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Mendip Rescue Organisation

Cave Rescues and Incidents for the Year ending 31st December 1990

A year of bric-a-bac with only three actual cave rescues requiring underground parties. The following table lists all sixteen call-outs received through the Police; half being for overdue parties, mostly for good reasons and needing action.

Sat

13th

Jan

Thrupe Lane Swallet

1

Fall, broken leg

(15)

un

4th

Feb

Cheddar Cliffs

2

Fallen cows trapped

( -)

Sun

11th

Mar

Sally Rift, Warleigh Woods

1

Missing body, search

( -)

Sun

1st

Apl

Read's Cavern

2

Lost, trapped, light failure

( 8)

Sat

28th

Apl

Longwood Swallet

?

Overdue party

( -)

Thu

31st

May

Swildon's Hole

?

Overdue party

( -)

Mon

16th

Jul

Eastwater Cavern Entrance

1

Fallen cow trapped

( -)

Mon

23rd

Jul

Shute Shelve Cutting

?

Crashed motorcycle

( -)

Sun

19th

Aug

Swildon's Hole

?

Overdue party

( -)

Fri

31st

Aug

Swildon’s Hole

?

Overdue party

( -)

Sun

2nd

Sep

Alert

1

Hospitalised climber

( -)

Sat

6th

Oct

G.B. Cavern

?

Overdue party

( -)

Sat

6th

Oct

Swildon's Hole

1

Dislocated shoulder

( 7)

Wed

24th

Oct

Swildon's Hole

1

Fall, injured ankle

( -)

Wed

24th

Oct

Spar Pot, East Twin

?

Overdue party

( -)

Wed

31st

Oct

Dallimore's Cave

?

Presumed overdue

( -)

The figures in brackets to the right show the numbers of cavers going underground on the rescue incidents.  This data has been required for insurance purposes in the past.  It is worth noting that insurance cover is not provided for people involved on the surface nor when recovering trapped animals.  The following log of each call-out has been compiled from the notes made by the wardens in control.  Full details are given as MRO believes that it can be misleading to simplify the causes.

Saturday 13th January                            Thrupe Lane Swallet

Martin Scott, aged 28, from Aylesbury descended to the bottom of the cave with a well equipped and experienced party of six from a geophysical research firm in the Swindon area.  He had done the least caving before and it was his first time on long ladder pitches underground.  On ascending Atlas Pot at about 2.30 p.m., he fell about twenty feet onto a fortuitous ledge and broke his leg.  He also damaged a wrist.  The lifeline only slowed his fall because the incorrectly rigged Stitch Plate belay gave way under the strain.

One of the party left the cave to raise the alarm through Mrs Butt.  Yeovil Police alerted Brian Prewer at 3.30 p.m.  Dany Bradshaw and rescuers from both the Belfry and Upper Pitts were called.  All left for the cave with basic equipment.  Richard West was contacted at 3.35 p.m. to take over surface control and organise further rescuers and hauling gear.  Dr Tony Boycott was informed.  Eric Dunford set up communications links between the surface and underground parties with Brian Prewer.

Rescuers entered the cave at 4.15 p.m.  Dany Bradshaw, Nick Williams, Dave Hilder, Pete Evans, Mike Wilson, Jeremy Henly, Richard Blake, Richard Stevens, Chris Harvey, Nick Gymer and Sara McDonald carried in the First Aid and hauling equipment.  Duncan Frew and Pete Hann went down with the Grunterphone.  The patient was reached by about 4.40 p.m. and communication established soon afterwards. Tony Boycott and Rob Harper were accompanied underground by Tony Jarratt at 4.50 p.m.

