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

My apologies for the delay in this BB - pressure of work and all that.  I am prepared to carry on but feel the Club would be better served if someone, with more time took over as editor.  I would be only too pleased to assist them if anyone fancies a turn.


Notice of Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the BEC will be held at the Belfry on Saturday, 3rd October at 10.30am prompt.  You are reminded that nominations for the 1987-8 committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 5th September 1987.  All nominations must have a proposer and seconder.  Present members of the committee are nominated automatically if they wish to stand for re-election.

Note: the posts of Hut Warden, Caving Sec. and Membership Sec. are up for grabs! Don't delay in submitting your nomination.

Annual Dinner

The annual dinner will be held at The Caveman Restaurant, Cheddar on Saturday, 3rd October at 7.30pm for 8.00pm.  The cost will be £8 per head, excluding wine and there will be a charge of about 50p for corkage - bring large bottles!!  It is hoped that Sid Perou will talk and Alfie's band will provide entertainment. Martin Grass will be MC and anyone wishing to make awards or speak must contact him before the start of the dinner. Tickets may be obtained from Trebor (Mike McDonald, 28 Priory Road, Knowle, Bristol BS4 2NL.  Tel: Bristol 716690).   (See article on Dinner Referendum - ed)

Attendance at Committee Meetings

The attendance of committee members during the last committee year (excl. Sept. & Oct) is as follows:

Bob Cork 10; Mark Lumley 8; Steve Milner 5; Dany Bradshaw 9; Andy Sparrow 8; Mike McDonald 7; Tony Jarratt 8; Dave Turner 6; Brian Workman 7; Phil Romford 5.

Cuthbert’s Photos

If any members have any photos (including slides) of St. Cuthbert’s which they think may be suitable for the Cuthbert’s report can they let Barry Wilton see them.  He needs over a hundred photographs and will obviously take great care of anything lent.  Historical photos etc are all needed together with photos of digs and formations etc.

Thanks to Jim & Mary Rand for the etched glass in the Belfry. front door.

The Quest for the Rusty Tankard, was won by the BEC by devious means as most members are aware.


Caving News


The short extension found at the end of Frag Street on the 9 day camp looked so promising that at Easter Clive Gardener, Peter Bolt and myself went back to push it.  Henry Bennett came in too but 300ft in through the entrance crawl the mournful cry "Mark….I've just shat in my furry suit!" was followed by a hasty exit.

After a few hours of digging through a shattered, draughting bed we'd gained about 30ft and things looked long term and fairly hopeless.  We persevered however and a couple of hours later we were rewarded by a small, open passage ahead.  This led up a sloping crawl to the base of an aven.  40ft up this we gained access to a tight high rift with a good draught which was heading east into the blank area between Daren and Craig a Ffynnon.

We were held up about 100ft further on with no obvious way ahead.  Eventually I found a tight rift ending in a formidable squeeze which was finally passed by a committed Clive pushing with his feet against my nose (well it comes in useful sometimes!).  The way on was open in big rift passage and we stormed past a couple of boulder constrictions and up a tight version of the Cuthbert’s entrance rift. The way on continued large but progress was made difficult by the large number of boulder chokes, several of which we had to dig through.

Finally, after a total of 1200ft we ended up in a large collapse chamber with the way on blocked by fallen roof crud (Rock Steady geological phenomenon found extensively in the lower reaches of Daren along with 'Choked Bastards', 'Staled up Herberts', 'Hanging Laxatives' and 'Crystal Crinkly Bits').  The passage heads parallel with the Kings Road and lines up with Half Mile passage.  The draught would suggest a separate entrance in the Clydach Gorge.  The floor deposits are of a thick grey mud which I haven't seen elsewhere in the cave.

Two weeks later we returned in force to push the end of the chamber and after several hours of hard work we gave up, the draught emitting from a tight crack in the floor.  The way on would appear to be in passage buried below the chamber.

The place lives up to its new name of Remote Chamber and a trip from the Daren entrance to here and out again without doubt is the most strenuous in the country.

After several weeks layoff we returned to the Hard Rock Cafe on July 3-5, banging in Red River passage (Clive's project), and digging the formidable Agen Allwedd Passage chokes where the spoil heap has now gone up to an estimated 400-500 tons.  Clive and I only managed to remove a trifling 2-3 tons in 2 hours.  The rest of the trip was used to make a photographic record of lower Daren on a 2 1/4" Hasselblad.

An uneventful exit from the cave was followed some hours later by the removal of my appendix – food for thought if it had gone while we were still down the cave!


Hunter's Hole

J’Rat et al have put a lot of work and chemical persuasion into Sanctimonious Passage in Hunters Hole recently.  They made a breakthrough which leads to a static sump.  Apparently the air was bad due to carbon dioxide and bang fumes and Tony nearly met his end.  Steve Milner went down on 8th Aug to dive the sump but could not get through the squeeze. Tony emptied the bottle near the sump (now dried up) to try and clear the fumes.


Bob Cork has returned after the BEC's first week in Austria.  They have rigged Wiesalmschacht up to last years limit and ran out of rope.  More rope has now reached the team and so they should be well into new ground by now.  Hirlatzhohle has been extended and a connection with it now has a potential depth of 1200m.

Bob says that they also rigged Orkan Hohle as far as the 10th pitch and that its looking good with bigger size passages than usual for Austria and a potential of 1300m.  A full report in the next BB.

He also said that it took a while to patch up relations the Austrians particularly due to the graffiti and rubbish including carbide everywhere which was left by the last people out last year


Andy Sparrow and other BEC members have pushed the 'Final' chamber beyond the "Drainpipe" and have entered a new chamber.  They decided to dig here as they followed the draught all the way to this point from near the entrance.  As Andy reported in the log, "After an hours work the roof fell out of the dig and onto Sparrow's head - he retreated bloodily and left Tom to squeeze up into the echoing void above - results as follows:-


New chamber is quite pretty and has two obvious leads/digs - not bad for six hours digging!  (AND OUT IN TIME FOR THE PUB!)

Ogof Capel

Of interest to the Daren & Aggy - watchers - welsh cavers have pushed Ogof Capel towards Perseverance Passage.

Agen Allwedd

Sump 4 has been passed by Ian Roland to a short large passage ending in a boulder choke.


Membership Changes

New Members

1085     Duncan Price, Edgebaston, Birmingham
1086     Richard Neville-Dove, Keynsham, Bristol


The following members were ratified at the August Committee meeting: -

1074     Jerry Jones        1077     Brian Wafer
1075     Tony Williams    1078     Mike Hearn
1076     Roz Williams     1079     Henry Bennett

Address Changes

1005     Jane Cobrey (nee Brew), Keighley, West Yorkshire
868       Dany Bradshaw, Haybridge, Wells

The Library

Many will know of the very generous bequest from Mrs. Tuck, a considerable amount of money which was to be put towards "the Club".  A good number will have heard that the Committee decided to put the money towards re-fitting the library completely, with new bookcases, cabinets, map chests etc.  It was thought that this would be a fitting memorial and something that was both tangible and practical.  She also requested that a tree be planted in her memory in the garden.

Towards this end, a flexible system of mahogany bookcases have been ordered comprising solid door base units, for storing "unsightly" papers, periodicals and newsletters, and glazed upper shelving for book display.  We've ordered slightly more than we presently need; firstly to do a complete job worthy of the bequest and secondly to allow room for our library to expand into.  Providing we don't lose books though "wastage" (i.e. people pinching them), J-Rat can gradually increase our collection.  All glazed shelving will have locks and a plaque to Mrs. Tuck will be put on the door.

For those who are likely to criticize the project, a refitted library was considered most appropriate for a memorial - a tangible and useful feature, rather than re-fitted showers, drying room or tackle, for example.  We need decent cupboards and bookshelves in any event.  An expensive and quality set of shelving was chosen mainly because the alternatives were rubbish - formica garbage hardly worthy of a memorial or inflexible bookcase stack systems.  We'd much rather spend all the money on a good quality, useful, flexible bookcase system, rather than tatty stuff at two thirds the price that wouldn't last very long.

The new units should be ready in 10 weeks from the date of order (10 June 1987).

Whilst on the subject, and not wishing to impose on J-Rat's job, he tells me there's a load of missing books; either missing and not booked out, or booked out for months and not returned. Can all these be returned as soon as possible.



