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

Cover:              No comment.


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


Inside Cover:      Emma Porter (a prospective member) is “interviewed” by J-Rat & Jingles.


April fool it the Belfry Bulletin!


Hello again folks, BB time is here ... whoopee!!!

Judging by the response to the last issue I considered it wise to let "Spike" loosed again so he'll take over in a minute.  I'd just like to appeal to you all for some more articles.  This has been the main reason for the delay in this issue, or rather the lack of articles has.  I know that there are those that that have promised and are indeed at this very moment scribbling away, but I could still do with more input.

I'd also like to apologise for the poor print quality or some of this ish .. .its cos I'm between computers at present and I’m having to beg borrow and steal time on other systems (once a hacker etc.)  I’m hoping to improve the look of the BB with the next issue, thanks to Dave Turner’s Laser printer so I hope that will make up for it.  Oh and if there is any smelliung pisstakes in the prunbtong its cos I was in a Harry!!

Spike's Corner:

I managed to escape from my cage to attend Rich Blake’s Birthday bash at the Belfry, little did I realise that it was the official Belfry "Winter Olympics.  (See Belfry Walls for evidence!?!?!?).  I was greeted at the door by a wall of sound, the first time I’ve seen a stereo that size in The Belfry (and some would say hopefully the last…ed).  Having struggled through the almost solid decibels I was nearly fried alive by the resident fire breather and flame thrower…Ivan.  I hear tell that Zot was banned for this many moons ago!!  When the flames had cleared I realised that the kitchen had been transformed (as usual) into a ski jump.   The kitchen had been transformed into a ski jump.  A highly lubricated Belfry tale was mounted at a ”Black Run” angle at the far end and extreme mirth was had watching Snablet, Rich Vince et al Luging, skiing and falling down it.  This degenerated into a tennis/cricket match where anything that could be thrown became a ball, including certain individuals!  Once the throng were knee deep in broken crockery etc. (including Ivan’s suspected broken shin!!) things slowed down a bit. Just before I departed someone put the Sex Pistols on the stereo (always a recipe of disaster) and I have a vision of Blake, Snab and Vince “dancing” to the beat.  At least they say it was dancing, all looked a bit iffy to me, needless to say various individuals were differing shades of green the next morning.

I also Went to Sian Menab’s 21st "Rocky Horror" party at the village hall the other weekend. This was a dammed good bash and can be summed up quite succinctly.  "Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders, Beer, Dancing, Nurses, Stockings Suspenders, Food, Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders and ......... Nurses, Stockings, Suspenders. (Get the idea???)   If you can't imagine what its like I suggest you speak to Snablet or Dave Lennard as they are both reputed to have had "First hand Experience" later in the evening.

A good time was had by all who attended; even Andy Sparrow was depressed up, tho’ I have to say that Mrs Sparrow looked better in her gear than Andy in Basque.  (As Snab said to me, if one testicle fall out either side he would have been a Basque separatist!!)   I also saw the editor of a BEC magazine dressed to the nines, best dressed woman there weren't you jingles. (Lies lies all lies…Ed).

Personally I can’t wait for the next one, Nurses, stockings, suspenders ... ad infinitum.



By Phil Romford.

Sandpit is a unique solutional feature on Mendip, situated at the top of the catchments between Swildons Hole, Eastwater Cavern and St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and at the head of Ebbor Gorge above Wookey Hole.  It is a large, roughly rectangular solutional depression about 50 by 23 metres and 11 metres deep, the longer axis is North to South.  Sand Pit may be an ancient collapsed cavern; the possible evidence for this being the vertical cliff sides, the highest being about 8 metres, and, the vast amount of boulders infilling the floor.  It is shown as a small walled in feature on sheet 280, Wells area geological map at NGR ST 533497.

Sandpit is of great interest both in geological and potentially hydrological terms.  It is situated only about 150 to 200 metres south of the South Western Overthrust fault in Burrington Oolite (BO), which is faulted against the Clifton Down Limestone (CDL) to the north.  The South Western Overthrust fault trends approximately North West from near Cheddar, to the South East at the Emborough Thrust near The Hunters Lodge Inn, where it is offset by the Stock Hill Fault.  The fault dips at an angle of about 60 degrees SW.  In Sandpit the BO apparent dip is approximately 350, bearing 2600.  The name Sandpit no doubt derives from the fact that the limestone rots in localised lenses to a fine pale yellow/grey siliceous sand.  Generally, the limestone beds visible in Sandpit are massive, averaging about 1.5 to 2 metres.  The rock is fairly easily broken, unlike that at White Pit; my assumption is that the limestone in Sandpit was not sufficiently close to the fault to be affected by localised frictional heating and consequent metamorphism.

Sandpit is owned by Richard Masters of Lower Pitts Farm and is scheduled as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  The basis of the SSSI schedule being Geology and Biology.  It is therefore, a site of some considerable sensitivity in ecological and conservation terms.  The land owner asked me to discuss the prospect of digging with English Nature (EN) who are the body administering SSSI's.  After careful discussion I was able to ensure EN that digging would be carefully considered to take account of the fragile nature of the ecology.  This was agreed on the basis of a very small team of diggers who would continually update the landowner of progress.  EN granted a formal consent to the land owner allowing our team to proceed with caution.

