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

Cover: Chairman of the AGM, Bob Cork, sketched by REG.


1992 - 1993 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Nigel Taylor



Well here we are again, eventually!  Most of this BB consists of 1ists of one kind or another, all of which are as up-to-date as I could make them.  Please let me know if there are any errors.

I seem to be becoming accident prone!  We can't let Snablet have all the fun.  I twisted a knee falling from Long Chamber to Annexe Chamber, tore a thigh muscle free-climbing down the 20 in Swildon's and broke a wrist falling off a step ladder. Perhaps I'm getting too old for these adventurous pursuits!


The following letter was received by the Club from the parents of Suzanna Fellowes.  Suzanna was killed recently following a car accident at the end of the Belfry track.  She was a member of the Westminster Speleological Group.


Dear Bristol Exploration Club Members,

We thank you for your kindness and beautiful floral tribute on the sad occasion of Suzanna's funeral.

            In appreciation,

                        Richard & Christel Fellowes



Dear Sir

I wrote recently complaining of the state of the Belfry and explaining my actions in staying at Upper Pits in preference to the Belfry.

My '93 sub's are due. A sum of £20.00.  Can anyone on B.E.C. Committee justify to me why I should have to fork £20.00 to remain a member of a club that still goes offering thoroughly sub-standard, filthy accommodation? 

It's about time you reviewed the crummy, unsanitary state the Bunk rooms are in.  I've tried hard to reconcile myself to the Belfry crowd, and feel at home in the place but I'm afraid I'm on the point of chucking it all up and resigning.

Why cannot you fork out for some decent canvas and wooden bunk frames that will not attract damp and filth, and will be easily recoverable, and whilst on the subject it's high time a new fire door was fitted to the end bunkroom, and some curtains or shutters would not go amiss!

Why don't you spend the money on something practical instead of blooming coloured mug shots on the B.B. cover!

Some proper cooking stoves would not go amiss either!  The kitchen is so bloody useless; I have to spend money down the Café.

Come on, get your act together and spend the money, or you can kiss goodbye to my sub's!

Yours Bloody well exasperated!

Bob Cross


Reply to Bob Cross letter.

Dear Bob.

The members elected the committee last October.  It’s function is, as you are no doubt aware, to organise the running of the club on behalf of members.

Being a member, however, means much more than just paying your £20 subscription.  Whenever work becomes necessary or improvements desirable, at the Belfry - two factors have to be borne in mind - money and the voluntary help of members.

The committee is also charged with resolving the outstanding matter of the pledges for the St Cuthbert's report.  We have still to find about £2000.  At last the Cuthbert's lease with Inveresk has been completed and a sum of £700 has recently been paid.

So you can see the club has to work within very tight financial constraints.  Many projects around the Belfry and site have been identified but unfortunately several have been shelved, certainly for this current year. However, some work has been undertaken which includes: - the installation of central heating; new cooker units; the painting of the main room and currently another shower unit is in the process of being fitted.  Next on the list is the renovation of the changing room.  All this work requires money, but most importantly it requires voluntary help from members.

Considering the size of our club this voluntary group is very small.  The same dependable members attend working weekends or do odd jobs when they can, but more could be done if more members actively supported the club by helping.

The Belfry needs to be cleaned, especially after a busy weekend, and it is up to members and guests to ensure this happens along with a few reminders from the hut warden.

It is proposed to hold two or three working weekends this year and the committee would welcome your assistance at these occasions.

            Yours sincerely.

                        The Club Committee.


Dear Member,

If you have an * by your name in the following membership list then, according to my records. you have not paid your B.E.C. subs for 92-93.  If you think you have paid please inform me by ringing: - 0749 670191.  If you have not paid, subs are £24 single or £36 joint if you wish to continue membership and receive your B.B.

If you do not wish to continue please could you return your Belfry key and your deposit will be refunded.

            Yours sincerely,

                        John Watson (Membership Secretary)


