The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover: Mr. N  by REG

 

1993 - 1994 Committee

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

REMINDER: AGM & DINNER, FIRST SATURDAY IN OCTOBER.

The Bristol Exploration Club Subscriptions for 1993-94 are now due

Single Membership    £24 Joint Membership      £36

Discount for early payment (before December 31st 1993

Single membership      £20 Joint membership        £30


 

Editorial

Hello everyone. Well; now i find myself the official B.B. Editor and thus in need of the creative input of the membership!  This is basically a plea for articles of any kind from anyone who feels the urge, desire, compulsion or need to write.  This is the club journal and should therefore, in my view, reflect the activities, views opinions and imaginations of the members.

I have a small stock of articles that i inherited from ted that will be published in future issues but these will dry up fairly quickly so i will need more.   The B.B. Will only be as interesting as the articles i have so in a sense the ball is in your court ... It is after all your journal. ('nuff said).

I hope to include some regular features such as a song per issue - this issue due to many requests i've included the 'other one' sung at the dinner, by dickfred & myself, as well as an odds & sods page.   I'd be interested in opinions on this as well as ideas for other features.

Unfortunately i'm not on the 'phone at present but hope this will change shortly.   I can usually be contacted via the Belfry at weekends and my address is as published on page one.

That is enough waffle for now, i hope this issue is up to scratch ... If not let me know ... !

Jingles

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club held at the Belfry October 2nd 1993

The meeting was convened by the Treasurer, Chris Smart at 1045.  The meeting was not quorate at its opening.

Present:

Chris Smart, Tim Large, John Buxton, Chris Castle, Andy Sparrow, Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson, Jingles, Hilary Wilson, Babs Williams, Jeff Price, Rob Harper, Bob Cork, Ted Humphries, Kevin Gurner, Dudley Herbert, Ian Gregory, Nick Gymer, Richard Payne, Ron Wyncoll, Terry Early, Phil Romford, John Watson, Pete Hellier, Colin Dooley, Barry Wilton, Dave Ball, Dave Glover, Brian Prewer, Dave Aubrey.

Present(Later ):

Nigel Taylor, Matt Tuck, S J McManus, Alan Kennett, Andy Sanders, Fish, Dave Turner, Alan Turner, Ian Caldwell,

Apologies:

Martin Grass, Glenys Grass, Chris Batstone, Lavina Watson, Jim Smart, J Rat, Lil Romford, Ruth Baxter, Chris Harvey, Robin Grey, Rich Long, John Freeman, Jeremy Henley, Steve Tuck, Alan Thomas, Trevor Hughes, Martin Gregory, Clive Betts, Graham Johnson,

Chairman:

Bob Cork was elected as Chairman with the full support of the meeting.  There were no other nominations.

The Chairman noted that the meeting was inquorate.  It was decided to continue with the AGM with the proviso that the minutes are published at the first opportunity for discussion and comment.

Minutes of the 1992 AGM

Previously published in the BB

John Buxton noted that he had been missed from the attendance list.

For acceptance of the 1992 AGM minutes by the meeting.
Proposed: R C Harper.
Seconded: Phil Romford.
Carried with two abstentions.

Matters arising from the minutes

1. Long Term Plan: Phil Romford asked as to the progress of the Long Term Plan.  Various discussions ensued.  The AGM was told that a meeting was held and that work has progressed albeit not to the exact letter of the resolution.  It was suggested that the Committee put forward a 1-2 year plan of immediate priorities.  The AGM agreed to continue discussion of this item in AOB following the Treasurers report.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Brian Prewer.
Seconded: Dudley Herbert.
For 31, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Secretary's Report

Previously published in the BB.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Jingles.
Seconded: Rob Harper.   Carried unam.

Caving Secretary's Report

Previously published in the BB.

Mike Wilson asked about Jeff's Stand at BCRA.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mike Wilson.
Seconded: Mac.
For 31, Against 1, Abstentions 1

Hut Warden's Report

The Hut Warden was not present, no report was given to the meeting and none had been published in the BB. It was agreed that this was an utterly disgraceful state of affairs and there was no excuse.  Nigel and Mac asked the Committee to either obtain Zot's report or publish a summary report as soon as possible in the BB.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting. Proposed: Nigel.
Seconded: Mac.
For 32, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Dr Andrew Newton was given a unam vote of thanks for obtaining new mattresses for the Belfry.

Brian Prewer was also given a unam vote of thanks for his midweek policing of Belfry usage.

Pete Hillier asked about bednight totals.  Blitz replied (later) that the numbers were as follows:

 

Members

Reciprocal

Guests

Service

 

 

 

 

 

1991-1992

360

14

660

0

1992-1993

457

42

765

50

Hut Engineer's Report

The following was read out at the meeting:

The Belfry is now over 20 years old and gets subjected to heavy use and abuse.  During the year minor repairs and routine maintenance have been carried out but there remains much to be done. 

The major work has been:

  1. Completion of repairs to Changing and Drying Room ceilings following water leaks during the previous winter.
  2. Installation of a new electric shower which is working well.
  3. Modification of the coin meters to accept the new 10p coin.
  4. A start has been made on the repairs and replacement of floor and wall tiling in the Showers and Drying Rooms
  5. Painting of the Main Room.  Thanks for this go to Terry Early and Dave Aubrey, especially for the novel paint work on the Hut Warden's locker.
  6. Rationalization of the plumbing system to simplify the pipe work and eliminate problems.
  7. Removal of the old night storage heaters and white meter now that the central heating is in place.
  8. The purchase and installation of a thermostatically controlled radiator to provide separate heating for the Library
  9. Installation of a new cooker and 2 hobs.  The cooker has been professionally fitted as our old pipe work was less than safe.

One working weekend was held during the year which was attended by about twenty people. Grateful thanks to one and all. Much was achieved including painting, repairs and some serious cleaning.  As always much time was spent on clearing rubbish away from the Belfry site.

There is always much to be done and hopefully in the coming year we can complete more essential maintenance and repairs.  Then perhaps, money permitting, we can move onto improvement projects to enhance the living conditions further and encourage more people to stay at the Belfry.

