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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.

News in Brief

BEC members working in Gough's Cave - work above and at the back of Solomon's Temple has revealed a rift containing some fine helictites.  Diving at the First Feeder by Martin Bishop et. a1. shows that under water removal of boulders feasible and way on can be seen.

BCRA and NCA merger - or to put it another way - Is the BCRA making a takeover bid?  At the recent NCA Annual Meeting the Treasurer's Report suggested that the NCA and BCRA should merge.  This produced an immediate joining of forces by the CCC, DCA and CSCC - with the CNCC notably sitting on the fence.  Dave Judson threatened to resign when Waltham was being opposed as Treasurer.  A full report will appear in the next BB.  CSCC has at last achieved some of its objectives - the C and A Convenor has no vote on the Executive and. the Constituent members of NCA may nominate their representative on the Executive.  There is one thing that IS clear of the fog and that is that the BCRA is no body fit to be the National representative of the caving population.  One wonders if the BCRA financial position is causing them to think of NCA takeover so that they have direct access to Sports Council grants….

Sweatshirts

Many of you will have seen the club sweatshirts that were obtained last year and many found them excellent value for money.  Well a second order for a further batch is being prepared and members wishing to obtain a sweatshirt should write to the Hut Warden - Garth Dell - NOW and give him details of size, numbers and CASH.  The price has gone up slightly but this should be no surprise to anyone but is still good value at £6.  The budget may change the VAT rate so this price could change according to that effect.

Send your order WITH CASH, POSTAL ORDER, CHEQUE or what have you to

Hut Warden, c/o The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

Last orders will have to reach the Belfry by the end of April 1980


 

Belgium

In February a number of regulars on Mendip went for a weekend caving in BELGIUM '80

by 'Bucket' Tilbury

Friday afternoon and evening saw various cars with cavers eagerly looking forward to a weekend in Belgium converging on Dover.  Our car started from High Wycombe with Graham W-J and Buckett and stopped in London to pick up Big Jim, J-Rat and Jeff.  This accomplished, a fight with the London rush hour traffic was undertaken.  While waiting at one of the innumerable sets of traffic light a little light relief was provided by a rather elderly gentleman. This old chap had walked up to a low metal fence by the back of the path and managed to lift one leg over the rail. He was about to take a short cut across a small park area.  We had all idly watched this when the fun started.  The leg on the path made the attempt to join the first on the other side of the fence, he nearly made it.  A number of energetic leg movements were made, all to no avail.  The car occupants by now had dissolved into laughter as it was obvious that he was stuck on his delicate parts.  As the lights changed and we moved off, he was trying to lift his leg over by hand.

Dover was reacted without further incident and a passage obtained to Ostend on the ferry which was supposed to be fully booked.  The crossing was very smooth and the time was spent dozing and nattering.

Off the ferry at Ostend and straight on to the motorway.  The next major decision was whether to go around Brussels on the ring road or through the middle.  Straight through was the choice, as the BEC never deviate from the straight and narrow.  Going through Brussels is quite entertaining as the road follows a series of over and under passes. Back on the motorway the passengers slept while the driver was kept on his toes by the occasional disappearance of steering capability due to ice on the road.  Eventually the motorway was left and normal roads towards our hut at Rochfort.

At the approach to Rochfort and as we were looking for the hut, a young lady standing by a mini waved us down.  The car stopped and the driver wound down the window and as it was 2.0 a.m., various rude comments were made by the passengers.  The girl jabbered away in French to be interpreted by the driver with a "Parlez-vous anglais” The girl replied "Yes''.  ''Where do you come from?''  '' England?” ‘‘Where the bloody hell do you think'' came from the driver. Other suggestions as to the driver’s origins came from the rear seats.  With cold air clearing away the cobwebs of the mind, the mini driver, a very earnest young chap told us that “The accumulator was dead".  A quick push down the road of the mini confirmed this and suggested something more serious.  Our mini magician, Graham, poked his head under the bonnet, fixed a loose wire to something or other and the mini burst into life.  The BEC departs leaving the mini occupants amazed but happy.

