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

Front Cover: “Earl Clarke with a handful” Pech la Vayssiere, Dordogne, France.
Photograph by Gary Cullen.

1995 - 1996 Committee

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


 

Editorial

April; and spring is with us. With spring comes not only a young man's fancy (which could mean anything in these so called politically correct times!!) but also .... The Belfry Bulletin.

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Seems the club is starting to rev up for 1996.  I notice in the Belfry hallway there is a list of members offering caving trips to new and prospective members - something that was prevalent when I first joined the BEC.  In past years this seems to have died somewhat and groups of people have tended to do their own thing.  One of the things I always liked was that I could ask people if they'd take me caving and they'd say  'Sure ... where d’ya wanna go??!  I know these days I get asked for a lot of Cuthbert's trips but there are far more caves on Mendip than just that.  Maybe now we'll start to see a few more trips written up In the caving log - I certainly invite anyone to ask me for trips (and I don't mean LSD) and I know there are many other 'older' members who feel the same way.  I would also remind the membership - particularly newer members - that! we have a very competent and willing caving secretary in Jeff Price .... He only has to be asked and trips will be arranged.

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The 60s/70s Disco on 9.3.96 organised mainly by Hilary Wilson, to whom all credit and thanks must go, was a resounding success.  I know there were others who put in a lot of effort as well and thanks are also due to them. What a brilliant chance to resurrect those clothes that have been living in dustbin bags at the back of the wardrobe for 20 odd years.  (Trevor Hughes actually looked quite smart - a shock to many a system).  More than this, it was amazing to see so many people taking advantage of the chance to do all those dances we haven't dared to for years. You know, the ones that make you look a complete prat when you think you're being dead cool.  'Saturday Night Fever at Priddy Village Hall'.  I noticed that there was however, an absence of platform shoes/boots, I guess we all learnt about broken ankles the first time round.  The turnout was much better than expected.  I would guess there were about 100 people there - so the event more than paid for itself.  There was some talk of the proceeds going towards 'digging funds'.

The club would like to thank Roger Dors for providing and tending the bar – I have a sneaking suspicion you quite enjoyed It Roger!!

Meanwhile, a little further down the drove, Priddy Green Sink, which should really be renamed Priddy Brown Stink if the state of the regular diggers is anything to go by ... is steadily yielding more finds to the 'gentle persuasion techniques' of Jarratt and Co.  The last report I had gave three probable leads after about another 150' of passage was found.  There was a 25' ladder pitch followed by three free climbs, totalling some 70’ in depth. Doubtless there will be more before I go to print, so this is probably out of date already.  This is probably the most exciting digging prospect on Mendip at present and hopes are high for major discovery in the not too distant future.

An interesting quote from Jane Jarratt when a team of diggers showed up to see Tony one Sunday afternoon, straight from the site ...

" You can come in if you don’t smell" .... I'm not sure if she was referring to the Cowsh encrustations borne with such pride by these fellows - or just their general personal hygiene!!

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Still in Priddy ..........

Priddy Folk Fayre will take place on 14, 15 & 16th of June this year.  Based as usual around the Hall and school, Friday night's concert will include Cantoris, Fastest to Canada and The Yetties.  Saturday sees many events including dancing and a craft fayre with a barn dance and/or concert in the evening.  This has been a steadily growing event and this years has the makings of an excellent weekend.  Tickets are available in advance or on the day - tho' the Friday night concert may well sell out.  Further information from Yours Truly if required.

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Finally, I have been asked by Charterhouse Caving Company Ltd to remind everyone of the necessity to obtain permits before going underground in Charterhouse caves and to please observe the No Novice rules.  There have been incidents recently where agreements have been broken. Not only does this compromise the BEC but also jeopardises access for all cavers in the future.

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That’s about it for now .... I'm sure Spike will fill you in on some of the local gossip later. Thanks again to those of you that have provided me with articles.  Keep the stuff coming in .... I always need extra material for publication and the more I get, the More BB’s you get.

See you all around ..... Good Caving.                                                       Jingles.


 

Report From Clean Up.

A small group of people turned up to help with the clean up - many thanks to them.

