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

Editor: D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.  Telephone: Priddy 369.

Bad News From Nordrach

The New Year celebrations were sadly marred by news that the recently completed H.Q. of M.C.G. had been destroyed in an explosion.          The sight of the ruin shocked all who saw it the next morning.  What remained of the building will have to be demolished and a complete rebuild undertaken.  Luckily it was insured and we all wish the MCG good fortune and every success in 1980.

Dates For Your Diary

April 5th NCA Symposium ‘Caves and Community’, Buxton.

September 22-28 European Regional Speleo Conference, Sofia, Bulgaria.


Address Change

Phil Kingston, 9 Linfield Street, Mansfield, Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia

For older member the address of Bob Mayhew (of the Shepton) may be of interest:

40 Park Road, Southport, Merseyside.

The Odd Note

Charterhouse Caving Committee Permits

Members are reminded that permits are valid so long as you are a member of a CCC member club.  When your membership lapses or the permit is outdated are no longer covered by the insurance policies of both the CCC and the BEC. Secondly, only people over the 16 are allowed to descend the CCC controlled caves - this rule also applies to married minors.

Tim Large and Chris Batstone are the BEC leaders for the Cerberus controlled Shatter Cave.  Members wishing to descend this cave should contact either of these people.  Should you write direct to the CSS they will refuse to take you and point you into the direction of the BEC leaders.  This arrangement has been revived following protracted negotiations with the CSS and the club committee.

DYO - Graham Wilton-Jones is our leader into this cave.

In case you have not yet read the last page in this DB - this is your last BB until you pay the 1980 subscription.

Recalling orgies of the past Alan Thomas now has his story for the Absent Friends at the 1980 BEC Annual Dinner to be held on October 4th.  MAKE A NOTE.


Sludge Pit

Stu Lindsey notes the work carried out in Sludge Pit recently by club members…. 

Since the cave was first opened numerous persons have unsuccessfully pitted their wits against the very imposing sump, or the choked passage above (an exercise which never fails to fill the sump pool with an excess of un-required spoil!!!!)   It was over 2 years ago that Tom Temple and myself commenced our first digging trip, at the time it was a diversification from Wigmore, ‘the international one’!  During those winter months up until April, when most of our tools walked, we laid a pipeline between the dams to allow us to dump spoil in the streamway. Our efforts, with occasional assistance from others, soon showed a marked lowering of the sump pool area, about 2 ft. being attained, mainly by Tom's aggressive spade work after he had removed the greater part of his clothing?  Activities began to decline when Tom's “Exped” tour ended, and as previously mentioned the tools sprouting legs and walking.

However the turn of 1979 saw a new set of tools, a new digging team (at this time a bit conspicuous by their absence) and a renewed assault on the sump.  The area was cleared up, and prepared for some “MENDIP MAGIC”.  After three visits by the chemical activator, progress was determined at -3ft plus. This depth was however short lived, the Austrian Exped and holidays allowed vandals to kink, and thus block the pipe.  This resulted in water washing over the spoil heap, and the head of the water behind the dam finding a way through the shale bedding*!?*!

Two attempts were made to stabilize the site, with no success.  I have decided since that the only way to combat with the interference etc: is by removing the roof, thus handling only nice solid "BUILDING BRICKS'; at present Tim Large is giving occasional assistance; but anyone else who fancies themselves with a lump hammer would be welcome.

Stu L.


Austria - another view


Austria of course is not all drinking Stiegel, or trekking miles and miles - sorry kms and kms for the dubious pleasure of ripping to shreds an Enduro suit in less than 3 weeks.  For one the Exped does not finish until the reports, surveys and notes have been translated into a readable digest for the BB reader to gaze over. It is to this end this article has come about, for his tireless effort in this department, and for co-ordinating the social side of Austria '79, I would on behalf of all concerned like to thank, most profoundly Graham W-J for his effort ……thank you.

On the social side, one cold windy night Trev, Hand and Stu L were on the receiving end of a friendly German party.  PFIRSICHBRAND (Peach Brandy….it really works, and how) was the villain of the piece, they succeeded in relieving them of the greater part of the two bottles offered. Less than half an hour later on his way to bed, Trev managed to honk and dewater over the cars in the car park???? (Ed Note….the Weisberghaus is at about 6,000ft, the nearest road about 10kms!!!!!!!)  Stu managed to miss this, he was bedding down for the night in the KHAZI ….. apparently in preparation for his oncoming assault on the Glacier!

