The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal.

Editor:  D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.

Dates for your diary:

December 9th

Longwood - contact Richard Kenney, Tel. Meare Heath 296

December 10th

B.C.R.A. Winter Meeting, Hunters Lodge (new room) 4p.m.

Programme:      Water Pollution - Dave Maneley

                        Rock and Fountain Cave - John Parker.

The lectures will be followed by a buffet supper at 7 p.m.  Price (for meal only) £2.75, Bookings to Bryan Ellis, 30 Main Road, Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset, by 3rd.December 3rd. 1977.  Following the meal, at 8.30p.m. Jerry Wooldridge will be showing his slide sequences of Fairy Cave Quarry and La Cigaliere.

December 17th

Brecon Beacons - walking.  Bring pack lunch, waterproofs, boots, transport will be shared. Leave Belfry 8a.m. sharp. All interested contact Bob Cross, address in Nov B.B.

January 8th 1978

White Scar Cave - details from Martin Grass.

March 11th

BCRA Symposium - Cave Photograph, UMIST, Manchester.

Russ Jenkins writes:

The B.E.C. are now members of British Mountaineering Council and as such are able to avail themselves of the facilities of Club Huts in the following areas.  Lakes, 17 huts; others at Lancaster, Derbyshire, Swanage and Cornwall: 30 huts in North Wales and 17 in Scotland and Isle of Skye.

Climbers Insurance

It is now certain that climbers are NOT covered by BEC Insurance.  However, insurance may be obtained through the B.M.C. via the Club.  It is not cheap however and varies between £8.00 per person contemplating climbing in U.K. and the Alps or £6.00 restricted to U.K.  This does not include damage or loss to equipment, money, ropes, etc.  To cover those items a further increase takes the price up to £9 (first £20 of any claim is void) so it would appear the £6.00 would be in most demand for U.K. climbers.  These prices are only approximate and fuller details are available from me.  There is a BMC administration fee which reduces pro-rata.  It is a block policy which has to be submitted in one go, so I'm thinking of getting all applications to be submitted on Jan. 1st or so.  Money to be paid at time of application.


Alfie resigns from the BEC

It is with regret that we have to announce that Alfie has resigned from the club committee.  He tendered his resignation at the November Committee meeting without giving any reason.  At the same time he also handed in his resignation as Trustee for the Club. Most members will be now aware that several changes took place at the Annual Meeting held back in October.  But there are many who did not attend either the meeting or the dinner and may not know the situation.  The best way of explaining the position as it stands is by publishing an extract from the official minutes, compiled by Alfie:-

The Belfry Bulletin Report followed.  It had been published and the chairman asked the editor if he had anything to add to his published report.  Alfie replied that he had not, but that he would be pleased to answer any points which might arise during any discussion of the report.  Mike Palmer then reminded the meeting that he had acquired a reputation for outspoken comment and assured the meeting that he would not disappoint it on this occasion.  He said that the content of the B.B. was the major grouse and proposed that Dave Irwin be appointed to take over the Belfry Bulletin forthwith.  This was seconded by Martin Grass.  The Chairman said that he would take note of this resolution but felt that some discussion ought first to take place.  Colin Dooley said that he felt the existing B.B. was right for its purpose.  Some years ago, the club had decided to separate its more serious work from the B.B. in the form of the Caving Reports and more recently 'Cave Notes'.  If it was felt that the B.B. was not tbe right publication to exchange with other clubs, then Caving Reports and Cave Notes could be substituted.  Dave Turner said that he would like to recommend Dave Irwin to the meeting on the basis that he would have more time to devote to the B.B.  Nigel Taylor suggested that perhaps Alfie could be asked to provide a regular feature in a B.B. otherwise run by Dave.  Mike Palmer said that this was not an occasion for compromise of any sort.  Alfie's B.B. had let down the image of the Club and was a laughing stock amongst other clubs.  A far as B.E.C. members were concerned they were fed up with reading the thoughts of Chairman Alfie in his so-called editorials.  Colin Dooley said that it was therefore a question of style and the choice was not between two people as between two contrasting outlooks.  Tony Corrigan queried this and said that any editor prints what members send in.  Dave Turner said that this was only partly true.  For example, the B.B. could easily carry more caving news and news of other clubs etc. if the editor wished to include it.  Pete Franklin made the point that the content of the B.B. was aimed at club, members who rarely visited Mendip and should not therefore be judged by a meeting which was not representative of the readership being aimed at.  Bob Cross said that the B.B. as a rather poor newsletter and social sheet masquerading as journal.  Tony Corrigan said that a properly produced journal would be expensive.  Roy Bennett said that when Dave Irwin produced the B.B., its sales to people outside the club paid for only additional production costs. Nobody would buy Alfie's B.B. because it was not good enough.  The Chairman then invited Dave Irwin to explain what he would do if he were appointed as editor.  Dave said that he would make no radical changes but would increase the topicality with much more up to date information.  He said that he did not disapprove of features like 'Fifth Column' but that a proper balance between such features and more serious matter would be achieved under his direction.  The B.B. would remain as a monthly publication and retain its present format but would be about 50% larger in pages.  The Chairmen then thanked Dave Irwin and put the resolution to the vote. The meeting appointed Dave Irwin as Editor of the Belfry Bulletin by 27 votes in favour two 6 against.

