The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Nick  Harding

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor (722)
Joint Treasurers: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary: Brenda Wilton (568)
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (1306)
Hut Warden / Hut Bookings: Roger Haskett (1234)
Tackle Officer: Tyrone Bevan (1276)

Non-Committee Posts

Acting Editor: Nick Harding (1289)
BEC Web Page Editor: Henry Bennett (1079)
Librarian : Graham Johnson (aka- Jake) (1111)

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

Cover image: The cover shows a cross section and a description (as published in Rutter and Phelps) of various points of interest in the Lost Cave of Hutton. In Catcott’s Treatise on the Deluge, he states that he, with a few friends, descended into a cavern 90 feet deep. Due to the profusion of bones he described the place as being like a charnel house. 

 


 

A Hearty Hello From Your New Editor.

Sitting quietly in the Hunters one afternoon, near the groat-sliding* board (or is it slide-groat? I was told but swiftly forgot), observing a game being played by a group of freshly spelunked Belgians, I lifted my near empty pot to see, through its smeary glass bottom the press-gang, a swarthy looking bunch at the best of times, lurking in the corner of the tavern. It was clear there was only one thing on their collective minds – they were after an editor. I had been earlier warned (or is that warned earlier? – and they wanted me to do this job!), along with the speculative use of crude emotional blackmail, by a certain individual (Rowsell! for it was he) that members of her majesty’s Belfry militia had already singled me out for the role, due in part to my reckless historical pamphleteering. While trying to flee I was unable to avoid their rough manner and was hit rudely about the skull and shackled to the duty. The following morning I awoke with a thick head and a freshly sharpened quill crudely stapled to my right hand. One day the law may change and writers will be able to go about their business freely and in good spirits but until then I take it as a signal honour to become the new master of words at the BEC…or so it says here.


The Belfry Militia in action.

If you have articles or anything that might be remotely of interest to the caving world for inclusion in this esteemed organ please send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Your Editor.

* Goat-sliding would be more fun, surely…


 

Panama

By James Cobbett, Helen Harper, Rob Harper and Stuart McManus

INTRODUCTION

In late February and early March of 2005 a group of three cavers from Britain and one British caver based in Panama spent approximately two weeks exploring the caves on the Bocas del Toro islands on the Caribbean coast in the north west of the Republic of Panama.

Although there is a lot of limestone in Panama much of which is cave-bearing there is very little recorded cave exploration.

PERSONNEL

NAME

BASED IN

CAVING CLUB

James Cobbett

Panama City, Panama

Wessex Cave Club

Stuart McManus

Priddy, Somerset, UK

None

Helen Harper

Wells, Somerset, UK

Bristol Exploration Club

Rob Harper

Wells, Somerset, UK

Bristol Exploration Club

GEOLOGY & GEOGRAPHY

As none of the party would admit to either geological or geographical training a subjective description only is given.

On both Bastimentos and Colόn the centres of the islands rise to about 50-70m of elevation and are surrounded by wide areas of level ground only a few metres above sea level. The central portions are mainly covered with rainforest and much of the low-lying area is marsh and mangrove swamp. Around areas of habitation the land is cleared for farming and there is considerable evidence of increasing development for the tourist industry.

All of the caves explored were developed in horizontally bedded bands of “caliza” a coralline limestone that is present over large areas and used by the locals to make cement and possibly as aggregate. This is a very friable stone and seems to be interspersed with layers of petrified mud/clay which is extremely slippery: both of these rocks are very fragile.

There is a high annual rainfall in the area and cave development is very common; most of the cave passages are only a few metres below ground level. At higher elevations there is evidence of massive older collapsed systems with short lengths of very large dry passages often choked with mud or stalagmite formations. The caves at a lower level are usually horizontal active streamways with frequent collapses from the surface. The presence of numerous cenotes and large inactive, at least at the time of our visit in the dry season, resurgence pools would suggest the presence of extensive sub-water table development.


CAVE EXPLORATION & DESCRIPTION

Isla Colόn

A.         La Gruta and associated caves

1.  La Gruta  – this is a well-known “show” cave on the island and the upstream, and probably downstream sections are well known to local cavers.

Access – A short taxi ride from Bocas to a sign for “La Gruta” and then a 300m walk along a paved trail to a stream marked by religious icons, a lectern and a series of banked pews. Upstream from here the water resurges from a large cave entrance and following the stream downriver over a small dam leads to a further large entrance after approximately 100m.

Description:

Upstream – This has been adequately described previously by Keith Christenson to wit…“The cave consists of a horizontal active stream passage, divided up into four separate parts.  The main entrance is large and of walking height, and opens into the largest known passage in Bocas.  However, this passage is only 94m long, coming out into a karst window.  The next cave section is just 7m long, and then the final section is 204m of mostly walking height stream cave with occasional pools.”

Downstream – the cave consists of walking and wading in the streamway through three cave sections to emerge in a small valley. The stream from the cave is a tributary to the stream flowing down this valley, (see below). The first of the downstream sections was surveyed by Maurice Thomas and Jorge Pino in 2002.

2.  Cenotes, “Mac & Cobbett’s” Cave, “Rob & Helen’s” Cave

Once out of downstream La Gruta the valley can be followed upwards to multiple sites - as the locals seemed unaware of these egos were given full rein when naming the entrances.

Access – the valley can be accessed by following the road beyond the sign to La Gruta for approximately 500m to a series of culverts carrying a stream under the road and then river-walking upstream for about 500m but by far the easiest access is to go through downstream La Gruta.

a.       Cenotes – Just upstream of the lower entrance of La Gruta the valley divides and several cenotes, (open water-filled pits), up to 5m diameter and short low sections of crawling cave, (up to 15m in active streamways with upstream and downstream sumps), can be found. These are almost certainly part of the same system and there may be a large sub-water table cave.

b.       “Mac & Cobbett’s” Cave – In the right fork of the valley 60m from the downstream entrance of La Gruta on a bearing of 022.5 deg, (UTM: 17P 0360148 1038857). 80m of straight passage just under the surface with several skylights ending in rising passage with a “rabbit –sized” exit hole to the surface.

c.       “Rob & Helen’s” Cave – The resurgence for the stream in the right fork of the valley. Located by following the stream to a large patch of dense undergrowth, (UTM: 17P 0360215 1039057). From the entrance above the active resurgence a short section of muddy walking rift passage leads to 100m of alternating flood overflow and active streamway with an area of roof collapse at about the halfway point. The passage varies from hands-and-knees crawling to walking passage and ends at a junction. To the left 20m of crawling in water in the active streamway leads to a lowish, (1m high 2m wide) passage not pushed to a conclusion and to the right leads to a similar sized flood overflow passage ending at a stal blockage beyond which the passage could be seen to continue.

d.       Tree Cave – 50m from the lower entrance of La Gruta on a bearing of approximately 028.0deg is an obvious large tree on the slope just below the crest of the ridge. A small entrance between the roots leads into a muddy chamber with a steep mud slope below. This was not pushed to a conclusion but probably links with the top end of “Mac & Cobbett’s Cave”

e.       Purgatory Cave – Downstream from the bottom end of La Gruta the valley can be followed to the main road. Approximately 500m downstream of the road the stream sinks and just beyond this a small cave, (position not fixed), on the left bank was pushed as a flat out crawl in water, sharp rocks and flood debris for at least 15m by an heroic individual egged on by the cries of his companion at the entrance. The passage continued beyond in a similar fashion.

3. Other sites : -

a.       Cenotes - By following the road beyond the La Gruta turn-off for about 1km another dry valley enters on the right hand side. In the floor of this are a number of cenotes 1-2m in diameter. (UTM:  17P 0357966 1039752).

b.       Un-named Cave – On the opposite side of road from the track to the other cenotes is a small cave. (UTM: 17P 0357857 1039698).

B.         Wysiwyg and associated caves

A series of caves which were probably once part of a very large system.

Access – From the roadside sign for La Gruta a poorly defined track, the old military road, can be followed almost due north through cleared fields with occasional patches of deep mud for approximately 3km of hard walking to the edge of the jungle. A local guide and/or a GPS locator would be advisable.

1.  Wysiwyg, (“What you see is what you get”), Cave

An impressive entrance chamber in the wall of a small doline is sand and mud-floored with a deep blind pit in the floor. Contouring around the edge of the pit allows access to a low slot to leading to a ledge on the wall of a second large and well-decorated steeply sloping chamber with no ways on.

2.    Doline Caves

a.       Doline 1- approximately 80m due west of Wysiwyg Cave is a large doline with four cave entrances

(i)                  East Wall – small rift leads after a few metres to a short narrow canal sumped at both ends.

(ii)                 North West wall – low entrance leads to a muddy slope down to a static sump.

(iii)               West Wall – low crawl leads to a junction after approximately 2m. To the left low passages soon become too tight and to the right the passage enlarges to a large deep pool. Swimming across the pool and under an arch allows access to a chamber completely floored with deep water at the far side of which the passage continues underwater and almost certainly connects with the sump in the North West wall cave.

(iv)               South West Wall – about 60m of large mud-floored walking passage with two avens to daylight leads to Doline 2

b.       Doline 2- approximately 60m south west of Doline 1 is a second doline with 2 entrances.

(v)                 East Wall – other end of the South West Wall cave in Doline 1.

(vi)               West Wall – From the large entrance, approximately 5x3m, a large muddy passage slopes steeply down to the left to end at after about 15m. 5m before the end of the chamber on the left side a 4m crawl in thick mud leads to another large chamber with several blind pits in floor which contain bad air. Straight ahead at the entrance a steep climb for 3 to 4m over a large boulder leads to a third doline.

3.   Cayman Caves

a.      Upper Cayman Cave

From the west side of the third doline a large entrance leads to a boulder floored steep slope down to a large, (30 x 8 x 6m), flat sand and mud-floored chamber with archaeological artifacts. Along the north wall of the chamber is a narrow trench containing an active stream. Upstream leads via walking and stooping passage to two sumps after approximately 60m. At the west end of the entrance chamber is a steep slope up to an entrance in a fourth doline and downstream from here a high rift passage with a clean rock and gravel floor leads to a lower entrance after about 150m. A small passage in the left wall at a widening of the passage quickly becomes too tight. A small cayman, (2m long), was seen in one of the pools in this cave.

b.      Lower Cayman Cave

From the lower entrance of Upper Cayman Cave the stream follows a ravine for about 100m and then enters a short section of large clean washed rift passage. After 20m another entrance is reached and the stream joins the Rio Mimitimbi which is the main river draining the interior of Isla Colόn and runs due North from its resurgence,(see below), to the sea.

