Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Speleology in North Wales by L.J. Thompson

One of the lesser known carboniferous limestone districts of the country is that extending from the Great Orme, North Wales, down to the vicinity of Oswestry. Lead mining has been carried on in this area from Roman times and at the present day the Halkyn Mine near Flint is one of the most productive mines in the country.

Derelict workings abound, but unfortunately for the caver access is usually by a shaft, and that, almost invariably, a very deep one. There are, however, some workings that it is possible to explore, and due to the violently contorted nature of the rock, features of more than usual interest are frequently present. One such feature I have in mind is in the Belgrave Line, near Mold - a small area of calcite undulating and striated, but nevertheless; polished like glass due to faulting.

An indication of the rate at which stalactites may be formed is to be seen in a four foot straw in the Holway Boat Level Holywell. This level would be called a Sough in Derbyshire – was driven for drainage purposes in 1774.  There are in the same mine red, green and blue flowstone deposits and a quite unique sub-aqueous growth of coralline calcite.

Mining records tell of large caves, known as ‘vughs’ being broken into during the course of driving this and many other similar levels. The Geological memoirs describe numerous springs and swallets also.

The foregoing may well lead one to expect something out of the ordinary in the way of caves, too, but, unfortunately, from bone-hunter’s, discoveries have been disappointing.  All the same, since the territory is almost virgin to the pot-holer (to coin a phrase) hope will keep springing, despite a strongly developed propensity for saying authoritatively and whilst still dry and un-clayed’ It won’t go’.

The only cave that has made anything of a name is the Ceriog Cave near Oswestry, described first by Baker, with a subsequent account by P. Wild and R. Wallis in the B.C.  The first reasonably accurate survey was made in 1960 by T. Capper and L. Davies and the total length fixed at just over 600 feet.  The other caves (passages, is a more accurate description of most) are the Maeshafn Cave, near Mold; 800 feet, dry. Old foundations, with a small stream, Roman trinkets & human bones at the end after a 100 foot 30 degree downhill wriggle.  Afou y Meirchion, near Denbigh; a cave of debauchment, accessible only in very dry weather – euphemistically sporting.  The Gop Cave, Prestatyn, about 250 feet, was described years ago in the B.C. – again a dry cave.  The are innumerable smaller caves of varying degrees of interest, many of them discovered and entered in the last ten years or so by a small group of speleological exiles supported by local aspirants to that masochistic art.

Blasting, digging and damming have been carried out with a zeal that can only be compared with that displayed by the mediaeval monks of Bangor-ys-Coed, who bred their celebrated hock-haired horses thereby to manufacturers their incomparable horse-hair shirts.  To date, only one pot-hole has been discovered near Holywell – a vertical of about 45 feet between narrow walls of crinoidal limestone to a clay choked sump at 60 feet below the surface.  This hole achieved notoriety by de-bagging, on the ascent, the first lady speleologist to explore the cave.

In order to correlate and organise activities and also for the purpose of keeping proper records, it has been decided to form the North Wales Caving Group with headquarters probably at Holywell or Prestatyn.  Any further information will be supplied gladly by the author or the N.W.C.G. Secretary: - Mr P. Wild, Tunstead, St. Asaph Road, Byserth, Flintshire.

M.J. Thompson.


The Belfry Bulletin is still, as always, in urgent need of material suitable for publication.  Don’t be discouraged if the article that you have slaved over doesn’t appear at once.  I have to try to aim at a ‘balance’ in each issue and have to try to build a reservoir of material to carry the B.B. over ‘lean years’.  Therefore a certain number of articles are selected as being suitable for future issues and are put to one side for that purpose.  Send in your articles to Hon. Editor, B.B., 74, Woodleigh Gardens, Whitchurch, Bristol. 4., or pass them on to Bob Bagshaw or Ken Dobbs who will see that I eventually receive them.



Although of a very different type to that which normally we expect from Merv, the following article, will, I am sure, appeal to quite a large percentage of our members.  If you like this type of article let me know and we will have more.

Belfry Birds

By Mervyn Hannam.

The following article has no relation to caving, but might interest those speleos who occasionally leave Orpheus in his lair and take a jaunt over the surface of Mendip.

Birds can be roughly divided into four grouped: -

  • Permanent Residents;
  • Summer Residents;
  • Winter Visitors;
  • Passage Migrants.

The Passage Migrants pass through the country in the spring and autumn, but do not stay for than a few weeks.

Some interesting resident birds can be found in the vicinity of the Belfry and the Mineries Pool.  Coots, which are black, duck-like birds with a white patch of the forehead, can often be seen swimming across the pool in company with the moorhens that live there. The harsh quacking call of both these birds is probably familiar to all visitors to the pool. Occasionally some wild duck may be flushed from the surrounding reed beds, but two well known water loving birds, the heron and kingfisher have not yet been seen by the writer in this area. Amongst the smaller birds to be seen in a walk around the hut or pool is the stonechat, a rather uncommon but strikingly marked bird that nests in the gorse bushes on North hill.

A larger and well-known bird is the kestrel, which can be seen very frequently hovering over any part of the Mendips which it searches for the mice and large insects on which it lives. Other predatory birds are the sparrow-hawk and the buzzard, The latter is not often seen, although during recent years it has spread its breeding ground to the wooded slopes of Mendips. When seen, the buzzard is usually circling with motionless wings spread out and the ragged ends looking like a hand with spread fingers. The owls also come under the predatory category and although dusk is the accepted time for them a large white barn owl could frequently be seen quartering the fields near the Belfry in broad daylight although it has not been seen recently. The tawny owl, with the well known “tu-whit-tu-whoo” call, and the little owl are both quite common. Many other birds could be included in the list of residents, but space will not permit it.

