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This BB was published in error as No 41.

Annual General Meeting 1950 will be held On Saturday Jan. 2Oth.1951.

The Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club will be held in Room 5 at St, Mary Redcliffe Community Centre, Guinea Street, Redcliffe, Bristol at 3.0 p.m.. All item for inclusion on the Agenda must reach Hon Sec by the 1st of January 1951. Each member will receive a Postal Ballot form and a copy of the Agenda will be sent to each member as soon as possible after this date.

Caving in the Vercors, No 1

by T.H. Stanbury

La Grotte du Bournillon

The Grotte du Bournillon is situated in the gorge of the River Bourne a. couple of miles from the hamlet of Choranche and on the opposite side of the gorge to the Grotte de Favot, which is a few miles further up-stream. When I visited the cave in 1948 we approached it from Choranche through the tiny hamlet of Vegor which is perched haphazardly on the sloping side of the gorge below the vertical face.

At a junction of two streams the road dropped down to the of the river and here the road ended at a power station. Although only small this hydro-electric station was very up-to-date, and was fed by water power brought down from further up the valley by means of tunnels through the rock. Here on a wall beside the station we changed into our caving togs, and, crossing the R.H. stream started off up a path.  Passing up through trees, we emerged on to a scrub-covered slope.  Below us we could see the stream foaming over its rocky bed, whilst ahead of us was a tremendous cliff.  Down the face of this cliff fell a waterfall several hundred foot high - a truly magnificent spectacle -. How unusual it was, to see surface water falling over a limestone cliff, the stream must have been very recent in origin or else it would have already found a subterranean course for itself.

Continuing towards the waterfall we soon found that it was only a small feeder for the main stream which we could see flowing towards us from around a right-band bend.  Passing over a rocky limestone outcrop, we plunged again into a grove of trees, emerging a few minutes later at a cliff face.  This face, here undercut and very weathered, reminded me of the photographs that I had seen of some of the larger of the French prehistoric sites.

Following this face downward to the left, we reached the top of a long slope that dropped away to the stream, which here had widened into a considerable pool.  A mighty arch spanned the water, and passing under it we entered the Grotto du Bournillon.  It was very hard to say at what exact moment we actually entered the cave, so immense was the arch, We estimated the entrance to be about 250 feet high and about the same wide, and we felt very small and insignificant wandering about under it.

There were two apparent ways in - a path led towards the stream; and another great arch under the main one and to the right, gave entrance to a chamber, the size of which, even from the distance we were from it, was immense. We followed the path to the stream, and soon we were threading our way beside it. The large entrance chamber had here undergone a startling transformation. The river was hemmed in between two rocky walls, whilst the roof was no more that 100 ft. over our heads. Ahead there was a very deep roar and a great turbulence of the river, and climbing along a very narrow path on the R.H. wall, with, only a single strand of wire between ourselves and the foaming depths, we saw ahead of us a hole about 6 ft. wide and 10ft. high through which the water roared. I have called the water flowing from the cave both "stream" & "river", but I must explain here that there was far more water flowing from the cave than there is at Wookey Hole in time of spate.

The river flowed through the hole with a noise like thunder, a spout of water over 8 feet long. It was the most impressive thing that I have ever seen in a cave. The path ended here at a tiny bridge and although we made a thorough examination of the rock around the hole could find no way through except where the water came out, and it was patent that nothing could force its way in through that foaming maelstrom.

Having satisfied ourselves that there was no entrance there, we retraced our steps towards the entrance, where two members of the party and myself stripped off and had a swim in the big pool under the arch. It was a very thrilling proceeding; we jumped in and them swam upstream in a backwater, emerging into the current and then swimming frantically for the bank before we were wept away. - another member of the party who saw us, tried a similar thing lower down the valley and being rather foolish, allowed himself to be swept into the centre of the stream, where he was whipped away by the current over some rapids before he could be rescued, eventually being saved, rather battered, and certainly much wiser, by others in the party. The current was so swift that even at ankle depth it was a problem to keep ones feet, and so the force of the column of water issuing from the cave can well be imagined.