There has been a sporadic history of digging in Sandpit since 1907 when the MNRC dug a small cave in the SW corner; in 1940 the UBSS dug a 3 metre shaft near the centre; the SMCC dug near the UBSS shaft in 1962 and later in 1965 (My old dig); the WCC in 1968 and finally in the late 1980's by EMI Caving Club.  None of the digging revealed anything of significance.  The current dig, started Spring 1993 is at the lowest point of the hole near the western cliff.

Tim Large and I sited our dig on the exact spot that I had previously dug nearly 30 years earlier. This was following the West wall down vertically; we very rapidly found that below infill level, the cliff was stepping out in well defined ledges about 1/2 metre wide and deep.  At a depth of 3 metres we had to dig outwards away from the wall to gain more depth. By now Brian Murlis and Chris Towser had joined us on a regular basis.  To date we have excavated to a depth of approximately 5 metres at the deepest; at that point we found that once again we were hitting solid bed rock.  The decision had to be made whether to tunnel following the rock down at an angle, or, whether to move out another couple of metres and dig another shaft.  After a lot of soul searching we decided on the latter, which will most likely be concrete lined for safety. We are now getting down into large blocks which may be promising. It least it may make it easier to consolidate the shaft.  The soil infill seems looser and with less clay than the upper levels and is certainly undisturbed by previous diggers. Since there may be items of archaeological interest, we shall take soil profiles as we dig the new shaft to build up a picture of the prehistory of the depression.


The situation of Sandpit is an interesting one: Since it is more or less in the centre of the Swildons, Cuthbert’s, Wookey Hole triangle, it gives rise to speculation on what lies beneath the Sand Pit infill. The drainage patterns of the major swallets feeding Wookey Hole indicate that there may be a major confluence probably nearer to St. Cuthbert’s sumps than any other swallet (see St. Cuthbert’s Report-Geomorphology).  The three major cave systems all terminate at sumps north of the South Western Overthrust fault.  This indicates to me that the confluence may be in the fault itself, at a depth of around 180 metres, at or near the saturation zone.  This means that Sandpit could be directly above major cave development. Indeed, White Pit, which is only about 500 metres to the NW, has a high level well decorated passage which trends due East. It is certainly possible that the two features may link, ultimately joining with The Master Cave (sic).



Tax changes affecting caving clubs.


Press Release:

Tax changes affecting caving clubs.

Following further investigation the details of the likely effects of the changes in tax legislation are becoming clearer.

The basic requirement of clubs and societies is simply to inform their local tax office of their existence. The tax office will then send a form on which the club can declare the amount of any taxable income, along with instructions on how to fill the form in. So long as the form is completed and returned within the time scales required there should be no further action required on the part of the Club and in many cases no tax will be payable.

Clubs should note that there are penalties for not filing their return within the specified period, but that these are only applicable if the local tax office has sent out a demand for information and this has been ignored.  On the other hand, treasurers and chairmen of clubs and societies may become personally liable for penalties and any tax due if they wilfully attempt to evade tax by failing to inform the tax office of the existence of their club.

A recent article in the NAMHO Newsletter (No. 24, January 1994), written by one of the Inland Revenue team responsible for the changes in the regulations, clearly describes the action which should be taken by treasurers and other responsible people in clubs and societies.  Copies of this are available, free of charge, by contacting the NCA Treasurer at the address below, enclosing an SAE. The names of people requesting the information will be kept on file and if there are any developments in the future the Association will try to keep people informed.

Nick Williams
Treasurer, National Caving Association,

Wednesday, February 9,1994

New tax changes affecting clubs and associations.

1.       Introduction.

A new piece of tax legislation became effective on 1st October 1993 (CT Pay and File).  This legislation applies mainly to limited companies but it also includes unincorporated associations, i.e. voluntary clubs, associations etc. In the following text the following definitions are applicable: -

Organisation - any voluntary club or association

Inspector - the local Tax District of the Inland Revenue.

2.       Previous treatment.

In the past, organisations have been strictly bound by the same rules as companies but the inspectors have exercised a lot of discretion.  Although income from subscriptions is not taxable, bank or building society interest is.  Most organisations have a deposit or building society account but the total annual interest received, and thus the tax due, is minimal. In most cases the interest is paid net of tax anyway.  Since it would cost more to assess and collect the tax than would be received, the Inspector, sensibly, did not pursue clubs where the tax liability was minimal.

3.       New Rules.

In respect of accounting years ending 1 October 1993 onwards, organisations, other than charities, are bound by the same rules as other companies. These rules are as follows: -

a.                      Within three months of the organisation's accounting year end, the organisation will receive from the Inspector a tax return (form CTIOO) and a formal notice to make a return.

b.                      Within nine months and one day of the organisation's accounting year end, the organisation must pay any tax due. They will calculate the tax liability themselves on the tax return (CT200).  Interest will be charged on any tax paid later than this date.

c.                      Within twelve months of the organisation's accounting year end the organisation must send the tax return (CT200) to the Inspector.  Nil liability must still be notified on a CT200.  A penalty will be charged where the CTIOO is returned later than this date as follows:

- £100 where returned up to 3 months late;

- £200 where returned over 3 month late.

4.       Charities

Registered charities must still return accounts to the Charity Commissioners as before but they are obliged to make a return on form CT200 if sent one by the inspector.

