Dates For Your Diary

April 28th – 1st May

April 29th

April 30th

May 1st

Bank Holiday

O.F.D. 2 – numbers limited – contact ‘Zot’

Otter Hole. – time dependant upon tides - contact Tim Large.

Agen Allwedd – Summertime Series and Southern Stream round Trip.  Contact Tim Large

Tim writes:  Some of us propose to camp or stay at the hut. If the weather is fine I shall certainly camp on the tram road near Aggie on Sunday night.  Will try to book the hut if anyone is interested.

May 12th

May 14th

May 27-28th

May 29th


June 10th


June 17th

Dalimore’s  (Friday niters trip) 7.30 pm

Yorkshire – White Scar

Yorkshire – GG (Bradford winch meet)

Yorkshire – Gingling Hole

Contact Martin Grass for details of Yorkshire meets – tele:  HODDESDON 66966

Symposium on Cave Exploration in Northern Spain at Bristol University.  Organised by Phil Hendy (WCC). Details next month.

B.E.C. Mid-Summer BUFFET – see page below for details.

Midsummer Buffet

arranged for Saturday 1st June 1978 at Hunters Lodge Inn at 8.00 p.m.

Members and close friends only.      Limited tickets £2.00 each

Tickets available from Tim Large, 72 Lower Whitelands, Radstock, Avon

MONEY WITH ORDER PLEASE.     Make a note in your diary NOW!!


Caves & Caving In South Africa


Roughly half the size of Europe, the republic of South Africa consists of a narrow coastal plain and an inland plateau, the highveldt, of average elevation of 1,000m in the Drakensburg Mountains in the east.  Latitude for latitude the climate tends to be cooler than that of the northern hemisphere and frosts may occur at anytime throughout the year on the highveldt.

Since most of the country's more important caves are formed in dolomite, only two of the four provinces provide any real speleological interest: the Transvaal in the north, and Cape Province in the south and west.

Cape Province has the largest single stretch of dolomite, a roughly triangular area encompassing Vryburg, Griquatown, and a point some 150 km north of Kuruman.  But much of this area is covered with the Kalahari sands so few caves have been recorded.  The southern part of the province is much better documented, the main caving areas being around Oudtshoorn (480 km east of Cape Town) and in and around Cape Town itself.

Oudtshoorn, the capital of the Little Karoo region, is a pleasant, prosperous, tree lined town and the centre of South Africa's ostrich-farming industry.  A few kilometres to the north the wildly contorted Swartberg Mountains rise to more than 2,000 m and mark the divide between the Little Karoo and the more arid Great Karoo.  It is in this range that the province’s longest caves are found including the world famous Cango Showcaves.  Several caves in this area exceed 700m in length and ladder pitches between 20m and 40m are fairly common: the Fonteingrot/Skeleton Cave system comprises over 4,000m of passage including a gruelling muddy river crawl.

Generally, landowners and cavers enjoy a friendly relationship.  I guess both secretly hope to discover a system as extensive and commercially viable as the Cango Caves which currently attract some 150,000 visitors a year.  One day when I was cave-hunting near Oudtshoorn a local cattle farmer suggested that I help him with his dig instead.  I was horrified.  I wanted a caving holiday not a digging one.  Luckily my fears were unfounded: “going digging” turned out to mean sending some black employees below ground to do the graft while the farmer and I supervised from the surface, he sometimes hauling out a token sack of rubble while I photographed our efforts for posterity.

After about three hours we'd all had enough.  So the digging team was dismissed and the farmer and I descended Waenskloof Cave whose showpiece is a chamber neatly decorated with butter-coloured stal reached by a 10m ladder descent.  Due to the dense covering of bush, this cave remained undiscovered until the late fifties although its entrance had always been open.  Local people are convinced that caves are still hidden by the bush.

Prospects for new discoveries around Cape Town on the other hand are slim.  The Mountain Club of South Africa has been recording caves here since the turn of the century.  And in 1954 a group of enthusiasts who had been caving regularly since the end of World War II formally organised themselves into a club.  The following year they merged with a Transvaal based caving group and the South African Speleological Association (SASA) was born, though two sections retained their autonomy.  A few years later however, personality differences in the Transvaal section led to the formation of a breakaway group, the Cave Research Organisation of South Africa (CROSA). There are still only three caving clubs in South Africa and the current total caving population is unlikely to be larger than 200.