Bristol Exploration Club - Membership List 06/04/93

* 828 Nicolette Abell                  Faukland, Bath
* 1157 Karen Ashman                Depden, Bury St. Edmonds
987 Dave Aubrey                       Salisbury, Wiltshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Henton, Wells, Somerset
1150 David Ball                         Billingshurst. West Sussex
1151 Ruth Baxter                      Billingshurst. West Sussex
1024 Mile Barrington                  Clutton, Avon
1145 Roz Bateman                    East Harptree, Bristol Avon.
818 Chris Batsone                     Tynings, radstock, Avon
* 1161 Jane Baugh                    Aberchirder, Huntley, Aberdeen
1079 (J) Henry Bennett              London.
1100 (J) Sarah Bennett              London
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Draycott, Somerset
1122 Clive Betts                        Clapham, Bedfordshire.
* 1125 Rich Blake                     Priddy, Somerset
731 Bob Bidmead                      West harptree, Bristol
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                          Cardiff, S. Gamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Bradshaw                  Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
1137 Robert Bragg                    Odd Down, Bath, Avon
751 (L) T.A. Brookes                 London, SW2
1140 D Bromhead                     Worlse, Avon
1082 Robin Brown                     Woolavington, Bridgwater, Somerset
* 1108 Denis Bumford                Westcombe, Shepton Mallet
* 924 (J) Aileen Butcher             Priddy, Wells, Somerset
* 849 (J) Alan Butcher                Priddy, Wells, Somerset
 * 201 John Buxton                    Flitwick, Beds.
956 (J) Ian Caldwell                   Redland, Bristol, Avon
1036 (J) Nicola Caldwell             Redland, Bristol, Avon
* 1091 William Curruthers          Holcombe Bath
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
* 1062 Andy Cave                      Old Mills, Paulton
902 (L) Martin Cavender             Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset.
* 1048 Tom Chapman                Cheddar, Somerset.
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
620 Phil Coles                          Totterdown, Bristol
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Litton, Somerset
1175 Ali Cooper                        Brighton
* 727 Bill Cooper                       Totterdown, Bristol
862 Bob Cork                            Wells, Somerset
1121 Nicholas Cornwell-Smith    Oldham Common, Bristol
* 1042 Mick Corser                    Cringleford, Norwich, Norfolk
* 827 Mike Cowlishaw                Micheldever Station, Winchester, Hants.
* 890 Jerry Crick                       Leighton Buzzard, Bucks
896 Pat Cronin                          Knowle, Bristol
* 1144 Sophie Crook                  Batheaston, Bath, Avon
680 Bob Cross                          Knowle, Bristol
* 1158 Geoff Crossley                Horsforth, Leeds
870 Gary Cullen                        Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
1165 D Cunningham                  Old Town, Eastbourne, East Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 British Columbia, Canada.
1166 Arron Davies                     Prietsleigh, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
1167 Malcolm Davies                 Prietsleigh, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
815 Nigel Dibden                       Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
829 (J) Angie Dooley                 Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                  Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
1038 Alan Downton                   Headingley, Leeds
830 John Dukes                        Street, Somerset
996 Terry Earley                        Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
* 1133 Stephen Ettienne            Hayes, Middlesex
232 Chris Falshaw                     Crosspool, Sheffield
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Stone, Staffs
469 (J) Pete Franklin                 Stone, Staffs
1159 John Freeman                   Paulton, Bristol, Avon
* 1142 Angela Garwood             Talskiddy, St. Comb Major, Corwall
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1098 Brian Gilbert                     Chingford, London
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Basingstoke, Hampshire
860 (J) Glenys Grass                 Wookey, Somerset
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Wookey, Somerset
1009 Robin Gray                       Meare, Somerset
1123 Ian Gregory                       Bedford
* 1124 Martin Gregory                Clapham, Bedfordshire
1155 Rachel Gregory                 Wells, Somerset
1089 Kevin Gurner                     Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             St Annes, Lancashire
1156 Brian Hansford                  Weeke, Winchester, Hants
999 Rob Harper                         Wells, Somerset
581 Chris Harvey                       Paulton, Somerset
4 (L) Dan Hassell                      Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset
* 1160 Nick Hawkes                  Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Bristol
1078 Mike Hearn                       Draycott, Cheddar, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnet thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
952 Bob Hill                              Sultanate of Oman
691 Dudley Herbert                    High Littleton, Bristol
1174 Kevin Hissey                     Twerton, Bath, Avon
* 905 Paul Hodgson                   Burcott, Wells, Somerset
* 898 (J) Liz Hollis                     Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
* 899 (J) Tony Hollis                  Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
* 1094 Peter Hopkins                 Keynsham, Bristol.
* 971 Colin Houlden                   London
923 Trevor Hughes                     Wells, Somerset
855 Ted Humphreys                  Wells, Somerset
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
* 1026 Ian Jepson                      Beechen Cliff, Bath
51 (L) A Johnson                       Station Rd., Flax Bourton, Bristol
* 995 Brian Johnson                  Ottery St. Mary, Devon
1111 Graham Johnson               Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
* 884 John King                         Wisborough Green, West Sussex
1105 Joanna Hills                      Wisborough Green, West Sussex
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
* 946 Alex Ragnar Knutson        Bedminster, Bristol
* 1116 Stuart Lain                     Old Mills, Paulton
667 (L) Tim Large                      Shepton Mallet
1162 Joc Large                         Shepton Mallet
1171 Rich Lewis                        Weston-super-Mare, Avon
* 1129 Dave Lennard                  Wells, Somerset
1137 Bob Lewis                        Odd Down, Bath, Avon
1180 Rich Long                         Paulton, Bristol
* 1043 Andy Lovell                     Templecloud, Bristol
* 1072 Clive Lovell                     Keynsham, Bristol
* 1057 Mark Lumley                  Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1022 Kevin Macklin                   Clevedon, Avon
651 Pete MacNab (Sr)               Cheddar, Somerset
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jr)          Cheddar, Somerset
1071 Mike McDonald                 Knowle, Bristol, Avon
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                 Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, dorset
1044 Any Middleton                   Yeovil, Somerset
* 1053 Steve Milner                   Broadview, S.A. 5083, Australia
1172 Sean Morgan                    Clevedon, Avon
1053 Steve Milner                      Broadview, S.A., Australia
1172 Brian Murlis                      Weston-super-Mare, Avon
* 936 Dave Nichols                    Camborne, Cornwall
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Rich Payne                       Sidcup , Kent
22 (L) Les Peters                      Knowle Park, Bristol Avon
1134 Martin Peters                    Chew Stoke, Avon.
1107 Terry Phillips                     Denmead, Hants.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
944 Steve Plumley                    Burrington, Bristol
337 Brian Prewer                       Green Hill, Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1085 Duncan Price                    Exhall, Coventry
886 Jeff Price                            Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1109 Jim Rands                        Stonebridge Park, London NW10
481 (L) John Ransom                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
1126 Steve Redwood                 Banwell, Nr. Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
662 (J) John Riley                      Chapel le Dale, Ingleton, Via Carnforth, Lancs.
1033 (J) Sue Riley                     Chapel le Dale, Ingleton, Via Carnforth, Lancs
985 (J) Phil Romford                  Shepton Mallet, Somerset
986 (J) Lil Romford                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                          Crediton, Devon
240 (L) Alan Sandall                  Nailsea, Avon
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
1170 Andy Sanders                   Peasdown St. John, Bath, Avon
1173 Estelle Sandford                Weston-super-Mare, Avon
1178 Ivan Sandford                    Munchley, Nr. Langport, Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   St. Jean Cap, Ferrat 06230, Cote D’Azur, France
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Harpendon, Herts
237 (L) Dave Shand                   Rhiwbina, Cardiff
*1128 Vince Simmonds             Wells, Somerset
881 Alistair Simpson                 Yarley, Wells, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                          c/o The Belfry
1041 Laurence Smith                 Priddy
823 Andy Sparrow                     Priddy, Somerset
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Bude, Cornwall
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Warkworth, Northumberland
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stephens              Wells, Somerset
* 1163 Robert Taff                      Erdington, Birmingham
583 Derek Targett                      East Horrington, Wells Somerset
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford Lane, Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
348 (L) D Thomas                      Little Birch, Bartlestree, Hereford
571 (L) N Thomas                      Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk.
699 (J) Buckett Tilbury               High Wycombe, Bucks
700 (J) Anne Tilbury                   High Wycombe, Bucks
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Nyetimber, Bognor Regis, Sussex
1177 C R Tozer                         Worle, W-S-M, Avon
* 382 Steve Tuck                       Dousland, Yelverton, Devon
* 1023 Matt Tuck                       Dousland, Yelverton, Devon
* 1136 Hugh Tucker                   Westham, Wedmore, Somerset
1066 Alan Turner                       Chippenham, Wilts
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
912 John Turner                        Tavistock, Devon.
1154 Karen Turvey                     Tonedale, Wellington, Somerset.
635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury            Boundstone, Farnham, Surrey
1096 Brian van Luipen                Wick, Littlehampton, West Sussex
887 Greg Villis                          Uphill, Weston-super-Mare, Avon
175 (L) Mrs. D. Whaddon           Taunton, Somerset
949 (J) John Watson                  Somerset
1019 (J) Lavinia Watson             Somerset
973 James Wells                      Loisville, Kentucky, USA
1055 Oliver Wells                      Yorktown Heights, New York, USA
553 Bob White                          Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset.
1118 Carol White                      Glasshouses, Pately Bridge, N. Yorks.
* 878 Ross White                      Cotham
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1068 John Whiteley                   Heathfiled, Newton Abbot, S. Devon.
* 1031 Mike Wigglesworth          Greenfield, Oldham, Lancashire.
1087 John Williams                   c/o Babs
* 1146 Les Williams                  Priddy,
1075 Tony Williams                   Radstock, Bath
* 1076 Roz Williams                  Radstock, Bath
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
1153 Mike Wilson (jnr)               Whitchurch, Bristol
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
* 813 Ian Wilton-Jones               Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent
721 G Wilton-Jones                   Watton, Thetford, Norfolk
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chilington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                     Greenbank, Eastville, Bristol.
1169 Chris York                        Thames Ditton, Surrey