5.       Compliance

At present, Inspectors are only aware of the existence of a very few organisations.  The Inspectors can only issue a notice and Form CT200 if they are aware of the existence of the organisation and it should be noted that the penalty for late return of Form CT200 is only applicable if the organisation has received an official notice.  There may, therefore, be a temptation to refuse to notify the Inspector of the existence of the organisation in the hope that the organisation never receives an official notice.

This is NOT advisable since the Inspector may discover the existence of the organisation at a future date through the activities of investigation units. In such cases the Inspector can not only assess the unpaid tax for back years but also charge interest and penalties. Where an organisation is unincorporated the person assessed will be the Chairman or Treasurer personally on behalf of the organisation.

6.       Recommendations

For both organisations and the Inland Revenue to comply with the new legislation would involve a great deal of non cost effective work.  However, the legislation cannot be ignored completely. The answer is to obtain an "Extra Statutory Concession" from the Inland Revenue whereby they agree that the organisations need not send in details if their taxable income is below a de minimis amount.  I have sent a submission to the Inland Revenue Head Office asking them to consider an Extra Statutory Concession.  I will keep you informed of future developments.

Adrian Pearce.

Reproduced from NAMHO Newsletter No. 24, January 1994


From Chas Wethered

A little over three moths ago I met an old friend, Martin, in The Hunter's for Saturday lunch.  We decided it would be a good idea to take his two sons, James and Edward, for a look round

Goatchurch cavern, a gentle trip, as this would be the boys' first underground adventure and Mart's first trip in about 20 years.

We went to Brian Prewer's to borrow helmets and lamps for Mart and the boys, in exchange for a modest donation to the M.R.O.  Martin and Brian then recalled that they had caved together all that time ago, some reminiscence was indulged in as they got their kit sorted out, then off we went to Burrington Combe where we changed into our caving gear in Mart's van.  My first trip to Goatchurch (see BB 470) had been on a Tuesday morning in summer, Saturday afternoon in autumn found the cave 'inhabited' but nowhere near as busy as on my earlier visit.  In we went by the main entrance, Mart and I kept up a running commentary of sensible advice and naming sections of the cave for the boys, interspersed with 'witty' asides in Goon Show voices.  Members of 'a certain age' will be familiar with the antics of the Zany characters invented by messrs Milligan, Secombe, Sellars et al. (B*gger off Chas!! I can remember that myself and still have my copy of 'The Ying Tong Song'…certain age indeed!!...Ed.)

The humour and daft voices were to allay any fears that 'Little Jim' & 'Neddy' might have had. They said later that they weren't worried as they had enjoyed our jokes (poor deluded children) and had found their first adventure in the depths of the hill great fun and wanted to go again.

Next day, Sunday, lunch again at the Hunter's then to Priddy Green.  To Brian's for kit as before, then after changing in the barn we crossed the field to Swildons Hole.  Being the last man and being detained by a call of nature (Butcombe), not wanting to delay my companions, I suffered a hiatus of my mental process and dropped heavily into the entrance.  I landed on a small loose rock with my right foot, that ankle refocused my remaining brain cell with a sharp stab of pain.  A severe reminder to be more careful, later diagnosed by my G.P. as damaged ligaments, not serious but bloody painful.  Once exploring and pointing out the formations and intricacies of the dry ways to the lads (again with Martin & I sounding like 'Eccles' & 'Bluebottle' etc….."Oooooh…..He's fallen in the water?!?!") my hurt all but disappeared only to return with a vengeance later.  We took the boys to the top of the 20' and back, here was a good but light flow in the streamway giving the lads another new experience.  James wrote the imaginative poem (which follows, Ed) based on the weekends exploits, which I hope will give enjoyment to all us Belfryites.



Down Swildon's Hole.

With heavy belts and mining boots,
With nife cells, hats and lamps,
Down Swildon's Hole go one, two, three,
Hoping now to chance,
The trip down Swildon's hole and back,
But what dangers will there be?
Said one to others; Let us go,
And from all the things that I now know,
The trip all round, both to and fro,
Will take too long, and so,
I have thought another route,
That more our plan it does now suit.
Three boys they clambered down the hale,
And searching all throughout their soul,
They found no fear, or just for now.
The Rift, the Pipe, the tightest crawl,
Now would not divide them all,
But later, and now that is here,
The boys did not find cause for cheer,
And running out now was their hope,
'Cause one of them had dropped the rope!
Now here they stand, just down a climb,
And all they could now do was whine,
And holler, bellow, scream and shout,
In hope that someone could get them out,
But alack, outside the rain did fall,
And forced these boys only to crawl
Through flooded chambers, pipes and rifts,
Come up for air or catch the drifts,
And float along until they saw,
What looked a lot like a smooth glass door.
A closer peer revealed the clue:-
The water now: backwards it blew!
This was the hole the boys came in!
Oh how they made a terrific din!
One by one, they clambered out,
And there and then they gave a shout,
Because now all of them were free,
And had not come to misery.
Now on this world were three less graves,
But there are some terrifying caves!

James Torbett – Aged 12 – 25/10/93 -


Skiing In Crans Montana

When Jingles requested more articles for the BB I bemoaned the fact, in the Hunters one evening, that I could not help out as I had never done anything remotely original or interesting in the caving world about which to write an article.  "Why not write an article about skiing" says J-Rat, who like me believes that Jingles has a lot to be thanked for the rejuvenated BB and who, of course, is dependent on others for material to be published.

