The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Sean Howe
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineers: John Walsh, Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford
Floating Member: Bob Smith

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


Welcome.  The big news of the summer (a touch of deja vu here) is that Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink (currently Mendip's most extendable cave) has gone once again (from late July into the first week of August it has been extended on some five different occasions!)  Well decorated passage leads to archaeological remains and a sizeable pitch that not only accompanies the sump found last winter but lies somewhere beneath it.  From the base of this another dig leads to a deep sump pool and another 250ft. of large ascending rift passage.  With the new pitch in Thrupe Swallet (see article) and the continuing work in Sump Twelve in Swildon's looking extremely promising this could be one of the best years for Mendip caving for quite some time.  This is amply demonstrated by the fact that Tony Jarratt has provided two continuations to his first article in this BB and that Tony Audsley has so much to recount that he has divided his article into two parts.

Photography seems to be all the rage currently.  If H.L.I.S. is not (yet) the deepest cave on Mendip it is rapidly becoming one of the most photographed.  Given the limited space and the lack of colour in the BB some of the pictures in this edition (and many others for which there is no room) can now be viewed in colour on the websites below.  Estelle's (the former) includes photographs of the extensions in the Sink, whilst Sean's (the latter) includes the Sink, Eastwater and his trips to Thailand and Iceland with the Shepton:  

Finally, due to recent discoveries, a number of articles have been held over to make room.  Thanks to those who have sent them - they will appear in the Autumn BB, which should be out in September.


Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

Phil 'MadPhil' Rowsell, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Paul Brock and others have returned once again to Morton's Pot this spring and early summer.  Hauling systems have been improved, scaffolding installed, retaining walls built and blasting initiated in an attempt to drain the bottom of the dig. However, following the wet weather in late July the dig was still sumped in the first week of August. Considerable amounts of water had washed bags and conveyor belt matting down the now clean crawl below Morton's and with water still trickling in to A Drain Hole the whole shaft was flooded to within three or four foot of the hauling pulley. Even with further dry weather this will still take some time to clear.  (See brief article on page 31). 'MadPhil' and Alison Moody have also returned to their breakthrough beyond Tooting Broadway in the West End Series and Phil Short has dived the sumps in this vicinity - unfortunately without any great breakthrough. 'MadPhil' and Alison have also looked at the old dig at the bottom of Primrose Pot.

Hunters' Hole.

With exploration in H.L.I.S. revealing three large phreatic inlet tunnels joining together at the Drip Tray/Pewter Pot area it is obvious that Hunters' Hole is almost certainly part of this potentially enormous system.  Dear's Ideal has thus been restarted by John Walsh and team and will hopefully be the focus of attention over the winter months.  It will be rigged for SRT so is also an ideal place to get some practice in.

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.

With diving, climbing and digging going on in a number of areas (see numerous articles) thoughts have also turned to the possibility of siphoning or pumping the water from the flooded Drip Tray Sump down Pewter Pot and into the much lower new sump - hopefully this will also help to wash the filth from the Slops. Although of course it could make them even worse.

Swildon's Hole.

Sump 12 - following the application of a "bomb" to the unstable underwater slope beyond the now enlarged squeeze the ongoing flooded passage is wide open and safe.  A push is planned by Phil Short and his cronies soon.

Templeton Pot.

N.H.A.S.A., Axbridge and others are continuing work at this, the only cave dig visible from space! Don't fail to take stroll to this magnificent Mendip folly and gaze in awe at the machinery and the Himalaya-sized spoil heap!

Thrupe Swallet.

Work continues at the base of the new pitch (see article on page 15 and the continuation in the next BB).




Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Beyond Drip Tray Sump (Part I)

by Tony Jarratt

"There was something incredibly satisfying in digging a very deep hole.  It was uncomplicated.  You knew where you were with a hole in the ground.

 “Maskerade - Terry Pratchett

This year started well when on the 12th January Mark Ireland found that Drip Tray Sump had disappeared! Over 50 bags of clay, sand and rocks were hauled out but a week later the water was back so digging concentrated on the Cellar Dig, located just down dip of the breakthrough point into Happy Hour Highway.  A lot of rock has been removed from here with the help of bang and the route on downwards will need some more of the same.  In the meantime work is continuing at the "Sump" - weather permitting - which has once again dried up and is a less stressful site!  While your scribe was away gallivanting in Meghalaya, the enthusiastic team removed over 100 loads of spoil until on the ih March the pool returned - to dry out again on the 19th.  Another 80 or so bags carne out then and on the 24th.  Air conditions were good and the digging was easy, if a bit sticky.  An exploratory dig in the ceiling of the mud tube near the last breakthrough point has also been commenced (see below).  Paul Brock and Pete Hellier investigated the depths of Hunters' Hole in search of a connection dig but were put off by the potentially very long term prospects. John Walsh returned to his dig in Dear's Ideal and intends to pursue it further when he can get a three or four man Wednesday night team.

Drip Tray Sump on 22nd January 2003.  Photograph by Sean Howe.

60 bags were filled on the 26th of March when the rock tube being followed hit a solid rock wall sloping back towards the way in.  This gave us a good rock boundary to work from and we continued downwards through layers of sand and clay.  During the next ten days another 140 or so bags came out.  The up dip "inlet" coming into the end of the cave has also been partly excavated.  The two huge boulders in the middle of the dumping area have been relocated and the place is rapidly filling with spoil.  Another 120+ loads came out from the end during April when rumours of running water being heard below the floor were not confirmed.

It is thought that the water feeding Drip Tray Sump comes from the trickle in the Cellar Dig and from wet weather streams sinking near Southfield Farm.  This water may rise through the floor.  The submersible pump was taken down but has since been removed as the dig has become too deep to pump.

Another job done was the mending of the long, broken stalactite using Milliput epoxy putty. This seems to have generally worked well and even looks like calcite, though the angled tip needs straightening out!

An article by Dr. Andy Farrant in the D.B.S.S. newsletter, autumn 2002, pp 17-18 refers to H.L.I.S.:- “... a large relict phreatic passage about 2-3m high extending up and down dip. It is very reminiscent of N.H.A.S.A. Gallery in Manor Farm Swallet. ..”  The cave is developed within the Black Rock Limestone, replete with nice fossils including the coral Caninia just inside the entrance.  It trends south-south-east, downdip, parallel with the neighbouring Hunters' Hole.  It is currently heading towards Alfie's Hole, close to the Hunters' - Rookham road, but as yet there is no connection with either cave.  Quite why the passage is there is a mystery.  It clearly is very old, formed at a time when the local water table was above 250m O.D., and may be genetically associated with Hunters' Hole. The large phreatic scallops are rather vague and ambiguous but the water appears to have flowed down-dip.  It probably once functioned as a stream sink draining a once more extensive cover of Jurassic and Triassic strata, remnants of which can be seen a few hundred metres to the north-east in Chewton Warren. Similar other high level, phreatic cave remnants can be seen at Whitepit, Sandpit and Twin Titties Swallet, perhaps focusing on a palaeo-resurgence at Westbury-sub-Mendip. Here a large, sediment filled, phreatic cave exists at approximately the right elevation which is at least 780, 000 years old.  Only digging will prove this hypothesis!  The entrance streamway is genetically unconnected with the relict passage and following this may also prove fruitful."

The Inn-let Dig

Trevor and the writer have concentrated at this strongly and intermittently draughting site which intersects the "up-dip inlet dig" at a higher level, enabling this latter excavation be used as a spoil dump if necessary.  Digging and blasting through some 6 metres of calcited mud and boulders has revealed a boulder choked and well decorated passage heading back towards Happy Hour Highway.  Work here has finished and this dig, now surveyed, will probably be used as a temporary spoil dump for the Drip Tray Dig - our last hope at this end of the cave. (But read on!).

