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: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Mike Alderton
Hut Engineer: Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
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.

First an apology to the bright eyed who spotted that there wasn't an article about Veb by Tony Setterington.  I apologise to Tony for not putting same in.

I should like to thank all those stalwart members who have sent in articles, pictures and other material. I would like to apologise once again for all the lost credits to pictures, articles not published and so on. Your magazine is to be edited by a much more active caver than myself, Adrian Hole, who will doubtless put his own stamp on the thing.  He will still need stuff from you so, keep on sending it in.  If you want to e-mail it to me, I have agreed to pass on any bits.

See you in the pub, Martin

I received a letter of commendation from a member with regard to the last year's secretary's report. I have transcribed it and include it here.

Dear Martin,

As the last of the "Original Five" who founded the B.E.C.  I would like to endorse Nigel's comment at the end of his report in BB 511.  It was never anticipated that, in those early days, the fledgling B.E.C. would become one of the countries leading Speleo organisations.  I feel justly proud to have been associated with the club for so long.

Keep up the good work.  All the best to all members. Harry Stanbury (No 1)


A picture of this year's Priddy Bonfire for all of those who missed it!


Vale: Simon Knight

On the 5th of October a large crowd of relatives, friends, musicians and cavers gathered at the Hunters' to celebrate the life of this superb melodeon player, shove ha'penny expert and long time caving song exponent. Simon was a staunch Mendip Caving Group member in the 60s and 70s and I am sure would have been very satisfied with his "send off" and the amount of ale consumed!

Yet another great Mendip character will no longer enliven "that fine old flagstoned bar" with his presence.  For a full obituary see the Pub notice board.


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink

by Tony Jarratt

Work continues on drilling and blasting along the immature rift at the end of the dig, following the route taken by the wet weather stream.  We are now some 10m from the base of the entrance shaft and are just inside the field south of the Pub.

The surface walls, lid and fixed ladders have been completed and a superb ceramic "Bertie" plaque sculpted by Ben Holden and generously donated to the dig - has been cemented in position inside the wall at the top of the shaft.

Our thanks once again to Roger Dors for his forbearance, interest in the project and unstinting generosity.


Report Of The Hon. Secretary 2000/2001

It probably ranks as one of the worst years in the history of the Bristol Exploration Club.  A sweeping statement some may think, however I refer to the direct and devastating effects of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) which has swept the United Kingdom this year.  FMD also had a major effect on both the Club as well as the financial security of several members.  It further prevented any of the active caving element from getting underground on Mendip from February until June, and at the time of writing, "Swildons Hole" still remains closed.

To show a responsible attitude to local Landowners - upon whom Mendip cavers rely for goodwill and access permission - The Club Committee made a difficult decision to initially close the Belfry to all Guests on the 20th February, this was followed by Government action to close most footpaths on the 21st February.  The Belfry was subsequently closed and sealed off to all but a few local residents who were to keep an eye on its security.

The Committee moved all monthly meetings to the Hunters Lodge, and the Club should be grateful for Roger and Jackie's permission to hold several meetings there.

The closure was reviewed on a fortnightly basis, with much advice sought from both locals, Langford House Vet College and the now defunct "M.A.F.F".  Whilst several members including Tony Jarratt at Bat Products, and Roger and Jackie Dors suffered an overnight drop-off in visitors, and thereby income, most members were left looking longingly around their caving bookshelf.

The Club also has suffered in two major ways, a massive downturn in Hut Bed nights and sadly a non existent income in new membership applications.  It may take several years for both factors to recuperate. Unusually, I have received virtually no email enquiries at all this year, and, it is the first year ever that I have not received any BEC membership enquiries by letter.

I suspect that partly this is explained by the existence of the excellent BEC Web-site produced by Greg Brock and his team.  I imagine that this has caused much interest amongst prospective members, and answers most of their queries.  I feel the club owes Greg a big vote of thanks for his work online.

The Closure of the Belfry, also has meant that little or no maintenance works or working weekends could be held at the site, this must sadly be the first time in many years.

Yet again, the BEC also owes a great big "Vote of Thanks" To Fiona Sandford (Nee Lewis) who steadfastly and efficiently carries out the role of Hut Bookings Officer, but now at last is deservedly on the Committee!  Again as last year, but more restricted by the "FMD" Both Vince Simmonds and Bob Smith have been energetic in their roles as joint Hut Wardens, and Roz Bateman has worked hard in chasing-up late payers and bringing out another Members Handbook

Those of you who attended the Annual Dinner in October will recall one of the few Highlights of the Year, when it gave me great pleasure to present on behalf of the BEC, Honorary Life Membership to Tony Jarratt.  He also has had further success this year in the discovery of several hundred feet of passage, primarily at one of his two digging sites at Stock Hill Woods.

The FMD prevented the Committees stated intention last year 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.  It is hoped that this will be very much on the cards in the year ahead- 2001/2001.

Despite the ravages of "FMD", The BEC remains united in a healthy position, in this it's 66th Year, but please support as many Club fund raising events as you can, in order that we can revitalise our finances, and strengthen our membership with new members in the year ahead.

Nigel Taylor
Member 772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club, 2000/2001
Sunday 19th August 2001.


Editors report (not given at the AGM) 2000/01

Thanks once again to all who have contributed and have enabled the magazine to go to press when there might otherwise have been a shortage of material; please keep articles coming in for the new Editor (see address on front of cover).   I shall still be around and about on Mendip and happy to accept articles which I shall pass on to the new Editor.  See you at the Hunters? 