Outstanding Belfry Jobs

Main Room

1.                  Re-fix hasp & staple to roof access

2.                  Cut & fix supalux around flue pipe

3.                  Repair leak in roof

4.                  Fix worktop

5.                  Repair water heater over sink

6.                  Wire in fridge

Drying Room

1.                  Clean out

2.                  Fix hanging rail

3.                  Build in air bricks

4.                  Clean and paint window

Bunk Rooms

1.                  Patch up render by meters

2.                  Finish off painting

3.                  Patch up holes in ceiling and walls

4.                  Fix bunks to walls

Entrance Hall

1.                  Tile floor

2.                  Finish of painting

3.                  Fix hat & coat hook on toilet door

4.                  Lag pipes


1.                  Lag Pipes

2.                  Install time switch to immersion heater

3.                  Clean out rubbish

Showers and Changing Room

1.                  All doors to be cleaned down and re-stained

2.                  Re-fix lock to entrance door

3.                  Put up hat & coat hooks

4.                  Make up & fix new benches

5.                  Fix shower curtain to third shower

6.                  Finish of painting

7.                  Rod drain pipe

8.                  Clean out gully

9.                  Fix toilet roll holder to wall

10.              Clean of walls and re paint

11.              Fix tiles to wall

12.              Re-move cement mixer and put in shed

13.              Install new coin meter

14.              Fit new 0 rings to shower


1.                  Build gas bottle store

2.                  Clear away rubbish from site

3.                  Re-build manhole to soak-away

4.                  All windows to be cleaned & re painted

5.                  Remove facia and replace with U.P.V.C.

6.                  Repair rainwater guttering

7.                  Fix frame and hang door to shed

8.                  Cut grass

9.                  Build roof over fire buckets

10.              Fix sign on carbide store

11.              Clean out shed

Tackle Store

1.                  Clean out "all rubbish"

2.                  Rewire electric ring main and lights

3.                  Fix shelves

Did you know, it was June 1985 when the alterations at the Belfry were finished apart from the panting, which the BEC membership agreed to do.  Now 2 Years later we still have not finished giving the Belfry a first coat of paint, despite organizing several working weekends and members weekends in which we hoped you would turn up and go caving, see your mates then spend some time doing a job or two.  The last members weekend only 1 person showed up, which is less than a normal weekend, so much for members weekends!

One Sunday lunch time, a few months back, there was a rescue callout and lots of people came back to see what was happening.  I managed to talk all those with nothing to do to doing some work on the hut.  I think it’s a sad day that the only way to get people back to the Belfry to work is have a rescue!

Perhaps you want to let the Belfry get in such a state that the only way out is to run round and raise the money to renovate the Headquarters every few years.  The old saying "A stitch in time saves nine" which is very true because a small job now can be a major job later. I have not got a magic wand, so I need MEMBERS to come along and do these jobs, because I am buggered if I will do them on my own.

After the roof was replaced on the tackle store, some MRO people did what work was necessary, i.e. rewire lights, and moved straight back in.  After 11 weeks what have the BEC done, fuck all.  So why not pick a job off the list, give me a ring and come down and do it. 

Dany Bradshaw - Hut Engineer.


A Brief History Of Gough’s Caves, Cheddar

by Dave Irwin

The history of Gough's Old and New Caves is a story of two caves that were destined to become among the best known public show-caves in the country; the earlier of which is now closed to the public.  The caving world has long appreciated that these are part of the same cave system in geomorphological sense, but to the public the two separate sites in print, at least, was assumed to be the same cave that has been progressively extended leading to confused reports in the past.  This has been based on contemporary information, full details of which have bee given in separate papers by the author published in the U.B.S. Proceedings (Irwin, 1986a, 1986b).

The caves at the lower end of Cheddar Gorge lie in a region that was known to 19th century inhabitants of Cheddar as Rock-End.  Another interesting name that has emerged is the point we know today as Black Rock was known in 1805 as Stag’s Cross.  Rock-End is the area from what is now the car parks in the Cooper’s Hole area to the bottom of the Gorge by Birch’s Bridge.  There were several paper and grist mills in the area utilising the water from the resurgence; contemporary maps show that there were about 10 limekilns in the Cliff Road area. The remains of one of the limekilns still exist below Lion Rock.  The people living in the area were housed in no more than single roomed cottages, some built against the walls of the cliffs.  In these hovels they eat, bred and slept.  A hole in the roof acted as a ‘chimney’ which appears to have rarely worked and must have filled the premises with smoke when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.  To scrape a living the men worked as agricultural labourers or in the quarries and mines.  The women made a few extra pennies by acting as guides to the caves and by selling spar to the visitor.  There are numerous accounts of the trouble caused by these unfortunate inhabitants, many of which would not take ‘No’ for an answer greatly irritating the visitors. Guide books of the 1840’s warned visitors of the problems likely to be met when they visited Cheddar Caves and some even wrote to the local newspapers complaining that no one could visit the Cliffs in peace.

The earliest reference to cave guides appears in the 1780’s and the commonly visited site was Long Hole.  Remember at this time and up to 1933 the scree slope from the Slitter which lies to the west of the cave entrances, spilled out to the modern road edge thus making the ascent to Long Hole a relatively easy climb.  In the early 19th century steps were cut into the soil near the top of the slope to further ease the climb.  An interesting sketch (1816) by the Reverend John Skinner, of Camerton, of the Slitter clearly shows the entrance to the Long Hole and Gough's Old Cave (Irwin. 1986b).

The less fortunate individuals and families were forced to inhabit the caves.  They boarded up the entrances to protect themselves from the weather and were able to eek out an existence by selling spar and potatoe stone. One such site was Gough’s Old Cave.  There are several documented references to a woman and her son who lived in the cave between c.1810 and c.1839.  In 1839 the son is reported to have married and moved into a cottage built against the cliff wall outside the cave entrance.  A newspaper reports says that he died in January 1877.  The identity of this man has yetv to be investigated but when this is done it should clarify the Jack and Nancy legend.  Was the son Jack Beauchamp (possible Beecham) or, as we shall se later, John Weeks?

Phelps (1836) describes the caves that were known at the time.  Briefly these are long Hole, Saye’s Hole, Gough’s Old and New Caves.  In addition Cooper’s Hole (said to be named after a family by that name who once lived in the cave) was referenced on maps that are stored at Longleat House.  Both Cooper’s Hole and Gough’s New Cave entrances were closed by wooden frames and used for long periods as cart sheds (c.1872).  It is most unlikely that either were long used for habitation as both were, and still are, subject to regular winter flooding.  During the 19th century Gough’s New Cave was known as Sand Hole, Saye’s hole was called ‘The Hall’ or ‘Cheddar Hall’; the earliest record of this name was noted by John Strachey of Ston Easton c.1736.

To make matters clear the names of Gough's Caves shall be used as we know them today.  Gough’s Old Cave needs no explanation but Gough’s Cave (that which is now open to the public) was originally known as Gough’s New Cave between the date of discovery and about 1910; by then the Old Cave appears to have been closed for public viewing.

Visitors to Cheddar had the opportunity to view several caves in the neighbourhood from as early as the 17th century.  This situation continued until George Cox (1800-1868) discovered Cox’s Cave in 1837. For the next year he developed the inside of the cave and opened it to the public in 1838.  At the same time George developed the Pleasure Gardens associated with what is now known as the Cliff Hotel.  This grist mill was bought by James Cox (George's father) in 1823 as lease-hold property, then known Harris' Mill changing its name to Cox's Mill when the ownership changed.  Most of the land at Cheddar at this time was owned by the Longleat Estates and thus most properties were 1easehold.  The tithes (or rates) were paid annually to the Marquis of Bath.  However, following the discovery and development of Cox's Cave, George Cox created the pleasure gardens making the site an attractive place for the mid-19th century visitors.  The impact of the expansion of the railways had yet to make its mark felt but suffice to say by this time that Cheddar was a well known and popular place to visit.

