The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Bob Smith
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Editors bit.

Well, thank you all out there for sending articles during a serious non caving event which is hopefully now all over.  I expect that as I type this up there are people dusting off their oversuits and charging up their cells for a trip somewhere on the Hill.  The club, like all clubs goes on and so does the magazine, although for how long in my hands is not sure at the moment as permanent work may cause me to have to give up the editorship.  Stay posted.

Like many of you, I have wandered off the scene a bit and gone climbing in various parts of the country whilst the caves were closed.  Perfectly acceptable for BEC members to do so; look at the old club logs. If anyone wants to send me articles about climbing, they will refresh some memories, I am sure.  Thanks to all regular contributors once again.  So don't forget, keep the stuff coming or no magazine.


Club News and Views

from Jane Jarratt in Oz.
Subject: I've found the Rileys!!!

Tracked down John and Sue at last.  They haven't changed their names and had plastic surgery as I'd suspected.  Sue's had tuberculosis and they've both had business troubles.  They're now renovating a house in Quenbeyan in Canberra.  John's "in pest control" (bit like when he was at the Hill Inn but with insects!). Sue's setting up a business selling gourmet foods.  Ella is managing 5 cafes up in the Northern Beaches (near Palm Beach, Jen) Jeremy works for Fujitsu in Canberra and Alistair (not allowed to call him Bubs anymore as he is an 18 year old blond beach bum) is not working at anything and has smashed his wrist up skate boarding!  Sue met me and took me to a Thai restaurant followed by several bottles of wine and a gossip.  Sue's email issuer@[removed] and she'd loved to hear from anyone who remembers them from the old days.

From the Sandfords's

Ivan and Fi would like to thank everyone who turned up at the Hunters on 24th March to help them celebrate their marriage and for all the gifts they were given.

Everyone has now recovered, although some people who took too much drink, were unfit the following day, as this photograph below shows.


Tony Jarratt exploring Fair Lady Well picture Fi Sandford


Sat, 23 Jun 2001 16:43:41 -0700

From: "rob harper" <cavervet@[removed]>

Just back from the High Andes so greetings from downtown Lima Joint BEC/Canadian exped explored Sima Pumacocha 2 to -430m, (and still going in huge wet shaft), on 21/01/01. This breaks previous S. American depth record.  A Continental record for the club!!

Just as I go to press, news from Stocks House Shaft is the discovery of 300 feet of passage going on from the downstream end of the dig, details and a picture to follow if before deadline. -  see back page -  Ed


The Perils of Drinking to Excess

by Fiona Sandford

All names have been altered to protect the identity of the innocent.

Drinking is second to caving, something all good BEC members excel at and what better thing to do on a Saturday afternoon with the caves closed due to foot and mouth.  Enjoy a quiet pint or two of Exmoor Gold at the Queen Vic.  Ivan Sandford and Graham Johnson thought this.  The only problem was - Ivan had no house keys.  Not a problem!  Contact Fi and get her to leave a set somewhere safe.  This duly achieved, the hours were merrily drunk away.

About 7 pm, time to go home for a sleep before continuing the evening's drinking at the Hunters' Lodge. Once home, where were the keys? No where to be seen!  Well, not if Ivan is to be believed, so next step, break into the house.  Easy, thought Ivan, I'll kick the front door open.  So off he went, took aim, and of course, missed.  Instead of the door opening, there was glass everywhere and blood gushing from a quite substantial cut on the back of his leg.  Suddenly, rather sober, and quickly gathering his thoughts, he hobbled round to the Belfry where Jake, having had a look, said HOSPITAL!, hastily arranged transport with Roger who took Ivan and leg - now wrapped in a plastic bag down to the Casualty in Wells.  Meanwhile, Fi having gone to work, had been trying to contact Ivan, finally ringing the Hunters to be told he was at the hospital.  She arrived at the hospital to find one very sheepish Ivan, with 10 stitches in his leg.  He became even more sheepish when told that the keys were where they should be!! ... Of course, Fi had to bring him back up to the Hunters on their way home. Alas, due to the effects of the anaesthetic, Ivan was unable to drink, even though he did try a sneaky one. Apparently this is not a way to achieve sympathy off your wife, especially as she happens to be a member of the nursing fraternity.


The Final Word on F and bloody M

By Mike Wilson: cartoons Rich Long

We have all been suffering in one way or another from withdrawal symptoms due to the F word. Everyone I have spoken to has not found it easy to sit back and suffer the consequences of the outbreak.  There have been reports of a huge bullish run on mountain bike manufacturer shares, and the shops that have been selling accessories such as funny clown shoes, strange yellow jerseys, and vasectomy packs that you strap on your back, have been doing exceptionally well.  Of course us normal sub terra people would never stoop to things like that and have been staving off withdrawal symptoms with large doses of Roger's valium or hiding under tables wearing Petzls (Sean Howe). Abseiling from the 10ft space at night worked for 2 days, and there have been reports of people hiding under the bedclothes with a torch reading Mendip Underground.  Well, I never!  At the last count, Rogers's pub is slowly filling with noisy outsiders again and hopefully so is Tony's shop. Personally, I don't think the carnival is over yet and I have a great deal of sympathy for the lads and farmers up in Yorkshire - they probably will not be out of the wood until much later in the year.  Thank you all you BEC members who have quietly stood by the difficult committee decisions.  I am sure all of the other committee members are grateful for your silent but solid support. In case any of you do not know, the Shed is now open to members and small numbers of guests (not large groups). Cuthbert’s is open at the moment and so are some of the Mendip caves.  Not Swildon's, I may add, and Eastwater is very unsure.  So I think we may start caving again as a club in a gentle way.  Perhaps someone may have a suggestion for a club gathering - a skittles match may be appropriate!  Below is the official list of caves that are open on Mendip at the time of writing. Brian Prewer has compiled this.


All Burrington Caves

Singing River Mine


Rhino Rift and Longwood - approach from Cheddar Gorge

St. Cuthbert's

Eastwater - care please


Thrupe Lane Swallet

Swildons Hole

All others NOT mentioned are SHUT unless you have further information to the contrary, not hearsay but proof.

Foot and Mouth Undergrounders


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink

by Tony Jarratt

With no access allowed to Stock's House Shaft the team were forced to sit and mope in the Hunters where their whingeing eventually drove Roger Dors to distraction and pity - so much so that he generously suggested that we start a dig in the pub car park! Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink (ST 5494.5012) had previously been recorded by the writer in BB 448 (Feb. 1989) as a flood sink located at the south end of the "function room" building which took a good sized stream of road and car park run-off in heavy rain.  It had once been the drain for the pub stables and a stone arched culvert fed into it - now blocked off with concrete.  It had been excavated in the past by Roger, "John-john" Hildick and Nigel Taylor to a depth of about 8ft through silt and shattered rock to improve the drainage.  The water sinking here is not seen again in the adjacent Hunters Hole and was also not seen in the 35ft deep Alfie's Hole, close by but now filled in. It is assumed to resurge at Wookey Hole.

Before Roger had a chance to reflect on his offer the dig was commenced on 9th April and a large amount of inwashed silt and rubbish removed and dumped in his tractor trailer for relocation elsewhere.  A narrow, clean washed and very shattered water worn rift was revealed in steeply dipping limestone.  The walls of the rift were easily detached with wrecking bars and later chemical persuasion and the resulting rock pile transformed into a drystone wall on the west side of the dig. Roger Marsh's Attborough Swallet tripod was retrieved from the Belfry "plant store" and erected over the, now rather impressive, 6ft square by 17ft deep hole.  It was a perfect fit.  The tractor also comes in useful to attach a second pulley to when hauling out large rocks by Landrover power.

The dig has caused some amusement over the past few weeks and has certainly brightened up the otherwise maudlin atmosphere.  Envious NHASA and Wessex men with dig withdrawal symptoms visit regularly on their way to the bar.  Noteworthy is the vast number of experts suddenly available to advise and direct the toiling diggers especially when the Pub shuts!  Where are these knowledgeable and experienced characters at other times, one asks?  (Answer:- IN the Pub!).  The site has also developed into a valuable tourist attraction in these times of limited access.  It may even be a wise move to erect a "wishing well" over the hole with a bucket below for "well-wishers'" donations!

At the time of writing there is some 20ft of dipping bedding plane passage from the base of the entrance climb.  The sides of the dig have been stone-walled and reinforced concrete lintels have been provided by Roger.  A stone wall has been built around the hole and a steel grid gate welded and fitted by Quackers, who also welded a long section of permanent iron ladder which was installed in the shaft.  Blasting operations are continuing at the end.  The site has even been photographed by Andy Chamberlain for inclusion in a forthcoming Wells Journal article on "extreme sports"!

Work continues and all are welcome. Once again the BEC have both "got everywhere" and "done it to excess."

The Team: Roger Dors, Nigel Taylor, Tony Jarratt, Gwilym Evans, Alex Livingstone, Robin Gray, Annie Audsley, Neil Usher, Dave "Tusker" Morrison (W.C.C.), Mike "Quackers" Duck, John "Tangent" Williams, Paul Brock, Dudley Herbert, Ivan Sandford, Roger Haskett, Ben Barnett (Cheddar C.C.), Bob Smith, Trevor Hughes, Chris "Zot" Harvey, Mark Ireland (C.C.C./Axbridge C.G.), Chas Wethered, Jesse Brock, Tyrone Bevan (Frome C.C.), Laurence Elton (F.C.C.), Trevor & Martin Moor (F.C.C.), Tony Keegan (F.C.C.), Dave Barnett (F.C.C.), Chris Haywood (F.C.C.), Phil Rawsell, Tim Francis (Mendip C.G.), Andy Chamberlain (Wells Journal), Jack Lambert, Dave Carter.

