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You Bet We Will

When Jrat left his parting message to his mates he signed it off “keep on digging”.

This in turn was turned into a very marketable charity Tshirt by Tony Audsley who has sold gazillions of them and raised a whole heap of cash for charity. Well done Tony!

 

However the slogan has been taken to heart by certain members of a well known digging massive. It seems not a week go past without seeing a tag line Keep on (Digging, BBQing, Drinking, enter your random word here) closely followed by “You bet we will”. 

So enthused is one member that he even got it on his van…..

Diggers Shovel Award!

Jrat was very specific that he didn't want anything named after him. But after the Rat-Fest we thought that it would be very fitting that some of the money you all raised and more specifically some of the money Roger and Jackie Dors kindly raised at the Hunters would go towards a "diggers shovel", really its a stainless steel entrenching tool. 

This would be placed on the wall above the settle in the Hunters with a plaque showing the club or group that has discovered and surveyed the longest bit of cave on Mendip that year. 

The competition in keeping with Jrat's enthusiasm for all digging on Mendip will be open to ALL clubs and groups. We thought that it would be appropriate that this award would be acknowledged on the anniversary of Tony's birthday 21st November, which we think is a happier occasion. More information will follow but put a note in your diary for 21st November for the unveiling of the award at the Hunters lets say 20:00 hours shall we? 

So all you diggers you will need to get a move on to beat the Charterhouse team but who knows ......Keep on digging ! 

Steel carabiner without gate 

This is the steel carabiner that many cavers looked forward, it has so many qualities: 

• Better stiffness in the direction of the width 

• Greater resistance to shock

• No risk of forgetting the carabiner open 

• More pinch gloves with the finger notch 

• More body blocked by rust or clay 

• More blade spring oiling

New!

€ 8.49 (delivered without hacksaw or lime)

Note: The pin pads and ratchet to the carabiner above are now available.

Descender 16

Twice more convenient than the 8 descender, this tool will allow you to multiply the possibilities of rappelling down the rope, whether you're right or left handed.

• Single rope on the right side or left side.

• Rope double the right side or left side.

• Two strings single, double, on both sides.

• Two double strings, in four, the two sides at once: for cavers very very heavy.

Very soon we will release the exclusive supplier in descendeur 24: SOUTERNET is always on the cutting edge of progress!

€ 16.16 each (also sold by lot for 16 communities).

Pitons, pins and pads ratchet 

You wait for months and we ask very often. Our office, always at the forefront of technological research and innovation for people who love the mountains and the underground world you finally: the cone and ratchet pin to use the hooks without finger. MAVC a ratchet is currently on the drawing boards. Who better than SOUTERNET forward your explorations?

€ 8.50 peak in the steel plate anodized black. 

8.00 € le piton classic stainless steel.

13.00 to 21.00 € pin ice (available in 4 sizes).

6.00 € Zicral the plate bent or twisted.

NB: models of indissociable finger without carabiner sold above.

 

 

TAMPAX-LED

Display Model already used. Scope 10 metres. Led 25 CDs. Battery lithium 1/2 AA 1300 mAh long duration (autonomy!), may explode in very wet conditions. Waterproof: mastic glue coating flexible on mini-dipswitch. If you lose in a hole: pull the Twine!  

5.00 € (delivered without batteries)

 

 

 

The Ancient And Honorable Order Of E Clampus Vitus

Creda Quia Absurdum 

(I believe it because it is absurd)

Motto of the Clampers

Underground toiling in one form or another has always been associated with beer and raucous activity but perhaps the greatest example, other than numerous BEC stomps, is a mock secret society called E Clampus Vitus set up in 1851 (or 1845 or 1852 depending on which research you read – the Clampers are heavily into vagueness while clarity is frowned on – hoorah!) in the Northern Californian gold mining town of Mokelumne.

Inspired by the Freemasons and the Odd Fellowship, two of the largest secret societies in America at the time, the miners got together to develop their own mock fraternity but one best suited to the riotous behaviour, humour and the general lawlessness of gold prospecting. 

 

Chapter banner

The brotherhood was organised around chapters and had meetings “at any time before or after a full moon”. These of course, and in the best tradition, were held in bars and saloons with the commencement of meetings started by the noisy discordant blowing of the Hewgag, a kind of improvised trumpet. These meetings were well oiled with beer and cheap whisky and were presided over by such titled sots as Noble Grand Humbug, Royal Gyasticus, the Clamps Petrix, the Clamps Matrix and the Grand Imperturbable Hangman.  

Initiates had to undergo all kinds of daft pranks to be admitted. Including being trundled about in a wheelbarrow while sitting on a damp sponge aka the Rocky Road to Dublin or hoisted into the air on a block and tackle usually after being asked some question mocking those of other secret societies. (The BEC committee should not take this as a suggestion for initiating new members) Once in, the new member was called Chairman of the Most Important Committee. 

Clampers, as they were known held parades with a billy goat as their mascot. They also sported a woman’s skirt as their banner with the motto, “This is the flag we fight under”.

Yet they also did more serious work. Life in the gold mining towns could be brutish, nasty, short and violence was prolific. Their down to earth humour helped build a strong community spirit. Clampers also raised money for widows and helped those out who had lost their homes to fire or flood. On the back of these activities the Clampers soon became the biggest albeit mock secret society in California. 

Sadly as the gold began to fizzle out so did the Clampers. They last held a meeting in their original form in 1916. But all was not lost. Fifteen years later Adam Lee Moore one of the few surviving members of the original brotherhood founded a new chapter in San Francisco and soon the order spread to Oregon, Nevada and Arizona keeping many of the old ‘ceremonies’ alive. All that is except public drunkenness, which is now frowned on.

 

A modern day Clamper

The Clampers are still in existence and wear red woollen shirts covered in badges, patches and medals made of tin can lids. Knowledge of Gold Rush history is one of the requirements for membership. They refer to themselves as an ‘historical drinking society’ or sometimes a ‘drinking historical society’. They can be found on Wikipedia and various lodges have their own websites, e.g. Grub Gulch chapter.

Long may they prosper!

Yer Ed. 

 

Digging for Mendip Caves

W. I. Stanton

 

(From: Studies in Speleology, Vol. IV, September 1983, 77

Reproduced here with the kind permission of Dr W. I. Stanton).

Summary

Only one-eleventh of the cave passage presently known under Mendip was accessible before 1900.   Most of the remainder was discovered by digging.   Of a range of possible surface digging sites, the most promising are the shale-edge sinks of Central Mendip.   Underground, almost any choked passage is worth a dig, as long as cave scenery and interest are conserved. Experiences in passing boulder ruckles and disposing of tipstuff are described.   Most diggers are either short-term opportunists or long-term planners.   It is argued that the supply of easily-found caves and grottoes is nearing exhaustion, so that conservation of those that remain is supremely important.

T

he Mendip caves are hidden.   Twelve out of the fourteen major systems were nameless hollows in the ground before digging revealed their existence.   The importance of digging to Mendip cavers may be judged by the fact that, in the year 1900, only four of these systems were known, and one of them, Wookey Hole, had always been open.   Their total passage length was 2.5 km.

By 1982, surface digging had opened the other ten major systems, underground digging (and diving) had vastly extended most of them, and the total passage length had increased to 35 km.   Nor was this all.   A large number of medium-sized systems (roughly defined as 120 m to 800 m long) had yielded to the spade.   In 1900 only seven of this category (passage length 1.6km) had been open, but by 1982 the number was 31 (passage length 9 km).

Statistically, then, the popular Mendip sport of cave digging is amply justified by results.   Every digger hopes that his work will add significantly to the length of known cave, but the main reason for digging is personal.   To the experienced worker, the moment of breakthrough into unknown caves, after months or years of effort, is incomparable.   In the darkness ahead lies mystery, beauty, challenge, danger, knowledge, fame - all the thrill of virgin exploration, so incongruous in exhaustively-charted Britain.   There, also, new facts may be gleaned, ancient questions answered, longstanding theories proved or disproved.   The unexpected is the rule.

So the speleologist strives for the excitement and the discipline of exploring new cave systems, and the months or years of digging are counted time well spent.

To some, digging is a fairly tedious chore, and they are only sustained by the hope of triumphs to come.   To others, the digging operation itself is fascinating.   It is seldom simple.   The larger digs demand skills comparable, in their complexity, to those of the engineers who built the railways.   Shafts are sunk, trenches driven, best routes chosen, solid rock blasted, boulder ruckles penetrated, unsafe ground made stable, flooding problems overcome, grottoes preserved, tip space found for tons of rubble, hoists or tramways established, and so on.   It is vital to foresee potential problems and prevent them arising.   A major setback, such as the collapse of a shaft, can so dishearten the digging team that the project is abandoned.

More for the specialist, but interesting, apparently, to many cavers, is the study of the sedimentary deposits dug through.   Mud, sand and rocks do not accumulate haphazardly, but as the result of certain well-understood processes.   By diligent observation the stratigraphy of a choke can be worked out, and, especially in surface digs, this can give clues to the history of a wide area.   For example, a dig at Charterhouse provided new evidence of the way that lead slaggers operated a century ago, and of local conditions in the Pleistocene periglacial climate thousands of years before that (Stanton, 1976).   Another Charterhouse "cave", Grebe Swallet, was proved by digging to be an 18th century lead mine with ore deposits still in situ.

Where to Dig.

"Caves be where you find 'em", the famous axiom first stated in the sixties by Fred Davies to express his scorn for speleological pundits, has been proved true time and again.   Tyning's Barrows Cave, one of the biggest to be found recently, appeared on its own when the ground collapsed in the great rainstorm of July 10th, 1968.   Little digging was required to open its full extent.   No-one could have predicted the presence of Wookey Hole Cave's top entrance, a few feet beneath the grass of a featureless field, had not a diver explored it from the inside.   The same diver, John Parker, discovered a vital link passage in Wookey Hole by climbing high into the roof of the Seventh Chamber, where no reasonable speleologist would have expected it.   These and other caves have just turned up, against the odds, whereas dedicated diggers, toiling for years at 'promising' sites, have had to modify Fred's axiom to "caves be where you make “em”.

Be that as it may, some parts of Mendip are more likely than others to yield unknown caves.   Basically it depends on how long a particular region has been subjected to cave-forming processes.   Central and West Mendip are the oldest karst areas, and in East Mendip the length of time that the Carboniferous Limestone has been exposed to the elements grows shorter the further east one goes.   Most of the East Mendip resurgences are immature (Barrington and Stanton, 1977, 208-209) and, unless abandoned upper levels exist, like those intercepted by Fairy Cave Quarry, the caves leading to such resurgences are likely also to be immature.   The St Dunstan's Well catchment is an exception, and on present form it is wildly optimistic to look for major caves in the Gurney Slade, Ashwick, Whitehole, Finger, Cobby Wood, Seven Springs, Holwell, Hapsford and Oldford catchments.

