The Discovery & Exploration Of Wookey 23 - 25

by Chris Batstone

The numbering of sumps in Wookey can for some seem strangely complex.  From one to nine the system is relatively easy to understand, there being airspace between the sumps.  From 9 to 22 things become slightly obscure.  To clarify this however, the reader should be aware that between 9 and 22 the cave is totally submerged, except for the 20th chamber the numbering is merely to signify stages in exploration.  The conventional sump numbering system is used beyond the 22nd chamber.


By early 1976 the Cave Diving Group attempts to find the continuation of the cave system beyond the 22nd chamber had been fruitless.  Despite this a number of divers were still enthusiastic enough to keep up the search.

On February 21st1976, Colin Edmunds and Martyn Farr had gone in to 22 to investigate the far sump. Previously Parker had reported that "it was static and did not go."  During their investigation of the sump they found an opening much like the "slot" in 15.  They explored the passage beyond until the line ran out.  They had explored 300ft of passage down to a depth of 65ft.  The two divers were forced to return to base having no more line with which to explore further.

A day later on the 23rd February, two more divers Oliver Statham and Geoff Yeadon went in to push the sump further.  Statham led the dive, he followed Edmunds line to the limit of the previous dive. Then tying on his own line pushed on to surface 60ft further in Wookey 23.  He was soon joined by Yeadon who was following behind surveying as he went. They had found a passage 40 x 25ft with a sandy floor.

The next sump did not seem very inviting so they spent some time investigating an aven for alternative routes, none were found.  Statham dived sump 23.  This he found to be a series of short sumps.  Each time he surfaced he found deep water high rifts with dry passage leading off, but steep mud banks to make his exit difficult.  He found that exiting from the pool in "24" was difficult due to its steep mud bank.  He was soon joined by Yeadon who helped him out of the pool onto the mud bank.

Yeadon wandered off along the large sandy passage they had found, looking for the next "inevitable sump".  Excitedly he shouted to Statham to "de-kit".  The passage was not going to end in a sump just yet.  The two explored up the passage, where they heard the roaring sound of a large amount of water.  Climbing over some boulders they found the subterranean River Axe flowing in a passage 40ft high and 5f. wide.  They swam upstream against a very strong current, for approx. 150ft.  The passage opened out into a large Chamber, with a high level route leading off.  They stayed in the river passage which had narrowed to 2-3ft wide and about 50ft high.  After about 300ft they came to a cascade which they climbed, into a large chamber.  Here the high level passage mentioned earlier joined the river passage.  This chamber opened out to a lake.  The divers swam across the lake to investigate a rift, but no way on could be seen.  The water in the lake came up from under the left wall this then was the next sump (24).

On their return they made a quick survey and explored the high level passage; the total passage length was 2,000ft plus.

A week later on the 27th February Martyn Farr and Colin Edmunds were back.  Arriving at Sump 24 Farr dived reaching a depth of around 85ft. The way on was up a steeply inclined dip.  On his second attempt he reached an air surface.  His dive had been 350ft long finishing at a chamber (25) covered in thick deposits of mud.  He swam across it until he came to what he thought to be a bridge of rock.  Pulling himself up about 3ft out of the water he could see into another pool approx. 30ft in diameter.  He returned to Edmunds in 24 where they explored some side passages. They returned to 9:2 after 6¼ hours in the cave.

Farr and Edmunds returned to Wookey on the 10th April aiming to photograph the new extensions and have a look at the terminal sump (25).  On reaching 25 Farr christened the chamber the " Lake of Gloom".  He discovered that the rock bridge was in fact a solid rock wall.  Making impossible any attempt to dive through to the next pool.  However he managed to "de-kit" and climb over into the pool to make a quick inspection.  Finding that the sump was very large and deep and to dive further would require a good deal of support.

It was now apparent from the last pushing attempt that considerably more support would be needed to push any further.  With a dive of over 2000ft long and 80ft deep to 25.  The problems of high air consumption had to be considered, a large amount of extra air cylinders were needed.  The problems of decompression, too, had to be considered.  Decompression stops in cold water can be very wearing. To offset the cold, constant volume, drysuits were acquired.  These dry suits had the advantage of keeping in the body warmth, and counteracting the negative buoyancy at depth.  The major disadvantage of these suits is that they tend to cause overheating when the diver is not in the water.  A large amount of the equipment was obtained from sponsors who donated either equipment or money to the project.

Many weeks were spent practicing with the new equipment and techniques associated with it.  Numerous artificial aids were transported into the extensions; this included two lengths of rigid steel ladder to 25 to aid the scaling of the barrier wall.  To facilitate easy passage of the canals and climbs, these were roped up to assist the divers in high water conditions.