Alfie has added a footnote to the minutes end is as follows: -

According to the authority I have consulted, the Chairman had a number of possible courses of action open to him when Mike Palmer proposed his resolution. He acted quite correctly by choosing one of the possibilities (i.e. taking the resolution to discussion, putting it to the vote and declaring it carried without first taking the report) but this particular course of action means that the 1977 B.B. Report had not been adopted by the A.G.M. and it is thus important to make this clear to members as otherwise a precedent will have been set which could have awkward repercussions in future.  Therefore, as the report in question has been published in the B.B. a disclaimer should now be published as soon as possible to the effect that this report was rejected by the AGM and has thus no official standing.  Members of the club who did not attend the A.G.M. will otherwise have no means of knowing that this report does not now define policy.


An up to date report of the situation regarding the Club Trustees will be given in the next issue of the B.B.


Note from the Hut Warden

The Hut Warden wishes to announce that all utensils and cutlery has been removed and both members and guests will have to bring their own.  For several months now, the various items cooking equipment has been left in a pretty tatty condition and until people can do their own washing up and general tidying up, cooking at the Belfry will be with your own personal equipment.

Guests staying at the Belfry have been turning up on spec and causing the Hut Warden quite a headache. Will all guests please note that at least SIX WEEKS NOTICE is required thus allowing Chris Batstone to allocate bunks fairly between members and guests.

Note from the Tackle Master.

On the weekend of the 11-13th November a member wanted to use some tackle for an away trip.  There was no rope in the store, and there were only four lengths of ladder.  No equipment was signed out in the tackle log.  Please fill out the required details in the log such as: item of tackle, using code; cave or area; name of member; dates out and in etc.  As a reminder, ladder codes are now on top and bottom rungs.  Rope codes await a cheap supply of shrink-on numbers (as used in the electrical trade). Of these are not forthcoming (they were promised) we shall use copper ferrules.  Tethers have aluminium tags.  Many people are not bothering to wash tackle, especially rope.  I found one hanging up stiff' with mud a while ago. So the Drinking Pool has dried up - use the sink or the showers!


P. S. Where are all these donations of old SRT rope for digging????


ALL SUBS PLEASE TO Tim Large, 72, Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock, Avon.  They are due in January.

NOTES IN BRIEF: £75 rebate from Cliff Hotel for poor service at Club Annual Dinner; John Dukes has been appointed publication Sales Officer; ADDRESS CORRECTION: Barrie Wilton, 27 Valley View, Venus Lane, Clutton, Nr. Bristol, Avon.  Tele: Temple Cloud 52072.

A Headache For M.R.O.?

Reports have been coming in of a Mendip caver working with the social services is taking 11 and 12 year olds caving.  Nothing wrong with that you may think.  But taking them to Swildons 4 may give you food for thought!  In addition he takes them on his own with no other adult in the party.  The Wells Scouts have now crossed him off their list but your correspondent is informed that he is a free agent for other organisations.  However good a caver he might think himself there can be no excuse for taking such young people so far into a system that can be so treacherous at all times of the year.  In fact, a serious accident in Swildons 4 would give MRO a considerable headache because of the well known squeeze at the lower end of Blue Pencil Passage.

There is little that MRO can do about it, nor indeed, want to do about it - in other words MRO would not wish to be put into a position of being a judge.  The Council of Southern Caving Clubs will feel there is nothing that they can do except perhaps to contact the club to which this character belongs and offer some legal advice regarding the position of a minor.  I feel sure that such activities will be deplored by responsible cavers on Mendip and elsewhere.  This stupid action should be given the widest publicity in the caving press to ensure that to warn responsible clubs that such activity is taking place.



CARBIDE and CARBIDE LAMP SPARES are available at the Belfry - ask the Hut Warden - the prices are the cheapest you’ll find anywhere!


DON'T FORGET THOSE CAVING REPORTS - the latest is Number 19.  Those members who are not up to date with their collection should send off to John Dukes at the Belfry for copies.  A full list will appear in the January B.B.


Ogof Graig & Ffynnon

(Rock and Fountain Cave)

By Irwin

On the old Clydach Gorge Road lies a pub well known to cavers in the area.  For several years a dig has been worked above the pub, slightly to the west. In September 1976 the diggers broke into a large cave system over five miles in length.  23rd October 1977 the author and Fred Davies were lucky enough to pay a visit to it and take in its underground splendour.

The layout of the Agen Allwedd system, the 15 mile long system, is well known to cavers, with its rambling passages stretching across the top of Llangatock Mountain near Brynmawr.  Since its discovery several relatively small sites have been explored, a few end in fragments of very large passageways.  The water flowing through the 'Aggy' system resurges near the upper end of the Clydach Gorge, but a small rising higher up intrigued cavers and so the Rock and Fountain dig commenced, some 100 yds from the rising itself.  In September 1976 the diggers decided to bang a small hole above their main site in the hope to reach the underground streamway.

After a combination of digging and banging a passageway was soon opened up leading to a squeeze into a 15ft long duck and on to a very unstable boulder choke.  Initially this was climbed with the aid of 20 ft ladder but shortly after the cave was opened the boulder walls decided to reorganise itself thus blocking the route through.  However, once opened the Second Boulder Choke could be worked on. Attacking this required a really determined effort on the part of the diggers to blast their way through a torturous route some 120ft long to emerge in a series of very large passages separated by a tedious crawl, mainly flat out for some 800ft to end in two enormous chambers.  To date some five miles of passage has been surveyed - in fact there are still nine boulder chokes to be pushed - each one breathing the famous South Wales draught.

