Time flies!  The A.G.M. is once again looming on the horizon and its now time to get your nominations sent in to Bob Bagshaw, 699 Wells Road, Bristol 4.

To remind all members the drill – if you have any member in mind  to stand for the next years committee, first ASK HIS OR HER PERMISSION to be nominated.  Then write on a piece of paper ‘I wish to nominate ………….as candidate for the forthcoming election for the BEC Committee and he has agreed to serve if elected’. At the foot of the paper put down your OWN name and membership number and send it to Bob Bagshaw, 699 Wells Road, Bristol 4, or give it to him in person BEFORE Saturday 7th September 1968.  There is no need to nominate any of the present committee members since, unless they no longer wish to stand, they are nominated automatically.

The A.G.M. will not be held this year at Redcliffe Hall – details will be printed in the August issue of the BB.  The Annual dinner is at the Caveman Restaurant, Cheddar.  The menu includes Trout followed by Braised Hare and Pigeon with chopped ham – price this year will be about 21/- - full details next month.

The editor would like to apologise for the very poor quality of last months photographs – in case you could not read the details here they are - the full page was by ‘Prew’ of the Fernhill Curtains and the double page were of formations in Balch extension - The Lily Pads (Wig) and the Crystal Column (Prew).

Alan Thomas will be on holiday from July 20th – end of August – all notices and letters should be sent to Bob Bagshaw during this period – 699 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.

Hon. Sec: - A.R. Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Editor: - D.J. Irwin, 23 Campden Road, BRISTOL. 3. BS3 1QA

Club Headquarters: - The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, WELLS, Somerset, BA5 3AU


lavatory wall in Hinton Blewitt

The following inscription was found on a lavatory wall in Hinton Blewitt….

……With apologies to “Alfie”

This is the story of our Stan
A rather quaint poetic man,
Whose dotty ditties neatly scanning
Showed a lot of careful planning.
O’er the whole world he’d seen
From Hunters’ Lodge to Priddy Green,
Nempnett Thrubwell, darkest Clutton
And even up in Bishop Sutton.
He never failed upon request
To give forth poems full of zest,
And onward gaily he’d recite
Rambling on into the night.
Now visitors from near and far
Would cram themselves into the bar,
And drinking freely of the beer
So’s they can lend a friendly ear,
To listen closely without sound
To epic tales of underground.
For though these tales be purely fiction
No one could quarrel with the diction,
And with eloquence divine
He’d gaily flit from line to line.
Year after year he’d do his stuff
And no-one cried “Enough, Enough”,
And now this next line you can guess
He could not do it to excess.
So then out hero had a thought
And for the Hut Fund he then fought,
Deciding then and there to write
On blocks of Solid Araldite?
Using a vast supply of pencils
Blotting paper, pens, and stencils,
He worked on through cold and heat
‘Till his task was all complete.
Then friend Jock comes bursting in
And kicking up a frightful din,
Produces photographic illustrations
With new and subtle variations
On themes which he could now expound
Of strangest happenings underground.
And so they to the printers sped
Who straight away gave the go ahead.
At last it is You we cry
To rush to the shops and buy
In literary and graphic modes
The entire “Alfie Spaeleodes”.



Notes on the Structure of the Mendips – Part 1

by Keith Murray

The purpose of this article is briefly to trace how the structure of the Mendips are formed by rivers bringing sand and silt into an area of sea where they are sorted out – the coarsest sand accumulating nearest the shore and the finest further out. Under the right conditions in a shallow sea a warm climate can cause sufficient evaporation for dissolved salts to be precipitated as calcium carbonate etc., and this form the basis of limestones.  As deposition continues the weight of sediment causes the sea floor to sink so that great thickness of strata occur.  The weight also caused the lower sediments to compact and form almost horizontal layers of rock enclosing remains of organisms which lived in the sea. Eventually the seas silted and became swamps covered in vegetation which, under repeated oscillatory movements of the floor, alternately were drowned and re-established, successive plant phases becoming compressed into coal seams before an increase in the earth movements, namely a force from the S.W. pushing sediments up towards the land barrier to the north, crumpled then into contorted folds which stood up as an island in the new shrunken sea.  The movements described took the barely conceivable time of 80 million years so that it is very unlikely that anything happened with dramatic suddenness.  With the rocks thus weakened and exposed to the elements the top layers were soon ripped off to form new sediments in a different sea.  The coal swamps had been formed in very warm and humid conditions and now the climate was hotter and drier, desert conditions prevailing over the land as witnessed by the red sediments banked up against the limestones with shorelines marked by great boulders fallen from the limestone cliffs to be themselves made into a solid rock formation by the infilling of crevices between them with red silty material.  Continuing earth movements submerged the islands and eventually raised them again, contorting them so much so that a layer from the beds of the last submergence found on the top of the Mendips is now present more than 1,000ft. below sea level under the Somerset Plain immediately to the south.  Subsequent weathering of the rocks leaves us with what we have today.  (Fig. 1 page 79).

