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Taking advantage of a recent overhaul of the typewriter on which the B.B. is typed, we have had some cryptic characters added to the keyboard so that it is now possible, amongst other things, to type phrases like 'speleological manoeuvres' and similar gems of the English language.  It also opens up a whole new field for original spelling mistakes, a subject for which the B.B. is noted.

Once again, we have twelve pages.  At one time, there was a ‘queue’ to join before stuff could be considered for publication.  This has now vanished, and so the odd article would not come amiss.

Whitsun Trip to Cornwall.

Owing to the fantastic success of the Easter trip to this foreign land, and in spite of the damage done to vehicles, the trip is to be repeated at Whitsun.  Anyone who is interested should get in touch with any of the Belfry Regulars.


Cuthbert’s Geology

(Extracted from a letter to B.M. Ellis from D.C. Ford )

When I wrote up the geology of St. Cuthbert's Swallet for Caving Report No. 7, I’d not finished work on it and so have a certain amount of revision of the ideas you've published. The controlling fault - Lake -Chamber to the Duck - is not the Stock Hill Fault mentioned in the geological survey, but one sub-parallel to it to the west. It is probably in the same system. If this St. Cuthbert's fault be extended south east of the duck (bearing in mind that it might not, in fact, extend any further) it passes through Hunters Hole more or less parallel to the principal alignment of the lower cave, and about fifty feet south of it. Interesting.

The controlling bedding planes in Catgut (above T-Junction) are not within the twenty foot plane of the Rabbit Warren as I wrote, but lie ten and thirty feet below (two different bedding planes).  The extension then runs through higher beds to get on to the main line, so to speak, at the Sewer bedding plane.  This performance is not typical of Mendip phreatic behaviour and is almost non-union activity.

The main water supply during stages 1 and 2 of my sequence of development came; it emerges, from the Rocky Boulder area.  This should “go” much more than it has done, back up to the surface.  However, I won’t guarantee that it is not (a) solidly choked, (b) collapsed anyway.

At present I am working on the south eastern parts of the cave and wondering about possible ways on, barring the sump.  It doesn't look very good because every bit of passage plays a part in feeding into the Lake-Gour rift.  Nothing seems to bypass it higher up and the best bets are in the rift itself.  One never sees the floor of the rift.  This is buried to a depth that could run into many tens of feet locally and the way on could be down it somewhere.    So get digging!


by M.J. Baker.

Recently it has been demonstrated that stalagmites and stalactites give off a green glow after being subjected to the light from flashbulbs.

This was first noticed when photographing formations, and a flashgun had been placed behind a stalagmite pillar and fired.  For a second or two, the pillar gave off a green glow.  This 'afterglow' has since been photographed successfully, although first attempts produced a pink glow due to incorrect exposure.

Since then, observations have been made on other specimens using ultra violet light.  Stalagmite consists of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) usually in the form of calcite, or more rarely, aragonite.

The first fact that we note, was that, although calcite in the form of stalagmite from Balch’s Hole and Pen Park Hole gave a strong glow, a perfect calcite crystal (Iceland Spar) gave a negative result.  Also calcite crystals in Carboniferous limestone that had not come from a cave did not produce any, ‘afterglow’.  This suggests that the afterglow was not due to the calcite, but to some other element that had been carried in solution by percolating water from the surface and precipitated at the same time.

This was supported when it was found that ‘fur’ coating the inside of a kettle or hot water pipe also produced an afterglow.  Most pure salts are not phosphorescent but salts of Calcium, Strontium, Barium and Zinc gave positive results and it seems that it must be due to the traces of heavy metals such as Manganese, Lead or Copper or Silver.

Note.  Phosphorescence of Calcium Nitrate was recorded as far back as 1674 by Baldwin.

Substances examined


Calcite crystals in carb. limestone


Iceland Spar  (CaCO3)


Carb. Limestone not from cave.


Aragonite  ( CaCO3)


Gypsum from Lake District  (CaSO4 )


Alabaster - Minehead  (CaSO4)


Celestine  (SrSO4)

Very Faint.

Galena - Pen Park Hole  (PbS)


Calcite - Pen Park Hole  (CaCO3)


Stalagmite – Balch’s Hole

Very Strong.

Stalactite - Cuthbert’s

Very Strong.

Fur from Hot water pipe - Midlands

Very Strong.

Fur from Hot water pipe - Bath

Very Strong.

