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Longwood.

Readers will, no doubt, have read in the national press that another fatal accident had occurred in a Mendip cave.  This time in Longwood, where a member of a Bristol College of Technology party, Miss Heather Muirhead, died at the bottom of the entrance pitch in flood conditions. This sad occasion once more highlights the effects of sudden and abnormal weather conditions.  The plan to bring the Cuthbert’s water under control is now well advanced and we as a club would do well to intensify our efforts to complete this job and thus remove any similar danger from our own doorstep. This is possibly the best way we can help M.R.O. and Mendip caving as a whole.

Publication.

Once again, the B.B. is being published late in the month, again owing to a shortage of material. We realise that, in spite of the effort made recently to find out what members wanted to read about, the B.B. is not making the grade.  Lack of caving due to the weather may be partly to blame, but apart from this, the remedy is in YOUR hands.

Apology.

Apologies are due to the Axbridge Caving Club & Archaeological society for the statement in the Christmas B.B. that the B.B. was the only monthly caving magazine on Mendip. The Axbridge monthly News letter also shares this distinction.

Club News - A Monthly Review of Club Activities

Caving Meets 1963.

The second Caving Meet - a tour round Redcliffe Caves in Bristol, was rather disappointing.  A very large number of members and friends attended, but we were all put in our place very soon by the guide who told us that this was not a caving trip!  Unfortunately, we were only shown over about half the area of caves that is accessible without going through the second doorway - about a third of the area previously mapped by club members.  The guide, incidentally, seemed to view the copy of the survey produced during the trip with some doubt as to its accuracy and usefulness, and proceeded to enliven what would otherwise have been a boring trip with some “facts" about the caves.  The first fact, he explained, was that nobody knew how old the caves were.  He then came out with the remark which still has us baffled that the caves were 'built by hand but nothing was dug out' - a remarkable achievement.  We later learned that no one knows how the air gets into the caves.  The door through which we entered is presumably ruled out for some reason.  Possibly the air has hot obtained the permission of the City Engineer's Department to enter by this means!  In spite of the frustration however, the trip was an interesting, if short, re-acquaintance of the B.E.C. and Redcliffe Caves.

The next on the list of 'official' meets is one to Fairy Cave Quarry on Sunday, 28th April.  The meeting time has now been altered to 1200 hrs at the Belfry.

After this, a trip to Agen Allwedd is planned for the weekend 24-26 May, and the Meet will be held in the Crickhowell area.  It is hoped to take several parties into 'Aggy Aggy' with members of the Chelsea Speleological Society acting as guides.  Will the interested members contact the caving secretary as soon as possible and in any event, not less than three weeks before the date of the trip, in order that ‘blood chits’ can be sent in.  Any people requiring transport, or with space for passengers in their own transport please inform the caving sec.  More details in the April B.B.

Skiing '63

Although not wishing to be quoted as saying so, it does appear that the snow has gone.  What has been variously described as the worst winter since 1740 or the coldest since 1823 has also proved to be a considerable trial to the mountaineers amongst us.  Weekend after weekend we've had to go to suitable slopes and ski.  Weekend after weekend we've discovered that the local ski runs were still with us and have been obliged to go out, often in conditions of bright sunshine, and spend whole days dragging our weary selves and skis to the top of slopes, only to slide down again.

The result of this excessivity has been to polish the competence of those who could ski and provide an opportunity to learn to others.  It can be claimed, I think, that "Mo" Marriott, John Eatough and I have learned to slide and turn with some degree of certainty, certainly enough to be able to enjoy a good downhill run, while at the other extreme, the Bennetts and Attwoods have had enough concentrated practice to take any combination of snow and slope with vigour.  Regulars at the various sites have been Tony Dunn indoctrinating his daughter and Audrey Attwood snatching runs-in between rescuing young Simon from a conviction that snow equals sand.

Even among this small company, every opportunity has been seized to further the downhill versus ski-mountaineering controversy with the exponents of each about equally divided. The argument was never resolved, and we hope never will be but it was interesting to the last weekend of perfect snow that the down pull hitches were fully exploited and to hell with broken legs. Incidentally, the only casualty recorded was Dave Radmore who sprained a knee on Pat Ifold's home made skis.  A downhill accident.

The most useful ski runs to come to light were at Burrington (Sheet 165 488580) at Swainswich (Sheet 156 753695) below the garage and at Lansdown (Sheet 156 722705).  There were several other runs (including one in my back garden) but the ones given above proved the most consistent.  The Burrington course had a suit suitable nursery slope while on one weekend at least, a, cross-country course was enjoyed on top.  This particular site (I'm afraid it was the weekend of the Lamb Leer Meet) saw an impromptu ski meet of at least a dozen B.E.C, members.  The Eatough stop was demonstrated at this meet, I remember.  A sort of slow, graceful, vee movement of the planks culminating in a pushing of the face in the snow.  Charming.

About this time Marriott reported good snow at Swainswick and it is here, perhaps, that the best local runs will be found in future.  Very conveniently situated next to the road is a varied slope dipping for about 250 feet. The slope is wide and dotted with trees making a most interesting run.  The whole valley in fact has possibilities.  It is one of the few places, where, within seconds of leaving a road, you can have a skiing accident cheaply.

Lansdown for skiing was discovered at the end of the season.  We had decided that, now our favourite spots were bare of snow, we would look around.  We came across a first class undulating field with snow in perfect condition.  The club got what may be its best runs for 1963 on this when Attwood avoided a Monday morning feeling by skiing instead.