D.         Rio Mimitimbi Caves + Resurgence and Flood Overflow

Access – although the river could be accessed via the Cayman Caves it is easier to follow the main road beyond the La Gruta turnoff towards Drago for about 5km to where a track is seen on the right opposite a small farm. From here 45 minutes of walking reaches the river at a small ford, (UTM: 17P 0359497 1042534). A local guide is advisable.

Upstream an hour of walking, wading and swimming is needed to reach the bottom entrance of Lower Cayman Cave.

1. Mimitimbi Beach Caves

A short walk downstream from the ford leads to the beach where two short caves were noted.

2. River Caves

Downstream of the ford and at several points on the upstream walk the river passes through short sections of very large, 10x10m, cave passage up to 30m in length.

3. Resurgence pool

At about the halfway point between the ford and the entrance to Lower Cayman Cave there is a large tributary entering on the true right hand side of the stream. At the time of this trip this was a dry streambed leading after 10m to a large, 8x8m, static sump pool from which a large passage could be seen continuing underwater.

4. Flood Inlet Cave

Approximately 90m upstream of the entrance to Lower Cayman Cave is an 80m section of cave passage leading to a classic karst pavement floored valley which obviously takes a lot of water in times of flood.

5. Main Resurgence

A further 110m above the Flood Inlet Cave the Rio Mimitimbi resurges through boulders at one point via a 5m diameter pool. A brief reconnaissance failed to reveal any negotiable cave passage.

Isla Bastimentos

A.         Nibidá and associated caves.

Previous exploration of the area around the head of a small creek at the top of the Bahía Honda by Keith Christenson and Matt Lachniet aided by local cavers in 2002 had revealed three reasonably sizeable active cave systems – Nibidá, Cueva Domingo and Ol’ Bank Underworld of which Nibidá and OBU had not been pushed to a conclusion.

Access: The caves are located in a National Park and it is possible that a permit may be required to visit although nothing seemed to be required during this visit. From Bastimentos town a boat trip of about half-an-hour across the Bahía Honda and then up a narrow tidal creek through the mangrove swamps reaches a very small jetty. Because of the confusing nature and, to an untrained eye, the identical nature of all the small creeks a local guide is advisable. Once at the jetty 150m of walking along an obvious track leads to a clearing with the house of the “warden” one Domingo Villagra, (pronounced Viagra and therefore the source of much amusement!). Leaving the clearing, 100 to 150m of easy walking along a muddy track gains a footbridge over a small stream, the stream from Nibidá, following this upstream for 40m leads to the large resurgence entrance of Nibidá at the base of a small cliff.

1. Nibidá

UTM 17P 374660 1028661- Datum NAD87 – Christenson 2002

The cave was originally explored in 2002 was well described by Keith Christenson…

“The cave consists of a horizontal active stream passage.  The upstream ends at a divable sump which should provide a way on to connect with Ol' Bank Underworld.  The downstream end is a resurgence, and the main entrance. The only major side lead is an infeeder, which enters the cave after coming down a series of waterfalls and pools (swimming required).  The cave continues upstream unexplored beyond an unclimbable waterfall a mere 2m high (but you must start the climb while swimming in a 4m deep pool).”

The 2005 trip was able to extend the cave…

a.       Upstream end – the diveable sump mentioned above was found to be a low airspace section approximately 2m in length into a high rift carrying the stream passage varying between 2 and 6m in width and up to 8m in height, which could be followed for about 750m passing at least one skylight en route. At the upstream end the cave emerged into daylight at a section of collapsed passage/doline at the far side of which it could be followed through several other sections of collapse as a slightly smaller passage to end at a large doline with multiple cave entrances none of which were pushed to a conclusion.

b.       “Wham Bamboo Inlet” – the terminal waterfall of the infeeder passage mentioned above was climbed using artificial aids, a bamboo pole and ladder across the pool after attempts to climb it had it had failed miserably and aqueously, to gain 130m of small rifts and short climbs to an upper entrance. Another short through cave was found by following the water upstream.

Subsequent calculations have shown that this is currently the longest surveyed cave in Panama.

2. Cueva Domingo

UTM 17P 374635 1028643 - Datum NAD87 – Christenson 2002

Named after Domingo Villagra this cave is situated the base of the cliff approximately 50m to the South West of Nibidá. The 2002 part examined the bulk of this system …

“The cave consists of a horizontal active stream passage.  The upstream ends at a divable sump, which should provide a way on to considerable passage.  The downstream end is a resurgence, and the main entrance.”

The 2005 trip passed an intimidating duck at the upstream end only to be stopped by a true sump just beyond.

3. Ol’ Bank Underworld

UTM 17P 375098 1028335 - Datum NAD87 – Christenson 2002

By climbing the cliff above Nibidá and walking approximately 500-600m to the south-east a rift entrance is found in the jungle – a local guide is strongly advised.

The 2002 description of the cave is…

“The cave consists of a winding, active stream passage with mostly solid, scoured limestone walls, ceiling and floor.  Downstream ends at a divable sump, which should connect to the upstream sump in Nibidá after some 200m of expected walking passage between the sumps.  The upstream end of the cave exploration ends with streams coming in from several directions, none of which were followed to an end, and all are open and going.  The general character in the upstream area is lower and muddier. From the main passage, two large side passages take off. Both are roughly 3m higher than the floor of the main passage.  The passage further upstream is an infeeder during high-water events, and goes several hundred meters to a sinkhole entrance.  This sinkhole can be passed and the cave continues as a muddy belly crawl which was not explored to an end.  The further downstream passage pirates water during high-water events, and goes a couple hundred meters to a groundwater sump/pool.  This pool is divable, and could possibly provide a way to connect to Domingo's Cave.  The water appears to have no flow, and zero visibility could be a problem for diving here.”

During a brief visit the 2005 party found no further extensions but it is obvious from the finds in Nibidá that the downstream sump in OBU does not connect with this cave and but may instead may connect to the upstream sump in Domingo’s.

Note: “Ol’ Bank” is the name given by the locals to Isla Bastimentos

4. Un-named shaft

A short shaft entrance was noted by two members of the party, SM & JC, near Cueva Domingo with passage leading off from the bottom but was not entered owing to lack of time and tackle.

B.         Cedar Creek etc

Some time was spent investigating the area around Cedar Creek, (UTM 17P 0377311 1027000), on the southern coast of Isla Bastimentos but only very short sections of passage between collapses were found.

Isla Popa

Intriguingly the marine charts for this island and the local inhabitants mention a coal mine, which would suggest the possibility of limestone as well, but no caves appear to be known to the locals and nothing was found on a short reconnaissance trip by James Cobbett.

Peninsula Valiente

Two members of the party, JC and SM, spent about half a day exploring this area on the south east border of the Bocas area. However no limestone could be found and none of the locals knew of any caves in the area.

SURVEY NOTES

1.       Grade 3 sections: all measurements were taken using a 30m fibron tape read to the nearest centimetre, a Suunto Compass read to approximately one degree and a Suunto clinometer read to the nearest percent. The resulting data was recorded immediately.

2.       Grade 1 sections: distances and angles were estimated whilst in the cave and sketches recorded immediately after exiting the cave.

The raw data was processed on a computer using “COMPASS” software to produce a centre-line and a computer generated passage outline. This was then imported into CorelDraw and the final survey drawn.

3.       GPS readings were taken with a handheld Garmin E-trex Vista GPS receiver and, unless otherwise stated, the local datum NAD27 ( Canal Zone) was used. Unfortunately neither the exact time of the readings or the degree of confidence were recorded in every case.

EQUIPMENT

Individual

All of the members of the party had considerable experience of tropical caving and the problems involved and made their individual choices accordingly. Clothing consisted of either T-shirt and light tracksuit trousers, (Ron Hill Tracksters), or underwear covered with a light oversuit. Owing to the nature of the rock and the vicissitudes of jungle-walking heavy gloves were deemed essential.

Petzl helmets of varying vintages were worn underground and illumination provided by a variety of Petzl LED/halogen combinations of which the “Duo” seemed to prove the most reliable.

Group

Group equipment consisted of a 10m electron ladder, two sets of SRT equipment and a 30m static rope and some slings.

The ladder and slings were used in conjunction with an ad-hoc bamboo maypole to scale a 2m cascade and the rope was used once for security on a longish swim and to descend a steep-sided doline.

TRAVEL & ACCOMODATION

UK to Panama

The UK based members of the team flew to Panama on Delta Airlines via a short stopover in Atlanta. The total journey time was about 16 hours and the cost approximately £565:00 pp.

Panama City to Bocas

After an overnight stay in JC’s house in Panama City the party traveled onto Bocas del Toro.

Although the roads in Panama are relatively good by the standards of the region they are also few in number. Furthermore driving to Bocas del Toro, which takes about 10 hours of driving, involves a ferry crossing the logistics of which might have entailed an overnight stop. Therefore the party flew from Panama City to Bocas del Toro. The flights go approximately three times daily and take about an hour. The flight cost was US$ 61.00pp but carrying caving gear incurred an excess baggage charge of US$ 0.50/lb, (note the baggage allowance on these flights is only 20 pounds NOT kilos).

Bocas to Caves

Accommodation in Bocas was on a yacht moored in the marina; there are many cheap water taxis for travel to the individual islands and then standard four-wheel drive taxis were hired to get around on land.

For journeys to the caves on Bastimentos and reconnaissance trips around the island a fast boat and driver were hired for the day. The cost varying between US$30.00 and US$90.00 depending on the distance, the number of drivers/guides and the amount of beer carried/consumed.

MEDICAL REPORT

Medical Kit

A small medical kit was taken to cope with minor incidents. Since none of the caves were remote and Panama has a reasonable health service it was not felt necessary to take extensive medical supplies.

Those members of the party already on medication were expected to provide for themselves.

