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

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor (722)
Hon. 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

Bulletin 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

 


 

Ave Cavers!

Well that wasn’t too bad. Yours truly’s first effort occupying the esteemed chair of editorship seemed to pass without major incident. But I hear cries of ‘just you wait’ somewhere off stage left…

Anyway

Before I’m collared in the Hunter’s by a rugose soak: In BB 524, at the head of the Hutton article, there was the ‘Caves are where you find them’ quote attributed to Wig. Now it was a true quote from the fellow but as he was quick to inform me it was not a Wig original. In fact, and in the interests of honesty, truth and justice the cavers’ way, this expression was first used by Fred Davies.

Just a brief word on submitting articles via email. Wherever possible can the image files – i.e. photographs etc., be of a small size. In short any file more than a Meg is going to take yours truly hours to download, as he’s still operating a coal-fired computer from the age of steam. I promise to enter the 21st C as soon as the weather permits.

In this issue we have the welcome return, and indeed back by popular demand, some ‘funnies’. Having landed the editor’s position (prone and soaked with beer) through reckless pamphleteering I thought it fitting that the humour that landed yours truly with the job should be continued.

And…

There is still some quiet debate about how many times the BB should come out a year. I, personally, am in favour of three fun packed ones a year, each a good fifty pages or so. This is not due to slackness on anyone’s behalf, most of all your Ed, but I think it’s better not to scrape around for articles for a BB every second month. But I am the servant of this esteemed organ and not its master so what do I know?

One last note. It’s looking increasingly likely that the next (anniversary) edition of the BB (526) will be a photographic history of the BEC so space may very well be limited for articles – in all likelihood these will be saved for the ‘527’. 



Meghalaya  2006

Further Exploration and a New Indian Length Record

Tony Jarratt
Photos by Mark Brown

“They wound this way and that, far down into the secret depths of the cave, made another mark, and branched off in search of novelties to tell the upper world about.”
Mark Twain – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Caving Team

Austria: Peter Ludwig (LVHOO)

Denmark: Louise Korsgaard, Torben Redder (DSS}

Meghalaya: Brian Kharpran Daly (MAA / GSG), Shelley and Lindsay Diengdoh, Babhar Kupar “Dale” Mawlong (MAA), Raplang Shangpliang (Shnongrim)

Switzerland: Thomas Arbenz (SNT)

Ireland: Des McNally (UCDCPC)

U.K:      Annie Audsley (BEC / GSG), Simon Brooks (OCC / GSG), Mark Brown (SUSS / GSG), Tony Boycott (UBSS / BEC / GSG), Imogen Furlong (SUSS), Roger Galloway (GSG), Matt Hutson (GSG), Tony Jarratt (BEC / GSG), Kate Janossy (GSG), Neil Pacey (RRCPC), Dave Hodgson (GSG), Hugh Penney (GUPA / GSG / RRCPC), Derek Pettiglio (GSG), Henry Rockliff (SUSS), Fraser Simpson (GSG), Jayne Stead (GSG), Fiona Ware (GSG), Terry Whitaker (NCC)

The Support Team

Adison “Adi” Thaba, Bung Diengdoh (organizers), Myrkassim Swer (chef), Vinod Sunor, Alam “Munna” Khan, Zobeda Khatoon, Roma Sutradhar, Sansun Lyngdoh, Raju Sunar (cooking team and “swally wallahs”), David Kimberly Patkyntein (driver / organizer), Sharkes Kharsyntiew, Teiborlang Khongwir (Sumo and jeep drivers), S.D.Diengdoh (bus driver), Jonathon Wanniang, Shemborlang Lyngdoh (bus driver’s assistants)

The Local Guides Team

Gripbyman Dkhar (Semmasi), Evermore Sukhlain, Moonlight Patlong, Menda Syih, Carlyn Phyrngap, Shor “Pa Heh” Pajuh, Kores (all Shnongrim), Ekna Sukhlain (Moolasngi) and many other helpful locals all along the Ridge and beyond.

The Media Team

David Laitphlang (PCN presenter and party animal), Andrew Kharpor, Deimaia L. Siangshai, Markin Marbaniang, Marlon Blein (Meghalaya), Pradeep Gogoi (Assam)

The Shillong Party Team

Bill Richmond, Col. Fairweather Mylliemngap, Maureen, Dabbie, Rose and the other Ladies of Shillong, Phong Kupar “Teddy” and Ksan Kupar “Ronnie” Mawlong, Gregory Diengdoh, Gareth, Patrick, Alan, Dennis, etc.    

The Expedition

Abstracted from the official expedition diary with additions from the writer’s personal log and assorted nonsense thrown in for good luck. Apologies for the tedium but the BB and GSG Bulletin are about the only places where these trips get recorded. Earlier reports which give a background to work on the Ridge can be found in BB 516, 519 and 522 and GSG Bulletins Fourth Series Vol 1 Nos 4 and 5 and Vol 2 Nos 2 and 4. Also the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association soft bound history and overview of Meghalayan caving – available from both BEC and GSG libraries. A separate article on the exploration of Krem Labbit (Khaidong) will hopefully be written by Annie Audsley on her return from Pakistan. 

This year’s expedition to the magnificent caving regions of the NE Indian state of Meghalaya concentrated on several systems within the Nongkhlieh Elaka (district) including some old favourites like Krem Liat Prah and Krem Umthloo and the four major new finds of Krem Umsohtung, Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo, Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and Krem Labbit (Moolasngi). Many smaller sites were explored and documented and many more remain for future visits. The main team were again based in bamboo accommodation and tents on the Shnongrim Ridge with a satellite team spending a few days at the inspection bungalow in the nearby village of Semmasi. 15.5 km of passage was explored and surveyed resulting in the creation of a new record for India’s longest cave. This honour now goes to Krem Liat Prah, at present 22km in length and just beating the 21km Krem Umlawan / Kotsati system in nearby Lumshnong. Next year this cave should easily be extended to 30-35 kms and if luck and some very necky theories are on our side a length of 100 kms may be possible. Due to increasing conservation issues a press team were already luckily on hand to record the event and it is hoped that this distinction will assist in the protection of the Ridge and its vulnerable world-class cave systems, unique underground fauna and important subterranean watercourses.

February 5th saw the first batch of expeditionaries reach the capital, Shillong, where preparations for the fieldwork got underway and on the 7th the faithful school bus delivered them to the Ridge.

Next day Des, Neil, Henry and the writer commenced a long and frustrating session of “pot bashing” in the Lum Manar area where Krem Kya 1, 2 & 3 and Krem Siat Kriah 1 & 2 all became too tight at around  –15m and the nearby Krem Shnong Moo required digging to reach open passage.

Thomas continued with his surface mapping and recce project aided by Jayne, Brian, Terry and Raplang. This was to keep him fully occupied for the next three weeks and he only managed one caving trip but his dedicated devotion to this cartographic masterpiece earned him the team’s grateful thanks and a bottle of the finest Glenlivet.

Mark, Annie and Peter surveyed previously undescended pitches in the old favourite Krem Shyien Khlieh (nee Shynrong Labbit) and did further work in this system the following day.

On the 9th the boulder dig in Shnong Moo was passed and 35.5m of cave surveyed, via a tight vertical squeeze – the Nasty Little Twat - to too tight passages and a boulder choke. This was combined with more recce in the area guided by Shnongrim cow boy, Evermore, who pointed out 11 new sites!

 

Evermore and the writer ponder over the day’s prospecting with the aid of a freshly cut banana (tree)

 

Many of these were dropped on the 10th – Krem Kya 4 to a mud floor at  -40m, Krem Um Manong 2, where Imo pushed a tight, wet passage to an impasse at -35m, Krem Tyrtong Warim to -23m, Krem Pastor 6 to  -6m, Krem Pastor 5 to  -10m and Krem Pastor 1 – the most promising – which finished at  -35m. Locals reported bottoming this vertical shaft using bamboo rope and a man-riding basket to butcher an aberrant cow, which had taken the long drop.

Krem Poh Um Manong 1, 2 and 3 all ended after short pitches but Krem Um Manong 1 was found to be ongoing.

Mark returned to the long ignored village of Lelad where he relocated several sites and found other promising areas – notably Krem Umsohtung (later to become affectionately referred to as “ Toilet Cave” due to its location in the middle of the village and the noisome effluvia therein!).

Mark, Peter and Imo were looking for a project on the 11th so your scribe gave them a “hot tip” which he had been meaning to investigate for the last three years. Krem Labbit (Khaidong) had been briefly looked at by Martin “Lump” Groves in 2002 but not pushed. A local woodcutter had once told the writer that it was a big cave but no one knew just how big it was to become. Our three heroes (well, two heroes and a heroine) were about to find out in the next few days. Today Imo rigged until she ran out of rope and battery power

Over on the other side of the Ridge the “pot bashers” carried on down a series of short pitches in Um Manong 1 until they ran out of gear at a deep pot.


Krem Labbit: Annie in the main pitch

On the12th Imo returned to Labbit (Khaidong) with Henry and the pair dropped the pitch into a large chamber from where they surveyed 253m of ongoing streamway. They were followed by the surveying team of Mark, Des and Annie who followed a large fossil tunnel from the chamber and surveyed 279m in all.

The pot in Um Manong 1 was dropped for 30m to reach a large and inspiring canyon passage but Neil, Terry and the writer were disappointed when it soon ended in choked rifts (a promising dig) and inaccessible high levels. This is one for the future.

They continued their fruitless quest for an easy way down into the fabled Krem Synrang Ngap extensions somewhere below next day, finding a couple of promising pots and sending Jayne down Krem Warkhla 3 which became too tight at  –12m.

Tom and Peter continued mapping and investigated Krem Lyngtah, a small resurgence cave.

Labbit (Khaidong) had by now become the place to be seen. Imo, Henry and newly landed Viking, Torben continued the downstream survey, being somewhat intimidated by great multitudes of surprised labbits (bats). Another 648m was added to the length of this rapidly expanding cave and on the following day another 995m was mapped in enormous, mud-floored, fossil phreatic tunnels which became even bigger as the teams progressed – stunned by what was being revealed.


Krem Labbit – The Big Choke


Krem Labbit ‘Agoraphobia’

The “Toilet Team” of Mark, Fraser and Derek surveyed 228m of Yorkshire style pitches in Umsohtung while down at flood plain level 193m was clocked up in Krem Lyngtah. Also at this altitude a through cave of 256m, Krem Khuiang, was surveyed by Hugh, Tony and Jane – mainly because it was near the only tea shop for miles!

The stolid, but rapidly becoming pissed off, “pot bashers” bottomed Krem Bir 2 at  -35m, Um Manong 3 at  -15m and Krem Warkhla 1 at  -19m but Krem Warkhla 2 still had hopes. Your scribe had squeezed down into a loose chamber with a boulder and mud floor hanging over a deep pot and today an easier entrance was dug to reach this point but the big pot was not rigged due to fear of major collapse of the floor, walls and ceiling. A Neil was called for…

Krem Umsohtung continued dropping steeply on the 15th when Mark and his team eventually intersected a small streamway.

Back at Warkhla 2 the prescribed Neil was dispatched through the horror story to rig  the big pitch. This shat out at  -30m. Thoroughly discouraged the team decided to abandon their fruitless search and rig Krem Synrang Ngap in preparation for long, sporting and possibly overnight pushing trips to the two downstream chokes. Asking directions from Moonlight Patlong, a local wood cutter, they were shown a deep, banana tree-covered pot just off the main track which your scribe knew was definitely not Ngap. It turned out to be previously unseen despite our having passed it many times over the last few years. With a heartfelt “Sod it!” Neil commenced rigging while his Mendip colleague slept in the sun, thankful not to be a hard Northerner. At  -50m he passed a very tight squeeze to another strongly draughting pot and had some entertainment reversing it. This pot was later found to be Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo. (Tyrtong – an ancient Pnar word for “summit” and Ryngkoo – a local bird that keeps silent on the approach of people.). Needless to say Ngap never got visited this year as at last the “pot bashers” had got lucky!


Tyrtong Ryngkoo – looking up the entrance pitch

Meanwhile the “Labbiters” clocked up another 627m of streamways and 790m of fossil tunnels – an incredible amount but made easier by the fortuitous possession by Torben of a Disto laser measurer.

Krem Poh Lumthymmai, NE of Labbit, was bottomed at  -14m and Krem Lyngtah pushed to a probably passable but highly dangerous choke.

With plenty of going cave in three separate major systems the frantic explorers were in for a shock that evening and for the next 48 hours as a mini-monsoon hit the camp. Bamboo huts and tents leaked copiously and streams flowed through the dining area while awesome thunderstorms and massive hailstones added to the fun. As all were soaked on the outside equilibrium was gained by getting soaked on the inside as sorrows were drowned along with sleeping bags. The kitchen tent also suffered badly but the cooks worked wonders in the atrocious conditions. The highlight of the day was when top chef Swer apologised profusely for the lack of “desert”. The rain also encouraged the abhorrent Tiger leeches, which this year had staked a claim on the campsite. Several of the team got “leeched” and the nasty little bastards were regularly evicted from tents and sleeping bags.

