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

 

1993 - 1994 Committee

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


 

The Christmas Editorial

Well i'll start by wishing you all a very merry christmas and a happy new year, seeing as how its that time of year (yet) again.   It doesn't seem like five minutes since the last one to me, still it's the festive season again and this is the xmas ish.   I've had to cobble this one together quite quickly to get it out in time (hopefully), i apologise in advance to anyone who gets it after xmas, i'm doing my best.   You will notice that some articles have not been retyped, this again is due to lack of time on my part but i felt it better to include them anyway.   Many thanks to those of you who have contributed articles - please don't stop writing - and also to anyone who has helped out in other ways, particularly J-Rat for his help with the distribution (and others too numerous to name here).

This being the xmas ish i'd better report on the xmas dinner held at the Wellsway on 11.12.93.

By 8.30 there were some 65 of us assembled at the aforementioned hostelry, most already getting stuck into the (cheap) beer.   The atmosphere being one of general conviviality.   There seemed to be a contingent from each of the local clubs (even the Wexies!!).

Xmas dinner was served up and in some cases actually eaten, but it is true to say that a fair bit found its way to the Wexie table by other methods that were to say the least airborne, resulting in the temporary evacuation of a table or two by those not wishing to wear dinner.  (Vince knows nothing about this at all !!)

Eventually dessert was served, the wait caused by the highly attractive waitresses (not that i noticed them you understand) having to remove quantities of the first course from the walls.

By this time people were getting 'into the swing of things' - which roughly translates as pissed.  B.E.C. Get everywhere stickers were doing just that, getting everywhere, including onto dubious parts of other pubgoers anatomies and i gather the inside of Glenys' trousers!?!?  And things deteriorated nicely from thereon in!!!

At least Glenys still had trousers unlike Estelle who had hers forcibly converted into shorts (culprits anonymous see Estelle for details)

The rest of the night was a disco/pissup which seemed to be enjoyed by all, i even saw Rich Blake "dancing" at one point (i use the phrase loosely).   This went on until the early hours of Sunday morning generating a few king sized hangovers in the process.   Those that did surface the next day had had a good time.    I can't speak for the rest.

A vote of thanks to Estelle for her efforts in organising it.

Well thats about it from me, on with the rest of the issue, save to say comments are welcomed, also please note my new address inside cover.  Estelle has also moved and i will publish her new address as soon as i can, she can be contacted at the Belfry/Hunters in the meantime……….ta ta for now & Merry Xmas…..Jingles


 

Letter

Mr & Mrs RP. & M Hill,
Muscat.
Sultanate of Oman.

The Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

September 5, 1993.

Dear Sir,

During my recent brief visit to Mendip I was interested to hear some of the banter in the Hunters concerning the membership fees for 1993.

Out of interest took the figure for 1978-79, when I joined, which if I recall was £8, and compounded it at 8% per annum.  I think this is a reasonable average rate of inflation over the years.  The result was £25.38p.  I think those who complain about £20 a year should think again.  I cannot remember what Hut fees were in those days but I suspect that they have barely kept pace with inflation as well. The phrase that springs to mind to those perenial complainers about membership fees is “You get what you pay in real terms for"!!

It would seem to me to be logical to assume that as The Belfry gets older the cost of maintaining it will increase.  Therefore we should be anticipating raising a real term increase in income to pay for this. The argument for how to collect this money, Hut fees or Membership fees, is of course an emotive one in this club. My own opinion is that, without a base, the club would cease to exist in very short order.  It must therefore be the responsibility of all members to ensure the continued survival of our headquarters.

On a sour note for a minute I have been "accused in public" so to speak of not paying my hut fees.  This I have found out today when I received my April BB!!!!!!!!!!!

It was sent to me surface mail!!

I did receive a BB in February but unfortunately there was no mention of the fees fixed at the AGM I wrote to the Membership Sec. (Airmail) receiving no reply and finally deposited a Cheque in the Hut fees box on a visit in May.  This cheque has not been cashed so I expect it to be returned or destroyed.  I have since paid my dues for this year and will willingly pay those for next year as soon as the amount is decided provided somebody has the wherewithal to let me know how much!!!

What I really object to is the manner in which my name is highlighted in the BB as a bad boy when a personal approach would have prevented me from having to point out where the incompetence really lies.

To sum up then: Please fix the fees sensibly this year, put them in the BB, send it to me Airmail, and if you want me to pay extra for this service?, I will willingly do so!

Sorry I can't make the Dinner, enjoy it for me!

Bob Hill.


 

How to fit a new one!!

By an anonymous contributor.

A Peeping Tom overheard this conversation in a lay-by near G.B. Cavern

There was a van and two B.E.C. members

One male and one female!!!

(He)      “Shall we strip off here Lover?”

(She)    “O.K. perhaps we should stay in the van.”

(He)      “Can you give me a hand? I always find this a bit difficult.”

(She)    “Sure, but I have never opened one of these packets before.”

(He)      “No worries, you just tear off the strip and pull it out.”

(She)    “WOW!!  It’s big and black!!”

(He)      “Yes, I thought you’d like it. Perhaps you’d like to peel it over.”

(She)    “Bloody Hell!!  I didn’t think I’d need two hands for this.”

(He)      “If you sit on my stomach and pull really hard, it will fit.”

(She)    “Oh God!  I’ve gone and torn it!”

(He)      “That’s totally ruined our fun for tonight, I could only afford one!!”

 

                        …and that’s how a B.E.C. member tried on his very first wetsuit.

                                                (I ‘spec…..you pervs…..!)


 

1993/1994 B.E.C. Committee meetings

These will be held at 20.00, at the Belfry, on the following Friday nights..

5th November

3rd December

7th January

4th February

4th March

8th April

6th May

3rd June

1st July

5th August

2nd September

The A.G.M. and dinner will be held on Saturday 1st October 1994

The A.G.M. will start ay 10.00am at the Belfry


 

Over The Edge

It was all Brian's fault. 'Grotte de Moulin Maquis - that's something different.  I bet few British cavers have been there! he announced.  It transpired that this particular cave opened from a ledge 3/4 of the way down a 400 metre cliff in the Vercors region.  The idea simmered at the back of our minds until one afternoon last summer I suddenly found my legs dangling ever 400 metres of nothing with the Bourne gorge below me.

The Vercors National Park south west of the French city of Grenoble is a cliff girt limestone plateau riven by deep gorges. The mountain peaks at the fringes rise to 2000 metres and are popular with walkers in the Summer - while the winter months provide excellent opportunities for skiing both on piste and cross country.

Cavers have spent decades exploring the subterranean complexities of the region, in the process discovering some of the deepest caves in the world.  Several cave systems emerge in the walls of the Bourne Gorge including the spectacular grottoes at Choranche.  Opposite Choranche the 100 metre high portals of the Grotte de Bournillon are the biggest in Europe but are dwarfed by the cliff adjacent to it over which tumbles the Moulin Maquis waterfall. Our descent would take us down the line of the waterfall.

The French have a name for this sort of activity 'canyonning'; they abseil down cliffs and gorges to leap with glee in and out of plunge pools.  Popular sites have permanent belays and guide books are published to assist the enthusiast.  The Moulin Maquis was no exception; the fixed belay points were reassuringly described as 'bon', and the only warnings were to keep teams to a minimum of three and avoid winter descents when icicles hang suspended over the assailers heads like so many Dameclean swords.

At 4 pm a mud stained trio, who had warmed up in a typical Vercors 'aven' (pothole) could be seen marching through the woods from the tiny village of St. Julien of Vercors.  An ancient muleteers track wends its way steeply down to a choked cave entrance issuing the stream which we, were soon about to accompany. Ropes were laid out, oversuits donned, harnesses attached, and bladders emptied.  The system we were using to make the descent used two ropes, each approximately 50 metres long.  The pull through rope had a loop in one end through which was clipped a karabiner.  The abseil rope was tied to the pull through rope and lowered, the karabiner being used to hold the ropes together below the belay point.  This provided an automatic locking system for the abseil.  When one reached the bottom one pulled on the other rope and theoretically the abseil rope would then be pulled through the karabiner and down the pitch for the next section.

Brian was launched into space first (it was his idea) dropping out of the sun dappled wood onto the brightly lit greenswarded cliff.  A shout two minutes later indicated it was my turn.  After gingerly shuffling about on the tree branch we started from I found myself swinging in space. As I gently dropped I watched the stream splattering over the lush grass growing on its downward path.  Some scrabbly penduluming was required to reach the next ledge where a brief test confirmed the pull through was working before - John the third member of the trio came down.

