The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Dave Turner

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of club officers are not necessarily the views of the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, or the editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee the accuracy of information contained in contributed matter as it cannot normally be checked in the time at his disposal

Cave Closures

Swildons and Eastwater being so for some time.  A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to try and resolve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction - rather a hard task!

Committee Nominations

These have to be sent to the Secretary by 6th September - see Bob's notes on page 2.  Last year the committee had to be formed at the AGM as there were only 5 members standing and all of those were automatically nominated as they were already on the committee.  Let’s see if we can do better this year.

Member’s Weekend

Don't forget the Members' Weekend on the 22/23 August.  With luck this BB should reach you before then, if not then no doubt you went and heard all the news of the BEC's exploits in Austria as well as drinking the barrel (5) dry whilst working on the Belfry.


Sec’s Notes

Notice of Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the BEC will be held at The Belfry on Saturday, 4th October at 10.30am prompt.

You are reminded that nominations for the 1986-7 committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 6th September 1986.  All nominations must have a proposer and seconder.  Present members of the committee are nominated automatically if they wish to stand for re-election.

Annual Dinner

The annual dinner will be held at The Caveman Restaurant, Cheddar on Saturday, 4th October at 7.30pm for 8.00pm.  The cost will be £10 per head including wine.  There is a choice of menu, meat or poultry!  Full menu will be published in the next BB.  Tickets are available from Brian Workman, Meadow View, Little London, Oakhill, Bath (Tel: 0749-840815).

Wessex Challenge

This year’s event took the form of a sedan chair race.  With a yell of "Everything to excess!” eight rather Victorian BEC undertakers ran, crawled, and dived around a particularly nastily contrived MNRC ‘course’, portering their sedan hurst “a la Jarratt”.  Fending off all the opposition, the BEC duly won the day again. (The 'Weesex' duly came last!). This was followed by much feasting and drinking and an outstanding performance by the BEC sofa rugby team, once they had decided upon the correct end to aim for.  The winners of this trophy by tradition provided next year's challenge - any ideas?

Wigmore Swallet

The club dig at Wigmore Swallet is being carried on by a few of the brave most weeks, midweek as well as weekends~ and progress is being made.  The club has purchased a number of “Acro” type trench props to try and stop the regular occurrence of the roof becoming intimate with the floor.


Our best wishes to go with the Austria expedition which leaves the country at the beginning of August.  I hope to have a full report of all the new discoveries on the Datchstein in the next BB.

Bob Cork


Caving in North-West Nelson and Buller, New Zealand

There are so few cavers in New Zealand - about 200 in the NZSS - that most can claim they virtually know everyone else in the society.  However, they make up for lack of numbers with quality of caves and are especially with their hospitality.  Before going to N.Z. we had written to a few cavers and when we arrived everyone seemed to know we were around and looking for trips.  Not only did we get carted about the country, but we were invited to join caving trips, even having some specially arranged for our benefit; we were invited to dinners, barbeques and parties, and welcomed to stay in peoples homes; we were lent all manner of caving gear, without which many caving trips would have been expensive or impossible.  Half the cavers here are not original Kiwis at all - we have met ones from Yorkshire, South Wales and even Mendips. John Hobson (remember Hobson’s choice in Dow Cave) is still active." Mark and Alison Russell (SMCC) might go caving again yet.  Greg Pickford ( Wessex) is finding caverns measureless in the Nelson Marble Mountains.  But whether Kiwis, ex-pats or foreigners, we are grateful to them all.

A quick phone call to Chris and Pam Pugsley in Greymouth gave us shelter from the rain and our first caving in Buller.

The west coast of South Island is one of the wettest, most rugged areas of New Zealand.  Whereas Fiordland, in the south, is accessible largely only by boat, plane or on foot, the northern part has road or track hugging most of the coast. Around Greymouth and Westport there are bands of young limestone, much of it covered in primary bush, dense and uncharted.  Access from the road is often along rivers or forest tracks, and hundreds of sites are already known, with more being found constantly as the bush is penetrated and explored.

The first cave that we looked at in the region was Fox River cave.  It happened to be raining, very hard, as we began the walk in along the riverside.  Crossing a dry gravel-bedded flood oxbow, then wading a short distance along the river itself, we spent the next hour gently climbing along the scree/boulder slopes of the river gorge.  There was an obvious path, as several trampers come this way, some to visit the caves.  The rain poured and the tree ferns and tangled creepers dripped heavily on us. After the hour we reached a more open mass of scree up which we climbed, carefully avoiding the numerous nettle trees, whose long, sharp spines give a sting far more vicious than anything in Britain.  At the top of the scree a large rectangular arch opened into high cliffs of the gorge edge. We were glad of the shelter from the deluge, streaming down like an enormous veil a few feet away across the cave mouth.  Small trees and bushes grew well inside, where two obvious passages led off. Straight ahead was the route that most visitors seemed to take - a level, walking sized passage, heading fairly directly into the hill.  There was a lot of stal, much of it rather muddied, sadly, although in some alcoves it looked better preserved.  At the end of the passage, after less than 100m, was a gravel choke, but the sound of a big stream could be dimly heard from beyond.  Back at the entrance we looked at the other route: down a slope of big boulders leading into a long, high chamber, rectangular in section. Making our way over the boulder floor, we came to a series of deep pits in the rocks.  I managed to climb the wall above one of these to reach clean washed, heavily sculpted passage and the sound of roaring water.  A climb down and a short way through a clear pool brought me to the edge of a deep wide rift, with a rope angling away across the abyss. In the void below, my dim head torch just picked out the raging stream, clearly in flood.

Outside the cave we scrambled down the river's edge, where the cave stream resurged beneath enormous blocks.  The rain had finally ceased and as we stood at the edge of the river we toyed with the idea of crossing it, to walk back on the far side (Kiwis have a serendipity attitude to river crossings, developed through their vast numbers of streams and their relative lack of bridges).  Within minutes, however, the river changed to a swirling brown, rapidly increasing in depth and speed.  Needless to say, we stuck to the bank we were already on for the return.  At the “dry” oxbow we watched the river overflow, and were quietly thankful that we were not underground.  Fox River Cave floods rapidly and severely and, with West Coast weather, frequently.  Many of the caves in this area are similarly dangerous.

