Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith, Mike Willett
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee
 Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert


Good news

We have a prospective editor in Martin Torbett.  For those of you who are not familiar with Martin, he can be regularly found in the Hunters on a Wednesday night as part of J'Rat's digging team.  He lives in Cheddar so should have no trouble in hassling the regular cavers for articles.  I hope everyone will support him in the way that most have supported me and keep the articles coming.  Any editor can only be as good as his/her articles, so that's down to you – the membership – to keep them coming.


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

Two Discoveries in Two Days!

His Lordship's Hole, Red Quar

Following a prolonged drilling and banging epic in the 20ft long, low crawl below the two chambers discovered on 19th June (The Gentlemen’s Urinals) a breakthrough was finally made on Wednesday 16th June into another 10ft of crawl leading to a free-climbable drop into "The Screaming Lord Sutch Memorial Chamber" - tastelessly named in the "aristocratic" theme which this cave is developing.  About 10ft in diameter and 12ft deep, this will be a handy place to stack spoil from a future dig in a silt choked bedding streamway in the floor.  Bad air due to bang fumes and the current high atmospheric pressure prevented more than a cursory investigation.  Total extension length, including the banged bits, is about 40ft.

Hazelnut Swallet, Biddlecombe

Mike Willett and Nick Mitchell’s dig here has also seen considerable drilling and banging recently. Following the winter lay-off work started again in April and by early June the top of a pitch could be seen ahead. This was made accessible on 17th June and an ecstatic Mike feverishly descended a ladder to find it reaching a choked sump 15ft below!  He was "not amused".  It’s a nice pitch though, with some fine fossils, and further work here will be undertaken when the inlet stream from Biddlecombe (Knapp Hill) Swallet has been diverted on the surface.  Total length, as above, about 30ft.

Tony Jarratt

BEC Annual Dinner

This year the Annual Club Dinner will be held at "The Bath Arms Hotel" at Cheddar on Saturday 2nd October, 1999.  Early booking will be essential, as places are limited to 100 people.  Tickets will cost £19 to include a glass of wine/orange juice or pint of beer on arrival, plus a bottle of red and a bottle of white per table of eight.  The bar is open until 1 am.  Bed and Breakfast accommodation is available for those who wish, at a discounted rate. Details will be included, with the menu which will be with you soon!

As usual the coach will be arranged to leave the Hunters at 7pm prompt.

BEC v Wessex Cricket Match

On Saturday 17tb. July at 2:30pm the Annual Cricket Match for the Sofa Ashes will be held at Eastwater Farm.  All are welcome.  There will be barrels of beer at reduced prices to lubricate the players and spectators, and no doubt enhance the quality of the game!!!

Committee changes

Due to Jake and Becca moving to Scotland for the summer months, Becca has resigned from the committee leaving the post of Hut Warden vacant.  Fiona Lambert very kindly stepped in to take over the hut bookings (see address in front of BB) and at the last committee meeting it was decided that the post of Hut Warden would be better spread between several people to make life easier.  Bob Smith has been assistant to Becca for some time, and along with Vince Simmonds and Mike Willett, will be taking care of the Hut Warden's job until at least the AGM!

New Members

We have two new members joined at the last committee meeting.  Simon House and Andy Elson.  Andy's claim to fame is that he has the deepest BEC sticker in his balloon's gondola, which now lies at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific just of Japan.  Unless anyone can prove different, we think he also has the highest Bertie in this atmosphere (we know there is one on a satellite somewhere!!)

There could be an article in the making here - anyone who knows of any interesting locations for BEC stickers over the years can they please forward this information to the editor.

Tim Kendrick's photos in the last BB.

I have a reasonable amount of information regarding identities and locations from many of the photos in the last BB.  I have an article promised which hopefully will make the next BB.

Just after the BB was released there was an 'Oldies' week at the Belfry and many of the people who were at the Belfry were in the last BB in those photos.  It was great to see so many of them at the Belfry.  Maybe next year we could plan an 'Oldies' week and publicise in advance as I have had several people say that if they had known they would have visited as well.  Maybe a slide show or other entertainment could be arranged.  Feedback from the older members to the committee on this would be gratefully received.  It is really nice to see that so many members from around 50 years ago or more, still have an interest in the BEC.

Albert's photos in March BB

My apologies, I forgot to give you the locations of Albert's pictures from the March BB.  The first of the pictures on the page is Rods Pot, while the other three of the pictures were actually taken in a tunnel in Wells, which is somewhere under Southover.


Photos are still required for the photo board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  All slides or prints will be returned if requested.  The photo board has had the same set of photos on it for many months now so it would be nice to see some changes.


Burrington Cave Atlas

I still desperately need photos for the Burrington Cave Atlas.  The text is ready to go, but I am seriously lacking in photos (or pictures). Please can anyone help me out on this as soon as possible as I would like to go to print with this over the summer months.


Millennium Celebrations

The BEC committee is looking for ideas for celebrating the Millennium.  We have had ideas about T -shirts/sweatshirts etc. but need a design. If anyone has any design ideas or any other ideas for celebrating the Millennium (also our 65th birthday) please contact a committee member.


Caving Logs

There is still no sign of the missing logbooks.  It is a shame that BEC history is being lost in this way.  If anyone has any idea where any of the logbooks may be can they please contact either Dave Irwin or Dave Turner.

St. Cuthbert's Swallet Newssheets.

We are missing No. 8 from the Club collection.  Does any member have a copy?  Photocopies will do quite nicely. Anyone with a copy would they please contact either Dave Irwin (01749 xxxxxx) or Dave Turner (01373 xxxxxx) as we wouldn't want to be flooded with copies.


BB 341

This was reported as missing from the club library as well; it is hardly surprising as it was never published!  See p.5 BEC Caving Report No 22, "An Index of the Publications of the BEC 1947-1987" by DJ Irwin!


A Gentle and Polite Reminder

Several items from the Club Library are still out on loan.  Will all members note that John 'Tangent' Williams and 'Wig' are cataloguing the library during the next few months.  To do the job successfully requires all items to be in the Library, seen and checked. Please return your loans NOW.


Austria Expedition '99

There will be an Austria expedition to the Dachstein during the first two weeks of August, if interested please contact Pete 'Snablet' MacNab on 01334 xxxxxx.  Other contacts for this are Rich Blake and Tony Jarratt.

Members moving.

Henry Bennett and Antoinette have moved to Bathwick Hill, Bath

Swildons after 1969 floods, (accidentally lost by the printers from the last BB) by Brian Prewer.   See his article in the last BB for more information


BEC vs Wessex Cricket Match


Saturday 17th July 2:30pm Eastwater Farm


Fairy Cave Quarry Caves - Stoke St Michael, Mendip

By Brian Prewer

After being closed for over a decade, the three most spectacular caves in Fairy Cave Quarry has been reopened to cavers.

Lengthy negotiations between the quarry owners, English Nature and a newly formed management committee have finally been concluded with a management plan being put into place with the agreement of all parties.

Due to the fragile nature of the three caves, Shatter, Withyhill and W/L, access will only be open to bona fide caving clubs by writing to the committee.  Party size is limited and no novices are allowed.  For the three caves named above a leadership system is in place.  A trip fee of £1 per person will be charged to cover maintenance and general conservation. Full details will be given when applying for a leader.

Shatter, Withyhill and W/L have long been considered amongst the finest stalactite caves in the UK. Shatter is over 1000m in length, containing many beautifully decorated chambers and grottoes whilst Withyhill, although shorter at 700m, is equally well decorated.  W/L is shorter again at 150m and contains some unusual crystal formations. None of the caves is in any way physically demanding and are regarded as a photographer's paradise.

Great care is needed in all these caves to protect their unique nature and for this reason tight access controls are required.

Other caves in Fairy Cave Quarry may be visited with permission from the management committee but without the need of a leader.  It is hoped that all the necessary work of re-taping and clearing entrances will be completed soon.

For further information write to the Fairy Caves Management Committee at "Bryscombe", The Quarries, New Road, Draycott, Somerset, BS27 3SG

On behalf of the FCQ Management Committee.

21 June, 1999

(Also printed in the Craven Record)


Elephants Trunk Chamber, Withyhill Swallet


Observation on the Growth of Flowstone in Fairy caves

By Brian Prewer

In the mid 1980s the caves in Fairy Cave Quarry were closed by the owners, Hobbs Quarries.  Prior to that led parties had been able to enter Shatter, Withyhill and W/L.  These three caves represented probably some of the finest stalactite caves in Britain. Each of these caves contained a profusion of stalactites, stalagmites and most other forms of flowstone, in fact in some chambers bare limestone was hard to find.

During the time when the caves were open, taping of vulnerable formations was done by the Cerberus S.S.  The tape used was thin coloured nylon tape.  In places this tape was wound around stal bosses or strung between stal and boulders.  During the years the caves were originally open inevitably, due to the profusion of flowstone, footprints were left in mud and in a few places on stal floors. These areas were part of the route followed through the cave.

Today, nearly two decades later, stal has started to re-grow, in particular, on nylon tape around stal bosses and over muddied flowstone.  In places some tapes have been completely sealed over while in others small stal curtains hang off horizontally strung tapes.  New crystal growth can now be seen in footprints on the floor and fresh mini gour pools cover some of the older darker flowstone.

It is clear that in Shatter Cave stal growth is very rapid - a couple of centimetres in a decade!  Of course this is exceptional but one has to wonder if the Show Cave guide is right to tell the public that stalactites grow at the rate of one centimetre in 10,000 years.



Vale - Bryan M. Ellis~ 1934 - 1999

An appreciation by Dave Irwin


Bryan, December 1998 - photo. Dave Irwin

Bryan died on the 21 st May 1999 at the Bristol Royal Infirmary after an illness that had plagued him for nearly five years. In his passing the British caving world has lost a figure who was held in high esteem by all who came into contact with him.  For myself his passing is all the more poignant in that I have lost a very close personal friend.

Bryan's achievements lay not in his caving prowess but more in his organisational abilities.  During the 35 years I knew him I found him to be interested in many aspects of the caving world, some of which caused him to be at the centre of great controversy.  When his mind was made up relating  to a particular topic  he  would fiercely  argue and defend his cause however great the opposition. 

Whatever ones personal views of the arguments, and on many occasions I argued fiercely with him from the opposite side of the fence, I was always left with the impression of a man with great conviction and for that you admired him greatly.

Bryan became interested in caving as teenager and when his training took him to London in the early 1950s he became a member of the WSG and in 1955 he joined the Shepton Mallet Caving Club.  He also joined the BEC and when the various membership options were devised he became an Associate Member which he retained until his death.  For several years he was the editor of the BEC Caving Reports. After joining the Shepton Mallet Caving Club he soon became involved with the running of that club in which he held many positions including its President and Newsletter Editor and in recent years was its Librarian.  His last major contribution to the SMCC was his involvement in the arrangements for their 50th Anniversary events in May and their special edition of the Journal dealing with the club's history.  During National Service he explored a number of caves in North Wales with Fred Davies and their work was published as a SMCC Occasional Publication.  He later, together with Roger Biddle, produced an abridgement of the SMCC Hut Logs. During the period before commercial outlets Bryan served the Mendip caving community well by providing an outlet for the sales of caving club publications and the rarely published caving book.  The boot of his car was packed with such material and cave surveys and when at the Hunters he would 'open up his shop' or hawk his material around in a large cardboard box in the pub itself.  During the 1960s Bryan's interest in cave surveying found him involved with the Mendip Survey Colloquium and he was partly instrumental in the creation of the Mendip Cave Survey Scheme which still exists in a greatly reduced way today. The first version of the St. Cuthbert's Swallet survey was compiled by Bryan from earlier work and his own of the Rabbit Warren Extension and published as a BEC Caving Report.  He was also involved with the survey of Holwell Cavern in the 1960s. The Mendip Cave Registry was also another interest and for some time he was its Hon. Secretary during to the 1960s up to the time of its demise.

Following the formation of BCRA Bryan took a keen and active part in the promotion of the new body and since that time held many important posts including Chairman.  In 1977 he prepared the first of two books on cave surveying that he was to write, a topic that was of great interest to him.  Later he became the first paid Administrator of BCRA that involved him in its day-to-day running and for several years he operated the BCRA club and travel insurance service often dealing with a request for cover the following day!

When Bryan agreed to undertake a project that appealed to him he would fully commit himself to the topic and pass his enthusiasm on to others to ensure that the end result was of a fully professional standard. He will be sorely missed.

On behalf of the BEC I would like to offer Pauline, Kerry and Martin our deepest sympathies.


The Priddy Connection - Part 2

- The final phase of digging in Priddy Green Sink and the breakthrough to Swildon's Hole, 1995-1996

By Adrian Hole and Tony Jarratt

"Through this a cave was dug with vast e pence;  The work it seemed of some suspicious prince." Dryden

Following the re-opening of Priddy Green Sink in December 1993 a brief flurry of digging trips to the extremely unpleasant end of Fault Plane Passage took place.  Those involved were B.E.C. members Adrian Hole and Ivan Sandford with Mike "Quackers" Duck and John Attwood. After several digging and blasting trips in the worm-strewn "cowsh" sump the enthusiasm for this site deteriorated and other options were looked at including the upper level R.A.F. Aven - abandoned by the S.M.C.C. team on 20th October 1964 and Shit Sump in Cowsh Aven Series.  It was considered by the previous diggers that the boulder choked crawl leading off R.A.F. Aven would connect with Anniversary Aven above the foul "cowsh sump".

Cowsh Avens

The summer of 1995 saw Ivan, Adrian, Alex Gee, Becca Campbell, Mike Willett and Guy Munnings, with members of the London Guildhall club and others, re-climbing the Bladder Pot route of Cowsh Avens and leaving fixed ropes in place which were later to prove of great benefit.  Top Avens were radio-located by Brian Prewer and found to be, as expected, just beyond the barn at Manor Farm.  Several potential dig sites were investigated here but enthusiasm for this remote site soon waned.

Return to Pretty Grim Stink

In Priddy Green Sink, Adrian, Ivan and Mike spent some time during August digging a small hole on the RH side of Fault Plane Passage, only to enter a body-sized chamber.  This site was abandoned and they moved upstream.

They were not convinced by the R.A.F. Aven theory and lured on by a strong draught in a 2" high, descending and decorated bedding plane, together with the relatively pleasant nature of the site, they put in a lot of work with plugs and feathers splitting rocks and clearing the crawl until stopped by a large boulder.  An attempt at moving this was made using the "Mike fetch!" method - usually highly effective - but in this case even The Willett couldn't move it.  Tony Jarratt was invited along on 26th November 1995 to pulverise this obstacle, little realising that this was to be the start of six months of body-wrecking misery - albeit with a happy ending!  Another bang the next day solved the problem and on 28th they pushed through the crawl to enter a 12ft square breakdown chamber with an aven, possible but loose dig in the floor and ongoing choked crawl.  The length of the extension was some 60ft.

Pottering with purpose

The next eight trips were all clearing and banging missions - once three times in one day! Light relief was provided by John A electrocuting himself. On 12th December the impassable rift at the end of the crawl was enlarged enough for Tony to squeeze down into a sloping passage ending at an undescended rift pitch. This area was called Hanwell's Hall in honour of Jim Hanwell (W.C.C.) pioneer Priddy Green Sink digger and 60 years old this week. That night the pitch was free climbed for c.20ft by Ivan and Adrian to reach a tiny phreatic tube heading down dip. The former almost broke a rib getting up the banged rift so both this and the tube were destined for enlargement.


Photo: Looking down the 20ft rift below Hanwell's Hall by Martin Torbett - 13th December 1995

Serious pottering

Unfortunately forty-six trips (!) were necessary, thirty-six of which were drilling and banging epics before the next breakthrough was made.  "This dig is getting monotonous ... "  The 30ft of tight, descending tube (with the Siren's lure of an intermittent stream in the distance) became affectionately known as the Blasted Bastard as drilling had to be done head downwards in severely constricted conditions and clearing was a nightmare.  As this took place during all of January and early February it should have been warmer underground than on the surface but the increasing draught made conditions decidedly chilly and bang fumes began to chase the diggers from the cave.  The cold did not affect the smell of the cave though and occasionally snuff was taken at the entrance to ward off the stench.  As the diggers approached an open cross passage - "A couple more bangs should do it" - Adrian sarcastically remarked that he expected to find "Four naked virgins and a barrel of beer" around the comer.

From Bastard to Virgins

On 8th February 1996 Rich Blake dug through into some 25ft of small passage going off to the left (The Virgins) and straight ahead (Barrel Passage).  Both of these ways on surprisingly needed banging and many sessions were done on them until on 17th February Rich passed a tight horizontal squeeze in the Virgins to reach the head of a pot with the Priddy Green stream pouring down another pot below.  As this was a solo trip he had difficulty in making his colleagues believe him!  These became known as Virgin One and Virgin Two, "The connection is now a real possibility".

The following day a strong team descended these 30 ft of climbs to reach a blocked crawl which was excavated and led to Virgin Three, a 15ft climb followed by another crawl and the final Virgin Four, a 10ft climb.  A low and squalid streamway led on and this was named Bar Code Crawl following the discovery of a laminated paper "bar code" bearing the legend "MAIN R J + PR/K".  A length of 120ft and depth of 70ft had been added to the cave and the diggers celebrated with fags and champagne in the worm-infested surroundings of Virgin Two. Everyone was delighted, " ... a bloody good reward for the time, money and effort involved by the B.E.C. team, built upon the several years of hard work put in by the combined club diggers of the early sixties".  A dangerously loose boulder series above the Virgins was later pushed up towards the floor dig in the breakthrough chamber below R.A.F. Aven.  The stream entering in this area comes via an aven from the "cowsh sump" at the end of the old cave.  It is another worm-infested, unpleasant place.

From Virgins to Clitoris

Banging then commenced in earnest in Barrel Passage until, on 13th March Rich was able to pass a committing squeeze (Clitoris Crawl - "'cos its a bit of a .... '') to reach a T-junction with standing sized passage and another 180ft gained. "We must be bloody close to Top Avens at this point".  To the left was a 50ft long aven series and "downstream", around a corner with small cave pearls and an aven was yet another choked crawl.  This was banged in conjunction with Bar Code Crawl over the next couple of weeks to reach an attractive, 60ft high aven named Stoned Bat after a "Bertie" shaped lump of limestone and the substances necessary to imagine it as such!  It bore a remarkable similarity to the upper Cowsh Avens.  A silted crawl below it was dug and blasted for a time but later abandoned when Mike found a better prospect at a slightly higher level.

Meanwhile in the foul and flood-prone Bar Code Crawl work was progressing with difficulty.  Both Carl Jones (S.W.A.G.) and Tim Francis (M.C.G.) had managed to thrutch a fair distance along the crawl but enlargement was needed to make digging feasible.  Its marked resemblance to Shit Sump in Cowsh Aven Series was a strong clue as to its destination and on 11th March 1996 Adrian emptied a small amount of flourescein into the foetid stream - to be seen 15 minutes later emerging from Shit Sump by Tony and Rich.  On 1st April the "cowsh" filled end of Bar Code Craw I was reached and pronounced just too grim to dig.

From Clitoris to euphoria

All work then concentrated on Mike's dig near Stoned Bat Aven - later to be called Tin Can Alley. Mike himself was temporarily absent from the dig as he was attempting to pass off sclerosis of the liver as Weil's Disease!

Throughout April and May the struggle continued (some seventeen trips) until, on 3rd June 1996 Tony once more returned to Cowsh Aven Series, this time accompanied by Alex. At Top Avens they could distinctly hear Mike shouting in Tin Can Alley - at a higher level and seemingly about twenty feet away.  "We were then the first people to hold a conversation between Swildon's and Priddy Green Sink .... a tremendous achievement after some 37 years of intermittent digging in the Sink and 38 years of sporadic climbing and blasting in Cowsh Aven Series".  That day the end of Tin Can Alley was banged three times!

The following day another bang sent debris crashing onto an empty Coca Cola tin and "Bertie" sticker left purposely in Top Avens and Rich's dangling legs were soon the first bit of human (?) anatomy to enter Swildon's from a second entrance.  The Big Trip was planned for the next day.

Photo of the connection and first exchange trip team by Paul Stillman (M.N.R.C.) - 5th June 1966


On having climbed the "Twenty" an uneven number of times*

*With apologies to Mike Wooding (1965)

At 6.35 p.m. Ivan and Tony entered Swildon's.  Soon after Rich, Mike, Adrian (S.M.C.C. and specially invited to represent the Cowsh Aven team of 'descended Priddy Green Sink.  Ivan continued via Blue Pencil to meet Tony in Four after the latter had been forced to frantically free-dive down the streamway due to faulty diving gear. Five minutes later the others abseiled out of the roof and much handshaking and imbibing of Amarretto (the nearest thing to liquid gelignite if only in smell alone!) was indulged in. Brian then free-dived out while Mike, Adrian and Rich went "overland" and the others began the long slog - almost 500 feet vertically - up Cowsh Avens to emerge on the Green after a surprisingly short (2¾ hours) trip.  Apart from the fresh air they were also extremely pleased to find the bottle of champagne hanging on the entrance ladder!  Both teams were met with camera and booze-wielding reception parties and the night was suitably finished off in the Hunter's in company with Jim Hanwell, Fred Davies, Dave Turner and other previous diggers - without whom the connection would never have happened.  Someone pointed out that we had increased the depth of the Swildons system by one foot so we were forced to celebrate even more!  We estimate that this phase of the connection cost about £400 in explosives alone and that over the last 38 years the total cost in bang would be about £1,000 at today's prices - about £1.00 per foot!!  There were over 115 digging trips in six months and 100 separate charges fired.  Was it worth it?  Yes! As Oliver Wells stated in 1960 " .. it will be a great day when a connection can be made."  It was!

Other trips involved surveying (still not completed!) and tidying up.

The Diggs. Photographers, Surveyors and Bolting Team etc.

Adrian Hole, Mike Willet, Mike "Quackers" Duck, Ivan Sandford, Jo ?, Guy Munnings, Jon Attwood, Tony Jarratt, Pete Hellier, Nick Mitchell, Martin Torbett, Estelle Sandford, Ken Dawes (S.M.C.C.) Becca Campbell, Graham "Jake" Johnson, Pete Glanvill, Brian Prewer, Nigel Taylor, Jeff Price, Dave Ball, Alec Smith, Stuart Sale, Tim and John Haynes, Helmut, Michelle and Anette Potzsch (Ziloko Gizonak), Andy Thomas, Nick Gymer, Rob Harper, Dave ?, Mike Wilson, Rich Blake, Sean Chaffey, Paul Brock, Vince Simmonds, Sean Howe, Andy Sparrow, Dominic Sealy (W.C.C.), Pete Bolt, Henry Bennett, Roz Bateman, Dave Shipton, Dave Bryant, NickBurcham, Paul Stillman (M.N.R.C.), Carl Jones (S.W.A.G.), Tim Francis (M.C.G.), Anthony Butcher (S.M.C.C.), Chas Wethered, Trevor Hughes, Ben Ogboume, Jeremy Dixon-Wright, Anette Becher and Pete "Snablet" McNab.


Irwin D. The Priddy Connection, Belfry Bulletin, 502,Vol. 50, No.9, May 1999

Jarratt T. Caves be where you make 'em Descent, 131, August/September 1996

Jarratt T. mss Logs, Vols. VI (1994-1996), VII (1996-1998) (Quotes in italics above are from this source).

Assorted snippets in Descent, BBs and various diggers' logs.

The Priddy Green Song (P13 BB 499) and A Winter's Tale (see below)


Robin Main, Priddy Parish Council, Alan Butcher (S.M.C.C.).


A Winter's Tale

Tune: The Keeper. Author: G. Weston.  Source: Alfie

Two cavers they did caving go,
As cavers will through rain and snow,
Why they do it, I don't know,
They must be ruddy keen-o.

Chorus: Any joy? Bastard,
            Doing well? Ruddy hell,
            Way down, go down, very smelly down,
            Beneath the Priddy Green-o.
            To my lay down, down,
            To my low down, down,
            Stay down, slow down, very smelly down,
            Beneath the Priddy Green-o.

The farmer's wife doth early wake,
And rise before the dawn do break,
To feed the cows on cattle cake,
Till grass again grow green-o.

But Mister Maine, I greatly fear,
Must surely be distressed to hear,
That all his cows have caught diarrhoea,
The worst he's ever seen-o.

Now picture those two sons of toil,
Full fifty feet beneath the soil,
Sharply showered with Linseed Oil,
Their language was obscene-o.

So follow this advice of mine,
Observe the cattle as they dine,
And dose them up with kay-o-line,
Or wait until they've been-o.


A Summary of Exploration in the Dachstein ( Austria) 1992 – 1997

By Pete 'Snablet' MacNab


The Dachsteingruppe is a spectacular limestone massif rising to 3000m.  It is located about an hour's drive south east of Salzburg.  We stay in the Wiesberghaus - a pleasant mountain hut with a bar, food and accommodation.  The Wiesberghaus is located on a large limestone plateau; there are caves literally next to it.  The plateau is about 1800-2000m high and completely covered in caves, many of which reach depths of around 700-800m (including BEC/NCC finds: Barengasse-Windschacht, Jager Hohle and Orkan Hohle).  The caves we have spent the last few years looking at are about 1.5 - 2 hours walk away.  We put some tents up near the entrance as an advance camp or emergency camp in bad weather. At valley level, near the picturesque village of Hallstatt, a master cave "Hirlatz" has been explored by the local Hallstatt caving club to over 85km with 1041m depth range, currently 14th longest and 49th deepest in the world.  We are based on the plateau above it.


The Wiesberghaus - photo by Mike 'Quackers' Duck

Summary of going leads left after 1991:

Eisturnen Hohle (GS):

101m deep, a crawl led out of (what was thought to be a terminal) chamber to a passage which led to a pitchhead.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7):

166m deep, the cave descended an active shaft series. Exploration was left at the head of an approximately 60m deep un-descended pitch.


Promising entrance in a new area.


Promising entrance in a new area.

Verborgene Hohle (Hidden Cave):

250m deep.  This cave found by the NCC in 1990 was left at a pitch head.  Unfortunately, the cave lives up to its name, and we have been unable to locate the entrance, since.

(ref: BB & Canadian Caver article by Chris Lloyd-1991 British Austrian expedition report).


Eistumen Hohle (GS)

The route that Rich Blake found in '91 proved to be a winner.  The cave was pushed down several pitches where it intercepted an active streamway in a lofty meander.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7)

Due to the horrendous nature of Razor Blade Alley, a higher level alternative route was sought.  The route was found, which in turn led to the discovery of a second much bigger shaft series, which turned our focus away from the 91 route.  The second shaft series was partially descended to an airy rock bridge (The ability to swing).  Huge inlets joined the shaft at this point.


Halstatt from the Wiesberghaus. Halstatt in the valley, hidden under clouds. Photo: Anette Becher

Eistumen Hohle (GS)

Exploration continued down the meandering streamway, The cave was starting to produce quite a lot of horizontalish (approx. 45 degrees) development, unusual in recent years of British Dachstein caving.  Lots of short stretches of passage interspersed with short pitches. The exploration of the cave again ended at a pitch-head.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7)

Exploration focused on descending G7's second shaft series.  We were successful, but disappointed.   The cave proved to be solidly choked at -304m deep. However the cave contained an extremely impressive and daunting 220m deep (multi-pitched) shaft.  The cave should not be totally written off, as it still contains a number of un-descended pitches, most notably at the bottom of the 91 shaft series.       Although it may just prove to be an inlet to the 92 shaft series, it may on the other hand be another multiple shaft series cave which are so common in Austria (e.g. Orkan Hohle, Kanichen Hohle).  (see BB article, Vince Simmonds caving diary).


Eistumen Hohle (GS)

Exploration continued along and down several pitches following the streamway. The going got tricky through a tight section of rift/meander but continued the other side to another pitch-head. The cave so far has been surveyed to -208m deep and 554m long, the cave has been explored down several more pitches for approximately another 100m depth.  It is still going!


The Griinkogel, peak under which the Hirlatz Hohle lies Photo: Anette Becher

Magnum Hohle

This cave was explored and surveyed down to a lake in 1987 (see BB article: Dachstein 87, Mark Lumley).  After several failed attempts to gain permission to dive the sump at the end of the Wilder Western series in Hirlatz to see if it would head to G5, about a km to the south west, we decided in our best wisdom to have a go at Magnum, as a dress rehearsal for diving the bottom of G5 should we hit a sump.  If G5 is going to connect with Hirlatz we would certainly have to dive the Grnkogel sump at the end of the Wilder Westen series.  So Magnum was duly rigged again, bottles and gear ferried in. Unfortunately much to our dismay the sump had dried up leaving a thick mud choke.  On the bright side Magnum Hohle is now 40 foot deeper.

Other developments in Hirlatz Hohle

The local Hallstatt caving club dived the sump at the end of Wilder Westen series in Hirlatz and discovered large amounts of passage (Sdwesten series) including the largest passage and chambers in the cave.  Since the original trip a sump bypass has been found. This is very significant for the exploration of Eisturnen Hohle (G5).  Hirlatz is now only approximately 250m away horizontally from the surveyed end of G5 and possibly as little as 360m below the actual end of G5.  There is every possibility that G5 is a small stream inlet to the Hirlatz system.


Austria 1999

We are going to mount another expedition to the Dachstein in the first two weeks of August. Our objective is to try and bottom Eisturnen Hohle (G5), with the hope it will connect with the Sdwesten series of Hirlatz Hohle. If this is achieved it will make Hirlatz Hohle the fifth deepest cave in the world and third deepest through trip. If it is not connected, we will still have a superb cave in a spectacular location on our hands.  There are many other caves in the area which need paying close attention to, especially G8 and G9, which are still requiring pushing, both with un-descended first pitches (these could be good projects for those who don't want to go deep to find virgin cave).  There are currently 14 people who have expressed an interest in coming along this summer (some from as far away as Mexico).  If you would like to come along, you are more than welcome, and there are plenty of caves, climbs and walks etc. (the beer's not bad either).  Anyone interested please let either Rich Blake, J'Rat, or me (Snablet) know and we will provide you with more details.






Causse Du Gramat Easter 1999

By Vince Simmonds

Those present:

            Vince Simmonds
            Roz Bateman
            Ivan Sandford
            Fi + Jack Lambert
            Pete Bolt
            Rich Blake

The place:

Situated in the South West of France, South of Brive-La-Gaillarde, and lying between the Dordogne and Lot rivers.  The area has long been popular with British cave divers; there are a great many resurgences along the valley bottoms.  On the plateau there is a variety of caving trips available from classic stream passages, older fossil series - many very well decorated to vertical with a range of difficulty.  Also in the area there are many show caves, some better than others, again with mixture of types including some fine painted caves.

The Journey


At 6pm Roz, Vince, Ivan, Fi, Jack and Rich set off for the midnight ferry from Dover, Pete and Debbie were to join us later in the week.  A fairly uneventful journey, most of the traffic was going the other way, so we arrived early and managed to catch a ferry at 10-45pm.


On disembarking we decided to make our separate ways to Gramat. Roz and Vince spent the night and most of the day driving and catching a rest now and again.  Arrived at the campsite at 6.30pm to find it wasn't open until the next day and no sign of the others.  When at a loose end go shopping.  On arrival back at the campsite we were met by Ivan and co. who had sorted out a Gite at very reasonable rates.

That evening we met up with some friends from Oxford Uni.C.C. who gave us some useful info, this was their last day.  A pleasant relaxing evening was had by all.

The Funtime:



Vince, Roz, Rich, Ivan

Located by following the N140 from Gramat to Montvalent road, take a right turn onto the D70 (Goudou). Stop at (T) junction and follow rail track south along path to large doline which is Roque du Cor.

This is an impressive site, a massive doline probably 100 metres across and 50 metres deep.  A descent to the left of a waterfall, handline useful, leads to a stream and low, wide entrance.  Passage continues as stooping size before opening up to walking size.  It's a shame the cave is only 750m before it ends in a sump.

We spent some time looking around the base of the doline where there are some remnants of cave and what would be some interesting dig sites.

GOUFFRE DE PADlRAC (553,68/284,41)

Not a difficult place to find as it is very well signposted.

All went over to the showcave but only Roz and Vince went for a trip.  A very worthwhile place to visit and excellent value for money.

Steps or a lift take you down the 70m deep chasm to a leisurely stroll along a large rift passage with stream before reaching a flooded section and a boat trip.  Then follows a guided tour around the well-decorated "Grand Dome".  A good hour and a half trip.


GOUFFRE DE REVEILLON (546,89/280,80)

Rich, Roz, Vince, Ivan, Pete

After finding Pete and Debbie in Gramat and hearing tales of forgotten passports, dumping their kit at the Gite we went caving.

Location along the N140 Gramat to Montvalent road turning right onto the D673 (Alvignac) before taking the first road on the left.  Stop just after an obvious valley to your right.  Follow the well-used footpath down the valley side to the gob-smacking sight of the Reveillon entrance arch 40m x 40m and home to a great many Jackdaws.

Followed the main stream passage until we came to a sump and no bypass.  We decided to try the Upper entrance, higher up to the left of the main arch.  Followed a stooping, crawling sized passage to a 15m pitch (ladder).  From the bottom of the pitch a crawl, with a fine yellow and black salamander, led to a large chamber with some formations - "Salle du Livre".  From the bottom of the pitch a climb up led after a left turn back to the top of the ladder.  We eventually found the way to "Salle Bernard" (turn right not left) but did not have the kit with us to go further (2x10m ladders).  Still a very enjoyable trip.



Ivan, Vince, Roz, Pete, Rich

Location, could not be simpler, N140 Grarnat to Montvalent road after turn for Roumegouse.  Park in tree lined lay-by with stile leading to cave entrance.

This is the cave to visit if you only have time for one trip; it is a real classic streamway

You may have to avoid some French cavers trying to stay out of the water, wear a wetsuit and enjoy yourselves.

Follow the path down to the entrance and easy going to an old fossil passage where the way to the stream is on the left.  There are some pools to cross and I've seen people using boats to cross them, they are not quite waist deep.  Eventually a wet passage that is easier to swim through leads to the first of the climbs and the streamway proper.

The amount of tackle required varies on the water conditions.  We took six 10m ladders plus slings, tapes and ropes/handlines and never quite made the end.  BEWARE! some of the small drops look easy on the way in but are an absolute bastard on the way out especially with a bag full of kit.  Look at the larger pitches.  Some of them are free-climbable depending on conditions.

All said and done this is a fine streamway, just like a long Swildons', with some good formations.

Be prepared for a long trip of 6-8hrs.


IGUE DE LA CROUSA TE (551,53/269,26)

Rich, Roz, Vince


Located on the D14 Gramat to Reilhac road, 2.5kms before Reilhac stop in track on left before section of very straight road.  Follow obvious path, roughly north west, to cave entrance.

SRT trip.  Easy passage leads to traverse and drop (I5m rope) which leads to head of first pitch of 26m (30m rope) and then almost immediately to the second pitch of 39m (40m rope).  At the end of the cave is a piddly little dig in a trickle that has seen some half-hearted attempts at digging.  Once these pitches would have been well decorated but overuse and an extreme case of overbolting has resulted in the destruction of the cave formations. The cave has obviously been used as a training ground probably by the outdoor pursuits centre down the road. Maybe it should serve as a warning to all.

Afterwards we followed the road from Reilhac to Caniac-du-Causse (D42) and the Foret du La Braunhie, which is reputedly the site of 150 gouffres, grottes and igues it does, however, have the daylight shaft of ...

PLANAGREZE (546,55/259,56)

which has a large notice board near the entrance complete with survey.

A 74m shaft with a ledge at -30m drops into "La Salle de la Castine."  The way on is through a slot and another pitch.  We did not descend the cave but all the info we have is here.


            One 80m rope
            Two 60m ropes
            22 hangers and a tape

From the bottom of the 2nd pitch is a 60m river ending at a sump that has been passed to further sumps. There then follows a sloping pitch to a lake at -184m.  According to the board on the surface this lake is up to 70m deep.



Roz, Rich, Ivan, Vince

552.60/287.60: Line of Gouffres on map (2136 ET) near town of Magnagues. 4 Shallow dolines with inter-connecting passage up to 10m wide by 6m high all ending as chokes although there are a couple of through trips, one particular passage leading to the middle of a briar patch much to Vince and Richs' chagrin.

550.48/288.78: nr. Noutary. Single gated entrance by side of track.  Again sizeable passage but short and choked.

548.20/282.64 & 548.36/282.22: 2 Gouffres nr. Alvignac(Cantecor) 1 a low wide arch inhabited by critters.  1 was an old dig site.

548.92/284.30: Perte nr. to Miers. Stream sinks in conduit under road.

550.36/284.16: Muddy sink by side of road.  2 sinks Nr. Padirac.

551.94/284.00: Nr. Village of Goubert, 1 mucky sink described as another Bowery Comer with small cave above that had been modified.

552.86/283.16: 1 site in small valley below the last house in Andrieu looked a good spot with a friendly farmer.

The sink marked on the map wasn't all that inspiring until the farmer took us over to see his gouffre, a clean washed entrance 3m deep by 1.5m wide and a good flow of water.


THEMINETTES (559.84/271.12)

Roz, Rich, Ivan, Vince

Located in the town of Themines on the N140 between Gramat and Figeac, very obvious river sink.

Arrived at the entrance only to find lots of water disappearing into a flood prone cave decided to give it a miss.  We decided to head over to THEMINETTES (561,64/268,05) to locate the sink there. After a little driving/walking about we managed to locate the entrance-very impressive!  The river pours into a hole 2m x 2m and disappears into a rift too wet to attempt to follow it.  Across the entrance is a gate made of sleepers and telegraph poles to stop the debris.  We walked up the river valley where there are several lesser sites of interest.

Took a drive along the Cele valley where we looked at a couple of things but nothing worth a mention



Vince, Roz

Cracking day just right for a stroll.  Followed the GR6 path from Grarnat to Rocamadour through the Alzou river valley. The gorge is quite spectacular with high cliffs of limestone and several old ruined mills.  The paths and maps are of a high quality, this walk there and back is 25kms.  Rocamadour is a place you must see if visiting the area with its Chateau built high on the cliffs and narrow medieval streets, and a good place to have a beer break.

The return:


After tidying the Gite we again decided to make our separate ways back to dear old Blighty.  All managed to catch earlier ferries and made the Hunters for drinks Sunday lunchtime.

On the journey to and fro' we passed through an interesting little town called Loches, south of Tours on the N143 to Chateauroux.  Each house that was built into a hillside, seemed to have its own stone mine.  Some of the houses were built into the rock complete with windows and doors.  It merits a stop and a look maybe to break the journey.


Serie Bleue 2136ET (top 25) Rocarnadour-Padirac

Serie Bleue 2137E Grarnat-Rocarnadour

IGN (Institut Geographique National) 2236 Ouest; 2237 Ouest; 2238; 2138 Est; 2136 Ouest; 2137 Ouest; 2138 Ouest.

These were the ones we used most of all but it is a large area and other maps may be required. Maps can be purchased in the Superrnarche (Leclerc at Gramat) or in the Tobacconists (Tabac).

Some other caves:

Igue de Toulze

564.28/245.64: From Figeac take the D19 to Grealou and on towards Carjac, after lkm turn left towards Cadrieux.  4km further, turn into the path on your left.  The cave is 300m further at the top of the hill.

6m entrance leads down a slope to a 10m pitch.  From the bottom of the pitch a large passage ends at an 8m drop followed by a 20m ledge. A 15m lake starts here, which according to the French description requires a boat.


60m rope; 15m rope; 40m rope; 10m rope; and a boat!

IGue de Viazac:

547.82/261.10: Take the D42 Fontanes to Caniac road. 3km before Fontanes, turn left at the football ground.  Go on and do not take the path on the right.  100m past a 90-degree turn path on your right, cross a fence on your right, and follow the path southwards.  Take a small path to the left that leads to an open area, where you will find the cave (hopefully!).

Start from the south of the hole.  The 65m pitch is divided into two sections.  At the bottom of the pitch, the rope used as a line is followed to a 15m pitch and a 6m step leads to the Martel passage and hole.  A ledge crosses the Martel hole up to the top of the 81m Echo pitch.  At the bottom of this the Mud Room leads to a 24m pitch.  Climb down the rocks until the pier, you can cross the lake up to the landing stage.


90m rope for the 65m pitch; 70m rope for the line and 15m pitch; 50m rope for the ledge; 100m rope for the 81 m pitch; 2x60m ropes up to end of the trip; 16 hangers and 2 tapes up to Martel passage; 15 hangers and 2 tapes for the 81m pitch; 20 hangers and a deviation from the 81 m pitch up to the lake

The previous two descriptions have been taken from a French translation (Speleo Club de Figeac ).

There are of course many other caves in the region, i.e. Igue de St. Sol (539,54/282,71) with a fine 75m entrance shaft and superb formations, Grotte de Combe Cullier (539,06/283,13) bit of a grovel but worth a visit if you're at St. Sol and the showcave at Lacave (bit naff, too much lighting) that are well documented in various club publications.

More information:

Taviner, R. Wessex Journals

Simmonds, V. M.C.G. journals

Speleo Club de Figeac, Website (try caving links)

Weather: 08 36 68 02 46


Rock Anchors Using Resins

By Kangy King

With Reference to BMC Equipment Investigations

"BMC Summit" issue 4 page 12 has a report on placing staples in rock with resin.  Three incidents of staple failure were discussed in the report.  Two caused injury and all of them involved staples which were pulled out easily.

Hedbury Quarry, Swanage.

The climber lowered her weight onto the staple which although seemingly secure pulled out.

Tram Station Crae, Pen Trwvn

The brand new looking staple was pulled out preparing to abseil.

Lone Wall. Cheesedale.

The staple came out preparing to abseil.  Five others on the crag were pulled out easily.  It was found that the hardener had not mixed with the resin.

Each incident was investigated and advice given.

The report should cause some concern because some of the advice given may not be safe.

R.S. King and G. Bevan had a telephone conversation with the BMC editor and made the following points which are given here in the interests of safety. The comments were made from a perspective of many years engineering use and practical experience of resin systems, metal to metal bonding and composites and apply both to industrial use and direct life support systems involving resins.

Strength of resin bond.

A reasonable strength resin would not be expected to cure at less than room temperature.  All work should done on a dry day in summer.  (And not at all in a cave!)  Setting times to cure to full strength will be extremely variable under these conditions.

The recommendation that a blob of processed resin should be checked is excellent.  But not by taking to a warm dry home!  It must be left in the same environment as the work. Putting the test piece onto a piece of metal or at least on paper put into a plastic bag and tying it to the staple would be better.  Please note that hardening of the resin is a good indication that it has been mixed correctly but it is not an indication of attainment of full strength.  Even a week or more may not be enough to achieve this and at low temperatures it may never happen.

Cleanliness of the hole is indeed vital.

It was suggested that rather than flush the dust out with water, which will be difficult to remove and will prevent a good bond, the dust should be blown out with a tube.  There will still be moisture from the breath but this is not so serious as a wet surface. An intimate contact can be achieved, see below Reason i).

Mixing is vital.  The best strength is obtained by stirring the correct proportions both clockwise and anticlockwise. Better still use a commercial mixer.  Discard the first 50mm of resin expelled.

BMC Reasons

Reason i)

Seems to be a feeling that a rough surface will give a better joint than a smooth one.  A smooth surface will in fact bond to another surface if the correct resin and process is used.  The essential is that both surfaces should be dry and clean.  In particular the surfaces must not be contaminated by grease. If a staple has been handled with unclean or bare hands this could be enough to destroy any chance of a good bond. Mechanical abrasion of the surfaces increases the surface area and removes some contamination, however it could make complete decontamination more difficult.  The best DIY way to clean a smooth staple might be to lightly abrade with Scotchbrite and alcohol and wipe with a clean dry cotton cloth.

Reason ii)

The process of spreading the resin so that it makes intimate contact with the bonding surface is called "wetting".  It is an essential part of a good bond.  Rotating a rod in a hole is not good enough; using a rod to rub resin into the surface of the hole would be better.  Both contacting surfaces should be completely wetted.

Reason iii)

"Not advisable to drill two holes close together."  Agreed.  A minimum distance between holes depends on the state of the rock.  Our experience in drilling rock is that a near second hole can damage the rock between the two and another site is needed.  For a hard rock free of flaws a minimum distance of 6 times the diameter of the hole is a reasonable working rule.

BMC Conclusions.

"The legs should be not be smooth and should ideally be bent"

Bent legs should not be necessary.  Presumably they are intended to introduce a mechanical resistance to removal.  They would prevent a tight fit between the metal and rock.  Cleanliness is more important than roughness.

Commonly people make mistakes in mixing (Hardener with hardener! wrong proportions, insufficient mixing; great care must be taken.)

"Remove all dust from the hole, if necessary flush out all dust with water".  Cleanliness and freedom from grease is essential. The surface must be dry.  Flushing with water may do more harm than good for the reasons given above.  Note that some sealants are intended for use in water; adhesives are usually not.

"Place a blob of resin on paper take it with you (see above) and check after 24 hours". Always check that the resin and hardener have been mixed properly by making a test piece.  A mechanical test specimen is used in industry to give confidence in the quality of the process.

Resins both uncured and cured deteriorate with age and have limited lives.

BMC Broad Conclusions

Cheedale; agreed that the hardener was not mixed properly.  The staple at Swanage was probably greasy, perhaps through handling rather than "smooth and straight".

Specialist Advice

Pay attention to care with: -

The correct materials stored in sealed packages in a cool dry place and not used past the sell by date.

Cleanliness, particularly no grease.

A good fit between components and a good joint geometry for maximum expected load direction, usually this is at right angles to the axis of the hole.

A correct cure with regard to mixing, temperature, pressure, low humidity and time.

To cure: -

Following the manufacturer’s instructions closely.

Sacrificial test samples, if the anchor itself moves, destroy it!

My own recommendations are not to use resins for this purpose.  They are not foolproof.  It is insisted that the metal must be a good fit in the hole.  This will make a great difference to the shear strength of the joint.

For large holes with a poor fit, set lightly corroded steel in high strength cement (with PVA) and clean sand.

Better still use corrosion resistant Mechanical fasteners which may be removed for inspection and replaced.

All anchors must be inspected regularly.  Give them a bloody great yank along the hole axis (out of the hole) before use.  This will be far less than failure load and should do no harm, except to an unsafe anchor.  Think about third party claims if that helps and go for it.  If the load is normal to the anchor - and you don't leap about - you may not need glue because the staple acts like a hook - but I wouldn't recommend it!

Comments by

L.G. Bevan, International Aerospace Composite Committee (Diver) R.S. King, M.Sc. M.Phil. M.R.Ae.S. C.Eng. ( Bristol Exploration Club).


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

2-4/7/99                     ISSA Meet, Dan yr Ogof - ISSA

2-4/7/99                     BEC Meet in Yorkshire Bradford PC, Brackenbottom, Horton-in-Ribblesdale - Estelle Sandford

3-5/7/99                     Cavers Fair, The Rock Centre, Chudleigh, Devon - NCA – Tony Flanagan

7/7/99                        Open night, Floyd Collins (Musical). The Bridewell Theatre, London

17/7/99                      BEC v Wessex Annual Cricket Challenge for the sofa ashes.  2.30pm Eastwater Farm, Priddy

24/7/99                      Mendip Challenge, based around Priddy Stomp at Priddy Village Hall in evening, with the Cheddar Blues Band – details to follow - John Dobson, ECG

28/7/99                      August Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

29/8/99                      OFD Columns Open Day

31/8/99                      Committee members reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

31/8/99                      Ghar Parau Foundation Grants applications deadline

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

10-12/9/99                  Hidden Earth ’99 BCRA Conference, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

1-3/10/99                    Cave Survey Group field meet, Bull Pot Farm, Casterton Fell, Yorkshire

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner

3-30/10/99                  Brush with Darkness 2 Wells Museum - Robin Gray

8-10/10/99                  ISSA Meet Indoor Workshop with Robin Gray, Mendip - ISSA

2-3/11/99                    Cave Art exhibition by Robin Gray, Explorer’s Café-Bar (Gough’s Tear Room) Cheddar - Robin Gray

13-14/11/99                DCA/NCA Caver’s Workshop, Pindale Farm, Castleton, Derbyshire.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee


I am repeating this to make it very clear.

Please bear in mind that I only have two more BB’s to do then it will be someone else's problem!! We need to find a potential replacement editor (s) fairly soon as there is NO WAY, with my other commitments, that I will be able to do another year.

We have had a kind donation of a Pentium laptop, which will be available for the next editor to use for the BB.  We are also gradually getting enough money together from the sale of the second hand computer spares and the old computers that have been kindly donated by members, to get a zip drive and hopefully soon a scanner as well.  Keep the unwanted bits coming, they may be of no use to you, but you never know someone might want them!  All monies made from this are going into the 'editors fund' (this is not my beer fund!!) to help make future editors jobs easier by supplying the equipment that is needed for the job.

If we don't find another editor then there will be no BB after October!!

There are other possible solutions that may lighten the load: - job sharing, reducing the number of BB's, having a separate journal maybe twice a year and a short monthly/bimonthly newsletter, etc.

I know at this stage, we have no one who has expressed any interest in taking over the job. Remember that the BB is the primary form of communication for many of the club's members, and is a vital part of the club's existence.

Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor. the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

Stop Press - Scotland '99 BEC/GSG

ANUS Sump 4 has been passed by Simon Brooks and is now on Sump 5.  Also after a major digging effort on Rana Hole, a streamway can be heard rumbling below from the bottom of the dig.  More information and photos will be in the articles in the next BB.

BEC Working Day and Barbecue

This will be held at the Belfry on 19th June 1999.  There are many tidying up and cleaning jobs needing attention at the Belfry, so please come along and help.  BBQ free to those who work for at least half of the day.

The Barbecue is open to all, but please advise a member of the committee if you are planning to come to just the barbecue and not the working day, so we can gauge an idea of how much extra food is required.  Barbecue will start at around 7:30pm.  There will be a charge for non-workers to cover the cost of their food.

See Belfry or the Hunters notice board for more information, or contact the committee.

St. Alactite's Day

(This appeared in the post, sender unknown!!!  (I didn't recognise the handwriting on the envelope?) Thanks for the info, whoever you are!! - Ed.)

Amid all the ballyhoo surrounding the fact that we shall be writing the date of next year as 2000; a much more significant date is liable to be overlooked.

St. Alactite's Day (according to the preamble to song No.19 in 'Alfie's Manuscript Collection of Mendip Cavers' Songs') falls on the fifth Tuesday in February - an event which only occurs once in every twenty-eight years.  It so happens that it will next occur on Tuesday, February 29th, 2000.

If any Mendip cavers happen to be looking for a chance to get completely paralytic at a reasonable interval after New Year's Eve next year - here is a ready made excuse!


Photos are still required for the photoboard at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  All slides or prints will be returned if requested.  The photo board has had the same set of photos on it for many months now so it would be nice to see some changes.


Burrington Cave Atlas

I still desperately need photos for the Burrington Cave Atlas.  The text is ready to go, but I am seriously lacking in photos (or pictures). Please can anyone help me out on this as soon as possible as I would like to go to print with this over the summer months.   Ed.


I have had some response to this, but I know there are many more of you out there who have nicknames, so come on tell me how they came about.   Ed.

Millennium Celebrations

The BEC committee is looking for ideas for celebrating the Millennium.  We have had ideas about T-shirts/sweatshirts etc. but need a design.  If anyone has any design ideas or any other ideas for celebrating the Millennium (also our 65th birthday) please contact a committee member.  Ed.

BEC History

Dave Irwin has suggested a Millennium publication of the history of the BEC.  He has said he would co-ordinate the data but needs other members of the club to work on editing chapters of the club's history.  The areas that have limited information are 1935-1960, with regards to the Belfry's and the digs during this period if anyone has any information or photographs, please contact Dave.  More details on the plans for this will be available over the coming months.  The plan is to try and release it as a special BEC publication at Christmas or early next year.

Exhibition at Axbridge

An exhibition illustrating the many ways Cheddar Gorge has been presented to the public is on display at the King John Hunting Lodge at Axbridge.  Various archival items have been lent by Kevin Wills (ACG) and Dave Irwin. Admission is free and runs until late September 1999.

Caving Logs

Dave's Irwin and Turner have just completed scanning the BEC Caving and Climbing logbooks - a long, boring but necessary task.  Checking the final result it appears at least eight (yes, 8) logbooks have been lost. If any member has them in their possession will they please return them soon so that they too can be scanned and stored in a safe place.  It is known that the 1950-c.1955 climbing logbook is in the possession of a club member.

The intention is to put all the files onto CD-ROM in Adobe Acrobat format, copies of which will be available for a tenner to members inc. P&P and £20 to non-members, the profit going to club funds; only Luddites will be unable to read them!  They will also include copies of Belfry Bulletins 1-99 in the same format.  If you are interested in a copy please contact Estelle (Ed); we are trying to gauge interest at this stage, there is no release date as yet.

It is vitally important that this form of club documentation is stored electronically and widely circulated amongst the membership and other club libraries.  If, like the 1949-51 caving logbook, they are lost, then the history of the Club and work carried out by members will have gone forever.  Wig

How to do it without trying!!!

The Wessex Cave Club is planning to publish a detailed Centenary report on one of Mendip's famous caves - Swildons Hole.  It is hoped to be published on or around the 16th August 2001, 100 years after the date the cave was first entered by Troup and Hiley.  The content is expected to include a history of exploration, geology, geomorphology, hydrology and bibliography.  Les Williams is the mastermind behind the idea and has almost achieved the impossible.  Of the sections mentioned above only the geological chapter is actually being written by a WCC member!  The BEC are supplying the history (Wig) and hydrology (Roger Stenner) sections, the UBSS/ACG (Andy Farrant) the geomorphological chapter and the Mendip Cave Registry the bibliography.

Wig St. Cuthbert's Swallet Newssheets.

We are missing No. 8 from the Club collection.  Does any member have a copy?  Photocopies will do quite nicely.  Anyone with a copy would they please contact either Dave Irwin (01749 870369) or Dave Turner (01373 812934) as we wouldn't want to be flooded with copies.  Also missing from the club library and general collections is BB 341, if anyone has a copy of this, could they please contact either of the Dave's.  

A Gentle and Polite Reminder

Several items from the Club Library are still out on loan.  Will all members note that 'Jake' and 'Wig' are cataloguing the library during May.  To do the job successfully requires all items to be in the Library, seen and checked. Please return your loans NOW.  Wig

Gonzo displays all

In association with Cheddar Showcaves, Gonzo has been able to hold a two month exhibition of his painting and pastel work in the restaurant next to the caves museum.  His work includes scenes from Mendip, Derbyshire and South Wales caves.  For those of you building your 'national gallery' collection of cave paintings most, if not all, are for sale - the bigger the canvas - the greater the price!!!  I understand that the other budding 'Turner' is REG and he will be displaying his 'all' during the autumn.

Update of recently paid up members for the membership list

1079     Henry Bennett, London
1183     Andy Newton, Shipham, Nr Cheddar, Somerset
731       Bob Bidmead, East Harptree, Nr Bristol
1088     Nick Gymer, Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1110     Gwyn Taylor, Keighley, West Yorks
1170     Andy Sanders, Gurney Slade, Nr Bath, Somerset
1230     Clive Stell, Bathford, Bath
1231     Tim Chapman, Fareham, Hampshire
862       Bob Cork, Wells, Somerset
868       Dany Bradshaw, Wells, Somerset
1057     Mark Lumley, Stoke St Michael, Somerset
1014     Chris Castle, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

Austria Expedition '99

There will be an Austria expedition to the Dachstein during the first two weeks of August, if interested please contact Pete 'Snablet' MacNab on 01334 xxxxxx.  Other contacts for this are Rich Blake and Tony Jarratt.   (Snablet has prepared an article on Austria, which will be in the next BB if you want an idea of what to expect - Ed.)


Scotland 99 - A Taste of Things to Come!!!

Photos by Pete Glanvill

Article next BB - (I hope!! - Ed.)


Left: Derrick Guy near Thundergast Falls in Alt Nan Uamh Stream Cave

Right: Derrick Guy at the Bottomless Pillar Pool in Claonaite


Swildons Hole 11th July 1968

By B.E. Prewer

In BB 498 I wrote a short note about the Great Flood of July 1968.  After a lot of rummaging through about 500 caving slides I managed to locate a few pictures that I took on the trip down Swildons the day after the flood, 11th July.  Unfortunately the slide quality was really poor - a mixture of camera and flashlight pox (that's my excuse).  However, high level technical talks with Eric Dunford and Dave Turner revealed that it might, with a dose of modem technology, be possible to enhance the pictures.  Well after much fiddling Eric came up with some improvement, so it was then over to Dave for another dose of technology. I never imagined that a near black and white and out of focus slide transparency could suddenly have colour and clarity.

Here are the results of much labour - two pictures (black & white I'm afraid) both taken in the Old Grotto.  Notice the amount of hay hanging from the roof.  On that first day the hay was still green, within a few days it had turned black and had begun to smell - a few weeks later it had practically all gone.


As I said previously, with few exceptions, every passage in Upper Swildons had flooded to the roof and the large stalactite above the 20' Pot also had hay hanging from it.  In 1968 farmers still cut the grass for hay and in this case the grass had just been cut and had been left to dry.  The storm of 10th was accompanied by strong winds and it was this wind that blew the hay into the entrance of the cave.  The hay may also have been responsible for a temporary blockage and water build up at the entrance.  It is known that the whole swallet filled with water at some during the day.  The probable cause of the dramatic backup of water in Upper Swildons was the restriction in the streamway below the 20' Pot at the Shrine followed by the bursting of the plug at the bottom of the old 40'.



Tales of Nigel’s Drysuit Part 5


Song: The Butcombe Blues

By Mike Wilson

Having drank all night at the Hunters
And managed to stay standing up
You find to your horror some punters
Gone and purchased a barrel to sup.

So you stagger to the bog in a stupor
And manage a fumbling pee
Then back to the bar for another
Is this twittering wreck really me?

Last orders are called and the lights flash
Finish your pint at a push
Chip in for the barrel with hard cash
Then nip out for a lift what a rush!

In the Belfry it's heaving
All alcohol song and sick being the norm
Watch the proles hastily leaving
Pursued by Willet in beer monster form!

