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

**** SUBSCRIPTIONS - FINAL REMINDER ****

If you have not yet paid you 1986-87 subscriptions then enjoy this-BB as it is the last you will receive - you have been warned! ! .

Dates

7th March          Austria meeting in the Belfry - see page 3

7th March          Cuthbert’s leaders meeting - back room of The Hunters at 7pm. - see page 3

13/21 March      8 1/2 day camp in Daren Cilau - see page 5

6th June            Wessex Challenge - Belfry ground at 4pm. - see page 2.

Dinner referendum

As requested, we are including a referendum (skilfully prepared by Trebor) asking for members comments concerning the annual dinner.  Please find the time to fill it in and return it to Mike as otherwise we shall continue with the same format as in previous years.

BEC Sweat and T Shirts

Tony Jarratt has a number of the new sweat and T shirts still for sale.  If you want one (or more) then contact Tony a.s.a.p.

Membership Changes

New Members

1080     Tony Church, Shepton Mallet, Bath
1081     Phillip Provis, Paulton, Bristol
1082     Robin Brown, Cheddar, Somerset
1083     Nicholas Sprang, East Street, Worcester
1084     Richard Stevens, Worcester, Worcestershire

Address Changes

890       Jerry Crick, Leighton Buzzard, Bucks
1001     Graeme Johnson, Cosby, Leicester
1046     Dave Shand, Penarth, Cardiff
949       John Watson, Wells, Somerset
1019     Lavinia Watson, Wells, Somerset
1068     Jon Whiteley, Denbury, Devon
1031     Mike Wigglesworth, Wells, Somerset

Ratified Members

1070     Mary Robertson                         1073     Clive Lovell
1072     Mike McDonald                         1074     Tracey Newstead

Membership Changes

See Alfies notes on page 21 for corrections to the list published in the last BB.


 

News

Pierre's Pot

This was first banged open by Pete and Alison Moody in 1983 giving 300 ft. of large passage.  A very strong draught was followed down a tight rift to a choke with distant sound of a stream (Flange Swallet is only 50 ft. away). Andy Sparrow started digging there with Pete and Alison in the spring of 1986 and the breakthrough occurred on January 17th this year.  100 ft. of passage was found leading to the water which was followed downstream to an aven and a sump.  Upstream there is a larger streamway and extensive dry series ending in well decorated chambers. Total length is 500 ft. - work continues.

Andy Sparrow 

Gough’s Show Cave

Andy Sparrow and Chris Castle have opened up a new route to the water in Lloyd Hall.  Starting at the top of the 70 ft. pitch is a descending rift to a chimney landing on a chockstone.  From there it is a 35 ft. pitch to the water.

Andy Sparrow

Wessex Challenge

As members are aware it is our duty to organise the Wessex Challenge for 1987, this being the "prize" for winning it again last year.  The theme of the challenge will be "The Quest for the Rusty Tankard" and will be held on 6th June at 4pm.

St. Cuthbert’s

The on-going clean-up down Cuthbert’s is plodding on at a leisurely pace but it isn't until you start bringing rubbish out that you realise exactly how much is down there.

After a consultation with Brian Prewer, I've brought out quite a bit of the old telephone wire, especially between Wire Rift and Gour Hall.  It was broken in so many places it was more of a nuisance than an asset.  In any event, for rescue purposes we have the mole phone so the telephone is presumably not now needed.  If needed it would be quicker to lay a new line than repair the old one.

Although regular specific cleaning-up trips exist everybody can do their bit by shifting stuff they find scattered about "uphill" as it were.  Every bit helps.  In particular, there's a few bags at the bottom of the Entrance Rift; a filthy great long piece of tubing at the bottom of Pulpit Pitch and a dump of stuff just downstream of the main streamway duck.  I've also found a carbide dump in Lower Mud Hall which will be cleaned up next visit.  Who the hell's using carbide down there?

Mike (Trebor) McDonald

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting

This had to be postponed and is now due to be held in the back room of The Hunters on Sat. 7th March at 7pm.  It is a long time since we last held a meeting and I hope that all leaders will make a positive attempt to attend.

For those who are not sure how the leader system works here are a few notes.  The leader system was set up soon after the cave was opened in 1953 with the prime objective to protect the cave.  It was realised that if unrestricted access was allowed many passages would be pushed which although appearing 'virgin' have either been carefully pushed to avoid damage to formations or were known, through the survey, to re-enter the known cave after after a very short distance.

Leaders have to make a number of trips into the cave, showing that they are familiar with all the major routes and have their 'leaders' form 'ticked off' by current leaders. The prospective leader's attitude with regards to conservation etc. is also taken into account before they are issued with a key.

Originally leaders had to be members of the BEC but back in the late 60's we extended the scheme to cover people outside the club providing that they had adequate insurance cover. This move was taken on two accounts; firstly, to head off accusations that the BEC were keeping Cuthbert’s as their own private cave; and secondly, to allow other clubs to provide their own leaders for their trips, thus taken some of the 'tourist trip' load from the BEC leaders.

I think that the leader system speaks for itself, there have been relatively few accidents in spite of the problems of the entrance rift, and the cave is not being spoilt quite as fast as most of the other caves.  This doesn't mean that we should be complacent and pat ourselves on the back. In fact we should be ashamed at the amount of rubbish etc. that has remained in the cave after digging pushes (I am as guilty of this as anyone!), and I am pleased to see that present members intend to do something about it (see Trebor's notes above)

Dave Turner

Austria

There will be a meeting in the Belfry on Saturday 7th March, for anybody interested in corning to Austria this summer.

The trip will revolve mainly around connecting last summers discovery - Weisalmschacht, with the Hirlatzhohle, making one of the deepest through trips in the world.

We hope to keep the numbers reasonably low this year as 3 car loads of BEC, the same number of NCC and a coach load of South Wales CC. tourists somewhat upset the local cavers and made a mockery of our host, Robert's "camp where you like but don't let the Foresters see you" policy!!  Those wishing to go should be proficient in S.R.T.

Mark Lumley

Treasurer's Report

Since the last B.B. little has changed on the financial front, we still have regular and quite healthy income arriving from the Belfry Bednights and deposit savings now total some £750.  The current account goes up and down like a yo-yo and there is little point in telling you what's in it, but suffice to say we're in a generally comfortable financial position at profit.

However, with the winter and cold weather now with us, guests and members staying at the Belfry may decrease which together with increased coal consumption and lighting etc. will affect income somewhat.  In addition, some £500 has just disappeared from the current account to pay for the new sweat and T-shirts and although this will be recovered in due course from sales, the cash flow has been hit a little.

Furthermore, following the fire in the Belfry over the New Year, the Committee decided it was necessary to update the fire prevention/tackling situation.  Hopefully we won't have another fire but we might as well learn from this one.  Some observers on the night of the fire mentioned a few pertinent matters which may need up-grading and changing.   This could cost £500 or so, thus proving a further drain on resources.

If you keep supporting the club by buying the new sweat and T-shirts and by using the Belfry, I think we'll survive a little longer,

Mike (Trebor) McDonald.

Donation

Our thanks go to Ron Wyncoll for the donation to the club of an Oldham charging rack, many thanks.

Black Holes Expedition

A 200 hour (8 1/2 day) sponsored camp in Daren Cilau has been organised starting on Friday 13th March. The team will be digging to try and get the Aggy connection over and done with.  Money raised will go towards the Black Holes Expedition to Mexico.  BEC members on the expedition will be Bob Cork, Dany Bradshaw, Tim Gould, Steve Milner and Mark Lumley.  All donations gratefully received.  Visitors at the camp are welcome.


 

Jill Tuck

It is with the deepest regret that we must record the passing of Jill Tuck, who died on Friday, January 9th of this year.  To her husband, Norman, we extend our heartfelt sympathy.

Jill Rollason, as she was before her marriage, joined the B.E.C. in 1949 and was one of the first girls to do so.  From then on, the club always occupied a special place in her affections and throughout her life she remained one of its most loyal supporters.  She became a Life Member in 1973.  From assisting in the work on the excavation of the Roman villa at Kingsweston, she went on to take part in the early exploration of Stoke Lane Slocker, and pioneered some very tight passages, including one which became known at the time as " Rollason's Romp".  She took an active part in a number of club projects; wrote for the B.B. on a variety of topics and was elected as Ladies' Representative to the club committee in 1951.

Jill was forced to resign from this position the following year due to ill health, but came back to play an active part in the surveying of Redcliffe caves and the opening of Pen Park Hole.  On a lighter note, she was responsible for the expression 'The B.E.C. get everywhere.' and her wide range of interests included submitting entries for the song competitions of 1961 and 1962.  She played a very considerable part in building the stone hut at present used by the M.R.O. and the gargoyle at the end of this building was her work.

After her marriage to Norman Tuck, they moved to Wales to live at Llanfrechfa, where they became noted for their work in the Roman mine at Draethen, near Machen, Newport.  Their discovery that this is the only known Roman mine not to have been worked subsequently was a notable 'first'.

In later years, when her health began to fail; her mind remained as active as ever and was keen and alert to the very end.  It is no exaggeration to say that Jill played a very great part in creating the club spirit for which the B.E.C. is justifiably proud.


 

Fame At Last???

 


 

Extensions On Llangattock Mountain

By Mark Lumley

A few months ago the Crew started speculating about likely places to dig in Agen Allwedd with a view to a Hard Rock Connection.  Superimposing a grid of probable fault lines onto a survey of caves of the CWM Clydach Catchment, it became apparent that both Daren and Aggy largely follow a set pattern through the mountain.  Passages head predominantly from NNW-SSE interrupted by minor holdups and switchbacks which almost invariably head off to the East.  A logical assumption was that the 12 O'clock High boulder choke was held up on a major fault running down through the Trident passage in Aggy. I drew on a passage heading NNW from this point and, assuming that it behaved in the same way as those on either side projected it through a point very closed to Gothic Passage (Southern Streamway) and on up to Midnight Passage (Just off the second boulder choke in Aggy).

Fish used to dig Gothic Passage back in the 60's.  His description of it sounded very much like parts of Hard Rock. Blitz and I went to look at Midnight Passage.  I burst out laughing when we climbed into it.  It's identical to the Rock Steady Cruise - crystal covered walls, constricted switchbacks, undulating red roof etc.

We wrote to Bill Gascoigne of the Aggy Committee requesting permanent key and permission to dig Gothic Passage and Midnight Passage.  The key was granted, Midnight was O.K. to dig but the Gloucester C.C. and Chelsea S.S. had both started digging in different parts of Gothic.

Preliminary digs in Midnight by teams of BEC and UC4 made minor extensions but a large rubble cone fallen from an aven blocks the way on.  Work continues and looks very promising.

Meanwhile, on the 11th of January, the two Rival digging groups down at Gothic Passage both made breakthroughs, the Gloucester finding 400ft of Railway Tunnel sized passage and the Chelsea about 1200ft of wide bedding passage with occasional chambers.

The following weekend Jim Smart and I drove over to Whitewalls and were amused to see two somewhat over manned digging teams heading down the cave in search of 'caverns measureless!!'  We followed them down early in the evening.

The Chelsea extension (Renaissance) is excellent despite several long, low crawls.  Crystals cover the walls and there are some fine walking passages.  Again, it's similar to Hard Rock.  Jim and I arrived at the end to find the four remaining Chelsea cavers digging out a sand choke.

We joined in and an hour later broke through into another 180 foot of open passage ending in another straightforward sandy dig.  The end of this passage is right next to the first sump in Aggy and it looks likely to connect to 'a dry' inlet between sumps in the May time series.

Meanwhile, the Gloucester group had broken through again into extensive walking passage broken up with occasional crawls.  Large Avens in both extensions suggest the presence of a higher series.  This extension is heading South East, straight towards the terminal boulder choke of the Hard Rock.

In all about a mile of passage has been explored so far.  Both extensions follow the lines of our projected passage extensions with almost alarming accuracy.  Needless to say, the crew are back down at Hard Rock next weekend as a race is clearly on with a connection definitely on the cards in the near future.


 

The Exploration Of West End Series. May 1983 – May 1986

The following article was intended for inclusion in a Caving Report to be published on completion of the survey of the West End Series.  Due to present caving politics it would seem that any future publishing of surveys of S.S.S.I’s would be against the interests of the Mendip caving fraternity and so it has been decided to include this write-up in the B.B.  My apologies for the somewhat monotonous nature of this report but it has been written essentially to record details of the exploration of the series for the benefit of future speleo­historians.  Should an Eastwater Caving Report ever come to fruition this article will be updated and included.

Tony Jarratt.      4/7/86

"Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough to mask thy monstrous visage?"    Shakespeare

From the B.E.C. Log(8/5/83) - Keith Gladman and Andy Lolley visited Ifold's Series, via Dolphin Pot and Harris's Passage, where they had a "frig in the boulders'!

INITIAL DISCOVERY

On an uncertain date, probably the 28th May, KG and AL dug into several hundred feet of roomy inclined bedding and rift passages after a total of some six hours of excavation in the low tube at the end of Ifold's Series.  The two main rift passages in the new SOHO and THE STRAND series were named SOHO and THE STRAND the extension itself being christened WEST END SERIES due to its position relative to the rest of the cave.

The following week KG and eight B.E.C. entered the new stuff intent on surveying, unfortunately forgetting the tape in their excitement!  Tim Large's compass bearings showed the dip to be 210o.

SNOTROM AVEN

Most of the obvious side passages were explored to gain a couple of hundred feet of extensions, one of these leading to an 80ft high aven free climbed by TL and Stuart MacManus to where it became too tight. This was later estimated to be almost directly below the club's Morton' s Pot Dig.  The new series was dry at this time.

Phil Romford, Tony Jarratt and John Watson followed the first team after a liquid lunch.  It was raining on the surface as they entered the cave.  After route finding problems they met KG’s team at the breakthrough point, continuing on into the West End as the others left for the surface.  The downpour had by now travelled through the cave and entered West End from the 80ft aven (Snotrom Aven), sinking in a tight bedding plane below.  The three tried to follow this water, the most likely route being an awkward bedding (the ORGAN GRINDER) which PR pushed for some way to a very tight squeeze.  AJ passed the squeeze after a struggle and he and JW pushed two further squeezes to reach a descending canyon passage with a 20ft pitch in the floor which was traversed over to reach an eyehole above a deep pitch.  This was estimated at 60-80ft deep and the stream could be heard clearly below, though blasting of the eyehole was deemed necessary to allow access.  The 20ft pitch was free climbed to a short passage and further tight pitch estimated at 30ft.  This section of cave was named GREEK STREET after a low thoroughfare in Soho.  A tiring exit was made and the heaps of froth in the 380ft Way testified to the amount of floodwater that had passed through the cave.  A third team of Jim Smart and Mark Lumley never reached the new series, getting lost in Ifold's en route.

THE TIGHT AND NASTIES

June 11th saw a large team, I.G, AJ, AL, JW, TL, SM and G1yn Bolt (W.C.C.) on a 7+ hour trip attempting to push Greek St.  After widening the top section of the 30ft pitch AJ descended to a wider section with an extremely tight inclined squeeze entering the side of the un-descended 75ft pitch.  He and KG passed the squeeze and laddered 25ft to the floor of the pitch, christened GLADMAN SHAFT.  They went off to explore while the others attempted to widen the eyehole above with a hammer and chisel as it was thought the squeeze could not be reversed.

The explorers entered a high rift passage where a 2ft sta1agmite column was- removed to pass a constricted section.  Beyond lay some 200ft of larger passage with many loose boulders, ending in another tight section.  This and various climbs in the main rift were left for the future and the two had a desperate struggle back up the inclined squeeze as the chisellers had failed to open up the eyehole - the thought of being blasted out of their predicament losing all appeal when the strong inward draught was noted!  A slow, tiring exit was made which set the trend for all future trips in this awkward and exhausting series.  Before leaving the eyehole was "banged" by TL.

The results of the bang were checked the following day by JW a Darren Granfield who found the eyehole to be “comp1etely demolished.”   They laddered the resulting 25ft rift to reach a ledge with a further roomy 50ft pitch to the bottom of the shaft.  The passages below we re-inspected but nothing new found apart from some fine helictites.

REGENT STREET

Returning to the squeeze out of the Organ Grinder, an up-dip passage with a stalagmite false floor was pushed for some 30ft to junction with a large rift passage - REGENT STREET - 8ft wide by 3 high and liberally decorated with flowstone, helictites, cave pearls etc.  At one point the passage was barred by a series of foot high crystal cones - the TERMITE HILLS.  Its delicate beauty earned this area the title of CRYSTAL PALACE.

WARDOUR STREET

The two completely mind-boggled explorers returned along Regent St. little expecting to almost walk into another 100ft of high level rift 15ft above the floor of the main passage.  This was later named WARDOUR STREET.  A major boulder choke sealed the end of this passage but JW looked at possible climbs to reach higher levels that could be seen above.  The rift was estimated at probably 100ft high in places.

Hardly able to believe their luck the two started out but soon met Graham Wilton - Jones, Jane Clarke and “Bucket” Tilbury.  These three were dubious when told of the new finds so were dragged off to Crystal Palace where they were forced to repent.  The Termite Hills were passed with care and a short stretch of formation filled passage entered which dropped down to yet another marvel - an emerald green lake 3ft wide by 30ft long with a drop beyond to a further pool and stalagmite choke.  Following the mode of London place-names the pool obviously became THE SERPENTINE.  All then made an excited exit to spread the good news, though anyone who was familiar with Eastwater was found to be difficult to convince!

THREADNEEDLE STREET

On 15th June PR photographed Crystal Palace and Regent St.  A few small rift passages nearby were examined and named THREADNEEDLE STREET eighteen months later!

These rifts were again looked at three days later by AJ, TL, GB, JW and Andy Sparrow.  They were pushed in various directions for some 200ft and found to be well adorned with thousands of small helictites.  As established, a handshake connection from a tight hole in the floor of the entrance to Regent St. to the "dog-legs" at the head of Greek St.

LOLLY POT

This team then continued to the end of Greek St. to attack the terminal squeeze with hammer and chisel.  When widened to the size of AJ, he was poked through to discover 20ft of tight, potholed canyon passage which abruptly doubled back on itself at the head of a beautiful 40ft pitch - LOLLEY POT.  His screams of ecstasy lured AS and JW through the squeeze and while GB rushed back to Gladman Shaft for a ladder the three admired the new pitch.  Perfectly oval and some 20ft long by 8ft wide the pot was a free-hanging one in black lime­stone.  A real classic.  On receiving the ladder all three descended to find 80ft of slimy keyhole passage, a 6ft pot and 30ft of roomy phreatic tube ending in a body sized tube with a howling draught whistling in.  This was half full of water and obvious signs of recent sumping to some 30ft up the walls precluded any investigation at this time.  Great difficulty was had in reversing the muddy 6ft pot and keyhole passage and another weary exit was made.  To quote the B.E.C. Log "…with much moaning and cursing.  A bloody fine trip.”

Work on mapping the new finds commenced on June 22nd when Trevor Hughes, Rob Harper, Edric Hobbs and DG completed a grade 5 survey from the Serpentine to the Greek St. / Organ Grinder junction.

UPPER WARDOUR STREET

25th June. AJ, SM, TL, PR, JW, Matt Tuck and Brian Prewer.  JW continued his series of climbs into the roof of Wardour St. to find an ascending low passage - UPPER WARDOUR STREET - which was not fully explored.  Two teams surveyed from the squeeze above Lolley Pot and from the head of Greek St. to the 35ft pitch below Dolphin Pot.  A draughting hole above the "Lolley Pot squeeze" was banged by TL.

The following day JW and Mark Brown found a further 100ft in Upper Wardour St. to a point where loose boulders blocked the way on.  Some small red stalagmite flow was noted and it was assumed that the end was not far below the surface.  Meanwhile TH and RH surveyed Wardour St. and the remainder of Regent St.  It was on this trip that the name Wardour St. was first used.  From the Log "….Rob says it's where Blue Movies are made! Also from the Log TH pleaded “Will somebody stop Quiet John discovering passage quicker than we can survey it.”

Three days later TL, Dave Turner and Paul Hodgson inspected the results of the previous week’s bang, which had done little, and looked at other holes in the roof of Greek St.  PH photographed the pretties in Regent St.

July saw continued enthusiastic exploration.  On the 2nd, DG, JW, Andrew George and Ian Caldwell carried on with investigations in the Threadneedle St. area.

On the 7th Barry Wharton was conned into dragging RB's diving gear to the Serpentine where a dive was made to 12ft depth and all parts of the pool checked.  “Definitely NO way on!”

Two days later a large party entered the cave. GB, Pete Hann and Julie Wootton (all W.C.C.) photographed in Regent St. while JW, AJ, TL and Dave “Skunk” Newsome (U.S.A.) took radio - location equipment to the end of Wardour St, where a successful fix was established by BP and helpers on the surface.  The point located is 150-200ft below ground level at a point near the E.S.C.C. hut. Also on this trip another 30ft of rift was found off Regent St. and a visual connection made from the top of Soho back into Ifold's Series.  Only a few rocks were moved to open this up revealing that the new series has always been virtually open!  The connection was not physically passed due to its loose nature but may be useful in the event of a rescue.

On the 13th July (!) Pete & Angie Glanville and Tony Boycott (C.S.S.) failed to find the new series. On the 21st JS and Neill Scallon (C.S.S.) at last succeeded but light failure ended their trip.  They returned the following day with fresh lights and visited Regent St.

AJ, TL, Martin Grass, Chris Castle, Steve Lane, Debbie Armstrong and I.C.C.C. members Chris Birkhead and Hark Bound followed them a day later to photograph and place a further bang on the "Lolley Pot II Squeeze.

With the continued good weather, an attack on the end of Greek St. was planned and on 6th August AJ and Graham "Ug" Summers (N.C.C.) moved eight sandbags of liquid mud and gravel from the tube before disillusionment set in.  Very strong draught was evident.  JW extended his examination of roof passages to the Greek St. area.  On the same day JS, NS and ML visited the "pretties" but light failure again forced a retreat.  Will they ever reach the bottom?

Work on the dig continued on the 27th when TL, AJ, and Peter Bolt (C.U.C.C.) accompanied by Howard & Debbie Limbert, Alan Box and "Noddy" (N.C.C.) removed more bags of mud and gravel to allow AJ to squeeze along 15ft of foul, muddy crawl into 20ft of roomier phreatic rift passage.  The stream sank behind mud banks just below this and a nearby hole appeared to connect with the continuation of the streamway but this was too tight to pass. TL yet again banged the "Lolley Pot squeeze.  PB photographed the pretties and got lost three times.  He also lost most of his overalls and the arse of AJ's furry suit which was underneath!  The N.C.C. team were suitably derogatory about Mendip caves.

BLACKWALL TUNNEL

October saw the next visit to the series when, on the 8th, AJ, and BW were there in wet conditions. No water was entering via Snotrom Aven but a stream was heard in Soho.  This reappeared in the 20ft aven off Greek St. after appearing briefly further back as a 6ft waterfall seen through a rock window high on the south east wall.  Beyond the "terminal dig" some 50ft of inclined tube was pushed and named BLACKWALL TUNNEL - neither for its ample size or cleanliness.  Smoke bombs fired at the draughting rift above "Lolley Pot squeeze" were not detected in Regent St. or anywhere else.  Other bombs lit in the Strand succeeded merely in asphyxiating those present.

29th October. TL and AJ, later assisted by Alan Taylor (W.C.C.) re-excavated the old route from the Boulder Ruckle straight into Boulder Chamber to give an easier access route to parties working in West End.

As a result of five months of almost exclusive Eastwater trips and with the approach of winter, visits to the new series tailed off and it was not until 15th April, 1984 that the next important trip took place.  TL, AJ, AL and Robin Gray went to bang the draughting hole above "Lolley Pot squeeze" but were foiled by lack of wire which it was forgotten had been removed from the cave some weeks before!  AL and AJ surveyed from the end of Blackwall Tunnel to the aforementioned squeeze - a filthy and arduous job.  All left the cave at 8.20pm, one and a half hours overdue, to be met by a prospective rescue party of Alan Downton and Fiona Lewis.  On this trip a hibernating bat was noticed in the passage between Soho and the Strand.

On the 5th May TL and AJ surveyed up-dip in the Strand to a terminal 20ft aven and down-dip to Snotrom Aven.  The cave was bone dry apart from the providentially continuous trickle at the “Magic Fountain” in Ifold Series.

Surveying continued on the 26th with JW, AJ and Nick Hill (S.M.C.C.) completing Upper Wardour St. Smoke bombs lit in Morton's Pot were not detected in West End but produced a faint smell at the “Magic Fountain”.  The new series was now one year old.

On the two Wednesday evenings of 13th and 20th June PR and TL dug and banged at the sharp bend just before Regent St.  On 24th these two plus AJ and Mike? (ex M.C.G.) rushed to this site for the breakthrough.  PR shifted about half a ton of boulders, blocking both his own exit and that of those below him for over an hour!  A short section of open passage was entered but was blocked by more loose boulders. A couple of narrow escapes resulted from this trip - large "Henrys" and gravity being responsible.  To cure this PR, TL and Jeremy Henley banged the offending boulders on the 27th noting that fumes were evident at the top of the strand.

This area saw its final visit on 11th July by PR, TL, JH and Tim Swan.  The last bang had removed some of the boulders but many more blocked the way on.  An aural connection was established through the choke to a similar blockage in the floor of Wardour St. above.  The dig was then abandoned.

With a distinct lack of enthusiasm from B.E.C. members who had worked bloody hard in the cave for over a year and with a tight and muddy crawl being the only feasible way on, it was decided to invite the W.C.C. in the shape of Pete and Alison Moody to assist in further exploration.  Accordingly on 30th June they went to the end of the new series with AJ, JW and Rich Websell (WC.C.).  Alison managed to pass the terminal squeeze at the top of Blackwall Tunnel to be stopped by another squeeze after 6ft.  The stream sink and nearby hole were investigated but need banging.

Meanwhile work on the survey slowly progressed.  On 11th August AJ and JW surveyed the loop passage off Organ Grinder and the remainder of Soho.  TL and P & AM returned to the Blackwall Tunnel to place 2lb of bang on the two end squeezes.  The result was inspected within half an hour as the fumes quickly dispersed in the strong draught.  AM passed the final section to gain 10ft of tight passage and a further constriction which was then blasted with another 21b.  All then left the cave.

A return was made here on 15th September by AJ, P & AM and Pete Watts (W.C.C.).  The terminal squeeze was chiselled out and passed by AM to yet another squeeze which PM banged.  AM then conquered this to jubilantly emerge in a 10-15ft high, well decorated cross rift with a descending bedding plane ahead. Loneliness, pools of bang fumes and the instability of the floor gave AM good excuses for an honourable retreat, but before struggling back to sanity the last squeeze was again banged.

CHARING CROSS

Further exploration here was then delayed due to an unfortunate club squabble which lasted for a few weeks until resolved in the traditional manner at a convivial Wessex barrel party.  Thus on 27th Sept. a combined team returned to the "wide" open extensions in very wet conditions.  JW, AJ, P &. AM and Paul Whybro (W.C.C.) all passed the squeezes to CHARING CROSS.  The promising bedding plane closed down both up and down-dip though an extra down-dip section led to a small static sump.  The cross rift was not pushed far up-dip as straws and loose boulders partially blocked the route.  The down-dip continuation, to the south east, was a fairly level and crystal floored rift with a profusion of formations similar to those of Regent St, somewhere above. AJ doffed his filthy boots and oversuit to follow this for some 60ft to a junction with a much larger gallery.

JUBILEE LINE

This sealed the fate of the crystal floor and all were soon assembled in this 10ft high sandy floored passage admiring a stalagmite resembling a cricket ball on a stick.  With the 50th anniversary of both clubs being upon them it was unanimously decided to christen this major new passage JUBILEE LINE. Some 60ft further, after a traverse over a collapsed area of floor, the edge of a 50ft pitch was reached.   The large black space below issued forth the siren call of an active stream. Not having any tackle the area was searched for alternative ways down resulting in the discovery of two more pitches, 30ft and 20ft deep but definitely not free-climbable.  On the way "out an interesting hole" under a flow stone bank in the up-dip rift of Charing Cross was chiselled open to allow AM to force another squeeze to the head of a 15ft phreatic pot, assumed to connect with the unknown route below the other pitches.

CHAMBER OF HORRORS

After a suitable rest the attack was resumed on 10th November with a strong party of TL, AJ, P & AM, Pete W, GB, Geoff Newton and Jeff Price (W.C.W.).  Passage versus body size left GB at "Lolley squeeze" and JP in the Blackwall Tunnel.  The rest reached the new stuff with a struggle and an awkward descent of the 20ft pitch Pot was made into a large but gloomy and obviously flood prone chamber at the base of the two larger pitches.  This instantly became the CHAMBER OF HORRORS.  The enticing stream entered from a tiny crawl only to sink into a tight rift some 20ft below the boulder “floor.”  This inlet proved to give a visual connection back to JP in the bottom of Blackwall Tunnel which could be blasted to provide much easier access. The whole of the chamber was coated in sticky mud and small bits of polythene bag perched high up on boulders are evidence of recent flooding to a depth of around 60ft above the stream sink. The intermittent Greek St. stream can hardly be the cause of this and so a hidden streamway beneath the chamber is assumed to be the villain of the piece.  The area bears a distinctly unhealthy appearance to parts of the flood prone Ogof Hesp Alyn in North Wales.  Beyond the chamber PW climbed 20ft into the continuation of Jubilee Line and followed a fine section of passage some 200ft long. Partly of walking size and with fine though muddy formations, its main claim to fame is an immaculate nest of cave pearls set off by their presence on a wide mud bank.  Conditioned to accept the worst the team were not surprised when the passage lowered to about 5 inches high in a descending crawl.  AM again proved to be the best invention since drain rods when she forced the crawl to a small chamber and wet u-tube beyond. PH then took over and pushed this after a struggle up the steep and muddy far side.  He gained a further 50ft of fine passage ending in an impassable wet squeeze with a stalagmite choke above.  Just prior to this a strongly draughting rift is undoubtedly the way on but requires bang.  Back at the climb up, various side passages were examined to reveal a sumped inlet with descending phreatic ramps below leading to a mud choke and a small active sink. Time and exhaustion then forced the team to leave the series without descending the 15ft phreatic pitch or checking possible up-dip routes towards Regent St.

ABERFAN

A return visit was made on 17th November by P & AM, GN, PW, GW-J and JC, when the 15ft pitch was laddered to reach another typical Eastwater bedding plane, choking down-dip in the direction of the Chamber of Horrors but developing up-dip into a slippery, mud covered incline - ABERFAN PASSAGE.  Across the bedding from the foot of the pitch a dried up streamway with large sandstone cobbles led after 100ft to the superb CENOTAPH AVEN, 20-30ft in diameter and at least 60ft high.  Meanwhile, in Charing Cross, QW-J and JC gave up their attempted survey work in muddy frustration.

GW-J and JC were back again on 9th December together with BT and Mike Davies (N.U.C.C.).  They rigged a fixed rope traverse above the Chamber of Horrors to link the two sections of Jubilee Line and once again surveyed the dreadful Blackwall Tunnel - by mistake!

On 15th JW, GN, PW and PM spent some time chemically widening the squeeze to the 15ft pot, Blackwall Tunnel squeezes and the hoped-for by-pass to Blackwall Tunnel itself. JW not appearing with the others was found on the way out at Dolphin 35ft Pitch with “light pox.”

The following day ML and the L.A.D.S. descended upon Chamber of Horrors where a muddy squeeze was dug open into a 6ft wide by 15ft long and 40ft high aven with possible passages off at the top.

This was looked at again on 30th December by ML, Steve Milner and Lisa Taylor and after being climbed was found to have no ways on.  The rest of the team, Andy Lovell, Dave Shand, Tim Gould and Nipper Harrison were stopped by the Blackwall Tunnel Squeezes.

The new years work commenced on 5th January with a climbing attempt on Cenotaph Aven by GN and AJ. The latter free-climbed the notch at the far side of the aven to a height of 30ft where it could be seen to close down some 15ft above.  This is merely an alcove to the main part of the aven which will need bolting from floor level.  GN then pushed the inclined Aberfan Passage to his limit but thought that someone very thin and determined could get further.

Threadneedle St. once again became popular on 12th when TL, AJ ,EH, RH and Chris Batstone visited the area. A brief dig in the left hand rift was followed with an even briefer detonation of 1+lbs of bang in the right hand rift where a stubborn boulder blocked the way on.  The very strong outward draughts in both these passages could be evidence of a connection with the Cenotaph Aven area below.

To test this theory SH, JS and ML smoke-bombed the Aven on the next day but nothing was detected by TG who was waiting in Regent St.

A Wessex team of P & AM, PPW, GE, Martin Buckley and Paul Sutton tied up some loose ends on 26th.  A 20ft draughting aven in Whitehall closed down in small tubes.  In Jubilee Line the passage to the left, by the pearls was pushed to some tubes heading back to the start of Jubilee.

A B.E.C. team of AJ, John Dukes, Pete Rose, Pete "Snablet" Macnab and Tom Chapman removed bang debris from the Threadneedle St. dig on 3rd February.

On 9th Feb. a prospective aven-bolting squad of ML, GN and SM got as far as "Lolley Pot squeeze" where PW and PIM informed them that the grovel before Blackwall Tunnel had sumped back up the passage - very off-putting and unfortunately the shape of things to come!

The next attempt here on 2nd March nearly ended in disaster.  P & AM and PW met TG and DS on their way out; who told the newcomers that the Blackwall Tunnel grovel was open but pretty wet.  They passed the grovel with 2 inches of airspace and carried on to Cenotaph where GN, ML and SN had just got their first bolt in.  PH told the others of the state of the duck and they told him that it was okay on the way in.  Both club logs here state that each thought the other was “bullshitting!” Suddenly realisation dawned on the assembled and a dash for freedom was made, discarding all the bolting kit in their rush.  On arrival at the duck it was found to have unusable airspace but PW miraculously managed to get through.  After 2 hours of damming and bailing the interred ones managed to escape, having learnt a valuable lesson for the future.

Hoping to by-pass this obstacle AJ, Andy Cave and Tim Robbins (S.V.C.G.) went to Regent St. on the 9th March and removed more debris from the Threadneedle St. dig to create enough space for AJ to squeeze into a vertical rift where a climb up 20ft of loose boulders reached a short level section containing a superb solitary stalagmite - cream with an orange top and about a foot high.  This made up for the lack of any way on.  TR managed to reach the same spot by squeezing through the tight rift above the dug way in.

April saw only a tourist trip by PM, TC and Rich York, and a potential pushing trip on 4th May by GN, MB, Bob Lewis, Dave and Hike (S.V.C.C.) was dogged by minor disasters and aborted.

Trips really began to tail off now with the treacherous nature of the duck giving many weary diggers a chance to escape to a change of scenery.  GN, P & AM, Doug Mills and Simon? had another bash though on 8th June. The choked drain-hole in the duck proved to be un-clearable and even approaching it from the crawl in the Chamber of Horrors didn't help as the crawl became too tight.

25th August saw the next working trip with AJ, GN and Duncan Frew tackling the cave in preparation of the duck drying out.  The duck itself was well sumped up and all of the series was very wet - Lolley Pot being particularly impressive.

Only two Wessex trips occurred in September.  On 21st PN and DF again found the duck to be sumped back 20ft despite only a tiny stream flowing into it.  On 28th GN, on a solo trip, had a good look around the upper passages looking for “worthwhile leads!.”

JW and CC made a visit to Soho on 8th October with similar ideas. November and December 1985 saw only de-tackling trips by P&A.M and G.N. and the latter led two tourist trips in January 1986 - that on 27th resulting in the rediscovery of the voice connection between Regent St and the head of Greek St.

In April (appropriately enough on All Fool's Day) GN, DF and Maggie McPherson found the S-bend still sumped and rigged the pitches in preparation for a dam building exercise to alleviate the situation.

Two days later GN end DF transported cement, polybags and a length of pipe to the site and commenced work on the dam.

In June 1986 the cave was closed due to meddling by the Nature Conservancy Council.  It is hoped that work will continue when this problem is resolved.

Tony Jarratt,   4/7/86.