One of the first areas to receive SASA's attention was Table Mountain which rises to over 1,000 m above Cape Town.  Being so near such a large centre of population, sit rugged plateau had for years been the popular haunt of innumerable climbers, walkers and general day-trippers.  It has been claimed that the world's largest sandstone caverns are found here but I have not checked the accuracy of this.  Vertical development is generally stronger than horizontal and in the rocks overlooking Orange Kloof on the southern side of the mountain a depth of 50, is reached in Climber's Cave.

Further south Cape Town's suburbs stretch out along the eastern shore of Cape Peninsular.  On the bare and scrubby hills overlooking Muizenburg, St. James and Kalk Bay are dozens of small caves several of which are worth the attention of any passing speleo.  Like Table Mountain this area attracts hoards of day trippers. Caves used to figure largely in local guidebooks and an (incomplete) list published about 10 years ago described 67 interesting caves.  Modern guidebooks however, perhaps being more concerned for the visitors' safety, tend not to mention the caves or, at most, give them only a passing mention.  But the damage has been done: graffiti and litter mar many of the more accessible caves on these hills.

I hitched the 1,400 km from Cape Town to Johannesburg in the Transvaal in 27 hours.  With a vigorously enforced maximum legal speed limit of 80 Kmph this was remarkably good going.  More to the point though are the fuel restrictions: filling stations are closed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and, as it is illegal to carry fuel in cans, it is impossible to drive all night.  At weekends things are even worse with no petrol on sale between lunchtime Friday and six o'clock on Monday morning.  How far will one tank full of petrol take you?

Luckily caving in the Transvaal has not suffered too much under these restrictions, as it is still comparatively easy to make new discoveries near the heavily populated Rand.  The dolomite here encircles Johannesburg and extends west through Krugersdorp and off into Botswana via Carletonville.  The week before I arrived in South Africa a CROSA member had taken a midday motorcycle ride across the grassveldt of the Kromdraii Valley, a few miles from Krugersdorp, and photographed the hillside with infra-red film.  The following Sunday I joined his party to investigate the cold spots - i.e. potential caves - revealed by this exercise.  We were rewarded with several small caves.

South African cavers are very safety-conscious.  The first cave we discovered entailed a seven metre abseil on which lifelines were used, and when I spotted another cave, with a large walk-in entrance. I had to curb my enthusiasm until the entire party, about nine people, had caught me up before going underground.  Even below ground short solo explorations of side passages were taboo and we were split into groups of twos and threes.  But the cave turned out to be an intricate three dimensional grovel and chaos followed the frequent meeting and passing of other confused small groups.

These 'Fissure caves' mazes strongly influenced by jointing - are the most common type of development in the Transvaal.  Their intricacy can be truly amazing.  For example the Wonderfontein has a surveyed length of 9.3 km but even the most remote parts of the cave can be reached in about 20 minutes.  The Apocalypse Pothole near Carletonville, with a vertical range of 80m, follows a similar pattern: at a length of 10.8 km it is the longest cave in southern Africa.

About 250 km from Johannesburg is the Transvaal's second main dolomite area.  From Carolina it follows the northern reaches of the Drakensburg northward to Ofcolaco - a beautiful country of forests, waterfalls and rolling hills - and then turns westward to Potgietersrust.  This is the only region where horizontal cave entrances can be said to be at all common. But, ironically, the country's deepest open shaft is also found here: the 30m deep Bat Hole near Ofcalaco. With the aid of a black guide, and at the standard rate of approximately 60p per day, I was able to visit this site but I did not descend.  There is only a short passage at the bottom anyway.  On succeeding days, and with a variety of guides, I visited several nearby caves and carried out some original exploration.  Most of the caves I found contained some beautiful formations but none was very extensive.  The Transvaal’s final sizeable dolomite outcrop extends in a narrow strip from the iron mining town of Thabazimbi westward into Botswana.  Until the Transvaal Section of SASA started coming here a couple of years ago the area had been largely ignored by cavers.  Even now the surface has barely been scratched.  I was invited to join SASA on a trip here over the long Easter weekend but had to decline due to the histoplasmosis risk, a particularly virulent form is found here and, at the time I was histo-negative. I think I subsequently caught the disease in the eastern Transvaal (and am therefore now immunised) but I have not had a skin test to confirm this.  Most Transvaal cavers catch histoplasmosis during their first year’s caving but the disease is unknown in Cape Province, as far as I know, except for one case reported from the Goggelgrot in the northern part of the province.