The nights not finished till morning
You crawl out of your pit looking grim
Climb over the debris still yawning
Having indulged in alcohol's whim

Short of cash and totally exhausted
Let's go down to the caff for a bite
Last night couldn't really be faulted


My apologies to Jude for this one!!! - Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson.


Stock's House Shaft~ Chewton Minery - Another Lost Cave Rediscovered.

By Tony Jarratt

Situated at NGR ST 5487 5138 is a large, grass covered mound which the writer identified as the spoil heap and "collar" of an infilled lead mine shaft, one of the most distinctive of the hundreds of overgrown workings located in Stock Hill Forest and some 50 metres SSE of the Cornish Shaft entrance to Five BuddIes Sink.  It was thought possible that it could have been one of Thomas Bushell's twenty shafts, sunk around 1657 in the search for a natural cave or "swallow" from which to drive his drainage adit to unwater the deep, flooded Row Pits mines nearby, and thus worthy of investigation.


The shaft “collar” from the road.  Photo – A. Jarratt

The doughnut-shaped heap indicated possible collapse of the "ginged" top section of the shaft, leaving a shallow depression - nicely camouflaged by brambles - and digging commenced on 25th July 1998 in order to ascertain if this was correct. Four sessions during the summer failed to reveal any stonework so the site was left alone while work continued in Five Buddles.

On 19th October flooding of the latter drove us back to the shaft and operations started in earnest in November, eight sessions being recorded that month.  We were surprised to find solid rock not far below the surface - the shaft being sunk in a spur of dolomitic conglomerate some 2 metres above road level.  The infill of rocks and clay also contained a goodly amount of wildlife!  Frogs, newts, toads, lizards, slow worms and, to Malcolm's distress, a large adder were removed from the dig and transferred to safer ground.  The now obviously rock-walled shaft was roughly square and about 2 metres across and a temporary lid was fitted to discourage passers-by from falling in.

Work continued throughout December (16 sessions) and the depth increased to 7 metres.  An ancient drum winch (last used 35 years ago!) was borrowed from the U.B.S.S. and a scaffold tripod erected.  This brought us to the attention of the Forester who, while reasonably happy, was somewhat wary of yet another hole appearing and insisted that permission to dig was confirmed with his superiors in the Forest of Dean.  The relevant paperwork and insurance cover was accordingly sorted out - a year after our initial application had been sent to them (!) and at a cost of £35.  The shaft had now developed an oblong shape and the lack of shotholes kept us hopeful that it was a 17th century working. RSJ s were installed 2 metres down and a section of concrete tube later concreted in place with the surrounds backfilled.  A particularly aromatic session occurred one Wednesday evening when Trevor's cat piss soaked digging bags blended with the writer's dog shit coated wellies - not nice in a confined space!  During the Christmas week two more pipes were added and more backfilling was done; to the entertainment of hordes of walkers, "dog emptiers", Hunt followers, etc. who were infesting the area.  Possible side passages off the shaft all turned out to be mere alcoves but were useful hiding places when full bags of mud and rocks were heading skywards. Despite lots of effort right up to New Year's Eve we failed to get a breakthrough and win the Digging Barrel (a draw).

During January 1999 the shaft was further excavated over the course of 18 visits.  Hundreds of spoil bags were removed but no rubbish or artefacts found as in the Cornish Shaft.  At a depth of some 8 metres we were disappointed to find a distinct shothole section proving that the working was more recent than anticipated, though this may merely indicate that the shaft had been enlarged by later miners. At least 17 shothole sections have been found to date.

On 20th January, Trevor Hughes, digging at around 12 metres depth, shouted up the shaft for the surface party to be quiet - an unusual request from "Biffo"!  His excited bellow that he could hear a stream flowing below him caused astonishment and disbelief in those above and a couple of winch men were sent down to confirm this unexpected development. The tedious shaft excavation now took on a different aspect and enthusiasm ran rife.  During the next couple of days another 3 metres of spoil was frantically hauled out and on 22nd January open passage was entered at a depth of 15 metres - yet another "hopeless" dig vindicated.  A 3 metre long, 1 metre high and 2 metre wide streamway with a strong flow of water running from west to east had been breached by the Old Men on the south side of the shaft.  Two streams entered from an impassable rift and a low bedding passage and the combined flow entered a choked downstream sump.  It was thought possible that, being 1 metre lower than the streamway in Five Buddles Sink, this could have been the downstream continuation but testing with flourescein disproved the theory.  The stream probably sinks in the swampy miners' reservoir on the opposite side of the road, a ditch marked as "stone drain" on the c.1860 Chewton/Priddy Mineries map undoubtedly providing a good supply of water in flood conditions. (This was dry on 17th March so could not be tested to the still active streamway.)

On 24th January Dave Speed kindly delivered two larger sections of concrete pipe surplus to requirements at His Lordship's Hole dig.  These were intended for use as the top pipes on both Stock's House and Cornish Shafts.

Throughout the rest of January and February digging at shaft bottom and in the streamway continued sporadically due to the miserable weather conditions and escape of various diggers to Meghalaya and the Millennium Dome.

In March the roof of the downstream sump was blasted to give us some working space and digging below the water level continued.  The fourth and final concrete pipe was emplaced and more backfilling done.  With drier weather in April banging continued downstream and some excavation of the silt in the upstream inlet was also carried out. This is the current position but when water levels drop a major assault is planned.


The original name of this working is not known and so it has been named after Stock's House, a cottage immediately across the road, of which only the foundations remain and which seems to have been associated with the Chewton Minery/Waldegrave Works since at least 1860.

The construction of the concrete piped shaft top. Photo - A. Jarratt

J.W. Gough (The Mines of Mendip, revised edition, 1967) records the following complicated history of this immediate area in the chapter on the final phase of the lead industry.

1859 - 1866: Lease held by Edward H. Barwell & Co. with "Captain" F. Bray.  (Captain being the Cornish term for mine manager).

1868; Edward H. Barwell's lease (of Chewton Minery) was acquired by "The Waldegrave Lead Smelting Company" of St. Austell, Cornwall which had five Cornish directors. The chairman was the Rev. E.J. Treffry; secretary - T. Kinsman and mine manager - Captain F. Bray.

1869-70; The latter two formed the "Mendip Hematite and Lead Mining Company" which was licensed to open mines on the Waldegrave estates.  This company went into liquidation some five years later and Captain Bray, in partnership with James Brock, continued buddling at Chewton Minery under the name of the "East Harptree Lead Works Company Ltd." of S1. Austell.  They also mined iron ore at All Eights, Wigmore Farm.  This company became defunct in 1875 and seems to have been in existence for less than a year.

1879-80: Thomas Willcox was managing the St. Cuthbert's Lead Works for George Ball; later, John Edmund Watts/and finally James and Marion Theobald.

After 1897 this concern was taken over by a syndicate who had hopes of renewed deep mining: -

" the firm acquired a lease of a considerable area in Chewton Warren (now Stock Hill Forest - A.J.) where they excavated cuttings and constructed a tramway about half a mile long to convey the produce to the works.  (The track from the Forest to Mineries Pond and the ruined St. Cuthbert's Works. Stone "sleepers" can be seen all along this. - A.J.).  They also sank some shafts at several places in the hopes of striking lead-ore, but found scarcely anything; "(Gough, p.202).

Later the "New Chaffers Extended Mining Company (1903) Ltd.", with manager Mr. Parry, were active in the area and the St. Cuthbert's Works finally closed in May 1908.

From the evidence of shotholes found in the shaft and the above information it is suggested that Stock's House Shaft dates from the 1897 era and was sunk by "the syndicate" in a vain search for fresh deposits of galena; though it could also have been previously worked by any of the earlier companies and may even originally have been one of Bushell's twenty "cave-hunting" shafts.

Note:    To confuse matters further Burt, Waite and Burnley (Devon and Somerset Mines, 1984) give different names and operating dates to these companies!

The Diggers.

Jake Baynes, Stuart Sale, Malcolm Davies, Rich Blake, Boo Webster (Orpheus C.c.), Tony Boycott, Toby Limmer, Bob Smith, Trevor Hughes, Robin Gray, Chas Wethered, Martin Torbett, John "Tangent" Williams, Gwilym "Taff' Evans, Pete Hellier, Mike "Quackers" Duck, Ivan Sandford, Davey Lennard, Rich Long, Martin Selfe, Helen Skelton (Camborne School of Mines C.C.), Simon Brooks (Orpheus C.c.), Tim Lamberton, Rob Harper, Graham "Jake" Johnson, Roger and James Marsh, Richard and James Witcombe (A.T.L.A.S.), Andy Smith, Ian Matthews (Frome C.C.), Ben Wills, Becca Campbell, Sarah Timmis, Tony Jarratt.

Valued Assistance.

Jeff Price, D.B.S.S., Forestry Enterprise, Roger Dors, Dave Speed.



The Mendip Newspage

By Andy Sparrow

Resin Anchors in Rhino Rift

On the 20th February Rhino Rift was, at long last, re-bolted with resin anchors (P-hangers).  The operation was organised by CSCC equipment officer Les Williams who arranged for a generator and extension leads to be provided ensuring there were no power supply problems for the drilling of holes. Ivan Sandford and Paul Brock arrived by Landrover at the cave entrance together with the generator and bolting kit, while Dave Cooke and myself walked over from Longwood Farm with the necessary ropes.

The military precision of this operation was short lived when, meeting at the cave, neither team had remembered to bring a key.  A group descending nearby Longwood (same key) saved the day and the operation was soon underway.

The objective was to bolt the traditional direct or left hand, route.  Mendip being Mendip we often struggle to find ideal placements owing to the soundness of the rock and, especially in this cave, abundant flowstones. The other big problem is the frequent lack of an ideal position to give a user-friendly free hang.


Kit arrives at Rhino Rift - Now, who's got the key?

The First Pitch proved fairly easy and the resin anchor placements are pretty much identical to the old 'spit' bolts.  Halfway an anticipated problem was the rebelay.  There is a lot of flowstone here, which is not generally recommended for any type of anchor placement. After close examination a good buttress of rock was spotted about 3 metres off the line of descent and an anchor was placed here.

Drilling on the Second Pitch

Cookie drilling above the Second Pitch

The Second Pitch started easily but the rebelay at -3 metres was problematic.  There was a good solid overhanging wall around the comer into which one anchor was placed.  We decided to place the second one out on a nose of rock simply so that it would be visible and would then lead the rigger on to the second bolt (rebelays this close to the pitch head should always be on double anchors.)

On down to the Third Pitch which proved very easy as expected.  We placed two anchors at the bottom of the Second Pitch to try and lead cavers over to the right hand wall and away from the highly dangerous rubble slope.  At the head of the Third there is a simple two anchor Y hang for a straight hang.

So how is the newly P-bolted Rhino?  Dave Cooke tried out the route the following weekend and reported that all the anchors seemed to be sound.  Another group already in the cave had missed the new offset rebelay on the First. This is likely to be a common occurrence until people are advised of where to look. Cookie says that this anchor also works fine as a deviation - which is handy.  The other group had not correctly interpreted the placements at the second and had deviated from the anchor on the 'nose' (no doubt making it bloody hard to pass!).

Busy with the resin gun on the First Pitch

One thing that does excite me about the new route is the position of the First Pitch rebelay. I've yet to try it but it seems almost certain that a hang from this position will easily pick up the bolts from the more technical Right Hand Route.  This would allow some excellent combinations of the two descent routes. There are no current plans to resin anchor the Right hand route because the bolts are all in pretty good condition but eventually it will happen.  If anyone finds stripped bolts on the route let me know and it may precipitate some action sooner rather than later.


A Training Facility for Cavers


Picture: The Wall

As previously reported here Mendip cavers are to acquire a purpose built indoor training facility. Wells Community Education has been granted a lottery grant for the construction of a new sports hall at the Blue School in Wells.  This is part of a wider policy to promote and encourage sport in the community and included in the grant were funds for the building of a climbing wall in the old school gym.  Since the gym has been regularly used for caver training events it was felt that a facility for cavers should be included.  This was conceived and designed jointly by the climbing wall company and myself.  The good news is that the facility is finished and ready for use. 

The next stage is to discuss times, costs and conditions of usage, which will be published at shortly and in future BBs.

Left: Chris Castle on the Wall
Right: Beryl Hearn in one of the chimneys on the wall
Digital images by Andy Sparrow 


Scotland ’99 – Derick Guy in the Connecting Crawl in Claonaite

Photo – Pete Glanvill


The Belfry Fifty Years Ago

By Tim Kendrick

If you see an old geezer wandering wistfully around near the Belfry some weekend, be tolerant, please. It may be one of us, who were once like you, back for a look.

I'm told things haven't changed at all since I spent Easter there exactly half a century ago, but I don't believe it.

In fact, much must have changed, but I hope everyone still finds the same warm welcome there, starting friendships that last a lifetime, as I did.

The Belfry I knew is half a world and half a century away from my present home in British Columbia, but the memories are strong.  So, at Estelle's request, I'll try to pass on some of the flavour of holidays at the Belfry in what must seem like ancient times to most readers.

First a disclaimer: Others have been active in the club for decades and know much more of its history than myself.  I am presuming to write this only in the hope of reviving some memories and maybe prodding others into doing the same.

Easter 1949 was sunny, we had a great time, and I've got the photos to prove it.

Like many there, I was young.  Chafing at the restrictions of school, home life, first jobs, university or the armed services, the Belfry seemed like a different world to many of us.  It represented freedom.  There were few rules.  Males and females slept in the same room - a novelty at a time when Youth Hostels were segregated as strictly as nunneries.

Wartime restrictions and shortages still lingered in England, and few young people had cars.  The BEC was a motorcycle culture.  We fixed our own bikes and we didn't wear crash helmets. Mucking about with machinery was called "festering" for some reason - a term peculiar to the BEC, I think.

There were no speed limits on country roads and little traffic.  Nobody worried about police traps or being caught while driving under the influence, which was common after visits to the Hunters or other pubs. Most of us smoked like chimneys and nobody bugged us about it.  Escaping real life, I rode down from the Midlands whenever I could, always trying to beat my previous time to the Belfry.  Setting off before dawn and riding wide open on empty roads with more wildlife than traffic, I once hit a big rabbit with my footrest - we had good stew that night.

We're all old farts now, those of us still around, and some may shake their heads at the way young people behave these days, forgetting we used to be the same, if not worse.

Anyone remember "Foulmouth" McKee, notorious for getting the club banned from a pub in Priddy after using the "F word" to the landlady?  The locals must have loved us!

Thanks to the Internet, I'm happily in contact again with Dizzie, Angus and others from those days after a fifty-year gap.

Back then, Angus did Evel Knievel stunts off a plank ramp outside the Belfry and still remembers a drag race we had after unlawfully posting sentries to close off a straight mile of road near the Belfry.  He rode an ancient but extremely potent racing bike and I a modem Triumph T100 with megaphone exhausts and a satisfying roar.

We caved hard, drank cider hard and soft, and quaffed beer by the gallon under the wary eye of Ben Dors, Hunters Lodge landlord, who saw us as a very mixed blessing.

Back from the pub, on good evenings we sang raunchy songs and downed more ale around huge campfires. When finally zonked, a circle was formed and the fire ceremoniously peed out.  Ladies were often present.

Maybe I'm looking back through the rose-tinted glasses of time, but I recall no accidents or anyone getting sick apart from some monumental hangovers.  There were no fights and few hard words.  Drugs and pot weren't even an option.  We were a happy lot, having the best of times, and it shows in my photos.

The Belfry itself was nothing like the brick building I see on the BEC Web site today.  Originally it looked like a big, beat-up plywood crate that would be at home in any Balkan refugee camp.  By 1949 the BEC had moved house a few hundred yards and had built a new wooden sleeping annex, but my overall memories are of grunge and a comfortable chaos.

The only electricity came from the rattling, smoky little four-stroke "Genny".  There may have been running water, but it seems to me that we did most of our post-caving cleanups in Mineries Pond.

The outhouse, or "detailer", was definitely of the gross variety.  A terrible tale was told about the guy who forgot to check the level, and sat down dangling into the caustic chemical goop designed to keep the contrivance approachable.

I'll leave caving epics to others, but the "in" cave that Easter was Stoke Lane, its sump newly penetrated by the BEC. Going through that black and stinking sump rated as one of my scariest cave trips to date, right up there with being lowered 365 feet into Yorkshire's Gaping Ghyll.

Swildons was popular - an easy "Top of Swildons" used to clear hangovers without too much strain.  Some believers had started to dig in a small way at nearby St. Cuthbert's Swallet, but few were hopeful of it going anywhere.

Caving gear was primitive, most of it army surplus.  Cave divers, all pioneers in those days, used dangerous re-breathing gear with caustic chemicals.  Imagine life with no plastic: no Ziploc bags to keep stuff dry in caves, no neoprene wet suits, no nylon ropes, no glowing Spandex or Nikes.

Ropes and ladders were of the hairy variety in every sense.  Wire ladders were being made by a few skilled cavers, but they were expensive and required a new climbing technique.  Many didn't trust them - they looked far too flimsy to bear the weight of real cavers.

I can't recall seeing or using karabiners or other mountain hardware.  I don't think Jumars and the like had even been invented.

Like many other BEC members, I was a keen photographer, and still am, but cave photos were a challenge.

Electronic flash was still a dream so we used flash powder, a semi-explosive mix with a magnesium base. This was heaped on a small device with a metal tray then held well away from the face and ignited by a spring-driven flint wheel.  Maybe this is where the term "flash gun" originated.

Large cave chambers called for large loads of powder.  These took a bit of courage to set off by hand.  With all caving lamps doused, and the camera shutter opened on "Bulb" setting, big piles of powder went off with a huge "Whooff", followed by mushroom clouds of white smoke rising above the sometimes-scorched photographer.

But where have all the really good photos gone?  I just had an old folding bellows Kodak, but some more senior cavers actually had good jobs, fine 35mm cameras, and were already skilled photographers - Don Coase, for example.

It's tempting to ramble on sentimentally for pages, but I won't.

As I write, an old photo album is propped open against my computer.

There in front of me in 1949, young friends are at ease, sprawled in the sun outside the Hunters, the year 2000 impossibly distant.  In the photos they are caving, eating, drinking and enjoying life to the full, so it's hard to face that many are dead and the rest are old in body if not in spirit.

To the current generation I can only say - you should be so lucky!

Email: teekay@[removed]

More photos and history at Tim's Website at: 

The following photos were taken by permission from Tim’s Website, hopefully they will bring back memories for many amnd maybe stir up some more stotries form the past.

If anyone can identify persons in any of the pictures, please either contact me (editor) with the details or e-mail Tim direct.




A Scottish Winters Tale

By Kangy King

That day we'd planned to go to Cairngorm to ski because there have been early dumps of snow on the hills and skiing has been quite reliable.  Friend Greta phoned at 07.00hrs to say that she had contacted the Ski Station and because gale force winds were forecast had decided to save her day off and forgo the pleasure of arctic skiing.  Janet and I were sceptical that the winds would be worse than we'd experienced the day before on Cairngorm, when despite little visibility, we'd skied on good snow.  However, there it was, we'd had our fun the day before and we decided no Greta, no ski.

Sunshine lit the Strathconon Hills which gleamed white in the distant view from our front door.  So out of ski stuff into hill stuff and off to a good start.  The drive was punctuated with flurries of snow.  The main roads were clear.  We arrived at the Braemore junction and drove carefully along the Poolewe road which hadn't been cleared completely until we arrived at our start, the gate to the Fannichs. Nowhere to park except in deep snow. We drove further, to a layby. This too was inaccessible. I executed a 48 point turn and slid back to a wider part of the road where we had a coffee, decided to leave the car as far over as possible, and go for it.  No sooner had we picked up our rucsacs when a snowplough stopped just behind us. The driver stepped down from his cab. "Ye canna leave it there.  We'll ha' tae push it off the road.  Have ye no heard about the blizzards coming?"  We were too embarrassed to argue and drove off while the plough followed uncomfortably close.  Janet studied plan B on the map; to go for Beinn Enaiglair.  There was a large car park at the junction a few miles down the road and if possible we could try it from there.

The car park was accessible. The stalkers path through the estate was not.  A notice told us that the route for hill walkers had been relocated and could be found over the stile to the East.  We found it easily enough but there was no path to be seen under a foot of snow. The first few steps told us that the snow was powder and the ground not frozen.  Oh dear.

We struggled along the fence to the end of the plantation and with the prospect of picking up a well-marked path once we'd joined the original route, Janet struck up the hill. It was only a short time before she walked into a deep bog hidden under the covering of snow.  Stuck almost up to her waist in freezing water she could hardly move until I was able to give her a hand to pull her out.  She was soaked to the skin.  Without discussing it further we turned and retraced our tracks back to the car.  With luck we could get back home in time for lunch and wait for a better day.


Vale: N (Tommy) L. Thomas.

By Dave Irwin

Following a long illness 'Tommy' Thomas died on the 5th April 1999 aged 71.  'Tommy' joined the Club about 1965 when he had a new round of caving activity.  He started caving in the late 1940s and was a founder member of the SMCC.  Working near Norwich and family commitments prevented regular visits to Mendip.

However, when I first knew him, the Marble Hall area of St. Cuthbert's Swallet had just been opened up and he was frequently with us on the exploration/photographic trips.  His interest in cave flora and fauna helped to identify a sub-species of Niphargus in the Maypole Series of the cave.  He also collected specimens from Swildons Hole and Cuckoo Cleeves.

In 1949 Tommy was involved with the removal of the human and animal bones from Bone Chamber in Stoke Lane Slocker.  Using hydrochloric acid he managed to retrieve a human lower jawbone partially buried in stalagmite.  Last year I was in contact with him on a number of occasions relating to the Stoke Lane exercise and he was extremely helpful partly aided by his remarkably clear memory; he also supplied further information to Bryan Ellis who has contributed to the forthcoming history of the SMCC.

'Tommy' kept up his membership of the BEC to the end. Molly, his wife died in 1998.

Our condolences and sympathies go to his daughter and his brother, our very own Alan Thomas.



The Priddy Connection

- A history of Priddy Green Sink and its implications on downstream Swildons Hole, 1957 -1974 By Dave Irwin

At the northern edge of Priddy Green, close by Fountain Cottage, is the location of the village fountain; the water that feeds it having been piped from Priddy Spring - also the main source of the Swildons Hole stream.  The fountain was in regular use by the villagers until 1955 when mains water was laid on. (note 1)  Waste water from the fountain sank close-by into a small swallet and had been observed by Herbert Balch in the early days of the exploration of Swildons Hole.

Balch thought that it was possibly the same small stream that he saw emerging from a small hole a short distance upstream of Sump I in Swildons Hole.  The date was the 1st August 1921 and the inlet eventually became known as Priddy Pool Passage. (note 2)  However, in the 1950s, the water flowing out from this point was shown to be water coming from Black Hole Series and not in any way connected with the water sinking at the swallet at the northern edge of Priddy Green.  Mike Thompson described the location of Priddy Green Sink and other sites of interest in the vicinity of Priddy Green. (note 3)

... In the immediate area of the Green there are at least two other sinks. One in the farmyard  (note 4) by the telephone kiosk the other by the council houses.  The latter can be said to be active in that it takes most of the local sewage.

Between 1950-1962 activity in Swildons Hole was intense and extremely rewarding. (note 5)  Though the CDG Somerset divers were full of hope of passing Sump III, MNRC cavers searched for a possible high level route over the sumps off the Swildons Two streamway.  The Black Hole Series (1949-1950) was discovered. However it was not the hoped for high level bypass to Sumps II and III. (note 6)  The belief that Cheddar was the resurgence for the water flowing through Swildons was still prevalent at this time and hence it was thought all the major passages would be heading west.  The discovery of St. Paul's Series, in 1953 by MNRC and WCC, came somewhat as a surprise; it was a 900 ft long passage heading south!! For some time, work progressed at the First Mud Sump - it was trending west.  The second mud sump (now the Mud Sump), at the southernmost extremity of the series, was known to occasionally open and from it emerged a strong draught; this site was ignored for over a year.  Eventually, partly because of the difficulties of progressing through the First Mud Sump and Dennis Kemp's insistence that the second ought to be attacked, Oliver Wells moved the diggers' attention to this point. The breakthrough into Paradise Regained (1955) followed eventually leading to the opening up of the U Tube into Shatter Passage (1960) and the other high level passages in this area, S.E. Inlets.  At the western end of Paradise Regained lay the infamous Blue Pencil Passage where a large stream could be heard at its lower end; many who heard it thought that they were heading out into the Swildons II streamway - even though Kemp had surveyed the St. Paul's Series and Paradise Regained passages!!  Sheer bloody mindedness caused him and his faithful band of followers, mainly from the Westminster Speleological Group, to blast and dig their way through 30ft of constricted passage  - involving 'continuous' work for two and a half years!  In June 1957 success was theirs and before them lay the streamway of Swildons Four with its wonderfully varied scenery. (note 7)  The pundits were astonished!  Doubt was now forming in the minds of the 'boffins' and quite lengthy arguments commenced as to where the Swildons water resurged - Cheddar or Wookey. This was finally ended by the 1967 water tracing of the Central Mendip swallets. Swildons stream flowed to Wookey Hole.  Persistence, mainly by WCC and SMCC, paid off and during the next few years, 1958 - 1966, large extensions were made in Swildons Hole opening up most of the passages that are known today

At the time of the discovery of Swildons Four the water flowing down Cowsh Aven had been correctly guessed as having come from the Manor Farm area - many of the clues were frequently seen and smelt in the Swildons Four streamway!  To effect a 440ft deep entrance from Priddy Green itself was a dream held by many which would avoid the 'long drag' through St. Paul's Series, Paradise Regained and Blue Pencil Passage. (note 8)  More seriously, the discovery of the Four streamway presented a potential problem.  Cave diving aside, (note 9) to reach the Four streamway was one of the most severe undertakings on Mendip at that time; it was regarded as a 'super severe' trip and cavers ventured into this region with caution.  Many people commented on the feeling of isolation (some still do) when in the passages beyond Blue Pencil Passage.  Those who regularly undertook the trip into Four realised that the 'traffic' was on the increase and they became concerned about the potential rescue problems.  From both a divers and cavers point of view any opening up of Cowsh Avens to the surface would be a quicker. (note 10)

... easier, less dangerous access to Swildons IV, facilitating the further exploration of V and VI .... [and the) possibility that high level passages may be found to by-pass the present obstacles to V, VI, or both ....

During February 1958 the first attempt to climb Cowsh Aven was made by Len Dawe, Mike Thompson, Frank Darbon, Jerry Wright and Ken Dawe, who, variously, were members of the SMCC and WSG.  The WSG members treated Cowsh Aven as one their great prizes and when they heard that the Sandhurst cadets were going to Jump on the band-wagon Ralph Lewis and Darbon of WSG, manufactured a special maypole, each section being only 2 feet long, to enable the poles to be manoeuvred through the bends at the bottom of Blue Pencil Passage.  They succeeded in getting up Cowsh Aven and encountered two more, the first, Great Aven was at the time particularly wet with a heavy stream falling; the second was christened Wright's Aven after Jerry Wright had climbed it to confirm that it closed down to an impenetrable crack.  Having met an impasse, though they had returned again on the following weekend (23rd February) they made no further progress.  A short series of acrobatics by Thompson and Ken Dawe opened up the roof level oxbows above the Swildons Four stream way leading off from the top of Cowsh Aven. (note 11) A follow-up trip on 28th September attempted to cross what had become known as Mike's Horror  (note 12) but due to excess mud and the stream way 40ft below the attempt was called off.  With great difficulties now being encountered in the avens work concentrated again on the active stream way and downstream sumps and the Shatter Pot and S.E. Inlet area.

Water tracing:

To help contain the ever increasing number of unsightly carbide dumps that were appearing in the new sections of passage, Fred Davies, (note 13) Alan Fincham and Keith Robins took two tins down the first being left in Breakfast Chamber (the small chamber at the head of Blue Pencil Passage) and the other taken into Swildons Four and left on the ledge opposite the exit from Blue Pencil Passage.  Moving downstream on a quick sightseeing tour the party could not fail to notice the odour  (note 14)

... of pigsh or cowsh.  Found very powerful stream, heavily polluted, pouring down the aven.  This was causing the smell. Must be small flood sink somewhere close to a farmyard and almost above us.  This muck caused fantastic foaming on the sump. Changed carbide, ate chocolate, then out as fast as possible.  Came up Wet Way for the hell of it.

The observation prompted an attempt to prove the water connection between Priddy Green and Swildons Four. This work was carried out by W.J.R. (Wally) Willcocks  (note 15) of the SMCC in November 1958 in association with Oliver Lloyd during a CDG event in Swildons Four.  Because much of Mendip water is used for domestic and farming purposes conventional water-tracing techniques could not be used.  Willcocks came to the conclusion that copper sulphate would do the job.  Thus 71b (3.2kg) of dissolved crystals was poured  (note 16)

... into "Cowsh Swallet" ... just prior to the entry of the cave .... Dr. O.c. Lloyd took spaced samples of the water flowing down the relevant aven .... '

The results showed conclusively that the two points were connected by the water.  In November 1959 Davies summed up the enthusiasm that followed  (note 17):

Following the evidence obtained by "Wally" ... Jim Hanwell of the Wessex approached Mr. Main and obtained permission to dig the swallet in the hope of entering Swildons IV and so providing an escape route from those distant parts of the cave. (note 18)

Hopes were high when work was started at 5.30 a.m. on Wednesday 26 August. By nine that evening vast quantities of soil and rock had been removed ...

Digging progressed at an unashamedly enthusiastic pace, as Jim Hanwell commented at the time  (note 19)

... work has been carried out on every weekend and some weekdays .... we held the optimistic view that we would soon "see where we were going" ... (note 20)

After a few false starts it was realised that there were no identifiable signs of a discrete passage and so it was decided to uncover the pipe laid by the Mains which discharged near the swallet.  The idea was to follow the waste water  (note 21)

... as it soaked away.  The task was not an enviable one, but we were greatly assisted by excellent weather, and some 40 willing helpers (representing most of the Mendip caving clubs) to whom we are extremely grateful.  In this way we had soon opened up a third shaft, which extended to enclose the area excavated by the previous two

The fine weather that had been in the diggers' favour could not hold. Indeed it soon broke but not before a shaft, six foot square and ten feet deep was shored with a prefabricated wooden structure. (note 22)

... Despite a small setback when the shoring collapsed work has now started on the installation of permanent concrete pipe as shoring since we are confident that this will go, although it may need much chemical persuasion ....

The twenty-eight inch diameter concrete pipes were placed on a solid limestone-concrete footing producing a solid seven-foot deep shaft - such were the diggers' confidence of success. It was not long that good progress had been made reaching a depth of 30ft.  The enthusiasm for this project was reflected in various club journals. Even the Belfry Bulletin caught the infection and prophesied that something would be found there! (note 23) A surface survey to establish the altitude differential of the entrances to Swildons Hole and Priddy Green Sink was carried out on the 9th September 1959.  Both sites were found to be within one foot of each other. (note 24)

The work now took on a serious turn, chemical persuasion was frequently used which tended to slow the digging operation.  However, by Easter 1960 a significant stage was reached - open passage had been found. The blasting that had opened the initial section of the cave made the way through narrow joints but during the Easter break a hole [The Window] was breached entering a passage formed in fault breccia through which an active stream was running [Fault Plane Passage]. (note 25)  This discovery was a sizeable T shaped passage, twenty feet long and gradually descending, which led to a squeeze between boulders. (note 26)  This obstacle was cleared and a further short section of passage and small chamber entered which ended at a silt-choked passage. (note 27)

... Removal of spoil and debris is now a very difficult job but it can truly be said that we have now entered real cave and are not simply excavating an artificial one ....

Some 100ft of passage, reaching a depth of 80ft, had been discovered.  Lloyd arranged that the 'sewer boat' be brought out of the Swildons Hole Priddy Green Passage dig in the hope of easing the movement of spoil within the dig but it proved too big to be of use (8-10 July 1960).

The end chamber had been entered early in August 1960 and called, somewhat tongue in cheek, Great Chamber.  During one of the digging sessions in Anniversary Rift beyond Great Chamber cavers working there (Thompson, Ellis, Hanwell and Davies) had been warned that it had started to rain. (note 28)

We did not realise the need for haste and were settled at the top of the aven (note 29) when, preceded by a steady roar, a wall of water rushed through the squeeze and into the aven.  This did not make the exit from the cave any easier.  Mike Thompson was carrying his Oldham accumulator whilst traversing the squeeze, he let it go and the water carried it, plus his helmet, to the bottom of the aven.  The cave would appear to flood rather rapidly .... re-entered the cave when the rain had stopped, recovered Mikes helmet & lamp, buried under 6" of rubble ...

A topic of great import reared its head and was discussed by Davies in the Shepton Mallet Caving Club journal - it concerned the name of the cave.  Cowsh Swallet had become generally accepted among the diggers but Davies wrote: (note 30)

... Cowsh Swallet was I believe, first coined by Alan Fincham and I for the hypothetical swallet which fed cowsh down the aven in Swildons N.  Now that this has been shown to be the same as that known for years as Priddy Green Swallet then surely this name should stand. "Cowsh" however, is now accepted by many cavers, and, if W.S.G., who were responsible for its exploration, have no objection, I would suggest that this now be transferred to the aven, i.e.  The water of Priddy Green Swallet enters Swildons IV via Cowsh Aven.

Though Priddy Green was retained it became 'Sink' instead of 'Swallet' - a pity.

However, digging continued and stacking of spoil was somewhat eased by the slightly spacious nature of Great Chamber. Hanwell wrote (note 31)

A very tight awkward squeeze past a pronounced boss led into another small chamber, and the removal of the boulder floor gave access to a short aven terminating in a gravel choke.  As this was on the eve of the first anniversary of starting work we felt justified in naming the latter 'Anniversary Rift'.

A low grade working survey was produced by Hanwell, Davies and Thompson and published bearing the date at which each significant point was reached.  The cave was now 100 feet deep. (note 32)  However, by the end of 1960 enthusiasm had died away and little work was being done.

The diver’s activities in the active streamway and the spectacular discoveries in Shatter Series (note 33)

... put the dampers on the green and robbed it of its former popularity .... Without doubt the Green is one of the most important digs on Mendip and to admit defeat now would ... be most unfortunate.  In spite of the great advances already made using the conventional route, the advantages of a backdoor to Swildons cannot be too clearly emphasised, bearing in mind the almost terrifying result of the rescue practice in Blue Pencil Passage. Not only does the grim prospect of an accident in Series Four grow with the ever increasing population of the caving world, but the journey to the 'coalface' of exploration gets even longer.

'Jim' Giles had summed up contemporary thoughts in a nut-shell.

Following the divers successes in the opening up of Swildons VI and VII the idea of a quick way into the cave via Priddy Green Sink and Cowsh Avens became an even more attractive proposition for, and what is now generally forgotten, the logistics and sheer slog of transporting bulky diving gear, masses of dry clothing, cooking facilities and other sundry items down through PR into Swildons Four required large sherpa parties. (note 34)  Thus in 1962 Mike Thompson suggested resurrecting the work in Cowsh and giving it another try.  Mike Boon judged that.

... spectacular discoveries from this direction would obviously spur diggers at Priddy Green to face the worms and green slime with some degree of hope

Further expansion of Swildons Hole

In the intervening period little work had been done at the digging face of Priddy Green Sink. Following the enormous effort put in during the eighteen months from August 1959 and through 1960, digging effort decreased to a sporadic activity during 1961 and the subsequent four years. Work had ceased, not because of lack of interest but because the variety of operations being carried out within Swildons spread the limited number of diggers and divers too thinly. (note 35)

The divers, Steve Wynne-Roberts, Boon, Fred and Philip Davies, Thompson had progressed downstream opening up the cave as far as Sump VIII. (note 36)  In 1961 Boon broke the twenty five-year old stubborn impasse at Sump III by successfully passing it from the downstream end.  He also made history in that the passage through the sumps and airbells shortened the 'carry' distance and now enabled standard lengths of scaffold tubing to be transported into Swildons Four and also because he used lightweight personal diving equipment now coming in common usage it meant that divers in the future would be able to travel through the cave without the need of huge support parties.

Elsewhere in the cave the Shatter Pot 'U' Tube had been passed and Shatter Passage entered. Wynne-Roberts and Bob Pike had climbed the South East Inlets, Double Trouble Series explored, Vicarage Passage was opened up and eventually connected to Double Trouble Series forming the now popular 'round-trip'.  The exploration did not end there; in fact this phase in the history of Swildons Hole was not to end until 1966 following major discoveries including Swildons IX - XII, Victoria Aven, North West Stream Passage and those climbing epics recounted in this paper.  A period in the story of Mendip caving that cavers now dream about.

1962 Cowsh push

Since the initial investigation of Cowsh Aven Series the place had been largely ignored because the 'pickings' had been easier and more profitable elsewhere.  Between 1958 and 1962 came the short-lived but energetic digging of Priddy Green Sink and by the end of 1960 this too had run out of steam. Though a little work was carried out in Priddy Green during 1961 it was not until 1962 when Boon suggested that an attack at Cowsh Avens was in order in the hope that if they had success there it might just get another push underway in Priddy Green Sink.  And so, though many thought this effort would not be forthcoming in a committed way for it would spread the limited resources too thinly on the ground, a party was assembled from members of MNRC and SMCC and the date set for 20th May 1962.

The Hensler Maypole that had been used in Vicarage Passage was transported from Swildons Two to Four via Sumps II and III, which in itself was a considerable benefit, not only did it reduce the length of the carry but also standard six foot lengths of maypole could be used instead of the 2ft lengths required to transport a maypole through Blue Pencil Passage.

Among the cavers involved from the MNRC were Dave Turner, Bob Craig, and Ron Teagle, Pat Mellor, and, Shirley Drakes and David St. Pierre from SWETCC and Boon who, in his graphic style, recalled the method of attacking Great Aven. (note 37)

... The base of Great Aven is shaped like a boat in plan, with the stream falling straight down the sharp end. We raised five of our maypole sections without much trouble, but by the time we had fixed the sixth it had become very hard to raise and was under considerable tension.

The upper tip of the pole was snagging on the underside of small ledges jamming its upward movement as each successive length of pole was added.  In the end the party located the pole by swinging it and as it swung pushed upwards hoping that it would miss the ledges!  They were successful and Mellor put his life in the hands of the others for now the top of the maypole was lost in the general gloom and spray. He reached a ledge at 32ft but not the main ledge reported earlier by Noel Cleeve who had free climbed to the 40ft ledge.  Boon and two others joined Mellor and they assessed the situation.  Free climbing was out of the question for the next eight-foot section was a smooth cylindrical wall; it required that the maypole be drawn up. However, events controlled the next action!  When the bottom of the maypole had been lifted 20ft from the floor of Great Aven, the lower sections of maypole tubing decided to separate and fall back to the floor; the bods at the bottom having to scatter in all directions to escape the metallic bombardment.  Boon reported' …. no one had been brained.'  The maypole stripped, reassembled and ladder attached was pushed upwards but the inevitable happened.  It had jammed.  However, when the maypole was free the ladder had attached itself to some projection. A further four sections of maypole were assembled and Mellor climbed this to free the ladder.  As he did so  (note 38)

... a torrent suddenly discharged itself from the aven so we left the maypole in position and retreated from the ledge, with Mellor muttering 'wetter than the wet pitch in Lost John's' ....

The upshot of all this was there had been a thunderstorm on the surface; thus ending a 15 hour trip. (note 39)

Three weeks was long enough to get over the worst feelings of the last trip and a strong party made its way through to Cowsh Aven (9th June).  A mixture of MNRC and SMCC members consisting of Boon, Davies, Ken Dawe, Turner, Craig, Thompson, John Letheren and Teagle.  Back at the ledge in Great Aven a rawlbolt was eventually positioned some 20 ft above the ledge and a ladder attached.  Dawe suggested someone should free climb up from the top of the ladder he wasn't - he was a married man!  Boon was nominated or volunteered and found himself about 8 ft above the ladder climbing on slimy rock. (note 40)  He required extra protection and his eye

... cast around for a crack to take a second running belay ... The most obvious chance was a large upturned spur of chert like an oversize coat-hook on the left-hand wall.  I tapped this gingerly with a piton hammer whereupon it promptly cracked across the base, but stayed in position .... By now I found that staying on my greasy perch was becoming an effort, and I asked for one of the 'expansion stemples' ... to be sent up on the second line.  In an unguarded moment I leaned my hand on the coat-hook whereupon it broke off and fell uninterruptedly for 27' until it struck the middle of Mike Thompson's back as he hunted for a stemple.

Thompson left the cave with Dawe, leaving Boon to carry on although there were shouts to come back down. Boon couldn't get down from his current stance and could only progress upwards.

Using a combination of slings and pitons he worked his way up from  (note 41)

... the deadly little cluster of running belays on sloping ledges for a further 10' to the top of the aven ... The aven narrowed considerably in this section and a tight passage carrying the stream entered on the line of the main axis. The squeeze into this was exceptionally tight, but as the passage ahead seemed dead straight, 1 decided to force it, and after a few feet emerged into a good chamber.

This was 35 feet above the ledge plus the 42 feet from the ledge and they had succeeded in adding a further 77 feet upwards towards Priddy Green Sink.  Boon was followed by Teagle, Turner, Davies and Letheren, and a short ascending passage halted any further progress by ending at the foot of yet another aven - Main's Aven named in honour of Albert Main of Manor Farm.  Davies attempted to climb Main's but only made about 15 feet when it became clear that free climbing to the top was not possible. (note 42)  The sections of maypole could not be passed through the squeeze at the top of Great Aven and so it was decided to strip all the equipment out of the avens leaving only a couple of abseil slings.  This was regarded as the limit for upward exploration from the Swildons Four streamway and  (note 43)

... work has re-started vigorously on the Priddy Green Sink above ....

New Discoveries. Priddy Green Sink, 1962

Following on the heels of the Great Aven epic, work recommenced within Priddy Green Sink.  A variety of clubs now became interested and helped out with the general slogging work.  The SMCC Hut Log for 1962 includes the following entry by Boon dated 29th July  (note 44)

... These months saw a revival of interest in P.G. the work being done by Wessex, Shepton, BEC, MNRC, etc, and by some powerful newcomers to the scene, the RAF Compton Basset boys. Work has concentrated on the end choke, where the water appeared to sink indeterminably into a slit cum boulder floor beneath a rock arch ....

Digging trips resumed including a number made by Thompson and Turner to the terminal choke.  But the 'great' breakthrough came from the newcomers in the form of the largest feature yet discovered in the cave - a chamber about half way down the cave, RAP Aven [Chamber] - the point where the 1995 digging commenced. Boon on his first visit to the new chamber commented that it was  (note 45)

... huge compared with anything else in the system, a water splash formed pothole broadening with depth and choked with big boulders. It is in fact a small brother to the great avens below.

Digging at the lower end of the cave continued until 1965 but conditions were really dicey several diggers experienced near misses - John Cornwell in 1962 and Tim Reynolds in 1965 both narrowly missed being decapitated due to falling boulders.  Below Anniversary Rift a boulder ruckle was encountered where the excavators had to work below it.  The diggers became extremely frustrated for each time they removed a boulder another slid down to take its place!

On 27th July 1963 William Stanton, aided by Bryan Ellis and Fred Davies, surveyed the extension (note 46) and commenting later in the WCC Journal (note 47) the surveyor suggested that digging in the new chamber might be a better prospect than persevering with the lower dig and its potential dangers.  The two points were in close proximity with each other and digging from the chamber would mean moving down through the boulders rather than working under them. (note 48)

Sporadic digging continued into 1964-65, mainly by SMCC.  Late in 1964, on 6th October, Thompson and Roger Biddle returned to RAP Aven [chamber] (note 49) and located a possible dig site in the floor, but the way on was blocked by a large boulder. (note 50)  This was removed a few days later resulting in a disappointingly too-tight bedding plane.  Not to be defeated at the first attempt the following day, 11th October 1964, Biddle attempted a new site at the far end of the chamber but again the boulders were too big to move.  The final attempt was on the 20th October when Thompson, George Pointing, and Biddle were heaving boulders and banging with little to show for their joint effort.

Enthusiasm was flagging and though there were a number of SMCC, WCC and SVCC mixed 'banging' and digging trips during 1965 work at the site was effectively at an end.  Caver perception had formed the opinion that prospects were not good and added to that working conditions could be abominable. (note 51)

Went to Cowdung Swallet with Roger Biddle and Pete Smith.  While Pete sorted out the bang and dets Roger and myself descended to drill a suitable hole for a charge.  Upon arriving at the end we found that a large amount of krut had fallen from an aven onto the working face.  After a cursory examination and dig we decided no banging could be done, and as the place was smelling violently [sic] we packed up and left. By far the worst conditions I have ever seen down the Green, with liquid 'krut' running down the walls and great hoardes [sic] of worms and flies.  And so back for a wash .....

The concentration of effort moved back into Swildons Hole culminating in the three year epic push principally by Davies, Ray Mansfield (UBSS) and Brian Woodward (SMCC) between 1970 and 1973. (note 52)

1964 SVCC Extensions

For a period of two years exploratory work in the Cowsh Avens was at a standstill; the top of Main's Aven had not been reached.  Work too in Priddy Green Sink had also ended due to the difficulty of digging. The divers, having reached Sump VIII had re-generated sufficient interest to keep the idea alive of bypassing the sumps.  WCC diggers were achieving great results in Shatter Passage in their attempt to by-pass the downstream sumps - though this was generally regarded as being highly unlikely as a result of the Ellis - Davies survey which had shown a considerable displacement of the two passages.

In 1964 -1965 a renewal of interest to seriously assess the possibilities of by-passing Sump IV by a high level route came from two sources, a joint WCC/SMCC venture and from a relatively new Mendip club who had several extremely good climbers amongst its membership - the Severn Valley Caving Club.

During a visit to Swildons Four, late in September 1964, a party of SVCC became intrigued by the climb up Cowsh Aven.  Bob Lewis, knowing of the WCC/SMCC interest in the area, attempted the climb but 'rotten' rock made life difficult and he inevitably peeled off landing in the stream! Not to be defeated he tried again but eventually, the others, now cold and irritated, brought Lewis down again. On the 4th October, Lewis was back with Ken Higgs, Mike Wooding and Mike Tait.  Collecting the scattered sections of maypole left by the MNRC and SMCC teams following the previous attempts in the Cowsh Avens, Cowsh Aven was scaled and the team found themselves faced with the daunting task of scaling Great Aven. (note 53)

... This is very impressive, being about 90 feet high and 25 feet by 10 feet at the bottom.  Our feeble lights could not pierce the darkness to show the top.  Magnesium ribbon failed to reveal the rumoured ledge at 40 feet, and after I had climbed a little way up at each end, we retired thoroughly impressed ....

A few days later, whilst the honest members of SVCC were ensconced at their work places Wooding and Keith Hanna (UBSS), being students having plenty of spare time on their hands (1) made their way back to Great Aven.  Sweating and heaving they succeeded in getting the maypole back up to the base of the aven and the fabled ledge was reached.  At that point the ladders and maypole sections were brought up enabling Wooding to make the top, though not without some excitement when the maypole was about to collapse, he having to free climb the final 20 feet  (note 54)

... The remainder of the climb was free and quite easy, though a little exposed.  I reached the roof and was about to curse our sources of information, as there was no apparent way on, when I noticed the stream emerging from a small hole.  This was gratefully entered, although it was necessary to remove slings and hammer before I could get through.  A short scramble led to the base of Main's Aven, again, the top was invisible.

On the next full trip, 11th October in order to make life more comfortable and escape from the spray at the bottom of Main's Aven, the SVCC built a temporary polythene shelter which, though good in theory, proved of little use in practice.  An attempt to climb the aven had been made on the day before by Wooding who had not succeeded.  On this occasion, Wooding absent, the climb was abandoned but Paul Allen noticed a hole in the side of the aven not seen by previous parties. (note 55)

.. , Spurred on by this discovery Paul made an attempt to climb up to the opening, but it was left to Bob to finally make it. A very thrilled party followed by ladder, up a step in the passage, to a small chamber, at first sight a cul-de-sac, but with two inconspicuous fissures in the roof.  One of these was noticed by Paul, who failed to get through; Ken, however, had very little difficulty in passing this tight vertical slot and entered a high level mud passage one end of which led back into Main's Aven, the other continuing via a fairly lengthy crawl to the top of a large shaft.  The passage was appropriately named Ken's Crawl. ...

As in the case of Barnes Loop, which could, but for chance, so easily have been named Baker's Loop, Ken's Crawl could so well have been Paul's Crawl! That's life.  Having smelt success SVCC arranged their next trip for the 17th of October.  Wooding was to meet Lewis, Allen and Higgs on Priddy Green but overslept at the UBSS hut at Burrington.  Late though he was he eventually trudged the seven miles across Mendip to Main's Barn where he met

... Bob Lewis, missed Paul and Ken, in the rush to get underground to miss ... the seething hoard of Imperial College Caving Club members ....

Wooding, impressed by what he was shown, soon climbed up to the small chamber and, having stripped off, was able to pass both squeezes, one gaining another chamber, the second to Ken's Crawl. Joined by Lewis they moved forward along Ken's Crawl to the head of the pothole Bladder Pot. (note 56)

... After half an hour we gave up an attempt to drill a bolthole and instead arranged a belay of two "manky" pegs and a "thread" for the ladder.  Firmly life lined I descended the ladder to a ledge, and by chance noticed that one side-wire had been cut clean through by a falling stone.  The rest of the pot was climbable however, so I continued down to the floor, over peculiar rounded stalagmite formations, to the top of a vertical slit behind a large stalagmite beehive.  A stone cast through this gave indication of a further pitch, so a retreat was called.

This was Boss Pot. Exiting from both the new extensions and the cave itself proved interesting.  The explorers experienced difficulty descending Great Aven because of the damaged ladder but that wasn't the end of it - some kind, thoughtful,  person had coiled their ladders for the 20ft and 40ft neatly at the top of the pitches! Wooding phrased it rather gently but with feeling' ... the journey out was one of those things one likes to forget… '. It had been an eleven-hour trip which had almost resulted in a rescue call-out for they met a party on their way across the fields to the cave.  Keeping the pressure up, on the following day, Wooding, Brian Roach, Allen, Lewis, Higgs, Lloyd all moved to the head of the BP, having had to fight their way through the regular overcrowding of Swildons One.  Lloyd and Roach broke away from the party before Blue Pencil Passage, the former donating his usual well stocked food supply to the intrepid explorers as they moved off to unknown territory. (note 57)

No trip seemed to be free of problems.  This one was no exception; the abseil rope on Main's Aven had jammed and so the ladder could not be pulled up; Wooding attempted to prussick but failed after several attempts.  Finally everything rested on the climbing ability of Lewis. Eventually the ladder was in position and all were at the top of Bladder Pot. Wooding and Lewis descended and moved down the vertical slit arriving at a small chamber with an obvious exit, requiring a 12ft ladder, giving way to a vadose canyon at the lower end of which Wooding stopped just before a

... big black hole.  I ventured nearer with difficulty and tossed a stone in.  This fell free for about 30 feet and landed in water; we could hear a stream flowing somewhere below us ..  By now, however, I was fighting a losing battle with the mud to avoid falling over the drop, so we turned back ...

The following Wednesday Hanna and Wooding returned to survey the extensions.  Commencing from Main's they continued through Bladder Pot to the drop over a streamway.  Early the following morning, 2.30 am they had the figures worked out and plotted; Wooding noted that  (note 58)

... it was obvious that the furthest point reached was very close to the "Four" streamway just upstream of "Cowsh". Depressing news perhaps, but the top of Bladder Pot was half-way to Priddy Green Sink, so the continuation off the top of the shaft, opposite Ken's Crawl, seemed the most promising place ....

Shortly after the SVCC cavers and Barry Lane (BEC) and Bob Craig (MNRC) re-examined the Dawe- Thompson Traverse followed by an investigation of a side passage at the top of Great Aven by Wooding. This was eventually pushed to a side aven that now bears his name. (note 59)

Oliver Lloyd paid the SVCC a great compliment in his regular WCC Journal Mendip Notes on their fine achievement. (note 60) The top of Bladder Pot is at the same height O.D. as Main's Aven. (note 61)

Fault Chamber extensions. 1957-1960

The possibility of further extensions from Fault Chamber to by-pass Sump IV had been noted by a variety of the Paradise Regained explorers soon after its discovery.  WCC members, Joe Candy and Chris Hawkes, noted and investigated various spots close-by and in 1957 members of the UBSS observed the high level development in the roof of Fault Chamber which became their particular interest, although sporadic, for the next three years.  It also involved the first serious underground climbing, without maypole, in Swildons Hole and together with later events in Cowsh Aven Series during the mid-1960’s was to raise climbing standards to unprecedented levels.  The UBSS, known often by their nickname 'The Spelaeos', (note 62) brought in one of their climbing members, David Tyrwitt, who made it up to a prominent ledge some 30ft above the floor of the chamber on the east wall. This was on the 14th December 1957. (note 63)  A further nine trips between 1957 and 1960 took place  (note 64) some actively encouraged by Oliver Lloyd who was there to keep the momentum going. Some typical entries by Lloyd in the UBSS log  (note 65) indicates the tedious nature of the work

Saturday. 31st October. 1959
Oliver Lloyd, Gerry Witts, Kit Eaton & Barry Perrott to Fault Chamber in Swildons Hole.  Work on this site has been slow for the past year, while Jerry, Kit & Bernard crept up the walls of G.B., hammering in bolts at the rate of two an hour.  Even when parties had visited Fault Chamber the rate of rawlbolt fixation was only one in two hours.  Flushed with success, Jerry & Kit approached what was to them a new problem with confidence ... When they saw the situation at the top of the climb, however, gingerly tapping rocks & generally getting a hollow sound, they appreciated more fully the fact that there is no place under Mendip quite as dangerous as this one ....

Saturday 20th February. 1960
Double Fault Chamber (Swildons) Expedition
First party ... made Fault Chamber by 5.10. We got the ladder up to the top rawlbolt, which was just short of the 9" layer of stalagmite.  The next, which we inserted was about 3½ up & to the left in some stal, over rock (fairly firm).  Jerry moved the ladder onto this & then climbed the gulley for 10', where he put in 4 pitons & let himself down, having the lifeline up through the pitons.  The job we left the second party was therefore to consolidate by putting a r. bolt up by the pitons .... Fault Chamber is getting safer the higher one climbs. not that that is saying much. O. C. Lloyd

The last trip was on the 22nd April 1960 when C.J. 'Kit' Eaton completed the climb at a height of 90ft above the floor of Fault Chamber, leading off directly above the 30ft ledge. The UBSS Logbook entry reads that he reached a point where' ... the aven bent over to the right like the crook of a walking-stick and closed down into a pool ... '

Fault Chamber Avens. 1965

Early in 1965 Severn Yalley CC took up the cudgels again following their epic in the Cowsh Avens. This time Paradise Regained was their target.  High level holes were known to exist there and so on 10th January they were back in the cave intent on carrying out a systematic search.  Eventually their investigations took them into Fault Chamber. Having received unsatisfactory answers to their questions relating to the high level climbs, Tait and Higgs (SYCC) were back at the site on the 24th January 1965.  It was not long before they were at the ledge and noted the series of rawlbolts progressing higher up the wall for the next thirty feet or so. Higgs followed these and found another set progressing about thirty feet higher still.

To the left of the ledge was a traverse leading past loose boulders to an open passage which was left for another occasion.  Intrigued by what had been seen, Lewis, Higgs and Bob Holland returned a week later (30th January).  Lloyd had heard of their interest and informed them that no serious attempt had been made on the traverse. (note 66)  The way across had a (note 67)

... fairly smooth face tilted at a little more than 45° from the horizontal, with 50 feet of nothing below, and several tons of loose grand-piano-size boulders above!  Admitted, there is an opposing wall quite close at hand, but it is overhanging, has no hand grips, and only one foothold.

A limited amount of gardening had to be carried out to expose a foothold and then Lewis started across, belayed by Higgs. Holland wrote (note 68)

' ... it was positively electrifying, especially when half way across, where the vadose trench opens onto the traverse, 'Lew' tenderly put his 'size ten' on a rock and asked us to tell him if it moved much. He got his answer quickly - it slid down about a foot, and so did everything backing it up .... '

For the second half, a jug hold in the roof and 'swing' and Lewis was in the rift passage.  Although he disappeared from sight his vivid description of the size, nature and stability of the passage was ' ... dotted with Anglo-Saxon colloquialisms ... ' to add emphasis to his remarks about stability nearly every move he made created a new avalanche.  On the way back to keep his mind 'occupied' Lewis contemplated the name 'Lew's Traverse', but later, in a calmer frame, of mind eventually settled on Churchill Traverse. (note 69)

A week later, 7th February 1965, Lewis and Higgs were back at the site.  At the far side of Churchill Traverse Higgs spotted a tight continuation at the limit previously made by Lewis.  This led to one of the major discoveries to have been made in this part of the cave.

The passage continued upward increasing in gradient as they progressed until, suddenly, they were at the foot of a 40ft high vertical aven.  A passage could be seen a short way up in the wall but' ... in spite of further promise of further extension this was not seriously attempted ... ' This discovery became known as Severn Aven. Back at Churchill Traverse, Lewis, elated by the significant discovery, attempted the vadose trench that opened out above the mid-point of the traverse. (note 70)

... This passage soon became less steep, although the risk of a tumble was accentuated by the extreme instability of the rock.  It ended in an awkward climb which, in the circumstances, it would not have been wise to try - even so, The Trench .. , has given us some 50 feet or more of passage.

A subsequent maypoling exercise on 10th October 1965 was a joint attack on the terminal point of both Severn Passage and The Trench.  The result of both attempts were inconclusive.  Although much time and energy placing rawlbolts to get the maypole into position in the upper aven of Severn Passage left what happened at the top unresolved. (note 71)  The party retreated to Churchill Traverse and The Trench - now regarded as one of the more horrific places to be found under Mendip.  Allen described it as ' ... this frightfully loose piece of cave passage ... '  (note 72) and Mills (SMCC)


' .. the whole of The Trench is terribly loose and unstable - one literally daren't touch the walls or roof and tread warily.  All the time the heaps of boulders and the very steep passage falls away and your second is advised to keep close. Some boulders fall and ricochet down to Fault Chamber at least 200' below .... '  (note 73)

Blue Pencil Aven

This, the third of three sites that were pushed hopefully to connect with Priddy Green Sink or by-pass Sump IV was looked at by WSG in 1956.  During the 1956 August Bank Holiday, Kemp and Andrews spent the whole of that weekend  (note 74)

.. , working on Blue Pencil Passage, and looking at a few other small passages.  Among these was the up-stream continuation of Blue Pencil; turning right from P.R. rather than dropping down to the left into Blue Pencil .... After a short crawl, we entered the bottom of a high, rough walled Aven.  We climbed this easily for an estimated 20 feet, but then the climbing became more difficult ...