The search for the hut was resumed and Big Jim, who had been there before, finally found it.  The hut turned out to be a large run-down three storey building.  The caretaker was aroused and she showed us to a room with fifteen bunks.  She also explained that all the pipes were frozen, but we could collect water from her as she had many litres in buckets.  We were soon all in our pits trying to keep out the cold and sleep.  The thermometer by the door was showing -15oC.

Saturday morning was clear and sunny, but still very cold.  We explored our spartan abode and had breakfast.  The rest of the party were due to join us at 11 a.m. but they did not turn up.  So, we made our way to Hann which is near the Grotte Pierre Noel which was the cave we had arranged to descend.  While at Hann we met up with the rest of the party including the Dutch cavers who knew where the cave entrance was situated.

While waiting for the Belgium leader to arrive the whole party kept itself amused with such pastimes as climbing concrete telephone poles, tossing the caber with large fir logs and scavenging for bits of wet suits in the woods.  After waiting for 1½ hours for the leader to arrive the whole party became cheesed-off.

Everybody went back to Hann and paid a visit to the local museum.  While there the curator told us where the local club was.  The guide was finally located there at about 4.30 p.m. By 5 p.m. all were back at the meeting place and changing took place in double quick time.  The guide was a little apprehensive at a party of 13 but agreed to carry on.  We were all glad to be on our way as the Pierre Noel is reputed to be the best decorated in Belgium with large chambers.  The walk to the cave entrance is through scrubby woodland round the ridge of a steep escarpment with a panoramic view of the local countryside.

The entrance to the cave is a steep scramble down a large rift from which the roof has been removed by erosion to the inevitable gate at the bottom.  Through the gate leads to a low dug section of passage which drops steeply and emerges in the roof of a small chamber.  A short climb down from the floor of the chamber leads to the top of a descending passage that requires the aid of a lifeline.  At the sides of this passage are reasonable groups of stals and the passage widens and the roof gradually lifts to a floor of boulders at the top of a boulder pile.  Standing here one looks out on a very large ch8mber disappearing into the distance with the boulder floor sloping from a high point on the right to the wall on the left.  The boulder floor is dotted with small, uninteresting, stalagmites.  As the boulder floor is crossed the main features of the chamber become apparent.  The roof of the chamber changes from a rounded shape near the entrance passage to a massive flat section sloping right across the chamber at about 60o.  The colour is a sombre black and the whole area appears quite smooth.  This effect is relieved to some extent along the lower edge by the formation of some excellent curtains.  The boulder floor rises up a short climb leading to a ridge of boulders giving a fine view of the next chamber (this is really a continuation of the last chamber but the roof changes abruptly back to a more usual dome shape).  Immediately to the right of this point is a large fluted stalagmite column rising 30 - 40 ft. to end near the roof.  The roof overhead is now covered with a profusion of stalactites and curtains of all shapes and sizes and colours.  On the left and to the immediate front are groups of stalagmites up to 6ft high and from a ledge on the wall a stalagmite, about 6" diameter, rises to over 10ft and has a fine white crystal effect.  In front, down on the floor of the chamber, is a large stal which cascades down over the boulders to the right and on to an area covered with groups of stalagmites up to 6ft high and varying in colour from white to a soft brown.  The centre left is dominated by a large stalagmite column some 30ft high of an erratic shape, glistening white and reflecting the light of our lamps from the crystal facets on the surface.  In the far distance a huge stalagmite column rises from a 10ft diameter base in magnificent tiers to a height of 50ft.

While a small group of the party sat at this point the rest made their way forward lighting up the chamber for us.  The small black figures with their lights shining on the stals made a delightful sight. The path was followed through the stals until a climb down, round a large stale boss, landed one in a large rift passage with bare black walls and a glutinous mud floor.  One picked the way through the mud to the best of one's ability to the far end where a climb up and a short squeeze brought one to a small chamber with plenty of stal more to the size we are used to see in Britain. The right hand wall was covered with a huge area of flowstone disappearing up into the blackness.  Our guide halted here and informed us that this was as far as we were going, just as the cave was about to go big again.  We reluctantly turned around and made our way back to the entrance.  Various people took photos on the way back but were not allowed to spend much time over this.  We emerged into the cold clear night after 2 hours underground.