Drip Tray Sump

Now drained, hopefully (but doubtfully) permanently.  Digging has reached some 4-5 metres below the original sump level where an almost complete phreatic tube has been entered.  It is a metre wide with a solid, smooth rock floor and RH wall.  At least a half a metre of the left hand wall is also solid but there may be a sediment filled bedding plane above this. The passage is totally filled with superbly banded and multicoloured sediments (similar to those at the mud tube breakthrough above) and is running back almost under the main drag.  The sediments illustrate that the ancient cave waters once flowed this way.  The cave geomorphology here is difficult to understand but hopefully the concerted effort which is now underway to push this tube will soon yield a breakthrough and more information.  All assistance is welcome as we HAVE to clear this passage before the wet weather returns, pumping or bailing being out of the question.

Matthew Butcher (S.M C. C.) dizging in the dried out 'Sumo' on the 28t Photograph bv Sean Howe.

Additions to the digging team

Nick Hawkes, Estelle Sandford, Natalie Domini ( Southampton D.C.C.), Matthew Sibley, Adam Young, Chris Densham (Oxford.D.C.C.), Barry Weaver (Chelsea.S.S.), John Cooper (Chelsea.S.S.), Simon Brooks (Orpheus C.C./Grampian S.G.) and John Hanwell (W.C.C.).


Katie and Ian Livingston and Joanna Kelleher ( Canada).


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - of Drip Tray and Inn-let Digs - and Wondrous Discoveries! (Part II)

by Tony Jarratt

"Taking Swildon's as a feeder and St. Cuthbert's as a drip."

Tankard Hole Song

This article follows on from the one above.

With excavation of the Inn-let dig at a standstill work continued apace below the late but unlamented Drip Tray Sump where, to date, some 10m of roomy passage has been cleared of its sediment infill.  Several hundred bags of silt, fine gravel and clay have been laboriously hauled back to the dumping chamber at the end of Happy Hour Highway - now almost completely filled.  The excavated passage is of distinct phreatic origin with a solid rock floor and RH wall. The LH wall is solid rock in parts but much of its outline is obscured by laminated sediments which have been left in situ for future scientific study.  Several digging trips have been enlivened by the use of short wave radio or portable CD player to provide background music to take our minds off the brain numbing horrors of bag hauling.  At the time of writing this dig is flooded and, following a major breakthrough in the Inn-let dig (see below) will probably be temporarily abandoned. Surface work has seen redoubtable dig engineer Quackers installing a small access grid inside the large, now fixed grid and the application of black Hammerite to all the exposed metalwork and, unfortunately, a good part of the inside of the Bat Products Land Rover!

A study of MadPhil's survey revealed the Inn-let Dig to be heading NE from the SE trending main drag indicating that the issuing strong draught was coming from unexplored passage - possibly by-passing the Drip Tray Dig which runs parallel 5m below and down dip. A banging project was commenced to break up a massive choke of large calcited boulders in the ceiling - good for the adrenalin when it came to laying a charge!  Several tons of rocks were brought down with the aid of both detonating cord and gelignite charges - the final one being two sticks of gel tied to the end of a 1.5m long bamboo cane and delicately wedged between the "hanging deaths".  On Sunday 27th July Trev Hughes, fuelled by Butcombe, attacked the resulting rock pile with gusto while Mark Ireland, the writer and visiting Barnsley cavers Andy and Ernie shifted the spoil back and broke up the larger lumps.  A yell from the perilous working face summoned your scribe to gaze awestruck at the gaping hole where the ceiling choke used to be and at the stalactite studded and newly revealed ceiling some 3m further up!  Literally gambling with his life Trev then made a magnificent ascent of the 5m of tottering clay and boulders to gain access to this fine passage and was soon joined by the writer and Mark, leaving our guests temporarily below to safeguard our exit.  Upon emerging from the Inn-let climb we were greeted by a 5m wide, 3m high and 14m long phreatic passage ascending up-dip to a stunning, pink flowstone blockage with a beautifully decorated and sacrosanct tube above.  Down-dip this well decorated gallery ended immediately in a mud choke. Massive broken formations lying amongst the boulders on the floor testified to the extreme age of this passage, named The Barmaid's Bedroom by Trev to keep with our boozer theme. Phreatic roof pockets in a conspicuously different limestone bed to the passage walls, match those at the end of Happy Hour Highway and indicate that both passages are formed on the same horizon. After a quick look around we exchanged places with the stunned Barnsley boys (Ernie being on his first digging trip!) who were soon informed as to what lucky bastards they were.  Now both physically and mentally drained we retired slowly to the surface for celebratory refreshment and to inform Roger and Jacquie of developments.  Despite the grandeur of our discovery there was a certain amount of disappointment that the prophesied down-dip Drip Tray bypass was not there and great puzzlement as to the source of the howling draught.  All was to be astonishingly explained the following morning when the "Monday Club" diggers got their turn for glory ...

With intentions to tape off the stal. and tidy up the spoil Jeff Price, John Walsh, Vern Freeman (on his first visit - another lucky bastard) and the writer braved the hazardous climb up and had a good look around.  I doffed my oversuit and wellies to make a "hairy socks technique" climb up the terminal flowstone to check out a possible high level passage. This was merely an alcove. Meanwhile the others were taking photos and bashing stal. covered rocks blocking an opening below the flowstone and with visible passage beyond.  Eventually this was pushed into some 2530m of well decorated ascending bore passage to a stalactite grille with an open continuation beyond which was left for another team.  A 4m high stalagmite boss and cracked mud flooring added to the attractiveness of this superb gallery, now bearing the extended appellation of The Barmaids' Bedrooms.

The author climbing "sans wellies" in the new extension. Photograph Vern Freeman.

While your scribe was exploring up-dip John was ferreting in the boulder floor below the new breakthrough point.  He opened up a hole and casually tossed in a rock.  Several seconds later the bouncing stone hit the floor an estimated 30m below with an impressive thud and echo!  His feelings can well be imagined as can his sudden desire to step back off the boulder pile covering the top of the unbelievable Pewter Pot.  Many of these rocks were then shifted while work continued to enlarge the entrance squeeze to fatty Jeff size.  Not having remotely dreamt of this possibility the awestruck explorers were unable to descend the pitch due to a severe lack of tackle.

The climb down to the Inn-let was a worrying experience.  Jeff, first man down, was confronted by two large boulders blocking the way out.  We had heard these peel off earlier.  Luckily he managed to push them aside and escape to the safety of the bar where more well earned celebrations took place.

The following evening a keen team turned up for a selfless Tuesday night session of spoil clearing and shoring - Mark doing an excellent job with the limited amount of scaffolding scavenged from all comers of the cave.  Tangent found the Drip Tray dig to be sumped so was unable to rescue the tools but dismantled the scaffold here and sent out most of the bagged spoil.  A stream in Pub Crawl livened up the proceedings.

Wednesday 30th July saw the predicted mass turn out of thirteen expectant diggers who were given various tasks to keep them happy!  Mark continued struggling with his erection (no change there then) while Estelle, Tangent, Lincoln Mick and Phil Coles undertook the project of digital photography and formation taping in The Barmaids' Bedrooms.  After being recorded for posterity the stal. grille was demolished and another 30m or so of superbly decorated up-dip phreatic passage was explored to a partial talus blockage obviously derived from the surface. This was self evident by the large amount of undoubtedly very ancient animal bones littering the passage! Another magnificent find in this rapidly developing cave diggers' dream.  In slow pursuit, the survey team of Trev, the writer and (first timers and more lucky bastards) the two Nicks, ended their task at the first large leg bone to avoid any disturbance of this possibly important archaeological site. Access to this area must now be strictly limited and a dig out to the surface is out of the question at present. The length of this extension from the start of the Inn-let is 84m (not including the pitch).  It could break surface near a low tumulus in the field SE of Andy and Pam Watsons' cottage (opposite the Pub) or hopefully just across the road from there and back in Roger's ground.  This would give him a handy underpass in inclement weather! Chris Hawkes of Wells Museum has been informed of the find.  Incidentally it appears that John Wilcock correctly dowsed the direction of this unexpected passage if not its exact position (see BB 514).  If the rest of his results prove correct we will be more than happy.  The location of this entrance may be related to a shallow half-doline adjacent to the roadside wall in Andy's paddock.  It is directly opposite a similar feature in Roger's field, across the road.  Roger made the interesting observation that many years ago the road dipped into, and out of, this depression - so much so that laden horses frequently slipped when leaving it.  It was subsequently levelled by the council.  A further point of interest is the distinct V-shape of the passages surveyed so far, as of two fingers raised in scorn.  Could this be a cosmic sign from the cave deities to those who scoffed at the inception of this dig?

