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The Editor and publishers join in wishing all of our readers a very happy Xmas and a good year’s caving in 1954


Redcliffe Caves Survey 1953

By Alfie

Towards the end of 1952 it was decided to approach the Bristol Corporation to see if the Club could obtain permission to survey the caves under Redcliffe Hill.  These caves were cut into the sandstone of Redcliffe Hill several centuries ago and have been used at one time or another for storing almost anything from slaves to old Corporation wheelbarrows.

There were two reasons for undertaking this survey.  One being that a complete survey no longer exists (although the Corporation posses one of the caves lying under their land) and the other to give members of the club an opportunity to uses cave surveying equipment and methods under something approaching caving conditions.

Permission having been granted, various bods presented themselves at the caves on Wednesday 7th January and we all spent about an hour going around in circles and getting lost generally.  Don Coase then organised a competition for reading an astrocompass with a pint of beer as the prize.  Soon after this we adjourned to the pub.

The next four weeks were spent in getting a line survey of the Corporation’s part of the cave.  We hoped to get two teams working, but owing to Coase’s accident, which put him out of action for quite a time this was rarely possible, and during the two months after this, a team started detailing by means of a plane table constructed for the occasion.

By the beginning of May about half of the cave belonging to the Corporation had been plane-tabled and it was decided to stop work during the summer months.  Since then a large new fall in the part not belonging to the Corporation has caused this part to be closed and it will no longer be possible to survey it.  In addition to this, the members who undertook most of the work are now at a stage where actual surveying down a cave amongst more difficult conditions could be undertaken and so it looks as if further work in Redcliffe has lost most of its point.

However, useful results have been obtained.  As a result of the work in Redcliffe, a plane table has been used on a cave survey (Browne’s Hole) and proved surprisingly useful, adaptable and accurate. And plans are under way for the construction of an automatic plane table, which, if it works, will permit one-man surveying to be carried out.

The most useful result of this surveying exercise will be apparent, however, if it leads to members coming forward to assist in any new caves which might require surveying in the near future.  There is a distressing lack of decent cave surveys on Mendip at the moment, and our own Club’s Stoke Lane survey is still unfinished owing to a shortage of bods willing to take part.  Surveying needs lots of patience and is deuced uncomfortable, but a good survey of any new major cave system the club might discover will help to put the B.E.C. literally ‘on the map’.



Book Review

A Pongo Book Review

Caves of Adventure

By Haroun Tazieff

(Hamish Hamilton, 18/6)

I think everyone will remember the accounts in the papers last summer of the accident in the Grotte Pierre St. Martin in which Marcel Loubers was killed.  This book is written by one of the members of the party who was in the cave when the accident happened.

The cave is the deepest in the world, and may well be imagined from the fact that the entrance shaft is just 1,000 feet, in which there is one small sloping shelf about 250 feet down.  That is quite a start for a cave, but it then proceeds to blossom out into a series of three vast caverns.  The end of these has not been reached, but when the party had to start back they were about a mile from the bottom of the shaft and still going strong.

The accident was due to the failure of the bottom clamps on the winch cable, and Loubens fell about 30 feet.  With a great deal of effort they managed to get the doctor down the shaft but the winch then packed up and 24 hours were needed for repairs.  Lobens died just as they were ready to start hauling him up and he is buried in the cave.  While the winch was being repaired the shaft was laddered to a depth of 800 feet – which was no mean achievement in itself.

As a final episode the winch broke down again with Tazieff about 250 up from the bottom and he hung there for 4½ hours under a young waterfall.

Tazieff was the photographer of the expedition, so there are a number of good pictures illustrating the book.

Please don’t get killed in the rush when Ifold announces that he’s bought it.


Britain Underground

(Dalesman Pub. Co. 7/6)

The successor to Pennine Underground, the scope has been widened to include Somerset, Devon, South and North Wales, Derbyshire and Scotland.  Some of the smaller Yorkshire caves have had to be left out to make room but none of these are important.

The inclusion of a National Grid Reference is very good as the descriptions of how to find the caves were sometimes rather lacking and the stiff cover of the new version should make for durability.



I am looking forward to Pongo’s review of ‘British Caving’ by ‘members of the Cave Research Group’ at 35/- which has been seen recently in a local shop.  The dust-cover carries a picture of Queen Victoria in Stoke Lane.



Photographic Competition

Owing to the lack of interest shown in the Photographic Competition, the closing date has been altered to Jan. 15th. 1954.  Judging by the number of entries to date, it would seem that members with cameras keep them in a glass case and are afraid to take them out in case it is found that they can’t take a good picture with them, despite all that is heard to the contrary.



One Rope Ladder on the edge of Dolphin Pot, Eastwater.  Said ladder standard type, wooden rungs rope sides two lowest rungs close together. The owner can have same by descending Eastwater and bring it up.  My party was much too involved with their own gear to manage it.  Incidentally, ladders left on the edge of drops tend to tempt inexperienced parties to do foolish things, the average ‘amateur’ party having sufficient rope to use as tether.  That crowds of bods can be visualised on rotten ladders without lifelines. A ladder left as this one was is very likely to cause a call out of the M.R.O.



The editor would like to thank all those members whose hard work has made this double number of the BB possible.


Overheard in the Hunters on cold, wet, November evening: -

Hidden enquired, “Where are Tom Fletcher and Fay?”

Dennis Kemp, “Cooking their supper in their tent”.

Chorus of raucous laughter.

Sybil B-L, “Aren’t they awful?”

Dennis Kemp. “I know, but it’s fun when you’re young”.



A report, is a loud noise, e.g. a rifle shot!!

A report is ALSO what we don’t get from cavers.  I am told that a climbing report of 15 words, or thereabouts has been recently received. Good show, lets have plenty more.



The Fish Of Fynnon Ddu

By Tony J.

Being an account of a fishing trip to the ninth chamber of O.F.D.

Owing to the surrounding waters, the inveterate anglers involved were perforce waterborne in a vessel that continually reproduced the motions associated with the average Channel crossing.  Their quarry was the British Standard Fish, Mark 4 (ace cunning drawing by the Fishmongers Guild).

B.B. Fish Mark 4 (subterranean fish)

As a compromise ‘twixt caver and fisher the party were nattily attired in sea boots and jerseys topped off with a

Being B.E.C. types, the idea of chucking their bomb, lure or what have you was too much fatiguing………………so the whole shower rested in ‘quiet meditation’ to await the fish’s pleasure.

Presently they surprisingly found some fish more dim-witted than themselves, and after dragging….

 ….the lure smartly away a number of times  

…. To antagonise the brutes….

….a smart jerk ensured the certain and correct ensnaring of ditto.

Note: A jerk that is too smart will only pull its head off.

As the captive was hardly large or powerful enough to upset the boat, it was left to its own devices while a Belfrian argument on the relative merits of lending net and gaff (see further most expensive drgs.) continued for its normal futile span after which the fish by now thoroughly bored with the proceedings, was hauled in by hand. 


To celebrate this epic feat in true B.E.C. style the party adjourned at once if not sooner for refreshment and good cheer.  This took the form of either many noggins at the bar ……

                                                                           …..or a crafty Guinness in the kitchen depending on day and/or temperament.

Important Footnote:

    Irate water-bailiffs are almost non-existent in the average cave.



The B.E.C. Thrutching Song.

with apologies to The Eton Boating Song.

Submitted by Tony Johnson.

Ed’s. Note.        Tony has been collecting ‘Club’ songs for some time, and in response to my suggestion of several months back, sent in a number for publication.

Squeezed in like sardines together,
Motoring up to North Wales
We’re sure to have horrible weather,
With cloudbursts and blizzards and gales.