Speaking personally, I found the trip extremely frustrating as we had obviously done only a small section of the cave and I should imagine that the best formations were not seen.  Time was not even allowed to take good photographs.  To go to the trouble to go there and then only be shown a small section of the cave I find very galling.  The attitude of the guide was unhelpful to say the least, especially as we had plenty of time.  When we checked the survey later in the evening, it showed that we had done about one third of the cave and were about to enter the main chamber when we turned back.

Although the cave has been only open since '68 and trips are limited to one a month the areas of stal that had been damaged by hands and feet was inexcusable.

We all returned to the Speleo Holland Hut where a fine meal of sauerkraut and sausages was prepared for us all by the Dutch lads.  The rest of the evening was spent in a bar at Rochfort, where quantities of the local ale were consumed.  The beer is brewed by the local Trappist monks and is named after them.  It comes in three different strengths - medium, strong and blow your head off.  It makes one very unsteady when standing up after sitting down with no ill effects, a fact that can be confirmed by various members of the group.  The proprietors finally expelled us at 1.30 a.m. when we split up and made our ways to the respective huts.  When we arrived back at our hut we found that a large party of French people were in occupation and had obviously had a good evening.  People were lolling against cars; lying of the steps and stairs and sitting on the floor, all very much the worse for wear. A snack of beef burger sandwiches was cooked and bottles of the frenchies wine purloined to wash them down.

Sunday morning we were up and about by 8.30 a.m. to find that the French had cleaned up and were finishing breakfast.  We cooked the usual large English breakfast and were watched with amazement as we ate the lot by the French.  After recovering all our lost eating irons and cleared up we piled into the car and made our way to the Dutch Hut.  We were to collect the rest of the party and proceed to the cave we had booked for the day. We arrived at the Hut and found the whole lot of them still resting in their pits!  They decided that the cave would be given a miss as they wanted to catch an early boat. We said 'Cheerio' and made our way to the place where we were to meet our guide for the cave.  We arrived to find a large party of Belgium cavers changed and about to move off. This was the party we were with, so, a quick change into wet suits and we too, were off.         The cave we were to descend was the Grotto de la Fontaine du Rivire which ends in a large lake; the reason far our wetsuits.  The walk to the cave was very pleasant along the banks of a fast flowing river with tall outcrops of limestone all around.  The entrance is about 100ft above the valley floor at the bottom of one of the rock outcrops.  The entrance has a gate and is an awkward tight tube for about 10ft where it opens to a hands and knees crawl in a grotty muddy passage.  This emerged into a muddy chamber where a second gate is situated.  With this gate removed a squeeze leads to a walking size passage with some stal. Following along this the passage gradually rises and then gets smaller until a thrutchy section leads through stal to a climb, down into a larger section of the passage.  A short way forward and another climb down between stal. flows on the walls leads to a steeply descending route with lots of stalagmites and stalactites the passage becoming larger as it descends.  The stal here is light brown in colour and quite dead; large areas of formations have been spoiled.  The passage ends at yet another steep climb down over stal flows to the large lake.  While on this climb one of the Belgium’s had dislocated his shoulder although we did not realise it at the time.

We moved through to the lake and leapt into the water for a swim.  The lake is large and triangular in shape and about 30ft deep.  The water was really clear and the bottom could be seen in some places.   There is a traverse line bolted round one wall to allow access to a chamber and a climb to a dig on the far side of the Lake.  Some of us did the traverse and found it quite sporting. While we were engaged in this part of the Belgium party went out with the injured lad.  J-Rat who had no wetsuit went with them.  After further swimming in the lake we all made our way out, changed and joined J-Rat in a bar for coffee.  The trip took 2½ hours and was very enjoyable.  The journey home was uneventful and a good sleep was had by all on an almost empty ferryboat.


 

What makes you do it ?

A filler article has been submitted by Alan Thomas….

