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Nominations.

The season for nomination of candidates for the next year’s committee is now upon us.  As older members will know, we no longer print nomination forms, but ask each member who has a nominee in mind to find out whether he (or they) are willing to serve on the committee if elected, and then send their names to the Hon. Secretary, R.D. Stenner, 38 Paultow Road, Victoria Park, Bristol 3; to reach him as soon as possible after receiving this B.B.  Don’t forget to add your own name and your membership number.  This is to make sure that you are entitled to nominate people for the committee.  Only paid up members of the club are entitled to do this.  Another thing to remember is that all retiring members of the committee are automatically nominated unless they decide to retire.  As far as is known only one member – Roy Bennett – does not wish to stand next year.

If the Long Term Plan gets passed at the A.G.M. – you will find your copy with this B.B. – then we shall want a strong committee to ensure that the plan gets put into action in a smooth manner.  It may thus be very important to have good nominees this year – over to you!

Annual Dinner.

This year’s Dinner should be a good affair – at least from the food point of view.  The menu is a real chunk of haut cuisine with a choice of roast haunch of venison with port wine sauce.  If required, you can have roast Aylesbury duckling with apple sauce instead, but you must say if you prefer this when placing your order with Roger Stenner.  This fantastic meal is dirt cheap at a quid a head.  It is at the Cave Man – 7 for 7.30 – get your order in as soon as possible!

Club Ties.

Once again, it is possible for a caver to be well dressed in a genuine B.E.C. tie.  These ties are 100% hard wearing nylon and are woven (as distinct from another well known club tie which is only printed on).  All the best people wear B.E.C. ties.  These are obtainable from Roger at 17/6 each.

Annual General Meeting.

In view of the amount of business to be got through, it is being considered to start the meeting in the morning of the first Saturday in October, and to go on after a suitable adjournment for beer at lunchtime.  Details will be given in the September B.B., but try to keep the whole of this day free if possible.

“Alfie”

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Although circumstances have compelled the committee to call a halt to the publication of the parts of the Definitive Report on Cuthbert’s, make sure of your copies by placing an order for all parts when they come out with Bryan Ellis, Knockauns, Combwich, Bridgwater, Somerset.  He also has other reports, surveys, etc. for sale and will send a list on receipt of a stamped address envelope.

Now that wet suits, ‘space blankets’ and all the appropriate by-products of technology are aiding cavers one way or another, it might be of interest to hear from others who can remember interesting trips made under the kind of difficulties which would not occur toady.  How about it?

Monthly Notes – No 6

by Dave Irwin

St. Cuthberts Report.

(B.E.C. Caving Report No.13.  Parts A to O).  The committee have issued the following statement.  “That for reasons beyond our control, publication of this report will be postponed until further notice.”

B.S.A. Conference.

8th – 11th September, 1967, is being held at Birmingham University.  The theme is “Year of Discoveries” and includes lectures on Little Neath Cave (P. Standing); Giants and Oxlow Cavern (G. Westlake); Kingsdale Master Cave (Brook); Dan-yr-Ogof (A. Coase) etc.

Aille River Cave

Total length of passage explored approx. 2,600ft.  This cave is subject to severe flooding.  The cave has since been visited by the Craven Pothole Club, but whether they found more passage is not yet known.

Proventina ( Greece).

It is reported that Jim Ayres (Red Rose) and party have descended the initial section of the shaft, landing on a ledge some 700’ from the surface. The pitch continued to a depth of 1,400’ to another ledge.  A stone dropped from this ledge took 10 secs. to hit rock!  Some shaft!!  Alan Thomas is planning a trip there next year.

Weather Forecasts.

For accurate forecasts of Mendip and South Wales caving areas, phone LULSGATE 444.  Charge 1/6.

Swildons.

Jeanmaire, Kingston and Priddle.  Diving trip to Swildons II.  Investigated outlet of stream from north West Stream Passage.  Dived to length of 30’.  An air bell found 6’ high, 4’ feet across and 15’ feet long.  Further dives are planned.

Porth-yr-Ogof.

Upstream sump of the Porth-yr-Ogof feeder.  Dived approx. 90’ to depth of 25’.  The submerge passage (6’ x 4’ high) ends in a mudbank. The walls of the passage display good scalloping and rock pendants.

Eastwater Cavern.

The entrance collapsed sometime between the 2nd and 5th of August.  At the moment, it is impossible to enter the cave. A possible entry, if the ruckle proves too dangerous, is via Boulder Chamber.

St. Catherine’s.

Doolin System, Co. Clare, Eire.  Oliver Lloyd has found more passage during his recent visit to the cave.

Cuckoo Cleeves.

The base of the entrance pipes is being supported by a brick wall.  The work is being carried out by Tony Dingle (W.C.C.) and is believed to be near completion.

Survey Course.

Anyone interested in joining the second course should contact Roger Stenner at 38 Paultow Road, Victoria Park, Bristol 3.  The date of the course is still to be fixed – probably some time in October.

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The M.R.O are organising a national conference of Cave Rescue Organisations to be held at Bristol University on Saturday 30th September.  If any member wishes to attend please contact Dr. O.C. Lloyd, Withey House, Withey Close West, Bristol 9.  Speakers are required on the subjects of Cave Rescue Organisation in other countries and on the organisation of rescue on caving expeditions abroad.  Contact Oliver if you have any experience on the above topics.