Having chosen a favourable area, where then to apply shovel to ground? Experience shows that the biggest swallet caves are those that engulf sizable streams from the Old Red Sandstone hills.   Not all of these streams break surface.   At Sludge Pit, Tyning's Barrows, Cuckoo Cleeves and in Fools Paradise in Swildon's and the August Series of Longwood Swallet, streams that enter or entered the systems not far below ground level have come direct from the Lower Limestone Shales.   On this basis, any depression at the edge of the Shales could lead into an important cave.

The hundreds or thousands of simple dolines that dimple the main limestone outcrop, well away from the Shales, are different.   Many have been dug, and several worthwhile caves entered (Cow Hole, Hunters Hole etc.), but only one is of major size.   The reason is the tiny catchment area of each doline.   Only a little water funnels down at the best of times, and its dissolving power is soon exhausted.   The stream, a mere trickle, is underpowered.

It would be wrong to assume that the limestone dolines are not worth digging.   The major exception to the general rule is Lamb Leer Cavern, a fossil system formed when the water table stood 150 m or more higher than now.   It is genetically unrelated to any modern streamway.   Several other limestone doline caves are fossil phreatic systems.   I suspect that many, even most, of the limestone dolines are the points at which the ground surface, on its downward journey under the influence of dissolution, has intersected ancient high-level caves.

There is always a chance that the immature system beneath a doline will connect, fortuitously, with a major streamway.   Cowsh Avens (Davies, 1975) are a classic example, with their roomy splash-carved shafts and tiny connecting creeps dropping 130m almost sheer from an infant doline to Swildon's Four.

A third class of depression is common in the Devil's Punchbowl - Wurt Pit - Wigmore area of Central Mendip.   They are termed leakage hollows, because they mark the points where small streams, gathering on a surface layer of residual clays, leak through into the Dolomitic Conglomerate below (Barrington and Stanton, 1977,223).   A few have been dug (e.g. Pounding Pot, Wigmore Swallet), but only at Wigmore has a small cave been found.   The streams, though often larger than those of the limestone dolines, are still underpowered, and they may be incapable of clearing the masses of clay that slump into the hollows.

Summarising prospects for the hopeful digger, West and Central Mendip are more promising than East Mendip, and the shale-edge sinks are probables, the limestone dolines possibles, and the leakage hollows doubtfuls.

Inside the caves the question of where to dig is basically simple.   Almost any choked hole, however narrow, may lead to an extension.   The obvious continuation of a main passage is not always the best site - as in G.B. Cave, where work in the Ladder Dig creep proved more fruitful than the assault on the terminal choke of the mighty Gorge.   Few digs have been pressed harder than the one at Blackmoor Flood Swallet, Charterhouse, where some 300 working visits were made by two teams in two years.   The passage being followed was a major abandoned streamway, starting from a shale-edge sink, but a mere 122 m of advance was achieved.   In contrast, an hours' work on the Blasted Boss, at the end of a flat-out crawl in Swildon's, opened up the St. Paul's Series, the key to several kilometres of passages and streamways.

What are the signs of a promising underground dig? The most popular preference is for a draught, the stronger the better.   A current of air blowing into or out of a small hole usually means that there is a large volume of emptiness, or a way to another entrance, on the far side.   (Beware, however, of the bodyheat convection draught, a local phenomenon created by the presence of the observer.   A draught rising past you is suspicious).

The outstanding example of an obstinate Mendip cave betrayed by its draught is Reservoir Hole, which in 1950 was no more than a chink in a cliff in Cheddar Gorge, emitting a powerful gust.   We blasted past the chink and two more tight places and came to a small chamber.   Beyond was a vertical rift jammed full of rocks, up and down.   The draught blew down at us among the rocks, so, after some unsuccessful ruckle-sapping, we blasted a 2.5 m tunnel through solid rock to enter the rift 7 m higher up.   Here it was open, a chamber with a boulder floor.

How now to find the draught? Bee-keeper fashion we ignited rolls of cardboard, filling the chamber with smoke.   Creeping through the murk, we located clear air zones at floor level.   The draught was welling up between boulders encrusted with moonmilk like Camembert cheese.   Four years' digging took us down 33 m through the boulders to a chamber.   At one end was a tunnel with our friendly draught emerging over an earth choke.   Months later we crawled forth from the choke into a larger gallery.

Our draught seemed lost, but one day it was noticed, much weakened, trickling out of a boulder pile that terminated an obscure alcove.   A few exciting days collapsing the boulders, and we were up in a rift chamber.   Delicate smoke tracing detected our draught, a mere zephyr now, wafting out of a massive boulder ruckle.   Digging up vertically through the boulders, 25 m in three years, we entered Golgotha Rift, which is draughtless.

There have been provocative draughts at many other successful digs including Lionel's Hole, the Fairy Cave Quarry systems, Manor Farm Swallet and Tankard Hole, and a strange reversing one at the Blasted Boss, already mentioned.

The other fluid that enters and leaves caves is water, but it is much less meaningful than air.   Even a large flow, several million gallons per day, easily traverses passages impenetrable to man.   Many large streams in East Mendip arise from or enter caves so immature as to be hopeless prospects.   The same may be true of springs like those of Axbridge, Ludwell and Dunnett Farm in West Mendip, but the limestone hills surrounding the lovely Winscombe valley have a history of ancient karstification that is still obscure, and surprises are possible.

Although modern water may be unhelpful, ancient streams have sometimes left us messages saying "dig here".   In Gough's Cave the scalloping said "dig in the Boulder Chamber", and the message was reinforced when excavation revealed a passage full of riverborne sand that had been punched through earlier mud deposits (Stanton, 1965).   Alas, the choke was found to extend below the water table.   Scalloping and the sediments left by old streams can even indicate the best direction to follow through boulder ruckles

Solving Problems.

My first cave dig was in Rowberrow Cavern in 1942.   Since then I have dug in 46 different Mendip caves and mines.   Most were straightforward digs involving well-tried methods (Cullingford, 1969), but a few required the development of novel techniques to solve special problems.

In Reservoir Hole, the commonest obstacles were extensive ruckles of small to medium-sized boulders, clean and free of mud.   The first major dig was downwards beneath Moonmilk Chamber, and we shored up the ruckle with timber and corrugated iron.   Rocks kept slipping down from outside the shoring, and we tried to stabilize them by pouring in liquid cement.   It worked, and suddenly a great light dawned.   Forget the timbering, just use the cement!

We used limestone dust and Portland cement in a 3:1 ratio, premixed dry and dragged down to the site in car inner tubes.   (These can survive falling, full, down 15 m shafts).   The grout is made up with water caught from local drips to a consistency varying from porridge to "Montezuma's Revenge", depending on the depth of penetration desired.   It is poured into the ruckle to form a curtain round the area to be excavated on the next visit.   The setting time can be shortened by using an accelerator.   We found that the grout was best applied with a small tin, to avoid pouring too much at one place by mistake.   If lateral penetration round corners is required, a funnel and flexible hose can be used.   Large voids should be filled with stones before applying grout.   When overhanging ruckles need reinforcing, special skills are involved - the successful practitioner of the 'sweeping upward undersloosh' is a real craftsman!

In this case, grouting gave quick and easy results.   No constructional skills were needed and the shaft is secured for ever, as grout does not rot or rust.   In effect, it is 'instant stal', which will consolidate any clean ruckle or scree.  

The next big ruckle in Reservoir Hole was beyond Topless Aven.   This time we wanted to work vertically upwards through it, and we adopted a flexible sapping/building approach.   By the delicate use of explosives, key rocks in the overhead ruckle were dislodged, an action that had two possible effects.

The first possibility was that a few boulders would fall, but the main mass of the ruckle would hold firm.   In this case, after a decent interval for stabilization, we would break the fallen rocks with a big sledgehammer and repeat the treatment.   As the roof of the boulder chamber thus formed rose, we distributed the rubble to support the walls and build up the floor.   So the boulder chamber would rise through the ruckle like a giant bubble, until it burst out into the space above.   Access to the chamber from below was maintained via a climbing shaft like a stone-lined well, carefully built of large rocks and extended upwards to keep level with the chamber floor.   After blasting, fallen rocks might cover the top of the climbing shaft, or balance precariously on its edge, or jam part way down it.   The first ascent after firing a charge was always interesting, and more than once the volunteer climber (an agile bachelor, for preference) was observed by his cynical comrades to shoot out of the shaft bottom a few inches ahead of a high-speed boulder.   "Forgotten something?" they would enquire.

The second possibility was that the whole overhead ruckle would subside.   When this happened, all the debris had to be removed before the next blast.   Gradually, as work continued, the ruckle slid down to the blasting point like sand into the hole in an eggtimer, and when the breakthrough occurred the first explorer popped up like an ant-lion at the bottom of a highly unstable funnel.   The first job then would be to make the funnel safe by building up a climbing shaft and adjusting the walls to a lower angle.

Working under the constant threat of bouncing boulders induces a state of tension, and it was no coincidence that workers in the Reservoir Hole ruckles tended to abandon them in the spring for some surface dig that was less emotionally taxing.   Even when the surface dig developed into a nasty underground one it was not easy to swap (for example) the cold, wet, slimy, miserable, safe conditions of Blackmoor Flood Swallet for the warm, dry, terrifying ones of Reservoir.   In fact only one injury occurred during the whole exercise, when a rock slipped and dislodged the end joint of a digger's finger.   He made a fast exit from the cave, leaving a blood trail, and the wobbly digit was sewn together by a kind doctor in Cheddar.

I have mentioned elsewhere (Stanton, 1982) the value of building temporary dry stone walls to protect cave scenery from the effects of blasting.   Scenery is damaged not only by flyrock (quarryman's term) but also by flymud from the tamping of plasters, which coats stal and passage walls with a messy brown film.   We resorted to shothole blasting where there was a risk of this kind.   A well placed shothole requires far less explosive to achieve the same result as a plaster charge, and it can often be tamped with water to avoid the mud problem.   In Blackmoor Flood Swallet we tried incorporating a length of heavy steel rod in the shothole tamping to increase its inertia, and it seemed that more rock was broken.   Drilling shotholes by hand is a chore that can yield proportionate rewards.   We found that penetration rate was increased by angling the hole downwards and adding water very frequently.   The cuttings then squirt out with every blow of the hammer - straight into your eye!

Water in a dig is a mixed blessing.   It can be invaluable when there is mud or silt to be removed.   In one dig we had a spoil disposal problem - lack of dumping space.   But the narrow canyon leading to the working face was cut in great banks of mud.   When the stream was in spate we demolished the mudbanks, allowing the floodwaters to remove them in liquid form.   It took us several days of furious trampling, knee-deep in inky fluid like demented vineyard workers processing the grape harvest, but we cleared the passage of mud and made space enough for months of tipping.  

