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Important Notice to Members in the Bristol Area.

As from Thursday July 7th. we are no longer holding our usual weekly meeting at 74, Redcatch Road.  The great increase of popularity of these meetings has increased to an impossible number those who wish to attend with the result that the accommodation has now become inadequate.  We hope to include with this BB a note stating that a room has been obtained, where we can carry on.  As this room will cost a small sum each week those attending will be charged a small levy to cover this charge.  The immense success of the club in the last few years has been in no small measure due to those Thursday meetings, and the club will always be in debt to the generosity of Mrs. Iris Stanbury who so willingly put up with hordes of cavers trampling over her carpets, dropping cigarette ash, and generally making themselves at home in her dining room.

These meetings started in 1943, and have continued without break, except during illness or holidays until the present time.  The business transacted on Thursdays with the Hon. Sec. can be arranged by phone until a new hall or room is obtained.  Members are asked to use the Belfry as a meeting place and are reminded that all those things that, for a very short time, they will miss on Thursdays will return as soon as can fix it up.  Subs, when due, can be paid either to Hon. Sec. or any committee man, and those who want helmets, lamps, or anything in that line can still get them as usual.

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MORE STOKE LANE PHOTOS HAVE ARRIVED, SEND IN YOUR ORDERS. Price 6d. each these is a set of six of these really fine photographs available to each of the first 6 applicants.  If you applied when out of stock, please apply again, as your order may have been mislaid.

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Belfry fees.  As no one objected to the proposed Levy of 3d. all belfry charges as from 1st. July are subject to this extra charge.

Can You Find A Better Hole? 

By S.G. Treasure

Stoke St. Michael or Stoke Lane, is a village situated on East Mendip mid-way between Wells and Frome.  A Somerset guide book has described it as ‘compact but uninteresting’ – that being true up to a point.  In this case, however, it is what cannot be seen is what matters.  A geologist, for instance, would be in his element, as he would find coal, quartzite, limestone, firestone, sandstone and basalt.  A pretty feature is the mill stream which runs through the village and enters a swallet in limestone rock about 800 yards from the village centre, reappearing at a spot known as St. Dunstans Well, some 1,000 yards away.  For many years past boys of all ages have been going in and out of the cave without discovering anything worth while, and it was not until June 1947, that some members of the Bristol Exploration Club made a grand assault and pursued the passage through a water trap, finally coming upon what have been described as the most beautiful caves in Britain.

After meeting these people and hearing their wonderful stories I felt, as Wilfred Pickles would say, that I wanted to ‘have a go’, so in July 1947, I joined a party led by Mr. Don Coase, including two doctors and a professor, and we entered the cave at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  We wriggled and squirmed for about 1,500 feet through narrow passages full of jagged rocks, and sometimes the crevices were so tight that we had to breathe out to squirm through.

We passed through a leech infested pool and another watercourse covered with slimy mud where we crawled sideways to squeeze our way through, and after an hour of most arduous going we reached the water barrier or ‘sump’ as it is known.  Here we lined up to receive instructions from our leader, the idea that we had to step down into the water reaching to our necks, and we had to wade through to the further end, dipping our heads in places to avoid the jagged rocks.

There we found the water disappeared under a huge rock, and our leader explained that each one must take a deep breath, dive under and come up the other side.  I duly took my place and dived under, and never was there a hand more welcome than that of Mr. Coase when he pulled my head up out of the water and shouted ‘ ok breathe in’.  When we were all through we passed on, thoroughly drenched, to a more roomy chamber where we duly congregated and re-grouped.  I took off as many clothes as I possibly could, wrung them out and shook them and put them on again, and this seemed rather more comfortable.  From then on the going was much easier and we walked through the stream, finally being able to climb into the chambers, to find that what the exploration party had told us was perfectly correct.