From that necessarily sketchy outline a short history of the literature should serve to zoom the subject into speleological range.

As far back as 1824, W. Buckland and W.D. Conybeare described the main Mendip folds in the course of a memoir on the south – western coalfields.  In his all-embracing study of the rocks of South Wales and South-West England published in 1846, Sir Henry de la Beche described the Mendip Island.  In an accompanying map this is shown as a long mass of arched limestone with a sandstone core showing through in places where the limestone had rubbed off, fringed by a beach deposit of boulders and rock fragments, the whole being surrounded by later sands and marls.  Westerly extensions of the limestones were shown in the Bleadon and Brean Down area, with Steep Holm out in the Bristol Channel.

The Carboniferous Limestone series, with a thickness of 3,000 to 3,700 feet in the area, was divided up into Lower Limestone Shales and carboniferous or Mountain Limestone by de la Beche.  As the shales only accounts for 500ft. of the entire succession there remained a crying need for some detailed classification of the great limestone mass.

In 1905, A. Vaughan published a division of the limestones into five main zones and sub-zones based on remains of corals and shellfish found in the cliffs of the Avon gorge where the whole carboniferous Limestone succession is displayed like an open book (not a very strict analogy!) complete with Lower Limestone Shales and Old Red Sandstone at the north-western end of the right bank) Kellaway and Welch, 1948, p.19).

The following year T.F. Sibly published a monumental paper listing every limestone exposure on Mendip with a description of the fossils found in each and its place in the zonal regions of Vaughan. He appended to this a short note on the rocks at Ebbor and the over thrusting which he discovered there, being the first to discover evidence of the complex upheavals of the area.

In 1911 S.H. Reynolds and A. Vaughan produced a very thorough treatise on Burrington Combe, a feature of which is the great number of full-page photographs overprinted with the appropriate limestone zoning.

It was F.B.A. Welch who applied the zonal classification to his detailed 6-inch mapping of the Mendip Limestones (Central Mendip 1929, Blackdown 1932, Eastern Mendip 1933) which revealed the great complexity of structure.  An explanation of the reasons for the structure was essayed in the Regional guide (Kellaway and Welch, 1948, p.8) and a full analysis is presented in the Sheet memoir (Green and Welch, 1965, p.130).  The Sheet memoir also gives details of gravity and magnetic surveys, seismic and electrical resistively measurements made in the area in order to investigate hidden strata.

Having briefly evoked the Mendips in an earlier paragraph the next stage is to relate these happenings to the mass of complications presented on the 1-inch geological map – Sheet 280.  First it is necessary to refer to the sketch of the situation existing at the time the sediments were being laid down.

South of the great land mass over what is now Mid-Wales, the basin floor had two axes or low ridges of vertical movement joining in the Berkley area which acted like hinges.  This situation is deduced from the nature and the disposition of the rocks laid down around them.  Deep seated earth movements responsible for these oscillations probably account for the presence of thermal waters at Hotwells in the Bristol area and at Bath.  In addition, the Mendip limestone succession together with Coal Measures thicken to the east, as the Radstock Coal Basin to the north-east started folding along a N-S axis while these sediments were being laid.  The enormous pressure from the Armorican mountain building in the south ultimately forced the accumulated sediments against and over these axes which resulted not in the simple arching of the Mendips in one or more successive ridges but in a series of staggard folds (in geological ‘jargon’ ‘periclines en echelon’) as shown on the second sketch.

These folds were not only staggered but, as the pressure continued their northern limbs were forced towards the mid-Wales shore so that the strata in them were pushed vertical and even overturned (Blackdown, North Hill and Vobster) or overthrust (Pen Hill). Pressure differentials resulted in tension cracks-faults-right across some periclines, e.g. the Stock Hill, Biddle and Slab House Faults, which affected the North Hill and Pen Hill structures, while a major zone of overthrusting extends from Cheddar to Wells and continues in dislocations in the Dulcote area.

Secondly, a note on the water bearing qualities of the rocks themselves.  The sandstone cores of periclines admit very little as the spaces between the individual grains are mostly filled by secondary crystallisation of silica, and any bedding planes and joints are very close set.  Even in heavily shattered regions near faults the fissures seem to have been largely filled in.  The adjoining Lower Limestone Shales, although with occasional coarse limestones in their lower part, generally form low-lying swampy ground so that their far junction with the Black Rock Limestone of the Carboniferous Limestone forms the location of by far the greater majority of swallets in the Mendips.  The Carboniferous Limestone is, consequently, an important aquifer, and, thanks to the surrounding of the Mendips by later marly deposits banked up against the limestone and beach conglomerate, most of the water entering the limestone emerges spectacularly at the foot of the hills, having fallen several hundreds of feet in a very short distance.  But while these risings afford copious supplies of water, attempts to tap fissures in the rock by borings, shafts and headings are a matter of chance to say the least.  Several worthy examples are given in the Sheet memoir (Green and Welch, 1965, p.173).

