole!!"

"Well yes, I haven't done much caving for a while, I fancied a look at Pippikin but we didn't bring enough ladders; it was lucky for us we met up with your party."

I was getting even more amazed now.  Here was one of the cavers who along with Mike Wooding had been first to Swildons 12. He had been one of my schoolboy heroes. Now he was helping me to do a dive and he seemed to be nearly as disorganized as I was; and also a really nice bloke.  Upon reaching the final pitch we discovered that we were still short of one ladder. Dave Savage was still above the previous pitch and agreed to stay where he was and lower a ladder from that pitch, to enable us to reach the dive sites.

I decided to dive downstream first.  The sump was tight and wide and becoming disorientated I did a U-turn and started to swim back the way I had come.  I surfaced one metre away from where I had entered the sump.  I did not know this though as my friends upon seeing that I was coming back had hidden and turned out their lights.  My light was a bit dim and I did not realize what was going on. Even so I could hardly believe that I had broken through so easily so I tentatively called out, "Can anybody hear me".  After the inevitable merriment at my expense I dived again and found the way on into an apparently large underwater passage, which I followed in poor visibility for about 100m.  I turned back before reaching the third margin in my 40 cubic foot bottle, in order that I would have sufficient air for a dive in the upstream sump.

The summer had been dry and water levels in Pippikin were low.  This helped with my second dive of the day as the upstream sump started much further along the inlet passage than it had back in 1970 when I had been with a party exploring this part of Pippikin.  When it did sump, it did so decisively and I easily followed a small but comfortable sump, in good visibility.  I passed two air-bells in mounting excitement and reached a slight upward constriction, about 50m from where the sump had begun.  I had now almost reached the third margin of a bottle that had been well depleted on the previous dive.  A desire for self preservation now started to dampen my urge to continue.  I felt very strongly that I was about to break through into something big and yet I knew I would be taking a big risk going into what may turn out to be an underwater squeeze, with a low air supply.  My explorations were usually like this, an almost schizophrenic battle between two personalities; one needing comfort, safety and an easy life. The other needing massive adrenaline hits, success and adventure.  Pooh version one won this little battle and I turned back.

I returned to base, I think in retrospect, near hypothermic but then feeling weak and despondent at having turned back.  I gave an account of my dive to my excellent supporters.  Tessa gave me some of her food and a hug and we set off out; everybody but myself well pleased with our efforts.  We made a short side trip on the way leaving the narrow streamway and climbing up into the spacious Hall of the Ten.  This is the place where my mates from the Happy Wanderers had realised that they had hit the jackpot with Pippikin Pot.  While resting, I told my newer friends some stories about the Wanderers and my adventures with them, underground and on the surface in the Dales, in Europe and in Asia.  As I spoke it dawned on me that I loved this crazy game called caving and that I was soon to combine this with my passion for world travel.  In a few days time I was finally leaving for New Guinea as an expedition member.  I now felt not so bad for having turned back in the sump.  New adventures beckoned.

It was three years in later, in 1978 that I returned to England and I was fortunate enough to get involved with the filming of the Yorkshire TV film, The Underground Eiger.  Better know to us as "The Keld Head Film"

During the period we were involved with filming in Kingsdale exciting discoveries were being made by the Northern Pennine Club over in Easegill.  They had dug open a shaft in Easegill Beck and dropped into a large passage that they rapidly explored to the top of Echo Aven in Lancaster Hole. Meanwhile other passages in this new cave they had named Link Pot were being discovered and some of these were heading towards Pippikin Pot.

Andy Eavis had a few years previously climbed Echo Aven and if at the top he had only entered a hole over the other side he would have found Link Pot.  Not wanting to miss out in a similar manner I felt I should return to Waterfall Chamber in Pippikin and do another dive in the upstream sump. This dive kept on getting delayed partly because I was busy with the filming and partly because I had trouble getting enough helpers.  I knew I had probably left it too late when I heard that Bob Hryndyj had dived at the end of a passage called Easy Street in Link Pot and got through to an underwater passage which sounded from his description to be the same place I had been in 1975.

One Saturday morning, shortly after hearing about this imminent connection between Pippikin and Lancaster / Easegill / Link, Geoff Yeadon and myself were in our sleeping bags at Henpot's caravan.  Once again Henpot had given us accommodation after a night in the Craven Heifer pub.  I was not feeling well and things got even worse for me when Bob Hryndyj unexpectedly burst into the caravan and said to the already arisen Henpot:

"Hey Henpot, can you lend me a line reel?  I need it to clinch the connection from Link to Pippikin before Pooh has a chance to do it the other way, upstream from Pippikin".

He then noticed to his surprise that the very same Pooh was glaring at him from a horizontal position in a sleeping bag.  Somewhat embarrassed at this discovery Bob for once was lost for words.  Unlike me Henpot was most amused and was laughing too much to reply to Bob's request.  I could hear quiet chuckling coming from the direction of the Yeadon pit.

"Go on, let him take it Henpot", I said in ill humour.  "I'll get my revenge on you Hryndyj," I added in frustration. "Now get out of here and leave me to die in peace".  I concluded illogically in reference to my unmanageable hangover.

Bob made the connection that day and I never did "Get my revenge".  A few years later Geoff pushed the downstream sump in Pippikin. The one I had dived immediately prior to doing the upstream sump.  He broke through to a dry passage and named it "Pooh's Revenge."

I hope that some of you readers enjoy reading these adventures.  If you think you can put up with more of this sort of thing, why not visit The Adventures of Another Pooh Website at

Left A photograph of the EDF hut which is inside the tunnel bored by EDF to harness the waters of the underground river- they don't use the tunnel apparently! !

Right La Vemain in PSM


An Excursion To Harptree Combe And Mines

O/S EXPLORER MAP 4 (Orange series)

By Vince Simmonds

Start in the village of West Harptree.  Take the footpath (5614/5684), next to the local shop, in a south-easterly direction to the combe.  Follow the path through the combe, taking note of some very good outcropping of dolomitic conglomerate, until reaching the aqueduct beyond which is an obvious fork. Take the left-hand path (towards Proud Cross) follow for approx. 200m where Mine No.1 is located in the right-bank approx. 20m from the path at the base of a large beech tree.

Mine No.1 (5619/5566)

A short mine of approx. 11m (4.5m of which is open gully).  It is 1m wide and up to 1.6m high.  There is a vein of dog-toothed spar, which has been blackened, and some small geodes of calcite.

On the way up to the mine a series of sinkholes are passed these are most probably linked to the line of works that run down this valley.  There is a gated conduit that flows into the main combe where the two meet near to the aqueduct.

Back at the fork follow the path up-valley for approx. 200m where Mine No.2 is located, in the right-hand bank approx. 10m above the combe floor.

Mine No.2 (5603/5576)

Twin Passage Mine

Two parallel passages approx. 7m in length 0.75m wide and up to 1.75m high.  At the end both passages are joined.  The most southerly passage has a pool of water and ends in boulders.

To the south and above the mine is an open rift approx. 20m in length.

Directly opposite Mine No.2, in the left-hand bank, are Mines No's.3,4 and 5.

Mine No.3 (5606/5574)

Rift Mine

This is the largest of the mines and is approx.30m in length although the first 10m is an open gully where the earthen roof has collapsed.  The single passage is 0.75m wide and up to 6m high.  The roof through most the mine consists mainly of earth. It ends at a large chamber with obvious workings and along its length shot-holes are visible

Mine No.4

10m south of No.3 another rift mine approx. 11m in length (5m of open gully) with a solid roof

Mine No.5

10m south of No.4. Single passage approx. 13m in length 1m wide and up to 2m high.

Mine No.6 (5603/5568)

70m south of No.5 and 25m up left-hand bank.  Follow steep gully upwards, the mine is just below the top.  It is 5m long, up to 1.5m and 0.75m in width.  The roof is entirely made up of earth and numerous roots.

Between Mines No's 5 and 6 a footpath up the right-hand bank (west) leads across fields to a track. Follow the track to where it meets Ridge Lane turning right into the lane (downhill) will take you back to West Harptree.

Alternatively you may wish to explore the rest of the combe or take the path to the left (east) of the mines and look around the site of Richmont Castle before heading back.  The Castle has some interesting sites that look to have been worked at sometime.  It is possible that some of these excavations could date back to the mid-1500's when calamine was used in the brass industry, a valuable commodity being used for arms in the war against Spain.



Haines - Nutt. R. Frank & Mulvey. Christopher

1963 Not in Barrington - or Oldham

WCC (Jnl) 7(90)199-207(Jun)

Hendv. Philip G.

1967 Mines of East Harptree Combe

SVCC Newsheet (9)(3-4)

1968 Analysis of rock samples from mines in East Harptree Combe

SVCC Newssheet (2)(2)(Feb)

1971 Qualitative analysis of rock samples from E.H. Combe

SVCC NIL (9-11) (Dec 1970/Jan 1971). Map

Oldham. Anthony D.

1963 Mines of East Harptree Combe I Richmont

SVCC NIL 1(2)3-4(May)

1963 Mines of Harptree Combe, with a brief reference to Richmont Castle, the animal life in these mines and the geology of the combe.

MNRC Jnl. 1(1)14-17(Jan)

Budd. Jon

East Harptree. Times Remembered Times Forgotten


Caves At Branscombe

Rob & Helen Harper

Branscombe, which is between Seaton and Sidmouth in Southeast Devon, is the most westerly place that chalk sea-cliffs occur in England.  In the chalk and the calcareous sandstone of these cliffs there are a number of short sea caves.  Most of these are the result of enlargement of faults or fissures and none is of any great length, at least so far!  This article is the result of a spare afternoon during a week's break last May.


Although these caves may have local names we have just numbered them from west to east.  These are just the caves at beach level, there is another small rift system on the cliff above as well as numerous extensive stone mines in Beer.


NGR SY225879

The first obvious cave at beach level when walking west from Branscombe Mouth.   Large oval entrance followed by an inclined shingle floored rift which quickly becomes too narrow for further progress.



NGR SY225879

Low entrance approx.1.0 x 0.5m about 50m west of Beer Head leads to a shingle floored rift with dimensions approx. 0.6 x 1.8m quickly narrowing to end after 20m.  All level and on a bearing of 005 deg.


NGR SY226879

20m west of Beer Head an obvious large entrance at the top of a 3m rubble slope next to a sewage pipe. Sandy floored chamber with two rift passages leading off both of which quickly narrow.


NGR SY228879

An oval opening in the cliff face on the point of Beer Head approx. 1m above the high water mark. The 1.5 x 2m entrance leads into a small chamber with another smaller entrance on the right.  Straight ahead is a 'T-junction' at a rift approx. 1m x 4m. To the left a short climb goes up to another entrance and to the right a scramble down leads to yet another entrance with or without a pool depending on the state of the tide.


NGR SY228880

A large rift approx. 50m east of Beer Head.  The impressive entrance soon lowers to a crawl after 10m and becomes too narrow after a further 4m.  Shingle floor throughout.


NGR SY228884

The most interesting of all these caves.  About 80m east of Beer Head next to an obvious cliff fall a slightly inclined shingle floored rift about 2m high and between 0.5 and 1m wide leads after 10m to a boulder pile in a small breakdown chamber.  The passage continues beyond this boulder pile as a crawl with a very strong draught.  This has not been pushed to a conclusion.


NGR SY229884

Walking east along the beach from Cave 6 pass through an obvious rock arch and the entrance to Cave 7 is easily seen at beach level in the next point.  A short section of shingle floored rift (another low entrance on right) leads into a rock floored walking sized passage with a pool in the floor. Just beyond the pool a short (2.25m) aven leads to daylight.  Straight ahead is a three-way junction.  Right leads out to the beach through a low shingle floored arch and straight ahead leads via a constriction to a small shingle floored chamber with no way on.


NGR SY229886

Obvious entrance about 3m above beach in cliff approx. 40m east of cave 7.  A level tubular passage in rock initially 1.0 x 1.0m becomes too narrow after 8m all on a bearing of 349 deg.



Surveys have been attempted of all of the caves whose termination could NOT be seen from the entrance.  A grade of 2b has been claimed for the surveys.  Compass bearings were measured using a hand held "Silva" walking compass measured to the nearest two degrees.  Distance was measured to the nearest 5 cms. using a fibron tape. Inclination was estimated.  The notes were written at the time of surveying. Subsequently centre line and passage wall plots were drawn using "COMPASS" survey software. These plots were then imported to Corel Draw and the detail added.


Shatter Cave - Exploration Fever

Pete Glanvill and John Walsh both write about different discoveries in Fairy Quarry that occurred within a few days of each other.  Ed

On Sunday November 7th 1999 a rather large and optimistic party assembled outside Shatter Cave.  It comprised Pete Rose Nick Chipchase Martin Grass Jonathan Chipchase Nigel Cox (Pete G's brother in law) and Ken Passant.  We still hadn't established a name for the new series we were about to enter, nomenclature having varied from the topical (Viagra Rift) through the descriptive (Halloween Rift, Shatter Pot) to the memorial (Ellis Pot).  I felt it would be nice to commemorate Brian Ellis in some way by naming a bit of cave after him.  He was instrumental in expanding my knowledge of Devon Caves when I was a callow schoolboy by indicating where they were and how to visit them.  He also supplied me with all my original cave surveys and exchanged notes over the exploration of Holwell Cave.

Intrepid caver entering new rift

Anyway back to the 7th of November and the top of the new rift.  After Martin had driven in a bolt and some gardening had been done it was decided to let Nigel descend first - the more sensible assembled having relatively little enthusiasm to be first down a shaft possibly overhung with boulders. After a short interval some mutterings from the base of the 5 metre pitch confirmed our fears.  After a short look over some boulders one way and a peep the other Nigel decided to return leaving the indestructible Chipchase to descend closely followed by yours truly.

The rift drops over jammed boulders to a mud floored boulder pile sloping downstream to a roaring streamway all of 2 metres long.  Although the stream seemed to be entering a sump, one could see and hear by lying full length in it that the passage was an impossibly constricted duck beyond which it continued - presumably into Conning Tower Cave where intriguingly there is, at present, no apparent flow.  Below the entrance climb and beneath some nasty looking hanging death boulders the rift continued upstream and the muted roar of the stream could be heard from its depths.

Peter Glanvill cautiously weaved his way over and under the dodgy boulders and slithered the 6 metres to the bottom of the rift where the stream could be heard under a low choked phreatic arch.  After some desultory digging his glasses steamed up and after a worrying thrutch he managed to re-ascend the rift without rearranging the boulders.

Back at the cave entrance a council of war ended with PG re-descending armed with a bolt kit and a crowbar, moral back up being provided by Chipchase.  A decent belay for a ladder was then constructed to avoid the really hairy boulders before Pete got back to the digging face.  Ten minutes work enabled him to slide feet first into another 2 metre long stretch of streamway.  Downstream the water gurgled into the boulders while upstream a very constricted duck/sump would admit a boot.  There might be scope for a dig here as the floor of the stream consists of loose boulders.  Skinny cavers with a resistance to hypothermia should apply.  The streamway is very immature with little signs of sculpting by the water at stream level.

Exploration completed we removed the ladders but left the bolts and hangers in situ.  Prospective visitors please note that if you visit the new series first you can forget about doing the rest of the system unless you have a complete change of kit.  A trip to the bottom coats you in a nice layer of mud.

So there you have it. Shatter Cave now has 2 - 6 metre pitches and 4 metres of streamway!

Peter Glanvill November 21 st 1999.


Another Breakthrough in Fairy Cave Quarry

by John Walsh

Tuesday 16th November.

Myself, Andy Thomas and two prospective BEC members, Helen Hunt and Mat Davey were exploring a muddy little tube on the right side of Bullrush Way in Balch cave.  After moving a large rock in the mud floor, I managed to squeeze through into a six foot long mud wallow.  I reluctantly crawled through only to come up in the quarry!!

