Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Article Index

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

In the next BB I hope to have an article on the Trou de Glaz through trips and Wig's history of Gough's Cave.

Also I hope to include a report on the 1200' of new passage found in Daren Cilau at Easter by Mark and crew.  It could be a lot more by the next BB as the end of the new passage looks promising and is heading straight towards the Clydach Gorge.


I'm told by Trebor that the response to the Dinner questionnaire can hardly be called overwhelming - in fact I think he's only had about 6 replies.  This BB contains a letter from Jock strongly condemning the committee for even sending out the referendum!

The current feeling of the committee is that the location and style of the Dinner is okay but that we want a main speaker and after dinner entertainment.  The sketches, such as Oliver, done in the past have all proved very successful.


The new revised version of Mendip Underground by Wig and Tony Knibbs should be on sale by the time this BB is distributed.

Austria 1987

Due to problems with the local cavers last year, the Austria trip will be split into 2 groups to keep the number of people on the mountain to a minimum.  A small combined party of BEC, NCC and possibly MUSS will set off in the last 2 weeks of July to rig and push Wiesalnschacht (Hunters Hole).  The work will be taking over and continued by a second team of DEC, NCC and MUSS for the first 2 weeks of August.  They will be joined by a small group of SWCC members who were active on the mountain last year.  It is most regrettable that numbers have to kept to a minimum but the local cavers were quite put out by having what appeared to be an army of Brits descending on their territory last year.  All clubs involved have agreed to keep numbers low so as to safeguard future access.  MUSS were turned off the Terigberge last year for no apparent reason.  Lets hope the same does not happen to us with the Wiesberghaus.

Mark Lumley.


The Quest for the Rusty Tankard


This year's competition will be a Chariot Race followed by a 'Treasure Hunt'.  The theme is ancient myths & legends, so come appropriately dressed.  The object of the quest is to locate each of the Seven Sages of Mendip, who may require particular gifts to be presented to them or tasks to be fulfilled.  The final Sage will reveal the location of the mystical Lost Tankard, the recovery of which wins the game.


1.                  Each team must bring a Chariot & a Standard.  The Chariot must have both wheels mounted on the same axle (no Shepton bicycles!). The Standard must be of Sturdy Wooden construction being at least 8 feet high and must bear the Emblem of the Clan.

2.                  There is no limit to the size of the teams.

3.                  The Sages shall only converse with the Standard Bearer.  The Standard may be passed from one Bearer to another at any time.

4.                  The Standard and Standard Bearer are not to be interfered with or assaulted, neither are Chariots to be ‘nobbled’ while parked at The Belfry between the opening and final races.

5.                  The 1st, 4th and 7th Sages will be located at the Belfry.  The remaining Sages will be in secret locations within one mile of The Belfry.

6.                  The Standard Bearer must travel by Chariot during the opening race and from the 7th Sage to the hiding-place of The Tankard.

7.                  The Quest is complete when a Standard Bearer holds aloft The Tankard. 

Please register entries with Andy Sparrow, Priddy.  Queries possibly answered.


Sec's Notes

Bob Cork

Jill Tuck Bequest

In the last issue of the BB the club recorded the sad loss of Jill Tuck, as is traditional in the club her life membership has been transferred to her husband Norman.  In Jill's will she has left the club an amount of money with the suggestion that the club does something positive with it. After discussion with Norman it has been decided to use this bequest to upgrade the club library.  Our grateful thanks to Jill for her kind thoughts.

Tackle Store Roof

Wind has always been a problem in the BEC and this month is no exception.  The strong March gales removed a part of the tackle store roof causing sufficient damage that the MRO stores had to be temporarily evacuated to the library.  Owing to the problems incurred with this roof in previous years it was decided to replace the entire roof, an agreement was reached with the MRO to ensure this was done with all speed.  This task was completed in a matter of two weeks (a record for the BEC?).

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting - Sat. 7th March 1987

A Cuthbert’s Leaders meeting was held in the back bar of the Hunters on the Saturday evening to sort out a number of issues which needed attention.

1.                  Firstly I pointed out that as BEC Caving Sec. I had issued myself a key prior to completing all the required trips as I wasn't prepared to take responsibility for a cave I had no access to.  This met with general approval.

2.                  Dave Irwin told those present that the Cuthbert’s report should be completed by May and would contain approximately 44 pages of text with photographs, surveys etc.

3.                  Two trips were arranged to remove digging rubbish from the cave and to repair fixed aids and replace missing tapes.  These trips will be on 4th April and 13th June.