Incidents

  • Small wounds – the sharp and slippery nature of the rock in the caves meant that several members of the party had abrasions and cuts from minor falls which were treated with local hygiene and on one occasion topical antibacterial ointment, (Fucidin).
  • Strains/sprains – muscular and joint pains were managed with oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, (diclofenac and ibuprofen).
  • Diffenbachia – the Diffenbachia plant grows extensively in the forest and direct contact with naked skin causes a marked irritation. A peculiar hazard for cavers is mud that contains high levels of remnants of these plants at a microscopic or near-microscopic level and impregnation of clothing with this mud can lead to a severe burning sensation. Fortunately this is not a long-term phenomenon and can be alleviated by stripping off and washing both clothing and body in clean water.
  • Insect bites/stings – all of the party suffered from these although none necessitated specific treatment.
  • Seasickness – one member of the party, (HH), suffered from seasickness, which was quickly ameliorated with oral Dramamine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malarial Prophylaxis

Most of Panama is considered to be free of malaria however there is a risk in the Bocas del Toro and those members of the party from UK elected to use doxycline, (100mg. / person / day), as a prophylactic measure.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

James & Marilyn Cobbett – for their hospitality and Marilyn in particular for her tremendous forbearance and good humour when we turned her home and the beautiful yacht into makeshift caving huts.

Keith Christenson – for his unselfish generosity in sharing his data with us.

Oscar and Alvaro Powell – for help with guiding and arranging transport on Isla Bastimentos

Gordon and Loreen MacMillan – on Isla Colόn for help with guiding plus permission to tramp all over their land.

CONCLUSION

This trip explored and surveyed over a mile of cave with little difficulty. The cave passages themselves were spectacular being large, aquatic and well-decorated if, unfortunately, not of any great length. Although it is unlikely that a “world ranking” cave will be found in the area there is potential for more similar systems to be found either by river-walking or jungle-bashing ideally with local guidance.

The horizontal nature of all these caves allied to their proximity to the water-table and termination in large sumps might suggest the existence of extensive flooded systems and there are anecdotal reports of “blue holes” off the coast of Isla Colόn and a further expedition involving cave-divers is planned in early 2006

Appendix 1 – Cave Lengths

CAVE NAME

LENGTH 2002

LENGTH 2005

TOTAL

La Gruta

305m

164m

469m

“Mac & Cobbett’s” Cave

0

80m (est)

80m

“Rob & Helen’s” Cave

0

120m (est)

120m

Wysiwyg Cave

0

25m (est)

25m

Doline 1 (i)

0

6m (est)

6m

Doline 1 (ii)

0

20m (est)

20m

Doline 1 (iii)

0

35m (est)

35m

Doline 1 (iv)

0

60m (est)

60m

Doline 2 (ii)

0

70m (est)

70m

Cayman caves

0

307m

307m

Flood Inlet Cave

0

80m (est)

80m

Nibidá

443m

955m

1398m

Cueva Domingo

266m

10m (est)

276m

Ol’ Bank Underworld

1146m

0

1146m

Appendix 2 – Surveys

 

 


Rose Cottage Cave - Discoveries in Fi’s ‘Ole and A1 Digs
and the Exploration of Prancer’s Pride

By Tony Jarratt

Continuing the saga from BBs 522 and 523.

“First you must conceive that the Earth … is everywhere full of windy caves, and bears in its bosom a multitude of fissures and gulfs and beetling, precipitous crags. You must also picture that under the Earth’s back, many buried rivers with torrential force roll their waters mingled with sunken rocks.”

Lucretius; The Nature of the Universe.    

Further Digging 9/10/05 – 26/1/06

Six digging trips between the 9th and 16th October resulted in many bags of clay, gravel and sandstone cobbles being removed from the Fi’s ‘Ole dig – resulting in a gently descending phreatic passage running above the decorated chamber of Aglarond 2. The writer, fearing mutiny in the team, was much relieved that his theory of ongoing passage beyond the “blank wall” in this dig had been verified. The 10th was noted as the 1st Anniversary of digging at Rose Cottage but the lure of the laid down bottle of Champagne in Aglarond 1 was resisted.

Unseasonal warm weather on the 17th gave an excuse for Rich W. and the writer to lay a floodwater pipe below the spoil heap and generally tidy up on the surface. 31 loads came out to the heap between the 19th and 26th when three sessions of dig enlargement took place. This continued on the 30th and 31st October and 2nd November. Anne Pugh (ITV West) and caving cameraman Gavin Newman visited to assess the site for a projected “Secret Underground” TV documentary.

A major bag-hauling session occurred on 6th November with a solo digging trip next day when the writer broke into a low airspace some five metres into the dig as predicted. Squalor was now the order of the day following heavy autumn rains causing annoying drips and trickles throughout the cave and once again proving that the BEC curse of the “Reverse Midas Touch” is still operative! The 9th also saw a good attendance with seven good men and true removing almost all of the full bags from the depths and stacking them in Mt. Hindrance Lane. 30 heavy skiploads even reached the surface! The Obscene Publications Act forbids the writer to record in print Jake B.’s comments on his hauling stance in the Corkscrew. Work continued on the 13th with many bags filled and much more spoil backfilled into the original Fi’s ‘Ole. A four shothole charge was fired at the end and the resulting large amount of broken rock cleared next day – the nearby dump being completely filled. Much of the annoying puddle was bailed into plastic drums but enough was left to make the wet-suited Fi and John N. thankful for their choice of apparel! The writer, in dry grots, opted to pull skips before venturing to the chamber at the end of the A1 Dig above (first entered by John on 27th July) where visual contact was made with John who was immersed in the slime below and who later pioneered yet another “round trip” in this sporting little cave. While tidying up the A1 terminal chamber the writer noticed a void in the boulders ahead and after much awkward digging and rearrangement of unwieldy rocks was able to squeeze through into some 5m of unstable “passage” continuing the line of the dig and above the presumed route of Fi’s ‘Ole Dig. A dodgy looking hole at the end will almost certainly give access to the lower passage (Prancer’s Pride – see later) at a future date. All of the cave beyond Mt. Hindrance Lane would appear to be one great, sloping fault plane with the upper part composed of an enormous and lengthy boulder choke on the SW side. The lowest levels are washed free of infill and well decorated and the middle level still choked by ancient stream debris but the safest and least damaging option for extending the cave. Ben O. braved the now much deeper puddle on the 16th and filled a dozen skips with wet spoil which Pete H, Sean H. and Henry B. bagged up and hauled out to Aglarond 1. In drier but freezing conditions above Phil C. and the writer hauled 23 loads to surface.

Assisted by three able Sheffield Uni. cavers, Henry Rockliff and Rob Eavis being in the current forefront of Derbyshire digging, the writer fired a three shothole charge in obstructing slabs on 19th November. Two days later he celebrated his 56th birthday by clearing the vast amount of bang debris and gaining a view into open, descending passage ahead – once again as prophesied to be running below and to one side of the A1 Dig extension. One loose rock prevented access. This was easily removed with the aid of a sling on the 23rd but access to the passage beyond was denied due to previously unseen rock slabs beyond. Gwilym, Jake B, Phil C. and Toby later shifted some of these but the passage remained inviolate.

This was also the day when Gavin Newman, assisted by Tom Chapman and Sarah Payne, filmed Aglarond 2 (aided by Sean): Fi’s ‘Ole digging operations (starring Henry and Alex): the puddle (yours truly-damn it) and skip hauling in Mt. Hindrance Lane. A surface film team simultaneously recorded the writer being interviewed by Chris Serle as the latter effortlessly winched up about a dozen loads – 44 reaching the surface in all and giving a total of 2566 recorded since the start of the dig! Chris was grateful that his presence underground was not insisted upon as, being 6ft 9ins tall he is not over fond of the average Mendip cave. The ITV team seemed pleased with the results of their efforts and Ivan’s flood lighting combined with the swirling Mendip mist to give some good atmospheric effects. Food and pints at the Hunters’ were gratefully received by the thespian diggers on this bitterly cold night.   

More clearing was done on the 26th by Carole White and Martin Smith (BPC), the latter also taking photos, and the following day they returned with the writer, John N. and Jane Clarke for further work at the face when lots more rock slabs were dragged out and some two metres of progress made into the new passage before previously hidden slabs stopped play. A flat drill battery amused the Bradford diggers but meant that Henry B. and the writer had to return on the 28th to bang the breakthrough squeeze and clear more spoil. Trenching of the floor commenced in order to drain the puddle forwards and this was continued on the 30th when partial success transformed the “lake” into a mere “slough of despond”. Lots more clearing was done throughout the cave and more slabs banged at the end where the only encouraging feature was the strong draught.

Monday 5th December saw Henry B, John N. and your scribe clearing a goodly amount of spoil from the end. An uninspired Henry was bemoaning the lack of a way on when, on moving a rock on the left, he suddenly gained a view into open passage. Much encouraged the diggers worked hard to gain access but were defeated by more large slabs and were forced to retire to H.Q. for liquid refreshment before returning in the afternoon armed with the drill and a bunch of detonators, the bang having run out. Three sessions of “micro-blasting” using a total of seven dets was just enough to break up the slabs and allow the writer to enter the new stuff feet first and kicking a large boulder forwards. Alas the way on was a calcite and boulder choked hole in the floor but in recompense a standing-sized inlet passage with a couple of rift avens and some fine formations, including a partly dried out crystal pool, yielded about 8m of cave. On later draining the “slough of despond” into the extension some entertaining gurgling noises resulted as the water sank in the hole in the floor. The totally knackered diggers then gratefully headed out, once again leaving the Champagne unopened. At least we now had plenty of stacking space and bag-hauling to the surface will thankfully be a thing of the past.

The film epic continued on the 7th when B.C.R.A. Chairman and physicist John Wilcock rushed around the paddock with his battered dowsing rods accompanied by the writer and both being interviewed by Chris. John is convinced that the cave extends SE to the junction of the Wells Road and Belfry track and from here swings round to the south to connect to St. Cuthbert’s. He predicts that a passage nearer the surface than the known St. Cuthbert’s system passes over the main passage NW-SE then joins the cave to the south, as stated earlier – time will tell if he is correct. His results appeared to delineate the general boundaries of the known Rose Cottage passages and were later partially repeated by Tony Audsley who also recorded the whole circus on camera for his web site. That evening more of the team visited the new stuff and dragged most of the remaining full bags up to the top of the Corkscrew. They also hauled rocks from Fi’s ‘Ole and commenced the dig in the floor at the end. Henry Dawson made his first appearance and became the third digger of that apparently rare caving forename to join the team. This makes the use of  “a passage full of loose Henries” no longer useable in the cave description.

