The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

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.  Telephone: Priddy 369.

Editorial notes:

Firstly, I must offer my apologies for the late BB.  This has been due solely to the work I have been carrying out at the cottage.  The complete upheaval in the sitting room, kitchen and end room has caused havoc, so much so, that the BB has taken a second place.  My apologies all round.

As usual with August and September BB’s you will find that this one is cluttered with AGM business, particularly officers reports and details of the Annual Dinner on OCTOBER 6th at the Caveman is given on the back page of the BB.  The numbers for the Dinner are strictly limited to 140 so send off to Sue Tucker as soon as possible to ensure your place.  Many thanks to Garth Dell for getting them printed and numbered.

Whilst in the thanking theme we must offer our grateful thanks to Sett for obtaining a printing machine for us.  Many of you will remember his offer at the last AGM when he said that he knew of a gestetner machine at his place of work.  This was obtained for a very advantageous price together with 13 tubes of ink worth over £30.  The machine is at Wig's and anyone wishing to see it can simply call anytime - within reason. Hopefully this will give a vastly improved printout of the stencils and you will all be able to judge the result with this BB.  Again many thanks Sett.

Please Note!

The article 'The Italian Connection' is the copyright of the author - he must contacted first prior to any reprint. Ed.



- a regular column from our Hon. Sec., Tim Large

During July and early August much work was done at the Belfry.  Greater detail appears in the Hut Engineers report.  Following the setting up of a sub-committee to look into possible Belfry improvements, myself, Nigel Taylor and John Dukes were able to take a close look at the problems and sought advice of one or two experts.  Originally I had looked at the possibillity of putting stairs up into the loft and converting it into the bunkroom with the installation of a dormer window.  This would free the present bunkroom for other facilities.  On consulting the experts, this would cost about £1,200 alone.  By the time the downstairs conversions had been accounted for the sum would be at least £2,000.

Our ideas eventually congealed into one and a revised plan emerged.  That is to confine all alterations to the present ground floor.  The main considerations appear to be:-

1.                  Provision of a background heating system to warm the whole building thus preventing damp and the subsequent deterioration of the internal fabric of the building.

2.                  Improvement of the showers, changing area and toilet facilities.

With the rising cost of fuel, wood is now available to us from various sources at a cheaper cost. The installation of a wood burning stove providing hot water, radiators and a hob for cooking.  This would achieve several purlposes at once.  Our electricity costs would be greatly reduced particularly during the peak winter period of greater caving activity.  Our bottled gas costs would be slightly reduced as some of the present gas burners could be dispensed with in the winter. Present costs of this would be about £800, with members doing the work.

Regarding the improvement of facilities; at present

  1. The changing area is too small.
  2. Showers take up too much room.  Women’s shower rarely used.
  3. Toilets unsatisfactory.
  4. Women’s bunkroom rarely used.
  5. Only the women’s room has a wash-basin with hot and cold water.
  6. Showers are in the centre of the building.

By re-organising the Belfry, excluding the living room these points could be rectified.  This would cost about £300, with members doing the work.

Using a scheme like this we could complete our objectives for the price that originally only the loft conversion would be achieved.  Thus we could bring our facilities up to more acceptable standards and thereby continue to attract a steady influx of new members and guests.

Last month the B.B. published various proposals regarding the subscriptions.  Incorporated in many of the options was an allocation for Belfry improvements.  In most cases only £175 would be raised each year.  This was based on £1 per head.  This money could be spent as it came in and the necessary materials to do the work purchased and slowly accumulated over several years allowing the work to progress in phases.

At the lost committee meeting the sub for 1979/1980 was fixed at £7.50.  This has to go before the AGM for ratification.  This figure includes the £1 towards Belfry improvements. Ideally more money per year would help the work progress quicker.  Obviously other fund raising schemes will be necessary to obtain additional monies.  I hope you will all consider these ideas carelfully and bring constructive ideas to the AGM.

New member:

962  Christine Anne Stewart, 15 Ashurst Road, Portsmouth, Hants.

Address change:

Phil (the Miner) Ford, 40 Station Road, Greenfield, Holywe1l, C1wyd.


Letter To The Editor

Dear Dave,

Thirty years is quite along time!  I had quite forgotten about the Dural ladder, but re-reading the log extract, I felt that a brief note about it would be of interest in these days of more sophisticated laddry and S.R.T.

Dan Hasell and I were fortunate in working in a certain aircraft establishlment (No - not B.A.C.!) We had absorbed Casterets 'Ten Years Under the Earth' and were rather fed-up with carrying the (then) standard ropes and wooden runged ladders to Mendip on pushbikes.