Friday 19th

Mat and myself returned to have a look at Erratic Passage.  Halfway down on the left hand side a small slot under the wall looked interesting. After moving some mud and rock we could see a drop. I threw a pebble down- it sounded like a fair drop.  We were unable to proceed due to lack of equipment.

Tuesday 23rd

With the aid of pick and bar, and Andy's sweat and blood, we opened the slot enough for me to squeeze through.  It dropped straight down a sloping twenty foot water worn chute into a small chamber. On the right was a phreatic tube about three feet in diameter running down dip for about one hundred feet, with a lot of shattered formations in the floor.  About half way down the tube there was a twenty foot pot with a jammed boulder halting progress.  On the opposite wall of the small chamber a hole at floor level presented another surprise - a forty foot deep water worn pot about ten feet in diameter.  Due to lack of tackle and time, we retired to the Hunter's to celebrate.

Sunday 28th

Helen, Mat and myself descended the forty foot pot to find a mud floor taking water- no way on there yet.

At the bottom of the tube there is a slot.  Through this there is a flat out crawl at floor level that needs to be dug; also, an S bend with a ten foot climb at the end to a small terminal chamber.

John Walsh


No chance of metrication in Fairy Quarries it seems. Ed


Bats and Basques in America

by Rich Long

If anyone is expecting a lot of technical information on caves and caving techniques from my trip to America, YOU DON'T KNOW ME VEWWY WELL!!

If you have ever had to catch an early morning flight from Heathrow you will already know that the booking in hall and seats were designed by the Marquis de Sade and his even more degenerate chums.  By three o' clock in the morning and check in time I was completely crippled.  My neck was now stuck at a ninety degree angle, my right knee had become disjointed and had taken on a life of its own, locking up or giving way as it wished.  Hobbling along slumped across my dribble soaked luggage and attempting to steer my little trolley, with one half closed bloodshot eye my fellow travellers were strangely quiet and gave me a great deal of room.  Even the kind baggage lady asked "Would I like some help to board the plane and would I care for a wheelchair?"

"Nooo, Nooo, Fank you!"I said from numb, slobbery lips as I limped away to the next wait in the departure lounge, behind me I heard one of the passengers say "Oh, isn't he brave to attempt such a trip alone, in that condition. " I turned to see who she was talking about but there was no one there, our eyes met, well her eyes met my one open eye and she waved.  I returned the wave and grinned; she gasped and fell back against her husband who said "Christ!"

We boarded the plane, I got a nice aisle seat near the toilet, I find you suddenly get an enormous bladder problem if you are blocked in at a window seat.  My next seat traveller turned out to be a young lad about 8 years old who took great delight in telling me all about Jumbo jets, while his Dad snoozed, until we hit an airpocket somewhere over Newfoundland.  We dropped like a stone, the cabin crew all fell over.  Some prayed, some wept, I did both of these and cursed with every swear word I had ever heard at the top of my voice.  This seemed to work as the plane suddenly ascended as quickly as it had fallen.  There was silence for several minutes after this as all of us adults came to terms with a near death experience.  I came out of this quite quickly as I am used to caving with Zotty on a regular basis.

So, we landed in Dallas. I collect my baggage, a rucksac as big as a small bungalow and phone Jay Jordan, the guy-I have been e-mailing for about 2 months- the phone doesn't answer!  No matter how many times I ring he is not there!  (The BEC reputation has gone before me?)

Nothing for it, book into a Motel, sleep, eat and see what turns up.  Two days in Dallas and I am going insane, it is mobile phone land, get out NOW!

Well the trips in Texas are dead, so New Mexico here I come!

Flew into Carlsbad and the lady at Hertz rental was so nice she actually shut up shop and took me into town to find a Motel, American hospitality or what!

I got to Carlsbad Caverns and met Stan Alison and Jason Richards, who sends best wishes to you all, they remember some of you, you know who you are!

Now my luck started to change a little.  I met a great guy called Curtis Perry, who is a lighting technician, climber, caver and store owner and he invited me to go on a filming trip to Cottonwood cave.  I had to understand that I wouldn't be in it, as he said they were only making a nature movie and not Return of the Living Dead IV.  I would just be carrying batteries and lights but I would meet some of the top cavers in the U.S. and get some more trips from there.

Next day, Curtis brings his friend Gus Widen- a man who, I found out later, could climb up glass. Gus was so good at climbing they had him try to escape from the bear compound in the Living Desert Zoo.  This was because the bear himself was a bit of a Houdini and he kept getting out and raiding the local cabins.  Well the keepers would drag him back and lock him in and then he'd get out again.  They put up an electric fence, he still got out.  Well, they stuck Gus and a few other local climbers in and Gus got out. So did Aaron, another human fly, but the rest were captive along with the bear.  So, a second electric fence was put in and up to now the bear hasn't escaped but, I watched him study those fences and that wall, it's only a matter of time!

Anywhoo, back to the story. That day was the weekend for hunting so everywhere along the road across the desert and up into the mountains were guys with red hats and big guns, Texas hunters.  Some just sat in their trucks and let fly at anything.  Not too many ramblers about that weekend!

On the journey to the cave we were unfortunate enough to hit a cattle guard and bust one of Gus's bearings on his pick up- just what you need on rough mountain roads.  We limped up to the mountain top and met the film crew who were doing the interviewing of the principal players.

Eventually we got to enter the cave carrying huge packs, the entrance was about 30 feet across and an easy zig-zag path down into it.  The formations started immediately at the entrance, huge stalagmites 40 to 50 foot high, massive flowstone.  I was off but Tom Zane, the director, soon advised me of my position in the scheme of things.  Alright, I am a Limey but I do know who both my parents are!

The filming went great, there were even some Mexican long tailed bats still flying in to roost, so we had to be very careful not to disturb them.  Everything was over by about 8 pm and watching the huge lights illuminating the formations was a magnificent sight.  We exited the cave to look at a star studded sky with no light pollution - it was absolutely fantastic.  Then we sat round an old Apache mescal pit and had a barbeque. Whereupon, my new found friend Gus and I managed to demolish some tasty American beers and a litre bottle of Chivas Regal between us before we both nearly did headers into the fiery pit. It was decided bed was the safest option!

Now, there is a saying in New Mexico," you can tell when an Englishman has had enough to drink, you can smell his skin burning! "

Next day after finding all my clothes and boots which seemed to have been scattered all over the clearing we headed out to Sitting Bull Falls, my new mountain home.

To be Continued.  Ed


Armchair Caving for the Alcoholic

by Tony Jarratt

The Editor's request in the last BB for more cave theme beer labels inspired me to delve into my collection of "speleobooze" ephemera - both subjects being dear to my heart. I came up with the following and I know that there is a vast amount more available worldwide.  Serious students should consult the pages of the Belgian published bulletin Collections (now defunct).  To keep in with the current interests of some members I have included mines as well as caves.

Beer - Cans and Labels

Canned Anchor Beer, Archipelago Brewery Co., Malaysia.  The can bears a tourism logo (Mystic Sarawak) including a tiny picture of a cave scene and the words "The Sarawak Chamber, Mulu National Park".

Liquan Beer, Guilin Brewery, China. The label has a coloured photo of Elephant Trunk Cave, Guilin.

Belfry Brew.  The blue and gold label commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the BEC and sports a gold "Bertie Bat" .

Rescue Ale (Morland's Old Speckled Hen).  The label has a Balch drawing of Eastwater boulder ruckle to celebrate the British Cave Rescue Council Conference, Priddy, 9-10 July 1994.

Association of Bottled Beer Collectors, August 1989, Hunter's Lodge Inn, Priddy.  The back label bears an old engraving (c.1750) entitled "A View ofOkey Hole".  (This society was run by the writer's brother, Dave Jarratt and the above two label designs were suggested by the writer. Barrie Wilton produced the end results).

Le Casque (The Helmet).  Biere artisanale naturelle. Brasserie La Binchoise, Binch, Belgique. The label has a blue caving helmet and Petzl carbide unit.

Krugman, Attendorner, Hohlentropfchen. Sauerland.  The label bears a small coloured photo of a grotto - presumably in a show cave.

Canned John Davey's Cornish Ale, Redruth Brewery, Cornwall. Carries two small, identical logos of a Cornish engine house.

Shakemantle, Freeminer Brewery, Forest of Dean.  Label has a drawing of an iron miner.  The beer is named after the deepest iron mine in the Forest.

Freeminer Bitter, ditto. Label shows the famous mediaeval Forest iron miner logo.

Deep Shaft Stout, ditto.                                    ditto.

Slaughter Porter, ditto.  (I have no label for this beer - named after Slaughter Stream Cave - as the name was changed soon after due to its unfortunate appearance at the same time as the infamous Fred West murders!) It is now back on draught with the original name.  Freeminer Brewery produces other mine inspired tipples - see the Good Beer Guide 2000, p.472 for more details.

Pick Axe Pale Ale, Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, Colorado. The main label of this American micro-brew shows a working gold miner (or a "Tommyknocker" - a fairy miner) and the neck label sports a miner enjoying his ale!

Beer - beermats

Jenolan Caves Resort, New South Wales, Australia. Shows a stalagmite and stalactite, the Cave Hotel and visitors admiring parakeets.

Miners Arms Brewery, Own Ale, Brewed in Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset. Has a drawing of a miner's safety lamp similar to the model lamp hanging on the end wall of the (now defunct) Miners' Arms restaurant, Priddy - original home of this (also now defunct) brewery.

Tinners Ale, St. Austell Brewery, Cornwall.  Two different beermats bearing drawings of Cornish engine houses.

Beer - beer cooler

Shades of Death Cave, Murrindal, Buchan, Victoria, Australia. A neoprene "tube" cooler with a bat logo.  (Essential Australian caving equipment!).

Whiskey - label

Mammoth Cave Brand. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Stitzel-Weller Distillery, KY. This 1940s label has a superb coloured drawing of the cave entrance.

Wine - labels, bottle and cork

Clamouse 1987 Shows a b/w photo of this fantastically decorated show cave.

Clamouse 1993, Two labels bearing coloured photos of different scenes in this cave

Cotes du Vivarais, Orgnac, The label bears a coloured photo of the immense stalagmites in this famous show cave.

Cotes du Vivarais, Orgnac, Cuvee de la Speleologie Robert de Joly.  A 1.5 litre bottle with coloured, stencilled wording and a b/w photo of the stalagmites on the reverse.

Cuvee du Centenaire de la Speleologie 1988.  Shows a drawing of two cavers on one SRT rope!

12eme Congres international de speleologie 1997 La Chaux-de-Fonds.  The label design appears to show an antique statuette of two men enjoying their wine. Helmets, lamps and a bat have been drawn on for effect!

Cuvee des Grottes, The main label shows a scene in the Grottes d'Arcy-sur-Cure show cave ( Bourgogne) and the neck label has a small drawing of a cave guide with an instruction to "follow him".

Vin du Pays du Caverne, Perigord. The label shows stylized prehistoric cave paintings.

Chateau de Lascaux.  A stylized Lascaux horse is shown on both the label and cork.

Equus.  The label shows a stylized horse cave painting.  (Available from Tesco!).

Grotte du Grand Roc.  Shows a photo of helictites in this show cave at Les Eyzies, Perigord.

Cuvee des Grottes Petrifiantes.  Bears a photo of the show cave (ancient underground stone quarry?) at Savonnieres.

Carlsbad Caverns.  The label has a very fine reproduction of a painting of formations in this immense New Mexican show cave.


Bisonte.  A Spanish brand with a coloured drawing of a bull cave painting from Altamira on the packet.

Zhijintiangong.  The packet has a coloured photo of a Chinese show cave scene.

and for the driver:-

Naktigone.  A very unpleasant Lithuanian soft drink with a "Bertie" type bat on the label!

Endless Caverns Premium Mountain Spring-Water, Shenandoah Valley, New Market, Virginia.  The label has a tiny drawing of a cave pool.


Well, that's enough of that - I'm off down the Pub!!!!!  Cheers,         J.Rat

ADDENDUM: It seems that B&T Brewery of Shefford, Beds., produce both "Black Bat" and "Old Bat" winter beers.  Plans are in hand to sample this brew.


Stock's House Shaft - A Winter's Tale

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BBs nos. 502, 504 and 505

"Failure is not an option."
The film "Apollo 13"

Enthusiasm for the dig tailed off as winter approached and surface hauling became a bitterly cold chore. During November 1999 a total of 166 loads were winched to surface.  Some half-hearted dowsing was done above the conjectured courses of the three stream passages but the results of this will only be known when they have been excavated and followed underground.

The Parallel Upstream Level was cleared of Old Men’s backfilling for some 6-7metres (20ft) to a blank wall and the recently uncovered passage (Loop Level) opposite the Treasury of Aeops partly emptied of its fill of sandy tailings and backfilled to rejoin the main Downstream Level after some 5 metres (15 ft) - see updated plan. Along with these projects continued clearing of the Shaft bottom area took place.  In the Treasury itself a boulder blocked rift in the ceiling was banged and cleared to reveal some 4 metres (12ft) of natural passage, becoming too tight.

On 29th and 30th November the end of the Downstream Level was attacked after the water had been pumped back behind the 2nd dam.  Digging conditions were atrocious but eventually enough tailings were cleared to produce an airspace and strong draught.  Considerable amazement was felt when the apparent noise of a falling stream was heard ahead!  This was when the Five BuddIes stream was not flowing and the Stock's House stream was dammed.  Could it be the Wheel Pit water?  More banging and clearing was done in the Rat Trap and plenty of full bags stored awaiting removal.

December started optimistically with a strong team digging at the end and 232 bags were hauled out by the 8th.  The "lawn mower winch" was deemed to be not man enough for the job and was replaced with the M.C.G. power winch - unfortunately proving to be inoperable and resulting in the continued use of the man-powered winch.  A third dam was constructed in the Upstream Level and a fourth just downstream of the 2nd dam.  Being ridiculously optimistic that we could cope with lots of water we took a bottle of "champagne" down to cool ready for the big breakthrough! Needless to say the weather conditions at the end of December were the worst for months with much of Chewton Minery flooded.  There was some 4 metres depth of water in the Wheel Pit depression.  Despite this the Stock's House stream only backed up a couple of feet.

In the meantime work continued in the more accessible passages.  On 10th, 12th and 13th the Rat Trap was further cleared to reveal a gallery heading south.  This was named Greg's Level and was emptied of backfill for some 3 metres (10ft) to a blank wall.  On 15th another 130 bags were hauled out and clearing continued.  P.B. found a 3" long curved metal spike that may have been one of the prongs of a rake.  More clearing of the Rat Trap was thwarted when, on 26th, a minor roof fall was found here with a large boulder almost blocking the level at the 6m aven just beyond. This was unfortunately the "shape of things to come" with a whole series of collapses caused by floodwater washing out clay seams in the fault above - exacerbated by the shock waves from bang used to break up large fallen boulders.

On 27th the Parallel Downstream Level was the next to be cleared of miners' backfill.

Yet again a blank wall was reached after some 3 metres (10ft) and this very short level may have been blasted out to act as a "manhole" or refuge for the Old Men when they fired their black powder charges further downstream.  A tiny trickle of water bubbled up from the floor at its end.

The following day discouragement reached a new height when another major collapse was found in the Rat Trap and the writer had to beat a swift retreat as a further one occurred while he was clearing it.  One load was winched out that day and another 100 the day after when the Wednesday Night Team were treated to "Major Dick White's Levant Mine Punch". This concoction was based on a Dorset recipe involving Jamaica rum, cognac, Benedictine, lemon, sugar and boiling water and was distributed to the Adventurers at the Count House dinners at this famous Cornish mine in the 1890s - " .... so potent that the smell of it a quarter of a mile away would knock any man blind drunk".  Our two new Wessex recruits were suitably impressed. Another 22 loads reached surface the next day.

