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The Belfry

The Club has at last fulfilled its promise to members to provide an HQ worthy of the Club. A large hut has been purchased, at very considerable expense. This hut was situated at Rame Head in Cornwall and a gang of stalwarts recently defied the vile weather and spent a weekend there and dismantled it. The weekend was noted for several things; the rain, the wind, the meals cooked and eaten under conditions that would have made the most hardened tramp shudder, the hardness of the floors at night and the lack of water.

We ask all members that are able to make every effort to got to Mendip and lend a hand with the erection and decoration of their new HQ.

The Hut is 30ft long by 15ft wide and is being erected adjacent to the existing hut. The present 'Married Quarters' is to be used as a kitchen and added to one end of the new hut, whilst the old Main hut is to be used as & generator house, tackle store and changing room. This will, give us ample space for everything, we hope, and will thus do away with the need for keeping mountains of semi-useless gear under the bunks etc..

It has been suggested that those who are not able to get to Mendip regularly may like to help by giving a small donation to the hut fund. The Club would be very grateful for all such donations, as the cost of the hut, £100, is very considerable.

DONT FORGET to visit the Caving Exhibition at the Bristol Museum 25th  November to 11th December.

Bristol Exploration Club.(London Section).

A suggestion was made on August Bank Holiday, that the members in and around London should form a London Section for the purposes of Local Meetings and field meets. The following has been received from John Shorthose:-

The suggestion made during the August Bank Holiday weekend, that the London-based members of the club should arrange to get together from time to time, has now been put into effect, and a London Section formed.  The usual meeting place is 7, Marius Mansions, Rowfant Road, Balham, S.W.17., where two meetings have so far been held. The next is fixed for Sunday October 24th at 3.30 p.m. (This has already been held, the letter arriving too late for the Sept. BB. Ed.). Any members of the club visiting London will be very welcome, but are asked to drop the acting Hon. Sec. a line or telephone Balham 7545.

The Section has not confined itself to "armchair" caving, and has made three field trips, two to inspect some swallets in Herts., and one to look at a hearthstone mine near Reigate.

The swallets at Water End, near Hertford look most interesting and it is intended to seek permission to dig them late next spring, when there is less chance of sudden flooding refilling any hole that may be found.

The hearthstone mine proved to be still working, and was locked so the party adjourned to Godstone. The first cave inspected was found to have the entrance blocked by a subsidence, and is on the programme for digging. A second cave was however entered and photographs taken.

It is hoped to visit the Chislehurst caves on Saturday 23 October, if the necessary permission can be obtained.

Annual General Meeting 1948.

MEMBERS ARE INFORMED THAT THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING WILL BE HELD ON SATURDAY, 4TH. DECEMBER AT THE RED LION HOTEL, WELLS ROAD, KNOWLE BRISTOL. 4. The meeting will commence at 7.0p.m., and members are asked that all items for the agenda be sent to the Hon Sec. by the morning of Dec.4th.

All Lumbers are asked to make a special effort to attend.

Have YOU filled out and returned YOUR voting paper?

List of Members 1948, No.3,

A. Riddell            13 Randal Road, Clifton, Bristol 8.
A. McCoy           14. Clifton Down Road, Clifton; Bristol 8.
H.D. Schoner      21. Richmond Terrace, Clifton, Bristol 8,
J.W. Adams        27. Granby Hill, Clifton, Bristol 8.
R. Wade             101. Princess Victoria Street, Clifton, Bristol.
M. Farr               1. Sion Lane, Clifton, Bristol 8
R. Beer               9. Westfield Place, Clifton, Bristol 8.
J. Beer                9. Westfield Place, Clifton, Bristol 8
D. Williams         Arch House, Victoria Square, Clifton, Bristol 8
G.P. Donald        c/o Hills Hotel, 37.Princes Square, London, W2.

Notes on a recent Caving Trip to

by T.H. Stanbury.

I have several outstanding memories to remind me of a fortnight's stay in the midst of some of the finest scenery it has ever been my lot to see.

First I must thank the Wessex Cave Club for their invitation to join their party, and for the splendid time than they gave me during our tour.

Our trip to Valence via Folkestone and Paris was uneventful, athough tiring in the extreme, and we were all glad when the journey ended. We were met at Valence by M. Ageron of the Club Alpln Francais who was our host during our stay. We slept all the morning and in the afternoon walked to some hills and a ruined castle to the West of the Town.

On the second morning we were called at 5.0a.m.. We boarded a coach which took us via Romans and Pont en Royans, to Choronche. Chorenche is a small hamlet situated in a gorge which makes Cheddar seem insignificant. This was our HQ for the time, and after breakfast we started our touring in earnest.