Thirdly the geological map. Each of the four main periclinal areas will be taken in turn, with structural reference in the first instance to the accompanying sketch map with sections, and colour reference to detail on the printed sheet (1-inch 280).

To be cont.


Cheddar as described by Collinson: -

“Here indeed, Nature, working with a gigantic hand, has displayed a scene of common grandeur.  In one of those moments, when she convulsed the world with throes of an earthquake, she burst asunder the rocky ribs of Mendip, and tore a chasm across its diameter, of mire than a mile in length. The vast opening yawns from the summit down to the roots of the mountain, laying open to the sun, a sublime and tremendous scene; exhibiting a combination of precipices, rocks, and caverns, of terrifying descent, fantastic form, and gloomy vacuity.”

Drowning By Numbers

By A. (Rusty) RUSHTON

Sumps………………have always been a problem to me, I prefer the use of chemical persuasion to remove the ‘beasts’ and the horror of having to pass them by the accepted method of diving.  No doubt the purist element would be up in arms at such a suggestion of chemicals….so there the ‘beasts’ remain, LURKING, like some great muddy monster, ready to devour some poor unwary caver.

On a recent visit to Swildons I managed to flounder my way through Sump 4 on a visit to Sump 6.  We had descended Blue Pencil and arrived at the Sump in fairly good time, “It’s only 16ft.” they said, this did very little to inspire confidence in me and the high tide mark of grass and other rubbish 15ft. above the present level of water did even less.  After a short rest and half a dozen or so mud soaked ‘Woodbines’ I was still the no more confident.   Not wishing to prove the ‘chicken’ that I am, I ladened myself with lead weights and staggered to the entrance of the ‘beast’.  Clutching the guide wire I settled myself into the lurking waters and warmed my body with internal waters which drained into the stream. After 23 deep breaths and much shivering (fear) I steeled myself to the task that lay before me, I plunged into the murk and pulled myself along the wire, “that’s 16ft.” I thought, surfacing like a rocket…..glad to be out of the foul mess that held me prisoner for the whole 4 seconds, I came into smart contact with the low roof, I rapidly exhaled a burst of fine Anglo-Saxon adjectives.  This was my undoing, for I re-entered the stream, gulping for air, at a rate quicker than which I had left it and took in large amounts of muddy water……..I surfaced……hit the roof again……more muddy water, it occurred to me, as my past flashed before me, that unless I did something soon I would be in dire straits.  Swimming like a man possessed within the devil, I struck out for the shore, wherever it may be.  All of a sudden the water and the wire ran out, the end at last…..I emerged slowly, fearing the dreaded roof that had nearly put me into the next world, to find myself in a passage some 30ft. high…..and my friends doubled with laughter……..40ft. behind me……!

The return dive was uneventful, pure luck this time.  Sumps still send cold shivers down my spine and I will do anything to avoid them. Diving is not for me, accept when necessary.  But now I sit, with my pint of “muled” ale in the back room of the Hunters, and gaze upon my revered audience; perhaps sumps aren’t quite as bad as they seem.

National Speleological Conference and Exhibition

Sheffield – 13th – 15th 1968.  At the University of Sheffield Union, Western Bank, Sheffield 10.  Subjects being covered include: -Ropes, Causes of caving Accidents, Water Tracing, Cave Erosion, UBBS Expedition to Jamaica, Problems of Deep Caves and Films. Phoh Photo. Exhibition.  Trips to local caves.  Full details from BEC Hon. Sec. in July.



by “Prew”

It is becoming increasingly apparent that, over the past few years, a new brand of caver is frequenting Mendip.  The people to whom I am referring are those who with little though of the consequences, and often little experience themselves, take a party that includes complete novices to perhaps Sump II in Swildons or a round trip through the ‘Troubles’.  If they stopped for a moment to think of their responsibilities, as leaders, to their party they might perhaps stop at Sump I or go way and do G.B. instead.  It obviously has not occurred to them that a novice is not only physically inexperienced but also mentally not used to the surroundings to which he or she is being introduced; the consequences of these, in the event of an accident, could be disastrous.  The problems of rescuing an injured or completely exhausted person from beyond Sump I or the ‘Troubles’ are enormous.

