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.

Editorial Notes

……changes to B. B. & changes to club exchange copies.

Following discussions with the Committee a small, but significant, change will be taking place in the B.B. contents from the June 1980 issue.  Over the years the Club has always re-affirmed that members want the B.B. published monthly even though there has been a strong case for a bi-monthly or quarterly publication.  This policy remains unaltered, members will still get a monthly B.B.  The proposed change will be experimental until the A.G.M. in October enabling members to have their say and to make any necessary changes.

Basically the change is this.  The Belfry Bulletin is a newsletter for members and so each month a bulletin of some 4 to 6 pages will be published with considerably more club news and information and less actual caving articles except for the usual club trip reports and news in brief notes.  The longer and more serious caving material will be kept back for a quarterly issue of the 'BB' so that a larger issue, hopefully, of between 20-30 pages can be produced known as the 'Belfry Journal' but subtitled 'Belfry Bulletin'.  The 'Belfry Journal' will have its own numbering system but will also retain the sequential numbering of the 'Belfry Bulletin' (do I hear the bibliophiles moaning!?)  Further, the Belfry Journal will be the ONLY publication produced by the Club for exchange with other clubs so enabling the B. B. to be for 'internal consumption' only allowing a greater concentration on club affairs and, if necessary, the full airing of controversial views to a greater degree than has been possible in the past.  The changes will also allow a better presentation in the Journal than has been possible in the past as there will be more time to concentrate on its preparation and it will, hopefully include photographs and off-set surveys to make it a more saleable product in line with other clubs.  Apart from essential Club notices and other news the Journal will be exactly what it claims to be - a Journal.

The Editor will retain the right of selection of the material submitted but obviously any important news will find its way into the general issue of the B.B. in précis form with the fully detailed article eventually published in the Journal itself.

There are times when material runs short and issues have to be produced in a bi-monthly form (as with this issue) as has happened, so often in the past when material has just not been sent in for publication.  A quarterly publication primarily for caving material gives time for an accumulation of material to be gathered and allows the Editor to give a better balance. Further, it will save the Club about £20 a year on postage on the Club exchanges with other organisations we rarely get monthly exchanges - and those that issue on a monthly basis tend to send out their copies on a quarterly basis to save postal expenses.  If you have any views on the change then come along to the AGM and air them or send a letter top the Editor for publication.

For the first time since becoming Editor of the B.B., I have to say there is no material in the stockpile - so get your pens to paper and send in your trip reports; surveys; reports on digs; holidays; technical notes; the Bulletin/Journal combination allows a greater flexibility for material of all kinds.

‘Wig’


 

The B.E.C. Get Everywhere Part II - Florida

Continuing his tales of his world travels with the Royal Navy, Trev Hughes in addition to being a keen caver, smasher of the Belfry (1) and a well oiled beer drinker at the Hunters Lodge is also a keen sub-aqua man

Having enjoyed a rather alcoholic and gastronomic Christmas at the Belfry, HSM Bulwark's remaining few days in Pompey Harbour quickly passed.  Two weeks at sea chasing submarines came and went and the 18th January, saw us tie up alongside Mayport Naval Base, N.E. Florida.

I don't know how well the average BB reader knows Florida but about 2/3 of the State is swampy woodland and the remainder low, sandy, wooded farmland.  The highest point in the state is 345ft above sea level, located in the north of the "Panhandle" - the most north-westerly part of the state.

Being there for five weeks I was keen to try to dive in some of the large springs I knew existed there. A trip to one of the local dive shops produced Ned Deloach's "Diving Guide to Underwater Florida." This is an excellent book listing hundreds of spring, reef and wreck dives.  Nearly half the book's 160 pages contain spring diving information.  I therefore had a start but the next stage prior to diving so fell into my lap it didn't seem true but the story goes like this:

The scene: The Naval Base Officers' Club, an official reception.

The author: Full of rum, in his best blue suit, rather bored.

My boss (a BSAC 1st class diver) comes up to me and says:

"Here’s somebody you'd like to meet"

"Oh?" I thought, doubtfully.

But he was right, it was Commander B.J. McGee the base supply officer and a member of the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI).  After an introduction B.J.'s opening remark was "What are you doing this Saturday, do you fancy a dive?"  ''Where?'' I replied with cautious optimism, for the sea temperature was about 48°F.  "Troy Spring, Branford.  Bring some buddies; I've room for four extra in my minibus."  "This mans really talking" I thought, to myself. "I'll be there" I replied.  So came about me first of my all too few trips to the Branford area to dive in the springs that abound in Florida.

My first visit to Troy, on the west bank of the Suwannee River, was on 26.1.80.  A very rainy day but the vis. in this large 15 x 20 m pool was excellent. A vertical descent to -16m is hollowed by a slope under the overhanging roof to -23m.  The strong water flow issues from 3 low passages and many small holes.  A brief look inside one of these passages at -23m confirmed a way on approximately 1x3m.

We returned to Troy on 29.1.80 with a line, extra lights and backup bottles to investigate further the passage looked at on 26.1.80.  After two days of heavy rain the peaty Suwannee River had backed up into the spring causing the vis. to be reduced to 2m on the surface.  However, my buddy and I descended a shot line to -16m where it was pitch dark and our 10 watt torches gave only a 0.5m long cone of brown light.  We swam on a compass bearing to the cave entrance and eventually found it after many painful encounters with the tree trunks on .the bottom of the spring.  At -19m the vis had suddenly and totally cleared as we met the clear cave water pushing out the dirty river water.  In the low passage we only progressed about 10m to a 5m diameter chamber of -23m as the outward flow was very strong and we wished to avoid decompression, having wasted a lot of bottom time finding the entrance.

A group of four Bulwark divers including myself returned to the area on 7.2 .80 and our first visit was to Orange Grove Sink, a large open sink covered with duckweed.  A class of trainee divers from a nearby dive school had beaten us there and reduced the vis in the daylight area to 6m.  We descended in daylight to -18m and entered the 5x2m bedding which sloped down to -20m and entered into the roof of the "Coliseum".  The Coliseum is a huge underwater chamber 20 x 25m with depths to 30m.  We descended to -26m and explored the boulder floor and walls of this impressive chamber.  The visibility was only limited by the walls of the chamber lit by our torch beams.  We ended up over our no stop time and decompressed in the vertical walled daylight sink.

Limited to -9m to avoid lengthy decompression we turned our attentions to Pencock Spring where a superb cave is entered at -5.5m through a 3m x 1.5m bedding.  This quickly opened up into a large chamber called "The Blue Room" 15m across and filled with a pale blue glow from the sunlight streaming through the slot.  Depths reach -18m where a passage leads to Pothole Sink after 125m and to Olson sink after a further 370m.  However we quickly spotted the large horizontal passage running westwards at -8m: just right for us.  In crystal clear vis we swam westwards for 70m until the first of us reached his air margin, the passage continued for as far as our 10 watt torches could illuminate. We returned slowly looking for fossils in the hard sand bottom and just looking up the beauty, of the Blue Room.

That's the limit, of my dives in the area, I wish I could have done many more, however I'll now attempt to give the reader some ideas of the caves and the local divers.

