The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr Wells, Somerset.
Editor: D.P.Turner

A veritable feast of articles for you this month!  My only problem has been to try and type them all up and get this B.B. on your door steps in time for it to be called "The Christmas BB".  My thanks to everyone who have given me articles and I apologise if it does not reach you until after the festive season.  I wish you all an alcoholic Christmas and here's to some more BEC discoveries etc in the New Year.

Late News – Notts Pot

It is rumoured that the downstream sump in Notts Pot has been passed after 300 metres by Barry Sudell and/or Rupert Skorupka and an estimated mile and a half of main passage found.  There are apparently lots of inlet passages which have not yet been investigated.

from Rob Harper 10th December 1985

Membership Changes

New Members

1069 Mary Rand, Perivale, Middx.
1070 Michael McDonald, Basingstoke, Hants

Members Rejoining

            553 Bob White, Wells, Somerset

Address Changes

956 Ian Caldwell, Clifton, Bristol
1063 Peter Evans, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 5JH
971 Colin Houlden, Brixton, London W2
874 Dave Lampard, Horsham, W. Sussex RH 12 2PW
1036 Nicola Slann, Clifton, Bristol

Ratified Members

1048 Thomas Chapman
1049 Gerald Garvey
1050 Richard York
1051 Peter (Snab) Macnab
1052 Peter (Snablet) Macnab


Belfry Jobs

Please could you make a special effort to paint the inside of the hut as the paint will be affected by the freezing conditions, so the cheap deal we had on the purchase of the paint will turn into a very dear one.

As I am off to Mexico on the 13th December.  I will not be around to chase you, so please make a special effort to turn out.


P.S.  Insulation needs finishing off.                                              Dany Bradshaw


WARNING         B.E.C. SUBS    WARNING         B.E.C. SUBS    WARNING         B.E.C. SUBS

This will be the last B.B. that you will receive if you have not paid your 1985-86 subscription.

WARNING                B.E.C. SUBS   WARNING        B.E.C. SUBS    WARNING   B.E.C. SUBS

Hut Fund

If I include those people (4) who have given considerably in kind or time, then the number of donations is 37 and the sum received so far £1042.

It is unfair to single anyone out and definitely not en to list those who have donated but I must single out one person who has given (he, in fact, matched £1 for £1 the donations given at the dinner).  Graham Balccmbe has been most generous but instead of us thanking him, which we do, he has asked me to thank the B.E.C. for the help that the then newly formed club gave to him and other early cave divers.  To quote G.B., "As for the amount, well, when I lack at what my successors in the CDG have done, veritably altering the face of modern caving, it dwindles into insignificance".  What more can I say.

Jeremy Henley


Mendip Events

Oliver Lloyd

A farewell party was recently held in the back room of the Hunter's.  Dan Hasell, using appropriately a diving knife and scalpel, the cake which had been specially decorated for the occasion.  He then proposed a sherry toast to Oliver.  A memorial plaque will he mounted in Wookey Hole at a later date.

Shepton Mallet

As in years gone past, this year's event was held in, the orderly and sophisticated manner to which we have become accustom.  All food that was not consumed was passed to the next table, who in turn would pass it on. The games followed the bun fight, the B.E.C., gentlemen as ever, allowed the hosts to win~ even though the Shepton seems to be short of large membered members at present who can fart "pennies" into jars at twenty paces.

Committee Matters

The following were co-opted to the committee as directed by the A.G.M.

Steve Milner      Tackle Master
Tony Jarratt       Hut Warden
Mark Lumley     Caving Sec
Dave Turner       Hon. Editor
Tim Gould         Assistant Hut Warden
Ian Caldwell       Committee member

St. Cuthbert’s Survey

This is to be revived by the club now that the Belfry improvement project is nearing completion. Dave Irwin hopes to present the committee with a complete package containing everything needed to produce the survey and accompanying publication before the next A.G.M.


Dany and myself are deserting Mendip this Christmas and flying south to Mexico City and then from there to Xlitla on the San Luis Potosi plateau, to join the British expedition who have been there since mid November.  We shall be looking at a new area not far from •••• [he never said! ed] where a new road recently laid across the plateau gives access to a previously difficult to explore area.  Aerial photographs show large surface depressions and it is hoped that these may prove fruitful as caves found in this area have a 3000 metre depth potential..

To quote Tony Jarratt, "The Shepton Buffet marks the start’s of the Christmas sessions", so I take this opportunity to wish all members a Happy Christmas etc. etc.

During my absence, Jeremy Henley will take over the secretarial duties for the club.

Bob Cork.


Caving Programme


A BEC trip to the Dachstein Massif is being planned at the moment for next summer.  The idea is only in its formative stages, Bob Cork is currently trying to contact the NCC to find out if they plan to return there next year - if so~ perhaps we could join forces.  There will be more details in the next B.B. but in the meantime if you're interested in going let Bob or myself know and don't book your holidays!

Club Meets.

I've written away for access to the caves on the provisional meets list (B.B. Oct 85) but the only confirmation I have had so far are as follows:-

Sunday 9th March                      Juniper Gulf
Sunday 1st August                    Birks Fell Cave
Saturday 27th September           Penyghent Pot

I shall organise accommodation as and when I get confirmation that the various trips are on, but let me know if you're going (to give me some idea of numbers).

As for the January Yorkshire meet, we'll be going up on Friday night (29th Jan) but whether or not we do Notts Pot and Nick Pot is entirely dependant on how soon I get replies from the C.N.C.C.

Daren Cilau Dig

Small world isn't it - we hauled digging gear, primus stove etc. to the far end of the Daren Cilau extensions only to find that Andy Sparrow, Andy Cave and a group from Cardiff University also had their eyes on the same digging site!  The place is so remote that we decided to join forces and work on alternate trips.  Progress is looking good, the passage has an intermittent draught dependant on the water levels in the area.  The two Andy's dug a considerable distance in soft, sandy mud.  The following weekend Steve Milner, Snablet and Tom Chapman continued the push for several feet with the passage heading upwards.  The dig looks as though it may well hit the predicted stream passage from Llangattock swallet some distance above the furthest point that Martyn Farr managed to dive to beyond the Gloom Room on 6/7/85.

Work continues. Anyone interested in visiting the Time Machine and beyond would be well advised to take a couple of cow's tails as the lifeline on the 70ft pitch is inclined to snarl up.

Rescue Practice

Brian Prewer thought it would be a good idea if more people (including myself) became more proficient in the various aspects of cave rescue.  Accordingly, we're going to go ahead with a straight forward rescue practice (probably from Nine Barrows) for the younger and less experienced members of the club in order to familiarise ourselves with the equipment etc.  This will take place on Saturday 22nd Feb.  Later in the spring we shall be organising a full scale rescue practice from a cave with a greater degree of difficulty. Indirectly, it’s for the benefit of every member of the club so it’s important that we get a good number of people turning up on the day. Your attendance will be much appreciated.

Mark Lumley


Visit the Classical Karst Caves of Yugoslavia in 1986

We have received a circular offering trips down the "Caves of Classical Karst" from a Yugoslav bod named Franc Mateckar in Postojna who is a member of "SPEGU".  These are guided trips and the cost per trip is $5 USA per person for groups of five or over. The trips are to be run daily during July and August starting every day at 2pm from the museum in Postojna.  He mentioned a dozen or so caves by name and reckons on guiding at about 150 caves.

He also offers speleo weekend at $7.5 USA/person and a 7 day coach excursion for approximately $175 USA/person which includes guiding, travel, accommodation in hotels with breakfast.

Anyone interested better let me know and I will send them a copy of the circular - he wants replies by the end of February "because we don't have enough qualified guides".

Dave Turner.


ARE YOU FEELING GUILTY? if so, perhaps it’s because you haven't given Jeremy your contribution to the hut fund.  Solution - send Jeremy your donation now.


A song to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Bristol Exploration Club

This is the song Alfie sang at the Anniversary Dinner in October - words and music by Alfie.

One evening, fifty years ago, inside some Mendip pub
A bunch of caving lads from Knowle
Who’d recently been down a hole
Decided to achieve their goal
And start a caving club.
Said Harry Stanbury,
“On a name we must agree
I've got one here that'll raise a cheer
We’ll call ourselves the B.E.C.”

Soon, lots of blokes arrived to join the finest club you’d meet
When caving, they discovered Stoke
When drinking, they all records broke
And knew more songs than any bloke
From Compton Martin down to Street.
The Wessex learned to flee
Whenever they did see
Those splendid men who drank like ten
And called themselves the B.E.C.

Yet, though the Exploration Club was noted for its thirst
At digging caves it knew a lot
And pretty soon, its lads had got
Deep down inside St. Cuthbert's Pot
Another Mendip first.
The Shepton made them tea
Then sang in harmony
"When we can say we're good as they
We'll join the B.E.C."