In the lowest level of Reservoir Hole we cleaned up a section of disgustingly muddy passage by damming a tiny stream and sending it down a hose to a spray nozzle which removed the mud, over a long period, as slightly muddy water.  

On the debit side is the difficulty of digging a choked sump that floods as soon as it is disturbed.   In Blackmoor Flood Swallet we soon learned not to prod the terminal sump in the hope of draining the pool.   Usually the opposite happened, and we presented a sorry spectacle as we sat on submerged upturned buckets, drilling shotholes in the stal blockage beneath which the stream seeped away.   On one occasion the cave end was a deep pool and the way ahead was sumped.   To pass it, four wet-suited diggers packed themselves into the pool like lead soldiers in a eureka jar, displacing an equivalent volume of water forwards, downstream.   When they climbed out, water level fell enough to give a small air space in the sump, so the bravest wriggled through and removed the obstruction beyond.

All digs produce rubble that has to be dumped somewhere.   The method of disposal is a measure of the diggers' expertise and imagination.   At many places in Reservoir Hole we used tipstuff to build paths, as part of the routemarking that is vital to conservation.   This involved carrying bucketfuls of rubble for quite long distances.  

Sometimes the lack of tip space becomes critical, as in the case of Blackmoor Flood Swallet where we washed away the mudbanks.   This action created a tunnel some 2m in height and width.   Our strategy was to backfill it with rubble, leaving only a hands-and-knees crawl in the roof as a way out.   Backfilling began at the furthest point from the working face, and for obvious reasons the gap between tip and face gradually lessened.   The crunch, when the tip catches up with the face, never came for us, as we pulled out to return to the terrifying ruckles of Reservoir.   This may have been why we never had trouble with bad air; in Reservoir Hole's South Passage dig, where we used the same backfilling principle, ventilation through the narrow access passage could not supply the diggers' oxygen needs and remove their CO2 and the dig was abandoned because of splitting headaches.

Dig Psychology.

Characteristic of the Mendip digging scene is the infinitely variable approach of different digging groups to their subject.   Some believe in mechanisation and set up tramways or cableways with motorised winches and clever automatic tipping devices.   The trouble with this approach is that, because so much energy goes into the installation and maintenance of the equipment, the dig itself may suffer.   Sod's Law also applies, in fact another diggers' axiom (Lawder, 1954) states "The use of elaborate apparatus automatically ensures that an impassable rift will shortly be encountered".   But impassable rifts are not as terminal as they were, as was shown by the elaborately equipped excavation that laid open Rhino Rift (Audsley, 1971).  

Others believe in 'getting on with the dig' and limit their equipment to the basics: pick, shovel and bar, bucket, rope and pulley, hammer, explosives and cement.   Debris is removed by hand in buckets or sacks, sometimes by a human chain.   Some digs need no aids at all.   The clay in a passage in Lamb Leer was so sticky that it was dug by hand and formed into Hensler's Prefabricated Balls, which were passed along a human chain to the tip.

Diggers are either opportunists or planners.   The opportunist thinks in terms of a dig lasting a few days.   He ferrets ahead, opening a route no larger than is necessary to squeeze through.   If he breaks into a cave, the gamble has paid off.   If there is no breakthrough, and the dig, though still promising, becomes impossible to work because of its small size, he goes elsewhere.

The planner prepares for a long siege.   The stronger the enemy, the sweeter the victory.   He aims to be unstoppable, so he tries to create an appropriate working environment.   Physically, there should be plenty of room, stable roof and walls, a clean dry easy approach, and reserves of tipping space and engineering ingenuity enough to challenge the most formidable obstacle.   Psychologically, there should be no risk of major setbacks.   An inexorable march forward, even if slow, generates confidence and enthusiasm.

Sometimes the planner is forced by circumstances to lower his standards.   This happened in North Hill Swallet, where the relentlessly small dimensions of the natural passage forced the diggers to become ferrets, working in excessive discomfort: wet, muddy, oxygen-starved, in flat-out crawls, with no tip space except far away in the surface depression.   They were, as luck would have it, a special breed of hard men, whose machismo and sheer stubbornness ruled out any thought of defeat.   Their legendary exploits made them heroes in their own lifetimes, and a society was formed in their honour, by themselves, whereby the memory of those great years is kept forever green.

Most diggers follow a course between the extremes of planning and opportunism.   The two ethics do not go well together.   At Blackmoor Flood Swallet (Stanton, 1976) we dug on different days to another group who made no secret of their intention to explore all there was, if the breakthrough occurred on one of their trips.   As they were given to ferreting, while we were planners, we feared that we would do most of the work and they would make most of the first explorations.   Perhaps fortunately, no great breakthroughs were made, but we resolved never again to share a dig.

'Value for money' is a familiar concept, praised by all, but 'value for effort' in digging is by no means generally accepted.   The planners are kept going by the conviction that if they persist long enough, the reward of the first exploration will be theirs.   Some opportunists, it would seem, take care to be in the right place at the right time.   The first explorers of part or all of a new cave may be persons who contributed little to the dig or the buildup, as happened at Manor Farm Swallet, Wookey 24, Charterhouse Cave, and elsewhere.   Others may shrug their shoulders and say "that's life", but to planners, the injustice is distasteful.   'Reward for effort' is the planners' creed, and if a regular digger is absent on breakthrough day they will hold back, sometimes for weeks, until he can lead the way into unknown country reserved for him.

Some will argue that it doesn't matter who first enters the cave, as long as the cave is entered.   They are not usually planners, or diggers of any persuasion who have ever put a great deal of effort into a dig.   Few cavers will deny that the most exciting exploration is a 'first'.   Certainly the cave pirate must crave a 'first' desperately, if he is prepared to steal it from his fellows.

Keeping up with the Conservationists.

The observant digger will now and then come across things that he would like to preserve for others to experience.   There may be stalactites in the middle of the passage, a big exotic boulder, attractively coloured or sculpted rock walls, an ore vein, mining relics, a puddle containing cave bugs, sediments of geological or archaeological interest, a gour holding back a duck, crystals, mud formations or footprints in the floor - the possibilities are endless.   Such items make a visit to the cave more interesting, but they can seriously hinder the digger.

Features of this kind can mostly be preserved and displayed, given a little determination.   The immediate need is to protect them from the diggers, so face work must stop while the conservation works are carried out.   First the threatened site is clearly marked so that its existence cannot be overlooked.   Coloured tapes are invaluable for this job.   Then a path is laid, a wall built, even a notice placed.   Tapes (removable for photography) dangling beneath stalactites remind crawlers that there is something overhead to be careful of.   Rather than blast away the gour, a hole can be drilled through it, or a narrow channel chiselled, that can be blocked when the dig is finished.   If an object is loose, and liable to be collected, it may be walled off and a peephole left in the wall.   The vital thing is to do the work at once - yourself.   If it is left for someone else to do, later, the prized object will be damaged or destroyed.

It is not practically possible to preserve some things.   Stalactites that must be squeezed past, sediments in the choke that has to be dug away, a crystal pool in the floor - either they are dispensed with, or the dig judders to a halt as people lose patience.   All that can be done for doomed features is to photograph them, in black and white (for publication) as well as in colour.

A simple way to clean up a muddied passage is to place a bucket under a drip and sloosh the water around on every visit.

The Future.

It may well be that the golden age of Mendip digging is coming to an end.   Nearly all the large active shale-edge sinks of Central Mendip, and many of the minor ones and their dry equivalents, have been opened into cave systems.   A few enigmatic areas remain, where in spite of much work at apparently favourable sites (e.g. the Hillgrove group of swallets) nothing much has been found.

The shale-edge sinks further east have produced only one large cave, at Thrupe Lane, but Withyhill and Shatter caves show that they exist, at least in the St Dunstan's catchment.   The sites of the natural sinks on the north side of the Beacon Hill pericline are seldom obvious.   Further west in Mendip the Burrington swallets, in a unique position on the inner edge of the Burrington erosional terrace, form another puzzling group whose apparent potential has yet to be realised.

The limestone dolines offer a sporting challenge, but they are rapidly being lost as farmers and others fill them with rubble and rubbish.   Some, such as Tankard Hole, could have led to great things.   Of the leakage hollows, the less said the better.   One of them, one day, may lead to something good.   Intercepted caves, as found in gorges, valleys, mines and, alas, quarries, are more promising and will produce surprises.

Wookey Hole Cave is an astonishing anomaly in the Mendip scene.   It is the only large resurgence that has been penetrated and yet it is Mendip's third longest cave.   There must be a comparable system at Cheddar.

Underground digging still has great potential, but inevitably the scope for ferrets and opportunists will diminish, and progress will require the prolonged efforts of the planners.   Here too the divers will play an increasingly important part.

Less than a century has passed since digging for Mendip caves began.   When the century is up, in 1990, the golden age will be almost over.   Subsequent generations, looking back, will be amazed at how easy it was to find Mendip caves in the Twentieth Century.   And how the cavers of that age squandered their finds! 'Easy come, easy go' was their attitude to the lovely fascinating places that they discovered in such profusion.   The present movement towards cave conservation is born of necessity, as grottoes fade and are not replaced.   When our grandchildren sink their mineshaft into Tankard Hole, bypassing the rubbish-filled depression, and plan the usual Twenty-first Century five-year-dig, they will have learned the lesson of bitter experience.   Conservation of the natural wonders and beauties that they encounter will be their first priority.   Or so I piously hope.

References

AUDSLEY, A. 1971. The history of the present dig at Rhino Rift. J. Wessex Cave Club 11, 236-240.

BARRINGTON, N. & STANTON, W.I. 1977. Mendip, the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar Valley Press, Cheddar, 236pp.

CULLINGFORD, C.H.D. (Ed.) 1969. Manual of caving techniques. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 416pp.

DAVIES, F.J. 1975. Not now and again, but again and again and again - VI. J. Wessex Cave Club 13, 224-227.

LAWDER, R.E. 1954. Back to Shakespeare, or how now old mole. J. Wessex Cave Club 3, 6-8.

STANTON, W.I. 1965. The digging at the end of Gough's Cave. J. Wessex Cave Club 8, 277-283.

STANTON, W.I. 1976. The dig and deposits at Blackmoor Flood Swallet. J. Wessex Cave Club 14, 101-106.

STANTON, WI. 1982. Mendip - pressures on its caves and karst. Trans. Br. Cave Res. Ass. 9, 176-183.

 

Meditation Boulding Mats

After an internship in Nepal climbing you have done a tour in India among the monks and mages Oriental income you are followers of yoga and meditation?

This mat is for you: you will but you on the passage of the most difficult to revise your mantras and consolidate your meditation.

