Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston s Mare, Somerset.
EDITOR:  D.J. Irwin. 23 Camden Road, Bristol 3.

1969 – 1970 Committee

Committee Chairman & Caving Secretary

Dave Irwin

Hon. Secretary

Alan Thomas

Hon. Treasurer

Bob Bagshaw

Hut Warden

Jock Orr

Hut Engineer

John Riley


Norman Petty

Assistant Hut Warden

Pete Franklin

Minute Secretary

Alfie Collins

Committee Member

Mike Luckwill

Climbing Secretary

Graham (Fred) Atwell

Other posts other than Committee Members:

Assistant Caving Secretary

Andy MacGregor

B.B. Editor

Mike Luckwill (from Jan 1970)

Caving Report Editor

Dave Irwin

Printing Department (B.B.)

John Riley

Postal Department (B.B.)

Dave Smith

Typing and Production of Caving Reports

Gordon Tilly

Joan Bennett and

Sybil Bowden Lyle

Hon. Librarian

Dave Searle

Tackle Store Keys held by :

Jock Orr, John Riley, Alan Thomas, Norman Petty, Dave Searle and Dave Irwin.

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet: Andy MacGregor will be dealing with all requests for trips into the cave.


Quote for the Month: Overheard at the Shepton Mallet – ‘The W.C.C. and the S.M.C.C. are to play for the B.E.C. Ashes’.



Your present Editor, writing his penultimate notes for the B.B., is now on the run-down towards the hand over of the Club Journal to Mike Luckwill at the end of December. Producing a monthly Journal, such as ours is an extremely rewarding task;  this is even more so when material is freely available.  I might say that I have been lucky and that members have responded splendidly in this respect.  During the last two years articles have flown in at such a rate to keep the B.B. to its present size.  Obviously, too much material can be embarrassing which eventually produces long hold-ups and so helps to encourage members not to write and the other extreme can be equally bad when no material is available as the finished product does not encourage members to send in their articles as the Journal is just not writing for.  To keep the balance the Editor of any Journal must be fully aware of what is happening in the caving scene and select the widest possible material to retain reader’s interest; even if it means going outside the Club membership for specialised material.  It is to be hoped that members will co-operate with Mike when he takes over in the same way that they have been with me.  To assist Mike I will be acting as a clearing house and will accept any member’s material for him so that it can be given to him on his monthly visit to Mendip – this will be the Committee meeting weekend.  The one great advantage that a publication, such as ours has over many others is that it is monthly and so can be really up to date with the news. The greatest piece of news gathering during my ‘term of office’ was without doubt the great flood of 1968  the B.B. contained this news in detail months before any other Journal in the Mendip area; as a result Mendip Caver; C.R.G. Newsletter and British Caver reprinted the article.  One of our competitors also produced a similar article some six months later but although they had much more time to gather material (in our case two evenings before printing) the information contained was little more than that in the B.B.  By being topical also helps to sell the B.B. – keep your ears to the ground and send any information that is heard to Mike and keep it full of news; it may not be the ‘plush’ publication of the other club; neither does it set too high a standard that all its material has to be original work – it is essentially a Club Journal that is up to date and as far as other Clubs are concerned a force to reckon with!

The next lap

The destruction of a caving club headquarters would in many cases meant the end of the club.  Many people forecast that this was the end of the B.E.C. when they heard of the news of the Belfry and were rubbing their hands with glee.  But the destructive forces to break up a club the size of the B.E.C. is much greater than merely burning down of their headquarters and the survival factor of a club is such that the new building is no longer a dream but a reality and will be the pride of the B.E.C. sometime in 1970.  To overcome the immediate accommodation problem the Changing Room has been converted into a cosy 9 bunk headquarters complete with cooking facilities and fire.  Members wishing to stay should book their bunks with Jock Orr (the Hut Warden) well in advance to avoid having to turn people away at the last moment.