Cave diving in Florida is practiced by possibly thousands of divers, the prerequisite being a competent open water diver and not, as the CDG, a caver.  The warm water (22°C) large open passages and generally crystal clear vis provide an obvious and sometimes fatal attraction.  The real experts are the Cave Diving section of the National Speleological Society (USS) who run training courses in cave diving (total time approx. 8 days giving 10 divers in 5 different sites).  At the other end of the scale are totally untrained novices or inexperienced open water divers who are tempted into caves and disregard one or both of the two basic cave diving rules, i.e. a continuous guideline and the ⅓ air rule or go deeper than the maximum recommended 130 ft.

The accident figures for Florida Cave Diving are somewhat alarming; since 1960 more than 150 cave divers have drowned, 1974 was a particularly black year with 26 deaths. Thanks to the efforts of the NSS these figures have now reduced to about 8 per year despite increased activity in this sport.  During our stay there has been one death, on 27 January, when a diver drowned in the 12 m tunnel between Pencock Spring and Pothole Sink.

Enough about accidents and onto the gear used by the American cave divers.  A normal 80cuft bottle back packed with either a Y shaped pillar valve and two regulators or a normal pillar valve and octopus rig are most commonly used for shorter dives.  One valve has a longer hose for ease of air sharing in emergency.  Very- deep and/or very long dives mean more air and twin 100cuft cylinders are often used.  With a twinset a dual valve manifold is used - this configuration enables 2 independent 1st stage reducers to be used supplied from either or both bottles.

Buoyancy Compensators are universally used and enable a diver to keep in mid or upper water in a passage to avoid stirring up any silt from the bottom.  The designs used allow a head down, feet up position for ease of motion.

The standard diver’s line used in Florida is white braided nylon of about 1/16-1/8" diameter.  This size of line has sufficient strength and is the most easily seen.  The line reels used in the area make some English reels look positively archaic. They are not made commercially but by private individuals and can cost up to 50 dollars in dive shops.  The design of line reel handles is such that the primary light and the reel can be held and controlled with one hand.  I have made an excellent prototype copy for approximately 50p in about 3 hours using simple workshop tools.  This reel holds more than 500 ft of 3/32" braided nylon and works well. Normally one “team” reel is used by the team leader; every diver, however, carries an emergency backup "splic reel".

Although the primary guidance system is the line the correct type of lighting is essential.  The standard primary light is a rechargeable, waist mounted NiCad pack connected to a hand held 30 watt lamp.  For backup lighting at least two other lights should be carried. The first (and last) appearance of my twin helmet mounted aquaflushes brought on some very amused looks from a pair of local cave divers.

Florida accounts for 17 of the 75 1st magnitude (i.e. 100cuft/sec) springs in the USA and 49 springs of the 2nd magnitude (i.e. 10-100cuft/see).  One of the largest in the world, Silver Springs, has a mean flow of some 500 million galls/day.  Most have extensively developed wave systems feeding them. Depths in excess of 250ft occur in some springs; e.g. Eagles Nest Spring, the distance record is held by Sheck Exley and another diver who started at -90ft in Hornby Spring and surfaces after a mile underwater - at depths of 120ft, in a sink.  The story of this epic reads very similar to our own KMC/Kelch Head dive.

Virtually all the springs and sinks are in very picturesque settings, access is fairly easy and free camping is allowed at a lot of sites - mostly in woodland.  These sites rarely have any facilities apart from a lot of very clear water.  The springs all have a natural channel called a run leading to the river they feed, some are only a few yards long but others some miles (i.e. the Ichetucknee River).  The run at Troy spring is about 150m long and deeper than most at 2-3 m.  It also has the remains of an 1863 steamboat called the Mackson and some huge Alligator Garfish up to 1.5m long (and they will bite!)

There are many dive shops in the area but certification (e.g. BSAC membership) is required to purchase air.  Most have a good range of gear for sale or hire but the specialist cave diving gear e.g. reels and lights are pricy, its far better to design and make your own!

American cave divers are a helpful and friendly bunch; the ones that I met always had time for a yarn or were willing to offer advice.  Despite what might think, holidaying in the states is not that expensive. My own personal feelings are that I can't wait to get back to the area.

Trev Hughes
20.2.80


 

A Lost Cave Site At Cheddar Caves?

‘Wig’

I’ve recently acquired a bromide (real photograph) picture postcard dated 1911 depicting a cave archaeological dig entitled on the picture "DISCY. OF ROMAN COINS ETC. GOUGH’S CAVES CHEDDAR 1911".  The picture is a sepia print and on the back the imprint is 'C.H. Collard, Photo, Cheddar'.

The photograph shows a steeply sloping ground surface with a large rock outcrop on the left.  At the top right there appears to be the lower right corner of a walled enclosure.  At the foot of the slope is an enormous rock arch some 10 - 12 feet wide by some 3ft high. The floor of the excavation shows bones and a skull together with a sieve of shards.  There are seven people in the photo, one lying inside the hole holding a shovel or pack (this appears to be Troup).  Standing above the hole and against the rock outcrop is William Gough and seated above is Herbert Balch with a four or five year old boy sitting on his knee (Stanley Balch?)  The other men in the picture cannot be identified.

Chris Hawkes and I walked the Cliffs between Jacob's Ladder and Great Oone's Hole keeping high up the cliff but could find nothing like the outcrop in the photograph and so a search will be made down the middle and lower reaches in the near future.  The only written record we've been able to find is a single sentence in the Somerset Archaeological Transactions for 1911 recording the fact that coins had been found at Gough's Cave, Cheddar.

Has anyone seen this card, or heard any details of this site, was it located at the bottom of the Slitter to the west of Gough's Old Cave and the site destroyed when the new buildings were built in 1934?  I'd be grateful to hear from anyone who has a similar card or has any information that might lead to the rediscovery of the site for it looks like a potential cave dig!


 

Link Pot; Easegill; Casterton Fell

by Dave Metcalfe

For the first trip of 1980, we decided to visit Link Pot, not as a back door to Pippikin or as a side door to Lancaster Hole but as a pot in its own right.

From Lancaster Hole the way is now well trodden through the heather down to the steep sides of Easegill. The excavated entrance can hardly be missed and the ladder can be belayed directly to a scaffold pole to hang down a narrow parallel, fluted shaft.  There is no wide part or easy way down.  All but fatties or well endowed ladies should have little trouble here. After about 20' the shaft widens to more convenient proportions and the landing is made in a rift only a step away from an impressive square section passage - Hilton Hall.

The main way on from here is a less than obvious narrow rift downstream the left hand wall.  An easy squeeze through this and upwards leads into the Bypass Route, a muddy passage (it should be said at this point that anyone with a morbid fear of mud should turn back here as there is no shortage of the stuff until the main streamway is reached).  The passage continues at stooping or crawling height past an obvious branch to the left which leads through various stages of purgatory to Pippikin. Shortly after this, Night Shift Chamber is reached, with the exit down to the main route.  Down the slope to the left and under a trickle of water into a crawl, which quickly enlarges into a walking passage involving some traversing over a dry muddy trench in the floor.  The tunnel gradually enlarges until China Dog Chamber is reached. Hopefully the delightful stalagmite which gives this chamber its name will withstand the passage of clumsy cavers. Incidentally I would like to point out to anyone following this route through the pot using the survey from the NPC Journal 1979 should not take it too literally - it contains some notable inaccuracies.