So - aircraft use dural tube, and controls were worked by wire - each of first class quality.  Add to these lots of brass ¼” whit nuts; a lot of 2 BA high tensile bolts and Symonds nuts.  Some flux and solder and we were in business.

For a jig we screwed bits of metal to a mitre block and off we went.  I believe we used rungs 9" long by ¾" dia. at 11" centres. Holes were drilled off-set, the wire passed through them and a loop pulled out of the end of the rung - a brass nut was passed over the loop which was then 'sized' to a 2BA bolt.  The wire was then soldered to the nut, the loop pulled back inside the rung and the 2BA bolt passed through the off-set hole - one rung complete.

We used this ladder for a very long time and believe it or not, when it was scrapped I kept it and still have it - I've also some of the original wooden and rope ladders - any good to the club as Museum pieces?

All the best,
Harry Stanbury
25th July 1979

Many thanks for the letter, Harry.  I have not mentioned this to the Committee yet but I know what their answer will be - yes please.  The UBSS are usually credited with being the first club in the UK using electron ladders but as usual the BEC were in the game first.  I can remember some rope and wooden rung ladder in the tackle store several years ago - what happened to that I wonder?


Hon. Librarians Report 1979

Loans have continued at a reasonable rate this year, sufficient a library such as ours.

However, where lending is a practice, losses are bound to occur from time to time.  But this year we have not lost minor items but expensive books which would appear to be a major oversight (?) - Limestone and Caves of NW England Derbyshire (currently priced at £7 and £11 respectively). Would the members who have these books please return them to the Belfry or the Librarian.  As a result of these losses it has been decided to store all our scare and rare books in a separate cupboard.  These may be borrowed by members on personal application to the Librarian.  Would members please remember that loans are for up to 1 month and that they are asked to record their borrowings in the Library record book provided in the Library.

Having been the Librarian since 1972 I feel that it is time that it over by a younger member.

D.J. Irwin
August '1979

Hon. Secretary's Report 1979

The Club again has had a successful year, in many respects, but some areas have given cause for concern. Financially we have been working on a tight budget due to (a) the reduced subscription of £2 and (b) the fact that inflation has caught up with the annual subscription.  This will necessitate an increase in the sub which the committee has fixed at £7.50.  Membership looks like being maintained at last years numbers, but at present sane members are late in paying.

Subscription paying members number 140; Life members 50.  Although probably a convenient way to raise money quickly Life membership appears to have been an unwise decision.  It is now 10 years since the Belfry burnt down and of our present membership 120 have joined since that date and maintained their membership.

The Belfry and site has been much maintenance and repair work in the main carried out by the usual small number who give up caving time to writ on the HQ.  The Tackle/Workshop has been completed and the battery charger is now operational.

I think it is important for the club to consider the club's HQ; its future facilities with regard to usage, and make provision now for a programme of improvements over several years. The method of financing this is debatable and will I am sure be discussed with the topic of subscriptions.

In past years much debate has ensued regarding projects the club can consider undertaking.  Decisions have been swayed by old ideas and policies. New thinking is now needed to take the club well into the 1960's.

The club's caving activities continue to progress with trips of all types including much digging. Earlier in the year Tynings Barrow Swallet was re-opened after an 18 month closure.  Again this year members are involved in two expeditions to Austria.

The Committee has had a busy year following last years AGM and EGM.  The new constitution has been published and the new deed of appointment drawn up and signed by our new Trustees.

Committee member’s attendances to date which cover 11 months read like this:

Dave Irwin - 11

Tim Large - 12

Sue Tucker - 11

Nigel Taylor - 12

Chris Batstone - 8

Martin Grass - 9

John Dukes - 10

Graham Wilton-Jones - 10

Martin Bishop - 3

This includes an extra meeting held with the Cuthbert’s Leaders.

Bob Cross resigned at the October meeting due to work commitments.  Martin Bishop was co-opted being next in the voting order.


Hut Engineer's Report 1979

It was with extreme trepidation that I undertook the job this year of Hut Engineer - a job which is open to much criticism and sometimes valid complaint.  My own fears of being unable to attend Committee meetings due to carry return to uniform proved unfounded as duty rota changes and a very understanding Skipper permitted me to attend every meeting this year.

The onerous job has been made easier this year - not due to the AGM critics who somehow never are seen working upon the Belfry site, - but by the same group of stalwart Belfry regulars who time and time again give up their weekend petrol and cash to work upon a hut which should be the responsibility of every member of the BEC and not left to those who use the hut, and therefore excuse themselves from doing any work whatsoever upon it.

Though perhaps invidious to mention individuals I feel strongly that the continuous support given to me by the following Belfry regulars is worthy of mention: Tim Large and Fiona, John Dukes, Bob Cross, Neil Weston (incidental not a member) Stu Lindsay, Chris Batstone, Danny Bradshaw, Paul and Alisa Hodgeson, and surprisingly Walter (Farmer) Foxwell.

