Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site


Dates For Your Diary

May 12th

Dalimore’s  (Friday niters trip) 7.30 pm

May 14th

Yorkshire – White Scar

May 26th

G.B. (Friday niters trip)

May 27-28th

Yorkshire – GG (Bradford winch meet)

May 29th

Yorkshire – Gingling Hole


Contact Martin Grass for details of Yorkshire meets – tele:  HODDESDON 66966

June 9th

Longwood (Friday niters trip)

June 10th

Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Organised by Phil Hendy (WCC). Details next month.

June 23rd

Swildons Hole – CANDLE ONLY! – (Friday niters trip)

June 10th

Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain




The Mid-Summer Buffet at the Hunters.

Members and close friends only

Buffet limited to 70 tickets but there will be plenty of time to drink and chat if you do not want a meal.  Buffet tickets £2.00 ea.

Time 8p.m. in the 'new' backroom

Tickets from Tim Large, c/o Trading Standards Office, 31 South St., Wells, Somerset.

Money with order!!

Don't forget to buy your raffle tickets for a camera, worth £50.  Tickets are available now from MARTIN BISHOP, tele: Priddy 370.  Tickets 10p ea.  The draw will take place during the evening of the 17th June.

THE Club Dinner will take place on OCTOBER 7th - 7.30 for 8p.m. at the Caveman - make a note in your diary NOW!

The BELFRY BULLETIN is published monthly by the B.E.C.

Hon. Editor: D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.



Mendip Rescue Organization

Cave Rescues and Incidents for the Year ending 31st January 1978

Sunday 6th February                  Swildons Hole

A party of twelve including eight novices were led down the cave by S.P. Tarran from St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University, and Hilary Worth from University College Buckland, Farringdon.  On the way back from Sump I, Liz Ellis, who was one of the novices, lost both Wellington boots between the Double Pots and Twenty Foot Pot owing to the strong stream flow.  She sustained several cuts to her feet, legs and hands and was clearly suffering from exposure on reaching the Upper Series.  The party was met by Martin Bishop, Pete Moody, Pete McNab and Tony Jarratt at the Well and the victim was carried out and given a hot bath at Priddy.  Rich Websell assisted two other novices.  In a subsequent letter of thanks, Steve Tarran writes, “A number of recent novice trips down Swildons recently have gone so well that I become a little overoptimistic.  Obviously, in those water conditions I should not have taken them down.”  The party was not an official Oxford University one and the rescue did not involve the Police.

Sunday 3rd April                        Manor Farm Swallet

Martin Bishop received a call from the Belfry at 8pm regarding a party from Bath 18 Plus group two hours overdue.  He went to Charterhouse with Andy Sparrow and found a very tired and lightless party at the foot of the entrance shaft.  They were lifelined to the surface and it was not necessary to inform the Police.

Saturday 4th June                      Buddle’s Wood, Chewton Mendip

Howard Kenney and Richard Stevenson searched old mine shafts in the wood for a golden retriever dog missing from nearby Grove Farm.  The dog returned home on its own during the evening.

Saturday 11th June                    Stoke Lane Slocker

A party of eight from the Cambridge Climbing and Caving Club entered the cave at 12.30pm  On reaching Sump I, all but one went through, the remaining caver staying in Cairn Chamber to await the return of the main party from Stoke II.  During the time they were visiting the upper chambers, the stream rose so that it was impossible to get within a safe diving distance on the downstream approach to the sump when they returned. They remained on the far side for about four hours until the water level had dropped sufficiently.  By 6.30pm the farmer became anxious and contacted Frome Police who checked the cave entrance and then called M.R.O. at 7pm.  William Stanton alerted Brian Prewer who went to the cave. Richard Stevenson and Alan Mills led a small rescue party into the cave at about 8.30pm and met the trapped cavers safely negotiating the dive as the water had fallen.  All were out of the cave by 9.50pm.  All cavers are urged to note that the quarries upstream of the village have installed automatic pumps which now exaggerate the effects of local floods in the system.  The water level was significantly reduced after the quarry company had been requested to switch off their pumps during the alert.  A helpful resume of the situation appears in the Cave Diving Group Newsletter No. 46, January 1978, pages 3-4.

Monday 11th July                       Swildons Hole

Christopher Bowden, an 18-year old student from Plymouth, accompanied three friends on a Round Trip starting about 3.0p.m.  He had not dived a sump before but was well equipped with a 6mm wet suit.  The party was led by Alan Travarthen.  Bowden declined to dive the sump and became frightened.  Another party let by Bob Lewis chanced across, the scene and Lewis remained to give help whilst others left the cave to alert M.R.O.  Alan Thomas was appraised of the situation and informed Frome Police.  Martin Bishop, Ross White and Dave Irwin went down the cave about 9.30pm and the latter returned after an hour requesting diving gear since Bowden would not go back through the Troubles either.  Chris Hannam took diving gear into the cave at 11.0pm and Thomas alerted other wardens and informed Don Thomson.  Between midnight and 1.0a.m., a strong support team went underground with further equipment and medical supplies.  Final efforts to bully Bowden to make the dive succeeded shortly afterwards and the cave was cleared rapidly by about 1.30a.m.  It seems more logical for first-time sump dives to be undertaken the right way around rather than committing such cavers to a Round Trip and obligatory reverse dive.

Saturday 6th August                  Swildons Hole

A party of four descended the cave at about 3.00.m.  They did not have wet suits and were using carbide lamps without spares.  Only two had any previous experience and had travelled to the area from Crawley with their parents.  Arrangements had been made to meet at Rickford about 5.00pm otherwise the parents had no knowledge of the party's whereabouts.  Before reaching Sump I, the lamps began to dim and so the party started to come out.  They took a turning unknown to them in the Water Chamber and then their lights failed. Before the Rickford rendezvous passed, the parents happened to notice their son’s car on Priddy Green whilst on a tour of Mendip, so when they had not turned up at 8.00pm they returned to Priddy. Finding the car still parked there, they made local enquiries and alerted M.R.O.  Brian Prewer informed the Frome Police whilst Ian Jepson, Phil Hendy, Paul Hadfield and Barry Wilkinson searched the cave.  The missing four were found in the Old Grotto, dispirited, cold and hungry.  Had the parents not spotted the car, this call-out would have been difficult.  It is most important to leave exact details of which cave is being visited.

Saturday 27th August                 Lamb Leer

David Getterling and Paul Lydon from London went down the cave in the afternoon; the former claimed to be experienced but the other was not.  A lifeline was used on the fixed entrance ladder; however, it was not thought necessary to use one on the Main Chamber pitch!  On returning, Lydon was unable to climb the ladder and so his friend alerted M.R.O. through Bath Police.  Brian Prewer was contacted at 5.20pm but could not reach Getterling for further details as the informant had left the phone.  Prewer alerted William Stanton and a party of four from the Belfry led by Graham Wilton-Jones went to the cave finding Gettering at the entrance.  They hauled Lydon up on the winch and the cave was cleared by about 7.00pm.  Quite apart from the conduct of the trip, it is very important that informants remain at the phone until contacted by an M.R.O. warden for further details; otherwise, it is very difficult to initiate an effective call-out.

Sunday 11th September             Reads Cavern

A party of four youths went down the cave during the afternoon.  After leaving one of the party in the Main Chamber, the rest found their way into the Browne-Stewart Series.  The lad left behind panicked when the others did not return so he left the cave and asked a passer-by to contact M.R.O.  Frome Police received the call and alerted Brian Prewer at 5.45pm reporting that two cavers were stuck.  Dave Irwin, John Dukes and Chris Batstone went to Burrington to assess the situation followed by four cavers from the Belfry.  Alan Thomas was stood by.  The rescuers met a Police Patrol there and reported that the overdue party had surfaced. A brief chat ensued about under-estimating the times for trips and about not leaving novices alone in caves!  All were stood down at 6.30pm.

Saturday 24th September           Ham Rising, Derbyshire

Martin Bishop called from Derbyshire to stand-by a caving team to help retrieve a body from Ham Rising if required.  Richard Stevenson was contacted to alert local divers.  In the event, Derbyshire rescuers recovered the body.  (See Cave Diving Group Newsletter No. 46, January 1978, pages 17-18)

Wednesday 28th September       Swildons Hole

Frome Police contacted M.R.O. and reported that a Mr. Trig from Bristol had seen the same ladder hanging at the Twenty Foot Pot during a trip that day as on the previous Sunday.  A quick check of car parks and camp sites in Priddy indicated no one missing nor any parties that had not returned from the cave.  No further action was taken.

Saturday 29th October               Eastwater Cavern

A call was received from Bridgwater Police by Briar Prewer at 10.00p.m.  They were concerned about a call from a woman in cheddar who said that she had arranged to her husband there at 6.00pm after a caving trip somewhere on Mendip.  She thought they might be using a blue 1100 Estate car but was not certain about that either.  Prewer contacted Chris Hannam at Priddy and the latter met a local Police patrol. They made a tour of the most obvious sites but could not find the car.  Meanwhile Andy Sparrow checked at Eastwater Farm and was informed that a party of four were still in the cave and now overdue.  The blue car was parked in the farmyard.  Sparrow and another caver went down Eastwater Cavern straight away and located the missing party at the bottom of Baker's Chimney.  They had taken a long time to reach the bottom of the cave and had lost their way on coming out.  Otherwise, they were all right and were brought but of the cave by about midnight.  It transpired that Corporals Keith Loti and Brian Rawcliffe of the R.A.F. had gone down the cave with Mrs. Barbara Rawcliffe and Alan Whitehead from Henton at about 3.00pm.  Two of the party were complete novices.  The incident highlighted yet again the problems faced by both Police and M.R.O. when insufficient information is left about the exact location and duration of a trip.  It is important that accurate details are given to people preferably cavers, who know the area and its caves.  This saves much time and frustration should an emergency arise,

Sunday 20th November   .           Cuckoo Cleeves

Brian Prewer was contacted by a Mr G. Samways of Yeovil Caving Club at 3.15pm who reported that two of his party were stuck, in the narrow tube approach to Lake Chamber.  One of those stuck was said to be rather distressed.  Prewer informed Frome Police then alerted Martin Bishop to contact Pete Moody and Alison Hooper who were thought to be in Rocket Drop Cave.  Fred Davies, Dave Turner, Alan Mills and Colin Williams were called and Don Thomson asked to standby.  By the time Alison Hooper arrived, the pair had succeeded in reaching Lake Chamber were she joined them with Moody.  With Pete backing along the tube and Alison following, each of the cavers was coaxed out.  Alan Thomas and Martin Bishop organised other parties if required.  In the event, these were not needed and the cave was cleared by 6.15pm.

Sunday 20th November   .           Swildons Hole

After the Cuckoo Cleeves call-out, Brian Prewer received a message from Frome Police at 8.30pm reporting that a girl was unable to climb up the Twenty Foot Pot.  The informant had left the Priddy Green call box when Prewer tried to get further details, so he contacted Martin Bishop there and asked him to locate the caller.  Meanwhile, a party consisting of John Dukes, Chris Batstone, Andy Sparrow, J. Kirby and N. Weston joined Bishop with hauling ropes and the Revival apparatus.  On reaching the Twenty, they pulled the girl up and assisted her out by about 10.00pm.  She was given a hot bath.  The girl, Sharon Gorman aged 21 from Yeovil, was on her first caving trip and only had light clothing on.

Saturday 3rd December Boho Caves, County Fermanagh

Dr. Oliver Lloyd received a call from the Belfast Police requesting him to stand-by a team of divers for a rescue in progress there being organised by Dave Drew and Jeff Phillips. Two cavers had been trapped by floods. The local Fire Service was pumping out the entrance series, the Army were building a dam and Dave and Jeff were the divers.  Lloyd consulted with William Stanton straight away at 10.30pm and proceeded to raise local divers whilst Stanton contacted Frome Police.  It was agreed that, if a diving team was required, the Police would call on the R.A.F. to fly them to Northern Ireland.  In the end, those on the spot successfully rescued the trapped pair in the early hours on Sunday.  A full report on the incident by the divers appears in the Cave Diving Group Newsletter No. 46, January 1978, pages 23-24.

Sunday 11th December             Burrington Combe

Brian Prewer was contacted by Weston-s-Mare Police the previous evening regarding the whereabouts of unknown youths missing from an abandoned tent on Burrington Ham.  It was agreed that the area would be searched on the Sunday during daylight.  Several cavers gave the Police assistance in combing the surface throughout the day and parties visited the caves.  Nothing was found except a set of drums!  The Police informed M.R.O. later that they were concentrating future enquiries elsewhere.


The Latest B.E.C Expedition to Yorkshire

By Paul Christie

That’s a rather grand title for a meet which for a number of reasons bordered on a total washout.

Needless to say the problems started on the day up when the car carrying Gary “disaster follows me around” Cullen in had a broken universal joint at junction 33 of the M6.  You may well ask what they were doing that far up the motorway on their way to the BPC hut.

The rest of us arrived safely in the small hours of Good Friday morning and found bunk space easily. It wasn’t until the Cerberus arrived over the next ten days that the place began to resemble a sardine tin.

We got up Friday morning woken by the phone call of the stranded car calling out the BEC Relay service. Graham Nye put on his patrolman's uniform and set off leaving his passengers Breakfast locked in his trailer. Martin Grass, Graham W-J and myself had our breakfast and set off to go caving.

We had decided to go down Tatham Wife Hole which is near White Scar Cave.  Graham and Martin navigated between arguments and after directing me into a muddy field where we found that my car had a bald tyre we settled for the grass verge as a parking spot.  I took one look at the scar we had to go up to get to the cave and tried to find an excuse to back out of the trip, all to no avail.  We quickly changed and set off up the scar with me bringing up the rear.  I had hoped that Martin and Graham might not find the cave but my hopes were soon dashed when Graham located the fault line that the guide book refers to.  We found the cave entrance in a small depression at the far end of the Tatham Wife fault taking a fair sized stream of melt water.  The tops of the hills were still covered with snow as they had been when we had been here for the White Scar trip earlier in the year.  However, the snow was now thawing quite quickly and we thought that the cave would now be a bit sporting.  Almost excited by the prospect by now we descended the entrance passage and quickly reached the first pitch.  We abseiled this without getting too wet and rigged a ladder for the ascent. The second pitch followed almost immediately but was much netter than the first one because the water was concentrated into a small gully.  We abseiled down again and rigged the pitch as before and left the abseiling rope for self lining on the way back up.

We then set off for the third pitch discussing a possible bypass to it and also who was going to be first up the second pitch on our return.  It was obvious that it was going to get wetter and we decided that even if it didn't it was going to be a desperate climb.  About half way to the pitch Graham’s light went out so with only two lights working and the possibility of more water we turned round and made our way back.  What we did not know at, this point was that it had rained on the surface.  By the time we reached the pitch Martin’s light was working on dip only but he bravely volunteered to make the first ascent.  My light was now the only one working properly, Mike Palmer please note!  Graham was next to go, followed by myself.  The water was now very unfriendly and the ladder hung in the water. The water came down and hit you on the head rather like a lead weight.  I climbed most of the way out of the water by pushing one leg against the wall and climbing while the ladder was swinging out of the water.  The top pitch was a bit easier but we were glad to be up as the water had increased since our descent.

We returned to the surface and began our long walk back to the car.  While descending the scar, a hazardous job with boulders rolling around, I dropped the three ladders I was carrying and they ran off down the hill. However, the high spot was when a boulder leapt up and bit Martin's leg.  Graham was nearest and comforted Martin after this brutal attack and helped him limp off down the hill while I chased after the escaped ladders.  When we met back at the car and looked at Martin's leg we found that the boulder was indeed guilty of grievous bodily harm and that the resultant hole in his leg might need sowing back together.  Having packed everything into the car we set off to the nearest Hospital.

The first Hospital we found was a mental/geriatric Hospital who declined to treat Martin as he was not yet geriatric.  Instead, we were directed to the local surgery where the Doctor had been on duty most of the afternoon stitching up fell walkers and such like.  The Doctor put Martin back together while he wasn't watching and sent him back to the car where we were waiting.  I gather that Martin was not very happy with the sight of a needle going into himself.

Naturally Martin had now provided us with an excuse, as if we needed one, to spend the next day in the pub as it was open all day.  Some of the others went caving but as the thaw had now turned to rain we felt we were safer in the pub.

On Sunday Graham and I were going to explore parts of the Red Moss cave system but Saturday's rain had turned to snow on the high ground and was again thawing.  We went over to the resurgence and saw the amount of water coming out and felt the temperature of it and decided to go for a walk instead. We returned to the hut, put on our walking gear and persuaded my wife to join us.  We left Martin plating cards with the Cerberus and set off up Pen-y-Ghent. Funny, I thought the Cerberus were keen cavers these days.

The path from Brackenbottom was well trodden and consequently very muddy.  As we got higher the mud gave way to snow and the wind got stronger until on the final climb up the wind was whistling round the crag which was covered in ice. The only time we were able to stand up we were nearly blown over the edge.  Pat and I were much slower than Graham who had chosen to walk up a gully rather than the crowded path.  We met again at the top where Graham told us that the gully had been easy because the wind had blown him up it.  On the way down we left the path and slid down the snow covered slope straight across to Hunt Pot which was taking a large stream.  We rejoined the main path until we were nearly into Horton and then cut across the fields to look at the normally dry Douk Ghyll which had been transformed into an impressive waterfall by the rain and melting snow.  When we got back to the hut we found the card school still going strong 4 hours after we had left.  We changed out of our wet clothes and after tea went off to the pub where for the first time in three evenings we actually got a seat.

On the Monday morning we decided to make an early return home as Martin was still unable to use his leg. The Doctor had told him not to get the wound wet which also gave him a great excuse not to have a bath.  It took Graham and two Valley CC members an hour to get my car going and we sat off home.

There was some other caving done by Gary Cullen and friends so maybe we could have another account of the weekend.



Or just a minute with our Hon. Sec.

Tim Large

Don’t forget the Midsummer Buffet at the Hunters on June 17th - see details on page 1 (Diary of Events).

Don't forget the raffle for a S/L Camera worth £50.  Tickets are available from Martin Bishop.

The working weekend went well and quite n lot of useful work was done.  The new soak away has been completed thanks to Nigel Taylor, Ross White, Martin Bishop, John Dukes among many others.  Inside the Belfry ceramic tiles replace the formica above the sinks, outside woodwork has been sanded and cupinol'd ready for the fine weather and a painting session.  The track from the road to the cattle grid is to be tarmaced, the club sharing expenses with Walt Foxwell.  Cost to the club is about £150.

DON'T FORGET THE NEXT WORKING WEEKEND - the weekend of the Midsummer Buffet - JUNE 17th.  Come on up and give a hand.  John Dukes has requested that those turning up to work bring up any tool that they feel might be useful, electric drills, paint brushes etc.


Tim Large,
c/o Trading Standards Office,
31 South Street,
Wells, Somerset

The Committee have agreed to buy 100 reams of paper suitable for the both B.B. and Caving Reports at £1.12p per ream + Vat of 8%  The price of duplicating paper per ream has risen to £3.60.  The B.B. consumes about 35 reams per year so this purchase at £120 is a Good investment and should keep the BB going for the next couple of years or so.  Our thanks to Tony for getting it for us.

It is good to see Chris Smart back from the Middle East and John Riley, back from Aussieland, rejoining the club and swelling the numbers of active Cuthbert’s leaders.


Letter to the Editor

Dear Dave,

I was very interested to read Dave Metcalfe's description of the entrance series of Pippikine (B.B. No. 358).  He's quite right to say that most of the entrance series is totally dry, indeed I would say that most of the entrance series is totally dry, indeed I would say that Pippikin entrance series is quite a suitable choice as a 'wet weather' alternative.  Now having said that, readers may be interested to know what happens to Pippikin in torrential flood conditions.

At about midday on Tuesday the 14th June 1977, I entered Pippikin with four other Cambridge University cavers.  One of the two alternative entrance pitches already had a ladder on it belonging to a Durham University party.  ( Durham were in fact pirating on our permit.  For similar behaviour, I believe that they later got into trouble with the CNCC. The ethics of this sort of situation can be argued out ad nauseam, but I must say that in the light of subsequent events, I was very glad of their presence on this occasion.)  We put a ladder down the other entrance pitch (about 25').  The points to note are that our ladder was about four feet short of the floor, and that neither we nor the Durham had used lifelines.  (Long drawn out arguments on this one too I suppose but accepting the experience of the party, how many people really bother lifelining easy, dry entrance pitches, which have belays that would hold a tank?)  Anyway, we passed: through the wet bedding plane that follows, traversed over Cellar Pot (down which the stream sinks) and carried on to the next pitch.  We experienced the entrance series much as Dave Metcalfe describes it.  We reached the lower cave and inspected ‘Hall of the Ten’, ‘Hall of the Mountain King’, ‘Gour Hall’ and the other ‘big stuff’ down there, but that's another story.  We started making our way out.

We were following the group of four Durham cavers out.  By the time we had reached the third we had almost caught up with them. We took some time de-rigging this pitch to let them get on a little and so avoiding too much congestion.  (No overtaking allowed in this cave!)  By the time we reached Cellar Pot again we were astonished at the tremendous volume of water crashing down the pot.  It was flooding!  The Durham had made it out, and closer inspection showed that the bedding plane above Cellar Pot thankfully had a few inches of airspace left.  We hastened through to reach the entrance chamber.  The formerly dry entrance pitch was now an absolute deluge!  The Durham had again managed to climb out, presumably with at least one not using a lifeline.  We decided to try.  Pulling the ladder out of the water revealed that the Durham had replaced our short ladder with one of their own which easily bottomed, plus a double lifeline. We abandoned our tackle for collection later (we tied it all together and belayed it to a rock) and we proceeded to climb the entrance pitch.  The weight of water was tremendous.  Breathing was between pursed lips in the ‘rain shadow’ of the helmet peak. Visibility was minimal.  We emerged into the evening air thinking we’d been pretty lucky.

