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In spite of the fact that an impression is gained by members of the public – through the publicity which follows each caving accident – that caving is a dangerous sport, the fact is that it remains remarkably safe considering the very large number of people so regularly involved.

In this setting, the tragedy of Mossdale becomes one of a scale which we hope will never happen again. There is little we can add to what already appeared, except on behalf of the club, to extend our sincere sympathy to all the friends and relatives of those who have died do suddenly and tragically.


Long Term Planning.

Little has been mentioned of late, but the report has now been prepared and, after typing and duplicating, each member of the B.E.C. will be receiving a copy.  This is a subject with far reaching consequences, and every member is urged to give the report his full attention.

Nine Barrows Swallet

It is not often that we are able to print an article on a new Mendip cave. Not a ‘major’ cave as yet – but there is still time for that to happen!

Nine Barrows Swallet is to be found in a field at the top of Eastwater lane on the right hand side. Although it is not a very large swallet, it takes a fair size steam in times of heavy rain.  Geologically, it is on the shales, O.R.S. and limestone boundary and almost on the junction of the East and West Priddy Faults, so it is easy to understand why this swallet has attracted the attention of various people over the last eight years.

The first person to dig there was Mike Holland of Wessex.  He soon gained support from Jim Giles of B.E.C. and Wessex, and they dug together for a couple of years, getting into a small chamber in boulders with no obvious way on.  Holland left Mendip soon after this, and Giles carried on with the help of ‘Mo’ Marriott and the Franklin brothers, all of the B.E.C.  They followed the stream down and excavated a hole some five feet by four feet in section and five feet deep.  At this point, Jim Giles lost interest due to the apparent instability of the dig and because of other commitments on Eastern Mendip.  After the requisite shoring had been put in, digging continued spasmodically until Marriot joined the Brain Drain some three years ago.  The stream now entered into what looked like open cave, but this was unfortunately only six inches wide!  This setback also coincided with the onset of winter which made digging extremely unpleasant as the stream found interesting diversions – like down the neck and out of the trouser leg (it was just pre-wet suite era).  So support for finding an alternative route was sadly lacking and, except for a few isolated occasions, work ceased until May 1967.

Renewed activity at the swallet was prompted by a coincidence.  The Wessex dig at Fairman’s Folly collapsed after heavy rain. This upset their digging programme, and so they were looking for another dig in order to keep their team together. Nine Barrows also suffered a collapse (‘Old Moore’ Giles was four years early in his prognostications!) but what in normal circumstances would have been a calamity, turned out to be a blessing, for it revealed an easily accessible choked rift.  The Wessex asked for permission to dig and, on being granted this, put in an extensive effort for several weekends.  The new dig was about five feet above the old site, as the top of the shoring Marriot and Franklin had put in could just be seen at floor level.

Progress, mainly by A. Sural, S. Church and J. Cornwell, was fairly rapid until just before Whitsun when the way became blocked with boulders, although empty space could be seen beyond.  Those boulders were successfully removed by J. Cornwell, aided by several B.E.C. members on Friday 13th June, showing the cave to be open.  It was decided to wait until Saturday before descending in order to give the other Wessex members concerned an opportunity to be on the first trip.

Duly, the B.E.C. contingent (A. Thomas, P. Coles, J. Manchip and the Franklin brothers) assembled at the appointed hour at the cave and waited.  After an hour had gone by, it appeared that the rest of the combined party were not going to be able to turn up, so a reconnaissance trip was decided upon. (This was not necessary in fact, as it turned out later that a Wessex member has already been down earlier that morning). The tight entrance opened out into a fairly large chamber some thirty by twenty feet and fifteen feet high.  This had a few side passages with interesting but not spectacular formations and a sloping boulder floor leading down into a water worn rift seen feet high by two feet wide.  The roof of the rift consisted of jammed boulders but most of the wall was solid rock. The stream – or what was of it – was met about twenty feet down the rift and, apart from one detour, could easily be followed.  It was at this detour that the party decided to go back and find the rest of the party before continuing.  However, the Wessex contingent, consisting of J. Cornwell, J. Church, T. Dingle and H. Brown were met after retracing only a few steps.  J. Cornwell then took the lead and progress continued downwards with the rift getting smaller and smaller and finally ending in a flat out crawl.  Just before this the stream disappeared into an impenetrable rift on the left.

Various probings in the rift revealed nothing of any importance, except that it was all very unsafe. The end of the crawl led to what looked like the beginning of a boulder choke with the probability of a way on in the floor.  Plans were made to come back the next day and explore these and other possibilities which presented themselves on the way out.  On returning to the surface, it was decided that a temporary gate should be erected at the cave entrance and work was started straight away (This is now a permanent gate, with keys held by the B.E.C. and Wessex who jointly control access).  Also, that same evening, the end of the crawl was banged and, with high hopes for the next day, the party adjourned to the Hunters.