Finishing our swim, we dried ourselves and then passed under the second arch mentioned earlier. We found ourselves in an immense chamber with a steeply sloping floor of boulders. As we climbed, the daylight gradually lessened and we completed the climb in darkness. Although we had been in the cave so long there had been no need for artificial lighting until that moment, as there was plenty of daylight coming in through the entrance arch. When we reached the top of the slope we found that the chamber was even larger that it had first appeared and the top of the slope was away from the further wall and a reverse slope led down again to it.

Passing along the apex of the ridge we entered another chamber at a high level and here we again heard the roar of the river again. We had entered the stream chamber through its “back door”. Perched on a stalagmite ledge high above the water, we could see the daylight shining in through the stream exit. Our way lay along the ledge, and in a few, minutes this widened out into a flat platform that terminated in a rounded tunnel, with the river, now at a much higher level, flowing smoothly along and ending at our feet, the water finding its way through a maze of boulders and then emerging about 25 yards from the exit, to foam over the boulders before precipitating itself into daylight. The water in the passage was deep, and so regretfully we halted. We were told that for 3 km, the tunnel had been explored, and beyond that no-one had ever been. - What a chance for a determined party. The majority of the party then retraced their steps to the entrance, but a party of four including the writer clambered down over the boulder strewn floor to where the water appeared.

Here we could see the water exit at close quarters and we also noticed that there was a second opening beside the first, although no daylight could be seen through it, we made every effort to reach this second hole, but the speed of the water had us beaten. We had half an hour‘s excellent fun in the foaming torrent, the power of which was amazing and we eventually gave up the attempt when we realised that the water would sweep us through the hole before we could have taken a couple of strokes towards our target.

We returned very wet and thoroughly happy via the upper route to the entrance, where we found that the rest had been taken into a high level system that ran parallel to the river passage and joined it at the point furthest reached 3 km from the entrance.

The most amazing thing about Bournillon is that a year later in 1949, club members went there from Valence and found the river dry. There was no water there at all and they were able to enter the cave via the water exit and to explore the main river passage. They reported a large passage with a floor strewn with boulders as big as a bus, at the end of which was a trap.

It is felt that the mystery of such places would soon be solved if the district could suddenly be transferred to Mendip or Bristol to the neighbourhood of Pont-en-Royans.

List of Members 1950. No.8

Derek Hunt                 Reed Cottage, Chilcompton, Bath, Somerset.
Fred Targett                Phillis Hill, Midsomer Norton, Nr. Bath, Somerset
Ralph Gregory            57, Gloucester Street, Upper Eastville, Bristol,5
Jock Berry                  25, Dennor Park, Hengrove, Bristol.4.
Jim Sims                    69, Kenmare Road, Knowle, Bristol.4
John Buxton               Calwich Gardens Near Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Mike Cook,3507129    AC2, Hut Y31, No 3 Wing, No 2 Radio School, R,A,F, Yatesbury, Nr Calne, Wilts.
Roger Hobbs              139, North Road, St Andrew; Bristol 6
Ted Farr                     6. St. David’s Cresc, St. Annes, Bristol,4.
Kenneth Long             3. Colston Parade, Bristol, 1
Norman Carr               35 .Kings Ave., New Maldon Surrey
Shag Matthews           112, Blagdon Road, New Maldon Surrey,
Dr J.D. Johnson          Crummock, Yew Tree Road, Dorking Surrey,
Paul Burt                    Insecticides Dept, Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harptened, Herts,
Rosemary Beales       c/o 246 York Road, Bristol
Clare Ainsworth          16. Ninetree Hill, Bristol 1
Les Thompson            5O.Newnham Drive, Ellesmere Port, Wirral, Cheshire
R. Setterington           146 Sunny Gardens Road Hendon, London
R. Bennett                  37 Queens Road, Ashley Down, Bristol.7,
R.C. Davis                  119 Cromwell Road, Montpelier, Bristol
Alma Searle               55 Langton Park, Southville, Bristol 3


Congratulations to Angus Innes and Margaret Pope on their recent engagement. Good luck to both of you.