Little did we know at the time, but we’d been luckier than we thought.  We caught up with the Durham at Bull Pot Farm, and returned their tackle with many thanks. They then informed us that shortly after they had passed the bedding plane on the nearside of Cellar Pot, a natural dam on the surface was breached by the high water conditions.  A minor flood pulse had then passed along the cave, and the bedding above Cellar Pot was observed by the Durham to completely sump off for some fifteen minutes, with us still below!  We had reached the bedding thinking that it was flooding, and that the water was rising, when in fact it was only just going down! Knowing us to be trapped by the sumped off section, the Durham had alerted the CRO.  We hastily reached for phone and manage the stand down before any action was taken. So ended quite a trip.

Although not quite of the scale of the ‘Great Flood on Mendip’, the freak storm of the 14th June in the Ingleton area was still very significant.  The rain gauge at High Centham recorded 1.7 inches of rain between 6pm and 8pm, and it is conceivable that even more than this fell in other areas. The water level recorder installed in Scar Cave was jammed at its maximum recording level between 5.30pm and 6.30pm.  The flooded fields, swollen rivers and impassable roads, as well as intermittent thunder and lightning later on in the evening, all attested to quite a flexing of meteorological muscles.  As for Pippikin, then I think it probably remains a wet weather trip.  The freak storms required to make Pippikin impassable, like the one I've just described, are thankfully rare.  And since they just about defy prediction, it's just as well!

                        Good Caving, Nick Thorne.

P.S. Further information on the storm of the 14th June, 191'7 can be found in BCRA Bulletin No 17 August 1977, p 6 - Ric Halliwell – ‘The Ingleton Storm and White Scar Cave’.


Floating Cams.

By Nick Thorne

The floating cam is a subtle innovation in prusiking methods.  It was first introduced by American, Kirk Macgregor for the purpose of speeding up a ropewalker ascents.  The modification enabled him to set several records.  The floating cam takes the form of a length of elastic from the shoulder to the knee ropewalker, as shown in figure one.  The knee strap, previously used to raise the ascender, is then discarded, and the ropewalker lifted by contraction of  the  elastic.  This  idea  seemed fine  for    prusik racing, but was perhaps thought of as being a little remote from caving.  Experience has shown this not to be the case.  With judicious attachment of the elastic to the ropewalker, several distinct advantages over the knee strap method arise, in addition to the convenience of the lifting mechanism.  These advantages, of which I will explain later, make the floating ropewalker far superior to the fixed knee variety.  Although racing rigs deal mainly with ropewalkers, for caving purposes, sprung earn ascenders are justifiably popular.  These too can be floated in suitable systems (e.g. the Mitchell method). The floating operation with sprung earn ascenders is much simpler than with ropewalkers, and again, is very effective.

A discussion of the setting up of a floating ascender obviously centres around the elastic. For materials, it is worth experimenting with most types of elastic fibre.  Ordinary rubber bands work well (1).  These may be tied in parallel and end to end, and this allows for convenient alterations to the elastic length and tension.  The major disadvantage is that the bands wear out and break quite easily. They have recommended thick surgical tubing, despite its vulnerability to cuts (2, 3), and I have even seen inner tube rubber used with some success.  The best material however, seems to be shock cord. (1, 2, 3) 5-7mm thickness seems to be the most appropriate diameter.  The elastic properties of the shook cord are perdurability makes it the best choice.  Some makes of shock cord have sheaths that expose the underlying rubber when under tension.  These types would be less suitable for caving, I think, due to abrasion of the rubber.

Once a suitable material is chosen, length and tension considerations occur next.  The two main properties of the elastic that are important are the tension at full working extension, and the slack threshold, i.e., the upper limit of the ascender movement.  The tension at full working extension can be as high as eight to ten pounds force (1).  This may seem a lot and certainly a straight vertical lift of the ascender can be performed with a much smaller force.  Problems arise however on sloping pitches, where only a component of the elastic tension pulls the ascender up the rope.  Consequently, for general purposes, the tension mentioned above is recommended. This tension is not difficult to judge, but for those who cannot estimate what feels 'right', the tension can be measured quite easily using a fisherman’s spring balance.

The other important consideration concerning the float elastic is the slack threshold.  The elastic should come just slack when the foot using the floating ascender is raised well above that involved in normal prusiking.  This makes for a good, clean lift, entirely within the linear region of the elastic.

Some experimentation will be required to obtain the optimum properties of the elastic.  In addition to length variations of the elastic itself, tension and slack threshold variations can be made by altering the position of the upper and lower attachments of the elastic.  This may seem obvious, but a few qualifying statements need to be said.  It is nice to have the upper attachment of the elastic.  This may seem obvious, but a few qualifying statements need to be said. It is nice to have the upper attachment of the elastic within easy reach when the time comes to de-float.  An attachment to the front of the sit harness therefore provides a very convenient attachment point.  Unfortunately, the resulting length of elastic will often be too short to supply sufficient tension.  This in turn can be slightly offset by placing the ascender lower down. This obviously leads to shorter steps, which may be undesirable, and it may also place the ascender effectively out of arms reach, which may prove awkward at times.  Alternatively, the upper attachment of the elastic can be raised to the shoulder as mentioned earlier.  This involves a longer length of elastic and is still convenient from a handling point of view.  For some elastic materials however, the resulting length of elastic may still be insufficient.  If this is the case, then the next step is to pass the elastic up and over the shoulder and attach it to the back of the sit harness.  This attachment may be more awkward to reach, but the ascender can be temporarily de-floated by slipping the elastic off the shoulder.  This action may prove adequate for short sections of cave between pitches, instead of a complete removal of the elastic. The elastic can be prevented from slipping off the shoulder accidentally by placing the attachment more in the middle of the waistband, at the back.


Passing the elastic over the shoulder does however raise a subtle complication the resulting tension in the elastic becomes a function of the friction between the elastic and the clothes worn.  On one surface practice, whilst wearing one of a well known Mendip retailer's plush 'boiler' suits (low friction) I set up the precise length of elastic required for an 'over the shoulder' attachment.  Because of the low friction between the elastic and the suit, the elastic was fairly evenly tensioned along its length.  However, on the first underground outing with this particular set up, I was of course, wearing a wetsuit (high friction). Consequently an uneven tension in the elastic resulted.  The elastic from the shoulder to the back of the sit harness was almost slack, and that from the shoulder down to the ascender was very highly stressed. It didn't take long for the lower attachment to fail.  The solution to the problem seems to be to sheath the elastic with some flexible hose. This I have found does not add to the practical complexity of the set up, and it does make the float elastic performance independent of the clothing worn.

The actual type of attachment mechanism for the elastic at its upper end is not critical.  Any hook and eye arrangement should do.  I have found the hooks from standard car top carriers to be quite suitable, especially after bending over the end to make a more secure, barb type of structure.  Less likely to unfasten accidentally would be some form of snap link arrangement, but the potential increase in awkwardness of operation should be borne in mind.

The lower attachment of the elastic i.e. that to the ascender, is unlike the upper attachment inasmuch as it must be totally secure.  Failure of the float elastic at its upper end is generally fairly innocuous as far as physical injury is concern.  If the lower attachment gives however, the elastic is nicely primed to flick up into the face, bringing with it whatever hooks and the like that may be tied onto it.  Total security I have found, is only genuinely obtainable by actually tying/or lashing the elastic to the ascender.  As well as being extremely unlikely to fail, this mechanism avoids any extra metal or other parts that may be potential projectiles.  The method does however, have certain difficulties associated with its permanent nature.  If the ascender were to be used for other purposes (such gear hauling) the elastic may be a bit of a nuisance.  The permanency of the attachment also makes replacement by a spare more impracticable. Consequently, many practitioners again use some sort of hook and eye or ring and snaplink arrangement just like the upper attachment.  This seems perfectly suitable providing that it can be made secure enough.

As for the exact part of the ascender that the elastic should be tied to, then this obviously depends on the type of ascender.  For all slung cam ascenders commonly available (i.e. Jumar, Petzl, Clog.)  All have krab holes conveniently placed at the top of them.  The only point to note is that with the Petzl ascender, only one of the two top holes should be used.  Any hook placed through both would mean that the ascender would have to be de-floated in order to remove it from the rope.  This is an unnecessary procedure, and should be avoided.

With ropewalkers such as the Gibbs, the ideal attachment position is less obvious, and is subject to several considerations.  These are:- the spring loading of the cam; the attitude of the cam when the ropewalker is disassembled (assuming an a attachment method is used that avoids de-floating to dismantle the ropewalker) and a possible increase in cam wear. Consequently several attachment positions are possible, but here, I only propose to outline what I consider to be the best method.  Other methods of attachment are given elsewhere along with discussions of their various pros and cons. (2, 4).  The discussion essentially hinges on whether the elastic lifts the cam directly or indirectly via the body or the pin.  The former is by far the better method.  Lifting the cam directly is the only way to spring load the ascender (i.e. make the cam action like that of a Jumar) whilst, at the same time, not critically increasing the cam wear.  This can be achieved by the attachment show in figure two.  The cam is sprung onto the rope by the couple of the foot pressure down, and the elastic tension up.  (The weight of the body of the ropewalker is small enough to be ignored.) When foot pressure is released, the upward travel of the ascender is accompanied by some release of the cam pressure on the rope.  This effect is more marked than with other attachment methods and so it leads to lower cam wear.  (Particularly suspect for cam wear would be the attachments to the pin or body of the ropewalker.)  This attachment method also has the added advantage that the cam is held nicely poised in space when the ropewalker is dismantled.  This means that the cam accepts the other parts more readily and so a faster on/off time for the ropewalker is achieved.

Finally, a few words of warning are needed to those who wish to set up a floating cam system. Firstly, check the attachment methods, particularly the one to the ascender.  Before 'Kitting up' test the attachments under loads well above those expected in normal use.  Practise on the surface first-this should go without saying, and be able to cater for an elastic failure.  With sprung cam ascenders this is no problem.  The hand that was freed by the use of the elastic simply comes back into action.  With ropewalkers, a spare elastic or knee strap should be carried.  When it is necessary to de-float the elastic, do so from the upper end first.  The other way could be dangerous if the elastic is stressed and it slips out of the hand.

In conclusion therefore, I hope I haven't deterred any prusiking cavers from trying this innovation for fear of getting a black eye!  To put elastic failure into context, then with a carefully set up rig, it is an extremely rare event.  Once this is appreciated the full advantages of the floating ascender can be enjoyed. Ropewalking cavers can ascend faster than before.  Gone will be that flicking motion required to make the cam bite, and gone too will be those annoying holes on the inside of the knee of the wetsuit.  With sprung cam ascenders, the freeing of a hand will be found most welcome.  There will be no tired upper arm any more, as the hand pushing the upper ascender can be alternated, or both hands can be used in combination.  Additionally, on those sloping pitches, there will be no need to have your nose rubbed into the rock as the free hand can be used to 'fend off'.  Make the initial effort to set up a floating ascender system, try it, and you'll be convinced.


(1)                Macgregor, K. - Personal communication, I.S.C. September 1977.

(2)                 Montgomery, N.R. - 'Single Rope Techniques - a Guide for Vertical Cavers'. pp. 86-88 and p 90.  (N.B. When Montgomery discusses floating ropewalkers, I doubt if he has tried all the methods he shows. His conclusion about cam wear is valid, but not for the reason he gives.  Some of his arguments concerning the 'spring levering' and slippage of the cam are incorrect. (p.86, 87 fig, 131C, fig. 131D).

(3)                Halliday, W.R. - American Caves and Caving. pp. 217-219.

(4)                Thorne, N. Floating Cams for Prusiking. Cambridge Underground 1978



compiled by Niph

The greater part of Jottings is taken over by the latest Mendip discovery by members of the club.

Extension in Lionel's Hole

On Saturday, 22nd April 1978, about 300 - 500ft. of new passage was opened up in Lionel's Hole, Burrington Coombe.  A series of stream and high level passages were explored that can only be entered via two ducks - making it the severest undertaking in the area; certainly thin men need only apply at the moment and Burrington novices should stay clear.



Another BEC extension in another cave will be reported next month!!

Early in February 1977, 'Wig' and Bruce Bedford, working on 'Mendip Underground' heard a sizable stream in the 'Pit' area.  Willie Stanton knew of no stream. Thus things rested until 'MacAnus' and Ross White went and took a look for themselves early in April 1978.  They went on into the Traverse and entered the East Low Level and found the stream at the lowest point.  A week later Ross and Andy Sparrow with an un-named Scot went looking for the strewn again but descended the West Low Level by mistake and found a continuation of the same stream with a way on.  This was on the 15.4.78.  They pushed the Scot through the duck only to find another a few feet further on.  The following day the second duck (Bird Bath) was passed by Andy Sparrow who followed the streamway for some 60ft where he could turn round.  The stream sank into a soakaway but the passage flattened to a low crawl.  Andy felt lonely and so made a brave retreat leaving the crawl for another day!  On the 22nd April Andy returned with an 'army' of thin 'men' - Alison Hooper, Pete Moody Chris Smart et al.  The streamway was pushed for a further 40ft to a diggable choke.  Above Andy's turn-round point a tight rift in the roof was climbed for about 15ft. leading into the high level series of chamber and passages, some of which are extremely muddy and which are thought to flood. Alison pushed a rift and entered a large rift passage some 40-50ft high and 8ft wide leading down to a small chamber followed by a succession of roomy phreatic rifts terminating at a divable sump. Andy will be writing in the next issue of the B.B. giving all the latest details as there are a number of unexplored passages to be pushed.

The rifty nature of the passages shows that the cave is trending to the west.  It is possible that this stream is the same as that heard by the unfortunate Joe Plumley in the late 19th century at the bottom of Plumley's Hole, just below Aveline's Hole.  Is this stream the same as seen in East Twin or is it, more importantly that sinking at Top Sink at the upper end of the East Twin Brook Valley? Anyway the importance of this discovery cannot be underestimated as it might provide a clue to the cave under Burrington Ham.

A sketch survey compiled by 'Wig' based on a sketch by Andy Sparrow

News in brief.

Derek Ford is back again on Mendip and has been down St. Cuthbert’s collecting more samples in the Dining Room area - hopefully we shall be reading of his work in a future issue of the B.B.


Mendip's veteran caver 'Trat' recently suffered a heart attack.  He was rushed to hospital into the intensive care unit.  I'm pleased to report that he's making a good recovery and planning has visit to Ireland later in the summer.  I'm sure that I'm joined by all members in wishing him a full recovery and an active digging future.


A mine shaft opened up on the top of Cadbury Hill back in February when members went over to explore it at the invitation of an old BEC member.  John Dukes and Rog Sabido went down.  Its 150ft deep.  More later.



Dates For Your Diary

April 28th – 1st May

April 29th

April 30th

May 1st

Bank Holiday

O.F.D. 2 – numbers limited – contact ‘Zot’

Otter Hole. – time dependant upon tides - contact Tim Large.

Agen Allwedd – Summertime Series and Southern Stream round Trip.  Contact Tim Large

Tim writes:  Some of us propose to camp or stay at the hut. If the weather is fine I shall certainly camp on the tram road near Aggie on Sunday night.  Will try to book the hut if anyone is interested.

May 12th

May 14th

May 27-28th

May 29th


June 10th


June 17th

Dalimore’s  (Friday niters trip) 7.30 pm

Yorkshire – White Scar

Yorkshire – GG (Bradford winch meet)

Yorkshire – Gingling Hole

Contact Martin Grass for details of Yorkshire meets – tele:  HODDESDON 66966

Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Organised by Phil Hendy (WCC). Details next month.

B.E.C. Mid-Summer BUFFET – see page below for details.

Midsummer Buffet

arranged for Saturday 1st June 1978 at Hunters Lodge Inn at 8.00 p.m.

Members and close friends only.      Limited tickets £2.00 each

Tickets available from Tim Large, 72 Lower Whitelands, Radstock, Avon

MONEY WITH ORDER PLEASE.     Make a note in your diary NOW!!


Caves & Caving In South Africa


Roughly half the size of Europe, the republic of South Africa consists of a narrow coastal plain and an inland plateau, the highveldt, of average elevation of 1,000m in the Drakensburg Mountains in the east.  Latitude for latitude the climate tends to be cooler than that of the northern hemisphere and frosts may occur at anytime throughout the year on the highveldt.

Since most of the country's more important caves are formed in dolomite, only two of the four provinces provide any real speleological interest: the Transvaal in the north, and Cape Province in the south and west.

Cape Province has the largest single stretch of dolomite, a roughly triangular area encompassing Vryburg, Griquatown, and a point some 150 km north of Kuruman.  But much of this area is covered with the Kalahari sands so few caves have been recorded.  The southern part of the province is much better documented, the main caving areas being around Oudtshoorn (480 km east of Cape Town) and in and around Cape Town itself.

Oudtshoorn, the capital of the Little Karoo region, is a pleasant, prosperous, tree lined town and the centre of South Africa's ostrich-farming industry.  A few kilometres to the north the wildly contorted Swartberg Mountains rise to more than 2,000 m and mark the divide between the Little Karoo and the more arid Great Karoo.  It is in this range that the province’s longest caves are found including the world famous Cango Showcaves.  Several caves in this area exceed 700m in length and ladder pitches between 20m and 40m are fairly common: the Fonteingrot/Skeleton Cave system comprises over 4,000m of passage including a gruelling muddy river crawl.

Generally, landowners and cavers enjoy a friendly relationship.  I guess both secretly hope to discover a system as extensive and commercially viable as the Cango Caves which currently attract some 150,000 visitors a year.  One day when I was cave-hunting near Oudtshoorn a local cattle farmer suggested that I help him with his dig instead.  I was horrified.  I wanted a caving holiday not a digging one.  Luckily my fears were unfounded: “going digging” turned out to mean sending some black employees below ground to do the graft while the farmer and I supervised from the surface, he sometimes hauling out a token sack of rubble while I photographed our efforts for posterity.

After about three hours we'd all had enough.  So the digging team was dismissed and the farmer and I descended Waenskloof Cave whose showpiece is a chamber neatly decorated with butter-coloured stal reached by a 10m ladder descent.  Due to the dense covering of bush, this cave remained undiscovered until the late fifties although its entrance had always been open.  Local people are convinced that caves are still hidden by the bush.

Prospects for new discoveries around Cape Town on the other hand are slim.  The Mountain Club of South Africa has been recording caves here since the turn of the century.  And in 1954 a group of enthusiasts who had been caving regularly since the end of World War II formally organised themselves into a club.  The following year they merged with a Transvaal based caving group and the South African Speleological Association (SASA) was born, though two sections retained their autonomy.  A few years later however, personality differences in the Transvaal section led to the formation of a breakaway group, the Cave Research Organisation of South Africa (CROSA). There are still only three caving clubs in South Africa and the current total caving population is unlikely to be larger than 200.

One of the first areas to receive SASA's attention was Table Mountain which rises to over 1,000 m above Cape Town.  Being so near such a large centre of population, sit rugged plateau had for years been the popular haunt of innumerable climbers, walkers and general day-trippers.  It has been claimed that the world's largest sandstone caverns are found here but I have not checked the accuracy of this.  Vertical development is generally stronger than horizontal and in the rocks overlooking Orange Kloof on the southern side of the mountain a depth of 50, is reached in Climber's Cave.

Further south Cape Town's suburbs stretch out along the eastern shore of Cape Peninsular.  On the bare and scrubby hills overlooking Muizenburg, St. James and Kalk Bay are dozens of small caves several of which are worth the attention of any passing speleo.  Like Table Mountain this area attracts hoards of day trippers. Caves used to figure largely in local guidebooks and an (incomplete) list published about 10 years ago described 67 interesting caves.  Modern guidebooks however, perhaps being more concerned for the visitors' safety, tend not to mention the caves or, at most, give them only a passing mention.  But the damage has been done: graffiti and litter mar many of the more accessible caves on these hills.

I hitched the 1,400 km from Cape Town to Johannesburg in the Transvaal in 27 hours.  With a vigorously enforced maximum legal speed limit of 80 Kmph this was remarkably good going.  More to the point though are the fuel restrictions: filling stations are closed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and, as it is illegal to carry fuel in cans, it is impossible to drive all night.  At weekends things are even worse with no petrol on sale between lunchtime Friday and six o'clock on Monday morning.  How far will one tank full of petrol take you?

Luckily caving in the Transvaal has not suffered too much under these restrictions, as it is still comparatively easy to make new discoveries near the heavily populated Rand.  The dolomite here encircles Johannesburg and extends west through Krugersdorp and off into Botswana via Carletonville.  The week before I arrived in South Africa a CROSA member had taken a midday motorcycle ride across the grassveldt of the Kromdraii Valley, a few miles from Krugersdorp, and photographed the hillside with infra-red film.  The following Sunday I joined his party to investigate the cold spots - i.e. potential caves - revealed by this exercise.  We were rewarded with several small caves.

South African cavers are very safety-conscious.  The first cave we discovered entailed a seven metre abseil on which lifelines were used, and when I spotted another cave, with a large walk-in entrance. I had to curb my enthusiasm until the entire party, about nine people, had caught me up before going underground.  Even below ground short solo explorations of side passages were taboo and we were split into groups of twos and threes.  But the cave turned out to be an intricate three dimensional grovel and chaos followed the frequent meeting and passing of other confused small groups.

These 'Fissure caves' mazes strongly influenced by jointing - are the most common type of development in the Transvaal.  Their intricacy can be truly amazing.  For example the Wonderfontein has a surveyed length of 9.3 km but even the most remote parts of the cave can be reached in about 20 minutes.  The Apocalypse Pothole near Carletonville, with a vertical range of 80m, follows a similar pattern: at a length of 10.8 km it is the longest cave in southern Africa.