John arrived.  We tugged the pull through rope and for two minutes it remained obstinately jammed before suddenly snaking down in a heap at our feet.  We were now committed - 360 metres to go and no turning back.  Brian reached into his pocket to consult the hastily drawn sketch map of pitch lengths and belays.  A trouble free descent dropped us onto a wide ledge where the stream provided a cooling shower.  Beyond here we were out of the tree zone with 9 pitches to go.

Progress was slow, for pull throughs became trials of strength.  The sun swung behind a cliff and in shadow the cooling stream lost its attractions.  The pitches began to pass overhangs making the pull throughs even more tricky and each assailer’s arrival would be heralded by showers of tufa and moss tweaked off the cascades.  The ledges shrank and we could understand why, the Guide Book recommended no more than three persons per party.  One memorable ledge was no larger than a coffee table, the only encouraging features being the firmly cemented belay rings to which we attached our 'cows tails'.

Our mood lifted as the lowering sun emerged from its temporary hiding place but sank when on the next pull through the ropes obstinately refused to move even with our combined weights bouncing on it.  The lightest member of the party, Brian (of course) volunteered to prusik back up and release the snag.  We had all taken the precaution of bringing ascending gear hoping we would not have to use it.  We were now glad of our caution.  Even so ascending a single rope which lies over an overhang and which may be rapidly fraying is not a nice experience.  We were both relieved to see Brian again descending at normal speed with the rope running freely.  Things from then on went from bad to worse.

We had started our descent at 5 pm and had asked our wives to meet us near the base of the cliff at 8 pm. Even without problems this was typical caver's optimism for the French gave 4 hours for the descent.  At 8 pm by the light of the sinking sun 2 matchbox sized cars swung into the car park ¼ mile from the base of the cliff.  If we weren't in trouble on the descent we were certainly going to be in it at the bottom!

The wives viewing the cliff were mystified to see dots moving up as well as down.  Unfortunately although we could hear them shouting the sound of the cascade drowned our replies.  The ingredients were in place for what we cavers tend to call an epic (euphemism for cock up).

The situation had now reached the point where we had established a routine in which the last man down was lowered on the down rope to avoid pull through snags.  We landed on the massive ledge from which our original goal the Grotte de Moulin Maquis led.  Time expired, we ignored it pressing on into the deepening twilight. John went first and a few minutes later some shouting suggested he was on the next ledge.  I followed and having located him in the gloom pendulumed across; my residual adrenalin reserves were squeezed dry when I landed on his precarious perch and he announced it had no belay point.  We clutched rock, grass rope and each other while bellowing for Brian to send down the bolt kit (another precautionary item we had packed). It slid down the line like manna from heaven and John began to belt in the self drilling bolts.

Meanwhile, at ground level, the wives were increasingly confused by the toing and froing.  When two lights came on and not a third panic was not far from their thoughts.  There were only two lights because I had decided not to bother with mine - the biggest mistake I made that day.

The bolts were secured, hangers attached and a sling placed, then with a short prayer, John launched onto a pitch of unknown length which thought (hoped) was less than 50 metres! Brian's water stained creased crumpled map seemed to suggest that if we could make the next ledge we could walk off it and scramble down - to the gorge bottom.  John made it with 10 metres to spare and was rapidly joined by Brian and myself.  Rapidly coiling the ropes we blundered our way through bushes and boulders busily concocting the excuses we would need to placate our irate womenfolk and trusting we could still get a cool beer at 11pm.

Canyonning is fun but make sure you give your-self plenty of time for it!

Notes

 

Our guide book for the descent was Infern'eaux published by Didier- and Richard.  ISBN 2-7038-0065-7.  It is available in book shops in the Vercors but not in this country as far- as I am aware.  The techniques for- descent need to be rehearsed properly (as you may have gathered) and one should be prepared for all eventualities.


 

Letter To All Members

The following letter has been received from Tim Hodgson, an old 'Ex' B.E.C. member.

I have written to Tim saying that I will see if there is interest in an expedition to Costa Rica.

If anyone is keen, please let me know.  I would also like to hear from anyone who remembers Tim, he mentions 'Wig' in his letter so he must be very old!!!

Martin Grass.

Full letter follows on next pages ..............

The Secretary, Bristol Exploration Club.
The Belfry, Priddy, Somerset,
England
.

Dear Whoever got stuck with the thankless job.

It’s been many years since I've been in contact with the club, in fact I doubt if anyone will remember me now but I was a member once.

The reason I'm writing is because there are unexplored caves in Costa Rica, and maybe it’s time something was done about it. Costa Rica, as I’m sure you are aware is the country between Panama and Nicaragua, it's not some unknown beach on the south coast of Spain, nor is it to be confused with Puerto Rico.  It’s about the size of Wales.  But, because of its mountains, the highest is over thirteen thousand feet; it has a climate that varies between bloody hot on the coast to freezing on the tops of the mountains.

Between the two extremes are climates to suit everyone.  There are tropical wet forests, tropical dry forests, cloud forests and much more, the country is very beautiful, with a wide variety of fauna and flora.  There all sorts of exotic wild animals, from Jaguars, Tapirs and Peccaries to boa-constrictors, and poison-dart frogs. There are all sorts of tropical fruits and vegetables, most of which are unknown in Europe, but surprisingly things like blackberries and strawberries grow all year round, as does asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower.  San Jose, the capital, is just a little under four thousand feet, and has a very agreeable climate, with an average temperature of about seventy five to eighty degrees all year round.

Costa Rica is volcanic and in an earthquake area.  It is on the joint between the Caribbean and Cocos tectonic plates.  This probably leads to a certain amount of instability in the caves.  Nonetheless there is one show cave with a twenty foot entrance pitch, which fat little old ladies descend on an electron ladder.  Gawd knows how the guides get them out again, but I'm assured they do.

I’ve recently been in touch with a dentist who is an active caver, he tells me that there have been several expeditions from Europe and the U.S.A.  The local cavers assist in every way possible and can usually find horses for transport, and help with accommodation.  They prefer expeditions of a scientific nature but original exploration is not discouraged.  They ask only that they get copies of any surveys or other useful information. They know the location of the bars nearest to cave entrances, and behave like other cavers in that they drink beer, sing songs (in Spanish) and pursue anyone who wears a skirt.  The dentist has promised me more information on the caving association here, and details of the various caving areas.  I’ll send this information on to you as soon as I have it.

It might be interesting to arrange a trip from England in the foreseeable future.  I could help with arrangements at this end, I’m president of a new hotel in the centre of San Jose which could be used as a base.  It’s a very good hotel, and is not to be treated in the same way as some of the establishments we have patronized for our annual dinners in the past!

During a recent tourism exhibition here, there was a travel agent from Bristol called Joanna Clarkson.  She has an agency called Trips, in Clifton Wood Crescent. I spoke to her on the phone about a month ago, and she said she would gladly provide any information she could about Costa Rice, and would be glad to take care of the travel arrangements; should the need arise.  Her phone number is 02-72-xxxxxx.

I would very much like to be able to show the caving association here a sample of the work done by the BEC.  Could you help me be sending me a part of the "Wigs" Cuthbert survey, if he ever finished it, and anything else that might help the locals to know what a good caving club the BEC is.  Keep the cost down, I’m not rich, perhaps you could fax me the cost, and I could arrange for my mother to send you a cheque.

I am enclosing some rubbish about the hotel, and if I can find anything that isn’t too bulky something about Costa Rica.  I hope to here from you in the not too distant future, even if it’s only a copy of the Belfry Bulletin.  I also hope there are some doddering old armchair cavers who still remember me.

Your sincerely,

Tim Hodgson


 

The Song of the CPS

Tune: The Bold Gendarmes. Author: Dickie Ray

Source: Belfry Bulletin No 104 May 1956

We’re Cavern keepers disingenuous,
Of Stalactites we take good care,
We never do anything strenuous,
When danger lurks we’re never there.
But if we see a moderate pothole,
Not too far, and not severe.

