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

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor (722)
Joint Treasurers: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary / Hut Bookings : Fiona Sandford (958)
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (1306)
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett (1234)
Tackle Officer: Tyrone Bevan (1276)

Non-Committee Posts

Acting Editor: Dave Irwin (aka – Wig)
BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
Librarian : Graham Johnson (aka- Jake)

Club Trustees: Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Nigel Taylor and Barrie Wilton

Cover photo: Picture postcard of Fingal’s Cave, from the Marvels of Nature series published by Lombard Chocolate, Paris c.1900. (From Dave Irwin’s collection)


The Club urgently needs a BB Editor. Dave Irwin is currently Acting Editor. The BB not only informs members of the fine work currently being undertaken by the members it is also the medium through which the Committee can inform the membership of its actions asnd other club news.  So, where’s that budding editor?  Pay is low but the work is extremely rewarding!



Ten years ago this week I penned a “From the Belfry Table” article, gleefully explaining that we had just celebrated our Sixtieth Dinner and had been only 2 persons short of the magical 200 number. Well, ten years on and I can only comment that we were only 2 short of 150 dining members at our Seventieth Dinner.  Sadly many faces are no longer with us, however, many old friends were ‘arm twisted’ into coming, and, with little exception, a good night was enjoyed by those who did attend. 

Member Number 1, Harry Stanbury sent a personal message wishing the Club well, and stated that being only 92 years of age, he still hoped to make it to the 75th!

Members will also be concerned to hear that Roger Dors was rushed into Bath Hospital a week after he and Jackie attended the Dinner. I will not make ill informed comment on his ailment, but I am sure that everyone will wish him a speedy return to good health, and extend any support to Jackie and the family that may be needed.

Jayrat and team continue well at Rose Cottage Cave, once again he has written some excellent accounts of his endeavours in the BB for all to see.

A “Burns Night Supper” will be run at the Belfry towards the end of January 2006 to raise funds for the Extension and all are welcome, details from the Committee.

Dave Irwin has done it again, The massive “Mendip Cave Bibliography 2nd Edition” has been produced. This two volume work was a mammoth undertaking, over 520 pages, 25,000 references and 1.1 million words, is a worthy addition to all caving club libraries and any caver’s bookshelf.

Starting in the spring, we intend to run a series of “Little known Mendip Cave” visits. These will be for the benefit of enthusiasts and novices alike. The actual locations are still to be decided, more details will appear later.

Due to the absence of a regular BB, I believe that members have been kept generally in the dark about what has been happening, or was about to happen on the Hill. It is my intention therefore to work closely with the BB Editor, committee, and the general membership to produce a “From the Belfry Table” newsletter in times of BB sparsity. If this is to succeed, I shall need regular and up-to-date snippets of caving and Club info to bring before the membership, PLEASE HELP.

Those who attended the Annual Dinner will recall that Roger and Jackie Dors, together with Les Davies MBE (Senior Warden, Mendip Hills A.O.N.B),were our joint Guests of Honour. Roger and Jackie were presented with a Welsh ‘Davy’ lamp as a measure of thanks and the esteem in which the BEC hold the Dors family for present and past generations. Roger in reply, warmly thanked the Club for the gift, which they both accepted also on behalf of their family.

Les Davies has written a letter of thanks, from which I quote; “....Would you be so good as to thank everyone from the BEC for a splendid was a great pleasure to spend the evening with you all and to be able to share in your 70th. Anniversary....” He continued; “Caving and Mendip are inseparable...I do consider you all to be pioneers, whom each year make more discoveries and unlock more secrets of the Mendip Hills. Long may you all continue ”.

The Secretary has suggested  to the Committee that we pursue a pro-active approach to raising the interest in Caving locally. He put forward a plan to write not only to local papers, but to contact Young Farmers Clubs and other Youth groups to ascertain local interest. Whilst a minimum age restriction of 16 exists within the BEC, these persons will obviously be the 16 to 25 year age group worth targeting to offer an insight into caving, and what the BEC has to offer in particular.

WORKING WEEKENDS: Just so that you can plan to be away from Mendip if you want to miss the Working Weekends, the dates are: 8th/9th January, 9th/10th April, 9th/10th July, and 24th/25th September, 2006. On the other hand we need you and your skills, if you haven’t got any, well maybe you could turn up and learn some from others for free!!.

Well, for the time being, its time to get down from the table, regards to all,

Nigel T
Hon Secretary.


Vale – Steve Tuck

Some Memories of Steve Tuck:

Matthew Tuck had a father! He was Steve Tuck who joined the BEC in the late 50’s and caved and climbed and rode motor bikes and drank beer (and rough) and sang songs and was a generally all round good bloke.

Steve has just died at Plymouth leaving two lovely daughters, Beth and Jessica, his son Matthew and his second wife Lorraine.

Steve was one of the crowd who joined the BEC from the National Smelting Company. He shared a flat in Bristol with a couple of other BEC members. A feature of their flat was a large astronomical telescope set up to view - horizontally? All was revealed when it was explained that if you turned your head upside down to make sense of the inverted image you could see the nurses living opposite! 

He was an enthusiastic person and very good fun to be with on the long trips in the early exploration of Cuthberts. He came on climbing meets but became more careful after falling off a VS in the Avon Gorge. Many years later I visited him in Devon and we did a climb on The Dewerstone where he chatted happily all the way up.

I have an excellent photograph somewhere of him hurtling past the Belfry on an underpowered OEC; an antique motor bike. Steve maintained that this stood for Old English Contraption. And not just motor bikes he liked bicycles as well. Three of us, Lin. Steve and me, had a really good week bike touring along the coast of Brittany camping in tiny tents with Steve as a first class bike mechanic when things fell off. He could mend anything.

Latterly we shared long walks and interesting conversations when we could and I shall miss that.



Vale - Joan Bennett

Joan Bennett is no longer with us. She passed away on the 1st September in Axbridge after a long illness. The club has lost a member who was staunchly protective of the BEC and who undertook many tasks requested of her with total commitment.

In her ‘teens she was involved with YHA and that is how she made her connection with the BEC.  She met and married Roy Bennett, and because of their common interest in skiing, climbing and caving they slotted into the BEC’s wide ranging interests in these sports during the 1950s and 1960s.

She not only caved and climbed regularly in the UK. She climbed in The Alps and was an active member on the two Austrian caving expeditions in 1965 when she descended the Hirlatz and in 1966 joined an international expedition to the Raucherkarhohle where, with a party of BEC members, she camped underground for over two days. On the way out Roy and ‘Wig’ wanted to get photographs of the huge chamber, ‘Gigantedom’ and so they began setting up the cameras when Joan caught up with them. After two days at near freezing conditions she threw a wobbly and threatened Roy with a divorce if he didn’t make a move towards the cave entrance. So ended a great photographic trip! She and Roy were strong members of a BEC expedition to the deep potholes near Balague in the Pyrenees liaising with Kangy and Georges Jauzion in 1970.

In 1967 she was caving in Ireland and helped survey the Aille River Cave first explored by Roy and ‘Wig.’ It was a gloomy  place and one could frequently feel ‘nasties’ swimming against the wet-suited leg in the 250m Long Canal. Roy commented that he hadn’t known her to be so quiet, for so long, before! Joan was the first woman to enter St. Cuthbert’s II in1969 and she helped Wig on a number of surveying trips in the cave.

She and Roy were inseparable. They were immensely loyal and supportive of each other so much so that they were referred to as “the Bennetts”. When Roy took up pioneering hang gliding she often helped and on one occasion they carried a 70lb machine to the top of Skiddaw. Roy flew down in a few minutes while Joan trudged down resignedly hours later!

After Roy’s death in a mid-summer skiing accident near their retirement home at Newtonmore Scotland, Joan returned to Mendip inconsolable after her loss. However she built a new life in her new home at Draycott where she had a fine collection of books and, interestingly, caving paintings. Latterly she had several trips to the Antarctic which she spoke about with great enthusiasm.

 Joan had a fine mind, was a vigorous debater and held a number of posts in the club. For many years she was librarian, then auditor and lately a trustee.  Whatever the task required of her she always gave it her full attention and commitment. She leaves a large sized hole in our lives.

‘Kangy’ and ‘Wig’


Vale - Albert Francis

Another loyal friend and Life member of the BEC has passed away.  Albert joined the BEC on the 3rd. July 1958. His introduction to caving was through Mike Palmer’s dad enabling him to meet Herbert Balch at his Badger Hole excavations. He then met up with the ‘3 Mikes’, Mike Baker, Mike Palmer and Mike Wheadon at the Wells YMCA

In the early days he helped on several building projects at the Belfry site on the ‘Stone Belfry’ and the Carbide store.  For this he was elected an Honorary Life Member.  Following the destruction of the Belfry in 1969 Albert spent much time with others on the fabric of the new Belfry, notably installing the electrics.

