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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys


I made a bad mistake in the last BB saying that I had some articles in hand.  Not one has come in since!  Please can I have some!

There's nothing much to report on the digging front, just lots of hard work with little to show for it. J'Rat has reopened the corner dig in Puck Suds and has found a mud filled tube going in the opposite direction to Skid Row.  Graham tells me that Spade Runner in Daren is being awkward and they are thinking of revisiting Twelve O’clock High which was banged just before the Micron was discovered but has not been looked at since.  Graham and Richard (Blake) have finished the survey of Welsh's Green so a report should soon appear.

Now to bridge jumping. I tried this for the first time the other Sunday!  The theory of bridge jumping is as follows.  If you tie a rope, securely, to one parapet of a bridge, pass it under the arch of the bridge and up to the opposite parapet, then anything tied onto the rope and dropped from the second parapet will swing under the bridge like a pendulum provided that the distance from parapet to parapet under the arch is shorter than the distance from the parapet to the ground (otherwise the dropped item hits the ground very hard and very fast, as proved by Newton!).

My first jump was at Windsor Hill viaduct on Mendip.  The distance from parapet to the ground looks to be 60 to 70 feet and from parapet to parapet under the arch about 50 feet so it’s quite safe to jump!  However, jumping into 70 feet of nothing is a bit daunting and although one rope would probably be quite sufficient to take the strain three were actually used  (We can't afford ten - Snablet).  The next nerve-racking thing is waiting for the ropes to be properly tensioned while standing on a tiny ledge hanging onto the parapet for dear life.  Of course, you know its perfectly safe as you've seen others doing it before you but actually pushing off when told that the ropes are ready is something else!  Hesitation makes things far worse as you start questioning your own sanity and wouldn't it be better to go home and have a nice cup of tea!

The most courageous jumper was J'Rat who hesitated for several minutes but still jumped.

When you've actually jumped your life doesn't flash before your eyes, after all, if it wasn't for the ropes you'd hit the ground at about 45 mph in about 2 seconds.  I can't remember the free-fall stage (about 15 feet) at all, the first memory being of the tug of the ropes under the bridge. Then it starts to get really exhilarating as you zoom up the other side, almost to the height at which you started, and then proceed to pendulum on a 50 foot arc.  My verdict was that it was tremendous fun but probably not for the faint-hearted!  We offered jumps to passing Sunday-afternoon walkers and although some showed lots of interest and stayed awhile to watch, there were no takers!  Zot wouldn't jump in spite of the fact that everyone who did was saying how great it was.  Jingles jumped twice (he's now an addict) and the rest of the first-time jumpers would have liked to as well except that the Hunter's was, about to open!

A word of caution! Bridge jumping is completely banned in many countries and at many sites in this one.  The reason is obvious!  In caving you can go without all the proper gear or use equipment incorrectly and nine times out of ten you would get away with it (for the tenth occasions - see the M.R.O. incident reports).  In bridge jumping these odds are reversed (and the reports would be obituaries!). It is essential to have all the proper equipment (which is expensive!) and to use it correctly.  Also the jump must be tested with, say, a tackle bag full of rocks, with observers posted, to ensure that neither the ropes or the bag come anywhere near any obstacle along their flight paths!

Back to club matters. Alfie has presented me with a large box-full of old B.B.'s in response to Trebor's plea.  Thanks Alfie!  With my collection as backup we should be able to produce all the missing ones from about number 80 onwards.

Chris Falshaw has sent us a generous donation and, in his words, would be very pleased if it could be applied to help any "Sump Passing Efforts" in Cuthbert’s during 1990.  Thanks Chris, we'll see what we can do!  The Aswan Dam, below the ten foot drop in two, is complete (with steps on both sides so that one just walks over it) and I believe fire hoses are being organised to go from the surface to sump 2.

Clare Coase, Damien and Nan duly arrived on Mendip (Damien and Nan were on their honeymoon - so they travelled 12,000 miles and then went down a hole in the ground, they must be prospective BEC members!) and a large party visited Cerberus Hall. Unfortunately I could not accompany them as I was down to take another party to Straw Chamber, Pearl Passage and Canyon Series on the same day.  I will put in the account of their trip and other extracts from the caving logs in the next BB.

As a very early warning, it looks as though the B.E.C. dinner this year will be at the "WEBBINGTON COUNTRY CLUB" and will be on Saturday 6th October.  This will be a bit plusher than recent venues and the cost of tickets will be a bit dearer.  However, our club dinner sub-committee, Mr. N and Wormhole, are recommending it.  (Most other possible venues were already booked anyway!)


A General Run Down on the Caves of Western Australia.

Mike Wilson

During a recent holiday in Western Australia I managed to do some walking and caving.  The best walking by far are the Kalbarri Gorges - north of Perth.  They are well mapped and documented.  The ideal base for these routes is the town of Kalbarri situated on the coast.  Plenty of good camp sites.

Most of the well-known caves, including the show caves, are situated in the in the Margaret River - Albany area south of Perth.  Obviously Mammoth, Jewel and Lake are the three most well known tourist caves and well worth a visit.