Tim Large 2nd October 1993

John Buxton asked about the hot water supply to the hand basins.  Bob Cork expressed surprise that older members were getting soft and wanted hot water.  Tim said that Mac would look at the immersion timer clock.

Phil asked about maintenance and repairs to the exterior.  It was decided that the Committee would need to look into this following more discussion under AOB.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Nigel.
Seconded: Jeff Price.
For 33, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Membership Secretary's Report

Previously published in the BB.

Quiet John expressed his disquiet as to non payers of this year who had said they would rejoin next year, that is they have had a free year.  After much discussion it was proposed that the 31st December is a warning date.  A letter will be sent out with a second class sae informing the non payers that their membership will be terminated on January 31st, and that they will therefore loose any rights to publications, their Cuthbert’s leadership, Club insurance, their use of club tackle and the right to members rates at the Belfry, the return of their Belfry key would also be requested.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Dave Turner.
Seconded: Nigel.
For 35, Against 0, Abstentions 0

The Chairman asked the Committee to look into individual membership cards and to consider hardship cases on their merits.  It was agreed by all that the Club took a dim view of people taking it for a ride.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Tim Large.
Seconded: Dave Turner.
Carried unam.

Tackle Master's Report

Previously published in the BB.

Rob Harper informed the AGM that he had recently left two ladders in caves and was unlikely to retrieve them in the near future

.............. except it was probably OK as they were Wessex ladders!

Mike Wilson said that:

1.                    The drop tester was nearing completion

2.                    Tackle bags are still going missing.  Brian Prewer suggested yellow bags and a permanent marker.  Phil Romford also suggested we could probably buy customized ones at the same price.

Blitz asked as to the current locations of our survey kits.  Mike replied that one set was with Blitz, one set had been stolen from Trevor's car and was probably not covered on any insurance.  The third set was missing.  There was some considerable discussion.  Blitz said that he had one set that had been given to him by the Philippines expedition, that this was used in India last November and taken to Pakistan and China this summer.  It would be required for India in February 1994.

Rob Harper proposed that the club buy another set as soon as possible and consider buying a third set if our third set did not appear following a plea in the BB.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Rob Harper.
Seconded: Blitz.
For 25, Against 6, Abstentions 5

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Jingles.
Seconded: Mac.
Carried with one abstention.

BB Editor's Report

Previously published in the BB.

Ted asked that the meeting appreciate that J Rat has saved the club a small fortune in postage by distributing BB s.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac.
Seconded: Rob Harper.
Carried with two abstentions.

A vote of thanks was then proposed to Ted for all his work over the last few years.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Blitz.
Seconded: Mac.
For 35, Against 1, Abstentions 1

Hon Treasurer's Report

This was handed out at the meeting and the Treasurer explained that due to his only having received the last batch of hut sheets from the Hut Warden that week and that the Auditor having been on holiday the accounts are not audited.  It was agreed that the meeting would vote on their acceptance subject to auditing and that Barry should publish his auditor's report as soon as possible.

Dave Turner asked as to why we had so much money in the Cuthbert’s Account.  He then proposed that we pay back 50% of the pledges now. Blitz explained that the original 22 pledgers had been written to and of those 5 required their money back, these had been paid.  The other 17 people agreed to loan their money for an additional year.  Ian Caldwell said that probably the only people who should be discussing this were the 17 people concerned.  Blitz said that only six of the 17 were present.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Dave Turner.
Seconded: Mac.
For 19, Against 4, Abstentions 9

Dave further also proposed that the new Committee consider paying back another 50% if the balance rises above £800 in the coming year.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Dave Turner.
Seconded: Mac.
For 24, Against 0, Abstentions 9

Dave Turner next asked about BMC membership.  The Treasurer replied that as no one had so much as mentioned membership, staying in BMC huts, High magazine etc he had not rejoined.  The AGM accepted that Blitz had not followed the letter of last year's proposal but appreciated the saving that had been made.  Dave also proposed that the new Committee review this decision.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Dave Turner.
Seconded: Phil Romford.
For 25, Against 1, Abstentions 8

Dave then asked about the high printing costs of the BB.  It was agreed that the next BB Editor would look into this.  Dave suggested that Alan Turner may be able to provide a cheaper service.

Bob Cork asked about the £10 we pay to Lloyds for looking after the Deeds to the Belfry.  Blitz suggested that as this was the only bank charge we incurred it was best left well alone.  Dave Turner suggested that we could take out a minimal mortgage on the Belfry and use the Deeds as security.  Blitz also suggested they could be lodged with the Club archives.

Jeff said that he would take Cuthbert’s fees in advance at the time of booking in an attempt to not lose income.  Blitz accepted that some of this might be in the accounts as donations from the box on the Changing Room.  The fees would be £1 per head.

Blitz said he would investigate income from hut keys and that this would be presented to the auditor in the final accounts.

Blitz suggested that we acknowledge the free fire extinguisher service that we had received this year, with grateful thanks to Ron Wyncoll.

The subject of Belfry electricity was next raised.  There was a long discussion as to the possibility of operating a coin meter system for the lights.  The debate went around in the usual ever decreasing circles as per previous years until Mac suggested that this was another job for the Committee, that the electricity consumption be reviewed in the light of the removal of the storage heaters.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac.
Seconded: Rob Harper.
For 29, Against 3, Abstentions 3

Somebody, probably Dave Turner asked about Central Heating costs.  Blitz answered that no oil had been bought this last year but that we would need to buy some soon.  Nigel explained that he buys in bulk, at discount, for the Belfry and a consortium of houses.  It was suggested that the Committee look into buying the oil prior to the imposition of VAT in April.

For provisional acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Rob Harper.
Seconded: Tim Large.
For 32, Against 0, Abstentions 3

Auditor's Report

The Auditor was unable to comment on the accounts for the reasons given in the Treasurer's report.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report

Jeff gave a brief verbal report.  He stated that no grants had been given in the last year.  He undertook to publish the conditions for a grant.