Treasurers Report 2000 /20001

This has been a very unusual year for this club mainly due to foot and mouth disease forcing people to make very difficult choices regarding caving, climbing, walking etc. I feel that all B E C members have managed remarkably well to keep the peace with local farmers and not get into conflict with their fellow club members.  Financially we "the committee" have tried to keep expenditure down to a minimum this was agreed earlier on when foot and mouth was just beginning to look like being an epidemic.  The fact that we now do not have to pay rates.  (Mega thanks to Blitz the outgoing treasurer) has helped tremendously.  Also we have received a modest income both from members and guests who have stayed at the shed in the periods when it was open.  These factors combined with a membership who have paid their dues and stayed loyal to the club have all combined to ensure that this financial year will not be a loss.  Whilst I do not have a final figure at the moment of writing, the annual accounts will show a strike even / modest profit result.  All the committee members are looking forward to a healthy year 2002

With the club moving on financially and actively, I will do my utmost to improve the financial base of the club and build up both the Cuthbert’s Account and the Ian Dear Memorial fund. I wish to take this opportunity to thank Blitz for his help this year especially with the phone bills - also Vince and Roz who have kept excellent records thus making my task very easy.  Finally, my floating assistant Hilary who has sifted through all the various bills and statements in my absence.

Mike and Hilary Wilson


Cave Diving Adventures in the Dordogne.

By Greg Brock

After joining the CDG Foot & Mouth on Mendip prevented any diving training taking place so weekends were spent cave diving at Dan-Yr-Ogof and other sites still open in Wales.  It was then that Martin Groves (SWCC) was planning a trip to the Dordogne region of France.  When asked I immediately said yes to the chance of going cave diving in one of the world's best regions for such a sport.  All I had to do now was beg and borrow as much equipment as people would let me have but most importantly obtain some vague diving skills.  Thanks must go to Sean Parker (BEC/CDG) for helping me out on both these very important points.

The few weekends left before we departed for France were spent with Martin and Krisha at open water sites across the country, namely Stoney Cove, practising with bigger cylinders and buoyancy control.

The date soon arrived and we were soon heading off to France in a car rather overloaded with diving kit. The journey went smoothly and we eventually arrived to excellent weather, which was to continue for the rest of the week.

The first days diving was at the Trou Madame, which didn't quite go as planned, as like most of the things I do.  High water levels meant the lakes/airbells between the sumps had flooded.  If only I had known this before I started the dive. 800m of diving later I still hadn't surfaced and had reached thirds on both cylinders so decided to turn back. After a 71 minute dive Martin was very relieved to see my exhaust bubbles as I exited the cave.  By far the longest dive I had ever done but at least I was in excellent surroundings.

A more gentle day was had the day after.  The Fontaine du Truffe was embarked upon and excellent visibility was had.  Martin and I dived to the end of sump 3 after noticing a pressurised airbell at -6m depth.  After a relaxing tourist dive in the Truffe it was clear this wasn't going to last for long and the next day we had an adventurous day in a rather intimidating place, the Emergence Du Ressel.  We dived here with 2 x l5Ltr and 1 x I2Ltr cylinders.  We dropped the 12Ltr stage tank at the start of the loop (150m from base) and continued to the top of the outstanding 50m shaft with twin 15's.  We then completed the loop by going out on the shallow route, I was just hitting 1/3s on the 15's as I reached my stage tank!!!  Martin indicated we should look for the airbell, off the deep route, but I was not convinced as I was becoming over powered by the size of this place (boulders similar to the Time Machine in Darren) so we headed out rather relieved to see daylight and air.  Later that week we returned, laid a line off the main route and located the airbell.

Other dives included a 600m dive at -20m in the Source de Landenouse, after kitting up in the water in the bottom of a well 10m down.  We also had to squeeze in some caving while here, unfortunately the Goufrre L'oule was chosen.  The 1km walk down the side of the valley with diving kit proved extremely hardwork. After so many hours of caving / diving we then had the task of walking back up the valley with cylinders, wetsuits, caving kit, SRT & rigging kit, bolting kit as well as all the other bits of diving stuff needed.  Once back at the car we were very dehydrated and tired.

An excellent week was had overall, with lots of new skills learnt and experienced gained.  A bit of a jump from using single sets down Swildons as was the case a couple of months ago.


Caving in Crete by Emma Porter

Crete has a very agreeable Mediterranean climate with a flourishing agricultural economy, several thriving towns and a wealth of history.  It is the largest of the Greek islands with the majority of Crete being limestone and hosting about 3000 caves. There are three distinct mountain ranges, in the west is the Lefka Ori (or the White Mountains) in the central region is the highest peak in Crete, Psiloritis (or Mount Ida) at 2456m situated in the Idhi Ori and to the east, Dikti Ori (or Lassithi Mountains).

Crete can be a fairly cheap holiday, particularly if you choose a package holiday rather than just a flight. Mike Clayton and myself went out there for a week in mid October 2000 with big plans to explore the mountainous limestone terrain.  We flew from Manchester to Heraklion and had pre-booked a hire car (which are notoriously expensive, insurance excludes the underside and tyres) and to our horror, we were faced yet again with those two dreaded words 'petrol strike' - suddenly, all our plans had gone to pot!

We had carefully chosen our base (within the package holiday restrictions) on the north coast of the island between the White Mountains and the Psiloritis massif so that we had easy access to both mountain ranges.  Driving to our base of Rethimnon, which sprawls for miles, we were constantly watching the petrol gauge. We had just half a tank of petrol, every petrol station we passed had redundant pumps and we had only just left a petrol crisis at home!

Sunday was our first full day and in order to conserve the little petrol we had, we made a fairly late start and opted to take a taxi from the centre of Rethimnon, heading to some nearby caves.  We suffered first hand experience of the Cretan driving (it has one of the highest accident rates in Europe) as our taxi driver dashed through winding country lanes so that we could reach out destination, Kournas Cave.  We got out the taxi, sorted our belongings out and as the driver disappeared into the distance we realised that our first caving destination was five kilometres from Kournas Lake, the tourist spot we had just arrived at!

