Nominations

With this B.B., you will find the usual nomination form for the 1963 committee.  The names of any members put on these forms and sent in to Bob Bagshaw, will go forward for voting on at the annual committee election.

As usual, most of the retiring committee have expressed themselves ready to serve, if elected, on next year's committee with the exception of ‘Prew’.  We don't think he will mind if we say that he is voluntarily standing down this year, in order to leave the field more open in the hope that the vacant place will be filled by one of the clubs younger members.

The suggestion has been made that we deliberately make some places on the committee for younger members, while others feel that the method of election is sufficiently democratic to ensure that any keen member stands a good chance of being elected.  We hope that any member who feels that he is prepared to work on the clubs behalf will come forward and let it be generally known that he is prepared to work.  We feel sure that he will receive a decent number of voted if he does.  Some people, we are told, think that they stand little chance of being elected at a committee election.  Let us hope that these people will at least make   sure they are nominated.

"Alfie."

The Grottes de Han

by P.F. Bird.

Ever since reading, years ago, E.A. Martel's account of some of the caves of Belgium, I have wanted to see the celebrated show caves called the Grottes de Han.  Being in Belgium for a conference at the end of June, I seized the opportunity and left Brussels by train early one morning.  The train takes one from the faintly undulating, almost flat, country of Brabant to the forested hills and limestone gorges of the Ardennes.  At Jemelle, one takes a bus to Han-sur-Lease.  There are nice sections of shales and limestone on the way.  From the village of Han, one travels on an antiquated scenic railway to the top of the limestone hill inside which lie the Grottes- de Han.  Then one follows a zig-zag path down to the entrance of the caves.  Not far away is the Gouffre de Belvaux, the point of engulfment of the subterranean river Lesse.

The entrance leads to a dry series.  The earlier chambers contain only dark stalagmites and -tites, which were blackened by the torches and lamps of visitors before electric lighting was installed.  Further on, one comes to many vast chambers, some of which make G.B. and Lamb Leer seem mere trifles.  The formations are proportionally huge.  They are mostly white, but some are a pleasing pale yellow.  There are none of the orange or reddish tints which one finds in many of our Mendip caves.

Eventually, one reaches the 'Merveilleuses' - aptly named the marvellous chamber because of its formations, which include many stalagmites noteworthy for their slenderness. Hence the party retraces its  steps for a while and then one continues ones traverse of the hill in a series which leads to the Place d'Armes.  This is an immense chamber containing a cafe set out on a concrete terrace.  Here, one can get a drink and a chance to rest ones feet after an hours fairly rapid walking.  At the bottom of the chamber flows the Lesse, and above hang; great clusters of stalactites.

On again through more great chambers till one reaches a landing stage beside the river.  Here one is shepherded into an outsize punt, about twenty two feet long and wide enough for five people to sit abreast.   Then in a leisurely way one travels down the river to emerge from the hill at the rising.  Here one meets with a touch of touristic vulgarity for, as the boat reaches the exit, some idiot fires a cannon across the opening.  This is supposed to cause remarkable echoes, but it doesn't!  It just makes a B.B. Bang.  Outside the exit, there is a speleological museum.  It contains models and plans of the cave system, bats and other biological specimens and the usual formations, some of which have been sectioned.  It also shows a few good archeologically specimens from excavations in the cave, including a very rare Bronze Age knife which is socketed, not hafted as one might expect.  I was lucky in being shown round the museum by the man who recently arranged it, having found him in the local cavers H.Q. nearby.  The rest of the day I spent in delightful scenery and perfect weather, but it was rather an anticlimax after the magnificent subterranean landscapes of the Grottes de Han.

Footnote:  The reference for Martle's account is Martel E.A, Van d'e Broeck, E. and Rakir, E. 1910.  "Les Cavernes et les Rivieres Souterraines de la Belgique"

A general statement of the current state of affairs of caving in Belgium is given by Lambert, F. 1959 Un Aventure dans les Grottes Beiges.

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A general meeting of the Mendip Cave Registry will be held in Wells Museum late in October.  All interested in this are invited along.  The exact date will be published later.

Caving Log

8th April.  St. Cuthbert's.  Leader, Pat with Ray, Chris, John & Phil from M.A.M.  Rapid trip to Dining Room via Rat Run.   Out upstream and joined Jim Giles's party as below.