North-east of Karamea we grossly maltreated our overloaded Fiat 127 taking it over rough, steep, winding forest tracks to reach the Oparara Arch.  At one place we wisely waited in a side track while several tonnes of forest hurtled by on a truck at some ludicrous speed.  The Oparara River runs over a sizable patch of limestone and both it and its tributaries have carved out caves, tunnels and arches.  Unfortunately the most interesting system of all, over 10km long and with more than 60 entrances, Honeycomb Hill, has very limited access. It contains large numbers of bones, particularly of the extinct moa, and therefore special permission must be obtained to enter.  A little downstream from the system is Oparara Arch, a huge tunnel through which it is possible to walk, on a boulder and earth ledge above the stream.  The limestone rests on granite and the stream is cutting through the granite at the inlet end.

Much lower down the river we walked along an old gold mining track, traversing high above the water on a narrow ledge cut into the precipitous cliffs, to reach Cave Creek. Here, half hidden up in the bush and silver beech forest are a number of short caves, including two through trips. One of these, in a damp gully, carries a deep, dark, slow-flowing stream.  The other has a more lively series of trickling cascades under many stalactites and glow-worms.  A third cave dropped rapidly from its sizable entrance, over boulders to suddenly diminish to a grovel.

All of these caves we had done in ordinary walking gear.  For our next trip we needed full caving kit, plus SRT gear.  Our introduction was a beekeeper (Owen Dennis) in Waimangaroa, near Westport.  He was delighted to have us stay in his earthquake damaged house (a common phenomenon) and soon dragged us off exploring in virgin territory.  Having driven out along a forest track we set off into primary bush (the land has never been cleared).  The ground was rather like tropical cone karst - not surprising since this was sub-tropical rain forest.  There was no path.  We followed a route of paint marks on the trees, forcing our way through a dense tangle of undergrowth until we reached a prominent ridge.  It is often easier to follow ridges in the bush as the trees there tend to be larger and the vegetation more open.  A couple of hundred feet below us, to one side, we glimpsed a stream which disappeared underneath our ridge, in the green depths. On either side were huge hollows, dolines full of ferns, mosses lichens, creepers and epiphytes.  Most sites had never been looked at - there are so many likely sites and so few cavers.  After an hour, we descended a particularly large depression, "The Pentagon", where there five deep shafts to be explored.  We lowered ourselves down the steep edge of the depression using the thick, supple vegetation, to reach the edge of three of the shafts.  These turned out to be joined together. Belaying the rope to a convenient tree (one that had not fallen down the shafts) we descended and explored the middle one.  To one side a much higher shaft joined in via a narrow rift, in which several tree trunks had jammed.  Below the boulder floor, 15m down, the rift continued a further 10m to a choke. Across the boulder floor, under a rock arch it connected with the third shaft.  Below this a larger rift dropped away.  Again it was half-filled with rotting trees and again it choked.

These three shafts were really a diversion, an attempt to avoid a huge, dangerously and loosely poised boulder in the fourth shaft., to which we now turned our attention.  Using the same tree belay we abseiled down to a deeper part of the doline, and then down into a shaft, 10m in earth, rotting leaves and loose  blocks, then a steep slippery 10m mud slope brought us to the floor, a wide expanse of gravel and cobbles.  To one side a window looked into a daylight shaft blowing a cool draught from the confined depths, at least another 5m below our floor.  A larger window in the opposite wall of the main shaft looked into another passage.  Yet a third passage, this with a good cool outwards draught, led straight ahead. About 20m along here, clambering amongst earthy, loose boulders, we descended to a trickle of a stream. Unfortunately further boulders made the route impenetrable at this level.  Up and down, over and around the boulders brought us after 50m to the 'Henry' apparently, supported on a pin-point of rock and little else.  Not wishing to go near it I looked carefully at all the other ridiculous possibilities of reaching the obvious passage above the boulder, but nothing went.  Eventually, someone, perhaps less experienced than me in the art of self-preservation, kicked the offending boulder's only support.  Not a breath, not a sound, not a heart beat.  The 'Henry' withstood another kick and another. Safe as houses - indeed, safer than some!  Squeezing between the 'Henry' and the wall I succeeded at the second attempt, after much thrutching and no technique, in safely reaching the top.  The ideal 'eyehole', in which I rigged a tape for the others and for my return journey, broke immediately when I put a strain on it, so I was left to explore on my own,

A 10m long chamber, whose boulder floor was layered with an earthy veneer, had two ways on.  One seemed to head back towards the entrance doline complex, while the other, a walking sized rift, carried the draught and headed into the hill.  After a few easily crossed hollows in the earthy floor I reached a pitch requiring tackle.  My carbide began to fade at this moment too - a suitable point to return.

Out of the cave, and the doline de-tackled, dusk was fast approaching, so we rushed back through the bush in record time, in spite of briefly losing our way in the gloom a couple of times.  We reached the cars in the dark, to the sound of owls starting their nightly chorus.

So, although a crucial bit of a cave had been pushed and overcome, we only had a few tens of metres to our credit.  With so few cavers in Buller, with the cave regions away from the centres of population, and with cave sites being guarded by so many miles of dense bush, detailed knowledge of cave systems, development and hydrology will take decades.

Graham Wilton-Jones


Some Continental Show Caves

During a two weeks motoring holiday around the Alps earlier this year Jane and I visited eight assorted tourist Caves in a variety of countries and terrain. These are just a small proportion of the caves open to the public and several have been adequately described in caving literature, many times before.  For the dedicated speleo-tourist I can recommend "Guide des Grottes d'Europe- by V. Aellan and P. Strinati (1975) and the tourist pamphlets relating to show caves published by the tourist boards of Belgium, France, Austria, Yugoslavia and Switzerland.

Grotte de Dinant “La Herveilleuse” - Dinant, Namur, Belgium.

Situated 500m vest of the attractive riverside town of Dinant.  Discovered by quarrymen, making a railway cutting in 1904 and open as a show cave since then.  The visit takes about 50 mins.  A maze of phreatic passages some 500m long on several levels with some well preserved but scattered formations and a deep, flooded area of slow moving water at river level.  Mostly notable for the aged, Gauloise-puffing Belgian guide - complete with a commentary in execrable English blaring away from a tape recorder slung around his neck. On my visit I was the only tourist (Jane being mobbed by several hundred screaming Belgian school kids outside the cave) and so I got a good look at the place.  Compare this with the trip to Postojna Cave! (see below).

Laichinger Tiefenhohle - Laichingen, Schwalbischen Alb, W. Germany.

