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May Day Forest Of Dean Meet

By Emma Porter and Mike Wilson

This meet was arranged by Emma Porter and Mike Clayton, who always give an open invite to all BEC members.  All of the forest caves are listed in the meet and all of them are available complete with keys, a guide where necessary, and permits - this means that anyone on the meet has total access to all the caves.

Zot and myself also brought 3 canoes along, as the rapids at Symonds Yat are a great canoe trip.

All in all over the weekend a large number of cavers turned up at the campsite (74 including day trippers). The BEC was represented by Pete Hellier, Kat Denham, Emma Porter, myself and Zot - pretty poor really!!!  The rest were Dudley Caving Club, Shepton Mallet CC, Craven PC, Gloucester SS, Royal Forest of Dean CC and some ex-Portsmouth Uni cavers.  Plus a contingent of Hungarian Cavers (many of whom I had met in Budapest).

The beer tent (with cheap beer) was provided by the Gloucestershire Cave Rescue Group.  It was originally suffering attempts to erect it inside out, but being a quick erect tent, it soon became obvious that the guy ropes were on the inside......  hey ho, up it went easily (wish I had a video camera).

Zot also brought 2 tents, one for each foot, the small quick throw up tent was up in seconds but when the time came to fold it back up it was a different story.  He spent some considerable time tent wrestling much to our amusement!! Still, his contribution of a large quantity of wood for the fire borrowed from the forest kept us all warm that night.

Shepton Mallet CC was the largest group, headed by Shepton Sean an ex-BEC member.  They arrived with some nice twee flags (so they could find their tents when inebriated). Unfortunately, one disappeared over the weekend never to be found again!!! I blame the Hungarians, you can never trust Johnny foreigner.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They were still searching when we left. Watch this space.

My tin knee stopped me caving (poor quality solder supplied by the national health) but we did manage several walks in the Wye Valley, including the ferry and rope bridge in the Biblins, only possible with a bucket full of painkillers and 2 ski poles. Good job I didn’t have to be risk assessed!!

A big thank you to Mike and Emma who worked hard organising the keys, permits, transport to the remote caves down forest tracks.  The meet raised a donation for the Gloucestershire Cave Rescue Group as a bonus.

Emma Porter and Mike Wilson

May Day Forest of Dean Meet 2011

I know it is a long way off...but I’ve already been asked when the next Forest weekend is.  

Mike and I organise the weekend every two years and we have already had offers from local cavers to lead trips for that weekend – so put it in your diary now!

Progress at Caine Hill Shaft

Tony Jarratt

Continued from BB 530.

Further Digging:- 21/6/08 - [22/8/08 *See Notes].

 At the start of this report ca. 4129 bags of spoil had been removed from the cave - an approximate total of 37.16 tons if under-estimated at averaging 10 kilos a bag.   Thanks to local historian Barry Lane, the mediaeval boundary document mentioned in the last article is herewith illustrated (Ed’s note – we’re still looking for this.).

Jake Baynes dug at the end of down-dip Pastel Passage on the 21st June and next day he was joined by the writer for more bag moving and digging - mainly by Jake who was in better health.  Quite a lot of bedrock walls and floor were revealed. Monday 23rd saw a redundant Trevor Hughes, a train driver with a day off - John "Hatstand" Osborne (W.C.C.) - and your scribe dragging piles of bags throughout the cave and continuing work at the face with about thirty bags filled. Later that day, Jane Clarke filled a few more and unearthed a large rock.  She had been inspired to go down for a look after listening to the enthusiastic ramblings of the morning's diggers in the Hunters' and waxed lyrical on the progress made since her last visit.  Trev reported the way on to have closed down to a narrow, infilled rift.  