And now that fifty years have passed, we are here to celebrate
And drink a toast to Harry, and
Those others of that caving band
Who changed the face of Mendip’s land
And made the club so great
We are the B.E.C.
And hope that there will be
Folks like us, who will hold a 'do'
At its centenary!


Poms potholing in Waitomo, New Zealand

Waitomo gets quoted in about every other general caving book, its claim to fame being the glow-worm grotto show caves. We had heard the name, naturally, and it was on our proposed itinerary.  On arrival in New Zealand we were made extremely welcome by cavers in Auckland and were pointed in the direction of Rangitoto Island, a recent volcanic scoria cone, like an enormous cinder heap.  Near the summit cone were some short but interesting lava tubes.  Having dispensed with these caves we were quickly ferried back to the city in search of caving boots - rare and expensive for we were being taxied to Waitomo in the evening.  We had managed basic SRT kit, helmets and Premier stinkies in our flight weight allowance and were banking on scrounging a few grots.

There is a lot more than just the glow worm caves in Waitomo.  It is one of the major caving areas of N.Z. and has a great variety of all grades of caves.  The limestone is younger than ours, softer and less strong, very thinly bedded and becoming almost gravelly at one horizon.  In many areas it is overlain by deep deposits of unconsolidated, unstable volcanic ash giving rise to plenty of yellowish mud underground.  Where the surface has not been cleared for pasture it is covered in dense temperate rain forest.  Apart from trees and shrubs there are tree ferns, liverworts, vines and tangled creepers, and every trunk and branch is festooned with mosses, lichens, orchids and other epiphytes.  Most caves have been found in open pasture, because of difficulties of exploring the bush.

Waitomo boasts two caving huts - ASG, Auckland Speleological Group at the top of the hill - and HTG, Hamilton Toms Group five miles away at the bottom of the hill, but nearer the village and the pub.  We reached the ASG hut in an ailing car (many N.Z. vehicles seem on their last legs) around midnight, to find all gone to bed.  A wet misty morning revealed several families staying at the hut, which was a farmhouse vacated for more modern premises.  The countryside around is lumpy with limestone cliffs and hills separated by deep dolines.

Everyone uses grots, particularly woolly underwear and boiler suits.  Very few people have purpose tailored caving clothes.  Carbide is universal, the majority of people using little Premiers while one or two have forked out on Petzl gobblers.  The carbide comes in big lumps and lots of time was spent smashing it into smaller pieces.  Once prepared, seven of us set off over the paddocks (fields), climbing several electric fences on route.  No flimsy strands of wire carrying a few volts these, but substantial stuff connected to the mains that quickly instils a healthy respect.

The entrance tomo (tomo - hole, pothole, aven, doline etc.) to St. Benedict’s was a narrow shelf surrounded by typical fence and a few trees, dropping into a 70ft rift.  Kiwi cavers shun the use of bolts and their expensive ropes are hard to come by and personally owned, so the pitch took an age to rig.  The pothole walls were beautiful; the fluting accentuated by the alternate dark and light lines of narrow bedding.  The confines of the shaft soon enlarged as we entered a large chamber, packed with beautiful big stal, creamy white and glistening.  It is unfortunate that access is so easy, for a muddy path is gradually spreading over the stal.  The formations easily rival Otter Hole but are only in the one chamber.  It is one end of an extensive series of sizable passages, nearly all walking, many tens of feet wide or high.  Half way along the series fluting in the floor becomes deep enough to require some careful traversing.  Passage character then changed to narrower, lower, sandy floored tubes.  At several points bat skeletons had been protected by a semi-circle of boulders. A wet and muddy side rift, negotiated by traversing, quickly led to a very high rift, 10-15ft wide and 50-60ft long. At the far end a passage could be dimly seen entering from another system.  Once again the rigging took an age - slightly awkward floor level take-off for a 70ft pitch after a 40ft climb down took us to the base of the rift, where we found the others prepared to go out.  However we discovered that the real bottom was only a further 20ft pitch away, and three of us had this rigged using three chocks and a flake, and the others were soon enthused into following us.  We had landed in a river, like DYO in flood.  Beyond a quick struggle upstream lay a deep, black sump pool, while a trickle from above came down a 300ft entrance shaft - by now it was dark so no daylight came through.  Downstream we could not go, for the river was too deep and the current too fast, so exit was made.  We emerged to mist, but fortunately one amongst us was the local farmer's son and he led us unerringly through the paddocks until his father appeared in a Landrover.  We missed the pub by over an hour.  Eight hours caving that should have been done in three.

Our second day on the hill had cleared a little, and a vast group of us assembled in the bottom of a steep sided doline at a small, revolting muddy entrance taking a little stream, Ringle- fall.  We tagged on to the end of the line, and followed down a slippery climb into a large chamber with mud covered stalactites. 

A wet hands and knees crawl took us into a little streamway, which soon dropped down a rift to the side. Ahead, dry passage continued, by zig-zagging, and despite our delaying tactics we soon caught up with the front of the party at a ladder pitch.  Clearly, a long wait was in the offing.  Was this what Kiwi caving was all about!  A small group of us went back a way and found an alternative to the ladder pitch, a tight climb down and a short rope descent via flying angel into the stream.  The passage reminded us of Longwood-August or Stoke Lane - low and aqueous with cobbles on the floor, but it eventually began to enlarge.  After a couple of kilometres the roof was invisible in the gloom of a high, narrow rift, though the streamway itself was fairly narrow.  An occasional undercut in the wall gave a low roof where we saw our first N.Z. glow-worms, a fly larva like a transparent worm whose bioluminescent end attracts prey into a trap of sticky hanging threads.  Without a close look, all you notice is a little blue dot. The stream finally disappeared down a narrow rift - a thirty foot climb then a fifty foot ladder pitch, but we had no ladder.  We therefore traversed on boulders, high above the stream to reach huge, long collapse chambers.  We missed the way on here but it is grovelly and narrow, so we were not disappointed. Its significance is that Ringlefall ends only a few metres short of St. Benedict’s, but there are so few trips to the far reaches that it has yet to be connected.

After the weekend, we moved down the hill to the HTG hut - nice and peaceful during the week, but full of kids at weekends as it doubles as a Youth Hostel.  Being nearer the village we took the opportunity to visit the show caves.  There are three around Waitomo but one has the famous glow-worm grotto.  The limestone is a warm creamy-white coarse grained rock with beautiful phreatic tubes.  At the lowest point in the show cave we climbed into a boat and were propelled slowly and silently along and around a wide, low, phreatic canal by the guide pulling on overhead ropes.  On the roof above us hung tens of thousands of glow-worms, their little blue lights resembling the Milky Way seen through a telescope.  Though we have since seen myriads of glow-worms elsewhere, both in the bush and underground, nothing has come close to matching the awe inspiring sight in Waitomo.

Gardener’s Gut is one of the longer systems of N.Z. and we made a couple of trips into the lower part of the cave.  Through trips are easily possible, but on both occasions we used a lower entrance or the resurgence.  Our first trip was with the Waitomo Adventure Caving.  Two Americans were paying and we just tagged along.  It was a very slow, careful journey underground, all easy caving, but under superb leadership.  The fragility and uniqueness of the cave environment was constantly stressed. Glow-worms, wetas (like crickets with enormous feelers) and crayfish were pointed out.  Like so many N.Z. caves, there is still much potential for further discoveries, and we noticed several possible leads.  Having entered the cave late at night via a concealed doline deep in the bush, we emerged from the resurgence by a river (Waitomo stream) still deep in the bush.  Home was down river past a 100m long natural arch, and out of the bush close to the two other show caves.

On the second trip into G.G. six of us entered the resurgence carrying some very substantial maypoles.  Although we discovered some new passages off high above the main stream, and re-found some that had not been recorded or widely published, the main find was at floor level.  A low phreatic arch was nearly blocked with thixotropic, sumpy mud, but passage could be seen beyond.  After much discussion the most stupid member of the party was inserted into the hole. A quick, complete muddy immersion, and then jubilant cries disappeared into the distance.  He was stopped by a 50 foot aven.  Such is the potential in a very well visited cave.

Millar’s Waterfall Cave was yet another 'cast of thousands' job - an introduction to the delights of caving for loads of young farmers.  The entrance series was very pretty and, although much good stal remains, a lot has been muddied or broken by heavy novice traffic.  A sixty foot entrance shaft is the only access obstacle, located in a doline at the top of the hill.  Less than half an hour's caving, mainly walking, but not in large passage, and we had descended to the stream.  Several passage had joined, mainly from one side, but the cave was now linear.  Passage size enlarged, the width generally being a comfortable six feet and the roof up to 60 feet above.  Occasionally the width became 20 or 30 feet.  A couple of hours of streamway and we climbed up a wide, muddy slope to emerge 50 feet above the resurgence, where the stream trickled away over flat meadows before disappearing into the bush.