Well just as in the caving world I have never done anything interesting or original so in the skiing world, but I am aware that not so many cavers have skied so an article on the mundane will do just as well.

Are there any similarities? Well I suppose so, both sports depend on going downhill and then up but in the reverse order; both involve getting cold and sometimes hot, but for very different reasons; both require some nerve to enjoy to the full; both involve boozing for added pleasure; both have seen an amazing development in the fashionability of the cloths used; both depend on specialist gear to some extent and finally in the case of an accident requiring rescue both involve some trauma to the victim unless, in the case of skiing, you are taken off the mountain in a helicopter and then the trauma is whether your insurance policy covers the cost.

The main difference is the accommodation and food associated with recreational downhill skiing which s normally quite luxurious, and, even if it isn't, very expensive.  This I know puts many cavers off the sport when they think of the weeks or months, for the same cost, that they could spend enjoying themselves in the discomfort of the jungles or arid zones of the world under canvas, living off the land and drinking with the natives.  Well there's none of that in recreational skiing, rather superheated chalets or hotels, five course dinners, coffee at £2.00 a cup, a half of beer at more than that and a plate of chips at 3,000m for a fiver.  Now for someone, dare I say it, who has never stayed at the Belfry, these disadvantages are not serious rather they are positive advantages (excepting the cost).  You can of course hire an apartment and self-cater but even that isn't cheap.

The other main difference is that most downhill skiing could under no circumstances be considered "natural".  Purists who consider the fixed aids in Cuthbert’s an outrage would have nightmares at the sight of the uphill transport systems, the massive reshaping of mountains to produce skiable pistes (originally French for paths) and the bashing of the snow by amazing tracked machines (once seen in operation you would never bother to buy a 4WD vehicle) that seem to be able to go anywhere and work all night to produce easily skiable conditions.

What other differences are there?  There are far more women skiers than cavers and many are better than the men.  I am not sure whether this makes its difference for the better or worse as far as the readership is concerned!  The cost of going uphill is astronomic once you are anything more than a beginner.  In a resort with 100km or more of marked pistes a lift pass for a week will cost about £100.00.  If you don't own skis and boots you will have to hire both, if you've never skied before it makes sense to have lessons.

Skiing is very weather dependent with a short season, except on glaciers, on which you can ski all year - during the 1985 Berger trip I took off for a day to ski the glacier at Les Deux Alpes its often too cold, too sunny, too limited visibility, too much snow, too little snow but for all that it is often just right.

Off piste skiing, of which I have no experience, would I am sure appeal to cavers more as it is natural to the extent that you are skiing the untouched mountain snow.  It requires a different technique from piste skiing.      Of even more attraction   to BEC             members would be ski touring, or mountaineering, in which you go uphill as well as down on your skis and move from hut to hut.  You need an excellent knowledge of the mountains, or better still a guide, and joy upon joy the accommodation and drinking habits get much closer to caving as mountain huts, though warm, cannot be described as luxurious and the camaraderie and boozing legendary if a bit expensive.


This resort is on the north side of the Rhone valley about 80km east of the eastern end of Lake Geneva.  We sometimes fly from Heathrow in the morning to Geneva and then take the train from Geneva to Sierre and then a bus or rack and pinion railway up the mountain to Montana in time for tea.  More often than not now we drive leaving Somerset late Friday afternoon, catching an evening ferry at Dover and then driving

through the night arriving in Crans in time for breakfast, a journey of 550 miles across French motorways, then lesser roads across the Jura and finally more motorway in Switzerland.  Travelling this way we can be skiing by lunchtime on Saturday.

We tend to go to the same place most years for a mixture of reasons.  We have a friend who lets us his luxury apartment, three bedrooms and two bathrooms for the two of us.  On a day when there is no cloud the sun shines for eight hours when in other resorts less well positioned it will shine for one or two hours.  The resort is the biggest in Switzerland but hardly used by the Brits.  It is difficult to understand why except that it all faces south so that when the sun shines the snow melts quickly, but in the early season, provided there has been a good fall of snow the sun and snow can be a wonderful combination - from 10.00am to 4.00pm in hot sunshine in mid February on a mountainside between the altitudes of 1,500m and 3,000m can be magic.

The guidebooks say that Crans lacks challenging runs and this is true to some extent but for us this is compensated by the fact that Maggie and I can ski the whole mountain together, over 100 kilometres of marked piste, without Maggie getting scared and the views across the Rhone Valais to the Southern Alps with their rows of peaks higher than 4000m is spectacularly beautiful, to say the least.  Whatever the guidebooks say, in certain conditions the runs are challenging and sections of some of them are always challenging at least for the intermediate skiers that we are and always will be.

The apartment we hire is 50m from the "Les Violettes" lift from the resort, a six seater gondola, which takes just over 10 minutes to lift us from 1, 500m to 2, 200m initially over banks of fir trees and then, above the tree line, rugged mountain scenery.  From there we can transfer to a cable car which, in another ten minutes takes us together with 100 other skiers, packed like sardines, to 2,950m and the edge of a vast, aptly named glacial bowl, "Plaine Morte", which has little attraction to us downhill skiers.  Instead we head off down the one route from the glacier.  This is reasonably steep but wide in most places, interspersed with short, narrow and scary tracks traversing the more precipitous sections, the more daring players ski over the edge of these tracks but not us.

