The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith, Mike Willett
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee
Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert


At last - this is my last one!!!!

Good luck to Martin or whoever the new editor is in the next year and I hope everyone will give them as much support during their duration as editor as I have been given.  Despite the hard work involved in producing the BB, I have enjoyed most of the job!!  Thanks to my main helpers: Dave Irwin and Tony Jarratt.

Keep the articles corning, the next editor will still need them!!


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.

This could be the face of your new Editor:  Martin Torbett

Well folks, I thought that I should write a few lines about myself so as those of you who don't know me shall continue to do so and those who do will be able to cast ribald comments across the pub about me.

I began caving in the late '60's as a member of Portsmouth Poly cave club. Most of our visits were to the Mendips and I have fond memories of the horrid Cerberus Cave Club cottage aback to Hobbs Quarry.  Other misty memories exist of all the then "delights" of Mendip, Contour cave, Eastwater, singing in the Hunters and throwing up outside.  Also trips to some of the good Welsh caves.  I became much more sober after that and drifted away from caving in the mid  70's,

then working as a teacher. I didn't really get back into the scene until I moved to Cheddar about 6 years ago.  Due the unfortunate circumstance of knowing Robin Gray it seemed like a good place to live.  I am still here and work mainly at the Charterhouse Centre, where I do-guess what- many trips down Goatchurch!  I hope to get to know many more of you as you send in those articles for publication.


BEC in bat at the Annual Cricket Match against the WCC - photos: Fiona Lambert


Caving and BEC News


This will be held at the Belfry at 10:30am on Saturday 2nd November.  If there is to be an election at the AGM for committee posts there will be a voting form inserted in this BB.  (The BB will be at the printers by the time we will know if there is going to be an election - at the time of going to print there is no election, there is more likely to be problems with filling all the posts!!)  Please try to attend this year

BEC Annual Dinner

This year the Annual Club Dinner will be held at "The Bath Arms Hotel" at Cheddar on Saturday 2nd October, 1999.  As usual the coach will be arranged to leave the Hunters at 7pm prompt.

BEC v Wessex Cricket Match

On Saturday 17th July at 2:30pm the Wessex Cave Club won the sofa ashes by most of an innings.  It was very noticeable that the BEC's game gets worse as more beer gets drunk!  See pictures on previous page for some of the action.

Tim Kendrick's photos in the April BB.

Sett has given me some information regarding the names of people in some of the photos.  The below lists the caption under the photo from the April BB, plus any additional information:

The Belfry 1948? Tony Setterington, Pongo Wallis?

Can you name them all? Belfry 1950:  Pongo Wallis, Woody, Betty Shorthose with young Mary, Don Coase, Rod Setterington, Jack Waddon, Sybil Bowden-Lyle, Dan Hasell, Johnny Shorthose.

Five on Tony Jay's motorbike: Tessie, Tony Jay, Jean (or Di Beaumont), Alfie Collins, Johnny Bindon, (or possibly Ron Gollin)

The Mob, Easter 1949: Paul by the car.  Back row L-R: Johnny? Angus Innes, Geoff Ridyard? Tony J. Middle Row: Tony Setterington, Postle, Sybil BowdenLyle, Campbell McKee, ? Front Row: Dizzy Thompsett-Clark, Ron Gollin, Tim? Tessie, Alfie Collins, Don Coase? George Lying down, Jean, Angus Innes and Sett with Tim's Bike, Dizzie and George on George's bike.

Ladies Washing up: Dizzie? Campbell, Jean? Ron, Postle.

New Years Eve 1950: Possibly! Half Pint? Margaret, Angus?

"Willie" is in Shepton Mallet museum or moved to Bristol.

Dolphin Pot, Cross Dig and who is with Half-Pint, I don't know, but definitely Angus Innes with Dan Hasell.

Biker Molls!  Sybil and Betty Shorthose.  Paul but in what cave?  August Hole Series, Longwood Swallet.

BEC Getting Everywhere!!  Steve Prewer (Brian's son) has just returned from working in Kosovo and Macedonia with NATO and while there was privileged to be allowed into a US NAAFI. There on the counter was a BEC sticker. Anyone admit to this one????  If anyone can shed any light as to how this BEC sticker may have got there please contact the editor.

Mendip News

The Axbridge CG have had a breakthrough into some 60ft of passage in a mine near Loxton, Western Mendip. Various artefacts have been found.  Full details should appear in their newsletter and Descent.

New Members

We welcome new member Annie Audsley to the club.

New St Cuthbert's Leader

Roger Haskett has recently completed his 15 trips required for his St Cuthbert's leadership and after his final proving trip with Nigel Taylor has been accepted by the committee as a leader.  I gather Nigel found the cave had shrunk slightly since the last time he visited the cave and had to remove his undersuit to get back up the entrance rift!!!

Members News

Congratulations to Martin Grass and Nicola Slann who are getting married on 29th August.

Pakistan Visitors

Several members recently acted as guides to six cavers from the Chiltan Adventurers Assn. of Baluchistan, Pakistan - friends of Simon Brooks and Orpheus CC associates.  After visiting Derbyshire and North Wales they were delivered to Mendip to sample the delights of GB, Swildon's, Shatter, the Hunters', the eclipse, etc. and all action was recorded by them on video for Pakistan national television.  They had a great time, cooked us superb Afgan food and played Shove Ha'penny with previously undreamt of techniques!  An especially good night was had when they taught the BEC to play Carrom in the pub and almost drank Roger out of Kaliber - he was very impressed.  Also impressed were the good people of Upper Milton when they saw what was apparently Saddam Hussein and five camouflaged guerrillas yomping through their hamlet en route to invade Wells - so much so that a bobby was summoned to intercept them!  On being questioned they informed him that they were the Pakistan National Caving Team and heading for Bat Products.  He bid them a relieved farewell and no doubt drove off muttering about "bloody cavers".  If he'd met them in Baluchistan they would have been carrying Kalashnikovs as a matter of course!!  Anyone visiting Pakistan would be made extremely welcome by them Contact:-

Hayat Ullah Durrani Khan, Chiltan Adventurers Assn. 6/9/283B SEm AZAM ROAD, QUETTA, PAKISTAN Phone:- 0092-81-xxxxxx

C.A.A. Visitors

Malik Abdul Rahim Baabai, Hayat Ullah Durrani Khan, Atta-Ur-Rahman, Abdul Ghaffar, Salauiddin, Muhammad Rafique.


Burrington Cave Atlas

I have a reasonable number of photos now and a few promised, which I should have soon.  I will get on with working on the Burrington Cave Atlas as soon as this BB is out.  Hopefully it should be out before the New Year.


Millennium Celebrations

The BEC committee is looking for ideas for celebrating the Millennium We have had ideas about T -shirts/sweatshirts etc., but need a design.  If anyone has any design ideas or any other ideas for celebrating the Millennium (also our 65th birthday) please contact a committee member.


Caving Logs and Bulletins CDROM

The CDROM containing most of the logs and the 1st 100 Belfry Bulletins is about to be cut to CDROM. We are cutting the first 50 to be ready before the AGM and dinner.  If you want a CDROM please contact Estelle (Ed.).  The cost is £10 to members and £20 to non-members.

Notts Pot, Yorkshire

The NCA have forwarded a message regarding the entrance to Notts Pot being on the move again.  They have stated that this could well be in an unsafe condition.  If you were contemplating a trip, think carefully before descending.  If you have a permit for Notts over the coming months and decide not to descend as a result of the condition of the entrance, the permit will be good for one of the other holes on the fell, provided you do not go down the hole where the other permit has been issued, etc - as this will cause all sorts of problems.

Robin's Shaft, Derbyshire

Also forwarded from the NCA is a report that on the 15th and 16th August, bad air was reported by Mike Salt & Alan Rowlinson in Robins Shaft, Ham, Derbyshire.  There was no smell and Mike and Alan experienced no headaches or nausea but they became very breathless and report that when matches were lit they went out as soon as the head had burnt out.  There was no draught.  Trials with the same box of matches in the car after the trip produced perfect results. Sounds like high CO2 concentration.

Your last chance to book tickets for this years club dinner!

This years annual club dinner is being held at 'The Bath Arms Hotel' Cheddar on Saturday 2nd October 1999.  Our guest speaker will be Andy Elson who will be talking about his 'round the world balloon attempt' earlier this year.

To avoid missing out send your booking form [enclosed with your last bb] and a cheque to cover the cost of your tickets to: Ivan Sandford, Priddy, Somerset.  Any queries tele.  Ivan or Fi.

Unlike in previous years there will be no tickets available after Saturday 25th September.  Also we will not be ringing round chasing those who may have forgotten to book.  So to avoid missing out book now!


Much Wittering on the Moors

By Peter Glanvill

1999 was the tenth anniversary of the Mendip invasion of the Assynt region.  Little did we know back in 1990 what we were to start when Brian Johnston, Tony Jarratt and I arrived in the old shed at Knockan at the start of a gloriously sunny week.

Ten years on we have the longest caves in Scotland, the most beautiful caves in Scotland plus the largest chamber in Scotland and it's been a privilege to be around when most of these discoveries were being made.  In the course of the weeklong trips over the last decade I have made many new friends, climbed many new hills and sunk many, many pints of 80 shilling.

It has to be said during the same period of time that many members of the Grampian Speleological Group (not sputum article society as my dictation software would have it) have devoted their lives to construction of the magnificent new hut Taigh nam Famh which has turned at least one person into a caving softy.

It is always sad to leave those distinctive hills behind in my rear view mirror as we drive south until the next time we can return.  My great satisfaction  is  the huge library of photos I have built up over the last ten years. This year, I took the opportunity of donating to the GSG four compact discs containing a collection of my best photographs of the four main systems in the limestone of Assynt. Copies are available at £10 a throw.  These contain 25 MB TIF files which will comfortably enlarge to A3 or bigger.


The high waterfall- photo: Pete Glanvill

This year was a quiet year with no major discoveries being made.  However we enjoyed some magnificent weather, did some exciting diving and I was very pleased to come home with yet more satisfying images of those remarkable Scottish caves.

This report has been delayed by my deciding to use dictation software to compose it.  The original reads like Finnegan's Wake - if bits of that creep past the corrections forgive and (perchance) enjoy.  In fact you can play spot the error for the next few thousand words.  No prizes will be awarded though as I have made it easy by putting the dictated errors in italics!

This year Peter Rose decided to subject the Grampian's theological group and also the rest of his family to more of his wittering so they, Quackers and myself were the vanguard of the Mendip invasion for 1999. At the start of the week I had only one objective which was to gain access to the tantalising Holland roof which had been seen by me on my first trips into the Farr series of ANUS cave.  The said hole in the roof lies a few feet back from sump 4 and could only be reached by maypoling.  So it was that on the Sunday morning a small party consisting of Crackers? (well, why not it's what my mum thought he said when he answered the phone once) Derek Guy a new Grampian member and old caving friend made our way up the ANUS valley along with the Rose family and a number of maple sections up to the entrance of Abbas? cave.  A number of rather poor Terry Toby Chuck tub beat jokes (what did I say to the machine really folks) were made with regard to the way I happened to have carried my sections - namely protruding in an ungainly fashion from the back of my rucksack.