Albert was involved with several discoveries in Fairy Cave Quarry but his main claim to fame occurred in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and Manor Farm Swallet.  Albert was on the trip that entered the September Series in St. Cuthbert’s along with Mikes Palmer and Wheadon, Brian Prewer and Tom Neill.  He and Kangy were later to be the first team to make the connection with Rabbit Warren Extension and High Chamber, via Catgut Series and the notorious Cross-Leg Squeeze.  Wig remembers being the first non-UBSS members allowed into Bat Passage and Great Chamber with Albert and Prew to view these fine passages..

For many years Albert was one of the mainstays of the NHASA digging team, working at North Hill Swallet, Double Back, Twin T’s, Lodmore and Chancellor’s Farm Dig but he declined working at Templeton as he said ‘it wasn’t his scene!’

Nigel T remembers that in Manor Farm many happy hours were spent digging with him.  The work culminated with the hoped for breakthrough leading to NHASA Gallery. A feature in the cave was christened in his honour “Albert's Eye” for it gave him grief on the first time he tried to pass it. . Once retired from active digging he could be seen enjoying a half in the diggers company on a Wednesday night at the Hunters. Albert was a gentleman with a twinkle in his eye to the last!

Kangy, Mr. ‘N’, ‘Prew ‘and Wig


On Surveying the World’s Most Famous Cave

by Tony Jarratt

"Wait till you see Fingal's Cave properly. That's the entrance to it there," said Alistair, breathless with pulling.

Jane drew in her breath sharply. "It's magnificent! ..."

"To-morrow I'll show it you from the inside. You'll understand then why people say its like a great cathedral. That other great opening in the cliff is the Boat Cave. Just round the little headland here, is MacKinnon's Cave. ... There are more caves further up the coast."

"Gosh!" exclaimed Jane. "What fun to explore them all."

 "Do you happen to have brought provisions for a week?" Alistair teased her. " Staffa's just riddled with caves.     

Fingal's Ghost  1947

When, at the Grampian Speleological Group's annual dinner, Bob Mehew mentioned that he had a cunning plan to survey the sea caves of the isle of Staffa I was immediately captured. My last (and only) visit was on July 5th 1976 in a 12 seater RIB  which took 45 minutes to cross from Ulva Ferry on the island of Mull. Since then I had accumulated a great deal of books, postcards and pre-1900 engravings of Staffa and its caves and was itching for a return visit.

"Off the west coast of Scotland lies a lonely little island which has probably won more world-wide renown than any other natural feature of Britain. This famed islet is Staffa. Foam-girt by stormy Hebridean seas, it rises serene, presenting colonnaded cliffs and caves, amazing not only in size but in form and symmetry. Since the island was "discovered", in 1772, its most imposing rock structure, Fingal's Cave, has ranked among the foremost of the natural wonders of the world."           Staffa 1975

Once privately owned Staffa is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland and is looked after by Scottish Natural Heritage. Bob's well thought out proposals to them, his professional risk assessment (he is a safety inspector for Sellafield) and his general persistence persuaded them to allow a group of six of us to camp on the island for several days in order to survey the major caves and undertake scientific work on the columnar basalt pillars and marine flora and fauna.

The only published survey of Fingal's Cave found is that in the first edition of MacCulloch but this is not drawn to scale though it has many detailed measurements. All the main sites have been frequently measured over the last two hundred years but the dimensions differ as much as the enthusiasts themselves. Ours would be the first surveys done by cavers as opposed to travellers or naturalists. Our "bible" for this mini-expedition was to be " Staffa" by Donald B. MacCulloch (MacCulloch, 1975).  Earlier editions of this erudite and encyclopaedic volume were titled "The Isle of Staffa" and "The Wondrous Isle of Staffa". MacCulloch mentions the following caves of note:- Clamshell (Scallop) Cave, Fingal's (An Uamh Binn, An Uamh Bhin - Musical Cave, An Uamh Mhor - the Great Cave), Boat Cave, MacKinnon's Cave, Cormorants' (Scarts') Cave, Goat Cave, Gunna Mor (Big Gun, Gun, Thunder Cave, The Cannon) and a cave on the western coast which "hardly deserves this term". He dismisses other possible caves as of little interest. The 1:10,000 Ordnance Survey map shows five named caves (MacKinnon's being incorrectly located), seven unnamed caves and a natural arch - totalling thirteen sites. Due to lack of time not all of these sites were visited but they are almost certainly all caves from a speleological point of view and two others, Gunna Mor and Horses' Cave are not indicated on the map at all. At least one more cave in the north west of the island can be added to give a total of sixteen sites of interest to a caver. Also, Goat Cave is in fact two separate and parallel caves - but let's not push the point.

This project created surprisingly little interest in the Scottish section of the Grampian though two prospective expeditionaries unfortunately couldn't make it due to work commitments - poor Dan Harries having to earn a crust diving off the Galapagos islands - bless. Only Edinburgh based John Crae (GSG) was a true native and the rest of the team were trawled from south of the border. Bob Mehew (GSG / SMCC), Tony Boycott (GSG / BEC), Vern Freeman (GSG / BEC), Duncan Butler (BEC / RUCC) and myself (GSG / BEC). Also, a brief guest appearance by Canadian professor Stephen Morris gave us a bit more scientific credibility. Our esteemed photographic team of Descent's own Chris Howes and Judith Calford were also, alas, unable to attend but generously provided photographic equipment and advice.

For the Mendip contingent the expedition commenced, as is traditional, in the Hunters' bar on Tuesday August 16th. Next day the four Sassunaichs drove north to meet Bob and John in Auley's Bar in Oban from where the car ferry was taken to Craignure on Mull. In atrocious weather we drove across the south of the island to Fionnphort and set up camp in driving rain at Fidden Farm. To dry out we were forced to sit in the Keel Row Inn where plans were made for the next few days.

Luckily next day was dry, bright and sunny and, as arranged, we boarded the good MB "Iolaire of Iona" - deeply impressing its skipper, Chris Kirkpatrick, with the mountain of equipment piled up on the harbour side! Chris had a load of tourists on board but was very laid-back and we were soon on the high seas admiring seals, guillemots, kittiwakes and cormorants on the one hour voyage to the "wondrous isle".

Landing at the concrete jetty near Clamshell Cave was the start of the first epic as the pile of kit was unloaded and painfully dragged up the stairway to the island plateau out of the reach of the rising tide and sea spray. The caving kit was dumped and the rest ferried to the centre of this mile and a half circumference grass-covered rock where we set up camp. Outstanding views of Mull, Iona, the Treshnish Isles, Gometra and Ulva surrounded us and once the tourists departed our only companions were the birds and insects. As to the latter we initially thought that we had got away with it until the breeze stopped and the fearsome Scottish MIDGIES rose from the greensward to devour our lifeblood!

Once set up we immediately set off cave-hunting and Dr.B. quickly found the obscure entrance to Gunna Mor situated in the basalt pillars a few metres above sea level on the north side of Port an Fhasgaidh inlet. This peculiar cave, later surveyed to a solid end at a mere 5.07 metres, is somewhat of an anomaly on this basalt island. Inclined upwards at 35 degrees it resembles a 1 metre diameter phreatic tube and theories on its formation abound. A small "rockmill" pool at the entrance apparently once held a large round stone weighing 5 lbs which was violently agitated in storms to give the cave its name. A legend states that the stone was pinched before 1800 by Irish tourists.

With the island now devoid of visitors we followed the cliff top around to Fingal's Cave where the tide was rapidly rising. My Russian rubber dinghy - the Battleship Potempkin - was inflated ready for next day and Bob, John and Duncan commenced their separate tasks of measuring the basalt pillars around the entrance of this stunning cavern. After a meal at camp most then recced. the cliffs on the north and west sides of the island.

Friday 19th turned out to be another fine day with a few showers. The surveyors continued with their projects while Tony, Vern and I concentrated on crossing the sea inlet to Fingal's Cave. Tony swam across and I followed in the Potempkin with Vern hanging on behind.