The Belfry itself has been demolished and the timber that was salvageable stacked to one side of the site in readiness for the arrival of the builders.  Not only is the Belfry site well advanced to receive the new permanent building but the club is very much back to normal though several other changes have taken place.  The Seven Stars is now our Thursday evening haunt in place of the Waggon and Horses. Our long stay at the Waggon certainly caused a wrench but the final evening there went with a bang!  A last minute phone call to the Police ensured that the party could continue.  Continue it did – until about 2am on the Friday morning!  We would like to offer our sincere thanks to Mrs Suter for putting up with us for so long – about 15 years as far as I can gather – and offer our warmest 80th Birthday greetings to her.

The A.G.M and Dinner were both a great success; the latter particularly so.  One guest has been able to sum up the Dinner success when he told Alfie “It’ll take some other dinner a great deal of effort to beat this one!” On the other hand to the outside this was a pay, pay and pay Dinner as various methods were employed to raise money for the new Hut Fund.  The money contributed by members was a tribute to them but unfortunately we still have a long way to go before meeting our target of £700.  Please don’t let the idea drop at this stage and keep sending your contributions to Bob Bagshaw.  Pete Franklin is looking into various money raising events and if you have any ideas on the subject please contact him as soon as possible.  Three years go, when the plans of the permanent building were being discussed it appeared to members, including myself, as ‘Castles in the Sky’ and some £3,000 to go; now its only £500 or so to raise.

As to Caving and Climbing – these are well back on their feet again and work is getting underway on the reports – St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and Roman Mine.  Dam building for the next years sump bash has started again; the survey work has extended its arm into the Rabbit Warren Extension and the Main Chambers and several other smaller projects are again under way in and around the Mendip area.  Away meets, particularly the Yorkshire meets organised by Martin Webster are continuing (an account of the bottoming of the formidable Black Shiver Pothole appears in this issue).  A new caving programme will be published in next months B.B. together with Climbing programme details from ‘Fred’ Atwell, the new Climbing Secretary.

A Mendip Centenary

It’s not often that we have a centenary to celebrate with the Mendip Caving scene.  This year on the 4th November is the centenary of the birth of a man no Mendip caver has not heard of – HERBERT BALCH.  His books are still read avidly by all who cave on Mendip and one still wonders how they and his teams managed with such primitive tackle, to attack the swallets of Eastwater and Swildons and achieve what has been well documented in many books.  This year the B.B. will contain a series of articles dealing with the many facets of the man – the first appears this month by Alan Thomas.



Cave Photography

By Alan Coase

Caves and potholes present a challenge to the photographer which is both difficult and extremely rewarding.  As well as the obvious physical difficulties which might, for example, involves a 300ft. crawl with equipment though a tube more suited to an undersized worm than to a human being, there are problems of darkness, mud, condensation, grit, and carriage to be overcome.

The fact that one is working in a completely dark environment is of surprisingly little consequence.  Indeed, it might be regarded as an advantage, for the photographer is entirely in control of his lighting.  Problems of condensation can be minimised by the use of calotherm cloth (a few shillings from photographers or opticians) or the permanent fitted UV (ultra violet) filter. Use of an angle flash bracket-cum-pistol grip also reduces the handling of the camera body which can be further protected by construction of a neoprene rubber ever-ready case.  Carrying problems are best overcome by the use of surplus ammunition boxes which are cheap, waterproof and very strong.  These come in two sizes and can also be used to accommodate the necessary spares – lighting, food, first-aid, etc. – that should be carried on every trip.

Photography underground tends to take two forms.  It may be an incidental part of a general purpose trip for which the photographer might best aim at self-sufficiently – a small ammunition box, compact camera, small flash gun, etc. – or it may be a specifically photographic trip where the assistance of a willing team is essential.  Here more elaborate equipment, such as a more versatile camera, a really substantial tripod, and a quantity of large flashbulbs, etc, may be needed.

In the first category any camera can be used successfully though a clear viewfinder and full synchronisation are desirable.  In the second, greater versatility may be obtained though use of a camera in which the lenses are interchangeable.  In this respect I find a single lens reflex with a wide angle of view with the facility to use accessories for close-ups, etc.  It also gives up to 36 pictures on a cassette of 35mm film without having to reload – always difficult in a dark and dirty underground situation.  Space does not permit a full appraisal of suitable cameras but the folding roll-film camera deserves mention for it is very compact and is often obtainable very cheaply.

