Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Article Index


The '68 Floods - Saving Goodbye to the Old '40'

Peter Glanvill, July 7th 1998.

It was the 10th July 1968 - I had done about 50 caving trips by then and 5 trips below the 40 foot in Swildons including my first trip beyond sump 1 the previous summer down to Sump 2.  It was therefore with some trepidation the seventeen year old Glanvill accompanied those 2 'highly experienced' cavers Rose and Chipchase on a planned trip the North West Stream Passage which would be by far the hardest trip I had done to that date.  The weather was thundery and we arrived at Priddy during a particularly torrential storm to sup our pints in the Vic while gazing out over the temporary duck pond, which was the Green.  Still, it cannot rain like that all day the other two reasoned and off we went to pay our shillings to Farmer Main.*  There was a certain tension in the party as we squelched across the fields to the entrance but it hadn't been raining for an hour and nobody was going to chicken out at this point.

Pete and Nick who knew the cave better than I did felt water levels were normal although they were higher than I had ever seen before.  We soon reached the Forty and stood gazing over the edge thinking about floods.  My log notes 'Oliver Lloyd's natural pipe seemed to be doing it's job quite efficiently' - a reference to the then current controversy regarding stream diversion tactics at the top of the pitch. At this point we started to examine the stream and decided it was looking rather turbid.  Suddenly the team unanimously threw a wobbler and we left the cave sharpish our imaginations going into overdrive at every constriction. As old Mr. Main said, steady rain isn't the problem but thunderstorms were dangerous.  Several hours later there was another storm, the cave flooded and the Forty was flushed away leaving us as the last three people to ever watch a stream cascading down it.

(* Albert Main spelt his name without an e; it’s now spelt Maine.)

My next Swildons trip was on the 16 August in a much-altered cave. Hay could be seen hanging from the stalactite above and opposite the top of the Twenty!


The photograph of the entrance was taken three days after the flood. I can be certain of that because that was the next time I was on Mendip when we did Sludge Pit Hole - which had also flooded.

The ’68 velvet Bottom Washout - Photo – Peter Glanvill

Michael Glanvill and the manor Farm Collapse - Photo – Peter Glanvill