An article motivating!

€ 130.00 standard, 150.00 € with stainless nails.

140.00 € model training with small nails slightly rounded at the end.

 

 

Closed universal key to open oneself

All your key problem of specific aperture resolved: do the same so you closed model with chrome vanadium cemented! You can finally open MAVC, screw the bolts and I could go with a single key.

You'll also be able to fit the holes with the screw anchors to the specific shape of your key and thus secured against theft: the ultimate! Take advantage of our bundle.

1.00 € key universal.

140.00 € per disqueuse, optional but highly recommended!

Lot of 3 moorings atypical.

€ 150 .00 lot together: 1 key, 1 disqueuse and 1 batch of atypical moorings.

 

Always North Compass

Tired of looking for the North and never find it? Tired of GPS which the batteries are always empty or will not work on land? Full back to try the foam on the trunk of trees or try to remember which side is the sun at noon at the solstice? You aimeiez material infallible, which shows North all the time and with which it is impossible to be wrong?

These compasses are revolutionary ones you waiting for!

28.00 € style stainless steel bracket (Option: 5.49 € to hang the chain compass blocker chest).

€ 34.00 patinated brass model of the former.

Not pictured: €84.45 waterproof model with prism for sighting area topography drowned. Greatly simplifies the layout plans syphons: rapporteurs, trigonometry formulas and computing software are now useless. A simple rule is enough!

 

CaveClimb.co.uk

Earlier this year a new caving shop opened in Cheddar called CaveClimb.com. So enthused was Mr Albert  Bat that he secured CaveClimb.co.uk for the proprietor and redirected to a Captain Jack Sparrow appreciation society site until a suitable ransom had been paid to the MCR.

 

The BEC get everywhere (even in cyberspace!)

 

 

New Members

Over the last year we’ve had quite a few new members joining. Please join me in welcoming

 Ben O’Leary Joanna Meldner Marc Cox

 Chris Belton Brian Bell David Waidson

 Siobhan Jenkins Nicholas Winter Bill Combley

 Paul Lever Paul clement walker Mark Denning

 Andy MacDonald Gary Kiely

 

BEC Officer Reports for 2008 - 2009

Secretary’s Report – Henry Bennett

The BEC continues to go from strength to strength and this is due not only to the committee but through the diversity of activities of our membership.

Over the year there are things that have gone well, some that haven’t and a few items that need more attention next year. The year started in inauspicious circumstances following the temporary appointment of Phil Romford as stand in Secretary at the AGM. This was quickly resolved and the committee got off to a good start with an acceleration in the speed of identifying tasks, researching and actioning them. A driving force behind this has been the adoption of email communications outside of meetings thereby empowering the committee to come to and action decisions more efficiently than previously.  

The meetings minutes mirror the offline discussions so there is no question that items haven’t been discussed, recorded and ratified officially.  The benefit to the Club is that there has been a significant gear shift in action over previous years while still retaining the oversight that only a formal and open meeting can provide. I was however saddened when Tim Large, old standing life member, attended the first committee meeting in November and aggressively threatened to take the Hut Warden outside to “sort her out” in the mistaken belief she was part of an anti Nigel group to remove him from Club activities.

At the AGM the club heard that early discussions had started in private about the potential purchase of the land under the Cuthbert’s Lease with Inveresk. Nigel Taylor agreed to continue work on this on behalf of the committee & trustees and this culminated in direct discussions with their Chairman in June.  I attended a number of meetings with the trustees to discuss the progress which eventually led to the calling of an EGM in July. Given the discreet nature of the negotiations with Inveresk it was agreed that details of the meeting be kept quiet until just before the meeting due the timings. At the EGM we outlined the full details of the negotiations and the status of our current legal “holding over” lease under the protection of the 1954 Landlord and Tenets Act.  Stuart McManus, Faye Litherland and I were instructed to fully investigate our position and report back at the AGM.  Stuart McManus brought a great deal of experience in dealing in contract negotiations and this resulted in our appointing Wards solicitors to work for us.

The uncertainty surrounding Mendip Farmers Hunt’s ownership of Underbarrow Farm continues. It’s now been 21 months since they purchased the farm with the intention of moving their kennels there and no planning application has been made. Currently the farm is rented to a pleasant couple unrelated to the Hunt. Independently of my role within the BEC I’ve been actively working with the locals involved in Priddy CANINE in campaigning against any move. Whilst some might see this as being “hot air” I truly believe that we would have hounds next door by now if no action had been taken.

Henry Dawson has done a fantastic job driving forward work on the Belfry. The Belfry extension was completed inside, the exterior rendered and in May we finally managed to get Certificate of Completion from Mendip District Council. The number of jobs completed is impressive but some were more urgent. After a number of years of being advised by the Trustees that the windows need replacing we now have new double glazed windows throughout the Belfry. I wonder how long it will be before a Belfry crockery cricket match occurs or we get a bullet hole through one of them?

Nigel helped replacing the oil tank but this didn’t go quiet as smoothly, as we had planned to drop it to the ground, but instead it was mounted on wooded sleepers on top of the original uprights which don’t adhere to planning regulations. To compound matters it was fully filled even after we requested the half load discussed be put on hold until we resolve the positioning. This will need remedial work once the tank is empty again. Bizarrely someone unknown decided to nick one of the old metal tanks which had holes in it. To prevent any future thefts from the Belfry Stu Gardiner installed CCTV cameras to watch over the site.

By the end of the last club year we had run out of spare Belfry keys to issue to our new members and ran into a number of problems with ex-members turning up and using club facilities and cave keys unannounced. Additionally on a number of occasions the Belfry was found unattended and unlocked midweek.  Since the keys had been in use for 38 years and hundreds had been issued it was high time to upgrade the Belfry access. Stu Gardiner, an Integrated Security Systems Project Engineer, provided advice and guidance on product selection and I sourced a complete solution at significant discount from eBay. Stu installed the system in May and we bedded it in for a month before issuing keys in June. We have procured sufficient locks to control all the relevant doors in the Belfry with future spares and a significant quantity of “keys”. The keys are standards based and will be easy to source in the future. Hannah Bell donated a PC to replace the aging system in the library and this is used to update the system when required. Since we realised that other members will need to assign keys in the future a comprehensive operations document has been written specifically for the Belfry.

When I took over the role there was no documentation or correspondence passed over with the role. Clearly this is not a very efficient way of running the clubs posts and I’ve asked all the officers to produce a knowledge base which can be passed on from year to year. The information in these ranges from where does the water pipe run across the car park to how do I handle bookings using our online calendar. It is hoped that this will significantly ease changes in personnel moving forward.

After several months of chasing we finally managed to get the Trustees legal paperwork sorted out with. Considering that we were paying solicitors fees for this work it is hard to understand why this took so long.

Toby Maddocks ran a well supported club trip to SWCC early in the year before stepping down as Caving Secretary due to work commitments. Stu Gardiner has stepped up to the mark and is not only ensuring that we are represented on the CSCC and other organisations but also in driving forward our caving interests. Congratulations go to both Stu and Henry Dawson on becoming MCR wardens. Meanwhile Faye has taken over running the Cuthberts leaders as a new leader herself. Bookings for Cuthberts trips can now be made online and sent directly to all leaders via a mailing list. Also since becoming a leader we have seen a significant increase in the collection of Cuthberts tackle fees. Leaders are reminded to collect the fees from non BEC members visiting the cave.

In the spirit of the club being an exploration club digging has continued a pace at Home Close, White Pit, Caine Hill, and Draycott Sleights. Many of our members have been involved in foreign trips and sport caving activity is high.

Hannah Bell has tirelessly kept the hut in a clean and well provisioned state. This is one of the most important roles in the BEC and also one of the most demanding. While there is a never ending list of tasks to do she has made the Belfry a desirable place for visiting clubs and members to stay at. Proof of this is in our bed night numbers which are up 33% over last year.

Hannah has also continued to act as the “social secretary” for the club by organising the Annual Dinner, much of the BBQ, and a sponsored walk.

Faye Litherland has laid down the foundation of a fine tackle store.  She has invested not only in new ropes, ladders and survey gear but also in the process and tools necessary for keeping it clean and available. Ian Gregory built and installed a new rope washer in the old Belson shower that Henry Dawson had converted into a washing station. Moreover she is rigidly enforcing the washing of all kit before it is returned to the tackle store. You have been warned!! Over the years the club has seen significant “shrinkage” of its available tackle and it is hoped that the new signing out process will prevent kit from walking off on its own.

A fresh range of Club clothing has been printed up by Faye. No longer do we have to merge into the crowd at the Hunters but can claim our rightful place in full visibility at the bar. We also have a supply of new BEC stickers which I had commissioned.

Mike Wilson has continued to steer the club down the road of financial stability and has provided a degree of governance over the investment and direction of the club. He has also tirelessly assisted in many activities around the Belfry.

Ian Gregory has slaved away at collecting subs and keeping our membership details up to date. However I think he would be first to agree that the role really requires someone located nearer Mendip. Hey Slug, when you going to move down this way?

Thanks go to Ron Wyncoll for checking our fire extinguishers and Fiona Crozier for her dedication to the Belfry firewood store.

The Belfry Bulletin has not been a good experience this year as we had just two issues again for the third year running. It’s not since 2000 that we’ve had more than three a year. Nick Richards has stepped down as Editor and should be a priority next year to attempt to return to bi-monthly editions. Producing the BB is a time consuming role (I know as I’ve formatted, printed and distributed the last few) and needs to be undertaken by someone with enthusiasm and IT skills.

While the majority of members who use the Belfry are supportative, I have been saddened by the small minority who seem intent on stirring things up. All officers’ roles are Honorary and that means voluntary. Whilst it is always going to be “hot in the kitchen” I would remind members that if you haven’t got the balls to voice your concerns face to face or over the phone then maybe you should refrain from flouting the etiquette of email.

By working as an integrated team the committee has achieved more this year than the last couple of years and I extended my sincere thanks to all the team: -  Hannah Bell, Henry Dawson, Stu Gardiner, Ian Gregory, Faye Litherland, Stuart MacManus, Toby Maddocks, MadPhil Rowsel, Mike Wilson, and Hels Warren. Thanks also to the small band of helpers who have worked on many other tasks around the Belfry and for the Club.

Overall this has been a positive year with much more activity than normal and I have enjoyed acting on your behalf. Whilst this year has seen primary focus on the Belfry I would be happy to serve the club again next year as Secretary with a stronger focus on communications and furthering caving activity.

