Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Article Index


Radio Location At Shepton Mallet

A Cave in Shepton Mallet – well not quite!

For some time ~here had been increasing complaints of Cider and Perry aromas issuing from the River Sheppey and irate citizens were continually calling the Wessex Water Authority who in turn were threatening our well being.  The problem, quite simply was how was Showerings and Coates Gaymer 's trade effluent reaching the river.

Eventually two intrepid employees with no underground experience9 kitted out in one piece waterproof suits and carrying hand lamps were dispatched up the tail race of an old mill under the bottling hall from which we had found that the effluent was running into the river.  They returned foul smelling with a report that the effluent was getting in from drains supposed to be carrying surface water.  Beyond that point the tail race got small enough to deter the pair.

The decision was taken to locate the source of effluent into these drains if possible, to clean out the tail race and to try to effect an entrance close to the problem area, the only present entrance being through a manhole about 100 feet away.  The problem was that we did not know where the tail race was in relation to the surface because all the plans we had were long out of date and known to be inaccurate.

I was then even more of a novice caver than now but I had already heard of Prew and his wonderful gadget. A phone call produced an instant response and in no time at all, a Wednesday evening planning meeting was arranged.  The following Wednesday the push was planned and with a perplexed engineering staff looking on, members of the M.R.O., Fred Davies, Tim Large, Chris Bradshaw donned wetsuits and entered the newly discovered chamber with radio call and telephone whilst Prew, Fiona Lewis and I stayed in comfort above ground.  Then gradually foot by foot the team made their way up the tail race with Prew tracking them above ground.  A bottling hall has a hundred tons of mild steel machinery inconveniently placed in it and this caused some anxiety as to whether the radio waves would bend.

After some time the push was made to the end of the tail race and two positions marked on the floor to dig new manhole entrances.  On their return to the open air – in the middle of a warehouse full of Babycham – the valiant team covered in black, evil smelling deposits, plodded ignominiously to the boiler house showers they showered fully dressed followed by the normal variety and emerged for a well earned drink.

The next step was to call in Luke Devenish who had two attempts to make a quick entrance but three generations of reinforced concrete floor in-filled with gravel contained all safe charges so we had to revert to traditional pneumatic drills.  The entrance complete there then ensued an altercation between Prew and Luke about the depth of the tail race; Luke’s drill being 3ft. shorter than Prew’s measurement.  Eventually it was realised that Prew had been holding his surface coil 3 ft. above the ground.  This resolved, the radio location system proved to be within 3” in depth projection and slap bang in the middle of the tail race.

So for the first time it had been possible to measure physically the depth of the radio-location coil and prove that it was where it ought to be.  This, coupled with the fact that we had a brand new survey of the tail race, a new manhole that enable sludge gulpers and high powered jetting equipment to be lowered to the polluted spot so that rubbish could be removed following the repairs in the drains, meant that the venture was highly successful and who were involved were pleased with the results.

J. Henley