Our first introduction to this area, the Vercours, was Les Grands Goulets. This is a tremendous gorge, hundreds of feet deep, with vertical walls, the road being cut out of the cliff face about 300 feet above the river that flows at the bottom. The gorge is very narrow and ends in a high cascade. Passing through a tunnel the road emerges into an alp, and for some miles we followed this valley climbing all the time. Here was a centre for the Maquis during the war, and we passed many villages that had been destroyed by the Germans as reprisals.

After a while we stopped at a farm and the coach and our escort of French Army, and the cars of the C.A.F. turned into a meadow.

Here we changed into caving kit and walked about half a mile to the base of some cliffs and La Grotte de la Luire. This cave has a very impressive entrance and we were told that there is a drop of 600 feet in it, but we were not able to investigate.

In this cave the French Military hospital from Grenoble was moved when the Germans captured their temporary site in the Valley. Here too, they were captured and shot, some of the nurses being among the victims. Memorials in the cave recount the story and are erected to the memory of those who lost their lives.

Leaving this site we continued by coach up the valley, and plunging through a long tunnel emerged at the head of a deep valley. Below us we could see the continuation of our road winding its way endlessly down the mountain side. Our coach stopped at the highest point and after visiting a friendly hostelry we retraced our steps following the contour of the hills, eventually stepping at La Col de la Machine. This is the start of a gorge, La Combe Laval.

The Combe starts as a vertical precipice 1300 feet high, at the base of which rises a river comparable in size to the River Avon. The cave system is probably similar to Wookey Hole as there are several entrances at different levels. No one has yet penetrated this system, but the C.A.F. are contemplating an attack on it in the near future by lowering themselves to the highest level from the top of the cliff.

Next day we visited La Grotte de Bruillion.  Here again a large river sees the light of day.  A huge arch 250 ft. high and the same wide, gives access to a cave system running about 10 miles into the mountain to La Luire visited yesterday.

The water level was high so we were able to venture no further than the main river inside the cave. Together with Low, Dolphin and Devenish I had fun and games amongst the foaming waters where the river pours down from the 'Cave' level to that of the exit.  The speed of the water was very high and we had great difficulty in keeping our feet in even three inches of water, let alone the five or six feet depth of the river between the many boulders in the centre of the flow.

In the afternoon we went to La Grotte Favour. This is 1000 ft. above the road, and the climb seemed like miles in the blazing sun. The main entrance is similar to that of Aveline's Hole in Burrington, but infinitely larger.  A tunnel 20-25 feet square and about 90 yards long dives down into the mountain at the Aveline angle.  Below this are vast chambers in one of which is a stalagmite boss 60 feet high and 15 feet in diameter.  Other passages led to other smaller chambers and cross passages reminiscent of Mendip, but mostly dusty and dead. In one of these were found cave bear bones. .

On the Wednesday we returned to Valence where a reception was held for us by the Mayor and his entourage.

Thursday saw us up early and we left by coach for the south. Passing through Montelimar, the home of French Nougat, we crossed the Rhone at Pont St. Esprit, and passed up through olive groves into the Cevennes.  These hills are more rounded than the Vercors and are bare and lifeless.  These hills are of limestone and abound in dry watercourses which are transformed during heavy rain into raging torrents.  Our route followed one of these watercourses and eventually we reached the village of Orgnac.  About 1½ miles beyond the village is L'Aven D'Orgnac, here we met M. de Joly, President of S.S.F. and were escorted around the show cave.  Descending at the end of the show cave into a section not open to the public we saw several huge columns of stalactite far larger than anything I have ever seen before.

Orgnac is very wonderful, with magnificent formations.  These mostly are stalagmites of immense size and are shaped like flowers, the successive layers of deposit overlapping the previous ones.

We returned to the surface for lunch and afterwards I was privileged to be one of a party of 10 taken by M. de Joly to "les plus dangerous" parts of the cave. Our route lay through the main chamber and then we branched off to the left of the tourist route over banks of stalagmite.  Arriving at a chimney a dural ladder was fixed and we climbed to the top, this giving access to a gallery running at high level along the wall of the main chamber almost at its top.  Here the formation was more reminiscent of Mendip as regards size, but there were masses of eratics which looked like masses of well browned chips thrown against the walls. From certain vantage points it was possible to overlook the tourist part of the cave, and the visitors being conducted around looked more like diminutive ants than human beings,

Following a platform around the chamber we found ourselves on a ledge that grew progressively narrower as we travelled along it, rapidly degenerating into a ledge where we used the stalagmites growing from the vertical wall as handhold.  The ledge ended abruptly, and when my turn came I approached the end and found that at right angles to our present direction and about four feet away was a hole similar to the end of the Drain-Pipe in Goatchurch.  This was our route and I saw those who were in front on a continuation of the ledge beyond the hole.

