Harry ‘ NO: 1’ Stanbury 1906 – 2006

Committee Members

Hon. Secretary: Nigel Taylor (772)
Hon. Treasurer: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary: Henry Bennett (1079)
Caving Secretary: Toby Maddocks (1310)
Hut Warden: Jane Clarke (983)
Tackle Officer: Chris Jewell (1302)

Non-Committee Posts
Bulletin Editor: Nick Harding (1289)
BEC Web Page Editor: Henry Bennett (1079)
Librarian: Nick Richards (1290)

Club Trustees:
Martin Grass (790), Dave Irwin (540), Nigel Taylor (772) and Barrie Wilton (559)

Ave Cavers!

As they don’t say in France, ‘Happy New Year’.

Ah a new year full of cave shaped possibilities.

But I must start on a sad note by mentioning the death of Harry Stanbury. With his passing the BEC has lost its founding father. I never met ‘No 1’, a regret I will have for the rest of my days but his influence will live on, not least in the form of the Belfry Bulletin, which he also helped to create. At times like this, it is a signal honour to be holding the post of Editor. 

*

Just to show that the fame of the BEC spreads ever further I included a mention of our esteemed club in the final paragraph of an article I penned for the Daily Express (Egad! I know – I won’t make a habit of it, I promise but they pay well) in December last year as a bit of publicity for my latest tome – in which, I should say, the BEC gets a mention or two as well. 

 

Daily Express, December 18th 2006

I’ve been led to believe that the paper is ‘read’ by 900,000 a day – so that’s nearly a million more people have heard of us now. The editor of that rag even went to look up who we were on the Web.  If there were a yearly barrel for fame then we’d win hands down!


 

Vale - Harry Stanbury, 1916 – 2006.

 

Harry Stanbury, c.1946

The BEC has lost not only a great friend but also the personality who created the Bristol Exploration Club all those years ago in 1935.  Harry died on the 16th December, 2006 at his home in Bude, Cornwall. He was 90 years old.

Harry Stanbury is a legend in the caving world, none less so than on the Mendip Hills. It was here that Harry learnt his caving skills.  Born in Bude, in the same house in which he lived until his death, he moved to Bristol in his 'teens and it was then that he undertook his earliest caving trips on Mendip albeit he had already whetted his appetite by exploring the numerous sea caves that are found on the north Cornish coastline in his formative years.

Following a number of trips to Burrington and other small caves on Mendip Harry and his mates decided to form themselves into a club, which was to be known as the Bristol Exploration Club.  However, there was a problem. How could they get into the larger and deeper Mendip caves, which were controlled by the larger clubs? They decided that they would disband their group, and join the newly formed Wessex Cave Club comprising mainly members from the professional and middle classes.  Harry, having approached a Bristol member of the Wessex, was told that he and his friends were not suitable for membership of that club, as Harry was later to write ' … because we were just working class lads.'

Harry, amazed and annoyed, went away and together with his mates continued to develop the Bristol Exploration Club, with a bat as its logo.  This small group, with a membership of never more than 15 remained active right up to the outbreak of the 2nd World War.  These pioneering members gradually gained their practical experience and joined other caving club members for trips into the larger caves.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 all young men under the age of 30 were called for military service unless they were working on essential war effort at the home front.  This reduced the club to a skeleton membership.

Harry, never one to give up, with the existing members and a few new friends, including Dan Hasell and Roy 'Pongo' Wallace, reformed the then dormant BEC in 1943 and slowly managed to get a few caving trips in during their spare time. By the end of the war the club membership began to expand dramatically and within a short space of time reached about 100.

During the first 21 years of the Club's existence Harry, steered the club as Hon Secretary and helped create the Club Journal, the Belfry Bulletin, with Dan Hasell and Don Coase. With others he located and built the early Club headquarters which contained sleeping and cooking accommodation.

On the caving scene he was involved in the exploration of Stoke Lane II and was an early member of CDG working in Wookey Hole during 1947-1948 either involved with the Operation Muckment series of dives or acting as surface controller.  In the late 1950s he was involved with the re-opening of Pen Park Hole.

Harry let go of the reins in the middle 1950s but kept a watchful eye on the activities of the Club and was always interested to know of the latest discoveries made by members.

One of the reforms brought about in 1943 included a membership numbering system.  Harry was member No. 1, a fact that is well-known to members today. Many of the younger members, though having not met him, are well aware that Harry Stanbury was the founding father of the BEC.  We have lost a great friend.

The Club sends their very sincere condolences to Glenys and the family.

'Wig'

 

Diver Harry Stanbury being dressed by Don Coase
and Stan Herman at the Mineries Pool, 1946.


 

From the Belfry Table

There can be only one item this time.

As you should all know by now, “Number 1” as Harry Stanbury was affectionately known by me and many other members has passed away after an illness.

I was fortunate to have spoken to Harry on the morning of our Oct 2006 AGM, in my customary call to him on such club occasion, and though unwell- as he had recently suffered from a bad fall, - he came to the telephone with all his usual good grace and cheerfulness. He gave me his best wishes for the forthcoming Dinner and year which he wished me to pass on to all members at that evenings festivities, and we joked that I should be dragging him away from his beloved home in Bude in three years time for the Seventy Fifth Club years Dinner celebrations.

Sadly, this was not to be. In a Christmas card from his wife Glenys just days prior to Christmas, she told me that Harry certainly was not very well, and she was worried about his health. Just days later she telephoned me, sadly “Number 1” was no more.

I emailed or telephoned as many members as I could with the sad news, and again later with the funeral arrangements.

On Wednesday 3rd. January, Mike Wilson (Hon.Treasurer), Chris Hervey (Zot- a long standing, but sadly now an ex-member) Tony Setterington (Sett) and myself, ventured down to a cloudy, grey and windswept Cornwall.

In the Little parish Church, just yards from Harry’s home, we joined a small congregation of some twenty-two persons, this included us four and six Lifeboat men who came to add their respects.

“Sett” read out a Eulogy- prepared by Dave Irwin (Wig), which should hopefully appear in this BB.

I had luckily managed to arrange over the Christmas new year break one florist, who made up a superb board or white carnations and black sprayed “Bertie” Bat emblem with a “No.1” logo. At the internment, Mike and I placed this upon Harrys’ grave.

I hope the attached photo shows the Club tribute to our founding father.

After the ceremony and wake, Mike, Zot and I, had been invited back to Harry and Glenys home at 7 Falcon Terrace. There, His bereaved wife handed us Harry’s presention Club Badge, a Car Badge, and the 60th.Anniversary Tankard with which he had been presented at the Bath & West Showground Dinner all those years ago. She instructed us to deal with these items as we thought best.

I have conferred with both Roger Dors, who kindly has agreed in principal to my thoughts, and the BEC committee, and all are in agreement that I shall place this on a long term loan, into the display cabinet at the Hunters Lodge bar, so all can see the Tankard, which will in effect be a further testimony to Harry’s legacy, that being the Bristol Exploration Club.         

 

HARRY  STANBURY

Founder of the Bristol Exploration Club,

St.Michaels Parish Church, Bude, Cornwall, Wednesday 3rd.January 2007

 

Rest in Peace Harry old friend.

IN ADDITION:

The club also extends sympathies to Alfie Collins, on his tragic loss of Sally. Several members attended Litton Church and on behalf of the BEC we placed a bouquet of White Orchids in the Cemetery. Sally was a warm and vibrant Lady, and her passing leaves all of us poorer.

The MCG have had a tremendous breakthrough at Upper Flood Swallet this September. Several Hundred metres of cave have been found, and all signs indicate that this could well be the “ Master Cave”,…though on a note of caution, I and the rest of the NASA team thought that when we broke into Manor Farm Swallet all those years ago.  To the MCG and the relatives of Malcolm Cotter, WELL DONE!

Mike Wilson and I, visited Bobby Bagshaw at his home in Bristol, and presented him with a “Certificate of Honorary Life Membership” On behalf of the BEC. Bobby Bagshaw has given much help and advice and service over many years to the Club. Bob was most touched, and asked that his warmest greetings be passed to all those who know


The last Dinner was poorly supported by the General Membership; at Close of Bookings date (Hotels not mine) we only had 61 bookings.

Harris & Harris our Solicitors have completed the “Deed of Trustees” and this has now been placed with the Club’s Deeds.

The Belfry Extension has been felted and should be tiled by the AGM!!! (Presumably the last one – Ed.)

Time to get down from the Table, regards to all,

Nigel Taylor, Hon.Secretary BEC.


Report of the Hon. Secretary, 2005/2006

A strong and healthy Club isn’t just conjured out of thin air. It is embodied by the activity of its members both new and old, by forward thinking of its officers, by a willingness to commit oneself to club projects, be they Cave exploration and discovery, club activities, fund raising, working on the club structure etc, etc.

To this end, YOU the membership have been well rewarded by those whom you elected to serve on the Committee last year and by the dedicated actions of several members both young and old. Some say it is invidious to name names…to hell with that…I will name names: Your Hon. Treasurer Mike Wilson has again done Stirling work and in talks with Mendip District Council regarding rates payable, has succeeded in negotiating a “zero” charge. Mike together with Tyrone Bevan (Hut Engineer) Dany Bradshaw and others have toiled well upon the new Extension, all being generous in their time. Chris Jewell, a new member-who incidentally also is standing for the first time for committee- Ivan Sandford, and Henry Bennett plus others, also set up and ran a brilliant “Mid-Summer” Barbeque and disco at the Belfry, complete with Mega aerial-wired giant Bertie, clutching a Wee Wessex Dragon in its claws. Henry has also spent much time in up-marketing and establishing an Up-to-date BEC Website, which you should all visit on a regular occasions to keep yourself abreast of club news. Roger Haskett has kept the Belfry Accounts and Hut Warden duties firmly in control. Brenda Wilton valiantly took on the onerous role of Membership Secretary, which sadly had been relinquished after many years hard work and care by Fiona Sandford to whom this Club should be very grateful. “Bobble” aka Rob Lavington worked hard to sort out the St.Cuthberts Leaders system and set up a Meeting which hadn’t occurred for several years, he also spent much time re-keying various cave systems, sadly due to pressure of work, though remaining on the Committee, he has passed over his Caving Secretaries duties to an ultra keen new member Toby Maddox. Other Committee members Phil Rowsell (Tackle-master) and Fiona Crozier (Floating Member and Understudy Hut Warden!), Barry Wilton (Floating) Have all worked hard despite heavy private and personal commitments both at home, and in Phil’s case on the World caving scene. Rony Wyncoll is owed a big vote of thanks for continuing to maintain the Belfry Fire Extinguishers, and for producing the “Belfry Maintenance Folder” Which it is intended will keep records of Fire Equipment, Electrical and Pat Testing records, subject to our legal requirements.

The retiring 2005 /2006 Hon. Secretary Vince Simmonds did good work negotiating with the Club Solicitors to ensure the newly appointed Trustees positions were fully legalised. I have completed this task, and a finalised “Deed of Appointment” has this year been concluded.

As suggested at last years AGM, The Four Club Trustees held a meeting at the Belfry, and their report should be available at the AGM. It is envisaged that such meetings will be at least twice a year in future.

Enough of the Laurels….On to The Belfry…well much work remains to be done upon the extension. I have heard some members complain that the hut looks like a building site….all I can add is “Yes, aren’t you proud of that. It is a Building Site, and it will be tided up when all is finished”.  

One Major looming problem is to replace the Window Frames at the back of the Belfry, these are so rotten that they may soon fall out, and at worst allow damp into the fabric of the building, but fear not, all of this is in the minds of the Committee and it will be effected shortly.

May I thank again, on behalf of the BEC, all of those mentioned above, and also to those as yet unnamed workers and members who have also committed themselves both above and below ground to the running of Your Club.

I intend to stand again for Committee for 2006/ 2007 and am willing to serve in whatever post I am elected to, though I naturally should like if allowed, to continue to serve as your Hon. Secretary.

Nigel Taylor,
Hon. Secretary B.E.C 2005 / 2006.


Report Of The BEC Trustees.

The Trustees, Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Nigel Taylor and Barrie Wilton, met at the Belfry on Friday 1st September in order to inspect the site and prepare a report to be submitted to the Club’s Annual General Meeting on the 6th October 2006.  It is hoped that the meeting of the Trustees to inspect the site and prepare a report for the AGM should be an annual event.

It was felt that the site as a whole was in a reasonably tidy state but the Belfry itself is in need of a number of urgent repairs. These are listed below:

The exterior:

  1. The window sills on the west side of the Men’s bunkroom are badly rotted and are in urgent need of replacement.  The end (south) window in the bunkroom is cracked and should be replaced.
  2. The bricks below the damp course at the base of the south-facing wall are crumbling and will require replacing.
  3. Though repairs have been made to the entrance porch roof there is a need to replace the gutters.

The interior:

  1. The living room is dark and requires a new coat of light coloured paint.  The ceiling has been damaged and should be repaired as soon as possible.  Ideally it requires a new window set into the west wall by the bar.
  2. The dormitory ceiling has been badly damaged, seemingly by water and should be given some priority.
  3. There are a number of faulty electric switches.
  4. The fire alarms should be repaired / replaced.
  5. In the drying room there is a strong smell of fuel oil. The committee should ensure that this is inspected by a qualified engineer.

Some of the repairs are of such a nature that in the event of an insurance claim the insurance company could prove difficult.

Dave Irwin
On behalf of the BEC Trustees,
16th September 2006


Hut Engineers Report

The belfry is in general good order. The main project this year has been the extension, but the roof on the entrance porch has been re-felted with a new access light fitted during the early working weekend.

With the main focus of activity being the extension various weekends have been spent working on this. I would like to thank the regular helpers in this, always the same faces I sorry to report.

The block work and roof are now finished. With the next stage being rendering of the walls and erecting the door early in the New Year. Anybody who can give assistance with this would be appreciated, hopefully some new faces will appear.

I would like to end this short report by informing members that Mike the builder who built the walls and was always willing to listen to members opinions and advice while he was working on the project (Giving his time for free) was recently seriously injured while working on the Salt ford road closure resulting in a stay in intensive care at the RUH. He is home now and making good progress.

And finally I am willing to stand for committee in any designated roll the floor proposes for the coming year.

Tyrone Bevan

BEC Hut Wardens Report 2005-06

The takings are down this year by £98.00, which I suppose is not too bad considering there appears to be a lack of activity on Mendip.

The major expense this year was £120.00 for a skip for one of the working weekends. Also Gas costs were around £48.00.

I have not been around as much this year, due to the fact that I am no longer living on Mendip and so unfortunately the general state and cleanliness of the hut seems to have suffered as a result. I am hoping that someone will volunteer to take on the job for the next year and so I will be able to retire.

Roger Haskett
Hut Warden

Are you getting the BEC email Newsletter?

Most of you will know that we are sending out a monthly email newsletter to keep you up to speed with what’s happening and about to happen on the hill. However, I understand that some of you have not seen it, which is no doubt due to your spam filters. To get around this add the bec-cave.org.uk domain to you safe senders list.

Henry


Caving in the Abode of the Clouds – Meghalaya 2006

 

Krem Labbit Pitch

Caving Team

Austria: Peter Ludwig (PL),

UK: Annie Audsley (AA), Simon Brooks (SJB), Mark Brown (MWB),Tony Boycott (ATB), Imogen Furlong (IF), Roger Galloway (RG), Dave Hodgson (DH), Kate Janossy (KJ), Tony “J.Rat” Jarratt (AJR) Neil Pacey NP, Hugh Penney (HP), Derek Pettiglio (DP), Henry Rockcliff (HR), Fraser Simpson (FS), Jayne Stead (JS), Fiona Ware (FW), Terence Whitaker (TMW)

Ireland: Des McNally (DMc)

Switzerland: Thomas Arbenz (TA),

Denmark: Louise Korsgaard (LK), Torben Redder (TR)

India: Brian Kharpran Daly (BKD), Shelley Diengdoh (SD), Lindsay Diengdoh (LD), Dale Mawlong (DM), Raplang Shangpliang (RS).

Support Team

David Kimberly Patkyntein, (Driver/Organiser), Alam (Munna) Khan (Cook),

S.D. Diengdoh (bus driver), Jonathon Wanniang (drivers mate), Shemborlang Lyndoh (drivers mate). Myrkassim Swer (cook), Vinod Sunor, Adison Thabah, Bung Diengdoh, Zobeda Khatoon, Roma Sutradhar, Sansun Lyngdoh, Raju Sunar, Teiborlang Khongwir.

Guides/Informants

Evermore Sukhlain, Moonlight Patlong, Carlyn Phyrngap, Shor “Pa Heh” Pajuh, Menda Syih, Kores, Gripbymon Dkhar (Semassi), Ekna Sukhlain (Moolasgni).

Press

David Laitphlang, Andrew Kharpor, Deimaia L. Siangshai, Markin Marbaniang, Marlon Blein.

Diary

 

Sunday 5th February

Mark, Annie, J.Rat, Peter, Thomas, Des, Imogen, Jayne and Henry arrived in Shillong via Gauhati. Some of the group stayed at Brian and Maureens’, others at the Centrepoint hotel.

Monday 6th February

Neil arrived at 10am from Gauhati.