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

Some term our duties extra rural,
And little troglodytes we chase,
And when we see formations mural,
We stretch red tape all around the place,
And if we see a natural fountain,
That’s set in nature holy sphere,

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

‘To lock all caverns’ is our motto,
And save the goodly caves from sin,
But just as we are finished,
Some blighter digs another way in,
But with our rope and tape and placards,
We’ll battle onwards, never fear,

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

(CPS - Cave Preservation Society)


 

From Desert Sands To Mountain Snows

A Traverse Of The High Atlas Mountains Of Morocco

Expedition Report

Doctor Andrew Newton FRGS

Introduction

This report describes a traverse of the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco during the Spring of 1993.  The inspiration for this journey came from two previous expeditions to the High Atlas Mountains during the winter months of 1991 and 1992, during which ascents of Jebel Toubkal and Ighil M’Goun were undertaken.  Having climbed in the Atlas mountains with the object of ascending specific peaks I decided that I wished to explore the more remote valleys and uplands of the M’Goun area in an attempt to see more of the "lifestyle” of the local Berber people and document some of the facets of this lifestyle before it is too greatly affected by the development of tourism and trekking within the region.

I set myself the objective of completing a traverse of the High Atlas Mountains from the desert in the south via the Draa valley following the course of the river Draa to its source in the mountain snows of the M’Goun plateau and subsequently descending to the fertile valleys of the Bou Goumez region to the north of the High Atlas chain.

General topography

The Atlas Mountains of Morocco run as a single chain of mountains stretching in a curve from the north-east of the Country to the Atlantic coast near to Agadir in the west. The northern extent of this chain is termed the "Riff". The central section being of moderate elevation is termed the "Middle or Moyen Atlas", whilst the southern section of the range- is known as the "High or Haute" Atlas.  The High Atlas is split into two distinct areas by a mountain pass which runs south east from the city of Marrakech (formerly known as Morocco city).

The south western section of the High Atlas includes the peak of Jebel Toubkal (at 4,165 metres the highest peak in Africa north of the Equator) - whilst the north eastern section of the High Atlas includes the mountainous plateau known as the M’Goun range.

 

Travel to Morocco

Travel to Morocco is very straight forward with regular air services between London Heathrow and Casablanca, the modern capital city of Morocco.  From Casablanca internal flights serve the other major cities within the Country including Marrakech which is regarded as being the normal starting point for expeditions into the mountainous regions of Morocco.  During the winter months the National Airline (Royal Air Moroc) is the only carrier to fly regularly: however, during the summer months regular charter flights are available to the majority of destinations.

Land travel within Morocco is equally straight forward with an efficient National Bus Company (CTM) as well as a number of smaller local bus and coach operators.

Expedition Report

Marrakech makes a wonderful starting point for any journey.  Constantly bustling with humanity the city acts as a commercial centre for the Central High Atlas as well as being a popular tourist destination. The city is split into two sections, the old part or Red City comprising of an ancient medina and kasbah whilst the modern new city boasts luxury hotels and French-style colonial architecture.  The old town or medina is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways bursting with shops and trade stalls selling both local products and tourist goods.  The nearby square (the D'Jna El Fna or 'meeting place of the dead') is famous for its street entertainers, snake charmers and soothsayers.  Around the edge of the square tented fast food stalls offer an amazing variety of Moroccan culinary delicacies.

From Marrakech I journeyed south with CTM over the Tizi-n-Tichna pass to the city of Ouarzazate (in translation literally the 'place where there is no noise').

Ouarzazate is unfortunately a modern town created for the tourist industry.  However, it does serve as a useful starting place for journeys in the south of Morocco.

At Ouarzazate I managed to procure a slightly battered Renault 4 on rental for a couple of days. Using this vehicle I drove down through the Vallee du Draa to the oasis town of Zagora widely recognised in Morocco as being the starting point of the Sahara desert.

Zagora itself is a modern colonial border town consisting of a military garrison and administrative offices. However, to the south of the town on, the opposite side of the river the ancient kasbah of Amzrou is an entirely different world.  Surrounded by Palmaries and protected from the advancing sands of the desert by restraining walls and fences, the town has been a trading point for desert Nomads for several thousand years. Sadly, the town of Amzrou has recently become the home to many nomads deprived of their life style by the fighting in the Western Sahara and by drought in Mali and Mauritania.

Having visited the point at which the waters of the River Draa disappear into the sands of the Sahara desert, I commenced my journey north through the Vallee du Draa using the old trading route which runs on the opposite side of the Valley to the modern tarmac highway.  This route passes through many Berber villages and kasbahs offering an ever changing kaleidoscope of views of an agricultural way of life which has remained little changed over the last 1,000 years.  The lands immediately adjacent to the Draa river are highly fertile being irrigated by the waters of the river and fertilised by silt washed down by the annual flood cycle of melt waters draining from the Atlas mountains.

Having returned the Renaut 4 (in an even more battered condition), I journeyed by local agricultural transport to the market town of Skoura.  After a frustrating four hours of searching for a mode of transport to take me deeper into the Atlas Mountains, I finally located a transit van belonging to the commune of Irni-n-oulaoun which was due to leave Skoura that evening to take villagers back into the mountains.  After several false starts from the market place in Skoura (and two tyre changes) the transit van finally departed with a load of 22 villagers and their purchases from market, plus a roof rack full of provisions and supplies for the village store, squeezed into the corner of the van with my rucksack, I immediately became the centre of attention and throughout the six hour journey into the mountains, I was constantly questioned about my home, my family, my country and my view on Moroccan politics.  The Berber people are naturally gregarious and hospitable to travellers and even when travelling solo in the mountains of Morocco one is rarely alone.

The transit van eventually arrived in the mountain village of Imi-n-Qulaoun just before sunset so I gratefully accepted the offer of overnight accommodation with one of the families who had travelled up from Skoura. The following morning after a breakfast of unleavened bread and very powerful black coffee served by the 7 year old son of the family with whom I had spent the night (since his parents had already gone out to work on the fields), I commenced my trek on foot. From Imi-n-oulaoun I followed the Ait Moudzit valley north passing through a succession of small villages as I ascended the steeply sided valley towards the M'Goun plateau.

Whenever one approaches a village in the High Atlas valleys one is met by a crowd of Berber children whose daily duties include grazing the flocks of goats and sheep away from the village.  In the lowland valleys it is now normal for these children to instantly demand "un bonbon", "un stylo", "de l' argent", however, in the higher valleys the welcome is much more genuine with offers of food and hospitality abounding.  Long before one actually reaches the village one has gathered a large following much akin to the pied Piper of Hameln.

The upper reaches of the Ait Moudzit valley offer splendid walking at high level with the mountain track skirting precipitous crags perched above an impressive gorge containing the white foaming waters of the river.  All the small hamlets on the way up the valley are surrounded by impressive terraces of fields contained by restraining dry stone walls.  In the spring months the terraced fields are planted with maize and vegetable crops which are irrigated by the spring melt water which is channelled from the river via an ingenious set of man-made contouring water channels built along the field boundary walls.  Each terrace is sheltered by overhanging trees (palms in the lower reaches of the valley and almonds or flowering cherries at higher altitudes).

I reached the village of Tissougune in the later afternoon of the second day of the traverse.  Tissougune is the last major settlement in the Ait Moudzit valley and is one of the most remote settlements in the area.  As with all Berber villages I was met by a large group of children who escorted me into the village where I was met by the local Imam who insisted that I adjourn to his house for mint tea and bread and oil (a typical Berber mid-afternoon snack).  Before many minutes had passed the entire village congregated in the Imam's courtyard curious to investigate the foreigner in their midst.  On discovering that I was a Medical Practitioner the Imam immediately summoned a selection of his ailing parishioners requesting my assistance with medications and treatment.  (Modern health clinics are only found in the major agricultural communes of the Atlas region and even if they make the long journey to visit such a clinic the majority of Berber tribes people cannot afford to purchase the prescribed medications.  Consequently, the only medicinal treatment available in the mountains is that dispensed by travelling Herbal Practitioners and religious Faith Healers).  My afternoon surgery complete, I continued on my way accompanied by the village teenagers who insisted on escorting me up the precipitous waterfall behind their village.  As the sun started to sink towards the snow capped peaks on the horizon I selected a site for my mountain tent and much to the intrigue of the Berber children, I built my house for the night.  My evening meal of dehydrated high altitude rations aroused equal interest; the only time I have ever given a dinner party for ten in a two man tent at 3,000 metres altitude!

The third day of the traverse consisted of a long ridge ascent on to the main M'Goun plateau itself. The plateau consists of a long ridge running from north-east to south-west.  The ridge lies entirely above 3,500 metres with individual summits around the 4,000 metre mark.  Amsoud, the highest point on the ridge has an altitude of 4,071 metres.  The terrain is predominantly scree with limestone outcrops forming craggy edges and buttresses which afford easier walking than the main scree slopes of the plateau.