The above remarks have been prompted by the recent rescues that gained some extremely inaccurate and undesirable publicity.  Over a period of three weekends three rescues occurred.  The first in Nine Barrows was one of those rare, but genuine, accidents where an experienced caver fell and fractured his leg.  This was obviously a case for the MRO.  The following weekend saw two call-outs from Swildons, the first caused by a party including a novice becoming lost and finally exhausted after trying to complete a round trip through the ‘Troubles’.  This immediately suggests a total lack of experience on the part of the leader in his lack of preparation in ensuring that all members of the party were up to the necessary standard for such a trip.  In these circumstances it was probably correct to call for the MRO as an exhausted party on their own in a cave is a danger to itself.

The second callout of the weekend involved a party at the 40ft.  A member, exhausted after a fall, could not climb the ladder.  “What shall we do?” – “Call the MRO”.  The attitude appears to be that it is the MRO’s responsibility to help any member of a party in trouble and nothing to do with any of the remaining members.  Isn’t it about time that cavers started by trying to carry out their own rescues? – after all this is the policy of the MRO.  Some cavers have the mistaken idea that once in trouble they merely have to call out the MRO and they can shirk any responsibilities they may have had. It obviously hasn’t occurred to some cavers that it might be a good idea to try and haul an exhausted friend up the 40ft. before calling for MRO help.  With regard to the rescue in question, although the MRO were called, it was another party already in the cave that gave assistance.  This meant a lot of wasted effort on the part of the MRO Warden in that all the rescue kit had to be brought to the scene only to be returned again.

If this sort of caving practice is going to continue the MRO Wardens and helpers are not going to be so keen to get themselves and the equipment to the scene of a rescue. This, of course, could lead to unfortunate delays when a genuine accident occurs.

It is all very well making criticisms but what in fact is the answer.  The first that springs to mind is the control of access of all major cave systems.  Unpleasant as this may sound to some it may be the only answer.  If keys are issued to major clubs then it can be hoped that people entering the caves will be ‘educated’ in the normal code of caving practice.  A second method of control would involve the paying of a fairly high deposit returnable only on a safe return.  This could be waived in the case of a genuine call-out.  In this way parties might be prevented from undertaking trips beyond their capabilities.  Unfortunately some of them do not know just what their capabilities are.

Finally, the most important aspect of this foolish attitude that exists is that the Mendip farmers are becoming upset by the number of rescues and the ensuing bad publicity. The result could be the closing of some of the best caves on Mendip.  Let us do something now before it is too late.

The Re-opening of Eastwater Swallet

by G. Tilly

A second meeting of the Mendip clubs was held at the Hunters on Saturday May 19th to discuss the finances of re-opening Eastwater Swallet and the proposed method of shoring the entrance shaft.

Although no decision could be taken due to the poor attendance (only 5 clubs were represented) the most favourable method of shoring appears to be one of pre-cast concrete pipes that can be constructed on site and the total cost of materials (cement, wood etc.) would be approximately £50.    The cost of the explosives required could vary from £21 to £30. During the meeting, Phil Romford, Alan Butcher and Gordon Tilly were elected Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary respectively.  The Chairman and Treasurer would be responsible for the handling of donations received from the clubs.  The Secretary would act as a clearing house for paperwork and a source of information for advising clubs of progress made.  A full report, complete with diagram of the proposed shoring method, will be distributed to all caving clubs affiliated to the Council of Southern Caving Clubs shortly.


From Other Clubs

By G. Tilly

The Mendip Caver  Vol. 4  No. 2 & 3

These two editions contain such articles as “Pioneer Spleleaology in a Quantock Cave” by Peter Hesp, news of a Cerberus S.S. dig in Holwell Cave and other cave digs on Mendip.  Vol.4 No.2  also contains a reprint of the Mendip Cave Registry catalogue of Caving publications held by the Bristol Central Reference Library.  (For more comments on the M.C.R. Cat. See Bryan Ellis’ Cavers Bookshelf).

London University Caving Clubs.  Journals Nos. 6 & 7.

Despite the adverse opinion of many people on the subject of student cavers, these two journals show a wide range of caving activity by this group of four clubs.  The articles range from reports of continental meets, complete with surveys, made during the Foot and Mouth outbreak.  There are descriptions and Grade 4 (with apologies to the Mendip surveyors! Ed.) surveys if the following Yorkshire pits and caves: - Rumbling Hole, Marble Steps, Nick Pot, Gaping Gill (part), Smeltmill Beck Vcave and Tatham Wife Hole.

 (N.B.  All publications mentioned above are in the B.E.C. Library).