Boulder Winching by Land Rover picture J’rat

Blowing up the Hunters car park by Dudley Herbert


Wells Museum Well

By Tony Jarratt

The F &M epidemic seems to be creating more work for the diggers than has been lost.  Chris Hawkes of Wells Museum is in the process of excavating a mediaeval well located immediately behind the Museum buildings (ST 5508.4594) and, needing a submersible pump to dry it out while digging took place, contacted the writer.  The Stock's House pump and transformer were soon installed and plugged into the Museum mains.  With most of the water pumped out digging can take place through the infill of silt, bricks, stones and slates tipped down the well - possibly in Victorian times.  A depth of over 15ft has been reached to date but two sections of missing steining (stone walling) are giving cause for concern and may have to be infilled or shored up.  Planned as an archaeological dig it suddenly became obvious that the well is located almost at the level of the great St. Andrew's Well resurgence and only about 550ft away.  The continuously in flowing water may be associated with the subterranean river conduit hypothesised by Willie Stanton and the site is thus a potential cave dig! It may even lead to the flooded downstream section of Welsh's Green Swallet - now there's a horrific possibility!!!!

Once again, work continues. Prospective visitors should contact Chris at the Museum (which is well worth a visit anyway).  Phone 01749 xxxxxx.


Draenan Access

From Rich Long -Caving See

Sue Mabbett, Permit Secretary SWCC, asked me to inform our members, Pwll Ddu Cave Management Group who look after Ogof Draenan, they have had a report from the landowner (F eb 2001). He found three Cavers (?) nothing to do with the BEC, wandering around the hillside looking for the Draenan entrance, they had been given the combination by an outdoor shop.  They had no idea of the access procedures, code of conduct or location of the logbook, i.e. not bona fide cavers.

This means the code has been changed to stop abuse of the system.

The members can get the access number from me, Rich Long, Caving Sec, and or Vince Simmonds, but it is not to be advertised to all and sundry as this may mean a return to lock and key system and this will cause problems for all.

The logbook is now located in a box on the side of the Lamb and Fox.  The following details about any club trip must be entered in the Logbook:

  • names, including surnames of all members of the party
  • names of the Club/clubs of those in the party
  • date
  • planned destination
  • time in
  • estimated time out





That is all on Draenan, but a tiny bit about OFD as well.

Party size limit can still be occasionally up to seven instead of the usual six.  However, please fill in the tickets correctly, Joe Bloggs + 4 is not acceptable and is making people twitchy.  Lastly, if you intend to visit the Columns on the open days please inform the columns warden and make arrangements, which are suitable to all, to avoid disappointment.

Sorry this has been a "Miserable Bugger" sort of piece, but it had to be done.

Lets hope the F & M, that name which shall not be uttered, is soon stamped out and complete silliness, much cheerful alcohol consuming, lots of caving and the wonderful outdoors be given back to us!!


A Glossary of Caving-related Words in French

by Andy and Ange Cave

This will hopefully be of some use!  It is by no means an exhaustive list and we would be delighted if anyone would care to point out any glaring omissions.

We have assumed that you know some basic French (GCSE perhaps) and that you're trying to read cave information, or to talk with cavers.  Many of the words have other meanings which are not related to caving and most of which we've left out for the sake of simplicity.  Many technical terms, as in English, will be misleading or incomprehensible to non-cavers.

Verbs have not been defined as 'transitive' or 'intransitive' because colloquial usage often differs from the strict dictionary definition.  It's worth noting that in French many actions don't have a verb form (eg. 'to survey'): one 'does' the noun; thus 'to survey' is 'faire une topo', 'to cave' is 'faire le speleo' etc.

For tips on pronunciation you could contact us, or (far better), someone French.

abime (n.m)


boue (n.t)


abimer (vb)


bouffe (n.t)(fam.)

food /

damage / spoil




accu (abbr.)(n.m)


boulon (n.m)

bolt (see

rechargeable battery




affluent (n.m)


bourre (slang)




(litt: crammed full)


amarrage (n.m)


boyau (n.m)(fam.)

tube (litt:

amont (n.m)


animal's intestine)


ampoule (n.t)

bulb /

briquet (n.m)






argile (n.t)


burin (n.m)


arroser (v)

to water /





caillou (n.m)




calcaire (n.m)


out !





aval (n.m)


carbure (~de calcium)(n.m)




carrefour (n.m)


aven (n.m)

pot hole



(see note below)


cartouche Hilti (n.t)


barrette (n.t)






cascade (n.t)


bas, basse (adj.)


casque (n.m)


baudrier (n.m)


cave (n.t)

cellar /

bec (n.m)


wine shop


(carbide )(litt: beak, spout)


ceinture (n.t)


bidon (n.m)

drum /

chatiere (n.t)




squeeze (litt: catflap)


bloquer (n.m)


chaussette (n.t)


botte (n.t)


(~neoprene = wetsuit sock)


wellington boot


chausson (n.m)

boot (not

boucle (n.t)

buckle /



round trip


chauve-souris (n.t)


cheville (n.t)


anchor (litt: rawlplug)(see 'spit')

cheminee (n.t)


doline (n.t)


/ aven


drapeau (n.m)


clef (n.t)

spanner /





eboulis (nom)


clope (n.t)(slang)


pile / ruckle




echelle (n.t)


coincer (v)

to stick /

effondrement (n.m)




emprunter (v)


collecteur (n.m)






entree (n.t)


coller (v)

to stick /

equiper (v)

to rig



escalade (not)


colonne (n.t)


escalader (v)

to climb

combinaison (not)


etanche (adj.)


(sous~=undersuit:~neoprene : ~neoprene =






etroit (adj.)


concretion (n.t)


etroiture (not)




facile (adj.)


connerie (slang)(not)


faille (n.t)


corde (n.t)


fil (electrique)(n.m)


cordelette (n.t)

ropeless than

( electrical)


8mm diameter


flotte (slang)(n.t)


couche (n.t)

bed /

fond (n.m)




(ie. lowest point)


couler (v)

to flow

foret (n.m)

drill bit

coupe (n.t)


(see 'meche')




fossile (n.m/adj.)


creuser (v)

to dig




crue (not)


(abor. fractionnment)


culottes (n.t)


frottement (nom)

rub point

/ shorts


galerie (n.t)


debrouiller (se) (v)

to sort





gant (nom)


deconner (slang)( v)

to cock-

glisser (se) (v)

to slip



gouffre (n.m)


degueulasse (slang)( adj.)


gour (nom)


dirty / disgusting


gratuit (adj.)

free (ie.

descendre (se) (v)

to lower



/ descend


grimper (v)

to climb

descendeur huit (n.m)

figure of



eight descender


grimpeur (n.m)


desequiper (v)

to de-rig



desob (nom)


grotte (n.t)


(abbr. desobstruction)

cave dig

igue (n.t)

pot hole

desober (v)


(see note below)


(fam. of desobstruer)

to dig (a

inter (n.m)




(abbr. interrupter)


deviation (n.t)




diaclase (n.t)


joint (n.m)


kit (n.m)


nickel (slang)(adj.)



(abbr. nickel chrome)                      well


lacher (v)

to let go

sorted (ie. perfectly designed / rigged

laminoir (n.m)




bedding plane


niveau (n.m1adj./adv.)


lampe (n.t)


noeud (n.m)


lampe aceto (n.t)


noye (adj.)







libre (adj.)

free (ie.

noyer (se) (v)

to drown



ouais (slang)


longe (n.t)

cows tail

palier (n.m)


louper (slang)(v)

to mess /

paroi (n.t)


screw up


surface of wall / side


lumiere (n.t)


passage (n.m)


maillon (n.m)


cave passage


maillot (~de bain) (n.m)


pedale (n.t)




pendre (v)

to hang /

main courante (n.t)

traverse /



hand line


pendule (n.m)


marmite (n.t)

small pot



hole in floor


penible (adj.)


marteau (n.m)


pente (n.t)


mas sette (n.t)


perdre (v)

to lose





matlos (slang)(n.m)


perfo (n.m)


equipment including rope


(abbr. perforateur)


meandre (n.m)


percussion drill


meche (n.t)


permeable (adj.)


explosive fuse / (slang) drill bit

permeable (im~ =


metier (se) (v)

to be





perte (n.t)


meteo (n.t)






pertuis (n.m)


monter (se) (v)

to go / come up,

cave passage (litt: narrow straits)

to increase, to raise


petard (n.m)


mou (n.m)


explosive charge / (slang) fart /

mouiller (v)




dampen / make wet


peter (v)


mousqueton (n.m)


explode / (slang) to fart


(~a vis = screwgate carabiner)

pierre (n.t)

rock (ie.

mousse (n.t)

foam /



head on beer


pile (n.t)


neoprene (n.t)


rechargeable battery


(see 'combinaison', 'chaussette')

plafond (n.m)


plan (n.m)


plongeur /euse (n.m/t) diver




pluie (n.t)


plancher (n.m)


poignee (n.t)

handle /

plaquette (n.t)


handle jammer


pleuvoir (v)

to rain

poulie (n.t)


plonger (v)

to dive

preter (v)

to lend


profond (adj./adv.)

puits (n.m)


ramping (n.m)

randonnee (n.f)

/ trek

rappel (n.m)

(descendre en ~ = to abseil)

rechaud (n.m)


remonter (v)

go back up

reseau (n.m)


ressort (n.m) (ie. metal)

resurgence (n.f)


reussir (v)


riviere (n.f)

big stream

roche (n.t)

massive, bedrock)

ruisseau (n.m)

sable (n.m)  

sac de couchage (n.m)

sleeping bag

sac ados (n.m)

salle (n.f)          chamber

/ room

sangle (n.f)

scialet (n.m)

(see note below)

seau (n.m)

sec, seche (adj.)

securite (n.f)

sortir (v)

come out

source (n.f)

(ie. water)

souterrain (n.m/adj.)


speleo (n.m/t)

(abbr. speleologue)

speleologie (n.f)

spit (fam.)(n.m)


siphon (n.m)

stalactite (n.f)


pitch /



hill walk






to come /


system /







river /


rock (ie.










pot hole





to go /













stalagmite (n.f)


surplomb (n.m)

/ undercut

taille (n.f)

tamponnoir (n.m)


toboggan (n.m)

topo (n.f) (abbr.)

tremie (n.f)

funnel-shaped pile of rocks

tremper (v)

tromper (se) (v)

confuse (oneselt)

vasque (n.f)


vire (n.f)

voute (n.f)

cave (litt: vault)


Note: 'igue', 'scialet' and 'aven' are regional words; thus maps of the Vercors are studded with scialets, those of the Lot are inundated with igues, whilst in the Grands Causses there are any number of avens. Doubtless there are different words in other areas.