Hopefully as many members as possible will attend the AGM or manage in the next few weeks to visit their HQ and see for themselves the combination of many hours work upon the Belfry this year.

During the year the following work has taken place:

1.                  Partial tarmacing of the Belfry drive

2.                  Overhaul, servicing and provision of existing and new Fire Prevention equipment.

3.                  Drawing up of detailed site plans of HQ.

4.                  Provision of security locks upon Library and Tackle Store.

5.                  Excavation and construction of septic tank

6.                  Cleaning out and repair of cattle grid.

7.                  Installation of new sink in the women's room.

8.                  Running and routine repairs and maintenance to the site and buildings and general interior painting.

9.                  Re-roofing of old stone Belfry.

Three working weekends were held at the Belfry.  One in April, one in June and the final one in the first weekend of August.  However lack of publicity failed to bring one of these and the Belfry job list to the notice of the membership in time.  During late July - as advertised in the B.B. a working holiday was held at the Belfry attended by Tim Large and Fiona, Garth Dell, Steve Short, Nigel Taylor, Dave Irwin, and in the second week John Dukes.  The third week saw the departure of the first crew and the arrival of Paul and Alisa Hodgeson.  During the course of the three weeks the following work upon the hut was carried out:

1.                  The complete conversion of the tackle store in the old stone Belfry to a workshop and tackle store complete with workbenches, cupboards, tackle racks, 'Prewer' tested battery charger, and the rewiring and provision of the electricity supply 'Dukes' style.

2.                  Construction of stone stile to St. Cuthbert’s across Walt Foxwell’s track, assisted and directed by his brother Jack Foxwell (70 years).

3.                  Cleaning and sconing of shower and toilet facilities.

4.                  Cleaning and repairs to the kitchen area in the main room.

5.                  Repositioning of lockers and provision of B.B. and members Postal rack, Library book shelving 'Wig' style.

6.                  Protection and varnishing of Belfry Murals.

7.                  Cleaning out of 30 lbs of decaying matt or from the guttering and sanding and painting of weatherboards and woodwork.

8.                  Painting of tackle store and exterior of old stone Belfry and carbide store and waterproofing of roof of same.

9.                  Sanding and painting of exterior of Belfry wood and metal work.

10.              Overhauling of night storage heaters.

11.              Insulation of hot water tank and piping in the attic.

12.              Tidying of Attic.

13.              Scrubbing of bunkroom and living room walls to remove fungus caused by damp.

14.              Tidying of Belfry site and removal of rubbish.

15.              One day’s arduous tree felling at Westbury, Wiltshire to provide half of the Belfry’s winter fuel supply.

16.              Thorough inspection of exterior and interior of Belfry for faults (see below).

Though much of the work has been done upon the HQ there is no room for complacency as the fault finding inspection showed up serious problems upon the fabric of the hut; cracks are plainly visible on the end window and the door lintels in the men's bunkroom.  The roof ridge capping tiles have become dislodged from their positions - those are problems which remain to be tackled and are giving cause for concern.

Likewise the ever present damp problem within the Belfry is caused by lack of background heating which must be seriously discussed by the next committee and AGM - the solution I feel would be to have a wood burning stove supplying hot water from a solid fuel burner to radiators and taps.  Furthermore I would like to see the changing and showering area together with the toilets overhauled - preferably with the wet damp area moved from the centre of the virtually ill heated building to an outside wall to protect the heat and fabric of the building.  The toilet facilities are a disgrace and I believe that proper advice should be sought and improvements made with the utmost urgency.

I feel that the provision of a dormer type window and stairway and strengthening of the attic would not only improve the HQ but also considerably enhance it and enable more space downstairs to be allocated to caving and improved facilities,

Such improvements will obviously cost money and in some cases, lots of money - but in improving the club HQ by any such financial outlay, we will recoup the benefit in the value of an improved property - surely a wise capital investment, and after all better to be in bricks and mortar than earning a lesser % interest on deposit.

Extra monies to finance the various improvements could be raised by the setting up now of a Hut Fund as by various fund raising activities.  Therefore I urge each and every one of you to think very carefully and come to a decision with a view to the future of the club, not just now and in five years but for the next twenty years at least.

I close by thanking all who have worked or given items to the Belfry this year and if I am unsuccessful in joining next year's committee may I wish my successor much luck for the year to come.