We were asked that question many years ago as we prepared to descend some blow holes on the Pembrokeshire coast. Kangy said "Because its fun."  The man said "But don't you feel an inner compunction driving you into the bowels of the earth?"  Kangy said "No."  The man was disappointed.  This is what I call the weegee attitude and since it is the attitude of 99.9% of the population I have always taken great pains to understand it and as a compulsive teacher to explain my attitude.  It is difficult as you will find if you try to make your colleagues understand why a dozen or so people who cave regularly on Mendip should travel 500 miles to the middle of Belgium for a weekend in January with snow forecast.

"Is it a special occasion?" they ask. 

"No."

"Is there something special about the caves?" 

'No. "

"It’s just because you haven't been down them before?"

"It’s not that."

"You go all that way just to go down a cave!"

"I'm not bothered if I don't go down a cave.”

"You must be."

"No, I went on a diving holiday for a fortnight last summer and didn't dive once."

"Suppose you can’t get back because of the snow?"

"Just suppose."

So we went 500 miles, we stayed at a hut like the Belfry, we did a bit of easy caving, we got legless on the Saturday night and, felt ill all day Sunday; as J-Rat said, it made a nice change.

The last word ………………

"Did you have a nice time last night?"

"Yes, I feel quite ill thank you."


 

8th International Congress Of Speleology

For those members intending to visit the U.S. of A next year to attend the Congress here is some details that may be of interest………….

The National Speleological Society (USA) in conjunction with the Western Kentucky University, Mammoth Cave National Park is sponsoring the 8th International Congress in Bowling Green, Kentucky from the 18th to 24th July 1981.

The First Circular has just been issued and some of the plans are outlined below: -

In addition to the usual list of lectures the evening sessions have already been outlined in some detail.  Sat, 18th: Plenary Lecture - Karst of the United States; Sun. 19th: Reception at Lost River Cave, films and slides; Mon 20th: Visit to Mammoth Caves; Tues 21st: Films, slides and social; Wed, 22nd Barbeque and Dance; Thurs 23rd: Special programme.

Pre Congress events (preliminary costs only have been given).

Central Appalachian Karst (July 14-17th) $300; Hydrology of Central Kentucky (July 13-17th) $160; Northern Alabama (July 12-17th); $300; Southern Indiana (July 13-17th) $250; Flint Ridge (July 13-17th) $100; Florida Cave Diving (July 13-17th) $100; Greenbier Speleo Camp (West Virginia) (July 11-16th) $110; Northern Alabama (July 11-17th) $120 and Cave Management Symposium (July 12-15th) $90.

Cave Rescue (July 11-17th) $200.

Post Congress Camps: -

Carlsbad-Guadalupe, New Mexico (July 27-31st.) $250; Flint Ridge (July 25-30th) $70; Perry County, Missouri (July 25- 30th) $70 and Western Kentucky (July 25-28th) $40.

COST OF CONGRESS $106. All the figures given are provisional. Anyone interested in further details should write to the Congress Secretariat: -

Eighth International Congress of Speleology Secretariat,
Department of Geography and Geology,
Western Kentucky University,
Bowling Green,
Kentucky, 42101,
U.S.A.


 

Devon Surveys

The following mine surveys are available from the Plymouth Caving Group, 7 Berrow Park Road; Peverell, Plymouth, Devon. (Tel. Plymouth 775362).

Latchley Consuls                       35p

Devon Great Consuls                  50p

Ding Dong                                 50p

There is no mention of postage and packing but about 20p should cover the cost

*****************************************

G.B. KEY - Will the person who last borrowed the GB key please return it to the Hut Warden - please.

Insurance for Cavers for Members of BCRA and Member Clubs

The BCRA are about to sign an insurance policy that will cover all members of the organisation when they are caving and also when they are participating in BCRA activities for public liability claims.  The policy also covers members carrying out activities on the surface and includes a member to member clause.

Individual members of the BCRA will automatically be covered as soon as the policy is signed (not later than the 1st April 1980) provided that they have 'Paid their subs for 1980. The maximum sum payable in respect for one claim is £500,000.

Member clubs of BCRA may participate in the scheme and will be required to pay an annual premium in the order of 15 to 25p per member and to submit a statement signed by the Chairman and Secretary concerning its membership.  There is no information available yet as to Landowner Indemnity such as we require for St. Cuthbert’s.