Chorus: -
So we’ll all thrutch together
With never a pause or a stop,
So we’ll all thrutch together
And hope we get to the top.

Early next morn we awaken,
At the crack of a watery dawn;
We all feel consistently shaken
We scratch in our fug-bags and yawn.


We crawl out of bed feeling groggy
With mouths like a lavatory drain.
The breakfast is sordid and soggy,
We stagger out into the rain.


Squelching though bogs and the marshes
Pounding up thrutch-worthy scree.
Suffering from fallen arches,
Footrot and housemaids’ knee.


Then up to the climbing we go thrutching,
Over the tottering blocks,
Scrabbling and frantically clutching,
Bombarded by falling rocks.


The rock is slimy and dripping,
We garden in grassy grooves.
Skating and sliding and slipping
Dicing on dangerous moves.


Hanging out over the scree slopes,
Dangling on rotten rock,
Screaming out for top-ropes
Sweating with fear and with shock.


And that’s how we thrutch up together,
With never a pause or a stop.
We thrutch up regardless of weather
And eventually get to the top.



Why go to Iceland

By Thomas E Fletcher.

I am delighted to print the following article and would welcome more of a similar nature.  Ed.

I was invited to join a party of there Cambridge undergraduates going to Iceland this summer.  The aim of the expedition was primarily scientific – studying aquatic insects and making a botanical collection in the northern part of the island bordering on the central desert, for which we gratefully received a grant from the University.  However each member was keen to explore and learn about the country as much as possible and a great deal of time was devoted to this end.  We spent some four and a half weeks there and really got to know the limited area around Lake Myvatn and around Askja, Europe’s largest volcano, some fifty miles to the south.

Everyone knows Iceland is a volcanic island, but did you know it still has active volcanoes – Hekla last erupting in 1947-48?  Volcanic country has to be seen to be believed.  It is a land off great contrast – a land of barren lava deserts and lush green valleys, a land of majestic snow and ice capped mountains and gushing hot springs, a land of magnificent waterfalls and of shimmering calm lakes, and to crown it all, a land of 24 hours daylight in midsummer.  We spent three of our weeks around Myvatn with our base camp in the crater of a small ash volcano.  Myvatnssveit, as the area is called, contains practically every sample of volcanic action, cinder cones 50 feet high and no larger that half an acre in extent to great volcanoes long since eroded into mountains 3,000 ft. high.  Spouts of steam some 50 feet high with boiling and mud pools nearby were not far away over the ridge of a red burnt-out looking mountain with great patches of sulphur occurring on its slopes.  Great lava fields extend to the south west, sometimes with smooth expanse like boiler plates called stratified lava, and sometimes with block lava the other extreme, where it is twisted into all sorts of weird shapes like rock seracs, and impedes progress so that 2 miles an hour is extremely good going.  Often great rock crevasses occur anything up to 30 yards across and 100 feet deep though generally not so spectacular.  Lake Myvatn is quite shallow and has many attractive islets and abounds in trout and ducks.  It is the breeding ground of tens of thousands of wild duck of probably some 20 or more species of which some are North American, and attracts such people as Ludwig Koch and Peter Scott, and is in fact an ornithologist’s paradise.

We took all our food with us and lived on Arctic regions pemmican, porridge oats, margarine, sugar, biscuits, chocolate, etc., to the extent of 1½ lbs. each per day.  This was essential when we went to Askja 50 miles away across uninhabited and often waterless desert.  We were interested in the fauna of the crater lake to see if life had started again since the last eruption in 1922.  We found the water still sulphurous and without insect life. The crater lake is 9sq. miles in extent surrounded in part by 150 foot basalt cliffs and is in places over 1,500 feet deep.  The crater itself is 25sq. miles in extent and is surrounded by mountains and is extremely seldom visited.

In a country practically devoid of sedimentary rocks there are of course no caves of the limestone variety.  However, I spent some few hours caving in the lava.  When there has been a vast outpouring of lava it slowly cools and crusts over and then sometimes the reservoir is broken and the lava starts to flow out leaving an air space up to 3 feet beneath the crust.  Solidification of the newly formed surface starts anew and the process sometimes repeats.  Where the crust is too thin it collapses and then one finds the entry to a magnificent system with several floors.  Around Myvatn there are several acres of such formations and partly filled with water – an ideal place for a speleaologist searching for aquatic insects.

However there are other good reasons for going to Iceland. A delightful 2½ day sea voyage of over 1,000 miles each way for £17 return accompanied by some of the finest food I have ever eaten.  What an advantage it is to have a rest period on board after all the mad rush of finishing off work, organising and packing before the vigorous weeks ahead. Similarly on the return, a rest before the everyday routine starts again is ideal.  The mountains are good from the snow mountaineering aspect, but being made up of layers of basaltic lava, they are very rotten and are not suitable for rock climbing.  I shall go back again sometime taking a vehicle like a Land Rover for the extremely rough roads, and spend some time in the mountains around Akureyil, crossing one of the smaller ice-caps such as Myradalsjokull in the south or Hofsjokull in the centre, and climbing their most beautiful mountain Herdubreid as well as looking at the magnificent fjords of the east coast.

So instead ‘Why go to Iceland?’  I say, ‘Why not go to Iceland yourselves and experience the contrasts of scenery, enjoy weather as hot as Northern Italy with magnificent sunsets and surprises rolled into one and meet some of the most kind and hospitable people in the world?’

Thomas Fletcher.


Song: The Mountaineer’s Duet

Submitted by Tony Johnson.

We’re mountaineers most Disingenuous,
And of ourselves we take great care;
We never climb up mountains strenuous,
When danger looms we’re never there.

But if we see some moderate mountain,
Not too severe, nor yet too far,
We’ll do it in, We’ll do it in,
To show that mountaineers we are.
We’ll do it in, We’ll do it in,
To show that mountaineers we are

We often boast of peaks ascended,
We never mention when we fall,
Our invitation is extended
To all who follow in our trail.

But if some very clever person
Should ever try to call our bluff
We’ll do him in, We’ll do him in,
To show that mountaineers are tough.
We’ll do him in, We’ll do him in,
To show that mountaineers are tough.

We place great emphasis on nutriment,
Our feeble frames we need to feed.
The guide to carry our accoutrement
Must hence proceed at moderate speed.

But when to Ogwen we’re returning
And there are ham and eggs for tea
We’ll do them in, We’ll do them in,
To show that mountaineers are we.
We’ll do them in, We’ll do them in,
To show that mountaineers are we.



The following X-word puzzle has been ‘compiled’ by a bod who hides his glory under the descriptive nom-de-plume ‘Coprolie’.  No prizes are offered and the solution will be published next month.