A pitch out of China Dog Chamber reaches the canyon after a 25' climb. A small stream emits from Tigers Inlet, which cannot be free climbed from below.  So this passage must be reached by a slippery traverse directly out of China Dog Chamber, above the Canyon.  At the end of the traverse, a handy chain is in position to assist the awkward little drop into Tigers Inlet.  The Inlet meanders upstream until a complex little chamber is reached (not shown on survey).  From here several routes radiate, one leading back to Tigers Inlet, while another leads via a twisting passage to Handpump Mall.  The main way is gained by following the left hand wall of the chamber, to an obvious passage quickly leading to a junction with a small cairn. This however is not Cairn Junction, and turning right here soon leads to a diversification of routes at a large cairn. This is Cairn Junction where the right hand route should be followed down Death Row past four small stalagmites. Shortly after these the left branch of the passages leads torturously over large muddy cobbles in a low bedding plain, eventually emerging in a crawl to a junction.  Bearing right here the main route is easily followed finally emerging in a large bedding passage where, to the right, the tantalising roar of a large stream can be heard.

The bedding plane emerges abruptly at the lip of a wide pit, intersected on the far side by a clean washed stream trench with plenty of nice clean cool water cascading 20' into a pool. At this point personnel and tackle will all be well plastered with that wonderful reddish brown substance - not for long!  An easy traverse around the right hand lip of the pit crosses the stream trench and gains an easy climb down to the bottom of the waterfall.  (The survey pitch lengths should be ignored here).  A rope is useful for this climb but is not essential. Downstream the water plunges on into a big shaft, where the furthest of two bolt belays provides the best hang for the 70' pitch.  It is an exhilarating climb as the ladder hangs down the full force of the fall for the first 20’ with a sharp pinnacle hidden underwater to trap the unwary. The fall then strikes a ledge and diffuses into a larger rift.  An almost dry hang is possible by positioning the ladder over a projection.  At the bottom the rift is well lashed with spray, and it is not a place to hang about for long.  The last pitch follows immediately - an easy 20' scramble down a cascade where a ladder is probable more useful than a rope.  The landing is a wide pool with a spout entering about 25' up.

Now begins the low march down stream passing several good formations until Cobble Inlet enters on the right.  From here boulder obstacles become more frequent until the stream disappears completely for a short section.  Soon after this the roof begins to lower and crawling over shingle and in the stream leads to the sump.

Tackle: - Entrance: - 50' Ladder, Sling belay

Mainstream Passage :-1st - 30' Rope;   2nd - 70' Ladder, Krab Belay;   3rd - 25' Ladder, Sling Belay


 

Lifeline

by Hon Secretary Tim Large

April already - soon be the dinner again.  This year we shall be back at the Caveman in Cheddar.  Within the next couple of months we should be able to publish a menu. Don't be surprised if the price goes up compared with last year.  Besides the naturally rising prices we have also used up any dinner reserves that have subsidised it for the past couple of years.  Do you want any entertainment? - if so any suggestions would be mush appreciated.

A new supply of sweat-shirts is being ordered similar to the previous issue.  If you would like one or maybe even two send money with order to John Dukes, 'Bridge Farm' Dulcote, Nr. Wells, Somerset.  Price £6 each.  Don't forget to state chest size.

Recently a group of lads were given permission to stay at the Belfry.  But they were unsupervised and no members were present.  If you do invite guests to the Belfry please ensure that at least one member is present particularly if they are youngsters. This of course does not apply to our regular visitors whom we know well.

On Mendip recently has been Colin Priddle (The Pope) and his wife Jan.  Colin went down Cuthbert’s for the first time in six years.  Let’s hope its not six years before we see them again.

Last month the Belfry improvement plans were published.  It is hoped to finalise these early in May and modify the ground floor area before the winter.  Even though we have allocated money towards this and raised funds by raffles, the finances will be tight.  I expect many of you may have odd things lying around in the attic or garden shed not doing anything.  Any donations would be much appreciated.  Such items that spring to mind are - shower taps etc, timber, floor tiles etc, paint. In fact anything you consider might be useful bearing in mind the work involved.

AROUND THE DIGS

Manor Farm: - Ian (Wormhole) Caldwell and (Quiet) John Watson are renewing work in the rift near the end of NHASA Gallery.  Progress is good in soft mud.  The only problem is removing it along the passage.

Tyning’s Barrow Swallet:- Some work has been done at several points:-

1.                  'Shit in the eye' Inlet: -  So called from its muddy aspect and the fact that Tony Jarratt suffered with the said eye problem.  At the end of this passage were several large boulders together with an abundance of liquid mud.  The boulders were removed to reveal a 10' aven only to be stopped again by more precariously perched rocks.

2.                  Berties Paradise: - Has received attention at two points.  One is a very tight tube with an S bend which may produce something if enlarged.  The other is a rift in the roof of the chamber from which issues a heavy drip. This was climbed by Quackers and followed for about 50' and is still going.  Another visit is planned.  The end of the cave is also planned to be attacked in the near future.

Cuthbert’s: - Always a good place for finding new passage.  If the weather holds this summer sump 2 will be persuaded to reveal its secrets.

Sludge Pit: - Stu Lindsay is digging the sump.  At present shot holes are being drilled with a kango, hoping to raise the roof of the sump.

Nine Barrows: - The choke at the end of Crystal Chamber is being dug and looks promising.

Wigmore: - Our official club dig - not receiving as much attention as it deserves - but well worth a visit (dig) if you have a spare few hours - go see what you can find.

Some members have recently started climbing.  If you are interested contact Quackers alias Michael Duck at the Belfry.


 

B.B.E.E.C.C.

Bigger Better Enormous Extensions in Cheddar Caves

An article by Chris Bradshaw

As has already been reported in the B.B., Cheddar Caves in general and Gough's in particular, are being attacked by a motley crew of Belfryites and assorted foreigners. Access is restricted to the times the cave is open to the public, and is limited to working parties only (definitely no tourist trips!) and enquiries should be directed to Martin Bishop.

Work started some months ago, but has gained momentum through March, April and May, with groups going in both at weekends and alternate Wednesday afternoons.  The first site, in Gough's, was at the back of 'King Solomon’s Temple', where a small rift, about 15' deep to a hard mud floor was found.  Digging was firstly halted by some helictites, and has now been abandoned for the moment, as there seems to be a good chance that the rift is only an oxbow back into another part of the same chamber.

After this episode, the diggers found themselves following two separate interests.  One group, the ones who like to get themselves wet and soggy on the outside, are digging the resurgence pool.  They have so far only managed to discover the interesting principal that the law of gravity still applies to large boulders underwater, and when one removes what is supporting them, they have a nasty habit of dropping on the next diver along!  Their excavation is about 15' deep at the beginning of May.

The other group is comprised of those who believe they should only get their necks wet on the inside, and then not with water.  At an early stage it was thought that the most promising passage was that to the north of 'Sand Chamber', ending in a precarious boulder choke.  In fact the first time we visited it, an anvil shaped "enrie" of several hundredweight "spoke" to Quackers while he was under it!  This gave us considerable incentive to find somewhere else, but after a number of trial ‘prods’ in other parts of the cave, we had to accept the inevitable and start on the boulders.