Hut Warden’s Report – Hannah Bell

My strange liking for cleaning and tidying seemed to continue from the 2007-2008 year, through the AGM into this year.   Major new improvements to the hut have included the signing off the extension as a tackle store and members bunkroom, double glazing the entire hut, and fitting a new security system.   With the assistance of committee and dedicated members on working weekends the hut is in a good, clean and comfortable state.  The double-glazing will undoubtedly reduce heating and wood usage in Winter (and possibly block out dog barking if the hunt move in next door!).  The introduction of the new security system was low cost with most parts secured by Henry Bennett from EBay with free fitting by Stu Gardiner.  Before the new system there had been a few incidences of the hut being left open with no one around and cave keys going missing.  The new system means that whenever a person opens a door a central computer logs the action.  If the hut is left open the committee will be alerted to the fact and can easily pop over and close the doors.  It also means that ex members will no longer have access to the hut unless they pay their subs when their electronic key will be reactivated.

The main bunk room mattresses continue to have clean covers and pillows which are washed once a month which makes the bunk room stay fresher and visitors continue to commented on how these changes have made the hut a more welcoming and comfortable place to stay for guests and members alike.

After the decrease in 2007 and 2008 of large University clubs staying at the hut, we now have regular smaller groups staying such as Exeter, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Aber as well as older clubs such as Red Rose, South Wales, Chelsea and Axbridge to name but a few.   This has resulted in new BEC members coming from Chelsea, Aber, Exeter and Portsmouth clubs instead of just large University clubs as was the case in the early 2000’s.

Below is a graph of hut use over the last three club years taken from signing in book entries.  It shows total hut nights against each month.

 

As can be seen from the above chart there have been almost double the guest bed nights each month compared to members stays with a consistent number of member nights especially around fireworks in November, Easter, May and August Bank Holiday activity.  There was a number of reciprocal bed night stays over Christmas, Easter and bank holidays.

The total number of guest bed nights in 2008- 2009 was 885 with members nights totalling 677.  Below is a chart detailing the number of total bed nights each year between September 2006 and August 2009.

 

 

The above chart reflects the total number of bed nights from September through to August each year for 2006/7 to 2008/9.   As can be clearly seen the number of guest bed nights continues to increase whilst the number of member nights has risen following a small slump last year.  The large number of working bed nights in 2008 reflected the final push to get the extension finished for signing off.

In the next issue of the BB I will be detailing a report of number of bed nights by member over the last 10 years.  Early statistics show that over the last two years the person to stay most at the hut was Mad Phil Rowsell with 131 nights between March 2006 and December 2008 whilst Henry Bennett stayed 128 nights and on more occasions than Phil by averaging one night a week over the same period!  Have these men no homes to go too?  It is good to see the hut regularly used by dedicated members.  It is also very pleasing that hut nights all round are up on last year.

Many members have continued to commented that the new members bunk room is comfortable and clean with the added bonus that there are single bunks for those who dislike sleeping on one big bed!  I have noticed that on many weekends when the main bunk room is only half, full the members one has been completely full as many active members prefer to stay in the separate bunk room and use the single and double beds.  Recently a mirror and bin has been added to this area.

Whilst the 2008 Christmas Curry Evening proved relatively successful with 12 local members going out for dinner, the August BBQ have again been very popular with 5 barrels of bitter and cider being downed.  Also this year I have organized a sponsored walk for Water Aid, which raised almost £300 for the charity – a large thank you to everyone who supported this event as well as those who took party.  After the success of last year’s annual dinner we are again going to the White Hart and tickets have almost sold out.  Next year’s dinner will be a massive affair and plans are in full swing to ensure a very large birthday party for the BEC!

In conclusion this year has been highly productive and my special thanks go to Henry Dawson and Henry Bennett for their hard work getting the extension signed off.   I would also like to thank the rest of the committee and those dedicated members who gave their time and experience in working on the hut over the last year especially Dany for fitting the double glazing!  

I would also like to add that I have very much enjoyed the role of Hut Warden over the last two years but feel it is time for someone else keen and enthusiastic to make their mark on the role.  I will be stepping down as Hut Warden at the AGM but would like to continue on the committee as I have time, enthusiasm and drive to get things done for the club.  I will be standing for the role of BB Editor with the issue you are currently reading having been mostly organised by myself.  If you choose me as your editor I will ensure bimonthly editions with regular dig, expedition, caving and mining updates as well as being a professional, readable and entertaining magazine.  If you do not choose me as your editor then I hope to continue on the committee as a floating member to serve your needs for the club.

I look forward to seeing you all at the AGM and dinner.

Caving Secretaries Report – Stu Gardiner

  As a floating member on the committee I took over from Toby Maddocks as Caving Secretary part way through the year, who stepped down due to work commitments.

Myself and Henry Dawson have started to get the BEC more involved with Cave Rescue as we feel this is an important part of Mendip Caving, the first Practice is arranged for 19th September and the aim is to hold at least two underground practices a year with a few surface sessions looking at equipment and techniques, one of these which was held just before the recent BEC BBQ where a practical demonstration with the stretcher followed a questions and answers session, where I feel many of the younger members gained an invaluable insight into what may be expected from them if a rescue were to occur. 

Digging is as always at the forefront of the BEC with several exciting projects underway. Caine Hill is as always progressing onwards with a dedicated team pushing hard (you bet they are). Estelle and others have an interesting site below Cerberus Hall which, although conditions are atrocious, is looking very good and could prove very fruitful indeed. Whitepit is ongoing with dig’s in Talus IV and at the terminal sump.  Jrats last dig at Holme Close (back door to Wigmore) is a feat of engineering brilliance and it is surely only a matter of time before this breaks through into the high level rift above the Young Bloods extension.  And a recent dig started on the Draycott Sleights proved to be a long forgotten Ochre mine which has received some interest by Somerset Wildlife Trust.

During Toby’s reign a trip to South Wales and a stay at the SWCC saw some good trips in OFD1,2 and Cym Dwr, DYO and Pant Mawr.  It was encouraging to see a good mix of members young and old and the feedback received was that the weekend was enjoyed by all, even if the weather was awful.  If I am fortunate enough to be Caving Secretary full time I would like to arrange a full calendar of trips throughout the year across the caving regions, with even an Ireland and possibly a European trip.

Caving at the BEC by members and visiting clubs has been consistently good and I would say that virtually every weekend the Belfry is buzzing with cavers coming and going from various trips on Mendip.  We also have a great selection of cave leaders including St. Cuthberts, Charterhouse (including 2008 extensions), Reservoir, DYO, OFD etc, however I would encourage more people to write up their caving and digging reports in the Log Book located by the trip board as this is a record of the clubs activities for future generations.

The callout board has been slightly modified to encourage cavers to add a little more detail to their trips so that the information can be correctly gathered in the unfortunate event of an incident.  This has been very successful and the majority are using this correctly, however there have been a few occasions where people forget to erase their trip afterwards or mistake PM for AM (please use 24 hour clock) etc.  Please can I ask everyone just to double check their trip details before heading off to avoid a potential callout.

We have a fantastic mix off people at the BEC with a huge wealth of caving related experience to call upon, be it digging, diving, surveying to list but a few and for this reason I feel we are the strongest club on Mendip if not the country (maybe the world), and although the Wessex may have Charterhouse and the MCG have Upper flood, the BEC has pure passion to just keep on digging and caving no matter how tough it gets.

2010 is going to be a great year and the Digging Shovel will be ours …………

Treasurers Report – Mike Wilson

  Again it has been a very busy   year      financially, the expenditure being split between the tackle store [we finally have a good one] and ongoing renovations of the hut. The major costs should be met by the year end [the windows being the final element to be paid for]. Unless there is a major disaster our outgoings should now settle down .unless we approve chintz curtains for the lounge!! The current account will stand at approx £3,000.00 which I will monitor as it gains little or no interest. The Cuthberts account is healthy at £2,000.00 approx but in the light of recent events I hope we can raise the bar and add pledges to the account. This year I have to reapply for the rates relief and unless the goal posts have moved we should get by ok. Next terms modest expenditure will probably be aimed at improving the interior of the hut [the committee will have to set the agenda]. Interest rates need to improve drastically as I am sure you all know that clubs get the minimum percentage on investments. I intend to stand for committee this year and hope to carry on the clubs wishes.

 

Hut Engineer’s Report – Henry Dawson

This year has seen more extensive improvement to your club premises. There have been a few working weekends on which attendance was fair to good and those who attended worked very hard. The last one of these was of particular note as a long list of jobs on the blackboard was completed by half way through Sunday leaving those present with the rest of the day to relax and go caving! 

The 2 large jobs scheduled for this year were rendering of the extension along with painting of the outside of the building and the long awaited installation of double-glazing at the club. I am very happy to report that both jobs have been completed in full. 

The other two slightly smaller jobs included installing a land drain in the car park. The price for gravel to fill it was the same for a larger load so the rest of the gravel was used to cover the car park. This has given a substantial improvement to the appearance of the garden and car park at the hut. It actually looks quite smart! The soak-away for the land drain has been finished as a small planting area to keep cars from driving over it.

The other small job was the installation of a tackle and rope washing area in the old shower. This was completed successfully and now gives excellent facilities for taking care of personal tackle and no excuses for leaving club tackle in a grubby state. 

I can now state that the extension has been signed off by building control. 

Below is a summary (not comprehensive) of jobs completed this year:

1. Fitting guttering to porch

2. Painting the front of the building

3. Fixing the changing room WC

4. Tidying up the outside areas of the hut – ongoing (digging gear has been tidied not thrown away and many trips to the tip have been made to get rid of waste)

5. Vents have been installed in the members dormitory to prevent condensation mould and mould cleaned off the walls

6. The bunk room squeeze machine has now been unveiled

7. The water heater has been replaced in the kitchen

8. The boiler has been serviced and adaptations made to the flue to give a much better combustion of fuel

9. The fire escape for the bunk room now has a hand rail

10. The fire escape for the extension now has a hand rail

11. The algal growth causing the fire escape for the extension to become slippery is now resolved. 

12. The changing rooms sinks have been embedded in a worktop to give somewhere to set down wash bags etc. 

13. Almost indestructible toilet roll holders have been placed in both WCs

14. An electronic pass entry system has been installed to the front door, tackle store and library. Most members have been issued with keys. This has been an important task run by Henry B and Stu Gardiner after a number of problems from unauthorised entry using ex-members keys. It will also quickly pay for itself in key deposits as keys are vastly cheaper and easier to obtain than Abloy keys used previously. According to one member the new keys can also endure a full wash along with all your clothing!

15. Bertie the Bat can once again squirt water on hapless individuals walking into the main room. 

16. The coping stones behind the BBQ have been rebedded in mortar

17. The common room has been repainted

18. A projector screen is now available that can be hung up quickly and simply

19. The tackle store now has passive ventilation and fittings for a dehumidifier

20. A large picnic bench has been put in place on the grass. It has a nice long chain on it to slow down the Wessex. 

21. Planting around the stream has been done to prevent walkers from stamping all over the wild flowers behind the BBQ. 

22. Installation of guttering to rear of extension. 

23. Painting around washing area to prevent falls

24. Repair of changing room external door

25. Fitting of hooks to allow gear to be hosed down outside

The front parapet wall of the Stone Belfry been refurbished to prevent water ingress. Maintenance of this building now resides with MCRO. 