1. Agen Silaceous Communist (3,3,9)

7. Pops off and on the stage (5,4,6)

10. A short Welshman (2)

11. If you take this you may get a sentence but you won’t get the cake. (7)

14. Superlative of 5, down (7)

15. A pea was a Darwinian subject (3)

16. Jumps to get a cake in a ship (6)

17. Pipes are made from this (5)

19. Traditionally slippery (2)

20. There is one at Glastonbury & several on Dartmoor (3)

22. Logical outcome of getting older (5)

23. 20 across and swim backwards cause one to become inactive (6)

25. This organisation runs Monmouth Hall (3)

26. The ‘Hunters’ engine does this (7)

28. The supply of this was largely frozen during the war, but has recently become more plentiful (7)

29. Pronoun (2)

31. This is not a replacement for a pit-prop, but it does hold up the arch (7,8)

32. A particularly potent liqueur distilled near the ‘Dent de Crolles’ (5,10)


1. Nota missionary work in India.  It’s more like mining (8,7)

2. This cave is not in the Timor Sea; it’s really quite near the Belfry (9,6)

3. Where to find the Hut Warden when tea is served in the morning (4)

4. Lifers are usually this (4,2,9)

5. Caving is virtually banned to these people (5)

6. Say edit shore ore, Sago’s quest after he cracked his elbow (4,2,4,5)

8. Put you 11 across not here (7)

9. Reputedly give a reliable light for caving (4)

12. A vaulted access (4)

13. If there had not been a badly written this would have been the (2)

18. Egoistical boast of the Devil?  No, just his mark (7)

21. Toot a German (4)

24. The Thames (4)

25. In France this may be a squatty or a potty (2)

27. This gets you nowhere caving (5)

30. Calcium carbonate re-deposited in an unsaturated atmosphere (4)


Speleological Research Laboratories Reports

It is intended that reports shall be written from time to time by any club members to publicise any technical information concerned with caving, climbing, etc., for the benefit of all. Each report will deal with a single specific subject, item of equipment or technique and should included details of the evolution and development of the project, together with snags and pitfalls to be avoided; it should also include any lines of approach which have led to no successful conclusion. A report may also take the form of a critical survey of present items, with suggestions for their improvement.

Naturally some of these reports will be of a highly technical nature backed by scientific tests, whist others will more of a service of recommendations and suggestions; this will largely depend on the experimental and testing facilities available to the person involved.  All technical arguments involved should be presented in full, but in a manner that it can be understood by any intelligent person.  To this end it is suggested that authors should get a second person unconnected with their particular interest to read the proof.  (This applies especially to the Boffin types).

A permanent record of these reports will be kept, and the reports of abstracts from then will appear at intervals in the Belfry Bulletin.  It is also hoped that reports of a general interest will be offered for outside publication in the Cave Research Group’s Proceedings or even in publication of our own if the responses is sufficient.  Before any step towards external publication is made, the author’s permission will be sought in every case.

The permanent record will be kept by the undersigned and all contributions should be forwarded to the address given below, where copies of the reports will be passed to the Hon. Editor as required.  It is hoped that in the future all equipment used by the club will be backed by reports on its design, use and serviceability for reference.

Any members requiring information are cordially invited to write in as very probably the information they require is available in some quarter.

A,C, Johnson
46, The Crescent

The following reports are in preparation: -

‘C’ ladder shackles; Fixing of Ladder Rungs; Assembly of Wire Ladders; Tethering; Speleobathometers; Flashbombs; Nife Batteries; Etc.;  What can you add to these.



Focus on  - - -  The New Club Stretchers

By Ken Dobbs

It was decided at a committee meeting held a couple of years back that a stretcher should be included in the club tackle.  This stretcher would have to be suitable for cave rescue of Mendip.  Many existing types were discussed at length, but none of the known types seem to fill our requirements, if it was strong enough, it was too rigid, and rigid stretchers don’t go round corners easily; and so on & so forth; committee meeting followed committee meeting, and the question was discussed, chewed over, deferred till the next meeting, as only a B.E.C. Committee can, until it became obvious we should have to produce something ourselves if we were to incorporate something of all our ideas.

Firstly we approached Joseph Bryant & Co. with the idea that we could get our plans transferred to something practical, but although they were most helpful the initial cost was much higher than we had expected so there’re was nothing else for it – if we wanted a stretcher we should have to produce it ourselves.  There followed further months of discussion regarding materials etc.  Finally a length of canvas was produced and the sewing started; altogether there was about 50 hours of it – on the face of it perhaps it doesn’t sound much, buy anyone who has tried sewing canvas to rope and leather by hand will know that there’s more to it than that.

Then yet another hold up occurred.  It became obvious as the stretcher neared completion that lifting up drop of perhaps 70 feet would not altogether be safe if the lift was to be taken on the side handling ropes.  The only way round this snag was to take a direct lift from the occupant of the stretcher, and undoubtedly this would be best accomplished with a parachute harness. As the main users of such harnesses, the R.A.F. were contacted, and were helpful in putting us in contact with a firm dealing in such contrivances.  After more delay the long awaited harness arrived and was duly fitted.

Half way through August the first tests were carried out at Redcliffe Community Centre.  These were for handling only and went quite well. The following Sunday further tests were carried out on Mendip and handling tests were successfully on rough ground near the Belfry.  As the earlier test had been o.k. it was decided to press straight on with underground tests in Bog Hole.  Bog was chosen because of its convenience and also because it supplies the worst possible rescue condition i.e. a tight cave with and extremely low roof.  The only person to be mentioned in connection with these tests is Pat Ifold who volunteered to be the guinea-pig for our first underground tests, a most unpleasant job.  To move the stretcher and its ‘tenant’ 36 feet took 45 minutes and a team of 4 were just the flakers in that time.  Unfortunately during these tests the canvas showed signs of giving around the handholds, and would certainly not stand prolonged use.  Apart from the weakness of the canvas the design had been a success and a good deal has been learned about the underground handling already.  The damage to the canvas was such that the stretcher would require complete rebuilding and this was more than anyone was prepared to take on, Joseph Bryant’s were again contacted and thee experimental work being already done a lower figure than the original one was quoted and accepted.

The stretcher is now complete and it is to be kept at the Belfry.  It is hoped that it will never have to be used.


1954 Committee

Have YOU sent off your committee Nomination Form yet?  The final date for the return of these forms is December 1st.  If you have mislaid your form a further one may be obtained from Ken Dobbs at 55, Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4.

Additions to Club Library.

N.S.S. Newsletters        No.7 (July) & No. 8 (Aug).

C.R.G. Ditto                  No. 44 May & June.

B.C.C.C. Ditto               No.7 July & Aug.



To Ron and Jean Newman (Nee Treble) a second daughter, on Sept. 10th.

Ed’s Note

The B.B. ‘personal’ column seems to have gone awry as I can find no reference to the ‘First’.  Jerry, Ron and Jean.

Ron Newman and Miss Treble were married on 11th April, 1951, and their first daughter was born on 14th. May 1952.


On two occasions recently, I have found and immediately removed inscriptions which have apparently been written by members of the Club on cave walls.  Such inscriptions as ‘Joe Muggins, B.E.C. Sept, 1953’ are not exactly a creditable advertisement for the individual concerned, or more important, the reputation of the Club as a whole.



Reports that Pat Brazier has evolved a method of carrying climbing equipment when underground must be denied.  The objects seen dangling beneath her helmet when emerging from Swildons Hole recently were not Karabiners, but, in fact, the latest fashion in ladies ear rings!!


?????????????? Lost.

Lost – one cave.  Will finder please return to D.A.C.


Belfry Notice

It was decided at the last committee meeting that the Double Charge system at the Belfry was very successful, but that in future it would be the responsibility of the member to obtain his job from the Hut Warden.  A notice to this effect will be posted in the Belfry.

Anti-Accident Campaign

I learn that Sett has learned a new method of Car Avoidance since driving in .  The idea is that if you can lean the bike over enough, you can push it back upright with your shoulder.  He gave a very convincing demonstration at the top of Cheddar one Sunday recently.


Caving Report.

On Sat. 26th. Sept. a small party did an ‘Oldmans’ Swildons.  The party consisted of three members of Holy Cross Youth Club and was led by your Ed.  A fairish drop of water was going down, and after an easy canter down the Long Dry, quite a bit of fun was had in the wet, foam and noise of the Wet Way on return journey.  It was notice with dismay that the formations at ‘bod’ level seem to have a thicker coating of dirt than usual, but we were glad to note the exhortation in the Old Grotto and approved heartily of it.  Other points of interest were the blockage of the water-rift with foam and the fact that the volume of water down the water chute had excavated a ‘pot’ in the downstream approach passage that very much facilitated our passage.


