A very Happy New Year and a good year’s Caving to our members and friends all over the world.

Redcliffe Caves by. R. Brain.

Mr Harford the owner of Redcliffe Wharf prior to their purchase by the railways, said that the caverns were well known to him, and he has explored them to an immense distance. He said that they had been used at an early period for smuggling, and worse purposes, i.e., hiding kidnapped people for slave dealing. He believed they had been originally dug for sand pits.

In 1812 the owner of some adjoining property, Mr Thomas King, claimed the portion of the caves under his land, and built a wall to separate the estates.

A door in one of the sheds of the waterside depot led to an outer tunnel from which, after a short distance, other passages were seen to branch off.

On the occasion of the visit in 1906, taking a turning to the right, a series of ramifications were met, with galleries forking off from each other with apparently no set design. As they were about seven feet in height, they afforded ample room, but many were filled to the roof with barrels of oil. At points the visitor could see four or more tunnels branching off from that in which he was standing.

Having turned newly back to the entrance, a second set of excavations (rather nearer Bristol Bridge than the first set) was seen. They varied from the other in that the excavation had been carried out more systematically, so as to cut away all the rock except the portion left to form the great natural columns supporting the roof.

In one part of the caves, there is one compartment octagonal in form, 45 ft in diameter and seven feet high. The roof is supported on eight columns at equal distances, and a ninth in the centre has a well bored through it, (no doubt some BEC types will remember this from a previous visit). To reach this section turn to the left into a tunnel leading off the main gallery, just after leaving the entrance.

In late 1695, 120 Dutch Naval Seamen were brought to Redcliffe and imprisoned either in the crypt of St Mary Redcliffe, or, according to Latimer, in the caves, and were transferred in April of the following year to Chepstow Castle. The only record of this event is a corporation account for supplying a bed of straw and fifty bed mats for their use.

This information was gleaned from a book published in 1909 by the Western Daily Press called “Bristol as it was and as it is”, and is comprised of articles from the Daily Press published around the turn of the Century and earlier.

Although there is still no definite news of the starting date for work in Redcliffe, negotiations are still proceeding between ourselves, the Bristol Corporation and the Railway Executive, and we hope to be able to make an announcement very shortly.

T.H.S.

Bristol Explorers Club

Has anyone any information about the Bristol Explorers Club? This organisation is nothing to do with Bristol Exploration Club, and has apparently been recently formed, and anyone with any information is asked to contact the Hon Sec..

Another Episode in the Precarious Life of:- The Menace
Climbing in Cheddar by J .V. Morris

Before going into the description of the climbing, I would like to offer a few words of advice.

I take it most of you know the meaning of the terms “pitch”, “Belay”, “Stance”, etc, as they are all used in caving. The cliffs of Cheddar are not very suitable for rock climbing; The strata runs the wrong way, producing an overlapping boiler-plate slab structure. Many of the cracks and chimneys and ledges have weathered off to a rounded form, calling for delicate climbing. The sharp edges, flakes, etc., should be treated with caution as they are generally rotten.

The fact that a lot of the holds are loose is only of secondary importance. Even a loose hold if treated the correct way, that is, with a steady downward pull, is quite safe. This does not of course apply to all holds.

Some of the harder climbs consist of tricky cracks and mantle shelves which require “handjams” and “press-ups”, and other advanced techniques.

On the whole the climbing in Cheddar is either “Difficult”, or “Very Severe “ with not much in between.

The Climbs.

Starting at the bottom and of the Gorge on the highest side.

No,l. The Knight’s Climb

This starts from just above the charabanc park. Walk up to the big grassy Terrace and a fairly deep chimney will be seen.

Pitch 1. 50 feet, Climb the chimney by bridging until about 10 feet from the top, then climb its loose right wall to a tree belay and grass ledge.

Pitch 2. 60 feet Climb this similar chimney, the top outside wall of which is a pinnacle. A rather awkward movement is made to get out of the chimney on to the pinnacle. This is rather exposed and loose but a good belay and stance is found on top.

Pitch 3 Length ?, The next move is rather sensational and rather tricky, but quite safe. Stand on a small hold on the pinnacle. Step across the top of the chimney on to the wall. Up the wall on small awkwardly placed holds to easy rocks, scrabbling to the top.

This climb was first done by The Climbing Club and owing to its rather zig-zag nature was named after a move in chess. The standard is probably “Difficult” but the last part of pitch 2 and pitch 3 is “Very Difficult”.

Next walk along the top to the exit of the Greay Gully, This is no more than a muddy scramble and it’s the best way off the cliffs. Descend Greay Gully for about 150 feet and on the left wall will be seen a clean buttress.

There are two routes on this; One consists of a traverse up the wall which bounds the Gully. Then up a little chimney to a good stance. A continuation of the chimney, very shallow, can be followed to the top, Standard Moderate, or straight up the w all. Very Difficult, exposed and rather trying.

The other route is up the face of the buttress. It is Very Severe and not to be recommended.

From the top, walk along until a peculiar pinnacle with a hole through it is seen. On this are two climbs: Digramers and Thisbe, (this is the only way of translating brother Morris’s writing. Ed.)

Digramers

The first starts with an upward traverse to a chimney formed by the hole. On the left up the chimney and through the hole finishing by a chimney the other side.

Thisbe

The other follows the chimney on the right side, or harder up a line of slabs. They are both about Difficult Standard, with the right-hand one the harder.