A jobs list for the hut has been passed around the committee for comment to plan future works. This has also helped budgeting for works to ensure those scheduled for the financial year do not require us to dip into our savings. 

Jobs I would like to carry out this coming year if I am voted in include: 

 

• Blinds in the members dorm

• Extending central heating to the new extension

• Installing a digging store in keeping with the area

• Make the front door more secure

• Replacing rotten wood on the porch

• Moving wood store back to wall

• Replace ceiling in common room with new solution that avoids the cracking problem

• Tiling kitchen, showers, toilets and possibly drying room. 

• Socket for pressure washer in changing room

 

I would like to take this opportunity to profusely thank all of those who have contributed in any way (including making the tea) to works carried out on your club. The hard work and superb results seen this year could only be achieved following your generosity with your time and efforts. Thank you very much everybody. 

I would like to run again for committee serve the club as hut engineer for the next year. 

Membership Secretary Report – Ian Gregory

  It has been a good year for membership, with numbers remaining high, currently standing at 200.

Of those, there are the usual life, and Honorary Life members, totalling, and Joint members, and the Ordinary’s 

What we have seen this year though is a slight increase in New and Probationary members, 22 of them. Most are those who have joined are from their respective University Clubs, and as such I feel that the B.E.C. should continue to extend a warm welcome to such groups to help foster good relations with our potential future members.

There has also been some who have become Belfyites through other routes, mostly as friends and associates of other members, and the odd returnee, who have rejoined after a long break from the underground life.

There has been the usual loss of a few Members due to the phenomena 

Of “Natural Wastage”, e.g. giving up caving altogether, Personal Circumstances changing, Relocation to other area’s and the like. BUT, so far, at the time of writing, the Club has not lost a single member to the Grim Reaper, which, after the sad toll of the last few years is a most heartening and pleasant way to end my report. 

I am happy to stand for re-election for the 2009/10 year Committee, and will serve the club in whichever role that the membership chooses to appoint me to.

Tony Jarratt Caving Log Books 1956 2008

Before Tony Jarratt left us he kindly gave the Mendip Cave Registry & Archive permission to photograph and make freely available the contents of all 15 volumes of his personal caving log books, dating from 1964 to 2008 and detailing in meticulous detail all of the caving and digging trips he has been involved in. They make for a fascinating and often entertaining read.

Alan Gray has painstakingly photographed every page and insert within these books for the archive, and these images are now being made available to the general caving community via the MCRA website.

All fifteen volumes are available online now at http://www.mcra.org.uk/logbooks/ in the form of a picture gallery.

The website allows comments to be added to the pictures; please feel free to add your personal notes and observations on the entries, especially if you were there at the time!

Enjoy.

Tackle Master Report - Faye Litherland

 Well, it has been quite a full year so far.  I have not managed to achieve everything on my “to do” list, but have certainly made progress.  

My focus this year has been on generating systems and buying equipment to ensure that any tackle purchased now and in the future could be looked after properly and maintained correctly.  For example, I saw no point in buying rope when we had no functioning rope washer.

The past year has seen the implementation of a new Tackle Management System (TMS) which comprises of the tackle booking out and usage logging system and also a new fault reporting system.  A deposit system has also been introduced as part of the TMS for high value and easily lost items such as survey kits and mobile rope washers.  In addition, we now have a full inventory of all tackle store items available for loan and whether or not they require a deposit.  This inventory is laminated and hung up in the tackle store.  

During the last year and since the introduction of the new TMS we have one ladder and spreader unaccounted for and the TMS seems to be working well with a very high compliance and acceptance rate from all members.  I am still hopeful that the lost equipment is at the back of someone’s car boot or shed and will be returned eventually.

The tackle store has been organised and we are well on the way to having a place for everything and everything in its place.  

We also have a brand new wall mounted indoor rope washer and indoor kit washing area, collectively known as the Rope Care Suite (RCS) as well as the existing outdoor kit washing area.  This means we are now the envy of many other clubs who have to stand in the cold and the rain to wash their gear.  Just to make sure you can get all of the equipment sparkling clean after each use, we also have a lovely new pressure washer.  Waterproof sockets are being installed in the very near future near the two hose outlets to allow convenient inside or outside usage.

When I took over as Tackle Warden I was disturbed to find that we apparently did not have a single set of working survey instruments in the club.  As I am continually told that we are primarily a digging club, I am proud to present the completion of two full, all singing and all dancing, survey kits.   We can now accurately survey our finds and stand a chance of winning the new J’Ratt Memorial Digging Shovel!  These kits which are contained in yellow waterproof boxes and are available for a deposit include:

• Suunto compass and clinometer

• Leica Disto A3 (one kit only)

• Survey tape

• LED Station light

• A5 Survey notebook cover and folder

• Scale rulers and protractors for accurate sketching with BEC branding

• Pre-printed waterproof survey sheets in offset station format

Several club members have signed out these survey kits and so far the feedback has been very positive.  Other club members who have seen them have gone away green with envy, especially over the loose leaf survey notebooks containing  the offset station format survey sheets, the small LED station lights, the protractors which have bats printed on them and the scale rulers which have “Everything to Excess” printed across the middle.  

Unfortunately this year’s post BBQ ladder making workshop was cancelled due to hangovers, lack of enthusiasm, heavy rain and unavailability of key personnel.  The intention was to make a number of ladders of both 5m and 10m lengths along with another Swildons Ladder.  It has been rescheduled for later in the year.

You will recall that at the last AGM a tackle budget of £1,250 was allocated.  I used part of this money to take advantage of the clearance stock from Bat Products and build stock of some items for the future.  To date £1,186 has been spent which roughly groups into the following equipment areas (full details available on request):

Ropes £31.95

Ladders & Spreaders £175.00

Tackle Bags £255.00

Ladder Making Equipment £122.00

Survey Sets £479.75

Miscellaneous £122.53

The full list of equipment purchased or donated is below:

 

• 11mm Static (Beal) 21m

• 9mm Dynamic (Beal) 18m

• 10m Lyon Ladders x 2 

• Tandem Suunto

• Rope Protectors x 5 

• Rope Washers (portable) x 2 

• Spreaders x 3 

• Suunto Compass and Suunto Clino x 1

• Draper 12v Engraver

• 30m Survey tapes x 2 

• Leica Disto A3

• A4 waterproof paper x 250 sheets

• Survey book covers x 2

• A5 survey folders x 2

• Karcher 3.99 Pressure washer

• Sketching instruments

• Waterproof Case x 2

• Petzl Classique x 4 

• Petzl Portage x 2 

• led lights for survey stations x 2 

• Rope & Ladder hanging hooks

• Rope Washer

• Plastic boxes for drill batteries x 2

• 11mm Static (Beal) 34m lengths x 8 (donated by Emma Porter)

• 200m 4mm ladder making cable

• Ladder making consumables

• 36V Hilti Drill, 2 batteries and assorted drill bits (donated by Jeff Price)

 

One truly gratifying thing is the way that over the past year equipment has magically appeared in the tackle store.  One minute you think you have everything tagged up and indexed and then “Poof” another six wire tethers, or occasionally a ladder turn up.  This has meant that the tackle store inventory has continued over the year to be a living document with pen additions until the next print.  A big thank you to those tackle store pixies, your help has been much appreciated.

Plans for next year (if you re-elect me!) include:

• New digging store by the wall to the farm yard

• Re-commissioning and re-location of the rope testing rig

• Ladder building workshop

• Purchase of additional rope for ladder lifeline

• Equipment inventory and FAQ to be available in members’ area on website

• Continue and complete the tackle store layout so that there is a place for everything

A very big thank you to everyone for your support this last year.  I am standing for committee again this year and would very much like to carry on with this role for another year to complete the work I have started. 

St Cuthbert’s Warden Report - Faye Litherland

As some of you are already aware, Toby Maddocks had to step down from his role as Caving Secretary due to work commitments.  Since then, Stuart Gardiner has taken on the role of Caving Secretary and since he is not a St Cuthberts Leader, I was asked to take over the St Cuthberts Warden role.

Update in brief since the 2007-2008 AGM:

• Two new St Cuthberts leaders have been appointed.

• St Cuthberts leaders email list is up and running so that we can all keep in touch with each other.

• Rope fixed aids have been removed from the cave and only pull through guide ropes remain.

• Three new dig sites have been approved by the committee.  These are: One in Cerberus Hall, one in the stream way at the bottom of Everest Passage and also a further attempt at Sump 2.

• Email discussions are ongoing regarding maintenance / replacement of existing fixed aids in the cave.

• Generation of a handover file for the next Warden (ongoing).

Plans for next year:

• Complete handover file for the next Warden.

• Hold leaders meeting for the discussion of fixed aids in the cave, especially on pull through routes.

• Resolve current maintenance issues with existing fixed ladders.

I have deliberately not covered the current St Cuthberts Land issue as that will be the subject of a different report presented at the AGM.

Thank you to everyone who has helped out over the last year with selling St Cuthberts Reports, taking tourist trips and generally being supportive and patient.  I am standing for committee again this year and would be happy to carry on with this role for another year.  

Librarians Report – Tim Large

I took over the position of Librarian on July 4th following the resignation of Phil Rowsell.  It was apparent that he had started some good work in sorting everything out, but as always there was still a great deal to be done.

Mike Wheadon (Archivist) and I have been checking and sorting the boxes left to the club by Wig and J-Rat.  Many of the documents comprise historical records that will be filed and catalogued.  In addition, Wigs collection includes club records from Alan Thomas dating back to the 60’s.  Mike and I were able to recognise the importance to the club history of some of these documents and therefore have not consigned them to the recycling bin!

Books have been donated by Kangy, Dizzie, some more books/journals from J-Rats collection, and recently a collection of material from Viv Brown.  This comprises his research into Caving songs.  There are hundreds!  Even our biggest devotees have not been able to recognise all of them, (now there’s a challenge). I am currently sorting these, with a view to releasing them as soon as possible to the library.

All the books need assessing as to their relevance to the clubs activities and whether there is any unnecessary duplication.  Any books under these headings could be offered for sale with any money raised being reinvested in books that members would find more relevant/useful/interesting.

Eventually I would hope to see a fully catalogued library list available on the website, so that members could scan this to see what is available.  This would also assist with a catalogue exchange system.  Having discussed Library matters with the Wessex Librarian, who thinks an exchange of catalogues, would be beneficial to all cavers, giving them a broader research base.  I am sure suitable arrangements could be made for interclub exchange and library access could be facilitated to members of other clubs on request or arrangement.

