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The BCA AGM Working Weekend Event and Cavers’ Party

by Ian Gregory

The weekend of 14th to 16th June 2013 saw the inaugural British Caving Association Annual General Meeting Weekend Event and Cavers Party.

“Why a Weekend Event/Party?” I hear you ask. Well, it’s simple….hardly anyone, outside of the Committee and Council ever bothers to turn up, leading in turn to allegations that British Caving is run by a “bunch of old farts” who are out of touch with the “grass roots” of our chosen activity. That sentiment may well be true, but we’re all to blame for that, because nobody turns up…..a circular argument if ever there was one.

To try to change this state of affairs, it was decided, by the BCA to make the AGM something that cavers, especially the younger generation, would actually want to attend, hence the Party Weekend. It was, though, much more than just a party, as there were also Caving Trips, Scientific Field Trips and Seminars on the programme.

Although it was a BCA event, a lot of the organizing was done by the Hidden Earth team, mostly Les and Wendy Williams (WCC), and some of the CHECC committee personnel, most notably Hellie Brooke (BEC). I was approached by Les to do the breakfast catering, with a Hog Roast on the Saturday evening.

The venue chosen to host this first attempt was the excellently equipped Rotary Centre in Castleton, Derbyshire, which boasts not only some very good bunkrooms, but also a “party room” and a well equipped kitchen and dining room…..with the all important built in Bar! Who could ask for more?

Friday was the meet and greet evening, where those attending were booked in, set up their tents or bagged a bunk, then retired to the Bar, which, as it was organized and run by Les Williams, with help from Martin Grayson (TSG) was serving Cheddar Ales Potholer (what else at a caver’s party) and Somerset Cider…..rumour had it that they were also serving soft drinks (whatever they are). Andy Eavis also provided a roast chicken supper.

Saturday morning was started with a 9 item Full English Breakfast, + toast & marmalade, and tea or coffee with a vegetarian option, at a very reasonable £4. That, I figured, would be enough to set them up for a good days caving. Following breakfast the cavers all departed to whatever trip or lecture that they had booked, and us “staff” were able to get a few hours rest, before the evening’s frivolities commenced.

Saturday evening was taken up with a Hog Roast and a Stomp. The Hog Roast, courtesy of Andy Eavis, was cooked by Henry Rockliffe, and the Stomp with a very good live Rock Band, was followed by a Disco supplied by Basher and Martel Baines from the BPC…..oh, and large amounts of beer.

According to Les, “If there ain’t no pictures, then it never happened!”, so, he was not chased around the site, cornered in the bar and disrobed by a dozen or so half naked young ladies….

Sunday started again with a damn good fry up, and then the serious business of the A.G.M. and Council meeting commenced. Due to the amount of cleaning and tidying in the kitchens I was unable to attend the meetings, however some of the other Belfyites present did, and a few of them were even appointed (conned?) into taking various positions. These individuals were Ben Heaney, who now holds the post of BCA Newsletter Editor, and Ruth Allen who is now an Individual Rep. on the council, whilst Chris Jewell continues in the post of Media Liaison Officer, and Dave Cooke heads up the I.T. Working Group.

As this was the first event of it’s type, a lot of lessons were learned by the organizers, and, though it wasn’t perfect first time round, the input from some of us, such as Les and Wendy, Hellie and myself, having been involved in the running of Hidden Earth and CHECC, certainly helped it to run a lot better than it might have, as a lot of the common mistakes and pitfalls had already been met and overcome by us before.The

Lecture and Field Trip Programm e for Saturday 15 th June 2013

  • The Hydrology of Speedwell Cavern, led by Nigel Ball.
  • Introduction to Cave Ecology, led by Dr. Paul Wood.
  • Introduction to Cave Archaeology, led by Prof. Andrew Chamberlain,
  • Introduction to Limestone Hydrology and Geomorphology, led by Dr. Paul Hardwick,
  • The Castleton Springs, led by Prof. John Gunn,

And, in addition to these, the British Caving Library also held an Open Day, and the day was finished off with a Slideshow and Presentation on the year’s Major Overseas Expeditions.

There are plans to continue this event in the future, and, whilst, at the time of writing this, nothing definite has been confirmed, there is the intention to hold next years (2014) at the Dalesbridge Centre in Yorkshire, and, as it can only get better, I would urge you all to consider attending.