Unfortunately the good weather of the preceding few days had led to a rapid melting of the snow on the southern slopes, making the last 500 metres of ascent to the ridge a long slow and painful four hour slog through thigh deep wet snow.  My efforts were rewarded however as on gaining the ridge firm neve was reached allowing me to make rapid time to the summit of M'Goun prior to setting up my evening camp in a col at 4,000 metres.

The following morning I made an early start to take advantage of the overnight freeze and maintaining an excellent rate of progress I descended to the north into the Toufrhine valley (a high level valley lying between the two main mountain ridges of the central High Atlas).  I followed the valley north east to the M'Goun gorges which offer a dramatic and rather sporting descent of 2,000 feet over the space of one mile.  (To traverse the gorges it is necessary to climb down in the waterfalls following the exact path of the river as it cascades between limestone walls up to 500 feet high).  At the bottom of the gorges the river emerges from a spectacular rocky defile to flow through open green pasture, my surprise at meeting this unexpected view was surpassed only by the surprise of the small Berber herds boy who looked up from his flock to see me appear from the river soaking wet and somewhat bruised, (but nonetheless elated to have completed the descent).

This young herds boy escorted me to his house in the nearby village where his family made me immensely welcome lending me a warm dry wollen jalaba for the evening and plying me with large quantities of hot food.

The following morning I continued along the course of the river to the village of Agouti in the Bou-Goumez valley.  The Bou­Goumez is one of the most fertile of the valleys of the Northern Atlas and is known by the local Berbers as the "bread basket of Morocco".  The village of Agouti forms the road head of the Azilal road which penetrates the Atlas Mountains from the north.  Although I had initially hoped to be able to pick up a land-rover from Agouti, I discovered to my dismay that the winter snows were still closing the high mountain passes to the north and therefore I found myself compelled to spend a night in the village of Agouti (staying at the Mosque guest house) before continuing on foot to the village of Tabant from where I was able to secure myself a place in a land rover heading north the following day.

The land rover ride out to the regional marked town of Azilal consisted of an eight hour journey on loose stone pistes skirting precipitous valleys and passing through some of the most fantastic alpine-type scenery.  After an unscheduled stop to deal with a blow-out (a common occurrence on Moroccan mountain roads); interesting scenes ensued as it transpired that the only instrument available for re-inflating the tyre was a pair of old furnace bellows provided by the nearby village.

At Azilal I joined forces with a couple of Moroccan school teachers wishing to journey to Marrakech and between us we commissioned the hire of a grand taxi (the Moroccan equivalent of a long distance chauffeur driven limousine) and for the princely sum of six pounds I journeyed the remaining two hundred kilometres back to Marrakech in bone shaking dust ridden luxury.

Conclusion

During the course of my traverse over the central High Atlas I was struck by the unspoilt nature of the valleys and the continuation of the Berbers' traditional way of mountain life. This is by stark contrast to the over development of the valleys in the Toubkal region which have become highly popular with visiting European climbers.

Following my return to Marrakech I was fortunate to be able to meet some members of the Moroccan Mountain Guides Association who confided in me their concerns about the development of tourism in the Atlas.  It seems that lessons are being learned from the mistakes made in the Toubkal region and it is to be hoped that greed and political pressure do not get in the way of the development of sustainable and eco-friendly tourism.

The remote valleys of the central High Atlas are stunningly beautiful but they are also stunningly fragile. Unless treated with respect the high Atlas valleys could rapidly become yet another statistic on the trail-of tourist destruction.


 

MRO News

Number 5 Nov 1993

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

***  HELP WANTED  ***

Saturday 15th January 1994

MEETING RE BRITISH CAVE RESCUE COUNCIL CONFERENCE.

MRO is to host this biennial conference based at Eastwater farm on July 8th,' 9th & 10th 1994. Obviously, it will require a great deal of effort by Mendip cavers to make this event run smoothly and it is essential that work should start as soon as possible.  Individuals, and clubs, who are willing to make a contribution to the organization and running of the conference, are asked to attend a preliminary meeting at The Hunters Lodge Inn on Saturday January 15th at 7:30 pm to start the ball rolling.

Saturday 29th January 1994

CERVICAL COLLARS & SPINAL SPLINTS

Video presentation followed by practical session with MRO kit.  Hunters Lodge Inn, 7: 30 pm.

Saturday 19th February 1994

RESUSCITATION WORKSHOP

In view of the response to last years lecture and recent events both underground and on the surface, MRO has decided to hold this workshop annually. As before, the emphasis will be on the practical.  You owe it to yourselves and your friends to be up to date with Artificial Ventilation and External Chest Compression techniques.

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Friday 11th March 1994

MENDIP RESCUE ORGANISATION

Annual meeting of the committee

Hunters Lodge Inn, 8:00 pm prompt.

next evening 

Saturday 12th march 1994

MRO KIT CIRCUS

Hands-on experience of MRO equipment for small groups circulating around various demonstrations.  At the same time there will be discussions with club team leaders.  Please ensure that your club is represented. 

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Saturday 16th April 1994

MEETING RE BRITISH CAVE RESCUE COUNCIL CONFERENCE

A further meeting regarding the organization and running of the BCRC conference.   Please offer any help and time you can.

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Saturday 30th April 1994

PRACTICAL COMMUNICATIONS WORKSHOP

An afternoon session both on the surface and underground with the MRO radios and molefone in use.  Venue and times to be decided.  Watch for more details and posters.

July 8th.  9th     and   10th    1994

BRITISH CAVE RESCUE COUNCIL CONFERENCE

EASTWATER FARM, PRIDDY.

Surface and underground sessions, lectures, practical demonstrations, stomp, bars, cave rescue game, hangovers and much, much more.  Watch out for more details or, better still, come along to the meetings on January 15th and April 16th to see how you or your club can help make this event a success.

CLUB MEMBERS - PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOUR TEAM LEADER PASSES ON ALL MRO INFORMATION SUPPLIED TO HIM.


 

The Boys of the Hill

By 'Snab'

Lads and lasses come with me,
To the village of Priddy,
In the heart of Mendip on top of the hill.
Have a drink in the Hunter's pub,
There'll you meet the caving clubs,
They're the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill.
 
Cavers come from miles around,
On Saturday nights they'll all be found
Raising their tankards and drinking their fill.
The Shepton brood, the BEC,
The Wessex and the MCG,
They're the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill.
 
Why not stop and have a jar,
In that fine old flagstone bar,
There's plenty of barrels of Roger's good ale.
Why not try the Butcombe brew,
That's the stuff for me and you,
We'll all have a pint say the Boys of the Hill.

In the back room you will find,
Music there of every kind,
New songs and old songs that they sing there still.
Some’s all right and some are good,
Some are downright crude and rude,
'Cause we like they words say the Boys of the Hill.

Bodhrans rattle~ singers sing,
They fairly make the rafters ring
Squeeze boxes play and a whistle loud and shrill.
Simon's on the melodeon,
Tony Jarratt's drunk again,
Aren't we all say the Boys on the Hill.

Lads and lasses come with me,
To the village of Priddy,
In the heart of Mendip on top of the Hill.
Had a drink in the Hunter's pub,
There they met the caving clubs,
See you next week say the Boys of the Hill.

 


 

Sussex Underground.

By John King.

Back in May 1990 there appeared in the B.B. an article and survey by Andy Garrod concerning Broomers Hill sandstone mine at Pulborough.  Intrigued by the article, Charlie (McQue) and I paid a visit with Jo (Hills) to the site and spent a while just browsing around. Charlie asked me “Where does this go?"  Marked on the survey as 'Mr Badger's House' I said it would probably be wise not to find out. Curiosity, however, got the better of us and so a few days later we returned.  Armed with a diver's knife and a sharp stick for the badger, and a compass and a knotted string for the survey, we ventured through the crawl very warily, the first 100' was very small due to the whole mine being backfilled with earth, through a final squeeze and into more adits like those in the first part of the mine but again backfilled to about half depth.  No sign of badger but we did find a nest of sorts with daylight entering through a small hole nearby.  Piles of rusting 'artefacts', mainly cans and drums, had been dumped here some time ago.  Most areas are passable by grovelling.  Although the survey is very crude it does show the extent of mining to be much greater than previously thought.  Pacing out the length on the surface, we found what appeared to be a cess pit in a field.  This would be over the final adit area which is only 20' down.  Hope it holds out!!!