"Leaping into the boat, he seized the oars and skillfully pushed out into the eddying sea; then, waiting an instant for the reflux of an enormous wave, he was carried right in front of the cave. Here the boat was nearly upset, but with a dexterous movement of the oars, Oliver succeeded in keeping her straight. Had she been caught amidships , she would inevitably have been capsized."..."A cry of horror came from the spectators, for it seemed that the boat must inevitably be dashed against the rocks to the left of the entrance."         The Green Ray  1885

120 years later and nothing has changed! All exciting stuff due to the swell and a certain inability on my part to swim. A rope was rigged across the inlet and later used as a tyrolean (even more exciting!). The NW wall of the cave was pegged and a length of handline installed for future use by photographers and surveyors.

Now feeling cocky we carried on round the base of the cliff to see if we could gain access to the permanently flooded Boat Cave before which was a very rough sea inlet with a small and horrifically floodable cave at the end - later to become labelled Horses' Cave. In crossing this we all had epics; getting smashed onto barnacle-covered rocks and almost being swept out to sea to eventually become malodorous seawrack on the shores of Newfoundland. Considerably wiser we eventually relaxed in the much calmer water of the Boat Cave inlet then took the Potempkin into the attractive and smoothly sculpted tunnel ending in a slope of huge cobbles after some 50 metres. Compass and clinometer readings were taken but the lack of a tape or laser measurer precluded the survey from being completed. Photos were taken before a hasty retreat was made to Fingal's. It was noted that Boat Cave is formed in the yellow tufaceous ash layer with the lower columnar basalt layer forming the ceiling. This was also later found to be the case with Horses', Cormorants', MacKinnon's Caves and the sea-filled lower section of Fingal's Cave.

At Fingal's we met Professor Steve who has done much work on the cooling processes of lava to form hexagonal pillars and was luckily holidaying in Scotland from his temporary base at Cambridge University. He had arranged with Bob to meet up and exchange ideas. Back at the camp he was impressed enough with our Wilkins' Cider to ask for a second mug! (Our thanks to Roger Dors for the supply of this elixir which certainly prevented scurvy amongst the team). Unfortunately the midgies were also attracted by the nectar so Vern, Tony, John and I scuttled off down the eastern cliffs to Goat Cave - actually two parallel, short sea caves - and the adjacent Natural Arch, a c.8m tunnel which Vern swam through. Rushing into Goat Cave to avoid the midgies we disturbed thousands of sand fleas which were almost as bad. Several wrens were flying around in the cave apparently feasting on these unpleasant bugs. The cave was surveyed and photographed and a short, blind cave nearby examined. These caves are located in the slaggy lava bed above the columnar zones.

The evening working trip to Fingal's was almost an overnight one as the causeway to the cave was partially flooded by the tide on the surveyors' return and the handlines inside the cave were underwater - as were Vern's only trousers!

Saturday 20th was yet another day of superb weather and having previously worked on the Hebrides I was thoroughly amazed. The noise of breakers hitting the cliffs or surging into the caverns seemed particularly noticeable today, as was the screeching of the sea-birds. At Fingal's we found a great deal of carved graffiti whilst searching for the inscription "J.B. 1772". This had been noted by a Miss Barker of Cumberland in 1928 and it was suggested that the initials were those of Sir Joseph Banks, the island's "discoverer" and populariser. Eventually I unearthed "J.B." but could not confirm the date. Many other dates, including 1776 and 1801, were found but most of the inscriptions are difficult to decipher due to sea erosion and a thin algal film. A separate visit to record many of these using brass rubbing techniques would be an interesting historical project before they completely disappear. Not being allowed to chisel proof of our visit I emplaced the ubiquitous "Bertie" sticker but suspect that it was quickly removed by the Shepton element (good job he missed the second one).

Dr.B. donned his diving gear and swam the length of the cave to report that there was no possible way on at the end - another legend de-bunked. The shingle beach noted by MacCulloch had gone and been replaced by large cobbles. Apart from a few small fish and crabs the only items of interest in the depths were sections of the old iron handrail. The depth of the cave floor was noted at several points as he swam back and out to sea. Here he swam into a shoal of mackerel but missed the nearby seal and basking shark which we had been admiring from the shore.

Bob captained the Potempkin, assisted by Vern, in order to make a photographic record from the NW wall while John and Duncan persevered with their measurements despite the growing crowd of tourists milling about. Being redundant I went off on a solo trip to Cormorants' Cave, shedding my trousers to pass the knee deep pool in the strongly draughting connecting passage to MacKinnon's Cave. Here I was amazed to see Tony and Vern silhouetted in the entrance. Tony joined me to complete a through trip whilst high on the cliff top above a couple of tourists admired my shapely legs. (They were lucky - I had intended to go for a dump!). This fine cave is almost as impressive as Fingal's and far more colourful, being decorated with pink algae, light green and orange sponges, purple sea-anemones and white dog whelks in abundance. There is an inaccessible high level passage which almost certainly connects back to Cormorants' but would need bolting equipment to reach. The cormorants in residence may not take kindly to this.

Meanwhile Vern pushed the, at that time, unnamed cave between Boat and Fingal's for some 35 metres, taking advantage of the low tide to avoid being pulverised by breakers. He reported it as still passable for another 5 metres or so but discretion proved the better part of valour and he retreated. The son of the boat owner David Kirkpatrick later told us that he knows this as Horses' Cave due to the "white horses" formed by the tidal surges. Chris Kirkpatrick knows it simply as "The Blowhole" but agreed with us that the former name is more suitable and has indeed now added it to his tourist spiel.

In the evening Bob photographed along the SE wall of Fingal's, including some of the graffiti and Duncan and Tony swam to the end of the cave, the former getting a good wave-bashing for his pains - and indeed, causing them.

Before settling down for the evening cider, wine and whisky a team planted stakes at the top of the west cliffs ready for an attempt on the unnamed cave below next day.

Sunday 21st saw normal Hebridean weather at last as a forecast front arrived with damp, overcast and breezy conditions soon turning to continuous rain but at least keeping the midgies down. 15 metres of ladder hung over the cliff gained access to a sloping, grassy ledge leading directly into the SW end of this crescent-shaped cave and Dr.B. drew the short straw. Duncan and I joined him and this pleasant but short cave was surveyed by taking 14 separate legs from a base station. Two side passages were relatively well decorated with calcite "cave coral". Huge amounts of driftwood and fishing floats lined the back wall and gave us the field name of " Float Cave" - the finding of part of a plastic doll almost resulted in "Baby's Leg Cave" but this was sadly rejected. A Meta merianae or Meta menardi (?) orb web and a large marine "woodlouse" were observed in one of the decorated passages and at the other end of the cave, just outside the drip line, three fat and fluffy gull chicks screeched at us from their nests.

While Tony and I surveyed Duncan traversed the base of the cliffs to the north to reach a triangular cave entrance which Chris later told us he knew as " Gunshot Cave" due to the noise of breakers entering when the swell is from the west. This could not be entered due to high water but an adjacent cave was partially explored by Duncan for some 40m before a bold, wet step curtailed his progress. On the O.S, map only one cave is marked at this point. Another visit using ladders from the cliff top is needed. We now had to take advantage of the tide so all set off in dribs and drabs to Cormorants' Cave where Tony and I surveyed through the strongly draughting connection passage into MacKinnon's Cave. Bob, assisted by Vern, completed a photographic record of the system.

With plenty of time left a one leg survey of Gunna Mor (five minutes) was accomplished followed by an identical operation in Clamshell Cave. Being thoroughly soaked we gave up the idea of lunch and Tony, Duncan and I pressed on to survey Fingal's starting at Duncan's EDM position and using a laser distance meter for the final leg to avoid a watery grave in the maelstrom below.

"Before them opened a spacious lofty cave, filled with a dim, mysterious light. The space between the two sides of the cave, at the level of the sea, measures about thirty-four feet; to the right and left the basaltic columns, wedged one against the other, like those in certain cathedrals of the latest Gothic period, hide the main supporting walls. From the top of these columns spring the sides of an enormous pointed arch, which at its key-stone rises fifty feet above the average water-mark."     The Green Ray, 1885

A few extremely bedraggled tourists heralded the arrival of Iolaire of Iona so the opportunity was taken for a weather check with Chris who informed us of force 9 winds forecast in two days time and suggested that we leave Staffa the following day  to avoid an extended and doubtless miserable extension of our holiday. We were happy to agree and sloshed our way back to camp to dry out and fester for the rest of the day.