They were also in a location that no one else knew and if there had been trouble help would not have been easily forthcoming.  The next known attempt was on the 17th October 1964, also by a member of WSG, Henry Oakeley who, with his twin brother Christopher and a friend Tim Watts, all from St. Thomas Hospital, made their way to the base of the aven. The Oakeley's made the climb to a ledge at the 40-foot level and though the going became more difficult the chimney narrowed but was sheer.  Oakeley wrote  (note 75) that his brother reached to within 12 feet of the top by a bunch of orange coloured crystals.  A way on at the top could be seen and was thought to be passable.  By chance, a chat with Mike Thompson drew Roger Biddle's (SMCC) attention to the existence of the partially hidden Blue Pencil Aven. However, Biddle must have known of the Oakeley's attempt for there were two WSG members on the inter-club party he raised for a trip to the aven on Sunday, 22nd November 1964. (note 76) Somewhat disingenuously Biddle failed to acknowledge their achievement except for a passing note in the SMCC Log Book that the 40 foot ledge had already been reached. (note 77)

... Here I found a line and crab which had been left by a previous climber (who failed to finish the climb). (note 78)

Biddle reached the ledge and before Mills attempted the final section of the climb the lower pitch was rigged with ladders.  Mills  (note 79)

.. .found this section to be fairly easy, it being possible to back-up, or straddle, most of the way to the top.  "Below", shouted Martin as a boulder of no mean dimensions whizzed past my ear and crashed within a few feet of those at the bottom of the aven. After a few more boulders fanning my face a worried voice came from above  "I'm holding up a very large boulder, but can only support it for about five minutes whilst you get clear".  My feet did not touch a rung as I descended and then shot through the squeeze to safety.  The boulder whistled down slicing twice through a nylon rope and coming to rest with a resounding crash at the bottom.

Further ladders were hauled up by Mills enabling Biddle to reach the top where they then explored about 80 feet of tight passage floored by gours and pink flowstone [Milche Passage] opening up at the end, a cross-rift and boulder choke.  The stream entered the shaft via an impassable fissure just below the top. A survey of the discovery was made by Biddle and Mills on the 5th December 1964

The Cowsh Epic. 1970-1973

During 1970 Davies and Mansfield frequently took to caving together looking around the often frequented sites on the look-out for possible digs.  On one such trip in Swi1don's Four, Cowsh Aven was the last to be viewed; it had been eight years since Davies had been up to the then limit of Main's Aven.   Both wanted to view the SVCC extensions and so on the 20th June 1970 a party comprising Davies, Mansfield, plus Tony Knibbs (MCG), Mills and Woodward made their way down to Swildons IV.  Pegging their way up Cowsh Aven the top was eventually reached.  The follow-up trip on the 27th June was a familiarisation exercise in order to assess the potential digging sites.  As a result of this work they noted a number of sites first having made their way across the Dawe-Thompson Traverse with the aid of a fixed rope and on up to Bladder Pot, hence into Ken's Crawl to Main's Aven.   This was Davies' first view of that shaft from the top.

An abseil trip down Great and Cowsh Avens got the party back into the IV streamway.  Davies noted that the exit from Main's Aven into the top of Great Aven was not an easy manoeuvre for it  (note 80)

... entails wriggling through a tube tighter than the Goatchurch Drainpipe and debauching over a 35' drop to the ledge .... (note 81)

The potential sites would, in Davies' words

... give us some interesting caving for a few months.  At that time we did not really known what a ''few months" meant. ...

Mansfield entered the following comment into his personal log-book, 27th June, 1970  -  (note 82)

... A bloody good trip. Further trip next week - have we ideas up our sleeves?

The way up through the SVCC Extensions was the first of what was to become a regular route for an extended push in the Cowsh Avens lasting over three years.  Early Sunday morning trips were to become a regular event, entering the cave at 9 am, progressing up the SVCC Extension and abseiling back down Great and Cowsh Avens to the Swildons Four streamway and out by early afternoon, having successfully fought the hordes in the Swildons One streamway on most occasions.

A couple of weeks later, Davies, Mansfield and Bob Mehew (SMCC) intent on examining Wright's Aven never actually reached the Swildons Four streamway but found

... some poor lost creatures in Brealifast Chamber and had the task of escorting them out.  That's the drawback to being underground by 9.00 a.m. - you pick up all the previous day's debris! (note 83)

However, Mansfield, Mehew and Davies were more successful on the 12th and 19th July when they first looked at the continuation of Ken's Crawl at the top of Main's Aven but progress of six feet showed that the passage reduced to an 8" tube and the site was abandoned for a slit in the side of Bladder Pot that indicated enlargement a short distance beyond a squeeze.  This was banged and on the 26th the Bladder Pot hole was large enough and a small chamber entered with no obvious way on.  On the same trip Reynolds and Stanton produced a survey of Great and Wright's Avens.

Having gained a majestic extension of 10 feet Davies and Mansfield felt that better sites could be investigated and so they moved to the top of Main's Aven. (note 84)

Close examination of the roof above Maine's [sic] Aven showed it to have a narrow crack running approximately north/south. Water flowed out at the north end where it was about 3" wide. At the south end it was 6" or 7" wide and a lamp seemed to light up a well stalled enlargement 4' or 5' up.

On the 21st September, after seven 'banging' trips, each charge enabling progress of about 6 inches towards the widening, Davies was able to

... squeeze up past a large block detached by our last charge and into a man-sized opening above. I was facing west, my head turned to the left, and could see only a continuation of the crack less than 3" wide all round. With a feeling of disappointment I carefully turned preparatory to climbing down ... As my head turned towards the north - the rift is narrower than the length of my helmet - a great sight came into view.  A horizontal enlargement led off to the north and the sound of falling water ....

Encouraged by the prospect of further open passage a charge was laid and another on the 27th September. They returned with Woodward on the 4th October, and all except Woodward were able to crawl through ten feet of passage to the base of a two-foot diameter, seven-foot high tube.  Davies noted that' ... a cursing Woodward pleaded that we should not go too far .... ' The floor was covered with sand and a mass of ' ... writhing red worms, whilst an 8" diameter hole in the roof gave us a limited view of a continuing vertical aven ... '  More bang and the hole was passed on the 11th October, 1970. (note 85)

The three, Davies, Mansfield and Woodward, plus Alan (Satanic) Mills (SVCC), Tony Jarratt (ACG) and Webster (BEC) were able to move up through the hole into the 20ft high 'aven' above which was even smaller in horizontal section; the stream entering at floor level from a 2 inch crack.  Lesser mortals might well have given up long before this point but a 6-inch diameter hole some ten feet up the wall proved of interest to the team.  A black space and, again, the sound of falling water gave the team renewed encouragement and, as Davies commented, work re-commenced with enthusiasm!  Breaking their way through this hole was not to prove easy for it was formed along a vein of calcite and this material tended to absorb much of the impact of the explosion.  On one occasion 3lb of plaster was used giving a progress of one inch, consequently progress was extremely slow.  It was not until December 1970, after a number of trips before they could claim success was theirs.

On the 3rd December it was agreed that there would be two trips that day to get the maximum effort from a couple of 'bangs'.  Mansfield and Knibbs descended in the morning and duly fired their charge not knowing that the way through into the space beyond was now open and the luck to explore the continuation fell to the Davies' party comprising Webster and Woodward. Their reward was an 18ft high by 10ft diameter aven which became known as El Krapitan.  Davies noted that

... Water cascades down its north wall and sinks in the boulder floor, but one's lamp does not seem to light much as the black greasy rocks reflect very little light.  Our point of entry was 7' up the south wall.  After several abortive attempts I succeeded in reaching the top.  A crack, amid the falling water, gave most help for the first 10', and as the aven then narrows down it is possible to reach across and obtain friction grip on the opposite face.  The climbing does, however, follow the general pattern of Cowsh climbs, best tackled by bridging facing out.  Strange but true.

At the top of El Krapitan a 15ft long low crawl over gravel led into a confined space just large enough for two men to work, the stream issuing from a small hole a few feet above the floor in which a 3ft long pool was found, floored with stinking ooze - this became known as Shit Sump.  However a rift in the wall on the north side was the preferred route - it was obviously cleaner!  A succession of 'banging' trips, in the same manner as the many before it lasted until the 24th January 1971 when success was theirs again!  Joined by Wynne-Roberts, the trio, Davies, Mansfield and Woodward cleared the debris from the last bang making a way sufficiently large enough for the 'midget' of the group, Mansfield, to get through to yet another aven.  Climbing this for 15ft he eventually found himself in the largest feature yet discovered in the Cowsh Series. The remainder got through and became puzzled - they were in the cleanest part of the series indicating that the contaminated water from Priddy Green Sink did not enter this region.  Shit Sump had to be the inlet for that water - or so it would seem. Davies commented that these upper avens would not lead them to Priddy Green Sink - if not, where were they going? They had reached some 300ft above the Swildons IV streamway, but according to the Stanton survey some 200ft south-west of ' ... that promised land .... ' Their thoughts relating to Cowsh Avens were firmly driven from their minds for on the way out they intercepted a rescue in progress - that of Dudley Soffe who was trapped in the Oxbows; few, if any, involved that day will ever forget the event!

A period of consolidation followed this incredible series of trips. (note 86)  Firstly a series of water tracing attempts were made, each doomed to failure.  Certainly the flourescein did not show at Shit Sump where Davies and Mansfield waited those long shivering hours.  Later, on 21st February 1971, Mansfield and Mehew went up to the sump again and waited whilst Rhodamine was poured in at the entrance of Priddy Green Sink by Kay Mansfield - again a negative result.  Not to waste time a charge was set off at the lip of Shit Sump in an attempt to reduce the water level in the sump. Continued banging at the sump resulted in a sizeable spoil heap which required dumping through the approach crawl and out into El Krapitan - quite a job in itself as the crawl is low and twenty feet long!

By the 10th April 1971 matters came to a head.  The sauce boat used by Oliver Lloyd in Priddy Green Passage dig near Sump One was taken to Shit Sump on 18th April by Davies and Alan Mills and a further charge set off at the sump.  In fact a number of charges were set off in the hope of breaking through Shit Sump but enthusiasm gradually waned

... as the hard rock absorbed shock after shock and only a few cubic inches were brushed from the surface .... There were several possible sites that could be pushed; perhaps radio location would help us to decide upon the best.

During late 1971 Brian Prewer had improved his signalling device and had already checked the Irwin-Stenner survey of St. Cuthbert's Swallet in 1969 with good results and so it was felt that it could be used to locate the Top Avens of Cowsh Series with some confidence.  So, on the 29th January 1972, 'Satanic' Mills, Woodward and Webster set up the aerial in Top Avens and the following weekend, the 6th February 1972, Mansfield, Woodward and Webster took the transmitter but it had been damaged on its way through the cave.  Work had now all but ceased and it was not until about June 1972 that things got under way again.  Davies and Mansfield had reviewed the situation and Shit Sump had by this time been passed to a disappointing continuation that did not seem promising.  Mansfield proposed work commence at a double rift that branched away on the route up to Top Avens.  This was done resulting in a short route known as Mansfield's Hole.  In parallel with this work Shit Sump was also pushed as far as possible.

An unexpected check was to interrupt events.  Speleo Rhal members based at Southampton became interested in the work at Cowsh Avens and knew of the problems relating to the attempt to radio locate the area.  Mike Haselden asked if it were possible to take the gear to the upper regions of Cowsh Series for a trial.  The offer was gratefully accepted and on the 22nd July 1972  (note 87)

Davies and Mansfield met the Speleo Rhal lads Haselden and Dave Davidson in Swildons Four at three in the afternoon.  It was the beginning of one of those trips where nothing goes right; a double event, one of which could have created a serious situation had it not been for the positioning and ingenuity of the members of the party.  Mansfield and Haselden had passed through the low crawl into Top Avens followed by Davidson who was moving through the crawl on his back. At one point he pulled a flake in the roof to ease his onward movement when a large 4ft  long by  12" and  12"  boulder settled downwards from the roof and rested on the lower part of Davidson's leg. Davies, following up as 'tail-end-Charlie' could communicate with the other two in Top Avens.  Manhandling the boulder proved fruitless but eventually a sling was positioned about the boulder enabling a simple hoist to be constructed.  This arrangement lifted the boulder sufficiently so that some of the stones and gravel, under the trapped man, could be scraped away.  This worked and he was able to continue the crawl into the relative safety of Top Avens. (note 88)  The boulder then settled leaving plenty of room for the others to crawl over the top of it. (note 89)  Not to give-up entirely a transmission was made by the remaining pair but, in the event, the transmitter's signal was not received on the surface and a totally demoralised party exited from the cave. (note 90)

... The incident of Dave's Knee had a more profound effect than we had at the time realised.  Ray and I did not feel like returning to that region to push harder on the hole which we were attacking, fearing further loose rocks.  We therefore decided to attack Shit Sump again ....

Undeterred, they were back at Shit Sump on the 20th August 1972 where they found that the bang had caused the water level to drop by some three inches.  An intensive effort was made on the site throughout the remaining months of 1972 but progress was painfully slow and the passage was getting progressively tighter. In the end it was felt that more profit might be gained by attacking Mansfield's Hole and at the upper end of Top Avens. (note 91)

... Perhaps time had soothed our jagged nerves.  So back we went ....

Speleo Rhal made a further series of transmissions with improved equipment from Mud Sump, Double Troubles and then Main's Aven  (note 92) and later in the year, in October 1972, (note 93) they transported the transmitter, this time, through Dave's Knee to Top Avens; the operation was a success carried out at 2 am to ensure minimal electrical interference. Though there were some discrepancies between the various transmissions it showed the Cowsh Aven Series diggers that the lateral distance from Priddy Green Sink was considerable in caving terms and that Top Avens was only a few feet in altitude below the lowest point in that site.  Faced with the fact that the horizontal development off the Cowsh Series was always notoriously tight and under-developed it was argued that even if they didn't meet up with Priddy Green Sink it would get closer to the surface and possibly open up new cave if they continued at Mansfield's Hole.  Woodward argued for continuing' ... 'cos it was there ... .' ; and so they did. By early February 1973 another aven could be viewed from below and on the 25th Davies, soloing from El Krapitan, returned to Mansfield's Hole to view the damage from the previous 'bang'; on the 11th March 1973 when Davies, Alan Jeffreys (GSG), Mansfield and Woodward returned a way could be seen to yet another aven but was separated by 6 feet of narrow rift that required widening. Another series of trips, now more erratic due to other commitments, carried over into 1974. In the NHASA log book Davies summarised the events as follows: (note 94)

Feb 1974 Swildons Hole - Cowsh Aven Series. Activity in this region has been rather erratic ... However, a hard core, Brian Woodward & FJD supported at times by Paul Hadfield, Ray Mansfield, & Mike Roger have kept the business progressing

Slowly the horizontal squeeze has been enlarged, progress not eased at one point by a clumsy operative dropping our only crowbar down a 3" rift 30 sees after stating "I must be careful not to drop the crowbar here".

Finally however BW & FJD were able to crawl out through the hole on Sat 16 Feb into an AVEN/RIFT. About 3-4 ft wide 15 ft long where entered, the floor 20ft below, and the roof? Well we just kept climbing, it got narrow & thrutchsome but still kept going up - we enthusiastically estimated 100ft - to a chockstone and tight comer, but could be seen to continue.

This shaft named GRAVEL PIT from vast quantities of that material that abounds


Another couple of bangs and they were past the right angled bend.  Davies made the following entry in the NHASA Logbook: (note 95)

Sun 10 March ... Some gardening needed on climb of Gravel Pit but comer now easily negotiable.  Tight tube up for another 20ft before a flake protruding from wall made it too tight. BW managed to hammer this off & progress another 4ft to CLAY ROOF

Though the upper end by the clay choke had been open a side rift was also worked on but to little avail. Thus effectively ended the Siege of the Cowsh Series - a marathon 3-year effort.

The Main family were told, in detail, of the result of their labours and they were kindly permitted to enter the fields behind the barns for a radio location.  The actual event took place on Monday 22nd July 1974 and no-one appeared too enamoured with the prospect of taking Prewer's heavy gear to the highest point in the Cowsh Aven Series.  However, once set-up and the transmission started, the surface gang with the receiver, pin-pointed the site fairly quickly.  It has been estimated that Cowsh Aven Series reaches to within 50ft of the surface but some 200 feet from the known section of Priddy Green Sink. (note 96)

Acknowledgements:  The author wishes to acknowledge the helpful comments, criticisms, information, and loan of reference material not in the BEC Library from Tony Boycott, Hon Librarian UBSS, Paul Allen (SVCC), Fred Davies (WCC), Ray Mansfield (UBSS), Tony Jarratt (BEC), Mike Thompson, Janet Woodward, Hon. Librarian SMCC, and Brian Prewer [BEC] for the loan of the NHASA Logbook.

Dave Irwin, Priddy, 20th February 1996

Entrance Covers to Priddy Green Sink

Originally the entrance cover was made of concrete then in 1964 [Mendip Caver No.5 [Tony Oldham Ed.] September issue, page 2:

... Concrete cover on this dig has been replaced with a metal one.  The handle to lift this cover can be obtained from Farmer Maine ...

Very few people visit the cave and it becomes a notorious site for its disgusting condition. Eventually the cover becomes dangerous and for safety reasons Fred Davies replaced the old heavy cast iron lid with a pre-cast 4" thick concrete slab placed over the shaft, this being covered with about 12 inches of soil.


Re-opened in 1993 - local flooding about the green in the area of the sink saw Prew and Butch raising the lid and clearing the obstruction. 

Adrian Hole and Tony Jarratt are preparing a note of the more recent digs and subsequent breakthrough into Swildons. (1996)

Maine's have installed a slurry tank, which should free the cave from its odours.


  1. The water from the spring was used for many years after, the pipes being connected directly to the mains water supply. The spring is still used for domestic water supply in times of drought.
  2. The name Priddy Pool Passage was not coined by Balch.  It appears to have come into common usage when it was realised that the water which outflowed here was the same as that that entered Black Hole Series near Fool's Paradise. However, both Oliver Lloyd and Oliver Wells referred to the site as Priddy Green Dig (or Passage) and often used the abbreviation PG Dig.  This is closer to Balch's intention . The earliest use of the name Priddy Pool Passage, seen by the author, is in the 2nd Edition of Caves of Mendip [p.67] by Nicholas Barrington, Dalesman Publishing Co., 1962, based, no doubt, on the hunch that the surface water feeding this rising came from Priddy Pool in Nine Barrows Lane.  Whether Barrington had the right to change an already accepted name is open to question.  It's worth noting that in the first edition of Barrington the name was Priddy Green Passage [p.64]. Ref. also: Witcombe, R.G., 1992, Who was Aveline anyway?  WCC Dec Pub Series 2 No.1, p.66.
  3. Thompson, M. M., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink WSG Bul 3-5(Apr)
  4. Now a cluster of stables
  5. During the 1950s Swildons Hole was one of the most popular trips on Mendip - particularly a trip to Sump III - a 'full Swildons'.
  6. This was later to rnaterialise itself in the form of the high level Vicarage Passage and Trouble Series. Trouble Series explored 1961 and linked with Vicarage Passage on 4th August 1962
  7. At this time a trip to Swildons Four was regarded as one of the most severe undertakings offered by any Mendip cave.  This fact is not surprising - lighting was basically carbide with rudimentary electric lights whose batteries were encased in semi-dry metal tobacco tins attached to the back of the helmet; the relatively fragile goon-suit was the standard waterproof by the end of the 1950s (the wet suit did not come into common usage until c.1964) and the problems of rescue from Swildons Four and beyond had not been solved.  Rescue of a severely injured person from beyond Blue Pencil Passage was considered almost impossible; Sump III had not yet been passed.  When Boon successfully passed Sump III minds were then focused on the possibility of rescue back through Sumps III- 1.  Added to all that and not least was the fickleness of the Water Rift and the Forty Foot Pot in wet weather conditions.  Although the Forty Foot Pot no longer presents the problems it once did, rescue of a seriously injured caver from any point beyond Blue Pencil Passage or Sump II is still a major unproven problem for the MRO; cave divers have developed techniques for passing an injured caver through Sumps 2 and 3 it still remains an event which MRO hope will never happen for they do not have all the answers to guarantee a successful rescue.
  8. There were a number of problems besetting these explorers that made the dream of an entrance to this part of the cave from Priddy is extremely attractive.  The notoriously fragile goon-suit was the only available protection against the cold and wet; the wet-suit was still 4-5 years in the future.  In the cave the variability of the water levels in the Water Rift above the Forty-Foot Pot and the water levels in the Mud Sump meant that there were times during the year when little work could be carried out.
  9. Wells' enthusiasm for the downstream sumps resulted in the opening up of Swildons Five and Six paving the way for the next generation of divers in the early 1960s who pushed on to Swildons Sump VIII.
  10. Hanwell, J.D., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink. WCC Jnl 6(76)4Q-42(Nov. 1959 - Mar. 1960)
  11. Boon, JM. and Thompson, M.M., 1963,  The Avens in Swildons IV. SMCC Jnl 3(5)3-14(May) and Biddle, R. and Ellis, B.M., 1970, (as above) p.31-32, entry by Ken Dawe, 21 June 1958
  12. Now known as the Dawe-Thompson Traverse
  13. Unless otherwise stated Davies = Fred Davies
  14. Biddle, R. and Ellis, B.M., 1970, (as above), p.36, entry by Fred Davies, 24th August 1958
  15. Also known to some as 'Black Wal'
  16. Willcocks, [W.J.R] Wally, 1959, Water Testing on Mendip. SMCC Jo1. 2(1)4-6(May)
  17. Davies, Frederick J., 1959, Priddy Green Swallet. SMCC Jnl 2(2)6(Nov)
  18. August 1959
  19. Hanwell, J.D., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink. WCC Jo1 6(76)40-42(Nov. 1959 - Mar. 1960)
  20. This was the first time that such intensive multi-club digging had taken place on Mendip.  In fact during the 1960s several 'digging teams' emerged such as the 'Tuesday Night Dining Room Diggers', NHASA and later, ATLAS.  Such groups are commonplace today.
  21. Hanwell, J.D., 1960, [as above]
  22. Davies, Frederick J., 1959, [as above]
  23.  ... hoped that this dig will lead fairly directly into the aven in Swildons IV, but even if it doesn't, it looks fairly likely to lead somewhere and will doubtless increase the underground knowledge of the area .... '   Anon, 1960, Digging News. BEC Bel Bul 14(143) 6-8(Jan)  In fact from the author's records at least 46 working trips were made at the site up to the end of February 1960; a quite exceptional effort for this phase of Mendip caving.
  24. Biddle, R. and Ellis, B.M., 1970, (as above), p.Sl : survey carried out by Brenda Willis and N. Humphris
  25. Hanwell, James D., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink WCC Jo1 6(77)77 -78(Mayl Aug)
  26. Thompson, M. M., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink part II WSG Bul 2-3(Oct)
  27. [Davies, Frederick J.] led], 1960, Priddy Green Swallet SMCC Jn1 2(3) 12(May)
  28. Ellis, B.M., 1990, Extracts from the Hut Log Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964: 1960 SMCC Jnl 8(10) 360375(Autumn): 25th August entry by F. Davies.
  29. Anniversary Aven
  30. Davies, Frederick 1., 1959, [as above]
  31. Hanwell, James D., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink SMCC In! 2[4] 12-17(Nov), survey
  32. Hanwell, James D., 1960, [as above]; it should be noted that a similar version of the same survey may be found in SMCC Hut Log Volume Four, entry dated 26th August 1960, reprinted in Ellis, B.M., 1990, Extracts from the Hut Log Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964: 1960. SMCC In! 8(9)369(Autumn)
  33. Giles, P.M. (Jim), 1962, Digging 1961 BEC Bel Bul (167)3-9(Jan), surveys
  34. The use of mountaineering terms such as 'Tigers and 'Sherpas' came as a result of the 1953 Everest Expedition that finally conquered the 29,000ft. high peak.  Other examples, on Mendip, of the Himalayan connection will be found in St Cuthbert's Swallet and includes Everest Passage and Kanchenjunga
  35. Not only was exploration taking place in Swildons.  Fairy Cave Quarry discoveries were beginning to be made including Balch Cave; Long Chamber Extension in St. Cuthbert's Swallet; diving in Stoke Lane Slocker sumps, Pinetree Pot and Ubley Hill Pot and many other sites were opened between 1960 and 1963
  36. This was the 'new' generation of CDG divers.  The 'older' group had dispersed in a variety of ways : Balcombe had retired, Coase had tragically died in 1958, and Oliver Wells and Robert Davies had emigrated to the United States of America
  37. Boon, 1M. and Thompson, M.M., 1963, [as above]
  38. Another rapid flooding of the series was observed in 1973 when Davies, Alan Mills, Dave Causer et a1 were ascending the SVCC Extensions. Reference:  Davies, Frederick J., 1974, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again. Part V WCC Jn113 (156) 135137 (Dec), survey
  39. Turner, David P., 1995, [per comm.]
  40. Boon, 1M. and Thompson, M.M., 1963, [as above]
  41. Boon, 1M. and Thompson, M.M., 1963, [as above]
  42. Top of Main's Aven was reached by Severn Valley Caving Club in 1964 and not by the MNRC and SMCC party as stated in Pictorial History of Swi1don's Hole and reprinted on the latest version of the Swi1don's Hole survey published by WCC (1995).
  43. Cheramodytes [pseudo a.c. lloyd], 1962, Mendip Notes.  To Swi1don's VIII. WCC Journal No.85, p.71
  44. Ellis, Martin (Ed), 1992, Extracts from the Hut Logs Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964. - 1962 SMCC Jn1 9(2) 117-127 (Spring) surveys.
  45. Ellis, Martin (ed), 1992, [as above]
  46. Ellis, Martin (Ed), 1992, Extracts from the Hut Logs Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964. - 1963 SMCC Jnl 9(3) 162-168(Autumn), surveys.
  47. Stanton, W.l, 1964, More of the Dam Place. WCC Jnl 8(94)38-41(Mar), survey [survey notes]
  48. Ellis, Martin (Ed), 1992, Extracts from the Hut Logs. Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964. - 1963 SMCC Jnl 9(3)162-168 (Autumn), maps, surveys
  49. Although known to Biddle as Bassett Hound Chamber or B.H. Chamber
  50. Ellis, Martin (Ed), 1993, Extracts from the Hut Logs. Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964. -1964 SMCC JnI9(4)184-196(Spring), surveys
  51. Allen, Paul, 1965, Caving Dairy, 1965. Vol.3, p.25-26
  52. All further references to Davies refers to Fred Davies unless otherwise stated.
  53. Wooding, M., 1965, Cowsh Aven Series SVCC Jnl (1)21-24
  54. Wooding, M. 1965, [as above]
  55. Wooding, M. 1965, [as above]
  56. Wooding, M. 1965, [as above]
  57. Roach had fallen off Greasy Chimney and left the cave with Oliver Lloyd.  This may seem amusing by today's cavers but the chimney at this time was 'greasy' - it being coated in a liberal coating of mud that made climbing extremely difficult in wet boiler suits.  A short section of ladder was placed there for a few years by which time the mud had been 'worn-off' making it the easy climb it now is.
  58. Wooding, M., 1965, [as above]
  59. Not named on the 1995 WCC survey of Swildons Hole.
  60. Cheramodytes [pseudo O.C. Lloyd]. 1964, Mendip Notes. Above Cowsh Aven. WCC Journal No.98, p.174
  61. A comprehensive description was published by SVCC to counter inaccurate descriptions prevailing at that time. Lewis, Robert G., 1965. A Brief Description of the Cowsh Aven Extension. SVCC Ntr 3(2)1-2, table of tackle requirements
  62. UBSS members were known as 'Spelers' at their Summer Camp at Burrington, 1919. both names derive from Spelaeological.
  63. UBSS Logbook Vo19 [p.1l-12.]
  64. 5 in 1958,2 in 1959 and 3 in 1960
  65. UBSS Logbook Vol. 10: 13 September 1958 - 21 February 1960 [p.91 and p.1l8]
  66. Lewis wrote: ' ... We had been informed by Oliver lloyd that no serious attempt had been made on the traverse - yet we had also been assured by various other persons that the whole area had been thoroughly investigated; one more example, is it not, of people who don't bother to look properly?....'  Lewis, Robert G., 1965, Recent Extensions in Fault Chamber, Swildons Hole. SVCC Jnl (2)6-9
  67. Holland, R., 1965, Fault Chamber, Swildons Hole. SVCC Ntr 3(4)2-3(March)
  68. Holland, R., 1965, [as above]
  69. The grand old man having died in January 1965
  70. Lewis, Robert G., 1965, [club trips] SVCC Ntr 3(4)23 (Mar)
  71. Severn Aven was finally maypoled to the top by Keith Glossop and Bob Lewis (SVCC) on the 27th April 1968.  No new passage was found.  Allen, Paul, 1968, Caving Diary, Vo1.6, p.14
  72. Allen, Paul, 1965, [trip report, 10th October 1965] SVCC Ntr 3(8)[3-4]; party comprised Lewis, Allen, Mills and Doug. Macfarlane.
  73. Ellis, Martin [Ed], 1994, The S.M.C.C. Hut Logs. Volume Five: January 1965 - September 1968: 1965. SMCC In! 9(6)252-264
  74. Andrews, Tom, 1965, That Aven Again!! WSG Bulletin (1)36-37(Jan-Feb)
  75. Oakeley, Henry, 1965,[Blue Pencil Aven] WSG Bulletin (l)36-37(Jan-Feb)
  76. The party comprised R. Craig (MNRC), Martin Mills, Philip Romford and Biddle (SMCC), Barry Lane (BEC), and two members of WSG, J. Warren and Jon Gulliver.  Gulliver, Jon, 1965, Discovery in Swildons Hole. WSG Bulletin (l)35-36)(Jan-Feb)
  77. Ellis, M., 1993, Extracts from the Hut Logs. Volume Four:  July 1960 - December 1964. - 1964 SMCC Jnl 9(4)184196(Spring),surveys
  78. Biddle is less forthcoming in his report published in the SMCC Journal which states 'On the ledge 1 found a sling and 'crab' presumably left by some previous climber.'   Biddle, R., 1965, Blue Pencil Aven. SMCC Jnl 3(9)1317(May), survey
  79. Biddle, R., 1965, [as above]
  80. Davies, Frederick J., 1974a, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again. WCC Jnl13(152)32-34(Apr), survey
  81. In fact Great Aven is about 80 feet high, the ledge is about 40ft from its floor.
  82. Mansfie1d, R.W., 1971, [Personal logbook] Vo1.5. Jan. 1968 - May 1971. [now housed in the UBSS Library (1996), p.84]
  83. Davies, Frederick J., 1974a, [as above]
  84. Davies, Frederick I., 1974b, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again. Part II. wee Inl13(153)57-60 (Jun), survey
  85. Jarratt, A.R.,1970, [personal log book]
  86. It should be noted that most of the diggers involved with this project were also involved elsewhere on Mendip, e.g. North Hill Swallet, S1. Cuthbert's Swallet and Twin Titties Swallet
  87. Fred Davies' date given in Part III of his articles (ref. below) is not correct - it should read Saturday 22nd July, 1972: it should also be noted that Mansfield's Logbook is also in error for it gives the date as the 23rd July 1972.  Davies, Frederick J., 1974c, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again. Part ill WCC JnI13(154)78-81(Aug)
  88. Davidson's humorous account outlines some of the finer detail: ' ... We were joined in Swildons 4 by Fred and Ray and the job of ascending Cowsh Aven began.  Ray went up first with the rope and life-lined the rest of us to the top of what turned out to be an interesting climb .... When you get to the top, you get the feeling that you are nearly out in fresh air again. Well, no such luck!
    'We eventually arrived at the pre-selected spot for transmission ... Ray entered the final chamber first, with Mike close on his heels, then I followed, well tried to!  In fact it took just over half an hour for me to squeeze through about 10 ft of fairly easy passage.  Well, it was like this: I had just got my head and shoulders through, when a rather large rock took a fancy to my legs.  Now this rock was fighting in the heavy class, and was not very keen to let go.  Fred produced a crowbar and hammer from somewhere or other, and started chipping at one end.  Mike was in the middle with an improvised winch of slings and waistbands, whilst Ray and myself tried to dig out the loose rocks from the other end.  After a lot of pushing and pulling I got through.'

    Davidson, D.W., 1972, Radio Location - Cowsh Aven Speleo Rhal CC Ntr 2-3 (Aug)
  89. Fortunately Davies was on the 'home-side' for he could, if it had become essential, leave the cave and call the MRO.  In the event this was not necessary but Davidson found later that he had suffered a broken kneecap but made his painful exit from the cave unaided.  The approach crawl to Top Avens was then christened 'Dave's Knee'

    Davies, Frederick J., 1974c, [as above]
  90. Davies, Frederick 1., 1974d, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again.  Part N WCC Jnl13(155)104105(Oct)
  91. Davies, Frederick 1., 1974d, [as above]
  92. Haselden, M., 1972, Da Da Oit '0' for Goal. Speleo Rhal Ntr 3-6(Aug)
  93. Davies, Frederick J., 1974d, [as above]
  94. NHASA Logbook, September 1970 - December 1991 [includes great detail of several excavations and discoveries during the period covered by the logbook] [currently in the possession of Brian Prewer, St. John's Cottage, Priddy, Somerset]
  95. NHASA = North Hill Association for Speleological Advancement
  96. Davies, Frederick J., 1975, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again.  Part VI WCC Jnl13(I60) 224227(Aug), maps  [Prewer carried out a repeat transmission in 1995 and obtained the same results.]


B.E.C Life Members Questionnaire

By Roz Bateman

I would like to thank the enormous response to the questionnaires sent out to our 40 life members in October/November last year.

Not only did the exercise help to update the life members addresses or iron out incorrect names or post codes but also aid in bridging the gap between the current active members of today with names of the past.

A small comment section in the questionnaire lead to some interesting reading.  I have selected a few quotes which I hope will not only reflect the general view of the BEC by its founder members but also shows thanks and encouragement to those who's efforts are noted towards the club.  So please keep digging, travelling/caving abroad but most of all keep those caving articles coming not only will your efforts be noted down in history but many fellow members old and new can also enjoy your adventures and caving successes or experiences.

Reflections on the BEC, quotations by our life members.

The improvements in the BB during Estelle's editorship is most noteworthy.  Long may this improvement continue - will try and dredge up some memories from the neolithic layer!!! !(HS)

Many thanks to all the committee members for all the work they put in on behalf of the club (JR)

Best series of BB's ever - congratulations!!!  Steer clear of non-caving jokes - I've heard most of them (Another Internet browser ??). Plenty of Mendip news please. (KK.)

For the last twelve months the Belfry Bulletins have been excellent, congratulations to Estelle on a first class publication that I have actually looked forward to reading. Probably the best the BB has ever been and certainly the most interesting and generally informative of all the current Mendip caving journals (and I am including the UBSS) .... (BE)

Estelle will be a hard act to follow - I left the Belfry on 3/12/77, never to set foot in it since I am not a suitable person to write for the Belfry Bulletin although I continue to read it with interest and wish it well (AC)

We older members are grateful for the chance to comment on the contents of the BB.  Old codgers weekend 24th - 25th May, if you think an evening gaffering during this visit is worth while then choose a date and I will oblige (TS)

I would like to congratulate the committee and especially the editor on the high quality of the BB and range of interests/topics now reported (MH)

The BEC still means a lot to me although I have in effect lost contact with the club itself, but the friendship I formed in the early days of the BEC are very important to me.

I last went caving - a full GB - in Aug 1981.  Unfortunately I came off a 500 cc motor bike avoiding a dog the next day and broke my collarbone.  That's life for you.  Very best wishes to you and the club. (DC)

In 1953 I started caving on Mendip.  Being London based I was a member of the newly formed W.S.G. We camped and used the Belfry facilities as guests.  I did this for several years before joining the BEC.  This was because it was believed you could only be loyal to one club. A quaint point of view by today's standards.  Later I responded to the call and became a life-member.  In 1960 I got married, started a business, stated a family and then moved to Derbyshire.  From then on my visits to Mendip became few and far between.  From time to time I stayed at the Belfry with members of my local Matlock based club.  Most of the time this was fine and I was glad of my B.E.C membership in organising these meets.  However it was not always so.  Sometimes things did go wrong.

There was a time when a group arrived at 2 AM on Saturday morning making a great deal of noise. When I asked them to quieten it down a bit, I was threatened with physical violence.  The following night after the Hunters shut, this group came in very drunk and performed 'The dance of the Flaming Arseole!'  This involved taking cushions from the Belfry furniture putting them between their legs, setting them on fire and jumping all round the Belfry.  My great regret is that they did not keep them in place long enough.

However the BEC has served me well.  Overall the club has provided me with what I wanted and still does today.  Although I am now a geriatric of almost seventy and no longer have either the levels of energy or the physical strength I used to have, I am still caving today.  Be it a rather more gentle level than I used to.  Although I have not stayed at the Belfry lately, it is always there should I want to.

Estelle is doing a magnificent job.  She is going to be a very hard act to follow.  What I enjoy most is news of Mendip in general and the BEC in particular. I like to read about caving activities, be it original exploration in far away places or just fun and sporting trips on Mendip, they are all of interest to me.  I am also interested in MRO callout accounts. Historic events - yes indeed - I might even have been involved.

I sent two original pictures to Jingles a long time ago.  I presumed he received them, the post office has not returned them and to the best of my knowledge they have never been published.  Both were taken in Cuthbert's in the early 1950's - one of Norman Petty using the telephone to the Belfry and the other was of formations. Does anyone know anything about these photographs?? (LD)

Started as a caver in 1949 I took up climbing and then mountaineering Pyrenees 1951, Alps 1952, Iceland 1953, Spitzbergen 1954, Greenland 1957, had included peak in France, Xmas day 1953.  Climbed masses on mountains and volcanoes in East Africa and Old Belgian Congo.  Took up geology as a career in 1983 on study trips all over Britain, 5 trips for 3 or 4 weeks to the ---- Alaska.  Travelled in 75 different countries returning from China 2 weeks ago.  Too old to care at 76 but still very interested and still an active foreign traveller (TF) have you met this incredible caver on your travels?? Lets hope he remember his BEC stickers to leave a mark of respect.

The Belfry Bulletin is extremely important for the club.  Not everyone is lucky enough to live on Mendip and often members have to move away or even live abroad.  News from Mendip and peoples trips aboard continue to be read not just by the people who drink in the Hunters but at present Belfry Bulletins are sent to 10 different countries including Africa, Austria, Belgium, Australia, the States and to members in 26 counties across the UK - ' The BEC get everywhere' continues to stand.

Memories of Belfry days can be good or different, trying to reason with a Drunken Belfryite can have limiting effect.  Much work has been carried out in the Belfry over the past year the quality of the facilities now available is continuing to improve.  An improvement to some may not be welcomed by all.  However life goes on at the Belfry and whatever rumours of it having a bar or a new fire may not appeal - many an inquisitive member has disapproved in concept but in reality has been amazed by the high craftsmanship and the homely and welcome atmosphere of a hot fire and the Belfry Bar.


In The Wake of Shackleton

By Joan Bennett

I have always been interested in the Antarctic and envied ex BEC members like Graham Phippen, Zot and Ross White who were able to go there in the course of their work.

I always preferred Shackleton to Scott in any debate about the personalities of the two British explorers, so when the opportunity to go on a cruise to the Antarctic, labelled "In the Wake of Shackleton" it seemed to be just right for me.  The ship was originally a Russian Polar Research vessel and carried less than 50 passengers, the Expedition leader was Tony Soper (the birdman) and Lady Philippa Scott, widow of Sir Peter Scott, was a guest lecturer.  Cruises such as these are becoming more popular, concentrating on wildlife and going to out of the way places.  There is a panel of experts and lecturers, and landings are made in inaccessible places by Zodiac semi-rigid inflatables.  The atmosphere is very informal, no nonsense about dressing for dinner, and such like.


Pack ice and tabular berg - Weddle Sea

The cruise itself started at Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, past Cape Horn, across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula, weaving through passages and islands around the Peninsula, visiting various scientific bases, and landing at interesting places.  Next call was Deception Island (a volcanic island).  We then crossed north of the Peninsula and penetrated the western part of the Weddle Sea.  It was here that we picked up the route of Shackleton after he lost his ship Endurance. We went as far south as we could, then made for Elephant Island, which was his first landfall after leaving the ice, and where 22 men spent four months living in upturned boats.  After that to South Georgia, following the route which Shackleton sailed with 5 others in the lifeboat, the James Caird.  After several days we sailed to the Falkland Islands, and returned to Ushuaia nearly three weeks after we had left.

Shackleton was of course a great explorer.  His exploits in the Antarctic are legendary.  When the Endurance was caught in the ice in 1915 the conditions that year were very bad.  When we were in the area, we went through lots of pack ice, very exciting with the ice grinding and cracking along the sides of the ship.  It was only a short while before that a large area of the Larsen Ice Shelf, which was attached to the Peninsula on the western coast of the Weddle Sea, just south of where we were, had broken free, so that there was a lot of pack ice.  We were very lucky in that we met up with the Royal Naval survey ship - also named Endurance which had a helicopter aboard.  They took off to see if there were any leads which we could follow, but the pack was extensive, so we turned north, towards Elephant Island.

Left : Elephant Island
Right:  Shackleton's grave, South Georgia

We left the Weddle Sea at about 17.00 and arrived off Elephant Island at about 6.00.  We were hoping to land on the spit where the ships crew spent the winter months awaiting rescue by The Boss, but the conditions were not good enough. Just to see this tiny piece of beach was quite instructive.  It was the only landing place which we saw as we sailed pass all the steep cliffs and glacier snouts.  We left Elephant Island at mid-day on Saturday arriving in South Georgia on Tuesday morning.  The crossing was quite rough, winds gale force 6-7, but at South Georgia they were up to force 10.  Many of the passengers were somewhat ragged around the edges, glasses in the bar went careering down the tables, and meals were not well attended. We arrived at Grytviken in the early morning, cleared customs, and landed on the island to visit the remains of the old whaling station, the museum and the restored museum and the restored Norwegian church.  We also paid our respects at Shackletons grave (he died here in 1921) drank a toast in his favourite brandy, and sprinkled libations over the grave.  Here we also met a marine sergeant who had just crossed the island, following the route taken by Shackleton.

We went to the barracks, and were told about the start of the Falklands War.  (Shades of Ross White).  After spending the day sailing to and landing in one of the remote bays, that evening we had dinner with the harbour master and his wife, and a couple who were sailing around the world, and have spent the last 5 years in South Georgia (they gave us a super lecture on S. Georgia, where they have spent much time mountaineering and skiing).  I ate with the CO of the garrison who is also the local magistrate, and we were later joined in the bar by the Ghurkas who make up the army complement.  Politics raised its ugly head here, as the chef s assistant, who was Argentinean, was not allowed to land in S. Georgia or the Falklands.

We saw quite a lot of wildlife, starting with the sighting of a condor whilst in Tierra Del Fuego, several types of albatross many petrels and shearwaters which followed the ship, cormorants, skuas, gulls, terns, and on the Falklands the rare striated caracaras, night herons, and kelp geese.  We saw 5 species of penguin, 5 of seal, and 8 of whales and dolphins.

On the whole we were lucky with the weather, having mostly good visibility, although the swell meant that we could not always land where we wanted.  The scenery was magnificent, and the glaciers were really awe-inspiring. We sailed along glacier snouts several kilometres long, we sailed past tabular icebergs, castellated icebergs, decayed icebergs, bergy bits, brash ice, pancake ice.  We watched, and felt, glaciers calving, looked into, but did not go into ice caves of gigantic proportions, and the deepest blue imaginable. Many of these sights were seen from the zodiacs, and we also went into the pack in these small boats.  A glaciologists paradise.  We also experienced strong katabatic winds in South Georgia, which blew up out of nowhere, luckily before we set out in the zodiacs.

Stromness Harbour, South Georgia

The effect of the geology on the scenery was very interesting, ranging from the continental Andes, and the fjords in well-wooded, Tierra Del Fuego; the black volcanic ash of Deception Island, with a caldera about 8 miles long and which compares well with Santorini.  The last eruption was in the 70's.  The granite and gabbros of South Georgia, which forms such beautiful mountains, very steep ridges, and shapely peaks, like the Isle of Skye, and the Falkland Islands, an extension of South American, being on the continental shelf, and which are very like Dartmoor, treeless moorland areas with low tor-like hills.  There are still a lot of landmines here, areas where people cannot go, but the sheep and penguins find a safe haven.

In December 1997 a protocol was passed by all the interested countries to stop all mining and oil exploration on the continent - this was one good thing to come out of the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.  We visited a number of the scientific bases and I was horrified to see the mess and degradation of the areas around some of the large bases.  On Prince Edward Island where we dropped off some Russian scientists, there were bases run by Russia, Argentina, Chile, and China, and there was also an airfield.  The only justification for tourists is to keep the scientists in check.  To prevent further pollution we were not allowed to dump any rubbish either on land or in the sea south of the Antarctic Convergence.

Certainly a trip to remember.  Trouble is I am now hooked, so in 1999 am heading north to Iceland, Jan Mayen Island and Spitsbergen.


NCA Policy on fixed Aids


Policy on fixed aids.


With the introduction of the Anchor Replacement Programme, British cavers now have the benefit of a properly controlled and managed programme of installation for fixed aids intended primarily for SRT.  However, in many caves in the UK, SRT is not an appropriate technique to use and over the years many other types of aid (for example, iron ladders, chains and Rawlbolts) have been used.

The purpose of this policy is to formalise the use of these aids in order to provide the same level of protection for the users and for the installers as now exists under the Anchor Replacement Programme.  Within limits necessarily set by the need to maintain adequate controls, this policy has intentionally been drafted so that it may include aids which have already been placed in caves prior to its introduction (subject to an appropriate adoption procedure) and so as not to limit the selection and installation of fixed aids to a small and specially trained clique of personnel.


The aim of the NCA under this policy is to provide fixed aids that are tested or inspected regularly, and where appropriate remedial works or replacement carried out.  The number of aids covered will be kept to a minimum, and where possible alternatives are considered.  Where using other routes is safe and practical, consideration should be given to the removal of aids.

The aim of this policy is to make caving safer and to provide protection for those who place fixed aids on behalf of other cavers. It is not the aim of this policy to make caving easier.


1.1        Cave means any natural or man made underground cavity used by cavers.

1.2        Fixed aid means artificial fixtures or fittings placed in a cave for the purposes of safe access, progress or egress for regular use or for rescue, excluding those items covered under the Association's separate policy on anchor replacement.

1.3        Fixed aid does not include parts giving structural strength to cave walls or supporting roof structures etc.

1.4        Constituent Body means a regional council, member cub or specialist body of the Association.

1.5        Maintenance shall include, where appropriate, testing and replacement.


2.1        To safely provide and maintain fixed aids within caves, potholes and mines.

2.2        All aids shall be in caves open to NCA member clubs, as controlled by the constituent bodies of NCA.

2.3        Installation or adoption of any aid under this policy shall first be approved at a committee meeting of the relevant constituent body.

2.4        Co-ordination of this policy is the responsibility of the association's Equipment Committee.


3.1        Prior to fixing any new aid or replacing existing ones, consideration will be given to conservation, both with regard to the immediate area of the aid, and also to those areas to which it provides access.

3.2        The constituent body officer responsible for conservation shall be consulted prior to any new or replacement aid being installed.


4.1        The British Cave Rescue Council shall be the final arbiters of any matter relating to rescue.

4.2        Fixed aids covered under this policy shall neither hinder or impede any potential rescue efforts.  If necessary the aid shall be readily removable by the rescue team.

4.3        Prior to removing or replacing any aid, consideration shall be given to the potential of the aid to cause a rescue.

4.4        Consideration when installing or replacing aids shall be given to such factors as flooding, e.g. where a ladder would be better than a chain.

4.5        In cases of doubt with relevance to rescue, the local team must be consulted.


5.1        The selection of the fixed aid system shall be a matter for discussion by the relevant constituent body, taking account of nationally agreed guidelines.


6.1        A programme of regular inspection and, where necessary, maintenance, shall be established.

6.2        Inspection and maintenance shall be properly documented in accordance with section 7 of this policy.

6.3        Persons carrying out inspection and maintenance shall be adequately competent.

6.4        Inspection and maintenance shall be in accordance with nationally agreed guidelines

6.5        Any recommendations resulting from an inspection are to be carried out within a suitable time scale.  Failing this, the aid is to be removed from use until such time as the recommendations can be fulfilled.


7.1        Adequate records must be kept by the relevant constituent body for each fixed aid.

7.2        Records shall be sufficient to clearly identify:

- the location of the aid in the cave;

- the type of aid;

- the date(s) upon which the aid was placed and last inspected;

- the details of any maintenance work carried out;

- the names of persons carrying out installation and/or maintenance;

- that the type of aid selected is appropriate for the application;

- any pre-installation testing and evaluation performed on the aid.


8.1        Any individual or group authorised to work on behalf of the association under this policy will be indemnified by the association's insurance in so far as they are acting as officers of the association.

8.2        Any works or inspections carried out as part of this policy will be covered by the Association's insurance.


9.1        Nothing in this policy shall be taken to absolve the responsibility of an individual using any fixed aid to check that it is fit and safe for its intended purpose.

9.2        Only aids which have been installed fully in accordance with this policy shall be considered to be within its scope.

Draft 1 (based on DCA Draft 4 and discussions at the Equipment Committee Meeting of 13 June 1998).

Draft 2 agreed at the Equipment Committee meeting of13 February 1999

N. Williams


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

28030/5/99                 ISSA Meet, Bradford Pothole Club Gaping Gill Winch Meet - ISSA

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns Day

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

16/6/99                      June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Punch Bowl Inn, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

19/6/99                      Working Day and Evening Barbecue at the Belfry. All Welcome to the barbeque - The Committee

30/6/99                      June Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

2-4/7/99                     ISSA Meet, Dan yr Ogof - ISSA

7/7/99                        Open night, Floyd Collins (Musical). The Bridewell Theatre, London

24/7/99                      Mendip Challenge, based around Priddy Stomp at Priddy Village Hall in evening, with the Cheddar Blues Band – details to follow - John Dobson, ECG

28/7/99                      August Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

29/8/99                      OFD Columns Open Day

31/8/99                      Committee members reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

31/8/99                      Ghar Parau Foundation Grants applications deadline

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

10-12/9/99                  Hidden Earth ’99 BCRA Conference, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner

3-30/10/99                  Brush with Darkness 2

Wells Museum           Robin Gray

8-10/10/99                  ISSA Meet Indoor Workshop with Robin Gray, Mendip - ISSA

2-3/11/99                    Cave Art exhibition by Robin Gray, Explorer’s Café-Bar (Gough’s Tear Room) Cheddar - Robin Gray


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Sorry for the BB being slightly late, but as you can see this is a bumper edition and hopefully well worth waiting for; it comes complete with the Thailand 98 caving report.

My apologies to the people who have sent me articles that I haven't printed in this BB.  The printing company's saddle-stitching machine can only cope with 72 pages (original) so they will be in the next BB.

How many of you guessed the cave in the last BB.  It was Shatter Passage in Swildons and the individual in the photo was Pete Rose. Have a go at this one and you could actually win a prize if you get the cave locations right.

I am getting a lot of promises for articles for future BB’s, please can you try and get these to me as soon as possible so I can plan ahead for the contents of the BB’s.

The cut of for the next BB is 10th March 1999.  This is about a month late as I am in India, so unless anyone fancies doing the BB for me, it will have to wait until I get back!!  I would really appreciate if anyone has any articles for this one to let me know during January so I have a bit of an idea what to expect.

(Note: I have put the cut off and due dates for all next years BB’s in the rolling calendar- hopefully this will help a bit with the timing of articles)


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

*** Reminder***

Don't forget to pay your membership fees by the 31/12/98 to take advantage of the reduced rates of £24 for single and £38 for joint.  Please note that anyone who has not paid their membership will receive no further Belfry Bulletins, until their fees are paid. We cannot guarantee to hold any Belfry Bulletins you may have missed due to late payment.

BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match - 2nd January 1999

Don't forget to come along and support your club for this annual challenge.  As usual it is being held in the New Inn at Priddy.  'Ball bowling' will start at 7pm.


Photos are still required for the photo-board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in.  Ed.

BEC Stomp

The BEC are holding a stomp on 30th January 1999.  This may well be fancy dress, so keep an eye open for the posters nearer the time. Tickets will be available from the usual outlets: Bat Products, Hunters and Committee members.  Please contact Roz Bateman for more information.


Burrington Cave Atlas

I am hoping to get the Burrington cave Atlas out in the early part of next year.  I am still lacking in photos for this, so if anyone has any Burrington photos, recent or historic please send them to Estelle address in the front cover - I will return all pictures that are sent to me.

Diggers Dinner and Disco

This was held at the Wookey Hole Inn on 21st of November.  For anyone who didn't attend, you missed one of the best party nights of the year.  Well done to Vince Simmonds for organising a very enjoyable event.


Is anyone interested in snowboarding?  Carol 'Whitemeg' White is looking for people who are interested in snowboarding in the Alps during the first 2 weeks of February.  Caravan accommodation is £250 divided by the number of people sharing. Carol can be contacted during the day on 01452 xxxxxx


I have had some response to this, but I know there are many more of you out there who have nicknames, so come on tell me how they came about.  Ed.

BEC Computer

We should have a computer, capable of doing what is required, in the library before the New Year. (As long as I get time to build it!!!) Thanks for the donations of bits so far. Ed.

Cave Diving

For anyone wishing to try cave diving, read P.46 of the new Bristol Yellow Pages.  Neatly located under the 'Highs and Lows' (as opposed to the 'Fun for Kids') page, along with the Wookey Hole Showcaves advert ('Fun for Kids'!) and Cheddar Caves' 'Adventure caving' advert, Dany (B.O.W.) Bradshaw has an advert for his 'Regular cave dives' using 'some of the most advanced equipment in the country to negotiate the caves flooded tunnels and passages’.

Feel free to contact Dany for more details!!  I 'spec he will not be amused!!

Excess Hot Air

Readers will be pleased to hear that one of the hot air balloons soon to attempt the Trans-world challenge, and piloted by Andy Elson of Wells, will be sporting several "Bertie" stickers.  We hope it brings them luck and that they get 'Everywhere' they want to go.

Out thanks to Andy (a Hunters' devotee) for sticking them in the gondola where larger and richer organisations have been refused.  Watch out for them on the telly.  J'Rat


Mike Dewdney-York and P.B."Jesos" Smith - reminiscences.

In a bad week during November the writer lost two good friends of over thirty years standing and the caving world lost two great Characters.

Mike York, renowned Wessex Cave Club hut warden and librarian died instantly of a massive heart attack.  I am informed that he had a smile on his face and we can only speculate that at the time he was foreseeing the banning of the BEC from his wake barrel!  Never famous for his caving enthusiasm (not many caves being big enough for his massive figure) his contribution to the Mendip scene lay in his personality and knowledge of speleological literature.  His bookbinding skills were appreciated by many.  His physical size and hirsute nature ensured that he stood out in any pub. I well remember a trip to Co. Clare many years ago when, decked out in his usual tatty fisherman's smock, he was photographed by hordes of American tourists as he whittled a bit of wood in O'Connor's Bar.  They obviously couldn't tell the difference between a Jewish Portland, Dorset accent and that of a Clare man!  Still, he was kept in Guinness for the day .....

The Hill, and particularly Upper Pitts, will not be quite the same without him.

Pete "Jesus" Smith, generally known as PB, was a character of similar vintage and obstreperousness.  He dedicated much of his caving career to digging in the Peak District - especially in Peak Cavern - as a member of BSA and later TSG.  He, also, had a great interest in caving literature and put much work into the BSA/BCRA library.

He died from the results of an eight foot fall from scaffolding while at work in Leeds an ironic death for such a skilled engineer and digger whose magnificent scaffold headframe was much admired at the last BCRA Conference.

I always considered him to be immortal.  On an early Berger trip his van full of (probably pissed) Derbyshire cavers left the track to La Moliere and was stopped from a 2,000 foot drop by a tree - from which one of the doors had to be pulled out as it was embedded like an axe blade! He drove the van back to Sheffield.

Not long ago he broke his ankle in Cuthbert's and had the further misfortune of finding that Jane was casualty nurse at Weston A&E.  Being of a thrifty nature he refused to have his wet sock cut off and the air turned blue when Jane, delighted with the opportunity, pulled it off instead.  He was later very grateful for her services.

As a mainstay of Derbyshire caving and an old Shepton Mallet CC member he will be sorely missed in both areas.

Cheers fellas - see you in the Big Hunters' in the Sky.


P.B. Smith

PB was a good friend of mine and I know will be sadly missed by many people.

I have many good memories, but the picture that will always stick in my mind of PB, is the Cuthbert's rescue.  I was leading the trip and just up from Plantation Junction, this voice from below calmly called up saying, "This rock just fell out of the roof, brushed past my shoulder and landed on my foot and has broken it!"  My comment back was something about damaging the cave and to get a move on up the slope, as I didn't believe him, as he was so calm! He assured me that he was serious, and apart from a lifeline up Arête pitch and the Entrance Rift, he did the most fantastic self-rescue I have seen.  The hospital trip afterwards was very humorous as Jane Jarratt was on duty in casualty and didn't give him any sympathy, as was the pub after; he took great pride in using it as an excuse to get everyone else to go to the bar for him!

Derbyshire and the BCRA conferences will never be the same without him.

Estelle (Ed.)