Cavers Bookshelf

by B.M. Ellis


It was in 1965 that the Mendip Cave registry managed to arrange for a collection of caving publications to be held by Bristol’s Central Reference Library.  The Registry had for long realised that a collection of this sort was very desirable, provided that it could be located where access was easy for all.  Many clubs, such as the Platten Bequest Library of the M.N.R.C., have been an excellent start for such a collection but in almost all cases access is difficult if not impossible – especially for non-members.  It was Ray Mansfield who, while working there, persuaded the ‘Bristol Ref’ that they were the people to store a collection of caving publications.  They agreed but are unable to spend much money on it.  The library do purchase a few journals, they bind all complete volumes and are willing to photocopy where it is impossible to obtain a copy in any other way.  After these arrangements had been made, caving clubs were asked to donate a copy each of their publications and the response surprised all concerned.  There are exceptions but, in general, all of the Mendip clubs and several from outside have been donating their journals and newsletters, and some individuals have also given publications to help complete sets and runs.

This is supposed to be a book review (or is it?) so perhaps it would be as well to get back to the point! After three years the collection had grown to such a size that it was thought a catalogue of what was available was justified.  This has been compiled by Kay and Ray Mansfield on behalf of the Cave registry. The result is a twelve page booklet listing approximately 1200 caving club publications.  The catalogue serves two very useful purposes.  It is a reference work enabling anyone to try and trace a copy of a certain caving journal to see whether it is available at Bristol, and it shows the publications that are missing from the collection in the hope that clubs or individuals will donate copies to fill the gaps.  Most caving clubs have been sent a copy and there are a few spare copies available on request.  Although there is no charge, a 5d stamped addresses 10” x 8” envelope should sent for a copy; the address is Mrs Kay Mansfield, Tiny Kott, Little London, Oakhill, Bath, Somerset.  A donation to the Registry is always welcome and if this publication is of sufficient interest for you to write for a copy, it is worth a couple of bob to you.

Wandering away again, there is one point that it is as well to make concerning the collection. Complaints have been made by those who know better that a collection based at Bristol is of no use to anyone living outside of the area.  There are two points to be made an answer to this sort of comment.  First, the collection has to be housed somewhere and the argument applies (if valid) where it is kept; if other areas object perhaps they should follow Mendip’s example and get themselves organised – or perhaps this is an argument in favour of a national body which at the same time would cut down the number of publications with which one has to contend.  In this case it was the Mendip Cave Registry who took the initiative.

The second point is much more serious – the argument is invalid and a collection at Bristol is of use no matter where on lives.  If you wish to see an article appearing in a journal that is in the collection the procedure is a follows.  Go to your local library and fill in a ‘Book Request Card’ giving all the details of the article:  title and author; title of the publication with volume page numbers, etc; and add that there is a copy available at Bristol Central Reference Library. The request will then be processed in the usual way and the ‘ Bristol ref’ will provide your library with a photo-copy of the article but they will not lend you the volume itself.  Your library will then let you have the copy either free or for a small charge.  So you see, it does not really matter where you live or where the collection is stored.

This has been much more than a review but then the heading is ‘Cavers Bookshelf’ and this is something that will be of interest to anyone interested in caving books and publications.

FOOTNOTE:  It is disappointing to see that the collection of ‘Belfry Bulletins’ held by the collection at Bristol is by far the poorest of all the major Mendip clubs.  The numbers missing are listed below and copies, or photo-copies, of any of them would be welcomed by Kay Mansfield for adding to the collection.

‘Belfry Bulletins’ missing from the Central Collection.

Nos: 1 – 110; 118; 119; 126; 127; 135; 137 – 139; 142; 161; 163; 164; 166; 172; 175; 176; 178; 180; 181; 190; 197 – 203; 205; 206; 209 – 213.

‘Caving Reports’ missing.

Nos: 1 (1st. Edition); 5; and 7.

‘Belfry Bulletin Digest’ No.1


Monthly Notes No. 15

by ‘Wig’

The digging season seems to be well underway at the moment.  The Bennett/Irwin site in S. Wales has been backfilled and another being opened a little further downstream.  Emborough is steadily gaining ground through the persistence of Franklin and Coles.  St. Cuthbert’s Sump is being worked again by Kingston, Priddle and other members of the CDG.  The Dining Room has taken the ‘biggest bashing’ of its life – some 10 – 12 tons of material has recently been moved out of the passage.  Members interested in the site are welcome to come along on Tuesdays evenings to give a hand. A new outdoor site is being negotiated by ‘Prew’ and permission to start digging will most likely be given in the next few weeks.

In the caving scene Roger Stenner continues his marathon water tracing series of trips in G.B. (his work to date has been recently published in the CRG transactions).  Work in Swildons appears to be gaining ground yet again – Drew is planning a big bang in Pirate Chamber (Swildons); MCG are investigating a site in Longwood valley; UBSS are still pushing Manor Farm Dig; Cornwell has another site up his sleeve, Warburton has just finished Phase 1 on his new survey of Aggy.  Also the surveying team have reported the discovery of a 600 – 700ft. long cave nearby.

