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

Cover:               Left:  Barrow rake and ‘that’ Vacuum cleaner.
                        Right:  A Dutchman in Wire Rift St. Cuthbert’s
                        Bottom:  Treebs and pal at Gour Hall St. Cuthbert’s


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


New Years Eve.

For the benefit of those who either weren't there or were there but can't quite remember what happened (though Lord knows why that should be!) what follows is a brief report on the festivities that were perpetrated at The Hunter's Lodge and The Belfry on the night of 31.12.93 - 1.1.94.  My informant wishes to remain anonymous as he does not wish to be sued or beaten up as a result of this article, though the editor may be persuaded to divulge his identity at agreeable price.

By ten o’clock the Hunter's was in full swing, all bars were open and pretty full, 'speleology corner' in the main bar had become a fairly non negotiable people ruckle and great fun was had 'groping' my way through it.  Most people, it seems, were in fairly high spirits by this time, indeed there was not a great deal of 'ebriation' to be seen at all!

The majority of BEC members had congregated in the back bar, the list of names and faces being far too long to detail here save to say all the regulars and then some were there, even some Dutch cavers who had stayed at the Belfry over Christmas had come back from Wales in order to share in the fun.

About ten thirty sounds of harmonious singing could be heard emanating from a corner of the bar; the 'Belfry Boys' were at it and before very long this developed into a full fledged sing song with all and sundry joining in.  Cries of 'They Words' filled the air 'twixt ditties and at one point the lights were turned off, presumably as a request from the Landlord to keep singing' they words’.  The highlight for me being a particularly sweet and harmonious rendition of 'The Exploration Club' I haven't heard it sung so well by so many for a long time. Much Ale and snuff were consumed amid the sounds of singing swearing and raucous laughter, and then suddenly it was time.  A disorderly exit from the pub preceded a totally uncoordinated 'Auld Lang Syne' (I swear there were at least three different versions going on at once) which was followed by that good old New Year tradition the 'Snogathon'!!!  It would seem that any fears of intimately communicated virii went out the window as most people got down to it in true style. (I went round twice and suspect I was not alone in this.)

Then it was back inside for the freebee beer and more carousing.  During this time a whip round for a barrel was organised and quite a lot of money was raised, funny that, people wanting a barrel tonight of all nights?!?!?

The festivities continued till about one o’clock when in time honoured fashion they were transferred to the Belfry.  (Presumably to give Roger and Jackie a chance to put the pub back together.)

The assembled crew became more and more impatient as for minute after minute the beer did not materialise, soon there was an angry baying mob awaiting the arrival of 'the Trevor'.  Had he not shown up when he did we would not have been able to stop the lynch mob that was being formed for his benefit, but to his credit he arrived and amid cheers and cries of ecstasy the barrel was installed in its rightful place.

The effect of this was stunning,  I have not seen a fifty person beer serum in some time and I can assure you it was a sight to behold.  From this point on things degenerated quite well, people no longer walking and talking so much as wobbling and slurring, lots and lots of kissing, groping and ****ing were going on.  (I can't help but wonder if there were a few red faces on Jan 1st).

By about three o’clock your reporter decided to retire as it was getting close to the time when people start hitting each other for no apparent reason.

Someone was having a good time singing the Novice Rap in the snake pit (see lyrics in this ish .... ed) as there were definitely sounds of rhythmic grunting and gasping emanating from the tents therein.

(Photo below ..... Estelle carves the turkey on Xmas day)


‘Nuff sed.  I think a splendid time was had by almost everyone, I know I enjoyed myself and al though I’m not going to mention names here I’ve got some great blackmail material for certain individuals .....

For example a certain member had an interesting way of losing his voice in that it appears to have become attached to a certain other members tonsils during the course of the festivities, names may be revealed at a future date unless money changes hands pretty quickly!!!

Apparently Babs left her camera at the Belfry and some very interesting photographs were taken in the small hours, unfortunately Rich Blake was so keen to see them that he opened the back of the camera before anyone could stop him, so it remains to be seen what photographic evidence still exists.

see you all soon .......



White Pit

Minutes of a meeting held between the Bristol Exploration Club and the Wessex Cave Club at the Hunters Lodge Inn January 2nd 1994.

Martin Grass read out a letter from the WCC to the BEC which suggested the need for a meeting with reference to formulating a management/access plan for White Pit.  He then called for suggestions for a Chairman. Pete Hann suggested Martin Grass and this was accepted with no further nominations.  It was accepted that this meeting should only deal with White Pit. Apologies have been received from Phil Romford.