Sunday the 15th June produced the major discovery of the weekend.  The bang was successful and, instead of a boulder choke, a large chamber was entered.  It was some seventy feet long by thirty feet high and had fine crystal walls and formations, but again, disappointment followed.  This chamber was a dead end and, although the stream could be heard below, but no way could be found to get at it.  The pot at the end of the crawl was still too tight to get into, so further chemical persuasion was used.  The bottom proved to be choked and other alternatives are now being examined.  The present position is that Nine Barrow has ‘gone’ and – with any luck – is still going – right down to Wookey.

K. Franklin.

Monthly Notes  - No 5

by Dave Irwin.

August Longwood System.  Members wanting a trip into this system will be able to obtain the key from Gordon Tilly at the Belfry.  To ensure that the key is available when you want it, drop Gordon a line at his home address, “Jable”, Digby Road, Sherborne, Dorset.  This arrangement is only a temporary measure until the new tenant moves into the farmhouse. Mr. Young retired recently.

Corrections.  In Monthly Notes No.4, read WHITE SCAR for WHITE SPOT.  Also, Flint Ridge and Mammoth Caves are only 200 metres apart – not 200 miles!

Charterhouse Caving Committee.  In the absence of Prof. Tratman, who has joined the U.B.S.S. expedition to Jamaica, Roger Stenner has been appointed acting secretary.

Electrolyte.  Is available at the Belfry.  2/6 for a complete refill.  Carbide. This is available at the Belfry at 1/6 per lb.

St. Cuthbert’s.  The Main Traverse covering the main framework of the cave has now been closed and corrected. The closure error was 0.54%. Production of the various parts of the report are now going ahead to schedule with four parts being published later this year.  These will be ‘History of Exploration’, ‘Gour Hall’, ‘Rabbit Warren’ and ‘Old and New Routes’.  Surveys are to C.R.G. Grade 6.  SEND YOUR ORDER TO BRYAN ELLIS FOR THE WHOLE FIFTEEN PARTS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to enable him to determine numbers to be printed.  Part ‘O’ Miscellaneous Information, including a complete bibliography up to August 1966 is still available price 2/6.

New Books. ‘History of Mendip Caving’ by P. Johnson, published by Davis & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon. 196pp, 20 photographs and 9 sketch surveys.  Price 35/-. This history deals with cave exploration from the early discoveries by mineworkers to the present day.  The text is well written and holds interest.  The author – a member of the U.B.S.S. – is biased towards the discoveries of that club and has a rather low opinion of Balch and his associates.  Photographs include most of the other major caves on Mendip but none Cuthbert’s.  In general, the photographs are of a very low standard, considering that most are not of historic interest.  ‘Mines of Mendip’ by J.W. Gough.  This classic work is being revised and reprinted in the autumn. Price about 35/-.  Same publishers.

Malhan Cove, Yorkshire.  It is rumoured that a large cave system has been discovered near the resurgence.

Nine Barrows Swallet.  Has at last gone.  (See article – Ed).  The boulders at the entrance are unstable, so take care.  The East Somerset C.C. are now digging under the decorated chamber at the end of the system.  1/- entrance fee is to be paid to Gordon Tilly on behalf of the landowner.  The key is kept at the Belfry.

Pant Mawr, South Wales.  It is understood that divers have entered a series of new passages.


The Editor, of late years, has managed to restrain his natural tendency to indulge in horrible rhymes, but now and then, things get too much for him.  Overhearing a conversation in which most of those present confessed to not knowing the meaning of the word ‘prognostication’ in the article on Nine Barrows Swallet, he has not been able to resist the following comment…


What a sorry situation
Now the word ‘prognostication’
Has become a mystery
To members of the B.E.C.
I say again, as adumbration,
It is a sorry situation
When pentasyllables are banned
Because no one can understand.

Oh, higgorance!  Oh, sorry state
I venture to prognosticate
That this ‘ere modern heddication
Will lead us to a situation
Where, even with a predilection
For the shorter word ‘prediction’,
Authors – to avoid a mess –
Will have to call the thing ‘a guess’

Four letter words will fill each page
Of B.B.’s in some future age.

Editor’s Note.    Sorry about the above, but you will have a new Editor soon who may well be freer from such outbursts!

Ireland – June 1967

by R. Bennett and D. Irwin

First Week – Activities Various.

After a not to be recommended crossing, the Bennetts and Dave Irwin arrived at Cork to investigate the attractions of the Emerald Isle.