The last day of the 20th Century saw a boulder banged near the 6m aven.  It was revisited on 2nd January to find the bang had done a good job - too bloody good in fact!  Just beyond this point was now a blank rock wall where the Downstream Level should have been.  A massive roof fall had completely blocked off the last 30ft of this passage but the stream was still gaily flowing on underneath it.  Utter despondency soon gave way to the realisation that this lot would otherwise have eventually fallen on its own - with probably fatal results.  Resigned, the diggers started to clear the collapse .....

Throughout January work was concentrated on this problem.  As the huge boulders slumped down they were blasted at floor level (seven bangs) until an 8 metre (25ft) high chamber resulted.  This was so impressive that it earned the name Heinous Hall (from the climbing cartoons of Canadienne Tami Knight).  A total of 325 loads of rock and mud were hauled out during the month and lots more remains underground awaiting removal.  WARNING: High in the ceilings of both the Rat Trap and Heinous Hall are several huge and suspect boulders apparently defying the force of gravity!  DO NOT HANG AROUND IN THESE AREAS!!  It is intended to construct some form of protective roof here using RSJ’s once the level has been cleared.  On 30th January the continuation of the level was re-entered and found to be in good condition

Work continues and the Champagne bottle is still unopened (but perfectly chilled).

Thoughts on the Hydrology.

Willy Stanton considers that all the swallet streams in this area (Waldegrave, Wheel Pit, Five BuddIes and Stock's House) feed the Cheddar catchment via the dolomitic conglomerate filled basin or valley containing the Wigmore Swallet drainage.  He suggests that this is partly proven by the Chewton Minery streams not having polluted Wookey Hole during the period of the washing and smelting.  At this time Cheddar Risings were permanently polluted - partly by drainage from West Minery (Charterhouse).  It is hoped that U.B.S.S. will soon conduct a series of water tracing experiments to solve this for once and for all.  Volunteers to test the risings at Cheddar, Wookey Hole and Rodney Stoke will be required. Collection of samples every six hours over several days will be needed.  Anyone interested please contact the writer.

The 1874 drawing of a Charterhouse lead miner (BB 505) is one of only a small number of representations of the Old Men.  Here are a few of them taken from various publications.  There are others in the small but excellent Mendip mining display at Weston-Super-Mare Museum.


From a Somerset map of 1612.  A spade wielding" groover" opening up his rake

From Thomas Bushell's "ABRIDGMENT Of the Lord Chancellor BACON'S PHILOSOPHICAL, THEORY IN Mineral Profecutions." 1659.  A 17th century miner with pick/gad, leather (?) helmet, breeches and unknown object (ore sample?).

From a 16th century map of Mendip

1) Three working miners with pick, hammer and borer

2) Miner with pick

Additions to the Digging Team

Paul Warren, Tim Large, Jesse Brock, Guy Munnings, Anthony Butcher (SMCC), John "Tommo" Thomas (WCC), John Williams (WCC),

Additional Assistance

Dr. Willy Stanton, Chris Richards ( WSM Museum),

Tony Jarratt, 27/1/00

The Editor writes please can you let me have articles for the next issue of the magazine as soon as possible.  This issue is a bit thin and if material is not very forthcoming I will have to write a boring article about how the Bulletin is produced and why it seems to take so long.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

19/2/00                      A night out with the MRO -  Priddy Village Hall 8pm

26/2/00                      MRO Resuscitation workshop -  Hunters Lodge Inn 7.30pm

03/3/00                      Committee meeting -  Belfry 8pm

17/3/00                      MRO General meeting -  Hunters Lodge Inn 8pm

25/3/00                      MRO lecture Casualty Care -  Hunters Lodge Inn 7.30pm

7/4/00                        Committee meeting -  Belfry 8pm

15/4/00                      MRO Lecture-Use of Molephone -  Hunters Lodge Inn 7.30pm

5/5/00                        Committee meeting -  Belfry 8pm

6/5/00                        Underground rescue practice venue to be arranged - this date is subject to change

2/6/00                        Committee meeting -  Belfry 8pm


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith, Mike Willett
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee
Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert


At last - this is my last one!!!!

Good luck to Martin or whoever the new editor is in the next year and I hope everyone will give them as much support during their duration as editor as I have been given.  Despite the hard work involved in producing the BB, I have enjoyed most of the job!!  Thanks to my main helpers: Dave Irwin and Tony Jarratt.

Keep the articles corning, the next editor will still need them!!


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.

This could be the face of your new Editor:  Martin Torbett

Well folks, I thought that I should write a few lines about myself so as those of you who don't know me shall continue to do so and those who do will be able to cast ribald comments across the pub about me.

I began caving in the late '60's as a member of Portsmouth Poly cave club. Most of our visits were to the Mendips and I have fond memories of the horrid Cerberus Cave Club cottage aback to Hobbs Quarry.  Other misty memories exist of all the then "delights" of Mendip, Contour cave, Eastwater, singing in the Hunters and throwing up outside.  Also trips to some of the good Welsh caves.  I became much more sober after that and drifted away from caving in the mid  70's,

then working as a teacher. I didn't really get back into the scene until I moved to Cheddar about 6 years ago.  Due the unfortunate circumstance of knowing Robin Gray it seemed like a good place to live.  I am still here and work mainly at the Charterhouse Centre, where I do-guess what- many trips down Goatchurch!  I hope to get to know many more of you as you send in those articles for publication.


BEC in bat at the Annual Cricket Match against the WCC - photos: Fiona Lambert


Caving and BEC News


This will be held at the Belfry at 10:30am on Saturday 2nd November.  If there is to be an election at the AGM for committee posts there will be a voting form inserted in this BB.  (The BB will be at the printers by the time we will know if there is going to be an election - at the time of going to print there is no election, there is more likely to be problems with filling all the posts!!)  Please try to attend this year

BEC Annual Dinner

This year the Annual Club Dinner will be held at "The Bath Arms Hotel" at Cheddar on Saturday 2nd October, 1999.  As usual the coach will be arranged to leave the Hunters at 7pm prompt.

BEC v Wessex Cricket Match

On Saturday 17th July at 2:30pm the Wessex Cave Club won the sofa ashes by most of an innings.  It was very noticeable that the BEC's game gets worse as more beer gets drunk!  See pictures on previous page for some of the action.

Tim Kendrick's photos in the April BB.

Sett has given me some information regarding the names of people in some of the photos.  The below lists the caption under the photo from the April BB, plus any additional information:

The Belfry 1948? Tony Setterington, Pongo Wallis?

Can you name them all? Belfry 1950:  Pongo Wallis, Woody, Betty Shorthose with young Mary, Don Coase, Rod Setterington, Jack Waddon, Sybil Bowden-Lyle, Dan Hasell, Johnny Shorthose.

Five on Tony Jay's motorbike: Tessie, Tony Jay, Jean (or Di Beaumont), Alfie Collins, Johnny Bindon, (or possibly Ron Gollin)

The Mob, Easter 1949: Paul by the car.  Back row L-R: Johnny? Angus Innes, Geoff Ridyard? Tony J. Middle Row: Tony Setterington, Postle, Sybil BowdenLyle, Campbell McKee, ? Front Row: Dizzy Thompsett-Clark, Ron Gollin, Tim? Tessie, Alfie Collins, Don Coase? George Lying down, Jean, Angus Innes and Sett with Tim's Bike, Dizzie and George on George's bike.

Ladies Washing up: Dizzie? Campbell, Jean? Ron, Postle.

New Years Eve 1950: Possibly! Half Pint? Margaret, Angus?

"Willie" is in Shepton Mallet museum or moved to Bristol.

Dolphin Pot, Cross Dig and who is with Half-Pint, I don't know, but definitely Angus Innes with Dan Hasell.

Biker Molls!  Sybil and Betty Shorthose.  Paul but in what cave?  August Hole Series, Longwood Swallet.

BEC Getting Everywhere!!  Steve Prewer (Brian's son) has just returned from working in Kosovo and Macedonia with NATO and while there was privileged to be allowed into a US NAAFI. There on the counter was a BEC sticker. Anyone admit to this one????  If anyone can shed any light as to how this BEC sticker may have got there please contact the editor.

Mendip News

The Axbridge CG have had a breakthrough into some 60ft of passage in a mine near Loxton, Western Mendip. Various artefacts have been found.  Full details should appear in their newsletter and Descent.

New Members

We welcome new member Annie Audsley to the club.

New St Cuthbert's Leader

Roger Haskett has recently completed his 15 trips required for his St Cuthbert's leadership and after his final proving trip with Nigel Taylor has been accepted by the committee as a leader.  I gather Nigel found the cave had shrunk slightly since the last time he visited the cave and had to remove his undersuit to get back up the entrance rift!!!

Members News

Congratulations to Martin Grass and Nicola Slann who are getting married on 29th August.

Pakistan Visitors

Several members recently acted as guides to six cavers from the Chiltan Adventurers Assn. of Baluchistan, Pakistan - friends of Simon Brooks and Orpheus CC associates.  After visiting Derbyshire and North Wales they were delivered to Mendip to sample the delights of GB, Swildon's, Shatter, the Hunters', the eclipse, etc. and all action was recorded by them on video for Pakistan national television.  They had a great time, cooked us superb Afgan food and played Shove Ha'penny with previously undreamt of techniques!  An especially good night was had when they taught the BEC to play Carrom in the pub and almost drank Roger out of Kaliber - he was very impressed.  Also impressed were the good people of Upper Milton when they saw what was apparently Saddam Hussein and five camouflaged guerrillas yomping through their hamlet en route to invade Wells - so much so that a bobby was summoned to intercept them!  On being questioned they informed him that they were the Pakistan National Caving Team and heading for Bat Products.  He bid them a relieved farewell and no doubt drove off muttering about "bloody cavers".  If he'd met them in Baluchistan they would have been carrying Kalashnikovs as a matter of course!!  Anyone visiting Pakistan would be made extremely welcome by them Contact:-

Hayat Ullah Durrani Khan, Chiltan Adventurers Assn. 6/9/283B SEm AZAM ROAD, QUETTA, PAKISTAN Phone:- 0092-81-xxxxxx

C.A.A. Visitors

Malik Abdul Rahim Baabai, Hayat Ullah Durrani Khan, Atta-Ur-Rahman, Abdul Ghaffar, Salauiddin, Muhammad Rafique.


Burrington Cave Atlas

I have a reasonable number of photos now and a few promised, which I should have soon.  I will get on with working on the Burrington Cave Atlas as soon as this BB is out.  Hopefully it should be out before the New Year.


Millennium Celebrations

The BEC committee is looking for ideas for celebrating the Millennium We have had ideas about T -shirts/sweatshirts etc., but need a design.  If anyone has any design ideas or any other ideas for celebrating the Millennium (also our 65th birthday) please contact a committee member.


Caving Logs and Bulletins CDROM

The CDROM containing most of the logs and the 1st 100 Belfry Bulletins is about to be cut to CDROM. We are cutting the first 50 to be ready before the AGM and dinner.  If you want a CDROM please contact Estelle (Ed.).  The cost is £10 to members and £20 to non-members.

Notts Pot, Yorkshire

The NCA have forwarded a message regarding the entrance to Notts Pot being on the move again.  They have stated that this could well be in an unsafe condition.  If you were contemplating a trip, think carefully before descending.  If you have a permit for Notts over the coming months and decide not to descend as a result of the condition of the entrance, the permit will be good for one of the other holes on the fell, provided you do not go down the hole where the other permit has been issued, etc - as this will cause all sorts of problems.

Robin's Shaft, Derbyshire

Also forwarded from the NCA is a report that on the 15th and 16th August, bad air was reported by Mike Salt & Alan Rowlinson in Robins Shaft, Ham, Derbyshire.  There was no smell and Mike and Alan experienced no headaches or nausea but they became very breathless and report that when matches were lit they went out as soon as the head had burnt out.  There was no draught.  Trials with the same box of matches in the car after the trip produced perfect results. Sounds like high CO2 concentration.

Your last chance to book tickets for this years club dinner!

This years annual club dinner is being held at 'The Bath Arms Hotel' Cheddar on Saturday 2nd October 1999.  Our guest speaker will be Andy Elson who will be talking about his 'round the world balloon attempt' earlier this year.

To avoid missing out send your booking form [enclosed with your last bb] and a cheque to cover the cost of your tickets to: Ivan Sandford, Priddy, Somerset.  Any queries tele.  Ivan or Fi.

Unlike in previous years there will be no tickets available after Saturday 25th September.  Also we will not be ringing round chasing those who may have forgotten to book.  So to avoid missing out book now!


Much Wittering on the Moors

By Peter Glanvill

1999 was the tenth anniversary of the Mendip invasion of the Assynt region.  Little did we know back in 1990 what we were to start when Brian Johnston, Tony Jarratt and I arrived in the old shed at Knockan at the start of a gloriously sunny week.

Ten years on we have the longest caves in Scotland, the most beautiful caves in Scotland plus the largest chamber in Scotland and it's been a privilege to be around when most of these discoveries were being made.  In the course of the weeklong trips over the last decade I have made many new friends, climbed many new hills and sunk many, many pints of 80 shilling.

It has to be said during the same period of time that many members of the Grampian Speleological Group (not sputum article society as my dictation software would have it) have devoted their lives to construction of the magnificent new hut Taigh nam Famh which has turned at least one person into a caving softy.

It is always sad to leave those distinctive hills behind in my rear view mirror as we drive south until the next time we can return.  My great satisfaction  is  the huge library of photos I have built up over the last ten years. This year, I took the opportunity of donating to the GSG four compact discs containing a collection of my best photographs of the four main systems in the limestone of Assynt. Copies are available at £10 a throw.  These contain 25 MB TIF files which will comfortably enlarge to A3 or bigger.


The high waterfall- photo: Pete Glanvill

This year was a quiet year with no major discoveries being made.  However we enjoyed some magnificent weather, did some exciting diving and I was very pleased to come home with yet more satisfying images of those remarkable Scottish caves.

This report has been delayed by my deciding to use dictation software to compose it.  The original reads like Finnegan's Wake - if bits of that creep past the corrections forgive and (perchance) enjoy.  In fact you can play spot the error for the next few thousand words.  No prizes will be awarded though as I have made it easy by putting the dictated errors in italics!

This year Peter Rose decided to subject the Grampian's theological group and also the rest of his family to more of his wittering so they, Quackers and myself were the vanguard of the Mendip invasion for 1999. At the start of the week I had only one objective which was to gain access to the tantalising Holland roof which had been seen by me on my first trips into the Farr series of ANUS cave.  The said hole in the roof lies a few feet back from sump 4 and could only be reached by maypoling.  So it was that on the Sunday morning a small party consisting of Crackers? (well, why not it's what my mum thought he said when he answered the phone once) Derek Guy a new Grampian member and old caving friend made our way up the ANUS valley along with the Rose family and a number of maple sections up to the entrance of Abbas? cave.  A number of rather poor Terry Toby Chuck tub beat jokes (what did I say to the machine really folks) were made with regard to the way I happened to have carried my sections - namely protruding in an ungainly fashion from the back of my rucksack.

We had planned to climate Bray bag (that one's easy) but it remained obstinately shrouded in cloud for most the day (that's climate for you) and accordingly we changed our objective to the bluff overlooking the Bone Caves (the pronunciation of which would have caused the dictation software to develop a stutter).  En route we visited the sink for Abbas (OK - ANUS) cave which is currently almost completely choked such that a stream poured continuously over the waterfall above the cave for the entire week.  Once we were on the summits of the bluff the clouds began to clear and we got some terrific views towards Quinn Alec, other Charlie Gill Filey (Christ knows what I said there) as well as the cloud shrouded Conical.  At this point Derek and I split away from arose (The Rose) family and examined the limestone areas of the moor as we headed back towards the salmon farm. Several very interesting depressions were found although nothing resembling the famous cave of the more of the wild builder is (easy peasy that one).