The 11th December saw Fi and the writer attacking the calcite blockage and the former becoming joyously enthused on discovering the quagmire of porridge-like mud below it. Stitch drilling and a misfired two detonator charge left the stubborn calcite still in place. 1 load reached the surface and next day another 16 joined it when the two returned with Jake B. While more rock was hauled back to Aglarond 1 the dets were rewired and fired but with little effect. Excavation continued in the squalid floor dig and the nearby crystal pool was bailed to reveal no passable way on but a couple of fine, crystal covered stalactites. A drystone wall was constructed above the pool to provide a spoil dump in the rift behind it and any shortage of rock was soon solved after Jake pointed out the dangerous state of the adjacent ceiling. To prove his fears groundless your scribe poked it with his finger resulting in a mass movement, an abject apology and some deft crowbar work resulting in about half a ton of good building stone. Some digging was done in the rift above the new spoil dump but banging was needed here to reach a wider section ahead.

Excavation of the hole in the floor continued on the 14th when it was reported to be widening out below the calcite. The very last full spoil bags (touch wood!) were removed to the surface in 69 skiploads to give a total of 2,652 recorded as being dragged out over the last 14 months. At a minimum weight of 8 kilos each this totals 21,216 kilos (19.09 tons). This does not include the initial spoil removed with the mini-digger. Bloody good effort, team!

 

The next session at the end, on 19th December, saw a considerable amount of digging and dumping and the opening of a tiny, decorated airspace in the floor dig. A faulty drill prevented banging of the rift above. Work continued two days later when a vast amount of spoil was bagged and stored in and above the crystal pool – the only available space.

Another dangerous roof slab was brought down before it decimated the digging team (seximated actually as there were but six tonight and only the digger at the face was in mortal peril). Reports from the end indicated little promise but as Pub time loomed Paul B. opened up a clean washed, arm-sized hole in the floor and enthusiasm was once again restored. So much restored that on the following evening Paul, John N. and your scribe were back at the face frantically digging, hauling and stacking like three automatons. Worn out and gritty-eyed Paul came up for a spell allowing John to inspect the dig. On pulling out a few stones he was rewarded with an open and apparently deep hole from which emanated the strong draught. With closing time drawing ever closer the writer took a turn at the front and opened the hole to almost passable size – but not quite. A steeply sloping calcite floor dropped away into a black void with many fine formations visible but un-enterable without bang or another hours work. Well past 10pm the ecstatic diggers broke all records to reach the Hunters’ where festive pints of “Prancer’s Pride” provided both sustenance and a suitable name for the forthcoming and barrel-winning extension! The diggers were certain that the prophesied continuation of Aglarond 2 had finally been reached after five and a half months hard labour excavating their way along the A1 and Fi’s ‘Ole Digs (see later for proof of this). To ensure easy access the window into Prancer’s Pride was banged by Madphil on the following evening while Henry B. and the writer tidied up the spoil heap. It was very noticeable that the bang sounded particularly loud all the way back in Aglarond 1.

The Christmas Day team of assorted hangover sufferers Jake B, Paul B, Jeff Price and the writer took down a 5m ladder as an aid on the stalagmite slope and your scribe was just able to squeeze in and enlarge the breakthrough point for his larger colleagues. As is normal on these occasions the huge passage had shrunk somewhat and only c.4m of progress was made to a choke in the floor of the steeply descending bedding plane below. An inlet above this was briefly examined but was thought too pretty to push. Not despondent we headed for the Pub and festivities leaving the Champagne still unmolested but Paul’s brandy miniature sipped as a gesture. Next day the writer cleared rocks and banged the boulders.

He returned on the 27th with Fiona and a strangely uncoordinated Henry B. for a very intensive clearing session. The inlet grotto was sacrificed as a spoil dump and this passage pushed for some 5m to the base of a strongly draughting rift which needed committed squeezing to gain access. This beautifully decorated feature was suspected to connect with the more easily reached spoil dump rift in the chamber some 10m above. More rocks in the floor of the bedding plane were banged as an enlargement could be seen beyond. The writer, Bobble and a slightly less uncoordinated Henry cleared the result on the morning of the 28th and fired another charge to allow access into an elliptical and well decorated passage with a howling outward draught. On this trip your scribe pushed the inlet into a stunningly beautiful chamber where exploration would have been almost sacrilegious but was suddenly found to be unnecessary when some 8m away through the formations he espied the orange conservation tape in Aglarond 2! This explained why the bang was so noisy when fired from Aglarond 1, not that far above. At least the diggers now knew where they were and were convinced that the phreatic passage some 7-8m below was the way on. A return was made in the evening by five of the team who removed a large amount of rock from the morning’s bang enabling access to be gained to the elliptical passage which John N. pushed to a constriction with a view into a possible way on to the right. While Pete H, Jake B, Phil C. and John continued with enlarging the breakthrough point the writer, armed with a lump hammer, removed the obstacle and smashed his way through assorted formations to reach a climb down over flowstone in an exceptionally attractive junction of phreatic passages. Superb curtains, straws, flowstone and small helictites adorned this area but many had to go before it could be fully explored. This was thought to be justified after all the effort made to avoid desecrating Aglarond 2 but the noise of tinkling calcite was heart rending. Seeing large passage below the explorer shouted back the traditional and immortal “We’re in!” and clambered down the climb to reach a muddy streamway which immediately closed down below the flowstone slope. A gap over a calcited boulder above this was briefly examined but needed banging to enlarge. John came in for a look then the pair retreated to allow Jake and Pete their well deserved turn – the latter luckily having an instant camera to record the occasion. It was estimated that we had explored some 10m of quite stunning cave but the lack of a feasible way on was a great disappointment. The gods of the cave, angry at the despoliation, saw to it that the desecrator’s fingers suffered a painful squashing as he climbed out to at last open the long-standing bottle of Champagne. This was enjoyed by all – including Phil who was suffering from a Christmas headache – then the long grind out to the surface got underway and celebrations and theorising continued in the bar.

On the 30th December the writer, in Aglarond 2, established clear vocal contact with Trev Hughes and Jane C. who were in Prancer’s Pride. This indicated that the muddy streamway in the latter possibly flowed to Aglarond 3. Evaluation of the digging prospects here showed that the only feasible site was the partially calcite-filled rift above the impassable streamway and a careful banging project was thought to be acceptable. Some justification for this was gleaned from the fact that about three digging sessions in the beautiful Aglarond 2 would have gained us access to Prancer’s Pride in a lot less than five and a half months but conservation had overruled this!

Work on the calcited rift commenced next day when Tangent and the writer put three long shotholes in the flowstone coated rock on the right hand side, loaded them with 40gm cord and loudly fired the charge from Aglarond 1 above. Being a wet day the pair were treated to an amazing drumming noise emanating from beyond the dig site and put this down to water dripping onto a calcite false floor. Returning on the 2nd January with Jeff P. your scribe carefully cleared the debris and laid a two shothole charge, again fired from 1. Jeff drilled a hole in the floor of the entrance squeeze to 2 for possible future enlargement. The drumming noise was absent today, as was any sense of co-ordination in the diggers following the excesses of New Year!

Wednesday 4th January saw two separate teams working in the cave. Paul B. and the writer cleared the bang spoil in Aglarond 3 and tidied the place up. The calcite blockage was removed enough to give a view into, not the huge gallery expected, but a dried out, flowstone-lined pool decorated with scores of fine helictites which has effectively closed down this site. A rethink is needed here. A painful “housemaid’s elbow” (your scribe) and several triple hammered fingers (Paul) enlivened the trip. Pete, Fi, Henry B, John, Alex and later Paul returned to Prancer’s Pride to commence digging the RH side of the crawl. They removed a large amount of spoil in unpleasantly damp conditions.  

The 7th and 8th January saw bouts of surface work with Henry B, Chris B, Ivan, and the writer clearing out the Priddy Pot Water leat from the Belfry to the “pond” and diverting much of the stream down the cave entrance. On the 9th green drain dye (fluorescein) was put in this stream and later observed to flow along Bored of the Rings to sink in the Connection Dig. A trickle flowing down Mt. Hindrance Lane joined it. It then reappeared about a third of the way down the Corkscrew and flowed down the flowstone slope in Aglarond 1, through the impassable slot and into Aglarond 3 from where it disappeared into the distance. The surface stream was also diverted into the slumped sink adjacent to the entrance and the site of the initial dig. Purple dye (Rhodamine derived?) was introduced but this water was not observed anywhere in the known cave! Two other tiny inlet streams in A1 Dig and above Prancer’s Pride were flowing clear and may derive from water sinking in the “pond” (one of these doesn’t – see later). Some digging was done in the unpleasantly damp RH passage in Prancer’s Pride and the squeeze between Aglarond 2 and 3 was enlarged with explosives. Today’s cold and damp operatives were Henry B, Jeff P. and your scribe. The significance of the slumped sink had now increased dramatically.

The bang spoil was cleared on the 11th and the squeeze found to be easier but still a challenge. Paul B. and the writer then used plugs and feathers to widen the banged calcite flow in Aglarond 3 to gain a better view of the stunning helictites and beautiful aven above. There is no way that any further work can be done here and the aven was seen to close down anyway. Some tidying up was done and several pieces of broken calcite were removed for scientific examination by Lisa Thomas. Meanwhile Ben O, Sean H, Pete H, Henry D, Phil C, Toby M. and John N. cleared much clag from the downstream crawl in Prancer’s Pride in order to make the RH dig more user friendly. All the spoil reached the higher dump thanks to the number of diggers. Pete’s draught-testing joss sticks made the whole cave stink like a Siamese brothel on cheap night! Green dye introduced into the “pond” was not seen in this area as expected but may not have had time to filter through. There was still no trace of the purple dye.

On the 16th January Henry B, Tony A. and the writer commenced work on re-excavating the slumped sink (the original “Belfry Dig”) and after hauling out many bucket loads of mud and inwashed sediment regained the shattered limestone floor at some 2m depth. Lots of rock slabs were prised out and used to wall yet another spoil dump. The lightweight A-frame used to support the floodlight was moved over to the new dig and braced with scaffold poles following a couple of minor hauling disasters and a wooden ladder was acquired to gain access to the rapidly deepening working face. At the end of the day the Priddy Pot Water stream was directed into the hole and backed up to around a metre deep. The following morning it was found to have dropped to about half a metre with surprisingly no slumping occurring overnight. Rich W. spent some time walling the spoil dump while Tony A. continued his dowsing project and detected both the fault line and a much stronger reaction running from the cave, under the tackle / M.R.O. store and across the Belfry car park. Jane C. did a fine job of checking out the cave twice with the stream entering the dig and once with it diverted. Much to our chagrin this revealed that part or all of the water re-appeared from a tiny inlet at the bottom of Paul’s Personal Project before flowing on down Bored of the Rings. On the earlier dye test this passage was not visited and if any purple dye had got through the mud infill and into the cave it would have been overpowered by the much brighter green dye poured in from the entrance above.