Exploration in the Waitomo area seems to yield results surprisingly easily.  One find spring day four of us went to check out an unexplored region using aerial photographs.  Although our largest find was only a 50' shaft, there were many sites which deserve a little digging.  In a small area of five paddocks, there were so many dolines that we frequently lost sight and sound of each other for some time.  Unfortunately, lambing was taking place in one or two paddocks~ and we had to leave one section for another day.  The native bush has been cleared from here in the last few decades and some holes have had boulders rolled on top to prevent animals falling down.  One shaft could not be treated in this way.  The Lost World is 300 feet deep, and is so long and wide that trees grow in the bottom.  A herd of bullocks fell down it recently, but you don't see them unless you search especially.  Another shaft, over 200 feet deep and dropping into a streamway still being explored, had been covered and forgotten, but on certain winter mornings a column of steam would rise high into the air.  When local cavers started asking around the farming community, the site was unburied.

On another day of exploration, five significant new sites were looked at.  Although cavers knew nothing of these caves, all had been noted or even explored by the farming community.  By the end of the day we had notched up several hundred feet of "new" passage.

Undoubtedly, our best trip at Waitomo was The Mangowhitikan.  We were a party of four, and we two had borrowed wetsuits especially for this trip.  We entered via a 100 foot damp pitch where a small surface stream sank and made our way along narrow passages to a muddy area where we dropped into the river.  It was bigger than anything we have seen in Europe.  The current varied from difficult to impossible and we had to travel upstream.  There were rapids, deep pools with swift undercurrents, waterfalls and almost impassable canals.  We struggled along by traversing above the water, climbing one or other wall, jumping into the eddy of pools, swimming, pushing against the current and hauling each other.  The water was dangerous in the extreme and a slip could easily have been fatal.  Had the water been higher we could not have made the trip.  We had a half hour's respite when we left the river for a narrow sump bypass series, but further upstream the current seemed no less.  A twenty foot waterfall looked impossible, but we jumped the narrowest gap of raging torrent and climbed up beside the fall.  In places huge tree trunks were wedged across the passage, and flood debris and branches above our heads indicated the extraordinary flood levels. Gradually the passage enlarged from its two to six feet wide and ten to twenty feet high to become ten to twenty feet wide and sometimes forty to fifty feet high.  The stream slackened and the floor lost its potholes, becoming flat and sandy, or gravelly.  The heavy sculpturing disappeared, signs of flooding were less and stalagmite appeared on the walls.  Glow-worms, who prefer to live close above organically rich, slow flowing streams, became abundant.  Suddenly the stal was festooned with ferns, and the glow-worms were replaced by stars. A steep climb and we were out into green fields.  We both reckoned this was our most sporting trip ever.

We hope to be in the Mt. Arthur region for Christmas, where there will be the annual expedition, this time searching for a link between Nettlebed (the deepest down here) and the recently discovered Windrift.  Sometime in early 1986 we want to return to Waitomo. Amongst other caves, we intend to do The Lost World and the river at the bottom, known as Mangapu.  It is the same river as that in Mangowhitikan~ and is reckoned to be even more sporting.

the Bassetts.


The BEC Get Everywhere - Crete

"Where are we going on honeymoon?" said Jane.   " Crete" said Phil and Lil.  "There’s over 4,000 caves on Crete!" says I.

For cheapness and to avoid crowds and heat we went in May.   The girls took suntan lotion and historical novels.  Phil and I took Rennies and "The Caves of Crete" - a xeroxed abstract.

Our happy holiday villa was located miles from the limestone in the small coastal village of Matala, some 60km south of Heraklion.  Our first walk down to the beach boozers and boobs led past at least fifty cave entrances in three rows in the sandstone headland.  These man made single chambers are thought to have been excavated by early Christians and have latterly been used as a hippy colony. Some have carved niches, bed-spaces and shelves, others are decorated with psychedelic paintings and all stink like the legendary Ystradfellte public bog.  Some small natural cavities exist in the cliffs above these caves, notable only for their grandstand (!) views of the topless talent on the beach below.

After three days of ouzo, sun and Minoan palaces the wives were deserted and a 50km drive took Phil and I to Sarchos, near Heraklion.  Our description of the local cave bore no location so we found the "local". Following beer and political discussion (spitting on the floor) with the village boozers we managed to understand enough to find our way to Sarchos Cave. The 6 x 8m entrance lead to 1/2km of undulating phereatic passage ending in a clear, green sump pool.  "Damn, we forgot Bob Cork".  10m of new passage (oxbow) was found and a previously visited upper level full of bats investigated before returning to the entrance to be confronted by a large buzzard and a population of very active bees necessitating a quick retreat.  There is doubtless much more passage to be found in this cave and all around the eastern end of the Psiloritis mountain range where Sarchos is located.

Two days later, the full team assembled on the amazing Lasithi Plateau at the east end of Crete.  The plateau is actually a 6 x 12km swallet with two tourist caves (and many others) located around the mountainous sides.  Kronio or Trapezas Cave is a miserable little grot hole supposedly of archaeological interest.  Inside is a two inch long scorpion and outside an old rat bag who cons gullible English tourists (but doesn’t make much profit from them).  The other "show" cave is on the far side of the windmill covered plateau and is famous as the birthplace of the god Zeus. Called the Dictaean Cave it is now also famous as the place where two English tourists posing as famous international speleologists got a bollocking from the manager.  By lending him a newly published Greek caving book (in English) and letting him take the girls to the cafe he was eventually persuaded to give the two the run of the cave.

A steep rock "staircase" led up the mountainside to a 4 x 20m entrance - a typical collapse feature leading to a vast inclined chamber well decorated with huge, ancient and soot covered stalagmites.  A tourist trail of stone steps leads around this chamber and while one of the guides escorted his party, Phil and I guided a passing Royal Navy officer around before scrambling off to explore the further reaches - essentially an extension of the entrance chamber but with better and cleaner formations.  Before our departure the god Zeus was left, with a small black and white sticker as a votive offering.  An impressive cave despite its modest length.  Longer, sporting systems are believed to exist further up in the mountains behind this cave.

Near Rethymnon, on the central north coast of Crete, we found the show cave of Gerani to be locked and deserted.  This may be due to damage from reconstruction of the main coast road which runs directly over the cave.

Another disappointment - though not in the way of scenery was the lack of speleological sites in the 18km length of the Samaria Gorge, south of Chania.  Carved through solid limestone and with cliffs up to 600m high, it makes an incredible walk from the mountains near Omalos to the boat departure site on the coast.  Local geological conditions seem unfavourable for large systems in the gorge itself, though Tzani Cave, near Omalos, is reputed to be a lengthy swallet system.

The Kamares Cave, situated high on the mountains above the village of the same name, was visited after a crippling uphill walk on the evening of the 10th May. It was only found by asking directions from a Sheppard and family inhabiting a cave lower down the hill. The huge, gaping entrance of Kamares Cave opens into a cavern 60m wide, 80m high and 70m long which was used as a place of worship on Minoan times and gave its name to the famous “Kamares Ware” style of pottery, much of which has been found in the cave during Greek and British archaeological digs.

Knackered by the climb up and prepared for a night on the hill, Phil and I decided to move into the cave. A floor of assorted goat, swift, chough and batsh from the cave's assorted populace made a nice soft mattress and hot whiskies brewed over a chough's nest fire in the entrance provided a suitable nightcap as we sat and watched darkness descend over the plains and coast of southern Crete - the whole of which was visible from our eyrie.  As we and the noisy choughs got our heads down for the night the bat population began to leave for their nightly hunt.  Their occasional squeaks and the odd drip of water punctuated the otherwise soundless night.  Our awakening was heralded by the choughs again, who were hurtling in and put of the entrance with apparent unconcern for collisions.  Following a brew of hot chocolate (and whisky) we explored all corners of the cavern including various forays into the massive boulder ruckle flooring the chamber.

Our proposed climb from here to the peak of Psiloritis ( Mt. Ida) was called off on reaching the summit of the "Saddle of Digenis" above the cave when we realised how far we still had to go across very difficult and unpleasant ground.  Plan "B" was executed and we descended to the village and the bar of one Mickaelis - ex World War 2 pilot, whistle player, dirty old man and pinhead extraordinaire.  Here we met the girls and got completely plastered, my last memory being of Lil Romford dancing with an 80 year old drunken Greek Orthodox priest in the middle of the road.

