Members will recall that in the BB for May last (No.92) and article entitled ‘What the well dresses caver should wear’ by Pongo was printed.

Since this we have received a letter from M. Robert de Joly on the matter and we have great pleasure in now printing it, together with Pongo’ reply.

Societe Speleologique de France,
Uchaud,  (Gard),

   To/   M. Pongo Wallis
   Bristol Exploration Club,

Monsieur et cher Collegue,

J’ai lu dans le No. 92 (May 1955) de votre revue ‘B.B.’ un compt-rendu de mon petit ouvrage: ‘Comment on descend sous terre’ et vous remercie.

Toutefois je reate intrigue par votre remarque ‘many of his recommendations sound strange to us’.


‘not everything is applicable to British conditions’

Jen e vois pas en effet, comment une cavite ‘fossile’ ou a riviere dans un pays quelconque ne necessite pas les memes precautions!

Lorsque vous m’aurez rependu (avec details j’espere car le sujet m’interesse) je vous adresserai ine note pour votre revue toujours interessante.

Croyez cher Collegue, a mes sentiments les meilleurs.

                                                (signed)  R. de Joly.

President de l’Academie des Sciences de Montpellier et de l’Academie de Nimes.



Marlborough Crescent,
Latchford W.O.

21st July 1965.

Dear M. de Joly,

I hope that you are able to read English sufficiently to follow this letter.  Although I read French fairly easily, I find writing it considerably more difficult.

I wish to make it plain that my little article in the Belfry Bulletin was not intended to be in any way derogatory to yourself.  I have been exploring caves for 18 years, which is very little compared with your experience.  Our Club accepts members of 16 years and older, and these --- and also some of the older ones --- think that any of their clothes are suitable to wear underground.  As a result they get cold and enjoy their sport less than they might do, so I am always urging that proper clothes should be worn.

The French caves which I have visited have all been of the tourist or painted variety.  I have never done any proper Speleology in France so I do not have any first-hand experience of your conditions.  In Somerset the caves are not as extensive as many of your better known ones, but I think that they do have smaller passages.  There are many places which I know where it is impossible to get through with a helmet on the head, and where any but the smallest explorer must remove some of their clothes in order to get by.  You will understand why I didn’t like the idea of an overall with 12 pockets.  Also, the caves being less extensive, our expeditions are correspondingly shorter, and 12 hours is considered to be a long time to be underground, while 24 hours is very exceptional.  Such elaborate equipment is thus unnecessary.  You, I can see, may find it most undesirable to pay a second visit to some remote part of a cave to record some fact because you did not have a tape measure or note book with you.  You must therefore be completely equipped always.  With us, this will seldom arise and a second visit can readily be paid.

I think that in any country speleologists tend to use the equipment that is available commercially.  Most of us use compressed fibre helmets which are produced for coal miners.  These are very light and comfortable and will withstand quite a severe blow.  If they are of the correct size they do not fall off readily even without a chin-strap, although one is fitted.  I do not know of an accident caused by one falling on a person, or of a head injury when such a helmet had been worn.  I myself have been hit by a stone falling from 70 feet directly on my head.  Although the blow was severe, both the helmet and I were unhurt.

Our footwear is generally a pair of stout leather boots, sometimes with metal toe-caps, usually nailed with hob-nails.  Although some people prefer proper climbing nails most find the plain hobnail adequate.  I cannot say I like the idea of your ‘crampon’ like nails.  To me they sound dangerous and I have never yet met conditions where they would be a real advantage.  While in theory it is easy to keep clear of the next man's feet, in confined spaces it is not always so and the type of nails you suggest could inflict a very severe injury.

Over our other clothes we generally wear a ‘boiler-suit’ – a combination overall of tough cotton.  These are fairly cheap to buy and although not very hard wearing, they do last a reasonable length of time.  They are usually made with two breast pockets and two trouser pockets, which we find is enough to carry the few personal possessions we normally take--- cigarettes, chocolate, a handkerchief, &c.  The boiler-suit is not waterproof, but serves as protection to a waterproof suit worn beneath it if the cave demands it.  Food, cameras, spare lighting etc. we usually carry in a small bag which may be worn over the shoulder, or dragged as conditions require.  Small canvas haversacks, about 25cm. x 25cm. x 8cm and fitted inside with a number of partitions were used daring the War for gas-masks.  These can still be bought and are ideal for the job.