Despite this setback work continued with the surface dig on the 18th when many buckets of slumped clay and several rock slabs were removed and temporary shoring installed. Sean H. photographed operations for the record. Meanwhile, below, a large team cleared another dozen skips of spoil from the RH dig in Prancer’s Pride.

With the stream diverted into the “pond” a wet trip resulted on the 20th when the spoil rift at the end of Fi’s ‘Ole and the calcited boulder blocking the streamway in Prancer’s Pride were banged resulting in Henry B. and the writer being chased out by the fumes.

Scaffold shoring of the resurrected surface dig took place next day with Duncan Butler and Henry B. spending most of the day on site with assistance from Henry D. Henry B. and Rich W. continued with this on the 22nd when more digging revealed a pretty solid limestone floor with the stream soaking away through small fissures.

Meanwhile Fi, Duncan and the writer introduced yet another Henry (Patton – Reading U.C.C.) to the delights of spoil hauling 7 ½ skips from Prancer’s Pride to the rift above. The two banged sites were also cleared. Probably due to the results of Madphil’s birthday barrels the supposedly charged drill battery was decidedly flat so next day a solo trip was made to drill and bang the terminal streamway. All went well until a presumed broken bang wire resulted in a misfire, which needed another visit to rectify. Today green water from the surface dig definitely entered the cave via a tiny choked bedding in the “skip store” alcove in P.P.P. to then partly flood Connection Dig before reappearing at the bottom of the Corkscrew and also in Pete’s Baby. The inlet at the start of A1 Dig also flowed green and it seems likely that the Pete’s Baby water reaches it via a boulder choked route above Aglarond 1. This water was diverted into the decorated virgin floor rift in Aglarond 2 and found to enter Prancer’s Pride down the main flowstone slope on the NW side. The other inlet entering this area flowed clear. The misfire was sorted out on the 24th when the spoil rift was also drilled and banged. With the stream diverted into the St. Cuthbert’s depression the cave was pleasantly dry. The debris from the two bangs was cleared next day by a five-man team and on the 26th a charge was fired in the floor of the surface dig. 

“…leave the dark cave of sin, come into the light…”

J.S.Bach

Additional Diggers and Enthusiasts

Ben Noble, Emma Heron (W.C.C.), Steve Sparham, Chris Falshaw (donation to digging fund), Anne Pugh, Chris Serle, Mary ?, John ? and colleague (director, presenter, sound woman, surface cameraman and sound man – ITV West), John Wilcock (B.C.R.A.), Gavin Newman, Tom Chapman, Sarah Payne (underground film team), Henry Rockliff, Rob Eavis, Eszter Horvath (Sheffield U.S.S.), Martin “Billy Whizz” Smith (B.P.C.), Jane Clarke, Andy Chamberlain, Henry Dawson (Reading U.C.C.), Trevor Hughes, Lisa Thomas (calcite studies), Henry Patton (Reading U.C.C.).

To be continued in your next exciting Belfry Bulletin.


 

The Search For Hutton Cavern

Nick Richards and Nick Harding

“Caves are where you find them…”

Wig

It seems somewhat odd and disturbing that it was November 2003 that Loxton Cavern was discovered. Where did the time go? Well, actually a large percentage of that time has been spent looking for another famous lost cave and one visited and described by our old chum Alexander Catcott. The following is just a summation of the activities of the West Mendip chapter of the BEC as they set about attempting to rediscover Hutton Cavern.  

Hutton Cavern cross section from the Rutter family copy. (1829)

Chronological history of the cavern.

Summary:

1.       Cavern opened by William Glisson and his ochre miners.

2.       1756 Catcott became aware of the bone cavern. (A letter published in Gentleman’s magazine).(Gentleman’s Magazine 1757 vol. xxvii)

3.       1757 Diaries of tours mentions visit to the cavern.(Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS Bris Ref Lib)

4.       1757 Catcott and two others visit the cavern. (In letter to friend) at William Glisson’s ochre pits. (Letter-Description of Loxton Cavern MSS 1761. Transcribed by CJ Harford. MS Bris Ref Lib)

5.       1768 Catcott publishes further description in ‘Supplement to a book entitled Treatise on the Deluge.’ 1828 Cavern rediscovered by David Williams and William Beard (with two labourers).

6.       7. Visited by prominent local dignitaries. (Williams’ diaries). Wrote letter to William Patterson (published in Delineation’s of North West Somerset  (Rutter 1829). Section/map in book.

7.       Mid 19c location mentioned by Gideon Mantell (in Diary).(C Richards-pers comm)

8.       Cavern lost.

9.       1970s Attempts at rediscovery by various caving clubs.

10.    2005 Attempt at rediscovery by Harding/Richards of the BEC.

The references:

Ochre miners (employed by William Glisson) discovered the cave in 1756 and a number of bones sent to Catcott  (by a Mr Turner of Loxton). Catcott wrote a letter to Peter Collinson in Oct 1756, which was subsequently published in the Gentleman’s magazine….

“….A gentleman who was digging, upon a high hill near Mendip, for ochre and ore, found at a depth of 52 fathom, or 315 and a half feet (as he measured himself by a direct line) four teeth, not tusks, of a large elephant (which I think is the whole number the creature has) and two thigh bones, with part of the head; all extremely well preserved; for they lay in a bed of ochre, which I could easily wash off. When they brought to me, every crevice was filled with the ochre, and as I washed it off from the outside, a most beautiful white appeared; and they make a fine shew in my cabinet. I propose going down into the pit myself soon; for the men have left several small pieces behind, which they did not think worth bringing up, and I make no doubt, if that be the case, but I shall procure the whole, or great part of the animal….”

On May 20th 1757. Catcott was in the area looking for signs of the Deluge, he writes in his Diaries of Tours…

“Beneath N. end of Bleyden lye Hutton hill, wherein the oaker pitts are from whence the bones and teeth were dug; lesser and lower Hill than Bleadon Hill adjoining to it: first opened by Glisson 20 years ago, no pit before on the hill: the bones lay about 7 fathom deep, in a bed of yellowish ochre: first occurred regular bed of limestone 2 fathom; next bed of ochre, a fathom, then limestone 2 fathom, then a leer or opening a fathom that in which lay bones and ochre”

In June 10 1757 Catcott explores the cavern and gives description in his Diaries of Tours…

“Went with Mr Gore to see the pit, whence the elephants teeth and bones were dug which were sent me by Mr Turner. We entered it with a man who dug out the first teeth and boned etc; and found several others very large, and especially two great teeth; one uncommonly curved; & 2 or 3 pieces of large horn & the tip of a lesser; several pieces of bones, seemingly of horses; many small rib bones and vertebrae & teeth etc etc. They lay in a brownish rubbly sludge or ochreous matter mixed with many loose stones of - fragments that had been worn by agitation: & to one of the vertebrae I found 2 fragments of stone with entrochi, plainly worn by water, affixed. They lay at the mouth of a swallet: See letter to Mr Price for the rest & Gent Mag for May1757.

The first pit on the hill opened by one Glisson about 18 years ago. The whole hill is full of swallet holes. The following acct of this pit where the bones were found given to me by Glisson. Veg. Mould about 18inc: rubbly ochre about 4 feet: then the rock opened in fissure about 18 inc: broad, & 4 feet long: this fissure filled with good yellow ochre (but no bones) to a depth of 8 yds: then the rocks opened to a cavern about 20 ft square & 4 feet high: the bottom of which cavern consisted of ochre, on the surface of which and also in the inside were multitudes of white bone. In the centre of the roof of this cavern was a large Stalactite, about 2 feet long & as thick as a mans leg & directly under it was a stalagmitical protuberance about 18 inches high, so nearly touching the stalactite. In the side of this cavern was a hole, about 3 feet square, leading down? through a passage of 18 yds to another cavern, 20 yds long and 5 broad, both passage and cavern filled with bones and ochre (all the passage and chamber upon a deep descent). In this cavern another passage about 4 yds downwards, & about 6 feet square, filled with rubble, ochre large bones, calk stones and lead-ore, confusedly mixed together, pointing towards the Village of Hutton, nearly on a level, for 18 yds. Hence I dug the larger teeth & bones of the Elephant: the pit was opened from the surface to fall on this cavern or side hole & all the way appeared nothing but rubble, ochre, bones, & loose stones: so that these last bones lay in more rubble. Before you entered this last described side hole there opened just before you a large deep opening, tending perpendicularly downwards, which before had been filled with rubble, bad ochre & bones; but was certainly at the mouth of a large swallet: they followed it about 6 yds deep but finding no good ochre they left the pursuit. From the surface of the earth to the bottom of this last hole about 30 yds & all the leading passage on a deep descent almost perpendicular: the side of the Rock worn, as in Swallets.”

“About 40 yds West from the last hole was opened another, of a similar nature with ochre, bones etc, & about as deep.” From this was dug a large long head of an animal; about 3 or 4 feet long: 14 inches broad at the top or hind part & 3 inches at the snout shaped like a crocodile! (Sea horse). He had also the teeth perfect & 4 tusks, the larger tusks about 4 inches long out of the head & the teeth about 3 inches long.

In 1757 the cavern is mentioned again in a letter to friend transcribed by Harford.