Situated 1km SE of Laichingen and 24kms NW of Ulm.  In Jurassic limestone, this cave is a generally vertically orientated system of phreatically enlarged rifts and chambers and is the deepest show cave in West Germany, hence the name.  The visit is made by climbing down and up a series of steep iron steps which leave a goodly deposit of mud on your trousers should you spurn the gaiters provided by the management. 250m of passage is covered to a depth of 70m though further passages descend to 103m and there is another 500m of undeveloped cave.  There are few formations but the water sculpted rock and a variety of fossils make up for this.  The cave acts as one of the feeders for the Blautopf resurgence some 10km away.  Very much an enthusiasts show cave the trip takes 30-45mins.  At the entrance is a caving museum with the usual photos, bones, bits of stal, surveys, etc.  These are becoming very much of an essential item at show caves worldwide and hopefully their conservation orientated displays will not go ignored by those who visit them.

Dachstein Rieseneishohle and Dachstein Mammuthohle - Obertraun, Upper Austria.

While en route to the Weisberghaus to prepare things for the coming BEC Expedition we visited these superb caves (at children’s prices and with a tree beer thrown in thanks to a chance meeting with Siegfried Gemsjager, show cave manager and an old friend of the club).  Situated 3km SE of Obertraun and reached by cable-car these are two of Europe's finest Caves.  The Reiseneishohle for it's mind boggling ice formations which dwarf the visitor and the Mammuthohle for it's enormous phreatic bore passages.

The ice cave is extremely well lit and presented, with the tourist path in places cut through the massive ice formations making for spectacular views.  The trip covers 820m, taking 45mins to pass through the huge chambers and galleries.  The system was explored in 1910 and is over 2kms long.

Contrasting with this, and on the opposite side of the cable car station, is the vast Mammuthohle - over 35kms long and one of the world's deepest systems.   It will hopefully get even longer when connected to the 47km Hirlatzhohle which has recently been pushed to within some 500m of Mammut.  With not an ice formation in sight and few pretties, the cave owes its attraction to the huge main passage of the Paleotraun, to several mega chambers and to the high rift, which soar up above the head of the visitor.  It takes from 30-90mins to see the cave, depending on the size of the party. Unfortunately, if visited after the ice cave, it can be a bit disappointing due to its barren nature.

Yet again, an excellent caving museum with an unbelievable three-dimensional model of the Mammuthohle can be visited.  Dummy cavers in old and new styles of equipment hang from the ceiling and a slide show of the local caves and cavers runs in an adjoining room.  Well worth a visit.

Skocjanske Jama – Matavun, Slovenia, Jugoslavia.

Probably one of the largest show caves in the world with regard to passage size and certainly one of the most impressive.

A footpath from the village ascends a huge doline with the entrance to an artificial tunnel at its base. This is followed into the hill to reach a series of fantastically decorated chambers, gradually increasing in size until the roar of the river Reka is heard ahead.  Due to some adroit manipulation of the lights by the guide, the visitor is suddenly amazed to find himself some 70m above the floor of a huge, misty river passage, on a narrow path cut into the cave wall.  The path then descends to a bridge 50 above the river and follows the hall, halfway up, to emerge 45mins later at the bottom of a gigantic pothole.  This is all real Mulu stuff and completely mind blowing, the only drawback being the stink of the polluted river 50m below.  The Reka sumps in the cave to resurge near Trieste in Italy, some 40kms away.  The complete visit lasts for an hour or more and is a MUST.

Predjama - Postojna, Slovenia, Yugoslavia.

Famous as the site of the Predjamski Grad - a Renaissance castle built under the vast cave mouth where the remains of the, robber baron Erasmus's fortress stand.  The 6km of decorated stream cave below the castle are not yet open to tourists but the building itself, and the dry upper levels of the cave (Erazmova Jama) are well worth a visit - especially in a raging thunderstorm as occurred on our visit, adding much to the Dracula-like atmosphere of the place.

8km NW of Postojna, an hour or so is sufficient to visit the castle and cave.


Postojnska Jama - Postojna, Slovenia, Yugoslavia.'

One of the earliest und most famous tourist caves in the world, it is impossible to miss!  Twenty one MILLION visitors at the last count, it felt as if they'd doubled that number on our trip:  With electric trains transporting hordes of assorted punters into the cave at half-hourly intervals and guides leading throngs of every nationality around the walking parts it is an experience to be savoured – once! Never again will you moan about queues at the "'twenty" or how much money they are raking in at Gough’s. At £6 a head one gets the impression that Postojna is the mainstay of the Yugoslavian economy.  (Eat your hearts out Chris and Sandra!).

We waited in a milling crowd for about an hour to get into the cave. This was enlivened by an ancient, eccentric English lady pushing her way to the front of the crowd.

Once aboard the train life becomes most exciting as it hurtles through hundreds of feet of profusely decorated passages and chambers with the formations being of an overall matt black hue. This is due to a soot layer dating from the last war when Yugoslavian patriots set fire to a German underground fuel store.  One bright spot en route is the Conference Chamber, lit by huge electric chandeliers. Just the job for Gour Hall eh, Butch?

The train eventually halts in a large chamber where everyone gathers at the sign of their chosen language. From here the guides escort the vast parties along a figure of eight route through superbly decorated galleries full of clean and glittering stal.  An artificial pool contains several of the famous Proteus Anguinus blind cave salamanders.  The tour ends at the Concert Chamber, complete with bar and souvenir shop and the railway station for the trip out.  Before leaving the cave a section of the large river passage is visited.  One emerges from the experience with a profound sense of wonder at the mysteries of the underworld and a desperate desire to go somewhere for a quiet drink!

St. Beatush6hle - Interlaken, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.

A fairly uninspiring system of smallish passages with a few formations, going steeply up-dip from the spectacular resurgence.  The first and last sections ofthe tourist route are the most impressive due to the large volume of stream water thundering away only inches from the pathways. The trip covers 900m and takes about an hour.  Again, an excellent caving museum can be visited near the entrance.

Tony Jarratt, ,June 1986.


Ireland Easter 1986

What with green holes, brown holes and the possibility of a speleological equivalent of a black hole it was quite a colourful trip.  We discovered that an overdraft facility is useful nowadays if you want to buy a round of Guinness.  Martyn Grass avoided being roped into the Gay Caving Association (no letters please if there really is one) and kept us brilliantly entertained for the week.  We even went caving.

The trip was originally conceived by myself as an exploratory visit to the "Green Holes" of Doolin.  Martyn came up with a cottage so the party expanded to eventually include Martyn, Chris Smart and Karen, Angie and myself, Rick Stanton (ex-Cerberus) and Mark Vinall (who might be a PCG member) plus Martyn's Alsatian Hannah.