About 250 km from Johannesburg is the Transvaal's second main dolomite area.  From Carolina it follows the northern reaches of the Drakensburg northward to Ofcolaco - a beautiful country of forests, waterfalls and rolling hills - and then turns westward to Potgietersrust.  This is the only region where horizontal cave entrances can be said to be at all common. But, ironically, the country's deepest open shaft is also found here: the 30m deep Bat Hole near Ofcalaco. With the aid of a black guide, and at the standard rate of approximately 60p per day, I was able to visit this site but I did not descend.  There is only a short passage at the bottom anyway.  On succeeding days, and with a variety of guides, I visited several nearby caves and carried out some original exploration.  Most of the caves I found contained some beautiful formations but none was very extensive.  The Transvaal’s final sizeable dolomite outcrop extends in a narrow strip from the iron mining town of Thabazimbi westward into Botswana.  Until the Transvaal Section of SASA started coming here a couple of years ago the area had been largely ignored by cavers.  Even now the surface has barely been scratched.  I was invited to join SASA on a trip here over the long Easter weekend but had to decline due to the histoplasmosis risk, a particularly virulent form is found here and, at the time I was histo-negative. I think I subsequently caught the disease in the eastern Transvaal (and am therefore now immunised) but I have not had a skin test to confirm this.  Most Transvaal cavers catch histoplasmosis during their first year’s caving but the disease is unknown in Cape Province, as far as I know, except for one case reported from the Goggelgrot in the northern part of the province.

Before I went to South Africa I was advised to steer clear of caves not just because of histoplasmosis, but because of the dangers of 'rabid bats, scorpions, snakes, leopards and bees.'  Careful research beforehand and subsequent experience of the country shows these dangers to have been rather overstated.  As far as I'm concerned the only real 'risks' I ran were those always associated with solo caving.  But I must admit that bees did bother me once.  I was climbing into an entrance when an agitated buzzing warned me that I'd disturbed a hive.  Fortunately it was a frosty early morning and the bees were still drowsy.  By the time they'd got their senses about them I'd decided I didn't really want to do heir cave anyway and was running through the wood to another cave entrance I'd seen about a kilometre away.

Southern Africa is an ideal place for a cheap and fascinating holiday, with some caving thrown in, especially if you don't mind roughing it a bit. For a cost of just under £400 (and this includes the airfare) I was able to travel for three months and take in bits of South Africa, Lesotho and Rhodesia.  My thanks to everybody - including cavers, BEC members: friends and strangers - who helped make it such a memorable experience.


Letter To The Editor

From D.C. Nigel (plod) Taylor:

Dear Bertie,

1)       Firstly, let me state that the following views are purely my own and not those of the club committee; - But I feel after reading the Feb. B.B. that there are a few personal views that I should like to express. Viz, Chris Batstone, our esteemed Hut Warden, appears to suddenly have opened his eyes to a problem that has been with us for many years, even before my reign of terror as Hut Warden in 1971/2. As a search of the Belfry books show, present weekend ‘bednights’ are the same as they were then - yet I feel that 'Chris' new problem' is one that he can easily solve by saying "No" to interlopers and those who buck the system as opposed to playing the Mendip Hardman and charging £1.00 per head for those unfortunate enough not to be able to supply reciprocal accommodation - remember there has always been a welcome for all at the Belfry.  Untidiness and misuse at the 'shed' is for the Hut Warden to prevent and control, backed up by the members present.  In my experience it has often been these themselves that were the untidiest! Let's hope that this new 'policy' does not bite the one who wanted to do the biting, for if we were to turn up at places distant it would be a shame indeed to overhear “That's one of those unsociable. bxxxxxs from Mendip - you know, no booking, no bunk!”  Let's not build ourselves a paper empire and start up weird and wonderful systems for booking, deposits etc.  You're a good Hut Warden Chris, but think carefully.

2)       With reference to Graham's article on Manor Farm's possibilities and my infilling of the sink - this was dons, primarily, for safety reasons as on our first exploratory entry into the lower sections of NASHA Gallery this area was a large unstable boulder pile which I deliberately demolished with 4½lb in 1974 with the intention to stabilise it then and dig it at a later date.  This date has now come!  With my new licence the Mendip Chips Ban and Chisel Company is officially back in life - all assistance welcome!

3)       Cuthbert's Fixed Tackle - Hasn’t enough been said.

Yrs. Nig Taylor.


Tales of Chiltern Chalk Mines.

G. Wilton-Jones

Last spring Buckett phoned me up saying that a chap out at Lane End had found a mine in his garden and would like us to investigate it.  Lane End Common is apparently riddled with abandoned mines, and, quite naturally, the locals were full of tales of the old miners.  'Three men at a time would take a skin of beer down with them and spend several days underground.  'Interconnecting mined passages once honey-combed the common.' However, on-one was related to or seemed to know any of the old miners.  Earlier this century 'Old Man Nix' had been lowered on a rope down the mine in question, and his B.D.I. revealed caverns measureless containing tools, wheelbarrows, buckets, etc.  The mine was capped soon afterwards and a rockery built on top of it.  One semi-alcoholic night the present landowner decided to find the mine, which he did.  He dropped lighted newspapers into the shaft, Casteret style, and saw passages at the bottom and one part way down the side.  He plumbed the depth, finding it to be about 60' to a pile of garden refuse at the bottom.

Investigation of the mine took a matter of minutes for us.  It is clear from the survey that the mine is very limited in extent.  The shaft was just over 60' but there was no passage part way down the shaft.  Nor were there wheelbarrows, buckets or tools.  There was one, interestingly shaped, smooth, wooden wendge, a few iron spikes in the walls, and some old tin-plate oil lamps.  A few other artefacts probably fell down the shaft, and are therefore not worth mentioning.  We reckoned that ‘Old Man Nix' wan probably scared out of his wits on the end of a rope, with his flickering candle in his hand, and did not even untie himself from the rope.  Candles may not cast treacherous shadows but the ones they do cast can be very misleading to the uninitiated in strange places.

It was not at all clear what exactly the miners were after: the mine shaft drops first of all through the Reading beds - mainly various layers of soft sands containing scattered pieces of harder stone, which had been used to line the top section of the shaft.  After some 20ft the top of the Upper Chalk is reached, and the unlined shaft begins to bell out.  It passes through a number of thin bands of flint, which have been ignored. At a depth of about 50ft. are the roofs of the short, main workings.  These are largely level, but do not correspond with any flint bands.  However, if it were flint that the miners were after, no doubt they would have dug out the bands from above, rather than from beneath. If they wanted chalk; why did they not dig an open pit, as has happened in many other areas of the Chilterns.  If they wanted flint what was so special about the flint underground, or what was wrong with the masses of flint stones lying about on the fields.  Furthermore, what were flints and chalk used for a hundred years ago or more.  Clearly many questions required answering.  We continued our close scrutiny of the mine.

The shortest gallery had suffered a roof fall from a sand pocket, and had been filled with deads - in this case, chalk pieces of fist size and less.  Other galleries had odd piles of deads, while two had pits in the floor.  Some of the floor was grooved with wheelbarrow marks.  At the end of two parallel galleries a fault had. stopped progress.  Black mineralization had oozed down the fault, presumably from the sand beds above. Only one gallery had any drip, and there were small drip pockets on the floor there.

During two further trips the mine was surveyed and photographed.  We learned little more about the mine, except that the owner’s house used to be a brick works.  I decided to try the County Library for information about chalk and flint mines. They had practically no literature at all on these subjects.  The only possibly relevant information was that, at the turn of the century, several 'flint contractors' came into existence, but these soon disappeared.

According to Collins Field Guide to Archaeology' in Britain, flint mines are generally Neolithic, and unusually medieval, the latter being worked for building stone.  Chalk mines, on the other hand, are common and date from Roman times, the majority, though, being dug in the 18th and early 19th centuries. From these later ones the chalk was burned to make lime for the fields.

I began to •cap the local knowledge in the guise of one 'Bert Ginger', who lives over the road from me. He confirmed what my landlady had rumoured - that there was a chalk mine right here in Naphill, not a hundred yards from where 1'm sitting to type this.  Bert was not around while the mine was still operational.  He came to the village in the early 1900's, and the mine had been closed a few years by then.  He referred to it as a chalk mine.  Flint, in those days, was mainly required for building roads (our main road was then little more than a cart track).  Women of the village would collect flint stones off the fields and crush it into little pieces to make and mend the roads all around.  Where my own road is used to be the 'Stonefield' - hence the name. The flints from here were a beautiful, shiny white, and one house just a little way away is faced with these flints, and positively shines in the sun.  Who needs Snowcem, Wig?


CHALK MINE at LANE END, CHILTERNS.  Scale 1:168. Elevation WSW – EWE.  BCRA Grade 2.

Most fields in the area at that time had their own marl pits.  Marl is a lime rich clay formed by the breakdown of the uppermost layers of chalk, through an organic process.  It was used to spread on the land, which is surprisingly deficient in lime.

The chalk itself does not generally outcrop anywhere in the Chilterns except on the scarp slope. Even here, us I often notice in an M40 cutting, the chalk may lie at a depth of several feet beneath the surface. Chalk, however, can be easily burnt by a simple process into excellent lime, for use both on the fields and for making mortar/cement.  In places where the top soil and marl are of such a depth to preclude quarrying opencast, then chalk was obtained by mining.

When Bert Ginger was a lad there was no main drainage in Naphill, so most people had a cess pit. This was emptied at regular intervals by a man with a horse, a tank and a stirrup pump.  One man, fed up with the charges for emptying his pit (several pence at a time!) and knowing that his house was built near the abandoned chalk mine, called in the help of the only surviving chalk miner of the village, Jack Free.  In minutes Jack had located the capping on the old shaft and a pipe was soon installed to convey the necessary into the very bowls of the earth.  According to Jack, at the bottom of the shaft, some 60ft. down, passages ran off like the spokes of a wheel, rising higher the further they went from the shaft, until they reached the top of the economical layers of chalk.  He gave no indication as to the length of the galleries.

Others in the village, also decided to use the mine as a vast cess-pit, but one was quite by accident. He had done the old trick of burying bottles in the concrete base of his septic tank when he made it, and had climbed down into the apparently large pit on a ladder to poke the holes; with a steel spike.  Unable to find the bottles he poked harder, and one corner of the pit completely gave way, leaving the ladder and the errant gentleman hanging over the void. Bert saved the man from the ……. you know what.  Just as well the mine roof didn’t collapse while he was making the pit.  It must have been directly over the upper end of one of the galleries.  Since then the man with the horse, the tank and the stirrup pump faded away from old Napton, out of a job, maybe.

Various parts of the mine have collapsed on occasions; one collapse occurred in Bert’s schooldays, early one morning.  He saw it on the way to school - a pit with a pile of earth in the centre and two passages leading off on opposite sides at the bottom.  By the weekend, when he thought he'd go down it and explore, the pit had been filled and levelled; another collapse was right beneath a damson tree.  The tree survived for many years after, and the owner would pick his fruit from the top of the tree by reaching across from the edge of the pit; quite recently two new bungalows were put up near here.  They began to subside into the mine for the surveyors had note taken this into account.  A week was spent pouring concrete into a hole under one of the houses.  There is supposed to be another mine next to this one, and I see that six luxury dwellings have been built over it.  I wonder how long they will last?



Overheard at the Belfry:  When discussing details of the Austrian trip, later this year, a well known Belfryite (J.D.) made it known to one and all "I don’t care what we do in Austria providing we are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge!"

Weil's Disease has struck again in Stoke Lane.  A Yeovil C.C. member was rushed to hospital after he had lost the use of his kidneys and liver.  Luckily, he made a full recovery but others contracting the disease may not be so lucky. Rat’s urine in the water is the usual cause of this nasty disease, commonly known as Sewermans Disease.

This is the second time that a caver has been struck down with it; the first was our own Oliver Lloyd some 12 years ago.  I've spoken to Don Thomson about this and he said that there is no real protection because the virus will penetrate through the skin, whether it is cut or not, as well as the usual way into the body via the usual orifices.  So, be careful, don’t drink cave water, wear gloves and possibly hoods may help in the Stoke sump areas.

Longest Dive. An Australian cave diver has broken the world record for the longest cave dive.  Paul Hadfield states that it was over 2 kilometres in a cave in the Nullaber Plain in South Australia.  The current issue of British Caver (No.68) gives details of other long dives (p.25). A copy is in the club library.

Mike Boon, well known to older members of the club, has at last published his book relating highlights of his incredible caving 'career'.  He tells of diving in Swildon’s Hole, discovery of large sections of the Lokva and Grapa rivers by diving in Yugoslavia, and tales unfold of activity in Jamaica, Ireland and Yorkshire.   Though expensive at £6.75 (112pp; 5 maps, 8" x 6") it makes an enjoyable read.  Available from Brian Woodward, 243 Bloomfield Road, Bath, Avon BA2 2AY.  Brian is also selling Canadian Caver at 85p per issue (a real must for those interested in caving in Northern America. In addition he has for sale 'Cave Exploration in Canada'; this book contains a complete history of caving in Canada, with descriptions of all the major systems, up-to-date maps and superb photographs.  Price £7.  A copy is in the club library.

Still on the subject of bocks - Karst in China (150pp) published Shangai People's Publishing House, is one of the finest 'coffee table' caving books yet published. Contains magnificent photographs (mainly colour) of the world’s largest karst regions in southern China.  The text is pretty feeble and quite short, even so, there's a liberal sprinkling of the Thoughts of Chairman Mao.  Its expensive retailing between £8 - £9.25 - stocked at Rocksport, Tony Oldham and Foyle’s ( London). A new American bock is available through Anne Oldham - Cavers. Caves and Caving.  Edited by Bruce Sloane at £8.14 post free.  It's an anthology of, folklore, history and adventure.  All contributors are members of N.S.S. Plenty of illustrations.

News in Brief. Border C.G. and the Cerberus S.S. seem to have patched up their differences that caused the split a few years ago.  Talks of merging the two clubs seem to be on the way.  Possible a marriage of convenience – CSS have a cottage, Border cannot afford to buy one.  Alan Mills (WCC) has abandoned Pitten Stree because of continual collapse.  Caving lectures entitled “Caving – Sport and Science” at Geology Theatre commencing 25th April – details from Dept. of Extra Mural Studies, The University, 32 Tyndalls Park Road, Bristol, BS8 1HR. National Caving Centre (No.2 if Whernside is No.1!) proposed for S. Wales to be built on DYO property.  Cost £200,000.  Financed by Nature C.C.'

Water Tracing. Willie Stanton has carried out more tests at Cuthbert's and records times to Wookey of 10 hours.  This agrees with the 1967 tests when the time was given as being 11 hours.  However, the 1967 times are not very accurate as the lycopodium spores had reached the resurgence before the 11th hour, so ten hours would appear to be reasonable under high water conditions.  Also, Wigmore was tested over the weekend of 4th - 5th March.  This involved the Belfry regulars in 6 hourly sampling trips to Wookey, Rodney Stoke, Cheddar and Rickford.  Wigmore was traced to Cheddar, taking about 43 hours.

Space Blankets

A medic from the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine carried nut some useful work back in 1971. Details of which have been published in the March, 1978 edition of Climber and Rambler (see copy in club Library).

Basically, he claims that the advantage of the aluminium coated plastic space blanket is that it can be seen from a distance but has no added advantage over the other forms of materials commonly in use for protection against the cold and wet such as polythene or woven nylon.

Testing the space blanket under various conditions it was found that the skin temperature was no different using the blanket than when using a poly bag.  It was concluded that heavyweight space blankets are of some value as a water and wind protector but other materials such as polythene or rip-stop nylon are equally robust.

The lightweight space blanket is too fragile for most survival purposes.  Bags are much better than blankets in windy conditions.

The reflection of the body heat (infra-red) by a space blanket is prevented by the layer of condensation and at sub-zero temperatures by frosting.  In this situation space blankets 0ffers no advantages over cheaper and stronger alternatives.  Lastly, space blankets are of no value as a radar location aid in survival.

Stoke Lane 4. Alan Mills (WCC) has negotiated with the landowner to open up the aven in Stoke 4 to the surface.  A radio location the site was carried out by 'Prew' last year.  The landowner has a condition that the opening should be done within a weekend and it must be gated.

More on the Stoke Lane Weil's Disease

The following is reprinted from the Yeovil Caving Club's Newsletter 'SUMP' - No.5: -

The following letter is from Benny Bainbridge and gives this own personal report on how he caught Weil's disease and also the treatment he received: -

It started as a normal caving trip one Friday night last October (1977).  The trip had been brought forward from Sunday so that I could go on my first trip to Stoke Lane Slocker.....There were four of us in the party~ all experienced.  However, on the return trip after Sump One I began to tire, so the entrance tube was a bit of a struggle.  It was in the entrance tube and again outside that I made my near fatal mistake and swallowed some of the water.  The first time was accidental, the second time it was done quite deliberately to quench my thirst.... Nothing happened for the next week or so.  Ten days after the trip…. that I started to develop pains in my back and 'flu-like symptoms.  On Thursday I went to see my doctor and he gave me some pills to ease my back ache.  However, I began to feel even worse, so on the Sunday I was admitted to the sick bay at my naval base at Yeovilton, Somerset.

It was at this stage that I started by dramatic colour change from normal pink to a bright yellow doctor discussed the possibility of me having caught Yellow Jaundice.  On the Wednesday I was transferred to the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth, where blood tests done on the Thursday found me to be suffering from Weil's Disease leading to acute renal failure (i.e. both my kidneys has ceased to function some 24 hours earlier).

As the Navy has no artificial kidney machine to deal with Renal Failure, I was transferred by helicopter to the R.A.F. Renal Unit at RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire, where I underwent haemo-dialysis (the cleaning of the blood by the use of a kidney machine).

While I was at RAF Halton, samples of my blood were sent to the Leptospirosis Reference Laboratory in London who confirmed that in fact I had caught Weil's Disease which is caused by the virus Leptospirosis and is transmitted to humans in the urine of rats. Fortunately, for us, only 10% of the rat population carry the virus.

I spent a total of four and a half weeks in hospital, two of which were spent in the intensive care unit ... six hours a day for 10 days hitched up to a kidney dialysis machine and for 12 days I was fed by an intravenous drip.  At the moment I still have to undergo checks on my liver and kidneys, but the lasting effect of my illness is the fact that I cannot drink alcohol because of the damage done to my liver.



Or Just a minute with our hon. sec!



The club possesses a S/L Camera which it proposes to raffle to members only.  The value is approximately £50.



CUTHBERT’S TACKLE FEES – for tourist trips organised by the Caving Secretary or privately, the fee will be 25p.  It may appear to be a 'Large' rise (50%) but it is long overdue and only comes up to standard charges for access to other caves.  Perhaps 'tackle fee' is the wrong title and 'access fee' would be more appropriate.

Hut Engineer – Martin Bishop has resigned from this post, but not from the Committee.  Martin Grass has taken over and I am sure will appreciate your help – one immediate task now the fine weather is coming is to paint the outside woodwork of the Belfry.

The new soak-a-way for the shower water is nearing completion and should solve our sewage problems.


Christine Greenall - Minster Lodge, Ruff Lane, Ormskirk, Lancs.
907 Karen Jones, Room 63, New End Nurses Home, New End Hospital, Hampstead, London WN3 1YE.
Ross White, 44 Princes Road, Wimbledon, London SIN 19

NEW MEMBERS - welcome to the mob!

Teresa Rumble, 40 Halswell Road, 8levedon, Avon, BS21 6LG

SOCIAL:  It's nice to see Tony Corrigan out and about again – caving as well in the company of 'Zot' and Tom Gage.  Recently Tony went down GB and as far as the '20' in Swildon's.  He’s currently thinking up ideas of how to fit an attachment on his foot to climb ladders.


Helen Fielding, 175 Bramley Lane, Hipperholme, Halifax, West Yorks.
Roger Sabido, 15 Concorde Drive, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.


The Grotte D'Antiparo, Greece

Tony Jarrett

While holidaying on the Greek Islands last summer the writer took the opportunity of visiting this famous show cave.  Although one of the first systematically explored caves in the world, few British cavers must have visited the system and subsequently articles in British publications are few.

Situated on the ten mile long island of Antiparos, access to the cave is gained by taking a hour and a half motor boat trip from the town of Perissa on Paros Island - via the main village on Antiparo - to a small hamlet several miles along the coast.  From the landing stage here the hardy tourist can either walk the mile and a half track into the mountains or hire a mule.  (The writer being idle chose the latter).  After a forty minute jog in the blazing sunshine and feeling akin to a gold prospector in Death Valley, the entrance is reached on a bare limestone hillside with superb views of the Aegean Sea.

History of the Cave

At around the same time as the original exploration of Pen Park Hole and Lamb Leer were taking place, the Grotte d'Antiparos was fully explored by the Marquis de Nointel, French ambassador to the Turkish Empire then ruling these Greek islands (though graffiti on formations indicated partial previous exploration by the early Greeks).  The audacious Marquis descended on 23rd December, 1673 armed with ropes, rigid wooden ladders, a large group of servants and sailors and even a couple of artists to record the event for posterity (and for his King, Louis XIV). The party explored deep into the cave, discovering en route the large well-decorated hall some eighty meters down. The Marquis was so impressed that he spent three days underground and during this period celebrated Christmas Eve mass attended by over five hundred people!  The cave was illuminated with hundreds of lamps and wax tapers and a novel innovation was the firing of several mortars and cannon in the entrance followed by a wild clamour of assorted musical instruments (shades of the Hunters backroom!)  This incredible pantomime was followed by the removal of tons of formations for display in a Paris Museum - unfortunately a pastime shared by many of de Nointels successors.

In contrast to this first visit, the scientific investigations of the naturalist Tournefort in 1700 were far more subdued, though even this episode has its humorous side. Tournefort - a botanist - formulated a theory of vegetative growth to explain the development of the formations, doubtless due to the resemblance of stalagmite growth rings to those of a tree! He published an elaborate description of his visit and also of that of de Nointel.

A further description was provided by the next distinguished French visitor in 1780, the Count Choiseul-Gouffier.