Expedition/Foreign Travel Insurance.

All members participating in the above scheme (whether directly as a member of BCRA or a member of a member club) will be able to obtain a special insurance cover which includes the usual clauses in addition, to a special clause of £4,000 in respect of cave or mountain rescue services.  Details of this scheme have to be finalised but the premium will be in the order of £1 for one week and £6 for 4 weeks.

Whole expedition or individual travel cover must be taken out through the BCRA's appointed insurance officer - it cannot be taken out directly with the insurance company direct. An insurance officer will be appointed soon.  Until that time all enquiries should be addressed to Dave Judson, Bethal Green, Calderbrook Road, Littleborough, Lancs. OL15 9ND.

At the moment the BEC are in the process of negotiating a policy with a firm in Southampton and also with Wells Brokers.   Whether the BCRA scheme has any advantage to us remains to be seen - it is assumed that the Club Secretary will be dealing with this matter.


 

Lifeline

By our own Hon. Secretary, Tim Large.

BELFRY

Throughout the winter the Belfry has seen increased usage both by members and guests – none put off by the rise in hut fees.  The bunk room exterior door has been replaced thanks to Dany Bradshaw, which should improve the weatherproofing at that end of the building.  Enclosed in this B.B. are the plans for Belfry improvements. Your suggestions and comments would be appreciated in order that this time any alterations are well planned for not only present use but the future for many years to come.  Hopefully the committee will be able to make a decision on what to do at the April or May meeting.  So please hurry your comments along to the Belfry as soon as possible.

LAKE DISTRICT

The annual club trip to the Lake District was well attended with about 20 people.  Although the weather was not so good as it could be, some fine walks were achieved, including Scafell, Great Gable, Helvelyn, Pavis Arc and a trip around the Coniston Copper Mines.

SWILDONS SHATTER SERIES

Pete and Alison Moody helped by Brian Woodward, and Phil Dunk of the SMCC have extended the end of Shatter Chamber for about 800ft.  A boulder choke was pushed to a rift passage and an inlet stream which emitted from a sump. Pete dived this for about 200ft and explored about 60ft of passage on the other side which then becomes too tight. The passage is heading into unknown territory.  Some speculate the stream, which is quite big, comes from Sludge Pit and Nine Barrows. Water tracing is being arranged. This has spurred on our Stuart Lindsey who is at present digging in the Sludge Pit Sump.  I am sure he would appreciate any help he can get.

LAMB LEER

At a recent CSCC meeting fixed tackle in this cave was discussed following a letter from Somerset county Council who expressed concern over the safety of the entrance ladder.  The CSCC access agreement is with SCC.  The meeting decided to repair the entrance ladder.  Other reports were received regarding the platform at the top of the main pitch and the ladders up to the Cave of Falling Waters.  Both are said to be in a suspect condition.  The meeting decided that subject to survey the platform and winch be removed and rawl bolts installed for ladder belays.  Also the scaffolding and ladder on Cave of Falling waters be completely removed and substituted with a pulley and continuous line in order that tackle can be hauled up – as we do in maypole series in Cuthbert’s.  It is likely no action be taken before the CSCC AGM in order to gauge more widely caver’s views.

ROCK AND FOUNTAIN

The first boulder choke has collapse completely blocking the way on.  No news yet as to when it will be open again.

EASTER TRIP

To South Wales camping at Crickhowell with members of the Pegasus. Caves booked include Aggy, DYO, OFD. Contact Martin Grass for details.

BCRA SYMPOSIUM ON CAVES AND THE COMMUNITY

To be held on Saturday 19th April at high Peak College, Harper Hill, Buxton.  Admission £3 including lunch and refreshments.


 

The Proposed Destruction Of The Capanina "Lusa" On Monte Corchia, Apuan Alps, Italy

I have recently received urgent communication from Italy requesting the intervention of British clubs to oppose the proposed destruction of the above mentioned Bivouac.

The Capanina "LUSA" was built 2yrs ago, with the full authority of the local government, by the Speleological group of FAENZA (RA) to commemorate the death of Antonio LUSA. Visitors to the 1978 B.C.R.A. Conference will remember Signorina Simoneke Alessandri from this group who gave a most interesting lecture on the Abisso Fighera or Boca del Caciatore.