The patient was found to be in fair condition and able to do a lot to help himself.  However, he was large and so a long haul out was anticipated. A back-up team assembled outside the farm comprising Stewart McManus, Nigel Taylor, Tim Large, Trevor Hughes and Ian Caldwell.  Richard Witcombe and Clive North turned up and opened their diggers' hut as a refuge. Soups were heated at the Belfry by Anne West, Hilary Wilson and Glenys Grass then ferried to the cave by Helen Harper and Joss Large.  Further rescuers stood by at the Belfry and their homes.  The local Police provided flood lights on the road.  Nick Woolf of the Ambulance service attended so that his crews could be radioed when needed rather than waste valuable time hanging around. A freelance reporter turned up and was given the basic facts by Jim Hanwell.

Martin Scott was reported as being at the top of Atlas Pot by 5.55 p.m.  He reached the head of Perseverance Pot at 6.55 p.m. and was out of the cave by 7. 40 p.m.  The ambulance left for the Royal United Hospital, Bath, five minutes later.  Those left to clear up managed to make the Hunters just before closing time!  When a lot of gear is used, it takes a long time to clear up.  Many useful lessons were learnt from this incident and Martin's "thank you" letters soon afterwards were much appreciated.

Sunday 4th February                 Cheddar Cliffs

Two yearling cows belonging to Cheddar farmer Ian Cambridge slipped down the cliffs behind the Wishing Well Tea Rooms at the bottom of the Gorge and became trapped in the 15 ft by 3 ft slot between the buildings and bluff.  Cheddar Fire Brigade were first alerted and suggested calling MRO.  The farmer concerned lets his animals roam, much to the annoyance of some villagers.  Cavers have helped before by recovering his goats off cliffs.

Taunton Police requested assistance from Brian Prewer at 9.30 a.m.  A team comprising Fred Davies, Nigel Taylor, Dany Bradshaw, Chris Harvey, Graham Wilton-Jones, Chris Smart, Martin Grass and Stuart Lain went to the scene with hauling tackle.  By cunning use of bales of straw and ropes, the reluctant yearlings were lifted onto the flat roof, tied to metal farm gates and lowered down a pre-constructed ramp to the open road.  The task was completed by 12.30 p.m., and everyone seemed happy, save for one ungrateful beast who shat upon Nigel for his trouble!  No "thank you" has been forthcoming from the farmer either.

Sunday11th March                                 Sally Rift, Warleigh Woods

The Police at Bath were checking out the possibility that the body of the missing woman, Ruth Stevens, was somewhere in these woods near Bathford.  Old stone mine workings associated with Sally Rift occur in the area and Bob Scamnell volunteered to check the known sites.  He was accompanied by Nick McCamley, Derek Hawkins and John Greenslade.  

A thorough two-hour search of every old shaft and rift was undertaken but nothing untoward found.

Sunday 1st April                                    Read’s Cavern

Eleven members of the Golders Green venture scouts from London descended the cave at about mid-day.  The suitably equipped party was led by Jim Rands and supported by Dave Morrison; both highly experienced members of the Wessex Cave Club. On reaching the Main Chamber, several then decided to return to the surface and were escorted out.  Whilst this was happening, Pete Wilkinson, Julia Waxman and Samira Abbas, aged seventeen, decided to explore Zed Alley without telling anyone.  Wilkinson was unable to follow the two slim girls when they forced several squeezes beyond the boulder ruckle.  He stayed to guide their return to the ruckle, but then left the cave ahead. For some reason, the girls did not follow.  Once out of earshot, they became lost and scared.

The missing pair failed to surface behind Wilkinson and he was unable to describe where he had left them. Jim Rands made a rapid search of the regular routes in vain.  He requested help and Brian Prewer received the call from Yeovil Police at 4.15 p.m. Nigel Taylor was contacted at Langford and reached the cave to establish surface control by 4.45 p.m.  Rescuers from Priddy had to run the gauntlet of heavy holiday traffic in Burrington Combe.

Pete Hann, Ian Marchant, Tony Deacon and Jim Rands went into the cave at 4.48 p.m. to search Zed Alley as now the most likely location for the missing pair given the earlier search by Jim.  Brian Prewer, Andy Sparrow and Martin White arrived shortly afterwards in support and communications were established with the Belfry through Stewart McManus and Chris Harvey should further rescuers and equipment prove necessary.  Andy and Martin went down the cave at 5 p.m. to check out the less likely Browne-Stewart Series.