We had planned to climate Bray bag (that one's easy) but it remained obstinately shrouded in cloud for most the day (that's climate for you) and accordingly we changed our objective to the bluff overlooking the Bone Caves (the pronunciation of which would have caused the dictation software to develop a stutter).  En route we visited the sink for Abbas (OK - ANUS) cave which is currently almost completely choked such that a stream poured continuously over the waterfall above the cave for the entire week.  Once we were on the summits of the bluff the clouds began to clear and we got some terrific views towards Quinn Alec, other Charlie Gill Filey (Christ knows what I said there) as well as the cloud shrouded Conical.  At this point Derek and I split away from arose (The Rose) family and examined the limestone areas of the moor as we headed back towards the salmon farm. Several very interesting depressions were found although nothing resembling the famous cave of the more of the wild builder is (easy peasy that one).

Derek, who is working at Lochgilphead as a Jeanette assist (say it fast) for asylum brooding operation (something fishy) then struck up a conversation with those running the salmon farm and we were taken on a brief tour.  In the evening Crackers and I headed off to Kylesku where we had a short dive examining the famous boy Montenegro (this has nothing to do with the Balkans but more to do with drowned cars) and its steady deterioration.  Quackers vanished as usual in the course of the dive. Pete Rose very kindly bought us pints as we crawled from the water at the end of the dive.  After a meal at the hotel we headed back for home.

The next morning dawned reasonably beautifully and we decided that some air should be obtained. Shortly after this I discovered that I had a bit of a problem as I had locked the keys in the car and it's central locking.  An hour later a friendly AA man from Lochinver was demonstrating how to break into centrally locking cars using guess what - they caves hangar as well as big man monitors cuff and surpass the wages (come on, come on you're too slow).

J'Rat and the strange mud formations in Upholes Passage - Photo: Pete Glanvill

When all had returned from Lochinver it was decided that we ought to attack Abbas cave again and charged uphill ahead of the recently arrived other Mendip contingent which consisted of Tony Boycott, Rich Blake, Tariff (who he - guess) and Tony Jarratt.  They couldn't resist the magnetic attraction of the Allt as they drove past so it was that I found myself and a pile of maypoles behind the wittering Rose in the connecting crawl leading to the Farr series. After a few minutes order was re-established and steady movement continued through the rather loose environment around Sotanito chamber inexorably towards sump four.  In the process I took the precaution of re-belaying the rope on the climb out of Sotanito chamber to a somewhat larger boulder than that to which it had been belayed previously.  I don't like the idea of relying on something lighter than myself!   A wave of beer fumes and some cheerful shouts  indicated  the presence  of  the  Alps contingent who rapidly overtook us grabbing maypoles Willie nearly as they passed us so that we  quickly  arrived at  the  base of the famous hole in the roof where the maypole sections were hurriedly fitted together - in fact so hurriedly that the final product ended up as two sections which we couldn't connect!  After a few minutes Rich Blake and I scrambled to a ledge which we hurriedly gardened and managed to prop the maypole across the passage and then just get it securely into the base of the hole.  The this point we had a fold of then tried ride on more Pol if we couldn't freeze the remaining pieces brackets clout role always use Greece on maple in future clothes brackets in. (God knows what that means - I can't remember.)  However Tony Jarratt had other ideas and as we both screamed "Don't do it! Don't do it!" he disappeared up the ladder like a, well, rat up a ladder out of sight into the roof in a sort of Indian rope trick (well he had just come back from Meghalaya) but unfortunately he reported that the hole narrowed down and any further progress would anyway need further maypole efforts.

After a lot of pissed mutterings most members of the party seemed to disappear leaving Derek and I to explore those bits of the Farr series that I hadn't seen before.   We were soon to discover why Goon had seen fit to describe the cave as a vertical maze when I started to drop down a slot in the floor and found I had descended something like fifteen or 20 m before I got anywhere near the stream.  In fact I dropped out of the roof with Derek closely behind at the upstream end of sump 3, right beside the diving line.  A dull roar ahead indicated that we were near the base of fund aghast (another easy one) falls and a short crawl took us towards them.  The falls certainly are impressive and after some scrambling around and examination of a funny little hole in the wall beside the falls (and a mysterious rope dangling from the ceiling) we returned to the falls and completed the roped climb up the side.  The route then led past some small cascades and wallows until we found ourselves just downstream of sump four.  After completing the photography Derek and I left the cave, ate some of Angie's famous apple cake and headed downhill.  Unfortunately we had the car keys and the wittering from Rose could be heard half a mile away as we came over the hill.

Thunderghast Falls, ANUS Cave - Photo: Pete Glanvill

The next morning started unpromising with grey cloudy skies and the original plan to tackle Suilven was scratched in favour of a walk to the highest waterfall in Britain.  By midday we were ready to go and while Tony B,  Tony Jarratt and Co attacked Rana Hole (it is now known as Six Buddles). Derek, Crackers, the Roses and myself started along the track  to the  waterfall - in brilliant sunshine. Crackers         disappeared early on his track having decided that he didn't want to sacrifice the 700 feet required to view the waterfall.  This caused certain noises from Rose which diminished steadily as we disappeared downhill towards the waterfall.  The waterfall is certainly an impressive sight as it plummets into Glen Coul although from the top one cannot see right to the bottom but I suppose at the bottom you can't see the water going over the top!  After a quick picnic we then started up the long track back over the Col and down towards the Inch.  At times the shout of the lesser spotted Rose could be heard calling to its straying offspring.  We passed a pair of ptarmigan as we climbed up high into the col amidst some wild scenery.  There are splendid views down into the Glen Coul area dominated by the massive Stac of Glencoul. Tiny lochans dotted the landscape.  A long plod downhill past more lochans eventually brought us within sight of the Inch and the prospect of a welcome pint or three.  The diggers had got somewhat ahead in the drinking stakes and decided that Pete's glow role (eh) was not to go diving this evening.  However he had other ideas and set off towards calcium with Crackers.

As we approached Kylesku we noticed to see Mr (the sea mist actually) rolling in up the loch so we crossed the road bridge and around the corner. Some entertainment followed when I turned the car in the middle of the road just as the only other car we saw that evening came roaring around the bend. We then took a series of pictures of Mr rolling around the basic rheumatic (some times known as Quinag) in the most spectacular fashion.

Derrick Guy in Knockers - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Shortly after I started kitting up for my dip in the harbour Jake and Becky arrived and Becky proceeded to jump into a kayak and disappear out into loch Glencoul not to be seen again for some time.  Pete surfaced with a few scallops and he and Crackers departed leaving Jake not a little concerned still waiting for Becky in the gathering twilight.

The next morning Derek and I headed off to do some shopping in Lochinver and obtain air from doom (Jim) Crooks.  After the usual crack with Jim we wandered back via the tourist office (where is the cave at Kylesku? (- the cave at Kylesku (Uamh Ruaidhridh) apparently dropped into the sea many years ago and has not been seen since! - J'Rat) and pie shop and then later on in the afternoon I decided to introduce Derek to the joys of clan light (this is a cave not a beer - think about it).  I think we must have chosen one of the driest spells I have ever visited the cave which made the trip a lot more pleasant in dry gear. After a rapid trip to Sump 3 we slowly made our way out taking pictures as we went.  We also undertook the opportunity to have a peek at the Capital series that I am ashamed to say I had never visited before.  In the evening we had an excellent Scott male (not cannibals - think shellfish) which rounded the day off very nicely.

On Thursday I decided to join Tony Jarratt and Rich in the new dig at ANUS Cave. The dig houses the prospects of passing over sump four and lies in Upholes Passage.  It was dubbed Anus Horribilis by Tony Boycott and Co.  After taking some photographs of very delicate mud formations hereabouts Peter amused himself mainly by stacking spoil while the smaller dimensioned Tony Jarratt and Rich Blake continued to excavate a mud filled bedding plane which apparently draughts if you're feeling optimistic

ANUS Horribilis with J'Rat and Rich Blake - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Back at the hut we met up with Tony and Crackers for a planned drift drive underneath the Kylesku Bridge.  Tav decided to go fishing, which was a bit sad, because the weather started to deteriorate somewhat and certainly underwater was the best place to be. Eventually Tony, Crackers and I were sitting on the bank directly underneath the bridge.  Tony and I submerged and descended to about 20 m which seems to have been a good depth to be at rather than where Crackers was which was more like 15m and meant battles with kelp.  In fact Crackers emerged a couple of times convincing Peter Rose and Co that they were watching a particularly clumsy otter.  Tony and Pete found themselves on a wall literally smothered in dead men’s fingers and as they moved along in the currents and around the point so the underwater encrusting fauna altered to that seen nearer the fairy slept (come on, come on).  Navigation could not be easier because as soon as the wall finishes and you are on the sand the ascent leads straight to the base of the ferry slip (okay now).  This is a very exciting scenic dive and well worth it if you are in the area.

Derek, who'd been on a tour of salmon farms the previous day, returned that evening and so, on the Friday, I decided to initiate him into the delights of the Traligill valley. After a leisurely start we arrived in the company of Quackers (dictation software off from now on) (Thank f**k for that!!!  J'Rat aka proof reader!!) for a speleological ramble starting at Knockers.  As we prepared to kit up by Glenbain a soft spoken gentleman and a young lady appeared.  They were leading the Oxford Uni. Geology field trip staying at the Inchnadamph lodge.  For a) presumably intelligent people, b) geology graduates they asked some amazingly gormless questions of the "How far do you go in?" and "How much is unexplored?" variety.  I found the male of the pair amazingly effete (Quacker's blunt comment: "He's a prat") so decided to spice up their lives with some caving education and a short trip into the stream chamber in Knockers.  I hope they were suitably impressed and educated.

Derrick and I knocked off Knockers in an hour or two taking in the worms by Boycott's sump plus some of the Rabbit Warren and took a few snaps on the way before emerging for a stroll to the bottom of the Water slide and visit to the sump.  J-Rat's dig there still looks promising with the inlet stream emitting a healthy echo from beyond the currently constricted end.

After a brief poke at Uarnb an Cailliche Peireag we bimbled down the dry streambed to Lower Traligill. Derrick was well impressed.  A peep was taken at Lower Traligill and Tree Hole and Disappointment were left for yet another day before we wound up eventually at  Firehose  also admired from afar.

Hens - Tav and Colin Coventry - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Down at the Inch the diggers were in full swing when we arrived closely followed by a hen party. It all seemed reminiscent of that old rugby song except for the absence of virgins (from Inverness or anywhere). Some of us left to return to the cottage where we were later rudely interrupted by Tav and Colin Coventry dressed as Saxon and Viking hotly pursued by hens waving frilly underwear.  The brave duo then vanished into a minibus packed with women out for a good time in Ullapool.  I have a note here about a duck anybody who can enlighten me let me know!

The next day was the great diving and curry day.  Tav had persuaded Murray at the Kylesku Hotel to take us out in his boat (for a reasonable fee) so all assembled at the Hotel about midday.  Tav looked slightly wrecked and as the day progressed tit bits of his nocturnal adventures trickled out.  Apart from pouring vast quantities of whisky down his neck he did manage to recall running around Ullapool in the early hours pushing a wheelbarrow.  We decided to try diving on the site of the Duke of Westminster's yacht mooring on the far side of the loch.  Rumour had it that antique bottles could be found.  Murray got us to where he thought we had a good chance of finding something and after some cramped kitting Estelle, Fraser, Quackers and I plopped into the water.  We all appeared on Murray's fish finder, - Estelle and Fraser as a shoal of pollock, me as a shoal of wrasse and Quackers as a .... whale!