 

Oliver Lloyd Memorial Fund

University of Bristol Spelaeological Society

Prof. R. J. G. Savage,
Department of Geology,
The University
BRISTOL BS8 1RJ

The Secretary
Bristol exploration Club

OLIVER LLOYD MEMORIAL FUND

The UBSS Committee recently resolved to establish a fund to commemorate the memory of our late Treasurer and Editor, Oliver Lloyd.  In view of the importance Oliver attached to the Proceedings we see it as highly appropriate that we use a substantial part of the annual interest on the fund's capital to help with the shortfall in publication costs.

Since the founding of the UBSS in 1919 we have published 50 issues of the Proceedings.  Its standing in spelaeological and archaeological circles is very high, because of both the quality of the contents - it is one of the very few refereed journals in the caving world - and the quality of production.

As we are a student society, student members receive free copies as of right and the price to others is kept low to ensure adequate sales among cavers.  The University provides an annual grant in aid of publication and from time to time other small grants can be obtained.  But with the present stringency in academic finances there can be no increase from these sources; nevertheless printing costs continue to rise.

The quantity of good material suitable for publication continues to increase and it would be sad to have to reject any of it solely on grounds of poverty.  The 1986 issue will be large with the second group of papers on Gough's Cave in addition to other caving contents.  In the coming year we shall be facing a shortfall of around £500 in the printing bill. In attempts to avert this, Oliver recommended increased membership subscriptions, and we are currently seeking advertising and other sources of grants.

Readership and influence of the Proceedings spreads far beyond the UBSS; it is one of the major British caving journals and has an international circulation.  Oliver's activities and reputation also extended far beyond the confines of the UBSS.  It is this wider context therefore that we appeal to all cavers for support.

We aim to raise £7,500 and use the interest to aid publications.  So if you are still active in caving, or if  you still have a nostalgia for the good old days with Oliver, do please give us your support in perpetuating the memory of a very much loved caver.  Cheques small and large should be made out to Oliver Lloyd Memorial Fund and sent to me at the above address.

Bob Savage UBSS President


 

Corrections To 1986 Membership List

NAME

No. AS PRINTED

CORRECT No.

PERSON WHOSE No. IS THAT PRINTED

P. Blogg

384

364

R.G. Brown (1957 - 1960)

F. Darbon

454

405

G. Blankhorn (1960)

P. Ford

894

895

B. Glocking (1976 – 1979)

G. Ford

949

947

J. Watson (1979 - )

D. Glover

648

647

Jane Glover (1967 – 1971)

Tony Hollis

899

898

Liz Hollis

Liz Hollis

898

899

Tony Hollis

M. Jaenmaire

669

668

I. Rees (1967)

D. Statham

547

575

W. Stanton (1963 – 1096)

In addiction, Pete McNab is quoted as his original number on first joining in 1967.  He left in 1971; rejoined in 1985 and was given No 1051. The list is correct, since he should have kept his original number, but now the number 1051 is vacant.  However, there is NO TRACE of any membership number for Trevor Hughes.  He is given as 92 which is Pat Woodroffe (1946-53) arid the other '92's are as follows:

192       Bob Crabtree (1950 - 53)

292       B. Goodwin (1953)

392       Mike Baker (1958 - present day)

492       Sheila Paul (1961 - 1971 )

592       Eddie Welch (1965-1979)

692       Roger Toms (1968 - 1979)

792       Ken James (1972 - 1981)

892       Marion Barlow (1976 - 1980)

992       Mark Brown (1981 - 1985)

I’ve looked all down the list, but can't find him anywhere.  It might help to know-which year he joined.

Hope this helps.

Alfie

Editor's Note: Trevor Hughes has membership number 923, somehow his number lost a digit in my computer – sorry Trevor and Alfie.    

Dave

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

My apologises for the lateness of this B.B. - I'll try not to let it happen again!  Dave

1986/1987 Committee

Hon. Sec.                      Bob Cork
Treasurer                       Mike (Trebor)
Caving Sec.                   Mark Lumley
Hut Warden                   Tony Jarratt
Tackle Master                Steve Milner
B.B. Editor                    Dave Turner
Hut Engineer                 Dany Bradshaw
Membership Sec.           Brian Workman
                                    Andy Sparrow
                                    Phil Romford

Cuthbert's Leaders meeting - Sat Jan 17th - 7pm The Hunters

*****************************************

REMEMBER 1986-87 SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE NOW DUE

£12 ORDINARY OR £18 JOINT

SEND TO MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY, BRIAN WORKMAN, OAKHILL, BATH


 

Mendip News

Caves reopened

At a meeting of the Council of Southern caving Clubs held on 29th November, Tim Large made the statement that, as of that afternoon, Swildons, Eastwater and Hunter's Hole would be reopened to cavers.  The usual courtesy visit to the Landowner is still required. This does not apply to either Nine Barrows or Sludge Pit, these caves are still closed - please respect this as negotiations are still in hand.

Shepton Buffet

As in time gone past, the Shepton provided us with the usual evening’s entertainment.  After each mortal had had their fill of the excellent fare they endeavoured to pass on their leftovers to the adjacent tables before the 'holier than thou' "I don't throw food about" Alan Butcher could collect them in black dustbin liners to be distributed amongst the third world people of Upper Pitts.

Bob Cork

St. Cuthbert’s

Following the hive of activity down Cuthbert’s over a year ago to pump out Sump 2, little has been done to clear up the mess.  I have therefore started a number of cleaning up trips to tidy up the cave from Stal pitch to Sump 2 in particular.  Assorted rubbish is in abundance, ranging from plastic bags to asbestos pipes to traffic cones.  The plug to the big dam by Sump 2 is also blocked and further efforts will be made to un-jam it, necessitating ram-rodding under five feet of water. The entrance pipe has also been blocked recently but Pat Cronin and I rodded that through not too long ago. If anyone has a mind to, on a trip to the sump 1 or 2 region could they bring out an article of rubbish.  Even a carry half way out would be a help.

Trebor

Note: Cuthberts Leaders meeting on 17th January in the back room of The Hunter's at 7pm. (Ed)

Twin Titties

NHASA in their usual thorough way have at last re-entered the chamber discovered and then abandoned 2 years ago.  Working on the principle that it took hundreds of thousands of years for the cave to form, a few years spent in digging and shoring a new shaft is of minor consequence - anyway, if it goes we may have to move our attention to some less desirable site, i.e. further from the Hunter's.  The next task is to remove all the poly bags of spoil carefully stacked out of the way two years ago.

Dave Turner


 

Provisional Meets List - 1987

Please contact the person mentioned for further details etc.

New Year W/E               Dan-yr-ogof (Mac)
Jan-24                           Agen Allwedd * (Mark)
Feb                               Lakes Week (Tim L)
Mar 14/15                      Wigmore Dig  (Mark)
Easter W/E                   Agen Allwedd * Daren Cilau  (Mark)
May-02                         Penyghent Pot *  (Mark)
May 16/17                     Craig an Ffynnon; OFD 1  (Mark)
May 30/31                     Bowery Corner Swallet; Wigmore W/E  (Mark)
Jun 13/14                      Pippikin Pot * ; Top Sink *  (Mark)
Jun27/28                       Daren Cilau W/E  (Mark)
Jul 4/5                           Lost Johns * ; Birks Fell Cave *  (Mark)
Jul-18                            Bristol Meet (Steve)
August                          Austria  (Mark)
Aug 29/30                     Gower W/E  (Mark)
Sep 12/13                     Members W/E and Brewery Corner or Wigmore  (whichever's gone!)  (Mark)

* Permits applied for though not yet confirmed.

Mark 26/11/86

Diary

17/18    Jan Members weekend at the Belfry - Barrel(s) and auction/raffle of Lead Acid Cell and other attractions

17 Jan   Cuthbert’s leaders meeting, back room of The Hunters at 7pm.


 

Daren Cilau.

 

There have been two pushing trips down Daren, since the last B.B.  The first on October 4th-5th, resulted in a 70 metre extension off Terrapin North which was tight for most of its length.  We had to dig past about six squeezes.  The routine was generally that Andy Cave and Barbara would dig the passage just big enough to get through then one of them would concentrate on the next obstacle while the other would turn around and help me dig the previous constriction large enough to get myself through; how embarrassing.  This passage terminated in a small chamber with a tight rift taking a strong draught.

On the 8th-9th November, a twelve strong team concentrated in shifts on trying to force a way up through the terminal boulder choke at 12 O'clock High.  This was made a little safer by the use of a 20ft chimney sweeping pole brought in by Tim Allen one of the Naree River Crew.  After a night and day of boulder prodding and ducking (a great 1axative!) we were in 5 metres and up 6m above the constriction into a small boulder chamber draughting strongly upwards.  This will have to be banged.

On the same trip, Andy Cave and I pushed the Terminal Choke in Acupuncture Passage for about 2 metres. This is in an area of shatter with no airspace but a strong draught passing through.  To date we have dug about 15 metres through this, the floor is rising and we hope to be through on our next trip.

The weekend was polished off nicely with a piss-up and firework display at the Hard Rock Cafe.

The personnel of the digging team has changed dramatically.  There were about seven or eight people from Cardiff University, three from the Northern Caving Club. Andy Cave and I were the only representatives of the B.E.C.  A bit of help from club members would be much appreciated before we lose any 1egitmate claim to a Daren-Aggy connection.  Camping trips next year will be on the second weekend of every month.

We also propose to dig the end of Midnight Passage in Agen Allwedd, just off the second boulder choke as this looks like a probable point for a connection from Hard Rock-more details in the next B.B.

Mark Lumley.


 

(Show) Caving In The Ardeche

This summer the Glanville family decided to take a holiday in France again but without going in the company of others or as part of an expedition.  Initially we had planned to spend a few days near the Ardeche gorge and then move on to the Verdon Gorge which we had visited with Ken Gregory last year.  Rick Stanton had visited the Ardeche area in the past and recommended it.  After a two day drive from Cherbourg we arrived at Vallon Pont d'Arc which lies at the head of the gorge.  We then set about finding a camp site which didn't take very long in fact.

The Ardeche river which has formed the gorge runs west to East debouching into the Rhone near Bourg St. Andeol.   It lies not far to the north of Avignon.  The gorge is around 150 metres deep and has many deep meanders with a gigantic natural arch, the Pont d'Arc, forming a natural gateway to the gorge. The arch was formed when the river cut through the narrow spur on a particular sharp meander.  The river has many rapid sections which makes it an attraction for canoeists of all ages as none of the rough sections are too difficult or dangerous to pass.  In summer the place is literally swarming with canoeists and places to hire them.

The Ardeche has a reputation of being one of the most dramatically flood-responsive rivers in France and tide marks in the gorge testify to this.  At certain times of the year the region is prey to particularly violent thunderstorms which can, make the gorge extremely dangerous.  Apart from the usual above ground feeders the gorge is well provided by resurgence caves which drain the extensive plateaux on each side of the gorge.  Some of the longest cave systems in France lie in the immediate vicinity of the gorge and all the water drains there.  To give you an idea of how many caves there are in the area, it supports a flourishing "have a go at speleology" industry for the tourists.

Apart from the sporting caves there are probably more show caves in this area than in the whole of England.  For most of the rest of this article I will be describing the show caves we visited. As the holiday progressed Sally, my eldest daughter, was heard to moan "not another cave" whilst Philippa, my youngest, seemed to liven up underground and become embarrassingly noisy. The first cave we looked at was right on the road side between Vallon Pont d'Arc and the Pont d'Arc itself. The entrance was in a cafe and looked like the way into the cellar!  Price to get in was 10 francs - about a pound sterling.  The entrance passage generated a strong cold draught but when we descended this proved to be coming from a large electric fan in the centre of the passage!  The descent of an excavated tunnel (the cave was entered originally from above) led under an arch into a chamber with anastomotic channels in the roof.  The cave seemed to consist of several high pheratic rifts, the route ascending one and descending another.  The first grotto we came to was most unimpressive but climbing higher led us to the Niche d'eccentriques where there were some nice helectites and white stal.  A further ascent led to another small chamber containing a big white stal pillar.  The descent carrying a small child in a back pack was a bit hairy.  The steps were constructed in a deep rift being steep and muddy with poor guard rails. Safely at the bottom we noticed that water flow occurs in this area and in fact we were led off down a slope into a final passage with a door in the end where flood debris could be seen all over the roof.  The cave obviously lies close to the gorge here and floods in the winter.  That was the end of the trip - about thirty minutes in length.

On the same side of the gorge as the Grotte des Tunnels is the Grotte des Huguenots which has been taken over by an organisation called CESAME.  They run an educational exhibition on all aspects of cave exploration and I bought the French booklet on cave conservation here.  The price was again 10 francs and, as mentioned, caving books, posters, and leaflets were available.  Amongst exhibits was some of Martel's old caving kit.  Every caving museum in France claims to have some of his gear - it seems a bit like keeping relics of saints.  Can you imagine Britain doing the same to any of our explorers? Other exhibits included a staled over skull, a cave bear skeleton, and a considerable amount of pottery.  The cave itself seemed to draught but how much associated passage there is I do not know.

The cave in the region which nearly everyone has heard of is the Aven d'Orgnac.  It was first entered by Robert de Joly back in the late 1930's and was rapidly turned into a show cave.  The surface buildings are all quite low key and the ticket office looks exactly like a railway station booking hall cum waiting room.  One descends to the cave in a lift which opens into a blasted tunnel.  The first impressions of the Aven d'Orgnac is of immense size.  One first encounters a huge talus cone lying under the 50 metre natural entrance shaft - thankfully well grilled to prevent idiots lobbing rocks in.  All around the chamber are immense stalagmites looking like palm trees or gigantic stacks of plates - many are still active.  The cave gives the feeling of great age and it is in fact thought to be very old indeed.  The stalagmites are standing on a gigantic boulder pile and nowhere can the true floor be seen.  A path meanders around the side of the chamber.  At one point the whole party is photographed for souvenir pictures if required. On a stal bank in the distance is an urn which contains another holy speleological relic, namely the heart of Robert de Joly who died about fifteen years ago.  A steep flight of steps goes down about 60 metres or so to a balcony view into the theatrically lit Salle Rouge - the end of the cave.  Much amusement can then be had watching fat French tourists struggling back out.  The guide did not mind us taking the odd photograph although they had to be small scale of necessity. About twenty years ago a big extension to the system was made comprising several more bigger and better decorated chambers. According to Pierre Minvielle's book (100 Grotte et canyons) it is possible to negotiate trips into this extension although reading between the lines I feel this might be quite difficult. It certainly would be a mind blowing kind of caving trip.

After the Aven d'Orgnac and a picnic lunch we drove off to the Grotte de la Forestiere.  This was not far away at the end of a track seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  The manager has been caving in England but unfortunately was not there the day we visited. His wife spoke poor English so our conversation in a sort of Franglais was somewhat halting.  However we did get a price reduction for being cavers.  A natural entrance leads into a roomy pheratic tunnel which widens into chambers in places.  The whole cave lies close to surface as can be evidenced by the number of large tree roots which pierce the roof, cross the chamber and burrow into the floor.  The management actively encouraged the taking of photographs which was nice because the scale permitted photography.  Just inside the entrance was a feature common to many French caves - a pile of assorted bones.  The terminal grotto was well decorated with many cauliflower concretions and crystal pools. There was also a speleological zoo in the form of several tanks containing cave dwelling creatures such as Niphargus and blind fish.  The cave looked as if it was a dead end but our guide said it was thought possible it might link with the Aven d'Orgnac.  This seemed unlikely to me.

One of the most impressive caves we visited, and an inspiration to any caver who has ever wanted to open his own show cave, was La Cocaliere.  It lies about half an hour's drive from the Ardeche Gorge but is well worth a visit.  The cave has only been open as a show cave for about fifteen years and is still being extended both for the public and in the exploratory sense.  The route through the show cave section was constructed by the original explorer and his team.  He purchased the land over the caves in order to develop it.  Initially, equipment, cement etc. all had to be carried in on back packs and the work was done in the light of caving lamps.  This might explain why the floor detail in most of the cave has been so well preserved - in places it looks as if the concrete floor has been rolled down the centre of a pristine passage.  A flight of steps leads into an abandoned stream passage about the size of the extension passage in Otter Hole. There follows a walk of about a kilometre in some marvellously decorated cave featuring amongst other things, cave pearls and the disc formations for which the system is well known. The lighting is unobtrusive and, as this is a feature of virtually all the caves we visited, there was no fern or moss growth to disfigure the cave.  The walk ends in an ascent to a higher level pheratic passage near the surface where the guide spent ages babbling away in incomprehensible French next to some skulls and broken pottery.  I am told that the first man up into this section had a bit of trouble on the climb.  His light went out at the critical moment and after making it over the lip of the pitch he shakily relit his lamp only to see dozens of grinning skulls surrounding him! After emerging to daylight we had a short train ride back to the main complex.  There is a cafe at the cave - it is a bit of a rip-off.  Price was 25 francs, i.e. average for the trip into the cave.

Lying on the plateau above the gorge is the entrance to Grotte de Marzal.  This is named after a shepherd who was unfortunate enough to be murdered and thrown into the hole.  This was one of the busiest caves we visited and was substantially commercially developed.  Nearby was a prehistoric zoo containing some life size dinosaur models - rather good fun. Aven Marzal was relocated by - yes, you've guessed it - Martel.  There is more of his gear in the caving museum plus some of Robert de Joly's. Underground the cave begins with a steep staircase down the 50 metre entrance pitch which enters a high chamber containing a few nice stal flows and some more bones.  A further descent leads past the (reorganised) bones of Marzel's dog which are lit by UV light for some reason.  Although there are potentially massive fines for damaging stal in French caves the management were taking no chances here and the final section through some grottos was most un-aesthetically caged in.  The climb out proved energetic and we left the cave by a second entrance.  Not a very exciting system really.

About two hours drive from Vallon Pont d'Arc will get you to the Fontaine de Vaucluse.  There is no real cave here but it is well worth a visit - you can always visit the Norbert Casteret caving museum if you are desperate. Vaucluse is another tourist trap and reminded me of a cross between Castleton, Cheddar and Wookey Hole.  A big stream flows down a pretty wooded valley (if you keep eyes right) from the base of a 300 metre high cliff.  At the start of the walk up to the rising is a paper mill and the path is lined with shops and stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs.  However nothing can really detract from the drame of the Fontaine de Vaucluse itself. The summer stream rises amongst boulders in the stream bed 20 metres below the main cave.  At the end of the path is a steep slope down to a massive arched entrance about 20 metres across and 9 metres high.  On either side are graduated iron plates - the sorgometre. This gives a measure of the water level at anyone time.  The cave floor is occupied by a pool of the clearest crystal blue.  Stones thrown in seem to go on down for ever.  This is the deepest known sump in the world, subject of the world cave (and sport) diving record currently held by Jochen Hasenmeyer. It is possible to traverse round one wall of the pool and get a nice view out.  It is staggering to consider the volume of water that must flow out in spring to overflow the top of the entrance slope.  The Fontaine de Vaucluse is certainly very impressive.

Not far away but badly signposted were the Grottes de Thouzon.  These caves are developed in quite a low key fashion.  They were discovered by quarrying and consist of a single passage, reminiscent of a large Devon cave.  The guide spoke very clear French and only after talking to her in French for most of the trip did I discover she was American!  Tree roots were again much in evidence showing how close the cave ran to the surface.  The final chamber contains quite an impressive array of straws.  The caves are worth a visit if you go to the Fontaine de Vaucluse.

Finally I should mention the caves we did not visit and those I examined with simple caving gear (mostly bare feet, bathing trunks and a Petzl lamp) around the sides of the gorge. Near the bottom of the gorge is the famous Grotte St Marcel which is featured twice in Pierre Minvielle's book. To reach it you will need to use the map of the area but it is worth visiting the entrance if only on the way to the nearby beach!  A rough track, passable by vehicles with good suspension, leads steeply down to a parking area.  The path to the Cafe des Grottes leads past Grotte St. Marcel.  There is an archaeological dig in the entrance and the cave has been gated.  This is a shame because it provided an opportunity for some wild caving.  The gorge entrance leads into a huge ancient main drain boring back under the plateau.  A relatively recently discovered upper series drops from the plateau into the main tunnel.  The system can now only be entered from the plateau.  The draught coming out of the holes in the gate can be heard several feet away!  The nearby sandy beach is quiet and secluded and marvellous if you like nudist swimming and sunbathing.  Walks along the gorge just above river level will reveal ancient oxbow caves of varying length and interest.  I had a look at two resurgence caves. One was the Source de Gournier reached by a long walk down a path from the road.  The river at this point enters a narrow canal for 75 metres after some rapids.  On the far bank at the start of the canal was a classic resurgence entrance with a dried moss covered stream bed leading from it. Off I went with my trusty Petzl zoom and bathing trunks.  An icy draught billowed from the cave and after groping my way over razor sharp sculptured limestone I came to an arete above a short pitch.  I packed up and left at this point.  The other entrance was the Event de Fossoubie at the start of the gorge.  This cave has been linked with the Goule de Fossoubie some kilometres away by Belgium cave divers.  The system is notoriously flood prone and contains 55 sumps!  My foray ended in a sump in one direction and, after a wade through glutinous mud, in a pitch in the other.  The system looks rather Otter Holish and uninspiring.

The other cave we looked at was the Goule de Sauvas near and part of La Cocaliere.  This huge rift entrance by the road led into a big semi-active river passage.  Progress was halted by the deep water filled potholes in the floor.  It is in Pierre Minvielle's book.

The Ardeche resion certainly merits a visit.  Some day perhaps I could do some real caving here!

Peter Glanville - October 1986


 

Risca Lead Mine

Risca lead mine has been worked for many years, documentation goes back to the 18th century.  The ancient entrances have been lost and have grassed over.

A few years ago the mine was bisected by quarrying activities.  Some quarrymen entered the mine and reported roaring streamways, vast lakes and caverns, but their find was quickly lost owing to continued quarrying activities.

This year the new mine entrance was rediscovered, the quarry is now a landfill project and the entrance could soon be lost again.  However, the council hopes to secure access to the mine, either by building a conduit to the present entrance under a growing pile of rubble or to access one of the ancient entrances.

To this end the BEC were invited by Colin Brown of the Engineering Dept. to explore and survey the mine.  The majority of the survey was carried out on the 21st and 29th of June 1986 by a team of enthusiastic explorers, all having heard of vast streamways etc. etc.

On the 29th June, Bob and Dany dived the flooded shafts, negotiating rotting climbing stemples and structural timbers; one shaft was dived to -27m and the second to -14m. The later having a submerged level heading off in the same direction as the main adit.  They also reported that much of the passage between the lake and flooded shafts has a thin floor supported by ancient submerged timbers.

Of interest to industrial archaeologists there is a couple of hundred feet of modern tramway (4x4" timbers, 14" apart).  Of interest to cavers the main adit bisects small pheratic tubes in limestone and that there is a fair flow of water through the system.

It is a pleasure to learn that the local county council is positive in preserving access to the mine in view of the closures we see today albeit for different reasons.

Steve Milner.

OLD LEAD MINE

Surveyed: AM, SJM, MMcD, AJ, BC, DB, TG, AL.  29/6/86

Drawn:  SJM

GRADE 5C.  10cm = 20m.  Sheet 2

 

NOTE.               At Entrance      10000E, 10000N, 100 AH

                                                9956.9E, 9937.2N, 98.41 AH

                                                9965.56E, 9933.0N, 107.43 AH


 

AGM Minutes

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

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

Present:

Bob Cork, Dave Turner, Alan Downton, Pat Cronin, Paul Hodgson, Chris Smart, Jeremy Henley, Tim Gould, Tony Jarratt, Mark Lumley, Henry Bennett, Andy Cave, Steve Milner, Tom Chapman, Dany Bradshaw, John Turner, Gill Turner, Brian Prewer, Andy Sparrow, Graham Wilton-Jones, Dave Pike, Mike Jeanmaire, Chris Batstone, Bob Hill, Axel Knutson, Steve Tuck, John Bennett, Nigel Taylor, Alan Thomas,Nick Holstead, John Chew, Lawrence Smith, Alan Turner, Andrew Middleton, Richard Paine, Lisa Taylor, Ian Caldwell, Stuart McManus and John Dukes.

Apologies: Jerry Crick, Richard Clarke, Alan Butcher, Brian Workman, Pete Franklin, John and Lavinia Watson, Rob Harper, Phil Romford, Fiona Lewis, Mike McDonald, Roy Bennett, Bob Bibmead and Georgina Ainsley.

Apologies:- Pete Franklin, Richard Clarke, Edric Hobbs, Mike Wigglesworth, Dave Irwin, Rob Harper, Lavinia Watson, Fiona Lewis and Phil Romford.

Nominations were requested for chairman - Tim Large, proposed by Alan Thomas and seconded by Brian Brewer, was the only nomination and was duly elected as chairman.

The chairman asked for members' resolutions.

Minutes of 1985 A.G.M.  These had previously been published in the B.B.  They were taken as read and accepted by the meeting, proposed John Turner, seconded Andy Sparrow and accepted - unanimously,

Matters Arising. There were no matters arising.

Hon. Sec's. Report. This had been previously published in the BB and was taken as read.  Joan Bennett asked for the present position regarding the Cuthbert's lease, the secretary informed the meeting that we were still awaiting a reply from Inveresk. Joan asked if they could be hurried along, the secretary agreed to pursue this matter.  The acceptance of the report was, proposed by Tony Jarratt and seconded Nigel Taylor and was carried unanimously.

Hon. Treasurer's Report.  This was previously published in the BB and was taken as read.  Jeremy Henley produced the financial accounts which were distributed at the meeting.  Proposed Dany Bradshaw, seconded Paul Hodgson that the report be accepted - carried.  A vote of thanks for Jeremy's efforts on behalf of the club during his stint as treasurer was proposed by Dave Turner and seconded by Chris Smart and was carried unanimously.

Hon. Auditor's Report.  Joan Bennett read her report to the meeting stating that she was impressed by the state of the accounts.  She said that they represented a fair and reasonable record of the club's financial position.  The report was accepted by the meeting, proposed Dany Bradshaw, seconded Mark Lumley, and a vote of thanks given.

Caving Secretary's Report.   This was previously published in the BB and was taken as read.  Proposed Andy Sparrow, seconded Ian Caldwell that the report be accepted.  Carried and a vote of thanks given.

Hut Warden's Report. Tony Jarratt read his report. Proposed - Stuart McManus, seconded Chris Batstone that the report be accepted, and was carried unanimously.

Tackle Master's Report.  Steve Milner read his report to the meeting.  It was proposed by Pat Cronin and seconded by Tim Gould that the report be accepted and it was carried unanimously.

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

Hut Engineer's Report.  Dany Bradshaw gave an oral report to the meeting.  He informed the meeting that the hut improvements were now finished. Working weekends that he had arranged had been poorly attended and nobody had fallen through the ceiling this year.  Since last year's meeting certain deficiencies had been found in the Belfry regarding fire regulations and he was endeavouring to correct this matter.  The exterior paintwork needs doing again; he also read a further list of outstanding jobs.  Chris Smart complained about the showers.  Dany replied that this was a known problem and he had it in hand. It was proposed by Andy Sparrow and seconded by Pat Cronin that the report be accepted and was carried unanimously.

Librarian's Report. Tony Jarratt read his report to the meeting.  Alan Thomas raised the matter of the mining log, the secretary answered that Harris and Harris were still looking for it.  Andy Sparrow said that the first caving log was missing and he believed it to be in the possession of Mark Brown.  Next years committee were asked to investigate the matter.  It was proposed by Nigel Taylor and seconded by Brian Prewer that the committee look into, and possibly acquire a secure cabinet or safe, preferably fireproof, for the security of club documents.  This was carried.  The acceptance of the report was proposed by Paul Hodgson and seconded by Chris Smart that the report be accepted, this was carried unanimously.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund.  Mark Lumley read his report to the meeting giving the names of this year's beneficiaries. He also recommended acceptance of the proposal relating to the IDMF to be tabled later in the meeting.  The new treasurer was asked to decide on the most beneficial placement of the monies.  It was proposed by Paul Hodgson and seconded by Stuart McManus that the report be accepted and this was carried unanimously.

Members Resolutions. It was proposed by Jeremy Henley and seconded by Dave Turner that £100 per year is transferred from the General Fund to the IDMF to ensure that the club continues to help deserving younger members to join overseas expeditions.  An amendment to this proposal was proposed by John Turner and seconded by Paul Hodgson that the words "on the 1st November providing that it does not embarrass the General Fund" be inserted after "IDMF".  Voting was as follows: for the amendment 26, against 7, no abstentions - carried; for the amended proposal, for 32, against 1, abstentions 1 - carried.

Result of ballet for Committee.  The chairman announced that the following members had been elected in order of votes cast:

Mark Lumley
Tony Jarratt
Bob Cork
Dave Turner
Brian Workman
Dany Bradshaw
Steve Milner
Mike McDonald
Phil Romford
Andy Sparrow

The last two had equal votes - both accepted for committee AGM decision

Election of Officers

Hon. Sec.          Bob Cork
Treasurer           Mike McDonald
Caving Sec.       Mark Lumley
B.B. Editor        Dave Turner
Hut Warden       Tony Jarratt
Hut Engineer     Dany Bradshaw
Tacklemaster     Steve Milner

Ordinary committee members: Brian Workman, Phil Romford and Andy Sparrow.

Non committee post: Hon. Auditor Joan Bennett

Constitutional amendments

Committee Proposals. The proposals as published in the B.B. in accordance with section 7a of the constitution were discussed at length. Some discontent was expressed with the proposals concerning changing the numbers of persons serving on the committee.

Proposals 1 and 4 were voted on respectively and both carried unanimously.

Proposal 3 was taken next; for the proposal 8, against 16, abstentions 8 - defeated.

Proposal 2. An amendment was proposed by Stuart McManus and seconded by Nigel Taylor that the words 'but with the word "nine" replaced by "twelve"' be deleted from the second paragraph of the proposal. This was carried unanimously.  The amended proposal was then carried unanimously.

Additional Amendment

The amendments as proposed by Chris Smart and seconded by Tony Jarratt and published in the B.B. were discussed thoroughly.  Stuart McManus expressed his concern regarding the wording of the accompanying notes.  An amendment was proposed by Stuart McManus and seconded by John Turner that the words "Married Couples" in sections 3a and 3c of the constitution be replaced by "Joint Members".

Voting: amendment for 32, against 0, abstentions 2 carried

            proposal for 32, against 0, abstentions 2 - carried

Any Other Business

1.                  The secretary asked the meeting to ratify the co-options of committee members as directed by last year's AGM in accordance with section 5a of the constitution. Carried

2.                  Tim Large read a statement on the current situation regarding SSSI's.  He also informed the meeting of the access problems concerning Lamb Leer.  A short discussion followed.

3.                  Dave Turner inquired the present position regarding the Cuthbert’s survey.  Bob Cork answered him.

There being no other business the chairman closed the meeting at 14.10 hours.


 

Hut Wardens Report 1986

Officers Reports

Bed nights, hut fees and relevant figures are obtainable from the treasurer.  The Belfry has had yet another good year and seems to have suffered little from the closure of the Priddy caves due to continued support from a nucleus of members and a series of members weekends and social events which have brought the club together and helped with the spirit of the BEC. Several members and guests owe hut fees which I hope to collect at this AGM.

During the year we lost the Navy and gained the Army.  A great benefit as our more needy and hungry residents will affirm.  In conclusion I should like to thank all those who have done their bit to keep the Belfry (relatively) tidy over the year.

Tony Jarratt.

Librarians Report

Little to report as usual. All exchange publications have been regularly received and several new books purchased at the request of members. This coming year, finances willing, I hope to purchase more relevant material and with the assistance of the club equip the library to enable it to function more efficiently.  The issue of library keys to several more members would help in this.

Tony Jarratt.


 

Eastwater Cavern

Open again after some 6 months of closure pending negotiations with N.C.C.  A BEC team were given permission to check out the Boulder Ruckle on 30th November and found it to be as stable as usual - no obvious movement on the standard "trade route" but the boulder which had dropped from the roof between the guide line and the short cut to Boulder Chamber appears to have slipped a further couple of inches - take care here.

The only major movement has occurred at the far side of the Boulder Chamber short cut (now widely known as the "Woggle Press").  Two very large boulders have slipped here and some digging was necessary to enable us to return via this route.  More work needs to be done here to stabilise this area.  Take great care here or use the normal route via the Upper Traverse until stabilisation has been completed.

DO NOT use the route over the fields from the Belfry - please walk around via the road!

All smiles at the Belfry

Many thanks to Bob Bagshaw for the donation of a 5 gallon barrel of Smile's Ale to the Belfry regulars on the occasion of his retirement, and best wishes from all the Club.

Thanks also to the Shepton for providing ale and a spontaneously combusting sofa following their annual buffet.  We promise we'll give all the trophies back!

J.Rat.