Our arrival in County Clare was characterised by the usual cock ups.  We rang Mrs. Green, the owner of the cottage, to say we would be arriving late.  Not to worry, she said, the house was a bungalow a mile from Kilshanny school and she would leave a light on.  Arriving at 11 pm we discovered numerous well lit bungalows a mile from Kilshanny school. Our first nefarious halt involved my turning the heavily laden car on somebody's front lawn then Mark discovering the only occupant of the house was an immobile and unresponsive individual sitting (probably quaking) in a back bedroom.  We left.  The next call led us to being directed down the road to the next bungalow and success. Thinking to improve matters the next day for Martyn, who arrived on a later ferry, we left a message at the outdoor centre to the effect that the bungalow was white with a wall round the garden.  During daylight hours admiring all the nice bungalows with walled gardens in the area we thought we could have been more specific.  Martyn, Chris and Karen were in seventh heaven after eventually finding it and comparing it with Mrs. McCarthy's cottage.  We set about making it more homely by dumping all the caving and diving gear in the front room.  We then tackled the fire, powered by what the Irish call turf. This was purchased at a bar in Ennistymon in the form of compressed blocks "briquettes".  All around the at the back of the bar were sacks containing peat but mysteriously "Gift from the EEC to the people of Sudan".

Day one saw us all down Cullaun 2 where some people descended the final pitch.  Photographic disaster one came, when part of my tripod decided to go back down the pitch without me.  The trip out consisted of my trying to move fast enough to catch somebody who would pose for a picture.  Outside the cave a surreal situation occurred when I was asked to pose with Pete Glanville for a picture (no relation).  I would have thought one was enough.

The sea looked rough the next day so Plan B was put into action.  This invclved driving round the Ennis area trying to find caves with sumps to dive using Self's guide book.  After a short detour up a rough track (even Volvos can ground) we found the first cave Pollaphuca (worth pronouncing with an "f" and "ucca") not far from a quiet lane.  The entrance was one of several well watered depressions.  The whole party of seven entered the cave armed to the teeth with ropes diving bottles and of course my camera; this was a mistake. In the lead I thought of Stoke Lane and thunderstorms as we wormed our way around an assortment of bends.  After 60 metres we reached the pitch where the passage was meant to enlarge.  Like an estate agents description the guide book concealed more than it revealed.  I quote "A 60 metres long crawl ends at an awkward 5 metre pitch.  Below the pitch the passage height is 6 metres and chert bridges divide the cave into two levels.  The passage ends in a sump".  What the guide book does not say is that the passage, pitch and sump are all in 5 horizontal metres of passage.  Once down the pitch I discovered this fact and worse that the sump was zilch as a diving proposition.  Exit disgruntled diver and sherpas.  Good dig tho'.

Keeping our mud stained wetsuits on we headed off for our next venue Poulnagolloor which sounded nicer and prettier.  Unfortunately the directions were just a little vague and five wet suited characters could be seen ranging some very un-speleological meadows staring the wildlife and drawing a big blank.  Wearing my widest smile I hailed a passing cyclist and asked the way to the nearest cave. Directions took us to some lads repairing a motorcycle which they promptly leapt on to show us the way.  We stopped by one of those ubiquitous Irish bungalows under construction and Martyn took the opportunity to carry out a timber raid to keep the cottage fires burning.  The cave itself was remarkably pleasant and reminiscent of some Welsh caves. A 2 metre by 5 metre joint controlled passage led as a pleasant stroll through some ducks to what Martyn authoritatively declared was the sump pool.  Rick kitted up and plunged off into the darker recesses of the "sump". A watery, "I think you might as well come through" was heard and we followed to emerge in a large passage and meet the sump proper.  Rick dived passing one airbell and then the bubble, and splashing faded to the slap of water on rock.  More noise and he was back.  "What. have you found?" we asked excitedly.  "Goes to a streamway" he muttered laconically "only ten metres long".  Grabbing one of his bottles a valve and my camera I plunged into the sump with him. We emerged in a foam covered pool into which splashed a roaring stream, a complete contrast to the still dark waters on the other side.  De-kitting we crawled off.  We knew no big finds were likely as the stream comes from a very close sink.  However any virgin cave is always exciting. After a couple of bedding crawls and a sort of duck up a cascade I left Rick to force a squeeze up through boulders. Instead I found an attractively decorated oxbow which bypassed some of the grovels in the stream.  Rick returned and after a brief photo call we made our way back through the sump.  After a wash off during which I found an unusual bit of flood debris - a school textbook on Greek - we psyched ourselves up for the third sump of the day.

After a seemingly endless drive through Ennis and down miles of long straight roads we arrived at the grounds of Kiltanon House, one of those places which over here would be a stately home and over there is a sinister ruin.  Tomeens turned out to be somewhere you can hardly believe is real. A fairly large river has hit a small limestone ridge and bored its way through just below the surface.  The impressive 6 metre by 6 metre passage has now been penetrated by a series of surface collapses making it almost a case of caving without lights.  However wetsuits were pretty essential as there were a number of deep pools.  In higher water conditions it would be quite possible to canoe through the whole system.  The exotic feel of the place was heightened by the strands of ivy hanging down from the collapse entrances.  It is a magnificent place.

We made the usual visit to O’Connor’s in the evening met up with Brian Judd and arranged a dive in the Green Holes the next day.  The keen team went down Pollnagree whilst Angie Rick and I opted for a walk up Turlough Mountain as it was such a sunny day.  Eventually everybody converged on Doolin in the early evening with the LADS, little Arthur and others acting as sherpas for the arduous 200 metres carry over limestone pavements to the dive site.  Rick and Brian dived something Brian had been having wild fantasies over for the last twelve months.  Dubbed Mermaid's Hole, this particular green hole began with a 4 metre square entrance and continued as a 5 metres by 3 metres canyon in perfect visibility.  Unfortunately although the divers reached air 80 metres in the cave closed down. However more passage remains to be pushed here.  Meanwhile I took Mark and Martyn down to find the holes I had written up in Descent. To my relief I found them reasonably quickly and even more surprisingly they were bigger than I remembered. Tying on a line I set off into my first green hole.  After 30 metres of roomy passage I reached a constriction and had to shift rocks to get through.  Beyond the passage opened out but my bottle (mental) had temporarily gone so I dumped the reel and backed out.  Mark Vinall lunged in and reappeared five minutes later having cut the line and then wondered if he had the right bit.  Martyn did a sub-aquatic tour of the area.  Rick emerged from Mermaids Hole in raptures, Brian in more sombre mood - he had hoped for some dry cave beyond the dive.  As it turned out that was the last dive we had in Mermaids that week.