The Capanina "LUSA" is a small cabin designed to accommodate about 12 people, it measures about 12' x 12' x 10' high and is situated about 100yds from the entrance to the Abisso Fighera at nearly 6,000' close to the summit of Monte Corchia.

It is open at all times and may be visited by anyone wishing to do so.  The Abisso Fighera comprises some 14kms of passages and, at present stands at -850m and there are several other deep caves nearby.  To expeditionaries, the advantages of having a small base in this area are obvious especially when one considers that the next nearest refuge is 2,000' below which necessitates a 2hr really hard slog with equipment.

Unfortunately the hut is situated just on the skyline but it is painted to match the colour of the rock and from below appears as such, even with binoculars it is barely discernable as a building.

As stated previously the cabin was built with the full approval of both the local authority and the villagers, who in fact, assisted in its construction.  However, strong pressures are being bought to bear from the section of the C.A.I. at Lucca some 40 miles away, who claim the hut is detrimental to the natural beauty of the area.  The natural beauty in Question consists of several large marble quarries and their appropriate roads and other works which bite relentlessly into the lower and middle section of the Monte Corchia.  It is now apparent that unless strong pressure is bought to bear from outside then the chances of losing the bivouac are very high.

The Italian clubs would like interested British clubs and individuals to write letters opposing the destruction of the Capanina "LUSA" and pointing out the usefulness of this building particularly to foreign groups.  The letters can be written in English and sent to: -

IL Segretario, Commissione Centrale Protezione Natura Alpina, Sede Centrale del C.I.A., Via Vgo Foscolo N 3, MILANO, Italia.

A photocopy of the letter should be sent to either myself or to: -

Sig. Guido Rossi, Via San Marco 41, 37100, VERONA, Italia, who, with the FAENZA group is fighting the situation at local level.

It doesn’t matter if you have never caved in this part of Italy this is an international problem and could be only the thin end of the wedge.  The losing of this fight could result in other restrictions being imposed on cavers in this area, which enjoys freedom of movement and exploration without restriction.  A situation which both British and Italian cavers would like to see continue.

Stan Gee, 26. Parsonage Street, Heaton Norris, Stockport, Cheshire. SK4 1HZ.


 

Proposed Changes To The Belfry

by John Dukes.

On the next two pages are outline plans of the proposed alterations to the Belfry, both downstairs and up in the attic.

All the dotted lines indicate walls to be removed.


 

 

General notes:

Door 1

At present the door into the Bunk Room.  This is to be blocked as stairs to the attic will block this access point.

Door 2

Currently door to the Library.  Will be door to the Bunkroom.

Door 3

New access door from modified changing room

Door 4

This is the door to the women’s room.  To be blocked up.

Door 5

New door into changing room.

W.C.

2m x 1m with small corner hand basin.

Showers (1)

2m x 1.8m with 4 shower heads.  Tiled throughout.

Showers (2)

2m x 1.5m with 3 shower heads.  Tiled throughout.

Drying Room

2m x 2m.  Means of heating not yet decided.  Ventilated by extract fan controlled by time clock.  Tiled throughout.

Changing Room

Ventilated by extract fan controlled by time clock; this is separate from drying room.

All access to drying room and showers from changing room.  Floor to be tiled and to incorporate drainage gullies and cleaning hoses.

Bunkroom

To retain the alpine bunk and remove the bunks in the alcove.  Net loss of two bunk spaces.

All comments to these proposals should be sent to: -

John Dukes, c/o The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells Somerset.

Address change

Arthur Ball, 11 Brooklyn Road, Cheadle, Cheshire, SK8 1BS

Next month in the BB

Link Pot; Diving in Florida; MRO Report and Easter Grotto


 

"About the Constitution"

At the last AGM, Mike Wheadon submitted various changes to the Club Constitution for consideration by the 1980 Committee.  Kangy King, a member of the Sub Committee that formulated the present constitution writes…

I apologise in advance for the following screed which I hope will be taken as practical politics, intended to help the Club function more easily and not to teach grandmothers how to suck eggs.  It concerns our new constitution which like the last one looks like the sort of document which could usefully be used for almost anything other than reading.  It was the Club's decision to accept this sort of constitution and we should be aware of its limitations.

