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The Exploration Of West End Series. May 1983 – May 1986

The following article was intended for inclusion in a Caving Report to be published on completion of the survey of the West End Series.  Due to present caving politics it would seem that any future publishing of surveys of S.S.S.I’s would be against the interests of the Mendip caving fraternity and so it has been decided to include this write-up in the B.B.  My apologies for the somewhat monotonous nature of this report but it has been written essentially to record details of the exploration of the series for the benefit of future speleo­historians.  Should an Eastwater Caving Report ever come to fruition this article will be updated and included.

Tony Jarratt.      4/7/86

"Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough to mask thy monstrous visage?"    Shakespeare

From the B.E.C. Log(8/5/83) - Keith Gladman and Andy Lolley visited Ifold's Series, via Dolphin Pot and Harris's Passage, where they had a "frig in the boulders'!

INITIAL DISCOVERY

On an uncertain date, probably the 28th May, KG and AL dug into several hundred feet of roomy inclined bedding and rift passages after a total of some six hours of excavation in the low tube at the end of Ifold's Series.  The two main rift passages in the new SOHO and THE STRAND series were named SOHO and THE STRAND the extension itself being christened WEST END SERIES due to its position relative to the rest of the cave.

The following week KG and eight B.E.C. entered the new stuff intent on surveying, unfortunately forgetting the tape in their excitement!  Tim Large's compass bearings showed the dip to be 210o.

SNOTROM AVEN

Most of the obvious side passages were explored to gain a couple of hundred feet of extensions, one of these leading to an 80ft high aven free climbed by TL and Stuart MacManus to where it became too tight. This was later estimated to be almost directly below the club's Morton' s Pot Dig.  The new series was dry at this time.

Phil Romford, Tony Jarratt and John Watson followed the first team after a liquid lunch.  It was raining on the surface as they entered the cave.  After route finding problems they met KG’s team at the breakthrough point, continuing on into the West End as the others left for the surface.  The downpour had by now travelled through the cave and entered West End from the 80ft aven (Snotrom Aven), sinking in a tight bedding plane below.  The three tried to follow this water, the most likely route being an awkward bedding (the ORGAN GRINDER) which PR pushed for some way to a very tight squeeze.  AJ passed the squeeze after a struggle and he and JW pushed two further squeezes to reach a descending canyon passage with a 20ft pitch in the floor which was traversed over to reach an eyehole above a deep pitch.  This was estimated at 60-80ft deep and the stream could be heard clearly below, though blasting of the eyehole was deemed necessary to allow access.  The 20ft pitch was free climbed to a short passage and further tight pitch estimated at 30ft.  This section of cave was named GREEK STREET after a low thoroughfare in Soho.  A tiring exit was made and the heaps of froth in the 380ft Way testified to the amount of floodwater that had passed through the cave.  A third team of Jim Smart and Mark Lumley never reached the new series, getting lost in Ifold's en route.

THE TIGHT AND NASTIES

June 11th saw a large team, I.G, AJ, AL, JW, TL, SM and G1yn Bolt (W.C.C.) on a 7+ hour trip attempting to push Greek St.  After widening the top section of the 30ft pitch AJ descended to a wider section with an extremely tight inclined squeeze entering the side of the un-descended 75ft pitch.  He and KG passed the squeeze and laddered 25ft to the floor of the pitch, christened GLADMAN SHAFT.  They went off to explore while the others attempted to widen the eyehole above with a hammer and chisel as it was thought the squeeze could not be reversed.

The explorers entered a high rift passage where a 2ft sta1agmite column was- removed to pass a constricted section.  Beyond lay some 200ft of larger passage with many loose boulders, ending in another tight section.  This and various climbs in the main rift were left for the future and the two had a desperate struggle back up the inclined squeeze as the chisellers had failed to open up the eyehole - the thought of being blasted out of their predicament losing all appeal when the strong inward draught was noted!  A slow, tiring exit was made which set the trend for all future trips in this awkward and exhausting series.  Before leaving the eyehole was "banged" by TL.

The results of the bang were checked the following day by JW a Darren Granfield who found the eyehole to be “comp1etely demolished.”   They laddered the resulting 25ft rift to reach a ledge with a further roomy 50ft pitch to the bottom of the shaft.  The passages below we re-inspected but nothing new found apart from some fine helictites.