“Having satisfied myself concerning the origin and nature of Loxton Cavern I next went to examine the pit from which the bones and teeth of the elephant were dug out of which I have given a so imperfect an account some little time since; but now propose to be more particular and satisfactory. The pit whence these bones yet were dug was opened on the north side of Loxton Hill or that part of it which is above the Parish of Hutton and therefore called Hutton Hill but as it is the same in nature I shall not observe the Parochial distinction. As William Glisson (who discovered Loxton Cavern) was digging for ochre; about three hundred paces south of the gate of a field called Down Acres in the parish of Hutton. at a depth of eight yards he broke into a small cave about 20 feet square and four high the bottom of this consisted of a yellowish brown ochre on the surface of which intermixed with the whole mass were a multitude of small white bones. In the centre of the roof of this cave was a large stalactite of spar with its stalagmite under it. On one side of this cave was a hole three feet square leading obliquely downwards for eighteen yards which opened into another cave about ten yards long and five broad the passage leading into this and the cave itself containing more of less of ochre and bones. On the side of this cave was also a small hole leading obliquely down for about four yards which opened into the cavity whence the larger bones and teeth (of which I give you a brief account) were dug. This cavity extended sideways or horizontally for about eighteen yards, it was six feet high had been dug out and was then digging for more ochre. Having descended in company with two or three friends through the several passages just described, we came to the last or horizontal cavity And here I must own I was struck with some awe and concern for myself and fellow travellers. What I considered the depth we were at from the surface; the weight of the superincumbent earth and that nothing appeared around us but loose ochre and dead bones projecting from the top, sides and bottom of this horizontal cavity; so that the whole exhibited an appearance not much like the inside of a charnel house. We staid in this place two hours and being well supplied with supplements dug out a vast number and a great variety of bones and teeth of different species of Land animals, but finding the roof began to yield and the sides much weakened we thought it not advisable to continue any longer but proceeded to return by the way we came in returning I observed at the mouth of the horizontal cavity a small hole descending perpendicularly, enquiring of Glisson whither it led he told me he had pursued it four or five yards deep, that he had dug from thence ochre and bones but that the natural hollow still continued and went probably to a great depth in the Earth. But that nothing material was now observable therein. On this we ascended: but with full intent to revisit the place as soon as it could be secured and propped up with woodwork. Before this was effected the whole fell in and the cavity rendered inaccessible however Glisson still continued to work on this hill for ochre and having opened several lesser pits near this large one he came into several similar cavities and hollows like the forgoing partly filled with ochre and bones (of?) as the first of these bones and teeth he brought he many curious specimens: and having now all I have hopes of receiving (?) I shall give you a particular account of the most remarkable according to the drawing I have herewith sent you.”

At the bottom of the manuscript is a note written by the transcriber.

Here Mr Catcott’s MS ends it is not written by himself but appears to have been written out for the purpose of publishing it but this he probably relinquished on writing. His History of the Deluge fastened to the last page 71 is the following paper written by himself. For the names of the bones, teeth etc see the catalogue of my fossils from page 86 begin either with the great tooth found in the jaw or else the whole skeleton of the Lemur Maccauso (?) page 75. Conclusions. North side of Loxton hill full of swallets as well as these bones sunk in here by the Deluge Waters as they lay in loose fragments of rock. In a rubbly matter worn and torn by these waters (all the animals might have been natives of elsewhere) see Treatise on the Deluge page 361 note see Mr. Jeffries account of an elephant found at Sandford Hill in his letter Jan 8th 1770. And also my catalogue of Col. P 78. See journal for June 10th 1757 (and end of journal for May 20th 1757. For elephant dug up in England: see also de skeleto Elephantino terrae effosso and all with.

A further note is a letter to Catcott by Mr John Price, he explains that Peter Collinson approached him for an account of the cave. Collinson publishes the letter as if it was sent to him. (Gentleman’s Magazine Oct 1756 see above) John Price also mentions another letter sent to him by Catcott. (June 27th 1757)…

“I have since visited the place and dug out (by the assistance of a gentleman and a man who entered the cave with me) two other teeth almost as large as the largest I had before but most surprisingly curved or crooked and of a different animal (if the common observation that Elephant’s teeth have only twelve parallel lines or indentures be true) I found one of them sticking in the jaw but it parted from the jaw (in which the Indentures of the fangs were most beautifully impressed) on lifting it from the ground and this part of the jaw was so very tender I could not preserve it whole: afterwards with great labour and care we dug out the Os Femeris of an animal quite perfect and as big as the two bones I had before and soon after we found the Tibia and many other bones, I found the several large fragments and the tip of a horn of some animal very large and porous or rather canaliculous and the tip of another horn that had plainly been worn or whetted against a stone or tree and I believe belonged to a Rhinocerous. I found also part of a branched horn or Deer very flat and two or three long thin rib bones of some animal. One of the longest and tender and high, for safety reasons I brought away fastened to my hat…”

In 1768 Catcott mentions the cave again in his ‘A supplement to a book, entitled a Treatise on the Deluge’.      (PP 44-46)

“…A few years since I have received, as a present, from a gentleman in Somersetshire, four teeth (dentes morales) two thigh-bones, and part of the head of an elephant, that were dug out of Hutton-Hill (which is a branch or a lateral continuation of the high ridge of Mendip-Hills) in Somersetshire. Upon the reception of this present, and the information that there were still some other bones left behind, I went down to the place, and in company with three or four other persons, entered the pit from whence they were dug; and found two other dentes morales, or grinders, one of them lying in the jaw, three rib bones, two thigh bones, part of a tusk, with a multitude of lesser bones belonging, in all probability, to the same animal. Besides these we picked up part of a large Deer’s horn, very flat, and the slough of a horn (or the spongy porous substance that occupies the inside of the horns of oxen, etc) of an extraordinary size, together with a great variety of teeth and small bones, belonging to different species of land animals. One of the men, that had been at work in these pits, brought me a collection of small bones that he had found in a pit adjoining, lying by themselves, and no extraneous body near them. Upon putting these bones together at my leisure, I found they composed almost the entire skeleton of an animal, about the size of a fox; but the teeth, jaw, and several of the bones did not answer to any European animal I was acquainted with. The same person assured me, that before I came down, he had found in digging the same place the head of a strange animal, that he believed was near three feet in length, a foot broad in the hinder part, and three or four inches at the extremity, from whence issued four tusks, two from each jaw. The teeth were large, and all well preserved in the jaw. From this description it seems to have been the head of the hippopotamus, or sea, or river horse. (The nearest river to us in which this animal is bred, is the Nile.) He had concealed this head in a wood adjoining, but so carefully, that neither he nor myself could ever after find it. All these bones lay in a dark yellowish ochreous kind of matter, from fifty to a hundred feet deep. The largest and greatest number lay about seventy feet deep in a horizontal cavity (that had been dug for the ochre) eighteen yards long, and six feet square. The bones and teeth were extremely well preserved, all retaining their native whiteness, as they projected from the sides and top of this cavity, exhibited an appearance not much unlike the inside of a charnel house. We staid in this place two hours, digging out all the bodies we could find, until the roof in two or three places began to fall in, and we thought it too dangerous to continue any longer. Upon my second intention of visiting it, I was informed; the whole had fallen in. There were no marks nor the least sign of any pit having been opened on this hill besides those dug for ochre, and the person who opened the first pit assured me, he believed the hill had never been dug into before. Which consideration, together with the number of strange bones and teeth, belonging to different animals, of countries far distant from England, and the depth in which they were found (without mentioning other circumstances, that cannot be enlarged upon in such a note as this) may serve as a sufficient proof that they were left there by the Deluge.”

The cave remained lost until 1828 when the Rector of Bleadon, David Williams, and William Beard of Banwell, (both local geologists) decided to reopen the cave. In 1829 David Williams wrote to William Patteson, (Vicar of Shaftsbury) describing this endeavour. This letter was published in J Rutter’s ‘Delineation’s of North West Somerset’ 1829. A William Barnes also prepared a woodcut section of the cavern, which appeared in the same book.

“THE CAVERN is situated on the Mendip Range, south of the village of Hutton, where the hill rises to an elevation of three to four hundred feet above the sea. In the city library of Bristol, are preserved a collection of bones, which were presented by the Rev. Dr Catcott, who was instrumental to their discovery in this cavern, about seventy years since. The miners having opened an ochre pit, came to a fissure in the limestone rock, filled with good ochre, which being continued to a depth of eight yards, opened into a cavern, the floor of which consisted also of ochre; and strewed on its surface, were large quantities of white bones, which were found dispersed through the ochreous mass. In the centre of the chamber, a large stalactite depended from the roof; beneath which, a corresponding pillar of stalagmite rose from the floor. In Dr Catcott’s learned and ingenious ‘Treatise on the Deluge,’ he mentions this circumstance, and states, that in the company with two or three friends, he descended into a cavern about ninety feet deep, around whose sides, and from the roof, the bones projected, so as to represent the inside of a charnel house; that they extracted a great many bones of different land animals, until the roof and sides beginning to yield, they ascended, purposing to return when it should be properly secured by woodwork. That on his expressing his intention, a few weeks after, of visiting it again, he was informed the whole had fallen in, and was inaccessible.

These remarks first directed the attention of the Rev David Williams of Bleadon to the discovery of elephants’ and other animal bones on Hutton Hill; but, as the occurrence happened 70 years since, he despaired of recovering the fissure, especially as the number of ochre pits on the hill, all nearly in the same state, made the chances great against opening the right one. Mr Williams was at length encouraged to make the attempt, from having discovered fragments of ancient bone, amongst the rubbish near one of the old pits; and from the information of an old miner, who told him that his father had pointed out this as the spot. At this crisis of hope and uncertainty, Mr Williams received from his friend, the Rev. Mr. Richardson of Farley, a copy of an unpublished manuscript by Dr Catcott, which further assisted him in identifying the place. Mr Good, the Lord of the Manor, having readily granted permission, Mr Williams began the work, in conjunction with Mr Beard, whose zeal and ardour in such pursuits every one knows and respects, who has visited Banwell Cave, where he is the ‘genius loci.’”

Mr Williams states, that the men opened into what may be termed three chambers in the fissure, the floor of the one above, forming the roof of the one below, and consisting of huge fragments of rock, which have sunk away and jammed themselves between the strata; their intersections being filled with ochreous rubble and bones. The strata on each side, dip about north, with a variation of about ten degrees in their inclination; the south cliff dipping at an angle of about 75 degrees, and the northern about 65 degrees. Though in the shaft first drawn, which is not more than 10 yards distant, and in other places near, still more irregularly. The whole of this part of the hill, appears more like the tremendous ecroulement of an adjacent mountain, than the conformable super-position of stratified rocks. It is difficult to imagine a scene evincing greater disturbances; the whole region appears to have been displaced and shattered by the convulsing efforts of some mighty agent, elevating some strata, and depressing others, thereby creating chasms and fissures through the whole.

These rocks are mainly filled with ochre and ochreous rubble, throughout which, the bones are generally disposed; the principal of these are, elephant, tiger, hyaena, boar, wolf, horse, hare, fox, rat, mouse, and bird. There has been found no more trace of the ox tribe here, than there is of the horse in Banwell; although the ox is as abundant there, as the horse is here.