A "watertight" specification or constitution is a very difficult or even impossible thing to achieve because of the difficulty of putting practices or feelings into words so that there is no ambiguity (or even bad grammar!)  The consequence of this is that there is an almost irresistible temptation to try to perfect it.  This might be a proper reaction but it is, in my view, a waste of valuable drinking time.

Another approach to the difficulty of precision is to not even try, and, instead have a creed which crystallises an attitude or spirit.

"We are the Exploration Club,
We roam around from pub to pub!"

The actions of the Club are reviewed annually by the A.G.M.

The most important part of our Constitution is then that which sets out the conduct of the A.G.M. At each A.G.M. the Club is born again. We can kill it, or change it, or continue it.  We are the club.  The Club is NOT the Constitution.  We should, however, remind ourselves when discussion is heated and factions threaten to tear us apart, of the Spirit of the Club.  Why are we a club?  We are a club because we have members with similar interests or objectives combining together.  Set out the interests or objectives and then state what a reasonable man would require for a valid A.G.M.  Ideally this would be every member of the Club meeting together but as this is not practical then the constitution tells you what is.  Decisions are made by the Club acting together at the A.G.M.

A practical way of organising the day-to-day business of the Club is to elect some of our fellows to do it for us in Committee.  If we don't like what they are doing we can call an Emergency General Meeting and sort it out or wait until the A.G.M. and kick them out!

A good example of what is meant by the Spirit of the Club came when a draft constitution was (very correctly) being given the hatchet treatment by the AGM.  Now hatchet jobs are performed on completed piece of work to make it fit.  Regardless of the somewhat disfigured final appearance the important thing is that it now fits.  In this case logic dictated that the lower age for membership should be 18 years for some very sound reasons.  The feeling of the club was tested by proposing that there should be no lower age limit.  This was firmly rejected.  We felt there should be a lower limit but lower than 18 years and we voted to accept the risks involved in having 16 year old members as we had always done.  This was the Spirit of the Club.  To hell with insurance, we want young people in our Club!

As a club we are confused about a number of things.  We like being The Exploration Club and sometimes this means caving but we are not sure whether we mean as a sport or a science.  We don’t Mountaineer but we do Rock Climb and Hill Walk (whether scientifically or not is not stated!) and we have 'like pursuits' and this apparently can include PU’s both scientifically or otherwise.  But we know what we mean.  We can recognise our sort of bod easily.

We are confused about 'Probationary Members'.  We should think carefully about them.  Do we need them?  Should they vote?  Can they serve on the Committee?  Does this matter?  How does the Constitution Guide us here?  It doesn't; but the Spirit of the Club does.  If the Probationary Member wants to be of use - let him.  If he's useless don't let him.  How do you put that succinctly into words?

The Committee is the Club or it is until we can get at it and box its ears at the AGM.  It is an elected body and normally knows that is going on.  It should be quite capable of resolving a difficult decision by feeling for the Spirit or best interests of the Club.  This isn't new.  We hang together as a Nation by considering what a "reasonable" man would do and not by fear of getting our feet wet.  Boundaries or Rules don't make a group, Spirit does.  It cannot do this if the Constitution is precise but out of date. We have nothing to fear from a woolly or imprecise Constitution.  The Club can take care of that at the next AGM.

We might well consider when we compare the regulations governing the conduct of the AGM (which is fundamental to the survival of the Club) with those concerning the Committee whether we have our priorities right.  Do we really need so many rules to regulate our Committee?  On the other hand the Committee has a traditional method of working and it may be as well to enshrine this in the Constitution.

The Club feels it needs a Constitution.  I feel that we need one only in order to say "this is what we do if we think we should."

We can live with an imprecise, woolly, and eccentric Constitution because our first priority is to have a large and vigorous AGM with enough time to thrash things out under a find and respected Chairman.

I think we have always managed rather well in this respect and it is up to us to continue to have a lively AGM which asks a confident set of bods to act for us.