Steep Holme

By Keith Gardner.

On Saturday 23rd. April a small party including eight members of B.E.C. left Anchor Head jetty bound for Steep Holme.  A strong wing and a choppy sea caused large quantities of Bristol Channel to join us in the boat, forcing certain members out of sight beneath a large tarpaulin sheet, thus greatly enhancing the view for the rest of us.  After half an hour or so we reached the shingle beach, and, heavily laden with bedding and stores, we set off up the cliff path for the Victorian barrack block which was to be our home, looking like a cross between an Himalayan expedition and a band of buccaneers.

Having once settled ourselves in the Sergeants’ mess we all left to explore the north side foreshore, the cliffs of which are vertical and in some places overhanging, thus making it very difficult to gain access except at low tide.  This afternoon however, we were very fortunate, conditions were excellent, and the spring tide aided by strong wind gave us an abnormally low water-level, so low in fact that we able to traverse the north-west cliffs and round the usually impassable Rudder Rock (The Port of Bristol’s Havenmaster’s Dept. states that no predicted tide this year will be as low as that on the day in question)  From here the bulk of the party returned to collect cameras and field glasses etc., jettisoned en route, but John Lamb and Sago proceeded along the more friendly southern shore to complete the island circuit, a feat which, if achieved before, has never been recorded to my knowledge.

The rest of the day was spent in exploring the top of the island, visiting various fortifications both ancient and modern, and of course, eating.  The far seeing boozers who brought their own wallop found that they were immensely popular during the evening until of course, the flagons were empty.

On the Sunday morning we had a long lie-in until seven o’clock, had breakfast and then went off in search of light entertainment which we found at the South Landing,  A small dingy was seen to be making for the shore; its two occupants clambered into a canvas covered collapsible coracle and started paddling furiously towards us against the current.  They were clad in a garb truly befitting the staff of the Duke of Mendip, and one, resplendent in a flying jacket, horn rimed spectacles and black, bowler hat hailed us with a lusty “Are you ornithological?”, to which a certain Rice A. returned “No, Church of England.”  These two were obviously heathen (Welsh, perhaps?) for at this they turned and made rapid movement to their dinghy, in which they departed towards the distant mainland at top speed.

The rest of the morning was spent in observing the nesting crags of cormorants and in cleaning certain deposits from a George III cannon which was then photographed by a battery of cameras, and by another contraption owned by Sago which he claims does take pictures of a sort.

In the afternoon we were joined by a party led by Ted and Dorian Mason with whom we left about six thirty.

The weather was very good and the undeveloped state of the Alexander plant allowed us to see more of the island than will be possible later in the summer.  What gulls have arrived have mostly laid their eggs and the young should be hatching in late May to middle June when it is hoped to run another trip.

Keith S. Gardner.

Letter to His Grace the Duke of Mendip, Baron Priddy &c, &c.

The Castle, Priddy, Somt.

Your Grace,

It was with great pleasure that I received the letter from your private secretary subsequent upon your recent visit to our caving headquarters.

I note your remarks with reference to the cave which the club opened for your Grace's benefit some two years ago,  Your private secretary - no doubt an able man and a trusted retainer - has conveyed the impression that this cave perhaps falls short in some respects of the high standard expected by your Grace.  In view of this we have at great expense, recently opened a new cave known as Hunter’s Hole which we trust you will find entirely to your satisfaction.  It is my pleasant duty to inform your Grace that not only is this cave free from water - to which we understand your constitution is not suited - but is situated right outside the hostelry whose name it bears.

We must apologise to your Grace for the overcrowded state of our headquarters at the time of your recent visit, but beg to inform you that this was entirely due to the loyal attitude of the local peasantry to whom a visit from such a personage as yourself constitutes a major social occasion.

It has been my painful but necessary duty to inform the unkempt fellow to whom your Grace refers, of the serious nature of his offence in using your Grace’s name, and we trust that your Grace will not prefer charges.

I remain,

Your obedient servant,

(signed) S.J.Collins,
Caving Secretary and Hut Warden,
Bristol Exploration Club

Caving in Derbyshire. Part 2.

by. Stan Gee.

To continue our caving in Derbyshire, we now travel south-east across the county and almost to the border of Staffordshire.  Here we find two great valleys known for their picturesque beauty, and a playground for cavers and archaeologists alike.  Though neither valley possesses any really extensive caves, both have provided a wealth of knowledge in the field of Archaeology, and are in fact, still doing so.

Generally speaking, Dovedale has nothing outstanding to offer the caver, but anyone visiting the area will find it both interesting and enjoyable.

The Manifold valley, on the other hand, has much to offer in the way of small caves, and possesses many fine speleologica1 and archaeological possibilities.  Let us, then, walk down this valley and examine the caves as we go.