Tuska outlined the history of the site.  He had been informed that Cuckoo Cleeves was for sale and made contact with Mr Masters. This was a most convivial meeting and permission was given to dig 18 Acre field and White Pit on the understanding that if anything was found there would be a need for preservation/access agreements.   A meeting had taken place with Mr. Masters at end of 1992 following discoveries in White Pit but no plan had been formulated.  Some confusion re fencing the site, dry stone walling, a stile, planting trees and spoil removal had arisen with a lack of communication between different groups of diggers.

There then followed some considerable discussion as to Tuska’ suggestions of an annual photographic record, liaison officers, digging records and access arrangements.  Blitz and Phil Hendy said it was essential that all agreements were kept as simple as possible.  Martin Grass suggested that essentiality we require one Liaison Officer and an annual meeting.  It was suggested that Tuska be the Liaison Officer on the understanding that this was only in respect of White Pit with the BEC and WCC, i.e. not a CSCC hat.  Tuska accepted this and said that in early 1994 he hoped all the Major Mendip clubs should have a Conservation and Access Officer and in future this might be dealt with by the BEC and WCC + A representatives.

The following was then agreed:

ACCESS:  The cave will be kept gated.  No Novices.  Party size to be a maximum of four plus leader/guide.  This person will have prior knowledge of the cave and appreciate the no go areas.

ACCESS CONTROLS:  The leadership/key situation was discussed and it was thought that currently Tony Jarratt has 2, Mark Helmore 1, Tuska 1 and Phil Romford 1.  J-Rat said that the MRO will need a key.  After discussion it was agreed that the WCC and the BEC would keep two keys each on Mendip, the BEC keys would be held by Tony Jarratt and Tim Large.  The WCC will inform both Tuska and the BEC of the key holders.

TAPPING:  Done.                                   ROUTES:  Obvious.

DIGGING/EXPLOSIVES: Not a problem as it is covered by Access/Access Control.

CARBIDE:  No carbide to be used.

NOTICES:  One already in place.  J-Rat to talk to Brian Prewer about an MRO entrance sign.

PUBLICATIONS:  No restrictions on publications.

CLEANING ARRANGEMENTS: Not a problem as it is covered by Access/Access Control.  Cleaning trips can be advertised in the BB and WCC Journal.

FIXED AIDS:  Currently rigged (Thanks to Bat Products). Entrance ladder to be removed.

PRESERVATION/MONITORING: Pete Hann will initially photograph the cave keeping a record of all photographic details.  At each annual meeting it will be decided whether or not this need repeating.  In any case it will be repeated at least every four years.

COMMERCIAL CAVING:  No Commercial trips to be permitted

Chris Smart        January 2nd 1994


Review of the Swiss Cave Congress (1991)

By C.J. Lloyd.

 (I know this is well out of date but felt it to be of interest nonetheless ......... Jingles)

In September 1991, Snablet & I attended the 9th Swiss Speleo Congress in Charmey, Fribourg Caton. It was a two day affair of lectures/presentations, slides, movies, gear and book sales and of course drinking and socialising, with two days of caving excursions both before and after for those who could attend.  The whole thing was put on by a small but energetic team from the local caving group - one of 39 clubs in the country.  Accommodation of all types was available with us chappies sandwiched into the camping area.  (A typical European camp site of postage stamp sized piece of 'grass', wall to wall with tents!!)  Some were even cheaper. .. dossing in their cars in the car park.  It was nice to see that some things can be free in Switzerland and one of those taking advantage of that was the 76 year old former president of the Swiss National Caving Association.

We arrived a day early after a few more than the standard number of wrong turns - actually they were the right turns, just the wrong town in the wrong Caton - but we were in the right spot for the first day of caving, which actually left the parking lot on time at the un-caver like hour of 08.00.  This part of Switzerland is not blessed with roadside caves so we had to walk up to the alpine hut below the cave, arriving at 11 ish in time for lunch.  This was a fully served soup and bread affair with wine (this being the French part of Switzerland) and coffee in bowls.  Suitably stuffed everyone moved a little further up the meadow to the caver's barn where we changed into our kit.  The cave was a short hike up the talus with its entrances spread out over 150m of almost vertical cliff.

Our group got to do a multi-entrance through trip in Reseau de les Morteys which started with a rope climb up the outside of the cliff to an entrance discovered only a few weeks previously.  A short way inside, a rope dangling onto a big cone of snow led up a 100m pitch to daylight, which was now solidly in the clouds.