4.                  The question of leaders insurance was brought up with regards to whether all leaders were covered by BEC insurance.

5.                  It was decided that the number of guest leaders should remain at 2 per club.

6.                  It was agreed that although preservation of the cave was of paramount importance, the existing system for becoming a leader was too rigid.  It prevented some people with a sound knowledge of the cave from becoming leaders as they had not done a certain route through the cave with a leader (even though they may know all the elements of the route intimately).  Also it was considered unwise that a person could become a leader by completing all the trips under the supervision of just one leader.

Accordingly, the system will be changed while trying to retain the spirit with which it was originally intended and still safeguard the cave.

The leadership application form will be amended subject to BEC Committee approval.  It will be pointed out that in addition to a knowledge of the main routes through the cave the attitude of the leader is of paramount importance.  A prospective leader is unlikely to be accepted before he has been assessed over 15 trips.  This form must then be signed by 3 different BEC leaders.  Final approval will come from the BEC Committee.

The above amendment was carried unanimously with one abstention.

7.                  Finally, it was decided to make the Leaders Meeting an annual event.

If anyone has a copy of the original Cuthbert’s Rules (if there were any) I would be most grateful for a copy.

Mark Lumley.


Eastwater Cavern

Recent work at the top of the '55 ft' Aven in Ifolds' Series has led to a further 15 ft being found at the top - making the total height about 90 ft.  There is a voice connection from here to our dig in the Boulder Chamber. Hopes are high for a passable route through - probably into the area at the top of the Canyon.  Also, just below the bolt for the ladder - 60 ft. up the Aven - a low side passage was cleared to give access to a narrow, parallel aven 30 ft. high - Aven Skavinski.  Both these sites need more banging to progress further.

A major slip has occurred in Boulder Chamber within the last two weeks ­ large boulders and debris having slid down the chamber leaving a precarious bank of gravel holding up most of the scenery - take care here.

On our last banging trip a party staying at Upper Pitts came down without paying or even having the courtesy to inform Mrs Gibbons.  They were very lucky not to have received the full force of 1/21b of H.E. right under their feet.  Ignorant cretins like this do not help the caver/landowner relationship.

Tony Jarratt


Nine Days of Hard Rock Hospitality

By Mark Lumley

Friday 13th March - not the most auspicious date to begin an extended caving trip but at 11.50pm Clive Gardener and myself (Gonzo) headed into the entrance crawls of Daren Cilau loaded up with piles of BBC camera kit and personal gear.  Pete Bolt was several hours ahead and we were hotly pursued by the fiery breath of 'Enri (the Camp Drunk) Bennett, Tim Allen, John (Big Nose) Palmer and Steve Thomas.

The nine day camp had been planned a few months before.  Andy Cave had the unenviable logistical nightmare of catering for the crew and over several weeks Cardiff Universities' UC4 members lugged in over 40 loads of dehydrated food, thermal gear, carbide and booze.

The main objective was to push west from 12 O'clock High and Acupuncture with a view to an Agen Allwedd connection through the Gothic Passage extensions.  The dig was also used as a sponsored event raising £600 for the Black Holes Expedition to Mexico next spring.  £100 was also raised for Gwent CRO.

We split into three groups on day 1.  Tim, John and Steve went up to Aggy Passage with Pete O'Neill & Dave King who were down for the weekend and continued a long term dig through the boulders at the end. This choke has great prospects for a major extension but it is big, vertical, unstable and self clearing. Over 8 trips more than 400 tons of boulders have come down!  Meanwhile 'Enri and I opened up the crawls through Hard Rock while Pete tackled a climb in the Kings Road, which ultimately led to 60ft of well decorated passage - Pixie Boot Grotto (What's in a name?)  Clive stayed in camp and tried to clean a mixture of rice and orange juice off the filming lights we had so painstakingly carried in.

Day 2, saw the departure of Steve Milner, Dave and Pete O'Neill.  Clive had filmed the arrival of 'B' & Hugh in camp, the reel was taken out and used by John Cravens Newsround (Stardom!)

We split into groups again, some pushing the shattered beds of Acupuncture, others opening up the 12 O'clock High boulder choke.  (Overzealous digging on my part resulted in a meaningful relationship with a large lump of limestone).

We found the idea of day and night irrelevant over the course of the week and gradually adapted to days of 20-30 hours with 8-10 hour sleeping periods in between.  Dehydration got the better of some of us during the interim period and back at camp on night 3, I became commode-hugging drunk in five minutes flat on a couple of shots of rum much to the amusement of Clive who was recording 'the Camp Atmosphere:'

Our workloads increased dramatically by Tuesday and we found ourselves eating vast amounts of carbohydrates to compensate.  The arrival of several groups of UC4 cavers with fresh veg and bread during the week was most welcome.