A water tracing exercise was also carried out on November the 27th.  Two tests were made.  One using rhodamine dye from 25.  This was detected at the resurgence after 9 hours.  The other test was made from St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.  140 grams was put into the sink and followed through the cave to sump 2.  But the dye was not subsequently detected at the resurgence after 56 hours.  It may be supposed that the amount of dye used was too small.

The Push

The 11th June 77 had been set for the assault on Sump 25.  In the preceding weeks the essential equipment had been transported to various parts of the cave ready for use.  The 9th Chamber was crowded with divers, supporters, television film crews, newspapermen and tourists.  The divers were Martyn Farr, Dave Morris, Colin Edmunds, Brian Woodward, Richard Stevenson, Paul Atkinson and George Bee.

Due to high water conditions the dive was postponed, although a performance was put on for the benefit of the media.  This also gave an opportunity to put the finishing touches to the final preparations.

The same team of divers were back at the cave on the 18th June.  Farr dived with Morris as back up diver.  The others went to 24 to help ferry and check the back up equipment. Leaving Morris in the Lake of Gloom, Farr dived down the Well, finding the line reel previously left in from the July '76 dive, at approx. 100ft depth.  He decided to follow the passage floor down.  Passage dimensions were approx. 4ft wide by 25ft high. Visibility was poor due to mud from the floor, which he disturbed as he swam.  At 135ft depth Farr came to a 10ft vertical drop.  He could see the passage continued on downwards.  Descending this he soon reached 150ft depth.  Here he dropped the line reel and made a rapid return to Morris at the Well to decompress.  The divers returned to 9:2 de-tackling as they went, making a short decompression stop before surfacing in 9:2 after a trip lasting 8 hours.

Although the main objective of the dive to push the final sump failed, the exercise has been useful, several lessons had been learnt.  Decompression and use of open circuit breathing mixtures have been established in cave diving, besides setting a new British cave diving depth record.

To the authors knowledge no further pushes have been made on sump 25 nor are any further planned, at the time of writing.  The story does not stop here, the events of the 1976-77 dives are just another chapter in the story.  As diving equipment and techniques improve, so divers will be able to push even farther and deeper into the sumps of Wookey Hole.

It is hoped this article has provided a clearer picture of events at Wookey Hole to date.

References: -

C.D.G. Newsleters No's '39 to 45 (new series)

B.C.R.A. Bulletin No 17 Aug 77.  Recent developments at Wookey Hole.


The Descent Of King Pot

a new find on Scales Moor, Yorkshire

by Martin Bishop.

On Friday 22nd June, Trev Hughes, Tim Large, myself and Rocksport's own Fiona, set forth for Yorkshire and the Northern Cave Club Brada Garth Hut in Kingsdale.  I had been previously invited to attend their annual barbeque at the entrance to Yordes Cave, but then I was told of the new find - there didn't need any further persuasion!  Anyway, we managed to make the Craven Heifer in time for a beer, meet the lads and arrange our King Pot trip for the following morning.

Saturday morning 'dawned' about 8 a.m., and after breakfast a short discussion and some cider (we always take the necessaries) Trev, Tim and myself and Dave Gallavar (NCC) set off for the cave, sorry - pothole.  Our journey was to be interrupted by watching the fanner and friend castrating sheep using an amazing tool which resembled a miniature hatchet!  From this point to the entrance, Trev made Tim quite ill by insisting on a sheep’s nuts kebab at the barbeque.  Eventually we made the entrance end after a quick check of our gear we began the descent.  Enough of this frivolity, I'll now get down to the business of describing certainly one of Yorkshires best trips and certainly one of the most impressive.

The cave consists of an awkward 25ft entrance pitch, followed by a 10ft rope descent into a small chamber.  From this chamber a 35ft pitch leads into a series of crawls through boulders to the head of a 10ft pot.  This crawl marks the end of the 'old cave' and the scene of the breakthrough in early June.  Beyond a 10ft climb leads into 25ft of rift passage to the head of the 5th pitch.  A 30ft ladder dropping through boulders takes you into a few hundred feet of passage to an exceedingly loose choke.  About halfway along this passage a climb takes you into a grotto full of straws which rivals Easter Grotto in the Easegill System. Once past the unstable choke you enter, what was for me, the worst part of the system  A short rift passage leads into a flat out crawl in a narrow phreatic tube with a 3ft deep, 6-8" wide trench cut in the floor.  After 100ft the passage (still small) goes through a tight 'S' bend and through a tight squeeze to the head of the next pitch, 25ft ladder required.  At the bottom of the pitch a 2ft wide, meandering stream passage continues for 700ft and up to 40ft high, at the top of which is a 8ft dia. phreatic tube full of pretties.  At the end of the meanders, a 10ft pitch quickly followed by a 15ft pitch leads to a loose climb up a slope to a large chamber beyond which is an even larger chamber entered via a 45ft pitch - King Henry's Hall (150ft long, 100ft wide and 100ft high) - so named after the boulder at the head of the pitch which is about the size of a mini-car and has no visible means of support.  At the end of KHH a 35ft pitch down a narrow (Cuthbert's style) rift leads through 200ft of rift passage to two very large un-named chambers.  From this point about 600ft of canal passage with a good stream, takes you to the head of the 70ft pitch.  The pitch is really superb and has a rock bridge which spans the head of this 30ft dia. pot.  After a fine descent the stream passage below leads 300ft to a sump.  Back under the 70ft pitch, a 10ft climb over a rock barrier leads to a muddy, flat out and wet crawl to some small chambers and an inlet junction on the right of the main passage gives was, after a climb up a mud bank, to a chamber with some fine abandoned gours about 8ft wide and 100ft long.

