The Journal Of The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

Editor: Robin Gray

Here at last is No 2. Sorry it’s so late but I have been held up over a long article which as you will see is still not here.  I am assured it will be ready for number 3.

I hope you like the new look 1985 cover, as indeed I hope you will like the new look Belfry.  As this is being typed improvements are taking place and the work looks most impressive.

The Easter meet in South Wales suffered somewhat from the almost constant drizzle but some caving was done and much ale consumed.  Those who were there for Friday morning had a splendid trip in Craig a Ffynnon, while Saturday saw trips into OFD and a BEC doing it to excess trip into Agen Allwedd.   High water in the caves prevented long trips in Aggy and Dan-yr-Ogof but a large number of cavers got under ground by visiting Big Pit Mining Museum.

At present plans are being made to lay air pipes down to sump 2 in Cuthbert’s in order to have yet another go at getting the water low enough.  Fingers crossed for the big push.

Many thanks to those who have sent in articles for the BB.  However, we still need more!  Can I remind older members that articles which look back to days of the BEC gone by are most welcome in this our 50th year.

Last some articles to look forward to……..more from the pen of Bolt talking of his adventures in Alaska and a couple of dig reports…………new finds in Swildons and of course Eastwater.

Good Caving, Robin


Chris Castle Cartoon




Annie Wilton-Jones

Many of you know Annie Wilton-Jones wife of Ian and although feminine must congratulate her for being awarded the title: -


The following article by Alan Rusbridger was recently published in one of the upmarket newspapers: -

The Campaign for the Feminine Woman is a very strange outfit indeed.  The December issue of its newsletter awards its £20 first prize to the Feminine Woman of The Year - a Mrs Annie Wilton-Jones from near Abergavenny, who does not have a television because of its “perverted” indoctrination on Woman’s’ Lib and cannot bear for the same reason, to listen to Woman’s Hour. On occasions where she disagrees with her husband she gives way because that is her duty.

While talking of perverted indoctrination, the newsletter also carries a letter from a Mrs AL relating how having scraped the car, she suggested to her husband that he "deal with me later".  Mrs AL adds: ''The knowledge that the matter could be dealt with so as to assuage my guilt and relieve his annoyance by a short spanking allowed us both to relax.


Under The Ice

Ross White, at present on Winter deployment with the Royal Marines in Northern Norway, tells of an incident which will prove of interest to most of you I have no doubt.

In his letter Ross writes:-

One of my colleagues is Sgt. Graham Foster, a mountain Leader who recounted the following incident.

A couple of years ago he was instructing out here on the M.L. training course.  A part of the course involves individuals skiing on a frozen lake and into a hole in the ice to appreciate the problems involved in falling into cold water.  Yes, I know it sounds daft, and only the military would do such a thing and yes, lemmings do live in Norway, but it is a valuable exercise…….apparently!

Anyway Graham and three other instructors went out to cut a hole in the reservoir.  They used a chain saw to cut through two and a half feet of ice, only to find that there was nothing between them and another layer of ice thirty feet below them.

Intrigued as most people are when they find such a cavern - vast and measureless etc etc. they fetched a rope, belayed it to the ice with about twenty ice screws and abbed down to have a look.

A certain amount of light was filtering down through the ice and Graham said he could see the reservoir banks either side and that it was clear as the eye could see.  The reservoir was about 5km long and a few hundred metres wide.

They were to say the least, impressed with this strange phenomenon, and decided to venture forth into the unknown.  However, the ice started talking to them in the way of booming and cracking noises, so they hurriedly jumared back up the rope and decided to leave it alone, hoping that it would go away.

Graham was fairly certain that they were standing on another false floor.  Hearing a lake booming is fairly impressive, especially when you're standing on it!  The thing is, what happened to that lot in the Spring thaws?


Fund Raising

JUMBLE SALE……………..At last we have some keen jumble sale organisers.  This is an easy way to raise funds and all you have to do is dump unwanted goods at the Belfry (saleable goods that is!) clothes, books, bric a brac, in fact almost anything with a bit of life left in it.  The average jumble sale in Wells takes around £100 so come on, don't let us down, let us have your old jumble.  If you would like to help on the day as well, that would be very welcome; please let Sue Gray now………. Thanks.

If anyone has any ideas for fund raising please show yourself.   We need to raise quite a bit this year to help towards the year's special events, Belfry improvements etc.

Also we need people to come forward and help with fund raising.  So far response to this request has been very poor or maybe you didn't know we needed to raise extra funds.

If you would like to help, please let one of the committee know.  Also see advert on back page.



Where We Got

by J'rat

Recently a visiting South African caver upon spotting several "BEC Get Everywhere” stickers adorning tankard’s in The Hunters remarked with surprise that he had seen "one of those" before - stuck on an electricity box in Congo Caves, Cape Provence.  Ah yes says I, me and Colin Priddle put that there about four years ago.

For the benefit of future wandering Belfryites, herewith is a list Stickers of the more interesting places of rest for Bertie stickers.  Any additions should be sent to the Editor.  Tim Large has of lots more stickers for sale should this note inspire you to greater efforts.