We awoke on Monday 22nd to a glorious day, possibly the best yet, but were not going to be conned by the vagaries of Highland weather. Everything was dried out, the camp packed up and all our kit portered back to the jetty. Tony and I returned to Fingal's for one last trip in order to check for magnetic anomalies by taking compass back bearings. None were found. The others continued with their separate projects and Vern assisted Bob with his short photographic survey of Gunna Mor before racing back to the jetty to join Tony and I who were taking the first boat back with most of the kit. A pleasant journey o'er the sea to Mull and the joys of unloading all the equipment and packing it in various cars only added to our salt-spray induced dehydration and before long we were installed in the Keel Row and on the outside of some welcome McEwans 80/-. The others arrived at 5pm to join us in the pub for some real food and a few more swallies. The weather had now deteriorated and once again we set up our tents at Fidden Farm in the pouring rain.

We returned to Oban on the 23rd and the Mendip contingent  were back in the Hunters' that evening sampling the first decent ale in six days.

This expedition was very successful in the amount of work, some unexpected, that was achieved in such a short space of time. Unfortunately the loss of a day prevented some of the planned work being finished and coupled with the realisation that the island is more cavernous than expected will almost certainly result in a second visit next year. Bob is planning to write up various scientific reports, including one for Cave and Karst Science. The G.S.G. Bulletin and Descent will also have write-ups. I would like to express our thanks to Bob for the inordinate amount of work he put in on this project and for the privilege of becoming temporary inhabitants of the, truly, Wondrous Isle.

"To those who have set foot on Staffa on fine summer days, the friendliness of this tiny island remains with them for ever, and keeps a place in their hearts, even if they may never return."      Fingal's Cave   1961



Anon,  April/May 2005, Fatalities at Fingal's,  Descent (183), p.28.

Fidler, Kathleen, 1947, Fingal's Ghost,  John Crowther Ltd.

Jones, Rosalind, 1997, Mull in the Making,  R. Jones.

Oldham, J.E.A, July 1974, Fingal's Cave, Staffa - by Air,  British Caver,  vol. 62, pp.75-78.  A. Oldham.

Oldham, Tony,  January 2004,  The Caves of Scotland a Bibliography,  A. Oldham.

Oldham, Tony, 2004, The New Caves of Scotland,  A. Oldham.

Scott, Thea, 1961, Fingal's Cave,  Pandora Press.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1927 (1st edn.),  The Isle of Staffa.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1934, 1957 (2nd and 3rd edns.),  The Wondrous Isle of Staffa.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1975 (4th edn.),  Staffa,  David & Charles.

Verne, Jules, 1885 (reprinted 2003),  The Green Ray,  Wildside Press.

de Watteville, Alastair, 1993,  The Island of Staffa - Home of the World Renowned Fingal's Cave, Romsey Fine Art.


Bob Mehew for the initial idea, thorough organization and a great deal of hard work.

BCA and DCA for the loan of the Disto laser measurer.

BCRA for a grant to assist with the hire of the Total Station.



I thought as my 70th celebrations and the BEC’s and fifty plus years in The Club nearly coincided I’d send a climbing article to cause some editorial consternation.    


My birthday was actually last year and on the 5th May last year Janet and I stayed at her Club Hut the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club “Black Rock Cottage” in Glencoe. We had the intention of climbing Buachaille Etive Mor by way of the North Buttress. We woke up to the dreary sight of clag down to roof level and the bottom of the Buttress covered on snow. So we went to the ‘Ice Factor’ the big climbing wall at Kinlochleven instead. It was warm indoors but hardly a celebration. We asked for and got an OAP discount.

This year, suddenly, we had free time and a spell of good weather and at the beginning of August had lovely sunny day climbing the 1000 ft North Buttress from the bottom to the summit.

Taking the Lagangarbh path from the road we got to the buttress easily in a half an hour. The route, my old guidebook says, was first climbed in 1895 following the line shown in the photograph.

”Start at the centre of the buttress and climb to the foot of the steep section Traverse right to the Great Gully and take the easiest line above.”

After the initial scramble through heather and rocky bits we romped up nice easy angled slabs until the buttress wall loomed.

The ledge we were on was in sunshine, it was 12.30 and so we munched lunch.    

Janet can be seen on the lower slabs silluetted against the steep section of the climb. The route tends to the right hand edge and then jags back to climb steep cracks in the centre.

Rucksacs were repacked, crumbs wiped from sticky fac

es and the intriging move to the base of the next section started. We peered into the void of the Great Gully. Lovely We moved rightwards along a narrow gangway which was beautifully exposed. Rounding a corner we found a perfect belay below the next section; the vertical chimneys. Three of them as it turned out.      

Happily it was my turn to lead and I enjoyed the good holds, the interesting position and the feeling of being on a real mountaineering route, Janet did the next slab pitch to another chimney. This one was partially blocked by a large boulder. I heave-hoed over it. Janet was subtler and found a better and more graceful way of climbing it. After that we happily wandered diagonally left until the ground became less steep and we could see the Crowberry Tower which is near the top of Stob Dearg.

Ten minutes later we had arrived on the only summit in the area free from cloud. So we decided that it was our 70th Birthday Climb and we dedicated it to my favourite Club.


Happy Birthday BEC.

From Kangy

Membership Fees are now due for RENEWAL

If you pay before 30th November 2005 the discounted rates are:

Single membership - £30;  Joint membership - £44

For those requiring caving insurance there is an additional charge of £15 per head

After 1st December 2005 the rates are:

Single membership - £35; Joint membership - £49

Caving insurance as above

All Membership Fees should be given or sent to:

The Membership Secretary :  Fiona Sandford, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

Do not put in with the hut fees or leave in The Belfry – there is no guarantee it will get to me!


Digging for Cheese

By Prof.  Will Shrabbit, Dept of Comestibles, University of Bath [arranged via J’Rat]

I remember as a small boy, the excitement of the first lunar landings. NASA had managed to propel a tin can full of people to the moon and back using less computer power than an average modern mobile phone.  This “small step for a man” was not only a “giant leap for mankind”, but analysis of the rock samples collected enabled scientists to dispel an age-old myth. The moon, it turned out, was not made of cheese!  This of course came as no surprise to geologists.  Cheese, being of sedimentary origin, could not possibly have formed in the water-free lifeless lunar environment.

Here on earth, cheese is normally found in association with limestone rocks, Wensleydale and Gloucester are among the best known examples. The West of England is particularly well blessed with cheese, with two of the largest outcrops occurring in the Mendip hills, these being at Cheddar and in the area immediately west of Frome.  Cheese has been extensively quarried in Cheddar since the iron-age leaving the huge excavation now known as Cheddar Gorge as an impressive monument to the cheese quarrying industry.  Now silent apart from the wind and the birds, it is difficult to imagine that this was once the workplace of hundreds of “cheesemen” and the source of around sixty million tons of Cheddar cheese.

The other, less well known source of Mendip cheese was the area west of Frome around Whatley, Mells and Leigh-on-Mendip.  The large workforce who worked the quarries included a number of French immigrants whose experience of Brie borehole drilling was invaluable.  It was from this French connection that Frome received its name. “Frome”  being derived from “fromage”, (French for cheese).  All known deposits have now been worked out and the parent carboniferous limestones are now worked on a large scale.  The only permanent reminder of the cheese quarrying industry in this area is the Frome cheese show, which is now in its 128th year.

Early cheesemen were aware that the Cheddar deposit was a finite resource and would eventually become exhausted.  A great deal of effort was devoted to finding a sustainable substitute and it was eventually discovered that cheese could be produced from grass. The process makes use of cows, which eat the grass, producing milk.  The milk is then allowed to rot in controlled conditions, producing a slurry.  The aqueous component of the slurry is separated, and the retentate is stored at ground-rock temperature (often in caves to mimic natural geological conditions). The resultant material becomes cheese after a period of hardening and maturation.  Cheese produced in this manner is virtually indistinguishable from quarried cheese. Most modern cheeses are produced by this process.

Cheese quarrying probably peaked around the seventeenth century, and slowly declined until around 1840, after which, few (if any) quarries remained working.  As the quarries became exhausted, many were abandoned and the cheese barons switched to the production of cheese from grass. Other cheese barons were quick to respond to the growing demand for road-metal and limestone aggregates which occurred around the same time as the demise of cheese quarrying. They converted their quarries to limestone production and many of these quarries are still working today.

Although there is undoubtedly plenty of cheese left in the Mendip hills, there are now no working quarries.  Cheese can still occasionally be found in stalagmitic forms in Mendip caves, sometimes in the form of straw stalactites, (probably the original “cheese straws”).  Formations are now protected by law and must not be removed or defaced.   Cave-cheese would have been a magnet for hungry prehistoric animals. Banwell stalactite cave for example still contains fine examples of stalagmitic cheese, whereas the nearby Banwell bone cave was almost completely stripped of cheese by hyenas and brown bears. Many animals became lost or suffered falls underground in their quest for cheese, and the bones of these unfortunate creatures can still be found throughout the cave.  Shallow surface-deposits of cheese are occasionally found by farmers who have right of ownership by ancient charter, to any cheese found on their land.  These deposits are usually quickly quarried away for home consumption, and the news only reaches the cheese geologists long after the event!

