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

1990 - 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Stuart McManus
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
                               Ian Caldwell 


Please can I have more articles or anything to go in the BB.  I have nothing in reserve as usual!

Nothing sensational seems to have happened since Christmas, though lots of caving has been done.  I tell a lie!  There was one rescue in Eastwater.  A girl hurt her back in Dolphin Pot but was extricated successfully by the MRO.  The biggest casualty being Tony Boycott who crashed his car while on his way to attend the rescue and, I believe, damaged/broke some ribs.  I don’t seem to be very good at gathering the latest Mendip news so I've asked Jake if he'll write a synopsis for each BB - he's agreed! The first should appear in the next issue.

I have three letters in front of me from members whose addresses were incorrect (the corrected ones are on page 2).  The letters weren't specifically for publication in the BB but I'm sure they won't mind if I include some extracts from them here.

The first is from Clare Coase whose BB's have been sent to one of her neighbours for a long time and they're getting fed-up with running a delivery service - sorry Clare.  She would also like to say a big thank you to, and I quote “The Club members who were so super to us all, especially to those intrepid leaders of that caving trip with Damien and Nan".

The second is from Steve Milner, who says a largish article is almost ready for the BB and that he would give it to Tony & Trebor when they visited Oz after Christmas.  Where is it Steve?  Also how about an article from J'Rat or Trebor about their exploits?

The third is from Harry Stanbury and I shall quote the P.S. to the letter. "My wife does a very reasonable B & B for any BEC'ites who should happen to stray this far!!". That sounds like an offer too good to be missed if anyone gets to Bude!

Disco, Saturday 2nd March

This is the Battle of Britain, World War Two, Fancy Dress Disco at Priddy Village Hall.  Food and Bar provided.

Tickets are £3.00, available from Blitz, at the Belfry or at the door.

Belfry Working Day. Saturday. 16th March

A lot of jobs need doing, all volunteers welcome.  In the evening, a Barrel, a Belfry Binder and a show of 'Old' slides will be provided for the workers!

A list of the jobs to be done should soon be on display at the Belfry.

Matienzo Permits

Tony and Roz Williams have a contact is Spain, so if anyone needs a caving permit for Matienzo they will find it best to do it through them.  Their address is Leigh-on Mendip, BATH

Membership List Amendments

211L     Clare Coase, Berkley Vale, New South Wales, Australia
1132     Robert Bruce Crowe, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
1143     Jane L. Evans, Cork,  Eire
1142     Angela Garwood, Roath, Cardiff
1098     Brian Gilbert, Chingford, London
316L     Kangy King, Pucklechurch, Bristol
1116     Stuart Lain, Wells, Somerset
1053     Steve Milner, Australia
1046     Dave Shand, Thornhill, Cardiff
1L         Harry Stanbury, Bude, Cornwall

Excerpts from a Portuguese Show Cave Pamphlet

contributed by J'Rat

"The discovery of the Caves of Antonio was made by chance on June 2nd 1955, by two men. While looking for a bird they penetrated a large crack in the rock through which it sought refuse."

"The Caves of Alvados were discovered in 1964.  They prepared a descent into the caves with the aid of rapes and lanterns.  The caves consist in a succession with stalagmits and stalactites, all connected."


Jane, Spain, Plane

Kangy, Jan '91

Got invited to stay with Jane Clarke in Spain which included an irresistible offer of the use of her mountain bike.  As this turned out to be in a National Park thing where she lives when not teaching the locals how to talk inglish like what we do, it gradually dawned that this was PAY DIRT.  GOLD HAD BEEN STRUCK!

I still had to get there and half down the M4 to Heathrow in mid-November I couldn't find my passport. Frantic work at the post office got me a temporary one on my Visa card.  (Visa card?)  The adrenalin was still flowing when I came across Martin Grass who was in the departure lounge for a flight to Paris and I enjoyed really boring him with repetitions of my horrendous tale.  He was really cool about his beautiful friend.  Tell Zot.

A jumping. gesticulating Jane met me at Barthelona Airport.  I felt really glad I hadn't totally blown it by not turning up.