Gear was organized at Brian and Maureens’ house, shopping carried out and preparations made in Shillong. The Centrepoint bar provided an acclimatisation venue until the early hours.

Tuesday 7th February

Terry arrived at 1.30am from Gauhati.

After a prompt start (bus departed at 11am!) the team travelled from Shillong to the ridge camp in the school bus. A briefing was carried out and the team settled in around the fire.

Wednesday 8th February

Thomas carried out a survey workshop in the morning.

J.Rat, Des, Neil and Henry went to Lum Manar hill fort, then dropped five shafts nearby; (Krem Kya 1, 2 and 3, Krem Siat Kriah 1 and 2) each ending in tight rifts after ca. 15m depth. A sixth shaft, Krem Shnong Moo was left ongoing.

Thomas, Jayne, Brian, Terry and Raplang went to the crest of the ridge and walked along towards the SW, past Lelad and Tagnub, to the watershed at the end of the ridge. Sixty one GPS readings were taken for the map, including the road from beyond Leilad. Two potential areas for recce were spotted. 5.6km were walked.

Mark, Annie and Peter successfully relocated Krem Shyein Khlieh (formerly Shynrong Labbit 2001) from the registry details. They failed to find the main underground pitch, but in the process dropped and surveyed a series of undescended pitches ending at a too tight crawl.

Imogen was ill and remained in camp.

Thursday 9th February

Mark and Annie returned to Krem Shyein Khlieh rigged a high level traverse and found that it had been surveyed. They then found and rigged the pitch to the main streamway. They investigated J.Rat’s duck, near the base of the pitch. It was left ongoing with low airspace and light draught (towards the main stream passage). They also looked at couple of potential side passage leads. Cave left rigged.

Henry and Terry went back to Krem Shnong Moo, where the boulder was removed and the cave was explored through three short pitches to a boulder choke. All leads ended too tight.

Imogen, Des and Peter remained on the surface (through illness) and constructed a sauna.

Thomas, Brian and Jayne returned to the crest of the ridge, to continue surface surveying. They walked along towards the NE, past Nongthymme then Moolasngi then Lumthari, to the Litein teashop at the end of the ridge. 62 GPS readings were taken for the map. No new potential areas for recce were spotted. 6km were walked.

J.Rat and Neil followed Evermore around Lum Manar hill fort. Located 10 cave entrances and one possible blocked entrance. One shaft was guessed to be 50m. GPS and digital photos taken for all locations. They then went to Krem Shnong Moo to survey 35.5m.

Friday 10th February

Imogen, Henry, Neil, Des, Annie, J.Rat, Terry, Jayne and Peter returned to the Lum Manar hill fort area to drop the cave entrances located the day before.

Imogen, Annie and Peter dropped Krem Kya 4 to an approximate depth of 40m. Shaft ends in mud floor. Krem Um Manong 2 was dropped to a depth of 35m, where Imogen explored a low tight and wet passage at the bottom until it became too tight. The water was full of cave shrimp, both white and coloured and there was a light draught out.

Neil, Des and Henry went to Krem Tyrtong Warim, which dropped to depth of 23m completed. Then they went to Krem Pastor 6, a 6m climb down to blind alcoves at the bottom. Next they went to Krem Pastor 5, which was 10m deep completed. Krem Pastor was dropped 35m, bones were observed at the bottom of a side shaft, no way on was found.

J.Rat, Terry and Jayne went with Evermore to Krem Poh Um Manong 1,2,3; all completed after short pitches. They then went to a new cave entrance Krem Um Manong 1. This is an ongoing perennial stream cave in boulder pitches.

Mark went to Lelad village and approximately traversed the upper limestone boundary on the west side of the ridge. He relocated Krem Paulus, Lelad cave, Krem Umsohtung, and Krem Niakrong and identified seven other sites of speleological interest. Krem Umsohtung was found to have a strong outward moist warm draught, as did Moonrise cave (Krem Mihbnai).

Thomas and Brian walked down from Tagnub to the valley floor. They GPS surveyed the  road from Krem Umsngad to Tagnub and the southwest end of the Litein valley and walked back to camp. They were also informed of Krem Lyngtah in the area.

Saturday 11th February

Mark, Peter and Imogen went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong), which Imogen rigged until she ran out of drill battery power and rope.

Jayne, Henry, Annie, Des remained in camp with illness, Annie processed some data during the day.

J.Rat, Terry and Neil returned to Krem Um Manong 1, continued rigging down short boulder pitches and reached a ten-metre pitch onto a boulder bridge with large drops continuing. 26m was surveyed.

Thomas, Brian and Raplang made an early start, drove down to the Litein river, beyond the tea shop. Then they walked along the base of the ridge slope, GPSing and noted a number of new resurgences. They followed the Shaktiman track coming down from Shnongrim and walked back to camp (7 hours). Another cave was pointed out by Raplang, one third of the way up from the valley, called Krem Sohsylle (previously explored).

Sunday 12th February

Imogen and Henry completed rigging Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and dropped into a chamber at the bottom. They surveyed along the main stream passage at the bottom. Stream passage ongoing. 253m surveyed.

Mark, Des and Annie surveyed Krem Labbit (Kaidong) from the entrance to the chamber at the bottom. Des found a large fossil passage leading out of the chamber. Passage ongoing. 279m surveyed.

J.Rat, Terry and Neil returned to Krem Um Manong 1 and completed rigging down to a canyon passage, via a broken 30m pitch. High level passages were observed which need bolting up to. The cave currently ends with choked rifts in floor, needs digging, which is possible. Draughting out. Cave derigged. 81m surveyed.

Torben and Louise arrived in camp.

Jayne and Peter stayed in camp through illness. Jayne mended some team member’s clothing.

Thomas stayed in camp and worked on the area map.

Monday 13th February

Mark and Annie went to Krem Mihbnai, near Lelad village. They rigged an entrance pitch and then a 70m pitch and found the bottom choked with boulders. No way on could be found despite a strong draft. The cave was derigged. 87m surveyed.

Terry, J.Rat and Jayne went back to Krem Um Manong 1 and retrieved tackle. They then went to Krem Bir 2.The rift entrance could not be fully descended by ladders. A drill battery was lost down the pitch. They then went to Krem Warkhla 2 where J.Rat squeezed through a short laddered rift into a boulder chamber with a massive shaft in the floor. Ongoing lead. They then went to Krem Warkhla 3. Jayne descended a tight rift of 12m, which led to a small pretty chamber with no way on.

Thomas and Peter drove from Shnongrim to the Litein Valley and followed the ridge for 20km. They looked at a valley resurgence Krem Lyngtah, which started as a small 1.5m high passage and progressed to a passage with waist deep water. Probably going.

Imogen, Torben and Henry returned to Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and continued surveying downstream in a NE direction. Many bats were observed. There were also lots of fish of various sizes, including white fish (up to 20 cm). The lead was ongoing. 648m surveyed.

Louise, Neil and Des remained in camp ill.

The rest of the team arrived at 7pm from Shillong and another briefing was held.

Tuesday 14th February

Thomas held another surveying workshop in the morning.

Mark, Fraser and Derek went to Krem Umsohtung at Lelad and rigged a series of short pitches down to a narrow winding rift. Two more short drops led to the head of a canyon where they ran out of rope. 228m were surveyed back to the entrance.

Imogen, Simon, Roger, Torben, Dave, Annie and Lyndsay went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Imogen, Simon, Roger and Lyndsay continued to push and survey downstream to a boulder choke. They found two ongoing leads; a fossil passage leading off at the top of the choke and the stream passage at the bottom going small but strongly draughting. The team also took photographs going in and out. 105m surveyed.

Torben, Dave and Annie went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong)  and surveyed the fossil series from the bottom of “Down with the Thloo”. This was a good size passage continuing with one side passage lead. The main passage intersected a streamway via a steep mud bank. There were three main ways on. A large colony of bats was observed.890m surveyed.

Peter, Kate and Matt went to Krem Lyngtah and surveyed 193m in a resurgence cave involving chest deep wading. Still ongoing.

Hugh, Jayne and Tony B. went to Krem Khuiang and surveyed 256m in a through trip.

J.Rat, Neil, Terry and Henry went to Krem Bir 2, where Henry rigged 35m to a mud filled rift. Neil and Terry were shown Krem Um Manong 3, which choked after a 15m drop and short passage. They then failed to find J.Rat and Henry so returned to camp.

J.Rat and Henry went on to Krem Warkhla 2 where they dug an easier entrance and examined the top of a large shaft. Suspect boulders drove them to the adjacent Krem Warkhla 1 where Henry dropped a 19m pitch into a calcited chamber with no leads.

Thomas, Brian and Shelley walked approx 20km around the North West side of the ridge base. They observed many new coalmines and quarrying operations in the area. Krem Bam Khnai (a protected site) was seen to be in the process of being destroyed by five new coal shafts.

Des, Fiona and Louise remained in camp recovering from illness.

Wednesday 15th February

Mark, Shelley and Hugh went to Krem Umsohtung where Mark continued rigging down several pitches and Hugh and Shelley surveyed behind. They finally intersected what appears to be a horizontal small streamway with upstream and downstream leads and a good draught. 152m surveyed

Neil and J.Rat went back to Krem Warkhla 2 and descended 14m to a 30m blind pot. They then went to Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo where Neil descended down through a tight rift 50m. The cave is ongoing with a good draught.

Three teams returned to Krem Labbit (Khaidong). Annie, Derek and Lyndsay went back to the new streamway and surveyed up and downstream to constrictions in both directions. 335m surveyed.

Imogen, Roger and Dave continued surveying downstream to a sump pool and then up an inlet, which ended in a rift climb requiring bolting. 292m surveyed.

Terry, Torben and Louise continued in the fossil passage to a large boulder choke, which appeared promising and could be pushed. They then pushed an active inlet off the fossil passage, which is ongoing. 790m surveyed.

Fraser, Raplan, Peter and Des went to the Krang area down from the camp and identified pots that had already been dropped. They then finished off the sauna.

Henry and Simon went to Krem Pol Lumthymme and descended the pot to a depth of around 14m where a too-tight constriction was met. 18m of passage surveyed. They then went spot-holing and took GPS readings on two nearby sites, Pol Lumthymme Doline and Lyntan Thiew both of which offered limited prospects.

Tony B and Jayne went to Lost World doline and confirmed that there is no passable underground connection between Um Im 5 and Um Im 6 and also that the Um Im 6 entrance is the lowest point in the doline.

Thomas stayed in camp and worked on the surface map. Brian stayed in camp to work on his report.

Kate, Matt and Fiona returned to Krem Lyngtah and surveyed to a boulder collapse/aven(?), there is a possible way on but they considered it too dangerous. 186m surveyed.

Thursday 16th February

After a night of extremely heavy rain (4 or 5”) during which the camp roof proved to be not totally watertight (!) everyone and everything was wet; the day was spent huddling in the dining area and adding tarpaulins to the roof. The sauna tarps also had to be redeployed.  The rain continued throughout the day but spirits remained high, while beer stocks fell dramatically.

Friday 17th February

There was more rain, lightning and even hail on Thursday night but the reinforced camp fared much better and Friday dawned dry and reasonably bright.  Gear was laid out to dry and teams left on the following trips:

Brian and Fraser started from Litein teashop and walked round to the base of the ridge documenting the destruction of Shnongrim Karst areas by indiscriminate illegal mining. At the request of Brian, Fraser took film and still photos of the devastation.

Kate, Derek and Hugh went partway down Krem Umsohtung on a photo trip.

J.Rat and Neil went to Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo, over the ridge from Krem Bir.  They GPS’d the entrance and marked it on the map.  They continued rigging past the previous limit and down two more pitches to a wet boulder choke and a squeeze through boulders to the head of a 30m pitch.

Terry, Torben and Louise went on a surface recce around Krem Pohjingtep and located a small subsidiary sink. They searched various closed depressions and found Field Pot, an open shaft. They followed a stream downhill and noted some minor karst features. A fissure cave was noted halfway up the escarpment on their return.

Annie, Mark and Henry went down Shyien Khlieh and Henry bolted up an aven at the end of Use Dipper at Night; he reached a big ledge about 10m up but the aven carried on up at least 40m.  They took some photos in the main passage, and then rigged the connection to the parallel streamway; once there they investigated the downstream sump/boulder choke, but found no way on.

Roger, Tom and Peter went round from the cement factory on a surface survey covering about 5km, continuing Tom’s survey of the ridge.

Imogen remained in camp with tiredness.

Semassi - Simon, Dave, Fiona, Matt, Tony B, Jayne and Lyndsay set off Semasi to stay in the IB for a few days and continue the exploration of Krem Tyngheng.  Late afternoon all went into Nummalite Boulevard where passage details were drawn in and photos taken. In the evening the group were accommodated at IB with food arranged in the village.

Saturday 18th February

Mark, Annie, Peter and Henry went down Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and investigated the mother and father of all boulder chokes. No way through could be found, although they pushed approximately 30m into it. They then returned to the entrance, taking photos along the way.

Roger, Imogen and Derek went to Kneewrecker 2, some small passages that broke into a canyon and series of short pitches. They dropped into the lovin’ it, labbit passage and surveyed out. 163m surveyed.

Torben, Louise, Hugh and Kate went to the upstream passage in Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and continued surveying the upstream inlet. They were stopped by a muddy climb and calcite blockage. 352m surveyed.

Des, J.Rat and Neil went into Liat Prah to the end of video passage. They bolted and climbed about 5m into a 60m draughting sandy crawl, ending at a solid boulder choke. Dye was put in the stream.

Terry remained in camp drawing surveys. Fraser remained in camp ill. 

Semassi; Simon Lyndsay and Matt went into downstream wet series where they drew passage detail along old survey and surveyed 68m of new passage.

Tony B, Dave and Fiona went to chocolate passage to explore un-pushed leads and surveyed 228m.

Raplang remained in Semassi securing beer supplies, transport opportunities and locations of previously unknown caves.

Jayne returned to camp not feeling well.

Sunday 19th February

 

Peter, Annie, and Hugh went looking for a reported sinkhole in the Wah Sapoh area and ended up bashing through thick jungle lapiaz eventually finding a 20m deep pot with a stream crossing the bottom: Krem Gerald Hubmayr. They also found a sink once out of the jungle, Parrot Sink.

Mark and Des spent the day in camp entering a spectacular amount of data and drawing up surveys.

Tom and Brian completed their survey of the base of the ridge with the section around Umthe.

Henry, Roger, Imogen, Torben, Louise and Derek went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Henry and Roger pushed the back of the choke below the big pitch, looking for upstream passage, but the choke was impassable. Henry then went to downstream, where he bolted into two high level passages.  One didn’t go and the other went into a bat-filled boulder choke (Labbit choke), which remains unpushed.  He then met up with Roger and Imogen. 101m surveyed.

Torben, Louise and Derek went to the fossil passage in and looked at two side passages on the left (as you go in), pushing one near the big stal column 350m from the pitch; this yielded 265m which was surveyed, and is still going.  The other is about 200m further on and still needs pushing (a wet crawl!)

Terry, Kate and Shelley went to Krem Umsohtung and pushed upstream as far as a wet 5m climb. then they went from a small chamber in the streamway up a boulder slope through a mud crawl to a chamber with a draughting aven just round the corner; another possible lead goes off here but is not brilliant.  401m surveyed.

J.Rat, Neil and Fraser continued rigging and surveying Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo to intersect a huge active stream passage at about 100m depth. They surveyed a couple of hundred metres upstream and were delighted not to have to kiss any more frogs!

Semassi; Simon, Lyndsay and Matt returned to the leads in the downstream wet section of Krem Tyngeng where they surveyed 430m with many leads remaining.

Tony B, Dave, Jayne and Fiona returned to chocolate passage where they finished remaining leads before going to dry section to continue surveying 184m.

Lyndsay, Dave and Simon videoed the main streamway.

Monday 20th February

Torben, Louise and Peter went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and pushed the crawl near the big stal in the fossil passage, surveyed c250m, still going.

Roger, Henry and Imogen went back to Kneewrecker 2 to bolt into the daylight shaft, where locals accidentally started dropping trees down on them. The shaft had a flat gravel bottom with no leads (c40m deep). They continued to the downstream boulder choke and found no way on.

Tom remained in camp and continued work on the area map and surveys.

Kate, Hugh and Des spent the day organizing all the first aid kits for underground and camps.

J.Rat, Neil and Shelley went to Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo and surveyed upstream for 223m. On the way out Shelley suffered back problems, which delayed their exit.

Terry, Brian and Derek and Fraser were dropped off at the Letein teashop and walked to Sumer. They were given information on the location of several caves. They recce’d the area and Derek spotted one resurgence.

Mark and Annie went to Krem Shyein Khlieh and explored the limit of the parallel upstream passage (Yvo’s boring passage). The end was found to be a too tight rift. A nearby side passage was pushed through a duck into ca. 200m of interesting inlet, ending at an impressive aven with Cappadoccian style mud pillars. They derigged the cave.

Semassi; Tony B, Matt, Jayne and Fiona remained on the surface and failed to relocated entrance to Krem Kdong Semassi

Simon, Lyndsay and Dave collected a bamboo maypole from the cave entrance and went to the high level passage nearby, where access was gained to 240m of fine passage. This led to a new entrance. The maypole was carried to another high level passage where 40m was surveyed.