The view down and outwards is one mass of snow covered mountain with no trees and across the Valais a vast range of high alpine peaks.  Further down our route cuts into a wide valley, on either side of which we can now see other ski lifts and other skiers taking other routes from these lifts that mainly stop at about 2, 500m.  Towards the bottom of the valley, which is still a good 700m above the resort, it levels out and we ski faster and in a straighter line, not having to turn continuously as we have had to until now to avoid going too fast and losing control. We ski out onto a mountain path which is almost flat, past the "La Toula" lift, at the tree line and pole along for about a km until the track reaches the "Cabain du Bois" lift and then tilts down hill on narrow paths between the trees in the forest. These tracks are fun when we are on our own but horrid when there are lots of other skiers as there is very little room to manoeuvre and much danger of collision.  We are always pleased when we reach one of the many open spaces, which in the summer are mountain pastures, which allow some relaxation whilst skiing down to the door of our apartment.  From the glacier to the door it is an uninterrupted run of just over 11km and takes about half an hour if we ski non stop but we seldom do this as it is very tiring and misses all the point of being in the mountains, enjoying the views, the fresh air and the sunshine if we're lucky.  It can take much much longer if it’s snowing hard and a white-out with the only guide as to where we are the posts that mark the centre and edges of the piste, no view, freezing cold, mind chillingly frightening and requiring vast quantities of gluwein at the first mountain restaurant we come across.

Most of our skiing is above the tree-line from 2, 500m to about 1, 900m across the wide southern facing, interlinked mountain slopes of Petit Bonvin, Cry D' Err, Bella Lui and Chetseron, with some on the tracks down to the resort through the trees most of which end at one of the four main lifts out of the resort.  If we time it right and the snow is good we can always get back to our apartment on skis from wherever we are on the mountains but normally we ski into the centre of town to spend an hour or so in the late afternoon at Gerber's, a wonderful tea room with a three piece band playing gentle afternoon music, with a stunning array of Swiss cakes and confectionary and a range of fizzy beers that would look out of order at the Hunters.

Still wearing cumbersome skiing boots, we leave Gerber's suitably refreshed to window shop at Cartier, Gucci and other elite houses of consumerism before picking up the planks and heading off for the apartment on the bus, the cost of which is covered by the ski-pass. The day ends with a long lie in the bath, supper cooked by one or other of us and a good book.  Sleep comes easily after all the fresh air and the need to wake early the next day to get the best of the skiing.

Jeremy Henley


(Under) Ground Rules.

Purloined from 'The Mendip Caver'

Make of these what you will ...

Do not question the leader's decisions - Obey his instructions! Always stay in sight of the party - Do not lag behind - or rush on.

If you are Cold/Tired/Sick/Scared or Hungry - Say so!!  There is no room for pride or martyrdom - so be honest.

Distraction can cause trouble - Focus on the task at hand and stay concentrated.

Know where each step is going before you take it.

Relax at every opportunity. Conserve physical and mental energy.  Panic worry and uneasiness waste energy!  Stay calm and collected.

Apathy and boredom are your enemies - they will exhaust you very quickly - keep a positive and vital attitude.

The only barriers are those you create for yourself!!!  Believe you can do something and create the possibility ...... Intend to do something and create the probability .....

- Then create the reality ..... do it!!!


The Butcombe Blues.

By Mike Wilson.

Its pleasant to spend weekends just pubbing,
Doing the rounds with friends and he likes,
Pots clinking, people chatting, shoulders rubbing,
Jake and Blake wobbling around minus bikes.

Having drank all night at the Hunters,
And managed to stay standing up,
You find to your horror some punter's,
Gone and purchased a barrel to sup.

So you stagger to the bog in a stupor,
And manage a fumbling pee,
Then back to the bar for another,
Is this twittering wreck really me???

Last riders are called and the lights flash,
Finish your pint at a push,
Chip in for the barrel with hard cash,
Then have a last pee near a bush.

The nights not finished till morning,
You crawl out of your pit looking grim,
Climb over the bodies still yawning,
All having indulged alcohols whim.

Short of cash and totally exhausted,
Let’s go down to the caff for a bite,
Last night couldn't really be faulted,
Shall we have another barrel tonight???


Blasts From the Past.

Some more entries from the club log, from years gone by ...

16.6.64             Barry Lane, Oliver Lloyd, to St Cuthbert’s, the latter trying to learn the way.   During 3 hours any holes were entered, bottomless pits explored and a lake waded. The level of the lake was very low. O.C.L. found a way of getting up the entrance rift: with one foot in the bottom rung of the ladder - he recited one of Ramsay McDonald's speeches, the hot air so engendered rapidly got him to the top of the rift. - O.C.L.

26.8.64             Chris Harvey + Novice - Trip to Trat's Temple, Swildons Hole. - As we came back to the streamway, I noticed a hole high up in the roof and tried to climb to it. Unfortunately on the way up I slipped and fell about 15 feet where the novice was there to stop me.  Otherwise an uneventful trip.  Chris Harvey. (Who??? ..... Ed.)