P.B. Smith

On 19th November 1998, Derbyshire and the caving world lost one of its 'real' characters, Pete Smith (PB) after a fatal accident on a building site whilst at work.

PB was one of the first cavers I met when I started caving in 1993.  He introduced me to the art of digging and when I was back in Mansfield during university holidays, I joined him on several occasions in Blue John Cavern on digging trips.  He was always a very active caver, digger and a supporter of caving events.  I have so many good memories of antics at BCRA conferences, digging, caving in France last year and in particular the way he always greeted me with a big smile and a hug.

Most cavers who have been on the caving scene for years or those that have caved in Derbyshire will have known PB, and know that he will be very much missed.

Emma Porter


Hazelnut Swallet

By Mike Willett

This interesting cave is situated in Biddlecombe valley, the foot of which lies just outside Wells, and rises past West Horrington.  It can be accessed at the top on the opposite side of the road from Pen Hill Mast. Digging at this site first started in 1986 by the Independent speleo Group, who opened up the entrance chamber to the cave after much hard work damming it off from the stream, and securing the entrance.  Our interest in this dig site was aroused in the Easter period of 97, after Adrian Hole, Nick Mitchell and myself were forced out of Beryl Rift a few hundred yards down valley from Hazelnut Swallet, due to regular flooding of the dig.  The ISG kindly allowed us to have Hazelnut Swallet, as they had not made much more progress since their last efforts in 1988.  The dig is situated about halfway down-valley just past West Horrington in the left-hand bank; it has a grill over the entrance.

It has been proven that the water sinking in Biddlecombe valley resurges at the springs at St Andrews Well in Wells.  It would be true to say that the hopes for the dig are, that Hazelnut Swallet could give us access to whatever cave system there is under this part of Mendip, draining the Pen Hill, Haydon Drove and West Horrington area.  It certainly does not seem improbable that a streamway could be met holding the water from Haydon Drove and Slab House Swallets and other sinks in the area.  Either way the potential is there for a sizeable cave system in this area.  If it will lead us storming down great cave passages, to the underground river that feeds the springs in Wells, only time and digging will tell.

Sadly for his friends, Adrian had to move to Gloucester for his career in teaching.  When Nick and I took over the dig in April 97 we knew after looking at the body length section of passage at the bottom left hand comer of the chamber, that we had a long job on our hands.  The way on looked much smaller than body-size, but continued for as far as our lights could see, so the next few months went as follows:

Hazelnut Swallet Digging log for 1997


13TH  We prepared the dig, clearing the streambed and leaving a digging skip and ropes.

19TH  Banged by John Attwood and Nick.  This was a very effective bang, which shattered the rock and calcite for a few feet. After the initial spoil was cleared, our next twice weekly visits until the end of April were spent chiselling the well fractured rock and clearing the stream bed of loose rocks.


3RD  Due to a bang shortage we decided to give Hilti caps a try.  This method worked very well for the first two bangs gaining a couple of feet, until the third attempt when I managed to blow a neat hole through my little finger, and peppered the side of my hand with shrapnel. Nick and I left for the pub at this point, leaving a spoil heap to clear on our next trip.

10TH  Cleared spoil from last visit.

13TH  Had a session chiselling with some success.  A large calcited slab was pulled out making the way on easier to see.

15TH  Drilled two good shotholes ready for banging. 

17TH  Banged by John Attwood.

18TH  Cleared bang gaining a few feet.

20TH  One hole was drilled 14mm diameter the full length of bit. (600mm)

22ND  A second hole was drilled 14mm, but only half the length of drill bit, due to a weak battery.

25TH  Banged by John Attwood.

27TH  Clearing trip.

29TH  Drilled two and a half holes 12mm diameter.


8TH  Re-drilled holes increased length to 600mm and banged by Nick Williams and friend.

10TH  Clearing trip.

12TH  Drilling trip, not successful due to lack of room for manoeuvring.

14TH  Used a Kango hammer after carrying Nick's generator to the dig, which made us a little more room for drilling.

17TH  Nick Mitchell showed Pete Flannagan of the ISG, the progress we were making.

19TH  Carrying Nick's generator down to the dig and running the cables to the dig face, we drilled six good shotholes.  (14mm diameter, 600mm long.)

22ND  Dig banged by Tony Jarratt.  (Very loud.)

27TH  Clearing trip.  Lots of spoil to clear, of which we cleared about half because Nick and I were feeling a bit rough.

29TH  Second clearing trip.  After removing all the spoil and chiselling away at a calcite constriction, a breakthrough looks inevitable into roomier passage after the next bang!


1ST  Carried Nick's generator to the dig again, and drilled four holes (600mm long 14mm diameter.)

2ND  Banged by Tony Jarratt.

3RD  Breakthrough!!  Cleared debris to get an estimated eight feet of small passage with a little grotto on the right. The way on is straight ahead and looks like it will mean more banging again.

10TH  Antony Butcher helped us with a lot of gardening work in tidying up the breakthrough squeeze and clearing digging spoil from the entrance chamber.

15TH  Antony accompanied us again, although not much was achieved.  We had a go at chiselling and cleared a couple of bags of gravel.

17TH  Helped again by Anthony we carried the generator to the dig and drilled two holes 600mm long. There was no good surface to drill a third because of manoeuvring with a long drill bit.

This marked the end of our efforts for 97, due to a long spell of very wet weather and the beginning of the drinking season.  I have noted on my calendar a visit in February of 1998, when Nick and I cleared the dig of washed in debris and had a hammer at the end.  Our efforts in 97 had given us a total dig length of 47 feet. The end of the dig carries on smaller than body size for about twelve feet where it looks as though a cross rift or comer will be met.

Hazelnut Swallet Digging log 1998.


14TH  Dig Banged by Nick Mitchell and Graham Johnson (Jake).

16TH  Nick, Jake and Becca Campbell.  Cleared spoil, drilled and banged again.

17TH  Nick, Mike, Jake and Blue (Nick's dog.)  Started clearing shite of which there was plenty.

19TH  Mike, Nick, Becca, Jake and Blue.  Carried on clearing then drilled and banged.

21ST  Nick, Jake and Becca with subterranean Blue.  Partial clearance, drilled and banged.  Becca pushed to inlet soon to be reached by the rest of us, which appears interesting but we have yet to see round the corner.

26TH  Nick, Mike, Jake and Paul Brock.  Clearing trip.

29TH  Nick, Jake and Becca.  Enlarged calcite squeeze to allow passage of the digging skip to the end. Hammered at the end.


1ST  Tony Jarratt, Jake, and Nick banged the dig.

2ND  Nick, Jake, Becca, Paul and Blue x 2 cleared the end of a bit of rubble.

4TH  Jake and Chris of the Oxford DCC.  Banged dig ("Biddlecombe did fair echo." Wrote Jake.)

9TH  Mike, Nick, Jake and Richard Blake.  The future looks good, the last bang did better than most.  We managed to see around the comer at a low calcite constricted duck.  To get at the duck properly we need to bang off the comer.

14TH  Jake, Rich and Tony Jarratt banged the comer.

15TH  Nick, Jake, Becca and Richard.  Cleared the bang but it still needs another.

16TH  Jake and Mike returned to drill and bang the dig.

21ST  Nick, Christina, Jake, Becca and Mike.  The last two bangs had made us good progress along the passage to a point where the small stream turned right, into a very low duck.  The debris was cleared and the low arch of the duck hammered, this enabled me to just squeeze my head through and look into a small well decorated chamber. Becca Campbell managed to sit up in the chamber.  It was decided to return with a good chisel to enlarge the duck.

23RD  Nick, Mike, Jake, Becca, Richard.  We managed to enlarge the duck and slide through it into a small chamber, enough to sit up in, with a nice grotto. The way on is down a small rift opposite the duck, which will require a couple of bangs.

25TH  Banged by Richard Blake and Tony Jarratt.


5TH  Nick, Mike and Jake.  An unexpected breakthrough!  Cleared the debris and after a lot of smashing about and falling loose boulders, squeezed into a sizeable chamber, although still low the chamber is about ten feet wide sloping down dip with a vadose trench in the floor.  At the bottom end of the chamber there are two passages, the way on appears to be in the left passage which needs rocks hauled out of it. It was getting late for the pub so we decided to push it on our next trip.

7TH  Nick, Mike and Jake.  Nick pushed the left passage and passed back lots of rocks to produce a flat out crawl down to a calcite constriction, which you can look through into a hands and knees size passage bearing a sizeable stream, most probably the water sinking in Biddlecombe Swallet and the stream bed outside the cave. One good bang and we should be through!

8TH  Tony Jarratt and Ivan Sandford banged the constriction.

11TH  Becca, Jake, Nick, Mike.  The bang obliterated the squeeze to allow access to about eight feet of streamway, coming from a small inlet passage on the right.  The stream flows straight ahead for its short length, and at the end appears to turn sharp left under what looks like another duck or low, very wet crawl.  There appears to be a good draught, which is good but makes digging a cold, wet job, so it looks like wetsuits all round.  Jake and Becca surveyed the cave to the duck.  The way on for now needs more chiselling and the streambed dug out.



BCRA Regional Meet



Tai Rom Yen 1998

Editor – Rob Harper, BVM&S, MRCVS, FRGS.


This is an account of a short reconnaissance trip made during January of 1998 to assess the speleological potential of the Tai Rom Yen National Park in Surat Thani Province in Southern Thailand.  It was a joint project involving both Thai and British cavers as well as employees of the Royal Forestry Department of Thailand.

The Tai Rom Yen National Park is situated near Surat Thani approximately 640km south of Bangkok on the eastern side of the peninsula.


Tony Boycott - (UK)                          Bristol Exploration Club

Rob Harper - (UK)                             Bristol Exploration Club

Dean Smart - (Thailand)                    Royal Forestry Dept.

Anukoon Sorn-Ek - (Thailand)            Royal Forestry Dept.


We are very grateful for all the help and generous hospitality received from the employees of the Royal Forestry Department in the Tai Rom Yen National Park.

In particular ....

Chief ..................................................................... Sunlit Sirichot

Assistant Chief ...................................................... Somsak Suphanpradit

Head of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station .................. Racheng Ranthaphun

Head of Khong Ngai Ranger Station ......................... Nara Kongkhiaw

Rangers ................................................................ Saming Musikawong

............................................................................. Banjong Niyarat

............................................................................. Jetsada Maneechai

............................................................................. Jarin Meunsawat

............................................................................. Saengthawee Hanprachum

............................................................................. Somcheua Romkhiri

............................................................................. Somyot Saejeu

............................................................................. Somdet Saejeu

............................................................................. Liem Kaeonark

............................................................................. Chorb Chaidet

............................................................................. Prayut Lorbthong

............................................................................. Chaliew Klingklaow

............................................................................. Sithichoke Heetket


The karst and caves of Thai Rom Yen National Park are all formed in limestones of Permian age (c.275-235ma) called the Ratburi Group.  This limestone is found throughout Thailand, except for the north east. It is hard, massively bedded and light to dark grey in colour.  At Tai Rom Yen, metamorphic processes have altered the rock to marble and many, white calcite-filled fractures criss-cross through it.

During the Permian period, Thailand was positioned upside down on the equator.  Tectonic activity was quiet and a stable platform developed in a warm, shallow sea - an ideal habitat for shelled marine creatures. The shells of these animals accumulated up to 2,000m thickness. Fossils of the Ratburi group include brachiopods, corals, gastropods and fusilinids.

Later, during the Triassic period (c.225-190ma) Thailand drifted northwards, span around 180 degrees and collided with Indo-China.  Marine sandstones and shales were deposited on top of the limestone as the sea became deeper.  Granite plutons pushed upwards through the Earth's crust.  Heat from the granites turned the limestone into marble and the increased pressure fractured it severely, forming the calcite veins.

Further tectonic movements in the Cretaceous period (c.135-65ma) faulted and uplifted the rocks into mountains.  Erosion began and the karst landscape we see today started forming.

Finally, in the last 2 million years, rivers eroded sediments from the mountains and deposited them as the flat plains surrounding the area.  Relative sea level changes of up to 300m in amplitude have also helped to shape the local scenery.

Karst in Tai Rom Yen National Park presents a variety of forms.  There are isolated remnants of limestone on top of a granite base, as seen near the headquarters.  Caves here are short, inactive parts of much older, longer systems which carried underground streams.  Erosion of the limestone broke up the old caves and diverted the streams onto the surface.  Tham Ngu is a good example.  A single active cave, Tham Nam Lod, is small and probably young in age.

More extensive areas of karst in the northern part of the park contain longer underground cave systems up to 4km in length.  Here, dolines capture rainwater falling on the limestone and streams flowing off the granite and sandstone sink at the edge of the karst.  The water emerges again at caves such as Tham Khlong Wat, Tham Huai Khang Khao and Tham Huai Sit.  These caves are quite small in size and their passage shapes suggest that they are also young in age (especially Tham Huai Sit).  Large, inactive, upper level caves do exist as at Tham Men. These caves are much older.

Khao Nan Daeng is an example of a karst ridge, aligned with the general geological structure of the area (N-S).  Bedding planes in the limestone are near vertical and also aligned N-S, but the ridge probably formed by fault movement on either side.  Caves here include ancient, inactive caves, such as Tham Men, and younger, active caves carrying a stream through the ridge, e.g. Tham PIa.

All of the caves in Tai Rom Yen have an origin in the phreatic zone (beneath the water table). Round chambers and smooth walls (Tham Men and Tham Men) are evidence of this.  The younger, still active caves are developing partly in the phreatic zone when rainy season floods fill the caves to the roof (round to oval passage cross sections in Tham PIa, Tham Khlong Wat, etc.) and partly in the vadose zone (above the water table) during the dry season.  Tham Kraduk is also originally phreatic.  Here though, the cave has a very flat roof due to near static water from the surrounding marsh entering the cave and evenly dissolving away the roof.





The caves examined were in four areas.

1. Khao Nan Daeng

This sharp limestone ridge starts approximately 1 km North-East of the town of Amphoe Ban Na San and runs approximately North for about 5 km rising to a height of 300m and varying in width from 0.2 to 0.5 km.   Although many cave entrances are visible, only three systems were visited on this trip.

Tham Men ("Smelly Cave")


The Buddhist temple beside the lower entrance to this cave is easily seen from the main road from Amphoe Ban Na San to Ban Khlong Ha.  Drive towards the temple and then follow the road beside this temple to the North until a signpost on the right hand side with a picture of the cave.  From here, an obvious path leads up the hillside to the main entrance.


From the large entrance chamber two passages lead on.

To the right, a complex maze of small phreatic passages eventually leads to single low passage heading to a lower entrance directly above the temple.

Straight ahead, a low stoop leads to a rift approximately 10m deep, (fixed ladder in situ).  At the bottom left leads to a small series of rift passages which were not pushed to a conclusion while right leads to a series of large dry fossil passages with good formations.

At one point, a series of pitches can be seen descending to a possible lower level but these were not descended owing to lack of tackle.

This cave was not surveyed owing to a lack of time.  A Grade 1/2 survey done by local cavers would indicate approximately 2km of known passage.

Tham Kraduk ("Bone Cave")


From Tham Men follow the road North paralleling the western side of the ridge for approximately 3kms then turn right along tracks heading towards the base of the cliff.  At the narrowest point of the ridge below a col is a stream resurging from a cave (Tham Pla) Tham Kraduk is found at the base of the cliff approximately 300m to the South. Local guidance is extremely useful.


Depressing series of low phreatic mud floored passages and occasional crossrifts.

From the entrance crawl a passage to the right 2 to 4m wide and approximately 1m high parallels the cliff face and daylight can be seen through a small hole on the right hand side.  This passage ends in a wide chamber.  About 10m from the start of this passage, another passage on the left-hand side can be followed past several cross rifts to a small sump in a rift in the floor. The passage to the right of the sump closes down within a short distance


Tham PIa ("Fish Cave")


See Tham Kraduk


Follow the stream to its resurgence, underneath a huge boulder, at the base of the cliff.  Climbing over this boulder allows access to a rift dropping into waist-deep water.  A stooping sized passage quickly leads to a short gravel floored crawl and after approx.  10m this opens out into a large river passage.  This can be followed upstream.  Passage dimensions vary between l0x6m to 5x5m with occasional low stoops and a short section of swimming at a duck to end in a large boulder ruckle.  Several small passages and low ducks allow penetration of this ruckle but no way through could be found.  There may be a passage over the top but this could not be reached.  According to local people, this boulder ruckle is only just inside the entrance of the stream sink on the opposite side of the ridge.

Several parallel/oxbow passages were noted.

2. Near Tai Rom Yen National Park Headquarters.

Tham Ngu ("Snake Cave")


At the "T" junction at the end of the road from the Park Headquarters turn right and stop at a rubber plantation on the right after approx. 3km. The cave is located high on the hill behind this plantation.  Follow the path from the plantation across the stream and follow a poorly defined gully. Local guidance is essential.


A large and very well decorated entrance chamber leads to two short walking passages either side of a pillar.  These quickly unite shortly before the cave ends at a series of dry gours home to a sizeable snake.

Bamboo Rat in Tham Nam Lod – Photo: Tony Boycott

Cave Racer snake in Tham Ngu – Photo: Tony Boucott


Tham Nam Lod ("Stream Cave")


In the slopes directly opposite the Park Headquarters.  From the road drop down into the valley and cross the stream to an old abandoned banana plantation.  From here, follow the small stream up to the cave from which it resurges. Local guidance is extremely useful.


From the entrance a single stooping height gravel floored passage ends after about 30m at a small sump.  A small phreatic tube to the left of the sump rapidly becomes too tight and is home for a bamboo rat!

3. Near Phetphanomwat Field Station.

Tham Khlone: Wat ("Temple Stream Cave'')


From the field station, follow the obvious path on the opposite side of the road down into the valley meeting the stream at a small Buddhist shrine. Although the cave can be entered via the resurgence of this stream, it is simpler to follow the small cliff around to the left for approximately 30 to 40m to an obvious flood resurgence.


The walking sized passage is followed until the main stream passage is encountered.  From here the stream can be followed along a winding passage via a series of pools some of which require swimming to a stal blockage with the stream emerging.

A short crawl and two ducks under the stal blockage lead to a short cascade and then a deep sump.

Above the stal blockage, a rift passage can be followed to a second stal blockage probably at the same level as the sump.

On the left hand side of the passage about 20m towards the entrance from the stal blockage is a short inlet passage.

There are several inlet and outlet passages near the entrance.

Tham Huai Khang Khao ("Bat Cave")


This cave is located in the hill behind the field station.  From the field station head slightly right up the hill and follow a shallow streambed, and a black water pipe, to the entrance of this resurgence cave.


A large passage with silt banks leads to a gloomy stream passage with many bats.  Walking and wading eventually leads to a sump after approximately 170m.

Near the entrance, there are several outlet passages some of which lead to alternative entrances. In one passage a fossilised elephant tooth was found.

The only inlet passage on the right hand side about 35m downstream from the sump rapidly ends in a loose boulder choke.


Fossil Elephant molar in Tham Huai Khang Khao – Photo: Tony Boycott

Frig in Tham Huai Khang Khao – Photo: Tony Boycott     

4. Huai Sit

Tham Huai Sit 1& 2 ("Sit's Stream Cave 1 & 2")


From the village, follow the obvious river upstream to its resurgence from underneath a pile of boulders.  The entrance to Huai Sit 1 is an intermittently active stream passage in a 3m deep cleft approximately 30m along the base of the hill to the right. Huai Sit 2 is the obvious 2mdiameter passage heading into the hill about 10m further round and about 10m higher up the hill.


Huai Sit 1

A narrow hading rift passage is followed to a cross-rift which debouches into the large main stream passage.

Upstream the passage enlarges at a boulder pile with the stream emerging from a sump immediately beyond.  A sand-choked rift above the sump emits an impressive draught.  Downstream swimming around a comer leads to a further 30m of swimming to another sump, which must be very close to the surface.

Huai Sit 2

The impressive passage rapidly deteriorates into loose tight muddy rifts with bad air to a sump. The side passages revealed nothing of significance.

Tham Men (“Porcupine Cave”)

Rob Harper in entrance to Tham men (Huai Sit) – Photo – Tony Boycott

Gecko on curtain in Tham men (Huai Sit) – Photo – Tony Boycott


From either Huai Sit 1 or 2 head directly upslope for about 40 to 50m. The cave is located in an indistinct gully at the base of a small cliff.  This is not easy to find - even the locals did not know that it was there!


The entrance squeeze leads down slope over hard packed silt passing over a blind shaft in the floor (bad air) and enlarges to approx. 10x10m at a chamber. Much evidence of porcupines throughout the cave.

From this chamber, a walking passage can be followed to a stal obstruction. A low crawl on the right leads to a short hands and knees crawl to a static sump.  This passage contains many dusty formations including gour pools and false floors as well as evidence of intermittent flooding.

The only significant side passage leads from the true right hand side of the large chamber near the entrance.  A rising passage leads for 40m through a series of small chambers to a point that must be very close to the surface.

5. Other unvisited caves in the area:

Unnamed Cave


Southern end of Khao Nam Daeng


Flooded in all but the dry season when a very muddy, wet passage can be followed for several hundred metres.

Tham Mek


In cliff face above and behind the park headquarters.


Rock shelter containing gour pools and bees' nests.

Tham Khi Khang Khao


1 hrs walk E of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station.


Small dry cave used by locals for extraction of guano.

Tham Nam Sap


1hrs walk N of Tham Khi Khang Khao


Probably a stream sink cave.  No further details.

Tham Nam Lod


To the E of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station the Nai Chong, Wat and Kong Chang streams join and sink into a cave at about G.R. 584 874.


A large stream sink which is possibly choked with logs.  No further details.


The caves explored contained a large population of animals.  The high-energy tropical environment of most caves with frequent floods and multiple entrance systems favours large populations, mostly of troglophiles and trogloxenes, but some true troglobites were seen.  Many bats were seen, of at least two different species, but surprisingly no fruit bats were seen.

As a small reconnaissance expedition, we were not intending to collect any biological specimens.  The elephant molar found in Tham Khang Khao has not yet been specifically identified.  However, a bat skeleton found in Tham Men ("Smelly Cave") has been identified.  It could be one of four similar species, but we are most confident that it is a Hipposideros lekaguli.  This is quite a rare species of bat that is native to Thailand and this population would probably merit further evaluation.

Fauna List

(Species without cave name in brackets were seen in most caves visited.)


Fossil elephant molar                                               (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

Porcupine spines and tracks (Hystrix spp.)                (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

                                                                              (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])

Rhinolophus bats (at least two different species)

Bamboo Rat (Rhizomys sinensis)                                                (Tham Nam Lod)


Cave Racer Snake (Elaphae taeniura)                        (Tham Kraduk)

                                                                              (Tham Ngu)

Unidentified tube-nosed turtle                                    (Tham Khlong Wat)

Frogs & Toads (pigmented surface species)               (All stream caves)

Banded geckos                                                       (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])


Fish (surface species, pigmented with eyes)              (All stream caves)

Catfish (surface form)                                               (Tham Khlong Wat)


Crabs (Pale orange)                                                 (Tham Khlong Wat)

                                                                              (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

Huntsman spiders                                                    (Tham Men ["Smelly Cave"])

Tarantula spiders                                                     (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])

Ixodid ticks

Millipedes (white and pigmented)

Crickets (white)


Whip Scorpions



Diptera larvae



All the surveys were to BCRA Grade 3b unless otherwise stated.  Bearings and inclinations were measured using a hand held Suunto compass and a hand held Suunto clinometer both of which were read to the nearest degree. Distances were measured using a 30m fibron tape measured to the nearest 5cms.

The survey data was processed and a centre line plotted using "COMPASS" software.

The UTM co-ordinates for the cave entrances were obtained by using a GARMIN "12XL" hand held GPS receiver.  Because of the difficulty of using these instruments in thick jungle terrain in some cases a rough surface survey was made to the nearest clearing where the requisite number of satellites for an accurate fix could be located by the GPS.

So for .....

THAM HUAI KHANG KHAO the cave entrance is approximately 100m from the UTM coordinated position on a bearing of 050deg. mag. 

THAM HUAI SIT 1&2 and THAM MEN the cave entrances are approximately 500m from the UTM co-ordinated position on a bearing of 045deg. mag.

The cave plans published in this report are intended as a map for future explorers. There is sufficient information provided to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of the work already done. Plan view has been used throughout, as there is little significant vertical range in any of the caves surveyed.  If further details are required then please contact the expedition members.


In a period of less than two weeks four cavers with help from the employees of the Royal Forestry Department mapped and photographed over 2.7 Km of cave passage.  Because of the constraints of time efforts were concentrated mainly on the easily accessible resurgence caves.  However, information from the National Park Rangers indicates that there are many other sites worthy of investigation.  In addition, topographical maps of the region show a number of streams sinks in the higher parts of the park with considerable scope for both long and deep cave development.

Besides sporting interest, the caves provide a home to many species of animals including a rare species of bat.  They contain potentially important palaeontological and palaeozoological data - as evidenced by the fossilised elephant's tooth.

This short reconnaissance trip has shown that there is significant potential for further speleological exploration in the Tai Romyen National Park.  It is vital that these caves are mapped and surveyed so that they can be integrated into the overall management plan for this beautiful area.



Five Buddles Sink - A Lost Cave Rediscovered - Part 2

(Continued from BB 494, Vol. 50 no. I, December 1997.)

By Tony Jarratt

"The Mendip Lead Mines was our attraction,
In those days there was no compulsory education.
To the mines we had six miles to walk and very poor pay,
For ten hours work we got sixpence a day."

Jesse Lovell of Compton Martin - born in 1847 and referring to the Charterhouse workings before 1871. From Coal Mining in Bishop Sutton, North Somerset. c. 1799-1929 by ~J. Williams, 1976.


Throughout December 1997 and January 1998 work continued on clearing the shaft and repairing the roadside walls with the extracted rocks. A long miner's iron bar was found by Estelle and used again after over 100 years of inaction.     Various large boulders were banged including several which slid into the shaft from the natural area above the connection point during the Christmas holiday week.  The slow but very powerful winch used at Stock Hill Mine Cave was erected on site and used to haul six loads at a time from the shaft.  With the surface wall repairs complete the excess rock was dumped across the road for future use by Somerset Trust in repairing the Mineries Pool dam.  Continued wet weather ensured that a healthy stream regularly ran through the Old Mens' Passage (as the enlarged natural streamway had been named) to flood the low passage above the "sumped" area below the mineshaft.  When there were insufficient personnel for hauling spoil, work concentrated on clearing this passage to reveal the timbered floor and miners' stone walling along its sides (photo 7). 

Left Photo 1. The MCG Winch at Cornish Shaft - photo: Tony Jarratt

As "man-hauling" and the use of the slow winch were both becoming, literally, a pain, we approached Wayne Hiscox of the Mendip Caving Group for the loan of their motorised winch - not used since the Wigmore Swallet dig twenty years ago!  They happily agreed - for which our grateful thanks. This was fettled by Ivan and on 31st January a strong but distinctly wobbly team converted the shaft tripod into a coalmine-like headgear and, after attaching the winch, successfully hauled out about 20 full skiploads.

On the following day a big team winched out over 80 more loads to the entertainment of hordes of walkers.  A three-man team repeated this performance in peace and quiet on the Monday.

The huge limestone slabs wedged across the connection point between the shaft and Old Men’s Passage were banged and removed to leave a very impressive junction far bigger than that seen by the nineteenth century miners.  On 5th February more clearing of the shaft revealed a shothole 12" long x 1,1/2" wide at the top x 1,3/8" at the bottom which had been driven vertically downwards in the NE wall near the shaft floor.  A small wooden "spatula" was later found near this and was presumably used to scrape clay from mining equipment.

Having now reached the (temporary) base of the shaft at a depth of over 30ft work commenced on clearing the lead tailings-filled crawl downstream.  The drop down to the "sump" was flooded at 5ft depth so for want of anything better to do a muddy alcove above it was cleared out by Jake Baynes to reveal it as the start of an almost completely filled natural/mined passage trending back towards Wheel Pit across the road.  A 7" x l" shothole segment was found in the ceiling and the infill of thick, sticky black and ochre clay contained many pieces of wood and two more wooden rollers - these having metal "cogwheels" on one end and small axles on the other.  They matched in size that found previously and illustrated in BB No.494. They resemble the rollers from an old fashioned mangle (but are shorter) and may indeed be such, though what they were doing at a lead washing plant is open to question - perhaps the "slaggers" wrung out their wet clothing at the end of the day.  A more likely possibility is that they were purpose built for some form of winding or haulage system, despite the fact that they show no signs of rope wear.  They are in the writer's possession and available for inspection should any reader care to speculate on their purpose.

Very wet weather during the next two months restricted our digging activities but despite this several hundred bags of spoil, generally from the area near the shaft bottom, reached surface. The Old Men’s wooden floor at the start of the downstream section was once again revealed and cleared of mud and the dug "dry" level earned the name Tailings Passage as we couldn't think of anything more fitting!

In this passage, once the hot and dry weather commenced, a vast amount of the custard-like infill was dug out.  Part way along a wooden prop was unearthed on the N side - still failing to support the perfectly solid ceiling beneath which it was wedged over a century ago! (Photo 5 and 6)

On April 1st, appropriately, Helmut, Michele and Anette Potzsch visited the dig to assist and take stereo photos of the operation with which to impress their Basque and German colleagues.  Meanwhile, above, a curious passing policeman was almost persuaded by Trevor to help with the bag emptying!

On 13th May the Tailings Passage dig reached a blank rock wall with large planks of timber buried in the clay below.  These were pulled out by Rich Blake, as was a 4" diameter section of prop with a nail in the end.  As the dig started to fill with water he realised that he had literally "pulled the plug out" but luckily there was only a trickle and even this may have been caused by the raging thunderstorm on the surface which was driving the hauling team to unaccustomed labour underground.

The following week Jake B. removed more wood here to reveal an apparently natural flooded rift below - previously capped by the Old Men.  More wooden floor was revealed in this passage and later found to extend its full length.  It was almost certainly installed throughout the workings to make shovelling and sledging of the tailings easier as in Upper Flood Swallet (Stanton 1976).  Above the floor the infill generally consisted of around 3" of up to fist-sized stones set solidly in red clay, an inch or so of black and coarse gravel, a couple of inches of fine grey or black laminated mud and a few feet of sticky black and ochre clay - this latter deposit possibly being a direct result of sudden floods such as those which occurred when the nearby dam burst in 1900 and 1935.  The former date would account for the abandonment of the wooden sledge and the layer of potentially valuable lead deposits left in situ on the wooden flooring - it being more economically viable to cease operations than to dig out all the inwashed sludge.  A section of these deposits was left under the higher wooden floor near the base of the shaft but further work later required its removal.

On 1st June a double-acting hand pump was installed in Tailings Passage and four large, blue "grot bins" were rapidly filled with water from the rift.  This resulted in the lowering of the flooded "sump" area thus proving their connection.  Further pumping operations continued throughout the month, using the dammed off Old Mens' Passage as a temporary reservoir.  A hired submersible pump, driven by a generator on the surface, proved to be an expensive disappointment when it failed to push the head of water from here up the last 3ft of shaft - 30ft being its limit.  The Cornish Shaft was fitted with scaffolding to enable more concreting to be done below the entrance pipe and to act as a platform to store water drums halfway up the shaft (photo 3).  This was used to good avail on 16th and 17th August when the hired pump was again put into action - this time pumping in two stages. After much frustrating rearrangement of hose-pipes the water was despatched to the surface where it sank near Snake Pit Hole.  Digging then continued below the miners' platform (at the current foot of the Cornish Shaft) which had been measured, photographed and removed to give access to this area (photo 4).

During the next two months digging, pumping and water hauling using 5-gallon drums continued and the underside of the concrete lid surround was consolidated.  One keen, 12-year-old digger even brought his own seaside bucket and spade!  A genuine Cornish miner in the shape of Paul Newcombe, joined the team and became the first "Cousin Jack" in the workings for over 1 00 years!

During the few weeks either side of Priddy Fair the winch and headgear had been removed for safe-keeping and so on 28th September a new headframe - complete with a professional looking steel winding wheel (photo 1) - was erected and most of the bagged spoil stored underground was hauled out.

On 19th October Rich Blake descended Cornish Shaft to find the bottom levels neck deep in water and a large stream flowing in from the Old Mens' Passage.  This put paid to any further work so the cave was emptied of digging gear, the headframe was taken down and the winch removed.  The writer dived in Tailings Passage in the hope of locating the underwater stream exit but was defeated by nil visibility.  It is encouraging to see that the flood levels only back up so far and the incoming stream escapes as fast as it enters. On 1st November the Tailings Passage water level was some 24ft below the flood level in the nearby Wheel Pit Swallet indicating that there is no immediate connection between the two. The large stream flowing into the wheel pit entrance of Five BuddIes is shown in photo 2.

In the meantime digging is being concentrated on the adjacent Stock's House Shafta choked mineshaft with a conspicuous spoil "collar" located on the edge of the forest directly opposite the ruins of Stock's House (an old cottage) and the track to the Waldegrave Works.  A c. 6ft diameter, rock walled shaft is being revealed with an infill of loose rocks - some bearing the remains of shot holes.  A further report on this fascinating area will follow at a future date.

Photo 2. The wheel pit entrance during the heavy rains in November - photo: Tony Jarratt

The Survey

Both of the entrances and that of the adjacent Wheel Pit were levelled to on 3rd June by Trevor Hughes, assisted by Carol White.  They then completed a BCRA grade 5 survey of the cave just as the digging team had cleared the last of the spoil from the impressive wooden floor in Tailings Passage. The writer also assisted Trevor when a surface survey was done soon afterwards.  The survey at the end of this article is the first draft and more details within the cave, such as the wooden floorboards, will be included in later surveys.  It has been photo reduced for BB purposes and will be reprinted in full scale in a later report.


One of the rusted steel milk chums recovered from halfway down Cornish Shaft in the latter part of 1997 bore a 65mm diameter copper plaque - as illustrated.  It may be coincidental that, like the large "botanical beer" container, it originated in Wolverhampton. Perhaps one of our Midlands members would like to research this company?

Thanks to Roger and Jackie Dors, the wooden "skip" recovered from the Cornish Shaft is now on permanent display above the "Sunday Night Table" in the Hunters'. The wooden rollers have been treated with preservative by John Cornwell.


Additional Diggers and Providers of Assistance

Barrie and Daren Jones, Graham Bromley, Bob Cottle, Rich Witcombe, Paul Stillman (WCC/ATLAS), Don Pickrell (MCG), Gary Ford, Daren Whitfield, Ryan Hennessy (the three Gurney Slade Apprentices), Toby Limmer, Mark "Gonzo" Lumley, Wayne Hiscox and the M.C.G., Skippy, Helmut, Michele and Anette Potzsch, Roger Haskett, Carol White, Gwilym "Taff' Evans (Frome CC), Rich Long, Vicki Parker, Mick Barker (Lincoln Scouts CC), Kevin Jones, Ron Wyncoll, Paul Newcombe, Barney Slater, Malcolm Davies, Boo Webster (Orpheus CC) and Tony Boycott.

Tony Jarratt, 17/11/98.



Five Buddles Sink, Chewton Minery (Provisional)
ST 5481 5138  BCRA Grade 5d  June 1998
Original Scales 1:00, 1:120.  Phot reduced for BB
Surveyed by: T. Hughes, C. White, T. Jarratt
Drawn: T. Hughes


From the Austrian Log

Written on the occasion of Vince's birthday by the members of the 1993 Dachstein Expedition while being snowed in at the Weisburghaus.

Ode to Vince on his Geburtstag

And now the end is near,
And so I face the final Stiegl.
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, which I know is feeble.
I've had a right skinful,
I've sampled each and every Goldbrau,
And so because of this
I'm very pissed now.

Schnapps, I've had a few
But then again too few to mention.
And then I tried a brew
A strange colloquial invention.
It seemed to dull my brain
But thankfully it has all gone now,
And so because of this
I'm very pissed now.
For what is a man, what has he got
If not a beer then he has not


Gwyn and Hilary's Xmas Grot Cavine Menu

By Gwyn Taylor and Hilary Wilson - with the help of a few friends in the pub!!


Poached Wetsocks on Toast

Beer Can and Condom Hedgerow Soup

Carbide and Cheese Dips

Mendip Mud Soup

Main Course

Stuffed Wetsock and Shreddie Souffle

River Shopping Trolley Trout with Almonds

Marinated Mudballs and Rock Chips (Diggers Surprise)

Bat Breasts in Aspic Accompanied by Broken Fingernail Salad

Split Wellington Simmered in Red Wine

Quackers A L'Orange speciality of the Day


Warmbac Sticky Zip Meringue

Crotch Rot Surprise with Custard

Harnessed Chocolate Balls with Ice Cream

Whillans Wedged Itch with Devon Cream


Cheesey Underwear and Biscuits followed by Butcombe and Belch


And then. there is the cave under my cellar ...

By Anette Becher

Having made friends with five German cavers during Meghalaya 1998, I decided to do some proper caving at home, and invited Snablet and myself for a visit.  In the last two weeks of September 1998, Snablet and I set off on a tour of the southern limestone regions of Germany.  We first went to the Franconian Jura (Fdinkische Schweiz).  This limestone area is spectacular with great cliffs and fantastic eroded limestone needles. There are plenty of caves, including some fine showcaves, but most seem to be short and fragmented.  The Franconian Jura is an eastern continuation of the Swabian Jura, the two areas being interrupted by a giant meteorite crater.

Daniel, Georg (Schorsch), Ritschi, Thilo and Uwe are from the Swabian Jura (Schwabische Alb).  From their stories of caving at home, I imagined the Swabian Jura to be fairly similar to Mendip.  We heard of a small, isolated limestone plateau, and of a town, Laichingen, full of cave(r)s.  There were tales of hut building, and of managing and working as guides in a showcave, the 'Laichinger Tiefenhohle' (The deep cave of Laichingen).  Driving up towards the Swabian Jura, still hung over from a night on the Oktoberfest, we quickly realised that there appeared to be a slight difference in scale perception.  The 'small' plateau turned out to be vast.  We later spent hours driving alongside it on our way towards France. The 'town' was medium city size, perhaps as big as Newport, complete with smoking furnaces and giant factory warehouses.  As for being full of cave(r)s, we had difficulty finding the showcave, as it was only signed out at one end of the town.  When we finally got there, it had just closed for the day. Finally, unlike the Franconian Jura and unlike Mendip, this region does not look much like a limestone area.

Fortunately, help in the form of Ritschi was on hand.  A telephone call and a Doner Kebab later, we met at the showcave.  To our great delight we went on a private tour straight away.  But first Ritschi had to count in, and record, his five regular bats. The Tiefenhohle is an -80m deep shaft with several pretty formations and bags worth of history and a museum to boot.  Perhaps the most unusual piece in the museum was a 3m tall replica of the geological strata in the Swabian Jura, built from rock fragments collected by various cavers and geologists.  Using this, Ritschi explained the reasons for horizontal development above a certain impenetrable rock band, and showed the potential for depth across various limestone layers.  Theory predicts that caves would not break into the delta layer, and until recently, Tiefenhohle was considered to have attained the maximum depth potential.  We were then shown the club hut, a lavish affair. Not a bunk or washroom in sight, but instead a modem office with computers, photocopiers, Venetian blinds, etc., etc. Downstairs is entirely devoted to the library and survey library. Ritschi is in charge of both.  I was amazed.  The library is professional and must have cost a fortune; shelves are on rollers with giant wheels to move them from one end of the room to the other. On the caving front, however, things were less amazing. Ritschi admitted to being the only active caver in his club!

Finally, Ritschi showed us the cave under his cellar at home, a mere ten minutes walk from the Tiefenhohle.  I think he said it needed blasting, but his mum was not keen on the idea for some reason. Personal caves seem to be all the rage in Germany.  The next day we pushed a cave under someone's garage.


This cave was found in June 1996 (Domke 199).  While excavating foundations for his new garage near Laichingen, house owner Willi Mueller broke into a large rift.  To investigate the extent of the rift, Willi called the Hohlen und Heimatverein Laichingen (HHVL), Ritschi's club.  However, as the club consists largely of amazingly competent magazine editors and hut builders, they delegated the surveying of the new cave to a neighbouring club, the Kahlensteiner HV.  Karsten Kuschela and his friends happily took on the task, which turned out to be rather more demanding than initially expected.  Laierhohle rapidly overtook Tiefenhohle in depth, with potential to go even deeper.

I felt almost guilty, driving up to within 5m of the cave entrance (after a sumptuous brunch at Schorsch's) and getting changed in Willi's garage; not only were we cosily protected from the elements, but it was also splendidly furbished - with crates of beer!  After a small libation, we stepped outside.  Karsten lifted a grille immediately next to the garage, and we descended into a beautifully concreted bunker with cave telephone, tackle pulleys and electric light.  Proper light switches were attached to the cave walls, down to about 15m into the cave. This entrance has got to be the most perfectly engineered natural cave entrance I have seen in a non show cave. I wondered whether the rationale underlying this incredible amount of work was the hope that this cave might develop into the second (and deepest) show cave of the area?  Beautiful, heavy-duty fixed ladders led us down to nearly 40m.  At this point, the cave shows a fair amount of horizontal development.  A large (>20m wide) and amply decorated passage, the Amphitheatre, eventually degenerates into a tight and squishy mud bath.


Kat, Nr 7325/75
350/291/0 toporobot

© 1997 by Kahlensteiner Hohlenverein e.V
Bad Uberkingen
Alle Rechte vorberhalten

Further down we squeezed through a draughty, tight hole, which had been chemically enlarged.  At -80m, we finally started rigging, to the present end of the cave at -120m.  This is well inside the infamous delta layer.  The red mud, first encountered in the horizontal passage, a heavy, fatty, red clay that stuck to everything with a vengeance, became more evident the deeper we went.  Near the end, we reached a hanging re-belay.  As Karsten was descending on a figure-of-eight, he had brought his own two-rung ladder with him. Standing on his ladder converted this old nemesis of mine into something about as difficult as getting up from a sofa.  While this took all the fun out of it, at least the others did not have to wait for me.  Schorsch then proceeded to drill a hole for a final bolt at the last pitch. Interestingly, he ignored the perfectly nice free hang in the right-hand wall, but went for a place to the left instead, straight in the semi-liquid red mud.  We sloshed down the rope and found ourselves in a sizeable chamber.  At its end, an obvious 40m tall rift provided the continuation.  Our aim was to bolt along this rift.

With a stinking cold and disinclined to traverse through the complex rift, I pottered around at the near end, where a tiny stream sinks into the bottom.  Meanwhile, Schorsch and Karsten were drilling way above, while Snablet and Ritschi traversed along, in an attempt to find a way on. Perking up a bit, I later traversed out to where I thought I had heard Snablet's voice, and promptly got lost.  After a while, Schorsch called for the hangers I had in my bag.  A dim suspicion overcame me.  Before going down, I had taken a large amount of hangers out of my bag, having been told we need not bring our own hangers.  It turned out that, although they did have a label on them which made them look like ours, these were the hangers I was supposed to have brought.  It has to be said, I felt particularly useful on this trip.  Without any hangers, and with the drill battery run out, we were ready to go out.  However, Karsten was not intent on giving up just yet.  He summoned Snablet, and together they disappeared into the rift for over an hour.  Sadly they did not find the way on, but at least they convinced themselves that the way on lay elsewhere, perhaps through a window across one of the pitches or, more sensibly, following the draught to wherever it had disappeared to.  There are many more leads in this cave.  We then had lunch.  A vast loaf of my favourite German bread appeared, as did a whole salami and an entire cheese in a Tupperware box.  They don't do things by half in Swabia.

Our way out proved interesting.  The mud-coated ropes were incredibly slippery, and at several points I ended up having to hold both jammers shut to prevent myself from sliding down.  I was rapidly running out of hands!  As I slowly made my way up, mud was literally peeling off the rope in great big sheets.  The others behind me must have fared worse with the rope getting progressively muddier, for after a while I was on my own (we didn't bother detackling).

I reached the amphitheatre and first pottered around for a bit, then nodded off.  Eventually, Ritschi and Schorsch appeared and proceeded to have a 'philosophical' discussion about marriage, i.e. Schorsch tried to talk Ritschi out of it (unsuccessfully).  At this point Snablet and Karsten appeared.  Karsten had developed a godawful cough that sounded as if he was about to throw up.  Luckily, he knew just the cure: a swiftly rolled cigarette soon made things worse. We had a quick look round the Amphitheatre, and Ritschi pointed out interesting folding in the rock, when we realised that it was much later than we had thought possible.  We had been down for 8 hours.  A swift exit up the ladders completed the trip.  I optimistically attempted to clean my SRT kit of the sticky mud in a handy tub that seemed to have been built into a wall outside for just this purpose.  Unfortunately, the mud turned out to be a perfect sealant, and all I managed to do was to clog up the drain.

I then had the honour of signing the cave guestbook.  Well in line with my other achievements of the day, the only thing that sprang to mind was to call it a 'muddy shithole'.  My lame explanation that this was really a compliment merely produced disbelief.

Falkenstein Hohle

We had been warned about this cave by Jonathan Simms, who described it as so cold that he could hardly bear it.  Given my state of health, I wasn't exactly looking forward to this trip, and even considered jacking it for a second.  But then again, I didn't want to be a whimp.  So, armed with Thilo and Becca Lawson (CUCC), who happened to be in the area, Snablet and I made our way to Bad Urach.  This cave has an impressive entrance.  A sizeable river spills out from a resurgence into a tall and leafy forest. Built for comfort, these German caves. We drove up to a convenient lay-by, got changed, and walked all of 200m up a large forest track to the cave entrance. It was a relief to wash off that red mud from my SRT kit and oversuit.  It was also fortunate that by then I was thoroughly damp, for not far into the cave was sump 1, which turned out to be a wet crawl.  We were somewhat amused, as Thilo had just told us frightful stories about people being trapped behind this 'sump', and how water levels could unexpectedly and massively rise within an hour.  When we got there, it really looked quite innocuous.  Thilo, from past experience, took it very seriously indeed. The three of us crawled through and waited and waited at the other end.  What was Thilo up to?  Just when I thought of going to look for him, we heard a great splashing and puffing, and Thilo appeared.  He had changed into a warm top and hood, and had also belayed a line at the other end, in case the weather changed.  The cave itself is wet throughout and runs in a straight line, with a couple of cascades and waterfalls.  Just like Meghalaya; no wonder they feel quite at home there.  It was good fun, except perhaps a little lacking in the excitement department.  I had caught Karsten's cough somehow and was struggling to keep up.  Perhaps a rollie might have helped, but unfortunately we had no smokers on the trip.  The streamway proceeded between ankle and hip-height, with one place where I nearly went under, although nobody else seemed to have a problem.  There were a couple of chokes to climb, and finally we halted at Sump 2.  Throughout the trip, Thilo entertained us with stories about the region and the cave and the exploration of its many, many (26?) sumps.  I can't say I was particularly cold.  Becca even complained about being too hot, and kept heading for deep water to cool down at every opportunity.  Perhaps Jonathan did the cave in winter.

Daniel and Anette in front of Rellman's Hohle  - Photo: Snablet

The following day we went to Schwabisch-Gmund, the home of Daniel Gebauer.  He lives right in the city centre, on the market square.  The square has a statue bearing a sword.  If you follow the direction of the sword, you walk straight into Daniel's house.  Daniel shares his quarters at the top of the house with an unknown quantity of people.  The whole apartment has this fantastic 1960's commune feel about it.  Daniel's rooms are crammed with caving paraphernalia, largely literature, various lovingly executed examples of his craftsmanship as a carpenter/cabinet maker, and uncountable souvenirs and tidbits from travels in Nepal, India and elsewhere hippieish and exotic.  He did not mention a cave under his cellar.  Daniel explained that finding caves in the Schwabische Alb was not quite as easy as perhaps in Britain. Most caves are filled with sediment and success, so he said, is really only found at the very edges of this plateau.  This is where he took us after a filling brunch.

We drove up to the Rosenstein and parked in the car park. A map of the area and its footpaths showed several of the cave entrances.  All of these are situated along the cliff edge.

Finsteres Loch (Murkv Hole):

A sizeable cave.  More than 100m long.  A (gated) 3m high entrance leads into phreatic development past a skylight in the right hand wall to a second entrance.  This cave houses hibernating bats and is closed from October until May. Daniel told us a gruesome story of how in the Middle Ages this cave was used to lock up people sick with pestilence; out of sight and out of mind.

Grosse Scheuer (Large barn):

Much further along the same cliff edge.  A magnificent 5m tall, 5m wide phreatic passage with three entrances. Sadly only about 30 m long.  You never leave daylight.

Anette in the entrance of Die Grosse Scheuer - Photo: Snablet

Daniel and Anette at Die Grosse Scheuer – Photo: Snablet

Das Haus (The house):

A few metres further along the cliff edge.  Another phreatic hole.  A huge boulder sits at the end.  This cave was used by Celtic tribes and many artefacts have been recovered by archaeologists.

Fuchsloch (Foxhole):

A 6m deep, 5m long hole at the bottom of a large, bifurcating tree

Hellman's Hohle (Hellman's Cave):

Further along the same escarpment.  A 1m wide, 1.5m tall washed-out rift.  This was once filled with sediment, but dug out by cavers.  Sliding on one's side down a passage to the right leads to a second entrance.

Kleine Scheuer (Small barn):

A few hundred meters further along the walk, near the castle ruin.  The rounded pebbles from its dry riverbed show that this was once a resurgence cave (Daniel says).  A large slab, the 'table', in the back can be climbed.  Bear skulls and tiger canines have been found behind the slab.

Drei Eineaneshohle (Cave of three entrances):

Further along from the ruin. Popular with climbers, this cave is in beautiful white limestone.  Again only a few metres long, it has two obvious entrances and a third that can be reached by squeezing through a very tight and mosquito ridden passage to the right.

Daniel also mentioned two other caves in the area, but was keen to keep their location secret.

Secret cave1:

A tight squeezy crawl leads into a small chamber, crammed with formations and fossils.  Daniel has only been in this cave three times, each time to draw some of the fossil skulls.  He feels very strongly that this cave should remain inaccessible.

Secret cave2:

While digging on a frosty morning, Daniel noticed a frost-free patch in the forest floor.  A few hours of digging revealed a small passage going into a rift.  This has not been dug any further.

Some random thoughts:

Daniel claims that the Schwabische Alb has been searched metre for metre for caves.  As most caves are filled with sediment, he feels that there is not much more to be found in this region.  Although I admittedly know nothing about the area, my first impressions make me wonder whether one need be quite so pessimistic.  First of all, the area is huge, many many times bigger than Mendip.  There are only few active cavers compared to Mendip (but this may have been different a few years/decades ago).  Surely they can't have looked everywhere?  In addition, it seemed to me that German cavers (as elsewhere) are very keen on, and incredibly knowledgeable about, the geology of their area.  I imagine that a lot of the searching for caves was carried out with the prevailing geological theory in mind.  However, we do know that theories can be wrong (although they are a good starting point).  The fact that Laierhohle went much deeper than ever expected, and might still go deeper, shows that even German theories can sometimes have exceptions. So perhaps there is room for further surprises.  I also got the impression that there is no digging culture as such in Swabia.  Daniel described a three-year dig as long.  Compare this to Wigmore (yet another exception to theory) or Hillgrove. There are also plenty of rules and regulations we do not (yet) have in Britain that complicate digging in Germany. Almost all of the resurgences are off bounds, as used for drinking water and owned by water companies.  Spoil heaps are strictly verboten, and many digs had to be abandoned, because they represent archaeological sites of interest. If digging in Swabia was carried out on the scale of some areas in Britain, who knows what they might find. In short, I am convinced that there are still big caves to be found in the Swabian Jura.  Ever the optimist.

I'd like to thank my hosts for putting us up, feeding and watering us, and for showing us a truly great time.


Domke D (1998) Die Laierhohle bei Geislingen-Weiler, Schwabische Alb. Mitt. Verb. dt. Bohlen u. Karstforsch., 44,88-91.


Ode to Belchine Black Betty

By Mike Wilson
Tune "Black Betty"

Oh centre piece of our desire
Tall and round - full of fire
A work of art, of that I'm sure
With a shape so basic, sweet and pure

Those iron sides giving out great heat
With a huge top lid, "that's hard to beat"
Plenty of room for wood "divine"
And perhaps a Wessex gnome "supine"

Thy frontal maw set in a grin
Hiding a furnace that lies within
"Belfry Boy", stoke her well
Feel the heat of the radiant spell

Ivan's artwork is there to see!
Set in all its symmetry
So Belfryites all shout "Hurray"
Belching Black Betty is here to stay.


Song: Goon's 40 Years

Tune "Union Miners"

He read a book about hard caving
Went and joined the B.S.A.
He swore he'd be a bloody hard caver
And he's still one to this day

Chorus: Mendip Cavers rise together
Stand up now and sing this tune
When you've done forty years of caving
You can be as hard as Goon
Two hundred mile each way he'd travel
Then he'd hit those Yorkshire pots
He'd move like shit flying off a shovel
First you'd see him then you'd not

I've seen him falling down Hardrawkin
I've seen him diving from Meregill
Seen him break a foot in Cuthbert's
Seen him drink more than his fill

In Lancaster he hit the bottom
After taking the long drop
But armed with nothing more than Eric
Made his way back to the top

A boulder nearly made him armless
Way below in Claonaite
But this hard man still goes back there
Sometimes he stays down overnight
Mendip cavers heed my story
Never go below with Goon
'Less you search for death or glory
Landslip, earthquake or monsoon.


Song: Heeland Cavers

Tune "Heeland Lady"

Whaur ha' e ye been a' the day
Heeland cavers, hard wee cavers
Doon Claonaite or so they say
My hard wee Heeland cavers

Chorus: Way hey it's here we go
Heeland caver, hard wee cavers
Seventeen hours way down below
My hard wee Heeland cavers

Whaur ha' e ye been a' the night
Underground and in the shite
Whit were ye daen in yon damp hole
Down wi' Goon, god bless my soul

Is yon no' a cave that tends to flood
When it rains or with Goon's blood

You'd be far better off going doon Glenbain
J'Rat's done it on his ane!

 Did ye no ken it was the Grampian dinner
You missed it!  Man that was a skunner!

A' that food doon at the Inch
Thrown to the fish that's in the minch

The back up team is in the bar
Thought they'd better have ajar

The polis nearly lost his rag
Said he'd make them a' blow in the bag

The moral of the story is quite clear
If Goon goes down, go on the beer.


The Wee Caver Wha' Carn Fae Fife

Tune "The Wee Cooper" etc.

There was a wee caver wha' come fae
Fife Nickety nackety noo noo
Was pushing a hole ca'd Batty Wife
Hey Willy Wallicky ho John Dugal
A lane rashity roo roo

He pushed ye hard, but it wouldn't go
He couldn't get in or doon below
An then one day he thought that it might
But try as he would it was still too tight
And so in frustration he danced a fine jig
Saying, "I know the trouble, it's me that's too big"
Then he gave a shout saying, "no it's not me
I know the trouble, the hole is too wee"

So with some petroleum gelly-ignite
He banged and he banged at that hole a' the night

And noo that wee Fifer aye bottoms his goal
It's straight to the sump when he slips in that hole

(Although Goon is not actually a BEC member, he is known by many of the club and he decided to celebrate 40 years of caving at the BEC hut after the Hunters on the 14th November, joined by many of his friends from all over the country.  Pete 'Snab' MacNab, modified or penned the above songs to celebrate the occasion and Pete Glanvill took the photos.)


Nullarbor '98 Australia

The Land Of The 'Roo. Possum & Wombat

The BEC makes a nuisance of itself with the Cave Exploration Group of South Australia.

By Mike 'Trebor' McDonald (Honorary Oz)


Steve Milner, that erstwhile ex-Pom, e-mailed me a while back and asked if I fancied a flying visit to Oz to join him and the Cave Exploration Group of South Australia (CEGSA) on their annual pilgrimage to the Nullarbor Plain.  As I recalled my last visit to Oz with J-Rat was a most pleasant episode, as I had been reading Francis Le Guen's book on diving exploits in Cocklebiddy, as the British weather was sending me loopy and since I needed a break I said "why not, go on, treat yourself, it's only umpteen thousand miles away".  The CEGSA plan this year was to consolidate work done last visit, look at leads found last time, survey stuff discovered and to look for new holes.

Personnel included Steve, myself obviously, and five members of CEGSA one of which was Mark Sefton who has been about a bit, has been to the UK and whom some Mendipites may know. Also present was Tom Wigley, an Aussie now living in Colorado. He was one of the original Nullarbor explorers in the 60's and 70's with John Dunkley and this was his first trip back since then. He was attending a work conference in Melbourne so he thought it a good idea to attach a trip to the Nullarbor to his visit.  It's hard enough getting around now with a 4 wheel drive Land Cruiser and GPS (Global Positioning System), God knows what it must have been like in the 1960's with old bangers and suspect maps.  He worked in the UK for some years and thus knew of some "mature" Mendipites when I reeled off names, especially Jim Hanwell.  Some Mendipites may also know John Dunkley who now lives in Canberra. They were the joint authors of the first Nullarbor caving publication.


Nullarbar Cave – Trebor. Photo: Steve Milner

Getting There

There was no time to be lost, this was supposed to be a tight, efficient, well-drilled Expedition to make as much use of the time as possible.  On landing in Adelaide at 9am, Steve's wife Fran, daughter Shaun and I had breakfast in a nice hostelry in town before heading up to their house amongst the Eucalyptus in the Eden Hills overlooking Adelaide.  I found the vehicle already packed up so I chucked my bag in the back and Steve, Mark Sefton and myself piled in and drove the 8 hours to Ceduna (about half way to the Nullarbor) a nondescript town in the middle of nowhere, to rest at the home of Max Meth (the guy who's been looking for an S all his life).  Max was a real character (he looks like Gonzo will in 20 years time) who, unlike Gonzo, was the fount of all knowledge and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the karst features of the Nullarbor.  Over a number of years he has logged and GPS'd virtually every known karst feature on the Nullarbor whether it be a cave entrance, a blow hole or an Aboriginal site on a bit of limestone pavement.