From this date on visits became more frequent though the upper classes seem to dominate the scene. The Greek king Othon was there in 1840 and another French ambassador, Gobino, in 1865.

Particularly unwelcome visitors descended on the area in 1770 - 1774.  These were Russian occupation soldiers who followed in their predecessors footsteps by removing many formations for a Petrograd museum.  Their Italian counterparts of 1941-1943 continued this vandalism.

Now protected by a stout gate and operated as a show cave for some years the situation has improved - though it is noticeable that one of the main attractions pointed out by the guide is the vast amount of historical graffiti covering nearly all of the accessible formations.  Despite three centuries of vandalism the remaining stals, though generally dry and old, are plentiful and impressive.  Vast pillars, stalactites and curtains proliferate and there are a number of the curious “palette” or “shield” formations only found in the caves of warm climates.

The cave itself is formed in a steeply inclined rift or fault with wider sections forming the heavily decorated chambers.  Its 100 meters of depth is descended on spider-web like concrete steps hanging in mid air.  These are only some two feet in width and provide great sport were the handrails are missing and visitors at the bottom are trying to pass those going down!  The cave ends in a rift blocked with stalagmited boulders and breakdown, though a short pitch in the floor some way back up the passage possibly goes further.  The writer had neither the time nor equipment to investigate this.  The spirited lecture provided by the guide halfway down was unfortunately all Greek to me.

In conclusion I found this a really worthwhile visit - made especially enjoyable by the novelty of mule transport and the remoteness and lack of commercialisation of the cave.  A "must" if you are ever in the area. Incidentally there are many other caves on Antiparos and other islands. Little exploration seems to have been done in the islands and the climate, vast quantity (and quality) of naked foreign females on the beaches and cheap wine make this an English caver’s paradise.

Refs (from the writer's library only)

Famous Caverns and Grottoes - W.H. Davenport Adams 1886 pp. 78-84 Antiparos - the Island with the Cave of Stalactites. - B. Kaloudas 1964  (Guide Pamphlet)

La Conquete Soutterain. - P. Minvielle 1967 pp. 15-21

BCRA Trans. VoL 1 No.1. - J.R. Shaw Cohort History of Speleology)



Notes on the survey of Tyning's Barrows Swallet

by D.J. Irwin

By now the reader will have read one of the several accounts dealing with the breakthrough and exploration of this new Mendip system.  As an aid to exploration a BCRA grade 5c survey commenced on the 26th February, 1977 and during the course of the next few weeks the survey was completed except for Aardvark and Bertie's Paradise.

The equipment used is of some interest to surveyors.  Basically it consisted of the Suunto compass (KB14/360) and clinometer (PM5/360) coupled together in the form of a handheld surveying unit.  This eliminated the problem of handling the separate instruments and in low, awkward passages this was a great advantage.  Details of the connecting bracket is being prepared by Chris Batstone. In use this combination of instruments enabled rapid readings to be made.  The tape was a Chesterman 100 ft. fibron.  Due to the rather constricted nature of the passages and the urgency of getting the main line surveyed it was decided to produce a grade 5c survey.  At each station care was taken to minimise the accumulation of station error by pivoting around the instruments and on occasion using rock features to hold the instruments.  Because the scale at which the drawing was produced (1/480) the drawing error would be considerable greater than the survey random errors.

The instruments were read to the nearest 1O and the tape to the nearest 0.1 ft.  The leap-frog method was adopted.  The data assembled was reduced to co-ordinates using four-figure logs and the survey, plotted and checked on graph paper.  Due to the scale (1/480) no detail of the deposits could be shown on the drawing.

The instruments were not calibrated in the conventional manner due to influences from steel wire and half buried farm implements in the area.  Instead, a fixed bearing was obtained from the compass station near the farm entrance at the start of each trip; any variation in magnetic deviation enabled each section of the survey to be so corrected.  Thus, the survey figures were corrected to ‘compass north’. With the help of Brian Prewer et al, a radio transmission was made on March 12th 1977 from the base of Pyramid Pot and the point located in the field above.  A surface survey then commenced radiating lines to the cave entrance and the corners of the field.  By checking the 6” O.S. map of the area it was then possible to rotate the survey to grid north.  The ‘mismatch’ of the surface point located from the survey line and the signal point was less than 20 feet giving a closure error of approximately 1%.

Due to the complex plan form of the upper series and the general pattern of the main passage the idea of a projected elevation was abandoned and an extended elevation produced. The drawings were then transferred onto a nylon drawing sheet to produce the master original.  This is to be sent t8 B.M. Ellis for inclusion in the Mendip Cave Survey Scheme.

The surveyed length is 4,000ft + 200ft. un-surveyed (1,335 metres + 60 metres) and 433ift. (131.97 metres) deep.

The following table records the dates and personnel involved with whom this survey could not have been produced: -


Entrance to dig. (1 hour) D. Irwin & C. Batstone.


'A Day' to Pyramid Pot (3 hours) D. Irwin, G. Wilton-Jones, N. Halstead and C. Batstone.


Pyramid Pot to Breakthrough and Paton Place. (4 hours) D. Irwin, G. W-Jones and G. Price (C.S.S.).


Transporting radio locating gear to Pyramid Pot C. Hawkes; B. Prewer, T. Reynolds (W.C.C.) and P. Smart (U.B.S.S.).


Drunken Horse Inlet: D. Irwin and T. Large.


Surface survey: D. Irwin, J. Batstone, B. Prewer and R. White


Paton Place & White Dog Passage, D. Irwin, G. Wilton-Jones, J. Dukes, R. Mansfield.


Velcro Passage: P. MacNab & D. Turner.


Sheep's Jaw and misc. side passages: D. Irwin, P. MacNab and R. Halliwell.

The cave became choked with mud below the second pitch during May, 1977 leaving Aardvark and two small side extensions un-surveyed.  These have been sketched in on the plan.



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 that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.



Dates For Your Diary


N.B. – All Friday evening trips meet at cave 7.30 pm.

February 3rd

Friday.  Eastwater

February 15th

Wednesday.  Paul Esser Memorial Lecture – Trhe West Face of Changabang by Joe Tasker.  Lecture to be held in the Arthur Tyndall memorial Lecture Theatre in the Physics Dept., Tyndall Ave., (opposite the Senate House) University of Bristol at 8.15 pm.  Admission free.

February 17th

Friday, Cheddar

February 16th – 19th

Lake District – walking.  Travel Wednesday night.  Stay at cottage at Chapel Stile, Great Langdale, near Ambleside.  Everyone welcome.  Place name on list at Belfry or to Mike Palmer (telephone: Wells 74693).  Accommodation for 20 in the cottage.

March 3rd

Friday.  Thrupe Lane.

March 11th

BRCA Symposium – Cave photography. UMIST, Manchester.

March 17th

Friday niters trip to South Wales.  Phone Richard Kenny. Meare Heath 269.

Easter Weekend

Yorkshire. 8 bunks booked at the Bradford P.C. Cottage.  Hoping to get permission to do Mungo Gill and magnetometer Pot.  Other systems will be visited, hopefully including Tatum Wife Hole.  Will all those interested contact Paul Christie, 7 The Glen, London Road, Berks, before February 12th.  Paul says in his letter that he is hoping to arrange a trip to Birks Fell Cave.  Incidentally for those who can’t write, they can phone Paul at Ascot 25372.

June 10th or 17th

Symposium: Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Details later.

October 7th

B.E.C. A.G.M. and ANNUAL DINNER – advance details in the March or April B.B.

Library Additions

The following books have been purchased for the library:

Proceedings of the 7th International Congress.  Science of Speleology

Limestones and Caves of Derbyshire

Cave Exploration in Canada.

All of these volumes are expensive and it is to be hoped that members will treat them with great respect.

Kay Mansfield has very kindly offered to bind complete volumes of exchange publications.  Whilst on the subject of exchanges, the Committee has agreed to exchange the B.B. for Speleo Abstract (a Swiss publication) and an Italian journal.  Details later.


A note from the Hut Warden

Chris. Batsone

In recent years, the numbers of cavers visiting Mendip has multiplied out of all proportions.  Our caves are full to overflowing each weekend and not only our caves, our caving huts are also taking a hammering.

It seems that the 'in-thing' to do if you are a guest in someone's club hut is to roll-up uninvited with at least fifteen people in the party; take over the hut and act as if you own the place sloping off on 8unday leaving dirty plates and frying pans in the sink, fag ends on the floor and rubbish lying all over the hut.  No wonder our members get tired of coming to the hut.  They get crowded out by people who are not even members who they don't know from Adam and then end up doing their own and six other bxxxxxs cleaning up on Sunday.

I am not saying that all guests at the Belfry act in this manner, a large proportion of those who stay are very helpful, these we must encourage.

Many other clubs around the country are now bringing in much harsher controls on who stays at their huts. The Bradford P.C., I'm told require each guest to be accompanied by a member.  I'm not sure what  the position is over a party booking but I'm sure it must be something similar to that of the Craven P.C. at Ivy Cottage, Horton, who only allow clubs that can offer reciprocal facilities; that is to say ‘If you want to stay at our hut then you should be prepared to let us stay at yours at some other time’.  In Derbyshire, the Pegasus have stopped all college and university parties staying at their hut in Peak Forest as they have found that the major problems arise from these clubs.  It was felt that since the Eldon P.C. have been evicted from their 'hut' in Buxton, the Pegasus may have been landed with extra guests.

Unlike Yorkshire and Derbyshire, much of our caving traffic is centred on the three huts in Priddy:  B.E.C., W.C.C. and S.M.C.C.  I'm sure that the M.C.G. will soon find problems when they finish their new concrete palace at Nordrach.  It would seem that out of the Mendip clubs mentioned the Wessex and ourselves get most of the problems, the Shepton have always been reasonably trouble-free.

What has been done so far? A general tightening up of the hut booking procedure seems to have yielded some results.  The Hut Warden MUST have at least 3 - 4 weeks advance, written notice of booking (SAE for reply).  This will enable the Warden to plan weekends in advance and so hopefully avoid overcrowding.  It also gives time to reply and either confirm or cancel a booking.

The Belfry will sleep 36 people at a push but this is not an ideal number as the hut becomes cluttered with personal gear and the cooking facilities etc. then become overcrowded. If we discount the bunks in the women’s room we are left with 30 places.  It has been found in the past that the most economic and comfortable number is 24 in the main bunkroom.  Of these 24 bunks, I allow 12 for Club members and 12 for guests; obviously these numbers can be juggles slightly and we are still left with an extra 12 bunk spaces to cope with any crises.

It has also become more apparent that the Hut Warden has to take a harder line with people who turn up without booking.  These people are now finding that they are being turned away from huts.  I am told that the Wessex policy is no booking, no bunk.  A policy I am thinking of introducing at the Belfry - any comments?

Already this year I have had two weekends double-booked because Club members accepted hut bookings in my absence and forgot to tell until it was too late to do anything about it. Please, dear members, if you are asked to book the Belfry for someone, either tell them to write to me, c/o The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset., or write to me yourself.  A written note should ensure that your booking is not forgotten.

'What of the future?

As from January 1st, 1978, the B.E.C., along with the W.C.C. will be operating a three tier hut fee system as follows:

Members - 30p per night. Personal guests - 45p per night. Parties or Unaccompanied guests - £1.00 per night.  Camping members - 20p per night.  Camping, guests - 30p per night

The system will work in this sway, members will pay the normal rate and each member will be entitled to sponsor two non-members at the personal guest rate.  The personal guest rate will also be charged to those Clubs which have reciprocal arrangements with the B.E.C.  Parties and unaccompanied guests wishing to use the Belfry and its facilities will be charged £1.00 per man per night subject to the Hut Wardens discretion.  Parties wishing to book the Belfry will be charged a 20% non-returnable deposit in advance, party bookings will not be accepted until this deposit has been paid.

I am also prepared to arrange a couple of members weekends at the Belfry if there is enough support from the membership for this - hopefully this would not exclude members personal guests from attending.

It is hoped that this article has gone some way to explain the reasons behind the action taken by myself and the committee to alleviate the problems of overcrowding at the Belfry. Club members are always welcome at the. Belfry (that really goes without saying) so why not call in sometime. It’s always nicer to have a hut full of members and friends we know instead of guests we don’t know. Sensible criticism and any further ideas will be welcome.

Chris Batstone, Hut Warden.


The Belfry Boy

Tune: Sweet Lorraine

Well, I'm the Belfry Boy,
I’m every other buggers favourite toy,
Oh how it always seems to give them joy,
To put me in bloody pain.
Baroom Ba roomm etc.
Oh how they treat me hard,
Kick me all around the Belfry yard,
Lord, you aught to see how I am scarred,
From when they shoved me up the drain.
And when a member calls,
I dash inside so they can black my balls,
And splatter me around the Belfry walls,
Till I've nearly gone insane.          They sit me in a chair,
Rub jam and marmalade into my hair,
I sit and smile as if I couldn't care,
But later hang my head in shame

And then they all insist,
That I am something called a masochist.
Especially when they come back pissed,
And want to play their silly games.

But now I sit and wait,
Because I'm glad to know that some day Fate
Will bring along a brand new inmate


Iran 77

The recent spate of foreign material sent in by members continues with a brief account of the expedition to Iran

by John King

No sooner had I returned to the shores of England than I was jumped on by the B.B. press gang.  Well I suppose it is time I scribbled a volume or two.

A brief account of the recent British invasion of Asia.

The journey out took longer than expected due to constant maintenance stops.  Every other day myself and the driver of our Gardener coach could be seen wandering around covered in grease after yet another successful repair.  Two and half weeks of sporadic travelling, rain, hail, landslide, small whirlwinds and a small fire on board, brought us safely to Iran.

At our chosen base camp site an area search of the northern ridge of Khu-e-Sha Hu soon provided us with an advance base camp site.  This was to be eight miles walk from base, elevating some 6,000ft, and at first seemed to be a satisfactory residential bluff apart from being over populated with scorpions.

People soon changed their minds as one by one they succumbed to various ailments.  This probably due to contaminated snow being used for water. The immediate area did not yield much in the way of shafts.  Although resembling a huge quilted mattress like that found on Khu-e-Parau, this plateau inundated with shake holes revealed very little.  The camp came under question as to whether a more likely position might be chosen.  Clean snow plugs would be an absolute must and therefore dictating the position of camp two.

After further surface work, a large snow plug found above a remote village under the northwest ridge proved ideal and so Camp 2 was soon established a little way off from the cluster of stone enclosures with grass roofs.  Soon, after moving in, the small summer village evacuated almost overnight. The reason for this could have been the approach of winter, although it did coincide with the ending of the fasting of 'Ramadam', a religious ceremony lasting many weeks.

Now the village is deserted, and so we make use of a broad rock shelter, this being nearer the ice plug. From this third camp, many shafts were discovered, three miles North West under the towering peaks of the northwest ridge, dominated by the summit of Sha Hu.  Here there was to be a small advance camp for tackle and food.  Exploration and survey of the shafts took a long time, and produced dozens of pots with vertical ranges of 200ft to 1,000ft.  A classic pitch first thought to be in excess of 551ft turned out to be about 450ft, but remained the deepest single pitch found.

Due to the vertical development of the area, most shafts were either partially or completely blocked by plugged ice and boulders before reaching any great depth.

The hike from base to the third camp entailing a gruelling fifteen mile climb of 6,500ft., encountering several broad, boulder strewn valleys, their high cliff sides, severely frost shattered.  The lime being in unique disarray due to tremendous upheaval.  In places truncated passage and stalagmite were found on the surface and the dip of the strata seemed chaotic.

Base camp situated on a tributary of the main ‘Servan’ river gave easy access to superb gorges, sporting passages high up on both sides.  Most of these being close on a 1,000ft above the now dry floor of the gorge. Those within climbing distance revealed no more than a short passage, or a large solution pocket, a few containing stalagmites of bat guano.  Eight miles further down gorge the main rising of the Sha Hu, under high pressure, forces out an incredible flow of water from tight impenetrable bedding planes and fissures and even in the river bed.

Of the wildlife in Iran there seems to be no shortage.  Protected from mans destruction by barren wilderness, many beasts have the freedom of their environment.  Leopards were seen by myself and others on a few occasions. Higher up tracks and droppings were found.  These were thought to belong to bear although this was not confirmed.  What else leaves 5" x 9" tracks, 4ft. apart?  Could the abominable snowman survive in such a cruel climate?

Once again, our water supply began to present problems.  Strained and sterilized snowmelt produced technicolor dysentery and sickness giving our Doctor plenty of research material.  Although very busy, the Doctor made time to treat a number of cases from various mountain communities.  Treating cases ranging from sores and bites to severe scalding and infected broken limbs.

Supplies again had to be replenished and for that purpose a journey into Kermanshah with the coach, left base camp early one morning.  The track from the base camp to the nearest metalled road covered thirty miles of rough terrain resembling the track up to the UBBS hut in Burrington.  Unnoticed by ourselves and unrecorded by the temperature gauge a water leak caused by a damaged radiator proceeded to boil the system dry and the inevitable happened. Engine seized solid and we were rendered immobile with a ton of equipment still on the plateau!  A number of frantic telephone calls and a lot of help from English friends, who really saved the day, and it looked as though our troubles would diminish very quickly.  Soon all was in hand, an early return by two weeks allowed us to see the eastern cities.

To conclude this adventure, a successful episode in the discovery of this relatively unknown part of the world, as far as speleology is concerned.  Perhaps a little disappointing in view of the depth of the systems in relation to the depth of limestone.  Iran has fantastic potential but I doubt that it will disclose its inner secrets without much hard work and disappointment.

{mospagebreak title=Ian Dear Memorial Fund" /> 

Ian Dear Memorial Fund (I.D.M.F.)

Very soon, members of the club will be turning their thought away from Tyning's, Wigmore and the like and towards summer holidays and possible caving or climbing trips abroad. There is already one caving trip being planned to Austria to look at some relatively unexplored areas of limestone and there may yet be others.  Younger members will hopefully be interested in joining such an expedition but may be deterred by the cost.

The ID.M.F. was set up by a bequest the late Ian Dear, for the sole purpose of assisting younger members of the club to visiting and climbing areas abroad.  So, if you are joining an expedition or even going alone on essentially a caving/climbing holiday and you are very close to your financial target, where a reasonable grant of money from the fund could make the difference between participating staying at home, apply to the I.D.M.F. Committee and see if they can help.  I will stress that, although there is mixed feeling about how, much and in what may the fund resources should be used, it will not used as dole or beer money in the 'Costa Bomb'.

Please apply if you think you might qualify, by giving a brief description of the proposed trip, a breakdown of cost and the sun of money required indicating in particular where the fund money is to be used.

The application can be given to any of the following I.D.M.F. Committee who will then call a meeting to consider it.  Two months or more notice would be ideal but one months notice before the trip is the minimum time that can be tolerated.  It is normal for a member who receives a grant to write a full account of the expedition for submission via the I.D.M.F. to the Editor of the B.B. for publication in the B.B. or Caving Reprts.

I.D.M.F. Committee: -

Sett, Mike Plamer, Nigel Taylor, Russ Jenkins and Barrie Wilton.



Compiled by Niph

Rock & Fountain Cave.  Brynmawr, S, Wales.  For members wishing to visit this cave should contact any of the following:- Bill Gascoigne - Tel: Pontypool 4489

John Parker - Tel: Pontypool 57279

Jeff Hill - Tel: Ebbw Vale 304413

BEC Publications. John Dukes is to take on the job of publication sales.  If you have any ideas for new sales outlets for this material, please let him know.

CORRECTION to S. Wales BEC Leaders.  Andy MacGregor is an O.F.D. leader and D.Y.O. leader.  (For full list see December 1977 B.B.)

Notes from the North. Caves on Leck-Casterton is booked by clubs until July 1978 - anyone interested in visiting any caves of these Fells should book now for the Winter season!  Seems to be a simple case of cave over-population.  CNCC are negotiating with Lord Bolton on the possibility of re-opening Thrackthwaite Beck Cave.  Permission will not be given at Top Farm to cavers to descend Red Moss Pot.

Otter Hole, Chepstow. The Royal Forest cavers have gated Otter Hole from January 1st 1978.  Keys are available from John Court, Trenchard Cottage, Joyford, Coleford, Glos. Please enclose £2 deposit and two stamped, self addressed envelopes, one for Key and the other for return of the deposit.  Information on the cave and tidal predictions are also available from John.  With the winter coming, cavers should be careful particularly on the ‘over-tide’ trips.  The Forest cavers are still working hard and a number of dye tests which seems to have confirmed the existence of much more cave to be discovered.  The G.C.R.G. have set up the first of its emergency dumps.  This has cost £30 so please if you feel peckish take your own food not that in the food dumps.  The dump is at present situated above the fixed ladder, just beyond the tidal sump. The electron ladder is to be removed so parties should take their own ladder, rope and tethers.  Chepstow Police station appears to be helpful and will note details of your trip, particularly useful if you are visiting midweek.

Singing River Mine. A key for this mine is held at the Belfry.

Whose boob! One D. Ingle Smith (of Wessex or UBSS) is a contributor to the nearly £10 book "Mendip - A new Study".  He writes - you've guessed rightly - about Mendip caving.  In doing so he's unearthed a new Mendip Pioneer - Henry Ernest Balch!

O.F.D.  Permit Secretary is Miss Denise Samuel, 4 Brent Court, Church Road, Hanwell, Lndn, W7 3BZ

Mines of the Peak District.  The Peak National Park Study Centre are running a course from 31st March to 2nd April, 1978.  Further details from The Principal, Losehill Hall, Castleton, Sheffield S30 2VWB. Cost (full board) is £25.

Charterhouse Caving Areas.  Caves on the Bristol Waterworks land at Charterhouse, have been administered by the Charterhouse Caving Committee since the early 1960's.  For the last year or so the organisation has become lax and neglectful - locks are missing on Longwood and on occasions the gate at GB has been left open.  If the CCC has forgotten its responsibilities it’s pretty certain that the BWW has not. Will all members ensure that they have the required permits and observe the rules of access to the CCC caves.