The choke can be entered by an awkward chamber on the left of the passage, leading to a chamber about 20' x 15', with some good curtains and other stal.  Overhanging is a wedged boulder, about 15' x 8' x 8'!  The thin man team could then go past the "Speaking Enrie", through a horizontal slot between two boulders at a high level.  The upper one appearing to have no means of support on one side, and weighing rather a lot, did not exactly inspire confidence!  However several sessions were given to digging under boulders beyond, by three intrepid cowards in the group, which gave access to a gruesome right-angled squeeze.  Tim Large was pushed through this, to find two alternate high level dig sites, draughting and with clean washed rocks.  As all looked good we left Tim to play and went for a wander and a quick fag. When we came back a couple of hours later, we found Tim still in the boulders, sounding very excited.  He had been prodding in the roof when there was a sudden shower of sh__ which filled the squeeze with him on the other side, and the passage was too tight for him to turn and dig it out!  Fiona, who had been in the adjoining chamber listening for any problem, had decided that a walk through the cave with Martin Grass held far more attractions than getting muddy with Tim.  A unanimous decision was made that Chris Bradshaw was the only skinny one (and one mug enough) to dig out the squeeze for a second time, so after a 'dead man's footshake', the only part of Tim’s anatomy that could get through the remaining gap, he was dug out in another hour.

After this episode it was obvious that no one wanted to continue to dig this way, and that there was increasing instability in the boulders.  After much debate it was decided by majority, that the best way to continue would be to bang out the talking "Enrie" and its adjacent squeeze.  This should give a safer means of access to space against the (assumed) roof and a passage blasted over the top of the boulders by banging from above to drop them. This would gain access to Tim’s two dig sites.  Well, that's the theory!

On Wednesday 7th May the approach passage and chamber in the boulders was resurveyed, and it was found that the side walls of the latter were in fact pointing 40 degrees further west than is shown on the Stanton 1965 survey.  This places it aiming directly at, and 500' from Cooper's Hole, and on the same line as 'Far Rift' in Gough's.  When the first 1lb charge was set off that day, it was clearly heard in Coopers, and fumes disappeared into the boulders.  Further bangs will be required to regain the 30' of passage we have now lost! We hope that the next time Tim examines the rock after banging they don't take revenge and jump at his right ear.

On Saturday 10th May, Tim climbed the aven just before 'Thynne Squeeze' in Coopers, to find that it had apparently not been looked at before, and an open passage can be seen, through easy digging up a 30 degree slope.  That's the other theory!

POSTSCRIPT: Sunday 11th May, a digging trip in Coopers aven was aided by a 20' ladder borrowed from Gough's Cave.  The fill at the top is comprised of stal covered pebbles & grit, with moonmilk & tuffa. This was dug out to get at a small cavity surrounded by stal covered rocks, at the start of what is apparently a draughting boulder ruckle, 30' above 'Thynne Squeeze', and 110' below Soldiers Hole.

 

Work continues………..all over the place, so bring your buckets and spades to the dinner this year!


 

Mendip Rescue Organisation

Report by Hon. Secretary and Treasure for the year ending 31st January 1980

Last summer, Mr. Kenneth Steele, the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset retired after many years in the region.  We remember him in particular when he was in charge of the old Somerset Police Force as the caving community owes him much for his personal interest and support of the MRO over the past 25 years.  He was one of three Chief Constables who met to further the links among Police, Mountain and Cave Rescue groups throughout the country.  MRO was one of the first to receive insurance cover whilst underground on rescues as a. result of his foresight.  This model is now used by all Search and Rescue Teams associated with the Mountain Rescue Committee. We thank Mr. Steele for all this and wish him well.

The new Chief Constable, Mr. Brian Weigh, has already been extremely helpful to us and so the welcome tradition of close support between the Police and MRO continues.  On Mendip, this is reflected by the interest taken in cave rescue work by those at divisional control to the patrols at the scene. Superintendent John Lee at Frome has given us much advise and practical help over the years for which I am very grateful.  When the call-out system transfers to Yeovil shortly, we hope that his particular help over communications will continue.  One of the last activities of the year was to show Inspector Rod Deane and five of his colleagues from Wells around top Swildons.  And they want to go again!

Another stalwart to leave the area was Tim Reynolds.  Apart from influencing the many sides of caving here and throughout the country over several years, whilst an MRO warden Tim did much where it matters at some very serious incident - so he was always a great help to me as a neighbour here in Wookey Hole.  Dr. Tim Lyons also left the area to take a new hospital post and we thank him, too, for making himself available for calls whilst on Mendip.

New automatic pumps installed by Bristol Waterworks upstream of Longwood and Swildons Hole led to most wardens being taken on a guided tour of the former by Paul Hodge, Sources Engineer. He has taken a keen interest in the work of local caver and we thank him for contingency plans to reduce stream flows at both sites when necessary.  These have already proved to be effective on actual callouts.  Another get together of wardens and other MRO cavers was in Manor Farm Swallet when a useful practice with David Mager's improved stretcher was held hauling out Albert Francis from the bottom of Curtain Chamber to the surface. Albert has now been our standard patient on several practices.  He tells us what to do!

The Mager stretcher, as we now call it, also impressed delegates at the Annual Conference of the South West England Rescue Association in November.  This regional Mountain Rescue Committee includes the RAF, Coastguards and the Police as well as moor, mine, cliff and cave rescuers.  So, it is a good one to exchange ideas, especially on equipment.  It is fortunate to be informally organised with good sense and humour by Fred Barlow from Okehampton.  Apart from seeming to be a chunk of Dartmoor, Fred is a 'Devon Speleo' and claims to have been won to caving from climbing by Oliver Lloyd here on Mendip.

We continue to be fortunate in supplies of equipment from interested cavers.  These range from specially designed carrying bags made-up by David Mager, a wind fall of Nife cells from the Avon County Fire Brigade with help from Adrian Vanderplank, bronze descendeurs donated by Bob Drake and a couple of semi-water-proof polythene suits from Tim Large.  Also we are very fortunate in the generous and prompt help always given by Rocksport in supplying MRO with a variety of equipment and ropes in particular.

Brian Prewer as Equipment Officer keeps all this up-to-scratch and has also worked hard to secure both the instruments and information for MRO to operate a private radio service during rescues.  A basic system has been installed and sanctioned by the Home Office.  It will be available for use as soon as we receive the official licence from London.  In developing and installing this equipment, we are most fortunate for practical encouragement by John Eley, local representative for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and, especially, for the expert work and support given by Eric Dunford.  He has acquired much of the equipment for us, installed it and advised us on the procedures to be followed.  Alan Mills provided and helped to fix the base station mast from which the MRO will be able to go on the air.

All this has led to the greatest volume of correspondence ever.  None would be possible without the practical and financial help for MRO is entirely a voluntary body which relies upon donations.  On the practical side we must thank Charles Bryant for his hard work and unique information about old mines in the Brendon Hills which will be published elsewhere.  The record income from donations is shown on the accounts which accompany this report. It should be added that two-thirds of this handsome income has come through appropriate fund raising by wardens including the raffling of a rucksack donated following a rescue.  Also, the caving community through MRO received a bequest which has both its poignant and propitious sides to us on Mendip.