On the bottom there were bottles galore!  We shovelled them into our goodie bags with gay abandon and struggled back clinking into the boat.  I was quite chuffed by relocating one of Estelle's ankle weights in 10m below the boat - search for known object completed.  After a brief lunch break the dive party shrank to Estelle and I although everybody got to watch the seals.  We emerged after our dive with enough scallops for a good couple of meals and headed back to the hut ready for the great curry evening.

When we arrived at the Alt near sunset a crowd of Meghalayan tribesmen seemed to have arrived.  This turned out to be J-Rat and Co. in appropriate costume for the theme night.  The meal was terrific - thanks to Eric and team and the evening ended in a slide show with suitable heckling.  A strange board game was played and more beer was drunk.  I ended up making two journeys to the hut due to a pissed communication breakdown but we will pass over that!

Sunday was my last day's caving so I decided to give Fraser and Simon Brooks a hand sherpering into ANUS where an assault on Sump 4 was planned.

Seal watching - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Both divers found the sump low and silty but everything was set up for what turned out to be a successful later push to a large airbell by Simon.

Quackers and I returned south the next day. Next year could be the year of the Rana/Claonaite exchange.

P.S. Regarding those bottles.  I took them to our local bottle expert - Nick Chipchase, a week later.  His comment "See that bottle bank there - put 'em in that". Apparently the collectors only like hand made bottles and these are too modem.

Peter Glanvill August 1999

Curry Night at the Allt - Photo: Pete Glanvill


Eastwood Manor Mines

By Vince Simmonds

In a small disused quarry (576551) 100m south of Eastwood Manor, East Harptree are found two mines.

Mine No. 1

Length 10m.

Located in the south side of the quarry about 50m from the road gate.

Low, wide arch leads to fairly comfortable passage 10m long and in places 3.5m wide.

Mine No.2

Length 90m.

Located 40m north of Mine No.1 in the western face of the quarry.

Small entrance leads down a slope of deads to more sizeable passage and a choice of two ways on.  To the right through a window the passage quickly goes to walking size, up to 3.5m high and 4m wide ending after 20m at a 3m long pool.  From the entrance the passage to the left runs parallel to the quarry face and several former choked links back to the face are passed.  Passage size is mainly stooping/walking height and about 1.5m wide, it is 45m long with some loops and there are some small side passages that are insignificant.  It is muddy in places and the end bit has been frequented by Badgers who have, at times, used it as a latrine.

Both mines are horizontal adits.

Possibly worked for barytes.






Stock's House Shaft - a Small Cave Becomes a Large Mine.

By Tony Jarratt

This article follows on from that in BB 502.

After waiting three months for the stream in this dig to dry up work recommenced on 25th June 1999 when AJ fired a charge in the shattered ceiling above the downstream "sump". This was partly cleared on 4th July by BS, assisted on the surface by Roger Haskett (Dig Chauffeur).  Bob was excited to hear glooping noises and to watch the ponded water rapidly drain away after inserting a bar into the mud choked crawl.  AJ continued clearing the next day and upon chiselling out the banged ceiling was able to enter some 10ft of mud and tailings floored crawl ending in an almost complete silt choke.  A solid rock rib on the right hand wall was drilled and a charge laid to the accompaniment of peculiar rumbling noises echoing down the shaft.  This was not a passing lorry or helicopter but an approaching thunderstorm!  Having already attached the detonator (with the firing wires trailing up the shaft) and with three previous lightning strikes to his credit, AJ rocketed up the ladder to rapidly fire the charge - much to the bemusement of a couple of "outdoor adventure" instructors.

John "Tangent" Williams and AJ cleared this next day and a large Wednesday night team (including new man to the site Andy Elson) continued the good work - hauling 80 bag loads to surface.  It was now realised that what we had originally assumed to be a flat out natural stream passage had been entered and enlarged by the Old Men to walking sized mine levels heading off in three directions downstream, upstream and a dry side passage parallel with the upstream level.  Shotholes in all three galleries were evidence of their being blasted from the shaft outwards.  The downstream level draughted strongly and obviously takes a large amount of water at times.  The diggers were much encouraged and a decision was made to push this as much as possible before the next heavy rains made conditions miserable.  The presence of bad air in His Lordship's Hole also provided them with an excuse to concentrate work on this site.

Bob Smith at the entrance of Stocks House Shaft - Photo: Alan 'Goon' Jefferies

10 more bags came out on the 8th July and during the following weekend another 110 reached surface due to the efforts of enthusiastic diggers including Simon House, Alan "Goon" Jeffreys (Grampian S.G. - and paying his debts for the Rana Hole epics!) Rick Stewart (Airedale C.C. ) and Wendy Ripley (Craven P.C.).  Monday 12th July saw another 40 bags up to the midge-infested Hell of the forest above. Another 80 came out over the next three days.  Plans for a good push the following weekend were wiped out by various parties at the Belfry and the presence of hordes of "hedge monkeys" attending an illegal rave in the Forestry car park.  After setting fire to a car, upsetting everyone for miles around and stealing the belay bolt, krabs and 20m SRT rope from the Shaft they were finally evicted by the police on the Sunday evening.  Things improved on the Monday when TL, AJ, JW, Mike Alderton, Nick Squire and Ben Wills hauled up another 105 loads.  Both upstream and downstream passages were now 20-30 feet long and adding up towards the Digging Barrel score!

During the following week another 151 loads reached surface and probably 200 were stored underground ready for removal.  Guest diggers were Alex Loftus and Ollie Metherall (Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club) Harvey Lomas (Yorkshire Ramblers Club) and "Sweep" the world's shortest collie dog!  The upstream level was cleared for some 30ft and is heading out under the road towards the Waldegrave Works ruins.  The dry parallel level has been partly cleared for about 15ft but may be left as a good winter dig and the main priority, the downstream level, pushed for some 60ft to a choke on a sharp LH bend where the first section of open passage was entered on 27th July (see below) - a year and two days from the commencement of the dig.  The latest additions to the team are Ben "Eat at Alley Cats Bistro, Wells" Gingold, Ben Holden, three Newcastle Uni. lads, Annie Audsley, Mike Willett and the MRO (not by choice!).  The Shaft has also been deepened by a few feet and the intention is to totally clear the whole of the workings - a steady job for which there are plenty of vacancies, especially after the following incident:-

The Breakthrough and Rescue Incident

" .... if any man by this dangerous and doubtful occupation do take his death and be slain by falling of the Earth upon him the workmen of that occupation shall fetch up that dead body at their proper costs and charges (although he lye threescore fathome under the Earth) and shall bury him in a Christian burial. "  - Mendip Mining Laws and Forest Bounds - J. W. Gough 1931

John Williams heading for the pub - photo: Simon House

On the evening of 27th July AJ, J"T"W, SH and BH went into the downstream level to dig into the open passage seen the previous day but not entered due to the exhaustion of the diggers.  While AJ dug into some 10ft of passage on a sharp bend the others cleared spoil from behind him and dragged full bags back to the Shaft.  Some very delicate redistribution and chocking of conglomerate boulders was then necessary to reach the large open passage some 12ft ahead.  Rocks could be carefully pushed forwards into the void but to reach them properly AJ had to get both legs around the bend and after accomplishing this was unable to reverse the manoeuvre due to an injured knee. After turning on his back he could see a big black space above which was accessible by pushing over some poised boulders balanced on a fridge-sized rock to one side.  On squeezing up into the space this rock suddenly and noiselessly settled onto his left side at the same time as a foot square "Floyd Collins Special" landed on his right welly.  Unable to move he shouted to Tangent to call out the MRO - foreseeing a major problem ahead but rationally, and surprisingly calmly, expecting to be slowly crushed by the offending boulder and/or simply smashed to bits by the 20 ton or so of bigger boulders that he now realised were perched directly above him in a collapsed shaft or stope and apparently slowly moving! Luckily he was able to reach some small rocks which he wedged between the descending boulder and solid wall giving him time to notice yet another large boulder on which his back rested. With thoughts of "shit or bust" this one was laboriously nudged into the void and, by dragging his foot from a fortunately mud filled welly he was able to scramble the last few feet to the haven of the ongoing level.  He was now interred with one welly, no fags, a compass and a miraculous mortality extension (thanks, God). The news of

Streamway - photo: Simon House

his survival was shouted to the departing callout man and a request for shoring materials (and fags) made. As a long wait was expected he set off hopping down the level to look for possible shafts to surface, to take a compass bearing and have a crafty exploration.  The level was fairly free of tailings and ended at a muddy sink after some 60ft.  Shotholes were present in the walls and a few rotten stemples noted but no easy way out. He returned to the choke to find a loquacious Quackers venting his wrath on all digs, but this one in particular! The MRO had appeared with remarkable speed and soon Vince was digging from one side while AJ meticulously rearranged boulders into a supportive drystone wall. Andy Sparrow, John Walsh and the digging team meanwhile dragged all the full spoil bags back to the Shaft and received scaffolding, timber etc. lowered from surface by a very strong support party too numerous to mention.  Dr. Andy Newton stood by in case of the worst but was thankfully not needed.  (The trauma unit of Weston General Hospital were also on standby and there were plans to obtain a mobile drilling rig from Cornwall.  Though seemingly "over the top" it was only by a miracle that both were not required and they should be again seriously considered on future incidents of this nature).

The attempted crushing!

With the use of a short crowbar and a length of rope the "Floyd Collins Rock" was removed and, after the welly was liberated, dumped in the level enabling the trapped one to make a rapid escape before the Pub shut.  He is eternally grateful for the prompt response of those present and has never before been quite so pleased to see the motley buggers!  Thanks are also due to Roger and Jackie for allowing everyone to replace their lost body fluids at a late hour.

Work will continue on clearing the levels and ideas for removing or stabilising the choke toyed with. Apart from this short section Stock's House is a stable and fascinating working with lots of potential for both natural and mined passages.  This extension has also, in theory, made the new edition of Mendip Underground out of date on the day before it was published!!!  (They wont be any cheaper though ..... ).

Additions to the Digging Team

Roger Haskett, Andy Elson, Simon House, Alan "Goon" Jeffreys (GSG), Rick Stewart (ACC), Wendy Ripley (Craven PC), Mike Alderton, Nick Squire, Alex Loftus (EUMC), Ollie Metherall (EUMC), Harvey Lomas and dog (YRC), Ben Gingold, Ben Holden, Vince Simmonds, Andy Sparrow, John Walsh, Ben Langford (Univ.of Newcastle CC), Mike Richards (UNCC) Dave Coulson (UNCC), Mike Willet and Annie Audsley.

Streamway (now a 6' high mine level) - photo: Simon House

Additional Assistance

M.R.O, Jackie Dors, Jim Lewis ( Cornwall Heritage Trust) and Weston General Hospital Trauma Unit

A.R. Jarratt (49, not out) 16/8/99


Where is the Veb?

By Tony Setterington

There is evidence of Roman mining for lead, and other metals, at many sites on Mendip.  Until recently the main area of extraction was assumed to be at Charterhouse where much of the excavating has been done and, of course, most of the artefacts discovered.  Gough includes other sites and further indicates that Medieval and post medieval activities have removed and reworked many of the surface areas originally exploited by the Romans.

Since the reign of Henry VIII some 20-lead ingots have been unearthed in southern Britain with others on the continent.  Many of these have been lost or melted down but four dug-up on Rookery Farm, near Green Ore, were described and interpreted by Palmer et al. and are now preserved in local museums.  In varying degrees of clarity, each of these ingots has BRIT.EX ARG.VEB; (from the British silverworks at VEB) cast on one side.  By analogy with ingots from Derbyshire, where LVT or LVTVD refers to the known production site of Lutudarium, VEB must be a Mendip smelting site.