That afternoon all returned to the Shnongrim camp.


Krem Shyein Khlieh

Tuesday 21st February

Mark, Thomas, Peter and Torben went to Wah Shikar area. They looked for a cave nearby reported by Raplang, without finding anything other than a rising stream. A local man showing them to another flooded rift in the Iawe direction. They then went up the climb in Wah Shikar to the 2005 extensions but found the short wet section sumped. Mark dug through boulders above to get through but they were stopped by extra mud fill at the former flat out mud crawl. They therefore excited, helping Torben with video en route.

Hugh, Des, and Fiona went to Wah Sapoh area. Whilst looking around for a sink entrance, they followed a dry streambed upstream and some locals showed them to an entrance – Krem Wah Um Bloh. They then hitched back from Lelad in a “pimped up” Maruti.

Jrat, Neil, Fraser and Imogen went down Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo and surveyed downstream. A boulder choke in a large boulder filled chamber was passed into a swimming phreatic passage continuing.

Simon, Dave, Louise, Terry, Matt and Derek went to Krem Umsohtung. Simon, Dave, and Louise investigated the climb at the upstream end of the cave.  This was free climbed to reach a larger and very muddy passage (named the ‘Village Shitter Passage’) where 79m of passage were surveyed to reach a calcite impasse. They then went to the aven at the end of the Boulder Chamber side passage, which was climbed using bolts by Dave to reach a short inlet passage ending in a high aven. 26m of passage surveyed. Terry, Matt and Derek pushed downstream and after lots of crawling reached main stream ( Master Cave!) passage/main drain. 206m surveyed.

Kate, Annie and Henry went to the crawl in Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and after c30m they found survey stations and connected with Krem Umim 6, via the previously explored Shnongrim Subway (dug open from above in 2004).

Tony B and Jayne remained in camp kit fettling.

Wednesday 22nd February

Tony B and Jayne went to re-GPS Krem Ticha, the resurgence for Umthloo, and we now have an accurate GPS position.  It took them three hours to get there through the jungle but only an hour and a quarter to get back on the Shaktiman track.

Des, Fiona and Hugh went back to Krem Wah Um Bloh, rigging down the wet ‘Pimp my Maruti’ pitch and gained a dry parallel shaft. The water in the already very wet entrance rose during the trip and they came out before getting to the bottom of the pitch. Today’s hitchhike back was on two Shaktimans.

Imogen, Annie and Louise had a girly trip in the entrance series of Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and found another pitch which probably drops into the main chamber. They also surveyed an inlet, which led to another entrance, approximately 20m from the original one; 156m were surveyed in all. On emerging, Annie was surprised to find herself being filmed for TV by the press who had come up from Shillong with Brian for the night; but she has settled into stardom quite well.

Terry drew up surveys in camp and then took the film crew and newspaper reporters to Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Simon, Dave and Torben descended Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and, working from the base of the main pitch, explored and surveyed several unpushed leads along the fossil passage.  513m were surveyed, including a new streamway

Mark, Roger and Matt went to Krem Umsohtung and surveyed upstream in the main passage, to a choke where a calcite climb may yield a way on. They then surveyed a side passage loop, took some photos and exited the cave 660m surveyed.  They were invited into a house in Lelad for tea and betelnut before returning to camp.

Peter and Kate went down Snowman’s Pot into Krem Liat Prah; Peter bolted up a climb next to some beautiful red flowstone into a small tube decorated with calcite but only 11m long.

Jrat, Neil and Henry went down Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo and surveyed the downstream continuation for 250m into a very large boulder choke; this was pushed for 50m or so.  Another trip is needed to complete the survey and investigate the choke further.

A bottle of whisky was given to Thomas for his hard work on the data and a party went on late into to the night with the whole team and press.

Thursday 23rd February 2006

The Semassi team departed. Tony B, Simon, Dave and Kate went to Krem Tngheng and using the bamboo maypole left in the cave, they explored the remaining high level side passages in the main river passage. These all proved very short. They then went to the fossil river series where Tony B, Dave and Kate surveyed 69m in the high rift passage and Simon added passage detail to the previous years survey skeleton.

Imogen, Annie, Louise, Torben, Derek and Lyndsay went back to Krem Labbit (Khaidong). A voice connection was made from the pitchhead found the previous day (above the main pitch) and the main chamber. A new rift passage was also discovered but not explored. The team then went to the far end of the cave. Imogen Annie and Louise spent 45mins digging a muddy crawl that was heading towards Krem Shreih. The crawl, however, was too difficult to dig and less than 1m progress was made, before being abandoned. Imogen, Annie and Derek then went to push downstream in the new streamway. This was pushed 74m through two collapses and a duck to a third collapse which was unstable and could not be pushed.

Louise, Torban and Lyndsay hammered the far end of QuickMud passage into a passage, which choked again in calcite. This was draughting strongly and would require chiseling. The passage was heading towards the undescended shaft of Krem Chuni.

Mark, Roger and Terry went downstream in Krem Umsohtung, which choked after 200m. They then climbed the calcite above the upstream main passage choke, but found no way on. They then completed some side passage loops. 380m surveyed.

Jrat and Neil remained in camp, drawing up and resting.

Matt, Jayne and Des remained in camp recovering from various ailments.

Hugh, Fiona and Peter went to Krem Gerald Hubmayr, which descended 17m to around 30m of well-decorated passage, ending at a choke. 65m surveyed. 

Fraser accompanied the Shillong film crew to Shnongrim, where they met the headman and went to the Durba. They then collected Henry and Brian from the camp and went to Krem Labbit for some filming. The filmcrew then returned to Shillong in the late afternoon with Thomas.

Friday 24th February

Jrat, Neil, Roger and Mark pushed and surveyed downstream in Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo into a small chamber with four ways on. The first followed the streamway to a choke. The second led to a large chamber ending in breakdown. Both the third and fourth choked. They surveyed 450m.

Hugh, Des, Peter and Terry went down Krem Wah Um Bloh and finished rigging the parallel shaft, now wet (named Shaktiman surfing). At the bottom the stream sinks through a boulder choke which was followed for 30m until no way on could be found. The cave was then derigged. 64m surveyed.

Henry and Annie went to Kneewrecker2 and derigged. Annie then spent the afternoon drawing up survey, while Henry washed ropes.

Fraser, Fiona Brian and Jayne went first to Ladrymbai to drop off Torban and Louise, who were leaving. They then went to Lumshnong to document the Limestone Quarrying and the caves Krem Kharasniang, Krem Um Lawan and Krem Um Kseh at risk from this activity. They then returned to Ladrymbai to collect David and the food.

Imogen and Derek returned to Krem Labbit (Khaidong). They surveyed Henry’s high level bat chamber phreatic tube to a boulder collapse with no way on; they then derigged the bolt climb. They then went and pushed a crawl off Disto Inferno, which went for 60m to breakdown. After this, they pushed an upstream inlet, which ended in a 10m duck, which Imogen went through into a boulder choke which draughts. This was not pushed further and is potentially ongoing. 120m surveyed in total.

Semassi, (Krem Tngheng): Simon, Tony B, Dave, Dale and Kate surveyed 522m in the complex wet series named the TipeeToe Canals. Two major swimming leads were left open. Matt walked down from the ridge, left his gear at the I.B. and joined the teams in the cave. He then spent the afternoon bug collecting.

Saturday 25th February

Mark, Terry, Henry, Roger and Fraser did some photography in Krem Labbit (Khaidong). They investigated the last remaining side passage in the upstream, which went to a very small duck after less than 40m.

Peter, Annie and Derek rigged Krem Chuni near Khaidong and after an interesting 50m calcite lined pitch, enlarged a calcite squeeze to connect with Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Brian, Des, Fiona and Hugh went to the Letein teashop and were shown two new sites to the north. They arranged a guide from Moulasgni for the following day.

Jrat, Imogen and Neil went into Umthloo and pushed a low crawl to gain some walking passage. 79m surveyed.

Jayne remained in camp resting her back injury.

Semassi, (Krem Tngheng): Simon, Kate and Dale surveyed some drier leads off the TipeeToe Canals after which they moved to the fossil river series, where passage detail was added to the old skeletons. They then surveyed some of the leads in the fossil river series before running out of time. 379m surveyed with over 30 unpushed leads remaining.

Tony B, Dave and Matt pushed the swimming leads in the TipeeToe Canals until coldness forced a retreat. 276m surveyed.

Sunday 26th February

Mark, Fraser, Roger and Henry went upstream in Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo where they pushed the boulder choke without finding any way through. Henry enlarged some calcite squeezes with a similar lack of success. The team then took some photos on the way out.

Jrat and Imogen descended Krem Chuni and went through the connection to Krem Labbit (Khaidong) where they collected some biological samples and derigged the main pitch in Labbit on the way out.

Peter, Annie and Derek descended Krem Chuni and surveyed from the Krem Labbit (Khaidong) connection up a blind calcite climb. They left a crawling passage ongoing and surveyed the pitch. 131m surveyed.

Brian, Hugh, Des and Terry went to Moolasgni on the eastern flank of the ridge, north of the tea shop. With their guide, Ekna, they went past a circle of monoliths/fort to a valley to the north, where they located ten sites, including another Krem Labbit. The third shaft to Labbit was c50m deep with mist blowing out. They then took some photos at Krem Labbit (Shnongrim) for Brian’s report.

Jayne and Fiona remained in camp.

Semassi: The team managed to borrow a Shaktiman from the 2004 headman, Bgind Paslein, and accompanied by the Semassi guide Gripbymon Dkhar drove to the villages of Pala and Kseh on reconnaissance. The impressive entrance of Krem Labbit (for a change) was visited along with Krem Bliat, both look to have excellent prospects. They returned to Semassi and then walked back up to the ridge to the waiting jeep.

Monday 27th February

Mark and Neil took some photos in the entrance series of Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo then derigged the cave.

Matt, Henry, Terry, Simon, Hugh, Peter, Kate and Fiona went down Krem Umsohtung.

Matt, Henry and Terry surveyed the cross rift in the crab passage, upstream led beyond a wet section to ongoing inlet, downstream was also left ongoing. 230m surveyed.

Simon, Hugh and Peter took photographs in the crab passage and downstream main passage.

Kate and Fiona pushed an upstream side passage left ongoing in walking size. 191m surveyed.

The cave was derigged.

Jrat, Fraser, Brian, Imogen and Dave went to Krem Ksar and Krem Khangbru, where they played with the boat, did some video and surveyed 172m.

Annie, Derek and Roger went down Krem Chuni and finished the crawl. They surveyed 66m and derigged the cave.

Tony, Des and Jayne remained in camp.

Tuesday 28th February

Mark, Simon, Annie, Roger, Imogen, Peter, Fiona, Tony B, Jayne, Brian and Dale returned to Shillong in two sumos. Despite some traffic jams they were back in time for Shelley and Maxwell’s engagement ceremony and the following party.

Jrat, Terry and Henry went to Krem Labbit 3 (Moolasgni) and dropped a 90m open shaft into a large streamway. They surveyed 650m leaving ten open leads. They also identified the green dye thought to be coming from video passage in Liat Prah. The cave is thought to head for Krem Rubong.

Terry returned to camp to delay the pickup, giving the surveyors extra time.

Des and Dave derigged Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Hugh and Raplang went to a new shaft near the camp and GPS’d it.

Matt, Neil, Kate, Derek remained in camp washing ropes and packing up.

Wednesday 1st March

Peter, Annie, Roger and Fiona went on a sightseeing tour to Cherrapunjee and Laitkynsew whilst the other people in Shillong sorted gear and data.

The remaining team on the ridge broke camp and travelled back to Shillong, via the Nartiang monuments.

Thursday 2nd March

The team sorted and catalogued equipment, and bought souvenirs in Shillong. There followed a party hosted by the Tourist board at the Pinewood Hotel, with beer sponsored by Mohan Meakins. An afterparty at Robin Laloo’s house continued until the early hours.

Friday 3rd March

Terry left for Cherrapunjee with Dennis.

The main team travelled to Gauhati by Sumo, where Imogen, Neil and Henry left for further traveling and the main group flew to Calcutta.


Fermanagh 2006

Chris Jewell

Rich Bayfield, Andy Kuzyk, Charlotte Harris, Rich Beer and myself (some of the BEC youth) went to Fermanagh in Northern Ireland for a long weekend of caving.

A couple of years earlier I’d been to Mallorca on a caving and canyoning trip with a large contingent of Irish cavers and when I met one of them in the Hunters in September I thought it was about time I went and did some caving over there.

So I emailed the group (the yahoo mailing list was still working) and Stephen McCullagh got straight back to me with an invite to come caving in Fermanagh. He also told us about staying in Agnahoo if we felt brave. As it was going to be a BEC trip I thought an old stone cottage in the middle of the countryside with no electricity and no running water was perfect!!

The others got flights from Bristol whilst I flew from Luton on Thursday night and we all met in Belfast Airport at about 10.30pm. After a quick food pit stop we headed for the countryside of Fermanagh. Finding the way turning to Agnahoo in the rain in the middle of the night was a bit tricky but finally we were sat in front of warm fire drinking baileys (from duty free) and eating flap jacks (provided by Rich Bayfield’s girlfriend). We all then bedded down in the front room after deciding that at 0 degrees it was too cold to sleep upstairs.

Friday morning dawned bright but cold and we headed off to Enniskillen to do our shopping for the week. After stocking up on wood coal, Tea lights, plenty of food and booze we had a late breakfast and packed up for Prods Pot. Charlotte was trying to find creative ways of avoiding caving and suggested various ‘warmer’ alternatives but I was having no dissention in the ranks and we headed off to get underground at about 3pm.

Whilst we kitted up Charlotte made lots of jokey remarks about forgetting kit and not having to go underground as she got changed. But when we were finally ready she was actually looking forward to the trip which made it somewhat ironic when at the entrance to the cave she assembled her SRT kit to discover she’d left her Croll at Agnahoo! We did actually feel sorry for her but I also hope she’s learnt not to tempt fate!

Prods, with its narrow pitches was an excellent introduction to Irish caving and the final pitch complete with boulder squeeze is a good bit of fun. At the bottom the four of us ditched our kits and headed off down stream, checking out several very muddy side passages on the way. We finally turned around above a narrow foam filled canal before heading quickly out.

Back at Agnahoo team slick got into action – whilst I improvised kit storage and ‘drying’ facilities, Andy and Rich Beer started on dinner, Charlotte lit a fire and Rich Bayfield de-knotted ropes. Soon we were all sat in front of the fire sipping beer, shovelling down a delicious curry and feeling pretty good about ourselves. Not long after one of our hosts – Steve Macnamara arrived and the six of us had a cosy night around the fire swapping caving stories. Poor Steve has to be commended for his patience with Charlotte, who was so fascinated by his Irish accent she imitated it badly several times – with the rest of us glaring at her and me poking her in the ribs.

The next day Steve had arranged to take us caving and we packed for Noon’s Hole. However knowing how wet it was we were prepared for an alternative which Steve knew about. The water pouring down Noon’s was orange with mud so we made the smart decision to go to Pollaraftara instead. Steve chatted to the Farmer to get permission whilst we kept back and stayed quiet (he doesn’t like English people) then we trekked through a boggy field over the entrance. This was an excellent river cave and we enjoyed ourselves for over an hour or so before we reached a deep canal. Rich Bayfield volunteered to see how far he could get but after 30m or so he was out of his depth and had to struggle against the flow back to us. This cut our trip short but what we did see was excellent and I’d love to go back and do some more of the cave.

Steve left us that night but back in Enniskillen we met the other Steve - Stephen McCullagh in the pub for our first Guinness of the trip. Back in Agnahoo after dinner more booze was consumed and the conversation became seriously weird with a discussion of favourite S.I. units led by Rich Beer and Andy (who wasn’t drinking!!).

The following day a trip was arranged for Rich Bayfield, Andy and myself (the others went walking) to Shannon cave - which has an interesting history: In 1980 the Reyfad Group opened up the Shannon entrance and explored downstream, passing George’s Choke in 1990. Beyond the choke they discovered several hundred metres of cave terminating in an un-dived sump. Only half a dozen groups have ever seen this section of cave as George’s Choke was extremely unstable (frequently falling in) and the entrance to Shannon finally collapsed in the mid 90’s. In 2005 both Steve’s, Les Brown and a team of diggers finally broke into Shannon from a previously unconnected cave – Polltullyard.

More recently they have been working on getting back through George’s choke and have carried a great deal of scaffold bar to stabilise the route through. We went down with Steve to have a look at the work done and have a look at some of his other leads.

A fine pitch in Polltullyard leads to some low crawling and then the connection tube/squeeze. Beyond here the cave opens up, firstly to some traversing, then to a pleasant stroll past fine formations before reaching the streamway. The cave continues in fine style and proportions – occasionally being interrupted by small squeezes or boulder chokes. We reached George’s choke without incident and had a look at the team’s work – which is very impressive – before going to do a bit of exploring of our own. Steve showed us to Agnahoo chamber where they have started to set up a campsite. We were very impressed with all of this, it seemed that not many people had been here and there were lots of possibilities. After a bit of poking around Andy K and Rich Bayfield went up a climb and through a squeeze, which the more recent explorers hadn’t seen. This led to a short crawl and a chamber, which doesn’t appear on the survey so Steve was pretty pleased. Whilst we were having a bit of a dig in one of the leads Rich and Andy went to get some tools from Georges choke. They hadn’t been gone long when they came quickly back with the news that the water (which was ankle deep when we went in) was now waist deep!