Dropping back into the main passage, 700ft. of canal leads into the Scales Moor Main drain. Downstream from the junction about 450ft of superb stream passage with a hell of a lot of water, ending at a big, blue and very deep sump pool.  Upstream of the junction 300ft of passage ends at another sump of the same calibre. So we start out, breaking the journey by looking at two inlets, one halfway back through the canal and the other at the far end.  The first leads to a lake and a passage beyond that has a strong draught issuing from a choke and looks a promising site to push.

The other inlet is gained by a 5ft climb up into a classic 12ft dia. phreatic passage.  This continues for about 220ft and stops at an abandoned lake chamber; the acoustics in this passage are phenomenal.  On the return trip we split into two parties, Tim and Dave racing on while Trev and yours truly taking our steadier pace. About three and a half hours later we gained the surfaced knackered but dead chuffed at being the first non-NCC cavers to be allowed down. My next visit to this cave will be with two NCC members to dive the terminal sumps, to do this must involve a 10-15 hour trip, so I could be after some ‘bottle-boys’ - any offers?

To conclude this article we go on to the barbeque which proved to be a very good night with stacks of beer and food; to Trev's disappointment no Sheep's Ball Kebabs but after a few beers he was not bothered.  Tim Large must be getting old - he found it necessary to go to bed at about 11.30p.m. – SOBER!  Trev finally disappeared by 2.30am and I strolled (or staggered) along Kingsdale with the dawn, rising behind me.  So come Sunday.  Cider for breakfast, then to the Craven Heifer for lunch where Trev and I thrashed the NCC and (commiserations to Funky Dibben) the Derbyshire C.C. at darts after a few more beers at Dave Gallavers house in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, we made our way home.  A great weekend.


A No Name Article

By Michael Palmer

A White Scar Caving trip was arranged for 14th Jan. '78 by Martin (how green is my) Grass and so, to use a well worn phrase, a small band of BEC members drove the boring Motorway route to Horton-in-Ribblesdale to be the guests of the Bradford.

The party consisted of two groups, the Palmer family with Greg Villis and Christine, and Martin, Glenis, Pat and Paul Christie.  Martin had hoped for slightly better support of the trip but as it transpired the numbers were adequate.

En-route the Palmer group we’re fortunate enough to stay the Friday Night at Fred Weekes' Paddiham 'put you up', where they enjoyed fine hospitality.  The other group made it to the Bradford Cottage in time to find enough space for their sleeping bags.

Saturday morning, early but not so bright, saw the groups assembled in the White Scar Cave car park, where the events of the drive up in the fog and snow were discussed at length, while secretly hoping that the leader wasn't going to turn up.  He did, accompanied by a few friends, and so we all had to change in the freezing cold and prepare ourselves.  The route had to be changed because the usual air space at Big Bertha boulder choke had sumped.  This was fortunate in some respects, since the alternative was the higher level Battle Series which only a few dozen parties have previously visited.

The route at this point is upwards through a naughty corkscrew squeeze, emerging into an extremely large chamber.  From this chamber the leader took us to the caveable extremities of the Western Front and the Northern Front to look at very nice formations and a wonderful crystal pool which unfortunately was dry.  On the trip out Paul Christies wonder light failed again and to cap it all he later lost the Carbide lamp, loaned by Greg, while negotiating a swim in the cold streamway.

At the entrance the women had prepared welcome hot cup of tea, having returned early from their shopping in Settle.  After a quick change and a thank you to our leader we made a hasty return to the Bradford Cottage for a shower and hot food.