 

Bristol Exploration Club - Membership List 3/12/86

828 Nicolette Abell                         Faulkland, Bath
1059 Georgina Ainsley                   Redland, Bristol
987 Dave Aubrey                            Park St, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw                   Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                         Midsomer Norton, Bath, Avon
818 Chris Batsone                         Tynings, Radstock, Avon
1079 Henry Bennett                       Pilmico, London.
390 (L) Joan Bennett                      Wesbury-on-Trym, Bristol
214 (L) Roy Bennett                       Wesbury-on-Trym, Bristol
998 Crissie Bissett                         Exeter, Devon
731 Bob Bidmead                          East Harpytree,  Bristol
364 (L) Pete Blogg                         Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle              Calne, Wiltshire
959 Chris Bradshaw                       Cheddar, Somerset
868 Dany Bradshaw                       Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
1005 Jane Brew                             Sutton-in-Craven, Keithley, West Yorkshire
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                       London, SW2
924 Aileen Butcher                         Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
849 Alan Butcher                           Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
956 Ian Caldwell                             13 Buckingham Place, Clifton, Bristol
1014 Chris Castle                          Westlynne, Cheddar, Somerset
1062 Andy Cave                             Splott, Cardiff, Wales
902 (L) Martin Cavender                  Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset.
1048 Tom Chapman                       Barrows Road, Cheddar, Somerset.
1040 John Chew                            Rodney Stoke, Wells, Somerset
1080 Tony Church                          Shepton Mallet, Bath
1030 Richard Clarke                       Normans Green, Plymtree, East Devon
211 (L) Clare Coase                       Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                          Litton, Somerset
862 Bob Cork                                Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1042 Mick Corser                           Woodbury, Exeter, Devon
827 Mike Cowlishaw                       Micheldever Station, Winchester, Hants.
1060 Peter Crawley                        West Wickham. Kent
890 Jerry Crick                              Reaseheath, Nantwich, Cheshire
896 Pat Cronin                               Knowle, Bristol
680 Bob Cross                               Knowle, Bristol
405 (L) Frank Darbon                      Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. VIT 6M3
423 (L) Len Dawes                         Main Street, Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
815 Nigel Dibden                            Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                         Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
829 Angie Dooley                           Harborne, Birmingham
710 Colin Dooley                            Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                       Priddy, Somerset
1038 Alan Downton                        Sundon Park, Luton, Beds
830 John Dukes                             Wells, Somerset
996 Terry Earley                            Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire
771 Pete Eckford                           Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                         Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
1064 David Evans                           Didcot, Oxon
1063 Peter Evans                           Abingdon, Oxfordshire
232 Chris Falshaw                         Fulwood, Sheffield
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                      Bramcote, Nottingham.
894 Phil Ford                                 Greenfield, Clwyd, North Wales
949 Geoff Ford                               Broadfield, Crawley, West Sussex
404 (L) Albert Francis                     Wells, Somerset
569 Joyce Franklin                         Stone, Staffs
469 Pete Franklin                           Stone, Staffs
769 Sue Gazzard                           Tynings, Radstock, Nr Bath, Avon
835 Len Gee                                  St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1069 Angie Glanville                       Chard, Somerset
1017 Peter Glanville                       Chard, Somerset
648 Dave Glover                             Pamber Green, Basingstoke, Hampshire
1006 Edward Gosden                     Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, Hants
1054 Tim Gould                             Redland, Bristol
860 Glenys Grass                          Sawbridgeworth, Herts
790 Martin Grass                           Sawbridgeworth, Herts
1009 Robin Gray                            East Horrington, Wells, Somerset
1089 Kevin Gurner                          Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                           Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
432 (L) Nigel Hallet                         Address not known
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam                  St Annes, Lancashire
999 Rob Harper                              Hanham, Bristol, Avon
4 (L) Dan Hassell                           Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset
893 Dave Hatherley                        Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset
1078 Mike Hearn                            Bagworth, Axbridge, Somerset
974 Jeremy Henley                        Leg Square, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
917 Robin Hervin                            Trowbridge, Wiltshire
952 Bob Hill                                   2441 B6 Wassennaar, The Netherlands
373 Sid Hobbs                               Priddy, Wells Somerset
736 Sylvia Hobbs                           Priddy, Wells Somerset
905 Paul Hodgson                          Pennybatch Lane, Burcott, Wells, Somerset
898 Liz Hollis                                 Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
899 Tony Hollis                              Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
920 Nick Holstead                          Trowbridge, Wiltshire
387 (L) George Honey                    Address not known
971 Colin Houlden                          Bristol, London, SW2
923 Trevor Hughes                         Bleadney, Wells, Somerset
855 Ted Humphreys                       Moorsite, Marnhull, Sturminster Newton, Dorset
73 Angus Innes                              Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                           Townsend, Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                             Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                       Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
1026 Ian Jepson                             Beechen Cliff, Bath
51 (L) A Johnson                            Station Rd., Flax Bourton, Bristol
995 Brian Johnson                         Ottery St. Mary, Devon
1001 Graeme Johnson                    East Park Road, Leicester
560 (L) Frank Jones                       Pelting Drove, Priddy, Somerset
1074 Jerry Jones                            Portishead, Bristol
567 (L) Alan Kennett                      Henleaze, Brsitol
316 (L) Kangy King                        Pucklechurch, Bristol, Avon
1007 Jonathan King                        Pucklechurch, Bristol, Avon
542 (L) Phil Kingston                      Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                          Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
946 Alex Ragnar Knutson               Bedminster, Bristol
874 Dave Lampard                         Horsham, West Sussex
667 (L) Tim Large                           Wells, Somerset
958 Fi Lewis                                  Wells, Somerset
1015 Andrew Lolley                        Kingsdowm, Bristol
1043 Andy Lovell                            Rowan Walk, Keynsham, Bristol
1072 Clive Lovell                            Keynsham, Bristol
1065 Mark Lovell                            Keynsham, Bristol
1057 Mark Lumley                         Clifton, Bristol 8
1022 Kevin Mackin                         Yeovil, Somerset
1071 Michael McDonald                 Knolw, Bristol
1067 Fiona McFall                         Knowle, Bristol
651 Pete MacNab (Sr)                    Cheddar, Somerset
1052 Pete MacNab (Jr)                   Cheddar, Somerset
1090 Robert McNair                       Otley, Yorkshire
550 (L) R A MacGregor                   Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                      Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset
106 (L) E.J. Mason                         Henleaze, Bristol
558 (L) Tony Meaden                      Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
704 Dave Metcalf                           Long Eaton, Nittingham
1044 Andrew Middleton                  Earlsfield, London.
1053 Steve Milner                          Clifton, Bristol
1073 Tracey Newstead                   Wells, Somerset
936 Dave Nichols                           Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
852 John Noble                              Tennis Courts Rod, Paulton, Bath
624 Jock Orr                                  Sturton-by-Stow, Lincoln
396 (L) Mike Palmer                       Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Richard Payne                       Sidcup , Kent
22 (L) Les Peters                           Knowle Park, Bristol Avon
499 (L) A. Philpott                          Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1037 Dave Pike                              Yarley, Wells, Somerset
337 Brian Prewer                           West Horrington, Wells, Somerset
481 (L) John Ransom                     Patchway, Bristol, Avon
682 John Riley                               Waramanga, ACT 2611, Australia
1033 Sue Riley                              Waramanga, ACT 2611, Australia
1070 Mary Robertson                     Stonebridge Park, London, NW10
986 Lil Romford                              Coxley, Wells, Somerset
985 Phil Romford                           Coxley, Wells, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                               Crediton, Devon
832 Roger Sabido                          Lawrence Weston, Bristol
240 (L) Alan Sandall                       Nailsea, Avon
359 (L) Carol Sandall                      Nailsea, Avon
760 Jenny Sandercroft                    Victoria Park, Bristol
237 (L) Bryan Scott                        Havestock Road, Winchester Hnts
78 (L) R Setterington                      Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington                 Milton Rd., Harpendon, Herts
1046 Dave Shand                           Easton, Bristol
1036 Nicola Slann                          Clifton, Bristol
915J Chris Smart                           Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 James Smart                           Clifton, Bristol
1041 Laurence Smith                     West Horrington, Wells, Somerset
823 Andrew Sparrow                      Wells Road, Priddy, Somerset
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                       Bude, Cornwall
38(L) Mrs I Stanbury                       Knowle, Bristol
575 (L) Dermot Statham                 Westcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
365 (L) Roger Stenner                    Weston super Mare, Avon
867 Rich Stevenson                       Wookey, Wells, Somerset, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                          East Horrington, Wells Somerset
1039 Lisa Taylor                            Weston Road, Bath
772 Nigel Taylor                             Langford Lane, Langford, Avon
1035 John Theed                            The Street, Farmborough, Bath
284 (L) Alan Thomas                      Nine Barrows Lane, Priddy, Somerset
348 (L) D Thomas                          Little Birch, Bartlestree, Hereford
571 (L) N Thomas                          Norwich Rd., Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk.
699 Buckett Tilbury                        High Wycombe, Bucks
700 Anne Tilbury                            High Wycombe, Bucks
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark         Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
381 (L) Daphne Towler                    Nyetimber, Bognor Regis, Sussex
157 (L) Jill Tuck                             Llanfrechfa, Cwmbran, Gwent, Wales
382 Steve Tuck                              Coxley, Wells, Somerset
1023 Matt Tuck                              Coxley, Wells, Somerset
1066 Alan Turner                            Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
678 Dave Turner                             Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
912 John Turner                             Launceston Rd., Tavistock, Devon.
925 Gill Turner                               Launceston Rd., Tavistock, Devon.
635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury                 Boundstone, Farnham, Surrey
887 Greg Villis                               Banwell, Weston-super-Mare, Avon
175 (L) Mrs. D. Whaddon                Taunton, Somerset
1077 Brian Wafer                           St. Pauls Cray, Orpington, Kent
949 John Watson                           West Horrington, Wells, Somerset
1019 Lavinia Watson                      West Horrington, Wells, Somerset
973 James Wells                           Yorktown Heights, New York, USA
1055 Oliver Wells                           Yorktown Heights, New York, USA
1032 Barry Wharton                       Yatton, Bristol
553 Bob White                               Wells, Somerset.
878 Mne White                              Royal marines Police, Hamworthy, Dorset
1068 John Whiteley                        Holnepark, Ashburton, Devon
1061 Kerry Wiggins                        Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, Hants
1031 Mike Wigglesworth                 St. Cuthbert’s Lodge, Chamberlain Street, Wells, Somerset.
1075 Tony Williams                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath
1076 Roz Williams                         Leigh on Mendip, Bath
559 Barrie Wilton                           Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 Brenda Wilton                         Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
850 Annie Wilton-Jones                  Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent
813 Ian Wilton-Jones                      Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent
721 G Wilton-Jones                        Draycott, Cheddar, Somerset
914 Brian Workman                       Little London, Oakhill,  Bath
477 Ronald Wyncoll                       Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.

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

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, or the editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee the accuracy of information contained in contributed matter as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal

Cave Closures

Swildons and Eastwater being so for some time.  A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to try and resolve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction - rather a hard task!

Committee Nominations

These have to be sent to the Secretary by 6th September - see Bob's notes on page 2.  Last year the committee had to be formed at the AGM as there were only 5 members standing and all of those were automatically nominated as they were already on the committee.  Let’s see if we can do better this year.

Member’s Weekend

Don't forget the Members' Weekend on the 22/23 August.  With luck this BB should reach you before then, if not then no doubt you went and heard all the news of the BEC's exploits in Austria as well as drinking the barrel (5) dry whilst working on the Belfry.


 

Sec’s Notes

Notice of Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the BEC will be held at The Belfry on Saturday, 4th October at 10.30am prompt.

You are reminded that nominations for the 1986-7 committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 6th September 1986.  All nominations must have a proposer and seconder.  Present members of the committee are nominated automatically if they wish to stand for re-election.

Annual Dinner

The annual dinner will be held at The Caveman Restaurant, Cheddar on Saturday, 4th October at 7.30pm for 8.00pm.  The cost will be £10 per head including wine.  There is a choice of menu, meat or poultry!  Full menu will be published in the next BB.  Tickets are available from Brian Workman, Meadow View, Little London, Oakhill, Bath (Tel: 0749-840815).

Wessex Challenge

This year’s event took the form of a sedan chair race.  With a yell of "Everything to excess!” eight rather Victorian BEC undertakers ran, crawled, and dived around a particularly nastily contrived MNRC ‘course’, portering their sedan hurst “a la Jarratt”.  Fending off all the opposition, the BEC duly won the day again. (The 'Weesex' duly came last!). This was followed by much feasting and drinking and an outstanding performance by the BEC sofa rugby team, once they had decided upon the correct end to aim for.  The winners of this trophy by tradition provided next year's challenge - any ideas?

Wigmore Swallet

The club dig at Wigmore Swallet is being carried on by a few of the brave most weeks, midweek as well as weekends~ and progress is being made.  The club has purchased a number of “Acro” type trench props to try and stop the regular occurrence of the roof becoming intimate with the floor.

Austria

Our best wishes to go with the Austria expedition which leaves the country at the beginning of August.  I hope to have a full report of all the new discoveries on the Datchstein in the next BB.

Bob Cork


 

Caving in North-West Nelson and Buller, New Zealand

There are so few cavers in New Zealand - about 200 in the NZSS - that most can claim they virtually know everyone else in the society.  However, they make up for lack of numbers with quality of caves and are especially with their hospitality.  Before going to N.Z. we had written to a few cavers and when we arrived everyone seemed to know we were around and looking for trips.  Not only did we get carted about the country, but we were invited to join caving trips, even having some specially arranged for our benefit; we were invited to dinners, barbeques and parties, and welcomed to stay in peoples homes; we were lent all manner of caving gear, without which many caving trips would have been expensive or impossible.  Half the cavers here are not original Kiwis at all - we have met ones from Yorkshire, South Wales and even Mendips. John Hobson (remember Hobson’s choice in Dow Cave) is still active." Mark and Alison Russell (SMCC) might go caving again yet.  Greg Pickford ( Wessex) is finding caverns measureless in the Nelson Marble Mountains.  But whether Kiwis, ex-pats or foreigners, we are grateful to them all.

A quick phone call to Chris and Pam Pugsley in Greymouth gave us shelter from the rain and our first caving in Buller.

The west coast of South Island is one of the wettest, most rugged areas of New Zealand.  Whereas Fiordland, in the south, is accessible largely only by boat, plane or on foot, the northern part has road or track hugging most of the coast. Around Greymouth and Westport there are bands of young limestone, much of it covered in primary bush, dense and uncharted.  Access from the road is often along rivers or forest tracks, and hundreds of sites are already known, with more being found constantly as the bush is penetrated and explored.

The first cave that we looked at in the region was Fox River cave.  It happened to be raining, very hard, as we began the walk in along the riverside.  Crossing a dry gravel-bedded flood oxbow, then wading a short distance along the river itself, we spent the next hour gently climbing along the scree/boulder slopes of the river gorge.  There was an obvious path, as several trampers come this way, some to visit the caves.  The rain poured and the tree ferns and tangled creepers dripped heavily on us. After the hour we reached a more open mass of scree up which we climbed, carefully avoiding the numerous nettle trees, whose long, sharp spines give a sting far more vicious than anything in Britain.  At the top of the scree a large rectangular arch opened into high cliffs of the gorge edge. We were glad of the shelter from the deluge, streaming down like an enormous veil a few feet away across the cave mouth.  Small trees and bushes grew well inside, where two obvious passages led off. Straight ahead was the route that most visitors seemed to take - a level, walking sized passage, heading fairly directly into the hill.  There was a lot of stal, much of it rather muddied, sadly, although in some alcoves it looked better preserved.  At the end of the passage, after less than 100m, was a gravel choke, but the sound of a big stream could be dimly heard from beyond.  Back at the entrance we looked at the other route: down a slope of big boulders leading into a long, high chamber, rectangular in section. Making our way over the boulder floor, we came to a series of deep pits in the rocks.  I managed to climb the wall above one of these to reach clean washed, heavily sculpted passage and the sound of roaring water.  A climb down and a short way through a clear pool brought me to the edge of a deep wide rift, with a rope angling away across the abyss. In the void below, my dim head torch just picked out the raging stream, clearly in flood.

Outside the cave we scrambled down the river's edge, where the cave stream resurged beneath enormous blocks.  The rain had finally ceased and as we stood at the edge of the river we toyed with the idea of crossing it, to walk back on the far side (Kiwis have a serendipity attitude to river crossings, developed through their vast numbers of streams and their relative lack of bridges).  Within minutes, however, the river changed to a swirling brown, rapidly increasing in depth and speed.  Needless to say, we stuck to the bank we were already on for the return.  At the “dry” oxbow we watched the river overflow, and were quietly thankful that we were not underground.  Fox River Cave floods rapidly and severely and, with West Coast weather, frequently.  Many of the caves in this area are similarly dangerous.

North-east of Karamea we grossly maltreated our overloaded Fiat 127 taking it over rough, steep, winding forest tracks to reach the Oparara Arch.  At one place we wisely waited in a side track while several tonnes of forest hurtled by on a truck at some ludicrous speed.  The Oparara River runs over a sizable patch of limestone and both it and its tributaries have carved out caves, tunnels and arches.  Unfortunately the most interesting system of all, over 10km long and with more than 60 entrances, Honeycomb Hill, has very limited access. It contains large numbers of bones, particularly of the extinct moa, and therefore special permission must be obtained to enter.  A little downstream from the system is Oparara Arch, a huge tunnel through which it is possible to walk, on a boulder and earth ledge above the stream.  The limestone rests on granite and the stream is cutting through the granite at the inlet end.

Much lower down the river we walked along an old gold mining track, traversing high above the water on a narrow ledge cut into the precipitous cliffs, to reach Cave Creek. Here, half hidden up in the bush and silver beech forest are a number of short caves, including two through trips. One of these, in a damp gully, carries a deep, dark, slow-flowing stream.  The other has a more lively series of trickling cascades under many stalactites and glow-worms.  A third cave dropped rapidly from its sizable entrance, over boulders to suddenly diminish to a grovel.

All of these caves we had done in ordinary walking gear.  For our next trip we needed full caving kit, plus SRT gear.  Our introduction was a beekeeper (Owen Dennis) in Waimangaroa, near Westport.  He was delighted to have us stay in his earthquake damaged house (a common phenomenon) and soon dragged us off exploring in virgin territory.  Having driven out along a forest track we set off into primary bush (the land has never been cleared).  The ground was rather like tropical cone karst - not surprising since this was sub-tropical rain forest.  There was no path.  We followed a route of paint marks on the trees, forcing our way through a dense tangle of undergrowth until we reached a prominent ridge.  It is often easier to follow ridges in the bush as the trees there tend to be larger and the vegetation more open.  A couple of hundred feet below us, to one side, we glimpsed a stream which disappeared underneath our ridge, in the green depths. On either side were huge hollows, dolines full of ferns, mosses lichens, creepers and epiphytes.  Most sites had never been looked at - there are so many likely sites and so few cavers.  After an hour, we descended a particularly large depression, "The Pentagon", where there five deep shafts to be explored.  We lowered ourselves down the steep edge of the depression using the thick, supple vegetation, to reach the edge of three of the shafts.  These turned out to be joined together. Belaying the rope to a convenient tree (one that had not fallen down the shafts) we descended and explored the middle one.  To one side a much higher shaft joined in via a narrow rift, in which several tree trunks had jammed.  Below the boulder floor, 15m down, the rift continued a further 10m to a choke. Across the boulder floor, under a rock arch it connected with the third shaft.  Below this a larger rift dropped away.  Again it was half-filled with rotting trees and again it choked.

These three shafts were really a diversion, an attempt to avoid a huge, dangerously and loosely poised boulder in the fourth shaft., to which we now turned our attention.  Using the same tree belay we abseiled down to a deeper part of the doline, and then down into a shaft, 10m in earth, rotting leaves and loose  blocks, then a steep slippery 10m mud slope brought us to the floor, a wide expanse of gravel and cobbles.  To one side a window looked into a daylight shaft blowing a cool draught from the confined depths, at least another 5m below our floor.  A larger window in the opposite wall of the main shaft looked into another passage.  Yet a third passage, this with a good cool outwards draught, led straight ahead. About 20m along here, clambering amongst earthy, loose boulders, we descended to a trickle of a stream. Unfortunately further boulders made the route impenetrable at this level.  Up and down, over and around the boulders brought us after 50m to the 'Henry' apparently, supported on a pin-point of rock and little else.  Not wishing to go near it I looked carefully at all the other ridiculous possibilities of reaching the obvious passage above the boulder, but nothing went.  Eventually, someone, perhaps less experienced than me in the art of self-preservation, kicked the offending boulder's only support.  Not a breath, not a sound, not a heart beat.  The 'Henry' withstood another kick and another. Safe as houses - indeed, safer than some!  Squeezing between the 'Henry' and the wall I succeeded at the second attempt, after much thrutching and no technique, in safely reaching the top.  The ideal 'eyehole', in which I rigged a tape for the others and for my return journey, broke immediately when I put a strain on it, so I was left to explore on my own,

A 10m long chamber, whose boulder floor was layered with an earthy veneer, had two ways on.  One seemed to head back towards the entrance doline complex, while the other, a walking sized rift, carried the draught and headed into the hill.  After a few easily crossed hollows in the earthy floor I reached a pitch requiring tackle.  My carbide began to fade at this moment too - a suitable point to return.

Out of the cave, and the doline de-tackled, dusk was fast approaching, so we rushed back through the bush in record time, in spite of briefly losing our way in the gloom a couple of times.  We reached the cars in the dark, to the sound of owls starting their nightly chorus.

So, although a crucial bit of a cave had been pushed and overcome, we only had a few tens of metres to our credit.  With so few cavers in Buller, with the cave regions away from the centres of population, and with cave sites being guarded by so many miles of dense bush, detailed knowledge of cave systems, development and hydrology will take decades.

Graham Wilton-Jones


 

Some Continental Show Caves

During a two weeks motoring holiday around the Alps earlier this year Jane and I visited eight assorted tourist Caves in a variety of countries and terrain. These are just a small proportion of the caves open to the public and several have been adequately described in caving literature, many times before.  For the dedicated speleo-tourist I can recommend "Guide des Grottes d'Europe- by V. Aellan and P. Strinati (1975) and the tourist pamphlets relating to show caves published by the tourist boards of Belgium, France, Austria, Yugoslavia and Switzerland.

Grotte de Dinant “La Herveilleuse” - Dinant, Namur, Belgium.

Situated 500m vest of the attractive riverside town of Dinant.  Discovered by quarrymen, making a railway cutting in 1904 and open as a show cave since then.  The visit takes about 50 mins.  A maze of phreatic passages some 500m long on several levels with some well preserved but scattered formations and a deep, flooded area of slow moving water at river level.  Mostly notable for the aged, Gauloise-puffing Belgian guide - complete with a commentary in execrable English blaring away from a tape recorder slung around his neck. On my visit I was the only tourist (Jane being mobbed by several hundred screaming Belgian school kids outside the cave) and so I got a good look at the place.  Compare this with the trip to Postojna Cave! (see below).

Laichinger Tiefenhohle - Laichingen, Schwalbischen Alb, W. Germany.

Situated 1km SE of Laichingen and 24kms NW of Ulm.  In Jurassic limestone, this cave is a generally vertically orientated system of phreatically enlarged rifts and chambers and is the deepest show cave in West Germany, hence the name.  The visit is made by climbing down and up a series of steep iron steps which leave a goodly deposit of mud on your trousers should you spurn the gaiters provided by the management. 250m of passage is covered to a depth of 70m though further passages descend to 103m and there is another 500m of undeveloped cave.  There are few formations but the water sculpted rock and a variety of fossils make up for this.  The cave acts as one of the feeders for the Blautopf resurgence some 10km away.  Very much an enthusiasts show cave the trip takes 30-45mins.  At the entrance is a caving museum with the usual photos, bones, bits of stal, surveys, etc.  These are becoming very much of an essential item at show caves worldwide and hopefully their conservation orientated displays will not go ignored by those who visit them.

Dachstein Rieseneishohle and Dachstein Mammuthohle - Obertraun, Upper Austria.

While en route to the Weisberghaus to prepare things for the coming BEC Expedition we visited these superb caves (at children’s prices and with a tree beer thrown in thanks to a chance meeting with Siegfried Gemsjager, show cave manager and an old friend of the club).  Situated 3km SE of Obertraun and reached by cable-car these are two of Europe's finest Caves.  The Reiseneishohle for it's mind boggling ice formations which dwarf the visitor and the Mammuthohle for it's enormous phreatic bore passages.

The ice cave is extremely well lit and presented, with the tourist path in places cut through the massive ice formations making for spectacular views.  The trip covers 820m, taking 45mins to pass through the huge chambers and galleries.  The system was explored in 1910 and is over 2kms long.

Contrasting with this, and on the opposite side of the cable car station, is the vast Mammuthohle - over 35kms long and one of the world's deepest systems.   It will hopefully get even longer when connected to the 47km Hirlatzhohle which has recently been pushed to within some 500m of Mammut.  With not an ice formation in sight and few pretties, the cave owes its attraction to the huge main passage of the Paleotraun, to several mega chambers and to the high rift, which soar up above the head of the visitor.  It takes from 30-90mins to see the cave, depending on the size of the party. Unfortunately, if visited after the ice cave, it can be a bit disappointing due to its barren nature.

Yet again, an excellent caving museum with an unbelievable three-dimensional model of the Mammuthohle can be visited.  Dummy cavers in old and new styles of equipment hang from the ceiling and a slide show of the local caves and cavers runs in an adjoining room.  Well worth a visit.

Skocjanske Jama – Matavun, Slovenia, Jugoslavia.

Probably one of the largest show caves in the world with regard to passage size and certainly one of the most impressive.

A footpath from the village ascends a huge doline with the entrance to an artificial tunnel at its base. This is followed into the hill to reach a series of fantastically decorated chambers, gradually increasing in size until the roar of the river Reka is heard ahead.  Due to some adroit manipulation of the lights by the guide, the visitor is suddenly amazed to find himself some 70m above the floor of a huge, misty river passage, on a narrow path cut into the cave wall.  The path then descends to a bridge 50 above the river and follows the hall, halfway up, to emerge 45mins later at the bottom of a gigantic pothole.  This is all real Mulu stuff and completely mind blowing, the only drawback being the stink of the polluted river 50m below.  The Reka sumps in the cave to resurge near Trieste in Italy, some 40kms away.  The complete visit lasts for an hour or more and is a MUST.

Predjama - Postojna, Slovenia, Yugoslavia.

Famous as the site of the Predjamski Grad - a Renaissance castle built under the vast cave mouth where the remains of the, robber baron Erasmus's fortress stand.  The 6km of decorated stream cave below the castle are not yet open to tourists but the building itself, and the dry upper levels of the cave (Erazmova Jama) are well worth a visit - especially in a raging thunderstorm as occurred on our visit, adding much to the Dracula-like atmosphere of the place.

8km NW of Postojna, an hour or so is sufficient to visit the castle and cave.
 

Predjama

Postojnska Jama - Postojna, Slovenia, Yugoslavia.'

One of the earliest und most famous tourist caves in the world, it is impossible to miss!  Twenty one MILLION visitors at the last count, it felt as if they'd doubled that number on our trip:  With electric trains transporting hordes of assorted punters into the cave at half-hourly intervals and guides leading throngs of every nationality around the walking parts it is an experience to be savoured – once! Never again will you moan about queues at the "'twenty" or how much money they are raking in at Gough’s. At £6 a head one gets the impression that Postojna is the mainstay of the Yugoslavian economy.  (Eat your hearts out Chris and Sandra!).

We waited in a milling crowd for about an hour to get into the cave. This was enlivened by an ancient, eccentric English lady pushing her way to the front of the crowd.

Once aboard the train life becomes most exciting as it hurtles through hundreds of feet of profusely decorated passages and chambers with the formations being of an overall matt black hue. This is due to a soot layer dating from the last war when Yugoslavian patriots set fire to a German underground fuel store.  One bright spot en route is the Conference Chamber, lit by huge electric chandeliers. Just the job for Gour Hall eh, Butch?

The train eventually halts in a large chamber where everyone gathers at the sign of their chosen language. From here the guides escort the vast parties along a figure of eight route through superbly decorated galleries full of clean and glittering stal.  An artificial pool contains several of the famous Proteus Anguinus blind cave salamanders.  The tour ends at the Concert Chamber, complete with bar and souvenir shop and the railway station for the trip out.  Before leaving the cave a section of the large river passage is visited.  One emerges from the experience with a profound sense of wonder at the mysteries of the underworld and a desperate desire to go somewhere for a quiet drink!

St. Beatush6hle - Interlaken, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.

A fairly uninspiring system of smallish passages with a few formations, going steeply up-dip from the spectacular resurgence.  The first and last sections ofthe tourist route are the most impressive due to the large volume of stream water thundering away only inches from the pathways. The trip covers 900m and takes about an hour.  Again, an excellent caving museum can be visited near the entrance.

Tony Jarratt, ,June 1986.


 

Ireland Easter 1986

What with green holes, brown holes and the possibility of a speleological equivalent of a black hole it was quite a colourful trip.  We discovered that an overdraft facility is useful nowadays if you want to buy a round of Guinness.  Martyn Grass avoided being roped into the Gay Caving Association (no letters please if there really is one) and kept us brilliantly entertained for the week.  We even went caving.

The trip was originally conceived by myself as an exploratory visit to the "Green Holes" of Doolin.  Martyn came up with a cottage so the party expanded to eventually include Martyn, Chris Smart and Karen, Angie and myself, Rick Stanton (ex-Cerberus) and Mark Vinall (who might be a PCG member) plus Martyn's Alsatian Hannah.

Our arrival in County Clare was characterised by the usual cock ups.  We rang Mrs. Green, the owner of the cottage, to say we would be arriving late.  Not to worry, she said, the house was a bungalow a mile from Kilshanny school and she would leave a light on.  Arriving at 11 pm we discovered numerous well lit bungalows a mile from Kilshanny school. Our first nefarious halt involved my turning the heavily laden car on somebody's front lawn then Mark discovering the only occupant of the house was an immobile and unresponsive individual sitting (probably quaking) in a back bedroom.  We left.  The next call led us to being directed down the road to the next bungalow and success. Thinking to improve matters the next day for Martyn, who arrived on a later ferry, we left a message at the outdoor centre to the effect that the bungalow was white with a wall round the garden.  During daylight hours admiring all the nice bungalows with walled gardens in the area we thought we could have been more specific.  Martyn, Chris and Karen were in seventh heaven after eventually finding it and comparing it with Mrs. McCarthy's cottage.  We set about making it more homely by dumping all the caving and diving gear in the front room.  We then tackled the fire, powered by what the Irish call turf. This was purchased at a bar in Ennistymon in the form of compressed blocks "briquettes".  All around the at the back of the bar were sacks containing peat but mysteriously "Gift from the EEC to the people of Sudan".

Day one saw us all down Cullaun 2 where some people descended the final pitch.  Photographic disaster one came, when part of my tripod decided to go back down the pitch without me.  The trip out consisted of my trying to move fast enough to catch somebody who would pose for a picture.  Outside the cave a surreal situation occurred when I was asked to pose with Pete Glanville for a picture (no relation).  I would have thought one was enough.

The sea looked rough the next day so Plan B was put into action.  This invclved driving round the Ennis area trying to find caves with sumps to dive using Self's guide book.  After a short detour up a rough track (even Volvos can ground) we found the first cave Pollaphuca (worth pronouncing with an "f" and "ucca") not far from a quiet lane.  The entrance was one of several well watered depressions.  The whole party of seven entered the cave armed to the teeth with ropes diving bottles and of course my camera; this was a mistake. In the lead I thought of Stoke Lane and thunderstorms as we wormed our way around an assortment of bends.  After 60 metres we reached the pitch where the passage was meant to enlarge.  Like an estate agents description the guide book concealed more than it revealed.  I quote "A 60 metres long crawl ends at an awkward 5 metre pitch.  Below the pitch the passage height is 6 metres and chert bridges divide the cave into two levels.  The passage ends in a sump".  What the guide book does not say is that the passage, pitch and sump are all in 5 horizontal metres of passage.  Once down the pitch I discovered this fact and worse that the sump was zilch as a diving proposition.  Exit disgruntled diver and sherpas.  Good dig tho'.

Keeping our mud stained wetsuits on we headed off for our next venue Poulnagolloor which sounded nicer and prettier.  Unfortunately the directions were just a little vague and five wet suited characters could be seen ranging some very un-speleological meadows staring the wildlife and drawing a big blank.  Wearing my widest smile I hailed a passing cyclist and asked the way to the nearest cave. Directions took us to some lads repairing a motorcycle which they promptly leapt on to show us the way.  We stopped by one of those ubiquitous Irish bungalows under construction and Martyn took the opportunity to carry out a timber raid to keep the cottage fires burning.  The cave itself was remarkably pleasant and reminiscent of some Welsh caves. A 2 metre by 5 metre joint controlled passage led as a pleasant stroll through some ducks to what Martyn authoritatively declared was the sump pool.  Rick kitted up and plunged off into the darker recesses of the "sump". A watery, "I think you might as well come through" was heard and we followed to emerge in a large passage and meet the sump proper.  Rick dived passing one airbell and then the bubble, and splashing faded to the slap of water on rock.  More noise and he was back.  "What. have you found?" we asked excitedly.  "Goes to a streamway" he muttered laconically "only ten metres long".  Grabbing one of his bottles a valve and my camera I plunged into the sump with him. We emerged in a foam covered pool into which splashed a roaring stream, a complete contrast to the still dark waters on the other side.  De-kitting we crawled off.  We knew no big finds were likely as the stream comes from a very close sink.  However any virgin cave is always exciting. After a couple of bedding crawls and a sort of duck up a cascade I left Rick to force a squeeze up through boulders. Instead I found an attractively decorated oxbow which bypassed some of the grovels in the stream.  Rick returned and after a brief photo call we made our way back through the sump.  After a wash off during which I found an unusual bit of flood debris - a school textbook on Greek - we psyched ourselves up for the third sump of the day.

After a seemingly endless drive through Ennis and down miles of long straight roads we arrived at the grounds of Kiltanon House, one of those places which over here would be a stately home and over there is a sinister ruin.  Tomeens turned out to be somewhere you can hardly believe is real. A fairly large river has hit a small limestone ridge and bored its way through just below the surface.  The impressive 6 metre by 6 metre passage has now been penetrated by a series of surface collapses making it almost a case of caving without lights.  However wetsuits were pretty essential as there were a number of deep pools.  In higher water conditions it would be quite possible to canoe through the whole system.  The exotic feel of the place was heightened by the strands of ivy hanging down from the collapse entrances.  It is a magnificent place.

We made the usual visit to O’Connor’s in the evening met up with Brian Judd and arranged a dive in the Green Holes the next day.  The keen team went down Pollnagree whilst Angie Rick and I opted for a walk up Turlough Mountain as it was such a sunny day.  Eventually everybody converged on Doolin in the early evening with the LADS, little Arthur and others acting as sherpas for the arduous 200 metres carry over limestone pavements to the dive site.  Rick and Brian dived something Brian had been having wild fantasies over for the last twelve months.  Dubbed Mermaid's Hole, this particular green hole began with a 4 metre square entrance and continued as a 5 metres by 3 metres canyon in perfect visibility.  Unfortunately although the divers reached air 80 metres in the cave closed down. However more passage remains to be pushed here.  Meanwhile I took Mark and Martyn down to find the holes I had written up in Descent. To my relief I found them reasonably quickly and even more surprisingly they were bigger than I remembered. Tying on a line I set off into my first green hole.  After 30 metres of roomy passage I reached a constriction and had to shift rocks to get through.  Beyond the passage opened out but my bottle (mental) had temporarily gone so I dumped the reel and backed out.  Mark Vinall lunged in and reappeared five minutes later having cut the line and then wondered if he had the right bit.  Martyn did a sub-aquatic tour of the area.  Rick emerged from Mermaids Hole in raptures, Brian in more sombre mood - he had hoped for some dry cave beyond the dive.  As it turned out that was the last dive we had in Mermaids that week.

The following day most of the party went to Aillwee after Rick had heard the final sump had not been pushed conclusively.  Angie and I went for a stroll down near Polisallagh the weather being too nice in our opinion to go caving and we had been into Aillwee before.  We had an encounter with the LADS who had the leprechaun-like habit of appearing from or disappearing into holes in the ground usually waving crowbars.  For the week that we were there they were always just on the edge of a breakthrough somewhere; they made it after we had left.  Meanwhile back at Aillwee the cavers and divers were shovelling in free food as fast as they could which is where we caught up with them.  Rick having done his bit for the day declined to dive so Mark Brian and I met up at Doolin for the second green hole assault. Unfortunately the tide was higher and a heavy swell was breaking when we arrived.  Undaunted Mark demonstrated how safe it all was by leaping into the pounding waves and getting himself chucked out again.  We were not entirely convinced but plunged in with Brian, not one of the largest of chaps, sporting two 72 cu. ft. bottles suspended from his waist. Once in it was every man for himself as I headed for the only green hole I hadn't seen this time armed with my trusty camera.  On the way back I encountered some legs sticking out of another hole.  Tugging the fins revealed a firmly attached Mark who proceeded to scribbled frenziedly on his slate "Brian's gone in" which I read as "Brian's going in?"  As I had entered the water with Brian I concluded he had surfaced so dragged Mark off back to the surface.  Meanwhile Brian emerged from the cave.  Back on the land we could see Brian’s head bobbing about amongst the waves as he plodded shore wards.  We hauled him out 72's and all.

The next day was the great Anglo-Irish Expedition to Poll na g Ceim which is a story in itself. Whilst Mark Rick and I assisted in our various ways Angie Chris Karen and Martyn got drunk at O'Donoghues - only open after 2 pm if you plan on ever going there.  They all learnt something interesting about German women, that you need Arabian sun tan oil for the sun traps of Ballyryan (watch out for the pine martens) and that if you order crocodile sandwiches you should make it snappy. Mark and I returned to find everybody in a very gay mood which culminated in Hannah getting so excited she bit Martyn in the buttocks whilst he was assaulting Angie.  This was just a prelude to what happened in Sean O’Connor’s restaurant with Rory and the German waitress.

On our penultimate day we said our farewells to Martyn Chris and Karen and the remaining four of us went to Fanore to get some air off John McNamara.  John handed us the keys to the compressor shed and told us to get on with it. Half an hour and three partially dislocated shoulders late we found the third lever - the one that actually allows you to crank the compressor successfully.  Bottles filled, it was back to say goodbye to M C and K again. Down at Doolin we were abandoned by Angie who declared diving in the swell was foolhardy.  Watching the waves spraying 2 metres above our heads I wondered if she was right.  Regardless we plunged in and lost Rick this time.  Whilst he wound up going into the harbour Mark and I headed for Chert Ledge Cave which I planned to push beyond the constriction.  Unfortunately a strange cold feeling started to creep up my left leg - my suit was leaking. I therefore lunged for the first, unexplored, cave which is Harbour Hole.  The cold was at waist level as I started reeling out line in perfect conditions. At 30 metres I encountered the toothless grin of a large dogfish who watched motionless as I swerved past him. At 40 metres a brilliantly coloured cushion star lay on the floor of the passage.  Feeling the penetrating cold I dumped the reel and groped my way out. Half an hour later I was gently steaming in O’Connor’s supping a welcome pint of Guinness.