Editor’s Note;    I personally find Mike's article very interesting as I had noticed this phenomena shortly after flashbulbs came onto the market, but thought it only worked if you had extremely clean stal.     This was what led me to try a flashbulb against the ‘bank’ at the top of the second pitch in Balch's Hole  (when it was still clean!) and later to expend a few unwanted white flashbulbs showing this to other photographers on the stal pillar in erratic Passage.  I believe that John Eatough subjected some stal to U.V. radiation and got negative results, thus suggesting that the afterglow was due to phosphorescence rather than fluorescence.  I was wondering how Mike's observations were made with U.V. light.  If he obtained ‘afterglow’ only or if he obtained a visible glow while the U.V. source was illuminating the specimen.  Possibly both phenomena play a part here.  Perhaps we shall hear further in a later B.B.


Have you paid your sub yet? You may not get the B.B. in future if you haven’t!

Notes on the possibility of Cave Art in Britain

by K.S. Gardner.

In any subject such as this, one must first accept or tabulate certain points which are, in the considered opinion of science, regarded as facts.  The facts in this case are that on the walls of the great caverns of south western Europe can be seen frescoes of engraved and painted scenes of animal life which are accepted as being of Aurignacian and Magdalenian origin; that is, of cultural phases during the Wurm glaciation.  It is agreed that the purpose of this art was of a magico-religious rather than of a decorative nature, and was based on the theory that, if one possessed the reproduction of a certain creature, one also possessed the power of life and death over it in the chase.  This idea has survived among more primitive tribes today, and indeed was very popular among the practisers of black magic in the European communities of several centuries ago.

In company with the static murals, we sometimes find large models of animals in clay, sometimes models which had borne real heads and possibly been draped in skins to simulate the real creature at some ritual performance.  With the later, Magdalenian culture, we get many fine examples of "mobile art", carvings or engravings on bone, ivory or stone.

A fairly common reproduction which has a great significance with regard to the purpose of this art is that of a human figure masked and draped in skins and interpreted as le sorcereur or the officiating witch doctor.

As already stated, these great prehistoric academies are centred in S.W. France and Spain at such places as Les Eyzies in the Dordogne where there must have been a comparatively considerable population during the period in question.  The people who carried out these works were those whose different methods of working flint have enabled archaeologists to classify them into the two different groups or cultures of the Aurignacian and the Magdalenian.

How then does Great Britain fit into the picture?  France and England were one land in those days so why should there be art in one country and not in the other?  It is only fair to say at this point that the North of France appears to be as barren of cave art as is England, but that the writer knows of no caves personally north of the Fontainbleu Forest.  Art has been found almost as far north as this at Ancy-sur-Cure in Avallon.

The local British flint cultures, whilst they are different from the Aurignacian, Gravettian and Magdalenian of Central France, would appear to be paronymous with them and there is nothing to suggest why, if an apparently conservative, people retained the backbone of their material cultures, they should forsake the religious cultures which one might expect to be the last thing to change.

Ossiferous objects such as harpoons, tallies and batons-de-commandment from Cheddar or Burrington in the Mendip show very strong links with the Magdalenian and are again suggestive of at least contact with the art conscious southern civilization. Articles from Cresswell Crags near the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border go even, further and show definite signs of magico-religious activities.  This latter site is typical of the British local adaptation of the southern flint cultures and the name Cresswellian has been applied to similar flint assemblages throughout the country.  Several fragments of bone have been discovered there bearing engravings of reindeer, horse, bison and rhino (?) but the most significant is the rib of a reindeer with a masked human figure on it closely resembling the sorcerers of cave paintings.  These bones admittedly are not typical of British cave sites, having come from the lower level of the cave, but they do strongly suggest the presence of believers in the hunting rites.

Supposing that art existed once here if of course no proof that it exists now.  Deterioration takes place through the centuries due to the action of air currents; flaking of stone etc and even Lascaux with its magnificent colour can show us indistinguishable blurs of long faded frescoes.  The greater rate of deposition of French stalagmite may give a protective cover to the works before they have a chance to fade whereas anything here may have disappeared before such a protective layer could form.  Let us also remember that for hundreds of years, antiquarians, students and the public hordes viewed Stonehenge in full daylight and it was only a chance that enabled Richard Atkinson to recognize carvings on some of the stones in 1952.  How many miles of underground walls will have to be searched by so few cavers in nigh on complete darkness before the blurred remains of an engraving or a faded painting would show up on the dark, rough rock?