A Few Useful Phrases :

secours !


secours  rescue practice



pay attention



just 'libre!')







(litt: to make fall)


fusible /

peter Ie

plomb   to have a sense of

humour failure !


mouillante a duck (low


Je suis casse

J'en ai marre

J' ai trop bu












to soak






roof of


















to watch out /



rope free! (or




en forme

fit / feeling well


to knock off


peter une


vas y!

(you) go for it!

allez y!

(let's) go for it!



I'm totally knackered

I'm fed up

I've drunk too much


Strictly speaking, of course, 'allez y' means 'you (plural) go for it' ('vas y' is the singular) and 'allons y' means 'let's go for it' or just 'let's go', but that's not how she is usually spoke.




by Rich Long

The Ashes 2001

The Annual cricket challenge between the BEC and the WCC is to be held on Sat 4th August at 3.00 pm (usual venue) with a barbecue to follow at Upper Pitts Farm (bring your own food)


Start at Calais

By Cave and Cave

It doesn't demand any great thought to realise that if the current state of affairs continues, this summer may well see quite a number of you crossing the channel in search of sun, cheap booze and caving that isn't 'interdit'.  Lots of British cavers come to France regularly, they may already know some French cavers and are generally familiar with the scene; these remarks are intended for those who are relative novices in this respect.

The southern half of France is blessed with huge areas of limestone and thus there's no shortage of holes to go down.  Most (but not all) areas are covered by one of the 'Speleo Sportif guide books (available from Bat Products!  Not always easy to find off the shelf in France) which describe a selection of the best trips, of all levels of difficulty.  They include information on pitch and rope lengths which, in my experience, is not always entirely accurate but which certainly gives a fair idea of what to expect. I'd recommend taking ropes which are a bit longer than suggested, on the principle that it's better to have ten metres too much than three metres too little.

At least one area can boast a guide book in English (also available from Bat Products).  I have used this book in anger, as it were; especially when it became repeatedly apparent that the author, despite good (obviously first hand) descriptions of the routes, had simply copied the pitch and rope lengths from the 'Speleo Sportif guide, complete with errors.  'Nuff said.

Some areas, I believe, are slowly being re-equipped with permanent P-anchors as in Britain, but in the vast majority of caves you will need a full set of the good old detachable hangers; similarly it's worth carrying a few more than suggested in the above mentioned guide books.  There are nearly always plenty of anchors but don't trust any other equipment you may find.

Many areas are actually covered by much more comprehensive and detailed tomes; these can be very difficult to find (even in Bat Products!  But its worth asking - I got one for the Dordogne there) as they are almost invariably out of print.  For a first visit to an area the 'Speleo Sportif or similar guide will have quite enough to keep you amused; if you're thinking of repeated trips to the same area then you might consider getting in touch with a local club.  The 'Syndicat d'lnitiative' (tourist information bureau) in a nearby town will probably have a contact number.  As far as actually finding the caves is concerned it may also be useful to buy the French equivalent of an OS map; the 'Serie Bleu' (1:25000) have most cave entrances marked, although you may need more than one sheet (currently 46FF each).

Most French cavers use carbide as their primary light source.  It's forbidden to take carbide on cross channel ferries but it can be bought from most hardware shops ('quincailleries') or if not they'll know where to find it.  If you have rechargeable electric lights the voltage here (220V 50hz) is compatible but you will need an appropriate plug adaptor which will be easier to find in the UK. 'Flat pack' type batteries for Petzl Zoom etc can be bought in almost any supermarket.

If you're looking for somewhere to stay, apart from hotels (which may be ill-equipped to deal with large piles of muddy caving kit) you could rent a 'gite' (self catering, self contained, vary enormously in other respects) the 'Syndicat d'lnitiative' will be able to provide a list and may be able to suggest some which will suit your particular requirements.  Don't be shy of telling people that you're cavers; the attitude here to adventure sports is much more positive than in the UK and to be 'speleologues' is considered socially normal.  The same applies to climbers, bikers etc.

For those who are camping; almost all towns, and most villages of any size, have a 'camping municipal' which will be civilized, well equipped (hot showers that work etc) and cheap. There are also any number of excellent private sites.  Given this, it is not normal to just camp anywhere (unless exceptionally wild) although people do picnic in the most surprising places without apparently causing any offence - perhaps this is because they are invariably scrupulous in tidying up afterwards.

Shopping in France is as pleasant, or otherwise, as it is elsewhere, but note that almost all shops except for large supermarkets are closed for at least two hours at lunchtime (12.00 - 2.00 being the most common).  This is because they take lunch very seriously - so would you if your breakfast consisted of coffee and a croissant.  Nearly everything (except supermarkets and some bakeries, butchers and petrol stations) is closed on Sunday and Monday.  We had a fair number of wasted trips to town before we got used to this.  Note: petrol stations keep the same hours as shops - 24 hour /7 day stations are almost always only operable with a French bank card.

So, fully organised and well equipped, you set out to find the cave.  Most caves, as in Britain, are on someone's, land, although very few are locked or otherwise restricted.  By and large the French farmer is noticeably friendlier towards cavers than his British counterpart; often he is proud of the cave (or caves) on his land and may, even if not himself a caver, be very well informed as to what's down there. He will almost certainly expect to pass the time of day even if your French is extremely limited.  The French are proud of their language and culture (and why not?) and resent the inevitable Anglicisation / Americanisation which commercial interests are inexorably spreading.  At the same time they are practical people who know full well that English is an international language; it has been a mandatory subject in all French schools for many years and in an emergency someone who speaks good English will probably appear in nothing flat.  Don't ever assume that people won't understand what you're saying but even more importantly never automatically assume that someone speaks English.  I suggest that no matter how much of a fool you may feel you are making of yourself and no matter how small your French vocabulary, that you exhaust it first. This may well only take seconds, but you'll have shown respect for the fact that it's their country and then, when they see you floundering, they'll probably enjoy trying out their English on you. If they haven't got any then 'pas grave' (not serious) as they say, and you'll have done your bit for international relations.  Anyway, your caving equipment will almost certainly speak for itself, as will your manners, and much can be achieved with gestures and a map to point at.  If you're in the middle of nowhere there's no need to seek out the landowner, but if you do find yourself walking (or driving) through his farmyard it would be most impolite not to knock on his door.  Don't worry if you're immediately surrounded by loud and scruffy dogs of all shapes and sizes; they're just saying 'bonjour' and won't bite chickens, sheep, or even cavers.

"Pardon monsieur / madame s'il vous ne derange pas nous voudrions descendre dans votre grotte." (Pardon Sir / Madam, if it doesn't disturb you we would like to go down your cave.)  After that you can happily stick with wry smiles and "Pardon, je ne comprends pas. Je suis Anglais."  (Sorry, I don't understand. I am English.)  Don't worry; forty nine times out of fifty you won't have to use any of this - it depends on the area - but it's worth being equipped.  The one thing I have never come across is the aggressive type whose only interest is to show you the shortest route off their land; that experience is one I've only had in good old Blighty.

Anyone caving in France must be properly insured; should you need to be rescued you may well receive some hefty bills afterwards.  Fortunately, as far as holiday caving in the EU is concerned, all BEC members are covered by the club's BCRA insurance.  This only covers you for the actual rescue and not for subsequent medical expenses.  Before your trip go to the Post Office and ask for form E 111; this is free and enables you to claim on the National Health against any medical expenses incurred whilst on holiday in an EU country.  You may not have to pay the French doctor / hospital - show them the form first, but either way you should be able to claim it back afterwards. WARNING: this information was correct last time I enquired but that was three years ago.  Best to check! - phone John Cooper in Wells 01749670568

TO CALL THE RESCUE - ring the Gendarmes; dial 17 (it's free, of course).  If you speak no French say "Accident sous terre - dans une grotte." (ack-see-don sue tairdons oon grot) and the name of the cave.  No doubt the word "Anglais" (on-glay) will get an English speaker fast enough.  (For just an ambulance, dial 15. For the fire service, dial 18.)

If you have a 'Speleo Sportive' guide for the area there is an alternative, possibly faster, method of callout.  Near the beginning of the book there is a section headed 'Speleo Secours'which lists the names and 'phone numbers of the local 'Conseillers Techniques' (Rescue Wardens) whom you can call directly but be warned that depending on the age of your edition this information may well be out of date, and that there is no guarantee that any of them speak English.

The French are one of the best caving nations in the world and they have a similar number of cavers to us. The main difference is that there's far more limestone and that distances are greater, so that cosy little scenes like the Hunters on a Saturday night don't normally exist. Nonetheless, you may well meet other parties of cavers at some of the more popular holes, and they are generally as sociable as their British counterparts.  Should you be invited to cave with them there are certain things worth remembering.  Firstly, they're not always very quick but they're thorough - it takes as long as it takes and no one's in any hurry to get out to the bar / husband / wife / dubious rendezvous.  They are very team orientated and will wait for each other (and us) as a matter of course. At the bottom of a pitch they will always hold the rope taut for the person before them.  Secondly, their idea of lunch underground doesn't normally include Mars bars.  They are more likely to produce bread, cheese, dried sausage, salads, home-made cakes, nuts etc and possibly a modest wine as well.  One trip I was on, a training trip for the club concerned, a bottle of Mouton Cadet 1994 was passed around at the bottom of the entrance pitch. They will always freely share what they have, so it's good to have something worthwhile to offer in your turn. Quite probably someone will whip out a little stove and brew up coffee afterwards.  In most respects, given the obvious language problem you could put them in the Hunters and there would be no difference whatsoever; each with their own strongly held theories, enjoying the company and a drink or three.  I don't know what they'd think of British beer but no doubt they'd be up for some serious exploration.

If you speak no French at all there are two things that you must learn before going underground with them. Firstly, 'rope free!' is 'corde libre!' (cord leebr) or just 'libre', and secondly, when we would shout 'below!' they will cry 'caillou!' (kye-oo).  Until fairly recently it used to be ' pierre!' (meaning 'rock') and once, a few years ago at the bottom of a 50m pitch, I watched in horrified amusement when the cry 'pierre!' caused one hapless caver to step forward, look up and respond 'oui?' The television sized rock missed him by about a metre and shattered by his feet.  Fragments whined about my ears and he was very quiet for the rest of the day. No prizes for guessing his name, and yes, this is exactly why they've changed it.