Our final day dawned strangely quiet (Martyn had gone) as we prepared to visit Coole Cave which Rick and Mark were going to dive.  Locating it proved a problem - it lies in an absolutely minute depression about 3 metres across.  Once found we soon reached the diving site.  Mark and Rick disappeared into the murk and Angie and I took pictures. In the good old UK this cave would have been totally vandalised by now.  It consists of several hundred metres of well decorated walking sized phreatic passage, an old route of the Coole River which is seen nearby.  It harbours numerous bats and an interesting feature is some calcited string which is the traditional Irish route finding technique. Rick and Mark emerged after an hour or so having a great respect for Martyn Farr's climbing skills.  Rick had pushed on beyond Farr's limit to another chamber and sump.  This cave could go for miles in this fashion.  The only problem is the fine grained and ubiquitous mud which required half an hours work in the Coole River to remove.

On the day we had to leave Rick discovered I hadn't repaired my dry suit properly by borrowing it and using it.  He also rescued the line reel from Harbour Hole on a very pleasant dive in perfect conditions with Mark.  I stood on the surface cursing the cold I was nurturing.

All in all a good trip. Lots of potential and anybody who says Clare is boring caving ought to try Poll na g Ceim.

Pete Glanville


 

Poll Na G Ceim

Until very recently Irish cave exploration, particularly in County Clare, has in the main been made by visiting British cavers with UBSS being in the fore as explorers and recorders.  The scene is now changing and increasingly in the future I think we will find that the really significant finds will be made by local cavers.  This is due to the presence of various “ex-patriates” who have settled in the region and stimulated interest by the local population.  Cave training schemes have helped to develop the skills of the embryonic cavers.  Among many of the new sites being dug and explored was one called B5a on the side of Knockauns Mountain.

Originally dug by Colin Bunce (ex-Aberystwyth U.C.C.) B5a was a small choked hole near an active swallet. It was excavated to reveal a pitch reached only after a very tight squeeze had been passed (since fortunately by-passed).  The pitch was only 4 metres deep and led into a small circular chamber.  At the far end was a distinct surprise - the deepest underground pitch in Clare.  This magnificent semi-circular shaft dropped a free-hanging 31 metres to a large ledge and a further series of shorter pitches past an inlet passage to a final rather grotty sump at the depth of 74 metres.

At this point a digression is worth while.  Some of you may have been at a BCRA conference a few years ago when Oliver Lloyd and Charlie Self presented their paper on the Balliny depression.  This paper was stimulated by discoveries a few years earlier in Poliballiny a system only a kilometre from B5a.  Pollballiny had a foul reputation for many years as being a long rather monotonous passage with much stooping and crawling which led to a sump.  When the "sump" was visited in the late '70's it was found to be only a very wet crawl and the cave was pushed considerably further down some much roomier passage through a rather nasty choke to a sharp crawl.  At the end of this the explorers were staggered to find themselves in an enormous passage unlike anything normally seen in County Clare.  Initially 6 metres wide and 20 metres high it descended past two pitches and became a canyon 3 metres wide and 30 metres or more high.  Sadly it terminated in a huge roof to floor collapse and the stream dropped away down a very immature passage.  The terminal passage lay under the near Balliny depression.  This depression is really rather spectacular being cliff girt on all sides and 10 or more metres deep.  It covers an area of thousands of square metres.  The theory to account for its origins is that it was originally the site of a huge river sink draining a much larger area than that of modern caves. It eventually became choked and a large lake formed at the same site  overflowing at one end to allow Its waters to reach the sea 250 metres below. The presumed resurgence for this system lies under the sea as does that for the modern caves.  The terminal passage in Pollballiny may only represent an inlet into this mega system.  Digging in the depression has revealed it to be pretty hopelessly choked.

Poll na g Ceim (cave of the steps) as B5a was dubbed offered a new route into the Balliny system.  It lies on a fault line which intersects the depression and approaches from the opposite direction to Pollballiny.  With all to play for, the sump at the bottom of Poll na g Ceim had to be tackled.  Sumps in caves in that part of County Clare are not noted for going and in general cave diving in this region has not produced the spectacular results seen in Fermanagh.  Furthermore there is a lack of native cave divers in this part of the world. Nothing daunted Brian Judd (ex-BPC and now living and working in the area) rose to the challenge.  Without any real previous cave diving experience he decided to tackle the sump.  His first attempt in August 1985 ended in failure when the unsuitably large bottles he was using proved too bulky.  It must be realised at this point that Brian was conducting the whole venture on a shoestring budget without the back up of a local branch of the CDG.  Undeterred Brian returned with smaller bottles and successfully passed the sump which although constricted was only 12 metres long and 3 metres deep.  Thirty metres of passage led to the inevitable sump 2.  At this point Brian roped in another non cave-diver, Dave Scott, and the two of them examined Pollnagame 2 without being able to find a bypass.  Brian dived sump 2 and found it to be a very muddy low bedding plane which he failed to pass.  In October Brian and Dave returned with Tim Fogg and Kevin Woods.  After an initial unsuccessful dive by Tim, Brian got through on a base fed line.  Although the sump was originally 12 metres long, destruction of a chert dam (features of all the sumps) reduced it to only 6 metres.  Divers had problems with the sumps on the way out.  The next trip was done solo by Brian Judd with Colin Bunce as sherpa.  Sump three was separated from sump two by a high rift and proved to one of the easiest sumps. After a 6 metre dive Brian surfaced in Pollnagame Four and followed 37 metres of well decorated crawling to sump four.  Using a single bottle Brian examined sump four for 4 metres.  A second solo attempt an sump four was frustrated by large bottles and, in desperation, Brian sent an urgent order to caving supplies for a 15 cu. ft. bottle via a friend in Aer Lingus.  At the end of February of this year he passed the sump on another solo trip.  This was an impressive feat; the sump was so tight four metres in that the only way to pass it was to push all one’s kit including the bottle in front.  Aqua flashes have to be removed from helmets to get through the squeeze!

In Pollnagame Five the fun started.  After 30 metres in a rift passage an 8 metre pitch was found and Brian had to return.

Reinforcements were now needed - as was tackle.  This was never going to be an easy task.  In early March the Judd, Scott and Fogg team arrived at sump four ready for a big assault. Unfortunately Sump four proved to be a tackle-eater and hung onto the bag containing bolting kit and SRT gear. The rope got through so the team scrambled down the 8 metre pitch but were thwarted after 45 metres by another pitch which just could not be climbed using hand line tactics.  At that point the cave was 26 metres high but only 75 centimetres wide and dropping steeply.

A month later Rick Stanton, myself, Mark Vinall and co. arrived in Ireland having heard tales of this fabulous cave. Brian was overflowing with enthusiasm at the sight of some well equipped cave divers.  Unable to contact Tim Fogg or Dave Scott he decided the opportunity was too good to miss and an instant Anglo-Irish caving expedition was set up. It was eventually decided that Rick and Brian would do the pushing whilst I tried to get some pictures of the cave with Mark.  On the surface Colin Bunce would fix positions using the Molephone transmissions from the explorers.  The night before Rick could be seen with the jitters.  Were the sumps incredibly desperate he speculated; only non cave-divers had passed them and might not know what was considered impossible.  His unease was amplified by the events that occurred prior to the trip.

Mark Rick and I arrived at Brian's house at the appointed hour to find preparations still going on. After a lot of idle chat we were about to head off for the cave when Brian asked where my rocket tube was.  It appeared they assumed I was bringing it for the molephone.  A twenty minute there-and-back dash from Kilmoon East to Kilshanny produced the rocket tube and it seemed like we were ready to leave.  Halfway to the cave Brian stopped his car to chat to a neighbour. Only a few yards behind I ploughed into the back of Brian’s car turning his tow bar into a wishbone.  My Volvo looked singularly unaffected apart from a funny whirring noise which turned out to be a headlight wiper motor jamming. We all climbed back in and set off again.  All were changing near the cave entrance when Brian announced he had left his helmet and lamp at home.  Colin disappeared gnashing his teeth.  Two of the Burren Crawlers went off and rigged the cave.

Once underground Brian became Action Man, sorting out the rigging and taking firm charge of the proceedings.  This was as just as well because the over enthusiastic pitch riggers had gone in for a bit of overkill with the rope deviations.  Rick Stanton nearly came to grief when one of the deviation belays to allowed him down a 4 metres pitch after coming unstuck from the wall.  At the sump Rick kitted and dived whilst Brian reported to the surface.  A swish of bubbles and he, too, was gone.  Mark, myself,  Gerry and Ben (the two Burren Crawlers) headed slowly out as I took photographs.  Back on the surface we changed and went to see how things were going on underground.  Halfway between the Balliny Depression and the entrance to Pollnagame Rick and Brian radioed in that they were about to forge into the unknown.  I witnessed a new spectator sport above ground caving via the mole phone!

After passing the last pitch of 8 metres they traversed high up along a narrow rift until they met a big black space.  A bolt was placed and the pitch descended 7 metres to a ledge and a further drop of 10 metres into a much larger passage.  This was a superb canyon 3 metres wide and 20 metres high which led to a duck under a huge block.  An inlet could be seen cascading in from high in the roof.  Sadly soon after the roof of the passage descended into the almost inevitable sump 5, 128 metres below the entrance but 114 metres above the sea and 78 metres, below the terminus of Pollballiny.  The Balliny saga is not yet ended.  After a resuscitating meal from a HOT CAN the explorers made the long 3 hour Journey out, Rick having to pass sump four 3 times to retrieve a tackle bag. Colin Bunce and Dave Gibson came in to help them de-tackle before they returned to Brian's home and a welcome meal and shower.  Watch this space.

Peter Glanvill May 1986

STOP PRESS!

Pollnagame five has been revisited by Tim Fogg and Brian Judd.  The aim was to dive sump five but at the final pitch a bottle was dropped. It landed next to Tim Fogg the pillar valve bent at 45 degrees.  Tim has lost enthusiasm for Pollnagame.


 

Daren Cilau

by Mark Lumley.

Having seen the Grade 5c survey of the Hard Rock Extensions, it became apparent to the Crew that the latest Westerly breakthrough from Brazil didn't quite fit the pattern of cave passage in the region.  The survey suggested that there should be a NNW continuation from Brazil, straight through 'Big Passage Nowhere Near The Action' heading up to 'Icing on the Cake' in the divers extension and then ultimately on up to Trident Passage in Agen Alwedd.

At 9.30 in the evening of 27th June, Steve Allen and I headed into Daren to check out the possibility of finding the NNW continuation.  We were at camp by 12.30, had a meal and headed into Hard Rock. Our first impression of the North wall of Big Passage was that it didn't show much promise.  Steve started work at some boulders in one corner while I dug a low, sandy arch.  I soon joined him though, when a void was revealed through a small hole in the floor. An hour later we had dug this wide enough for Steve to get through into a low bedding plane six feet below.  This contained some fine crystal but choked after 10 metres. Steve dug through the choke in about an hour while I gardened my way through behind.

We came up into a 1.5m - 2m high x 10m wide, phreatic passage with a sandy, crystal clustered roof. Unfortunately this stopped at another collapse after 30 metres.  We knew the nature of the passage now and dug down in the floor.  Sure enough a hole, appeared and another low, unstable bedding. I pushed a way in for 5m, wincing as each boulder moved revealed another section of hairy, 'hanging death' roof. Steve, dug the next 5m, howling at one stage as a moved boulder committed him to going forward.

Finally, he was through into a passage continuation of about 10m.  It was about 8.00 am and we were worn out.  I had a look at the next choke and ten minutes later I broke through into the most magnificent crystal passage I have ever seen.  The dimensions were much the same as before but this time we crawled for about 80m, to the next choke.  Throughout the length of the crawl the roof is literally covered in clusters of crystal needles from about 1" to 3" long.  The floor is sand and needles, the latter seemed to get inside our clothes at just about every move, sticking into knees, neck and elbows and earning the place the name 'Acupuncture Passage'.

The fifth boulder choke was dug for 30 minutes and looked very promising but the two of us were knackered so we headed back to camp, had a meal and left the cave after a non-stop 21 hour trip, to the drunken delights of the Chelsea Summer Barbecue.

 

 

 


 

Progress At Brixham

Since the visit to Rock Dove Cave at Berry Head in 1983 I have some done some more work in the area, in the last few months combining forces with Chris Proctor.  I will initially describe the diving work done on the south side of Berry Head.

In my previous article on Rock Dove Cave I wrote that little of great significance has been found underwater up to that time.  Soon after this I began to find submarine caves!  A map and descriptions of some of the sites can be seen in CDG N/L No. 70 (January 1984).  However it was in the summer of 1984 that a really interesting fins wad made which confirmed that Devon did have the equivalent of “blue holes” i.e. flooded cave systems.  The area lies under the southern end of the wall of the fort on Berry Head.  The first cave examined consisted of a big underwater chamber from which a rift led off but narrowed rapidly.  However an ascending tube in one corner could be seen leading up to an airspace; near here hanging from the roof was some eroded stal. Unfortunately the tube is too dangerous to ascend with diving gear because of the swell so any future attempts would be best conducted in a wet suit at low spring tide when breathing apparatus may not be required.

Only a few yards from this so far unnamed cave is Compass Cave on of the longest sea caves on Berry Head.  It consists of a high rift which must have a vertical range from sea bed to roof of around 15 metres.  I will quote from my CDG log on the cave from the entrance in: “At the base the cave is 3m wide and it was followed for 30m before the presence of large numbers of Compass Jellyfish (Chrysaora Hysoscella) completely psyched me out and I was forced to retreat.  The view on the return dive was quite surreal.  In the green glow from the cave entrance could be seen dozens of jellyfish suspended at all levels in the passage.”  A later dive  at the site showed the cave to gradually dwindle in width but was still passable at a distance of 40 metres where the floor consisted of clean washed shingle suggesting that the site was sometimes exposed to air.  In the air rift part of the rift stal can be seen on the walls. The cave needs a visit in a wet suit on a low spring tide when it should be possible to reach the end without diving gear.  At the entrance is a complex network of phreatic tubes with multiple entrances and an estimated total passage length of 50 metres.  These caves are a haven for marine life including conger eels!

Apart from Compass Cave other caves exist on the south side of Berry Head at sea bed level providing sporting cave dives.  One phreatic tube led for 15 metres through a limestone spur and several rifts were not explored but could be seen going in for a considerable distance.

We now move to the north side of Berry Head and work there.  It was after contacting Chris Proctor on another matter that we met up one afternoon to visit Corbridge Cave. Initially things went badly wrong – my light failed and my camera developed a major fault.  Feeling rather disgruntled I decided to take a look at another cave Chris had mentioned.  This is a rift at the edge of the concrete apron on the floor of the old quarry which extends to the cliff edge.  It drops down to the sea.  Pete Rose climbed down the ladder into the rift but found himself 6m above the floor. Plan “B” was put into operation; this was to swim round and gain entrance to the cave from the sea.  An electron ladder was lowered down the cliff at a point a few yards to the south and being the only one with a wetsuit I ended up descending the ladder into the sea.  I found myself facing another unknown sea cave so swam into this instead.  I approached a steep and slippery climb but opted for a short duck under the left hand wall in waist deep water.  I emerged in a cave passage developed along the strike. On the cave walls were hydroids and sea anemones.  In places were ancient stal flows; this; this was clearly a “land based” cave invaded by the sea.  A short crawl led to a tiny inlet passage on the landward side whilst on the seaward side lay a steeply ascending tube.  Mindful of the tide I returned to the entrance and Chris and Pete who had begun to wonder where I had got to.  This cave was dubbed Garfish Cave from the dead garfish I found floating in the entrance.  I swam round to the original destination which was named Cuttlefish Cave, after a dead cuttlefish floating in it!  This didn’t go in as far and possible extensions seemed to be choked by boulders at sea level although there might be passages at higher level.  Again there were ancient stal banks.

Since then Bryan Johnson and myself have surveyed Garfish which was fun as the tide started to come in whilst we were doing it.  The final legs were partly guesstimated.  During the surveying Brian climbed the ascending tube to a point where daylight was visible and he has found the corresponding hole in the quarry floor on a subsequent trip – a dry way in may be feasible.  Bryan’s sampling of the sea water and the inlet water suggests that the inlet water is being diluted by fresh water.  There are other sea caves near here which will need further attention but access is controlled by the tides!


 

Letter re SSSI

Horfield, Bristol
23-5-86

Dear Sir,

SSSI’s on the Mendip Hills, Somerset

In the Course of an interesting evening spent at Hunters' lodge Inn, Priddy, on 22/5/86, I was acquainted with the broad aspects of the current turmoil surrounding the issue to landowners of a document or letter setting out conditions and qualifications regarding agricultural and other activities which might be deemed by the Nature Conservancy Council to threaten the subterranean Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Without having seen the N.C.C. letter I am unable to comment upon it.  It seems to have irritated the farming community.  In particular, according to Mr. Roger Dors of Hunters' Lodge Inn, it may viewed  as unwarranted interference with the" legal rights of freeholders. "

Now I can well understand Mr. Dors' personal concern, for the follow reasons:

1)                  The only significant cave system so far known to exist under Mr. Dors' land is HUNTER’S HOLE, a straightforward, moderately important site which appears to be of no more scientific value than hundreds of other minor caves and potholes in the British Isles.  There is nothing exceptional about HUNTER’S HOLE and one is frankly puzzled by the decision to list it as an SSSI.

2)                  Even when considered as a "sporting/leisure" site, HUNTER’S HOLE, whilst not irrelevant, is as noted above of no more than moderate importance.  Its loss as a caving place, if Mr. Dors were to destroy it in some way, whilst regrettable, would not, I think, create a furore throughout the Mendip caving or scientific fraternity.

3)                  Mr. Dors is in a unique position in respect of Mendip caving information and rapport. He has been what cavers would call an exemplary cave owner, he is not likely to pollute HUNTERS' HOLE by draining or tipping waste into it, neither will he be inclined to dispose of used motor vehicles or other trash (something which cannot be said of Bristol Waterworks Company, for example, or some other cave-owners), in the doline which constitutes the entrance.

Nevertheless, there are dismaying aspects of the Mendip "reaction" to NCC strictures. "These deserve mention, especially as the major caving clubs on the Mendip Hills are, overtly, taking the side of the landowners.  The decision of the caving clubs to do so is probably a mistake.

A designated Site of Special Scientific Interest should be what it purports to be - something of outstanding importance biologically, geomorphologically, whatever. (If the NCC has designated sites on the basis of ill-informed non-specialist opinion, then the NCC is either foolish or under-staffed - they'd probably claim the latter, with some justification).  Granted that an SSSI is correctly designated, then the interests of the landowner must be subordinate to the interests of the community, notwithstanding personal disadvantage.  A correctly designated SSSI represents, often, not merely a preservable curio or asset, but something unknown elsewhere something irreplaceable.  The SSSI is the jewel in the conservational crown, if such analogy be permitted.  It is imperative that SSSI designation be accurate in this respect; and it is essential that protection to the SSSIs and their contents be provided and where necessary enforced.  Any action by the Nature Conservancy Council to these ends has to be welcomed, if not by all formers and owners then at least by those of us who regard the surviving pockets of British wilderness as valuable.  I had assumed that cavers were of similar persuasion.

My experience of landowners on the Mendip Hills suggests to me that they are sympathetic to responsible visitors/trespassers and to that which exists on or under the land.  This is not so everywhere.  There have been serious transgressions of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981: a large number of SSSIs have been lost and damaged. Magistrates have declined, for the most part, to convict offenders (mostly members of the farming community or unscrupulous developers such as at Udden's Heath in Dorset).  It became quite clear during the period 1981-'84 that loopholes in the Act's provisions required urgently to be closed.  This has been done.  The matter of enforcement (since most agricultural development is NOT covered by the planning legislation) remains.  It would be unwise to assume that the problems have been solved.  If the NCC is seen as "heavy-handed", well, what would you wish it to be?  Would you wish it to present a limp facade in the face, very possibly, of the bulldozers?  The fact that this consideration does not apply right at this moment at, say, Eastwater or Swildons, is no future guarantee.  There has to be a generally acceptable mechanism for the regulation of development, be it in connection with agriculture or anything else; this, I am convinced, is what the NCC seeks.  I can understand the reluctance of responsible landowners to calmly accept an implied criticism of their methods, or en intrusion upon their legal rights; had NCC been more expert in their selection of sites (if the NCC is responsible - something which has not been clarified to my satisfaction, for one) some difficulties might have been avoided.  If, as seems likely to me, the NCC was guided by caving "expertise" which in the event proved fallible, then it is high time they consulted experts whom they can trust.  But that is not the whole story, for, no doubt, there will always be a tendency to resist that which is intended to preserve the non-profitable !

The decision taken by, or on behalf of, the caving community, albeit a pragmatism well-appreciated by those who live on the Mendip Hills, is dubious in this: that it results directly from the power of a landowner to refuse access to a cave.  In general, such power is, on Mendip, never exercised.  The landowners and tenant farmers controlling the major sites are amenable to reasonable requests for access - indeed, I have thought for many years that they were more amenable than caving clubs and councils, on balance.  Certainly I have had very few problems, even holding the views which I do, except where a caving organisation was involved.  I do not say that is because caving interests are involved there might have been access worries anyway owing, say, to the pressure of numbers of caving parties - but it's how I've found it.  I always, where possible, prefer to deal with the owner of the land or cave.  It is much more simple and does not lead to aggression.  There are, however, instances in which it becomes a moral obligation to understand what is at stake; the short-term benefits must not be permitted to outweigh the possibility that natural habitats will be destroyed or so reduced as to be worthless.  It is, in part, the duty of NCC and their like to ensure this.  It is also our duty as cavers and as farmers. We should all think on that.

yours etc

(Bob Lewis) WCC; SVCC.

 

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

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, or the editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee the accuracy of information contained in contributed matter as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal

Enclosed with BB is a ballot form for the election of next year’s committee, please either send it back to Bob or bring it with you to the AGM.

If you haven’t yet booked your dinner tickets with Brian Workman then you are leaving it very late! There is a choice of main course. Roast Sirloin of Beef or Prime Roast Turkey.  If you have booked tickets but have not indicated your choice can you ring Brian (Oakhill (0749) 840815) and let him know what you want.

Annual General Meeting – Belfry – 4th October – 10.30am

AGENDA

1.         Election of Chairman

2.         Collection of outstanding ballot papers

3.         Election of three tellers

4.         Apologies for absence

5.         Collection of members resolutions

6.         Minutes of the 1985 Annual General Meeting

7.         Matters arising from the 1985 Minutes

8.         Hon. Secretary's Report

9.         Hon. Treasurer's Report

10.        Hon. Auditor's Report

11.        Caving Secretary’s Report           12.        Hut Warden’s Report

13.        Tacklemaster's Report

14.        BB Editor's Report

15.        Hut Engineer's Report

16.        Librarian's Report

17.        Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report

18.        Results of ballot for Committee

19.        Election of Committee Posts

20.        Constitutional Amendments

21.        Any Other Business

The Annual Dinner will be held at the Caveman Restaurant, Cheddar on Saturday 4th October at 7.30pm for 8.00pm.

MENU

Hors d’oeuvre

Minestrone soup and Parmesan cheese
or
Home made Liver and Bacon Pate with Melba toast.

Main Course

Roast Sirloin Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Source
or
Prime roast Turkey with bacon, chipolata stuffing and cranberry source.
Roast and parsley boiled potatoes, sprouts and buttered carrots.

Sweet

Homemade sherry trifle and fresh cream
or
Black forest gateaux and fresh cream.

Coffee and mints.

Half a bottle of red or white wine per person.

When ordering tickets please state choice of main course.  Tickets are available from Brian Workman, Oakhill, Bath BA3 5AU, price £10 each.  Please pay for your tickets at least a week before the Dinner - it only costs a 12p stamp and saves messing up Brian's dinner.


 

Constitutional Amendments Proposal.

(In accordance with section 7A of the Constitution)

Committee Proposals  (reference section 5 - Committee)

1.         Para. 5A:  First line "less than 7" be replaced by "less than 8"

2.         That  para. 5b be split into 2 parts.  5b(i) and 5b(ii) and altered as follows: -

5(i) shall read a 5b, but with the word "nine" replaced by “twelve”.

Note: 5b(ii) shall be a clause to allow an election for the committee to take place at the AGM if the system as set out in 5b (i) fails.

5b(ii) to read "In the event that the Secretary receives less than eight nominations by the end of the second week of tember, providing he has given written notice to all members no less than seven days before the AGM, he may ask the Chairman to accept nominations from the floor. Any nominations must be seconded.

The candidates shall include those members nominated from the floor plus any nominations notified a in 5b(i) and voting will be by a method acceptable to the meeting".

3.         Para 5c change “nine” to “twelve”.

4.         Para 5d add “and Membership Secretary” after “Editor”.

Additional Amendment

Proposede:  C.M. Smart

Seconded:  A.Jarrett

That section 3(a)A be amended as follows:  “Married couples” be replaced by “Married and Common Law Couples”.

This is in line with other caving clubs e.g. Bradford Pothole Club and the D.C.R.A. who accept such common law couples as joint members.  I believe that it would have the additional benefit of bringing in extra revenue.

As the committee has the ultimate sanction of accepting or rejecting such membership this amendment is not as radical as it seems at first inspection.

Blitz.


 

Hon. Secretary’s Report

OFFICERS’ REPORTS

So now the BEC is 51 years old.  The club wound themselves up to the fiftieth celebrations and would appear to have not come down again.  The membership as a whole, have pulled together in true BEC style and the club has enjoyed an exceptionally active year.  Members have been involved in many notable achievements, the Cheddar Risings, Daren Cilau extensions, a very successful club expedition to Austria and the reopening of Wigmore Swallet as a club digging project, to name but a few.

The Belfry improvements are not only finished. but paid for, thanks to the efforts of the treasurer and many kind donations by members new and old.  Phil Romford, Alan Thomas, Nigel Taylor and Butch are also to be thanked for their fund raising efforts.

If anything marred the year it was the unpleasantness of the SSSI problem, this affected all the clubs on Mendip as you may or may not have read in the BB.  The actions taken by the NCC in respect of this matter seriously damaged our relations with the landowners, and as a result a number of caves have been closed. 

The BEC has been active in the efforts to restore the status quo, because of our commitment to supporting the local landowners a committee decision was taken to close St. Cuthbert’s for a period of 2 weeks earlier in the year as a gesture of solidarity. This decision was not taken lightly and I hope members understand why such action had to be taken.

The Committee has adopted a policy of encouraging active caving throughout the club, and giving special support to our younger members.  It was with this in mind that after a long discussion that we decided to replace the now dated ultra-lightweight tackle with an amount of SRT equipment.  This subject will no doubt be enlarged upon by the Tackle Officer in his report.

Efforts are still being made to purchase the Cuthbert's lease but due to our lack of funds at the beginning of the year we have not pushed this matter.

It pleases me this AGM to see the club has returned to its former glory and an election is necessary to decide on next year's committee.  Last year we had the unfortunate position whereby we had insufficient candidates to form a full committee, this was rectified by using the co-option rule in the constitution.  As directed, the committee has drafted proposals for constitutional changes that will allow a committee to be elected from the floor at the AGM, if such an emergency situation should ever arise again.

I personally would like to thank all the present committee for their Herculean efforts throughout the year~ which has made my job as secretary that much easier.  A special thank you, I think, is in order to Jeremy Henley who, unfortunately for the club, is resigning from the post of treasurer. He has made major contributions to the running of the club during his term of office and will be missed in the future.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I have enjoyed carrying out the secretarial duties for the club, and I hope the forth coming year will prove as fruitful as the last. Bob Cork, Hon Sec, Sept 1986


 

1985/86 Treasurers Report

1)                  The club has had a successful year financially.  It opened the year with a negative balance of £1633.82 and closed the year with a current balance of £1024.41, a turnaround of £2658.23.  Our overdraft peaked in September at £2402.00

2)                  This has been due to the generosity of a number of members, the hard work of others who have raised funds, the increase in subscriptions and the earlier payment of them, the level of hut fees set towards the end of the new financial year and a tighter control on inessential expenditure.

3)                  I am pleased to report that a significant amount of tackle has been purchased this year, in excess of £400 which is more than all the years together that I have been treasurer and this I believe heralds a return to what the club is about – caving.

4)                  The number of bednights has fallen steeply which is of great concern as they are the largest source of income.  The fall has been offset by the higher charges, but if the trend continues the surplus earned this year will not continue.

5)                  If donations and fund raising for the hut are ignored the surplus of income over expense from normal activities was £902.67.  I recommend therefore that subscriptions and hut fees remain unchanged for the coming year.

Jeremy Henley .


 

Caving Secretary’s Report

It hardly seems a year since I told Mac there was no way he was ever going to con me into being Caving Sec. I’ve surprised myself and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it though~ and I’ll gladly do it next year if elected.

Since last October the club has had some good meets up in Yorkshire and one or two washouts in South Wales (still there was always the Pub eh!!). But the main news of the year has been the club’s remarkable success in finding a new cave!

Snablet and Tom Chapman found several hundred feet in Swildons 2 before the NCC decided that cave formations damaged their red tape!  A connection between the Boulder Chamber and Ifold Series in Eastwater looked on the cards too, found by J-Rat and Tim Large, until the NCC put a stop to caving, farming and goodwill in Priddy (presumably because it all looks a bit messy to the hordes of tourists they are encouraging to the area).

In Manor Farm.  Quiet John Watson, Wormhole and Chris Castle are working on a very promising rift in the far reaches beyond NHASA Gallery which is currently yielding to Tim Large’s box of tricks!  Blitz Passage at the end of Wigmore has decided its not a terminal choke after all (again thanks to Tim’s bang licence).  Tim, Steve M., Blitz and myself are currently making steady progress in a low, draughting bedding with high hopes of hitting the limestone soon.  Trevor Hughes has been helped in Halloween Rift by Pete Eckford and Trebor is optimistic about reaching Wookey Hole before his beard reaches his baldric.

Andy Sparrow has been busy in Boughs Cave digging in various sites and in the same cave Richard Stevenson and Rob Harper have what must be one of the most significant cave diving discoveries of recent years.

In Daren Cilau, the Rock Steady Crew have found over one and a half kilometres of passage and a connection with Agen Allwedd looks close.  We stand a good chance of getting the longest British cave system in the next year.

In Co. Clare, the BEC were making their presence felt at Easter with Pete Glanville and Martin Grass diving the Green Holes and the LADS finding numerous new sites and pushing Poulnagrinn.

Even New Zealand didn't manage to escape from the BEC influence with the Wilton-Jones's year long caving extravaganza taking in some of the islands finest caves.

Bob and Dany represented the club on the Mexico 86 Expedition with over 20 km of new passage explored including one at -600m.

And finally Austria. J Rat and Trebor dug into Wiesberghohle.  C38 (Titanschacht) was bottomed; numerous other caves found and Jagerhohle pushed down 25 pitches to a point over 600m deep with a possible connection to Hirlatzhohle and a record for the deepest through trip is on the cards.

Mark Lumley, Sept 1986


 

Belfry Bulletin Editor’s Report - September 1986

This has been a good first year for me as editor.  Unlike previous years I have had a good supply of articles from a number of members and I thank them all for making the effort.  As in most years most of the articles I have received have come from the same small group of members, I shall not name them in case I omit anyone, but my particular thanks to them.

In many ways the quality of the BB is out of the editor's hands as it is mainly a mirror on the club's activities.  The editor's task is made much easier when the club is active and I feel that this has been the case this year.  I have tried to keep members informed as to all the clubs activities within a reasonable time of their happening and as such I am pleased to have an article in this BB (September) on the club's expedition to Austria.

It was a pity that the largest BB for many years was only due to the scheduling of SSSI’s and I make no apologies for boring some members with all the relevant bumph.  It is, unfortunately, one of the most important happening affecting Mendip caving and it is my duty to keep members as fully informed as possible.

My main regret with the BB this year has been the length of time between my finishing typing an issue and the time it takes to print it and distribute it.  I hope that this can be changed next year and we are already investigating ways of doing so.

Dave Turner.


 

Dachstein ‘86

Extracts From The Log & General; Report

By 2.8.86, three carloads of Belfryites had arrived in Hallstatt, and were in various stages of inebriation ranging from plain comatose to Commode Hugging Drunk. Blitz, Gonzo, Steve Milner, Trebor, Duncan Frew (The Token Wessex member) Richard Payne walked up the mountain in the afternoon while J-Rat, Bullroarer Gould, Andy Lovell & Snablet sorted out the Seilbahn and stayed in Hallstatt, for a valuable public relations exercise in the Divers Bar and the local caving hut.  Andy Lovell was so impressed with the local Stiegel beer that he deposited his entire evenings intake on the pavement outside the Bar, for further examination and then proceeded to lose his wallet containing all his holiday money.  This first evening set the standard for many happy nights to follow.

Log: 3/8 While Steve, Trebor & Richard worked the winch, Blitz, Duncan & Gonzo went for a walk to look for cave. Found several small draughting holes, one 15m shaft with a cairn beside it, one large entrance with a boulder ruckle and then rediscovered site C.38 which we gardened and estimated to be about 50m - to be descended tomorrow - back to Wiesberghaus, to get drunk on beer & Roberts whiskey.  Mark.

Log: 3/8 Trebor, Steve & Richard went off for acclimatisation walk when the others got back, cave spotting also.  Found numerous plugged snow holes of course, plus a chamber with an ice covered floor and ice stals.  Then found C.57 which seems to have opened up since it was last looked at.  Worth a better look at in the Morgan. Trebor.

We were joined in the evening by Bob Riley of the Burnley C.C. Tomma, Malvern Dave and Pete of the N.C.C. An enjoyable evening was had by all around a bonfire outside the Wiesberghaus with our hosts, Robert & Laura.

Log: 4/8/  Tomma, Pete, J.Rat, Dave (SWCC), Snablet, Bob Riley. Went for a look at C.33.  Cave drops quickly down several short climbs to head of 10m pitch to large chamber and cairn (this was explored to here by S. Mittendorfer in 1961).  Passage beyond here is continuously small and awkward with several climbs.  It was pushed for about 80m to an awkward double bend-still going.  Knocked it on the head here.  If this hole goes it would be a twat to ferry tackle and a cave NOT to be in when it rains.  Tomma.

Log: 4/8 Dave, Pete, Tomma, J.Rat & Snablet.   Had a root round in a dig - Asshohle, after removing some boulders in a loose choke. After a six foot drop, a five foot crawl leading to a cross rift blocked at one end.  Other end unknown.  There is a slight draught, it needs another look with more protection than shorts. Bearing from C.33 is        Dave.

Log: 4/8 Gonzo, Steve, Blitz, Duncan. Back to C.38 with lots of rope, crowbar etc.  Shifted constricting boulder - 8 seconds (with ricochets) to bottom!!  Dropped onto ledge to stick in bolt, awkward - wasted an hour.  Abseiled 5m to next ledge where I rigged a free hang for a 20-25m pitch in large rift. Landed on ledge with much loose debris and snow.  Slope down to head of 25-30m (estimated) pitch.  Because of the falling boulders, I traversed out on left wall for a free hang, stuck in bolt and exited.  Water can be heard at the bottom, pitch is about 50' x 60'.  Mark.

Log 4/8 C.38 contd. Points not mentioned by Mark. Three bloody great Faults intersect where the cave descends, if this is not a sound prospect I'm a Bratwurst!! Steve.

Log: 4/8.  On the way back from C.38 we walked towards Grun Kogel, but continued around at about C.38 height.  Noted several swallets, couple of shafts, one section of amazing canyon passage into a snow plug and two horizontal entrances (1m x 1.5m) one into snow plug with chamber/passage (4m x 5m) leading to very easy dig into cross rift. Could see 4m right and 2m left. Blitz.

Log: 4/8 Trebor & Richard.  Went to look at C.57.  Loads of shafts & collapses along fault parallel to resurgence - all choked.

Log: 4/8 Andy, Tim, Snablet. Noted several holes in massive depression about ½ hour from Wiesberghaus.  One was blowing well, had a short dig in large boulders.  Found 10-15 shafts nearby several of which are over 20m deep but very tight.  Andy.

Log: 4/8 Pleasant dreams about Samantha Fox, ruined by three Yorkshire twats who couldn't hold their beer (Morning Tomma!) have to educate them about how to drink ad infinitum! Mark.