Bristol Exploration Club – Exchange/Complimentary List 06/04/93

Axbridge Caving Group
BEC Library – 2 copies
Bradford Pothole Club
Cerberus SS
Chelsea SS
Craven P.C.
Croydon Caving Club
Devon SS
Dr. H. Trimmel, Obere Donaustraase, Austria
Grampian SS
Grosvenor Caving Club
Hades Caving Club
Mendip Cave Registry
Mendip Caving Group
Northern Pennine Club
Jock Orr, Lincoln
Plymouth Caving Group
Red Rose CPC
South African Spel. Assn
The Florida Speleological Society Inc
Tony Oldham, Dyfed
Wells Museum
Wessex Cave Club
West Virginia Caver
Westminster SG


St. Cuthbert’s Leaders

BEC April 1993

Chris Batstone                     Joc Large

Ian Caldwell                         Tim Large

Chris Castle                         Mike McDonald

Andy Cave                           Stuart McManus

John Dukes                         Mike Palmer

Pete Glanville                       Brian Prewer

Martin Grass                        Chris Smart

Chris Harvey                        Andy Sparrow

Pete Hellier                          Nigel Taylor

Jeremy Henley                     Dave Turner

Dudley Herbert                     Greg Villis

Ted Humphreys                    Mike Wilson

Dave Irwin                            Bassett

Kangy King                          Brian Workman

If people want leaders for trips down Cuthbert’s they can do it through me or contact one of the above leaders directly.    Jeff Price – Caving Sec.