The following day most of the party went to Aillwee after Rick had heard the final sump had not been pushed conclusively.  Angie and I went for a stroll down near Polisallagh the weather being too nice in our opinion to go caving and we had been into Aillwee before.  We had an encounter with the LADS who had the leprechaun-like habit of appearing from or disappearing into holes in the ground usually waving crowbars.  For the week that we were there they were always just on the edge of a breakthrough somewhere; they made it after we had left.  Meanwhile back at Aillwee the cavers and divers were shovelling in free food as fast as they could which is where we caught up with them.  Rick having done his bit for the day declined to dive so Mark Brian and I met up at Doolin for the second green hole assault. Unfortunately the tide was higher and a heavy swell was breaking when we arrived.  Undaunted Mark demonstrated how safe it all was by leaping into the pounding waves and getting himself chucked out again.  We were not entirely convinced but plunged in with Brian, not one of the largest of chaps, sporting two 72 cu. ft. bottles suspended from his waist. Once in it was every man for himself as I headed for the only green hole I hadn't seen this time armed with my trusty camera.  On the way back I encountered some legs sticking out of another hole.  Tugging the fins revealed a firmly attached Mark who proceeded to scribbled frenziedly on his slate "Brian's gone in" which I read as "Brian's going in?"  As I had entered the water with Brian I concluded he had surfaced so dragged Mark off back to the surface.  Meanwhile Brian emerged from the cave.  Back on the land we could see Brian’s head bobbing about amongst the waves as he plodded shore wards.  We hauled him out 72's and all.

The next day was the great Anglo-Irish Expedition to Poll na g Ceim which is a story in itself. Whilst Mark Rick and I assisted in our various ways Angie Chris Karen and Martyn got drunk at O'Donoghues - only open after 2 pm if you plan on ever going there.  They all learnt something interesting about German women, that you need Arabian sun tan oil for the sun traps of Ballyryan (watch out for the pine martens) and that if you order crocodile sandwiches you should make it snappy. Mark and I returned to find everybody in a very gay mood which culminated in Hannah getting so excited she bit Martyn in the buttocks whilst he was assaulting Angie.  This was just a prelude to what happened in Sean O’Connor’s restaurant with Rory and the German waitress.

On our penultimate day we said our farewells to Martyn Chris and Karen and the remaining four of us went to Fanore to get some air off John McNamara.  John handed us the keys to the compressor shed and told us to get on with it. Half an hour and three partially dislocated shoulders late we found the third lever - the one that actually allows you to crank the compressor successfully.  Bottles filled, it was back to say goodbye to M C and K again. Down at Doolin we were abandoned by Angie who declared diving in the swell was foolhardy.  Watching the waves spraying 2 metres above our heads I wondered if she was right.  Regardless we plunged in and lost Rick this time.  Whilst he wound up going into the harbour Mark and I headed for Chert Ledge Cave which I planned to push beyond the constriction.  Unfortunately a strange cold feeling started to creep up my left leg - my suit was leaking. I therefore lunged for the first, unexplored, cave which is Harbour Hole.  The cold was at waist level as I started reeling out line in perfect conditions. At 30 metres I encountered the toothless grin of a large dogfish who watched motionless as I swerved past him. At 40 metres a brilliantly coloured cushion star lay on the floor of the passage.  Feeling the penetrating cold I dumped the reel and groped my way out. Half an hour later I was gently steaming in O’Connor’s supping a welcome pint of Guinness.

Our final day dawned strangely quiet (Martyn had gone) as we prepared to visit Coole Cave which Rick and Mark were going to dive.  Locating it proved a problem - it lies in an absolutely minute depression about 3 metres across.  Once found we soon reached the diving site.  Mark and Rick disappeared into the murk and Angie and I took pictures. In the good old UK this cave would have been totally vandalised by now.  It consists of several hundred metres of well decorated walking sized phreatic passage, an old route of the Coole River which is seen nearby.  It harbours numerous bats and an interesting feature is some calcited string which is the traditional Irish route finding technique. Rick and Mark emerged after an hour or so having a great respect for Martyn Farr's climbing skills.  Rick had pushed on beyond Farr's limit to another chamber and sump.  This cave could go for miles in this fashion.  The only problem is the fine grained and ubiquitous mud which required half an hours work in the Coole River to remove.

On the day we had to leave Rick discovered I hadn't repaired my dry suit properly by borrowing it and using it.  He also rescued the line reel from Harbour Hole on a very pleasant dive in perfect conditions with Mark.  I stood on the surface cursing the cold I was nurturing.

All in all a good trip. Lots of potential and anybody who says Clare is boring caving ought to try Poll na g Ceim.

Pete Glanville


Poll Na G Ceim

Until very recently Irish cave exploration, particularly in County Clare, has in the main been made by visiting British cavers with UBSS being in the fore as explorers and recorders.  The scene is now changing and increasingly in the future I think we will find that the really significant finds will be made by local cavers.  This is due to the presence of various “ex-patriates” who have settled in the region and stimulated interest by the local population.  Cave training schemes have helped to develop the skills of the embryonic cavers.  Among many of the new sites being dug and explored was one called B5a on the side of Knockauns Mountain.

Originally dug by Colin Bunce (ex-Aberystwyth U.C.C.) B5a was a small choked hole near an active swallet. It was excavated to reveal a pitch reached only after a very tight squeeze had been passed (since fortunately by-passed).  The pitch was only 4 metres deep and led into a small circular chamber.  At the far end was a distinct surprise - the deepest underground pitch in Clare.  This magnificent semi-circular shaft dropped a free-hanging 31 metres to a large ledge and a further series of shorter pitches past an inlet passage to a final rather grotty sump at the depth of 74 metres.