In fact many caves are open for caving but are quite difficult to find in the bush.  The five I visited were Devils Lair, Strongs, Moondyne including the snowflake extensions (very eerie and beautiful), Golgotha an old show cave and Giants Cave which is a nice 1½ hour through trip. There are three others worth a visit; - Block, Crystal and Dingo's. All about 45 minutes duration.  Fairly short by English standards.

There are longer caves in the area, Easter being one, but they are all locked and controlled by the W.A.S.S., limited numbers allowed on trips, and you have to sort out trips in advance (not possible on a short holiday).  Many other caves abound in this area, 170 have so far been mapped and logged by "one man".

Although there appears to be great potential I wonder if any new finds will exceed the standard depth and short length!!  The average depth appears to be about 60', usually in pothole form, and the caves are all well decorated.  The floors tend to be flat or level.

I had a lengthy discussion with a geologist (female) and was told that the limestone is a capping of approximately 60' to 70' and the rock is a sandstone-limestone mix.  This accounts for the odd flooring and ease of caving.

In the north and east of Perth there are the Nullabor Caves (east) and the Oscar, Cape, Windjana and Geike Ranges (north).  The Nullabor caves are the deepest and longest caves.  The longest being Mullan Ulang with 11 km. of passages. Wee Bubbie is 120 m. deep, and the other big cave is Cocklebiddy.  I have no information on the latter.  The W.A.S.S. have made several trips to the Nullabor and are, therefore, the best people to contact for information.

North of Perth is the most interesting area!!  No-one appears to have made much effort into exploring the various limestone regions. This is probably due to the vast distances involved.  I feel the best way would be to use a 4x4 vehicle and go with the intention of carrying everything one needs "including water".  The WA park rangers would be a great help I am sure (don't bother with the rangers at Yanchep, they were very unhelpful).

Anyone who wishes to follow up this article will find maps, guides and national park info. in the library at the Belfry.


Sandstone Mines, Broomers Hill Lane, Pulborough, W. Sussex


I don't know if anybody will find this of major interest.  Not exactly earth shattering news that will warrant a stampede of thousands of cavers clutching BA's, harnesses, miles of rope and Elsan's, but it is a hole or rather several holes in the ground and I suppose, as J'Rat suggested to me, it does warrant a mention.

I carried out a survey trip on these mines on Sunday the 18th November 1989, with the help of a friend, Rod Donaldson.  The only reason I asked him was because he is an architect and the proud possessor of an electronic digital measuring thingy, which he forgot to bring, along with the torch! So the survey was carried out with a 3M tape and a cigarette lighter.

Rod found that even with the lighter it was very difficult to see, until he realised that he was still wearing his dark glasses a half hour after we'd started!  Still it was at the crack of 10am on a Sunday morning.

However we did manage to measure up all the passages theand  result is the attached plan (see next page).

Research has brought very little information to light save for two mentions.  One in Sussex Industrial Architecture a field guide. "Sand mining in Pulborough. Deserted for many years, overgrown, a series of shafts driven horizontally 25m. into hillside".

The other, a mention in the history of Pulborough by J. Pedley.  "Mr. Perrier dug sand (moulding sand) in Adits in small ravine at Broomers Hill till 1890".

The mine is a series of 6 adits (one now partially blocked) driven into sandstone and the system covers a mined area of approx. 340 2/M, Pillar and Stall. (612 3/M).

Apart from the above information local legend abounds with tales of tunnels connecting to houses in the village, much used by smugglers.  Also a local farmer unearthed two Roman lead "pigs" (now in Chichester museum), at the entrance.  Certainly there is much evidence of Roman habitation very near to the site.  Pulborough is situated on " Stane Street", and nearby Hardham, on the River Arun, was an important Roman river garrison.  However, there is no evidence to suggest Roman working of the mines and it remains open to speculation.

If anyone is in Sussex at any time and fancies a visit, contact me on 07982 5257 and I'll be happy to conduct a guided tour.  Rod has also asked me to mention that he and his wife Kay do own the local hotel and offer very reasonable rates as well as serving excellent ales. Brakspears, King and Barns and Marstons. (This mention is his "Architects fee" for, as he puts it, "crawling around in the dark and muck by the light of a flickering Zippo".)

Andy Garrod



Dordogne 1989

By Vince Simmonds


Brian Murlis, Steve Redwood and I met at Steve's at about 5.30 pm and set off for Weymouth at about 6.00 pm.  We arrived at Weymouth nice and early for our 10.00 pm sailing only to discover it had been delayed for 6 hours.  So we had a wonderful meal of cod and chips and imbibed 'fizzy' ale in some local hostelries - Hunters was sorely missed already!  We returned to the ferry port and tried to catch some kip under the stars in the car park.  We eventually boarded the ferry at 6.00 am.


11.00 am saw us arriving in Cherbourg harbour and going straight through customs and immediately taking a wrong turn. When we sorted this small problem out we set off, a happy little bunch, not quite realising we had 12 hours solid driving ahead of us.  We discovered after several towns and several errors that the easiest way through a French town is to head straight for the 'Centre Ville' and then picking up the required road.  After nearly running out of fuel and tempers getting a touch frayed we eventually arrived in Gramat about midnight only to find the directions to the camp site vague to say the least.  Luckily there was someone in the station to give us directions.  Amazingly when we arrived at the site we managed to locate Nick Geh and his diving party and by about 1.00 am we were nicely tucked up in our tents after having hysterics watching Steve erect his one-man tent for the first time.