Summer visitors are the next largest group and they are well represented in North Somerset. The cuckoo, chiff-chaff, swift and swallow are well known but some of the more uncommon birds can be found near the Mineries. Firstly, the Grasshopper Warbler, a small drab brown bird, recognisable by its song which is similar to the winding of a fishing reel, A number of these warblers nest in the reed beds and may be hard singing in pitch darkness as well as during the day. Another summer migrant with a peculiar purring cull is the Nightjar, a large brown bird that can frequently be seen flitting low over the gorse and grass tussocks between the pool and Stock Hill. The nightjar nests on the ground where its plumage blends perfectly with the dead sticks and leaves. During the twilight of late summer evenings the birds can be seen at their most active period.

Most of the summer migrants depart for Africa and the continent during September although a few, the chiff-chaff and blackcap stay until October.

Winter visitors are mainly Fieldfares and Redwings, two thrushlike birds which come to this country in great flocks from Scandinavia. They can often be heard “whistling” as they fly over at night during November - February.

The Passage Migrants include some very rare birds, but the only one to be seen near the Belfry is the Wheatear. This grey-backed bird is rather bigger than a sparrow and can be recognised by its white rump and black tail feathers. The Wheatear is a summer resident also in some districts.

Besides the birds mentioned in this article, many other birds live on Mendip and the reservoirs of Cheddar and Blagdon are a paradise for numbers of ducks and wading birds.

M Hannam

Have You Got The Right Equipment ? asks Pongo Wallis

These notes are written with two objects in view; 1, Because the Editor is always shouting for articles for B,B, ( Pongo is one of the good souls that can be depended upon to help fill an empty page. Ed..). and 2, as a help(?) to the Very New Caver.

Assumptions 1, There is no point in going caving if you can’t see the cave when you are there. Therefore you need a light, (my discovery of the year). But you wouldn’t guess this from many Cavers lamps, as more Heath Robinson contraptions that many people cook up have never been seen.

You can use a candle (but Don’t). It gets in the way, it dazzles you, doesn’t give much light, it drips hot wax over you, and goes out at the slightest provocation and won’t relight. Carry one as reserve by all means, (I do), but DON’T use it as your main light.

Acetylene lamps are very good and deservedly popular. They are reliable and give a good light, while carrying a small reserve of carbide enables you to stay long underground, But don’t expect it to work well without attention. How many times have I seen someone empty out the old carbide immediately before starting on a new trip! Do it as soon as the lamp is finished with. People whose lamps give trouble are a pain in the neck, and the majority of them are those who don’ t clean their lamps. EVERY time you should empty out the carbide and thoroughly wash and dry the lamp in all its recesses—it is far easier to do this outside rather than fiddle round underground.

Electrics. Some people can make dry battery lamps work well—most can’t. If you must use them remember that electricity doesn’t like bad contacts—make sure yours are good. Floppy wires are a menace as they get caught and out goes the light. If the battery gets wet you must dry it thoroughly if it is to last a second trip. Remember that torch bulbs are flimsy and always carry a spare.

A miners electric lamp is rather heavy and tend to get in the way, but they are reliability itself (they have to be), They are expensive to buy in the first instance, but cost nothing to run thereafter.

My own choice—acetylene for general purposes and a miner’s “NiFe” lamp on other occasions.

Assumption 2. Bare feet and sharp rocks were made to be kept apart. If your main object in life is to break your neck, wear gym-shoes or gum boots in a cave. Otherwise well nailed boots. And “well-nailed” doesn’t mean bags of nails. The object is not to provide an iron sole, but projections to grip the rock. Hob nails are quite good enough for most caving; climbing nails are generally not worth the extra expense. Some people go to great trouble to make their boots waterproof; others cut holes in theirs, But water can get in round the top and constantly changing water is cold. So leave your boots as they are, but oil them well or the leather will go hard and crack.

Assumption 3. A cold caver is a bad caver. Your clothes have two functions; to keep you at the right temperature and not to prevent you getting through tight places. Waiting at the top of ladders is a cold pastime so you must have sufficiently warm clothes. Conversely, crawling through tight places can be very warm work. Your clothes must combine these functions. I confess I haven’t solved this problem to my own satisfaction yet.

The outer layer must be smooth. Those capacious pockets which are so useful for all the odds and ends (which probably ought to be left outside) are there for the purpose of getting you hung up on a sharp corner. Cut them off !! Two piece garments are all very well by the sea, but in a cave they also leave the midriff bare. This is uncomfortable and the exposed trouser waist-band acts as a wonderful hanger-up. It is not widely known but the original name of the boiler suit is a Caving Comb, ( at least that’s my story; and if you have ever been in a boiler you will know that it is like a very tight cave with lots and lots of sharp projections, so the said suit is designed for the job).

Lastly, Hats (no assumptions). Hats protect the head and carry lights. If yours does both and is comfortable at the same time it’s OK.

Good equipment cost very little more than bad – but it may save your life one day and every trip is more enjoyable because of it.

R.H. Wallis

Apologies and thanks.

Apologies are due to all for the mess that was made of the last page of the July issue. A different type of stencil was used, and I made no allowance for it. Sorry, gents (& ladies). I hope that this issue will be more reliable.

A very big "thank you" to all those persons who have so far sent in contributions for publication." Thank you", too, all those of you who have sent me letters of congratulation and good wishes. I do appreciate them very much and such things makes the effort worth while.

A letter of apology has been received from the person whose ire was raised against me, and who sent me the letter mentioned in the last issue. In view of this I shall not publish the original as promised, and as far as I am concerned the matter is now closed. I should like to say, though, that any future letters of a similar nature will be handed to the Committee so that appropriate action can be taken.


To Henry and Jo Shelton, on July 13th, a second daughter, Hilary Clare.


We very much regret to announce that we have had to vacate our room at St. Mary's Community Centre. On 4th and 11th of September, we shall be meeting in the FOLK HOUSE, College Green. Members will be notified regarding further arrangements as soon as possible, but in the mean time the scouts are out looking for another hall that will be suitable.

Club Library

There are two new books in the Club Library. They are:-

West Virginia theological Survey Vol. XIX by - W.E. Davies, and
Transactions of the C.R.G. Vol.2-;. No.1.

