Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Article Index

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

Cover: An Original Drawing by Snablet

1994 - 1995 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Angie Cave
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Andy Cave
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Floating                   Estelle Sandford



Hello fellow Belfryites. It seems a while since I've done an editorial for the old B.B., largely due to the fact that it is!  I shall not make excuses for myself save to say that another issue will follow this one very soon.

The reason being that the A.G.M. is not that far away at all, to say nothing of our 60th celebrations.

To this end I must mention one or two things.  Firstly any nominations for next year’s committee should be forwarded to the Hon Sec. A.S.A.P. and certainly no later than the September committee meeting. Secondly I would ask all current committee members to let me have their annual reports also A.S.A.P. in order that they may be published in the next B.B. and thus save an awful lot of time and hot air at the A.G.M .... God knows there's enough hot air anyway!

It seems, at this stage that there will be some current officers standing down next year, including possibly myself, so there are posts that will need filling.  The club will not operate without a committee and despite what some may say my experience is that there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

For my part I have not been around on Mendip that much recently for a number of different reasons, most of which are irrelevant to club business, but I have been spending a lot of time in Yorkshire, largely around the Old Hill Inn.  At this point I would like to wish John & Sue Riley all the best for their antipodean forays and thank them on behalf of many of us who had enjoyed their hospitality at the 'Hill' over the years.  Although I am happy for them it still feels like the end of an era with them leaving.  I can assure you that the new Landlord is every bit as welcoming of cavers and that on that level not a lot seems to have changed.

I ought to mention that Estelle's Address has changed as you will see from the preceding page.

Also that there are plans afoot to resurrect Friday night sing songs at the Hunters, hopefully on committee nights, and I know there is more than a little interest in this. (Not that I'm Biased or anything.)

Anyway enough prattle from me.

Watch this space for more news next month ..... over to you Mr 'N'.



From the Belfry Table

Yes, your club secretary has a new toy, and intends to make use of it to update you all, now in retirement at last!  On the latest news from the BELFRY TABLE!

But firstly, on a note of sadness, I regret to inform you of the death of Lord WALDEGRAVE , on the 23rd. May 1995.

Geoffrey Noel, 12th. Earl Waldegrave, KG, G.C.V.O, was apart from being a prominent and well-respected Landowner, indeed a good friend & benefactor to many Mendip cavers. Indeed, many such digs and caves have been excavated and discovered as a result of his having given permission for their excavation.  Red Quar Swallet, Wigmore Farm Cave, and also many mine shafts all lie upon his estate.

He has a genuine interest in what lay beneath his property, as well as atop it.  I can recall in the early days of the Wigmore excavation - firing a rather hefty explosive charge, having obtained permission from someone Tony Jarrat and myself thought to be the landowner, only to find that it was in fact the Dairy Herdsman!  Lord Waldegrave, arrived upon the scene just prior to the blast, and was advised to keep his head down, much to his merriment, and our chagrin, he gave us his personal authority there and then!  On Thursday 1st. June 1995, I represented the B.E.C at Chewton Mendip Parish Church, and have expressed the Clubs' regrets to his family. A true Mendip Gentleman, he will be missed.

I further regret to advise you of the death of an old Club Member, Graham George ROBINSON, number 489. Graham joined the B.E.C on the 17th. August 1961 am sure that you will all join me in wishing his family our deepest sympathy.  I have asked John RANSOM to write further upon this matter for the BB.

On now to lighter matters, DON’T FORGET THIS IS THE CLUB’S 60TH YEAR!   Saturday 1st. July saw a surprise birthday party for Bertie at Priddy Village Hall.  The Committee and their ladies worked hard, and an excellent evening of Olympics, Pig-roast, Barbecue and Blues band was enjoyed by all.  The profits were swelled by the exceptional generosity of Roger and Jackie DORS, who allowed us to keep the profits on the bar.  A very kind action for which we are all very grateful. The profits will be used to keep down the cost of the 60th. Dinner which I hope will be a grand occasion.

SEPTEMBER. ....... The "Cavelets" (Angie & Andy) are planning another Belfry Working weekend.  PLEASE support them, date to be advised.

SATURDAY, 7th.OCTOBER, is the A.G.M & DINNER. B.E.C.  Member No.1, Harry STANBURY is Guest of Honour, and the venue?  It’s the same as the 50th Venue, at the Bath & West showground; plans are already well in hand for this and other entertainments. Details from myself.  How about a "PANTO", come on you older B.E.C bods!  What about it???????????????

CHARTERHOUSE PERMITS are now being reissued.   These are of a new format, and can be obtained by any PAID-UP Members from the Belfry.  Don’t get caught without one, as the new system may well be under scrutiny by our new Landlords, English Nature /Somerset Trust.

