The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Greg Brock

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Sean Howe
Editor: Greg Brock
Caving Secretary: John Williams
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineers: John Walsh
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
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 to a somewhat brief and extremely delayed Bulletin.  Due to hectic work and personal commitments which were unforeseen at the Autumn AGM I am unable to produce regular BBs and thus have decided to hand over the post of Editor to Greg Brock - whom I am certain will do a much better job and to whom I wish the best of luck.  Please note that his address has changed since the Membership Handbook was sent out - his new address is: Cardiff [removed]

In addition, Sean Howe (the current Membership Secretary) has also let it be known that he will be leaving the post in October and thus a replacement for this important and demanding post will be required - any takers?

On the caving side of things, breakthroughs have occurred at a number of sites.  Most notably Morton’s Pot and the Rift Chambers in Eastwater, the no longer Lost Loxton Cavern, Hollybush Shaft and Helictite Well (both in Shipham) and once again in Hunters Lodge Inn Sink (see digging news page and articles).  Further afield Tony Jarratt reports another fine time in Meghalaya with over 17km surveyed. Krem Liat Prah extended from 8.9km to 15km, becoming India’s second longest and on-going, lots of beer drunk .


Hut Engineer’s Report 2003.

Many thanks to everyone who turned up for the Working Weekends this year.

I am pleased to report that it has proved a very productive year.  Apart from all of the small jobs around the Hut that are too numerous to mention, most of the interior of the Hut has had a new coat of paint.  Special thanks go to Crispin Lloyd and Jim Cochrane who were a great help earlier on in the year with the painting.  There are new tiles in the shower room and the BBQ has been completed thanks to Jake.

I would also like to thank all those people who have worked so hard and contributed so much in time and materials towards the new extension.  It could not be done without you.

I look forward to spending another year contributing in my own small way as Hut Engineer.

John Walsh

Librarian’s Report 2003.

No problems since the last AGM, only ten people have borrowed and returned books this year (if the borrowing book is to be believed).  As instructed at the last AGM the missing book list was published in BB No.516, and represents the publications that I know about.  Now that the cataloguing is completed identifying lost stuff will be easier, but getting it back will remain a headache.

A number of new books were either bought or donated this year, a full list will follow in a future BB. Journal exchanges with other clubs continue, but a few of them will be dropped from the list soon if nothing is heard from them.  Other acquisitions this year include an AO plotter and a printer from Pete Moody and a scanner from Dave Irwin.

The three new cabinets bought with the money raised from the auction of the late Dave Yeandle’s caving/climbing kit are now fitted and home to Pooh s book collection.  The only outstanding job here is the making and fitting of some suitably worded plaques for the cabinets.  Whatever money remains after this could go to part finance the binding of the Club’s BB collection, something that is long overdue.

Finally, thanks to Dave Irwin and Phil Rowsell for their help and Bob Smith for running the BEC sales stall at the BCRA regional meet where they managed to reduce the number of St. Cuthbert’s Reports by two.

Graham Johnson


Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

A breakthrough has finally taken place in Morton s Pot, where years of effort has seen the current team led by MadPhil Rowsell and Graham Jake Johnson past the sediment filled shaft and into a flood prone system of small passages which unfortunately need intensive chemical persuasion.  Phil has continued with his reinvestigation and resurveying of the lower West End Series and Lambeth Walk and has confirmed that the lowest point of the cave is Chamber of Horrors and thus worth reinvestigation.  Further above in the old cave he, Jake and Mike Barker have broken through into the 3rd Rift Chamber now named Unlucky Strike  Articles on all three events will follow in future BBs.

Helictite Well.

See Mark Ireland s article on his re-excavation of this well system in Shipham.

Holly Bush Shaft.

Mark Ireland, with a small amount of assistance from other club members, has put an inordinate amount of work into excavating the infill of this old calamine working to a depth of 20m. His efforts have been rewarded by the rediscovery of at least 200 metres of passage which is not yet fully explored (see article).  The mine is reported to be on the same mineralised belt as Singing River Mine. Being adjacent to a housing estate the shaft is lidded and locked.  Contact Mark for a visit.  He will appreciate any assistance with this project.

Hunters Lodge Inn Sink.

The current focus of interest is yet another sump.  This one lies at the end of Rocking Rudolph Rift which leads off from the Cellar Dig in Happy Hour Highway.  At the time of going to press Rich Dolby is preparing a second dive in the streamway sump which potentially could unlock the route through to the major breakthrough that surely lies ahead in this complex and ever growing system.

Loxton Cavern.

Nick Harding and Nick Richards have hit the jackpot with the rediscovery of over 250 metres of extremely attractive ancient phreatic passage containing much evidence of the Old Men - in this case Cornish copper miners.  A full report will follow once the delicate access situation has been resolved.


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink Part 1 - Pushing the Streamway and a Sign of the Times.

by Tony Jarratt

The history of this dig has involved all sorts of surprises and coincidences and not a small amount of amusement.  One of the best of these was the apparently unrelated project of Roger and Jacquie to reinstate the hanging inn sign at the Priddy Road end of the building.  Originally painted by John Lovelace in the early 70s it soon flaked and was taken down.  It had an owl on one side and a badger on the other.  Several months ago, before the latest discoveries, the plan to make a new one was put into motion and eventually a professional firm took over the task.  It was finished on 30th September and gleefully shown to the writer who was amazed and delighted to see that the new Hunters Lodge Inn sign bore a series of cave painting replicas of bison, reindeer, mammoth and prehistoric hunters copied from the old Pub wallpaper!  It is now installed and is probably the only one in the world with this motif.  It could not be more appropriate.  On the same day the writer received a call from Maggie Matthews of the BBC s Inside Out documentary series.  She was hoping to film a short human interest programme on the discoveries and no doubt the inn sign would have featured strongly in this.  This project later developed into a potential pilot documentary in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit and the Open University to be produced by Bethan Waite and introduced by Alan Titchmarsh!  The sign also featured in an article on the Pub and cave in the Fosse Way Magazine (No.4 72, 28/11/03).  The discovery was reported in Descent (No. 174, October/November 2003) with some excellent accompanying photos by Estelle Sandford.

I also received an Email from Bill Tolfree stating that the BCRA had approved a research grant of 390 pounds towards carbon dating a bone sample at the Oxford Laboratory.  A nomination for the Bryan Ellis Award (for innovation or enterprise in one of Bryan’s fields of interest) was proposed by Bill Tolfree (who preferred to think of it as for sheer stubborn bastardness).  I was gratified to win this at the BCRA Conference but was unable to attend to state that it was really won by the whole team who have grafted on this project over the last 2½ years.  One hundred pounds goes into the digging fund and I know that Bryan would have been delighted to have contributed to the exploration of a system so closely linked with his favourite watering hole and a cave he himself surveyed - Hunters Hole.

Work at John Walsh’s dig in Dear’s Ideal, Hunters Hole has recommenced in the hope of intersecting the master cave beyond Drip Tray Sump.  At this latter site the submersible pump has been installed and a lot of energy has been expended on emptying the pool and digging at the end. Conditions here are particularly unpleasant with poor air and deep, clinging mud.  The drained water is next seen in Pewter Pot where it is swallowed by the Slop 3 dig.  The adjacent Hair of the Dog Sump drained away naturally during the dry weather to reveal no open ways on and to save Rich Dolby from a second miserable dive! On a solo visit on 22nd October Alex did some token digging at the lowest point after hearing running water below the floor.  Slop 3 also dried up and became reinstated as a promising site. Trev, Vern, John Walsh and others have done some good work here and on 26th October Trev mutilated an obstructing boulder to gain a view into some 3m of squalid canal passage with a solid, calcited ceiling.  A visit by John on 3rd November revealed this dig to have flooded and become inaccessible, probably until next summer.

Walling up operations have continued at the Inn-let climb with Bev, Gwilym, Jeff Price and the writer in the multiple roles of architects, foremen and most of the labour force.  This job is now completed and the climb is hopefully safe.

Dr. Pete Smart and Dr. David Richards (UBSS) have commenced stal dating experiments as part of the current Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project which ties in with the palaeontological remains.  A very tentative result from this indicates that the bones may be considerably older than previously thought but more sampling will need to be done to confirm this. Lots more bones have been removed for identification by Dr. Jacobi and a trial dig will be conducted at the site. Tangent has opened up a passage near the terminal choke which is heading SE towards B.A.B. and Tony Boycott has attacked this with drill and assorted rock buggering devices.  November 6th saw Tangent and the writer enter 2m of open passage with a view down into a low, calcited mud floored phreatic crawl. Above this two bison (1) molars and a bone calcited to the limestone wall provide evidence of previously higher sediment levels now washed away and eminently justify this dig.  A bison right scapula and associated sediment, lots of assorted large animal bones, mainly reindeer, and the broken jawbone of a northern vole have been dispatched to the British Museum.

Nick Mitchell and Tangent have not yet continued with their climbing project in Broon Ale Boulevard but the first aven was free-climbed by the writer for 18m to where it closed down. This muddy, decorated phreatic rift was left rigged until a survey leg can be done.

On October 11th Dr. Peter Glanvill and acting nurse Ken Passant attempted surgery on the broken stalactite in H.H.H. but the operation was not a success and the patient remained detached, fractured and prone.  On the benefit side some photos were taken in B.A.B. Pete returned on the 19th with matronly pharmacist Pete Rose to restore the invalid to a vertical, though heavily splinted, position.

Next day sprightly 69 year old Malcolm Cotter (MCG) videoed most of the cave during a tourist trip to the end of B.A.B. Having a reputation as one of Mendip s most dedicated diggers it was a privilege to show him around.

Blasting operations have recommenced at the Cellar Dig in H.H.H. in the hope of discovering the stream passage below.  On 15th November, following separate digging sessions by Trev and the writer, a draughting hole was opened up heading out under the boulder floor of H.H.H. Obstructing boulders were banged next day and on 17th Jeff Price, Tim Large, John Walsh, Alex Livingston and the writer removed many bags of mud and lots of rocks to reveal a solid, calcited vertical rift over 2m deep but boulder choked.  Halfway through the digging session a heavy downpour sent a large flood pulse into the cave and the roaring of the stream could be heard below as it passed under the dig.  Much encouraged we banged a couple of boulders and retired to the bar.  Further work during the week saw the rift chemically enlarged and several boulders reduced to scree.  On 25th November a hole was opened up into another rift at right angles above the virgin stream passage where, due to heavy rain, rushing water could be heard not far away but could not be seen due to the traditional obstinate boulder blocking access.  This was banged the next day and on the 27th your scribe cleared the rubble to gain a view down a narrow slot into the streamway proper.  Once again access was denied by loose boulders so these were banged and this wet and filthy dig gratefully evacuated.  The lure of open passage was too much and so 24 hours later a return was made to clear the debris for a better view of the scalloped and clean washed vadose streamway below, alas still inaccessible due to razor sharp rock ledges protruding from the walls of the rift. Not having the drill today it was left for the 29th for the next bang and on 30th the stream was at last reached in a c. 6m section of caveable passage but still not passable due to fallen slabs. Trev and John hauled huge amounts of rock up to H.H.H. and were impressed by the progress and potential of this dig.  The story of further exploration here will be continued in the next article.

Our opening up of this cave has appropriately provided an opportunity for at least one bat to either take up residence or use the entrance shaft as an insect hunting ground. This is not the first time that Mendip diggers have actually provided a bat habitat - bat enthusiasts take note.

Bone identification - updated

1.Bison priscus.

Right dentary with MI-M3 with gnawing marks, possibly wolf (Canus lupus).

2. Bison priscus.

Distal right humerus.

3. Rangifer tarandus.

(Reindeer). Fragment of left dentary with M2 and M3.

4. Bison priscus.

Thoracic vertebra.

5. Rangifer tarandus.

Part of antler from young animal.

6. Bison priscus.

Right metacarpal.

7. Rangifer tarandus.

Left humerus.

8. Bison priscus.

Sub-adult.  Left metatarsal lacking unfused distal epiphysis.

9. Bison priscus.

Rib fragment.

10. Bison priscus.

Fragment of horn cone from large animal.

11. Bison priscus.


12. Rangifer tarandus.

Lumbar vertebra.

13. Rangifer tarandus.

Part of antler from young animal.

14. Rangifer tarandus.

Part of antler from young animal.

15. Rangifer tarandus.

Distal right tibia?  Gnawed at distal articulation.

16. Bison priscus.

Juvenile distal right humerus lacking proximal epiphysis.

17. Bison priscus.

(The much photographed, partly stalagmite encrusted long bone).  Left radius lacking distal extremity.

18. Rangifer tarandus.

Nine pieces of female or juvenile antler including two bases.

cf. Rangifer tarandus.

Rib fragment.

     Rangifer tarandus.

Shaft of juvenile left humerus.


Juvenile distal right radius lacking epiphysis.


Mid-shaft fragment of juvenile radius.


Anterior mid-shaft fragment of left metacarpal.


Right metacarpal lacking distal extremity.


Much damaged proximal right meatacarpal.


Partial right innominate.


Mid-shaft fragment of juvenile left femur.


Distal left femur (epiphysis incompletely fused).


Mid-shaft fragment of right femur.


Proximal right tibia.


Juvenile distal right tibia lacking epiphysis. L


Left astragalus.


Mid-shaft fragments of left metatarsal.


Mid-shaft fragment of left metatarsal.


Mid-shaft fragment of metapodial.


Two 1st phalanges Guvenile).

cf. Rangifer tarandus.

Eight rib fragments.


Part of spine of left scapula.

     Bison priscus.

Left calcanium.


Partial left calcanium (small).


Distal right astragalus.


Right naviculo-cuboid.


Proximal phalange.


Proximal phalange.


Proximal phalange.

19. Rangifer tarandus.

5 pieces of female and juvenile male antler including unshed base with small portion of frontal bone.


Neural spine of thoracic vertebra.


Rib fragment.


Portion of juvenile right scapula.


Proximal right humerus.


Distal right humerus.


Juvenile proximal right radius lacking epiphysis.


Proximal left ulna.


Fragment of proximal left ulna.


Fragment of right ulna.


Right ilium.


Mid-shaft portion of right metatarsal.


Distal left metatarsal.

      cf Bison priscus.

Rib fragments x 2.

20. Rangifer tarandus.

Distal right metatarsal.

21. Rangifer tarandus.

Juvenile thoracic vertebra.

      Rangifer tarandus.

Juvenile proximal right tibia lacking epiphysis.

22. Rangifer tarandus.

Antler tine.

      cf Bison priscus.

Two rib fragments.


Unidentified fragments.

23. Rangifer tarandus

Proximal left humerus.  Chemically weathered, not gnawed.

24. Rangifertarandus

Unshed base of juvenile antler with brow tine and portion of frontal.


Fragment of juvenile antler.


Fragment from (?juvenile) cranium retaining part of base of pedicel.


Sacrum; incompletely fused.

     cf Bison priscus.

Rib fragment.

25. Bison priscus.

Proximal left femur (?) gnawed.

26. Bison priscus

Juvenile proximal left radius lacking distal epiphysis.


Damaged at proximal end.

The above have been returned from the British Museum and have been given to Chris Hawkes for the Wells Museum collection - with the exception of HLIS 17 which, being a significant feature of the cave, has been returned to its calcite cradle in the Barmaids Bedrooms.  The following have yet to be officially identified.

27.        Bison priscus.             Right scapula and surrounding sediment (muddy gravel)
28.        Asstd. Bones.
29.        Northern vole (?).
30.        Rangifer tarandus (?).
31.        Rangifer tarandus x 2(?).
32.        Bison priscus (?) Molar.
33.        Rangifer tarandus (?) Tooth.

Roger Jacobi was pleased to inform us that probably most of the reindeer bones so far recovered are from young adult females that died around Marchi April during calving.  It is likely that they were using a sheltered snow patch where there would have been less troublesome insect life.  The males were presumably living it up elsewhere - a stag party perhaps?  Pregnant reindeer near a water supply would have been a welcome sight to a ravenous wolf pack.

The palaeontological deposits in this cave may prove to be extremely important and there is a possibility that they may be instrumental in changing the perceived sequences of the Ice Age.  The scientists involved in this project are hoping to publish their findings, once confirmed, in the relevant important publications so details of their results will be initially omitted from BB reports to avoid any academic embarrassment! It’s very satisfying, though to not only have discovered this fine system in such a perfect position but to know that this dig has actually changed the history of the world!!! Everything to Excess.

Yet more diggers and acknowledgements.

Professor Graham Bowden (Soton.UCC/WCC), Dr. Pete Smart (UBSS), Maggie Matthews and Bethan Waite (BBC), Steve Windsor, Ben Shaw (Birmingham USS), Simon Nik-Nak Richards (WCC), Malcolm Cotter (MCG - video), Dr. David Richards (UBSS), Tim Large, Peter (Snablet) MacNab.


A formal mammalian biostratigraphy for the Late Pleistocene of Britain, Andrew Currant, Roger Jacobi. Quaternary Science Reviews 20 (2001) ppI707-1716.

Secrets of the Ice Age, Evan Hadingham (1979).


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink Part II - Pushing the Bar Steward and the Filming of an Epic!

by Tony Jarratt

The saga continues from the previous article.  Refer also to BB515 Following the streams in H.L.I.S.

Work on following the streamway at the bottom of Cellar Dig, below the boulder floor of Happy Hour Highway, continued throughout December with many bangs being necessary to remove obstructing rocks and ledges - both at floor level and in the ceiling.  By the 11th we had progressed some 9 metres with another 5 metres in view giving a total dug length of some 18 metres.  An estimated gap of around 4 metres exists between the upstream end of the new stuff and the downstream end of the previously explored Bar Steward Passage and so this name has been extended to cover all of the streamway - and very appropriate it is too!  A vocal connection has been established but there is little enthusiasm for a physical one due to the horrendous nature of the intervening boulder choke.  This may be a job for the future.  With the onset of wet weather a visit to Bar Steward can be a refreshing and cleansing experience on a rainy day and the base of the entrance shaft makes a handy, free laundrette for one’s spare oversuit.  On a dry day the ample Mendip mud found in the first part of the dig makes the use of this facility very necessary.

On December 14th, following a rubble clearing session, the writer demolished a calcite false floor and was able to descend a 4m deep sloping rift in the floor to see the streamway continuing in a similar fashion.  Large slabs of rock vaguely attached to the walls prevented access. More clearing the next day made the climb easier and also gave a view of a possible decorated void beyond a partially flowstone coated boulder choke above the streamway.  The 17th, 18th, 21st and 22nd saw further blasting and clearing trips as we progressed along the rift. Spoil disposal became no problem as broken rock could be dropped into the narrow floor of the rift or stacked in gaps in the choke.  Stones thrown ahead rattled on downwards and the occasional one went a long way.  Trev Hughes estimated the depth of this forthcoming pitch as possibly 15 metres.  Our optimism and enthusiasm increased immeasurably!

Tim Large installed a thermometer at the entrance to Cellar Dig, initially to check the temperature of the adjacent bottle of Champagne but now regularly inspected to record the temperature of the cave itself.  Between the 8th and 11th of December this varied from 10.6-12.8 degrees Celsius.

The next Wednesday night session fell on Christmas Eve but we just couldn’t miss it.  The writer descended early to clear the bang debris and after an hour of rock hauling and manipulation opened a squeeze into a muddy alcove above a large, superbly water worn and steeply descending rift with a further drop visible beyond.  Mark Ireland then arrived to assist with gardening a couple of huge slabs forming the floor of the breakthrough squeeze and these were shifted just as Jeff Price and Tim turned up for their unexpected extra Christmas present.

A careful free-climb, with more gardening en route, was made down the Eastwater-style potholed rift for 10m to reach a 5m vertical section where a ladder was used to reach the roomy area below.  Here the cave once more went horizontal and, unfortunately, small.  A low phreatic tube was pushed for 8m to where it became too tight.  A steeply ascending phreatic tube on the west side could not quite be entered and this area needed chemical persuasion.  This 25m long extension is 50m below the surface and 20m below the entrance to Cellar Dig at its deepest point.  The length to this point from Cellar Dig is around 43 metres.  It is heading on a bearing of 172 degrees and may well pass beneath Drip Tray Sump.  There are many spectacular fossils and chert ledges throughout and the place has a totally different character to the rest of the system which it complements nicely. It is in itself a taxing little trip and indeed will be a Bar Steward in flood conditions.  With our usual appropriateness we named it Rocking Rudolph Rift after Roger’s latest festive brew - alliteration and reindeer being also relevant to this cave.  The whole 15m depth is free-climable with care but a rope or ladder would certainly be necessary for the vertical section on a wet day and, until all the friable ledges are booted off, it needs some caution.  Amongst the many superb fossils in the walls of the rift is a probable Orthoceras (Nautiloid); white, smooth, slightly conical and a little larger than a king-sized cigarette.


On the way out the 12.5 degree Champagne was quaffed and suitable celebrations continued in the bar.  Merry Christmas!

Work resumed on the morning of the 27th with the firing cable and tools being moved forwards, more gardening of the pitch being done and three long shotholes drilled at the face. In the afternoon Trev and Tangent surveyed the extension while the writer prepared the charges.  Detonation took place from Cellar Dig.  The results were examined by the writer and Tangent next day.  The rock rib and phreatic ceiling at the face had been enlarged enough for access to be gained for 1.5 metres into the base of the steeply ascending phreatic tube. This closed down as did the continuation of the fault line at all levels.  The stream pooled up in a very narrow rift which would need intensive banging. As the passage has obviously sumped up to a high level the site was abandoned until drier weather and all equipment cleared for use elsewhere.  This was a bitter end to our Christmas expectations.  On the way out the wedged boulders at the top of the pitch were banged and their remains cleared by Alex Livingston the following evening.  He also noted four leeches near the base of the pitch.

On 14th January, having studied Trev’s survey and resigned ourselves to the squalor, we were back. Three holes were drilled and another charge fired at the base of the steep tube to give us some working space.  Rock and fossil samples, Caninia and Zaphrentis, were collected.  The spoil was partly cleared on the 18th with assistance from a Shepton team and next day another bang was fired in the rift some 3m above the terminal sump.  Yet another bang on the 21st brings this phase of the project up to date. There seems to be open passage not far ahead and the rift draughts well.  Watch this space (or read the following article!)

Some 2.5m down from Cellar Dig entrance a low, up-dip bedding passage can be seen to extend for at least 5m.  Shotholes were drilled here in preparation for a future bang.

Roger Jacobi phoned from the British Museum to report that one of the last batch of bones may possibly be the radius from a Brown Bear - Ursus arctos.  A bison scapula has been taken to Oxford for carbon 14 dating.  In B.B. Dr David Richards of Bristol University took stalagmite samples for dating purposes.

The BBC decided that the difficult access to the cave precluded it from starring in the pilot programme of their forthcoming archaeological series but that it would feature on the local Inside Out documentary on 2nd February.  A date was arranged to introduce the lady director, Maggie Matthews, and lady researcher, Bethan Waite, to the delights of caving. Their cameraman, Steve Holland, already had experience.  They turned up on 5th January, as did several gentlemen diggers, keen to offer the ladies a helping hand.  Maggie unfortunately had a cold so decided to undertake research in the Pub while Bethan took over for underground action.  After an initial attack of worry and doubt in Pub Crawl she overcame this and very competently completed a trip to the bone deposit and back, though there was some doubt if she enjoyed it!  Steve used a small video camera to do some preliminary filming in H.H.H. and B.B. but being 6’ 4’’ tall and having an old shoulder injury was unable to pass the squeeze above Pewter Pot.  He did enjoy the cave though and seemed happy enough to allow Bethan to film the rest on her next visit - if her bruises had healed by then!  It later transpired that a thin caving cameraman, Graham MacFarlane, had been rooted out for the next attempt and that hands on presenter Tessa Dunlop was keen to go underground.  Palaentologists Andy Currant and Roger Jacobi offered to turn up on the surface to explain the importance of the bones.  Maggie decided that a good human interest sequence could be filmed at the Belfry so it was pointed out to her that suitable amounts of traditional refreshment would inspire the would-be film stars to greater thespian achievements.

On Monday 12th January the epic production commenced after almost being cancelled due to this being the wettest day for months.  With the entrance waterfall contained behind polythene sheeting and most of the stream diverted down the rift in the floor conditions were not too bad.  Both H.H.H. and B.B. were filmed, a long sequence was recorded with Estelle and Tangent at the bone deposit and Jake Baynes starred in a digging role at the Inn-let.  Trev’s hand drawn survey and MadPhil’s computerised version made the silver screen and some excellent footage was recorded in the bar where our palaeontologists made some very favourable comments on the finds and examined 16 bones, antler fragments and another bison horn cone brought out for the occasion (HLIS 24-39).  This was a long day with six hours underground and as many in the Pub (courtesy of the Beeb).  The girls were superb - dedicated and professional and very capable cavers. Graham, assisted with the lighting by Alex, did a magnificent job and is keen to cave with us again.  Thanks to all those who turned up to help and especially to Roger and Jacquie for their patience and hospitality.  Surface sequences were later filmed by Steve Wagstaff at Bat Products (where unsuspecting customer Clive North - who the Beeb could not afford to film this programme, ironically became an unpaid extra!) Estelle’s house and Tangent’s place of work.  A booze-up at the Belfry was also recorded.  Fuelled by a BBC donated barrel of Butcombe a selection of Mendip’s finest topers entertained the viewers at home with atrociously sung ditties accompanied by Snab’s folk ensemble – Hen’s Teeth.  The maestro also gave a rendering of his rapidly composed song about the cave entitled Beneath the Boozer.

Digging in the floor of the Inn-let has commenced in the faint hope of entering the continuation of Bar Steward passage from above.

The extensions (as of 16/1/04).

Work has recommenced in Dear’s Ideal, Hunters Hole in an attempt to enter the master cave further along but, due to the wet weather, conditions here are fairly squalid and this may end up as another summer dig.  Water from the entrance shaft and Main Pitch, after sinking in the boulder floor of the Railway Tunnel, is seen again sinking behind the current spoil heap in Dear’s Ideal.  It does not reappear in the known cave and may well flow beneath the choked fossil passages in like manner to the Bar Steward stream flowing beneath H.H.H. in the Sink.  This is an area of dangerous poised boulders and a route directly downwards from the base of the Main Pitch may need to be engineered.

With our knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the underground drainage and potential of this area plans are being laid for the next surface dig.  If permission can be obtained we hope to reopen Tankard Hole (ST 5563/4994) - essentially a 60m deep and horrifically dangerous boulder choke with open, unexplored passages at the bottom.  With modern digging technology this should be a feasible objective.

Song: Beneath the Boozer

words: Snab. Tune: Brighton Camp (The Girl I Left Behind Me).

If it hadn’t been for the Foot and Mouth perhaps they never would have found it,
for the government said the land must close and the cavers all were grounded.
So they all sat in the Hunters Lodge with the tears running into their tankards
and Roger said Get out of here or you’ll turn into a load of drunkards .


What shall we do? Shall we have a pint? Shall we have a pint with you sir?
Or shall we go outside and dig, find a cave right under the boozer?

Oh where can we go? young Tony said, There’s nowhere to go caving .
Roger said When I tried to build a shed it fell in and it’s covered in paving.
Lift it up and you’ll find a hole, it’s the one just round the corner.
You can dig there to your heart s content. Stop looking like bloody mourners.

So they started to dig at the end of the Pub, it was a joyful occasion
and they sometimes made a right hubbub when the passage needed persuasion.
As they cleared each flake the bar did shake and the drunkards were astounded.
Then they all rushed in, you could tell by their grins that they’d dug for a cave and found it!

Oh when they’d passed the hanging death young Tangent went off looking.
He shouted back I’ve found some bones they must be from Jacquie’s cooking .
But, no, the bones were Ice Age ones, some covered o’er in calcite,
there was reindeer, bison and a vole so the Butcombe flowed past midnight.

Now those Belfry lads dig all the time, those diggers brave and bolder
and the bones that they found from the past have turned out so much older
than ever they had dreamed about though the cave it was a bruiser
and who’d have thought they’d have found this lot right underneath their boozer?

A new verse to Boys of the Hill by J. Rat.

In the car park, underground Ice Age mammals can be found;
bison and reindeer as time stands there still.
Sumps and squeezes, pots and crawls; leeches, mud and waterfalls
This cave has it all! say the Boys of the Hill.

The Hunters car park about 80,000 years ago by John Wilson (MOLES).

Additions to the digging team and other contributors to the saga.

Mark Gonzo Lumley, Lee Hawkswell (MCG), Jacquie Gibbons (MCG), Steve Holland (BBC), Tessa Dunlop (BBC), Graham MacFarlane (BBC), Steve Wagstaff (BBC), Ben Ogboume, Steve Windsor, Clive North (ATLAS), Pete Snab McNab, Anita McNab and Hen s Teeth, assorted drunks led by Alan Butcher (SMCC), Terry Fitch (SMCC), Kev Barlow (SMCC).


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink Part III - Hangover Hall and Stillage Sump.

by Tony Jarratt

It may safely be said that all this great series of inlets send their water to the subterranean Axe, forming a labyrinth of cave passage, which may trend to concentrate into a larger stream-way, along the line of the southerly dip of the faulted-down limestone north of Pen Hill.

HE. Balch - Mendip, Its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters, 2nd edn. (1948) p.136.

On the 23rd January 2004 some of the debris from the last bang below RRR was cleared by Doug Harris and Simon Moth (A.C.G.)  Jake Baynes and a Birmingham D.S.S. party tidied up the bone inlet dig the next day and the following morning saw more clearing in the streamway.  On this trip a view was gained into roomy, flowstone covered passage.  On the 26th the rest of the spoil was removed and another charge fired.  Tim Large recovered a fine Michelinia fossil.  The 28th saw Tim, Jeff Price and the writer desperately shifting the spoil and gazing longingly into the tantalising streamway ahead.  Having run out of cord a desperate attempt was made to enter this by using a hired Kango hammer powered from the mains and to this effect Jake B. and the writer spent three murderous hours laying cables, steel-driving and lugging the bloody heavy hammer back out again in disgust having only succeeded in chipping off a tiny amount of rock!  In the evening some cord was scrounged from Clive North and we got our own back, incidentally being totally unaware of the Somerset earth tremor which happened at the same time.

The last day of January saw the debris cleared but still no access so a large team blithely descended on the 1st of February, after a lunchtime session, with intentions of banging again.  Chiselling was in progress when a sudden roar from above heralded the arrival of a considerable flood pulse forcing those at the bottom of R.R.R to cram themselves into various nooks and crannies to avoid a soaking.  The pitch soon became a maelstrom of cascading water - very impressive and quite frightening at the time.  Taking a chance on the final crawl not sumping the writer managed to drill seven shotholes before fleeing to the surface with the others - Jeff having his spectacles washed off on the climb and being pelted by in washed rocks.  By the time we got out it had stopped raining and Pub Crawl was almost dry but we had gained an insight into how potentially dangerous the cave could be.

Next morning, following a brief interview on BBC Radio Bristol, the writer and Tony Boycott laid the charge, returning after lunch with Jake, Tim and Jeff to pass the terminal rift, foggy with bang fumes, and enter some 4 metres of passage ending in a sump on the left.  Bugger. A flowstone coated rift/aven above was climbed for 10 metres but closed down.  After poking about the stream was found to sink below the RH wall and this was destined to be dug in drier weather.  Disappointed we headed out after imbibing yet another bottle of Champagne.  Hangover Hall seemed a suitable name for the extension.

In the evening the BBC Inside Out documentary was screened and it was pleasing to see what an excellent and professional job has been done.  It was informative, amusing, risque in parts and not too embarrassing - except for Tim whose well packed underpants are now famous throughout the nation!  Favourable comments were heard from cavers and non-cavers alike and hopefully this programme redressed the balance a little for the utter crap shown on the recent Casualty series.

On February 4th digging commenced in Hangover Hall where several large sacks were filled with mud and clay and left in situ.  The sump on the left was found to be an inlet with more water flowing from it than was in the main stream   The combined streams sank on the right hand side of the fault and this, as previously stated, was to become the focus of our next campaign.

Work here continued throughout February and March and was not without the odd trauma.  On one occasion Jake B. was almost squashed by a boulder but the quick thinking of his observant companion, Justine, saved his bacon. With no access to bang the team resorted to plugs and feathers in an attempt to break up a large boulder - a slow job.  On 10th March the writer returned to reality and the offending boulder was reduced instantaneously to gravel.  It was noted that the strong inward draught whistled up into the rift above H.H. and that the bang fumes did not reappear in H.H.H. or the Inn-let Dig; where did they go?  The spoil was cleared on the 14th and another charge fired the next day.  This was cleared on the 17th when Gwilym Evans did the squalid bit at the face and was rewarded for his efforts by a sudden breakthrough into a continuation of Hangover Hall some 2.5m high, 2m wide and 4m long.  An unattractive sump at the end may drain in drier weather and was named Stillage Sump in honour of the assorted flotsam and jetsam therein.  Another choke had been vanquished and we were a little bit closer to the crux of this cave.  Coincidentally, on the same night the BBC repeated their documentary nationwide and with a few alterations from the original.  This caught the eye of Simon de Bruxelles of The Times who wrote a short article which was published on the 19th.  A similar article was published next day in the Western Daily Press.  It also, unfortunately, caught the eyes of at least two nutters who saw fit to write to the Hunters with their lunatic theories. One of these concerned totally jumbled archaeological nonsense and the other; several pages of A4 paper covered in numerals, references to the bible and newspaper cuttings - apparently compiled by a schizophrenic psychopath from Newport, Monmouthshire!  The paper is sadly just too stiff and shiny for use elsewhere!

On 21st and 22nd more spoil was cleared from the approach to Stillage Sump to make access easier. Snablet had been in this up to his neck but it was decided that a diver was required for a safer and more hygienic push.  The entrance to the unexplored inlet passage a couple of metres below the drop into Cellar Dig was also banged and partly cleared by Tim and Justine on the 24th. Work continued on these two sites throughout March and both tourist and tidying up trips took place in conjunction.

On April 2nd (a lost opportunity by one day!) cave divers Rich Dolby and Jon Beal, supported by John Walsh and Tangent, made their weary way to Stillage Sump.  Unfortunately this became totally mud and rock-choked some 2m in at a depth of around 1m - just body-sized!  It will now be left to drain naturally or at worst pumped out to enable digging to proceed.  On April 5th the sump chamber and approach were enlarged and the ceiling blasted to give direct access to the airbell.  Two days later the now roomy sump pool received another bang on the end wall and both Jake B. and Eddy Hill were convinced that the sump shelved deeply away on the RH side and was probably diveable.

With blasting discontinued at Stillage Sump the Cellar Dig inlet captured our attention and another charge was fired on the 14th April.

To be continued.

Additions to the team and acknowledgements.

The Mendip Caving Group for a donation of 130 pounds to the bang fund following an auction at their 50th Anniversary bash, Andy Thorpe (OSCG), Doug Harris (ACG), Gavin Davidge and Nigel Gray (BUSS), Justine Emery (CSS), Eddy Hill (UBSS), Jon Beal (FCC), Kevin Welch and Amy Finnie (CSCA).

(Ed. Photographs of these new extensions should appear in the next BB).


New Discovery.  Loxton Cavern Found!

by Nick Harding and Nick Richards

Chalk another one up for the BEC - but not just yet

As many, if not all of you are aware the Two Nicks have made a very important cave discovery, or rather rediscovery in the Loxton area (turn to page 111 of Mendip the Complete Caves and a View of the Hills and cross out the word Lost before Cave of Loxton).  At present the situation is this: Loxton Parish Council have decided that until their insurance situation is sorted out the cave must remain out of bounds.  This is frustrating as there is much to share with noble fellow cavers.  As soon as the situation has been resolved to everyone’s benefit you will be able to read all about it.  But be warned this may take a long time.

This of course does not stop us from thanking Masters Tony J, Tangent, MadPhil and Mark Ireland for their sterling work and Martin Grass for the pictures.  Blessings be upon ye.


Holly Bush Shaft Shipham - Recent Explorations.

by Mark Ireland (Shipham born, depraved Cheddar resident)

Amongst the most depraved and wretched were Shipham and Rowberrow, two mining villages at the top of Mendip: the people savage and depraved even almost beyond Cheddar, brutal in their natures, and ferocious in their manners.

Martha Manners, Mendip Annals (1859)


The author’s family have lived in Shipham for many generations and were familiar with many of the mine workings.  Recent exploration and surveying has been undertaken by mainly Axbridge Caving Group, Wessex Cave Club and B.E.C.

The majority of mines were worked by individual miners, partnerships or small groups.  The work was often difficult and dangerous and the ores extracted in the simplest and quickest way possible.  More organised mining companies then began to take an interest in the area and Cornish miners worked what are currently known as Winterhead Shaft, Star Mine and the Stinking Gulf in Singing River Mine.  Following their departure from the latter site the shaft was blocked until the mid 1910’s when Messrs F.G. Clements & Co. from Easton, near Wells were contracted on behalf of Axbrige Rural District Council (ARDC) to investigate the possibility of making an underground reservoir down this shaft.  It was dug out to a platform previously installed by the Cornishmen.  Frank Clements was standing on this with George and Frank Brooks when it collapsed and Clements was left hanging by his fingertips!  He was pulled to safety by the others, who had escaped the calamity, and hoisted to the surface.  He never went down the shaft again.

Below this platform an opening led to the shaft bottom and old workings.  Clements & Co. enlarged these to form the Great Hall but not long after the project was abandoned with the arrival in Shipham of mains water.  This mine was visited in the 1940s by Sidcot School Spelaeological Society and then forgotten until revisited by ACG&AS in 1971.  Due to the efforts of Clements & Co. we cannot be sure how the workings originally looked or what artefacts were removed.  Only small pockets of the mine were left untouched and some artefacts were found.

Old miners reported that the majority of workings were 20-30 fathoms deep (120-180 feet or 36.5-55 metres). In some mines seasonal high water levels gave some problems.

The only area left unexplored by mine enthusiasts in Shipham, and probably the most important in understanding the undisturbed workings, is to the east of Singing River Mine in Jimmy Glover’s Field - also called Gruffies after the old workings or grooves.  Here there are at least three intact, infilled shafts, one of which forms the subject of this article and whose underground galleries may connect with the eastern workings of Singing River Mine.

Holly Bush Shaft.

On the 8th July 2003 my brother Shane and I investigated this 6m deep, rubbish choked shaft located at ST 4458857815 and originally reported and named by Chris Richards (ACC&AS) in 1971.  The entrance being completely overgrown with brambles, some gardening work was done to reveal a broken flagstone capping dangerously partly sunken into the shaft. Beneath this was a piece of corrugated sheeting which itself was resting on two large, loose rocks.

The flagstone - 1.2m x 0.79m x 0.1m thick - may have been originally placed by the miners.  Three drill holes on one side may have served to lift it. The other half of the broken capstone was later found in the shaft.

We lifted the flagstone, partly removed the supporting corrugated sheeting and peered down the gap into a typical 0.76m (2ft 6) Shipham shaft, at least 6m deep. Everything was put back as before and our findings were reported to the landowners who, after some discussion, agreed that the entrance should be rebuilt and that permission to dig out the shaft would be given.  We returned the next evening with a 1.5m x 0.9m steel plate, cleared the capping - replacing it with the plate - and planned a permanent, safe and secure access.

Mick Norton (ACC/B&DCC) and I descended the shaft to check its safety and need of repairs to the ginging.  Only the top section needed cementing, the depth was measured at 8m to a choke of soil and animal bones - cattle, sheep etc.  Later, over a couple of trips, Dave Holmes (ACG), stating that he wanted to provide a service to the community, helped rebuild the entrance with concrete. A new manhole cover was emplaced and the flagstone put aside.

15th September saw the writer commence removal of bones, soil and more bones!  At a depth of 8.7m a cast iron wheelbarrow wheel was discovered. On the 18th Tony Jarratt and I removed 100 skiploads of spoil.  Bones, earth and stones made this easy going.  Amongst the spoil was found an old cast iron shoemaker s last, a spade a builder s trowel and a small engine cogwheel.

The next couple of trips cleared out more spoil consisting of larger stones than previously.  A long, thick stone - first thought to be a lintel - was later revealed to be the other half of the capstone.  The surrounding spoil proved to be builder’s rubble.  On the 20th, after clearing the capstone, an old car front bumper was revealed.  On lifting this out another front spoiler was found.  I must here confess to having previously stacked the ladder and hauling rope on a ledge above in order that they did not interfere with digging.  The spoiler was half buried across the shaft and under the capstone and moving it dislodged a rock which hit the side of the shaft somewhere beneath my feet.  On hearing the noise my immediate reaction was to lunge across and wedge myself in the shaft.  At that moment, as I looked down at the floor, it collapsed, giving me a great shock - not only the sight of it going but the noise and speed of debris falling 4m further down!  I counted my lucky stars that I was not amongst it, then looked up the shaft with relief to see that none of the ginging had been dislodged.  This would have presented a serious problem.  The ladder was pulled down from the ledge but failed to reach the new floor so an exit was made and a return made later with a second 10m ladder.  A lesson had been learned - always be connected to a safety line!!

Returning with the necessary gear and a back up who waited at the entrance the writer descended to the new floor.  This was at a depth of 12m and the shaft appeared to be still going down.  More Shipham shotholes were to be seen drilled downwards into the shaft walls.  The capstone now lay on old iron car parts and building materials and the digging skips were tangled amongst this.  Whilst connected to the safety line and holding the ladder I stepped onto the capstone and rocked it to see if the choke would collapse again but for the moment it had stabilised.

On the 9th October Tony, Nick Richards, Nick Harding and I arrived at the site in the Bat Products Land Rover with the intention of using it to pull out the capstone but the plan changed when Tony produced a rope puller ratchet winch which was used instead. The capstone was successfully removed from the shaft along with two other large rocks to leave the place much enlarged at the bottom and looking more encouraging.

Nine days later the entrance was found to have been broken into and the skips and ropes thrown down the shaft.  The trusty steel plate was replaced over the hole.  A return next evening saw the plate removed and dumped nearby. Underground everything was fortunately okay so the skips etc. were recovered, the plate yet again replaced and, with great difficulty, the original capstone laid on top.

The next few trips were to make the entrance more secure.  This was achieved thanks to Ivan Sandford who gave up his time to fabricate a strong security bar.  It was so successful that now even I have difficulty gaining access!

Digging recommenced on 28th October with the angle of the shaft gradually changing from vertical to around 45 degrees, heading to the north and with the obstructing boulders becoming noticeably larger.  As I broke rocks to fit into the skips in the same way that my mining ancestors did I felt good and much encouraged. On the wall where the shaft changes angle rope rub markings were noted.  There were also many more bones appearing, some of which looked suspiciously human. After consulting Tony I reported this to the police, explaining all about the dig and the uncertainty of the identification of the bones.  (No constable would venture to arrest a Shipham man, lest he should be concealed in one of their pits and never heard of more; no uncommon case Martha Moore, Mendip Annals (1859)).  An officer arrived, looked at the bones and then down the shaft; he was most surprised at the 12m depth and after focusing his powerful torch became worried and called me over to ask what the two shining, human eye-like objects reflecting up at him were?  Was it a body down there?  I looked again and started giggling as I realised it was two small pieces of wet broken glass giving a realistic impression of eyes!  He decided to seal off the area and field footpaths while the investigation was going on, explaining that because bones were present this was a strict procedure.  The bones were removed for analysis and a later telephone call revealed them to be animal.  He gave permission for the dig to continue and thanks for reporting the find.

As the shaft deepened it became harder for me to dig on my own.  Climbing out, hauling skips, tipping spoil onto the heap then returning to the bottom to repeat the procedure became a chore.  Then Ernie White and Andy Norman, the Barnsley Boys, came down for a weekend and kindly helped out while I dug.  For four hours non-stop they hauled out 60 skips of rock, scrap iron and household rubbish and levelled it all out - all credit to them both. The shaft continued dropping at 45 degrees with more Shipham shotholes around the sides.  At 15m depth more evidence of rope marks was found on the hanging wall.

My brother later came along to stay at the entrance while I removed two large boulders.  Beneath one of these a gap appeared.  A light shone down revealed a horribly dangerous choke of clean rocks at an estimated depth of 4.5m.  By using a long bar to dislodge this choke I managed to collapse it for 1.2m until it wedged again but this time I knew what was below.  A single Cornish shotholelarger than the Shipham variety - was found driven downwards in the shaft wall.  Its diameter is 45mm and the length is 710mm as opposed to the smaller holes of 21-26mm diameter and averaging 2-300mm in length.  The presence of this much larger and probably more modem shothole may mean that an unknown prospector was investigating the older workings or could be evidence of visitation by F.G. Clements & Co.

Over the next few trips I removed the top layer of TV -sized rocks and broke them down to knuckle size. This also compacted the spoil and revealed a void below.  The larger rocks were stacked nearby and the smaller stuff was pushed into the void. On the next trip I found that half of the infill had collapsed into a horizontal gallery below.  The remainder of the choke was dislodged to leave a shaft of 20m leading into the open workings last visited over 150 years ago. The spoil from the shaft blocked off the route to the west but that to the east was wide open.

The eastern passage, which I named Branch Line (all passage names deriving from the surnames of past Shipham miners) continued over a false floor for an estimated distance of 24 m. The passage had been stoped out by the Old Men at a 70 degree angle and had many ingoing shotholes.  Marks of hand picks and a possible shovel blade in the soft wall were ample evidence of their efforts, as were black smoke marks resulting from the use of tallow candles and a sooty deposit around the shotholes resulting from the use of black powder.  A possible brand (burnt wooden torch) was also found.  On returning to Branch Line at a later date, during a wet spell, an active stream was found to be flowing from the terminal choke and running along the passage floor for some 15m to sink below the deads.

Back at the base of the entrance shaft I began to clear the infill to reveal the western gallery.  On entering the passage it enlarged with a divergence ahead.  At eye level on the left hand wall a rock was noticed purposely placed in front of an unfired shothole.  Inside this was discovered a broken flat iron scraper.  It seemed evident that the obscuring rock had been placed by a fellow miner to warn his colleagues not to load the shothole with powder lest a premature explosion occur due to sparking.

At the divergence the right hand working, Day Passage, was followed for approximately 30m over a floor of deads.  Ancient, rusted Cadbury’s Bournville Cocoa tins are evident throughout its length. Dating from the end of the nineteenth century, these have probably been dumped in the shaft and moved to their present location by flood water - possibly during the infamous deluge of 1968. More pieces of burnt wood litter the floor.  At the lowest part of the passage, on the left hand side, a mined out, curving bench is an attractive feature inspiring the name Pew Comer.  The floor is covered with large boulders.

At the end of Day Passage is another choke with a probable shaft to the surface above.  Just before the choke there is a backfilled passage having a gap of 15cm and running back to the east for c.4m to re-enter Day Passage. Halfway along Day Passage I removed a couple of rocks in the floor to reveal a drop of 1.8m with a passage beneath - actually the lower section of Day Passage but separated by a false floor of deads to make work in the higher level easier.  On a tourist trip Dave, a mining engineer, noticed two stones acting as a roof support pillar in this gallery.  Shotholes indicate that Day Passage was driven towards the east.

The passage to the left at the fork drops to a lower level with a possible choked winze on the left side at its entrance.  This passage, Wilson Way, has the appearance of being the main route but must have been worked at a later date than Day Passage as it is larger and neater.  This soon leads to a mined rift in the floor, Wilson Pit, choked in an easterly direction.  Ahead is a T-junction.  To the right a climb over a pile of deads, probably derived from mined cavities above, leads to a continuation of the level.  A possible false floor may indicate another level below.  The continuation is at present flooded but there is a high level, excavated, blind cavity above.  Shothole direction is to the west.

Back at the T-junction the 21m Lewis Level heads south-east on the left hand side.  It has an uneven floor and two mined roof cavities.  Just before the end the floor drops to a pit partly filled with deads.  A climb over this leads to the end where a small natural cavity can be seen on the left. To the right is a 20cm long window into a possible parallel passage.  Could this be an unopened connection with another company s mine?  Shothole direction in the Lewis Level is to the south-east.

As more spoil was cleared from the base of the entrance shaft another level, Tripp Gallery, appeared on the north side, running in an easterly direction.  With a similar appearance to the Wilson Way it may be a continuation of the same. The floor of deads may conceal workings below.  A slope leads to a wall of stacked deads with a short, backfilled passage above.  This was dug out to reveal the small Athay Chamber. Below the stacked wall Tripp Gallery may continue at a lower level but is flooded at present. Shotholes point to the east.

On 20th December the lower levels of the mine were flooded following heavy rain during the previous week. This is an indication of the problems that the original miners faced during wet weather.

Nick Richards examined the minerals in the workings to find cadmium-rich calamine, galena and Turkey Fat Ore or Greenockite (cadmium sulphide) amongst others.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Shane Ireland, Tony Coles and Nigel Fowler for their generosity and assistance.

Selected references.

Jack McQueen-Foord, Mining in Shipham (in) Shipham, Rowberrow & Star Down the Ages. Pp14-25

Christopher J. Schmitz, An Account of Mendip Calamine Mining in the Early I870s, Somerset Arch. And Nat. Hist. Soc. (1976). Pp81-83

J.W. Gough, The Mines of Mendip, Oxford (1930) (reprinted David and Charles 1967). Pp 206-232

Chris Richards, Singing River Mine: a Calamine Working at Shipham, Bristol Ind. Arch. Soc. In!. IV (1971). Pp7-9

Somerset Mine Research Group publications (1980-1983).

(Ed. A further report on the workings will appear in the next BB).


Helictite Well, Shipham. (N.G.R. 440557332).

by Mark Ireland

Chris Richards and Marie Clarke explored the wells and mines in Shipham in the 1970’s.  It was recorded in the ACG Journal, No.7, 1972. The writer advises the reader to read this article in conjunction with the Journal mentioned above.

The writer discussed with Chris Richards about the open mines and wells in Shipham and why the choked shafts were not recorded.  The discussion came to Helictite Well, which was a very unusual well system.  It was agreed to find out what was below the rubbish choke in the well shaft, concerning where the pipe leads to. Chris thought it might be connected to one of the houses in the village.

After consulting the landowners and getting permission from them to explore Helictite Well, on 5th May 2003 I located the shaft, which had an old-fashioned man hole cover, which was seized up.  The writer spent some time removing it and exploring the well system and it was amazing to see the work that was put into it.

It was dry stoned all the way down the shaft (known as ginging - a Derbyshire mining term or steining - a well sinker s term) for 10.6 metres and still continuing, with an Upper Gallery and Lower Gallery built just off the bottom in a southerly direction and also built dry stone with flagstones acting as lintels.  It was a well thought out construction that must have taken some time to construct and also have been a costly project.

The Upper Gallery is 0.45m wide and 0.9m high and roughly 5.4m long, with the first part stone walled and linteled with flagstones.  This leads into the Lower Gallery through a flagstone that has been moved to the side, the flagstone was a ceiling of the Lower Gallery 1.2m high and 0.6m wide, and runs back north towards the shaft.

The water level is 5cm high. On further inspection it is a reservoir, as all along the passage, which is again stonewalled, the bottom half is mortared, possibly old lime (lime based concrete?) and the top half is dry stoned.  There is a dam at the shaft end and situated at the base of the dam is a lead pipe 5cm in diameter, which has slotted holes on top of the pipe, which acts as drainage. Around the base of the dam surrounding the lead pipe is clay which was brought into the well as a sealing compound.

Over the next few trips, especially after the rain, I observed that the water level rises up to halfway up the Lower Gallery and it works well as a reservoir.  There is a slot on the dam wall halfway up which looks into the shaft, and it once worked as an overflow.  When the heavy rain overfills the reservoir (Lower Gallery) the water rises too high.

It is amazing that the system is still operating after all these years even though the shaft has been partially filled.  I did a smoke test into the shaft to see whether there was any draught - none!

The rubbish choke was dug out of the shaft on the 18th May 2003 and over a period of 8 trips.  There was 0.6m deep of earth spoil and rubbish before reaching the rocks, which could be seen from the slot in the Lower Gallery. 

The rubbish consisted of:

  • broken Nescafe coffee jar and Nescafe lid label
  • metal strip bent over itself
  • black china top lid
  • earthenware bowl
  • flat red marl rock with iron corroded on to it




It appears that the infilling was done in the 1950s as there are no signs of previous or later infilling.

As the rocks were removed, the Lower Gallery came into view with the slot in the back of the dam 0.7m away from the shaft.  There was water in the shaft and after a period of dry weather the water level dropped enabling the removal of rocks as I went deeper.

With the rocks removed, the opening of the shaft into the Lower Gallery is 0.55m wide and narrows to the slot, which is 0.4m wide.  The flagstone lintel ceiling partially collapsed above the dam and an opening appeared which is between the Upper and Lower Galleries.  Beware when entering the Upper Gallery.  The opening is 1.2m cubed and is in old red sandstone.

The floor of the shaft is now silted with gravel and old red sandstone from the collapse; it was there that a rusted, corroded chain link was found.  After all of this was cleared there were flagstones 22cm wide across the length of the shaft from the dam.  The removal of the flagstones showed the old stone culvert 15cm wide and deep, squared.  In the centre of the stone culvert is the lead pipe, which is the same one that was seen from the Lower Gallery, and the pipe continues through the shaft.  There is a joint connection of the pipes.

Mr George Thiery told me that, as a young boy, he remembered seeing a lead tap at the back of the Court House - which he was told was connected to the well.  But on further inspection one wonders whether the stone culvert, which now is 1104 metres down from the top of the shaft, was constructed possibly all the way to the Court House.  Was it built to protect the lead pipe or was the lead pipe put into a previously constructed stone culvert?

On the 1841 tithe map the field in which the Helictite Well is situated and the field below were respectively an orchard and ruins.  The ruins may have been a cottage of an older generation and may also have had a well. The present Court House was rebuilt in the 1890’s and this could be when the lead pipe was put in.

Trips: 8 Buckets: 46

Helpers: Shane Ireland

Alison Cromwell (ACG)


VALE: Jock Orr

by Stuart Tuttlebury

I am not surprised that we had trouble with an obituary for Jock.  He was the sort of person you knew and admired but really knew very little about. There was always so much going on, and he never said much about himself.

He will always be remembered for his sense of humour, his cave photography in the late 1960s, and the wonderful drawings he produced which complemented the magnificent word craft of Alfie Collins for the book Reflections, which was also produced in the late 60s.  Jock was Hut Engineer for a spell and although I was not around then, I am sure that he put all his skills and effort into the job.

We all have our memories, but one of mine is the impish smile on his face when he showed me the slides of his fire eating episode taken one Christmas at the Belfry.  Those that were there will remember the charred remains of the decorations hanging from the ceiling, and the flames issuing forth from the mouths of Jock and his disciples.

The little that I have learned and witnessed about Jock’s life over the years has made a big impression on me.  He served in the Second World War in Italy, sustaining a severe leg wound firing field guns from a distance at the Germans as he put it, and in Yugoslavia supporting the resistance fighters.  He had a son and a daughter by his first wife, and four younger sisters, and married Judith in 1974.  I met him at work in 1966 where he was inspecting mechanical components for armaments (bomb and missile fuses).  His skills included tool making and technical drawing, and I am sure others that I knew nothing about.  The meticulous car maintenance that he carried out, included taking everything from under the car, cleaning and painting with bitumen paint before reassembling, plus much use of glass fibre for body work.  The jobs around the home that were carried out, from constructing a soak away in the drive, faultlessly tiling the bathroom (he did admit a mistake - but I could not find it) to all the wiring, plumbing, redesigning and building etc.  The 10ft became his office, just like the drawing in the back of the book Reflections - and his artistic skills were set on one side as being a complete waste of time compared to home making!

For at least the last fifteen years of his life, Jock and Judith were working on turning a plot of land on the west coast of Scotland into a home, inspired by a holiday in a croft west of Mellon Udrigle in 1985.  Jock did all the design work and drawings, they negotiated their way through all of the planning legalities, and got to levelling the site and installing electricity and water, which Jock thoroughly enjoyed helping the contractors with.  They then had to take stock and decided to sell and return to their bungalow near Lincoln for the winter.

Those of us who knew Jock I am sure will never forget him, he will live on in our memories.


Cox's Cave Cheddar -  Souvenir China.

by Dave Irwin

As a bit of a change from J Rat’s reports on his various digs and discoveries, interesting though they are, I thought, it might be appropriate to show the more unusual side of collecting cave stuff.  Most cavers collect something, if only a few guide books.  Others accumulate masses of books, surveys and general booklets published by the show caves.  Little known to most are the pieces of china and pottery that have been sold by the show cave souvenir shops over the years.  Items from the late 19th and early 20th century are now very scarce, if not rare.  From the Somerset show caves several items have been found but the most common are the decorative items sold by Cox’s Cave management before the lease with the Longleat Estate ended in March 1939.  Similar items are known made for Gough’s Cave.

The Transfer (45mm x 30mm).

The items are similar to the Crested China products manufactured by the Goss and Arcadian companies and are now fast becoming collector’s items.  The Longton, Staffordshire, based company, Grafton, also produced this type of ware some of which is of interest to a caver.  These are souvenir pieces produced specifically for Cox s Cave at Cheddar.  The company produced an enormous selection of china boxes, trays, animals, militaria and other designs including a china Cheddar cheese!  To all of these items, and there are many hundreds of designs, a crest of a city or town was placed on the side of the object and sold widely throughout the country.  For Cox s Cave Grafton produced a transfer of the Transformation Scene which was attached to the object.  Exact dates are not known but it is thought that most were produced in the 1920s. 

Fig. 1



The illustrations are all that have been recorded many of which are in the collections of J Rat, Pete Rose and the writer.

Figure details:

Fig. 1: Ivy Leaf pin box (45mm diameter)

Fig. 2: Cheddar Cheese (55mm diameter)

Fig. 3: Pouring vessel (7Smm long)

Fig. 4: Cheese Dish (60mm x 50mm)

Fig. 5: Circular pin box (45mm diameter)

Fig. 6: Fluted vase (55mm high)

Fig. 7: Oval pin box (50mm x 30mm)

Fig. 8: Fluted box (60mm x 50mm)

Fig. 9: Rectangular pin box (40mm x 30mm)

Fig. 10: Scent bottle (60mm x 80mm high)

Fig. 11: Small plate (170mm diameter)

Fig. 12: Calf (100mm x 75mm)

Fig. 13: Frog (dimensions not known)

Fig. 14: Fish (100mm x 75mm)

Fig. 15: Valentine pin box (60mm x 50mm)

Fig. 16: Basket (100mm x 75mm high)

Fig. 17: Pin tray (60mm diameter)


Notes From The Logbook.

5/11/03: Attborough Swallet.  Graham Johnson, Paul Brock and Bob Smith.

Moved loose stones in Twist & Shout area.  GJ drilled and banged at dig face, PB drilled holes in preparation to take scaffold shoring. 2 hours.

14/11/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton’s Pot. MadPhil, Graham and Paul Brock.

Cleared bang debris, finally squeezed into small rift system (small 13 Pots). Got 3m or so, then 4 rift to chamber, good echo.  Jake drilled & banged.  Paul & I cleared dig site of bags to little chamber.

23/11/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton’s Pot. MadPhil and Graham.

No breakthrough. Drill & banged again.  Came out for cup of tea then headed back down. Very wet now due to rain.  Drain Hole thundering down, duck back.  Good bang, descended 8 ft. pot & see very narrow rift heading off.  Not good! Major bang job.  Nightmare!  Headed out, water even higher, water pouring over lip of squeeze.  Made duck very exciting!  With water much higher you could be in trouble.  Beware!

20/12/03: Eastwater Cavern.  MadPhil, Graham and Mick Barker.

Went and dug Becky’s dig. Made some progress but hit low rock curtain & sides pinch in.  Need to blast!  Very awkward digging.  Had a wander around 2nd Rift Chamber. Climbed up near side and pushed away boulders and found 3rd Rift Chamber - 70 ft. long & nice stals.  Water drains in floor, but calcited boulders.  Pushed horrible duck, small passage but closed down. Very awkward on return, had to be pulled out by legs.  Be warned! Good find just before Digger’s Dinner. Named Unlucky Strike as taken small chunk out of huge curtain.

1/1/04: Daren Cilau.  Pete H, Dave S and Paul B.

A nice way to start the new year!  Nice and enjoyable crawl then into some nice walking passage.  A steady stroll & climb up into the Time Machine.  A quick bite to eat, then all the excitement all over again in reverse.  The entrance crawl really is a bitch being honest!!!

7/2/04: Ogof Draenen.  Vince, MadPhil, Rich Blake and Pete Bolt.

Pete & Rich dug choke at the end of Blorenge ill and made fairly good progress.  Vince and Phil started dig in Manganese Mud Inlet (Blorenge II) - looks O.K.! 9¼ hours.

11/4/04: Hunters Lodge Inn Sink. Tony J, Ian Coldwell (CPC) and Sean H.

Trip to photograph sump at bottom of Rocking Rudolph.  Very challenging to take any pictures, very cramped, muddy.  Pictures also taken of Tony up pitch and also some of the crustations protruding from the rock (and I don t mean Tony!)  With a bit of luck some may come out reasonably - and will soon be seen in a future BB and possibly Descent.