An exposed traverse took us across to another entrance which immediately took us down a series of nice 10 - 30m pitches in tight belling meanders.  Then there was tight stuff in which some people had to take off their vertical gear to get through, and another spot where you wished you could but needed it to clip into a very awkward pitch head.  Quite a sporting cave which of course had to finish with 100m of frogging to get out.  The whole of the group wasn't out until 10.00, which was not a problem as most of them were planning on sleeping in the hut - which we must've missed hearing about. .. not speaking French.  So we had to tromp back to the car and bivvy in the car park.

At least we saved ourselves the drive for the next day and provided some amusement for the new arrivals, who discovered two soggy, wet body bags when they tried to park their cars in our spots.  Knowing the schedule we didn't rush up the hill, but did arrive in good time to hook up with a group going into the same cave again.  At 8.6Km and 300m deep and going, with multiple entrances, numerous trip combinations were possible.  I took an easy option and went in to see the Grand Salon, a room 60 x 60 x 50m high, which they had had to dig through a sand sump to find. I really kicked myself this time for my lack of French as it made communicating with my tall blonde beautiful guide quite difficult!

The next two days were busy running back and forth trying to catch all the interesting talks and slide shows.  They had the whole array of presentations and papers on Karst geology, hydrology, biology area reviews and new exploration.  If they didn't have slides or overheads I didn't stick around too long listening to languages I didn't know.  But I still saw lots of interesting presentations, spanning literally the whole globe .... the Swiss sure get around!  The main feature films and multi-track slide shows were excellent with the film of the French diver with five back mounted tanks and three on the front, and the Lechiguilia show being particularly memorable.  (The Swiss photographers were there as well, pushing their Lechiguilia book - which is excellent).  There was of course the customary banquet and drinking sessions where you could meet cavers from a dozen different countries including Russia and Romania.  French was the host language but most of the non French or Swiss communicated in English. I was approached by a German on behalf of an Austrian who wanted information from the British on caves they had explored in Austria.  Almost too much to take in two days.  And if you still had money there was a good selection of gear to buy including a bunch of titanium gizmos the Russians had brought and more books on caving than I ever imagined existed.

One of the competitions they had was for the best produced map, which was won by a Swiss caver (and congress organizer) and depicted their latest and 1100m deep find in Mexico.  It was superbly done with artistic details added to give a 3-D aspect to the big pitches and open spaces as well as big blocks on the floor.  Simple things really, but adding greatly to your visualisation of the cave.  They also had a mini -congress on mapping which included practical sessions underground, on paper and on computer.  It looked like they have a pretty whizz bang software package for mapping and plotting incorporating colour aerial photos, 3-D surface topography and map plots at any scale or rotation.

The following two days featured more caving trips for those who could attend.  We signed up for the longest, hardest rated trip which was limited to six people.  It was back in the same cave and very similar to the first day's excursion, but we finished the longer trip in less than half the projected 12 hours due to a competent party.  Mind you it was telling who was used to walking passage caving and those of us used to much squeezing and vertical work.

A word of special mention and thanks is due to the organizers who along with sorting out the weekend presentations, also had to rig this and the other caves for us to do our sporting tourist trips.

The last day we finally went to a different valley and hiked up to a new cave, Cournielles Cave.  This one was mainly vertical and we were quickly down to almost -200m.  The trip was punctuated by a series of OKs, as that was the only way all the nationalities knew that the rope was free. Afterwards Pierre regaled us with tales of 200 and 300m deep pushing trips that had produced his award winning map.  And of course before we all parted company we stopped in at the local cafe for a last beer together.  Again I was amazed at how small the world caving community is becoming when I found out that here in a cafe in Switzerland were sitting people from three different countries who had all been fortunate in visiting the hard to access Lechiguilia cave, which is in yet a fourth country.

A very worth while and enjoyable long weekend.


The Novice Rap.

Sally Humphreys.

If you're going down a pot-hole -
Then you'd better take care,
If you haven't been before, oh,
Then you'd better beware,
There'll be trouble in the tunnel,
There'll be stress under the ground,
If you miss your hand or foot holds,
You'll go down without a sound,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.

(sounds of rhythmic gasping!)

Don't you moan or gasp or stagger,
'Cos you know the rest'll grin,
Don't you grasp that shabby stal flow,
'Cos you know that it’s a sin,
And you're sliding down a rock face,
With your battery round your neck,
And there's nothing gonna save you,
As you scream 'oh bloody heck' ,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.
(sound of rhythmic gasping, crashes and swearing.)

So you're sitting at the bottom
Of a great big sodding hole,
With a bruise upon your tailbone
And a blight upon your soul,
And you think 'what am i doing -
Down this dismal pit of fear?',
But we recognise the symptoms,
You'll be back within the year,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.