Ed’s Note

I very much regret that I had to put an account of my trip as the first bit of local caving since I have re-taken over the editorship.  I was prompted to do so for two reasons.  Firstly, to show the diffident ones that a very ordinary and elementary trip is worth reporting and to show them how it looks in print, and secondly to prove to those consistent scoffers who regard the Club as 100 p.c. armchair that once in a while someone does go underground.



Where, oh where are those articles for the Xmas Issue?

Letters To The Editor


Dear Harry

It is not without much regret that I find it necessary to terminate my association with the B.E.C.  My work has taken me abroad, and for several years it looks as though I shall be wandering about a bit.

I have found it necessary to retract as many of my connections with home as possible until I can get settled down once more with a permanent address.

Incidentally this last Easter was the first time I had missed Mendip since I first met your Somersetshire folk, and, believe me, I really did miss it.

However, I got myself married not long ago, and that explains a lot of things!

My work is chiefly to do with starting up D.D.T. factories, and although my base is Geneva at the moment, I just got back last week from Jugo-Slavia, and tomorrow I and off to Delhi.  So far, all above the earth!!---------------

---------------- It is difficult for me to say ‘Good-Bye’, so let it be ‘au revoir’, and many thanks for all your past troubles and efforts on my behalf.,

With best wishes
            Tony Bamber.


Good luck, Tony.  May you return to our fold one day.  Ed.


Hope Bay
Graham Land

Dear Mr. Stanbury.

It seem ages ago since I last met you or even wrote to you.  However, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the B.E.C. for all the help that they have given me in the past.  Although I have not been a member officially, you have always given me that help when requested.  I would therefore be most grateful if you would convey my regards to the members.  Also I feel that you may be interested in what I am doing out here.

At present I and engaged with a research expedition to the Antarctic by the Colonial Office, working mainly on Biological and Geological research.  This work entails much sledging, using huskie dogs teams wherever we go.  So far I have travelled just over six hundred miles, part of this along the Weddell coast.  No doubt you heard about our encounter with the Argentines on the radio, therefore I shall not give a repetition.  All being well I shall be returning soon -----

Yours sincerely,

Max Unwin.

I hope that we can persuade Max to write an account of his travels for us, as such a unique opportunity may never occur again.  Ed.


In the Club Library there are two volumes of Lyell’s principles of Geology; I find then very useful, chiefly for propping up other library books etc.  It may interest members to know that Charles Darwin on his famous voyage in the ‘Beagle’ in 1831 took Vol. 1 of the work to read in his spare time.  (Not our copy I fear).  Lyell’s theories greatly interested Darwin and started him off on the train of thought which was later to cause such controversy when he first published ‘The Origin of Species’.

John Ifold

Welsh Rarebit.

Have you ever wondered what some of these tongue-twisting Welsh names mean?  Did you, example, know that Ogof Fynnon Ddu means ‘The Cave of the Black Spring’?  I propose to list a few of the more common Welsh words so that cavers will know the worst sooner.

Aber              -    mouth of a river.
Ach               -    water
Afon               -    river
Aran              -    high place
Bach (fach)     -    small, little
Bala               -    resurgence or outlet
Bryn (fryn)      -    small hill
Cader             -    stronghold
Caer              -    fort
Can               -    bent,  crooked
Clogwyn         -    precipice
Cors              -    bog
Craig              -    rock
Cwm              -    valley
Dan               -    under,  beneath,  below
Dinas             -    castle
Ddu               -    black
Dwfr               -    water
Dyffryn           -    vale,  valley
Ffordd            -    road
Ffryd              -    stream
Ffyn               -    torrent
Ffynnon          -    spring,  rising
Gwy               -    water
Gogof             -    cave,  cavern
Llwyd             -    grey
Llyn               -    lake
Ma                 -    place
Mawr             -    large, big, great
Min                -    side, edge
Moel              -    hill
Mynydd          -    mountain
Nant              -    brook,  stream
Ogof              -    cave
Plas               -    place
Pont              -    bridge
Pwll               -    pool
Pistyll            -    waterfall
Sych              -    dry
Tan                -    under,  below
Uch               -    highest
Uchel             -    high
Wrthy            -    near,  close
Y                   -    the
Yr                  -    the



Hon. Gen. Sec. R.J. Bagshaw, 56, Ponsford Road, Bristol. 4

Hon. Assist. Sec.  K.C. Dobbs, 55, Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4.

Hon. Editor  T.H. Stanbury, 48, Novers Park Road, Bristol. 4.

This Caving

By Oldtimer

A few years ago, in the early thirties and before, the term ‘Caver’, ‘Potholer’, ‘Speleologist’ or ‘Spelunker’ meant little of nothing to the man in the street. Today the vast majority of the public are familiar with certain types of cave and have formed ideas about the persons who explore them.

The picture that they mentally form is a composite one; a mixture of memories of visits to ‘show’ caves, and the photographs that from time to time appear in the popular press. Usually no existing cave remotely resembles their brain child, and the same probably applies to the type of people whom they imagine spend their life in ‘Cavernous’ exploration.

The spate of accidents earlier in the year about which so much was written by journalists, complete with little sketches, has enabled the public to imagine either (a) parties of boys from youth organisations crawling through holes unfit for rabbits, or (b) highly organised parties of supermen equipped with every device known to science, descending tremendous gulfs down which waterfalls thunder and rocks fall. In both cases the efforts seemed to be ‘useless’ in so far that Mr. & Mrs, Public could derive no benefit from them, and that lives were being lost and people worried for no good reason whatsoever.

This picture, although ‘attractive’ from the point of view of the sensationalist, is so far from the truth that cavers are often unable to recognise incidents in which they themselves had taken part when hearing or reading of the incident at a later date.

Accidents do happen, as we all realise, even in an organisation that takes every precaution against them, but there are thousands of cavers, potholers, speleos, call them what you will, who have enjoyed their sport for many years in safety by using common sense whilst underground.

Well, what IS it like then? It’s dark; wet; cold; often muddy; sometimes smelly; some chambers are large, some are small; there are sharp rocks that tear clothes and flesh; one dangles in space from ropes and ladders, gets burnt by carbide lamps and usually regains the surface feeling a wreck both physically and mentally and vowing never to go underground again, only to repeat the process the following weekend. It is just this unpleasant list plus a number of other factors that accounts for the enormous increase in popularity of the sport in recent years. It is ADVENTURE! That love of the unknown that today has so little outlet and which finds satisfaction in the depths of the earth. There is a comradeship amongst cavers that is rarely met elsewhere; to a great extent you ‘depend on your friends’ and they depend on you. There is sometimes the thrill of a new discovery – the opening of a new passage in which ‘the hand of man has never set foot’ – of knowing that your footprints are the first ever to be impressed on that mud bank and that your eyes were the first ever to see this particular passage! The physicall effort, too, gives satisfaction, and there is a great feeling of contentment, when, after a strenuous day underground, one is able to relax in a friendly pub or café.

Oh, yes, there is danger; that of falling rocks in 1ong-opened caves is inconsiderable unless the place is obviously unsafe, and then of course the place should either be avoided or great care taken; the danger of a rope or ladder breaking can be minimised by testing each article before a descent; adequate lighting arrangements should be taken by all those who venture underground.