Luckily the morning of the 17th proved fine and the dishevelled ones dried out themselves and their kit and set off underground or on surface recces.


Neil Pacey in the squeeze

Tyrtong Ryngkoo, being too difficult to remember or pronounce, was soon bastardised to “Turtle Wrinkle”, or, as exploration progressed downwards in tight and horribly loose pitches, “Krem Grim”. Neil did a superb job of rigging this collector’s item especially as the pitches were now as wet as those of the Dales due to the storm run-off. Your scribe used his digging prowess to enlarge the squeeze while Neil dropped several pitches to run out of rope at a c.30m pot.

A photography and bolting trip to Shyien Khlieh was also done today and a team of seven set off for continuing surveying in the incredible horizontal maze of Krem Tyngheng at Semmasi. The waterproof roof of the snug I.B. had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Saturday 18th February saw four “Labbiters” pushing some 30m into the Mother and Father of all Boulder Chokes and taking photographs while another three dropped Kneewrecker Pot 2 in an attempt at a connection. Hugh, Kate and the Danes bagged another 352m of upstream inlet.

Desperate for an “easy day” Des, Neil and the writer opted for a working tourist trip in Krem Liat Prah where Neil bolted a traverse in the far SE corner of this 15km+ system in an attempt to reach a possible sump bypass. The climb was a success but the 69m long, flat out crawl (in a cave where a light aeroplane could be flown!) ended at an impassable choke. This at least partially proved your scribe’s theory of cave development to the SE and on the remote chance of confirming it some fluorescein was dumped into the surprisingly fast flowing stream below the climb.

The Krem Tyngheng team surveyed 296m and, more importantly, secured a supply of beer in Semmasi – previously thought to be a dry village. They were also informed that the locals believe the cave to extend to the Kopili River, many kilometres to the NE, on the Assam border.


Krem Labbit Fossil Passage

Next day much surface recce, mapping and data input was undertaken with the persistent Labbit enthusiasts adding 101m of fossil passage and 265m of crawling side passage to the score. The latter was to prove both very important and also to prove that it is essential to push Meghalayan crawls and squeezes, even in huge cave systems.

At Lelad, Umsohtung yielded another 401m and the “Wrinkled Turtles” at last got their just rewards as they abseiled through the ceiling of a huge, active trunk passage at 100m depth. They surveyed 200m upstream and were relieved not to have to kiss any more frogs as they had found a princess at last! (It soon dawned on them what an ugly princess they were landed with but, as was pointed out, the baby of Neil and your scribe was hardly likely to be a stunner. Cheeky bastards). At the base of the pitch the huge Moonlight Chamber was found and named in honour of our friendly wood cutter.

The Semmasi team added 614m to their exceptionally complicated survey of Tyngheng where only frustratingly short legs could be measured due to the frequency of intersections. Over their stay they lost valuable exploration time by having to re-draw over 3km of cave due to the laxity of a previous expedition member. Another problem with this system was that every lead they tried to finish off resulted in more junctions and many more ways on! The end of this system has still not been reached and it may be extremely extensive.

Torben, Louise (practicing her newly acquired English obscenities) and Peter were back in the Labbit crawl on the 20th, surveying another 250m. Nearby Roger, Henry and Imo were dodging falling trees in a daylight shaft connected to Kneewrecker Pot 2. On the surface above, and blissfully unaware of those below, the locals continued with their deforestation! This cave ended in an impassable downstream boulder choke before a connection with Labbit could be made.

Shelley, being young, slim and fit, was conned by Neil and the writer to join the “Turtle Wrinklies” as they surveyed upstream in the huge, muddy and boulder-floored Evermore Passage, named after their keen young guide. After 223m of hard going a waist deep pool was reached and a retreat made. Shelley’s little legs made it, for her, harder going still and a badly strained back acquired on the way out resulted in 100m of vertical agony as she manfully struggled up the grim pitches to freedom and a late meal. Both Shelley and Neil were actually very lucky to be getting out at all as earlier in the trip a large rock flake had peeled off the wall when your scribe used it as a handhold. Too heavy to grasp it had just begun the 20m drop to the two unsuspecting cavers directly below when it miraculously wedged itself between two tiny outcrops which halted its probably fatal trajectory. A mere pebble rattled on down to accompany the hoarse, strangled cry of “BELOW”. This was not the only close call in this very dicey pitch series as large rocks had plummeted down on earlier trips. One of the lower pitches sports a protruding rock buttress – the Mercy Seat – over which one climbs and on which one sits before the abseil. Miraculously it was still in place when we finally deserted the cave!


Neil Pacey at the Mercy Seat

In Krem Shyien Khlieh Mark and Annie passed a duck (they were told not to eat it… groan) to discover some 200m of interesting inlet ending at an aven with “Cappadocian” style mud pillars.

280m was added to the Tyngheng labyrinth where a bamboo maypole was used to gain access to two high level passages and another entrance.

On the 21st various surface recces were undertaken and some downstream surveying in Tyrtong Ryngkoo led to a large boulder choke where an inlet stream may be that from Krem Synrang Ngap 1st downstream choke. A way through the other side of this was found to reach the ongoing main stream at a deep water section in a large phreatic gallery.

Next day Des, Fiona and Hugh revisited a cave found earlier in the week, Krem Wah Um Bloh, where rising water curtailed exploration. The discoverers developed a tradition of entertaining hitch-hikes back to camp, once with local “likely lads” in a pimped up Maruti jeep where translations were made by mobile phone to the driver’s English speaking mate miles away and twice in bone-shaking Shaktiman trucks.

Another 156m was added to Labbit by Imo, Annie and Louise on a “girly” trip where they were gobsmacked on reaching the remote entrance to find themselves reluctant TV stars! Another 513m were added by Simon, Dave and Torben, including a new streamway.

“Toileteers” Mark, Roger and Matt added 660m to Umsohtung and took photographs. They were rewarded with tea and betel nut at a house in Lelad village.

In Liat Prah a new 11m bit was surveyed after a bolt climb by Peter into a well decorated but choked roof tube.


The huge decorated passage before the upstream choke.

Upstream in Tyrtong Ryngkoo things initially looked great but after 250m of immense and superbly decorated trunk passage the inevitable Meghalayan boulder choke was reached. This was pushed for some 50m but thoughts of getting lost forever and having to eat Henry prompted a retreat. If this active streamway is actually the continuation of the Synrang Labbit / Synrang Ngap combined streams then pushing a connection would be easier from the far side, though there may, in fact, be two chokes with open streamway between. Later, during a hilarious discussion on naming the cave features, a superb faceted stalagmite in the extensions was landed forever with the title of The Glitteris. On a later trip Mark was unable to find this – enough said.

The 23rd February saw the bamboo maypole in use again in Tyngheng but to little avail.

Further work in Labbit, including digging, failed to yield a link with the adjacent Krem Shrieh but 74m was found elsewhere and a strongly draughting crawl found heading towards Krem Chuni.

“Team Toilet” were back in the bowels of Krem Umsohtung where a free-climb led to the large and muddy, and 79m long, Village Shitter Passage. A bolt climb gained 26m to a high aven and 206m was surveyed downstream where Terry, Matt and Derek crawled into a larger main streamway.

Kate, Annie and Henry got what they thought to be the short straw by continuing the survey of the long crawl in Labbit, the Khaidong Metro. After 30m they were suddenly amazed to find “23” Tippexed on a rock lip. Soon after they were romping down an immense breakdown tunnel (The Grand Trunk Road) but didn’t have a clue which cave they had connected with. Back at camp the jubilant trio were informed by your scribe that it was he who had written “23” above a hole dug out from above in 2004 in the Shnongrim Subway of Krem Um Im 6, itself being one of the most westerly arms of the Krem Liat Prah system. This passage had been another “hot tip” but getting people to push a grotty, loose crawl in a remote corner of a 15km cave was not easy. If it had been pursued when found the 6km of enormous fossil galleries of Labbit would have been discovered from the inside but survey trips would have been a nightmare – and no easy climb out to surface. The dug hole would have been suicidal to excavate from below so this was a great stroke of fortune for today’s connectors who had now extended Liat Prah just enough to claim the record of India’s longest cave from Krem Umlawan / Kotsati. Celebrations continued (as usual) into the wee small hours.

Another 380m was added to Umsohtung but the main downstream passage ended in a choke.

Krem Gerald Hubmayr, named after a late friend of Peter, also ended at a choke after 65m.

Throughout all the excitement Fraser had been plugging away with his video footage and today he assisted the TV crew to film Henry and Brian in the entrance series of Krem Labbit (Lum Dait Khung) – this being the nearest accessible cave passage (and with the potential to one day become part of the Shnongrim Meghasystem!). He also spent much time documenting the destructive quarrying and mining operations at both Lumshnong and to the NW of the Ridge. This was a soul-destroying experience.


More of the huge decorated passage before the upstream choke

24th February and the “Turtled Wrinklets” were back downstream in Tyrtong Ryngkoo. After a fine but sadly short section of chest deep canal a boulder slope led to a four way chamber. The streamway was followed to the prophesied massive boulder choke and two of the other leads closed down. The fourth led up a steep mud and rock slope into a huge, flat ceilinged chamber with an awkward climb at the end to a smaller, choked chamber. 450m surveyed.

Hugh, Des, Peter and Terry surveyed 64m in Krem Wah Um Bloh to a choke and wrote the place off.

Imo and Derek got another 120m in Labbit, mainly in small stuff leading off the immense mud-floored gallery of Disto Inferno.

The Semmasi team surveyed 522m in the complex wet series of Tyngheng named Tipee Toe Canals, leaving two swimming leads.

Saturday 25th saw an important photographic team in Labbit where yet another team materialised after dropping the 50m deep Krem Chuni and pushing the calcite-lined squeeze looked at earlier from the Labbit side.

Your scribe led Imo and Neil on a working tourist trip to his “baby” – Krem Umthloo. With oncoming senility as an excuse he just got away with it when this became a major and lengthy epic involving cold swims (with one lifejacket between three!) and failure to find their goal in the most northerly corner of the system. As a consolation prize Imo did a magnificent push through a squalid, tight duck (marked as a sump on the survey) into 79m of walking passage. On reflection this was a belter of a trip and, if nothing else, inspired Imo and Neil to return to this truly fantastic system in the future where well over 100 leads remain to be explored and where the possibility with a link to the potentially huge Krem Synrang Labbit system to the north is definitely on the cards.

Over at Semmasi Simon, Kate and Dale surveyed damp leads off Tipee Toe Canals and dry leads off Fossil River Series in Krem Tyngheng. Tony, Dave and Matt got the swimming stuff until they got cold. 655m surveyed in total.

Next day a photo / choke-busting trip was undertaken in Tyrtong Ryngkoo but the choke won.

Imo and your scribe snook off to Krem Chuni where they amazingly survived Peter’s acrobatic mid-air deviation 50m above the deck and set to work chiselling the tight connection passage to enable mere mortals to pass. Imo then took the writer on a delightful four hour stroll through the roofed underground desert comprising much of this stupendous cave. He was deeply impressed. Samples of cave fauna were taken and on leaving via the entrance pitches of Krem Labbit some derigging was done. Also in Chuni were Peter, Annie and Derek who surveyed 131m.

Over in the Moolasngi village area, on the other side of the Ridge, Brian, Hugh, Des and Terry were guided by local man Ekna to ten new pots located below a large collection of ancient standing stones and burial chambers. One of these Krem Labbit (Moolasngi) 3 (confused yet?) was estimated at 50 m deep and had rising condensation wafting out.

Fed up with Tyngheng the Semmasi team borrowed a Shaktiman and went for a jolly to the remote villages of Pala and Kseh. Strangely enough they found the impressive entrance of… you guessed…Krem Labbit. Another promising cave here was Krem Bliat. They all then returned to the Ridge camp in preparation for the end of the expedition. Carlyn provided a good supply of the excellent local rice beer to spice up the celebrations.

The final, longed for trip in Tyrtong Ryngkoo took place next day when Mark and Neil took photos and derigged the cave. No tears were shed when Neil abandoned his baby.

A large team of “Toileteers” did a last trip in Umsohtung, took photos, surveyed 214m and left the place with at least three ongoing leads.


Krem Umsohtung, Upstream.

The writer, Fraser, Imo, Brian, Dave, Raplang and Sharkes (Jeep) accompanied by Menda (motorbike) travelled to Daistong village with the MAA dinghy – or to be strictly correct half of it (a long story). This was carted down to the flood plain and inserted in the flooded passage of Krem Khangbru. Thence ensued a couple of hours of atrocious seamanship and ribald hilarity as lifejacketed would-be explorers attempted to navigate the good ship Titanic under the rapidly lowering ceiling. Eventually a sump was discerned 38m in and the whole circus wandered round to the nearby sink cave, Krem Ksar 1. Here a foul, stagnant pool was jam-packed with rotten bamboo and logs and no place for the fragile vessel so Dave was inserted, as he was the only mug with a wetsuit.

More hilarity followed as he fought his way to a sump some 50m in. He was also volunteered to check out the two adjacent grotty caves of Krem Ksar 2 & 3. A total of 172m was surveyed including some unroofed cave passage.