St. Cuthbert's.  Maypole Series.  P.M. Giles, Mike Calvert + 2.  King's Viewpoint reached and pitons found.  Observed the object of our labours (the maypole in Hanging Chamber) lying on the lip of Hanging Chamber.

13th April. Swildons.  Upper Series. P.M. Giles, R.J. Williams, G. Bell.

15th April. Swildons.  White way and return.  Small party of tourists - Mikes Palmer and Wheadon, John and Cynthia.  Rather wet.

18th April.  St. Cuthbert's.  P.M. Giles, K.J. Williams.  Tourist trip to Dining Room.

18th April. Eastwater.  R. Roberts, R. Boakes, B.Lynn, M. Williams, J. Cogswell, S. Smith, A. Sawyer,  A. Sweetman, P. Telford.  Lengthy trip round Upper Series.  Party hampered by bulk and small passage   size.

19th April. Swildons.  Party as before.  Pleasant trip down to sump I.  Fair amount of water about.  Trouble with ladders and removing thereof, a further descent to the 20 was necessitated

19th April.  Swildons.  A. Fincham, D. Smith, R.J.L. Young, B. Siddall.  Tourist trip to Sump II.

22nd April. Stoke Lane.  A. Fincham, R.L. J. Young, B. Sidall.  Tourist trip to Stoke II.

23rd April.  St. Cuthbert's.  Same party. To sump via Stal Pitch.

22nd April.  Land's End Cavern.   Sett, Mike Luckwill.  Quick trip to end and hurried exit as a result of incoming tide.

25th April. Swildons.  Mike Baker + 4.  Upper series oxbow getting tighter.

23rd April.  St. Cuthbert's.  Surveying in Wet and waterfall Pitches.  They are well named!  R. Stenner, J. Hutton, R. Howell, B. Conlin.  A thoroughly  miserable-session!

26th April. Lamb Leer.  Party led by M. Calvert with umpteen bods

28th April.  St. Cuthbert's.  7 Royal Fusiliers led by R. Stenner.  To sump via Rabbit Warren & Railway Tunnel and out via Cerberus Series.

29th April. Swildons.  Novices trip with B. Lane, R. Shepard, A. Chesterman, P. Balch & R. Bagshaw.

2nd May. Swildons.  4 Lockleaze boys and 2 girls.  Leader R. Stenner.  Taking diving weights down to the sump.  Water just right.

Easter Saturday.  Swinsto Cave - Kingsdale. P. Davies, D. Warburton, R. Pyke, M. Holland, G. Pointing, R. Ranks, P.M. Giles.  Laddering trip to top of last pitch.  Connecting aven to Simpson’s Pot not found - probably due to fiction. 

Easter Sunday. Simpson's Pot - Kingsdale.  P.M.Giles, C. Hawkes, K. Kanks.  De-laddering trip.  Slit Pot inspected but not descended.

3rd May. Nine Barrows Swallet.  P.M. Giles.  New shaft started.

3rd May.  St. Cuthbert's.  Leader R. Stenner + 3 Lockleaze boys.

4th May.  Nine Barrows Swallet.  P.M. Giles. Digging.

5th May.  Bone Hole and one other small cave.  Jon and Gordon down to try and take photos of some cave peal pearls.  Could not make squeeze at end.

6th May.  St. Cuthbert's.  R.Bennett, M. Baker, J. Eatough, K. Franklyn, P. Franklyn, K. Grimes.  Old Route via Mud Hall, Rocky Boulders into Coral Series. Pitch discovered on first of April by Mike Baker was descended.  This is a fine twenty foot pitch with nothing leading off at the bottom, though digging is possible.  It is proposed to call this CORAL POT.  Upper southern end of Coral Chamber entered.  This was not known to leader but had obviously been entered before. Steeply descending rift discovered partly choked by boulders which could probably be shifted by hammer and chisel work. This part of the cave is rather loose and care is required.  Returned to Boulder Chamber where all except R. Bennett and J. Eatough went out. These returned to Long Chamber where a major, well decorated chamber was entered.  This appeared not to have been entered before except in one place where what appeared to be a cairn was noticed.  Two theories were considered - one that the 'cairn' was natural - which appeared unlikely.  The other was that somebody had previously entered the chamber from another part of the cave, but did not explore it.  Any further information would be gratefully received.  Two explorers (?) returned after a seven hour trip.

12th May. Swildons II.   Trip led by Derek Stenner and Roger Stenner with several Weston Technical College types.

12th May.  G.B.  J. Cornwell + 2.