Danger arises from simple things – the exhaustion which creeps upon one unawares, when one’s limbs and brain rebel against common sense and one just wants to sit down and stay there; from the simple slip or mis-step that sprains or fractures and ankles; from weather conditions that can change a dry passage into a raging torrent, and from the very small percentage of impossible people who ‘couldn’t care less’ underground, and cause trouble to all who come in contact with them. Not withstanding all theses factors, caving is still no more dangerous than the vast majority of other sports providing adequate care is taken, and it would be interesting to check on the number of accidents amongst members of caving clubs as opposed to those amongst free-lances, always remembering that a large number of those interested are members of one or more of the various caving organisations.

So far I have dealt solely with the sport of caving. The science of Speleology attracts large numbers to the nether regions each year – biologists; botanists; archaeologists; palaeontologists; geologists; ethnologists; all can reap a rich harvest, discoveries of scientific nature are constantly being made.

‘So what?’ say Mr. & Mrs. Public, ‘That’s all very interesting, but how does it affect us? We haven’t any scientific friends or anyone sporting who would be interested’. Well, I can’t recite rows of startling inventions that have had their beginnings underground, but I can say that a study of caves has helped in the clearing up of many problems of water pollution and distribution and has greatly increased our knowledge of both geological and anthropological history. In the sporting side it can be said that clubs are doing a grand work with the younger generation by developing self-reliance, leadership and comradeship, and this alone should justify caving in the eyes of the general public, because it is the youth of today on whom depends our safety tomorrow.


Report on a Week in the Lakes

By Sett, Chief of the S.I.G.H.T.S.
(Scientific Investigation Group, Highly Technical Subjects)

The object of the trip was to discover whether bar-room mountaineering was rife as had been led to believe, and the places and methods utilised in this pastime.


1. Preliminaries

Friends and relations were informed months in advance that a week’s holiday was to be spent climbing in the Lakes. This serves the dual purpose of allaying the fears of fond parents that their eldest sons are off on another glorious booze-up and in addition frightens off any drinking types who may think of coming along. In the unlikely event of a real climbing type wishing to join the party, it is only necessary to tell him the true purpose of the trip to frighten him away.

2. Visit every hostelry which is in, or near, a climbing area and observe the clothing and habits of the inhabitants.


Climbing clothing and boots together with ropes and ice axes are carried to complete the bluff outlined in para. 1, but at least one pannier, or equivalent space, should be stuffed with assorted bottles of wine, spirits and liqueurs, with a Christmas cake or two thrown in. The quality of the climbing equipment is irrelevant since it is only to be used for show. The quality of the drink and food is highly important since it has to form the staple diet of the party for a whole week and will only be supplemented by numerous pints of the local brew and an odd Youth Hostel meal thrown in for good measure.


Sett and Jack set out from the Belfry one and a half hours late but in spite of ice on Mendip and fog in the Midlands managed to arrive at Pongo’s only three quarters of an hour late. Here they were treated to a sumptuous meal, their last in civilisation for a week. They departed thence accompanied by Pongo on his brother’s 2509 Triumph, registration lettering BUN, and arrived at the Coniston Youth Hostel half an hour before dinner was due. After dinner the party adjourned to the BLACK BULL to start the investigation; results negative (no climbers).

The following morning the day’s provisions were carefully packed. These consisted of two bottles of Sauterne, one pound of Christmas cake and an assortment of sweets and dates. The party were joined by a photographic type and walked via the Copper Mines Prison Band and Brim Fell to the top of The Old Man of Consiton, whence having consumed all the drink and food they walked round to the top of Dow Crag and back to Coniston. After supper at the Hostel the investigation continued at The Black Bull. Two climbing types were discovered drinking, results encouraging.

The next day the party motored back to Ambleside and having garaged the bikes set out to climb Rydall Fell; however just above Nab Scar the cloud came down and so did the climbers. A visit to the Salutation in Ambleside left us just enough time between closing time, three pm. and Hostel opening time four-thirty pm., to visit Stockhill Force. The Royal Oak was very quiet that evening, the party having previously had a good dinner in Tony’s Café, Windermere.

Next morning we were told that a local weather adage is ‘When you can see Rydal fell it is going to rain; when you can’t see it is raining’. We couldn’t! Having seen Pongo off the remainder of the party set out for Kirkstone Inn. This, we discovered, sells only bottled beer at fancy prices; however, it is open all day to travellers. The weather cleared up somewhat during the afternoon and a return trip via Coniston Beck and Scardale afforded some marvellous views. The day’s provisions were consumed whilst waiting for the Coniston bus. On the bus it was noticed the driver is confronted with a large notice stating’ This bus is eight feet wide and thirty feet long’. Other refinements noted were a pair of power operated doors, a very smooth gear change and the engine at the rear. After dinner at the Hostel and a few noggins at the Black Bull, where two more climbers were seen, we sat up until midnight to see the New Year in and had tea in the Warden’s sitting room.

We arose next morning to another rainy day, so we decided on a bus to Ambleside and a walk to Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. After a six mile walk we called in at the new hotel, Dungeon Ghyll to find the bar empty. This was a highly polished affair with several hundred varieties if liqueurs and a few bottles of beer, so after a Youngers No.3 apiece we pulled out the map and spotted another hotel about half a mile further up the road. Upon entering the Dungeon Ghyll old hotel we nearly fell over several ruc-sacs. There were three or four parties of climbers drinking decent beer, a blue football shirt was wrapped around a chimney of a slow combustion stove and one of the lads was cursing the barman roundly for being tardy with his beer. This looked more like it so we called up two pints and took a couple of seats on an upturned empty beer and cider barrels. During the conversation we learned that this was, as we already suspected THE Dungeon Ghyll; it apparently knows no closing time (opinions differed as to whether this was official or a matter of distance from civilisation) and serves beer, tea or coffee indiscriminately at quite reasonable prices to all who require them. This was borne out by several parties who strolled in whilst we were there. One of a pair of girls who referred to each other as Hag, complained of a head and when asked, said that at four am she had been standing on a table in the middle of the bar with her arms round the president of the Rock and Fell Club singing ‘I wish I was a fascinating bitch’, whilst the president’s wife looked on disapprovingly. When we left at three forty-five pm the bar showed no signs of closing, but unfortunately we had to catch the bus. Later that night, in the Royal Oak, we met one of the parties from the D.G. who had caught the 4.45 bus, and they said that officially they had been up Bow Fell. Later still in the Hostel we attempted to start a conversation with a party of six from the Bristol Explorers’ Club. However they would not be drawn. One of them caused much amusement by a remark that, when he put his foot on a slab it came off! When they had gone to bed a nasty crack about theoretical climbers started a most enlightening discussion about ropes, nails and vibrams and methods of belaying and tying knots. And so to bed; a very satisfying day.

The next day dawned bright so we caught the bus to Dunmail Rise and walked to the top of Dollywagon Pike. The going was very heavy, most of the way there was six inches of soft snow with a crust that would not quite take one’s weight; however we were rewarded with some marvellous views of most of the Lakeland mountains and the sea both to the North and South. Several other parties of walkers were seen, this being the only occasion during the week. We returned to the road just in time for the bus and so back to Ambleside to pack and make ready for the morrow.

The return journey was uneventful, cold and dry. We arrived in Bristol at 4.30pm. having left Ambleside at 9.30am.


Bar-room mountaineering is far more widespread and practised more often than bar-room caving although it is possible that the investigators have an opinion biased by their method of survey.


Full National Grid Reference of Dungeon Ghyll Old Inn is 35/286061.


Sauterne and Christmas cake are far more efficient than Bass and Baked Beans.


A Nomination form for the 1954 committee will be enclosed with the October BB. It is in your own interest to nominate those members whom you feel will further your interests in the Club.



T.H. Stanbury, Hon. Ed. 48, Novers Park Road, Bristol. 4.