Before I went to South Africa I was advised to steer clear of caves not just because of histoplasmosis, but because of the dangers of 'rabid bats, scorpions, snakes, leopards and bees.'  Careful research beforehand and subsequent experience of the country shows these dangers to have been rather overstated.  As far as I'm concerned the only real 'risks' I ran were those always associated with solo caving.  But I must admit that bees did bother me once.  I was climbing into an entrance when an agitated buzzing warned me that I'd disturbed a hive.  Fortunately it was a frosty early morning and the bees were still drowsy.  By the time they'd got their senses about them I'd decided I didn't really want to do heir cave anyway and was running through the wood to another cave entrance I'd seen about a kilometre away.

Southern Africa is an ideal place for a cheap and fascinating holiday, with some caving thrown in, especially if you don't mind roughing it a bit. For a cost of just under £400 (and this includes the airfare) I was able to travel for three months and take in bits of South Africa, Lesotho and Rhodesia.  My thanks to everybody - including cavers, BEC members: friends and strangers - who helped make it such a memorable experience.


Letter To The Editor

From D.C. Nigel (plod) Taylor:

Dear Bertie,

1)       Firstly, let me state that the following views are purely my own and not those of the club committee; - But I feel after reading the Feb. B.B. that there are a few personal views that I should like to express. Viz, Chris Batstone, our esteemed Hut Warden, appears to suddenly have opened his eyes to a problem that has been with us for many years, even before my reign of terror as Hut Warden in 1971/2. As a search of the Belfry books show, present weekend ‘bednights’ are the same as they were then - yet I feel that 'Chris' new problem' is one that he can easily solve by saying "No" to interlopers and those who buck the system as opposed to playing the Mendip Hardman and charging £1.00 per head for those unfortunate enough not to be able to supply reciprocal accommodation - remember there has always been a welcome for all at the Belfry.  Untidiness and misuse at the 'shed' is for the Hut Warden to prevent and control, backed up by the members present.  In my experience it has often been these themselves that were the untidiest! Let's hope that this new 'policy' does not bite the one who wanted to do the biting, for if we were to turn up at places distant it would be a shame indeed to overhear “That's one of those unsociable. bxxxxxs from Mendip - you know, no booking, no bunk!”  Let's not build ourselves a paper empire and start up weird and wonderful systems for booking, deposits etc.  You're a good Hut Warden Chris, but think carefully.

2)       With reference to Graham's article on Manor Farm's possibilities and my infilling of the sink - this was dons, primarily, for safety reasons as on our first exploratory entry into the lower sections of NASHA Gallery this area was a large unstable boulder pile which I deliberately demolished with 4½lb in 1974 with the intention to stabilise it then and dig it at a later date.  This date has now come!  With my new licence the Mendip Chips Ban and Chisel Company is officially back in life - all assistance welcome!

3)       Cuthbert's Fixed Tackle - Hasn’t enough been said.

Yrs. Nig Taylor.


Tales of Chiltern Chalk Mines.

G. Wilton-Jones

Last spring Buckett phoned me up saying that a chap out at Lane End had found a mine in his garden and would like us to investigate it.  Lane End Common is apparently riddled with abandoned mines, and, quite naturally, the locals were full of tales of the old miners.  'Three men at a time would take a skin of beer down with them and spend several days underground.  'Interconnecting mined passages once honey-combed the common.' However, on-one was related to or seemed to know any of the old miners.  Earlier this century 'Old Man Nix' had been lowered on a rope down the mine in question, and his B.D.I. revealed caverns measureless containing tools, wheelbarrows, buckets, etc.  The mine was capped soon afterwards and a rockery built on top of it.  One semi-alcoholic night the present landowner decided to find the mine, which he did.  He dropped lighted newspapers into the shaft, Casteret style, and saw passages at the bottom and one part way down the side.  He plumbed the depth, finding it to be about 60' to a pile of garden refuse at the bottom.

Investigation of the mine took a matter of minutes for us.  It is clear from the survey that the mine is very limited in extent.  The shaft was just over 60' but there was no passage part way down the shaft.  Nor were there wheelbarrows, buckets or tools.  There was one, interestingly shaped, smooth, wooden wendge, a few iron spikes in the walls, and some old tin-plate oil lamps.  A few other artefacts probably fell down the shaft, and are therefore not worth mentioning.  We reckoned that ‘Old Man Nix' wan probably scared out of his wits on the end of a rope, with his flickering candle in his hand, and did not even untie himself from the rope.  Candles may not cast treacherous shadows but the ones they do cast can be very misleading to the uninitiated in strange places.