Laddering St Cuthberts

by R.S. (Kangy) King

About 1954 to 1955, the effort required to explore the lower reaches of St. Cuthbert’s was such that some trips lasted for up to 24 hours, and it was becoming difficult to do a reasonable amount of exploration inside eight hours.

In this pre-wetsuit era, various devices were used to ward off the effects of exposure.  Oilskins with hoods were employed in the perpetual stream of the Entrance Rift.  The stream itself was dammed at the surface an hour before a trip and allowed to drain during the trip, then dammed again an hour before the estimated time out. The telephone was very useful for this purpose after it had been installed and was used to order supplies and hot water to be prepared.  Before this time, the damming of the stream served as an incentive to punctuality on the way out.  Food was usually taken down and cooked in the Dining Room and oh, those bellyfuls of hot grub!  Although the detail arrangements became a ritual and were enjoyed for their own sakes, the intelligentsia of the club were planned ahead to more efficient methods of exploration.  These crystallised in the autumn of 1954 to the need for a series of fixed ladders on the driest route.  The route planned was that still used now accepting the Wire Rift as an alternative to becoming wetter on the Pulpit Route.

Don Coase obtained some redundant steel ladder and this was cut up into five and a half foot lengths – the longest that would go through the original entrance squeeze. Fishplates were made and bolted to the sections, which were suitably identified later for assembly in the cave. These markings can still be seen on the Arête ladder.  The ladders were then stacked – ready for assembly – in the cave.

On Saturday evening in Mid-February 1955, I happened to join a party of three Sandhurst cadets down Eastwater.  The Hunters was open and, as Eastwater is a notoriously dry cave, we called in for a drink – probably lemonade.  Don Coase and Roy Bennett were sitting in the bar drinking – lemonade – and muttering about what a pity it was that their Cuthbert’s trip was off because nobody had turned up.  We muttered sympathetically why not go down Eastwater instead?  So later, we were picking up piles of wire ladders and ropes and enquiring anxiously about a rather large mound of short steel ladders while Coase and Bennett pulled on layer upon layer of stiff, muddy clothing.

St. Cuthbert’s Entrance Rift was interestingly filled with a foaming stream of water, which came straight off the frozen fields.  The Coase and Bennett donned (Is this a pun? – Ed) drip deflectors; camouflage oilskins and gas cape hoods and kindly lowered the steel ladders, ropes, fishplates, nuts and bots, the gas mask bag of tools, spare carbide and tins of food while the ex-Eastwater party shivered in Eastwater gear.  I have learned better since, but at the time it always seemed logical to strip if great wetness was anticipated.  We paid dearly for that trip.  A swimming costume and a wool jersey topped by a boiler suit might have been ideal wear for a fast hot Eastwater trip but it was sheet stupidity for a slow, freezing Cuthbert’s working party.  The uncontrollable shivering started as soon as we were sloshed out at the top of the Arête and continued for the next ten and a half hours.

The Arête ladder was laid and the prefabricated steel parts lowered.  The fitting had been well done, and the ladder was soon assembled across the floor of the chamber on the far side of the boulder.  Eagerly, the men who had nothing much to do while this work was going on combined to heave the ladder up into position and we all raced up and down it to warm ourselves up.  Both ledge pitches were erected in a similar manner while the cold became more and more intrusive.  By this time we were all beginning to have had enough, and so the Mud Hall ladders were left for another weekend, and we went hard for a hot meal in the Dining Room, taking the ritual; obstacles of caution at Quarry Corner, and the slide down Everest briskly.

Chattering self-congratulatory noises how easy our work would make the trip out, we finished off a scalding hot ‘binder’ and then, trying hard not to let cold wet  clothing slop against shrinking flesh, stared for the entrance.    Everest was warming, the awkward climb up into Pillar infuriating, the Wire Rift exhausting, the new ladders interesting, and the terrible wait at the foot of the Entrance Pitch almost unendurable.  My turn for the pitch came after ten hours of being colder than I have ever been.  I have a most vivid memory of feeling of surprise and apprehension, as I watched my swollen white fingers take a long time to grip the final rung, and of apprehension as I pulled, because I could not feel whether they had gripped properly or not.  I wish I could remember who it was who managed to Rift carrying two ladders.

Out in the grey dawn, hot drinks, rough blankets, and then sleep as the first flakes of snow fell.

A Hundred years ago

Searching feverishly in the Belfry Bulletin Files for something to fill this space, we came across this snippet from a newspaper of a hundred years ago (unfortunately we can’t say which as the reference has come off!)…

A Somerset California

The Mendip Hills, in the vicinity of Wells, have recently become a scene of busy industry in ‘diggings’ wherein however lead takes the place of gold.

Professor Anstead recently discovered a consolidated mass of lead in the parish of St. Cuthbert’s – lying through the bed of a long dried up stream which ran for ages through the mine workings.

It is now valued by him at many thousands of pounds and require only the cutting out with a spade and rewashing to produce the already granulated lead.

All this has resulted in a smelting association being set up bearing the name of the locality. Several old Californian immigrants have engaged themselves in this matter.  Powerful stamping machines have been placed on the ground, also washing machines, and a crowd of labourers busy working in a spot so lonely and remote recall vividly the stories of similar enterprise in California.

St.Cuthbert’s Mine has become one of the local curiosities.