In Krem Chuni Annie, Derek and Roger surveyed 66m of crawl and derigged the cave.

On the 28th February eleven of the team left to attend Shelley’s engagement ceremony in Shillong leaving the stragglers to derig Krem Labbit (Khaidong), wash ropes and pack up. Henry, Terry and the writer took this last chance for glory and went to drop Krem Labbit (Moolasngi) 3, the supposed 50m shaft. To make the survey easy the 50m tape was taken along. Henry set off down this impressive pot rigging as he went and communicating by walkie-talkie. At 50m down he still couldn’t see the bottom and needed more rope so asked Terry to join him. Not being a technical SRT aficionado Terry attempted the first re-belay, decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and came out. A rope was lowered and Henry soon reported that he had dropped into a major trunk passage. The writer decided to join him and Terry kindly walked back to camp to change the pick up time from 6pm to 8pm. The huge shaft turned out to be 92m deep and the passage below bored off to the NW, towards Krem Liat Prah! This superb 6m diameter phreatic tunnel, The Sound of Silence, was a surveyor’s dream, especially with the fortuitous 50m tape. The jubilant ones soon clocked up around 500m when the noise of a stream was heard ahead. Henry made a facetious comment about finding green-dyed water and clambered down a scree slope for a look. Your scribe was overjoyed to hear his spluttered and apologetic mumblings as the bright green stream lapped around his wellies! Eureka! They had proven that the Video Passage stream in Liat Prah flowed beneath the Ridge to emerge almost certainly at the beautiful resurgence cave of Krem Rubong and your scribe was well chuffed that his hitherto scorned theory was correct. With several open leads they stopped the survey and rushed back to the pitch to investigate the “downstream” borehole. This soon reached a short pitch, which was traversed over to a maze of phreatic canyons and the reappearance of the emerald stream. The presence of bats and an echo indicating huge but inaccessible passage above convinced them that they had another princess, and this one was a real beauty. Having run out of time they surveyed back up the mighty entrance shaft with Henry derigging as he went. With 650m in the bag and enough open leads to warrant three survey teams next year they were the smuggest buggers on the Ridge and only ten minutes late for their lift back to the celebratory beer supplies and congratulations of the remaining expeditionaries.

The camp was dismantled next day and all headed back to Shnongrim via the Nartiang standing stones.

On the 2nd March equipment sorting and shopping filled the day before the traditional party, this year at the Pinewood Hotel with beer sponsored by Mohan Meakin brewery, courtesy of the press. A post-party party at Robin Laloo’s house continued until the early hours and three of the “Turtle Wrinklies” ended up swigging illicitly bought whisky in the back streets of Shillong with an unknown headcase at 3.30am! A memorable occasion (if only they could remember it).

Next day it was all over and the team scattered across the world in search of more adventures or back to earn enough to return to Cave Explorers’ Valhalla in eleven months time. Once again the visitors’ grateful thanks go to Brian, Maureen and family and the redoubtable Meghalayan Adventurers for their fantastic input to this truly satisfying expedition. Kublai.


High level passage, Krem Um Im 6, Meghalaya. Part of the central section of the Krem Liat Prah system – India’s longest cave. Drawn by Jrat from a photograph by Simon Brooks.





Glanvill with an ‘E’?

From BB524

In the great tradition of finger pointing at someone else to blame for an error I must admit that it was your humble Ed who passed on the mistake in adding an erroneous ‘e’ to the name Glanvill but twas not I who originated it.

Well it happens to best of us. Errors slip through. But then it’s nothing new. In defence I offer for your consideration: In 1632, the London printers Barker and Lucas produced the famous ‘Wicked Bible’. In this edition the seventh commandment read as “Thou shalt commit adultery…”

Or how about in 1653, in which a bible was printed in Cambridge with the line, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the Kingdom of God…”

Splendid!

And my favourite:

From the reign of Charles I, a Bible was printed with the text of Psalm xliv, “The fool hath said in his heart there is a god.”



The ‘Real’ Aglarond

‘There would be an endless pilgrimage of Dwarves, merely to gaze at them…None of Durin’s race would mine those caves for stones or ore, not if diamonds and gold could be got there…We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them.”

Gimli the Dwarf.

Aglarond. The Glittering Caves.

Here is a plan of the ‘real’ Aglarond made famous in the Lord of the Rings and the Rose Cottage dig.

During the battle of Helm’s Deep in the book The Two Towers, the Glittering Caves became a place of sanctuary for Theoden’s people as the forces of Saruman attacked the fortification built below the Hornburg.

The caverns were, ‘…vast and beautiful…[with] chamber after chamber…and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains’ heart’.

Gimli the Dwarf later set about trying to colonise the Glittering Caves.

The above map is taken from The Atlas of Tolkien’s Middle Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad published by Harper Collins ISBN 026110277X.  In the book there are a number of cave and tunnel ‘surveys’ illustrating the various caverns and underground dwellings mentioned in the Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings including Nargothrond and Menegroth - ‘The Thousand Caves’, Thangorodrim and Thranduil’s Caverns.

I contacted Harper Collins to find out if it would be okay to quote this book in the BB telling them about Aglarond in Rose Cottage. They obviously mis-read my query and told me that permission to name parts of the cave after Lord of the Rings etc had to be sought from the Tolkien estate…Umm, law suits anyone?



Dent de Crolles

Report by Chris Jewell

Four of the youngest members of the BEC, including two of the most recently joined members went to the Dent de Crolles for the long Easter weekend and completed the Trou Glaz to Guiers Mort traverse. (Chris Jewell, Rich Bayfield, Rich Beer and Charlotte Harris)

Having recently become a full tax-paying member of society (i.e. not a student) I have had to face the realities of 22 days leave a year! Due to this the idea of doing long weekend pull-through trips in some of the classic European caves appealed.

 

I knew Easter would be a bit early for high Alpine caving because of the snow. However some people recommended the Dent de Crolles as the Trou Glaz is a ‘big yogi bear entrance near the path and won’t be snow plugged’ I did a bit of my own research and was led to believe that the snow would probably have gone so we booked our flights and crossed our fingers.

Due to the time of year none of the usual campsites were open but I managed to find a site a bit further away which also had Chalets. The “Balcon Chartreuse” is in Mirabel les Eschelles, about 40min drive away from the caving area.

We flew in to Lyon airport on Good Friday morning and picked up shopping for our stay on route to the campsite. By 1.30pm we were sat on the veranda of our chalet enjoying a proper French lunch in the beautiful sunshine. The accommodation was perfect for us, basically a large garden shed with a small upper floor for three mattresses, a small bathroom with shower and another separate bedroom. The rest of the space was for living, cooking and eating, with a dining table and all the cooking facilities we needed.

We had decided early on that we wanted indoor self-catering accommodation. It saves weight on the plane, as you don’t need tents, sleeping bags, stoves, pans etc. Also at this time of year when the weather is unpredictable coming back to a nice warm dry hut is great and finally when doing a long weekend like this it is very easy to keep unsociable hours – i.e. back too late to go to the restaurant. So coming back to a tent at midnight in the rain to start cooking didn’t appeal.

The Chalet was also pretty cheap, costing only 60E a night for everyone – so roughly £10 a head per night. Plus when you have somewhere decent to eat and drink there is less temptation to head for the nearest restaurant/bar so saving more money overall.   

On Friday afternoon we packed up our kit and headed for St. Pierre de Chartreuse, the village closest to the bottom entrance of Guiers Mort. We parked in a car park at the end of the road by the foot of the mountain and got changed in the sunshine. Although there was a lot of snow on the path the sun was hot and we all worked up a sweat on the walk. After one wrong turn we realised we had to follow the track with the large yellow cross and were soon climbing towards the entrance.

(Park in the car park, follow path until big corner/clearing) where bridge crosses river and where waterfall comes over cliff far above (you will know when you are here). Continue on the main path past here until you see a right hand turn which climbs steeply. Very obvious path and clear junction with a yellow X on a tree stump. Follow this until you reach a small stone building out of which a stream emerges. Stepping over the stream the path becomes a tiny track zigzagging up the hill. After a short distance it rejoins another larger path and 50m ahead is a sign post for the source of Guiers Mort, with a path which goes off to the left. Follow this zig zagging path up to the entrance.) 

The entrance is a massive resurgence with traverse lines coming out on both sides to reach the cliff. There was plenty of snow about but none of it prevented us getting to the cave and we were soon heading off down the entrance passage.


The stream emerges mostly from a hole on the right but the way on is down the larger dryer tunnel, which soon reaches a large chamber with the obvious way on the right. However at the back of the chamber a small draughting hole can be entered which takes you towards the bottom of Puits Pierre. Follow the small passage ahead, traversing over a pit and then afterwards climbing up to the left. If in doubt follow the worn, obvious draughting way. When the crawl emerges turn left and then take the next left to find the bottom of Puits Pierre.  

Fortunately for us the pitch was rigged and judging by the quality of rope and the fact there are several re-belays it probably always is. Up the rope the passage is large at first then turns into an uphill, slippery crawl at the end of which the way on is right (left is marked with a line of stones).

Then we followed the large obvious passages, over the impressive pitch Elizabeth, and past numerous side passages until eventually reaching the bottom of Puits Banane. Banane was also rigged and similarly to Pierre, I suspect it normally is. The navigation through this section is fairly easy once you’ve done it once but there are many passages to confuse and tempt you and we were happy to have a survey from Mad Phil and descriptions from the internet – both of which I’d laminated beforehand.

Banane leads to a high level passage, interrupted half way by a short traverse. Not long after this we reached the head of the cascade Rocheuse where we checked the pitch was rigged. Happy to see the rope the others opened our snack supply whilst I dropped part way down the pitch to check it looked ok. Satisfied with the pitch we turned around and headed out with the knowledge that everything was in place for the through trip. Most of all we were surprised at how quickly we’d reached this point in the cave. We’d crossed two and a half of the four survey sheets and it only took about and hour and a half to get out from this point. 

We were back at the hut at about 11.45 for a quick dinner and then straight into bed for a good night sleep before the big trip.

When we woke up on Saturday the rain was pouring down. We knew this wouldn’t affect the trip – which is pretty much dry the whole way but it would make the hike up to Trou Glaz miserable. Hopeful that that weather would be better closer to the caves we set off anyway and fortunately by the time we reached the car park the rain had stopped.

There are several routes to the Trou Glaz entrance. The shortest route is to drive to the Col du Coq. However as didn’t have a second car, our only option was to park by the bottom entrance and walk up. Apparently there is a short but scary route from the Guiers Mort entrance across and up the cliffs. The descriptions we read were of people doing this in the summer so given the weather conditions and the snow at this height we opted for the long way round. This means walking first to the Col des Ayes (about an hour and a half walk to the area just above the Col du Coq) then across the slopes to the entrance. This was all on a proper, heavily marked foot path so we were confident of having no problems despite expecting to be traipsing through snow most of the way.


The lower part of the path was fairly steep and over snow it was hard work. However the path was large and well protected and we were happy to trudge upwards. When we reached the Col des Ayes though things took a different turn. The path turned into a narrow and exposed ledge, which is probably quite fun in the summer. However with snow covering the mountainside this became pretty treacherous. It soon got even worse as the path completely disappeared under the snow and we had to cut steps across 45 degree snow slopes with nothing but a long drop below. It took us over two hours and forty minutes instead of about forty minutes to cover the distance to the Trou Glaz entrance and we were all relieved to reach the cave. Standing in the entrance we all knew the hardest bit of the day was finished – just a quick caving trip to do now.

The entrance splits in two after about a hundred meters. We went to the left and followed the passage until we found a 45 degree bedding plane which led to a squeeze up into a chamber. Ducking under the left-hand wall the passage rose and we walked about twenty metres until up on the right we spotted the ledge leading to the lantern pitches. This is easy to miss as there are plenty of signs pointing straight on and it looks like the obvious route. Straight ahead is actually a long bypass to the lantern pitches so perhaps gets just as much traffic as them.  

The pitches were covered in ice, which gave me a little concern. Namely that we would find an iced up squeeze! We dropped down the first two pitches quickly and at the bottom of the second I wandered off to find the next pitch head. The entire belay was covered with ice but fortunately there was another anchor on the left hand wall. I knew that at the bottom of this pitch we would find the pitch bypass passage back up to the entrance so as long as we could get down and reach the passage it would be ok. To be safe I told the others to keep the top two pitches rigged whilst I dropped the third and checked for a way through. Fortunately there were no iced up squeezes and we pulled down and headed for the fourth lantern pitch, five minutes ahead.

The fourth pitch is an impressive drop in the floor of a train tunnel sized passage – for some reason the passage has just decided to continue 12m lower down in exactly the same vein.