This report should highlight the principle of voluntary self-help that is the tradition of cave rescue work on Mendip. Our preparations are best judged by practice, of course, which was no better evident than at the difficult Thrupe Lane Swallet rescue in November.  Perhaps Nigel Kermode who was so badly hurt there will allow me to end this report to fellow cavers on Mendip with his appreciation of their efforts.  “Since my life was dependant on the rescue operation, my thanks cannot express fully the gratitude I feel for those who saved me.”

J.D. Hanwell, Secretary & Treasurer MRO.


 

Cave Rescues and Incidents for the year ending 31st January 1980

There were eight calls during the year.  Six were potentially serious which is more than in any other year throughout the seventies.  A general observation must be that several involved parties made up of relatively experienced and well equipped cavers with comparative beginners who were less suitably clad for the trip undertaken.  This works on many occasions; but, should conditions take an unanticipated turn for the worse underground, the beginners need extra help which has not been expected.

The danger has been spelt out by an experienced caver whose club relies on grant support for its activities.  He says that such clubs "have a problem that they do not have much time to introduce people to caving but giving total novices a chance to cave is one of the main ways we justify our existence to granting bodies!"  Please note that the exclamation is his.

The following accounts which are based upon the reports written at the time by wardens concerned will tell their own stories.

Thursday 8th March 1979  Swildons Hole

An outdoors activities group from a large government establishment in Taunton went, down the cave in the evening led by Graham Burgess and Robert Morgan.  Several members of the party were inexperienced and lightly clad but no lifeline was used on the 20' pot.  As a result, Mrs. Penny Baily, aged 30 from Chard fell from the top of the pitch and injured her back.

The alarm was given to Mrs. H. Main at Soloman Combe Farm.  She alerted the Police and then informed Alan Thomas nearby at 2100 hours. Whilst Alan made his way to Priddy Green to organise the first party of rescuers, the Police contacted Brian Prewer who informed Dr. Don Thompson.  Dany Bradshaw and Bob Cork went to assess the situation and encouraging news soon returned that Mrs. Baily would be able to help herself.  Trevor Hughes and a fellow Royal Navy Instructor took down the hauling rope whilst Fred Davies carried a goon suit with some dry clothes and Martin Bishop organised a support party of five.  With their help Mrs. Baily climbed the pitch and was assisted out of the cave by 2300 hours.

As some back injury was suspected, she was advised to seek medical attention as soon as possible once home.  Later, it was diagnosed that she had sustained a crushed vertebrae and needed hospital treatment.  In the circumstances, therefore, Mrs. Baily did particularly well to help herself once the rescuers had arrived.

Sunday 22nd April 1979  Longwood Swallet

Miss Julie Smith, aged 18 from Keysham, went down the cave with seven others and Alan Mills.  On reaching 'Great Chamber', she became faint and fitfully passed out.  Alan Mills speedily left the cave to summon help through the Police.

William Stanton was alerted at 1605 pours and advised Alan to return underground to keep the girl as warm as possible until others arrived.  He then raised a party from the Belfry with comforts and hauling gear led by Tim Large.  Dr. Don Thompson was informed and he stood by the Reviva in case of hypothermia. Bristol Water Works Company was advised of the incident although there was no immediate danger from the stream. The Police sent a patrol car to Lower Farm to relay messages and Mr. and Mrs. R.S. Trim there kindly provided hospitality to everybody.

Tim Large's party was able to give Alan Mills assistance in helping the girl after she had been refreshed with hot soup.  It appears that she may have exhausted herself due to lack of food before going underground.  The rescue finished at about 1700hors.

Monday 2nd July 1972    Combe Down Stone Mines

Brian Prewer was contacted by Bath Police via Frome at 1015 hours with news of a missing person down the mines.  Mr. Bernard, Landlord of the Hadley Arms, had raised the alarm.  Apparently, he and five others had gone down the mines with hand torches about midnight starting Monday 2nd July.  They had lost contact with one of the party, Nicholas Champion, aged 23.  A search later in the morning had been fruitless.

Brian Prewer alerted a party comprising Bob Scammel, Keith Newberry, Alison Hooper, Dave Turner, Rex Emery and John Richardson.  They went down the mine about 1115 hours with Dave Walker standing-by at the surface. Meanwhile, Brian with Tim Large and Jim Hanwell made their way to Bath with full MRO equipment.  They alerted Don Thompson and Mike Palmer agreed to raise a party in Wells if needed later.  Brian Woodward was contacted in Bath and all met at the site about 1230 hours with the Police.

Champion was fortuitously found and brought to the surface by 1310 hours after some 13 hours alone. He was cold, tired and only had a feeble glow left from his torch; otherwise he was in good shape.  It is tempting to regard this as a fair case of being stoned-out in a mine!

Sunday 16th September 1979      Swildons Hole

Brian Prewer was contacted by Frome Police at 1600 hours.  A girl was reported stuck in the entrance series at the bottom of Kenny's Dig with a dislocated knee.  Martin Rowe, the informant at Priddy, could not give any further details so Brian alerted Tim Large at the Belfry to form a small rescue party.

At 1638 hours, the Frome Police reported that all were safely out of the cave and that the girl's injuries were minor.  The rescuers met the party concerned just inside the entrance.  The cavers concerned were given as members of Kingston Polytechnic Caving Club.

Sunday 17th November 1979    Thrupe Lane Swallet

Three friends, Colin Gibson, Kevin Senior and Nigel Kermode, who had graduated from Southampton University the previous summer and had been members of its caving club, re-met for a private trip down the cave.  Fortunately, all three were well equipped and fit.  They entered the cave at 1320 hours and took two hours to reach Atlas Pot.  Here, they tackled the longer wet pitch by mistake and, owing to the noise and some confusion over life-line signals, Nigel Kermode the first man down fell the last 20' of the climb from the bottom of the ladder.  Senior descended to find Kermode in great distress and Gibson left the cave to call the MRO.  The accident happened at about 1530 hours and it was subsequently found that Nigel Kermode had sustained a fractured skull and pelvis with broken wrist and bone in palm of one hand.

William Stanton was the first warden contacted by the Police at 1610 hours.  He got in touch with Mr. and Mrs. Butt at Thrupe Farm and was told that Simon Meade King who was digging near-by would go down to give assistance. By 1615 hours, Brian Prewer had been alerted and a full scale callout was initiated.  Dave Irwin and Chris Batstone organised the surface arrangements and equipment from the store.  Alan Mills and Graham Nye hurried after Simon Meade-King as runners and were followed by Dr. Don Thompson, Fred Davies and Ray Mansfield with medical equipment. Meanwhile, calls were made to assemble three separate carrying parties with Martin Bishop, Tim Large and Brian Woodman respectively.  These parties eventually included Ken James, Ian Caldwell, Graham Wilton-Jones, Martin Grass, John Dukes, D. Horsewell, T. Mintram, Chris Bradshaw, Bruce Bedford, Steve Gough, Richard West, Phil Romford, Steve Tuck.  Brian Prewer and Albert Hill laid a telephone line from the farm as far as 'Marble Chamber'.