One further camera deserves mention for it is the only one specifically designed for such rugged conditions.  This is the Calypso-Nikkor II (formerly Nikonos) which is compact, completely waterproof, tough and easy to use.  Furthermore, is possesses very clear controls, an excellent viewfinder and a wide angle lens.  Regrettably its high price (over £100) is one of its chief disadvantages though second hand models should be found more cheaply.

Choice of flash equipment is also very important for it again should be compact and lightweight.  This tends to rule out the larger electronic outfits, which are also costly, but I find a small unit convenient for incidental photography, for close-ups and for fill in, or foreground illumination, on large shots.  By and large, however, bulb flash is more suitable.  It is initially cheaper, very much more powerful and fairly lightweight. A convenient method of firing off the gun is desirable, while one gun should be able to fire PF100 bulbs or similar.

Film choice is clearly a personal matter but a relatively fast film is desirable.  I have found FP4 Ilford (125 ASA) and Kodak High Speed Ektachrome (160 ASA) to my liking, although in terms of colour it is worth noting that very good and even faster colour transparency films (up to 500ASA) are now readily available (from ANSCO).

Equipment, however, is far less important than technique, many aspects of which are acquired through experience.  Certain general observations can be made however:

FLASH BULB AND ELECTRIC FLASH UNIT GUIDE NUMBERS – are computed for a ‘normal room’.  Caves rarely fit the specification; so numbers must be adjusted accordingly except where photographing very bright formations. I ‘down-rate’ guide numbers and/or film speeds very drastically – perhaps by a third in a modest sized passage but by even more in a large chamber.

Flash techniques:

1.                  Flash-on-the camera.  This is satisfactory, perhaps essential, for record and action shots but generally most undesirable, especially on formations which will appear flat and uninteresting.

2.                  Flash-off-the-camera.  It is far better to have the flashgun to one side – either on the camera bracket/pistol grip, or at arms length on an extension lead.  In some cases extreme lighting from the side, or even back lighting, can yield beautiful results.

3.                  Multi-flash techniques.  For these the camera must be set up on a tripod and a series of flashes fired. This may be done by:

a)                  Extensions leads giving synchronised flash (but suspect because damp, grit, etc., often short circuits the system and bulbs fire prematurely or not at all) or

b)                  A count-down in complete darkness by the cameraman with a number of bulbs being fired as near as simultaneously as possible, or

c)                  By ‘painting’ the chamber or passage with one flash gun being held and fired by a member of the team at predetermined points.  Lights again need to be doused so this technique cannot be recommended where large pitches occur!

With each of these methods the light source should normally be shielded, as far as possible placed away from passage walls where overexposure will result.  Care, too, should be taken to avoid ‘ghosts’.

The obvious rewards for all this effort lie in the incredible delicacy and beauty of formation, the purity of a new discovery or the importance of a first climb.  Less obvious, but of increasing importance, is the role of the cave photographer as a scientist or recorder, for many of Britain’s caves are being thoughtlessly desecrated.  He should bear in mind the ‘motto’ “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing behind but footprints” and also remember that competence as a caver comes before skill as a cave photographer.

Good luck – and watch out for the cave gremlins that always fill cameras and sockets with sand, and cause batteries and bulbs to fail just as you have got your models chest – deep in the lake!

(Reprinted from the Scouter with permission of the author).


Letter To The Editor

From Henry Oakeley, M.R.C.P.