The MCG Book Sale.  The following books are available from the MCG (Malcolm Cotter).  The two books marked (*) are listed at publisher's price, but purchase of these allows the buyer to obtain a special discount on other books.

Limestones & Caves of the Mendip Hills (Ed. Smith)                                            £3.75

Limestones & Caves of N.W. England (Ed. Waltham)                                           £3.75

The Mines of Mendip (J.W. Gough)                                                                     £2.95

*Mendip Underground (D.J. Irwin & A.J. Knibbs)                                                   £2.95

*Mendip: the Complete Caves and a view of the Hills. ( Barrington and Stanton)       £3.50

A climber in the West Country                                                                           £0.75

The Collector’s Guide to Fossils                                                                         £0.10

A Mendip tribute to the Hunters?  The Wessex Lane have written to the Mendip Clubs suggesting that each should present Roger Dors with their club that the trophy.  The idea is that the trophy should be hung in the new room in the Hunters. Anyone with any ideas should contact a committee member.

Constitutional Amendments.  The AGM recommended that the 1977/1978 Committee should look into apparent anomalies in the Club Constitution.  In order to do this a Sub-Committee has been set up under the Chairmanship of Martin Cavender (the Club Solicitor).  Members with any suggestions should contact Martin (The Old Rectory, Westbury-sub-Mendip, Near Wells Somerset.)

Addition to the Library.  Paul Christie has donated a copy of the Mersham Firestone Quarries - an interim account - by members of Croydon Caving Club to the club library.

Caving Reports available to members.

No. 1  Surveying in Redcliffe Caves, Bristol.


No. 3A  The Manufacture of Lightweight Caving Ladders


No. 5A Survey of Headwear and Lighting (2nd ed.)


No.10 The BEC Method of Ladder Construction


No.13 St. Cuthbert's Report:


Part E. Rabbit Warren


Part F. Gour Hall Area


Part H. Rabbit Warren Extension


No.14 "Balague 1910"


No.15 "Roman Mine", nr. Newport


No.16 "Mendip’s Vanishing Grottoes"


No.18 Cave Notes '74


No.19 Cave Notes '15-16


All reports are stocked at the Belfry.  Members should see Chris Batstone or John Dukes.  They are available through the post so please allow p & p 50p for 3 or more.

From the Gloucester SS Newsletter, No.5, is a note of three Forest of Dean digs.  Work on Seymour Swallet is to begin again, with improved drilling facilities for banging. On the other hand in P.C. Cave, although there is a good draught, and the way in is visible, there are no diggers.  The mysterious project 'X' has yielded 60+ ft. of passage, including a 25ft pitch half-way down a big aven.

C.S.C.C. has recently taken under its wing the Mendip Cave Registry.  At present the mammoth task of collating the information is undertaken by Ray and Kay Mansfield.  For those that have not looked at the Registry, it is recommended that you do so (copies are lodged in the Wells Library and Bristol Central Reference Library). It is the only complete set of references to any Mendip cave up to the date of the last century.  There is about 10 years or so work to be added to the Register.  And you can imagine, it involves much work and it is well known that Ray and Kay would welcome any help - particularly from typists.  Their address is Tiny Kott, Little London, Oakhill, nr. Bath.

Those who did not bother to attend the B.C.R.A. winter Meeting at the Hunters missed a fine afternoon and evening’s entertainment.  John Parker outlined the discovery and exploration of the Rock and Fountain - a fine talk, illustrated by slides.  This was followed by Dave Manley on a new idea of discovering new cave passage by chemical means.  After the Buffet, Jerry Wooldridge gave a repeat showing of his sound/slide sequences of La Cigalaire and Fairy Cave Quarry.  The evening was wound up by Martin Farr and Pete Glanville giving a potted account of the Iran 77 trip including Pete's observations on the medical problems of caving visits to arid areas.

Sports Council Cuts BMC Grant.  Since the publication of the BMC ‘Hunt Report’ there has been a considerable rift in the Council.  A rift in, fact based on fundamentals - put very simply Hunt stated that training should be based within the Climbing Clubs and under the watchful eye of BMC and Longland wished for a separate organisation to control training within the climbing world.

Reported in the 'Times' newspaper the grant has been taken away from BMC and has left them in a situation where they are in a situation where they are in severe financial difficulties.  Mrs. Audrey Selkela, Hon. Chairman of the BMC South West and Southern Area stated in a letter to me…”Within the last few days (Oct. 28th) arbitrarily and without consultation, the Sports Council has cut-off the BMC Training Grant thus jeopardising the future of a well-proven and well run operation for over five years. Further more, it would appear that the Sports Council is proposing to transfer this money to a secessionist Mountain Leader Training Board, chaired by Sir Jack Longland…. The BMC considers that the Sports Council is wrong, ill-advised and destructive. It would be wrong and unsafe for a body, other than the BMC to attempt to set standards of competence in mountaineering since the BMC in its membership embraces some of the best climbers and climbing educationalists in the world.

We had always understood it to be a hallowed principle that the Sports Council did not seek to interfere in the internal policies and philosophies of any sports or recreation; supporting a secessionist body and withholding grant-aid can only be interpreted as interference.”

So there you have it… conform or otherwise.  It is to be hoped that the Southern Council will ensure that it does not receive grant-aid for its administrative costs without first ensuring that it can survive without it.  BEC representatives to the CSCC meetings should ensure that the council gets this message loud and clear.  (see also: B.M.C. Saga continues on page 12 for the Sports Council viewpoint)


Book Review

by Dave Metcalf.

"Northern Caves, Vol. 5.” ‘The Northern Dales’ - Revised Edition by D. Brook, G.M. Davies, M.H. Lone, P.F. Ryder.

Surely this must be a guidebook which contains the most varied selection of caves and potholes ever recorded.  Since the 1974 version came out passages have been pushed, digs have been dug and sumps have been dived.  A wave of discovery fever seems to have hit the Northern Dales.  In the 1977 edition there are no less than 100 new entries together with many important extensions to existing caves.

The total area map has been extended to include caves as far a field as the West Coast of Cambria to the North Northumberland Border; Flamborough Head to Nottinghamshire. There are caves in Sandstone, Chalk & Grit, with every subterranean hazard known to man - from creaking boulders to radioactive gas!  Of interest to the connoisseur of cave names we have Mitochondrion Pot, Diggle Wigglepit and next time you visit Dentdale how about 60ft of Bum Burner Breach! There are many more surveys in this edition but unfortunately omitted is one of Blea Gill Cave - a newly discovered complex system of come 1-2 miles.  However a description of the new cave does appear.

Perhaps the most important extensions recorded are those in Cliff Force Cave and the long overdue reopening of Lunehead Mine Caverns.  Much new ground has been covered by divers, with much activity in all areas particularly in the Rawthey Valley with the sump in Rawthey Cave being passed and two important risings explored - Uldale House Rising and, would you believe 'Lady Blues Underwater Fantasy'.  Also recorded are underwater extensions in Tutmans Hole, Ayleburn Mine Caverns, Tub Hole, Gods Bridge River Cave, Otters Cave and Pate Hole leaving plenty of scope for further exploration.

The book is well laid out and very readable.  Additional Geological information is provided and there is also a comprehensive section covering caves in Magnesian Limestone.

This volume is understandably slightly fatter than other ' Northern Caves' editions but unfortunately so is the price.  However at £1.65p,  I still think it is good value.


Letter to the Editor.

Dear Dave,

I was extremely sorry to read the ungracious remarks made about Alfie at the last A.G.M.  As they seem to fall into the category of personal opinion, then perhaps my personal opinion might be heard.

Alfie’s efforts have provided me with a BB that has been my preferred reading amongst other journals, reports, papers and information sheets I read.  It has been largely successful in a humorous fashion.  It had style.  I hope its successor is as good.

I imagined that when Alfie ceased his association with the BB, a thankless task, would be treated with due honour for the considerable efforts he has made on our behalf over far too many years with too little help.  I'm ashamed that he has gone like this.  Is this the new BEC?

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Yours Regretfully,



Dear Sir,

May I be permitted to write a few words about the “Friday Night” Saturday trips to Wales.  As you probably know, the “Friday Night” trips that are run every fortnight are open to members of all Clubs, and despite our incredible difference we manage to cave quite happily as a group.  We also run about three or four trips a year to South Wales, these of course being on a Saturday.

The general system is that by mutual consent we fix the dates for a year in advance.  As a Welsh date approaches so people state their preferences and we select the cave.  Each cave has its own access rules and for clarity I will consider Ogof Ffynon Ddu only.

Approximately one month in advance one has to write to the Nature Conservancy Council, John Harvey, Clifford House, High Street, Newnham, Glos. GL14 1BB.  Newnham 376 for a permit to enter the cave.  One should state whether or not this is for OFD1, OFD2 or Cwm Dwr.  Each permit allows the leader to take six other cavers in the party.

Do avoid the 1st Saturday in the month as Penwyllt (South Wales Caving Club HQ) reserve their premises for Club members only on those dates.

I have never found it necessary to advise SWCC of our coming, but I always ensure that the Duty Warden is found, the nature of our visit explained, who we are, and a whip-round of say 5p or 10p each made to cover the use of their dining room, toilets etc.  The showers cost an extra 10p. per person.  It is essential that we make these gestures for we all use and appreciate their facilities.

As the trip date approaches so people wishing to come, contact me or other “Friday Nighters” and their names and locations are added to the list.  At this stage of the game we must consider the permit system, 1 leader +6, and usually we can enough Mendip OFD1 leaders or SWCC leaders to cover the size of the party (one only needs OFD1 leaders to pass through that part of the cave and this is a landowners request).  However, if this is not possible then we have to work on a 1st come 1st served system.  We pool our transport and this can involve a fair degree of planning and money on phone calls.

At long last we are over there, fed, and ready to go.  The permits are exchanged via the Duty Warden for a key, EVERY party members name is put in the HQ guest book together with the Club name and cave key number.  There is also a notice board made out for 24 hours, and all names are entered on cards against the expected 'out time'.  I usually add on two hours for contingencies. Make no mistake about it, if you are overdue then a search will be organised and at the least you would keep someone away from the pub on standby.  Remember that this cave has at least 25 miles of passages so the access arrangements have to be fairly rigid.

You may well ask, "What are the benefits of a trip like this?"  Well, the regulars amongst us enjoy caving as a group, so that's one answer.  Another is that we give anyone the chance to learn the basic routes so that they can then run their own trips.  The last one is that as an OFD1 leader, I must give people the opportunity of visiting that part of the cave.

On Saturday November 12th we had 18 in the party.  This is quite normal these days but it does mean that we have to be very conscious of our group responsibilities.  As happened on that occasion one must be ready to change the route if someone finds the 6 or 7 hour trip too tiring (often done by us without them necessarily being aware of the fact).

Unfortunately, on that date four people joined our party and I knew nothing about them until they overtook me in OFD2.  They failed to wait at an agreed place and we had occasional news of them from parties travelling in the opposite direction.  We had to change our plan and surface via Cwm Dwr instead of OFD1 and they were left on their own and had to return by their original route.  Had we stuck to our original plan of entering via OFD1, I would NOT have let them enter the cave, for our leader ration would have been invalid.

In conclusion may I stress that we WANT to help anyone interested, but common courtesy also helps us

Yours faithfully,

R.E. Kenney.


Dear Sir,

So the Tigers are on the prowl again and they have hit poor Wig 'straight between the eyes'.  We are being told once again that we ought not to like fixed tackle in St. Cuthbert's.  From anybody else I would take it as a mark of sheer arrogance to be told what kind of caving I ought to like.  But from Jim Durston I can't, because I know he's a bloody nice chap.  I can only assume that some bee has come untimely out of hibernation and is buzzing around his helmet.

The argument he leaves out altogether is that of cost effectiveness.  Electron ladders are expensive both in time and money and have only a few years useful life.  Fixed ladders are cheap and last for at least half a century.

It has been pointed out before, but I may as well say it again, that there is nothing to stop cavers from taking electron ladders down St. Cuthbert's and using them instead of the fixed ladders, if they prefer it that way.  (Jim knows as well as I do that he doesn't have to use the ladders on the Ledge Pitches, but can descend the crack at the back.)  His argument would be more convincing, if people did take down their own ladders.  Until they do so in preference to the fixed aids, it will be a fair assumption that cavers prefer the latter.  But who are we to tell cavers how to enjoy themselves?  After all that's all that counts.

All the best,

Oliver (Lloyd)


Cuthbert’s Revisited

I was privileged to go into Ease Gill Caverns fairly soon after their discovery and remember the breathtaking beauty of "Poetic Justice", a passage with thousands of straws, virtually wall to wall, floor to ceiling.  A few short years later I saw it again and scarcely recognised it; the damage done was so great that little remained to suggest anything of its former glory.

Earlier this year I revisited Cuthbert’s after a gap of some twenty years - give or take a year or two. Prior to this I had made only two or three trips into the system and my memories were somewhat hazy although I could recall some magnificent formations.  As I wrote off to arrange the trip, which was for the benefit of a party from the Derwent Mountaineering Club from Matlock; I wondered how many of those remembered formations would still be intact.

As we went our way through the cave under the watchful eye of Mike Palmer, there they all were - straws, stalagmites, curtains - all, unbelievably, in pristine condition, jogging my memory, looking as they had done when I last saw them, and indeed as they must have looked when the first explorers saw them close on thirty years ago. One curtain came so low it was necessary to duck your head in order to yet there it was, undamaged.

Over the years there has been a lot of criticism of the Cuthbert’s leader system the restriction on access it imposes.  In the past I've always been in favour of free and unrestricted access to caves, subject to the accepted ethics of discoverers being allowed to complete the exploration of their discovery first.  No-one can deny that it is far more enjoyable to be able to turn up in a caving region, set off do, the cave of your choice and find your own way through the system – no red tape, no restrictions, no finding someone to give permission; just pay the farmer his entry fee and off you go.  Without the bother of having to book a trip with a leader, I would have made many more trips down Cuthbert’s all those years ago.  But now I ask the question.  If there had been free, unrestricted access into Cuthbert’s from those years, would we now be able to go in and see these splendid formations? Would they now exist: for the new generation of cavers to enjoy as we who saw them back in the early fifties enjoyed them?  Regretfully, the answer is NO, they would not.  Most would be damaged if not destroyed completely.  The beautiful curtain I mentioned would have gone long ago. Would they still be intact if a less rigid system of control had been put into operation - say each of the Mendip Clubs being allocated duty club on a rota system and taking over responsibility for a set period?  I don’t think so.  I think the success of the Cuthbert’s leader system is that each individual leader accepts full responsibility.  On each occasion I have been down I have been impressed by the way the leader has ensured that every member of the party knew where the formations were and avoided any risk of damaging them.  If at any time there had a mishap it would have been known and the responsibility placed squarely on the shoulders of the leader at that time.  It is most unlikely that under any other system of control, any damage would have been traced back to any particular party, let at any individual and anonymity fosters carelessness.  It is an indisputable fact that the Cuthbert’s leader system has preserved the cave intact and although restricted access was irksome to my generation, it now gives me great pleasure to know that my sons will be able to see at least one cave in the condition in which their mother and I saw it long before they were born.

There have always been some individuals who believed they were justified in doing whatever was necessary to gain unauthorised access into caves, including using explosives, sawing off locks or merely sneaking in when no-one was looking.  It could not have been easy for the B.E.C. to keep control over the years.  In fact I remember many years ago when one young caver was caught making an unauthorised trip through Cuthbert’s; he was duly hauled before Sett and one or two other fearsome Godfather figures of the B.E.C. and given a right 'rollicking', threatened with excommunication, castration, or even being chucked out of the Club if he ever transgressed again.  It would have been all too easy to say "Oh, he's a competent and responsible caver, let the incident pass," a view some of us held at the time. But had that happened it would have been the thin edge of the wedge, others would have followed his lead, within a few years the leader system would have collapsed and the slow but inexorable desecration of the beauty that is Cuthbert’s would have begun.  Anyone who really wants to wander freely around Cuthbert’s can do so simply by taking the trouble to become a Cuthbert’s leader.

The caving fraternity and all who profess to support conservation owe a debt of gratitude to the B.E.C., and in particular to all Cuthbert’s leaders, for the time they have spent and the trouble they have taken to preserve the cave and its formations. This achievement is well worth the annoyance caused to me and my contemporaries when we had to go to the unheard of trouble of finding a leader and booking a trip down the cave; had we been given free and unrestricted access, the youngsters of to-day would have a very different cave there now.  And although they may moan as much as we did, the continuation of the leader system will mean that those who come after them will still be able to enjoy the magnificent formations which-abound in Cuthbert’s.  In fact, the success of the Cuthbert’s leader system prompts me to suggest that there must be a case for operating such a system in any new discovery that has a wealth of formation.


B.M.C. Saga Continues

In Jottings earlier, is an extract letter Audrey Selkeld of the SW Section of the B.M.C. gave the B.M.C. case over their current row with the Sports Council and the grant aid to the MLTB.  At the SW Sports Council Standing Conference held at Taunton in November they deplored the Sports Council action and wrote to the Director of the Sports Council - Walter Winterbottom (those of' you old enough to remember this name will know him as the manager of' the English Football team in the '50's).  Winterbottom replied to George Reynolds, Secretary of the SW Standing Conference deploring their action without 'the full facts'.  He then summarised the situation as viewed by the Sports Council and this follows in full:-

The BMC was set up in 1944 but it was not until 1964 that it begun to assume a more active role as a national governing body.  In that year as a member of the CCPR Outdoor Activities Committee, the BMC served on a working party which recommended the formation of the Mountain Leadership Training Board.  This Board was responsible to the CCPR Outdoor Activities Committee and was charged with the duty of prescribing the type of training and the form of representation from the user bodies.  It did, therefore, enjoy a great deal of independence within the limits of the expertise of its members, and the CCPR provided support services.

The Sports Council, which took over the staff and undertakings of the CCPR, continued to support the MLTB.  The Sports Council sought also to encourage the BMC to accept its responsibilities as a governing body and the Sports Council grant aided the appointment of a general secretary a national officer and back-up secretarial assistance, and assisted the Council in its move to Manchester headquarters.

In 1972, the BMC was beginning to obtain greater credence in the eyes of the member clubs through improved services and it was at this stage that the Sports Council with the agreement of the MLTB invited the BMC to administer the Mountain Leadership Training Scheme.  It was agreed at that time that the BMC should receive a 100% grant for this area of work so that there should be no burden on BMC finance obtained from club members.  At the same time it was agreed that the MLTB would have independence in policy matters and that the representation of the user bodies would be maintained.

There seemed to be a very happy relationship between the BMC and MLTB until 1973.  It was at this time that the President of BMC set up a committee to review the policy across the whole range of BMC activities.  A preliminary report was produced in 1974, the final report being presented to BMC Management Committee in 1976.

As a parallel exercise, the BMC Training Committee, chaired by Lord Hunt, considered the detailed policy on mountain training.  Inevitably the report made recommendations about the MLT Scheme, mainly questioning the name of the scheme and the value of the certificate.  The Hunt report emphasised the need for consultation and agreement with the MLTB about changes in the Leadership Scheme, and whilst suggesting larger membership for the BMC, stressed the independence of the Board.

In 1976 and '1977 there were several meetings of BMC/MLTB, some with the Sports Council, and the Sports Council was assured by the President of BMC in February 1977 that both parties were nearing settlement.  In mid 1977, the BMC unilaterally decided to abolish the Board and sack its Chairman.

Bearing in mind its undertaking to the MLTB, and the refusal of the BMC to service the Board and its activities, the Sports Council at its meeting in Glasgow, took the decision that the Sports Council should make every to bring about a settlement between the BMC and MLTB, but meanwhile the Sports Council should sustain the MLTB and withdraw that proportion of BMC grant attributable to the servicing of the MLTB which the BMC had repudiated.  As the normal machinery for talking to governing bodies was through the Sports Development Committee, it was agreed that the Committee should consider the matter and recommend a course of action to the Council.  It was further agreed that Mr. Atha should chair the separate meetings of members of the Sports Development Committee with representatives of the BMC and MLTB.

It should be noted that grant aid to the BMC was withdrawn only in respect of that element of grant which the BMC had applied for in respect of that element of grant which the BMC had applied for in respect of servicing the MLTB.  Grant for its normal administration and international events continue.  The BMC has not submitted any scheme of BMC training for consid6ration for grant aid.

After separate meetings with representatives of BMC and MLTB the Sports Development Committee has recommended to the Sports Council as follows: -

"It was agreed that the following recommendations should be considered by the Sports Council at its meeting on the 19th December: -

i.                    That the MLTB continues to be recognised as the autonomous body responsible for the MLTB schemes until such time as it appears that the Board no longer enjoys the support of the user bodies;

ii.                  That the Sports Council formally canvasses the views of the user bodies of the MLTB schemes;

iii.                 That the Sports Council recognises the contribution the BMC can make to the work of the MDTB and would wish it to take up its representation in the present constitution of the MLTB and be party to the election of a Chairman and officers of the Board;

iv.                 That the BMC be encouraged to put forward its training scheme for the sport of mountaineering to be considered for grant aid, and

v.                   That the BMC and the MLTB be asked to meet under an independent chairman to discuss the present situation with a view to the BMC resuming its servicing of the MLTB, and

vi.                 That the Sports Council should discuss with the BMC what grant aid is necessary to meet immediate staffing problems in its Manchester Office


Lead Sediments in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet

by Roger Stenner

Many months ago the B.B. published a short paragraph concerning this topic, and it was hoped that someone properly qualified to comment on the possible dangers would have written a follow-up letter.  This has not happened, and several people asked me to elaborate on the original paragraph.  Readers should bear in mind that I am not qualified to make a judgement on medical dangers of lead and can only draw on the available literature, chiefly the report, “Lead in the environment and its significance to man,” published by the Department of 'the Environment as Pollution, Paper No. 2. (HMSO London 1974).

