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“A hundred B.B.’s”

We hope that readers will not mind the editor doing a little bit of private celebration on this occasion, as this issue completes his first hundred B.B.’s.  The extra size of this number is the result and, for whatever reason, is presumably welcome as such.

The B.B. has had its usual ups and downs during the time from March 1957 – when the present editor took over – until now, but we hope that the downs have perhaps not been not quite as far down as been in years previous.  The hundred B.B.’s were produce in 101 months – we did not publish any B.B. at all in November 1959.  The previous hundred took 123 months to appear, so some gain in regularity can be claimed.  Size has also gone up – although the page size is now smaller, so is the type and the wordage per page is very little different, so we may say roughly that the minimum size of the B.B. is now 8 pages against 4 and the maximum size has reached 40 against 16.

On the other hand, the quality of the duplication has not made any real strides.  No issue has been as bad as the worst B.B. ever, but no real significant improvement has been made either.  We still seek a cheap way of producing more legible B.B.’s

The quality of the articles has, in general improved over the years, but we do seem to be a bit in danger of losing our sense of humour.  If the W++++x J+++++l; can publish the occasional, very good, humerous article, I certainly think that the B.B., could also.

This is part of the message you’ve all heard from me many times in the past.  The B.B. should reflect all the activities of the club, and ideally should therefore include serious (and not so serious!) caving and climbing articles, a bit of interesting travel experiences, some humour, news of club doings (and those of other clubs and a few general odds and ends. Various methods have been tried in the past to achieve this sort of balance – one with any real success, but the editor keeps on hoping that one day he will find the magic formula!

I will end this note on my first hundred B.B.’s with a personal resolution.  I will not gas on about what it is hoped to do in the future! So many times, just when we thought we had something good in the bag – things have gone awry at the last moment that, in future, any improvements will come as a pleasant surprise.  I expect that, by the end of another hundred B.B.’s you will have a different editor, but meanwhile, we must make a start on the next hundred.  There is a fair amount of articles in the pipeline at present so I hope that the next hundred will get off, at any rate, to a good start.


July Committee Meeting.

At the July Committee Meeting, a number of subjects were discussed very fully.  The Hut Engineer reported very satisfactory progress on the new toilets, and this led to a general review of the Belfry site and its amenities.  Plans are in hand which may lead to the extension of these facilities and a number of committee members are to form a long term planning group to study the general problems of the site.  The tackle situation came under review.  Again, the position is good but ways were investigated to make tackle easier to obtain without upsetting the present system   (which at least has the merit of ensuring that we have tackle).  The Caving Secretary gave his report, as did the Hut Warden.  The Climbing Secretary reported that there was little climbing news and that members did not seem to be coming into the climbing section in any significant numbers. Final arrangements for the Dinner were discussed, also arrangements concerning the B.B. covers and Caving Reports. Publication of the terms of the Ian Dear Memorial Fund were also approved.  In addition to this, a large volume of minor business was dealt with.

Caving Meets.

July 17/18th.  Working Weekend on St. Cuthbert’s. Flood entrance pipes.  Any help would be appreciated.  A good opportunity for those who have enjoyed many trips down the cave to do something to help maintain and improve it.

September 11/12.  South Wales. Dan-yr-Ogof and O.F.D. Accommodation at S.W.C.C. cottage applied for, camping site available.

Climbing Meets.

July 16/18.  North Wales. Camping.

Sept 17/19.  North Wales. Camping.

A.G.M and Dinner.

This will be as usual on the FIRST SATURDAY IN OCTOBER which this year, falls on the 2nd.  Dinner will be at the Cave Man and will consist of Soup, Grilled Trout, Roast Turkey & Veg., Sweet or Cheese and Biscuits and Coffee. Price of the ticket will almost certainly be 16/6.  This is an advance warning!

Junior Caving Competition.