J. Ifold.

Caving Report. June - July.

Although there has not been a great deal of original activity, a number of trips have been undertaken.

One party entertained some B.E.C. types in Swildons and several "Full" and "Top" of Swildons were carried out.

Eastwater was descended on several occasions by various parties and Stoke Lane was enjoyed by some people.


Climbing Section News

Roger Cantle has resigned from the position of Climbing Sec., and his place has been taken by Pat Ifold. I haven't a clue about Pat's address as yet, but you can reach him via John Ifold at Nempnett.

For the last two Christmases the Climbing Section have had a most enjoyable time at the Holly-How Youth Hostel at Coniston, Lakeland. It is proposed to repeat the dose this year and since booking is open three months in advance, will members who wish to attend please send in their names and dates to the Hut Warden. This meet will be open to all club members who are, or who become, members of the Youth Hostel Association.

It is proposed to start an organised training programme for members interested in climbing. A weekend or two on Churchill Rocks and some of the cleaner climbs in Cheddar. The climbers can then graduate to a weekend on the Dewarstone near Plymouth ,and then to North Wales. Will members who are interested send their names to the Hut Warden who will notify those interested when the dates have been arranged.

R, A Setterington

Belfry News

The old Belfry js now locked. The key to the New Belfry is kept in the Old Belfry. Anyone who “breaks in” will be severely dealt with.

R .A.S.

Motor-cycle and Car Rally.

If sufficient members are interested a rally for cars and motor-cycles will be run probably sometime late in August. It will consist of about 100 miles entirely on metalled roads at an average speed of 28 mph and will have some simple driving tests involved. Details to be worked out later. Names to Tony Johnson or the Hut Warden.

(Ed’s note. This seems a bit late for August, but send in your names anyway doubtless the date will be put forward. Put down my name anyway, Sett. Plus The ancient Ford Ten.)

We Also Suffer who only Stand and Shiver (with Apologies)

The recent article by Trevor Rhodes re his first caving trip, has brought the following article from another member of that same party:-

I .feel I must correct the false impression which may have been created by the account of Trevor Rhodes of his first caving trip. (A full Top Swildon’s described in the July BB). Be

warned, Readers !! Mr. Rhodes is only trying to make others make the same mistake (of going caving) in order that he can enjoy a good laugh. I speak not as the Scribes and Pharisees, but us one who also made the same trip.

Mr. Rhodes said nothing changing of the draught in the barn used for changing. These icy blasts cut one in half. I am glad he admitted that the walk from the barn to the cave is a cross-country trek; it is! He did not, however, mention the hazards of the walk, which included a field full of bulls which were only prevented from attacking us by the fact that they had already exhausted themselves chasing a previous party,

The average caver says Mr. Rhodes, has an amazing number of positions at his disposal. Lies !! He is forced to adopt many painful and ungainly postures, in addition to some which are actually impossible, Mr. Rhodes was fortunate to be able to recuperate in the Old Grotto. I had to sit on a cold, wet, hard rock, and try to enjoy a damp, battered cigarette. The bright lights used for photography merely showed up exactly how unstable the roof is.

The leader of the trip and Mr. Rhodes returned the wet way. A nice way of putting it!! They deserted us to avoid helping to get the photographic equipment out of the cave. Slackers ! Our hazardous return to the surface was at last ended, only to find that the grating which covers the entrance (or exit) had been carefully placed to ensure that we tripped over it. We duly changed in the draughty barn only to find that the pub was closed. a tragic ending to a ghastly trip.

Signed in haste. In Vino Veritas (or, the truth MUST be told)

PS Dear Editor,

I think that “scrofulous” should have been spelt with a final “e” as in louse.

A Continental Master Cave System

by Jill Rollason,

Having nothing better to do recently, I have been reading Lyell’s “Principles of Geology”, an came on some very interesting information. He said that during the boring of artesian wells in , the drills often slipped down through vertical cavities at depths of more than 150 feet, and brought up shells and vegetation which had not been more than 3 to 4 months in the water. He mentioned that the same thing happened in , and also in , where fish were spouted up, and puts this forward as a proof that water travels tremendous distances through the rock. The vegetation in was supposed to come from mountains 150 miles away.

I found more examples of these cavities in C.R.G. Newsletter no. 4.. Drills making a well 10,000 feet deep in Florida, slipped through open spaces of 18, 5, and 13 feet between depths of 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

But what surprised me were the numerous cases of fish spouted up from over 175 feet in the Sahara Desert. They were alive and possessed eyes in perfect working order. This so far, is fact, but on reading it I remembered a story told to me by a reliable person some years ago, to the effect that some fish found under the Sahara had no living relatives, except some caught in Loch Ness. Nobody knew how they got in such peculiar places, but it was suggested that there was an underground passage from to Africa.

Jill Rollason.


It is to be assumed that the Saharan fish must have been the lonely Kipper. I believe that they are Scottish, and is about the only fish that could be spouted up in cases from under the desert.

In Bello Kipperas. I wot!


There seems to have been a large bright spotlight focussed on caves and caving recently, occasioned by the peculiar spate of accidents both here and. on the continent. Let us all, as members of one of the oldest and largest Mendip Clubs, do our bit to make sure that there are no accidents in any party that we go underground with. To the younger members I say, “be careful” don’t do foolish things; make sure your tackle is adequate and safe, don’t show off to your novice pals!.' To the older hands I say “Keep your eye on the youngsters and encourage then to take care”. As an organisation we have always been remarkably accident free. Let us remain that way.


A Large Austrian Cave.

by John Monson.

One of the largest cave systems in the Western Zones of is the Eisriesenwelt, which lies in the Tennenge birge near the village of Werfen, which is some 40 kilometres south of Salzburg on the main railway to Innsbruck. There is a Youth Hostel in the village.