We arose to a marvellous morning so we proceeded to have a quick recce of the camp site.  This site proved to have quite excellent facilities, as with most French camp sites, hot showers, toilets, electricity points and running water.  The next task was to go to Gramat to buy the days supplies bread, cheese and Salame and the liquid refreshment necessary in this heat - good excuse that.  'Digger' Hastilow had also arrived the same evening as us so four of us set off to explore the River Dordogne planning to go swimming, however the low water levels (the area also experiencing a drought) put paid to this idea so we went back to Fontain St.Georges a very cold resurgence pool which proved excellent for swimming and diving though the water was extremely cold after having been underground for months.  A small cave above the resurgence was explored but was only about 40 feet in length if you're caving in swimming shorts and a zoom. We spent the evening, as most evenings would be spent eating bread, cheese and meats and drinking beer and talking with the divers who had reports of quite stupendous 'vis' and large swimming passage, so much that they were becoming quite blasé about it.


Today was to be the first day of serious caving since our arrival so we chose two relatively close caves, Reveillon and Roque du Cor.  We had located the entrance to Reveillon yesterday, to say it's impressive would be an understatement.  The huge entrance porch which measures approx. 150 feet by 150 feet leads down to a passage 30 x 30 feet with some fine gour pools.  There are a few pitches which we managed to negotiate with a 50' handline or free climbable using combined tactics.  Some side passages were explored, Steve leading us into one particularly interesting muddy one with a rope climb that proved a little awkward to get out of.  An interesting thing at the bottom was that the sump had dried out and some passage beyond was explored, this was to prove uninspiring being jammed with flood debris and mud.  On the way out we noticed a good few large toads in the muddy sections that were the sumps.

So then on to Roque du Cor, just a few kilometers away.  This cave also had an impressive entrance, a huge doline with a path leading to the bottom where the cave entrance was a low but fairly wide arch leading after about 75 feet to larger passage, perhaps about 1500 feet in total.  There were some quite nice decorations.

After the caving we stopped off in the 'Supermarche' for supplies and the evening was spent reflecting the days adventures before retiring to our respective pits.


Another lovely morning! Today's mission was to locate 3 caves, the first of them was Les Vitcirelles which proved to be just a stream sink with no known cave - (when we returned to England we discovered that Les Vitcirelles is an impressive river cave located in the centre of a nearby army camp and access is, as far as we know, virtually impossible).  Lots of caves seem to have the same name.  The next cave we visited was Pert du Themines which proved to be an excellent cave.  Situated in a blind gully the entrance is right under a pile of flood debris as was the whole cave, evidence of flooding was everywhere.  The cave needed just one 20' ladder near the entrance, we were later to regret not carrying the 50' handline.  The walls of this cave were superbly scalloped, leaving rocks like Thomas Moore sculptures, and coloured orange and browns.  From the pitch an obvious passage leads to the streamway, with a little wading this can be followed for about 100' until a sump is reached.  A tube just back from the sump can easily be climbed to a large fossil passage.  To the left, a slope down to a large chamber and the stream rejoined.  The chamber is about 50' high and flood debris can be seen jammed in the roof. The stream meanders to a second sump. A clamber up a muddy, gravel slope leads to another fossil passage.  To the right, an extremely muddy passage can be followed past some fine gours for 200'. To the left, the passage leads on to a decorated chamber and gour pools deep enough to swim through.  Returning to the first fossil passage and turning right we followed a small series of passages and by a process of elimination we eventually found ourselves in a clean washed passage full of gours which went on for several thousand feet through to a beautifully decorated chamber approx. 150' high.  Continuing along the passage, mainly by swimming, led to a 30'- 40' drop, which would have required the handline, to another section of streamway.  We believed this streamway to be a continuation beyond the sump. After these passages we made our way out.

The third cave we planned to visit was Theminette's in a village of the same name, as was Themines. The cave was very similar to the previous cave except that the entrance was completely blocked and exploration was impossible.


We had decided that today's cave was to be the Igue de St. Sol, part of the Lacave system.  On the way to the Igue we stopped and had a quick look at Lacave Show Cave natural entrance.

The Igue de St.Sol is located at the top of a track next to a cemetery just beyond Lacave.  The walk of about 1 km. is not difficult and the entrance is found in a fenced area just to the right of the main track.

The entrance shaft requires about 250' of rope. We started with a back-up to a fence post, down a slope and belayed from a tree for a drop of about 60’ to a muddy ledge with a rebelay just below the edge.  This gives a further 80' drop to another rebelay about 60' from the bottom.

The Igue intersects an old fossil passage about 40'x 40' and about 2000' long.  To the right are some old parachute cases left over from the war. Also to the right are the best of the formations, huge bosses, columns 30' to 40' high, flows and grottoes.  At the end of this passage is an old dig face in mud which has various sculptures littered around, these are made from mud. From the left of Igue the passage is muddier and has fewer formations and soon closes down.