The Part A of the Cuthbert’s report is now being typed and will now be available at the end of August. Price about 5/-.  The mention of caving publications brings me to the BEC Library.  It is kept at Dave Serles, Dolphin Cottage, Wells Road, Priddy – some three minutes from the Belfry. Members may get books and periodicals sent to them through the post providing they pay postage both ways.

Finally ST. CUTHBERT’S REPORT PART A.  Exploration of St. Cuthbert’s Swallet by D.J. Irwin, R.D. Stenner and G. Tilly will be available early September.  Approx. 40 pages of text and 4 pages of photographs (8 photos, 5 not previously published).  This publication, divided into 8 parts gives full coverage of Mining Background, Pre 1952 digs, and a Phase by Phase account of the exploration to date.  Included are parts of an unpublished account of the early trips by the late Jack Wadden.  Price 5/- (after the Annual Dinner 6/-).


with Hedera

They seem to be on holiday and I’ve suddenly realised that I should be too.  I’d like to be in the Bernina and that with the Taylor outfit or pottering in S.W. Ireland with the Stafford/Ifold axis or knocking off Lakeland classics with Targett.  I don’t know what I’ll actually be doing but in general it will be Outdoors.

Newish prods reported at Cheddar by Terry Taylor.  Derek Targett is also pioneering those towering buttresses on the south side above the Sugar Loaf.    Yes, why not. absolutely splendid natural lines.  Pete Sutton seems to be on to something at Weston-super-Mud too.  In a less splendid way Bristol quarries are slowly being worked through with the occasional worthwhile small route.  Frustratingly these are so spread that they are scarcely worth noting.

Compared with our glorious past we seem to lack reports of expeditions involving tours such as the Welsh Three Thousands (there are fourteen!) and that once a lifetime experience, the Traverse of the Cuillin Ridge.  I was glad to see that the exiles in Scotland are aware of this lack and are remedying it. So let me draw your attention to such things and the potential rewards.

The Coruisk hoo-ha was settled with typical compromise.  The decision to proceed with bridging the Coruisk River was made but there was to be no blasting of the Bad Step.  The footpath has been widened to jeep width and two bridges have been erected, footbridges I think; a little clearing has been done above the Bad Step as an alternative route.  Heaven knows who but someone managed to pinch a drum of cable and a heavy steel casting from Coruisk but unfortunately it was replaced in a few days and the work was completed despite the sabotage.

So the protests have been made and something saved.  Let’s hope that the lessons that we must have the foresight and initiative to guard against thoughtless action.

My favourite scheme is to bypass traffic from Cheddar Gorge.  You can’t see it from a car and you can’t walk in the road because of the cars. It’s exceedingly dangerous too. One of the club was climbing on the right edge of Hart Leaf Bluff (I can’t remember what the climb is called) anyway, as a result a great six foot block is no longer there and is now presumably undergoing the next phase of the geological cycle – fortunately without either biological or metallic additions.



Mendip Awash – July 10th 1968

Mendip and the surrounding area from Chepstow to Bath and to South Wells received the worst storm of the century on 10th July 1968.  Some have said the worst for hundreds, even thousands of years.  Varying amounts of rain fell over the area between 5” and 7” in Bristol and Bath and a lesser amount in Wells of 2½”.  The rain commenced mid-day with a heavy storm (Wells area); mid-afternoon there was a lull, the rain commencing again about 6pm. The intensity dropped again around 8pm building up to a very severe thunderstorm lasting two hours from 9pm to 11pm.  When the main storm started at 9pm the roads were already awash.

On Mendip the water scoured out the inside of caves to an unprecedented degree.  On the surface the coombes were ripped open so much that the bed-rock was laid bare in many places.  The following account has been built up from the information given to ‘Wig’ by several members of the BEC and from notes he made during the following week.