The cave can be divided into three sections - the entrance series to the 2nd Boulder Choke (ruckle, if you are a confirmed Mendipian) followed by a single large passage, beautifully decorated, extending for, perhaps 3,000ft.  This continues to the long crawl passing en-route to a superb phreatic rift passage ending in the two enormous chambers.  Below the chambers a lower stream series is being explored and a comment from John Parker was 'you know you've been on a caving trip after going down there!  Again there are fine formations to be seen there.

After only having been in the cave once it is quite impossible to accurate locating the smaller but fascinating features; so a summary of the highlights in the entrance series may be slightly (even grossly) out of order between the main features.

From the entrance a 150ft flat-out crawl leads to a squeeze through boulders into a small, 20ft diameter chamber at the opposite end of which lies an uninviting hole some 2ft wide and perhaps 10" high - this is the start of the 15ft long duck. Normally it has some 4 - 5" of airspace but this is considerably reduced in the winter months, usually about 2" which must be quite off-putting to say the least.  The duck widens along its length and narrows again at the downstream end. From the far side of the duck a stooping passage leads to the First Boulder Choke after a series of grovelling crawls and squeezes.  As many will know, boulder chokes in South Wales tend to consist of small boulders and numerous pebbles tending to make them very unstable.  With great care, a 20ft. climb (watching a dangerously poised boulder at the top!) gives way to a long hands and knees, very gravely, very straight, crawl giving way at the end to a low roofed pool.  The passages here display fine formations that are typical of the area - grey and slightly muddy.  The explorers have laid red and white plastic tape forming pathways between the formations from the area extending throughout the remainder of the main cave.

Soon the 2nd Boulder Choke is reached and is considered by many that it’s a bit of a 'pig'. Initially, a 20ft ladder gains a narrow ledge above which a series of short steps and a 15ft ladder gives access to the base of the choke itself.  A very narrow passage through the boulder opened up by blasting; ascends in series of short steps, some very tight, to emerge at the head of a stalagmited boulder slope leading downwards to a 15ft wide passage.  From here the passage gradually widens until it reaches huge proportions – some 60ft across and at the far end the passage widens again to 80ft and up to 60ft high.  Formations abound and can be related to DYO in character, though some considerably finer. As I have mentioned before, tapes have been laid throughout the length of this section forming a meandering pathway to get the visitor close to the finest formations.  At the far end, on the right, a low hole leads into the 800ft long crawl passing under the 3rd boulder choke en-route.  This is a rather tedious affair generally flat out and very hard on the arms and knees!  General relief is felt when the high passage is reached.  Over 1,000ft long and about 40ft high the passage as straight as a die throughout its length.  On the sides of the walls are great areas of selenite crystals, some examples being up to 3” long.   The way splits at the far end; to the left a series of smaller passageways but to the right is the first of two very large chambers.  On entering this one is immediately taken aback by its size.  The huge wall at the far side is immense, perhaps 250ft long and up to 30ft high.  The floor spreads cut before you like a great off-white sheet dotted with mud stalagmites. To the left a scramble up over boulders enables the second large chamber to be reached – this is roughly circular and per-haps 200ft in diameter and up to 60ft high.  Opposite the entry point is one of nine boulder chokes - all draughting - that is being worked at the moment.  This point is some two miles from the entrance.  Below this area is a lower stream series entered via fine 50ft pothole which we did not enter.  After a session of throwing a grappling iron up into a high level hole in the first chamber, John prussiked up to it, only to find that the thing was locked amongst some stalagmite and not by the hooks but the back of it.  A few choice Welsh words followed but eventually he made it only to find that it continued as an aven that would require more climbing gear. Following food and coffee (coffee bags at that!) a short digging operation and banging operation followed in the choke.

From dye tests to date, the stream that resurges by the roadside does not come from the Aggy System and the new cave is thought to be quite separate and not a fossil part of Aggy. Only when the 800ft crawl is reached does the cave rise up into the Oolite beds in which Aggy is formed.  The sections of the cave in which formations are found lie in Dolomitic and because of its hardness, passages tend to be smaller than except where large collapses have occurred.  The survey is well advanced and is being drawn up by John Parker and some 5 miles of passage has been explored.  At the moment all trips are of a working nature and it will be some time before the cave is fully pushed and open to cavers in general. When they do it is to be hoped that cavers will respect the enormous amount of work that has taken place to open the cave and that they will keep to the pathways laid through the cave.  The cave is gated and one should remember that the cave lies under nature conservancy land.  Now, a final warning.  The entrance crawls, the 15ft duck and beyond to the 1st Boulder Choke is subject to flash flooding quite without warning.  It is not yet known under what weather conditions cause this, so take great care.  Not only does the water flow out of the entrance sump but wells up throughout the passage in the entrance series.  The 15ft. duck has been known to fill up in just a few seconds.  This cave might be considered a more serious proposition than the tidal sump in Otter Hole.


Letter To The Editor

Dear Wig,

The Severn Barrage mentioned in last months B.B. is unfortunately for Mendip, a necessary evil in the future and will be built.  The Severn Estuary is the best location in the world for such a scheme, i.e. generating electricity using tidal flow, as the largest tidal range exists on this part of the coast.  Once the problems of silting have been overcome the scheme, I think, will go ahead.

Instead of forming pressure groups to try and prevent this scheme a few suggestions on alternative materials to Mendip/South Wales limestone be more profitable.  Coal tip heaps have been suggested but a means of binding them is needed.  I am sure many people in the B.E.C. have suggestions as to what could be used, some sensible ones I hope, so how about a few letters to the B.B. and a few to the odd M.P.?