The missing girls were soon located at the bottom of the boulder ruckle and reported to be well but rather cold and frightened at 5.15 p.m.  They were given food and drinks to boost their morale.  Alison Moody arrived at 5.25 p.m. and stood by.  All were safely out of the cave by 6.12 p.m. Needless to say, those concerned showed their gratitude in many ways, not least back at the Hunters!

Saturday 28th April                                Longwood Swallet

Yeovil Police contacted Fred Davies at 11.22 p.m. to say that a woman from Keynsham had reported an overdue party.  She described the car being used.  Brian Prewer was asked to drive to Longwood to check whether the cavers were still underground.  Other rescuers, including Stewart McManus, were stood by at Priddy.

No car was found at Longwood.  Meanwhile, the informant contacted the Police again at 11.40 p.m. to say that all the party had returned home.  After all, it takes about forty minutes to reach Keynsham from Mendip after closing time!

Thursday 31st May                                Swildon’s Hole

Brian Prewer was contacted by Yeovil Police at 1.45 a.m.  They reported that a party from Beaminster, Dorset, was overdue from a trip to Sump One as they had been expected home at 11.30 p.m. The girlfriend of one of the cavers had raised the alarm from a call box in Dorset but could provide no further information.

Leaving the Police to try and obtain more details about any vehicles used, Brian went to check for any parked on the greens in Priddy.  All likely places were empty.  The Police were told later that the caver concerned had got home at 2.36 a.m.  It takes even longer to reach Beaminster from Mendip after closing tine, of course!

Monday 16th July                                   Eastwater Cavern Entrance

Mrs Dorothy Gibbons rang Brian Prewer for assistance to retrieve a heifer stuck in a narrow gully on the cliffs above the cave entrance.  He requested help from Fred Davies, Andy Sparrow, Pete Moody and a party staying at the Belfry, including Ray Mansfield with a visiting Czechoslovakian couple.  By chance, the husband, Jan Sencer, was a vet!

Mr Gibbons and his family had managed to get a heavy rope around the animal's neck to a JCB on the cliff top.  The heifer did not like this.  Being more familiar with such problems in Czechoslovakia, no doubt, Jan descended the cliff and succeeded in getting a tape halter over the head with help from Fred.  Two more tape slings were passed around the front legs. Jan’s wife acted as interpreter for the hauling instructions, given in Czechoslovakian, for which we do not have much call on Mendip.

The heifer was soon lifted about 10 feet to safety suffering from surprise, a few cuts and bruises, and a lame leg.  But it did not shit on anyone, which is a great compliment to Jan's "bedside" manner and expertise.  Mr and Mrs Gibbons were especially grateful and appreciative.

Monday 23rd July                                   Shute Shelve Cutting

Brian Prewer received a call from Taunton Police at 5 p.m. requesting assistance to investigate a crashed motorcycle.  It had been abandoned in the disused railway cutting on its approach to the old tunnel between Axbridge and Winscombe and was lodged in bushes about 30 feet above a sheer cliff.  There was the possibility that an injured rider was in the vicinity below.

Brian, Nigel Taylor, Rich West and Dany Bradshaw went to the scene with ropes.  Nigel abseiled to the motorcycle and attached a hauling line for it to be pulled up by the others.  No person was found and the incident was over by 7 p.m.

Sunday 19th August                   Swildon’s Hole

Ian Butcher rang Brian Prewer at 1 a.m. to say that a party was overdue by about four hours according to the notice board in the Shepton Mallet Hut.  A group from Guildford had not returned there.  After making enquiries, it was discovered that the party had been based elsewhere on Mendip.  They had only called in at the Shepton Hut on their way to the cave, but left directly for Guildford without cancelling their notice!  The Police were not informed of this incident.