Shortly after this we traversed half way over a pit and climbed round to the right to find the big 36m pitch. This sounded wet but all the water was out of the way at the bottom and we dropped down easily. From here there are two short pitches to reach the meandering stream way and another slightly longer one before the puits de l’Arche where you abseil all of about 4m to a traverse line leading straight over. This takes you immediately to the head of the 11m puits des Maichanceux, followed by another of the same (P. du Biouvac). Marching up the passage here you soon enter Les Champs Elysees, which leads to the galerie des Champignons. Full of ‘pop corn’ type formations (or mushroom like as the name suggests) this is where the end of the Rocheuse rope is found. Like Puits Pierre and Banane it appears this is always rigged – at least it is not possible to rig it as a pull through! To find the bottom of the rope climb straight up where the worn section is and a muddy rope can be found against the rock. 

Once at the top of Rocheuse it was just a matter of repeating our exit of the previous day. The only difference was the amount of water now emerging from the cave due to the rain and snow melt. We were back at car at 11.40 and soon in the chalet stuffing our faces and drinking beer, feeling suitably happy with ourselves.

To see more photos of the above trip please take a look at photos taken by both Rich’s http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbeer/sets/72057594109895832/



Rose Cottage Cave - Prancer’s Pot, the Surface Shaft and Grotto Choke Dig

Tony Jarratt

Continuing the saga from BBs 522-524.

“I now stood ready to observe the full
Extent of the new chasm thus laid bare,
Drenched as it was in tears most miserable.”

Dante. The Descent into Hell.

Further Digging 29/1/06 – 24/3/06

The 29th January saw the writer and Jane C. checking the spoil rift and confirming that another bang was needed. In Prancer’s Pride they drilled three shotholes and fired a 40gm cord charge which was cleared next day by your scribe and Anne Vanderplank who set off another three hole charge. They also cleared much of the spoil from the base of the surface dig and the rest of this was taken out by Henry B. on the 31st.

On 1st February bang spoil was cleared from the Prancer’s Pride dig and yet another three shothole charge fired to open up a tiny, calcite-floored hole with a good echo from beyond. A new dig was started some 2.5m down the climb between Prancer’s Pride and Fi’s ‘Ole and over 30 bags of spoil were hauled up from here and dumped in the diminishing void above. The spoil rift dig was attacked by Pete H. but thought to become too small and choked. Henrys B. and D. cleared and drilled in the surface dig and this was later also banged. Henry B. cleared the resulting debris next day.

Nothing then happened until the 27th when Tony A. and Rich W. tidied up on the surface after evicting a mouse from Tony’s rarely used oversuit!

On 4th March Henry B. drilled seven shotholes at the terminal Prancer’s Pride dig in anticipation of the bang-wallah’s return from Meghalaya and on the 12th six of these were utilised by your scribe, accompanied by Duncan B. and new boy Andy Kuszyk. The writer cleared the spoil next day and charged five out of six newly drilled holes - fully expecting the bang to open up the huge, echoing chamber assumed to lie below. An enthusiastic return was made in the evening with Henry B. and after more clearing a 2m long section of muddy stream passage was entered ending too tight but with a calcited hole on the left which drained the water and required more bang. This was not what we had expected! A flat battery precluded drilling but by using up all available unused or partly blown shotholes another 40gm charge was laid and fired.

The debris was removed on the 15th and another three hole charge fired at the drain hole. Clearing took place a week later, on the 22nd, and a four hole charge fired in the hope of gaining access to what was assumed to be a c.5m drop down which Henry had cast a few stones. He was convinced that a couple of these had gone even further. Phil C. and Tangent provided useful back-up on this trip.

Tangent and the writer were back on the 24th to clear some of the shattered rock until enough space was created for the latter to get a view down an almost vertical 2m flowstone slope to a calcited ledge with a black void to the left. By going in feet first he was able to free-climb to the ledge and stand, gawping in disbelief at the 10 m deep, heavily calcited rift pitch below. A further free-climb of 2m was made but it was thought a bad idea to go deeper without tackle and with the imminence of closing time. The overjoyed duo were changed ready for the Pub exactly half an hour later!

Prancer’s Pot and other digs – 25/3/06-22/5/06

On the evening of the 25th the pair returned to enlarge the approach to the pot in order that their larger colleagues could view its wonders. They were assisted by Andy C. and Chris J. The best part of an hour was spent enlarging the squeeze then the writer belayed a short rope to convenient formations and climbed down to the ledge to rig a 10m ladder on the main pot – belayed to even more convenient formations. He reached the flat floor below and with Tangent’s inebriated aid (he had celebrated in advance) measured the pitch at 12m in total. Below this a 5m deep free-climb led to a further free-climb of 4m and extensive mud deposits on the walls. This did not bode good and soon after a dried out pool with a magnificent brown crystal lining was reached. Immediately beyond this lay the inevitable, squalid and extremely unwelcome sump – too small to dive and an unprepossessing dig site. The only saving grace was that it was a superb little trip and on a par with visiting the Slops in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink. Andy and Chris were summoned from their squeeze enlarging duties and were suitably impressed. With a total depth of over 21m Prancer’s Pot had, with the addition of Prancer’s Pride above, almost doubled the depth of the cave, which was later confirmed at 58m. Both disappointed and enthused the weary diggers gathered up all available drilling and banging equipment and humped it out to the surface leaving the pot rigged. A re-think was now required and a major effort at tracing the source of the strong draught urgently needed.

Paul B. visited the pot on the 26th and next day Henry B. and your scribe took down digging bags and thoroughly examined the place. On the way out Henry removed a couple of rock slabs from the passage heading into the main boulder choke opposite the end of Bored of the Rings and these were skipped to the surface as the diggers thought “Here we go again…”

The plan was to blast and dig a route horizontally through the choke to the so far unseen opposite wall and try to establish the source of the strong draught – seemingly lost in the rest of the cave. This has been named Grotto Choke Dig. Further digging took place here on the 29th when Henry B. banged three obstructive boulders and 2 skiploads of rock reached the surface. Meanwhile a team of six regulars visited Prancer’s Pot, which was photographed to death by Sean H. before frenzied digging commenced at the mud sump, Henry D. almost missing the Pub in his excessive enthusiasm.   

Henry B, Ian “Slug” Gregory and your scribe cleared bang debris from Grotto Choke Dig on the 31st but were soon confronted with lots of small and unstable boulders where further digging was considered too dangerous without much forethought. One skipload reached the surface.    

April Fool’s Day saw two of the finest, Henry B. and Duncan B, attempting to dig below Prancer’s Pot but they were defeated by high water levels and had to be content with re-arranging the spoil heap. A small team on the following day also accomplished little but on the surface the alternative entrance shaft was partly cleared of inwashed mud.      A large Prancer’s Pot team on the 5th filled five sacks and broke up some large rocks but were also stymied by the high water. The surface dig was finally cleared and two days later a four hole charge was very noisily fired in the floor and served the double purpose of shaking up the committee who were sitting in state in the Belfry! Clearing continued on the 9th when the diggers were provided with high octane coffee and biscuits by Ivan. Bursts of sunshine and hailstones enlivened the proceedings. The writer spent the 10th in much improved weather conditions clearing the dig and firing two separate charges to enlarge the miniscule bedding and rift at the bottom, work continuing here two days later when yet another charge was fired. Meanwhile Henry B. and Richie Blake confirmed that the Prancer’s Pot dig was still too wet but were convinced that it could be bailed into a nearby possible drain hole in the opposite wall. Work continued in the surface shaft on the 14th when the writer and Jane C. shifted lots of spoil and fired a two-hole charge. Pete Glanvill photographed the upper series next day but being alone was disinclined to descend Prancer’s Pot.

The writer continued digging and blasting in the surface shaft on the 16th and 17th and was ably assisted by Tangent, Tom Wilson and Dan Griffin. On the 18th Madphil and Ben O. continued the cave survey to establish the depth of the “mud sump” dig below Prancer’s Pot at –58m and next day Henry B, Fiona C, Tangent and Rich B. took down a length of 2” hose and a cut down skip to successfully empty the water into Henry’s drain hole. Pete H, John N, Phil C. and Alex L. arrived later to assist with digging but the choked passage was thought to be closing in. More spoil came out of the surface shaft on the 21st and another charge was fired to enlarge the working space. Clearing and banging took place again on the 24th and 26th (when Prancer’s Pot dig was visited and found to be too wet to logistically dig on an evening trip).

May Day saw Tony A. and Rich W. commencing to build a cemented stone lining in the new shaft. They continued next day. Jake B, soloing down the Corkscrew in the main cave on the 3rd, was somewhat distressed when a large boulder rolled onto his back. He was able to get back out but the rock now blocked the way into Aglarond 1. Four other diggers joined him but were unable to shift it so on the 8th Henry B, Darryl I. and the writer solved the problem with some 12gm cord before bailing and clearing in the new shaft. In the afternoon the walling team continued work here. With water levels still high on the 10th a five-man team concentrated on the phreatic tube dig partway down the climb down to Prancer’s Pride. Digging and walling continued in the surface shaft on the 15th.  

Henry B, Henry D. and new girl Helen Stalker took a hand pump and lots of hose to Prancer’s Pot on the 18th but accomplished little due to equipment failure. Three shotholes were drilled near the drain hole for a future banging project.

About 20 loads of spoil came out of the surface shaft on the 22nd when more work was done on the shoring by the A.T.L.A.S. sub-contractors.

To be continued in BB526.

“Cave diggers are the best people in the world.”

Alan Gray, Secret Underground, 2006.

Additional Diggers

Anne Vanderplank (WCC), Andy Kuszyk (Reading UCC), Chris Jewell, Andy Manners (SMCC), Richie Blake, Tom Wilson, Dan Griffin, Helen Stalker.



Spanish Adventures

Chris Jewell

At the beginning of April I went to Spain to do a scuba diving internship, this meant working in exchange for doing the my PADI instructors course. Although I enjoy diving I knew that just doing this wouldn't satisfy me for seven months. This was why I picked the Costa del Sol, because of its proximity to some caving and canyoning areas. However once there I realised the number of obstacles in my way. Firstly I didn't speak Spanish so meeting up with Spanish cavers would be difficult. I didn't have transport; I hardly knew the area and my days off were few and far between.

I began by emailing some caving groups (in English and getting no reply), ordering some maps of the surrounding area from the internet and arranging to buy a car with one of the instructors at the diving centre. Several months later we had our first car (Ford Sierra 1989) and on my first day off with the car I headed to Malaga to get some canyoning rope. I planned to have a go at a short canyon close to the diving centre on my return. However on the way back from Malaga the car developed a terminal problem and one week later we were car-less again.

After this I persuaded one of the other interns to come canyoning twice and we were able to use his car until finally we found another car and I managed to be independent again. Over this period my Spanish also improved and finally in September I met up with some Spanish cavers.

Left: “Garganta del Guadiaro” or “de Las Buitreras”

I was determined to do some decent canyoning during my time in Spain. Garganta de las Buitreras is supposed to be the cathedral of Andalucian ravines and you can do it with just one vehicle so it was the perfect objective for me. I wanted to do it together with a diving colleague of mine but at the last minute he let me down. As I didn't know if I would get the opportunity again I decided to go a head anyway. The only problem with this particular canyon is that the descriptions of it found on the internet told me I had to park my car at the bottom and walk up the train track to the top. This means walking through four tunnels, the longest of which is supposed to be about 800m. To make matters worse this is (quite sensibly) forbidden and carries a minimum fine of 600E if you are caught!

The closest village is El Colemar, not far from Gaucin. After crossing the river and driving into Colemar I took a right hand turn signed for CH Buitreras (which is actually an electricity transformer or junction station) and drove along the road towards the end of the canyon. This road runs by the side of the railway track and I figured I could get onto the track easily. At the end of the road was a set of gates with the electricity company’s logo and private property marked on them. So I parked the car a little way back down the road and had a walk around. I could see it was easy to get onto the track but unfortunately some men had just started working on the telephone lines by the track and so the issue was how to sneak up on to the track without being noticed. I walked back to the village to see if there was another route and using my bad Spanish I asked if it was possible to walk to the canyon. I was told yes, just go through the gates and up where the large pipe come down (obviously it was in Spanish and not a clear as that but this is what I understood it to mean). So I got changed by the car and headed off towards the gates and the pipe. The gates were locked for cars but a pedestrian gate on the side was open and so in I went in - confident that the guy in the village has told me this was ok. I quickly found the said tube and headed up a small but well warn path. After a short distance this intersected the railway track by means of a small gate. However as I approached the foreman of the men working on the telephone lines appeared. He had obviously been watching me walk around and knew what I was up to. I explained in bad Spanish that I wanted to walk up to the canyon and that a man in the village had told me it was ok. This didn't go down too well and a short discussion followed. This consisted of me repeatedly saying I wanted to go up and him repeatedly saying it was forbidden because of the tunnels. Just as I was about to give up he appeared to change his mind and opened the gate for me. However once I was through again he started telling me it was forbidden because of the tunnels and pointing at the tunnel to show what he meant. After another minute or two of this he finally gave up and put his hand over his eyes to say "I didn't see it" and waved me off. With just one more shout of "muchos peligrosos" from him I headed into the first tunnel.