22.11.64            Eastwater. R. Stenner, Joy Steadman, Brenda Plummer, Jock, Paul Morrel, Peter Fich, Dave Connolly, leader: Joyce Rowlands.

A miserable trip (inevitable in this cave) made hilarious for a while when one of the party (not the writer) got well and truly jammed.  Roger.

14.3.65             Eastwater - Balch Memorial trip.

Party: B. Wilton, C. Harvey, K.& P. Franklin, D.&K. Searle, H. Kennett.

60 years ago Eastwater was opened up by Balch et al.  To commemorate this fact a party was assembled in period dress to descend the cave. The illumination consisted of standard no. 7 candles carried between the thumb and forefinger.  The route taken was the 380' way, Traverse, Canyon, S Bends, Top of verticals and out via Halleluiah hole.  Time of trip one and a bit candles length = 2hrs.

13.8.65 Friday, Withybrook - Henry Oakey, Nick Miller.

By dint of taking off all our clothes we were able to get through a certain squeeze and get down into the streamway.  Extraordinarily tight, painful etc ... ' Better than flagellation!!!'

19.9.65             “Do not put in B.B.”        (Couldn't resist it could i? ... Ed)

At 1.30 precisely Messrs. Palmer, Kingston, Wilton & (Snogger) Hall - were supping ale at the Hunter's Lodge Inn, when a phone call was received with information about an exhausted caver below the 40' pot in Swildons. The above four, plus Biddle & Petty, descended to the water rift and found the bloke had already got up, so the party was guided out. - A half hour fiasco.  P.Kingston.

1.1.66 Hunter's Lodge Inn.       WIG HONKED!!!!



Trebor received a letter from Steve Milner in Australia, here is an excerpt which may be of some interest.

I noticed in Descent, that there is a slightly warped account of the blowing up of a cave in Sellicks Hill, just down the road from us here in Adelaide.  True, the cave was blown up by the quarry, but it was in an attempt to avoid the possibility of a conservation order being laid on the cave by the elected government. (The blast was on the eve (almost) of the election).  Nevertheless the majority of the cave exists and we are negotiating access, conservation orders, independent enquiries etc ... The Australian quarries are far more brazen in their activities than Hobbs quarries on Mendip.  The damaged cave is in the same limestone as the new cave that we have found on Kangaroo Island and really is quite beautiful, well worth preserving.

Speaking of Kangaroo Island, we are off for 10 days at Easter to push the caverns measureless to man; I expect we should have lots of success.

Happy Caving ..... Steve


Working Weekend.

The Belfry (as regulars will know) is currently in desperate need of some 'tender loving care'.  Well we all know its not going to get any of that but it might just get the once over at the next working weekend.  The date has been set for the weekend of 21st & 22nday.  Members attending and working will not be expected to pay hut fees (the usual arrangement) and hopefully there will be a meal on the Saturday evening as there was last time.  Trebor & Estelle have prepared a provisional list of tasks and these were agreed at the last committee meeting ......

Interior ...

1.                  Investigate and rectify intermittent hot water to left hand shower unit.

2.                  Investigate and rectify lack of hot water to shower room and hall we wash basins, in conjunction with defective immersion heater/hot water tank in roof space.

3.                  Shower room wash basins loose.

4.                  Replace various missing tiles to shower room walls.  (May be difficult until walls are allowed to dry out thoroughly.)

5.                  Continual problems with right side shower coin box - always breaking, jamming etc. Suspect left side shower box would be similarly afflicted if that shower was used more. 

6.                  Central heating erratic - radiators very hot on mild days.  Still significant smell from CH boiler.

7.                  Shower holder to right side shower loose/incapable of holding shower head. 

8.                  Flourescent tube in changing room needs replacing.

9.                  Dented/Broken inner face of changing room external door needs plating like the external face.

10.              Repair broken right side bulb holder in guests bunk room.

11.              On going repairs to hall WC cistern.

12.              Two electric bar heaters in boxed-in section of roof space not on during cold weather recently.

13.              General all round spring clean required.


1.                  New porch roof.

2.                  Up-grade front door to security door.  Wired safety glass??

3.                  Tune up delay mechanisms to external lights so they stay on for 1 minute?

4.                  Form gulley to base of front left gutter downpipe.

5.                  Replace missing downpipe to rear left corner of building, together with repairs to rotten/missing soffit and fascia board in this location.

6.                  Rectify bad leak to gutter/downpipe to front right corner of building.

7.                  Replace rotten sill/frame to guest bunk room left end window.

8.                  Re-decorate externally.

9.                  External emergency light over main fire door working??

10.              Replace poor quality, broken guest bunk room external door.

11.              Belfry site.. General clear up and disposal of rubbish.    (Big bonfire ... ???)

Obviously these repairs etc are ongoing so some may have been taken care of by May.  But as always there will be plenty to do and the support of the membership is needed, so make a note in your diaries.


OO- ER Missus ... !!!

About four or five weeks ago (maybe longer by the time you read this) we had a party of students staying at the Belfry from Kingston Uni. in London.  They have stayed at the hut on a number of previous occasions and aren't a bad bunch at all.  Unfortunately this time the hut was 'oversubscribed' resulting in too few bedspaces. On the Friday night some of them had been happy to sleep on mattresses on the bunkroom floor.