Nigel Taylor, Hut Engineer 1978/79


Caving Secretary's Report 1979

1979 has been a reasonably active year for the B.E.C. and all major and minor Mendip Caves have been visited at least once by members of the club. Cuthbert’s has seen 33 tourist trips to date and digging is taking place at Sump 2 where Mr. 'N' is blasting away the roof with the help of Butch.  Dave Turner has also been digging at Sump 1, hoping to enter a fossil system and has used various ingenious pieces of piping to direct the water!

During the year the Wigmore site has been tidied up and the cave capped but not locked.  The club has re-opened Tynings and as soon as a stile and fencing has been put up the key (kept at the Belfry) will be available to bona-fid caving clubs.

There has been a large increase this year in the number of club trips to other regions particularly Yorkshire.  Many members have visited the newly found Link Pot at Easegill and I believe Stu Lindsey has been down it at least half a dozen times!!  G.G., Mongo Gill, Peak Cavern are just a few of the sites visited.

The last 2 points worth mentioning are that valid C.C.C. temporary permits are now available at the Belfry.  The club also has its own Lamb Leer key which is available at the Belfry.

A meeting between the B.E.C. committee and the St. Cuthbert’s Leaders was held on Sunday 20th May to discuss insurance and I have copies of the minutes for those interested.

Martin Grass

Tackle Masters Report, 1979

During the last year, 180ft. of ladder has been rewired and all except the ultra-lightweight ladder has been dipped in lanolin.  We have purchased enough rungs to produce 15 twenty foot ladders (ultra-lightweight) and 15 twenty foot standard ladders.  To complete this task of building new ladders we are waiting for the delivery of taper pins and talurits from the manufacturers.

At the beginning of the Club year the tackle key was removed from general access and arrangements were made to enable members to apply to the Committee for a personal key.  Four ladders and 2 tethers together with two lifelines were left in the shower room for general use by members.  This equipment was rotated to even out the wear. Although members were able to obtain their own key to the tackle store by first applying to the Committee only two keys were requested.  This system is by no means perfect but it was felt by me and the Committee that a tightening up of tackle access was necessary due to the fact that we had lost so much tackle in the previous years.  We have had returned 5 ladders but there is still a considerable amount of tackle still missing.

The following list is the accountable tackle as at 3 August 1979:

Spreaders 1, 2, 3

Tethers 7, 10, 12, 13, 16.

Ladders: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 33, 44, 45 and 48

Ultra-lightweight ladder: 24, 26, 28, 41, 42 & 43

450ft of super Braidline Nylon 10mm

1000ft of digging rope.

I would like to take the opportunity of thanking Graham Wilton-Jones and Garth Dell for their assistance throughout the year and also the members who altered the stone Belfry making tackle storage easier.

John Dukes, August 1979


B.B. Editors Report, 1979

This year has been, again, a good year for material. Graham Wilton-Jones, Stu Lindsey and Martin Grass top the authors list, while Tim Large, in his capacity as Hon. Sec. tops the Club Notes section.

The material that we have published has been outstanding and 'speleologically' important and has included the recently discovered 1829 letter from the Rev. David Williams to John Rutter which upset all previous knowledge of the opening of the Banwell Caves and also the extracts from the 1756 diaries of Catcott indicating the existence of a cave in the GB field known as Daccots Hole.  The current series on the Viaduct Dig is also by a non-member!

On the debit side we have had some badly printed issues.  This is not due to the machine but the paper we have had in stock.  As I have said before, in the July BB the paper was offered to us at a price that we could not afford to miss even though it was known to be off-set paper.  However, we now have a good stock of duplicating paper and the improvement in printing should now be obvious to all.

During the year we ran out of covers and a new stock was kindly supplied by Garth Dell at a very small cost.

A couple of criticisms have been received, one regarding the printing (Which I accept) and the other complaining of the lack of club news from a regular Belfryite - obviously he has not read Tim Large’s Lifeline each month.  Anyway this has resulted in a column called 'Club Notes' which is intended to slot in with 'Jottings', both compiled by your Editor as the critic was not prepared to do the work himself!  Seriously though, a monthly journal such as the BB can only survive so long as members are prepared to put themselves out and write and so I urge anyone who wants to criticise the CONTENT to think first to see if he has any offering to publish - if not at least make the attempt to get someone to write a regular column or prepare articles.

The offer of the two printing machines made at the last AGM has not result in anything definite even though the Committee have reserved money for the purchases.  However John Noble has obtained a gestetner machine and has offered it to the club at the price that he has paid for it.  No decision has yet been made at the time of writing.

Finally, I would like to thank all contributors and helpers, particularly Sue Tucker and the Belfryites for collating and posting the BB's.