At work in the first chamber – the squeeze and Pewter Pot lie down to the right.  Photograph by Vern Freeman.

Meanwhile, back at the head of Pewter Pot, Gwilym, Mark, Ian Matthews and Rich Dolby continued to clear rocks from the site but were eventually defeated by large wedged boulders which required blasting to remove.  Bev was defeated by the size of the breakthrough squeeze so this may well get the same treatment.  Two days later Mark, Matt Butcher and Sean Howe, on a photo/tourist trip, had another go at the boulders and made a bit more progress.  Clearing work continued on the 2nd of August when two large boulders above the NE end of the pot were banged, the scaffolding was improved and further conservation work was done in the extension.

Next day it was found that the wedged boulders were partly destroyed and much shattered so Trev spent a couple of hours perched over the pot wielding a sledge hammer to excess. Eventually one wedged, fridge sized Henry remained to deny access to the widest part of the rift.  Another detonating cord charge put paid to this as was confirmed by the thunderous noise of its remains hurtling downwards and distinctly heard through the floor of the Inn-let from where the bang was fired! On this trip Trev also installed two monstrous ring bolts and Tony Boycott photographed the bone deposits.  A short length of rigid iron ladder was delivered to the Inn-let climb and tidying up operations continued.

The big push came on Monday 4th August when several lengths of wire ladder were taken in for the benefit of the team Luddites.  This was a lucky move as the pot turned out to be entirely unsuitable for SRT rigging as John Walsh, grinning for the camera, found out on the first descent. It is fault controlled and less than 1m wide at the point of entry making access by ladder easier.  Some 6m down the rift slopes to the east giving an easy descent down flows tone ledges to the floor and a whole series of horrifically abrasive rub points on the sloping ceiling.  The bottom is 20m from the breakthrough squeeze above - a great surprise after the expectations of a 30m drop!  A boulder choked hole in the floor may just reveal a further drop to save us much embarrassment but meanwhile the incorrect guesstimated depth may be explained due to the many ledges delaying the passage of dropped stones and the echoing nature of the chamber.  So there.

Cascades in the Barmaid’s bedroom.  Photograph by Vern Freeman.

The rift chamber itself is over 10m long and 2.5m wide at the bottom with flowstone slopes at each end where tiny streams enter.  These sink in strongly draughting digs, both very promising. John, Jeff and the writer cleared rocks from the open bedding plane dig at the north end while Adrian and Matt started burrowing into the floor near the south end.  Water flow is to the north east. Matt also traversed to the south at high level to reach a passage choked with calcited boulders. This may connect with the large chamber above to give a free-climb down and bypass to the squeeze.  Now cold, damp and filthy the jubilant explorers retired to the Pub, only slightly dispirited that a taxi ride back from Wookey Hole had not been required.

Work continued at the three diggable sites at the bottom of the pot next day.  Their position, and thoroughly disgusting nature, prompted Tangent and the writer to give them the appropriate name of "The Slops". The most northerly, Slop 1, is the most promising and will probably join with the squalid and adjacent Slop 2. Slop 3, at the other end of the chamber, has a pool of water in it and may be abandoned.

So far this extension totals some 105m making the current cave length around 215m and depth c.60m - about the same as Hunters' Hole.  The next exciting instalment of this gripping tale of simple country folk will be in your next BB.  I bet you can hardly wait...

More diggers, visitors and acknowledgements

Pete Martin (IS SA), Wolf Anning (IS SA, Hereford CC), Andy Davey, Dave Owen, Rich Webber, Matt Castleden (all SMCC), Jeff Price, Phil Coles, Mick Barker (Lincoln Scouts CC), Andy Pringle (Red Rose CPC), Dave Mortin (Rolls Royce CC), Tony Harris, Simon Tebbut, Judy Pike, (all Ordnance Survey CG), Ian Tooth, Jim Newman, Pete Stacey, Shaun Hennessy, Nick Gyrner, Vern Freeman, Ben Cooper (MCG), Andy Norman and Ernie White (the Barnsley Boys), Nick Richards, Nick Harding, John Cornwell and Mike Thompson (aerial photography), Ivan Sandford (camera loan) , Alan Allsop (Craven PC) and not forgetting Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club band from Cuba (alas, bodily absent but musically present).

The extensions (as of the 6th August 2003)

Formations in the Barmaids' Bedrooms. First Chamber. Photograph by Vern Freeman.


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Broon Ale Boulevard [Part III).

by Tony Jarratt

"Goodness, I'm sure I shall never go to sleep tonight!
My mind keeps thinking of secret caves! "

Enid Blyton - The Secret of Spiggy Holes

The ongoing saga, written almost as it happens...

Serious operations at the Slops commenced on August 6th when two floor slabs in Slop 1 and the loose roof slab in Slop 2 were drilled and banged, to great acoustical effect. Also, draining work continued at the Inn-let crawl.

Three visiting Newcastle University cavers joined the writer next evening on a clearing trip and thus became the next set of "lucky bastards" in the exploration history of this amazing cave.  The bang had done a good job and both Slops were enthusiastically excavated. Ewan Maxwell found the filthy conditions equal to those of his last digging trip with the BEe in Stock's House Shaft.

Being fully prepared to drill and bang these digs your scribe was somewhat flummoxed when, upon removing a floor slab in Slop 1, a view was gained into a roomy phreatic passage with a deep green pool across its width!  Attempts to boot the final rock forwards failed so Sam Wood was inserted head first and, after a struggle, trundled it into the pool to the sound of frenzied cheering from the assembled.  He then politely asked if he could enter the water for a look - maybe there is hope for modem youth.  Permission was instantly granted by your non-swimming scribe who, needless to say, followed hot on his heels, closely pursued by Ewan and Graham Tebbutt.  This possible sump pool has a mud cracked floor and may drain in drier weather.  It is some 5m long and is passed by using underwater footholds making it chest deep. A mud slope from Slop 2 enters on the RH side.  The fun then begins as a dry and steeply ascending canyon passage is entered, up to 4m wide and with ceiling heights of over 10m in places.  A trickle of water was followed to avoid mud drip pockets as the mind-blown explorers started to climb and traverse up-dip for an estimated 70m to a decidedly dodgy looking, massive boulder choke.  Sam was on cloud nine as this was his first virgin cave passage. He was particularly pleased by finding a patch of tiny mud pillars located on a ledge on the LH side - many more of these were noticed later and they form the principal decoration in this part of the cave.  This major inlet has a different character to the rest of the cave, being less well decorated with calcite and seemingly more recently active.  There is at least another open 5m through the choke but extreme care will be needed here and a radio location exercise should be done first. This would establish if a surface dig would be the safest option.  The passage was named Broon Ale Boulevard in recognition of the Newcastle lads' efforts.  It is heading towards Roger's field and runs parallel to, and lower than, The Barmaids' Bedrooms.  Apart from the terminal choke there are possible avens to be climbed and the source of the draught to be located.  A more detailed examination on a formation taping trip the following evening revealed the pool to be almost certainly a deep and roomy "downstream" static sump whose level varies with local rainfall.  The potential beyond it is enormous considering the monstrous size of Broon Ale Boulevard, of which it is the continuation.  It is likely to go below Pewter Pot and then intercept the combined phreatic tunnels of HHH and BB before picking up Hunters' Hole and various other minor caves along the Priddy road!  On this trip the Boulevard was toasted properly with a bottle of the famous blue-starred elixir carefully carried in by the Newcastle team. "Haway the lads".

The extensions (as of the 11th August 2003).

Upon reaching the surface an excited Tangent was informed of the discovery and he, in turn had some amazing news to impart. John Wilson, an archaeological illustrator, Moles caver and part of the digging team, had been looking at Dr.B's photos of the bones. "Nice bones but the engraving on that adjacent rock saying PR 1810 is interesting."  Superb observation or a vivid imagination?  It appears under a magnifying glass to be a natural series of features and Graham Mullan (UBSS), studying it on a computer scan, agrees with this.  An on-site inspection later confirmed it.  This is a shame as it would have added an interesting historical dimension to the cave.