The entrance lies 5000 feet above the valley floor on the east side. The guidebooks recommend about 3 ½ hours for the climb up to it. We did it in just under 2 hours and 20 minutes, being hotly pursued by an American speaking Viennese who claimed to have just bettered two hours! There is – oh joy – a mountain hut well stocked with excellent food, about half a mile below the entrance, from which the expedition starts.

The system comprises in all, some 25 km of chambers, which were first explored about 1920 though the existence of the cave was known some years previously. The entrance itself is about twenty feet square, forming a cold gash at the bottom of a cliff. Just inside the entrance and still well in the daylight the floor is covered by a dirty grey material which on close inspection is seen to be ice. The terminal moraine of the glacier which in fact runs the full length of the main series. The reason for the late exploration of the cave soon became apparent, as at about 100 yards from the entrance and in a chamber of the order of the size of GB one comes to the foot of an ice-fall. This must be some 80 ft. high and not far off the vertical - such as would be a feat in step-cutting for the experienced in daylight, let alone in the dark. However, there is a wooden ladder up it today.

Once the top is reached the glacier continues only slightly upwards, and one is surrounded by grottoes of red-stained rock, through which rush frozen torrents and many stalagmites and the things that hang down - all in the finest greeny-blues, and which look superb against the browns and the pure white of the floor. In one place one walks beside the bottom of the glacier with it towering up 30 ft. and showing year lines every 8 inches or so in the blue ice. In another place there is a narrowing, so that the cave is only 4 ft by 6 ft; the draught blowing through so strongly as to put out a lamp The place where this current of air enters the cave has not yet been found. The main series extends some two miles from the entrance, the rest being made up of upper passages.

To those unused to large quantities of’ ice in caves, and those used to being unable to walk upright this cave offers something - if only a stiff neck.

The guide only allows the taking of photographs if h e doesn‘t see one take them; interesting thought that!

John Monson

Editors Note

It is with the greatest pleasure that I turn over the editing of the ”BB” to T h Stanbury. Older members will remember the great amount of work he has done for the club in the past.

So I now hand you over to the new editor Harry Stanbury.

Ken Dobbs

As you will see from the above the committee has accepted my offer to take over the editorship of the BB. As the unfortunate whose brain-wave was responsible for the calling of our newsletter the “Belfry Bulletin” at its inception in January 1947, and as one who was actively concerned in its prodution and editorship from that time until Feb, 1951 I should like to say that I am indeed very pleased to get my old job back once more.

I have blown the dust off the old typewriter, and will, as in the past do my best to give you the best news magazine in the caving world. For some time I have been out of touch with affairs speleological, and have found that there is only a very small reserve of material available to us at this time. So, I appeal to all those budding authors that are, as yet, unknown to me, as well as the old stalwarts, to send in articles, news items, gossip, news from other clubs, so that the BB will be of interest to all who read it. Use this test:- Does something interest you? It does? Send in an account it’ll interest us too. If Joe Soap stops a runaway horse and J.S. is a club member let us know about it. If Sally Slapcabbage marries Sam Small the club should know. So come on, blokes, don’t let me down, you never did in the past!!

Upon looking through the files, I have noticed that there are quite a number of the really old articles that are still of very great interest to the younger member and so I propose, from time to time, to reprint such of these articles that I feel worthy of it. There must be a very large number of members that have never seen and to the others they will be of interest too. I, alas, am the only remaining “Founder Member” and I have had quite a job to bang this out rather than go on with my reading of back numbers.

I feel that I have taken up quite a lot of space in this issue, but I promise you that in future issues I will revert to being a “Lurker in the Background” and let those more qualified fill the issues.

One final word the opinions expressed in any article are those of the writer of that article and not necessarily that of the Club, and neither do my editorial comments have any official backing whatsoever s.

T.E. Stanbury.

Lost, Stolen or Strayed.

It has been reported that two new 20 ft. ropes are missing from the tackle store. We should be glad of any information about them, The price of tackle has risen enormously in recent months, and everyone suffers a curtailment of activity if tackle is mislaid, lost, or otherwise vanishes.

Recent B.B.C. Broadcast.

A party from Woking were down Swildon’s, for the recent broadcast. It appears that a good tine was had by all. A certain young lady nattering to a BBC type into the early hours of the morning (after an audition S? ) whilst I hear that the Hut Warden’s ire was raised to boiling point on at least three occasions as the hours ticked by, action being restrained by some miracle each time.


Bob Bagshaw et femme have now returned from a fortnights holiday in Paris. What about a travelogue, Bob?

We are delighted to be able to tell you that John Ifold is progressing towards recovery. Of the other invalids there is no news.

From time to time members of the caving fraternity are asked to give talks to youth clubs and similar organisations. Although we all delight in “Spinning a yarn “ the great majority of us shy clear of a formal talk, and when at infrequent intervals we are trapped into appearing before an audience we tremble in our shoes. Consequently the following article should be of interest to those, who, like myself are numbered amongst the unfortunate ones that fate sometimes contrives to drag before an audience.


On How To Talk Caving, by PONGO.

A caver will naturally talk caving even when he is in company which does not venture underground. It is important that before speaking freely he should carefully consider the attitude he should adopt.

Firstly, he should realise that any attempt to induce the lay population to participate will be greatly decrapated by his fellow initiates who fully realise that the sole aim of the true speleologist is the preservation of his exclusiveness. Anything in the nature of a recruiting campaign is therefore strictly forbidden. Nonetheless, a direct line of any nature is equally as fatal as a panegyric of the delights to be found underground as it is the perverse nature of mankind to be merely hard of attainment, far less directly forbidden.

Extreme subtlety is therefore called for, and before the caver so much as mentions his subject, his whole plan of campaign must be most carefully thought out. A delicate balance must be maintained between the pleasures and difficulties inherent in the sport. The introduction of a few colour photographs can be extremely advantageous (far more so than black and white); they will give a very good impression of the beauty to be found in caves, but no sooner has this point been assimilated by the audience than it must be pointed out that these regions of delight are only attained after many hours travail through icy water and razor-edged rocks, and that anyway the average caving lamp gives no colour sensations whatsoever.

