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The Club Dance

The Club Dance, held on October 21st at St. Matthew’s Hall, Redfield, was an unqualified success. Congratulations are the order of the day all round. To Pam and her band of stalwarts who did the arrangements, and to those who gave refreshments and officiated over boiler and washtub in the kitchen. The combined efforts of all, gave those who attended a really fine evenings entertainment. The cry now is “Let‘s have another one”. As a result of this dance the sum of £15/2/3 has been paid into the Hut Fund account.

T.H.S.

Christmas Cards and Calendars

You will remember that last year we were able to offer members Xmas Cards. This year in addition to the cards (of which there are eight different designs), you can obtain (also in any one of Eight designs) a mounted calendar of picture size 8 x 5½ on a mount 12 x 9½ inches.

These are being sold at 6d each the postcards and 2/6 each the calendars. The cards all have “With the season’s Greetings” across the bottom. The following are the eight photographs from which you can choose:-

a.         The Throne Room, Stoke Lane Swallet.

b.                   Fluted Column, Stoke Lane Swallet.

c.                   Queen Victoria and Page, Stoke Lane Swallet.

d.                   Harvard Plane in Flight (Tim Kendrick’s kite).

e.                   Queen Victoria, Stoke Lane Swallet.

f.                     The Bone Chamber, Stoke Lane Swallet.

g.                   The New Belfry being erected.

h.                   The Planners at work. Coase and Ridyard get down to it.

All orders to Hon Sec as soon as possible please. A percentage of the cost of each is going to the club funds. John Shorthose is churning these calendars and cards out so thanks a lot John.

News Flash by Dicky-bird Special

What two B.EC members went snogging in the entrance to GB a few weeks ago? I know, Do you????

Ivor Sawrem,

Thanks Squire for the Spuds. A lofty gift from a - - - - - -Person and to Mrs Corpe for the Blankets and Eiderdown.

J.N.B.

News from the London Section

The L.S. had a meeting a couple of weeks ago, and last Sunday we investigated a rumour about some holes near Merstham, Surrey. Unfortunately it rained like it does on Mendip and we drew somewhat of a blank. The holes had definitely been filled in, although we got reports confirming that we had found the right spot. Quite the usual story, actually somebody‘s drive falling in during the night and so on.

We shall be doing something pretty soon, unless we start on a real winter of floods. We see a report about an underground chamber in the chalk at Godmersham, , and that might be worth looking at.

W.J.S.

Caves in the Pyrenees Nol, Niaux, by T.H, Stanbury.

As most of you know my wife and I, had a very enjoyable holiday this year in . We visited various caves and many well known beauty spots, and I am going to write a series of articles, each devoted to one cave. This then the first, is about the Cave at Niaux.

Niaux is situated a short distance from Tarascon-sur-Ariege and is a small village situated on a road that further up the valley peters out under the Pyrenean peaks. In our party was Win Hooper, Pat Cahill, Trevor Shaw and John Hampton all of the W.C.C..

We met our guide at the foot of the path leading to the cave. He was a short fat man, who lit a large acetylene lamp and then started off up the path at a very fast pace! The night was very dark and the path was steep; with a surface of loose gravel! We each had our own lights and I was reminded of the stories that I had read about smugglers and bandits in the mountains as we zig-zagged up the narrow path.

The climb to the cave entrance from the road took about half an hour and we were all very hot when we reached the end of the path. The guide, who hadn’t uttered a word so far, threw himself down by a rock face and lit a cigarette. We all stretched out to cool off and rest, and then he chuckled and started to speak about the climb and the cave. He had a very harsh voice and it was very hard for me to understand him. Not a guide in the usual sense of the word, he was a caver belonging to a society who were working in the cave, and also in others in the district. After a ¼ of an hour we picked ourselves up and followed our guide to the entrance of the cave, a very insignificant slit in the mountainside.