Not to be defeated, we headed up the hillside in the midday sun and after a fair uphill trek, the map indicated that the cave should be on our right.  We continued heading up, unable to see it and arrived at a bar which had a large sign outside which read 'The famous deep cave of Kournas'.  We immediately went inside and attempted to find out where the cave was, but the woman in there spoke no English and proudly produced cave photographs for us to see.  In the end, we thought we would try and find it ourselves and set off using the map we had. About ten minutes later, we heard the same woman shouting at us and waving her arms.  Not understanding a word, we started heading back and two tourists who had been drinking in the bar met us.  Speaking in broken English, they explained that we had to pay the equivalent of £1 to enter and that the lady's husband would take us into the cave.  Her husband appeared and on seeing our helmets, nodded and said 'speleo'.  We were led down a rickety wooden ladder, descended an easy climb during which I received a lot of unwanted attention.  Every foothold I took down, the heavily perspiring Cretan man had his hands all over my legs - a problem women travellers are warned about. Fortunately, he left us once down the climb to explore what was only a large chamber with a few old stal.  We had a quick look around and conscious of the time, we headed on out with what was to be an epic walk.

We walked from village to village, enjoying the sun and the scenery but not covering any substantial distance on the map.  Four o'clock came and went, then 5, then 6 and still we were walking.  As we passed a sign with Rethimnon 20km, there was only one thing for it, to hitch.  But of course, we saw very few vehicles and the ones we saw were either full of people or sheep and did not stop.  We were becoming very demoralised and were wondering what we could do for the night when a car stopped and a big, friendly German got out, who spoke English and offered us a lift and yes, he was going to our town!  He left us on the very outskirts of our destination and we hobbled our way back along the 4km of coastline to our accommodation.

The next day, there was no rest for our feet.  We left our accommodation at 6am as we had pre-booked a coach trip costing about £20 to take us to the most popular destination in Crete, the Samaria Gorge.  The gorge begins in the Omalos plateau which nestles in the Lefka Ori ( White Mountains) and it is in this area that the French have discovered deep caves, one being over 1000m in depth.

It was extremely cold when we arrived at Omalos, we had breakfast and the coach took us to the start of the 18km gorge which is the longest in Europe.  The walk starts zig zagging down, plunging 1000m in the first 2km.  The abandoned village of Samaria lies about halfway along the walk, a ghost town now as its inhabitants were relocated when the Samaria Gorge National Park was established in 1962.  The path levels, the walls of the gorge close in, passing a huge area strewn in cairns, occasionally crossing the stream until the Iron Gates are reached where two rock walls rise sheer for a thousand feet. Once through this the gates widen, the valley broadens and you arrive in the village of Ayia Roumeli for a cold beer and to cool your feet in the sea.  Every hour or so, a ferry arrives at the village to take the tourists to their waiting coaches at Hori Sfakion.

On the Tuesday, we opted for a lazy day deciding to look for petrol and Gerani Spilia, finding neither.  The cave of Gerani is sign posted in the village of the same name supposedly near the bridge on the main road. Like many of the caves here, it has been a place for archaeological finds with local cavers exploring caves searching for bones or Minoan artefacts.

As there was still no petrol to be found by Wednesday and the White Mountains were just too far away to chance, we were up at 5.30am, heading for the closest mountain range, Idhi Ori which contains the highest peak in Crete. We had come prepared for staying out in the mountains with a tent and sleeping bags (but unfortunately a brand new petrol stove!) and our destination was Psiloritis taking in one or two caves on the way if we could.  We started from the village of Kamares which like a lot of Cretan villages is very traditional, with all the women we saw dressed in black and the most popular mode of transport being the donkey.

We followed what started off as a well signposted route (the signs looking like they were bus stops) and red paint marking the path.  The scenery was fantastic as we ascended up the limestone.  The side of the mountain range we were using, was reported in a SUSS expedition report to be 'almost devoid of caves except for the known showcave Kamares'.  We too saw no other caves.  As we reached the plateau and the shepherds' cottages of Alm Kotila our map did not seem to coincide with what we saw.  Guidebooks warn of the inaccuracy of maps and as Geoff Newton states in his article this is due to the fact that 'Good scale maps are considered to have a security value by the Greeks who are still nervous that the Turks or Libyans will invade'. This was no help to us.

We spent about two hours wandering on the plateau between the rough dry stone walled mitatos or shepherds' huts trying to establish the way on.  We had seen no one all day and almost on the brink of turning around and heading back down, we met an old shepherd.  With none of us understanding the other's language, we eventually determined which way the mountain was by gesturing and drawing in the dusty ground.

We reached the summit at about 7.30pm just as night was drawing in.  On the summit is a small chapel called Timios Stavros (which is the local name for the peak).  We did not stay long, it was quite cold and we needed to lose as much height as possible. We headed down in the moonlight for as long as we could before switching to electric light.  We backtracked our route on the GPS, passing the points we had inputted in.  We passed one of our potential bivy sites but chose to aim for the second which was lower down still.  We put our little mountain tent up in the shadow of a huge rock and what seemed to be a goat or sheep hangout.  All night, we could hear gnawings, and I convinced myself, that we would wake up with no tent left!

After a restless night, we rose again at 5.30am, rationing our water out as we had passed only one watering spot.  As we descended the peaceful mountainside, we passed the shepherd and his three dogs once more.  On the way down, we diverted to Kameres Cave which the SUSS report described as 'a huge boulder ramp followed by two chambers with all ways on blocked'.  Of apparent archaeological significance due to a huge cache of elaborate pottery being discovered, from a speleological point of view, it was not worth the hour or so lost in the mist and the diversion.

We arrived back in the village of Kameres, with aching feet and that wonderful exhausted feeling.  On our journey back, I left Mike in the car whilst I aimed to explore a large gash in the landscape not far off the road.  However, my journey was cut short as I met a drunk Cretan man and his donkey. He had introduced himself to Mike and came up to me and grabbed me by the face and kissed me on my cheeks three times.  As he attempted to do this again, I jumped in the car and shouted to Mike to 'go' as I very angrily fought him off my legs trying to shut the car door.  This was the only aspect of Crete I did not like - the so called 'liberated' image the local men have of Western women.