The easy access of many caves should then be explained followed by the reminder that all caving parties should include a leavening of experienced cavers such as may be found in any Caving Club. Of course, to join such a club should be the aim of all would be cavers, and the exclusiveness of one’s own club, and the riff-raff constituting the membership of all others is noted, en passant, together with the waiting list for membership.

Similar gambits must be pursued throughout any conversation and from the examples quoted it is clear that a long and arduous course of study is required before the subject can safely be mentioned in public. It is therefore clearly the duty of all cavers to keep their boots dry (preferably by remaining on the surface), keep sober (if possible), and above all to keep their mouths shut.


Do know the address?

What address? Why, the one to which all contributions for the BB are sent, of course. If you don’t here it Is;-

T.H. Stanbury, 74, Woodleigh Gardens, Bristol.4,

and the telephone number is Whitchurch 2369.

Our Belfry On The Hill.

(Reprinted from BB No.4, May 1947)

At our Belfry on the Hill,
You will often find the fellows congregating,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
They use the place for everything but mating,
They may be talking caving, but often they do not.
A dose of Belfry Binder will be festering in the pot,
You may think it‘s a medicine but believe me folks, it’s not,
At out Belfry on the Hill,

At our B. on the H,, The Warden of the hut is really wizard
At our B, on the H,, We know a frozen type who hates his gizzard,
He keeps the place in order, writes the log, and does the chores,
He‘s very glad we had to put the detail out-of-doors,
He really ought to clean it, but he says the job is yours,
At our Belfry on the Hill,

At our B. on the H,, We welcome all additions to our party,
At our B. on the H,, We guarantee the welcome will be hearty.
So come along and see us, we’ll be glad to have you call,
If you want to spend the night you’ll find the cost is small,
We have to watch the Warden or he doesn’t pay at, all,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

Dennis Hasell

Notes on a Recent Incident in GB, by “Oldtimer”

The recent incident in GB in which a person was trapped by the foot for a short while has caused the following-

I should like to give a pat on the back to those younger Club members who assisted in various ways and to the best of their ability during the incident. But, there are a number of points that, they must, as members of Bristol Exploration Club, bear in mind!

The Mendip Rescue Organisation is controlled by a number of Wardens, each of which is chosen for his ability to control and organise rescue operations, and for his deep knowledge of the caves of Mendip; The Senior Warden is in control and Gives the Orders. The job of persons under his control (ie everyone that is assisting in anyway whatsoever with the rescue), is to obey those orders and not to give any themselves, as confusion is the sole result.

Although it is very exciting to take part in a rescue operation it is not the occasion for a general “Line-shoot”. One does NOT go dashing off, telling all and sundry about it and neither does one, in the event of having to tell someone about it, embroider the story with either exaggeration or fiction. Members of the BEC should remember that the reputation of the Club is in their hands and act accordingly.



To John and Betty Shorthose, the gift of a son, on June 14th. Mother, Father and Baby all doing well (This is the first boy to be born to Club Members since its inception in 1935; What about a gift membership, Committee? Ed.)

The Marriage of Roy Ifold to Miss Joan Higginbottom took place at .St Saviour’s Church on Sat. 14th.June.

Stop Press

The following account of the BBC / Woking / BEC Swildon’s Trip has just arrived.


On Sunday 15th ,June, the BBC. were inveigled into making a broadcast in Swildon’s Hole, in company with some members of Woking Youth Club. The story of this epic event started when one Hugh (Fatso) Falkus arrived in a dilapidated Ford V8, followed by Jack (Slim) Singleton in a three ton truck with an army of teenagers, all with a pronounced (and disturbing) London accent. Some of them as Jones found out, were very nice, and all behaved well in the cave.

After much difficulty with the lock and entry was effected, (to the sound of running water), and great surprise was shown at the “narrowness” of the opening. Falkus, who was at least eighteen inches thick, succeeded in getting through a “nine-inch” hole, although his posterior was somewhat of an obstacle.

By means of Jacob’s Ladder the Old Grotto was reached, and although the party had come through a curtain of water, their spirits were in no way dampened. A recording was made here with the “Expert” doing his best to knock the roof in. One of the female visitors expressed her delight with caving, and said she was determined to come again. She then asked someone to show her the quickest way out!

Whilst Don, “Expert” Coase took a small party on to the bottom of the 40ft. Pot, the exceedingly pleasant job of carrying yards and yards of cable back to the surface was begun. The same route was followed, and a couple of stops were made for “recording purposes”. Never before has anyone become so short of breath in so short a time. One moment Falkus was quite calmly making his way towards the entrance and the glorious sunshine, and the next he was uttering short, breathless phrases into the microphone, battling all the time to overcome the noise of the stream. Meanwhile a person known as Jonah, who departed from Woking without a pair of his trousers, was making a cine film of the party as they left the cave. “Nobby” Clark, dressed in mac, shirt and shoes, then drove us, wet and cold, back to the Belfry.

The Woking party later enjoyed a stew, collected their gear and then departed for home,

 to the accompaniment of many sighs, (especially from Jones).

Mike Jones,  Merv. Hannam, Dave England

Useful addresses:-

R.J. Bagshaw                Hon. Sec,.36. Ponsford Road, Bristol.4.

M. Hannam                   Caving Sec. 14. Vyvyan Terrace, Bristol.8,

A. Setterington              Hut Warden. 21 Priorswood Road, Taunton, Somerset ,

Acting Librarian, c/o Leigh House, Nempnett, Chew Stoke,

M Jones                        Sales Dept., 12. Melton Cresc Bristol.7.

R. Cantle                       Climbing Sect. Sec. 46. Cherrington Road, Bristol.9.


My note in the Personal column of the last BB has brought a storm of protest from the fathers of sons born prior to Johnny and Betty’s! I bow my heard in shame and admit not one mistake but more than one. Sorry John and Betty, there are others before you. If possible, I will try to give you a list, but there are at least two others with an earlier claim.