John Turner.





Juniper Gulf

Looking over past BB's there's been lamentably little written about actual caving, so this article is an attempt to put things right.  Juniper Gulf is one of Yorkshire's classics and here I describe a trip down it that I made with a Cambridge University party.  We tackled the pot on ropes, which I think, adds to the skill and spectacle of it all, and at the same time, it removes a lot of the sweat.

We walked up to the Allotment from Crummack Dale on a dull, overcast Yorkshire day in autumn.  The wind howled through those embarrassing holes in the wet suit that you wished you'd stuck the night before!  After a mile or so we reached the fairly unmistakable entrance.  A large stream pours over steep cascades at one end of a large rift.  The entrance rift is perhaps a hundred feet long, up to seventy feet deep and the width is jumpable.  (More easily done in some places than others; and the stakes are high!)  We rigged it with a hundred foot rope and abseiled down. A fine free hang can be obtained using the stake belays on the east side of the shaft.

From the bottom an easy climb down leads to an obvious traverse line.  Not only are the ledges mega sized, but also the stream runs in a pretty narrow slot in the floor.  The stream trench starts off at about ankle snapping depth and then it drops away. Soon the passage widens, the ledges peter out and we realised that this was the second pitch.  This we rigged with a twenty five foot ladder.  The third pitch follows immediately and another twenty five foot ladder was used.  These two pitches were lifelined as one.  The third pitch dents Juniper's all weather image a little.  In general, most of Juniper's horizontal passages are traversed above stream level, and its pitches are rigged far enough out to be dry. The third is perhaps the exception to this.  It was a little wet near the bottom.

We traversed on again and the stream dropped away again.  The traverse became low and developed into a crawling traverse.  And then we reached the infamous 'Bad Step'. The passage became wide, ledges rather sparse, and the walls covered with a thin layer of slippery, clay like mud. I took a run at it, 'wall of death' fashion, made an horrific leap through space and grasped a micro flake on the other side with my clawing fingers.  No I didn't.  I had been led to believe that that may be the necessary technique, but in truth it was a non too desperate straddle that was further eased by our placing of a traverse line.  The traverse line was mainly for getting the tackle bags across but I was quite thankful of it when my super 'go faster' wellies began to struggle for a purchase on the muddy walls.

Almost immediately afterwards the fourth pitch occurs.  This drops some ninety feet or so back to stream level.  There are two ways to rig the pitch, the original way, and an alternative way.  After a lot of wittering, we saw that the alternative would have a nasty rub about twenty feet down, so we searched for the original.  This we found harder to locate than the alternative.  We couldn’t see the ale for the barrels.  There it was right in the floor!  We belayed our rope to a bombproof flake and backed it up to the end of our traverse line from the Bad Step.

The fourth is a pitch of contrast.  It starts in the floor of a small muddy bedding and ends in a spacious clean washed rift.  Like the entrance pitch, the fourth is a complete free hang, displaying again Juniper's eminent suitability for SRT.  The book of words reckons that the landing is 'spray lashed', but we found it dry all the way, with the main force of the water being about ten feet away at the bottom.

We approached the final. Again this pitch too has an original and an alternative hang and again the alternative, if anything, we found the easier to find.  The original, being wet was of little interest to us, so we followed a climb up through boulders and went across a traverse to what was obviously the head of the alternative final.  So this was it.  The magnificent final shaft of Juniper Gulf, the finest picture of which is reproduced on the cover of Bedford's 'Challenge Underground'.  (What? Well get it from the library then!) We easily found a couple of likely looking boulder belays.  'Biggles; the Bluewater!'

With the pitch rigged, we began to descend.  And yes, it surely is a very fine shaft.  The best I've ever seen.  A breathtaking descent of two hundred feet is made, hanging free in the middle of a massive, finely fluted and sculptured shaft.  The pitch is thankfully clear yet enticingly close to the roaring Juniper water. I landed and marched off downstream.

The route goes on down several climbs, through some deep pools to a sump.  I paid my respects to this real Guinness special and was about to borrow a carbide lamp in order to smoke on the wall a quick 'Gets everywhere', when I noticed that they where covered in flood debris, right up to the roof! 'Hmmmm, not worth the effort,'  I thought,  'Soon get washed off.'  And so I left it, and made my way back up to the foot of the final.

Soon it was my turn to prusik, and off I set.  My light was doing a bit of a glow-worm special, so to save it I prusiked some part of the pitch in darkness.  Dangling on a rope in free space, in darkness, listening to the continual roar of a waterfall is an object lesson in sensory depravation.  Mind blowing!  I reached the top and we de-rigged.

I climbed over the boulders and was on my way back to the fourth when suddenly; 'Clatter, clatter, clatter.'  'Oh, no!' I'd not done up the screw gate on the krab carrying my descender.  It had twisted open and my precious rack had fallen off and dropped down through the boulders.  Had I lost it?  Not quite. I could see it perched precariously on a boulder a few feet down.  I stripped off my chest harness and squeezed down.  At the third attempt, at full stretch, I got a finger around the top of it, and so back came the rack. Phew!

We plodded on out, up the fourth across the Bad Step (possibly worse in this direction), up the ladders, and so to the entrance.  We prusiked up the entrance pitch with me doing it by the light of the moon.  And so ended our trip.  Juniper is a fine pot, so short yet so deep, and it culminates so magnificently with that final shaft.  A great cave!