On the right of the pinnacle are two Aretes. The first is climbed up the left wall until the unsound nature of the rock forces one out onto the edge of the arete. A fairly clean finish is made to the top. Standard Difficult, Rather bad rock. The Second is climbed by the obvious and impossible looking narrow curving crack on its left wall. A tricky exit is made on to the face of the arete and a direct line taken to the top. Standard, Hard Very Difficult, steep and exposed. Good Rock.

Between this and the Greay Gully is a new route called Gates of Babylon. Standard, Severe, which I have not done yet.

As you can see, most of the routes start from the upper terrace where the rock is most weathered. The lower part o f the cliff is too overhanging and has too much vegetation.

I hope that this rough guide will be of some use. Great care should be taken by the way not to dislodge stones on to the road.

By taking care and using all possible belays it will be found that the climbing in Cheddar is not as dangerous as many people imagine.

Personal,

As reported from our roving London Reporter :-

“Alfie and Jean Collins have provided themselves with a bouncing daughter on 19/12/49. Mother and infant are progressing very well.“

Congratulations to you both, Can we send you a Membership application form for her??

Caving in the Pyrenees. No 2, Grotte de Gargas. By Iris and Harry Stanbury

You will remember that last month’s BB I threatened to inflict you with more episodes from our holiday. Last month by Error I omitted the “Better Half‘s” name. As those notes are compiled from her diary it is only fair that she should share in the title.

Upon reaching the Pyrenees our first call was at the house of Norbert Casteret, who gave us a splendid welcome. He took us up to his “study-cum-workroom” at the top of the house and we were able to see the wonderful collection that he has there. The choicest formations from Cigalere, a wonderful collection of books, maps and drawings; equipment of various sorts, bats, and a host of other interesting things.

From here we set out for the Grotte de Gargas, stopping on route for lunch, at a small town called Montrejeau. A short drive from Montrejeau along a side road brought us to the Cave which is situated in the foothills. Like most similar places, the cave was a show one and a small generator set was chugging away at the entrance. Here also was a small stall where we bought our tickets for the cave and also post cards of the interior.

Casteret then led the way to an archway with a door, and, unlocking it he led us into the cave. The entrance was comparable to that of Wookey Hole for size, and immediately inside the entrance the cave opened out into a large chamber with a unique flat roof.

This roof reminded me greatly of the freestone workings at Bath, and I have never before seen such an “artificial looking” ceiling to a cave. The walls, with their thick coloured deposits, of course reminded us that the place was natural, and we followed Casteret over duck boards further into it. The entrance chamber has yielded bones of Cave Bear, but the main wonder (we hasten to assure those who are picking up their pens to complain about the French pun, that it is unintentional) of Gargas is of course the hand prints.

Casteret told us that there were about two hundred of these prints, some made by covering the hand with colour, and placing it on the wall and others by painting around the hand instead. Most of the hands that made the prints were mutilated, the theory being that the owner suffered a mutilation every time he was bereaved. Some of the prints were those of children and some had only the stumps of all the fingers remaining. In one place there were pre-historic engravings and paintings, and although we saw vague marks and scratches, we could not, personally, make head or tail of them. How different those were to those of Niaux, the proximity of the entrance doubtless having the effect of causing the paintings to fade due to variations in temperature, humidity etc.

Beyond the “Room of the Bears” as the entrance chamber was called, and which contained a very fair stalagmite like a kneeling camel, there were abundant formations, some of which were very beautiful.

Only a small portion of the cave is now open to the public. During the war years the wooden stairways and electric lighting have rotted away. Rotted is the right word, Casteret took us up stairways that shuddered and shook, along duck-boards that crumbled and down places where there were only the remnants of ladders.

The Inner Series and the Salle Casteret are reached through an excavation in a very deep infilling. The head-room above this filling is in places was only inches, with the cutting deep enough to give head room for visitors. The Salle Casteret is a fair sized chamber (by Mendip Standards), that falls away into a deep pit in one corner. Visitors used to be able to climb down on to a boulder at the edge of the drop, but this was not possible when we were there, as the ladders were so bad that there was only a crumbling outline of what once had been a staircase. At the entrance to this chamber was a very fine curtain, pure white against the darker background, and in the Salle itself there were some good stalagmites.

We returned along the route followed on the inward journey, up the crumbling staircases, and through the cutting in the infilling, to the main chamber, reaching daylight by a different route, gaining access to the open air through a door much higher up the hillside. We returned down a steep path to the cars and then returned to The Casteret Home at St. Gaudens.

Our route was different to that taken on the outward journey, and we passed through the ancient village of St. Bertrand-de Comminges. Here we could see the remains of the Roman settlement there, but the name of the village was sufficinet proof of its age, the province of Comminges not being In existence for some considerable time.

Crossing the Garonne, we reached St. Gaudens shortly afterwards and here said goodbye to M. Casteret and his daughter, who shook hands with everyone and wished us all the best of luck during our stay in the mountains.

Club Loss

Since out last issue the club has suffered a loss. Mrs. Betty (Iln) Corpe passed away at Webbington House, Loxton on Dec. 19th.

She will be greatly missed by all thos who knew her, especially those who use the Belfry often, as she was a frequent vistor there.

Carbide Spares

For those members with Acetylene lamps there is a new spare part available. We can supply new carbide containers complete with a spare cap so that a charge of carbide can be very easily carried. These cost 2/3 complete with cap.

AGM note

Although this issue will reach you after or about the date of the AGM you will appreciate that it is not possible to include a report as the editorial wheels gring exceeding slow, A detailed report will be included in the next issue.