R.S. King.

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A very well attended lecture at the Museum Lecture theatre was given by John Eatough on Wednesday, March 20th.  A reasonably large section of the audience were found to be wearing the right tie, and forgathered in the Museum after the lecture for coffee.  Apart from a spot of bad work on the projector in the early stages, when the general level of illumination was somewhat low, John's slides came out extremely well on the mammoth screen.  The talk went down very well with the public and the questions were varied at "question time" after the lecture.  A point for other lecturers to note - John was completely audible in the large; hall with no amplification system.

Thoughts of a Claustrophobic Mum.

We are particularly pleased to print the following poem, as we think it is a completely new departure in opening up a new source of contributors to the B.B.!  It has been sent to us by the mother of one of our younger members, and is entitled

Can someone' PLEASE explain to me
The 'joys' of speleology?
Where is the pleasure to be found
In crawling, mole like, underground?
Better far see flowers bloom
Than burrow midst the stygian gloom.

When sun is shining, blue the sky,
And sweet the lark sings up on high,
What is the dark compelling urge
That in these cavers bosoms surge
Which takes them groping, slipping, sliding,
To where nocturnal bats are hiding?

Lit only by a tiny lamp
Into the earth, grave like and damp,
Amid the mud, through hidden stream,
Without, the daylight's heartening gleam,
Entombed in deep-red Mendip clay.
They scorn God's precious gift of day.

Exploring the dark Orpheus state
To deepest cavern, where may wait
The soul of Palaeolithic man
Dead scion of cave-dwelling clan,
Inhabitants of constant night
Eyes catlike, un-attuned to light.

And in the end, what have they gained?
When, muscles aching, sinews strained,
Emerges the weird troglodyte
Blinking owl-like in the light
To live again, as normal men
That curious, earthbound denizen.

For mothers yet, the aftermath.
Mud clogged sink and dirt rimmed bath.
Rucksack and helmet in the hall
And Mendip dirt thick over all
But calm for a while, the worry past,
Our caving son's safe home at last!

K.H.

P.S. Will some troglodyte take up the challenge and write a poem extolling the virtues of his pastime?

Well, how about it, blokes?     (Ed.)

Personal

Congratulations to Brian ("Prew") and Brenda Prewer on the birth of their son, Steven. Also to Ron ("Kangy") and Ann King on the birth of their son, Jonathan.

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Have you paid your sub yet?        You HAVE?  Then it can't be you we're knocking at!

On the Hill

(or T.W.T.M.T.W.)

Another of the regular 'features' suggested in the Christmas B.B. starts this month.  We hope that this survey of what is going on Mendip will contain a good proportion of caving news and-keep members up to date on what is going on....

Reading club journals the other day, I came across an article on page 156 of the Wessex Journal which suggests that a suicide cult has developed on Mendip - abseiling. Unfortunately, the writer could not know what was to be actually printed since, on page 161, a further article appeared extolling the virtues of abseiling.  It seems that the practice is to abseil quite longish pitches, which, if one can trust the rope, seems quite a fair idea, but to me leaves one major question unanswered.  How the hell do you get back up?  If abseiling in caving is to become a general practice, I think the time has come for me to change my address, conveniently omitting to tell M.R.O.

I hear that some of the Cerberus members made a trip to Blakes Farm Slocker (U.H.?) in an attempt to re-open and extend same, but have given up because of water and too much work involved.  However, at their cottage great efforts have been made and a garden wall knocked down to make a gate for a car park.  Now they needn't bother with parking meters!

There is a rumour about the Stoke Lane area that some fine, upstanding quarryman is going to blow the top off Bone Chamber.  This is the best by-pass to the sump that I could think of.  There is obviously an opening for this chap to deal with some other Mendip caves.  A counter rumour is that the quarry is up for sale.  Apply Treasure, Stoke Lane.

Chelsea Speleos are still going great guns in South Wales, braving snowdrifts on the tram road to get to their Sunday school, and underground in Aggy Aggy, braving the rigours of what now appears an excessively long trip to find and explore ever more and more passage.  They're certainly doing a grand job.

The Charterhouse Caving Committee also seem to be doing their best to ensure that access is maintained to caves in their area.  I hear that they are trying to produce the be-all and end-all of blood chits.  A very difficult task, and surely, even when accomplished, no more legal than any other?

Border Caving Group are beginning to appear on Eastern Mendip nowadays. These lads from the Aldershot area are at Cerberus Cottage, affiliated I gather. Maybe they will come up with something new in that area.  Someone should.

The Shepton brood are still alive, rather involved in electro survey equipment but I'm sure willing to entertain guests with suitable T.  Of other clubs, very little has been heard this month.  Axbridge is doing a bit of digging in odd places; M.C.G. and the Marquess have gone very quiet and so have the University of Bristol Splinter groups.

There are some unusual happenings in the B.E.C.  Someone went caving?  An editor was plainly heard to shout out loud, "I'm not writing the entire ruddy thing!" and someone was seen in the Belfry marking exam papers!

With the advance of the year into spring, the usual queue of weegees should re-appear at Maines Barn. I shall be pleased to be able once-more to get to the Hunters and enjoy the fine choral masterpieces, though even this seems to be one of Mendip's dying arts.

"Stalagmite"