A fortuitous meeting with UBSS archaeologist Dr. Jodie Lewis gave us the impetus and sanction for a bone collecting trip on the 10th August when two jawbones, an antler tine, a broken leg bone and a large vertebra were carefully removed along with a 22cm long Caninia fossil from Broon Ale Boulevard.  Phil Hendy took photos and the stunning reflective stalagmites and flowstone in the Barmaids' Bedrooms were examined to reveal their surface to be a thin coating of translucent calcite.  A light moved around the formations will cause the apparent "frosted" coating to change position.  It is believed that there are similar formations in the Fairy Quarry caves. Beyond the bone deposit Tangent pushed a fine, mud floored and draughting phreatic tube for 10m to a stal. and boulder blockage which will be dug at a future date.

A visit to Broon Ale Boulevard confirmed its direction as 35 degrees and so impressed the gibbering Tangent that he started ranting about "caverns and gulfs profound," bless him.  A traverse rope was installed above the sump pool and proved useful during the gonad chilling exit.  The bone and fossil collection attracted much interest in the bar that evening.

Section of jaw in the Barmaids' Bedrooms.  Photograph by Tony Boycott.

Brian Prewer, accompanied by grandson Curtis, Roger Dors and Pam and Andy Watson, spent the hot afternoon of the 11th August traipsing round Andy's paddock with the Grunterphone receiver and aerial while John Walsh and the writer shivered in the depths below. The end of BB was located 19.2m (62ft) below Pam and Andys' cabbage patch and the BAB choke at 28m (92ft) below a point 10m from his garage in the comer of the paddock (a miraculous result considering that the ammo box containing the transmitter had fallen the full length of Pewter Pot!)  This would indicate that the buried entrance(s) are in Roger's field.  This field slopes fairly steeply up to Stockhill so there could be quite a length of passage to be found.  An ancient phreatic swallet cave has already been found here by the BEC - Stock Hill Mine Cave - but it is doubtful if this is related to HLIS.  On a historical note Tim Payne remembers when the depression under the road once collapsed and was filled in, probably in the early 1960s.  This exercise makes John Wilcocks' dowsing results even more accurate. Our thanks to Prew for his efforts and for cleaning the kit afterwards.

In the evening an archaeological team visited the bones and Nick Mitchell commenced his climbing project in BAB, soon temporarily terminated when a hefty chocks tone parted company with the walls and headed for the floor- via Nick's neck.  This close call was a warning to be very wary in virgin, untravelled passages.

With archaeology and climbing projects in operation it was time for the lunatic diving fringe to have a bash so next evening Rich Dolby's kit was carted to the sump below Pewter Pot ready for a push next day.  With time to spare the writer "hairy socks" climbed the grey flowstone slope at the NE end of the Pot to find no way on.  Broon Ale Boulevard was then surveyed from the terminal suicidal choke to the head of the Pot - a distance of 93.90m.  The elevation from the sump pool to the choke is about 35m making the visible end some 23m below the road from the Hunters' to Hillgrove.

Margaret Chapman (Axbridge Arch. Soc.) suggests that the recovered broken limb bone may be the distal end of the humerus of a bovid and that the possible bovid jaw has distinct peculiarities.  She is excited by the find and has kindly offered to do some comparative further studies. She also pointed out how appropriate it was to find lots of dead cows in a cave discovered purely because of a Foot & Mouth epidemic!

Ed. In an effort to finally go to press without Tony phoning up to say that yet more has been found, we will stop at lunchtime on the 13th August, with Rich about to dive, Nick about to climb again and more people about to stand around in the pub and say:  "Oh, that's a bit of a big cow with a patina of black shite". (With apologies to esteemed archaeologists).

Even more diggers and acknowledgements

Ewan Maxwell, Sam Wood, Graham Tebbutt (all Univ. of Newcastle CC), Pete Rose (photography), Andy and Pam Watson and Tim Payne (genial, interested landowners), Dr Jodie Lewis (UBSS - archaeological advice), Phil Hendy (WCC), Chris Hawke (Wells Museum,WCC), John & Margaret Chapman (Axbridge Arch. Soc.), Jim Hanwell (WCC) - for archaeological and geomorphological interpretation, and Alex Barlow (bone identification).

The much discussed limb section. Photograph bv Tonv Bovcott - beer mat included for scale and in a desperate attempt to attract brewery sponsorship.


Digging at Thrupe Swallet, or The Agony and the Ecstasy.
Part I: The Agony.

by Tony Audsley

Only the Agony is available at the moment, so we will start with that and just hope that the Ecstasy will come later.

Thrupe Swallet (NGR 60574583) lies on the Thrupe Fault and is a pleasantly wooded depression wherein a modest spring fed stream sinks near the base of a 17 foot high cliff.  The site is about three hundred yards east-north-east of Thrupe Lane Swallet and is being dug by an odd collection of bods (BEC, MNRC, WCC) with a soft core of ageing ATLAS members.

The nature of the dig

Thrupe Swallet is governed by the Thrupe Fault.  Underground, this appears as an inclined rockface, dipping at about sixty degrees to the horizontal.  Under this slab is a jumble of boulders and gravels with a mass of clays underneath. This mess has tended to slide downhill, but has jammed every so often against the rock roof.  This has given rise to a series of voids or 'chambers' as shown in the diagram, with blockages between.

The voids are not chambers in the conventional sense of the word, but merely open spaces within the boulders. The first three digs on the site remained entirely within this zone of boulders and voids and did not enter solid rock at any stage.


Thrupe Swallet has been dug on three previous occasions.  Firstly by Gerard Platten and the Mendip Exploration Society from October 1936 until December of the same year.  An early reference to the digging can be found in Gerard Platten's Scrapbook:-

"We have now enlarged the entrance until it is fully 5 ft. across; it drops steeply for 6 ft. under a solid limestone slab into a chamber about 6 ft. across in which you can in one spot stand upright.  The roof is a pile of boulders but very safe ..... The floor is loose cave earth and stones, amongst which I found the tusk of either a wild boar or cave lion about 3 inches long". (See fig 1). (1)

Gerard Platten's sketch of the first dig at Thrupe Swallet.

Unfortunately, the cave lion turned out to be pig and the "very safe" roof turned out to be a mass of rubble.  By November, the diggers were concerned about the stability and safety of the dig. Despite this, they managed to penetrate through the boulders to a depth of 30 feet.  Their efforts were brought to an end by a near fatal incident:-

"As the last member of the digging team was crawling out through the small entrance chamber, the ceiling - which consisted of a large rock - subsided and would have completely settled down; had not the head of the pick axe which the member was carrying prevented it.  He was held firmly between the floor and the ceiling in the space separated by the points of the pickaxe." (2)

Fortunately the digger was extracted without serious injury, but the rescue left the entrance in a chaotic state and the incident had unnerved the team, who decided to abandon the site.  After all, at that time, there were many prime sites still to be dug.  Thrupe could wait.

The second attempt on the cave occurred 22 years later.  Norman Tuck started digging there in May 1958 and he was joined by Dave Berry and George Pointing in 1959.  They found a boulder chamber and a promising hole leading down from this.  They had the usual difficulties with Thrupe boulders and found it difficult to maintain a team of diggers willing to have rocks fall on them at regular intervals.  The dig was reluctantly abandoned in the summer of 1960, having reached a depth of something like 30 feet.