A Competition will be run by Alan Thomas which may be entered by any cavers up to the age of 18 years old.  It will NOT be confined to B.E.C. members, so if you have any caving friends outside to club who qualify, please let them know.  There will be several useful and valuable prizes.  Further details later.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund

The bequest made to the club under Ian Dear’s will has now been received and the rules, as approved at the A.G.M. governing the administration of the fund are set out below. In the circumstances, clause 5 regarding the date of applications will not be enforced this year.

1.                  The fund shall be known as the Ian Dear Memorial Fund.

2.                  The bequest will be used to set up this fund to assist junior members to visit caving or climbing areas of the continent.  Further donations may be added to the fund.

3.                  The fund will be administered by a sub-committee of five club members, of whom one must be the Hon. Treasurer of the club.  The remainder shall be nominated annually by the general committee.  The sub-committee shall report to the Annual General Meeting.

4.                  Any club member under eighteen years of age may apply.  Members over eighteen and under twenty years of age may be considered in exceptional circumstances.  The age qualification will apply on the First day of July in the year of the proposed trips.

5.                  Applications must be received by the First day of March of the year of the proposed trip. The applicant must furnish brief details of itinerary and cost at the time of application.

6.                  The maximum amount to be allocated in one year shall be limited to Fifty Pounds.  The maximum amount allocated to each individual to be limited to Ten Pounds.

7.                  The Fund shall be invested in National Development Bonds or a similar scheme.

Obituary – Noel MacSharry

It is with deep regret that we learn of the death of Noel MacSharry, while serving in the R.A.F. in Borneo.  A post mortem examination revealed that he had died of coronary thrombosis.

In the relatively short time that Noel was a member of the B.E.C., his keenness for caving and climbing became evident to all who met him.  Although he knew that he was suffering from a serious condition, he never allowed this to affect him, and maintained his cheerful outlook until he left us to go abroad again.

We should like to add our sympathies to all his friends and relatives.

Pollaraftra (Co. Fermanagh – Ireland.)

by Dave Irwin.

On Whit Sunday, during my visit to Ireland with the W.S.G., a party of six including myself entered Pollaraftra.  The cave is situated, apart from being in the middle of nowhere, in the centre of a long valley.  Had we had to leave the car on a metalled surface road, a walk of two miles would have been necessary to reach the cave.  Fortunately, the car that brought us was man enough to defy the rocks and potholes of the Irish track, this eventually leading to a derelict farm cottage that we were thankful for the use of the latter when we emerged from the cave.

The entrance is one of a pair of shakeholes, one of which takes the stream.  Access to the cave is by a short climb down the dry shakehole in the form of a shallow pot.  This leads to a wide passage opening out almost immediately.  In the roof of a large chamber, a short climb of six feet gave access to a wide ledge some thirty feet above the chamber floor.  An eyehole on the left with a handy belay point for the ladder seemed the easiest way of tackling the pitch.  In fact, it proved to be the most awkward.

Once at the floor of the chamber, one could appreciate its size – some fifty feet high by fifty to sixty feet long – with the boulder strewn floor sloping under the high level ledge.  On the opposite wall to the ladder is a very fine stal. flow, falling in angular steps. The right hand side of this flow showed flood debris; mainly twigs that had become stalled over producing the curious effect of a frozen forest.

The way on was scrambling under a low arch to a rift passage in places rising to about thirty feet or so. A traverse across this section brought us to a small chamber where the stream flowing under the boulders final sumped. The way on was not clear – even though I had been given ‘clear’ instructions of the route before entering the cave by Billy Shields of the Irish Cave Club.

After wasting the party’s time, and about half hour’s thrutch, we came to the end of hundred and twenty foot long drainpipe which had to be negotiated on one’s side with camera boxes as well!  At last the right squeeze was found – all 86 feet of it!  This proved to be tighter and more awkward than the first passage.

