Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Apologies Dept.

Several apologies are due after the Christmas B.B. last month.  Firstly, we omitted the addresses of Alan Thomas and George Pointing. Secondly, the B.B. was, as usual, rather late in getting to most members.  It has been suggested that the list of addresses be put in the November B.B. next year.  This will be done to enable members to have plenty of time to send out their Christmas cards.  Lastly, we stated that the Christmas B.B. was a record number of pages.  It was rapidly pointed out to us that last year's Christmas B.B. was bigger!  That’ll teach us not to boast in future.

We hope that it may be possible to get a better service going this year, but it would be rash to make promises.  Anyway, we should like to wish all readers a very happy New Year and keep sending in articles.

" Alfie."

Notices

Knives.

The Hut Warden would like to appeal for donations of knives for the Belfry. Any type of table knives will come in handy.

For Sale.

Bond Minicar 1955 for sale.  In good condition, has not been through seven year test but should pass easily. Villiers 197cc engine.  £40.  Apply to Mr. P. Rollason (Jill's dad) at 157 Pen Park Road, Southmead, Bristol.

Photographic and Song Competitions.

We know it's early yet, but it’s surprising how the time goes!  The song competition will be closing some time before the dinner this year, so start thinking, blokes!

Plantation Stream

a further letter from Bryan Ellis.

In the Christmas B.B., an article described the proving of the connection between Plantation Swallet and the Plantation Stream in St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  This experiment did not solve all the other old problems of water tracing in the cave; whether or not the stream in Continuation Chamber is the upstream continuation of the Plantation Stream.  To this problem, more recent exploration has added the question "Are the streams met in Cone Chamber and the Tin Mine also part of the same stream?'"

In an attempt to try to prove a connection between all these streams, a further experiment was carried out shortly after writing the previous article.  On the 12th of November, cotton detectors were placed in the stream in Cone Chamber; September Series; in the major and subsidiary streams in continuation Chamber and also in the major and subsidiary streams in the Tin Mine.  The intention had been to place; a further detector in the Plantation Stream as a check but unfortunately the hanks were lost somewhere in the cave.  On leaving the cave, thirty grams of dye were added to Plantation Swallet Stream (for nomenclature of streams, see the introductory paragraph in the article in the December B.B.)  This time, the detector had to be left in the cave for two weeks before being collected.  Looking at my notes on the July experiment, I saw that not only had the hanks been only left for a week on that occasion, but I also had a note that a larger quantity of dye would be desirable.  Therefore, on November 25th a further 25 grams of dye were added to plantation Swallet Stream.  Due to an unfortunate accident involving a polythene bottle full of the dye solution and a stone floor, the additional dye had to be introduced in the form of crystals and not as a solution.

The following day the detectors were removed from the cave and all of them were found to be dyed. Therefore it can be stated that a connection occurs between all these points.

In conclusion, I should like to congratulate those members of the Bradford Pothole Club who devised this method, thus making it possible to solve these problems.

Digging 1961

by Jim Giles..

Priddy Green Swallet - Priddy.

The excavations at Shatter Pot, coupled with the more recent activities in the downstream sections of Swildons have put the dampers on the green and robbed it of its former popularity. Although there have   been, this year, several attempts to clear away the terminating obstacle - an oozy mud and gravel choke - most have been rather abortive and so the depth remains, we hope, at 100 feet.

Without a doubt the Green is one of the most important digs on Mendip and to admit defeat now would, to say the least, be most unfortunate.  In spite of the great advances already made using the conventional route, the advantages of a backdoor to Swildons cannot be too clearly emphasised, bearing in mind the almost terrifying result of the rescue practice in Blue Pencil Passage.  Not only does the grim prospect of an accident in Series Four grow with the ever increasing population of the caving world, but the journey to the  'coalface' of exploration gets even longer.

It could be argued that with the advent of the Green as a practicable means of entry to the lower reaches of Swildons, it might be abused and result in a source of trouble.  Two factors about the Green should be   sufficient to put off all but the most experienced type of caver viz (a) the 'dampness' and (b) the large amount of tackle required to surmount the final pitch - Cowsh Aven.  As a further deterrent - to quote a popular word, an efficient trapdoor could be fitted to the entrance with keys held by various clubs and the M.R.O.