We managed to clean the Belfry main room completely & deduced from this that the main room badly needs a coat of paint; despite bucketfuls of soup (I think she means soap ... but who knows??? .. ed) most of the grime is still on the walls & ceiling. We are hoping to paint it on 13th/14th April, any ideas for colour schemes, etc let me know. (Habitat revisited at the Belfry??? .. ed)

There are many other jobs badly in need of attention; the ones I have knowledge of are listed below. If you can offer any assistance with the jobs or provide cheap or free sources for the equipment needed to do the work, please let me know.

Outside

Rear Bargeboards: The ends need sealing ASAP but ideally the boards need replacing (the front bargeboards were replaced last year).

Windows: We have 2 new windows waiting to be fitted at the tackle shed end of the building- these are a priority job.  The window on the member’s bunkroom is poor, but the rest are OK for now but will need considering soon.

Outside Walls: Need a coat of paint. 

Woodwork: Needs treating and repainting.

Bunkroom Firedoor: Needs repairing or replacing- the wood in the panels is rotten.

Porch: The felting needs sorting, so the roof doesn’t leak onto the electric switch.

Outside Lighting: Any ideas?

Inside

Painting: Main room a priority.

Showers: Left hand one needs new shower unit fitted (we have a new one waiting to go in). Both showers desperately need a new coin meter does anyone know a good cheap source?

Central Heating: Needs a cage around it.  (Perhaps we should tame it then!).

Toilet: The one by the front door needs a new cistern fitted.  The old one leaks and keeps needing repairing.

Kitchen: Pipes need upgrading to copper ones on the 2 double rings.

If anyone has noticed any other work that needs attention let me know so I can add it to my list

The dates for the working weekends are: 13th/14th April, 22nd/23rd June, & 31st August and 1st September.  Please come along & help, the more the merrier and the better the partying on the Saturday night!

Estelle.


 

The History of Singing River Mine.

Altitude 495 ft - Depth 80 ft - Length 300 ft.

30 ft entrance shaft which requires a ladder, 2 ft belay and a lifeline doubled for the return.

In a field behind Folly Lane lies the entrance to what was a large calamine working with 300 ft of galleries, it is known locally as Singing River Mine.  The entrance to the shaft is perfectly circular, the most suitable form of construction, holding back 30 - 35 feet of clay which covers the ore bearing variety of different types of rock.

It was the last remaining mine in the Shipham (Known then as Sipeham) and Rowberrow area to be mined extensively through the 18th and 19th centuries for calamine, the ore of Zinc and Lead.

There is no real evidence down on paper, but it is possible that Singing River Mine, towards its end, was being worked for lead by a company, Messrs Barwell and Wright - and was later opened by Hussey and Vivian, again mining for lead.

In the mine there are shafts of up to 100 ft deep, climbs, traverses, squeezes, crawls, labyrinths, lakes, pools, canals and streams giving a wealth of information on the techniques of Mendip mining, especially about the underground water problems.

In 1961, Axbridge rural district council employed Messrs F.G. Clements & Co from Easton, near Wells, to drill for water in Shipham to add to the public supply.  They cleared a mine shaft that was filled in and drilled to a depth of 200 feet.  This was the "Singing River Mine".  They also changed a system of galleries into one large chamber for the reservoir, which produced 16,000 gallons a day.

The reasons for the fall of the calamine mining industry in Shipham and Rowberrow were poorly understood. One possible reason is the discovery and development of new mineral deposits elsewhere, although a more exciting tale for the historian (According to J.W. Gough) is that by 1830 the workings seemed to have encountered the two problems of poorer deposits and increasing water at depths at up to 200 ft below the surface.

The water in the mine came from the Singing River which flows through a natural stream passage which the miners broke into while extending the mine.

By 1853 all mining in Shipham, including the Singing River, had come to an end.

The passage ways which may be visited by cavers today are a mixture of mine workings and a natural cave system.

 (Article by Mark Riches - Shipham Scouts. Forwarded by Dr Andy Newton.)


 

That Sinking Feeling

Various reports were filtering through to me that Priddy Green Sink had gone or was 'going', to somewhere in Swildons 4 seemed certain.  Having never been in the cave or seen photos of it I decided to do my bit for caving journalism and rang J-rat one evening re access.  'No problem, dear boy,' was the reply so nearer the time I decided to get a bit more clued on what to expect.