A recent paper by Williams, summarising information on the Roman mining in the Priddy-Green Ore area, indicates at least 100 hectares of surface mining or occupation sites, probably more than at Charterhouse.  Since ingots with the VEB inscription have been found both at Charterhouse and Green Ore it must apply to both of these sites and, since no other inscription has been discovered it is assumed that VEB covers the whole of Mendip.

There are four places, and possibly others, that include two of the three letters of VEB in their names. Rookery Farm has been renamed Vespasian Farm, while Velvet Bottom, Vobster and Webbington probably derive from old English names.  The most likely, but far from proven, is Webb plus more modem endings.

Although we can conclude that we now know where VEB is the question of the whole Roman name for the area remains.  We will only have an answer when a gravestone with the complete form is found or historians read it in a shipping manifest or similar document, perhaps they already know and don't realise it.

Gough, IW., The Mines of Mendip. (Newton Abbot 1967)

Palmer, L.S. et aI, Four Roman Pigs of Lead from Mendip. In Proc. SANHS Vols. 101 and 102. ( Taunton 1958)

Williams, R.G.J., The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. In Proc. UBSS, 1998,21(2)


Mendip Lead Mining (Chewton and Priddy)

By R.A. Setterington

Lead net weights were recorded from the Iron Age sites at Mere and Glastonbury.  Although technology at that time, early 20th Century, was not sufficiently advanced to prove that the source of the ore was the Mendips it is a reasonable assumption.

Until recently Charterhouse was usually thought of as the centre for Roman lead mining on Mendip, however in the field centred on ST547503 during the early 1950s, a Roman 'villa' with quantities of lead and lead ore was excavated and more recently the area of Roman occupation and mining has been shown to extend at least from Swildons to the top of Stockhill.  It is possible that other sites, both Roman and Preroman, remain to be discovered.

In 1461 Sir Richard Choke, the Lord Chief Justice, was sent by the king to sort out disputes amongst the miners and smelting sites on Mendip.  Reading between the lines of his report it is clear that there had been a code of rules for a very long time and it was only necessary to add a formal recognition of this code.  It is clear that Mendip miners were an independent group, which was able to enforce its own laws, and resented outside intervention.

The earliest dated history of the Chewton Minery is at least as early as 1550.  These early smelting sites under the four 'Lords Royal' peaked in output between 1600-1670 when in 1608 Chewton produced 30 tons and the rest 34 tons between them.  The earliest reported 'incomer' was Sir Beavis Bulmer who, in 1580, had an agreement with the miners to drain Rowpits (Chewton Warren) for a half of the ore raised. By 1586 the miners realised that this was a bad bargain and Sir Bulmer was complaining of "Divers disorders in Mendipp mynes especially at Brode Rake".  Later his agent was accused of selling off Bulmers pits and, not too surprisingly, he was working elsewhere.

In 1658 Thomas Bushell obtained an order 'For carrying ye Water in Row pitts.  He planned to dig a drift 16 fathoms deep as a Common Shore (sow or collecting drain) from the concaves of a natural swallow 20 fathoms deep.  His main object was to reopen the Broad Rake" for there are men yet alive who will justifie that the forebreast of Sir Beavis Bulmars work was nine foot wide and three fathoms high in oar."  The rule that half the ore raised by the local miners to be paid for the draining was again agreed and again not obeyed and the works were eventually abandoned.

Although blasting powder came into the West Country about 1689 this did little to help the miners who had worked out most of the shallow ore and were still troubled by water. During the first eight years of the eighteenth century the output from the Chewton Minery varied from four to ten tons, small figures when compared with the 34 tons in 1608.

The smelting of lead from ore continued to decrease until by 1850 it was virtually extinct, however the possibility of re-smelting the old slags and reworking the old slimes and tailings revived the Mineries, the scale of capital required involving the use of venture capital by floating companies.  A doctor of medicine, named Benjamin Somers was working at Charterhouse from 1824 until he died in 1848.  In the 'thirties and 'forties he turned his attention to the vast heaps of refuse at the Chewton and Priddy Mineries.  In 1850 Barwell was working at Charterhouse but turned his attentions to Chewton in 1854 when he entered into partnership with T.S. Wright.  Their efforts were slow to develop until they attracted some Cornish mining engineers.  More modem buildings were erected with modem machinery, including reverberatory furnaces and round buddles.

In 1857 Nicholas Ennor obtained the mineral rights for the Priddy Minery to the annoyance of Barwell and Wright who built a dam at the downstream end of the Chewton site thus stopping the flow of surface water to the Priddy Minery.  Ennor protested and his men entered Barwell's land and cut holes in the dam.  Not surprisingly this lead to free fights which continued, on and off, for two years until, in 1860, the case came up for trial, eventually ending in Ennor's favour. Meanwhile Ennor was joined by Humby and proceeded to construct six buddles in 1858 and two more in 1859.  He was almost immediately in trouble for water pollution in a case brought by Hodgkinson of Wookey Hole.  Ennor gave up and in 1862 a new company, The St. Cuthbert's Lead Smelting Company was formed, under the management of Horatio Nelson Hornblower of Gwennap, to buy Ennor's interests.  Because of the water problems Hornblower experimented to smelt the debris without dressing and in a small scale trial obtained 13 tons of pig lead from an input of 200 tons, thereby making a profit of just over 100%.  Five new furnaces were installed in 1864 with a proposal for more efficient blowing and a condenser working by spraying water but they eventually adopted longer flues.  In 1849 there were 40 men employed but the works were soon abandoned, eventually to be bought by Julian Bernard.  There was no output recorded for ten years, even after much of the existing plant was pulled down and new machinery installed it was not worked. Bernard soon disappeared leaving debts, the plant was to be sold to a Mr. George Ball but in 1881 he died before the purchase could be completed and the buildings fell into disrepair.

Meanwhile, at the Waldegrave works, Barwell and Wright obtained a new licence in 1864 but in 1881 smelting was abandoned although two out of the three sets of buddles were kept working until 1883. Between 1881 and 1890 St. Cuthbert's was run on a small scale by Watts as owner with Willcox as a working manager. The plant was again sold, to a Mr. James Theobald MP but the fluctuating price of lead fmally stopped production in 1908 and the plant was dismantled in 1910.

Williams, R.G.J., The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. In Proc. UBSS, 1998,21(2)

Gough, J.W., The Mines of Men dip. (Newton Abbot 1967)


A Glossary of Commonly Used Climbing Terms and Phrases from Tom Patey's book 'One Man's Mountains'

From Kangy King

  • A solo climber - One man falling alone.
  • A roped party - Several men falling simultaneously.
  • A novice - Someone (often dead) who should be kept off the mountain at all costs.
  • An experienced climber - Someone whose death was unavoidable.
  • An Alpine Club member - Someone who never dies but slowly fades away.
  • An alpine veteran - Someone who has been to the Alps.
  • A careful climber - A slow climber.
  • A cautious climber - A very slow climber.  A climbing nut - A reckless climber.
  • A climbing leader - Someone who is expendable.







A Night to Remember - Thirty Years Ago ...

Monday 15th September 1969

-A brief note by Dave Irwin


Above: - The Belfry, 1961. Photo: Mike Baker

Right: -Cover of belfry Bulletin No. 259 that was published a week later informing members of the disaster.

It seems only yesterday that the club faced one of the worst crises in its history.  The old wooden Belfry caught fire and suddenly the Club was 'homeless'.

It happened one wet Monday night when a group of visitors were sinking their beer at the Hunters. 'Jock' Orr was also staying at the Belfry but was spending the evening in Bristol supping coffee with Wig and Tim Reynolds. 'Jock' left Bristol about 11.30 pm and arrived at the Belfry to find the Fire Service in attendance.  Dave Searle who lived nearby had already switched off the main electrical supply to the building but the firemen had another problem - how to get the gas cylinders out of the building safely.  However, the fire was contained within the building and little external damage was done either by the fire or the firemen.  Within a short space of time the fire was out but the building was gutted internally.

'Jock' returned to Bristol and woke Wig about 2.15 am who took the whole episode as a bad joke!!  But when Jock produced a hand full of coins that had been retrieved from the building it was all go.  Bob Bagshaw, the club treasurer, was woken a half-hour later and told of the occurrence and who, later, contacted the insurance company and assessors. Meanwhile, Jock and Wig carried on to Chew Stoke and woke John Riley and his brother, after all, if Jock and Wig were up why shouldn't everyone else en-route.  Eventually all ended up in the Belfry car park at about half-past three. The weather was pretty foul, heavy drizzle and the usual Mendip low cloud and when the Belfry came into view - the whole scene looked pretty dismal to say the least.  The building was still smouldering in places and the air was filled with the stench of wet burnt wood.  Nothing more could be done so it was back to Chew stoke for coffee and eats - courtesy of John Riley; then back to Bristol to change and off to work! That afternoon, a group returned to the Belfry to sort out salvageable gear and personal belongings of             members which was passed to Bobby Bagshaw for safe keeping.

Within the next couple of days a group of 'club elders' met and decided the next move and what was needed by the Club AGM to be held as usual in early October.

Fortunately, plans for a more permanent building had been in being for some time and at that time a number of regular Belfryites had been paying a quid a month for a period of three years - quite a lot of money at that time.

General view of the Belfry on 15th September, 1969.  Photo: Roy McR. Pearce

Though many people on Mendip were spreading 'malicious' rumours and rubbing their hands with glee that the BEC had burnt the Belfry deliberately and in any case this event would be the end of the BEC they were to a shortly disappointed.  At or about the time of the AGM, Bob Bagshaw announced that combining the Belfry fund, various anonymous donations and the insurance money, the Club was only some £700 short of the £3,000 to commence the building work.

Added to that the collections and fund raising devices arranged at the Annual Dinner, and subsequent further donations, that shortfall was raised in the coming months.  The upshot was that the Belfry was up and running and officially opened by Mrs Shuter, the retired landlady of the Waggon and Horses at Redcliffe, Bristol, in May 1970.

What happened in between? Well, the stone Belfry, now the tackle store and MRO store, was converted into a temporary bunkroom and living quarters for the intervening winter - it was tolerably comfortable but no real substitute for that which had been destroyed in the fire.

All the photos accompanying this note are being published for the first time.

Top and above:  In daylight – 15th September 1969.  Photos: Roy McR Pearce

Above:  Another view of the general scene after sorting member’s valuables from the wreckage. Photo: Roy McR Pearce

Below:  Phil Davies (right) then Hon. Secretary of the Wessex, offering his condolences.  Also in the picture, Alan Thomas (left foreground) and John Riley (extreme left).  Photographer unknown.


The Odd Note

By ‘Wig’

Wookey Hole inscriptions.

Casually glancing through Balch's book Mendip - The Great Cave of Wookey Hole - I noted a passing mention of inscriptions close to the cave entrance.  Referring to the entrance gallery, Balch recorded.

... Here and there in this entrance gallery, inscriptions lightly carved in the stone show that visitors of 200 or 300 years ago had much the same regrettable habits as those of the present day ..  One of these inscriptions "W.A.W. 1625," (in later editions the date was corrected to 1605) near the bottom of Hell Ladder is the earliest I have so far located in the cave, though there well may be earlier ones, as I have not made an exhaustive search, and there are many undated ....