Back to the Gough's Old Cave.  A photograph of Jack and Nancy Beauchamp exists on picture postcard (Page 8).  It is a copy photograph of an original taken in 1860 and was probably placed on sale by Charles Collard of Cheddar about 1905. From this photograph we can clearly see the entrance to Gough's Old Cave and above the entrance is a board that could be a signboard.  The photograph has been closely inspected by Chris Howes but he cannot determine what is written on it.  The photograph also suggests that the cave informally operated as a show cave at least by 1860.  Though the contemporary guide-books mention Cox’s cave (then known as Stalactite Cavern) none mention the existence of a second show cave until 1869.  For example, Stevens in his A Guide to Cheddar and Neighbourhood (1869) makes no mention of a show cave other than Cox's Cave; remember his material probably would have been collected during the previous year. However, in 1869 a book The Tourist’s guide to Cheddar Cliffs published by E. Green of Wells confirms that a second cave was open for public viewing.  The cave was called The Great Stalactite Cavern.  The fact that a second cave was open to the public is independently confirmed by Eric Hensler's paternal grandfather, a certain Robert Russell Green.  Green visited Cheddar in 1869 and recorded in his diary “…There are tow chief ones, one kept by one Weekes certainly the larger of the two but not so beautiful as those by Mr. Cox…” (Hensler, 1968).  So we have definite proof that Gough's Old Cave was open to the public by 1869.  The existence of John Weeks (as spelt in the tithe records) has been confirmed by the tithe records at Longleat House.  He is recorded as a leaseholder of the land in front of the cliff where the modern cave offices and restaurant have been built.  The land contained a hut, garden and cavern.  Now assuming Jack and Nancy existed thy could have lived in the hut on Weeks’ land and ‘managed’ the cave for Weeks.  Weeks could also have taken control of the land from Jack and Nancy and operated the cave for himself.  The man who was born in Gough’s Old Cave is reported to have died in January 1877.  Who was he?  Weeks could have also been the son of the woman who lived in the cave.  Research continues into this fascinating subject. Some conclusions have been drawn but it is too soon to carry the subject sny further until some more checks have been made.

Anther early record of the Great Stalactite Cavern is an entry in the diary of the Reverend KiIvert, the great 19th century traveller.  He visited Gough's Old Cave in 1873 but was not impressed.  He describes the place as being wet and damp, full of slippery rocks ready to hurl one into the Bottomless Pit.  The man who guided them through the cave was white haired, deaf and had a bandaged jaw - obviously suffering from toothache!


 Richard Cox Gough, born in Bristol in 1827, moved to Cheddar about 1866; this is two years earlier than previously thought.  It is said that to make ends meet he worked in the mines and quarries higher up the gorge.  His mother, Lydia, lived near Lion Rock and was the sister of George Cox.  She had married James Gough and presumably after the death of her husband moved back to Cheddar in her retirement.  Richard Gough, and his family 1ived with his mother and eventually came into possession of the house after her death in 1871. What was Gough’s occupation between 1871 and 1877?  What is certain is that he was in control of Gough’s Old Cave by the summer of 1877.  When he took over the cave and from whom is still unknown.  By this time he was a man of moderate means for he entertained the villagers to a sumptuous meal in June 1877 and during the following month he entertained the Good Templars of Westbury and Cheddar to a picnic and in the evening showed them round “ …the Great stalactite Cavern.”  He now operated a show cave that was constantly being, and poorly, compared with Cox’s cave, now operated by his cousins after the death of their father in 1868.  Gough realised that he needed to do something pretty damn quick to combat the competition of he was to make a successful commercial venture from the cave.  Gough’s Old Cave at this time terminated at the top of the rift passage beyond the entrance chamber.  At the top of the rift he noticed that water pouring from the boulder and stalagmite choke in wet weather and so he employed men to remove the debris and in November 1877 he was rewarded by the discovery of a large chamber which he eventually called “The Convert Chamber.”   His advertising handbills of 1879 stated that he had re-named the cave as “The New Great Stalactite Cavern.”  The new chamber was quickly made ready for public viewing and admission to the cave was now 1 shilling and 6 pence, or for more than one person 1 shilling each. Cox's Cave was even more expensive at 3 shillings a visitor.


Photograph of Jack and Nancy Beauchamp said to be taken in 1860.
Notice Gough’s old Cave entrance (upper centre)
(from an old postcard c.1905)

The railway came to Cheddar in 1869, and with cheap excursion tickets during the summer months, the many visitors making Cheddar a popular tourist spot.  Works outings particularly from Bristol were common occurrences and the caves were among the highlights in addition to Pleasue Gardens and Church.

In addition to the showing of the cave, Gough organised several events in the cave during the off-peak season.  In September 1877 the Welford Family gave a hand-bell concert in the cave and in 1881 E.R. Sleator, a photographer an exhibition of his work on local views in the Concert Chamber.  For this occasion the cave was decorated with Chinese Lanterns and additional lighting was provided by oxy-hydrogen lights.  The photographs were described as being very realistic.

Gough installed gas lighting in the cave in April 1883.  The gas was obtained from petroleum by the use of a special apparatus.  The conversion apparatus was installed in the entrance chamber and for this action Gough was hauled before the Axbridge Magistrates because he did not possess the necessary licence to store petroleum and because the apparatus was a potential danger to the public.  Gough claimed that he had been advised that a licence was not necessary for the quantity that he was storing but he was nevertheless fined 10 shillings and the petroleum confiscated.  He was warned that if he did not place the apparatus in a safe location he would not be granted a further licence.  Gough asked that if he complied the Police requirements would he get his petroleum back?  Gough said “I have committed no crime.  It is like taking the bread out of a man’s mouth to take the petroleum away.” Colonel Luttrell (chairman of the Magistrates Bench) replied “You would have been fined much more heavily if the petroleum was not forfeited and the Bench will therefore reckon that your fine your petroleum is forfeited.”  The newspaper report continued " ... The defendant said he would like the Magistrates to visit the cave, and Col. Luttrell replied that he should be afraid to do so under the present circumstances.”  (Weston-super-Mare Gazette, 1883, 2nd May).

Gough’s next breakthrough came in 1887 when he discovered the Cathedral Chamber and the Queen’s Jewel Chamber at the end of the cave.  The route to these chambers was already open and only required crawling through to find them.  The original route is still there to see.  To make assess easy for the public, Gough excavated at the top of the Concert Chamber and cleared a passage below the two chambers.  He opened them to the public in 1888 hence they became known in the advertisements of the day, as the 1888 Chambers.  The first newspaper account of the new chambers appeared in the Weston-super-Mare Mercury (26th May 1888) which said

"Through this passage (the excavated one) the members were now conducted and emerged in what might be termed two grottoes of stalactites…..these were well illuminated and the beauty of the effect difficult to describe.  In one place a small natural fountain played in the centre of stalactites and stalagmites."

Gough employed his sons to act as guides and William Gough recalls in a letter to Thorneycroft (1949) “…before I was 12 [c.1883] I was able to conduct parties through the caves as well as the next.,"  It is reported that augment the formations in the cave Gough purchased cart-loads of stalagmite from Loxton Cave which had been open to the public for a short time to the public in the 1860s.  In addition to the added formations Gough used various devices to enhance the cave such as fountains in the chamber and reflected pools in the entrance chamber.

The last discovery was St. Valentine's Chamber - a side grotto at the entrance to the Concert Chamber (February, 1869).  The existence of the chamber was probably not unknown to Gough but to add to the 'latest important discovery' the grotto was opened up sufficiently to enable the public to peer into it.  This grotto seems to have been enhanced with foreign stalagmites!

Competition between the Cox's and Gough rose to unprecedented levels.  The cave proprietors made exaggerated claims about the merits of their respective caves for by now Gough's Cave was obviously biting into the takings at Cox’s Cave, the proprietors of which had a monopoly until 1877. Even then Gough probably made little impact on Cox’s Cave but by the mid 1880’s the situation was changing. Between 1877 and 1887 Gough had 20,000 visitors to the cave.  Edward Cox tried desperately to play down the importance of the discovery of the Concert Chamber in Gough's Cave typified by the following advertisement:

Cox's Stalactite Cavern.


NOTICE - There is no truth in the announcement of the discovery of a new great cave in 1877.  It is one of the original Cheddar Caves shown to the public before Cox’s Stalactite Cavern was accidentally discovered 1837-38.  Both caverns were described in 1868 by Mr. Nicholls in "Pleasant Trips out of Bristol."

Edward Cox, the then proprietor, was not being wholly truthful as Nicholls' book only mentions Cox's Cave and Long Hole!  The outburst from Richard Gough is not unexpected:


Visitors Read this before Seeing Caves.

GOUGH'S CAVES of 1877-1888-1889,

are the most wonderful .. ,

Visited by H,R.H. the Prince of Siam and the Colonials

..CAUTION: Station Drivers and others who are interested in other Caves are not my Colleagues.  I employ no "Touts."  I received a letter from the EARL OF KIMBERLEY, dated June 9th, 1888, contradictory of a Statement posted at another Cave.  H.R,H. the Prince of Wales has not visited Cheddar since a youth, with his tutor ..