On the way back down the hill we had a quick look at the Grotte de Combe-Culier, a small active dig that is well worth the look.


We deliberately left the Grottes de Saut de la Pucelle to be our last cave because of the reports we had of it being a good fun trip, this was proved to be the case.  We took 6 x 25' ladders, 50' handline and various tapes and slings.  The advice we had was to check which was a pitch and which was not, as some were easy to go over but not quite so easy to get back out again.  On the way down we met a couple of French caving parties who let us pass them, one party using S.R.T. in a cave with the biggest pitch being 30' and avoiding the water.  Although this active 3 km. streamway was relatively low whilst we were there it must really be impressive with a bit more water.  At the sump there is a plaque to the memory of Martel who was instrumental in the discovery of the cave 100 years ago (1889 - 1989).  Other points of interest were a rather smelly dead trout in one passage; a pool halfway into the cave had a resident white fish (trout like) and the first leech we had seen had taken up residency on one slippery climb.

All in all we had a fantastic week in an area well worth a visit.  It also has to be said that there is enormous potential in the area for new caves.  Also anyone with time on their hands might also like to visit one of the many show caves in the area - with time being so short we did not get around to seeing any.

We would also like to thank Rob Taviner (BEC & Wessex) who supplied us with much information on the area visited.


Daren Cilau.

12.8.89. Vince Simmonds, Rob Taviner, Steve Redwood and Pete Bolt.

The aim of this trip was for Pete to attempt a dive in Duke Sump just beyond St. David’s.  We left Pete disappearing into the sump then made our way back to Hard Rock Cafe to brew up and wait.  We had a look round for some food and managed to find some rice and a 'boi l-in-the-bag, - Pete had already claimed this as his.  We had only just started cooking when Pete arrived complaining of 'no vis', he was however still hungry so we continued cooking. 25 minutes later the rice was ready and so was the 'boil-in-a-bag.  The rice was dished out and the 'boil-in-a-bag' opened to reveal ...... a whistle, matches and two bars of chocolate - a very tasty Survival Kit.  The rice ended up very bland!



St Cuthbert and the Yorkies


By Mike Wilson

They were a greet bunch of lads were t'Yorkies
And theyd coom down t'Mendip for cave
We've heard of a saint called Cuthbert!!
And quite fancy a visit t'grave.
Having "tanked up" in Hunters till closing
They arrived at t'shed for the trip
Their outfits were many and varied
With overalls straight down from the tip.

We toddled on down to the entrance
And Yorkies jaws opened reet wide
"By heck" its locked and gated
Theer moost be t'crown jewels inside.
Having turned of tap at the entrance
And stopped village water at source
They all slid down rift by the ladder
And locked gate behind them of course.

Well the trip to Sump II in general
Was just like most tourist trips go
With cries of this reminds me of Knacker Cracker
And look out your lamp's a bit low.

At last stopped for a breather
And passed the Mars bars to hand
Wot no bloody mint cake
Theers nowt like it throughout the land.

We decided to return to the surface
By various devious ways
Make haste and dont miss Hunters opening
Faggots peas and Butcombe on trays.

That trip were cracking said Yorkies
As we shut the lid on the way
Saying crown jewels were left theer by queenie
She'll be back for t'divi one day.


Blitz's  Bitz

British Mountaineering Council Huts

In keeping with the idea of the club being an exploration club with interests other than caving (and drinking!) the committee have this year rejoined the British Mountaineering Council.  This allows us access to all huts maintained by BMC and the Mountaineering Club of Scotland. The BMC has sent us a 19 page list, covering over 80 huts throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  In some instances bookings need to be for a party only or need to be made by club secretary to club secretary but these are exceptions rather than the rule.  The full list will be housed in the library but there now follow a few examples to set you thinking.

Yorkshire Mountaineering Club Hut, 3 Irish Row, Coppermines, Coniston, Cumbria.  NGR 293985

18 male, 12 female, drying room, cutlery, crockery, hot water, showers, electric and gas cooking, coal fires, flush toilets, mattresses, access by car, £2.00 per night

George Starkey Hut, Patterdale, Cumbria.  NGR 396160

20 places for men and women, drying room, bedding, cutlery, crockery, fridge, hot water, showers, flush toilets, slot meters, access by car, electric light, cooking and heating by gas and electricity.  £2.75 per night.  Payment in advance.  Club or group bookings only. (min 8)

Climbers Club Hut, Bosigran Count House, Pendeen, Cornwall.  NGR 422365 .

18 places mixed, cutlery, crockery, £3.00 per night

University of London Graduate Mountaineering Club Hut, Fallcliffe Cottage, Grindleford, Derbyshire

NGR SK240771

15 places mixed, electric lighting and cooking, living room, 3 bedroom with alpine bunk beds, kitchen, washroom with shower and flush toilets.  Access from road, car park.  £2.50 per night.

Mynydd Climbing Club Hut, Blaen y Nant, Llanrwst. NGR 738603

30 places mixed, cutlery, crockery, hot water, electric shower, flush toilets, access by car, electric light, gas cooking. £2.00 per night.

Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland Hut, The Smithy at Little Loch Broom.  NGR 095877

10 places, cutlery, crockery, slot meter, access by car, no bedding, full cooking facilities.  50p required for electricity meter.  £1.50 per night.

Irish Mountaineering Club Hut, The Bloat House, Annalong.

NGR J 38 20  24 places mixed, bedding, cutlery, crockery, access by car, gas lighting and cooking, 4 weeks notice of booking required.



A news flash just in from the Netherlands ......

Born on Sunday 18th March 1990 a daughter and sister, Jennifer Carmen to Bob, Marijke and Angela Hill.


Some quotes from Lisa Taylor who is currently working in South Africa

"Managed to write off a company car the first week I was here!"   "Christmas Day, we all went water skiing and we also managed to pack in a little wind surfing, barbecuing and playing on a giant water slide"

"Did I tell you I went caving with Colin Priddle down a hole called The Knocking Shop.  What a hole.  Porcupine quills in the entrance that was a tight wriggle.  It then opened up into the most beautifully decorated cave I've ever seen."

The Working Saturday

The committee would like to record their very grateful thanks to the people who turned up and participated so fully in the recent working Saturday.  It was a small but very select bunch of friends who managed to transform the Belfry into something not resembling its usual slum appearance. It is wrong to single people out for special attention but would you have spent 3 hours cleaning, disinfecting and painting the small toilet as Babs did?  Would you have had the nerve to paint the large bunkroom that oh so subtle shade of blue that Lavina chose?  Would you have had the civil engineering expertise to build the speed bump, where the cattle grid used to be, quite so high.  Would you have slaved over a hot stove for days before, as Hilary did, to provide the working Belfryites with a never ending supply of cakes and biscuits? Similarly the food in the evening, with just the merest hint of 5 garlic bulbs, provided by Glenys was especially welcome as were the slide shows by Zot  (The Antarctic and Penguins I have loved), Blitz (Oh No, not more cone karst!) and Skippy, (Why are all my bridge jumping slides upside down?) with his show after the pub.

Indeed we liked it so much that we are going to do it all again this summer and combine as a barbecue and exterior painting session.  Lets hope we see a few more faces this time.  Grateful thanks to:

Mike and Hilary Wilson, Martin and Glenys Grass, Lavinia and Quiet John, Blitz, Nigel Taylor, Zot, Mac, AlanThomas, Stuart, Graham Johnson, Dick Fred, Nick Gymer, Kevin Gurmer, Carol White, Jeff and Babs, Slug and finally last but not least Arthur.


CSCC AGM May 12th, 1990

The CSCC AGM this year was a fairly quiet affair with little of note.  However the subject of training reared its (ugly?) head again and member clubs are being asked to consult their members as to their needs and requirements. Currently the NCA has in the region of £2000 to be spent on caver training and the CSCC is considering holding a weekend in the autumn covering topics such as cave photography, SRT, An aspect of practical First Aid awareness. etc .....  But I hasten to say these are only suggestions.  The CSCC needs to now as to the extent of demand, if any and for what.


The CSCC were informed the both Cow Hole and Ubley Hill Pot are no longer accessible as the entrance depressions have been filled in.  This has been going on for some months but has only just been noticed - an indication of the popularity of the two sites?

Wessex Challenge 1990

The Wessex challenge is to be at The Belfry this year and will be on Saturday, June 23rd at 7.30 pm.  The fancy dress theme is - Civil Wars.

Tickets are £4.00 and are available fromany committee member.  Zot says that the pig is organised!


M.R.O. Incident Reports. 1989

These are descriptions of the nine cave rescue call-outs that occurred during the year.  They (the descriptions) were abstracted from the annual report of the Mendip Rescue Organization for 1989 in which further details, statistics and letters from the grateful rescued may be found.

Sunday 29th January Swildon's Hole

Brian Prewer was alerted by Yeovil Police at 4.05 p.m.  They reported that a 16-year old caver, Lee Parker, had fallen down a 12 ft drop in the Wet Way and broken his leg.  The injured caver's brother had left to raise the alarm whilst another brother had stayed to help.  A Westminster Speleological Group party in the cave chanced across the incident and assisted.

A rescue party comprising of Tony Jarratt, Geoff Price, Pete McNab, Mark Lumley, Duncan Prew, Pete Hann, Mike Duck, A. Taylor, Pete Moody and Babs Williams entered the cave at about 4.20 p.m. with First Aid and hauling equipment.  The patient was given two Temgesic tablets and the broken leg immobilised in neoprene splints.  He was then hauled up the pitch in a "baby-bouncer" and brought out within the hour, including being carried across the muddy fields in the Paraguard stretcher.  The ambulance left for Bristol Royal Infirmary at 5.45 p.m.

The three Parker brothers had been caving before, but Lee wore trainers which probably explains why he slipped.  They also misinformed MRO that they were members of a club in the Hampshire area, which was officially refuted shortly afterwards.