While most of the evidence of cheese quarrying has now been obliterated, one may still occasionally find artefacts and snippets of cheese quarrying history.  Pubs in the Somerset levels often adorn their walls with what they claim to be “peat cutting” tools.  These are more often than not, the very tools that the cheesemen of Cheddar would have used all those years ago.  A few phrases in our spoken language also reflect this bygone industry:  To be “cheesed off” for example, now refers to being unhappy. This derives from the days when a cheese quarryman would be laid off for the day because of bad weather, and would therefore earn no pay. Another phrase worthy of note is “hard cheese”, meaning “bad luck”. This derived from the time when a quarryman would hit a harder patch of cheese in the quarry, and would have to work longer hours to extract it.

The phrase “as different as chalk and cheese” probably derives from one of the first skills that a cheeseman would have had to learn.  It was essential (although not difficult) to tell the two apart in a cheese and limestone quarry. (Limestone is often referred to as “chalk” by quarrymen; chalk is a variety of limestone).  While both are high in calcium, nobody likes too much limestone in their sandwiches!

The geological origin of cheese is thought to be similar to that of coal, coal being the fossilised derivative of carboniferous forests.  Cheese is of a far more recent geological origin, and would have been formed from the fossilisation of the Cretaceous grasslands.  The grass would have decayed to a viscous fluid (as in the modern cheese making process) and flowed into hollows and fissures in the country rock, where it would have hardened and matured at the ideal storage temperature.

What of the future of the cheese quarrying industry now that all the known larger outcrops have been worked out?  Extraction of the remaining deeper deposits would require large-scale overburden removal or shaft mining techniques.  Extensive pumping operations would be necessary to extract sub-aquifer cheese, which would be prohibitively expensive and environmentally unacceptable. Now that cheese making from grass is so cost effective, it is unlikely that cheese quarrying could ever again become economically competitive.  Small scale cheese prospecting has resulted in periodic attempts to open small cheese workings, but planning applications are generally refused on environmental grounds or simply not taken seriously by the planning authorities.

‘Cheddar in a Cheese’ - From an old postcard in Wig’s collection

Gaping Gill Meet - A Way Of Life.

Mike and Tobias Wilson.[VSB]This year I decided to attend the Craven meet in August.  Originally the plan was to spend a week on the Gill camping and caving on my own. To make up for spending the last 3 years struggling with knee problems and a gallstone op. this all changed when my Grandson, Hilary, and Kath said they would like to visit the cottage and do some walking as well .

Eventually Tobias decided he would like to attend the Meet for a few days to see if he liked it!! Pete Gray kindly offered me the use of his tent [to save my knees] and this made it possible for me to arrange a carry within my capabilities. Many thanks to Pete who made the trip possible; I hope you enjoyed the rental!!

Vsb and I decided to walk up to the Gill on Friday morning.  Tobias became Vsb because it has many differing interpretations, e.g. very small boy, very smart boy, very stupid boy, ad infinitum. His father had packed his rucksack and it seemed quite heavy to me, but before we got away there occurred a small mishap. I locked the car in the Craven PC car park, went to clip the keys onto my belt for safety and missed dropping them to the floor and lo and behold straight down the only drain in the area!! [as Sean would say ‘what a to do’!!]

First we used a broom handle to find the depth of the drain whilst dodging cars and motorbikes. It was very deep. Then we tried to lift the drain cover but it was glued in with tarmac. So we borrowed a crowbar from the dig store and prised the cover up. Luckily, by stripping off to the waist and diving full length into the drain, [Cath held my feet] I managed to grope in the foul sludge and find the keys.!!  Vsb was volunteered to be lowered in by his feet but he refused to co operate!!

And so onward to Clapham and upwards. Vsb struggled with his heavy pack but with a modicum of assistance from the rest of us he did very well to make it the Gill. We settled into Pete’s tent which turned out to be a trick one. If you open the wrong end you can’t get in!! A brew ensued of course and Vsb reported the following conversation across the Beck. “Neville we have got your burgers.” Neville replies “How much do I owe you?”  The answer was holding up the empty packet “Nothing, we have eaten them all!!” 

I introduced Tobias to the intricacies of meet life and signed him and myself up for disc duties that afternoon. He had great fun selling postcards to the tourists and the odd poster after we found them cunningly concealed in a tub. Just to add to the fun we had a superbly indecisive grockle who wanted to take his family of 6 down, but wasn’t sure how much time they had!! Having held the queue up for some time with ponderings over the 2 hour wait, plus the 25 min guided tour and a guesstimate wait for the return, he bought 6 tickets and was given his discs. A large queue and 1 hour or so later he came back and asked if he could possibly have a refund. We complied and breathed a sigh of relief. I used to be indecisive but I think I am ok now!!

Later that evening Vsb and I decide to go to the Trenchfoot Arms, and try the toxic daddy longlegs plus the excellent Marilyn beer. There is so much to do on the hill!  Tom asked me to spell him at the bar for an hour so Vsb learned very quickly how to pull pints, to the tune of “that’s a short pint lad.” and other kindly comments. He passed the test fairly well !!

Neville very kindly aimed his telescope at the Moon which was full and extremely bright [a fantastic sight] and then apologised for the fact that we could not see the American Flag that night. We think Osama Bin Laden has hidden it!!

All weekend the weather was very bright and sunny, with bright moonlit evenings. A wonderful sight when urinating at 3 o’clock in the morning!

Saturday dawned with the arrival of the tractor. A certain member, Nellie, was given the Bell Award - to be worn around the neck all day - for having a large cool box break on him spilling all the tins everywhere. Vsb and I had a lazy midday looking for crinoids in the Beck and then did a spell guiding in the Gill. Vsb’s first time. At the end of our shift we had to search for 2 missing tourists who had strayed from the main chamber. We checked Sand Chamber and back to Bar Pot.  That was far enough for VSB. Luckily the other group found them in the region of  Mud Hall.

That night it was back to the Trenchfoot Arms for copious amounts of beer. There was the usual sneaky filching of food served by the beer fairies; onion bargees very tasty! Brian the role model dog, the complete opposite of Eddie autobark, followed me back to my tent, whereupon he snuggled up to Vsb and fell asleep much to Vsb’s surprise the next morning when he woke up with a hairy muzzle in his face!

Just a comic note from Cath : by order of the 3rd Reich when using the toilet tent [for a big jobbie] you can only use 2 sheets of paper per person you can use both sides of the paper YUK although with permission of the leader 3 sheets can be used if you have a particular problem .[ I guess that this means the leader has to inspect your glutimus maximus before issuing you with a personal 3rd sheet .This definitely caused a fit of the Gaping Gill Giggles.!!

Having come off the hill we retired to the Crown that night. Has this pub become a repository for foreign labour? Cath went up to the bar to order a round and asked for a packet of pork scratchings. The barman said “Pork scratchings, vass ist thees?  He then looked along the shelves and asked “Is it a viskey?” much to the amusement of the few drinkers there. We spent the rest of the evening making up pork scratching jokes. In spite of only limited time underground due to my knees we had a great time with a lovely crowd of people; many thanks to them all. The pub incident was a great end to our Yorkshire trip .

This article is not intended to be a hairy blow by blow account of tough Yorkshire caving ,more an insight into the spirit of caving meets .

PS Eddie autobark is a real dog who has been adopted from a rescue centre .He is a lovely well behaved mutt but cannot resist barking at everything .Brian is a stuffed full size toy Labrador who has been adopted by Neville Lucas and most other people ,he is so lifelike that when he is sat by the tent with his drinking bowl people have been seen patting him !!


Dates for your diary, 2005-6


Club Committee Meetings : [First Friday of each month commencing at 8 pm.]

CSCC Meeting at the Hunters’ Lodge Inn – 3rd December, 10.30am

Caving Events Week. Charterhouse Field Centre, 12th – 16th December, all at 7 pm. 