Climbing Section Report LLIWEDD

by “Holler in the Night” Newman

Once again the Climbing Section, the Death or Glory boys, succeeded in avoiding death and acquiring its alternative in North Wales. R. Newman, P. Ifold and R. Cantle departed from Bristol by car - for once having an uneventful journey - to join J. Morris and H. Crabtree on the spot. This expedition was unique in the conspicuous absence of rain consequently we have a lengthy line to shoot.

Day one was spent on Lliwedd, which boasts the highest cliff in and is on that account worthy of a fuller description. It is 1,000 feet high and has a character of its own. The strata run perpendicularly, so that the face consists almost exclusively of cracks and grooves. Furthermore, the rock overlaps in a boiler-plate formation and most of the holds are small and slope outwards.

As you may imagine on a 1,000-foot face, the exposure is great, and the climbs on Lliwedd are of a long and serious nature. It also has the reputation of being loose and dangerous, and most climbers regard it as experts’ ground. As a result, few people climb on Lliwedd, which suits us fine: nothing is worse than climbing on a crowded face and being surveyed by gormless people above and below or waiting for a party in front on the same climb to move on.

Why Lliwedd is not more popular is rather puzzling: the climb we did was on pretty sound rock. Even Bob had this fixation about avoiding Lliwedd, due to some nasty experiences on it in his early climbing days, and he had transmitted some of his misgivings to us. However, the Menace was keen and he gave us a convincing sales talk on Lliwedd, so we fell in with the Menace. Afterwards we were glad we did, and were so delighted with it that we discussed further routes on it.

One reason for Lliwedd’s unpopularity may be its inaccessibility: to reach its foot involves a three mile walk over a rough track followed by a long grind up scree slopes. We decided on “Route II”, classified as “very Difficult”, but in view of the high standards in the Lliwedd guide, it may be pushed up one stage to correspond with “severes” in the other guides,

We were in two parties; Morris and Newman leading through in the first, and Crabtree, Cantle and Ifold in the second. Finding one’s way up Lliwedd is quite a job: every groove looks exactly like its neighbour, and the Menace and myself often found ourselves balanced precariously halfway up a pitch, with guide books (open at page 56) in our hands, arguing about where we should go next. It doesn’t do to stray off the route, since our route crossed over or came very close to some “Very severes”.

One particular pitch on our route was up to F.N.I. standard. One steps off a bollard very delicately on to a few small outward-sloping holds and then endeavours to struggle up for several feet without either hand or footholds, until one reaches two “thankgod” holds (as the guide-book describes them) after which conditions ease. It had to be my turn to lead on this but after several attempts I could not get to the “thankgod” holds and had to retreat to the bollard. The Menace then produced rubbers and got up it, after a long and strenuous struggle. With the added security of a toy rope, I then flashed up it in a few seconds: I think I beat the speed record for that pitch!

After this difficult pitch, we carried on as before to the Great terrace, about two thirds of the way up, where Route II ended. We then carried on to the top by way of the Terminal Arete. Here the rock was loosed and the sense of exposure on the knife-edge of the arete was terrific: you’d fall almost a thousand feet before you hit anything at all, and after that you’d bounce down the scree for some distance. Yet we all felt on form and quite happy about it. There is no grander experience than leading a very exposed climb when you feel on form: conversely, there is no worse feeling when you don’t feel on form - as I found on Tryfan the very next day.

The lack of form on Tryfan may be attributed to fatigue as a result of somewhat overdoing things on Lliwedd the first day, after not having climbed for some time. A six mile walk, a graunch up a scree slope and a 1,000 foot climb involves a large expenditure of physical and nervous energy.

However, we thought it was worth it - especially when we reached the top and gazed around at the magnificent view. We could see as far south as the Pembrokeshire coast, which, according to my old battered school atlas in the junk-box upstairs, is quite a long way. We had intended to carry on along the col at the top to Snowdon, but decided against it, which is perhaps just as well, since we only reached Capel in time for one rapid pint afterwards. After our quiche noggin we whiled away the remaining daylight on small slabs near the barn. I was so tired that night, that I didn’t even holler!!!

Weathers, by Pro Bono Beco.