Where then would it be likely to be?  Supposing the Cresswellians were believers or the Aurignacian few practised it here? To judge by continental sites - deep underground far from the entrance or in some almost inaccessible chamber! It is unlikely to be in a cave used as an occupation site but rather in a nearby unoccupied one.  At Cheddar, one might be tempted to suggest Great Cone's Hole as the temple for the Gough's hunter inhabitants.

It has been suggested that, as the estimated population of this tundra country was then about two hundred, there could not have been the organised religion of the French forests. True, one should not expect the dozens of sites which the French and Spanish have - perhaps only one in Derbyshire and one on Mendip but if today a dozen Christians went to the North Pole, would they leave their belief in God behind them?  A small population is not the reason for the absence of art.

It has been stated that in the barren tundra of this peninsular, wild game would be scarce and life too much of a struggle to bother with art.  If it was considered essential in the well stocked regions of S.W. France to cast spells in order to catch the elusive and required beast, how much more important must it have been here to employ magic to ensure victory over the same creature even more elusive and even more essentially required!  It is always in man's darkest hour that he turns most to his religion.

Whilst a great deal of the French art is of a hunting nature, there is a certain amount apparently devoted to the preservation of life - pictures of pregnant cows etc - and it might well be that the French had some control over herds and thought they ensured productivity by this method.  It may be safe to assume that this type of art would not be practised here as the presumably less pleasant conditions towards the close of the last Ice Age enforced a more nomadic hunting life upon the occupants.

Well then, will art ever be found in the British Isles or has it been found already and forgotten?  Were the red marks found in Bacon Hole, Gower really natural or were they the fading vestiges of a forgotten age?  This site certainly has a strong similarity with the Grotte-Temples.  It was not, as far as we know, occupied as early as the upper Palaeolithic, though an ideal site.  If Aurignacian man lived and died on Gower and the markings are hidden in the innermost recess, then the fact that the red bands vary from period to period in size and position may conceivably be due to the action of damp or some other phenomenon, as similar movement is not unknown in ecclesiastical murals.  It is a pity either way that the chamber housing them was not effectively protected as the walls are certainly covered with "art" now, and any scientific study will be seriously impaired by the collection of candle smoke drawings and engravings left by modern vandals.

Perhaps the Cave Preservation Society would like to take a scrubbing brush along there one day.

A New Way off Yr Elen

by "Kangy"

One of the troubles with Yr Elen in the Carneddau in North Wales is that it is stated to be 3,152 ft. which means that it is one of the Welsh Three Thousands and therefore has to be done.  Another trouble is that it is the highest point of a spur which inconveniently branches normal to the line of the great Carneddau summits.  Tiresome, very!

Routes worked out for a traverse of the Welsh Three Thousands are concerned with the least loss of height and it is found best to retrace the route back to Carnedd Llewellyn once Yr Slen summit has been attained.  This is all very well if a straight thrash around the Fourteen Peaks is under way, but it has always irked me to have to walk back towards Llewellyn and not go on.  A mate and I were camping by Craig Yr Isfa and it was the sort of day and time of year that combined to give bright but cold and blustery weather.  A fine excuse for a walk!  Eventually we found ourselves heads down and panting on Yr Elen.  We ate chocolate and regretted that the wind would fight against us all the way back to Llewellyn.  The view from the summit was extensive and included Ysgolion Duon (the Black Ladders) with the summit of Carnedd Dafydd to the right and above.  We were interested in the Black Ladders because of the climbs on it and made for a lower point to get a better view of it.  It occurred to us here that an interesting variation would be to descend into Cwm Llafar and make our way on to Carnedd Dafydd somehow. We were not equipped for rock climbing and so a requirement of any route was to be a certain lack of excitement. It was obvious that we could easily climb out of the cwm onto Dafydd by saddles at the head of the cwm or to the west of Dafydd, and so we started down.

As often happens, the closer we came to Dafydd, the clearer became the topography.  The Black Ladders remained black and un-ladderish, but the unpromising slag heap that formed the North East face sorted itself out and a possible route appeared as a ridge running directly up to the summit of Dafydd. The doubtful things about it were that it started above a steep rock face, and where it joined the final slopes of the summit it became steep and narrow.  A way around the rock face was up a steep scree slope on its felt flank. This was not as bad as it looked, as it was large scree and twenty minutes or so of scrambling was all that was necessary to get us on to the satisfyingly sharp crest of the ridge. Easy going and even a pinnacle led to the steeper rocks.  These proved to be no more than a scramble.  The particular pleasure we got from the route is that there is nothing artificial about it end the ridge finishes on the summit.  A proper route.