OFFICIAL REMINDER & NOTICE, ..... NOMINATIONS FOR THE 1995/1996 Committee are now called for, please send to your Hon. Sec as soon as possible, but by the 7th August at the latest and include the name of proposer with them.  Candidates must be paid-up.

I have been asked by the Committee to advise all members that DAMAGE TO THE BELFRY WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.  There has been too much wanton damage of late, and it has been agreed that any malicious damage will mean that the culprits WILL BE CALLED BEFORE THE COMMITTEE, and further that they can expect to be BANNED FROM THE CLUB WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT IF AT FAULT.  You are warned, that there will be no exceptions, enough is enough, the Belfry is not just for a few to spoil as they think fit, nor is the Committee prepared to have all their work, and the efforts of good members laid waste.  The JULY Committee meeting acted unitedly and swiftly to curb this problem.  One member has been suspended until the 1996 A.G.M from all club activities and membership privileges, one Committee member has been suspended until this years A.G.M for taking the law into his own hands and assaulting one of the alleged culprits. A third member has yet to appear before the Committee and state his case, and is now banned from the Belfry and club activities until he chooses to appear before them.

The Committee will not condone damage or violence on anyone's part.  This must, and will cease.  The Club is more important and bigger than anyone individual, and I totally support this belief, no matter how useful any such individual mayor may not be to the club.   Enough said??????????????????

Oh well!. .. .its' time for me to get down from the table, (And my "High Horse"!),

regards to you all,

“Mr.” N.
(Nigel Taylor, Hon.Sec).


Rambles in the Mammoth Cave System

Babs Williams & Jeff Price.

The most important thing to know about Mammoth National Park is that is in a DRY county!!  The Jatrrats gave us this useful tip - buy a cool box $3.50 - ice $1.50 and lots of beer before you enter the state.

All facilities are available in the park at reasonable prices e.g. camping $10.00 per night. Each camp area has its own barbeque and table & chairs and is situated in idyllic woodland.  The park visitor’s centre has an auditorium showing various films all day on caves & related subjects e.g. bats.  It also has gift shops, restaurants & cabins to stay in if desired.  Caving books are very cheap so keep some cash aside if you are that way inclined.

There are a variety of caving tourist trips to choose from which are also quite cheap ($4.00 - $5.00) taken by very knowledgeable park rangers.  We would recommend the frozen Niagara and Historic tours, although you may be going along with 100 other people.

On Sunday morning we met Jim Borden and Nancy Kovabik at the visitors centre to do a trip in an extension of the Mammoth system called Rappel Cave.  They took us to Nancy's home about 5 miles away and offered us the cave research foundation’s cabin for accommodation that night - typical caving hut but with bunks.  We then went back to the National Park to break camp while they had breakfast.  In true caving tradition we buggered about and finally set off at midday.

Rappel cave is a through trip so we took two cars, leaving ours at the lower entrance ( Downey Avenue) and took the other to the upper entrance (Khan).  After a 20 minute walk we arrived at the entrance only to discover that dipstick Williams had left the car keys safely stashed in Jim's car.  After D.H. Williams had thrashed herself thoroughly with birch twigs, Nancy and Jim very kindly walked back to get the keys.

We were finally ready to start the trip at 14.10 hrs.

Khan entrance was dug by Jim and others in the mid 70s.  It is the 24th entrance into the Mammoth system.  It is also the highest, furthest east and furthest north.

We entered the cave down a 40' steel ladder pitch into the chamber.  After a short crawl we arrived at Ghengis river and made our way through phreatic passage to the start of the crawl.  This crawl is hands and knees, not very restrictive but very long (4000') - knee pads essential!!  They don't call it the Fisher Ridge Special for nothing!  We then went past the Blob and into the Turbine Blades, which is a gnarled and sharp rift passage, which we traversed (or straddled which is the Kentuckian term).  Then on into Thickwater Canyon _ aptly named as our boots sank about a foot into mud all the way through.  This canyon emerged into Fairy Land, a very wide water passage with fabulous mud formations and mud covered stalactites and straws.  Very pretty.

We then entered Elysiann way a spectacular large passageway with Ghengis river running through it. In places it was very similar to the green canal in Dan-Yr-Ogof and in fact much of the cave was like a large Dan-Yr-Ogof.  Jim and Nancy were horrified at our love of swimming in the water, the Americans do not like water!  So bad is this aversion to H2O that when discovering the new cave from Downey Avenue they reached "impassable water" and turned back.  At this point J & N let Jeff & I lead so that we could see the cave fauna, this was one of the highpoints of the trip for us.  We must have seen about 30 white crayfish and one white fish.  They are translucent and blind but sensitive to light and heat.