Wednesday saw the departure of John Palmer and Steve Thomas.  Andy Cave and Steve Allen arrived for the, second half of the week.

During the midweek period we found some difficulty in co-ordinating sleeping times and work shifts, so the labour intensive chokes at the western end of the Hard Rock had a reprieve, while small groups pushed straight forward digs in the area around camp, one of which is 40ft in and looks quite promising.

A lot of work was also being done at Aggy Passage and we sorted out a team to film the progress. This proved to be quite character building as the choke started to collapse while Tim Allen was inside and Clive & I were lying on our backs filming and lighting him.  Tim had a near miss and Clive and I legged it down the rubble heap with the BBC's pride and joy an odds-on favourite for becoming a pile of scrap.  Half an hours sound recording of people removing the spoil was rendered useless by the premature arrival of a Half-Ton Herbert to a chorus of 'F* .. K Me!!' from those on the receiving end.

Thursdays 12 hour work period was spent removing more spoil from 12 O'clock High and looking for high level leads around Catnap Rift (above Oregano).  Banging 12 O'clock didn't sound as though much had happened but we all noticed that the draught had increased on our way out.

By Friday we decided to cut our losses.  There was no way we were going to get through Hard Rock in the two remaining days (although the dig is by no means abandoned).  The same went for Aggy Passage.  We only had about 200ft of new passage to show for a hell of a lot of work. Putting connections to one side we just wanted to break into a big healthy horizontal Welsh Virgin and see how far we could go!  Accordingly we split into two groups, Pete, Enri, Clive and Tim tackling the choke at the end of Frag Street (High Level off Bonsai) while Andy Cave, Steve Allen and I pushed the shatter that blocks the way on in a bedding near the start of Forgotten Passage.  This proved after 30' to have as much appeal as a weekend in Slough so we disconsolately went to help the others.

Meanwhile, the Frag Street dig had broken almost immediately into 400ft of low, crystal covered bedding ( Frig Street) with an extremely strong draught.  This heads east and the end is easy digging.  Potential is superb with an interception of the missing lower reaches of Darens' big fossil passages on the cards in the next 100 metres (The Clydach connection gets nearer!)

Friday night was an extended celebration party night with appearance of hidden stashes of Southern Comfort, Glace Fruit in Brandy, Spiced Rum, Champagne and Caviar.  We swore undying allegiance and crawled drunkenly to our mould riddled pits (a caver-friendly 20 metre stagger).

After copious amounts of Tea, Coffee & Anadin, Saturday was spent taking photographs in the Time Machine, then filming & digging in Aggy Passage.  Pete Bolt completed a long climb in the roof of the passage (it didn't go).  We then sherpered piles of filming kit to the top to the ladder pitch to make life easier on Sundays' mass exodus.

Dave King had rejoined us during the day and while we slept Steve Milner, Bob Cork & Dany Bradshaw arrived to give us a hand out with the kit.

We were up after two hours sleep.  A busy couple of hours then ensured that every scrap of litter was packed up to go out. Cooking and sleeping gear were then stashed and there was little to show that we had been there at all except for an emergency brew kit and the all pervading smell of paraffin.  Then we headed out of Daren with a mixture of excitement and genuine regret at leaving the place that had become our home.

A team of porters who were coming in to help never arrived so we dumped an enormous pile of personal gear near the entrance crawl and carried on with the camera kit (a soul-destroying array of heavy, 12inch ammo boxes).

We emerged into daylight after 210 hours with a shock.  We all expected to be dazzled by the brightness but having lived in a world of greys and subdued browns for so long, anything blue seemed fluorescent and our eyes found it difficult to cope.

I lost a stone I never knew I had during the week.  Celebrations in the pub that night amounted to little more than a pint there just wasn't room for any more.  Over the next few days we all ate voraciously.  Several of us found it difficult to readjust to a 24 hour clock and a normal working environment.

In conclusion I think that the camp was a great success.  We raised a lot of money for two good causes, found one of the most exciting leads under the mountain and put the Daren/Aggy round trip several hundred man­hours nearer to completion.  Morale was high throughout and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

I would suggest to critics of the 'Hard Rock Approach' that the media interest the project generated (National TV, Local T.V. in several areas, John Craven, Radio 1, numerous local radio stations, National & local papers) showed cavers and caving in a much more favourable light than the usual 'Sill sods .. dark muddy 'Oles ... always need to be rescued .. 'image with which the sport is normally portrayed.