Ray Mansfield soon came out to advise on the seriousness of the injuries and the need to enlarge the crawls if possible.  He returned underground with Dave Turner and Brian Workman whilst Gary Cullen and, Richard Whitcombe went to dig open the crawls and Colin and Clare Williams cleared stones to stabilize the slopes of the entrance rifts.  The Reviva was taken down by Chris Foster and John Kettle. Martin Bishop followed with a party of five to undertake hauling on Atlas Pot.

Jim Hanwell brought MRO emergency foods from the Belfry which Mr. and Mrs. Butt and family kindly agreed to prepare.  Indeed their home was a most welcome and friendly open door throughout the night, for which all concerned are very grateful.  Hanwell returned, to Priddy later to stand-by cavers there as it seemed likely, that the operation would continue well into Monday.  Offers of help were kindly given by a number of local people who had done little caving on Mendip.

At 2018 hours, Martin Grass surfaced with Kevin Senior of the original Southampton trio who seemed to be in reasonable shape.  The former then returned underground with Steve Woolven carrying comforts requested by the hauling parties.  Reports came out that Nigel Kermode was being hauled up Atlas Pot at about 2200 hours and a lengthy carry into Monday was confirmed.  At this point Tim Large's team entered the cave to take over from Martin Bishop's party where appropriate.  Brian Woodwards group followed about an hour later to do the hauling on Perseverance Pot.  In view of the injuries and length of carry anticipated, it was agreed to request medical back-up from Doctor's Michael Glanville and Nigel Mizrahi.  Both responded and arrived at 2343 and 0135 hours respectively.

Michael Glanville was accompanied underground by Pauline Gough just after midnight.  About then, it was reported that the patient had arrived in Marble Chamber and had been given warm air from the Reviva.  Further soda lime was requested and taken down by Dave Walker.  Nigel Taylor who had just joined the rescuers from work, agreed to drive to Priddy for a CO2 adaptor.  At 0200 hours, Nigel Mizrahi went underground to relieve Don Thompson and Michael Glanville when it was reported that the casualty was nearing the bottom of Perseverance Pot.  When Dr. Thompson arrived at the surface at 0217 hours, he telephoned the hospital in Bath to advise them of the patient’s injuries and condition.  The local ambulance was then alerted.  At 0415 hours Nigel Kermode was brought to the surface and left for hospital by about 0430 hours, some 13 hours after the accident happened.

This was the most serious and prolonged rescue dealt with by the MRO for many years.  It was made the more difficult because it was the first incident in the awkward Thrupe Lane system.  It is, therefore, worth recording the carrying times for the various stages of the hauling started from the bottom of Atlas Pot: to Marble Chamber, about 3 hours; then to the top of Perseverance Pot; about 2 hours and, lastly, to the entrance another 12 hours.  In addition to a carry lasting over 6 hours, another problem in such constricted system is to plan the exchange of essential relief parties when it is difficult for one to pass the other.  As hauling up Perseverance Pot is best done from the bottom of the pitch, for example, unless an exchange occurs below, the relieved party is effectively blocked from overtaking and unable to get out for another hour or so, behind everyone else.

Apart from hearing that Nigel Kermode was making good progress from his injuries, perhaps the most rewarding feature for the many Mendip cavers wholeheartedly involved throughout the night was to be so warmly; thanked by all concerned, particularly his parents and fellow cavers at Southampton University.  Nigel himself has also written later to say that he is now well enough to be back at work. He is full of praise for the rescuers efforts made on his behalf and wishes to thank all concerned.

Saturday 24th November 1979    Manor Farm Swallet

A Cambridge University Caving Club party consisting of Jeremy Drummond, Hibbert, David Flatt, Robert Kingston, Duncan Howslay and Heather Wall were on the way out from a trip to the bottom of the cave.  Heather Wall was particularly tired and, on climbing the ladder up the entrance shaft, she fell off from about 25 - 30 feet up.  No life-line was available.  Another member of the party standing at the bottom of the shaft was able to break her fall without further injury occurring to either one.  This is a rare case of two wrongs turning into a right!  Apart from a cut chin and feeling very shaken, Heather was otherwise not badly hurt.

Members of the party already up the pitch raised the alarm to Frome Police.  Dave Irwin was alerted and contacted a rescue group from the Belfry at about 1755 hours led by Chris Batstone and Tim Large.  This team included Trevor Hughes, Ross White, Tony Jarratt, Dave Glover, Simon Woodman and Garth Dell.

The injured student was strapped into a Whillians Sit Harness and quickly hauled up the shaft by 1840 hours.  A Police patrol car then took her to the Cottage Hospital, Wells, for a check-up and stitches for the cut chin.  After an overnight stay for observation, she was discharged on Sunday morning.

This incident could so easily have been prevented had a lifeline been used.  Those concerned admitted that they had not even bothered to take one along.

9th December 1979    Swildon's Hole

An Oxford University Cave Club party with several beginners went down the cave about 1430 hours.  One of the novices without good protective clothing for a very wet trip was 19 year old Martin John Vickers from Birkenhead.  Although the stream was running quite high and the weather turned in rather wet later, the party went beyond the 20' pot.  When the water began to rise following heavy rain, they started to retreat but Vickers Got into difficulty at the pitch as he was very wet and cold by then.  Other members then surfaced to call MRO out, via Frome Police.  Dave Irwin was informed and organised a rescue team with hauling gear, hot soups and medical equipment if needed.  As Dr. Don Thompson was unavailable, Dr. Michael Glanville was contacted and he made his way to Priddy.  Bristol Waterworks Company was advised of the incident and the flooding risk in view of the continuing rain.  They quickly responded by turning on their pumps upstream and the effect on the water going into the cave was soon noticed.

The rescue party was led by Tim Large and was able to assist Martin Vickers out of the cave by 2045 hours. He was examined by Dr. Michael Glanville and it was found that he was a known sufferer from asthma.  However, this was not known by his fellow cavers beforehand and may help to explain the distress he experienced when the conditions worsened underground.

Cavers with such disabilities that might flair up underground ought to their colleagues know, especially in the event of a rescue which may require use of emergency medication.

Thursday 27th December 1979    Swildons Hole

Four former pupils of St. Edwards School, Oxford, went down the cave about 1730 hours intending to visit the Black Hole.  They had travelled to Mendip earlier in the day; hoped to be out of the cave by about 2300 hours and had arranged to stay at the Mendip Caving Group Hut, Nordrach, afterwards.  However, none of this was known to anyone on Mendip at the time for they had left word with someone in Oxford that they would telephone them on getting out of the cave.

The party consisted of Edward Taylor, aged 25 from Leicester, Adam and Ben Williams, aged 19 and 18 from Oxford and Philip Cash aged 18, from Daventry.  All were ell equipped and apparently experienced but they were not members of a caving club.

Heavy rain followed by quickly melting snow set in during the evening.  At about 2030 hours, Tim Large and a group from the Belfry went to the entrance and found water flowing into the blockhouse.  The stream was still rising.  Noting a blue Ford Cortina parked at Manor Farm, they alerted Brian Prewer about ten minutes later.  It was agreed that Tim would make a quick search of the streamway before the water became too high if no one surfaced earlier.  Brian Prewer informed the Police then stood by Jim Hanwell and Dave Irwin.  Other local cavers were asked to be ready if called out later.  Bristol Water Works were contacted and Paul Hodge, Sources Engineer, came to Priddy.  Unfortunately, however, their pump-house was flooded and the pumps were out of action. By this time, the worst of the storm had passed so Tim Large, Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork and Michael Duck entered the cave about 2230 hours with comforts and basic hauling Gear.