It was not at all clear what exactly the miners were after: the mine shaft drops first of all through the Reading beds - mainly various layers of soft sands containing scattered pieces of harder stone, which had been used to line the top section of the shaft.  After some 20ft the top of the Upper Chalk is reached, and the unlined shaft begins to bell out.  It passes through a number of thin bands of flint, which have been ignored. At a depth of about 50ft. are the roofs of the short, main workings.  These are largely level, but do not correspond with any flint bands.  However, if it were flint that the miners were after, no doubt they would have dug out the bands from above, rather than from beneath. If they wanted chalk; why did they not dig an open pit, as has happened in many other areas of the Chilterns.  If they wanted flint what was so special about the flint underground, or what was wrong with the masses of flint stones lying about on the fields.  Furthermore, what were flints and chalk used for a hundred years ago or more.  Clearly many questions required answering.  We continued our close scrutiny of the mine.

The shortest gallery had suffered a roof fall from a sand pocket, and had been filled with deads - in this case, chalk pieces of fist size and less.  Other galleries had odd piles of deads, while two had pits in the floor.  Some of the floor was grooved with wheelbarrow marks.  At the end of two parallel galleries a fault had. stopped progress.  Black mineralization had oozed down the fault, presumably from the sand beds above. Only one gallery had any drip, and there were small drip pockets on the floor there.

During two further trips the mine was surveyed and photographed.  We learned little more about the mine, except that the owner’s house used to be a brick works.  I decided to try the County Library for information about chalk and flint mines. They had practically no literature at all on these subjects.  The only possibly relevant information was that, at the turn of the century, several 'flint contractors' came into existence, but these soon disappeared.

According to Collins Field Guide to Archaeology' in Britain, flint mines are generally Neolithic, and unusually medieval, the latter being worked for building stone.  Chalk mines, on the other hand, are common and date from Roman times, the majority, though, being dug in the 18th and early 19th centuries. From these later ones the chalk was burned to make lime for the fields.

I began to •cap the local knowledge in the guise of one 'Bert Ginger', who lives over the road from me. He confirmed what my landlady had rumoured - that there was a chalk mine right here in Naphill, not a hundred yards from where 1'm sitting to type this.  Bert was not around while the mine was still operational.  He came to the village in the early 1900's, and the mine had been closed a few years by then.  He referred to it as a chalk mine.  Flint, in those days, was mainly required for building roads (our main road was then little more than a cart track).  Women of the village would collect flint stones off the fields and crush it into little pieces to make and mend the roads all around.  Where my own road is used to be the 'Stonefield' - hence the name. The flints from here were a beautiful, shiny white, and one house just a little way away is faced with these flints, and positively shines in the sun.  Who needs Snowcem, Wig?


CHALK MINE at LANE END, CHILTERNS.  Scale 1:168. Elevation WSW – EWE.  BCRA Grade 2.

Most fields in the area at that time had their own marl pits.  Marl is a lime rich clay formed by the breakdown of the uppermost layers of chalk, through an organic process.  It was used to spread on the land, which is surprisingly deficient in lime.

The chalk itself does not generally outcrop anywhere in the Chilterns except on the scarp slope. Even here, us I often notice in an M40 cutting, the chalk may lie at a depth of several feet beneath the surface. Chalk, however, can be easily burnt by a simple process into excellent lime, for use both on the fields and for making mortar/cement.  In places where the top soil and marl are of such a depth to preclude quarrying opencast, then chalk was obtained by mining.

When Bert Ginger was a lad there was no main drainage in Naphill, so most people had a cess pit. This was emptied at regular intervals by a man with a horse, a tank and a stirrup pump.  One man, fed up with the charges for emptying his pit (several pence at a time!) and knowing that his house was built near the abandoned chalk mine, called in the help of the only surviving chalk miner of the village, Jack Free.  In minutes Jack had located the capping on the old shaft and a pipe was soon installed to convey the necessary into the very bowls of the earth.  According to Jack, at the bottom of the shaft, some 60ft. down, passages ran off like the spokes of a wheel, rising higher the further they went from the shaft, until they reached the top of the economical layers of chalk.  He gave no indication as to the length of the galleries.

Others in the village, also decided to use the mine as a vast cess-pit, but one was quite by accident. He had done the old trick of burying bottles in the concrete base of his septic tank when he made it, and had climbed down into the apparently large pit on a ladder to poke the holes; with a steel spike.  Unable to find the bottles he poked harder, and one corner of the pit completely gave way, leaving the ladder and the errant gentleman hanging over the void. Bert saved the man from the ……. you know what.  Just as well the mine roof didn’t collapse while he was making the pit.  It must have been directly over the upper end of one of the galleries.  Since then the man with the horse, the tank and the stirrup pump faded away from old Napton, out of a job, maybe.