Derek, who is working at Lochgilphead as a Jeanette assist (say it fast) for asylum brooding operation (something fishy) then struck up a conversation with those running the salmon farm and we were taken on a brief tour.  In the evening Crackers and I headed off to Kylesku where we had a short dive examining the famous boy Montenegro (this has nothing to do with the Balkans but more to do with drowned cars) and its steady deterioration.  Quackers vanished as usual in the course of the dive. Pete Rose very kindly bought us pints as we crawled from the water at the end of the dive.  After a meal at the hotel we headed back for home.

The next morning dawned reasonably beautifully and we decided that some air should be obtained. Shortly after this I discovered that I had a bit of a problem as I had locked the keys in the car and it's central locking.  An hour later a friendly AA man from Lochinver was demonstrating how to break into centrally locking cars using guess what - they caves hangar as well as big man monitors cuff and surpass the wages (come on, come on you're too slow).

J'Rat and the strange mud formations in Upholes Passage - Photo: Pete Glanvill

When all had returned from Lochinver it was decided that we ought to attack Abbas cave again and charged uphill ahead of the recently arrived other Mendip contingent which consisted of Tony Boycott, Rich Blake, Tariff (who he - guess) and Tony Jarratt.  They couldn't resist the magnetic attraction of the Allt as they drove past so it was that I found myself and a pile of maypoles behind the wittering Rose in the connecting crawl leading to the Farr series. After a few minutes order was re-established and steady movement continued through the rather loose environment around Sotanito chamber inexorably towards sump four.  In the process I took the precaution of re-belaying the rope on the climb out of Sotanito chamber to a somewhat larger boulder than that to which it had been belayed previously.  I don't like the idea of relying on something lighter than myself!   A wave of beer fumes and some cheerful shouts  indicated  the presence  of  the  Alps contingent who rapidly overtook us grabbing maypoles Willie nearly as they passed us so that we  quickly  arrived at  the  base of the famous hole in the roof where the maypole sections were hurriedly fitted together - in fact so hurriedly that the final product ended up as two sections which we couldn't connect!  After a few minutes Rich Blake and I scrambled to a ledge which we hurriedly gardened and managed to prop the maypole across the passage and then just get it securely into the base of the hole.  The this point we had a fold of then tried ride on more Pol if we couldn't freeze the remaining pieces brackets clout role always use Greece on maple in future clothes brackets in. (God knows what that means - I can't remember.)  However Tony Jarratt had other ideas and as we both screamed "Don't do it! Don't do it!" he disappeared up the ladder like a, well, rat up a ladder out of sight into the roof in a sort of Indian rope trick (well he had just come back from Meghalaya) but unfortunately he reported that the hole narrowed down and any further progress would anyway need further maypole efforts.

After a lot of pissed mutterings most members of the party seemed to disappear leaving Derek and I to explore those bits of the Farr series that I hadn't seen before.   We were soon to discover why Goon had seen fit to describe the cave as a vertical maze when I started to drop down a slot in the floor and found I had descended something like fifteen or 20 m before I got anywhere near the stream.  In fact I dropped out of the roof with Derek closely behind at the upstream end of sump 3, right beside the diving line.  A dull roar ahead indicated that we were near the base of fund aghast (another easy one) falls and a short crawl took us towards them.  The falls certainly are impressive and after some scrambling around and examination of a funny little hole in the wall beside the falls (and a mysterious rope dangling from the ceiling) we returned to the falls and completed the roped climb up the side.  The route then led past some small cascades and wallows until we found ourselves just downstream of sump four.  After completing the photography Derek and I left the cave, ate some of Angie's famous apple cake and headed downhill.  Unfortunately we had the car keys and the wittering from Rose could be heard half a mile away as we came over the hill.

Thunderghast Falls, ANUS Cave - Photo: Pete Glanvill

The next morning started unpromising with grey cloudy skies and the original plan to tackle Suilven was scratched in favour of a walk to the highest waterfall in Britain.  By midday we were ready to go and while Tony B,  Tony Jarratt and Co attacked Rana Hole (it is now known as Six Buddles). Derek, Crackers, the Roses and myself started along the track  to the  waterfall - in brilliant sunshine. Crackers         disappeared early on his track having decided that he didn't want to sacrifice the 700 feet required to view the waterfall.  This caused certain noises from Rose which diminished steadily as we disappeared downhill towards the waterfall.  The waterfall is certainly an impressive sight as it plummets into Glen Coul although from the top one cannot see right to the bottom but I suppose at the bottom you can't see the water going over the top!  After a quick picnic we then started up the long track back over the Col and down towards the Inch.  At times the shout of the lesser spotted Rose could be heard calling to its straying offspring.  We passed a pair of ptarmigan as we climbed up high into the col amidst some wild scenery.  There are splendid views down into the Glen Coul area dominated by the massive Stac of Glencoul. Tiny lochans dotted the landscape.  A long plod downhill past more lochans eventually brought us within sight of the Inch and the prospect of a welcome pint or three.  The diggers had got somewhat ahead in the drinking stakes and decided that Pete's glow role (eh) was not to go diving this evening.  However he had other ideas and set off towards calcium with Crackers.

As we approached Kylesku we noticed to see Mr (the sea mist actually) rolling in up the loch so we crossed the road bridge and around the corner. Some entertainment followed when I turned the car in the middle of the road just as the only other car we saw that evening came roaring around the bend. We then took a series of pictures of Mr rolling around the basic rheumatic (some times known as Quinag) in the most spectacular fashion.

Derrick Guy in Knockers - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Shortly after I started kitting up for my dip in the harbour Jake and Becky arrived and Becky proceeded to jump into a kayak and disappear out into loch Glencoul not to be seen again for some time.  Pete surfaced with a few scallops and he and Crackers departed leaving Jake not a little concerned still waiting for Becky in the gathering twilight.

The next morning Derek and I headed off to do some shopping in Lochinver and obtain air from doom (Jim) Crooks.  After the usual crack with Jim we wandered back via the tourist office (where is the cave at Kylesku? (- the cave at Kylesku (Uamh Ruaidhridh) apparently dropped into the sea many years ago and has not been seen since! - J'Rat) and pie shop and then later on in the afternoon I decided to introduce Derek to the joys of clan light (this is a cave not a beer - think about it).  I think we must have chosen one of the driest spells I have ever visited the cave which made the trip a lot more pleasant in dry gear. After a rapid trip to Sump 3 we slowly made our way out taking pictures as we went.  We also undertook the opportunity to have a peek at the Capital series that I am ashamed to say I had never visited before.  In the evening we had an excellent Scott male (not cannibals - think shellfish) which rounded the day off very nicely.

On Thursday I decided to join Tony Jarratt and Rich in the new dig at ANUS Cave. The dig houses the prospects of passing over sump four and lies in Upholes Passage.  It was dubbed Anus Horribilis by Tony Boycott and Co.  After taking some photographs of very delicate mud formations hereabouts Peter amused himself mainly by stacking spoil while the smaller dimensioned Tony Jarratt and Rich Blake continued to excavate a mud filled bedding plane which apparently draughts if you're feeling optimistic

ANUS Horribilis with J'Rat and Rich Blake - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Back at the hut we met up with Tony and Crackers for a planned drift drive underneath the Kylesku Bridge.  Tav decided to go fishing, which was a bit sad, because the weather started to deteriorate somewhat and certainly underwater was the best place to be. Eventually Tony, Crackers and I were sitting on the bank directly underneath the bridge.  Tony and I submerged and descended to about 20 m which seems to have been a good depth to be at rather than where Crackers was which was more like 15m and meant battles with kelp.  In fact Crackers emerged a couple of times convincing Peter Rose and Co that they were watching a particularly clumsy otter.  Tony and Pete found themselves on a wall literally smothered in dead men’s fingers and as they moved along in the currents and around the point so the underwater encrusting fauna altered to that seen nearer the fairy slept (come on, come on).  Navigation could not be easier because as soon as the wall finishes and you are on the sand the ascent leads straight to the base of the ferry slip (okay now).  This is a very exciting scenic dive and well worth it if you are in the area.

Derek, who'd been on a tour of salmon farms the previous day, returned that evening and so, on the Friday, I decided to initiate him into the delights of the Traligill valley. After a leisurely start we arrived in the company of Quackers (dictation software off from now on) (Thank f**k for that!!!  J'Rat aka proof reader!!) for a speleological ramble starting at Knockers.  As we prepared to kit up by Glenbain a soft spoken gentleman and a young lady appeared.  They were leading the Oxford Uni. Geology field trip staying at the Inchnadamph lodge.  For a) presumably intelligent people, b) geology graduates they asked some amazingly gormless questions of the "How far do you go in?" and "How much is unexplored?" variety.  I found the male of the pair amazingly effete (Quacker's blunt comment: "He's a prat") so decided to spice up their lives with some caving education and a short trip into the stream chamber in Knockers.  I hope they were suitably impressed and educated.

Derrick and I knocked off Knockers in an hour or two taking in the worms by Boycott's sump plus some of the Rabbit Warren and took a few snaps on the way before emerging for a stroll to the bottom of the Water slide and visit to the sump.  J-Rat's dig there still looks promising with the inlet stream emitting a healthy echo from beyond the currently constricted end.

After a brief poke at Uarnb an Cailliche Peireag we bimbled down the dry streambed to Lower Traligill. Derrick was well impressed.  A peep was taken at Lower Traligill and Tree Hole and Disappointment were left for yet another day before we wound up eventually at  Firehose  also admired from afar.

Hens - Tav and Colin Coventry - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Down at the Inch the diggers were in full swing when we arrived closely followed by a hen party. It all seemed reminiscent of that old rugby song except for the absence of virgins (from Inverness or anywhere). Some of us left to return to the cottage where we were later rudely interrupted by Tav and Colin Coventry dressed as Saxon and Viking hotly pursued by hens waving frilly underwear.  The brave duo then vanished into a minibus packed with women out for a good time in Ullapool.  I have a note here about a duck anybody who can enlighten me let me know!

The next day was the great diving and curry day.  Tav had persuaded Murray at the Kylesku Hotel to take us out in his boat (for a reasonable fee) so all assembled at the Hotel about midday.  Tav looked slightly wrecked and as the day progressed tit bits of his nocturnal adventures trickled out.  Apart from pouring vast quantities of whisky down his neck he did manage to recall running around Ullapool in the early hours pushing a wheelbarrow.  We decided to try diving on the site of the Duke of Westminster's yacht mooring on the far side of the loch.  Rumour had it that antique bottles could be found.  Murray got us to where he thought we had a good chance of finding something and after some cramped kitting Estelle, Fraser, Quackers and I plopped into the water.  We all appeared on Murray's fish finder, - Estelle and Fraser as a shoal of pollock, me as a shoal of wrasse and Quackers as a .... whale!

On the bottom there were bottles galore!  We shovelled them into our goodie bags with gay abandon and struggled back clinking into the boat.  I was quite chuffed by relocating one of Estelle's ankle weights in 10m below the boat - search for known object completed.  After a brief lunch break the dive party shrank to Estelle and I although everybody got to watch the seals.  We emerged after our dive with enough scallops for a good couple of meals and headed back to the hut ready for the great curry evening.

When we arrived at the Alt near sunset a crowd of Meghalayan tribesmen seemed to have arrived.  This turned out to be J-Rat and Co. in appropriate costume for the theme night.  The meal was terrific - thanks to Eric and team and the evening ended in a slide show with suitable heckling.  A strange board game was played and more beer was drunk.  I ended up making two journeys to the hut due to a pissed communication breakdown but we will pass over that!

Sunday was my last day's caving so I decided to give Fraser and Simon Brooks a hand sherpering into ANUS where an assault on Sump 4 was planned.

Seal watching - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Both divers found the sump low and silty but everything was set up for what turned out to be a successful later push to a large airbell by Simon.

Quackers and I returned south the next day. Next year could be the year of the Rana/Claonaite exchange.

P.S. Regarding those bottles.  I took them to our local bottle expert - Nick Chipchase, a week later.  His comment "See that bottle bank there - put 'em in that". Apparently the collectors only like hand made bottles and these are too modem.

Peter Glanvill August 1999

Curry Night at the Allt - Photo: Pete Glanvill


Eastwood Manor Mines

By Vince Simmonds

In a small disused quarry (576551) 100m south of Eastwood Manor, East Harptree are found two mines.

Mine No. 1

Length 10m.

Located in the south side of the quarry about 50m from the road gate.

Low, wide arch leads to fairly comfortable passage 10m long and in places 3.5m wide.

Mine No.2

Length 90m.

Located 40m north of Mine No.1 in the western face of the quarry.

Small entrance leads down a slope of deads to more sizeable passage and a choice of two ways on.  To the right through a window the passage quickly goes to walking size, up to 3.5m high and 4m wide ending after 20m at a 3m long pool.  From the entrance the passage to the left runs parallel to the quarry face and several former choked links back to the face are passed.  Passage size is mainly stooping/walking height and about 1.5m wide, it is 45m long with some loops and there are some small side passages that are insignificant.  It is muddy in places and the end bit has been frequented by Badgers who have, at times, used it as a latrine.

Both mines are horizontal adits.

Possibly worked for barytes.






Stock's House Shaft - a Small Cave Becomes a Large Mine.

By Tony Jarratt

This article follows on from that in BB 502.

After waiting three months for the stream in this dig to dry up work recommenced on 25th June 1999 when AJ fired a charge in the shattered ceiling above the downstream "sump". This was partly cleared on 4th July by BS, assisted on the surface by Roger Haskett (Dig Chauffeur).  Bob was excited to hear glooping noises and to watch the ponded water rapidly drain away after inserting a bar into the mud choked crawl.  AJ continued clearing the next day and upon chiselling out the banged ceiling was able to enter some 10ft of mud and tailings floored crawl ending in an almost complete silt choke.  A solid rock rib on the right hand wall was drilled and a charge laid to the accompaniment of peculiar rumbling noises echoing down the shaft.  This was not a passing lorry or helicopter but an approaching thunderstorm!  Having already attached the detonator (with the firing wires trailing up the shaft) and with three previous lightning strikes to his credit, AJ rocketed up the ladder to rapidly fire the charge - much to the bemusement of a couple of "outdoor adventure" instructors.

John "Tangent" Williams and AJ cleared this next day and a large Wednesday night team (including new man to the site Andy Elson) continued the good work - hauling 80 bag loads to surface.  It was now realised that what we had originally assumed to be a flat out natural stream passage had been entered and enlarged by the Old Men to walking sized mine levels heading off in three directions downstream, upstream and a dry side passage parallel with the upstream level.  Shotholes in all three galleries were evidence of their being blasted from the shaft outwards.  The downstream level draughted strongly and obviously takes a large amount of water at times.  The diggers were much encouraged and a decision was made to push this as much as possible before the next heavy rains made conditions miserable.  The presence of bad air in His Lordship's Hole also provided them with an excuse to concentrate work on this site.

Bob Smith at the entrance of Stocks House Shaft - Photo: Alan 'Goon' Jefferies

10 more bags came out on the 8th July and during the following weekend another 110 reached surface due to the efforts of enthusiastic diggers including Simon House, Alan "Goon" Jeffreys (Grampian S.G. - and paying his debts for the Rana Hole epics!) Rick Stewart (Airedale C.C. ) and Wendy Ripley (Craven P.C.).  Monday 12th July saw another 40 bags up to the midge-infested Hell of the forest above. Another 80 came out over the next three days.  Plans for a good push the following weekend were wiped out by various parties at the Belfry and the presence of hordes of "hedge monkeys" attending an illegal rave in the Forestry car park.  After setting fire to a car, upsetting everyone for miles around and stealing the belay bolt, krabs and 20m SRT rope from the Shaft they were finally evicted by the police on the Sunday evening.  Things improved on the Monday when TL, AJ, JW, Mike Alderton, Nick Squire and Ben Wills hauled up another 105 loads.  Both upstream and downstream passages were now 20-30 feet long and adding up towards the Digging Barrel score!