13th May.  G.B.  J. Cornwell, G. Tilley, M. Luckwell A. Sandall, Jon "rotten" Ransom.

13th May.  St. Cuthbert's.  Maypole Series.  P.M. Giles, M. Holland, D. Willis.  Hanging Chamber re-entered using three maypole sections from the ledges above the first Maypole Pitch.  All Maypole, including that which was in Hanging Chamber, now in Bridge Chamber.

13th May. Cuthbert’s.  Pat, Ray and Chris to September Series.  Five hour trip to see formations.  After the Boulder Ruckle, continued through Paperweight Chamber to sump and then into the main September Chamber.

13th May. Cuthbert’s.  P.M. Giles, R. Williams, R. Towns.  A hundred feet of galvanized wire taken to Hanging Chamber to be used with a pulley. All maypoles moved from Bridge Chamber to Upper Traverse Chamber and left at the top of the pitch with the maypole retrieved from Hanging Chamber in a separate   pile.  (N.B. there are still 2 sections of maypole; the base plate and the remainder of the split joiners in Cerberus Hall).

19th May. Batch's Hole.  Leaders G. Pointing and D. Berry with Roger Stenner and party from Lockleaze.

20th May. Cuthbert’s.  Mike Luckwill, Bruce.  Experimental photographic survey from Dining Room through Cerberus.  Large amount of water in Main Stream, but bridge is uncovered in Lake Chamber.

20th May. Swildons.  Garth, John Cornwell + 8 round Upper Series.  Garth started his photographic career and has got prize winning pictures for the competition.

20th May. Alfie's Hole.  Alfie, Jon Ransom, Gordon Tilley, Jim Hill.  Shaft capped.

20th May. August/Longwood.  Roy Bennett, three schoolboys, Bob Bagshaw.  New connection between Longwood and August Hole used.  Bagshaw defeated by the Longwood bedding plane.

Notice

Christmas Dinner at the Star Hotel, Wells.  If interested contact C. Rees, 10 Clarence Road, Bristol 2.

Why I Am A Caver

a personal interview by our own reporter, Anthony T. Sludge-Gutte.

"Caving is the new sport which is becoming increasingly popular with the top people.  Why are these young men and women prepared to risk serious injury or even death in order to explore these vast underground labyrinths?  What do they get out of it?  To try to answer these important questions, I interviewed Mr. Jim Crud, the well known expert caver, or 'speleologist' from the Kerebos Cave Club, Mendip, Gloucestershire.

Q:         Mr. Crud, why are you prepared to risk serious injury or even death in order to explore these vast underground labyrinths?

A:         I dunno really - I suppose it's because I like it.

Q:         What do you get out of it?

A:         I dunno really - I suppose it's because it's so nice when I leave off.

Q:         How did you come to start caving?

A:         Well, I was walking across this field, see; not looking where I was going, and there I was.

Q:         What happened exactly?

A:         I spent six months in hospital.

Q:         But in spite of this, you still carried on with this new sport?

A:         Yes,

Q:         Mr. Crud, Caves are, of course, underground and are therefore usually dark. "How dark are they in fact?

A:         Very dark.

Q:         As we have already said, caving is a dangerous pastime. Now have there been any occasions when you have felt really up against it?

A:         Well, on several occasions I've" had trouble with the water.

Q:         You mean the water in the cave rising and cutting you off?

A:         Well, not exactly, see.  I suffer from water on the knee.  It's a family complaint.                  

Q:         I see. Can this be dangerous underground?

A:         Oh, yes.  I remember one occasion - during the final assault on Belch's Hole   - when it seized up altogether.

Q:         What did you do?

A:         Well, fortunately I had a pint bottle of rum with me - it's an old country remedy - and with the aid of this, I managed to stagger out of the cave uninjured. It was a close thing, though.

Q:         How old are these caves you visit?

A:         Recent researches have put them roughly at 186,276,357 years old.

Q:         That is quite an age.  How would you put it into terms understandable to the average reader?

A:         It was a long time ago.

Q:         If we may now press on to another scientific point, Mr. Crud, what causes these caves to be  formed so deep within the earth's crust?

A:         It’s the rock.

Q:         This plays a vital part in the process, then?

A:         Of course.  You must have the rock to hold the cave together.

Q:         On this point of high-minded scientific inquiry, the interview ended.  I hope it has done as much for you as it did for me to open one's eyes to the beauty and mystery that exists so many miles under our feet.

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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.