Various parts of the mine have collapsed on occasions; one collapse occurred in Bert’s schooldays, early one morning.  He saw it on the way to school - a pit with a pile of earth in the centre and two passages leading off on opposite sides at the bottom.  By the weekend, when he thought he'd go down it and explore, the pit had been filled and levelled; another collapse was right beneath a damson tree.  The tree survived for many years after, and the owner would pick his fruit from the top of the tree by reaching across from the edge of the pit; quite recently two new bungalows were put up near here.  They began to subside into the mine for the surveyors had note taken this into account.  A week was spent pouring concrete into a hole under one of the houses.  There is supposed to be another mine next to this one, and I see that six luxury dwellings have been built over it.  I wonder how long they will last?



Overheard at the Belfry:  When discussing details of the Austrian trip, later this year, a well known Belfryite (J.D.) made it known to one and all "I don’t care what we do in Austria providing we are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge!"

Weil's Disease has struck again in Stoke Lane.  A Yeovil C.C. member was rushed to hospital after he had lost the use of his kidneys and liver.  Luckily, he made a full recovery but others contracting the disease may not be so lucky. Rat’s urine in the water is the usual cause of this nasty disease, commonly known as Sewermans Disease.

This is the second time that a caver has been struck down with it; the first was our own Oliver Lloyd some 12 years ago.  I've spoken to Don Thomson about this and he said that there is no real protection because the virus will penetrate through the skin, whether it is cut or not, as well as the usual way into the body via the usual orifices.  So, be careful, don’t drink cave water, wear gloves and possibly hoods may help in the Stoke sump areas.

Longest Dive. An Australian cave diver has broken the world record for the longest cave dive.  Paul Hadfield states that it was over 2 kilometres in a cave in the Nullaber Plain in South Australia.  The current issue of British Caver (No.68) gives details of other long dives (p.25). A copy is in the club library.

Mike Boon, well known to older members of the club, has at last published his book relating highlights of his incredible caving 'career'.  He tells of diving in Swildon’s Hole, discovery of large sections of the Lokva and Grapa rivers by diving in Yugoslavia, and tales unfold of activity in Jamaica, Ireland and Yorkshire.   Though expensive at £6.75 (112pp; 5 maps, 8" x 6") it makes an enjoyable read.  Available from Brian Woodward, 243 Bloomfield Road, Bath, Avon BA2 2AY.  Brian is also selling Canadian Caver at 85p per issue (a real must for those interested in caving in Northern America. In addition he has for sale 'Cave Exploration in Canada'; this book contains a complete history of caving in Canada, with descriptions of all the major systems, up-to-date maps and superb photographs.  Price £7.  A copy is in the club library.

Still on the subject of bocks - Karst in China (150pp) published Shangai People's Publishing House, is one of the finest 'coffee table' caving books yet published. Contains magnificent photographs (mainly colour) of the world’s largest karst regions in southern China.  The text is pretty feeble and quite short, even so, there's a liberal sprinkling of the Thoughts of Chairman Mao.  Its expensive retailing between £8 - £9.25 - stocked at Rocksport, Tony Oldham and Foyle’s ( London). A new American bock is available through Anne Oldham - Cavers. Caves and Caving.  Edited by Bruce Sloane at £8.14 post free.  It's an anthology of, folklore, history and adventure.  All contributors are members of N.S.S. Plenty of illustrations.

News in Brief. Border C.G. and the Cerberus S.S. seem to have patched up their differences that caused the split a few years ago.  Talks of merging the two clubs seem to be on the way.  Possible a marriage of convenience – CSS have a cottage, Border cannot afford to buy one.  Alan Mills (WCC) has abandoned Pitten Stree because of continual collapse.  Caving lectures entitled “Caving – Sport and Science” at Geology Theatre commencing 25th April – details from Dept. of Extra Mural Studies, The University, 32 Tyndalls Park Road, Bristol, BS8 1HR. National Caving Centre (No.2 if Whernside is No.1!) proposed for S. Wales to be built on DYO property.  Cost £200,000.  Financed by Nature C.C.'