Our last cave visited was also advertised as a show cave and from a point 23km east of Heraklion signs pointing to the site were followed for miles up progressively worsening mountain tracks.  Eventually a small white chapel on the edge of a large collapsed doline was reached - this was Skotino Cave.  The enormous and well decorated passage descending from the entrance was followed for a hundred metres until lack of boots and adequate light forced a retreat -all show cave facilities being absent!  The end of the cave is believed to be not much further and for anyone visiting Crete it would be worth a look to confirm this. Again, this cave was a major Minoan archaeological site.

Thus ended a superb and festerous holiday on this very friendly island.  For the casual visitor there are plenty of short, easy and interesting caves but anyone considering a serious expedition should do plenty of research beforehand to avoid barren areas and duplication of effort.  I have more detailed information on all of the show caves and some others if anyone is interested.

Tony Jarratt.


LADS Trip to Clare – Easter ‘85

As a group the LADS have been going to Clare on a regular basis since shortly after St Patrick drove the snakes out.  We have found a reasonable amount of new caves in several areas around the Burren but did not consider it to be of any great interest to cavers back home. Accordingly, apart from writing our trips up in our club journals and letting the UBSS know of any new discoveries for updates of "The Caves of County Clare", we have never bothered to publicise our finds.  It was therefore with some amusement that I saw the heading "Cerberus on the Brink" in the latest Descent followed by an inaccurate and incomplete description of our trip this Easter, written by some nurd who doesn’t know us and clearly wasn’t there.  The following is a slightly more accurate account.

Our arrival in Doolin was greeted with a most welcome whisky, courtesy of Doll in the kitchen behind O’Connor’s Bar.  Then suitably fortified we staggered down Pol an Ionian before retiring to our cottage for an evenings drinking.  The next evening (after an agreeable day down Poulnagollum) saw us firmly ensconced in the bar with that all important Guinness.  It certainly lived up to all expectations, that creamy white head daintily clinging to the upper lip with the right hand quivering excitedly but holding the cool, straight glass in a vertical mode in anticipation of the delectable sensations to come, then suddenly, with a smooth but firm movement the wrist tilted the glass back gracefully.  The taste buds burst into life as the first black waves of the dark; life giving liquid rolled across my tongue and spread an euphoric ecstasy across my palate.  The throat leaped into action to speed this ebony nectar on its way to the rest of my waiting body. My heart exploded in a war dance, a chorus of angels sang in my ears as my brain roared with sensual delight.  The deeply religious experience of my first pint was over.  I sat back contentedly, taking in my surroundings.

“Hmm,” I mused, "shame it makes you fart".

The next couple of days saw a routine trip down Doolin River Cave and the start of our digging on Western Knockaunsmountain, while the evenings saw Steve, Trebor and myself deep in conversation with Pat Cronin at the bar.  We theorised about our dig's potential excitedly, half empty glasses foaming in our hands, half poured pints waiting in line at the bar.  Froth dripped gracefully from Pat's beard into his Bushmills Chaser as he waved his little arms and legs expressively from his high stool, demonstrating his digging technique and gurgling contentedly.

By Friday we had made our way into two shafts at the Poulnagrinn site, but the third depression down which we could throw rocks and hear them crashing below still thwarted our efforts (one for next year). Sitting on the surface, tired but satisfied at finding what was clearly a major site taking a good stream; we passed the bottle around and admired the view.  To our right we could see the foaming Atlantic breaking on the white sandy beach in front of the little, distant brick walled dot that was O’Donohue's Bar. To our left looking past Ballynalacken and over the little hill above McGanns, with its well kept, creamy stout and smooth, peaty malt whisky we could see the Strand, and our hearts, minds and livers went out to O'Connor's and the alcoholic delight that awaited us there.  Oh well….stuff the digging!

Saturday saw us sober enough to find two new entrances to upper Poulnagree along the line of sinks near the TRT Eagnai Mouncat inlet.  Further on towards Polballynahown, my mind concentrating on the possibilities of a Guinness and Pernod cocktail, I slipped and fell down a small hole (now named Polna Garsuin) which led to a stream passage which Steve eventually managed to push past two squeezes to a point about 250ft from the entrance while I was suspended unceremoniously by my wedding tackle at an s-bend some 50ft behind him.

The cave took a strong draught and will certainly be revisited on our next drinking trip to Clare.

As for the Descent heading 'Cerberus on the Brink'- Cobblers!!  There were two B.E.C. members, one Cerberus and one MNRC. Maybe the editor would like a list of all our projects? digs, half finished surveys, new areas etc. so that he can publish them and let some other bugger get in there before we have a chance to go back and finish them.  At the end of the day our Gaelic colleagues are bound to agree that "Tien na Garsuin Naide Faide!!" and Descent can bloody well wait until we've got something really worth printing - next year!

Mark Lumley.


Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner

The article by Alan Thomas in lat B.B. was incomplete as the second page of his manuscript had been mislaid – so for all of you who have patiently waited with baited breath to find out what happen after Trev Hughes; can t now read on –

The presentations were followed by raffles.  Trevor Hughes did his usual striptease accompanied by his lady assistant (Lil Romford).  Kieth Gladman raffled a lamp glass with a bat on it.

And at last we were able to see the Pantomime, which was a rewrite of "Oliver".  As a historian I would have liked someone to explain the historical significance of the line; "Consider yourself------part of the tackle shed".  There were many people present, including some of the cast, who did not realise that when we had "Oliver" before, the B.E.C. had only got the tackle shed and to prove, like the Windmill Theatre during the War, that we never close people slept on hastily bunks in the tackle shed.

Another thing from those days that shows the resilience of B.E.C. is that after the Dinner that year we went back to the Belfry as was our custom for a barrel of beer that was consumed in the burnt out ruin.

The cast of "Oliver" some of whom had been in the previous production were: Pete Franklin, Alfie, Simon Knight, Mac, Barrie, Zot, J.Ratt, John Chew, Batspiss, Bob Cross, Jeni Sandercott and apologies to anyone I have omitted.

This was followed by much drinking and singing in such company as Roger Biddle, James Cobbett et al.

Alan Thomas

Logbook Ramblings

Most of the activity recorded in the Caving Logbooks this last month has been in 2 caves, Daren Cilau and Eastwater.  In Daren Cilau our new Caving See and others are trying to make a name for themselves and find yet more miles of new cave.  In Eastwater, Tim and Co have been pushing the end of the main rift and hope seem high for a breakthrough here in the near future.

Cuthbert’s! - well only one trip has been recorded here in the last month or so, I know that a number of people want to become leaders so we may soon see more activity here.


Berger 85 – getting there

7.25pm, Friday 26th July, Frome - gentle rain is steadily falling whilst driving between Stoke st Michael and Frome.  At Frome it turns into torrential downpour, drain covers hover 6 inches above the road as drains flood.  Cars grind to a halt because drivers can’t believe what they see and ten minutes from home driving frustration sets in.  Crawl across Frome to come to an abrupt stop at end of queue of traffic by the station.  The river is flooded and everything has stopped.  Traffic crawls slowly towards us but our lot steadfastly refuse to move. Eventually, nearly half an hour later (or that is what it seems like) pull over and drive recklessly down centre of road and through flood.  At Warminster, no sign of rain at all.

In the suburbs of South East London we stop for one of the greatest portions of fish & chips ever received; arrive at Dover well ahead of schedule and search out a pub.  Easier said than done; you'd have thought with all those sailors, stranded lorry drivers and associated "you know what’s" pubs would abound.  We eventually find one stuck behind a supermarket.  The pub itself is heavily disguised as a video cinema; heaven knows what the beer is like.

After that it is pretty uneventful.  My companions insist on sitting on the most uncomfortable bench on the ferry just outside the lady's john with a view to observing the talent.  Can’t understand it myself watching a load of tired, harassed, scruffy birds in a state of discomfort going in through a door and then emerging a few moments later no longer uncomfortable but still looking tired and harassed - seems rather pointless!

Many hours of darkness driving across Northern France on by- roads because too mean to use motorways, sees us just north of Dijon for breakfast.  Before we stop, when dawn eventually breaks Jarratt and I wonder where the third member of the party has got to.  Cork turns out to be buried under a pile of tackle on the back seat.  He swears that he has slept comfortably under it; perhaps the beer was better than I thought.

Breakfast now that is the highlight of the trip!  We sit the terrace of a cafe beside the Seine with trout making their telltale rings on the surface in the hot morning sun.  We eat large chunks of baguette with creamy butter and pre-packed jam (what a let down) and drink wonderful French coffee. Serious doubts emerge about going further, long debate, serious lack of will and then - what the hell, we may as well keep going on.

About stop for a only other bike!!

About 150km further on and we are on the motorway, a short stop for a sandwich for lunch and we are at the camp site. The only other souls there are two who have arrived by coach and bike.