The search party found the missing four making their way up the 8' in good shape.  All were safely out of the cave by 2330 hours. Apparently they had become aware of rising water beyond sump 1 and so had turned back.  On reaching the waterfall at the 8' they found it impassable and so had waited about 2 hours below for the flood to pass.  As it abated the search party arrived.

With the increase in the number of cavers making flying visits to Mendip from far a field, yet not making contact with locally based clubs, the problem of leaving information about trips with the appropriate people becomes more acute.  In this case, for instance, one wonders what the contact in Oxford would have done had the party not phoned by about midnight, one hour after the estimated time out.  This is the worst time to raise a rescue party quickly of course.

Another problem of the flying visit is to get a picture of what the weather is and has been doing on Mendip compared with other areas of the country.  By 27th December 1979, the ground was fully saturated and it had already been the wettest December since 1965 owing to very wet days on 5th, 9th, 13th, 14th and 18th.  On 27th in fact, a 100 millimetre storm caused serious flooding in south east Somerset and 51mm fell at Priddy.  Just as the party went underground the rain became particularly intense.  The storm has claimed to be the heaviest of the decade over the area as a whole. Thus, it is of interest that cavers in Swildon's Hole were able to detect rising water beyond Sump 1 and were capable of sitting out the event for the critical 2 hours that it took for the flood peak to pass.

All cavers are urged to note that, after 1st April 1980, re-organisation of the Police Divisions in Avon and Somerset will mean that Emergency 999 calls for Cave Rescue and Cliff Rescue will go to Yeovil rather than Frome as at present.  Ordinary calls should be made to Yeovil 5291 asking for the Control Room. From some locations on western Mendip, such calls may also go to Bristol and Taunton.  The same procedures must be used to alert MRO.

In these circumstances it is even more important that everyone contacting MRO through the Police must:-

  1. Give precise information about an incident.
  2. Give exact instructions of where they can be contacted by telephone and
  3. Remain at that telephone until spoken to directly by an MRO warden.

The last point is particularly important, of course, for a rescue action to be successful.

J. D. Hanwell
Hon. Secretary & Treasurer MRO
1st March 1980

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

Just a reminder to everyone

M.R.O.   IN THE EVENT OF AN ACCIDENT  DIAL 999.  ASK FOR POLICE.  THE REQUEST POLICE FOR CAVE RESCUE.  Give details and stay at phone until contacted by Mendip Rescue Organisation

The above information is posted by the entrances to all major cave systems in the area.  The same Emergency Call procedure should also be used for CLIFF RESCUE and all incidents underground in Avon, Somerset and Wiltshire.

In the event of an Emergency Call for both Cave and Cliff rescue services, the Police will contact the first MRO Warden available in the order on their list.  The Warden will call others as required.  Informants must give instructions to the Police on where they can be contacted by telephone and stay there until called by an MRO Warden for all details.

The appropriate Police authority decides jointly with the MRO Wardens alerted what course of action to take.  All helpers should report to the warden in charge so that a full record of the rescue can be compiled.  MRO reports are published annually.

MRO is entirely a voluntary service organised by the Wardens listed below.  All are cavers who live in the area and are members of Mendip clubs. The support of experienced club members and any rescue teams they form important to the work of MRO.  Funds are solely from donations and used only for providing equipment and rescue facilities.

J.D. Hanwell Hon. Sec. MRO

MRO Wardens in order of call: B.E .Prewer, D.J. Irwin, A.R. Thomas, F.J. Davies, T.E. Large, M. Palmer, M.Bishop, J. Dukes, J.D, Hanwell, B. Woodward, N. Taylor, C. Batstone, A. Butcher, R.D. Craig, S. McManus, W.Stanton, P. Franklin, P. Davies, O.C. Lloyd, F. Frost.

Medical Wardens: Dr. D.M.M. Thomson, Dr. P. Glanville, Dr. M. Glanvile, Dr. S. Parker, Dr. R. Everton & Dr. N.Mizrahi


 

The Odd Note

……..Club and general news…….

Charterhouse Caving Committee.

Tim Large is now Hon, Sec. of the C.C.C.  Permits are available at the Belfry.  These are free to members for a three year period and the Temporary Permits now costs 25p each.

Otter Hole

Any member wishing to visit this cave should contact the Caving Sec. Martin Grass.  The RP of DCC have requested that all applications from the Club must be via the Caving Secretary and not direct to them when applying for keys.

Belfry Bookings

In addition to Tim’s note in lifeline the Committee have stated that only known bone fide groups may stay at the Belfry un-attended during the week.

Slide Show

On the 20th September 1980 in the Hunter's Long Room, Paul Deakin will be showing a section of his superb slides.  Members not acquainted with Paul's work should come along to see the show as he's one of the current masters of cave photography.

New Caving Guide

Guide with a difference! 'Speleo Stamps' by J & V Cullen is a catalogue of over 1,000 stamps depicting cave scenes, bats, paintings etc. A 6pp, A4.  Available from Tony Oldham. Price about £2.

Ogof Dydd Byref

N. Wales.  After a decade of negotiations with Tarmac the cave conservationists have finally lost the day and the cave had been capped.

Lionel’s Hole

Diggers have made an 80ft extension above the downstream sump.  Aindy Sparrow will be giving an overall account of the cave, together with a new survey, in the near future.

OFD

Following the inquest on the drowning of the two cavers in December last year the OFD Management Committee have decided to install marker posts at the Confluence, Marble Showers and Maypole Inlet (places where one can leave the streamway) indicating the water flow rates as a guide to cavers on the stream condition.  Secondly they have ruled that all cavers will be kitted in a wet-suit before entering the streamway and there will be no novices.

As many will know, the Columns have been closed to cavers and may only be viewed under strict control. Dates will be published when cavers wishing to see the Columns may join to form a party.

Read’s Grotto

In February Stanton carried out a dye check to establish whether the waster from Read’s entered GB or went its separate way.  Samples taken from the flooded bottom of the cave proved negative.  It would appear that the water from Read’s goes its own way for the time being – there’s plenty of time for it to join GB yet!

Shatter Cave

The terminal choke in Shatter Cave is to be attacked by the CSS and Graham one man band.  Price is to co-ordinate the work

BRCA Meetings

AGM.  Ingleton Community Centre, June 21st.

Annual Conference: Nottingham University, September 20th

Afton Red Rift

Devon.  Access to this cave is now controlled by Pengelly

Box Mines

The owner has complained about the attitude of various cavers crossing his land to the Backdoor Entrance.  Remember courtesy costs nothing, lack of it could mean loss of access.

Lamb Leer

The ladder to Beaumont’s Drive is to replaced with a rope to be used for hauling up individual ropes or ladders


 

The Scilly Isles

The Scilly Isles are not renowned for their large caves but Piper's Hole has been the interest of many cavers for several years for archaeological remains since the land mass there was only flooded a few hundred years ago …..