In 1963, the Wessex, having finished working at Cow Hole, adopted Thrupe Swallet as their next official club dig and started work there during the August Bank Holiday of that year.  They sank a shaft at the base of the cliff, set up an ingenious system of winches and traverse lines to remove the spoil and built dams in an attempt to reduce the water flow underground.  This was surface digging in the grand style and deserved to succeed.  However, the diggers followed the stream, or perhaps the stream followed the diggers.  Either way, the dig was plagued with water.  This turned the underground fill into a mobile slurry which required extensive timber shoring to hold it in place.  Every so often, the dig's Deity in Residence, a playful being, dropped a rock on the diggers, for example:-

" ... whilst in the lower tunnel Denis Warburton had a large slab detach itself from the left hand wall and this tended to push him further down and, of course prevented his retreat.  Quick work by Richard West with a crow bar prevented the slab from completely blocking the tunnel and allowed Denis to scramble clear." (2)

By the summer of 1965, the diggers were becoming disheartened by the difficult conditions and in particular, by the lack of an obvious way on:-

"With only one solid rock surface and that at some 40 degrees dip, it gave the impression that the route being excavated had no particular significance, but that it was a large boulder and mud filled cavity with many possible routes by which the water could descend until it reached the limestone proper". (2)

So, they abandoned the dig and the site lay neglected.  Moss and ivy covered the spoil heaps and the traverse cable rusted amongst the brambles. The Deity slept on undisturbed for another 34 years.

The present dig

Sometime in the summer of 1999, none of the present diggers can remember the exact date, Dave Speed noticed that a collapse had occurred at the base of the cliff a few yards away from the site of the last Wessex shaft.  This looked distinctly promising, so ancient ATLAS members were brought out of cold storage, dusted down and set to work.  Over the next few weeks we sank a short but superbly unstable shaft down through the boulders.  It became apparent even to us that if we wanted to get any deeper, or for that matter any older, then something substantial in the way of shoring was required. On 5th December 1999, Jim Young and Dave Speed, aided by Dave Morrison and Simon Meade-King constructed a welded steel framework for the shaft.  This was our first serious work at the site and, because of the lack of any earlier known date, it is taken to be the official start of the dig. By the end of the year, the shaft was 12 feet deep, running down against the wall of the cliff.

Work continued on deepening the shaft and extending the steel shoring during the early part of 2000, with a couple of months break during April and May to avoid the lambing season.  After this break, when digging restarted on 14th June, the first task was to install the winch that had been brought over from Little Crapnell.

The winch increased the rate of digging very satisfyingly and within the next couple of sessions, we had reached the boulder chamber described by previous diggers.  This lay somewhat to the east of our shaft.  The stream entered this chamber through remains of the 1960s shoring jammed in the roof and disappeared in the floor down the blocked remains of their lower shaft.  We earmarked the chamber as possible dumping space, but otherwise we ignored it.

Returning to our shaft, at about 25 feet down, we encountered a small rift (initially about a foot wide, but narrowing to a few inches) running into the cliff face. There was a certain amount of discussion about this between the "go-into-the-wallers" and the "continue-on-downers".  However, the "continue-on-downers" won the day; at least their way was man-sized. So down through the boulders we went for another eight to ten feet and eventually uncovered a black hole in the floor. Rocks dropped down this could be heard rumbling away for fifteen feet or so, all very satisfying.

The author at the bottom of the entrance shaft.

At this point, fate, or possibly the Deity in Residence took a hand.  It was now September and the weather was VERY wet.  The marl fill at the base of the shaft softened, then flowed into the shaft like thin porridge.  The boulders above tumbled down to fill the void, putting some interesting twists in the steelwork in the process.  The Deity was obviously on the side of the "go-through-the-wallers".  It was time for another look at the little rift.

Poking about at the far end of the little rift with a long iron bar dislodged a small cobble.  This fell a short distance, perhaps four or five feet and then landed with a distinct resonant thud.  There was a void ahead.  This finished the argument with the "continue-on-downers", so we backfilled part of the very bottom of the shaft, to support the steelwork, then concentrated on enlarging the little rift.  This came to be known as Salami Passage, because of the red and white mottled nature of the rock.

By the beginning of October, Salami Passage had been enlarged sufficiently to allow access to the glory thought to lie beyond.  This turned out to be a miserable, solidly choked "chamber".

Here it should be pointed out that anything in this dig which isn't actually a flat out crawl may be referred to as a chamber.  This gives an impression of spaciousness and magnificence, which is otherwise sadly lacking.

So, lowering the floor of this chamber revealed a small hole trending approximately south east.  This hole emitted A DISTINCT DRAUGHT. The log for the 22nd October reads:-

"A few feet of awkward progress along this tube was made, following a distinct draught and the sound of falling water".

It is at this point that, with hindsight, I now realise that the Deity is female and that then she was playing games with us.  Lying in that wretched tube we could feel a cold strong draught and hear the wonderful resonant sound of water ahead.  A few feet more and we would be in.  The dig was about to go.

Promises, promises

On 3rd December 2000, we broke through into a boulder chamber, Advent Chamber.  This contained an assortment of boulders, some large, some unstable, some both, but no way on, no big breakthrough.  On the east side of the chamber, accessible via a low stoop was a small rift chamber about eight feet long by three feet wide, which looked like it might be useful as a dumping space (it was).  As for the way on, well, the lower end of Advent Chamber was a solid choke of boulders but it did at least look diggable.

One thing is interesting about the chamber.  Through a peep-hole in the west side can be seen a blackened portion of shoring timber, remains of the 1960s dig.  To get to Advent, we had dug our way into the cliff, then tunnelled through solid, and without realising it, gone over the top of the old dig to end up on the east side of it. In doing so we had found an open chamber just by the side of their dig. More importantly, we had now started on a route that avoided most of the stream so troublesome to the earlier diggers. Apart from a brief appearance of part of the water at the top of Advent chamber, it is largely dry - most of the water can be heard flowing away behind the west wall of the chamber, along the route of the old dig.  The Deity is fickle; sometimes she can be helpful.

This was the situation at the end of 2000.  72 digging trips in the year had increased the depth of the dig from twelve feet to fifty-five feet and given a passage length of 110 feet.

Wednesday 3rd January 2001 saw nine (yes nine!) people crammed into Advent Chamber, two of whom were able to do useful work.  The two workers secured a wobbly boulder and started on the drive down through the jumble of rock at the back of the chamber.  By the middle of January, this shaft was about 15 feet deep and we had entered the next chamber in the series (3 feet high about 4 feet wide, descending for about 10 feet at the usual 60ish degrees to the usual choke).  It was roofed as always by the hanging wall of the fault and floored with the usual mix of boulders, cobbles and stream debris. Work on the loose choke at the lower end of this chamber was going well, when in February the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease brought caving and (nearly) all digging to a complete halt.

Bob Cottle in the shaft at the bottom of Advent Chamber.

By late July, we thought the foot and mouth outbreak appeared to be over, but were reluctant to start back just in case we were wrong.  However, a quite bizarre series of events led to the resumption of digging. It all started when, on the morning of Wednesday 25th July, a calf broke through the covering on the shaft and then fell down the shaft.

Before continuing, I should explain that at this stage of the dig, Salami Passage entered the cliff face about 6 feet above shaft bottom.  Furthermore, the bottom of Salami Passage projected into the shaft as a sort of funnel shaped balcony.

Luckily, for all our sakes, the calf did not fall onto the rock pile at the bottom of the shaft, but landed on the "balcony" and was scooped into Salami Passage.  It then slid about 8 feet along the passage and took a sharp right-hand bend followed by a 4 foot drop into the chamber beyond. By then, it had really got the exploration bug, for it then headed off towards Advent.  Fortunately, it couldn't make it through the squeeze and there it stuck.

At this stage in the proceedings no-one, with the possible exception of the calf itself, knew where it was.  It was just missing and its mother was raising the alarm by bellowing frantically. The diggers were called out just in case the calf had indeed fallen down the cave and a sharp-eyed digger went down the shaft to check.  As there was no sign of the calf at shaft bottom nor in Salami Passage, he reported, not unreasonably, that the calf was not in the cave.  He then went off.  Later however, the calf was heard calling from the cave and Bob Cowlin and his two sons started on the rescue.  They were joined sometime later by some of the diggers and the animal was hauled up the shaft.  Once on the surface, it succeeded in standing and then immediately staggered off to its mother and started to suckle.  Miraculously, its only injuries were two small cuts.  Now do you believe in the Deity in Residence?

The Cowlins were surprised and pleased by the outcome and were also justifiably proud of their own efforts, as none of them had ever been underground before.  On the condition that the top of the shaft was made secure, they kindly granted us permission to restart digging.