ANTARCTICA & THE FALKLANDS.  Graham Philipen, Zot and Ross White have covered this area pretty comprehensively. An Argentinean prisoner of War Ship, a hotel in Montevideo and a small piece of Argentinean Helicopter (with bullet holes and kept at The Belfry) all bear the Bertie Sticker.  Zot swears that he stuck one on the part of the anatomy of a young lady in Rio, but sadly no photographs to prove it.

Dave Nicholls has recently returned from Australia, and stuck one somewhere in or on an Embassy in Moscow enroute.  In a similar vein the British High Commissioner of Lesotho has one under his desk courtesy of the writer.

John Dukes has managed to get them to all parts of the globe by the simple expediency of welding them behind ships plating when he worked at Southampton Docks.

John Manchip claimed a first by sticking one on the bog of the advanced passenger train as it reached it maximum speed on its maiden run out of Edinburgh.

Trev Hughes has stuck them in more odd places than most of us would dare to imagine - one I know is a cavers divers bar in Florida.

Australia, Mexico, Austria, France and Ireland are better off for a few of them - thou at O' Connors Bar being frequently replaced due to the souvenir hunters. Their popularity is also shown by feeble paper imitations by the Wessex and Grosvenor Clubs and by the splendid BBC sticker painted into the design on a Cerberus T-Shirt.

This year there will be some at the bottom of the Berger but the writer will personally buy a bottle of Whisky to the first BEC member to get one on the moon!

There will be a prize at the 50th Dinner for the most originally positioned sticker of the year. Photographic proof would be appreciated but in delicate or potentially hazardous situations will be waived.







A Veteran Rock Climbing Novice

by KANGY    Sept. 1984.

I gave up trying to read climbing magazines when I could no longer understand the pictures.  I just failed to relate to them any more.  I tried.  I lay on my back and peered up at them.  I squinted at them round the edge of the page, I moved in close and I tipped them sideways.  I honestly tried.  No way could I imagine being there.  So I gave up climbing magazines, though not what I called rock climbing.

Dave Radmore B.E.C. in nails I954.  Avalanche Route and Red Wall, Llewedd, Snowdonia.

Note: 3/4 weight cable laid nylon rope, Simpson’s mountaineering boots nailed with Brigham Plates (Ellis Brigham Ltd).  These had replaceable teeth.  The heels are nailed with soft iron clinkers.  It was vital not to move the boot once it had been placed on a foothold.

I detected too, a fundamental difference in concepts.  I said rock climbing, they said rock climbing, but that was the end of the conversation.

I had led V.S. climbs classically in nails or, later, vibrams, or when the going got rough, in well worn Woolworths cheapest black rubber gym shoes (the only brand).  With widening interests I enjoyed severes.  My equipment changed but not my attitudes. I was still happy to tie the climbing rope around my waist and lead out long (20m!) pitches in vibrams, placing one or two runners.  The runners had become inserted chocks and I enjoyed the feeling that I was using modern equipment though I forgot a helmet because---well I don't know really.

Hugh Banner U.B.M.C. on Desperation, Avon Gorge, 1953.  H.V.S.

Note: 3/4 weight cable laid nylon rope, nylon line and ex-W.D. karabiner used as a runner through a piton.  Tarbuck knot joining rope to karabiner clipped to multiple turns of nylon line as a waist belt, stylish carpenters hammer, and footwear - Woolworth’s black rubber plimsolls.   A technical modification used by Hugh were shoe laces or string through a hole pierced in the heel and tied around the ankle to stop the plimsoll rolling off!

The photograph comes from the first edition of 'Limestone Climbs in South West England published by the University of Bristol Mountaineering Club, 1954.

Photographer probably Mike Harvey, who put up ‘Suspension Bridge Arête’, and other classics, arrayed in similar fashion.

I have seen the light!

There is, I see, a fundamental difference between climbing philosophy then (1950’s) and now (1980’s).

I think what was happening to me when I tried to understand those photographs, was, that I would expect anyone falling from such a position to die.  We expected, when I started climbing in 1950, that a falling leader would do himself a right nasty and spoil the day for the rest of us.  It was generally agreed that leaders were expendable. My loneliest moments were spent on crux moves well above the second and a long way from a rope sling around a spike of rock.  With luck I just hoped that any fall would end right next to the second so that he would be in no doubt about what to do next.   The 'high', experienced after surviving, was usually enjoyed belayed on a large ledge.  We didn’t fall.  That is to say I once did and spent six summer months hobbling about on a badly sprained leg, grinning because I hadn't died.

The last couple of years have been a revelation to me.

Pete, down the road, became keen to climb.  He needed someone to hold his rope and as his friend I got elected.  I bought some rock boots.  Rock boots!  I was very doubtful about the expense but persuaded myself that even if was only a fashion then at least I could pose.  Reluctantly I admitted to myself that because of the amazing sticky boot adhesion, severes had become too easy.  Climbs which had stretched the limits of my finger strength became reasonable because I could take weight on my feet.  Gradually I lost the habit of mentally checking my footholds and forgot to worry about my feet.  It allowed Pete in his adventures and felt comfortable.  I developed an appreciation and respect for Pete's climbing because he got up things which as I followed I felt myself too near to being unable to reverse the move, and feared to fall.  I admired too his craft skill at selecting placements for protection.