Many thanks to Troll, Speleo Technics & Bat Products for their kind help with equipment. We'll be back down at Easter.




Hypocrisy is not dead

Letter to the editor (BB Vol:32 No.9, September 1978 (No. 365)

To the Editor, B.B.

Arriving at the Belfry on the 28th July (Friday afternoon) I was somewhat staggered by the absolute chaos and filthy mess within.

The furniture, such as it is, was completely soaked and thrown about the room, every article of cutlery was dirty and left in a heap on the worktop.  The whole hut smelt like a cow shed with rotting food, stale air and a general smell of filth.

I'm not saying that the type of piss-up that resulted in this mess should not happen in the shed but the members involved (some of them of many years standing) should ensure that the place is cleaned up afterwards.  I hope other members will support any action that the Committee might care to take.  If anybody thinks this is the pot calling the kettle black - I clean up my mess.

Trevor Hughes, Aug 1978.


Thixotropia Blues

Rescued from the Jaws of Death in two Show Caves in one day but out in time for the pub - or “Thixotropia Blues”

I'd been looking forward to March 30th; it was the day the summer staff started their sentences at Cheddar Caves.  Part of the morning was spent witnessing them taking the Oath of Fealty to Sandra Lee, then we old hands introduced ourselves with a few words (or in Andy Sparrow's case, a lot of words).  Finally I had to sit through Chris Bradshaw's introductory lecture in Bullshit; things never to be mentioned (rocks falling on people, Wookey Hole); and how we must never talk to the press because they have a way of twisting statements, especially if something has gone wrong.

That over, I was free to get on with the job for which I had been trained at vast expense: painting handrails.  Down at the Speleological Wonder of the World, Cox's Cave, I happily slapped the Hamerite on the railings, floor and formations with only a few breaks for meals, coffee, craps etc. until about 4.45pm when ZAP! all was darkness!  Of God, I thought, I've been struck blind. They said it would happen, but I couldn't stop.  Then I thought, oh deary, deary me, the lights have out.  Ever resourceful I used the handrails I'd just painted to guide myself to the light gone and the main entrance which was, of course, locked. It was vital to get out, it was Monday, and Monday night is digging night!

Cheddar seemed deserted, but soon the rest of the staff started to go home, so I waved and shouted at them, receiving friendly waves in return.  Eventually the occupants of one of the cars thought I was behaving in an even more erratic manner than usual and returned.  Informing them in carefully moderated tones that I was locked in the cave I dispatched them to the office.  Soon Mr. Bradshaw drove up to release me.  He explained that John the maintenance man and two of my "mates" who were helping him had skived off early, forgetting about me. He also found the incident most amusing, but I was soon to wipe the smile off his face.

There was a good turnout for digging that Monday night.  One of the new guides had been digging before; he even claimed to have done a bit of caving and said his name was Tom Chapman.  Another new guide was a sexy student called Carol who said she enjoyed a dirty night out so Tom had asked her along to the Far Rift Dig.  Also present were Grahame from Bath, a graduate from Adventure Caving and owner of the Far Rift Pump last used in World War 2; Adrian Brewster, restorer of the BEC's first log; Miles Barrington, now a spy from a minor show cave down the road; Robin Brown to supply vocal amusement; and Oliver Conte, a Frog guide who was apparently there as a result of his imperfect English.

Far Rift Dig in Gough's Cave was started by Andy Sparrow a year ago, and we've been making steady progress towards Daren Cilau ever since.  It's only inches away from a breakthrough (according to Andy) and (again according to Andy) has a slow draught despite the fact that bang fumes take a week to clear and after two hour's work the air becomes so foul that diggers are forced to recover in the Gardeners Arms.  Unfortunately it flooded during the winter and we've spent the last couple of Mondays pumping the water out until we were left with some superb slurry. On this Monday we were to remove the slurry by "Plan "A", which involved myself, wetsuit-clad, thrashing about in it to make it runny enough to pour into 25 litre containers. The thrashing about went well, but the damn slurry wouldn't pour because it was like thick, lumpy custard, so “Plan B” was put into operation.  I crawled to the dig-face and started digging out mud to mix with the slurry so that it would be thick enough to move in bags.