At this point a digression is worth while.  Some of you may have been at a BCRA conference a few years ago when Oliver Lloyd and Charlie Self presented their paper on the Balliny depression.  This paper was stimulated by discoveries a few years earlier in Poliballiny a system only a kilometre from B5a.  Pollballiny had a foul reputation for many years as being a long rather monotonous passage with much stooping and crawling which led to a sump.  When the "sump" was visited in the late '70's it was found to be only a very wet crawl and the cave was pushed considerably further down some much roomier passage through a rather nasty choke to a sharp crawl.  At the end of this the explorers were staggered to find themselves in an enormous passage unlike anything normally seen in County Clare.  Initially 6 metres wide and 20 metres high it descended past two pitches and became a canyon 3 metres wide and 30 metres or more high.  Sadly it terminated in a huge roof to floor collapse and the stream dropped away down a very immature passage.  The terminal passage lay under the near Balliny depression.  This depression is really rather spectacular being cliff girt on all sides and 10 or more metres deep.  It covers an area of thousands of square metres.  The theory to account for its origins is that it was originally the site of a huge river sink draining a much larger area than that of modern caves. It eventually became choked and a large lake formed at the same site  overflowing at one end to allow Its waters to reach the sea 250 metres below. The presumed resurgence for this system lies under the sea as does that for the modern caves.  The terminal passage in Pollballiny may only represent an inlet into this mega system.  Digging in the depression has revealed it to be pretty hopelessly choked.

Poll na g Ceim (cave of the steps) as B5a was dubbed offered a new route into the Balliny system.  It lies on a fault line which intersects the depression and approaches from the opposite direction to Pollballiny.  With all to play for, the sump at the bottom of Poll na g Ceim had to be tackled.  Sumps in caves in that part of County Clare are not noted for going and in general cave diving in this region has not produced the spectacular results seen in Fermanagh.  Furthermore there is a lack of native cave divers in this part of the world. Nothing daunted Brian Judd (ex-BPC and now living and working in the area) rose to the challenge.  Without any real previous cave diving experience he decided to tackle the sump.  His first attempt in August 1985 ended in failure when the unsuitably large bottles he was using proved too bulky.  It must be realised at this point that Brian was conducting the whole venture on a shoestring budget without the back up of a local branch of the CDG.  Undeterred Brian returned with smaller bottles and successfully passed the sump which although constricted was only 12 metres long and 3 metres deep.  Thirty metres of passage led to the inevitable sump 2.  At this point Brian roped in another non cave-diver, Dave Scott, and the two of them examined Pollnagame 2 without being able to find a bypass.  Brian dived sump 2 and found it to be a very muddy low bedding plane which he failed to pass.  In October Brian and Dave returned with Tim Fogg and Kevin Woods.  After an initial unsuccessful dive by Tim, Brian got through on a base fed line.  Although the sump was originally 12 metres long, destruction of a chert dam (features of all the sumps) reduced it to only 6 metres.  Divers had problems with the sumps on the way out.  The next trip was done solo by Brian Judd with Colin Bunce as sherpa.  Sump three was separated from sump two by a high rift and proved to one of the easiest sumps. After a 6 metre dive Brian surfaced in Pollnagame Four and followed 37 metres of well decorated crawling to sump four.  Using a single bottle Brian examined sump four for 4 metres.  A second solo attempt an sump four was frustrated by large bottles and, in desperation, Brian sent an urgent order to caving supplies for a 15 cu. ft. bottle via a friend in Aer Lingus.  At the end of February of this year he passed the sump on another solo trip.  This was an impressive feat; the sump was so tight four metres in that the only way to pass it was to push all one’s kit including the bottle in front.  Aqua flashes have to be removed from helmets to get through the squeeze!

In Pollnagame Five the fun started.  After 30 metres in a rift passage an 8 metre pitch was found and Brian had to return.

Reinforcements were now needed - as was tackle.  This was never going to be an easy task.  In early March the Judd, Scott and Fogg team arrived at sump four ready for a big assault. Unfortunately Sump four proved to be a tackle-eater and hung onto the bag containing bolting kit and SRT gear. The rope got through so the team scrambled down the 8 metre pitch but were thwarted after 45 metres by another pitch which just could not be climbed using hand line tactics.  At that point the cave was 26 metres high but only 75 centimetres wide and dropping steeply.

A month later Rick Stanton, myself, Mark Vinall and co. arrived in Ireland having heard tales of this fabulous cave. Brian was overflowing with enthusiasm at the sight of some well equipped cave divers.  Unable to contact Tim Fogg or Dave Scott he decided the opportunity was too good to miss and an instant Anglo-Irish caving expedition was set up. It was eventually decided that Rick and Brian would do the pushing whilst I tried to get some pictures of the cave with Mark.  On the surface Colin Bunce would fix positions using the Molephone transmissions from the explorers.  The night before Rick could be seen with the jitters.  Were the sumps incredibly desperate he speculated; only non cave-divers had passed them and might not know what was considered impossible.  His unease was amplified by the events that occurred prior to the trip.

Mark Rick and I arrived at Brian's house at the appointed hour to find preparations still going on. After a lot of idle chat we were about to head off for the cave when Brian asked where my rocket tube was.  It appeared they assumed I was bringing it for the molephone.  A twenty minute there-and-back dash from Kilmoon East to Kilshanny produced the rocket tube and it seemed like we were ready to leave.  Halfway to the cave Brian stopped his car to chat to a neighbour. Only a few yards behind I ploughed into the back of Brian’s car turning his tow bar into a wishbone.  My Volvo looked singularly unaffected apart from a funny whirring noise which turned out to be a headlight wiper motor jamming. We all climbed back in and set off again.  All were changing near the cave entrance when Brian announced he had left his helmet and lamp at home.  Colin disappeared gnashing his teeth.  Two of the Burren Crawlers went off and rigged the cave.

Once underground Brian became Action Man, sorting out the rigging and taking firm charge of the proceedings.  This was as just as well because the over enthusiastic pitch riggers had gone in for a bit of overkill with the rope deviations.  Rick Stanton nearly came to grief when one of the deviation belays to allowed him down a 4 metres pitch after coming unstuck from the wall.  At the sump Rick kitted and dived whilst Brian reported to the surface.  A swish of bubbles and he, too, was gone.  Mark, myself,  Gerry and Ben (the two Burren Crawlers) headed slowly out as I took photographs.  Back on the surface we changed and went to see how things were going on underground.  Halfway between the Balliny Depression and the entrance to Pollnagame Rick and Brian radioed in that they were about to forge into the unknown.  I witnessed a new spectator sport above ground caving via the mole phone!