'It's a collector's item - a bit tight - been down West End series?' I was told.  Somewhat committed by having persuaded Carl Jones of SWAG (South West Adventure Group) to join me and my camera I arrived at Tucker Street one Saturday morning for a final briefing.  With a crumpled Grade 0.5 plan 3 new batteries, an ersatz Petzl Zoom (I was warned waist mounted cells were a pain) and instructions to do the cave backwards Carl and I headed for Priddy Green.

The green seems quiet nowadays - have the entrance changes in Swildons deterred the weegies?  We rapidly changed and approached the unlikely entrance.  The short manhole shaft opened into a surprisingly roomy passage exuding a cowshy fragrance, from the walls hung festoons of 'slurrictites'.  We obediently reversed down the passage with Carl in the lead.

A short crawl from the steeply descending streamway led into a small high chamber - RAF aven - the site of the first breakthrough.  A descent over boulders led past a loose chamber (Hanwell Hall) through another crawl to a short rifty climb.  'OK so far' I thought as we entered a steeply sloping highly modified bedding - The Blasted Bastard.  I should have known better.  We dropped out of the BB into stand up passage.  A knackered drill battery case lay on a ledge and bang wire led up a rift which after reference to the survey we decided was Barrel Series.  A nice stoopingish vadose rift doubled back - Virgin One.  Carl scuttled round the corner and thrutching noises began.

Round the corner I could see why because he'd just passed a vice like speciality which clearly was diggers' dimensions but not perhaps mine.  The squeeze was like a funnel the narrow end nearest me.  Lying on my side right arm extended I expired (well - breathed out) thrutched and to my surprise and relief passed the crux.  Three metres later I was standing at the top of a short climb the sound of falling water ahead.  Down the climb Carl was inspecting the next obstacle.

A 5 metre ladder pitch dropped through a slot into a small damp chamber.  An awkward squeeze at floor level led off.  This was the one J-rat had suggested we approached illogically. Carl just did it.  I tried every which way cussing at two lumps both easily hammerable which I just could not negotiate.  Carl disappeared down the next climb the sounds of this progress fading while I spasmodically banged the knobbles feeling like Alice in Wonderland without the right edibles.

I noticed my lamp going dim - after 1 1/2 hours.  Show down at Bat Products later I decided.  Booming rumbling noises wafted up the shaft.  After 20 minutes I had got bored with sorting the camera and trying to enlarge the squeeze.  More booming rumbles - what the hell was going on down there?  I started to twitch - what if Carl had hurt himself?  I started shouting.  More rumbling for five minutes then incoherent shouts.  I did some incoherent shouting too.  The word 'light' seemed to echo back.  'You've got no light?'  I shouted. 'Yes!!!!!!!’  'Shit!' I thought.

It was now 2 pm.  I was supposed to be back in Chard by 5; not having to think about rescue callouts.  Thoughts of mutterings about 'guts' and 'garters' from Angie before I left prompted my next move.  I rashly (good word for what happened next) decided to try the squeeze again. Stripping to underpants and wellies I wriggled in and began thrashing about.  Talk about sado-masochistic acts.  I can see the headline 'GP gets rocks off grovelling in gravel'.  Two minutes of this and I had acquired a symmetrical line of abrasions down my body suggesting a night of passion with a grizzly and, even worse, I hadn't passed the squeeze.

Meanwhile Carl was groping his way upwards following the stream.  I began to assemble his spare light. I'd just begun to poke the spare lamp in its transparent BDH container (on the end of a handy rope) through the squeeze using a handy pry bar in the hopes that it would bounce down the pitch towards him when I heard him bellow that he could see my light.  He was soon back through the squeeze and I'd dressed decently again.

My lamp then dimmed faster than the lamps at the local Odeon.  To add to the fun Carl's spare packed up as well.  Groping around we found more batteries and by touch inserted them in the fake zoom.  And we hadn't even started the photography!

Dash and glimmer describes our exit.  If you find a bit of black plastic casing at the bottom of the ladder pitch it comes off Carl's slave flash which for some strange reason he started playing with in the dark.  Photos of a variable standard were taken.  The vice like squeeze is a sod for big people on exit - while in it I realised I would never have got out solo for a call out.  I needed a helpful shove to pass the end of the funnel.