There are about eight chambers of immense size, with pure white banks of stalagmites cascading towards the cavern floor like a frozen waterfall.  The curtains and draperies give a metallic ring when they are struck in passing and streaks of colour add to their loveliness.  In the chamber thousands of stalactites hang from the roofs, and in some of the caverns the floor, walls and ceilings are completely covered with stalactite and stalagmite formations.  The main chambers, too, have many beautiful grottoes with stalagtitic columns joining floor to roof, and natural frescoes streaked with red arid ochre colouring,  The ‘Throne Room’ is an impressive sight, the chief feature being two huge stalagmites which have been likened in appearance to Queen Victoria confronted by a pageboy.  Making our way across the slippery floor studded with ‘candlestick’ stalagmite formations we came upon a charming grotto - a real gem of the cave system.  In the centre was a pool with tiny ‘candlestick’ formations sticking up through the water, and these gleamed and sparkled like diamonds as they caught the light from our lamps.  The whole cavern was just as a child would imagine fairyland to be, with banks of ‘Snow’ and hundreds of little ‘icicles’, and the floor covered with stalagmites of many hues, this indicating various mineral deposits.

In one of the chambers a human skeleton has been found, and also skulls of animals but it has not yet been possible to determine the age of the skeleton.  As mentioned earlier, however, we had with us two doctors and a professor, who examined the remains and decided that they had been there for something like 1,700 years.  An additional skull was, incidentally, discovered while we were there.  The mystery of it all is that they could not possible got through by the way that we know today, so that many centuries ago there must have been some other entrance.

Walking through these caverns was like being in another world; in fact, so far removed that one would  not have been surprised to have met fairies, or gnomes or suchlike, such a veritable fairyland it was, everything so perfectly clean and shining in contrast to the dusty atmosphere of the world high above us.

After having our fill of heavenly beauty we commenced our return journey, again having to dive under the rocky barrier at the sump, and began our crawl back to the outside world.  After going a short distance, however, we came to a rather difficult obstacle known as the ‘Chimney’, and the member of the party ahead of me must have been so intent on getting out that he did not turn and help us through this trick spot.  This left the writer in the lead, and crawling on we came to a fork.  Here we decided to fork right, but very soon found the pathway shelved away to nothing, and the only thing to do was to retrace our footsteps (backing out in reverse) and take the left fork.  By this time our supply of carbide was running low and we tried several ways before finding ourselves on the right trail.  I would like here to mention Dan Hassell, the man next to me, who went off along a passage on his own, to find himself in the hopeless position of not being able to get further forward or move back.  To make utters worse his lamp went out and for a time he was in a sorry plight.  I managed wriggle back to him, light his lamp and yank him out, during which time he swore and cursed ( and I might add that he had a very rich vocabulary) and threatened to murder the members of the vanguard party, who had by this time reached the open air.  I did my best to suppress him by reminding him that is was Sunday and that at this time most good people were just about walking home from church.  Fortune then smiled on us and we found ourselves heading in the right direction.  It was then only a matter of patient crawling and sliding through the slimy mud. At last we saw a light – Harry Stanbury, the Club Secretary, was a one-man rescue party.

We finally stepped out, into the sunshine of 9 o'clock, very weary, our legs, knees and elbows bleeding, and looking nothing on earth.  After a few minutes later I was back at home having a most welcome hot bath while supper awaited me.  And then to bed, to dream of diving the sump, skulls and fairyland caverns.

S.G. Treasure

Editor’s Note

The member of the party who left Sam in the lurch was not a member of the B.E.C. as you have probably guessed.  Had he been, the parties would never have been separated.  This reads crazily, but readers know what is meant.

Badges

In response to the request for names for Badges, 35 names were received.  In view of this it was decided to go ahead with the ordering of the badges as soon as funds permit.  Which means when we have written off some of our liabilities.  This list will be retained in the Sec’s stupendous filing system until the great day.

First Aid Kit

A new small First Aid Kit has been purchased and is at the Belfry.  This kit is for emergencies ONLY, and is not to be used for the purposes the old one was.  In addition to this watertight kit in its metal case, Les peters is drawing up a list for a more general kit for us.  The small kit is really intended to be suitable to take underground, and its contents in the form of ampoule etc., cannot easily be replaced.

Tackle Officer

In view of the fact that Setterington as Hut warden and Chairman of the Belfry sub-committee that George Lucy has been appointed Tackle Officer.