August 1979


Banwell Caves Survey

a note by 'Wig'

The survey of Banwell Stalagmite Cave and the Bone Cave was made in 1976 by Marie Clarke and Chris Richards.  They used a Prismatic Compass, Clinometer and tape, calibrated thus to BCRA Grade 5.  The passage outline was sketched in from memory.  So a BCRA Grade 5A is claimed for this survey.  The original is shortly to be given to the Mendip Survey Scheme for photocopying.  The surlvey is drawn on detail paper and will be returned to Chris Richards.

The surveys, plan and elevation are reproduced on the following pages.




Viaduct Sink - the end of the Phoney War

by Simon Meade-lung

Continuing with Part 2…

With the entrance shaft securely shored, and a passage negotiated through an unstable rift leading off below, the exertions of the combined Atlas and West London teams could be devoted to digging.  A bedding plane was uncovered leading to a low crawl, beyond which a construction barred access to a stal covered passage.

As the approach to the obstruction was so tortuous banging was dearly the only feasible way of removing it, and so, with the application of the magic potion, the floor ahead was blown away, and as the fumes cleared we prepared for breakthrough.  After a little more clearing, the first man squeezed through into a minute chamber only just large enough to admit 2 people.  The only way on was a miserable phreatic tube at floor level into which flowed a small stream making more of a whisper than the roar optimistically heard by one member of the team.

After this decided anti-climax we decided by general agreement to move back into the chamber out of which the bedding plane had led, and concentrate our efforts there.

There was obviously going to be no quick and easy discovery, and in the following weeks tons of mud and rubble were winched to the surface where Richard (Whitcombe) incorporated this material behind neat dry stone walls, into structures not unlike prehistoric burial mounds - future archaeologists beware!  The pithead daily became more like the surrounds of a small mine, littered with the typical impedimenta of the Mendip dig.  A ramshackle corrugated shelter sprang up to protect the surface haulage team from the worst of the weather.

Everything pointed to the way on being somewhere below the slab in the floor of the small breakdown chamber we had entered in August.  The passage leading down into this chamber was finally cleared out and by the beginning of October this slab had been hanged and the floor probed beneath it. At a depth of four feet things begin to look interesting again with the uncovering of a narrow winding rift leading off under the left wall, partially sealed by a solid looking gour dam.  At the month of the rift we dug up an enormous sandstone cobble - not unlike the exposing of an unexploded mine.

Digging conditions were however growing wetter and wetter - a stream flowing down into the face being ponded up behind the dam in the exit rift.  As soon as this barrier was removed the problem was solved and we made fairly rapid progress along the rift by plastering the left wall.  Once we could wriggle a few feet along, it was possible to look down to the right - and it certainly seemed promising.  A two foot high slab floored bedding plane dropping at a 45 degree angle to where a formation obstructed further view.  A sizeable shale band was in evidence on the right wall as we slowly dug our way down the bedding plane and once past the formation another lower bedding plane developed under the right wall.

But not far ahead our hopes were dashed again.  The passage which had appeared to be leading down into regions unknown ended literally in a blank wall and the bedding plane to the right, the more we probed it the less inspiring it looked.  It was continuously wet from the ubiquitous stream and despite banging large chunks off the roof the headroom was minimal.

It was now the New Year of 1977, and after exactly a year's solid work digging both Wednesday evenings and. weekends we had got nowhere.  The site still seemed perfect for the entry into a sizeable swallet system but the dead ends reached wore distinctly immature, certainly not the main route taken by the water.  We must have missed this route although this seemed improbable at first and every foot of passage was carefully examined.  Various leads were followed until after a titanic crowbarring session Clive (North) and Richard managed to dislodge a colossal boulder from what had appeared to be a solid wall, opposite to the mouth of the rift we had earlier followed.

When the air had cleared a floor level bedding plane was revealed, draughting slightly - it's height of a few inches increasing to the right and in front as the floor falling away. On the following day - Sunday - we decided to break through into this space at a point further to the right and a boulder was banged to enable us to do so.

To our surprise the initial squeeze let into a sizeable rift formed at right angles to the main passage. The rift was almost standing height at the point of entry but a large water eroded slab lay in the middle on end. This must be one of the paths taken by the main stream, effectively sealed off by collapse and silting.  The rift was only about ten feet long, and the floor dropped away into a choked pot.  Digging focussed on this point and soon stones could be heard to drop through into a space below.  We redoubled our efforts and uncovered a continuation of the rift to a total depth of seven feet.  At the bottom a hole led off under one wall down which stones rolled for a short distance. But even after enlarging the access to this chemically, it was still too narrow to got down.

But meantime our attention was diverted to a point in the wall of the pot behind which could be heard the sound of a stream seemingly of a fair size.  Perhaps if we could reach the active streamway we could follow it into the main system even if the present streamway was immature, this might enable us to bypass the older choked passage.