Various BB’s have included articles on visits to different parts of France.  The only one I could immediately find was written by Vince Simmonds (May 1990 No.454) and details several trips in our particular area - if you plan to come here you're welcome to camp in our field (no hot showers though!)  For that or any other queries give us a call.

Ange and Andy Cave, P ADlRAC, France


Jack Shepard

Brief Obituary notice wed 18th July

Jack Sheppard died on Saturday morning July 14th. 2001

John S Buxton Hon See COG

Committee Nominations

Nominations for committee members for 2001/2002 will be accepted by the secretary from now onwards. Please submit your nominations to the current secretary for the election of the 2001/2002 BEC committee for the AGM on Saturday 6th October.

Nominations must be in writing and be seconded by another BEC member. Only paid up members are eligible, probationary members are eligible to stand.

Nominations must be received by the secretary by Friday 7th September.



BEC Assam / Meghalaya Trip 2001 - Synopsis

At the end of January 2001 four members of the BEC (Stuart MacManus, Tony Boycott, Helen & Rob Harper) flew out to India.  Our intention was to spend five to six weeks reconnoitring the known limestone areas of Assam for their cave potential.  Although references to actual caves in Assam are limited it was considered that some areas should have considerable potential for cave development.


Despite communication prior to our trip with the Assam authorities and the Assam and Indian Tourist Boards and meetings with both tourist authorities in Calcutta and Guwahati we were unaware of the gravity of the insurgency problem or the level of associated hazards.

We flew from Calcutta to Guwahati and then on by road via Shillong to the North East Electric Power Corporation Inspection Bungalow (a compound with armed guards) at Umrongso in the Kopili Valley. For our safety the police also provided us with armed guards both day and night and we were restricted to short periods of caving within a few hundred metres of the road.  Because of this we only explored two caves (Gufa Pachkilo [~200m] and Gufa Ka1imundi [244M], and decided to cut short our visit to Assam after only a few days.

We were given information regarding several other known caves both in the immediate area and in other parts of Assam.  It is obvious that there is potential there for further exploration when the political situation is more settled.


Khasi Hills….

Back in Megha1aya we cast around for alternative projects.  After consultation with Bryan Kharpran-Daly back at Shillong we headed for Laitkynsew in the West Khasi Hills which was used as base for cave exploration at Mawlong, Ichimati and Shella over the next few weeks.  During this time we explored and surveyed a number of systems (see table below).  Although there are a lot of caves at low level in this area the potential for lengthy development is poor because of the very close proximity of the water table even at the driest time of year.  The caves at higher levels had greater potential although only one, Krem Rumdan/Soh Shympi, still continues beyond the current limit of exploration.

Much time and effort was spent talking to local people about caves and their locations and we have probably examined all the entrances/caves that are generally known and easily accessible in these areas.  A short day of walking in the hills between Ichimati and Shella revealed many choked sinks and two short (c20m) do1ine caves.  There will probably be significant cave development in this area but the problems of access and movement are almost overwhelming.  In addition there is little or no local knowledge of the high level karst since there is no economic/recreational incentive for local people to go there.  So, apart from Krem Rumdan/Soh Shympi, it is unlikely that this area examined by this party will yield more large discoveries without a lot of effort ..

Garo Hills ...

Five days were spent travelling to and from the Balpakram National Park as there was reason to believe that more caves had been located. However the Forest Rangers reported to us that no new cave entrances had been found.  This area should be ignored by future expeditions.


Christmas in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

As we transcended from the beautiful sunlight into the deep, dark silent blue it felt like we were entering into another world.  We were enveloped in a wonderful calm, gently drifting along the coral canyon and then we saw him, gracefully gliding towards us, inquisitively examining us as we watched motionless in amazement, suspended weightlessly.  I felt in a dream like state, as if I was watching a film with time standing still. He circled around us curiously staring at six pairs of wide-opened eyes staring back.  He came close enough to touch, seemingly as intrigued as we were and several minutes passed whilst he performed a final lap around us before smoothly gliding upwards into the streaming sunlight to break the surface of the world that we had left and then he took a breath, turned and disappeared into the far distance.  I almost had to pinch myself to realise that this was real, this was diving in Jordan and this was Christmas day.

Jordan has always intrigued me - a land of contrast with its rose-coloured mountains and wadis, its dramatic red sands and proud desert nomads, its rich history and culture, the warm waters of the Red Sea and its spectacular coral reefs.  With both sea and mountains, we could combine a scuba diving and climbing holiday plus soak up some sun rays during what would be a snowy December 2000 at home.

As we (John and Jude Christie, Mike Clayton and Emma Porter) landed in the Queen Alia International Airport at Amman, we were immediately struck by the fascinating types of culture and dress. Men on their way to Mecca solely dressed in two white sheets and flip flops (including one that could have been J'Rat's twin!)  Muslim women with black head dresses without even a slit for their eyes, people praying in each comer, such a variety, living harmoniously together, unlike the warring Middle East countries we hear so much about in the news.

We were met by a local Jordanian to help us with our visa arrangements and were then taken by a slightly uncomfortable (due to fuel fumes) flight to Aqaba.  Aqaba is at the southern tip of Jordan on the Saudi border, guarded by low mountains, resting on the shores of the Red Sea but overshadowed by its Israeli neighbour Eilat.  The once sleepy fishing village, referred to in the Bible as Elot now derives a major part of its income from tourism, as well as its port facilities, phosphates industry and potash mmes.

Our first three days were spent scuba diving at the Royal Diving Centre which was relatively quiet due to the recent neighbouring tensions.  Each morning we were collected from our base, the Oryx Suites at 9am sharp and if you were not there on the dot, the driver would not wait.  A 17km journey south of Aqaba took us to the diving centre which is part of the Red Sea Marine Peace Park.  The centre runs courses for beginners and trips for experienced scuba divers, offering snorkelling and a private beach.  As it is a marine nature reserve aiming to protect marine flora and fauna, divers are accompanied by an instructor even if you are qualified.

There are 13 dive sites along this coast, though our first day was spent just off the jetty at the centre. The Aquarium dive took us along the shoreline in the pleasant 22C water, surrounded by beautiful corals and angelfish, parrotfish, moray eels, clown fish - the list was endless.  In the afternoon, due to a power cut, we snorkelled over the reefs, amazed by the diverse life we could see in the clear blue waters below.

On our second day of diving which was Christmas Day, we were taken to the 26m deep wreck, the Cedar Pride, 4km north of the diving centre.  This Lebanese Cargo ship was purposely sunk in 1986 to create an artificial reef and is covered in coral.  This was a fantastic dive, with plenty of life including barracuda. However, the afternoon can only be described as magical as we ventured into 'The Canyon', following a shallow slope between a canyon of coral.  As we left the Canyon, which slopes down to over 100m, we drifted parallel to the shore and then we saw him, our turtle ....  We could not have asked for a better Christmas present, and our instructor summarised the trip by saying it was the dive of his career.

Our last day of diving, saw us on the Saudi Border dive, 300m north of the international frontier and in the afternoon on Moon Valley, an undulating reef framed by sandy beds.  We could have dived there all week, had it not been for the mountains waiting to be climbed ....

On the Wednesday, we sorted out a hire car and headed out into the desert.  Wadi Rum is one of a sequence of parallel valleys in the desert south of the Shara Mountains with giant granite, basalt and sandstone jebels (mountains) rising up to 800m sheer from the sandy desert floor.  Wadi Rum is famous for being the starting point for TE Lawrence's attack on Aqaba and in his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom he declares 'Rum the magnificent - vast, echoing, Godlike - a processional way greater than imagination'.

Heading up dune -Rum

We headed for the village of Rum which guards the way into the desert, with Jebel Rum on the right and Jebel Umm Ashreen on the left.  The first building you arrive at is the government run but privately owned Resthouse with its own campsite.  Here you pay the equivalent to £1 as your entrance fee for the year which goes to a cooperative which organises the tourism, established by the Bedouin tribesmen. The proceeds have so far enabled the building of breeze block houses, a school at Rum and bought buses to link with Aqaba and Wadi Musa.  The Resthouse serves a fantastic and not to be missed chicken and chips, as well as acting as a base for jeep rides.

A ride into the desert by jeep is a great way of seeing the desert in a limited space of time.  At JD45 (£45) for the jeep for the day, shared between the group, it is great value.  You are not allowed to drive yourself due to the ease of becoming disorientated, so young lads, 12-16 years skilfully drive you into the desert to view canyons, climb rock bridges, see hieroglyphics and most amazing sights. Together with a tea and coffee stop at our driver's family Bedouin settlement, it was a truly memorable and unforgettable experience.

Amazing natural arch near Wadi Rum

Of course, a trip to the rose-red city, Petra is no doubt on most people's list and is the most popular tourist spot in Jordan and only two hours north of Aqaba.  To reach the city (once you have paid your £20) there is one route in, winding through the awesome 'Siq', to face El Khazneh, or the Treasury, like Indiana Jones did. This massive tomb was carved into the mountainside and you are taken back in time as you explore the refuge of the once 30,000 nomadic Nabataeans. At the far end of the city, is the Monastery, another amazing building sporting fantastic views of the surrounding mountains.

On our last day, we followed a traditional Bedouin route described in 'Walks and Scrambles in Wadi Rum', near the Resthouse which leads up to Jebel EI Mayeen at 1100m.  It was a beautiful, easy scramble in 70F made so atmospheric with the wailings and singing down beneath us in the village on their religious day.  The day ended on a camel ride, up to a nearby ruined temple and terrifyingly trotting back to the Resthouse.

We found Jordan an extremely friendly country and for an Islamic state it is relaxed.

It is very westernised, with delicious food served in restaurants (we used the recommended ones in the guide books) and wonderful kebabs.  Obtaining alcohol was not a problem even during Ramadam, though in restaurants during this time we had to have beer served in a plastic jug and drink out of plastic mugs to hide it!  The shops selling alcohol had newspaper in the windows and the alcohol section curtained off, but the people were still more than willing to send us behind the curtain and recommend the good wines.  The shops contained everything you are likely to need together with a vast selection of sweets.  With obvious cultural differences, there is the need to respect their ways and if you do so, Jordan offers a magnetic insight into the Middle East.  It is a total adventure with its mountains, coral reefs and even caves in the north and as quickly as our turtle disappeared into the clear blue sea, our holiday had gone ... until the next time.