Gough’s Entrance (c.1927 showing scree slope from slitter. (Courtesy of Cheddar Caves).

Neither of the proprietors were being honest with the public.  Touts were employed and the drivers received a ‘back-hander’ from the respective proprietors.  This technique continued well into the 20th century.  In fact fighting between the drivers was a regular event if local memories are to be believed!

To develop the site still further Gough and his wife, Frances, opened a formal tea garden outside their house and so were now in competition with the Pleaure Gardens at the Cliff Hotel.

Gough made no further discoveries at the Old Cave.  By about 1830 his attention had turned to Sand Hole, the large choked entrance some 40 metres east of the Old Cave entrance.  Why he had not attempted to excavate the site before is unknown but it has been suggested that a woman living in the adjacent cottage had prevented him doing so.  The site had long been a cart shed and according to Balch had been used as a gambling den.  Early 19th century initia1s and dates have been recorded scratched in tufaceous stalagmite close to the entrance.  The cave was partially choked but sufficiently clear so that the curious could penetrate at least 150ft. into the cave.  In January 1892 Gough had excavated at the end choke and broke into what is now known as The Fonts.  Gough cleared the passage and installed gas lighting by November 1892.  This section of the cave he opened to the public as Gough’s Rockwork Caves, because of the beautiful scalloping that exists there particularly in the two large rifts.  In fact he had removed so much material (much of it if archaeological importance) that he organised a concert on the 21st, November to which over 600 people attended.  The cave had by now been re-named and called Gough's New Cave. The newspapers were enthusiastic in their reports after the concert.  The Weston-super-Mare Mercury, for example wrote:

NOVEL CONCERT… The numerous audience was delighted with the cave and its decorations, which were profuse and tasteful and the geni of the cavern came in for numerous and well-deserved compliments for the manner in which the novel concert hall was illuminated consisting of fairy lamps, Chinese lanterns, gas and candles, the whole interlaced with hundreds of bannerettes. The devices were few but good, meeting the eye on coming up the cliffs was the 'Setting Sun" at an elevation of 100 or 200 feet over the entrance.  In the cave, at a height of about 60 feet over the placid water, was the "New Moon" and at the cave entrance to the left was the device "Praise God" illuminated in blue, red and pink ... "

Gough was to make two further major discoveries.  In April 1893 he discovered the passage up to and just beyond Swiss Village and in 1898 he broke through to the then terminal chambers. Gough cleared the passage Swiss Village in a very short space of time and on 29th July 1893 an advertisement in the Weston-super-Mare Gazette read:

NEW DISCOVERY- The extensive and beautiful cave, several hundred yards long was discovered by Mr. Gough on April 12th 1893 and now shown to the public at a moderate charge.

But Gough's crowning glory came in November 1898 when he and his sons; after sporadic digging; broke up through the end choke into St. Paul's and the Diamond Chambers with their beautiful formations. At the time there was nothing in the country that could compare with the Cheddar discoveries.  Gough obviously knew this.  The cave was ready for public viewing in May 1899 and, novel for the time, this section was illuminated by electricity.  The old gas lighting was gradually replaced with electricity over the next few years and for many years, certainly up to the outbreak of the 1st. World War the cave was frequently advertised as being illuminated by this means. In fact the method of lighting brough about another advertising slant by the cave proprietors.   Cox claimed that his carbide lighting was more brilliant than electricity!  But this did little for Cox's Cave. The press was ecstatic with the newly discovered cave and went over the top in their descriptions of it.  A correspondent in a Clevedon paper wrote (1899)

 “When I visited the scenes, some five years ago, this particular cave was esteemed of no importance, another cave, Cox's Cave, so called, was the popular one. Now all is changed, it is simply a case of transformation.”

Among the important visitors to Gough's New Cave included Balch, Martel, Bamforth, Puttrell, in 1904, and Winston Churchill in 1911!

Following the discovery of the new cave, Gough commenced re-organising the approach to the caves. The old cave notices were removed and an arched gateway built by the edge of the road.  Inside the perimeter of the ground he erected several rustic buildings housing the offices and museum.  Entrance to the cave was by a downward flight of steps to the left of the entrance archway.  Winter flooding of the cave, which still plagues the modern cave management, was hoped to be overcome by excavating further into the infilled sand and gravels in the Vestibule.  In 1903 during this clearing operation the Gough brothers accidentally discovered the skeleton of Cheddar Man in the area now known as Skeleton Pit into which the water was hoped to drain.  This discovery made Gough’s cave a household name.  Handbills, picture postcards (which had now become exceedingly popular with the public) all mentioned or showed photographs of the skull and bones. Eminent archaeologists studied the skeleton and estimated its age between 40,000 and 80,000 years.  Today, researchers have suggested, after radio carbon dating, that it is about 91,000 years old.


Approach to Gough’s caves c.1927.  (Note change of cave name).  (Courtesy of Cheddar Caves),

Minor ‘discoveries’ were made in 1908 when Aladdin's Grotto was opened and in 1935, after an archaeological dig at Pixie Forest a couple of hundred feet of low passage was discovered. This was claimed to be a major discovery by the then manager, Thomas gill, and he announced that a circular route to St. Paul’s Chamber was being considered; this idea not was not to materialise for another thirty odd years.

Richard Gough died in February 1902 at the age of 75 years.  The well known photograph of him was taken some eight years earlier by Stanley Chapman of Dawlish.  Chapman had long been a friend of the family and produced the earliest interior photographs of Gough’s Old Cave about 1890.  At this time the interior photographs of the caves were becoming available to the public.   The humble picture postcard did not come into use until about 1902.  The cave proprietors soon realised the importance of the picture postcard as they formed a very cheap form of advertising quite apart from the increased revenue the sales would bring to their pockets.  Both national and local publishers were employed to produce the cards but it is to the local photographers we look for the more interesting speleological photographs.

The major part of the collection at the Cheddar Caves Museum was discovered in March 1911 when the Gough brothers were excavating gravel to surface a car-park between the cave entrance and the river rising.   In doing so they unearthed many human bones and pieces of pottery half-way up the Slitter, just below Long Hole.  In addition they found some 200 coins including 1 gold example.  The archaeological papers merely record that bones and coins were found at Gough’s Cave in 1911.  But the newspapers and the local photographer, Charles Henry Collard come to the historians rescue.  So far 5 different photographs have been discovered and recorded.  Some are general scenes of the dig showing Herbert Balch, William and Arthur Gough inspecting the site, and another being a photograph of the finds layed out for display.

The Gough lease ran out c.1927 and the property returned to the Longleat Estates who have been operating the site ever since.  The first change enacted by the new management was to re-name the cave Cheddar Cave but this was unsuccessful – Gough’s Cave had stuck in the public memory.  Several marked changes were made in 1934 when the new office and restaurant complex was built.  Largely of novel design at the time the designer J.A. Gellicoe came in for much praise. The restaurant was opened on the 23rd. June 1934 with a V.I.P, dinner and it was said that there were more Rolls-Royce cars present than any other make!

Sympathetic management at Cheddar Caves for the last few years has enabled cavers virtually free access to the caves for further study and this has resulted in the discovery of the magnificent River Cave including two large chambers.  At long last Gough's Cave is breaking out into a major cave system.  What the future will bring is a matter for speculation - but no doubt it will not be disappointing.

Selected reading matter:

Balch., H.E.      1927 The Caves of Mendip.  London: Folk Press [The Somerset Folk Series No.26]

[Green, E.]        1935 Mendip - Cheddar, its gorge and caves. Wells: Clare, 1st. Ed.

Hensler, E.        1869 The tourist's guide to Cheddar Cliffs. Wells: Green

Irwin, D.J.          1968 "Ninety-nine years ago", WCC Jnl 10(118)102

                        1986a The exploration of Gough's Cave and its development as a show cave.

                        Proc. Univ. Bristol Spelaeol. Society 17(2) for 1985, 95-104

                        1986b Gough's Old Cave - its history. 17(3)250-266.  Proto Univ. Bristol Spelaeol.  Society

North, C.           1968 Cheddar Caves - some early impressions. Society Newsletter, Aug. 1968.  Axbridge Caving Group & Archaeol.

Phelps, w.         1836 The History and antiques of Somersetshire, Vol.1, part 2.

Stevens, N.E.    1869 A Guide to Cheddar and the neighbourhood.  Cheddar: Bryne

Thorneycroft, L.R.          1949 The story of Cheddar its gorge, caves and ancient history.  Taunton: Barnicotts.