Costs shown in []

12th : History of Swildon’s Hole – Dave Irwin  [£4];

13th : Film : A Rock and a Hard Place [£2] ;

14th : Mendip Rescue Organization [£4, donated to MRO] ;

15th : Cave Diving – John Volanthen [£4] and

16th : Try Caving ! [5.30 – 8.30 pm [£13.50]]


Working Weekends : 8th/9th January, 9th/10th April, 9th/10th July, and 24th/25th September, 2006


The Caves on Brean Down

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Brean Down is a limestone promontory jutting out into the Bristol Channel just south of Weston-S-Mare. It is some 3.5km long and no more than 0.5 km wide. The limestones dip at c 40 degrees to the north.  Apart from Reindeer Rift (Barrington and Stanton, 1977) no other caves have been described.

There are numerous sea caves – rifts and bedding planes formed in washed out Neptunean dykes and mudstone bands - averaging between 20 – 30 feet in length. They are so numerous that only two sites are of special interest. There is only one phreatic cave.

All the caves are located in the sea cliffs on the north side of the down.

1. Half Tide Rock Cave.

Length 31m, VR >6m

At the east end of the down near Half Tide Rock (NGR 30215892) Inclined bedding cave with an entrance 5m wide and 0.8m high. A fine traverse across the bedding for 31m leads to a second entrance in a cove to the west. The second part is rather restricted but some flowstone and a crab infested rock pool adds interest.

2. Battery Cave.

Length 54m, VR >15m

Located in a major embayment in the cliffs directly below the WWII gun emplacements (NGR 29655895) 

At the back of the cove is a double entrance to an extensive bedding cave, bisected by fallen blocks. (Dipping 40degrees N). The left hand section (to the east) is 19.5m long, 0.6m high and at least 6m wide before the bedding pinches in upslope. The traverse passes some extensive red flowstone slopes with ribbon formations on the roof in places. Near the end an easy squeeze over jammed footballs reaches the ‘terminal’ grotto where there is a group of small but attractive stalactites.

The right hand section is more extensive. A similar traverse westwards in a passage 10m wide and 0.6m high reaches a dead end after 25m. There is more flowstone, ribbon formations and a few small stalactites (<0.4m).

Part way along the traverse daylight enters through an 8m rift forming a third entrance. These formations came as a complete surprise to us – one does not expect to find stal grottoes in a sea cave.

3. Fiddler’s Bay Cave.

A proper phreatic cave! 15.9m long over a vertical range of 6m. (NGR 28755915)

A superb inclined circular entrance 4.5m wide leads after 8m into a 5m high chamber displaying a profusion of phreatic solution hollows. At the back of the cave and in the roof of the chamber is a rift choked with ochre and Pleistocene? gravel. The deposit must have once filled the rest of the cave and been washed out by the tides as some gravel remains welded to the back of some of the solution hollows. Note the limpet scouring marks on the entrance ‘kerb’. This cave is almost certainly more extensive and has the appearance of a fossil resurgence.

Note: Brean Down Resurgence

50m or so to the west (along the cliffs) is an interesting feature. A small patch of red brickwork blocks up a hole about a metre up the cliff face. This has been done to divert a flow of fresh water through an adjacent crack into a natural rock basin below - from which small stream flows down the beach. It fails in dry weather. This brickwork probably dates from the time when there was a short-lived attempt to build a harbour on the north side of Brean Down.

Acknowledgement : Thanks to Mark Helmore for his snaps, much appreciated!


Further Work in Rose Cottage Cave

Tony Jarratt

Continuing the saga from BB522.

Further Digging 22/6/05 – 5/10/05

       On the hot and insect-infested evening of the 22nd June Phil Coles and Ben Ogbourne did a magnificent job of hauling out 48 skiploads dug from all three phreatic tubes in Paul’s Personal Project. Pete Hellier also brought out one newt. Several gallons of brackish water poured into Bored of the Rings reappeared (at least partly) halfway down the corkscrew wriggle to Aglarond. On the morning of the 24th the writer took advantage of imminent heavy thunderstorms to insert the leat pipe into the entrance then rushed to work to flog wellies to Pilton Festival goers! Returning on the 26th with Fiona Crozier it was found that surprisingly little floodwater had entered the cave (it being realised later that the leat was blocked). A dozen or so bags were filled and stacked but further work was prevented by a large boulder in the floor. This was banged by the writer next day and Tony Audsley hauled out 23 loads which Rich Witcombe emptied. The debris was cleared by a seven man team on the 29th when about another 40 loads came out.

     July digging commenced on the 4th with Fiona excavating down through boulders while three old gits hauled back the spoil. Even more old gits hauled 51 loads of it to the surface two days later, including a few bags from Pete’s Baby and yet another grateful newt. 20 more loads emerged on the 10th and another 8 next day. It was now apparent that the dig below the connection point – henceforth known as Connection Dig – was potentially unstable and would require shoring before further work could be done. On this trip some 5m of new passage was explored by the writer, assisted by Estelle Sandford, above the most southerly point in Aglarond 1 and is probably where water sinking in the original dig site enters the cave. An interesting choked bedding plane was earmarked for future investigation. Tony A. and John Noble assessed the hanging death in Connection Dig, Rich W. constructed a new spoil heap wall and surface workers Bob Smith and Ian “Slug” Gregory cleared out the leat and washing pond to enable the stream to flow freely.

     Shoring of the Connection Dig commenced on the 13th with Tony commuting to the surface to cut timber then repeating the operation when it didn’t fit! He was assisted by Ben. On the same evening the writer, John and Gwilym Evans started work in the Aglarond 1 high level dig (A1 Dig) which seems to be at an horizon of ancient phreatic tubes and has a steady draught. A couple of hours of awkward digging gained some 2m of descending passage which desperately needed enlarging and making safe. Our impression was that it lies on the line of the main fault and heads SE, above and parallel with Aglarond 2. Two days later a charge was fired to break up three large, loose boulders in the dig and the resulting debris was cleared on the following evening when access was gained to a steeply descending tube on the north side of the dig. A vocal connection with Aglarond 2, some distance below, was established. Sunday 17th July saw three diggers hauling a large slab and many bucket loads of spoil from the dig until the cold draught drove them out to the heat-wave above. Even more came out next day when the bucket was replaced by a skip and the crawl to the dig face enlarged. Eventually Fiona was able to squeeze down into some 2m of pleasant, flat roofed bedding passage running back under the crawl and having a floor of calcited boulders. This became “Fi’s ‘Ole” after the following enthusiastic invitation was issued:- “In a minute you can all ‘ave the joy of lookin’ at my  ‘ole”! Meanwhile, somewhere above, Tony and Mike Wilson emplaced a second pit-prop in the Connection Dig. An attempt to trace the draught from A1 Dig to Connection Dig using a joss stick failed. Digging continued in A1 Dig on the 20th and on the 22nd four long shotholes were drilled in obstructing boulders and a 40gm cord charge fired, the debris from which was cleared next day when another four hole charge was fired to remove more large slabs blocking the route towards a tantalising void just visible ahead.

     This void was entered on the 25th after much clearing of rock, clay and cobbles by the Monday morning team; today Vern, Tony A, Rich W, Estelle and the writer. It proved to be another section of “passage” with a solid left wall but boulder ceiling and right wall. The novelty was that it had taken a sharp left turn. After a couple of hours enough spoil was cleared to give us some 3 metres of progress – not much but as Richard would say, “Not without interest!”. Another c.3m was gained on the 27th when John N. pushed forwards under the hanging death to enter a small boulder chamber with a relatively solid left wall and a potential dig in the floor. At least we could now turn round at the end. Many bags of spoil were hauled out by Pete H. and stacked in Aglarond 1 and these were taken to the foot of the Corkscrew climb by Andy Norman and Ernie White on the 29th. The writer and Chris Batstone cleared more spoil from the entry to the terminal chamber on the 31st and after some tentative digging at the end it was decided that the place was too unstable to push further. Indications were that drainage was back towards Fi’s ‘Ole and that this should be cleared out in an attempt to find a bedding passage below A1 Dig and above Aglarond 2.