Amongst some of the funny looks often directed toward this motley crew, the one that surely sticks out must be that of Siegfried Gamsjager at the top of the 100m pitch in the Mammuthohle.  The source of his amusement….awe….was one the party nervously fondling a brand new, unused 6 bar GOLDBLOCK rack, complete with price label, its owner had never used one, lessons please-!?*?!  Whilst on about tackle wasn’t it the same person who had an experience with a French sounding expedition ascendeur……using it as a self lifelining device imagine the horror, sheer fright, the heart stopping, adrenalin generating situation wanting to stop……having to stop……but noticing how lucky - that the ROPE WAS HANGING FREE.  The why was because the spring loaded, two action cam was in the locked open position. (After this trip the device was shelved for a Gibbs…..well it worked pundits!) A separate article may be forth coming in regard to this device and how to try and combat its killer instinct!

On the return journey Jrat, Blitz, Big Jim and Stu L dawdled across Europe to visit the cave of Han-sur Lesse.  This superbly decorated show cave has been desecrated by a three tier cafe in its largest chamber.  It is well worth a visit and provided a little light relief on the journey home. In the town is a very interesting museum, it shows slides of the cave, its excavations etc… English spoken commentary accompanies it.

The final scene was a backstreet cafe, the town was Brussels, and the stage was set for the double DOUBLE “Rip Off”. We drank of the houses well watered, and very expensive vino, consumed an even more costly item 'pommes frites' at £3 per plate full, 11, and didn’t really enjoy the superb miniscule portion of steak (which was probably horse anyway).  So the ensuing argument was a reasonable diversion, especially when in the heat of it, the proprietors Parker Falcon got mixed up with the trips account book!?  Cheap meal for one of us anyway…scribble scribble…

The local bier, Stiegel cost about 23p at supermarket level to 85p at Simmonyhutte level, this is per 500m l/9 of a pint.


Viaduct Sink

Simon Meade-King continues his in depth account of the attack at……..

Part 3 – On the right track at last

After several promising leads got us nowhere, the dislodging of a huge slab from the right hand wall of the main passage revealed the mouth of a rift.  A squeeze, 10ft ahead, in the roof of the rift lead to a small enlargement. From beyond a barrier came the sound of falling water and through a slot in the roof we could see into a sizeable space.

Only one awkward jammed rock prevented us getting through into this space and this was soon removed. After a bit of thrutching, I squeezed up through the slot into a man sized rift petering out to the right, but running off, with the roof rising in the other direction.  It looked as if we were in - a stroll down and ever growing passage, with pitch following pitch, into the main drain.  In reality however, although the rift was standing height at one point, where an aven rose to 20ft, it came to an abrupt end after only 15ft. Here, a small stream of water fell through a narrow hole in the floor - the only way on.  But the sound of a larger stream wafted up from below, and we decided to face the hole the following Wednesday evening.

Before doing so the aven was climbed, but lead only to on horrendous boulder ruckle.  The alternative -proved more interesting with a 10ft deep, tights fissure dropping into a low descending crawl blocked after a few feet by a bank of mud.  The water disappeared to the left into a choked bedding - plane running across strike, and from which comes the roar of a stream.

Taking it in shifts, we cleared out enough of the choke to crawl in for 6 feet until a large flat slab prevented further progress.  After a short struggle this was roped, and gradually slid out.  We then had a clearer view ahead.  Across strike the bedding plane continued only inches high and falling at a steep angle from left to right to where there appeared to be a lip 4 or 5ft away over which stones rolled into a trench presumably carrying the stream.  A well placed charge on the following weekend and all would be revealed, and hopes again ran high for entry into the long awaited streamway.

The next Saturday April - 16th 1977 - was set aside for this operation, and it turned out to be a much harder task than expected.  The fumes from the bang failed to clear properly, and this coupled with the constricted access proved almost literally fatal.  But the day's objective was at least achieved, although the result was disappointing.  Richard Whitcombe disappeared down the bedding plane into the thick haze, only to return with the news that the roar came from a tiny stream.  This after emerging from a minute hole up dip crossed the bedding plane - itself only 6 inches high, and a hopeless prospect. All present suffered very unpleasant after effects from the bang fumes, end the return to the surface was something of an epic.

Only one real possibility now remained, the mud choked end of the passage off which the bedding plane had led, and there was evidence of 3 passages of varying sizes converging on this point.