Thanks Nick for the article on Juniper and I understand that there is another on its way dealing with 'Floating Cams' which should be good for a series of letters from our rope experts.



Red Rose Cave and pothole Club Journal No.7

This edition of the R.R.C.P.C. Journal is up to standard that is expected from the northern clubs on the production and printing side.  The front cover has a good photograph and the plastic spine holds the 66 pages together without the worry of the odd page falling out.  The sketches and surveys are clear and understandable.

The contents however, are not as substantial as expected since this journal covers four years. The last one appeared in 1973 and this edition has rather a lot of, what could be termed padding.  It would seem that Red Rose are going through the doldrums with regard to work on Leck Fell and other areas, with only the Maracaibo extensions in Lancaster Hole reported as a significant find, and this took place in 1973!  The journal also suffers from lack of authors as 50% of the articles were written by three people.

There are some articles I did enjoy reading, one by Jim Eyre although based on an old event, is written in a very humorous way and along with his cartoons bring a touch of light hearted relief to this journal.

The article on last years Los Tayos Expedition to Ecuador runs to five pages but I was left feeling that a lot had been left out as this would appear to have been a rather unusual caving trip.

To sum up this journal, I think that it would be a useful addition to a club library, but is not worth buying to add to a personal collection.



Wigmore Swallet Dig

Provisional Report - The Story So Far:

By Tony Jarratt

Inspired by visits to the Windsor Hill and Viaduct dig sites in June of 1977, several B.E.C. members decided to begin a surface dig to last them through the pleasantly festerous summer months till once again they could adjourn to the Hunter's fireside, and with beer fuddled minds dream and talk of things they had done in ages past.  So various sites were investigated, including the old Bucket Hole site of Jok Orr's (Who?) and Wigmore Swallet.    The latter showed most promise, and the day after our

first visit, on June 21st, Tony Jarratt and Nig Taylor negotiated preliminary permission, digging starting a mere ten minutes later!

The dig is situated in a pleasantly tree-shaded depression in the coppice adjacent to the Old Wigmore Farm barn, roughly a mile north of the B3135 Frome to Cheddar road (NGR: 55715256 , Sheet ST55SE.)  An obvious dry stream-bed leads into the depression which, at the time of our first visit, was full to some six feet below the lip of the shaft.

The site was originally dug from 1934-37 by M.N.R.C. and in 1938 by the W.C.C.  At thirty feet the shaft was abandoned for no obvious reason, though the war may have caused this.  It is a six feet wide by "N" feet long in-filled rift in rock of County type, Sandstone/Conglomerate nature.  Large amounts of ochreous material and poor quality iron ores are present in the spoils.

THE PRESENT DIG: During the first few weekends the depression was cleared of nettles, scrub and general farm waste, and a cableway, hauling bucket (Ex Plantation Swallet) and a hand winch (generously loaned by the Al Mills Foundation) were installed.  An overhanging boulder was soon removed from the top of the shaft by the Mendip Chip Bang and Chisel Company's last Survivor, Mr. 'N', and Stu Lindsey erected what appeared to be a squirrel box on a nearby tree!

With a variety of diggers, mainly B.E.C. but also C.C.G., G.S.G., W.C.C. and, of course, the M.C.G., work began in earnest.  The infill included many old, but worthless bottles, dead sheep and even deader dogs, rotten shoring, etc.  Soon the hand of 'J. Arthur Rat' was to be seen erecting craftsman like walls around the spoil heaps (all above three feet so as to be put onto the next O.S. maps). At shaft bottom Ross White re-enacted his ancestors by smashing up boulders!

By the end of July we were twenty feet down, into a six by eight feet shaft.  Minor events kept the diggers entertained, a full spoil bucket missing Trevor Hughes by ¼", and the incessant inane bickering of the infamous duo, Bob Cross and Mr. N.

More unsuspecting diggers were press-ganged during the following months including Milch, and the Pitten Street team, and the M.C.G. Showband, who supplied the dig with a Villiers 250 c.c. Motor winch.  To house this mechanical marvel our resident craftsmen (?) Chris Batstone and Bob Cross constructed what at first appeared to be a sixth rate brothel in Vietnam, but later emerged to be an engine house, the seed from which grew the Wigmore Mining Company.

Now boasting the name 'Wheal Wigmore' and resplendent with tea-pot, and garden furniture erected somewhat uselessly by an equally useless Dig Carpenter the dig lowered to thirty feet.

In early August the team, and Mendip Folklore; were enriched by the addition of Snab, family and dog. The former promptly wrote two songs on the spot, whilst the latter commenced his own dig in a nearby rabbit hole. The site was now becoming somewhat of a social centre with visits from the usual Mendip horde, and fellow cavers from further a field: Ian Lewis from Australia; Linda Hastie from Canada; Mario Vitale from Italy; Stephen Kemp et al from Germany; and Jeff Philips from the Irish Caving Club (?).

More recently, latest work has concentrated on trundling vast boulders into the dig purely for the benefit of Alan Thomas who then casts spells on them for the rest of us to remove again as gravel or even bigger boulders!  Because at the depth, it became necessary to shore the sides of the excavation.  This later proved much to the disgust of Phil Ford 'The Miner' when he graced us with his presence in the late summer.

Prospective timber men, face workers stopers and grovers are requested to contact the adventurers and Old Men at the Myne.  They will be dealt with in strict rotation!!  Apologies to all not mentioned in this article, Captain J. Rat, Overseer and Maister, Wheal Wigmore, for the Wigmore Mining Company.