By the end of September, the shaft had a cattle-proof lid and by late October, Maglite Grotto, a low, sloping chamber some 15 feet long, 8 feet wide and up to a massive 4 feet high (in places) was entered.  This had a finely decorated but blind inlet passage, the Priests' Hole, coming in from the roof.  The rubble floor of Maglite Grotto funnelled down to a black pit where stones could be heard to rattle down for perhaps 10 feet more.

Maglite Grotto was a difficult place to dig.  The boulder floor rested on a foundation of stream debris and clays, lubricated into a mobile slurry by the water which now ran below the surface.  It was here that we began to experience the same sort of problems that must have bedevilled the 1960s diggers.  The whole area showed an alarming tendency to slurp downwards, despite repeated attempts to stabilise it by walling and shoring.  The digging was complicated by the presence of a large boulder, the "Hammerhead".  This boulder was critical to the stability of the whole area, but it effectively blocked the way on!  The digging became rather delicate and slow but, by 30th December, the pit was more or less stable and sufficiently enlarged to allow a view into the void beyond.  Yet another rubble slope ending in yet another choke could be seen.  Entry was left until the New Year.

By the end of 2002, there had been 37 digging trips (a low number because of the foot and mouth closures). The bottom of Maglite Chamber was at a depth of 90 feet and the dig had a total passage length of 233 feet.

Rob Taviner in the Maglite Grotto shaft.

Diggers and visitors (December 1999 - December 2001)

Annie Audsley, Adrian Bowen, Anthony Marsh, Bob Cottle, Clive North, Colin Rogers, Dave Everett, Dave Grosvenor, Dave Morrison, Dave Speed, Gary Sandys, James Marsh, James Witcombe, Jim Young, Kate Lawrence, Paul Stillman, Roger Marsh, Rob Taviner, Rich Witcombe, Simon Meade-King, Tony Audsley, Tony Littler.

References quoted

(1): W. J. Lawry, Report on Thrupe Pot. Gerard Platten Scrapbook. Vol XVII p4747 (Unpublished Mss., Wells Museum Library)

(2): Edmund J Mason. Thrupe Swallet, An Account of early work by the M.E.S. Belfry Bulletin No 199, September 1964 p3-4

(3): Alan J Surrall. Thrupe Diary. J Wessex Cave Club, No 107 Vol. 9 (July 1966)

Additional sources

The Hillgrove logbooks 1954-1963, WCC Journal, supplement to Volume VIII

The Mendip Caver 1(1), 1(4),2(3)

In the short term, more information can be found at:

Thrupe Lite (now )

This website contains up to date information about the dig, lots of photographs, a few sounds and a certain amount of foolishness.  There is also a history section, where the references quoted here are reproduced in full.

Like everything on the web, the website will sooner or later vanish without trace.


"If more interest were taken in this dig, another Cuthbert's could well be the reward" .

Jim Giles. Caving Log. Belfry Bulletin No 157, March 1961, p2.


Sima Pumacocha 2002 Expedition Survey and Photographs

(see article in BB No 515)

by Peter “Snablet” and Mark Hassell



Nick Hawkes on the entrance pitch of Qaga Mach’ay (alt.4930m) – a 50m by 20m entrance over 50m deep to a 20m high passage with two un-descended, ice coated leads


Ed. – In addition to these photographs I have also received a copy of the Sima Pumacocha Presentation given in May of this year by Nick Hawkes to the Peru Geological Society. It is planned to include sections of it in the next issue of the BB.


Fun in the Sun and a Lark in the Dark - Meghalaya 2003.

by Tony Jarratt



Once again February saw an invasion of the Indian hill state of Meghalaya (the Abode of the Clouds) by a bunch of scruffy Europeans (and Michael) intent on discovering many kilometres of huge cave passage and having a great time.  By the end of the month we had over 25km surveyed and at least one Mahindra pick-up jeep full of empty beer bottles - the mission had been accomplished in style!  On the down side Jayne had a broken leg, Dr. B was bankrupt and Brian's only caving day resulted in a badly bruised back from falling rocks, though a bit higher up and it would have also been his last caving day .... A great deal of hard work had been done in both the Garo and Jaintia Hills and many leads had been opened up for next year. Herewith the details of the Shnongrim team's exploits. Tony Boycott wrote an article on the Garo Hills part of the expedition but left it on a boat in the Red Sea!

The Shnongrim Camp, Nongkhlieh Ilaka, Jaintia Hills

This year 15 Europeans and a host of locals were based at Ratapkhung, on the top of the Shnongrim ridge and near the village of that name.  Accommodation was provided by local character, entrepreneur, folk musician and part time were-Tiger Carlyn Phyrngap and his stepfather Pa Heh Shor Pajuh - another great character and decimator of the area's wildlife.  Their farmhands and the Meghalaya Adventurers' team from Shillong had built a superb 'camp' consisting of thatched bamboo bedrooms, dining room, food store, kitchen, bogs and shower units just off the road and with glorious views of the Letein valley below.  Being slap in the middle of this extensive caving area we were able to walk to many sites and saved lots of uncomfortable hours of driving from the Sutnga LB. as was done last year.  Shaktiman lorry loads of wood provided both fuel for cooking and evening bonfires where Haywards 10,000 (8% ABV) was copiously imbibed to replace lost body fluids evaporated underground and in patches of spiky jungle (where our previously nonchalant evening strolls became more wary after we were informed that a potentially man-eating tiger had just been shot nearby!).

Work commenced with the rigging of Krem Ryman, top entrance to the 12km Umthloo system, and the bottoming of Krem Myrliat 3 at 17m - a promising lead from last year which failed to deliver.  The Ryman rigging also added c.100m to the system as a separate entrance was found to connect and was tied into the main survey.  Half of the Garo team had corne over for the first few days and spent these completing the survey of Krem Iawe and connecting with the newly discovered Krem Iawe Barit to give a total length of 3.398kms.  Krem Korlooheng, adjacent to Ryman, had half a jar of flourescein tipped into it but due to low water levels this was not detected in the main Umthloo system.  We also missed the side passage in Ryman which Raman, a minister of an ancient Jaintia king, used as a shortcut to Jaintiapur, now in Bangladesh.  Like our friend Carlyn, he was able to turn into a tiger at will and would not have been nice to meet in a squeeze!  Other projects started were the resurvey of Krem Labbit (bat) by our German colleagues and recce in the adjacent Krang (sloping land) area, mainly by Robin and leading to some great discoveries.

On Feb. 9th Annie, Andreas, Peter and Shelley rigged Krem Krang Moo 0 (cave of the rock or monolith in the sloping ground) to a calcite choke at 57m depth and l34.55m length. Robin and I, meanwhile, pushed a 30m deep draughting boulder choke in the nearby Krem Krang Moo 1 to the head of the 5m deep Beast Pot - named after a survey leg of 6.66 metres.  Returning with a ladder we had to extend the name to cover the 45m deep black void just beyond!  Next day Peter and Andreas dropped this into 80m of ongoing, crab-infested streamway which was pushed another 200m on the 11th. 300m more was added next day while the Mendip/Clare trio clocked up 250m of well decorated inlet and a 100m oxbow.  Meanwhile Michael and team were surveying many hundreds of metres in the enormous Krem Liat Prah - his baby - and incidentally finding an apparent modernist sculpture newly deposited right in the centre of the gigantic main drag. This was actually a heap of expensive drill steels and steel sleeving lost by an Indian Geological Survey borehole prospecting team last year!  This cave was eventually to finish at a length of 8.296kms.  A girlies team of Annie, Nicky and Fiona attempted to join Krem Urn Im to this system by pushing an obviously short connecting duck.  This was not to happen as the passage went BELOW the huge cave above into new river passage ongoing up and downstream!  It was left for a wet suited team to survey next year and a link to Liat Prah would obviously be very acceptable if getting more and more unikely.  It was left at 1.267kms. Roger, Dan and Fiona were pushing another pot - Krem Krang 1, nicknamed " Raining Out Cave" for its condensation and draught.  The 60m pothole of Krem Shrieh (monkey) was also receiving the attention of Derek, Rhys, Shelley and Nicky.