St.  Cuthbert’s Guest Leaders

Ric Halliwell  (CPC)

Graham Price  (CSS)

John Beauchamp  (MCG)

Malcolm Cotter  (MCG)

Tony Knibbs  (MCG)

Miles Barrington  (MEG)

Alan Butcher  (SMCC)

Mark Sims  (SMCC)

Tony Boycott  (UBSS)

Ray Mansfield  (UBSS)

Alison Moody  (WCC)


Meets List - 1993

The following is a list of trips already arranged by Jeff.  If you want to go please get in touch with Jeff as soon as possible (Tel: 0272 724296)

Birks Fell Cave, Yorkshire. Saturday, 19th June

Notts Pot, Yorkshire. Saturday, 31st July

Charterhouse Cave & Reservoir Hole, November (date undecided)

If you want to go to these or to any other cave not mentioned, get in touch with Jeff and he will try to arrange access.

Cave Rescue Practice

Saturday.  15th May.  Venue to be decided (possibly Cuthbert's)

Anyone interested please contact Alan Turner or Phil Romford

Saturday, 30th October. MRO practice rescue.  St. Cuthbert’s

If interested contact an MRO Warden!

Bec Cave Leaders

DYO, S.Wales

Martin Grass, Mike McDonald (Trebor), Basset. Tim Large, Richard Stevenson, Rob Harper.

OFD1, S.Wales

Martin Grass. Richard Stevenson, Basset. Dave Irwin (Wig). Brian Prewer. Greg Villis. Tim Large.

Note  We hold a yearly permit for OFD.  If we need a mid-week key ring the SWCC the weekend before.

Craig a Fynnon (Rock & Fountain), S. Wales.      Martin Grass.

Reservoir Hole, Mendip.                                     Jeff Price. Martin Grass. Basset. Dave Irwin.

Blackmoor Flood Swallet, Mendip.                       Steve Redwood.

Charterhouse Cave, Mendip.                               Jeff Price, Chris Smart (Blitz).


Pen Park Hole

Southmead Estate. Bristol.

Over the past five years Graham Mullan and Linda Wilson of the UBSS have been pursuing an access agreement with Bristol City Council to gain entry into Pen Park Hole.  As of January 1993 the BEC, WCC and UBSS are able to offer trips into the cave.  The three clubs chosen were by way of historical exploration of the cave.  If you're interested in a trip get in touch Chris Smart or myself.

Jeff Price.

Pen Park Hole Access Notes/Rules.

When visiting this cave, certain requirements of the landowner, Bristol City Council, must be adhered to :

No more than two cars are to be parked at the site.  It probably best, therefore, to arrange to meet your leader off site, and travel together.

No changing at the site. The most that can be allowed is the pulling on and off of an oversuit, over a DECENT furry suit etc.  Remember the site is in the middle of a residential area.

Remove oversuit and boots etc. in the road, behind your car.  Don't leave mud all over the footpath, or on the park gate.

The collection of geological specimens from the cave is STRICTLY forbidden.

The limit on the trip is five people plus leader.

No carbide is to be used in the cave.

To pay for maintenance costs etc., a tackle fee of £1.50 per head is levied, payable to the leader. This is not payable by BEC, WCC or UBSS members.

Tackle requirements for the main pitch: 20 metres of ladder, long spreader (or two 1 metre tethers), 50 metres of rope for double lifeline, krabs.  This pitch is NOT suitable for SRT.

BEC Leaders : -   Jeff Price.  Chris Smart.

WCC Leaders : -  Mark Helmore.  Rob Taviner.

UBSS Leaders :-  Steve Cottle.  Paul Harvey.



Sadly we have two, which are in memory of Ted Mason who joined the BEC in 1947 and Bob Davies who joined in 1950.

Edmund J. Mason

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Ted Mason.

A chartered surveyor by profession Ted devoted himself to archaeology and speleology in the Bristol, Somerset and South Wales areas.  He was archaeological advisor to the Bristol Folk House Archaeological Society and for a long time president of the M.N.R.C.  He was always full of kindly encouragement and I am glad I served on the M.N.R.C. committee under his leadership.

His cave excavations include Ogof yr Esgyrn in Wales where he worked with W.F. Grimes of the National Museum of Wales and Minchen Hole, Gower, on behalf of the Royal Institution of South Wales and the South Wales Caving Club.  He also took a leading part in the formation of the Steep Holm Trust.

Caving well into his seventies, Ted was forced to give up after a stroke a few years ago, but he never lost his enthusiasm for caves and cavers.

He was always ready to listen to even the youngest and most inexperienced cave explorer and I owe much of my own prolonged love of caving to his understanding.

Robin Gray.

Robert Ernest Davies.

August 17. 1919 - March 7 1993.

Members of the caving, diving, mountaineering and scientific communities and their friends will be saddened to hear that the well-known caver and cave diver Bob Davies died from a heart attack while taking an after-dinner walk in Golspie in Scotland on Sunday, March 7, 1993.

This was during the spring break of the University of Pennsylvania where he was an Emeritus Professor.  He had planned to climb in the Cairngorn Mountains on the following day.  His wife Helen Davies tells us that he used his hand-held video camera an hour before he died and that there was no shake or any detectable shortcoming in the images whatsoever - which shows that he was living in his usual active and energetic manner right up until the last moment.