While in the area it was decided that a disused canal tunnel nearby would make an interesting diversion. Joined by Barry with the coordinates and other information we were soon searching farmland around Hardham.  A suspiciously double fenced depression in a field was obviously what we were looking for, so, over the fences into a morasse, overgrown and smelly.  The canal route had been filled in almost up to the tunnel entrance.  The thin veneer of water was supported by at least six feet of mud (couldn't find a longer stick!) just inside the brickwork tunnel. Several bricks fell out on being prodded, obviously not the most inspiring waterway in Sussex.  The footpath which followed the route on the surface headed due south and very soon crossed a railway bridge.  On close inspection a cavity on the trackside appeared to be right over the compass bearing. We estimated the time between trains to be sufficient for a recce.  On the trackside we lifted a capstone and descended a fixed ladder, back in the canal again.  Nearly blocked by mud in both directions it was obviously impassable by canoe. In the southern distance was a splash of green light.  Back on the footpath we wondered about the new compass bearing as the metal ladder and the railway line were competing for attention when it was taken. Abandoning the ‘wild’ bearing we headed southish and eventually found the exit, where the relative water level was lower and the water itself quite clean.  This was the point from which any water borne exploration would commence. There was a snag however; the child proof entrance grille had only a small chink in its armour.  The tunnel was also too narrow to turn a canoe in and paddling backwards for half a mile or so did not appeal, so the good old plastic dinghy would have to do.  Some days later the said appliance was smuggled into position.  One tries to avoid drawing attention to oneself, one being a conservative type like all cavers etc etc etc ... As I couldn't persuade anyone that it would be a delightful afternoons boating, I had to paddle, measure the distance and the depth so as not to rip out the bottom, take photographs, all this without aid was quite tricky but I slowly measured my way north to an area of unbelievable beauty.  Red, black, ochre and white curtains, erratics and a myriad of straws with the prize specimen in excess of four feet and almost touching the dinghy as I passed.  The measuring suddenly took a back paddle in favour of photographic frenzy.  A whole roll of film went by, not bad for a brick tunnel.  Considering the delicacy of the pretties added to the fact that I was surely trespassing I think that the location must be withheld but if anyone wants to take a look, at their own risk, then contact me for arrangements.

There are several 'shifts' in the walls but it all looks quite safe, the water is mainly shallow but the silt persists all the way.  It resembles quicksand with water on top and is very deep, so falling out of the dinghy would be serious.  Trains could be heard going past nearby, which is a bit alarming at first.  The water is very clear and as the pretties testify there is little air current and no flooding, not even a rise more than 2 or three feet.

John King

 


 

Access & Conservation Round the Regions

DERBYSHIRE

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Derbyshire access, please contact Derbyshire Caving Association’s Conservation & Access Officer direct::

Pete Mellors, Edingley, Newark, Notts

KNOTLOW MINE POLLUTION

At present there is very serious pollution entering the mine in the region of Ihe old Knollow Engine Shaft and the mine level which connects this to the foot of the Crimbo Hollow (Fourways) Shaft. The water in the level is stinking, brown and carrying some solid matter. The pollution can even be smelt in the open air above the Fourways shaft. The water moving in from Waterfall Chamber carries the pollution from the foot of the Fourways Shaft, down-stream along the coffin level, past Rift Chamber and on down into the Crimbo Swallow. There is likely to be bad air in the region of the pollution and there may even be methane gas since the pollution appears to be organic.

You are strongly advised to avoid this area of Knotlow Mine for the present and, in particular, be wary of using carbide in this part of the mine since methane can form an explosive combination with air.

Derbyshire Caving Association is aware of the problem and is currently taking steps to trace the pollution and to get it stopped at source. Even when the source is found and stopped, the pollution is likely to take some time to clear so you should continue to be wary.

DANGER OF WEIL'S DISEASE

As with all pollution related to agricultural practices and faming, there is a danger of contracting Weil's Disease from the recent episodes in Derbyshire. This is a potentially fatal disease which can be caught from water contaminated by the urine of rats. Cavers should be careful to take precautions: cover all sores, cuts, grazes, etc. and try to wash in clean water as soon as possible after caving. Remember too that, even where pollution is not obviously apparent, there may still be danger, as in the Stoney Middleton caves.  Water in surface streams may also be contaminated.

Cavers planning to visit Youd's Level or Long Tor Grotto should note that both entrances are active soughs which pass below houses in Matlock Dale and rats have been seen in the area,.

NCA has issued a free leaflet giving information on this, including where to obtain medical advice quickly. To obtain a copy send 9” x 4” s.a.e. to DCA Secretary, Jenny Potts. Also is available is a credit card sized information card on Weil’s Disease to fit in your wallet, for this send S.A.E. plus a 20p stamp or bulk orders for clubs are 18p each for 10+ cards, incl. postage. (Cheques etc. payable to DCA.)

MANIFOLD VALLEY

Between Welton Mill and Hum the National Trust are currently assessing the value of caves for their paleontological and archaeological deposits and their wildlife interest.     DCA's   Conservation   and  Access   Officer has been told by the Warden of the Trust's South Peak Estate that once these studies are completed, DCA will be invited to discuss with the Trust ways in which caver access and conservation needs can best be met.

Meanwhile cavers are asked not to dig in caves above river level without written permission. The Trust is prepared to prosecute anyone who ignores this request. Access to caves in the river bed remains unaffected, as does access to old mine workings. In some cases permission to enter these may have to be obtained where the Trust is not the owner - consult the DCA Handbook for details.

REPAIRS AND RENOVATIONS

KNOTLOW SHAFT TOP: This has been "ailing" for some time and the bolts didn't fasten properly. Thanks to the Crewe C. P. C. the top has now been re-fettled and new bolts and nuts provided. You Call either collect the official spanner from the Bull in Monyash or provide your own large adjustable. Just make sure that all is fastened securely when you leave.

P8 LADDER: The fixed ladder which bypasses the 2nd. pitch in P8 has now been replaced. Many thanks to the group from Crewe C. P. C. who did the job. The old ladder snapped when it was taken down, but the pieces have now been removed and are in the possession of the Crewe cavers, so if anyone would like to re-claim them, contact Ralph Johnson 011 0782-xxxxxx.

WATERWAYS CAR PARK: The car park is now re-surfaced so there shouldn't be any problems with bogged down cars for quite some time. Special thanks to the three Darfar P. C. cavers who shifted and spread 16 tons of hardcore in a day!

RAVEN MINE: Some parts of the route through to the new extensions are extremely unstable but Ben Bentham has been doing stabilising work recently and has also rebuilt the shaft top.

You may like to note that the cost of materials for all these access projects is funded by DCA, however the hard work, as always is done by individual cavers from DCA member clubs.

THE DCA HANDBOOK is currently under preparation for publication in 1994.

For information on Derbyshire Caving Association, send S.A.E. to: Hon. Secretary, Jenny Potts, Ashbourne, Derbyshire

CAVE CONSERVATION PLANS DERBYSHIRE PILOT SCHEME

Conservation plans involving DCA. English Nature and the Limestone Research Group are to be produced in respect of two newly discovered sites in the region, namely the White River Series in Peak Cavern and the Upper Entrance Series of Lathkill Head Cave (or Lathkiller Pot). English Nature, which sees its role as facilitating this kind of initiative in the regions, will meet any costs incurred.

Conservation plans offer an opportunity to document more fully the scientific aspect of specific SSSI's. They enable the  risk to  sites  to be  assessed  and monitored.  Just as important, they involve cavers in helping to protect for the future a unique environment which they in particular value and enjoy, not least because of the time they spend in exploring and publicising that environment. In the initial stage, the plans will involve locating and documenting the nature and extent of scientific interest. Reliable surveys and a photographic record, if not already in existence, will need producing. While River Series is better off in this respect than Lathkill Head. It is also subject to more controlled access, being located in a remote and not easily accessible part of a large and extensive cave system. You can do a lengthy, exciting and eventful trip in Peak Cavern without going near White River Series, Lathkill Upper Entrance, on the other hand, makes an exciting through trip now possible via a single main passage, and is vulnerable for that reason. The amount of use this cave gets is not yet known. In contrast to Peak, there is no monitored access.

The main danger to regional conservation plans such as these proposed in Derbyshire is that of an uncoordinated approach, to ensure success, the various parties to the plans must work together throughout and carry the support of cavers with them. For their part, cavers must learn to adopt the higher profile in leading the effort to conserve the caves they rightly value.

Peter Mellors, Conservation & Access Officer, Derbyshire Caving Association.