There are three short tunnels, which didn't worry me, though it is useful to have a light. I also put my ear to the train track before going into each of them, as I seem to remember you hear trains coming this way very early. Next is a long tunnel, it is reportedly 800m and this felt about right. The first half isn't a worry as there are large arched windows in the side, which look to the canyon. This means that if a train came you could easily step through one of the arches and be out of harms way. The second half however is a proper tunnel. Although the tunnel is quite wide (wide enough to stand or lie by the side) being in the tunnel with a train rushing right past me was something I was anxious to avoid. Fortunately I didn't have to find out what this was like and made it through without any trains coming. Just before the fifth tunnel it is possible to follow a path off to the side. To reach this, continue on the track until past a small stream which the track crosses and the go behind the small concrete wall next to the track when it starts. Two meters past the start of the wall a path heads up and to the side of the tunnel. It then drops down until you are level with the track. There are more arched windows here and it would also be possible to reach this point by going inside the tunnel and out of the windows. From here you can get down into the canyon just before the track disappears back into the hillside in the tunnel.

The first section of the canyon was very dry with lots of boulder hopping, climbing and sliding. Though it wasn't long until I found the first pool which was a deep 30m long lake of green water, after that more hopping, some wading and another long pool, this time full of algae and weeds. It was after this that the canyon 'proper' started with plenty of water and the occasional pitch. It is worth noting that it might be possible to skip this less appealing beginning section by getting down into the canyon at an earlier stage just after the fourth tunnel.

Overall I counted five 'pitches' although I only rigged three of them. One had some slings to help you step over a hole so a rope wasn’t necessary and the other I should have rigged. It only looked like a short pitch but in actual fact it went round the corner so after free climbing and sliding my way down the first part I realised my mistake and that I couldn't get back up to the top and the anchors. A bit of precision jumping brought me safely down though and I continued down the canyon. There are lots of lakes and few distinct features to describe through at one point there is a smaller boulder is wedged in the canyon just above the water, leaving about a foot's air space.

Later you reach a small beach on the left and where a large boulder hangs down in the middle of the canyon. On the left, up from the beach is a small cliff you can climb up to, to get a nice jump. After this the canyon dries out for quite a while any you would be forgiven for thinking that it's over, I even stripped off my wetsuit top. However there are several more pools and the final obstacle a 300m swim. After this the canyon opens right and there is a small 'beach'. Near here you can climb up some rocks and make a final jump into the water before the end. To get back to El Colemar I just followed the course of the river, wading in the river itself, swimming very occasionally or walking on the bank where possible. Eventually I reached a point where the river twists back on itself several times and becomes a bit steeper. Here I left the river up a very obvious track next to a fence and headed towards some buildings. These turned out to belong to the electricity junction station and so I was soon back at the car.

Overall it was a excellent canyoning trip though I would have preferred it to be steeper and so have more pitches. The water level in the pools doesn't seem to drop much even in the height of summer. When I was there it had been really dry for several months and yet there were no noticeable water marks on the walls. In wet weather it does rise a lot though apparently so the general advice is don't do it in these conditions. I think the walk up took about 3/4 of an hour and the whole canyon maybe two and a half to three followed by another half-hour walk/wade along the river back to El Colemar.

After this trip I decided to see if it was possible to avoid walking through the tunnel by looking for a place to park a second car at the top. I followed the road over the hills towards Cortes de la Frontera, which is a narrow windy road, and after a short distance it is possible to turn off this down a small track. This track is marked on the map and is the turning before the last hairpin, just before the road runs straight for a while. I turned down here and drove as far as I felt comfortable in my VW Jetta from 1988. In a better car (hire car) you could certainly drive quite a long way along this road though in truth the road isn't that long really. After about 15min of walking some farms appear and it is possible to get down to canyon between them. I even checked with one of the locals who, disgusted with my bad Spanish enquired which language I spoke and answered me in perfect English. He told me that it's a very popular canyon and all weekend lots of activity groups go there and park at the top. So if you have access to two vehicles I definitely recommend this.

Excentrica and Fuentosa

By July we had another car (VW Jetta from 1988) and so on my next day off with the car I wanted to go caving. So I selected two short caves close together from my guidebook. I didn't have anyone to accompany me but this didn't bother me as both were very small caves.

I parked in the village of Igualeja and headed up the hill. There are even signs pointing to the path and everyone seems to know both the caves. I thought this would make them easy to find however I was armed only with my guidebook in Spanish and 1:50,000 map. The guidebook recommended using a GPS but unfortunately the one I’d borrowed from the dive centre turned out not to work. Without worrying about this too much I set off up the hill to find my caves. My first mistake was to go far too high and completely miss the first cave (Excentrica) which is only 10m from the path. After an hour of searching I retraced my steps down the hill and found the entrance. It was an easy, pleasant little cave, with some interest being added by the spiders in the entrance and the loud frog inside. The cave immediately splits in two and has two main passages. One is dry and one is effectively a long lake. Not having my wetsuit with me I thoroughly explored the dry section before heading out.

After finding Excentrica I mistakenly thought it would be easy to find Fuentosa but although I searched for another hour and a half I was forced to admit defeat. So my advice is take a GPS if you want to see these caves. Otherwise you risk spending a lot of time looking for the entrances. The only eventful thing was meeting a local policeman on my return to the village who seemed rather anxious that I had been caving on my own. I explained in bad Spanish that they were very small and easy caves and this seemed to keep him happy.

Spanish Cavers

In September I decided to try again to contact some Spanish cavers. This time though I tried writing my email in Spanish and was delighted when I immediately received a reply. I initially asked if I could join in their campaign to clean the Hundidero Gato system, thinking this would be a good way meet some cavers. However Juan, the president, invited me to come on some other trips before the clean up and before I knew it I was heading off to the mountains on a Sunday morning. Although my Spanish had improved over my time in Spain I had never had to communicate solely in Spanish for a whole day and so I was slightly nervous about this.

We met in Jimera de Librar at 9.00 in the morning in the village square (plaza). Whilst I waited I wondered if I would recognise this caver I was meeting. Though I need not have worried, as cavers are the same all over the world and his hiking boots and 'outdoor' trousers marked him out. After going to his house in the village and meeting the other cavers we headed off to Montejaque where there is a Centro de Interpretación de la Espeleología (a small tourist building/information centre/caving office) and a centro de exploracion (a hut for cavers to sleep in and store kit). The club were using the latter to store their equipment overnight. Two of the cavers, Maki and Nerea (a tough looking lady in army boots) went off to do the Hundidero Gato through trip whilst the rest of us went in Juan's car to do another shorter cave. This unfortunately was Cueva de las Excentricas, the only other cave I had done in this part of Spain!! Juan apologised but obviously I couldn't complain and so I just became determined to get a useful contact for the future. The reason we were doing this short easy cave turned out to be that two of our party were complete novices and the other had only been caving for four months. Plus unbelievably they were all fairly attractive females!! I commented on this remarkable fact to Juan who assured me that he had many 'chicas' in his club whilst I explained that caving women like this in were sadly rarer in the UK.

Although it was a cave I had been in before last time I didn't explore the lake section, as I didn't have my wetsuit. So this time with my wetsuit we were able to see something different and with very pretty formations. After caving we ate an excellent lunch in Igualeja and had a few beers. Juan and I were quick to agree that "cerveza es moy importante por espeleologia" so it is nice to know that Spanish cavers aren't much different from us!

After picking up the two cavers who had done the Hundidero - Gato trip we headed back to Montejaque to pick up SRT kits and rope for an afternoon of SRT practice on a rocky outcrop not far away. This gave me the opportunity to see any differences in SRT kit and technique as well as see how rusty I was after six months with no SRT. We stayed out in the dying sun around the rocks until about 7.00 when we finally parted. I gave Juan several 'BEC get everywhere' stickers and he proudly put one on his car before we said our farewells and I promised to meet them all again when I next had a free weekend.

Hundidero – Gato through trip

Two weekends later I was back in the mountains to take part in the Hundidero – Gato clean up. The plan was for five of us to make the 4.5km through trip armed with rubbish bags ad gloves to clean the interior of the cave. However when one participant dropped out our team was reduced to just four, myself, Nerae, Maki and an eccentric bloke called Pierre.

The Hundidero - Gato system is comprised of two entrances (Hundidero and Gato) which are joined by a large fossil passage through which the river Guadiaro runs. The upper entrance, Hundidero is close to the village of Montejaque in an unmissably large shake hole whilst the bottom entrance is a huge opening in the side of the hill opposite the main road and the railway track. Although the main route through the system is only 4.5km, in total almost 8km of passages are known. Over the length of the trip more than 160m m of height is lost though there are only half a dozen pitches, mostly at beginning of the trip. These are normally left pre rigged.

As an obvious feature in the countryside this cave has always attracted attention although not necessarily for the right reasons. In 1920 the electrical company of Seville attempted to dam the Guadiaro River above the Hundidero entrance. Not surprisingly the water seeped through the limestone into the cave beneath and continued to flow. Undeterred the company launched a misguided campaign to seal the interior walls of the cave. In order to do this they constructed massive hanging walkways throughout the interior of the cave, the remnants of which can still be seen today. 

We parked above Hundidero and got changed into our wetsuits in the early morning Spanish sun before walking down the steep track to the cave entrance.

The entrance is a large dry fossil passage but we soon encountered the water, which characterises the trip. The first section of the trip comprises of lots of abseils into water, this soon gives way to fewer pitches and more swimming until about a third of the way through the cave dries up and there is lots of walking and climbing. Some of the interesting features include the Plaza de Toros a large round chamber where a little bit further the Grande Estalagmita can be found. Just after this is the longest section of swimming before your feet are dry for a while. Towards the end of the cave you encounter the large dry Sala de las Dunas and finally you emerge into the bright sunshine of the mouth of Cueva del Gato. Here the rock is especially slippery due to the large quantities of guano.

Although the Spanish cavers do regard cave conservation as important the cave is used my lots of activity groups who obviously aren’t as consciences. On the route we managed to collect a considerable amount of rubbish and filled four bags. On the out side of the cave other people had been busy cleaning rubbish out of the river and in total we had quite a large pile. All of this was sorted as well so it could be recycled.

The cleaning session is an annual event, which is fairly well known in the area. However the event which takes place the weekend before is better known. If you are of an extremely strong opinion when it comes to cave conservation I suggest you stop reading now because every year they actually organise a race through the cave!

This race is held in memory of a well-known caver called Federico Ruiz Ortiz who died tragically in the system after getting caught in high water. In defence of this activity the cave has already suffered heavily thanks to the Seville electrical company so I doubt the race has a huge impact on the cave. Teams of two complete the 4.5km course as fast as possible and the winning time (and new record) this year was 57minutes.

If anyone is thinking of visiting the area it is worth noting that there is a closed season for the cave. From my memory it is closed from Nov until about the 15th of March, then open for one month until being closed until June.



Hutton Update

Nick Harding & Nick Richards.

In Britain’s land beyond the waves
are stony hills and stony caves;
the wind blows ever over hills
and hollow caves with wailing fills.

The Lay of Autrou and Itroun
J.R.R.Tolkien.

 

Rough map of the dig sites

With something like slow progress at Hutton Dig 2, well not so much slow progress as stalled, we decided to investigate the next pit i.e. Dig 3. But this proved shallow and somewhat uninspiring, (which will mean it will be the one that goes somewhere!). Dig 2 had come to a stop while we waited on several opinions – fresh sets of eyes and all that – on our 10-metre tube, now called ‘Shatner’s Bassoon’. (It is well decorated with botryoidal stal on north wall, has an ochrous rubble floor and is on a bearing of 280 degrees. It is 4m of 0.6m high to constriction and is too tight beyond). Chris Richards and Keith ‘Action Jackson’ Jackson both agreed it was a good tube but also agreed with us that the dig would be horribly difficult, even after banging the constriction to make the far end more accessible.

 


Shatner’s Bassoon entrance – looking west.

As we needed to investigate the rest of the pit, the tube was closed down. We needed to back fill and as the tube is at a depth of 5 metres or so and we would be digging above that, it would have to be covered (at east we all know it’s there). After a visit by Chris Richards to inspect Shatner’s Bassoon, (the fellow even helped to haul a few buckets out of Dig 3!) it was subsequently closed up.

Returning to the dig a short time later, we struck east following the upper walls and bedrock of Dig 2 but it was not long before we realised that surface was not far away. Much to our disappointment, nothing therein lay beyond and was in essence perhaps the old entrance to the pit appearing as it were to be a trench allowing barrows to be brought close to the source of ochre.

We then turned our attentions to another group of pits some ‘80 yards’ to the south, i.e. further up the hill. A change is indeed as good as a rest! Besides, it’s all a process of elimination. With 3 being a damp squib it was time to move on.

Dig 4

About 80 yards south of the earlier digs there is clustered together, a ‘number’ of large pits – including two long trench-like structures. One pit has bedrock exposed at the surface creating a large sweeping arch. What drew our attention was the size of the spoil heap that spilled into several of the depressions as well as down slope indicating later work on at least one of the trench like pits. This one we chose to dig in.

For much of the dig it was simply a case of removing boulders and within an hour or so had made a great dent in the fill. A second session found us with walls and a bedrock floor – much to our growing disappointment. Towards the end of the dig we found a trench in the southern part of the pit that was starting to deepen. Encouraged by this we collapsed a little more of the infill wall that had built up and discovered a tiny void beyond.