The hut warden had made a double booking, so bunk space was scarce.  However, after a little bartering and swearing sufficient room was found for the women, Martin and Paul, while Michael and Greg slept in the van. At the Helwith Bridge later on Saturday night we were blessed with the presence of a lost sheep, one Andy Nichols, who reported that he is fine and enjoying his change to Northern climes.

A trip to Swinsto had been organised with Fred Weekes for Sunday morning, which found the men once again standing by the roadside in the freezing cold changing into wet wetsuit. The women folk did a more sensible thing by going walking from Ingleton to see Thornton Force, which is a very impressive sight after wet weather.

Except for Fred this was everyone’s first trip into Swinsto, so there was lots of speculation about the sort of trip it would be.  The arrangement was that we would abseil through the system, pulling the rope down behind us, into the Kingsdale Master Cave and leave by the Valley entrance.

Sufficient articles have already been written about this trip so enough said, but it is relevant to record that this is a fine sporting pothole and the grand finale of the Kingsdale Master System is worth the effort.  The only bad spot of the trip was when the rope nearly didn't free itself from the top of the main pitch

We were all by this time on the ledge which divides the pitch into two; we were also being blown by an icy cold wind, caused by the swollen stream descending the pitch. After only a few minutes we were all very cold and subsequently decided in the warmth of the hut that it would not take very long for exposure to set in if trapped on the ledge under such conditions.  So, as a safety measure it was considered advisable to take a second rope of about 60ft, to avoid the danger of getting stuck should the main rope become stuck in any belay.  Feeling very pleased, with ourselves we returned to the hut for a hot meal before saying our good byes.

The weather was not too kind and the accommodation was overcrowded, but two fine caving trips made the weekend worth while and thank you to those who came and to Martin for organising the main trip.



by Tim Large

whose address is c/o Trading Standards Dept., 31 South Street, Wells, Somerset.

The year marches on so quickly these days, before we know we are at the A.G.M. and Dinner will be upon us. Already I can hear the usual rumblings of discussion.  I hope these rumblings will be aired in the proper place - the A.G.M.  It often seems to happen that various moans develop before the A.G.M., but those concerned air their grievances everywhere but at the meeting.

DINNER:  As you have already probably read in previous B.B.’s, the Dinner is to be held at the Caveman, Cheddar and the meal will include Roast beef, Yorkshire Pud, wine and a drink before the meal (either a pint or a sherry) all for £3.50.  The management of the Caveman have been ‘grilled’ by myself and I’ve been assured that a) the meal will be over in about one and a half hours and b) no-one will need to complain about the quantity of the food.  The veg., etc., will be laid out in dishes on the table. I hope that this year the Dinner will be memorable one and that there will be no repetition of the food throwing that occurred last year – we do not wish to stoop as low as the Wessex.  Last year some idiot threw pats of butter which landed on a lady’s dress (she’s no lady! Ed.).  It was lucky for him that he was never caught!


New members

Dave Nicholls, 2 Harklcy Rd., Exmouth, Devon.
John Knops, Ida Cottage, 235 Englishcombe Lane, Bath, Avon (lapsed member rejoined)

Changes of address:

Roger Sabido (832) 15 Concorde Drive, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, B310 6RZ
Buckett Tilbury (699) 15 Fernie Fields, Aylesbury, Bucks.
John Dukes (830) Bridge Farm, Dulcote, Nr. Wells, Som.
Sue Yea, Bridge Farm, Dulcote, Nr. Wells, Som.
Richard Knight (904) Crossways, Hillesley, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos. GL12 7RD.
Nigel Jago (753) West Cottage, Church Lane, Farrington Gurney, Avon.
Derek Targett (583) Norton Hall Cottage, Chilcompton, Midsummer Norton, Avon.
Mike Baker (392) 10 Riverside Walk, Midsummer Norton, Bath, Avon.
U. Jones (Jonah) Woking Grange, Oriental Road, Woking, Surrey.

Leaders for Shatter Cave, Fairy Cave Quarry: -

Dave Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.  Tele; Priddy 369
Mike Palmer, Laurel Farm, Yarley Hill, Yarley, Wells, Somerset. Tele Wells 74693

Max. no. in party is 5, electric lamps only, 25p per head into the coffers of the C.S.S. and give the leaders about 4 weeks notice please.

MORE ADDRESS CHANGES received by the Editor:

Teresa Humble, 71 Chiltern Close, Warmley, Bristol, Avon.
Colin Priddle (Pope) 15 Mons Road, Delville, Germiston 1401, South Africa.

Colin writes '…its good to hear of new caves being found on Mendip.  I have taken a step nearer caving again – by moving to Rhodesia.  It must be a step nearer returning to England too.'