Piper’s Hole

Tresco ~ Isles of Scilly

Length 270ft.  Vertical Range, 20ft.

Piper’s hole is a sea cave at the north-east corner of the island of Tresco. When approached, the site, at first, appears to be a sea worn inlet in the granite coastline measuring some 20 ft in width and partly filled with boulders.

Climbing down into this inlet, a 5ft drop with a fixed handline, the cave entrance is seen at the top and is roughly 6ft high by 12ft wide.  The height decreases to about 4ft just inside as the boulders in the inlet slope upwards.  For the first 40ft or so the roof is composed of cemented boulders and steadily increases in height.  For the first 25ft the boulder floor also rises, after which it drops by about 6ft so that 40ft into the cave the passage is 14ft high by about 5ft wide.

At it this point the roof becomes solid rock and increases in height quite sharply with one more patch of cemented boulders where it reaches its maximum height.  The floor at this point is fairly level though still consisting of boulders.  It seems as though the water level in the cave may have reached this section at one time and moved the boulders about a bit.

Sixty feet in, the passage reaches a height of about 20ft, begins to veer to the right and starts descending so that daylight penetrates no further.  After another25 ft the "fresh water lake" is reached. There is a metal ring fixed to a boulder by the edge of the water, probably dating from pre-war days when daring tourists were given BDI boat trips across the lake.

As the water is reached the 4ft wide passage suddenly broadens out into a 15ft side by 30ft long and 25ft high chamber.  At the far end of the chamber is an archway, about 15ft high, through which the water continues.  The roof of the chamber has white shiny marks on it which could be either salt or calcite deposits.  The water in the lake is clear although there are numerous pieces of flotsam floating in it and it proves to be brackish, though less salty than sea-water.

Keeping to the right hand side where there is an underwater ledge it is possible to wade across the lake. The deepest point us under the archway where the depth is about 5ft.  Beyond this, the cave widens into another chamber about 40ft long by 20ft wide. The floor is now composed of fine mud or sand and rises so that halfway along the chamber; the lake comes to an end. The fine gravel beach rises steeply for a fee feet and then levels off as it comes to the end of the chamber. Another archway about 5ft high leads on into a third chamber.  Looking back into the second chamber a white deposit can be seen along the walls about 6ft above the water level.  This seems to be at the same level as the flat section of passage near the entrance and possible represents a maximum water level reached in the past.

In the third chamber is another steep (raised?) beach with ripple marks at its top right hand. Water may flow here in winter!  At this point, the walls, roof and floor begin to change their character.

From close to the entrance the walls and certainly the archways, if not the roof, are composed of solid rock but from the third chamber to the end of the cave no slid rock is seen.  The walls and roof now consisting of cemented gravel and the floor of coarse gravel probably broken down from the walls.

At the end of the third chamber another archway leads to a fourth chamber which is hardly more than a passage.  This passage continues for a further 80ft or so, gradually decreasing in size until the end of the cave is reached at about 270ft from the entrance and aboutv20ft above the high tide level.

 

The following is a theory of the possible origins of Piper’s Hole: -

Piper’s Hole probably began as a fault in the granite which, with, changes in sea level, was expanded to form a series of sea arches.  The sea level then changed drastically causing the fault, sea arches and all, to be filled with gravel.

When glaciation occurred, rocks were deposited on the gravels, and became cemented together to form the old beach.  After the ice age, when the seas were at a higher level that at present, the gravels began to erode away.  When the cave had been eroded to its present depth, part of the beach collapsed forming the present storm beach in the inlet.

The level of water in the cave was then 6 or 7ft above its present position.  The sea level then gradually fell to its present level and the water in the cave followed suit but in a spasmodic fashion as holes occasionally created, by storms, in the storm beach.

Ted Humphreys
1 May 1 980


 

Notes from the CSCC:

SSSI Revision. Work on this has continued throughout the year.  All the major cave surveys have been transferred, in outline, to 1:10,000 OS maps; however further work on these, including the drawing up of boundaries, is awaiting guidance from the working group convenor.  Most of the write-ups have been completed but some will need further work to a standardised format.  Only the Banwell and Pinetree Pot descriptions are outstanding.  The Nature Conservancy requires the work to be completed by September 1981.

CAVE CONSERVATION FILM.  Sid Perou has now completed filming work, a certain amount of which was done on Mendip. Wookey Hole and Shatter Cave were filmed.  The film grant aided by the Nature Conservancy through the NCA has been shown in a rough-cut black and white version and David Attenborough has agreed to record the commentary.

CAVE CONSERVATION FUND. At NCA Meetings there has been extensive discussion on the use and administration of this fund being set up with the proceeds of the SSSI Revision. No final decision has been made but certain funds have been made available for the Cave Conservation Film.

SINGING RIVER MINE. A problem existed with this site when three houses were being built in the field and 'No Trespassing' notices put up. However, after discussions with the landowner it was agreed that a pathway would be kept allowing access to the mine.  It is vitally important that the mine entrance gate be locked at all times.

CSCC ACCESS BOOKLET. Chris Hannam has completed the text and publication of the booklet is underway.

BROWN'S FOLLY AND SWAN MINES.  All entrances are being gated and an access agreement is being negotiated with Sir Charles Hobhouse through the Southern Cave Club Company Ltd.  Surveys of these mines have been prepared by 'Wig' and will be published when the agreement is finalised.

CUCKOO CLEEVES. The gate to this cave is closed with 1¼AF bolts which should be tightened down when leaving.  On several occasions they have been only finger tight - please ensure that they are locked tight with a suitable spanner.


 

Access to Surrey Mines

Notes on access to the mines in Surrey…….from the Chelsea Newsletter………..

CARTHOUSE - Access denied by the owners.

MARDEN - Access via 72ft. shaft.  Permanent entrance being constructed, time make sure that the entrance is well hidden from children.

QUARRY HANGERS MINE. Dig in progress

MERSHAM (East of Bellum' s Bank).  Access via 35ft shaft in private grounds.  Access by Unit Two members only.  For information about keys phone 0342-26444.

QUARRY DOWNFARM - Contact Unit Two.

BEDLUM'S BANK No.3. Maybe made a National Monument by D.O.E. Contact Unit Two.

GODSTONE - Arch. Entrance locked.  Contact Unit Two.

GODSTONE - MAIN.  A22 entrance locked by police and Surrey C.C. due to cover being left off.  Key held by Unit Two.  Roman Road Entrance filled in due to vandalism.

Odd Notes

OFD II Piccadilly Chamber was flooded to a depth of 20ft during the Christmas flood.

CHECK all fixed aids in caves for security.

Aggy - reports state that a boulder has moved at the top of the 4th boulder choke and may have blocked the way through.  If you are intending to do the Grand Circle, be prepared to come out the same way.  The report also states that there is bad air at the upper end of Biza Passage.

OFD - Column Hall now gated. Opened six times a year only.

IMPORTANT CLUB NOTICE from John Dukes, the tacklemaster.

ALL 10MM SUPER BRAIDLINE LIFELINES HAVE BEEN DYED BLUE ON THE ENDS OF THE ROPE.

ALL DIGGING ROPES HAVE BEEN DYED BLACK

PLEASE REMEMBER THE IDENTIFICATION COLOURS