There was a vertical drop of about 300 feet between the end of the hole, the only intermediate support being a loose leaf of rock about half way between the end of the ledge and the hole.  A light alpine line had been run loosely between the ledge and the hole but was purely psychological as one slip would have meant curtains for the person concerned.

Surprisingly enough the gap was negotiated with ease and we continued our perambulation along the other ledge. This soon opened into a small chamber with very beautiful formations.  Entering a parallel chamber we were each presented with a 'Gour' from the floor as a memento of the occasion, and we returned to the main chamber via the gap and narrow ledge which seemed even worse on the return journey.

We returned to the surface at 6.30 after M. de Joly had left a metal strip inscribed with the date and details of the visit, to be sealed in place by the drip on to one of the Stalagmites.

The next morning we resumed our travels at 6.0.a.m., and passing through Ales, we eventually reached La Grotte des Demoseilles.  This cave is situated on a hill side and was the furthest point south reached by us.  The Grotto is magnificent, some of the huge formations showing signs of being shattered by an earthquake and having formation subsequently growing on the shattered pieces.

In this cave the walls are completely covered with formation and the whole place is one mass of columns and pillars.

The cave is reached from the hillside by a funicular railway and some time before our visit the cable had broken and the top car had torn down the slope colliding with very spectacular results with the one at the bottom.

After lunch we left for Bramabiau, the road taking us over the hill tops on the longest zig-zag yet, the coach taking 1½ hours to climb to the top.

At Briambiau the limestone is in association with granite and is very hard.  The swallet is huge and takes a big stream.  The entrance is square section and at a distance from the entrance there is a spot where the roof has collapsed and is open to the sky.  The stream, or rather, small river, here vanishes down a hole reminiscent of Swildons Hole, but we were not allowed to penetrate any further.

At the resurgence about half a mile away, there is a huge cleft in the hillside from which the river pours in a waterfall. Entering this cleft we followed the river upstream for about 100 yards.

The next morning we visited L’Aven Armand, which is situated on the Causse, which is a bare and stony expanse many miles in extent.

Armand appealed to me more than all the other caves except the special trip at Orgnac.  Here the formations are superb, and the whole cave is so arranged that the maximum amount is seen from each vantage point.  The cave is one huge chamber, about double the volume of Lamb Leer, and of similar shape, with the original entrance as a chimney in the roof.  The modern entrance is down a long tunnel hewn out of the rock.  At Armand also a strip of metal was laid to commemorate the visit.

From L'Aven Armand the coach took us back direct to Valence, the journey taking from 12:45 until 9:30, the coach travelling at high speed all the way.  The main party by caught the night train back to Paris and , whilst Low, Dolphin and I moved to an hotel for the night.

On the Sunday morning the three of us went to Grenoble by train, where we spent the night.  In Grenoble there were festivities commemorating the release of Grenoble from bondage 100 years ago. All around the city are mountains, some of which are snow capped.

On Monday we travelled by bus to Lac Laffrey where we bivouacked for the night.  On the Tuesday we walked over the hill top and eventually descended into the Romanche Valley via a very hair-raising mountain path. At Gavet we caught a bus to Le Bourg d'Oisans where we installed ourselves in a small hotel.

On Wednesday we walked to L'Alpe d'Huez and on to Lac Besson, returning in the evening to d'Oisans.

Thursday was the highlight of the week. We travelled on the luggage grid on top a bus to the Col de Lauteret and then climbed to the Col de Galibier from where we saw Mont Blanc.  Here too, i trod Alpine snows for the first time. The route from d'Oisans took us through immense valleys and along through La Grave, the centre for the La Meije Massif which was on our right with its hanging glaciers and snowfields.  There were many hydro- electric schemes in operation each with its attending reservoir.  Some of these artificial lakes were very large and were very beautiful.  Thursday was our last day in the mountains and we spent the morning in a walk to the mountain hamlet of Villard Notre Dame.  We had a picnic lunch there and returned to d'Oisans in time to catch the bus back to Grenoble. Here we caught the night train back to Paris and from there eventually arrived back in Bristol dead tired on the Sunday morning early,

This was my first visit to the southern half of and my enthusiasm has been fired for further visits as soon as I am able to arrange it. BUT, in my personal estimation, the caves of Mendip arc second to none; no where did I see such close packed beauty as on Mendip.