However, before we could pursue this lead, the entrance to the rift behind us began to show signs of instability.  We were forced to devote the next few weeks to building a massive grouted wall to support the roof with days spent carrying chippings along the railway track from the quarry and mixing loads of cement to be to be lowered down the shaft.  We finally set into position a steel arch to give us total security.

When we eventually got down to digging again it was a small hole at the end of the rift above the point where we had heard the stream that we examined first.  It was blocked by a single boulder and although it didn’t lead towards the stream we could see past the boulder into a small chamber.  By the time the boulder had been removed and Richard had inserted himself, the chamber had of course shrunk considerably.  In fact to little more than a large ensmallment. But what was more interesting was that a hole lay on the far side half blocked by a slab barrier.  There was no indication of any draught but we could hear the sound of falling water from ahead and it made a pleasant echoing noise as if it were falling in a sizeable space.  So we set to work with hammer and chisel to break down the slab and discover that lay beyond.

This was particularly resistant, but after several hours work, I squeezed through, and we gradually cleared out a sloping bedding plane behind it until at a body’s length from the squeeze, by looking up through a slot, in the roof we could see into a largo black space –

to be continued.

Resolution For The Annual General Meeting

Change to the B.E.C. Constitution

The Committee propose the following alterations to the B.E.C. Constitution:-

"That the 1979 Annual General Meeting of the B.E.C. approves the following amendments to the Constitution:-

Para• 2, last para, delete "under any circumstances whatsoever".

Para 48, 2nd line, delete "Full details" and replace with "Notice".

Para 5b, line 5, delete ".August" and replace "September".

Para 5h, lines 3 & 4, delete" or if that is beyond the powers of the committee shall be read out at the annual general meeting".


The Italian Connection 1979

Stan Gee's Italian articles have become a regular feature and so here is the 1979 contribution….

My friends, and I use the term loosely, were greatly amused when in February I sustained a broken ankle as a result of attempting to ski on a pair of antique wooden planks which are laughingly called "Cross Country Ski's".  Of course I was going downhill at the time and the cross country bit became obvious when I ended up literally spread eagled 'across country'.  Anyway this effectively put a stop to any thoughts of serious caving for a few months so' this years Italian trip was basically a walking cum poking about for holes trip.  Holes in the ground you dirty sods.

Starting from Verona we ascended Monte Baldo to the east of Lake Garda.  This mountain is about 7,000 feet high and is, in the main composed of Limestone. It has yet to produce a reasonable size cave, though we saw many interesting sinks and dolines.  The whole mountain is dry, no springs or anything and the experts say that no cave can exist, well; they said the same about Monte Corchia 10 years ago, but more of Monte Corchia later.

With only a few days available we next went on a tourist trip of the low Lessini Alps just below the high Lessini and Spluge della Preta.  Here we had an interesting encounter with Attilio one of the original Spluga explorers and he showed us a gigantic cave entrance near to Campsylvano probably about 150ft high and perhaps a 100 yards or so long.  The cave does not continue, at least it is not possible to continue but strong draughts blowing from cracks suggest that major excavation would reveal something big.  These cold draughts produce a very interesting effect by actually forming clouds within the great entrance.  These clouds form to such an extent that sometimes rain falls whilst outside the sun is shining.

From here we went to the Apuan Alps to search the north face of the Monte Corchia for some caves that we thought we had seen the previous year.  These we found after a long hard thrutch through dense undergrowth which was alive with all sorts of nasties.  The entrances proved to be 3 dry resurgences all requiring excavation. They are nicely positioned for a connection with the Buca del Cacciatorm (Abisso Fighera) and if they do connect I would expect them to become active only in the early spring snow melt.

Monte Corchia as I said before was considered, by the experts, as an impossible site for large caves and was thus largely ignored.  Our discovery in 1974 of the Buca del Arturo and Buca del Mami Dandelanti put paid to this theory and resulted in a lot of activity taking place near the summit.  At the moment of writing 23 caves have been discovered, the biggest being Buca del Cacciatorm with 14 Km of passage and a maximum depth of 850ft.  This year an Italian group discovered yet another cave close to the summit.  This is called, for obscure reasons "Abisso Baeder Meinhof" and at present stands at - 450m.  Thus if we consider that the Autro del Corchia runs beneath this lot as well then to use Arthur Conan Doyle's words.  "If we could strike the ground with some mighty hammers it would resound like a giant drum" (Terror of the Blue John Gap).  Well he said something like that.

The road to the Tavolini Quarry which was destroyed by an avalanche in the winter has been partially repaired and it is again passable to drive with care, to within 700-800ft from the summit.  Near to the summit and adjacent to the entrance to the Cacciatorm now stands the "Cappanina Lusa".  This bivouac built to commemorate the memory of Antonio Lusa is provided with bunks for 8 people and can accommodate up to 12 people.  It is open all the time and is an ideal base for the Cacciatorm, it was built with loving care and hard labour, please take care of it for all our sakes.  If you use it before you leave please clear the place out and also sign the visitor’s book.