Characteristic I and W, probably 17-18th c. inscribed into stalagmite, Wookey Hole. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

So arrangements were made with the cave management and keys were made available for Chris Hawkes, John Williams and myself to have a look and see what inscriptions remained.  On the night the party was augmented by J'Rat and Simon House.  A rapid search was made and numerous clusters of markings were found, though only a few in the entrance gallery and Hell Ladder area.  Isolated groups were seen in the 1st and 2nd Chambers but the largest cluster was to be found in the end of the Second Chamber and the lowish connection with the 3rd Chamber.  Mostly the markings were in white chalk, some of them dated (18th century) but there were a small number of 'engraved' examples.  Several examples of the early form of 'A', '1', 'M' and 'W' commonly found in documents of the 16-17th centuries were also noted (photo 1).

1706 cut into stalagmite, Wookey Hole. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

1706 is the earliest date so far recorded (photo 2).  No dated 19th century inscriptions were seen though modern additions were also seen, some unfortunately covering earlier markings.  None were found in the vicinity of The Witch formation.

The 1625 or 1605 inscription wasn't found.  In the 3rd edition of the             'Wookey' book (1947) Balch adds to the extract below

... Recent work has destroyed this inscription ....

You can't win them all! The intention is now to go back into the cave and photograph all the markings and collate them into a catalogue format so that they can be quickly located in the future.

Other specimens are known to exist in the Fourth Chamber.  These were last seen by non-divers during the Tratman directed archaeological dig in 1974.

Photographic collections.

During the last ten years or so I've been searching a number of items known to be kept at various establishments.  On enquiry, all but a couple of items have gone missing / 'walkies'.  In some cases it is known that items have been thrown into the waste bin.  This has occurred at the Cheddar show caves offices and at Wells Museum among other sites.

As a result the writer has been recording, and collecting, where possible, full details of any ephemeral material published by the Mendip show caves.  Also, since 1995, he has been digitally capturing the photographic collections housed in the Wells Museum and other places including those amassed by Mike Baker, Bob Davies, Graham Balcombe, Molly Hall, and J. Harry Savory. The scarce first 100 Belfry Bulletins have also been scanned and, in association with Dave Turner, all surviving logbooks have been copied and the digital information transferred to CD ROM. Hopefully copies of this CD will be available to members later this year at a small charge.

George Bowen

Many older members of the Club will remember the activities of C. Phillip (Bill) Weaver; he died in May at an advanced age.  Weaver is best remembered for his caving activity both before the Second World War and with the CDG and SWCC in the years immediately after.  He was particularly involved in the then newly discovered OFD.  In fact it was he with Peter Harvey who opened the lower entrance to OFD 1 when the CDG were attempting to enter through the resurgence.


George Bowen and his wife at the Hunter's Lodge on the 24th June 1999. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

George Bowen made contact with 'Prew' and 'Wig' and  the pair met him on the 24th June for a drink and general reminisce at the Hunter's.

Never a member of a caving club he went along with 'Bill' Weaver as a mate and explored a number of caves and mineshafts on Mendip.  Now well over 80 George could not remember much detail of their activity.  Nor did he keep a diary.  But it was not surprising to learn that the general caving gear was the oldest clothes that one could muster and that their main light source was the humble electric torch.  He didn't recall ever using carbide lamps.


A rejuvenated photo from Wells Museum photo after J. Harry Savory

Their combined successes included the discovery of a now long lost mineshaft leading to about 500m of natural passage at Ores Close near Hillgrove.  The entrance to this shaft may have become blocked when the area was levelled the area by Luke Devenish in the early 1950s.  They also opened up the now well known Weaver-Bowen Series in Eastwater Cavern.

Rodney Weaver, 'Bill's' son, is sorting out his father's photographic collection which will be made available for digitising and placing on a CD-ROM in the autumn.

... and finally ...

Those who believe in metamorphosis will be well repaid by taking a close look at this early Savory print found in the Wells Museum attic.  The classic photograph by Harry Savory was found badly faded and covered in dust on one of the shelves.  From the time it was taken, said to be 1911, the photograph has undergone some drastic changes ...  Look for yourselves ...  It must be a family tradition or he's older than you think or ageless!


Dive Report - Le Grande Souci. St. Vincent Sur L'Isle. Dordogne, France.

By Clive Stell

Over the Easter holidays this year divers from the Wessex (another caving club on Mendip) and divers from the BEC joined forces to dive the deepest cave in the Department of the Dordogne in France.  Although the depth of this site is relatively modest compared with some of the extremely deep sumps in other parts of France, it is still significantly deeper than any British site.

Since the mid seventies when a French diver descended to a depth of 40m there had been no diving at the site until members of the British CDG showed an interest in the mid nineties. During the past few years, as more cave has been found, the terminal depth has slowly increased.

The Souci appears to be a small pond approximately 15m by 8m in a hollow, shaded by trees on flat farm land adjacent to the village of St, Vincent: an unlikely looking spot for a deep dive.

The cave drops vertically for the first 40m, passing through a 1.5m wide slot at a depth of 6m and then slowly widening.  At 12m depth, a large chamber is entered through the roof and the walls are lost in visibility that never exceeds 2m.  The steeply sloping, debris covered floor is reached at -40m.  During the past few years divers have continued down the slope in an attempt to find ongoing passage and moving water but due to the silt on the floor and the resulting atrocious visibility the attempts were destined to fail.

In 1998, Malcolm Foyle and Robin Brown laid a diving line from the shot line at a depth of 37m out into the unseen void. After 10m a wall of the chamber was found.  At this point the wall was undercut, so the line was continued in this direction following the junction of the steeply descending roof and the wall.

In September 1998, Jonathan Edwards and I continued MSF and RABs' exploration, reaching a depth of 70m. At this depth, divers experience nitrogen narcosis, a condition similar to being drunk, caused by the nitrogen in air becoming toxic when inhaled at depth.  Due to the narcosis, it was not possible to safely belay the diving line and it was therefore removed back to a depth of 60m.

Any further exploration at the Souci was going to be logistically more difficult as the divers could not breathe air at these depths.

As plans were made for the next trip, Tim Chapman arrived back in Britain and rejoined the team after not diving the Souci since 1996.  Unfortunately Jon was unable to get to France due to work commitments but a strong diving team was still assembled and all the necessary kit for a series of mixed gas dives was prepared.

For the deep dives this Easter the divers breathed Trimix (oxygen, helium. nitrogen) to reduce the narcosis and make the dives safer.

The first dive fell to Robin who checked the condition of the lines laid over the previous years. He reported that all was well and that the visibility was the usual 2m.

Over the following days the deep line was slowly extended with the cave continuing to descend at a steep angle.  As the dives got deeper and longer the amount of gas required for each dive increased. For the final dives, 6 cylinders with 3 different gas mixes were used.

The first two deep dives extended the cave to the same depth as reached during the summer of 1998.

The following deep dives then continued the cave horizontally in what appeared to be the roof of another chamber but due to the poor visibility nothing was clear.  At a depth of seventy metres and with no clear way on I decided that it was time to drop into whatever was below.  After descending for six metres, and without a wall or the floor in sight, the maximum dive time was reach and the line was reeled back to seventy metres.  The surface was regained after a total dive time of over two hours.

Other areas of the cave were also looked at.  Tim decided to explore a small pool adjacent to the main site. Over the years it had been thought that this would simply drop into the main chamber.  Due to the uninviting nature of this second site, until now, no one had been willing to test the hypothesis.  The first dive was spent clearing rotting tree trunks and various items that had been dumped over the years.  After the entrance was cleared sufficiently for a diver to enter the cave, slow progress was made, in near zero visibility, to a point approximately 20m from the entrance and at a depth of 12m.  With no obvious link with the main chamber, in ongoing, but very awkward passage, the site was abandoned to concentrate on the main site. Meanwhile the diving continued in the main pond.  At 35-40m depth, lines had been run out from the shot line and around the walls of the main chamber.  All the lines were then surveyed including the deep line, down to a depth of 70m. During the following evening, whilst drinking heavily, the survey was drawn up.  This gave a good impression of the size of the main chamber around the shot line and also indicated other areas which needed further examination.  The line survey confirmed the large size of the main chamber, which due to the poor visibility has yet to be seen.  The survey also indicated that the line around the chamber was now 3-4m from the deep line after going right round one side of the chamber.

During the next dives it was confirmed that the line did in fact goes right around the right side of the chamber and the line was joined to the deep line.  A further line was laid around the left side of the chamber in an attempt to circumnavigate it; this line has yet to be completed.

Plans were being made for the final attempt on the end of the system.  By now the tanks of helium brought over from England were getting low and the gas mixes that we could achieve were not ideal.  This resulted in much worse narcosis for the final dive than is ideal.  We already had the deepest site explored by British divers in Europe but the pressure was still on.  The sump had allowed us to go deeper than the previous year but we knew that the site continued downward and this was our last opportunity to get further as there was no more helium.

All of the kit required for the final dive was assembled and the various cylinders were staged at the pre-planned points in the cave.  It was time for the final dive.  As I left the surface my mind was eased by the now familiar line which led me past my two deco tanks at -9m and on down through the unseen chamber to my travel mix bottles hanging above the floor of the chamber at -35m.  Everything was going well.  I continued along the horizontal part of the line leading to the wall of the chamber then on down into a steeply descending section decorated with roof pendants.  The line then started to level out and I arrived at the final belay at -70m.  I had decided to make a vertical descent from this point and expected to reach the floor within a few metres of the depth reach on my previous dive.  I picked up the line reel and slowly sank; the minutes raced by on my dive computer and the depth gradually increased.  To my surprise, I reached both the end of the line on my line reel and the maximum depth for my decompression tables. Still the cave continued downward.  I swam forward for a metre or so and made contact with the wall.  Finding a large knob of rock I tied the line off but moments later, in the now zero visibility, I felt something hit my fin.  The belay had broken off.  My maximum time had been reached and with no time to belay the line properly.  I clipped a small block of lead to the end of the line and retreated to start the long decompression.

The maximum depth of the cave found so far is 93m from the ground level with 87m of this underwater making this both the deepest dive in the Dordogne and the deepest cave.

A return trip with more equipment is planned.

The Divers were:

Robin Brown, Tim Chapman, Malcolm Foyle & Clive Stell.  Thanks to Fish and Lizzy for surface support.

During the decompression the divers all noticed strange occurrences including; falling rocks and flying zebras, on reflection, this could be why the French named the site "the Big Scary One."

Many thanks to Andy and Christian Kay for all their support and hospitality.

In response to requests from several members, this article expands the recent BB article on the hydro-chemical studies in Wookey Hole.  In particular, it is important to note the fact that the work is going to be published as a paper jointly by the authors listed below.  They are the three divers who collected the water samples, myself, and a non-member, Alan Knights.  Alan will probably not be known to the readers.  He works at the Inorganic Chemistry department of Bristol University, and made an invaluable contribution to the analysis of the Wookey Hole samples.  To provide proof of the accuracy of the analyses, it is necessary to make a complete analysis of all ions present in the samples, and examine the balance between the total concentrations of positive and negative ions.  Two ions, sulphate and nitrate, are notoriously difficult to measure.  With his expertise in the use of an ion chromatograph, Alan has analysed samples for these two ions with great precision, and at the same time checked that no other unsuspected negative ions were present in the samples.  Since 1994 he has cooperated with me in the St. Cuthbert's stream studies by making similar analyses for the same two ions.


More Notes On Water Studies In Wookey Hole Cave, Somerset

T. Chapman, A. Gee. A. V. Knights, C. Stell and R.D. Stenner

The plan of the cave.