This is the weather the caver likes,
And so do I;

When drivers are falling off motor-bikes,
And swear-words fly:

And would-be songsters sing and coo,

And pints disappear at the Hunters’ too,
And gone are the days of the Belfry stew,

And spelios dream of the G.B. glue,
And so do I.

This is the weather all BECites hate,
And so do I;

When swallet rivers are in spate,
And nothing’s dry:

And heroes swim in icy pot,
Grovel in streams and mud, I wot,

And even the draughty air gets hot,

As madmen squirm through every grot,
- But not so I!!

Letter about Three Mile Cavern circa 1780

A copy of a letter written on Tuesday August 15th, 1780, on exploring the Three Mile Cavern in Derbyshire, which is supposed to communicate with Peak’s Hole, vulgarly called the Devil’s ----- in the Peak, submitted by Jill Rollason.

“The last place I parted with ye was from Peak’s Hole, and there you will naturally have concluded that our under-ground workings had been at an end! But alas! my friend Fate had otherwise ordain’d it; the Spirit of Curiosity had warped our rational Faculties; danger had become familiar to us, and we therefore determined upon a Plan which wizor men would have shudder‘d at the idea of. This was no less than exploring the Three Mile Cavern which I have already mentioned. Summoning therefore a Pose-comitatus, of all the miners of the place, we in brief told them our intention. Astonishment at first prevented them from answering us; none but two or three had ever ventured upon a Trial, custom even had not reconcil’d the others to so hazardous an enterprise: a promise of reward however, prevail’d upon the whole, and they accordingly agree‘d to attend us in the morning.

In the mean time a Messenger being dispatched to Sheffield for torches, we began seriously to prepare for our descent, this was soon accomplished. A paper of Memorandums was left in our escritoirs and a card in case of accident, telling who our friends were and where they were to be found, was left upon the Table in the Inn. Thus guarding against the worst that could befall us, at least so far as it respected matters which we might leave behind, we early next morning, accompanied by a chosen set of our near guides, repaired to the top of the Mountain where the Fissure open’d itself about three feet in diameter. Provided by the Miners with proper dresses, we then stripp’d Ourselves of our own outward Apparel and putting on each a pair of Canvas Trowsers, a flannel Jacket, and over that a Canvas Frock, with a Handkerchief over our Heads, and a Miners cap, we all proceeded one by one down this dread Abyss, for the distance of about 420ft. perpendicular.

Imagination can scarcely form a descent more perilous than this was. The only Steps to tread on, or things to hold by, were bits of oak stuck into the sides by the inhabitants of that place since it was first discovered., and which from want of use it was natural to suppose might have either rotted or loosened themselves in the Earth; moreover, a false step hurled: one inevitably to destruction; fortunately all was firm, and we arrived safe at the bottom, unhurt.

From thence renging ourselves in order, with a large bundle of candles and Torches, independent of the Candles we each of us carried we proceeded on with tolerable facility, thro’ two or three lofty and most beautiful enamoll’d Caverns of Spar. This we conceived as an earnest of future delight, and the Tablets were accordingly set at work; but alas; how great was our mistake. Here our difficulties were to commence. Following the Guides who, besides another who was with us, were the only two of the Party who had ever penetrated before we forced our way with infinite struggles, thro’ a narrow space between two rocks, and thence getting on our Hands and Knees were for the full distance of a Mile, obliged to crawl without ever daring to lift up our Heads the passage being too low. Filled with Mud, Dirt and a multitude of bits of Rocks, our progress was painful indeed, we still hoped for something better.

On we accordingly proceeded, ‘till a dreadful noise rumbling along the Crevices of the Cave, gave us to understand that we were near a River, to this then we according hurried. But description is inadequate to anything like a representation of this Scene. A vast Ocean seemed roaring in upon us; in some places bursting with inconceivable impetuosity, and others, falling through dreadful Chasms, naturally formed to give it vent; through this our journey was to continue. A cry of Light however alarm’d us, the confinement of the Air, and the narrowness of our Track, had extinguished all our Torches the candles too, all but one small end, were totally expended. We knew not what to do, In vain the Miners hollowed for the supply which was to have come behind; no answer was to be heard. Our fate seemed now inevitable; but we who were the Principals, fortunately express’d no fear. In this extremity a gallant Fellow, who was yet ignorant of the place, but from experience knew the danger we were in, suddenly disappeared, and after groping a considerable time in the dismal Horrors of the place, at length returned to us, with a fresh supply of Candles, having discovered his Companions unto who they were given in charge, almost petrified with fear, and unable to continue after us from their apprehensions.