Nobel Corner

It was with interest and appreciation that I read, in the Christmas issue of the Belfry Bulletin, of the achievement of Richard Roberts in winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine. I know from my own work experience how important it is for sufferers of a complaint that brings people together to share their experiences and for which a journal is published regularly (keep it up Ed) to read of the success that people make of their lives outside coping with the condition that afflicts them.

I have been a member of the Bristol Exploration Charity (BEC) for getting on for fifteen years and this is the first report I have read of a person's general success.  In the past Editors have only published articles on how members have coped with the condition from which they suffer.

For example we have had information on how to overcome the trauma of discovering a cave system unknown to the natives of a remote province of Mexico only to find that within 500 ft of the entrance there is a 25ft overhang for which no ladder has been brought - poor imagination.  Likewise there have been reports on coping with the humiliation suffered when unable to find the entrance to the cave currently being explored on an Austrian mountain after a night in a mountain hut during which just a little too much recreational drug has been consumed, even though the entrance is in sight of the hut.

I could go on endlessly - the sump reached without diving gear; the 300ft pitch reached with 500ft of rope but no bolting kit - even how to cope with the agony of living with having discovered fifteen kilometres of cave passage under the Llangattock escarpment after years of digging, camping and adulation.  Every issue of the Bulletin has been filled from cover to cover with these articles on how it is to live with the condition of caving.

I could like to congratulate the new Editor, young John, on the change of editorial emphasis to the successes people have made of their lives.  After the clutch of Nobel prizes that I am sure he could find amongst past and present members could we have articles on some of the other successes of the members of the charity (BEC) such as:

"How I lived on the dole for ten years whilst holding down steady employment"  "How I lost a fortune in property development and recovered it by returning to what I was doing before"  "How I made a million from privatised Water Company inefficiency"  "How I retired early with a full company pension and was then employed as a consultant earning more than I had ever done when on the books"  "How I held down a well paid job for twenty years without the qualifications for doing so"  These and many more success stories would show the members of the charity (BEC) that they need not spend the whole of their lives worrying about the condition with which they are afflicted, namely caving, but that when they overcome the stigma, social discrimination and physical disability associated with caving, such as inebriation and sore knees they can make something of their lives.

I am sure that regular articles in the Nobel Corner would do more for our members' self esteem than issues full of stories about the condition from which we suffer.  Well done again Editor.


Publicity and Promotions Manager
Bristol Exploration Charity (BEC)

A charity promoting the cause of cavers and caving

As a result of the Nobel prize-winning BEC member some doubt has been expressed as to the stories authenticity ..... You cynical people.

Turn this page and doubt no more.

Thanks to Angus Innes for providing the info ....... Jx



Sharp (left) and Roberts realised genes included “junk” DNA

THE DISCOVERY of the highly unusual structure of genes in higher organisms has brought a Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine to two British and American rivals.  The impact of the discovery, made a decade and half ago, has been enormous: it helped to fuel a revolution in cell biology, both at the fundamental level of understanding the basic molecular machinery of cells and in certain areas of medicine, such as inherited diseases and cancer.

The prize-winners are Richard Roberts, who moved to the US in 1969 to work at Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York, and Phillip Sharp, head of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Roberts is now research director at New England Biolabs, in Beverly, Massachusetts.  The two researchers worked independently, and published their results within weeks of each other in the spring of 1977.

In an atmosphere that was more party than press conference, Sharp commented on the length of time the Nobel Committee had taken to award the prize for the work.  "There's a lot of research our there that warrants the prize," he said.  "Naturally, I'm delighted that they finally recognised our work, and the work of others."  In fact, several recent Nobel prizes have been awarded for discoveries that would not have been possible without the work of Roberts and Sharp.

In the early 1970’s, molecular biologists' understanding of the structure of genes was based on research with Escherichia coli, a simple gur bacterium that was relatively easy to study in the laboratory.  The picture of gene structure and function that emerged from the work with E. coli was straightforward.  A gene was known to be built from a continu­ous sequence of nucleotides.  The basic building blocks of DNA.  This sequence was copied into a stretch of RNA, known as the messenger, which contained essentially the same genetic information as in the original gene.  Next, this genetic information was used to direct the assembly of a protein molecule.

Molecular biologists assumed they would find the same system in higher organisms, or eukaryotes.  No one predicted that, instead of existing as a continuous sequence, eukaryotic genes would be split into several pieces separated from each other by long stretches of DNA that apparently contained no genetic information.  This is what Sharp and Roberts saw in early 1977.  "It was so unexpected that you not only had to be smart to see it but also bold to- announce it," David Baltimore, of Rockefeller University in New York, told New Scientist!  "Nevertheless, the insight made sense of a lot of puzzling data."