Lead mining and smelting had a very long history on Mendip, and Gough's "Mines of Mendip" refers to many aspects of lead contamination, some of them more than 400 years ago.  St. Cuthbert's Swallet drains a valley which was used for lead smelting for at least 1700 years, so it must he expected that the streamways have been contaminated. The question was - how extensive is the contamination, and how does it compare with natural contamination brought about by natural weathering of lead-bearing rock, and transportation by the surface stream? This was a question I was able to tackle and there were some surprises in the answers.  Briefly, all the stream passages in St. Cuthbert's Swallet have sediment containing 1½ - 3½% lead, but not every stream has been sampled. Surface streams going into the cave have sediments of 3 – 5% lead, and Wookey Hole sediments have about 0.6 - 1.5% lead.  Abandoned stream passages, and even in active stream passages, sediments about 3M above the stream bed have below 0.1%.  The analysis of sediments through the archaeological dig in Wookey 4 from 1974 – 1976 gave final proof that the contamination was un-natural.  In fact, analysis of sediments in St. Cuthbert’s will give a stack of information on chronology and changes in the cave since 250 A.D.  The analysis of sediments will not be as clear-cut as might seem at first sight because two samples of a clay like deposit from the cave proved to be very rich in lead - one in fact being over 70% cerrusite (lead carbonate) which were not stream borne pediments.  It is tempting to speculate whether Ochre Rift should have been called “Cerrusite Rift.”

The distribution of lead in St. Cuthbert's and Wookey is a fascinating subject, which is only really just starting to come to light.  Do the divers realise that they can follow the way to Cuthbert’s by following the lead and that any branching of the streams will be clearly shown by the sediment as well as by the water itself?  The amount of sediment needed for reliable analysis is tiny compared with a 50cc plastic water bottle.  However, the question of the possible dangers from the lead is likely to be of more immediate concern and this is where I have to leave my subject and refer to what others have written.

First, there is considerable controversy about the effects of small concentrations of lead, when blood levels are below the usually recognised level marking the onset of clinical lead poisoning.  Mental retardation, hyperactivity and behavioural problems have been reported with children being particularly susceptible.  In rats, similar low level exposures have been reported to shorten the lifespan by 30%.  Changes in the biochemistry in humans have been shown to be caused by very low exposures to lead.  It cannot yet be said that these changes have harmful effects such as the abnormalities just listed, but at the same time it cannot be said that the changes do not have harmful effects.  Why don't we know whether the changes affect our health?  Long-term epidemiological studies are needed to answer the question. Until then, one side says there is no proof that low levels are safe and point to disturbing signs.  Both sides are, of course, right but it is not, a very satisfactory state of affairs.

If we turn to higher levels of lead contamination, classical lead poisoning can develop.  Causes are many.  Pica or compulsive chewing (lead paints taste very sweet) inhaling dust from scraping lead paints or burnt paint from the blowlamp (old paints can be 40% lead) lead from old glazed ware or ware from amateur or "art-form" potters, especially used with acid foods, e.g. soused herring, working in lead using industries, drinking from pewter, especially mulled cider.  All of these can give massive lead intoxication. So where do Cuthbert’s sediments' corrie in the 'lead exposure league?'  What might it mean to you?  If you are 'normal' in not being exposed to abnormal lead contamination, probably not much. However, if you are in busy traffic a lot, or working in a lead using industry, any extra contamination should be avoided.  Always assuming low level contamination turns out to have no long-term effect. Personally, I don’t think it would be wise to allow children to breathe in dust that sometimes reduces visibility in the Belfry changing room to about six inches!  To be on the safe side, a rinse out in the drinking pool would have been a good of getting rid of St. Cuthbert's lead, and prolong the life of the boiler suit at the same time.  Perhaps it might be a good idea for lots of reasons, to reseal the stream-bed of Fair Lady Well Stream and reinstate the Drinking Pool as a permanent stream so this could once more be the normal practice.

Ed. note:            full account of the lead in the cave will be found in St. Cuthbert's Report, Part L which Roger is in the last throws of preparing.  If anyone would like prior access to the data then contact Roger.


Odds and Sods

Yeovil Caving Club member contracts Weil’s disease.  Following a trip down Stoke Lane Slocker on the 14th. October 1977 Benny Bainbridge had the symptoms of Weil’s disease.  Within two weeks he had lost the use of both of his kidneys and the liver was infected.  He was taken to the R.N. Hospital at Plymouth and subsequently moved to the R.A.F. Hospital at Halton.  He responded to treatment which involved the use of a Dialysis Machine and made a total recovery in about six weeks.  Bainbridge is reported to have drunk the waters of Stoke Lane and this in turn had been infected by Rats urine.  The case above is the second the first occurring some 10 years ago when Oliver Lloyd contracted this disease - again following a visit to Stoke Lane.  Be warned - do not drink water in any cave that flows near farm buildings or property where rats are likely to find a comfortable home.  This could apply to Cuthbert's where water from the small holding eventually drains into the cave - particularly in the Long Chamber Series and Coral Chamber area.

More on Gating of Otter Hole

The entrance to the cave is now gated by the Royal Forest cavers (see Jottings).  The gate has been installed at the entrance to the first crawl passage some 40ft. inside the entrance.

Swildon's Hole

The Wessex have obtained successes in Swildon's. First a breakthrough in the Sidcot Dig revealing about 500ft of passage.  The trend of this new section of cave appears to be towards Barnes Loop. The second is the discovery of about 100ft. of passage at Heaven and Hell.

Some Digging Possibilities in Manor Farm

by GRAHAM Wilton-Jones

When Manor Farm was opened up in September 1973 the water sank at point A, down a short choke in front of the large boulder before the final bend.  At this time the cave ended in a muddy choke at ‘F’.  Early in 1974 this choke was dug through revealing further passage.  Mr. ‘N’ banged in the sink and blocked it up.  It is now a deep pool of very liquid 'mud' and the water flows onwards, leaving the passage via a short sump to the left to re-appear and sink in the chamber at ‘B’ (this is the one reached normally through one of the holes on the final bend). The sink here is an obvious digging site.   The original roof tube from the main passage goes straight into

the chamber via the top hole.  A later rift tube joins the original hole, coming from a high inlet opposite.  The sink at ‘B’ is blocked by boulders collapsed from the roof of the chamber. It probably took water for a long time before this then flowed through the lower, terminal passages, as evidenced by the abrupt decrease in size of the main passage.

The sink at 'A' is probably relatively immature, considering how easily it was blocked (although Nigel did use a lot of bang).  The narrow, descending rift at ‘C’ is also probably immature, although it does draught gently.  At the very end of the final passage, at ‘E’ a steep slope can be climbed with the aid of an old, fixed rope belayed to a dubious looking boulder.  Above a boulder choke a short length of rift can be entered. Back from the steep slope, a low passage on the right leads to a tight rift.  Climbing up this reaches a small chamber, at 'D'.  The rift continues above and below a small, loose looking boulder collapse.  In the lower route a way on can be seen beyond some of the boulders, but the route through is tight and nasty.


Sketch Diagram showing lower end of Manor Farm Swallet.

Next month in the B.B.

An account of a recent visit to White Scar Cave (Yorks) and an account  of a visit to Belgium by - wait for it - 'Zot' as well as all the up to date news from a number of sources.  For the April and may BB’s there will be an account of the Discoveries of Wookey 20 - 25 and a new series of surveys, by Chris Howell, of the lesser caves of Mendip including sites such as Axbridge Ochre Mine and Loxton Cave.

Overheard at the Belfry

Club members are planning a trip to Austria this and JD and G. W-J are intending to go along.  Another member (MB) hearing this said, “Damned if I’m going along with these two – they take their caving too seriously.”



by Tim Large


The Committee, after taking legal advice, has appointed two new Trustees in a 'caretaker' arrangement to cover the Clubs interest until the situation can be discussed by you at the 1978 A.G.M.  They are Roy Bennett and Alan Thomas, who are both agreeable and happy to take up the position on the Clubs behalf.


The MRO have asked for extra space to store more equipment in the Stone Belfry.  The Committee agreed to extend the present store by a small amount, but at the same time increase the size of our tackle store to provide workshop facilities as well.  The cost of the change will be met by the MRO.

Bob Cross has obtained, for the Club, a fine workshop bench which sited in the improved tackle store. Many thanks Bob.

If anyone has, or knows of, items of equipment or tools that may be of use to the Club – just give someone on the Committee a ring to check costs etc, and than the go-ahead can be given to obtain it.  Obviously, expensive items will first have to be agreed by the Committee at one of their meetings.

There is a possibility that the track leading to the Belfry will be tarmaced.  The Club has been approached, by letter (!) by our neighbour, Walt Foxwell, with a view to a joint effort towards work.  This should reduce the rate at which everyone replaces suspension units.  In the meantime it would be appreciated if everyone would drive slowly along the track to minimise the damage to the surface.  Farm animals regularly use the track, as you all know, and several have become lame due to the badly rutted surface.


Barry Wilton has given the Committee notice that he intends to resign as Hon. Treasurer at the end of the current financial year.  Barry has done a good stint and his work is very much appreciated by everyone.  So budding treasurer’s lets be hearing from you. As the Clubs financial year ends in July, there will be a few months for a caretaker arrangement to exist under Barrie's guidance.  Being a rather special post it is no good waiting until the A.G.M. election of the Committee.  I think you would all agree there is a need to find a reliable replacement as soon as possible whom the committee would support at election in October.  Contact any member if you are interested.


The election for the two vacancies on the committee took place at the January meetings.  Those people that expressed an interest were Colin Dooley, John Dukes, Bob Cross and Martin Grass.  The two elected by secret ballot were Martin and John.  Welcome to both of them and DON'T BE LATE!!


This year the Priddy villagers are holding an 'It’s a Knockout' competition at their Spring Bank Holiday festivities.  The Club intends to participate and help devise a suitable game.  Martin Bishop is arranging it and would be pleased to hear from anyone who is interested in helping.

Instead of the usual Midsummer Barbeque which has faded in recent years, the Committee has agreed to arrange a buffet instead.  If you like an official mid-year Club Dinner (buffet).  The Belfry would probably be restricted to members only for that. weekend and I hope we would see some of the older and less familiar faces on Mendip combining perhaps some caving/climbing etc. with a ‘do’ on the Saturday evening.  More details when available re costs etc.

In my mail bag this month has been a letter from John whom many of you will know as being the only members name in St. Cuthbert's - namely Stafford's Boulder Problem. I am sure many of you will recall the place with very choice remarks.  John living in Aberdeenshire and gives an open invitation for members visiting Scotland to drop in.   Address available on request.  Also the mail bag is a letter from Keith Murray who has just returned from a six month visit to Br. Honduras.  I am sure be must have many tales to relate.  What about some of them for the B.B.

Your membership subscription is now officially due and will be gratefully received now!  Remember to comply with the insurance requirements the Club has to submit membership numbers by April 30th.  Any member not renewing by that date will be deemed to have lapsed and a re-application will become necessary.  This also means that your B.B. would cease to arrive too.  So let's be having those lovely cheques - made payable to B.E.C., not myself.


The Young Mendip Caver

Tune: German Musicaner

Well I’ll sing you the sons of a young Mendip caver
And of the adventures that overfell 'e.
Though he'd led a good life, he was hardly a raver
Until he went caving with a girl called Betsy.
Sing fal da ra lal de ra lal de la lady
All kinds of holes this young' caver'd been through
But the ones he preferred, they were both wet and hairy
And his favourite trip was to do Swildons Two

Now these two went down Swildons, the boy and young Betsy
The bike of the Belfry , invariably free.
They slipped on their wet suits and went down together
There was no one else with 'em, there was just he and she.
Now he'd charged his nife cell and she took her stinky
As down to the dark this young couple did go
He thought he was hard and she thought he was kinky
And they both hoped the other one wouldn't be slow.
When the Forty was passed he led over the Twenty.
Down to the streamway past ruckle and squeeze
But he found the sump wider than he had expected
And very soon after he was down on his knees

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

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

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


Pippikin - The Entrance Series

By Dave Metcalf

Pippikin is situated in the large allotment on the south side of Easegill about 100yds north of the wall which runs down from Leck Fell House.  However, to reach it, it is probably better to walk across from Bull Pot Farm, down towards Pegley Pot and follow the path up the north side of the Gill to a broken stile, cross the Gill and climb up a rocky dry valley and head for the fence that surrounds Nippikin.  Follow the obvious dry valley for 20yds to a stream sink which is Pippikin. The larger of the two holes nearest to Nippikin (not the stream sink) is best laddered direct into the entrance chamber (30ft ladder and Belay).

The way out of the chamber is with the stream through a low, wide bedding plane to a small gap where the stream drops abruptly down Cellar Pot (40ft).  The first man should then traverse the slippery beams across the top of Cellar Pot (while lifelined) and then proceed feet first into squeeze using the rope as a hand line as he emerges in the roof of a 15ft pot, but can position himself on ledges about 7ft. down.  The rope can now be used to ferry tackle through the squeeze in small quantities a time.

The bottom of the 15ft pot is choked but an obvious window leads into rift passage narrowing to the second squeeze.  This is relatively straight forward and leads down a step on to a small platform above the second pitch.  ( Northern Caves, Vo1.4, and other reports I have read speak of two constrictions at this point, but, judging the amount of shattered debris here, one of these appears to have been ‘persuaded’).

A twenty foot ladder hung direct from a stemple drops into a small chamber with the third squeeze leading into a washed out shale band.  This squeeze is probably stiffer than the other two.  The third pitch follows with two bolt belays on the left hand wall (50ft ladder and small karabiner).

A comfortable climb down enters a high chamber with the inevitable tight rift passage leading into the fourth squeeze.  This emerges dramatically in the roof of a wider 18" rift' and the best way to tackle this is to look through and carefully note the position of a large expanding stemple jammed across the passage at the far end.  Belay a 30ft. handline to a boulder and enter the passage feet first, keeping the legs as high up possible.  When the wider section is detected, drop the feet downwards and inch backwards until you can stand on the stemple.  From here it is easy to climb down using the handline.

The next pitch follows immediately (25ft ladder and belay) and the junction with the streamway follows. This, however, should not raise hopes too much as it is some time before the streamway assumes any large proportions than the preceding passages!  Immediately after the junction, the stream cascades down the Fifth Pitch with a thread belay in the right hand wall (10ft wire belay, 15ft. ladder).  The ladder hangs awkwardly and swings into a jagged narrow section partway down.

The exit from the chamber deteriorates into a short muddy traverse to the top of the Sixth Pitch which should be laddered as far forward as possible to avoid a narrow section halfway down (20ft. ladder, 10ft. belay).

At the bottom, the streamway turns sharply left with a small cascade from Ratbag Inlet entering on the right.  The passage enlarges in size here, and it is now almost a comfortable sideways shuffle along a high, winding streamway.  The passage continues in an uninspiring manner for some distance, until, following a short dry section, the rift widens at the boulder choke below the Hall of Ten.

This is a fairly strenuous pot, believe me - the following day you will know you have done it!  A few hints follow to help overcome the problems. Firstly, keep tackle down to a minimum, it is time consuming ferrying one or two ladders at a time through the tight bits.  Excess personal equipment should also be kept to a minimum to avoid snagging, i.e., loose boiler suits; bulky waist lengths festooned with bunches of karabiners etc. A short travelling line is useful for pulling gear through the awkward sections, with a man at either end to pull the rope should anything get jammed.

The majority of the Entrance Series is totally dry, and even when stream is encountered it rarely comes over the boots.  None of the squeezes are any more difficult on the return journey, but the return up the 5ft drop can cause a large drain on the energy making the subsequent squeezes appear more intimidating to a tired party.  Taking all this into account it is probably fair to estimate a time of 2¾ - 3 hours for a small, fit party to reach the streamway choke on their first trip into the system.

Editor’s note: Another article describing a trip into Pippikin Pot can be found in BB No.344.

Useful addresses

Tim Large (Hon. Secretary) 72 Lower Whitelands, Tyning, Radstock, Avon.  (Tel: Radstock 4211)

Graham Wilton-Jones (Tackle Master) ‘Ileana’, Stenefield Rd., Nap hill, High Wycombe, Bucks.

Nigel Taylor (Caving Secretary) Widden Farm, Chilcote, Wells, Somerset.

Mike Palmer (B.B. Postal) Laurel Farm, Yarley Hill, Yarley, Wells, Somerset.  (Tele: Wells 74693)

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 that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

Editor:  D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.


Dates For Your Diary

March 3rd

Friday at 7.30.  Thrupe Lane.

March 11th

BRCA Symposium – Cave photography.  UMIST, Manchester.

March 17th

Friday niters trip to South Wales.  Phone Richard Kenny. Meare Heath 269.

Easter Weekend

Yorkshire.  Contact Paul Christie, 7 The Glen, London Road, Berks, or phone Ascot 25372.

April 14th

Cow Hole (Friday niters trip)

April 28th

Lionel’s Hole (Friday niters trip)

April 28th – 1st May

Agen Allwedd.  Otter Hole and hopefully Rock and Fountain.

April 29th

Otter Hole. - Contact ‘Zot’

April 30th

Rock and Fountain – limited numbers – contact Tim Large, Tele: Radstock 4211

May 1st

Agen Allwedd – contact Tim Large

May 12th

Dalimore’s  (Friday niters trip) 7.30 pm

June 10th

Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Details later.

June 17th

B.E.C. Mid-Summer BUFFET – either at the Hunters or the Village Hall.  Price about £2.50

October 7th

B.E.C. A.G.M. and ANNUAL DINNER – advance details in the March or April B.B.

Don't forget - subscriptions are now due £3.00 full member, £4.50 joint membership.  Please send your subs now to Tim Large, 72 ~ Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock, Avon.  Tel: Radstock 4211.

WORKING WEEKEND AT THE BELFRY - APRIL 8th - 9th.  Come up and give a hand painting the outside of the Belfry among many other jobs.


Club Notes

The weekend of February 17th - 19th was a special occasion and the beer was swilling at the Belfry. "Goon" (Alan Jefferies) of the Grampian based in Edinburgh came down with several others to celebrate his 'Double Decadence'.  By popular demand he also brought a barrel of the local beer. Originally the celebrations were to be held at the Shepton but owing to popular demand the venue was changed, at the last moment, to the Belfry with, of course, the member’s permission - I mean to say, anyone bringing free beer to the Belfry needn't really ask!  During the beer swilling the heavens opened and the southern blizzard hit Mendip, cutting off all contact with the outside world - well nearly!  Roads were blocked with 10ft snow drifts and forcing the Belfry regulars to stay on the top of Mendip - there wasn't a disappointed face amongst them!  Though the snow fall was only some 6”, the gale force winds caused severe drifting during Sunday.

Not to miss the event at the Belfry, Martin Bishop and Liz took their car home at Priddy and walked back to the Belfry and on Sunday.  Backbone, Ross and Dave Walker with Pete Moody, Alison Hooper and other Wessex members took up Wigs offer of coffee at Townsend - much to his surprise.

Monday saw Bish, Sid Hobbs and others making a trip to Wells for supplies.  So too, did the Belfry bods.  In the mean time a well worn track was being carved through the drifts from the Belfry to the Hunters to feed on the faggots and peas as well as the quenching of the thirsts.

The Lake District trip, organised by Mike Palmer, saw Zot, Bob Cross John Dukes, Graham W-J., John Manchip (now living in Edinburgh) and others having a great time in the hills.  All went to programme until they returned to the Bristol area. The Palmers made it back to Paulton and kipped down with friends and on Monday they (minus kids) made back to Wells on foot.  Zot and John D. managed to find floor space in Radstock.

On the hill, the diggers went by the Belfry late Monday night and on Tuesday a reluctant bunch dug their way through to the road and Constable Taylor doing his thing by ringing all his copper friends to find out the road conditions to all parts of the country.

Still, this winter cannot rank as being as bad as the session in 1963 it certainly brought back memories.

Enough of my witterings lets get on with the news of the month from various authors that I hope will interest you.


Please note: Tim Large's regular feature has not arrived yet so other points of club news will be included on a convenient page.


Firstly to Len Dawes for not crediting him with the article “Cuthbert’s Revisited” in the February B.B.  When you mentioned Poetic Justice the Easegill Caverns I think you must have been thinking of Easter Grotto with its once superb straws.

Secondly to all readers for the typing errors that appear from time to time - Oliver having picked one up in his last letter - we shall attempt to do better.


Martin Grass has sent in details of some Yorkshire meets in May.  They are: -

May 14th - White Scar

27th & 28th. G.G.  ( Bradford winch meet)

29th - Gingling Hole

Further details will appear in the B.B.  But for those wishing to their names on the list earlier should contact Martin at 14 Westleigh Road, Wormley, Broxbourne, Herts. Telephone HODDLESDON 66966.


Christmas At Wigmore

by J. Rat

To continue from the last report in B.B. No.357 (Jan '78, the Company undertook a considerable amount of Christmas overtime, resulting in the discovery of around 40ft. of new passage.

The gravel choke some 15ft. long the bedding crawl was cleared for 6ft to a blockage of fallen roof slabs with open passage visible beyond.   Alan Thomas granulated these on

18th December and on 24th December the way on was cleared into 6ft of low passage and a further boulder blockage.  Ross White spent a hectic session hurling himself at this until he squeezed through into a further 20ft of low, wide bedding plane crawl developed in what appears to be a band of mudstone.  There is a squeeze midway and a further roof slab collapse terminated this section, though an impressive draught whistled on into the unknown.  In honour of the date the passage was provisionally dubbed "Christmas Crawl" - not original but only to be thus named if we entered a Santa's Grotto beyond - very unlikely in such a restricted system of conglomerate/mudstone passages.