     August 1st saw work recommence at the Connection Dig where John N. revealed the start of a low passage descending back under the floor of Bored of the Rings. Estelle and Rich W. hauled out 15 loads from here and the writer returned in the afternoon to bang the lip of this passage. He cleared the spoil next day and on the 3rd further work was done here and another charge fired to enlarge the passage entrance. Also all the spoil from the foot of the corkscrew was hauled to surface – 24 loads in total – plus the obligatory newt. Following further sessions on the 5th and 7th August it became obvious that the way on in the Connection Dig was not over large. Directly above the drop down to this dig an initially promising site was cleared of the usual clay, gravel and cobbles with 22 loads out on the 7th  and another 29 out on the 8th  when it was established that this was merely an alcove with several tiny phreatic inlets. Tony A. did some token digging in the P.P.P. upper phreatic tube but decided that the rock-breaker was needed to make life easier. In desperation a three shothole charge was fired in the floor of the Connection Dig. The resulting 12 loads of spoil came out on the 10th (along with a frog) and another three holes were drilled and fired. Digging, hauling and stacking also took place in the A1 Dig. Two days later the spoil from the last bang was bagged and stacked. Fi's 'Ole saw teams on the 17th, 21st and 31st and then regularly throughout September and into October with lots of tedious bag hauling, particularly up the Corkscrew. 98 more loads had reached the surface by the 5th October. Hannah Sarjent of Sussex University undertook CO2 testing in the cave as part of her dissertation - with negligible results. Work has also continued sporadically at the Connection Dig but this now has little promise.

Additional diggers

Andy Watson (MNRC), Ian “Slug” Gregory, Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson, Amy Cork, Andy Norman, Ernie White, Toby Maddocks, Sam Batstone, Henry Bennett, Hannah Sarjent (Sussex University), Carole White, Nick Gymer, Kev Gurner; John Wilson, Alan Richards, Jim Lee, Rob Norcross (MOLES).


“Slopperations” :  a note on recent digging activity below Pewter Pot, Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink

By John ‘Tangent’ Williams

Since the initial major discoveries made in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink during 2003,  potential dig sites located in the deepest parts of the cave have remained flooded. This resulted in the diggers attention turning firstly elsewhere within the cave, and ultimately  elsewhere on the Hill. The long period of dry weather experienced this year has enabled digging to be recently resumed in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink.

Digging efforts are being focussed upon the formerly flooded Slop 3 site, located at the base of the Pewter Pot Pitch. Slop 3 was first examined in late 2003, by  Trevor Hughes who had viewed the site in low water conditions and reported a passage described as a canal continuing beneath a roof of uncertain quality. It was not pushed at the time , as the rest of the regular diggers were away in Scotland. Since that time the site has remained flooded, the only other notable visit being by Fiona who undertook a practise dive, in approximately 5-6m of water.

Recent digging trips have concentrated on bailing the site dry(ish), which takes approximately 30 minutes. The water is disposed of down Slop 1, and does not return to refill Slop 3 (at least during the duration of digging sessions). Spoil is being removed in buckets, then stored  in large bags at the base of the pitch. The occasional large rocks which are found within the slop are being used to build a wall to hold back the spoil, and also help stabilise the slope running down to the dig site.

It is intended to install a small bilge pump to make the removal of the standing water more efficient, and with the progress during recent digging sessions it should be possible to continue digging into the winter months.

Hair of the Dog Sump (now completely dry), located beyond Slop 1 enroute to Brown Ale Boulevard, has also  been investigated. Digging has been  undertaken amongst mud, gravel  and large boulders which will need banging if further progress is to be made there.

Digging sessions are taking place on Wednesdays / Sundays.

All welcome, although visitors beware that the insitu ladders are both old and a little too short!

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Mad Phil for banging a large boulder blocking  the route through Slop 1. Thanks to all the ‘bailiffs’ & ‘sloperatives’ who have worked at this site to date.


William Eggy-Belch

The man and his orifices. Being a brief history of one of the lesser-known gentlemen of Somerset caving history of the 18th century.

(A result of half a dozen requests)

By  Nick “ Hawkins *” Harding

Ed. Note : Nick presents the last in the series.

Author’s note: William Eggy-Belch has often been mistaken for one John Aubrey of Chippenham due to their almost simultaneous altering of their nomenclatures. William Eggy-Belch was born Jonathan Aubrey while John Aubrey was born Aaron Henkels Electrometer.

Contemporary image of William Eggy-Belch complete with familiar egg mess on his left breast.

In his liberating and little known book The Sounds My Feet Make, William Eggy-Belch the one time sand yachting Epicurean vicar of Bridgwater often made it clear to his erstwhile flock that humour, particularly that of a flatulent nature, was the key to a long and richly fulfilling life. His oft quoted mantra ‘Tis a pour arse that canst nay rejoice’, has now entered into Somerset ignominy. Indeed no gentlemen’s excursion that he attended was complete without his gaseous exuberance. He could often be heard ‘letting one loose’ in Wookey Hole where his ‘boisterous reports echoed full long and hard’ sounding, as highlighted in one contemporary diary entry by his colleague and fellow caver Isiah Komputer-World, like the ‘blasted, concussive and thunderous eructions of some sulphurous goblin.’ 

Peter St John Being, his roommate at Cambridge, who remained a lifelong friend, often regaled the fellows of the high table with stories of the ‘industrious colonic machinations’ of his Somerset friend, manufacturing a reasonably faithful facsimile of his rumbustious privy noises, as punctuation, during after dinner speeches made by the Dean, who history recalls, ‘as the most persistently tedious dullard in all of Christendom’.    

After studying theology Eggy-Belch returned to his beloved Wells, via a brief detour as a man of the cloth in Bridgwater (little is known about his activities there except that he mastered the fine art of sand yachting), where he took on the task of restoring the biblical compliance of the local heathenish miscreants of that parish. Realising that a fire and brimstone attitude would push them further away from a life of pious worship Eggy-Belch introduced a humorous element in his sermons through the use of bodily gas. It was reported, although one is led to think that it is nothing more than a mythic nonsense, at least apocryphal guff (no pun intended) that he could quote Psalm 23 in one rude out-blast of air. What is not clear is which orifice he was using.

Eggy-Belch would often address his congregation sporting a varied selection of in-season fruits, stitched to his vestments while regaling his rapt audience with tales of his derring-do in the privies of the county in which he would often wait for an unsuspecting party to utilise the adjoining convenience then let slip the fogs of warmth, usually on the back of a thunderous outpouring of noise. 

While travelling in the area to administer his priestly duties he could often be seen furiously bouncing down the lanes of Somerset on his ‘font-astic’ a pogo-stick, of his own creation, fashioned from a stout ash pole with a small ewer of holy water with which he blessed anyone who happened to be passing. He always sported a smear of egg on his coat from his ‘excessive haste consuming his morning comestibles in the form of breaking his fast with the fruits of the chicken.’ (Isiah Titty, Memoirs of A Somerset Git 1848)

Sadly his clerical existence was brought up short after badly bruising the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Jeremiah Alternating-Whippet, with a desperately mistimed biff to the hooter, the result of which was a dramatic bout of public defrocking not ten feet from the walls of Wells cathedral. Despite Eggy-Belch’s skill with a mitre, soundly thrashing his opponent in under three rounds, it was not long before the Bishop saw to it that the man was swiftly frightened out of the county by a gang of hired Shipham ruffians. Half an hour later Eggy-Belch crept back into the Wells area, having spent ten minutes hiding in a cave in Burrington (which one is not known), deciding that what he really wanted to do was explore the inner world and subterranean levels of the Mendips and not tour as a member of the ecclesiastical comedy outfit the Crazy Croziers. They had been touring the area with their production of “More Tea Vicar?” (Described by the Gentleman’s Magazine as – “Two beastly hours of noxious vapours, bookended by four of ghastly anal ineptitude.”)

Fortuitously for E-B his spinster aunt Regina Stiffbits Belch passed noisily away one afternoon leaving the young man a country estate near Shepton Mallet and a handsome inheritance. For a short time he administered to the running of a large country house and the estate with its numerous staff, servants and general layabouts. But the young William was restless and in need of ‘orificular stimulation.’ He was not a businessman but was a peripatetic individual who often took to exploring the hills to escape the ‘yawning and bowel squeezing dullness of bookkeeping’. After that almost mistimed visit to Snapcock’s Wig Emporium (See The Wig in Caving, Belfry Bulletin Summer 2005, Vol.54, No. 2 Number 522), E-B came into possession of the famous Devon Loafa and never looked back. 

With no experience of such subterraneous activity E-B sought immediate council with a local old soak who had great experience digging numerous mines in the area. This fellow, whose name has slipped from history (although evidence has lately surfaced in Wells Museum that the individual might have be none other than Jedediah Fridge, inventor of the cave swing) told E-B to find the muttering waters of Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole (now lost), which sounded like ‘the drunk ramblings and frenetic utterances of a Glaswegian ne’r do well’. Why this particular hole was chosen against the easier Wookey for instance is beyond the ken of cavers to this day. Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole is, as we know, but only according to legend of course, a ‘super severe’ especially in the long pitch and all too tight muddy crawl that was its fabled entrance. Whatever the reason E-B took to it with firm enthusiasm. Knowing that this cave’s furthest reaches were as yet unplumbed and its overall length unknown he decided that his mission would be to discover all that he could about it. 

