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Conservation conversation at the Hunters Lodge

The evening of November 20th saw an interesting event held in the backroom of the Hunters (with thanks to mine host Roger).  Speakers Dave Irwin and Graham Price presented separate views to do with caving and conservation.  Dave spoke about the Mendip Cave Registry first implemented in the 1950's and which continued until about 1968.  Its task was to record all the Mendip sites of caves and karst features, which were currently known.  By its cessation this quest had resulted in the production of 12 copies of a complete cave registry.  This was all done in the days of pre-computer when everything to be copied had to be laboriously done on Gestetner stencils - resulting in the impressive and highly valuable document known as the Mendip Cave Register.  (Costing £70 then).  He went on to discuss developments in the Registry which came about by his own research from 1995 onwards whilst compiling information for the production of Mendip Underground.  By then technology had advanced to the point where computers were a valuable tool.  He now uses the power of cross-referencing databases to store and correlate the mass of data needed for a new registry. He has now restarted the Registry and already produced and published a bibliography of cave references compiled from the press.  The registry has been widened to include Wiltshire, Devon, Bath and Bristol. A number of areas have already been completed with regard to known cave features and this work continues.  As well as the mammoth task of recording cave features, the survey work done by all the major caving clubs on Mendip either as survey sheets or in club magazine is to be cross-referenced with the registry. This will be produced on CD-ROM within the next 2 to 3 years.

Questions followed and then Graham Price spoke about cave conservation and the work done by the NCA in association with bodies such as English Nature and Scottish Nature.  He has been conservation officer for 16 years. In 1986, it was agreed within the NCA to increase people's awareness of cave conservation.  A policy for cave conservation was worked out to enable statutory bodies to "measure conservation".  (My words-ED).  A number of initiatives were proposed including a cave conservation handbook, an educational pack and a film- the lost caves of Britain was made by Sid Perou.  He discussed the problems that had to be overcome to enable the production of a cave conservation policy.  A cave conservation handbook has been produced which should help other conservation officers and interested people to produce their own conservation plans for particular caves.  Guidelines for many associated activities such as camping, digging and walking and including how to look after the flora and fauna in the area near to a cave have been produced.  Graham talked widely about the conservation handbook and how it could be used.  He talked about the work of the NCA as a co-ordinating body for cavers working for the good of cavers.  This was followed by a short break and then an open forum under the chairmanship of yours truly took many interesting questions from members of the audience.  A good discussion followed this lively debate with all retiring to the main bar at 10.15 p.m. Many thanks go to Vince Simmonds who organised the whole event, Dave Irwin and Graham Price for their time. Let us hope that we have other similar events in the future.

Fairy Quarries

Pete Rose writes the following account of his exploits leading up to the discovery of the new passage in Fairy Quarries.

On the 21st September I drove Pete Glanville up to Mendip, via Tesco's Chard for some batteries for his flashgun. We collected the keys from Prew.  The trip was marred by the usual incidents ... I had brought two left boots with me - I used my walking boots instead.  We opened up the grill over the entrance ... swore we could hear a stream there.  By Diesel chamber Pete's light failed.  At Tor Hall we detoured for piccies.  The first flashbulb went off in Pete's face, the 2nd in mine, the 3rd in mine when I strategically placed a slave gun on a ledge.  The 4th in Pete's hand- burnt fingers.  After a count of 9 bulbs going off by themselves I took some pictures of my own.  I led him back to the entrance, hear that stream again Pete?  He then fell on me while I was locking the grill - fell off a rock and damaged a thumb.  I told him not to buy lottery tickets for a while, as his luck was out (ask him about car engine warning lights sometime ... he ignores them!)  He rang me the following day ... Lucky he had forgotten to put a film in the camera he said.  The 10th of October loomed .... I was leading the Orpheus down Shatter. Pete G. took Nigel Cox (brother in law) and some Orpheus, I took my nephew Jonathan and some Orpheus.  We all stopped at the entrance .... Stream rumbling somewhere.  Pete took photos that worked.  I bet he bribed everyone to tell me that! We returned on 31st Oct. to look for digs, with Nick (nine lives) Chipchase and Mark Faulkner and Martin Webster.  Yupp, same stream at the entrance.  We went to Tor Hall and beyond.  Nick scrambled up a rift to look at 20 ft of passage trending back to Tor Hall, and then Chippy proceeded to attack the entrance chamber, while I looked around the next chamber.  He could hear the stream all right.  A rift opened up while he was sitting on it.  Pete G. had a homemade light on a cable to lower (he thinks it works most of the time) - definitely rifts measureless to man.  These things tend to become smaller on subsequent visits so we thought 20 ft deep would be O.K. to taunt people with.  We could have descended but for a ladder.  I had a rope to lower Pete G. on.  (It was an early rope from the 70s and I tow the car from time to time with it).  He thought a few feet lower down and decided against it.  The top of the rift certainly was loose.  We could always get Nigel or Martin Grass down it next week! As it was 4 ft or less from the entrance, we thought of the next party disappearing down one by one ... you sit down in the entrance and back into the cave and slide ... so we put a small sheet of corrugated iron over it.  That stream certainly roars at you!  It must head towards Conning Tower (but there is only a small stream in there) but what was upstream?  Next Sunday and a bolting kit would solve it.  Pete G. can write the descent up.  (Or down).


Exciting new dig in Shatter, very recently opened by Pete Rose, Nick Chipchase et al. Warning.  The dig is very close to the entrance.  Don’t fall in.


The picture below shows the actual rift descent – decent eh!