Thanks are due to those members who have already sent in articles for publication, but there can NEVER be too many, so let the trickle become a flood! If you don’t like the BB write and tell me what it is that you dislike, and I will do my best to alter it. Likewise, tell me if you approve as only by the reader’s reaction can I gauge if I am doing my job successfully.

Caving Report

Hon. Sec., Assist. Hon. Sec., and three others did an “Upper Swildon’s” on Sunday 6th July. Photographs were taken and two misguided persons came out the Wet Way. There were no casualties.


Climbing Report


Exploration of the Nether Regions        by Trevor C. Rhodes

Recently the writer of the following article did his first trip underground and as a result has burst into print.

I first contemplated a speleological foray after a singularly unsuccessful expedition to the Ponsford branch of the National Coal Board, of which the sole beneficial results appeared to be a generous coating of coal-dust and a full appreciation of the difficulties that a British mine-worker has to endure. Fully convinced that such subterranean conditions could not exist elsewhere, a caving trip appeared to provide an answer to this conviction.

A trip was arranged, and upon nearing Swildon’s Hole, where the initiation was to be made I was surprised that the topography gave so little evidence of the cave systems beneath. Apart from an occasional swallet hole, which was usually obscured by vegetation, there was no indication of other than solid ground beneath us.

We arrived at the barn that is used as a changing room, and although it was unpretentious, it was admirable for its purpose, as was evident upon our return, when wet clothes were cheerfully squeezed over the floor by all and sundry. The five of us changed into our assorted gear, which ranged from battledress to old flannels and pullovers which the dustmen had apparently rejected. We filled our carbide lamps, which are extremely efficient and then set off for a cross-country trek to the cave opening.

The entrance was a little surprising, and one wonders after seeing the system itself how the latter could have been formed by water coming through such a small mouth. The initial stage was a little disconcerting, extreme physical (and mental) effort being required to worm ones way between boulders which persist in barking ones shins, and trying extricate oneself from holes which appeared to contract as further progress, was essayed.

The number of positions which the average caver has at his disposal is really amazing, (48, 49, or 5O?? Ed.) for my confederates travelled feet first, head first, and in several most unorthodox attitudes, which appeared however to get through gaps like glorified mouseholes. As we went deeper the tunnel grew larger and eventually opened out into a fairly large chamber. A little previously, two of my hydrophilous (I think that perhaps scrofulous would be more appropriate Ed,) companions disappeared down a hole to rejoin us later in the grotto. It was interesting to see one’s school theories converted into material facts and thus demonstrating the diversified routes which exist in a limestone series, the faulting being especially apparent.

Below us, considerable drops occasionally invited the unwary, and proceeding with extreme caution, we eventually emerged into a chamber that was larger than any visited before. Here the party halted to recuperate from its exertions, and to take photographs from positions which appeared to impart to the more experienced of us, a, peculiar glee at having accomplished the well-nigh impossible !

This trend of achieving the impossible became more evident later. The man in front proceeded with the utmost vigour, frequently punctuating his journey with a most assorted collection of expletives and waving his legs in a really amazing fashion, until upon reaching the end of a particular climb, would sit upon the nearest vantage point and gaze on me with a triumphant air, giving the impression that progress is easy when one knows how.

After leaving the chamber a tunnel somewhat like that at the entrance was encountered. Progress was at first hampered by the writer’s refusal to admit the inevitability of getting wet. All was well until one of the aforementioned mouseholes barred our passage. Here further progress became impossible and a strategic withdrawal was effected, and I announced that I could not proceed. Thereupon, the information was volunteered that a way through underneath existed. My informant added with considerable satisfaction, that about a foot of water flowed through as well. I arrived at the other side spluttering and considering the advisability of a swimming costume.

The passage was very interesting, showing various forms of deposit and ended in the Forty-foot Pot, which appeared to me to be a considerable climb. After a brief pause we commenced the return journey, with little reluctance on my part for lunch was assuming enormous proportions in my mind. The hole in which I had previously stuck presented no difficulty; indeed I did not recognise it until I had passed though it. If I had I should probably not have attempted it.

Three of our number decided to return the dry way as they had photographic equipment, but myself and one other elected to pursue the wet route. This stretch was to me the most thrilling, consisting of a subterranean watercourse Here in one place there was a 20 foot waterfall between walls of rock approximately two feet apart. For perhaps the first time, my carbide lamp had to accede to the electric torch, which itself proved of little use in the sheets of water. My colleague disappeared into the torrent, and I was left, with rather mixed feelings, contemplating the ascent in a relative humidity of 99 per cent. It was one of those rare occasions when a caver is literally by himself, and taking my courage in my hands I crossed the Rubicund and started the climb. By the time I was half way up, practically all the breath had been driven out of me, and I eventually reached the top with a triumphant gasp. My companion gazed at me quizzically as if inquiring if I had been exerting myself.

The top was only a very short way away and we reached the surface without incident, and after a quarter of an hour’s wait for our colleagues, we returned to the barn.

After changing into civilised clothes an indefinable sense of contentment pervaded one’s being, and I wondered if it could be attributed to having accomplished what few have done, and in an atmosphere unclouded by commercialism. My doubts about caving had now been completely dispelled and several ideas had succeeded them. Of these, one fundamental was clearly isolated from the others. This was the universal bond between lovers of caving; their appreciation of their hobby, and their interdependence. Truly may the maxim “one for all and all for one” be applied to caving. Never did I more fully appreciate this than when my companion ascended the waterfall, and I was left so briefly to my meditations. In few other pursuits is such a dependence existent and I trust that this bond may not be corrupted. This, however is unlikely, foe with all my varied pursuits, I have seldom met such thoroughly likeable and dependable fellows as my companions. Perhaps the conveniences of the Barn were not all to be desired but this merely adds to the thrill; It is irrelevant if tea is found in the sugar tin, or if shrimps wriggle in one’s tea. The writer concludes by saying that he has seldom enjoyed a day more than this “Expedition” to the subterranean regions, and eagerly looks forward the next trip.