Back down to the village to victual and then return to set camp and off to the pub of the Deux Vallee for a scrumptious feast eaten outdoors - quite something after the journey - so good in fact that I am seen eating French fries with my fingers, drinking more than is good for me and smoking a cigarette.  The problem, of course, is that whilst we three in my tank have arrived at a reasonable hour, the other two, MacManus and Bradshaw, have had a slightly longer journey and only get to the restaurant when we have nearly finished.  So we have to keep drinking whilst they eat.

What a frightful night - I have not slept in a tent for 30 years and it is infinitely worse than the NCC hut, which is bad enough.  But here we are on the morning of Sunday the 8th in brilliant sunshine on the Sornin plateau ready to go and there I nearly stay for the whole week.

Twenty eight b •••• rs get to the bottom, so one of them can write about the cave.

Jeremy Henley


Berger 1985 – “An alternative View”

"Book your transport early", they said. So we did; months before the trip 10 “Bergerers” got together and hired a nice new VW minibus from Bristol.  A week before departure day someone casually observed that this VW had no "tachograph".  "So what!” said the hire man - "You must have a tachograph when travelling abroad with a minibus having more than ten seats, or your vehicle may be impounded, etc~ etc. etc.", said the Bus and Coach Council.  Panic! - find another vehicle - but nobody hires minibuses for continental travel.  Vincent’s in Frome do.  "With only one weeks notice?"  "Yes they will and they've one with a roof rack".  Panic over - at least for the time being.  The night before the departure the minibus was collected - with a tachograph, but without; a spare tyre, windscreen washers, a jack and a complete exhaust system.  After several frantic phone calls, a couple of journeys to Frome and some clever wiring of exhaust pipes, all was ready.

Ten people for ten days in France, caving, camping and cooking equals one large mountain of kit.  Thank goodness for that roof rack; we couldn’t have got it all in the VW!

All went well with the journey and we arrived in at Quentin.  By now it was getting late, about 3.00am, most people were asleep or at least dozing off. Two navigators and the driver were not quite asleep when the centre of St Quentin loomed in the form of a large roundabout.  Brian Workman, the driver, decided to approach it in English fashion and turn left at the roundabout.  The first circuit failed to reveal any road sign for Riems.  All ten people were now wide awake.  "Brian, you're going the wrong way round!"  "I know, don't panic, there's no one about and I feel more at home going this way round!"  Second time round and still no sign.  On the third circuit someone casually observed that we couldn't see the road signs because we were going the wrong way round!  Everybody dozed off again.

At breakfast time, a stop was made at Nuit St George, a pleasant little town, south of Dijon, in the heart of the wine growing region of the same name.  It was most enjoyable sitting having breakfast on the pavement in a place that had given its name to a well known wine.  Saturday morning saw us travelling down through the Saone valley to Grenoble.  As we journeyed south, the temperature rose and the minibus was now full of hot sweaty people.  What we wanted was a nice quiet lake for a swim.  Using her superb navigational skills Lucy Workman guided us successfully to a nice quiet lake just north of Grenoble where ten people stripped off to their 'shreddies' in preparation for a swim.  Dave Turner was the first to hop over the wall and onto the beach - where he, clad in his typical English gentleman's baggy shorts, was confronted by two rather well endowed topless young ladies sunbathing.  Keeping a stiff upper lip and eyes front, Dave ceremoniously entered the water to the amusement of the onlookers.  The rest followed, eyes definitely not to the front.  One of the young ladies quietly informed us in English (they were English) that the strange purple 'gunge' floating in the lake was in fact harmless bacteria.  After a short meal break we were off again to find Sassenage and to wind our way up the hill to La Moliere car park.  The minibus struggled a bit with ten people and kit as it wound its way up to Engins. Engins turned out to be about three battered houses - I wondered which one the mayor lived in - wasn't it the mayor of Engins, who we had to contact on arrival at the Berger?

By Saturday evening we had settled into the campsite at La Moliere.  Fears of trees smothered in pink (or was it brown) Andrex were soon allayed, in fact, the site was excellent, being very close to the car park and situated right on the edge of a pleasant pine forest.  The general appearance of the site was clean and tidy with, a good water supply from the spring on the hill above.  This water, in fact, later proved to be pure enough that we eventually stopped worrying about purification and boiling etc.  (This, of course, may not be the case every year).

By Sunday, most of the expedition members had arrived by various means of transport, including bus in the case of Jerry Crick and bicycle for Jim Smart.  Sunday also saw the start of tackling, with the first party getting as far as the top of Aldo's shaft.  The telephone line was also checked and found to be somewhat poor. Radio communications from the campsite to the entrance of the cave were successfully established with the aid of VHF radios, Ric Halliwell's car battery and an aerial stuck together with adhesive tape on the roof of our frame tent.  The radio sets, for future reference, were not CB but operated somewhere in the high VHF band, possibly around 150MHz.  Communications, despite the profusion of trees between the campsite and the cave entrance, were extremely good, good enough in fact to allow reliable all night listening, and for me to be woken up in the middle of one night to be told that Bob Lewis had at last come out of the cave suffering from mild hypothermia.

On Monday, another tackling party went in and reached Camp 1, the telephone improvement party were unable, at that stage, to sort out the jumble of wires they found just beyond the Meanders at the Boudoir.  From now on, trips were made with great regularity with the telephone greatly improved due to the sterling efforts of Brian Workman and Dave Turner.  Camp 1 was now coming through loud and clear.

It was during the next few days that many people reached the bottom of the Berger and many others, like myself, came to realise their limitations.  However, no doubt there will be many a tale told over a Hunter's pint during the next few years and I'm sure many people will want to go back again one day.

Along with the caving activities, many people decided to explore the Vercors area.  Obviously high on the priority list was a good village for shopping.  Autrans turned out to be the best bet, with a small supermarket and a campsite where hot showers could be obtained for a small fee.  A reasonable restaurant, the "Auberge of the two Wallies" (Vallees), was situated on the road to Lans en Vercors quite close to the Berger campsite.  It was here that one of the group nearly came to grief.  After a heavy evenings drinking session a certain young lady managed to "manoeuvre" her car onto the wall of the Auberge car park.  J Rat nearly got run over during the retrieval proceedings.  The journey back up the winding road to the campsite must have been quite exciting.

Over the next few days, sightseeing parties made forays into Vercors.  A visit was made to the Gorge de la Bourne and the Routes de Econges as well as to the Grottes de Choranche and Bournillon.  The Bourne Gorge is a must for anyone going to that area; it is a magnificent limestone gorge with cliffs rising thousands of feet above the gorge floor. The road, sometimes perched on narrow ledges hundreds of feet, up or cut through tunnels, winds splendidly downwards passing the great valley leading to the entrance of the Grotte be Bournillon. This amazing cave entrance, reputed to be the largest in Europe, is over 300 feet in height and equally as wide.  Although dry on the day of our visit, signs of immense water activity could be seen, including a hydroelectric station at the valley bottom.  Clearly this cave must be an incredible sight in flood. 

A visit to the Grottes de Choranche is well worthwhile for any caver in the area.  Next door, the Gournier with its entrance lake and climb is a must.  Turning out of the Bourne Gorge at La Balme de Rencurel, the Route de Econges is fascinating.  With the road here and there cut into the cliff face with little viewing windows giving superb views of the valley, hundreds of feet below.  It was here, during the Second World War, that eleven of the French Resistance held a whole army of Germans at bay many days.  They all perished in the end, and a plaque on the side commemorates the spot.

Swimming facilities in the Bourne Gorge are good and several pleasant 'dips' were taken in natural pools in the river bed.  After such a swim, the minibus party descended on a small but recommended restaurant at La Balme de Rencurel.  The decor was somewhat primitive but an excellent umpteen course meal was had at no more than about £5.  The locals in the restaurant were somewhat bemused by ten dishevelled English visitors. At first, they thought we were being a bit disrespectful and a few sidelong glances were noticed.  However, after we had noted that the locals helped clear the tables and assisted in the kitchen we joined in and the atmosphere completely changed to the extent that when Brian Workman showed his delight at being given a large bowl of raspberries, the waitress gathered up all the uneaten raspberries from all the other tables and dumped them straight onto his plate.  Brian, for the first time, was speechless.  Several 'Franglais' conversations were started up with the locals as more 'vin rouge ordinaire' was consumed, with one local insisting that her grandmother had been English and came from ‘Borne-a-mooter’. We later realised she meant Bournemouth.  A visit to La Balme is certainly worthwhile and it pays to get Away from the “touristy” area when it comes to meeting locals and eating and drinking.