Mitchelstown New Cave, Co. Tipperary was first visited.  This is a show cave laid out with a few rough paths only, and lit by a Tilley lamp carried by the guide plus a few candles carried by the party.  The trip was well worth while, however, as the formations are very good and must be photographed.

Base camp was then set up in Co. Clare, and in spite of the weather (hot and sunny) the delights of Polnagollum and Poll an Ionian were sampled.  The latter cave was difficult to find without a large scale map.  It is situated about a quarter of a mile South West of Ballynalacklen Castle at the bottom of the largest of the cliffs in the valley.  Its main feature of interest is a large chamber containing an enormous fluted hanging stalactite which has been measured and is twenty five feet long.  Polnagollum, Ireland’s largest cave, is a must for any caving party, if only to do the impressive meandering Main Stream Passage.

To avoid further difficulties with the weather, a trip was made to look at the Burren.  This is a unique area of upland limestone similar to some of the classic Karts areas of Yugoslavia.  The hills, which rise to nearly 1,000 feet have been denuded of the most of their soil and show great areas of bare limestone pavements and cliffs.  The valleys contain many hollows and depressions, the largest and most spectacular which is the “Polje” of Carran.  This is a more or less flat bottomed valley, completely enclosed, and about a mile wide and several times this length.

Ireland has very many low lying sinks which have never been penetrated.  The Fergus river sink is one such and was visited to look at its caving possibilities. It is a large sink in a small steep sided valley and clearly often takes a considerable amount of water, which sinks in numerous holes.  Several possible sites for a dig were noted, and some probing was done in a choked rift in the valley bottom past a few yards downstream from the right hand aside of the sink proper.  This looked very promising and easy to excavate.

As water conditions were still very low, a look was taken at the Fergus River rising (Poulnabee).  This is in a low limestone outcrop containing many enterable holes, and in spite of local opinion the “there was no cave there’, wet suits were donned and the holes thoroughly pushed.  They all led to a network of open joints and bedding planes occupying the space between the outcrop surface and standing water at river level – a height of ten feet. Everything closed down apart from one sump, which was rather similar to the other passages and probably closed down also.  This brilliantly confirmed the locals opinion of the absence of a cave, but the lack of development was rather unexpected.  The sink, which takes water from the shales, is only about half a mile away, so there should be no lack of aggressive water at the rising.  This could be spread out just below the valley surface in a network of joints already opened by surface erosion, but even these would be expected to concentrate into more continuous passages near the rising.  Local opinion has that the sink and rising are not connected as the sink water is peaty and that at the rising is always clear.  There is a profusion of water weed at the rising suggesting that this is a spring percolation water of high carbon dioxide content.  If this is the case, the sink water must resurge elsewhere, and the absence of cave development is explained.  There was, however, no time to study this matter further, as the party intended to move to the Aille River Cave site in Co. Mayo.

Second Week – Aille River Cave

Actually a visit was paid to this site during the first week on 15th June, and what appeared to be a new cave, was discovered.

The Site.

The Aille River Cave lies some six miles East South East of the town of Westport, Co. Mayo.  The sink is located at the base of a five hundred foot long by forty to fifty feet high limestone cliff.  At the point of engulfment the water flows under a wide and rather shattered bedding plane cave which ends in sump.  This was the previously known extent of the Aille River Cave.  The river is believed to resurge some two miles away to the East at Bellaburke, discharging both from small fissures and directly into a large pool, thence flowing away as a large river in a southerly direction into Lough Mask.

J.C. Coleman’s excellent book ‘The Caves of Ireland’ refers to two accounts of early entries into the cave, but details for when these entries occurred or how far they reached have been lost.  The local inhabitants are quite convinced that the whole area will collapse into a vast hole.  At frequent intervals, depressions appear but most of these are filled in immediately with stones, clay etc.  One recently was opened up by a plough and to quote Mr. McGreevy, a local farm manager, ‘the hole about the size of this room’ (about ten feet square).  Along the track, a short distance from his cottage, one can walk on what is ‘hollow ground’.  By stamping the ground, a definite booming sound is heard.  It is proposed to tarmac the surface of this track. Heaven help the roller driver!

The river rises some eight miles away on the Western slopes of the Partry Mountains, and drains approximately twenty square miles of countryside. During the winter months, and often in May, the cave is subject to severe flooding when water reaches a depth of some forty feet at the sink and several square miles of peat and bogland are inundated.  When the water rises to a certain level, it overflows into a valley to the North of the sink and pours into a large elongated shake hole with a flat boulder floor at one end.  This fills up after two hours but usually empties again rapidly.  The shake hole is mainly in alluvium and probably is on the old surface course for the river.  Although the floods are severe, they rarely last more than twenty four hours, but it can take little more than an hour for the flood water to reach the sink in bad conditions.