Snablet demonstrated the tradition of Morris honking, retching all night to the accompaniment of bells.

Log: 5/8 Wiesberghoh1e. Tomma, Pete, J.Rat, Trebor.  To a cave 4 mins from the Wiesberghaus shown to us by Robert.  A low, muddy, descending crawl led to a choke some 10m in. This was dug and passed by J.Rat, Dave and Trebor - the others going to descend a nearby 10m shaft.  Beyond the choke the passage was walking sized dry phreatic stuff leading to a 14m pitch after about 16m.  From the pitch bottom some 180m of superb, roomy cave ending on the brink of a 15-20m (approx) pitch with large passage visible below and the sound of a stream.  A selection, of F------ great Henries were hurled down the shaft before we retreated, checking the floor for possible ways down en route.  Nothing found but an inlet passage ⅓ way along leading to calcite choke with an echoing sound beyond.  Removed the entrance choke completely using crowbar, scaffold pole and 15 gallons of adrenalin!  J.Rat.

August 5th, saw a return to C.38, now dubbed Titanschacht, due to the enormous (Wimpey home) boulders on the scree above the entrance.  Steve descended the now wet shaft to continue bolting and was nearly zapped by boulders falling from the loose entrance.  He re-emerged as white as the Homepride man.  Duncan then went down only to return equally promptly when the wall he was bolting into proved that Newton was right and collapsed.

Meanwhile, Blitz and Gonzo, went prospecting.  There was an entrance higher up the fault from Titanschacht.  Heading north along the cliffs, we found many holes including one very large pot on a major fault partially snow plugged which was later descended by Howard Limbert and the Yorkshire crew with a 40m entrance shaft to choke.

Log: 5/8 Wiesberghohle. After removing the choke near the entrance with the famous words from J. Rat

"I can't understand what's holding this lot up!"  While standing underneath a fridge sized Henry!  Pete and Dave, then went down the next (23m) pitch leading into tight, immature passage.  7m up the shaft a rift passage leads to fallen blocks and a possible way on, but after ½ hours battering it still would not yield.  About ½ way down the pitch a pendulum led to a shattered passage leading after 20m to a 17m pitch.  Another pitch found after 7m - about 16m (un-descended).  Several passages leading off to old, abandoned passage and tight vertical rifts below the main passage ending in a climb needing rope into passage below.  The Food Snatchers.

Log: 6/8 Titanschacht - Gonzo and Duncan.  Went down together so as not to lob any Herberts on each other.  Gonzo managed the next rebelay using a piton to stay in situ. Reached the bottom of the main shaft - solidly choked.  Returning up about 16m we pendulumed into an alcove where we were joined by Bob Riley. Four ways on, three of which closed down.  The fourth, a narrow rift taking water was followed by Duncan to a point where it became too narrow.

Log: Two days in advance but Snablet probably still honking!  South Wales Caving Club, had a 'family coach load' of about 30 people in Hallstatt and were represented on the mountain by a team of about five cavers including Chris Fry, Jon Young, Andy Dawson and Ow Jones.  They had been prospecting an area down the Barengasse-Herengasse Fault where they had little success until Chris, found a hole that was later to change the direction of the entire expedition.

Log: 6/8 5104.  Open entrance leads to steeply descending rift dropping 32m (approx) over a length of 130m.  Two short crawls give access to a chamber with a large 40m pitch.  Way on open.  Andy.

The hole was next to a group of Jagerhuttes (Hunters Lodges) so the Mendip contingent promptly renamed S104 Jagerhohle (Hunters Hole) much to the disgust of the Welsh lads!!

Log: 7/8 Kurt, Peter Seetoller (Halistatt Club) Burnley Bob, Trebor, J.Rat, Steve, Blitz. Wiesberghohle.  Tourist trip for the Austrians - Peter was impressed, Kurt just took the piss.  Pushed sandy crawl on ledge at bottom of Berghilchschacht to emerge back in Dave and Pete's passage.  J.Rat swung on the rope at the top of Robertschacht to reach a very exposed ledge half of which promptly dropped off.  He chickened out at this point but a large passage can be seen 3m away over the top of the shaft.  Needs bolting or rigid ladder.

Log: 7/8 C.66 Must castrate Blitz.  Mark. While you're about it don't forget a certain small pitches without prussiking kit. Duncan, bastard who abseils down.

Log: 7/8.  After farting about with C.66 we walked off towards Niederer Ochsenkogel.  I looked for horizontal entrances in the terraces of the eastern face.  There were five or six small passages heading in for about 10 - 15m before becoming too tight.  Then I found an entrance partially obscured by fallen scree.  The passage was 3-4m wide and 10m high. Mark.

The next day this was entered and choked after 20-30m.

Log: 7/8 Walked back to draughting hole and dug until boulders were too big.  Wandered over west and found some holes with snow plugs, one of which nearly collapsed under me.  Abseiled down 7m to snow covered floor in a small chamber with good icicles and way on tight over snow-not followed.

On the way back I found a 30m shaft with snow at the bottom and a possible way on: Andy.  C.66.  After pulling up a few rocks from entrance of a tight shaft: descended 7m to ledge then further 7m to bottom of shaft with narrow rift running off at the bottom. White walled rift ended (too tight) after about 33m.  Pretty Horrible.  Snablet.

Log: 7/8 S104 (Jagerhohle). Continued on from base of 40m pitch up over pile of boulders along short traverse to top of next pitch estimated at 45m. Started rigging difficult pitch head, then driver fell apart and dropped down the hole.  Second shaft is on a large fault, bearing not yet known. Andy.

Log: 7/8 2 Austrians, 1 Yorkie.  Shaft on Grune Kogel.  Ten minutes walk from Titanschacht following cairns.  Entrance in large doline.  Scramble down past snow plug - climbs and pitches to depth approx 40m.  Base of shaft, small alcove with climbs above to passage (not yet climbed).  Large obvious cave leading off in opposite direction, very easy going in large, half round tube for 130m to a draughting dig.  This was pushed through to a small chamber, climb up sandy slope to large squeeze into base of an aven.  Two alternatives into more active part of system with small, un-descended pitch. Bob.

The eight of August, was fairly uneventful as far as caving went.  There was a thunderstorm in the afternoon.  Half the team went down to Hallstatt for a trip in Hirlatzhohle which was unfortunately postponed, the Welsh lads returned to Jagerhohle but left prematurely without rigging the second pitch as the water started to rise. The Wiesberghaus was struck by lightning and so was one of the Welsh crew.  In the end there was nothing for it but to get Steigeled.  We were also joined by 4 M.U.S.S. who had been turfed off the Tennengeberge.  Between us we drank the Weisberghaus dry:

Log: 9.8.86.  5104 Jagerhohle. Duncao, Bob, Gonzo.  Second pitch rigged 40m deep 70% of which the walls are coated thickly with moon milk.  Obvious passage leading off soon becomes tight.  Climb down through boulders to stream, traverse forward to 3rd pitch - 15m (approx) soon followed by 4th pitch (18m) short passage to 5th pitch. Gonzo descended the 5th pitch on the last available rope.  The pitch was 33m.  Unfortunately the rope was only 30m so some acrobatics were needed (using a cowtail) before the descent was completed.  A steep ramp headed off to the top of the 6th pitch.  Meanwhile, Duncan and Chris, started surveying.  Bob.

Log: 10/8 Hirlatzhohle. Kurt, Tim Gould, J. Rat, Andy, Blitz, Richard, 8 SWCC, Tomma, Pete, Dave.  Kurt was 7 mins late but then had to wait 1 hour for BEC/NCC to eat their breakfast.  Superb trip in this huge phreatic system to the end of the old cave, where Dave and Blitz pushed along a grotty, wet passage for 70m to a choke.  A race developed on the way back to the entrance. Everyone very impressed by the huge passage, tons of fine white sand and the incredible howling draught in the small entrance passages.  All this after a superb afternoon/evenings booze up at the Hallstatt Festival where a BEC sticker was employed ABOVE a SWCC flag about 60' up the side of the local church tower - thanks to the local cavers who were demonstrating S.R.T. rescue with the most attractive, sensual, tasty etc. etc. rescue victim on record. Regarding this, there is one place where the BEC actually failed to get!  J. Rat.

Log: 10/8. 5104 Jagerhohle. Burnley Bob, Nigel and Jan M.U.S.S. Re-rigged several pitches, down slope of boulders rigged with line, 13m pitch (6th), climb down to stream.  A few meters of passage then 10m pitch (7th) (Lousy Rigging) into stream.  Short passage with stream disappearing through impenetrable crack on the left. Step up into large canyon passage sloping down steeply with several pools.  Short pitch just ahead.

Log: 11/8 Jagerhohle, Snablet, Steve, Gonzo.  Up at 6 o'clock (To avoid forecast evening storm).  Snablet got lost.  Steve and Mark carried on down to Bob’s furthest point of yesterday.  Down sloping canyon to 7m pitch (8th) and along canyon to 13m pitch (9th) into abandoned sump-zone with formations. Dried mud over floor.  Bob arrived and found way on to head of 10th pitch. Complex area at head of the pitch wants looking at. Plenty of room to sit out flash flood between all pitches. Mark.

By now Howard & Debbie Limbert, Tim, Allen, Rupert, Dany and Alan Turner had arrived at the hut and were busy looking for cave and following up previous leads.

Log: 11/8 Jagerhohle. Andy, Jon (SWCC).  Left early to re-rig some of the pitches. With thoughts of thunderstorms and long hold up at 2nd pitch we ended up helping Duncan with surveying to 3rd pitch. Rigging on 2nd pitch needs attention.  Andy.

Log: 11/8 Recce to GruneKogel.  1 hour walk from camp follow good cairn route to large, obvious fault at base of cliffs. Large entrance hole (AI) was descended by 15m pitch to another shaft (20m) which was blocked with snow.  No obvious draught.  200m back along cliff base found two (A2, A3) large depressions. A2 consisted of 20m pitch followed by slope on snow past ice formations to snow chute 35m (approx) deep.  A3 - A small climb down 8m to snow plug.  Climb up on one side led to crawl 10m to 30m pitch followed by 16m pitch to tight passage.  Could see a pitch in front.  At base of 30~ pitch a passage led off to top of 50m (un-descended) pitch. A return trip is planned tomorrow, book early!!  Howard.

Log: 11/8 Blitz, John(Big Nose) and Dave. Wiesberghohle.  Went back down.  Got across the pole above first rope pitch (Robertschacht).  After 2m of horizontal passage it led to a short shaft connecting with Robertschacht.  After a 5m traverse it led to another shaft (13m).  After climbing about 5m this was seen to be too tight.  Dave.

Log: 12/8 Jagerhohle, Trebor, Andy, Tim.  Photographic trip getting good shots of 1st & 2nd pitches.  We met J.Rat and crew, had a smoke and pissed off out. Tim.  After about 4 hrs

Log: 12/8 Jagerhohle. Tomma and Howard, surveyed from top of 3rd pitch to bottom of 9th pausing only for Tomma to honk every 5 mins. J.Rat and Trebor, surveyed from bottom of 9th to within 33m of 10th.  Superb trip with a few exciting moments on both 2nd and 1st pitches. J.Rat nearly lost his top set of teeth! J.Rat.

The incident above was when Tony's maillon decided to part company with one side of his sit harness 40m off the ground.  He was promptly horribly sick over those waiting below.

Log: 12/8 Jagerhohle, Dave, Pete, John (Big Nose).  After fighting our way down amongst everybody we hit some abominable rigging, this is rope we are using, not wire and we are playing with peoples lives.  We picked up various lengths of rope in bags scattered around the place.  After the 10th pitch it started to change character with narrow rift passages leading to a 5m pitch.  After, some narrow rift passages led to some shorter pitches including a 10m pitch with a rebelay to a 16m pitch.  Traversing over the latter led to another shaft reconnecting with the first. Carrying on further led to a huge shaft, going upwards - the light would not reach the top.  The bottom 16m is quite aqueous.  This led to (approx) 10m of narrow rift to an un-descended 3m pitch. Here we were hit by an increase in water and made a hasty retreat.  Some of the pitches were quite wet, but nothing too bad.  This is a superb cave with loads of passage which has not yet been touched~ Hirlatzhohle here we come!  Dave.

Log: 13/8 Jagerhohle. Tim, Allen, Rupert.  Went down, fucked about for 13 hours and came out.  The trip was joined by Bob Riley, between them they pushed the cave down to the top of the seventeenth pitch and surveyed back to the tenth.  Rupert

Log: 13/8 Jagerhohle Gonzo. Solo trip in until I met 2 South Wales lads rigging 2nd pitch.  Headed down with them to head of 9th.  Climbed up in roof to well decorated higher section of rift.  At top of 10th went along phreatic borehole to base of large aven. S.W.C.C. headed out while I went down to help bolt the pitches.  Met Bob, Rupert and Tim on P.13 surveying.  Bolting done, no more rope so I headed out losing carbide base en route. Mark.

Log: Where is it now HEE! HEE!  Anon.

Log: 13/8 Andy's mega through trip.  Carried Trebor from the Wiesberghaus to the Glacken in a comatose state and placed him gently on the floor.  He had drunk 1¼ bottles of Johnny Walker!  Andy.

The day was also noted for an amusing remark from a German tourist - 'You are cave inspectors, Ja?'  J.Rat's pearl of wisdom on comparing the local brands of cigarette  "Having a hobby is better than smoking a Johnny!"

Log: 14/8 Steve, Dave, Pete and John.   'Kin excellent trip.  15 hours and absolutely shagged out.  Went down approximately 20 pitches to the head of a mega passage/pitch/fault bearing N.W. straight towards the Hirlatzhohle.  Pete descended this on several ropes tied together but the rigging is awful and needs to be done properly.  Hirlatzhohle here we come!  A hell of a trip to finish a superb holiday - me thinks I'll be back next year…pity, I missed the farewell piss-up.  Steve.

The majority of the Mendip crew headed for home to dry out on the fifteenth, leaving seven of the Yorkshire team with Dany and Alan.  We were all well satisfied with a superb Holiday and Caving Expedition behind us but were sorry to leave the cave twenty pitches down with a connection to Hirlatzhohle looking imminent.  The bottom zone of the cave was looking very similar to Hirlatz and we estimated that we were down about 600m.  The cave seemed to be heading towards a high, prominent inlet on the Hirlatz survey.

Log 15/8.  Looked for new caves in the depressions higher up from Jagerhohle.  One hole was draughting quite strongly but was too small to get in because boulders blocked the way.  Inside I could see it got larger.  Alan.

Stardate: 15/8.  Dear Brethren, the holy one, Kurt and Peter, have arrived at our humble abode.  The great one has ordained that he and other Ostriches will not permit the name Jagerhohle and it must be called Wies Alm Schacht.  You will obey my commands!  Or you will be exterminated.  Your most humble servant, Pete.

P.S.  Vy hass ze zurveyed length not been put on ze survey, instead off ze plan length~ Ziss vill not do!  Vy you not do it??

Dany, Howard, Bob. Went down to continue survey and bring more gear down Wiesberghohle.  Survey started at top of 20th pitch, down boulder rift and through huge boulder choke for streamway continuation.  Finished at head of (approx) 80m pitch where Tim, Rupert and Bob were rigging.  Exited after 17 hours trip total depth for last survey station 483.Sm.  It's now heading towards one of the high points of Hirlatzhohle (approx) 100m difference in height 1km away.

Rupert, Tim and Bullit Bob. Last pushing trip.  Re-rigged 21st pitch with single rope and took the rest on down.  Steep descent through boulder choke (50m) lead back to stream.

Water disappeared into tight rift but over top, phreatic passage led to 80m pitch which required devious rigging with 2 deviations and 3 rebelays.  Top part was in wide rift but bottom part opened out into large circular shaft.  At the bottom the stream entered an immature streamway but a climb up boulders gained a large phreatic tunnel with a crazed mud floor.  (Something for the S.W.C.C. to tape off next year).  This passage led for several hundred feet to a squeeze then opened out again just so pitch (un-descended).  The depth must now be between 550m - 580m. Prospects look excellent.

De-rigging The Bastard. Pete, Nose and Jordy, de-rigged all kit to 15th Pitch.

Large team then went in at various times and de-rigged to 1st pitch and took several bags out. Next day, everyone brought bags out and de-tackled to Seilbahn hut.  Job done.

Two flood pulses went down on the mega de-rigging trip but no real problems caused.  Several people quite cold due to hanging about and Dave drew short straw to de-tackle the bottom of 5th pitch very wet when rope isn't tied off!!

With the cave left below 550m we'll have to go back next year.  Realistically, we should put a camp down in the region of the 22nd pitch. We're going to need a lot of 9mm rope for the lower pitches of the cave because tackle ferrying can be awkward between the 9th and 15th pitches so we shall need sponsorship.

The furthest point reached is only 150 metres above Hirlatzhohle with about a kilometre to go along the fault.  A connection will give us a cave with a depth of 1100m putting it amongst the deepest in the world.  We will also have one of the deepest through trips in the world.  Anyone interested?

Mark Lumley.

Surveys in the next B.B.


 

Jager Hohle (Hunters Hohle)

[PROPERLY KNOWN AS WIES - ALM HOBLE]

Jager Hohle discovered by Chris Fry, one of the contingent from the SWCC, was a delight to explore.

Mark Lumley, (Burnley) Rob Riley and I were invited by the SWCC to help rig the second deep & roomy pitch, this turned out to be approx. 180' deep.  This was quickly followed by three more pitches; 40' 50' and 100'.  We ran out of rope at this stage and headed out after 8hrs.  We had reached approx. -800'.

Our second trip two days later, incidentally on my birthday, saw Mark, Burnley Bob and I rigging down to the bottom of the 9th pitch, approx. -950'.  Here the cave development was horizontal and confusing, we retired again as we had little rope and couldn't find the way!.

The next day Malvern Dave, Pete, and Tomma of the NCC discovered the route beyond the 9th and rigged down to the top of the 14th.  The next pushing team; Burnley Bob, Rupert Scorupka and Tim Fogg pushed down to the top of the 18th pitch (with some superb acrobatic rigging on their part).

My penultimate day up on the limestone plateau was spent exploring Jager Hohle with Malvern Dave, Pete and John (Big Nose), pushing down to the top of the 21st pitch.  When we arrived at the bottom of the 14th pitch we had a brew and decided that Malvern Dave and I should rig beyond the 18th pitch and that Pete and Big Nose should follow behind us surveying from the last survey point at the 14th.  This arrangement worked perfectly, Dave and I managing to keep ahead of the survey team bolting where necessary.  I still had reservations about rigging virgin pitches as the first time I had tried this lark was during the previous week down Titan Schacht, Dave told me later that he too had very little experience of rigging virgin pitches, anyway, we managed.

Around the 19th pitch the cave changed character completely.   From the clean washed rift passage we had been descending we came into a lofty passage with the first dry mud banks, the remnants of a flood centuries ago.  We dropped down a 10' pitch and had the pleasure of racing down a big passage to the top of a very big drop.  The wall to our left and in front of us couldn't be seen with our lights and we threw stones down an obviously very deep ramp.  An impressive place.  We had three medium sized ropes left, these we tied together and Pete made a dodgy descent over an unstable wall on the right using an equally dodgy rebelay.  At the bottom Pete raced off and was only held up from further exploration by a 10' pitch.  The landing was -397.8m and Pete had descended a further 70m or so.

Dave and I had been waiting at the top of the 21st for one hour during Pete's descent.  The draught at this point was terrific (outwards) and despite thermal underwear, an Alpinex undersuit, a furry undersuit, an oversuit, balaclava and gloves, we were very cold indeed.  It took ages for us to warm up a again on the way out.  We exited from the cave to a beautiful clear night, I had been down some 15hrs or so and was very knackered.  The journey back up to the Wiesberghaus took me well over an hour, a less exhausted person would complete the distance in 25 mins or so. At 2am at my tent (and in a frost) I passed into a very deep and happy sleep.

ADDENDUM

I understand that only one more pushing trip was made before the cave had to be de-rigged.  The cave was approx. -550m to the top of a hundred or so foot pitch.  The line of the cave is on a fault down the Wies Alm Valley heading straight towards a passage in the Hirlatzhohle 1km distant and just 160m or so below us. Horizontal development has to come soon in very large cave.  We have potentially the deepest through trip in the world (and the longest in Austria if we connect with the Mammuthohle as well).

Steve Milner


 

Austria 86 - A personal view 

Most of the Mendip lot were already in Austria, I had arranged to go with Dany and four others (Howard and Deb, Rupert and Tim Allen).  After a couple of delays in the packing we set off in Dany's van with enough food to feed the five thousand.  After about six miles Dany decided that we would have to stop in Bristol to restock up the food, we hadn't any "Lime Pickle" or "Bombay Duck".  After all the delays we actually managed to catch the midnight Dover to Calais ferry, an hour earlier than had been arranged.  The duty free was giving a bargain we could not resist, 24 small cans of beer for five pounds, these cans were the first best buy.

After stopping in the night for a sleep in a French lay-by we drove continuously through Belgium, Germany and into Austria.  We arrived in Hallstat in the early hours of Sunday, the mountains were just outlines in the sky.  We went to sleep by the lake, just outside Hallstat.  An early morning swim with the topless women was made by a few in the group, but was just too much for Dany.

After the excitement we had to organise the sailband (A cable car which can only carry equipment) The Scailband would take our equipment to the “Wiesberghaus” (The Hunters).  It took a few hours to organise because the Wiesberghaus had been hit by lightning the day before, so communications were nil.  A couple from our group walked up (one to two hour walk) and by midday we had just sent our first load.  We finished with the Sailband by 4.00pm and we managed to catch the last cable car up. As we arrived at the cable car we met Dave, Pete and Tomma who gave us the general news, and about Tomma's mystery illness after a night's drinking.

I was quite surprised at the speed of thunderstorms, because by the time we reached the top the heavens had opened.  We stayed at the cable car bar until the storm had subsided, then we made our way to the Wiesberghaus.  The evening was spent at the Wiesberghaus having a piss up, and hearing all the news.

First day up the hill I decided to go with Howard, Deb, Rupert, Tim and Dany to look for some new caves.  The walk was half an hour across jagged limestone following good cairn tracks  (A place which had been roughly looked at the week before but needed another look).  At the base of the cliff there was an obvious fault, the first hole (Al) was on the fault.  The hole was 15 feet by 20 feet, with snow on one side. Tim and Rupert descended the 10 metre entrance shaft to an inclined passage, 3 feet wide by 10 ft high with a ice floor.  This led to the head of a 20m pitch, at the bottom it was blocked by snow.  There was no obvious draught.

While they had been down the cave the rest of us were looking for more holes which could be descended.  One looked very promising (A2) and had a 30ft diameter entrance shaft.  The entrance shaft was about 40ft deep, with snow at the bottom.  One side of a pitch was descended (100ft) but this was also blocked by ice.  Some good ice formations!  Another hole was found (A3) with a slightly smaller entrance shaft than (A2) with a 20ft free climb onto a snow plug with no way down.  On the far side was a fairly awkward climb of 10ft.  This led along a small passage for 15ft to the head of a 30m pitch.  At the top it was very frost shattered and a few moments were taken clearing the pitch of loose boulders.  The pitch was descended to ledge 10ft from the bottom and a climb down revealed a tight passage leading off.  Trim and Rupert dug for a while to see another pitch (12m) but were too cold to descend.  At the base of the 30m pitch a small passage led off to the top of large shaft (+50m) this was also un-descended.  I arranged to go with Tim and Rupert on an early morning pushing trip down (A3) the next day.

The next day Tim, Rupert and myself left the campsite about half past eight.  We had arranged that Dany and Deb would come in later to survey. We managed to start descending the cave about quarter past nine, to the sound of a thunderstorm.  I was quite concerned about the storm but carried on. The first pitch had been rigged with a rebelay.  It was looped around a horizontal flake and care had to be taken when prussiking up. We reached the bottom and went to the top of the (50m).  This was actually a fine 160ft. pitch gradually enlarging to a chamber (90ft x 35ft). Half way down the rope went through an eye hole into the chamber, this is the finest pitch I have done!  There were two ways on at the bottom, one was a 30ft choked shaft, and a quick dig led to a 40ft pitch.  This landed on the floor of a chamber with flood water coming in from the roof, but there were no problems.  Another short passage led to a 50ft pitch into a mega fault passage, unfortunately it ended in a solid choke.  We dug for a while with no success!  At the other end of the mega passage a 30ft pitch dropped into a chamber, one end was choked and the other end had a 20ft climb which was too tight. Rupert climbed several avens in the chamber, there was much loose rock!  (“BELOW”)

At the bottom of the first shaft (90ft) a squeeze led to a 50ft pitch, but was too tight at the bottom to continue.

When we reached the surface after five hours caving the visibility had fallen to couple of yards due to fog.  Back at the campsite we found the surveying team; they had been delayed due to a mystery illness which Dany had caught the night before in the bar of the Wiesberghaus'

In the evening back at the Wiesberghaus there were rumours that 8104 (a Welsh find) was still going big and deep, so Tim, Rupert and I organised to go on an early trip down the “Jager Hohle” (Hunter"s Hole).

The cave is situated fifteen minutes away from the Wiesberghaus down towards Hallstat.  To find the cave we proceeded in a south easterly direction down the Wies Alm Valley past two hunting huts.  At the third (south eastern) hut we turned left and the cave was roughly 30 metres away in a small depression / gulley.  The cave entrance was quite small compared to the cave we did the day before (4ft-6ft).  The first ten minutes were along a rifty passage, not hard, but it wrecks S.R.T. gear.  At the end a small crawl led to the first drop of 100ft in huge chamber.  I had been told the ropes were muddy (bloody hell! they were right!).  The first 20ft was like a free fall due the ropes being so slippery and I was pleased I had a Petzl Stop!  The second pitch was not far from the first.  It was 180ft split into four parts, and was very badly rigged!  There was more mud on it than the last and was soon known as "paranoia pitch".

As we continued down, the pitches became smaller.  At the bottom of the sixth pitch my carbide light bust!!!  The others were slightly in front so I decided to solo out.  On my way up the sixth pitch the case for my Petzl light fell off, so I had to re-descend to the bottom with my light fading every minute!  My case was lying between some boulders in the stream and I had to crawl in the water to retrieve it.  I soloed out and met Bob, who was “superman” of the trip (the only way to slow him down was with large tackle bags).  At the bottom of the second pitch I found that they had started to re-rig it in a different place to give a free hang of 180ft.  The problem was they hadn't finished and I had to climb the old rig, half way up the rope caught behind a flake.  When I was about 5ft below it~ the flake came away from the muddy wall and damaged the rope, the sheath was nearly rubbed through.  I reached the surface around three o’clock without further incidents.

A couple of days later I went for a walk further up the valley from the “Jager Hohle”, I found a hole which was draughting strongly, it was blocked with boulders appeared to become larger inside.  I meant to return but didn’t have time.

On Saturday seven of us went down to Hallstat and swam in the lake.  In the evening we had a meal at the Diver's Bar.  We had fairly cheap meals compared to usual Austrian prices, well except for Dany.

In the morning we had breakfast at the Millerty station at top of the cable car.  The beer and food was so cheap here it was unbelievable, beer costed 8 schillings which is less than 40 pence.

Jager Hohle had now reached 22 pitches, one of the drops was 250ft, and the last was an un-descended 50ft. Most caving trips were taking about 18 to 20 hours and next year it will be necessary to have an underground camp. The depth was now just over 500 metres and still going towards Hirlatzhohle.

De-rigging the cave started on Monday morning with five cavers de-rigging up to the ninth pitch and through the rifts.  Tomma and I set off a couple of hours later and helped to carry bags from the ninth. The second pitch was nearly impossible to descend as some fool held tied rock on the bottom of the rope.  We took about and hour and a half to reach the tenth pitch, we arrived to see them exiting from the rifts.  There was a sudden noise and the stream began to increase in size.  I was amazed at the speed it rose compared to the Mendip streams, but luckily the ninth pitch stayed dry.  After a brew we started to head out with a bag each.  On the eighth pitch (10ft) my croll became jammed with mud and it took ages to free it.  Everything was going quite smoothly and the flood had not caused any problems, except for on the fifth pitch, when another flood pulse came and Dave was soaked.  We decided to tie all our bags on and pull them up the fifth pitch (90ft).  This was not a good idea.  It took ages with Dave performing acrobatics over the pitch.

At the second shaft Dany had rigged it to haul bags, he had come in a couple of hours after Tomma and myself.  He told us that he had been delayed due to two huge thunder storms.  The last two pitches took hours.  The M.U.S.S. group were supposed to give us a hand from the second pitch, hauling bags up, but they were sitting out the flood in another cave.  After half an hour I was freezing, so I started out but had to wait at the bottom of the first pitch.  While we waited Dave decided to have some snackertacks (lollypops, wine gums etc.) but instead he nearly blew himself up!  He had put his head down towards the B.D.H. container to see what was inside and his carbide ignited the gas stove which had been leaking.  We eventually reached the surface in the early hours of Tuesday after a ten hour caving trip.  The walk back was a slog but it had stopped raining and I managed to get a drink at the Wiesberghaus.  We had left the bags at the top of the first pitch, ready for the next day.  After coming out we thought we might have to do a cave rescue.  The M.U.S.S cave group were still down their cave.  The problem was that nobody knew exactly where this was!  Then a few lights could be seen in the distance, they had been delayed as they had had to sit out the flood.

The de-rigging was completed the following day with help from the M.U.S.S group and only took about 45 minutes.

It was now Wednesday and we had to start packing our gear to come home to great British weather!  In the evening there was a great Piss Up!! Tim Allen brought his ghetto blaster and there were two barrels of beer.  A bunch of Polish cavers had arrived for 5 weeks.

On Thursday we finished packing and then left for home on Friday morning.  At Calais we decided to get John and Geraldine free onto the boat (one big laugh!). When the ticket officer came round we told him there were only six of us (John and Geraldine hid under a pile of caving gear) and we managed to get through.  We caught the 9.30pm ferry instead of the 12.30am for an extra 13 pounds.  We arrived on the Mendips at 3.00am on Sunday morning.

Thank you to everyone who organised the Austria trip and especially Dany who arranged the transport.

Alan Turner.

 

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

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, or the editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee the accuracy of information contained in contributed matter as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

Editor’s Notes

Politics and Caving

Most members cannot fail to notice the increased size of this BB which unfortunately is due to bureaucratic ineptitude rather than reports of cave discoveries etc.  It is a pity that the most significant find on Mendip for many years – The Cheddar River Cave - is totally eclipsed by the recent problems caused by the enforcement of the scheduling of all the major caves as SSSI’s.

We (Bob Cork, Hon. Sec. and I) have decided that we ought to present club members with all the relevant paperwork concerning the way which the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) has notified landowners of the NCC’s powers over scheduled land.  We have decided to do so as the heavy handed way the NCC has exerted its power has caused the biggest upset in caver/landowner relations since caving began on Mendip at the turn of the century.

For those members who are out of touch with events on “The Hill” it should be pointed out that all active cavers fully understand and sympathise with the landowners anger. The major caves have been shut and the BEC Committee have closed Cuthbert’s for a period of 2 weeks to show solidarity.  Most landowners realise that local cavers are not responsible for the NCC action but if it wasn't for cavers and caving this action would not have happened, and so we are involved and must try to achieve a compromise.

I have also included some of the correspondence and papers concerning the application for planning permission to develop caves in Fairy Cave Quarry as a show cave complex.  This has been turned down by Mendip District Council and there is a strong feeling locally that the National Caving Association (NCA) exceeded its powers in its critical lobbying of Mendip District Councillors.

Dave Turner 21/5/86

Data Protection Act

In the light of the recent Data Protection Act members may be interested to know that the BEC membership list is held on a computer.  As this list contains only that information required for BB delivery (number, name and address) there is no requirement for us to pay £22 for each 3 years registration. Any member who objects to his name being held on a computer may have it removed - but don't blame me if this is your last BB!

Dave Turner

Recent Library Addition.

Karst Geomorphology - J.N. Jennings Caving Practice & Equipment - D. Judson


 

Membership Changes

New Members

1072     Clive Lovell, Keynsham, Bristol
1073     Tracey Newstead, Wells, Somerset
1074     Henry Bennett, Pimlico, London SW1
1075     Brian Wafer, St Pauls Cray, Orpington, Kent

Address Changes

322       Bryan Ellis, Westonzoyland, Bridgwater
1071     Michael McDonald, Urchfont, Devizes, Wiltshire
1067     Fiona McFall, Knowle, Bristol
1037     Dave Pike, Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset
482       Gordon Selby, Wells, Somerset
1031     Mike Wigglesworth, Wells, Somerset.
813       Ian Wilton-Jones, Saudi Arabia

Members Rejoining

896       Pat Cronin, Knowle, Bristol

Sec’s Notes

Cave Closures

The main Mendip news at present is the major upheaval caused by the NCC scheduling cave sites as SSSI’s, a subject that I have enlarged upon in a separate article in this bulletin. The response of the landowners to this action has been to shut a number of caves, namely: Hunters Hole, Swildons, Eastwater, Nine Barrows and Sludge Pit (16/5/86).  We as a club were asked by the landowners to close St Cuthbert’s as a sign of good will.  The committee was consulted and we agreed to stop any trips that had not been previously booked, for a period of two weeks from 18/5/86.  This decision was not taken lightly, but it was felt that we should do as much as possible to support the landowners in their protest against the restrictions imposed upon them.

Club Archivist

The committee realised a need for the club archives to be sorted, shortly after the last AGM.  Alan Thomas offered his services and was appointed to this non-committee post.  He has since been busy doing things archivists do and has recently come up with his first find, a letter which will hopefully find our elusive mining log. The material in the archives shows a great deal of club history and members who need any information of this nature should contact Alan directly.


 

Cheddar River Cave

CHEDDAR RIVER CAVE

ST 468.540

by Richard Stevenson

The three most obvious sites for gaining entrance to the main river cave are Skeleton Pit in Gough’s Cave entrance, Sayes Hole and the actual risings.  The first recorded dives were in May 1955 and in the cases of Skeleton Pit and the Cheddar Risings no material progress has been made since those original dives.

SKELETON PIT

21.5.55 R.E.DAVIES

Using an aqualung, the diver reached a depth of 74 ft. at which point the rift became too narrow for further progress; size 20" by 4ft.  No side passages were observed in the poor visibility but possibilities were thought to exist at a higher level.

CDG Rev, 6 (1953/5)
WCC Jnl.(51), 17 (1955)

First Feeder

21.5.55 R.E.DAVIES & J.S.BUXTON

The divers explored under the arch and found many small holes; the biggest was about 5 ft deep and would admit a body, but at its lowest point would only just admit a pair of feet.  No progress was made.

CDG REV, 6 (1953/5)
WCC Jnl.(51), 17 (1955)

None of the other risings are of any interest to the group, being all too tight to dive.

Conclusion. Many tons of rock would have to be removed from the First Feeder before any progress can be made.

The first dive in Sayes Hole on 31st May 1955 by J S Buxton terminated at a slot in the floor at 25-30 ft depth and 40 ft from base.  This slot was passed by Messrs Drew, Savage and Woodlng in the autumn of 1965, who emerged in the main river.  Upstream this passage was reported blocked at 150 ft by boulder chokes and downstream becomes impenetrable after 40 ft.

Subsequent dives have reported the upstream distance to be approximately 70ft and no further progress has been made.

During late 1985 Mike Duck and I expended considerable effort digging into the second rising where we passed a very tight squeeze and dropped into a small underwater chamber with a flow of water.  The way upstream is very tight and may be blocked with boulders.

The first Somerset Sump Index produced by Ray Mansfield in April 1964 contained the following introduction to Gough’s Cave.

This cave contains three sumps, all of which fall into the class that has been called Reservoir.  Of these three water surfaces only the so called 'Skeleton Pit' is large enough to dive.  The level of all three sumps is approximately the same, and like that of Saye's Hole, they rise when, in times of flood, the resurgences become over laden. At such times water rises within the cave from gravel in the floor of the passage at its lowest point; considerable flooding of the cave then occurs.