Dear David,

Thank you for passing on Dr. Lloyd’s comments.  Some of his ‘smaller points’ echo my sentiments exactly; certainly his main point, that reading about the management of such emergencies is no substitute for practical experience, cannot be controverted.  In my article, I may have been unduly dogmatic in places, hoping thereby to avoid clouding the main issue with all the arguments (and their references too!).  Oliver’s first comment is an example of something which has arguments both ‘for’ and ‘against’, and I would bow to his personal, practical knowledge in this aspect of management of drowning.  I must thank him also for bringing to our attention that I have neither stressed the danger of ‘cold exposure’ sufficiently, nor made any mention of the ‘hot bath’ in its treatment.  I can say no more than that ‘cold exposure’ can kill you, quickly, un-dramatically, and irrevocably.  The ‘hot bath treatment’ is probably the best thing for reversing cold exposure. Victims of this will scald easily so do not make the bath hotter than you yourself can tolerate.  Death can occur during the re-warming process so the presence of a doctor is an advantage, but do not delay because of the absence of one.  At a certain stage in the progression of cold exposure the body will stop producing heat so effective insulation will not stop you from getting colder and only external heat will reverse the process.

There are two points which perhaps he misunderstood, which I would like to clarify.

Firstly, concerning the time before starting cardiac massage.  Following drowning most healthy young hearts will restart readily following the initiation of artificial respiration, without recourse to cardiac massage.  In inexperienced hands cardiac massage is quite dangerous, in experienced hands most of the victims suffer fractured ribs at least which may be so severe as to require continuous artificial ventilation until they heal up (i.e. days).  Cardiac massage performed on a beating heart may stop it.  A cold wet caver with no experience in feeling for a pulse may have the utmost difficulty in assessing whether a heart is beating when the pulse is very weak, so because of this and because of the dangers of cardiac massage, I would advise that massage should not be attempted until you have felt unsuccessfully for a pulse for a good half minute.  A one minute delay in starting cardiac massage is, in these particular circumstances, of less harm than performing it unnecessarily, but if you are experienced in assessing whether the heart is beating or not, then I would agree with Oliver that the earlier that you start the better.

Secondly, concerning the use of amphetamines.  I agree that there is good evidence that amphetamines are of benefit in improving endurance and performance in normal people and in people suffering from exhaustion due to lack of sleep.  Amphetamine taken by mouth takes two hours to act fully so it may, by its ability to improve feeling of well being and of raising morale, prevent the onset of cold exposure if taken in good time during a prolonged and arduous expedition. However, there is absolutely no evidence that it has any effect on reversing cold exposure once it has developed, and the undesirable side effects of amphetamine such as irrational behaviour, over activity and bizarre mental states would be detrimental to the safety of the affected individual and hasten his death.  Glucose is a first rate treatment and has no side effects; it would be wise to stick to this alone.

The conclusion which I hope that your readers will draw from this correspondence is that a few hours of practical experience in lifesaving techniques is worth far more than a millennium of collecting references in ‘learned journals’, and will proceed to emulate Dr. Lloyd and Barry Lane and enrol in a life saving course.

Henry Oakley, M.R.C.P.
St. Thomas’ Hospital, London.



By Mike Luckwill

The sources of information for the local historian are many and varied: local documents are preserved in libraries, town halls, planning offices, churches and museums, to say nothing of private wills, diaries and letters.  Old maps are, of course, an important source of knowledge and are usually available for reference at the local museum or library. Those who are interested in the recent history of Mendip, therefore, will probably be familiar with the Ordnance Survey 1” map in the Old Series, in particular Sheet XIX. The recent reprint of this sheet is now available and will undoubtedly enable those of us who have not had the time or inclination to look at before, to pass many evenings enjoying its details. 

Whilst not wishing to spoil the pleasure awaiting those who intend to purchase a copy, or who already have a copy, there are several points of interest in the Priddy area which I would like to mention in order to whet the appetite, perhaps, of future purchasers. Before we look at these, however, there are two points of general interest.  Firstly, local topography was surveyed with a compass and distances were measured by pacing; even so the errors are not, on the whole, greater than a quarter of a mile (cave surveyors take heart!).  Secondly, and perhaps of even more interest to cave surveyors; the surveyors, who were frequently hired locally, were paid by the square mile of satisfactorily completed survey.