The water has torn up the road sufficiently to close the Gorge to the public.  An A.A. Officer has been reported as saying that the Gorge looked like Niagara Falls in the early hours of Thursday morning.  Streams were pouring over the edge of the cliffs and the road awash to a depth of several feet.  A hole appeared in the roadway just below White Spot Cave which appeared to have taken considerable quantities of water. It was inspected on the following Wednesday by Dave Drew but no way could be seen.  The depth was 15ft.  The main rush of water came from both the Longwood and Velvet Bottom valleys.  The water built up above the horseshoe bend in Velvet Bottom Valley to such a degree that the roadway was taken with the water leaving a 50ft. x 20ft. deep gash the debris being strewn down the valley for over 100yds.  Many Roman beads and pieces of pottery have been found.  Wandering down Velvet Bottom towards Cheddar the water leaped over and tore through many spoil heaps – some over 20ft. deep.  At the junctions of Manor farm and Longwood valleys stone walls were carried for hundreds of yards down towards to Cheddar; the water depth being something like 4-5ft. deep.  In Longwood Valley itself flood damage was equally high.  There was 6ft. of water in Lower Farm, the tarmac was ripped off the road leading to the farm and cars now have to be parked along the ‘main road’.  Below the farm the flood debris is to be seen again – boulders 100yds. long x 25yds. wide x 3ft. deep!  Young saplings uprooted, plants stripped of their leaves and the MCG Dig lower down the valley completely filled in.  Longwood Swallet blockhouse was undermined but still intact.  Below Rhino Rift the sub-soil has been completely removed exposing the bedrock.


Here again a similar story – roads ripped up, thousands of pounds worth of damage to private property. The West Twin Stream went wild. The debris is several feet high and a 5ft. miniature gorge cut in the lower part of the track.  The water reached a level of about 3ft.  Peter Birds dig just below Sidcot Swallet is completely buried.  The water entering East Twin was too much for the sink and flowed down the valley crossing the road and sinking on the other side.  Avelines was flooded to a depth of 15ft. at the bottom of the main passage.


Nine Barrow – Entrance blocked.

Cuckoo Cleeves – no information.

Hunters Hole – no information.

Goatchurch – 12” of water reported in the Drainpipe.

Stoke Lane – Reports say that there is little change.

S. Cuthbert’s – Most of the water built up behind the Mineries. The water at the New Entrance was 27” above the lower flood pipe.  The depression was clear of water by the following weekend.  None of the unstable boulders have moved in the entrance series. The Sump was reported to be blocked and that the Sump Passage was flooded to a depth of 10ft.  The Rat Run was swamped near Mud Ball end and the ‘U’ Tube was also sumped.

Eastwater – The stream had been quite large – about 4ft. deep. The boulders at the entrance are now completely choked with gravel.

Contour Cave – The entrance is in an extremely unsafe condition.

G.B. – Large volumes of water appear to have entered the cave through both of the depressions.  Small collapses have been reported inn the immediate area.  The blockhouse door has taken a battering. Below the inner gate the floor has been gouged out to a depth of 8ft. and the stal’d over rubble heap in the First Grotto has been flattened by about 8 – 10ft. leaving the Devil’s Elbow ladder hanging three feet from the top and five feet off the bottom of the floor. Sorry no news on the Ooze!  The Easy Way is blocked immediately to the left of the First Grotto. A maypole will be required to reach the window from the lower end of the blockage.  The boulders at the other end of the Devil’s elbow below the chain have moved lowering the floor making the climb 5ft.longer.  At the top of the Gorge a great mud pile has appeared from somewhere in the roof.  Large boulders have been washed down the Gorge.  The Bridge is still intact.  The floor has been considerably lowered in the Main Chamber.  Boulders have moved below the chain of the 40ft. pitch and the ladder has disappeared.  The floor level in the lower reaches has risen by about 5ft. by the silting and the flood water was up to the level of the Ladder Dig Series.  It has also been reported that the boulders in the Ladder Dig Series boulder ruckle have moved yet again.  (See Figure 1. Page 87)


NEW CAVE IN VELVET BOTTOM – About 75yds. above the missing road a new depression is to be seen with a 200ft. long cave going off at the bottom.  Attempts at shoring it are being made shortly with the intention of digging the ruckle in the terminal chamber.  A survey has not been made of the place but it is thought to be running up the valley. An old dig of the MCG at the junction of Velvet Bottom and Longwood Valley has taken a considerable amount of water and will be worth a quick inspection to see if anything has opened up.

Manor Farm Dig – Near the UBSS digging site a huge shaft has opened up – 90ft. (Other reports say 50ft.) deep and about 10ft. in diameter. This is a great breakthrough for the UBSS as it is thought to be the same chamber that was discovered before the original shaft collapsed.