Andy Sparrow suggested to me, in his own inimitable way, that I might like to have a look at the sump in the oxbows.  It was getting near to closing time, I was in no fit state to argue and it seemed like a good idea at the time!  The dive was fixed for the following Monday evening.  I looked back at my old newsletters, and found a log for the site which did little for my enthusiasm.

GOUGH’S CAVE Cheddar

ST 467.539

18th May 1980

Diver: M.J. Farr

Aim: to examine the recently discovered sump about 200m from the entrance.

The sump pool is approached via a narrow (1.5 x 0.75 m.) pot, ten metres deep.  In clear water the sump (0.75 m. in diam) appeared to level off into a larger passage after a couple of metres.

On diving, feet first, any horizontal development was ruled out.  The pot continued on down over a small ledge.  Visibility nil.  The passage dimensions together with excessive sediment left a lot to be desired, and at -10m. the diver was concerned as to the position of his line, plus the fact that his valve was not performing satisfactorily.  The pot continued.  Little difficulty was experienced on the ascent and a further dive using a large cylinder could well be a good idea.

Monday evening came (11th November) and I set off with Quackers and an ebullient Sparrow.  The approach had all the makings of a Sparrow delight, awkward and very muddy.  The descent to the sump is a fairly difficult climb with loose rocks on the ledges.  We took a rope to assist on the climb and I dived on a single set of kit using the end of the rope as base fed diving line. I descended 45ft in totally zero visibility in a tight pot to bottom on a mud bank.  There was an impression of a void on my left but I had run out of rope and was unwilling to drag it sideways with such a difficult descent.  I returned to the surface with only moderate difficulty.

A return dive was made a week later with a line reel and lead weight.  In view of the restricted nature of the sump and its approach coupled with a desire not to be overly optimistic I dived on a single set without fins.  The descent was accomplished without problem (other than it feels about a hundred feet deep) and the line belayed to the lead weight on the mud bank.  A traverse of about ten feet to the left resulted in a noticeable temperature drop and I emerged into a large river passage of crystal clear water with visibility of approximately twenty feet.  What a contrast from the tube I had descended, and what a fool I felt without fins or a second set of diving equipment.

Diving was out of the question from mid December until early February as a result of flooding.

Subsequent dives in the company of Rob Harper have resulted in 500 ft. magnificent river passage terminating in a chamber.  The chamber, which has no dry land, crosses the main river and is approximately one hundred feet long, forty feet high and fifteen feet wide.  The chamber has been called "Lloyd Hall", I know Oliver would have been very excited about these discoveries and it seems a pity that he died such a short time before.

Rob Palmer and I have continued exploration from Lloyd Hall.  A steeply descending drop through boulders to 40ft and difficult route finding lead in about 100ft to a wide bedding with a scalloped floor.  A further 100ft of awkward passage with huge deep cross rifts and rock bridges finally yielded a magnificent sandy floored ascending passage maybe 20ft wide.  This ascended up the bedding to break surface on a small sandy beach some 350ft from Lloyd Hall.  Two very small airbells were found and, in view of Martin and Sue Bishop's wedding, were named "Wedding Bells".  A climb over boulders from the beach led into a large chamber, the " Bishops Palace" which is approximately 400ft long, 80ft wide and 40ft high.  Carrying diving torches and wearing only wet sock boats we explored the chamber, climbing over loose rocks the size of small caravans, to eventually find the continuation of the river passage - a beautiful green sump pool in a rift.  It is hoped that we can put three divers in this pool in the very near future and actually film line laying  as it happens!  Some photographs and a survey should be available for the next issue together with any further news.

One of the more unfortunate aspects of underwater cave exploration 1is the effect it has on the cave environment.  Little blind white wriggling things can cope quite well with rising flood waters (they simply hide), but a sudden careless fin stroke, an unexpected stream of air bubbles across the roof, a silt-ploughing diver, all do them no good whatsoever.  Its not publicity that hurts caves, it's cavers, and there is great responsibility in exploration.  Already, in exploring the Cheddar River, we have noticed how many little animals are getting dislodged from their perches, and washed down the cave, simply by dint of our passage. Many of these may not re-establish themselves before being washed out through the resurgence.

So, there are a few guidelines we are using, to coin a pun.  The lines themselves are being laid along the left hand wall, tautly, to avoid divers straying off a given path.  Except for check-out examination on exploration dives, the other side of the passage is 'verboten'.  The concept of taped off sections is being applied for the first time in underwater cave exploration in UK (and possibly in the world).  Once the entrance is large enough, we hope that any divers who have the opportunity to dive here will use some form of buoyancy compensation, there is no need to snowplough through sediments, not only is it bad for conservation but it is simply bad technique.  Short of using re-breathers, which eliminate the bubbles, there is little else we can do at the moment, but at least the bubbles are being restricted to one side of the passage, leaving the real cave divers undisturbed in the rest. It would be nice to see this practice adopted elsewhere as a matter of course.  The wildlife in sumps is by no means obvious, and so far little notice has been taken by cave divers of the small creatures that share the water with them. At least this is being remedied at Cheddar.

The Cheddar River has proved extremely interesting in terms of cave biology. The populations of all the creatures mentioned above are high, and it could be that the phreatic zone is a lot more important than has hitherto been thought.

A preliminary collection has recorded three invertebrate species, each worthy of note.  Gammarus pulex,  a troglophilic amphipod appears in the cave, unusually lacking in pigmentation.  Many Gammarus in caves have started their life in surface and been washed underground, after daylight has had a chance to trigger pigmentation.  The Cheddar specimen has obviously spent its entire life underground.

A white flatworm, Dendrocoleum lacteum, is an unusual troglophile.  Its habitat is more usually in shallow, eutrophic, sluggish waters on the surface, quite the opposite to rock-floored underground river passages. It has been recorded elsewhere in the Mendip underworld, and is probably there because the food is good. Dendrocoleum munches its way through a troglobitic isopod, the only true cave animal so far recorded in the sump. This tiny isopod, Procellus cavitatus, is common enough in Welsh caves, but the Cheddar ones are comparative giants.  Almost half as big again as their Welsh cousins.  The Cheddar Procellus helps keep the cave clean, feeding on organic refuse swept down on the cave waters, and may well be partly responsible for the clean-up of many of the pollution events which have affected the system in the past, such as the discharge of slaughterhouse wastes into Longwood in the late 1970's, which made Longwood very unpleasant for a while, but which had no effect on the waters at the risings.  Procellus falls victim to the sticky trail left by the flatworms, which on retracing their wriggling way, make passing meals of the luckless isopods, who simply stick around waiting to be eaten.

I should like to thank Sandra Lee and Chris Bradshaw for their eager support, all the staff and cavers for the invaluable assistance they have given in portering equipment and making the approach somewhat less objectionable, and Quackers for his tireless efforts as dive controller.  The information on the wildlife and the survey were kindly supplied by Rob Palmer.

 



Daren Cilau

by  Mark Lumley

The Rock Steady Crew had a major push on the Hard Rock Extensions from Thursday 24th May to Sunday 27th.  This required a three or four night's camp 2 1/2 miles underground at the Hard Rock Cafe set up in the oxbows off the Kings Road.

Because of the severity of the undertaking we briefed everyone to bring in some kind of comforts. In the event everyone went completely over the top.  So, when on Saturday night we were visited by Clive Gardener and Arthur Millet, they were agog at the sight of a passage festooned with balloons and streamers. Our stereo blared Jean Michael Jarre at them on full volume and we invited them for a meal of Soup followed by Macaroni Cheese and beef burgers (with bread rolls~ mayonnaise and fresh lettuce, of course!!).  All this was washed down with liberal quantities of Ovaltine, coffee, tea (with lemon or milk), rum, whiskey and various other forms of liquor smuggled back from Ireland.  Their opinion about the hardship of underground camps were radically changed by the time they left.  (For the conservation minded, every trace of our camp disappeared on Sunday afternoon).

We organised ourselves into two digging teams, one for the daytime and one to dig at night.  This worked very efficiently and over breakfast we were entertained by the antics of the previous shift staggering to their beds as pissed as newts.

Our previous digs pushed the H.R. Extensions to over 1/2km terminating in a 40ft wide bedding chamber end in breakdown ( Brazil).  On our push into this we gained about 40-50ft in two days but we had lost the draught (and finally the airspace too).  It became apparent that we would have to backtrack and push on from another point. Clive managed to find a tight bedding that was draughting and the final night shift pushed this for about 40ft with no sign of it breaking out yet.

The crew left the cave on Sunday afternoon and evening, clocking up 65-75 hours of caving per person. On arriving back at Whitewalls we met our 'Back up' team.  They had got so pissed on Friday night that they were incapable of coming into the cave - lucky sods!

Although the main breakthrough was not forthcoming on this trip, it is clearly only a matter of perseverance.  We put in about 100 man hours of actual digging on this trip and will return for a further 3 day camp from the 29th May to 1st June.  The site is well worth the effort with miles of cave beyond.  There is a good possibility of a connection with Agen Allwedd and every sign that we’re on the right track to meet the elusive Llangattock 'master cave'.


 

LADS trip to Clare - Easter ‘86

The LADS were back in Co. Clare again for 2 weeks this Easter.  Most of our time was spent digging at sites observed in previous years but there was plenty of time for some good, sporting caving too.  Doolin River Cave was visited on several occasions (the most enjoyable being a trip upstream from Fisherstreet Pot on a Mountain bike!) Poulnagollum-Poulelva, Fergus River Cave, Coolagh River Cave (well, someone had to show Wessex the way through!) and Pollapooka were all good, enjoyable trips.  We had a look at a dig in Moonmilk Cave in Oughtdarra, observed a draughting bedding and two unmarked risings in the Castletown area and went diving around the Green Holes off Doolin.

We noted, however, that the good will between landowners and cavers is being stretched to the limits by a minority of "Silly Buggers".  The walls near popular caves frequently have stones missing and people are regularly stomping over the farmer's land without even having the courtesy to ask permission – the landowner for Pol-an-lonain has bricked up the entrance of the cave because he is annoyed at the situation.   We found on our arrival at our Poulnagarsuin digging site that the wall we had built around the main shaft to safeguard the landowner's (Gus Curtin) livestock had been partially demolished by so called 'cavers' throwing rocks down to hear how deep it was.  This resulted in Gus, a man in his seventies, having to cap the shaft himself and a less understanding man may well have curtailed future digging efforts (as it was, we were granted permission and even shown around other likely digging sites!).

On requesting permission to dig at the site of the main swallet by B8d (Caves of County Clare), a site which we looked at in 1985, we were made most welcome to check out any cave on the farmer's land but permission to dig was not granted - frustrating since the site looks as though it should go to a usable canyon a with a minimum of effort.

O’Balinny.

On our last day we observed a large shallow depression 50m northeast of the circular fortification (caker) towards the northern end of the Balinny depression, just east of the green road.  This contains at least 5 sinkholes, none of which seem to have been looked at.  We will dig the most southerly of these on our next trip to Clare.

Poulnagarsuin.

We returned to our dig at Poulnagarsuin (400m south along the shale margin of W. Knockauns Mountain from Polomega) and concentrated our efforts on the boulder choked entrance, P2, 20ft south west of our original site.  After a day's intensive digging we had managed to descend vertically about 25ft into the tight upper section of a canyon at least 40ft high at the bottom of which a large stream could be heard.  Our way down was thwarted by the steep, loose boulder slope alongside and above us.  Sections of this had already collapsed into the confines of the digging face and we considered it a safer option to approach the canyon through our original entrance (PI), the bottom of which we estimated to be 15-20ft above the canyon floor and about 25-30ft away.

The P1 shaft was taking a Swildons sized stream which we diverted around the depression into P2. Two days later we had completely excavated the 3ft by 6ft shaft down to a depth of 45ft where it headed along a strongly draughting rift through which the stream could be heard.  A further day was spent digging about 12ft along the rift but it became too tight to push, only feet away from the elusive canyon.

We left the site with PI capped and P2 completely filled in to safeguard livestock.  Next year will hopefully see us through by less orthodox methods.

Mark Lumley.

The rest of the account of the BEC Easter trip to Ireland including photos of Mark caving on his Mountain bike (unfortunately recently stolen in Bristol) and also Pete Glanville’s exploits will be published in the next BB.           

Ed.


 

Some caves of Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand

Driving north-westwards from the most southerly point of South Island we were surprised to come across an AA road sign " Limestone Caves".  It was obviously cave country - sandy-yellow buffs of wind and water smoothed limestone protruded from the grassy valley sides as we climbed gently from the river Waiau.  Following a dry riverbed we passed several shakeholes, until a further sign directed us up to a small bouldery horizontal stream sink entrance.  We had no caving gear so donning head torches, we decided on a quick recce in our NZ Sunday best.

The caves are in fact known as Clifden Caves, just up the road from (believe it or not!) Clifden Suspension Bridge.  Quite clearly they are frequently visited by all and sundry, from Scout Groups to tourists, from farmers to National Park workers.  There is graffiti in several parts of the cave, particularly near the end, but some of it is of definite historical interest with dates as far back as 1868.

Apart from a crawl through a boulder collapse under a second entrance, and one low arch, the whole cave is walking size.  A single passage zigzags along joints, gradually moving further from the valley side. It is clean washed except for mud and vegetation debris deposited at the sharp passage bends.  There is a little stal and some rimstone pools, but most of the system seems to be epi-pheratic in origin and is still very flood prone.  Gradually the floor develops pools and we were stopped eventually by a wide deep pool not far from the third entrance.

From Clifden we moved on to Te Auan and Fiordland, where we met up with Kevan Wilde (Ranger, Waitomo), Marja Wilde, Trevor Worthy (on a grant to collect/study sub-fossils - bones) et alp.  They had kindly brought down all our caving gear from North Island. Arrangements had already been made with the National Park authorities and we had a free boat ride in a Lands and Survey vessel across Lake Te Auan - very rough at high speed in choppy conditions. Thence a three hour slog through bush and across open tussock brought us to Mt. Luxmore Hut, where we met others who had come up in four minutes, by helicopter.

The limestone in this region is young - Oligocene, and lies in a 30 - 50 metre thick sloping band on top of ancient impermeable rocks.  Its upper surface forms the upland tussock country, and in places is overlain by volcanic dust and cinders.  Much of the water in the caves derives from the peaty basins below volcanic Mt. Luxmore.  The limestone band outcrops lower down, just in the bush, as a sheer or overhanging cliff. The caves are controlled by major joints running towards the cliff line, which is also down dip, and a minor joint pattern at right angles to this.

The Southland Caving Group were active in the Luxmore region in the early 60's and some twenty sites were discovered, ranging from Luxmore Cave - over 800m long, to short, unroofed half caves and canyons.  No doubt location maps were made, and certainly some caves were surveyed. Unfortunately the group disbanded, cave sites were forgotten and surveys lost.  Caves have since been rediscovered, renamed and re-explored but there is much confusion even in current documentation.

Although we had free use of the hut, again courtesy of the National Park, it was already overfull, so we two laid down a mattress of dead tussock grass outside and bivied beneath the stars.  In the morning we were rudely awakened by keas.  The kea is a mountain parrot, tame and fearless, of devious cunning, inquisitive, noisy, thieving and destructive.  Down sleeping bags take a few seconds to tear apart with the beak; rucksacs last a little longer.  We cleared our snow covered gear quickly away, and hid the SRT rope too!  From then on the keas were constant pests, and sources of amusement, especially when they hung upside down, to peer at us at work in the 'long drop privy'.

Out first cave. B.P.C. Grovel Extension is a large rift, mainly easy walking for about 200m upstream to narrower passages and chokes.  Here, in a shallow calcite pool, we found the first sub-fossils, bones of the very rare kakepo, a ground parrot.  Nearby, Calcite Cave, only 60m long, had no bones, but a profusion of good stal - rimstone, curtains etc., once a pure white but now somewhat muddied by visitors. Many non-cavers visit the Mt. Luxmore Hut and some of the nearby caves are easily found, of low grade, and very vulnerable. Moving over the 'cave field' to the bigger systems in this group, we entered Luxless Cave, in a large doline an overhanging climb, or a narrow twisting passage, with the stream, in sharp rock, led to a large twilit entrance chamber at the head of a big sloping tunnel.  We worked our way slowly down, carefully examining the banks of the stream and the wall slopes and looking under stones. The best find was a complete skunk skeleton.  The cave became very low towards the sump/choke, but a side passage, crawling in above a short climb, led to some bigger breakdown chambers.  There were excellent examples of slickensides in the roof. The stream, now regained, finally trickled away under boulders, but by going upstream a little we found a small pheratic tube with a narrow vadose trench enabling us to loop back to the crawl. Altogether there were several hundred metres of cave.

The final system of the day was Luxmore, close to Luxless and running parallel to it.  At one end of an elongated doline a narrow climb down led into big sloping passage, with a small stream that tumbled down various rocks and small cascades.  The passage quickly became more confused, passing two inlets on the right, one to Iron Maiden and one to White Exit.  At a third passage, off to the left, the passage reduced in height and width still further - from 2 or 3m high to 1m and from 1 or 2m wide down to 1/2m - a narrow twisting slightly awkward cave down to the sump, or final low bit.  The passage to the left was once very beautiful - a thin white calcite floor overlaying fine translucent dog-tooth spar had been permanently muddied and ruined by careless traffic and glittering with flows had dark handprints in the middle.  NZSS have a policy of not publishing cave locations nor publicising spelaeology.  However, the caves are mentioned in national park literature and non-cavers are openly encouraged to go wild caving in certain areas of N.Z.   Perhaps this is why Luxmore has suffered.

On our way out of the cave we examined the Iron Maiden series, essentially a single decorated passage with a small stream cutting in and out via low oxbows.  At the end was a low section with draughting avens.  The other passage inlet, White Exit, seemed to provide a good alternative route out, and we squeezed and climbed amongst pretty decorations until the passage became ludicrously narrow with no sign of daylight or draught.  We returned to the main entrance to be met by large flakes of snow and a soggy tramp back through the long tussock grass.

Beyond the first cave field, at least a further half hour's walk away, lay the second limestone site, dominated by a deep V-section gorge cut in bare rock.  We visited this area on our fourth day at Luxmore and examined a site which began in the valley side as a tube quickly leading to a pitch.  We rigged this with far too much rope - it was less than 20 feet and could be bypassed altogether by an awkward exposed free climb, below which more bones were found.  We had been led to expect several short rope pitches till the initial sections of this cave, which could well be Steadfast Cave, originally explored, in part at least, in the early 60's. After the entrance pitch a streamway was encountered, which lowered and was bypassed through a big rockfall. More bones were found here on the way out, when we lost the route for some time.  From the fall the cave developed as a rift, and we occasionally had to traverse in the wider roof to avoid constrictions, and then drop down to the water further on.  Two such drops, one roped and one using a tape handline, plus a traverse among formations, led to roomier passage beyond a bend.  Traversing and climbing in the wider, deeper rift passage became more awkward and exposed, and only two of us continued.  At a second major bend a large inlet joined the passage, but we left this unexplored, and carried on along the main way.  Climbing up and down among boulders which almost blocked off the high narrowing rift, one more short drop, requiring our last piece of tape, put us back in the stream.  Thence we were forced upwards, on jammed boulders, to reach the roof and a small ledge overlooking a much larger passage at a 60ft pitch.  There seemed to be no way down through the boulders, and no belays, even if we had a rope, so we had no option but to make our way out, de-tackling en route.

Up valley from the Steadfast entrance and just below the gravelly stream sinks an obvious hole emitted sounds of falling water.  We were told that the pitch here was very deep and put down our longest rope.  In fact, an inclined rift was easily free climbed for about 50ft and only the next 20ft to the floor required SRT gear. Water cascaded in over the vertical section and over me.  Groping in the dark I wished again, and not for the last time, for a decent alternative to the Premier stinkie.  Alight once more and a 6 foot wide, high, wet rift was revealed, and up from here led quickly to the most beautiful formations in the area..  As in Calcite Cave we were rather surprised by the profusion of stal, not usual in alpine karst. We could find no way on, either beyond the stal or down cave where the rift became too narrow.  With luck the formations will be preserved, since the cave is far from the hut, and apparently leads to no significant length of passage.

While hundreds of trampers and a few cavers visit the Luxmore area, very few people ever get to see Aurora Cave where we were heading next.  Further up Lake Te Anou is a tourist show cave, a resurgence into the lake.  The only reasonable access is by boat and tourist launches ply regularly between Te Anou township and the cave.  Some short underground boat trips lead past a few glow-worms to a sump.  Not a particularly exciting trip.  However, less than an hours walk through the bush above here is the main stream sink, leading to several kilometres of passage.  The catchment area, in the Murchison mountains, is not accessible to the public as one of New Zealand’s endangered species - a bird like a big blue coot with a massive red bill and elephantine legs - is found there.  We were particularly privileged; not only did we have special permission to enter the region, but the National Park put a big power launch at our disposal, and Trevor knows the cave very well and was prepared to show us a fair proportion of it.

Having left Luxmore in the morning and had a beer or two in Te Anou for lunch, we took the boat across the lake and quickly tramped the 40 minutes through luxuriant deep green bush to reach the huge, old entrance (the stream now sinks further up valley).  A wide gorge, hidden amongst trees, drops into a semi-circular arch, 80 feet or more wide and 50 feet high, whence the passage quickly descends into gloom and then blackness.  The entrance is surrounded by bush, some trees even growing inside, replaced rapidly by ferns and mosses in the deeper, green dampness further in.  A little further in, still outside the threshold, the ground was dusty dry, and we found several flat platforms, amongst the slope of boulders, suitable for bivouac.

Most of Aurora Cave is epi-pheratic and could be likened, if anything, to Dan yr Ogof II.  Much of it floods regularly.  For the moment we avoided the stream, which we could hear constantly roaring away to our right in a canyon, and kept to the left hand side of the big, dry entrance tube. At the far end we dropped into what resembled a vadose canyon, with big scallops in the walls, and large "foreign" boulders scattered along it.  Compared with the Luxmore caves, or with anything in Britain, the limestone was beautifully light - a pale cream colour, reflecting plenty of stinkie flame.  The passage subdivided and our route became briefly narrow and low over fresh water-washed gravel.  After one of the few short crawls in the cave we entered rifts, clean washed and full of clear pools which for some reason we carefully avoided~ expending much effort.  After about an hour we were amongst the only stal in the cave, quite beautiful and very vulnerable.  Beyond this we came to a balcony where our passage ended, overlooking a large mainstream.

Without tackle there was no way down, so back through the stal we looked at a possible route down, through a low crawl and down a climb where all the holds fell off.  We arrived on another balcony where the only way to the torrent below was to jump.  We opted to re-climb the now hold less wall.  Listening elsewhere for sounds of the stream, we found the correct route eventually, emerging on a shelf right beside the water.  Making our way downstream we soon found that wherever the water was confined, and therefore rather fast, we could bridge the gap, traverse or jump from one side to the other.  Elsewhere we waded, up to waist deep, and once or twice avoided the stream altogether using wide, low oxbows.   Finally we stopped at Aurora Falls, 30 feet of deluge just above the sump in the show cave.  We then travelled upstream, past our earlier entry point, until we reached the canyon below our bivouac site.  Here were two ways, each bringing water from the upstream sinks.  Kevan and Trevor climbed above the inlet and managed to bring down every handhold and foothold, together with a few tons of sand and boulders, narrowly missing us.  While they disappeared into big, dry passages above, we investigated the smaller inlet. The thinly bedded limestone was fretted and sharp, and the little stream had carved deep potholes in the floor. We were stopped here by a waterfall, and decided to have a look at the second main inlet.  With its much greater volume of water the numerous cascades of this stream were lodged with jammed tree trunks.  The only route along the passage was via a steep ledge.  This became more and more hair-raising, as it became steeper and narrower, constantly overlooking the waterfalls and plunge pools, until it fizzled out altogether.  Having failed to find an alternative feasible route to the upper dry passages, we returned to the bivouac for a warming drink and to await the others.  They soon returned, having found it impossible to come down our streamways beyond our upstream limit.

Eight hours later, after a good sleep in the cave mouth and a brief walk down the hill, we were on our way back across the lake, with only the boat's wake disturbing the early morning calm.  An excellent way to end an excellent  week of caving.

Graham Wilton-Jones.

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The BEC second motto - "The BEC get everywhere" - should be changed to "The Wiltom-Jones's get everywhere".  Not to be outdone by Graham and Jane's antics in New Zealand, Ian has been proving that there are caves in the most unlikely places and I must thank Annie for the following article which she thinks will be of interest to BEC members, even though the cave described was so simple as to be un-gradable. "The rock" is a massive sandstone outcrop about 8 miles from Abqaiq in the Eastern Province.  It is about 2 or 3 miles in circumference.  Ian and a running friend called Billy reached the rock by running through date plantations from Abqaiq.


 

Speleology in Saudi Arabian Sandstone

We arrived at the rock after 1 hr 3 mins of running and stopped for bottled spring water from a local shop.  We then went clambering over the Dali like rocks, with all their grotesque and weird shapes.  Many of the valleys gave strong reminiscences of vadose stream passages underground. We took several photographs and then strolled through the next village.

Out the other side and we were beginning to wonder if we had the right rock because there was no sign of the cave (which we were told was very conspicuous with a professional looking car park).  Still, the road appeared to be encircling the rock, just as described.  Finally, we came upon it, right round the other side. Yes, it was easy to find!

The features of the rock had changed.  On the south and south east, there were deep valleys, starting with sheer drops of about 50ft or more from the valley above, with very open tops (i.e. V - shaped or U - shaped) and some A - shaped holes.  In we went, on a tarmac path which soon disappeared once we were inside. There were a maze of passages, some interconnecting at different heights (i.e. surprise drops - splat! - of 20 to 30ft).   All the time you could either sense the daylight above, or actually see it,  some 80ft skywards.  The passage shape was nearly always vadose A - type and very straight.  Side passages were either perpendicular or parallel to the main passage (very much like OFD).  The blocks of sandstone were huge and rectangular. 

Sometimes you could see boulders exactly the same size as the cleft, jammed precariously above, waiting to drop.  The odd pebble was falling from time to time so it was no mean threat.

There was, generally, good electric lighting in the form of weak street lamps set high up.  Where there were none usually signified the end of the main passage where the amount of light from above indicated the main water entrance in times of heavy rain.  I must return to the dark side passages with a torch and check them all out.

There were several park benches inside~ available for people to picnic - not that I saw anyone doing so although others have.  If you did not wish to use a park bench there was plenty of sandy floor to sit on - real sand, not the usual cave mud.

We went outside and prepared to climb over the top of the rock.  Up we went, through one of the ascending valleys and came out on a completely different landscape - stones scattered everywhere, many small valleys and extremely lunar like, totally devoid of vegetation.  Off the rock to the north was desert with many green clumps scattered around it.  In all other directions, there were palm trees as far as the eye could see in the heavy heat haze.

We walked in a large arc, avoiding the areas where the cave was underneath as much as possible.  We could see several valleys joining together and obviously supplying the water in times of flood which created the cave in the first place.

We reached the northernmost portion of the rock on which a small TV receiving mast had been sited. From here we could see a third feature of the sides of this hill.  To the west the area was strewn with many giant boulders stacked higgledy-piggledy together.  The sandstone here was much firmer, not crumbly at all.  It was a real challenge getting off the hill here, and we made several attempt before finding a suitable route which did not require us to negotiate a 20ft drop.

We made a beeline for a small village which had a huge rock situated in the middle of it.  The rock had the appearance of a cottage loaf, round and bun-like with a half size bun on top.  The bottom "bun' had several caves hewn into it.  The roofs of these caves were black, indicating that many fires had been burnt here in the past, possibly for Kapsa banquets like the one I have already been to.  Here sheep and rice and fruit are eaten, by hand, around a large mat.  Many sand martins were nesting in parts of these caves as they were in many other parts of the main hillside.

No shop in the village so we ran on to the village we had visited initially to obtain bottled water and chocolate bars to fortify ourselves for the run "home".

Ian Wilton-Jones.


 

A New Hole In Oakhill

by Brian Workman

At the end of 1985 I was approached by a landowner in Oakhill and asked if I would inspect a hole which had been disclosed by a tractor cutting hedges in one of their fields.

The hole is located 300yds south west of the Oakhill 1m on the opposite side of the road to Pondsmead House.  The entrance was found to be 16 feet deep leading into a small chamber with an active stream entering from the east (from under the road) out of a narrow rift and sinking on the opposite side into a mud choked rift.

The water is believed to come from the artificial lakes within the grounds of Pondsmead House which sinks in Stout Slocker, the water from which is known to re-appear at Ashwick Grove Risings.


 

Access Information - May 1986

Council Of Southern Cave Clubs
Constituent member of NCA

WATERWHEEL SWALLET & BLACKMOOR UPPER FLOOD SWALLET

Mendip Caving Group have now formally taken on access control to Waterwheel Swallet and they have issued the following statement for information.

"You will know that we already have accepted responsibility for our own and other caver’s access to Blackmoor Upper Flood Swallet, also in Velvet Bottom.  As a representative of the landowners Terry Mathews of the Charterhouse Field Centre requested that we should administer an access arrangement following the discovery of a well decorated continuation of the cave in April 1985.  The basic requirements of this informal access agreement are:

a)                    Visits must be led by a member of MCG

b)                    Visitors must complete a Field Centre visit card each - held at Nordrach Cottage

c)                    Party size is limited to four including leader

d)                    No novices are permitted

e)                    No carbide lamps are permitted

f)                      Suitable clothing should be worn to enable crawling in the stream to avoid formations in the roof

The underlying purpose of this set of guidelines is to minimise damage to the profusion of delicate formation which abound in the streamway.

Willie Stanton has recently relinquished his interest in, and control of, Waterwheel Swallet.  This has presented an opportunity to make access to this cave more freely available to cavers. As a temporary measure, Terry Mathews has requested this group to administer access under the same arrangements which apply to Upper Flood.  There is no alternative arrangement available at present and we have agreed to the request, with the proviso that the arrangements shall be reviewed in approximately six months time from March 1986.

We accept this responsibility in the knowledge that it places an extra burden on our members, but at least gains a means of access to ourselves and other cavers. We do request that cavers wishing to visit either of the caves concerned should make prior arrangements with any of our members.  Turning up at Nordrach Cottage on spec may lead to disappointment.

SINGING RIVER MINE

The parcel of land containing the entrance is now in the ownership of the adjacent householders and essentially forms an extension to their garden.  They are happy for cavers to have continued access, but ask that visitors stick to the path when approaching the entrance and avoid their son's radio controlled car racetrack, some bridges over this having been damaged. The path is obvious but they are intending to gravel it in the near future and rebuild the stile.  They have also asked that everyone pay attention to closing the field gate, and preferably lock themselves into the mine when underground.  The access arrangements with the previous owner only enabled five keys to be available from the major clubs, however it has been possible to renegotiate this and in future keys will be available to anyone upon request.  To simplify matters the lock on the mine is now the same as on Cuckoo Cleeves and the one key, available from myself or the Wessex at £2 each, will fit both entrances.

"LIVE AND LET LIVE"

BROWNS FOLLY MINE

The Avon Wildlife Trust have now fitted the new gates on the mine which they originally planned to do last July.  It is intended that these will be locked by mid May.  Access is controlled by the Southern Caving Clubs Co Ltd under a licence and keys are available for loan direct from the company or by arrangement from any company shareholding club.

The Trust has asked that the following statement is published:

New bat grilles for Browns Folly Mine

Avon Wildlife Trust now owns the whole of the Bathford Hill woodlands at Browns Folly, three miles east of Bath. The nature reserve contains entrances to one of the largest Bath Stone mines, which provide an important winter roost for the increasingly rare greater horseshoe bat.  This bat and its roosting sites are now fully protected by law, and as part of the conservation management of the reserve the main entrances are being grilled.  The new grilled entrances will re-establish the all-important draught pattern in the mines; allow improved access for the bats but prevent the disturbance caused by casual intruders in the mine system.  The grilles are being installed by greater horseshoe bat expert Dr Roger Ransome with the aid of a substantial Nature Conservancy grant.

Two of the bat grilles (NGR ST 79496634 and 79466587) will be gated to allow access to bona fida cavers and application for keys should be made to the licence holder SCC Co Ltd.

Avon Wildlife Trust appreciates, on behalf of the bats, the considerate co-operation of cavers.  The Trust welcomes notification of visits by telephone on 0272 326885, and is interested to hear about numbers of greater horseshoe bats observed. Visits should be timed to avoid the critical late hibernation period in March/April.

Graham Price
Conservation and Access Officer
1. 5 .86


 

Letters

Jeremy has passed me the following letter which he has received from Daphne Towler as it may interest many of our members from the 50"s etc.

Bognor Regis
23rd April 1986

Dear Jeremy

Please find enclosed cheque for £55 towards the Hut Fund.  This is my contribution from the eleven Engrave Glasses ordered to celebrate the Club’s 50th Anniversary.  I must say that I had hoped to be sending you a much larger cheque but it appears that Engraved Glass doesn’t appeal to cavers.

The Engraving wasn’t put out as a Fund Raising project by your Committee’s choice – I would hate people to think that I was only offering the glasses for my own financial reward.

I hope by now that the Hut Fund looks healthier.  I have very happy memories of my short caving time in the late 50’s, and send my best wishes to anyone who may remember me (probably as Daphne Stenner – as I was then) and also to the Club for its continued success,  Only one of my sons appears to have caught the caving bug and that not too forcefully.  I enjoy reading the BB even though it gets more difficult to put faces to names

            All the best

                        Sincerely

                                    Daphne Towler (381)

*****************************************

Dear Dave (or Ed as you are now known),

Firstly, keep up the good work with the B.B. even though I yawned with boredom as yet another pros. and cons. argument loomed its ugly head.  Should the club buy SRT ropes?  What a daft question!  I remember the old wet suit arguments well.  They'll encourage people into dangerous situations!  Then there was the forbidden caving with less than six in a team. I remember Goon and I getting slated along with the Brook brothers in "The Speleologist" (God, I must be getting old) for doing just that and for "speeding".  I remember you and I being called lunatics for abseiling into Lamb Leer and prussicking out.  I remember the fights we had to be first out so as to have the clean prussick loops and remember your lunatic climbing methods that I adopted.  Alan Thomas will tell you how Steve Grimes and I argued that we should abseil and prusick on the 1967 Ahnenschaft expedition.

Now I’m a dedicated armchair caver that enjoys these memories but I do remember being smitten with the caving disease around 1963 and joining the R.A.F. Yatesbury Caving Club to satisfy the bug.  In order to improve I joined the eminent club known as the M.N.R.C., worked hard and became Caving Secretary

with a good core of active cavers around me (you might remember).  I fought hard for caving tackle and facilities but lost the battle against the knotted rope brigade.  I accepted defeat and, together with the other active cavers joined the club that promoted caving, did the work and provided the equipment.  That club was the B.E.C. around 1965.  The caving part of the M.N.R.C. drifted into decline. I am unlikely to make use of SRT equipment but would be horrified at the thought of the B.E.C. becoming a bunch of old "has beens" like myself who would not support the younger active cavers in keeping up with the times.

Pete MacNab.

P.S.  Please point out the date I joined the club to the Membership Secretary.  I know I had a few lapsed years but B.E.C. policy was always to keep your original number.

Thanks for the compliment about the B.B. but the credit should go to all those members and others who have given me articles.

I agree wholeheartedly with Pete on the matter of club tackle (sorry I’m not an unbiased editor!). I joined the B.E.C. in 1965 for exactly the same reason as Pete. For the record at the last committee meeting we unanimously allocated £300 to the Tackle Master to buy 100m of 11mm Bluewater SRT rope and other necessary hardware to rig the "average" Yorkshire pot.

Ed.

*****************************************

Waramanga,
ACT 2611,
Australia
3/4/86

Dear Dave,

Thought members may be interested to hear that the BEC 50th Anniversary was celebrated recently at the Antipodes.  A copy of the menu is enclosed.  This spontaneous event followed the arrival of the Bassetts on their round the world caving extravaganza and was held in the national capital, Canberra.  In the absence of Badgers Best we had to content ourselves with toasting the BEC in South Australian Champagne.  In true BEC spirit we drank a hell of a lot but I must confess it wasn’t totally authentic as nobody threw up or fell over!