France 1983

The following article has been published in the Axbridge Journal recently but I make no apologies for publishing it here even though the trips described were done four years ago.  My only apology is that I have been unable to copy the main survey and include it with this BB.  Unfortunately it is too complex to be worth reducing, I suggest that anyone going to the Dent-de­Crolles contacts Paul Hodgson and copies the survey. (Ed)

After much deliberation and reminders from friends over several years, I have finally finished this trip report of our visit to the Dent-de-Crol~es and the cave systems of the Trou-de­Glaz.

We had planned this trip over several months and had decided on transport arrangements, the route, how much food, camping kit and the tackle required.  The longest part of the preparations was obtaining BCRA Insurance Cover, I recall it having something to do with the diversity of Caving groups which we individually belonged to.

Suddenly the day of departure arrived and we had to make our final preparations during that day.  An old Bedford van was borrowed for the trip and we stuffed all this kit and five people into it and set off for the late ferry from Dover.  The trip to Dover was uneventful, although we took it in turns to drive the van to get used to it.

Customs passed, we found ourselves travelling through the night towards Paris.  At about three in the morning I was woken by John, who was driving, because the van had started running on three cylinders.  With the Bedford van the engine is easily reached by removal of the engine cover inside the van. So whilst still moving I took it off and woke everyone else up.  With the aid of a caving lamp we found the problem – one of the spark plugs had unscrewed itself and was dangling by the HT lead.  We tried re-fitting it while still travelling and didn't get very far.

After a short break we were back asleep again while John drove on through France.  We hit Paris during rush hour but managed not to get into any trouble.  We continued to the Fontainbleau Forest where we had a couple of hours kip, a late breakfast and then made our way to one of the boulder groups in the Forest and spent several hours "bouldering".

An uneventful journey followed, we travelled along the Autoroutes to the outskirts of Grenoble where camp was set up in a motorway service picnic area.  Early next morning we made our way through Grenoble and along the Isere valley to take a steep road up to the ' Col du cog', which is the closest point by road to the Dent-de-Crolles.  The views across the valley to the Alps were impressive as was the Dent-de-Crolles itself.

The Dent-de-Crolles is part of the Massif de la Grande Chartreuse which is an elongated mountain block some 45 miles long by 15 miles wide and is located between Grenoble in the south and Chambery in the north.  It is flanked by the Isere Valley to the east and south, while the D520 and N6 form the western boundary from Grenoble through Voiron, St Laurent du Pont, Les Eschelles to Chambery.  Beyond the high ground falls away to the Rhone Valley.  Sassenage and the Gouffre Berger are to be found to the south-west about five miles beyond the Isere valley. To the east the ground rises sharply to the Crests of the Massif d'Allevard, a part of the French Alps.

Provisions were picked up in St Pierre de Chartreuse and a suitable camp site located in St Hughs de Chartreuse, a few miles up the valley.  Previous club trips have used a variety of camp sites, especially at perquelin which gives easy access to the Guiers Mort but a long drive or trek to get to the Trou-de-Glaz and P40.

St Pierre de Chartreuse





Our first trip was a 'pull through' trip from the Trou-de­Glaz to the Grotte Annette Bouchacourte.  The van was taken to the Col-du-Cog where we got partially changed before setting off on a well defined track, through the woods, which shortly disappeared leaving us to force a way through to reach the grassland beyond.  We climbed up the steep slope to the track at the foot of the cliff faces and followed this to the Trou-du-Glaz where we found a snow drift in the entrance and a good cold draught.  Once kitted up we descended the large gently descending phreatic entrance tube to a short maze.  A well marked right hand turn leads abruptly to the first "Lantern Pitch" (11 m). This was already rigged with 'bluewater' so we abseiled down on it.

The second pitch (12 m) follows immediately after, again rigged, and after a short crawl the third pitch (13 m) is reached.  Here we met a party from Hadies Caving Club ( Bristol) coming up.  Another short crawl brought us into the main gallery, although wide it was not very tall and the fossilized stal in the roof made it necessary to stoop.  The fourth "Lantern Pitch" (12 m) was reached and quickly descended.

The large dry passage which we were now in was suddenly broken by a shaft which replaced the floor. A short climb into an oxbow on the right took us to a traverse past the "P36" shaft and back into the continuation of the passage via an eye hole.  The passage continued only to be broken by another hole in the floor, this time by " Lake Shaft" (52 m).  An exposed traverse with a bold step was negotiated on the left.  The passage continued.  We noted the Cairn which marked the start of the meanders to "Pendulum Pitch" which we would use for our through trip to the Guiers Mort.

The next shaft to replace the floor was "P60", the traverse on this was larger and on a sloping muddy ledge, fortunately there were plenty of handholds.  Just up a side gallery was "Labour Shaft" (63 m) which was about 10 m diameter and well watered by a small stream from a considerable distance above.

The main gallery was followed to "Fernand Shaft" (25 m) which is an easy broken pitch.  A short way along we found ourselves traversing along an earthen ledge above a deep rift, plenty of handholds but tricky in places when carrying tackle.  A narrow sporting rift followed and ended in a 20m drop which was free climbable, although we abseiled/climbed using the fixed rope at the top of the pitch.  At the bottom were two pots, one was blind, and the other leads to "Gallery 43" (4 m wide, 2-3 m high) a steadily ascending 'railway tunnel'.

"Traverse Shaft" is next.  This is bypassed by a crawl along a ledge on the left with a stretch to distant handholds. The passage is followed to another hole in the floor, "Climbers Shaft". An exposed traverse along the left hand wall leads to a fallen slab across the shaft.  Moving across the slab a 6 m climb on the right wall, with few hand and foot holds, leads to the passage continuation.  At the next fork in the route we turned left and the following two forks the right hand turn was taken, this brought us to the head of "Corog Shaft" (30 m).  This was a pleasant pitch of 10 m to a ledge and 20 m free.





The passage continues, with various side galleries, through five boulder ruckles.  The first of which is the "Cistern".  This is a well concealed hole in the ruckle and the only way on.  The other four ruckles present no real problems, the passage finally leads to a loose spiral stone chute leading to a self blocking squeeze - "The Spiral Staircase".  Route finding was made easier by following orange marker tape and the remains of some cotton thread (first noticed on "Fernand Shaft").  The other side of the squeeze we ascended more loose stones, which were kept back by motorway crash barriers, to exit in the Annette Bouchacourte Grotto.  The Isere valley is 1400 m below, most of which appears vertical.  The view from the cave, exit is impressive.  The Isere valley below and the snow covered French Alps rising the other side.

After de-tackling we trekked along the sometimes non-existent path around the Dont du Crolles and eventually back to the van at the Col du Cog.  Total time underground was somewhere in the region of 8 hours.


We drove the van to the Col du Cog and parked, this time lower down to allow easy access to the usual approach to the steep ascending grass slope to the track along the cliff base. By the time we had got the tackle bags sorted it was about 07-30 hrs.  We followed the same route to the Trou du Glaz as before, and concealed our change of clothes in the entrance.  The path continues upwards, up a couple of chimneys and a few scrambles to the plateau.  By following the red painted arrows we arrived at the summit, took a few photos and then searched for the entrance of P40.  By following the valley down from the summit the entrance was easily found just beyond the first trees.

Pete and I melted snow for the carbides, got changed and rigged the entrance shaft whilst Tony, John and Steve searched for the Gouffre Therese (without much success).  We descended the large fluted shaft (40m) and searched for the way on, a narrow blasted slot.  We eventually found it at the top of the rubble slope and not as the description said, the bottom.

A short crawl leads to "Kid Shaft" (8 m) which we free climbed down into "York Gallery".  This is a mud floored, wide bedding plane with several local collapses.  In places it was possible to walk, otherwise we had to stoop and crawl.  At the end a 'no hold' 30 m climb leads into a short meander to a ledge around a 3 m diameter shaft.  Directly after, a slippery slope, with a fixed hand-line, leads abruptly to the head of the "Three Sisters Pitch" (45 m).  The rope is belayed to a buttress to give a free descent of 10 m to a ledge, then 10 m to another ledge.  Here we met the stream and since little water was flowing we continued to the floor rather than traverse the ledge and rebelay to descent one of the other dry shafts which met at the bottom.

Two ways on were found, one following the stream, and the other through a partially blocked bedding plane into a meander.  Taking the latter we soon found ourselves traversing a deep rift at a high level. The stream dropped rapidly away below and the meander gained a floor at an intermittent level.  The meanders continued and we decided that the description we were following was inadequate so as a precaution we left the odd pitch rigged as we continued until we could verify where we were.  We then had to go back and pull the rope through.