During our drive back on the Thursday evening, we managed to obtain that scarce commodity, petrol.  As it was our last day, there was only one thing for it but to see how many showcaves we could cram in during the day. The first one we headed for was Melidoni Cave, near Perama.  We followed the track up to some impressive gates and walked up to the buildings.  We paid a small entrance fee, were given a leaflet and left to our devices.  The entrance is past a small white church and in a depression.  This cave is home of the mythical bronze guard of Crete, Talo but is more remembered for one of the most horrific atrocities in the struggle for Cretan independence.  In 1824, 370 local inhabitants mainly women and children, took refuge in the cave from the advancing army.  The army demanded that they come out and when they did not, an attempt was made to suffocate them by blocking the cave entrance.  As this did not work, they piled combustible materials in the entrance and set them alight, asphyxiating all. Inside the cave is a tomb to commemorate the dead.

Our next destination was Sfendoni Cave which was only in its third season of opening and a lot of work had gone into making a raised platform to walk around the cave and to be able to see as much as possible.  Like many other caves, it is of archaeological significance with many skeletons discovered, in particular one of a young boy.  We spoke to the guide afterwards, asking him about other nearby caves, chatting about our different attitudes to caving and he found it extremely amusing when I referred to caving as a 'sport'.

In the afternoon, we headed to Hania and to the Katholiko Monastery aiming for the Katholikou and Gouverneto Caves.  The Rough Guide states that 'The few visitors here and the stark surroundings, help to give a real sense of isolation that the remaining monks must face for most of the year'.  With this description in mind, we were extremely surprised to see hordes of people bumbling around dressed in their Sunday best suits and black dresses. We left the monastery as we followed the path down leading to the craggy shores, hoping to escape the crowds.  Our hopes did not last long as also heading in our direction were the crowds, from babies to the elderly.  We headed for the cave in which St John the Hermit was said to have lived and died and so did the crowds.  We wandered bewilderedly into the cave which was lit with candles and heavily scented with incense, passing a white altar.

Mystified, we headed further down near the ruins of the Katholiko Monastery, following a parade of people.  We followed them into another cave, each had a candle and were struggling up and down climbs between stals in their black dresses or suits, their posh shoes, the very old and the very young.  It took us about 40 minutes to reach the end of the cave due to the sheer number of people in there.  At the end of the cave, prayers were being chanted and each person who had just arrived would kneel down and kiss a picture of the Virgin Mary.  We did not stay long, not wanting to impose.  Once outside, we tried to find out what was going on, but no one spoke English.  We can only guess that it was the saint's day Anna Petrocheilou refers to in her book.

That incredibly bizarre caving trip signified the end of our holiday which did not go quite according to plan but was extremely enjoyable.  One piece of advice, don't go there during a petrol strike!

A big thanks must go to Don Mellor and Ric Halliwell for finding us so much information.


Books: FISHER, John and Garvey, Geoff 1995 Crete - the Rough Guide

PETROCHEILOU Anna The Greek Caves 1984

WILSON, Lorraine Crete - The White Mountains 2000 Cicerone

Journals: FAULKNER, Trevor March 1988 Kera Spiliotsa, Vryses W Crete The Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin Second Series Vo15 No 4

FELL, John Western Crete - Omalos to Askifou High Magazine October 1999

GRAHAM Nigel Crete 1991 - or how not to go caving in karst country Craven Pothole Club Record No 25 January 1992

GRUNDY Steve, Sheffield University Speleological Society Expedition to Crete BCRA Bulletin Caves and Caving No 15 (February) 1982

HITCHEN, David May Sheffield University Speleological Society Central Crete Expedition BCRA Bulletin Caves and Caving No 28 1985

JARRATT Tony The BEC Get Everywhere - Crete The Journal of the Bristol Exploration Club Belfry Bulletin Vol 39 No 6 (No 432) December 1985

JEFFREYS Alan L Caving in Crete The Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin Vo15 No3 (March 1973)

NEWTON Geoff Speleological Reconnaissance in Eastern Crete Part One Wessex Cave Club Journal Vol 21 (No 232) February 1992

NEWTON Geoff Speleological Reconnaissance in Eastern Crete Part Two Wessex Cave Club Vol 21 (No 233) April1992

OLDHAM JEA Melidoni Cave The British Caver Vol 59 July 1972

WEBSTER Martin Omalos Cave Journal of the Bristol Exploration Club Belfry Bulletin Vol XXVI No 2 (No 292) February 1972

WHALLEY, JC 1979 Wanderings in Crete Journal of the Craven Pothole Club Vol 6 No1

WORTHINGTON Steve SUSS Expedition to Crete 1981 SUSS Journal Vo13 No 2

Expedition Speleologique en Crete Spilia 94 Groupe Speleologique Scientifique et Sportif

Speleologique en Crete Spilia 92 Groupe Speleo Scientifique et Sportif

Visite dans l' antre du Minotaure ... Speleo No 28 October -December 1997

Maps: Freytag and Berndt Crete Hiking Map 1 :50 000

Harms IC Verlag Crete Touring Map (Western and Eastern) 1: 100 000

A copy of this article has appeared in the Craven Record.

Emma Porter 2001

Emma Porter at the Entrance to Katho/icos Cave

Massive stalactite formation in Kournas Cave


Going to the Caves!

By Vince Simmonds.

2nd to 9th July 2001

Andy and Ange Cave have been settled into their home in Rigal, about 1 km from the Gouffre de Padirac, for nearly 2 years and we decided it was about time that we visited them.

Caught an early ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre and, on a very hot day had a very leisurely drive south arriving at the Caves house at 01:30 the following morning. Andy and Ange greeted us with some very welcome cold beers and food.  The following day was a do-diddley day although in the late afternoon we strolled down to the local open-air pool for a dip.