Repriov'd in this manner from a Death which seemed to await us, in its most horrid form, we proceeded with fresh Recruits of Spirits, and plunging into the River above our waists, scarce tenable from the impetuosity of the Torrent, we cautiously plck'd our steps, and at length, after four hours most unspeakable fatigue, arrived at about 300 yards beyond the spot where the subterranean passage we had the dry before explor'd, was expected to find an entrance into this dreadful place. Here, then we were obliged to stop; a fall into a yawning Gulph in which I was providentially saved by a corner of a Rock catching me by the knee, had hitherto given me an inconceivable degree of pain, but I had not spoke; it now became scarcely bearable; out, however I was to crawl, and that too, upon this tortured limb. The retreat accordingly began: but-no Anguish could surpass the excess Torment I was in. Often did I wish to remain where I was, no Succour or Assistance could be given me; every man was painfully busied in charge of his own safety. At length having almost worn out the other knee, and torn both my sides and back by forcing myself in those positions I was compelled to call out for help as we happily came to the first opening where I could be raised.

Languor and Faintness from what I had suffered, had totally deprived mo of my Strength. I was accordingly seated on a rock, but in a few minutes having collected myself as much as possible, I totter'd through the rest of the Cavern, helped where Assistance could be given me, and in that manner got to the blessed Sunshine of the Day. All the rest however were tolerably well, excepting two of our Guides, one of whom had received a violent contusion on his Head from a Rock, and another several bruises from a fall, in his climbing up the last aperture. Altogether the depth we had descended was about 140 fathoms or 980 feet, and the length about 3 miles, according to the Minors' calculations. Neither at this distance were we at the end, a passage still continued, but so filled with water, and so full of Peril that the Miners themselves were averse to further trial. And here, my friend, I will take my leave of you for the present. The pains in my limbs are still excruciating; but a little time will set all to rights again. All I have to say is, that I never wish even the greatest Enemy I have in the World, to be so unpardonably led by curiosity as to tempt destruction, where indenendent of the Dangers of the place, the falling of a single Stone might bury him in Eternity for Ever."

Note:- All grammar, punctuation and spelling as in the original!! J.R. (Except the usual typesetting errors, Ed.)


The Following X-Word has been sent in by Alfie Collins.


Across :-

9     should be easy for Club Members to solve(3).

5     One of these would look rather out of place in a window, however (10,7)

11    First word of a Mendip Caving Club's motto (2).

12    You might get the Ab-Dabs if the first part did this down a cave.

13    An essential part of a caver's equipment,

14       If you get 2 down it doesn't do to this do

15       A caver’s drinking this are supplied by Ben,

Down: -

2      Part of a cave suggesting one way travel-(8 )

3      If it gets too 4 down you may get this down a cave.(5),

4      You can get this at the Hunters or it can get this down a cave (5).

6      Lamb this on Mendip

7      It often requires a lot of “good honest work” with a new cave (2,4,2,2)

8      There used to be one of  these in the entrance shaft in Longwood (5.5).

9      If your this you won't get 3 down,

10    You don't tie this sort in a rope (3 ).


No prizes are offered, but have a go, it'll be good fun.

British Caver

STOP PRESS, Vol 21 of the British Caver will be published early in December. Send for your copy now to G. Platten, Rotherfield, Fernhill Lane, New Milton, Hants. Price is 6/3 post paid or a ream of 10x8 paper.

Archaeological Section, Bulletin No.1. 11/11/1950, Site at Belfry,

The “site” was located and surveyed on October 22nd 1950, by E.J. Mason aided by several other members.