It was resolved at the last Committee meeting that in future if the Club or Club members taking part in a recording the undertaking must first be obtained that the following will be broadcast: - ‘Guides and tackle were provided by the Bristol Exploration Club’.  This is not done to obtain cheap advertisement.  In the past, members have worked hard to make broadcasts by amateurs underground, but on hearing the broadcast it appears that practically anyone can delve into Mendip’s underground with impunity and without help.

Belfry Notice

In an attempt to overcome a certain laziness that has been showing itself lately, it has been decided to start a double scale of charges at the Belfry; for those who visit it to use the establishment as His Lordship would i.e. a Hotel, the charge is 2/- per night.  For those who are prepared to help in keeping the Belfry and site clean etc. the charge is 1/-.  Further details from the Hut Warden.  REMINDER, THE HUT WARDEN’S WORD IS LAW.


To Gordon and Jean Fenn.  Another boy, apprx. Weight 8lbs.

Kay Liz. September 7th. One hour before closing time was born the aforementioned.  6lbs 4 ozs.  To our esteemed Hon. Sec. and the Dark Horse.  (To whit)  Coral.

1954 Committee

With this issue of the BB comes the nomination form for the 1954 Committee.  This form must be returned to K.C. Dobbs, Asst. Hon. Sec. at 65, Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4. by 1st December 1953.

Belfry News

After a long period of delay, the extension to the new Belfry is now a fact.  The structure was put up just before the Bank Holiday.  Many of the old stalwarts were on parade again as usual but there were a few – too few – welcome new faces to be seen.  Typical Belfry weather – drizzle – greeted the builders, but in the evening the sun came out and they were able to make the place waterproof.

The extension is used to enlarge the girl’s room and the kitchen.  Partitions are now in place and the girl’s room has been floored and lined.  Much remains to be done however; a concrete kitchen floor has to be made and all the fittings have to be built, so roll up, there is plenty for all to do.  Although only six feet have been added to the length of the hut, the general opinion is that the size has been vastly increased, so mind you don’t get lost looking for the door when you return from the Hunters.

Tony Johnson

Additions to Club Library.

C.R.G. publication No. 5; A key plan of Gaping Ghyll.

W.C.C. Journal No. 40 June.

R.S.S. Newsletters for April and May.

B.C.C.C. Newsletter No. 5 for May.

W.S.G. Bulletin No. 24for July.

Johnny I


Pete Williams wishes to be remembered to all the mad-men and women he knows.  He is now in Dusseldorf and says there is no climbing or caving there.

‘Leaner surveyors’ can take heart from the fact that recent work has disclosed an error in the survey of G.G. to the junction of Disappointment Pot and Hensler’s Passage.  This is mentioned in C.R.G. Publication No. 5 listed above.

More Additions to Club Library

Underground.   A very good book.  Edited by Norman Thornber.

Newsletters of    W.C.C. No. 41 August

                        S.W.C.C. No. 5 July.

                        R.S.S. No. 6 June.

                        B.C.C.C. No. 6 June.

                        W.S.G. No. 25 June.

Archaeological Jottings

In BB 64 the editor was kind (or foolish) enough to publish an article by me on the dating of archaeological specimens.  Several of the members seem to have got me wrong by suggesting that their addenda to my original article that I was claiming the methods I described were the only methods available.

I was merely claiming for the radio-active determination of dates, a method which was completely independent of any archaeological associations.  It can be carried out by any competent laboratory and does not need any knowledge of archaeology to obtain a reasonable accurate age for the specimen.  The radio-active clock cannot be wrong although it is possible for it to be wound up again once it is started, by the exchange of its initial carbon content with some of more recent origin.  It would appear that archaeologists are more interested in cultures than an absolute date so maybe I was speaking out of turn.

For the benefit of geologists who may be reading this article I should like to bring to their attention that fact that radio-active methods are available for the dating of rock strata.  The element giving the oldest dates being radio-active strontium obtained from igneous rocks in giving an age of 600,000,000 years.

R.A. Setterington

Overheard at Lamb Leer.

Caver.   You need a blood chit before doing this cave.

Visitor.  I suppose that’s so that they know what sort of blood to give you in a transfusion.

A Pongo Book Review


By L’Abbe H. Breuil.  Published by Centre D’etudes et de Documentation Prehistoriques, Montignac, Dordogne, .

I must begin by admitting that my qualifications for reviewing this book are the very flimsiest.  I have a copy and as only five hundred of the English edition have been published they will not be very common.

Henri Breuil has made the study of prehistoric painting his life’s study and there is no doubt that he knows more about it than anyone else.  I only know what I have read and what I have seen in the few decorated caves that I have visited.  This book deals with the best part of a hundred caves most of which I have never even heard of.  Accordingly, even if I had the temerity to say M. Breuil was talking rubbish (which I have no reason to believe to be so) no-one need pay any attention.

The book begins with an historical account of the recognition of the antiquity of cave art and its subsequent study.  Then follows a chapter on the origins of the art, after which are sections on the distribution of decorated caves, their age, the fauna painted and the tools and the techniques.  After this we come onto descriptions of the caves themselves beginning with the ‘six giants’ – Altamira, Font de Gaume, les Comaralles, Lascaux, Trois Freres and Niaux.  The remainder of the work deals with the lesser caves, grouped geologically.  The illustrations are profuse, both photographs and tracings of the drawings.

To deal with the illustrations first.  I have not tried photographing cave paintings, but I can well imagine that in many locations at least it must be very difficult – where the subject is inaccessible - but I am surprised that many of the paintings do not show up more clearly.  Undoubtedly the best photographs in the book are those of M. Windels of Lascaux which are extremely good.  In most cases, of course, I have not seen the originals and so cannot judge, but with Niaux I can.  The drawings in Niaux are extremely clear and stand up very well but the photographs are not very good.  Accordingly, where a photograph is reproduced showing very little detail the description in the text or a tracing gives much more.  I think it must be due to the difficulty of photography rather than the imagination of the author.  Incidentally, the few colour plates are excellently reproduced and show the subject very clearly.

With regard to the text, it is very clear everywhere and I cannot criticise the conclusions reached as I have already pointed out.  I am not however entirely happy about the tendency to attempt to find a drawing in every collection of scrawls that may be found.  Gargas is a case in point.  In a number of places there are nice patches of sticky clay on the walls; over these the artists made masses of loops and twirls with their four fingers or combs.  They are exactly the sort of ‘doodles’ which I should want to make myself under similar circumstances (in fact you could find several in some of the muddy spots in G.B. where I have had to wait at one time or another).  I cannot think that these in Gargas (and things in a similar vein in other caves) are any more.  But they are all carefully labelled as ‘undecyphered’ in a disappointed tone.

With regard to the translation, made by Miss Mary E. Boyle, it is technically very good, only an occasional mis-used phrase or wrong idiom showing up.  Miss Boyle is M. Breuil’s secretary and should, I think, really call herself Mlle. Boyle as I do not think she can be English – the small mistakes in translation could never have been made if she were.  The question of People’s titles in the book is one of the few criticisms which I have.  Almost always they are translated to the English equivalent – Mr. for M. etc. – and it is sometimes very difficult to decide whether the person in question is French, English or some other nationality.  I know from experience that it is sometimes very difficult to decide what to translate and what to leave, but I do think that a mistake has been made in this particular respect.  Conversely, all the measurements have been left in metric units with which I do not complain, but it does seem a little inconsistent.

To sum up, this is a most comprehensive and admirable volume and will surely remain the standard work on the subject for a considerable time, but I do not think it is the sort of volume which need find a place in every caver’s library.  I ordered it in a flush of enthusiasm after spending a holiday looking at some of these caves, and although I do not in the least regret buying it, I would not do so again in the cold light of winter when the prospects of southern sun seems a very long way away, and when £5 odd seems a largish sum of money.