Friday 31st August                                 Swildon’s Hole

Force Control in Bristol alerted Brian Prewer at 5.45 p.m. to an overdue party of Wiltshire Police from Swindon that should have returned there at 4.30 p.m.  He checked out both village greens to see if the reported car being used by the cavers was still there.  It was not. At 6.45 p.m., the Police called again to say that they had got it wrong as the trip was to take place the next day!

Sunday 2nd September              Alert

A caver abseiling at Underwood (or "Split Rock") Quarry near Wookey Hole was concussed and so admitted overnight to Wells and District Hospital.  He was worried that other members of his group staying in the MCG Cottage at Nordrach might callout MRO when he failed to return there.  The Police were informed and they advised Brian Prewer of the situation.  Brian then contacted the cottage to let those concerned know what had happened.

Saturday 6th October                 G.B. Cavern

Yeovil Police contacted Brian Prewer just after midnight to report an overdue party expected out at least two hours earlier.  Shortly afterwards, the informant reported that the four cavers concerned had turned up. They had been delayed on entering the cave and then could not find a telephone box on getting out late.

Saturday 6th October                 Swildon' s Hole

The Police alerted Brian Prewer at 2.50 p.m.  Miss Ceili Williams, aged 24, was caving with an Oxford University Caving Club party and dislocated her shoulder in Barnes’ Loop.  Apparently, this had happened to her before, though not whilst caving.  A strong BEC contingent was called out from their AGM.  Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork and Stewart McManus organised the underground team, Nigel Taylor stood by at the Belfry and Tim Large took over surface control on Priddy Green.  Dr Tony Boycott was asked to attend.

Pete McNab, Kevin Garner and Nick Gyner formed the advance party with First Aid, comforts, the baby-bouncer, lifeline and ladder.  They entered the cave at 3.10 p.m., only twenty minutes after receiving the callout. Tony Boycott and Graham Naylor closely followed them.  Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork and Stewart McManus left at 3.32 p.m.  Wessex Cave Club diggers from Cow Hole arrived in support. Entenox was obtained from the Ambulance in attendance and Don Thomson provided a demand valve

At 4.15 p.m. a message was received that Tony Boycott had succeeded in relocating the shoulder and the patient was on the way out, mainly helping herself.  She surfaced at 4.51 p.m. and it was considered that no further treatment to her shoulder was required.

Wednesday 24th October                       Swildon’s Hole

Yeovil Police informed Brian Prewer at 10.25 p.m. that a report of an injured caver had been received. They had no further details of the injuries or of the location in the cave; so, the informant herself was sought out on Priddy Green.  She explained that John Swift from Weston-s­Mare had fallen at the Double Pots and injured his ankle.  There was some concern because the person hurt had a pace-maker.

A rescue party was assembled from the Hunters, including Dr Tony Boycott.  Many stood by.  On arriving at Priddy Green, they were confronted by the patient limping along the road.  A rapid about turn ensued!

Wednesday 24th October                       Spar Pot, East Twin

Brian Prewer was alerted by Yeovil Police at 11.40 p.m. because a party of three from the Swindon area had not returned when expected.  Nigel Taylor was raised to see if any car was still parked at East Twin in Burrington Combe.  None was found in a likely place.  At half-past midnight, the Police rang again to say that the party had returned safely to Wiltshire.  It appears that someone misunderstood the callout procedures.

Wednesday 31st October                       Dallimore’s Cave

The farmer at Ores Close Farm became concerned because a car belonging to cavers he knew, who had gone underground the previous evening at 7 p.m., was still at the farm sixteen hours later.  Yeovil Police informed Brenda Prewer just after 11 a.m. and she advised Brian at work in Wells.  Tony Jarratt was contacted and able to provide a simple explanation, much to everyone's relief.

Oxford University cavers had been surveying the new extensions to the system the previous evening, had come out late then returned very early the following morning to continue the task.  They had understandably not bothered the farmer in the small hours.  No further action was taken.

J. D. Hanwell Honorary Secretary and Treasurer Wookey Hole Wells