Water Tracing. Willie Stanton has carried out more tests at Cuthbert's and records times to Wookey of 10 hours.  This agrees with the 1967 tests when the time was given as being 11 hours.  However, the 1967 times are not very accurate as the lycopodium spores had reached the resurgence before the 11th hour, so ten hours would appear to be reasonable under high water conditions.  Also, Wigmore was tested over the weekend of 4th - 5th March.  This involved the Belfry regulars in 6 hourly sampling trips to Wookey, Rodney Stoke, Cheddar and Rickford.  Wigmore was traced to Cheddar, taking about 43 hours.

Space Blankets

A medic from the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine carried nut some useful work back in 1971. Details of which have been published in the March, 1978 edition of Climber and Rambler (see copy in club Library).

Basically, he claims that the advantage of the aluminium coated plastic space blanket is that it can be seen from a distance but has no added advantage over the other forms of materials commonly in use for protection against the cold and wet such as polythene or woven nylon.

Testing the space blanket under various conditions it was found that the skin temperature was no different using the blanket than when using a poly bag.  It was concluded that heavyweight space blankets are of some value as a water and wind protector but other materials such as polythene or rip-stop nylon are equally robust.

The lightweight space blanket is too fragile for most survival purposes.  Bags are much better than blankets in windy conditions.

The reflection of the body heat (infra-red) by a space blanket is prevented by the layer of condensation and at sub-zero temperatures by frosting.  In this situation space blankets 0ffers no advantages over cheaper and stronger alternatives.  Lastly, space blankets are of no value as a radar location aid in survival.

Stoke Lane 4. Alan Mills (WCC) has negotiated with the landowner to open up the aven in Stoke 4 to the surface.  A radio location the site was carried out by 'Prew' last year.  The landowner has a condition that the opening should be done within a weekend and it must be gated.

More on the Stoke Lane Weil's Disease

The following is reprinted from the Yeovil Caving Club's Newsletter 'SUMP' - No.5: -

The following letter is from Benny Bainbridge and gives this own personal report on how he caught Weil's disease and also the treatment he received: -

It started as a normal caving trip one Friday night last October (1977).  The trip had been brought forward from Sunday so that I could go on my first trip to Stoke Lane Slocker.....There were four of us in the party~ all experienced.  However, on the return trip after Sump One I began to tire, so the entrance tube was a bit of a struggle.  It was in the entrance tube and again outside that I made my near fatal mistake and swallowed some of the water.  The first time was accidental, the second time it was done quite deliberately to quench my thirst.... Nothing happened for the next week or so.  Ten days after the trip…. that I started to develop pains in my back and 'flu-like symptoms.  On Thursday I went to see my doctor and he gave me some pills to ease my back ache.  However, I began to feel even worse, so on the Sunday I was admitted to the sick bay at my naval base at Yeovilton, Somerset.

It was at this stage that I started by dramatic colour change from normal pink to a bright yellow ...my doctor discussed the possibility of me having caught Yellow Jaundice.  On the Wednesday I was transferred to the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth, where blood tests done on the Thursday found me to be suffering from Weil's Disease leading to acute renal failure (i.e. both my kidneys has ceased to function some 24 hours earlier).

As the Navy has no artificial kidney machine to deal with Renal Failure, I was transferred by helicopter to the R.A.F. Renal Unit at RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire, where I underwent haemo-dialysis (the cleaning of the blood by the use of a kidney machine).

While I was at RAF Halton, samples of my blood were sent to the Leptospirosis Reference Laboratory in London who confirmed that in fact I had caught Weil's Disease which is caused by the virus Leptospirosis and is transmitted to humans in the urine of rats. Fortunately, for us, only 10% of the rat population carry the virus.

I spent a total of four and a half weeks in hospital, two of which were spent in the intensive care unit ... six hours a day for 10 days hitched up to a kidney dialysis machine and for 12 days I was fed by an intravenous drip.  At the moment I still have to undergo checks on my liver and kidneys, but the lasting effect of my illness is the fact that I cannot drink alcohol because of the damage done to my liver.



Or Just a minute with our hon. sec!



The club possesses a S/L Camera which it proposes to raffle to members only.  The value is approximately £50.



CUTHBERT’S TACKLE FEES – for tourist trips organised by the Caving Secretary or privately, the fee will be 25p.  It may appear to be a 'Large' rise (50%) but it is long overdue and only comes up to standard charges for access to other caves.  Perhaps 'tackle fee' is the wrong title and 'access fee' would be more appropriate.

Hut Engineer – Martin Bishop has resigned from this post, but not from the Committee.  Martin Grass has taken over and I am sure will appreciate your help – one immediate task now the fine weather is coming is to paint the outside woodwork of the Belfry.

The new soak-a-way for the shower water is nearing completion and should solve our sewage problems.