E,A. Baker in “Caving” mentions a waist-deep pool immediately inside the entrance, but owing to the dry summer, this pool was dry, to our great delight and relief, and we were soon walking through a huge system, the largest that I have ever seen. From the entrance a huge tunnel with a floor composed of small “gours” led into the mountain, the tunnel becoming in a very short time, an immense chamber. Following the left-hand wall we entered a passage. This was comparable in size to the main chamber of GB, although the roof was lower and everywhere the rock was smoothed and polished by the water. There was one other difference too, the GB floor slopes down steeply, whilst here at Niaux the floor was level, or almost so.

A short distance along this passage a rock fall had made a barrier, and on top of this had been built a wall, in which was a steel barred gate that was locked. Unlocking the gate, our guide ushered us all through and then carefully relocked it again. Descending a flight of rough steps we found ourselves in a continuation of the same passage. The floor, here still almost level was of gours and sand, and in places there were dried out pools, the crystals that had formed under water shining in the light of our lamps.

All at once we saw a small railed-off enclosure. We crowded around and were shown some red stripes painted on the rocky walls. Some had black dots between them, as though the pre-historic artist had covered the tips of his fingers with pigment and then pressed them on the rocky surface. One theory as to what part these stripes played in the life of the community in the cave, was that they were placed where there was danger nearby, and acted in a similar manner to our modern red flags along the road. They were to be found in the cave in places where there was deep water close by, and our guide said that this was the only theory as to their use. Further along the same passage were other similar enclosures, some of which had very faded outlines of animals in red or black, whilst others guarded engravings cut into the stone or traced on the mud floor.

The tunnel, still of the same immense size, went on and on, and then suddenly the roof rose and the walls fed away and we found ourselves in an enormous chamber, The Grand Carrefour, our lamps became tiny spots of light in space. , A great mound or mountain of sand rose on our right and its flank vanished into the darkness.  We traversed along the side of this sloping mass and eventually reached its top, to see on our right the famous Rotunde des Gravures.

Here are displayed bison, bearded horse and deer.  Each one as perfect as though the artists had just completed them, instead them being 20,000 years old.  Jet black, against the creamy limestone background, there were dozens of them, all protected by a thin film of transparent stalagmite.  On the flanks of some of those animals were red painted arrows.  Doubtless these drawings were made to propitiate the gods of the chase, the painted arrows showing how the sorcerers wishes their victims to be wounded.

Here too, were traces of drawings in the mud of the floor, but unfortunately many more had been destroyed by the careless feet of sightseers. Once again the peculiar habits of Freach sightseers were apparent. Some of those priceless relics of the past were defaced, and other drawings had been superimposed over the originals.  Names and dates were everywhere, and although the enclosures and the gate now protect the paintings, there has been great damage done.

Beneath the paintings we sat, in one place the footprints of the artist, who all those thousands of years ago had squatted there and created these animals of the past for us to marvel at. These drawings were made further back in time before the Pyramids, than the Pyramids are before our time, yet there in the mud of the floor we could see the outlines of the feet of one who not only lived 30,000 years ago, but who had such artistic sense that he was able to draw true to life, those animals with which he came in contact.

Leaving the paintings and return to the “Sand Cavern”, we were taken into another passage quite as large as the first, and here too, in several places were paintings and engravings. The most interesting thing, to me, that we saw, was a discovery made only the week before, and we were the first, outside of those who made the discovery, to see it.

Behind a pile of rocks, and on the mud floor was a jumble of child's footprints. In the main passage a few yards away was a painting on the rock wall. It is believed that the child crept into hiding and peeped out to see the ceremony being enacted either when the painting was made, or later on when some rite was being followed at the painting itself.  Whilst waiting, the child became cold and jumped up and down so keep warm. There, in the mud of the floor is the story for all to see.

This passage ended in a sump, which had been opened by the drought and columns of stalagmite could be seen beyond the archway. It was too late for us to even think about investigating any further, and so, after investigating a couple of side passages we returned to the “Sand Cavern”, passing on the way a part of the passage where red, green white and peach coloured marble are each clearly defined and within a few feet of each other.

From the “Sand Cavern” we retraced our steps to the entrance arriving back there about 11.30 p m. The distance that we walked underground was about 3 kilometres and there were many other side turnings that we had to leave unexplored. None of the paintings were near the cave entrance, the Rotunde des Gravures being 800 metres from the entrance. We returned down the path to the cars and took the guide back to Tarascon and then drove back to the very nice barn near Niaux where we were to spend the night.