In the field a few yards behind and to the right of the cliff there is a large shake hole.  A recent collapse in the side of this has left an open hole of considerable dimension down which the sound of running water could be herd.  A quick inspection showed that an unimpeded descent could be made to a river chamber leading to deeper water.  This seemed just too good to be true, and before changing to explore further, we had a chat with the local, the aforementioned Mr. Patrick McGreevy.  He confirmed that earlier in the year some C.P.C. members had been there, but had been hampered by flood conditions so that they were apparently unable to get very far.

The entrance shaft was some eighteen feet dep.  At the bottom of this, a scramble over a boulder led us to the river in a wide chamber with several rock pillars which created some confusion as to its real shape. The river entered from our left from a boulder ruckle.  This was followed for a few feet only, although a way on could be seen.  Moving downstream through a lake, a canal was entered on the right and followed for nearly two hundred feet.  We traversed along the side of the right hand wall clambering over submerged boulders.  The water to our left was much deeper, and at times out of our depth.  After a hundred feet or so, a mud slope was reached. This slope led to a high level chamber which was well decorated on the upstream side.  A passage continued above the formations, but was not followed for fear of damaging the stal. flows.  A boulder fall was soon met and at least two places showed that the passage continued on the other side.  Time idi not allow us to ‘garden’ this passages, so they were left.  Returning to the short canal, we followed it for some distance only to find that it sumped.  At this point, the water deepened considerably.  On returning to the entrance chamber the first lake was crossed to the left to a steep sand slope and a quick look was taken at a second lake before going out.

On the following Tuesday, the exploration was continued beyond the second lake.  The slope between the lakes rises some ten feet and is covered with current markings showing that the water often flows this way under flood conditions.  Here, the passage dimensions were similar to those of the short canal – about ten feet square.  The rock was wet and gave the passage a dark sombre appearance. 

The second lake, four foot deep, is some thirty feet in length and may be bypassed by an oxbow in the form of a dry sandy crawl.  The passage beyond changed direction somewhat, and at this point we heard the sound of running water.  Hurrying along the passage, the sound became progressively louder until, suddenly, hidden between two large boulders, we saw the river flowing rapidly in a deep vadose trench running across our path.  Still, the sound of cascading water came from ahead of us, and so leaving the cross passage we continued onwards until, reaching a large junction with the water now flowing in the opposite direction and swirling round a sharp bend, we saw it led to a rift.  The character of this section is similar to the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu Main Streamway.   With the water about knee deep flowing in a perfect ‘V’ groove about three feet wide at the surface.  The rift ran in a Southerly direction only at end in a third lake after about a hundred feet.  Traversing around the side of the lake, we reached a boulder strewn floor and looked at the way on – a twenty to twenty five foot wide canal, receding into the distance.  The average depth turned out to be about four feet and it seemed endless on the first visit. At the end, it appeared to sump in deep water even under the prevailing low water conditions.  A small choked passage continued in the right hand wall. The length of this canal (The Long Canal) was estimated at seven hundred feet and is a most spectacular feature. Seldom is it less than fifteen feet wide with a roof height of some ten feet gradually decreasing to seven feet near the end.  It is a magnificent phreatic bore a tube with a finely rounded roof occasionally cut into open joints.  Suppressing the urge to explore side passages, the trip was completed by doing a quick survey from the third lake to the entrance using a prismatic compass and fifty foot Fibron tape.

Other passages were found, mainly on the Northern side of the Main Passage between the third and second lakes.  Some were still pools or active streamway, while others were passages containing stalagmite.  The most Easterly of these was a mud choked rift some ten to fifteen feet high containing some river eroded stalagmite pillars of dilapidated appearance, and drip pockets in soft mud floor.  Near the second lake, passages pass over the known cave and in one, about thirty feet above river level, a piece of wood was found cemented to stalagmite.  The general side passages were short and appeared to have been choked by the river.   They were not all thoroughly investigated however, and may yield further with suitable probing.  Altogether, about 2,500 feet of passage was found, there being of course still quite a long way to go to the rising.

Note:  Copies of the Provisional Survey may be obtained from Bryan Ellis, Knockauns, Combwich, Bridgwater, Somerset.  Price 1/6. The survey is to a scale of 100 feet to 2cms.


Overheard outside the Hunters….Alan Thomas praising a well known caving club by saying “The W****x is a fine club, it’s second to one on Mendip!”


If you can read this, it is highly likely that you can WRITE as well.  Why not prove your versatility by writing something for the B.B.?


Don’t forget that copies of all the B.E.C. Caving Reports plus copies of most surveys of Mendip Caves, and many other publications are available from: -

B.M. Ellis, Esq.,

Send stamped addressed envelope for his complete list.