During the following week another 151 loads reached surface and probably 200 were stored underground ready for removal.  Guest diggers were Alex Loftus and Ollie Metherall (Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club) Harvey Lomas (Yorkshire Ramblers Club) and "Sweep" the world's shortest collie dog!  The upstream level was cleared for some 30ft and is heading out under the road towards the Waldegrave Works ruins.  The dry parallel level has been partly cleared for about 15ft but may be left as a good winter dig and the main priority, the downstream level, pushed for some 60ft to a choke on a sharp LH bend where the first section of open passage was entered on 27th July (see below) - a year and two days from the commencement of the dig.  The latest additions to the team are Ben "Eat at Alley Cats Bistro, Wells" Gingold, Ben Holden, three Newcastle Uni. lads, Annie Audsley, Mike Willett and the MRO (not by choice!).  The Shaft has also been deepened by a few feet and the intention is to totally clear the whole of the workings - a steady job for which there are plenty of vacancies, especially after the following incident:-

The Breakthrough and Rescue Incident

" .... if any man by this dangerous and doubtful occupation do take his death and be slain by falling of the Earth upon him the workmen of that occupation shall fetch up that dead body at their proper costs and charges (although he lye threescore fathome under the Earth) and shall bury him in a Christian burial. "  - Mendip Mining Laws and Forest Bounds - J. W. Gough 1931

John Williams heading for the pub - photo: Simon House

On the evening of 27th July AJ, J"T"W, SH and BH went into the downstream level to dig into the open passage seen the previous day but not entered due to the exhaustion of the diggers.  While AJ dug into some 10ft of passage on a sharp bend the others cleared spoil from behind him and dragged full bags back to the Shaft.  Some very delicate redistribution and chocking of conglomerate boulders was then necessary to reach the large open passage some 12ft ahead.  Rocks could be carefully pushed forwards into the void but to reach them properly AJ had to get both legs around the bend and after accomplishing this was unable to reverse the manoeuvre due to an injured knee. After turning on his back he could see a big black space above which was accessible by pushing over some poised boulders balanced on a fridge-sized rock to one side.  On squeezing up into the space this rock suddenly and noiselessly settled onto his left side at the same time as a foot square "Floyd Collins Special" landed on his right welly.  Unable to move he shouted to Tangent to call out the MRO - foreseeing a major problem ahead but rationally, and surprisingly calmly, expecting to be slowly crushed by the offending boulder and/or simply smashed to bits by the 20 ton or so of bigger boulders that he now realised were perched directly above him in a collapsed shaft or stope and apparently slowly moving! Luckily he was able to reach some small rocks which he wedged between the descending boulder and solid wall giving him time to notice yet another large boulder on which his back rested. With thoughts of "shit or bust" this one was laboriously nudged into the void and, by dragging his foot from a fortunately mud filled welly he was able to scramble the last few feet to the haven of the ongoing level.  He was now interred with one welly, no fags, a compass and a miraculous mortality extension (thanks, God). The news of

Streamway - photo: Simon House

his survival was shouted to the departing callout man and a request for shoring materials (and fags) made. As a long wait was expected he set off hopping down the level to look for possible shafts to surface, to take a compass bearing and have a crafty exploration.  The level was fairly free of tailings and ended at a muddy sink after some 60ft.  Shotholes were present in the walls and a few rotten stemples noted but no easy way out. He returned to the choke to find a loquacious Quackers venting his wrath on all digs, but this one in particular! The MRO had appeared with remarkable speed and soon Vince was digging from one side while AJ meticulously rearranged boulders into a supportive drystone wall. Andy Sparrow, John Walsh and the digging team meanwhile dragged all the full spoil bags back to the Shaft and received scaffolding, timber etc. lowered from surface by a very strong support party too numerous to mention.  Dr. Andy Newton stood by in case of the worst but was thankfully not needed.  (The trauma unit of Weston General Hospital were also on standby and there were plans to obtain a mobile drilling rig from Cornwall.  Though seemingly "over the top" it was only by a miracle that both were not required and they should be again seriously considered on future incidents of this nature).

The attempted crushing!

With the use of a short crowbar and a length of rope the "Floyd Collins Rock" was removed and, after the welly was liberated, dumped in the level enabling the trapped one to make a rapid escape before the Pub shut.  He is eternally grateful for the prompt response of those present and has never before been quite so pleased to see the motley buggers!  Thanks are also due to Roger and Jackie for allowing everyone to replace their lost body fluids at a late hour.

Work will continue on clearing the levels and ideas for removing or stabilising the choke toyed with. Apart from this short section Stock's House is a stable and fascinating working with lots of potential for both natural and mined passages.  This extension has also, in theory, made the new edition of Mendip Underground out of date on the day before it was published!!!  (They wont be any cheaper though ..... ).

Additions to the Digging Team

Roger Haskett, Andy Elson, Simon House, Alan "Goon" Jeffreys (GSG), Rick Stewart (ACC), Wendy Ripley (Craven PC), Mike Alderton, Nick Squire, Alex Loftus (EUMC), Ollie Metherall (EUMC), Harvey Lomas and dog (YRC), Ben Gingold, Ben Holden, Vince Simmonds, Andy Sparrow, John Walsh, Ben Langford (Univ.of Newcastle CC), Mike Richards (UNCC) Dave Coulson (UNCC), Mike Willet and Annie Audsley.

Streamway (now a 6' high mine level) - photo: Simon House

Additional Assistance

M.R.O, Jackie Dors, Jim Lewis ( Cornwall Heritage Trust) and Weston General Hospital Trauma Unit

A.R. Jarratt (49, not out) 16/8/99


Where is the Veb?

By Tony Setterington

There is evidence of Roman mining for lead, and other metals, at many sites on Mendip.  Until recently the main area of extraction was assumed to be at Charterhouse where much of the excavating has been done and, of course, most of the artefacts discovered.  Gough includes other sites and further indicates that Medieval and post medieval activities have removed and reworked many of the surface areas originally exploited by the Romans.

Since the reign of Henry VIII some 20-lead ingots have been unearthed in southern Britain with others on the continent.  Many of these have been lost or melted down but four dug-up on Rookery Farm, near Green Ore, were described and interpreted by Palmer et al. and are now preserved in local museums.  In varying degrees of clarity, each of these ingots has BRIT.EX ARG.VEB; (from the British silverworks at VEB) cast on one side.  By analogy with ingots from Derbyshire, where LVT or LVTVD refers to the known production site of Lutudarium, VEB must be a Mendip smelting site.

A recent paper by Williams, summarising information on the Roman mining in the Priddy-Green Ore area, indicates at least 100 hectares of surface mining or occupation sites, probably more than at Charterhouse.  Since ingots with the VEB inscription have been found both at Charterhouse and Green Ore it must apply to both of these sites and, since no other inscription has been discovered it is assumed that VEB covers the whole of Mendip.

There are four places, and possibly others, that include two of the three letters of VEB in their names. Rookery Farm has been renamed Vespasian Farm, while Velvet Bottom, Vobster and Webbington probably derive from old English names.  The most likely, but far from proven, is Webb plus more modem endings.

Although we can conclude that we now know where VEB is the question of the whole Roman name for the area remains.  We will only have an answer when a gravestone with the complete form is found or historians read it in a shipping manifest or similar document, perhaps they already know and don't realise it.

Gough, IW., The Mines of Mendip. (Newton Abbot 1967)

Palmer, L.S. et aI, Four Roman Pigs of Lead from Mendip. In Proc. SANHS Vols. 101 and 102. ( Taunton 1958)

Williams, R.G.J., The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. In Proc. UBSS, 1998,21(2)


Mendip Lead Mining (Chewton and Priddy)

By R.A. Setterington

Lead net weights were recorded from the Iron Age sites at Mere and Glastonbury.  Although technology at that time, early 20th Century, was not sufficiently advanced to prove that the source of the ore was the Mendips it is a reasonable assumption.

Until recently Charterhouse was usually thought of as the centre for Roman lead mining on Mendip, however in the field centred on ST547503 during the early 1950s, a Roman 'villa' with quantities of lead and lead ore was excavated and more recently the area of Roman occupation and mining has been shown to extend at least from Swildons to the top of Stockhill.  It is possible that other sites, both Roman and Preroman, remain to be discovered.

In 1461 Sir Richard Choke, the Lord Chief Justice, was sent by the king to sort out disputes amongst the miners and smelting sites on Mendip.  Reading between the lines of his report it is clear that there had been a code of rules for a very long time and it was only necessary to add a formal recognition of this code.  It is clear that Mendip miners were an independent group, which was able to enforce its own laws, and resented outside intervention.

The earliest dated history of the Chewton Minery is at least as early as 1550.  These early smelting sites under the four 'Lords Royal' peaked in output between 1600-1670 when in 1608 Chewton produced 30 tons and the rest 34 tons between them.  The earliest reported 'incomer' was Sir Beavis Bulmer who, in 1580, had an agreement with the miners to drain Rowpits (Chewton Warren) for a half of the ore raised. By 1586 the miners realised that this was a bad bargain and Sir Bulmer was complaining of "Divers disorders in Mendipp mynes especially at Brode Rake".  Later his agent was accused of selling off Bulmers pits and, not too surprisingly, he was working elsewhere.

In 1658 Thomas Bushell obtained an order 'For carrying ye Water in Row pitts.  He planned to dig a drift 16 fathoms deep as a Common Shore (sow or collecting drain) from the concaves of a natural swallow 20 fathoms deep.  His main object was to reopen the Broad Rake" for there are men yet alive who will justifie that the forebreast of Sir Beavis Bulmars work was nine foot wide and three fathoms high in oar."  The rule that half the ore raised by the local miners to be paid for the draining was again agreed and again not obeyed and the works were eventually abandoned.

Although blasting powder came into the West Country about 1689 this did little to help the miners who had worked out most of the shallow ore and were still troubled by water. During the first eight years of the eighteenth century the output from the Chewton Minery varied from four to ten tons, small figures when compared with the 34 tons in 1608.

The smelting of lead from ore continued to decrease until by 1850 it was virtually extinct, however the possibility of re-smelting the old slags and reworking the old slimes and tailings revived the Mineries, the scale of capital required involving the use of venture capital by floating companies.  A doctor of medicine, named Benjamin Somers was working at Charterhouse from 1824 until he died in 1848.  In the 'thirties and 'forties he turned his attention to the vast heaps of refuse at the Chewton and Priddy Mineries.  In 1850 Barwell was working at Charterhouse but turned his attentions to Chewton in 1854 when he entered into partnership with T.S. Wright.  Their efforts were slow to develop until they attracted some Cornish mining engineers.  More modem buildings were erected with modem machinery, including reverberatory furnaces and round buddles.

In 1857 Nicholas Ennor obtained the mineral rights for the Priddy Minery to the annoyance of Barwell and Wright who built a dam at the downstream end of the Chewton site thus stopping the flow of surface water to the Priddy Minery.  Ennor protested and his men entered Barwell's land and cut holes in the dam.  Not surprisingly this lead to free fights which continued, on and off, for two years until, in 1860, the case came up for trial, eventually ending in Ennor's favour. Meanwhile Ennor was joined by Humby and proceeded to construct six buddles in 1858 and two more in 1859.  He was almost immediately in trouble for water pollution in a case brought by Hodgkinson of Wookey Hole.  Ennor gave up and in 1862 a new company, The St. Cuthbert's Lead Smelting Company was formed, under the management of Horatio Nelson Hornblower of Gwennap, to buy Ennor's interests.  Because of the water problems Hornblower experimented to smelt the debris without dressing and in a small scale trial obtained 13 tons of pig lead from an input of 200 tons, thereby making a profit of just over 100%.  Five new furnaces were installed in 1864 with a proposal for more efficient blowing and a condenser working by spraying water but they eventually adopted longer flues.  In 1849 there were 40 men employed but the works were soon abandoned, eventually to be bought by Julian Bernard.  There was no output recorded for ten years, even after much of the existing plant was pulled down and new machinery installed it was not worked. Bernard soon disappeared leaving debts, the plant was to be sold to a Mr. George Ball but in 1881 he died before the purchase could be completed and the buildings fell into disrepair.

Meanwhile, at the Waldegrave works, Barwell and Wright obtained a new licence in 1864 but in 1881 smelting was abandoned although two out of the three sets of buddles were kept working until 1883. Between 1881 and 1890 St. Cuthbert's was run on a small scale by Watts as owner with Willcox as a working manager. The plant was again sold, to a Mr. James Theobald MP but the fluctuating price of lead fmally stopped production in 1908 and the plant was dismantled in 1910.

Williams, R.G.J., The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. In Proc. UBSS, 1998,21(2)

Gough, J.W., The Mines of Men dip. (Newton Abbot 1967)


A Glossary of Commonly Used Climbing Terms and Phrases from Tom Patey's book 'One Man's Mountains'

From Kangy King

  • A solo climber - One man falling alone.
  • A roped party - Several men falling simultaneously.
  • A novice - Someone (often dead) who should be kept off the mountain at all costs.
  • An experienced climber - Someone whose death was unavoidable.
  • An Alpine Club member - Someone who never dies but slowly fades away.
  • An alpine veteran - Someone who has been to the Alps.
  • A careful climber - A slow climber.
  • A cautious climber - A very slow climber.  A climbing nut - A reckless climber.
  • A climbing leader - Someone who is expendable.







A Night to Remember - Thirty Years Ago ...

Monday 15th September 1969

-A brief note by Dave Irwin


Above: - The Belfry, 1961. Photo: Mike Baker

Right: -Cover of belfry Bulletin No. 259 that was published a week later informing members of the disaster.

It seems only yesterday that the club faced one of the worst crises in its history.  The old wooden Belfry caught fire and suddenly the Club was 'homeless'.

It happened one wet Monday night when a group of visitors were sinking their beer at the Hunters. 'Jock' Orr was also staying at the Belfry but was spending the evening in Bristol supping coffee with Wig and Tim Reynolds. 'Jock' left Bristol about 11.30 pm and arrived at the Belfry to find the Fire Service in attendance.  Dave Searle who lived nearby had already switched off the main electrical supply to the building but the firemen had another problem - how to get the gas cylinders out of the building safely.  However, the fire was contained within the building and little external damage was done either by the fire or the firemen.  Within a short space of time the fire was out but the building was gutted internally.

'Jock' returned to Bristol and woke Wig about 2.15 am who took the whole episode as a bad joke!!  But when Jock produced a hand full of coins that had been retrieved from the building it was all go.  Bob Bagshaw, the club treasurer, was woken a half-hour later and told of the occurrence and who, later, contacted the insurance company and assessors. Meanwhile, Jock and Wig carried on to Chew Stoke and woke John Riley and his brother, after all, if Jock and Wig were up why shouldn't everyone else en-route.  Eventually all ended up in the Belfry car park at about half-past three. The weather was pretty foul, heavy drizzle and the usual Mendip low cloud and when the Belfry came into view - the whole scene looked pretty dismal to say the least.  The building was still smouldering in places and the air was filled with the stench of wet burnt wood.  Nothing more could be done so it was back to Chew stoke for coffee and eats - courtesy of John Riley; then back to Bristol to change and off to work! That afternoon, a group returned to the Belfry to sort out salvageable gear and personal belongings of             members which was passed to Bobby Bagshaw for safe keeping.

Within the next couple of days a group of 'club elders' met and decided the next move and what was needed by the Club AGM to be held as usual in early October.

Fortunately, plans for a more permanent building had been in being for some time and at that time a number of regular Belfryites had been paying a quid a month for a period of three years - quite a lot of money at that time.

General view of the Belfry on 15th September, 1969.  Photo: Roy McR. Pearce

Though many people on Mendip were spreading 'malicious' rumours and rubbing their hands with glee that the BEC had burnt the Belfry deliberately and in any case this event would be the end of the BEC they were to a shortly disappointed.  At or about the time of the AGM, Bob Bagshaw announced that combining the Belfry fund, various anonymous donations and the insurance money, the Club was only some £700 short of the £3,000 to commence the building work.