R.M. Wallis

B.E.C. Tour de France 1954.

It has been suggested that next year the B.E.C. should organise a fortnight’s tour of French caving areas of the Dordogne-Lot and the Pyrenees, spending also a few nights (or perhaps I had better say ‘Days’ as Aunt Prudence might read this) in Paris.  Besides the ordinary show-cave visitations, which are well worth the journey alone, it is likely that some real caving can be arranged.  There will be many sites and people to interest the archaeologically-minded nuts, whilst for the geologists we can probably offer them field work with the Dutch Geological Survey in the Pyrenees.

The touring would be carried out by coach, camping for several nights in the respective areas, and the inclusive cost should be around a minimum of £30.

If anyone is interested will they contact me as soon as possible - this does not mean next June.

Keith S. Gardner.
  22. Wesley Hill


The Editor would be glad to receive contributions for the Xmas number of the BB as soon as possible.  As you know the Xmas issue is usually a ‘Double’ one, but unless someone sends in some gen. P.D Q. you’ll be lucky to get two pages, let alone six.


I had in reserve the start of a very excellent series of Geological Articles written by Sett and Jack Waddon.  Unfortunately Jack has now recommenced evening studies and is, for the time being, unable to complete the series.  In view of this he has asked me to refrain from publishing those articles in my possession until he is in a position to complete the series.


Do YOU go caving or climbing? if so, tell me all about it;  the BB should publish Club NEWS but it isn’t able to as there is none.

Auntie Prudence.

Auntie Prudence, to wit Ray Brain has recently undergone a rather severe operation.  I am glad to report that she(he) is now well on the road to recovery, although she(he) is still as yet unable to resume the control of the problem page.



If It’s Caving You Do

by  S. Gee, Hon. Sec. Orpheus Caving Club, Northern Group.

In the following article I shall attempt to describe the link between Oxlow Caverns and Mask Hill Mine.  It is based on actual events during the descent, but credit must be given to the British Speleological Association as they first made the actual link up, and without their help I would not have written this.

Let us begin in 1949 with a descent of Oxlow Caverns near Castleton.  We arrived at the entrance in a snowstorm and quickly made arrangements to descend.  The entrance proved to be a mineshaft 50 feet deep.   This we negotiated safely and found a long sloping passage leading to a second shaft of 30 feet.  At the bottom, a short passage led to a small round hole.  This proved to be the East Chamber, and the passage entered roughly halfway up this huge cavern.  A descent of 60 feet brought us to the bottom, where we found a small stream that is said to come from Giant’s Hole.

Returning to the ladder, we climbed for 30 feet and saw a mined passage.  This we followed for several hundred feet, and eventually came to the edge of the West Chamber.  This was an 80 foot ladder and was made most uncomfortable by a small steam that ran down our sleeves and re-emerged like a siphon in our boots.  Just here there happened an incident that shook us all.

So far we had not been using lifelines on the pitches, and had trusted entirely on the soundness of the ladder.  The fifth man down was about 25 feet from the bottom, when, without warning, the ladder broke.  Luckily he was unharmed and we soon fixed a new ladder in place.  But the incident taught us all a lesson, and on the return journey we all used lifelines.

The West Cavern was a really impressive place of large dimensions.  The roof was so far above us that a 100 foot spotlight could not reach it.  At the extreme end of this cavern was a low arch through which we passed and entered a second large chamber.  This is known as the Waterfall Cavern, and from high in the roof crashes a fine waterfall that disappears through a hole in the floor.  It is understood that further shafts can be descended down this hole, but owing to the weight of water these were abandoned.

The source of this waterfall was to remain a mystery to me for a further two years.  Then, by chance, a B.S.A. member mentioned that some years previously, a party of them had descended an old mine shaft near Oxlow, and after a journey of many hours through a series of mined and natural caves, had emerged through the roof of the Waterfall Cavern in Oxlow Caves.  I decided to form a reconnaissance party to hunt for the rumoured ‘Mask Hill Mine’.

After inspecting several shafts without success, we found one that looked more promising.  The descent was organised and the shaft was found to be 100 foot deep.  A party of four assembled at the bottom, in a small mined chamber in the floor of which was a second-mine shaft.  Here we decided to abandon further explorations owing to shortage of tackle.  It was very disappointing, but a strong draught of air from the second shaft convinced us that we were on the right path.

The following week-end we returned with more gear, more information and more members.  Reinforcements from the Oldham Speleological Society arrived early Sunday morning and the descent started without delay.

The party assembled at the bottom of the entrance shaft without incident, and the second shaft was laddered and found to be 50 feet deep.  At the bottom a short mined passage opened out into a large natural chamber, and from here a 30 foot rope climb down the cavern brought us to a steeply sloping passage, which ended once more in a large chamber.

Before us lay a large pothole; a small stream cascaded over the edge and appeared to fall for many feet.  Although we did not know it, this was the ‘Big Pitch’ called ‘Murmuring Churn Pot’ and is 180 feet deep.  A 40 foot ladder was put in position and I was elected to go down.  The small cascade, I found, was not so small, and dampened my spirits more than somewhat.  I reached the end of the ladder and found that it just reached a very wide ledge, which had a steep downward slope.  The stream trickled over this ledge and disappeared below.

With due caution I approached the edge and peered into the gloomy depths.  The ledge I was on formed one end of a large fissure chamber some 100 feet long and 20 feet wide.  A dull rumbling drew my attention to the far corner where I saw a truly marvellous sight.  From far above from the roof cascaded a fine waterfall - in fact, the waterfall that later appeared in Oxlow.  At this point I was interrupted by a call from above, telling me that time was running short and that once more the venture must be abandoned.

A descent was arranged for the following weekend and it was to be an all night session, as this was the only way that we could find sufficient time necessary to complete the exploration.  At 9.30pm. we arrived at the hole and found to our dismay that of the expected 15 members only 5 had arrived.

We decided to try and get more men from a nearby hut where several members of the Derby group were staying.  Unfortunately they had only just finished a descent of the Oxlow system, and were all very tired, too tired, in fact, to be of any assistance to us.

It was decided to carry on as arranged and trust to luck.  We returned to the hole and found, to our great delight, that 3 others had arrived, one of whom was the much needed surface man.  The surface man is a very important member on descents of this kind, and he has a very hard job.  In this case he was to spend a long cold night waiting by the field telephone.

Our party for exploration was now six men and one girl.  The first shaft was descended safely and some of us were at the bottom of the second when we were arrested by a shout and a loud crash.  The full nature of the accident slowly dawned on us.  Someone above, whilst lowering gear, had not tied something securely, and a sack containing several bottles of beer had fallen and had been smashed to splinters.  There followed many muffled remarks regarding persons who did not use safety lines.  We gazed ruefully at the wreckage, but, as the old proverb says: - “It’s no use crying over spilt milk”.

By twelve midnight we were assembled in the first natural cavern and here we had our first meal.  On arrival at the ‘Big Pitch’ we attached a further 100 feet of ladder and once more I was elected to be the first down.  I reached the ledge and gently lowered myself over the edge into ‘Murmuring Churn Pot’.  Conversation with the rest of the party was made very difficult by the noise of the fall.  At approximately 80 feet down my light suddenly went out and I remembered that during the week’s excitement of preparation I had forgotten to have my accumulator charged.  This type of lamp does not slowly die out, but just goes out without warning.  My spare lamp was in my knapsack at the top of the pitch.  I switched the lamp off and clung to the ladder.  This type of lamp, if turned off for a short while, recuperates a little, but only for a very limited time.  After several minutes I switched my lamp on again and was able to see a narrow ledge to my left.  By swinging the ladder I could just make it.  This I did, and from my precarious position I surveyed the depths below and saw that the ladder was hanging 40 feet short of the bottom.  After much shouting, those above realised what was wrong and lowered an extra ladder and my sack which contained my spare lamp.