The caving activities had reached their peak and by now someone had realised that he didn’t like SRT anyway.  Lisa Taylor had strained her ankle and Geoff Price of the Wessex preferred his feet without any skin covering. Someone else retired hurt with a pulled Ham String and Bob Lewis was still down the cave - somewhere.  Peter Glanville was very unhappy - he had had his tin of self-heating soup eaten at Camp 2.  Ken Dawe and Bob Pyke reached the bottom along with many others.  Jerry Crick tried to carry enough kit for an army and finally Lisa and her ankle got as far as “Little Monkey” pitch.  Well done Lisa.

On Saturday, the minibus team regrettably had to pack up in order to be at Calais by 4.00am on Sunday.  The return journey was uneventful except that we passed, going the other way, the longest traffic jam that any of us had ever seen.  The minibus made it without mishap and the improvised exhaust repair made back in England held together for the 1500 mile journey.

We arrived home at Sunday lunchtime in pouring rain to a Swildons rescue.  Brian Workman, Dave Turner and myself being dragged out only 10 minutes after arriving home.  But still, we did manage to escape the hail and snow at the Berger on the Monday and Tuesday.

Finally, note: - if anyone wishes to take a hired minibus onto the continent, then contact Brian Workman. He is now the world's expert.

Brian Prewer


A Flying Visit to the Berger

Due to work commitments and family holidays, I could only manage to join the Berger trip for four days over the middle weekend of the trip.  Fred Weeks was in a similar position and agreed to come with me.

We boarded the 9pm ferry at Dover on the Wednesday evening, and then spent the rest of the, night driving through France to the Vercors.  We arrived at La Moliere on Thursday morning and made our way towards the Bertie flag which was just visible over the brow of the hill. Contact was made with Tim and Co. and we were informed that the cave had been bottomed the night before and was rigged ready for the big rush.

Our camp was set up and after a meal we tried to catch up with our sleep.  This was not to be.  The first interruption was Dave Turner, leaping about and inquiring if we would like to go to the bottom with him in about an hour's time.  Various other people came and enquired about our journey down, after which Fred und I realised that we were too keyed up to sleep. We decided to that we would take our sleeping gear etc. down to the bottom of the entrance pitches, ready for our trip to the bottom which was be on the Friday.  Having collected our gear together we made our way to the control tent and signed in for the trip.  While we were doing this, J. Rat appeared from his bottoming trip of the night before. The walk to the cave is pleasantly downhill through trees and the cave entrance is situated at the edge of an open section of limestone pavement.  We booked in at the entrance tent and then set off down.

The entrance is a scramble down over boulders, then down a short ladder pitch, which can be done using the timber log ladder which is permanently installed.  If the log ladder is used, care must be taken otherwise the rest of the cave may not be visited.  From here a thrutch through an old door leads to the top of the first pitch. We enjoyed the first pitch and were glad to be underground at last.  On round a corner and straight on the Holiday Slides which were laddered.  At the top of Cairn pitch we were brought to a halt by Dany who was having a bit of a struggle on the pitch.  He admitted to being f •••• d and added that we were welcome to the cave.  At the bottom of Cairn pitch we emerged into a soaring rift chamber which for some reason most people find enjoyable. Following the passage on from here into the Meanders, Fred and I were both disappointed with these after all that we had heard and read.  All that can be said is that carrying full sacks through them can be a bind.  Soon we reached Garby’s, which is a nice free hang all the way down.  We pressed on from here to the top of the next pitch which we thought was Alda's, and stowed our sacks on a ledge above the pitch.  We set off out at a cracking pace (for me} and regained the entrance after an enjoyable trip.  We then learnt that we had left our sacks at the top of Gontard’s and not Aida’s.  The walk up to the camp is a drag after being underground and the path can be easily lost in the dark - which we did, twice!

On the Friday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we found that half the camp had left at various times for the bottom.  As we had left most of our gear at the entrance the night before, we had very little to get ready other than a camera box, and were soon on our way, in a state of anticipation.  As we were changing, Trev, John and Phil. arrived to go to the bottom so we joined them. The cave was very busy at this time and there were delays on most of the pitches.  As we passed Gontard’s, Fred and I picked up our gear and arrived at the top of Aldo’s.  At the bottom of Aldo’s we met Pete Glanville, who was returning from the bottom without a stop for sleep.  John hauled his sack up for him and then John and Trev proceeded to give Pete a hard time by telling him his gear was all on the rope wrong and that he was not in a fit state to get out.  We left him sitting at the bottom of the rope looking at all his rope gear, mumbling about what goes on first!

A short section of passage from the bottom of Aldo’s leads you out into a large passage which disappears into the gloom in each direction.  We turned to the right and set off past Petzl Gallery, with our sacks on our backs.  The going was easy along a fairly level floor with boulders to scramble over or round.  Except for the size of the passage, this section I found rather uninteresting and was a little surprised when Trev announced that we were standing in the middle of Lake Cadoux.  A slight climb up from here and we entered a section of passage where the roof was much lower and there was a large amount of stal, both large and small.  When passing through this section of passage on the way out, I had the impression that these stals were walking along beside me and disappearing into the darkness!  We made good time down over the Little General's Cascade which had a ladder on it and through to the Tyrolienne Cascade where John had to recharge his light.  Trev, who had already done this section a number of times before, shot off for Camp 1 to make a brew.  His parting words were "Follow the right-hand wall".  When John was with light again we set off up a boulder slope, as we approached the top the roof rose majestically away and the sides melted into the darkness.

We moved on over the boulder floor to the right until the wall appeared out of the gloom.  John and Phil, both of whom had done this section of the Great Rubble Heap, moved on and when they were a long way off their lights seemed to be stars moving in the blackness.  Fred was very impressed to say the least.  The only other place I have been which made me have that feeling of insignificance was the Salle Verna chamber at the end of the Pierre St. Martin. The floor gradually becomes steeper and we passed by huge boulders the size of houses, Camp 1 came into view below as we rounded one of the boulders.  It was a welcome sight as we would be able to leave our sacks here for the bivvy on the way out.

The most note worthy thing about Camp 1, apart from the smell, is the large mound of spent carbide in the middle around which everything seems to happen.  A number of people were asleep in their pits after their trips to the bottom.  While we had a brew and something to eat, Trev changed into his wet-suit for the bottom section.  He cursed and changed back into his dry grots as there was something wrong with the wet-suit and he had carried it all the way to Camp 1 for nothing.


With the minimum of gear, we set out from Camp 1 straight into the Hall of Thirteen.  As we walked over the dry gours in the floor the large stals came into view, first as faint glimmerings as the light catches them, and then as stals that grow and grow as they are approached.  I did not think that the pictures I have seen do justice to this group of stalagmites.  As we were going to take pictures on the way out we pressed on down a well decorated passage to the Balcony Pitch.  This was passed quickly and we pressed on down until the passage levelled out and the roof came down to join us.  The cave, for me, from this point on never seemed so huge and overpowering as the section above. Because of this, the passage sections between the pitches and obstacles do not stand out in the memory as the top half, or perhaps it was too much of a good thing to take in all in one go.

After some scrambling through stals and up and down stal climbs we came upon a staled in wall with a small (for the Berger) hole with a rope disappearing over a stal bank.  This was the Vestibule pitch where one clipped on to the rope and slid off on ones arse over two large stal banks.  At the bottom of the second stal bank a scramble had to be made to a ledge on the left otherwise a fast descent would be made to the floor below without the aid of the rope.  The ledge is followed on a traverse line diagonally across the wall until the floor is reached.  We pressed on down the passage which became a high rift, and on rounding a corner we met the stream flowing at our feet.

"The canals, lads!” said Trev, leaping up and down on a boulder in the middle of the stream.  He continued to bleat on about the state of the existing traverse lines when he was on the previous rigging trip, and finished by saying,  "They are all right now as I have sorted them out", whereupon he leapt up at the right-hand wall and clipped into a tatty old piece of nylon rope and disappeared along the wall.  Phil followed on, but after some distance came to a halt.  The cause of the problem as received from Phil was “ a sodding great knot in the rope which needs a large krab.”  He was using a small krab!  Large krabs all round and on, trying to ignore the lack of external sheath on the rope here and there.  All along this section the stream fills the bottom of the passage, it was very clear going down into the blackness - the sign that says "I'm bloody deep!" The next entertainment was a crossover to the opposite wall.  Two lines crossed the stream with a bulge on the other wall to duck under as you crossed. Trev, Fred, John and Phil managed with some trouble depending on the length of their legs.  Me, I suffer from ducks disease, no way would my legs stretch to obtain a hold and I ended up hanging like a spider in a web, with my arse in the stream, praying that the rubber inner fixed to the belay would hold. A big effort and I reached the other wall and continued after the others.  A cross back to the right-hand wall was made easily this time and I caught up with John, who was watching Phil perform acrobatics round a stal column which ends 18 inches above the water.  The trick was to brace your feet at water level and then lean back in your harness until your back was level with the water, and then move to your left and stand up on the other side of the column.  The rope at this point was horrendous, all inner and no outer.  (We all used it both ways on all the trips and it's still there!). A quick scramble over a boulder and the canals ended in a fine cascade and pool, which was interesting to descend and cross on a single line from the top - much more fun going back up!  Large passage was entered here and we had a break for a change of carbide.