Emma Porter


BOURBON Fabio_ Petra - Art, History and Itineraries in the Nabatean Capital 1999 White Star Publishers

DIAMANT! Carla Wadi Rum - The Desert of the Bedouin 1996 Plurigraf

HOWARD Tony Treks and Climbs in Wadi Rum Jordan 1997 Cicerone Guide

HOWARD Tony and TAYLOR Di Jordan - Walks, Treks, Caves, Climbs, Canyons 1999 Cicerone Guide

HOWARD Tony and TAYLOR Di Walks and Scrambles in Wadi Rum 1999 Jordan Distribution Agency

TELLER Matthew Jordan - The Rough Guide 2000 Jordan - Lonely Planets


The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan - The Tourist Map of Ram 1:38500

A similar article appeared in the Craven Record

Apologies to Emma for pic titles- Ed


Systema Cueto-Coventosa-Cuvera

Systema Cueto-Coventosa-Cuvera is one of the classic through trips in the world. It is located in the Cantabrian mountains, northern Spain.  The system contains the fifth deepest traverse in the world at 805m.  The cave is 815m deep and contains over 27km of passage. I am planning to book the cave for a week in spring 2002.  The plan is to rig the top and bottom entrances, then do the through trip with Snab, to celebrate his birthday, then derig the cave a couple of days latter. Anyone interested in coming along must be competent in SRT, as the shaft series down to the river is 600m deep and contains a 370m pitch.  Thick wetsuits and lifejackets are essential, as there are a few lakes to swim across. It is possible to do the trip as a pull through, the cave is bolted for both methods of descent.  Anyone interested contact me, Snablet. Dates to be arranged later, once the permit is obtained.

Tim Allen's Stag Weekend.
Tanne du Bel Espoir -Diau.

The Place

Tanne du Bel Espoir-Diau, Thorens-Glieres, Haute Savoie, French Alps.  A classic traverse at 701m deep (8th deepest).  The cave contains the Diau river, and has around l5km of passage.

The Revellers:

Tim "Stag" Allen, Mark "Best Man" Wright, John "Big Nose" Palmer, Liam "Thats my Boy" Wright, Dick Ellis, Richard "Terry Fxckwit" Greenslade, Richard Blakely, Adam ?, Simon ?, Martin Holroyd, Pete Hall, Pete "Grabber" O’Neil, Pete "Snablet" MacNab.

The Journey

A complete nightmare for those in the minibus due to a ferry blockade by French farmers protesting about their fuel prices.  However, the time spent in the ferry queues was kept to a minimum by the minibus conveniently breaking down in Coventry.  (Not all bad, though: The minibus company paid for a hotel, which kept its bar open all night).  It took from Thursday morning to Saturday morning to get to Thorens-Glieres. Martin and myself flew to Geneva on Friday night due to time restraints imposed by work.

The Trip

Martin and myself were awoken early, by a jaded crew in the minibus.  They had driven all night from Calais and were looking the worst for wear.  The owner of the municipal campsite took one look at us all, then told us to leave.  So we moved camp to a caver friendly campsite, on top of the hill.  A great spot, with a Braida-sized outhouse available for use if it gets too wet or if you want a night-cap after the pub.  Some of the lads grabbed a couple of hours kip before we set off for the cave.  Around ten-ish, we drove the minibus up a forestry road on to the Parmlan plateau. A pleasant mountain bar guards the end of the road.  So time was found for a quick sample of the chilled local brew, whilst kitting up in the warm sunshine.  An hour or so's walk across a sparsely pine covered limestone pavement saw us at the edge of a well marked shaft.  The general consensus among the team was that this had to be the right entrance; after all it was even "P" hangered with pull through chains attached. However, when Mark arrived whilst we were preparing to rig the first pitch, he didn't recognise the entrance. A quick consultation of the map and description confirmed Mark's doubts.  We were, in fact, about to pull through the Tanne du Tordu-Diau, which contains an 80m pitch.  Our longest rope was only 50m.  Near disaster averted, we continued our search for the Tanne du Bel Espoir.  The entrance is about 50m down a steep valley wall, with a large sign saying caving in the Diau river cave is dangerous in snow melt floods (No shit).  Unlike the Tordu, the Bel Espoir belay points were slightly more character building. We placed our own sling around a tree, ignoring the museum specimens of tat, and made a mental note not to study any of the bolts too closely (they turned out to be alright).  The pitches come thick and fast, interspersed with convenient ledges for waiting whist pulling down ropes (there is only one pitch where five of you have to clip into the same bolt, very cosy).

We split into two teams of six entering the cave one hour apart, each with 50m, 30m, & 20m ropes, whilst Dick stayed on the surface and took the minibus to the Diau entrance. The first few pitches are great 20-30m Yorkshire-ish pots.  We had two persons rigging, two carrying gear and two derigging, it was working well, we were getting carried away, flying through the cave.  Unfortunately it worked too well, on reaching a series of short pitches, known as the Chocolate Crawl, the tackle bags were already way on down the cave.  The 50m rope had to be hand-balled through squalid liquid mud; this led to a very nerve racking 40m descent; Slime and 9mm rope don't mix too well.  The pitch lands in a large chamber, strewn with the remains of a rescue camp. The chamber is also where Tanne du Tordu enters the system and marks a change in the cave character.  A strong draught guided us into a rift, a couple of short pitches led to Puit de Echo. This is a huge and impressive 50m pitch into a large chamber. At the base of the pitch, a date and initials written on the wall indicate the connection point between Tanne Du Bel Espoir & Le Diau.  Shortly after the chamber, the passage drops down into a stream way, this leads via some short shafts to an entertaining traverse to the head of a wet and spectacular 45m pitch.  The stream cascades down over multiple ledges, spray everywhere, a great pitch. The passage follows along a rift down a series of short 5 to 10m pitches, which land in beautiful blue pools. I thought that this part of the cave was extremely pleasant and entertaining caving, the best part of the system.  The stream eventually intersects the Diau main river, whereupon the cave changes character again.  The passage is huge and decorated; the caving involves wading down the river.  After a fair distance the river becomes deep (swimming).  The swims and ducks can be (and were) completely avoided, by taking a side passage on the right.  The side passage is a series of phreatic tubes (walking).  These lead for 300m to an 8m pitch back down to the river.  By now the river passage has grown in stature. Wire traverses have been installed to avoid deep swims and raging torrents. Eventually the fun has to end, the river sumps. After a bit of confusion and a short search, we found the sump by-pass.  There was no doubt whether we were on the right route or not, the inclined rift ahead was rigged with a stemple every two foot (We can't have the fee-paying outdoor pursuit tourists thrutching now, can we!).  The rest of the cave had every obstacle removed by means of iron ladders, chains, wire traverses and stemples. Although the remaining passage to the lower entrance is very spectacular, the fixed aids do detract from it, making the caving become a bit pedestrian (a similar feeling to caving in St Cuthbert’s).  On reaching the final chamber, Martin produced a bottle of Champagne from his tackle bag.  After a Formula One-style opening aimed at Tim, the bottle was quickly consumed, and we then proceeded to get lost.  After circumnavigating the chamber's walls for the second time, we made our way out of the entrance safe in the knowledge that we had made it through with virtually no navigational mishaps.

It was 10.15pm, a 2km walk to the minibus and the pub was calling.  There was no obvious path we could see, so we followed the river. After half an hour of scrambling down a boulder strewn river bed, we found ourselves above a 30m waterfall, in a 100m high steepsided gorge - time to backtrack!  We found a spot where we could scramble/climb out of the gorge, at the top we found a path and followed it somewhere?  We eventually spotted the lights of Thorens-Glieres, and were able to orientate ourselves in the right direction.  12.30 saw us back at the minibus, to find that disaster had struck! The crate of beers that Dick had stashed in the river for cooling, had floated away.  A major search and rescue operation was instigated, the outcome was successful.  Dick drove us into town, but we were too late, the bars were shut (luckily we had provisions for just such an eventuality).  So we went back to the river to await the other team, and cool down another crate or so.  The second team arrived shortly, so we proceeded to party till dawn.  A great weekend had by all.



New Mexico - The Land of Enchantment

20 May to 5 June 2000

Laventana Natural arch- El Mapais National Park, New Mexico

New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment is one of the poorest states in America, bordering Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Mexico.  It feels like a land set apart from the rest of the USA and is often described as an anomaly as it has its own cuisine, culture, architecture and unique landscape with the Rocky Mountain range running from north to south providing a sharp contrast to the low desert plains.

After a long flight, Mike Clayton and myself arrived in Albuquerque airport with mountains in the background, providing a stunning location.  The warm evening air hit us as we stepped outside, loaded all our kit into the rather large, economy hire car and headed off to find a motel.  After a night in the Luna Motel at $28 for the two of us including breakfast in a rather dubious looking cafe next to the motel, we headed off to the home of a local caver for some information.

Armed with plenty of useful tips, we were pointed in the direction of a local outdoor shop in the Old Town, to stock up on meths (white gas or denatured alcohol) and a snake bite kit.  A stroll around the Old Town was a must, a quaint Mexican style quarter with bunches of chiles adorning each building, musicians on every comer and a lively, vibrant atmosphere.

Our first caving area was to be 75 miles west of Albuquerque, in the El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area, EI Malpais being Spanish for 'the bad land'. EI Malpais consists of some 600 square miles of volcanic features - miles of lava tubes, jagged spatter cones, basalt craters and lies between the elevations of 6,200 and 8,400 feet. We were informed by local cavers that there are about 200 lava tubes/caves in the area but very little appears to have been published.

Our first destination was a tourist trip to the privately owned Bandera Crater and the Ice Cave which costs $7 each.  On the way up to Bandera Crater, you pass the Bandera tube which can be followed on topographical maps for at least 16 miles. The tube was formed when the crater erupted some 11,000 years ago and is the longest of the 15 major lava tubes in the area.  The tourist Ice Cave, known to the Pueblo Indians as the Winter Lake, was a disappointment as you could not enter it (though it appeared not to be much more than a hollow anyway).  It did however, provide some welcome relief from the intense heat of the afternoon sun.