The saturday in question there was a barrel at the Shepton hut, which is another story altogether and I don't intend to go into that here, save to say that the party got continued at the Belfry and lasted till quite late .... During this time some of the Kingston lot, who had been asleep in the Belfry kitchen were wakened.  The high spirits of the partygoers resulted in a lot of crockery getting smashed and all of Kingston’s food being eaten.  It was awkward the next morning when not only did they not have anything to eat their breakfast off, but also had no breakfast to eat.  They were understandably upset about this.  The result being that Estelle had to buy replacement food for them as well as reimburse hut fees to the tune of about £20.00.  It would also seem that we have lost what had become a regular hut booking.

This was discussed at the last committee meeting and it was felt that there is a balance between having a good time (even a wild one) and the upsetting of paying guests to this extent. Need I remind you that we need to have guest parties stay at the Belfry for financial reasons let alone anything else.

It seems a shame that this sort of thing has to happen when even a modicum of control would avoid such situations in the future.

Digging Fund.

It was suggested at the last committee meeting that a digging fund be set up for the regular digging teams.  No decision has yet been taken but comment and feedback are invited from the membership ........ what do you think?????

A possibility would be to subsidise the purchase of tools and equipment for use on club digs, with individuals or teams being able to approach the committee and request funding for projects.

It is important to stress that this would be a club fund for club digs only and not a 'top up my tankard please' fund .....

Any comment is welcomed and can be forwarded to the committee via the BB editor, whose address is at the front of the 'rag'.


Martin "I'm not a yuppie Honest."  Grass would like you to know that his new Carphone (Poseurphone) number is 0385 xxxxxxx.


Sarah Bennett

1st October 1959 - 27th January 1994

The Caving world has suffered a sad loss with the death of Sarah Bennett on Thursday 27th January. 

Sarah clearly derived a great deal of satisfaction from her caving activities, particularly with the Chelsea on Llangattock and the BEC on Mendip.

A pleasure to cave with, she not only contributed with her considerable expertise, but with cheerfulness and an exemplary team spirit.  Her positive attitude was never more remarkable than on the Daren rescue in the winter of 91/92.  Faced with the daunting prospect of the journey from the Restaurant at the end of the Universe to the surface, with a dislocated shoulder, she was clearly concerned with the wellbeing of her rescuers as with her own predicament.

Sarah enjoyed the social side of caving with equal enthusiasm.  Barbeques at Whitewalls, singsongs at the Belfry, parties at the Restaurant - all were entered into with admirable high spirits.  The caving world will be all the poorer in her absence. Our sympathies go out to Henry, Sarah's family and her many close friends.

Mark Lumley


"And the lion shall lie down with the lamb"

Luke William English DEVENISH FIExpE
18 October 1920 - 24 February 1994

Mendip today is a sadder place for me, L.W.E. DEVENISH, known to many affectionately as "Dev" or as I have had the honour to have known him simply as "Luke" has died.

I have known Luke for only a fraction of the time that others have known him, just a mere 25 years in fact, but I have lost a dear friend and one of "life's gentlemen" is no more.  However, Luke's wife Norma, and their children Peter, Colena and Janine, and grandson Sam have a greater loss, and it is to them that we must send our deepest sympathy and respects.

Everyone that I have spoken to, that was fortunate enough to have known Luke, admits to having been touched by that magical spirit of his.  He was a perfectionist in all he attempted.  He would endure great discomfort, yet never complain of this. He would chide me for failing to wear ear-muffs or a dust mask when we were drilling and blasting, yet he would then sacrifice his own health and insist I use his equipment, when there was only one set in the Landrover, as I had mislaid mine.

One of the many tales that cheers me now is that of a young James HANWELL, Esq, who having been spotted walking at Priddy, towards Wells, was accosted by Luke and summoned to sit up in his open-topped windscreen-less jeep.  Together the pair tore off at break-neck speed, headlong down over Deer Leap towards Wookey Hole, as they neared the lower part of the road a thunderous and blinding crash occurred, shards of wood and curses profound ............... Luke is alleged to have exclaimed a great oath and cried "that's the third bloody gate I've hit across this road!!"

In recent years, in the coldest of weather, Luke could be seen about the City of Wells, in a bright lumber-jack type short-sleeved shirt, he was at that time hardy in health, but always with a soft nature. As a tutor and mentor he was like a lamb, gentle and considerate.  In recent years, after terrorist incidents, Luke would often telephone me at odd hours with valid suggestions and say, “I wonder, have you considered this?" He always kept a keen, sharp and active mind and he was ready with a suggestion that others would have overlooked.

L.W.E.D was a man whose interests in life were so strong, rich and colourful, it was almost infectious. He was a student of H.E. BALCH and with Oliver LLOYD and both Richard and Howard KENNEY, acted as pall bearers to the great pioneer on his death.

Luke was one of those characters in Mendip Caving, that dwindling Hall of Fame, who gave us much of our caving heritage on Mendip.  He was one of the discoverers of the Black Hole series in Swildons Cavern.  An ardent caver, not just on Mendip but also in the early days of speleology in France.   He once showed me, back in the late 60's, part of an early electron ladder he had constructed, and may well have been the first maker of such equipment.

I was fortunate in being Luke's next door neighbour in Chilcote, and one day on being offered employment by him, I readily accepted and there followed one of the most rewarding and formative periods of my life.  Luke's constant stream of tales and anecdotes could, with little effort, be encouraged from him, and often he would gruffly conclude these and dismiss them as being of no great import, yet to a starry-eyed youngster, this was history in action.