Christine Greenall - Minster Lodge, Ruff Lane, Ormskirk, Lancs.
907 Karen Jones, Room 63, New End Nurses Home, New End Hospital, Hampstead, London WN3 1YE.
Ross White, 44 Princes Road, Wimbledon, London SIN 19

NEW MEMBERS - welcome to the mob!

Teresa Rumble, 40 Halswell Road, 8levedon, Avon, BS21 6LG

SOCIAL:  It's nice to see Tony Corrigan out and about again – caving as well in the company of 'Zot' and Tom Gage.  Recently Tony went down GB and as far as the '20' in Swildon's.  He’s currently thinking up ideas of how to fit an attachment on his foot to climb ladders.


Helen Fielding, 175 Bramley Lane, Hipperholme, Halifax, West Yorks.
Roger Sabido, 15 Concorde Drive, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.


The Grotte D'Antiparo, Greece

Tony Jarrett

While holidaying on the Greek Islands last summer the writer took the opportunity of visiting this famous show cave.  Although one of the first systematically explored caves in the world, few British cavers must have visited the system and subsequently articles in British publications are few.

Situated on the ten mile long island of Antiparos, access to the cave is gained by taking a hour and a half motor boat trip from the town of Perissa on Paros Island - via the main village on Antiparo - to a small hamlet several miles along the coast.  From the landing stage here the hardy tourist can either walk the mile and a half track into the mountains or hire a mule.  (The writer being idle chose the latter).  After a forty minute jog in the blazing sunshine and feeling akin to a gold prospector in Death Valley, the entrance is reached on a bare limestone hillside with superb views of the Aegean Sea.

History of the Cave

At around the same time as the original exploration of Pen Park Hole and Lamb Leer were taking place, the Grotte d'Antiparos was fully explored by the Marquis de Nointel, French ambassador to the Turkish Empire then ruling these Greek islands (though graffiti on formations indicated partial previous exploration by the early Greeks).  The audacious Marquis descended on 23rd December, 1673 armed with ropes, rigid wooden ladders, a large group of servants and sailors and even a couple of artists to record the event for posterity (and for his King, Louis XIV). The party explored deep into the cave, discovering en route the large well-decorated hall some eighty meters down. The Marquis was so impressed that he spent three days underground and during this period celebrated Christmas Eve mass attended by over five hundred people!  The cave was illuminated with hundreds of lamps and wax tapers and a novel innovation was the firing of several mortars and cannon in the entrance followed by a wild clamour of assorted musical instruments (shades of the Hunters backroom!)  This incredible pantomime was followed by the removal of tons of formations for display in a Paris Museum - unfortunately a pastime shared by many of de Nointels successors.

In contrast to this first visit, the scientific investigations of the naturalist Tournefort in 1700 were far more subdued, though even this episode has its humorous side. Tournefort - a botanist - formulated a theory of vegetative growth to explain the development of the formations, doubtless due to the resemblance of stalagmite growth rings to those of a tree! He published an elaborate description of his visit and also of that of de Nointel.

A further description was provided by the next distinguished French visitor in 1780, the Count Choiseul-Gouffier.

From this date on visits became more frequent though the upper classes seem to dominate the scene. The Greek king Othon was there in 1840 and another French ambassador, Gobino, in 1865.

Particularly unwelcome visitors descended on the area in 1770 - 1774.  These were Russian occupation soldiers who followed in their predecessors footsteps by removing many formations for a Petrograd museum.  Their Italian counterparts of 1941-1943 continued this vandalism.

Now protected by a stout gate and operated as a show cave for some years the situation has improved - though it is noticeable that one of the main attractions pointed out by the guide is the vast amount of historical graffiti covering nearly all of the accessible formations.  Despite three centuries of vandalism the remaining stals, though generally dry and old, are plentiful and impressive.  Vast pillars, stalactites and curtains proliferate and there are a number of the curious “palette” or “shield” formations only found in the caves of warm climates.

The cave itself is formed in a steeply inclined rift or fault with wider sections forming the heavily decorated chambers.  Its 100 meters of depth is descended on spider-web like concrete steps hanging in mid air.  These are only some two feet in width and provide great sport were the handrails are missing and visitors at the bottom are trying to pass those going down!  The cave ends in a rift blocked with stalagmited boulders and breakdown, though a short pitch in the floor some way back up the passage possibly goes further.  The writer had neither the time nor equipment to investigate this.  The spirited lecture provided by the guide halfway down was unfortunately all Greek to me.