The party got through after a few B****y H**l’s we set off down the active stream passage once more. This led us to a fair sized chamber displaying some fine cream coloured curtains.  Following the stream again through pools; down a ten foot waterfall, through a lake (traversable on the side) and past some extremely fine stalactites about seven feet long, we came to an uneven chamber the floor of which was strewn with huge blocks of limestone.  Crossing this chamber, we rejoined the stream.  We had now entered a superb rift some four to five feet wide and sixty to seventy feet high.  Here the stream bed was composed of gravel and water worn stones.  Over or through four boulder chokes, we continued along the rift until we reached the second (?) sump.  A way on was seen above the sump but it involved an awkward climb up a mud slope.  This, we learned later, led to the canals that are apparently quite extensive.

On our return, we went through one of the boulder chokes a different way.  This led to an upper chamber perhaps thirty feet square containing one of the most colourful stalactites that I have ever seen, together with a fine coloured stal. flow displaying many shades of red, brown, yellow and shades of grey.  It appears that there is and extensive upper series in addition to the canals, that make this quite a large system having a total length exceeding one mile.


After six hours in the cave, we finally emerged in pouring rain, making the farmhouse a welcome shelter. To date, the cave has not been surveyed (at least, not according to the I.C.C.) so, for the record, I’m sticking my neck out by drawing a Grade I.

Having had some Club News and Notices, and a Caving article (involving some foreign travel as well!) we continue with a climbing tale. 

A Little Peace and Solitude

by M.L.

In order to find a reasonable amount of peace and quiet, one has to travel a fair way at Easter Time. Not to the end of the world perhaps, but at least to the ends of Britain.  The Cornish Coast, Dartmoor and Exmoor are all good centres for walking, but are quickly becoming a popular off season as during the summer.  It was with this in mind that we decided, this Easter, to visit Skye and Wester Ross.

The weather before Easter had put us in high spirits, and we drove up to Glasgow on a glorious evening.  The next morning was not so bright, but we were determined not to be put off by a few clouds and had a very pleasant day driving up to Skye. The road to Portree is at present undergoing improvement and this means that heavy lorries, bulldozers and other machines have turned it into a wasteland of potholes and boulders that reduces sped to one or two miles an hour.  It was with a certain amount of relief then, that we arrived at Glen Brittle with the car still in one piece.

The classic climbing books about Skye have given the island an aura of which is hard to dispel.  One feels that one must enjoy one’s stay – even if it rains every day – as it can do.  It was thus interesting to discover what has changed and what has remained.

Sligachan is, of course, a legend and it is still possible to obtain there a delicious Sunday tea. One must arrive early, because the supply of cakes runs out after a short time.  Delicious scones, Scottish pancakes and fresh bread are accompanied by lots of jam, a plate of biscuits and shortbreads.  When everyone has finished, the climbers stay behind to finish up all the leftovers.  Sitting comfortably in the lounge listening to the older residents recalling their past experiences and including no doubt, a few tall stories, brings about a sense of security – a withdrawal from the workaday world.

Some things have changed, however.  The an-Stac stone shoot – which must in its day have been a fine descent – is now just a bare gully and an awkward descent, especially in wet weather.  “Weather” is the perennial topic on Skye!  The weather on the island is most reliable and highly unlikely to let you down.  It will rain continuously! Certainly, for our six days there, the island lived up to its name, which is Gaelic for ‘ Island of Mist’.

The day we chose to drive back to the mainland and up to Torridon, the weather cleared up and by this time was really excellent.  There is a new road from Shieldag to Torridon.  This not only makes Torridon of easy access to the tourist, but has cut into some of the few remaining natural pinewoods in Great Britain. These woods are the only haunt of the pine martin - another aspect of our fast disappearing flora and fauna. The pine martin is not an animal one sees easily – a night long vigil is required.  However, we were able to see several Roe Deer.  Two in particular were very inquisitive – presumably our own scents were masked by that of the car.  Unfortunately, it was too dark to get a good photograph.  Liathic and Benn Eighe, which offer good walking and climbing, had an impressive covering of snow and their round, massive forms offered a contrast to the Cuillins we had just left.