The most spectacular changes in any one system occurred in Swildons Hole – The changes in the cave are to say the least, quite fantastic. One sees the flood damage right from the entrance well into the cave to Swildons 4.  At the height of the flood the water reached some 6ft. above the entrance grating; the total depth of water being nearly 10ft.  The blockhouse is quite undamaged but the water opened up a rift under the tree (to the left of the blockhouse) 10ft. deep and 2½ft. wide. The sink to the right of the stream way has been considerably enlarged.  It is advised to use the new rift as the boulders inside the ‘normal entrance’ have been considerable repositioned.  The chock stone inside the entrance and the flat slab that had to be crawled over have gone - such was the force of the water.  The impact marks made by the stones have been to be seen to be believed particularly just inside the entrance and at the head of the Forty. The entrance to the Long Dry Way is still open but the boulders are believed to have move.  Below the 10ft. climb to the junction with the stream way the chock stone is several feet down the passage and a sizeable chunk of bedrock has been removed.  A few feet further feet downstream one is forced to crawl by a new pile of boulders that are jammed across the passage.  Continuing downstream – the pools have been scoured out and are generally thigh deep and the entrance to the Oxbows is now quite clean.  In fact the whole looks very clean – for how long though?  The water was forced up the Mud Slide (Kenny’s Dig) and is now partially blocked by loose gravel.  The approach to the Well has been modifies in that the stalagmite flooring has been lifted off the floor and transported some 5ft. further downstream leaving it lying over the edge of the Well.  Below the waterfall minor changes have taken place, stal. has been ripped from the walls and the pools have all been cleaned out.  The approach passage to the Old Grotto is considerably deeper and the grass clings to all the formations.  The water filled the Pretty Way to the roof!  At the base of Jacob’s ladder a pothole has been cleaned out.

The greatest and most remarkable change is the Forty – it’s gone!  The Forty can now be free climbed.  All of the choking in the rift leading to the Forty has been cleared out and the floor lowered by about 25ft.  The exposed walls of the rift are liberally coated with stal. and looks quite fine.  Below the keyhole, on the upstream side, is a false floor of stalagmite which certainly prevented the rift from being scoured deeper than it has in the past.  Both the Keyhole and Suicide had water to the roof. The rift is easily passed by first traversing and then chimneying down to the stream way.  A short section of passage leads to a hole near the floor through which the stream flows.  A short sloping trench leads to the final drop of six feet.  There are several useful belay points if a rope is required for the climb.  The changes below the 40ft. are not so striking – pools are deeper and the climb at the bend has gone the stal capping can be seen upended a few feet downstream. Below the 20ft.the changes are even less.  The approach to Sump 1 is now mud covered and the stream flows on top instead of under the boulders.  Sump 1 is now about 5ft. deep and one is standing up to their necks in water on the downstream side.  Duck 1 has about 2” of airspace; Creeps 1 & 2 are now wades (just duck your heads lads) and the second part of Duck 2 is sumped – it’s believed to be about 8ft. long.  Sumps 2 & 3 were dived and it has been reported that Sump 4 is blocked.  Foam has been reported in the roof of St.Pauls Series.  The Mud Sump is full and to date no-one has passed it yet.

As far as one can see the water backed up in three places: - 1 – The Forty, 2 – the curtains below the Twenty and 3 – Sump 1.  The water reached the roof everywhere at and above the twenty to the Entrance except the top section of the Boulder Chamber.  Below the curtains, the upper part of the passage was clear of the flood water.  The level at the Double Pots was about 6ft.  The water flowed through Barnes loop but the depth is difficult to say – some report only 1ft.  The next deep section was below Trat’s Temple and possibly filled to the roof in this area.

The change in the Water Rift has increased the chances of accidents in the writers opinion.  Cavers entering the system will be encouraged to go further than they had previously now that the 40ft. has been removed.  The lack of tackle itself, on the Forty, will produce dangers.  The hole will soon flood with heavy water conditions – even if the caver can climb to the hole the water will soon back up and sump in front of him.  One cannot chimney up the downstream section of the Water Rift – it’s too narrow.  The belay points on the 40ft. ledge are still there and will be very useful for rescue purposes under wet condition – the pitch will be quite dry except for the lower 6ft.  The chances of the Water Rift filling up with water is still very great and should be treated with extreme caution under wet conditions.


TAILENDER – On the afternoon of the flood three cavers went down Swildon’s but soon retreated and in the early evening 5 more tried to get down but Farmer Maine refused them permission – had they gone down they wouldn’t have seen the light of day again. 

Many thanks to all who gave details enabling this article to be complied so quickly.



Thanks Dept: - The Club would like to offer their sincere thanks to Pongo Wallis for his gift of caving publications and books including Cave Science Nos 1 – 24 complete.  The books have been catalogued and are now in the club library at Dolphin Cottage.

Our thanks also to Alan Kennett and Chris Harvey for a pair of sheer legs which will certainly make lighter work of digging.


NEXT MONTH IN THE B.B. Jock Orr’s long awaited article on Cave Photography, Austrian report (if received in time) and a report of the climbing sections visit to the Bernina, Switzerland.  Articles in the pipeline include ‘Ropes’ by Roy Bennett, Greece, St. of Mendip Pt.2, Combined Surveying Unit by Dave Irwin and a CRG 6 survey of Avelines Hole, Burrington Coombe by R. Stenner.