In conclusion I found this a really worthwhile visit - made especially enjoyable by the novelty of mule transport and the remoteness and lack of commercialisation of the cave.  A "must" if you are ever in the area. Incidentally there are many other caves on Antiparos and other islands. Little exploration seems to have been done in the islands and the climate, vast quantity (and quality) of naked foreign females on the beaches and cheap wine make this an English caver’s paradise.

Refs (from the writer's library only)

Famous Caverns and Grottoes - W.H. Davenport Adams 1886 pp. 78-84 Antiparos - the Island with the Cave of Stalactites. - B. Kaloudas 1964  (Guide Pamphlet)

La Conquete Soutterain. - P. Minvielle 1967 pp. 15-21

BCRA Trans. VoL 1 No.1. - J.R. Shaw Cohort History of Speleology)



Notes on the survey of Tyning's Barrows Swallet

by D.J. Irwin

By now the reader will have read one of the several accounts dealing with the breakthrough and exploration of this new Mendip system.  As an aid to exploration a BCRA grade 5c survey commenced on the 26th February, 1977 and during the course of the next few weeks the survey was completed except for Aardvark and Bertie's Paradise.

The equipment used is of some interest to surveyors.  Basically it consisted of the Suunto compass (KB14/360) and clinometer (PM5/360) coupled together in the form of a handheld surveying unit.  This eliminated the problem of handling the separate instruments and in low, awkward passages this was a great advantage.  Details of the connecting bracket is being prepared by Chris Batstone. In use this combination of instruments enabled rapid readings to be made.  The tape was a Chesterman 100 ft. fibron.  Due to the rather constricted nature of the passages and the urgency of getting the main line surveyed it was decided to produce a grade 5c survey.  At each station care was taken to minimise the accumulation of station error by pivoting around the instruments and on occasion using rock features to hold the instruments.  Because the scale at which the drawing was produced (1/480) the drawing error would be considerable greater than the survey random errors.

The instruments were read to the nearest 1O and the tape to the nearest 0.1 ft.  The leap-frog method was adopted.  The data assembled was reduced to co-ordinates using four-figure logs and the survey, plotted and checked on graph paper.  Due to the scale (1/480) no detail of the deposits could be shown on the drawing.

The instruments were not calibrated in the conventional manner due to influences from steel wire and half buried farm implements in the area.  Instead, a fixed bearing was obtained from the compass station near the farm entrance at the start of each trip; any variation in magnetic deviation enabled each section of the survey to be so corrected.  Thus, the survey figures were corrected to ‘compass north’. With the help of Brian Prewer et al, a radio transmission was made on March 12th 1977 from the base of Pyramid Pot and the point located in the field above.  A surface survey then commenced radiating lines to the cave entrance and the corners of the field.  By checking the 6” O.S. map of the area it was then possible to rotate the survey to grid north.  The ‘mismatch’ of the surface point located from the survey line and the signal point was less than 20 feet giving a closure error of approximately 1%.

Due to the complex plan form of the upper series and the general pattern of the main passage the idea of a projected elevation was abandoned and an extended elevation produced. The drawings were then transferred onto a nylon drawing sheet to produce the master original.  This is to be sent t8 B.M. Ellis for inclusion in the Mendip Cave Survey Scheme.

The surveyed length is 4,000ft + 200ft. un-surveyed (1,335 metres + 60 metres) and 433ift. (131.97 metres) deep.

The following table records the dates and personnel involved with whom this survey could not have been produced: -


Entrance to dig. (1 hour) D. Irwin & C. Batstone.


'A Day' to Pyramid Pot (3 hours) D. Irwin, G. Wilton-Jones, N. Halstead and C. Batstone.


Pyramid Pot to Breakthrough and Paton Place. (4 hours) D. Irwin, G. W-Jones and G. Price (C.S.S.).


Transporting radio locating gear to Pyramid Pot C. Hawkes; B. Prewer, T. Reynolds (W.C.C.) and P. Smart (U.B.S.S.).


Drunken Horse Inlet: D. Irwin and T. Large.


Surface survey: D. Irwin, J. Batstone, B. Prewer and R. White


Paton Place & White Dog Passage, D. Irwin, G. Wilton-Jones, J. Dukes, R. Mansfield.


Velcro Passage: P. MacNab & D. Turner.


Sheep's Jaw and misc. side passages: D. Irwin, P. MacNab and R. Halliwell.

The cave became choked with mud below the second pitch during May, 1977 leaving Aardvark and two small side extensions un-surveyed.  These have been sketched in on the plan.



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.