Belfry Bulletin

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Editorial

The Club Year.

The club year ends on the 8th of October this year, on which day the Annual General Meeting and Dinner will take place.  You will find elsewhere in this issue of the B.B. the necessary voting forms, dinner application forms, agenda and financial statement for the year.  This, for many members is not only the day on which everyone gets his chance to have a say in the running of the club.  So please fill in your voting forms and send them, or present them at the A.G.M. and please turn up for the A.G.M.  We have had to wait for a quorum to appear for the last few years.  Lets get this one off to an early start!

Rescues.

As usual, you will find accounts of the two trips which had to be organised in Swildons and Cuthbert’s in this B.B.  As usual, some sections of the press tended to exaggerate, but nevertheless, it must be admitted that the frequency of such occasions would appear to be increasing. The exceptional weather is, of course, mainly to blame.  Even so, and in addition to the steps taken by Mr. Maine in Swildons and the steps proposed to increase the flow into Cuthbert’s, we may well have to revise our estimates of what constitutes reasonable caving weather for trips down the wetter of the Mendip caves.

“Alfie”

September Committee Meeting

At the September meeting of the Committee, Lesley Margetts and John Davey were elected as members of the club.  It was agreed to draw up an up to date list of Cuthbert’s Leaders and rules.  Norman agreed to complete the installation of the Coase Memorial.  The club agreed to buy six new mattresses for the Belfry, and to send more blankets to be cleaned.  All seven 20’ club ladders are present and ropes.  The Tackle Officer is fitting new handles to the sledgehammer and pickaxe. The club badges have been ordered and the arrangements for the club tie have at last been finalised. Arrangements for more stone have been made and the final arrangements for the dinner and speeches.

Notices

Sheet Sleeping Bags.

Now we have clean blankets and are shortly to have new mattresses, the rule about sheet sleeping bags becomes even more important.  While the Hut Warden would not like to have to penalise any member or guest, he has the Committee’s authority to do so.  Thus, if you do not use a personal sleeping bag – or if you are inviting a guest who has none, BRING A SHEET SLEEPING BAG WITH YOU.

New Building.

We must get this up before the frost nadgers it.  Spike and Alan have agreed to lay the floor.  Norman has agreed to do the necessary woodwork.  Alfie and Jill will continue to be responsible for the main structure, but MORE HELP is now required.  Preferably, we want two of three people who will make themselves responsible for completing the rear wall.  Most members will be quite happy to use it when it is finished.  Come and lend a hand NOW!

Caving Clothes.

Until the new building is in a state to use, there is very little room for caving clothes.  It will not be possible to leave them in the new hut while the floor and fitting are being installed.  Please take all gear home.  You may run the risk of losing it otherwise.

Swildons & Cuthbert’s

Based on accounts by Llew Pritchard, Bryan Ellis and Alan Nash.

Editor’s Note.    Bryan Ellis was in charge of the party who were in Cuthbert’s on the occasion described; Alan Nash was running the B.E.C. party down Swildons and Llew Pritchard was one of the few people concerned in both rescue operations.

At approximately 1 pm on Saturday, 27th August, a torrential thunderstorm broke over the Mendip Hills and continued for about four hours, during which time over two inches of rain fell over the catchment areas of Swildons and Cuthbert’s.  Owing to the waterlogged state of the ground, the rain practically ran straight off the ground into the cave systems, rising water levels to exceptional heights.

At about half past one, Bryan Ellis and Bill Kitchen entered Cuthbert’s to do some surveying in the Rabbit Warren.  Finding the entrance pitch dry in spite of the rain, they decided to carry on with the trip.

Alan Nash’s party, consisting of himself; Tom Logan; Pat Muckley and Terry Taylor, entered Swildons at noon before the rain commenced.  The object of this trip was to photograph, mainly in Barnes Loop. They made good progress to the Loop. Although the last three of the party were new to ladder work and were therefore slow on the Forty and Twenty.  They had taken food, which they ate in the Loop before commencing the return journey at about 3 pm.