Oh. Happy Holidays, celebratory drinks, long chatty drive back to St. Llorenf Saval in her excellent 2CV, bed far too late.

But next morning! Views everywhere.  Beautiful traditional Catalan house properly constructed of woodworm and instinct.  Super weather, frosty and sunny.  Hills just outside of front door.  Ten minute stroll uphill got us to even more views with a well sculpted skyline full of deep canyons and steep rock walls.  We walked through woods and Jane oriented and informed me about the area. On the way back I became enamoured of a striking little mountain which the map called Castel del Pera and we worked out how I could climb it by bike.  Herself went off to work.  (How was it in the office today dear?) and I set out to tame my first mountain bike. Sore bum.

Cracked it next day. Saddle at right height, not too ambitious about riding up the really steep bits and YAHOO down.

Castel del Pera was elusive and hidden behind paths closed by barriers and big PRIVATE notices which I found intimidating.  I discussed the matter with a friendly shepherd.  We pointed to the map and he indicated that the route indeed went past the GO AWAY sign.  He also gave me an idea for an encore if I managed to climb the peak.  Less than confidently I cycled off.  Dirt road, overgrown track, single path through scrub, contouring up until the cap like summit was immediately above.  The silence was disturbed by distant shouting, the banging of a gun and the baying of dogs.  I found three distinctive trees which served as a landmark to leave the bike against and looked at the next problem in detail.  The summit was a couple of hundred feet above but immediately inaccessible because it was protected by a long contouring steep band of rock rounded and bulging with few gullies to exploit.  I scrambled to a corner where the cliff was more broken and found a way up.  This led as I'd hoped to a ridge which finished at the final rocks of the summit cap. I reckoned that a frontal assault would be the sporting finish but guessed that a way lay around the back. And it did, satisfyingly onto a small plateau with the remains of past fortification.  A real castle.  Good views all round, spectacular cloud and light effects and a glimpse of the way on. I suddenly realised that it was four o'clock and it would be dark at five thirty and decided to risk the route I didn't know about back to St. Llorenf Saval.  I climbed back down.  The Mad Hunter came into view shouting and bawling his head off.  The dogs howled, his gun bang, bang, banged.  Mendip was never like this.  Nervously beating off an inquiring hound and rushing for the bike I took off before having to exchange pleasantries with the awful senor.

The path from the col was indistinct but at least I had seen how the land lay and could follow that. A jeep track soon appeared and I trialed to the road to run down into St. Llorenf Saval arriving home a half an hour after leaving the summit.  Amazing.  I want a mountain bike of my own!  Want one.

I swanned about until Jane came home after a hard days night and we decided to go off early in the morning to visit the mystic Montserrat.  I'd seen the photographs in somebody's book of bumper fun for rock climbers and never forgotten them.  Astonishing - you'll have to see for yourself.

There was the embarrassing catastrophe of the denting of Jane's 2CV but she still talked to me and we drove to the Pyrenees at the weekend to climb Pic Carl it.  The journey took much longer than we thought. Probably because we didn't have much sense of urgency and ooed and aahed at superb mountain views enhanced by early snow.

Reality began on the hairpin bends which wound up to the Lac des Bouillouses where there are refuges which are not open in November.  But we intended to camp.  2CVs run out of puff if not nurtured.  It took several exciting charges at the steep icy road before we were prepared to admit that it would really be much more fun to backpack our gear instead of driving. The gallant 2CV was parked in a getaway mode and we continued the remaining kilometres up a snow packed road to the edge of the lake.  At least what we actually did as the wind was getting up was to pitch the tent in a hollow sheltered by trees.  Grub cooked and eaten, into pits just as it got too dark to see at 6 o'clock.

Increasingly long pauses in the conversation led to snooze.  Let's face it, camping is about endurance and after 9 hours in the sack (or 3 o'clock in the morning) thoughts turned to bladders and the realisation that the tent was being buried in powder snow.  A happy compromise allowed the snow to stay outside.  At first light, Jane emerged from her multilayered survival technology, shuddered at the ice-caked interior walls and amazingly cheerfully, cooked breakfast.  We packed up, beat the snow from the door and unzipped it to see the worst.