Well, that didn't work either, the mud wasn't thick enough and there wasn't enough of it but 'nil desperandum' I had a third plan which after much thought I had called "Plan CR.” This was to get myself firmly stuck in the mud so that the MRO would have to rescue me and they'd get the slurry out in the process.  All started well - Tom tested the mud and only got out by abandoning his wellies. The air was becoming nicely foul and dangerous, so I lowered myself into the mire and got my right leg firmly stuck. Miles, Tom and Adrian couldn't get me out so Tom; went off to realise his lifetime's ambition and made an emergency call.

While waiting, Adrian and I chatted comfortably about Neil Moss, but the air became worse and I started to hallucinate because I saw Tim Large underground!  A damn solid hallucination, the miserable sod put a rope around my trapped foot and he and some others pulled me out.  The mud is still there, and "Plan D" is to leave it there.  Hell, even Chris Bradshaw was down the cave, whoever next?  Wig?

A great reception committee was waiting at the cave entrance ­ the MRO in force, the police, an ambulance, reporters, probably even Lord Weymouth.  I was sorry to have missed Richard Stevenson with his bottles, I was told it was a sight to behold, and Lori was left to push his Land Rover out of the way.  Receiving a glacial smile from Sandra I splodged up to the Caving Room, got my wetsuit off, put my clothes on over the mud and got to the Gardeners Arms with the digging team for a bit of peace and quiet.  Holy shit, now what?  In bursts a papparoggi and being too pissed to resist I get myself photographed.  I did manage to prevent him getting my hooter in profile, but the damage was done.  HTV, the Western Gazette, the Daily Mirror, even the front page of the Cheddar Valley Gazette, who treated the affair like the Second Coming.  Oh well, its fame of a sort.

The next day I sidled up to the Caves, threw my helmet into Sandra's office and grovelled on the carpet. (This is, of course, standard procedure).  She was very nice about it, actually; we can still go digging so long as we operate a written check-in and­out system.  She was a bit put out to see strange cavers appearing from holes in all directions, so everyone who digs there please note.  A book or blackboard will be provided and must be filled in.

There's a lot to do in Gough's - the Font's team are continuing to find body-shredding passages, the new extensions above Lloyd Hall are not worked out, the Sand Chamber dig is a comfortable place and may even go somewhere; and Andy has his eye on a new patch of mud off the Boulder Chamber.  I just hope I find more than notoriety.

Finally, to everyone who was at the rescue, thanks.

Chris Castle - April 1987



Sturton by Stow,

The Belfry Bulletin Editor
Mr. Dave Turner,

26th. March 1987.

Dear Mr. Editor,

It seems to me that during the past few years there have been those around with good intentions who have been allowed to get away with poking their sticky little fingers into the guts of this club and ending up making a bugger's muddle out of what they think they are about.

Prime witness to this is the present state of the Belfry which started its life as a carefully thought out club facility and proved to be in practice a model caving club hut in all respects, and continued so, until it became the unwilling recipient of grandiose improvement schemes grafted into its traumatified interior.  The prognosis looks even worse.

It might be recalled by my contemporaries that a higher echelon management was mooted to keep the eye of wisdom on corporate Club interests during the annual incumbency of successive executive Club Committees.  I have often thought it a great pity this idea was never implemented.

And now I see that we are about to undergo unwarranted intervention with the institution of the annual Club Dinner.

I find myself in total opposition to any change in the conduct and traditions of the formal dinner proceedings.  The only area outstanding in obvious need for improvement is the after dinner entertainment which has always been well within the province of the Committee and organisers to do something about without invoking this ridiculous referendum.

I urge long established and senior members to make themselves heard on the subject of this Referendum on the annual dinner.

Yours sincerely, 624 R.H.S. Orr.

Sweetwater Pot

by Peter Glanvill

Since its closure some years ago the quarry at Berry Head and Berry Head itself continue to provide interest and opportunities for discovery.  At the end of July 1986 Brian Johnson, myself and respective families converged on the quarry, ostensibly to do some diving and photography in the sea caves.  Despite the unpromising weather the dive was accomplished successfully although poor visibility caused the resulting pictures to be less than satisfactory. After a barbecue lunch, Brian wandered off with some SRT rope to examine a hole in the west wall of the quarry whilst I did some more marine life photography in Garfish Cave.

After completing my work and de-kitting, we drove up the ramp to see what Brian was up to. The background to his exploration goes back some months to when Chris Proctor and Tim Lee noticed a possible cave entrance below an overhang 40 ft above the quarry floor.  Attempts to climb up to it had previously been thwarted by loose rock which was piled up in a natural rift breached by the quarry and which threatened to avalanche down on the unfortunate climber.  Brian had tried traversing along a bench at the same level but again failed because a Neptunian dyke interrupted the bench.  It was therefore a question of abseiling down the quarry face when we could get the rope and manpower organised.  Brian was the first to get it all together.