I could have kissed the spacious floor of the Blasted Bastard - it meant we were virtually out of the cave.  Two more battery changes later and we heaved ourselves onto the green.

Things could have been worse.  Carl is the 'alleged PCG midget' who pushed the bottom of Longwood in the '70's.  He got to the end of the Virgin Series and then his collapsible chest allowed him further, the booming rumbles that I heard being boulders he shifted to move forward.  When I started shrieking down the pitches he'd been passing a particularly tight section ('must have been tight 'cos I never take my lamp off - and I did') and had had to go through and turn round.  At that point the cave was still going and enlarging.  If his light had packed up then the ensuing rescue would have been very interesting.

Some of the pictures weren't too bad as well!  I can recommend the trip as definitely being a collector's item.


 

Dordogne, France, Revisited.

There have been numerous articles written with varying descriptions of the caves available from previous B.B.'s so I'm not going to repeat our trip with complete write up's. Instead I'd like to mention a few changes and points that might be of interest to future trips.

Gary Cullen (BEC), Pete Guamaccio (Wessex) and myself met other friends out at Gramat.  We arrived with previous write up's from B.B.'s with literature from S.M.C.C and Wessex journals.  We had a possible itinery of about 50 caves.  I would like to thank Em Porter at this point for the information she provided us with which was extremely valuable.

Igue des Combettes.

Various articles just state there is a large imposing fence around the land the cave is sited on and they thought it better not to continue.  If you continue up the tarmac road to the second farm for permission there is no problem with access at all.  The owner even took us back to the fence pointing out the entrance and the gate further up for the access path.  This is a worth while trip descending a series of pitches on SRT to the horizontal streamway passage at the bottom.  We rescued a partridge at the bottom which had fallen down the series of entrance pitches.

Gouffre de Revillion

The description we had described access into the Grand Salle as requiring "combined tactics" to enter a high level passage.  A few years ago when I was down here the cave ended a short while after the second pitch, and we noted a possible climb but as there were only two of us we failed to climb it.  This time with climbers in our party we successfully climbed a wall to find it in fact went nowhere.  Continuing down the cave I was surprised to find the cave did not end in a mud and gravel choke as before but continued for a considerable way on.  We turned right at a junction and scrambled up a scree slope. From the top a short 15ft drop required a ladder, follow the passage to a tight flat out squeeze similar to ladder dig in GB.  As you get through, the passage ascends another scree slope but this time be careful because as you climb up you tend to fill up the hole you've just come through blocking your exit.  Continue climbing until you reach a horizontal passage which finally emerges in the Grand Salle.  Huge impressive chambers go in both directions, right finally ends but if you climb high into the roof and through boulders it continued in more of the same.  Left takes you to a free climbable mud ridge. Beyond the floor is like a dried up lake.  You walk across spongy mud which has dried to form hexagonal blocks with deep cracks and is quite unusual.

Gouffre de Roque de Cor

The information we took said the farmer has blocked the access path in several places leading to the entrance because his sheep (Mouton) keep getting out due to cavers. It suggested walking up the single track railway line to near the end of the cutting and climbing out on the right. This we did.  On returning and walking down the middle of the track I noticed a train coming in the cutting and unable to climb out, the train fast approaching, we dived to the wall before getting run down, much to the drivers amusement letting rip his air horn only feet away.  On getting back another group just took the blocked farmers path which is now obviously accessible.  Another thing we noted was an abundance of cave life.  Notably dozens of toads were in Gouffre de Revillion. Trout like fish in Gouffre de St de la Pucelle.  A Salamander in Igue de St Sol and a snake we rescued in Igue de Pendant along with the partridge from Igue des combettes.

We also met a French group which are building a club hut and offered us possible accommodation and contacts for the future.  They have also just published a book with 500 cave surveys and map references which although quite expensive is well worth purchasing as one of the main problems we found was locating the entrances.  One cave we did from this book was Pech la Vayssiere a short cave with three entrances and very pretty.  We did a photo trip and hence the interesting front cover of the BB.  Captions welcome!).

If anybody is interested in the data we have collated Gary has put it all on his computer and if you write to him he would be willing to pass the information on.  He is also able to give you the address in France if you wanted to purchase the book.