100 loads reached the surface from Son of a Pitch on the 25th and fifty were Land Rovered to the dump.  Tonight's operatives were Mike Willett, John Walsh, Paul Brock, Jake and your scribe.  Jane, on a solo trip on the 29th, did a superb job of clearing most of the bags on the bend back to S.o.a.P.  Next day, the writer continued digging at the bottom of the "3rd chamber" and found the way on to be more hopeful than he had been led to believe.  He also stropped and shifted previously filled bags, replaced the worn out drag tray in Root 66 and emptied thirty plus sun-dried loads at the dump.  Two more Land Rover loads reached here on the 2nd July while 50 bags were hauled out from S.o.a.P. by Phil Coles, Pete Hellier, John Noble, Sean Howe, claustrophobic Geordie novice James Summerill and your scribe.  In the depths Mike, John W. and Martyn Compton (R.U.C.C./B.E.C.) dug and shifted bags back to the "2nd chamber".  They reported a low airspace at the face and a possible enlargement to the south but also the generally poor quality of the air - possibly due to the prevailing warm and still weather conditions.

Ginging work above the lintel commenced on the 4th when Tony Audsley affixed a metal working platform.  With a change in the weather to bloody wet and miserable the air conditions had improved by the 6th when Trev, Fiona Crozier and your scribe dug at the bottom and, briefly, in the RH up-dip Pastel Passage.  The bottom dig became impossible to work without a dose of bang or plugs and feathers so Trev cleared the supposed "inlet" above - the NW trending continuation of Pastel Passage and logical way on.  After an initial pinch point he was amazed to find the passage enlarging beyond and seeming to come in from the SW (almost certainly from the lowest point in Root 66, only 2-3m away) and heading off to the NE.  The infill consisted of attractive stratified bands of different coloured sediments ranging from black through to grey, yellow and orange.  Seeming to be a separate cross-tube it was named Rainbow Passage after the multi-coloured layers and to avoid confusion (?) with the lower, Pastel Passage dig.  It will now take priority over the latter.  The writer was back here next day but total body failure meant that only a dozen bags were filled.  To assist with Tony A.'s project the wire ladder on the entrance was replaced with two alloy builders' ladders.  Foul weather and Priddy Folk Festival then brought a lull in digging.  

On the 14th, half a Land Rover load reached the dump where Jane and the writer emptied almost all of the full bags.  A poor turnout on the 16th resulted in Mike and Trev struggling to clear S.o.a.P. and getting 44 loads to the surface.  The latter was back on the 20th with Duncan Butler.  They concentrated on bag shifting from the "1st chamber" to S.o.a.P. while the writer delivered one Land Rover load to the dump.  More bags were re-positioned throughout the cave on the 23rd by Mike and John W.  The rest of July was frittered away.

On the 6th August a strong team - consisting of Mike, John W, Jane, John N, Phil, Sean, Guy Munnings, Jake and Paul were briefly overseen by your scribe and Jeff Price as they moved bags from the "1st chamber" and S.o.a.P. outwards.  130 reached the surface to the satisfaction of the assembled.  Phil and John N. dug and bag shifted on the 9th, Jane tidied the three "chambers" on the 10th and Mike emptied bags at the dump next day. On the 13th Mike, John W, John N, Trev, Phil, Paul, Sean, Pete, Henry Dawson and Neil Usher got 101 loads out, eighteen of these freshly dug.  The latter worked in agony throughout due to a hernia but even lapsed B.E.C. men are capable of Excess!

NOTE 1: Tony's account ends here on the 13th August.  What follows is taken from his logbooks, XIV (pp157-159) and XV (p2). 

On the 16th, Phil and John N. filled 20 bags at the current end.  On the 20th, Henry D, Jane Phil, Paul, Mike, Pete, Jake and Anne Vanderplank got 112 loads out, thus clearing the cave.  Henry D then filled a dozen more at the end, where digging is easy and sandy and the ceiling is going up.

On the 21st, Tangent and JRat took one Land-Rover load, about 50 bags, to the dump to dry out.  The 24th saw Jane filling 13 loads at the end, Tangent, Darrell Insterell and JRat taking a 60 bag Land-Rover load to the dump and Henry D, Andy McDonald and Barry Lawton digging and shifting at the end.  The next day, Tangent filled ten bags from the right-hand up-dip Pastel Passage and another ten from the end.