Perhaps 1962 will bring new enthusiasm.

Bottlehead Slocker - Downhead.

Once again Eastern Mendip proves itself to be a rewarding hunting ground for the enterprising caver with this notable addition to the caving scene. Miss J. Rollason has written more fully on this interesting cave in the Christmas B.B.

Nine Barrows Swallet - Priddy.

Much has been said about Nine Barrows Swallet of late and the general opinion is that "It won’t go".  Time will, no doubt, tell.  The situation at the moment is not altogether unpromising.

The swallet lies in a small depression surrounded by trees about 300 yards E.N.E. of the farm on the Eastwater side of Nine Barrows Lane.  In its favour for developing into a reasonable cave are two small points (1) The East Priddy Fault which is very close and (2) the large volume of water taken without sign of flooding during the Mendip 'monsoon' season.

Permission for work to proceed was granted by both the farmer and the last generation of diggers and thus  it was that, early in August, great  efforts were made to enlarge the entrance to provide easier access to  the  point of excavation.  This exercise being accomplished two possible points of attack presented, themselves. A small low chamber on the right with an extremely tight rift passage leading off at right angles, and, on the left a narrow passage, blocked by small rocks and earth.  Since the chamber had been the result of work carried out by Messrs Holland and Causer last year, it was discarded in favour of a passage on the left and a small hole rapidly developed into a large trench six feet deep. The digging of this trench was, at times,   handicapped by the size of some of the boulders in our path and the abundance of almost razor sharp fossils in them.  For the price of a sledge hammer shaft and a drop of elbow grease here and there, the work went on very smoothly though.  As the bottom of the trench approached its present depth, a bedding plane appeared down which a fair quantity of infill disappeared before it could be hauled out.  In spite of this, the bedding plane, which measures two feet wide by six to eight inches high, could be observed for at least six feet whereupon it veered out of sight to the right.

At this juncture, thoughts ascended to the ceiling and walls and, with good reason, digging was postponed in order to effect a little necessary shoring.  Due to the odd shape of the hole and the limited firm points against which to brace the required timbers, plans for this little engineering project became rather complicated.  The result was that at the end of September when the main part of the woodwork was in place, the dig came to a standstill.  Nevertheless, confidence in the shoring is returning and we hope to resume work in the near future.

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet - Priddy. 

A New Entrance Shaft.

During the summer of this year many clubs have visited St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and among other things, were informed of the dangerous nature of the Arête Pitch boulders, Quarry Corner etc.  Most of them returned to their respective homes, huts, Belfries etc, content that their money had been well spent, if only to  return to daylight in one piece.  One club though - no names, no reprisals from George - obviously not satisfied with the potential thrills of the Boulder Chamber, Quarry Corner etc, played a masterly bit of one-upmanship by bringing out for our inspection a rather rotten piece of 2 by 3 'wot come off in our 'and' from the entrance shaft.  Our tame shoring expert was called in and in one quick glance summed up the situation in a well known phrase which, being roughly translated meant that the shaft was rather dicey.

The resulting committee meeting left us in no doubt of the fact that not only was the shaft unsafe, but something must be done about it.  A notice was, therefore, chalked up in the Belfry to the effect that caution must be used when going down and coming up the shaft.

During the period occupied by the above drama, most of the regular members were engaged on a non-caving dig near the Belfry which was rather urgent at the time and labour could, not be spared to do extensive repairs in St. Cuthbert’s.  Incidentally, another club started a non-caving dig near their hut just before us.  Ours has been in use now for nearly six months - we understand the other club is still digging.

On the completion of this extra curricular activity, our divided attention was turned to the St. Cuthbert’s entrance and a typical decision made.  We would dig another entrance shaft.  Silence descended as the full impact of this solution to the problem sunk in.  The inevitable question came - where?  Places such as High Chamber, Maypole Series and Arête Pitch were suggested which, except from one small point, were quite reasonable suggestions.  We were not even 50% sure of where they were in relation to the surface.  We’ll, we know we are pretty good, and given to doing things to excess, but there comes a time when even the best of us prefer jokes to pantomimes.  Cunning schemes to dig shafts into the top of hundred foot pitches in High Chamber and Maypole Series were given up until an electromagnetic survey had been carried out.  Two alternatives remained (a) to dig a shaft into the passage leading off on the far side, of the chamber at the top of the entrance rift pitch and (b) fill the cave in.