We quickly shot out of the dig and back up the stream way. There are several places where you need to stoop down in the streamway to pass by boulders and these all played on our minds as we headed our – the last thing we wanted was to spend the night underground! Fortunately we got out with just a couple of ducks to pass and were soon on the surface in the cold evening air. Shannon really hit a note with all of us – it felt like Daren Cilau must of when they started to camp – full of potential! And we all talked excitedly about doing long weekend trips to Ireland to help with exploration.

On our last night we sat round a roaring hot fire in t-shirts feeling great about our four days in Ireland and planning a return. I thoroughly recommend going caving in this excellent region.    


Bloody Students !!!!, or  THE C.H.E.C.C. SEMINAR and PARTY 2006.

Part 1 the build up

The day after the A.G.M., I saw a poster on the Belfry notice board announcing the C.H.E.C.C. annual Seminar and Party, the latter of which was to be a Barbie held at the Belfry, organised by Our newly appointed Tackle Master, Chris Jewell. I decided to let Him know that,” I have a contact at a catering supply company”, and, if required, I would be able to supply the majority of the food needed for the Barbie at trade price. After all, one way or another, it would be of benefit to the B.E.C.  He, on behalf of the C.H.E.C.C., accepted……………Thus; the Can of Worms was opened.

A few weeks passed, e-mails whizzed between Chris and myself, (and, I presume between Chris and the C.H.E.C.C. Committee), a shopping list was agreed on, and the preliminary figure of 200 odd Students was revised down to around 150. (Hmmmm, I’d been told “At least 200”, that Can of worms just may be turning into a Bucket!!).

“ Was there anything else you want me to sort out”, I foolishly asked. “Well”, came the reply, “There’s the Bread rolls and Baps, and the Charcoal”, (Charcoal!!!!, where the bloody hell am I going to get charcoal from at this time of the year, Yep, definitely a Bucket!),

As it turned out, the charcoal was easy to get, Halloween and Nov.5th having just passed, and, having asked Henry Bennett about the amount used at the summer party, I decided to buy a lot.

Next, the bread. I ordered those through My Brother in Law, a Manager at the local Sainsbury’s…….(Cool, back to a can again!).

Then the Barbeque Stuff. The order was duly phoned through to My suppliers, but, the new secretary, God bless Her Cotton Brain, could not process the order, because, She Said, (a)“ Cash Customer” wasn’t recognised by the Computer, and, (b) She couldn’t give me a total price for the order anyway, because….See point (a).

Therefore, I could not have anything,  “Sorry”.

(The can then bypassed the bucket stage, and went directly to “45 Gallon Drum, brim full of the wriggling little Buggers).

Just then, the owner of the company (My Contact) joined into the conversation, and, realising who it was that was just about to get the shaft, sorted the whole thing out. (back to a can, again, and a small one at that). 

On the Thursday, 23rd picked up the rolls, on Friday 24th, left work, went to my suppliers, picked up the food, drove down to Mendip. Left the Can in Northampton

Part 2. The Party.

The weekend kicked off on a miserable, wet, Friday night, with a Fancy dress Party at The Hunters, that saw hoards of students in the back room, looking like refugees from The Rocky Horror Show. After that everyone adjourned to the Belfry for a few more beers………….well, the best part of two barrels actually.

On arrival at the Belfry, a grinning J-Rat, agog at the scenes of drunken revelry proclaimed, “Ahhhhh, this is what the Belfry used to be like on a Friday Night.

No argument from me there.

Saturday saw the much-threatened rain and high winds happily fail to materialise, The Caving God’s it seemed were smiling on Us. Preparations went along smoothly. The Marquee’s went up, Ivan’s giant Barbeque arrived, along with His giant Speakers, the sound and lighting systems were set up without a hitch, and, that food that needed any preparation was duly prepared (note: the best way to peel and chop a net full of Onions is to arm 3 students with knives, and point them at said onions and tell them to get too it…Oh, its good to be the king!), Dany “Chef” Bradshaw also started to cook up the B.B.Q. Beans, and then, with a little “encouragement” from Mad Phil. the fire was lit.

About 9 p.m. the food was served. Over the next hour or so, the cooks did sterling work. Hannah Bell, Henry Bennett, Dany Bradshaw, and Ian Gregory, cooked and served nearly 200 portions, in conditions that varied between freezing cold to scorching heat. With the masses all fed, the catering staff adjourned to the party tent.

The sounds were great, the light show too, the beer flowed freely and everyone had a great time in the tent, until 12:30, when, due to noise restrictions, the throng migrated inside.

Inside the Belfry was a sight to behold. There was drinking, singing, dancing, on the floor and on “The” Table. There was a great mass of happy, half naked, yes that’s right, half naked people who’s only concern was to have a damn good time, They all seemed to have succeeded…….and all TO EXCESS. 

Part 3, some “Excessive statistics”.

For the Anoraks amongst You, here are some statistics.

Over the course of the weekend the following was consumed.

 56 Kg. of Lumpwood Charcoal. (& 5 pints of “Encouragement”)
 192 ¼ lb. Burgers.
 50 Veggie Burgers.
 160 12” Jumbo Sausages.
 1.4 kg. of  Cheese Burger slices. (not nearly enough)
 5.4 kg. of Bakes Beans.
 4 kg. of Coleslaw.
 4 kg. of Potato Salad.
 1.5 litres of Barbeque Sauce.
 4.5 litres of Tomato Ketchup.
 ½ litre of Chilli Sauce.
 ¼ litre Garlic Sauce
 320 Bread Rolls. (160 each Burger Baps & Jumbo Hot Dog Rolls.)
 10 kg. of  Onions.
 10 kg. of Mixed Green Salad.
 7 Barrels of Butcombe (504 pints !!!!)
 an Unknown amount of Spirits.

 And, last, but not least…….….. 36 Toilet Rolls.

The opinion of all those present that night was that everything went well. Great even.

Both the students and, those Belfry-ites that were there all had a good time.

Thanks go out to all those who pulled together to produce a great party.

Mad Phil Roswell, Hannah Bell, Dany Bradshaw, Chris Jewell, Henry Bennett, Jane Clarke our Illustrious Hut warden, The Trustees of the B.E.C. for allowing it all to take place, The Butcombe Brewery, and the C.H.E.C.C. for choosing the Belfry as their venue this year

Yes, in the best traditions of the B.E.C.

IF SOMETHING’S WORTH DOING, IT’S WORTH DOING TO EXCESS.

Ian “Slug” Gregory.


Rose Cottage Cave - Three Months Hard Labour

Tony Jarratt

“Digging in caves needs considerable dedication, an utter disregard for discomfort, and nerves of steel.”

Bruce L. Bedford, Challenge Underground, 1975.

Continued from B.B.s 522-526. (These articles are penned in order to provide a historical record of the work put into the exploration of Rose Cottage Cave and to illustrate the repetitive and generally unexciting effort expended by the team - not as considered literary efforts!).

Further Digging 12/9/06 - 13/12/06

At the Surface Shaft Dig T.J. filled ten bags with gravelly clay on the 12th September and hauled 1 to surface. Digging continued next day when T.J, S.H. and W.U. removed 50 loads. Meanwhile, somewhere below them, P.H, J.B, H.D, P.C. and A.V. worked frantically in the Halfway Dig to open up a series of tiny but promising voids and even further towards the Earth’s centre laboured H.B. and B.S. as they smashed up a rock pillar and drilled three shot-holes at Plan B Dig. A view into the ongoing rift and the presence of a strong outward draught provided encouragement tonight. A solo trip in the Surface Shaft on the 15th saw another thirteen bags filled with 1 hauled out. The calcite false floor in the ceiling was removed to reveal more mud and the conglomerate-like calcited gravel at the face was found to be akin to rock in its consistency and a sod to dig out. Next day N.U, T.J. and T.H. (the manly hunks) cleared 50 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig, briefly assisted by J.C, A.V. and F.C. (the girlies) on their return from Halfway Dig where they had filled fifteen bags. On the 17th our token Australian digger was ex-BEC member Steve Milner – now a C.E.G.S.A. man. He joined T.J, A.V. and H.B. to liberate another 36 bags of spoil from the Surface Shaft Dig. In the afternoon the team admired R.W. and T.A.’s efforts on the continuing ginging operations. Work at both sites continued on the 20th when S.H, B.O, T.J, H.B. and A.V. dug and hauled out 60 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig – now very roomy and phenomenally easy to excavate - while J.B, J.N, P.C. and T.M. dug and dumped 10 loads from Halfway Dig before becoming uninspired by its potential and frustrated by the lack of stacking space.

Inspired by the comfort of the Surface Shaft Dig T.J. returned on the 21st September to fill twenty bags in an hour and the following evening he was joined by H.B, A.V. and N.U. who continued digging and eventually hauled another 60 loads to the surface. The nature of the passage had now changed from a narrow, steeply dipping rift to a phreatic bedding plane with the in-filled rift above but still descending at the same angle. An apparent floor of calcited cobbles and slabs on top of bedrock provided an attractive feature, which will be washed off at some future point. H.B. and N.U, now firmly hooked, were back the following morning to dig and haul out 32 loads and report that they had unearthed several large rock slabs that needed breaking up. Next day, the 24th September, T.J. did an early morning trip to fill eleven bags and haul 1 out, returning in the afternoon with T.H, P.B. and J.N. to shift another 34 while J.B. and P.C. dug 8 loads from the Halfway Dig, which again looked promising. A one shot-hole charge was fired in a slab in the Surface Shaft Dig and the resulting debris, 11 skip loads, came out next day when the morning shift was A.V, T.J. and T.A. The latter also took photos and measured the underground rift climb at 5 metres. Another one shot-hole charge was fired in a second boulder. After lunch the walling team continued with their project and put up with the post-Hunters’ audience on this fine, warm day.

N.U, on a solo visit to Surface Shaft dig on the 26th September, filled five bags and found that there was considerable bedding-plane development to the NW below the rift climb. This was enlarged next day when he returned with T.J. and S.H. to remove 36 loads. The latter took lots of record images of the dig. At Halfway Dig J.B, P.C, A.V, J.C. and T.M. dug and (miraculously) dumped another 21 loads, finding the going easy in loose, clean rocks and the way on apparently downwards. H.B. and H.D, fresh from their explosives users’ course, laid a four shot-hole 12gm cord charge at Plan B Dig, which was later fired by the Halfway team as they left the cave. J.B. was back at Halfway Dig on the 28th when he filled a dozen bags and he did more work the following day in company with P.C. and J.C. while T.J. and A.V. removed 12 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig and installed improved vacuum piping. Hammering in this dig could be, unsurprisingly, distinctly heard in Mt. Hindrance Lane – the entrance passage of Rose Cottage Cave proper.

October 1st saw T.H. and T.J. removing 17 loads of mainly broken rock and a one shot-hole 12gm cord charge fired in the Surface Shaft Dig while J.C, J.B. and P.C. continued burrowing away at Halfway Dig. Next day the bang was found to have been ineffectual so J.C. and T.J. spent some time hammering at rocks and calcited gravel in an attempt to establish the way on in the Surface Shaft Dig. The more easily dig-able “Inlet Tube” on the right seemed to be the best bet, though a trifle cosy. Halfway Dig was visited by J.B. on the 7th when six bags were filled and lots of cobbles removed until light pox stopped play. Next day B.E.C. dinner survivors T.H. and Nick Gymer removed 5 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig and walling here was continued by the latter, T.A. and R.W. on the 9th.

H.B, H.D. and J.C. cleared and drilled eight shot-holes at Plan B Dig on the 11th and were pleased to report that stones thrown forwards into the rift dropped for an estimated 3 metres. Their colleagues, P.H, J.N, J.B. and P.C. meanwhile worked at Halfway Dig until bad air surprisingly drove them to the Pub. (Five other regulars had been dragged northwards for an intensive week’s holiday digging in Rana Hole, Assynt, Scotland). Two of these, T.J. and P.B. were back on site with J.C. and T.H. on the 16th when five of the Plan B Dig shot-holes were charged and fired, Halfway Dig inspected and another, three hole charge fired in the Surface Shaft Dig. 6 loads were hauled out from here by J.W. using his good arm and glad to be back in the swing of things after smashing his collar bone up in a cycling accident. The spoil from this bang was cleared next day by T.J. and J.N. when about fifteen loads were filled and stacked. In the afternoon R.W. and T.A. brought the wall up to surface level and debated on how to finish it off; concrete pipe or stonework?

The 18th October saw another three teams at work. 10 loads came out from the Surface Shaft Dig where F.C, N.U. and T.J. dug in the Inlet Tube and laid a three shot-hole charge at the face. At Halfway Dig P.B. and P.C. dug onwards in a sandier infill until poor air drove them out. H.B, H.D. and P.H. descended to Plan B Dig to drill and fire a seven shot-hole charge after finding that three of the last holes had been ineffective, having blown out. P.B. and T.J. continued with both digs in the Surface Shaft on the 22nd when 17 loads reached the surface and much more was left bagged below. A monstrous rock kept P.B. occupied for a while but he triumphed eventually. Pete Eckford assisted with hauling. J.N, P.C. and J.B. meanwhile struggled on in the airless conditions of Halfway Dig. More work took place in the Surface Shaft Dig next day when J.N. opened up an encouraging small airspace in the floor dig and T. J. fired a two shot-hole charge to gain easier access to this. The Inlet Tube was found to be issuing a trickle of water, hinting at its possible origin in Bored of the Rings. Many more bags were filled. In the afternoon the dedicated wallers pressed on before the weather broke. The bang debris in Surface Shaft Dig was cleared by T.J. on the 25th while H.B. and P.H. cleared much of that from Plan B Dig in poor air conditions. Two days later the air was better and H.B. and Ernie White continued clearing before drilling a four shot-hole charge, which they fired on the way out. At the same time J.B. dug at Halfway and also reported better air conditions after opening up an area of airspaces and large boulders in the floor. Up in the Surface Shaft Dig T.J. and Andy Norman moved lots of full bags up to the top ledge, broke up rocks and drilled one shot-hole. A second shot-hole was drilled by T.J. on the 29th while J.C. and F.C. filled all available empty bags with spoil from the Inlet Tube. Another 12gm cord charge was fired. The broken rock was partly cleared next day by D.I. while T.J. took top cave photographer John Forder and his wife Miranda to Aglarond 3  (their trip report and pictures can be found in a recent M.N.R.C. journal) Some clearing was done at Plan B Dig in fumey conditions and Halfway Dig inspected. A single shot-hole charge was then laid and fired in the Surface Shaft Dig. In the afternoon he joined R.W. and T.A. on the walling epic.

November 1st saw the onset of winter at last with much colder weather and a lack of desire for surface hauling. The spoil from the last Surface Shaft Dig bang was cleared by T.J. and lots of bags filled from the Inlet Tube Dig. S.H. arrived later to haul 15 loads to surface where they were emptied behind the new ginging. Previous to this he had assisted J.B, J.N. and P.C. at Halfway Dig where large boulders embedded in the floor presented removal difficulties. H.B. and H.D. cleared most of the remaining spoil from the Plan B Dig bang and drilled eight shot-holes. Despite the dramatic weather change bad air conditions were still prevalent throughout the cave. J.C. and T.J. hauled out 15 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig on the 3rd November and shifted and filled many others. J.B. dug alone at Halfway next day and was encouraged enough to return on the 5th with P.C. and open up various draughting voids between boulders. Meanwhile T.J. and D.B, assisted by H.D. on the surface, removed 27 loads of spoil from the Surface Shaft Dig and another 15 loads were dragged out later that day by T.J, T.H. and P.B. who also filled many more bags from both dig sites. T.J. was back here next day with a hungover H.D. and Robin Sheen of the Burren Crawlers. After hauling out 36 loads they were joined by explosives technician Charlie Adcock, his assistant Ambrose Buchanan and a couple of his northern mining enthusiast mates, Karl Fearn (Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit) and Paul Cheetham. T.J drilled three shot-holes in the roof and floor of the lower dig and A.B. charged them with malleable plastic explosive (actually a commercial bomb filler!) and three detonators wired in series. C.A. used his state-of-the-art exploder to fire this impressive charge and the team retired to the Hunters’ for well-deserved libations. C.A, K.F. and A.B. returned in the afternoon to clear 16 skips of shattered bang debris, which T.J. hauled out while P.Ch. cleaned the drill and R.W. re-arranged the adjacent spoil heaps as part of the walling project.