Thursday 2nd February Swildon's Hole

Fred Davies was contacted at Bruton by Yeovil Police at 5.45 p.m.  An army party had been reported as missing.  He requested Stuart McManus, Dave Pike and Dave Turner to form a search party and obtain further details.  Barely 15 minutes later, HTV gave a news flash that a "major search" was under way on Mendip.  How they came by this and who confirmed the story is a mystery!

Nineteen Junior Leaders from RCT/RAOC, Azimghur Barracks, Colerne, Wiltshire, were led down the cave at about mid-day by corporals Ward and Bruce; the former being the most experienced caver.  A third staff member who would normally have been with such a large party was ill. They went as one group to Sump One without incident, but, on the return above the Twenty Foot Pot, Corporal Bruce and nine others strayed off ahead of the rest and became lost in the Dry Ways. Unaware of this, Corporal Ward's party surfaced at about 4.30 p.m. having come out via the Wet Way.  After waiting an hour, he raised the alarm.

When Stuart McManus and Fred Davies arrived at about 6.10 p.m. there was some uncertainty as to how many were still underground.  Meanwhile, the lost party was chanced upon in the Water Chamber by two other cavers from Dorset and escorted out safely.  "Major Search" McManus thus called a parade on the Green and carried out a complete count to find all present and correct!

Sunday 26th March Charterhouse-on-Mendip

Mrs Fry was exercising her Labrador dog over the mineries when it crawled under the grill protecting the entrance of Rakes Shaft No. 14 and fell about 20 feet.  She went to the Mendip Caving Group hut at Nordrach for assistance and Jonathan Roberts alerted Martin Bishop and Chris Batstone, who were already changed for a trip, at the Belfry.  Brian Prewer was also informed and all went to the site with ropes.  The large dog was neatly trussed up, hauled out and returned uninjured to its grateful owner.

Tuesday 28th March Swildon's Hole

Ruth McBride suffered a bad asthma attack at the Double Pots whilst caving with Ravenskaff Venture Scouts from Clevedon.  One of the scouts left the cave to raise the alarm and the police contacted MRO through the Hunters' Lodge Inn at 9.57 p.m.  A dinner party at Upper Pitts was informed and those not indisposed turned out to assist; namely, Fred Davies, Brian Prewer, Tony Jarratt, Steve Pickersgill, Mark Foyle, M. Heard, Graham Johnson, Ric and Pat Halliwell.  On arrival at Priddy Green, they found that the patient had surfaced safely with assistance from her own party.  A convenient stand down at 10.20 p.m. followed.

Saturday 8th April G.B. Cavern

Graham Heriot of the Victoria Caving Group fell about 25 feet from the top of the Ladder Dig pitch early in the afternoon and sustained a badly fractured jaw with lacerations and severe bruising to his head, legs and arms.  He was wearing slip-on type Rigger Boots and the single band chin strap of his helmet broke at some stage during the fall.  He was lucky to get away so lightly in the circumstances and to have the support of two nurses, Sue Grimstead and Nickie Trill, who happened to be in the cave.  Another party in the cave was also able to assist for they raised the alarm when the Victoria Caving Group member hurrying from the cave for help slipped and badly twisted his own leg.

Brian Prewer received the call from Yeovil Police at 3.10 p.m. and was told that the fallen caver had "multiple injuries".  A major call-out followed.  Rescuers were raised from Upper Pitts through Murray Knapp and Dave Pike, whilst Trevor Hughes and Dave Lennard were encountered en route for Swildons in full kit and diverted to G.B.  Dr. Tony Boycott was called from a meeting at the Hunters' Lodge Inn.  The first MRO party, Trevor Hughes and Dave Lennard, went underground at 3.28 p.m., just 18 minutes after receiving the call-out. Stuart McManus organised the underground teams and Tim Large established the surface control.

Murray Knapp and Alison Hutchings took down medical supplies at 3.36 p.m.  Others followed in succession with necessary kit: Nick Pollard, Rob Taviner and Dave Pike took down the Mager stretcher frame and hauling ropes at 3.39 p.m; Tony Boycott and Stuart McManus ferried in the carrying sheet at 3.45 p.m; Brian Prewer went in with a bag of splints at 4.03 p.m; Pat Cronin and Ken James took down further medical supplies, and Nigel Edwards and Tim Hall of the Border Caving Group set up radio contact at the entrance. Communications with those underground were made when Stuart Lain and Jim Rands took down the Grunterphone at 4.40 p.m. Alan Butcher, Jeff Smith, Keith Capper, Linda Wilson and Graham Mullen entered the cave to support at 4.41 p.m. Heat packs and the hot air breather were taken down by Nick Sprang and Richard Payne just before 5 p.m.

Good progress was made underground and Tony Jarratt, John Beecham, Barry Hanks, Mark Lumley with two others went down to give a hand on the final stretch of the haul out.  The patient was safely out of the cave by 6 p.m. and taken to Weston-s-Mare General Hospital.  This incident involved over 25 people underground with additional cavers standing by on the surface.