The Bassetts have left us now after caving in the Snowy Mountains area and are currently in South Australia on the Nullabor Plain.  After 3 weeks there and 3 weeks in Tasmania they are visiting us again "en route" to the Great Barrier Reef and Papua New Guinea. After that they return here again and we plan a cross-country skiing expedition across the Snowy Mountains 50 miles from Kiandra to Thredbo.

Anyway expect the Bassetts will be writing an article on their exploits (they are more prolific writers than us)!

Cheers,

John and Sue Riley.

The menu is unfortunately too faint to photocopy but has Bertie at the top and is as follows:-

B.E.C.

50th ANTIPODEAN DINNER

Bat Curry
Berties Beans
Bats Eggs
Cauliflower St.
Cuthbert’s
Rice

Mendip Melon
Cheddar Cheese
Chilled Batwine


 

Mendip Politics

As many of you will know, over the past few weeks there has been much political activity on the hill. The cause of this being mainly the Fairy Cave Quarry proposals, and the scheduling of a substantial number of caves as "Sites of Special Scientific Interest" (SS81).

There has been a lot of pub talk, speculation and finger pointing, mostly based on rumours and misinformation.  There has been very little available information, and what could be gleaned left a great deal of doubt in peoples minds.  I have therefore presented for publication a compilation of material, that I have recently received as secretary, explaining the above problems more fully.

The matter of what we are going to do about them as a club is more complicated.  At a recent committee meeting they were discussed at length and I was given a number of directives to take to the  "Council of Southern Caving Clubs" (CSCC); they are as follows: -

1.                  The club will support any action that would re-establish and improve relations between the caving community and local landowners.

2.                  The club supports, with reservations, the proposal to turn certain caves within the Fairy Cave Quarry complex into Show Caves.

3.                  The club will propose Tim Large as Conservation and Access Officer of the CSCC.

4.                  The club does not have confidence in the present Conservation and Access Officer of the CSCC. 

CSCC Meeting held 10th May 1986

Re: Fairy Cave Quarry

This meeting was convened purely for the purpose of passing a resolution regarding Fairy Cave Quarry, thus forming a CSCC policy on the subject.

After much discussion it was decided to defer the details of this resolution to the CSCC AGM, so that the subject may be discussed in conjunction with the SSSI problem.  An amendment to the resolution was passed enabling this action.  I hope to establish the minutes of this meeting in a future BB.

I hope the following material will help to put members in the picture regarding these important changes. In my own opinion I think we, as the caving community, have made rather a "pigs ear" of the situation, and may very well have to live with the consequences for some time.

Bob Cork.
15/5/86

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This is a letter from the National Caving Association to the Mendip Councillors.

Harrow
Middx.
24 March 1986

Fairy Cave Quarry - Application Nos 059755/002 & 003

At the forthcoming meeting of the Planning Committee you will be called upon to determine two applications by Hobbs Holdings Ltd in respect of their development of Fairy Cave Quarry near Stoke St Michael as a show cave and leisure complex.  The NCA is extremely concerned that the full importance of decisions about to be made concerning this matter may not be realised and the enclosed comments are offered for your consideration.  The Planning Department recognises the relevance of the points raised in this document and has asked if a copy is to be supplied to Committee members, as they are only able to give a brief summary in their own report.

The importance of these cave, and the threat to them cannot be stressed strongly enough.  Commercial development as proposed by Hobbs Holdings Ltd, and being actively promoted by their consultants Dr W I Stanton and Mr R Whitaker, may lead to their destruction.  This must be avoided and we would please ask that you read our detailed comments carefully before coming to any conclusions.  The additional points below are also offered for your consideration.

1.                  These caves are amongst the very few most important in the country, and certainly the most vulnerable.  It is imperative that any possibility of damage is avoided.  Their destruction would be a loss to the nation that will never be replaced.

2.                  Every existing show cave in the country has been extensively damaged through commercial exploitation and bed management.  It is probable that these caves will suffer the same fate, if not in the short then certainly in the long term, there being inherent conflicts between commercial interests and conservation which are almost impossible to avoid.

3.                  If development of these caves were to occur the only means by which their future might possibly be secured would be strictly imposing all the conditions defined in our detailed comments.

4.                  The Cerberus Spelaeological Society has been responsible for the management of the caves since their discovery.  This special knowledge and experience has developed a unique awareness of the problems that exist in protecting them.  Neither the Society or the NCA have been consulted by either Hobbs or their consultants concerning this matter and this give very great cause for concern.

5.                  As part of a publicity campaign Dr Stanton appeared on Points West (BBC TV 13 March) and stated that the development would necessarily be on a low key small scale involving minimum alterations to the caves and a maximum party size of ten etc. However the outline plan is for a very large scale operation which Jeremy Hobbs has confirmed 'further plans for the future would put the operation on a much larger scale with up to 250,000 visitors a year (Shepton Mallet Journal 6 March).

6.                  An initial small scale development is dangerous in itself without very strict controls that guarantee protection for the cave.  Although these may well prove impossible to implement or enforce in any case. The larger scale development proposed future would prove disastrous.  In Hobbs outline planning study a monthly distribution of visitors based on 250,000 per year gave a peak figure in August of 75,000 - a number far in excess of that which could be sensibly catered for in a whole year if conservation of the caves is to be a consideration.

7.                  When the applications were submitted Jeremy Hobbs stated in a Radio Bristol interview that the Nature Conservancy Council had no objections to the scheme.  He has further stated 'we are doing this in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy' (Evening Chronicle 13 March).  Both these statements are untrue, no discussions having been held or agreements reached.

The caves of Fairy Cave Quarry are not suitable for large scale commercial development.  If development on any scale were to be permitted it is essential that no work what-so-ever is carried out without every minute detail, from any modifications to the caves through to future management, being agreed and known to be enforceable before hand.

It is hoped that after reading the enclosed material you will have a better appreciation and understanding of the threat that now faces a very unique and important part of our National Heritage, and that you now share our concern that these caves are preserved for future Generations.

If you require any further information or would like to discuss this matter in detail please contact the Associations Conservation Officer, Graham Price, 31 Waterford Park, Radstock, Bath, Avon, BA3 3TS, Tel: Radstock 3U251 (home). Trowbridge 68115 (work). We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have or attend a meeting if this would be useful.

Yours sincerely.

M C Day, Chairman

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NATIONAL CAVING ASSOCIATION

SHOW CAVE DEVELOPMENT AT FAIRY CAVE QUARRY - COMMENTS

Introduction

This report forms the basis of comments which the National Caving Association, jointly with the Council of Southern Caving Clubs and the Cerberus Spelaeological Society, wish to bring to the attention of the Mendip District Council Planning Department and Planning Committee with respect to the proposed development of Fairy Cave Quarry as a Show Cave and Leisure Complex.  There is a real danger that the full importance of decisions made concerning this matter may be missed.  The aim is not to suggest the outcome, but rather to create an awareness of the implications and offer a way in which any proposals should be considered to afford the necessary protection to what is a unique and important part of our National Heritage.

Perspectives

The two caves around which the original proposals were centered, Shatter Cave and Withyhill Cave, are the remaining arms of a once larger system.  They are indeed beautiful.  Many thousands of years have had to pass for the caves and their breathtaking formations to evolve to their present day pristine condition. Their timeless beauty is in fact entirely dependant upon the inextricably slow growth of crystal upon crystal, protected as they are within passages and caverns themselves the result, over the centuries, of the chemical and physical action of rainwater on solid rock.

The elements and the ravages of time have over the same period changed the surface features of the surrounding area beyond recognition, many times over.  In recent times man has accelerated the process.  Protected as they are the caves have survived intact to the present day to find themselves, for but a very brief moment in their long history, under the responsibility (by virtue of ownership) of a Quarry company. A company who, in their exploitation of the surrounding rock, have breached the passages thus revealing their existence.  The present owners have since relayed a large central portion of the system which was the equal of any which remains.

We do not know why caves of such beauty are to be found in an otherwise unlikely area, but we do know that the caves of Fairy Cave Quarry are unique, a product of the particular natural circumstances prevailing in a small geographical area over past millennia. Small as they are, there are no caves anywhere else quite like those found at the quarry.  Formations of the type to be seen there are rare enough anywhere, but are becoming all the more rare as the passage of countless visitors to the sites which are accessible takes its inevitable toll.

So the decisions with which we are concerned here are peculiarly different to those more commonly referred to planning authorities.  In the normal run of events, decisions, good or bad, have only a relatively short term effect-man-lade features will eventually be superseded by more appropriate ones in time, or the natural environment, if allowed, will revert back to its local characteristic form, obliterating much of man's influence in the process.  The quality of life we seek to preserve rarely extends beyond our own lifetime. The beauty to be found in caves is however, in no sense 'reversible' and can in no wav be superseded, but is in every sense immensely fragile.  That which is lost is lost forever and cannot be replaced.  Inappropriate exploitation of any kind simply serves to reduce the stock which exists, denying it forever to future generations.

There is then another sense in which this issue is different.  Modern thinking generally insists that the public has the right to enjoy the natural resources available to it. "Does beauty exist if it cannot be seen?" is often put forward as an argument, especially regarding caves. The answer is in this case that it certainly does, having existed for far longer than man has ever been around to do the asking.  Whatever the current law of the land the public has no moral right of access, if in exercising that right the beauty is denied for ever to those which follow us.

Current thinking has only recently begun to recognise these problems, and the site is to scheduled as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) by the Nature Conservancy Council in recognition of its importance. However, there are no formal guidelines as yet, and until these are clearly defined, and "seen to be enforceable, responsibility falls squarely on those who find themselves in a position to Influence events.

Potential

Potentially, the idea of a snow cave is not undesirable.  One can envisage, with a little imagination, a development where ten passages were virtually hermetically sealed off with constant humidity and controlled lighting and viewed through glass ports at a safe distance, rather like one would visit an aquarium.  Outside, one could find other attractions, experience other caves - perhaps less vulnerable - and study educational displays.  There would be no damage done during the construction phase, and no later deterioration, even if the site were to eventually fall into disuse. Such a development would be an example to the rest of the world and a continually popular attraction.  But the amount of effort and finance required on behalf of the developers hardly bears thinking about.  The response to any proposals must be to ask what will happen in practice, and what risks does this present for the conservation of the caves.

Practical Risks

Now that we know the caves exist and are available to be exploitation, the practical dangers threatening them arise in four phases:

(i)         Now, if there is no development

(ii)         During Construction

(iii)        During long term occupation

(iv)        In the future, if the operation is abandoned.

(i) Now

For all statutory purposes the Quarry is currently regarded as an industrial site with same interest, but with little statutory influence from local and national conservation bodies. The quarry is worked out to its current limits so a change of use is almost certain, and a future change of ownership quite possible.  Any future use could conceivably totally disregard the existence of the caves, and threaten the existence of the formations and deposits they contain. How industrial activity to date has affected the caves has been well documented.

The caves will remain accessible to determined visitors unless a large mass of quarry face is brought down over the entrances, although visits in recent years have all but stopped at the request of the owners.  Some deterioration was apparent even over the periods when access was allowed but restricted and tightly controlled.

In excavating a large central part of the system quarrying activity made important changes to the local hydrology.   Interception of the route taken by flood water regularly results in flooding of the western corner of the Quarry.  The same water backs up through the decorated parts of the system leaving behind extensive deposits of mud and silt as levels fall.  These events nave necessitated major clean-up operations undertaken by the Cerberus Spelleologlcal Society), but the caves remain vulnerable to such disasters.  A long-term solution to these problems must be found in any case.

(ii) Construction

The construction phase is potentially the most damaging.  It is difficult for even an experienced, caring caver to visit Withyhill without causing damage.  Shatter Cave is a little more spacious, but many of the important formations are close to the only path through.  Therefore, through necessity, visiting cavers have in the past been restricted to two per guide in Withyhill, and four per guide in Shatter.

It is essential for any developer to give clear and unequivocal answers as to who will be carrying out the work within the passages, how damage is to be avoided, and detail what alterations are to be made, almost on an inch-by-inch basis. Prior agreement in these respects is essential, and consideration must be given as to now the work will be supervised and monitored.  Sites away from the public view should be given the same importance in this respect as those being developed.  The damage that can be caused by even a careful and considerate worker with a large sledgehammer, but with little experience or understanding of the strange environment in which he now finds himself, can only be imagined.

Any suggestion of 'sacrificing' parts of the cave in order to develop others considered more worthy of public interest may make commercial sense, but is tantamount to legalized vandalism.  The end result is simply a loss to the cave which can never be made up, neither numerically nor in terms of quality.

The initial construction phase, especially measures to protect the formations from the public, needs to be related of course to the number of visitors which it is deemed can adequately catered for.  Future modifications for example to cater for larger numbers would represent a major departure from the initial proposals, and so there needs to be a clear definition of what constitutes a departure and how such changes are to be reviewed, if the initial efforts lade to offer protection are not to be invalidated.

It will be difficult to guarantee that the protective measures which are built into the construction phase, such as screens around formations, will actually be effective over a long period.  Equally it is difficult to consider that any failure rate in terms of loss at formations is acceptable in view of the relatively short time it would take to denude the passages of all features of interest, given that countless generations will follow us.

Simply opening up a cave to increased air circulation can lead to rapid drying out of the formations, possibly for the whole length of the cave and others connected with it. There was ample experience of this as the quarry slowly excavated away the central part of the system.  It is clear beyond doubt that the continuing aesthetic appeal of cave formations depends entirely upon humidity levels and surface water films being maintained.  The installation of permanent lighting has a similar effect around each light, and causes severe and irreversible discolouration through algal growth. Carefully designed doorways and the use of individual hand lamps will provide the only solution.

Developing the surface site has potential risks.  A large quantity of water can at times enter the cave system at Withybrook Slocker to the south, and leads via an unknown route beneath the quarry floor to the spring at St. Dunstans Well to the north.  The main caves are dry 'abandoned' streamways but are connected via inaccessible conduits to the watercourse below.  Quarrying activity has already given rise to near disasters mentioned previously as the polluted waters have backed up into the dry systems.  Hilliers Cave, a northern arm of the system, is currently choked completely in places with sludge from the quarries stone washings.

Pollution, and thereby damage to the delicately balanced ecosystem of the caves, is a major problem. Clearly development of the site will involve run-off from car parks and other levelled areas. It is essential that any areas used for parking of vehicles are made impervious, and the flow generated properly disposed of through regularly maintained oil and petrol interceptors.  The problem of sewage disposal must also be considered, discharge of any effluent likely to find its way into the cave system, either directly or through seepage, being unacceptable.  Development proposals to meet these problems must be guaranteed to be effective.

Within the quarry there are currently fourteen cave entrances, each leading to passage of varying length and interest.  All the caves have been under the management of the Cerberus Spelaeologlcal Society since their discovery, and leaders have been provided as requested to accommodate visiting cavers.  This management and control has enabled continued use of this important recreational facility in sympathy with the need for conservation.  How the proposals will affect access to all the caves needs to be considered, and a management plan agreed.  A number of the caves have over the years become colonised by bats which are protected by law and how they may be affected needs to be clearly detailed.

(iii) Operation

Given that the public has the chance to get near to vulnerable formations the risk will always be present that someone might get round what protection is available, and inadvertently or otherwise cause damage.  The risk increases directly with the number of visitors, and hence with time. The direct result is a slow deterioration which can increase dramatically if the operators are under strong commercial pressure to pack more people in.  The pressure becomes worse as presently established Show Caves themselves deteriorate.  The initial proposals should look ahead to these possibilities with a strict guide-to-visitor ratio clearly defined, and obligatory.  It is almost impossible to determine this ratio prior to development, since it is unknown now extensive the alterations to the passage will be, however it is not unrealistic to suggest that a figure not many in excess of the cavers one to four may be applicable.  The overall number of visitors in the cave at any given time is also a critical factor.

The public encouraged to visit the caves will not only include those responsible, fascinated and perhaps educated, out also school children, disinterested unprincipled youths, souvenir hunters, the naturally inquisitive, the naturally disaster prone, as well as out-and-out vandals.  There is not the natural screening which a caving trip into an unmodified cave usually affords.  There are also no penalties for those who deliberately cause damage.  Hopefully a show cave complex would have an educational element but which must be of limited use in developing a sense of responsibility in a tourist making a once-only visit to something with which he is, after all, totally unfamiliar.

It will be difficult to guarantee that guides will be able to educate, instil responsibility, and supervise their parties adequately.  Theirs will be the ultimate responsibility for protection of the cave, but their individual interest and the numbers they have to control are critical.  Many cases can be cited from established show caves where the current level of supervision has been found to be inadequate.

These particular caves have an additional problems in that their main interest will be visual and because of their vulnerability.  Visitors must necessarily be kept at some distance.  As an all-round experience of caving the public appetite may not be entirely satisfied, which may actually encourage behaviour detrimental to the caves such as reaching out and touching the formations, or leaving the defined path when the opportunity arises.

Present show cave developments do not give any encouragement whatever that these problems can be faced in a way that conservation of the resources demands.  Failure of any one aspect could conceivably result in the eventual loss of the cave in any significant form.  Above all guarantee’s need to be given that the solutions to these any problem will work, and are based on principles of conservation beyond those needed to simply maintain the attraction.  The answers should be viewed against the alternative of waiting until such time when man's resources and abilities are equal to his responsibilities.

(iv) Abandonment

It is most likely that development and continuing operation will be dependant upon financial viability. The risk most likely to be realised is that at some stage during construction, or after a period of operation, the project will be abandoned for lack of funds.  The very first job once the project goes ahead will be to open up the sites for easy access.  There can be no greater threat to the caves, short of quarrying them away, than to vacate the site  leaving unrestricted access.  Examples can be cited where this has occurred.  Two safeguards are required, first to ensure that there is adequate finance from the start to carry the scheme through to conclusion, and secondly to ensure that provision is made to leave the site if necessary in a suitable state for continued preservation, for example, by handling it over to an appropriate organisation.

Summary and Conclusion

It should be obvious then that the implications of developing this site are not to be taken lightly.  There are many dangers and it is essential that any proposals are considered carefully and numerous safeguards built-in.  Any decisions taken should not be taken in haste, and in summary the following points are made, and offered as the only basis upon which development can be allowed to proceed.

1.                  Any alterations to the caves including enlargement of passageways or creation of tunnels involving the removal of formations, boulders, sediments, or affecting any natural features, must be agreed in detail prior to any work commencing. Adequate independent supervision must be provided for the works in progress, and strict adherence to the agreed proposals guaranteed.

2.                  Large artificial entrances should be fitted with sealed solid gates, kept closed at all times and designed to maintain as near as possible natural air flows through the cave.

3.                  Artificial lighting should not be installed, but visitors issued with individual electric lamps.

4.                  Adequate protection must be given to all formations and other features to prevent damage, even to the point of constructing a cage through vulnerable sections, or by completely encasing formations elsewhere.  No artificial or foreign items should be installed in the cave ether than those necessary for its protection.

5.                  A guide-to-visitor ratio for any given cave must be established and strictly adhered to, along with the maximum numbers underground at any given time.

6.                  Guides should be properly educated in the development of caves and cave features and have a great respect for this unique and fragile environment.  Theirs is the ultimate responsibility for monitoring the cave and supervising visitors.

7.                  Any possibility of pollution must be prevented.  Car parking areas should be made impervious, and run-off discharged through regularly maintained oil and petrol interceptors.  Sewage, and any other effluents, must be properly disposed of; none should be allowed to enter the cave system! either directly or through seepage.

8.                  Accessibility to all caves in the Quarry area should be maintained.  Some are colonised by bats and continued usage must be guaranteed.

9.                  A management plan for all caves in the quarry, either developed or not, should be agreed, and hopefully include a provision for continued access by cavers for exploration and study.

10.              Independent monitoring of the development in progress, and during future operation, should be provided.

Perhaps the hardest consideration is that given that the right questions have been asked, satisfactory answers have been received and objectively assessed and the go ahead given, can the project be monitored?  Is it possible to call a halt if the caves appear to be endangered?  How can this be determined?  Can penalties be imposed if transgressions occur, and is it possible to make recompense, when mistakes last for ever?  Who in the end will take ultimate responsibility?

There are no easy answers to these questions, but they must be asked and satisfactory replies received, if this unique part of our natural heritage is not to be spoilt and lost for ever. 

National Caving Association
Radstock
Bath
February 1980


 

Scheduling Of Cave SSSI's On Mendip

COUNCIL OF SOUTHERN CAVE CLUBS

During the last two months landowners and farmers in the Priddy area have been contacted by the Nature Conservancy Council informing them that sections of their land would be scheduled as an SSSI in the near future.  Previously some owners in the East Mendip area had been approached by letter during 1983/84 and during January of this year the NCC contacted those affected in the Priddy area.  What was new to landowners involved and to the Council of Southern Caving Clubs was that there was to be an accompanying list of 28 damaging activities as required by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  Depending on the reason for a particular piece of land being scheduled determined how many of the 28 activities would be enforced. Each landowner would have four months from the time of the official letter of the actual scheduling taking place to appeal to the NCC or negotiate terms of usage for their particular piece of land.

The original revision of cave SSSI's contributed to by the CSCC during 1978-1980 was on the understanding that the conditions of the SSSI would be the same as that which had applied to many cave sites here on Mendip and elsewhere in the country since 1957. It was a great shock to both landowners and cavers, to say the very least, as the relationship between both has been the very basis of caving activity here on Mendip.  For general information a catalogue of events is given below to outline the situation that is with us today.

In 1974 the NCC decided that a Geological Conservation Review should be carried out and as part of this in 1977 the NCA and BCRA were jointly contracted to prepare a list of cave sites.  A working party was set up with Dave Judson as convenor to carry out the three year contract which was complete in 1980.  The list of Mendip sites to be scheduled was drawn up and approved by the CSCC in 1978 and the necessary write-ups submitted to the NCA/BCRA Working Party in 1980.  When all the Regions had completed their work a national list was drawn up and out of those put forward by the CSCC seven out of eight were accepted.  Tony Waltham was then contracted by the NCC to write the final report and a list of 48 sites (many encompassing a number of individual caves) were included that could be justified on a national basis.

The NCC was to schedule these sites as soon as possible; however the Wildlife and Countryside Act came into effect toward the end of 1981 complicating the matter.  This required all sites, existing and proposed, to be notified in accordance with the new procedures set out therein. Overall this involved an extraordinary amount of work and although the Mendip sites were nearly scheduled in 1983/84, as mentioned at the May 84 AGM, this came to nothing.  The current situation has arisen because the sites are now being notified.  Through informal contact with the NCC it was discovered that this was being done at the end of January and as a matter of course this was mentioned at the CSCC meeting on the 15 February.  At this meeting the list of damaging activities applicable to cave sites, as supplied by the NCC, was also read out.

For all SSSI's there is a standard master list of 28 damaging activities and when a site is scheduled specific ones from this are notified as those being likely to damage that sites particular special interest.  The list was drawn up by a NCC Special Committee and they are under a statutory obligation to specify any activity that may have an effect on any particular site, and they try to be as comprehensive as possible since unless an activity has been notified they can do nothing about it later.  The NCC have stated that the activities to be notified for all cave sites are similar, and they confirmed at the landowners meeting that no more than 7 would apply to the Priddy caves.  In some cases confusion may arise due to extra activities being specified for certain sites.  This is because some are also scheduled for ether reasons in addition to the cave interest e.g. flora, fauna etc, and in these instances they expand the list accordingly.  This is an obvious area of confusion about which we can do nothing, although landowners are told why the site is being scheduled.

To quote from an NCC letter to the landowners of cave sites "As most of the interest is underground, it is unlikely that notification as an SSSI would conflict with present farming practice".  The procedure for scheduling is that the list of damaging activities is notified, but prior to this as a PR exercise a visiting officer explains that exemption will be given for any specific things that the landowner needs or wishes to do as part of his livelihood, and to enable this he has to provide a list to the NCC.  The NCC point out that there is no other way that this could be done since if a list of specific damaging activities had to be drawn up for each site this would be incredibly long, and however comprehensive it appeared to be it is certain that something would be missed.

Regarding the matter that directly concerns us the NCC have stressed that no landowner will be affected unless he does, or intends to do something, that might specifically damage the cave and even then they have stated they would try to solve any problems amicably, or in the case of certain activities offer financial assistance toward solving them, rather than use their statutory powers.  With respect to this the NCC have expressed an interest in solving the pollution problems in Swildons and preliminary discussions have been held with Robin Main and it seems likely that it may be possible to stop this by mutual agreement and with the assistance of grant aid.  This would not be possible if the cave had not been an SSSI.  The NCC have also stated that if they did prevent a landowner from carrying out a specific activity, compensation would be paid so no financial loss would be involved.

Comments have been made that it is remiss of the CSCC not to have been aware of the potential problems and been able to pave the way prior to the event.  This would have required the Council to have had prior knowledge of when notification was to take place and the statutory procedures involved in scheduling, which we did not.  In any case it may well have been impossible since the NCC avoid landowners knowing of the scheduling until they are formally notified.  This is due to past problems where the knowledge has jeopardised the site being scheduled or resulted in damage being done prior to notification.  It would be nice to argue that this would not apply to cave sites however this is not possible since, as already mentioned, many are also scheduled for other reasons.

The Council fully accepts that this whole business is causing a major problem here on Mendip and has attacked the very foundation of the relationship between landowners and the caving community.  The effect has been at the time of writing for Hunters Hole and a dig site near Eastwater Cavern to be closed.  The CSCC is currently making contact with several outside bodies including the NCC for advice and clarification. Further details will be circulated to clubs when any relevant information is available.

Dave Irwin, Chairman
Graham Price, C&A Officer 30.4.86.


 

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

NATURE CONSERVANCY COUNCIL

1  Nature conservation

The wild plants and animals of Britain and the places, or habitats, in which they live are part of our national heritage. So too are the rocks, minerals and landforms that underlie or make up the surface of the land.  To safeguard plants, animals and geological features we must protect and maintain the most important areas where they occur.  These areas are called Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

2  The selection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

The SSSI system comprises biological and geological sites selected by the Nature Conservancy Council after scientific survey and evaluation.  These include the best examples of particular habitats, e.g. woodlands, heathlands or meadows, and or the localities of rare or endangered species or important concentrations of animals or plants.  Many geological sites are the standard reference locality for their type of rock or land formation.

3  Notification

The Nature Conservancy Council have a statutory duty to notify an SSSI to every owner and occupier, to the local planning authority, to the appropriate Secretary of State and, in England and Wales, to the appropriate Water Authority and Internal Drainage Board.  Notifications to owners and occupiers include a map of the site, a statement explaining why it is of special interest and a list of operations likely to damage the special interest.

4  Registration

In England and Wales notification of land as an SSSI must be registered as a local land charge by the local planning authority.  In Scotland the local planning authorities will receive copies of all notifications in their district, and make them available at their principal office for public inspection.

5  Development

Local planning authorities have a statutory requirement to consult with the NCC before granting permission for a development .application on an SSSI.  Panning authorities are required to take into account any representations the NCC may make in relation to the development application, but the decision to give or refuse planning emission rests with the planning authority.

6  Access

Notification of land as an SSSI does not give the NCC or anyone else any right of access other than along existing rights of way.

7  Management agreements

The NCC may enter into management agreements with owners or occupiers of SSSI’s in order to safeguard or enhance the special interest of the site.

An agreement may be provided for payment to the owner or occupier for refraining from carrying out one or more damaging operations or for work aimed at safeguarding or improving the special interest of the site.

NCC's substantive management agreements will normally be registered as a land charge.

8  Capital taxation relief’s for owners of Heritage Land

SSSI’s will normally qualify for conditional exemption from Capital Transfer Tax.  In addition beneficial tax arrangements can apply if a maintenance fund is established for the benefit of such land.  A tax concession is also available if SSSI land is accepted by the Government in lieu of Capital Transfer Tax or if SSSI land is sold to the NCC or any other approved body.

9  Grant aid

The NCC may give financial assistance to any person to do anything which, in the NCC's opinion, fosters the understanding of or is conducive to nature conservation. Priority is usually given to SSSI’s. Financial assistance may, in certain circumstances, be given towards the purchase of land of SSSI quality for management as a nature reserve.  In all cases the NCC may impose conditions.

10  Purchase or lease of SSSIs

In some cases the NCC may be able to purchase or lease SSSI land, or offer to introduce the owner to a (non-governmental) conservation body which may be interested in purchase or lease of the land.

11  Further information

The NCC's Regional or local office will be pleased to provide further information and advice concerning SSSIs.  The address can be found in your local telephone directory.

12  Further reading

a) Statutes:

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

The Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) A, 1985

The Wildlife and Countryside (Service of Notices) Act 1985

The Capital Transfer Tax Act 1984

The Countryside Act 1968

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949

The Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1977

The Town and Country Planning (General Development) ( Scotland) Order 1981

b) Government circular:

"Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Financial Guidelines foJ: Management Agreements" '

Department of Environment Circular 4/83 Welsh Office Circular 6/83

c) Explanatory memorandum:

"Capital Taxation and the National Heritage" (published by The Treasury. July 1983)

The Nature Conservancy Council is the government body which promotes nature conservation in Great Britain. It gives advice on nature conservation to government and all those whose activities affect our wildlife and wild places. It also selects, establishes and manages a series of National Nature Reserves. This work is based on detailed ecological research and survey.

This is one of a range of publications produced by Interpretive Services Branch.  A catalogue listing current titles is available from Dept. SI, Nature Conservancy Council, Northminster House, Peterborough

PRIDDY POOLS AND PRIDDY CAVES: SOMERSET

OPERATIONS LIKELY TO DAMAGE THE FEATURES OF SPECIAL INTEREST

Standard Ref No•           Type of Operation

1          Cultivation, including ploughing, rotovating, harrowing and reseeding.

2          Grazing.

3          Stock feeding.

4          Mowing or other methods of cutting vegetation.

5          Application of manure, fertilisers and lime.

6          Application of pesticides, including herbicides (weed killers).

7          Dumping, spreading or discharge of any materials.

8          Burning.

9          The release into the site of any wild, feral or domestic animal*, plant or seed.

10         The killing or removal of any wild animal*, including pest control.

11         The destruction, displacement, removal or cutting of any plant or plant remains, including tree, shrub, herb, hedge, dead or decaying wood, moss, lichen, fungus, leaf-mould, turf.

12         Tree and woodland management including afforestation, planting, clear and selective felling, thinning, coppicing, modification of the stand or under wood, changes in species composition, cessation of management.

13a       Drainage (including moor-gripping and the use of mole, tile, tunnel or other artificial drains).

13b       Modification of the structure of water courses (e.g. streams, springs, ditches, dykes, drains), including their banks and beds, as by re-alignment, re-grading and dredging.

13c       Management of aquatic and bank vegetation for drainage purposes.

14         The changing of water levels and tables and water utilisation (including irrigation, storage and abstraction from existing water bodies and through boreholes).

15         Infilling of ditches, dykes, drains, ponds, pools or marshes. Freshwater fishery production and management including sporting fishing and angling.

16         Extraction of minerals, including peat, sand and gravel, topsoil, sub-soil, chalk, lime and spoil.

20         Construction, removal or destruction of roads, tracks, walls, fences, hardstands, banks, ditches or other earthworks, or the laying, maintenance or removal of pipelines and cables, above or below ground.

21         Storage of materials.

22         Erection of permanent or temporary structures, or the undertaking of engineering works, including drilling.

23         Modification of natural or man-made features (including cave entrances), clearance of boulders, large stones, loose rock or scree and battering, buttressing or grading cuttings, infilling of pits.

26         Use of vehicles or craft likely to damage or disturb features of interest.

27         Recreational or other activities likely to damage features of interest.

28         Game and waterfowl management and hunting practices.

* "animal" includes any mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird, fish or invertebrate.

 

 


 

Letter re Re-scheduling of Cave SSSI's on Mendip

COUNCIL OF SOUTHERN CAVE CLUBS
Constituent member of NCA

please reply to:•

Radstock
Bath
Avon

Dr Keith Duff
Head of Geology and Physiography
Nature Conservancy Council
Northminster House
Peterbrough
Cambs
PE1 1UA

7 May 1986

Dear Keith,

Re-scheduling of Cave SSSI's on Mendip

Further to our recent discussions I am writing to confirm some of the points raised to which a reply would be appreciated.

The current re-scheduling of the cave SSSI's on Mendip, specifically those in the Priddy area, is causing major problems with a number of landowners greatly concerned about the effect it will have on them and their livelihood.  The blame for the scheduling is being placed clearly with the caving community in general and myself in particular as Conservation and Access Officer of the Council, and as a result we are receiving the brunt of the criticism and suffering from the effects.  To date this has involved the closure of two caves and refusal of permission to continue a surface dig.  This situation is totally unacceptable and indications are that, with feelings running at such a high level, this may only be the beginning of the problems.

The relationship between cavers and landowners on Mendip has been extremely good in the past but has now been put in serious jeopardy.  Although we obviously wish to see caves offered the maximum possible protection we believe this must not be to the detriment of the landowners.  From their point of view the major concern is with respect to the very long list of damaging activities with which they have been presented.  Although we understand that many of these will be consented and that perhaps only in the region of six will apply, we believe that these can, and should, be further minimised in many instances by restricting their application to very limited areas, specifically in the immediate vicinity of cave entrances.  It is essential that any interference with landowners is reduced to the absolute minimum.

In 1978 when the BCRA and NCA undertook the SSSI Revision on "behalf of the NCC one of the guidelines was that whole catchment areas were included where appropriate. Consequently on Mendip the whole of the Wookey Hole catchment was proposed as a single site, this including a number of individual caves.

As a single unit there is no doubt that the catchment is nationally important and of special scientific interest, however there are a number of individual caves within the area that cannot be considered scientifically important in their own right, although these were automatically included by default.

Since the NCC has been notifying the Priddy caves it has become apparent that the original criteria have changed in that individual caves are being scheduled, not areas. Although it may seem logical to take all caves within the original area and notify each, this has presented a problem in that a number of the smaller ones, specifically Hunters Hole, North Hill Swallet, Sludge Pit and Nine Barrows, cannot be justified as being of national importance and should therefore not be scheduled as SSSI's.  In view of the changed circumstances we would therefore suggest that these caves are removed from the Revision.

Another matter of great concern to the Council is the effect of a site being scheduled on normal caver activities.  It is our understanding that it is not the intention of the NCC to try and restrict these in any way and that responsibility for looking after caves underground, whether the activities involve purely sporting caving, digging, or scientific research, will be the direct responsibility of the caving community. Your confirmation that this is the case would be appreciated.

There is however another extremely important aspect of caver activities that may have been overlooked, this being with respect to those on the surface.  Caving in the broadest sense not only includes underground activity but also a number of associated things on the surface.  If we first consider existing caves often maintenance including construction works or modification of the entrance may be required.  This could take the form of gating, building blockhouses, installing shafts etc., all of which might be considered a damaging activity within the terms of the scheduling.

The other problem is associated with surface digs which may or may not be associated with the cave in question, and could be located anywhere within the scheduled area. A major pastime of cavers is digging to find new caves and it would appear that these activities may be severely affected.

Obviously it would be unreasonable to expect a landowner to obtain permission from the NCC should cavers wish to start a dig on their land, and if this were the case it is likely that permission would be refused.  The Council considers this situation to be unacceptable and would appreciate confirmation as to how you intend to avoid these problems occurring.

We trust that you fully appreciate the difficulties with which we are now faced and will be able to take all possible steps to aid in returning the situation on Mendip to normal.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Price
Conservation and Access Officer

NATURE
CONSERVANCY
COUNCIL

Great Britain Headquarters

Northminster House, Peterborough PE1 1UA Telephone Peterborough (0733) 40345

Mr G Price
Conservation and Access Officer
Council of Southern Caving Clubs
Radstock
Bath

14 May 1986

Dear Graham

RENOTIFICATION OF CAVE SSSI’s ON MENDIP

Thank you for your letter of 7 May.  As you know, I have been heavily involved in dealing with the unfortunate difficulties which have arisen over the renotification of the Priddy SSSI, and I am confident that the problems will be resolved in the near future.