We passed the Sentries, which are big stalagmite bosses perched on a shelf, they looked quite majestic and very sentry like.

Black river started off as a rift passage, gradually getting bigger and deeper sometimes to about thigh deep.  Lots more crayfish.  At this point we had been going for nearly 5 hours.  Then it was into the Easy Way which was a winding tight rift passage and a relief to be upright all the way.  This was followed by Black Canyon which was walking and traversing leading to Halloween Junction.

We then gradually started to ascend, doing a few climbs into Arley Way.  Around here was a 300' easy hands and knees crawl that was in fact agony on very tender knees.  (Just keep thinking about the beer in the car cool box at this point!).

A ‘T’ junction here goes led to Mammoth main system nearly 2 miles away and 5 miles to a main entrance called Dayle Valley.

Finally into Downey Avenue, which is basically a boulder ruckle, and out via 4 steel ladders varying from 30' - 50'.

We emerged tired but happy after just over 7 hours having done the best through trip either of us had ever been on.

Then it was just a matter of picking up the cars and going back to Nancy's where her excellent husband John had prepared a delicious SpagBol and had chilled some beers for us.

Jim has been at the forefront of the exploration of this section of Mammoth and we are very grateful to both Jim and Nancy for giving up their time to take us down.  Also to John for feeding us and to Nancy & John's son John for the Geode and computer game!

Jim is at present just finishing a book which will be the sequel to “The Longest Cave" by Brucker and Watson.  If anyone is interested in a copy, please contact us.  We may even be able to get it signed.


R.W. Brucker & R.A. Watson The Longest Cave 1976

W. Halliday Depths of The Earth 1966

A. Bullit Rambles in the Mammoth Cave (Reprint) 1973

Babs Williams.




Guinness. Music and Caving - Easter in County Clare

After hours of travelling we finally hit Doolin, meeting the SMCC and just missing last orders in O'Connors (I was not a happy person!).  Dumped our gear in the very smart cottage (too smart for cavers!) and crashed out.

14/4 Good Friday.

Decided to take it easy and visited the Aran Isle of Inisheer as I'd been told it was worth a visit. How many hours did it take to get there? The ferry couldn't get to the harbour due to low tide, so a very small boat had to make about ten trips over to the ferry which took about two hours!  In the process of transferring from the boat to the ferry I whacked my shin resulting in a very nasty bruise and cut which later became nicely infected from cave water.

Walked around the island which was sort of like an outside Ogof Draenan - hundreds and thousands of boulders and I have never seen so many drystone walls in my life!  Within two hours we'd walked around the island, no pubs were open so we sat out in the sun.  Big mistake!!  I later resembled a beetroot - no one could believe how red I was.


My first trip in Clare was the classic ST. CATHERINE'S ONE to FISHERSTREET POT, or DOOLIN CAVE.  After a poor description of how to get there and after searching through loads of smelly bogs, we eventually spied the neatly fenced off entrance, complete with stile!  (What a change this was to the Irish caves I'd been in before where the farmer fills the shakehole with dead animals and rubbish).  This is a superb trip apart from the leeches and eels - I wore my wetsuit to maximise protection against them and insect repellent is recommended as you tend to get attacked halfway through the cave.

As we came out the cave some of the others spotted us on their way to CULLAUN TWO.  Getting very lost on the way and feeling sick with hunger I was forced to eat the most disgusting looking and tasting Mars Bar ever. Legged it straight down to the sump and out.  Guess where the evening was spent?  Yes, O'Connors, complete with excellent music and even Irish dancing.


Discovered how much standing by the side of the road changing seems to amuse the Irish as every car that went past seemed to wave or peep its horn.  Ventured down POL-AN-IONAIN after managing to prise the lid open.  The hands and knees crawl wasn't half as bad as we were led to believe and all of a sudden you appear in the Main Chamber, the biggest chamber in Clare which contains the "longest free-hanging stal in the world" (according to Caves of County Clare by UBBS).  It is very impressive and amazing the way it sort of hangs on.  Explored around and attempted to exit out, the book adding a useful hint that "a mental note of the route used on entry is a useful precaution".  I found the way out leaving the lads looking puzzled.