I arrived near the top of the ramp to see Brian emerging and bellowing that he had found the finest cave in Devon and a diveable sump.  I kitted up in record time and was soon gingerly abseiling off the top of the quarry hoping the fence posts used as belays were well secured!  Landing on the ledge beside Brian, I was quickly briefed.  The cave was a rift and had been breached and de-roofed at a point where it dropped steeply.  This meant that one had to climb down and cross a pile of mobile rubble before entering the cave proper.  It emitted a noticeable draught, the origin of which is uncertain.  Inside, the rift was 10 ft wide and about 25 ft or more high. Straight over a lot of shattered rock was a continuation of the rift, both up and down.  Downwards seems to close down into small fissures whilst upwards the rift led to a branching of the ways.  In the left hand wall was a complex of sculpted tubes containing shattered rock whilst on the right lay a small short rift.  Brian feels it may be worth pushing one of the tubes which seems to draught.

Back at the entrance, the rift also descended back towards the quarry face as well as ascending to another impassable upper entrance.  A downwards extension is the piece de resistance of the system. A free climbable mud free rift steadily drops (penetrating at one point a Neptunian dyke) until a sump pool is encountered.  The pool contains fresh water, which is surprising when you consider that only 50 metres away horizontally lies a tidal sea water resurgence!

Feeling extremely chuffed; Brian and I called it a day.  After a period of wracking his brains, Brian decided to call the new find Sweetwater Pot. We returned the following weekend with Brian’s "lads" and John Whiteley plus diving kit.  Chris Proctor turned up to survey and photograph the cave as well as push the remaining side passages.  Before we did anything underground, Brian and John cleared a lot of loose rubble before a traverse line was rigged around the dyke on the bench level with the cave.  A rather cramped diving support team assembled to watch Brian kit up for the sump dive.  He bravely submerged head first on a base fed line.  The line steadily wound out and the muffled boom of bubbles became more muted. At last, tugging on the line indicated Brian's return; fifteen metres of line had been laid out.  A brown glow preceded Brian as he surfaced.  He announced that the sump was a vertical continuation of the rift and bottomed out in a mud bank.  The rift appeared to have lateral extensions.  The sump depth makes Sweetwater Pot one of the deepest in Devon and raises the question of what else might we find in the quarry.

More recently Chris Proctor has abseiled into a couple of other caves in the quarry, both quite short but making up for this by being surprisingly well decorated.  He will be making a separate report on this.


Taking climbing gear and some helmets with us, Brian Johnson, myself, Brian's sons and Jim Durston visited Chudleigh in late August (1986) with the intention of inspecting the Palace Quarry side of the Kate Brook.  Apart from Clifford's Cave there are no significant caves in this area despite it being a large lump of limestone.  After a brief and friendly meeting with Mr. Shears, the owner of Glen Cottage, we were given permission to enter the quarry.  We started our trek by examining an entrance at the edge of the quarry (West).  Here, Brian had noticed an entrance some time previously.  He felt this was probably associated with a tiny draughting hole on the other side of a rocky spur here.  We hacked our way through the undergrowth to Tramp's Hole, an excavated archaeological site about fifty yards or so further on.  This has a large (3 metres by 2 metres) entrance but goes back only 5 metres to a heavily stalagmited boulder choke.  The cave looks as though it might have been a resurgence.  Further struggles brought us to Black Rock, where Bruce's Burrow was found to have disappeared, possibly under over burden removed prior to quarrying.  We then climbed up the hill to emerge at the top of the quarry.

What greeted us there was a large entrance only a few feet from the top of the Eastern face of the quarry.   Mr. Shears informed us that it could not be far from the Black Rock Shaft filled in when quarrying began.  Brian and Jim abseiled into the cave and found it to consist of an eight foot square chamber with two choked passages leading off.  Not surprisingly, it seemed to be a popular bat roost.  Inspection of other caves on the quarry face showed them to be choked but diggable tubes.  Well pleased with the day's efforts, we went off and did some proper climbing.

Brian returned later in the following week and started to dig out one entrance of the draughting cave. He found the cave to penetrate the spur but halfway along noticed a tunnel leading into the hill into which he dug on another visit.  The discovery of some animal bones meant a halt to the proceedings until in mid-September Dave Curry could take a look and pronounce on the dig.  He felt the bones were modern and that digging could continue. Brian forced his way to the end of the main tunnel and found that it terminated in a sloping, mainly earth filled tube.