After passing the last pitch of 8 metres they traversed high up along a narrow rift until they met a big black space.  A bolt was placed and the pitch descended 7 metres to a ledge and a further drop of 10 metres into a much larger passage.  This was a superb canyon 3 metres wide and 20 metres high which led to a duck under a huge block.  An inlet could be seen cascading in from high in the roof.  Sadly soon after the roof of the passage descended into the almost inevitable sump 5, 128 metres below the entrance but 114 metres above the sea and 78 metres, below the terminus of Pollballiny.  The Balliny saga is not yet ended.  After a resuscitating meal from a HOT CAN the explorers made the long 3 hour Journey out, Rick having to pass sump four 3 times to retrieve a tackle bag. Colin Bunce and Dave Gibson came in to help them de-tackle before they returned to Brian's home and a welcome meal and shower.  Watch this space.

Peter Glanvill May 1986


Pollnagame five has been revisited by Tim Fogg and Brian Judd.  The aim was to dive sump five but at the final pitch a bottle was dropped. It landed next to Tim Fogg the pillar valve bent at 45 degrees.  Tim has lost enthusiasm for Pollnagame.


Daren Cilau

by Mark Lumley.

Having seen the Grade 5c survey of the Hard Rock Extensions, it became apparent to the Crew that the latest Westerly breakthrough from Brazil didn't quite fit the pattern of cave passage in the region.  The survey suggested that there should be a NNW continuation from Brazil, straight through 'Big Passage Nowhere Near The Action' heading up to 'Icing on the Cake' in the divers extension and then ultimately on up to Trident Passage in Agen Alwedd.

At 9.30 in the evening of 27th June, Steve Allen and I headed into Daren to check out the possibility of finding the NNW continuation.  We were at camp by 12.30, had a meal and headed into Hard Rock. Our first impression of the North wall of Big Passage was that it didn't show much promise.  Steve started work at some boulders in one corner while I dug a low, sandy arch.  I soon joined him though, when a void was revealed through a small hole in the floor. An hour later we had dug this wide enough for Steve to get through into a low bedding plane six feet below.  This contained some fine crystal but choked after 10 metres. Steve dug through the choke in about an hour while I gardened my way through behind.

We came up into a 1.5m - 2m high x 10m wide, phreatic passage with a sandy, crystal clustered roof. Unfortunately this stopped at another collapse after 30 metres.  We knew the nature of the passage now and dug down in the floor.  Sure enough a hole, appeared and another low, unstable bedding. I pushed a way in for 5m, wincing as each boulder moved revealed another section of hairy, 'hanging death' roof. Steve, dug the next 5m, howling at one stage as a moved boulder committed him to going forward.

Finally, he was through into a passage continuation of about 10m.  It was about 8.00 am and we were worn out.  I had a look at the next choke and ten minutes later I broke through into the most magnificent crystal passage I have ever seen.  The dimensions were much the same as before but this time we crawled for about 80m, to the next choke.  Throughout the length of the crawl the roof is literally covered in clusters of crystal needles from about 1" to 3" long.  The floor is sand and needles, the latter seemed to get inside our clothes at just about every move, sticking into knees, neck and elbows and earning the place the name 'Acupuncture Passage'.

The fifth boulder choke was dug for 30 minutes and looked very promising but the two of us were knackered so we headed back to camp, had a meal and left the cave after a non-stop 21 hour trip, to the drunken delights of the Chelsea Summer Barbecue.





Progress At Brixham

Since the visit to Rock Dove Cave at Berry Head in 1983 I have some done some more work in the area, in the last few months combining forces with Chris Proctor.  I will initially describe the diving work done on the south side of Berry Head.

In my previous article on Rock Dove Cave I wrote that little of great significance has been found underwater up to that time.  Soon after this I began to find submarine caves!  A map and descriptions of some of the sites can be seen in CDG N/L No. 70 (January 1984).  However it was in the summer of 1984 that a really interesting fins wad made which confirmed that Devon did have the equivalent of “blue holes” i.e. flooded cave systems.  The area lies under the southern end of the wall of the fort on Berry Head.  The first cave examined consisted of a big underwater chamber from which a rift led off but narrowed rapidly.  However an ascending tube in one corner could be seen leading up to an airspace; near here hanging from the roof was some eroded stal. Unfortunately the tube is too dangerous to ascend with diving gear because of the swell so any future attempts would be best conducted in a wet suit at low spring tide when breathing apparatus may not be required.

Only a few yards from this so far unnamed cave is Compass Cave on of the longest sea caves on Berry Head.  It consists of a high rift which must have a vertical range from sea bed to roof of around 15 metres.  I will quote from my CDG log on the cave from the entrance in: “At the base the cave is 3m wide and it was followed for 30m before the presence of large numbers of Compass Jellyfish (Chrysaora Hysoscella) completely psyched me out and I was forced to retreat.  The view on the return dive was quite surreal.  In the green glow from the cave entrance could be seen dozens of jellyfish suspended at all levels in the passage.”  A later dive  at the site showed the cave to gradually dwindle in width but was still passable at a distance of 40 metres where the floor consisted of clean washed shingle suggesting that the site was sometimes exposed to air.  In the air rift part of the rift stal can be seen on the walls. The cave needs a visit in a wet suit on a low spring tide when it should be possible to reach the end without diving gear.  At the entrance is a complex network of phreatic tubes with multiple entrances and an estimated total passage length of 50 metres.  These caves are a haven for marine life including conger eels!

Apart from Compass Cave other caves exist on the south side of Berry Head at sea bed level providing sporting cave dives.  One phreatic tube led for 15 metres through a limestone spur and several rifts were not explored but could be seen going in for a considerable distance.

We now move to the north side of Berry Head and work there.  It was after contacting Chris Proctor on another matter that we met up one afternoon to visit Corbridge Cave. Initially things went badly wrong – my light failed and my camera developed a major fault.  Feeling rather disgruntled I decided to take a look at another cave Chris had mentioned.  This is a rift at the edge of the concrete apron on the floor of the old quarry which extends to the cliff edge.  It drops down to the sea.  Pete Rose climbed down the ladder into the rift but found himself 6m above the floor. Plan “B” was put into operation; this was to swim round and gain entrance to the cave from the sea.  An electron ladder was lowered down the cliff at a point a few yards to the south and being the only one with a wetsuit I ended up descending the ladder into the sea.  I found myself facing another unknown sea cave so swam into this instead.  I approached a steep and slippery climb but opted for a short duck under the left hand wall in waist deep water.  I emerged in a cave passage developed along the strike. On the cave walls were hydroids and sea anemones.  In places were ancient stal flows; this; this was clearly a “land based” cave invaded by the sea.  A short crawl led to a tiny inlet passage on the landward side whilst on the seaward side lay a steeply ascending tube.  Mindful of the tide I returned to the entrance and Chris and Pete who had begun to wonder where I had got to.  This cave was dubbed Garfish Cave from the dead garfish I found floating in the entrance.  I swam round to the original destination which was named Cuttlefish Cave, after a dead cuttlefish floating in it!  This didn’t go in as far and possible extensions seemed to be choked by boulders at sea level although there might be passages at higher level.  Again there were ancient stal banks.