DEVON AND CORNWALL

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about access in Devon and Cornwall, please contact Devon and Cornwall Underground Council’s Conservation and Access Officer direct: A. Neil, Plymouth

PROBLEMS IN PRID

There are erosion problems in Pridhamsleigh Cavern and Dog Hole. Both are SSSI’s and the damage has come to the notice of English Nature, who want a conservation plan drawn up as soon as possible.  DCUC are working with NCA to draw up a comprehensive plan. The worry is that if the cavers themselves do not do this, English nature are likely to impose one which may stop access to both caves.

For information on Devon and Cornwall Underground Council send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Mike Hunting, Lifton, Devon,

MENDIP

 

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Southern access, please contact Council Of Southern Caving Club’s Conservation and Access Officer direct:  Dave Morrison, Clutton

SWILDONS HOLE POLLUTION

After recent heavy rain very strong diesel fumes were encountered in the section of cave immediately before Sump 1, so much so that one party aborted their trip because members felt sick.

CSCC HANDBOOK

The Mendip Access Handbook is in production, due out next year.

For information on Council of Southern Caving Clubs, send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Steve Cottle, Clifton, Bristol.

WALES & FOREST OF DEAN

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about access in Wales, please contact Cambrian Caving Council Conservation and Access Officer direct: Mrs E. Little, Abercrave, Swansea.

PROBLEMS AT LLANGATTOCK

This are is extremely “sensitive” as regards access ar present with local residents up in arms about excessive use of the area by cavers, so please make sure you don’t do anything to exacerbate current difficulties.  Welsh cavers are working hard to sort the problems and have been able to prove that many allegations are unfounded.

Part of the problem relates to fears of residents on the Hillside about threats to their water supplies from the activities of cavers.  Certainly they rely on springs but there is now hope that the Welsh Water may be able to provide a mains supply and even public flush toilets at the Daren Car Park.

Please don’t use the road up from LLangatock to reach the car park by Daren Cilau as there are severe traffic problems on this very narrow and steep road. Instead drive along the tramway from Brynmawr.

You MUST park in the Daren car park and not outside the Chelsea S.S. HQ but beware of thieves who are regularly raiding vehicles left by cavers in the car park and take suitable precautions.  Be warned that thieves have recently injured a dog left in a caver’s car and that a policeman in civvies on surveillance has been injured by attackers.

SLAUGHTER STREAM CAVE

At the request of the Landwoner, access is restricted to weekends only, maximum number of 6 visitors, experienced cavers only.  For further details contact the trips organiser: Andrew Clark, Nr. Monmouth

NO ACCESS TO CLEARWELL MINES

Currently there is a complete ban on access to the mines in the Clearwell area of the Forest of Dean because of pollution.  The ban will remain in force until the pollution is eliminated.

CCC HANDBOOK

The new handbook has just been published and is available direct from Cambrian Caving Council Secretary, Frank Baguley, for £1.00 + 50p post and packing. (Cheques payable to C.C.C.)

Also available from Frank is the CCC Journal, “Red Dragon” for £2.00 + £1.00 Post and Packing.

For information on Cambrian Caving Council send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Frank Baguley, Ystradgynlais, Swansea.

THE NORTH

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries about Northern access, please contact Council Of Northern Caving Club’s Conservation and Access Officer direct: Phil Parker, Leeds.

MEREGILL

Recently a group of cavers ripped up turf to dam the stream running into Meregill Hole.  The area is an SSSI so this came to the attention of English Nature and the dam was removed.  The CNCC view is that during rescue situations it may be necessary to dam the stream and it would therefore be acceptable but, during general caving and with modern techniques it is unnecessary to dam the stream.

IBBETH PERIL

Please replace the gate over the entrance on departure – it is to prevent dead sheep and other rubbish entering the cave system.

CASTERTON FELL

There has been some digging on the Fell recently for which no permission has been sought or given. You are reminded that this area is an SSSI and permission is required for ANY  digging activity underground or on the surface.  Failure to observe this will further complicate an already delicate access situation.

HAGG GILL

You are reminded that this cave is particularly sensitive to damage from inexperienced cavers and CNCC do not recommend that this cave be attempted by novice cavers.

BRAIDA GARTH FARM

During busy periods (most days) cavers parking at the roadside by the farm have caused problems by making access to the farm track by agricultural vehicles impossible. Farmers are working 7 days a week! Please allow them adequate access to their property. Failure to park sensibly will lead to parking restrictions and ultimately access restrictions

CCNC HANDBOOK

Current edition on sale in caving shops.  Also available direct form CNCC Secretary, price £1.40 incl. post and packing.

For information on Council of Southern Caving Clubs, send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Les Sykes, Lancs.


 

Book Reviews

by Nick Cornwell-Smith

KENT AND EAST SUSSEX UNDERGROUND (ISBN 0948193-581) price £5.95  128pp.

by Kent Underground Research Group published by Meresborough Books 1991

One that I picked up recently was "Kent and East Sussex Underground".  Any book about underground activities in the South East of England always attracts my attention as having lived in that area.

Being a South West club, the members of the BEC, seem to disbelieve that caves and underground passages exist East of Watford Gap, unless they are on the mainland of Europe.  But it should be noted that there are many old and new underground excavations in the South East, witness the latest find by a combined French and British team of diggers.  A superb, classic phreatic shaped passage extending from the chalk of Shakespeare Cliff to France.

For many years the Chelsea Speleological Society have been producing publications on underground sites in their area.  Some of CSS are also members of the Kent Underground Research Group and explore many of these passages.  This book is not a guide book on the lines of the Dalesman publications but, mainly a brief narrative history about the various types of underground passages and caverns that can be found in Kent and East Sussex.

The book starts of with a series of chapters about the various mines that are found in the area. Yes, that was right I did say mines. Most of them are old mines used to get at various types of rock and material such as Fullers Earth, sand and sandstone before the advent of easier transport from cheaper sources.  Gypsum is still mined in a vast complex with underground tunnels capable of taking land rovers and was first mined over 100 hundred years ago.  Small deposits of Purbeck and Ragstone Limestone were also mined from early Roman days.  Some of the limestone was used to construct St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

Coal has also been a mining activity in the Kent Coalfields since 1886, and still continues, but for how long?  The miners in the Kent Coalfield mainly from the Midlands. At one time there were between 8 and 10 collieries producing coal in various quantities, but it never really challenged the coalfields of Yorkshire and South Wales.

The most common type of underground mine or quarry was the denehole used for excavating chalk to spread on agricultural land.  These were often dug at the sides of fields for individual farmers.  Chalk was also removed to produce cement, and one of the more famous in the area has been used for this purpose, namely Chislehurst Caves.  This cave was also used during the Second World War as an air raid shelter.  There is a short chapter on military uses of underground passages.  These include forts at Dover and on the River Medway.

The last chapters cover other uses such as water supply, and storage, ice houses, sewers and cess-pits and finally natural caves.  There are a number of caves that have come to light particularly along the sea cliffs. Some are just sea caves caused by the action of the tide, but others are genuine fossil phreatic caves.

This book gives an interesting insight into underground passages in an area of the country that many BEC members just travel through on 'the way to the ferry to France.  A potted History of the various activities is given and in some cases details of the sites, with maps and surveys are included.  Access details are also given in some instances.

If you are interested in other geographical areas, then it is a good read.

CAVES AND TUNNELS IN SOUTH EAST ENGLAND Part 10 (ISSN 0309-409X) price £3.50 74pp.

by Chelsea Speleological Society published by CSS 1992

For many years the Chelsea Speleological Society have been publishing the Records of CSS.  Apart from the first two volumes, they have concentrated on the various caves, mines, deneholes, tunnels and other underground features which they find or research in the South East of England.  This latest volume, number twenty, is no exception to the usual mixture of natural and man-made cavities delved into by the CSS either in person or researched via books and articles.

This years selection of caves include the Hellfire Caves of West Wycombe.  These now public caves were dug as a folly by Sir Francis Dashwood.  They were used as a meeting place for the Hellfire Club, where various "forms of vice and perversion" took place, including "less reputable women procured from London, dressed as nuns." Alas, these activities have now ceased.

Nearby, in High Wycombe, is a bunker, used by the Ministry of Defence during the Gulf War.  Needless to say the CSS have not had a guided tour, but gleaned the information from the London Standard of January 1991.  Other military cavities included are the various types of RADAR bunkers and control centres used during the Second World War and beyond.  Plans are included of some of these and details of their current status where known.  Also mentioned are the tunnels bored by the Royal Engineers in 1916 to test out tunnel boring machines for use in the trenches of the Western Front.