In the morning the other guys arrived from Adelaide and we consolidated transport into suitable cars and Toyota Land Cruisers.  One of the guys had a trailer to drag all the water we required, as there is no water at all on the Nullarbor, only some at the bottom of the internationally known Weebubbie and Cocklebiddy caves.  Off we thus set on the second half of the journey along the Eyre Highway that stretches in virtually a straight line all the way to Perth a few thousand miles away. This road was named after one of the intrepid explorers in the early 1800's and runs on a level coastal plain with the Nullarbor offto the right (North) up on a higher plateau.  Some way along we took a short detour to the spectacular Great Australian Bight Southern Ocean coast to watch Right whales playing in their seasonal breeding grounds.  Very impressive.

After several hours we reached our turn-off point to the Mundrabilla homestead of our farmer host, a few kilometres from the highway.  After telling him roughly where we would be camped we set off up the escarpment (quite comical with heavily laden vehicles, even four wheel drives) and on to the Nullarbor Plain itself.  After quite a while negotiating very indistinct tracks in the dark we finally reached our intended camp site, just an area in the middle of the bush amongst Eucalyptus trees on the edge of a clay pan and reasonably equidistant from various caves.  In a jiffy my tarpaulin was erected as a shelter, the bivvy bag laid out, the gear stowed, firewood collected and a campfire built with the billy puffing away for tea.

As an aside, we had one obstacle to hurdle on the trip in - the question of the Fruit Fly.  South Australia is trying to keep the little beggar out of the State to save its fruit and veg. industry so there are rigorous controls at the State boundary.  You may not take fresh fruit and veg through, or bottled honey for that matter, unless it has been officially inspected and decontaminated. Don't ask me why they check you on the way out of the State but there you go.  As we were going out of the State into West Australia, were heading into the middle of nowhere where there was no fruit or veg farms or any other form of habitation, and as the stuff would be eaten in a few days we did not feel too bad about beating the system.  I won't tell you how we got around the "C for Charlie" checkpoint in case a Western Australia Agriculture border guard is sent a copy of the BB by that nasty Estelle (hiss).  What we did have to do though was clean the dirt from our digging tools.

The Area

Nullarbor basically means "no trees" but this is not strictly true.  It is a flat semi-arid limestone plateau, probably as big as the UK, occupying the central southern part of Australia straddling the states of both South and Western Australia.  The eastern third is virtually treeless with rough scrub and blue bush only, the remainder is quite heavily wooded with Eucalyptus and other trees, blue bush and scrub with the occasional quite large grassy area, usually on slightly lower lying clay pans, and the occasional limestone outcrop. The southern edge is delineated by a c.100m high escarpment, which rises up above the c. I0km wide coastal plain, along which the Eyre Highway runs to Perth, with the Southern Ocean and the Great Australian Bight on the southern side.

The plateau is all but flat with the usual hollows, depressions and irregularities.  The basic appearance is characterised by myriad clay pans (usually covered with blue bush or sparse grass) lying only a few metres lower than surrounding ridges with small limestone outcrops covered with sparse scrub and Eucalyptus.  The cave entrances tend to reveal themselves at the edges of the clay pans or in the rocky ridges. We found no cave entrances in the clay pans themselves.  The water table is at about -100m so unless a cave reaches that depth it will be dry and dusty with the occasional flowing water in times of heavy rain only.  The only two caves that I am aware of that have meaningful water are the well-known Cocklebiddy and Weebubbie Caves, each about 50 miles from camp.

Trebor near Aboriginal Waterhole. Photo: Steve Milner

The Nullarbor is a protected landscape and as we cavers are of course responsible people and mindful of the environment certain measures had to be taken.  Spent carbide and waste products of the intestine had to be buried at least a third of a metre deep and more than 100m from camp.  Containers had to be taken into caves to catch the contents of ones body as and when required.  All litter had to be brought out or burnt on the campfire and despite charging around the landscape in Toyotas damage had to be kept to a minimum, especially to growing trees.  Wombat warrens had to be avoided as they can collapse under the weight of a vehicle and we had to be mindful of 'roos which had the unnerving tendency to bounce towards the vehicle when frightened rather than away.  Small brains I suppose.  A hit from a big Red in mid-bounce at 50kmph may have written off a vehicle.

There is apparently no indigenous population any more on the Nullarbor.  Aborigines vacated the area many years ago, presumably when farming and fence enclosure started.  Ancient aboriginal sites were seen scattered around the area, invariably centred around a small depression in a slab of limestone pavement which made a convenient water container.  A rock slab placed over the "watering hole" to prevent evaporation or animal use was the usual evidence of old aboriginal activity.  Other artefacts have also been found such as fire sticks and flints.  Aborigines did not apparently use caves, they feared the Snake God, but they would presumably have used cave entrances and rock shelters.  The only habitation now on the Nullarbor is the occasional farming homestead, usually a few hundred miles apart.

Our particular farmer host has not actually farmed his land for many years.  Apparently he found scraping a living from sheep and cattle, and repairing fencing damaged by 'roos, too much of an effort on the sparse grass so he now carries out contract shearing work elsewhere.  For a number of years now he has not even been up on to the plateau and cavers, and the odd 'roo hunter, are the only people that go there. Indeed, it is only the cavers who keep his tracks open.

The Caving

The caves are varied, as to be expected, mostly horizontal with little vertical development. Ladders and ropes are seldom needed. There are no particularly large, dendritic systems, apart perhaps from Homestead Cave in the northern Nullarbor. The average length is I suppose a few kilometres.  Several caves, including Weebubbie, have massive Oriental-type passageway, often 30m wide or so, but tend to end suddenly in large blank walls or rock piles. Dress is merely a T-shirt and light trousers under a boiler suit with suitably stout shoes or boots.  Knee and elbow pads are essential.  Lighting is by the usual carbide system with electric back up. As there is no water in the caves containers have to be taken in for the carbide, or a full bladder.

A feature of most of the caves was their tendency to blow and suck quite dramatically. Differentials in atmospheric pressure are very marked in this part of the world causing sucking or blowing at the entrances and in constricted areas inside (we called one new cave "Monica's Cave" as it was sucking something rotten when we dug into it.) The entrance to Thampana Cave for example is a 3m diameter, 10m deep circular pothole and great amusement was had by throwing large bushes down only to see them being forcefully ejected some 10m into the air.  We even managed to weigh a bush down with a rock and succeeded in making the bush hover in the pothole.  Quite bizarre.  An SRT rope for self-life lining thrown into the entrance promptly appeared again like some flying snake and we had some difficulty keeping the electron ladder down. 

Tauatarus species in Windy Hollow Cave. Photo: Steve Milner

We also found deceased birds inside the entrance which had been sucked in whilst flying overhead and were unable to fly out.  It is easy finding good places to dig - you just wander around the bush until you hear a little crevice or hole whistling at you.

The cave fauna was also very interesting.  Numerous modem and ancient animals were found within, usually washed in by old floods. However, some dog-like creatures were found in high level dusty areas not far inside so they probably lived there. Many were very well preserved with bushy tails, skin and whiskers still fully visible.  Kangaroos also tend to fall into entrance pots whilst bouncing around the countryside and unable to extricate themselves.  One cave was named "Bleeding Pit".  A 'roo, serenely hopping across the landscape, had jumped in and splattered blood all over the walls of the pit.  Either that, or in its anxiety to get out it kept dashing itself against the walls until it bled to death.  A few years back in "Stinking Rift" Steve and team came across a 'roo in a hole that had presumably panicked and forced itself further into the cave to sadly expire.  It was very ripe so they retreated.  This year we returned to see if the smell had subsided and Steve was able to dismember the beast leg by arm and squeeze past.   Unfortunately the cave did no go far.  We also found an almost perfectly preserved mummified cat creature curled up as if asleep amongst stones on the cave floor 100m or so in.  Possums also take refuge in caves, or use them as short cuts, and trails of droppings and black urine were everywhere.

Some of the formations encountered were staggering and many I had not seen before, mainly mushroom stals on the floor of a low chamber in Bug Hole, lots of Stegomites (shield-like calcite growing out of the floor which I've only seen in West Virginia) and gypsum crystals and chandeliers as opaque as ice.  I will be getting copies of underground photographs taken by Steve in due course so I will exhibit them on the photo board in the Belfry (and in this BB if they arrive in time.)

Bat and swift guano was also a potential problem.  Strangely we saw virtually no bats, they seem to have gone elsewhere millennia ago. Plenty of swifts but no bats.  I was used to the stinking heaving black  stuff  you find  in  tropical caves but this was the finest, moon-dust powder,  you could imagine that rose in clouds at every step, clearly ancient stuff.  At first I just thought it was ordinary cave dust.    I am told though that Histoplasmosis spores can linger for aeons.

Calcite mushrooms in Bug Hole. Photo: Steve Milner

An interesting technique the Aussies use for defining routes through caves is small fluorescent way markers made out of reflective road signs.  They punch 20mm diameter discs out of two different coloured reflective road signs, stick them back-to-back so one colour means "In" and the other colour "Out" and wedge or stick them to a convenient rock or stal, either to show the way in complex caves and/or keep cavers on a defined route to minimise wear.  Quite good I thought but perhaps rather sissy for Mendip.


The vehicles used were two four-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruisers and a car.  Despite the remoteness and terrain it was actually quite easy with a car and cars have been used in previous visits.  You have to be more careful with a car of course to prevent damage and punctures but as the ground is surprisingly flat weaving a way through the bush and around limestone outcrops is quite easy.  However, the Toyotas were obviously much better and we were able to drive in more of a straight line and just charged around knocking over bushes and small dead trees with the Kangy cruncher on the front.  It was also useful being able to stand on the back of the Toyota to get a better view, to work the GPS and to keep an eye out for entrances, 'roos, wombat warrens etc.  One of the Toyotas had a GPS mounted on the dash together with a short wave radio and a CB.  Both had double fuel tanks, two batteries each, two replacement tyres and loads of spares.

Despite their robustness we did actually get a puncture to one of the Cruisers.  The ubiquitous blue bush is 90% soft but it has some very hard, sharp and evil twiggy things poking up from its root ball.  We showed no mercy in flattening them with our Kangy cruncher but they got their own back by puncturing one of the tyres.  Imagine, dear reader, your intrepid correspondent sweating away in the middle of nowhere changing a big heavy tyre, lovely it was.

After initial scepticism I now think GPS's are the best thing since Butcombe was invented.  I never got used to them since the time I took one I-Rat had in the shop out into Tucker Street and found I was 10m below sea level.  A good quality instrument in the right hands is brilliant in certain circumstances. Steve had a Garmin 45 XL and it proved absolutely vital for safe, time saving and trouble free navigation through the bush.  Finding known caves could not have been easier and readings could be taken at the junction whenever we left the faint tracks that criss-crossed the area so we could find our way from the cave back to camp without an Xkm detour.  Steve's machine was accurate to about 20m and performed really well but at his request I've just sent him the Garmin high performance magnetic antenna from the manufacturer for greater accuracy and control. He tells me his instrument works very well in tree cover.

The Day

As is usual in camping situations, the day starts early.  As an early riser I was always up first at dawn (c. 5.30am) and a quick poke at the fire embers and a few dry twigs soon got a blaze going for the tea. Tom Wigley was always next up and some very pleasant times were had sitting around the fire, drinking tea, watching the sun rise, discussing Colorado where he lives and putting the world to rights. There was a chattering group of Budgerigars in our particular bit of Eucalyptus plus lots of parrots and other nice birds so it was a treat watching their antics whilst supping morning tea. Steve and the others then usually crawled out of their pits at about 7.30.  Breakfast was then cooked on the fire; some had eggs and some a revolting mishmash of whatever was available.  Steve, Mark and I were a bit more organised and lorded it with cereal and powdered milk.  I did a wicked Nepalese scrambled egg with chilli and ginger once or twice just to get the morning off with a bang and on a few occasions Steve made a very tasty unleavened beer camp bread in a large iron potty set in the embers.

We were out of camp by 9am, usually in two teams heading off to respective destinations in the two Toyotas, either to look at a new find, to push on, survey and photo a find from last year, to go on a tourist trip or to do some recce work.  Sometimes two teams took the Toyotas whilst a third team walked to a cave or caves within a few kilometres.  Day rations were usually Muesli bars and fruit.  Everyone had their own water bottle and a flagon of water was always kept in each of the two Toyotas.  We tried to be back at camp for 6pm to give enough time to get the fire going again and prepare nosh for the evening meal.  Then a congenial powwow was had around the camp fire discussing the day's news and deciding on a programme for the morrow, usually assisted with libations of Scotch and Irish.  Most were asleep by 9pm, not many hostelries, TV s, take-aways or other distractions in this part of the world.

One potential problem was not always knowing where the other team(s) were.  Most days one team would know which cave the other one was in by prior agreement but on recce days this was not possible.  Despite each vehicle being self-sufficient as far as spares, water and GPS's were concerned, only one had a CB/radio.  One day the team without the CB/radio were late back and the team at camp had no idea where they were.  A search was out of the question, especially in the dark, and the only thing to have done if they had not arrived by morning was to have driven to the nearest homestead (or radio if the safe party had the right vehicle) call the authorities and get a helicopter or plane to make a search of the bush to spot the vehicle.  There is certainly a case for mobile 'phones (possibly too far from transmitters?) or walkietalkies .... or even bush telegraph (sic).


I only have two words to say, "Go there".

And yes, they really do say "G'day mate", "fair dinkum", "sheila" and "strewth".  I just fell about laughing.


Assynt in October - and Yet Another Tale of the Goon!

By Tony Jarratt

This year's Grampian SG annual dinner was held at the Inchnadamph Hotel, Assynt, Sutherland.  A Mendip contingent of Jake, Becca, J .Rat, Rich Blake, John "Tangent" Williams and Tav headed north for 612 miles to Elphin, horrific weather being encountered near the Lakes and Lowlands areas.

After a day's "acclimatisation" - mainly in the Alt Bar - work on ongoing projects commenced. Four visits were made to Rana Hole where over 160 skip loads of peat and rocks were hauled out and dumped, plus 10 frogs!

At one point a pool of water was easily drained away to the depths of Uamh an Claonaite below by using a long bar.  On a later banging trip here, during the worst weather of the week, the hole could not be re-opened and shotholes were filled and charged underwater as the rapidly rising stream poured down the pot.  The resultant explosion sounded highly aquatic!

This was the Saturday of the dinner when the infamous Alan "Goon" Jeffreys and three others had just entered the superb stream way of Claonaite on a tourist trip to the dry series.  Rich, Julian Walford and the writer had trouble walking back down the valley in the worsening weather and at one point Julian's helmet and Headlite were blown away! It was obvious that Goon and Co. could be having problems so tentative rescue operations were put into action. These later developed into the real thing with the Police, Assynt MRT and SCRO (most of whom were just sitting down for the dinner) all being involved.  By 6.30am the next day it was all over and the trapped ones were off the hill - having been "dived" out of the flooded cave by Fraser Simpson and Simon Brooks who had been luckily collared while walking down the valley following a dive in ANUS Cave.  Needless to say the dinner was a bit of a flop but the opportunity to mercilessly take the piss out of Goon (again) was found to be well worth it.

The vast horde of Grampian dinner goers carried out lots of tourist and digging trips over the weekend despite the weather conditions - which were apparently the best in Britain at the time. Book now for the April Invasion.

Lines inspired by a previous Snab song ...

The Goon has got his mask on.
Hip, hip, hip, hooray.
The Goon has got his mask on
And he may get out today.

Tony Jarratt 29/11/98


Actual Business Signs

On an Electrician's truck: "Let us remove your shorts."

Outside a Radiator Repair Shop: "Best place in town to take a leak."

In a Non-smoking area: "If we see you smoking we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action."

On Maternity Room door: "Push, Push, Push."

On a Front Door: "Everyone on the premises is a vegetarian except the dog."

At an Optometrist's Office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

On a Scientist's door: "Gone Fission"

On a Taxidermist's window: "We really know our stuff."

In a Chiropodist's window:  "Time wounds all heels."

On a Butcher's window: "Let me meat your needs."

On another Butcher's window: "Pleased to meat you."

At a Used Car Lot: "Second Hand cars in first crash condition."

On a fence: "Salesmen welcome.  Dog food is expensive."

At a Car Dealership: ''The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment."

Outside a Car Exhaust Dealer's: "No appointment necessary.  We'll hear you coming."

Outside a Hotel: "Help!  We need inn-experienced people."

In a Dry Cleaner's Emporium: "Drop your pants here."

On a desk in a Reception Room: "We shoot every 3rd salesman, and the 2nd one just left."

In a Veterinarian's waiting room: "Be back in 5 minutes. Sit!  Stay!"

On a Music Teacher's door: "Out Chopin."

In a Beauty Shop: "Dye now!"

On the door of a Computer Store: "Out for a quick byte."

In a Restaurant window: "Don't stand there and be hungry, come in and get fed up."

Inside a Bowling Alley: "Please be quiet.  We need to hear a pin drop."

On the door of a Music Library: "Bach in a minuet."

In the front yard of a Funeral Home: "Drive carefully, we'll wait."

In a Counsellor's office: "Growing old is mandatory. Growing wise is optional."

Early ladder manufacture! (see Mike Wilson's article!!)


Manuel du Speleologue - By Robert De Joly

By Mike Wilson

Robert De Joly was the founder President of the Society Speleo De France.


Robert De Joly - by Kay Wilson

The book 'Manuel du Speleologue' gives information for when you descend underground, the materials you use and the methods or manner in which to use them.

As some people including me experience difficulty in reading the extensive French coverage of speleology, I decided to translate some extracts from de Joly's 1950s, 3rd edition manual.  It makes quaint and interesting reading.  Here are some of the extracts from the manual:

Exterior Clothes

In order to protect the clavicles in the event of a rock fall it is a good thing to place a band of rubber on the shoulders.  They will also serve to support at times the many ropes which you carry, and prevent damage or wounding to the shoulders.  It is indispensable that the costume has numerous pockets.  These pockets judiciously placed should be about 12 in number, placed thus: Two near the chest for the notebook and cigarettes if you smoke.  One near the stomach for the small watch.  Two on the rump, one left and one right, for the small pliers and a Swiss army knife (modified).  Also high on each buttock two pitons and a ball of 25m of lashing thread.  In the other pockets a flint one length of leather containing blue marking in a turned wooden tube, a whistle, a big candle, a gas lighter, one general small pocket notebook.  On the back you put a bag of reserve stock.  At last on the inside of the jacket a pocket containing the hankies, and a metal container held vertically by a special flap, the thermometer sealed with a roll of wax paper, and a fragment of ephemeride for repairs in the labyrinth.


The beret is no good because it does not have the shape to, take a front lamp.  We use in the caves, an English Made 'fibre helmet' (Richard Bathgate of Liverpool).  It is extremely light (275g) and not hot.


We have never used the commercial type of ladder made for Well Sinkers and Miners.  Put off by their exaggerated weight lkg per metre, their size, and above all, the bars of several centimetres beyond the fixing cords. You can understand that in effect this fault produces hang ups, making each movement difficult, the weight is a double enemy.  The effort it entails and the fatigue it causes, the rope is also heavy and expensive. Transporting the ill-natured ladders and manoeuvring them in the shafts is nearly impossible.

(De Joly goes on to describe what he regards as a good wood and rope ladder)

Size: Of a size of 30cm allowing two feet to rest on the bars. The bars should be 25mm diameter then the profile is studied for the best use of the ash wood, and mounted on various diameters of rope.  This type will be used as the ladder for deep shafts.  The rope is 12 or 13mm; the weight is about 370gms per metre length. We have also a model of 25cms length rungs and some rope Ilmm weight 350gms per metre.

Steel and electron: Sadly the relative convenience of this model depends on availability of present material.  I have invented a type which is nowhere near the weight per metre of a strong rope, practical to manoeuvre, is light and does not encumber you.  The electron metal alloy of a density of 1.8 is near the physical qualities of strong steel.  A rod of ultra light type weighs 7.5gms.  This metal is that which braced and spread the Zeppelin Carcass. Each man can carry easily more than the normal 10 to 15metres of ladders.  (Heavy bars 12mm cable 3.2mm weight per metre 1l0grarns - medium bars 12mm cable 2.4mm weight per metre 90grams.  Light bars l0mm cable 2mm weight per metre 56grams.)  All these ladders have proved themselves over 17 years and our colleagues in many countries in Europe have them now.  R De Joly is credited with inventing the electron ladder, as long ago as the early 1900's.


Like our boss E. A. Martell who said, "the windlass is a dangerous object," and, I add, above all if it is not adapted to its specific use or work, it is its force that creates the danger.  This is why we have made a winch without multiplication, and will not be worked with less than two men, it follows thus they will not risk crushing the explorer. This rig weighs 15kg, holds 150metres of cable (wire Hon breaking strain) on a drum, a brake of jawbone and a ratchet for going up.  Its feet are metal tubes to level up on unequal ground.  The tubes do not hold the winch it is secured by ropes to a tree, rock or flake.  The descent is controlled by telephone.


De Joly goes on to say that he prefers Acetylene lamps with an electric torch as back up.  He describes a magnesium lantern with strip or ribbon magnesium providing the light.  I wonder if any of these lanterns still exist?  He is totally against hand held lamps of any type and goes on to describe an imprudent expedition in the cave.  (Grange Lens by J. J. Pittard and J. Della Santa) At 200metres from the station of Grange Lens, in the direction of Saint Leonard, near the top of a cliff, which dominates a gypsum quarry, you can see the entrance of a deep hole.  This opening is a section of the roof portal of the cavern, inside there is an enormous pile of rocks steep and sloping, at the bottom of which we found a big sheet of underground water.  We decided to make a simple reconnaissance, because our lighting material that we had that day was insufficient for a big exploration. The lake had numerous ledges so we did not take the boat to avoid damaging it on the rocks; we were also hoping to not get ourselves wet because the water is very cold.  The water reflected light from the large opening, so we profited from this feeble glow to make our preparations.  We have only one hand held acetylene lamp (the other one had some old damage therefore its function left a lot to be desired) and a box of matches.  Starting along the rock ledges we almost immediately had to put our feet in the water to find purchase, soon the limbs are covered and then we have the water up to our chests.  The two men go on to describe crossing a lake to an island, then a second lake which seemed vast, then in front of them a long band of ground formed by rocky boulders. They decided to carry on, reaching a small cliff, which they climb - slowly in wet clothes.  Below them is a vast arch and a third lake they can hear a waterfall in the distance.  Shall we go on?  It is imprudent.  Our matches are wet, our lamp not reassuring and we are in a cavern very big and full of "ambushes".  Let's go just to the promontory, the water is not very deep, because it is a kind of ford that separates the second lake from the third.  They go on and eventually think they have bottomed the cavern, but in fact, "the base of the enormous arch is pierced", the stream in effect leaves by a cave where you need to swim and crawl for 20metres.  We decide to complete the exploration another time, also our lamp is running badly.  Upon turning back the inevitable happened, just when they anticipate seeing the lake, "pouf, a little explosion" and our unique lamp went out. Plenty of wet matches!  Several heavy silent minutes later interrupted only by the small waterfall, which seemed to laugh quietly, as it leapt from rock to rock.  Do you hear the sound of the fall?  Yes it is running to our right, it is necessary to rejoin the fall and use it to follow the water route to the lake.  Using the lakes and voice sounds for direction, the two managed slowly, in pitch blackness, to cross two lakes and one island, worrying about echoes, (voice wise) and the wisdom of blundering about in the dark.  They also knew that the cave was unknown and no one knew what they were doing!  They crawled over rocks, fell into the water, time after time, damaging elbows and knees, fell in holes and finally thought they saw a glimmer of light.  Freezing cold and exhausted they saw the pale reflection on the water from the opening in the cliffs.  They had been 5 hours in the dark, and the daylight had only 1 hour to go (impossible to find the exit).

Quote "We decided to remake a detailed expedition in this cave, but with all the necessary equipment."  The lesson has been learned!  In 1946 an adventure followed in the cave of Verna (near Cremieux Isere) a very modest cave. Some young imprudent people nearly lost their lives.  Their hand-lamp fell to the bottom of a lake during a spill and they stayed more than 50 hours marooned.  A friend of De Joly rescued them.   Casteret states "No hand-lamps" in one of his books.

For the final extract from this quaint manual which covers all aspects of caving including boats, photography, scientific observation, underwater exploration, etc.  I decided to précis the translation.  On materials for nautical exploration (For the BEC Divers) the rubber boat is described in detail.  But page 31 paragraph B is entitled 'Scaphandre Flotteur' - this is a costume for cave divers consisting of two layers one of waterproof canvas the inner layer of pure cotton.  The sleeves ending in vulcanised rubber and the neck rubber muffed.  One has here a piece of clothing, allowing one to confront all the difficulties presented by the underground rivers.  "Listen well it is necessary that the feet are encased with boots of lead soles of a weight to be set by the user.  It is about 2.5kg each foot for a bodyweight of about 65kg.  This is to maintain the man in a vertical position when he is floating, and to avoid see sawing in the backwaters when the costume holds air.  It will hold at the same time a balancing force.  But anticipating the difficulties you may encounter it would be advisable to wear a waistcoat of rubber with air pockets it protects from the cold and is remarkably buoyant even in rapids.  In America we found some clothing for floating which was absolutely airtight, but being based on another principle they don't float with air this is the part that makes them very dangerous in case of puncture."  (Early wet suits?)

'Scaphandre de Plongee' - the Count Le Preur has established an ingenious outfit "with a mask and a bottle of compressed air."  Allowing you to swim and breath, but it suffers the inconvenience of a tall reservoir and if the gas fails, it is prudent to be roped up. Therefore any method which you use to force siphons or sumps is dangerous.

'Sounding Sumps' - A practical procedure consists of attaching a little bottle (empty) to the end of some twine fixed on the end of a pole you feel clearly if the bottle reaches the surface on the other side of the sump.  (Now that's a good idea for sump I in Swildons)

Finally some extracts from a chapter covering descents into potholes or pits.  When the avens are very deep and above all if the absolute verticality is long more than 100metres deep, it is necessary to take special precautions.  Ladders made end to end, the ladder elements chosen with the strongest cable diameters in mind.  That is to say, the most resistant, strong high up, and the least resistant below on the bottom.  Having made this judgement you must be certain that the unit is well held.  We have always done the same as our Italian colleagues 'when we can', in reinforcing the ladders by one or two cables supplementary attached in the middle of the grand verticals.  Having done this, we have followed two aims, one given some extra security, two limit the vertical elastic movement of the rope. At the Chorom Martin where we have put this system, the vertical movement of the ladders when a person goes up or down, was in the order of 50 to 80cm at near 140 metres of depth.

This manual which resides in the BEC library (in a delicate state) is really quaint, but gives anyone who has the time and patience, an insight into the long-winded, and sometimes cumbersome methods which the early cavers laboured under.  It also puts into context the fact that perhaps 3 or 4 people would go down the avens backed up by a team of labourers on the winch and telephone others rope hauling.  It would be fair to assume that many early explorers would have to be fairly well off to pay for the retinue.  De Joly was also very keen to stop any destruction and pillage in caves and in fact as early as 27 September 1941 the French government passed a law to this effect.

My thanks to Harry Stanbury for his help with this article.  He in fact went to France in 1948 with Frank Frost and Paul Dolphin and did a tourist trip with De Joly in a mixed party including some Swiss scientists. After the trip Paul chatted to De Joly and explained that the British party, were (quote) 'sporty cavers'. Harry Stanbury says that as a result of the chat the three Brits plus some others were invited to visit the 'Tres Dangereux'  parts of the cave.  Harry states that it was the most hairy afternoon he could remember and Paul Dolphin called it the most terrifying experience of his caving career.

My apologies for any grammatical errors in the translation; I just hope this makes interesting reading.





Guess the Cave Competition


Send your answers giving the number, the cave name and the location within the cave to the Editor.

(address in the front of the BB)

Closing date is 25th January 1999.  If more than one person gets all the answers right then the winner will be pulled form a hat.

Answers next BB.


From the Logbook

(Any Hazelnut Swallet notes and Scotland notes are included in the relevant articles, so have not been reproduced here.)

Winford Ochre Mines.  Vince and Roz (31/8/98).

Cycled over to Winford to visit the impressive mines – not a place often visited.  Roz located the entrance to another mine, not previously recorded.  A small body sized hole drops into a chamber (mined) 15; wide, 30’ long and 15’ high. (1h)

Welsh Green Swallet.  Tony Boycott, Charlie Self (UBSS) and Graham (31/8/98|)

Photographing Selenite needles and brought out some samples that Mr Self found “hmm interesting.”

5/9/98 Charterhouse trip via Midnight Chamber, etc, to Dripping Stal Chamber.  Estelle, Mr Wilson and Chris.  Nice cave.

12/9/98 Stuart, Toby and Patrick (possible new member?!)

Started off with Manor Farm, only as far as the 20ft rift, with an interesting exit for Patrick.  Made up for it with a wet trip to Swildons 20 and out for tea and medals at Roger Dors Beer Shop.

16/9/98 North Hill Swallet Vince and Roz

Wet – puddles no deeper, just longer.  Could do with a couple more bangs.  Air not 100%.

10/10/98 David and Jim went down Longwood.  Crawled down to the bottom streamway and then had a look around the big passage down there.  Used a couple to get up and down pitches.  Saw a few good stalactites, etc.  Very good trip as I got to test out my new kit as well.

11/10/98 David and Bob went to GB and walked down to the arch, went down some side passages and then climbed up the waterfall.  Very interesting trip, didn’t get too wet either.

Sun 18thy Gonzo

Came up for a shower with a small boy……..Am I in the right club???

Sun 1 Nov.  Chas and Martin Torbs.

Swildons to 20.  Wet and fun.

Tues 3 Nov. John W + Caving Sec.

Swildons.  Wet was in and as far as twenty.  Lots of water, GREAT FUN!

7/11/98 Black Hole Series – Martin Selfe, Mike Wilson, Toby Limmer and Jeremy.

Some sketchy bold step sees some very nice pretties.  Crystal clear and no muck.  Well worth the adrenaline rush while hanging precariously over nothing.  Normal but cold water levels and very good fun. Very good trip to see some rarely visited curtains, etc, and worth a photo trip.  SRT down might make the crossing into the series some what easier! V. Good.  3½ hrs.

10/11/98 Martin Grass, Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson and John Williams.

Reservoir Hole.  A very pleasant scramble down, along and up!  Very impressive views of Topless Aven, etc, along with some nice formations. Quite remarkable walling and rock stabilisation by Stanton et al! – Lots of handy footholds made it all very comfortable.  Saw a stunning shooting star on exiting!  Ahh!  2 & a bit hours.  JW.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

2/1/99                        BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match. New Inn, Priddy.  7.00pm

8/1/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

30/1/99                      BEC Stomp, Live band – Buick 6 Priddy Village Hall 8pm -   Roz Bateman

5/2/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/2/99                        CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

5/3/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/3/99 (provisional)      Cave Science Symposium, Nottingham - BCRA

10/3/99                      NCA AGM 10.30am - NCA

10/3/99                      March Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

19/3/99                      MRO Annual Meeting, Hunters Lodge 8pm - MRO

20/3/99                      March Bulletin Out - Editor

4/4/99                        OFD Columns Open Day

7/4/99                        April Bulletin Cut off - Editor

9/499                         BEC Committee Meeting

10/4/99                      CCC Ltd. AGM, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CCC

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Out - Editor

2/5/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/5/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

15/599                       CSCC AGM Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns Day

2/6/99                        June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/6/99                      June Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

28/7/99                      August Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

31/8/99                      Committee members reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

10 – 12/9/99               Hidden Earth 99, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee


We had a great time in India as you can see from the article later in this BB.  I'm sorry if you have given me an article recently and it is not in this BB.  Most of the articles were ready to go before I went to India and I have had very limited time since I got back. I  will endeavour to get the articles ready for the next BB in about a month's time.

Apologies to Trevor Hughes for the failure to get one of the surveys from Five Buddles in the last BB - don't know what happened to it, it must have got lost somewhere in the printing as it was perfectly OK in my final draft!!!  The surveys are reprinted in this edition.

The mystery photos in the last BB were all taken in Swildon's by Pete Glanvill and the exact locations are as follows: 1 - Carl Jones in North West Stream Passage.  2 - North West Stream Passage Pitch.  3 - Ken Passant at The Landing.  4 - Tate Gallery.  5 - Alan Hobby in Shatter Passage Duck.  6 - Brian Johnson in Sump 9.  No-one actually got them correct so there are no winners!  There are more mystery photos later in this BB - answer next BB.

Cut off for the next BB is April 14th, not the 7th as published as I decided it was too quick after this one.

Please bear in mind that I only have three more BBs to do then it will be someone else's problem!! We need to find a potential replacement editor(s) fairly soon as there is NO WAY, with my other commitments, that I will be able to do another year.

All BEC members should have a pull out addendum in the centre of the BB on the AGM minutes and accounts; this will not be in the BBs that go to reciprocals or are sold to non-members.  If you do not receive one please let me know.


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match - 2nd January 1999

As per previous years the Wessex won again!!  The BEC started well, but by the third round we seemed to miss more skittles than we hit!! The Golden Gnome mysteriously disappeared after the event with a message left that it had 'gone south on holiday' .


Photos are still required for the photo-board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin. Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  All slides or prints will be returned if requested.  The photo board has had the same set of photos on it for many months now so it would be nice to see some changes.

BEC Stomp

The BEC held a stomp on 30 January 1999.  The theme was The Wild West and despite the original band cancelling two weeks before, a new band was found and the evening was a great success.  Well done Roz Bateman and her helpers.

BurringtonCave Atlas

I still desperately need photos for the Burrington Cave Atlas.  The text is ready to go, but I am seriously lacking in photos (or pictures). Please can anyone help me out on this???   Ed.


I have had some response to this, but I know there are many more of you out there who have nicknames, so come on tell me how they came about.  Ed.

BEC Computer

There is a working 486 computer with a CDROM in the BEC library.  Thank you to anyone who donated bits; I have sold some and used some in the BEC's computer.  The final remaining profit from any sales will go towards an external Zip drive as this is an important piece of equipment for the 'new' editor for moving larger files around.  Ed.

"Berties Sink"

Six "Bertie stickers" with a 'Cable and Wireless' balloon attached, were unfortunately forced to ditch in the sea off Japan in early March due to bad weather. Congratulations to Andy Elson, Colin Prescott and their team on having at least captured the ballooning (an indeed nonrefuelling aircraft) endurance record.

It's up to the Breitling Orbiter 3 now.   J'Rat

Millennium Celebrations

The BEC committee is looking for ideas for celebrating the Millennium.  We have had ideas about T -shirts/sweatshirts etc. but need a design. If anyone has any design ideas or any other ideas for celebrating the Millennium (also our 65th birthday) please contact a committee member.  Ed.

BEC History

Dave Irwin has suggested a Millennium publication of the history of the BEC.  He has said he would co-ordinate the data but needs other members of the club to work on editing chapters of the club's history.  The areas that have limited information are 1935-1960, with regards to the Belfrys and the digs during this period - if anyone has any information or photographs, please contact Dave.  More details on the plans for this will be available over the coming months.  The plan is to try and release it as a special BEC publication at Christmas or early next year.

BEC Library Acquisitions

  • The Caves of Fermanagh and Cavan
  • ClassicCaves of the Peak District
  • Selected Caves of Britain and Ireland
  • Grand Travesias  - 40 Integrales Espanolas and Surveys:  High quality publication detailing classic through trips throughout Spain.  A superb 'holiday caving' guide!



Thanks to Joan Bennett for the donation of numerous climbing guides and a very comprehensive collection of O/S maps covering most of Scotland at 1:50,000


Dave Irwin and Graham 'Jake' Johnson are planning to catalogue the BEC library soon.  Can anyone who has books out from the BEC library please return them before the end of April.


A polite notice from the ladder making consortium:

If just by chance you are in possession of a BEC ladder (it doesn't matter how old or useful) could you please drop it back to the Belfry as we could do with the rungs and 'C' links to make new ladders.

Now for the Grovel:

If anyone out there could help with rung scavenging it would be a great help.  Requirements are:

a)                    Pillar drill and a good 'N' point drill bit @6mm

b)                    Time and patience.

c)                    Ability to switch brain off and/or a drink or two

Yet more:

Could anyone help with 'C' link manufacture, another mind numbing operation I'm afraid, but we do need them.  Lengths of chain available to take away at the Belfry.   Graham Johnson

CSCC Meeting News

Split Rock - Training bolting has been in place on Split Rock for some time.  The CSCC has directed that no further bolts should be placed.  This policy has been required as climbers also use the site and have complained that fixed aids were not on their route maps.

Training - The NCA still has lots of money to give away in the form of training grants.  Unfortunately these tend to be 50% grants and not total freebies.  All members are reminded that they are entitled to approach the BEC committee if they have training programs/events that they wish to pursue/attend.  If members want structured training weekends then they can be arranged by the committee, however the club may require costs to be met by the participants.  Please advise us of any help you need - we are not psychic!

Time Team TV Programme - Following the slanders on the character of cavers in general, as 'irresponsible, reckless cavers who mindfully destroy precious artefacts, the CSCC and NCA feels duty bound to write to Channel 4 in complaint.  The main reasons for this were:

  • The allegations were fabrications made up to sprite up a dead boring program, adding intrigue and deviltry into an otherwise uneventful shoot.
  • The dig was declared not of sufficient archaeological significance to worry about' when cavers approached a leading archaeologist over a decade ago (source: Graham Mullan)
  • Cavers do not wilfully destroy artefacts as has been illustrated by the recent, careful exploration of Five BuddIes.
  • Young prospective cavers must not learn that caving and destruction go hand in hand.  Calcite formations which so many fight to preserve may suffer.






CSCC AGM - will be held in the back room of the Hunters Lodge on 15th May 1999 at 10:30am.

Rebecca Campbell

Members News

Congratulations to John Christie and Judith Mellor who are getting married on the 20th March.

Also congratulations to Andy Thomas and Clare Marshall who are getting married on Easter Saturday.


The Mendip Newspage

By Andy Sparrow

His Lordship's Hole

A consortium of cavers from BEC, Wessex and Cotham recently organised the excavation by Hymac of this site close to both Attborough and Wigmore Swallets.  Attempts to gain cave here by traditional methods had yielded nothing but the mechanical digger quickly uncovered a promising rift.  This was too tight for immediate entry but a way on was visible, so work focussed on laying pipes, back-filling and restoring the swallet to it's original contours.

In the days that followed members of the consortium enlarged the head of the rift to reveal a vertical pot a few metres deep.

This was descended on the 31st January to reveal a narrow inclined streamway leading on for a few more metres before becoming too tight.

A choked fossil passage was also found providing two possible options for future digging.  It seems likely that the water sinking here will join the  Attborough stream before entering  Wigmore via the upstream sumps.  Cave passage is not easily won in this geologically complex area but the prospect of a Lordship's-Attborough-Wigmore system must be a long-term possibility.


Above: The newly excavated entrance to His Lordship’s hole (Rich Blake and John Williams)

Left: Preparing to enlarge the constriction (Rich Blake and John Williams)
Right: Job Done! (Rich Blake)


The entrance pipes - set at an entertaining angle

Digital images by Andy Sparrow

Stock's House Shaft

Meanwhile Tony Jarratt and the BEC, having been defeated by the winter flooding at Five BuddIes, turned their attention to yet another infilled mine shaft just a stone's throwaway. An obvious spoil heap here identified the site and digging quickly commenced.  This shaft proved to be cut through solid rock and was just over a metre square - a much easier proposition than the large collapsing shafts of Five BuddIes where much engineering had been required.

The dig descended rapidly amid disparaging 'why bother with another mineshaft' remarks overheard in the Hunters'.


The newly excavated Stock's House Shaft

Tony had the last laugh when, at nearly 15 metres down, the shaft met flowing water.  An impressive stream was revealed flowing in a short section of natural passage.  Work continues and further finds are eagerly awaited.

Access Again to FairyCave Quarry

Yes!  It really does seem that there is to be a new access agreement for these excellent caves after what must be over 15 years.  The larger systems of Shatter and Withyhill will be subject to a leadership system but the smaller caves, FairyCave included, will enjoy fairly unrestricted access.  The system is not expected to be in operation for a month or two to allow time for conservation work.  Further details to follow.

 (Late breaking news on access: The contact for information regarding any news on access is Martin Grass.  The current information is that Shatter, Withyhill and W/L will be leader systems with 15 leaders across the Mendip caving fraternity and keys to be held centrally on Mendip.  FairyCave and Balch's Cave will be gated but access will be fairly unrestricted.  As this is a quarry there are security guards on patrol at times, so if you wish to go into any of the caves in this area, even the ungated ones, you MUST inform Martin Grass of your intent so they can inform the security.  A list of leaders and final information on access arrangements will be in the next BB.

Please be patient and respect the ongoing access arrangements as it would be a shame if a few reckless idiots stuff this up for everyone else. - Ed.)

Rhino Rift - Late report

Rhino Rift is due to be P-anchored on Saturday 20th February.  The plan is to use a surface generator to power the drill which should ensure the whole of the direct (left-hand route) can be completed in one day (but please avoid the cave on the Sunday in case work is continuing and to allow testing of the new anchors.)  Subsequent conservation work is planned to remove and fill the old anchor placements, which should restore much of the cave to its pre-bolted condition. There are no current plans to P-anchor the alternative Right Hand Route but this is likely in the longer term as the spit placements begin to fail.



A Note on Early BEC!

In BB 499, Kangy's article on climbing triggered very ancient memories!! - The reason why we are an "Exploration Club" and not a "Caving Club".

In our inaugural meeting in 1935 we had no idea that what we were proposing would become one of the leading cave clubs.  If I remember correctly, we cast our net quite wide in the quest for "Adventure".  The idea was to form an organisation that would reflect the various tastes and inclinations of the inaugural members.  We drew up a "Constitution and Rules" and the sentiment we stated - "The exploration of caves and mines, rock climbing and other such activities that will from time to time meet with the approval of the BEC committee"

As a result of this, one of our lads, who lived in Bath and was interested in the supernatural coerced us into spending a night in mid-winter waiting to see a "coach and four with a headless driver" come galloping down from Beechen Cliff - how the BEC has changed since then!

It is a pity that the "Climbing Section" is non-existent, perhaps Kangy's article will cause a revival.

Harry Stanbury


A Brush With Darkness - WellsMuseum.

Hot on the heels of their exhibition in Cardiff, a Brush with Darkness at the Wells museum provided ISSA with yet another successful show of cave art.  The exhibition ran from Sunday 15th.  November to Saturday 28th November and was visited by many Mendip Cavers.

The private view was well attended and several major sales were made.  Artists included Robin, Chas and Gonzo with Chrissie Price completing the Mendip set.  Her watercolours of caving teddy bears caused a lot of interest and 'discussion' - you either love them or you hate them.  Also showing were Ceris Jones whose drawings of cavers and cave divers are widely enjoyed, David Bellamy, Jenny Keal and Bud Hogbin who showed some near abstract paintings of Gough's Cave.

Chas had his, by now famous, Five BuddIes Sink mugs on sale and several changed hands at the opening. (As seen on the Big Breakfast Show)

Many of the senior members of the BEC turned out to support the event and it is good that Mendip is prepared to back and also invest in its cave artists.

WellsMuseum was well pleased with the show and has agreed to stage A Brush with Darkness 2 during October 1999.  The date for your diary is 3rd to 30th October with everyone invited to the opening for wine and nibbles.  Any artist who has a picture to exhibit in this next show should contact Gonzo, Chas or Robin. It would be good to include other local picture makers who sometimes use caves and cavers as inspiration.


Roger Hasket reporting form a fishing division!!


Pestera in Padis, Barlanes in Budapest

By Emma Porter

Our trips to Hungary started in November 1996, when Cara Allison (MCGrrSG), John Christie, Sean Howe and myself made a trip to the beautiful city of Budapest. On that occasion, five days before travelling to Hungary, I received a phone call from a caver in Budapest informing me that he had organised free accommodation and caving trips for every day in different regions - this was to be the start of a great caving friendship.


Team photo (LR) in Budapest, Hungary.
Top: John Allonby and Pete Gray.  Bottom: John Christie, Jude Mellor and Emma Porter. Photo by Moha

The summer of 1997 saw our Hungarian friends working in England for several months, and of course, caving (but not managing a trip down to Mendip) and it was this summer that we made our return trip to Hungary, and also travelled to their neighbouring country of Romania.  The team for this trip consisted of five members of CPC: John Allonby, Pete Gray, John Christie (BEC), Jude Mellor and myself (BEC).

We had already been travelling for hours as we approached the Hungarian/Romanian border.  We'd left Pete's house at about 5am to get the plane from Manchester to Budapest, caught a taxi to our Hungarian friend’s house and awaited the arrival of the hire car.  Feeling exhausted, we looked at Moha and Andi in amazement as they told us we were setting off in two hours for Romania.  Negotiations began as the hire car arrived but it was pay a £1,000 deposit for the car, or no car, we had little choice.  (People are very wary about taking vehicles into Romania, as the Romanians are desperate for car parts and guide books even tell you to remove windscreen wipers!)  It was an uncomfortable ride to the border with five cavers, camping kit, food and wine.  Our Hungarian friends had warned us to take enough food for our duration out there as food would be difficult to obtain, so we had done a quick trolley dash before departing, making the most of the amazingly cheap prices.

It was about midnight when we stood at the border paying our £22 for a visa to enter Romania,  surviving the awkward custom officer,  and then our trip into the

John Christie and Emma Porter in Szamosbazar Aragyasza, Romania. Photo by Jude Mellor

unknown began.  The road quality rapidly deteriorated as we left the border, and tracks became riddled with potholes and combined with a blowing exhaust we could see our deposit dwindling away before us.  At 4.30 am, we arrived at our destination where tents were quickly erected and we crashed out.

The heat and daylight woke us from our deep slumber.  I was quite amazed when I emerged from my tent to see we were in a very forested area with lots of tents clustered around both sides of the stream and with horses grazing - this was to be our base for the week, the Padis Plateau, a classic karst area, with large cave systems and great potential at a height of about 1000m.

Our first day there began with a gentle introduction to the area in an attempt to recover from the tiring journey, visiting the cave Szamosbazar Aragyasza.  I was surprised at what a popular tourist attraction this is, as we met quite a few people visiting this cave.  Only equipped with wellies, we walked through this not very lengthy cave with its roughly made bridges with several daylight entrances in the roof, into a small but beautiful gorge.  After spending some time pottering around, we headed back for the pub in the pouring rain.  We stayed longer than intended, but had an extremely adventurous walk back in the pitch black with about ten drunken campers, following one of Hungary's orienteering champions - no wonder they don't win much, we went round in circles before stumbling along the several miles of rough ground descending to the campsite.  We fell asleep listening to the beautiful sounds of a saxophone in the distance.

The next day, was the start of many mornings of waking up to rain.  However, not to be put off the Hungarians said that we should do Pestera Neagra de la Barca ( BlackCave) part of an extensive cave system.  We agreed, assuming that as they knew the area we wouldn't go down if it was affected by rain.  The cave consisted of five relatively short pitches  which  John A. and Pete rigged, adding spits were necessary.       (The Romanian cavers have only just really been able to obtain Petzl equipment (those who can afford it) and so many of the caves are not bolted for SRT). Once at the bottom, we ventured along the fine stream passages to the sumps.   Unfortunately, our exit from the cave did not prove to be as smooth as our entrance. 

Unknown to us, it had been raining quite heavily all day and the pitches were beginning to take quite a lot more water.  For one of our Hungarian friends with us this brought back terrifying memories of spending thirty hours hanging from his harness in the Berger when it was flooding, which had been almost two years to the day.  Our supposedly two hour trip turned into eight and a half hours, as each pitch was re-rigged until we ran out of spits and then natural belays had to be hunted down to avoid the water.  By half eleven at night the cave was de-rigged and it was the most fantastic feeling looking out of the cave into the torrential rain, knowing we were all safe and no longer in danger of the flooding cave system.

From then on, each day we woke up, the rain pounded on our tents, so we left the caving and instead walked around the area.  The Padis area is extremely popular for hiking and there are many marked trails, one of which leads to the largest cave entrance in Romania.  A descent via wooden ladders, steps and a rope climb leads one to the river, which must be crossed in order to reach the 70m-cave entrance.  The torrent of swirling brown flood water put all but John A. off crossing the river, though it was entertainment enough watching his antics

The largest cave entrance in Romania. (Cetatile Ponorolui) Photo by Jude Mellor    

The following day, John C, Jude and myself, escaped off the mountain where we were camping to drop one of the Hungarians at the bus station in Beius.  We left John C. guarding the car as we didn't want it being stolen, knowing no one would try as John looked so dodgy and out of place.  We used this opportunity to get some fresh food, however, this turned out to be quite a trial.  We went into various shops and I was surprised to see just how empty the shelves were.  I had expected the shops to be basic but I didn't anticipate them being this empty! For example, one shop we went into, we bought them out of cakes, and we only purchased three!  The market was also an experience, one woman trying to sell ten withered carrots, the next the most deformed and squashed tomatoes ever and washing powder boxes looking like they had come from the 1950s.  I also tried to make a phone call from the post office - fifteen attempts and half an hour later I was informed that a line was now available, not surprising really, when you think that in Romania there is a sixteen year waiting list to be connected!  The weather had been fantastic down in the town, but as we returned up to the top, the cloud was lingering around.  When we reached the camp, Pete and John A's tent seemed to be at a rather alarming angle, and on closer examination, their tent had been bitten into by the horses after bread and all that was left were crumbs - and I had been worried about the bears!

Left: John Christie in Focal Viu Ghetarul Barca, Romania. Photo by Jude Mellor
Right: Emma Porter looking over the typical forested mountains, Romania. Photo Jude Mellor

That evening we had a wander to one of the local ice caves, Focal Viu Ghetarul Barca.  On descending the rickety steps, the temperature change was very noticeable and thick ice covered the floor.  At the far end of the cave, huge thick ice stalagmites guarded the continuing passage, where we were prevented from going further due to a steep icy drop.  It was the best ice cave that I have seen but that was to be our last cave in Romania.  The weather continued to deteriorate and we experienced a fearsome storm that night as lightening and thunder seemed to bounce around the mountain for hours, and I'm sure I heard something growling.

The next day was spent in the pub, too wet and dangerous to do anything (though it's a great feeling spending money in Romanian pubs, as you can't get rid of your money).  We decided that the following day we should evacuate.  But nothing is ever easy, especially as ten of us had arrived in two cars and now there were six of us and one car.  The only thing to do was for John C to drive two people just across the Hungarian border (as Romanian transport is not reliable) and then to drive back and collect the rest, meeting up in a caving region in northeast Hungary.

It was one of the longest, coldest and most desperate days ever as three of us sat in the tent waiting for John to return.  My hair had been wet for about three days without drying, and the atmosphere was so damp that we couldn't even feel the heat from a stove.  The camp was a muddy mess, and it was an effort to do anything but try and get warm in your sleeping bag.  It took forever for John C to return but seven hours later it was an amazing feeling to eventually get out of the damp, into the car and heading to Hungary.

John Allonby, John Christie, and Pete Gray - John C. showing off his beer belly!! Romania.  Photo by Emma Porter


After fleeing from Romania, the weather became hot (30 degrees) as we headed to a karst area in the northeast of Hungary on the Slovak border, known as the AggtelekNational Park.  This area is one of the most popular caving areas, containing the longest cave in the country.  After an uncomfortable journey we arrived at Josvafo, a little village we had visited in '96, which thrives on its cider industry and cave tourism.  As before, we stayed at a hostel, often populated by cavers and about £1 a night.  We met Moha and John A. in the local pub, making the most of the 20p a pint beer. After exchanging our stories of the mountain evacuation, we set off on a long awaited trip underground.

For years, speleotherapy has been utilised for asthma treatments in Hungary, and Boke Barlang was declared the first cave health resort in 1965, after many experiments in the 1950s.  One enters via a manmade entrance, descending down many steps until reaching the second longest streamway in Hungary.  For a non-caver entering this mysterious world for medical treatment it must have seemed very daunting!  The cave entertains a superb streamway; the walls draped with stal and is a great trip. The following day, Moha, John A and myself were the only underground venturers, crossing the Slovakian border whilst doing Also-hegy.  In the evening, the same three visited the 1.4km Kossuth Barlang, the entrance of which consisted of a wet tunnel, with metal bars and a traverse rope installed to keep out the water (not to be advised after drinking wine as it is hard to keep one's balance!).  The others had spent the evening in the pub, so not to miss out on the drinking time we ended up gate-crashing a local caver's 50th birthday party and had a great time.  In fact, I didn't know where to begin drinking, as I was given three drinks - red wine, champagne and the 'ladies drink', as much food as we could eat and were given a copy of the latest caving book hot off the press 'The Caves of Aggtelek Karst'.

Our last day in this area was spent doing a through trip of the longest cave in Hungary, Baradla Barlang (25km) which stretches into Slovakia.  The route we followed took the main branch of the cave for 7km from Josvafo to the village of Aggtelek.  It is an easy walk along, spectacular in places and caters for everyone, even having picnic benches half way along.  My most memorable part of the cave was the Concert Hall, and because of its wonderful acoustics is a regular music venue, complete with stage and seating.  Pete couldn't resist but to stand on the stage and try the acoustics which sounded fantastic with Moha on lighting, until all of a sudden he stopped, at the bottom of the hall appeared what seemed thousands of tourists on tour of the cave - we quickly scarped!  That evening we headed back to Budapest, Jude and myself volunteering to take the train. An experience I don't wish to repeat as we hardly saw another female but found ourselves the centre of attention with the soldiers on the train.

It felt like being at home again returning to the beautiful city of Budapest with all its interesting architecture, lively streets, sprawling over both sides of the Danube.  And as far as caves go, Budapest is quite unique, having the highest density of thermal caves anywhere in the world.  We stayed in the same location as our previous visit, in the BeverleyHills part of Budapest, in a caving hut above the prettiest cave in Hungary, Joseph Hegyi.  Of course, our trip would not have been complete without a trip down here, sometimes described as a mini Lechuguilla.  John A, Pete and myself visited several of the other caves in Budapest, Ferenc Hegyi and Matyas Hegyi all labyrinth like and very warm (so warm, we all took to wearing no undersuit, just oversuit and underwear).  We had an interesting explore around the largest cave in Budapest, Pal Volgyi which is part show cave, and then met some of the local caving clubs who meet at the bar of the show cave on a Thursday evening.  Our last trip under Budapest took us to the show cave Szemhegyi.  Above this showcave is a small memorial garden to cavers who have died. It is a beautiful setting, with a piece of limestone and plaque for each caver.  The guide allowed us to wander around and explore in the cave, and on leaving the showcave, to my surprise I bumped in to a caver I know from Gloucester SS.

Our last weekend was spent to the west of Budapest at a caving hut near a village called Tes in the BakonyMountains and we were joined by Antony Butcher from Shepton Mallet CC.  The cavers were very welcoming but spoke little English, though we entertained each other by singing caving songs and lots of actions.  We ventured down one of the longest caves in the area, Alba Regia, notorious for bad air and rather Mendip like and ended the evening in the pub. Then it was back to Budapest, where we ended up at our favourite restaurant, eight of us eating and drinking as much as we could for £30.

Our favourite restaurant in Hungary. Photo by Moha

That was the end of a great holiday.  Romania, though extremely wet and poor, is a very beautiful country.  There is great potential in the area we visited if you have good weather!  We only spent £10 each for the week; drinking every night and filling the car with petrol twice, though it's a good idea to take as much food with you as possible.  Hungary was the other extreme, very hot with shops containing almost everything you could want and still cheap!  However, in Hungary the access to caves is quite restricted, many of them being locked.  We could not have seen as much as we did had it not been for our Hungarian friends, who as in our trip in 1996 went out of their way to help us, and special thanks must go to Moha.

Emma Porter

(This article has also been published in The Record (CPC) Number 51)


A Transcript Of The New Answering Service Recently Installed At The Mental Health Institute.

"Hello, and welcome to the mental health hotline.  If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.

If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you.  If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6.

If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want.  Stay on the line so we can trace your call.

If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship.

If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press.  If you are a manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press - no-one will answer.  If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969.

If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the hash key until a representative comes on the line. If you have amnesia press 8 and state your name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number and your mother's maiden name.

If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, slowly and carefully press 000.

If you have bi-polar disorder, please leave a message after the beep or before the beep.  Or after the beep.  Please wait for the beep.

If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.  If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.  If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.

If you have low self esteem. Please hang up.  All our operators are too busy to talk to you."



Meghalaya 1999

By Estelle Sandford (taken from the IB Log)
(Photos by Estelle Sandford)


British: Simon Brooks, Tony Boycott, Tony Jarratt, Estelle Sandford, Tom Chapman, Fraser Simpson, Andy Tyler.

German: Daniel Gebauer, Ritschi Frank, Georg Baumler, Thilo Muller, Christine Jantschke, Herbert Jantschke, Christian Fischer.

American: Mike Zawada

Meghalayan: Brian Kharpran-Daly, Kyrshan Myrthong, Babha Kupar 'Dale' Mowlong, Adora Thabah, Zuala Ralsun, Neil Sootinck, Betsy Chhackchhuak, Alfred Vanchhawng and VanIal Ruata (Mizorarni and adventurers), Badamut Hujon, Shron Lyngkhoi (bus driver), Asif (cooks assistant), Raphael Warjri.

A 6 strong British and 6 strong German team left their respective countries on the 31st January for a month of caving in 'The Scotland of the East'.  After several days travelling and picking up Daniel Gebauer and Brian Kharpran-Daly on way, we arrived in Lumshnong in the Jaintia Hills to start the caving.  The main aim was to consolidate previous years' work and tie up as many loose ends in the Lumshnong area.  The two main systems in this area being the KotsatilUmlawan System and the Synrang Parniang system.  Other areas, which were given attention from smaller groups, were the LukhaValley area and Cherrapungee.  We were well equipped at the Lumshnong base with a minibus, a generator and also catering and washing staff to make life easier.

Wednesday 3rd February

Tony, J'Rat and Thilo, went surface walking with a GPS near Synrang Parniang to try and find the coal mine entrance (noticed from inside about 40m above the river level in 1998) to cut the trip down by about 5hrs and Ritschi, Tom and Christian went down Synrang Parniang to survey some passage near the entrance.  Simon Brooks, Georg Baumler, Daniel, Brian, Herbert, Christine and Fraser met Zuala and left for the Lukha valley just after lunchtime; they were lucky enough to find a house to stay in.  Tony's team found the coalmine, known as Cherlamet, plus 4 other new caves and Ritschi's team made Synrang Parniang the second longest cave in Meghalaya by surveying an extra 80m.