ON MENDIP recently has been Jonah who turned up at the Belfry on his motorbike and when being asked by Trevor Hughes if he was a caver replied “My boy, I’ve been caving for 35 years!”  Trevor quickly shrank from sight!  Also seen at the Hunters - the one and only Steve Grime recounting tales of his travels abroad.  Incidentally, Jonah has donated a quantity of material for the club library including a rare copy of 'Historia Rievallensis' by the Rev. W. Eastmead published in 1824. The book contains an account of the recently discovered CAVE AT KIRKDALE.  Many thanks Jonah.

A.G.M.  Due to the committee proposals as a result of the work of the Constitutional Sub-committee it has been decided to hold an EGM on Saturday 7th October starting at 10.00am at the Belfry.  The A.G.M. will commence after this E.G.M.  This will conform to the spirit of the resolution at last years A.G.M. which requested this work to be carried out - namely that the revisions should be accepted before the 1978 A.G.M.


Caving In Gibraltar

By Trev Hughes

The Rock of Gibraltar is a limestone peninsula approximately 3 miles long by 1 mile wide.  The Rock is triangular in cross section and the ridge reaches 900ft above sea level.

Due to continued military interest and the limited area of level ground the rock has, over the years, become honeycombed with mined passage ranging from 250 year old gun batteries to present day command centres.  The total length of mined passage is now nearly 35 miles at many different levels.  It is perhaps less well known that there are 176 known natural caves on the rock, all are very old and are of phreatic or fault origins, there being no surface streams on the rock.  The highest entrances are at 750 ft above sea level (I know because it’s a long beer initiated slog up the water catchment steps).

Probably most people have heard of St Michael's show cave which is two thirds up the western side of the rock.  The large chambers in this cave led to its wartime use as a hospital.  The largest chamber in the show cave was a ward; it is now used for concerts, seating about 500.  The lower chamber was adapted for use as an operating theatre.

During the latter part of the war the Royal Engineers drove a tunnel horizontally into the hillside to connect with the operating theatre providing a convenient wheelbarrow route for bits of broken soldiers.  During these blasting operations instead of a pile of rubble at the end of their tunnel the Sappers found a large hole, so the lower and lower lower series of St Michael’s cave were found.

The lower series is formed along a large fault with a considerable vertical down throw, it connects with the lower lower series in the blasted entrance passage and in a 100ft pot within the system.  Stream action appears to have played no appreciable part in the formation of cave passage. The lower series like the show cave is extremely well decorated with large areas of flowstone and columns; cave mud is noted for its absence.  Although fairly short (660ft) the lower series has a vertical range of 80ft and provides some sporting climbs and an interesting 1-2 inch wide traverse around a 20ft deep lake.

The only interest in caving on the rock is a small group of resident Army cavers and a few local people who comprise the rocks only caving club!  However, they are always willing to provide a guide for non-local cavers such as a visiting naval caver like myself.  Most of the caves on the rock are short but some are relatively sporting such as the lower lower series of St Michael’s cave.


Letter To The Editor

To the Editor of the BB

Firstly the thoughts of 'Chairman' Alfie, if only others could have been prepared to write articles I am sure that Alfie’s thoughts may have been a bit watered down.  I think you should give him a round of applause for keeping the B.B. going so long.

As far as the B:B. is concerned you in the Bristol area are lucky in that you can read through the Bulletin and then throw it on the fire if you feel like it.  Other people overseas look on the B.B. as a God-send, which reflects the good old times in the Belfry, when it was the Old Belfry, before it burnt down.

You should ask yourselves, what are we trying to do?  You have a wonderful club on Mendip dedicated to caving and I say OK to the social activities of the older members (I myself included) who can't go caving (I'm blind and can hardly walk) and like to sit around and talk about the good old days (were they? – wife’s comment).

An idea for an article in the B.B.  Could a rough map of Mendip be produced showing where new caves have been discovered.

By the way, there's a second Belfry out here - a log cabin similar to Belfry 1.  In a good winter (not green) you can ski miles through forest, so why not pitch your strength against this nature and not against older members of the B. E. C.

Yours, George Honey, Sweden, 6th July 1978.


CAVING BOOTS (CRANGE TYPE). There are still some pairs left - mainly sizes 8, 9, 10.  PRICE £8.75. For those not familiar with them, they have external steel toe caps and commando soles.  Contact Tim Large (address see LIFELINE).

CAVING EXHIBITION: Arrangements are being made to hold this in the autumn at Wells Museum.  The purpose is to exhibit historical/antique items of caving equipment.  Anyone who has anything suitable, either to donate or loan should contact Tim Large. Work telephone Wells 73960.  Best times 8.30-10.30a.m. or 4.30p.m. to 5p.m.