 

The very ochrous material and walls had given way to naked rock. The low flat arch (technically inaccurate but you know what we mean!) proved to be of no consequence. It was not long after that we discovered that the pit bottomed out so it was refilled.

With all four digs closed down we moved our attentions to a new pit or Dig 5 – after about half an hour we realised that this was nothing more than a ‘scrape’, although famous last words we might very well return there. There was no spoil heap, which was similar in many respects to Dig 3. This was closed down and we turned our attentions to Dig 6 in a large depression a few yards south of 5. As soon as we broke the soil we were greeted with boulder infill allowing us to make ‘ooo’ noises every time we espied a gap. The west wall has been discovered and several examples of stal, a major hint of cave development.  

Having become thoroughly cheesed off with this line of inquiry we decided to head back 80 yards south to the major pit area but not before Dig 7 which was a minor feature next door to dig 6. Despite finding a few lumps of stal, the pit was only a metre deep at best. This was swiftly shut down vowing that we should only dig in the pits surrounded by large quantities of spoil. 

Hutton Wood Mine

Dig 8. In a double line of pits trending 280 N

We decided to open up the pit with bedrock exposed and not long after this proved to be something of a cracker. Removing the boulder fill we found two walls on a 90-degree angle made by the Old Men – a fine display of the arts of dry stonewalling.

Left: Richards in the original opening

What this proved was that the pit we had opened was not something trivial but worthwhile. Digging down the bedrock, now nicely exposed, and after removing large quantities of back fill we found ourselves in a small chamber with a draught issuing from the floor. On the way the first clay pipe was found.

With more material heading surface-wards we found just to the left a man made wall. Clearing more fill out of this chamber we discovered another wall directly opposite – both constructed by the Old Men. This was hinting at something serious. We realised that we were in fact at the base of a short shaft.

Hauling then became a big awkward and despite prestigious use of the tin sheets a la Loxton we decided to back fill the entrance and punch a hole from surface. This was duly done. Nick R then found a second clay pipe in the surface spoil then when the surface had been broached another clay pipe in a recess in one of the constructed walls. The clay pipes have an IW stamp on the side and it appears (although not confirmed) that these date to around middle of the 18th C.

After smashing up a boulder the size of Crete that had come down from the surface we emptied the shaft of infill. Earlier we had discovered a natural hollow that at this stage had turned into a sizeable and draughting recess. Yet more material was emptied until a breakthrough was made into a small boulder filled chamber beyond. Excitement was high. To our left in this chamber (approximately eastwards) was an opening through which small boulders had spilled. This was an underground entrance to the next pit. Creating a low wall of deads we sniffed around this new chamber looking for the way on. The draught was still in evidence but as the system was opened to the elements we decided it was not wise to believe it. An Ochreous stain halfway up the wall marks where original ochre deposit was-removed by miners.


Moving the boulder infill around we discovered the way on, westwards; beneath a perilous looking friable ceiling. Levering that off to make it safe Nick R discovered yet another clay pipe – as before only the tip missing from the end. Clearing our path Nick R then slipped through into a smallish passage that after about five metres came to a disappointing dead end.  The floor of this passage had boulders in great profusion with a wall of deads stacked on the south wall. There are small grottoes in the walls but nothing that could be classed as impressive.

Sadly we realised that that was that for this direction. We shifted boulders from the eastern choke and discovered that it’s another chamber stacked with boulders – one or two on an impressive size. At surface this corresponds with a major pit feature.

We attacked the major pit that lies adjacent but found it to be a vast dumping space for boulders and this was refilled and abandoned.

In need of a change we headed east and opened up another pit (Dig 9) on the other side of the footpath but this proved several sessions ill spent. It was nothing more than a trench filled with boulders. Initially it had looking interesting due to an exposed outcrop of rock.

Conclusions:

It seems our walled entrance shaft was probably a main way into the system. We’re using, as a general rule of thumb, the idea the bigger the spoil heap the more interesting the hole. Much time was wasted in scrapes and feeble holes – we’ve learnt our lessons!  It is clear that the cave development in these various pits is relatively small scale and not as well developed as it is back towards Bleadon Cavern. Hence…

And on…

As of mid / late June we shifted emphasis to a location where Chris Richards opened up several shafts in the early 70’s. Already a promising draughting opening has revealed itself down bedding dipping at 55 degrees (WNW). Updates in a future BB. This area shows greater cave development.


 (Very)Rough map of the dig area. New dig is concentrating back in the vicinity of Chris Richards adventures in the early 70’s



The Caves Of Sand Bay

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

A line of limestone sea cliffs forms the north side of Worlebury Hill. These are mainly developed in the Goblin Combe Oolites which dip 30 – 35 degrees S. There are a number of vertical rifts formed in neptunean dykes (and in one instance a calcite-galena vein) where the softer material has been washed out by the action of the sea. Most of these are of no importance and only two are worth mentioning. Several small phreatic caves however, do occur.

From east to west these caves are…

1.         Ochre Rift.  NGR 3177 6287 L 10m VR 1m

Unroofed phreatic rift forming a 1m deep trench over 10m long and 1m wide located above the shore on a prominent ledge. The cave has been filled with a colourful, banded ochre deposit (well seen at its eastern end). Good solution hollows can be seen on its walls.

2.         Candle Stub Cave.  NGR 3170 6283 L 9m VR 3m

Alcove 5m wide, 2m high and 3m long. Inside, on the left and 1.5m up the wall a circular horizontal tube <1m wide rapidly closes down after 6m.A candle stub in a recess is the reminder of one of the co-authors (Richards) last visit in 1978!  There is a little flowstone.

3.         Black Rock Cave.  NGR 3150 6268 L 21m  VR 6m

By far the largest phreatic cave in Sand Bay. After a 2m step up from the beach a 4.5m unroofed section of passage leads to an entrance 1.9m wide and 1.4m high. This opens into a roomy L-shaped chamber some 16m long and up to 4m high and wide to a large second entrance (5m by 3m), which is reached by a 4m climb.

 

Black Rock Cave

4.         Ochre Pit.  NGR 3138 6273 L 6m  VR 2m

At the top of the metal steps which lead down to the beach. The footpath passes through a pit (6m by 2m) over 2m deep. There is a prominent ochre deposit and small solution hollows can be seen in the walls.

5.         Sighing Cave. NGR 3103 6258  L 3m VR 2m

A small blowhole sea cave 3m long pinches in to a too tight second entrance in the roof.

6.         The Blowhole.  NGR 3102 6258 L 8m  VR 3m

Crawl over pebbles leads to small chamber 2.3m long, 1.3m wide and 0.9m high. On the left is a chimney 3m high to a second entrance on the prominent sloping bedding plane just west of the tea-rooms. Halfway up the chimney a frightening squeeze (now choked with pebbles) twists about 2m to a third entrance.

7.         Dripping Well.

In Spring Cove. Small sloping bedding plane displays two hand-cut basins, which fill with fresh water derived from seepages along the limestone/basalt interface.

8.         Anchor Head Cave. NGR 3083 6233  L 15m  VR 4m

A sea cave. Roomy passage 1.6m wide and 4m high (at entrance) diminishes in size to a crawl and dead end at 15m. Now choked at 10m by park bench.

 

A Weston-S-Mare urban legend states that this cave leads for about 2 miles to its other entrance in a quarry in Manor road (behind the locked doors of an electricity sub station). We first heard of this in school in the 1970s and has been perpetuated ever since. More recently one drunken acquaintance even described the trip through!



West Horrington Shaft

Tony Jarratt

“…underneath the surface great stretches of the hills must have been honeycombed with old workings, now lost to sight.”  J.W.Gough, The Mines of Mendip, 1930

News of a recently revealed mine shaft at West Horrington (NGR ST 5737.2  4780.3, alt. 215m) was conveyed to the writer by Adrian Coward of the Somerset Wildlife Trust and on 10th May an early evening visit was made when your scribe descended on ladder for 15m to find that an equal amount of space lay below. Unfortunately he was not the first down as an errant field vole which animal lover Adrian was attempting to shepherd away from the shaft decided to take up base jumping, much to Adrian’s embarrassment! Returning later with more ladders, a lifeline and Henry Dawson the shaft was rigged using Nigel Taylor’s Land Rover, “ Stanley”, as a belay and a depth of 28m was reached to a blockage of rocks and earth with no side passages. The battered and grubby (but surprisingly alive) vole was rescued and Henry went down for a look. The entrance is a 0.8m square hole with half of the original limestone capping slab in situ, the other half lying at the bottom of the shaft, having apparently been snapped by a somewhat surprised tractor driver! A couple of metres down the shaft widens to, on average, 1.6m x 1m and has well preserved ginging for much of its depth. There are few obvious shotholes for the first 15m but below that they are plentiful indicating a working date of possibly the mid 1700s. The shaft was sunk on a narrow vein and is slightly off vertical with the dip towards the NE and there is a tiny natural bedding passage about a third of the way down. The minerals sought were most likely lead and ochre. Its dryness suggested either more workings or a natural soakaway below. Infilling this attractive and historical vein working would have been a pity and, if nothing else, it makes a great ladder/SRT pitch with a superb view over Wells, Glastonbury Tor and the Somerset Levels – particularly on this evening with massive thunderstorms booming all around and illuminating the heavens with sheet and forked lightning. It is situated 56m SW of the wall/fence junction and 15m into the field at right angles to the wall in a SSE direction.

Few written references to mining in this immediate area have been found though the adjacent Biddlecombe workings are well documented. On page 163 of the 1965 edition of Geology of the Country around Wells and Cheddar (Mem. Geol. Surv.) is the statement “To the south of the main orefield, the Carboniferous Limestone between West Horrington and the Haydon Farms is pitted by many shallow shafts with spoil heaps containing calcite, baryte and some galena”.  The explored workings of Prew’s Pot (ST 5704  4763), a similar hole at (ST 5737 4761)  and Horrington Hill Ochre Mine alias Tim’s Retreat (ST 5763.8  4779.1) are nearby. The latter reached a depth of 29m via shafts of 17m and 12m with a total length of 76m but had very dangerous ginging just below the surface. Adrian knows of village folk tales relating to extensive underground passages in the area but these may be merely legendary though it is interesting to note that the shaft lies on the line of the supposed tunnel leading from Simond’s Mine (ST 5700  4784) towards Khyber Rift (ST 5833  4802) and is almost that depth. Nigel Taylor once heard a local tale that a shaft in this area, infilled after the Second World War, was used as a dump for phosphorous grenades, machine guns and other defunct military hardware. He was unable to locate the site but named it Durban’s Shaft after the landowner of the time (1973). It will hopefully remain lost! Tony Durston (the friendly farmer who allowed us access to Hazlenut Swallet over his ground) is the current landowner and gave permission for a child and tractor proof lid to be fitted to the shaft. It was deemed an interesting project to dig at the bottom, partly to investigate possible connections with other hidden shafts nearby.

Capping of the shaft commenced on May 28th when the writer, John “Tangent” Williams and Ron Wyncoll cleared soil from the top of the ginging and prepared a steel frame to take the manhole cover. They were refreshed in their task with tea, coffee and biscuits kindly carried up from his house in the village by Adrian. Next day the first two returned with Bob Smith, Hannah Bell, Tony Audsley, Henry Bennett and Rich Witcombe to add a concrete surround to the cover and GPS locate Horrington Hill Ochre Mine, West Horrington Shaft, a blocked shaft with an obvious spoil heap to the south of the latter (ST 5740.0 4775.2) and another potential blocked shaft nearby (ST 5739.6 4773.5). Everything went remarkably to plan on this pleasant bank holiday Monday and the team even managed to squeeze in a few pints of Bath Ales “Gem” to replace lost body fluids. The manhole cover was emplaced on the 30th and some tidying up done that evening and on the following one by Anne Vanderplank (WCC), Tangent and the writer.

Digging commenced on Sunday 4th June when the portable alloy tripod was rigged up and a steel plate lowered down the shaft to provide limited protection for the face worker. Tangent and your scribe abseiled down to assess the job before the latter selflessly returned to the sun-baked surface to act as bag hauler while the former excavated an alcove to one side of the shaft in which to hide. The providential arrival of John Noble, clutching a bag of ice lollies, was welcomed and Tangent, flagging in the depths, was revitalised by one of these unexpected treats! Man-hauling then began and twelve bags of spoil came out after great exertion despite the use of jammers to grip the slimy rope. Meanwhile, below, our hero had opened up a hole in the floor down which a rock was sent and this created a minor avalanche down an apparent slope into an open cavity. Fearing that he was perched on jammed debris Tangent hastily tied on to the SRT rope before excavating further. He disinterred a metre long stemple standing vertically in the spoil and in remarkably good condition and it is speculated that this may once have been a climbing stemple wedged across the shaft into “egg and slot” niches. Several more bags were filled and stacked before a retreat was made to discuss the project over a few jars of, appropriately enough, “Mine” beer. The shaft was now over 30 metres deep.