Unfortunately the bivouac is positioned so that it just shows on the skyline.  From below, perched on top of the 2,000ft face of Monte orchia it appears as just another rock but this apparently, is offensive to certain Alpinists from Lucca who claim it is an affront to the scenery and a danger to the environment.  I find this difficult to understand as Lucca is some 40 miles away, the villagers of Leurgliani are not complaining and the environment of this face of the Corchia is already destroyed by massive quarrying operations currently taking place.  However the Lucca people are pushing the club Alpino Italiano for the removal of this Bivouac and if they are successful then a very useful base will be lost to the caving world.  I shall be keeping an eye on the situation and if required I will ask for letters of support from British clubs, who visit this area for these are the people who will get most use out of the Bivouac.

A return trip was made to the south side of Pania del la Croee to the aptly named Vall d' Inferno and the Borra del Cinallone.  It is difficult to imagine a more inhospitable place than this with the sun beating down most of the day and temperature in the 90's.  However, something in the region of 150 shafts have been noted in this area mostly at an altitude of about 5,000ft.  We noticed at the head of the Vall d' Inferno a number of entrances and a large area of explored Karst with several deep shafts in it. As I have not been able to obtain any written accounts about this area, I presume that although the entrances have been noted no serious exploration has yet taken place.  There are written accounts of the descent of the Abesso Renella (-300m) and of the work of the P.C.C. on the alpine meadow called Face di Valle.

To reach the area from any point a longish walk is involved, long and uphill all the way.  From Garfangnana a rough road may be used for part of the way but even from this side access to the Vall d' Inferno necessitates an hour long uphill slog.  The area is serviced by a small but very effective Rifugro of the C.A.I. and there is ample space for camping and a good water supply near to the Rifugo.  All supplies for the Rifugro have to be taken up by mule and thus the fare is not as elaborate as some of the lower Rifucro's. However though simple it is adequate and has a plentiful supply of home made cheeses.  The Rifugro is capable of supplying the needs of small parties but any would be explorers intending to go in force are strongly advised to make prior arrangements well beforehand.

Recent discoveries on Monte Tanibura are likely to prove interesting with one cave already at 600m. Tanbura is situated to the north of Corohia and is approached by the village of Resceto.  On the lower slopes and in the adjacent valleys many small but interesting caves are to be found whilst bigger caves are to be found high up.  Here again the main problem is one of access and hard walks of 2-3 hours are not uncommon.  The only accommodation is the Rifugo Aronte, a small bivouac with 12 beds that is quite wrongly situated for any caving activity.

In closing I would like to say that I frequently receive requests by letter, telephone and verbally for information and assistance.  These requests usually open with "Regarding your article in Descent" now this confuses me from the start for I have never written an article for that magazine. I have however, written many article for the B.B. and I presume that some of these have been 'snaffled' by Descent. I'm not objecting to this but it would help if people requiring information could be a little more specific in their requirements.

Stan Gee

P.S. The area in front of the Pania del la Croce is reputed to be the home of wild boar.  So watch it!


Club Notes

compiled by 'Wig'

In this issue the notes are combined with the odd note that would appear in 'Jottings' which will back on course in the next issue of the B.B.  The BCRA Conference at UMIST, Manchester in mid-September seems to be as popular with BEC members as in past years.  A mini-bus load is disappearing up the M6 on Friday 14th September to what will no doubt be a rather beery weekend with many hundreds of cavers from all parts of the country attending.  Glenis and Martin, with no doubt a hand from the Wilton-Jones are setting up a BEC stand containing caving reports and surveys for sale and also backboards dislplaying new surveys and photographs supplied by 'Wig' and Barrie Wilton relspectively.  I understand that Martin Bishop, Barrie and Stu McManus are leaving early Friday morning and hope to make it a great pub crawl before settling down for the night somewhere in Manchester. The BEC too, are making their contribution this year among the speakers at the Conference.  Mike Cowlishaw is talking on Ropes; Nigel Dibben will be lecturing on the Alderley Edge Mines and Dave Irwin giving a lecture on 'Isometric Presentation of Cave Surveys'.  On the sidelines will be Graham Wilton-Jones prepared to give a lecture on the BEC Austrian Expedition that took place in July-August of this year.  Not bad - 4 speakers from BEG out of 24!