From the Hon. Sec’s Post Bag.

From Gerry Orren on the Likomba Plantation B.W.A., :-

------- The plantation is situated about ten miles from the coast on the Tiko plain, which is low-lying and a network of creeks, islands and mangrove swamps. About 18 miles inland rises the great Cameroon Mountain, an active 13,350 foot volcano which is due to erupt sometime in the next year or two. I havn’t heard of any caves yet and I suppose that the chances of finding any in volcanic rock are small. But I believe there are some old craters up-country which should be worth a visit. About 60 miles away there is supposed to be a crater lake, and you have to climb down almost sheer rock faces to got to the water level. It is reputed to be a “ju-ju” lake though. The local populace are very “ju-ju minded” and say that the mountain is rules by a “mountain-master” - a strange bod who is half made of flesh and half of stone!! Any volcanic tremors and eruptions are put down to his doings. There is also another volcano in the chain “Little Cameroon” some 5,000 feet. It has the most regular cone-shape I have yet seen and looks like a mountain from a fairy-tale. It is reputedly almost unclimbable and has been scaled by an expert German mountaineer. Two other Germans attempted it but never came back! We hope to climb the main mountain at Xmas though, so I hope to have an epistle for the BB then.

We work very hard here, usually from 6.30 a.m. to 3.0 p.m, and have very few social amenities. Our main amusements are reading, playing shove ha’penny and the “bottle”.

From John Hull at Mackinnon Road, Kenya.:-

I should like to begin this letter with an account of the Primary Exploration of a cave “up country” by Mr R. de P. Bealon, a National Park Warden with whom I am in contact.

“I explored an interesting cave in the Jumpi River country in the Keriho District. It can only be entered when the river is at low water, I penetrated for about half a mile, but there was a labyrinth of passages, bat and snake infested in the majority of cases. I only had an old hurricane lamp and had some trouble in finding my way out again.”

Now for some doings of my own. Last weekend two others and myself climbed Kasgaro, 5,000 feet. I was on the lookout for caves, but had to be content with a few picturesque but uninteresting rock shelters in one of which I found a krake, one of the poisonous snakes of the region. Fortunately for me he was not in an hungry mood.

Caving in this region is a far more risky business than in , for whereas in the Mendips the discovery of leopard bones is a matter of interest, when in this place the bones are attached to flesh and blood the interest involved becomes anything but academic.

Now to the climbing of this mountain. It turned out to be, from the sporting angle a rather boring graunch, The chief interest to me was the tremendous variation in scenery which was met whilst climbing. We started off in a typical African bush. Then we trudged though typical English forest and finally finished up sitting a pile of stones in the middle of a fog-bound moorland with only a few patches of grass and rushes to be seen.

From Terry Reed “Off the Amazon”

While in Curacoa I was able to locate and discover a cave, its called the Grotto and is near Mato Airport. I suggest it be called “Cliff Cavern”. This cave has been known for a long time, and I believe that parties of visitors are sometimes conducted through it. I surveyed it for approximately 200 feet, but my torch failed, and I was forced to grope my way out; very difficult to obtain candles on the island. - - - - - I intend to explore and survey this cave very thoroughly on my return to Curacoa, I’ll forward you the survey as soon as possible.

Have a specimen of Vampire Bat; cavers, female, frightening for the purpose of!

It’s queer how a feeling of loneliness gets you over here when you’re underground. Psychological reasons probably, among which are the absence of English speaking people and anyone with caving knowledge. This causes a sub-conscious drag of worry lest you be trapped – which might mean curtains. I’ve felt that way in most of the nooks and crannies I’ve wormed into on those coasts. There’s a tremendous amount to do out here, and I believe that I’m almost, perhaps the first caver down this way. Mendips now seem pleasantly small.

T.H. Stanbury Hon. Sec. 74 Redcatch Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.

W.J. Shorthose, Hon, Sec. London Section B EC 26. Gateside Road, Upper Tooting, London, SW 17