Let me assure you, at the outset, that NCC has no intention of interfering with cave access in any way. Our aim is to safeguard cave sites of national scientific importance so that they can be used for research and education.  In this we are heavily dependent upon advice and information provided to us by cavers, since we have no in-house practical caving expertise.  We rely upon the caving community for advice on selecting SSSI’s (viz the BCRA/NCA consortium of 1978-1981) and for advice on their subsequent safeguard (viz the extensive consultation we undertook prior to responding to the recent Fairy Cave Quarry planning application).  Our view is that we should make full use of the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and the 1977 Town and Country Planning General Development Order, to protect cave SSSI in the ways that are recommended to us by cavers; we do not intend to take unilateral action of any kind.  The Wildlife and Countryside Act provides considerably enhanced mechanisms for safeguarding SSSI, and we believe that these should be used to best effect in protecting cave SSSl, but only in the ways that cavers feel to be necessary in site specific cases.  In particular, I must stress that all existing access arrangements for caves will be supported by NCC; we have no wish or intention to interfere with any of them.  I am happy to confirm that we see the caving community taking responsibility for the underground safeguard of caves, and applaud the NCA "Adopt-a-Cave scheme."

I am concerned that renotification of cave SSSI should have resulted in "blame" being directed in any direction.  The whole basis of the Wildlife and Countryside Act mechanisms is that landowners and occupiers should not be disadvantaged financially as a result of the provisions of the Act being applied.  Compensation for, loss of profits is available in the event of NCC not being able to agree to the undertaking of a listed Potentially Damaging Operation (PDO). Having said that, the number of PDO which apply to cave sites is very small, and their application is not intended to cause any restriction of normal caving activities.

"Consent letters" are issued by NCC to release owners and occupiers from many of the detailed "restrictions" which occur in the PDO lists, and these specifically include a consent to allow the unhindered continuation of normal caving activities, in which we include cave exploration, cave digging underground (including the modification of cave entrances) gating of caves, building blockhouses, collecting of samples for research, digging on the surface to seek new caves (and the works associated with such activities).

Most of the difficulties and misunderstandings at Priddy have arisen because the Priddy Caves and Priddy Pools SSSI is a joint geological and biological SSSI. The procedures which have been laid down by the Treasury Solicitor, and which NCC are obliged to follow when notifying new SSSI or renotifying existing SSSI, specify that each SSSI must have one overall map, statement of interest and list of PDO which relate to the whole site. It is then for NCC to issue, individual landowners and occupiers, a consent letter which excludes them from liability in respect of specified PDOs for their land.  NCC is not permitted to send consent letters at the same time as notification letters, and the normal procedure is that these follow a few days later.  Consequently, all owners and occupiers of the Priddy SSSI received a full list of PDO, but then received a consent letter a few days later, covering the bulk of the operations on their land.  It would appear that these consent letters were perhaps not as specific with regard to normal caving activities as they could have been, and we are now in the process of revising them, with more specific consent being sent out shortly. In general terms, the application of consents would normally follow the lines set out below:

PDO 7:             This applies only to the cave entrance area.  Normal caving activities within the cave or cave entrance, and which could involve dumping, spreading or discharge of any materials, will be consented.

PDO 12a:          In Mendip, consent would normally be granted for tree-planting.

PDO 13a:          In Mendip. consent would normally be granted for drainage modifications, but this would need to be site specific, in consultation with caving organisations.

PDO 15:            This PDO will remain.

PDO 21:            This applies only to cave entrances and areas immediately adjacent.  Normal caving activities which involve any of these operations will be consented.

PDO 22:            Normal caving activities will be consented.

PDO 23:            As for 21.

PDO 24:            Normal caving activities will be consented, and would include gating caves and building blockhouses.  We would retain consultation rights over proposals to block cave entrances.

PDO 27:            Consent will be given for this PDO; no existing access arrangements will be affected.

I note your uncertainty about the individual scientific merits of Hunters Hole, North Hill Swallet, Nine Barrows Swallet and Sludge Pit Hole.  I am seeking the views of the convenors of the BCRA/NCA consortium responsible for selection of cave GCR sites (Tony Waltham and Dave Judson), as well as Willie Stanton (in his guise as author of the write-ups for Priddy). I cannot pre-judge their advice, but can assure you that all cave SSSI notified by NCC must be justifiable, and that we will reconsider the status of these sites if the advice we receive suggests that we should.  In the meantime, amended consent letters are currently being prepared for these sites, along the lines specified above.  I will ensure that the CSCC is kept informed.

I hope that this letter sets your mind at rest with regard to NCC's intentions regarding cave conservation.  I am aware that a good deal of rumour and mischievous misinformation concerning our "intentions" is circulating, and can assure you that these are unfounded.  I must repeat my earlier statement that NCC seeks to safeguard caves for cavers, and that all our actions are taken after consultation with representatives of the caving organisations; we have no interest in 'empire-building' and do not act unilaterally.

I trust that the sound relationships that have been established between NCC and the caving organisations, including the CSCC, will be maintained, and hope that we will continue to liaise closely with CSCC over cave conservation in the Mendips.

Dr K L Duff
Head of Geology & Physiography Section

*****************************************

Open letter to all members of Council of Southern Clubs Member Clubs.

30th April 1986

Dear Cavers,

You may remember that up to eighteen months ago I acted on your behalf as Secretary of the CSCC but unfortunately, due to business commitments, had to relinquish the post. I have now been asked by a number of cavers to stand for the post of Conservation and Access Officer and, for the reasons set out below, I have agreed.

You may know that there has been a review of SSSI's (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) going on for some time.  The purpose of this designation is to protect any site, not only caves, considered to be of special interest.  A list of sites was approved by the CSCC in 1979/80 but due to the appearance of the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is only now that the designations are being made. What alarms me and a great many others is that the scope of the sites and the restrictions placed thereon has increased greatly from that approved some six years ago.  Not only that but it appears that these designations will have a detrimental effect on access rather than as intended.

Landowners received on 21st April 1986 details of the land which is now designated and the restrictions placed thereon.  The designations cover all land within specific boundaries i.e. whole fields not just the cave entrance and the restrictions placed thereon are such as to preclude the landowners continued use of the land without the agreement of the Nature Conservancy Council. Naturally landowners blame cavers for this intrusion into their right to use the land as they wish and I am receiving an increasing number of reports of access being restricted, permission to dig being withheld, etc.

Cavers have for many years had good relations with Mendip landowners and access has always been maintained without the need for the sort of situation that prevails in other parts of the country.  Overnight these carefully maintained relations have been swept away.

Why is it therefore that the C & A Officer of the CSCC did not see fit to specifically inform the CSCC of the potential problems when they first became apparent.  I believe that he has, in fact been involved with these designations to such a point that he has failed to see the problems that would be created.

We must now do our best to redress the situation by pursuing a policy sympathetic to the landowners who give us access.  To continue on our present route can only be to the detriment of Mendip Caving.  To this end, the present C & A Officer must step down as his credibility with the landowners involved is in serious doubt.

Likewise the situation with Fairy Cave Quarry.  Whilst I cannot comment on this as a whole as the CSCC can have no policy on a situation which is - being handled by an individual club I am concerned that the NCA has, to all intents and purposes, interfered in CSCC affairs without its agreement.  The case in point being that the NCA Chairman has written to all Local Councillors seeking their support against the granting of planning permission to Hobbs Quarries for their proposals for Fairy Cave Quarry of which you should remember the formation of a show cave forms only one part.  I do not understand how, within the terms of the NCA Constitution, they can have a policy which is, in effect, a direct contradiction to the CSCC Constitution and, ultimately, sets cavers in general as well as the CSCC against a large commercial company to whom caving interests and access requirements count for nothing.

This is the situation as I and a large number of others see it.  I believe that under the guise of a policy of. Conservation and Access we have been brought into direct confrontation over access with landowners, the results of which could have a dramatic effect on future Mendip Caving.

I look forward to your support at the AGM on 17th May 1986 in the interests of the future of Mendip Caving.  This letter, which expresses my personal opinions, has been circulated at my own expense.

Yours sincerely, Alan Butcher


 

Conservation And Access Officers Report 1985/86

COUNCIL OF SOUTHERN CAVING CLUBS

This year has been relatively quiet until the last couple of months when all hell has been let loose, this centering around two things - the re-scheduling of the Mendip SSSI' s and the Fairy Cave Quarry business.  These two items have resulted in considerable controversy with an extra-ordinary amount of criticism being levelled at me personally.  I must say that I do not mind criticism when justified and will listen to and discuss anything with anyone who has an opinion to express. However with respect to these two matters there seems to be little reason behind the numerous totally false rumours that have been circulating, and I trust that once people become fully aware of the facts they will appreciate that I am not responsible for causing the problems but have put considerable effort into solving them.

The following items of business have been dealt with during the year:

1.                  SINGING RIVER MINE.  The parcel of land containing the entrance is now in the ownership of the adjacent householders and essentially forms an extension to their garden.  They are quite happy about continued access but have asked that everyone stick to the path when approaching the entrance and avoid their son's radio controlled car racetrack where there has been some damage to bridges over this.  The path is obvious but they are intending to gravel it in the near future and rebuild the stile.  They have also asked that the gate to the field is kept closed and the entrance to the mine locked when underground.  The access agreement with the previous owner only enabled five keys to be available from the major clubs, however it has been possible to renegotiate this and in future keys will be available to anyone upon request.  To simplify matters the lock on the mine is now the same as the one on Cuckoo Cleeves and the one key, available from myself or the Wessex at £2 each, will fit both entrances.

2.                  BROWNS FOLLY MINE.  The land containing both entrances to the mine is now in the ownership of the Avon Wildlife Trust and initial negotiations for continued access by cavers were held with them early in the year.  They required a similar arrangement as before in the form of a licence with the Company, although they would be responsible for gating.  The Trusts intention was to have new gates on both entrances by last August but due to delays this has only recently been done. There are still a few problems with the new licence but these should be resolved soon.  The new keys are currently available and will be distributed to the Company shareholding clubs soon.  The new gates should be locked by mid May.  Notices will be placed on the entrances detailing availability of keys.

3.                  LAMB LEER. Early in the year Somerset County Council sold the land containing the entrance to the tenant, Mr Burge of Beconsfield Farm.  The licence with the Company was also transferred and Mr Burge stated he wished the same access arrangements to continue except that he would like all visitors to call on him first and a small goodwill fee would be payable.  He also asked that no cars were parked in the quarry without specific permission having been given.  Notices detailing the changes have been posted on site.

4.                  SLUDGE PIT. Unfortunately the cave has remained closed although it is hoped that it may be reopened soon.  Wessex, who are undertaking the work, asked for assistance with respect to the supply of pipes for the entrance and I made arrangements for the purchase of these from ARC.  However organising the necessary transport proved a major problem and to date no definite offers of help have been forthcoming.  I believed that the problem had been solved when I was able to obtain a supply from another source complete with delivery to site all free of charge, however the pipes that turned up were much larger than arranged which presented a different problem all together.  Following discussions with the Wessex it was agreed that the solution would be to hire an excavator and to obtain the necessary funds for this and the other works I circulated all member clubs in March requesting donations.  To date 16 clubs have responded making the £160 available.

5.                  AXBRIDGE HILL. Comments were made at one meeting the Somerset Trust interfering with access to small mines and caves on Axbridge Hill.  Further information was to be supplied in order that his could be followed up but this is still awaited.

6.                  FAIRY CAVE QUARRY.  At the end of January Hobbs made two planning applications, the first for renewal of their original outlined consent for development of the whole site as a show cave and leisure complex and the second for full permission to start tunnelling works into Shatter.  Cerberus asked for CSCC and NCA backing for the comments to be submitted on the show cave development and the comments were tabled at and approved by the meeting on the 15th February.  The applications have since been considered by the District Council who decided to refuse the application for renewal of the outline permission and defer the tunnelling application pending agreement on the details between Hobbs and the NCC.

7.                  WATERWHEEL AND UPPER FLOOD SWALLETS.  In February Willie Stanton gave up his dig at Waterwheel and handed the keys and responsibility for access over to Terry Mathews at the Charterhouse Centre who has since asked MCG to operate a leader system for the cave the same as for Upper Flood.  Details of access arrangements for both caves can be found elsewhere.  Terry Mathews notified the NCC of the existence of the cave so it could be included along with Upper Flood in the SSSI Revision.  The NCC approached me for further information and a write up for Upper Flood provided by the MCG was sent along with brief details of Waterwheel, although the latter could not be justified as being of national importance.

8.                  SSSI REVISION. The rescheduling of the Mendip cave SSSI's by the NCC is causing major problems.  Full details of the history and current situation are given separately. The Council is currently taking all possible steps to try and solve these problems by discussion with the NCC and other parties and will report any progress as made.

9.                  HANDBOOK. Although I had promised to have the revised handbook ready had Easter there have been a few delays.  Much of the text is now entered on a work processor it is anticipated that it will be ready to print in the next month or two. If anyone can assist I could do with a cover design.

10.              CAVE CONSERVATION YEAR.  There was very little participation in this on Mendip although some clean-ups and tuping was carried out.  An overall review of the Year was published in Descents NCA Column.  The 'Protect Our Caves' leaflets recently became available and one is enclosed.  If any clubs can distribute these to their members it would be appreciated.  If this is possible please let me know how many copies are required.

During the year I have attended all meetings of the NCA, C & A Group in my capacity as C & A Officer and as NCA Conservation Officer.  I have also represented the Council at NCA Executive meetings and at all meetings of the Grant Aid Working Party.

Overall the work involved with respect to Council business both on a local and national level has been considerable and I feel confident that I have made a useful contribution. I would like to continue as Conservation and Access Officer for the coming year if the Council so wishes and assure everyone that I will fulfil my duties to the best of my ability.

Graham Price
Conservation & Access Officer



Conservation And Access Officers Report 1985/86 - Addendum

By the time you receive this you will have already had time to read the letter of 30th April from 'Butch' campaigning against me for the post of Conservation and Access Officer of the Council and I trust that you will now allow me an opportunity to state my case and set the record straight.  Unfortunately a number of cavers on Mendip are currently involved in a 'witch hunt' and they have decided that I am the witch, however I refuse to be the scapegoat they are looking for.  The letter from 'Butch' is a typical example of the misinformation that is currently circulating and it is essential that this is stopped once and for all.

He says that the scope of the SSSI's and the restrictions placed on them has greatly increased from that approved six years ago.  This is complete rubbish.  To start with the areas now being scheduled are minimal compared with that proposed by the Council in 1978.  If we take the Priddy caves which are causing all the problems the original proposal was to have the whole Wookey catchment as one site.  To Quote from the proposed list at the time "Whole of the Wookey Hole Catchment covering an area of ? sq. km.  Includes all major and some minor feeder caves in the Priddy area between Priddy Village and the Hunters Lodge".  Imagine the problems that this might have caused compared with what the NCC are now doing that is scheduling only the land directly above the cave.  The scope of the sites therefore has not increased at all, but quite dramatically reduced.  It might be interesting to note that in the Dunstans catchment a large block of land between the end of Stoke Lane and the resurgence has in fact been de-scheduled.  With regard to the restrictions none were approved in 1978, and none have been approved since.

A number of other people have also mentioned this problem about the sites being defined using field boundaries.  This is not a new innovation as many would have you believe, and was in fact the method employed in defining practically all the sites already scheduled prior to 1978. The reasons for using field boundaries is that the sites also have to be registered with the Land Registry and they will not accept totally arbitrary lines drawn across the centre of plots but require fixed lines to be used as defined on an ordnance survey map.  Cave entrances alone have never been covered, and all the original sites covered the full extent of the cave as known at the time of scheduling.

It cannot be denied that cavers are being blamed for the scheduling and to some extent this is a valid statement.  However it must not be forgotten that when the CSCC participated in the Revision during 1978/80 it was policy at that time, as it had always been in the past, to give as many caves as possible SSSI status.

No one could possibly have known that the Wildlife and Countryside Act was to be passed and the effect that this would have.  Unfortunately we are only now finding out albeit a bit late in the day.  If we had been aware of these things it is certain that we would not have allowed the present situation to arise, however it has and now our efforts must be turned to getting us out of the mess.  Every possible step is currently being taken in this respect.

Why did I not inform the CSCC of the potential problems when they first became apparent.  The supposition here is that I knew of the problems before they existed.  How this would have been possible I do not know unless Butch believes me to clairvoyant. I did find out at the end of January that scheduling had started and as a matter of course mentioned it at the CSCC meeting on the 15 February.  It was only after this that anyone became aware that there were problems, and immediately upon finding out steps were taken to try and resolve them.  This matter has been under constant discussion with the Councils Chairman, Dave Irwin, and others, and one of the first things to be done was to organise a meeting between the NCC and the landowners. If I had been directly involved with the scheduling as Butch suggests then it is probable that the current situation may never have arisen.

I fully agree that we must pursue a policy sympathetic to the landowners, although I have assumed that we have done this in the past and would continue to do it in the future, in any case.  We are not taking any other route, as is suggested, nor intend to do so.  It seems to me that a few people believe that if the blame can be placed on me and I can be disposed of, the problem will be a long way to being solved.  I think this very unlikely.  If my credibility with any landowners is in doubt then this can only be due to them being told that I am responsible for the problems they are now having, despite this being totally untrue.  On the other hand I have very good relationships with bodies such as the NCC. And I am currently discussing the matter with them and making representations to try and solve the problems.

Regarding the Fairy Cave Quarry business Butch also seems to be confused here.  He says the CSCC can have no policy with respect to this, however he is wrong because the CSCC does have a policy of sorts as he would know if he had attended the meeting on the 15 February.  At that meeting Cerberus tabled very detailed comments on the planning applications which they wished to be submitted by the NCA on behalf of the CSCC and the club.  This paper was accepted by the meeting and therefore, although some people consider by default, became CSCC policy.  The NCA was therefore involved at the request of Cerberus and with the sanction of the CSCC. Butch might not agree with this but it is a fact. I would therefore assume that it is quite acceptable for the NCA to send the mentioned letter if it was considered necessary.  It is impossible to see how this could be considered a direct contradiction to the CSCC Constitution.

The situation as outlined by Butch may be how he and some others see it, but this is entirely based on considerable misinformation, totally untrue rumours, and pub talk.  I hope that the information currently being circulated by the Council will put a stop to all these rumours which are causing problems in themselves at a time when it is essential that we show a united front.

I have no intention of stepping down as Conservation and Access Officer of the Council.  To do so would be to admit to being guilty of something which I am not, and in any case I feel an obligation and need to try and sort out the problems with which we are now faced.  I feel certain that I can contribute much in this respect and hope that you will be able to support me at the AGM on the 17 May.

Graham Price


 

Chairman’s Report for the Year 1985 - 1986

COUNCIL OF SOUTHERN CAVING CLUBS

The past year cannot be considered a happy one for the CSCC - in many ways it became worse as the year progressed.  On the positive side however, the organisation has been revitalised by new faces in the various official positions and the minutes and communications as now being sent regularly to member clubs.  It is vital to an organisation such as ours to ensure too, that Clubs regularly send delegates thus enabling the Council to state clearly the views of its members.  If clubs do not undertake their responsibilities how can the Council reflect the views of the "grass-roots"?

REVIEW OF THE FEDERAL STRUCTURE OF HCA AND CSCC

The thorny problem of the merger between BCRA and NCA has reared its head yet again and no doubt will do so again in the near future.  The Officers have decided to prepare a discussion document proposing methods of improving the efficiency of the NCA network and why it believes that the federal system that currently exists must remain to reflect the views of the caving clubs.  Draft copies of this document  will be circulated to clubs as soon as it has been prepared for comment and discussion. At recent BCRA conferences cavers have expressed a wish that the BCRA merges with the NCA and that they felt it, the BCRA, is best suited to reflect the views and opinions of the British caver. This is simply due to lack of knowledge of what the NCA does on a day to day basis.  The BCRA, a constituent member of the NCA, does what it has always done for the last couple of decades (including the years before the merger between BSA and CRG) - that is to produce a national magazine and hold conferences and symposia.  There is no need for the NCA to duplicate or take over what the BCRA does well.  The NCA should be left to be the umbrella organisation to negotiate and fend off external pressures that is closing in on the caving scene.

At the same time there is a clear need for the CSCC to review it’s activates and procedures. The Fairy Cave Quarry problem has highlighted a problem where an officer of the CSCC is also an officer of NCA and his club.  This has caused problems, not necessarily of his own making, attempting to wear several caps at at once.  I believed for a long time that an officer of the CSCC should be able to represent the collective views of the member clubs without having to look over his shoulder to see what his club at the NCA would feel about his actions.  There is clear need for this situation to be resolved: by amending the CSCC Constitution if necessary.  If the meeting agrees then the Council's officers should investigate the situation in the coming year and propose any amendments necessary to the constitution.

Secondly, the CSCC should make clear its role in the federal system.  Apart from receiving information from the NCA for distribution to member clubs it also has a role in the reverse direction.  Should a Club have a problem of access or require the help of an outside organisation such as the Nature Conservancy Council or the Sports Council then the CSCC is there to give guidance and help should it be required. If the Council feels that it requires the assistance of an outside organisation then the NCA can be simply and quickly brought into the discussions - the approach being made by the CSCC in the first place thus ensuring that the NCA is aware that the council has fully approved the NCA action.  Whatever help is required by a Club they should formally approach the CSCC in writing to ensure that approach is fully documented in the council's minutes and enabling a full discussion to take place.  The CSCC Officers should be empowered to take decisions on behalf elf that Club for the CSCC prior to action being taken by a Council meeting if they feel that this help is justified.

SSSI's

The re-scheduling of the SSSI's for the Mendip sites has been in the pipeline since NCA accepted a work package from the Nature Conservance in 1977.  A sub-committee was set. Up to define and write up the sites under review and felt to be included within the revised schedules areas.  Work for this revision here on Mendip was completed by 1980 and submitted to NCA at that time, NCA collated all returns from the caving regions and submitted the whole compilation to the Nature Conservancy Council in 1980.  Since that time the NCC have been preparing the necessary documentation and have only recently contacted the landowners and farmers in Eastern Mendip and the Charterhouse areas (1984) and here at Priddy (1986) who are affected by the re-scheduling exercise.  The actual scheduling for the Charterhouse area was postponed for nearly two years and hence the earlier date.  The action is also unique in that this small area of Mendip is one of first to be scheduled out of seven sites; indeed Mendip appears to be the first area of all the caving regions and no doubt will be a test case for the caving community.  SSSI's were initially introduced in 1957 and several important caves were included, e.g. Swildons, Eastwater, St. Cuthbert’s and Stoke Lane etc.  So in 1977-78 the policy of the CSCC was to include as many sites as possible located in the same locality of a larger system to enable them to have the limited protection that the SSSI offered them at that time. Since the completion of this work package by NCA the present government in 1981, passed through Parliament the Wildlife and Countryside Act which stated, in so many words, that there would be a list of damaging activities added to the conditions of an SSSI.   The addition of a list of damaging activities to the SSSI requirements give full protection to the scheduled caves.  This poses a dilemma for Mendip cavers; it satisfies those cavers who believe that the SSSI never had any real protection - now it has.  On the other hand the whole change has upset the relationship between landowners and farmers and the cavers.  The CSCC was not aware of this new twist until earlier this year, though letters referring to these activities were sent out as early as 1984, when farmers and landowners were being contacted by the NCC in the East Mendip area; the CSCC wasn’t aware of this action.  Inevitably this was a considerable shock to both landowners, farmers and cavers generally here on Mendip.  The CSCC immediately requested the NCC to attend a meeting between the landowners and farmers in the Priddy area to enable a dialogue to take place. The meeting was attended by the C & A Officer and myself.  The end result was that the villagers went away discontented with the answers given by the NCC Officials.  The situation is now is one that requires the most delicate handling and the officers are currently attempting to resolve the situation.  Until cavers are fully aware of the situation there cannot be a useful dialogue with the local villagers, bearing in mind that the whole of the Mendip caving is firmly cased upon the goodwill and confidence of the local residents; it must remain so even if some of the caves an Mendip eventually have to be stripped of their protection afforded by the current SSSI.  The whole situation will be discussed at the Annual General meeting on the 17th May 1986.  A full investigation of the background to the reassessment is being carried out by myself and hopefully more information will be available at the Annual Meeting on May 17th.  The Council can be sure that this problem will be placed as top priority of the actions the CSCC in the forthcoming year.

FAIRY CAVE QUARRY

The problems associated with the Hobbs proposals to converts Fairy Cave Quarry into a recreation site has been met here on Mendip with very mixed opinions – or so it would seem.  By the time of the Annual Meeting this subject will have been fully discussed by CSCC at the emergency meeting on the 10th of May.  But it might be prudent of me to include some of the facts in this report for the record.

Hobbs Holdings Ltd closed Withyhill and Shatter Cave to cavers in 1981 and they informed the Cerberus Spelaeological Society of their action.  The Cerberus S.S. then informed the CSCC.  The CSCC response was simple: they requested that the Cerberus wait for the appropriate moment to negotiate with Hobbs to get the caves re-opened as soon as possible. The CSCC couldn’t take any action as the autonomy of the Cerberus would have been affected and they could well have applied the veto.  The Cerberus then published their document proposing that Shatter Cave would be best preserved by converting it into a limited "show" cave.  To back up this report the Cerberus requested the NCA for support to their plan and told the CSCC of their intentions.  The NCA gave this support through the NCA Conservation and Access Group and it’s Executive.  Though the Hon, Chairman and Hon Secretary of the CSCC were aware of the Cerberus action and approved their approach to the NCA, it did not formally become policy of the counci1 as the Cerebus made it quite clear that they were quite capable of handling the situation.  The matter rested there for nearly five year’s, the Cerberus reporting the latest situation for information only to the CSCC at each meting.  As far is the CSCC was concerned it did not have any formal policy regarding the quarry.  The first time that it did have a policy was when the report was tabled at the CSCC meeting on 15th February 1985 but it was not discussed and it was not highlighted for discussion; merely being noted in the minutes by the Hon. Secretary.  Later the same report was circulated to members of the Planning Committee with a covering letter from Mick Day, Chairman of NCA. This was done without any consultation with CSCC as the NCA believed what they were doing was with the full knowledge of the council.  Consequently the CSCC now has a policy.

At the time of the Planning Committee’s Site Meeting I wrote to Graham Price stating that I was unable to attend and wrote “I think the point ought to be stressed that the CSCC is not adverse to the principle of Shatter Cave being converted into a show cave provided that it is carried out in a controlled manner so that it’s intrinsic beauty is not harmed.  This I understand is to be monitored by the NCC and Dr. William Stanton, who is well known for his views in the conservation of caves”, a letter from himself or Mr, Jeremy Hobbs, stating their policy regarding the conversion and exploitation of the cave.  This has yet to arrive, though from a letter sent from Hobbs to the Planning Committee (8th April 1986) would appear that our conditions set down in my letter would be met and many of the conditions set down in the submission to the Planning Committee would be met. Since that time the Planning Committee has decided not to extend the outline planning permission that ran out at the end of April.  Should Hobbs take the matter to Appeal or just leave the matter to rest, only the future will tell.  Whatever happens the CSCC must have a clear outline policy.  As I understand the situation at the time of writing, Hobbs have requested that all caves including the two caves, Shatter and Withyhill, remain closed.  Hence the meeting on the 10th May 1986.

FINALLY

There are a number of difficult tasks facing the CSCC in the coming year and for this reason I’ve withdrawn my intention to resign as Chairman of the CSCC and am now prepared for my name to be put forward for re-election.

Dave Irwin, Chairman CSCC, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset
28th April 1986.


 

Notes on the Council of Southern Caving Clubs AGM. 17th May 1986

Club rep., Bob Cork.

SSSI Special Meeting. The AGM was preceded by a special meeting to discuss the problems regarding the scheduling of caves in the Wookey catchment area.  Those affected being; Swildons Hole, Eastwater Cavern, Sludge Pit, Nine Barrows Swallet, North Hill Swallet, St Cuthbert’s Swallet and Hunters Hole.  Mr Bob Corns the Nature Conversancy Council representative who is handling this matter was invited to attend this meeting.

Dave Irwin (chair) opened the meeting by giving a resume of the events so far plus a history of the events which led to the present revision taking place, a long address but succinct (this will appear in the BB in full in due course).  Phil Romford was then invited to speak on a meeting which he and Dave Irwin had with Bob Corns (NCC) on Tuesday 13th May 86.  The major outcome of this meeting was that the NCC have no intention to change caving in any sense as we now know it, he was asked to substantiate this in writing, he agreed.  A letter from Keith Duff (NCC Peterborough) was handed out to all club reps to clarify and substantiate this. It was made clear to the meeting that although the NCC may not have bad intentions to cavers, the way the scheduling of Priddy caves was conducted has resulted in antagonism which may well result in our access being restricted in the long term.

The letter from NCC Peterborough also revealed changes to the application of some Potentially Damaging Operations which may be of some help to the Landowners, although Bob Corns (NCC) explained them a full understanding is yet to realised

Tim Large was invited to give a resume of a meeting called by Roger Dors to which he invited all affected landowners to discuss the problem; Roger called Dave Irwin, Tim Large and Phil Romford to present their case as cavers and to offer any solutions if possible.  A more full report of this meeting is elsewhere in this BB.

A question and answer session was held with Bob Corns in the firing line.  He was asked some relevant and some irrelevant questions from the floor, of course he was unable to make policy changes that would have settled some people, changes can only be made on representation to the NCC from interested parties.  He left the meeting with a reasonable idea of the feelings abroad.  A vote of thanks to Bob Corns was made by Rich Whitcombe.

Resolutions were taken before any CSCC policy and actions could be decided.  EGONS and BEC both put forward proposals to form a working party under the council.  After much tooing and froing the working party idea was accepted and would comprise the Chairman, Hon Sec, C&A Officer, Geological Adviser, Legal Adviser and up to two Liaison Officer's.  Personnel would be voted under AOB of the AGM.

CSCC policy is to unequivocally support the landowners using the working party to make representation to the NCC and other bodies to help resolve the situation.  The working party would also make attempts to de-schedule as much as the NCC will allow.

Fairy Cave Quarry.  This was the subject of a CSCC special committee meeting on 1oth t1ay 1986.  The resolution tabled at that meeting was deferred until the SSSI policy had been established at the AGM.  The outcome was that with reservations Shatter Cave could become a show cave providing its intrinsic beauty was preserved.

The CSCC would wish that the NCC obtain advice from suitable advisers.  If the CSCC did intend taking any action on the matter they would advise the Cerberus S.S. of their intentions.


 

CSCC Annual General Meeting.

Club rep; Bob Cork, later Phil Romford.

Chair; Dave Irwin.

Officers Reports. All reports (which will appear in a later BB) were accepted as read.

Grant Aid. After much discussion on who would benefit from grants and whether they should be accepted the council decided that the committee should fully investigate the why's and wherefores of the Sports Council money (£110,000.00 to NCA), then report back to the council before any policy is made, most people present were concerned about the implications that taking government money may have.

Paid NCA Officers. The council was left with no doubt that the general feeling was that paid NCA posts were very definitely a bad thing, the committee was directed to make strong representations to any NCA meeting discussing the matter.

CSCC Subscriptions. To cover costs it was proposed and accepted to increase the annual membership subs to £6.00 inclusive. Grants would not be applied for to cover admin costs.

NCA Equipment Committee.  The rope testing programme was queried regarding cost and ultimate usefulness. CSCC will investigate the programme to check its value and how £100 of CSCC money was the programme used.

Election of Officers. The new committee is as follows:-

Chairman                      Dave Irwin (BEC)
Secretary                      Martin Grass (BEC)
Company Secretary       Mike Rendell (CSS)
Treasurer                       Chris Smart (BEC)
Conservation & Access  Tim Large (BEC)
Training Officer               Alan Dougherty (MCG & ACG)
Equipment Officer          Jerry Breakspeare (CSS)

Any Other Business. The working party officers were voted on as follows:-

Chairman                      Dave Irwin
CSCC Hon Sec Martin Grass
C & A Officer                 Tim Large
Geological Adviser         Jim Hanwell
Legal Adviser                 Mike Thompson
Liaison Officers              Phil Romford & Graham Price.

The working party will report to the executive committee at regular intervals.

There being no other business the meeting closed at 2245 hrs after a marathon 8 1/4 hrs.

Correspondent:  Phil Romford.


 

Landowners Meeting 15th May 1986.

Report on a meeting with Priddy landowners held at The Hunters Lodge Inn on 15 May 1986.  Caving interests were represented by Dave Irwin as CSCC Chairman accompanied by Phil Romford and Tim Large.

Dave Irwin outlined the history of events leading up to the latest revision of SSSI's on Mendip by the N.C.C.  The landowners expressed concern and disappointment that cavers have been involved in the revision and without consulting them beforehand.  They were told that the NCC would have gone ahead regardless of caver involvement or not.  They consider that the good relations with cavers built up over many years allowing access and exploration are now severely affected.

The landowners are aware that the extent of an SSSI can be extended to include land above the cave wherever new discoveries are made.  If this decision by the NCC prevails then landowners may refuse permission to dig new surface sites and underground digs. They will be opposed to any escalation of restrictions on their land usage and effect on its market value.

They were given every support and sympathy for the situation.  They were told that cavers are doing everything possible to restore the situation.  Of course, we could not give any firm guarantees as to the outcome of our efforts.

Dave Irwin outlined the proposed actions the CSCC will take subject to approval by their AGM, these included: -

1.                  Lobbying MP's, Minister of the Environment, Sports Council and CCPR.

2.                  Engage the help of specialists in the scientific and legal fields.

3.                  Combine action with other regional councils and the NCA.

4.                  To recommend that in future details of new cave discoveries and their surveys should not be published anywhere.

5.                  To set up a working party to conduct the above activities.

The landowners propose to obtain media coverage for their cause.  The meeting appeared to accept that cavers are on their side and that our interests are closely linked to their own.  To this end it looks now as if a joint action by cavers and landowners could be made to combat the problem.  Close liaison will be essential and Dave Irwin told the meeting that he would supply the landowners with a copy of his CSCC report.

To emphasise their position the landowners of Swildon's and Eastwater have decided to close their caves for an indefinite period as of 17th May 1986.  This action is to demonstrate to the cavers that they do in fact control access to the caves.  The point was raised that until the consents are signed it would be technically illegal for them to allow access.

Tim Large and Phil Romford
16th May 1986


 

Late News - 10/6/86

Unfortunately there has been a delay at the printers with this BB (nearly 4 weeks instead of the usual 2). With luck you should get your next BB on time at the end of July.

Caving films

The BCRA have organised a film evening at the Chemistry Dept. Bristol Univ. at 7pm on Thursday 26th June. Tickets @£2 each from Dick Willis, 56 Granby Hill, Bristol BSS 4LS.  Cheques payable to SCRA and s.a.e. please.

Members Weekend

There will be a members weekend at the Belfry on 22/23 August with a barrel provided for those members undertaking some work on the hut.

Daren Cilau - The Wild West Frontiers.

This carries on giving up passage to the BEC/Cardiff diggers who have now found over a mile of passage this year.  On 29/5 to 1/6 another 750m to lkm of new passage was entered by forcing a very tight horizontal squeeze at the end of " Brazil".  This is superbly decorated with large crystal clusters on the floor and contains 70m of very large passage terminating in a draughting boulder choke.

The team returned on 6-8 June and pushed the side passages in the new extension.  One high level passage doubled back with a pushable side passage leading off north, hopefully dropping down into the diver’s extension. Another passage is leading south requires digging.  Arthur Millet and Steve Allen started the survey of the latest extension and surprisingly after 150m in a NNW direction the main passage turns West.  This was not properly surveyed but continues in that. Direction for at least 400m and the end must be very near the terminal sump in Agen Allwedd.  If a connection is made then the combined length will be over 50km! as Daren is now over 20km in length.

Martyn Farr is going to be filmed by HTV on his attempted throuqh trip from Danen Cilau to Elm Hole. This will be a record through trip, unless, of course, the BEC connect Daren and Aggy first.

Snablet kept the BEC spirit going by arriving at the campsite with a pewter tankard and 3 pints of beer, no mean feat as anyone who has been there will confirm.

Mark Lumley

Derbyshire weekend

Due to the amount of effort put in at Daren Cilau, Mark has not organised anything for the Derbyshire meet. If anyone is thinking of going then they will have to make their own arrangements.