The next day Ange volunteered to look after Callum so that Andy, Roz and myself could go caving. This was to be a gentle trip to prepare for a longer trip later in the week.

Grotte du Jonauille (Causse de Correze. north of Cressensac)

Jonquille - from Narcissus jonquil/a, a bulbous plant with small clusters of yellow flowers.   A difficult cave to find without local knowledge, the entrance is a manhole cover out in scrub oak woodland, luckily Andy had been here before.

A narrow drop lined with oil-drums leads to the restricted top of a 35m pitch, which opened up after about 5m and drops into a dry fossil passage.  Up-dip, leads to the loose, original entrance and has some fairly decent formations, if a little mucky.  Down-dip the passage continued over some large gour pools, passing lots of black-stained flowstones and formations before a 3m climb down to an active stream passage.  Downstream was immediately sumped, the way on is upstream.  Initially progress is made by traversing the stream past some rather deep pools and fast flowing water for about 200m, eventually the passage shape becomes more elliptical with the stream flowing gently past sand and pebble banks - very mellow!  The stream length is approximately 1 km and the return is by the same route, the trip lasted a steady 4 hours.

That evening we all decided to go down the road to a local restaurant to eat.  As we were enjoying our meal it started to rain - very hard! The owners lent us a table umbrella to get back to Andy and Ange's place, the rain continued through the night and through the tent, in fifteen hours 250mm of rain fell.  The next day we went over to the Gouffre de Padirac, which was now closed, peering over the edge of the 10m chasm the water could be seen, swirling around and disappearing like water down an enormous plughole, down the steps that lead into the cave.  The extreme water conditions meant that our caving plans were binned and the day was spent diverting streams of water away from the house.

By the next day the rain was more constant drizzle, Andy and Ange kindly looked after Callum so Roz and myself could go caving.

Grotte du Fennett (Assier - Lot) 563.68(x) 263.04(v) Series Bleue 2237 O

Situated in a doline just a short walk down a track off the road and with a map not difficult to find. A low entrance leads almost immediately to a walking size fossil passage.  After a short distance a small climb up over some flowstone leads to a 10m drop over a large calcited flow into a decorated chamber (the lead up to the 10m drop is quite slippery so a traverse line from the top of the climb is a good idea).  From the chamber another 10m drop leads into a large decorated chamber with a calcited, bouldery floor with a couple of digs.  Halfway back up the 10m drop a climb around the chamber wall leads to a continuation of the passage which unfortunately was rather short (take care-muddy and slippery on the traverse around the wall).

Roz and I then went in search of a sink marked on the map Perte D' Abois 564.910(x) 263.900(y) which turned out to be a short walking size entrance with muddy walls and a fair amount of debris and closed down after about 10m.  There is a river cave just a couple of fields away, which we did not look for, where the water from here re-appears.

As a consequence of all the flooding a farmer just along the road from the Caves reported losing a horse in a hole that had opened up in his field and which took a lot of water. Local cavers were soon on the scene and further investigation and some digging revealed space amongst rocks and a stream could be heard and the farmer was quite happy for them to continue digging.

We left the Caves and made our way north but made a detour to look at some grottes marked on the map near to Saumur in the Loire valley, and of course the weather had improved. We found a campsite next to the Loire river at Montsoreau and I ventured off in search of grottes while Roz was tending to Callum.  These grottes turned out to be wine cellars tunnelled into the valley walls and were rather impressive.  There were several old horse-carts at various places in the tunnels and some evidence of major collapses.  Along the front small houses were carved into the stone and were still inhabited although some of them were being held up by lots of pinning - good views of the river though!  The following morning we all returned to have a couple of hours wandering around before setting off to the ferry port at Caen.

Top:  The Wine Cellars, Montsoreau, near Saumir, Loire valley
Bottom L and R:  The entrance to Jonquille


Stock's House Shaft - The Breakthrough and Latest Developments

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BBs nos. 502, 504 - 511.

On the 15th of July 55 more loads were hauled out on a double pulley system by "human winch" Mike Willet.  Next day saw "Mad" Phil Rowsell and visiting novice Canadian caver Jeff Harding, on his second ever trip (!) digging at the end following a pumping session. Phil was tentatively poking at the horrendous choke in Rake Chamber when the bar suddenly burst through into open space. Jeff was despatched to summon the writer from the surface where he was sunbathing, spoil dumping and generator guarding.  After about half an hour of clearing spoil and propping up the worst boulders he was magnanimously allowed to be first into the thirty feet or so of walking sized level which could be seen ahead while the others stood by in case of collapse.

A rapid but extremely careful crawl and slide down a wedged boulder pile was made into the level where another, partly silt filled tunnel was immediately found on the LH side (Silt Level).  Above the entrance to this passage an area of Old Men’s hand picking was noticed in the roof of a lead vein crossing the level at right angles possible evidence of earlier workings intercepted by the drainage level.  These are the first recognisable signs of ore mining found so far. He then went to the first bend in the passage before retreating to allow the others some fun - but not before the well chilled Champagne, kept underground for over a year, was fervently polished off!

Phil and Jeff explored a further two hundred feet or so of atrociously muddy, partly silt filled levels, leaving at least four ways on for the Wednesday night team.  This included the main Downstream Level which regained a reasonable height and bored off round a comer to regions unknown.  Well chuffed, our heroes spent the rest of the day imbibing suitable alcoholic beverages.

A rough survey trip on the 17th saw 227.54 feet (69.35m) mapped from the end of "Exploration Level" back to the breakthrough point after Phil had dug through a silt choke c.40 feet before the end.  This level stops abruptly at a solid wall with descending shothole sections from the Old Men’s final gunpowder charge.  It was named partly to honour the B.E.C. but mainly as it appears to be an exploratory level driven forward from the drainage adit to test the lead veins at depth. The other possibility is that, having made a drainage tunnel, this level was being pursued towards Broad Rake in order to de-water the rich and flooded workings there.  Unfortunately no graffiti or artefacts were found but these may be buried in the ubiquitous mud.