Beautiful, but useless. A thick snow covering made an igloo of the tent and hid the broken ground making walking difficult.  We were concerned about the possibility that the 2CV was buried but while behind us storm clouds threatened, the view in front was spectacular.  We dumped the rucsacs and sorted a route amongst fairy trees encrusted with Christmas snow sparkling in strong sunlight.  Climbing out onto a plateau which was sprinkled with little lakes the Carl it stood clearly before us.  Waiting for us.  It was only an illusion because we knew that the snow lay powdery on warm ground which is unhelpful.  And behind us leaden skies threatened further falls.  It was simply a beautiful spectacle and knowing this made it easier to turn our backs and think about rescuing the 2CV.

We made a warm meal in a mountain shelter.  Jane made a note of the Refuge custodian's address for future reference and we trudged off downhill.  A friendly Frenchman gave us a lift, we cleared the snow from the marvellous machine and he kindly hung around until Jane eventually fired up the mighty motor. More excitement as we attacked the slopes, vigorously rubbing the windscreen free from ice and shouting "go for it" until we could relax in a cafe with inordinately expensive coffee and cognacs.

Once again we ate well back at the village restaurant.

Jane was due to work next day so we sorted out an interesting climb during the mornings walk and full of enthusiasm I did it in good time in the afternoon, hot and sweaty but thoroughly enjoying the route finding through the forest, the climb up to the col, the stimulation of being defeated by an imposing rock tower and the added bonus of just enough time to get to the top before it was time to flee before nightfall.

When Jane got home from work bottle of fizz was ready and we got before I was roused at the crack of train to take me to the Airport and late that evening, the ever so slightly smashed dawn to be driven to the home.

Thanks Jane. Great!


Meets List 1991

Jeff Price

Please get in touch with Jeff or the leader as soon as possible if you want to go to these caves numbers are limited in some of them and the date of the 'Craig-a-Ffynnon' trip may be incorrect.

9th March.             DYO, South Wales.  Belfry or DYO car park 9.30 for 10 (limited numbers)
                            Leader: Time Large

23rd March.           Rock & Fountain, South Wales
                            Leader: Martin Grass

30th March.           Bleadon Cavern. Belfry at 2.00 pm.     

18th May.              Wookey Hole evening trip. Upper series etc .. Dry gear.
                            Leader: Martin Grass

15th June.             Penyghent Pot, Yorkshire.     

17th August.          Birks Fell Cave, Yorkshire. - Booked  

24th August.          Otter Hole, South Wales.      

21st September.    Lost John's, Yorkshire. - Booked        

16th November.      Juniper Gulf, Yorkshire.  - Booked      

8th December.       Peak Cavern, Derbyshire.


Atlas Aven

By Andy Sparrow

Most club members will be familiar with Thrupe Lane Swallet and in particular the head of Atlas Pot. Here the youthful and meandering Marble streamway cascades down into the spray filled gloom of the huge shaft.  The eye is drawn first to the gulf below and then into the greater blackness above; the magnificent, towering, Atlas Aven. Seventeen years have elapsed since the first cavers lights shone up, searching vainly for a roof.  It remains unclimbed.

The Marble streamway is only one (and the lowest) of three windows into Atlas Shaft.  By turning left at the start of the streamway a high rift (Bypass Aven) is entered followed by a boulder ruckle beyond which is the roomy Bypass Passage.  Bypass Passage emerges into Atlas about 30 feet above the stream inlet.  Easily missed is a hole in the roof leading up into Vengeance Passage and another, higher window into the shaft.  I first looked out from here on a trip last spring and noted a solid rock wall (ideal for bolting) bordering the left hand wall of the aven.

It was some months later that a friend, Steve Ellis, bought a cordless Bosch drill.  There are precious few unclimbed avens under Mendip to use such a tool; it had to be the big one - Atlas.  Before lugging the heavy drill and its waterproof carrying case down the cave we went to have a closer look at the view out from Vengeance Passage.  Two anchors were installed manually allowing me to tie on and lean out into the shaft and assess the potential.  Some 40 - 50 feet below the stream spewed noisily and endlessly into the void. Above, the Aven continued its unrelenting climb into darkness.  A detail 30 feet higher on the opposite wall caught my eye - the start of a tube? There was only one way to find out.