On the way back to Mendip, we stopped at Glencoe.  This glen seems to have a magnetic attraction to those who know it well and every year one can be sure of seeing some of the same faces and meeting old acquaintances.   Here we managed to wrestle three days from the weather and, on one of these, enjoyed an interesting traverse of Aonach Eagach Ridge.  Towards the end the cloud dropped and, although I thought I knew the area well, we completely missed the track which descends by the side of the Clachaig Gully and instead found one which goes down to the Youth Hostel.

We were rewarded, however, by the sight of a mountain hare in its winter coat.  The following day, we were wandering up Stob Corrie nam Beithe when we saw, on the final snow slope, two birds which appeared to be some kind of ducks, walking purposefully up to the top.  They were quite large – about a foot long – their upper parts were black and underneath they were white.  One of them had a red crest over its beak.

They were making excellent speed although one kept getting ahead and turning round as if to encourage the other and it was with some disappointment that we had to leave them without discovering their purpose.

So at last we returned to Mendip, our holiday cut short by the weather.  One blessing remained however.  With everyone either in Cornwall or Yorkshire, Mendip was the ideal place to enjoy a little peace and solitude.

Highways & Byways in St. Cuthbert’s

Finally, back to St. Cuthbert’s for another of those interesting and informative descriptions entitled…

Two:  One Hundred Feet above Boulder Chamber.

In January of this year, whilst looking for a rift described by John Cornwell to be in the floor of Long Chamber Extension, a small hole in the roof was entered.  A projecting boulder which made the initial squeeze through this hole just a little too interesting has now been removed and can be seen on the floor.  A small chamber is entered and the way on is straight down over the stal. bank to the right; not, however, before the formations on the left have been observed. These include some fine mud ripple marks, curtains and flow.  Do not attempt to follow the small canyons in the north wall or negotiate the obvious route through the east wall, as this would undoubtedly lead to the damage of the curtains and crystal pools on the other side.  Instead, follow the right hand wall and turn left at the bottom and arrive at the top of the hundred foot drop into Curtain Chamber.  This pitch needs a hundred foot of ladder and fifty feet of tether which may be secured round a boulder in the west wall floor of the chamber.  The bottom of the ladder should also be secured to prevent it swinging against the curtains.

To the north is a six foot chimney enabling a traverse to be reached, care should be taken.  The passage entered contains the stream which flows over the curtains and thus it is essential not to stir up any mud or to deposit anything in the stream.  It also contains many good formations which require careful protection.  After a few feet, drop down to stream level and walk over some rimstone pools.  There are several six foot curtains on the right and ahead and may be seen a three foot stalagmite some three inches in diameter. A step upward brings into sight a fine stal. flow on the left wall.  Now climb well to the right to avoid the white stal., and turn right. At this point may be seen a curious forked stalagmite as sketched in the figure on the left.  There is also an erratic rather like some of the formations in Balch Hole and consisting of a straw with a horizontal growth form one side some little way from the bottom.  Now climb between the curtains on the right and the large stalagmite on the left which need not and MUST NOT be touched.  Despite the fact that there have only been eight trips in this area, this fine stalagmite is disgustingly filthy

and is a poor reflection on the leaders and their companions who have been there.  Unless one has a very good reason for doing do, there is no point in going further along this passage.  Turn right, cross a series of gorges until one comes to a large crystal pool at the bottom of a large canyon. On no account touch anything inside the tape. Follow the gravely bedding plane down keeping well to the right to avoid damaging some formations.  At the bottom one sees a phreatic tube some four feet in diameter, illustrated on the left.  Climbing the flow and negotiating the squeeze brings one into an eighty foot passage, running up at an angle of 40°.  About one third of the way up one comes across some mud drip pockets.  Two of these are 3” in diameter and seven or eight inches deep.