The next insight to add to my understanding came during a really successful family cum climbing holiday in Pembroke.  Our supportive wives organized things so that Pete and I could explore a new climbing area.

Our first experience was that we were not going to be given anything.  T'Northern lads were forthright. "Well," they said about their climbing holiday, “H.V.S.'s on Cloggy, extremes at Tremadoc, and now a struggle on severes in Pembroke."  Leaders were phrenetically stuffing "pro" in every two feet, resting on tight ropes on their "pro", or abseiling from "pro".  In fact I admitted to myself that it looked as if a leader could take a fall on the most insubstantial looking "pro" and immediately try, try, try again!  (They do! Strategic falls, my life!)

The significance of this to me was profound.

Psychologically I have been unable to accept the risk of a fall.  I knew when I started climbing that to fall was the ultimate disaster, extending ones self, making ones mum unhappy and ones mates late for the pub. It was not on.  One simply did not do it and one ceased to push climbs to the point where one hit the deck.  That is not to say that progress was impossible.  Obviously the '50's climber improved with practice if he survived, and I miss those of my friends who did not survive.

Being able to fall off and expecting to live puts climbing in a different light.  In fact I see that the considerable gymnastic attraction to climbing has been enhanced now that the risk is similar to falling off parallel bars.  Learning progress is astonishing rapid with smart ass beginners starting when I finish. Falls are accepted as part of the learning process.


Pete and I encountered 'Sister Europe' (remember the name!)

We had adapted to the absence of flatness arid Pete's climbing had/become increasingly bolder. We had set our sights on a wall which fascinated us as we realised that there were routes.  It would have seemed totally impossible earlier, but the law which predicts that things fall jammy side down had allowed a minor queue to form at its foot when our moment came.  To while away the time until the crowds went home Pete suggested "Sister Europe". graded v.s., next to another climb we had enjoyed.

The first pitch, ambiguously, seemed to offer a choice but circumstances pushed Pete to pick his way to the left up an impending wall on tiny holds to a ledge belay in a corner. As I joined him I sensed nervousness. "Could you belay down there?" Well no, I couldn't.  "Come on up to me then.”  I nearly didn't because a large flake swayed away as I pulled and swayed back as I hastily reacted and glided over its swaying mass. Heads down, totally concentrating, two twittering climbers lobbed chocks into anything that didn't move and swathed in a web at protection felt their tension ease to the point that they felt able to speak. "Bloody Hell Pete.  It's a young scree slope!"

Pete with infinite care eased himself upright and into a position to start the next pitch. Straining to see, I had the impression of an overhanging crack set a hundred feet clear above the beach against which waves crashed.  Pete almost out of sight danced up and down for an hour or more.  I may exaggerate.  My nerves - were at full stretch and I had rather too much time to rationalise about our shaky belay.  I had designed several self rescue schemes should the corner drop away. I conscientiously admired the um, oh yes, the view.  Several times.

Judging by the grunt, and the disturbing lack of light conversation, Pete's last little effort was a supreme one as he lunged, placed a runner ("pro") and once again stepped down.

I gazed moodily at the receding tide and wondered why I'd come.  I examined each chock placement in turn and hastily rationalised some more. Nothing much to say really. Perhaps his jambing techniques needed taking to bits, polishing, and putting hack again.  Perhaps he'd become excessively keen on little up and down movements.  PERHAPS IT WASN'T THE ROUTE!  More grunting and rapid rope movement broke my reverie and seconds later he said "I'm up!"  Blessed words.  "Good old Pete" I thought as I got the hell out of it in well rehearsed order .. "Goodbye stance - whoopee!"

Ten feet higher I became totally engrossed in staying on.  Yes, there were the jamb holds in the crack overhead but to get there I needed to climb a too wide crack between smooth walls.  The crack was filled with subsoil.  I performed the Pete pantomime or trying everything else.  Like Pete I didn't find anything.  Unlike him I had a top rope and decisively dug into the back of the crack.  Heaving up, I felt a cannonball sized piece of Pembroke rolling gently onto my chest. It would not be stuffed back.  If dropped it would make a mess of one of my beautiful boots, the foot would mend.  Intuitively I went for the jamb, kneeling on the boulder in passing.  The hand jambing was delightful and so was the sight of a grinning Pete sitting on horizontal grass in the evening sun.

Gymnastics can't grip you like that.  Current climbing still involves risk, real or apparent, and I'm still allergic to falling and the fitness exercises necessary to do young men’s climbs.


Fund Raising



Promoted by: T. Large, Wells, Somerset.

Sponsored by: Phil Romford, Bat Products. Webs.


Petzl Suit or equivalent

Bottle of Malt Whisky Bottle of Whisky


Draw on 25th May, 1985 at 9.30 p.m.


1st Prize 2nd Prize 3rd Prize

Registered under the Games and Lotteries Act

Printed by Park Press (Nantwich)