A proposal was then made by Mac that the BEC do not transfer any money to the IDMF this year.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac.
Seconded: Rob Harper.
For 34, Against 1, Abstentions 3

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.

Proposed: Phil Romford.
Seconded: Rob Harper.
Carried unam.

Librarian's Report

Previously published in the BB.

The Treasurer read out a letter from the Librarian saying that he is not happy to continue.  It was requested that the new Librarian publish a list of Library contents and any new acquisitions.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac.
Seconded: Mike Wilson.
Carried unam.

St Cuthbert’s Report

Blitz said most of this had been covered already in the Treasurers report.

Dave Turner said it was essential that we must accept that the St Cuthbert’s Report is going to be a long term issue.

Andy Sparrow asked what was happening about a locked box, locked with the Cuthbert’s lock, containing Cuthbert’s reports that leaders could sell.  Nigel said that this was in hand again after our experiences with the Belfry thief.

The Treasurer again drew the meetings attention to his report.  If it were not for the 17 pledgers who are carrying the club we would be £1800 in debt.  Everyone must sell them.  Rob Harper suggested repaying the 17 people's pledges in Cuthbert’s reports.

1992-93 Committee

Bob said that only six of last years Committee were prepared to stand again additional nominations were required.  Blitz informed the AGM that Jingles had been proposed and seconded by Martin Grass and himself but not in sufficient time to meet the AGM deadlines.  A nomination for Estelle Sandford was also received from the floor.  Her nomination was supported by the Committee.

For acceptance of Jingles to the Committee.

Carried unam with 2 abstentions.

For acceptance of Estelle to the Committee.

Carried unam with 3 abstentions.

It was then announced that Estelle was not yet a ratified member and in the light of this information the vote was called again.

For acceptance of an un-ratified Estelle to the Committee.

Carried unam with 1 abstentions.

Post                                                       Proposer                              Seconder

Secretary:            Martin Grass.              Phil Romford.                       Mac.
                            Carried with 1 against.

Hon Treasurer:     Chris Smart.               Mike Wilson                         Andy Sparrow
                            Carried with 1 against and 1 abstention.

Caving Secretary:                                 Jeff Price                             Mr. Nigel   Blitz      Carried unam.

Tackle Master:     Mr Wilson.                  Phil Romford.                       Mac.                     Carried unam.

Hut Warden:         Estelle Sandford.         Babs Williams                      Mike Wilson          Carried unam.

Hut Engineer:       Tim Large.                  Phil Romford.                       Mr Nigel.
                            Carried unam.

BB Editor:             Jingles.                      Rob Harper                          Jeff Price
                            Carried with 1 against and 1 abstention.

Membership Sec  Mr Nigel.                    Brain Prewer                        Mac
                            Carried with 1 against.

Possible commercial interests/conflicts of interest were then asked to be revealed.  Chris Smart declared that he was no longer the Treasurer of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs.

Non-Committee Posts

 

Post                                                       Proposer                              Seconder

Librarian:             Dave Turner.               Mike Wilson.                        Mr. Nigel.
                            Carried unam.

Auditor:                Barrie Wilton.              Mac                                    Mr. Nigel
Carried with 1 against and 1 abstention.

Mid Week Warden: Brian Prewer.
                            Carried unam.

Archivist:              Alan Thomas.             Mac.                                  Mr. Nigel
                            Carried unam.

At this point Rob Harper suggested that the Chairman be instructed to discuss the club archives at length with Alan Thomas.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Rob Harper.
Seconded: Chris Smart.

This was then amended that both Alan and Bob come to the next convenient Committee meeting to discuss the archives.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
Proposed: Barry Wilton.
Seconded: Mr Nigel.

The Chairman over ruled both the proposal and the amendment and no vote was taken.

MRO Team Leader: Phil Romford and Alan Turner were elected by the Committee as joint team representatives earlier in the year, to be reviewed at the AGM. Both stated that they were happy for this sharing to continue.  The AGM accepted this arrangement.

Carried with 1 abstention.

CSCC Representative: This was deferred to AOB.

Members Resolutions

  1. The BEC instructs the BEC Committee to invite only one guest per club to its annual dinner.

Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Tim Large.

Nigel explained that inviting guests (from three other clubs and the guest of honour) incurred a penalty of over £1 per ticket buyer.  There was considerable discussion and Dave Turner suggested no guests at all.

For acceptance of the resolution by the meeting.
For 32, Against 1, Abstentions 1

  1. This AGM instructs the BEC Committee to write to each life member to ascertain their current interest in the club

Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Brian Prewer.

This was originally part of a larger proposal that sought to request a voluntary annual donation from the life members.  In the discussion this second part was withdrawn.  The feeling of the AGM was that these members did now represent a financial liability but that we have made a moral, if not a legal, contract with them and this must be binding.

For acceptance of the resolution by the meeting.
For 20, Against 11, Abstentions 3

  1. This AGM instructs the BEC Committee to receive only cash type subscriptions.

Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Tim Large.

Nigel explained that in the last year there had been an element of confusion as to whether or not certain members were paid up or not, their subs having been paid in kind.

Blitz and Quiet John agreed that there had been some confusion but Blitz thought that the system was workable and that we did in fact benefit overall. The AGM disagreed.

For acceptance of the resolution by the meeting.
Carried with 1 Against and 1 Abstention.

Any Other Business

Direction of the Belfry

This had been held over from Matters arising from the 1992 AGM minutes.  There was a general feeling, following a heated discussion that we should not be pursuing exclusive private hire of the Belfry at any time, but that we should not exclude commercial use midweek on a commercial basis. Mac said that this was very much against BEC feelings in the past.  He suggested that as this AGM was inquorate then this subject needed a full airing in the BB.

Subscriptions

The Treasurer proposed no increase this year.  After some discussion it was proposed that the subs were kept fixed at £24 single membership and £36 joint membership for people paying between January 1st 1994 and January 31st 1994.  The early payment discount to be £20 single membership and £30 joint membership for payments received up until January 1st 1994.  The AGM proposed that the full membership fees would stand after the January 31st 1994 deadline but the renewal of membership was at the discretion of the Committee.

Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Tim Large.
Carried with 1 Against and 1 Abstention.

Membership

Alan Turner asked Blitz to confirm that he and Kirsten Turner were joint members as she did not appear on the membership lists.  Blitz said that joint membership had been agreed at the Committee meeting immediately following the 1992 AGM and said he would look into the membership lists.

CSCC

Andy Sparrow asked about the club's representation at CSCC and said that little if anything was published in the BB.  This was accepted by all.  Bob Cork informed him that this was not a fixed position but that the Committee usually sent either the Secretary or Caving Secretary.  Blitz added that as the ex CSCC Treasurer he had kept an unofficial eye on events over the years.  Andy proposed that the Committee nominate a representative so as to ensure continuity.

Proposed: Andy Sparrow. Seconded: Mac.
Carried with 2 Abstentions.

Break-ins

Brian Prewer informed the AGM that car theft was a major problem on Mendip with up to 17 in a single weekend. Action is needed by both cavers and ramblers and he requested that the BEC send representatives to any relevant meetings.  The AGM fully concurred with his sentiments.

Use of the Belfry

It was proposed that no accommodation would be offered or tolerated in the loft.

Proposed: Alan Turner. Seconded: Dave Turner.
Carried with 6 Abstentions.

Belfry Break in

Nigel informed us that a gentleman had been arrested last Monday and was helping the police with their enquires concerning two thefts at the Belfry earlier in the year.

There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting at 1614.


 

Diving In Oman.

From a letter from Bob Hill written earlier this year .....

Oman has a mountain range along its North-East coast with peaks up to 3000m.  A lot of the surface geology is limestone and the potential for caves is enormous. Unfortunately due to the rather waterless environment, cave development is not what it might be.  Having said that though, I have had some very interesting trips to a few sites and am planning some more.  Distance and terrain are a problem here and the sites visited up till now are all close to roads.

Khaf Guhbrat Tanuf is a small stream cave about 1Km long with a year round stream of VERY warm water. It is much too hot in just a thin overall in this place.  A single stream passage is entered at the resurgence and followed for about 600m through one duck to a flowstone pitch of about 6m which is easily free climbable. After another 300m or so the cave used to end at a sump, obviously perched, with a good stream issuing from it. This was obviously worth a dive but I had to wait until my then caving buddy, and local BS-AC club diving officer, had left the country as he promised to expel me from the diving club if I started dragging my pony up this passage.  He went to Norway a few months ago and I revisited the sump soon after. A dive of about 8m (no depth) leads to 30m of passage followed by the stream coming out of a six inch diameter hole in the wall, which may yield to digging.

That same weekend I visited Khaf Hoti, a 5Km through trip in large cave with several abseils, classic fossil and stream passages and a 1km swim near the end.  6 hours fun caving and a lot of Batshit (Batspiss' brother????-Ed.) near the resurgence exit make this an interesting and moderately sporting trip.

Recently I have turned my attention to an altogether more challenging prospect.  Near the village of Tiwi along the coastal track to Sur is a large sinkhole about a kilometre from the sea. The hole is almost certainly the result of collapse and is completely flooded.  It is also very large and very complex with many big chambers and passages. It has been dived in the past to a depth of 60m with a major passage still going down and has had many visits from sports divers, all on base fed line, looking for something challenging - and they all come back with a different description of what it looks like.

I have managed to recruit a couple of like minded souls and we have started by laying line in one direction through a layer of absolute nil vis about 5m thick (this varies) to a depth of 16m in the direction of the sea.  The major problem is now the depth and we are building side mounted kit sets to carry twin 10 or 121 cylinders as we expect to be operating at 30m + before we have laid much more line.

More news on this if; I make any

Bob Hill.


 

"Them Muddy 'Oles"

By Chas.

"You won’t get me down one of them muddy 'oles."  This is more or less what I said to Robin (Gray), less some emphatic expletives, back in 1976, when I accompanied him and a group of our sixth formers to the Mendips.  They had come to cave, I to booze.  Seeing them emerge, each looking like "The creature from the black lagoon" from what looked to me impossibly small, wet and rocky holes, I could not imagine how seemingly intelligent, normal people could actually enjoy this activity.

I had like most tourists visited walk in, walk out show caves on various holidays.  Cheddar and Wookey Hole, St Clements Cave in Hastings, the Blue John Mines at Matlock Bath, Crystal Canyon Cave in Sequoia National Park California.  There were too, many evenings spent playing Skiffle, listening to Jazz, boozing and wenching in Chislehurst Caves Kent but that's another story.

In recent years, coming down to Somerset and visiting The Hunter's, meeting the amazing collection of characters who congregate there, a disturbing and nagging notion had started to grow ... maybe I might like to look into one of them "muddy' oles" after all.  I was teetering on the edge of sanity.  After a lengthy period of hints and begging (not quite on bended knee) my old mate Robin said we would go and have a look at Sandford Levvy .... "We'll see if you like being underground and take a few snaps.  "One of my raisons d'etre being photography, I readily agreed.

So we set out on a sunny Sunday afternoon in June this year.  We drove to the dry ski slope near Sandford, parked and kitted up.  I forced myself into a strange one piece garment decorated with soil and well placed holes.  It seemed two sizes smaller than me and was, it appeared, a PVC coated nylon oversuit.  A site helmet with Petzl lamp and battery pack, my walking boots and I was dressed as a caver, so far so good!

"It's somewhere along this path" says Robin.  We hiked for what seemed like hours along a densely wooded hillside, my oversuit emitting vast amounts of steam!  "I think we've missed it somehow" admitted Robin.  With a merry quip of "Oh how very vexatious!" on my part, we retraced our steps.  A good three quarters of the way back, and nearly hidden by a fallen tree and a kids 'camp' we found, at last, a lowish hole.