Thanks to D. Hasell who has been in contact with the owner of the land, permission has now been granted to go ahead with the trial trench, which is scheduled to begin on the second weekend in December 1950. The Sec. of the Archaeo, Sect. Takes this opportunity to appeal for help in the excavation dept..

Much as we like the casual visitor, we would appreciate the consistent workers the most, as they are more efficient and can be depended upon to turn up regularly.

If this Site turns out as we hope, there should be several years work there, so you will appreciated the points that I have made.

These reports or Bulletins will appear in the BB each month for as long as the Site is being worked.

(signed) K.S. Hawkins.

Corres. Sec. Archaeo. Sect..

French Holiday

There are plans afoot for a Caving-cum-sightseeing trip to the Dauphine region of next summer. Will those interested please write to Hon. Sec. and let him know. No details have yet been considered, they will depend on those wishing to go, and also if there is the rumoured Convention in or near Paris.


L'Aven Grotte de Marzell

by. G. Fenn

(This is one of a series of articles, submitted by Gordon, on caves visited during the 1949 Convention at Valence. Ed.)

Thursday 25th. August 1949

This was the first day of the second part of the Congress.  (The first part was of course the Convention meetings themselves in Valence. Ed.)  We were up at 05.00 hours, breakfast and away from our H.Q. at the Seminaire at 06.45.  We went through Loriol, Rochemaure, Viviors-sur-Rhone and Bourg-St. Andial.  We climbed upwards from here along a rough track of a road through miles of rocky scrub land.  We stopped at 08.55 and could see nothing but this rocky scrub for miles and miles in all directions.

There was rough wooden sign near a hut which read ‘Aven Grotte de Marzell’.  It seemed the most unlikely place for a cave.  As we jumped out of the coach we were covered by thousands of tiny white flies which crawled everywhere and irritated but did not bite.

The entrance was just down a hole under some rocks with newly made concrete steps leading down.  The first party of six entered at 09.20 and I happened to be the first of these.  After walking down a staircase of wood in spiral fashion for some way (wearing shorts, shirt, and with no lights, as we were told to take no lights or overalls) we reached a jumping off stage.

A slip knot was put around my throat, and I was being pushed backwards down a sloping tunnel.  I half crawled and half slid down this and then looking around saw a light far below me.  This was Ageron & de Joly, who were lighting my way down.  I lowered myself down an electron ladder and then as it swung over the drop changed on to a wooden ladder.  I climbed down this and released the rope, sending it up for the next man.  The ladder drop was about 50-60 feet, the chamber being 120 feet below the surface.  When we were all down, we left this chamber and descended, following Ageron and de Joly.

The route was marked out, so that we were not to disturb the bones and formation.  We came to a small chamber of extremely pretty formation and beautifully coloured.  It was the moist magnificent coloured cave we saw.  We stooped around under small arches and de Joly pointed out some large ‘leopard’ spots covering the coloured floor.  The formation was dead but contained many crystals which sparkled under the powerful electric light, supplied from a petrol generator on the surface.  We then returned to the first chamber and Ageron explained, whilst we were waiting for the next party, how he intended to light the cave and how it would be stair-cased.

On the way back the electron ladder broke whilst Roy Ifold was climbing it.  He carried on to the surface, and a new ladder was put down for the rest.  We reached daylight at 10.50 hours and the other parties continued in lots of six until we moved off again at about 13.15 hours.

Note: - The cave was originally discovered by E.A. Martel, and then lost, to be rediscovered by Ageron years later.


T.H. Stanbury,                 Hon. Sec. 74, Redcatch Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.
Miss D.S. Bowden-Lyle,   Hon. Assist. Sec., 31, Highworth Road, St. Annes Park, Bristol. 4.
W.J. Shorthose,              Hon. Sec. London Section B.E.C. 26, Gateside Road, Upper Tooting, S.W. 17.
R. Cantle,                       Leader Climbing Section, 46, Cherrington Road, Henleaze, Bristol.
K.S. Hawkins,                 Sec. Archaeological Section, 9, Quarrington Road, Horfield, Bristol. 7.
H. Perry,                         Librarian, 20, Northfield Avenue, Hanham, Bristol.