Added to that the collections and fund raising devices arranged at the Annual Dinner, and subsequent further donations, that shortfall was raised in the coming months.  The upshot was that the Belfry was up and running and officially opened by Mrs Shuter, the retired landlady of the Waggon and Horses at Redcliffe, Bristol, in May 1970.

What happened in between? Well, the stone Belfry, now the tackle store and MRO store, was converted into a temporary bunkroom and living quarters for the intervening winter - it was tolerably comfortable but no real substitute for that which had been destroyed in the fire.

All the photos accompanying this note are being published for the first time.

Top and above:  In daylight – 15th September 1969.  Photos: Roy McR Pearce

Above:  Another view of the general scene after sorting member’s valuables from the wreckage. Photo: Roy McR Pearce

Below:  Phil Davies (right) then Hon. Secretary of the Wessex, offering his condolences.  Also in the picture, Alan Thomas (left foreground) and John Riley (extreme left).  Photographer unknown.


The Odd Note

By ‘Wig’

Wookey Hole inscriptions.

Casually glancing through Balch's book Mendip - The Great Cave of Wookey Hole - I noted a passing mention of inscriptions close to the cave entrance.  Referring to the entrance gallery, Balch recorded.

... Here and there in this entrance gallery, inscriptions lightly carved in the stone show that visitors of 200 or 300 years ago had much the same regrettable habits as those of the present day ..  One of these inscriptions "W.A.W. 1625," (in later editions the date was corrected to 1605) near the bottom of Hell Ladder is the earliest I have so far located in the cave, though there well may be earlier ones, as I have not made an exhaustive search, and there are many undated ....


Characteristic I and W, probably 17-18th c. inscribed into stalagmite, Wookey Hole. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

So arrangements were made with the cave management and keys were made available for Chris Hawkes, John Williams and myself to have a look and see what inscriptions remained.  On the night the party was augmented by J'Rat and Simon House.  A rapid search was made and numerous clusters of markings were found, though only a few in the entrance gallery and Hell Ladder area.  Isolated groups were seen in the 1st and 2nd Chambers but the largest cluster was to be found in the end of the Second Chamber and the lowish connection with the 3rd Chamber.  Mostly the markings were in white chalk, some of them dated (18th century) but there were a small number of 'engraved' examples.  Several examples of the early form of 'A', '1', 'M' and 'W' commonly found in documents of the 16-17th centuries were also noted (photo 1).

1706 cut into stalagmite, Wookey Hole. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

1706 is the earliest date so far recorded (photo 2).  No dated 19th century inscriptions were seen though modern additions were also seen, some unfortunately covering earlier markings.  None were found in the vicinity of The Witch formation.

The 1625 or 1605 inscription wasn't found.  In the 3rd edition of the             'Wookey' book (1947) Balch adds to the extract below

... Recent work has destroyed this inscription ....

You can't win them all! The intention is now to go back into the cave and photograph all the markings and collate them into a catalogue format so that they can be quickly located in the future.

Other specimens are known to exist in the Fourth Chamber.  These were last seen by non-divers during the Tratman directed archaeological dig in 1974.

Photographic collections.

During the last ten years or so I've been searching a number of items known to be kept at various establishments.  On enquiry, all but a couple of items have gone missing / 'walkies'.  In some cases it is known that items have been thrown into the waste bin.  This has occurred at the Cheddar show caves offices and at Wells Museum among other sites.

As a result the writer has been recording, and collecting, where possible, full details of any ephemeral material published by the Mendip show caves.  Also, since 1995, he has been digitally capturing the photographic collections housed in the Wells Museum and other places including those amassed by Mike Baker, Bob Davies, Graham Balcombe, Molly Hall, and J. Harry Savory. The scarce first 100 Belfry Bulletins have also been scanned and, in association with Dave Turner, all surviving logbooks have been copied and the digital information transferred to CD ROM. Hopefully copies of this CD will be available to members later this year at a small charge.

George Bowen

Many older members of the Club will remember the activities of C. Phillip (Bill) Weaver; he died in May at an advanced age.  Weaver is best remembered for his caving activity both before the Second World War and with the CDG and SWCC in the years immediately after.  He was particularly involved in the then newly discovered OFD.  In fact it was he with Peter Harvey who opened the lower entrance to OFD 1 when the CDG were attempting to enter through the resurgence.


George Bowen and his wife at the Hunter's Lodge on the 24th June 1999. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

George Bowen made contact with 'Prew' and 'Wig' and  the pair met him on the 24th June for a drink and general reminisce at the Hunter's.

Never a member of a caving club he went along with 'Bill' Weaver as a mate and explored a number of caves and mineshafts on Mendip.  Now well over 80 George could not remember much detail of their activity.  Nor did he keep a diary.  But it was not surprising to learn that the general caving gear was the oldest clothes that one could muster and that their main light source was the humble electric torch.  He didn't recall ever using carbide lamps.


A rejuvenated photo from Wells Museum photo after J. Harry Savory

Their combined successes included the discovery of a now long lost mineshaft leading to about 500m of natural passage at Ores Close near Hillgrove.  The entrance to this shaft may have become blocked when the area was levelled the area by Luke Devenish in the early 1950s.  They also opened up the now well known Weaver-Bowen Series in Eastwater Cavern.

Rodney Weaver, 'Bill's' son, is sorting out his father's photographic collection which will be made available for digitising and placing on a CD-ROM in the autumn.

... and finally ...

Those who believe in metamorphosis will be well repaid by taking a close look at this early Savory print found in the Wells Museum attic.  The classic photograph by Harry Savory was found badly faded and covered in dust on one of the shelves.  From the time it was taken, said to be 1911, the photograph has undergone some drastic changes ...  Look for yourselves ...  It must be a family tradition or he's older than you think or ageless!


Dive Report - Le Grande Souci. St. Vincent Sur L'Isle. Dordogne, France.

By Clive Stell

Over the Easter holidays this year divers from the Wessex (another caving club on Mendip) and divers from the BEC joined forces to dive the deepest cave in the Department of the Dordogne in France.  Although the depth of this site is relatively modest compared with some of the extremely deep sumps in other parts of France, it is still significantly deeper than any British site.

Since the mid seventies when a French diver descended to a depth of 40m there had been no diving at the site until members of the British CDG showed an interest in the mid nineties. During the past few years, as more cave has been found, the terminal depth has slowly increased.

The Souci appears to be a small pond approximately 15m by 8m in a hollow, shaded by trees on flat farm land adjacent to the village of St, Vincent: an unlikely looking spot for a deep dive.

The cave drops vertically for the first 40m, passing through a 1.5m wide slot at a depth of 6m and then slowly widening.  At 12m depth, a large chamber is entered through the roof and the walls are lost in visibility that never exceeds 2m.  The steeply sloping, debris covered floor is reached at -40m.  During the past few years divers have continued down the slope in an attempt to find ongoing passage and moving water but due to the silt on the floor and the resulting atrocious visibility the attempts were destined to fail.

In 1998, Malcolm Foyle and Robin Brown laid a diving line from the shot line at a depth of 37m out into the unseen void. After 10m a wall of the chamber was found.  At this point the wall was undercut, so the line was continued in this direction following the junction of the steeply descending roof and the wall.

In September 1998, Jonathan Edwards and I continued MSF and RABs' exploration, reaching a depth of 70m. At this depth, divers experience nitrogen narcosis, a condition similar to being drunk, caused by the nitrogen in air becoming toxic when inhaled at depth.  Due to the narcosis, it was not possible to safely belay the diving line and it was therefore removed back to a depth of 60m.

Any further exploration at the Souci was going to be logistically more difficult as the divers could not breathe air at these depths.

As plans were made for the next trip, Tim Chapman arrived back in Britain and rejoined the team after not diving the Souci since 1996.  Unfortunately Jon was unable to get to France due to work commitments but a strong diving team was still assembled and all the necessary kit for a series of mixed gas dives was prepared.

For the deep dives this Easter the divers breathed Trimix (oxygen, helium. nitrogen) to reduce the narcosis and make the dives safer.

The first dive fell to Robin who checked the condition of the lines laid over the previous years. He reported that all was well and that the visibility was the usual 2m.

Over the following days the deep line was slowly extended with the cave continuing to descend at a steep angle.  As the dives got deeper and longer the amount of gas required for each dive increased. For the final dives, 6 cylinders with 3 different gas mixes were used.

The first two deep dives extended the cave to the same depth as reached during the summer of 1998.

The following deep dives then continued the cave horizontally in what appeared to be the roof of another chamber but due to the poor visibility nothing was clear.  At a depth of seventy metres and with no clear way on I decided that it was time to drop into whatever was below.  After descending for six metres, and without a wall or the floor in sight, the maximum dive time was reach and the line was reeled back to seventy metres.  The surface was regained after a total dive time of over two hours.

Other areas of the cave were also looked at.  Tim decided to explore a small pool adjacent to the main site. Over the years it had been thought that this would simply drop into the main chamber.  Due to the uninviting nature of this second site, until now, no one had been willing to test the hypothesis.  The first dive was spent clearing rotting tree trunks and various items that had been dumped over the years.  After the entrance was cleared sufficiently for a diver to enter the cave, slow progress was made, in near zero visibility, to a point approximately 20m from the entrance and at a depth of 12m.  With no obvious link with the main chamber, in ongoing, but very awkward passage, the site was abandoned to concentrate on the main site. Meanwhile the diving continued in the main pond.  At 35-40m depth, lines had been run out from the shot line and around the walls of the main chamber.  All the lines were then surveyed including the deep line, down to a depth of 70m. During the following evening, whilst drinking heavily, the survey was drawn up.  This gave a good impression of the size of the main chamber around the shot line and also indicated other areas which needed further examination.  The line survey confirmed the large size of the main chamber, which due to the poor visibility has yet to be seen.  The survey also indicated that the line around the chamber was now 3-4m from the deep line after going right round one side of the chamber.

During the next dives it was confirmed that the line did in fact goes right around the right side of the chamber and the line was joined to the deep line.  A further line was laid around the left side of the chamber in an attempt to circumnavigate it; this line has yet to be completed.

Plans were being made for the final attempt on the end of the system.  By now the tanks of helium brought over from England were getting low and the gas mixes that we could achieve were not ideal.  This resulted in much worse narcosis for the final dive than is ideal.  We already had the deepest site explored by British divers in Europe but the pressure was still on.  The sump had allowed us to go deeper than the previous year but we knew that the site continued downward and this was our last opportunity to get further as there was no more helium.

All of the kit required for the final dive was assembled and the various cylinders were staged at the pre-planned points in the cave.  It was time for the final dive.  As I left the surface my mind was eased by the now familiar line which led me past my two deco tanks at -9m and on down through the unseen chamber to my travel mix bottles hanging above the floor of the chamber at -35m.  Everything was going well.  I continued along the horizontal part of the line leading to the wall of the chamber then on down into a steeply descending section decorated with roof pendants.  The line then started to level out and I arrived at the final belay at -70m.  I had decided to make a vertical descent from this point and expected to reach the floor within a few metres of the depth reach on my previous dive.  I picked up the line reel and slowly sank; the minutes raced by on my dive computer and the depth gradually increased.  To my surprise, I reached both the end of the line on my line reel and the maximum depth for my decompression tables. Still the cave continued downward.  I swam forward for a metre or so and made contact with the wall.  Finding a large knob of rock I tied the line off but moments later, in the now zero visibility, I felt something hit my fin.  The belay had broken off.  My maximum time had been reached and with no time to belay the line properly.  I clipped a small block of lead to the end of the line and retreated to start the long decompression.

The maximum depth of the cave found so far is 93m from the ground level with 87m of this underwater making this both the deepest dive in the Dordogne and the deepest cave.

A return trip with more equipment is planned.

The Divers were:

Robin Brown, Tim Chapman, Malcolm Foyle & Clive Stell.  Thanks to Fish and Lizzy for surface support.

During the decompression the divers all noticed strange occurrences including; falling rocks and flying zebras, on reflection, this could be why the French named the site "the Big Scary One."

Many thanks to Andy and Christian Kay for all their support and hospitality.

In response to requests from several members, this article expands the recent BB article on the hydro-chemical studies in Wookey Hole.  In particular, it is important to note the fact that the work is going to be published as a paper jointly by the authors listed below.  They are the three divers who collected the water samples, myself, and a non-member, Alan Knights.  Alan will probably not be known to the readers.  He works at the Inorganic Chemistry department of Bristol University, and made an invaluable contribution to the analysis of the Wookey Hole samples.  To provide proof of the accuracy of the analyses, it is necessary to make a complete analysis of all ions present in the samples, and examine the balance between the total concentrations of positive and negative ions.  Two ions, sulphate and nitrate, are notoriously difficult to measure.  With his expertise in the use of an ion chromatograph, Alan has analysed samples for these two ions with great precision, and at the same time checked that no other unsuspected negative ions were present in the samples.  Since 1994 he has cooperated with me in the St. Cuthbert's stream studies by making similar analyses for the same two ions.


More Notes On Water Studies In Wookey Hole Cave, Somerset

T. Chapman, A. Gee. A. V. Knights, C. Stell and R.D. Stenner

The plan of the cave.

The plan shows the location of the sites where water samples were collected.  The plan was based on Trevor Hughes' 1982 drawing, which he compiled from unpublished surveys made by several members of the Cave Diving Group. The plan included here was made by scanning a large drawing in six sections.  A grid was drawn separately on one layer in an AutoCAD file.  The scanned sections were moved to their correct positions on the grid, trimmed, joined up and cleaned up until a print could be made at the final scale.  Using this print, a plan was traced in ink, and scanned to produce an Adobe PhotoShop 4 file.  This file was edited and text was added.  A draft was printed, and approved by the Wookey Hole management to be used to illustrate the present water studies.

The location of the sample sites is shown in the Figure 1.  A collection was started on 30.11.96, but after collecting samples from Chambers 3 and 9, the trip had to be abandoned.  Samples were collected on 14.12.96, and 25.01.97.  Water levels in November and December were extremely high. In January the water level had fallen, but it was still high.

The results from the samples collected in December 1996 and January 1997 were utterly unexpected, and the possible implications were intriguing.  A high priority was placed on collecting a sample from upstream of Wookey 23.  After many attempts between March 1997 and July 1997 failed, samples were collected on 20.07.97 from the same sites as on 14.12.96, with the addition of a sample from Wookey 25, immediately before the long descent into the 25th Sump.

The analytical techniques used will be available in detail elsewhere.  Ion balances are included in the tables of results.  They show where analyses have been satisfactory, and where analyses have been adversely affected by high levels of suspended calcium carbonate in the water.  These "colloids" made it impossible to analyse samples for total hardness calcium and bicarbonates with the usual accuracy.

Standard errors have been calculated (as 10 x 10-5 Molar, - ppm as CaC03):-  total hardness, calcium and aggressiveness to CaC03, 0.8; alkaline hardness 3.0; Non-alkaline hardness, 3.8; magnesium, 0.46; sodium, 3.0; potassium, 1.2; chloride, 2.6; sulphate, 0.3; nitrate, 0.23.  The reliability of the recent analyses is indicated by the cation/anion balances.

The units chosen in this study was 105 x Molar.  By making this choice, the data for the species associated with water hardness are numerically identical (to within analytical precision limits) to parts per million (ppm) as calcium carbonate, the unit widely used by limestone geomorphologists.  Using a unit based on Molarity was especially suitable when calculating ion balances.



Table 1. Data for samples collected 14th December 1996. Units: 105 x M (as specified; non-alkaline hardness di-valent, ion balance mono-valent).  Total, Mg, Ca, alkaline hardness and non-alkaline hardness figures are identical to concentrations in ppm as calcium carbonate. "Coll." represents the estimated concentration of "colloidal" calcium carbonate.  The accuracy of figures in italic script is seriously lower than usual because of analytical difficulties caused by high concentrations of colloidal calcium carbonate. The errors in the figures in parentheses are the result of titrating colloidal calcium carbonate as alkaline hardness, confirmed by large ion imbalances and impossible non-alkaline hardness data.