You will see that our equipment is derived partly from what is available and partly from what I take to be the different conditions under which we are working.

I hope you have found these notes of interest.  Much of the equipment which we use as a matter of course in our caves today was first though out by French Spleologists, and has been adapted to our conditions.  Such exchange of ideas and methods can only be of the greatest help to our mutual interest in Caves.

Yours sincerely,

   (signed) R.M. ‘Pongo’ Wallis.


Ed’s note.

M. Robert de Joly is one of the foremost French Speleologists.  I had the pleasure of caving with him in 1948 when together with a party of mixed nationalities, he led us to the ‘Plus dangeroux’ parts of l’Aven d’Orgnac.

M. de Joly certainly practices what he preaches and his dress and foot-wear were as described.  The long boot spikes certainly seemed dangerous to our untutored eyes, but I must admit that they seemed to give him better grip by far than afforded by my ‘trikes’ although my boots were newly nailed.


Can anybody tell me why?

Here as promised are they answers to the first set of questions which were printed in the July BB. They were all sent in by our tame archaeologist, Keith Gardner, to whom our thanks is extended.

  1. Bronze-age settlements are sites about which little is known, but in general it is often considered that burial mounds were placed on the skyline in such a position that their silhouettes were constantly in view from living and working quarters.  The settlements here might well have been in the region of Waldegrave Pond, where mining activities would since have erased all trace, or perhaps towards Swildons, or even by the Priddy Circles from which point the Ashen Hill Group stand out well.  Incidentally, can anyone tell me what these circles were?
  2. Has the demon T.V.C. been at work again? I can count nine barrows in Priddy Nine group when sober (eighteen otherwise).
  3. Long Barrows from the Neolithic period as opposed to the later Bronze Age date for round barrows, so there is no reason why there should be any connected with the Priddy group.  There is one on Pen Hill, one near Green Ore, and two at Chewton Mendip to mention only the closest.  The smaller number of these monuments about is probably due to the smaller population and to the fact that they were originally constructed to serve more as a family mausoleum than were the round barrows, whose secondary burials are usually intrusive.
  4. There are three main types of abrrow as illustrated herewith: -

    It is possible that one type evolved from the other; the Early Bronze Age ‘Beaker’ folk buried their dead in crouched positions usually in Bowl barrows, whereas the later ‘Wessex Aristocracy’ seemed to prefer the Bell or Disc type, sometimes using cremation as well, especially in disc barrows.  Priddy group would appear to be a mixture of several types possibly indicating a long, though not necessarily continuous local occupation.
  5. The first reason why so many Roman coins appear to be discovered is, I feel, the fact that the average man would tend to recognise and retain a coinage rather than, say, a roof nail or pot shard.

    The reasons why they were there in the first place are rather more complicated and hinge on the economic collapse in the 4th. Century.

    Money is, after all only the arbitrary tool of an organised civilisation and when such a civilisation breaks down then the little metal discs become useless.  Corruption, taxation and revolt produced inflation in Britain to a fantastic degree.  The villa system became only self supporting rather than a food-producing unit, town life became increasingly difficult and bands of desperate peasants roamed the country living by fire and sword and plundering the great villas.  The owners of these often hid their useless ‘wealth’ in pots and bags in secret hoards and the discovery of such a cache rarely fails to hit the headlines.  Other single finds are usually indicative of an occupation site where they were lost in the squalid conditions of the late 4th. Century, although of course the odd coin is always liable to be dropped anywhere.



Those interested in Bat-ringing will be very interested to know that Johnny Ifold, on August 29th. refound a long-eared bat that he ringed just over four years ago.  It was still flying strongly.


The larder is getting empty again. It is almost a year ago that there was so little material in hand that the BB was threatened with closure.  Next year we shall be celebrating our 21st birthday, I hope that the celebrations will not include a ‘wake’ for the BB.  There still seems to be no news of work or discoveries on Mendip.  It is a disturbing fact that although Stoke Lane was discovered as long ago as 1947, except for a brief article by the late Pat Browne on the discovery of Browne’s Passage and a sketchy five short paragraphs by Dan Hasell, both in BB No.5 for July 1947, we have published nothing about this important cave.  Similarly there is no information about St. Cuthbert’s or Hunter’s Hole.  This is a deplorable state of affairs; the BB is in danger of foundering for lack of material whilst there is a gold mine of material in our laps.  If the discoverers are too busy to help surely they could enlist the help of others to do this very necessary and important job?


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