I didst find myself as if a turd in a privee outflow yet reversing said journey back into the bowels of the Earth. I was ever surrounded on all sides by malodorous and foetid doings the cause of which I dared not consider.   After an hour up to his lobes in filth E-B popped out, rather unceremoniously into the First Great Chamber, which Catcott described in I Like Holes as a ‘numinous cavern of certain cyclopean magnificence, except for the little bit at the end shaped like a job.’   Here E-B was met with his first proper view of the subterranean world. Or he would have done had he brought something to light his way. It was a rather embarrassed E-B that surfaced several hours later none the wiser for his vigorous activities underground.

Keen to put that obvious mistake behind him E-B sought further council from the Old Men who promptly pointed him the direction of Voluminous Titty, ex of the Somerset cheese police and grandfather of the famous biographer of some of Somerset’s greatest explorers Isiah Titty. (Isiah Titty would become famous for his Memoirs of A Somerset Git 1848, in which he describes various conversations with himself).  Voluminous Titty was no stranger to underground exploration but preferred the armchair variety to actual descent into the caves of the Mendips. 

In his own book Voluminous Titty describes his first meeting with E-B while experimenting with his ‘Titty’s Patent Gentleman’s Field Stilts’, ‘a brace of poles two and half fathoms in height for the execution of continuous and swift perambulations across ye levels of Somersetshire.’ A means of travel that he swiftly dispensed with after trying to walk home to his residence in Oakhill from an excess of libational behaviour at the notorious Pump and Glottis, a well known Inn on the Shepton Mallet to Wells road. Titty spent nearly two weeks hopelessly lost in a field. This hilarious incident is recorded in Underground Adventures with Dr Pleems, a children’s book from the 1930’s and also makes an appearance in the Ladybird book, What To Look For In Stupid People, 1966.   

Titty had had many conversations with Catcott about subterranean activities and was thus able to introduce E-B to a variety of illumination devices – a number of different length candles, a bag of gas and some odd device of Titty’s with which Catcott had been experimenting.  What that odd device was no two modern scholars of caving can agree on except that E-B was suitably unimpressed by it. ‘Inserting the hose is deemed unworthy of a gentleman and one is sore dashed if it is decent for one’s favoured servant to do likewise.’ But it had nonetheless planted a seed E-B’s mind. 

After vigorously thumping Titty for being a prize arse and chastising Catcott for continuing with the man’s ‘device of rude magnitude’, E-B decided that the best way was further experimentation. Keen to return to Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole E-B opted for a device of his own.

On June 14th  1761 visitors to the Wells area would have been witness to a bizarre sight. Lined up in Augustus Dildee’s top field were numerous prize heifers ‘a few short of a herd’, more than a handful of E-B’s servants and ‘several rugose gentlemen of the vicinity’.  E-B’s servants were unwinding a thick hose down the entrance of TCMH in slow deliberate movements. With ‘a system of winches, pulleys, weights and brass constructs’ the hose had been connected to three cows at a time. From these ‘bovine reservoirs much illuminatory gas was drawn to the satisfaction of all’.  E-B spent many hours exploring the system until around three in the afternoon there was a ‘loud report that issued from the depths thus causing the ground to oscillate in undulations of a rude nature.’ Shortly afterwards it is said, two cows both ‘sporting demeanours of incredulous and mistimed surprise eructed in violent detonations as if struck by several broadsides of artillery.’ E-B was never seen again and it was not long after, a week or so, that the entrance to Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole was sealed due to the collapse of the very dangerous pitch near the opening now highly unstable as a direct of the subterranean explosion.

A week later EB’s singed and muddy Devon Loafa popped out into daylight in the river Axe having obviously found a route from TCMH into Wookey.   

*Due to an inability by Richard Whitcombe Esq. to get my name right.


2005 Annual Dinner. Were you there?

- a selection of piccies from Pete Glanvill’s Memory Lane.



The Last Word

Compiled by J’Rat and Wig

ERRATUM; BB 522.   Meghalaya 2005.   Computer problems caused the deletion of the following. From the bottom of page 43 it should continue:-

“… us through the tight bit after an hour of hammer and chisel work – fair play to ‘em. For one of the gentlemen (who shall remain nameless but he said “feck” a lot) disrobing to his shreddies was necessary and had the secondary benefit of reducing the girlies to hysterical laughter as he cursed his way through. They were suitably impressed with the extensions so we left them brewing up and admiring the place while we headed out to our beer supplies stashed in the cave entrance where we intended to bivouac until morning. With tongues hanging out we sweated up the 100m of rope only to find that the local kids had snaffled most of the ale – bastards. Luckily Greg had extra supplies and a couple of rum-filled Coke bottles were unearthed from the depths of tackle bags to quench our alcoholic thirsts. A fire was lit outside and Greg cooked soup as the others gradually emerged from the depths to the night sounds of the jungle. Honorary thin man Brian M, relieved to have escaped from the jaws of the squeeze, produced a bottle of Courvoisier and the mini-party got into full swing before we retired for a few hours draughty kip.”    

Reprint of Rutter. [DJI]  Bibliophiles in the Club will be interested to know that John Rutter’s famous 1829 book, The Delineations of … N.W. Somerset, has been reprinted under the title ‘Somerset. ’  The new edition has been produced as a softback and was brought out by Nonsuch Publishing in April, 2005.  The price is £16 and is available at any bookshop; ISBN 1 84588 070 6.   For those wanting a bargain can get the book from Amazon for £6 + £2.85 p&p – this price has to be a mistake but the company accepted my money!  The original, depending upon which version, small cut, large page, various bindings, etc., can vary from £100 - £350.

Ben Barnett has been in contact with Fiona Sandford and he has told her that he is travelling around Indonesia and is currently in Bali.

70th BBQ photos. [DJI]  Several people have asked who took the photos on the back cover of the last BB. Guilty I’m afraid.

Gibbets  Brow Shaft. [ARJ]  In the summer of 2004 Alan "Butch" Butcher of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club was shown a stone-capped, 8 metre deep lead mine shaft in the field across the road from Lamb Leer entrance and located strategically between the Great Chamber and the Pond Rift aven in this currently "out of bounds" cave. Work commenced to clear the shaft and by June of this year the Shepton diggers had unfortunately bottomed out at 20m depth but with a tiny, draughting side passage at 16m. Madphil Rowsell was sub-contracted to blast this to "Butch-size" and had made some 7m of progress before leaving for Austria and handing the contract to your scribe. One further bang allowed the Shepton to explore some 17m of snug phreatic tube forming an L in plan and with potential digs at both ends. Matthew Butcher also found a too tight but open rift in the floor with larger passage visible below. Six banging sessions were necessary to allow Matt to drop into 10m of 2m diameter phreatic tunnel choked at both ends with clay. This very fine section of passage is still some 20m above the highest points in Great Chamber and Pond Rift but each end is heading towards one of these voids and digging is easy. Not so removal of spoil which is a chore. Poor air can also be a problem. We wish the Shepton team the best of luck with this important project and hope that free access will soon be regained to the fascinating underworld of Lamb Leer.

Ogof  Cwmwl Ddu   ( Black  Cloud  Cave). [ARJ]  Situated on the eastern slope of Blorenge mountain, south west of Abergavenny, this extremely promising dig was located by Henry Bennett, Pete Bolt and Rich Blake and many other B.E.C. members and friends have been dragged across the Channel to assist. It is being dug in collaboration with Charles Bailey, Chris Brady and others from the Brynmawr C.C. Chris and the writer have banged it a few times resulting in some 50m of steeply descending and well decorated passage well endowed with sticky clay. On the night of 29th September the top of a c.3m pot was opened up but not descended due to bang fumes. This cave may connect with the remote regions of Ogof Draenen but there is some 1.5km of virgin limestone between the two. It is also dead handy for the Lamb and Fox! Watch this space...

Fiona's 'Ole saw teams on the 17th, 21st and 31st and then regularly throughout September and into October with lots of tedious bag hauling, particularly up the corkscrew. 98.more loads had reached the surface by the 5th October. Hannah Sarjent of Sussex University undertook CO2 testing in the cave as part of her dissertation - with negligible results. Work has also continued sporadically at the Connection Dig but this now has little promise.


Many thanks to Tyrone and his mate Mick who have continued to work on the Belfry extension. This is the situation on 25th September. Not only have made great strides when one compares the photo in BB 522 but still manage the occasional smile when well meaning observers offer advice !

Photos Wig