Saturday 6th May Drunkard's Hole

Yeovil Police called Brian Prewer at 7.15 p.m. with news that someone was stuck down the cave.  No further details were available.  It was subsequently found that Mr. G. Townsend from Bridgwater YMCA had been leading a group of novices comprising of one other adult and four 12-year olds when it was decided to turn back.  Being now in the rear, he experienced difficulty in keeping up with his retreating party and exhausted himself in a tight passage. The youngsters immediately ahead could not help.  A rescue team consisting of Tony Jarratt and Andy Sparrow went to assist with Brian Prewer, Pete Hann, Nigel Graham, Dave Pike, Jim Rands, Pete and Alison Moody in support.  Tony and Andy had the stuck caver out by 8 p.m. none the worse for his ordeal.

Thursday 18th May General Search

Brian Prewer was contacted direct by a Mrs Ferguson from Bath 30 minutes after midnight.  She said that her husband had gone caving straight from work the previous evening and had not returned.  He had been expected back at 11 p.m.  The informant had no further details of the cave or the other members of the party, except that they could be driving a green and white Citroen 2CV.

Yeovil Police were contacted to formalise the incident and they offered help with a patrol car to search likely sites.  Nigel Taylor was alerted to check the popular places in Burrington and John Beecham did likewise at Charterhouse. Brian himself did a tour of Priddy.  Twenty minutes later, Mrs Ferguson rang again to say that her husband Toby had returned.  He had been down Manor Farm Swallet and taken longer than expected because of another slow party in the cave.  On surfacing late, he had tried to contact his wife but the pay phones he found only took 999 calls.  Cavers relying upon remote telephones must beware of this situation.

Thursday 6th June Swildon's Hole

Roger Dors received a call from Yeovil Police at 9.20 p.m. with a report that a caver in another party had fallen somewhere beyond Sump One and sustained serious injuries.  No further details were known.  A major operation followed during which it became apparent that two experienced Bath University cavers had been on a trip to the bottom of the Black Hole but had belayed their ladder to an unsound boulder.  Douglas Gauld, aged 23, was the first to descend, but tried this unprotected and so fell about 35 feet with all the tackle when the boulder pulled out.  His distraught partner, Kevin Martin, was unable to go to his assistance and, whilst hearing moans from below and even seeing his friend crawling round, he clearly expected the worse.  There was nothing for it but to leave the scene and call for help.

Upstream of Sump One, he met a party with two army instructors from Colerne.  Arrangements were made to alert MRO and Kevin was accompanied back to the Black Hole.  To his relief, they discovered that the fallen caver appeared to be remarkably composed and able to assess his injuries coherently.  For some reason, the long rope available to the cavers on the spot remained in its tackle bag in the streamway.

The university students had gone down the cave at 7.15 p.m. and the fall occurred at about 8.30 p.m. So, the injured caver was stranded and unattended for about 90 minutes until Jonathan Swift, who headed the first MRO team, arrived at the Black Hole about 10.10 p.m.  The rope was put to good use at last when Jonathan belayed it and did a classic abseil to reach Douglas Gauld.  He was closely followed to the pitch by Graham Price, Mike Breakspeare, Keith Savory and Stuart McManus.  By now, Richard West had set up a control on Priddy Green and many other teams were called and stood by.  It promised to be an all night job at least.

Graham Johnson acted as an effective runner until full communications were established; Tony Jarratt carried in the neoprene splints and Dany Bradshaw the hot air kit.  Nick Pollard took down extra heat packs and Andy Sparrow hauling ropes and a harness.  At 10.26 p.m. Bob Cork and Dr. Tony Boycott went underground with the Mager stretcher.  Shortly afterwards, Jonathan Swift surfaced with first hand news that the patient had wrist and back injuries, but seemed to have had a remarkable escape from such a fall.  Dave Pike brought the Sump Rescue apparatus along and several cave divers were alerted. Although there was a possibility that Douglas Gauld might be willing and able to be pulled through whilst holding his breath, this could not be guaranteed, of course.  So, the bulky equipment was taken underground to Sump One by Martin Bishop, Chris Batstone, Pat Cronin, Ian Brown, Ashley Houlton, Aubrey Newport, Robin Brown, Pete McNab, Max Milden and Steve Redwood.

More hauling and medical equipment was taken into the cave by Nigel Graham, Rob Taviner and Dave Grieves whilst the Grunterphone and sump telephone went down at 11.30 p.m. with Nigel Taylor, Phil Romford and Trevor Hughes.  Ted Humphreys followed in support.  By midnight, a surface team comprising Brian Prewer, Brian Workman, Jim Hanwell and Nick Barrington were listening in above Sump One and Dave Pike maintained a radio link at the entrance.  Good three-way communications with control were established at 1.14 a.m. The hauling party was reported as approaching the downstream side of Sump One.  Hot air spares and a dry furry suit were requested and taken down by Fred Davies and Alan Mills.  The patient agreed to be towed through the sump without using breathing apparatus.

Throughout the night, the long haul continued: 1.22 a.m. through the Sump; 2.53 a.m. at Barnes' Loop; 4 a.m. at the Twenty Foot; 4.25 a.m. at the Eight Foot; 4.53 a.m. in the Water Chamber, and 5.23 a.m. at Jacob's Ladder. The patient was brought out of the cave to the awaiting ambulance and press at 6.03 a.m., over nine hours after falling so badly.  He was taken to the Royal United Hospital at Bath.