Feeling keen, our next aim was CULLAUN FIVE but of course, we didn't go down the most obvious entrance right next to the road, no, Anthony Butcher lead us right into the middle of the forest.  We found one of the grimiest holes ever which turned out to be C5c and began a long hands and knees crawl for what seemed like miles.  One of the lads gave up and turned back cos his knees were hurting so much (soft Southerner!), big mistake as we shortly found daylight.  After more crawling in stinking water, we reached daylight again losing another member of the party.  AB and I carried on, meeting Butch who said we'd get to the sump in forty minutes.  We legged it down, forever conscious of the time as everyone was supposed to meeting in the pub for a meal.  It was literally a look at the sump and we headed out though in extremely good time. However, our return journey became somewhat delayed due to a bit of confusion at a junction.  I said it was left, AB thought right - I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  The passages were very similar but I soon suspected we'd gone wrong.  Due to the speed we'd been moving at, a lot of ground had been covered.  A quick stop to rest our necks was needed as it was all crawling or stooping and we made the decision to carry on up this passage as we knew that there were four or five entrances into this system.  In hope, we carried on but the passage was becoming flatter and tighter until it was too tight.  This was turning into an epic and all we kept thinking of was ruining the meal for everyone. Starving, thirsty, tired and miserable we retreated.  With a few rests and encouraging each other after what seemed like an eternity we reached the junction.  Turning the corner, no more than a few feet away was the ladder - I was right!  With a surge of energy, we de-rigged and rushed out the cave to meet the other two.  It turned out they were giving us five minutes as we over an hour overdue then were going to get help.  Our detour had covered 1,200m of crawling up Hunched Back Horror - very well-named!!! It had to be the only side passage one couldn't get out of - it had a visual connection, blocked by a stalactite grill ....  After almost kicking ourselves to get back in time for the meal, we arrived back to find it had been cancelled that night!  It was an excellent trip though in a funny kind of way thanks to AB, hopefully it will teach him to listen to females in future - we're always right (well, most of the time).


Did the excellent through trip of POULNAGOLLUM - POULELVA


FAUNAROOSKA - this took a while to find as the book was slightly misleading and it is the second drystone wall and not the first which should be followed, the shakehole being circled in barbed wire.  Nice trip, the usual characteristic stream passage of this area - like a big version of the Crabwalk in Giant's.  Some how, I ended up with AB at the rear of the party, fortunately it didn't turn out to be another Hunched Back Horror episode though it does have a reputation for parties taking the wrong turning on the return journey.


Went digging somewhere in the Carron area.  In the process of getting there had lots of run-ins with nasty horses - as we driving there one reared up in front of us in the middle of the road and as we were walking to the dig site, one of the lads was almost killed by two horses chasing him (I've never seen horses gallop so quick or him move so quick for that matter). He was pretty shaken up having sought the safety of a tree.  The dig area showed a lot of potential with Jots of limestone pavements and valleys. Our chosen site was really more a long-term dig and this didn't last too long due to a super severe hail storm. We took an alternative route back to avoid the killer horses.



Girlies trip down F AUNAROOSKA


Headed to a small soak-away swallet which we'd seen the previous day, Ble.  There were several holes visible amongst a rubbish dump.  We removed some of the forestry to make the area more accessible and passage could be seen continuing.  Words such as Hepatitis were muttered as I began to shift some of the rotten cabbages, dirty nappies, bones and bags of a funny jelly-type substance.  I reluctantly ventured into the cave and found I was able to stand up. Exploration fever seized me and I started to search around.  There were two ways on but one was blocked by a big boulder, so I chose a very tight rift. As soon as I said I needed a hammer to remove some of the formations everyone piled in behind me.  I kept forcing myself though the rift but after minutes of being squeezed into the most uncomfortable position ever, my hips still wouldn't let me get through.  It was so annoying being able to see the passage continuing and not being able to get there.  At the point of major cramp, I decided it was time to retreat but my hips were nicely wedged and didn't want me to go back either.  I kept having visions of being stuck there for ages but with a lot of assistance from Martin Ellis and lots of moaning by me, he managed to free me just enough so I could wiggle out backwards.  We attempted to move the big boulder next as no one else could get down the rift.  It eventually shifted and water was flowing down a very flat and narrow passage. There were no volunteers to have a look as the water was so disgusting; basically the whole cave was grim.  It was estimated to be of length of ten metres - not bad for five minutes digging and my first bit of new cave.

Still in pushing mood, we headed to POLLDERREEN to look at a squeeze above a calcite blockage.  It was impossible but so annoying as once again you could see the passage continuing ... if we had just a bit of bang ...

We had an excellent few days caving with pretty good weather, though the flood debris and foam in the caves served as a constant remainder of the flood hazards of the caves. And fortunately, the price of Guinness didn't go up until our last day!

Em Porter


Speleo Philippines 1995

From Trebor.