We took the drill down next time assisted by Steve's friend Pete and the process of bolting began. The route was dictated by the soundness of the rock and initially we worked horizontally along the wall to a small stance.  This was a perfect take-off for a descent of the huge shaft below and could not be resisted. On our next trip we placed two Petzl long life anchors for the big pitch, rigged the rope, and down I went. After a few feet the walls cut away leaving the rope in a huge void.  About 60 feet down a big ledge was reached below which the pitch became very wet; the end of the rope was clearly hanging some way off the floor.  Before prussiking back up I noticed a couple of 8mm anchors in the opposite wall that would provide a rebelay point, or perhaps with some care, a deviation.  The full length of the pitch is about 120 feet, making it the longest free hanging pitch on Mendip.  We called it 'The Space Walk'.

The next session on the 17th January coincided with the start of the Gulf War and inspired an appropriate name for the traverse out across the shaft - 'The Gulf Crisis'.  We began bolting upwards towards the tube. The drill made this a rapid and easy process and I was soon carefully free climbing the last few feet to our objective.  It was a goer.  Two anchors were placed in the roof of the tube and Steve joined me in 'The Vultures Nest' (situated 60 feet above a side passage called the Eagles Nest).

The muddy tube sloped down into an aven chamber with a floor of jammed boulders.  Between these rocks were ominous black holes which were soon confirmed to connect back to Atlas.  The Aven was climbed, past a mud choked tube, to where a small passage led off. Another way on from the chamber ascended a steep muddy slope into a distinctly phreatic area which looped back towards Atlas and entered a high narrow cross rift.  Time was short as our support team, Pete and Dave, were wet and cold (water levels in the cave were high and we all had a soaking; first at Cowsh Crawl and then under a torrential shower in Bypass Aven).  A couple of small leads were left for next time and we left the cave well pleased with about 60 feet/20 metres of new passage.

A week later we were back again.  The passage above the aven chamber was pushed for 15 feet before choking close to Atlas. The cross rift revealed a small, but perfectly formed, tube heading back towards Vengeance Passage.  This was too tight after 15 feet.  Our best find of the day was entered after a short dig from the chamber following the down dip continuation of the original tube.  Steve forced a tight section and followed an attractive 'Gothic' section tube steeply down for about 40 feet.  Hopes were high for a few minutes as the passage seemed to be leading us out of the known system into something older, but sadly the final choke was really final . We left the cave satisfied that reasonable conclusions had been reached with the remaining leads.  The Vultures Nest was finished with 100 feet + (30 metres +) of worthwhile passage.

But the project has hardly begun.  The finds so far are very encouraging; they represent old phreatic development predating Atlas and bisected by it.  The original Thrupe diggers speculated that an ancient route to Saint Andrew's Well could be found from the higher levels of Atlas; I hope by further work to prove them right.  Already we can see two more openings off the shaft that will be easily reached in the next month or so.

NOTE: For some months to come the traverse out across the shaft, the 'Gulf Crisis' will be permanently rigged.  This makes a descent of 'The Space Walk' very easy to rig; simply a case of clipping a rope into the two longlife hangers.  Be prepared to deviate or rebelay at the big ledge, halfway down.  Go for it - you will be impressed!


Some Climbing Snippets

John Watson

The B.E.C. conjures up many images; - crawling around in dark dank holes, never ending sessions at the Hunters Lodge, digging for that elusive 50' of a cave passage that will win the digging Barrel and many more.

The club's name however suggests, unlike most other caving clubs, a tradition in other fields of exploration, lost to all but a few older members.  Whilst looking through an old B.B. about the original exploration of Manor Farm.  I was surprised to see on the list of committee posts the words 'Climbing Sec'. This inspired me to write this article and perhaps rekindle an old tradition.

This year more than most, climbing has become a frequent topic of conversation in the Hunters - even the likes of Martin Grass has expressed an interest, a number of offers have been forthcoming, one from an ex-member related to the "Mallard" family but I fear for some ulterior motive.

Early this year (1990 - Ed.) at an all too infrequent barrel at the Wessex, silly games were the order of the night. Now as anyone who has been to the Wessex will know, they have some very fine climbing frames - roof supports in the main room.