Among the many curious and interesting specimens, which have been discovered, the following deserve particular notice; viz. The milk teeth and bones of a calf elephant; the molares and bones of another young one, about a size larger; of a full grown animal are two humeri, two femora, two tusks,* and five molares; so that independent of the young ones, we have the principal remains of at least one animal of this class. Dr Catcott obtained from this hill, six molares, four femora, one head, three ribs, and a tusk; making altogether, found here, eleven molares, six femora, two humeri, one head, three ribs, and three tusks. Thus, the number of molares and femora, prove that three large animals were deposited here.

There are also specimens of two hyaenas of the extinct species, with the jaw and bones of a young tiger, which was just shedding his teeth, when fate arrested him. The young tusks may now be seen in the act of replacing the milk teeth. There is no appearance of gnawed bone, and only two specimens have been discovered of album graecum.

There are the remains of several wolves, and of the horse of different ages and sizes, from the little Shetland, up to the great London dray-horse. Also of the fox, hare, rabbit, rat and mouse. Besides these there are also the furculae of two birds of a large species, probably of the pelican tribe; judging from the knobs on each side, to which some very strong tendons had been attached, it appears to have been provided with great powers of running, or of sustaining itself on the wing.”

* Dr Catcott says, he found a great many bones in the ochre; hitherto none have been found in the recent research, though it has, as yet, been but imperfectly examined. The bones hitherto procured have been extracted at different depths, varying from 15 to 50 feet; the elephant and tiger lay about 18 feet deep. There are some good specimens of bony brecchia, but no pebbles have yet been discovered.”

These tusks are much curved, and have suffered a very extensive fracture, probably from the collision of two rocks. Of the fragments which are preserved, one is two feet four inches long, and sixteen inches in circumference; the other is four feet and a half long. One of the molar teeth is three inches across, and five inches deep, from the grinding surface to the fang. It is broken and several of the laminae are gone, but its proportions are altogether much larger than a full sized molar tooth, in possession of Mr. Beard, taken from a recent animal. - D.W.

In one of the (Vol. 5, Mar-Aug 1834) David Williams diaries is a small section of Hutton Hill with a plan of the bone pits superimposed.

From notebook Vol. 5 Mar-Aug 1834

Rev. David Williams MS.

About 1830 Gideon Mantell (Surgeon and naturalist) in his diaries writes that Bleadon cavern lay 2 miles from Banwell Caves and that Hutton Cavern was a quarter of a mile further on.

Sketch of dig sites along line of pits

Subsequent excavation by various caving clubs have revealed Bleadon Cavern and two other caves which (after some confusion) have not proven to be the lost cave of Hutton including the cave mentioned as being 40 yds west.

Certain clues to the caverns location can be extracted from the manuscripts above…

Maps show Hutton Cavern as lying in the trees near the top of Canada Combe in an area of old ochre pits. However this is wrong as this has proved to be Bleadon Cavern, a cave unrelated to the real Hutton Cavern. Many writers including Knight (1902 Seaboard of Mendip) and Bucknell (1925) have assumed the same.

1.         “About 40 yds west of the last hole”.

Catcott mentions another bone cave here where the ‘; head’ was found. (see 3) This could be any of the pits in the east-west line here. It is possible that excavation may reveal this cave first, therefore giving a clue to the entrance of Hutton Cavern itself.

2.         The cave lay, “about three hundred paces south of the gate into Down Acres.”

The large field, which lies on the North side of the track which leads up from Upper Canada, is marked on old maps (Tithe map 1837) as ‘Downacre’. At the bottom of the field is a gate with an old path that ascends from Hutton village. We have walked the 300 paces approximately south several times with different strides and we came to the area of an east-west line of old ochre pits.

3.         “He had concealed this head in a wood adjoining”.

On old maps most of Hutton Hill is shown as rough pasture. The boundary of the ancient Hutton wood passes roughly north-south up the side of ‘downacres’ before following its sinuous path to the south-west before straightening again along an east-west line. The boundary is marked by a bank and ditch. This boundary passes very close to the line of east-west pits, therefore we can summise that the ‘head’ which was secreted in the wood-must have been nearby.

4.         “Scraps of bone found in the rubbish of one of the old pits.”

It would be relatively easy to dig test pits in all the dumps to see if there were any bones. We have not done this (yet).

5.         “the strata on each side, dip about north, with a variation of about ten degrees in their inclination; the south cliff dipping at an angle of about 75 degrees, and the northern about 65 degrees. Though in the shaft first drawn, which is not more than 10 yards distant, still more irregularly”.

This would imply that the cave (which is essentially an east-west fissure) lies on a fault plane. The 6” geological map shows an outlier of rhaetic strata at Upper Canada bounded by a fault. Extrapolating west, the fault is marked by a prominent scarp. This attenuates in the area of pits (see above). The inference is that the line of pits are actually situated on the fault and digging may reveal the fault plane itself.

6.         The William Barnes woodcut.

The section illustrated in ‘The Delineations of NW Somerset’ is viewed from the south and shows a well-developed hillock or promontary with three pits. The first pit (the most easterly) is denoted as being ten yards from the next pits, which must be close together. In the target area are two north-south promontaries bounded by shallow valleys. The line of pits passes over both of these. Although the section does not quite fit the pit configuration it must be realised that The Barnes section may only give a sense of the topography, rather than an exact reflection of the land surface.  

7.         The David Williams map

This is in fact a section of Bleadon Hill, with a plan of the pits superimposed upon it.  The caption itself suggests that Hutton cavern lies to the west of Bleadon Cavern, unfortunately there is no scale.

8.         A quarter of a mile further on

The location of Bleadon Cavern is of course, known. The above statement suggests that Hutton Cavern lies roughly a quarter of a mile further to the West. This could mean any of the groups of pits here-but taken with the other clues the group of pits mentioned above seems to be the most likely.

The clues above point to an area of pits as mentioned (6 above).

Map of the general area of the Dig.

Dig summary: March 05 – March 06

Dig 1.

Commenced in March 2005 in what appeared to be one of the largest pits in the area not far from the main path with a large down slope spoil heap. Over the year the whole pit was excavated in three shafts to reveal an east-west phreatic hollow on the fault plane (marked by fault breccia), emptied of its ochre and back filled with rubble. Some galena also found. In the western end of the pit, the point at which the greatest depth was reached a clay pipe was discovered dated to the period 1820 – 1840, evidence of the previous expedition to relocate Hutton Cavern.

Dig 1

The pit totally lacked any potential ways on and was subsequently refilled.

Dig 2

Moving 40 yards west a second pit was opened in an obvious ground feature and emptied. Immediately cave was discovered from which a large amount of ochre had once been removed. Stal was also found and two shot holes where a narrowing in the floor had been widened by the Old Men. Material was emptied to a depth of 5 ms with ample evidence of phreatic development all around. Numerous stal fragments were found within the spoil.  At 5ms depth a horizontal phreatic tube some 10ms long was discovered heading west in the direction of the next pit along.   The tube, some .60ms high and .05ms wide, appears to be a dead end (at this stage). Near the entrance the floor has been trenched out and the stal, much in evidence, is coated with ochre perhaps from the clothes of the Old Men.

Rough cross section of Dig 2.

Dig 3

A brief trial dig in the next pit west has revealed a natural rock wall on the north side of the depression.

Conclusions:

Drawing on the evidence from the various sources, whether anecdotal or geological, it is safe to say that the general location for Hutton Cavern is not in doubt. At the very least a thorough survey of the pits and hence the discovery of new caves will add to a greater understanding of the geological and historical nature of the environs.  If the lost Hutton Cavern is not found then at least recent work will narrow the focus for its re-discovery.


 

Pete Glanville’s 55th Birthday!

Venue: G.B. Cave. Champers in the Gorge.

 


 

Miscellany

The Prehistoric Elephant Tooth from St. Cuthbert's Swallet

By Tony Jarratt

On July 4th 1954 the late Jack Waddon and friends discovered a handsome prehistoric herbivore tooth lying amongst Old Red Sandstone pebbles at the top of Rocky Boulder Passage (known to them as Extension, Mud Hall). It was thought to be from Elephas primigenius and a "derived fossil" transported to the site from a washed-out gravel deposit. Recently, thanks to Tim Large, Sett, Margaret Chapman and particularly Mrs. Dorothy Waddon it has been re-examined by Drs. Roger Jacobi and Andy Currant of the Natural History Dept, British Museum. They have identified it as a fragment of the unerrupted part of an upper molar of the straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon antiquus. Mrs. Waddon has very generously donated it to the growing collection of important Mendip cave finds at Wells Museum.

Bennett R.H., Coase D.A., Falshaw C., & Waddon J.  1956 A preliminary report on St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  BEC Cav Rep (2) 23pp

Irwin D.J. et al.  1991  St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  BEC 82pp p69

Hatley Rock Holes

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

After an initial dig and survey back in 2000/1 the Two Nicks returned to this site on the north side of Worlebury Hill beneath the golf course. Excavation began then abandoned for the Loxton Site but a revisit late 2005 produced some interesting developments. They continued to empty a tunnel 10 metres long – an old mine working with a good number of shot holes at various intervals along the passage until earlier this year they broke upwards, via a squeeze into a chamber with what looked like further delights ahead. They are returning, with Mad Phil to attempt a banging session to see if anything of merit does indeed exist ahead. Hatley Rock Holes consists of three tunnels – one above the other and one to the side running into the hill on a bearing of 227 degrees. The nature of the geology there, i.e. a fault line and a basalt bed up against the limestone should produce some interesting results! Interestingly enough, a Sexton Blake story from the 60’s entitled Such Men Are Dangerous, describes subterranean systems beneath Worlebury Hill. Should the Two Nicks wild imaginings prove correct then parts of the Hatley Rocks system will be named after the tale. A fuller report will appear in the next edition of this esteemed organ. (STOP PRESS: Banging in the tunnel proved inconclusive at this stage).

New Providence Mine

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

The Two Nicks have also made a discovery in Long Ashton a few hundred yards south east of Providence Mine. The cave called New Providence Mine has an overall length of 30ms. After consultation with Chris Richards at Weston Museum he was happy to confirm that there is no record of it in any documentation.   The entrance is not a great distance from Providence Lane in Long Ashton and is almost at the boundary where the woods end and the gardens of the adjoining houses begin. The narrow entrance, partially blocked leads into a small chamber with a low roof. There is a small stack of deads on the right through which a chamber can be seen. Heading east, crawling under a lower section of ceiling the chamber heads down at a very gentle angle. There are stal formations on the walls and floor, including a red stained flowstone floor and numerous micro-gours, stal-ed up sticks and serrated ceiling ribbons. There is even an old pit prop beneath a large block of perilous looking ceiling. This chamber dog legs to the south and after several metres comes to a squeeze. Through this the now 3metre high rift chamber, ‘The Red Rift’ heads down to a pool choked by small red stained boulders – (a sump perhaps?) There is a bedding chamber on the right that leads back up to the stack of deads in entrance chamber and beneath that a tighter bedding chamber. Everything is stained bright red except for higher parts of the cave, which keep their natural limestone grey.