A further interesting man-made structure detailed is the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway.  It is described in many books and newspaper accounts, but the actual site has been lost since the great fire in 1936.

Mines such as the Mote Park Ragstone Mines, Bassingbourne Coprolite Mine and Chadwell Chalk Mines are described, with a plan in the case of the former.

The only natural cave given a review is Seaford Head Cave, in East Sussex.  This fossil phreatic passage has been exposed in the chalk cliffs at the mouth of the River Cuckmere, but is blocked a short way in by a choke.

This gives a hint of the type of underground cavity which is included in this, and other volumes of the CSS Records.  I personally find the series of publications interesting as they give an indication of the underground environment in the South East, an area not noted for its natural caves, and what lengths cavers in the area go to, to get their "underground thrills", and I am not just talking about the Hellfire Club.


 

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders

BEC September 1993

Chris Batstone
Ian Caldwell
Chris Castle
Andy Cave
John Dukes
Pete Glanville
Martin Grass
Chris Harvey
Pete Hellier
Jeremy Henley
Dudley Herbert
Ted Humphreys
Dave Irwin
Kangy King
Joc Large
Tim Large
Mike McDonald
Stuart McManus
Mike Palmer
Brian Prewer
Estelle Sandford
Chris Smart
Andy Sparrow
Nigel Taylor
Dave Turner
Greg Villis
Mike Wilson
Bassett
Brian Workman
Jingles

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)


 

Letter

I have received the following letters from Jeni Galligan, the “Victim” in a recent Mendip rescue. The first was sent to Tony at Bat Products, the second to the Editor.

3rd November

Dear Mr. Jarret

I would be most grateful if you would display this letter of gratitude in a prominent position in your shop to enable fellow cavers to read it.  Many thanks.

On the 23rd October 1993, I found myself in a bit of a sticky predicament.  Whilst exploring G.B., I was unfortunate enough to break my leg in four places at the 40ft pitch.

With the combined efforts and a great courage of several caving clubs, these men and women saved my life, and to them I am eternally grateful.  Although it is impossible for me to thank everyone individually, I shall be writing to each caving club and ambulance crew that was involved in the rescue.

I must express my warmest regards to Vince Simmonds who brought me back to the land of the living, had it not been for Vince and his quick actions, I might not have lived to tell the tale.  Vince, a great big thank you!

I came out of hospital on the 1st November, and thanks to all you rescuers.  I am now on the mend and look forward to resuming my caving activities as soon as I am able, and also look forward to meeting you all again under better circumstances.  Once again a great big thank you.

            Yours sincerely…….Jeni Galligan.

*****************************************

04.11.93

B. B. Editor, C/O Brian Prewer.

To the Editor,

On Saturday, 23rd October whilst caving in G.B., I had an accident.  I sustained four fractures to my right leg.  It took 60-70 men and women five hours of sheer guts and determination to get me out.  I would be most grateful if you would publish this letter to express my sincere gratitude to all concerned.  They are as follows:

My team:

Paul Curtis, Damien Walker & Lynne Niland
Vince Simmons, who administered artificial resuscitation.
M.R.O., M.C.G., W.C.C., B.E.C.
Imperial College Caving club, London.
Roger Tomlinson, Paramedic.
And to anyone else who kindly assisted.

Yours sincerely…….Jeni Galligan


 

The 1989 Romania Trip - Better Late Than Never

On Friday 8th August Tony Boycott, Richard Stephens, Mark Lumley, Tony Jarratt, Rich Payne, Nick Sprang and Brian Van Luipen flew to Vienna to board the Orient Express to Budapest, Hungary.  Memories of the journey are blurred by the vast amounts of booze consumed but struggling with great heaps of luggage and nearly losing Loopy featured heavily.

The journey on the train from Budapest to Arad, Romania was even mere drunken with a hint of excitement provided by the writer staggering off the (luckily stepped)  train in the middle of nowhere for a piss and nearly getting left behind, passportless.  His last memory was of hanging on to the accelerating train with one hand, clutching his still functioning member with the ether and being shouted at in Hungarian by amazed locals as he was whisked off' into the night.

At 5.30am on Saturday we arrived at Arad and spent some hours wandering around the gloomy, depressing square in front of the station.  The grey skies and greyer buildings and the overall sense of communist oppression were not encouraging.  Armed soldiers and police patrolled the station and streets and the lack of goods in the few shop windows added to the stark reality of life in Romania at this time - only a few weeks before the Revolution and deposing of Ceasescu.

Eventually one of our contacts appeared - Liana, a female member of the Aragonite Club, could speak good English and told us that her friend Pelo was on his way.  Suddenly, at the far side of the new packed square, a huge rucksack could be seen bashing its way through the crowd.  Beneath it the small but perfectly formed Pelo; bespectacled, bearded, hairy and ragged, stomped purposefully towards us.  His English was non-existent but he typified the Caver worldwide and there were few communication problems.

We left Arad on a local train and after some 50kms of flat, boring farmland reached the village of Helod.  A walk along the track took us to a pub with grim draught beer dispensed through a hose like petrol.  After an enforced 6½ hour wait we got a train to Sudrijo from where we bribed a bloke driving a contractor's tractor and trailer to take us 36km up into the attractive limestone Apuseni Mountains near the village of Padis.  The fare worked out at about £1.50 and two packets of fags - no wonder the driver was a miserable sod.  Mind you, with all the other illicit passengers he crammed in he should have been a rich man.

It was 9.30 pm by now. Pitch black, isolated, 1150m up in the middle of Transylvania and we'd forgotten the bloody garlic!  A 25 minute walk with our mountain of kit, get us to our lonely campsite where a brew and food preceded much needed sleep.

The following morning we awoke to find ourselves in a superb, wooded alpine valley Valea Cetatilor, near Grajduri.  While we got organized and acclimatised our resident nutter, Pelo, set off on a 50km walk to try and get some carbide.  He reappeared that night with no carbide and a bottle of Vodka.  His heart was in the right place.

20/8/89 Pestera Neagra ( Black Cave) was reached by a long walk through the pine forest.  Several large entrances led to a pitch.  Dressed only in shorts and T-shirts and with no tackle we could not descend so we carried on a few hundred metres to Pestera Ghetarul de la Barsa (Barsa Ice Cave) accompanied by six Romanian youths carrying torches and a hand held carbide gobbler.  We followed the lads in, using their rope as a hand line on the ice slope at the entrance. Beyond lay several hundred feet of roomy but impressive passage and a traverse to the head of a short pitch with a streamway below.  No ice formations were seen and only a few calcite decorations noted in this well used cave.  Another entrance led us back to daylight and the long walk back to co camp - picking wild strawberries and puff balls as we wen.  These became hors d'oeuvr to a meal of "goulash curry" washed down with Voika, Whisky, Gin and Appeal orange drink!  That night an impressive lightning display preceded heavy rain.

21/8/89 Up early to the sound of sheep bells.  Frankfurters, bread, peppers and tomatoes made an interesting breakfast before another long walk to a series of potholes in the forest.  The entrances of Avenul Gemanata and Avenul Pionier were examined in the company of a horde of Romanian ramblers before we reached our goal Avenul Negra (Black Pot).  This vast open shaft has a fine rock bridge spanning it a few feet down.  We rigged an almost clear free hang of 240 feet on to a huge sloping pile of jammed "logs" - actually trees up to 50ft long.  A delicate traverse between and over these, and a 50ft sloping abseil down an ancient fir tree trunk led to a large stream passage.  Downstream went for several hundred feet to a sump with the names of several Polish clubs written in carbide smoke above it.  A side passage led to a three way junction where two streams entered.  These inlets were followed for several hundred feet to where they both ended in avens. Some of this was very spectacular, beautifully eroded streamway.

A mad rush was made from the pot due to impending lightning strikes and on the walk back we looked at Pestera Caput - later followed for some two hundred feet to a traverse/pitch.

The gourmet evening meal consisted of macaroni cheese, sardines and Angel Delight.

22/8/89   An hours walk brought us to Pestera Focul Viu ( Living Fire Cave _ not Fuckall View Cave!).  A steep ice slope led down through a roomy passage into a large ice-floored chamber partly open to the surface.  A couple of fine 20ft high ice columns are supposedly very impressive when the sun shines directly onto them through the entrance - hence the name of the cave.  A short ice climb with fixed log aids led to another chamber full of ice.  Various side passages were looked at.