The festive grub, booze and television (!) at the Belfry destroy all enthusiasm for two days, but on the 27th we returned to apply size 9 boots to the offending blockage which yielded after a few strenuous minutes.  Tony Jarrett squeezed into the opening and removed the boulders from the far side to allow Chris Batstone and his last two days of gluttony into the new section.  They were relieved to find themselves a 15ft. square breakdown chamber with loose boulders walls, floor and ceiling.  This cavity was presumably caused by collapse into the original bedding plane below. No obvious way on was discernable but there was evidence of at least one sizable stream having sunk in the floor. The draught dispersed here as far as we could tell.

What pleased us most was the discovery of a well decorated anti-chamber containing several short but attractive straws, a pair of 9” stalactites, various small mud formations and two crystal floors formed over washed away mud deposits.  We now had our 'Santa's Grotto'.  The pretties have been photographed by the Surrey Heath contingent but would be welcome as any work in the chamber may affect them.  Anyone visiting please take great care not to touch them.

Digging has now been temporarily halted to allow stabilisation of the entrance shaft to be completed.  Some 30ft of ginging has been constructed on the far side of the shaft and work has also started the near side.  Stu Lindsey will be delighted to see anyone who wishes to help with this project or can supply sand, cement or gravel.  We hope to bring the stonework up to the level of the shaft lip and cover the opening with some form of iron grid and trapdoor.  The site has to be tidied up and made safe at the wishes of Lord Waldegrave. We hope to leave the cave unlocked, though a couple of nuts and bolts may be installed as children are known to play in the area.  A further report will follow when necessary.

Ed. Note: - An elevation of the cave appears on the following page.

Sketch survey of WIGMORE SWALLET


Elevation – BCRA Grade 1. Length about 150ft.  Depth about 75ft.


Constitutional Sub-Committee

Members wishing to send comments and suggestions to this Sub-Committee should do so by the end of March. Please send all your letters to the Chairman: -

Martin Cavender,
The Old Rectory,
Nr. Wells,

A full report of their findings will be published in the B.B.

Notes From The Caving Secretary:

Mr Nigel

Prospective Cuthbert's Leaders or members just keen on a trip down Cuthbert's may be interested in the following list of Cuthbert's Leaders as at February 1978:-

In the B.E.C. we have:-

Roy Bennett      Colin Clarke       Colin Dooley      Jim Durston       John Dukes

Pete Franklin     Ted Humphries  Dave Irwin          Kangy King       Tim Large

Oliver Lloyd (+)  Andy MacGregor            Tony Meadon     Mike Palmer      Brian Palmer

Andy Sparrow    Steve Tuck        Dave Turner       Mike Wheadon  Graham

Wilton-Jones     Nigel Taylor       and in the near future Martin Grass.

Wessex Cave Club: Paul Hadfield

The S.M.C.C.: Bob Craig, Mike Jordan, Gay Merrick, Bob Mehew & Martin Mills

U.B.S.S. Oliver Lloyd (+) and Ray Mansfield

Cerberus S.S.: Ken Gregory and Graham Price

Speleo Phal: Colin Salter

Other Cuthbert's Leaders who have not shown any interest in recent years; whereabouts not known; living abroad or are lapsed B.E.C. members and therefore no longer leaders:

Alan Coase       Alan Sandall      Dave Palmer      Doug. Stuckey   Jack Upsall

Phil Kingston     John Riley         Norman Petty    Colin Priddle      Pete Miller

John Cornwall    Dick Wickens    Tim Hodgson.

Further notes of interest:

St. Cuthbert's Swallet:  I have a ready supply of Application Forms for Prospective Leaders - vital, if only to learn the routes prior to application.

Charterhouse Permits: These are available free to members and are usually made out for 5 years.

(Ed. note:  If you lapse your membership of the B.E.C. in that time limit you automatically make your CCC permit invalid).  Nigel continues: - CCC permits are 15p to guests for a defined number of days, usually up to a maximum of 4 days. Indemnity forms must be filled in and returned to me for filing in the CCC records.  Please note that minors require parent/guardian signature and married minors are not allowed a permit all.  Apply to the Hutwarden, Chris Batstone, c/o The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, N. Wells, Somerset or Dave Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, WeIls, Somerset.

Club Meets for 1978. Neither Russ (Freddy) Jenkins or myself have received any requests for club meets as it would appear that regulars at the Belfry are 'doing their own thing'.  Please let me know of your arrangements so that there won't be any clash of dates. I shall be arranging trips to STEEP HOLM and the Cheddar caves later in year; details later.


Lifelining - a Safe Approach

If we assume that all of the equipment used on a pitch is in good condition then the only possible cause for concern must surely be lifeliner himself.  With conditions as they are underground anyone lifelining must be a considerable hazard particularly on a long and arduous trip.

So if we can take the holding and braking away from the lifeliner and use a Figure of 8 instead, the lifeliner can control the tension and hold the man easier if he falls off the ladder or limb.  Alternatively, if two karabiners and an ascender is used the lifeliner can haul the man up the pitch if necessary.  These two methods are described below.

Method 1.

From the 'Stance' belay attach the descendeur by a karabiner and pass the rope through in the normal mode for abseiling.  The lifeliner is now in a position where his only role is to keep the rope at the correct tension (see Fig. 1).

If the climber was to fall the friction of the descendeur would, in effect, take most of the shock leaving the lifeliner in a position to lower the climber down with safety and ease with no danger of rope burns to himself.

Method 2.

If a prussicking device is rigged below the descendeur ready to be attached to the rope the lifeliner is now in a position to haul the climber to the head of thee pitch.  A small pulley would make hauling easier but it is not necessary.  (Figure 2)



New Discoveries in the ANTRA del CORCHIA

a report from Scan Gee

Readers may remember that last year I wrote a short article on the Buca del Cacciatore (Abbisso Fighiera) and the work being done by Italian cavers to try for a connection into the into del Corchia and so establish a claim to deepest known cave in the world.

On the hot line from Italy via the magazine of the Club Alpino Italiano comes the news that the Antro del Corchia is now established as the deepest cave in Italy at - 950m.

This came about in rather a strange way.  It seems that a group of cavers from the Gruup Speleologico Bologna del C.A.I. were investigating a high level gallery with a view to a possible connection to the Cacciatore.  This gallery leads off from the Canyon near to Pozzo Bertarelli and just before the Pozzachione (Big Shaft 180ft.) and leads to a big chamber where another passage leads to the top of the Pozzachione Chamber.  From here they commenced an epic scaling operation using bolts and pegs and experienced a lot of difficulty with falling water.  This they called Pozza Netuno and it is 72m high or deep depending where you're standing.  Another big thrutch got them to the base of a shaft they call Pozzo Paradiso, 70m, and here they could see daylight.  Further climbing brought them to a window coming out on the face of Monte Corchia and further exploration both above and below ground revealed yet another entrance above this one.

Thus the Antro now has four entrances and they have, for convenience, been numbered from the bottom thus:-

Entrance 1        (Buca dei Serpente). This was the old lower found from the inside by D.C.G. in 1967 and opened by the Italians in 1970-71.  Altitude 950m.

Entrance 2        This is the original artificial entrance in the Marble at 100m.

Entrance 3        Is the entrance above the Pozzo del Paradiso at 1268m.

Entrance 4        This lies 35m above Entrance 3 at 1303m.

Thus from Entrance 4 to the bottom of the cave is -871m.  But read on.  Using, as they describe it; ‘an antique speleological technique’, a maypole, they were able to cross the shaft at the top and scale upwards for another 79m to a series of galleries.

It would seem that there is almost certainly another entrance still higher up the mountain and getting very close to the Cacciatore which is, at present, in the region of 850m deep and thus the hope for deepest cave may well become a reality before much longer.

The work continues in the Cacciatore by a number of small groups who have formed a sort of regional body. Unfortunately I have to report the death of one of the leading members of this organisation.  Antonio Lusa, aged 34, and one of the most respected cavers in the area, died in October shortly after staying with me for some of the International Speleological Conference activities.

His death comes as a bitter blow to all parties who go to the Apuan Aps particularly as he was a good negotiator and a sedative to hot tempers.  However, as a memorial, his friends from Aaenza (RA) are constructing a bivouac on the summit of the Corchia.  This should provide a very useful base for future expeditions to the Cacciatore.

Further north in Italy, some interesting discoveries have been made a little known caving area close to Verona.  The largely ignored area has been receiving attention from the G.S. Verona del C.A.I. and a report of their findings has recently been published.  The area covers Monte Lessini (Venetian Pre Alps) and a number of new caves have been discovered near to the village of Giazza, which is quite remote and where they still speak a strange language called Cimbro.  Most of the caves are of a horizontal nature and some are quite long, some being in excess of one mile.  However, near to the village of Selva di Progno they have found a cave of 261m depth. Not very deep you might think but wait. The cave is called the Abisso Angelo Pasa and it was found by following up an old shepherds legend of a 'Great Shaft'. I'm sure we're all had experience of these 'Great Shafts' but this one paid off.  The cave drops quickly through a series of short shafts and then nonchalantly bobs over into a shaft of 211m (685ft).  As you can imagine, the Italians description of this shaft is flowery, to say the least!

In all fairness it must have been a fantastic experience for them particularly as the area is partially explored.

From the Julian Alps comes news of the Spluga de la Preta.  This has been bought by an organisation that seems to be across between the Sports Council and a very rich Regional Association. Be that as it may the facts are that this cave is now controlled by that body.  Italian clubs who are not members of this ‘Big Brother’ organisation and bound be a considerable number of rules and regulations and are required to pay a fee that may be in excess of £100 per expedition.

The area surrounding the Preta is being turned into something of a tourist area, a typical Melonarium where the wee-gees can gape at the cavern going down.

I am informed, however, that these rules and the fee do not apply to foreign clubs and particularly British clubs, with who, it would appear, they wish to curry some sort of favour!

Stan Gee C.A.I.

The elevation of the Antro del Corchia shown on the next page is a very free adaptation of a small detailed copy he enclosed with the article.  For thus interested in finding out more of this system are referred to Sottoterra (G.S. Bologna) copies of which are in the Club Library.

Thanks Stan for the article it might even get some members travelling south from Austria later on this year.  I understand that you have another article on the stocks dealing with poisonous snakes of Europe, hints on First Aid for climbers, cavers and campers - this should prove of great interest - let's have as soon as you can.

BB359-ItalyAntroDelCorchia .jpg 

Sketch survey of ANTRO DEL CORCIA based on elevation by G.S.B. del C.A.I.



By Tim Large

New members - welcome

927 Richard Gough, 35 Gladstone Road, Ashstead, Surrey
928 Jennifer Hoyles, 35 Gladstone Road, Ashstead, Surrey
929 Jane Kirby, 8 Worcester Terrace, Bristol 8
930 Stuart Lindsey, 5 Laburnum Walk, Kenysham, Bristol

Lapsed members - rejoined

Eddie Welch, 18 Station Road, Filton, Bristol
John Hunt, 35 Conygre Road, Filton, Brisol.
Dany Bradshaw, 37 Cresvicke, Bristcl BS4 1UE

Changes of address:

Claire Williams (nee Chambers), Whitestown Farm, Cheddar X Roads, Compton Martin, Nr. Bristol.
901 Richard Barker, 40B, Croxeth Road, Liverpool 8
900 Christine Greenall, 13 Nerreys live., Oxford OX1 451
860 Glenys Bezant, 14 Westlee Road, Wormley, Broxbourne, Herts.

Climbing Secretary. At the last Committee Meeting, Russ Jenkins tendered his resignation.  His reasons were that for some time now he has virtually been a one man climbing section - the Clubs climbing activities being nil.  Russ considers that the facilities available within the club for would be climbers are limited compared with 'proper' climbing clubs. He also has difficulty attending Committee Meetings due to shift work.  He is prepared to continue in. the post without attending meetings in order to deal with any correspondence and be our contact with B.M.C. which Russ arranged last year.  The Committee has agreed to this and does not propose any change unless there is a significant increase in interest in the climbing section.

By the constitution, we ere bound to have a climbing secretary, but this highlights the question as to whether we need to have a Committee member with this specific title. With the •Sub-Committee currently reviewing the constitution this is an obvious point for discussion at the A.G.M. What do you think?

SINGING RIVER MINE. Graham Price (C & A Officer, CSCC) tells me that lock went missing recently.  One of the main obligations on the key holders (B.E.C. included) is to keep the entrance locked.  Although the situation has now been remedied I ask everyone to ensure that the mine is locked after each visit.  If for any reason the entrance cannot be locked please contact Graham Price, 31 Waterford Park, Radstock, Avon.

Equipment Supplies. There is a possibility of arranging discount prices for members for the purchase of camping, climbing and caving gear. Several discounts are available depending on whether it is an individual or bulk purchase.  As soon as more details are available I will let you know. It would be helpful to have some idea of those interested.  So if' you are now contemplating buying some new gear contact me first, we may be able to let it cheaper!

John Riley has appeared at the Belfry during February - staying over for a few nights.  It appears that he is back in this country for good.  I hope that we shall be seeing him active on Mendip again soon.  I also had a letter from 'Pope' out in Rhodesia sending in his subscription.  It's good to hear from the 'Golden Oldies' again.

 (I don't know what ‘Pope’ would think of himself being called a 'Golden Oldie' - if I remember correctly he joined the club when Tim Large first appeared on the scene around 1967 – ‘Wig’)


Additions To The Library

Compiled by ‘Wig’

This list of items placed in the club library is additional to the Library List published in September 1972.

Members having material not listed below and would otherwise be destined for the dustbin or to collect dust on the book shelf, would they consider giving it to the Library.  The present collection is among the largest on Mendip, but there are a number of incomplete runs, particularly amongst the various club exchanges in the decades 1940's and 1950's.

During the past few years, Tim Large and myself have been collecting newspaper cuttings and magazines containing references to caving and climbing activities.  All of this material is being pasted up in a scrap book. In addition to this collection I've been given by Fred Stone, a retired designer at B.A.C. Filton, a valuable collection of cuttings, letters, Christmas Cards dating from about 1946 to the early 1950's - a very welcome addition to the Library.  Will members keep a sharp look out and send any useful references to either Tim or myself.

Axbridge Caving Group

Newsletter: June 1965, 1972 complete; 1974 April – December; Jan - Oct.; 1976 May – July; 1977 Jan-July.

Birmingham Univ. S.S. . Omnibus 5.

Bradford P.C.

Bulletin Vol. 3 Nos: 1 - 1C; Vol.5 Nos: 9~ Vol.6 Nos: 1~2.

History of Gaping Gill,

Bristol Exploration Club

After the Fire, compliled by S.J. Collins (collection of Comma Mins)

St. Cuthbert's Newssheets Nos: 2 .- 14

Mendip Songwriters & Composers - compiled by S.J. Collins

Belfry Book Nov 1969 - Dec 1970; Jan 1971 - Oct. 1971.

Belfry Specification (Collins and King), 1967

Caving Logs: 1943 - 1946; 1957 - 1958; 1958 - 1960; 1960 - 1961; 1961 - 1963; 1969 - 1971; 1971 –  1973; 1973;

St. Cuthbert’s Log 1970 – 1972, 1972.

St. Cuthbert’s Report (Caving Report No.2) manuscript (Coase & Falshaw)

St. Cuthbert’s Survey, 1958, Field notes & sketches for R.W. Extension

Caving Report No. 3a (2nd printing), 1973 reprint

   No. 11 (1973 reprint)

   No. 14 Balague, 1970

   No .17 Burrington Cave Atlas

   No. 18 Cave Notes, 1974

   No. 19 1975 Expedition to the P.S.M., 1976

   No. 21 Cave Notes 1975 - 1976

Belfry Bulletin, Vols: 27 & 23

Speleodes Pt.1, 1969

British Caver Nos: 60 - 63, 65 - 67

British Speleo. Association

Conference Programme, Sheffield, 1968

Cave Science Nos; 35 - 38

1967 Gouffre Berger Report

CAMBRIDGE U.C.C. Journal 1973 (un-numbered)

Cambrian Caving Council.  Journal (Red Dragon) Nos 1 & 3

Useful addresses

Barrie Wilton (Hon. Treasurer) 27 Valley View, Venus Lane, Clutton, Bristol. (Tele: Temple Cloud 52072)

Martin Bishop (Hut Engineer) Bishop’s Cottage, The Batch, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.  (Tele : Priddy 370.)

Dave Irwin (BB Editor & librarian) Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.  (Tele: Priddy 369)

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 that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

Editor:  D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.


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 that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

Editor:  D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.


Tim Large (Hon. Secretary) 72 Lower Whitelands, Tyning, Radstock, Avon.  (Tel: Radstock 4211)

Barrie Wilton (Hon. Treasurer) 27 Valley View, Venus Lane, Clutton, Bristol. (Tele: Temple Cloud 52072)

Chris Batstone (Hut Warden) 8 Prospect Place, Bathford, Bath, Avon.

Mike Palmer (B.B. Postal) Laurel Farm, Yarley Hill, Yarley, Wells, Somerset.  (Tele: Wells 74693)

Dates For Your Diary


January 14th                (note change of date) – White Scar Cave, Yorks.  Contact Martin Grass for final details.

March 11th                  BRCA Symposium – Cave photography. UMIST, Manchester.

June 10th or 17th         Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Details later.

February 15th              West Face of Changbang – Joe Tasker.  Details on last sheet.

Friday Night Trips: - Richard Kenny (Tel, Meare Heath 296) has sent the following details.

January 20th      Manor farm

February 3rd      Eastwater

February 17th    Cheddar

March 3rd          ` Thrupe Lane

March 17th        South Wales

March 31st        Singing River Mine

October – B.E.C. AGM and Annual Dinner– details later.

To ensure that members get their BB's in the early part of the month of  issue would contributors please send their material to the Editor the middle of the preceding month.  Material for future issues is building up nicely thus enabling the editor to produce each issue with a good variety of reading material.  The BB consumes a considerable quantity of material so keep writing – it’s the best advert for the Club we've got!  It has been suggested by one member that we publish the Caving Report material in the BB - what are member’s views on this suggestion?  Let's air it in the BB.



Tim Large

Recovered from the Christmas excesses yet?  I Hope everyone had an enjoyable time in our usual manner.

The Committee cogs are churning away and at the December meeting the position of the Trustees of the Club were discussed.  Although we only have three Trustees now, this does not affect any agreements previously made, but it is desirable that the responsibility is well spread should a problem arise.  We have been advised that 5 is a good number.  (See article later on).

At the Belfry we should have a battery charger operating later this year – at last, many will say! A soak-a-way, for the showers, is to be dug as it appears to be the waste water from these that is overloading the sceptic tank.  ‘Zot’ has been at it again – the alpine bunk in the men’s room has been completed by his fair hand.  All it needs is a door on the front and we have an ideal ‘cooler’ for Saturday night excesses!

The B.E.C. is possibly going into the film business.  Russ Jenkins is investigating the possibilities of hiring a cinema to show good quality climbing films.  Watch this space for more news!

The new Lamb Leer Access Agreement between CSCC and Somerset C.C. was accepted at the recent CSCC meeting. Details of the agreement will be published as soon as the Club receives a copy from CSCC.

The Wessex have seen the light at last - all in one month they have written us a letter - yes, they can actually write and they also have a Wessex Cuthbert's leader,  namely Paul Hadfield - welcome.

The new Cave Rescue Scheme, operated by CSCC is preparing to reopen Flower Pot and Hollowfield Swallet. At present the materials are being organised.  As our club was largely responsible for the opening of Flower Pot, I feel that we should make ourselves available to help with the work, particularly the original diggers.  I an sure that Graham Price (CSCC Conservation and Acess Officer) will be pleased to hear from you with any offers of help or supplies of suitable materials.  He can be contacted at 31 Waterford Park, Radstock, Avon.  Tele. No. Radstock 4251.

I hear through the grapevine that the Peak Cavern trip was a ‘washout’ – slightly damp conditions were met in the show cave section – ever tried walking down steps under water!  It is hoped to arrange this trip again later this year.

For your diary will be the Mayday Bank Holiday, when a trip to Aggy will be arranged.  Names to me if interested.  One of the round trips is suggested.


NEXT MONTH IN THE B.B. - Pippikin (the entrance series) a report on the Iran 77 expedition and an older members comments on the condition of St. Cuthbert's Swallet after an interval of 20 years entitled Cuthbert’s Revisited.  Incidentally BEC member No. 1 spoke to me recently and has expressed a wish to have a look at Cuthbert's in the Spring.   When dates are fixed perhaps some of the other 'golden oldies' might like to join in – details later.



As the Club who has found the two largest systems on Mendip in the last twenty five years, one wonders what 1978 holds for us – Wigmore, Cuthbert’s Three, Tynnings Barrow Swallet Two – who knows?  What ever it is.


Club Trustees

The resignation of 'Alfie' as a trustee of the Club raises several of importance to club members.

  1. The Club 'trustees and their responsibilities are not written into the Club Constitution and so, in theory, are not responsible to the Club Annual General meeting.
  2. Of the remaining three trustees, one is not a member of the Club.  This situation is of course perfectly legal but the members should decide whether it is satisfactory to the Club.
  3. The Trustee Deed cannot be found – there is doubt whether one actually exists, though 'Alfie' believes one does.
  4. Whether the Trustee Deed exists or not, it is the belief of the Club Committee that the Constitution should be revised adding the usual clauses covering Club Trustees (Tim Large has informed the Sub-Committee, currently chaired by Martin Cavender, the Club Solicitor, that they should study the problem and a solution presented to he Club Committee in time for the details to circulated to all members in time for the next A.G.M.)
  5. The resignation of one Trustee does not effect the agreements or the ownership of the property, though the other three Trustees take over the responsibility relinquished by the retiring Trustee.  Tim Large has written to each informing them of the situation.  They are Bob Bagshaw, Les Peters and ‘Pongo’ Wallis, the last being no longer member.