The latter was reluctantly dropped in favour of a new shaft and work started in earnest.  The passage was surveyed almost to grade 3 standard and the results plotted on the surface.  The best possible site for the shaft was chosen bearing in mind the tree, the bank and. the length of cave passage.  Cavers were brainwashed, beaten and finally thrown at the formidable task of digging a hole 12 feet deep and 6 feet square in the most stubborn of Mendip clay under threat of alternative (b).

By August Bank Holiday, bedrock was reached and a small slot uncovered. Shortly afterwards, the surveyors were untied and set free and contact was made between the slot and the cave passage some three feet distant in the form of pitiful cries from below and torches tied on pieces of string from the top.

Next followed specialised session of rock breaking by means of solo picks, crowbar's etc.  Yes, the final stage went a bang and the passage was soon cleared out sufficiently to all fairly free movement.

Since the bank into which we had dug was of man made origin and hence subject to collapse, temporary wooden scoring was installed.  The next item on the agenda was to provide this spectacular hole with a concrete pipe. We intend to connect this with a drainage system in order to keep the cave entrance dry for cavers during excess rainfall.  The perfect entrance?

Alfie's Hole - Priddy.

No Work has been carried out this year.

Emborough Swallet  - Emborough.

One or two trips were made in the spring to the site of the dig and great plans made, but the farmer stepped in and decreed that nothing would be done until the "fine weather" came.  His reason was that he   did not want anyone to injure themselves and causing unwanted publicity.  When the "fine weather” did come, so did a little work on the Cuthbert’s entrance and now the weather is back to normal.

Balch's Hole - Fairy Cave Quarry - Oakhill.

Although not a dig in the accepted sense, Balch’s Hole deserves a mention here since it is a recent addition to the Fairy Cave Quarry complex.  Opened by quarrying early in November it became the seventh cave to be opened here and initial exploration was undertaken on behalf of the quarry owners by Cerberus; B.&.C. and Shepton.

Miss Rollason again has written an account of this fine cave in the Christmas B.B., but it may be worthwhile to under line the following details here and now.

Since the cave is situated in Fairy Cave Quarry, rights of access to the cave is vested in the Cerberus Cave Club.  Failure to comply with this condition would result in the cave being closed &c all by the quarry company.

The entrance to the cave at the moment is not a good insurance risk and should be treated with extreme caution particularly during, or immediately after frost conditions. The formations in this cave are unusually delicate, as I have found to my cost, and should be avoided wherever possible.

Newman Street Slocker - Nowman Street.

One of three new B.E.C. digs on Eastern Mendip started in November by Baker and Giles.  To date, the dig is in its early stages and little can be said except that bedrock has been reached and two small, partially blocked passages lead off.

Heale Slocker - Heale, Near Downhead.

Once an open swallet but filled in by the farmer, Mr. Hobbs several years ago to prevent further loss of his chickens.  Heale Slocker looks good.  Much loose infill has been removed and a low bedding plane uncovered.

Heale Cave - Heale, Near Downhead.

About a hundred yards North of Heale Slocker at the base of a small outcrop, a fifteen foot wide bedding plane, filled with soft dry earth, forms more or less the total extent of the cave.  Digging is in progress and prospects are good.

Brimble Pit - Westbury.

No work has been carried out this year, but plans for shoring are in hand.

Jim's Pot - Hunters Lodge Area.

Interesting swallet with a convenient jug handle near entrance which although not necessary is quite useful.  System siphons at intervals of a few minutes with odd noises and known to take large quantities without flooding.  During warm weather volume swallowed increases, often with staggering results.