One of the puzzles was that the nuclei of eukaryotic cells are often awash with long strands of DNA that are far too big to be messenger molecules.  These could be explained by the discovery that the initial DNA transcript of the gene contains both the coding units of the gene (known as exons) and the non-coding sequences between them (introns).  Most genes are built from just a few exons, but some have more than fifty.  The true messenger molecule is made by the removal of the introns and the splicing together of the exons (see Diagram).  Although some of the details of the splicing process have been worked out, much of it remains a mystery.

Sharp acknowledges that had neither his team nor Robert’s team the discovery when they did.  Others could have stumbled on it within a few months. As it was, considerable rivalry developed between the two teams.  The result was nearly a dead heat.  Sharp recalls that the importance of the discovery was "obvious to anyone", and laments that he and his colleagues did not have longer to savour it. ''I'd worked ten years on this problem, and within two months of solving it, everyone was running around saying ‘Oh Yes, we've found split genes too’.

The fragmented structure of eukaryotic genes has far-reaching significance, and brings problems as well as benefits to higher organisms.  One conse­quence is that errors in the splicing process may lead to disease.  About a quarter of the 5000 known inherited diseases, such as beta-thalassaemia, result from mutations that arise during splicing.  Errors in splicing can also lead to certain forms of cancer, such as chronic myeloid leukaemia.  The splicing mechanism is also known to have occasionally transformed normal genes into cancer causing genes, called oncogenes.

Organisms benefit from splicing in several ways.  For instance, a gene that is made up of several exons may be "edited" in different ways during the splicing process to gener­ate different proteins. This allows a more flexible and creative use of genetic material.

In the longer term, evolution may be speeded up as a result of the existence of split genes.  If several exons from different sources are brought together in a novel combination, this may instantly produce a new gene coding for a new function.  This is potentially faster than the slow accumulation of a long series of mutations in an existing gene.  This evolutionary scheme, known as exon shuffling, was proposed by Harvard biologist Walter Gilbert within a year of Roberts and Sharp's discovery, and is now supported by a lot of experimental evidence.

The origin of introns is a puzzle.  Were they present from the very beginning of life, but were trimmed out of simple organisms as an act of molecular economy?  Or are they a form of molecular parasite which has infected eukaryotic cells but not those of simpler organisms?  Proponents of both ideas have some evidence to support their views, bur neither side yet has a convincing case.

Roger Lewis.  Boston


A minor Mendip Centenary

a snippet by Dave Irwin

Excuses for celebration amongst cavers on Mendip are never very difficult to find and as we all know are frequent occurrences; caving celebrations though are slightly less common. However, in 1994 we can celebrate the centenary of the incised 'T. W. 1894' that can be found in Cave of the Falling Waters in Lamb Leer.

Lamb Leer Cavern is one of The Mendips' earliest known caves.  It was discovered by miners and was first explored about 1675 by John Beaumont of Ston Easton.  Beaumont published a full description of the cave as far as the Cave of Falling Waters in 16801.  After this date interest in the cave dimmed and by the early years of the 19th century the cave entrance had been lost.  Following an intensive search in 1879 the cave was re-located and a full re-exploration of the cave took place by McMurtrie who, in 1881, had published an account of the cave together with the first survey2.  Several trips followed during the time when the cave was being considered being opened as a public show cave.  Several visits were made to the cave soon after its re-opening including a correspondent from the Times newspaper3 in 1882 and the monks of Downside Abbey in 1883, the latter publishing a report on their visit in 18844.

Cave exploration on Mendip was then in its embryo stage and one of the early enthusiasts was Thomas Willcox, manager of the Priddy Minery, who with the young Herbert Balch, descended the cave on a number of occasions during the remaining years of the 19th century. On one of these visits, during 1894, Willcox engraved his initials5 into the stalagmite bank in the Cave of Falling Waters.  This event is well known to most Mendip cavers from the 1934 photograph6 .

By 1897 Herbert Balch had become one of the acknowledged cave explorers in the district and together with his regular caving companion, Willcox, accompanied a party of individuals from Wells and the surrounding area, including Frank Sheldon, Mr. Selemann and Mr. H. Willcox, into Lamb Leer Cavern, near West Harptree.  The local paper7 published the following account [slightly abridged] which must have typified many that Balch would have led at this time.  The account is interesting in that it gives the reason why Willcox made the inscription and details of the improved tackle arrangements on the pitch from the windlass into the Main Chamber:

1.                  Beaumont, J., 1681.  An Account of Okey Hole.  2 Philosophical Collections, No.2, pp 4-5. Published: Royal Society, London.