The first hint of rising water came at the Double Pots where Pat dropped his lamp into the water, which swept it away.  Alan then attempted to climb the Pots and was able to reach a ledge above them but not to complete the climb or to get back.  Tom had an unsuccessful go at joining Allan, but dropped the food box into the water and had to give up.  Terry then managed to join Alan on the ledge, dropping his lamp into the stream as he climbed.  Meanwhile, Tom had managed to climb onto a ledge about eight feet above the water, but Pat had disappeared.  The noise of the water made conversation between Tom and the two on the other ledge impossible, although the ledges were only ten feet from each other.  Alan and Terry presumed that Pat had gone back downstream to find a drier spot, and were not unduly worried as they knew that other parties were in the cave.  In fact there were Bob and Ann Lorder, Dave Berry and four others Wessex type in one party; Mike Boone with a party of two and Frank Darbon with a party of two.  The first of these parties joined up with Alan’s party at about 5.45 pm and told them that Pat had been pushed back by the water.  One of the party joined Alan and Terry on their ledge, while the rest went back to Barnes Loop with Pat.  They waited at their respective places for about the next six hours.

Meanwhile, the Cuthbert’s party stopped their surveying at about 3.30 pm, as they had changed their plans. On reaching the Main Stream, they found it a muddy torrent and realised that heavy rain must have fallen and that the Entrance Pitch might prove awkward.  They left the Dining Room at 4 pm, taking the drum of food and the stove and saucepan as far as Pillar Chamber, where they dumped it with the intention of returning there if the upper part of the cave proved too wet to negotiate.  They arrived at the bottom of the Entrance Rift at 4.30, to find a sheet of water descending.  They then decided to leave as much of the kit behind and attempt to climb the rift. They agreed that, if only one managed to get out, he would go and alert a rescue team, who would send another man down to keep him company.  Bryan went first and managed to get up.  He signalled to Bill and waited for about ten minutes, then went to alert a rescue team.

In Swildons, the Mike Boon and Frank Darbon parties, who had started back before, was met by a party consisting of George Pointing, Norman Tuck, Derek Ford and David Farr, who realised what a storm would do and entered the cave at about 2 pm to contact the parties underground and get the cave cleared before the water had a chance to rise too far.  This party met the other two parties in the Upper Series and after warning them of what was happening to the surface water, went on to the Forty to try to contact those below.  This they found to be impossible.  They were between the Keyholes when the water started rising in earnest.  George describes the rise as being like a tidal wave.  We know that boulders nearly a foot in diameter were going over the Forty when the water was at its height and it is possible that some of these got jammed in the bottom Key Hole, thus raising the level rapidly between the two Keyholes.

One of the party managed to get through the top Keyhole, but it became an impassable sump before everyone could get out.  The water rose to within two feet of the roof, and it must have been an extremely unpleasant experience before the water began to subside again.

The parties with Mike Boone and Frank Darbon set out for the entrance after meeting the warning party. They got over the waterfall and reached a point within ten feet of the entrance.  There they had to stay for a few hours, unable to get through the sump which had formed at the entrance or to get back over the waterfall.  At this stage there was three feet of water covering the entrance.  Eventually, Mike Boone managed to get through.

The Rescue Operations; Cuthbert’s

As soon as Bryan Ellis got out of the cave, he went to the Shepton Hut and alerted Ken Dawe.  Ken volunteered to go down the rift if necessary and join Bill Kitchen at the bottom.  Bryan then returned to the cave and tried to contact Bill by means of a message lowered in a tin.  This was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Ken called in at the Belfry on his way to the cave and alerted the B.E.C. at 5.45 pm. Prew and Alfie got changed and the party went in at five past six.  Ken went down the rift, having agreed on a series of signals with Prew, who positioned himself in the water at the top of the rift.  Alfie went to the squeeze, from which he could contact either Prew or the surface.  Sett began investigating the state of the surface water and started re-enforcing the dams.

By 6.30, it was decided to call out the Fire Brigade, as this was the only method by which the water could be lowered.  They arrived at ten past seven, and were pumping water into Plantation Swallet at the rate of 500 gallons a minute by half past.

Although the level slowly dropped, the people down the cave reported that there was very little effect at the top of the pitch.  Good communication existed with the two at the bottom, and supplies were passed down to them. They reported to the surface that they were in good spirits and not too cold.