A boulder blockage was next, some went over; some went under to reach a chamber - "Orbitalina Shaft". The meanders continued to a 6m shaft and beyond to two short slippery drops and finally a pitch.  John went down and declared it was "Balcony Pitch" (40m).  The first part of the pitch is descended in three stages, 10m to a ledge, a further 10m to a narrow ledge which has to be traversed for 6-7 m to a re-belay point for the final pleasant 20 m descent to a wide ledge.  The stream cascades down a gully at the side of ledge into the next shaft.  The water is avoided by traversing along the ledge and up an awkward 5 m climb to "The Balcony" a 1 m x 1.5 m ledge. From here we could see the passage by which Chevalier first approached "Balcony Pitch".  It is some 7-10 m lower and in the opposite side of the rift.  The pitch is an easy 25 m drop to a chamber from which a short piece of rift passage is followed to "Shower Bath Pitch" (30 m).  The stream can be avoided for part of the descent, but you get drenched just the same.  Pete tried a bit of aerial bombardment on his way down dislodging a few large rocks.

Two passages exit from the bottom of the pitch and we followed the lower - they both met at a junction of five further along.  After a scout along the passages we took the most obvious route and noted that we passed black painted numbers in descending order.  The route involved a lot of stooping and there were a large number of side passages which were not marked on the survey. 











Eventually we carne to the turn to the "Lantern Pitches" and familiar ground.  Back through the maze and into the main gallery. Just as we approached the exit a large ice stalactite tried, unsuccessfully, to impale itself in Pete, missing him by a mere five feet.

We changed in the late evening warmth and made our way down to the van and back to the camp site. This trip, although enjoyable, was marred by the inadequacies of the description which we had obtained and as a consequence our time underground was much longer than it should have been.


The next day was a day of rest.  The following morning we were up early and on our way through Grenoble and up into the Vercors.  Eventually we started to descend the Bourne Gorge, the road stayed about halfway between the floor and the top of the cliffs.  Just after the turning to the Choranche Show Cave we turned down a narrow steeply descending road which led down to the hydro-electric power station at the bottom. The descent was in the order of 700 ft. After changing in a small car park, we followed a footpath up to, and around, the Bournillon Cirque, ducking under the water feed pipe for the hydro-electric station.  The cave entrance, one of the largest in Europe, is hidden in a corner of the Cirque. The last bend in the path, when you are at last able to see the cave, is practically inside the entrance.

We ascended a large scree slope into a large fossil passage, at one side of the main entrance, and followed it until it degenerated, from about 100 feet diameter with boulder infill, to a boulder ruckle.  Dropping through the boulders we entered a passage which gradually assumed large bedding plane characteristics.  The end of the bedding plane would appear prone to flooding judging by the black deposits over everything.  A short climb through boulders brought us into the main passage.  Turning upstream took us to a large black sump pool.  The way out was to follow the main gallery and the stream.  The passage became vast and had a few attractive formations, the largest of which was the " Negro Village".  We didn't stop to get any pictures because of the swarms of midges and mosquitoes etc. which were crawling up your nose and other places.

The final section involves some relatively easy traverses around some deep pools before reaching the large entrance lake.  This is crossed at its narrowest point by a fixed bridge.  Time taken: about 2 1/2 hours.  After changing we drove back up the narrow road and up to the Chorancle Show Cave car park which is in the 'Cirque de Chorancle' where a number of cave exits may be found.  We dried our kit in the sun and had lunch, then went to the show cave to ask permission to descent the 'Grotte de Gournier', this was given.


The Grotte de Gournier is a resurgence cave and from it issues the larger of the two permanent streams in the Cirque.  Wearing only swimming trunks and boots we set off from the car park and made our way to the entrance, picking up a large crowd of inquisitive tourists.

The entrance arch leads to a large clear lake between 60 and 75 m long, 15 m wide and about 10 m deep and COLD.  After swimming around the left hand wall of the lake for about 50 m we climbed onto a small ledge where John and Tony climbed up 8 m to another ledge which they traversed along to the top of a huge gour.  We swam to the next ledge and climbed up the ladder which had been lowered over the gour.  NOTE: If water is flowing over this gour then the cave is flooded.

We decided to follow the main gallery as far as we could, and not to bother with the stream access points, then return taking photographs.  The fossil gallery starts as a 'railway tunnel' about 10 m wide with a large gour bank starting on the left and eventually dropping over a lip into what may be the lake continuation.  A little way on the passage takes on enormous dimensions, the roof being over 20 m high and the walls in excess of 15 m apart.  The floor was nearly always of boulders, some enormous - the size of bungalows - some distance further in we came across another well decorated section where a series of massive gours stretched across the passage, beyond this the passage size increased and we found ourselves in a chamber strewn with huge stalagmites on flowstone covered boulders.  An oxbow on the left contained some very good formations.  Further on, something like 2 km in, we reached a huge chamber into which we descended and then climbed up a steep boulder slope the other side to find ourselves at roof level with the main gallery choked off.  A hands and knees bedding plane crawl on the right brought us to another parallel (!) passage which shortly gained the same stature as the previous one.









More gours were found when a trickle entered the passage from an aven and the number and quality of the formations increased.  Large boulder heaps now had to be crossed and some of these brought us near to the roof. A 5 m drop halted all of us but John who somehow managed to climb down and have a look further on.

The way out was the reverse of the way in, but I stopped frequently to take photographs, in fact I could quite happily have taken many more.  This gave time for the other members of the party to explore side passages and to find two of the four ways down into the active streamway.  The trip took about 4 hours and was very enjoyable.


Our next trip was the through trip from the Trou de Glaz to the Guiers Mort.  Tony and John went into the Guiers Mort entrance and traced the way back to the bottom of "Chevalier II" the day prior to the through trip, as we had no wish to spend a long time in the labyrinth.

We drove up to the Col de Coq again and unloaded all the kit, including Tony's, who then took the van to a car park in the Forest above Perquelin and joined us at the Trou de Glaz entrance later.

We followed known territory descending all four "Lantern" pitches and the traverses around "P36" and " Lake Shaft".  A short way after " Lake Shaft" we found the cairn marking the meanders to "Pendulum Pitch".  We descended and found that although the passage was not too constricting the shelving made it difficult to haul the tackle bags after us.

After 50 m the passage came abruptly to a shaft, "Pendulum Pitch" (60m).  There are two excellent bolts above a small hole in the floor which give a free 60m descent in the middle of the shaft.  At the bottom the meanders continue for about 220 m which took us 45 minutes to negotiate.  At the end was "Petzl Shaft" (20m) which was free.  A few meters on, at the bottom, was "Trap Shaft" (15m).  The abseil was slightly awkward and made worse by a trickle from above.  By halting part way down we were able to pendulum over to "Dubost Halt" instead of climbing from the bottom. This is a small platform, just big enough for all five of us, overlooking "Chevalier Shaft I" (35m).

The descent was in a large chamber and it-was noted that there were some rock flakes which were very thin and intricate.  We landed on a jagged floor with a huge hole in it - "Chevalier II" (20 m). On our right, looking down the second shaft, we saw a traverse guarded by a heavy duty handline and we think that this is the connection with the "Metro".

We climbed down 3 m to a ledge in Chevalier II before abseiling.  At the bottom we found Tony and John's marker placed there the day before. A short traverse in a rift leads to a sandy crawl to the top end of the Guiers Mort main passage.  On the right the stream sumps to the left, we followed the large abandoned streamway crossing numerous deep water filled potholes. The largest of which being called the "Swimming pool".  Using the fixed handline and a lot of stretching this was passed without getting too wet.

The stream appears shortly after and the gradient steepens.  We came to the remains of a French ladder hanging.  Tony and John free climbed and dropped our ladder down - it was short.  Eventually got a start on the ladder and climbed up into the stalagmite traverse which is a wide bedding plane running on top of the vadose stream canyon and is covered in formations.

A rift begins to develop in places - "Marmite Gallery" - and we maintained our level in traversing along it.  A traverse over a pot requires delicate footwork, fortunately there was a fixed handline.

The passage continues into "Bivouac Gallery" and the main streamway is gained from a wide balcony via a short climb.  Another broken ladder hanging down from "Syphon Gallery".  Again Tony and John free climbed and hung our ladder down. A short way along we found yet another broken ladder hanging in a recess and we used our ladder on this occasion more as a handline to gain "Syphon Gallery I".

