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Bottlehead Slocker

by Jill Rollason

Another cave was recently added to the Mendip total when Mite Thompson, Dave Causer and party broke into a new system at Dowhhead, two miles from Stoke Lane.  The cave entrance is novel - a shed is built against a rift in a small cliff, and visitors walk into the front entrance of the shed, and straight out again through the back, where an old oil drum can be seen lying on its side with much other rubbish. This oil drum is the entrance.

The rift lies at one side of a shallow valley which takes a good stream, now diminished by a waterworks reservoir at the head of the valley.  The stream sinks about ten feet, from the rift and is only encountered again at the lowest point of the system known so far.

The cave has been named Bottlehead from the locality and not from the quantity of bottles and tins blocking the entrance - apt though this might be.  It was open (but not explored) until about sixty years ago, but was gradually blocked by rubbish tipped into it.  The local farmer is very keen to have it opened and is very obliging since he is sure that he has a lucrative show cave of the future on his property and cannot be convinced otherwise!

The system consists chiefly of a wide bedding plane at an angle, of approximately forty degrees, and after sliding through the oil drum, progress is made downward through miscellaneous boulders and china for about twenty feet until the bottom, of the rubbish scree is reached.  After this, the bed carries on down in a series of small steps, the height of the roof varying from about ten feet to eighteen inches, and the width of the bedding plane being perhaps thirty feet across, but half blocked by boulders. After gradually working over to the left of the bedding plane, a drop of about six feet leads into a solutional rift chamber with a fine false floor now at waist level and some stalagmitic flow. About twenty feet further along this chamber is a deep pot in the floor, at the bottom of which is a rift where the stream is met approximately forty feet below the chamber.

When the cave was first entered, the top of the pot was blocked by a boulder the size of a piano, which was removed by Mike's special brand of magic.  When the debris had been disposed of, an attack was made on the boulder pile beneath, until a rift was entered.  This was nearly closed at the bottom by a mixture of rocks and a particularly glutinous mud, but there was airĀ¬space to the stream beneath, which could be heard very clearly.  Digging over the following three weekends enabled the diggers to reach the water, where they were disappointed to find that the stream welled up into the passage through a six inch hole in the floor and disappeared after about ten feet into a slot only a few inches high.  Work has stopped temporarily until the next move is decided.

Bottlehead Slocker is approximately 250' long, 100' deep and is well worth a visit, especially by those who fancy a gentle cave the day after an enjoyable evening at the Hunters.