Back on the march again down into a deep wooded valley with an enormous entrance at the bottom - Cetatile Ponorului (Citadel Sink).  This was 300ft high by 100ft wide, took a large stream and had fixed but rotten wooden ladders giving access to a massive river passage and another huge entrance.

This was followed for some 600ft, past three more entrances to a series of entertaining fixed aid traverses made from logs, wire and string.  After some 2/3 mile from the main entrance we were stopped by a deep lake. This passage sumps a few hundred feet further in.  A large side passage with an impressive false floor was looked at on the way back.

A tremendous cave and well worth visiting - only marred by our embarrassment at being in the same company as hordes of shorts-clad, torch carrying tourists while we were fully kitted up!

Austrian soup, corned beef hash, Angel Delight and Whisky finished off a great day.

23/8/89 We walked ever the hills to Padis which consisted of a few huts and the singularly unattractive Cabana Padis pub.  Rumanian beer being unbelievably foul we were forced to resort to Vodka banana liqueur, red wine etc. to accompany the local delicacy of scrawny dead sheep soup.  It being the Rumanian equivalent of Priddy Fair Day we get absolutely shit-faced and only by a miracle made it back through the forest in dribs and drabs at various times through the night.  Cut, bruised, battered, lost and with rucksacks full of smashed wine bottles we had had another good day.  No gourmet meal that night!

24/8/89   Only three of us were capable of investigating a nearby 20ft deep pot which dropped into a large cave with the sound of a streamway below a second pitch.  Not knowing its true name it was christened Avenul Mahmur (Hangover Pot).  This slope and 15ft pitch was later descended and the streamway reached.   Upstream a cold duck led to a sump after 200ft and downstream a wet 30ft pitch dropped into another sump.  A nice little system conveniently located near the camp.

25/8/89   We returned to Pestera Ghetarul de la Barsa where a 20ft pitch was descended and a winding streamway followed for some 200ft to a 15ft pitch.  Then several hundred feet of attractive streamway, interspersed with technical climbs and a 30ft deep free-climbable pitch was visited.  A deep sump pool soon barred the way.

The adjacent Pestera Zapedia was next explored.  A large, square entrance in a deep log filled doline led to a steep ice slope and 30ft ice pitch.  From here a long, awkward and meandering passage full of climbs, crawls and squeezes debouched into a massive gallery boring off into the distance - rather like parts of the Gouffre Berger.  As it was getting late we fought our way back out of this fine, sporting cave intending to return another day.  This was not to be due to atrocious weather - a great shame as we later found out that this system is some 20km long!!

26/8/89   Festered and dug in local dolines - to no avail.

27/8/89   Avenul Mahmur was revisited in the hope of finding new stuff but without diving gear it was hopeless.  A promising surface dig was also started but bad weather later thwarted us here.

28/8/89   A very long walk over the ridge into the valley of Girda Seaca took us to Pestera Ceiba Mare near where the river Girdisoara sinks.  A 180ft wide by 100ft high entrance, the largest in the country, split into several passages.  The first looked at turned out to be a unique slimy, moonmilk covered ramp which was climbed for ever 100ft until it became too exposed for safe progress.

Another passage led through a crawl to the main way on - a lengthy stream passage and large chamber where the river entered.  Several hundred feet of beautiful phreatic river passage ended in a wide, deep and log filled sump pool.  A series of high level phreatic tubes terminated high above the floor of the entrance chamber.

29/8/89    Torrential rain threatened to wash the camp away.  A Romanian sheep milk cheese suffered this fate but was unfortunately rescued by Pelo.

30/8/89    Thick mist failed to conceal the Bad News:- mice had eaten the Angel Delight.  This was offset by the Good News that the shepherds' monstrous dogs had devoured the sheep milk cheese.  We had had enough so packed up the camp - giving much of our gear to the shepherds - and headed off for (relative) civilization.  A desperate 15 mile, 6 hour walk got us to Pietrosa where we caught a very tatty bus to Beius - the most publess town in Europe.  There followed an exhausting train journey to Oradea and eventually Arad.

We travelled back via Budapest and a few days R & R in Vienna where we ate, boozed and festered to excess. We even got underground in the Seegrette at Hinterbruhl - a tourist gypsum mine where Heinkel 162 jet fighters were made during the 2nd World War (which we mentioned quite a lot).  The lower levels of this working are flooded and it is advertised as the "largest underground lake in Europe.”  Even more inspiring was the nearby pub with 100 different beers.

So ended a particularly interesting but thoroughly exhausting caving holiday.  The caves visited were excellent but would have been more so if we had had more surveys and information.  The oppressive dictatorship at that time, lack of food, poverty and overbearing attitude of the police made us glad to get out back to the West and the fleshpots of Vienna seemed on another planet.  Only two weeks after we left came the Revolution and hopefully change for the better.  I can think of one fat police officer in Oradea railway station who almost certainly get put against the wall - and rightly so.

Our very grateful thanks to Florica, Liana and Polo for all the time and effort they put in for us. Florica lives in London but the others are presumably still in Romania and hopefully alive and well.

 (Compiled only four years late from log books written at the time. Some surveys and information can be borrowed from Tony Boycott).

Tony Jarratt     10/12/93


 

Odds & Sods ...

There is a trailer at The Belfry, and it's been there for some time.  If anyone wants it they can speak to J-Rat and make him an offer, or whatever.  Any money would go to the club.  Any takers... ?

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LES DAVIS, the new Mendip Warden and the Burrington Commoners have put forward two proposals for the Burrington Area as follows .....

1)       To close the Goatchurch car-park.  This has recently been used for tipping/dumping and most cars parked there these days end up being broken into, I know several club members can attest to this fact.  The suggestion is to put up a soil barrier, 'one vehicle' back from the road, whilst leaving possible Landrover access for rescue purposes etc...

2)       Fox's Hole.  Due to problems there, involving amongst other things the disposing of hypodermic needles, it is suggested that the site be gated.  Access would be given to cavers on some sort of key basis.  It is also noted that the site is used by bats for roosting ... so maybe a gate wouldn't do them any harm either.

If there are no objections to these proposals/suggestions it is likely that they will go forward in the New Year.  Comments and feedback is welcomed and may be addressed to Les Davis at the Mendip Wardens Service, Charterhouse Centre, Charterhouse, Somerset.

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LOCKERS at The Belfry are now numbered.  If you are currently using a locker can you indicate which one is yours to the Hut Warden. If you wish to continue using it next year there will be a £2.00 p.a. reservation fee.  Any lockers not claimed and paid for by 31.1.94 will be forced open and emptied and given to someone else who wants one.  If you don't have one and would like one, see the Hut Warden.

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Access to Keys: The lock on the key cupboard (for guest keys) has been changed.  The following people have access to the cupboard for issuing keys and permits to visitors:

Martin Grass, Blitz, Estelle, Jingles, Jeff Price, Nigel Taylor, Mr Wilson (Snr.), Tim Large, Brian Prewer, Ted Humphreys, Jake.

If anyone else feels that they should have, or needs, a key please contact the committee.

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EIGHT Ladders have gone missing/are unaccounted for.  They should be in the tackle store and are not!!  If anyone has a ladder or knows of the whereabouts of one or more of these, please contact Mike Wilson.  Please remember to log tackle out of the store in the book provided.  The tackle is the property of the club and therefore available to all for use.

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STOP PRESS .....

"MEGA BASH at The Old Hill Inn, Chapel Ie Dale, Yorkshire. 19 & 20.3 94!!!

Martin Grass has arranged with John & Sue Riley to have a weekend bash at The Old Hill Inn, like we had when they opened, it would be a weekend of walking, caving, diving & climbing, not to mention the usual barroom activities (Ballet dancing, Whist drives etc.)

I am informed that the Saturday night will be a singsong & P*ss up!!! (no one interested in that I'm sure). John & Sue are holding all bedrooms on a first come first served basis, so members should book through them on 05242 - xxxxx.  (Sounds bloody good to me. - Ed)

Watch this space for any further details.

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I am informed by Chris Falshaw that not only do the B.E.C. GET EVERYWHERE!!! .........

They also DO EVERYTHING!! - i.e. Richard Roberts. (See St. Cuthbert’s Report p.17 & reference p.76) A member in the early '60s has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine.

When Chris told Alfie he said" Ah, the Wessex haven't got one of them!"  Kangy asked Chris what he had got it for and was told "Gene (Jean) Splitting". "Well" said Kangy "He could have split them down St Cuthbert’s!!"