Following the obvious way we came to an awkward 2.5 m drop to re-join the river.  The streamway can be followed to a long low duct - " Christmas Basin" - we took the " Christmas Basin" bypass by traversing at a high level into a tunnel ending at a platform next to the "Elizabeth Cascade Waterfall" (6 m).  After abseiling down we followed the stream until it disappeared under boulders while we went over into the " Grand Canyon".  Holes develop in the floor and after about 50 m we ascended (10 m) by ladder into a low roofed tunnel.  This marks the start of the labyrinth and is a series of muddy crawls and crouches. Tony and John picked our way, and we came to the end via the hurricane which was sufficiently strong to keep our Petzl carbide lights from staying lit.  An 8 m drop into "Climbers Gallery" follows, a fixed handline aided the descent.  This regains the main passage the other side of the sump.  A narrow section connects with the "Grande Salle", where a large tree trunk makes the high level escape route when the sump rises to fill "Climbers Gallery".  A series of large chambers lead down to the Guiers Mort entrance which is a 6 m diameter tube exiting 10 m up a cliff face.

Tony retrieved a bottle of wine from the streamway which he had placed there on the way up, to join us at the Trou-de-Glaz.  This went down a treat.

We then walked down to the van.  Trip time about 8 hours.


Since we went to the Trou-de-Glaz quite a lot more passage has been found and some of the trips described have now become non-preferred routes.

The through trip from Trou-de-Glaz to the Annette Bouchacoute Grotte is hardly ever done because a connection has been made with Grotte Chevalier which cuts out the boulder ruckles on the Annette trip.

The preferred trip from the Trou-de-Glaz to the Guiers Mort now uses the "Metro" and by-passes about half of the trip described.

If I get any more details I will pass them on to the Editor for inclusion in a subsequent BB.  Our primary information for these trips came from the following references:-

1.         Survey by G. Grosseil

2.         LUCC journal Dec. 1966

3.         LUCC journal Spring 1969

4.         WCC journal Vol. 16 No 183

5.         CSS journal Vol. 10 No. 6 1980

Letter via the Editor

Graham Johnson,

Hello to all at the B.E.C.

Glad to see (from the B.B.) that you’re still an all-action club.  I’m pretty isolated up here don’t even know how you faired in the ‘Quest for the Rusty Tankard’.  I suspect by traditional devious, sly, and underhand means you regained the trophy. Well done.  The reason for this letter – I’m off to the Canadian Spelofeast, leaving U.K. August 24th and will be happy to take any messages etc. to the cavers out there - nothing that a fork-lift truck can’t handle.  Best of luck.

Yours sincerely,



The Annual Dinner Referendum

Eighteen responses out of how many members?  Two hundred odd?  Not that good.  Folk obviously don’t really care about the Dinner.  The Committee decided to consult the membership about the Dinner to see if any useful comments came out of the exercise.  Rumblings of discontent had been noticed in the past, particularly since last year, so we made up the questionnaire just to see what the reaction would be.  Since only eighteen replied, the results are hardly representative but here goes anyway.

I do not intend to set out vast columns of statistics but rather I have gone though the returns, picking out the various trends and salient points and adding them to the ideas I’ve received just chatting to people.  The comments and conclusion are not necessarily mine or the Committee’s.

The basic conclusion noted was overwhelming - the vast majority of people were not satisfied with the last dinner.  This is not due to any particular aspect, rather the "whole".  It transpires however that if one or more aspects were better, then the "whole" would become, or seem to become, more enjoyable.  So for example, if we had good entertainment or riveting speeches then peoples’ minds would be taken away from an indifferent meal or a dreary restaurant.  People tend to remember the good times.

a)                  Taking the Meal first. Most require a £12-13 maximum.  This obviously provides a constraint to amount, choice and quality so it will have to be up to the Organiser to get the best value for money as possible. Nobody expects an amazing spread, just value for money nosh - hot, tasty and quick.  Cavers are not rich?  A sit down meal is almost unanimous.

b)                  The Venue.  I thought most would probably want to stay on Mendip but many say they wouldn’t mind going much further a field if we get a good meal, a good atmosphere (which we would generate ourselves) and enough room to play about.  The Caveman is pretty dreary but we can’t please everyone and get all aspects of the Dinner right and at least its convenient. Sitting 100 or so is a constraint in itself but the organiser this year will perhaps widen his horizons a little. In any event, if we’re going to mess around and play about as is inevitable then we need room, i.e. a Caveman type place or a Village Hall that doesn’t mind getting dented a little.

c)                  Guests. Nobody seems to have any particularly strong views but most would rather leave it to the Committee or Organiser with perhaps a hint that it’s no more than two from each Mendip Club.

d)                  Entertainment and Speeches.  This naturally provoked much discussion.  Discos, Fancy Dress and Bands are certainly out.  The consensus is a play or plays, say made up of three or four groups of friends of say three or four each, interspersed with speeches and awards. This would have the effect of eeking out the speeches which invariably get dreary.  There is little doubt that speeches must be better considered and planned so that they mean something (a guest speaker? - Sid Perou?) not just a tipsy body standing up and spouting forth.  Plays must not offend.  One returnee hinted that a play some time ago deeply offended some people so they should not be too personal (unless previously agreed) or slag the Wessex too much.  We're all reasonably intelligent and can sense when our actions are likely to offend.  We don’t want to be seen to be louts.  Perhaps a play(s) every other year?

e)                  Wine. Apparently most request it to be ordered separately.

f)                    Two Dinners.  Some have suggested two dinners.  One formal sit down affair and one less formal, fancy dress mad affair.  I feel most reject this.  We are one club, despite the age groups represented, and it’s the only function in the year where everyone can get together under one roof. The older members may prefer the formal do, while the younger ones a disco or fancy dress but this will only serve to divide the club.

g)                  A few pertinent points made by some people:

1.                  "Speeches, awards etc. (except guest speakers) to be made at intervals during the meal."

2.                  "Any radical change to the format, will probably lead to the fall off of older members attending."

3.                  "Other clubs (eg .... ) have Xmas Dinner, Diggers Dinner etc where fancy dress is the theme."

4.                  "No smoking (I really suffer)."

5.                  " .... last year some of us couldn't bear it (a speech) and had a good pee instead."

6.                  "Best BEC Dinner, excluding 50th, in recent years was at Croscombe Village Hall in 1984 because the food was excellent."

7.                  " re: "wine included".  This means wine on table prior to meal and a general grabbing of reds by early arrivals leaving unspeakable and virtually undrinkable whites for those unfortunates who arrive late."


I get the impression that the style, format etc. should not be radically changed.  We cannot hope to suit everyone and in a way the present style has probably endured naturally over a number of years.

How about?

a)       £12-14 (increase from popular £10-12 bracket due to inflation since last year).

b)       Mendip venue, but widen horizons slightly and not necessarily the Caveman.  Something a little original within the obvious constraints.

c)       Plan and restrict the speeches and get a guest speaker (not necessarily to do with caving) - during meal?

d)       Provide our own entertainment with sketches and plays during the meal?

e)       Make sure the bar doesn't run out

f)        One Dinner only a year - although the "Diggers" etc. could hold their own additional do if they want.

Mike (Trebor) McDonald.


Mendip Underground

The much awaited but never the less very welcome Mendip Underground is at long last on the market. Priced at £5.95 (the first edition was £2.95 in 1977) the 212 page guide is very good value, particularly in view of the improved presentation and increased number of photographs.

The guide has been extended by a brief description of those smaller sites of interest to cavers. This makes the book far more comprehensive and greatly increases it’s value as a reference work.

The authors, Dave Irwln and Tony Knibbs, have put in a great deal of effort and should be congratulated on producing an up-to-date and eminently readable guide.  The introduction has been kept to only eight pages, very desirable when the trend is towards increasing use of guidebooks to promote personal band wagons.

I have only two minor criticisms of the book.  It would be useful if a different type-face was used for descriptions of side passages, authors notes etc. The surveys are a little difficult to follow, particularly where complex multi-level systems are shown.  Cavers can buy detailed surveys of individual caves but I am sure the vast majority would be content with something only slightly more detailed.

No doubt an army of pedants will unearth a plethora of typographic and other errors.  The only two I am aware of are both on surveys. The Upper and Lower Series of Eastwater Cavern have been transposed, as have the entrances of Banwell Bone Cave and Banwell Stalactite Cave.