2.                  McMW1rie, James 1880 On the Lamb Bonom Caverns at Harptree, Somerset. Proceedings of Somerset Archaeological Natural History Society Vol. 23 ii pp 1 - 16, (1881); annotated survey inset between Parts i and ii : copies may be viewed i" Wells Public Library reference section.

3.                  The Times, 10th August 1882

4.                  Anon, 1884 A visit to the Mendip Caves at East Harptree, Somerset; on July 17th 1883. Downside Review Vol. 3 pp 102-107.

5.                  The date was added by Balch in 1895.

6.                  Ashworth, HW.W., 1965 Lamb Leer 1. MNRC Journal, Vol. 2, No.1, 58pp [upper photo. opp. p.16]

7.                  Wells Journal. 2nd December, 1897. The author is unknown but it is probable that Balch wrote it himself.  For many years local papers relied on individuals to submit news items relating to their activities; the editorial staff merely tidying up the text where necessary.

On Tuesday last, under [the] guidance of Mr. H.E. Balch visited the furthermost recesses of the great cavern of Lamb Lair ... A preliminary inspection of the upper parts of the cavern had been made a week or two since, and workmen employed to repair the windlass and platform which were in bad condition.  The beautiful stalactitic forms of the upper cavern being duly seen and admired in the searching light of the magnesium lamp, a halt was called at the entrance to the large chamber, to which access is only to be obtained by a drop on a rope of some 60 feet.  The old style of lowering with its terrible swinging and spinning was vastly improved by a heavily weighted guide rope which proved an inestimable boon, and so with much lowering and raising of men and of chattels, the whole party soon stood at the bottom of this great chamber, which whilst surpassing all others in its inaccessible position, also still more surpasses them in its grandeur and its beauty.  Time flies swiftly underground and by the time all had merely looked around it was time for tea, which was gladly partaken of.  Next the several parts and beautiful passages, without the addition of mud unlimited to the already mud-bespattered clothing of the party.  At 5 p.m. after one or two photographs had been attempted, the party moved on by slippery ladders and narrow and muddy ways in the beautiful chamber which lies still further beyond, where stalactite and stalagmite of exquisite beauty rewarded them for their pains.  Here it is, that what may be in time to come, a measure of the rate of deposit of the stalagmite, has been cut in the huge bank which comprise one side of the chamber: 'T. W., 1894" cut by Mr. Willcox ... Perhaps a century hence some visitor who is hardy enough to penetrate to this depth will find it still but little changed in such an infrequented spot, should be sufficient basis for a perfectly accurate estimate of this rate of deposit on this huge bank of stalagmite, which by the way, reaches some 50 feet in height.  Tired out, through the smallest passages and difficult of ways, the party slowly made their way to the waiting windlass once more and hence burdened and tired to the upper world again, which was reached at 9.35 p.m., Wells being reached at 10.30 p.m ....

The party of eight had been in the cave a total of eight and a half hours - considering their clothing and lighting - a remarkable achievement.  On a similar trip to that reported above Balch accompanied Lady Waldegrave and her companions into the caves - such was the interest in caves at that time.

The photographs taken on this trip may well have been used later by Balch in his later accounts of this cave.  It is worth pointing out that the cost of taking a photograph at this time was prohibitive for most people and so the case for a re-take would be generally out of the question.  Several pounds (£)9 would have been spent on each shot; bearing in mind the average wage of a man at the late 19th century would have been between 60p and 75p per week, thus in real terms today the cost would be about £500 - £600 per photograph!! Perhaps in 1994 someone ' ... who is hardy enough ... ' will find time to have a look and determine how much stalagmite has been deposited since 1894, with the landowners permission of course, and publish their results in the 'BB' .... and, what about a drink on 'Tom' Willcox and 'Herbie' Balch for their pioneering spirit.

Ashworth, H.W.W., 1965 Lamb Leer 1. MNRC Journal. Vol. 2, No.1, 58pp [lower photo. opp. p.16]

Wells Journal, 3rd February 1898


I was going to use this space to print a particularly incriminating photograph of two of Mendips native creatures, the 'Biffo' and the 'Wessexus Bonkum' engaging in what can only be described as 'fraternizing' on New Years Eve, but am unfortunately unable to do so for two reasons, one being that Babs won't give me the photo and the other being that I wish my testicles to remain attached to the rest of me for the foreseeable future!!