The plan shows the location of the sites where water samples were collected.  The plan was based on Trevor Hughes' 1982 drawing, which he compiled from unpublished surveys made by several members of the Cave Diving Group. The plan included here was made by scanning a large drawing in six sections.  A grid was drawn separately on one layer in an AutoCAD file.  The scanned sections were moved to their correct positions on the grid, trimmed, joined up and cleaned up until a print could be made at the final scale.  Using this print, a plan was traced in ink, and scanned to produce an Adobe PhotoShop 4 file.  This file was edited and text was added.  A draft was printed, and approved by the Wookey Hole management to be used to illustrate the present water studies.

The location of the sample sites is shown in the Figure 1.  A collection was started on 30.11.96, but after collecting samples from Chambers 3 and 9, the trip had to be abandoned.  Samples were collected on 14.12.96, and 25.01.97.  Water levels in November and December were extremely high. In January the water level had fallen, but it was still high.

The results from the samples collected in December 1996 and January 1997 were utterly unexpected, and the possible implications were intriguing.  A high priority was placed on collecting a sample from upstream of Wookey 23.  After many attempts between March 1997 and July 1997 failed, samples were collected on 20.07.97 from the same sites as on 14.12.96, with the addition of a sample from Wookey 25, immediately before the long descent into the 25th Sump.

The analytical techniques used will be available in detail elsewhere.  Ion balances are included in the tables of results.  They show where analyses have been satisfactory, and where analyses have been adversely affected by high levels of suspended calcium carbonate in the water.  These "colloids" made it impossible to analyse samples for total hardness calcium and bicarbonates with the usual accuracy.

Standard errors have been calculated (as 10 x 10-5 Molar, - ppm as CaC03):-  total hardness, calcium and aggressiveness to CaC03, 0.8; alkaline hardness 3.0; Non-alkaline hardness, 3.8; magnesium, 0.46; sodium, 3.0; potassium, 1.2; chloride, 2.6; sulphate, 0.3; nitrate, 0.23.  The reliability of the recent analyses is indicated by the cation/anion balances.

The units chosen in this study was 105 x Molar.  By making this choice, the data for the species associated with water hardness are numerically identical (to within analytical precision limits) to parts per million (ppm) as calcium carbonate, the unit widely used by limestone geomorphologists.  Using a unit based on Molarity was especially suitable when calculating ion balances.



Table 1. Data for samples collected 14th December 1996. Units: 105 x M (as specified; non-alkaline hardness di-valent, ion balance mono-valent).  Total, Mg, Ca, alkaline hardness and non-alkaline hardness figures are identical to concentrations in ppm as calcium carbonate. "Coll." represents the estimated concentration of "colloidal" calcium carbonate.  The accuracy of figures in italic script is seriously lower than usual because of analytical difficulties caused by high concentrations of colloidal calcium carbonate. The errors in the figures in parentheses are the result of titrating colloidal calcium carbonate as alkaline hardness, confirmed by large ion imbalances and impossible non-alkaline hardness data.








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22













S.Sump W 23














Table 2. Data for samples collected 25th January 1997. Units and symbols as in Table 1








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22B













Sump 22













S.Sump W23














Table 3. Data for samples collected 20th July 1997. Units and symbols as in Table 1.








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22













S.Sump W23













Sump 25













On 30.11.96, the River Axe was very high and cloudy.  The analysis of the samples was very difficult because of high quantities of suspended calcium carbonate.  Filtering the samples did not remove the suspension.  The "colloidal" calcium carbonate interfered seriously with the total hardness and alkaline hardness titrations, making an alkaline hardness titration impossible, and seriously reducing the accuracy of the total hardness titrations.

The water in the Axe was completely clear by 12.12.96, but in spite of the complete absence of any visual warning of a likely problem, every sample still contained large concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate.  This once again made reliable alkaline hardness determinations impossible, and reduced the accuracy of total hardness titrations. To make the nature of the problem caused by colloidal calcium carbonate clearer to the reader, Table 1 contains the alkaline hardness data which were obtained. Because negative values for non-alkaline hardness are impossible, the results are clearly grossly in error, the alkaline hardness figures being too high.  Titration of the sample from the Wookey Hole Road Bridge with HCI to a final stable end-point provided a minimum estimate of the concentration of "colloidal" calcium carbonate; 41 ppm CaCO3.  The initial value of the alkaline hardness was probably too high. The ion imbalance suggests that it was 60 ppm too high, but the non-alkaline hardness figure suggests a lower figure; approximately 49 ppm too high.  Therefore the true concentration of the colloidal calcium carbonate is likely to have been 89 or 101 ppm as CaCO3.

Samples from 25.01.97 contained small concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate (1.5 to 3.8 ppm as CaCO3. The alkaline hardness, in which the dissolved and "colloidal" calcium carbonate species were titrated together, was corrected by subtracting the value obtained in the total hardness for the "colloidal" calcium carbonate.

Samples from 20.07.97 were free of "colloidal" calcium carbonate, with the single exception of the sample from Wookey 9, in which the "colloidal" calcium carbonate concentration was too high to permit the determination of total, alkaline or calcium hardness.

Comments on the results from 14.12.96

1.                  At every site, large concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate were present.

2.                  At every site except the Static Sump in Wookey 23, magnesium concentrations were very similar (N.B. within the ranges of concentrations found in the present study, and within the range of pH in the water, although magnesium can be added, its natural removal is not possible).

3.                  Concentrations of chloride, sulphate, nitrate, potassium and sodium at all sites (including the Static Sump in Wookey 23) were similar.

4.                  At the Static Sump and chambers 20 and 9, calcium values were very similar.

Comment 2, above, will be examined in more detail.  The precipitation of magnesium as magnesium hydroxide will not take place from a solution containing 50 x 10-5 M Mg when the pH of the water is less than 11. This pH is far above the range which can exist naturally in the subterranean River Axe, so removal of magnesium by this means can be safely ruled out.  Indeed, laboratory measurements made after shaking natural waters with powdered limestones and dolomites have in every case led to an increase of magnesium in solution, rather than a reduction (Stenner, 1971, ibid, Table 1 p. 290, Table 2 p. 292).

There is evidence of the ability of magnesium carbonate to pass into solution by the incongruent solution of dolomite, but no evidence to suggest the removal of magnesium from solution.

Despite the analytical difficulties, the results show that the explanation of magnesium variations in the Axe which, prior to this study had been considered by Stenner to be most likely, was completely incorrect.  There was no magnesium gradient in the River Axe between Wookey 23 and the Entrance.

The outstanding feature of the result from 14.12.96 was the low magnesium level in the Static Sump in Wookey 23.  At the same time, the concentrations of many constituents in the sample were the same as in the other samples from the River Axe.  It seemed possible that water in the Static Sump had the same origin as water in the Axe, except that the latter water had dissolved a considerable quantity of magnesium.  Because there was a remote possibility that the similarities in the other hydro-chemical characteristics could have been a coincidence, another set of samples was needed.

The higher Ca contents in Wookey 22 and 3 samples were thought to have caused by inaccuracies in the total hardness titrations.  It is possible that the fraction of very small particles in the "colloidal" calcium carbonate was higher in these two samples, and a significant quantity of this fraction had been included in the rapid titration to the first unstable end-point.  A further set of samples was needed to resolve the uncertainties.

In conclusion, the very first set of samples had produced very exciting results.  There were uncertainties caused by the unfilterable suspended calcium carbonate.

Comments on the results from 26.01.97

1.                  Except at the Static Sump at Wookey 22, magnesium concentrations were very similar, but significantly higher than on 14.12.96, when the flow had been substantially greater.

2.                  Concentrations of calcium, sodium, potassium, sulphate, nitrate and chloride were very similar at all sites.  The data sets for sodium and sulphate on the two dates were different.  The data comprehensively supported the suggestion from the 14.12.96 results; that water in the Static Sump in Wookey 23 had the same origin as water in the Axe.  While there had been a remote possibility that the similarities on 14.12.96 could have been a coincidence, there is no possibility whatsoever that the different results from 26.01.97 could also have been a coincidence.

3.                  The sample collected underwater in Wookey 22, from where the river from Sting Corner enters the sump through boulders, gave results which were indistinguishable from those from the surface of the sump pool.

4.                  Because concentrations of suspended calcium carbonate were low, alkaline hardness data were more reliable, and total hardness and calcium data were much more reliable.  The increase of magnesium between the Static Sump and Wookey 22 was accompanied by an equal increment of alkaline hardness (within practical limits).  The conclusion is that magnesium from MgCO3 in dolomite or dolomitic limestone had dissolved as Mg(HCO3)2.  There was no change in calcium in true solution in the water.

Comments on the results from 20.07.97

The most important result was from the sample from Sump 25.  Results from this sample were similar to those from the main flow of the River Axe at all points downstream, while the magnesium, alkaline and total hardness results from the Static Sump were once again significantly different from those in all other samples.  This result had a considerable consequence on the understanding of the hydrology of the cave. Some of the minor abnormalities in the data from the Static Sump are likely to be the consequence of the static sump having been "stagnant" for several weeks, during which time several parties of divers had visited the site.


The hypothesis is that in December 1996 and January 1997, water in the Static Sump in Wookey 23 did indeed have the same origin as water in the River Axe.

The following paragraph describes the position after examining the results from December 1996 and January 1997.  Following directly from the hypothesis of the origin of water in the Static Sump, there must be an "Unknown Junction" yet to be discovered, at some point upstream, where all the water in the Axe had a composition similar to that in the Static Sump.  From this "Unknown Junction", a small fraction of the Axe flowed into a route leading to the Static Sump.  The majority of the Axe flowed through a different route to Wookey 22, and in this route it entered a zone of dolomite or dolomitic limestone.  Here, the physical conditions (such as turbulent mixing) were such that the water dissolved the substantial concentration of magnesium carbonate seen in the results.

The results show that on 25.01.97, the water dissolved a higher concentration of magnesium between the "Unknown Junction" and Wookey 22 than on 14.12.96.  However, on both occasions, no change in magnesium was detectable in the considerable distance from Wookey 22 to the Entrance. These are very important observations, for which there are three possible explanations.

1.                  The "Unknown Junction" is a very large distance upstream of Wookey 22 (much farther than the distance from Wookey 22 to the Entrance).

2.                  The distance upstream is not crucially important, the most important factor being that the main body of the Axe flows through a zone where the physical conditions especially favour and maximise the solution of magnesium from the dolomite. This possibility presents a problem. When, in higher flow, water arrives at Wookey 22 with lower levels of magnesium, it follows that it must arrive there with a capacity to dissolve more magnesium.  Yet from Wookey 22 to the Entrance it fails to dissolve any more magnesium, in spite of contact with dolomitic conglomerate from Wookey 12 to the entrance.

3.                  (This is a modification of the second possibility).  Downstream of the "Unknown Junction", a part of the Axe flows through a dolomite zone where physical conditions encourage rapid reactions between water and rock, becoming saturated with magnesium to close to the low-flow value of approximately 50 x 10-5 M Mg.  As flow increases, this water is mixed with an increasing proportion of low magnesium water over-flowing from the route to the Static Sump.  This would explain the variable, flow-dependent concentration of magnesium in the Axe arriving at Wookey 22.

The results from the samples collected on 20.07.97 added nothing new to this particular aspect of the study.  Whichever explanation turns out to be the best explanation, results in the present studies have implications.

1.                  Water from the four major separate sources of the Axe (Swildon's Hole, Eastwater Cavern, St. Cuthbert's Swallet and - by far the biggest source - percolation water) must have coalesced upstream of the "Unknown Junction".