A voice from the crowd suggests a race from one end of the beam to the other, a 'stranger' suddenly appears at one end and quickly demonstrates his prowess by falling off and upsetting my missus by landing in her knitting.  'Who is this bloke'?!  No challenger forthcoming I volunteer, 'Climber versus caver' suggests a voice. I lost but he cheated - well that’s my excuse.  Who is that bloke? “Oh that's Dick Broomhead", J'Rat says.

A few weeks later Dick suggests that Derek Targett myself go climbing in Cheddar Gorge one evening as Dick cleared some new lines above the reservoir area, just before you get to Pig's Hole.

The evening was fine, the climbs were fine, one Hard Very Severe 5a, the other Very Severe 5a, both about 70' high, well protected and excellent routes.  Another climb just to the right, an H.V.S., was climbed a week later by Dick and myself.  Snablet and I repeated the first climb several months later and judging by the other routes in this area is well worth a star.

Climbing these new routes reminded me of the potential of a small quarry behind the village of West Horrington.

Apart from the quarry there is a very fine lime kiln and number of interesting old mine workings, all explored.  I think, by B.E.C. members In the past.  The area is well worth a visit.

Back to the quarry, the main face is 45-50' high and 30' wide, vertical and featureless apart from a small overhang at 20'.  There are a number of other bays and interesting crack lines.  I remember looking at the main face thinking it would go at E5, too hard for me!

Two years later I found myself living in West Horrington and spent many hours bouldering in the quarry, but I was not alone.  One weekend I arrived at the quarry and was surprised to see Brian Prewer dangling on a piece of rope, practicing S.R.T. for the Berger.  He had placed a bolt at about 15' for a change-over manoeuvre; this was to come in useful a few years later.

The drawback of living on Mendip at the time was that nobody went climbing, apart from our feathered friend, a very elusive Duck when it came to arranging climbing, so I enlisted the help of Lavinia to top rope me up a number of lines.  Later Steve Milner, Snablet and a couple of local lads were to become climbing partners, it was time to divulge crag X, i.e. Horrington Quarry. So, one Saturday morning, Steve Milner, Snablet, Mike Macdonald and myself spent a couple of hours top roping up and down on the end of a rope, Snablet managing to invert himself at one point in the way only Snablet could do.

In all, three climbs have been led and one soloed.

The first a flared corner crack, 40' high, grade 5a with very sparse protection.  At the moment the crack is a bit dirty but cleaned out it would be an excellent route, if somewhat serious.

Later on in the year, Dick and I managed two new lines.

I led the main wall at the third attempt, 50' high, grade E2/3, 5c/6a, protection being a peg at 25' and Brian's bolt at 15’ which is the crux, the climbing is very fingery and sustained and probably at the higher grade.  Dick led the overhanging crack line in the next bay, after extensive gardening, the first 20' is very sustained at 5b, H.V.S./E1

Both climbs are short but very good.  There are at least 6 other routes to be done if anyone is interested but all of them will be extremes.

Next spring, I hope we can have a club climbing/caving meet.  If anyone is interested see either Dick or myself.  Hopefully 1991 will see even more members climbing above ground as well as below and perhaps even a climbing sec. post on the committee!  Any offers?

" Fantasy Island - The Dream Isle Called Sri Lanka"

Nigel Taylor

The night ended - as abruptly as it had begun - less than eight hours earlier somewhere over the Middle East.  At 37,000 feet or rather, "7 miles up", and now nearly 6,000 miles from LONDON GATWICK the sun, like an angry orange popped into view from behind the curvature of the earth, its rays burnishing the wings of AIR LANKA'S TRI-STAR flight inbound to KATUNAYAKA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, COLOMBO, SRI LANKA.

As the last few minutes of FLIGHT UL 516 fled away, the aircraft slipped neatly over the Indian Ocean, and crossed the coastline some nine miles from touchdown.