Thursday 4th February

We decided to experiment with a different route to Cherlamet starting from Thangskai.  We found a couple of interesting sites on the way, which included Krem Mutang, which has an Alum Pot style shaft, but ends in a coalmine, there are a couple of possible holes there that need a ladder. We continued along the path, past a monolith and the track came out right by the Cherlamet Coalmine with the hole in the bottom. The hole had appeared while blasting about a year ago and fortunately no one fell down it.   The locals had lowered a man down 80ft to look at the roof of the area they are mining.  J’Rat and Tom rigged the entrance, and then disappeared for a planned 6 hour survey trip.  Tony, Kyrshan and Estelle wandered back down the hill via checking out Krem Diengiong, which ends in a choke, and checking out the bottom end of the stream by the coalmine. Tom and J'Rat came back at 9.30pm having surveyed a further 900m and still going.  This takes the length of Synrang Pamiang to about 8km


Cherlamet Mineshaft Entrance to Synrang Parniang, with the miners busy clearing the rock to reveal the coal beneath.
The hole that had appeared made an excellent spoil dump for them.
The mountain inside was pretty impressive!!

In the Lukha, Daniel, Georg, Brian, Fraser, Herbert and Christine took a day trip to Sielkan Pouk. Georg, Daniel and Fraser survey 870m downstream, Brian, Herbert and Christine survey 170m of side passages.

Friday 5th February

Tony, J'Rat, Tom and Estelle walked from the IB to a track on the right on the way to Lumshnong by the Lalit entrance.  We located a cave and hacked our way to the cave entrance, cave was called Krem Plat ( CatCave?).  We continued the walk along the track to the next obvious dark space in the jungle; there was a drop needing a ladder to a possible canyon style passage.  There was also a similar looking cave on the other side of the track.  Continued along the track looking for other sites, there were many other possibilities as there are many dark areas in karst behind the jungle cover.  The next main hole was located on the right of the track and was a big hole right next to the track.  Need a rope for this one!  Continued walking to the village of UmLong. We asked about Krems and no one appeared to understand, but one man said about nine Krems and beckoned us to follow. He took us along a wellused track to the village's washing area.  The cave is known as Krem UmRiang, it is a resurgence cave with many entrances.  The man from the village also took us to their watering hole, which was a sump just inside a cave entrance, in daylight view. The next one was a drop requiring a rope, with water in the bottom looking promising.  This may be the Krem UmLong that we have been told about but with no translator it is hard to tell.

Lukha - Local guide organised and Fraser and Simon spend a frustrating day on hillside opposite (South) of Khaddum looking for WindCave.  Guide clearly did not know where the cave was and only one small dry cave was explored. A 6.8m free climbable shaft leads to 40m of dry rift passage.

Daniel and Herbert went to VillageCave in the centre of Khaddum and explored 50m of grotty passage.

Georg, Brian and Christine went into Paltan Pouk and surveyed the remaining wet passages and find 120m.

Saturday 6th February

Estelle and Tony B went to Krem Plat.  Surveyed first upstream through limestone pendants to a duck which was followed almost immediately by a sump.  Downstream continued to a boulder pile with a large frog.  Climbing around the boulder pile got us back into the stream again, where it got spidery and lower and eventually we could see daylight through a boulder choke.  J'Rat and Tom attacked the boulder blockage in Porcupine passage in Krem Kharasniang to try and get through into Urn Lawan, but failed; they gained about 20m of passage - this needs explosives!!

Our chef cooked us roast beef for tea tonight!

Lukha - Daniel, Herbert and Simon went to Pielkhlieng Pouk and surveyed 460m in the missing section of main stream between fossil bypass and large chamber.  They then survey another 400m upstream of 1998 limit. Georg, Christine, Brian and Fraser to lower section of Pielkhlieng Pouk and survey 600m of side passages off of boulder choke.

Sunday 7th February

Tony, J'Rat and Estelle went into the lower entrance of Krem MaLo and into a downstream part that had not been pushed or surveyed.  Surveyed 250m up 2 passages and then Tony and J'Rat went up to have a look at H Stream. They found 50m of really nasty passage beyond the previous end, but were so unimpressed, did not survey it.

Tom, Betty and Neil went to Krem Mutang and found nothing significant below the big shaft. Ritschi, Thilo and Christian went to Krem Labbit and found not a lot.

Simon, Daniel, Georg, Brian and Fraser returned from the Lukha valley with lots of cave found, but no supplies left.  They came up for a freshen up, clean clothes and a square meal, and also to get more food and supplies to take back down.  Christine and Herbert stayed down the bottom in the cottage they were now living in at Khaddum.  They have 2 main caves in progress, which still need several days work so most are going back tomorrow to carryon.

Monday 8th February/Tuesday 9th February

Thilo, Ritschi, J'Rat, Fraser and Estelle went to Cherlamet mineshaft at 6pm for an overnight pushing trip in Synrang Parniang, as it can now only really be accessed at night so as not to disturb the miners working.  The miners had finished work by the time we got there, so we immediately started rigging the pitch.  One of the miners turned up with two steel 'jumper' bars to put in the drilled bang holes as a back up belay. Thilo and Ritschi went off to survey some upstream stuff in side passages and J'Rat, Fraser and Estelle went downstream to continue the main survey.  We arrived at the final point after about 1½ hours of slippery boulder and stream passage. The cave is a massive rift passage maybe 50m high, with a stream in the bottom; there are no side passages in the lower section so far.  We continued with the survey and the cave entered a deep section of water, fortunately the lake didn't go over chest deep, so we carried on.  We named the lake, Loch Assynt and a later lake we found Loch Borralan. We turned a comer and into a big bouldery section, which shortly after started draughting in the other direction, and was very cold.  This probably indicates another entrance, particularly as the main stream way disappears under a very large boulder collapse.

Tom rigging the pitch at Cherlamet Mineshaft, while Fraser, Ritschi, Andy and the miners watch over.

We surveyed a stal section to the right of the collapse, but that got too small to sensibly follow.

We left a side passage on the left, which was possibly going to take us past the boulder pile but was too awkward to follow at that time of the morning!  We backtracked to the comer where we found an inlet passage, draughting strongly and with debris, so there is probably a way out of this as well. As it was 1:30am, we decided we had had enough and went back upstream to the large pile of rubble that is where the mineshaft is.  We were about an hour early so we rested before going up the pitch.  Just as we were getting ready to go out the Germans turned up having surveyed 900m.  We had surveyed 550m.  The pitch is 33m free-hanging in a chamber about the size of GG main chamber.  When we were all up, we derigged and started walking back having done 12 hours 15 mins of caving/surveying.  The bus and Tony met us at Thangskai at 7.20am.  Back to the IB, we had tea and breakfast and then went to bed.

Lukha - Herbert and Christine found two small resurgences in LunarRiver. Simon, Georg, Daniel and Christian return to the Lukha with supplies late Monday.

Tuesday 9th February

Tony, Tom and Brian went to see if they could find the end collapse of Synrang Parniang from the surface, but failed, they found more new caves though and looked at some of the caves that had been recced at UmLong.

Lukha - Daniel, Simon and Herbert go to Pielkhlieng Pouk and after 600m connect cave to Sielkan Pouk. Surveyed inlet and find another 500m.  Georg and Christine surveyed 400m in Sielkan Pouk and find a new entrance.

Wednesday 10th February

Tony, Fraser, J'Rat, Brian and Estelle went searching for a partially surveyed system called Krem Mahabon Four.  This is near the road just above the coal depot above Thangskai.  We had a bit of trouble locating the cave, but after bashing through the jungle for a short time, J'Rat found a recognised entrance to the cave.  We kitted up and went into the cave to Cauliflower Junction, where there was a section unsurveyed.  Tony and Estelle worked in this section, while J'Rat, Fraser and Brian carried on to the other entrance in the cave where there was a couple of 3-4m pitches that needed to be descended with a ladder.  Tony and Estelle initially surveyed the higher dry passages, before going back to the start of our section where there was an awkward climb down into a small stream.  Upstream was too small to follow, so we opted to follow the downstream section.  This started off at almost walking/almost crawling size passage and increased and decreased at regular intervals.  This was not anticipated to be as long as it turned out to be so Tony was using electric rather than carbide; we had to stop 1/2 way and go back to the entrance for a change of light.  On our way back to the end of our survey we heard voices and realised that J'Rat and Co. were very close by.  They were separated by some very small sections.  At our last survey point before the break, they were able to come across and link in.  They had been surveying very small passages!  We continued our survey along the stream, and they went back into the dry cave they were surveying and we carried on into deeper water until the cave ended in a pool followed by a boulder choke, which seemed very close to the surface.  There were quite a lot of beasties in this cave, including, spiders, small frogs, millipedes, crickets and small shelled snails (strange creatures that looked like slugs with useless too-small shells!).  We surveyed 500m between us.  Ritschi and Tom went to Urn Synrang and surveyed some inlet passages.

Lukha - Christian, Herbert and Simon went on a photographic trip into Pielkhlieng Pouk.  Daniel, Georg and Christine surveyed 400m of side passages in Pielkhlieng Pouk.

Thursday 11th February

Market day in Lumshnong and J'Rat bravely opted for a quick trim at the barbers, which includes a head massage and he came back a little shorn.  After market we had a bus journey down to Sonapur where there is a big bridge crossing the Lubha, which is the Lunar and the Lukha rivers combined. Tony, J'Rat, Fraser, Tom and Brian went to survey Krem Wah Labbit which is in Lumshnong village by the Kot Sati entrance.  They came back after 3 hours having surveyed 440m of large dry passage.  Lukha - Daniel, Simon and Christian survey another 400m of side passages in Pielkhlieng Pouk. Zuala, Georg, Herbert and Christine survey 400m of rift passages in Pielkhlieng Pouklet to connect to main Pielkhlieng Pouk cave.

Friday 12th February

Tom, Ritschi and Andy were going to survey an inlet passage in Synrang Pamiang, via entering the mineshaft and coming out the original entrance.  Fraser and I went up with them to take the rope and SRT kits back. Tony, J'Rat, Brian and Thilo went back to Krem Wah Labbit in Lumshnong and also went to look for other caves unsurveyed in the village.

The Synrang Pamiang team set off from the MaLo track and after an hour were at the entrance; we had to wait while they blasted it before going into the mine.  They have now reached the coal seam and are able to mine coal after that blast.  The entrance had significantly changed and the extra length of rope was required to back up to a bar in a shot hole.  They stopped throwing spoil down the hole whilst Tom, Ritschi and Andy went down the shaft, Fraser derigged and pulled up the SRT kits and we walked back to Thangskai. Fraser and Estelle sorted out kit and met the others in Lumshnong.  We all then went to Krem Wah Labbit, partly as a tourist trip for them who hadn't been down and partly for J'Rat to have a dig in the boulder choke.  Nice cave but the boulder choke didn't go.  Earlier the Lumshnong team had resurveyed by accident the forest entrance of Kotsati as far as the main stream before realising it was a bit familiar.  After we had finished in Krem Wah Labbit we went to look in another doline for more caves and found a cave with nail varnish marks on the wall, which none of us knew which cave it was but it had obviously been surveyed before!!  The cave turned out to be Krem Pohshnong.  We finished the day with a videoing trip through from Krem Umsynrang Liehwait (forest) entrance of Kotsati to the Lalit entrance.

The Synrang Pamiang team found another entrance up the side passage (Colourful Inlet) they surveyed 375m in.

Lukha - Daniel, Zuala and Simon investigate springs in the LunarRiver valley. Georg, Herbert and Christine survey 800m below 7m pitch in Pielkhlieng Pouk.

Saturday 13th February

Tom, Tony, J'Rat, Andy, Ritschi and Thilo went prospecting in the UmLong area.  They split up and Tony and J'Rat surveyed Krem UmRiang, and the others looked at possible sites but found nothing significant.  Fraser, Brian, Bok and Estelle went to Khlierhiat to try and get the camcorder battery charger repaired; it had blown a capacitor when it was given 495V when the generator was faulty.  The Lukha team arrived back having connected Sielkan Pouk and Pielkhlieng Pouk and totalled the cave to 9km, which makes it No.3 in India.  Ritschi, Thilo and Andy turned up from their walk having surveyed Krem Charminar.  The rest of the UmLong recce teams arrived back at dusk with Krem UmRiang surveyed to 350m and lots of possible area/sites for future.

Sunday 14th February

After voltage problems with the generator, Simon had a look and found the problem.  With the generator now up and running, Daniel, Simon and Estelle took the opportunity to catch up on the data inputting on the computers.  After a lazy morning playing Caroms, Fraser, Tony and J'Rat went along the UmLong track to one of the sites that Tom had pointed out, but hadn't been to.  They hacked through the jungle and found an entrance and followed the cave for 200m before they were stopped by a flake that needs a hammer to get past.  They named the cave Krem MaTom, which means 'Mr Tom's cave'.  This needs a revisit with a hammer.  Georg, Andy, Brian and Adora went looking for a reported resurgence near a track that runs directly from Lumshnong to Khaddum.  They had no luck.  The rest of the team went to Krem Umsynrang on a photographic and pushing trip. There is a climb in a very muddy passage there; that Anette had looked at last year, but no-one had been up yet. Tom climbed up using a piton to get there and found more mud about chest deep, which continues, unsurveyed.

We are now on three course evening meals, with tonight's being tomato soup followed by sledge hammered chicken followed by chocolate mousse!

Monday 15th February

Apart from Georg, Brian, Christine and Herbert, everyone went to Krem Musmari, which is the new entrance off Colourful inlet in Synrang Parniang.  The above team went to a new cave Krem UmPeh which is not very big! They surveyed 524m in there.  The Synrang Parniang teams were split into J'Rat and Tom trying to pass the boulder choke at the end after the overnight trip, Tony and Andy having a good look around the boulder pile by Loch Borralan, Simon, Fraser and Estelle taking photographs in the inlet and main passage and a final team of Ritschi, Thilo and Christian, surveying more inlet passages in Colourful inlet and Swabian inlet.  We caught the mineshaft entrance at the right time with a spotlight from the sun shining in onto the wall as a beam of light.  Ritschi and Co. surveyed 230m of side passages.  At 9.15pm the rest of the Synrang Pamiang team came back in smug mode, they had passed the ''Terminal'' Boulder Choke and continued surveying for a further 400m finding more streamway of same size and larger than the passage before the choke and also climbed up into a fantastic upper series passage, 40m high, 15-30m wide and fantastically decorated.  They followed it in the upstream direction for 100m, and didn't even look in the downstream direction.  There were loads of cave pearls and formations all over. They named it Titanic Hall, as there is a large ship's bow-like boulder in there.  Tony and Andy had climbed to the top of the dodgy boulder pile at Loch Borralan and found a big passage, which they surveyed for 750m before running out of time.  They followed the last of the passage and found another entrance.  This new entrance involved a tricky climb, but fortunately they had Tom with them and he climbed it and rigged it with what slings, short bits of ladder and other kit they had.  They got out into the jungle and fortunately found a freshly cut path from the cave entrance; it passed a coalmine and continued out of the doline. They were able to get a GPS fix about half way up and found they were only a short distance from the monolith on the track to the Cherlamet mineshaft - all this in the dark!

Tuesday 16th February

Time for a major Synrang Parniang pushing team!  After pancakes for breakfast (well it was Shrove Tuesday after all!!!) 8 of us climbed into the bus and went to find the new entrance of Synrang Parniang; it was named Krem Eit Hati, which means elephant pooh, as they had found elephant pooh at the top of the doline which was the only distinguishing feature of the area at the time of night they came out!!  Tony, Fraser and Estelle surveyed from the entrance to complete the survey to where they had got to yesterday and also surveyed two side passages.  We carried on and joined the downstream team of Tom and J'Rat.  The boulder choke that they had found a way through was full of interesting looking ‘henries’  followed by a low

A few of the cave pearls in Titanic Hall, Symang Pamiang.

sandstone section of stream, then opened up into passage similar and sometimes bigger than the passage before the boulder choke.  We followed the passage and met them at a comer where they had just been a little way up a side passage and found cat (?) footprints.  No obvious signs of an entrance though!?  We left them surveying and continued downstream to find a suitable section about 200m further to start a leapfrog survey.  Unfortunately, the passage deteriorated into a short free-climbable pitch followed by some grotty passage, followed by another pitch.

While we were changing our carbide, J'Rat and Tom caught us up, so we sent Tom down the next pitch to find out what happens and see if the rest of us can free-climb the pitch.  He came back reporting another bigger pitch. J'Rat went down to join him and they decided they needed 50ft of ladder to descend the next pitch.  The pitches were named 'The Wet Nightmares'.  We all turned round and after a quick tourist trip into Titanic Hall to look at the cave pearls and formations and also a successful fishing trip for blind cave fish (caught two)  in Gour  Passage, we came back out of Krem Eit Hati entrance.   Simon,  Thilo and Ritschi had gone up into Titanic Hall in Synrang Pamiang and surveyed downstream direction for 400m to a boulder choke.

We also had arranged two guides for today so Brian, Andy and Daniel went with the guide Spding Dkhar to Wah Umso, just above Thangskai and were shown to 3 caves, all goers which need revisiting.  They also looked at the sink of Krem Labbit (Cherlamet), but this is impenetrable.

Strange formations in Titanic Hall, Symang Pamiang
The other group of Georg, Adora and Zuala went to Krem UmTyrngei, south of Lumshnong. We had roast pork for tea and lots of beer.

Wednesday 17th February

Most people were absolutely knackered after the long Synrang Pamiang trip yesterday and had decided on a easier day with a long bus ride to a new area north of Lumshnong called Sutnga and found out some useful leads, with 12 named caves.  Fraser, Daniel, Andy and Adora went back to Wah Umso to continue looking at the caves there.  Neil turned up with some explosives and slow burning fuse for J'Rat to blow up the boulder in Kharasniang.  Neil then took a couple of local people down Synrang Thloo for a tourist trip and found a snake just inside the entrance; he came back to  tell  us,  so Tony,

Tony Jarratt and Asif (cooks assistant in the boat) in the canals at Krem Synrang Thloo entrance of Krem UmLawanIKotsati

J'Rat,  Tom and Estelle decided to get our kit sorted quickly and take a boat as well so as to take Asif (the cooks assistant) from Synrang Thloo to the main Kotsati entrance.

We found the snake just before the deep section of the canal.  It was not a cave racer as we had first thought it would be, so we were fairly careful around it.  It was about 3-4 foot long and very bright green with a diamond shaped head and was later identified as a bamboo pit viper - instant paralysis and death in 30 minutes!

Andy, Fraser and Daniel went back to Wah Umso and surveyed 630m in Krem Umda 1/Umso and Krem Umda 2.

Later Tony, J'Rat and Neil went to bang the boulders in Kharasniang and got a misfire.

Bamboo Pit Viper about 100m in Krem Synrang Thloo entrance ofKrem UmLawan/Kotsati

Thursday 18th February

Fraser, Andy, Adora and Estelle went to survey the northern end of Titanic Hall in Synrang Parniang and take some photos and video footage.  Simon, Tom and J'Rat also came to Krem Eit Hati with the tackle to rig the Wet Nightmares.  Titanic Hall was surveyed upstream to a very terminal looking boulder choke (the Iceberg), just after the Titanic Boulder.

Simon and Co. rigged the pitches at the end which went to a big chamber, which they named Trainspotting Chamber, due to J'Rat wearing an anorak to keep dry on the pitches. After hunting around for leads as most were well choked, Tom noticed a rift and climbed out of  there and came out of the resurgence, Krem Khlieh Trai Lum.

Neil Sootinck and Tony Jarratt with the small selection of explosives that were to be used to try and further progress in Krem UmKhang/Kharasniang.

They surveyed 60m to end, but more side passages to do.

Ritschi and Daniel wallowed in the Muddy Waters at Krem Umsynrang and surveyed 280m to another climb.

Tony, Zuala, Brian, Herbert, Christine, Christian, Georg, and Mike went to do the through trip from Synrang Thloo to Urn Lawan, but the boulder choke has moved at the Urn Shor/Kotsati connection so they came out at Kotsati into Spindro's Back Yard and went back in Urn Shor to complete the through trip.

We were informed on arrival back at the IB that a certain green snake from Synrang Thloo was resident in a lemonade bottle in the kitchen.  Alfred and Ruata, who had arrived from the Mizoram Adventurers, had gone into the cave and caught it; how they got it's head through the lemonade bottle I will never know!!!

Friday 19th February

Before breakfast Mike, J'Rat, Tony, Kyrshan, Neil, Alfred, Ruata, Badamut and Shron Lyngkhoi (the bus driver) had a successful bang trip to Krem UmKhang/Kharasniang; this time the charge went off.  They videoed and photographed the whole experience, then came out via a tourist trip in the rest of the cave and came out of Urn Khang entrance - someone had built a house over the path so they had to climb out under the floor, much to the locals amusement.  The driver is dead keen on the caving, maybe next time he'll take a light and helmet!!

Simon, Tom, Fraser, Estelle and Tony walked up a hellishly steep path from Umstein village which was where they came out yesterday from the resurgence of Synrang Parniang. Interesting walk, Krem Khlieh Trai Lum entrance was successfully GPSed and was found to be 500m south of Krem Plat. Tom and Simon went in Synrang Parniang to derig and complete the survey of the lower sections.  We made our own path through the jungle to arrive at Krem Plat and the Lumshnong/UmLong track.  When we arrived back to the IB we found J'Rat already back - he had managed to lose Andy, Alfred and Mike somewhere in Krem MaTom, but they appeared later.

Georg, Ruata, Christian, Thilo, Zuala, Neil and Ritschi went to Synrang Pamiang original hunting side passages that may connect to Krem Umsynrang.  They found some holes high up that could do with a bamboo maypole!! They then surveyed Krab Inlet to a boulder choke.

Simon and Tom entered Synrang Pamiang via Krem Khlieh Trai Lum resurgence entrance.  They surveyed and detackled the cave apart from the entrance ladder.  They also checked out the boulder chokes at both ends of Titanic Hall.

Saturday 20th February

Neil, Betsy, Alfred, Ruata, Tony B and J'Rat went back to Krem UmKhanglKrem Kharasniang for another pre-breakfast trip.  Yesterday's bang had done an excellent job.  The spoil was removed and another half stick charge laid and successfully fired. Betsy saw a 2m brown/grey snake near the entrance.  Midday J'Rat, Tony B and Neil returned to clear the debris and lay the third and last charge.  An open strongly draughting crawlway lies below and they will be in on the next trip. They then went to the end of Anglo-Sikh Series in Urn Lawan and spent a couple of hours hammering the flowstone blockage; they now have roomy passage visible above, a bit more work and they will be in on the next trip.

Simon, Fraser, Kyrshan, Badamut, Mike, Brian, Betsy, Alfred, Ruata, Christian and I went to Synrang Pamiang Krem Eit Hati entrance.  We managed to hitch a Shaktiman as far as the monolith. Kyrshan and I went in the front and the rest rode on top.  It was a brilliant experience, the guys on the back had great fun holding on, while from the cab it feels like riding in a caterpillar type vehicle; the driver only used 4-wheel drive once on a really steep bit.  We continued the walk and on the way into the doline, Ruata and Alfred cut 2 bamboos for maypoling entrance side passage for on the way out.  We started in the inlet, which was quite amusing as the Mizoram boys spent the whole inlet traversing to stay out of the water until one of them fell in!!  Eventually we arrived in the streamway where we had to complete the survey and Simon, Fraser and Mike stayed to take some photos whilst Estelle took the rest of the party to Titanic Hall. Christian and Estelle left the Meghalayans to explore, and went back to the streamway.  Fraser and Mike then went to Titanic Hall to organise sightseeing, video and photos while Christian, Simon and Estelle surveyed the unsurveyed section of streamway.  When we had completed this part of the survey we went back to the inlet and to the side passage by the entrance where Simon put up the bamboo maypole and climbed the ladder into a passage bigger than the inlet!  The passage went 40m to a climb down which will need a revisit with either tackle or a stronger climber.

Tom Chapman, Zuala Ralsun, Thilo Muller went walking near Umstein searching for Wah Lariang resurgence and caves in this area.  They confirmed that the river valley that Synrang Pamiang resurges into is Wah Lariang.

When we arrived back at the IB there was a group of the ladies from Shillong; we had a brilliant night's singsong and lots of beer and rum.

Sunday 21st February

J'Rat, Neil, Alfred and Ruata went to Krem UmKhangi Kharasniang and checked out the last bang and also did about an hour's digging. The Mizoram boys are dead keen on the digging and J'Rat had a job to persuade them it was breakfast time!

After breakfast the party of ladies from Shillong were kitted out and taken on tourist trip into Krem Lalit accompanied by Brian, Tom and Andy.

Fraser, J'Rat, Thilo, Tom, Mike, Kyrshan, Badamut and Estelle left for Shillong for a night in the Embassy Hotel before going to Cherrapungee.  The rest are staying on to continue work in Lumshnong.  The water was off at the Embassy so we had to wait for a bucket of hot water for washing and they had to supply us with water for flushing the toilet!  Later the electric went off as well!!

Monday 22nd February

We left early for Cherrapungee and fortunately were able to stay in the Circuit House there, so after settling our kit in we kitted up and went caving.  We managed to get all 8 of us in an Ambassador taxi to the limekilns and then split up.  Fraser, Thilo, Raphael (who had replaced Badamut) and Estelle went to Krem Mawria after obtaining permission as this is the water supply and has pipes and dam in entrance.  Nice cave with meandering passage, which eventually loses the stream up a smaller side passage and ends in a boulder choke.  We surveyed 630m to the boulder choke; 'side passage' which has the main stream remains unsurveyed at the moment.

Tom, J'Rat, Mike and Kyrshan went to Krem Soh Pang Bniat and surveyed 270m of passage.  The entrance and small passages had been looked at but not surveyed, so they followed down to the streamway and then finally came out of another entrance at the bottom of a cliff.  As they could not tell where the entrance was in the dark, they had no choice but to go back in the cave and come out of their original entrance. Kyrshan did all this in his only set of clothes with his video camera in a shopping bag.

Lumshnong - Tony Boycott, Neil and Alfred went digging in Anglo-Sikh and got back into the original passage.  They also went back to Krem Urn Khang, banged dig passage, dug out and passed for 15m in 0.5 x 0.3m tube to too tight squeeze for Alfred to follow.  Ritschi, Ruata and Daniel trying to climb at the end of Muddy Waters without success so they went and surveyed a side passage instead. George and Zuala had a trip to Lunar valley and visited/surveyed Krem Shong Skei, Krem Mih Urn, Krem Urn Peh. They also released the Bamboo Pit Viper; there were conflicting stories on the release!!!   One was that they had opened the lid and thrown the bottle away as hard as possible as the snake was halfway out of the bottle and the other was they put the bottle at the side of the path and the snake had gone by the time they came back!!!

Tuesday 23rd February

Fraser, Tom, J'Rat and Estelle went into Krem Soh Pang Bniat entrance and followed the right hand passage surveyed by Daniel just before Xmas last year. We split into two survey teams and surveyed some of the maze that exists in this cave.  Total surveyed approx. 500m.  Fraser and Estelle walked back in daylight from the new entrance (Krem LumsWan 1) and found it was not that far from the limekilns.  Tom and J'Rat went back into the cave and surveyed a connection into Krem Rong Urn Soh.

Mike, Raphael and Thilo surveyed 600m of side passages in Krem Phyllud.

Lumshnong - Daniel and Ritschi did a surface survey on the Cheruphie plateau surface above Umsynrang and Synrang Pamiang.

Simon, Brian, Andy went to UmSynrem and surveyed 70m and collected info on other local caves and survey 6 x 4m in UmShor Washing place caves

Entrance of Krem Phyllud, Cherrapungee

Wednesday 24th February

Fraser, Mike and Estelle went to into Krem Phyllud and completed the survey of the areas worked on yesterday. Surveyed to two different entrances and also a side passage off one of the entrances, total surveyed about 250m. Tony, Tom and Kyrshan went into Krem Lumshlan 1 + 2/Krem Soh Pan BniatlKrem Rong Urn Soh.  They had gone in via the walking sized Krem Lumshlan 1 and surveyed downstream past Putrid Pool to a duck.  Tom went through to find another entrance - Krem Lumshlan 2. They surveyed upstream inlet finding it to actually be downstream Krem Rong Urn Soh.  They had actually surveyed part of this streamway 3 times! - Once last year and once yesterday!  They then went on and surveyed White Woodlice Way and 100m or so of the large upper level bat roost passage until time ran out.  Left at least 100m of the passage unsurveyed.  Thousands of bats in residence.  Lots more to do in this system.

Thilo and Raphael went to Krem Mawria to survey the main stream inlet passage and surveyed there about 120m in crawly passages.  Some? are left, but not very inspiring.

The Sumo that we had arranged wasn't there when we arrived at the road and 1 hour later, there was still no sign, so we got a taxi to the falls at Mawsmai and found it there; the communication must have got confused as it looks as though he assumed he had to meet us there and had been waiting for a long time, wondering where we were! We took the Sumo back to the IB and packed up the kit.  The driver had no idea of loading on roofracks so Tom got up and did the business. We were soon loaded up and on our way to Shillong.

Lumshnong - The team packed all the kit onto 2 buses and a jeep and trailer and headed back to Shillong to meet the rest of us at the Embassy Hotel.  Between us we had found a total of 20km of new cave in the last few weeks.

Thursday 25th February

Sorted out kit and took a trip to Brian's to drop off any kit we are leaving behind and any kit of theirs we still had.

We had a birthday party at Diana's on the other side of town as our last night’s entertainment - we discovered He-Man beer which did a very good job on most of us!!!

Friday 26th February

We left the hotel long before the hangovers had a chance to set in and walked up the road to Police Bazaar to meet the bus.  We were very glad when the bus stopped for us to have breakfast about ½ way.  We arrived at Guwahati airport in plenty of time and after going through the usual rigmarole of immigration, we settled down in the restaurant for beer for breakfast, well for those of us who could take it!!!!  The Germans flew Jet Air and left 20 mins before us.  We were soon boarded and on our way on our Indian Airlines flight. After collecting our bags we made our way out to the few taxis that were running, as there was a band (strike) on. We managed to fit everyone (6 of us and 4 Germans) in 3 taxis and made our way to the Fairlawn Hotel, in Sudder Street, Calcutta.  We had our evening meal, which was typically British, then sat in the beer garden until they refused to serve us any more.  They stop serving at 9.30 pm and turn the lights out at 10pm!!!

Saturday 27th February

We had a traditional English breakfast and then it was time to go shopping.  We spent the afternoon with 3 taxis doing a 'tourist trip' round the sights of Calcutta. Back at the hotel later we had a mass repack to try and fit everything in!  Evening meal was steak on a stone - excellent!!

At 1am we left the hotel and went to CalcuttaAirport to start the long journey home.

Sunday 28th February

Unfortunately we are all home and have to get back to reality!!!


Song - At Our Belfry On The Hill

Tune: Much Binding in the Marsh
Author: Dizzie Tompsett-Clark
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol 2 No 8 December 1947

At our Belfry on the Hill,
The purity campaign has really started,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
From swearing and bad manners we've departed,
We're fixing up a swear box on the table by the wall,
And Don must pay a shilling if he lets his fig-leaf fall,
In case the Bristol Brownies should decide to pay a call,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
Politeness is the order of the day there,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
In fact it's really quite a strain to stay there,
Our dear old maiden aunties could not blush at what is said,
And fairy tales and fables are the only stories read,
At night we say our prayers and then we toddle off to bed,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
We used to talk of motor bikes and caving,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
But now we're concentrating on behaving,
You can bring your little sister and your favourite blonde up too,
They wouldn't mind out language, but they mightn't like our stew,
But if they start complaining, well, they know what they can do,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
We're sure you'll like our tablecloth and flowers,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
We sit and knit to pass away the hours,
Quite early Sunday mornings we go off to church in twos,
But first we clean our teeth and comb our hair and shine our shoes,
And if we're offered pints of beer, we graciously refuse,
At our Belfry on the Hill.


Water Studies In WookeyHoleCave. Somerset.

A brief report by Roger Stenner.

A full report on this study has been submitted to the B.C.R.A. for publication (with joint authors Tim Chapman, Alex Gee, Alan Knights, Clive Stell and Roger Stenner).  This paper will contain full experimental details, including analyses for sulphate and nitrate by ion chromatography, by Alan Knights of the Inorganic Chemistry Dept. of Bristol University and a discussion of problems given by colloidal calcium carbonate.

Between 1966 and 1975, many samples from the River Axe from the 3rd Chamber 3 of Wookey Hole were analysed by Stenner.  Magnesium concentrations in the samples varied very widely, and there was no pattern to the results.  In August 1974, there was more magnesium in a sample from the 5th Chamber than in a sample taken a few days later from the 9th Chamber.  There were two possibilities.  There may have been a gradient in magnesium from Wookey 9 to Wookey 5.  Alternatively, the data could have reflected general changes in Mg levels between the two dates, with no magnesium gradient between the two sites on either occasion.

According to Hanwell's survey of the cave, the River Axe flows from limestone into Triassic conglomerate at Wookey 12, approximately only 50m upstream of Wookey 9.  Also, in 1975 it had relatively recently been shown that when hard water which is low in magnesium, with zero aggressiveness, is shaken with powdered dolomite, magnesium from the dolomite will dissolve in the water (Stenner, 1971).  The two facts led Stenner to think the first explanation was more likely to be true. A study of water samples from deeper in the cave would be worthwhile, and might explain the data from 1974.  In 1996, when Alex Gee was regularly diving to Chamber 22, "pushing" the aven which trends towards the surface (Gee, 1996) he agreed to collect some water samples on some of these trips.  As the study progressed, Colin Chapman and Clive Stell joined the exercise.

The first attempt was called of because the cave was in flood.  On the next trip, on 14.12.96, the water was still high, but the results were amazing, in spite of analytical problems given by colloidal calcium carbonate in the samples.  Samples were collected from the tops of the major loops of the River Axe, at Chambers 3, 9, 20, and 22.  At Wookey 23, samples were taken from the huge Static Sump shown in Alex Gees B.B. article, already mentioned.  At Wookey 22, the sample was taken from Sump 22 above the point of entry of the main stream (coming from Sting Comer).

Chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels were, within experimental limits, the same in all the samples.  But whereas magnesium was 32 to 35 x 10-5 Molar in all the main stream samples, it was only 9.8 x 10-5 Molar in the Static Sump.  The similarities could have been a coincidence.  Remote, but just possible, and the next batch of samples was awaited eagerly.  They came on 25.01.97, and this time, although the river was still high, there was no problem with colloids.  This time, calcium, chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels were the same in all the samples (within experimental limits) and this time magnesium in main river samples were 42 to 43 x 10-5 Molar, and 13.6 x 10-5 Molar in the Static Sump.  Bicarbonates in the static sump were less than in the main river, the decrease balancing the magnesium difference.  Now there was no room for co-incidence.  The water chemistry of the static sump was the same as that of the main river, except that it had less magnesium bicarbonate.

The results from the first two sets of results meant that somewhere upstream, the river and the water in the Static Sump had been the same, with the same chemistry.  Either the water flowing to the Static Sump had lost magnesium, or the water in the main river had gained magnesium.  With the pH range possible in the water (and the measured range of aggressiveness to calcium carbonate) there was no mechanism by which magnesium could be removed selectively from the water.  However, water low in magnesium can dissolve magnesium selectively from dolomite, at the same time producing solid calcium carbonate from the calcium component of the dolomite (and there is plenty of solid calcium carbonate in the silts of the cave, and in suspension in the water of the Axe).

So, this is the picture. Somewhere upstream, the Axe had chemistry like the Static Sump.  Then the river splits.  One branch flows through a bed of dolomite, dissolving magnesium carbonate from the dolomite as magnesium bicarbonate, to become the main River Axe, the smaller branch flowing to the Static Sump.   From the river in Sump 22 to the entrance, the chemistry of the river did not change. This has another consequence.  The location of site(s) where the four main sources of the Axe (St Cuthbert's, Eastwater, Swildons and percolation water) join, must be upstream of the main stream/Static Sump junction.

There was a word of caution about future results.  The flow to the Static Sump could be intermittent, so the link in the chemistry between the Static Sump and the main river might not hold as the size of the river falls (the Static Sump water chemistry would then be linked to a previous water chemistry in the river).

The next question, with a good distance between Wookey 22 and Wookey 25, was whether the junction where the flow splits was within the known cave.  After a few false starts, a set of samples was brought out on 20.07.97. Samples were collected from the previous sites, plus a sample from Wookey 25, where the river wells up from Sump 25.

The results from the samples collected in December 1996 and January 1997 were utterly unexpected, and the possible implications were intriguing.  A high priority was placed on making another collection, including samples from upstream of Wookey 23.  A series of attempts to collect a set of such samples was made between March 1997 and July 1997, all of which failed for a number of reasons.  At last the gremlins were defeated, and a third collection of samples was made on 20.07.97 from the same sites as on 14.12.96, with the important addition of a sample from Wookey 25, immediately before the long descent into the 25th Sump.  Water levels were low.

The results from 20.07.97 were positive.  The water chemistry from the Wookey 25 was the same as that in the rest of the river, the magnesium content being 33 to 35 x 10-5 Molar.  The content in the Static Sump was 11.9 x 10- Molar.  As had been predicted, the links between water in the static Sump and the main river was no longer as close as in the previous samples, when the flow was high.  Chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels in the Static Sump were now significantly different from those in the main river, certainly because the chemistry of the main river had changed since the water had last flowed into the Static Sump.

The July 1997 results push the junction (and the Dolomite zone where magnesium dissolves) upstream of Wookey 25.  It also follows that the water in the Static Sump has come from upstream of Woo key 25. As the drawings in Alex Gee article (referred to earlier) show, the Static Sump is huge.  It has not been thoroughly explored.  As soon as the route through to Sting Comer, and on to Wookey 25 had been discovered, the Static Sump was seen as rather irrelevant. There must obviously be some caution here, because a huge flow of water can flow through fissures far too small to be passed by a diver, but if the water comes to the Static Sump by a route which by-passes Sump 25, this route must be worth looking at again. With such a long distance, there must be a very good potential for making worthwhile discoveries here.  In fact, there are several static sumps in this part of the cave.  The next stage will be to collect samples from all of the static sumps between Wookey 20 and Wookey 25, to discover more about their water chemistry.  The amazing sequence of floods since last summer has delayed this exercise, but watch this space!


Gee, A., 1996.  Recent exploration in "Wookey", Belfry Bull., 48(1) 7-10. 4.

Hanwell, J.D., 1970. Digger meets diver, J Wessex Cave Club, 11(128) 34-9.

Stenner, R.D., 1971. The measurement of the aggressiveness of water Parts II and III, Trans. C.R.G. 13(4),283-295.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support given by the management of WookeyHoleCaves to members of the Cave Diving Group in their work in this cave.


Notes on photographs

1. Photographs from Tankard Hole, 18th January 1959.

The photos were taken after finishing the survey of the cave, with Roger, Pete Miller and Dave Dolan, on a Dacora 2¼" folding camera on 200 ASA film, PF1 bulb.  Pete took the photo of me in the final chamber.


The second (on the next page) was about 100ft beyond this chamber, to record the fossil, with the boot to give the size.  Eight photos were taken, one of which no longer exits.  I remember that several people in the club were angry that we should go ahead with the trip in such a “dicey” cave, the day after a fatality in Swildons.

2. The day of the flood, 10th July 1968.

Three of five photos taken in Bedminster by Roger at about 9.00pm while rain continued, and flood water was still raging.  There was no way of getting out of Bedminster.  I don’t know of any other photos taken during the storm.  The photos show:

1.         Raging water at the beginning of Whitehouse Lane, from underneath the railway bridge near Bedminster Railway Station (and the road to Sainsbury’s supermarket).

2.         St. John’s lane, Bedminster.  Water shooting up after blowing the lid off the culvert carrying the old stream from Claney’s Pond to the Malago Stream.  The pub is the Engineer’s Arms (for a while some foreigners called it the House that Jack Built).

3.         St. John’s Lane, Bedminster.  The walker had turned back after failing to get much further, with the water level above his waist and rising, and the water ahead raging.  The Engineer’s Arms on the right.

Taken with Exacta Varex IIb SLR, 50mm Tessar le4ns, Ilford FP3 (125ASA0 flash.



By Kangy King

At the back of my mind I've been aware of two mountains in the Pyrenees which I'd always wanted to climb when I lived near Toulouse but had never found time.  And then I met Janet again and suddenly it was the right time to attempt the Pic du Midi d'Ossau and the Balaitous.

Pic du Midi is nearly 3,000m high and Balaitous is well over that meaningless criteria.  But at least the height gives some sort of idea of the size of these impressive mountains.  Both are at the western end of the Pyreneean chain.  From here, the mountains of the Pyrenees Oriental decline gradually in height until they meet the Atlantic Ocean.

The Pic du Midi - in the OssauNational Park - is a sensational peak; isolated, steep, set in a breathtakingly beautiful landscape crowded with wildlife.  It simply cries out to be climbed. Fortunately the ordinary route to the top is not easy.  It has three steep sections which require rock climbing skills and which add interest to the usual slog over boulders teetering at precarious angles.  The main problem with these pitches is that lots of aspiring alpinists tend to bounce all over them at the end of ropes held by very strong guides with infinite patience.  Which causes queues.  However, I admit to not complaining on the way down when a delightful young woman being lowered out of balance and right at the end of her tether rotated gently and sat on my head.  She apologised profusely.  I was most polite and did not laugh.

The Pic du Midi d'Ossau is a day's climb, about four hours up and down from the first rock pitch and very satisfying.  The Balaitous by contrast hides itself coyly in a wilderness of high peaks.  Just getting to it is an interesting technical problem.  The first to the top, the respected surveyors, Peytier and Hossard in 1825, had a hard time finding it.  Their first attempt on Balaitous finished on an adjacent mountain, the Palas, another shapely 3,000m summit from which they saw to their disgust (or delight perhaps) that they'd climbed the wrong mountain!  Balaitous is one of the great peaks of the Pyrenees and a mountaineering challenge because even the ordinary route needs careful route finding.  The actual dangers are the difficulties of moving quickly over shattered terrain, and higher on the mountain the ever-present risk of stone fall.

We were already installed at the comfortable campsite at Bious-Oumettes and when we studied the map to plan our route we saw that our preferred ascent line would mean driving for best part of a day to get into another valley.  So we decided to carry a bivvy to the Club Alpine Francais (CAF) refuge at Arremoulit.

It was not meanness that caused us to ignore the comforts of the Refuge but practicalities.  Such is the demand on limited resources that during the climbing season the CAF Refuges are invariably fully booked and it was most unlikely that there would be spare places.  Booking is done by telephoning the Refuge and making a reservation just like booking a hotel.  Members or affiliated members of the CAF pay half price.  So prudence determined that camping near the Refuge with its facilities was the best option.  We took Janet's single person bivvy tent.  This much-loved lightweight shelter had given sterling service on cycle trips.  It featured a low height and required a somewhat inconveniently large area to pitch it.

We left the car on the roadside at the Caillou de Soques at about 1,400m on the way to the Col du Pourtalet.  From here we had to climb to the Col d' Arrious at 2,260m and drop down to the Refuge d'Arremoulit (2,305m).  Then up to the Col du Palas, then down to Lacs d' Arriel, then up to the summit of Balaitous, then return.  Well that's what a detailed reading of the map and guide indicated.  What it didn't reveal was just how difficult the ground was. We had to be careful in good visibility. It would have needed very careful attention to detail in poor visibility because picking the right col from below to avoid finishing up in another valley was not easy.

The long straight walk up a vee-shaped valley to the Col d'Arrious should have been delightful with flowers, butterflies and birds to distract us, but it was very hot and gravity tugged at our big bags.  Placing one foot in front of the other, slowly, got us to a narrow false col with a clear stream and a picture postcard view of the Pic du Midi.  Here we drank, ate and recovered from the heat.  Getting to the Col d'Arrious took a little longer.  Eager to shorten the work we chose to take the Passage d'Ortaig, an alternative route, which was not recommended if you were carrying a large pack because of its 'passage difficile'.  This turned out to be a splendidly irregular narrow ledge, climbing across and incised into the vertical face of a wall, over a very large drop.  It was safeguarded by a thick cable detached at several intended anchor points.  They were right about the large packs.  It did make things awkward especially with the exposure nagging away at the mind.  The sun shone, we arrived above the Refuge, and soon discovered that flat spots for tents were not easy to find.  The best we could find, admittedly romantically situated on a narrow strip of grass between the edge of the Lac d'Arriel and a boulder in the lake, meant that each end of the tent hung over water with the guys tied off to stones in the water - very ingenious.  We kept things cool by immersing them at one end while a small beach at the other served to shelter the cooker.  The bit in between was just long enough to lie flat.  It was enough.  We were content.

At about 6.0 o'clock the mists came down just after we had identified the right Col du Palas (LH) as opposed to the wrong Col d'Arremoulit (RH).  We walked a little to be sure of the path to take for an early start.

The stars that night were amazing.  We were both concerned about the mist, which might cause problems, and during the night, waking together, we lay with our heads outside gazing at the astonishing crystal clear phenomenon of a glittering Milky Way while attempting to identify the greater stars.  Superb.

The morning was clear too. We breakfasted efficiently, packed a small bag rapidly, and were pleased to get off to a good start.  After an hour's steep walk up a good track we crossed the Col (2,517m) and eagerly sought the next stage.  We identified Lac d'Arriel 300 metres below.  And then we looked for the start of the climb to the Balaitous. There was no obvious path.  It was a long way down even to get to the next uphill bit.  The ground was rocky and crossed large scree.  It looked terrible.

The next hour was spent picking our way slowly on a downward diagonal line across to the foot of a cascade. Concentration was essential both to pick a reasonable line and to be careful on treacherous loose rock.  It felt like a trap because should the mist return it would be hard to retrace our steps.  A herd of Izard making light work of the terrain raised our spirits.  There wasn't much other wildlife apart from the whistling of marmots.  Nearly off the rough stuff we could soon stop to work out the next moves.

From the cascade mentioned in Kevin Reynold's Guide we had an interesting time fiddling up gullies and ribs to reach the Gourg Glace at 2,400 m.  And now at last we could get to grips with Balaitous.  A path appeared.  We were back on a regular route and the next fix, the Abri Michaud, a small but useful shelter at 2,698m, gave us confidence to climb the easy but dangerous gully above which seemed filled with large loose rocks.  This gave onto a pleasant grassy area, the beginning of a ridge. We'd had enough of loose rock and continued sticking to firm rock ribs until we were forced out onto the true ridge which gave wonderful views, stimulating exposure and no hope of continuing without a rope.  Reluctantly we skirted several gendarmes before admitting that we were off route. A friendly shout assured us that it was 'easier over here'.  It might have been easier but once again it was depressingly loose only made bearable by being in the mountains shadow, out of the fierce sun.  We'd got so high on the ridge that we had to traverse across the face below the summit to get to the final gully.  It took ages.  Eventually we sat on the long anticipated summit of Balaitous at 3,144m.  Rock climbers appeared and chatted to us.  We knew that theirs was the better way.  One commented that it was rare to see a couple on a mountain (of our age he implied!) because the woman usually stayed at home and grumbled.  Had we done much climbing he asked?  I missed the opportunity to say that we had climbed the Aneto, the highest in the range, 42 years before.  But you always think of the perfect reply too late.

The descent was slow and the required concentration tiring.  A single lapse disturbed a stone which after a slow trundle suddenly accelerated and mercifully missed a pair of climbers a hundred metres below - very frightening.  However, now firmly back on route, having missed it on the way up, we climbed down and across the face following the large fault line called 'La Grande Diagonale'. This finished enjoyably by traversing an exposed ledge which led back to the grass at the start of the ridge.  The ledge was similar to the Passage d'Ortaig which went to the Refuge, but lacked the comfort of a security cable.

The return climb up to the col from Lacs d' Arriel was tense too.  Constant attention had to be paid to unstable rock.  Gradually the slope eased, the green oasis of the Col du Pal as arrived and then and only then we felt as if we had climbed the mountain. A very unforgiving one.


Harry Bamforth

 - A pioneer cave photographer.

By Dave Irwin

Though many photographs of cave scenes were made prior to 1900 few were taken by the active caver of the day.  Those that were published widely had been photographed by house photographers of well-known publishing companies or resident photographers of the major show caves. Those of importance include Francis Frith of Reigate; Ben Haines (USA); Kerry of Sydney, Australia and McCarthey, resident photographer of the JenolanCaves.

Interior views of caves first appeared in Britain about c.1886.  Frith's of Reigate had samples of their products on sale at Cox's Cave at about this date.  By 1890 interior views of Gough's OldCave were also available, some possibly by Frith and certainly those of Stanley Chapman of Dawlish.  The contemporary handbills make known the fact that a wide range of photographic prints were available on the premises.  These  early photographs were later used for illustrating picture postards c.1902 in Britain though mid-European cave photography views were on sale as early as 1895.

Early caving expeditions seemed to be as well equipped with the latest up-to-date gear as any modem equivalent.  The golden years of cave exploration were rigidly organised by men with great leadership qualities such as Simpson and Puttrell.  In Derbyshire, Jack Puttrell, a house painter and decorator from Sheffield, lays claim to being a pioneer of cave exploration in the HighPeak.  Explorations took place at Castleton in Peak Cavern, Blue John Mine and Speedwell Cavern. The earliest photographically recorded expedition appears to be the successful expedition to bottom Eldon Hole in 1900.  A year later a strong party led by Puttrell explored the Bottomless Pit in Speedwell Mine.  Similar exploration work was being carried out in Blue John Cavern and Peak Cavern. Some of these exploits were fully documented in Wide World Magazine and local newspapers.

The emergence of caving as a scientific pastime brought together not only the skills of the archaeologist, climber, surveyor, biologist, geologist and botanist but also that of the photographer who often recorded original officially record the events as they exploration as it occurred.   In fact, expedition leaders, taking their example from the surface expeditions, sought willing photographers to officially record the events as they occurred.  In Britain, during the first decade of the 20th century, several photographers emerged, though most are now forgotten or remembered for other reasons.  Their names include Balch, Baker, Burrow, Hastings,  Savory, Simpson,  Stringer and later Sergeant and Evens

Among those active during the golden age of cave exploration in Britain was Harry Bamforth.  During the years 1900c to 1905 he appears to have been active on Mendip and in Derbyshire.  A member of the Kyndwr Club, he met and befriended Ernest Baker. The two caved and climbed regularly both in Britain and on the Continent.  The photographic evidence would imply that his main field of activity was Derbyshire and Mendip but Baker also records Bamforth being present on an early exploration trip into Stump Cross in the Yorkshire Dales.


Biographical details are sparse - even from his descendants.  Harry Bamforth was a son of James Bamforth, an adventurous businessman who developed the publishing company of Bamforth at Holmfirth. James Bamforth was a son of a painter and decorator and he became interested in photography in the 1860s.  By 1870 he had started a company producing lantern slides promoting the entertainments of the day.  During the 1890s Bamforth had entered the race to produce early cine films but the southern based companies eventually won the day, largely because of the generally better weather conditions that prevailed in the south-east.  However, printing being the main form of business led him to the production of picture postcards in 1902.


1 - Speedwell Cavern. First descent of the 'Bottomless Pit' by Puttrell, 4th May 1901.  Note the use of multiple light sources.

2 - Bamforth Song card set: Please Miss, Give me Heaven. [Harry Bamforth is 'acting' the part of the grieving father]

Today the company is still a major producer of picture postcards principally the saucy seaside comic cards.  During the early years of this century (1903) and on to the end of the First WorId War, the Bamforth company's fame rested on their 'Song and Hymn' cards, depicting a scene or scenes of popular songs or hymns, and usually published in sets of three or four cards.  Each scene was staged and local inhabitants, enthusiastic to dress-up, took part for a small fee.  Children rewarded with sweets.

Later during the 1914-1918 war they created cards expressing the sentiments of parted families, loved ones leaving home, grieving parents and lonely graves - a style that appealed to the contemporary emotions of the British public.  The modern public would be appalled at the deliberate 'tear-jerking' products - or would they?

3 - Harry Bamforth. [Enlargement of the first song card illustrated]

Harry Bamforth was born into this hugely successful family and eventually became involved in the operations of the company.  His privileged position in society enabled him to travel and become an active rambler, climber and caver.  His period of caving activity in Britain was to span the years 1900 - 1905 for about 1906 he was sent to New York, to manage the American branch of the company.

Bamforth married and had one daughter.  He died in the 1930s.

The only known commercially published photo of him is on a set of three Bamforth Song Cards entitled "Please Miss, Give Me Heaven".


From the photographic evidence and Balch's reference to him in the text of "The Netherworld of Mendip" (1907) his visits were wide ranging both on Mendip and Derbyshire. In March 1903 Bamforth accompanied Baker and Balch on his first extended exploration of Eastwater Cavern when the Rift Chambers and Traverses were discovered. The difficulty of moving through the cave meant that his cameras had to be left at the head of the 380ft Way. 

A similar event took place in Swildon's Hole in December 1904 when his cameras had to be left at the Well, in the Wet Way, when progress became difficult and he feared that the water would cause damage to the equipment.  The object of the visit was to attempt the first descent of the Forty Foot Pot but the strength of the water made this impossible. Another seventeen years was to pass before  the passage beyond could be explored and it was left to another photographer to record the discoveries J. Harry Savory. However, the 1904 trip wasn't a waste of time; Baker successfully explored the Short Dry and Long Dry routes in search of an alternative to the wet and uncomfortable stream route, connecting the Long Dry Way with the entrance bedding chamber.  Meantime, Bamforth went back to The Well and transported his camera equipment to the Old Grotto and took many photographs of the chamber and its side passages.

4 - Swildon's Hole, Old Grotto - No. 5763 - photo. taken on 27th December 1904.

5 - Swildon's Hole, Old Grotto - No. 5766 - photo. taken on 27th December 1904.

6 - Peak Cavern. Jack Puttrell at a new entrance in Cave Dale.  1st March 1902.  From Wide World

7 - Speedwell Cavern, Castleton, East Rift. Exploration party on 4th May 1901

8 - Lamb Leer Cavern. Life-lining at the cave entrance. I - r : E.A. Baker, H.E. Balch and H.J. Mullett-Merrick. Easter, 1903

9 - Eastwater Cavern entrance. No. 5760. Note the spoil heaps. Easter 1903

10 - Speedwell Cavern, Canal. [No. 5705].  Taken on the Bottomless Pit expedition, 4th May 1901.  Note the double flash lighting.

11 - Peak Cavern, The Vestibule, c.1902. No. 5723


The visit of Martel to England in 1904 included Bamforth as a member of the host party in the company of Balch, Baker, Puttrell, Troup and others.  It is probable that the photographs of Gough's and Cox's Caves were taken at this time.  Other Mendip caves were photographed by Bamforth and those recorded include Lamb Leer (note 1), Goatchurch, and the Great Rift Cavern ( WhiteSpotCave) in the Cheddar Gorge.

During the period 1900 - 1903 his photographic record seems to be limited to Derbyshire, though a number of postcards have been found of villages in the Yorkshire Dales, probably the result of hiking in the area.  Examples of his Derbyshire work appeared in the Wide World Magazine in 1901 and 1902.  A friend of J. W. Puttrell, Bamforth was invited to be the official photographer on a number of Derbyshire expeditions.  This work resulted in a number of interior views of Peak Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Blue John Mine and Reynard's Cave in the DovedaleValley.  Surprisingly, none have been found of Dove Holes.  Historically his photographs of the Puttrell led expedition to the 'Bottomless Pit' are the most interesting.  This took place in May 1901.

Bamforth developed new lighting equipment for the trips and further used new innovations for obtaining his photographs.  In one case he developed a spot-light that is seen used in Photo - 1 and he seems to have been one of the first to use multiple lighting sources: see Photos 1 and 10.    The spotlight was also used to pick out features of the cave particularly in large chambers as in Peak Cavern.

In addition to his contemporaries, including Croft and Wrightman, Bamforth had the advantage of many later photographers in that his work includes the activity of cavers on original exploration.

During the course of Bamforth's activities in the United States, the Bamforth company published three photographs of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, taken by Ben Haines the resident photographer at the cave.  All of these photographs had been published previously by H.C. Ganter the then owner of MammothCave. Whether Bamforth ever visited this or any other American cave is unknown.

Bamforth's work exists in three formats: books, photographic prints and picture postcards. Collectively the photographs form an important record of caving activity in Britain during the first decade of the 20th century. Successive photographers of these early years, Holt, Hastings and later Savory, continued the task of pictorially recording the known British caves.

Identification of Harry Bamforth Photographs

Bamforth photographs published in the books and periodicals listed under references are usually credited by an imprint at the foot or in the acknowledgements at the end of the article. The early releases of the postcards (c.1903-5) and photographic prints are more difficult to identify as only a few include any form of imprint.  The commercially printed 'real photographs' and officially published by the company, Bamforth of Holmforth, generally bear the imprint on the back of the card. These were published about 1920. In the case of the 'reprints' the title layout and the letter character style is quite different.  Usually they are hand inscribed italic capitals whereas the early releases have a crude but very distinctive, hand-written title, in capitals, on the negative.  It is the original releases that are being discussed in this section.