2.                  Important new information provided by samples collected on 20.07.97 concerned the location of the "Unknown Junction".  The results proved that the "Unknown Junction" lies beyond the present known limits of the cave; i.e. upstream of Wookey 25.

3.                  The possibility of making important discoveries in a route from the Static Sump to the "Unknown Junction" is very real.

4.                  There must be a zone of dolomite, dolomitic limestone or dolomitic conglomerate upstream of Sump 25, between Wookey 25 and the "Unknown Junction".

5.                  Where water from the "Unknown Junction" encounters the zone of dolomite, solutional activity will have caused considerable localised cavern enlargement (which could be masked by massive localised cavern breakdown). This is a direct consequence of the large quantity of magnesium carbonate being dissolved by the large river in a localised zone of the underground river system.

The water in the Static Sump will not always have the same chemical characteristics as water in the Axe, apart from elevated magnesium bicarbonate.  On the first two sample dates, the flow of the Axe was high, and it is possible that as flow falls, a level might be reached when water from the "Unknown Junction" ceases to flow to the static sump.  Water in the static sump will then reflect the levels of salts in the Axe the last time it flowed to the pool, and not the current levels in the river.  This will not negate the conclusions drawn from the results presented here.

The present article describes the present state of the understanding of the hydrology of the Wookey Hole system.  There are opportunities to refine this understanding before an attempt is made to explore this part of the cave.  The survey shows that there are four more several static sumps in Wookey 23, an intriguing one in Wookey 25 and another one in Wookey 20.  In the near future it is planned to analyse samples from these additional static sumps (together with a sample from Sting Comer).  It is also planned to analyse a selection of mud samples from Wookey 23 (because only those samples deposited in the last two thousand years by the St. Cuthbert's Swallet to the River Axe system will have a high lead content).

A summary of the earlier data is presented in Table Al in the Appendix, for comparison with the new data.


1.                  On any occasion, there was no variation in any measured hydro-chemical component of the River Axe from Sump 25 to the Entrance.  In particular, there was no magnesium gradient in the River Axe.

2.                  The points of confluence of the tributaries which make up the River Axe are all upstream of Sump 25.

3.                  The Static Sump in the 23rd Chamber contained magnesium concentrations which were significantly lower than those in the River Axe.

4.                  Concentrations of magnesium and alkaline hardness were lower in the Static Sump, by an equal quantity, than those in the River Axe, while those of calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulphate and nitrate were the same, proving that they shared the same origin.

5.                  There is a considerable possibility that exploration of the Static Sumps will result in the discovery of important extensions.

6.                  At an unknown distance upstream of Sump 25, the River Axe is a single unit with a composition similar to the Static Sump in the 23rd Chamber.  The physical conditions in which most of the River Axe acquires varying concentrations of magnesium bicarbonate are not known.

7.                  At times, analysis of samples for total, calcium and alkaline hardness have been made difficult by the presence of large concentrations of suspended calcium carbonate.


1.                  Atkinson, T.C, Drew, D.P. with High, C. 1967 Mendip karst hydrology research project, phases one and two, Wessex Cave Club Occ. Pub. Ser 2 (1).

2.                  Gee, A. 1996 Recent exploration in "Wookey", Belfry Bull., 48(1), 7-10. 4.

1.                  3.   Hanwell, J.D. 1970         Digger meets diver, J Wessex Cave Club, 11(128) 34-9.

3.                  Hughes, 1982 1982 A sketch plan of Woo key Hole Cave. No grade, approximate scale, unpublished

4.                  Heathwaite, A.L., Knights, A.V. and Stenner R.D. 1998  In preparation.

5.                  Rose, L. 1983 Alkalinity, its meaning and measurement, Cave Science (Trans. B.C.RA.), 10(1),21-29.

6.                  Stenner, RD. 1969 The measurement of the aggressiveness of water towards calcium carbonate, Trans. C.RG. 11(3), 175200.

7.                  Stenner, RD. 1971 The measurement of the aggressiveness of water Parts II and ill, Trans. C.RG. 13(4),283-295.


Table A1.  A summary of hydro-chemical characteristics of the River Axe at Wookey Hole between 1966 and 1978. Most of the samples were collected from the 3M Chamber.
























































































































































Table A2.  Results of analyses of samples collected from the River Axe at Wookey Hole Bridge in 1996 and 1997.

































































































While most of the hydro-chemical characteristics of the Axe have been stable over the period of more than thirty years, there is one exception.  A single sample, collected on 21.08.68, was analysed for sulphate, chloride and total anion content.  The results showed the water contained a nitrate content that was too low to be detected.  This conclusion was supported by a good anion/cation balance for the sample. Although this was the result of the analysis of a single sample, there is an identical situation at the Cheddar Spring.  A single sample, collected from the Cheddar Yeo spring on 8.10.68 was analysed for sulphate, chloride and total anion, and in this sample the concentration of nitrate was also too low to have been detected by this method.  At this spring, nitrate concentrations are also much higher now than the detection limit for nitrate in the methods used in 1968 to 1970. They are now in the range of 22 x 10-5 to 42 X 10-5 M.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support given by the management of Wookey Hole Caves to members of the Cave Diving Group in their work in this cave, and to thank them for giving permission for this article to be published.

The following pictures are taken from The Great Cave of Wookey Hole - H.E. Balch, reprinted thanks to Robin Gray and Wells Museum.  Original photographs were taken by Harry Savory.

Plans of Wookey Hole from Balch's book 




The BEC Nicknames Database

Chris Batstone             Batspiss

Corruption of surname.

Bob Bidmead   Trog

Bob started caving when he was 12, with his grand father (Ted Roberts) and then the school club (BGS affiliated to that other lot - Wee sex or something) and Scouts.

The Senior Scouts gave him the nickname "Troglodyte" when he was 16 and started instructing younger boys, and it got shortened to "Trog" by John Dukes one day down St Cuthbert's when he picked me up by the belt and carried me up the Arete bodily.

The name never really caught on with BEC, but was used by the Avon Scouts right up until last year when he retired as the Avon Scout Caving Adviser.

(Due to some rule that you had to be under 50 to lead adventurous activities). It's still in family use.

Rich Blake       Gobshite

Because he is (especially when drunk)

Alan Butcher    Butch

Shortened surname

Ian Caldwell    Wormhole

Was given the name Wormhole by Trevor Hughes because he had a propensity for digging small holes and because he was a womaniser (which I suppose is another way of digging small holes).

S.J. Collins      Alfie

Name used in school days that carried on.

Bob Cork and Dany Bradshaw             The Uglies

Painfully obvious!

Pat Cronin       Stumpy

Is so called for obvious reasons

Bob Cross        Cross Bob

The homesick nomad

Garth Dell        Kermit

Had frog like 'Ping-Pong ball' eyes

Mike Duck        Quackers

Gwilym Evans Taff

He is not Scottish!

Pete Franklin   Spangle Bollocks


Rachel Gregory           Bob

Came from the Black Adder character.

Rachel Hale     Penfold

She wore small glasses and looked like the character in Dangermouse.

Rachel Hale and Debbie Walsh

Swindon Wendy's         

Chris Hall         Snogger Hall and Evening' all

Called as a description of his behaviour.  On joining the police force he became known as "Evening' all"

Chris Harvey    Zot

Was so named when he was first seen on Mendip, he had a puke-coloured (and occasionally puke- covered) Consul with a mascot suspended from a spring which he was in a habit of pulling.  As it flew up to the roof he exclaimed: Zot

Mark Howden Shaggy

Trevor Hughes             Biffo

No Comment necessary.  Name given by Batspiss.

Dave Irwin       Wig

Short for a corruption of Irwin. (Earwig)

Tony Jarratt     J'Rat

Mike Jeanmaire           Fish

Because he was declared by the DHSS to be temporarily unsuitable for anything except diving

Graeme Johnson         Bolt

Looked like Frankenstein's monster.

Graham Johnson         Jake

Named after a character from the Blues Brothers.

Ron King          Kangy King

Is a corruption of King - invented at school (not Hindu for shit!)

Davey Lennard            The Boy

Young BEC Morris dancer.

Mark Lumley    Gonzo

Called after one of the Muppets, whom he resembles

Stuart McManus           Mac and MacAnus

Is know as Mac usually, but occasionally MacAnus for obvious reasons

Peter MacNab (Sm)      Snab

When he was in the RAP there were so many Peters that every Peter had to have a nickname.  He called himself Snab to avoid being called MacScab.  It was obvious that his son would be called Snablett

Peter MacNab (Jm)      Snablett

See above

Mike MacDonald          Trebor

After an impersonation of a newsreader done by Lenny Henry.  The newsreader is called Trebor MacDoughnut

Dave Morrison             Tuska

Because he used to wear Oxford bags and looked like an elephant.

Richard Neville-Dove   Mongo

Because he resembles a character in "Blazing Saddles"

Brian Prewer   Prew

Colin Priddle   The Pope

A drunkards attempt to say his name.

Arnold Rice      Sago

Sago is a type of rice.

Andy Sanders Andy Eyebrow

and Same reason as Matt Tuck Eyebrow 2

Tony Setterington        Sett

Obvious ... When collapsing during a speech at a Vintage Dinner someone shouted "Do not adjust your Sett!"

Rod Setterington         Titch

Because he was.

David Shand    Wobbly

For reasons that became obvious on Saturday nights

Chris Smart      Blitz

Because he was struck by lightning in Austria

Richard Stephens        Dickfred

Enough said.

Robin Taviner Tav

Shortened surname.

Gwyn Taylor (nee Timson)       Boncwyn

Also known as the Cardiff Wendy's along with Jane Clark, and Sarah Cook?

Sally Shand (nee ?)     Shagwell

Nigel Taylor     Mr Nigel (often shorted to Mr N)

So called by Gordon Tilly because when he first became a member he called everyone Mr.

Alan Thomas   Hoss and Big Al

Named Hoss by Ken Kelly on the Provatina expedition, 1963.  Hoss was a character in "Bonanzo" - a TV western.

Matt Tuck         Eyebrow

Obvious reasons when you meet him!

Dave Turner     Twittering Turner

Try having a conversation with him!!

Brian Van Luipen        Loopy

Obvious reasons

John Watson    Quiet John

During a Dan yr Ogof trip John was nominated the job of waking everyone else up, but he was too timid to wake everyone up and they missed their trip.

Niel Watson     Bardic Nonsense

'cos he was Welsh.

Carol White     White Meg

Her tackle bag bore the legend White M.E.G. (Mendip Exploration Group)

Mike Willett     Mousetrap

One of the many things he tried attaching to his manhood!!!

John F. Williams          Tangent

Try having a conversation with him!!

John Williams Jingles

When he first turned up on Mendip he wore a long pointed hat with a little bell on the end.

Mike Wilson     Mr Wilson

Hilary Wilson   H and the War Office

(well that's what Mike calls her!!)

Graham Wilton-Jones Bassett

Because his surname was said to resemble Wooton Bassett

John F. Williams          Tangent

Try having a conversation with him!!

Dave Yeandle  The Boy and Pooh

He was for a time the Belfry Boy, a tradition that most BEC members will be familiar with.  After being the Belfry Boy for a few years he ran away to Leeds only to be given the nickname of Pooh by a caver called Minitrog. It should be pointed out that this name has nothing whatsoever to do with bottoms!

He was named after Pooh Bear because Minitrog could imagine that he would have lots of silly adventures like the "real" Pooh.