I fixed on the extra ladder and descended to the bottom to find that the ladder ended on a sort of rock bridge with the stream falling through a hole in the floor.  On the right was another shaft about 30 feet deep.  At this point I began to feel the effects of a recent illness, so I decided to return to the surface.  Two other members arrived at the bottom and I told them of my intentions.  I was joined by a chap who had not done much caving and who was nearly all in.  We made our way through the caverns by means of link belays that had been left on the descent.  This enabled us to use safety lines on all pitches.

After a total of 11 hours below we emerged on the surface in early morning sunlight.  Two hours later the rest of the party emerged tired but triumphant.  They had descended the 30 foot shaft that I had seen, and had reached a long cavern that ran parallel to and above the ‘Waterfall Chamber’ in Oxlow.  A further 70ft. pitch through the waterfall completed the linkup.

We left the de-laddering for another week and all trooped off to the hut for a welcome breakfast and bed, our minds busy with thoughts of an interchange of parties between Oxlow and Maskhill.

S. Gee

Notice to Intending Contributors.

It is imperative that notices of future trips etc. must be in my hands at least six weeks before the month of publication required, e.g. this, the August Copy is being prepared mid June.  Although this seems a long time ahead, I have to arrange copy and cut the stencils.  Then the completed stencils go to Ken Dobbs and Co., who add the heading and print, arrange and staple copies, and sort those who receive their copies by hand from those to whom they are posted.  The ones to be posted are then taken to Stan Herman who folds, addresses, stamps and despatches them.  So Please let me have all ‘Dateline’ gen. as soon as possible after the idea has germinated.


Additions to the Club Library

Wessex Cave Club Journal No. 39. (April).

Transactions of the C.R.G. Vol. 2 No. 2.

C.R.G. Newsletters for Jan. & Feb. 1953.

W.S.G. Bulletin for April 1953.

Birmingham C. & C.C. Newsletter for April 1953.

Cave Science Vol. 3 No. 20.

Underground Empire by Clay Perry.

The Story of Everest by W.R. Murray.


Letters to the Editor

Marlborough Cresc.,
Latchford Without,

The Editor
‘Belfry Bulletin’

Dear Sir,

At some time during his career, every caver must be asked to give a lecture about caves.  Any lecture is greatly improved by a set of good slides.  The majority of cavers probably do not have such a set, or even a set of prints, which are not so satisfactory - and even the most active photographer is likely enough to find that he does not have a photograph of the particular subject he wants.

There are, however, a considerable number of photographers in the club, and taken together, their efforts should represent a very good selection of photographs.

I should like to canvass opinion regarding the institution of a register of cave pictures which could be drawn upon by any member wishing to get together a lecture.  As I see it at the moment, any pictures offered would remain in the keeping of the photographer who would merely send details of them to the register.  This would be available for consultation by any club member who would select those he wanted and borrow them from the various photographers on the understanding that they would be returned as soon as possible, in a good condition.

Slides are definitely preferable to prints as they are much more easily seen by an audience.  Slide making is, however, a much less practiced art than printing, and probably most members do not have slides of their prints, but if the idea takes on then perhaps they would do so – or at least persuade someone to do it for them.

Please air your ideas on the subject – I am sure the Editor will be only too glad to provide the space in the BB and see if anything cane be made of it.

At present I have 30-40 slides, about half of them in colour, and I should be glad to make those available as the start of such a register.

Yours truly,
R.H. Wallis.


I should like to say that Pongo’s idea appeals to me very much.  The club possesses a selection of slides which intending lecturers may use, but these are totally inadequate for any but the simplest lecture.  Such a scheme would place before those unfortunates who lecture slides of some of the best photographs ever taken underground, photographs that would explain some point of interest far more easily than by word of mouth, and would instil, in many cases, a modicum of confidence in the lecturer himself.  Some central point would be needed as a ‘clearing house’ for such a scheme, unless Pongo himself is willing to undertake it.  I would like to offer my services as ‘Clerk’ if this fine scheme becomes reality.

T.H. Stanbury.  Hon. Editor.


There is plenty of space awaiting anyone who cares to answer the above letter.  I must apologise to Pongo for the long delay in printing this letter.                     



A very big ‘Thank You’ to all those whose who sent in ‘Songs’ for inclusion in the BB.  Also to those who have sent in articles of various types.  I should like, though, to see some new names amongst them.  The vast majority of BB material comes from the old-timers, and I am sure that there are amongst the ‘coming generation’ at least a dozen who could write worthwhile articles.  If it were not for the ‘Old Faithfuls’ whose names appear so frequently, the BB would be a very thin and infrequent paper.  Don’t feel that you can’t write –TRY – let me decide if it is good or bad (& I am sure that 99.999999 p.c of articles submitted will eventually be printed).


Letter to the Editor

The Belfry,
      Nr. Wells

16th. July 1953

His Grace, the Duke of Mendip,
c/o The Editor,
Belfry Bulletin.

Your Grace

                        In reply to your letter dated 1st. March 1953 I note your dissatisfaction regarding the future Belfry arrangements.

However, it is my pleasant duty to inform your Grace that the article describing the future Belfry arrangements which I published under the title ‘Guide to the Belfry for New Members’ was, as your learned secretary pointed out in his letter, merely an extract from this noble and erudite work.

On receipt of an exorbitant fee I shall have the pleasure of sending your Grace the entire contents of this admirable brochure, but, pending the arrival of this sum I append further details which I sincerely trust will put your Grace’s mind at rest.

Servants Quarters.

Extensive servants’ quarters may be found in Block 23 for those members desirous of bringing their own servants.  Separate quarters are provided for butlers’ lackeys, serving wenches, peasants, serfs and other old retainers.  Separate kitchens are provided for those wishing to avail themselves of our comprehensive culinary arrangements.

Garaging, Bangarage, Stabling, etc.

The above facilities are provided for the use of members of the upper classes and gentlemen.  Lock-up sheds for garaging and boots are provided for those arriving on foot.

Cellarage, Hangoverage, Stability etc.

The above facilities are also provided for use of the same under the personal supervision of the residents’ medical officer Mr. Hannam.

I trust that your Grace will continue his most valued patronage and in conclusion, since I am addressing your Grace, may I add:-

For what you are about to receive, we trust you will be truly thankful.

I am,

Your obedient servant,
Alfie Coliins.


Congratulations to: -

Ken Dobbs and Miss Connie Edwards, who were married at St. Martin’s Knowle, on June 6th.

And to: -

Menace and Jill Morris on the birth of a daughter (Lorna).

Photographic Competition

As announced in last month’s ‘Stop-press’ the club is to run a photographic competition.

Rules and Conditions of Entry.

  1. Entry is restricted to members only.
  2. The competition is divided into two sections.
    1. Above Ground.
    2. Below Ground.

A special prize is to be awarded for the best entry taken with a camera worth less than five pounds.

In each section two prizes will be awarded.

            1st. prize one year’s Annual subscription.

            2nd. Prize.  Photographic materials to the value of 7/6.

  1. The minimum size for entries ‘Enprint’.  (approx 3½x3½).
  2. The competition is limited to club activities.
  3. A fee of 6d. is charged for each entry.  Each entry must be sent with a separate entry form and fee.
  4. Competition closes at the end of November.

Entry forms are obtainable form Ken Dobbs, 55 Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4., to whom all entries must be sent.