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22













S.Sump W 23














Table 2. Data for samples collected 25th January 1997. Units and symbols as in Table 1








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22B













Sump 22













S.Sump W23














Table 3. Data for samples collected 20th July 1997. Units and symbols as in Table 1.








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22













S.Sump W23













Sump 25













On 30.11.96, the River Axe was very high and cloudy.  The analysis of the samples was very difficult because of high quantities of suspended calcium carbonate.  Filtering the samples did not remove the suspension.  The "colloidal" calcium carbonate interfered seriously with the total hardness and alkaline hardness titrations, making an alkaline hardness titration impossible, and seriously reducing the accuracy of the total hardness titrations.

The water in the Axe was completely clear by 12.12.96, but in spite of the complete absence of any visual warning of a likely problem, every sample still contained large concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate.  This once again made reliable alkaline hardness determinations impossible, and reduced the accuracy of total hardness titrations. To make the nature of the problem caused by colloidal calcium carbonate clearer to the reader, Table 1 contains the alkaline hardness data which were obtained. Because negative values for non-alkaline hardness are impossible, the results are clearly grossly in error, the alkaline hardness figures being too high.  Titration of the sample from the Wookey Hole Road Bridge with HCI to a final stable end-point provided a minimum estimate of the concentration of "colloidal" calcium carbonate; 41 ppm CaCO3.  The initial value of the alkaline hardness was probably too high. The ion imbalance suggests that it was 60 ppm too high, but the non-alkaline hardness figure suggests a lower figure; approximately 49 ppm too high.  Therefore the true concentration of the colloidal calcium carbonate is likely to have been 89 or 101 ppm as CaCO3.

Samples from 25.01.97 contained small concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate (1.5 to 3.8 ppm as CaCO3. The alkaline hardness, in which the dissolved and "colloidal" calcium carbonate species were titrated together, was corrected by subtracting the value obtained in the total hardness for the "colloidal" calcium carbonate.

Samples from 20.07.97 were free of "colloidal" calcium carbonate, with the single exception of the sample from Wookey 9, in which the "colloidal" calcium carbonate concentration was too high to permit the determination of total, alkaline or calcium hardness.

Comments on the results from 14.12.96

1.                  At every site, large concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate were present.

2.                  At every site except the Static Sump in Wookey 23, magnesium concentrations were very similar (N.B. within the ranges of concentrations found in the present study, and within the range of pH in the water, although magnesium can be added, its natural removal is not possible).

3.                  Concentrations of chloride, sulphate, nitrate, potassium and sodium at all sites (including the Static Sump in Wookey 23) were similar.

4.                  At the Static Sump and chambers 20 and 9, calcium values were very similar.

Comment 2, above, will be examined in more detail.  The precipitation of magnesium as magnesium hydroxide will not take place from a solution containing 50 x 10-5 M Mg when the pH of the water is less than 11. This pH is far above the range which can exist naturally in the subterranean River Axe, so removal of magnesium by this means can be safely ruled out.  Indeed, laboratory measurements made after shaking natural waters with powdered limestones and dolomites have in every case led to an increase of magnesium in solution, rather than a reduction (Stenner, 1971, ibid, Table 1 p. 290, Table 2 p. 292).

There is evidence of the ability of magnesium carbonate to pass into solution by the incongruent solution of dolomite, but no evidence to suggest the removal of magnesium from solution.

Despite the analytical difficulties, the results show that the explanation of magnesium variations in the Axe which, prior to this study had been considered by Stenner to be most likely, was completely incorrect.  There was no magnesium gradient in the River Axe between Wookey 23 and the Entrance.

The outstanding feature of the result from 14.12.96 was the low magnesium level in the Static Sump in Wookey 23.  At the same time, the concentrations of many constituents in the sample were the same as in the other samples from the River Axe.  It seemed possible that water in the Static Sump had the same origin as water in the Axe, except that the latter water had dissolved a considerable quantity of magnesium.  Because there was a remote possibility that the similarities in the other hydro-chemical characteristics could have been a coincidence, another set of samples was needed.

The higher Ca contents in Wookey 22 and 3 samples were thought to have caused by inaccuracies in the total hardness titrations.  It is possible that the fraction of very small particles in the "colloidal" calcium carbonate was higher in these two samples, and a significant quantity of this fraction had been included in the rapid titration to the first unstable end-point.  A further set of samples was needed to resolve the uncertainties.

In conclusion, the very first set of samples had produced very exciting results.  There were uncertainties caused by the unfilterable suspended calcium carbonate.

Comments on the results from 26.01.97

1.                  Except at the Static Sump at Wookey 22, magnesium concentrations were very similar, but significantly higher than on 14.12.96, when the flow had been substantially greater.

2.                  Concentrations of calcium, sodium, potassium, sulphate, nitrate and chloride were very similar at all sites.  The data sets for sodium and sulphate on the two dates were different.  The data comprehensively supported the suggestion from the 14.12.96 results; that water in the Static Sump in Wookey 23 had the same origin as water in the Axe.  While there had been a remote possibility that the similarities on 14.12.96 could have been a coincidence, there is no possibility whatsoever that the different results from 26.01.97 could also have been a coincidence.

3.                  The sample collected underwater in Wookey 22, from where the river from Sting Corner enters the sump through boulders, gave results which were indistinguishable from those from the surface of the sump pool.

4.                  Because concentrations of suspended calcium carbonate were low, alkaline hardness data were more reliable, and total hardness and calcium data were much more reliable.  The increase of magnesium between the Static Sump and Wookey 22 was accompanied by an equal increment of alkaline hardness (within practical limits).  The conclusion is that magnesium from MgCO3 in dolomite or dolomitic limestone had dissolved as Mg(HCO3)2.  There was no change in calcium in true solution in the water.

Comments on the results from 20.07.97

The most important result was from the sample from Sump 25.  Results from this sample were similar to those from the main flow of the River Axe at all points downstream, while the magnesium, alkaline and total hardness results from the Static Sump were once again significantly different from those in all other samples.  This result had a considerable consequence on the understanding of the hydrology of the cave. Some of the minor abnormalities in the data from the Static Sump are likely to be the consequence of the static sump having been "stagnant" for several weeks, during which time several parties of divers had visited the site.


The hypothesis is that in December 1996 and January 1997, water in the Static Sump in Wookey 23 did indeed have the same origin as water in the River Axe.

The following paragraph describes the position after examining the results from December 1996 and January 1997.  Following directly from the hypothesis of the origin of water in the Static Sump, there must be an "Unknown Junction" yet to be discovered, at some point upstream, where all the water in the Axe had a composition similar to that in the Static Sump.  From this "Unknown Junction", a small fraction of the Axe flowed into a route leading to the Static Sump.  The majority of the Axe flowed through a different route to Wookey 22, and in this route it entered a zone of dolomite or dolomitic limestone.  Here, the physical conditions (such as turbulent mixing) were such that the water dissolved the substantial concentration of magnesium carbonate seen in the results.

The results show that on 25.01.97, the water dissolved a higher concentration of magnesium between the "Unknown Junction" and Wookey 22 than on 14.12.96.  However, on both occasions, no change in magnesium was detectable in the considerable distance from Wookey 22 to the Entrance. These are very important observations, for which there are three possible explanations.

1.                  The "Unknown Junction" is a very large distance upstream of Wookey 22 (much farther than the distance from Wookey 22 to the Entrance).

2.                  The distance upstream is not crucially important, the most important factor being that the main body of the Axe flows through a zone where the physical conditions especially favour and maximise the solution of magnesium from the dolomite. This possibility presents a problem. When, in higher flow, water arrives at Wookey 22 with lower levels of magnesium, it follows that it must arrive there with a capacity to dissolve more magnesium.  Yet from Wookey 22 to the Entrance it fails to dissolve any more magnesium, in spite of contact with dolomitic conglomerate from Wookey 12 to the entrance.

3.                  (This is a modification of the second possibility).  Downstream of the "Unknown Junction", a part of the Axe flows through a dolomite zone where physical conditions encourage rapid reactions between water and rock, becoming saturated with magnesium to close to the low-flow value of approximately 50 x 10-5 M Mg.  As flow increases, this water is mixed with an increasing proportion of low magnesium water over-flowing from the route to the Static Sump.  This would explain the variable, flow-dependent concentration of magnesium in the Axe arriving at Wookey 22.

The results from the samples collected on 20.07.97 added nothing new to this particular aspect of the study.  Whichever explanation turns out to be the best explanation, results in the present studies have implications.

1.                  Water from the four major separate sources of the Axe (Swildon's Hole, Eastwater Cavern, St. Cuthbert's Swallet and - by far the biggest source - percolation water) must have coalesced upstream of the "Unknown Junction".

2.                  Important new information provided by samples collected on 20.07.97 concerned the location of the "Unknown Junction".  The results proved that the "Unknown Junction" lies beyond the present known limits of the cave; i.e. upstream of Wookey 25.

3.                  The possibility of making important discoveries in a route from the Static Sump to the "Unknown Junction" is very real.

4.                  There must be a zone of dolomite, dolomitic limestone or dolomitic conglomerate upstream of Sump 25, between Wookey 25 and the "Unknown Junction".

5.                  Where water from the "Unknown Junction" encounters the zone of dolomite, solutional activity will have caused considerable localised cavern enlargement (which could be masked by massive localised cavern breakdown). This is a direct consequence of the large quantity of magnesium carbonate being dissolved by the large river in a localised zone of the underground river system.

The water in the Static Sump will not always have the same chemical characteristics as water in the Axe, apart from elevated magnesium bicarbonate.  On the first two sample dates, the flow of the Axe was high, and it is possible that as flow falls, a level might be reached when water from the "Unknown Junction" ceases to flow to the static sump.  Water in the static sump will then reflect the levels of salts in the Axe the last time it flowed to the pool, and not the current levels in the river.  This will not negate the conclusions drawn from the results presented here.

The present article describes the present state of the understanding of the hydrology of the Wookey Hole system.  There are opportunities to refine this understanding before an attempt is made to explore this part of the cave.  The survey shows that there are four more several static sumps in Wookey 23, an intriguing one in Wookey 25 and another one in Wookey 20.  In the near future it is planned to analyse samples from these additional static sumps (together with a sample from Sting Comer).  It is also planned to analyse a selection of mud samples from Wookey 23 (because only those samples deposited in the last two thousand years by the St. Cuthbert's Swallet to the River Axe system will have a high lead content).

A summary of the earlier data is presented in Table Al in the Appendix, for comparison with the new data.


1.                  On any occasion, there was no variation in any measured hydro-chemical component of the River Axe from Sump 25 to the Entrance.  In particular, there was no magnesium gradient in the River Axe.

2.                  The points of confluence of the tributaries which make up the River Axe are all upstream of Sump 25.

3.                  The Static Sump in the 23rd Chamber contained magnesium concentrations which were significantly lower than those in the River Axe.

4.                  Concentrations of magnesium and alkaline hardness were lower in the Static Sump, by an equal quantity, than those in the River Axe, while those of calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulphate and nitrate were the same, proving that they shared the same origin.

5.                  There is a considerable possibility that exploration of the Static Sumps will result in the discovery of important extensions.

6.                  At an unknown distance upstream of Sump 25, the River Axe is a single unit with a composition similar to the Static Sump in the 23rd Chamber.  The physical conditions in which most of the River Axe acquires varying concentrations of magnesium bicarbonate are not known.

7.                  At times, analysis of samples for total, calcium and alkaline hardness have been made difficult by the presence of large concentrations of suspended calcium carbonate.


1.                  Atkinson, T.C, Drew, D.P. with High, C. 1967 Mendip karst hydrology research project, phases one and two, Wessex Cave Club Occ. Pub. Ser 2 (1).

2.                  Gee, A. 1996 Recent exploration in "Wookey", Belfry Bull., 48(1), 7-10. 4.

1.                  3.   Hanwell, J.D. 1970         Digger meets diver, J Wessex Cave Club, 11(128) 34-9.

3.                  Hughes, 1982 1982 A sketch plan of Woo key Hole Cave. No grade, approximate scale, unpublished

4.                  Heathwaite, A.L., Knights, A.V. and Stenner R.D. 1998  In preparation.

5.                  Rose, L. 1983 Alkalinity, its meaning and measurement, Cave Science (Trans. B.C.RA.), 10(1),21-29.

6.                  Stenner, RD. 1969 The measurement of the aggressiveness of water towards calcium carbonate, Trans. C.RG. 11(3), 175200.

7.                  Stenner, RD. 1971 The measurement of the aggressiveness of water Parts II and ill, Trans. C.RG. 13(4),283-295.


Table A1.  A summary of hydro-chemical characteristics of the River Axe at Wookey Hole between 1966 and 1978. Most of the samples were collected from the 3M Chamber.
























































































































































Table A2.  Results of analyses of samples collected from the River Axe at Wookey Hole Bridge in 1996 and 1997.

































































































While most of the hydro-chemical characteristics of the Axe have been stable over the period of more than thirty years, there is one exception.  A single sample, collected on 21.08.68, was analysed for sulphate, chloride and total anion content.  The results showed the water contained a nitrate content that was too low to be detected.  This conclusion was supported by a good anion/cation balance for the sample. Although this was the result of the analysis of a single sample, there is an identical situation at the Cheddar Spring.  A single sample, collected from the Cheddar Yeo spring on 8.10.68 was analysed for sulphate, chloride and total anion, and in this sample the concentration of nitrate was also too low to have been detected by this method.  At this spring, nitrate concentrations are also much higher now than the detection limit for nitrate in the methods used in 1968 to 1970. They are now in the range of 22 x 10-5 to 42 X 10-5 M.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support given by the management of Wookey Hole Caves to members of the Cave Diving Group in their work in this cave, and to thank them for giving permission for this article to be published.

The following pictures are taken from The Great Cave of Wookey Hole - H.E. Balch, reprinted thanks to Robin Gray and Wells Museum.  Original photographs were taken by Harry Savory.

Plans of Wookey Hole from Balch's book 




The BEC Nicknames Database

Chris Batstone             Batspiss

Corruption of surname.

Bob Bidmead   Trog

Bob started caving when he was 12, with his grand father (Ted Roberts) and then the school club (BGS affiliated to that other lot - Wee sex or something) and Scouts.

The Senior Scouts gave him the nickname "Troglodyte" when he was 16 and started instructing younger boys, and it got shortened to "Trog" by John Dukes one day down St Cuthbert's when he picked me up by the belt and carried me up the Arete bodily.

The name never really caught on with BEC, but was used by the Avon Scouts right up until last year when he retired as the Avon Scout Caving Adviser.

(Due to some rule that you had to be under 50 to lead adventurous activities). It's still in family use.

Rich Blake       Gobshite

Because he is (especially when drunk)

Alan Butcher    Butch

Shortened surname

Ian Caldwell    Wormhole

Was given the name Wormhole by Trevor Hughes because he had a propensity for digging small holes and because he was a womaniser (which I suppose is another way of digging small holes).

S.J. Collins      Alfie

Name used in school days that carried on.

Bob Cork and Dany Bradshaw             The Uglies

Painfully obvious!

Pat Cronin       Stumpy

Is so called for obvious reasons

Bob Cross        Cross Bob

The homesick nomad

Garth Dell        Kermit

Had frog like 'Ping-Pong ball' eyes

Mike Duck        Quackers

Gwilym Evans Taff

He is not Scottish!

Pete Franklin   Spangle Bollocks


Rachel Gregory           Bob

Came from the Black Adder character.

Rachel Hale     Penfold

She wore small glasses and looked like the character in Dangermouse.