Since then, digging has widened and lowered the entrance crawl whilst the end is now being attacked. The cave continues to descend, with the fill being soft easily dug earth.  Points of interest are the presence of a slight draught near the end and a narrow aven which seems not to close down as rapidly as one would imagine. Scallop marks on the walls indicate a vigorous inward flow at some time.  The cave lies 12 metres above Cliffords Cave and does not seem to be associated with it.

Peter Glanvill


Skullcap cave.

Progress Report. January 8th 1987.

Chris Proctor, myself and Pete Rose have been steadily digging in Skullcap Cave at Chudleigh, and a progress report is necessary whilst I remember to do it!

In late November we were digging in a steeply descending, metre diameter tube which was getting very awkward.  On the tenth of December we found our first airspace, which just seemed to be a pocket to one side of the passage.  However, on December 17th, we broke through into longer airspace and a passage continuation - we had reached the bottom of the tube.  Gravel, shale and flint in the floor beneath the mud seemed to confirm stream flow through the cave.  On the next trip we moved forward another two metres to a point where an arm could be stuck through into yet another airspace which appeared larger.  This was entered by Brian Johnson on January 3rd 1987 and turned out to be a passage going off into the distance, with a continuous foot or so of airspace.  Unfortunately the triangular passage shape precluded further progress until digging had lowered the floor.

Digging was recommenced on January 7 1987, assisted by Wendy Sampson and a small group from Rock House. Several hours were spent removing spoil before Pete Rose was let loose on the end.  After an hour or so's digging, Pete broke through into a small grotto.  Directly in front was a stalagmite bank, whilst a tiny aven could be seen to have been the source of the stal.  The way on is through the stal bank or under it and I fear it is doomed.

One can peer through to one side of it and the passage can be seen to continue in the same direction, i.e. into the hill.  I squeezed through and photographed the stalagmite flow for posterity, whilst Chris Proctor surveyed the cave to Grade 5.

Digging will continue, as there is a quite definitely discernible draught at the end.  The problem now is that we will have to start enlarging the approaches to the terminal stal bank.  Interested parties should contact Chris Proctor ( Exeter 58467), myself (Chard 4262), Pete Rose (Crediton 2284), or Brian Johnson (Ottery St. Mary 3212).

Would be diggers might also find it worthwhile calling at Rock House to see if anybody there is free to dig.  There are plenty of digging implements at the site.

Peter Gianvill


1986 Austrian Expedition Report For Ian Dear Memorial Fund

It was 31st July and we were due to leave between 5.30 - 6.00 pm but we were still re-packing the car for about the third or fourth time at five past six.  We had a bit of trouble with tying down the cover for the 'Lads Away' roof rack; it had a tendency to cover up the front windscreen. I was travelling in Trebor’s car with Trebor, Gonzo and Steve.  We eventually got going, a bit behind schedule, only to stop at a kebab house and off-license for a pit stop.  We were followed along the M4 by Clive Gardener (off in search of the Holy Grail somewhere, little did he know it, had he followed us he would have found something equally as sacred 'STIEGL').

On our scenic route to Folkestone we managed to arrive late for the ferry.  Luckily due to the usual summer industrial dispute the ferry had not yet left.  It was a calm crossing; we managed to find the bar.  It was named the Wessex Bar (must have been because you got a free cup of tea there).  We left a BEC sticker behind the bar and partook of some of their stronger refreshment.

We continued on our long journey to the Wiesberghaus.  We eventually arrived in Hallstatt between 12.30 and 1.00 on the early morning of the 2nd, after the 1000 driven miles which was only interrupted by a short break, a yop and a scenic tour 4 times around a one way system in a German city.

We drove around Hallstatt looking for the others who should have arrived earlier that day.  We set out by looking for a pub with two British cars parked outside, then a camp site with them in.  But we had no luck.  Little did we know they had parked in the Police car park and were in the divers bar, pissed and buying drinks for the whole pub.  Meanwhile, we hadn't been able to find them at a camp site open at that time of night, so we slept on park benches on a beach by the Hallstattersee. We were up at the break of dawn before the park attendant came round at 6.30.

We ordered a full breakfast of croissant etc and got horseradish and ham rolls and a bottle of Stiegl.  We ate breakfast outside a Hotel on the edge of the “see”, the weather was hot and the place was superb.  We met the others in the village while stocking up on fresh food.  We retired under the shade of the umbrellas at the divers bar and decided on our plan of action.