Wednesday 18th saw the long hoped for night of the "Big Push" with ten diggers turning up, doing a brief bit of bag hauling in the Downstream Level then heading excitedly into the unknown.  Various injuries and afflictions such as a badly cut foot, sore back, the squits and general mental instability were not to stop these men but later resulted in the naming of the extension!

At the Exploration Level junction a presumed collapsed shaft meant that a squeeze in the muddy streamway was necessary and the previous day it had been enlarged to Chris Castle size. Just beyond it a crawl over fallen boulders gained the way on and here Phil spotted a bent iron bar buried in the rubble.  This is the handle of a kibble or bucket used to haul in the shaft and was photographed in situ.  The kibble itself may be of wood or iron and will be carefully excavated and removed in the future.

Some thirty feet further the level split - straight ahead, after twenty feet another shothole riddled blank wall, or forefield, showed where the Old Men had again abandoned their drive.  To the left about fifteen feet of level ended in a heavily silted sink with assorted bits of inwashed wood blocking a view into a partly flooded and immature natural stream way below.  Amongst the wood an iron bound rectangular section was revealed as one side of a small skip or tub.  It was cleaned off, photographed and carefully moved to a safe place to allow the passage to be examined.  It is too fragile to recover and will be left underground.  In the walls and ceiling nearby a distinct dolomitic conglomerate / limestone boundary was noted.

The very narrow streamway in dol. cong appears to have been followed from the surface by the Old Men who eventually ran out of money or enthusiasm.  It now seems likely that these are the 1774 workings of the Bristol adventurers, messrs Underwood, Riddle and Shapland - with possible later extensions - and have no connection with the century earlier adits of Thomas Bushell.  This leaves the question of just where is Bushell's adit and cave? After almost exactly five years of regular digging in Five Buddies and Stock's House we can at least state where it is not!

The breakthrough team after consuming the cooled Champagne

Meanwhile Pete, investigating Exploration Level and various side passages, unearthed a rusted iron object which was later identified as a wedge.

A tourist trip on the 22nd saw Nigel Bums photographing the workings and artefacts.  The kibble handle was further exposed and the "skip" measured.  Pat Cronin dug into a c.30ft length of hand-picked vein workings opposite Silt Level which are assumed to pre-date the adit.  Silt Level itself was the focus of attention next day when Phil, Alex and the writer spent three disgustingly muddy hours dragging rocks and tailings from its western and southern branches.  The first became apparently blind after c.15ft and the second ended in a collapse of clay and boulders which, if dug further, may provide a by-pass to the breakthrough choke.  The draught issuing from this level was found to come from a narrow and waterworn natural rift in the ceiling which may have some connection with the tiny, draughting natural passages in the adjacent Five Buddies Sink.  The southern branch was again dug, by the Newcastle University lads, on the 30th July while the writer moled his way towards the same area from the west side of Rake Chamber, just before the breakthrough point.

The Morwellham Quay Wheelbarrow – photo A. Jarratt

Meanwhile, on the 25th, Prew and some of the redundant N.H.A.S.A. digging team arrived to undertake a radio location exercise with Phil and Adrian dragging the loop transmitter underground while the Cornish and Clevedon contingents dragged full bags in the opposite direction.  Five separate points were located despite having to battle with the undergrowth and midge population.  A surface survey was later done to tie in these positions with the underground survey.

During the rest of the month further work was done in Rake Chamber and the Downstream Level where the floor was deepened.  Everything downstream of the shaft was resurveyed and lots of redundant digging gear was removed to the Belfry.  The kibble handle was disinterred and taken out for cleaning and measuring (see illustrations) leaving the supposed wooden bucket presumably still buried in the floor. It will be excavated once the immediate area is made safe but this may not be for some time.  Some work was also done below the Cornish Shaft in Five Buddies Sink.

The Geevor Mine Wheelbarrow Pic. A. Livingstone

Ben, Bob and the writer took the opportunity to visit Morwellham Quay industrial museum near Tavistock to examine and photograph the miners' wheelbarrow which was found to differ little from our reconstruction - mainly in the angle of the sideboards (see photographs).

Alex and family also visited Geevor Mine museum in Cornwall where yet another original wheelbarrow was examined and photographed.  This differs slightly from our reconstruction and appears to have been used in the surface dressing operations.

Winching recommenced on August 27th but only 32 bags were hauled out when operations were curtailed by problems with the rope snagging in the machinery.  The reconstructed wheelbarrow was lowered down the shaft for future experimentation which briefly occurred two days later when a few bags and rocks were moved with it.  It fitted well in the Downstream Level and three full bags was found to be a reasonable weight to move if loaded towards the front.  It was found that if a 'barrow had been used in these workings it would have been shorter than our reconstruction.  This trip also saw the collapsed boulders in Pipe Aven, Upstream Level banged.  Much of the resulting debris was removed with the barrow on the 3rd of September when access was once more regained to the further reaches of the Upstream Level where little change had occurred over the last few months.  Another 79 loads were winched out on September 5th when a new static rope donated by Lyon Equipment was rigged in the shaft and on the 10th another charge was fired on fallen boulders as well as further clearing of the Downstream Level.  Two days later the spoil was cleared from the last, excellent bang and many full bags were moved from both Up and Downstream Levels to the shaft.  A Wessex team took several photos for the forthcoming BCRA Conference.

The Treasury and Upstream Level were re-surveyed by Phil and the writer on the 14th when the "Rupert II" boulder at the end of the latter was blown up in a fit of vengeance. 65 bags were hauled out on the 19th of September and on the 30th, 4th and 15th of October the stubborn "Rupert II" was again banged - (told you it was a big bastard!).  An even larger boulder apparently floating in mid-air just beyond was also strategically bombed - twice.  Much general tidying up has been done throughout the workings in preparation for the wet season.