Richard Stevenson


A Case For Easier Egress

There very nearly was a very nasty moment in the evening of Wednesday the 15th April when a situation requiring the MRO was averted by a hair's breadth.  The embarrassment of two potential rescuees would have known no bounds for one was an active MRO warden, another was an elderly member of the BEC not quite as accident prone as Chris Castle but who has been known to give other members an occasional nasty turn, and the third, just a nice guy who would have felt just as foolish.

We had started out late for Longwood and had been further delayed by the fact that I had to stop at the stream to soak my boots as they were rock hard.  We had then meandered gently through the cave after being delayed for a while by another party below the shower bath and eventually got back to the entrance after one of us had got inextricably muddled in the letter-box squeeze. We were pretty sure we were going to miss the pub but there was still a chance.  Or was there?  I couldn't open the lid.  Nor for that matter could anyone else.

We fettled away quietly, cursed a bit, wondered how the party we had met had got out and what they had done to the lock afterwards.  Then, we realised we were going to miss the pub.

We didn't beat hell out of the lock with boulders because the engineer amongst us told me rock was no match for cold steel so the third party went searching for anything that could be used .as a crowbar and came up with some very rusty angle iron.

"Did you tell Pat where we were going?"

"No. did you tell Maggie?"

"Yes, but I don't think she'll phone Pat till two o'clock"

"Pat will tell her to wait another hour before doing anything so it will be about 4 o'clock before the MRO will get here".

"Shit!  We’ll be here until morning then".

That was enough; the strong man lay on his back on the little ledge in the block house and gave an almighty kick.

"I've done something awful to my leg but its open"

"It’s what?"

"It’s open"

"You must be joking"

"No I'm not"

And he wasn't, one kick had broken the weld on the block house door and we were on our way home by midnight.

Longwood is not locked and should not be relocked with an Abloy key.  The whole affair could have been embarrassing for the whole caving community and most worrying for three caver’s wives.


As it happened Trebor came to look for us as one of the cars was still at the Belfry when he got back after the pub.  We'd gone by the time he got to the parking area so he didn't callout the MRO who would have been with us by midnight.  Honestly, we wouldn't have broken open the cave if we'd known.

Jeremy Henley.


Virgin Gorda Copper Mine British Virgin Island Caribbean

" Ere wang, look e here. There’s a copper mine under that there 'ill", says Trebor.  "Aaargh, wang and yackaboo" replies Stumpy.

Such is the language caving breeds in simple folk as they pour over a map of Virgin Gorda prior to jetting out for a fortnights diving in the warm, clear waters of the Carib.

The map says "Copper mine", "ruin", "copper mine point", "Copper mine bay", and "Mine hill" so we thought it safe to assume there was a mine somewhere abouts.  Little more to be done until we got there.

On a break from diving, Pat and I sought out the local library, full of well soiled books in the centre of Roadtown, the capital of Tortola the largest of the Virgin Islands some 60 miles east of Puerto Rico and nowhere near the Blue Holes.  Apart from a few common-as-muck caving books we found nothing on mines, mining, copper, silver, gold or Butcombe.  We were however directed to the Institute of Caribbean Studies around the corner, essentially a small room with books in it, where a little girl was very helpful.  Out came three or four books with some useful facts and good references.

It transpires that this particular mine was opened up by the Spaniards in the early 1500's on the way back from obliterating the Aztecs.  They came over from Puerto Rico to explore the southern tip of Virgin Gorda, an island some 10 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide at its widest point.  It is the second largest of the Virgin Islands and 1 1/2 hours sail from Tortola given a hefty breeze.

The mine is located only some 75ft above sea level and little more than 50yds. in from the very rocky shore on the very southern tip of the island in a remote location served by a rough track.  Nobody has any great cause to go there.  Written terms like "sporadic", "reactivated" and "reopened" infer that the mine had a rather cheque red history.  Our knowledge of events between the 1500's and 1840's is nil and we hope to obtain further information but at present we only know that in 1840 some 40 imported Cornishmen, assisted by 150 locals, re-opened the mine.  A British Virgin Island Mining Company was set up at an unknown date, presumably in 1840, based in Liverpool but as it went bankrupt in 1842 "operations were suspended."  This fact does not tally however with a reference which states that "between 1860 and 1862, exports valued at £16,224 were sent to Britain, consisting mainly of copper ore obtained from the reactivated mine on Virgin Gorda."  Somebody else must thus have taken over the Liverpool based company's operations.

A limited reference to quantities was forthcoming - 90 tons of copper was produced in 1841 and geologists have estimated that 10,000 tons of copper ore were taken out altogether during its history.  A survey carried out in 1858/60 by an unknown group estimated that a small quantity of copper and molybdenum was still present in the area.  "A copper mine on Virgin Gorda was also believed to be a potential source of great wealth" (Ref: Calendar of State Papers, America and West Indies 1724/25).

After the research, the action.  Pat and I were dropped off by yacht and dinghy onto a beach so we could hike across a couple of miles of thick scrub in 90 degrees of heat to get to this blessed mine (mad dogs and Englishmen).  The anchorage on the correct side of the island was positively dangerous with reefs and swell so there was nothing to do but hoof it.

Despite its total lack of maintenance and the misuse over 100 years, the mine buildings were remarkably recognisable; with a chimney, machinery housing, the boiler and other odds and ends but no evidence of housing to accommodate Cornishmen or natives. A systematic search to find a shaft or adit proved unfruitful.  The ruin of a small building on top of mine hill had what could have been a blocked shaft but, subject to further research, we suspect the area could well have been open cast.  The disappointment of not being able to use Petzl zooms, compasses and surveying gear will no doubt the tempered by the possibility of further research with the defunct BVI•Mining Co., formerly based in Liverpool.

Pat Cronin and Mike (Trebor) McDonald.


i)          A Guide to Historic Places in the British Virgin Islands (1979).

ii)          Tales of Tortola and the BVI by Lewisohn.

iii)         A History of the BVI 1672-1970. by Dookhan.

iv)         Various letters 1841, 1859, 1862 and 1724.


Letter via the Editor

To Mr. R.H.S. Orr via the Editor.

Dear Jok,

Worry not about those who are involved with "unwarranted intervention with the institution of the annual Club Dinner".  I have seen them in action and can assure you that they are as obnoxious as you were when you infested the Belfry.  One of them even draws cartoons!

This Club is a living tradition - let us support those who make it what it is, whatever their generation, in the knowledge that everything will always be done to Excess. (Mind you - if any of the more senior members joined in more often then perhaps some of the "lost" traditions - like singing - would not have died out).


922 J.Rat.

P.S. Superb article Chris, and many thanks to Trevor for offering to clean up his mess!


Scaffolding Bar Pot!

The following planning application may be of interest to BEC members as an indication of the sort of problem we have yet to face!  The BEC has lodged a complaint as requested and has received a not too hopeful reply from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  Latest information is that it has been rejected at the local level but has been referred.

Planning Application: Reference Number YO/5/17/156

Planning Application for the erection of scaffolding structures underground, to allow access in Bar Pot for adventure caving.  No surface works involved,

The application is for permission to erect underground scaffolding structures in Bar Pot to allow access for groups of people to enjoy adventure caving.

This is an increasingly popular recreational and educational activity for all ages, which will allow the inexperienced to enjoy the sport of pot holing or caving in safety.

Similar schemes are also operated commercially by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority operating from Whernside Manor in Dentdale.

The structures will comprise 2 major elements.  A 40 foot high access scaffolding structure to negotiate the first part of the pot hole along with a further 100 foot structure for the major vertical section of the pot hole.  Scaffolding of aluminium with intermediate platforms constructed so as to avoid corrosion and encased in wire mesh for safety purposes.

It will be secured against any unauthorised use.  Other minor works such as a safety hand rail will be needed at the top of the 100 foot vertical section and rope hand rails here and there for general assistance.

No surface buildings or structures will be required.  Underground there will be little or no environmental damage whatsoever, apart form securing bolts drilled into the limestone and miscellaneous support work for the scaffolding.  The work will not be visible from the surface.

It is envisaged that small pre-booked groups of 15 to 20 in number and suitably equipped will be conducted down the cave by an experienced guide for a 2 or 3 hour caving trip. Facilities should be very useful for educational groups and for local hotels and guest houses wishing to offer caving or pot holing activities to their guests.


Reasoned letters of protest may be sent to:-Mr. Mitchell, Craven District Council Planning Department, Granville St., Skipton, AND Mr. R.G. Harvey, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorebridge House, Bainbridge, North Yorkshire.