We could see ahead along the limited airspace to where a mud slope rose into a boulder ruckle making it seem as if we were following an inlet back up to the ground level. However as we started clearing out the passage it was shown to be considerably deeper than the mouth of the bedding plane, and the floor gave no sign of rising towards the ruckle.  We were able for a short time to dump the spoil in the bedding plane, but it soon became obvious that we were going to have to take it to the surface.  The next 2 months were therefore spent in enlarging the approach fissure to take buckets.

When we finally resumed digging it was the middle of August, and progress was necessarily rather slow. The process of moving each bucketful of spoil from the face to its final resting place on the valley floor involved three separate sessions, and two intermediate dumps, including winching up the entrance shaft.   But there was no alternative in the absence of dumping space.  Vandalism to the surface works further delayed progress at this time.  The isolated nature of the site encouraging this - a contrast to the dig at Thrupe Lane where we never experienced this problem.  Several times we arrived to discover the wooden lid removed and almost everything moveable thrown down the shaft.  It was a depressing task clearing up each time and led to the unfortunate step of fitting a locked steel lid.

But to return to the digging - the easier disposal of the spoil with the improved access began to pay dividends as the true size of the passage emerged.  It was four feet high and clearly phreatic in origin.  Whilst the floor had been level with the ill-fated bedding plane, the water running into the dig had been able to escape down the bedding, but as we progressed and left the mouth of it high and dry flooding became a problem.  The resultant morass soon became christened the Grimpen Mine from the glutinous mixture left behind when the water subsided.

Despite this, by mid-September we had passed the lowest point beyond which the roof began to rise. If the floor rose with it, then prospects would be bleak, but this did not happen.  The solid floor remained level as the passage turned slightly to the right, and intersected at right angles a rift several feet wide.  This terminated quickly to the right, but to the left assumed an impressive size.  An aven in its roof had spewed tons of debris which now perched in a threatening mass on our left flank.

Before any further progress was possible, this danger had to be reduced, and this provided same exciting moments.  To try and bring clown the boulders by direct crow-barring would have been suicidal as there was no quick escape route.  Various methods were tried, including tying a rope to a bar and pulling from round the corner!  One particularly large slab with no obvious anchoring points was seemingly defying gravity, and clearly holding back a large quantity of material.  Richard started throwing stones at it, perhaps, in the hope that it might go a way.  Nothing stirred until we aimed our backs on it, when with an almighty crash the whole lot came down, fortunately without killing anyone.  Quite a close run thing.  On another occasion Bob Cottle had his Nife cell cable sliced through by a dislodged boulder.

A large black space view became visible and more material continued to be brought down and as soon as it looked safe enough we climbed up to investigate chimneying above the still unstable slope.  The roof of the aven was at least 20ft high and contained two inlets, both too risky to enter.  Down rift was a solid uninspiring choke.

We decided to ignore this rift, and with the resumed threat reduced and digging across its base into a choked continuation under the far wall with headroom reduced to a couple of feet.

The autumn and winter of 1977/8 brought unusually heavy rainfall, and as we probed further away from the rift, a second stream was heard from somewhere ahead, we redoubled our efforts.  A left bend followed a stal barrier and things looked exceedingly promising with the roar of the stream drifting up the meandering crawl towards us.  The passage turned to the right only to be cut in half by another stal barrier, requiring banging.  Beyond, perhaps 10ft away, we could see the main stream at last -

to be continued.



By Tim Large

Christmas at the Belfry was enjoyed by about a dozen regulars.  The shed was well appointed with colour TV, plenty of food and drink. With the films coming thick and fast on the TV everyone was reluctant to leave.  We received complaints from Roger Dors that we failed to report for duty one night.  Over the Christmas period we had visitors from Australia; a group with Julia James; Speleo Hollan who enjoyed a very wet trip down Swildons, and over the New Year the Pegasus joined us for the festivities.  The Australians were entertained at the Belfry with Belfry table cricket and sofa rugby – but much was to be learned from the B.E.C. team.

The club has now applied for a licence under the Lotteries Act in order that we can hold raffles to raise money for the Belfry improvements.  Other fund raising schemes are being considered and ideas from you would be welcome.

The Digging Competition has started in earnest.  Pete and Alison have found 150' of passage at the upper end of Sarum Inlet in manor Farm. We are still busy at the lower end of NHASA Gallery, but are investigating sites in Tynings.  It looks like our major project this year is to dig the bottom of the cave.  All help will be gratefully received.  Happy New Year.