T.C. Rhodes

I’ve got a Grotter

Pongo has burst into verse?????? with the following:-

I’ve got a Grotter,
Always muddy: and wet.
Look around and you will find
Every stal. is calcite lined.
The lamp will shine,
Although the batteries an old one.
I’ve always said to myself, I’ve said,
“Cheer up, Pongo, you’ll soon be dead,
A short cave and a cold one”

With apologies to Lionel Monkton (I think)


The marriage of Roger Cantle and Miss Judy Puplett took place on 28th. June. A little bird tells me that the date was altered when the lads started making plans to assist with the honeymoon.

Johnny Menace Morris is being very secretive about his matrimonial plans. The Old Detective Agency will have to snap into gear!!

Are Squirrels Bat-eaters?

In reply to the constant need for material for the ‘B.B.’, perhaps this incident may be of interest to those members, who, like myself, take notice of bats.

The other day I was walking in a small wood at Barrow Gurney when I saw a large bat fly away from a maple tree about 12 feet above me, and land on the trunk of a nearby ash.  Sitting on a branch just above it was a grey squirrel which immediately went into action, leapt on the bat, killed it, and made off with it.  All this happened too quickly for me to observe which type of bat it was; but, the question is: - Do squirrels make a habit of preying on bats?

J.W. Ifold.

Stop Press

The marriage of John Menace Morris and Miss Jill Oldland took place at St. Peter’s Church, Henleaze, on Wednesday, July 9th.


I have been told that there seems to be a tendency for young married and engaged couples to drift away from the club.  This is a great pity, as in very many cases the original meeting of these couples was a direct result of their Club activities.  Is it that interest suddenly evaporates, or is it that more important things crowd out that interest?   Probably the latter.  Therefore, you stalwarts of the present and the future, don’t forget that the club needs you even if your need for the club has lessened.  Looking back through the years it is surprising how many couples have drifted away.  What is the answer?  Is it a ‘Husband and wife’ subscriptions at reduced rates? Possibly; I feel that such a scheme would offer some inducement to married couples to remain within the fabric of the club.



‘UNDERGROUND ADVENTURE’ by Arthur Gemmell and J.O. Myers.  ‘The stirring story of the discovery of underground Yorkshire’.  Price 15/- (15/9 post free) from Dalesman Publishing Co., Clapham, Via Lancaster.


This is not the original page scheduled, but owing to a set of circumstances that have risen since it was started, I feel that an alteration is essential.

I have received a letter which appeared to have been sent with the approval of the Committee threatening me with dire consequences if any error creeps into the BB.  One is amazed that a letter sent by a person not on the Committee can threaten another member with anything; consequently I am, next month, publishing the letter in full, together with my answer for it.  If this letter was not sent with Committee approval I look to them to take immediate steps to ensure that there is no repetition; and it is because that I am sure that they know nothing about it that I am taking the trouble and the member’s time in printing that which would naturally be thrown contemptuously into the waste-paper basket.

As Editor I welcome criticism at all times either destructive of otherwise, as it is only  with such, that I can build up the BB, but when letters over stepping the grounds of common decency and common sense then the sooner the Club knows about them and their authors the better.

Will the person (who is presumably still a member) take this as an intimation that I have received this letter, as I do not intend wasting the Club’s money on a stamp to acknowledge it in any other manner.

T.H. Stanbury, Editor B.B.


Overheard in G.B.

“Mad things, these helictites, aren’t they?”

“Yes, so would you be, if you had been here as long as they have!”


R.J. Bagshaw,            Hon. Sec. 58, Pensford Road, Bristol. 4.
K. Dobbs,                   Hon. Assist. Sec. Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4.
J.W. Ifold,                   Librarian, Leigh House, Nempnett, Chew Stoke, Nr. Bristol.
M. Hannam,               Caving Sec. 14, Vyvan terrace, Bristol. 8.
A. Setterington,          21, Priorwood Road, Taunton, Somt.
M. Jones,                   12, Melton Crescent, Bristol. 7.
R. Cantle,                   Climbing Sec. 48, Cherrington Road, Bristol. 8.
T.H. Stanbury,            Hon, Editor, 74, Woodleigh Gardens, Whitchurch, Brisol. 4.



The Belfry is shortly to be kept locked. Keys are now available on loan from the Hon. Sec. or Hut Warden. The loan fee of 2/- is refundable on return of the key.


Better late than never. We have just had word that Pete Stewart was married at Christmas. We regret we can give no further information regarding the name of his unfortunate partner.

New Members

259       Ron Nelmes 48 Bishop Rd, Bishopston 7,

260       J. Lamb 366 Filton Avenue 7.

261       Jim Martin, 51. Ash Road, Horfield.

May their lights never grow dim.


A working Party to produce Ladders etc is urgently required as tackle stocks are falling. This is the second appeal of this nature lets hope it will not be as fruitless as the last. Our stock of ladders is getting painfully low and If volunteors do not come forward soon the club will find itself in the unique position of being practically tackleless. Names please to either M Jones, M Hannam or K Dobbs alias Muggins!

Note from Mr & Mrs P ifold

Pat and Beryl wish to thank all club members for their very generous wedding presents.

Easterwater Cavern

It is desired to promulgate for the information and guidance of all persons , parties expedition, excursions & cutting etc., following account of an investigation into the possibility of using Eastwater Cavern as a breading ground for White Elephants.

It is further desired to make known that :-

A research party of’ seven fully experienced men, good and true, being of sound mind, and, well versed in, and having knowledge of the breeding instincts of the white Elephant did on the above mentioned date undertake the survey reported hereinafter.

D A Coase Esq. Lond Indif.                                             )

T Ratcliffe Esq. Lond Ad Info                                           )

M Hannum Esq. Brit Spel. A l la n Arch Bt.                      )

Bertie Conv.                                                                   )

D. Read Esq. Somnambulist and meat eater                    ) commissioners of

M Jones Esq. Lib & Nat Con,                                          ) the Council.