REGENT STREET

Returning to the squeeze out of the Organ Grinder, an up-dip passage with a stalagmite false floor was pushed for some 30ft to junction with a large rift passage - REGENT STREET - 8ft wide by 3 high and liberally decorated with flowstone, helictites, cave pearls etc.  At one point the passage was barred by a series of foot high crystal cones - the TERMITE HILLS.  Its delicate beauty earned this area the title of CRYSTAL PALACE.

WARDOUR STREET

The two completely mind-boggled explorers returned along Regent St. little expecting to almost walk into another 100ft of high level rift 15ft above the floor of the main passage.  This was later named WARDOUR STREET.  A major boulder choke sealed the end of this passage but JW looked at possible climbs to reach higher levels that could be seen above.  The rift was estimated at probably 100ft high in places.

Hardly able to believe their luck the two started out but soon met Graham Wilton - Jones, Jane Clarke and “Bucket” Tilbury.  These three were dubious when told of the new finds so were dragged off to Crystal Palace where they were forced to repent.  The Termite Hills were passed with care and a short stretch of formation filled passage entered which dropped down to yet another marvel - an emerald green lake 3ft wide by 30ft long with a drop beyond to a further pool and stalagmite choke.  Following the mode of London place-names the pool obviously became THE SERPENTINE.  All then made an excited exit to spread the good news, though anyone who was familiar with Eastwater was found to be difficult to convince!

THREADNEEDLE STREET

On 15th June PR photographed Crystal Palace and Regent St.  A few small rift passages nearby were examined and named THREADNEEDLE STREET eighteen months later!

These rifts were again looked at three days later by AJ, TL, GB, JW and Andy Sparrow.  They were pushed in various directions for some 200ft and found to be well adorned with thousands of small helictites.  As established, a handshake connection from a tight hole in the floor of the entrance to Regent St. to the "dog-legs" at the head of Greek St.

LOLLY POT

This team then continued to the end of Greek St. to attack the terminal squeeze with hammer and chisel.  When widened to the size of AJ, he was poked through to discover 20ft of tight, potholed canyon passage which abruptly doubled back on itself at the head of a beautiful 40ft pitch - LOLLEY POT.  His screams of ecstasy lured AS and JW through the squeeze and while GB rushed back to Gladman Shaft for a ladder the three admired the new pitch.  Perfectly oval and some 20ft long by 8ft wide the pot was a free-hanging one in black lime­stone.  A real classic.  On receiving the ladder all three descended to find 80ft of slimy keyhole passage, a 6ft pot and 30ft of roomy phreatic tube ending in a body sized tube with a howling draught whistling in.  This was half full of water and obvious signs of recent sumping to some 30ft up the walls precluded any investigation at this time.  Great difficulty was had in reversing the muddy 6ft pot and keyhole passage and another weary exit was made.  To quote the B.E.C. Log "…with much moaning and cursing.  A bloody fine trip.”

Work on mapping the new finds commenced on June 22nd when Trevor Hughes, Rob Harper, Edric Hobbs and DG completed a grade 5 survey from the Serpentine to the Greek St. / Organ Grinder junction.

UPPER WARDOUR STREET

25th June. AJ, SM, TL, PR, JW, Matt Tuck and Brian Prewer.  JW continued his series of climbs into the roof of Wardour St. to find an ascending low passage - UPPER WARDOUR STREET - which was not fully explored.  Two teams surveyed from the squeeze above Lolley Pot and from the head of Greek St. to the 35ft pitch below Dolphin Pot.  A draughting hole above the "Lolley Pot squeeze" was banged by TL.

The following day JW and Mark Brown found a further 100ft in Upper Wardour St. to a point where loose boulders blocked the way on.  Some small red stalagmite flow was noted and it was assumed that the end was not far below the surface.  Meanwhile TH and RH surveyed Wardour St. and the remainder of Regent St.  It was on this trip that the name Wardour St. was first used.  From the Log "….Rob says it's where Blue Movies are made! Also from the Log TH pleaded “Will somebody stop Quiet John discovering passage quicker than we can survey it.”