So instead I would like to use the space to say thank you to all of you who have contributed to this and other issues of the B.B.  Please don't stop writing ... your articles are the lifeblood of the journal and it can only be as big and/or as good as the articles I receive.  Keep it coming ..... Jingles.

Well now I've managed to fill up another half a page .... on with the rest of it ....


Radon in Caves

An article from the New Scientist magazine concerning Radon in caves.  12 September 1992

Cavers risk cancer from underground radon.

Radon gas in British caves is exposing thousands of potholers and other cave users (what?. .. ed) to levels of radiation up to 800 times the official safety limit in homes. Radon increases the risk of contracting lung cancer.  The Health and Safety Executive is considering what action to take after a survey team recorded the world's highest radiation reading for a natural limestone cave in Britain.

In a letter to New Scientist this week, Robert Hyland, a PhD student and a member of Manchester Polytechnic's Limestone Research Group, reports the conclusions of a year long survey of Britain's caves. Hyland found the average level of radiation was 2900 Becquerel’s per cubic metre.  The limit at which Britain's National Radiological Protection Board recommends action to remove Radon from homes is 200 Bq/cu.m.

The highest figure averaged over the year was 46000 Bq/cu.m. for Giant's Hole in Derbyshire.  Readings at this cave peaked at 155000 Bq/cu.m., during the summer when airflow is reduced and Radon, released by Uranium in rocks, remains trapped underground for longer.

This figure is the highest ever recorded for a natural limestone cave.  By contrast the highest figure for a limestone cave in the U.S. is about 54000 Bq/cu.m.  Hyland wants all cavers to know the risks before they go underground. "Children and people on management training courses are not always told of the risk”, he says.

The 1985 lonising Radiation Regulations limit workers to a dose of 15 millisieverts a year.  Such a dose increases the chance of contracting lung cancer by 0.05%.  This is about four times the annual risk of being killed in a road accident. With radioactivity of 155000 Bq/cu.m., a caver would pick up this dose in around 1 3 hours.

Over a year, keen potholers can clock up hundreds of hours underground.  Dave Edwards, chairman of the NCA's working party on Radon, cut his time underground from 200 hours per year to about 26 hours in the past year as he has become aware of Radon's effects.  He sees no reason for anyone to stop caving entirely, but says "We are changing our habits."  He has advised outdoor centres using Britain’s 20000 caves "to quietly find out about Radon levels and informally change the caves they use."

The Health and Safety Executive, still waiting to see the full results of the survey, is considering whether employers who send people underground are liable for any health problems caused by radiation.

Local education authorities may be at risk for the schoolchildren they send caving on trips and holidays. The Department of Education has provided no guidance and most education authorities are unaware of the risk.  Derbyshire County Council, however, recently stopped school parties from visiting caves while it checked Radon levels in the peak district.

Installing fans will reduce Radon in caves, and the HSE is satisfied that the installation of fans has averted any problems at tourist caves with high levels of Radon.


News from the Philippines ....

Jim Smart has written (to Trebor) from Iloilo City in the Philippines on his two month jaunt which includes a brief excursion over Xmas to Australia and Tasmania. After having been side tracked by the delights of Manila for ten days, he made his way to the province of Aklan on the island of Panay to suss out some promising stuff touched upon in Speleo Philippines '92.  Unfortunately, he found his exploring companion in Aklan riddled with sickness, possibly Typhoid.  A few weeks were spent nursing his companion, in and out of hospital, but some exploration was done and some caves found - a few 700m long caves in the Guimaras region, one with a 50m shaft to a second un-descended pitch.  Jim has been hampered by heavy rain in late November/December, although this should get better in the New Year.

I am informed that he is due back some time in February, so I hope publish more of his exploits then.






Blasts from the Past .

.. . some excerpts from the club log from years gone by ...

31 .7.71 Goatchurch.

Bill Cooper + 3 ...

Only went to beginning of drainpipe as I was just wearing swimming trunks!!  1 hour ... Bill Cooper.

2.11 .76 Eglwys Faen

Bob Cross, Mr N., Garth, Dell, Ross White, Batspiss ...

After wandering around the Llangattock escarpment, arrived at cave entrance.  The party being well equipped with a cigarette lighter, proceeded about 100’ into the cave before giving up and returning to the surface. 5 mins.

16.7.77 Conning Tower & Hillwithy

Batspiss, Ross, John King, Claire, John T. ,Chris Smart.

The hut warden threatened to go caving, so we went along to make sure he did.  It's not surprising that these holes are not locked, when Batspiss takes people caving he makes sure they never want to go with him again. Lovely grovels in the mud & slime. N.B. the mud is good for sticking on caving lights so you can’t see where you are going ... it seemed better that way!! J.K.