BSA     BSA British Speleological Association

CC        CC Caves and Caving. Published by British Speleological Association

MCC     Moors, Crags and Caves of the HighPeak and Neighbourhood. E.A. Baker. John Heywood Ltd., Deansgate and Ridgefield, Manchester. 1903

MSC     Mendip - Its SwalletCaves and Rock Shelters. H.E. Balch. 1st. ed. 1937 Clare, Son & Co., Wells, Somerset

N          Netherworld of Mendip, E.A. Baker & H.E. Balch, Simpson, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., London. 1907

P          Photographic print

PC        Picture Postcard

S          Les Cavernes et les cours d'eau souterraine des Mendip Hills, Somerset, Angleterre (Explorations de 190 1­1904). H.E. Balch. Spelunca No. 39 (December 1904)

WM      WellsMuseum (Savory Collection)

WW      Wide World Magazine

[]          Number of reference

(§)        With or without number

(+)        No number or title on image

(#)        Number only on image

Recorded Photographs

The list of photographs fall into four categories:

1          Numbered photographs (two digit number inside parenthesis)

2          Numbered photographs (three digit number)

3          Numbered photographs (four digit number)

4          Un-numbered photographs

List 1

(51)       The Cliffs, Cheddar   PC

(52)       Cheddar Cliffs, Horseshoe Bend.   PC

(58)       Peak Cavern, Castleton. [same photo. as 5723]   PC

(66)       MiddleCave, Wookey Hole, Somerset.                                PC; P-WM

(67)       Peak Cavern   PC

(68)       Peak Cavern   PC

(75)       PeakCastle and Castleton.   P

List 2

659       Cavedale Castleton             PC; WW[6]

669       Entrance to Blue John Mine Castleton        PC

List 3

4576     Reynard's Cave, Dovedale   PC

5695     Blue John Mine, Castleton                                                             PC(§)

5697     A Lord Mulgrave's Dining Room, Blue John Mine, Castleton.  PC

5698     The Passage, Blue John Mine, Castleton.   PC

5699     Lord Mulgrave's Dining Room, Blue John Mine,  Castleton.  PC

5700     Variegated Cavern, Blue John Mine, Castleton.          PC(§); P

5702     Crystal Waterfall, Blue John Mine, Castleton.           PC(§); P

5703     The Fairy Grotto, Blue John Mine, Castleton.           PC(§); P

5705     Canal, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.   PC(§);WW[3]

5706     Halfway, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.       PC(§);MCC

5707     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.         PC(§); MCC; WW[3]

5709     Entrance to Canal. Speedwell Mine. Castleton                PC(§)

5711     Going down Bottomless Pit, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.  PC

5712     Waterfall, Bottomless Pit, Castleton.  PC(§); WW[3]

5713     Speedwell Cavern, Castleton.    PC(§); P; MCC; WW[3]

5714     Peak Cavern.  PC

5718     Arches and river, Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC; P; WW[6]

5720     Devil's Cellar, Peak Cavern, Castleton.                 PC(§)

5721     Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC; P; WW[6]

5722     Arches, Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC(#); WW[6]

5723     Peak Cavern, Castleton. [identical to (58)]   PC

5726     Approach to Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC

5727     Looking down steps, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.               PC(§)

5728     Eastwater Cavern, Boulder Chamber               P- WM

5731     Descent to Speedwell Mine, Castleton.   PC

5742     Gough's Cave, Mendip Hills.                P-WM

5743     Entrance to Goatchurch Cavern, Burrington Coombe.         PC(+); WM

5744     "The Grill", Wookey Hole.  PC(§); N(p58)

5746     Entrance to Lamb's Lair.            N(p.136)

5747     Mr. Puttrell entering Peak Cavern by ... new entrance P(#); WW[6]

5749     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.     P

5750     Gough's Cave, Mendip Hills                p.WM

5751     Lamb Lair, Harptree, Mendip Hills.                          p.WM

5753     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.                  P(#)

5757     Loading the Collapsible Boat after visiting Cliff Cavern    CC[7]; P(#)

5758     Lamb Lair (roof of Great Chamber). Harptree.              P- WM 5759 Beyond the "Bottomless Pit" - A rock- arched passage     CC[7]; P2

5760     Entrance to Great Cavern Eastwater Swallet and Cave, Mendip Hills           P-WM; N(p.59); WM

5762     Beyond the grottos, Swildon's Hole, Mendip Hills  PWM

5763     Stalactite Chamber, Swildon's Hole. N(p.80);               P-WM3

5764     Swildons [sic] Hole. Mendip Hills. 4                 P-WM

List 4


Cox's Cave:

In Cox's Cavern, Cheddar               N(p.92)

In Cox's Cave, Cheddar, Mendip Hills [Transformation Scene]      P-WM

The Font, Cox's Cavern, Cheddar                P- WM

Eastwater Cavern:

Eastwater Swallet                 S(p.8)

Eastwater Cavern [head of 380ft Way]    PC

Gough's Cave:

Gough's Cave, Mendip Hills [View of Solomon's Temple]    PWM

Great Rift Cavern [Whitespot Cavern]:

Great Rift Cavern, Cheddar Gorge         PC; N(p.93)

Lamb Leer Cavern:

The "Beehive" Chamber, Lamb's Lair N(p.1l8); S(p.22)

Stalactite Wall, Lamb's Lair               N(p.1l9)

Entrance to Great Chamber, Lamb's Lair    N(p.120); WM

Stalactites in Entrance Gallery, Lamb's Lair              N(p.122)

The Beehive, Lamb Lair          MSC(p.79)

Above Beehive. Lamb Leer. Mendip Hills                 P-WM

Swildon's Hole:

Swildon's Hole - The Pagoda Stalagmite                 P-WM

Entrance of Stalagmite Chamber. Swildon's Hole               N(p.78)

Stalactite Curtains. Swildon's Hole                                      N(p.79); WM

Swildon's Hole in 1901                                                        S(p.17)

Wookey Hole:

Wookey Hole. Stalagmites in the New Grotto                   S(p.29)

Wookey Hole. The Witch                                                  S(p.28)

The Subterranean River. Wookey Hole                             S(p.26)

Hyaena Den and Badger Hole. Wookey Hole                    N(p.23)

The Great Swallet of Bishop's Lot                                      N(p.28)

In the First Chamber. Wookey Hole Cavern                       N(p.49)

New Stalactite Grotto. Wookey Hole                                   N(p.57)

The Source of the Axe. Wookey Hole                               N(p.59)

Wookey Hole [view of resurgence]     PC

Wookey Hole [view of canal]     PC

Wookey Hole. Looking into the 1st Chamber [man in white clothes] 5      P-WM

Ebbor. Nr. Wookey     PC


Blue John Mine:

Crystal Cavern. Blue John. Castleton     PC

Passage. Blue John Mine. Castleton [2 men in passage]     PC

[Party outside Blue John entrance - cabinet card]        P

Blue John Mine [man in passage with light in background]        P

Peak Cavern:

CottagesNr.Peak Cavern. Castleton     PC

(no title visible - photo. of Ropewalk)     PC

Mr. Puttrell ...prepares to descend the newly-discovered entrance WW[6]

The members of the party                                                              WW[ 6]

Arches. Peak Cavern. Castleton [no man in picture as on 5718]   PC; WW[6]

High up in the Victoria Aven                                                         WW[6]

"The Five Arches." ... [similar to 5722]                                          WW[6]

Entrance to Peak Cavern [low level view of Ropewalk]    PC

Speedwell Mine:

Speedwell Mine. Cliff Cavern. Over 100ft high      P6

Speedwell Mine. On the way to Cliff Cavern                              P; CC[7]

Speedwell Mine. Cliff Cavern. Stream at low level              P; CC[7]

Through this cottage one gains access to the tunnel       PC7; WW[3]

.... explorers. with their impedimenta ...               WW[3]

Canal. Speedwell Mine.   PC8

Descent to Speedwell Mine. Castleton     PC

Entrance to the Winnats [includes entrance to Speedwell Mine]     PC

First descent to "Bottomless Pitt"                                          PC9;WW[3]

Mr. Puttrell sets out to explore the mysterious lake                WW[3]

The party after the descent ... at the bottom of Speedwell Cavern        WW[3]


Yorkshire Moors Nr. Langsett     PC

Hepworth [general view]     PC

Cathedral. Wells     PC

Church and Cave. Woodhouse Eaves     PC

[unidentified resurgence]        P

Burrington Coombe [Rock of Ages]    PC

Cave Dale. Castleton [view of valley]     PC

Cave Dale. Castleton [view including castle]    PC

Castleton from the castle     PC

PeverilCastle and Cave Dale    PC

Wookey Hole [village showing church and cottages]     PC

Russet Well. Castleton     PC


1)                  Anon1901 Exploring the Speedwell Cavern. Manchester Evening News 15 August 1901

2)                  Anonl936 [2 photographs of exploration of Bottomless Pit] News Chronicle 12 Nov. 1936

3)                  Baker. E.A. 1901 The descent of the "Bottomless Pit" Wide World Magazine 8(43) pp 49-55. iIlus [dated 1900 in error]

4)                  Irwin.D.J. 1982 Early cave photographers and their work. BEC Belfry Bulletin (406-407)10-21

5)                  Ford. T.D. 1982 Pers. Comm.

6)                  Puttrell. J.W. 1902 The Secret of the Peak Cavern.  Wide World Magazine 9(54) pp 544-551

7)                  Puttrell. J.W. 1938-39 The "Bottomless Pit" and beyond. BSACaves and Caving (2) pp 44-47; (3) pp 85-88; (4) pp 125-126


The article was originally written in 1985 and has been in the stockpile ever since in the hope that more biographical details may become available - none have.  The lists have been updated and modified.

[Update July 2014]  Information recieved on his sons, Jack and James, who died in WW!.  Interered at Hillside CemeteryCortlandt Manor, Westchester County, New York, USA
Plot: Evergreen Section, Lot #196

Jack Bamforth was a student at Farmingdale State College which was then known as the New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island.   Hi is listed on a passenger list for a ship called the Campania, sailing from Liverpool to NY, Nov 11, 1905.

The list shows Harry Bamforth travelling on business, and lists his occupation as a photographer. He is travelling with his sister Frances, wife Mary Lydia, and 3 children—Irene (age 8), Jack (age 6) and James (age 5).

Jack Bamforth was in the Marines, and died in France in 1918.

There were ship lists for many sailings that included the young Jack, I guess he travelled a lot with his father.


Acknowledgements : The author would like to thank Drs. Trevor Shaw and Trevor Ford for details of photographic prints in their collections and to the Trustees of Wells Museum for use of photographs. nos: 4.5 and 9. from the Savory collection.

Dave Irwin. Priddy. 2nd December 1998.


  1. Baker, E.A., 1903, A forgotten stalactite cavern.  The Standard. Saturday April 11th



In the last BB. No. 499. p.27. an error occurred regarding the listing of the photographs in one of Arthur Gough's booklets.  Revisions to the relevant sections of GCB 060 is given below.  One of the problems of copying and pasting on a computer !! Thanks to Don Mellor. librarian of Craven Pothole Club and Pete Rose who both raised the query.

Ref. No. : GCB 060

Sequence of photographs:

page     title

2          The Pinnacles. Cheddar Gorge

3          Rising of Cheddar Water at foot of caves

6          The lion Rock. Cheddar Gorge

7          The Diamond Stream

10         The Fonts

11         A Group of Pillars showing wonderful variety of form

14         Stalactite drapery

15         The Archangel's Wing. a stalactite curtain 15 feet long

18         The Cascade in St. Pauls

19         The Niagara Falls

22         In Solomon’s Temple

23         The Fairy Grotto

26         In Solomon’s Temple, a magnificent column 11 feet high

27         View of the boulders

30         Hartstongue Fern growing in the cave

31         Skull of the Cheddar Man

Cover: buff card with red and black text and black sketch of 'Reflected group' all inside red. single line. frame.

Ref. No. : GCB 070 is unchanged.

Many apologies.

Dave Irwin. 2nd.

December 1998


Five Buddles Surveys




Five Buddles Sink, Chewton Mendip (Provisional)

ST 5481 5138 BCRA Grade 5d. June 1998.

Original Scales 1:100, 1:200

Photo reduced for BB

Surveyed by: T. Hughes, C. White, T, Jarratt

Drawn by: T. Hughes.


Guess the Cave





There was a time when the owner of Swildon's Hole would lock the cave and refuse access if he considered the water levels to be hazardous. This was back in the pre-neoprene and fibrepile days and the death of a caver ffom hypothermia in Swildons in 1959 (plus another in Longwood four years later) was no doubt a factor in continuing this practice. Sometime in the '70s this restriction ceased and it became a matter of judgement for the caver to assess the conditions and to decide if descent of the cave was advisable. With the 'Forty' gone, and with the advent of specialist clothing, it was soon discovered that the Streamway could be negotiated reasonably safely in almost any conditions and a new 'wetter-the-better' attitude prevailed.

October this year saw some of the highest water levels since the great flood 30 years ago. Saturday 24th October began with torrential rain which continued steadily throughout the day. With the ground already water-logged and stream levels high the level at Swildon's rose steadily. A number of vehicles on the Green, including a minibus, testified to the presence of several parties in the cave. By mid afternoon the water submerged the upper pipe and by anyone's definition the cave was in spectacular flood. Fortunately everyone emerged safely from the system, all the parties being well equipped although there were adult novices included.

A week later on Hallow'en saw even higher levels. By midmorning the upper pipe was submerged and the level was still rising. By early aftemoon the water was flowing over the lip of the blockhouse door. Even these levels did not deter several groups of cavers who entered the cave (despite being strongly advised not to!). The slightly more cautious of us waited until later that night, when the levels were clearly dropping, before going underground. The biggest surprise in the cave was the volume of water over-shooting the Showerbath at the head of the Wet Way and flowing into Binney's Link. Jacob's Ladder is not an all-weather escape route - and an inexperienced or tired caver would have great difficulty under the conditions we witnessed. Down at the Forty the eyehole at the head of the wet climb was half submerged. It was very hard getting back through against the force of water - again this would prove extremely difficult for the tired or inexperienced. At the Twenty the usual ladder hang was under a deluge sufficient to sweep a caver off the ladder and traversing across to a safer area was necessary. The short crawl just beyond the pitch (approaching the Shrine) was easily passable downstream but proved much harder against the flow.

The trip illustrated graphically two facts about Swildon's in flood - it's a great trip, but it's potentially very dangerous. We have to remember that a misjudgement under these conditions will have very serious consequences. There is a serious risk of being swept off waterfall climbs, or being struck by dislodged rocks propelled by the current. The cave environment is extremely hostile in these conditions - the combined spray and draughts would quickly combine to induce hypothermia, even in a well equipped caver. Rescue would become increasingly difficult imagine the aggravated problems in carrying a stretcher through a cave in flood - and the effect that repeated torrential soakings would have on any casualty.

So please take care. Enjoy Swildon's in the wet - even in flood - but treat it with the respect it deserves. Be very selective about who is suitable for this type of trip and that their personal kit is adequate. Cavers should be free and able to make their own judgements on safe water levels for themselves, and for their party. Let's show that we can.

Andy Sparrow

GB Cave

Following a recent 'rescue' when the hasp had to be sawn off of the door, the cave is temporarily secured by a wire strop and padlock. Please operate the lock with clean hands and more importantly with a clean key, as this would appear to be the cause of most problems. Anybody who has problems with the lock should report it to the place where they obtained the key and to Graham Mullan the Secretary of CCC Ltd address overleaf.


Lectures / Training Friday 11 th December Orthopaedic Trauma 7.30 PM at Hunters Lodge inn. Further lectures in January February and March but no dates confirmed yet apologies but some lectures have to be on Fridays due to lecturer commitments


The new CSCC financial year begins on 1st January 1999, following last AGM's approval to move it from springtime. Member clubs are due to pay 1999's subs in time for the start of the year. So I have already put in the post the invoices for your club's 1999 subscription to CSCC and, where you pay via us, the National Caving Association 1999 sub. Both subs are £ 10 each. You may issue one cheque for both subscriptions if you wish, payable to CSCC. We shall receipt both, and forward the NCA sub to that organisation.

Send the sub to me, at Bridge House, Wanstrow, Somerset BA4 4TE, or bring it to the next CSCC meeting at the Hunters Lodge at 10.30 on Saturday 5 December 1998. I shall be grateful if you will pay promptly, as NCA has advised us that under further revisions to Sports Council funding, there are currently no national grants for regional expenditures. This means that CSCC is wholly dependent on its members' subscriptions.

I am also requesting subscription arrears for 1998 from a few clubs. The following are currently overdue and have not advised me that the money is on its way:

Avens Cave Exploration Group (CSCC & NCA 1998)

Avon Outdoor Activities Club (NCA 1998)

Border Caving Group (CSCC & NCA 1998)

Mendip Exploration Group (NCA 1998).


Hon Chairman                                  John Dobson

Hon. Secretary                                 Dave Cooke

Hon. Treasurer                                 Jon Roberts

Conservation and Access                  Martin Grass

Training                                           Andy Sparrow

Equipment & Newsletter Editor          Les Williams

NCA Representative                         Graham MulIan


Welcome to the Cheddar Caving Club, a new local members club, based on the Mendips, who joined us at the last meeting.

CSCC Controlled Caves

AII the padlocks for the various caves controlIed by CSCC have been replaced with new locks. All existing keys should still work although some people have had problems. These have since been rectified and no further problems are anticipated, although anybody experiencing problems with these locks should contact the C&A officer, Martin Grass.


This cave is now locked with the standard CSCC padlock. Keys are available for any member club of CSCC and from the C&A officer Martin Grass.

Dates to remember

15th Dec           CSCC Meeting Hunters lodge inn

16th Feb           CSCC Meeting Hunters lodge Inn

19th March        MRO Annual Meeting Hunters Lodge

20th March        NCA AGM

10th April          CCC Ltd AGM Hunters Lodge

15th May           CSCC AGM 10:30  Hunters Lodge inn

10th to 12th SeptemberBCRAConferenceLeedsUniversity


Views contained in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the Editor, the CSCC. or its officers.

Any relevant news items should be sent to the Editor either on a 3.5 floppy disk as a TEXT file, in the body of an E-mail, as a TEXT file attachment to an E-mail or alternatively Phone or write, address below.

Best wishes for the new Caving Year.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

26/3/99                      Robin Gray Painting underground demonstration at WellsMuseum, 7.30pm - Robin Gray

4/4/99                        OFD Columns Open Day

9/4/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

10/4/99                      CCC Ltd. AGM, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CCC Ltd.

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Cut off - Editor

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Out - Editor

24/4/99 – 9/5/99          BEC/GSG Meet in Sutherland, Scotland - Tony Jarratt

2/5/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/5/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

15/5/99                      CSCC AGM Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns Day

2/6/99                        June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/6/99                      June Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

24/7/99                      Mendip Challenge, based around Priddy Stomp at Priddy Village Hall in evening, with the Cheddar Blues Band – details to follow - John Dobson, ECG

28/7/99                      August Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

31/8/99                      Committee members reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

10 – 12/9/99               Hidden Earth ’99 BCRA Conference, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner

3-30/10/99                  Brush with Darkness 2 WellsMuseum - Robin Gray


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



Well it looks like I'm stuck with the job for another year!!  As I said in my report, I am fully prepared to do this year, but will not be available to continue for a third year.

We need to be looking for a candidate to take on the editor’s position from next October, I know it seems like a long way away, but it's only six Belfry Bulletins away.  I feel that it would be of great advantage to the incoming editor to get involved in this year's editorial team and get an idea of what is involved.  In case anyone is under any delusions that I use a fancy desktop publishing program to create the BB, they would be wrong; I am using Microsoft Word 97.

I am getting a lot of promises for articles for future BBs, please can you try and get these to me as soon as possible so I can plan ahead for the contents of the BBs.

The cut of for the next BB is 2nd December.  The February one will be about a month late as I am in India, so unless anyone fancies doing the BB for me, it will have to wait until I get back!!

(Note: I have put the cut off and due dates for all next years BBs in the rolling calendar- hopefully this will help a bit with the timing of articles).


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

Members News

Congratulations to Gwyn and Chris Taylor on the birth of their son, Samual Joseph on 28th September.

Pete and Anita MacNab's daughter Sian, was married to Dave Annakin on the 10th October.  Although neither are currently members of the club, about half the BEC must have attended their wedding reception at Priddy Village Hall.  (Wow what a spread, I don't think I've ever seen as much food!)  Sian's married name is now Sian Annakin - make of that what you want!!!

Here is the photo of the typical 'BEC Bride'!  (photo by Chas Wethered)


It has been noticed that an awful lot of cavers have nicknames.  Some have taken them on instead of real names!!  I would like to create the definitive list of BEC nicknames and how they got them for future publication.  I want information about all nicknames in the BEC, so no matter how incriminating the nickname or the reason behind the nickname may be, I want to know.  Ed.


This was held on Saturday 3rd October.  The AGM was just about quorate.  The minutes and a copy of the accounts will be issued to members with the March BB. The new committee is as published in the front of the BB.

BEC Computer

Some of you may be aware that about a year ago, the BEC acquired enough second hand bits and pieces from donations to make a PC for the club library.  This PC is unable to do what the club now requires from a computer - it is too old!  Dave Turner and Wig are working on putting BEC logbooks and general caving information on CDROM and at the moment we are unable to use this as a resource.  What I am looking for is any spare computer bits that anyone has had removed after an upgrade.  We need a 500MB or larger HDD, a Pentium motherboard and processor and memory. If anyone does have ANY unwanted computer bits, in any make, size or form that they would be prepared to donate to the BEC, I will make up the best PC I can for the library, and use any extras to make up systems and sell on, with all proceeds from this going back into the library.   Ed.


To make it clear to all members of the BEC.

The financial year for the BEC ends on the 31st August each year.  All receipts and account records held by any members of the club must be submitted to the treasurer as soon as possible after this date.  We do not want a repeat of what happened this year, with no full set of accounts being able to be submitted to the AGM.  This was because the hut warden failed to give hut accounts until 2 days before the AGM, and the treasurer did not have time to complete the accounts.  The committee has now viewed the accounts at the November meeting and is satisfied with their content.  If any member wishes to view the accounts before they are sent out in March, please contact the treasurer.

Annual Dinner

The dinner was at Langford Veterinary College again this year and as far as I am aware was an enjoyable event for all those who attended.  Tony Jarratt won the Boar of the Year after spending all of the last year trying to get everybody digging in Five BuddIes and Pete Glanvill did a 'guess the cave' photo competition.  The impromptu, out of tune, singing session at the Belfry afterwards was enjoyed by all those who came back, as was the bar.  Many thanks to Nigel Taylor for organising the dinner.


Photos are still required for the photo board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in - Ed.

BEC V Wessex Cricket Match

The cricket match was declared a draw as rain stopped play during the BEC's second innings.  The teams seemed happy to play on, but the umpire left the field, so there was no choice but to finish.

The cricket was followed by a very damp barbecue at the Wessex, with the barbecue outside and everyone huddled inside!!

BEC Website

Is accessible at the following URL

The links from most of the main caving web-sites are now pointing to the correct site.

Other Websites

If you are connected to the Internet, you are probably aware of some of the many caving related Websites that are available.  Pick of the month must definitely be the new Descent Website at:

It has loads of information on what is going on in the caving world, information about caving shops, cavers, training, photo and art galleries, and loads of links.  Another site worth a look if you are a cave diver or interested in getting involved with cave diving is the 'Official Website of the Cave Diving Group of Great Britain' which is located at:

The Mendip Newspage hosted by Andy Sparrow can be found at:

BEC Stomp

On the 12th September the BEC held a stomp to raise money for replacement of the fire and help with the library. Unfortunately this was poorly attended and we broke even rather than raising funds!  I guess everyone must have been spent out after a hard summer's caving!!!  There will be another stomp on 30th January 1999.


Burrington Cave Atlas - Photo / Picture Competition

I am running a competition for the front cover photograph or picture for the new updated Burrington Cave Atlas, which is due for release towards the end of this year.  I am looking for something that will give the feel of Burrington Combe.  The prize for the winner will be a copy of the Atlas and also a copy of the new Mendip Underground when it is released, so come on all you photographers, get snapping or delve into those archives for that picture.

(I am also looking for suitable photos for inside the Atlas, so if you don't win, you photo could still be in the Atlas, fully credited of course!)

Please send any pictures to the Estelle address in the front cover - I will return all pictures that are sent to me.   I need these as soon as possible so as to try and publish in Dec/Jan.

BCRA Meeting

Regional One-day meeting to be held in Priddy Village Hall at 9:30am on 21/11/98.  Topics include in-depth lectures on Swildons and St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Enquiries to Dave Irwin, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.


It's that time again! Time to pay your annual subscription. For members there should be a loose membership form enclosed and also a pre-addressed envelope enclosed. Membership rates are £28 for single with a reduction of £4 to £24 if you pay before the 31st December and £42 for joint membership with a reduction of £4 to £38 if you pay before 31 st December. Please return the form as this is being used to check your address is correct.

Please note that if you do not pay your membership fees before the 31st December, you will receive no further Belfry Bulletins until you have paid; we cannot guarantee to hold any Belfry Bulletins you may have missed due to late payment.

Life Members

There is also a form enclosed for life members to fill in.  We received several Belfry Bulletins back with 'not known at this address' on them last year, so please make sure by filling in the form that your address is current with the Membership Secretary.  There is also a short questionnaire for life members on the back of the forms.


Dr. Peter Glanvill had a bit of an accident during the week.  He was in his car and was hit by an ambulance.  They had to get another ambulance to take him into hospital, one to take the paramedics to hospital and one to go to the original incident as the one that hit him was on its way to another casualty.  Pete escaped with bruising and whiplash injuries.  Business must be a bit slack if ambulances are having to create their own casualties!!

Hazelnut Swallet

Hazelnut Swallet diggers had a recent breakthrough of 40ft.  The total surveyed length of the cave is 76ft.  The current end is a tight streamway, which needs digging, but is an ongoing situation.  A report and hopefully the survey will appear in the next BB.  Contact Mike Willett or Nick Mitchell for more information.


The last few weekends have caused some very high water levels in many of Mendip's caves. Swildons at one point was flowing over 6ins above the entrance in the blockhouse.  Priddy Pool in Nine Barrows Lane was flowing over the road to the Pump house by Swildons where there was a 100yd-diameter lake.  The water was running overland to Swildons entrance.

Swildons was at this level twice in a week.  If the water is going in the blockhouse, the two danger areas are 'The Eyehole' below the old 40' and also 'The Shrine', which is just below the 20'.  Photographs of the midnight white water trip will be on Andy Sparrow's Mendip News Website shortly and a selection will appear in the next BB.  Longwood had a large lake that ponded by the dry stone wall.

Eastwater was flowing 6-8in over the entrance.

In GB you could swim into the ladder dig from the oxbows.

Wheel Pit was flooded to within 10ft of the road level and at the dig in Five BuddIes it was neck deep, but not backing up.  This means that the difference between Wheel Pit and the water level at the bottom of Five BuddIes is about 24ft.  It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in the dig in here when the water levels get back to normal.

In Burrington Combe, East Twin and West Twin streams were both flowing well onto the road and most of the water coming down the road was sinking just above Aveline's in the ground opposite the car park.

New Members

We would like to welcome new members John Williams and Tim Lamberton into the club.

Diggers Dinner and Disco

This will be held at the Wookey Hole Inn on 21st of November from 8pm 'til late.  There are a few tickets left.

Please contact Vince Simmonds on 01749 xxxxxx if you are interested in coming along.

Belfry Stove

Anyone who has visited the Belfry in the last few weeks cannot have failed to notice the new stove. Many thanks to Ivan Sandford for building and installing this new fire.  The Belfry now has it's own climate - tropical!!!


Is anyone interested in snowboarding?  Carol 'Whitemeg' White is looking for people who are interested in snowboarding in the Alps during the first 2 weeks of February.  Caravan accommodation is £250 divided by the number of people sharing. Carol can be contacted during the day on 01452 x

BEC gets $100 Million!!!

(This appeared in a Newsletter from the Bahamas Tourist Board and was submitted by Martin Grass)

BEC to Cut Sulphur Emissions

The Bahamas Electricity Corporation will be decreasing its sulphur emissions at Clifton Pier by almost 50 per cent.  Texaco won the contract to supply BEC from Esso who has held the contract for more than 10 years.

BEC says its switch to low sulphur fuel is in compliance with the environmental requirements of the Inter-American Development Bank who have provided a $100 million loan for the expansion of BEC.  Sulphur Dioxide is responsible for creating acid rain.

Otter Hole

Otter Hole is now closed for the remainder of the season due to pollution and bad air.  Smells of diesel have been progressively getting worse over the year and what appears to be an oxygen deficiency has dealt the final blow for this season.

Goughs Cave, Cheddar

On 27th August, Clive Stell supported by Jon Edwards reached the boulder choke in sump three of Gough's cave.  Things have changed little since Rob Palmer made his dives to the "end" on19/20th May 1990 and 8th July 1990.

During the intervening years, various members of the Wessex have dived the site but this is the first time that the end has been revisited.  It is hoped that progress will be made through the boulder choke over the next few months.

Bat Grilles

It now looks as though Box Stone Mines may be the next in line to be fitted with bat grilles. English Nature have confirmed its wishes to install grilles at this site and is in negotiations with the owners at present.  An enquiry revealed that no decision has been made, so there is no time scale at present for this, but access would naturally be affected by such an action.

Bolt Update

Resin anchors have been installed on the Entrance, New Atlas and High Atlas pitch heads in Thrupe. The climb to Ladder Dig in GB has now been resin anchored and work will begin on Rhino Rift soon.  There are two stripped spits in Hunter's Hole; one over the main pitch and one above Far Right Pitch. Coral Cave has recently been SRT bolted.



The Uamh an Claonaite Annual Dinner Rescue

The GSG Annual Dinner was thrown into semi-disarray when a cave rescue callout was initiated only a couple of hours earlier.  This was the 24th October.  The rains hit Sutherland in the way they had hit Mendip all day as well.  Water levels rose dramatically during the day and 4 cavers, including Alan 'Goon' Jeffrey's were trapped the wrong side of the Sump I bypass.  Fortunately the rains stopped for a while, allowing the levels to drop enough for the trapped party to be brought out through the sump using diving gear.

Definitely a case of Uamh an Claonaite - 2, Goon - Nil!!

Below is the Newspaper cutting from the 'Press and Journal' of Scotland on the 26/10/98.

A full report from the Mendip GSG members of the week in Scotland will appear in the next BB.

Downpour leaves potholers trapped in Sutherland cave

by Dawn Thompson

FOUR potholers walked laugh­ing and joking from a Sutherland cave yesterday after 14 hours trapped Underground by rising floodwater.

As they tried to make their way out of the Clayonite cave system in Sutherland, they found their exit blocked.

But help was not far away ­more than 50 members of the Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation were in Inchnadamph for their annual dinner.

When the potholers - two men, a l5-year-old boy and a woman - from Edinburgh­based Grampian Spelaeological Group, also in the area for the dinner, failed to return, mem­bers of the SCRO went out to look for them.

The four escaped when the water level fell and two divers, also association members, helped them duck underwater and out of the cave.  Assynt Mountain Rescue Team and offi­cers

from Northern Constabulary were also in attendance.

David Warren, 46, of the SRCO, said the group had gone in at about noon on Saturday.

"There was basically an extremely large downpour of rain which blocked the cave, about 300 yards from the entrance.

"At about 5.30pm, we real­ised they were overdue.  We sent up four cavers and four cave divers, who worked out that the cave was blocked.  The cave divers went through to the party and spoke to them."

Mr Warren said two of the cavers were very experienced, the others less so.

One knew the cave extremely well and the group, all equipped with wetsuits and lamps, sat tight in a cavern - about the size of "a small bedroom", with a dry mud floor - above the water level.

"We had communication with them

with the cave divers right through.  Hot food was taken through to them, and warm clothing, and we knew the water level was dropping," Mr Warren said.

He added that· the higher chambers had not had water in for thousands of years they had known they would remain dry.                    

"Once we knew they were in these caves, we were quite relaxed.  You can hear the roaring of the water but you're not being splashed," he said.            

"It was a matter of sitting it out until the water level dropped.  By 2am, it had dropped sufficiently for them to exit the cave.  It was quite uneventful.

"They had to hold their breath and go underwater just for a few seconds."

Once out, the four were able to walk, smiling and joking with rescuers.

They were quite cold, but they were chatty - pleased to be out. The whole thing went very well," Mr Warren said

"The only real problem was they missed their annual dinner.  People in the rescue party were coming back from the cave, changing, having dinner and then going back afterwards.  It was all in the best possible them and taste."

One of the two divers who took part in the rescue even returned to the Inchnadamph Hotel and - still wearing his wetsuit - ate his meal.  Hotel owner Anne Archibald said: "The dinner was planned for 7.30pm and, obviously, by the time we were ready to serve the dinner, there were only half there.

"We knew there were quite few missing. We said we'd hang on for another hour to see what happened.  At 8.30pm, we started serving the dinner and the majority of them had their food then.

People kept coming in dribs and drabs.

"We ended up laughing about it because if we hadn't we'd have cried."



Note from Harry Stanbury

In BB 497, Dave Irwin mentions the missing First Volume of the BEC Log.  Whilst I can't solve that problem, I can clarify details of the original Dural Ladder construction.

I had read Casteret’s "10 years Under the Earth" and thought that his Electron ladders were incredible - small, light and strong.  At that time I was one of a team renewing the electrics in a large factory that had been converted to turn out 'bits and pieces for aircraft' - parts of the fuselages for Horsa gliders (to be used in D-Day) tail planes for Baracudas and lots of other similar things.  This was 1942.

Incidentally it was there that I first met Dan Hasell and Roy Wallace and introduced them to caving.

Among the 'bits and pieces' that were 'scrapped' were lengths of aircraft control wire and short lengths of Dural tube.  I was able to 'scrounge' two lengths of control wire - about 50ft each and enough Dural tubing to make a 40ft ladder.  Problem!!  How to fix the wire to the rungs (or the rungs to the wire) so that we could use the ladder without the rungs (or the person on them) sliding in a heap to the bottom!!

Answer: NUTS!!  (Plus bolts)  This is before the days of ferrules and crimping!  Holes were drilled at right angles.  Bolts pushed through, flux, solder and heat applied and Voila! - a permanently attached rung.


The ladder was tested and was successful.  Angus told me sometime ago that this original ladder was still at the Belfry (not in use of course).  Is this still true??

 (Note from Ed. - We have checked the Belfry we cannot find the ladder!  Does anyone know the whereabouts of this ladder??)


Feedback on Bertie

From Harry Stanbury

I haven't a clue on how many 'different' Berties there have been, but I can possibly cast a little ray of light on the earliest ones.

Very early in the club's history it was decided that we needed an 'emblem'.  A bat was obviously the beastie, as our parents/friends all thought that we were 'batty' to want to crawl about in the dark, wet and cold. It was also regarded as ideal because of its ability to navigate underground.

'Bertie' first appeared on our 'Rules and Constitution leaflet' in, I believe, 1937, and was used for many years.  I have no idea what happened to the original block.

The next Bertie appeared when we made a small number of car/motorbike badges.  These were 3" diameter metal discs.  Hand painted with 'BRISTOL EXPLORATION CLUB' around the perimeter and 'Bertie' in the centre.  There is a photograph of this one on the front of my old Ford, taken when the club's exhibit won the first prize in the annual Bude Carnival.

The first 'pin-on' badge was thought up by Ken Dobbs, who made a number in 'Wood's metal'.  They were about an inch across.  I still have mine and I saw Dan Hasell wearing his last time we met.

I'm sure since those days there are others that can continue the Bertie saga with details of the later Lapel Badge and of course the 'current' car badge.


BCRA Regional One Day Meeting

All are welcome




09.30 Coffee and biscuits

09.45 Photographic portrait of Swildons Hole - Peter Glanvill

10.15 Coffee break

10.20 Early ideas on the geomorphology of Swildons Hole - Les Williams

10.45 Diving the Swildons Sumps in the 1950s - Fred Davies

11.10 Coffee break

11.15 Exploring Swildons Sumps since 1965 - Mike (Trebor) McDonald

11.35 The Geomorphology of the Wookey Catchment - Andy Farrant

12.30 - 14.00 Lunch break - food and beer available on the premises plus Videos and computer slide shows compiled by Maurice Hewins and Dave Irwin


14.00 Early exploration of Swildon's Hole - Dave Irwin

14.30 Photographic portrait of St. Cuthbert's Swallet - Peter Glanvill

15.00 Coffee break

15.15 The Hydrology of the Wookey Catchment - Roger Stenner

1600 Early attempts at digging in the St. Cuthbert's Swallet Catchment - Dave Irwin

16.30 Coffee break

16.45 General discussion

17.15-1730 - clear up!

Bar, refreshments, displays and club stands

NOVEMBER 21st, 1998


Admission £1.00 at the door.

Further details from Dave Irwin, Priddy, Somerset.

Clubs wishing to set a sales or display stand should contact Dave Irwin


Climbing? !!!!!

By Kangy King

Stunned by the esteemed Mr. Wilson's climbing article, because I'd become accustomed to reading 'All About Caving', I hunted out some old BBs.  Sure enough those edited by Harry Stanbury in the '50's had lots of interesting climbing stuff in them Dennis Kemp wrote about duff (note for the young, duff means crap) karabiners, Jack Weadon warned about the lack of belays on 'Tyro's Crack' on the Rock of Ages in Burrington (there was nothing to hitch a sling around until the top of the climb was reached at 140ft, climbing ropes were then uniformly 120ft in length and chocks hadn't been invented, leaving twenty feet in which to become creative.  Leaders were considered to be expendable) and Tom Fletcher wrote a huge article about Spitzburgen for the l00th BB.

In those days a primary interest of many members was climbing.  My first climb was 'Piton Route' in the Avon Gorge pioneered by the amazing Balcombe who was also very active in primitive cave diving.  There were very few climbers and lots of opportunity to explore.  The very first Guide to our area "Limestone Climbs in South-West England" by Hugh Banner in 1954, thanked Pat Ifold and Dave Radmore of the BEC for their "great assistance in the production of this guidebook". I still have my copy of this Guide, which listed 98 climbs, from the Avon Gorge to Ebbor and Cheddar, most of which we'd done anyway before the Guide was published.  We met two brothers, Admiral and Commander Lawder, who cheered us on at Cheddar while we fiddled about trying to find new routes and who later showed us the Dewerstone near Plymouth.  The Lawders were wildly enthusiastic and the last time I heard of them they had fallen off 'Square Chimney' - guide book quote - "loose and filthy but provides good exercise" fortunately only breaking bones.

We went frequently to North Wales at weekends in a variety of hired bangers, or by motor bike, with enough support to warrant maintaining a small hut near Llyn Ogwen in the Nant Ffrancon valley.  That collapsed and during the '60's we used the Bunkhouse at Gwern y Gof Isaf.

There are plenty of BEC caving reports but the only BEC climbing guide that I can remember was a Club Report entitled "Some Sandstone Climbs in the Upper Frome Valley at Bristol" which has action photographs of "Eaves" showing heave-ho moves under and over an overhang.  I went back to the area later and dug out more.  An article in the 50th Anniversary Belfry Bulletin described these. The best was called 'Golden Daffodil'. It is interesting to see our more heroic efforts picked out in chalky hand marks.  The climbs have been renamed and described again in the latest South West Guide.  We spent hours ripping ivy and loose rocks from the steeper bits and picking out lines. The re-discoverer must have been really pleased to have found these nice bits of bare rock just waiting to be climbed! However I must admit that, now the adrenaline of exploration has subsided, scrambling up the loose rock, dust and dirt of the final yard or so of subsoil was fairly unpleasant.  Nice steep energetic climbs though.

Since those days we haven't really had an organised climbing section which is a pity as "We are The Exploration Club", which sounds as if it ought to be more than just a caving club.

Despite this, I know that some of us individuals still stick together and have tried to sail in a small dinghy to Lundy to climb the 'Devils Slide'.  And thought better of it in mountainous seas!  Or more recently on treacherous terrain, to feel pretty nervous about an unforgiving mountain called Balaitous.


The Priddy Green Song!

Tune: Wandering lrishman
Author: M. Hollan
Source: Alfie

As I was a-walking one summers day o'er Mendip's pleasant face,
I came across a village green, a sylvan sort of place,
I met some cavers rough and rude, all singing this strange refrain,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

The Entrance it is narrow, boys, fed into by a drain,
Connected by some sewer pipes to some cows by Farmer Maine
The smell it is fantastical, some say it is unclean,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

The dig was started in '59 by a fellow called Hanwell, James,
Who had a reputation, boys, for playing peculiar games,
We dug it ten times over, boys, our language was obscene
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

The Entrance it is a fearsome thing, 'tis a circular concrete pot,
It's easy if you're six feet tall, for the likes of me, it's not!
There's a nailhold halfway up, my boys, only it can't be seen,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

Now someone started a rumour, boys, that you've doubtless heard before
They said the dig on Priddy Green would connect with Swildons Four,
There's only five hundred feet to go, but there's limestone in between,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

We've used ten tons of gelignite, and we've lost a man or two,
I expect well lose another, boys, before this dig is through,
But we've added a hundred feet or more to the subterranean scene,
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

Additional verses compiled by A. Jarratt after the breakthrough.
Author A. Jarratt

For many years 'neath bovine waste the cave was then interred,
Until the BEC arrived - another noisome herd.
They banged the upper level to what no-one else had seen.
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

After squeezing through the bastard on the virgins they went down.
They're tight and wet and filthy and a likely place to drown.
Though they weren't the first to get there where a million worms had been.
"Oh, you'll rue the day that you came this way to dig on Priddy Green"

So now there's a connection from the Green to Swildons four,
Created by a host of blokes O' er thirty years or more,
Though it's not an easy option if your neither fit or lean,
At least you'll never have to come and dig on Priddy Green.


A Bit of History

From Harry Stanbury

Harry sent me the following cutting from his local newspaper regarding one of the BEC's earlier 'exploits'. The 'cave' mentioned is probably a trial hole for mine workings and very rare in this part of Cornwall.  A plan was made by Don Coase and published in an early BB.

50 years ago. Aug 21, 1948

Haunted Cave - A cave about one mile along the coast to the north of Bude is reputed to be haunted.  Members of a Bristol exploration club penetrated to a depth of 70 feet from the entrance which lies at the bottom of a 200 foot cliff.  It is said that the cave extends underground to Maer Down, 1½ miles from the cliff.  A quarter of a mile nearer Bude, extending in a long slope from hundreds of feet inland is a spot locally known as 'Earthquake' the appearance of which, with its deep chasms and upheavals of rock, convey that at some previous date there was a terrific fall of cliff or eruption of earth, and where it is reputed a monastery once stood.  In the village churchyard of Poughill, three miles inland, a large stone denotes the burial place of a skeleton of a big man found at 'Earthquake' many years ago and reburied in the churchyard.  Finds in the cave, considered to be a genuine smugglers hide-out, include part of a donkey's climbing shoe and an iron spike which had been driven into the wall of the cave.  The exploration team are also diving at Wokey Hole.

Guess the Cave

Photo by Pete Glanvill

(Answer next BB)



Sleepless in A Skoda

By Vince Simmonds

A tale of a wet week in Ireland (Northern and Eire).

Saturday 5-9-98.

A bright early start saw Roz Bateman and Vince Simmonds starting their journey to Ireland via Cairnryan to Lame.

On the way we decided to spend a couple of days in Cumbria arriving at about 11 0' clock.  We headed to Fairy Cave, a site we had visited a couple of years ago and where we had noticed an interesting hole.  Located on the road to Witherslack, just below Catcrag.

Decent enough cave, easy going along mainly walking, horizontal passage.  However, we had forgotten just how deep some of the mud was. Set to the task of enlarging the hole, turned around to find Roz sinking into the mud.  As she was struggling to extricate herself a small hole low at floor level was noticed.  An extremely muddy squeeze, after some modification, led into a chamber.  Well-decorated 3m wide, 8m long and 2m high to a sump, no open passage led off.  Could not be sure whether or not this chamber had been entered before.

Sunday 6-9-98

Not such a pleasant start, low cloud and windy.

After a stop in Keswick headed for Helvellyn.  Started walking from Thirlmere water.  Steady ascent to the summit where we encountered very strong winds and low cloud. Decided against walking Striding Edge and descended via Nethermost Pike and a stroll through the forest alongside Thirlmere.

After a couple of pints we decided to head on to Cairnryan.

Spent a less than comfortable night sleeping in the van listening to the wind and rain.

Monday 7-9-98

After a very rapid crossing on the Jetliner (less than an hour) to Larne we headed for Co. Fermanagh. Still raining.

Stopped in Enniskillen for swim and shower, got some supplies and the first pint of real Guinness.

On arrival at Belcoo tried to find somewhere to pitch our tent, no luck, so out to Boho to see Brian MacKenzie at the Linnet.  He was very helpful but said his fields were too wet to camp and suggested the Quarry in Belmore Forest.

From the Quarry could not resist a walk up to Pollnagollum Coolarkan (Co. Fermanagh) the area around the entrance had been cleared since we were last here.  The 12m waterfall was very impressive swollen by the heavy rain.

Back to the Linnet for refreshment and another night in the van.

Tuesday 8-9-98

After breakfast in the Quarry we got ready to go to Coolarkan.

We spent 3 hours on, in and around this enigmatic cave once cast as "a slur on Irish caving".

For those people who haven't seen this cave a brief description.  As already mentioned a 12m waterfall enters from one side of the large entrance arch which leads onto large walking passage.  Easy going leads to a massive choke; there are no side passages. Beyond the choke there is potential for 1.8kms of cave passage.

After spending some time having a few tentative prods in the choke we decided to return to the surface and have a look at the shakehole that forms part of the choke.  It was a bit of a struggle through thick scrub to reach it and on arrival it was obvious the only way into the choke from here is with a Hymac.

We then decided to visit Pollnagollum (of the Boats).  Located on the Marlbank scenic loop road this cave is close to, and part of the Marble Arch Cave system (Co. Fermanagh).

After picking one of several routes through a couple of chokes the way on opens into large stream passage and a swim across the first lake.  Water levels were rather high and so we tried to progress by avoiding the full force of the water as much as possible.  Good fun trip with some fine formations and incredibly marbled limestone.

Back to the Linnet, the quarry and the van, it's still raining.

Wednesday 9-9-98

Started to head towards Donegal via the scenic route and locate a cave in Co.  Sligo spotted by Roz a few years ago when travelling with her brother.

Driving around the Gleniff Horseshoe loop road Roz was talking about this huge cave entrance. All I could see were a few tiny openings halfway up the hill.  We eventually decided to park the van and have a brew, then as the clouds lifted slightly we saw the entrance high up at the top of the hill.

Diarmaid and Grainnes Cave (Co. Sligo) involves 1000ft climb up a very nearly vertical peat bog to a slippery rock scramble to a big cave entrance 100ft wide and 30ft high. Climbing over large boulders leads to a side passage and an ongoing rift at the rear.  Unfortunately we were not equipped for caving.  A very impressive spot and well worth a visit if the opportunity should arise.

Following the coast road we stopped for lunch in Donegal before resuming our journey.  We visited some caves at Maghera Bay (signposted from the main road) formed in white quartzite, superb white sandy beach even the sun was shining just for a change.

Eventually stopped for the night at Dungloe where we found a good campsite with hot showers

Thursday 10-9-98

Miserable day!

Went to a small sea cave at Melmore Point (Co. Donegal).  The dead porpoise was more impressive.  We made several attempts to walk and look at other things but the weather defeated us.  Did find a decent boozer, which was the best place to be on a day like this.

So fed up with the weather we stayed in a bed and breakfast on the shore of Lough Swilly, very pleasant spot.

Friday 11-9-98

At last some half-decent weather.  We set off to Doebeg, a bay situated on Fanad Head, Co. Donegal.  Spent a good while scrambling around the rocks to reach some interesting sea caves.  The longest was about 30m.  The entrance is next to a very impressive rock arch.  Most of the caves were 10-15m long and many contained good formations - mainly flowstones and straws.

Picked a bag of winkles for lunch.  Roz wasn't so sure so she settled for a cheese sandwich.  Had a late afternoon, early evening stroll up to Murren Hill which gave us stunning views of the Donegal coastline from Bloody Foreland right round to Malin Head, and inland to the mountains of Muckish and Errigal highlighted by the setting sun.  Marvellous!

Saturday 12-9-98

Maggie's wedding, lots of Guinness, a flat battery ... that' s another story, a jolly time was had by all.

Sunday 13-9-98

The journey home, bumpy ferry crossing and a long drive back to Mendip.

There's plenty for everyone in the northern counties of Ireland, be it caving, walking or whatever - try it out sometime.

The locals are friendly and we have permission to explore land where there are rumours of caves.


A Brush With Darkness



The Basang Cave Survey, Aldan Province, Philippines

By James Smart

The 1992 BEC expedition to the Philippines generated a lot of media coverage and brought us to the attention of the prestigious Prudentialife Corporation of Makati in Metro Manilla.  They had recently acquired some land in northern Panay Island, and in return for a survey of a short cave here, we were treated to a luxury weekend on the nearby paradise island of Boracay, frequently voted as having one of the world's top ten beaches.

Unfortunately for international relations, the completed survey was mislaid during the preparation of the expedition report (Speleo Philippines 1992).  It is reproduced here for completeness.

Basang Cave is well known locally and is situated at Basang about an hour drive from Boracay Island. The Prudentialife Corporation were hoping to tap into Boracay's tourist trade by developing the site as an attraction. Wishful thinking.  The cave has long been visited by locals and where the walls and formations aren't spoilt by graffiti, they're soiled by bat guano.  The grandest formations are found in Bat Chamber and Scorpion Grotto but they are rapidly disintegrating due to the resolution and a visit• here is marred by the presence of thousands of bats and their guano.

Our surveyed length came to 765m. Another mention of the cave has subsequently come to light (Ferret, 1991) which gives the length as 909m and depth of 10m.


Ferret, Gerard, 1991:

Expedition Philippines 91 - (preliminary report); unpublished.

Speleo Philippines 1992:

The Journal of the Joint Bristol Exploration Club (United Kingdom and the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines expedition. Bristol Exploration Club; 46pp maps, photos, and surveys.

James Smart can be contacted by e-mail






Swinsto at Last!

By Rich Long

Things didn't bode well, Zot WAS READY! AND WAITING!

This is just not the correct beginning for a Zot trip.  Unfortunately, my ex-P.O. van had just conked out an hour before when I had gone to pick up my brother, Brian.  He is an AA man for his sins.  This put me in the right frame of mind for a nice drive up the motorway to Yorkshire on a Friday evening!

"Diesels don't do that!" Brian said, after the van switched itself off and refused to start, "Perhaps it knows where it's going and who's coming with us."  I whispered.  Speaking loudly and pretending we were going on our own, the gullible little beauty started and caused no other problem there and back.

Well, as I said Zot and Mark were indeed waiting and without a fuss we were off.

Of course the usual navigation problems and choice of route was broached, this time I just went wherever they said.  After a stop at a very welcome hostelry, we arrived at Horton-in-Ribblesdale at 12.15am, only to be greeted by the very nice lady who runs the guesthouse opposite the pub and Craven Cottage.

Zot was in the Craven's cottage; poor innocent Mark was standing in the road when the 'Lady' approached.

"Can I help you, young man?"

"Oooh, no thank you." said the ever polite Mark.

"What is he doing?" pointing at the growling van and me.

"Just turning around, Madam" replied Mark.

"No he isn't!!! He's parking!!!!"

"Oh, I don't think so," said Mark, sadly unaware of my full intentions.

"HE IS!!!" said the increasingly anxious proprietor, now thinking she was being overrun by travellers, "Oh my God!!!  Now he's blowing his hooter and he's switched off his engine!"

"I'm sure it was an accident, I'd be glad to ask him to move it if you require?" said Mark.

"Oh dear God, No!!!" tears welling up in her eyes "I have a hotel full of guests, just get him to move it first thing in the morning, Please!!"

"I surely will, Good Night."

Well, I did move it first thing; do you think 6.45am was early enough?

By l0am the sleeping beauties were up and we were on our way to Swinsto via Ingleton and the excellent Fountain Cafe.  At 2.30 Zot was changed and we were parked near Valley Entrance almost ready to go.

Zot said "I'll meet you at the top."  I must admit I was getting a little concerned, up to now nothing had really gone wrong and this was a 'ZOT' Trip!

With much panting and several stops due to the excessive heat (nothing to do with the fact that we are big, fat, unfit Herbert's) we reached the top, straining at the leash to get underground.

"Hello!" said Zot, sitting by the wrong Pot, "I've just got to find the entrance and we're off!"

I love the Yorkshire Hills and Dales but not when you're walking about, kitted up for caving, in what must have been at least 120 degrees in the shade, well, it might not have been quite that hot, but after 45 minutes and several different promising holes, it felt like it.  Now, this was more like it, the true Zot trip had arrived.

Suddenly, Swinsto was found, damn me, it was right where Chris had left it last time, with a fine healthy stream flowing into it, a reminder of yesterday's heavy rains.

Well, it was sporting to say the least, the water kept us nice and cool and the abseils were excellent in that volume of water.  The double pitch with the ledge was a good place for group hugs as the pictures may show. Mark had a fine time at the bottom of the second pitch swimming around in the pool trying to continue his abseil, shades of Free Willy.

We continued on to the last small pitch, where Simpson joins and met two other intrepid cavers.  In the excellent spirit of the Mendip caver, my little Brother offered them our rope to descend on, for which they thanked him. The first started to descend using a Petzl Stop descender.  Now, whether he was unsure of his equipment or he was an excellent gymnast I do not know, as part way down this small descent, he decided to show us he could abseil completely upside down at high speed in this very respectable force of water, remarkable!  I would imagine his sinuses will be clear for several weeks.  The ever-vigilant Mark whispered to me, which was quite a feat in that chamber, "Perhaps I should have mentioned that rope doesn't work too well on Petzl kit for some reason."

"I think he may know that now Mark, lets just keep that information to ourselves, shall we?  Just to avoid embarrassing the poor fellow." and on this we agreed.  The two said goodbye and continued on their way, shortly followed by us.  Excellent sporting streamway, better than "Bridgwater splash", back out into the sunlight and back to Horton.

Whereupon we spent the evening at the "Brass Cat" with jolly nice people from both the Bradford and the Craven clubs.  We eventually left when the bar staff stole our drinking vessels and turned out all the lights, which is apparently Yorkshire for "Bugger off, I want to go to bed!"

Next day Brian, Mark and I popped up to Gaping Gill to watch the Craven set up the winch.  Well, after we had left Horton, got to Ingleton, Chris realising he had left his bum bag containing his worldly possessions at the club house, gone back to Horton and then come back to Ingleton for the second time, now it was a real Zotty trip.

Chris stayed at Clapham as I think the travelling may have tired him out and made sure the Pub was still there.  It was, everything in its place as it should be.

Well, its taken four years for Zot and myself to do Swinsto together and it was great.  Thanks Chris, it's always an experience, we all agree, well the other two will agree when they are off the medication and are able to communicate again, there is nothing more interesting and fun than a Zotty Trip.

Of course, now, we've got to think of somewhere else to play.  I haven't been to Spain caving, so who knows?

Have we got an extradition treaty with the Spanish?


Gough's Cave Booklets. 1922 - 1934

Published by Arthur George Henry Gough

Compiled by Dave Irwin

For some time the writer has been compiling ephemera catalogues of the handbills, booklets, posters etc., that are known to have been published by the three principal Mendip showcaves.

Cox's Cave was discovered by a workman named Cooper, and opened to the public in 1838 by George Cox, owner of the gristmill known today as the Cliff Hotel.  Cox's Cave was then known as the Stalactite Cavern until the late 19th Century. Posters of Cox's Cave sometimes come on the market but are rare. Luckily there is a fine selection to be seen in local libraries.  Longleat Estate regained control of the cave in 1939. (note 1)

Gough's Old Cave or Gough's Great Stalactite Cavern was operated by John and Ann Weeks (Jack and Nancy) until their deaths in 1877 and 1876 respectively.  Gough gained control of the site about May 1877 and by the end of that year the large entrance to the Concert Chamber was cleared for public viewing.  The lack of formations, except for three very small grottoes, forced Richard Gough to adopt unconventional methods of attracting his customers.  The chamber was decorated with Chinese lanterns and fairy lights, fountains were erected and popular concerts were often held there including a family of hand-bell ringers!! Posters are known as are handbills in both private and public collections.  The cave was closed to the public sometime during the first decade of the 20th Century. (note 2.3)

Gough's Cave (Gough's New Cave) was opened to the public as soon as the first extension, to the Fonts, was made in November 1893.  Then known as Gough's Great Rockwork Cavern, Richard Cox Gough displayed the magnificent gours decorating the entrance passage with Chinese lanterns and held concerts which entertained up to 900 people!  A year later he had blasted his way into Heartbreak Hill and the Swiss Village area.  In November 1898 he broke through to the St. Paul's and Diamond Chamber with its magnificent Solomon's Temple and Niagara Falls. Following Richard's death in 1902, Arthur Gough, his eldest son, took over management of the cave with Gough's widow Frances.  Arthur remained in this post until a court case in 1933 when he was replaced by Captain Brend of the Air Flying Corps.  The lease agreed by Richard Gough in 1877 ended in 1927 when control to Gough's Cave returned to the Longleat Estate. (note 4,5)

The earliest booklets published by Arthur Gough were published between 1910 and 1913.  The next group was published in 1922, using photographs by J. Harry Savory, (note 6) and remained in print, in various editions, until 1934.

The recorded booklets are listed below and bear the reference number allocated them in the full ephemera catalogue prepared by the writer. The more common pictorial booklets published by William Gough, with the oval cut-out in the front cover, will be discussed in a future Belfry Bulletin.


The Arthur G.H. Gough booklets. Left - GCB020 and GCB030; centre - GCB040 and GCB050 and right GCB060 and GCB070

Ref. No.: GCB 020

Date: 1922 mss

Title: A Pictorial Guide Gough's Caves Cheddar. Sole Publisher AG.H. Gough, Cheddar Somerset.  Author: AG.H. Gough (?)

Illustrations by AG.R. Gough and J.R. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs:

Page     Title

2          The Pre-Historic man & his flint implements

3          "The Fonts". A wonderful series of stalagmite basins.

6          "The Archangel's Wing". A stalactite curtain 15 feet long

7          "The Zambesi Falls." and Nature's work underground: Marvellous colour and form

10         A group of pillars showing wonderful variety of form and In "Solomon's Temple".  A magnificent column 11 feet high.

11         A beautiful reflected group in Gough's Caves.

14         In "St. Paul's" a cascade of stalagmite 90 feet high and The Frozen "Niagara Falls"

15         In semblance [sic] of a frozen river. Sparkling like Diamonds and of surpassing beauty.

18         In the "Diamond Chamber" showing part of the "Niagara Falls."

19         "Aladdin's Grotto" reflected.

22         "The Peal of Bells." and A forest of fine stalactites.