Three days later TL, Dave Turner and Paul Hodgson inspected the results of the previous week’s bang, which had done little, and looked at other holes in the roof of Greek St.  PH photographed the pretties in Regent St.

July saw continued enthusiastic exploration.  On the 2nd, DG, JW, Andrew George and Ian Caldwell carried on with investigations in the Threadneedle St. area.

On the 7th Barry Wharton was conned into dragging RB's diving gear to the Serpentine where a dive was made to 12ft depth and all parts of the pool checked.  “Definitely NO way on!”

Two days later a large party entered the cave. GB, Pete Hann and Julie Wootton (all W.C.C.) photographed in Regent St. while JW, AJ, TL and Dave “Skunk” Newsome (U.S.A.) took radio - location equipment to the end of Wardour St, where a successful fix was established by BP and helpers on the surface.  The point located is 150-200ft below ground level at a point near the E.S.C.C. hut. Also on this trip another 30ft of rift was found off Regent St. and a visual connection made from the top of Soho back into Ifold's Series.  Only a few rocks were moved to open this up revealing that the new series has always been virtually open!  The connection was not physically passed due to its loose nature but may be useful in the event of a rescue.

On the 13th July (!) Pete & Angie Glanville and Tony Boycott (C.S.S.) failed to find the new series. On the 21st JS and Neill Scallon (C.S.S.) at last succeeded but light failure ended their trip.  They returned the following day with fresh lights and visited Regent St.

AJ, TL, Martin Grass, Chris Castle, Steve Lane, Debbie Armstrong and I.C.C.C. members Chris Birkhead and Hark Bound followed them a day later to photograph and place a further bang on the "Lolley Pot II Squeeze.

With the continued good weather, an attack on the end of Greek St. was planned and on 6th August AJ and Graham "Ug" Summers (N.C.C.) moved eight sandbags of liquid mud and gravel from the tube before disillusionment set in.  Very strong draught was evident.  JW extended his examination of roof passages to the Greek St. area.  On the same day JS, NS and ML visited the "pretties" but light failure again forced a retreat.  Will they ever reach the bottom?

Work on the dig continued on the 27th when TL, AJ, and Peter Bolt (C.U.C.C.) accompanied by Howard & Debbie Limbert, Alan Box and "Noddy" (N.C.C.) removed more bags of mud and gravel to allow AJ to squeeze along 15ft of foul, muddy crawl into 20ft of roomier phreatic rift passage.  The stream sank behind mud banks just below this and a nearby hole appeared to connect with the continuation of the streamway but this was too tight to pass. TL yet again banged the "Lolley Pot squeeze.  PB photographed the pretties and got lost three times.  He also lost most of his overalls and the arse of AJ's furry suit which was underneath!  The N.C.C. team were suitably derogatory about Mendip caves.

BLACKWALL TUNNEL

October saw the next visit to the series when, on the 8th, AJ, and BW were there in wet conditions. No water was entering via Snotrom Aven but a stream was heard in Soho.  This reappeared in the 20ft aven off Greek St. after appearing briefly further back as a 6ft waterfall seen through a rock window high on the south east wall.  Beyond the "terminal dig" some 50ft of inclined tube was pushed and named BLACKWALL TUNNEL - neither for its ample size or cleanliness.  Smoke bombs fired at the draughting rift above "Lolley Pot squeeze" were not detected in Regent St. or anywhere else.  Other bombs lit in the Strand succeeded merely in asphyxiating those present.

29th October. TL and AJ, later assisted by Alan Taylor (W.C.C.) re-excavated the old route from the Boulder Ruckle straight into Boulder Chamber to give an easier access route to parties working in West End.

As a result of five months of almost exclusive Eastwater trips and with the approach of winter, visits to the new series tailed off and it was not until 15th April, 1984 that the next important trip took place.  TL, AJ, AL and Robin Gray went to bang the draughting hole above "Lolley Pot squeeze" but were foiled by lack of wire which it was forgotten had been removed from the cave some weeks before!  AL and AJ surveyed from the end of Blackwall Tunnel to the aforementioned squeeze - a filthy and arduous job.  All left the cave at 8.20pm, one and a half hours overdue, to be met by a prospective rescue party of Alan Downton and Fiona Lewis.  On this trip a hibernating bat was noticed in the passage between Soho and the Strand.