The 24th of October saw Mad Phil, Friendship and Andy Heath successfully making the connection between Rake Chamber and Silt Level so those working in the further reaches will feel safer in future. Restoration operations are planned to continue over the winter months.



The handle is from a presumably iron-hooped wooden bucket (elm?).  The word "kibble" is derived from 16th century German. " ..... secondhand kibbles varied from 7d to 2/6d each at mines near Eyam in 1746." (J.H.Rieuwerts - Glossary of Derbyshire Lead Mining Terms).

This example was made from forged iron bar, flattened, pointed and perforated at the ends and bent from the horizontal at the 380mm point.  Unlike many contemporary kibbles there is no extra bend in the centre of the handle to prevent rope slippage.  It was obviously knocked up by the local (mine?) blacksmith for a specific purpose in these workings.  A nineteenth century kibble would probably have had a sheet iron bucket like the one used in Lamb Leer and now displayed in Wells Museum, and illustrated here. It is smaller than our example, with a sturdier handle 400mm wide by 365mm high and has the extra bend for rope location.  The bucket is made from four bent iron sheets and is 380mm in diameter by 370mm deep.

The square headed, square section iron nail was found in a stemple in the Exploration Level.

Pete's iron wedge was at first thought to be a "hack" or hammer/pick due to the shape but on cleaning there was found to be no hole for a wooden handle. It would have been used for hammering into cracks in the rock following blasting in order to clear the loose walls.

Additions to the Digging Team

Pat Cronin (Pegasus C.c.), Nigel Bums (P.C.C.), Jim Smart, Ewan Maxwell ( Newcastle .C.C.), Katie Livingstone ( Canada), Andy Shaw, Nick Mitchell, Phil Collett (S.M.C.C.), Ron Wyncoll, Tyrone "Bev" Bevan, Mark Friendship, Andy Heath (Cerberus S.S.).

Radio Location Team

Brian Prewer, Phil Hendy, John Miell, Brian Sneddon (N.H.A.S.A.).

Photographic Team

Mark Helmore (WCC), Vem Freeman (WCC), Mark "Bean" Easterling (WCC).

End view of reconstruction diagram of wooden skip


Dimensions of the reconstructed skip:  diagram by A. Jarratt


Tony Jarratt in Cripples Canyon examining the mud choked natural sink.  Photo “Mad Phil”

Looking upstream to the collapsing base of the blocked Kibble Shaft.  The kibble handle is at bottom left.  .  Photo “Mad Phil”

Trevor Hughes recovering the wooden skip.  Photo “Mad Phil”


A Commercial Cavers View

by your retiring Editor

I had been working freelance at the Charterhouse Centre, taking groups around the nature reserve and introducing young people to the local ecology.  The Head of Centre, John Baker, knew that I was a keen caver, and had asked if I would like to do my "cavers ticket."  I remember being in J.Rat's shop and posing the question to him, "What good would it do me?"  His reply, sensible and immediate was, "If you can earn money doing it, then do it!"  So shortly afterwards I enquired into how to go about registering with the NCA and started training in earnest.  Actually, I asked Butch and Sparrow, then logged my 25 years previous experience, and started accompanying groups down Goatchurch.  The first thing I learnt was that my experience as a teacher was very useful to me in how to talk to children of differing ages.  Put simply says it all - do not get too technical and assume they know nuffin (I blame the teachers you know).  This was certainly an important part of my training that I didn't get from a course.  After passing my technical and group training days, and with the experience logged at Charterhouse, I began as an officially approved LCLMA part 1.  It took 2½ years to get the paperwork through though!  Now don't go thinking that this is a passport to work, it is still possible to make a huge cock up taking adults or children caving and blow the whole thing.  Yes, it has been done before.  It's easy. Here's how!  Terrify the teachers, get them stuck in a squeeze, intimidate the kids or adults by spending 3 hours down Swildons etc, and you won't get much work. "Why not," you ask. Well, the basic employment in the area is a small number of companies, all of whom are in close touch with one another.  On any particular day during the season of work - April to October, if you are lounging around at home, the phone is likely to go, and it is (usually) someone DESPERATE for a caver.  Ah, you think, I can do as I want with the clients!  Well yes, but don't piss them off, frighten them, get them lost, wet or terrified or you won't get another call.  Now the easiest way to do all these things is to take the group on one of "your" trips.  Basically, if you are still having to do trips for yourself whilst with clients, forget about being a cave leader.  Also, forget about doing a different cave, it's nearly always the same one- Goatthingy. Wear on the inside of your boiler suit a large clear message as follows "it may be your thousandth trip - it's their first.  Don't louse it up for them!"  Bearing in mind these simple rules, I have probably done 1000 trips there, but every one has been different and I have learned something each time.  Here are some tips for aspiring cave leader LCLMA part 1.  (muggins)

1.                  Get to know Goatthingy well, and believe me, there are parts of the cave that are COMPLETELY unsuitable for novices unless very closely supervised.  There is a whole range of different variants to the basic trip, usually in the main entrance, down the Giants stairs, along the dig past Bloody Tight, round the Maze, down the mini stairs to the Boulder chamber via the Dining room etc.  It is rare to take primary groups down below the Coffin Lid, although one often encounters lost scout groups wandering around below this point looking for the way out.  Older groups and fit adults sometimes get as far as the drainpipe, but in reality, an excellent trip can be had without going down this "classic".  I am always amazed at the (poor) level of fitness of youth today (and not so youth).  Many of them seem to have no idea what power there is in their legs (or might be, in many cases).  Still, things can go wrong even on the simplest trip and it is always worth taking careful note of the physical well being of groups before they get to the cave. Asthma, wooden leg, half- wit etc.

