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Redcliffe Caves Survey 1953

By Alfie

Towards the end of 1952 it was decided to approach the Bristol Corporation to see if the Club could obtain permission to survey the caves under Redcliffe Hill.  These caves were cut into the sandstone of Redcliffe Hill several centuries ago and have been used at one time or another for storing almost anything from slaves to old Corporation wheelbarrows.

There were two reasons for undertaking this survey.  One being that a complete survey no longer exists (although the Corporation posses one of the caves lying under their land) and the other to give members of the club an opportunity to uses cave surveying equipment and methods under something approaching caving conditions.

Permission having been granted, various bods presented themselves at the caves on Wednesday 7th January and we all spent about an hour going around in circles and getting lost generally.  Don Coase then organised a competition for reading an astrocompass with a pint of beer as the prize.  Soon after this we adjourned to the pub.

The next four weeks were spent in getting a line survey of the Corporation’s part of the cave.  We hoped to get two teams working, but owing to Coase’s accident, which put him out of action for quite a time this was rarely possible, and during the two months after this, a team started detailing by means of a plane table constructed for the occasion.

By the beginning of May about half of the cave belonging to the Corporation had been plane-tabled and it was decided to stop work during the summer months.  Since then a large new fall in the part not belonging to the Corporation has caused this part to be closed and it will no longer be possible to survey it.  In addition to this, the members who undertook most of the work are now at a stage where actual surveying down a cave amongst more difficult conditions could be undertaken and so it looks as if further work in Redcliffe has lost most of its point.

However, useful results have been obtained.  As a result of the work in Redcliffe, a plane table has been used on a cave survey (Browne’s Hole) and proved surprisingly useful, adaptable and accurate. And plans are under way for the construction of an automatic plane table, which, if it works, will permit one-man surveying to be carried out.

The most useful result of this surveying exercise will be apparent, however, if it leads to members coming forward to assist in any new caves which might require surveying in the near future.  There is a distressing lack of decent cave surveys on Mendip at the moment, and our own Club’s Stoke Lane survey is still unfinished owing to a shortage of bods willing to take part.  Surveying needs lots of patience and is deuced uncomfortable, but a good survey of any new major cave system the club might discover will help to put the B.E.C. literally ‘on the map’.

Alfie