In we slid, me on my backside.  The well placed holes allowing a quantity of mud and water to lubricate my nether regions but it didn't seem to matter.  We were in a tunnel, both high and wide, partly paved and about three or four inches deep in water, at least my boots didn't leak.  We strolled to the far end of the passage not attempting to climb a fixed chain in a cross tunnel, as we were assessing possible points to take my snaps.  A light tripod, the camera set on B, the lens at about f8 and 35mm on the zoom range. We fired two small flash guns several times for each of about fifteen exposures, of which two or three are not too bad, great room for improvement.

After what seemed like a few minutes but was in fact two hours, we emerged into daylight. "Where are we going next" says I with the enthusiasm of an innocent.

A few days and a phone call later, Robin and I now joined by Trev, set out for a trip to a "real" cave.  Clad this time in a furry undersuit beneath the oversuit (which was now four sizes smaller than me!!) helmet and wellies.  Across a field and into a bushy dip, there was an iron box which we entered. Down the fixed ladder into a "great Big Cave". "Gor Blimey!!!"  I thought as I followed my companions down and saw, horrified, Rob ooze into and disappear through what looked to me a tiny mousehole with a floor of loose stones and water.  A silent prayer and I slid my bulk after him.  To my great surprise and relief I found that I barely touched the sides and roof.  With much bashing of elbows, knees and helmet I slid, slithered, stumbled and clambered along with my easy moving friends.  Trev and Rob called out the facts that we were in various places with some odd sounding names (well known to those bothering to read these ramblings) . I took their words for it, they had, after all, been there before and anyway I couldn't see!!  Two layers of clothing and many layers of Butcombe inspired flesh equals a very hot lad.  This, coupled with cold cave air caused my specs to achieve a total opaqueness. Sliding my glasses down over my nose and peering over them I saw, in very soft focus, some attractive formations. I voiced my enthusiasm greatly, although somewhat incoherently as my nose was being pinched by my specs.  I sounded like one of life's less fortunates.  Arriving a little breathless at the terminal choke, I was amazed at Trev and Rob's touching faith in me as they suggested that I should lead out!  I have since come to the conclusion that this was so I could be shoved from the rear if necessary.  Off I went, being told to go left, right and up at the appropriate places.  Sweating profusely and gasping like a leaky boiler, with a bit of squeezing and a lot of climbing, a dip through the 'mousehole' and we arrived, all too soon, at the iron box.

What fun!!  I was hooked, even next day when every joint and the bits between were aching.  Bruises and scrapes appeared in picturesque patches on elbows, knees and other places. Sanity had now given way to a troglodyte madness, I had enjoyed myself greatly.

About a fortnight later I was back in Somerset from my S.E. London home, to play washboard with 'The All Weather Welly Band' at Priddy Folk Fayre.  It was, of course, only natural that another trip was mooted ... to the realms of subterranean Mendip.

Robin suggested that Goatchurch Cavern would be different to my previous excursions, it was ... !!! The nearest I can get to a description is Piccadilly Underground station in the rush hour .... hordes of people, it seemed, rushing hither and yon.  Rob and I entered by the Tradesman’s entrance, he lifelined me down a fixed rope and away we went.  Dodging groups of boys and girls of assorted ages going in many and various directions. One group was being led by 'Snab' and we heard his dulcet tones reverberating from above and below, left and right from time to time.

The surfaces we passed over (with, in my case, very unusual parts of my anatomy) were, by much use, glacial in their slipperiness.  Excellent, I found, for going down.  Getting up was going to be something else though.  Rob called out various names.  Caves seem to have some oddly named sections.  One, "The Coffin", loomed large in my fevered imagination.  I was, of course, by now boiling hot and misty spectacled again.  All too soon we were on our way out/up.  It was then I found that my boots had minds of their own, wanting to go mostly .... down!!  With the help of Rob's knees, shoulders, head and whatever else of him I could stand on, we arrived at the entrance again, in spite of my ineptitude on the rope.  I emerged hot and totally shattered; a great morning’s fun.  Next morning ... the agonizing joints and muscles, bruises and scrapes appeared in glorious Technicolor and almost stereophonic sound!

Another visit to Somerset, this time to play with the band at "Folk in the Bath" at Cheddar and to celebrate Anita and Snab’s 25th anniversary.  The opportunity for more caving was demanded by me. Rob said "If there is some rain 'Swillies' should be good."  England were losing a test match to Australia so, of course, the heavens opened for several days.  The following Wednesday evening, among several vehicles parked on Priddy green, our party assembled, six in all.  Along with your chronicler were Robin, Trev, Davey and two lads from Felsburg, Jens and Amin.

Once kitted up we set off across the fields to the entrance of the famous Swildons Hole.  (I'd seen this cave, with many "faces" from The Hunter's, on 999 on the telly so I knew it was famous.)  In we went, a distant sound of rushing water accompanying my wheezing.  Not a great deal of water at first but as we got further down the others made gleeful sounds of approval as the streamway gushed over our wellies.  The way was, of course, all downhill, so slithering and crawling, down we went.  My knees, elbows and bum coming into frequent violent contact with unyielding rock, as did my helmet, without which what remains of my brain cells could have been totally disposed of.  Then came a ladder pitch, a new experience for me.  It was, of course, in a waterfall so I twisted and spun down, with a reasonable impression of Niagara entering first one ear then the other.  Not content with flooding my memory, it entered my oversuit (still several sizes smaller than me) went down my neck and filled my boots from the inside.  The next highlight was Double Pots.  I negotiated the first with "great skill" only to become a fully baptized "Son of Mendip" at the second.  Completely wet, inside and out, my glasses by now had become almost vision proof so all was exceeding well!  Real caving ... Great fun!!

After much squeezing (and bumping by me) as well as straddling apparently bottomless chasms and wading through raging torrents we arrived at our goal for this trip .... Sump One.  By this time I was puffing and blowing and feeling somewhat "Cream Crackered", unlike my companions who had barely broken sweat.  With closing time looming up at a fast rate of knots I realised with horror that it would be all uphill!!  After a short "blow" and a bite of snickers, we proceeded up.