NOTE 2:This article was found on Tony's computer after he had died.  Tony had been working on it between 7th and 25th August and had nearly completed it when he died.  I have taken the final entries almost verbatim from his last two logbooks.  The last entry is dated 22nd August 2009.

This, therefore, concludes Tony Jarratt's involvement with the digging at Caine Hill Shaft.  Other hands must now take up his pen, it won't be easy; he is a hard act to follow.

Tony Audsley, 13 July 2009



The "Cane Hill Document"

Local historian, Barry Lane of Westbury-sub-Mendip has turned up an interesting document dating from the time of the dissolution of the monasteries (round about 1540).  This refers to Cane Land and Cane Hill (although a possible alternative reading of 'Cane' could, in fact, be 'Cave' !).  The document also mentions Cokkes Close, which could possibly have corrupted to Coxton, as in Coxton End Lane.


Barry had suspected that the area mentioned in the document lay close to and rather behind Manor Farm, but he was not aware that the area was referred to as Caine Hill until a random (as ever) conversation with Tangent in the pub led him to make the connection.   

In the early part of the 16th Century, Henry VIII was having an argument with the Church over a wife.  As was the rule in those days, he won the argument.  He then followed established custom by grabbing all the church land he could get his hands on, had it valued and then sold or rented it and took the money; that being the important part.  

A 'Court of Augmentation' was set to administer the property seized by the King and this produced records of valuations and incomes, many of which have survived.  In particular, there is a reference to some land in Priddy and I am grateful to Barry Lane for supplying an image of the document in question.  I am even more grateful to Barry for supplying a transcription and a translation of the same.  

The document, a sort of early spreadsheet, consists of columns of preamble on the left, two central paragraphs of description, then valuations on the right.  The two paragraphs refer respectively to land at Priddy and West Harptree.  Only the Priddy paragraph is described below.

As was commonly the case with such documents, it is highly abbreviated, (a bit like mobile phone txts).  A transcription is appended here with  line breaks as in the original:-

FIRM unius pec Terr Dnical vocat

Cane land cont xvj acr, Cane Hyll

cont viij acr unius Claus voc vj

acr & iij Claus voc Cokk cont vj

acr, ac pasture ad CCC Oves ariet

sup Coiam de Menedipe, unacum decis

Garb ibm & arund quolibt alto anno,

cum alijs decimis Capell Sci laurenc

ibm ptim in tea Johis leng p annu, 

The suggested full text:-

FIRMA unius pecie Terre Domininicalis vocatur

Cane land continentis xvj acras, Cane Hyll

continentis viij acras unius Clause vocantur vj

acr & iij Clausarum vocantur Cokkes continentium vj

acras, ac pasture ad CCC Oves ariettas

super Communiam de Mendipe, unacum decimis

Garbarum ibiemm & arundinum quodlibet alterno anno,

cum alijs decimis Capelle Sancti laurencij

ibidem partim in tenura Johannis leng per annum,

 The translation, (complete with the preamble from the left columns and the valuation):-

County of Somerset

Lately of the Monastery of Brewtone in the aforesaid county.

Predie within the Parish of Westbury.

Is worth in,


THE FARM of one plot of demesne land called

Cane land, containing 16 acres, Cane Hylle,

containing eight acres, one close called Six

Acres & three closes called Cokkes containing six

acres, and pasture for 300 ewes

on the common land of Menedipe together with tythes

of sheaves and reeds there, each alternate year,

with the other tythes of the Chapel of St Lawrence

there, partly in the tenure of John Leng, yearly,


106 Shillings 8 pence 


In 1540, this could be expressed as an exact amount, one third of a pound was  EXACTLY six shillings and eight pence (6/8).  Today, it involves a recurring decimal which cannot be expressed so neatly so the best that we can say that the amount is just over:-

£5.33333333333333333333333333333333 ......

Such is progress.  

Tony Audsley 20 August 2009.