We start our journey at the little village of Hulme End and proceed down a tarmac track that extends along the length of the valley bottom, and follows the course of the River Manifold.  Many years ago this track was a light railway that served tourists with transport through the valley.  Now, as a pathway it affords a more pleasant walk that the main road and winds among the hills.

Our first stop is Acton Village, some two miles down the valley, once the centre of the copper mining industry, but now a forgotten shell.  The miners themselves were once the richest in the country and many interesting hours can be spent exploring the many shafts and adits.

Now, as we pass on, the deserted mines, the rubble tips, and crumbling buildings add an air of quiet desolation to the village, and the hills seen to echo from the past, tales of the grandeur that was theirs.

On again, for a further 1½ miles to Whetton Mill.  It is here that our caves really begin, for here the river suddenly plunges underground and is not seen again for six miles.  The river vanishes at Whetton Mill Sink, and many attempts to force a way through have failed, even though the river can be heard in several of the swallets hereabouts.  At Whetton Mill are a number of small caves and swallets, but none extend for more than a few feet.

About half a mile down the valley, however, a small cave on the west side of the dale has suddenly become important.  This is Ossom’s Crag Cave and. it is an old inlet water swallet.  On its joint excavation by the Peakland Archaeological Society and the Orpheus Caving Club it has produced much to interest both parties.

Just down the valley from ‘Ossom’s’ and on the right, a small swallet entrance can be seen in the now dry river bed.  This is Redhurst Swallet and although not an extensive cave, the narrow, twisting passages may well hold the key to further discoveries.

If, at this point we look to the left, we will see a mighty buttress of limestone soaring upwards for 500 feet.  Set right at the top is the enormous entrance of Thor’s Cave.  It is not of any great speleological interest but the huge vaulted chamber is well worth a visit, and the view is superb.

To the right of ‘Thor’s’ are a number of small caves, these being known as Fissure Cave, Seven Ways Cave and Elderbush Cave.  Elderbush Cave is the most important of the three, and has rather good possibilities, though not for a large system.  It has two nice chambers that were, until vandals got in, artistically decorated with calcite formations.  The Peakland Archaeological Society have excavated here for a number of years, and an excellent display of their finds can be seen in Buxton Museum.

Our next and last point of call is Beeston Tor, some two miles further down the valley.  Here the old railway track swings right down a side dale to the village of waterhouses.  The main valley continues on to Ilam where the river eventually breaks surface.

Past ‘Beeston’ there is very little to interest us other than a few old mines, but at Beeston Tor itself there is a cave of exceptional interest.  This is situated at the foot of the Tor and is known as St. Bertram’s Cave.  Again, though not a large cave, it has many possibilities, and is at present under excavation by the Orpheus.  It was previously excavated by the Peakland who discovered a hoard of Saxon coins and jewellery, perhaps hidden from the Danish invaders of Mercia.  The total length of this cave is 600 feet and it is easy exploration.

There are, of course, many other small caves in the Manifold, but I have not space to mention them all, however should anyone wish to visit them they can mostly be found by ‘rooting’ methods and all provide a measure of interest.

Stan Gee

On being a Cadet

By Jacka

“When I say ‘Move’, I want you to move: Move!”  These were the first words of command ever uttered to me.  On looking back we can laugh at the terror it struck in our hearts, but at the time it just wasn’t funny.  Imagine a new adherent to martial law, straight from the warm comfort of civilian life, straight from the tender caresses of one’s girl friend or wife, straight from that wonderful sanity and quiet orderliness of one's own home to the cold hard realities of a fighting service.

Cardington hadn’t shown cadets the way of the service world.  We were just people to be kitted out in accordance with the official scale and passed on.  Cranwell, that centre of tradition in which is nurtured the seed of a future leader was intent on one or two things: to make the man or break him.

But a short journey from Cranwell is Kirton in Lindsay, No. 2.I.T.S., the centre of so many hopes, so much misery, joy, heartbreak, terror, pain and occasionally a little comfort.  It lies in the district of Lindsay in Lincolnshire; it boasts its own headsman, its own block and the ever present Sword of Damocles which descends at very frequent intervals to remove heads from the cadets who have failed to make the grade.  On the course it fell 158 times, and 158 human souls were consigned to perdition for the balance of their national service.  Many a difficult letter was written home; many a pillow was wet.  Exams, exercises, tests, drill, exams, exercises, tests, so it went on, until 32 lucky ones were told that they would be accepted as Acting Pilot Officers on probation.  Postings, leave and then over to the Emerald isle perchance to fly.

(nearly as per the song but not quite)


The one hundredth number of the Belfry Bulletin is not far away.  It would be very nice if we could make it a double size number.  Therefore I ask that all make special effort to send in suitable articles for it.  If you mark your Mss plainly that it is for the 100th issue, and of course subject to the usual standards of acceptability, it will appear when the time comes.



T.H. Stanbury Hon. Editor, 48, Novers Park Rod, Knowle, Bristol. 4.