The expedition report is underway and is advanced as it can be at the moment until I get further contributions from Expedition members.  I have done all the intros and generalities, my section of the San Isidro (Surigao del Sur) findings and also some of Richards stuff he has given me.  However I still need write ups from Snablet, biological stuff from Annette and from anybody else who looked at other significant caves.  Also, needless to say, the surveys pertaining to such.  The report won't write itself and I can't write up what I didn't see!

Could all expedition members therefore contact the people they caved with in a particular cave, agree who is going to write it up, then write it up and send it to me.  Could anyone/someone contact Paul, Pete Mann and John C who are off Mendip to tell them.  The cave write up is to be in the style of a caving guide i.e. like the '92 report.  All minnow stuff or prospecting results (that odd shaft found here or there) could be rounded up and put into one or two paragraphs at the end of a particular section/area.  Please also make a note of the various acknowledgements you want included e.g. Barrio captains, Guides etc.  Please keep these to the most important/helpful I as there may be too many of them.  If anyone sees Paul Mann we need to see the photos he was paid for so we can choose what to include in the report.

The logbooks and other expedition paperwork will be left in the Belfry library in due course to enable you to get the relevant details out of them in order to write up the stuff.

Estelle ... could you return the other logbook to the library when you have finished with it?

Please get on with it as we don't want to wait nearly 2 years for the report like in '92.  If we don't produce a report we won't get a grant next time.

Thanks ........ Trebor.


Vale Chris Tozer

It is with great sadness that I have to write this obituary to my good friend Chris Tozer.  I first met Chris a few years ago when I was a member of the MCG.  He phoned me up to ask about caving and joining a club.  It transpired that he had done a bit of caving, mainly in Burrington, alone and without a light!  This will come as no surprise to those that knew Chris.

I soon convinced him that digging was much more rewarding than just caving and he readily took to weekly muddy wallows in Bone Hole.  We both started doing more and more caving and digging with the BEC, mainly in Stock Hill mine shaft, Wigmore (Chris only), Whitepit, and Sandpit.  For this reason we both joined the BEC in the early 90's.  Chris also became involved in digs in Dan Yr Ogof and Agen Allwed, along with some good, hard caving trips in South Wales and Yorkshire.

During his time with the MCG and BEC, Chris made many friends, and very soon picked up the nickname 'Quiet Chris', due to him being a man of very few words.  However, when he did speak, what was said was worth listening to; his words could be very wise, or deep, or a quick quip that revealed a mischievous sense of humour.

Chris also had the reputation of being very strong, courageous and able.  These attributes revealed themselves many times on caving and digging trips - many a time, when the dig was getting a bit desperate, or a large boulder needed wrestling down, it was said 'better get Chris in to sort it out'.

Tragically, Chris took his own life on 21 July 1995, near GB Cave.  His funeral was a very emotional occasion, attended by a large number of family and friends, with a good representation from the caving community. It was during the funeral that the full extent of Chris' talents were revealed.  He was a very talented wood carver, artist, musician and composer, talents that he kept hidden from the majority of us.  A few of us have since seen some of Chris' art work and it really is beautiful.

The side we did see of Chris was his great love of nature and his respect for his fellow human beings - he had no enemies and would see good in everyone.

On 5 August Chris' wife Sharyn and his two boys, Michael and Raymond, scattered Chris' ashes in the stream sink at GB cave - another very emotional moment.  Our thoughts are with his family.

Goodbye Chris, we will miss the quiet man sipping his cola in the Hunters.

Brian Murlis


Do The BEC Get Everywhere ?

Part II, by Dave Irwin

Gough 'stamps'

The stamps published about 1903-4 were based on the well known photograph of Gough taken in 1894 by Stanley Chapman of Dawlish.

They were printed in sheets of 240, twenty rows of 12, the same format as the then current Edward VII postage stamps.  They were reproduced photographically and not printed by the typographical or intaglio printing processes common at this time. The labels were then perforated (perf 14 x 14 for the stamp collectors amongst us!).  During the past fifteen years only four have been seen by the writer besides a large un-severed block of about 30 somewhere in Somerset.

Labels sold at Gough's Cave, c.1904 – 1907

One of these may be seen in the local history section of the Weston-super-Mare public library. They are exceedingly rare.

The third example shown is a proposed handbill illustration of Solomon's Temple in Gough's Cave.  The reason for it not being used is clear enough - it's too stylised. The copy shown is a sepia photograph of the original drawing.  The original was pencil work with ink outlining this can be seen around the highlights of the stalagmites and people standing at the foot of the stalagmite flow. The date is c.1950.

Rummaging around junk shops will often repay the effort.  Collectors of caving ephemera have found many a little gem in these places.

Rejected illustration for leaflet