Start of Lavatubes, EI Mapais N. P.

We had planned to spend our second night in the El Malpais Park, with overnight camping being free as long as you obtain a backcountry permit from the Ranger's office. There were just two snags, where you are asked to camp really requires a 4x4 and secondly, our water supplies were not great and being a Sunday in the middle of nowhere, we had passed no open shops.  Instead, we headed back to the small town of Grants and camped at Lavalands R V site ($12 + tax for two of us).

Like a lot of 'campsites', it is predominantly for RV's (Recreational Vehicles) and the camping ground consisted of just sand which meant tent pegs do not stay in. Fortunately, there was some big lumps of lava lying around, so we managed to improvise.  A trip to a 24 hour Walmart saw us with about 8 gallons of water, a huge steak meal at 4B's ($6.95 each), a good sleep, a shower and we were ready for some proper caving.

We jumped on the 140 at J85 from Grants and left it again at Exit 81, onto SR53.  We passed the Ranger Office, and the Bandera Crater and Ice Cave and took a rough track, CR42 on the next left. All the literature we had, informed us that a 4x4 or high clearance vehicle was required to visit this remote area. Unfortunately, we had neither but it was a hire car, and this hire car was going where it had not been before (and this was tame compared to later in the holiday!).  It is worth noting that it is a place to avoid in wet weather, even in 4x4s.

When we arrived at the deserted car park it was getting hot.  Feeling keen, we both headed off carrying a gallon of water each (as recommended) caving helmets, we wore caving clothes i.e. T-shirts and trousers and took a trekking pole (to warn off rattle snakes!).  We followed a set route, which involved spotting cairns, and we were glad we did.  Because it is all volcanic, compass use is not reliable, a GPS would have been great if we had one with us but we did not.  As we started on the trails, it became hotter and hotter, we followed cairn after cairn, almost completely reliable on them. The area felt quite intimidating and hostile - it all looked the same with nothing distinguishable.  As described in an NSS article, , one pressure ridge or a lava looks very much like another ... the thick trees restrict the view ... Not infrequently, cavers will waste an entire afternoon either completely lost or futilely searching for a specific cave'.  To top it all, there was not a drop of water, there was a severe fire risk, we saw no other people, there were rattle snakes lurking and we were surrounded by a bewildering display of cacti.  If only we had a GPS with us!

We cooled off in Four Windows Cave, with the sun dramatically shining into the tube by four windows and had a good explore, taking photos along the way.  We finished the tourist walk, deciding not even to attempt to find the other caves that we had been given locations for - it was hard enough following a path, let alone going cross country.  We headed for another part of the Park for a photo opportunity at the impressive La Ventana Natural Arch, one of the largest in New Mexico and then to the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook, which provides a fantastic view of the surrounding lava fields.  We jumped in the car, back to Albuquerque, through Socorro and camped the night ($5 between us) in the Valley of Fire (near Carrizozo). The Valley of Fire is yet another lava strewn area with lava tubes, though we did not manage to locate these. Instead, we completed the tourist walk and headed for the free International UFO Museum and Research Centre, at Roswell to decide if aliens really did land there.  A trip into Artesia to go to La Fonda, what was to become our favourite restaurant of the holiday (Mexican and very cheap) and we were back on the road to Carlsbad.

Arriving at the Guadalupe Mountain Outfitters in Carlsbad and the heat hit us, all 43 degrees C of it and this was May, it was supposed to be like an English summer day at this time of year!  We met the owner Curtis Perry who provided us with useful information on the caving and climbing scene, another trip to Walmart to stock up on water and we completed the last leg of our journey onto the Texan border.  On our left were miles of hills containing unsurveyed gypsum caves and a couple of families of javelina hog (wild pigs).  As we approached the Guadalupe Mountains, they looked stunning as they stretched along the skyline.  The mountains were once an ancient marine fossil reef and were part of the 400 mile Capitan Reef.  They were formed about 250 million years ago when Texas and New Mexico were covered in a tropical ocean, and the reef began to form from algae, sponges and lime from the seawater.  When the sea evaporated, the reef had become buried in sediments and mineral salts and was not exposed until it was uplifted and tilted by massive earth movements.

We pitched our tent in the National Park at Pine Springs Campsite, at the foothills of the Guads.  There are only 21 pitches on a first come, first serve basis and at $8 for your pitch (and you are allowed up to 6 persons per pitch) was great value.  All pitches had a picnic bench, a tree for shade and a stunning view, there was a toilet block but no showers.  The only significant problem are the skunks who have even been known to unzip tents to steal food - fortunately, we only saw one.  With the fires raging in Los Alamos and notices everywhere, the National Parks were on a severe fire risk.  It felt such a responsibility just cooking your food, as New Mexico had not seen rain for a year, one spark and it would not stop.

The next few days we tried to do some walks around the Guads exploring the Foothills, venturing up the narrow canyon of Devil’s Hall but it was too hot.  The sky was so blue with not a cloud in sight.  Its sounds heavenly but when its 43 degrees C, and there is so much to do around you but you can not due to the heat, it becomes a bit frustrating.  We took to starting walks at 7 am, getting back at 10am, then having breakfast and going for a drive or a siesta.  We found that it took us quite a while to get used to walking in a desert with the intensity of the heat and the lack of water.  It is recommended that you carry at least a gallon of water each and this is vital.  The desert was very beautiful in its own way, with the most amazing variety of cacti and creatures that have adapted to live there.  Something we were warned about but fortunately, did not meet in the wild, was the rattlesnake and the mountain lion.  The latter was descending down from the mountains in a 'stressed' state due to the heat, and attacks on humans were occurring in Texas.  In particular, we were warned about this at the popular McKittrick Canyon as it accommodates a permanent desert stream and ample shade.

Natural entrance to Carlsbad Caverns

One cool place was Carlsbad Cavern, used as a shelter by prehistoric Indians but it was a local cowboy, Jim White, who noticed what appeared to be 'smoke' coming out of a hole in the ground and on closer investigation, found it to be millions of bats that were leaving the cave at dusk to hunt for food. White returned with ladders and began to explore down the large entrance.  At about the same time, a second entrance was discovered by Abijah Long and on seeing the almost 90 foot high guano deposits filed a mining claim and work began.

The Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Centre is very well organised, showing videos of Lechuguilla and the bat flight, 3D models of the cave, interesting displays with trails around the park and even has dog kennels.  The choice of trips provided covers ranger-led trips to self-guided trips to more 'wild' caving adventures.  We chose the self-guided tour at $6 each which took us via the Natural Entrance and eventually to the Big Room which is equivalent to 14 football pitches.  The beauty of this trip was that you could spend however long you wanted - we took about 3 hours.  Once above ground, we completed the short tourist trail and eagerly waited for the evening Bat Flight, hoping to see our two newly adopted bats.  A purpose built amphitheatre around the natural entrance, sees a couple of hundred visitors each night listening to a free talk by a ranger whilst waiting for the bat flight.  Unfortunately, due to the increase in insecticides, the effects of guano mining and some of the bats not having yet migrated back from Mexico, there were not as many bats as we were expecting.  All the same, it was fascinating to sit and watch these Mexican freetails spiral out of the cave to hunt for moths and insects.

Our middle weekend saw us heading off for the Lincoln National Forest to meet a group of cavers who were working on the High Guads Restoration Project (HGRP).  The drive up was about 3 hours from Carlsbad, with a considerable proportion of this being on rough tracks.  We had been advised that it was accessible in a car with high clearance (our hire car had very low clearance).  It must have been an amusing sight when we travelled up in the dark and I could be seen running ahead of the car, shifting stones out of the way, riding in it when the track was reasonable and jumping out at every pothole in the road.  The journey seemed never ending and it was a relief to arrive at Texas Camp and meet some cavers, set up camp and have a good sleep.

There were about 20 cavers camping up in the mountains and unbelievably, one of the first people we spoke to was English.  (I was wearing my BEC t-shirt and his very first comment was that that 'the BEC do really get everywhere'!)  In true American style, we had to have a group meeting before we went caving, and had to have a risk assessment/hazard analysis read out to us.  We were told to 'take a helmet as you might hit your head, to take a rope if there was a pitch, to stay still if you met a rattlesnake and then move slowly away' - the list was endless.  The reason for this, was the strict conditions that the National Park place on you if you are caving.  The HGRP arrange these weekend meets to 'clean' the caves and in that way, they have access to the caves which is sometimes, otherwise denied.  With the caves being bone dry, over time the formations become lost under sand and dirt, with no natural means to clean them unlike our caves the cavers step in and help nature.

We spent an interesting few days caving in this area, descending into Three Fingers Cave, Hidden Cave, doing a bat count in Cottonwood Cave and the highlight for me, being Pink Panther Cave.  This involved walking about 4 miles in the mid day sun, carrying SRT kit, camera equipment, water and getting seriously lost as we scrambled over cliffs until we eventually found it.  This was a leader led trip with only about five trips a year and like a lot of these caves, is easy by English standards.  A slightly awkward climb led us down into a chamber called Speleogasm, full of bizarrely twisted helictites.  The icing on the cake was a bear skeleton, laid as it had fallen, its spine twisted with all bones in tact.

Our time with the HGRP project was soon over, we retreated safely down the dirt tracks and after 7 days without a shower in unpleasant heat, a motel with a shower and a good feed were our priorities.  Before heading to New Mexico, we had arranged permits for some of the other caves in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  Unfortunately, out of the 90 or so caves in the Park, cavers are only allowed into about 10 of these.  The Rangers at the Park were very helpful though, giving us surveys of the caves and even opened a road on our way to Chimney Cave especially for us that was closed at the time to tourists because of fire risks.  The other two caves we visited in the Park, Christmas Tree and Corkscrew Cave (photo opposite) involved long, uphill walks for not much cave.  Two longer caves available as ranger tours - Spider and Slaughter Canyon Cave were recommended to us but we ran out of time.