P.B, H.D, J.C. and Martin Smith were back down the Surface Shaft Dig on the 8th when the rest of the bang spoil was cleared – 25 loads being hauled out by A.V, T.J. and C.A. Two shot-holes were then drilled and another charge of “Charlie’s Special” prepared for future use. H.B, K.F. and A.B. drilled one more shot-hole in Plan B Dig then charged the total of nine holes with more of this powerful explosive connected to “non-el” detonators, firing on the way out after P.C, P.H. and J.N. had completed their shift in Halfway Dig - having revealed a too narrow, descending open rift which itself was begging for the next application of “chemical hammer”. Much of that evening’s pub conversation revolved around the latest choice of “guest ales” which inspired C.A. to propose a regular “guest explosive” at the dig. Those who had seen him in action on TV’s Inside Out documentary two days previously were well aware that this was not merely pub talk! The Halfway Dig rift had not long to wait as next day H.B. and H.D. descended upon it to drill a couple of shot-holes and fire a 40gm cord charge. T.J. also fired that laid the previous day in the Surface Shaft Dig. 

Henry B. returned to Plan B Dig on Armistice Day in company with Martin Beal (Chelsea S.S.). The last bang had turned the rift walls to a heap of dust but the pair had no time to clear it as the apparent lack of fumes had deceived them and in making a hasty retreat M.B. actually blacked out for about twenty seconds giving H.B. great cause for concern as his addled brain despaired on the thoughts of trying to pull his 6ft+ mate up Prancer’s Pot alone and without flaking out himself. Luckily they made it out and yet again a valuable lesson had been learnt – a process common to all trainee bang enthusiasts! Discussions with doctors Boycott and Glanvill suggested that CO2 was the problem - possibly heightened by the fact that non-smoking, ultra-fit, high altitude mountaineer M.B. was more susceptible to this than his somewhat less healthy life-styled colleague! Later that day J.B. and P.C. cleared some of the spoil from the fume-free Halfway Dig and reported that more widening was required. This was done on the 12th by H.B. and M.B. who only got in a single shot-hole charge due to an excess of un-cleared spoil while T.J. and P.B. cleared the spoil from the last Surface Shaft Dig bang and laid another two hole, 40gm cord charge. 4 skip-loads and a frog were hauled out. 1 more load came out on the 13th when T.J. bagged up the resultant bang debris and fired another two shot-hole charge. In the afternoon he assisted R.W. and T.A. with their entrance walling.

November 15th saw two teams hard at work in the Surface Shaft and Halfway Digs. In the former T.J, P.B, P.H. and A.L. cleared the debris from the last bang at the bottom, dug in the Inlet Tube and raised 50 loads to surface. In the latter J.B, P.C. and J.C. also cleared bang spoil and had a general tidy-up. Two draughting ways on could be seen, both requiring chemical persuasion. This was provided on the 17th when T.J. fired a one shot-hole, 12gm cord-wrapped charge on two large boulders located between these holes. A huge and suspect slab in the ceiling was noted so an old miners’ trick was used to check its stability. The narrow bedding-plane crack above it was filled with smoothed off clay so that any movement would be made evident by its disturbance – a “tell tale”.  J.B, J.C. and Ian Matthews cleared and stacked more spoil in the meantime. J.B. and P.C, desperate for glory, went down next day to explore the miles of passage beyond but the Law of Sod came into play when they noticed that the “tell tale” had indeed opened up to prove the instability of the hanging death above. Wisely they called it a day. Over a dozen bags of spoil were filled by T.J. from the Inlet Tube Dig in the Surface Shaft on the morning of the 20th and in the afternoon R.W, T.A. and T.J. continued with the walling project. A section of plastic drainpipe was emplaced at ground level. To keep the grafters happy J.C. made the tea.

The next burst of enthusiasm was on the 22nd November when digging and hauling in the Surface Shaft Dig resulted in 43 loads out. A.L, P.C, B.O, J.C, J.N, P.H. and T.J. were to blame. J.N. and P.H. also attempted a joss-stick scent connection between A1 and Halfway Digs, alas in vain. In the surprisingly bad-air free depths H.B. and H.D. cleared much of the spoil from the last Plan B Dig bang and reported a slight draught. On their way out they drilled and banged the hanging death at Halfway Dig. Some of the spoil from this bang was cleared by J.B. and P.C. on the 25th and R.W. re-arranged the Surface Shaft spoil heap next day. On the 27th he was joined by T.A. and T.J. for more walling in between heavy showers – these deterring F.C. and J.C. from a proposed Morton’s Pot trip and encouraging them to clear more bang spoil in Plan B Dig.  This was followed up on the 29th when H.B. and H.D. drilled and fired a four shot-hole charge while J.B. tidied up at Halfway and T.J. filled six skips with slop at the flooded Inlet Tube Dig in the Surface Shaft. A look at Paul’s Personal Project in the main cave convinced him of the imminent connection with this. He filled another seven bags here on 3rd December when purple drain dye was put into the pool in the lower dig. More work was undertaken at this site on the 4th when T.J. continued digging in the Inlet Tube while H.B, Carole White and Martin “Billy Whizz” Smith (B.P.C.) hauled out 31 loads. Martin rightly pointed out that skips made with the handle at the bottom are a lot easier to empty – a good point. Another 32 loads came out on the 6th when P.B. and T.J. bailed and dug the Tube while J.N, P.C. and I.M. got the thankless hauling jobs. T.J. bailed and dug here again on the 8th while H.B. and A.V. dug in the same bedding plane but straight ahead and above the lower dig. A hammering and voice contact was established between these digs and P.P.P. in the main cave.

To establish the distance left to dig both the Bored of the Rings loop in the main cave and all of the Surface Shaft were surveyed on the 10th by H.B, Chris Smith and Doug Harris (M.C.G.) and a gap of some 4-5m computed by H.B. – thus ensuring that he could claim a pint from T.J. who was insistent that it was less than 3m! Meanwhile T.H, J.C. and T.J. dug, hauled and stacked bags in the Surface Shaft, 6 loads reaching daylight. The following morning the site was tidied up before A.V. and T.J. went to Paul’s Personal Project in the main cave where they attempted to dig towards the Inlet Tube but were somewhat stymied by the lack of decent sized passage. Nevertheless several skips were filled and parked ready for removal. In the afternoon R.W. continued drystone walling the spoil heap.

Plan B Dig at last got a revisit on the 13th December when H.B. and H.D. cleared the spoil from the last bang enabling them to get a clear view down an open but too narrow rift estimated at some 5m deep. They were much enthused. Not quite so enthused were P.C, P.B. and T.J. – immersed in squalor many metres above in the Inlet Tube after having used the submersible pump and best Belfry saucepan to drain it. Lots of muddy gravel was dug out, bagged and stacked and 9 loads reached the surface.

With the Digging Barrel deservedly going to the Mendip Caving Group the team were able to relax and save the huge breakthroughs for 2007!       

Continued in B.B. 528.

New (and resurrected) Diggers

Steve Milner (C.E.G.S.A.), Tim Large, Nick Gymer, Pete Eckford, Andy Norman, Ernie White, John and Miranda Forder (M.N.R.C. – photography), Charles Adcock, Ambrose Buchanan, Karl Fearn (C.O.M.R.U.), Paul Cheetham, Robin Sheen (Burren Crawlers), Martin Smith (O.S.C.C.), Martin Beal (C.S.S.), Ian Matthews (Frome C.C.), Chris Smith, Dog Harris (M.C.G.)   

The Old Brigade

Tony Jarratt, Sean Howe, Walery “Wally” Ufimzew, Pete Hellier, Jake Baynes, Henry Dawson, Phil Coles, Anne Vanderplank, Henry Bennett, Ben Selway, Neil Usher, Jane Clarke, Fiona Crozier, Rich Witcombe, Tony Audsley, John Noble, Trevor Hughes, Paul Brock, Toby Maddocks, John “Tangent” Williams, Darrel Instrell, Duncan Butler, Alex Livingston, Carole White, Martin Smith (B.P.C.)

Grateful acknowledgements to all those who have contributed to the bang fund and thereby kept this important project going and to Nigel Taylor, Aubrey Newport and Charlie Adcock and his Event Horizon team for their pyrotechnic input.

Cave Trivia

STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES

I couldn’t resist this. The following are the episodes in which caves appeared – sometimes ever so briefly…And by caves I mean bad Styrofoam and plaster sets.

The Cage
What Are Little Girls Made Off?
The Menagerie parts I and II
The Devil in the Dark
Return to Tomorrow
Bread and Circuses
Spock’s Brain
And The Children Shall Lead
The Cloud Minders
All our Yesterdays


The Dig at Rana Hole, Assynt, Sutherland

Tony Jarratt

“All visitors to Assynt who are hungry for caves will find their appetite honed by a keen wind blowing down glens possessed of an atmosphere hardened by mist and storms. Nowhere else in Britain, not even in the most obscure corners of the Yorkshire Dales, can such wild and unspoilt karst scenery be found. So fresh is the landscape that it might have been but a generation ago that the ice sheets retreated from the area. Cavers, at least, will experience no difficulty in finding an affinity with Assynt.”

Alan “Goon“ Jeffreys  –  Caves of Assynt

For those members curious as to why a small proportion of the club diggers travel 625 miles north at every available opportunity I decided to write a brief history and description of this ongoing Grampian Speleological Group dig which has had a great deal of input from B.E.C. and Sheffield U.S.S. members. It has, in fact, become a joint project but the G.S.G.’s very good relationships with George Vestey - the landowner, Scottish Natural Heritage - who run the adjacent S.S.S.I. reserve and their efficiency in publishing information on Scottish caving in general make them the natural body responsible for the dig.

Situated on the NE flank of Beinn an Fhuarain, in Durness Limestone, at an altitude of 352 metres the dig almost overlies the 2465+-metre long cave system of Uamh an Claonaite. A possibly 40m high aven, Belh Aven (named after a fine Scottish ale!) soars up from between sumps 6 and 7 in this cave. It has not been climbed due to apparent “hanging death” at the top and the remoteness of the site. Many possible digging sites in the far reaches of this superb system have not been properly investigated by the few cave divers who have been there and the brown bear skeletal remains found in Legless Highway have not been scientifically examined. The Great Northern Time Machine, one of the largest cave passages in Scotland would be made accessible if a connection were made so a dry way in would be a major benefit and a cracking vertical trip in its own right. It is also located directly behind the archaeologically important Creag nan Uamh Bone Caves where human and animal remains have been excavated and which, though not physically connected to the main system, may represent a fossil phreatic level of development which the dig may intersect. It is reached by a pleasant 40 minute walk (depending on how much heavy digging gear one is carrying) up the Allt nan Uamh valley, via the Fuaran Allt nan Uamh (the main rising for the caves of this area at 190m) and the Bone Caves. The interestingly varied weather and, in the summer the desperately annoying midges can turn this stroll into purgatory.

The 5m diameter, 4m deep shakehole had almost certainly been noted before the 4th April 1976 when the writer (GSG, BEC), Bob Mehew (GSG, SMCC) and Jim Smart (BEC) “pushed through a vile peaty squeeze into some 5m of 2m high passage, the floor of which is totally peat choked (at least 2m deep). Probably a fully choked pitch.” If we only knew then what we know now! On the 5th June 1978 GSG members Ivan Young and Pete Dowswell  “Find 6m cave – Rana Hole – in shake above Bone caves on way to Claonaite”. Nothing of interest happened here for another seventeen years until the discovery of Belh Aven indicated a possible route into the Uamh an Claonaite diving extensions from the surface.

GSG Bulletin 3rd Series Vol.5 No.3 records 51 visits to this site and the now filled Mole Hole dig nearby between 28th October 1995 and 18th March 2000. Of the first digging trip it was stated that,  “…there is much hope for a possible breakthrough here tomorrow.” During these five years much sweat and explosives were expended by many Scottish and Mendip digging enthusiasts and vast amounts of scaffolding, Acro props and steel shoring grids were painfully carried up to the dig. Hundreds of bag and bucket loads of mud, peat, gravel and broken rock were man-hauled out of the gradually deepening shaft but digging was frequently interrupted by water ponding at the bottom. By 2000 the entrance shaft had reached a depth of some 12-13m.

 

Work continued sporadically, mainly by the GSG Edinburgh, Inverness and Thurso contingents with Roger Galloway, Martin Hayes and Julian Walford keeping up the enthusiasm and in October 2002 even managing to persuade the pilot of the Stornoway Coastguard rescue helicopter to drop half a ton of sand and gravel at the site! In April 2003 a major slump of the bottom section of shoring resulted in a vertical advance of 6m and a rubble slope heading away from the shaft. Luckily this coincided with a “Mendip Invasion” when a massive amount of digging and blasting was done followed by the excavation of many hundreds of skip-loads of spoil by the Scots and consolidation of the remaining 12m of shoring. The slope had by now become a pitch (where Madphil and the writer once hung in mid-air on a luckily emplaced lifeline after the floor collapsed!) and this was equipped with an aluminium stepladder abandoned by the BBC in the Bone Caves following filming of a documentary – hence the title “BBC Pitch”. On a GSG session Colin Coventry, being videod digging by Fraser Simpson, was struck up the backside by a boulder fallen from above. Alas the camera was not on him at the time but his choice vocal outpourings were recorded for posterity! In mid December “14 members (!) assembled at a very wet Rana to remove a record 245 skips. …Another 35 skips were hauled out the next day.”

In 2004 ponding of water continued to plague the dig. In June the Scottish CRO practiced a rescue of an injured digger from the hole using full bags of spoil to replace the victim, Bob Jones, on the vertical sections. Removal of the debris from the now some 20m deep dig using man-hauling methods was now becoming, like the results of Colin’s accident, a pain in the arse.

On 26th February 2005 a record number of bags in one day, 280 were hauled out. It was now very obvious that the complete glacial infilling of the shaft would have to be done and that this would be a very long-term mission. A new record of 281 bags was achieved in five hours on the 30th July. On 31st December yet another fixed alloy ladder was installed – this one purchased from B&Q.

 
The cycle winch in operation

To speed up digging Roger Galloway invented and installed the Mk.1 Bag Filler on 21st January 2006. This was designed to make the filling of a standard sandbag easier. A human counterweight system was set up on BBC Pitch to haul the full bags up to the ledge at the foot of the entrance pitch. Norman Flux (SUSS, now also GSG) and Mark Brown (GSG, SUSS) then appeared on the scene to revolutionise the dig by installing a purposely-built tandem bicycle winch on the surface and erecting a magnificent staged headgear from scaffolding and emptying platform. This coincided with another Mendip Invasion so manpower was no problem. Filled sandbags weighing 18 kilos were now replaced by specially constructed “kibbles” that would take up to 50 kilos and presented no problems for the cycle winch. The average weight was 36 kilos and it took about one minute to bring a full kibble up from the ledge. The writer built a dry-stone “howff” nearby to act as a shelter and kit store. The new system resulted in a weekend record on 5th/6th August when 359 of these heavy loads came out – about 11.5 tons!


View of site on 2nd January 2007

Taking advantage of these improvements, and also of the new cheap flights from Bristol to Inverness, a BEC team of Paul Brock, Fiona Crozier, Neil Usher, Anne Vanderplank (WCC) and the writer - joined by Tony Boycott (GSG, BEC) and Jayne Stead (GSG) who travelled up by car with the bang – arrived on site in early October. From Sheffield came Mark in a big van full of more digging technology including a kibble-unloading and tipping system. Norman arrived by motorcycle to perfect it and GSG members not involved with a SCRO exercise also turned up. With the dig face partly flooded work concentrated on clearing all the spoil and shoring from the main ledge. Once done a “flume” or chute was installed here to guide the kibbles from the dig face all the way to the surface and a fixed steel ladder installed on the entrance pitch. A strong local team made full use of the “Rana Outdoor Gym” and an even stronger Jamie “Bob” Yuill became famous by single-handedly carrying TWO 7m scaffold poles up to the dig in one hit. Unfortunately he didn’t know exactly where it was and covered an extra half-mile over moorland and peat bog. 505 loads (about 16.5 tons) came out during the week – a tribute to Norman’s magnificent engineering. The usual selection of “ranas” (toads) also came out – without a word of thanks.


Norman Flux installing fixed ladder on entrance pitch
Photo: Roger Galloway

Only a couple of visits were made by the locals before Christmas when the third Mendip Invasion of the year took place with Paul and the writer and Ben Selway and Carley Payne driving north in two white vans and meeting Mark, Hugh Penney, Seb Ryder, Ivan Young, Alan “Goon” Jeffreys, Norman, Martin Hayes, Bob Yuill, Derek Pettiglio and others. Another week’s engineering and digging resulted in a second section of flume being fitted together with an ingenious roller constructed from two galvanized buckets fitted with children’s bicycle spokes and a total of 456 loads out (about 14.5 tons). Some banging and Hilti-capping was also done and a good time had by all. Although the dig face ponded up at one point it suddenly drained and the water rushed off down a narrow rift. The eleven years of effort expended on this remote dig has resulted in hundreds of tons of spoil being hauled out and some very dedicated work being put in by the team. The current depth is about 33m and this is the level of the postulated top of Belh Aven as depicted on the GSG survey produced for Scottish Natural Heritage. It is also the same level as the Bone Caves and halfway to the Claonaite stream-way so even if we have to dig all the way it will only take another 11 years!

We are planning to return in late April on another Mendip Invasion so book now to avoid disappointment. There are several quality caving trips in this spectacularly scenic area and fringe benefits are the hill walking, coastal scenery, best chip shop in the world, best pie shop in the universe, the Inchnadamph Hotel and the An Teallach ales therein, the luxurious GSG bothy and world class sea diving. The whisky isn’t bad either. See you there.