Those familiar with cycling will have heard of a rather rude sounding condition .... "The Bonk". It is far from being a state of sexual arousal, but is a total draining of the body's energy.  I was at the start of the inclined rift when it struck!!  I tried to ease myself up only to get progressively lower, not what was intended at all.  My legs seemed to be made of jelly as did my arms and I began to feel a little apprehensive.  With a little help from my friends (a lot in fact) at length the obstacle was, at last conquered. Then with frequent rests and pounding heart I gasped squeezed and clambered onward, until there was a strange smell to the air and we surfaced. A hurried paddle through some particularly soft and aromatic cowpats back to the changing room at the farm.

Wet things off, dry things on and a quick dash to The Hunter's for a reviving pot of Butcombe and many thanks to the other chaps for helping an exhausted, bruised but very happy idiot.

I should now confess to those who haven't met me that I am not quite in the first flush of youth, but am a lumpy fifty three year old who in March of 1992 had a quintuple heart bypass operation.  (There is a rumour that when the surgeons opened me up and proceeded to reroute my plumbing, a B.E.C. sticker was found in my Aorta!!  All I want to know is how and who??!!)

It would seem to be a rather daft time to take up a "dangerous sport”, but I have never been cursed with a lot of sense, so why not?

I have now also visited Waterwheel Cave and Brownes Hole and can't wait for the opportunity to get down one of "Them Muddy  Oles" again.

Chas; a new and proud member of the B.E.C


 

My Mate He Is a Caver

Sung to the tune of "The Smuggler" by Ian Woods.

My mate he is a caver, he goes down underground,
He squeezes and he thrutches, new passages he's found,
Oh and he climbs down them pitches with his hands upon the line,
Is a mendip caver down where the sun don’t shine.
 
He goes down to Bat Products to buy his caving boots,
And then he visits Kermit to get his oversuits,
There is carbide in his Fisma there is charge in his NiFe cell,
He knows about them ladders and S.R.T. As well.

He goes down into Swildons all on a Friday night,
Where he do find a boy scout, who hasn't got a light,
Oh and if he cannot move him he do give him the heave ho
Then goes to Brian Prewer - to call the M.R.O.

On Wednesdays he goes digging, with Snablet and with Jake,
He takes his vacuum cleaner down into Barrow Rake,
And when he turns it on - it sucks out the CO2,
Then Alex tumbles down the pitch and turns the air quite blue.

The Wessex and the Shepton, he treats them with disdain,
But he do like the Hunter's, yes he'll go there again,
Whenever he is able he is caving fast and free,
And ask him which his club is, he'll say the B.E.C.

My mate he is a caver, he goes down underground,
He squeezes and he thrutches, new passages he's found,
Oh and he climbs down the pitches with his hands upon the line
Is a mendip caver, down where the sun don’t shine.

Jingles '93.


 

Isis.

By Fish.

The Earth hath bubbles, as the water has and these are of them.  Wither are they vanished? 

Macbeth Act 1. Scene 4.

Dan gazed out from "Crook's Rest" control into the mists of Avalon's Vale, today the view brought him no pleasure.  As acting controller of the 2020 Wookey push, he was feeling old and alone in having to give account for the loss of Faith Gail Berg.  She had not died, Dan could have coped with that ,Gail's existence had simply ceased.  Time and again he had followed her inertial guidance track on the log, only for it to stop to be replaced by the computer's infernal green blip.  Gail's young life's trace had ended 0505 December 24 whilst complying with a routine decompression stop at the shallow/deep junction, shortly after her last communication recorded on the vocal log, a request for the relay of a video to help her pass the time.  Subsequent searches had failed to reveal her body or to shed any clues as to her disappearance so close to journey's end.

Dan felt her loss sharply. Gail had arrived out of an undergraduate's obscurity and it had been his help and sponsorship that had gotten her the coveted diver's status.  Physically she was both powerful and slender, her face held striking pre-Raphaelite Celtic features, excepting her hair, no not long red tresses but worn short, within millimetres of her scalp.  It gave her a boyish air which coupled with an impish playfulness had driven the boys wild. Gail was also fiercely independent, if she had a lover she was discreet, choosing to keep her Mendip peers strictly at arms length.

Another part of her crafted mystique was her beloved 916 Ducati, archaic transport today but her skill with the motorcycle could not be denied.  Gail had passed him on several occasions whilst riding around.  Dan recalled vividly the image of the curved arc of her back arched gracefully between the seat and the bars, her thighs forced astride the scarlet fuel tank.  En passant she would raise the tip of her boot and scribe a small circle in the air, as to whether the gesture was in greeting or contempt, Dan could never decide.  Then in a single fluid movement she would lift her lithe body up onto the foot pegs, her pert derriere climbing up over the saddle as she hauled the bellowing beast down into the next bend to exit in a crimson blur.

The stage within Dan's mind darkened with the fading of the Ducati's booming exhaust.  Enter the magician who could procure her release with spells weaved in the logic of coincidence and fate that cohabits so uneasily with reason in the twilight of all our minds.  Dr Sefton A. Longwood.  Imperious Sefton whose intellectual arrogance had commanded Dan's subordination.  Sefton: thin features, thinner hair and an unpredictable tight bound aggression that he shared with his father and Dan hadn't liked him either.  By training Sefton was a geophysicist and he was also Mendip's current geological guru.

"Know anything about Bouger anomalies?" Sefton had asked.  Dan had responded in the negative and received the condescending answer, “It's a geology student's trick question, not your province exactly, is it Dan!?"  Sefton continued with a layman's definition by describing them as local gravitational distortions that occur when bodies of greater or lesser density are found within strata of uniform density, a useful fact to have at hand when prospecting for metallic ores and you happen to have a gravimeter.