We saw from the 2.5" O.S. map later that the ridge is called Crib Lem and that the rock face is Llech Ddu.  They lie approximately S.S.W. from Yr Hen.  The lowest point reached in Cwm Llafar is about 2,000 ft, so the loss in height is not great and a small price to pay for a good walk.

Map References:
            Sheet 107 (1953)   
            Yr Elen                673652
            Carnedd Dafydd  663631

Some Comments on the Recent Surveying Articles

by R.D.Stenner.

Bryan's suggested new system of grading surveys is good in many ways, but there is a point I am not happy about.

Errors in measuring vertical angles may not make much difference on a plan, but they will make a big difference to a section and to the altitude of a station, I think that the care in measurement of vertical angles needs much more emphasis and would like to elaborate.

A cave survey should be a representation of the cave in three dimensions, and the vertical dimension should be measured with the same degree of accuracy as the two horizontal dimensions.  To measure vertical angles with a clinometer to the same degree of accuracy as is possible with a hand held oil-filled prismatic compass, the clinometer should be tripod mounted.  The prismatic compass does not have to be tripod mounted to be read to * or - 0.5°, but clinometers do.

Turning now to Alfie's article, the ideal survey should try to show a caver exactly what the cave is like. Surveys of caves should be parallel with surface maps.  The basis is an outline, with cave height, floor gradients and changes of altitude and on this foundation should be shown the nature of the floor, exact position and nature of formations, water (still or running) dumps of food, carbide and spent carbide (if any) position of rawlbolts and fixed wires (with date of installation and details of maintenance) actual route taken where not obvious, parts of cave taped off, details of entrance and access, and perhaps a lot more things which I can't bring to mind.

On this basic foundation, specialist surveys can be overprinted - a parallel with specialist surface maps. Geological and Biological overprints come to mind here.

The basic survey, as detailed as I would hope, would be as interesting to explore as the cave itself (and much less effort!) but there is a real use which Alfie overlooked - that is photography.

Photography in large chambers and in particular the photography of large, remote formations is often hazardous because of the impossibility of measuring the distance between the flashgun and the subject.  The usual rangefinders are useless, so the only answers are a bit of surveying or to make a guess.  A good survey should give the information needed.


Time is now getting on! Over half a year has gone by since the last Annual Dinner and the time left for taking that prize winning picture is getting shorter all the time.  We hope to be publishing a complete set of rules for both competitions in the next B.B.


Club members are welcome at the Archaeological site at Cheddar – contact Sett for details or just turn up.

Book Review

by Jim Giles.

Some Smaller Mendip Caves, Volume 1 - R.D. Stenner and others.  B.E.C. Caving Report No 6.  Edited by B.M. Ellis.  Price 2/6.

In this report, several club members have pooled their resources to produce a report dealing with caves which, due to their apparent insignificance, have not been rewarded with the close attention and glamour of the larger Mendip systems.  Information pertaining to several semi-successful digs is also included in the report both for record purposes and in the hope that it will be of some assistance to future 'cave hunters'.

Shepton Mallet Caving Club Journal - Series 3 Number 2. Edited by F.J. Davies.  Price  1/3.

Once again the Shepton have produced a journal devoted to reports of original work in the caving world.

In this edition, K.R. Dawe gives a full account of the diving operation in Swildons Hole which is well backed up by a description by J.M. Boone of his air breathing diving set 'Nyphargus' which was used to great effect at the same time.

Other articles in this journal give more details of the Trouble Series of Swildons and the Carricknacoppan caves of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

Subterranean Climbers.  Twelve Years in the world's deepest chasm. - Pierre Chevalier. Faber & Faber.       Price   16/-.

A superb and unforgettable book telling of Pierre Chevalier’s twelve year battle with nature in linking the Trou de Glaz and the Guiers Morts grotto. No description could possibly do this book justice.


The Belfry Bulletin. Secretary. R.J. Bagshaw, 699, Wells Rd, Knowle, Bristol 4.
Bristol Editor, S.J. Collins, 33, Richmond Terrace, Clifton, Bristol 8.