Mindblown in Upper Flood Swallet

Tony Jarratt

“…That cave is one of the wonders of the universe… A monstrous fine cave indeed!”

Patrick O’Brian, Treason’s Harbour

Most B.E.C. members, especially those attending the Annual Dinner, will by now know of the magnificent extensions to this cave, which were discovered initially on 10th September by members of the Mendip Caving Group (see Descent 193, pp 20-22). On this date Tim Francis pushed the final of many desperate squeezes amongst horrendously loose boulders to enter a huge boulder chamber, The Departure Lounge, with a finely decorated and walking-sized stream passage leading off into the distance. Julie Hesketh joined him and they explored some 500m of passage, initially 12m square and with magnificent flowstones, stalactites, curtains, straws and mud formations in abundance. At around 400m the draughting Charnel Inlet may provide a future easier entrance. Unbelievably it took 25 minutes of mainly walking in occasionally 10m high streamway to reach their terminal point and they were very understandably “gobsmacked”. On 30th September a second major breakthrough occurred when a loose section in the roof above the terminal stream sink was passed upwards into large fossil passage and the beautiful Royal Icing Junction. Here the undecorated but extensive phreatic East Passage was followed for several hundred metres to an airless tube and further on an ascent and descent of calcited boulders led past a superbly decorated and immediately taped-off side passage (see later) and down to a low arch with a muddy crawl leading to the Gothic-arched phreatic tunnel of West Passage. After around 150m of heading due west in practically a straight line they reached a dangerously loose but strongly draughting boulder choke. Partway along this tunnel a couple of calcited boulders in a side passage concealed a possible way into a stream passage below, from which emanated the roar of water – Chuckle Choke. The team of Tim, Julie, Mike Richardson, Bill Chadwick, Doug Harris, Mark Ward, Peat Bennett, Ben Cooper, Brian Snell and Korean caver Dangwoo Park had explored, by the end of October, about 1.4km of stunning new cave system which, added to the old cave, gave a total length of some 2km. This was a tremendous result and a suitable reward for their tenacious digging efforts over the last two years – and that of their fellow club members, particularly the late Malcolm Cotter, over the last thirty-eight years! The “ Blackmoor Master Cave” – as predicted by Malcolm – was now a reality and well on its way towards linking up with the Cheddar River Cave, picking up the great swallet caves of the Charterhouse and Tynings areas en route.

The team had had a couple of close calls in both the breakthrough choke and that in the terminal West End Chamber and decided that they needed advice from an expendable old git as to the best way of making them safe and on how best to get through the latter choke. Your scribe was delighted to be invited along in this capacity and had the special job requirements of being skinny as a rake and armed to the teeth with drill and bang. Thus, on 1st December he joined Julie, Bill and Mike for an 8½ hour trip. Having last visited this cave as photographic assistant to Paul Deakin on 7th May 1988 all memories of the nastier bits had been erased. Following recent heavy rain the Canal in the old cave and the streamway in the extension were higher than usual necessitating the wearing of thermals and Neofleece. Most of the regular diggers prefer to wear two fleece suits due to the cold and draughty conditions.

Once past Golden Chamber the series of tight, awkward and loose squeezes amongst boulders was negotiated with occasional pauses to shore up the more dodgy ones with convenient rocks. The tongue-in-cheek “Easysqueeze” was struggled down through and the magnificent stream passage beyond entered after about 1½ hours of generally grim caving. From then on we shouldered our by now detested tackle bags and basically strolled along the ample and highly scenic main drain admiring massive bridges of calcited stream debris and flowstone overhead. The odd boulder climb or low, wet bit merely emphasised the ease of the rest of the passage. At Charnel Inlet we paused for the writer to undertake a scientific draught test (fag break) resulting in the airflow being noted as heading towards the surface – possibly via the old M.C.G. discovery of the mined natural rift at Charnel Shaft. If permission is granted this will be dug in the hope of providing an easier entrance and essential rescue route as at present any fairly serious injury would, in the writer’s opinion, prove fatal without the use of a drilling rig to drop a shaft directly into the extension. An exit via the breakthrough choke is simply not an option. With the amount of loose rock in this practically virgin cave, both underfoot and on ledges or overhead, the chances of broken bones are high and the team have already got away lightly.

At the point 550m from the breakthrough squeeze, where the main stream is lost in an impassable tube, we climbed up into the higher levels and followed more superb passage to the beautifully decorated Royal Icing Junction where the plan was for Julie and Bill to survey East Passage while Mike and your scribe went West. Julie then remembered the taped-off, formation encrusted crawl, Neverland, to the left of the slope down to West Passage and decided to have a quick look after doffing her oversuit, wellies and gloves. We left them to it and pressed on to West End Chamber where the large fallen slab that had failed to squash the diggers received two long shot-holes and a dose of 40gm cord with a no.4 detonator attached. This was fired from back down West Passage, which acted like a giant gun barrel. Mike was most impressed with the ear-shattering detonation and distinct shock wave. Highly satisfied we dragged the bang wire back to the diminutive Chuckle Choke where we were surprised to meet the others – twitching with excitement and impatient to drag us off to inspect the 150m or so of mind-boggling passage discovered by Julie. We were not going to complain so a hasty charge of 12 and 40gm cord was wrapped around and between the two offending boulders (the drill battery having run out of power) and fired by Julie from the base of the calcited slope. She, also, was impressed when the earth moved for her but desperate to discover more wonders so minutes later we were all minus wellies and oversuits and creeping carefully between pure white pristine formations into a low, crystal-lined canal. Julie had already cut her unprotected hands on the floor crystals so this time we all wore gloves after swilling them in a nearby pool. Much of the next 100m had once been a much deeper pool with the result that inverted, crystalline “bullrush” formations proliferated and the walls below the ancient water level were a veritable jewel box. Straws, stalactites and helictites in profusion decorated the ceiling throughout and necessitated extreme care. I truly believe that Julie has discovered one of the most beautiful continuously decorated sections of cave passage in Britain – if not THE best. Passing through this lot was a slow-motion nightmare and bloody (literally) sharp on the hands, knees and un-booted feet.

Eventually we emerged into a magnificently adorned and very high junction chamber with the way on down to the left and a superb flowstone slope pouring down from a major inlet up to the right. While the others poked about below I gingerly climbed this in my wetsocks and with a clear conscience as the fantastic triangular crystals in the floor had a curious black, speckled staining in places on which one could walk with care. They are similar to those in Happy Hour Highway, Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink (but here in their thousands) and in the Grotte du Grand Roc and Gouffre de Proumeyssac, Perigord. After some 30-40m of steeply ascending phreatic tunnel I reached an awesome pool with dinner plate diameter, pure white calcite bosses in its centre. This was later named Pork Pie Pool for the shape of the bosses and in thanks for Bill’s tasty caving snacks. The others joined me here but the magnificent pool was not crossed as the passage beyond seemed to be solidly blocked with flowstone. There may be high level leads in this area as it was obviously once a main route in from the surface.

We all then continued “downstream”, Mike exploring a muddy phreatic tube on the left which soon ended in a static sump. Just beyond this I scrambled down into a lower canal passage ending in a calcite choke. The main passage continued overhead and this was where Julie had stopped due to a large hole in the floor, which she considered needed protection to surmount. Finding myself in the lead, and blessed with longer legs, I got the job of traversing over the c.6m pit down to the lower passage. This got me to another c.6m drop beyond where an almost vertical flowstone cascade was free-climbed down into a high canal passage with the usual masses of pretties. Further along the continuing bore tube a couple of descending tubes on the left intersected sections of a lower, muddy and relatively small stream passage with a trickle of water. This probably originates in Mike’s static sump and was left unexplored in all directions. My recollection of how far I followed the main phreatic tunnel are blurred by the adrenalin rush of the moment but I realised I was alone and in someone else’s cave so I left a marker and returned to the others. About 3-400m was found in this series today and it was left wide open and 3-4m in diameter for Julie and a different team to return next day.

Feeling highly pleased with ourselves we began the long slog out. I had a struggle pushing my heavily laden tackle bag up through the breakthrough choke squeezes and was glad to see the entrance. My arm and leg muscles ached for days afterwards. Too many soft-option digging trips in Rose Cottage Cave! As usual the best bit was the smug gobbing-off in the Hunters’ afterwards. My overall impression of the system was of being in a Welsh cave misplaced beneath Mendip and at times the trip felt exactly like being on a push in Meghalaya. I’m sure that Julie would agree with this having sampled the delights of Indian cave exploration.

On the following day Julie, Tim, Doug, Brian and Dongwoo carried on from my last point to reach a free-climbable c.6m pitch to reach further sections of the muddy streamway and a climb up to some huge boulder chambers. Another 200m or so was added to this magnificent system to give a total current length (5/12/06) of around 2.6km and making Upper Flood the fifth longest cave on Mendip. I am convinced that this is only the beginning but trips to the various ends of the cave will inevitably become longer and more arduous. To sum it up in Julie’s own words I include a quote from Grampian S.G. newsletter No.129, December 2006: - “I went down Flood on Friday (having taken a day off work to push the place)… We went down “Neverland” – so called because it was soooo pretty we were never going to push it… Erm, ach well. It WENT!!!! For 500m!!!! To the most unbelievably fantastic formations I have ever seen. And we only dug for about 10 minutes with our bare hands moving rocks aside… Wake me up someone; I think I am dreaming…”

Access for non-M.C.G. members will gradually improve as the explorers very rightly mop up the open passages. Several of the club’s Upper Flood leaders have yet to see the extensions but sub-normal body size, experience and stamina are a must for this exacting cave. Alternatively get stuck into a dig in Manor Farm Swallet or join the “Klondikers” anywhere between Charterhouse and Cheddar. There’s plenty more to be found and the lower it gets the bigger it must be.

My grateful thanks to my M.C.G. colleagues for the invitation and for one of the “best trips ever” and my congratulations to them on their discovery of this magnificent Mendip cave system. Keep on diggin’!  

A question for vintage members. In Velvet Bottom, between Upper Flood and Manor Farm and near the old buddle pits on the south side, west of the bend, I have marked on a map a potential cave – Trat’s Site. I suspect that this was a flood sink noticed just after the Great Flood of 1968 but I have forgotten from where I got the information. The grid ref. is ST 5020 5535. Does anyone have any information on this site?


An Adventure with Pat Ifold

When John Stafford suggested that we join the BEC to climb Pat Ifold took us under his wing.

One of his typical outings with us was to load Dave Radmore and me into his old banger and head for the Brecon Beacons. Pat was an ingenious fellow and kept bangers alive although on one occasion a floorboard collapsed under his seat, which left him with little vision, trailing sparks from the metal bits of the seat down Park Street Bristol.

It was 1953. We had bought ex-WD ice axes from Thomas Bests of Bath and we were itching to use them. I couldn't think what we did about crampons and then I remembered that were no vibrams available, we climbed in nails. Pat almost certainly had clinker nailed boots whereas Radmore and I had a species of tricounis which were sharper and could be used on ice. They played hell with the local limestone so there, conscious of conservation, we used plimsoles. We met at the 'Waggon and Horses' St Mary Redcliff Bristol on Thursday evening to plan the weekend and because we worked Saturday mornings and we couldn't go far decided to head for the nearest high hills in South Wales.

We got to a snowy Brecon and sang in a pub until closing time being very careful not to offend the feisty young soldiers from the local barracks, then went of to find somewhere to bivouac. Dave and I found a road-mender's hut built like a gypsy caravan. Pat took one look and slept in his car with a seat removed. We slept well but when we woke we were covered in fleabites. Pat was amused in kindly way!

Breakfast was taken making porridge with melting snow over a primus stove because that's what explorers did. Then we went for the steepest way to the summit of Pen y Fan that we could find. Our nail boots were fine. Our ice axe technique benefited from Pat's teaching so that he ensured we could carry them without transfixing each other; stop or brake if we slipped on a steep slope and fashion steps in ice using pick and blade. And he showed us the several ways of using the axe as a walking stick, ice axe belay or hand hold to help balance on steep snow climbing up - or down. He was keen on being able to descend safely. I suppose he'd been there. Even today I catch myself on the hills remembering Pat's instruction with the long axe, all given in high humour with the Ifold grin.

 

The route we took was straight up from the base of the east face to a line of cliffs below the summit. You have to imagine the snow. The last part, up a wide vertical crack for about twenty feet, was a memorable way to finish a great experience.

Kangy, October 2006


The Adventures of Zot .1

Over many years we have all been touched by Zot in one way or another [perhaps certain young ladies would like to comment on this!!]also this could be an ongoing corner of the BB where people can recall anecdotes on club members [hopefully discreet ones]!!!!!

Just to clear up a question that many young people ask, Zot got his nickname due to a toy mounted on the inside of the windscreen of his car [I think it was a dice or a devil] he used to pull the elastic down and then let go, making a noise that sounded like ZOT!!!!!!!! So there you all have it.

My first encounter with Zot was a Swildons trip in the 60s when the forty foot pot was still an obstacle to be overcome before exploring the rest of the Cave.[bearing in mind that most people performed in Grots in those days!!] Barry Wilton, Myself, Graham and Zot decided to go to sump 1 and possibly onto Sump 2. I was a relative stranger to the cave at the time having only gone as far as the 2nd water chamber. So off we set with our trusty stinkies and any old kit we could lay our hands on .Zot had an old 2-piece wet suit tied together with baler twine of course. Footwear tended to be government surplus army boots or any old boots that came to hand.[my preference were the ex German Army paratrooper boots part worn of course ,very cheap and tough!!] Having said that these boots would rot away at an alarming rate stitching wise in the dreaded Mendip Water and Mud!!!

We proceeded to the 40 and then onto the 20 ft pitch where Zot directed the flow of water with his foot onto the ladder much to the annoyance of Barry and myself, he then disappeared off into the murky distance with us bumbling on behind.

We then found ourselves being urinated on from a great height accompanied by peals of manic laughter, apparently it was commonplace for him to hide in the upper route and urinate on anyone who passed.

Needless to say when we reached the double pots he knelt in them and gave the impression that they were twice as deep, and then encouraging me to jump!! Come on Mr. Wilson he cried, I did so and nearly dislocated both Hips.

Just before sump 1, he said listen team, has anyone got a spare boot?  [As if we would carry a boot in our helmets!!] mine is broke, holding up his foot showing us the sole, which has become detached from the upper as far as the heel.

The solution was to use half a bootlace and tie the sole up from underneath through the lace holes and hope for the best. We decide that it was time to turn round and make our way back .The 40 ft pitch was interesting, as Zot climbed it with one boot [the sole kept getting tangled in the rungs] I struggled having become completely waterlogged [I was wearing 2 pullovers and 2 pairs of old trousers ] one pullover was a mohair one that really holds the water !!, plus the fact that my stinky had gone out of course !!Thanks to Graham on the lifeline I finally made it. I think he did more pulling than I did climbing.

Graham was also prone to bouts of manic laughter and shouts of Kia Ora, which was a popular orange drink in those days. Why it wasn’t Tizer Corona or Lucozade I will never know. I think that there were a string of crazy animals walking in a line in various positions!! Perhaps someone in the club has a better memory than me and can clarify what the Kia Ora ad was!

Ah well back to the Hunters for beer and boast with a bit of singing flung in [this hasn’t changed!!] looking back I think that myself and Barry were the only sane people on the trip [relatively speaking!!]

Little did we know that these idiosyncrasies would get worse as Zot got older.

PS the cave was really beautiful in those days as the 40 ft pot was a real obstacle to be overcome, not a place for novices or leader groups. So from the 40 onward there was little or no vandalism, its sad to see the extent of the damage today.

Harold.


Seventy Years of the BEC in Pictures – Part One – 1935 – 1950

Complied and written by Dave Irwin

Acknowledgements:

The final selection of photographs reflecting upon the activities of the BEC over the seven decades since the Club was formed has been made extremely difficult as a result of the tremendous response by members who have submitted a large number of prints, slides, scans and a miscellany of other images. The archives of several older members have been raided to form the basis of the first fifteen years of the Club's activities in pictures forming Part One of this series.  They include an important photographic album left by a great friend of the BEC, the late Sybil Bowden-Lyle.  For the series as a whole contributors include Andrew 'Mo' Marriott, Chris Batstone, Chris 'Blitz' Smart, Tony 'Sett' Setterington, Nigel Taylor, Peter Glanvill, Mike Baker, Brian Britton, Roger Stenner, Angus Innes, Andy Mac-Gregor, Graham Wilton-Jones, Tim Large, Tony 'J-Rat' Jarratt and John Buxton. A few photos have come from the Balcombe Collection in the CDG Library, a further group of photographs are from the Wells Museum collection and for these I thank the Museum Trustees for permission to reproduce them.  And, finally, a few photos have come from my own collection.

In many collections there are pictures that were not taken by the owner and in a few cases the photographer is not known. These images have been listed under the current owner's name. The source/photographer is given as initials at the end of the caption inside square brackets [ ]; e.g. [JR] = Tony Jarratt's collection. Please, if you have any photos that you think important to the activities of the club then send them to me for scanning or send me your scans on CD/DVD at a minimum of 300 dpi. Eventually the photos will be put on CD/DVD and lodged in the Club library.