Sefton went on to explain that his current research was into the lighter, or to give it its proper term, the' negative Bouger anomaly’.  He was exploring the known chain of both negative and positive Bougers beneath Avalon and their relationship with Mendip's southern scarp.  He was hoping to prove that the negative anomalies were remnants of the paleozoic era's subduction event that had given birth to the batholiths of magma that had pushed up through the fresh devonian sediments to form the granite moors of Devon and Cornwall.  Further north he was proposing that plutons had become trapped like hot air balloons filled with magma floating beneath a sky of tougher carboniferous rocks and were now the sources of radioactive gas that had leaked out into the Mendip area.

As Sefton's survey progressed he could not help but notice that his work had been duplicated several thousand years before him.  He noted that the focus of each negative anomaly always coincided with one of the area's mystical sites.  Bemused by the fact that wherein he was armed with state of the art technology, his ancient predecessor's unerring accuracy was achieved with little more than a hazel twig.

Thus Sefton had been drawn into realms of mysticism, of laylines, legend and how those Celtic priests could manipulate the fabric of time at the sites of what they believed were the gateways to the other world.  Sefton began to toy with the relationship of observed time within an increased field of gravity according to the laws of relativity and contemplated what time was inside a negative Bouger, perhaps those old beliefs should not be so easily and curtly dismissed.

Sefton began a speculative search of the areas literature and was rewarded by serendipity whilst browsing through Savory's journal of early Mendip exploration and the brief mention of something that had happened on a visit to Wookey in 1911.Savory did not dwell on that occurrence although he went on at length to give reasons for similar phenomena witnessed at a later date.  The author does however refer the reader to his report on the 1911 incident that was to be published in Balch's forthcoming book on the cave.  Intrigued, Sefton turned to Balch's book to find the eerie account of a phantom party that could be heard but not seen.  In Sefton it sparked an uncanny parallel with the C.D.G.'s record of their first fatal accident at Wookey.   Could it be possible that Savory's party had been eavesdroppers on a tragedy that was not to happen until almost 40 years into their future?  Had Balch inadvertently published what Sefton was seeking, evidence of the distortion of time?  Sefton produced a photocopy of the original caving diary entries made by other members of the 1911 expedition that he discovered in the M.N.R.C. archives.  At a glance, Dan could see that the entries would not have made sense in 1911, they included diving terms that did not exist in the English language until after 1920.  The ensuing silence between them was broken by Sefton pronouncing, with a distinct chill in his voice, "Just such an event may have put Gale out of phase from our observed time frame!"

Sefton strode up to the survey of the known cave mounted on the wall and declared "Do you know what this place possesses other than legend, well I'll tell you Dan, although the cave lies within a Bouger anomaly that has an overall mean value of -1, its focus is one of the most powerful yet discovered!"  Sefton pulled out a notebook and began a series of quick-fire questions, stabbing a finger at the survey all the while.  "Is this the place called the junction where Gale was last known to be?  The time about five after five a.m.?  This feature here, is it the limestone - conglomerate boundary? “He muttered aside "God's transistor."

Sefton said "Do you know what occurred just after five 0 clock this morning?  It was high tide Dan, maximum local terra gravitational flux, that was the trigger for the 'event' and Gale was unfortunately in its field."  He continued "Savory gave us not only the date in 1911 but also the time, from the diving logs we can derive the time when that hapless party dragged a lifeless body onto the floor of the third chamber, on their respective dates both times correspond with the high tide of the full moon!"

There was concern in Dan’s voice as he asked how Gail fitted into Sefton's scheme of the universe. Sefton slowly drew his breath, considering his answer, "Gale is still here in Wookey, only the clock she now observes is that of the sun, sidereal time.  She will be aware that she has left Wookey 20, she suspects that her dive and communication systems are down, her onboard computer will dictate the need for a decompression stop and she has decided to do so at the shallow/deep junction.  Gale can approach but never quite reach that nexus as that rendezvous is now in her past. She will dimly know that something is very wrong but her awareness is that of the cave diver, no past, no future only the battle for 'now'!"  Sefton’s eyes were glazedly fixed on the survey as he said  "Oh yes, time's sea will give up its dead, come the tides of spring's equinox her body will be found, corrupted, her gas supply long exhausted; it's not the first time it has happened is it Dan?"

Dan detected an unasked request in Sefton's soliloquy, very gently he said “Sefton, what are you trying to tell me to do?"  Sefton swung his gaze back onto Dan, he became animated saying “You have three hours, the next high tide is the spring tide of the new moon and with its extra power Gale could be released or, "Sefton hesitated .....”  Be replaced, beyond that window of opportunity it doesn't matter as we both know that Gale will dead.  Sefton turned suddenly for the door, its closing slam was like a blow that left Dan in a confused desolation.

It was high tide minus two hours; Dan decided that he needed to be out in the sharp, razored air, he needed to think and decided to walk along the path toward the cave.  It was on the path that Dan encountered Gail's familiar, the pale winter light glinted on its scarlet bodywork ... wheels of fire! Involuntarily Dan reached out to touch it, to be reassured by its existence.  Out of the mist Sefton appeared beside the machine, his former arrogance had deserted him, now he seemed as mad as Lear on the heath, blinded by an incomprehensible personal grief.  Sefton held out a time worn envelope saying "I swore that I would never do this but now there is no choice.  Dan recognised the handwriting, it was addressed to him and as he read Sefton added "My mother died two years ago, Gale is my sister, and she chose to use her grandmother's maiden name."  Dan looked up from the letter and watched the slip sinking sun, there would be no visible moon tonight but her invisible force, now, was ever rising towards her unforeseen zenith in the beckoning darkness.  Dan shuddered; knowingly he had to relinquish control of his own destiny to that of the moon and sun's conspiracy.  Sefton was right, there was no choice.

"Crook's Rest, I have arrived at 13!"  Dan could hear within the confines of his C. D. G. systems helmet, the muffled clack of a distant keyboard back at the base.  The sound helped to suppress the feeling of surreality that threatened to push him over an unknown edge.  The swim to 13 had been made on automatic inertial guidance, a mistake, as it had given him time to reflect, turning the journey into a pilgrimage through his own life. Dan's mind became refocused by the ever changing time base on his face plate, ticking away at him in dumb accusation. In his vision's periphery another series of figures on the head up display reduced his existence to mere numbers within this Mendip hill.  The coordinates of his being calculated by satellites to be logged by computers; his slightest movement would allow the third decimal place to race and its spinning helped to induce a whirl of vertigo as he peered down the unearthly shaft into the mystery of the subterranean river axe.