There will be a fuller report in the next BB.

Can anyone get scaffold clips?

By Henry Bennett

 The Belfry shoring store looks pretty well stocked with scaffold tubes and clips but it is not a true reflection. The large blue plastic drums next to the tackle shed contain an assortment of “speciality” clips, which are, no doubt, great for fixing planks to towers but not much use for shoring. There are two types of clips that are useful. Rightangle clips and swivels.

  • Swivel Clips are useful for cross bracing and in areas where you just can’t get the shoring to be square.
  • Right Angles are great for locking together rigid boxes without cross bracing.

 

 

We’ve actually got quite a few right angle clamps but they are all pretty stuffed. All the serviceable ones have been used and most of what is left is just a pile of rust. If anyone has “access” to either large or small numbers then please could you leave them round the Belfry. Don’t wait for someone else…act now…before Mr. Nigel’s scaff on the extension gets it!


 

Letter(s) to the Editor…

Just one letter to deal with in this issue. This from a fairly (obviously) intoxicated Sir Joseph Bazooka who has something to say about the cheese formation process. Perhaps straight to bed from The Hunters in future for Mr Bazooka instead of lurching inexpertly through tumbled furniture to the word processor…

Sir,

I have just received My latest B.B., and have just read the article "Digging For Cheese". I must register My disgust at this riddiculous and ill informed piece of lierary drivvel. You Sir have failed in Your duty as Editor (albeit tempoary), by not properly reading the article through, and spotting the obvious mistake. The author too, has failed in His duty to properly acertain the true nature of the subject. Anyone, with even half a brain will know that, by the very nature or its own existance, Cheese is quite obviously, a METAMORPHIC substance, and NOT as stated in this article Sedimentary. Please take the required steps to rectify this glaring mistake.

Yours,

Sir Joseph Bazooka, (A.C / D.C., VD & Scar)

New Editor responds.

As this was addressed to the previous editor I have nevertheless taken upon myself to respond to this outburst. The very drunk Sir Joseph Bazooka is indeed correct. Cheese is indeed a metamorphic rock but must be laid down as a ‘sedimentary’ in warm, open, often briny pools, in which the particulates settle. There is often, after deposition and hardening have occurred, a period of metamorphoses as seen in the rind aureoles found around ‘truckles’ of cheese that have been mined out of the Cheddar limestone matrix.   In the best tradition of British fair play I suggest that both geological positions are correct.  

Both the author of the cheese article (BB 523) and Sir Joseph Bazooka would be wise to read Pierre Piatto del Formaggioa’s Fromage in Situ, A Study of the Geological Processes found in the Formation of Cheese, or Laplace’s Cheese In The Service Of Man.  Both men argued vociferously about this very issue and it was only after, oddly enough, a visit to Cheddar that both men were able to conclude that cheese is a metamorphically altered sedimentary, albeit after a rough game of Tiddley Winks and several gallons of rude ale.

For everyone’s benefit I have included the following diagram of the major period of cheese formation was taken from the Brooke Bond Tea Card series, Cheeses of the Cosmos, 1966.

The Major Cheese Epochs.

I will consider the formation of cheese debate now closed. Ed.

Please feel free to submit any correspondence concerning any article published in the BB, where it will be dutifully read then used to light the fire in the Belfry.


 

From The Belfry Table

March 2006

Welcome to a New Year from the Belfry Table! A little snow fell on Mendip but like money, it didn’t hang around for very long. The Hunters was comfortable on New Years Eve, and a warm evening was rounded off by Roger and Jackie’s kind and generous hospitality yet again.

CAVE LEADERS: The Committee is seeking YOUR HELP on updating just who is a Cave Leader, and to which caves so PLEASE can you email me as soon as possible so we can issue a clear and concise list of contacts for access and leaders to not only Mendip Caves, but other regions as well.

BELFRY LOCKERS: Do you use a Belfry Locker?  Again the Committee must know just who owns which locker, we do not want to find something unpleasant residing in these lockers, and it is apparent that no-one knows just who uses what. If you do not identify your locker to the Hut Warden by the March Committee meeting, any unclaimed lockers will be opened, and the locker emptied and re-allocated to any member with a just requirement for one.

PERSONAL & OFFICIAL MAIL: Must not be addressed to the Belfry. The reason is simple, the Club cannot risk being exposed to the possibility of being placed on any Bad Debt list, or Inland Revenue problem address or similar should any member incur such a problem.

St. CUTHBERTS LEADERS MEETING, This will now be held on the 25th. March at the Hunters Lodge Inn, by Kind permission of Roger and Jackie Dors, time to be finalised through details from the Caving Sec or myself by phone.

The Hon.Treasurer has advised the Committee that members have been overpriced this year for their Insurance, however before you attempt to obtain a refund…the Club actually covered you at a cost of £3 for each of the last two years without you being charged…so all is now even!!!

The Committee is seeking to improve communication with members, to this end we will attempt to issue a brief activity list and news within a week of each Committee meeting, and we are hoping with Henry Bennett’s’ assistance to make this available via the Web on a members-only access and also by an email mailing list.

A Questionnaire is soon going to be issued to all members seeking their views on various subjects, for example: on what they would like from their membership, The style and location of the Annual Dinner, their willingness to provide their contact details for use by MRO in the event of serious call-outs etc, etc PLEASE If you have any burning issues contact me ASAP to include your Question in this venture.

The BELFRY extension is at Roof Timber state!  Come and visit, better still, come and help the team!!!

Best Wishes, time to get down from the Table!   Nig.T


 

From The Web:

http://www.outlookindia.com/pti_news.asp?id=367742

Sub-continent's longest cave system discovered

SHILLONG, MAR 3 (PTI)

The longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent has been discovered in Meghalaya's Jaintia Hills district by an international team of speleologists.

The team found a cave system over 22.20 km long, which surpasses the previous known record of 21.55 km of another system existing in the same district.

''The linking of the Krem um im-Liat Prah cave system to Krem labbit (Khaidong) to create a single cave system of 22,202.65 m in length is the longest cave known to date in the Indian sub-continent,'' the team members told a press conference today.

The team comprising 17 members from the UK, two each from Switzerland and Denmark, one each from Austria and Ireland and five from India spent three and half weeks in the district focussing on the cave areas of Shnongrim Ridge near Nongkhlieh area.

This finding surpassed the previous record of the longest cave system in the sub-continent - the Kotsati Umlawam measuring 21.55 km, said B D Kharpran Dally, a reputed speleologist in Meghalaya, Between February 7 to March 1 the team explored 39 caves, mapped and photographed to discover 15,498 metres of new cave passage. Of the 39 caves mapped 36 were entirely new with only three being cave systems that were partially explored in previous years, he said.

Terence M Whitaker, a research biologist from the UK and a team member, said Jaintia Hills district has the highest concentration of caves in the sub-continent. Exploration of these would reveal new species of aqua animals.


 

BEC Website and Newsletter

Henry Bennett

Some of you may have noticed that over the past few months the BEC website has been revamped. There is now a wealth of information on the site including every single BB since the first one was published back in January 1947. You can now research anything the club has published without all that mucking about with bits of paper. We’ve also now got a forum where you can post message and comments.

Registration is only available to fully subscribed BEC members. This means that we can now do a number of things that can only be viewed by ourselves:

  • Latest BBs online. By default we will not publish BBs to the public for one year however members can get access to all of them including the very latest copy.
  • Online address book and the ability to send emails securely to other members without exposing your email address. Clearly some of you may have concerns about an online address book but by making the site only open to registered members it has a layer of security.
  • A regular Newsletter.

 

 

 

Since the excellent Belfry Bulletin has not been a monthly publication for many years there have been comments from some members that they haven’t been aware of some things that are happening with the Club or on the hill. The committee has been concerned about this for a while and now plan to send out a regular newsletter to anyone BEC member who wants to subscribe to it. This is not intended to replace the Belfry Bulletin, which is the official journal of the club but to complement it.

So a call to action! If you want to be kept in touch with the BEC’s activities register on the website and check the box to sign up for the newsletter.

www.bec-cave.org.uk


 

How Your Belfry Bulletin Is Put Together

The editor (seated) looks on woefully annoyed as his ‘Printer’s imp’
deals with the late arrival of yet another caving article.

Well for those of you not in the know the new editor reveals the many secrets of how a BB is put together.

Usually, and not long before the BB reaches your hands there is a flurry of panicked activity to the accompaniment of waves of frenetic bashing of numerous heads on walls and boisterous swearing. Sometimes documents appear not long before the deadline, as illustrated above, and these are swiftly added into the publication with the use of several nine inch nails, bouts of vigorous and liberal banging (of the nails that is) and yards of thirty year old sticky-tape.

With gallons of paste, badly framed photographs, and other sundry supporting material, such as tiny feint surveys, grim illustrations and humorous anecdotes, are glued into position in a slapdash manner.

The whole is then thrown into the bin where, if luck shines on a following wind the whole casual ensemble magically appears at the printers.  

The BB in history: Jacob Jordaens’ Four Early Cavers reading the BB


 

Hollow Hills

Last word

While in conversation with Andy MacGregor using Alexander Graham Bell’s marvellous device, he was swift to remind me that the BB issue after the next is in fact the 500 edition – and here was I thinking it was going to be 526…It’s a good job someone’s keeping tabs!   (Do I detect a hint of the subtle blend of alcohol and previous editors here?)

Anyhoo, with that in mind I think perhaps something special should be done. If you have any ideas suitable for such a milestone or would like to see a relevant article or indeed articles then email me with your suggestions. Yes I know it’s some way off but a big fat reminder never hurts. I don’t want to get out the infamous editor’s sharp stick (yes, I now have the keys to the cupboard that holds that), and start brandishing it at anyone who chirps ‘I didn’t know’… Ed.

A Medieval woodcut showing the inhabitants of the Hollow Hills.