We set off again in high spirits down Cascade passage to the top of Claudine's.  The water spills out of the passage and tumbles down over the wall to land in a large shallow pool at the bottom.  The rope is off to the left at the end of a short scaffold tube wedged into a crack in the wall.  The descent is a walk down the wall by the side of the stream and very attractive when watched from below.  We followed the passage via various short pitches and climbs to the Grand Canyon, which is a steep descent over a boulder floor. At the bottom we arrived at Camp 2.

A rest was taken here and after a discussion it was decided to have a brew on the way out.  From Camp 2 the passage closed, down rapidly and we dropped through a hole in the floor to a series of pitches where one moved from one rope to the next with hardly a break between.  I found this section quite wet with spray on the return, and think that they would be very hard in high water conditions.  We were all getting bitten by bottom fever at this point and went charging down the passage looking for the last series of pitches. Before these are reached the roof lowers and a short section of passage has to be negotiated on hands and knees with even a bit flat out under a rock arch.  The streamway is soon regained to the ominous noise of water falling a long way. We had to wait here as Ken Dawe and Bob Pyke came up from the bottom.  We had a chat when they arrived, then set off ourselves.  A short climb up to the right leads to a traverse on a rope to the head of Little Monkey.  The rope sails down over a deep pool with the stream crashing down on the right hand side. After the edge of the pool is reached, a steeply sloping wall/floor is followed down until the stream suddenly shoots over the edge into blackness.  Hurricane!!

A move to the left is made to an alcove where a change over is made to a traverse line.  A move down and round a bulging corner of rock of rock and I found myself on a small ledge with nothing but black space to the side and down.  I moved carefully along the ledge to where John was sitting in a small eagle's nest type of place with room for only two people.  The head of the pitch is further out along the ledge the other side of the eagle's nest and the roof is about 2 feet above it.  Getting on and off the rope is a real pig and everybody had some trouble with it.  Once on the rope the pitch is a beautiful free hang.  When I reached the bottom I had that feeling that I was a long way from home!  This soon passed as we set off down a large passage floored with boulders.  After some distance, a large inlet came in from the right pouring water down a short pitch.  [This is the water from Fromagerie - the other major cave on the Sournin plateau and containing a 600 foot. plus pitch!  Next year a British team are going to try and link it with the Berger - what a round trip that would be!! - ed.]  The passage shape changed to a high rift and pools started to appear in the floor.  When we reached a pool that came to above Fred and Trev’s waists I stopped.  Fred’s waist is my chest and I did not feel like going out soaked through.  John and Phil agreed.  Trev and Fred went on a short distance but quickly came back with the report of a deep pool and duck.  This was the bottom for us.

After congratulations all round we set off out, our first objective being Camp 2 and a hot brew. As with most trips out of a cave, we gradually became strung out as the people in front pushed on to clear the pitches for those behind.  At Camp 2 we all assembled again and had a welcome brew.  We cleaned up the camp which was a bit of a mess and after a lamp fettle set out for Camp 1.  Again we were strung out by the pitches and my mood was very sombre as I was travelling alone or with just one other person and the little incidents that are amusing when in a group become annoying instead.  Also by now we were all becoming very tired.  We all eventually struggled into Camp 1 and had a brew and something to eat, what it was I have no idea but it was hot and tasted okay. Camp 1 was full to bursting with sleeping bodies all over the floor and strung in hammocks on the wall.  I found a flatish area on the rocks off to one side and set out my sleeping gear.  Trev left the camp at this point as he was going all the way out, I was glad it was him and not me.

We all settled down to sleep but I only slept very fitfully.  I had those lurid dreams about floating in a dark space and then dropping down on Camp 1.  At another point in my sleep, I awoke suddenly with my hand outstretched trying to hold up the roof which I thought was falling in!  At last it was time to get up - which I did, whereupon half the rest of the residents got out of their pits.  They were all waiting for someone to make the first move.  A meal was cooked and eaten along with lots of hot drink and we all felt much better.  Time at this point had ceased to mean anything and the meal we had just eaten had no point in being called breakfast or anything else - it was just a meal. After a general tidy up and much fettling of lamps, I dragged out the camera and Fred and I set off to take piccies. Some time was spent photographing the camp and the Hall of Thirteen, along with a large group of other flashers everywhere.  Fish had turned out of one of the hammocks and was giving Phil a hand firing the flashes but there was one problem,  Fish was using his personal stereo cassette to listen to music and had no idea what Phil was telling him.

After taking all the pictures we required in that area, Fred and I set off out taking photos as we went. Phil and John were going to follow doing the same thing.  Eventually we reached the bottom of Aldo's, only to find that Ken and Co. were still using the rope.  Fred had just started to ascend when Phil and John arrived.  This section of the cave was now rather congested and became very slow.  I enjoyed the steady plod up the pitches and through the Meanders, even though I was in desperate need of a crap from Gontard’s on.  The surface was reached and it was bliss to change with the warm evening sun to dry us out.  I had been underground for 31 and a half hours, not much by some standards but one great time for me.

Those of us who did the trip together, plus others, spent the evening having a communal meal and drinking numerous bottles of wine etc.  On the Sunday, Fred and I cleared up our camp and very reluctantly (we both would have liked to have stayed to the finish) set off on the drive back through France to the ferry. 

The crossing was rough and I nearly smashed into the back of a lorry when I went sleep at the wheel as we came into London - a good thing Fred was awake at the time!  We arrived home just about in one piece after a truly unforgettable four days.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who organised the Berger trip which proved to be well planned and carried out.



Letters To The B.B.

Found – One 20’ ladder

You might be tempted into thinking that this is a new lost and found column in the BB - it's not!

This note is an attempt to find the persons who left their ladder on the 20' Pot in Swildons some time in October and caused me to be woken up in the middle of the night five weeks later by the police who were concerned that someone was lost down the cave. They can buy me a pint.

The saga began one Wednesday evening in October when a party of cavers, exiting from a Blue Pencil trip in Swildons, noted a ladder and lifeline on the 20'.  The same evening a party was reported overdue.  The whole event came to nothing, the overdue party having left the cave earlier in the evening.  The only other consequence was that a few extra pints were hurriedly downed in the Hunters.  The ladder and lifeline remained.

During the next five weeks the offending ladder and lifeline were noted by several late parties exiting from Swildons.  Things came to a head when a caver from Bristol did a late night trip to Sump 1 and arrived back at the 20' about midnight to find one broken ladder and a lifeline and rope still on the 8' Pot.  He informed the police of his concern that someone might still be down the cave.

The following evening, the MRO Hon. Sec. and I removed from Swildons the following tackle: - one very tatty ladder, broken in four places; one lifeline and one handline.

And the moral of this tale of woe: - take your rubbish, tackle included, out of the cave and home with you and I shall not lose my beauty sleep.

Incidentally, the condition of the ladder gives rise to considerable concern; the wires were eaten away with corrosion and in four places were completely broken.  On the Thursday evening before its removal a party actually used this ladder.

Brian Prewer.


Gentle Reader, some of you may be so culturally uncouth as to need an explanation for the following letter.  Back in the days when men were men but people didn't make such a fuss about it, beer was a shilling a pint and creosote held the Belfry together, the B.E.C. conducted an occasional correspondence with His Grace the Duke of Mendip through his secretary Pongo Wallis.  In order to get His Grace off our backs (or wherever it was that His Grace intended), Alfie Collins, who was obliged to be Editor during this Golden Age, would reply. (At that times scribes were common as people didn’t reckon much on writing and Alfie knew someone who could). Anyway, Alfie generally managed to weasel-word his way out of trouble by being frightfully polite and kept us informed through the pages of the B.B.  Will there be a later-day Alfie to reply to this letter one asks oneself?

FROM  Kangy King, Secretary to His Grace, the Duke of Mendip, 2nd. Baron Priddy, K.C.B., W.C. & C., Hon. M.B.E.C. Aspirant.

TO  The Honourable Secretary of the Bristol Exploration Club.

Dear Sir,

His Grace, having recently succeeded to the Title was informed by his solicitors of correspondence with the B.E.C. undertaken on his behalf in the 1950's by his Father's Secretary Mr. Pongo Wallis.