Dan hated the virtual reality screen's representation, it was real enough to make him feel as though he could fall into that river below him and be swept away forever.  He squeezed a sensor in his glove; his eyes immediately narrowed in the fierce white light of the helmets lamps as they obliterated that hellish view.  Dan squeezed his glove again, now there was only the dark glow of the instruments bathing his features in a deathly pallor.

In the darkness Dan thought that perhaps this thirteenth chamber did not exist, it had never existed, until that fateful night when its existence meant life or death for its discoverer, perhaps it was like an Aboriginal song line and that Davies' sheer will to survive had dreamed it into being.  This barren place served no purpose other than as a refuge.  Then Dan became overwhelmed by a feeling of foolishness, had Sefton lured him here with his weird reasoning?  A young Hamlet's revenge on a man whom he perceived as wronging the memory of his father.  Dan was about to call up control but hesitated, the time base display had stopped its ceaseless run, it was now locked in a flashing insistence; it was time!

The soft whine of hydro turbines filled the shaft as Dan began his slow descent into the stygian river. A phrase from Dylan’s parable of betrayal between the sexes ran as an endless loop through his thoughts “Lilly had taken all the red dye out of her hair" ... it was the point in the narrative when Lilly and Rosemary are revealed to be one person and Dylan acknowledges the loss of his wife as a lover as she becomes transformed into the Goddess Isis; custodian of all that men most fear within the feminine mystery; desire, fertility, the future as yet unborn and ultimately redemption. Isis daughter of the moon, sister, wife and mother of Osiris; Dan too was ensnared in her web.  In 13's green twilight Dan saw a vision of Clare as he had known her all those years ago.  A small dark look of doubt flickered across her face; an eerie backlight illuminated the highlights in her long auburn hair.  She turned towards him with a radiant smile of recognition.  Dan yearned to reach out to her, to tell her why they had parted, he unknowing that she was carrying their child.  Gail was his daughter, he knew that now.  The circle was almost closed, Dan owed God a death and if this was the tryst that fate demanded, he was prepared to give his life so that Gail might live.  Clare's spectral vision began to fade from his consciousness, only then did he become aware of the sound.  Dan's throat tightened as pain stabbed across his chest and terror strangled the fibre of his being.  He could hear it plainly now as it came towards him.  He knew that sound so well.  The thin metallic hiss followed by the explosive rumble of exhausted compressed air.  A sound forgotten by cave divers for almost 20 years.  Whoever it was below him was not of this time.


 

B.E.C. Team Practice Rescue

Saturday 4th December 1992.  1000 hrs. at the Belfry.

The objectives of this day are to familiarise ourselves with a range of equipment held in the MRO store. Brian Prewer has kindly agreed to allow us an open day, provided that this doesn't conflict with a real rescue!

I would like to see all new members attend this day, since you may not have seen or used much of this specialist gear.  It may also be useful to older members who are out of practice.  In particular we will look at the Hot Air Kit, Entenox and the stretcher.  An emphasis will be on the proper implementation of the drag sheet and stretcher and, carrying/hauling techniques.  If it is available to us, we will learn to use the Molephone and conduct correct and effective radio procedure.

After looking at and using this kit, we will progress to a surface exercise, where we can put some of the ideas into practice.  This will be doing rigging and hauling in the nearby trees where, we can all clearly see what is going on.

After an early evening break, Andy Sparrow has offered the use of the Gym at the Wells Blue School.  Andy will have a scaffold erected, from which we will demonstrate various lifting methods. We are all free then to try these methods and form our own conclusions as to their efficacy.  This session will be from approx 1900 to 2100hrs.  Then, if you really have to, you may go to the pub!

This session costs you nothing, but will offer you valuable knowledge ready for the real thing. PLEASE MAKE THE EFFORT.

For further information or to book your place, contact Phil Romford

P.S.

I am aware that some people may have a problem with Saturdays.  I would therefore like to obtain a consensus of opinion on whether we run these sessions Saturdays or Sundays.  Perhaps we should alternate?  Please give feedback.

Thanks

Phil Romford.


 

Odds & Sods ...

This page, which will hopefully become a regular feature, is a forum for any notices, announcements or info members wish to make public.... Lost & Found, For Sale etc. Feel free to make use of it.

The AGGY key is now kept in the locked key cupboard at The Belfry. See Committee members to book it out.

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PLEASE NOTE: NO SLEEPING IN THE LOFT AT THE BELFRY AS IT IS NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH FIRE REGULATIONS/INSURANCE ETC.

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ROBIN GRAY would like to invite all cavers to view an exhibition of paintings, drawings and photographs (by Robin) at the Woodspring Museum Gallery, Weston-Super-Mare.  Every day between 10.00 and 5.30 from Weds 3rd November until Sun 28th November.

Signed copies from original drawings will be available.... could make interesting Xmas pressies.

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GLENYS GRASS would like it known that as a result of the 'uncalcified ads' run in the last B.B. offence has been taken.

The editor would like to apologise unconditionally for any problems that may have been caused to individuals as a result of this.  It seems that the telephone number published for Glenys' visiting massage service was incorrect and business has been lost due to this.  The Correct number (for those of you suffering from 'Executive Stress' and in need of 'relief') is WOOKEY 12  0 0 OOHH.

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Warmbac Oversuit .... missing from The Belfry.  New Warmbac with yellow & blue patches on the bum, if anyone has inadvertently removed this please contact Jingles C/O The Belfry.

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And Finally ..... overheard at the A.G.M. from a certain chairperson (who shall remain nameless) to a certain new librarian (who shall also remain nameless) .......

"Look, I wrote the F***ing Amendment .... so shut up!!!"

Nice to know the membership still flexes its intellectual muscle from time to time!