At the top of the passage is a large chamber also sloping at 40°.  The west wall has a tight bedding plane at the bottom and a little further up it can be entered and climbed up into a final chamber.  The final passage contains some excellent curtains which are almost transparent, giving the appearance of lace curtains.

The series has been surveyed by Dave Irwin, the initial parts being surveyed to Grade II and from the squeeze onwards to Grade V.  The final chamber appears to be above Quarry Corner and the whole development tends towards Lake Chamber.

On the 15th May, the aven was again visited in order to confirm that all the bedding planes are too tight, but might well be profitable enlarged with the aid of a chisel.  The traverse south along the east wall of Curtain Chamber is interesting and leads to an interesting bedding plane in the east wall.  From this bedding plane can be seen what appears to be a large rift continuing in the direction of Curtain Chamber.  This also requires the aid of a chisel to permit entry.  Unfortunately one of the footholds required for this traverse detached itself and now lies on the floor of Curtain Chamber where it isn’t really much use.

Mike Luckwill

Postscript to Alan Thomas’ article in last month’s B.B. 

Comment by Alan after thirty hours alone in the dark, “I haven’t gone mad, I’m a good dog.”

Cleaning Cuthbert’s

by the Caving Secretary.

Recently two parties spent some time cleaning up parts of the cave, and the following items were found. The list, I think, speaks for itself. MORE CARE IS REQUIRED ON THE PART OF THE LEADERS.

1.         Kanchenjunga.

2 empty carbide tins.
1 soup tin.
1 boiler suit.
1 pair of carbide lamp clips.

2.         Railway Tunnel.

2 flashbulb packets.
12 or 13 flashbulbs.
1 sweet wrapper.

3.         Dining Room.

Carbide dumped all around the chamber, empty sardine tins, etc.


The last two items in this B.B. tell a sorry tale.  It would appear that some of the Cuthbert’s leaders are not taking a responsible attitude – there is no other possible interpretation.  Being a leader isn’t just a question of knowing your way round the cave.  It is some time since the editor burst into rhyme but the following seems appropriate…

“Sing a song of preservation
Let the caving population
Do its bit of conservation –
Stop this wear and tear!

Gentlemen like Balch, when caving
Found formations well worth saving
And – like gentlemen behaving –
Left no litter there.

Caves were then much fewer
Cleaner, whiter, newer,
Shone clear and bright
And not like something floating down a sewer.

If this present trend increases
Fine formations – gone to pieces –
Might as well be made of faeces
For all we seem to care.

On being a “Victim”

by Roger Stenner

Being ‘rescued’ from the bottom of Catgut Rift was an intensively interesting experience, and very thought provoking.  First, a reaction about practice rescues.  Although I realised that the rescuers would do their best to prevent me from getting hurt, I was very happy when the practice had ended.

I was very grateful for the visor which kept mud of my eyes, and prevented my nose getting cut.  My conventional caving helmet was a nuisance. The rim caused the helmet to jam and it was difficult to keep the helmet on my head.  The helmet had to be removed for much of the rift.  A handkerchief over the ears would have been very welcome. Mud or water dropping straight into the ear is very upsetting.

Twice I was parked in an uncomfortable position for a time while nothing happened apparently because the person in charge at the time had moved on without passing his authority to someone else.  This could be most disconcerting to a real victim.

Without a wet suit or even a boiler suit, I was warm at the end of the rescue.  I am sure I could have spent several more hours under these conditions without being bothered at all by the cold.  I don’t think it possible to overemphasise the effects of water.

Of the psychological reactions, my strongest feeling, once the practice got under way, was one of guilt, especially when everyone else was working hard.  When Phil Kingston was hit by a falling rock, I was so upset that I wanted to ask Oliver Lloyd to call of the practice.  In spite of the comment earlier, the general impression given by the team would be most reassuring to the victim.  The team worked with an air of competence and confidence.


Don’t forget the Annual General Meeting and Dinner will be held on Saturday, October 2nd.  Make a note of it NOW!