Climbing wise, we did very little due not only to the heat but all the climbs were graded very highly. Sitting Bull Falls, an attractive oasis provides some climbing but climbing with the locals was by far the best way.  Our holiday was concluded with a visit to White Sands National Monument 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo. Glistening white waves of gypsum sands cover 275 square miles, breaking up the 4000 square mile missile range which surrounds it.

As we headed back to the airport, the first rain in 12 months began in style.  Shortly after we had passed through the town of Cloudcroft, reading notices that the national Park was closed because of the fire risk, the airport television showed pictures of the devastation caused by huge mud slides only minutes after our passing through.

New Mexico really is a Land of Enchantment, and we only scraped the surface of this fascinating and intriguing landscape.  The mountains and caves are endless, the land is vast, the people friendly and welcoming and we will definitely be going back.

Useful Information

Gear Shops:

REI, 1905 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque

Guadalupe Mountain Outfitters, 216 S. Canal, Carlsbad

Good restaurants:

4B's, Grants

La Fonda, 210 W. Main St., Artesia

Sirloin Stockade, 710 S. Canal, Carlsbad

Red Chimney, 817 N. Canal, Carlsbad


Lavalands RV site, off 140, Grants

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, off Dog Canyon Road, near Alamogordo

Pine Springs Campsite, Guadalupe National Park, off US 62/180

To avoid at all costs - Park Entrance R V Park and Campsite, 17 Carlsbad Caverns Hwy, White's City

Useful Maps:

New Mexico Atlas & Gazetteer, 1998,

DeLorme US Geological Survey - Ice Caves,

Gunsight Canyon,

Carlsbad Caverns and EI Paso Gap Quadrangle.

National Geographic Maps - Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Further information:

Fodor's New Mexico 2000

Crane, Candace: Carlsbad Caverns National Park Worlds of Wonder 2000

Jackson, Dennis; Rock Climbing New Mexico and Texas 1996 Falcon Guide

Marinakis, Harry; The Lava Tube Cave Systems of New Mexico's EI Malpais NSS News June 1997

Nymeyer, Robert: Carlsbad, Caves, and a Camera 1978 Zephyrus Press

Nymeyer, Robert and Halliday, William; Carlsbad Cavern The Early Years

Schneider, Bill; Hiking Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks 1996 Falcon Guide

White, Jim; The Discovery and History of Carlsbad Caverns 1998 Reprinted by the Carlsbad Caverns Guadalupe Mountains Association


Thanks to Rich Long, Curtis Perry and family (Guadalupe Mountain Outfitters), Stan Allison, Dale Pate and Paul Burger (rangers from Carlsbad National Park), Allen Laman and Susan Herpin (High Guadalupe Restoration Project), Hazel Barton, Aaron Birenboim and Simeon Warner.

Emma Porter  A similar report has appeared in the Craven Record.


Stock's House Shaft;- Digging Into History.

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BBs nos 502, 504-510.

Photographs attributed to JRat-Ed

A Sixteenth Century Wheelbarrow Reconstructed

With the dreaded Foot and Mouth crisis effectively putting paid to any ongoing work in Stock's House Shaft the writer took the opportunity to undertake an experimental archaeology project which had been in the offing for some time.  The levels in both the Shaft and Five Buddles Sink had been found to have been equipped with plank flooring to aid removal of spoil and tailings from their depths.  The means of transporting these was unknown apart from the wooden sledge found in Five Buddles and now resident in the Hunters'.  A search of the literature revealed that a fairly standard wooden wheelbarrow had been used throughout Europe from at least the sixteenth century up to the nineteenth - essentially unchanged.  To test the theory that these were possibly used in the Shaft it was decided to reconstruct one and try it out, following instructions provided by Georgius Agricola in his authoritative mining volume of 1556 - De Re Metallica:-  "That which we call a cistum is a vehicle with one wheel, not with two, such as horses draw.  When filled with excavated material it is pushed by a workman out of tunnels or sheds.  It is made as follows: two planks are chosen about five feet long, one foot wide and two digits thick; of each of these the lower side is cut away at the front for a length of one foot, and at the back for a length of two feet, while the middle is left whole.  Then in the front parts are bored circular holes, in order that the ends of an axle may revolve in them.  The intermediate parts of the planks are perforated twice near the bottom, so as to receive the heads of two little cleats on which the planks are fixed; and they are also perforated in the middle, so as to receive the heads of two end-boards, while keys fixed in these projecting heads strengthen the whole structure.  The handles are made out of the extreme ends of the long planks, and they turn downward at the ends that they may be grasped more firmly in the hands.  The small wheel, of which there is only one, neither has a nave nor does it revolve around the axle, but turns around with it. From the felloe, two transverse spokes fixed into it pass through the middle of the axle toward the opposite felloe; the axle is square, with the exception of the ends, each of which is rounded so as to turn in the opening.  A workman draws out this barrow full of earth and rock and draws it back empty."  (see illustrations - from the alter piece of St. Annen Kirche, Annaberg, Saxony, Germany.

A search for a suitable wheel was the first priority as the writer's woodworking skills were non-existent. With incredible luck, one was found almost immediately lurking on the second floor of Wells Trading Post, an old mill full of assorted junk, tools, furniture, etc.  It was steel tyred, 16" diameter, and painted bright red!  It was acquired for a discounted price of £20 and the paint tediously removed.  All attempts to scrounge the wood for the bodywork having failed a visit was then made to Interesting Timbers at Emborough where two elm planks of suitable size were purchased for £36.66 and later, two more for £34.00. Six beer barrel spiles were kindly donated by Roger Dors to be used as the "projecting head keys." Work commenced on the 26th March when the writer and Bob Smith sawed and drilled the side boards to shape and pondered on the fact that Agricola had not indicated if the barrow had a floor or just V -shaped sides.  By studying several ancient representations of these vehicles it was decided that their seemingly box-like shapes suggested that a flat floorboard was used and another search through the woodcuts in Agricola proved this - after the barrow had been built! Because of their narrowness and length they were apparently side-tipped (see illustrations).  The width of the barrow was estimated after reading the following descriptions of contemporary mine level dimensions: -

"A tunnel is a subterranean ditch driven lengthwise, and is nearly twice as high as it is broad, and wide enough that workmen and others may be able to pass and carry their loads.  It is usually one and a quarter fathoms high (7ft 6") while its width is about three and three-quarters feet " - Agricola, De Re Metallica (1556). .

"Thefe Adits are commonly fix feet high and about two feet and a half wide, fo that there may be room enough both in height and breadth to work in them; and alfo room to roll back the broken deads in a wheel-barrow ... " William Pryce, Mineralogia Cornubiensis (1778).

These dimensions agree favourably with those in the Upstream and Downstream Levels of Stock's House Shaft. The average height of a man at this time was 5ft 4".

By the 7th April the wooden body of the barrow had been completed and given a coat of dark oak stain. Work was in hand to modify the axle to fit Agricola's description using a couple of cold chisels cut to shape by Ivan Sandford but this became too much of a chore and the barrow was taken to the Somerset Forge at Easton where a magnificent new axle and two frontal supporting bands were made.  Four superb, "distressed" steel floorboard support brackets were made by Paul Brock's workmate, Mark Steeds, and fitted to the sides/base of the barrow with coach bolts.  Once completed and the Shaft reopened it will be tried out underground when the durability of the diggers' knuckles will also be tested!

N.B. Since the writing of this report Bob has discovered that there is a genuine example of a miners' barrow at Morwellham Quay - George and Charlotte Copper Mine, an industrial archaeology tourist centre near Tavistock, Devon.  It appears to have a V -shaped cross section but a visit will be made to check this and compare it with our reproduction.

Illustrations below from 1556 - De Re Metallica : Georgius Agricola

A Seventeenth Century Mining Map Unearthed

Further research into the history of Chewton Minery recently revealed item no.501 in Trevor Shaw's " Mendip Cave Bibliography Part II - CR.G Transactions vol. 14, no. 3, July 1972."  Entitled "Mendip This Plot Lyeth in the bofome of the foreft of Mendyp or Mine-deepe in Sometfett shire. the great Bed of Ledd Dare" it is a folded manuscript plan held at the British Library and dated approximately 1657.

This item was not recorded by Gough in "Mines of Mendip" and it seems incredible that it has not been previously studied by Mendip cavers as it clearly shows three unknown (or unidentifiable) swallets (The Swallow, Pit Swallow and Golgo Swallow) and names a presumed resurgence - Skye Hole.  Mining historians also get a bonus with the identification of Golgo Rake, Boate Rake, Broad Rake and Gold Rake - the latter possibly being the lost "Golden Rake" referred to by Moses Stringer in "Opera Mineralia Explicata" 1713 p. 9 - "Gold hath been and now may be found in the hills of Mendip, in Somerset-shire, called the Golden Rake; ... " and also noted in "The Gold Rocks of Great Britain and Ireland" (J. Calvert. Goldpanners Association ­date unknown.)

This map has been shown to many local cavers so that as many theories as possible may be collected and compared as to the locations of the features mentioned.  At first sight it looks like a simple plan of a " Lake", road, two roadside swallets and the rakes in Rowpits - corresponding to Waldegrave Pool and Swallet and Five Buddles Sink area.  Confusion arises when the lake is seen to be "1000 fadom long & 100 fadom broad" - 6,000ft by 600ft!  The old word "lake" could also mean stream or marshy ground so may refer to the whole valley as far south as St. Cuthbert's Swallet - in which case the dimensions would be roughly correct and "Priddy Minery" is correctly located but the rest of the map would be at a larger scale.

The oblique line across the map may be the ancient (prehistoric?) footpath across Chewton Minery from Stock's House to Red Quarr/Wigmore area, but what is the double line running vertically down the map from south to north (south being at the top)?

Thomas Bushell is mentioned as intending to explore The Swallow to discover it's issue so that he could "undermyne the Lake".  We may assume that he had yet to start his search for the " .. natural swallow twenty fathom (120ft) deep .. "  This may have been Golgo Swallow which is stated as being "..20 fad lower than Pit Swallow."  The latter would seem to be a surface sink and the former possibly entered underground from the adjacent Golgo Rake.  The Old Men obviously knew that the water from this resurged at Skye Hole but where is this cave(?) and how did they know?  As Bushell's plan was to dewater the deepest part of Rowpits, which was the forefield of Broad Rake why had the local miners not done this earlier by driving a level southeast along Golgo Rake from Golgo Swallow?  Could this cave have been lost or blocked off by 1657 and thus the objective of Bushell's search and could the name be a shortened version of Golgotha - the biblical "place of skulls"?