This was the longest distance that MRO has had to carry someone injured out of a Mendip cave.  It is a tribute to all concerned that it ran so smoothly and relatively quickly in the event.  The inevitable media reports were also reasonable and we are learning how to deal with this side of things too.  Thirty cavers were involved underground and ten more directly on the surface.  Many others stood by in case they were needed later in the day.

Saturday 2nd December General Alert

Brian Prewer was called by the Police at 50 minutes past midnight because someone from Bristol had been reported as overdue following a trip with a party of scouts to a Priddy cave the previous evening.  He stood by Dave Turner and Brian Workman, then went to check both the Green and Eastwater Lane.  On returning home, he was contacted again to say that the caver concerned had just turned up at 1.35 a.m.

Saturday 23rd December Goatchurch Cavern

The Police called at 6.50 p.m. to report that a 15-year old scout had slipped and dislocated his right knee.  Nigel Taylor was alerted and at the cave to help within ten minutes of the call-out. He found that a party of four adults and nine teenagers, all members of the 21st Swindon Scouts, had been coming out of the cave when Paul Bannister slipped on the polished rock below the cut steps in the main entrance passage.  His knee was badly dislocated and he was in great pain.  The fall occurred at about 6.30 p.m.  The scouts rigged a handline to the surface whilst waiting for MRO.

After assessing the injuries, Nigel called for a stretcher.  This was brought to the cave by Tim Large, Fred Davies, Tony Jarratt and Dany Bradshaw at 7.25 p.m.  The patient was soon evacuated and carried to the roadside to await the arrival of an ambulance.  This was delayed until 8.15 p.m. owing to industrial action.  A paramedic in the ambulance crew administered Entonox and relocated the injured knee.  The patient was then taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary for further treatment.

What's In A Name?

(Any errors or omissions in the following? See Alan - Ed.!)

Alan Thomas

When I was first asked to compile this list I thought it was because members would be interested to know how others came by their nicknames.  I have since found that many members are interested to know the real names of people they only know by their nicknames.

Ian Caldwell was given the name Wormhole by Trevor Hughes because he had a propensity for digging small holes and because he was a womaniser (which I suppose is another way of digging small holes).

S.J. Collins is called Alfie for a reason that I have already adequately explained in "The Story of Priddy".

Pat Cronin is called Stumpy for obvious reasons.

Chris Hall was known as Snogger Hall as a description of his behaviour.  On joining the police force he became known as "Evening all".

Chris Harvey became known as Zott because when he was first seen on Mendip he had a puke-coloured (and occasionally puke-covered) Consul with a mascot suspended from a spring which he was in the habit of pulling.  As it flew up to the roof he exclaimed: Zott.

Colin Houlden became known as Colin the Screw when he worked at Shepton Mallet Prison.  I last saw him last November when I was making my way to Guernsey on Channel Island Ferries, but Tony Jarratt (pronounced J'Rat) tells me that he is still about.

Trevor Hughes is called Biffo

Dave Irwin is called The Wig, which is (strangely enough) short for a corruption of Irwin.

When I was staying at the Hill Inn in February the Landlord (Pissy Riley by name) reminded me that in the late 1960's the definite article was put in front of names and nicknames. For instance, when he was in Australia he went call on Phil Kingston and was greeted with:  "Ah! It’s the Riley".  I have never had a nickname but in the 60's was sometimes called the Thomas.  John Riley, by the way, was called Pissy Riley because on one occasion he objected to someone passing his cigarettes round the Hunters.

Mike Jeanmaire is called Fish because he was declared by the D.H.S.S. to be temperamentally unsuitable for anything except diving.

Greame Johnson (as opposed to Graham) was given the name Bolt because he resembled Frankenstein's monster.

Ron King is known as Kangy which, when we were young, we meant to be a corruption of King.

Mark Lumley is called Gonzo after one of the Muppets, whom he resembles.

Stuart McManus is known as Mac usually but occasionally Mac Anus for obvious reasons.

Peter McNab is known as Snab. When he was in the R.A.F. there were so many Peters that every Peter had to have a nickname.  He called himself Snab to avoid being called Macscab.  It is obvious that his son would be called Snablet.

When we were staying at the Hill Inn in February he was heard to say wistfully:  "Peter used to be known as my son; now I am known as his father".

Mike Macdonald is called Trebor after an impersonation of a newsreader done by Lennie Henry.  The newsreader is called Trebor Macdoughnut.

Richard Neville-Dove is called Mongo because he resembles a character in "Blazing Saddles".

Dave Shand is known as Wobbly, for reasons that become obvious on Saturday night.

Chris Smart is known as Blitz because he was struck by lightning in Austria.

Nigel Taylor was given the name Mr. Nigel by Gordon Tilly because when he first became a member he called everybody Mr.  In fact he called me Alan long before he called my wife Hilary.

Brian Van Luipen is called Loopy for obvious reasons.

Graham Wilton-Jones is called Bassett because his surname is said to resemble Wootton Bassett.