 (I must repeat John's remarks & say how eternally grateful am to Mr Batstone for taking me to such pretty & interesting caves ... I shall certainly go with him to another cave ... if I’m lucky ... Claire.)

Easter '79 South Wales ...

23 BEC, 2 WCC, 3 NWCC, 6 Pegasus, 1 GSG, 2 TSG, 8 Eldon, Countless NCC etc ...

There were no winners ... Only survivors!!!

Dec ‘83

(Following 2 entries made by Q????ers)

... We can all learn a lot from 'Quackers', anyone who can sum up 3 hours of caving in 6 lines, and that includes his name and the date, all written in Sanskrit (with a Somerset accent? !?!) - can't have all his marbles!!!  Anon.

2.1.94 Upper Pitts Hole, High Moral Ground series. 

Trevor, Dickfred, Jake, Estelle + 3CCG + Joan the sec +JR MCG.  Jingles at The Belfry as callout.

At 01.00 the party set off in miserable weather conditions, very wet underfoot, with the intention of surveying the Upper Pitts kitchen for an alleged barrel shaped formation. Unfortunately in the entrance series they met with an impenetrable barrier, since named Ebboracum (sic ... check your Latin ... Ed. ) which prevented any further progress.  The barrier spoke in granite (or limestone) tones, “This is a private function, the BEC are not welcome" it said.

We came, We saw, We were refused ......

But the High Moral Ground was ours!!!

Time 20 mins ......... Rating P.G.



Odds & Sods ...

Address Change ... Doug Cunningham has moved, his new address is as follows ....

Doug Cunningham (Brighton Explorers Club), Withersea Beach, East Sussex.


Blitz (Chris Smart) has asked me to point out that the telephone number published last month, for him on the Cuthbert's leaders list was incorrect.  The correct number is as on page 1 of this journal.


Of possible interest to those living locally is 'Folk in the Bath', a folk club hosted by Pete and Anita Mcnab, held on Sunday nights in The Bath Arms in Cheddar.  It is regularly attended by quite a few BEC members; indeed it seems to have become something of an unofficial gathering.  An act appearing in the near future is 'Fred Wedlock' and I can highly recommend this as a grand evening’s entertainment. (Unfortunately this may have been before you receive this B.B ..... never mind.)


BERTIE BAT.... Ever wanted your very own Bertie, for a badge, or for your tankard???  'Dave the Box' will make them to order a 'Bertie on a Barrel' comes in three sizes........

I must apologize to Dave for having lost the price list, but you can check with him in The Hunters if you are interested.  (They are original copper pieces and quite distinctive ..... Ed)


From Dick-Fred ... further to the meeting at the Hunters on 1.10.93, concerning the growing number of thefts from cars, the feeling of those that attended was that some form of Mendip Hillwatch should be set up.  The first meeting is to be held at the end of January.  I am attending as the BEC rep. and will report back to the committee so that the membership can be informed as to the results. Hopefully we will be able to formulate a plan to help reduce all crime on Mendip.


Related to the above, Les Davies has provided me with the recent crime figures, these may be of interest.

Theft from motor vehicles ...                    Burrington: (General)      92

The link:                        11

Goatchurch:                  8

G.B.:                            12

Total                             123

N.S. The Burrington general figure will include cave parking sites, but have not been specified by reporting officer I we can therefore assume that the individual figures for The link, Goatchurch etc .... to be higher!!!


Also from Les, as previously published, it was proposed at a meeting of the Burrington Conservators that the following steps should be taken ....

1)       The closure of Goatchurch car park with a soil bank close to the road, this would prevent access for fly tipping and deny a secluded car park to the car thieves.

2)       The closure by soil banks of the small unofficial pull ins that have been created on the North side of the Combe, again these sites have been targeted for vehicle related thefts.

3)       A Bat Grille to be installed at Fox's Hole to prevent access by unauthorized persons who have been using the cave for parties etc.. and causing considerable damage.


AND FINALLY ... (MIS) QUOTES OF THE MONTH!! both overheard at The Belfry on the night of January 1st/2nd (in the wee hours ... so called cos by then Trevor is usually so pissed all he can do is 'wee', often over some other poor unsuspecting belfryite ... !!!) by your dutiful reporter (sic) ....

T.Hughes: "We are here to chastise The Wessex .... Not to eulogise!

Joan (MCG Sec.) to J.R. (MCG) ......”Put it away john .... I don't want that up my nose .... !!!”


See you all for more fun and frolics in the next ish! (Hopefully late Feb) ... Jingles.