Bob's last visit to Mendip was to attend the 50th Anniversary Reunion at Wookey Hole Caves in October 1985.  He also gave a rousing presentation at the Annual Dinner of the Bristol Exploration Club a few days later.

Concerning his contributions to cave diving, Graham Balcombe, Dan Hasell, Luke Devenish and John Buxton can give much better accounts than I.  In Cave Diving Group Newsletter number 11 (June 1948) Graham Balcombe writes: "Welcome to R.E. Davies, member of the DS" (Derbyshire Section).

In the 1940's cave divers quite simply could not afford to buy equipment and rent cars to the extent that is sometimes the case today.  Graham Balcombe, Jack Sheppard, Penelope Powell, Wyndham Harris and their friends had set the process in motion in 1935 at Wookey Hole Caves supported by Sir Robert Davis of Siebe Gorman and Co. (who provided the equipment and an instructor free of charge) and Gerard Hodgkinson (later Wing Commander Hodgkinson) who was then the owner and manager of Wookey Hole Caves.  Starting in the mid-1940's Graham Balcombe obtained vast quantities of Government surplus oxygen re-breathers, diving dresses and similar equipment at a very low cost.  Bob Davies played a leading role (along with Don Coase and others) in applying this in caves.

I first met Bob Davies to help carry his diving equipment in Swildons Hole on June 26, 1954 when he dived with Graham Balcombe in Sump Two.  This is the cave where Jack Sheppard (in Sump One) and Graham Balcombe (in Sump Two) had set successive cave diving records 18 years before. Oliver Lloyd was the overall organiser and this was the beginning of his own very significant career in cave diving. Bob Davies had earlier trained John Buxton as a cave diver.  John now has the longest active cave diving record which proves once again the value of Bob's many contributions.

I had been interested in cave diving for some time.  In those days there were only four or five active cave divers in England and no scuba shops anywhere - you had to latch on to an active cave diver and try all sorts of diplomatic procedures to obtain the required equipment and training.

Bob persuaded Jack Thompson to train me as a cave diver.

I rode on my motorcycle for many hours from Cambridge to Sheffield several times to become acquainted with the mysteries of the art.

The only time that I dived with Bob in a cave was on the celebrated occasion when he vanished in a cloud of bubbles in the totally submerged eleventh chamber at Wookey Hole, was given up for lost and then caused universal astonishment when he reappeared looking very much alive several hours later (December 10/11, 1955). I had finished my basic training with the help of John Buxton (who had encouraged me to jump from what had seemed to be a great height into muddy water in the River Avon) and Graham Balcombe (who had taken me on the mandatory training trips to Wookey Seven).  I was the junior employee during that event (John Buxton was the other diver).  I could so easily have saved Bob from getting lost in the (by then) muddy water by holding on to his elbow while he worked away on his line reel just in front of me on the edge of Eleven, but I did not have the intelligence to do so.

After Bob left England for America in 1956 he continued to help things along - for example, he sent us information on mixed gas diving from the public domain in America at a time when the identical information was still classified in England.  I shall always remember Bob Davies as an energetic, helpful and cheerful person. His custom of ending letters with the words “All the best” says it all.

I have been greatly helped in writing these notes by a newspaper cutting sent to me by Professor Lee Peachey, one of Bob7s colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania ("The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania, Tuesday March 16, 1993, pp. lA and 4A).  This describes his work in biochemistry, in student affairs and on the mountains.  It tells us that Bob climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the Grand Teton in Wyoming, Fujiyama in Japan and the flagpole at the University of Pennsylvania.  The final paragraph:

Biochemistry Professor Bernard Shapiro proposed an appropriate epitaph for Professor Emeritus Robert Davies at a reception honouring him in 1991: “Here lies Robert E. Davies, under the only stone he ever left unturned.”

 (Oliver Wells. April 8, 1993.)


Stock Hill Mine Cave

Some observations after a year of digging.

An initial description of this site was given in B.B. 461 (Oct. 1991).  It is now a suitable time for an update, being just over a year since the dig commenced and also the temporary shutting down of operations due to flooding.  (This article was received in the autumn of '92 - the cave is still flooded!  Ed.).

During the year a total of 3203 loads of spoil have been hauled out of the entrance shaft - around 50 tons!!!  This has been tipped in adjacent depressions and landscaped.  On 2nd September all digging kit and ladders were brought to the base of the entrance shaft to escape the gradually rising water levels in the lower mineshaft and natural sections.

Since the last report a tremendous amount of work has been done clearing out the completely in-filled natural passage intercepted by the Old Man halfway down the mine­shaft. This is a steeply descending and amply proportioned phreatic tube dropping vertically to the present dig. The infill is a red/brown sticky clay in a partly mineralized joint.  Apart from the clay there are also patches of fine silt and water worn pebbles of sandstone up to 2" across.  Variously coloured clays, sands, iron ores and tiny pieces of galena were also found - as were hundreds of six-sided calcite "dogtooth" crystals up to 1" long and christened "Stock Hill Diamonds".

Tiny (c. 2" diameter) roof tubes have formed on top of the infill and eroded the limestone ceiling. These tubes are lined with fish-scale like tiny calcite crystals the like of which are unknown to the writer. Larger, in-filled roof tubes or anastomoses have also been uncovered - these pre-date the clay infill.  No bones or organic remains of any type have been found and there are no formations or calcite deposits on the cave walls (though a large lump of stalagmite was found in the debris halfway down the mineshaft). This would suggest that most of the cave was either water or sediment filled but never air filled.  All limestone surfaces have a dusty grey patina when exposed and are smoothly eroded with phreatic pocketing but no scalloping.