In Praise of Naked Lights

by Jack Waddon

On December 9th, 1961, I revisited Carlswark cave, accompanied by Gerry Wright to examine the sump at the lower end of the recently discovered New Series, to assess whether it might repay diving.  Being Mendippers, we were of course using carbide lights and so, when some way in, we met a party of electric lights approaching, we knew at once that they were not from the West Country, but natives.  But what was this?  A naked light from a carbide lamp?  Obviously a Mendipper must be amongst those coming our way.'  And so it was.  Chris Falshaw, new resident in Nottingham, was sporting a lonely carbide lamp with four members of the Four Ways Club.  While the others were negotiating the tight squeeze that I had just passed, Chris and I lay facing each other on the comfortable soft mud, and reminisced on the man hours we had spent together in the early days of St. Cuthbert's, some eight years ago.  Now it was Chris's turn to move, so we bade each other adieu and went on our way. As he went, someone asked him what he did for emergency lighting if his carbide lamp should fail.  "I've got my beady eye in my pocket" said he. Assuming that he was making a jocular reference to one of those very small torches sometimes carried as an emergency light, I thought nothing more about it until further along the crawl the stub of a candle lay on the surface of the mud.  "A B.D.I ." said Jerry Wright.  A Batch's Dependable Illuminant! said I, and we both agreed that, candles or carbide, naked flames are far superior to all other forms of illumination.

Final thought. - How long is it since you last read the words of H.E. Balch concerning lighting in caves?

Book Review

Death of an Owl by Glyn Carr.

This book is a fairly light detective novel centred around the Devil’s Kitchen and Cwm Idwal.  The story is about the apparently accidental death of a boy scout.  Sir Abercrombie Hawker (otherwise known as 'filthy') is the central character who, of course, solves the mystery.

The descriptions of the area are first-class, and the denouement which revolves round times and distances over the country is very intriguing.  Knowing the area fairly well, it shows a carefully thought out plot, and is quite interesting to follow.

From the list of titles given in the book, I assume that Mr. Carr has written several other books on similar lines e.g. "Death on Milestone Buttress".  As far as I can see, a very grave error has been made in the book, however.  In one place Sir Abercrombie remarks about the Pen-y-gwryd Hotel   "They keep the best draught beer in North Wales."  I am not an authority on beer by any means but I feel that there may be considerable protest at this remark, especially from the members of the B.E.C. who once arrived at the P.Y.G. on a Saturday evening only to find that they had no beer at all.

Despite this, however, I found this an enjoyable book for some light entertainment.

Joan Bennett.

Notices

Whitsun Trip to Yorkshire.

It may be possible to organize another Whitsun trip to Yorkshire, to do Lancaster Hole and Ease Gill.  Please get in touch with Brian Prewer.

Trip to the Continent.

A trip is suggested for the 20th August onwards.  Total cost will be about £30.  Please contact Sett.

Old B.B.'s.

Donations of old B.B.’s for the club library will be very welcome. Please get in touch with the librarian - Sybil.

Picture Frames and Photographs.

In spite of an earlier appeal, we still have not had any old picture frames sent in.  These are wanted for mounting photos for cutting up in the Belfry and the Hunters. Also, Mike Baker would like to receive any old photos of historical club interest for a club album he is compiling.

Caving Float for Wells Carnival.

It has been suggested by the W.C.C. that all caving clubs combine to provide a float for the next Wells Carnival.  Any members who are interested please get in touch with any committee member.

Member's Addresses.

The   following should be added to the Christmas list.

397       Mike Wheadon.2 Hubert Place, St. Thomas Street, Wells, Som.
450       George Pointing.10 Green Lane, Avonmouth, Bristol.
284       Alan Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston-Super-Mare
272       Dave Hunt.   (Address to follow)

Item of interest

The Hut Warden has been seen to connect up an electric blanket to his bunk before retiring for the night.  We thought this was the end until the Hon. Sec came up and brought the Belfry an electric toaster.

Readers will probably have noticed that the Caving Log has not been printed in the B.B. for some time. This has, until now, been only due to the amount of other articles which have been sent in.  Unfortunately, his month, the new caving log, which luckily has only a few entries in it, cannot be found at present.  We are filling this space with another of John Ransome's series of useful knots.

Knots No. 3 The Rolling Hitch.

This is a knot, or hitch which can be most useful and can be used underground for tightening up a rope run when digging out a cave.  It can also be used as a belay.  The Hitch is started by laying the rope over the end as though starting a clove hitch. After this, bring the end up and over the same way again finishing up with a half hitch.

*****************************************

The Belfry Bulletin. Secretary. R.J. Bagshaw, 699, Wells Rd, Knowle , Bristol
Editor, S.J. Collins, 33, Richmond Terrace, Clifton, Bristol 8.
Postal Dept. C.A. Marriott, 7'8, Muller Rd, Eastville, Bristol.