I am further indebted to Angus Innes and 'Sett' for the help given me by answering my seemingly endless stream of questions. There will be others to be grilled in a similar manner for the later parts of the series.

The notes that follow to introduce this overview of seventy years of the BEC have been largely drawn from Harry Stanbury's early histories of the Club in particular his 'Early Days' published in BB No. 429 and scribbles that I made when visiting Harry at Bude on a number of occasions during the past ten years. The Caving Logbook for this period and the Annual General Meeting Minute Book, which has recently been returned to the Club library, after an absence of many years, has revealed many interesting facets relating to the running of the Club, the people involved and its links to other caving clubs and organisations.

1935 – 1950

The Club was formed in June 1935 by T. Harry Stanbury [member no. 1] together with group of work colleagues. Knowing that Harry had been on a number of caving trips a few of his work mates asked him to take them caving. Although not entirely enthusiastic to the idea he finally agreed. Cycling from Bristol to Burrington Combe, Goatchurch Cavern was their first port of call, which turned out to be a great success. The group formed itself into a small club by the name of the Bristol Exploration Club. Not long after the next problem was how to gain access to the 'deep' caves and obtain the necessary items of equipment.  The solution was simple, or so it seemed – contact an existing caving club in the area and sink the identity of the BEC into it. Contact was made with a member of the newly formed Wessex Cave Club who lived nearby in a slightly more salubrious part of Bristol. The story that follows has reached legendary status, which was that the WCC after a lengthy discussion declined Harry's and the other members' applications to join. In our Jubilee year, 1985, Harry wrote that as the WCC were not interested for the ' … fact that we were a group of working class men and that there were a number of points in the existing societies we did not care about, that we should not associate ourselves with any existing body.'

So having been rejected by the Wessex, as Harry and his friends were not of their kind, they set off and did the obvious. They concentrated their energies into the organisation of the BEC. (note 1) A formal meeting was held in June 1935 and a simple set of rules drawn up, which is basically the same as those used today. Subscriptions paid for the necessary tackle such as rope, ladders and shortly after the 'official' launch' the Club had its official headed notepaper. Our founder members were Harry Stanbury, Tommy Bartlett, Cecil Drummond, Ron Colbourn and Charlie Fauckes. By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the membership had reached about 15 with Dick Bellamy being the Hon. Treasurer who had to withdraw from club activities resulting from a serious problem with his eyes. His last caving trip with the Club was to Lamb Leer Cavern in the company of Harry Stanbury, Bert Allan and Chris Fauckes, under the UBSS leaders Alan Rogers and Francis Goddard of G.B. Cave fame.  Although still small it had been considered by the members that as they were, at first, '… regarded with suspicion and justifiable wariness, which persisted for several years, but once this obstacle had been surmounted we progressed in leaps and bounds and have been doing so ever since.'

Having survived various problems, not least a large fall in the membership due to those who had been called into the armed forces, leaving a skeleton group of two, Harry and Cecil Drummond.  The Club may have disappeared into eternity had it not been for the fortuitous absorption of the Emplex Caving Club whose members worked at the local labour exchange or Manpower in modern terminology. In 1942 things changed for the worse again when membership again plummeted to about six and for a time club activity continued at a very low level although they managed a series of digging sessions at Timber Hole at Charterhouse. However, two men already with a fair amount of caving experience joined the BEC both of whom were to have a positive impact upon the fortunes of the Club not only at that time but for many years to follow. They were Roy 'Pongo' Wallace and Dan Hasell.

No records exist of this important period in the story of the BEC.  A member living at Keynsham was intent on writing a history of the Club obtained all the known records from Harry. When he had finished he bundled the archive and posted them back to Harry. They never arrived. Harry was convinced that they were destroyed along with all the other local mail for at that time 'Jerry' had bombed the mail train between Keynsham and Bristol.

 

Club trip to Lamb Leer Cavern, c.1940, with [l-r] Harry Stanbury, Alan Rogers [UBSS],
Bert Allan, Francis Goddard [UBSS] and Chris Fauckes. Note the 'lightweight' tackle.
Photo. By Richard G. Bellamy the then BEC Hon. Treasurer.

Club reformed and its organisation

In 1943 the small but dedicated group of members got together and reformed the Club with officers and an outline constitution.  Caving was extremely limited due to the wartime restrictions and demands upon everyone at their work places.  As a result of this a formal record of annual and committee meetings commenced fully reflecting the intent to fully record the activities of the Club.  The allocation of a Membership Number commenced at this time, Harry Stanbury being member number 1.  Cycle and the occasional bus ride to Burrington and to other areas was the normal way of getting to Mendip from Bristol. The trip to Coral Cave on the 26th May 1945 is a typical trip report of the day.  On this occasion 5 members met at Bedminster Down and made a cycle ride to Compton Bishop in just under two hours. Only one incident occurred on the outward ride. This was when ' … a road hog … ' who objected to their monopoly of the road shouted abuse which questioned their  ' … parentage. …'.  The location of the entrance was found after asking the local inhabitants for help – it was to be a few years yet before guidebooks became available.

By late 1944 the Allies victory over the Nazi regime seemed assured and so individual movement became easier and cycling trips to Mendip became more frequent. Various digs were undertaken including a site close to the Charterhouse Rakes and Cross Swallet.

It was at Cross Swallet that an act of piracy took place that was to have a profound change within the BEC. The Club had been digging at the site and when they returned intent on another session they came upon a group from Bridgewater also digging there. The Club was a little put-out but, although a letter of complaint was written to the Bridgewater CC, they all being gentlemen agreed that the dig became a joint effort between the two clubs. (note 2)

Resulting from the closure of the armourments factory at Bridgwater, into which several members of UBSS had joined or were in the process of joining, a number of their group including Sett, S.J. 'Alfie' Collins, John 'Postle' Thomsett, Don Coase, John 'Shorty' Shorthose, Margerie 'Dizzie' Thomsett and Freda Hutchinson among others decided to join forces with the BEC. One of the new intake who was to have a profound influence within the BEC until his tragically early death in 1958 was Don Coase.  His interest in digging, photographic and general exploratory work here on Mendip and in South Wales expanded when his interest extended into the realms of cave diving.  Coase, as a founder member of the Cave Diving Group at Penycae at Easter 1946 brought the BEC and CDG into a close association. It was from the BEC membership that many of the Mendip divers and supporters came, particularly helping organise the various diving operations at Wookey Hole. In addition to Don Coase other BEC divers were Dan Hasell, Harry Stanbury and George Lucy.


The original ink drawing of 'Bertie the Bat', now in the Club library.

Club membership grew by leaps and bounds and in 1946 had reached 80 and by 1948 it was just under 100. With a club of this size it was obvious that sleeping out in the rough or in the straw of Main's barn was now to be a thing of the past and that some form of permanent premises was needed. Not only would it make life more comfortable for members staying on Mendip but it would also act as a focal point for the Club. The committee had come to the conclusion that the ideal site for the Club headquarters would be in the Charterhouse area. (note 3) However, the first was built at Priddy by the side of the track that today leads past the old Shepton Mallet Caving Club hut and on to its present headquarters, The Mineries. (note 4)

The bat has been the club symbol since its formation in 1935 though no headed note paper of this period is known to have survived.  In 1946 'Pongo' Wallace designed the current club insignia, Bertie the Bat, and this has been used in a variety of forms ever since and is now instantly recognisable as the logo of the BEC.

The increased size of the Club enabled the committee to create facilities undreamt of a few years previously. A reference library in 1946, and in 1947 a monthly newsletter was launched, the indispensable Belfry Bulletin, or 'BB' as it is now affectionally known, under the editorship of Dan Hasell ably assisted by the Hon. Secretary Harry Stanbury.  An Annual Dinner was suggested in 1946 but this did not commence until 1950. Until that time members participated in an Annual Dance.  Occasional lectures were arranged and in October 1945 Stan Herman was asked by the Committee to '' approach the 'bone bloke" to determine whether he would give the BEC a talk on his work.  The 'bone bloke' was none other then Professor Edgar K Tratman!

Between 1946 and 1948 two more clubs merged with the Club – the Mendip Cave Club and in 1948 the Clifton Caving Club 1948. (note 5) About this time Don Coase moved to London and it was not long before a London Section of the Club was set up. The idea had been approved by the AGM held on 4th December 1948.  Weekly meetings were held at Harry Stanbury's home in Redcatch Road in south Bristol, but the venue became much too small to accommodate the large weekly attendance as a result of the growing membership. It was thus decided to use the Redcliff Church Hall. (note 6) This was to become the focal point of the weekly Club get-together for quite some time as did the little pub 'The Waggon and Horses' in later years. The story of the Club's fluctuating membership has been well documented in Andy Mac-Gregor's article 'The Rise and Fall of the B.E.C. Membership (1943-2004).' (note 7)

As soon as MRO was reformed at the end of the war, late in 1945, BEC commenced assembling teams or squads led by a leader and a deputy.  Harry Stanbury was the leader and S.J. 'Bozzy' Bosworth was his deputy. The remainder of the team was Dan Hasell, Tony Johnson, John Pain, Tom Bartlett, R.A. Crocker and Gordon Fenn. However, members leaving the area saw some new faces added to the list. The whole were divided into three squads. Party 1: Harry Stanbury [leader], Dan Hasell [deputy], John Pain, Tony Johnson and Les Peters.  In Party 2 the leader was Don Coase, 'Bozzy' Bosworth [deputy], George Lucy and Gordon Fenn. Lastly Team 3 was under the leadership of Pete Stewart and R. Cater [deputy]; the others being T. Pidwell, H. Arnold and J. Chapman.  Teams 1 and 2 contained cave divers – the only club to have such a luxury.

Lightweight Ladders

Photos of the ladder and a sectional view of the rung assembly

Equipment was needed to tackle cave features such as The Forty in Swildon’s Hole, Twin Verticals and, the, then, recently discovered Dolphin Pot in Eastwater Cavern and the two 20m pitches in Lamb Leer Cavern. Harry and Dan produced their own design having become familiar with the French design. Having scrounged all of the required material they set about building a ladder long enough for the Swildon's Forty. Its advantage was that it was lighter than the French concept.

New designs were introduced later but then the taper pin method of locking the rung to the cable eventually became the standard, remaining so until the resin and pin construction became the norm during the mid-1970s. The ladder completed it now had to be tested and what a better place to do it than on the Swildon's Forty Foot Pot. Harry noted the following in the caving logbook; in fact it is the second entry in Logbook No. 1

April 3rd 1943.  A Trip by cycle to Swildons Hole.  The club made its first test of wire & duralumin ladder on 40ft pot & found that the ladder exceeded all expectations. On return journey met party of 7 men & 2 girls in upper grotto & took them out as they were lost. Members Present :- 3. T.H. Stanbury, C.D. Drummond, D. Hasell

Soon after a 20ft ladder was built and that still exists in the club library at the Belfry together with a very frail early Knobbly Dog with wooden finger grips.

Belfry Mk. 1


Belfry Mk.1 in 1946. It is thought that Belfry Mk. 0 is the stone building at the left of the photo.

The 4th January 1946 Committee Meeting discussed the urgent need for a permanent Club headquarters and it was thought that the ideal location of the building should be somewhere in the Charterhouse region. This seems to make sense as nearly all the digging activity was centred on the Burrington area.  However, for reasons I cannot find out, the Belfry was eventually located by The Beeches, to the left of the track and almost opposite the old Shepton Mallet CC HQ.  The land was owned by Mr. Beacham who charged a small rent, payable in six-monthly instalments.  The building itself was located by Harry's first wife, Iris Stanbury and it came from Purdown in Bristol. It was an old derelict tennis pavilion although some believe it to be a cricket pavilion.  This was dismantled and each section taken to Mendip, erected on the site and after several months of hard word it was opened for use.  Land rental was 2/- [10p] per week and payable six months in advance. By March bunks had been installed although, as is commonly shown in later years, there's never enough labour to undertake the workload.  'Pongo' presented the club with a portable electrical generator, which was sent via train and had to be transported to Mendip from the Wells railway station. However, the Belfry went into full use when Don Coase slept in it on the 1st February 1947. Belfry Mk. 1 remained at the site until 1948 when after a few noisy events the landowner requested that the club moved lock stock and barrel to another site, the current site, which was bought by the Club in the mid-1950s.

In the July 1948 issue of the BB a map was published showing members the location of the new Belfry site and that helping hands were needed to complete the building after the move. A hint of further work was given by the fact that it was hoped in the near future that a '… really 'spiv' hut will be reared on the new site.' (note 8)


Moving home: Pam Richards driving the tractor.


Map, first published in BB No. 13, showing the new location of the Belfry


From l-r: Pongo, Pat Woodruff, Betty Shorthouse, Tim Kendrick,?, Jack Waddon
Sybil Bowden- Lylr, Dan Hasell and John Shorthouse c.1949 [Sett]


Tim Kendrick, ?, and Betty Shorthouse inside Belfry Mk 1

The Building of Belfry Mk. II

Belfry Mk. I had its limitations. As the membership grew it became totally inadequate for their needs. A new, larger building was required. During the post war years military surplus goods were coming onto the market as the Government tried to clear its shelves of unwanted material ranging from clothes to tanks. Included in this sell-off were ex-military wooden huts from military camps scattered about the country, which were coming onto the market and it was one of these that was bought through donations from members to become Belfry Mk. II.  The building came from Rame Head in Cornwall and was transported piecemeal and eventually built close to the wall forming the boundary between the Belfry site and Walt Foxwell's farmyard, then a disused quarry. To ensure that work ran smoothly the Club Committee setup a sub-committee to, hopefully, keep the plans running smoothly. An onerous job but the following were elected to undertake the task: John Ifold, George Lucy, Tony Johnson, and 'Dizzy' Thomsett. 'Sett' was elected Chairman.  Tony Johnson was so enthusiastic that he became Hon. Foreman and contributed a series of articles to the BB on his experiences during this exercise.

The foundations for Belfry Mk. II were laid during early January 1949 and on the 22nd January it was ' … Hut Building.  Big Day.' (note 9) Work continued into February 1949 (note 10) when the walls and roof had been finally erected. Lining the inside of the building commenced and felting of the roof was worked on during the last half of May. Later a porch was added.

Building Belfry Mk. II, the last being the triumphant shout “Finished” by Tony Johnson [photos: Al] 

 

 

 

 


Caving, Digging and Discoveries

The period during which the Club was consolidating its structure and establishing itself as a major Mendip club was also one of its most successful years in which new cave was opened up by members.  By the end of the war members were well aware of many of the existing caves and had undertaken a thorough search of the central Mendip region for potential digging sites.

The trips were quite different arrangements to those of the present.  During the period 1943 to the end of the war members generally went caving after an energetic bicycle ride from various parts of Bristol and in a variety of weather; all of their problems are clearly written up in the relevant logbooks of the day. It was several years yet before members arrived at the Belfry in the comfort of a motorcar or on motorcycles. (note 11)

[Trip] No. 37.  Sept 30th 1944.  Half Day trip to "Swildons Hole". A party of six set off at 14.10 a fine day & a slow trip out [from Bristol] by cycle, against a head wind.  A quart of milk between us at Mains when we changed to go underground.  H Beedle a visitor introduced to the afternoons sport by R. Wallace & making his 1st trip had to make do with the abandoned clothes in the barn as he was let down on the transport of his "Duds" by D. Hasell. A very strong threat of a storm to windward as we went below.  A jolly good look round on the trip down to the Grotto (via the long dry way) we all sat down and burst into song in the chamber & Stan brought out a tin with 6 Mars bars in (one each a peice [sic], all round,)  On to look over the 40 ft a mere trickle going over & then back by the wet way : the lavatory pan had an inch of water in & was a great disappointment but Jimmy Weeks french at the squeeze nearer the surface amused the whole party.  When we emerged in the gathering dusk it was well & truly raining, some more milk, a call at the "Castle" & a dark, wet ride home (some members in their caving clothes) reaching Bristol 22-45.  Members present : Leader R. Wallace, J. Bosworth, S. Herman, J. Weeks, K. Durham. visitor H. Beedle.

The winters of 1947 and 1949 were among the most severe of the 20th century. Snow blanketed the entire country and temperatures plummeted so much that the Thames and the sea froze close to the shoreline.  On Mendip caving continued and with the Belfry now in full use it offered a warm prospect after a good trip.  One of the popular Mendip trips was a visit to Lamb Leer Cavern. A BEC party visited the cave on Sunday 9th March 1947.  Harry Stanbury was the proud owner of a Ford 10 and so he was able to reach the Belfry in relative comfort considering that cars did not have any heating systems on board so that windscreens froze on the inside.  Car heating was a luxury some 15 years hence! Harry entered the following into the caving log:

Deep snow on Mendip did its best to cancel the trip for us but despite the fact the road from the Belfry via Miners Arms was feet deep & impassable we eventually reach LL in safety via Chewton Mendip.  Changing in the snow was a chilly process.