The size of the passage and angle of dip would, if projected back to the surface at c. 856' A.O.D., indicate the existence of a major catchment area at one time, predating the St. Cuthbert's valley (and cave system) and being at least 75' above the present bottom of the St. Cuthbert’s depression.  It is thus likely to have been an early drainage route of the original St. Cuthbert's stream - this may have been fed by water from the once higher ground to the north of Priddy.

Now emptied of infill the dimensions of this passage are impressive and indicate an extensive phreatic system, though undoubtedly choked for some distance.  A draught issues from small open fissures in the lower mineshaft giving some encouragement to the possibilities of open passage.  Unfortunately these cracks are not conducive to digging.

The cave is on the boundary of the Lower Limestone Shales and Black Rock Limestone and heading towards the nearby Stock Hill Fault.

Drainage is presumably to Wookey Hole Cave and/or Rodney Stoke Rising, though if the system is as ancient as suspected it could have fed springs now buried by alluvial deposits. It is possible that the cave formed in early Pleistocene times.

The writer would welcome any more enlightened thoughts on his theories!

The lower part of the mineshaft has also been cleared to an apparently solid floor with a small choked rift below, The blocked level has been partly excavated and may be worth more work. Mining artefacts discovered while digging are illustrated on the next page and will be presented to Wells Museum.

The list of diggers over the last year is too long to publish but suffice it to say that many members and friends have taken part.  Special mention must be made of Martin Riddell who provided the magnificent scaffolding head frame.  Trevor "Mr. Enthusiasm" Hughes and bang man Tony Boycott.  It is hoped to resume work, here when conditions are drier or a heavy duty pump is obtained.  In the meantime do not despair ­there are lots of other digs which need your help!

Tony Jarratt


With reference to mining artefacts (see next page) I have following abstract - Ed.



Country News

Among the public benefits produced by the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, is the introduction of an alloyed Tamping-bar, instead of the common iron bar formerly employed by the Miners, which promises to be as efficacious in preventing explosions in the Mines of that County, as Sir Humphrey Davy's safety lamp in those of the North.




Wigmore Update - Only Another 5.75 Miles to Cheddar!

This article attempts to carry on from Tony Jarratts mega up-dating and consolidating piece in BB 460 (Aug 91) and covers the passing of the final section of inlet passage to the streamway and diving operations both up and downstream.  By its nature this piece is a bit stodgy, so incorporated is a more human article by Ross White (if "human" is the right word for Ross), describing some of the downstream explorations.

As Tony said in his piece in BB 460, the Wigmore Swallet entrance is at 880ft above sea level and as Goughs' Sump 3 is close to 200ft (62m) deep, this gives a vertical range of just under 1,000ft (313m).  Wigmore would thus be, at present, the second deepest cave in the country.  Also, its proven resurgence at Cheddar is some 5.75 miles (9.2km) away as the Aardvark trots so Wigmore would be the longest on Mendip by far.  This is all incentive enough.

Tony's piece ended, appropriately enough, at Butch's Arse, a tight V-tube. In late summer 1991 this was dug, banged and passed to some 7m of tightish, awkward flat-out passage to the awkward head of a 7m pitch, with water audible ahead.  The pitch drops into a chamber some 305m long with a short crawl of some 5m leading off to the head of another pitch, some 5m deep. This also drops into a small chamber some 3m long, the current diving base.  At the far end of the chamber a waterfall enters in wet weather, this being the entrance water last seen sinking into the bouldery floor of Vindication Pot.  A doorway out of the opposite end of the chamber leads directly into the sump pool of downstream Sump 1 and the main streamway, some 1.5 - 2m wide, running from right to left.  This was a tremendous sight after years of painful, dedicated digging by scores of BEC members, et al. Vindication indeed. Here was the upper River Yeo.

From the meeting of the inlet passage with the main stream, downstream was blocked immediately by a sump. Upstream, could be followed for about 47m or so until it too was blocked by a sump.  On August 18th 1991, a large team descended to try and pass both up and downstream sumps.  The downstream sump was probed a short distance only by Peter Bolt and Graham Johnson, while Vince Simmonds on his first cave dive passed the upstream Sump 1 (205m long) to a 3m diameter airbell.  Peter Bolt, Graham Johnson and Tony Jarratt dived to join him.  Tony then dived Sump 2 (5m) and the other three then joined him after a classic free-dive.  Some 46m of aquatic, sewer passage followed to Sump 3, still being sporadically dived by Keith Savory.  Various little tubes and inlets before Sump 3 were investigated, but nothing significant was found.

Later in the autumn, Dany Bradshaw attacked the downstream sump and after two dives passed it after 22m at about 2.5 - 3m depth to 18m of passage with an ascending inlet on the left, not explored at this time.  Sump 2 followed immediately.  Lethargy, inertia, other digs on Mendip and activities abroad brought a cessation of activities until late 1992 when Ross White and Trebor McDonald renewed the assault.

Ross White takes up this gripping story ..............