In an effort to help the work of the pump, a temporary dam was built across the western exit from the pond.  This had some effect, but not as much as had been expected.  At 10.45, it was discovered that, although less water was pouring down the rift, the pump was only just keeping pace with the water coming into the pond.  This meant that the water coming in was increasing and it was agreed that if Ken and Bill could not get through at this stage, they might have to wait for several more hours and perhaps all night.  They were told of the situation and agreed to ascend as soon as possible. To help them further, a second bit of damming was carried out at 11.40 to stop the flow into the pond for a few minutes.  By 12.15 Bill had got out, followed fifteen minutes later by Ken.  The pump was then manhandled back to the Shepton track and taken from there to help in the Swildons operation.

Rescue Operations, Swildons.

After the original alerting party had gone down, Oliver Lloyd had arrived at the entrance.  Since the entrance was impossible to negotiate, he and others waited until Mike Boone was able to get out and report the situation in the cave to them.  The M.R.O. was then got into action, the alarm going out at 5 pm.  The first job was to get the water level down and the Bristol Waterworks were contacted who started their pumps which pump from above the cave.  This enabled the parties near the entrance to get out.  By about 8 pm, rescue parties had reached the Forty and were able to pass supplies to those below.  The party below had set off for the Forty and hence had got into contact with the rescuers. They were told to go back down the Twenty and wait.  Eventually rescuers were able to get down the Forty and a station was set up between the 40 and 20 where hot drinks, goon suits were supplied to those still without them.  The people below were then brought up the Forty and then out of the cave, the whole operation being completed by about 4.30 am.

Stately Homes of Clifton

By Lady C.

On Saturday, the 20th of August, the dreaded Gardners went to the “Flicks” and there espied the equally dreaded Stafford’s, who invited us around for coffee.  We went, and here is your correspondent’s report on their domicile. Upon entering, one is struck by the novelty of a series of porch type window boxes, growing amongst other things there saucepans and a pair of gumboots.  The hall is large and the Stafford’s have a large sitting room furnished in Stafford and “it went with the flat” taste.  A huge wardrobe cum chest of drawers cum relic of the flight out of Egypt period takes up a fair amount of space.  There is a huge stove full to the brim with B.E.C. solid fuel (i.e. old fag packets and dog ends etc.)  The bedroom or sleeping alcove is neatly curtained off from the main room and sports a fine Ali Baba wicker work washing, snake and lodger hiding basket, that could also be used to keep a large supply of empty fag packets in if necessary.

The kitchen is a long narrow room with hundreds of shelves and could be made into a really good doss house, with the addition of ladders to enable inmates to reach the top ones. There is a toaster situated on the window ledge beneath a fan, the idea being that if the toast pops up burnt one switches on the fan and Hey Presto!  Neatly trimmed and scraped toast.

I should have mentioned that from the main room one can throw things onto the bed with no appreciable effort.  If Staff is late getting up in the morning, a plate of eggs is neatly tossed to him as he lies a-sleeping.  Somewhat messy but certainly effective.  We were treated to excellent coffee and cheese bits on toast, mit biscuits, which my old man decimated as usual.

Up till now, this has been the best equipped for cutlery and china that we have seen in the B.E.C.  I did not inspect the bog and barfroom as I did not need to.  I ‘ad me barf on Friday and did not want anything else.  Ah well, next victim please.

Editor’s Note.    Club members intending to live in Clifton should note that their chances of keeping this a secret from Lady Chatterbox are extremely small.

Letter

The following was received at the Belfry, addressed to Sybil, Garth and others.

Dear friends,

I expect that you will have heard the sad news; that our friend Alan received fatal injuries in a rock fall in Eastwater.

We should like to thank yourselves and all members of your club for their prompt assistance and also for the understanding and hospitality which you showed at the Belfry after our return to the surface.  Thank you all, very much.

                        Yours sincerely.
                                    K. Helmore.
                                    P.H. Boothroyd.
                                    T. Baxter

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Secretary, R.J. Bagshaw, 699 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.
Editor, S.J. Collins, 33 Richmond Terrace, Clifton, Bristol 8.
Postal Dept, B. Prewer, 14 Egerton Road,, Bath, Somerset.