At work Luke's sheer physical strength and grit always manifested itself.  There are countless tales that those who resorted to his services of blasting, diving and demolition, or like Mike THOMPSON and Ian JEPSON, who have also assisted him, can recount.

I shall always remember seeing the dumb-struck awe that even hard-boiled Irish Navvies and site workers would hold him in, on the many construction areas we worked on.  A job well done was Luke's own satisfaction and reward.

On leaving a muddy, icy, wet site, tired, aching and with thumping "bang-heads" we would travel many miles at the end of the day to return to Washing pool Farm at Chilcote, Luke puffing in his King Edward cigar.  He would tell me of days long past, digging with H E BALCH at Badger Hole, Wookey, or when he had lived at the Star Hotel in Wells, and as an M.N.R.C member, he would spend hours at Wells Museum sorting out bones under BALCH's tutelage, or walked from Wells to Loxton, and after caving, slept the night in a cavern prior to his return to Wells.

Luke was the man who helped build the Wessex Cave Club Hut at Hillgrove, in one mad weekend, and later held the club together and took over the Chair of the Wessex from George WILLIAMS.  He later became President of the Wessex.   He was the man who, with Howard KENNEY, resolved to re-establish the Mendip Rescue Organisation after the War and was the number one call-out Warden until he retired on his 50th birthday.

Luke had a strong conviction that a man should always retire when he reached his peak, rather than overstay his welcome and thus was a man of his convictions.  He found the Roman lead pig ingots at Rookery Farm, which now lie in the Wells Museum, he was also the maker of the first underwater cave diving photograph at Wookey Hole in 1959.  He was the man who could move at all levels and not seem out of place with those in any section of society.  He was the man whose vision and interest and sheer downright professionalism, lead to the foundation of the now firmly established “ INSTITUTE OF EXPLOSIVES ENGINEERS".  He was the man who was always fair, honest, earnest, truthful, jovial, loyal, strong and loved his family, of whom he was immensely proud.  He was a lion of a man, called Luke DEVENISH.



Odds & Sods ...

Address Changes ...

Brian Murlis, Weston-Super-Mare
Andy Sparrow, Priddy, Somerset.

N.B. Andy requests that any 'visitors' do not park outside his house, but park at the Green and walk up to the house from there.


From Estelle, The Hut Dragon, oops sorry, Hut Warden.

Four lockers are still unclaimed but still padlocked.  If contact is not made with Estelle or they remain un-emptied by the 1st of May they will be forced open, emptied and given to someone else.  (There are people waiting for lockers)  So if you have a 'Guilt Factor' and have not yet paid your locker fees (£2) get in touch with Estelle.

Also ...

Anyone visiting the Belfry is requested to bring old newspapers for fire starting as long as the cold weather persists.  We need cups and plates too, preferably plastic and UNBREAKABLE if anyone has any spare.


BOB HILL is active (as ever) over in Oman and has written to me with the following ....

I have recently visited Majli's AI-Ojinn 'Meeting hall of the spirits'.  Second largest chamber in the world I am told.  900' by 600' with a 520' free hanging abseil, which was pretty impressive.

The sinkhole I mentioned in my last article has been pushed to 120m in.  We are now at - 50m and the passage continues downwards, with the roof appearing to level out at about -55m.  We intend to push it again soon but need some more gear and a few workup dives in the sea first as it will probably be a 60m dive.  An article on this and a survey and on Majli's trip will be forthcoming shortly.


I had a letter from John Nicholson a non member who visited recently with his son Martin and two Venture scouts ... an excerpt follows ....

 “Please thank the others for the friendly way in which we were welcomed to your HQ and shown the ropes.  A highlight of the weekend for me was to visit the Hunter's (after at least 35 years) and to find myself talking to someone who recognised me from the '50s. This last visit and a couple of other trips made in the last year, have wetted my appetite for some more caving and I would be interested to know if there are any other 'Antique Veterans' who would be willing to let someone of my ilk join them occasionally.

Once again thanks for all your assistance and for helping to make it a great weekend. I hope it is not too long before we all meet again on Mendip."

I have John's address and telephone number if anyone wishes to contact him …..Jingles.


Quote of the Month….

From a Caving Secretary who wishes to remain anonymous, on introducing the committee to a new member ....

"Nigel's not here but he takes all the Cuthbert’s trips!!!!"




More Odds & Sods ...

St Cuthbert’s Reports .... for visiting Parties....

There is now a locked box, fixed on top pf the key cabinet at the Belfry, containing Cuthbert’s reports and surveys.  It can be opened with the Cuthbert’s key.  Money for the reports should be put in an envelope, marked as such, and “posted” to into the hut fees box.

(In the event that there are no surveys available, take a name and address and the survey can be forwarded.)


BEC T-Shirts and stickers are now available from Tony Jarratt.  (Usually to be found at Bat Products….surprisingly enough).


The editor apologises to any members who have joined recently, I am still working on the updated Membership list at the time f publication.  As soon as I am able I will publish details.


Local members are reminded of Cheddar Folk Festival, taking place in Cheddar, of all places, 7/8/9/May 1994.  See “Snab” for more info.