Why is Boate Rake so named?  It is highly unlikely that a boat was used underground but could there have been an entrance near the " Lake" where a boat was kept?  Perhaps there was a boat shaped rock in the rake or maybe the word is actually "Boale".  A "bole hill" was a prominent site used for smelting purposes at the time ­especially in the Derbyshire mining field.

A comparison with 1940s aerial photographs has been made and what may be Broad Rake has been identified as the only obvious working running NE-SW as opposed to the main body of veins which run NW -SE.

The writer would be pleased to hear from anyone who has any thoughts on these queries - ideally through the pages of the BB.  A visit to the British Library would be useful to ascertain if there is any other relevant documentation associated with this manuscript.  Perhaps when **(if !) we break through in Stock's House Shaft some of these problems will be solved.  Roll on a virus-free, dry summer!!!

If nothing else the existence of this map proves that our six years of digging in this area have not been in vain as Bushell's lost cave is definitely in the vicinity.  SEE STOP PRESS


On Monday 16th July, "Mad" Phil Rowsell and Canadian novice caver Jeff Harding were poking about at the end with a long crowbar when it suddenly went through into the top of a 6 foot high continuing level.  The writer- summoned from the surface where he was sunbathing - was very generously given the privilege of being first in.  A short crawl under an horrific collapse led to about 200 feet of mine level with at least four possible ways on.  Needless to say the "well" chilled " Champagne" which had been stored underground for over a year was enthusiastically quaffed!  See next BB for the full, exciting exploration article.

The map appended is British Library manuscript no;- Add Ms 5027 A, art, 49.f.776-78a and is reproduced here by permission of The British Library - with thanks for their helpful assistance.

Latest Developments

On the 18th May the main footpath across the Mineries Reserve and Stockhill Forest was re-opened and access to the Shaft regained.  The following morning the writer found part of a rusted shovel blade lying on the spoil heap, washed free of mud by recent rain. It may be part of the shovel recovered on 22/8/00 (see BB 508) but a small missing section needs to be found to prove this.  A sketch is appended for the records.

On the 22nd May the huge "hanging death" boulder in the Treasury was banged and some bagging of silt accomplished in the surprisingly clear Downstream Level.  All the full bags in this level were transported to the shaft bottom on the following evening when the banged boulder was inspected and found to be split and now drillable in safety.  May 27th saw a strong team bagging more silt in the level and transporting it to the shaft and on the 28th the brand new generator was put into action to operate the submersible pump to allow further clearing .. Next day the hydraulic winch was fettled at the Belfry, transported to the Shaft and installed in preparation for the following evening's session when 184 bags were hauled out - a record (but the previous record of 183 was set by Mike Willet who hand winched every one!!)  The wheelbarrow (minus wheel) was partly lowered into the shaft on the 2nd of June just to make sure it would fit - luckily it did.  A good tidy up then took place and the leaking downstream dam was repaired with the use of expanding polystyrene foam. 63 more bags came out next day and many more were filled at the end in very "soupy" conditions.  Ben Barnett became the latest dig casualty when he dropped a rock on his previously broken foot and re-bent it!  Another 70 loads came out on the 6th June when heavy rain caused a swift increase in the stream level and the following evening saw the eventual complete destruction of the Treasury "hanging death" boulder.

The terminal "chamber" was eventually regained on the 11th June when much clearing of the approach took place.  Bags of silt were stacked on the Old Men’s timbers here and a couple of feet of progress was made into the presumed continuation of the level.  On the 13th another 132 bags came out with the hauling team suffering from the usual summer excess of midges.  Julie Hesketh, Tim Francis and Pete Bennett, digging out the Loop Level on the 17th, found a superb 18 3/4" (475mm) long wrought iron pricker, or needle which was unfortunately broken during removal.  The snapped off tip was identical to the supposed rake tine found by Paul Brock in 1999 which must now be considered as part of another pricker.  The pricker was used to leave a hole in the stemmed end of a black powder-filled shothole in which to insert a fuse, generally a powder filled straw.  The use of iron was soon abandoned due to its potential to create a spark and later prickers were made of copper or wood, though some were still in use in the 19th century.  It is almost identical to the shorter, broken one found in Stock Hill Mine Cave and illustrated in BB 467 (April 1993).  This example is considerably longer than the 15" ones generally used in Cornwall. A small piece of shovel blade recovered by Alex was found not to be part of that discovered previously but from a different tool.  Another 63 bags were winched out the next day.

Another push at the end took place on the 20th June when the water level was lowered by excavating the floor of the terminal chamber and revealing a clean-washed airspace ahead. This may be the main way on but is in a dodgy collapsing area and will have to be dug with care.  More work was done here on the 25th and on the 26th it was possible to reach the end without pumping.  Two suspect boulders in the ceiling above the Old Men’s timbers were banged, as was a huge boulder in the Treasury on the way out.  The strange, pulsating "waterfall noise" was again heard at the downstream end.

The surface dam in the Five Buddles Sink gully was removed at the request of Somerset Wildlife Trust, it now being redundant.

Further work in Loop Level indicates that it was driven along an immature natural streamway before being abandoned.  The Treasury of Aeops / Loop Level passage appears to have been the first level driven (from the surface), being later intersected by the entrance shaft and Upstream / Downstream Levels.

On the 27th June 73 loads were winched out and the banged boulder in the Treasury removed in pieces to give open access to this level, which will in future be restored to its former glory.  A start was made on demolishing the terminal choke.  Much of the broken rock was bagged up on the 29th and a large, flat slab brought back from the downstream end which, when cleaned, was found to be limestone.  It appeared to have been partly worked and seems to have been brought into the workings for some specific purpose.  Mark also found a partly fired shothole with the top section still full of stemming - this will be studied at a future date and the results compared with those gained by Willy Stanton in Grebe Swallet Mine, Charterhouse.  102 loads came out next day and on the 1st and 2nd of July about half of the full bags stacked at the terminal choke were dragged out and another charge fired to bring down loose boulders.  The Old Men’s timbers were also removed.

The 4th of July saw a large team suffering various disasters from attack by millions of midges on the surface, failure of the pump or cable, hanging death at the end and the snapping of the winch rope with eight full bags on it.  Luckily only Trevor was below (he's used to this kind of thing) but he was impressed - as opposed to being just pressed!  Despite all this another twenty odd loads were cleared from the end, more of the Treasury spoil was bagged up, all full bags were dragged to the shaft and one even reached the surface!  Richard Chaddock and Hugh Tucker did a working tourist trip following a talk given to Cheddar C.C. by Tangent and the writer the previous Sunday night.  The broken rope was kindly replaced by Ian Matthews.

Another 136 bags came out on the 8th of July when the hanging death was banged and an enthusiastic Adrian Hole was introduced to the dig.  The large amount of broken rock resulting from this bang was dragged back to the dam next day when Chris Castle joined the team.  It seems evident that this collapse area is in fact a mined out rake intercepted by the level and shored up by the Old Men.  The 11th saw all this spoil dragged to the shaft and 40 loads winched out.  It was noticed that the winch had been tampered with ready for removal by some of the summer low-life that plagues the countryside so it was dismantled and removed from site.  Ray Deasy arrived from Australia for his annual digging trip!  The total amount of bags out so far is about 8785 - c.88 tons.

Looking up the Level photo by Ray Deasey

Additions to the Digging Team.

Nigel Denmeade (W.C.C.), Mark Ireland (Axbridge C.G./Cheddar C.C.), Tim Francis (Mendip C.G.), Phil Rawsell, Tony Audsley (A.T.L.A.S.), Pete Bennett (M.C.G.), Julie Hesketh (M.C.G/G.S.G.), Elaine Johnson (A.C.G.), Richard Chaddock (A.C.G.), Hugh Tucker (A.C.G.), Adrian Hole, Chris Castle, Jeff Harding (Ontario, Canada.)

Additional Assistance

The British Library, The National Library of Wales, Simon J.S. Hughes (North Cardiganshire Mining Club).

A.R. Jarratt, Priddy. 12/7/01


Club AGM 2000

Reports of the various committee members and officers follow


Believe it or not, and without an election, we had a eleven person committee this last year.  Strange therefore we only ever seemed to have five or six committee members attend any monthly meeting, members are volunteers, and they are entitled to their private lives and associated commitments, some of which unfortunately may not have been apparent to them when they stood for Committee, - and regardless, the Club still functions.  As I expressed in last year's report, this can cause difficulty in actually effecting the efficient running of the club, and also ensuring that any decisions taken were democratic.

The 1998 AGM directed that committee members attendances should be recorded and passed to the club's AGM, these will be available at the AGM only, as an addendum to this report, and I make no further comment upon them.

Once again, the BEC owes a great big "Vote of Thanks" To Fiona Lewis, who steadfastly carries out the role of Hut Bookings Officer both efficiently and without portfolio!  It is sad to hear that recently she received verbal abuse from a non-member who called uninvited at her home, when he demanded some cave keys from her.  We are unable to identify this person who I feel is in need of some practical advice!

Both Vince Simmonds and Bob Smith have been energetic in their roles as joint "Hut Wardens". Rich Long has been active as Caving Secretary, and Roz Bateman has worked hard in chasing-up late payers and bringing out another Members Handbook.  I shall not steal her thunder in talking about membership, except to say that it is heart warming to see a regular amount of new, and young members coming into the club.  Many of these are being introduced as a direct result of Tony Jarratt and his stalwart digging activities.

The Committee hope to make a start in 2000 / 2001 on the proposed extension to the Belfry as a start in construction must be made under granted planning permissions within a five year period.

As I seem to constantly bleat, Please, please remember it is your Club try to do your bit however small that may be, this ensures that BEC continues to flourish in a shrinking Caving world.

The BEC is I feel in a healthy and strong position, in this it's 65th Year, I am sure it would make its' original founders pleased to see it thriving and keeping true to its' traditions.

Nigel  Taylor
Member 772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club, 1999/2000
Tuesday 5th September 2000.