At the entrance the snow had filled the gully & great fun was had digging down to the Trap. - Underground a very enjoyable trip was had, although the ladder being about 8 ft  - - short ... at the bottom, where those already down enjoyed the spectacle of those whose feet seemed glued to the bottom rung. - Returning to the surface hot soup provided by PAES' dad was very acceptable.  S.C.W. Herman was thrown into a deep drift, in his scanties, & party started to break up very happily. - Stanbury, however, stripped his gearbox on the way home & and much fun & games was had pushing one Ford 10 up Horsley Hill & otherwise avoiding every gradient possible. His passengers (Dunncliff (WCC), Stewart & Herman) arriving home exhausted whilst he who was in control of said Ford was still bright & breezy.  THS

After a Lamb Leer Cavern Trip 9th March 1947 – [l-r] Angus Innes, George Lucy,
Stan Herman, Peter Stewart and Harry Stanbury

During the last years of the war several trips were spent visiting many sites at Burrington and Charterhouse and Club members kept themselves abreast of the new discoveries. They noted the 'recently' found swallets near Read's Cavern - Drunkard's Hole and Rod's Pot and the extension in East Twin Swallet where the UBSS opened up the second chamber. Rod's Pot was bottomed and on a later trip a sketch survey of the cave was drawn up by Angus Innes. The knowledge of Burrington Combe and the surrounding area bordering Mendip Lodge Wood gave members clues where to dig.

An investigation was undertaken through Velvet Bottom for potential sites.  Two features identified as 'Sites 1 and 2' were, from caving log write-up, somewhere in or close to the Charterhouse Rakes as well as some work that is said to have taken place at Timber Hole in 1942. (note 12) Site No. 3 was the well-known Cross Swallet, where an excavation had taken place in the late 1930s by the Wessex Cave Club. Brimble Pit was also inspected but not dug by Club members until the 1950s.  Plantation Swallet was worked again in 1949 and limited digs near the modern entrance to St. Cuthbert’s Swallet were undertaken in 1947 and 1949 when Collins and Rice which reached a depth of 5m. (note 13)

At Stoke Lane, the quarries at the northern end of the valley, Gilson's Quarries, were frequently showing signs of cave development and often visited by Angus Innes and others.  John Ifold was fully occupied with a dig in the Lamb Bottom area.


Sybil Bowden-Lyle, Don Coase, Dan Hasell and George Lucy at a diving meet at Wookey Hole, 1948 [LWD]


George Lucy in diving Kit

Don Coase was fully involved with CDG activities on Mendip, South Wales and in the Peak District.  CDG, formed in 1946 at Penycae, was closely associated with BEC during this period. In addition to Don Coase several members were fully involved and trained as divers including George Lucy, Dan Hasell and Harry Stanbury, helped by Sybil Bowden-Lyle and ‘Sett’.  Coase was the first to enter Llethrid Swallet and BEC members visited this on the 24th September 1949

The Forty Foot Pot in Swildon’s Hole usually sorted the ‘men from the boys’. The ‘men’ undertook a trip into the lower streamway and visited the famous Forbidden Grotto on the far side of Tratman's Temple which when passed led to what is now Blasted Boss.  The feature was visited on the 20th August 1944 on a joint trip of MNRC and BEC members.  The MNRC contingent Howard Kenney and Vincent Stimpson were joined by five members of the BEC comprising Stan Herman, 'Bossy' Bosworth, Bob Bagshaw, Len Finlay, Harry Stanbury and Dick Woodbridge.  When the grotto beyond Tratman's Temple had been reached.

... C.H. Kenney & J. Bosworth ... reported a passage at the end [of Forbidden Grotto] blocked by a stalagmited boulder around which a strong draught blew. ... Kenney removed a sample of the strange snow like formation on the floor.  The Stalactites in this grotto are absolutely transparent...

Motorcycles became the popular form of transport during the 1945-1955 period; few owned a motorcar. Caving though wasn't limited to the Mendip sites but regular trips were made to other regions notably South Wales and Yorkshire.  Don Coase also was a regular diver in Peak Cavern at Castleton.

As the membership soared after the end of the war, particularly that with Japan in 1946, digging was fairly widespread. In fact the first 10 - 15 years after the reformation in 1943 was to prove to be one of the Club's most fruitful periods for the discovery of new cave passage.


½ Pint, Ted Mason, Graham Balcombe, ‘Sett’ during the recovery of the
human remains at Wookey Hole [LWD]

Cross Swallet [aka Site No. 3]


Cross Swallet, c.1947 [AI]

On the digging front one of the earliest sites chosen was Cross Swallet with Brimble Pit kept in mind as another possible site. It had been previously dug without success by the WCC during 1937-38.   'Pongo' Wallis proposed restarting Cross Swallet as an official Club dig at the May committee meeting.  After permission was obtained from Mr Main work commenced on the 29th July.  The site was worked by the Club throughout 1944 -1946 and continued on a sporadic basis until 1949.

Swancombe Hollow Hole

Dan Hasell and others had a short-lived dig in the hill south of Blagdon - Swancombe Hollow Hole. Ralph Stride of the UBSS was contacted for permission to work the site and eventually he replied with a number of conditions on behalf of the landowners in July 1946.  However, in the event it seems that little work was ever carried out at the site although a surveying trip was undertaken.

Burrington Combe digs

After a concerted exploration of the Burrington caves a few sites were noted as potential digs. In 1946 Club members began work at two adjacent sites, Snogging Hole and Burrington Hole. They were dug for a short period but because of the close proximity of the road and the fear of boulders falling onto it they were not long after abandoned.  Today the sites are known as Goon's Hole and Lionel's Hole, named after Alan Jeffreys [SMCC & GSS] and Lionel Haines [MNRC] respectively. It has been suggested that Snogging Hole was named after Keith Hawkins, a BEC member who organised the archaeological section for a number of years.  According to Harry Stanbury Keith was also known as 'Snogger' Hawkins because he was the Club's misogynist!  A map of caving sites in Burrington Combe compiled by John 'Postle' Thomsett enabled the writer to identify the sites that were only mentioned by their contemporary names in the 1946-caving logbook in his 'The Lost Caves of Mendip' published in BB 505. (note 14)

Bog Hole

The site was located in a disused quarry but is now filled in and covered by the concrete forming part of Walt Foxwell's old farmyard. A pit was dug and a rift feature was broken into by the UBSS during the August Bank Holiday of 1944.  They also attacked Plantation Swallet, the first working session since that undertaken by MNRC during 1919-1924.  BEC inspected the site in the winter of 1947 and work commenced after it was confirmed that the UBSS [2nd April 1947] no longer had any interest in it.

Tankard Hole [Stewart's Hole]

About the same time that Bog Hole was being worked, Peter Stewart reported to the Club committee [7th May 1947] that permission has been given by Ben Dors [Roger's father] to work a site some 200m east of the Hunters' Lodge Inn, on land owned by ' ... Mr. Masters.'  Work got underway and the committee allocated Club funds cover the cost of timber to line the shaft.  However, work ceased by the new year of 1949 and the site was left ' ... to rest.'


Pat Browne [AI]

Pat Browne and Stoke Lane Slocker

A man with a nose for caves was Pat Browne from Frome. Initially he was a member of MNRC but then joined BEC. Most of his exploratory work took place on eastern Mendip and he was responsible for the opening up of Browne's Hole and Withybrook Slocker. He explored Crystal Pot with Don Coase, a site found by quarrymen in 'Sam Treasure's' Quarry at Stoke Lane.

In 1949 he was at the centre of a colossal Mendip storm involving the digging personnel of the MNRC and WCC who were in the process of pushing Primrose Path in Eastwater Cavern. Pat wrote to Balch at Wells Museum informing him that he had stepped upon a number of toes with great force.

... The true facts are that Jock Broadley and I went down to have a look at the W.C.C. dig that we thought practically finished; we had no intention of going through.  When we arrived at the site Jock had a look at the hole and decided to try it.  The unexpected happened and he happened to get through to the top of pot number one [Primrose Pot - upper section].

Our problem was what to do now, so we kept it dark until we had the chance to see if anything lay beyond; it did, and Mendip leapt into the air and landed on its head, with me underneath. For some time hence I shall be keeping to the East.  My age must be against me : - people don’t like us discovering all the caves for them. I refer to the riot over Stoke Lane and others. It is for this reason that I hope to be able to let you know of some more finds in the very near future. I shall from now on always keep you posted of my activities in this part of Mendip.

For all his caving exploits and upsets his greatest achievement will be the discovery of Browne's Passage in June 1947, which was the breakthrough that was to hurl the fame of the Club to the forefront of Mendip caving. In a letter to Balch he outlined what had been found during May 1946 in the company of a school friend, A.J. Crawford.  Pat had found a way through and opened up the floor of Corkscrew Chamber entering Pebble Crawl.  Though not revisited until the 31st May 1947, the exploration did not end for it was then that Browne's Passage was found.  Pat with two school friends, D. Sage and a J.H.H. Mead, all from Bruton School, cleared a boulder pile and the way on led past the Nutmeg Grater and ended at Cairn Chamber.

Contact was made with Tony [Sett] Setterington and Don Coase.  They both agreed that a follow-up trip would take place on the 7th June 1947 and on this occasion the passage beyond Cairn Chamber was found to lead to a sump pool.  On the 22nd June a strong party was gathered to descend the cave to locate the submerged passage off the sump pool and assess the problems of getting bulky diving gear to the site. Pat Browne was unable to attend but the party comprised Harry Stanbury, Don Coase, Freda Hutchinson, R. Woodbridge and Graham Balcombe [CDG]. 


A human skull found in Bone Chamber [TK]

The submerged passage was located and inspected by Coase who having reached into the sump, said he could feel airspace and without warning disappeared with a ‘... gurgle and a splash ...’ A few seconds later he returned reporting that he had regained the stream that sank at the start of Browne’s Passage.  With that Coase disappeared again followed by Balcombe and Stanbury and together they explored the streamway to reach the boulder ruckle adjacent to Sump II. (note 15)

Two further trips took place during the weekend of 28th & 29th July when the climb up led into Bone Chamber where human and animal bones were discovered by Coase, Fenn and Browne.  Better was to come with the discovery of the Throne Room and its beautiful formations. The entry in the caving log for this date states that they

... pushed into the new series & discovered 9 large chamber, "Willie" and son, parts of two human skeletons, piles of animal bones, smoke-blackened Stalactite & charcoal.  A truely [sic] great day...


Bones of a child brought out of Bone Chamber,
Stoke Lane Slocker [DI]

The discovery of Stoke Lane Two was an important event for Mendip caving and it also received wide coverage in the press. William Hucker of the Bristol Evening Post was to later write a major article on the discovery after a visit with Coase, Browne, Innes and Gommo on the 6th July. Hucker's report appeared in the 9th July edition titled 'Most Beautiful of all Mendip Caves // With Skeleton of Primitive Caveman.'

Don Coase and Geoff Ridyard commenced a survey soon after the discovery of Stoke Two and by June 1947 he was able to report to the committee that the task was going forward as planned.  To assist the surveyors the Club purchased a drawing board and protractors so that the presentational work could continue at the Belfry.  It was decided that the provisional plan of Stoke Lane would be available by the time that the Club submitted its exhibits for a caving exhibition to be held at Bristol Museum during the late Autumn. (note 16) 


Don Coase & Geoff Ridyard working on the Stoke Lane Slocker survey, 1948 [Photo unknown]


The Queen Victoria stalagmite in the Throne Room [DAC]


The Stoke Lane Slocker team [l-r] : ??, Don Coase, Johnny Paine, Pat Browne and Angus Innes, c.1947  [AI]

The Bones and their removal.

Soon after the discovery Balch contacted Tratman requesting him to pay a visit to the cave and assess the importance of the remains.  Tratman undertook a trip to the bone deposits and afterwards wrote to Balch that this was the most disgusting cave that he had visited and vowed never to return! (note 17)

Plans were drawn up to leave the deposit until such time that another way could be found into Bone Chamber. It was generally believed that the bones were too fragile to be moved but equally it was realised that if the bones were left in place they would eventually become damaged if not destroyed.

For whatever reason nothing was done for two years but the preparation of the survey and other activities probably added to the delay.  However in the spring of 1949, Max Unwin, the Honorary Curator of Shepton Mallet Museum and a founder member of SMCC, became aware of their existence. An exploratory meeting was held on the 8th June 1949 between Unwin and Club representatives, Harry Stanbury and Angus Innes, to discuss the possibility of removing the bones. Another meeting was held between the clubs with Hal Perry and Les Peters joining the BEC team.

This preparatory work was a build-up for a meeting with the local archaeologist and BEC member, Ted Mason. The BEC team comprised Stanbury, Innes, Mary Osborne, Dan Hasell and Max Unwin. It was arranged that the main human bones should be removed during the second week of July although Mason subsequently requested that the removal be delayed until the 16-17th July.  Unwin reported that he had talked with Mr. Perkins, owner of the land over the cave who had agreed that the bones could be removed and that a dig could take place in one of the deep depressions over Bone Chamber in order to devise a dry way into the cave.

The joint BEC-SMCC [then known as the Mendip Research Group] trip went to plan until on a climb up over boulders a 24 cwt boulder was dislodged injuring Sybil Bowden-Lyle in the back. Although extremely painful she was able to move through the cave to the entrance. Another trip was planned and this time a joint MCR and WCC trip managed to remove many of the bones packed in lever-lid tins filled with sawdust. (note 17)


Pat Browne, Johnny Paine and Don Coase somewhere in east Mendip, possibly Brownes' Hole

Photographer abbrev: AI = Angus Innes; DAC = Don Coase; DI = Dave Irwin; LWD: Luke Devenish;  'Sett' = Tony [Sett] Setterington; TK = Tim Kenderick

Notes

  1. BB 10(104)1
  2. Committee Meeting, 2nd November 1945
  3. Attendance at Committee meetings was taken very seriously and a member would have to have a cast iron excuse for not being present. On one occasion, the August 1945 Committee meeting the minutes state that '… D.H. Hasell being ill, was excused. Mr. Bosworth was absent without explanation. … ' Is there a lesson to be learnt by members of the current 2007 Committee?
  4. However, in BB No. 429, Harry remembered that the first Belfry was a rented old stone shed just large enough for six bunks in 1945-46 very close to where the Shepton Mallet CC had their first HQ.  If anyone has any further details or photos of this do please get in contact.
  5. Belfry Bulletin 2(15)4
  6. Belfry Bulletin 26(293)56-64
  7. Belfry Bulletin 54(522)36-38
  8. BB 2(13)5
  9. Angus Innes diary.
  10. BB 3(20)3
  11. Anyone interested in the Club's past should make a point of perusing these records.  Though the early logbooks and committee meeting minutes are locked away in the library for safe keeping all may be seen using the CD's of the scans undertaken by Dave Turner and the writer.
  12. The source of this fact is in Barrington & Stanton's Complete Caves of Mendip, 1977. Nothing has been found in the BEC archives - yet!
  13. Irwin, David J. et al, 1991, St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Priddy, Somerset, Bristol Exploration Club. ii + 82pp.map.illus.surveys.(October)
  14. Irwin, David J., 1999, The Lost Caves of Mendip.  BEC Bel Bul 50(12) 31-46 (Dec), fig, survey
  15. Coase, Donald A., 1947, Stoke Lane II     Brit Cav 17, 43-45
  16. Exhibition in Bristol City Museum, 24 Nov. to 11 Dec., 1948 - Harry Stanbury's report in British Caver 19,40-42
  17. Tratman, Edgar K., [letter to Balch dated 28th July, 1947] [in] H.E. Balch, Badger Hole Diaries [q.v.], mss 2p.
  18. SMCC Jnl Series 10, No. 5, p.9

To be continued…


 

Some Dates of Interest:

MRO Warden's meetings (open to all interested parties). All at the Hunters @ 8:00 pm:

Friday 9th February
Sun 13th May
Fri 10th August
Sun 11th November
Sat 10th March - Annual Meeting

MRO Talks - Date to be reviewed.

The History of the MRO, An illustrated talk by Jim Hanwell

Saturday March 24, First aid and improvisation for cavers! A talk by Pete Glanvil

Also a reminder that MRO training takes place on the second Thursday evening and the third Saturday morning of every month.

If you are interested in participating let me know.

Regards Mark (Gonzo) Lumley
MRO Training Officer


Hollow Hills

Drink on!

If anyone, heaven forbid, comments on the amount of beer you consume (See earlier article by Ian Gregory entitled Bloody Students) consider the following sent to me by a Canadian chum.

‘If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock one year it would now be worth $49.00. With Enron, you would have had $16.50 left of the original $1,000.00. With WorldCom, you would have had less than $5.00 left. With Lucent, you would have $3.50 left of the original $1000.00 but if you had purchased $1,000.00 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, and then turned in the cans for the aluminium recycling REFUND you would have had $214.00.’

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

Agreed - My only question would be, who the hell drinks beer out of cans? 

*

Just a reminder about submitting articles: Text files are fine, preferably as a word document. Photos: BLACK and WHITE JPEGS – and make sure the image sizes are reasonable – no 1000cms x1000cms please! I think most, if not all photo packages will convert colour snaps into B and W. Photoshop will get good images down to and below 100kb or so. 

SUBMISSION DEADLINE FOR BELFRY BULLETIN 528: APRIL 30TH

 

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