As the aircraft made its usual radar-identification turns prior to lining up on the COLOMBO I.L.S., our eyes saw their first and fleeting glimpses of steaming tropical vegetation, here and there the occasional clearing, in which stood tall and sinewy coconut palms adjacent to small clusters of local housing.  Peasant country folk could be seen attending to their daily rituals, of leading oxen to the paddy fields, and children on their way to a 7.0 am school start!

Away to the East, the magnificent sight of SRI LANKA'S famous 7,360 ft. mountain - "SRI PADRE" loomed out of the horizon.  Shaped like a pyramid, this mountain is also known as " ADAMS PEAK".  It is a HOLY MOUNTAIN, revered by most SRI LANKAN'S as either the place where the LORD BUDDHA first set foot on earth, or where ADAM set forth into the GARDEN OF EDEN.

Whichever notion you choose to accept, one point is indisputable, that SRI LANKA, or CEYLON as the British used to call it, is undeniably one of the most beautiful and fascinating places on this earth.  A veritable Garden of Eden.  It has been said by others more notable than I, that INDIA was the CROWN of the BRITISH EMPIRE, and SRI LANKA the JEWEL in that CROWN.

This magnificent pear or tear-drop shaped land is barely 220 miles in length from North to South and 115 miles East to West at its widest point.  It has a total area of some 25,000 square miles, which is roughly the size of IRELAND, and has a population of approximately 14,000,000 people.

The SRI LANKAN nation is composed of approximately 70% SINHALESE people originally from INDIA and 15% to 20% TAMIL, the remainder being either descendants of the Dutch and Portuguese traders and settlers these are called BURGHERS, and lastly a MUSLIM mixture of CEYLON MOORS, INDIAN MOORS and MALAYS.  More than three quarters of the country's population live and work in the rural areas of the land.

The sights that were to befall Viv and me over the next weeks were so incredible that I find great difficulty in expressing the enthralling nature of this 'Paradise Isle'. The SRI LANKAN people, like their country, are a beautiful smiling people.  Full of warmth, and gentility and when you have dealings with any of them you may sense an almost child-like innocence in them, that has long since disappeared in other areas of this planet.

The women are nothing short of beautiful, bronzed skin, brown eyed and slender with a serene air of grace about them, often this is enhanced by their saris of vivid and spellbinding colours.  It is a country where "National Dress", is in fact, just what is worn. My wife also notes that the men also have a certain "captivating charm"!!

We had visited SRI LANKA the previous year but alas only briefly, as a stopover point on a trip through South East Asia to THAILAND, HONG KONG and MACAO.  Our first impressions at that time had been very favourable, and we were both determined that we would visit SRI LANKA again as soon as we could.

Thus it was that we arrived again in SRI LANKA and with two battered PENTAX M SUPERS and an assortment of thirty-nine reels of KODACOLOUR GOLD and KODACHROME 64.  And here is another regret - no black and white film!  This country lends itself well to this medium.

We had left the U.K. at 13.00 hrs. on the 17th September, and via Amsterdam and Dubai finally landed some 13 hours later at SRI LANKA's only International Airport, by G.M.T. it was only 2 a.m. and it was only the fact that this country is 5 hours ahead of G.M.T. that explained why a crowd of several hundred SRI LANKAN's were clustered around the wire airport fences outside the arrivals hall at two in the morning in brilliant sunlight!

A large migrant population are employed in the middle eastern oil fields and most incoming European flights transit via ABU DHABI, DUBAI, BAHRAIN, KUWAIT and MUSCAT (Prior to the Kuwait crisis of 1990).  In consequence it is often the case that whole families of forty or fifty persons will come to say farewell or to greet one returning "Ex-Pat".

After a brief stopover - in "NEGOMBO" a nearby beach resort, where the hotels are situated right on the foreshore, with large "open-to-the-sea" dining rooms and silver sandy beaches - we headed inland to the North East, through vast coconut plantations, spice farms and rice fields, great forests of teak and rubber trees.  All the time through lush green tropical vegetation, it is hard to convey the actual warm, lush smell of the greenery.  After several hours drive, our guide explained to us that we would shortly enter the "DRY ZONE" an arid but beautiful part of the country, where the scenery resembles a stage set for "OUT OF AFRICA" or "ZULU DAWN".  Within a few miles, the vista had changed completely; dense Brush and Jungle now lay just off the highway.  Deadly snakes like KING COBRAS and others abound in this area and the traveller when "taken-short" has to keep their eyes "well-peeled"!!