On the 5th May TL and AJ surveyed up-dip in the Strand to a terminal 20ft aven and down-dip to Snotrom Aven.  The cave was bone dry apart from the providentially continuous trickle at the “Magic Fountain” in Ifold Series.

Surveying continued on the 26th with JW, AJ and Nick Hill (S.M.C.C.) completing Upper Wardour St. Smoke bombs lit in Morton's Pot were not detected in West End but produced a faint smell at the “Magic Fountain”.  The new series was now one year old.

On the two Wednesday evenings of 13th and 20th June PR and TL dug and banged at the sharp bend just before Regent St.  On 24th these two plus AJ and Mike? (ex M.C.G.) rushed to this site for the breakthrough.  PR shifted about half a ton of boulders, blocking both his own exit and that of those below him for over an hour!  A short section of open passage was entered but was blocked by more loose boulders. A couple of narrow escapes resulted from this trip - large "Henrys" and gravity being responsible.  To cure this PR, TL and Jeremy Henley banged the offending boulders on the 27th noting that fumes were evident at the top of the strand.

This area saw its final visit on 11th July by PR, TL, JH and Tim Swan.  The last bang had removed some of the boulders but many more blocked the way on.  An aural connection was established through the choke to a similar blockage in the floor of Wardour St. above.  The dig was then abandoned.

With a distinct lack of enthusiasm from B.E.C. members who had worked bloody hard in the cave for over a year and with a tight and muddy crawl being the only feasible way on, it was decided to invite the W.C.C. in the shape of Pete and Alison Moody to assist in further exploration.  Accordingly on 30th June they went to the end of the new series with AJ, JW and Rich Websell (WC.C.).  Alison managed to pass the terminal squeeze at the top of Blackwall Tunnel to be stopped by another squeeze after 6ft.  The stream sink and nearby hole were investigated but need banging.

Meanwhile work on the survey slowly progressed.  On 11th August AJ and JW surveyed the loop passage off Organ Grinder and the remainder of Soho.  TL and P & AM returned to the Blackwall Tunnel to place 2lb of bang on the two end squeezes.  The result was inspected within half an hour as the fumes quickly dispersed in the strong draught.  AM passed the final section to gain 10ft of tight passage and a further constriction which was then blasted with another 21b.  All then left the cave.

A return was made here on 15th September by AJ, P & AM and Pete Watts (W.C.C.).  The terminal squeeze was chiselled out and passed by AM to yet another squeeze which PM banged.  AM then conquered this to jubilantly emerge in a 10-15ft high, well decorated cross rift with a descending bedding plane ahead. Loneliness, pools of bang fumes and the instability of the floor gave AM good excuses for an honourable retreat, but before struggling back to sanity the last squeeze was again banged.

CHARING CROSS

Further exploration here was then delayed due to an unfortunate club squabble which lasted for a few weeks until resolved in the traditional manner at a convivial Wessex barrel party.  Thus on 27th Sept. a combined team returned to the "wide" open extensions in very wet conditions.  JW, AJ, P &. AM and Paul Whybro (W.C.C.) all passed the squeezes to CHARING CROSS.  The promising bedding plane closed down both up and down-dip though an extra down-dip section led to a small static sump.  The cross rift was not pushed far up-dip as straws and loose boulders partially blocked the route.  The down-dip continuation, to the south east, was a fairly level and crystal floored rift with a profusion of formations similar to those of Regent St, somewhere above. AJ doffed his filthy boots and oversuit to follow this for some 60ft to a junction with a much larger gallery.

JUBILEE LINE

This sealed the fate of the crystal floor and all were soon assembled in this 10ft high sandy floored passage admiring a stalagmite resembling a cricket ball on a stick.  With the 50th anniversary of both clubs being upon them it was unanimously decided to christen this major new passage JUBILEE LINE. Some 60ft further, after a traverse over a collapsed area of floor, the edge of a 50ft pitch was reached.   The large black space below issued forth the siren call of an active stream. Not having any tackle the area was searched for alternative ways down resulting in the discovery of two more pitches, 30ft and 20ft deep but definitely not free-climbable.  On the way "out an interesting hole" under a flow stone bank in the up-dip rift of Charing Cross was chiselled open to allow AM to force another squeeze to the head of a 15ft phreatic pot, assumed to connect with the unknown route below the other pitches.