Proposed Exhibition of Caving Equipment at the Wells Museum

Mr. Cook, Curator of the Wells Museum is interested in setting up an exhibition of caving equipment, past and present sometime in the autumn.  The success of this venture will be dependant on the quantity of material is forthcoming.   Anyone prepared to loan or give equipment should contact either Wells Museum or Chris Bradshaw at Rocksport, Bus Station, Wells, Somerset.  Telephone Well 0749 73054.


How To Avoid Caving Trips

By Annie Wilton-Jones

You may have noticed a distinct absence of I. Wilton-Jones’s on Mendip in the last couple of years. We’ve certainly noticed an absence of Lukin's cheese and cider in our diet so we can’t have been in the area for a while.  It would seem that we have developed quite a talent for avoiding caving and it is only fair that we should pass on this expertise to other would-be defaulters.

One of the first things to do is to get married.  As every married caver knows, this entails not so much the loss of your freedom as the gaining of a second set of excuses.  A frequent result of taking this first step along the road of avoidance is the purchase of a house.  This is a very good avoidance method in its own right.  It gives you two let outs: -

1) Mortgage repayments should easily high enough to reduce your ability to pay for petrol to a minimum. Trips to Mendip will therefore be similarly reduced.  2) There's always ‘so much to do in the house’.  A new house will be of faults and an old one will require extensive renovation and then there's the garden!  Of course the single caver can always try the house purchase without bothering with the marriage method.  It still works just as brother-in-law G. W-J will, no doubt, testify.

After a while, of course, your pay will go up a bit so the mortgage repayments will not cut down your spending money as much and, at about the same time, the house and garden will reach a comfortable condition.  The new house excuse will, therefore, be less effective so a fresh one must be found. Might I suggest the development of a second interest a least as time consuming as caving?  Running is a good example, this will require that a lot of time is spent in training and a lot of money is spent getting to races. It is also something that cannot be ignored for a week or so as you will lose your fitness. There will, of course, be the odd weekend when there’s no race and you will have a little money your pocket but you’re bound to be able to think of something you need for the house that will cost money and take the whole weekend to install.

Now is the time to introduce a further excuse.  Why not start a family? This is a good excuse for the wife to stay above ground - a large stomach is very cumbersome and gets in way in crawls and on ladders - but, on its own, is not sufficient excuse for the husband to stay in the daylight.  The answer is 'blood pressure'.  A nicely raise blood pressure will put the wife in bed for months at a time, maybe even in hospital, until the baby is born. Marvellous excuse!  How can the husband go caving when he has to look after house, garden and pets on his own while also trying to find time to go to work and visit his wife?  One point. On this excuse, though, is to time it correctly.  If you misjudge it you may end up missing the BEC Dinner which somewhat spoils the effect.

Of course, once the baby is born (in our case a daughter, Clare) you have a ready made excuse.  The baby is too small for you to take on long journeys and your wife is too tired for you to leave her to cope on her own. However, as wife and baby settle into a routine caving might become a possibility again so why not break your ankle? It's a bit painful at the time but it can be quite fun hobbling around on crutches and every one feels sorry for you.

When the ankle heals you could go into hospital for a minor op, but this won't last very long so you'll soon need a better excuse.  I don't recommend the following one but it works very effectively:

Get knocked down by a car. The main problem with this excuse is that you can’t control the seriousness of the accident.  Assuming that you are not killed, you may well be so badly injured that not only will you never cave again but you may also never do anything active again either.  If you are lucky your injuries will eventually heal but you won't know the final outcome for many months.  You will spend these months in hospital and/or attending painful physiotherapy sessions while hobbling about, once again, on those crutches.  At the end of all this treatment though you may still be able to cave so just in case you find you can, it might be an idea to start a second baby now so you'll have an excuse ready when the time comes!

Seriously though, Ian will still be on crutches for quite a while and we don't yet know how well his leg will heal.  However, you will see us on Mendip again in, we hope, the not too distant future, along with one or two babies, one dog, two cats and two or more gerbils!

Annie W-J.


Additions To Cliftworks Passage, Box Mine's

by members of the Cotham Caving Group.

In Mendip Underground (1) the description says of Cliftworks Passage “…enters the most recent workings, much blackened by diesel fumes.”

The object of this article is to try to describe Cliftworks Passage in more detail, so that the visitor to the mine will be fully able to appreciate a most interesting part of the mine.

Follow AO route from the Backdoor to Cliftworks Passage as described in the guide.  Turn right at the water tank at the junction, pausing to look down the Well opposite.  Proceed along Cliftworks Passage, passing B11 and WO Passages on your right.  Passing under several dry stone arches and through a doorway, you will now be in an isolated part of the mine from which the only connection is back through Cliftworks Passage.