We pressed on in Krang Moo 1 on the 13th but soon reached a deep canal.  To avoid this I doffed my slippery wellies and pioneered the "hairy socks technique" to free climb up a calcite wall into a large, high level series with a long muddy inlet and eventual route back to the stream after several hundred metres.  Here we were prevented from rushing along a 20m high river passage by a large, fallen boulder needing a ladder to descend but we expected big finds next day. Robin, Nigel, Dan and Fiona had that day rigged down to a fine streamway in nearby Krem Synrang (shelter) Krang but were stopped upstream by a large fallen boulder needing a maypole to ascend.....  We had missed each other by half an hour or so but now had a connected system later surveyed to 2.668kms and ending in a sump.  This major success proved both the accuracy of the GPS entrance positions and the survey teams and was cause for celebration - as if we needed it! Apart from the ongoing Liat Prah project other caves being explored were Norman's Pot, Kseh Upring and Kneewrecker Hole plus surface recce and tourist, tidying up and video trips in the stunning Umthloo system. In the latter Annie and I, accompanied by the aptly named Bat, eventually pushed a three year old promising lead into c.lOOm of squalid and aquatic misery, thankfully left unsurveyed as your scribe had no lead in any of his three pencils - no change there then! Roger also earned the "free diver of the year award" for rescuing a sunken tackle bag in the same cave.

The next exciting find came following a recce in the previously out of bounds area around Shnongrim village.  Raplang Shangpliang (ace guide), Kai Shail Patwat and Heipormi Pajuh showed us various sites including the impressive pothole/cave of Krem Synrang Ngap (bee shelter).  Here the diminutive but hardy Raplang chopped down a tree, chucked it down an exposed 5m climb and scambled down to the pothole floor.  Next day the timid westerners rigged the drop with a ladder to find no way on but then surveyed the cave entrance above to emerge at a second entrance via a huge chamber with two deep pots in the floor.  One of these was later rigged for a total of 76m into a wet crawl developing into a fine river passage containing a possibly 100m high aven.  It was left ongoing at a length of 1.977kms.  In the same area the equally magnificent Krem Synrang Labbit (bat shelter cave) was surveyed to a length of 1.654kms and was also left wide open.  It is possible that this is the upstream feeder to Ngap, itself a contender for connecting with the superb river cave/resurgence of Krem Wah Shikar (Shikar stream cave) 1.323kms in length.  This would give a combined system of at least 6kms and probably very much more, especially if the Krang Moo system can be tied in. An extremely promising 30m+ pothole, Krem Bir (no, not beer cave - mud cave) nearby may also be part of this hypothetical system and blows out condensation which turns the otherwise dry soil around the entrance to mud.  This area will be the initial focus of next year's trip.

On a supposed "easy day" a large team took advantage of an invitation by Mulda Rupon, head man of Shnongrim, to visit the historic cave of Krem Kut S utiang (hill fort cave of the Sutiang people).  This is a site respected by the local people as the last stand of the "rebel" Jaintia King, U Kiang Nongbah, who in 1862 took advantage of a reduction in strength of the Sylhet Light Infantry Regiment to mount an arson attack against the local British run town of Jowai along with 600 tribesmen.  This was in protest against oppressive taxation by the Bengal Government and the general annexation by the British of the hereditary tribal lands.  Unfortunately for them the Regiment managed to scrape up 6,000 troops armed with muskets, cannon and war elephants and on the 27th December 1862 stormed the Kut Sutiang defences, capturing the King and hanging him in Jowai market place three days later.  An unconfirmed local story is that the British took the King's head back for display in England.  Strangely enough (!) it had taken us three years of patient negotiation and failed attempts to see this cave and even on this visit there was some doubt as to how many would be allowed in.  Perhaps realising that the mixed bag of English, Scots, Welsh, German, Indian, Austrian, Irish and Swiss present had all had a go at each other over the centuries, Mulda was not too concerned about the spirits of his ancestors being too upset and gave us the run of the place.

A lengthy downhill walk from the village saw us hacking through thick and steep jungle to reach the entrance, situated on top of a limestone outlier in the valley bottom. A very pleasant 109m section of fossil tunnel was surveyed, photographed, sketched and videoed to death while the locals sat biri-smoking and bemused on a large stalagmite boss. This was reputed to be the old King's seat, but they didn't worry too much about using it for an ashtray!  The only evidence left in the cave of these troubled times was broken pottery and possible hearth sites.  Carlyn, of course, knew of the hidden real cave - blocked off with a stone slab and only disclosed to a select few.  He may well be right as this murderous patch of the jungle covered pinnacle karst could conceal anything.  The trek back out to the paddy fields put paid to the "easy day" theory!

Back at Krem Labbit, Shnongrim, Michael and Thomas were convinced that they had connected with the underlying Krem Shynrong Labbit via a 50m pitch but were prevented from physically doing the trip due to the horrifically unstable nature of the pitch head. The total length of this system is theoretically 6.1kms.

In Umthloo several hundred metres of inlets and side passages brought the total up to l3.413kms with a very good lead (needing a small amount of bang) for next year. Here a calcited hanging rock at stream level prevents access to ongoing, 10m high inlet passage.  Krem Wiar-bru, a 200m long pothole was rigged down to a sumped area at Umthloo river level.  Krem Korlooheng, not far away, also sumps at this level.  One or two rebreather-owning divers are needed for next year to connect these to the main system and add another 0.5+kms.  With plenty of possibilities for further links to known caves located in all directions there is every chance that this could be a contender for India's longest - it has to beat the 21km Kotsati/Umlawan system only a few kms to the south at Lumshnong.  There are also many more potholes above the system awaiting our attention.

Other caves surveyed were the impressive Krem Labbit near Daistong, across the Letein valley.  This huge but short (451 m) system is one of the few visited here there are at least 13 more to be looked at!  The 44m long Krem Phlangmet (grass body cave) was not a record breaker but notable for the stunning examples of phototropic stalactites in its very majestic entrance, possibly the first recorded in India.  They grow in the direction of sunlight due to moss and algae growth on this side.  Krem Shrieh Khaidong reached 1.048kms, Krem Kseh Upring made 577m, Norman's Pot - 244m, Kneewrecker Hole - 810m, Krem Langshreh - 172m and Krem Ynram Blang - 80m.  Many other sites were recorded but not explored.

Sign at Krem Mawsmai Show Cave, Cherapuniee

Apart from exploration and surveying several people took some high quality photographs of most of the caves visited and Fraser continued with his ongoing video footage, assisted by Nicky who also took a video camera.  Fraser also filmed an active coal mine near Sutnga, both underground and on the surface.  The immigrant Nepalese colliers were friendly and helpful and their hospitality has ensured that this almost mediaeval industry has been recorded for posterity. Dan and Fiona worked hard on their continuing speleobiological research throughout the area while the writer made every effort to note down some of the extensive cave folklore of the Jaintia (or Pnar as they prefer to be called) people.  This has rightly become an established part of recce and everyone made an effort to collect folk tales with the aid of our guides and translators.  Carlyn was a rich fund of information and went to great lengths to ensure that our understanding and spelling of Pnar words was correct, the Khasi spellings sometimes used being subtly different. To compliment this Thomas did some fine pencil sketches of local thatched houses, barns etc. and Annie delineated the scenery. Andreas seemed to be permanently glued to his laptop, inputting survey data and Peter L. laboured heroically with the generator and assorted battery chargers as well as keeping an eye out (snigger) for faults in the electric supply.  This was a great team with everyone contributing to the cause in their own way.

Needless to say it was not all work and our evenings were spent eating the excellent food cooked by Addy and his team and assisting Ba Bung to reduce the mountainous alcohol supply. The "Shnongrim Combo" were in action most nights with guitars, mandolin, tin whistles, ksing (a local drum donated by Pa Heh) vocals and a selection of weird percussion instruments brought from Shillong by Gareth. Daytime sightseeing was limited but the spectacular monoliths and stone cremation vaults above the camp were regularly visited and photographed.  To conclude - a great time was had and the results were very satisfying.  All Meghalaya visits are great value and this was one of the better ones!


U.K: Simon Brooks (O.C.G./G.S.G.), Annie Audsley (B.E.C./S.U.S.), Nicola Bayley (R.F.D.C.C.), Tony Boycott (B.E.C./G.S.G./D.B.S.S.), Jayne Stead (G.S.G.), Peter Dowswell (G.S.G.), Roger Galloway (G.S.G.), Dan Harries (G.S.G.), Fiona Ware (G.S.G.), Tony Jarratt (B.E.C./G.S.G.), Derek Pettiglio (G.S.G.), Nigel Robertson (G.S.G.), Fraser Simpson (G.S.G.), Rhys Williams (S.W.C.c.). Ireland: Robin Sheen (RC.C.C.). Germany: Georg Baumler (H.H.L.), Daniel Gebauer (H.A.G.), Andre Abele, Herbert Jantschke, Michael Laumanns (S.C.R), Thomas Matthalm (K.H.F.M.), Katrin Zipfel. Austria: Peter Ludwig (L.V.H.O.O.). Switzerland: Andreas Neumann (O.G.H.). India: Brian Kharpran Daly (M.A.A./G.S.G.), Neil Sootinck, Lindsay Diengdoh, Shelley Diengdoh, Ronnie Mawlong, Batkupar 'Bat' Lyngdoh, Dale Mawlong, Gareth William Lyngwa, Toki Franklyn Dkhar, Denis Rayen (all M.A.A.).

Organisers, drivers, cooks, guides and other invaluable help

Bung Diengdoh, Adison 'Addy' Thaba, Shamphang War, Carlyn Phymgap, Pa Heh Shor Pajuh, Mulda Rupon, Raplang Shangpliang and a host of others from Shillong, Nongkhlieh Ilaka and the Garo, Borsora and Laitkynsew areas - without whom these expeditions would not be so successful.  Maureen Diengdoh and the Ladies of Shillong once again deserve our highest praise for their endless patience, good humour and hospitality.


Morton's Pot Update - July 2003.

by Sean Howe

Phil 'MadPhil' Rowsell and Graham 'Jake' Johnson continue the work in Eastwater Swallet at the bottom of Morton's Pot. Recent additions to the team include Paul Brock, Pete Hellier and Sean Howe (when he's not away with the Shepton).

Pete standing in the bottom of the dig.

Pete working hard – hauling up the skip containing another bag of soil

A considerable amount of engineering work has been carried out over the previous months. Any existing 'Seilbahns' (suspended cable runways) have been renovated or replaced. An additional 'Seilbahn' was recently added for the disposal of spoil at the head of the 380 Foot Way to avoid filling up the Traverse.  At the other end, near the dig face, scaffolding has been used to create a spoil retaining wall at the Drain Hole.

The skip being hauled up the 380 Foot Way on the ‘Seilbahn’

On Wednesday 16th July 2003 we passed all previous digs and are at the deepest point ever.

(Ed.  Unfortunately soon after the dig flooded once again.  On the 6th August the water level was only one foot beneath the top of the highest scaffolding and some three to four feet below the bolt and hauling pulley)


Club News.

Well, it's coming to you sooner than you may think! What? You may ask ...

Hurrah!  It's the Annual General Meeting and we need your nominations for members who wish to stand for election on to the committee. All prospective nominees should be aware that there is a requirement to attend meetings held on the 1st Friday evening of the month at ‘The Belfry’.  I would like to remind everyone that the club does not run Itself and relies on those members who are willing to volunteer their services and time.

All nominations to be sent to me:

Vince Simmonds (Hon. Sec.)
West Harptree,
Bath & North East Somerset

Please remember that I need to receive nominations before the AGM on Saturday 4th October 2003.

On a lighter note and coming up before the AGM and dinner you should all be aware that this year is the 50m since the breakthrough into St Cuthbert’s Swallet on September 4th 1953. By way of a celebration there will be a BBQ at the Belfry en Saturday 6th September 2003 everyone will be welcome. We hope that as many people as possible will venture down to Cerberus Hall to drink a toast to Messrs. Coase and Bennett.   To those who cant make it underground there will be plenty of opportunities to raise several glasses to ail those people who worked so hard to open up such a magnificent system as the one on our doorstep.

See you at the Belfry,

Vince Simmonds


Note from the Librarian

Three new cabinets have been purchased with the money raised at the last Dinner, from the auction of Dave Yeandle's kit.  They will soon have plaques fitted, they house, amongst other publications, Dave's collection of books and can be identified as such by a stamp inside the front cover (thanks Mac).

The cataloguing continues and has uncovered quite a few missing items, can any members help fill the gaps from the list below?

BEC Caving Reports:



S.J. Collins



S.J. Collins



R.H. Bennett



Burrington Cave Atlas



PSM Expedition Report

Belfry Bulletins:

Any from the following volumes: 17 & 19.

Missing Books:

Darkness Beckons (Farr) - missing since the 1990s.

Grandes Traversias (out of print) - Jim Smart swears that he gave it to a BEC member in the Hunters' (February '02).

Dates For Your Diary.

5th September: Committee Meeting.

6th September: St. Cuthbert's Anniversary - trips and BBQ.

6th - 7th September: Working weekend.

3rd October: Committee Meeting.

4th October: AGM and Club Dinner - the Bath Arms, Cheddar.

4th - 5th October: BCRA Conference - somewhere in that popular caving area of Worcestershire - but sod that, its Dinner weekend.


Notes from the Logbook.

23/04/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: 'MadPhil'

Went to clean up Morton's on my own. Removed old sacks, refilled bags etc.  Needs clearing.  Dig was well dry, lost c.3m over the two years.  Maybe have a play there this summer if stays dry.  Any volunteers?

14/05/03: Charterhouse Cave: 'Tangent', Rich Blake, Henry Bennett and Mike Willett

Another visit to this fine cave, although Speleotechnics LED caused a few problems for Henry whose lamp kept shorting out, and my lamp died in the Citadel.  Return to the surface was made even more enjoyable by this lack of illumination.  Investigated the side passages this time, and also spotted the miners' stemple high up in the wall of Splatter Chamber. J W

31/05/03: Eastwater Cavern, Tooting Broadway: 'MadPhil' and Alison Moody

Went to look at lead left last year. Sump goes, but squalid. Possible bypass a no go.  Muddy trip!  7 hours.

04/06/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: 'MadPhil' and Graham

Headed down with scrap heap challenge pulley system for 380 Foot Way.  Installed wicked, big improvement.  Headed to dig.  Dug in water and had to use dam technique to continue digging.  Now at 5m.  1m to pass our last attempt.  Pete Hellier and Paul Brock turned up at 20.00 and moved all the bags Paul dug last week from dig site to top of380 Foot Way.  Easy money. (Money? What money??)  ££.

22/06/03: Diccan Pot, Ribblesdale: Pete and Paul

Early start to avoid the masses!  Wet, draughty and a classic  Yorkshire rope trip.  De-rigging was a bit of a pain by the time we made our way out due to triple rigging techniques of others!. ... Blah, Blah, Blah.  Ace trip.  Missed dragging bags out of Morton's!!  Honest. P.B.

28/06/03: Daren Cilau, Through Trip: Vince Simmonds and Peter Bolt

In through Price's Dig to have a good look around Busman's Holiday - some interesting leads. (Price's Dig is a little mucky). Then passed choke into Antler Passage, There are some rope climbs but nothing too difficult although ropes are rather slippery.  Passed the Antlers and White Company (nice formations) and then into Big Chamber, Jigsaw Passage and Daren entrance - what joy!  Doesn't get any shorter or easier but at least we only did it one way.  5¾ hours.

23/07/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Pete, Sean and Paul

My first night as foreman, overlooking my two main employees.  Sean main digging contractor unable to do his job due to high water levels, so we had to drag bags up to the 380 Foot Way.  Good boys! P.B.

Ed. 90%+ of Logbook entries are by only six or so members.  This does not accurately reflect caving and digging trips by members. Please use the Logbook - it is Club history and a vital reference for future projects.