A return was made on the 7th June when Tangent again descended the shaft while the writer and Tony A. removed another 14 bags of spoil – this time using Stanley the Land Rover for hauling. This was a distinct improvement on man-hauling as three or four loads came up at once but detaching them from the rope ideally needed two people (plus the driver).

On 10th June the writer and Tangent, later assisted by Bob, dug at the blocked hole until Tangent was able to squeeze down into some 3m of mined, descending passage with a floor of unstable rocks, mud and large animal bones – almost certainly the original shaft spoil heap utilised as infill and explaining its absence on the surface. Some digging was done at the end but abandoned due to the imminent collapse of the shaft blockage, a great deal of which will have to be removed before further progress can be made. This will be a long term project requiring a decent winch and much patience but the B.E.C. Mining History Section are convinced of its worth.

To be continued in BB 526. (Probably 527 depending on space Ed.)

1. Wilton-Jones G.   Tim’s Retreat – an ochre mine at West Horrington. Belfry Bulletin 372/373, April/May 1979. (West Horrington Ochre Mine).    

2. Barrington N. & Stanton W.   Mendip – The Complete Caves and a View of the Hills. 3rd revised edn. 1977. ( Biddlecombe Rift Cave and Simond’s Mine, Khyber Rift, Prew’s Pot and similar hole).

3. Tucker J.H.   Some Smaller Mendip Caves  Vol. Two. B.E.C. Caving Report No.9, August 1962, pp22-24. ( Biddlecombe Rift Cave and Biddlecombe <Simond’s> Mine).

4. Taylor N. Log Books & BBs 1-99, B.E.C. CD-ROM 1999.  (Brief reference to Durban’s Shaft, 1973 Log).

5. Green G.W. & Welch F.B.A.  Geology of the Country around Wells and Cheddar.  Mem. Geol. Surv. 1965 edn. (Biddlecombe and West Horrington workings).

6. Jarratt A.R.  MSS Log Book Vol. IV, 1988-1992, p.175.  (Simond’s Mine).

7. Anon. Simond’s Mine, Biddlecombe – a Re-discovery Feb 1991. Belfry Bulletin 459, May 1991, p4. 



New Providence Mine

Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Iron Plantation, Long Ashton NGR 53707070

L 25M VR 4.5 M

There are a number of ancient caves in Iron Plantation, which provided the loci for an intense mineralization by iron oxides, both in the form of metallic heamatite and the earthy variety- red ochre. These minerals were removed by mining in the second half of the 19C. The enormous main rift NGR 53507093 bears testament to this industry.

 

Plan of New Providence Mine

In late 2004 we discovered a small hole in a pit located in an area of depressions behind the houses on Providence Lane. It was not until Jan 2006 that we decided to explore it.

A rather tight entrance leads to a descending gallery with ‘deads’ stacked on the right hand side. To the left is a small blind passage to a choke at the base of a shaft to surface. The main passage bends to the right where an old pit prop can be seen. Here, the cave has a heavy drip and a fine slope of micro-gours extends downslope for over 2m. In some of the small pools are cave pearls and, more unusually, large amounts of calcited twigs-looking very much like broken straws. A few small ribbon formations can be seen in the roof. These formations bear an attractive red colouration due to iron oxides.

A careful stoop over the gours leads to a squeeze into the 8m long and 4.5m high ‘red rift’, on the right at shoulder level is a small bedding chamber. This whole area is, as the name suggests, strongly red coloured. A small clear pool adds interest.

New Providence mine is a natural karstic cavity, which had become filled with red ochre. This was removed by miners about 1860-1880 as part of the Providence mine sett. There is no record of this cave in any literature and we assume that, due to its obscure location, has been completely missed by later explorers.

Iron Plantation Hole NGR 5353 7087

L 3M VR 1M

During our exploration of the above, a reconnaissance around the areas of mining in the plantation revealed a recent collapse on the mountain biking track. Removal of a few large boulders gave access to a blind 3m passage just under the surface. There is no sign of any iron ore. Bats reside at the end.



Ian Dear and The Ian Dear Memorial Fund.

Mike Wilson Hon Treasurer

Ian Dear was a BEC Member who caved with the club in the 1950s along with his friend Geoff Edbrooke, his nickname was “Woomph!!!” Apparently when a ship is going alongside it has to give 3 loud whoomphs on its klaxon, and that’s how he used to announce his arrival on his motorcycle. Great fun!!

According to Brian Prewer he was an active digger in the true BEC tradition spending a great deal of time in Hunters Hole digging [Dears Ideal and Rover pot]. In October 1956 he did a Derbyshire trip to Middleton Dale along with several other BEC Members, during this trip Jack Whaddon managed to drop a 20lb piece of Galena on his foot much to his annoyance I expect!! He also served on the committee as tacklemaster and greatly helped the club financially during his membership.

Geoff’s Wife Valerie remembers him well, as they were all great friends who had many good times together she describes him as being a very shy, clever, quirky oddball [nothing has changed in the BEC membership for the past 50 years or so it seems!!!!!!!!.] He lived in an Admiralty Hostel, The Priory on Bathwick hill with his friend Geoff, where they stored their caving kit in the loft. Eventually he managed to get a small Flat in 1951 and invited the then married Edbrokes to supper.

Quote, ‘the supper consisted of sitting on a settee while he fed his friends his favourite pickles by spoon from jam jars’. Times were hard in those days but you could have hilarious fun!!!!!!!! I am sure that some of our older members have a few stories to tell.

At the moment I am not sure what triggered Ian Dear’s decision to set up the IDMF but it may have been the BEC trip to Switzerland in 1948, or perhaps his trip with Brian Prewer to France in 1950.

Brian was a young lad then and must have found it hard to finance the trip!! [I can remember Trebor telling me how he hitched all the way to the Vercors one year because finances were tight!!] We used to walk from Knowle along the railway track to Chelwood Bridge and then by road to the Mendips on a Friday night to go caving in Burrington in the early 60s,sometimes we were lucky and got a lift partway but usually we had to walk. The Burrington Café was just a shack in those days with condensation running down the windows!!

The fund is basically a trust fund set up to help young cavers to go to the Continent, there are no restrictions, as long as you are a full member of the club, still at College or not in permanent employment and under 21 years old, you are entitled to apply for financial assistance to top up your travel expenses. This would normally be part of a BEC party organised by older members. This used to be kept down to a single Grant per year  as the fund does not accumulate a great deal of Bank interest per annum.

The Club does not ask for any repayment but does ask that you write a good report of the trip for the belfry bulletin!! It goes without saying that when the recipient is filthy rich it would be nice if they add to the fund financially to help others. Originally the maximum donation was £10.00. Obviously times have changed since then, but bear in mind £10.00 was a sizeable sum in those days.

Lately the fund has benefited greatly by elder members of the club .The late Joan Bennet recently left a donation to the IDMF and strangely another donation arrived [anonymously] within the last few weeks. These will be of huge benefit to the fund and will ensure that it will carry on for many years yet.

The original concept was to only use the interest that the fund generated, therefore keeping the capital in perpetuity. This is not possible in this modern age, where Building Societies only give a nominal interest rate for Club Accounts. If anyone has a suggestion how we can get around this problem I will be happy to listen to them!!!

At this moment in time the club committee takes a vote on the fund, re topping it up whenever necessary, this has been the case for many years now.

I hope this information is useful to the newer members, and of interest to the elders of the club, also that the fund will carry on in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie that has carried it so far. Sadly Ian Dear died in June/July 1964 his obituary is published in the BB 1967 July 64.

The IDMF accounts are open to inspection at any time and are published at the AGM. We [the committee] would welcome any comments on the IDMF from the membership including any notes on how the IDMF helped them!! 

I would like to thank all the BEC members who have helped me with various snippets from the past history of the Club.



Vale - John Cornwell 30 April 1934  - 28 January 2006

John Cornwell, Bristolian, Caver, Photographer, Industrial Archaeologist and Enthusiast died of a heart attack on 28th January 2006, he was 71. 

John was born in Hanham and grew up in the Kingswood area of Bristol.  As a child, he played on the 'Diddly Dumps' and the remains of Speedwell Colliery, early experiences, which were to have a profound influence later. John's father was a keen amateur photographer and encouraged his son when John showed an interest in photography.  This also was a significant influence on his later life.

John started work at the Co-op when he left school but soon left to join the army as a regular soldier. While in the army, he lost an argument with a 30ft cliff and smashed a femur and his pelvis.  He was fitted with an artificial hip-joint, and invalided out of the army, classed as unfit for active service!  It is a tribute to the makers and fitters of this hip-joint that it never failed or gave any trouble despite all the punishment that John managed to inflict on it.  After the army, John returned to the Co-op, ending up a manager of the Whitchurch branch before leaving to take up full time mining photography.  

John joined the Club in 1959 and was a member for just under ten years.  He moved on down to the Wessex but then to the East Somerset Caving Club.  During his time as a member of the BEC, John dug extensively in Cuthbert's, at the sump (now duck) and together with Nick Hart, opened up Chandelier Passage. Along with his digging, John also maintained and developed his interest in photography, concentrating in particular on using relatively large format cameras, 120 rollfilm and giant (PF60) flashbulbs.  He produced some spectacular photographs, particularly of Cuthbert's and GB.

After leaving the Club, John dug at Hillgrove and Nine Barrows and helped the Bridgwater College diggers with Sludge Pit.  His major digging success, however, was at Rhino Rift.  He started digging there in the summer of 1968, just after the great storm and flood.  The final breakthrough at Rhino in 1970 was nearly fatal for John; when he entered the little chamber at the head of the pitch, visibility was poor, as the air was thick with bang fumes.  As he moved forward into the chamber, it was only because he kicked a rock forward then heard the crash and reverberation as it landed 100 ft below that stopped him from walking off the edge of the pitch.

After Rhino, John dug at Charterhouse Warren Farm.   He was allowed a short time off from this dig in order to marry Jenny Murrell, a fellow digger from the days at Rhino. As the dig at Charterhouse Warren got deeper, John began to lose interest.  I suspect that he was never very happy about verticals, perhaps as a consequence of his experience in the army. 

Whatever the reason, John abandoned cave digging for many years in favour of industrial archaeology.  He spent nine years excavating the site of Fussell's Ironworks at Mells and then eight years digging and reconstructing the site of the Golden Valley coal pits at Bitton.  The high point of this latter dig was after the restoration of the colliery ventilation furnace chimney, when the bottom was filled with bales of straw and old tyres and fired to produce an awesome roaring column of flame and a most satisfying plume of dense black smoke.   

John's diet deserves a mention.  He did breakfast (although not habitually) off 35 fish fingers at a sitting and he did for a long time live off a diet which appeared to consist almost entirely of tuna "curry", sponge cakes and crisps.  John, who hated gravies and sauces, prepared his own variety of "curry" using dry ingredients heated together in a frying pan. The result looked like over-roasted sawdust.

This tuna diet was to have an odd side effect.  In the early 1970s, John became ill with rather vague but worrying neurological symptoms and it was thought that he was suffering from mercury poisoning, the tuna fish being a possible source.  Although the poisoning was never confirmed, John retired from the Co-op and cut his tuna intake to more reasonable levels.  His health improved, and needing employment, he turned his hobby of mining photography into a full time occupation.  Because of the restrictions necessary in the explosive atmospheres of gassy mines, John developed a technique of painting with light, initially using a cap lamp, later with more powerful locomotive lamps.  Using this technique, he could photograph along 100 yards of coalface and achieve an even level of illumination.  More importantly, with his minimal equipment, he was able to photograph at a coal face without stopping production, whereas the National Coal Board's official photographers had to stop the face working while they installed the necessary flame proof floodlighting.  John's photographs may be seen in his books on the Somerset, Bristol and South Wales coalfields.

John had many talents, but I believe that he deserves to be remembered for his enthusiasm, his showmanship and for his outstanding ability to gather a team and motivate it.  Ideas from John always sounded attractive and plausible, even if they were neither.  Many of us heard his "Tell you what..." and got led into doing something we would really rather not, (like digging to nearly closing time).

John's funeral at Haycombe Crematorium was notable for the singing of "Cwm Rhondda" by a contingent of his Welsh mining friends and by the playing of the 1812 Overture, complete with cannon fire in recognition of his love of loud bangs.

Our condolences go to his widow, Jenny, his daughters, Joanna and Josephine and an ever-increasing number of grandchildren (6 as of 6 May 2006).

Tony Audsley
7-May-2006



On the Exploration of ‘Reluctant Crevice’ Hole of the Mendip Hills in the County of Somersetshire.

BEING A TRANSCRIPTION OF A RECENTLY UNEARTHED SECTION OF CATCOTT’S RARE MANUSCRIPT  “I LOVE HOLES”, The sequel to “I Like Holes” (The two are often confused. Alan Lowland-Gorilla does this in his 1974 book Catcott – The Hole Story)

 

Probably not a picture of Catcott at all.

 (Some words being hard to decipher have been left blank.)