Mr. Wallis then a notorious cave photographer is now well embarked on his retirement career as distributor of coloured photographs.  These or at least the ones that he chose to show me one evening at the Star Inn in Wells, he described as blue, which puzzled me somewhat as they were in fact sepia in colour.  I took them to be old medical photographs as they were well thumbed and almost exclusively of females of a certain age unclothed and presumably demonstrating physiological phenomenon.  The purpose of my meeting with him was to clarify the relationship of his late Grace with the B.E.C.  I attempted to ease the discussion with liberal hospitality but in spite of a second barrel of Kingston Black being hastily made available by mine host I gained nothing except a curious twitching oscillation of his left optic as he placed his right forefinger alongside his nose.  I remember little more of the evening as the sight of Mr. Wallis consuming what he described as his pudding, a mixture of rough and orange and ice cream caused me some distress.

His Grace then suggested that I should stay, incognito, at your headquarters.  This I did during the August Bank Holiday.  My appearance was somewhat spoiled, I fear, as I was forced to abandon my high heeled open toed red patent court shoes with the lovely filigree silver strap around my ankle and borrow a pair of gum boots.  One of these contained a piece of fleece but I was not able to ascertain why this should be so as there were no Club Members to be found.  They were Australians, Londoners, Crewe Caving Club, a dozen or so in all, staying at your salubrious premises and they suggested that I might try looking in the Hunters Lodge Inn where Members might be found at that hour sitting on the steps waiting for the Landlord (another Member I was told) to open the bar.  I repaired thither and although the bar was in fact open I could only identify a small but distinguished group who introduced themselves as Old B.E.C. members.   The spokesman for the group was a Mr. Alfred(?) Collins and I had the great pleasure of meeting Mrs. Collins and their charming daughter together with Mr. and Mrs. Ransome and a suave gentleman, Mr. Bagshaw by name, who touched me for 25p, an old habit I believe, for he had had, the honour formally, I learned, of being both Secretary and Treasurer of the B.E.C .  I was informed that Butcombes was 'on' and I was treated to a quantity of this admirable amber liquid whilst they regaled me with tales of long ago.

Resuming my Enquiries at your Caving premises, I was startled by two wet young men in rubber wear which they assured me was caving apparel.  Their fresh eager faces and clear eyed comportment persuaded me that here, at last, were the Members that I sought.  I presented my card and my Letter Introduction from His Grace and they in turn introduced themselves as Mr. Batstone and Mr. Castle.  They very civilly showed me around the Headquarters and we took tea whilst the visitors disported themselves in the palatial new recreational room curiously known as the Dirty Changing Room.  Was this, I wondered, so called because of the mixed bathing available?  A banner announcing “Vacances Propre” which was translated for me as "Clean Holidays" added to my confusion.

I felt it necessary that evening to check what is obviously an adjunct to the Headquarters and once again was allowed into the Hunters Lodge Inn after only a short wait on the doorstep.  I partook of Butcombes for its excellent restorative qualities and was delighted to make the acquaintance of more charming people who

had heard of B.E.C. Members. Feeling quite restored I heard myself agreeing to conduct a party into a cave the next day.  This did not seem odd at the time especially as they were kind enough to buy me more refreshment to help cure my knees.  Mr. Jarratt showed me how to find what he called The Belfry and too late I realised that he too might be a Member.  At The Belfry I learned how to put my legs behind my neck and that the difference between an Australian and yoghurt is that yoghurt is cultured.

The Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club arrived at ten o'clock the next morning led by a girl called Maria who assured me it was all compressible.  Whilst I inwardly regretted my rash words of the evening before no one would have resisted forcing a squeeze with such a lovely young woman.  Suddenly, Mr. Castle, as impressed as I was by the potential of the R.F.D.C.C., offered to help us in the squeezes.  We descended Saint Cuthbert's Swallet to the September Series Boulder Ruckle and had a marvellous time in the squeezes until we were tired out.

That evening, in the Hunters Lodge, knees with more Butcombes.

I was able to assuage my Sir, I am now better able to understand the necessity of the relationship between Caving and Butcombes but I am still unable to explain, to His Grace, that of his dear departed Father with the B.E.C.  The Dirty Changing Room did not exist in those far off days.  I should be glad of your comments to oblige,

Yours Truly,

Kangy,  (Sec'y, His Grace the Duke of Mendip.)


SRT Tackle

I have heard recently that the question of whether the club should purchase and provide for members use SRT rope and pitch rigging accessories (krabs, mail Ions, hangers, bolts) has been discussed by the committee.

May I make the following points which to me appear very relevant to this matter.

1.                  At an A.G.M. within the last few years the question was discussed.  From memory the decision taken was that the club would only supply the traditional caving tackle of ladders, lifelines, tethers and spreaders.  This decision I interpret as forming club policy which has never been revoked by any subsequent A.G.M.  Therefore no committee can override it or take any different action unless a future A.G.M. decides so.

2.                  Many times discussion has taken place on the desirability of group SRT tackle for general club use.  Even very recently at a meeting to dispose of the Berger Expedition equipment those present considered that the club could not control such equipment.

3.                  Where will it be stored?
Who will administer it and keep a log of usage? Who will check for damage etc.?
Who will say when a rope is unsafe?
Is there a big demand amongst members for group SRT equipment?
Are krabs, maillons, hangers etc. group tackle or should individuals use their own?
Would you use club tackle for SRT?

4.                  Even in the reasonably well controlled situation of the recent Berger Expedition where over 50 people used the SRT tackle many people expressed worries about the rope and more particularly worries over individuals treatment of it; their different SRT techniques which could cause damage to the rope and the lack of care with it.  I would suggest that the control over club SRT tackle would be less diligent and therefore more prone to misuse, loses and damage.

5.                  Our ability to look after our gravitational caving tackle is not very good.  Much goes missing never to be seen again.  I was in the tackle store recently and noticed only 1 lifeline - where have all the others gone?  Tethers and spreaders are abused and twisted beyond use.

6.                  Can the club afford it?  Are there not more important expenses?  I suggest that the only action the present committee can take now is to air the matter amongst members and in the B.B. for consideration at the next A.G.M.

Tim Large  5th December 1985.


Hut Warden’s Report

Club Officer’s report – October 1985

I was co-opted onto the committee after volunteering for the post at the 1984 A.G.M.  At the meeting I pointed out that I would not have the same amount of time to devote to the job as in previous years in the post, due to other commitments.

My main objective, has been to attempt to simplify the running of the Belfry, so that the Warden does not have to stand over Hut users and crack the whip to ensure that jobs are done.  A modicum of common sense, with the application of a small amount of initiative on the part of some hut users would have made the job run a little smoother in some instances.

This year the Belfry has been re-styled to the design approved at the 1984 A.G.M.  A much more functional format, I think, I am sure those of you who have seen or used the new style Hut will agree that an excellent job has been done.  The work was carried out in the matter of about six weeks, and although the hut was at times almost uninhabitable, a few diehards maintained a presence, either sleeping in the wreckage or camping.  Thanks are due to those people, both members and guests, for allowing themselves to be begged, cajoled or browbeaten into working on the hut. Actually some did volunteer.  Also deserving of thanks are Dany Bradshaw and his partner for taking on the major works contracts and doing an efficient job. Also to John Dukes who spent many hours rewiring the hut.  It should be noted however that a number of small jobs still remain to be done by the club, and we still have to maintain the hut.  Hut fees were raised as from the 1st June to £1 for members and £2 for guests.  Although the payment of Hut fees has been good this year a number of people seem to forget that day fees and tackle fees exist, this money goes to provide the club with better services and facilities.  Whilst on the subject of finances, Belfry receipts for the twelve months from October 1974 stand at around £2,500.  However, it must be noted that expenditure such as rates, electricity, insurance and the transfer to the Hut Building Fund are not included in this figure; reference must be made to the Belfry Profit/Loss sheet in the Treasurer's report for a true reflection of hut finances.

Attendance at the Belfry run to a total of 1474 bed-nights, this figure can be broken down as follows:-

Members bed-nights                   665

Non Members bed-nights            809

Of the Non Member figure, 156 bed-nights were taken up by the Navy Resource and Initiative Training parties making mid week use of the Hut.

For the past six months I have been trying an experimental Hut fee system, relying on the hut users to pay their fees into the conscience box and entering details of their visit on a sheet.  This system relies on the honesty of our hut users to make it work.  We have had some surprisingly honest members.  I would urge my successor to carryon with this system on a more refined basis.  I would be pleased to help in this task.

Finally my thanks for all those too numerous to mention who have helped in the past twelve months. My apologies to our treasurer for my system of accounting which must have been totally alien to him.

Chris Batstone October 1985

If this B.B. is not big enough, how about putting pen to paper and sending me that article you keep promising.