Rachel Hale and Debbie Walsh

Swindon Wendy's         

Chris Hall         Snogger Hall and Evening' all

Called as a description of his behaviour.  On joining the police force he became known as "Evening' all"

Chris Harvey    Zot

Was so named when he was first seen on Mendip, he had a puke-coloured (and occasionally puke- covered) Consul with a mascot suspended from a spring which he was in a habit of pulling.  As it flew up to the roof he exclaimed: Zot

Mark Howden Shaggy

Trevor Hughes             Biffo

No Comment necessary.  Name given by Batspiss.

Dave Irwin       Wig

Short for a corruption of Irwin. (Earwig)

Tony Jarratt     J'Rat

Mike Jeanmaire           Fish

Because he was declared by the DHSS to be temporarily unsuitable for anything except diving

Graeme Johnson         Bolt

Looked like Frankenstein's monster.

Graham Johnson         Jake

Named after a character from the Blues Brothers.

Ron King          Kangy King

Is a corruption of King - invented at school (not Hindu for shit!)

Davey Lennard            The Boy

Young BEC Morris dancer.

Mark Lumley    Gonzo

Called after one of the Muppets, whom he resembles

Stuart McManus           Mac and MacAnus

Is know as Mac usually, but occasionally MacAnus for obvious reasons

Peter MacNab (Sm)      Snab

When he was in the RAP there were so many Peters that every Peter had to have a nickname.  He called himself Snab to avoid being called MacScab.  It was obvious that his son would be called Snablett

Peter MacNab (Jm)      Snablett

See above

Mike MacDonald          Trebor

After an impersonation of a newsreader done by Lenny Henry.  The newsreader is called Trebor MacDoughnut

Dave Morrison             Tuska

Because he used to wear Oxford bags and looked like an elephant.

Richard Neville-Dove   Mongo

Because he resembles a character in "Blazing Saddles"

Brian Prewer   Prew

Colin Priddle   The Pope

A drunkards attempt to say his name.

Arnold Rice      Sago

Sago is a type of rice.

Andy Sanders Andy Eyebrow

and Same reason as Matt Tuck Eyebrow 2

Tony Setterington        Sett

Obvious ... When collapsing during a speech at a Vintage Dinner someone shouted "Do not adjust your Sett!"

Rod Setterington         Titch

Because he was.

David Shand    Wobbly

For reasons that became obvious on Saturday nights

Chris Smart      Blitz

Because he was struck by lightning in Austria

Richard Stephens        Dickfred

Enough said.

Robin Taviner Tav

Shortened surname.

Gwyn Taylor (nee Timson)       Boncwyn

Also known as the Cardiff Wendy's along with Jane Clark, and Sarah Cook?

Sally Shand (nee ?)     Shagwell

Nigel Taylor     Mr Nigel (often shorted to Mr N)

So called by Gordon Tilly because when he first became a member he called everyone Mr.

Alan Thomas   Hoss and Big Al

Named Hoss by Ken Kelly on the Provatina expedition, 1963.  Hoss was a character in "Bonanzo" - a TV western.

Matt Tuck         Eyebrow

Obvious reasons when you meet him!

Dave Turner     Twittering Turner

Try having a conversation with him!!

Brian Van Luipen        Loopy

Obvious reasons

John Watson    Quiet John

During a Dan yr Ogof trip John was nominated the job of waking everyone else up, but he was too timid to wake everyone up and they missed their trip.

Niel Watson     Bardic Nonsense

'cos he was Welsh.

Carol White     White Meg

Her tackle bag bore the legend White M.E.G. (Mendip Exploration Group)

Mike Willett     Mousetrap

One of the many things he tried attaching to his manhood!!!

John F. Williams          Tangent

Try having a conversation with him!!

John Williams Jingles

When he first turned up on Mendip he wore a long pointed hat with a little bell on the end.

Mike Wilson     Mr Wilson

Hilary Wilson   H and the War Office

(well that's what Mike calls her!!)

Graham Wilton-Jones Bassett

Because his surname was said to resemble Wooton Bassett

John F. Williams          Tangent

Try having a conversation with him!!

Dave Yeandle  The Boy and Pooh

He was for a time the Belfry Boy, a tradition that most BEC members will be familiar with.  After being the Belfry Boy for a few years he ran away to Leeds only to be given the nickname of Pooh by a caver called Minitrog. It should be pointed out that this name has nothing whatsoever to do with bottoms!

He was named after Pooh Bear because Minitrog could imagine that he would have lots of silly adventures like the "real" Pooh.

Pooh has had bits of cave named after him without having to have died first! Puits Pooh in the PSM and Poohs Revenge in Pippikin.  As if this was not fame enough his friend Kevin has named his cat "Yeandle" after him.  The reason for this was that Yeandle (the cat) "Couldn't climb either" when he was a kitten.  Rob Harper was very confused when a cat called Yeandle turned up for treatment at his Veterinary Practice. Yeandle (the cat) has recently learned to climb.

? Tilbery          Bucket

?          Slug    

This list was compiled with reference to a Nicknames article by Alan Thomas in BB May 1990 (no.454 Vo1.44 no.2) and with help from the individuals, and also regular residents of the Hunters' Lodge.  We tried, but we are very sure we have missed many and also have unfinished stories in this database.  If anyone has any information regarding any BEC member's nickname, please contact the editor.


The Curtain - Fernhill Cave, Fairy Cave Quarry.

The photograph was taken shortly after Femhill was discovered in 1960.  The Cave was closed about 1965 by quarry tipping, although currently there is audible connection to Fairy Cave.

Towards the end of this year it is hoped that the entrance to Fernhill will be relocated and excavated allowing access once again to Curtain Chamber with its outstanding formations.


Photo: B.E. Prewer. Model: T. Dredge.


Information on Knotlow Cavern/Hillocks Mine and Caving on Mynydd Ddu

The following information was forwarded from Alan Wood: National Caving Association

Update On Pollution in Knotlow Cavern/Hillocks Mine

By John Gunn, Limestone Research Group (LRG), University of Huddersfield

In a previous report it was noted that, as of 24 February, there were no problems with 'bad air' anywhere in Knotlow and no visual evidence of water pollution apart from some pink growths in the level between the base of Fourways Shaft and what will henceforth be called the Knotlow Farm Engine Shaft to avoid confusion with other 'Engine Shafts'.  The LRG are retained by English Nature to provide a 'rapid response' capability whereby we visit the site as soon as possible after a report of pollution and repeat the air, sediment and water sampling.  However, the contract allows for a maximum of five visits which means that we have to have a definite reason to undertake sampling.  During April and May there were conflicting accounts from visitors to the system, some reporting no problems, others 'bad air.'  Following these, on 20 May, Paul Hardwick tested the oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane concentrations in air by lowering a meter down the three shafts:

  • Climbing Shaft
  • Chapel Dale Engine Shaft (also known as the 210' of simply as 'the' Engine Shaft)
  • Fourways Shaft (also known as Crimbo Hollow Engine Shaft)



No evidence of 'bad air' was obtained, and oxygen levels were >19%.  This was confirmed by a party who visited on 31 May and reported 'no smells' although visitors on 4th & 6th June reported 'bad smells'. This presented us with some difficulty as the air monitoring equipment, without which we cannot undertake any visit to the mine because of Health & Safety considerations, costs £120 to hire in, and it was decided not to undertake a full sampling visit until there was a certainty that there was a pollution problem.  This visit was made on 29 July by John Gunn and Dave Nixon when we also hired in a carbon dioxide meter which proved to be extremely useful. As on 20 May, the oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane, plus carbon dioxide concentrations in air were measured by lowering the meters down the three shafts with the following results:

  • Climbing Shaft: oxygen> 20%; carbon dioxide <0.5%
  • Chapel Dale Engine Shaft: carbon dioxide >0.5% @ -20m & >1.0% @ -35m. oxygen >19% to base.
  • Fourways Shaft: carbon dioxide >0.5% @ -20m & > 1.0% @ -25m. oxygen> 19% to base.



The lids of the two deep shafts were left open to aid ventilation and we descended the climbing shaft making continuous measurements as we proceeded.  The carbon dioxide meter has two alarm levels, the first at 0.5% and the second at 1.0%.  The first alarm level was triggered while descending the 2nd pitch into Pearl Chamber (S2) and the second between Pearl Chamber and 'The Chain' (S3) oxygen levels were declining and the alarm level of 19.0% was triggered at S4, the junction between the level which continues through two low, wet squeezes to the Bung Series and a series of climbs down to the Waterfall Pitch.  At this point there was also an intermittent bad smell but after due consideration we decided, somewhat reluctantly that a relatively swift trip down to Waterfall Chamber was justified both to measure the gas concentrations and to obtain water samples for the Environment Agency.

However, the risks involved in a trip down the north crosscut to the base of Fourways Shaft were not considered to be justifiable and a rapid exit was made.  The following day [30th July] a return was made with breathing apparatus and David Nixon descended Fourways Shaft.  The 1evelleading to Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' was found to be grossly polluted but the Chapel Dale Level was essentially pollution free so that at the foot of 'Fourways Shaft' the oxygen concentrations were slightly higher and the carbon dioxide concentrations slightly lower than in the upstream part of the mine (Table 1).  Hydrogen sulphide and methane concentrations were zero throughout the mine.

Our current thoughts are that polluted water, with a high content of organic material, is entering the mine from the Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' and from a bedding plane near the top of the Waterfall Pitch.  One litre water samples were collected from a number of sites and are being analysed by the Environment Agency.  Officers from the Environment Agency are visiting farms in the area in an effort to determine where the pollution is coming from and it is hoped that the results of the water analyses will provide an indication as to whether sewage or silage is the major constituent.  However, it is important to understand that the derogation of the air quality is an indirect result of the water pollution since it appears to be due to oxidation of the organic matter which is deposited in the cave.  Hence, although the pollutant inputs may be sporadic the foul air will be more persistent, a factor likely to be exacerbated by the poor natural ventilation in the mine.  Consideration is being given to how the organic material may be flushed out of the system more rapidly and to how ventilation might be improved as well as to the question of the ultimate source of the material.

Given the low oxygen and high carbon dioxide cavers are strongly advised not to attempt to enter Knotlow until further notice.  The Environment Agency has posted warning notices on all entrances, including the entrances to Hillocks and to Whalf Mine as a precaution although no direct measurements have been made in these parts of the system.

Caving on Mynydd Ddu

The following was published in a South Wales Caving Club Newsletter, which you might find of interest. The area concerned is that over and beyond Dan-yr-Ogof and has a real potential to yield many miles of as yet undiscovered (not for want of trying) cave.

Access for Caving on Mynydd Ddu (The Black Mountain)

An open letter to cavers

This letter is being circulated widely in the caving community.  The National Park Authority wishes to agree with cavers; access and conservation arrangements for Mynydd Ddu and its caves.  This letter, which is intended to stimulate debate, outlines the legal requirements for managed access and suggests how this might be delivered. Comments from individuals and organisations are welcome, and should be sent to the address at the end of this letter. Every person or organisation submitting comments will be invited to attend an informal meeting towards the end of the year.

The Area

Mynydd Ddu is the area of upland lying broadly between the Upper Swansea Valley, in the east and the community of Trap in the west.  It extends to almost 15,000 hectares, and includes an important limestone outcrop, an area which must provide one of the greatest opportunities for cave exploration in Britain.

Survey work completed by local cavers in 1997 identified 296 sites of speleological significance, three quarters of which were visited, photographed and described.  Twenty five of these were recorded as being in a dangerous condition, most of which are abandoned digs.  The Park Authority is now obliged to undertake works to these to render them safe.  Offers of assistance from cavers - particularly if you have a guilty feeling about some of these digs - are invited.

The same survey has also collated a very comprehensive bibliography, and made many recommendations to improve access and conservation management.  Paper copies of the survey are held by the South Wales Caving Club and National Park Authority.  This should prove to be an important exploration & conservation tool, and arrangements will be made for its transfer to digital media to make it accessible and maintainable.

Ownership and Management

The whole area is 'common land' - land over which 'commoners' have rights (such as grazing) which they share 'in common' with others.  There are several graziers associations that represent the interests of many of the commoners.

The National Park Authority owns about 12,000 hectares of the area and manages a further 2,000 hectares on behalf of Dwr Cymru.  This letter relates to land that is owned and managed by the National Park Authority. The Authority manages the area according to its purposes set out in the 1995 Environment Act.  These are: to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of the Park's special qualities.

It is also relevant to note that as landowner the Authority has a duty of care to all users of the area, and an associated liability if it is negligent in exercising that duty. Being a publicly funded organisation the Authority must manage its liabilities so as to protect itself - and the public purse - from damage claims.  Most of the area is designated under the Wildlife & Countryside Act as a "Site of Special Scientific Interest" SSSI, and this requires the landowners to ensure that the interest of the site is not damaged.

Caving is formally recognised by the Authority as an appropriate activity in the Park setting, and the Authority therefore has a duty to promote the enjoyment and understanding of caves.  It must also look after the interests of commoners, and exercise a duty of care to visitors.  Finally it must ensure the conservation of the area, and ensure that the SSI is not damaged.


Legal rights of access are provided by public rights of way.  ‘De facto’ access, or that of long standing tradition or custom, is also established.  The National Park Authority as a matter of policy allows open access on foot for quiet, informal enjoyment.  ‘De facto’ access does not extend to access for caving or digging, and these activities are only lawful if conducted with the consent of the landowner.

A New Approach

Historically the Park authority has made a number of false starts in trying to manage the issue of cave access and conservation, and is aware that some cavers view its motives with suspicion.  The following arrangements satisfy the remit of the National Park Authority, maximise accessibility, minimise bureaucracy and recognise the critical role played by cavers in the management of cave exploration and conservation.  The new approach should form the basis of a more productive relationship between the caving community and environmental organisations.

The National Park Authority proposes:

To declare a “standing permission” for all cavers to visit (on foot) all sites of speleological interest on Mynydd Ddu, on condition that:

i.                    Cavers follow the NCA advice and code of conduct regarding conservation of the cave environment.

ii.                  Cavers have their own 3rd party liability insurance, and undertake all such activities entirely at their own risk.

iii.                 Nothing is done that damages the rights of commoners.

To make widely available (at least possible cost to users) the Mynydd Ddu Cave Survey, and to put in place and fund arrangements for its maintenance by cavers.

To declare a ‘standing permission’ for all cavers to conduct exploration activity in caves and on the surface, on the condition that : I, 11, 111 – As I, ii, iii above.

iv.                 That digging and other exploration activity is recorded at the outset with the Mynydd Ddu Cave Survey (details may be held with restricted access if requested) and the survey is regularly updated through the duration of the activity. Detail of location and persons responsible will be needed.

v.                   ‘Between visits’ any works are left entirely safe and secure, and pose no threat to people, stock or other animals.

vi.                 When complete the site is left permanently safe and secure.

To annually review the impacts of exploration activity, to ensure that legal requirements of the SSI designation are not being breached.

To hold an open meeting do that the success of these access and conservation arrangements may be discussed.

Subject to views of the caving community and other interested parties, the National Park Authority intends that the new approach should be effective from 1s January 2000. Please forward comments to:

Jon Young – Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Brecon, Powys


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

10-12/9/99                  Hidden Earth ’99 BCRA Conference, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

1-3/10/99                    Cave Survey Group field meet, Bull Pot Farm, Casterton Fell, Yorkshire

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner

3-30/10/99                  Brush with Darkness 2 Wells Museum - Robin Gray

8-10/10/99                  ISSA Meet Indoor Workshop with Robin Gray, Mendip - ISSA

2-3/11/99                    Cave Art exhibition by Robin Gray, Explorer’s Café-Bar (Gough’s Tear Room) Cheddar - Robin Gray

13-14/11/99                DCA/NCA Caver’s Workshop, Pindale Farm, Castleton, Derbyshire.


Final Tales of Nigel’s Dry Suit