Congratulations to Roger Stenner on being awarded the PhD for his work on heavy mineral contamination in the Severn Estuary.  During August 'Sett' and 'Sett' Junior, Julian spent a week at the Belfry, no doubt Sett was paving the way for Julian on becoming a member of the BEC in about six years time!  Members who were active in the late '50's will remember Oliver Wells and will have read of his visit to Mendip earlier this year, well the second generation has seen the light, James, his son has joined the BEC - a part rebellion against authority no doubt!

Seen recently on Mendip were Roger Haskings and John Major.  Roger, who was once the Hut Warden of the Shepton in the middle '60's and John, an old BEC member were passing through on their way back from the US of A.

Alan Thomas gave me this note the other day… "Among those to be seen in the Hunters on the night of the Buffet coincidently were Roger Haskett and John Major both of whom now live in S. Africa.  John was returning to S.A. from the states via Priddy".


Twll Gwynt Oer

A Significant Find in South Wales

Having watched the rapid advance of the quarry towards OFD, some members of SWCC decided to take a closer look at some of the shakeholes in the dry valley above the quarry.  The drainage of this region has already been proven by dye testing to feed into the OFD system.  To his surprise Brian Jopling found a hollow that gently breathed cold air.  Cold air hole was fairly intensively dug out over the Easter weekend and later in the week a little Mendip digging fever saw to the breakthrough into a small, fault-aligned passage carrying a sizeable stream, whose sound had previously urged the diggers on.

Upstream has not yet been forced to any conclusion - the size of the stream during the dry conditions prevalent in South Wales at the moment suggests considerable development upstream.  The results of dye tests (a week after Easter) will surely suggest a connection with Cwm Dwr.  On the downstream end.  Unfortunately the way on along the fault is blocked by the debris in the now 50 foot deep pothole that has been revealed by emptying out the shakehole.  The water appears to go round this obstruction in a very low bedding plane.  It is believed that the route onwards will be found by completely emptying the pothole of its glacial fill, and the way will continue via the fault.  Cwm Dwr Jama is some 250 feet lower (my guess) so there must be considerable vertical development downstream, hopefully not in an impenetrable narrow rift.

Whatever happens, it shows that OFD is not finished yet.  While on the subject, may I be bold enough to suggest that the new survey will prove OFD to be nearer 30 miles in length, and not just over 20 miles, as usually quoted.

Access Problems

Visiting the area around Y Gwal and The Hole by the Wall (Hutton Pot) just above Ystradfellte, recently I found that the top of the latter had been almost blocked with very large boulders of grit.  I spoke with the farmer about this and he confirmed that it was his doing, in order to prevent calves becoming stuck in the hole.  He was unwilling to have it re-opened and a fence erected around the site, as cavers rarely returned every so often to maintain and repair such fences. He pointed to the gaping hole of Y Gwal, which had been fenced around by Cardiff University (pseudonym for a more well known Speleo. Soc.?).  The fence was rusted and decrepit.  The farmer had erected a new fence around the old one, and reckoned he would have to replace this every couple of years.  What is the solution?

In Yorkshire at Easter we wanted to look at the Red Moss system. The owner at the farm noted in Northern Caves told us that he did not wish to be asked for permission (he had told CNCC this).  He understood that if he granted permission he could be more liable in the event of accident.  However, what we did on his land was our affair, he implied, so long as he knew nothing about it.


Star Mines, Shipham

These mines have been known by cavers for several years but no actual account of them has appeared before in the caving press as far as the Editor is aware and so Neil Watson's contribution must be regarded as a key article…

Two shafts on an area of gruffy ground opposite the Star Inn on the A38.  One close to a small wood of holly and blackthorn, the second out in a field reclaimed from mine waste.

The first shaft was found last year along with others located along a sunken track leading to Shipham village.  The second is marked by a large block though there is enough room alongside to sling a ladder.


5ft of ginging (safe) to a small slope blocked at 20ft by a mass of tin baths, bones and brushwood. Two levels head off at this point SE and NW.  SE slits into two branches, one leading into a small chamber.  The second is very tight and low, passes a second chamber to finish in a boulder filled shaft - opportunities for clearing good but awkward.

NW is shorter - 25ft. and terminates in a choke from surface.  The shaft itself continues a further 5ft. below this to a choke.


Ginged at top 3' - 4' probably unstable and hanging.  Initial 20ft is vertical with a level leading E.  The shaft continues a further 30ft on to a large boulder choke. An off cut from the foot of the shaft leads into a westerly trending level -roomy and ascends 20ft into a small chamber and a short step leads into a tighter section of level terminating in a choke.  A second level leads back to rejoin the shaft behind a wall of deads.  At the bottom of the 20ft section (vertical) of shaft the E trending level carries on over stacked deads and branches.  Left leads by way of another tube into a small chamber. Right, after a duck under a low roof carries on E and rises to a chocked shaft.