“I took myself of my own personal avail to return onto the hills of Mendip where in recent years I had stumbled innumerable times in a discordant manner out over the threshold of the Derbyshire Gibbon, a fine Inn somewhere within in a ten mile radius of Frampton Camcorder, to explore the subterraneous vestibules of those fine embonpointed upwellings of moundalur limestonic strata. This village had taken upon itself to move on various occasions from said county of Somersetshire and I last heard that it had settled lately in fine resplendent visage outside the hamlet of Two Horns near Farleyford Wind. So on this occasion I facilitated myself of an easy egress from the promptostical salutations of the heavily wainscoted lavatories of the Deliberate Monster, my new Inn of choice on that particular day from which to begin my rustic peregrinations. 

Being of stout amplitude and of vigorous verisimilitudinal countenance and indeed having polished my whethers, I reasoned that in light of my recent wholesome cessation of suspended and rudimentary opines that I disencumber myself with previously held fragulations of a colestomical nature.  In that such sensibilities held, within the confines of a needless rousing, enable one to forego certain frumptotic stalations of the mind and regale the thoughts with tremulous mental aberrational singularities.      

In conversational ejaculation with certain dyspeptic and frightfully ruddy gentlemen of whom one may say that in their stature they were seldom of an upright nature due in part to the consumation of lurid quantities of heavily brewed drinkables and also in part due to their inability to remove themselves, unless to engage in the rough sport of face-aching, from the damp boudoirs of the underground, I was sorely regaled with intrigues and machinational impromptitudes as to warrant my near evacuation. Such men, I warranted were of disproportionately ignoble infamy and were known to frighten certain vaporous ladies of the parish of Wells, disporting and derobing themselves in a frockular nature beyond that which was deemed wholesome and necessarily emblematic of the county.   

Therein, within the gambrelled nook of a sturdy port of call named The Mistimed Thrutch in which I sought some solace, a certain squalidinous gentlemen (of whom, in passing I had failed to repel with such vivid fistular manipulations), awash I might say in clouds of tobacconistic cumulus, disembogued himself of certain populastic inoctitudes. I took him to be nothing more than a mountebank and rustic pettifogger, perhaps a Shipham lightweight such were his glossetings. His accidental disportments had left him with crude manifestations of his previous wayward indignities but his frasmotic emollients were nevertheless forthcoming and I purchased for him, in serried ranks a great multitude of aleous beverages of which was comprised, in the most part, of a salacious inoculent called Colonic Bedevilment.       

Soon my conversational rectitudes were not dissimilar to that of a man of lesser standing, due in part to the festitudes of the drink, and I demanded of him news of the cave in question upon which our longitudinal meanderings had happened upon and of which my return to Mendip activities had brought me. With immodest peripatetic disectitudes he uttered a deleterious barrage of dispompic gloatings but vowed thereon to disport me to the opening of this wondrous series of cavernational squintings.

Bedecking myself with certain kittage, including a Pentland Thunderer, a wig new to my horizons, he and I left the Inn, myself adopting the Gentleman’s mince and he a kind of malodorous limp, and crossed numerous yardages in a frondocular manner through certain fields belonging to volatile man of the earth. A bellicose individual who saw to it that my companion and I had to run in vigorous rombosity when he espied our perambulations.   At one point I had to point my ---- at his ---- whereupon he retorted by thrusting his ---- at my ----. Never was such a sight to be seen upon the werries of Somerset in this time or since.”

[Catcott then goes on for the following 20 pages describing a prolonged encounter with the farmer in which there appears to have been something much akin to numerous bouts of a ‘vigorous engagement of ferocious ineptitude’ and a few hours playing nude deck quoits in a vicarage in Wells. Catcott also quotes, in a seemingly random fashion, from the works of Thermos of Tee, the Greek philosopher who gave his lectures swinging from a trapeze in the gardens of his house just outside Thermopylae. Quite why Catcott does this is beyond current understanding as Thermos was a vigorous and frequent layabout. Retiring from his teaching role at the age of 26 he spent the next sixty years doing absolutely nothing to the extent that when he died, rigor-vigorous set in.]

The Geological Reverend and his guide then proceeded onto an area not far from Wookey Hole but his ‘glandulous skerrige’, assumed to be some nervous complaint, forced Catcott to rest overnight at the house of a friend. Who that friend was is lost to history.  The following morning Catcott and his guide set off to the opening of Reluctant Crevice Hole.]  

“We, that is my resplendently rugose bombostulous guide and myself, arrived full hard upon the desperately early hour not much passed nine of the morning clock and lashing my chin (ed: a kind of caver’s blinky) with its populastic amendments, to the nearest tree we descended in discanframjular fashion.”

[At this point the text becomes somewhat difficult to read as the MS was left in a gutter behind Park Street, not far from the Colston Hall, after a dire and filthy encounter with a - person or persons of low moral fibre who extracted from the caving Rev, ‘a certain number of worried dentes’.]

It seems for a while at least that Catcott was in dire trouble for the first fifty odd feet of this cave. Indeed descending into an unknown swallet would be enough trouble for the most hardened and stouthearted members of the clergy yet he braved the path before him (See Simeon Fak’s The Clergy in Difficulty, The History of Religious Men in Perilous Situations, book 15.). With a thick rope lashed around his midriff he became wedged in ‘a tremolent narrowing’ upon which, ‘Much varied cursing was levelled at Beelzebub and all his grubby minions who disported themselves like intoxicated peasants near my stockings.’  Fortunately for Catcott his companion had had the foresight to bring along a hogshead of gooselard and used the substance in great liberal hosings all over the subterraneous swot.

Catcott then descended into the void where for several hours he swung in lazy arcs above the floor of a large chamber. From this vantage point he was able to comment on what he saw while busy quilling into his notebook. ]

“The very surface of the rock was a kind of monopostic and babalacious mammalate of the kind I had observed during a pole-vaulting weekend near Rome and twas here where I had happened upon a orificular opening in an asunderous hillside, around which swarthy rude mechanicals, lacking any curtitudes, ate innoculous and emjamulated meats of an speciferous and indelicate nature.”  

At this point the MS runs out and much of what followed is lost to history as indeed is Reluctant Crevice Hole.   The last readable word in the report of Reluctant Crevice is ‘…git…’

Probably just as well…Ed.              



Mendip Underground – Appendix 1  - (Part 1)

The Hunters Inn             EP (Easy Pub)

 

HUNTERS INN (East Series)

Priddy. NGR: 549501.    Map 5

LENGTH - variable.     DEPTH - 3 inches

The entrance is located on the crossroads of the main Priddy road and the one heading south to Wells. There is ample parking space nearby and cavers are reminded that nudity is to be avoided, unless absolutely necessary. There are sufficient trees that can offer suitable cover for loitering. The Hunters Inn affords the caver a sporting trip with a few unsuspecting but pleasant surprises into the bargain. It is also a useful endurance builder for the nearby Hunters Inn Sink and Hunters Hole.   

Novices will need a lifeline (40ft doubled for return trip) to gain access to the first great chamber. The first great chamber on the left from the entrance is a roomy place. It’s decorations were once fine but have now suffered a bit at the hands of numerous heavy footed cavers making their way through. Just to the right a bold step affords the visitor their first look at the chamber, mostly out of bounds, called The Bar that runs parallel with this first chamber.

To the left there is a small table like feature called, naturally enough First Table, which can be traversed either by travelling over it, thrutching over a smaller structure called The Chair in the process or by the more sporting and regularly taken journey under it. The lower one is best situated to observe the stone floor of the chamber now worn smooth by the passing of numerous boots and evacuated liquids. Occasionally a surprise puddle makes the crawl a shade more interesting.

Coming up the other side one is presented by a low bench structure now somewhat worn, as it is a good place to rest. Thoughtful cavers often leave a mug here from which one can take a refreshing drink. Remember to replace what you take. A belay point over the alcove known as The Fireplace, (for obvious reasons) can be rigged, particularly for novice cavers, to afford easy traverse to the second half of the main chamber. To the left a small recess can be observed but as yet has not been pushed.  A deft one-handed swinging manoeuvre allows ingress to the second feature predominant in this chamber, Table Two, again named for obvious and indeed oblivious reasons. There is also a second recess here and that too as yet to be fully explored.

From this vantage point the second parallel chamber, The Bar can be seen with greater clarity although on particularly busy days the view is somewhat spoiled. Sadly, a heavy fall of bar room snacks has made this place inaccessible to all but the most brave or indeed foolhardy. 

Leaving Table Two is difficult as it requires a great shift in momentum to head towards The Bar. There is great danger of the caver getting lost at this point so it’s best to have one hand on the west wall for guidance, avoiding the stal curtain. This helps the disorientated caver find his or her bearings, as these are often lost at this point. It has been known for certain explorers to bypass The Bar altogether and in their confusion head towards the entrance. Tethering to Table Two also has its benefits but should be left to the discretion of the individual or team leader. Tethering works well for first timers and those of a reluctant nature. 

(Part two of this appendix may appear at a later unspecified date, Ed.)



Miscellany

Sandford Hill.

On the invite of the landowners of much of Sandford Hill (soon to be an adventure park), Tony J and the Two Nicks investigated two new shafts that had opened up – one by the vigorous use of a Landrover - and one from subsidence, (a third was also discovered but not investigated) on once heavily mined land now being considered as a 4x4 driving track. The shafts all possessed fine examples of ginged walls with large capping stones; the one that had opened up through subsidence had a fine and hefty example.

The various representatives of the landowners were also shown Saville Row shafts as well as the other holes up there whereupon colour swiftly drained from faces. To open this area to the public a great deal of work must be done to fence off these shafts for all the obvious reasons. It has been suggested that the various cave clubs in the area pool their knowledge as to the full extent of the shafts.

In terms of the Mendip Cave registry it should be ascertained as to whether the new shafts that opened up are genuinely new or are simply rediscoveries from earlier explorations by, for example the pupils of Sidcot School.



From the Belfry Table

 

Greetings from a roasting summer on the Hill!!.

I will start with some advance warnings to you all this month about upcoming events, which hopefully this will reach you through the BB in plenty of time!

MIDSUMMER BARBEQUE: Chris Jewell and other younger members have plans well advanced for a BEC Barbecue on SATURDAY 19th .AUGUST 2006, Please support this event!!!!!!!!!

The AGM will be held at 10.30 am Saturday 7th .October 2006 at the Belfry.

NOMINATIONS FOR THE BEC COMMITTEE are hereby called for, you can nominate yourself but must be seconded by a ratified i.e. Full member, you should send this to the Hon.. Secretary by the 31st August in order that the Hon. Secretary can arrange for an election in due time.

THE B.E.C DINNER 2006, will be held again at the BATH ARMS Cheddar at 7.30 pm Saturday 7th .October, sadly places due to the venue size will be on a restricted number due to their fire regulations, so book early, the tickets will sell out early.

THE BELFRY EXTENSION is moving on slowly, though recent attempts to finish the roof are slightly hampered by the availability of volunteers’ free time.

COUNCIL TAX,  Excellent news here, and down to the good works of our Hon. Treasurer, Mendip District Council have awarded us 100% relief until the year 2010.

SPIN DRYER, younger members have been pressing for this item, it has now been obtained and is the Changing room, but PLEASE try to be economical, with the present warm weather,-users,  try not to waste expensive electricity!

THE BELFRY site will be appearing on a TV program on SKY entitled “Future Weapons” Scheduled for release next July (2007). A small film crew spent a couple of hours in the BEC “Garden” Where a demonstration of cutting Wooden Blocks with Explosives cords and water was filmed, and Dr. Sidney Alford interviewed on the method. Several amused BEC members in residence during the week took their own footage, and also later in a Farm in Priddy witnessed a Hostage rescue scenario being filmed. The Hon. Secretary did obtain a small financial donation to the Club for services rendered.

ROSE COTTAGE Dig continues apace, though nothing of great significance has occurred this week,…but soon???

I am sorry that this is a short article this month, but I am off to Oban in the next hour, and in order to meet deadlines…………

Regards to all…

Nigel Taylor Hon. Secretary.
Sunday 16th. July 2006



Letter(s) to the Editor…

There aren’t any…

 

Hollow Hills

As mentioned in BB 524 the 500th edition of this esteemed journal is due later this year. In discussion with Wig the executive decision has been made that the best way to celebrate the occasion is to produce a photographic history of the BEC. 

Earlier in March of this year The Two Nicks and Jrat went to inspect a pit that had opened up on Sandford Hill after the heavy use of a land rover by a group of off-roaders. Their presence was requested by the owners of the Lyncombe Hotel and its environs who needed to know exactly what was happening in terms of the caves and mines situated therein. Their plan by the way, is to turn the area of Sandford Hill into an outdoor pursuits centre. When shown the openings of the pits known as Saville Row many faces turned a distinct shade of pale. Despite that there has been some suggestions that the pits and Sandford Levvy become part of the leisure activities introducing newcomers to the sport.   It will be interesting to see how all this pans out in the future in terms of access. It will also be interesting to see if this encourages new initiates to the sport of caving – actually for ‘sport’ read ‘passion’.  

 

‘ The underground world, the ‘eighth continent’ is one of the last great pieces of unfinished exploration…’

    The National Geographic, May 2005