Access: The site is on Lord Waldegrave's land, and we are privileged to have his permission for the dig. Vehicles can cause disturbance to cattle and farm traffic.  Park on the main public road only, and walk up the farm track past the dairy to the old barn.  Only use the gates and stiles, leaving them as you found them.  Do not climb over any fences.  Also, bring 10p each for the dig fund!  It's expensive these days.


Acknowledgements:To Lord Waldegrave for permission to excavate the site, and; to Messrs. Majors and Thompson, and Mr. Booth for materials, assistance and bewildered understanding!

References, compiled by Nigel Taylor:

1.                  Ms. Diary, H. Murrell, 2 49 (1934) Start of old dig.

2.                  MNRC Diary/Report (27) 65 (1934) Note on dig.

3.                  Ms. Diary, H. Murrell, 131 (1935) History of dig.

4.                  MNRC Report    (28) 42 (1935) Brief excavation notes.

5.                  Thornber, Stride, Meyers, Britain Underground (1953) p.203.

6.                  7 & 8. Barrington, Caves of Mendip (1957), (1962), (1964).

7.                  10 & 11. Barrington & Stanton, Complete Caves of Mendip.  (197l), (1972), (1977).

8.                   Mendip Cave Register.

9.                  Dig Log.

10.              Gough, Hines of Mendip.

11.              Ms. Diary, A. Jarratt (1977).

12.              Ms. Diary, N. Taylor (1977).

On the facing page we are pleased to publish one of Jayrat's sketches - this one of Wigmore Entrance.



compiled by Niph

Book News - Until recently Thrum’s S.R.T. book (American) has been the rope mans bible.  Now a second book on S.R.T. is on the market, this time by Montgomery (Australian) published by the Sydney Speleological Society, at £4.50 (Rocksport).  Opinions vary, but some cavers feel it is more thorough and more up to date than Thrun.

A note inside refers to a new American S. R.T. rope.  Called Pigeon Mountain Rope, it has lower stretch and higher abrasion resistance than Bluewater, but as yet no cost is available.  With so many S.R.T. ropes to choose from, it will be interesting to see if this one catches on in Britain.

Clearwell Caves, Forest of Dean.  These ancient iron mines, open to visitors are currently being re-opened on a commercial scale.  The iron ore is said to be purer than Swedish ore.  The owners are not really worried if the project is unsuccessful.  Tourists pay more than enough for the company to keep going.

N.C.A. Equipment Information.  October Extracts. 

a)       Five failures of fixed aids in caves are cited. There is little doubt that the Tyning's Barrows Swallet entrance ladders would have failed had they received much more use.  Several people are presently concerned about the state of fixed tackle in St. Cuthbert's particularly Arête ladder.  How many cavers do check fixed underground tackle before or while using it, e.g. bolts, ladders, ropes, chains, handlines, traverse lines?

b)       Rope shrinkage.  Nylon contracts with wetting and usage, up to about 15%.  All ropes, for S.R.T. particularly, should be soaked, both before initial use, and frequently thereafter, and measured carefully before a trip where exact length may be critical.

c)       Several people have been concerned over flaws, or apparent flaws, in new rope.  These show as lumps, little knots or ends, and there is no cause for concern. Bluewater, it should be noted, has no core splices, and sheath splices are only necessary in lengths of over 300ft.

d)       There may eventually be a British Standard for caving ropes.

e)       If you buy 'Marlow' rope for S.R.T., specify 'Marlow 16 plait caving rope'.  Otherwise the rope is not straight cored.

f)        A list of recent British articles on caving equipment and techniques is now available from the library.

C.S.C.C.  The new agreement on Lamb Leer has now been passed, arrangements to be organised by the SCC Co. Ltd Secretary - Tim Reynolds.

Baker's Pit, Devon may be re-opened soon, but who will dare to brave the nasty fumes and pollutants seeping in from the ever-growing dump above.

Hermann Kirchmayer, one of the Austrian visitors at the ISO Mendip Meet and known to club members who went on the international Raucher meet in 1967 said of Swildons Hole, “That’s no cave - it’s a wet and muddy mouse hole.”  He’d just been on a Troubles Round trip.

Loxton Cave:  Wells Scouts have sent their midgets into the Morgan Chambers of Loxton Cave and surveyed them.  This survey will be attached to that made by Chris Howell and will appear in a later B.B in the New Year.


Proping Prid

by Jane Wilson

I think we first started talking about pushing the sump in Prid. in February.  By the end of July we had run out of excuses and delaying tactics so one early morning saw a motley assortment of not so enthusiastic Speleo's looking un-longingly at the sea of cowsh at the entrance of Pridharnsleigh Cavern in Devon.

Rumour has it that Prid 2 had been dived to 130ft but had not been bottomed.  I had already blown my mind on the 'tourist trip' into the Prid 2 airbell and naively thought that an afternoons diving would sort out these confused rumours of great depth.  I persuaded Richard to keep me company so I led the dive from the rear.

It is surprising just how much gear is needed for a trip like this.  Rich decided that clad in his soopa new Unisuit he would superheat and explode if he carried much so we were delighted to find two errant Plymouth Caving Group members lurking in the bushes near the entrance.  We did not have to make too many threats before they offered to help move some of the equipment to the Lake. "But we only wanted a quite trip into Dog Hole" they pleaded a so we struggled and slithered in, with 30lb of lead (to sink the S.S. Stevenswine) fins, masks, valves, gauges, line, lights; the problems we should have had transporting Big Bertha (Siamese 60 cu. ft bottles) were solved by the amazing subhuman strength of one of the sherpas.