Since then Bryan Johnson and myself have surveyed Garfish which was fun as the tide started to come in whilst we were doing it.  The final legs were partly guesstimated.  During the surveying Brian climbed the ascending tube to a point where daylight was visible and he has found the corresponding hole in the quarry floor on a subsequent trip – a dry way in may be feasible.  Bryan’s sampling of the sea water and the inlet water suggests that the inlet water is being diluted by fresh water.  There are other sea caves near here which will need further attention but access is controlled by the tides!


Letter re SSSI

Horfield, Bristol

Dear Sir,

SSSI’s on the Mendip Hills, Somerset

In the Course of an interesting evening spent at Hunters' lodge Inn, Priddy, on 22/5/86, I was acquainted with the broad aspects of the current turmoil surrounding the issue to landowners of a document or letter setting out conditions and qualifications regarding agricultural and other activities which might be deemed by the Nature Conservancy Council to threaten the subterranean Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Without having seen the N.C.C. letter I am unable to comment upon it.  It seems to have irritated the farming community.  In particular, according to Mr. Roger Dors of Hunters' Lodge Inn, it may viewed  as unwarranted interference with the" legal rights of freeholders. "

Now I can well understand Mr. Dors' personal concern, for the follow reasons:

1)                  The only significant cave system so far known to exist under Mr. Dors' land is HUNTER’S HOLE, a straightforward, moderately important site which appears to be of no more scientific value than hundreds of other minor caves and potholes in the British Isles.  There is nothing exceptional about HUNTER’S HOLE and one is frankly puzzled by the decision to list it as an SSSI.

2)                  Even when considered as a "sporting/leisure" site, HUNTER’S HOLE, whilst not irrelevant, is as noted above of no more than moderate importance.  Its loss as a caving place, if Mr. Dors were to destroy it in some way, whilst regrettable, would not, I think, create a furore throughout the Mendip caving or scientific fraternity.

3)                  Mr. Dors is in a unique position in respect of Mendip caving information and rapport. He has been what cavers would call an exemplary cave owner, he is not likely to pollute HUNTERS' HOLE by draining or tipping waste into it, neither will he be inclined to dispose of used motor vehicles or other trash (something which cannot be said of Bristol Waterworks Company, for example, or some other cave-owners), in the doline which constitutes the entrance.

Nevertheless, there are dismaying aspects of the Mendip "reaction" to NCC strictures. "These deserve mention, especially as the major caving clubs on the Mendip Hills are, overtly, taking the side of the landowners.  The decision of the caving clubs to do so is probably a mistake.

A designated Site of Special Scientific Interest should be what it purports to be - something of outstanding importance biologically, geomorphologically, whatever. (If the NCC has designated sites on the basis of ill-informed non-specialist opinion, then the NCC is either foolish or under-staffed - they'd probably claim the latter, with some justification).  Granted that an SSSI is correctly designated, then the interests of the landowner must be subordinate to the interests of the community, notwithstanding personal disadvantage.  A correctly designated SSSI represents, often, not merely a preservable curio or asset, but something unknown elsewhere something irreplaceable.  The SSSI is the jewel in the conservational crown, if such analogy be permitted.  It is imperative that SSSI designation be accurate in this respect; and it is essential that protection to the SSSIs and their contents be provided and where necessary enforced.  Any action by the Nature Conservancy Council to these ends has to be welcomed, if not by all formers and owners then at least by those of us who regard the surviving pockets of British wilderness as valuable.  I had assumed that cavers were of similar persuasion.

My experience of landowners on the Mendip Hills suggests to me that they are sympathetic to responsible visitors/trespassers and to that which exists on or under the land.  This is not so everywhere.  There have been serious transgressions of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981: a large number of SSSIs have been lost and damaged. Magistrates have declined, for the most part, to convict offenders (mostly members of the farming community or unscrupulous developers such as at Udden's Heath in Dorset).  It became quite clear during the period 1981-'84 that loopholes in the Act's provisions required urgently to be closed.  This has been done.  The matter of enforcement (since most agricultural development is NOT covered by the planning legislation) remains.  It would be unwise to assume that the problems have been solved.  If the NCC is seen as "heavy-handed", well, what would you wish it to be?  Would you wish it to present a limp facade in the face, very possibly, of the bulldozers?  The fact that this consideration does not apply right at this moment at, say, Eastwater or Swildons, is no future guarantee.  There has to be a generally acceptable mechanism for the regulation of development, be it in connection with agriculture or anything else; this, I am convinced, is what the NCC seeks.  I can understand the reluctance of responsible landowners to calmly accept an implied criticism of their methods, or en intrusion upon their legal rights; had NCC been more expert in their selection of sites (if the NCC is responsible - something which has not been clarified to my satisfaction, for one) some difficulties might have been avoided.  If, as seems likely to me, the NCC was guided by caving "expertise" which in the event proved fallible, then it is high time they consulted experts whom they can trust.  But that is not the whole story, for, no doubt, there will always be a tendency to resist that which is intended to preserve the non-profitable !

The decision taken by, or on behalf of, the caving community, albeit a pragmatism well-appreciated by those who live on the Mendip Hills, is dubious in this: that it results directly from the power of a landowner to refuse access to a cave.  In general, such power is, on Mendip, never exercised.  The landowners and tenant farmers controlling the major sites are amenable to reasonable requests for access - indeed, I have thought for many years that they were more amenable than caving clubs and councils, on balance.  Certainly I have had very few problems, even holding the views which I do, except where a caving organisation was involved.  I do not say that is because caving interests are involved there might have been access worries anyway owing, say, to the pressure of numbers of caving parties - but it's how I've found it.  I always, where possible, prefer to deal with the owner of the land or cave.  It is much more simple and does not lead to aggression.  There are, however, instances in which it becomes a moral obligation to understand what is at stake; the short-term benefits must not be permitted to outweigh the possibility that natural habitats will be destroyed or so reduced as to be worthless.  It is, in part, the duty of NCC and their like to ensure this.  It is also our duty as cavers and as farmers. We should all think on that.

yours etc

(Bob Lewis) WCC; SVCC.