Grunting and thrutching around I wriggled to a halt halfway through Butch's Arse and stopping for a breather I contemplated the roof from my nose.  I was pushing a laden tackle bag and a diving bottle was clenched between my feet.  "Ok, Ok", said a little voice in my head, 'What gives?  You've been down this horrible hole four times in three weeks, so what the hell gives?"  I hadn't been caving for a year and Wigmore had received a veritable assault of trips. On 27th November 1992 I arrived at downstream Sump 1 ready to dive, my trusty and stalwart companion, Trebor McDonald, in support. I approached it with some trepidation having picked Dany's brain about the sump and having dived upstream myself earlier in the year. Expecting the worst conditions imaginable I could only be pleasantly surprised.

Despite the strong flow the vis in the sump was zero and the occasional nudging of roof pendants caused a complete blackout.  However, following Dany's line was easy enough and I was through before I knew it. Crawling out of the sump I found Dany's old line reel so, placing it to one side, I approached Sump 2.  Tying on, Sump 2 was passed after 5m to an airbell, some 5m long, 1m wide and 1m high above the waterline.  Tying onto a roof pendant, Sump 3 was passed after 6m, surfacing in Wigmore 4.  A wonderful sound of cascading water ahead led to 24m of pleasant passage some 105m wide and 3m high with a cascade 2m high halfway along.  Unfortunately, Sump 4 loomed up immediately.  The sump pool was a little gloomy and covered with a fair depth of dirty froth.  Eyeing the sump warily, an inspection of my line bag revealed a limited amount of line and I felt that this sump would go deeper.  However, I decided to go as far as I could.  Constructing a small cairn to tie the line off, Sump 4 went deeper as expected, perhaps similar to the first part of Swildons Sump 9.  However, it quickly levelled out and after 15m of zero vis the line went tight with the surface visible above.  Careful not to pull on the line too hard, I rose slowly to the surface, just managed to get my head into airspace and tied on to a dubious nodule. Wigmore 5 looked rather grim; a narrow, rift inclined at 45 deg. heading off for 10m apparently closing down, although I couldn't see for sure.  Moving forward meant de-kitting and effort.  Checking my watch I'd reached my deadline agreed with Trebor.  Time to return.  A rough survey on the return to meet a cold, patient Trebor.

On 12th December, we were both back with two sets of kit; a 28 cu ft and a 15 cu ft mini bottle each, in anticipation of a restricted Sump 5.  An easy dive into Wigmore 4, a luxury after the hard carry thus far. De-kitting, I crawled forward through a constriction and further into the bottom of the rift where the water runs in a V-shaped channel.  Waggling my feet in the water suggested something may be on.  "Time for the mini-bottle, Treebs, it might go". So, shuffling back and forth I had a go, hand-holding the mini-bottle, the rift constricting my chest and back. It was very tight up high but opened up a bit by my feet.  As I slid lower my mouthpiece jammed so I turned my head sideways.  Then my torches jammed.  Surfacing with a few oaths I took one light off and tried again.  I knew if I didn't do it this time we would have to come back again, but this time it was easier.  Committed, with no line and no vis I shuffled feet first further into the Sump until it widened out slightly and more comfortably after 3m or so.  I was ok without a line as long as I could feel both walls - time to go get a line. Instead of rising where I had descended I kept very low, on towards Trebor and surfaced.  Collecting the other bottle from Trebor, he base-fed me back into the sump and after 6m I was able to turn around and passed the sump after 20m, rising thankfully into quite large passage.  Tying off I staggered and crawled down rift passage, 'The Cat Crawl", up to 4m high and about 0.5m wide for about 50m to the inevitable Sump 6. Cold and out of line I returned to a cold Trebor, taking two attempts to negotiate the upstream constriction in Sump 5.

De-briefing a patient Trebor, and extolling the virtues of the passage in Wigmore 6, he decided stoically to have a look at Sump 6.  He had a couple of goes at entering Sump 5, then disappeared apparently passing it with some ease.  He dumped his hand-held bottle and went forward to Sump 6, tied on and passed it after 4m into low, sewer passage with pendants everywhere.  Going forward, he swam into a series of very low ducks which opened out after 5m into larger passage with the stream cascading away. Hypothermia, low air and knowing I was freezing on the right side of Sump 5 prompted a return.  These ducks are now lined as they are easier to dive and can essentially be called Sump 6A.  It was a curious feeling watching his lights appear near the surface of Sump 5, almost break through and then disappear again, knowing he was trying to find his way through the right slot.  With much grunting and commotion he flopped into Wigmore 5.  "The whale has landed" he said, before de-briefing me. Wigmore 5 is now named "The Whale has Landed" and Sump 5 is "The Rubie Sump".  A successful day, 8 hours underground, most of it spent in water with only an ordinary wetsuit.

On 27th December, Peter Bolt put in an excellent solo effort to pass Trebors' last limit beyond the Ducks into 30m of walking and stooping passage, down a cascade or two and thus to Sump 7.  He penetrated the sump for 22m at a depth of some 7m until his line ran out.  He managed to pass Sump 5 wearing twin kit and he still maintains he had 2m vis - poor deluded fellow.  Had he really been down Wigmore!