Another information service that could be offered via the Library is a database of websites of useful information and research that may be of interest to members.  I have my own which is updated (and added to) constantly so the nucleus of the scheme is ready and available; members could then update and add as they wished.  I am sure that there are many personal lists already out there just waiting to be shared!

Finally, one last project to be considered- a library of DVD’s on Cave, Mine or Karst related topics or indeed anything that members might feel of interest to caving life.  Any donations?

As you can see, there is much potential in our Library, although much to be done, and some time will be needed. 

Since I began caving, books, publications and research on caving/mining and related topics have always been of paramount interest to me, being the other side of the coin to the active digging, surveying and exploration.  Should the club re-elect me to the post of Librarian I will strive towards the aforementioned goals.

 

So Who Actually Uses The Belfry Regularly? 

By Hannah Bell

Active Locals, Active Visitors or Armchair Cavers?  A Belfry Usage Overview

Outline

Recently I was asked by a new BEC member how many other members stay at the hut within a year.  I was stumped as to the answer and all I could say was that I believed there was a core number of very active cavers who use the hut regularly, some other members who visit the hut annually and then a lot of old armchair cavers who never stay at the hut and only appear around AGM time.  Thinking perhaps my assumptions were wrong I decided to analyse the Belfry signing in book to see exactly how many members regularly use the club hut and who they are!  After a month of research I can now outline my initial findings for who has stayed at the hut over the 22 months between March 2006 and December 2008.  

Results:

In total, 95 members have slept at the hut during the period March 2006 to December 2009.  Bed nights were only counted when the person was actually a member.  If the person stayed as a guest either before being a member, or after leaving the club, the nights were not counted.  The top twenty people to have slept at the hut are listed below with number of bed nights listed in brackets.

1) Mad Phil Rowsell (131) 11) Barry Lawton (46)

2) Henry Bennett (128) 12) Duncan Butler (46)

3) Hannah Bell (83) 13) Rich Bayfield (45)

4) Henry Dawson (82) 14) Emma Heron (44)

5) Bob Smith (68) 15) Faye Litherland (44)

6) Chris Jewell (68) 16) Rich Smith (39)

7) Ian ‘Slug’ Gregory (62) 17) Jim Smart (38)

8) Jane Clarke (48) 18) Anne Vanderplank (37)

9) Helen Warren (47) 19) Louise Bayfield (35)

10) Stu Gardiner (47) 20) Ruth Allen (31)

The full list is at the end of this article.  Will your name be on it?  

I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of the current committee feature so highly on the listings with seven of the 2008-9 committee within the top 10!  I was also pleased to find that two of our current club trustees also have chosen to stay at the hut – Mike Wilson and Phil Romford.  It is good to see that those who run the club choose to get involved socially and to spend time using the facilities and meeting the people who actively stay there.  The furthest anyone has travelled to stay at the hut was Pete Bolt who visited from Columbia!  The person to travel the least distance to reach the hut was Bob Smith, who whilst currently not a BEC member, had been a member during this period whilst living on Priddy Green.

Another interesting statistic is that 8 of the top 20 people staying at the hut were women.  Twenty eight of the total members using the hut during the period were female.  This is just under a third of the total.

My research also looked at the number of times a person visited the hut to stay over the same period.  This is interesting as some people visit for a week at a time as a holiday, some visit only at weekends whilst others stay Wednesday after digging as well as at weekends.  Below is the list of who has stayed at the hut on the most number of individual occasions during the same period in time.  The number of occasions is in brackets after their name.

1) Henry Bennett (73) 11) Ian ‘Slug’ Gregory (26)

2) Henry Dawson (73) 12) Duncan Butler (25)

3) Hannah Bell (50) 13) Anne Vanderplank (24)

4) Mad Phil Rowsell (46) 14) Stu Gardiner (24)

5) Jane Clarke (41) 15) Rich Smith (23)

6) Chris Jewell (38) 16) Louise Bayfield (22)

7) Faye Litherland (37) 17) Helen Warren (21)

8) Bob Smith (34) 18) Tim Ball (21)

9) Rich Bayfield (28) 19) Ruth Allen (19)

10) Barry Lawton (26) 20) Jim Smart (16)

The above information shows that the same people who stay at the hut the most often, are also the ones who visit the hut to stay the most number of times.  For Henry Bennett and Henry Dawson to rack up 73 individual visits each over 22 months, this equates to almost one night per week every week was spent at the hut.  Have these men no homes to go to?  Pleasingly, five of the 2008-9 committee are in the top ten for number of stays with the top four comprising of the current Honorary Secretary, Hut Engineer, Hut Warden and ex Librarian.  It is good to know that those who run the club for everyone are so actively involved in the Mendip scene and are so regularly around the Belfry.  This means that guests staying at the hut have regular active BEC around to show them what a wonderful, vibrant and dynamic club we have!  

Conclusion

In conclusion, my initial belief was correct in that there is a core group of BEC members who regular visit and stay at the Belfry, with another group of members who visit the hut less regular having travelled from further afield.  As only 95 of our 180 plus membership had used the hut during the period, this shows that there is indeed a large number of people who never stay at the belfry.  Interestingly, seven of the top ten people to have stayed at the hut most often live within 15 miles of the Belfry.  It was my initial belief that some of the older members who attend the AGM and Dinner would stay at the hut afterwards for the barrel but I was proved wrong as the majority do not come back to socialise afterwards.  Those who attend the AGM and Dinner and do come back to the hut afterwards are those who also stay at the hut at other times during the year.  Having so many of the current committee so actively using the club facilities on a regular basis is great news in that it means that there are always active, welcoming, knowledgeable members around to meet and greet visitors and introduce them to the BEC!  This can only be good news in increasing our membership levels and in spreading the word about what a wonderful club we have.  I believe that there is nothing worse than regularly staying at a club hut where there are no members around to chat to and to get to know the local  area and caves.  I hope that these statistics prove that we have a good group of members, as well as committee and some trustees, who are regularly around the hut to not only go caving, but also to socialise and welcome the many varied guests we have staying!  I believe they are the ambassadors of our club!

In the next BB – statistics for the last ten years!  Will your name be amongst them?

Bed Nights from March 2006 to December 2009.

 

Mad Phil 131

Henry Bennett 129

Hannah Bell 83

Henry Dawson 82

Bob Smith 68

Chris Jewell 68

Slug 62

Jane Clarke 48

Helen Warren 47

Stu Gardiner 47

Barry Lawton 46

Duncan Butler 46

Rich Bayfield 45

Ems Heron 44

Faye Litherland 44

Rich Smith 39

Jim Smart 38

Anne Vanderplank 37

Louise Bayfield 35

Ruth Allen 31

Andy Kuszyk 30

Tim Ball 22

Charlotte Harris 21

Crispin Lloyd 21

Mark Stephens 18

Rob Bruce 18

Batspiss 17

White MEG 17

Nick Gymer 16

Maxine Bateman 15

Dave Garman 14

Helen Brooke 14

J Rat 14

John Christie 14

Rich Beer 13

Pete Eckford 12

Andy Norman 11

Ernie White 11

Jo Hardy 11

James Collings 10

Tangent 10

Kate Humphreys 9

Chris Belton 8

Estelle Sandford 8

Ken James 8

Tom Wilson 8

Rhys Davis 7

Ian Holmes 6

Carol Macnamara 5

Claire Footitt 5

Clive Betts 5

James Vile 5

Neil Usher 5

Rich Marlow 5

Steve Footitt 5

Stuart Lindsay 5

Tim Large 5

Dafydd Morris-Jones 4

Dom Gane 4

Gary Cullen 4

Jim Cochrane 4

Mike Wilson 4

Robin Lewando 4

Ron Wyncoll 4

Simon Clow 4

Sue Dukes 4

Viv Brown 4

Martyn Compton 4

Babs Williams 3

Helen Stalker 3

Matt Tuck 3

Phil Romford 3

Batstone 2

Donald Rust 2

Emma Porter 2

John Noble 2

Lil Romford 2

Matt Edwards 2

Olivia Dawson 2

Robin Gray 2

Steve Woolven 2

Sue Gray 2

Alex G 1

Dany Bradshaw 1

Greg Brock 1

Jinni King 1

Kat Denham 1

Paul Christie 1

Pete Bolt 1

Phil Coles 1

Roz Simmonds 1

Stu Sale 1

Toby Maddocks 1

Vince Simmonds 1

Zot 1

 

 

BEC Summer BBQ 2009

This year the BEC Summer BBQ took place on the August Bank Holiday weekend.  Around 150 cavers from the BEC as well as other clubs attended the event.  Whilst late afternoon caving games had been planned, the changeable weather and the fact that most people had actually gone digging prevented any activities from taking place.  The tackle store was converted into a bar and opened at 4pm and was manned run by BEC member Brian Bell who did a sterling job pulling the pints and making sure that all caver’s thirsts were quenched.

The BBQ was run as usual by Slug with assistance from Dany.  Hot dogs, burgers, coleslaw, salad and a variety of home made sauces were on offer for the discerning BEC member!

Above: A selection of the 10 barrels of beer on offer.                                Was Wormster’s Special Chilli Mustard too hot?

Music was excellently provided by DJ Martin Compton followed by DJ Mad Phil Rowsell.  Everyone had a good boogie and many a shape was cut on the dance floor by young and older alike.

Left to Right: Babs, Lil Romford, Brian Bell, Brockers,.                           Left to Right: Brockers, Estelle, Mark Denningt

Estelle, Mike Wilson, Rosie Freeman, funky chicken

The dancing and partying continued until dawn with many members not hitting their sleeping bags until gone 5am.  In total 5 barrels of bitter and one barrel of cider were consumed as well as countless burgers and sausages.  

My thanks go to Slug and Dany for catering, Brian Bell for managing the bar and to everyone else who cleaned, tidied, set up or put away.  We all worked together as a team and the weekend was a special one.  Thank you!

Combination pet

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Available in several models for: dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, boas, red fish. For an orang-utan take a man size XXXXL.

Model pictured: dog suit (available in model dog with whistles included).

From € 4.99 (model Hamster) to € 3845.00 (model Elephant)

BEC Sponsored Walk for WaterAid

 

In June 2008 a large group of both young and old BEC attended the Glastonbury Festival together.  It was a highly successful ‘caving holiday’ with much drinking, dancing and singing.  Some members chose to wear caving kit to the festival and we had a Camp BEC complete with club flag.  Then in March 2009 it was announced in the newspapers that there would be a sponsored walk from Priddy Green to the Glastonbury Festival site to support the charity WaterAid.  WaterAid provide both education on hygiene, as well as build wells, for impoverished people in third world countries.  For a gift of just £15 WaterAid can provide one person in Africa or Asia with a lasting supply of safe, clean water, sanitation and hygiene education.   The walk was announced as “Water Walk” and would take place on the 10th May.  After much nagging your scribe rallied a team of 5 BEC to take part on a walk which would be 10.75 miles in length and cover a large section of the Monarch’s Way.  By the day of the walk the team had already gathered over £200 in sponsorship money.