2.                  The walk up to the cave is the usual sorter.  It is very easy to spot a FLUB (fat, lazy useless bastard) but not so easy to spot a blubber.  The flub is simply going to get stuck everywhere and have to be hauled out of one of the entrances in a state of lardiness, covered in slings, ropes, krabs and being pushed, pulled etc to remove them.  What is best described as "a hatpin job."  It's a shame no - one uses carbide lamps today, they ALWAYS effect a removal!  Not so the blubber!  These lose all ability to propel themselves once 5 metres into the Tradesman's and totally Xuck up the trip for all!  The blubber will lose all limb co-ordination and body control until you drag them to the Giant's stairs.  Usually once down these they miraculously recover and may even enjoy it.  Ignore all pleas from anyone who says they are claustrophobic, this is just plain ball tightening fear, blue funk or call it what you will.  Explain to the group it is normal for humans to fear the dark- survival in the deep unconscious mind of the pre-man - (some run close to this condition today) and you might get away with it, otherwise get them close to you and pretend your light won't work.

3.                  Adults are far worse than kids.  You only need one completely phased out adult to effect all the kids in a virus like manner - shoot them first or hit them with a rock and bury them just inside the entrance so you can use them next week as an exhibit.

4.                  NEVER offer to take "special needs groups" without at least one staff member per child, especially those naughty ones who are training for a course at HMP.  These ones invariably run away as the prospect of being lost/rescued appeals to their sick minds and they are just trying to Xuck you up.  Best policy here is again to bury them - a rock fall in the water chamber is probably the best spot, followed by a hasty retreat.  Tell the staff who blanked off the trip and who are waiting at the surface that you will have to call the rescue and they will go and get them for you rather than suffer the ignominy of a newspaper report.  (you won't get any more work after this, but you will feel good).

5.                  Final tip. Don't tell any of the cavers you drink with what you do to earn money.  Likelihood is that one of them will berate what you do since you are destroying caves etc.

Anyway, to continue, if at the end of 5 trips in a day down Goatthingy, you still fancy a caving trip at the weekend you are bloody fit or stupid or just plain caving mad and I cannot help you.

Now, although Goatthingy is sneered at and avoided by the elite of the clubs etc in the same way as no climbers ever do grades below E10 8c when they deign to talk at you, a surprising number of cavers DO NOT KNOW WHERE THE BLOODY ENTRANCE IS!!!  Worse, it is likely that many of them, having not been near the cave for years (or probably never, or struck it from their student log or had electroshock therapy to forget its presence) will not know where they are once in the entrance!  These same cavers are probably the ones who sneer mightily behind their pints when us commercial cavers enter the pub!  So, next time someone is called to do a rescue from the "smartie tube" or the "worm hole" or even worse "the cracks of doom", call the commercial caver!

There follows a series of pictures of the nether regions of Goatthingy, but where?  Answers next issue- thanks, Martin.

Somewhere in the roof of Goatchurch

Dropping into?

Emerging from a squeeze in?


Mammoth Cave National Park Airport - USA

I received an email recently regarding a proposal by business and Government to build a 4000 acre Airport and industrial park on top of the Mammoth Cave eco system.

For those who do not know the system [and I have never visited Kentucky] the Mammoth cave national park contains the world's most extensive cave system with approx 300 miles of known passages with probably more not found yet!  The lower system of passageways are still being formed by streams and rivers.

This huge system is already being threatened by river borne pollutants and the 50 species of cave creatures are also under threat.

Above ground, there is an extensive system of graded trails for hiking and walking and I presume that a fair number - if not all of these routes - will fall foul of the development. The underground guided tours are numerous and seem to cater for almost everyone, requirements even listing rest rooms on some routes.  These tours run from 50 minutes in length up to 6 hours for which you pay the princely sum of $35.00.  No doubt this includes the rest room!

I personally cannot believe that anyone in their right senses would even consider throwing away this natural resource, once lost never to return.  On a smaller scale imagine building an airport on the Mendip hills with all the accompanying infrastructure. ( Bristol? - Ed).  We can only hope that the population of Kentucky and the lobbyists manage to persuade the authorities to build on one of the alternative sites.

If anyone wishes to express their views on this subject they can email

Mike Wilson


New EEC Regulations On Climbing

As we all know due to the recent outbreak of foot and mouth caving has taken a big knock on effect due to the closures of most of the caves, so instead a lot of cavers have dusted off their rock boots and headed to any available open piece of rock. This act has increased the population now climbing to a level, which has attracted the attention of the Eurocrats. The upshot of this was a hastily formed subcommittee (who's expenses no doubt exceeded their budget) coming forward with a new regulation (section 42 subparagraph 6 of the safety in sports act) "All climbers undertaking a climb that is to exceed 6 metres on a gradient of greater than 1: 1.235 must now equip themselves with a parachute (BS 5926)".

This is due to be put forward to the European Parliament on 01/04/2002, anyone wishing to object to this ridiculous infringement of our personal freedom should write to their local MEP.  This is quite important as they might start to regulate caving next.

Dave Ball


Caving Vet Safely back from Peru

Article and photographs courtesy of The Wells Journal



In the News

Tony Jarratt in the news again, although despite the recent discovery of new passage, his "ultimate Goal" wasn't there!  Diggers are always welcome at any of the club digs. Contact the diggers at The Hunters' Lodge or call at Bat Products in Wells.


A still picture from a film being made by Andy Sparrow of the discovery of Fairy Caves. B.E.C. member (your Ed) was part of the "props" dressed here as an "Edwardian Caver"


Your members get everywhere!


Cartoons by Chas.


Well folks that's it for me. Any comments and articles to the new Editor please.  I have enjoyed producing the magazine although as any past Editor will know it isn't all easy.  The magazine is your magazine you go caving the members are out there and get this magazine.  It should reflect what you are doing. Please keep the articles coming especially the ones with photographs.  All the best for the coming year of "disease free caving"  Martin