The Marble Pot Saga

By Tim Large

I first visited Marble Pot in November 1975 encouraged to this section of the cave, by the details in the Cuthbert’s Reports and the vivid descriptions of the vertical squeeze as discovered by Wig.

The trip to Marble Pot and Hall provides an interesting route off the beaten track.  There are three ways of approaching it:-

1.                  From Rocky Boulder to Coral Chamber, climb to top of chamber and through hole in southern wall which brings you to the start of a large rift.  At the far side of the rift a hole leads to a spiral climb down with squeezes into a small chamber.  To the north is Marble Pot.  To south under a large boulder is Marble Hall.

2.                  Via Boulder Chamber, Annexe Chamber, Fracture Rift, Coral Squeeze, Coral Chamber and then as route one.

3.                  Instead of descending halfway along Fracture Rift, climb up to a higher continuation of it. Here much evidence of fallen boulders is seen, the walls being heavily scarred - ignore this!  At far end is the obvious beginning of a boulder ruckle rising above you.  A short straddle climb to the right at this point and you gain the ruckle proper.  A meandering route upwards over large boulders brings you to Long Chamber Extensions.  To your left will lead back to Long Chamber.  High up in the roof is Straw Chamber.  By an indefinite route to the right amidst boulders and dropping to a slightly lower level is the northward continuation of Far Chamber. Just off this route is a hole in boulders, (sometimes difficult to find).  This is the start of Ruckle Passage.  A twisting route downwards, best tackled one at a time, eventually brings you out to the start of the large rift which marks the start of the route to Marble Pot as described in route 1.  I can recommend this route as providing the most interesting stimulus – Terror!

On the first visit with Bas Slade the bottom of the pot was examined, but also a hole was noticed 15' above the floor at a point usually passed on descending the pot.  This was found to be partially blocked with stal deposits and pebbles.  With a minimum of digging it was possible to descend another vertical squeeze of about 6' to a point where a rift opens up.  A further drop of 8' brings you to a sandy floor with a rift going off.  This is blocked with pebbles in the floor after 15' and has a too tight continuation in the roof.  A draught was felt and eventually located at the beginning of the rift immediately under the climb down.  At floor level there was a tight bedding plane partially blocked with sand and a cool draught blowing out.  On this trip nothing more was found.

A week later, with John Dukes, the bedding plain was attacked with hammer and chisel and by crawling backwards down it, using boots as a snowplough, the sand was excavated allowing entry via a 5' drop to the base of an aven.  It is about 35' high continuing in one direction upwards over a boulder and the other, a tight rift descending about 15'.

Nothing more was done until July 1977 when John Dukes and I dug in the first rift of the new extension filling the entrance to a small passage filled with large cobbles.  The possibilities at the northern end of the rift were examined and proved virtually impossible to dig in the space available.  By the way, if anyone finds a 4lb hammer buried in the rift its mine!

After the Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting on the 30th September 1977 Martin Grass, Kangy and myself visited the dreaded pot again.  This time the final aven was explored at the upper end and a vertical connection with the bottom of Marble Pot proved.

One year to the day later accompanied by Fred Davies, Al Mills and Ross White, more digging was undertaken in an attempt to remove the squeeze at the top of the descending tight rift.

As you can see from the accomplishers so far, very few people are keen on a return visit, even Fred and Al did not think much of it.

During February 1779 the Wesex digging team of Alison and Pete were recruited to visit the passage. Alison was encouraged into the hole but found it very tight and doubted whether the return through the squeeze would be possible.

So fast running out of time and support I spied 'Clever Trevor' in the pub late one Saturday night. Being a keen lad he agreed to visit the Pot - 'Stupid Boy' – more digging was done at the squeeze but still too tight for us.

On 20th May 19 I spied the Hunters once more for recruits and lo and behold one J'Rat.  Having nothing better to do he agreed to visit the site after being recounted the visions of caverns measureless----- After removing various items of apparel he managed to slip through and descend 15' to a U tube which he negotiated backwards to slight widening of the passage but to be narrowed down after 10'. Tony’s return was eventful to say the least, both of us with visions of Neil Moss.

So ends the Saga having found only about 70' of passage.  Highly recommended for a once only visit.  At least it proves the theories that passages exist below Marble Pot.