T.H Stanbury

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The following has been sent by a club antiquarian to the Editor:-

This appears to be an account of an early descent into a Mendip Cave, although the beginning is missing.  The author name is lost and in any case the authenticity is doubtful as this extract clearly dates well before the earliest known exploration of Swildons Hole to which we believe the account refers.

……………..wild and ruffianly crew as I ever set eyes in and stank.  But, being desirous of seeing the abyss, I did consign my soul to God and we did set off.  They did provide me with a candle that the darkness might be somewhat relieved, and trembling I was led down a narrow passage leading from the light of day.  They obliged me to pass upon a narrow ledge by a great abyss, whereat I was fearful, but despite a great torrent falling I did pass safely, and presently did come to what they termed ‘Jacob’s Ladder’.  I said that I considered this most inaptly named as Jacob’s Ladder led to Heaven, but this surely to the very portals of Hell.  None the less I was constrained to go down it and so came to a grotto of surpassing beauty far exceeding any of those I have seen in the houses of the rich.  On this I feasted my eyes, and thinking that this fearful journey was now at an end did start to return.  But I was told that this was but the beginning, and so, wading down a stream, whereat, I became most wet, did reach the top of a great waterfall.  A ladder rope was hung over, but I did refuse to descend, whereat; they tied a rope about me, and did lower me to an unprecedented depth.  I was then dragged yet a very great way further down the stream, passing on the way much of very great beauty; yet I was so cold and fearful that I did not head it.  On reaching the bottom, there was a pole (must mean ‘pool’ Ed.) of Stygian Blackness, one did step in it and calling in a most horrible and blasphemous manner did say it was cold.  Whereat I did flee from that place for fear of eternal damnation for such swearing.  Nor could I rend my garments for they were already all but rent from me.  Nor will I ever again venture into that most God-forsaken and impious region.

From Hon. Sec’s Post Bag.

From John Hull in M.E.L.F.

The Ataka Mountains are very strange.  A couple of weeks ago I made a trip into the hills and found a couple of small caves.  They are in the queerest rock I have ever seen, the whole rock face, and it was some 300 feet high, was cast in a solid mass of dark brick red rock of sandy type, which could be made to give a shower of red sand, by rubbing it with the heel of my boot, and the cave was cut out of this rock by water action in a series of curves just like the diagrams of curves one sees in the text books.  I crawled along a narrowing tunnel for some 60 feet and never saw anything to break the even surface until the roof came to within nine inches of the floor and I could proceed no further.

In this range one feels that, given a sharp spade and a lot of time, you could make your own cave system without hanging around for a few million years waiting for nature to do the work for you.

List of members 1949   No.4

Geoff W. Ridyard        14, Harvey Road, Crawley Green, Herts.
Miss Pam Richards     The Cottage, Wellsway, Keynsham, Somt.
Reg. H. Hazell            34, Jubilee Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.
Gerry Orrah                38, Hazelbury Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.
Miss M. May              The Chantry, Old Church Road, Clevedon., Somt.
Miss Doreen Vickery   Seaton Lodge, Station Road, Staple Hill, Bristol.
Henry A. Shelton        18, Walsh Avenue, Hengrove, Bristol. 4.
Tony Preston              43, West Town Lane, Brislington, Bristol. 4.
John Swift                  3, Wellesley St. Lawrence Hill, Bristol.
Fred Shorland             P.O. Box No.1280, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia.
Ronald H. Newman     77, Beaufort Road, St. George, Bristol. 6.
Tony Riddell               13, Randal Road, Clifton, Bristol. 8.
Alex McKoy               14, Clifton Down Road, Clifton, Bristol. 8.
Hagen D. Schoner       21, Richmond Terrace, Clifton, Bristol. 8
John W. Adams          27, Granby Hill, Clifton, Bristol. 8.
Raymond Wade          101, Princess Victoria Street, Clifton, Bristol. 8.
Michael Farr               1, Sion lane, Clifton, Bristol. 8.
David Williams            Arch house, Victoria Square, Clifton, Bristol. 8.
G.P. Donald               Rackwood, 5, Anthony Ave., Lilliput, Parkestone, Dorset.
Tim Kendrick              Cherry Street, Bingham, Notts.