Having rendered 50% of cur assorted gauges and meters useless by breaking their straps and making sure that Bishop’s beam gun was not working, we plummeted down the submerged rift of Prid 1.  The vis (=visibility) dropped to about twelve inches as we churned up the mud from the walls and inch diameter white limestone chips floated past reminiscent of giant snowflakes.  Eighty feet down the line goes through a window into the vast underwater chamber of Prid 2 where the vis can be as much as 28ft and everything looks clear, clean and blue.

Rich tied on to one of the permanently fixed lines and disappeared into clouds of red brown mud. Following in the 6" vis I soon bumped into a soft red object that gesticulated in an incoherent manner. "Start again" he seemed to be trying to tell me.  We finned back to the 'base' line and repeated the performance swim - thud - confused gesticulations - back.  Silly!

Richard raised two fingers - a signal that I instantly recognised as meaning "Well if you don’t mind, I think we should be thinking about going to the pub now." He zoomed off along the fixed line, homewards.

We surfaced back in the lake again where we discovered that we had not been under long enough or deep enough to worry about decompressing.  I had plenty of air left in my 60 cu. ft bottle plus a full 40 so borrowed Richard's line.  While he looked around at the bottom of Prid 1, I went back into Two.  To my surprise, I managed to tie a bowline first time (something I cannot usually manage on the surface, un-narced) and returned to the swim - thud – routine, thus I banged into the hard white limestone. I chuntered around the wall of the chamber for a while – hand stretched out to feel the way – then paused to try to work out how much air I had left in which bottle.  I meditated on my excellent bowline coming untied and losing the way back to air, while I attempted to swim up and out of the mud.  It did not take long to realise that exploring the bottom of Prid Two was going to take more organised and concerted effort.  The deepest we had been able to get was a little over 110 ft but in such poor vis we could have easily missed a deep pot in the floor or a way though a hole in the wall.

I surfaced in the air bell of Prid Two and looked around with my failing light.  The intricately folded curtain that perhaps due to the nitrogen narcosis, I had imagined as a giant jelly fish, on the exploratory trip the day before, was not there and everything looked unfamiliar.  Was this a new section?  Feeling lonely, un-intrepid and a long way from home a cruise along the steep walled chamber, much too steep to climb out of the water.  I spotted the electron ladder leading up to the emergency supplies left in Prid Two - so I was not the intrepid cave explorer "boldly going where no man had gone before."  Rats!  I passed some time neatly crocheting the line around my aqua lungs, gags and assorted dangles but decided that there was no future in it and that it was time to go home. Returning to the fixed line, I untied and came back through the "window" and rumbled and crashed my way back up the rift.

Richard, snug and warm in his Unisuit, was already de-kitting so it was not long before I was shivering beside him, wondering why I had not invested in a new wet suit years ago. But the struggle to get the gear back to the surface through the good quality Devonian mud soon warmed us up and we all enjoyed a good cold bath in the stream before we headed home.

Conclusions - Prid One bottoms at about 100ft, not 120ft and we did not get much deeper than 110ft at the bottom of Prid Two - take a spade if you want a deeper dive.  But the sump has possibilities.

Many thanks to the sherpas. Those present: John Dukes (BEC), Geoff Lloyd (POG), Steve Mayers (POG), Phil Sadler (XPPS), Richard (as seen on TV) Stevenson (WCC & BEC), Graham Wilton-Jones (BEC) and Jane Wilson (XPPS, BEC).



International Speleological Congress 1977

The Mendip Caving Camp.


Following the 'core' conference at Sheffield University the 500 visitors went their various ways some home, but many, on the organised excursions and caving camps held in the caving regions.  The caving camp is a new innovation at the International meetings in the hope that the 'ordinary' caver will get involved rather than the academics.

Here on Mendip there were two excursions, hydrological and archeologically and a caving camp.  The two excursions were organised by Tim Atkinson, Pete Smart and 'Trat', aided and abetted by Chris Hawkes.  Both excursions were based at the University in Bristol and apart from laboratory demonstrations there were daily trips to places of interest on and around Mendip including a novel meal for both the hydrologists and archaeologists in the 3rd.  Chamber of Wookey Hole.  The meal was designed around a mediaeval banquet complete with hunting knives and drinking horns.  The event paid for by the show cave management and organised by Nick Barrington.

The caving camp, on the other hand was based at the Belfry, an honour indeed for the club.  As organiser for the Mendip camp the author would like to thank all those cavers who gave up their own time to take the foreign guests underground and help in the background.  Many thanks then to Martin Bishop, Chris Batstone, John Dukes Graham Wilton-Jones, Tim Large, Chris Smart, Brian Prewer, Mike Palmer, Chris (Zot) Harvey, Ross White; while from other clubs are John Letheron, Fred Davies, Don Thomson, Ian Jepson, Phil Hendy, Liz and Graham Price and last but not least Jim Hanwell and Wookey Hole Caves Management.

Cavers from West Germany, Switzerland, Austria, USA and Hungary 12 in number arrived at the Belfry during Saturday 17th September having found their way from Sheffield.  The Austrians arrived by their own transport having first gaining a glimpse of Weston-super-Mud, so did the West Germans.  The Swiss congregated at Rocksport and the Hungarians were picked up by the camp hired mini-bus doing it the hard way, walking along the Priddy straight.