The wildlife also changes with the location, elephants and leopards can be found with no difficulty. But as for water? - The region had no precipitation for over six months, the ground was like concrete.

It was in this region that we stopped for the evening in the luxurious "SIGIRIYA VILLARIN HOTEL", a. short distance from the ancient ROCK FORTRESS of SIGIRIYA built in approximately 473 AD.

Imagine an enormous sheer-sided rock some 200 metres high rising out of a nearly flat jungle, and being about 4 acres in size.  Located in a natural gallery half way up this MONOLITH are the famous FRESCOES of the SIGIRIYA DAMSELS dating from the 5th century, these are nearly as beautiful as the SRI LANKAN women themselves.

The main idea of this holiday was to obtain a general insight into the delights this superb country has to offer the traveller, however I had a nagging thought in the recesses of my skull that the B.B. Editor would eventually call upon me to make some paltry contribution to the Belfry Bulletin, and therefore I had to keep a wary eye for any sight of caves or items of speleological nature!  So for "viewers at home only" I now will bore the pants off you in order to encourage at least one more B.E.C. member to head off to the Far East in search of a SRI LANKAN Cavern Measureless to Man!

The greater part of SRI LANKA consists of a solid mass of ancient crystalline rocks, known in Sinhalese as "KALUGAL".  A underlay of GNEISS is covered in the central and North-Eastern areas by thick metamorphosed sediments consisting of quartzite, crystalline limestone, granulite etc.  Most of these rocks are banded or have horizontal joint planes. often with many vertical cracks in each bed.

The crystalline limestone appears clearly in three regions of the country: -

1)       The most extensive lies to the east of PUTTALAM and goes towards KEGALLA, skirting the HILL COUNTRY, passing in front of ADAM'S PEAK to BALANGODA, WELLANAYA, and through the valleys of BADULLA OVA and MAHAWELI GANGA to TRINCOMALEE.

2)       MIHINTALE due south along the MATALE valley to WATTEGAMA and  HANGURANKETA, also with an area extending to KANDY and PERADENIYA.

3)       Between RATNAPURA curving toward HAMBANTOTA behind the RAKWANA HILL COUNTRY.

Limestone is quarried in all of these areas but the most numerous quarries are near to KANDY. MATALE and BADULLA, and evidence of KARST landforms with caverns is plentiful in these areas.

Anyone interested in a walking holiday would be well catered for in the area known as the "HILL COUNTRY".  There are over 150 mountains between 3.000 and 7.000 feet, together with twelve peaks ranging between 7,000 and 8,200 feet.  The highest mountain IS PIDURUTALAGALA at 8,292 feet, though since this is perched upon a 6,000 foot plateau it is "small-beer" when compared to the majestic ADAM'S PEAK (7,360 feet) .

If you plan to visit this area, ensure you trek across to "WORLDS END" on the HORTON PLAINS. The plateau is located south of NUWARA ELIYA and west of HAPUTALE.  It is a lofty plain set at around 7,000 feet with excellent walking.  The plains come to a dramatic end at WORLDS END dropping vertically 1,000 feet.

Such a name is a suitable end point for this narrative, yet I leave you with one thought quoting Fred Davis "caves be where you find them".  I should just add "and where in SRI LANKA you find the limestone too!!"  Above or below ground, SRI LANKA is a magnificent country.

References and Suggested Reading :-

" Sri Lanka” - A Travel Survival Kit Tony Wheeler.  Published by Lonely Planet ISBN 0908086 628

" Sri Lanka” - Berlitz Travel Guide.  Lib of Congress Catalog Number 81-67094

" Ceylon - Its Geography. Its Resources and its people"   by Elsie K. Cook FRGS - Published by McMillan. Lon. 1951

" Ceylon" - Nagels Encyclopaedia Guide - 1980 ISBN 2-8263-07047

" Sri Lanka" - Land. People and Economy - by B.L.C. Johnson and M.Le. Scrivenor - Heinmann. Lon. 1981 ISBN 0435-35489 2