CHAMBER OF HORRORS

After a suitable rest the attack was resumed on 10th November with a strong party of TL, AJ, P & AM, Pete W, GB, Geoff Newton and Jeff Price (W.C.W.).  Passage versus body size left GB at "Lolley squeeze" and JP in the Blackwall Tunnel.  The rest reached the new stuff with a struggle and an awkward descent of the 20ft pitch Pot was made into a large but gloomy and obviously flood prone chamber at the base of the two larger pitches.  This instantly became the CHAMBER OF HORRORS.  The enticing stream entered from a tiny crawl only to sink into a tight rift some 20ft below the boulder “floor.”  This inlet proved to give a visual connection back to JP in the bottom of Blackwall Tunnel which could be blasted to provide much easier access. The whole of the chamber was coated in sticky mud and small bits of polythene bag perched high up on boulders are evidence of recent flooding to a depth of around 60ft above the stream sink. The intermittent Greek St. stream can hardly be the cause of this and so a hidden streamway beneath the chamber is assumed to be the villain of the piece.  The area bears a distinctly unhealthy appearance to parts of the flood prone Ogof Hesp Alyn in North Wales.  Beyond the chamber PW climbed 20ft into the continuation of Jubilee Line and followed a fine section of passage some 200ft long. Partly of walking size and with fine though muddy formations, its main claim to fame is an immaculate nest of cave pearls set off by their presence on a wide mud bank.  Conditioned to accept the worst the team were not surprised when the passage lowered to about 5 inches high in a descending crawl.  AM again proved to be the best invention since drain rods when she forced the crawl to a small chamber and wet u-tube beyond. PH then took over and pushed this after a struggle up the steep and muddy far side.  He gained a further 50ft of fine passage ending in an impassable wet squeeze with a stalagmite choke above.  Just prior to this a strongly draughting rift is undoubtedly the way on but requires bang.  Back at the climb up, various side passages were examined to reveal a sumped inlet with descending phreatic ramps below leading to a mud choke and a small active sink. Time and exhaustion then forced the team to leave the series without descending the 15ft phreatic pitch or checking possible up-dip routes towards Regent St.

ABERFAN

A return visit was made on 17th November by P & AM, GN, PW, GW-J and JC, when the 15ft pitch was laddered to reach another typical Eastwater bedding plane, choking down-dip in the direction of the Chamber of Horrors but developing up-dip into a slippery, mud covered incline - ABERFAN PASSAGE.  Across the bedding from the foot of the pitch a dried up streamway with large sandstone cobbles led after 100ft to the superb CENOTAPH AVEN, 20-30ft in diameter and at least 60ft high.  Meanwhile, in Charing Cross, QW-J and JC gave up their attempted survey work in muddy frustration.

GW-J and JC were back again on 9th December together with BT and Mike Davies (N.U.C.C.).  They rigged a fixed rope traverse above the Chamber of Horrors to link the two sections of Jubilee Line and once again surveyed the dreadful Blackwall Tunnel - by mistake!

On 15th JW, GN, PW and PM spent some time chemically widening the squeeze to the 15ft pot, Blackwall Tunnel squeezes and the hoped-for by-pass to Blackwall Tunnel itself. JW not appearing with the others was found on the way out at Dolphin 35ft Pitch with “light pox.”

The following day ML and the L.A.D.S. descended upon Chamber of Horrors where a muddy squeeze was dug open into a 6ft wide by 15ft long and 40ft high aven with possible passages off at the top.

This was looked at again on 30th December by ML, Steve Milner and Lisa Taylor and after being climbed was found to have no ways on.  The rest of the team, Andy Lovell, Dave Shand, Tim Gould and Nipper Harrison were stopped by the Blackwall Tunnel Squeezes.

The new years work commenced on 5th January with a climbing attempt on Cenotaph Aven by GN and AJ. The latter free-climbed the notch at the far side of the aven to a height of 30ft where it could be seen to close down some 15ft above.  This is merely an alcove to the main part of the aven which will need bolting from floor level.  GN then pushed the inclined Aberfan Passage to his limit but thought that someone very thin and determined could get further.