Later that evening a short slide show and discussion was held the Wessex Library where Jim Hanwell gave an outline talk on the structure of Mendip and its relationship with the caves. This was followed by the necessary 'jar' in the back room of the Hunters which went very well in spite of the 'foreign wog' comment by a then principal officer of the BEC who promptly left for the main bar.

Sunday saw the visitors at Fairy Gave Quarry.  After taking three trips into Withyhill Graham Price was heard flatly refusing to take a fourth into the cave consisting of BEC members tagging along for a trip!  At the same time, Graham's wife, Liz, was trotting through Shatter Cave with the other members of the party.  The visitors were so impressed by the formations that they requested a return trip during the week, but this was not to be due to lack of FCQ leaders and time.  Sunday evening was filled in with a walk down Longwood Valley where they could see typical Mendip swallets and dig sites.  Having been picked up at Black Rock a quick run through Cheddar Gorge followed and on to Wookey Hole where Martin Bishop and Chris Batstone demonstrated the MRO Sump Rescue gear.  Inside the cave, Jim Hanwell gave a conducted tour of the show cave demonstrating his intimate knowledge of the structure of the system. Chris and Martin then demonstrated the diving equipment and dived from 3 to 9 watched by the visitors from the bridges over the 7th and 8th Chambers.  Following the inevitable visit to the Hunters a slide show was given at the Belfry from the slide collections of Brian Prewer, Don Thomson and yours truly.

During the next three days the guests were taken into GB, Longwood Swallet, Swildons , the Troubles Round Trip and Black Hole, Sludge Pit and, of course St. Cuthbert’s Swallet - Pulpit/Maypole and various photographic trips.  Hermann Kirchmayer and Helmut Planer both took a look at the Cuthbert’s sump and decided to give it a miss though they did the Round Trip in Swildons - perhaps it was a case of Hobson's after going through the wettish sections of the Swildons Upper Series.

During the evenings the events ranged from the 'serious' to the truly social.  The MRO equipment was demonstrated by various Wardens and a further visit to Cheddar Gorge having first paid a visit to the Cathedral in Wells. The grand finale was at the Hunters, in the new room where the cavers and hydrologists got together for a buffet and final beer-up.  So magnificent was the meal that the bar didn't do much trade!  In fact, there was so much food that nearly everyone took it away with them in 'piggy bags supplied by Roger and Jackie - certainly an evening to remember.

I can't end without a personal note to say how delighted I was to welcome Helmut and Helene Planer and the comedian of the camp, Hermann Kirchmayer - all three of whom are well known to BEC cavers who went to Austria in the middle 1960's on the Raucher and Ahnenschacht trips.  The next International get-together in Kentucky will be held in 1981 so start saving your new 1d's (sorry p’s) now!



by Tim Large

Unfortunately this month I start with the news that Alfie has resigned from the Committee and as a Trustee of the Club.  I am sure everyone will echo my sentiments of regret at his action.  As a result there is now a vacancy on the Club Committee. But in fact the Committee has decided to advertise for two more posts.  Therefore you could deduce that one Alfie equals two of anyone else. The reason for the second post is because Russ Jenkins is not able to attend committee meetings on a regular basis because of his shift working, but he is still prepared to continue as Climbing Sec.  Members are formally asked to contact myself or any committee member if they are interested in serving.

The Club welcomes four new members this month:

Gill Durrant, 14 St. Andrews Rd. 9 Broadstone, Dorset.
Stephen Short, 78 Greenwood Ave., Laverstock, Salisbury.
Dany Bradshaw, 37 Creswicke, Bristo1, BS4 1UF.

and last, but no means least, being a very infamous Mendip caver of many years standing: -

Stuart McManus, 33 Welsford Ave., Wells, Somerset.

The St. Cuthbert's Leaders met on 31st October at the novel venue of Cerberus Hall!  Fifteen leaders were present and the main topic discus was the question of insurance cover.  The opinion of leaders was that they are required by a committee ruling (1976) to obtain insurance cover at their own expense.  Thereby, they are subsidising the Clubs access arrangements which they consider to be somewhat unfair.  The Committee has agreed to look into the situation, but no change can be contemplated until the 1978 Club Annual Meeting.  Ted Humphries has been accepted as a Cuthbert's Leader bringing the active total to about 27, which includes 9 guest leaders from other clubs. It is hoped to publish a list in the near future.

The Club has some leaders for other controlled access caves who are: -

O.F.D.: Mike Palmer, Graham Wilton-Jones, Rich Stevenson, Andy Macgregor, Dave Irwin, Roy Bennett and Tony Meaden.

D.Y.O.: Graham Wilton-Jones and Rich Stevenson.

Fairy Cave Quarry: Mike Palmer and Dave Irwin.

NCA Matters:  On November 19th there is a meeting of CSCC when a decision will be made on proposals to be put to the NCA Annual Meeting to alter its constitution to ensure the rights of the grass roots caver and individual groups.  One particular point of contention will be the insistence of the inclusion of the veto at NCA General Meetings.  It is felt that is necessary to protect individuals and groups.  On Mendip this is particularly important where, for instance, access arrangements are negotiated by clubs with much success; training schemes are arranged locally e.g. CSCC scheme with Somerset LEA. Under no circumstances should a far removed National Body pass judgement or otherwise interfere with such local arrangements.  The local cavers are the ones to decide and nobody else.  Perhaps the NCA would do well to adopt the CSCC  motto "Live and let live."


From the Editorial Staffffffffffffff !!!