About fifty feet past the door on the right is the first of several side passages.  This one is roughly five hundred feet long and along its length, on the right side, you will find a well, tools and finally a crane. At the end are natural springs. Just short of the end, on the left, is a connection through deads to a passage which runs parallel to it.  In the area of this connection passage are some examples of the large tongs which were used on the cranes to pick up the blocks of stone.  After passing through the connection turn left to return back to the main route.

Cliftworks Passage goes for about another three hundred and fifty feet past the side passage, when you come to a 'Y' junction where, on the right, is an air shaft of approximately four feet in diameter.  Straight on, over a large roof fall, is the main passage.  To the left is a complicated series of passages forming an oxbow to the left of the main route, rejoining it at the far side of the roof fall.

Climbing over the roof fall, you will have a walk of about six hundred feet to where the passage takes a sharp left turn; here some tools can be seen placed on a block of stone on the right side of the passage, with a low roofed passage ascending behind. This is the exit of the second side passage, from near the doorway in Cliftworks Passage.  About one hundred feet past the first side passage is the entrance to the second side passage, also on the right.  Nearly two hundred feet on, on the right, is the connection with the first side passage described earlier.  Passing over the roof fall (in the Cliftworks Passable) you come to a "Y' junction, stood in the middle of which is a rail mounted, hand powered winch. To the right is a side passage along which can be seen tools; a saw sharpening bench - a very good example of a crane with chain and stone tongs in position; this is the crane which appears in the 'Mendip Underground' photograph.

Straight on from the junction is the main way on to rejoin Cliftworks Passage at the point where the tools are on the block of stone.  There ore several interesting passages off this route and at one point you can make an earlier connection with Cliftworks Passage, rejoining it near the large roof fall.

Standing near the tools in Cliftworks Passage, and looking forward, the end is three hundred feet further on where one can see the first signs of pneumatic drill working (these drills were known as 'windy drills' by the miners).  The main way on is to the left, soon reaching a three way junction. Taking the right hand passage, passing the remains of a hut on the left to reach the final working face after some five hundred feet.  At the face are more tools, springs and another crane.

Length of Cliftworks Passage from entrance on the A4 road = 2,500ft.

Length of second side passage (Original Cliftworks)                    =1,350ft.

Survey of the main passage by T. Meek, P. Marshall and A. Type (of the C.C.G.).  Other parts of the survey by P. Marshall, B & L. John, A. Tye and D. Marshall (of the C.C.G.). 

NOTE: Some parts of the roof are showing signs of age and should be passed with care.


(1) Mendip Underground by Irwin & Knibbs, Mendip Publishing, Wells, 1977 (Price £2.95).



Additions to the Library:

Shepton Mallet Journal, Series 6 No.4 Autumn 1977 includes Mount Suswa Caves, Kenya; The Law Hick (mining) and Thrupe Lane Survey.

Chelsea Newsletters Vol.20 Nos 1-4.  No.1 includes an article on the Aggy Sumps

Wessex C. C. Journal No. 172 including Cuckoo Cleeves extensions; Water Tracing – Mangle Hole and Swan Inn Swallet; Swildon’s Renascence Series (survey) and the Black Cavern Pwll Du Gwent, S. Wales.

Cave Diving Group Sump Index, 2nd Edition 1977 revised by Ray Mansfield.  Potted histories, descriptions and diving log on all sumps in the Mendip region.  Copy donated by Ray Mansfield with thanks.

Yeovil Caving Club - Sump Nos 7 and 8.  No.8 includes article 'Caving – a safe sport!  This is full of inaccuracies - the author must research his material more fully.

Cave Diving Group – A Cave Diver’s Training Manual by O.C. Lloyd, 1975.  Donated with thanks by Martin Grass.

Cambridge Univ. Journal ' Cambridge Underground 1978'. See Jottings July B.B. Donated by Nick Thorne with our thanks.

Patent Specification No.1481303. Taken out by Dave Sweeting on the swaging method of attaching ladder rungs to the wire rope.  Published July 1977.

Climbing Magazines – those that we have in the collection have been bound into volumes and where they are not complete they have been filed into loose paper files.  Many thanks to Kay Mansfield for undertaking the task of binding and to Stu Lindsey for a good supply of binding materials.

Library List Part 2 will appear in the September B.B. March 1978 B.B.  Part 1 appeared in the March 1978 B.B.

During a recent check of the Library a number of items were found to be missing - anyone with library material should let the librarian know as soon as possible (Dave Irwin] Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells) so that a check can be made against the register. Books include Darkness Under the Earth and Limestones and Caves of NW England. A full list will appear in the September B.B.