23         A specimen stalactite and curtain of purest white and "The Fairy Grotto" unique reflections.

26         A great mound of stalagmite with curious erratic pillars and A peep in "Aladdin's Grotto."

27         A new discovery. The most wonderful curtain in Gough's Caves. and Still reflections in a silent pool.

30         A forest of stalactites on the waterwom limestone roof and Pools and prolific stalactites in the wonderful "Aladdin's Grotto."

31         "The Organ Pipes. "

Cover: buff card with red and black text and black sketch of 'Reflected group' all inside red, single line frame. Text printed in black

Printer: E.W. Savory, Bristol

Binding: saddle stitched

Size: 12.5 x 15.3cm

NOTES: Earliest possible date for this booklet is 1922 as a number of Savory photos. Were taken during February 1922.  Copy recorded bearing manuscript date September 1922

There is no title page

Two versions of this booklet has been recorded

a)       - Inside covers bear advertisement for Gough's Tea Gardens (inside front) and Llewellyn Gough's advertisement for sale of cheese (inside back cover)

b)       - Advertisements for sale of cheese by AG.H. Gough pasted in on inside both front and back covers Ref.: Men Bib Pt. IT, No.197C similar

Ref. No.: GCB 030

Date: c.1924-1927

Title: A Pictorial Guide Gough's Caves Cheddar. Sole Publisher AG.H. Gough, Cheddar Somerset. Author: A.G.H. Gough (?)

Illustrations by AG.H. Gough and J.R. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs: same as GCB020

NOTES: Page 9 differs from GCB 020 by the addition of a final paragraph relating to Jacob's Ladder thus: " Of the new Cathedral at Westminster.

A few paces beyond there is a cleft ... "

Inside covers bear an advertisement for Gough's Tea Gardens (inside front cover) and Llewellyn Gough's advertisement for sale of cheese (inside back cover)

All other details as GCB 020

Ref.: Men Bib Pt. II, No.197C similar

Ref. No.: GCB 040

Date: c.1928

Cover title: Pictorial Guide The Caves Cheddar Opposite the Lion Rock A.G.H. Gough Manager Cheddar Somerset.

Title page: Pictorial Guide to The Caves Cheddar Author: A.G.H. Gough (?); see notes

Illustrations by AG.H. Gough and l.R. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs:

Page     Title

2          Skull of the Cheddar Man

3          The Grandeur of Cheddar Gorge

6          "The Fonts".  A wonderful series of stalagmite basins.

7          "The Organ Pipes"

10         The most wonderful curtain in Gough's Caves.

11         "The Peal of Bells"

14         A beautiful reflected group in Gough's Caves

15         In semblance of a frozen river

18         Wonderful stalactite drapery

19         Reflections in a silent pool.  The fairy Grotto

22         In "Solomon's Temple."  A magnificent column 11 feet high

23         "The Archangel's Wing."  A stalactite curtain 15 feet long

26         "The Niagara Falls"

27         A fallen giant in the great Boulder Chamber

30         A specimen stalactite and curtain of purest white

31         Aladdin's Pool

Cover: buff card with red and brownish-black text inside red, single line, frame all surrounded by background sketch of Solomon's Pillar, this too inside a red single lined frame.

Printer: E.W. Savory, Bristol

Text printed in sepia

Binding: saddle stitched

Size: 12.5 x 15.3cm

NOTES: It is possible that the archaeological notes may have been written by R.F. Parry. The textural style changes markedly in the short archaeological note.

P .16 - caves stated as being discovered in 1877

P.17 - " n. an interesting excavation was carried out during the winter of 1927 n. in November last ... " The infers that the text was written in 1928, probably for publication that year.

Ref.: Men Bib Pt. II, No. 197D similar

Ref. No.: GCB 050

Date: c.1930

Cover title: Pictorial Guide The Caves Cheddar Opposite the Lion Rock AG.H. Gough Manager Cheddar Somerset.

Title page: Pictorial Guide to The Caves Cheddar Author: AG.H. Gough (?); see notes

Illustrations by AG.H. Gough and l.H. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs:

Page     Title

2          The Lion Rock, Cheddar Gorge

3          The Cheddar Gorge

6          Rising of Cheddar water at foot of caves

7          Hartstongue fern growing in the caves

10         The Fonts

11         The Niagara Falls

14         Stalactite drapery

15         The Archangel's Wing.  A stalactite curtain 15 feet long

18         In Solomon's Temple.  A magnificent column 11 feet long

19         Stalactites & Curtain

22         In Solomon's Temple

23         Reflected group

26         In the Diamond Chamber

27         View of the boulders

30         Skull of the Cheddar Man

31         Implements of Magdalinean Age found at the cave entrance

Cover: buff card with red and brownish-black text inside red, single line, frame all surrounded by background sketch of Solomon's Pillar, this too inside a red single lined frame.

Printer: E.W. Savory, Bristol

Text printed in sepia

Binding: saddle stitched

Size: 12.5 x l5.3cm

NOTES: It is possible that the archaeological notes may have been written by R.F. Parry.  The textural style changes markedly in the short archaeological note.

P.16 - notes on the cave discovery corrected thus “….Gough's Old Cave was discovered in 1877, and those now shown to the public in 1898 .... '”

P.17 – “… interesting excavation was carried out during the winter of 1927, and the work has been continued each year since ... “

Ref.: Men Bib Pt. II, No. 197D similar

Ref. No.: GCB 060

Date: c.1930

Cover title: A Pictorial Guide Gough's Caves Cheddar. Opposite the Lion Rock A.G.H. Gough Manager Cheddar Somerset.

Title page: Pictorial Guide to The Caves Cheddar Author: A.G.H. Gough (?); see notes

Illustrations by A.G.H. Gough and J.H. Savory; all printed in sepia Sequence of photographs:

Page     Title

2          The Lion Rock, Cheddar Gorge

3          The Cheddar Gorge

6          Rising of Cheddar water at foot of caves

7          Hartstongue fern growing in the caves

10         The Fonts

11         The Niagara Falls

14         Stalactite drapery

15         The Archangel's Wing. A stalactite curtain 15 feet long

18         In Solomon's Temple. A magnificent column 11 feet long

19         Stalactites & Curtain

22         In Solomon's Temple

23         Reflected group

26         In the Diamond Chamber

27         View of the boulders

30         Skull of the Cheddar Man

31         Implements of Magdalinean Age found at the cave entrance

Cover: buff card with red and brownish-black text inside red, single line, frame all surrounded by background sketch of Solomon's Pillar, this too inside a red single lined frame.

Printer: E.W. Savory, Bristol

Text printed in sepia

Binding: saddle stitched

Size: 12.5 x 15.3cm

NOTES: It is possible that the archaeological notes may have been written by R.F. Parry.  The textural style changes markedly in the short archaeological note.

P.16 - notes on the cave discovery corrected thus “…. Gough's Old Cave was discovered in 1877, and those now shown to the public in 1898 .... “

P.17 – “… an interesting excavation was carried out during the winter of 1927, and the work has been continued each year since ... “

There are no advertisements on the inside covers

Ref. No.: GCB 070

As GCB 060 but for sticker pasted at foot of front cover, printed in red: Under the direction of Viscount WEYMOUTH, M.P. Manager: Capt. P. BREND, A.F.C. Phone - Cheddar 74.

Ref.: Men Bib Pt II, No.197E


1.                  Irwin, David J., 1987, Cox's Cave, Cheddar: a history UBSS Proceedings 18(1) 20-42(Nov), maps, illus., survey.

2.                  Irwin, David J., 1987, A brief history of Gough's Caves, Cheddar. BEC Bel Bu141(440) 8-17(Jul), illus.

3.                  Irwin, David J., 1986, Gough's Old Cave - its history UBSS Proceedings 17(3)250-266(Nov), map, illus., survey

4.                  Irwin, David J., 1986, The exploration of Gough's Cave and its development as a show cave. UBSS Proceedings 17(2)95-101(for 1985), illus., published Jan 1986

5.                   Irwin, David J., 1987, A brief history of Gough's Caves, Cheddar. [as above]

6.                  Savory took a number of photographs of the cave in 1913, which were published as picture postcards by Gough's Cave in that year.  A further selection of photographs were taken by him in February 1922.  It is the use of the later photographs that help date these booklets.


Jokes Page


ON TESCO'S TIRIMISU DESERT - Do not turn upside down.  (Printed on the bottom of the box.)

ON MARKS & SPENCER BREAD PUDDING - Product will be hot after heating

ON PACKAGING FOR A ROWENTA IRON - Do not Iron clothes on body

ON BOOTS CHILDREN’S COUGH MEDICINE - Do not drive car or operate machinery

ON NYTOL (A SLEEP AID) - Warning: may cause drowsiness

ON A KOREAN KITCHEN KNIFE - Warning keep out of children

ON A STRING OF CHINESE MADE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS - For indoor or outdoor use only.

ON A JAPANESE FOOD PROCESSOR - Not to be used for the other use

ON SAINSBURY'S PEANUTS - Warning: contains nuts

ON AN AMERICAN AIRLINES PACKET OF NUTS - Instructions: open packet, eat nuts.

ON A SWEDISH CHAINSAW - Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands

ON A PACKET OF SUNMAID RAISINS - Why not try tossing over your favourite breakfast cereal?

Ever Wonder Why???

Tell a man that there are 400 billion stars, and he'll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint, and he has to touch it.

How come SUPERMAN could stop bullets with his chest, but always ducked when someone threw a gun at him?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "Lisp" to have an "S" in it?

What's another word for synonym?

If a man speaks and there is no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?

If a turtle loses its shell, is it naked or homeless?

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?


Jon Snow: "In a sense, Deng Xiaoping's death was inevitable, wasn't it?" Expert: "Er, yes." (Channel 4 News)

"As Phil De Glanville said, each game is unique, and this one is no different to any other." (John Sleightholme – BBC1)

"If England are going to win this match, they're going to have to score a goal." (Jimmy Hill - BBC)

"Beethoven, Kurtag, Charles Ives, Debussy   -  four very different names." (Presenter, BBC Proms, Radio 3)

"Cystitis is a living death, it really is.  Nobody ever talks about it, but if I was faced with a choice between having my arms removed and getting cystitis, I'd wave goodbye to my arms quite happily." (Louise Wener (of Sleeper) in Q Magazine)

"Julian Dicks is everywhere. It's like they've got eleven Dicks on the field." (Metro Radio Sports Commentary)

Listener: "My most embarrassing moment was when my artificial leg fell off at the altar on my wedding day." Simon Fanshawe: "How awful!  Do you still have an artificial leg?" (Talk Radio)

Interviewer: "So did you see which train crashed into which train first?" 15-year-old: "No, they both ran into each other at the same time." (BBC Radio 4)

Presenter (to palaeontologist): "So what would happen if you mated the woolly mammoth with, say, an elephant?" Expert: "Well in the same way that a horse and a donkey produce a mule, we'd get a sort of half-mammoth. Presenter: "So it'd be like some sort of hairy gorilla?" Expert: "Er, well yes, but elephant shaped, and with tusks." (GLR)

Kilroy-Silk: "Did you mean to get pregnant?" Girl: "No. It was a cock-up."

Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald: "Sex is an anti-climax after that!" Desmond Lynam: "Well, you gave the horse a wonderful ride, everyone saw that." (BBC)

Ponder this one!!

If you love something, set it free.  If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours.  If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.  If it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, uses your telephone, takes your money, and never behaves as if you actually set it free in the first place, you either married it or gave birth to it!


Carbon Dioxide Concentrations in the Air in St. Cuthbert's Swallet

R.D. Stenner and R.G. Picknett

When Bob Picknett, his friend and I reached the surface at the end of the 4½-hour trip on Sunday evening, 30th January 1972, the rim of the entrance lid was glistening with frost. As we hauled ourselves out into a glorious frosty scene, flood-lit by a full moon and a sky full of stars, our boiler suits stuck to the lid - instantly frozen to it.  The trip had been made to collect a set of air carbon dioxide measurements, using Draeger gas analysis equipment.

I can't blame people who knew me when I was so ill in 1987 for doubting my memories of what happened more than twenty years ago.  So I looked up the phases of the moon in an old diary.  There was a full moon on the last day of 1971, so the moon was full on the evening of the trip, just as I remembered.

There was another feature of the trip, which had an important bearing on the set of results, and which I have not had a chance to verify.  Brilliant clear skies in January are linked to an anticyclone, and high atmospheric pressure.  This was noted in my own caving log entry for the trip.  The consequence of this weather system was a blast of bitingly cold air into the cave. This is what took the temperature of the entrance lid down below freezing point, and caused the current of cold air we commented on as we stood by the stal graveyard in Pillar Chamber, looking down into Mud Hall on the way out.

The Draeger apparatus was used with tubes for measuring low levels of carbon dioxide.  A length of rubber tubing was used to make sure that our breath did not affect the results, and at Arête Chamber it was used to draw air from the boulder ruckle behind the North-East Inlet.  We took the Old Route to Mud Hall, and from Lower Mud Hall we went into the Rocky Boulder Series, where we sampled the air in a dead-end passage, and at the lowest point of the passage leading to the Traverse Chamber false bedding plane.  From here we went to Traverse Chamber, where we took another measurement beside the waterfall from the Maypole Series.  Bypass Passage and Stream Passage to Stal. Pitch, where the deepest measurement was made, and then we filled in with measurements in odd chambers on the way out. Curtain Chamber and the Cascade were chosen to see if the presence of major active stal formations might affect carbon dioxide concentrations (only a slight possible elevation in Curtain Chamber was found).

Some of the data has been quoted previously (Bridge et al, 1977) but the full set of results has not been published previously.  The sample sites are shown in the Figure (produced, with his permission, from Irwin's survey) and the results are in the Table.  The co-ordinates of the sample sites were measured from the survey (Irwin 1991) and original survey notes.  The sequence of sample numbers in the Table reflects the route followed into the cave and out again.  The Imperial units of the survey have been used in this report to make it easier for readers to locate the survey stations on the Irwin survey, with its Imperial grid.

The results show that, while the carbon dioxide concentration below the Entrance Pitch was very close to the normal atmospheric value of 0.03 %, the value very quickly increased to 0.08 % on progressing to the Ledge Pitches.  Perhaps the extra gas was being drawn in from the boulder ruckles around Arête Chamber, seeing that the highest value obtained in this trip was recorded in the boulder ruckle behind the North-East Inlet in Arête Chamber.

Between the Ledge Pitches and Quarry Comer the concentration was unchanged at 0.08%.  In the Wire Rift the air passed straight over Wet Pitch. From the Wire Rift, the stream of cold air passed over Mud Hall, via Pillar Chamber to Quarry Comer.  In Pillar Chamber, the blast of cold air was very plain to us as we stood by the stal graveyard overlooking Mud Hall.  The result beside the foot of the ladder in Mud Hall was 0.10%, while cold air from the Wire Rift with 0.8% carbon dioxide was flowing over-head, with no mixing with the warmer (and therefore less dense) air underneath.  This result, a temperature inversion, is an indication of the high speed of the airflow at this point.

Beyond Quarry Comer, the directions taken by the incoming air could not be felt, and the carbon dioxide values do no more than suggest that from Boulder Chamber, some of the air flowed into Traverse Chamber.  It is reasonable to assume that, in a single entrance cave containing many very large chambers, when the surface air pressure increased, a large volume of air was drawn into the cave to equalise the pressures.  This air could only be drawn in via the Entrance, and it is suggested that the results presented here have mapped this airflow from the Entrance to Quarry Comer. From Quarry Comer the airflow would have split up as air was pushed into all of the huge voids in the cave.

Table of results.  The concentration of carbon dioxide in the air in St. Cuthbert's Swallet on 30/01/1972, when surface air was entering into the cave.



Survey Co-ord.




E, N., Ht. (ft)

% vol.lvol.


 Bottom of Entrance Pitch




 Arête Chamber, entrance of Pulpit Passage




 Pulpit Passage, source of N.W. stream inlet




 Arête Chamber, boulders behind N.E. inlet




 Below Lower Ledge Pitch




 Mud Hall, beside foot of fixed ladder




 RB. Series, nr. Traverse Ch. false bed. plane




 RB. Series, dead-end passage




 Traverse Chamber, middle of chamber




 Main Stream Passage, top of Stal. Pitch




 Cerberus Series, lowest point Cerberus Hall




 Curtain Chamber, behind large stal. boss




 Cascade Vantage Point




 Boulder Chamber, Quarry Comer




 Pillar Chamber, entrance to RB. Series




The overall observation is that the air carbon dioxide values are much lower than those obtained in other caves (for example, the value of 4.3 % CO2 reported recently from White Pit; Anon, 1997).  The results of 30th January 1972, however, are mutually consistent, and are important in that they clearly demonstrate how air flowed into the cave on this occasion.


The authors believe the results show the response of this cave to rising atmospheric pressure during an anticyclone.  If this conclusion is correct, then in a cyclonic event, a fall in surface air pressure would result in the reverse situation.  Air would be blown out of the Entrance as the air pressure in the great chambers adjusts to the surface pressure.  The air blowing through the passages leading to the entrance would be at the normal air temperatures deep in the cave, and fully saturated with water.

It follows that atmospheric conditions will have an important effect on studies of small trickles of percolation water near a cave entrance. In cyclonic weather, drips are likely to be surrounded by a flow of air, which is saturated in water, with a higher carbon dioxide concentration than the normal atmosphere, and a constant temperature of about 10oC, irrespective of the season.  In anticyclonic conditions, however, the air around the drip will have very different characteristics. Whatever the season, the air will usually be unsaturated with water, and with a lower carbon dioxide content than the usual ambient cave air.  Loss of carbon dioxide from percolation water to the airflow and evaporation will both increase the likelihood of the water becoming supersaturated, leading to the possibility of calcite deposition.  However, in winter the airflow will usually be colder then the ambient temperature, while in summer the airflow can be expected to be warmer.



Finally, the results showed that the air in the boulder ruckle between the N.E. Inlet in Arête Chamber and the Soak-away Sink on the surface contained more carbon dioxide than the open parts of the cave.  In water flowing from this sink to Arête Chamber, an increase in hardness in the form of calcium hydrogen carbonate has been measured, this change being accompanied by an increased concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide (Stenner, 1997). This amplified Ford's observation that St. Cuthbert's Stream appeared to be supersaturated at the surface, yet it emerged in the cave slightly harder, yet slightly aggressive (Ford, 1966). When it was proved that concentrations of dissolved oxygen could be shown to change in short distances in streams going underground (Bridge et aI, 1977) this discovery applied equally to the ability of gaseous carbon dioxide to dissolve quickly in the physical conditions of the caves which had been studied.

To sum up; measurements of air carbon dioxide concentrations in the air in the cave have been taken in conditions of rising atmospheric pressure, and these indicate that the air entering the cave due to the pressure change rapidly picks up carbon dioxide in its journey through the cave.  Air in the Boulder ruckle, protected from rapid dilution by the inflow of air, showed the highest carbon dioxide concentration measured. This suggests that when little air is flowing into the cave, the carbon dioxide content of the cave air will be somewhat higher than those reported in this paper.  It is deduced that calcite deposition from water should be enhanced by the presence of in-flowing air.


ANON., 1997 Diggers Comer, Belfry Bulletin No. 493,49(12), p.4.

BRIDGE, J.L., COOPER, C.M. KELLY, S.D., MARSH S.D. and STENNER, RD. 1977 Limestone solution and changes of dissolved gas concentrations at stream sinks of three caves in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. BCRA Trans 4(3), p.355-359.

FORD, D.C. 1966. Calcium carbonate solution in some Central Mendip caves, Somerset.  UBSS Proc 11(1), p.46-53.

IRWIN, D.J. 1991. St. Cuthbert's Swallet. Bristol Exploration Club, pp82.

PICKNEIT, RG. 1973. Saturated calcite solutions from 10 to 40°C: a theoretical study evaluating the solubility product and other constants. CRG Trans 15(2), p.67-80.

STENNER, RD. 1997 Changes in distribution of water between surface sinks and stream inlets in St. Cuthbert's Swallet, Priddy, Somerset. UBSS Proc. 21(1),9-24.


Left: Arête Pitch minus the fixed ladder Photo: Pete Glanvill
Right: Pete Rose on the Lower Ledge Pitch Photo: Pete Glanvill


The Digger's Song

Tune: Original
Author: Kangy King
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol. 36 No 617 June / July 1982

I wanted to go down a cave
And now my ambitions I've got 'em.
In Cuthbert's I'm all the rave
At the dig in the hole in the bottom.

Digging away, digging away all day,
Dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig.

I only went out on a spree
Thinking to sup and be off, when
I encountered a crowd, BEC
All lewd and licentious and tough men.

They said - "Young man it will go
If you carry these ladders and drop 'em.
Into a hole that we know,
That's not really too much of a problem. "

Now the entrance pitch is divine
So long as you're skinny and narrow.
The walls are all covered in slime
From the drippings of Walt's old wheelbarrow.

We continued on down the Arête,
The shaky old ladders appalling.
But, as the other blokes said
''It's a ruddy sight better than falling."

Two ladders and then the Wire Rift
Were next on the menu they brought me.
To traverse I needed the gift
That my ape-like ancestors had taught me.

Mud Hall and Stal Chamber too
And Boulder with boulders abundant.
My mates disappeared from my view
As they hurried to show me what fun meant.

A hole at the end gave the clue
Leading to Ev'rest and Gravel.
We slid down the scree in a queue
 More or less in the right line of travel.

I staggered along in a daze
Dimly noting the Sewer in passing
They'd knotted me up in a maze
When I suddenly noticed the splashing.

A wall immense and quite tall
Traversed the passage we trod in.
Blocking the flow in the hall
And changing the level of Oggin

At the side stood a large bucket wheel
Fixed in it's bearings by packing.
This fiendish device seemed to deal
With the drive of a pump, double-acting.

So sloshing the water about
It pumped from one place to another.
A muddy great hole was washed out
Without any effort or bother.

A spade all corroded and rough
I was given to my consternation.
They invited me kindly enough
To get digging and start exploration.

So now I'm a digger of note,
To be found at my post every Tuesday.
On cave exploration I dote-
I'm sure I'll be digging till Doomsday.


More Adventures of Another Pooh.

By Dave Yeandle

When I was a schoolboy and had just started caving, I took a book out of the public library called 'Potholing Beneath the Northern Pennines', by David Heap.  One chapter was devoted to the through trip from Providence Pot to Dow Cave, via Dowber Gill Passage.  This writing inspired me, as David Heap managed to not just describe the cave, but to get across the excitement of the venture, and the beauty of Wharfedale.  He took the reader, along, with the caving group, as they walked through the picturesque village of Kettlewell, in winter, and with crisp new snow on the ground.  I could imagine their anticipation as they trudged up the hillside, leaving footprints in the snow, to the entrance of Providence Pot, there to disappear underground.  I wanted very much to follow in the footsteps of these cavers; and a few years later I did.

Late summer in 1970, I was back in Leeds early from the University's long break.  Predictably I had failed some of my first year's exams and in order to continue as a student at Leeds I had to pass these exams as "re-sits".  I had nowhere to live and was dossing at Tony White's place.  (Tony had failed some of his second year exams and he too was back in Leeds early).  He was annoyed at me because I wasn't helping with the rent.  I had spent all my money caving in France over the summer and was trying to live on porridge, potatoes and some sort of powdered gunge that was supposed to provide all of the bodies' nutritional requirements when mixed with water. It tasted dreadful and Tony was wisely guarding his food, should I be tempted to "borrow some".

I was concerned that I would be chucked out of my course and have to leave the exciting world of Leeds Caving.  This motivated me to actually do quite a lot of swotting.  One evening though, I got overloaded with some particularly hard calculations to do with Quantum Mechanics, and I started to read a mountaineering book by Walter Bonatti instead.  I was very inspired with this hair-raising account of his solo assent of The Dru.  A total epic and it made me want to have an exciting solo adventure.  I had wanted to do a long solo trip since reading in some caving text book that one should under no circumstances go caving alone. Besides, my friends had recently been doing it and had been having some pretty mad times.  Both Dave Brook and Tony White had gone a few miles into Mossdale, on different days, and alone.  Dave had not even bothered to take a spare light, or even any carbide to refill his one lamp.  Ian Gasson had gone to the end of Langcliffe on his own and actually pushed a tight passage. As for Alf Latham, he had gone down Swarthgill Hole alone and had ended up feeling his way out when his one light, an unreliable Nife Cell had cratered on him.

I had still not done Dowbergill Passage, and it was high on my tick list.  I knew that this was considered a fairly hard but not extreme trip and requiring no ladders or ropes.  So this would be a nice solo challenge.  Quantum Mechanics abandoned, I started to pack my rucksack in readiness for an early departure the following morning.  I mentioned to Tony that I was planning to 'solo' Dowbergill.  He grinned a bit and said something about me not expecting him to come on the rescue.

It rained a lot in the night but I set off anyway, having convinced myself that the trip would be more sporting if wet, and that anyway people didn't seem to drown in Dowbergill, only become trapped for a while.  I was a bit hungry but I had the good fortune to find four bananas lying in the road.  It was not long after sticking out my thumb that I got a really good lift all the way to Skipton.  The trip was going well and Walter Bonatti would no doubt have been most impressed so far!

I arrived in Kettlewell early in the afternoon and started up the hillside for Providence.  It was raining very heavily by now, but I tried not to worry too much about this minor detail.  Anyway I was busy conceiving a very cunning plan!  ULSA were having difficulty getting permission to go down Langcliffe Pot.  We had always walked up to Langcliffe from Scargill.  Now if we continued to do this we would very likely be seen and told to leave the area.  But what if we were to start the walk in to Langcliffe from Kettlewell and pretend we were doing Dowbergill?  Once up on to the Limestone Benches, and out of view, we could traverse along the Dale to Langcliffe, undetected.  In fact we did later implement this plan with great success until we were daft enough to get trapped by floods in Langcliffe.

I was soaking wet by the time I found Providence Entrance.  I hurriedly found a place to hide my rucksack and changed into my wetsuit. I had collected together an assortment of dubious torches and other spare lighting including candles and packed these items in a small ex army haversack, along with the obligatory Mars Bar and one or two tasty tit-bits I was sure Tony would not miss.  Also, I carried plenty of spare carbide and some carbide light spares.  Was I well equipped or what!  With a last look around at the rain swept fell, I set off into the cave.

Once my eyes had adjusted to the gloom of the poorly lit cave, I started to make good speed. I found Providence a friendly enough cave.  There was some crawling, one or two short squeezes and some nice easy passages where I could walk or at least progress at a stoop.  I frequently wandered off route, along side passages, but soon realised I was going the wrong way and retraced my steps.  I knew for sure I was on course for Dowbergill Passage when I reached The Palace, a large chamber, described briefly in my battered copy of Pennine Underground or PU, as we called this inadequate and incomplete volume which passed for a guide book back in the early seventies. I confidently strode down this chamber, to a small hole in the floor.   This I entered and climbed on down into a place called The Dungeon.  With ease I descended further down a calcite boss into Depot Chamber.  After a short look around, I exited right under some excellent formations into a crawl.  I could now hear the welcome sound of a large stream.  I knew I must be close to Dowbergill Passage now and feeling very pleased with my navigation scampered along the crawl.  Very soon I popped out at Stalagmite Comer.  I was in Dowbergill - I had it in the Bag; or so I thought. I had been mildly worried about finding my way through Providence.  I had seen a survey and it had looked a bit complicated.  But Dowbergill was shown as a straight line, going straight to Dow Cave. How could I go wrong now?  My optimism was confirmed when after setting off down the stream passage and scrambling easily over some boulders I entered large easy walking passage - a doddle!!.  I ran along this blissfully unaware that I was about to become rather confused for quite a few hours.  Here is a quote from Northern Caves published sometime after my minor epic in Dowbergill.

"The traverse of Dowbergill remains one of the classic caving expeditions in the district.  It has also been the scene of many rescues. The survey plan of a simple straight line belies the intricate and at times exasperating problem of route finding within a twenty metre vertical range in the high rift passages".

Well, really the memory of my fraught journey through the hillside to Dow Cave is somewhat blurred. Here are a few highlights!

This bloody confusing boulder choke with really well worn, incorrect routes, to nowhere!  And when I did find the way through it was in the first hole I had investigated and dismissed as too tight.  Or the really annoying traverse with no apparent handholds or footholds, which I fell off.  Then there was a definitely exasperating climb up over muddy flowstone, which was so slippery I kept sliding back down it.  Indeed there were many really "interesting" intricate route-finding problems in the vertical plane of this perfectly straight rift passage.  These were all solved in the fullness of time but with only slightly more expertise than the Physics problems I had so recently been attempting.

My carbide lamp kept playing up but all of my collection of battery powered lights were even worse. After regaining the stream after another confusing boulder choke I stripped the carbide lamp down and gave it a good fettling.  It started to behave after this and I celebrated with a Mars Bar.

Still I was making progress and going fairly well overall.  I was getting a bit concerned though.  Once in a while I would find myself back at stream level and every time I did there was more water than the time before.  The cave seemed to be flooding.  I decided to stay as high as possible in the rift.  As I progressed forward I gradually gained height until I had climbed right up to the top of the rift and I could tell from the texture of the passage that few people had been this way.  I knew I was off the normal route (again!) but felt I should try to force it through at this level because of the high water below. Thrashing along on my side with my lower shoulder and arm stretched out in front and the other arm trailing behind I made slow progress along the rift.  Unfortunately, instead of the passage size increasing as I had hoped it would, it gradually got tighter and tighter until I realised that I would have to reverse back out.  I knew this would be very strenuous indeed but at this stage I was merely annoyed, not scared.  Then my right foot got jammed in a small keyhole shaped hole in the floor.  I could not move forward or backward.  I thrashed around to try to free myself. This was a serious mistake because my carbide light fell off my helmet and down into the rift.  I could see it below me in a slot only a few inches wide; out of reach in my present position.  Then the flame went out.  I told myself not to panic, lie still and think things through.  A logical analysis of my plight was required.  I itemised the good and bad points of my situation and came up with something along these lines.

Bad Points:

I am badly stuck.
It is totally dark.
I am off route.
I am on my own.
I'm feeling exhausted.
Come to think of it, since stopping moving, I 'm feeling rather cold.
Six bad points are enough for now lets move on to the good points.

Good Points:

I've got spare lights.
Tony White will call out the rescue team if I do not turn up at his place after another 24 hours or so.
I can move upwards and downwards for as much as three inches.
That seems to be about it for the good points.

More Bad Points:

7a. My spare lights are all crap, and anyway I can't reach them as they are in this bag which is jammed between my chest and solid rock.

Then I had a plan!

I started to move my chest slowly up and down in the tight rift I was trapped in.  As I moved upwards I breathed in.  As I moved downwards I breathed out.  Very slowly the bag containing my spare lights moved upwards.  After several rests and what seemed like an hour, the bag had moved sufficiently upwards to enable me to shuffle around in the passage and to my delight I was able to wrench my right foot free.  I then was able to reverse out of the tight section, pulling the precious bag along at arms length.  Once back to a place I could sit up in I carefully opened the bag and found the least crap torch.  I switched it on and it seemed like a searchlight after the total darkness from which I had thankfully emerged.  I now had a quick rest and the last of my food.  To make myself as manoeuvrable as possible I removed my boots and helmet and re-entered the tight rift to rescue my carbide.  To my utter relief I retrieved it after many contortions and just as the torch flickered to final extinction.  I reversed backwards out of the rift to where I had left my boots and helmet and in a short while had my carbide light operational.

Well I had wanted an adventure, and here I was having one.  Not quite so hair raising as some of Walter Bonatti's but non-the less a good story for the pub.  I realised with pleasure that it was ULSA club night in the Swan with two Necks in a little over 24 hours time.  I was going to be there for sure.

I started to climb back down towards the stream and at the same time take the best route making progress upstream.  I realised that I was probably going to have to stay at or near stream level, flood or not. Pretty soon I was back in the streamway, but at least it was still possible to move against the power of the water.

The route finding started to get easier now and I moved along the rift, mostly at stream level. Rather worryingly I could tell that the water level was still rising and sometimes I had to traverse above fast moving deep water.  Still this was much more fun than getting lost and stuck and I felt fairly confident that I was getting close to the link with Dow Cave.  I started to compose in my mind the tale of this solo journey I would tell my friends in the pub back in Leeds.  No need to dwell too much on the more incompetent incidents.  I was sure that even Walter Bonatti would have edited the stories of his epics a little.

All this fantasising came to an abrupt halt when I entered a sort of a chamber, really just an enlargement of the rift.  Ahead of me was a near vertical wall below which the inky black water of Dowber Gill emerged from a rather definite, no nonsense sort of sump!

It was a long way back to Providence Pot and I was tired.  I simply could not accept the idea of having to go back.  I had a quick look around for a bypass of some sort but I was almost sure there would be none.  This was just procrastination really, side passages not being much of a feature in Dowber Gill.  I had a look at the rock wall above the sump.  I felt it could perhaps be climbed, also the sump pool would make falling off slightly less unacceptable.  So I set off tentatively upwards.  About 3 metres up I found a small slot going in the direction of the upstream rift. Unfortunately, it was far too tight and a very strong wind was screeching out of it.  Depressingly this indicated to me that this was most likely the only above water continuation of the rift.  I carried on anyway, the climbing getting harder and harder, until I was in a position, 4.5 meters above the sump of not being able to go up and not able to reverse my last move.  I lingered for a while getting increasingly scared.  Just as I felt I could hang on no longer I plucked up the courage to jump clear of the rock.  To my utter relief I made a great landing in the sump pool making a most satisfying splash.

Charged with adrenaline, I took several deep breaths and dived into the sump.  I don't think it was very long and I emerged on the upstream side in total darkness (carbide lamps are crap in sumps) with the sound of a large underground river roaring in my ears.  Also I could feel spray upon my face from a very proper draught.  I staggered along a walking size passage in the dark until I felt I was mostly out of the water.  With difficulty I ignited my carbide and set off in the spray and wind towards the roar.

Very soon I connected with Dow Cave.  It was scary to see a fast flowing river; charging towards me from the right and disappearing to the left into a bedding cave with only about 30 cm of airspace. It was draughting though so I knew that the airspace should, in theory, continue to the world outside, that I now so wanted to renter.  Theory and reality are not always the same, but I liked this theory and jumped into the torrent.  Swept along in the flood all I had to do was to try to navigate through the best looking route by flapping my limbs.  I was actually out of control, but very soon I saw daylight.  Just in time I saw I was about to be washed over a waterfall.  I grabbed hold of a branch of a tree and my momentum swung me out of the cataract and neatly onto the path up to the entrance of Dow Cave.  I was out! Just as well too, it was raining torrentially.

When I arrived back in Kettlewell, it was dark and I was too tired to want to hitch back to Leeds.  I camped in a field in my very small plastic tent that I had picked up for £1.50.  It was a very low tent and very hard for farmers to see.  This was useful and I used it often when hitch hiking. That summer, in France, I had camped in a field and I had been waken up by the sound of heavy machinery.  I had looked out of the "door" and to my horror saw a combine harvester heading straight towards me.  I leapt out and waved my arms frantically.  The huge machine had ground to a halt, and a most irate operator climbed down from his cab and started shouting at me and waving his arms about.  I tried to explain in broken French that I was a Speleologist on my way to explore "Grandes Grottes", no less!  His mood changed and he started to laugh.  Not quite the reaction I was after, but a great improvement from ranting. I was only wearing underpants; perhaps this in some small way affected my credibility.  Any way he let me off without calling the gendarmes.

This most recent doss ended less embarrassingly, but it was not a good doss.  At about 5am the field flooded.  Still this meant I got off to an early start the next day and ensured my presence at the Swan with Two Necks that evening.


Access to the Open Countryside

If you have e-mail you will no doubt have had messages from any other caver/climber regarding the Government's plans to introduce new laws regarding Access to the Open Countryside. (I received the same e-mail 11 times and at least another 10 with additional comments!)

The planned changes will obviously affect cavers, so there have been a lot of moves by cavers, climbers and alike to address the problems with their local MP.  By the time the BB goes to print, the Government may well have made decisions on this.

To give you more idea of what all this is about, I am printing the whole list of proposals and the NCA's comments regarding these proposals from the NCA Website.

This may seriously affect the future of caving in England and Wales, so please read on. (The NCA's comments are indented and in bold print)

Access to the Open Countryside - A Consultation Paper Comments of the National Caving Association

The National Caving Association (NCA) is the national body representing the interests of caving in England, Scotland and Wales.  Formed in 1969 as a federation of four existing Regional Councils of Caving Clubs, together with five other established organisations accepted as being nationally responsible for a particular aspect of caving, in 1994 it was reconstituted into a federation of five Regional Caving Councils, three National Bodies with specialist interests, and over three hundred Caving Clubs, each of which have autonomy in their own fields.

The Regional and National members of the Association are:

Council of Southern Caving Clubs
Devon and Cornwall Underground Council
Council of Northern Caving Clubs
Cambrian Caving Council
Derbyshire Caving Association
British Cave Research Association
William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust
British Cave Rescue Council

The Association has a National Council which appoints an Executive Committee to carry out the administrative business of the Association, and Special Committees to cover Conservation & Access, Training, Equipment, Insurance and Publications & Information.


The NCA welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Governments Proposals for access to the open countryside.

In making comments on the consultation paper we wish to express our concern about the perceived definition of 'open countryside'. In itself this would appear to exclude caves and abandoned mines.  This was also the case in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. Over the years this has resulted in problems with respect to the acceptance of caves as a recreational resource similar to any other part of the countryside to which access is required.  There now exists an opportunity of addressing this injustice, and accepting caves as an important educational and recreational part of our national heritage.  The same applies to abandoned mines and their industrial archaeological and recreational value.  It is our hope that both may be recognised in any new legislation.

Our comments on the document are as follows:


If legislation is required, it should be introduced to give the same extended rights of access in both England and Wales.

Agreed.  It would seem illogical not to do so.


The scope for achieving greater access through voluntary arrangements should be carefully assessed against the criteria set out in paragraph 2.6.

The criteria listed in 2.6 are very comprehensive and give a good basis for assessing the potential of an agreement on a voluntary basis.

Q.l Can voluntary arrangements deliver cost-effective access of sufficient quality, extent, permanency, clarity and certainty?  If so, how?

Q.l  It has not been our experience that such arrangements have been very effective or easy to negotiate or implement.  We believe that some sort of statutory approach at the minimum, to form the basis for an agreement would be better and more financially viable.


A new right of access should apply to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land.


Q.2 Are the terms "mountain, moor, heath and down" used in the 1949 Act still appropriate?  How may these types of open countryside best be described and defined in legislation?

Q.2 We would fully agree with this proposal but do believe that the existing definitions as used in the 1949 Act are no longer appropriate and need redefining and extending to cover all state owned and public land.


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should report in the year 2000 on the extent to which there is access to other types of open country.  The Forestry Commission will report before this on access to forest and woodland.  The Government will consider extending access to other types of land after these bodies have reported.  Any primary legislation should be drafted to permit extension to these areas of a right of access by secondary legislation if necessary.

No comment.

Q.3 What types of open country should be included in the proposal to extend a right of access by secondary legislation if necessary?  How should they be defined?

Q.3 Natural cave entrances, and approaches to abandoned mine workings used for study or recreational purposes would benefit by inclusion in the extension of these rights.  The acceptance of the principal that natural underground passages be treated in the same manner as mountain, moor and heath needs consideration.


A right of access should not extend to developed land.

It should be made clear that caves, including those entered through active and abandoned quarries, and abandoned mine workings should not be excluded.

Q.4 Is the list of exclusions satisfactory?  If not, how should it be varied?

Q.4 Accepting the above it is considered that the list is satisfactory, except where mineral surface workings provide the access to abandoned underground workings or natural caves.


A right of access should not extend to agricultural land other than that used for extensive grazing.

We do not agree with this proposal since it is often the case that it is necessary to cross such land to gain access to a cave entrance.  The suggestion is that in such cases access might be negotiated with the landowner by agreement, in much the same way as access agreements have been made to open moorland in the past. Equally there may be a case for similar compensation arrangements.

Q.5 How may the agricultural land which needs to be excluded best be described?

Q.5 The description of agricultural land to be excluded, should itself specifically exclude natural cave entrances.


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales would have a statutory duty to issue guidance to enable walkers and the owners and occupiers of land to identify open countryside to which there was a right of access.  Such guidance would be taken into account by the courts when considering any disputes involving the status of land.

The proposal uses the term "walkers", whereas a term such as "recreational user groups" would perhaps be more appropriate. The emphasis should be on recreational enjoyment of our heritage, rather than narrowing it down to a specific user group.


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should make recommendations to Government on the identification of access land, together with any appropriate advice on its definition, by July 1998. This will be useful whether a statutory or a voluntary approach is adopted.


Q.6 What would be the most helpful ways of describing the types of land?

Q.6 Only simple definitions would be needed, along with the sites being shown on a statutory map such as the 'public rights of way' maps maintained by the County Councils.

Q.7 What practical examples of good guidance are there?

Q.7 No comment.

Q.8 How important are maps, and on what scale?

Q.8 Maps are extremely important and should be of a reasonable scale large enough to show clearly the smallest site.  It is likely that 1:2500 scale will be necessary.  Consideration needs to be given to including the information on a GIS (Geographical Information System) accessible at, for instance, public libraries.


There should be provision for suspending a new right of access for short periods if the owners or occupiers of land so wish.

This provision would seem reasonable, on the proviso that there be some accountability to both user groups, and to the statutory bodies, in order to justify such actions. "Short periods" would need some definition (See below).


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should issue codes of practice for owners and occupiers on the use of closure powers.

It is important that the previous proposal is not used as a means of obtaining subsidy or compensation, and then legally withdrawing the access on which the agreement is based.

Q.9 Should there be a maximum number of days and/or a maximum area of open countryside over which the owners and occupiers of land could seek closure?

Q.9 Yes

Q.I0 Should local authorities be required to determine whether closures should continue when a limit on the number of days has been reached? How far should the public be involved?  Should owners and occupiers have a right of appeal?

Q.I0 Yes

Q.11 Should the Secretary of State have reserve powers to deal with unreasonable restriction of access to open countryside by occupiers generally?

Q.11 Yes

Q.12 Are there existing freedoms of access which need to be safeguarded under any new arrangements?

Q.12 The danger is always that often it is the case that freedom of access where currently enjoyed is not necessarily with the permission or knowledge of the landowner per se (often they simply ignore the situation), and that if it is brought to their attention access may be denied.  Some provision should be made to maintain the status quo.

Q.13 How should members of the public fmd out about closures and thus avoid inadvertent trespass?

Q.13 Relevant bodies and organisations should maintain lists of contacts who can circulate the information widely.  Information Centres, user-group journals and publications, and the media should be used.

Q.14 Should the codes of practice issued by the Countryside Commission and Countryside Council for Wales have some statutory force?

Q.14 This could be useful if they were suitably revised not as to maintain some individual freedom; after all we do not want to have a 'police state'.


Statutory authorities should be able to close land when necessary for health or safety reasons.

This would only be acceptable providing a suitable system of consultation and notification is devised.  The circumstances and powers to be used need to be identified.

Q.15 Are existing powers adequate?  Does there need to be a special power to exclude, if necessary permanently, land where there is a danger to the public?

Q.15 Existing powers may be adequate for existing situations, but the unique circumstances underground necessitate looking at the situation from an entirely different point of view.  The two issues of "powers of exclusion" and "danger to the public" are of great concern to cavers.  In pursuing caving as a recreation, there is an acceptance of the inherent and associated risks.  Any dangers, if properly expressed, ought to be acknowledged as their own responsibility. In practice, occasions arise where members of the public wish to have the benefits of such access, but not to shoulder the accompanying responsibilities.  In the case of caving a primary responsibility is acquiring of the skills and knowledge necessary to undertake such a venture in a safe and responsible manner.  In the case of caves and abandoned mines, the only "powers of exclusion" necessary might well be inclusive in the conditions relating to the access rights or agreements.  The National Caving Association has produced guidelines that cover both safety and conservation issues.  The use of the term "permanently" is inappropriate where caves and mine workings are concerned.  Natural caves are constantly evolving, as are some abandoned mine workings and the degree of danger changes.  Permanency is an anachronism.  It would be preferable to have a system of regular review.


The Ministry of Defence should be able to close land when necessary for military purposes.

This can only be considered acceptable when absolutely necessary. Who would make the decisions and be consulted user groups, central or local government, conservation bodies etc? This needs clarification.


The nature conservation and heritage agencies (English Nature, the Countryside Council for Wales, English Heritage and Cadw) should have powers to limit access to particularly sensitive sites either permanently or temporarily.

The National Caving Association tries to maintain a positive working relationship with the statutory conservation agencies.  In all cases it is a conservation interest that we hold in common.  Limitation of access to particularly sensitive sites on a temporary basis is supported in both principal and in practice.  However, our basic premise is that progress should always be made toward developing access that is of minimal impact and a sustainable nature.  Again, the term permanent is totally inappropriate in the case of caves and caving. A system of regular review is essential.

Q.16 If there is legislation, should it specify limits in terms of the number of days and/or the amount of open countryside, which may be covered by closures?

Q.16 Every case is different and no limits should be specified.  Each case should be regularly reviewed and decisions made only with the full support of all interested parties.

Q.17 Should such legislation provide for individual occupiers to seek access limitations to protect the wildlife and archaeological interest of their land?  Should this depend on the type of occupiers, for example whether they are wildlife organisations?

Q.17 Yes, providing everything is agreed with the statutory conservation bodies and other interested parties.

Q.18 Should there be a right of appeal against restrictions?

Q.18 Certainly.


Where parts of open country cannot be reached by any legal means, local authorities should consider whether to provide a means of access.

This proposal is fully supported.

Q.19 Are local authorities' powers sufficiently flexible to provide means of access to inaccessible islands where needed?

Q.19 Existing provisions need to be strengthened and simplified. The unique problem of caves and mine workings needs to be acknowledged and identified in order that caves and mines receive due consideration under these proposals.


Freedom should be granted only for access on foot for the purpose of open-air recreation.

This is the most appropriate category that cavers would fall into, in that they 'walk' to a cave or mine.  These walks are often quite long and sometimes involve crossing extensive areas of land.  The problem lies with the expression "open-air recreation".  Taking part in caving activities must be included within the definition of this. It is not relevant that the activity takes place below the surface and hidden from sight.

Q.20 Does the list of restrictions in the 1949 Act need up dating?  If so, how?

Q.20 If the list of restrictions is updated care must be taken to ensure that caving and directly associated activities are excluded.

Q.21 Should local authorities/owners/occupiers be able to limit the number of people allowed access to certain places in order to protect their tranquillity?  How else might tranquil areas be protected?

Q.21 There is a danger in this, particularly in respect of caves and abandoned mines.  In these cases local authorities/owners/ occupiers are not qualified to make this sort of decision and advice from the NCA should be sought.


A member of the public who took part in any of the activities specifically proscribed in legislation should be treated as a trespasser while undertaking the activity and for the rest of the day in respect of the land on which the activity took place.



The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should produce a code of practice for walkers.

The term "walker" is not considered sufficient or appropriate. The NCA has a 'Minimal Impact Caving Code' and a 'Code of Ethics'.  These are comprehensive and have been agreed with English Nature and the Countryside Council for Wales.  The Countryside Commission were invited to have an input when they were under discussion but declined.


Local authorities and the statutory agencies may need to use bylaw-making powers to prohibit inappropriate activities, especially where guidance produced by the countryside agencies has not been followed.

This proposal is of great concern.  If implemented it would have to be only under very strict control and within agreed guidelines.


The Countryside Commission and the Countryside Council for Wales should draw up model bylaws for local authorities.

Only if essential.

Q.22 Are further by-law powers needed?

Q.22 This needs very careful consideration in respect of caves and abandoned mines.


In undertaking work to seek and improve access opportunities, local authorities and others should consider the needs of disabled people so that they do not put unnecessary obstacles in their way.  They should make themselves aware of their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act and take account of the advice in the BT Countryside for All Good Practice Guide.



Greater access to open countryside is for people: it should not automatically mean greater access for their dogs.



The codes of practice for owners and occupiers on closure (proposal 10) and for walkers (proposal 17) should include guidance on the need to control dogs.

No comment.


The owners and occupiers of land should, in general, remain free to develop and use it, subject to the constraints of planning and other legislation.

Agreed in principal however there is a need to be aware of the situation where a landowner may do something specifically to avoid having to allow access.


If a statutory approach is adopted, it would be an offence for the owners or occupiers of land to prevent or obstruct access to open country, including putting up signs to prohibit access, except where covered by authorised closure arrangements.


Q.30 Do any particular means of obstruction or threats need to be specified?

Q.30 Blocking or obliterating cave and mine entrances, and the tilling of open surface depressions needs to be specified.

Q.31 Do any threats or any legitimate management activities require particular controls, for example, occupiers' dogs, bulls, geese, operations such as heatherbuming, pest control?

Q.31 The use of pesticides, dumping of animal carcasses, and any pollutants likely to affect cave or mine systems may well need special controls.


Occupiers of land would continue to be liable to those exercising a right of access to their land as if they were trespassers.

This requirement has been the cause of many failed access agreements in the case of caves and of abandoned mines.  This is particularly the case when the owner is "in the business of providing access".  The Occupiers Liability Act 1984 went some way towards alleviating this situation, but we tend it difficult to fully support such a proposal unless amended.


Local authorities will have an important part to play in managing increased access in their areas and any legislation should provide new powers for them to do so if necessary.


Q.32 Should local authorities have wider powers to provide means of access such as stiles and gates?

Q.32 Yes. Mineshaft capping for access is another example.

Q.33 Should there be a specific power to appoint wardens/rangers in relation to access land?  If so, should the wardens/rangers be given any specific powers, for example, to impose fixed penalties for litter, noise or dog offences? Should such powers be restricted to local authority staff?

Q.33 Agreed.


Any legislation would place clear statutory responsibilities on the countryside, wildlife and heritage agencies in accordance with the outcome of consultation.


Q.34 Do the agencies need any fresh powers, for example, to make bylaws?

Q.34 The agencies probably have sufficient powers at present however in our experience they are often not inclined to exercise them.  The problem is likely to be exacerbated due to the significant increase in workload which will inevitably result.


Owners and occupiers should not be eligible for general compensation for access to their land.



The owners and occupiers of land may be eligible for grants or for payments under access agreements to cover certain costs incurred to enable, improve or limit access to open country.  Payments will continue to be made under existing agreements under other legislation to provide access to open country but new agreements will need to take any legislative proposals into account.  They should not provide for incentive payments for access in the event of it becoming compulsory but they may provide for payments which will enable legislation to bring maximum benefits.  MAFF will take account of the impact of any new legislation in their review of access arrangements in schemes covered by the Agri-Environment Regulation. Welsh Office Agriculture Department will take account of any legislation in the implementation of the new all Wales Agri-Environment Scheme announced last year.

The availability of grants to enable or improve access is reasonable, however to make funds available to limit access could be contradictory and would require very strict control and needs some clarification.  Once again reference to "open country" would appear to exclude caves and abandoned mines and the definition of the expression requires amending to include them.

Q.35 Are there particular costs which should be eligible for grant aid?

Q.35 Capital costs only unless there are special circumstances.

Q.36 What changes might be needed to existing schemes to ensure that they complement a new right of access to best effect?

Q.36 Farming subsidy schemes might be linked to access, particularly in the case of hill farming.


The costs to local authorities will be taken into account in drawing up proposals.  Only those proposals which ensure that the best value is achieved for public money will be taken forward.

Who is to say what is 'best value for money'.  A preferable system would be to operate a criteria based assessment where all schemes meeting the criteria would be eligible for prioritised consideration.  This assessment would look at both qualitative and quantitative factors, and all schemes meeting the criteria would be considered "good value" for public money.


The costs to the statutory countryside, wildlife and heritage agencies will be taken into account in drawing up proposals, to ensure that the best value is achieved for public money.

Same comments as for Proposal 30.


The costs of court action will be taken into account when drawing up proposals to ensure that they represent the best value for money.

Same comments as for Proposal 30.  There is the added danger that value is associated with cheapness, and that the qualitative value may be overlooked in considering any such actions.  It may be possible for the wealthy to buy their way out of the legislation by knowing that any legal costs may not be regarded as justifiable.  Safeguards are necessary to prevent this?


Walkers should not normally be required to pay to enter the land over which access is granted.

As stated before, the term 'walkers' is inappropriate.  This needs to be expanded to include other users including cavers.


Local authorities, other public bodies and the owners and occupiers of land should be able to make reasonable charges for the use of facilities as a contribution towards the cost of those facilities.

This would appear inconsistent with the spirit of the proposed legislation. The facilities given as examples, if imposed on the user groups, would appear to be being charged for twice.  If public funding, and grant aid (as mentioned in earlier proposals) is made available, then it appears that the same public are then being asked to make a second payment for facilities that they may not have required or requested.  The principal of grant aid being available for necessary facilities is not in question.  The matter that needs resolving is the divisive issue of whether only the wealthy should have access to a national heritage which has already had an indirect contribution from the not so wealthy via public funding and involuntary contribution.

Free car parks assist in containing parking and reducing obstructive roadside parking.  From a traffic pollution point of view, it is the traffic jam that is often the problem, rather than the traffic volume.  To charge for such a facility merely results in the traffic parking back on the roadside. Examples of this are abundant in the Peak District since the introduction of paid parking schemes.

The local authorities referred to would probably benefit more from the local spending of the increased and repeat visitor volumes generated by adopting a "no pay" policy.

Q.37 Should legislation specify the types of facility for which charges may be made?

Q.37 Yes, if it is essential to charge

Q.38 Should legislation limit the level of charges in any way?

Q.38 Yes, see comments above

Q.39 Do local authorities and other public bodies have adequate powers to levy such charges to help meet their costs in providing such facilities by agreement with the landowner?

Q.39 Yes

Q.40 Are there any other circumstances in which it should be possible to charge for entry?

Q.40 If, in order to gain access to a cave or mine, it is essential to cross land that does not fall into the categories under discussion; then it may be acceptable for a landowner to charge a small fee.  There are current examples of this.


Together with their statutory advisors (the countryside, wildlife and heritage agencies) the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Welsh Office should make an environmental assessment of the proposals.


Q.41 Are there any other environmental costs and benefits which should be taken into account?

Q.42 Is there any evidence of the values which should be assigned to environmental costs and benefits?

Q.41 & Q.42.  One benefit that inclusion of caves and abandoned mines would have is to ensure that Cave Conservation Plans (a current NCAIEN/CCW initiative) are developed for sensitive sites, and that the plans involve the sustainable development of the sites. Fewer caves would be polluted, or have entrances obliterated.  Unsightly gates on caves would be less prolific. Mine-shaft capping would be undertaken with far more regard for the full environmental impact, particularly on bat populations.

Greater access to caves would encourage discovery and development.  It would make visits less exclusive, but more manageable.  It would make monitoring and impact assessment far easier when assessing or implementing Cave Conservation Plans.

The added values listed relating to health and understanding between town and country are relevant.  The educational value of caves, at present, is only minimally exploited Improved access would allow for educational development in geology, industrial archaeology, biology, hydrology, geomorphology, palaeontology, geography, to name but a few.

The above comments were submitted by the NCA to DETR on 3 June 1998


Words of Little Wisdom

•           A closed mouth gathers no feet.

•           A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.

•           A penny saved is ridiculous.

•           All that glitters has a high refractive index.

•           Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.

•           Anarchy is better than no government at all.

•           Any small object when dropped will hide under a larger object.

•           Be moderate where pleasure is concerned, avoid fatigue.

•           Death is life's way of telling you you've been fired.

•           Death is Nature's way of saying 'slow down'.

•           Don't force it, get a larger hammer.

•           Earn cash in your spare time ... blackmail friends.

•           Entropy isn't what it used to be.

•           Fairy tales: horror stories for children to get them used to reality.

•           Going the speed of light is bad for your age.

•           Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

•           Herblock's Law:  If it's good, they will stop making it.

•           History does not repeat itself, historians merely repeat each other.

•           It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.

•           It works better if you plug it in.

•           It's not hard to meet expenses, they're everywhere.

•           Jury:  Twelve people who determine which client has the better lawyer.

•           Let not the sands of time get in your lunch.

•           Mediocrity thrives on standardisation.

•           Reality is the only obstacle to happiness.

•           The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

•           The 2 most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

•           Everyone has a photographic memory.  Some don't have film.

•           When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.

•           Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

•           He's not dead, he's electroencephalographic ally challenged.

•           You have the right to remain silent.... Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.

•           I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.

•           Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool.

•           A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

21/11/98                     BCRA Regional One-Day Meeting Priddy Village Hall. 9.30am Lectures on Swildons and Cuthbert’s -BCRA

21/11/98                     Diggers Dinner, Wookey Hole - Vince Simmonds

18/11/98 - 28/11/98     A Brush with Darkness - Paintings of Mendip's caves - Wells Museum - ISSA

20/11/98                     MRO lecture – Orthopaedic Trauma Part 1 Hunters Lodge 7:30pm.  All cavers welcome - MRO

26/11/98                     Underground painting techniques /demonstration. Wells Museum 7.30pm - Robin Gray

2/12/98                      Xmas Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/12/98                      BEC Committee Meeting

5/12/98                      CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am -   CSCC

11/12/98                     MRO lecture – Orthopaedic Trauma Part 2 Hunters Lodge 7:30pm.  All cavers welcome -  MRO

12/12/98                     Xmas Bulletin Out - Editor

18/12/98                     Axbridge Stomp, Village Hall - ACG

8/1/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

30/1/99                      BEC Stomp, Live band – Buick 6 Priddy Village Hall 8pm -Roz Bateman

5/2/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/2/99                        CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

5/3/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/3/99 (provisional)      Cave Science Symposium -BCRA

10/3/99                      NCA AGM 10.30am - NCA

10/3/99                      March Bulletin Cut off - Editor

19/3/99                      MRO Annual meeting, Hunters Lodge 8pm - MRO

20/3/99                      March Bulletin Out - Editor

4/4/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/4/99                        April Bulletin Cut off - Editor

9/499                         BEC Committee Meeting

10/4/99                      CCC Ltd. AGM, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CCC

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Out - Editor

2/5/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/5/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

15/599                       CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns day

2/6/99                        June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/6/99                      June Bulletin Out - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

28/7/99                      August Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Bulletin Out - Editor

31/8/99                      Committee reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner