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Committee Members

Secretary:                       Vince Simmonds
Treasurers:                     Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary:    Sean Howe
Editor:                            Greg Brock
Caving Secretary:            John Williams
Tackle Master:                Tyrone Bevan
Hut Warden:                   Roger Haskett
Hut Engineer:                  John Walsh
BEC Web Page Editor:    Estelle Sandford
Librarian:                        Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings:                 Fiona Sandford
Floating Member:            Bob Smith

Editorial

Welcome to the AGM edition of your Belfry Bulletin.  Within this BB you will find the committee member’s reports for the outgoing club year – I wish to thank all the committee member’s for their time and effort in getting me these reports as quickly as possible so as they could be published in this BB.  The vast number and quality of the reports within this BB demonstrates just how hard and determined the outgoing committee have been – for which we are all extremely grateful.

As you will have noticed the time between the publication of the last BB (Nr 519) and the publication of this BB is very short.  The reason for this is at the 2003 AGM the committee said that a BB would be published prior to the AGM and would contain the Committee Members Annual reports so as they could be read prior to the meeting.  The previous BB (Nr 519) could not wait any longer as we had lots of articles that were waiting to go to print.  Therefore, in order to meet the print deadlines we had to compile, edit, proof-read and print this BB (Nr 520) as quickly as possible so as you could have it before the AGM in October.

I’m sure a number of BEC members have been to nice exotic locations throughout the summer months. I therefore look forward to producing the next BB which will hopefully contain a number of articles, photos and surveys about overseas expeditions.

Recent Committee Business

I have included this section so as to keep the BEC membership updated with what the committee have been up to in the recent months:

  • Concrete will be ordered for the new extension – This will fulfil our planning obligations.  Many thanks to everyone who has helped out on this project through resources, time, materials etc.
 
  • A “mail shot” to all members has been sent re “Nominations for Committee” & Outstanding Caving Insurance Premiums.
  • A new flue pipe for the Belfry Stove is needed and also a new electric/gas heater for the kitchen.  These are currently being sourced for as cheaply (Free??) as possible.
  • Two BEC members, Nick Richards & Nick Harding, approached the committee regarding a request by Loxton Parish Council in respect of a Leadership System for Loxton Cave because of its Historical importance.  It was agreed that a system would be set up whereby each of the major Mendip clubs could have a leader.  In the short term the two Nicks would act as interim leaders.  A secure gate to include access for Bats would be arranged along with the leader system.
  • Mendip District Council will be putting a “Step Through” on each of the styles either side of Walts Track.  Also a Timber Crossing & Handrail would be built across the Gulley on the path up to The Mineries Pond.  This is following persistent complaints from Dog Walkers.

 

 


 

Hon. Secretary Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

There has been some small response to the request for nominations for election to the committee for the club year Oct. 2004 – Sept. 2005 and, at the time of writing (07.08.04), two people have come forward and offered their assistance for the coming club year.  Unless there is a mad rush in the time leading up to the AGM I cannot envisage a ballot being necessary considering there is provision for up to 12 committee members.

Here follows a brief summary of some of the issues dealt with by the committee in the past club year:

The main areas of business during the committee year have been the matters of insurance and the continuing work on the extension. 

Mike Wilson deserves a big pat on the back for his efforts in liasing with Nick Williams and finally securing a satisfactory outcome regarding the insurance.  There are, however, still some people who have asked for caving membership of the scheme and have not paid the required premium. It was necessary, in the first instance, for the club to pay all the money up front and it is not for the club to subsidise those members who have not paid.  We will add the money due plus a surcharge to the coming years subscription. I will take this opportunity to point out to those members of the club that are St. Cuthberts leaders that a valid insurance is a necessity of that leadership agreement and that the ‘green card’ is the only one that will be recognised.

Roger Haskett has continued with his sterling efforts to cajole and coerce various members of the caving community to contribute to the Belfry extension and his, and their, efforts are to be applauded.

Greg Brock has taken over from Adrian Hole as BB Editor and has published his first efforts maintaining the high standards we, as a club, have come to expect.

Fiona and Ivan Sandford have continued to put in a considerable amount of work regarding the hut, its bookings and maintenance, and assisting the efforts of the Hut Engineer, John Walsh.

During May there was a tree planting ceremony and barbecue to commemorate the memories of Jock Orr and Frank Jones organised by Nigel Taylor and Roger Haskett.

The BEC, as a result of a request from Loxton Parish Council, have agreed to administer the access to the recently re-discovered and historically important Loxton Cavern (not to be confused with Loxton Cave).  We are in the process of arranging access and leaders for the main caving clubs on Mendip.

Mendip District Council approached the club, following some complaint regarding the footpath access and they are to provide some step-overs to the stiles and some clearance work etc. along the path.  There will be no cost to the BEC.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those people who during the past year have made up the committee and the non-committee posts for volunteering their time and effort to the administration of the club.  They are Mike Wilson, Fiona Sandford, John Walsh, Roger Haskett, Greg Brock, Graham Johnson, Tyrone Bevan, Adrian Hole, John Williams, Sean Howe.  Thanks also to the small band of helpers who have endeavoured to work on the extension and many other tasks around the Belfry.

The Annual Dinner is at The Bath Arms Hotel, Cheddar on the evening of the 2nd October 2004.  There will be a coach from the Hunters/Belfry around 19:00 and returning from Cheddar at around midnight.

On a sadder note this year has seen the passing of another long time club member Alan Thomas, remembered by many as Big Al’, I’m sure his memory will linger long.

Vince Simmonds Hon. Sec. 2003 – 2004


 

Treasurer Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

This Year has been financially very stable for the club, we continue to reap the benefits of zero rating which has allowed us to concentrate on improving other areas in the club.

The extension has cost us very little financially, due to the generous donations of materials and time by various club members.  I would like to thank all those concerned with the project.

As you all well know the committee had to make some pretty swift decisions regarding the club insurance situation.  My hope is that the membership will agree to run a two tier subs system this coming year, in line with the system we cobbled together during 2003/4.

I feel that the subs should include the new insurance cost for those who wish to be insured by the BEC plus a parallel rate of subs for those who do not wish to be insured by the club [for whatever reason].

The uninsured rate should be close to the current subs paid per annum.  Hopefully this system will prove to be fair to all club members.  Please note that all Cuthbert Leaders must be insured!!

I am happy to continue as treasurer for another year.

Mike Wilson.  

BB Editor Report June 2004 – Sept 2004

I will keep this report brief as I have only held this position for four months and have therefore not got much to say.

Firstly, I will thank Adrian Hole for all his work in producing the BB’s over the past couple of years.  Only when you have done the job as BB editor do you realise how much work goes on behind the scenes to produce the end result that you all see.

I have noticed while compiling the BB’s that a number of the articles are coming from the same people. Obviously I still want to encourage these people to carry on producing articles for inclusion in the BB but it would also be nice to see some articles from other people.  With the vast and varied membership the BEC has throughout the world I’m sure there are plenty of members out there doing exciting things that other members would like to hear about.

The BB is our club journal and does not only need to contain articles relating to exploratory caving. I’m happy to receive articles about anything that club members are up to i.e. Caving, Mountaineering, Climbing, Canoeing, Walking, Running, Cycling etc.

I’m happy to stand as BB editor for another year should the club wish me to continue.

Please send in your articles – Contact details are at the front of the BB.

Greg Brock

Hut Booking Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

There is really not very much to say where Hut Bookings are concerned.  Actual bookings remain at a very low level compared with before Foot & Mouth, we have a reliance on the same groups returning, of whom, many members of these groups, are now actually BEC members.  It must be a sign of how times have changed that what bookings we do get are now a very last minute affair and the majority of those booked on the Monday have very often been cancelled by the Thursday for no reason other than they have found something else to do!  It would be fair to say that the majority of people who now stay at The Belfry just turn up on spec or are directed to us through Bat Products. 

I am prepared to carry on taking the Hut Bookings for the forthcoming year should the club so wish me to do so.

Fiona Sandford
8th August 2004


 

Membership Secretary Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

BEC Membership Secretary’s Report for the Club Year
4 October 2003 to 1 October 2004

Membership Renewal

A principal responsibility of membership secretary is to hold an up to date record of member’s details. This has been my quest but it needs your co-operation.

To help you know what the club holds about you, each renewal form was personalised and contained your contact details (e.g. Name, address, telephone number(s), email, etc.). This gave you the opportunity to check your details, correct any errors or add additional information.

Included in the renewal form was a section for preferences. The purpose of the preference section in the renewal form was to select want you wanted to receive and reduce the work load. You could select by ticking the appropriate box to receive such items as a membership card, members address booklet (printed or electronic by email). Some of you failed completely and used a cross instead of a tick.

I must apologise for those that requested a Membership card as I have not been able to produce these this year due to a change in my circumstances which has affected the availability of resources.

Having an option to receive a printed version of the members address book reduced the number to be printed compared to the previous year by around fifty copies, obviously a saving.

In my continued quest of holding the correct information in the BEC member’s database I gave you a second opportunity to check and amend your contact details in your personal membership renewal acknowledgement letter.

I also asked all Life members to re-affirm their wish to receive Belfry Bulletins and correspondence for the club year. We do not want to send out correspondence to those that do not wish to receive it.

Generally I think this all worked quite well.

Members Updates

During the club year a few people made contact to inform of updates (e.g. changes of address and email) but I am sure this is not all of them. However, this was more than the previous year so may be you are becoming more organised.

I must stress it is essential that you keep the membership secretary up to date of any changes. For example, the address details are used in the distribution of the Belfry Bulletins and club correspondence.

Donations

There were a number of donations, in the main from the Life members, in the form of stamps and a total of £230 in money. Many thanks to those persons.

The Figures

92% of people, 107 out of 116 continuing paying members from 2002-03, renewed before the end of November and were eligible for the £5 discount off their membership fee. This compares with 101 for the previous year. So you are getting better, well done.

With the remaining 8%, one paid as late as May compared with February the previous year. Could do better.

Please pay promptly and before the end of November.

                                         Chart of Members Payment over the club year.

Just under twenty members declined to renew their membership. On the positive, a change from previous years with an increase in joint membership, ten out of eleven of last years probationers rejoined and are now full members, three members rejoined and we have eleven probationary members.

The paying membership has reduced by three and three Life members have been removed from the distribution list. Our total number of members is 160.

Membership

Class

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

Difference
(to 2002/3)

Single

102

101

86

-15

Joint

28

22

26

+4

Probationary

5

11

19

+8

 

 

 

 

 

Sub Total

135

134

131

-3

 

 

 

 

 

Life

35

32

29

-3

 

 

 

 

 

Total Members

170

166

160

-6

Membership Summary Table.

Figures correct as of 16 August 2004.

The following charts show the percentage of the membership class between the club years 2002-03 and 2003-04. It is clearly seen that the Single class percentage has decreased by 7% due to increases in both the Joint and Probationary classes.

 

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Mike and Hilary Wilson for their support of some Membership tasks, such as collecting and depositing the subscription and insurance monies.

Furthermore, thanks must go out to Tony Jarratt for his encouragement of new members to the club and the re-joining of lapsed members.

Farewell

I will be standing down from the role of BEC Membership Secretary and may I wish my successor well.

Sean Howe (16/08/2004)
BEC Membership Secretary 2002-04


 

BEC Web Page Editor Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

Editor – Due to Estelle’s other commitments this report has been a combined effort between both myself and Estelle.  The Statistics I have taken directly off the website to give you an idea of how many visits we get and where they are coming from.

Overview

Since the new website was uploaded in September 2003 The BEC’s presence on the internet has grown. For those of you that haven’t visited the site yet it can be found at: www.bec-cave.org.uk

Anything sent in has been uploaded as soon as possible, usually within a couple of days max.  The website could do with a bit more accuracy maybe on committee posts and contact details.  If any of the committee members want to write some detail on their jobs to freshen things up that would be great.  Any articles, pictures and related links always welcome.  Please send any articles you have to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Statistics

The BEC website is constantly monitored by a Web Analysing programme and has given us the following statistics:

As you will see from the graphs below there was an unusual number of hits on the website during the month of March – this was due to Hunters Lodge Inn Sink (HLIS) being on TV in during this month.

Generally speaking the website has about 550 visitors in the month, which on average is about 20 per day.

One of the most common routes of finding the website is people searching for the words “Club Songs”. Other commonly visited pages are the introduction page and the page about the belfry.

Summary by Month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Month

Daily Avg

Monthly Totals

Hits

Files

Pages

Visits

Sites

KBytes

Visits

Pages

Files

Hits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 2004

268

247

60

20

248

32789

366

1091

4452

4825

Jul 2004

299

253

66

26

491

46917

818

2049

7843

9286

Jun 2004

248

213

60

19

334

41721

579

1822

6396

7464

May 2004

177

149

46

19

397

24711

594

1440

4620

5507

Apr 2004

263

227

40

16

394

35336

485

1223

6826

7895

Mar 2004

1085

951

161

34

958

237332

1080

5002

29494

33652

Feb 2004

249

212

48

14

305

42748

416

1413

6166

7245

Jan 2004

232

183

40

13

327

37091

418

1241

5697

7217

Dec 2003

185

152

30

8

260

31756

272

941

4722

5737

Nov 2003

258

206

31

14

341

41111

421

956

6183

7749

Oct 2003

305

230

44

15

341

41466

478

1383

7157

9462

Sep 2003

245

173

48

11

191

47786

359

1444

5213

7360

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

660764

6286

20005

94769

113399

 

 

 


Hut Engineer Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

Due to everyone’s diligence, maintenance was kept to the odd light bulb or handle, for which your engineer is extremely grateful.  Special mention to Ivan and Jake who do so many jobs around the place.  

Although perhaps not such a high achieving year as 2003, progress has been made.  The new extension is plodding onwards.  Thanks to everyone who worked on it, made tea or shouted encouragement. 

Recognition to all who helped this year.

As for next year, I feel I should stand aside and let someone else take on the role of Hut Engineer. I would also like to thank Vince who always gives advice and support where it is needed.

John Walsh

Tackle Master Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

This year in line with directions from the floor at the last AGM we have purchased three ropes.

They consist of a 20mtr, 30mtr and 40mtr lengths and are kept in the store for use by members. We have also replaced the St Cuthbert’s ladder and belay with a commercially purchased ladder and belay.

The club has condemned a number of old ladders and they have currently been destroyed. The plan is to replace all the ladders removed from service and the current old ladders with new over the next 18 to 24 months.

The end of 2003 introduced a new style of club tee shirt and tie. A large number of members are seen wearing the shirts with pride at the Hunters but would be nice to see more.

With regards to the equipment remember the kit is for to use of members and if they require the kit or think of any new kit we need just contact myself or any other committee member.

Tyrone Bevan

Hut Warden Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

Members and visitors nights are slightly up on last year (figures at AGM).  Thanks to John Walsh and Ivan Sandford for keeping the hut running.

We seem to have a problem with the water heater; I hope to solve that before the AGM.

I would stress the importance of keeping the hut clean and tidy at all times.  As first impressions often count for prospective members, and regular visitors (we need the money).  There are no excuses.

Roger Haskett
BEC Hut Warden

Caving Secretary Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

The Caving Sec. offers his apologies to the club for being absent from Mendip for very nearly the entire year due to unexpected overseas work commitments, and so has had very little to do in the way of club business.

In consequence the Caving Sec. regrettably has nothing to report, other than making the observation that the insurance difficulties experienced at the beginning of the year, limited caving activity somewhat.

Lastly the Caving Sec. feels it would be more appropriate for another person to take on this post, one who is more certain of being regularly out and about on the hill.

Yours sincerely,
John ‘Tangent’ Williams


 Mine sites on Churchill Knowle

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

South-west of the village of Churchill is a wooded hill where a number of east-west veins have received the attention of miners. In one case a small natural rift was intersected.

Knowle Mine.

Half way down the north-east slope at NGR ST 4386 5928 is a mound bounded by low dry stonewalling. In the centre of the mound is a vertical mineshaft (1.4m by 0.9m in section) descending 6m through loose hillwash into the bedrock.  Here there is a small chamber with galleries leading east and west (at this point ochre deposits can be seen in the walls).

The roomy east gallery extends some 7m to a dead end where pick marks are much in evidence. The passage is over 2m high and 1.5m wide in places.

To the west a 45-degree slope down (for 4m) through a very tight squeeze in collapse debris (note the highly unstable roof) leads to another gallery at a lower level than the first. This passage is about 4m long, 2m high and a metre or so wide. It displays a small stack of ‘deads’ in an alcove and numerous phreatic solution hollows. A calcite vein is particularly prominent in the roof.

The calcite vein can be traced throughout the length of the working and it seems that the miners have followed this in search of ochre or lead; certainly there is plenty of ochre, which occurs as masses associated with the vein fissure.

The landowner told us that the shaft had been explored by the A.C.G. some years ago.

Knowle Cave.

Near the top of the wood at NGR ST 4390 5923 is a large pit some 6m by 4.2m and 1.8m deep at its north-east corner. A small phreatic arch here was dug out in the late 90s with a more concerted effort in 2002. An east-west rift was encountered running under the north wall of the pit. It measures 7m in length, up to 2m high and up to 0.7m wide.

A massive calcite vein follows the rift and quantities of ochre are present. This rift is separated from the pit proper by a thin skin of bedrock which has been breached in two places, evidently by ochre miners, for a couple of boulders were found with shotholes through them.

A dig in the pit itself revealed undisturbed sediments resting on a smooth ochreous bedrock surface funnelling in towards the centre. Therefore, the pit seems to be a wholly natural feature, which has been modified by ochre mining.

30m to the west and down the hillslope from Knowle cave is another pit- Calcite Shaft. It is an old mineshaft dug at the intersection of two massive calcite veins, probably in search of lead ore. The east-west element of the vein is directly in line with the vein seen in the upper pit  (Knowle cave) and minor collapse, animal burrows and calcite debris in the soil mark the line between the two.

The shaft is 2m by 2m in section and 4m deep when found. An excavation in the late 90s through miners spoil proved 6m depth before terminating at a dead end. The miners also followed part of the cross vein to the south for 2m.

The old miners knew that the intersection of two veins is generally a promising environment for ore, but no lead or ochre is present and the affair must have been given up.

At the extreme Southeast corner of the wood at NGR ST 4392 5907 are three or four infilled mineshafts, again aligned east-west and along a strike length of 15m. The westernmost pit is associated with a large spoil heap, which spills over into the adjacent field. Some specks of galena in calcite were found here.

Many thanks to the landowners for allowing us to explore these sites.


The Rediscovery of Loxton Cavern

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Photos By Martin Grass, the authors and…er…one taken by Tony J

Made weak by time and fate
But strong in will, to strive, to seek
To find and not to yield…

Ulysses.
Tennyson

“You buggers, I’ve been looking for
that cave for thirty years…”

D.Irwin.

SOMETHING OF A QUEST FULFILLED!

After a three and half year search – some may actually say “two hundred”, we would like to announce the rediscovery of Catcott’s Loxton Cavern and its welcome return to the collective consciousness that is Mendip Caving and indeed the world stage such is the importance to cave science that this system represents.

What follows is a condensed version of around eight months digging time that followed several years of false starts, the discovery of a small system and the location of various potential sites for further excavation (more about these at a later date). 

No longer lost.

Loxton Cavern was opened in 1757 by ochre miners and was visited not long after by Dr Alexander Catcott of Bristol who described the system in his diaries. C.J.Harford followed some years later and wrote about the cave for a gentleman’s periodical called The Gentleman’s Magazine (1794). The cave came to the attention of Cornish miners in the 1790’s where certain ‘green veins’ were tried for copper. These veins upon assay contained no copper and the whole affair was given up. The miners removed the best stalactites for sale or as gifts The cave was lost sight of in 1807 then in late 2003 was rediscovered by BEC 1st Formers Nick Harding and Nick Richards (Aka The Pair of Dirty Nicks)

Groundwork

Having scoured the hill above Loxton for a number of years we decided that our options had come down to one of two sites in which to dig and having tossed the proverbial coin chose an area that best seemed to fit the (reassessed) clues given in the descriptions by Catcott and Harford. In March 2003 the first sod was turned. At this stage let us just say that confidence was not high but well founded in that our searching had so far been in vain but not without discovery. We had found a few small systems (reports to be filed at a later date) but nothing that in any shape or form fitted the descriptions in Catcott’s report but our enthusiasm was little dented or expunged.

Immediately the top layer of soil was removed we found ourselves confronted with a draught seeping up through the boulder back fill and our wild, possibly even schoolboy enthusiasm was fired up. This was fuelled by tales from a Mr Raymond, a nearby resident who, when attending his pigeons could hear the ground boom like a drum as horses made their way up the track.  

Digging down over a number of weeks – using a bedrock wall for guidance we pursued the illusive cave. Then one afternoon Nick R moved a stone and saw a void beyond. We then back filled our progress to date and broached the ground further down slope to afford an easier access point to gain entry.

We had in fact found a small rift back filled with spoil that led to a low arch and then on into a small stal lined room and the first hints of the “Green veins” described by Catcott. Pausing at this stage to consider a route, we began digging downwards in this rift, fashioning, over a stepped structure, a slope of tin sheeting (discovered not far from the entrance - the area was an obvious dumping ground and tip for household waste) – facilitating an easy haul of bucket after relentless bucket to the surface.   

Over the next few months we extracted several tons of material (felt like about a hundred tons to be honest!) from the ever deepening rift to a point where the walls pinched in. Having, seemingly, exhausted this direction we moved our efforts back to where the rift widened and here a small arch was discovered and more importantly miners’ tally marks in a small phreatic hollow. This was indeed a major clue and a welcome sight after months of work. We felt now that we were on the right trail and that maybe, just maybe Loxton Cavern lay not far beyond.

At this stage we decided to abandon the small phreatic rift, back fill that, collapse the material down slope and start again from the top, shoring up the walls as we descended. Before we had had no real target to aim for and in a sense we were just fishing for some obvious way on but with the discovery of the arch and the tally marks we had, at last, a focus for our efforts.

Into the hill

This arch proved, after much work to be the roof of a chamber with a fine vein of green clay – indeed, more clues. Heading down and in, we removed more material (Lum!) – the small abandoned stal lined room being used as a spoil dump until that was replete with boulders.  Driving on down the slope of this new chamber we came across an arch at the bottom through which a heavy draught permeated – a cool strong wind that can only come from underground (or a group of hung over Eskimos). Our hopes were now high – the highest they had been throughout the entire search (nay, quest!). Pausing in the dig briefly for Mad Phil to entertain us with some blisteringly marvellous scaffolding work we then dug on and cleared out the arch that had, for a while been obscured due to the machinations of the impish deities of the ‘down hill dig’.

November 2nd 2003 – Mid-afternoon.

Barring the way on was a large boulder; a limestone Cerberus that had to be dealt with in a terse manner due to its objections about being moved. Lacking Dr Nobel’s remote shovel – perhaps a touch OTT on this instance (absolutely!) – it was disciplined with some rigorous and unsubtle hammer work. Then somewhere between 2 and 3 o’clock – the time and importance of the hour somehow lost in the excitement we slipped through and discovered that the arch opened onto a ledge with a deep rift below us. To the left, i.e. the West, there was a looming darkness that could mean only one thing – Cave! It was not quite Howard Carter and his famous phrase of “I see wonderful things” but we shared his sentiment. In the excitement Nick H uttered the immortal words “It’s somewhere to dump spoil at least” (about two hundred feet of dumping space!) having misread the geography (I assumed the way on was down the rift – honest!)  That’s one for the Big Bumper Book of Humorous Spelunking Quotes… along with “Mind that apple…”, “I strained myself blowing some moorhen’s eggs” and “Careful with that ferret, Savory!”

Anyway moving swiftly on…

The Cave.

There then followed an exploration of the system and all the time there was the growing realisation in the pair of us, to the accompaniment of plumber-style sharp intakes of breath that we had found the place that had so long been sought; that this was the very cave that Catcott and Harford had described two centuries before. It was an extremely emotive experience to say the least.

It took us a short while and some considered debate as to the geography and the lay out of the cave from the description given but very soon all doubts were removed as we stared upwards in the Hall through which Catcott had descended from the original entrance over two centuries before; dribbling candle in hand and powdered wig in disarray. 

The exploration continued and it was soon obvious that the miners had done ‘great mischief ’ with most of the more prominent, colourful and well-formed stal formations being smashed and broken up. Corduroy impressions were found in mud (Corduroy Passage) as well as two clay pipes forcing us to feel that they had been dropped there only the day before. We found pick marks in the green veins of “marl” that had once confused the miners into thinking that they contained workable amounts of copper and hammer blows on numerous walls and formations. More oddly (is that correct grammar?) there were a few incidents of graffiti – including a series of birds and a group of triangles. The overriding impression though was a wonderful sense of time falling away and a powerful feeling that the miners had only just left, repairing to the nearest hostelry, falling under satiric observation, to replenish their animal moisture.  

    

Reluctantly leaving the cave that evening we were both in that euphoric reverie that grips you when the events of a unique day sink in, one later topped up and further fuelled by a few libations at a nearby hostelry. Not long after a swift phone call to the Hunters was made to inform Master Jarrett of the discovery. (There was a rumour that he was unable to come to the phone that evening due to his early entrapment in an awkward rift situated in a perilous wall of beer filled mugs, the MRO later being called out to rescue him)

Shortly afterwards (i.e. some days later, as the crow flies) we returned with Chris Richards (a relation) who could barely contain his excitement about the cave and he was given the grand tour and shown everything that we had learned about the place so far. Another spectacularly happy man left the system that afternoon but not before telling us that we were looking at the “Eighteenth Century mind”  (there’s probably a quip due here utilising the words empty, damp and grubby in places…) when we looked about us.

Still puzzling over the geography it became evident that the eastern half of the cave described by Catcott was missing. However, we pushed on down the rift which dominates the entire system and made the discovery of a lower chamber (Glisson’s Chamber) not described in any account of the cave. Our cup had begun to run over. In the floor by an enormous boulder that sported a shot hole we found a tight squeeze into what looked like another chamber below. This was not breached until Master Tony J, now the forth set of eyes to see the cave in two hundred years volunteered to push his frame down into further mysteries, in a visit not long after.  He found a lower chamber (Firmament Chamber), much choked and with marks on the walls suggesting a fluctuating water level. He then set off eastwards along about 7 metres of passage to have a sniff about. Disrobing down to a fetching pair of pale purple Y-fronts, he once again forced the squeeze back up to rejoin us and to crack open a bottle of Champers on the surface. (Good man!) 

Go East Young Men.

With the initial euphoria still washing about us we then realised that we would have to strike east and find the rest of the system  - starting, and according to Catcott, with an impressive cavern. But where was it? He described coming along the narrow passage and straight into it. We had the narrow passage but it ended in the entrance chamber we had dug out and descended. The dark shadow of a “downhill dig” with its attending gremlins loomed over us and our spirits soon started to scrape noisily along the floor. We had come so far only to be thwarted by another six months of digging and trying to find somewhere to dump the spoil. (I had a suggestion, remember? NH)

We agreed that if we were to go east we should go east – not as daft as it sounds (actually no, that does sound daft) as the entrance chamber is angled sharply down in northeasterly fashion. An initial play was made for the eastern wall but we then realised there was a mounting slope of spoil above our heads and that something would have to be done about it. After fashioning a balcony out of scaffolding and tin sheets we constructed a spoil dump and divided the entrance chamber in two. Then the hard work could begin again (damn!)

Joining the fray at that point were the redoubtable John “Tangent” Williams (with assorted non working Heath-Robinson-esque illumination devices) and Mark Ireland whose combined sterling work in the early days of December allowed us to crack on down slope and on the 10th December Tangent found himself staring into the void. The following day all four of us entered the large Eastern chamber (Catcott’s Chamber) that we thought would be out of our grasp until at least the New Year, (04 that is – anything later would have been mildly depressing).

We spent the next few hours exploring this chamber avoiding the dis-articulated bones of sheep (no! pigs as Dr Roger Jacobi of the British Museum reliably informs us) that had “fallen” down an upper eastern gallery that obviously connected with the surface. In amongst a talus of boulders there was much detritus in evidence including pottery, boot leather and a flask, while Mark, in a vigorous ferreting session found the remains of a frying pan or skillet. What he intended to do with it was anyone’s guess but he was happy, for a short while, to entertain us with a bad facsimile of the sound of frying eggs – this of course could well have been his hearing aid on the blink, as, like so many things in life no one can really be certain about the true nature of anything in the dark. 

At the base of the north wall of the chamber the rift was in evidence again and pushing on down we came to the room described by Catcott as ‘the Dungeon’ once more showing signs of human visitation – including boot marks - numerous in number and candle mark initials much in evidence on the walls, “JH” being much in evidence.

At the western end of the Dungeon, Tangent, intermittently illuminated, over squeezed himself through a number of orifices to find further ways on that, with some removal of material, may allow further exploration in those directions.

In the following weeks a number of visits were made this time with Mad Phil who sported various cunning and modern surveying devices around his neck with which he marked and measured his way around the system, the result of which accompanies this article. This alarmed Harding because he has successfully avoided anything to do with mathematics for a good many years and indeed took up caving to avoid long division.  Several trips were undertaken over the next few months in which various likely dig sites were pursued. This included a passage heading off from Harford’s Balcony, the ‘North West Passage’ which for a short while held great potential (as they always do!) but narrowed down to a too tight squeeze. But there may be something beyond…

And on….

At present we are looking for a twenty-foot crawl to an easternmost chamber described by Catcott. In short another 70 feet of cave has yet to be found.  We will of course keep you posted with any developments in that area. There are also a few places that might well offer up potential digging sites. One or two have been pushed but these have subsequently proven to be false leads (despite exhibiting powerful draughts). One ambitious idea is to try and link Loxton Cavern with Loxton Quarry cave – in reality they cannot be far apart, perhaps only a few metres at most and should that ever be achieved would undoubtedly put the wind up the Axbridge Johnnies (Hoorah!).

Coda

So there it is. Catcott’s cave rediscovered with the flag of the BEC, with its sable bat rampant guardant, waving proudly above its peaks (um?).   There’s still a bit of work to do in there but for now we are awaiting permission to dig in Hutton where another lost cave described by Catcott awaits rediscovery so further exploration in Loxton Cavern will have to wait for a later date.  We are also hunting the South Cavity said to be 30 yards south of Loxton Cavern.  

Vale! And remember: “BEC perveniunt ad loca omnia.”
                  Champers all round – Cheers Tony J!

The Pair of Dirty Nicks

Great blessings be upon the following:

Tony Jarratt
Mad Phil
John “Tangent” Williams
Mark Ireland
Martin Grass
Chris Richards
Keith “ Action-Jackson” Jackson.    
Adam “Adders” Whydle

 


BCRC Conference July 1st - 3rd 2005

British Cave Research Council
July 1st - 3rd 2005
Eastwater Farm. Priddy

Hosted in 2005 by the Mendip Rescue Organization the 2005 conference will look at various aspects of cave rescue, with demonstrations and talks from other cave rescue organizations from around the UK.  Recent developments, new techniques & equipment, rescue practices, workshops etc., together with the ever-popular Rescue Race!

Many activities will be hands-on, and underground where practical. Delegates are expected from overseas and interested parties are welcome from all caving clubs and further afield.

The venue will effectively be a 'tented village' with conference facilities, bar and food available.

There will be a live band/stomp on the Saturday night.

Access will be by ticket only. More information will be available shortly. For more details and advance bookings contact Bob Cork, MRO Secretary.

Mark Lumley

Congratulations

Pete and Annette McNab on the birth of their son, Peter Hugo, on the 15th August 2004.

________________________________________

Andy and Ange Cave on the birth of their daughter, Jasmine, on the 16th August 2004.

Dates for your Diary

25th & 26th September 2004        BEC Working Weekend
2nd October 2004                        BEC AGM & Annual Dinner
23rd October 2004                       Rescue Practise, Eastwater
5th November 2004                      20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting
3rd December 2004                     20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting

Annual Dinner

At The Bath Arms Hotel, Cheddar, Saturday 2nd October 2004 at 19:30 ‘til midnight.

Coach will depart Hunters/Belfry at 19:00   

Menu

(A) Thick Italian minestrone soup topped with Parmesan cheese

            or

(B) Prawns with Rose-Marie sauce served on a bed of salad

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(C) Roast topside of beef with Yorkshire pudding, thick beef gravy

            or

(D) Breast of chicken wrapped in bacon served with a cider sauce

            or

(E) Vegetarian nut roast

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All served with seasonal vegetables, new & roast potatoes

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(F) Apple pie & cream

           

(G) Cheese board

Coffee and mints

COST: £15:00 each, COACH: £5:00 each

Return completed form with payment to: Fiona Sandford, Glen View, Priddy Rd., Priddy, Somerset, BA5 3AU.  The cut-off date will be the 17th September 2004.

Accommodation is available at a 20% discounted rate and should be arranged directly with The Bath Arms Hotel.  Telephone: 01934 742425

Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope for the return of dinner tickets