On 6th January 1993, Trebor and myself returned, a total of 8 trips so far including carry-ins. (They're like carry-outs, but not so much fun).  The usual fun and games in Sump 5 with a few line tangles, getting stuck and growling at Pete Bolt who can do it with twin kit on.  On to Sump 7 where I easily followed Pete's line, tied on and set off in zero vis, again.  The route seemed quite complex in the poor vis and I was taking some time, acutely aware that I couldn't see my gauges.  I changed gags anyway for good measure and ploughed on.  After what seemed an eternity the sump started rising but still no airspace.  Conscious of the cut-off time and having no idea how much line I had laid, I was a little worried but pressed on and eventually rose into an airbell, "Labelle", some 2.5 - 3m in diameter, half full of water.  Sump 7 had been some 62m long and reached about 8m depth. Well down on my third margins, almost hypothermic and already pushing my luck, I tied off and returned to a cold, patient Trebor.  A five hour trip.

On Thursday 21st January we returned, this time with diving wet suits to keep out the cold, more light, more Mars Bars, more everything and bigger bottles; one 45 cu ft and one 28 cu ft each in anticipation of more sumps.  A cruise to Labelle, the water surface covered with a thin film of muck, with Trebor having light problems in Wigmore 5, a good thrashing around in Sump 5 and a certain amount of over-heating in the thick wetsuits.  Red, glutinous mud covered his equipment and he sucked out some mud from his gag.  "Not very tasty, is it Treebs?"  His reply was not nice; he was not a happy Hector -  one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong. In Labelle, Trebor tied on and after a few minutes festering around in zero vis in mud banks he returned to the surface with no apparent way on.  His dodgy lights must have been causing him some apprehension.  After another splash he disappeared, pushed over a mud bank, dug a bit and later a few tugs on the line indicated he had passed Sump 8 after 5m. I dived to join him, laughing as I surfaced into a low, wet, aquatic, amniotic airbell, some 5m long and 2m wide named "The Sprog" by Trebor after Karen and Mark Lumley's son born soon thereafter.  "Looks pretty grim" said Trebor, "but there's yer way on" pointing towards a dip in the rock with roof pendants.  My turn to dive so off I went and easily passed Sump 9 after 10m revealing large, canyon passage in complete and welcome contrast to the streamway thus far."

Vindication Streamway was a welcome sight after the cold, wet cave thus far and it ran for some 100m down several nice cascades, the passage on average being 2 - 2.5m wide and 5m high, reaching up to 10m in places.  An aven some 10 - 15m high was passed on the left and an ascending tube passage on the right.  After about 100m, the passage met a 2m waterfall into a bouldery breakdown chamber with the water sinking into the floor.  The way on was to the immediate left partly blocked with boulders.  A few frenzied minutes of boulder chucking by both divers opened up a 3m deep rift.  Ross shinned down it whilst Trebor placed his not inconsiderable bulk in the waterfall to deflect water away from his erstwhile companion.  The 3m rift led on to a small ledge and a 5-7m pitch, "Slime Rift", below, taking the full flow of the stream.  With slimey walls, the full flow, no tackle and mindful of doing something silly beyond 9 sumps, the pair retreated.

Unfortunately, Ross had to leave for a 6 month holiday on the west coast of Scotland (he says it's work), so on the 21st February 1993, Trebor returned with Pete Bolt, armed with two ladders.  A straightforward trip to the pitch ensued and the ladders were belayed to a large boulder by the waterfall, there being no belay points at the head of the pitch-proper.  The ladders thus snaked rather unsatisfactorily down the rift, across the ledge and down Niagara Falls ­not exactly out of the Andy Sparrow rigging manual.  Trebor gave Pete the dubious honour of descending the pitch first, easily passed by both.  More like a vertical sump but great fun.  The pitch is 8m, comprising the 3m rifty, spray-lashed top section to the ledge and the 5m bottom very aquatic section.  It is best rigged as one.  On for 10m to a 90 deg. left hand bend, 20m of nice canyon passage straight into a large boulder choke with hanging Henry's everywhere.  Boulder shifting, searching and plenty of tip-toeing found no way on but a rocking boulder in the far reaches of the chokes allows a sight through into a black void, probably a larger cavity of the same choke.  The stream can be heard bumbling away in the distance so all is not lost.  A while spent wrestling with the boulder proved fruitless.  Chemical persuasion will be required, although two belts fixed together as a strop and flung around the boulder may shift it next trip.  On the return, the tube passage up near Sump 9 was explored for 20 - 30m or so, blocking out with mud.

That is the saga so far, happy readers.  The next trip will concentrate on shifting the boulder and pushing on if possible, although at some stage the place has to be radio-located and a detailed surveyed still has to be done.  The cave seems to be heading East, in completely the wrong direction if it is to end up at Cheddar, as proven.  There is a mineral vein in the area which could be confusing matters and the un-surveyed sumps makes a survey of the dry passages a little pointless.  There is little merit in doing a detailed survey until the sump vis improves, especially as the sumps make up a large proportion of the total passage length.  There is a rumour that Trevor Hughes is going to build an extension at home to house the survey which is currently creeping remorselessly across his floor.

The divers wish to thank all the sherpas for their hard work; it is much appreciated.  It's about time they got themselves trained up so they can come down and have a look see.

Trebor and Ross

WARNING - The scale quoted on the two following surveys is inaccurate.  The scale is distorted by photocopy reduction.