The findings made by the above council are set out below in log form:

11:15    Undressing took place in 0.B.

11:18    Redressing took place in O.B.

11:30    Entered Eastwater Cavern,

11:35    Stated that Read was quite incapable of leading a party though the Boulder Ruckle.

11:40    My 11:35 confirmed,

11:45    Rediscovered the Boulder Chamber

11:50    Left Boulder Chamber for top of the canyon.

11:55    Reached top of the Canyon.

12:00    Jones explored a hole in the roof and reported “Wont Go cock” (Metaphoric sense intended.).

12:10    Jones explored hole in the wall and reported “Wont go cock”

12:15    Began track down canyon

12:20    Found by Coase and Ratcliffe sitting in a pool of mud.

12:25    Coase leading. Prayers offered, Right hand bend, tight crevice, Allan’s braces bust (remarks omitted as they have direct bearing on the breeding of white elephants).

12:30    Tighter.

12:33    Stuck, (Latter part of my 12:25 applicable).

12:35    It was discovered that heat evaporates (damn) moisture.

12:36    Unstuck, Rejoicing.

12:40    Climbing.

12:45    Still climbing,

12:47    On oxygen

12:55    Narrow rift , sharp rock, skin almost gone, Great pain.


13:00    We go down.

13:10    Duty P.O. requested outside E.R.A to run the ventilation as the atmosphere was becoming rather heavily charged.

13:20    Shaft found to be that mentioned in my 1200,

13:43    Back in hole in the wall

14:15    All this time spent thratching,

14:35    Out. Whaw! Raining,

The commissioners of the Council are of the unanimous opinion that Eastwater Cavern is an ideal breading ground for White Elephants and recommends that it be developed.

Signed,  Jacka.

Commissioners of the Council,

Club Trip To Derbyshire, Easter.1952.

A few weeks before Easter, it seemed likely that about 12 members would go on this trip to Derbyshire, but one by one, like the Ten Little Nigger Boys, bods had to drop out because of various accidents or changes of plan. Finally four were left and one of these did not appear. D.Gwinnel and P. Bird went up by rail on the Thursday night and reached Bakewell after a free, but quite unwanted rail tour of the Peak (because of misdirection by a porter at Derby Station). Thence by bus to Baslow and on foot to the Birmingham Cave & Crag Clubs excellent quarters below Baslow Edge. D and two Birmingham Club members climbed on one of the Edges (millstone grit) on Friday afternoon. Early on Saturday D and P moved on to Castleton, The road from Bakewell to Castleton goes through some fine limestone scenery, past the gliding centre at Hucklow. At Castleton we stayed at a hut lent to the Orpheus Caving Club. It commands a splendid view across the Winnots Pass to the steep face of Marn Tor.

Pongo Wallis appeared on his bike, disappeared in the direction of Chapel-on-le-Frith and was not seen again. On Saturday we searched old mine heaps for lead ore and Blue John. Blue John is a form of fluorspar found only at Castleton. It is banded purple yallow and white, and is used to make justly famed decorative bowls. We visited the Speedwell Cavern, a “show cave”. One goes by boat along a flooded mine level, 2250 feet long, to a natural sloping chamber which contains a lake. Total height of chamber reputedly 540 feat, but possibly much less. It is certainly imposing.

On Sunday we did Oxlow Cavern with a party of Orpheus, who had previously laddered it. Oxlow is said to be really wet at times, but was mostly quite dry on this occasion. You can read all about Oxlow in “Cave Science” no. 17 for July, 1951. The Orpheus Club makes much use of carabiners and of running belays.

The next day we had a look at Treak Cavern, supposed to be the prettiest “show “ cave at Castleton. There is one fine stalactite grotto and the veins o f Blue John are worth seeing, but there are no formations to compare with Gough’s let alone the August Hole Series of Longwood. The return journey to Bristol is not worth recording so your scribe will not record it.

Pete Bird.

Caving Report.

After an absence of two months, due largely to a lack of variation in the caving programme, the report is back in circulation. During Easter large crowds converged on Mendip and it was a pleasure to see many of the familiar faces together with some new ones from Nottingham, Derbyshire and various parts of .

Trips to Eastwater, Swildon’s, Axbridge and the Burrington area were carried out and there were many reminiscences of the “old caving days” during the evenings at the Hunters. Two members of the club spent Easter in Derbyshire and joined the O.C.C. for a trip down Oxlow Pot. They also visited several other caves in the district. A number of people attended the recent Lamb Leer meet and apparently had a good time….. The only outstanding feature of this trip was the amazing amount of liquid which Sage can carry or rather can’t carry, a threatened burst from above caused half a dozen members to scatter in wild confusion across the bottom of the first chamber …. 60 odd feet below. It was also most enlightening to hear a family history traced back for some generations in such a short space of time...... Ed

However despite the above activities there is no need for complacency since plenty of’ caving and digging is still to be done. LOG SHEETS. Just a gentle reminder that there are still plenty of log sheets both at the Belfry and at club evening meetings, ready to be filled in.

More Injuries.

We regret to announce that John (Shorty) Shorthose who recently decamped for the wilds of has come unstuck from “Amber”, his vintage Motor cycle, and is now slowly recovering from a broken shoulder blade.

International Congress 1953

Literature has been received regarding the International Congress of Speleology. The first session is to be held in Paris from September 1st - 5th. Following this there will be trips arranged to French caves. The exact cost is not as yet known but if any members are interested will they get in touch with the Hon Sec. as soon as possible.

Useful addresses:-

R.J. Bagshaw                Hon. Sec,.36. Ponsford Road, Bristol.4.

M. Hannam                   Caving Sec. 14. Vyvyan Terrace, Bristol.8,

A. Setterington              Hut Warden. 21 Priorswood Road, Taunton, Somerset ,