The morning of the 10th May dawned bright and clear in spite of the night before having been spent in the Hunters!  Faye Litherland, Barry Lawton, Jo Hardy, Rich Smith, Ruth Allen and I (Hannah Bell) arrived on Priddy Green for the 9am start only to be told that the route had now been extended to 12 miles!  With press photographers poised for interesting stories we dispatched Barry back to the hut to collect the BEC flag in order to make ourselves more noticeable.  Ironically the first mile of the walk was along the road almost back to the Belfry before turning over the fields towards Templeton.  The sun was warm, the wind light and the company merry.  After just over an hour we arrived in Wells for a short lunch stop.  Below is a picture of the group on our descent into Wells.

After Wells the walk continued through woodland into the village of North Wootton before descending into the village of Pilton.  It was at this point that we lost the correct path and ended up walking more than a mile south of Pilton making our walk more likely to have been 13 or even 14 miles in total length!

We crossed the finish line tired but elated that we had stuck together and all finished the walk.  Our time to complete the route had been five hours excluding our lunch stop.  Whilst we had not beasted it, we had made steady progress along the walk, finishing somewhere in the middle of all the walkers.  At the finish line was Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis and an ice-cream van.  So exhausted and tired were we that we completely ignored Michael and the swarm of press photographers and instead rushed to get Mr Whippy 99 Flakes from the van.  The strawberry sauce was divine!  We then had to wait almost two hours for a bus back to Priddy.

Some sponsorship came through after the event but I am pleased to confirm that Team BEC raised £295.64 (including gift aid) which whilst small is still significant and will make a lasting difference to those without basic water and sanitation.  A huge thanks goes to both the walkers who took part and those who kindly sponsored us.  

 

Majorca 2008

 

 

 

 

 

In early 2008 I decided I wanted sun, sand, sea, surf, sangria and speleology.  Luckily several other BEC I spoke to in the Hunters wanted the same thing.  The English weather had resulted in a washed out summer in 2007 and 2008 was likely to go the same way.   Having been on a caving expedition to Ibiza with Southampton University Caving Club in 2003 (no clubbing – the trip was with Christian Teetotallers alas but we did find cave!) I turned my attention to the other limestone covered Balearic islands.  This was when I stumbled upon a website selling caving and canyoning trips in Majorca.  Pricy and tacky I decided to organise my own  BEC trip to Majorca and only weeks after advertising had 12 members signed up as well as the odd Cardiff and Nottingham University caver.   In total 14 cavers travelled out to Majorca between 6th and 20th September 2008 with the express intention of finding cave and jumping down some major canyons.

Whilst a large amount of research had been conducted before the trip on the caves and canyons, unfortunately only a very limited amount of written material in English exists.  Luckily Kate Humphreys arrived on the third day with a printed copy of come cave descriptions, unfortunately to our misfortune the print out was not stapled together.   Our first whole group caving trip was to reach the Cueva Con Sion which according to the survey was a 30 minute walk from the car up a short mountain forestry track, just outside of the village of Campanet in the North of the island.  The survey print out said that full SRT kit was needed.  After two hours climbing up the mountain we finally found the cave at the bottom of a small cliff.  Everyone eagerly kitted up and in we went.  However after over an hour of exploring no pitches could be found although the size and shape of the cave formations were breathtaking.  Feeling very confused, after some more hunting for the way on, we left the cave.  It was only back at the villa that we realised that we had picked up the first page of the location of Cueva Con Sion and the internal description of a cave the other side of the island.  Next time we remembered to check the page numbers on the print out!

Below: Henry Dawson examining the Salt Crystal Pool, Cuevas Santa Maria, Majorca.

Above: BEC Girlies ready for Canyon Action (Left Jinni King, Right Kate Humphreys).

Another day was wasted trying to find two caves which since our cave descriptions had been written had been built over by trashy coastal hotel complexes.  We did visit the Cueva Santa Maria which was a large pothole into which early Christians had built two small chapels for safe pray during the Moorish control of the island.  Behind both alters we spotted small dark voids.  As none of us were particularly God fearing we decided to push through to see what we could find.  Alas we did not find Hades or the Stix but we did find some amazing floating salt crystals in large shallow pools, a wide column and lots of bat guano.

Whilst we broke into groups to go on various cave finding and canyoning trips we all undertook the Torrent de Baix together in a fast and a slower team.  This canyon is entered just outside the village of Carmari in the Northwest of the island beside a small arched road bridge.  The guide book said the trip would take a fit person 2-3 hours but even the fast group took 6 hours to complete the 6km route.  The vertical range was just under 400 metres with 17 pitches ranging from just a few metres to the last few which were around 10 – 16 metres in height.  This was a very good canyon for those new to the sport and was very pretty with amazing views towards the Northern coast and villages below.  All but the last couple of pitches were bone dry although according to the guide book it 

Above: Scrambling down the Torrent de Parias – a canyon with 300 metre high cliffs ending in the sea.

is a raging torrent in Winter and Spring.  The bottom of the canyon ended in a ten metre high dam which had to be climbed over. We all missed the stone cut steps and tried to scramble over loose boulders to the top before noticing the easier route.  Everything to excess as they say!  After the dam the way out to the car should have been through a gate on the river bank.  However after much searching we found no gate only a style into a farmer’s field.  We could hear the bark of large dogs nearby so decided to turn our lights off and walk across the field in search of the car.  The field ended next to a large villa complete with barking dogs.  Henry Dawson used hypnosis worthy of Crocodile Dundee to woo the dogs over and we all legged it through the villa complex and onto a road towards the cars.  It turned out that we had exited the river too early.

As well as caving and canyoning a large amount of snorkling and some diving was also undertaken.  After much exploration all over the island we can all recommend the Cala Carbo beach at Cala Sant Vincent to be the best for fish and sea life (Having revisited the area this year I again found this area to be best for snorkling).   There were noticeable underwater resurgences around both sides of the cove which produced very cold water and haloclines when swimming through them.  It would be interesting to find out whether anyone has dived these to any great depth!

All in all it was a very successful caving holiday although I cannot call it an expedition as we unfortunately found no new cave passage but this was not for want of trying.  We visited the two show caves Cuevas Del Drach (overpriced) and the Coves de Campanet (value for money).  Whilst on the trip one member turned 21 and another turned 22.  We also celebrated JRat’s wake with the consumption of vast qualities of Sangria.  The age range of those on the trip ranged from 19 to 43 and it was nice to have a variety of people including students, engineers, the unemployed and salesmen as it created a diverse group of BEC members.  My thanks go to Mike Wilson for supplying a large amount of information about Majorca before the trip as well as to everyone who took part  for making it so special.  All the information recorded on the trip including corrections to the printed cave surveys will reside in the BEC library for future cavers to use.

Above: Final Meal Out. 

Trip Members Left to Right: Graham Whelan (CUCC), Hannah Bell, Henry Bennett, Rhys Davies, Kate Humphreys, Charlotte Harris, Faye Litherland, Ralph Delaney (NUCC), Siobhan Jenkins, James Vile, Henry Dawson, Maxine Bateman, Jinni King. Missing – Paul Lever.

 

DD helmet (like Sustainable Development) 

DESCRIPTION: After the transition to electric lighting diodes which permit the emission of CO2 and smoke, this is the ultimate environmental change. This headset is surprisingly: helmet fibre biodegradable vegetable origin (from cake cereal Bio processed by an ultra-secret process), accessories colored with natural pigments (carmine cochineal, blueberry juice, saffron), chin strap Bio linen, harness natural latex (from plantations 'Bio rubber), photovoltaic cells, the latest generation high performance, coupled with wind cell battery without heavy metals. Weight: nc

PRINCIPLE: cells recover 30% of the energy used by lighting diode and their stand is removable by a clip (which is identical to that of the lamp). In turn, the wind turbine also produces electricity. Maximum efficiency in case of large air flow during the rapid descent of pitches and when you run into major galleries. The mast of the turbine is telescopic (from 15 to 40 cm) to take advantage of the best drafts and folds back to ease through narrow passages plus the rotor blades are flexible for greater longevity. Leave your helmet in the full sun or wind while you dress and travel to the entrance of the cave, then when underground enjoy over 100 hours of light totally free and with no impact on the environment.

€ 1345.90 helmet equipped, 100% recyclable, guaranteed 20 years and 0% carbon equivalent. Comes with a voucher for 5 free sessions of physiotherapy and osteopathy (massages and realignments of the cervical vertebrae).

OPTION: € 15.00 that allows the crank to get the extra light for long expeditions in narrow zones and little broken. Connects to the base of the turbine after déclipsage thereof: 30 towers will give you 2 hours of additional light.

Note: Deduct 35.00 € ecological bonus (see terms in-store)

 

 

 

 

Who stole our Bat?

On October 18th last year one of the BEC’s historical signs was crudely ripped off the entrance porch wall. The Belfry was reasonably busy that weekend with a couple of student groups staying. There were BEC members in the student groups and extensive questioning soon turned up that they knew nothing about the incident and were definitely not involved. 

Our suspicions are that it was nicked by a early morning raid by person(s) unknown who were not staying at the hut. Several clues soon surfaced on the AditNow and UKcaving forums. A long search was conducted over several months which led to trips down Box where it was reportedly seen and investigations of the forum posters. Unfortunately nothing has turned up.

The sign in question is not the one that was recovered from the burnt Belfry which is still hanging in the hallway but a similar looking sign as shown in the picture. It may be the sign hanging on the Belfry shown above.

If anyone hears any news about this we’d be very interested. 

A message to the perpetrator – The BEC is a peace loving club – Rest In Peace! We have not forgotten.

So Long

Producing the BB is a labour of love. Over the last three years Nick Harding has done a sterling job as editor. Getting the BB out the door requires many many hours of dedication for each issue. I suspect it works out at well over half an hour a page. On top of all that it requires good document skills and the ability to big up the membership to produce articles.

It would be really good to get back to regime where the club is producing Bulletins at least every couple of months.  However it won’t happen by just relying on new editor to push this through.  The club needs all of you to think what you can contribute. Been on an expedition?  Done something out of the ordinary? Been pushing cave, mines or the boundaries of sobriety that is worthy of comment?  Let’s have your articles and high resolution full colour photos so that together we can have a BB we are all proud of.

I’d like to wish the new Editor every success.

Finally – the digging shovel – oh yes....it will be ours! Happy explorations!

Henry Bennett