The Club Committee believes that the Constitution should be altered at the next AGM to be brought into line with other similar organisations whereby the mechanism of election of Trustees, resignation, removal, length of term as Trustee, indemnifying of Trustees, refunding of any expenses arising out of the agreements they have signed etc.  The whole clause should be written in accordance with the Trustee Act of 1925. Up ‘till ‘Alfie’s’ resignation there were four trustees (2 being the usual minimum) but Martin Cavender has informed the Committee that 5 is a sensible number.  Bob White, the Clubs insurance broker is also being informed of the situation.


Letter To The Belfry Inmates


Dear Chris and other Belfry inmates!

Ain't this paper posh! A collector’s piece, you know - they only printed 50 sheets or something incredible like that!  (Ed. note. The paper is headed ASOCIACION MEXICANA DE ESPELEOLOGIA  A.C.) As for their motto, well, they do less caving than the ... (mm, who shall we be rude about ... ) Wessex! (the motto is:- to know the world underground).

So summer is ending - I guess the cooler evenings will be driving you to the Hunters at a more decent, earlier hour now!  For us, the rains have stopped and the sun is really good.  I'm talking about the weather - sorry!  You can tell we’ve got more British teachers out here to influe¬nce us!  About ten young people came out for the beginning of the term - socially, life is much better this year - they're a good lot of beer swillers.  Do you know, after a year of rejecting it, I've at last got the palate for Mexican beer, so life is worth living again!

I haven't written for a while because I wanted to tell you about an important ‘find’.  We had the luck to discover four burial pots in one of our Cuetzalan caves and I was trying to avoid mentioning it until it was all in the hands of the museum.  Mexican laws with regards to archaeological finds are really tough.  We were caving with three eager Mexicans from the club when one of them insisted on pushing a squeeze.  Pete and he got through into a metre wide, metre and half high streamway and followed it to the site.  Farther downstream is a boulder choke - there must have been an entrance there once as there's no way anybody would have shoved their dead through that squeeze.

The four bowls are about half a metre wide, unpainted and all intact.  Inside is a black soil which we presume to be cremation remains, as it is so ‘rich’, which covers an incredible collection of jade and onyx pieces. The most impressive are the 30 or so funeral 'masks' which are typically Teotihuacan (100 – 600 A.D.) – the Teotihuacan civilisation lived just north of Mexico City, and built the infamous pyramids.  These masks were worn on (string) around the neck - if you see the life size diagram on the previous page, you can imagine what a weight they must have been to wear, being made of alabaster/onyx etc.

Most of the other pieces were relatively smaller and of Mayan origin (see smaller sketch) - many of them are made in beautiful green jade.  Hundreds of beads also filled up the pots.

So, it was all pretty exciting!  We decided to keep in with the law, so arranged with Puebla Museum to take it over.  However, they didn’t make it at the time arranged, so it’s still all the cave! One interesting idea about the find is that Cuetzalan must have been on a trade route between Teotihuacan and the Mayas of Yucatan when this bloke snuffed it!  Although there are some pyramids about 30km. from the cave, they’re of a different age – other than that, we don’t know of any other remains around – maybe we’ll have to look a bit closer!

So, what else.  Pete spent 36 hours in jail recently!  A woman smashed into him when he was driving at 15kph! The policeman on the scene watched the women creating in Latin style at Pete, who wound the window and ignored her. Pete unfortunately had no bribe for the policeman, who ushered Pete off to the police station - now 9.00pm. at night. When he wasn’t back at school time next am, I started to wonder where landed himself.  The school lawyer tracked him down, and had bailed him out by evening.  Though not Pete’s fault, he ended up paying this woman just to shut her up!

Looking forward to hearing from you

Love, Sue


Teotihuacan funeral mask (100 – 600 A.D.)

Jade Mayan Figure


What To Do With Your 'OLD'hams

For those of you with a collection of rotting Oldham caving lamps in your shed, perhaps you might find my experiences with Nickel/cadmium cells helpful if not amusing.

Once upon a time there were several caving lamps quietly rotting away in the garden shed.  There was probably not enough life in the whole lot of them to last long enough to go down to Swildons Sump I and back.  Then one day came along a good fairy called ‘Ni-Cad’ who was able to grant them one wish which was to provided light again for some lunatic caver.

Now, let’s get to the point of this article.  Ni-Cad cells have been around in the caving world for quite a while now and those who have used them all have different stories to tell.  As might be expected from a cell with similar make-up to the old faithful NiFe cell these will certainly give as many years service, unlike an Oldham, as long as one or two simple rules are adhered to.

I will deal first with the question of storage, as far as I am aware the cells can be stored either charged or discharged.  However if stored in a charged state at either a high or low temperature a fairly dramatic loss of charge will occur which will have some relationship with the extreme the temperature is.  I keep my cells indoors at normal room temperature which seems to be about right. This loss of charge is of course reversible, but it is important that you should not overcharge this type of cell. When fully charged the cells will make a whistling sound through the vent holes on the filler cap between the two terminals.  Overcharging will permanently reduce the life of the cell.

One minor problem occurs in use.  The cells are used in pairs and no two cells have an equal charge capacity, so that one wilfully discharge before the other.  As the cells are connected in series this will cause a reverse voltage from the cell with some charge left in it through the other discharged cell. This has the same effect as overcharging in reducing the life of the cell so that it is wise when your light starts to dim to turn it off and leave it off.

Having weighed up the pro’s and con’s of converting your dead Oldhams or even that decrepit old Patterson you had forgotten you will probably come to the same conclusion that I did which was that it would certainly save you some money and be worth the small effort involved.  To remove the old cells from their casing simply place the case in boiling water for about 20 minutes and then start pulling the terminal with a pair of pliers.  Do not use a good saucepan for the boiling as it will stain with some of the black colouring from the casing and obviously remove the cell from the water before trying to remove the cells.  The guts of the cell are kept in place by a half inch layer of pitch which makes the initial tug a bit difficult but once past this thin layer the cell comes out without any difficulty.  The liquid left in the casing is acidic and should be treated with care, do not use the water used for boiling the cell to dilute the acid.

Now that you have the empty case all you need to do now is to make a small slit in the central partition to accommodate the connecting wire between the two cells.

Should you decide to use the smaller 10 amp hour cells the casing is about twice the depth you need to accommodate the cells comfortably.  The 20 amp hour cell fits almost perfectly into the case.  The headset of the old cell may still be used as the only change required is the voltage of the bulbs.  The dip bulb is a 2.5 volt flashlight bulb available from most hardware shops, but the main bulb will have to be obtained from the usual stockists of caving equipment.  Some sort of insulation should be placed over the top of the cells because they will move about slightly and if brought into contact with the metal cover will short out and produce a foul smell from inside the case.  A small strip of neoprene is quite handy for this purpose.

The 10-hour cells can be used in fours to give 20 amp hours but the casing has to be altered a bit further. I decided against this and decided to cut the middle section out of the case (see diagram).  This leaves you with the top section so that the headset can still be attached and the bottom section to be used as a base.  Araldite is the most successful glue with which to stick the two pieces back together again.

Paul Christie


Cuthbert’s The Castrated Cavern:

The next item in this issue is a letter from Jim Durston which is bound to cause more than a little disturbance on the apparently smooth waters of the Cuthbert's Leaders:

In most respects the B.E.C. may be proud of the way in which they have acted as guardians for the plum find of St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  The cave has been quite well preserved, while at the same time the leader system allows access for responsible and experienced cavers.  One matter however should be a source of shame to the Club and to the leaders who actually administer the physical control of the cave. I refer to the disgraceful amount of quite unnecessary fixed tackle that litters the cave.

Why must we suffer these rusting iron monstrosities that demean the cave by reducing its natural appeal? Is rigid tackle really indispensable on Ledge Pitches and Mud Hall, or are we breeding a race of cavers (or leaders?) who are too bone idle to carry a few electron ladders?

I will admit that fixed ladders speed the progress of the inept and inexperienced to the more vulnerable parts of the system, and allow him to reach parts which flatter his true ability.  This has the effect of increasing the rate of deterioration of the cave.  Per¬haps I consider this aspect to be of more importance than it is, but I seriously doubt whether a 'caver' for whom a 25ft. ladder pitch is too much, should be allowed into the cave at all.  At least normal tackle will help to reveal inadequacies towards the beginning of a trip.

'Normal' caving tackle allows the average caver the satisfaction 'of completing a 'normal' caving trip, without the feeling that he has been given a tourist trip around some artificially improved second rate show cave.

I have heard the argument that flexible tackle makes for a tired caver, which makes for more damage. I cannot accept this.  With fixed tackle the onset of tiredness may be delayed until such time as he is say stumbling around Victory Passage.  With flexible ladders he should realise that he is in a cave a little sooner.  He should also appreciate its sporting merits in addition to its decorative appeal.

These fixed 'aids' were originally placed to assist the preliminary explorations of the new find, explorations which seem to have taken almost twenty five years.  Their usefulness (and in some cases usability) must now be at an end. The cave must no longer be equipped to take tourist overspill from Wookey Hole and Cheddar.  We must clear out this junk now~ and again make St. Cuthbert's a cave to be proud of.

If you feel as I do, act now!  Bend the ear of your nearest lead¬er and tell him.  Yes, even your Editor.

Jim Durston

Ed. note:           There you have it – straight between the eyes.  Get your pens going for the next issue of the BB with your comments and reasoned arguments!



Please send your subscription to Tim Large, 72 Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock, Avon.


A Visit to South Pembrokeshire

by  Ted Humphreys

Building sandcastles can become boring if done to excess.  So, since we just happened to be within ten miles of the sea cave described by Graham Wilton-Jones in the B.B. (No.343) we decided to investigate.  We chose a day when low tide was at 3pm and got to St. Govan's Chapel (NGR. SR 967929) shortly after mid-day.  It was, of course, raining and blowing a gale which made changing at the top of the one hundred foot cliff somewhat masochistic. Once we had our wet suits on, however, we felt better dressed for the weather than the inevitable tourists, who seemed fascinated by our attire (we even had our pictures taken!).

On reaching the base of the cliffs we headed west, under a rock arch, towards G.W-J's cave but found that the tide was not yet low enough.  After a conference, we decided to explore to the east of the chapel whilst waiting for low tide.  Passing the chapel and going under another rock arch we found ourselves in a small cove containing one large and one small entrance.  The large entrance was at the head of the cove and was about ten feet high by twenty feet wide.  When we entered it we were disappointed to find that the roof gradually des¬cended and the pebble floor gradually rose until they met after some fifty feet. Switching on our lights and inspecting the cave more carefully we found two small side passages on the west side. These both came to an end after about fifteen feet of flat out crawling and were interesting only in that there was some stalagmite (partly dissolved) at their far ends.  Natural cave!  Something must go!  We thought, and proceeded to the smaller cave entrance a few yards to the west.

At first sight this seemed to consist of two small chambers hollowed out by the sea but pointing a light upwards in the second chamber showed a natural chimney.  Climbing up this for about ten feet revealed a horizontal passage going westwards as far as a fault plane (about a further ten feet away) and then apparently continuing along the fault.  This horizontal passage was only about seven inches high and about two feet wide.  Its floor seemed to be of powdered limestone (grey earth?) and would be easily removable to permit access.  We decided not to proceed because of a small stalagmite column halfway along and because the west side of the chimney was formed of stones only loosely bound by some very fragile looking stal ( we got scared off!)  Returning down the chimney to shouts of 'Mind where you are dropping those stones' (gist only) we headed east to the next cove but found no more caves and so returned westward again to G. W-J’s cave.  This time the way was clear and we were able to get into the cave.  The entrance chamber was all sea worn with one or two short side passages and an interesting looking hole about twenty feet up the roof.  Going through the squeeze into the second chamber we found it was again sea worn with one side passage containing some stale flows.  About six feet up in the inner wall was a hole leading to a third chamber which was natural cave (that is, not worn by sea water).  This hole was, however, too tight though some gardening might pay dividends.

Returning outside we continued westwards to a final cave along another fault plane. This looked promising but just fizzled out after about sixty feet.  It contained some nice formations (little ones) that could be seen by poking ones head through a hole in the roof which was an old false floor by the look of it.  Having washed out wetsuits in the spray - the ten foot waves were breaking against a rock shelf and throwing spray up to thirty feet in the air - we returned to the top of the cliffs.

We had noticed that the cliff path through the army range was open and decided to have a look at the caves marked on the O.S. map about a mile to the west (NGR. SR953936).  We thought that, since it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale, no-one would notice wet-suited figures leaving the footpath. When we got there we found some magnificent scenery, huge rock arches, lots of cave entrances and depressions in the ground leading away from the cliffs.  Unfortunately, the cliffs were vertical and up to one hundred and fifty feet high and there was no way down (obviously a job with ladders and ropes). While we were looking for a way down the army arrived (they seemed to think we were invading frogman who had levitated up the cliffs!) and said that climbing their cliffs was not allowed. We thus made a tactical withdrawal thinking that if were again in South Pembrokeshire on a calmer day with a rubber dingy, we would know exactly where to go!




An Oxford Fester

By Paul Christie

The weekend of November 12/13th was finally chosen as the one on which a select group of B.E.C. members would visit a couple of areas not too famous for their miles of underground passage.  We met at Botley, near Oxford, in a small room provided by Richard Round.  Andy Sparrow and friend were first to arrive, followed by Paul Christie and Martin Grass with their respective wives.  Later on we were joined by Graham Wilton-Jones, Jane Wilson, John Dukes and the Tilbury family.  Mike and Pat Palmer should have joined us here, but they were slightly delayed, so in true alcoholic fashion we pinned a note to the door saying which pub we would be in.

At the pub we split up the keen ones going off to see the 'caves', while the rest waited in the pub for the Palmers.  Pau1, recently released from plaster, decided that his newly mended right arm would get more exercise lifting pints of beer.  The Palmers complete with dog and Keith Newbury arrived mumbling apologies and wittering complaints about the lack of tackle in the Belfry Tackle Store earlier in the day. Having sampled the not very good local ale the gang made its way to the 'caves'.

After a couple of hours of digging and dam building on the surface we all piled into Oxford to Jane's house for some refreshment and respective and then went our respective ways.

Mike, Paul and Martin, plus wives, returned to Paul's flat in Ascot with Graham and Keith.  The intercom from the front door to the flat gave several people the chance to act out their secret desire to make obscene ‘phone calls’  We all soon settled down with numerous cups of tea (!) except Graham who is a 'non-(tea)-person', to discuss the days events and why the milk in comes in plastic bags.  Yes, you’ve guessed it - there are plastic cows in Berkshire.

Dinner was served and washed down with quantities of wine and after the customary Saturday night visit to the pub, where they seemed to have mixed up the ordinary and special bitters, we returned to the flat.  Cheese and biscuits was served accompanied by more alcohol in the form of Harry Wall bangers. Martin, by this time, was finding the pace too much and retired to bed while Graham, revitalised by more alcoholic beverage offered to show the two Pats all the different positions (didn’t know Graham had taken up horse riding - Ed.).  Needless to say everybody slept well after all the drinking and eating.

In the morning, Graham acted as Belfry Boy by bringing the tea round and after breakfast and more games with the intercom; we set off to look at some Hearthstone Mines near Reigate.  Paul's route from Ascot to Reigate was rather peculiar and meant that we didn’t arrive at the mines until 12.30pm and for a change, decided not to visit the pub!

We parked in a lay-by on a dual carriageway and began changing.  Encouraged by the others, Martin frightened all the passers-by with his streaking.  We made our way to the mine entrance, which proved to be in true Mendip style, 55ft of concrete tube.  Descending the tube in a variety of ways using ropes, a mixture of ordinary and lightweight ladders, we had hoped to experiment with the new technique for descending pitches known as M.D.T. but we were lacking certain items of equipment. The dog was carried down in a rucksack on Keith’s back and for the next four hours spending its time running around the passages keeping the party together.  The mine is a maze of passages 5’ 8” high, of varying width once used for mushroom growing in the 2nd World War worked by about 200 Portuguese labourers. In places the floor is still covered with peat and mushroom fungus.  Pit props abound but these are so rotten that they serve no useful purpose.  It seems that everyone enjoyed the trip including Pat Palmer on her first caving trip in 12 years and, so it seemed, did ‘BEC’, the dog. Everyone changed, we returned to Paul's Flat by Graham’s route, which was no better than the way we had come. Anyway a good fester was had by all!


Wigmore Swallet Success to Bolde Myners   

Following the initial report (B.B. No.356) the Company are pleased announce the success of their project. To continue the Tale from where we left off in September …..

At around 35ft. the initially loose ends of the rift begun to stabilise into a relatively solid vein of assorted iron ores and calcite.  Various odd bits of steel ladder were begged, borrowed or stolen and welded together into one 30ft. length - creating some problems when transported to the site on the roof of Mr N's car (lucky there were no coppers about!) and installed in the shaft.

Banging continued, courtesy of Alan Thomas, and in early November, a rift was opened at the western side of the shaft.  Though only 6" wide it appeared to be reasonably deep and draughting strongly with varying weather conditions.  The vein material at the side of the rift was chemically removed to make it accessible.

On the 9th November, the dry clad diggers were to have mixed feelings when it was found that a small stream had begun to pour down the entrance shaft and disappear into the rift. Dubious surface work by persons unknown enlarged this trickle to a much more impressive size - much to the disgust of Steve, Pru and Jerry who were instantly 'drowned-ratted'!  Co-incidentally, McAnus had joined the team.

Spurred on by the instant swallowing of the stream and its distant rumbling, the rift was dug for some 10ft., with Tom Temple and George Dixon(?) representing the R.N. contingent. During this time, much of the unstable back wall was faced with stone and cement 'ginging' as permanent shoring with an aesthetic touch.  The late November/early Dec¬ember period saw a lull in excavations - partly due to the need for manpower on the Tyning' s Reopening Dig (YOU ARE ALL WELCOME TO ASSIST) and it was not until 11th December that further serious work commenced. Bob X and Stuart Lindsey spent a day at the site, and the latter opened a small hole in the rift into which he poked his head - promptly receiving a nice piece of roof on the back of his neck. He hesitated!

The following day he returned, accompanied by Jane Kirby (MCG) and J. Rat.  An hours clearing of boulders revealed a view into a sizable chamber.  Stuart studied the roof, walls, floor and his beer-gut and hesitated again pausing only to poke in J. Rat with a forked vermin stick, in order to clear the loose stuff from the far side.  A low crawl over sandy stream debris and underneath extremely loose vein material was passed into a roomy chamber.  The roof of the crawl was gently tickled with a crowbar producing fine sound effects when some ½ ton of it fell in.  After clearing this, the others came through and exploration continued.  The chamber proved to be some 15ft. long by 4 - 8ft high and -12ft. at its widest.  It is formed in a junction of the vein with various cross rifts and has a most unhealthy appearance of loose cherty blocks liberally stained with red ochre.  There are several small, choked inlets.  A small hole in the floor was gardened and Stu. descended a relatively solid rift some 12ft deep to a blockage of large boulders. Photographs were duly taken and the diggers exited for a celebratory pint.  Snab and Anita joined them the folloing morning for a quiet trip and ‘ginging’ session and in the evening Backbone, Clare, Ross and Andy Sparrow arrived on a “Wednesday Night Sortie”.  More cementing was undertaken while the Bath contingent played with the boulders at the bottom of the 12ft. rift.  Feverish cries from the depths soon revealed the success of their effort and all work stopped as Andy led the way through a nasty, loose eyehole into a 10ft water worn pot leading to a 15ft tight crawl.  Still no limestone!

Length: c. 100ft; depth: c.65ft.    

Tony Jarrett (J. Rat)


Paul Esser Memorial Lecture 1978

THE WEST FACE OF CHANGABANG - Lecture given by Joe Tasker

The lecture will be given in the Arthur Tyndall Memorial Theatre in the Physics Dept., ' Tyndall Avenue (opposite the Senate House) at 8.15 p.m. on Wednesday 15th February 1987.  Admission will be free.

Oliver Lloyd


A few more details are now available about the BCRA Symposium - anyone interested contact Jerry Wooldridge, 9 Chelsea Court, Abdon Ave., Selly Oak, Birmingham.


A new guide book appeared on the caving market early in 1976 entitled "GUIDE TO THE SPORTING CAVES, POTHOLES AND MINES OF DERBYSHIRE" by Jim Ballard. Price £1.00.  This book is available from many sports shops.  Purchasers should be warned that there are serious reservations placed on this book by Derbyshire cavers.  It is notable for its inaccuracies.

The following descriptions are so inaccurate that they are mentioned here: -


The description is not that of Sheepwash Cave.


This, cave is regarded as the most severe in the, and is underestimated in the description.  The cave is tight, a number of exposed traverses and is liable to sudden flooding blocking sections of the entrance series.


6th pitch is 40m deep NOT 28m and lands in Pearl Chamber not West Chamber of Oxlow.


This mine is regarded as one of the foulest places in the High Peak and should not have been included.  The description describes a place as a sporting mud slide is in fact a 40ft. pitch.  Quite a slide.

The book is cheap - so is the information - so be warned.


English Cave Depth .Record broken.  East Canal Sump in Giants Hole, Derbyshire has been dived and a vast rift followed downwards to a depth of 100ft.  This makes the depth of the Oxlow/Giants system as being 675ft - the deepest in England.  OFD still holds the British Depth record at over 1,000ft.  G.G. depth is now 640ft.


AGEN ALLWEDD – A bypass has been dug around the first sump at the far end of Turkey streamway.  Diggers are hopeful that there can be a bypass to Sump 2.

BANWELL BONE & STALAGMITE CAVES: New address for permission and keys.  Write to John Chapman, Mendip house, Barrows Road, Cheddar, Somerset.  SIX WEEKS NOTICE PLEASE AND SAE.  No trips on Sundays.


TYNINGS BARROW SWALLET: Bish, Snab and many Belfryites gathered at the entrance and began sinking a second shaft hopefully to break into Dragon Chamber some 60ft. below. This is the first time that a Mendip cave survey has really been put to the test!  Wig’s got a sinking feeling!