Blitz and company were to go up the mountain straight away to see Robert and Laura about getting our kit up on the materialseilbahn.  While the rest of us loaded it up, then some went up the mountain before it got dark leaving J’rat, Tim, Andy and me to stay and finish loading the next morning, forcing us to go to a party in Obertraun which we had been invited to by members of the local caving club, it was their annual Forest Festival.  We went with six of the local cavers out of which one of them drinks.  It was a really good night.  There was a drunken tank driver swinging around, 30 feet up in the beams of the beer tent and people generally acting like we do in the Belfry.


I got roped into doing a Morris dance on stage to music from the Umpa band and got free beer the rest of the night.  There was a disco afterwards.  The next day we finished loading the materialseilbahn and went up the mountain by the passenger selbahn via Eishohlen.  There's an amazing 3D survey of the Mammothohle and Eishohle systems.  We arrived at the Wiesberghaus in the early evening and were greeted by Robert and Laura and had a drink with them and spent that night around a fire outside with bottles of Stiegle and Bratwurst. Tomma Dave and Pete (NCC) arrived that night.

In the morning I went over to the Titians carrying rope for Gonzo, Steve, Blitz and Duncan then went prospecting for caves all over the place with Tim and Andy.  Started several digs then went down HI C33 Miztendorfer Hohlen, a cave which is still going explored to a tight double bend and a flake in the way.   Looks like the cave floods with the first drop of drizzle. Tim and I discovered Marmutsnitenhohlen in a cliff face so named for obvious reasons - Asshohlen was found then almost collapsed on top of Dave.  It wasn't pushed because of the way it moves in its own draught.

We had a barrel of stiegl kindly brought for us by Herbert the sailor who due to a misunderstanding unloaded our kit off the seilbahn at bottom of the mountain, about half an hour after we loaded it.  Trebor had lost his clothes somewhere in the transporting up the mountain and was stuck with only a T-shirt and a pair of yellow shorts for the whole Expedition. At the bar large amounts of drink were consumed and an Austria melodeon player provided the music for me in another Morris dance, ending up with more free drinks.  Extract from the log about 4.30 am ­"Snablet demonstrated the traditional art of Morris Vomiting, retching all night to the accompaniment of bells".

The next day we suffered from tremendous hangovers not helped by Robert dishing out Garlic schnapps as a hangover cure.  Wiesberghohlen was discovered on the 6th (pointed out by Robert).  This was the only cave to go any major distance in the first week.  250 m deep 600 long at its last push.  Also in the first week Titan Schacht (C.38) was pushed to - 150 m deep and ended. Blitz, Steve and I spent a day going down a hole in the C.38 area.

There were three caves of interest; one was a small canyon - but it way in the same type of fault as C.19 and draughts well.  The second was a shaft at the bottom of a massive rift, it used to be full of snow put the heat had melted it, and we could throw stones down at least one hundred feet.  We couldn't descend because there were no natural belays and we didn't have any bolts. The third was a large shaft that we did descend.  We also found another entrance to Titian Schacht.

The next day Blitz pointed out C66 so we pushed it.  The only good thing about it was that it was so close to the Weisberghaus you could send people back for bottles of Stiegl while putting bolts in.  It ended in a tight bouldery choke in a 40 foot high moon milked covered rif.  Wies Alm hohlen as it's now known (formally Jager Hohle) was found half way through our stay by Chris Fry of the Croydon and SWCC.  The Welsh? (most of which were from London area), mad!  I pushed the cave to the 2nd pitch and ran into difficulty and we were asked if we'd like to help rig the pitch so we jumped at the chance and pushed it to 5th and Surveyer followed along a couple of pitches behind.  That's where they stay (at the third pitch) until someone took over from the Wessex - (who included lengths of rope protectors in the survey???)

Over the next week all our efforts were cantered on Wies Alm Hohle while the MUSS were off finding interesting depths of cave as well, they had now joined us on the Dachstein, they found Orllan Hohle (pity - we could have done with that rope down Wies Alm Hohle). Also in the same area the Austrians found a large cave 260 m or so breaking into an active stream needing digging.

During the second week we had a lot of problems with thunder and lightning storms, forcing us to spend a lot of time in the Wiesberghaus (Oh shame!).  I got friendly with Roberts daughter Sandy, we drank the Wiesberghaus dry, an outstanding feat if you’ve ever seen the amount of beer he keeps there. The rest of the expedition party had turned up at the beginning of that week.  Our two weeks stay was too short by we all had a superb time.  We left Wies Alm Hohle at the 21st pitch, Dany, Alan and the Yorkys continued on to the top of the 25th pitch finding a 250 ft 23rd pitch.

Pete (Snablet) MacNab