A circular advertising the 2nd International Caving File Festival at Vercours, France has been donated to the library.  The dates are 23 – 27 August.  Camping Hotel or dormitory facilities are available.  Write to (if interested) Festival du Film de Speleologie, 26420 La Chappelle ene Vercours, France.


Library list


Newsletter: Vol 1 (1,2,4,6,7,8); Vol 2 (2-8, 10, 11); Vol 3 (1, 3-10); Vol 4 (2-11); Vol 5 (1-3); Vol 6 (1-3); 1959 Mar/Apr; May/June; July/Aug; 1960 Jan/Feb; Mar/Apr; May/June; Sep/Oct; 1950 (Autumn); 1951 Jan; July; Aug.




C.D.G. Review 1955-1957

Newsletters 1965 (Dec); 1967(Oct/Nov); 1968(Apr/July); Nos 9-12,14-19, 21, 23,3 4, 35.

Newsletter ( Somerset Section): July, Aug, 1967.

Misc. papers: Divers, log Sheet; (Wookey) Jan - May 1949

Divers Plans - Swildons and Stoke Lane.

Sump Rescue Equipment, O.C. Lloyd, 1965

Newsletters 1st Series 1 - 20, 25, 29, 30, 33 (NB Nos 21-24 not published)

Notice of operations at Wookey 9/48 - 4/49.

Derbyshire Sump Index, 1968.




Publication No. 22, 14

Newsletter 128 - 133 (end of run- followed by merger with BSA)

Index of Newsletters to 129.

Transactions Vol.5 (1); Vol.7 (3); Vol.11 (1); Vol.14 (4); Vol.14(1, 4); Vol.5 (1-4)

Constitution of CRG

CRG/SPORTS COUNCIL - Technical Aids in Caving Symposium (March 1972)



Conference Programme, 1974

Proc. of the 7th. International Speleo. Congress,   Sheffield (sept.1977)

CERBERUS S.S.  Newsletter 18-22, 24-36, 38-49, 51-54.


Newsletters Vol 1(complete); Vol. 2(Complete); 11 (12); 13 (1, 2); 14 (3, 11, 12); 15(1-11); 16 (9); 17b (1-7, 9); 18 (1-6, 8, 9, 12); 19 (1-2); 20 (1-2).

COTHAM C.G.  Newsletters Vol. 5 (1-3); Box Stone Mines, reprint, 1973


‘Some Notable Quarrymen,’ 1973.

Box Quarries, Vol. 1, 1976.

Memoirs, Vol. 4, 1968-1969.

Box Stone Mines, 1st. Edition, 1966.

CRAVEN P.C. Journal Vol. 3 (1-3), 5, 6); Vol. 4 (2-4).

CROYDON CAVING C.  Pelobates 17, 24

                                        Mersham Firestone Quarries, 1976.

DERBYSHIRE S.G.: Bulletin Vol. 1 Part 1, 1975

DERBYSHIRE C.C.: Dodgers Despatch 1-8

DESCENT:  Nos 7-9, 11, 37

DEVON S.S.: Newsletters 100-104, 112-118.

DORSET CAVING GROUP:  Journal Vol 1 (1-6); 2 (1-4, 6); 3 (1-5); 4 (1-3); 5 (1,2)

DURHAM UNIV. S. Assoc.:  Journal No. 1, 1977.

EXETER UNIV. S.S.:  Vol 8 (3); 9 (1).


Dates For Your Diary

Friday ‘niters’ meets. Details from Richard Kenny, ‘Yennek’, St. Marys Road, Glastonbury, Som. Tele Meare Heath 296.

August 18th

September 1st

September 15th

September 29th

St. Cuthbert’s – all meets at 19.39 hrs..

Lamb Leer

Browns Folly Mine.

Mangel Hole & Sandford Levvy.

For those interested in joining Dave Metcalfe in Yorkshire the following trips have been arranged by him:

August 26th

September 23rd

October 29th

November 18th

December 16th

C.P.C. Winch meet at gaping Hole

Gingling Hole, Fountains Fell.

Notts Pot.

Top Sink.

Swinsto/Simpsons Exchange.

OCTOBER 7th at the BELFRY    E.G.M. at the Belfry at 10.30hrs to discuss the rev' Club Constitution. If adopted by the meeting this revision will be in operation for the A.G.M. which will start immediately the E.G.M. is concluded - most probably after lunch break.

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING   Once again the year rolls on and the call for nominations is out again.  Of the existing Committee the following people have stated their wish to resign at the end of the current club year, Nigel Taylor, Russ Jenkins.  Nominations must be handed to the Secretary by the 9th September.


8ft x 11ft GOODALL FRAME TENT for sale - £30.

Phone Bristol 697313.  The tent is being sold by Roy Marshall one of our past Climbing secretaries.

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.