 

Return of the Son of 'Spike'

Howdy folks, I haven't been around for a while as I've been lying low due to death threats after my last contribution .... some people have no sense of humour!!

Seems the club is reviving itself after the winter hibernations and annual membership culling.

We seem to have had a fair influx of new members recently but I haven't managed to dig up anything suitably embarrassing on any of them as yet.

Easter saw a fair contingent of BEC in the Yorkshire Dales largely centred in Dent and I gather a good time was had by all.  Babs had such a good time she can't even remember Saturday night and I have witnesses to the fact that she was sick in Yordas Cave on Sunday ... Organic Caving???? Mike Wilson and JC were last seen heading in the direction of Bull Pot...tho if Saturday nite is anything to go by it was probably Bullshit Pot!!

The loudest noises on Saturday night were from Jeff Price, who tiring of the singing of other locals decided to regale us with .. "As I was walking through the wood" .... etc. He managed to silence the whole place temporarily ... or was that deafen??

I recently came across the following picture of one of our members, showing what he gets up to in his spare time.  I think this begs a caption competition so please send 'em to Jingles and he'll buy a pint for the writers of the best ones. (Must remember to tell him about that!).

 

The Wessex Challenge is coming up, its set for Saturday 8th May 1996 and will be at Priddy village hall hosted by The M.C.G. although as has been observed they really should be called the 'G' as none of them seem to be from Mendip and as for going caving .. well ... ???  Do we want to enter a team this year .... ? I guess it’s up to the membership.

Priddy Green Sink seems to be the hot news lately, as mentioned elsewhere in this rag.   Every time there is a deadline for this, or other, publications - P**ing "J•Rat II & Co. go and discover some more ..... the latest being a 70ft aven (although when this was climbed and actually measured ­ten feet was lost - making it a sixty foot aven!!) and I expect there'll be more as soon as this goes to print... .. No consideration for deadlines or publishers !!!!

People are mystified as to why Jingles has been diving in the lake in St Cuthbert's.  When I asked him why he replied .. .'Coz its got water in it!!  I s'pose it makes sense really as its a bit pointless carting diving kit down to a place where there’s no sump!!!

Roger Stenner demonstrated his water analysis techniques at the Belfry the other week to an interested audience.  Apparently the results were very interesting .... another article forthcoming perchance??

Although it is most out of character, I would like to pass on my condolences to Blitz who has apparently done his back in again.  As I understand it he's pretty immobilized and not in a very good way.  Incredibly 'm not even going to take the piss out of him about it.. .. I'll leave that to you lot...why break the habits of a lifetime etc etc ... !!!

Seriously tho' We hope you mend well soon Chris.

Enough from me for now ..... any decent gossip .... pass it my way & I'll try & get sued!! See Ya.

Spike.


 

Fools Rush In

The phone call came on a stormy winters night there’s a rusting iron monster that might need some dynamite ........

There’s a rusting iron monster on the mendips for all to see where a gang of experts work there from the mendip demrock company.

These are no ordinary folk as they sweat and toyle for all to see.  The big explosion about to be ...... Some suger, some weed killer and the men from MDC.

"stand clear" for theirs going to be an explosion cried the "Demrock rep" looking out to West Harptree alas t'’was not to be !!!!!! .not a bang but more shit from "MDC".

Through the long days of spring time and while summer breezes flee, the rusting iron monster remains there for all to see.

"stand back". We'll give it one more try i'm sure that'll do it shouted the man from "MDC" ... Alas t’was not to be. But just more shit from the "Demrock Company"

Just one more try!!!!!! Shouts "Davy misfire".  This bastard will work its called "plan b"

Five hundred kilos of co-op, some superflex and 3 tons of "tnt". And a prayer for the men from "hdc" .........

While people looked on in sheer delight.  The "hooter"  did sound over this wonderful sight.  The word of "fire" echoed around to a thunderous roar that shook the ground.

Faces looked on in sheer surprise as the "rusting iron monster" disappeared before their eyes !!!!!.

Epitaph

The smoke had cleared t'was a sad sight for all to see. The "rusting iron monster" still there but no sign of the "Demrock Company" ... While up in heaven the angles flew.  The good lord looked down with glee.

"when i order armageddon i wont send for the

"Mendip Demrock Company"

But to be continued"