Pooh has had bits of cave named after him without having to have died first! Puits Pooh in the PSM and Poohs Revenge in Pippikin.  As if this was not fame enough his friend Kevin has named his cat "Yeandle" after him.  The reason for this was that Yeandle (the cat) "Couldn't climb either" when he was a kitten.  Rob Harper was very confused when a cat called Yeandle turned up for treatment at his Veterinary Practice. Yeandle (the cat) has recently learned to climb.

? Tilbery          Bucket

?          Slug    

This list was compiled with reference to a Nicknames article by Alan Thomas in BB May 1990 (no.454 Vo1.44 no.2) and with help from the individuals, and also regular residents of the Hunters' Lodge.  We tried, but we are very sure we have missed many and also have unfinished stories in this database.  If anyone has any information regarding any BEC member's nickname, please contact the editor.


The Curtain - Fernhill Cave, Fairy Cave Quarry.

The photograph was taken shortly after Femhill was discovered in 1960.  The Cave was closed about 1965 by quarry tipping, although currently there is audible connection to Fairy Cave.

Towards the end of this year it is hoped that the entrance to Fernhill will be relocated and excavated allowing access once again to Curtain Chamber with its outstanding formations.


Photo: B.E. Prewer. Model: T. Dredge.


Information on Knotlow Cavern/Hillocks Mine and Caving on Mynydd Ddu

The following information was forwarded from Alan Wood: National Caving Association

Update On Pollution in Knotlow Cavern/Hillocks Mine

By John Gunn, Limestone Research Group (LRG), University of Huddersfield

In a previous report it was noted that, as of 24 February, there were no problems with 'bad air' anywhere in Knotlow and no visual evidence of water pollution apart from some pink growths in the level between the base of Fourways Shaft and what will henceforth be called the Knotlow Farm Engine Shaft to avoid confusion with other 'Engine Shafts'.  The LRG are retained by English Nature to provide a 'rapid response' capability whereby we visit the site as soon as possible after a report of pollution and repeat the air, sediment and water sampling.  However, the contract allows for a maximum of five visits which means that we have to have a definite reason to undertake sampling.  During April and May there were conflicting accounts from visitors to the system, some reporting no problems, others 'bad air.'  Following these, on 20 May, Paul Hardwick tested the oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane concentrations in air by lowering a meter down the three shafts:

  • Climbing Shaft
  • Chapel Dale Engine Shaft (also known as the 210' of simply as 'the' Engine Shaft)
  • Fourways Shaft (also known as Crimbo Hollow Engine Shaft)



No evidence of 'bad air' was obtained, and oxygen levels were >19%.  This was confirmed by a party who visited on 31 May and reported 'no smells' although visitors on 4th & 6th June reported 'bad smells'. This presented us with some difficulty as the air monitoring equipment, without which we cannot undertake any visit to the mine because of Health & Safety considerations, costs £120 to hire in, and it was decided not to undertake a full sampling visit until there was a certainty that there was a pollution problem.  This visit was made on 29 July by John Gunn and Dave Nixon when we also hired in a carbon dioxide meter which proved to be extremely useful. As on 20 May, the oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane, plus carbon dioxide concentrations in air were measured by lowering the meters down the three shafts with the following results:

  • Climbing Shaft: oxygen> 20%; carbon dioxide <0.5%
  • Chapel Dale Engine Shaft: carbon dioxide >0.5% @ -20m & >1.0% @ -35m. oxygen >19% to base.
  • Fourways Shaft: carbon dioxide >0.5% @ -20m & > 1.0% @ -25m. oxygen> 19% to base.



The lids of the two deep shafts were left open to aid ventilation and we descended the climbing shaft making continuous measurements as we proceeded.  The carbon dioxide meter has two alarm levels, the first at 0.5% and the second at 1.0%.  The first alarm level was triggered while descending the 2nd pitch into Pearl Chamber (S2) and the second between Pearl Chamber and 'The Chain' (S3) oxygen levels were declining and the alarm level of 19.0% was triggered at S4, the junction between the level which continues through two low, wet squeezes to the Bung Series and a series of climbs down to the Waterfall Pitch.  At this point there was also an intermittent bad smell but after due consideration we decided, somewhat reluctantly that a relatively swift trip down to Waterfall Chamber was justified both to measure the gas concentrations and to obtain water samples for the Environment Agency.

However, the risks involved in a trip down the north crosscut to the base of Fourways Shaft were not considered to be justifiable and a rapid exit was made.  The following day [30th July] a return was made with breathing apparatus and David Nixon descended Fourways Shaft.  The 1evelleading to Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' was found to be grossly polluted but the Chapel Dale Level was essentially pollution free so that at the foot of 'Fourways Shaft' the oxygen concentrations were slightly higher and the carbon dioxide concentrations slightly lower than in the upstream part of the mine (Table 1).  Hydrogen sulphide and methane concentrations were zero throughout the mine.

Our current thoughts are that polluted water, with a high content of organic material, is entering the mine from the Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' and from a bedding plane near the top of the Waterfall Pitch.  One litre water samples were collected from a number of sites and are being analysed by the Environment Agency.  Officers from the Environment Agency are visiting farms in the area in an effort to determine where the pollution is coming from and it is hoped that the results of the water analyses will provide an indication as to whether sewage or silage is the major constituent.  However, it is important to understand that the derogation of the air quality is an indirect result of the water pollution since it appears to be due to oxidation of the organic matter which is deposited in the cave.  Hence, although the pollutant inputs may be sporadic the foul air will be more persistent, a factor likely to be exacerbated by the poor natural ventilation in the mine.  Consideration is being given to how the organic material may be flushed out of the system more rapidly and to how ventilation might be improved as well as to the question of the ultimate source of the material.

Given the low oxygen and high carbon dioxide cavers are strongly advised not to attempt to enter Knotlow until further notice.  The Environment Agency has posted warning notices on all entrances, including the entrances to Hillocks and to Whalf Mine as a precaution although no direct measurements have been made in these parts of the system.

Caving on Mynydd Ddu

The following was published in a South Wales Caving Club Newsletter, which you might find of interest. The area concerned is that over and beyond Dan-yr-Ogof and has a real potential to yield many miles of as yet undiscovered (not for want of trying) cave.

Access for Caving on Mynydd Ddu (The Black Mountain)

An open letter to cavers

This letter is being circulated widely in the caving community.  The National Park Authority wishes to agree with cavers; access and conservation arrangements for Mynydd Ddu and its caves.  This letter, which is intended to stimulate debate, outlines the legal requirements for managed access and suggests how this might be delivered. Comments from individuals and organisations are welcome, and should be sent to the address at the end of this letter. Every person or organisation submitting comments will be invited to attend an informal meeting towards the end of the year.

The Area

Mynydd Ddu is the area of upland lying broadly between the Upper Swansea Valley, in the east and the community of Trap in the west.  It extends to almost 15,000 hectares, and includes an important limestone outcrop, an area which must provide one of the greatest opportunities for cave exploration in Britain.

Survey work completed by local cavers in 1997 identified 296 sites of speleological significance, three quarters of which were visited, photographed and described.  Twenty five of these were recorded as being in a dangerous condition, most of which are abandoned digs.  The Park Authority is now obliged to undertake works to these to render them safe.  Offers of assistance from cavers - particularly if you have a guilty feeling about some of these digs - are invited.

The same survey has also collated a very comprehensive bibliography, and made many recommendations to improve access and conservation management.  Paper copies of the survey are held by the South Wales Caving Club and National Park Authority.  This should prove to be an important exploration & conservation tool, and arrangements will be made for its transfer to digital media to make it accessible and maintainable.

Ownership and Management

The whole area is 'common land' - land over which 'commoners' have rights (such as grazing) which they share 'in common' with others.  There are several graziers associations that represent the interests of many of the commoners.

The National Park Authority owns about 12,000 hectares of the area and manages a further 2,000 hectares on behalf of Dwr Cymru.  This letter relates to land that is owned and managed by the National Park Authority. The Authority manages the area according to its purposes set out in the 1995 Environment Act.  These are: to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of the Park's special qualities.

It is also relevant to note that as landowner the Authority has a duty of care to all users of the area, and an associated liability if it is negligent in exercising that duty. Being a publicly funded organisation the Authority must manage its liabilities so as to protect itself - and the public purse - from damage claims.  Most of the area is designated under the Wildlife & Countryside Act as a "Site of Special Scientific Interest" SSSI, and this requires the landowners to ensure that the interest of the site is not damaged.

Caving is formally recognised by the Authority as an appropriate activity in the Park setting, and the Authority therefore has a duty to promote the enjoyment and understanding of caves.  It must also look after the interests of commoners, and exercise a duty of care to visitors.  Finally it must ensure the conservation of the area, and ensure that the SSI is not damaged.


Legal rights of access are provided by public rights of way.  ‘De facto’ access, or that of long standing tradition or custom, is also established.  The National Park Authority as a matter of policy allows open access on foot for quiet, informal enjoyment.  ‘De facto’ access does not extend to access for caving or digging, and these activities are only lawful if conducted with the consent of the landowner.

A New Approach

Historically the Park authority has made a number of false starts in trying to manage the issue of cave access and conservation, and is aware that some cavers view its motives with suspicion.  The following arrangements satisfy the remit of the National Park Authority, maximise accessibility, minimise bureaucracy and recognise the critical role played by cavers in the management of cave exploration and conservation.  The new approach should form the basis of a more productive relationship between the caving community and environmental organisations.

The National Park Authority proposes:

To declare a “standing permission” for all cavers to visit (on foot) all sites of speleological interest on Mynydd Ddu, on condition that:

i.                    Cavers follow the NCA advice and code of conduct regarding conservation of the cave environment.

ii.                  Cavers have their own 3rd party liability insurance, and undertake all such activities entirely at their own risk.

iii.                 Nothing is done that damages the rights of commoners.

To make widely available (at least possible cost to users) the Mynydd Ddu Cave Survey, and to put in place and fund arrangements for its maintenance by cavers.

To declare a ‘standing permission’ for all cavers to conduct exploration activity in caves and on the surface, on the condition that : I, 11, 111 – As I, ii, iii above.

iv.                 That digging and other exploration activity is recorded at the outset with the Mynydd Ddu Cave Survey (details may be held with restricted access if requested) and the survey is regularly updated through the duration of the activity. Detail of location and persons responsible will be needed.

v.                   ‘Between visits’ any works are left entirely safe and secure, and pose no threat to people, stock or other animals.

vi.                 When complete the site is left permanently safe and secure.

To annually review the impacts of exploration activity, to ensure that legal requirements of the SSI designation are not being breached.

To hold an open meeting do that the success of these access and conservation arrangements may be discussed.

Subject to views of the caving community and other interested parties, the National Park Authority intends that the new approach should be effective from 1s January 2000. Please forward comments to:

Jon Young – Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Brecon, Powys


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

10-12/9/99                  Hidden Earth ’99 BCRA Conference, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

1-3/10/99                    Cave Survey Group field meet, Bull Pot Farm, Casterton Fell, Yorkshire

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner

3-30/10/99                  Brush with Darkness 2 Wells Museum - Robin Gray

8-10/10/99                  ISSA Meet Indoor Workshop with Robin Gray, Mendip - ISSA

2-3/11/99                    Cave Art exhibition by Robin Gray, Explorer’s Café-Bar (Gough’s Tear Room) Cheddar - Robin Gray

13-14/11/99                DCA/NCA Caver’s Workshop, Pindale Farm, Castleton, Derbyshire.


Final Tales of Nigel’s Dry Suit