Threadneedle St. once again became popular on 12th when TL, AJ ,EH, RH and Chris Batstone visited the area. A brief dig in the left hand rift was followed with an even briefer detonation of 1+lbs of bang in the right hand rift where a stubborn boulder blocked the way on.  The very strong outward draughts in both these passages could be evidence of a connection with the Cenotaph Aven area below.

To test this theory SH, JS and ML smoke-bombed the Aven on the next day but nothing was detected by TG who was waiting in Regent St.

A Wessex team of P & AM, PPW, GE, Martin Buckley and Paul Sutton tied up some loose ends on 26th.  A 20ft draughting aven in Whitehall closed down in small tubes.  In Jubilee Line the passage to the left, by the pearls was pushed to some tubes heading back to the start of Jubilee.

A B.E.C. team of AJ, John Dukes, Pete Rose, Pete "Snablet" Macnab and Tom Chapman removed bang debris from the Threadneedle St. dig on 3rd February.

On 9th Feb. a prospective aven-bolting squad of ML, GN and SM got as far as "Lolley Pot squeeze" where PW and PIM informed them that the grovel before Blackwall Tunnel had sumped back up the passage - very off-putting and unfortunately the shape of things to come!

The next attempt here on 2nd March nearly ended in disaster.  P & AM and PW met TG and DS on their way out; who told the newcomers that the Blackwall Tunnel grovel was open but pretty wet.  They passed the grovel with 2 inches of airspace and carried on to Cenotaph where GN, ML and SN had just got their first bolt in.  PH told the others of the state of the duck and they told him that it was okay on the way in.  Both club logs here state that each thought the other was “bullshitting!” Suddenly realisation dawned on the assembled and a dash for freedom was made, discarding all the bolting kit in their rush.  On arrival at the duck it was found to have unusable airspace but PW miraculously managed to get through.  After 2 hours of damming and bailing the interred ones managed to escape, having learnt a valuable lesson for the future.

Hoping to by-pass this obstacle AJ, Andy Cave and Tim Robbins (S.V.C.G.) went to Regent St. on the 9th March and removed more debris from the Threadneedle St. dig to create enough space for AJ to squeeze into a vertical rift where a climb up 20ft of loose boulders reached a short level section containing a superb solitary stalagmite - cream with an orange top and about a foot high.  This made up for the lack of any way on.  TR managed to reach the same spot by squeezing through the tight rift above the dug way in.

April saw only a tourist trip by PM, TC and Rich York, and a potential pushing trip on 4th May by GN, MB, Bob Lewis, Dave and Hike (S.V.C.C.) was dogged by minor disasters and aborted.

Trips really began to tail off now with the treacherous nature of the duck giving many weary diggers a chance to escape to a change of scenery.  GN, P & AM, Doug Mills and Simon? had another bash though on 8th June. The choked drain-hole in the duck proved to be un-clearable and even approaching it from the crawl in the Chamber of Horrors didn't help as the crawl became too tight.

25th August saw the next working trip with AJ, GN and Duncan Frew tackling the cave in preparation of the duck drying out.  The duck itself was well sumped up and all of the series was very wet - Lolley Pot being particularly impressive.

Only two Wessex trips occurred in September.  On 21st PN and DF again found the duck to be sumped back 20ft despite only a tiny stream flowing into it.  On 28th GN, on a solo trip, had a good look around the upper passages looking for “worthwhile leads!.”

JW and CC made a visit to Soho on 8th October with similar ideas. November and December 1985 saw only de-tackling trips by P&A.M and G.N. and the latter led two tourist trips in January 1986 - that on 27th resulting in the rediscovery of the voice connection between Regent St and the head of Greek St.

In April (appropriately enough on All Fool's Day) GN, DF and Maggie McPherson found the S-bend still sumped and rigged the pitches in preparation for a dam building exercise to alleviate the situation.

Two days later GN end DF transported cement, polybags and a length of pipe to the site and commenced work on the dam.

In June 1986 the cave was closed due to meddling by the Nature Conservancy Council.  It is hoped that work will continue when this problem is resolved.

Tony Jarratt,   4/7/86.