Let us now look a Priddy. The first thing that strikes one is that Priddy and Priddy Green appear to be two distinct communities.  Priddy itself consisted of a rectangle of roads, some of which nowadays are only tracks.  Two sides of the rectangle are the present road from the Green and the first twenty yards of Nine Barrows Lane and the south-east corner of the rectangle was occupied by a church.  The road to Townsend stopped at Alan Thomas’ caravan (which appears to be marked) (is he that old? Ed.) and only continues as a track – Townsend did not exist a hundred years ago.  Ashton Drove continued from its present ending (it still continues as a footpath) and went down into Draycott, alternatively it was possible to turn left, into what is now a track known as the Broad Road, and go down into Stoke Rodney (which explains why there was no ‘local bloke’ in those days).  Stoke Wood is marked and the hill above was known as Stoke Warren; Westbury Beacon is marked at 875ft.; that has not moved.  While we are on the ‘Stokes’, the group of houses by the Shepton Hut was called Stoke Hill.

Although many of what were then tracks are now roads, we may take as an example of what was then a road, but is now only a track- Durston Drove.  It has no name on the map, but what is now Higher Pitts Farm was then called Durston.  From Durston a stream is marked flowing down Ebbor Gorge to meet another stream flowing in the valley by the side of Deer Leap (not marked).  In fact one of the first things one notices is that all the valleys on the edge of Mendip, with the exception of Burrington contain streams which rise near their heads.  One of the longest streams rises just below Tynnings Farm and flows into Rowberrow. One wonders how much of this detail was just a logical imagination of the ‘this is a valley, therefore it must contain a stream’ type; especially when one looks at the immense valley marked north of Wookey Hole and extends almost as far as Durston Drove: that certainly is not there today or its stream.  Whilst on the subject of streams we must remark on the complex of little streams in the Swildons area although no swallets are marked or named on the map; the name Wookey Hole is the only indication that there are any caves at all in the area!  The Mineries Pool is marked much further south than it is today – just about where the small depression is by the Belfry track, but no sign exists of the lead works.

This sheet is particularly wealthy as far as archaeological detail is concerned.  Nine Barrows are marked and so are Eight Barrows.  Four Priddy Circles are marked, but not the straight-line that we know them today.  Priddy Hill farm was not in existence and the hill, itself, was called West Hill; Priddy Hill being reserved for the hill to the South-west of Priddy Green.  The Geological Survey was founded in 1832, but the technique of producing electrotype copies of the engravings was not perfected until 1847; geological detail was thus added to the topographical map and consists of dip arrows, horizontal and contorted strata signs, and symbols for the major minerals.

One could go on and on, but I will leave you with a little more searching to do.  The Yeo was called Cheddar Water; the Sheppey was not named but Decoy Rhine was and the position of the decoy is marked.  The Hunters was not marked (shame – Ed.) even as a building, the Blue Bowl and the Castle of Comfort are named.  Younger readers may be surprised at the existence of Heron’s Green, but even older members have not dropped in to the Powder Mill at Moreton in order to charge their shotguns for an early morning on one of the numerous warrens: Charterhouse, Ubley warren, etc., nor will older readers remember Bishport being in the heart of the country (nowadays Bisopworth).  There is no doubt: for avid map readers, Sheet XIX is a must.

(For further details, see Vo.23 p.38 (March 1969 B.B.). 

In addition to Mike’s note in the March B.B. the following maps have now been published (sheets, flat or folded, 15/- ea. From David and Charles, Newton Abbott, Devon): -




Camelford & Hartland Point








Isle of Wight






Bath and Wells




Truro & Lizard Head




Exeter & Dartmouth












Barnstaple & Lundy Island














Club publications will be available at the annual dinner.

‘Alfie’s’ Spelaeodes  pt. 1 available at the annual dinner – 4/- ea.

Club ties are available from Bob Bagshaw – price @ 17/6 ea.

Club Car Badges are available from Bob Bagshaw @ 17/6 ea. 

Please be early for the A.G.M. – 10.30am.  see page 127 for details.

Potted notes on committee candidates on page 121.

November 4th is an important date for mendip cavers – see Nov. b.b.

Monthly Notes No.29

by ‘Wig’

Gargill Pot (best known as Twin Titty!)

A follow up note – diggers at the site have ‘relocated’ the draught that was felt during the digging of their original shaft.  According to my source of information this blast of air hasn’t diminished much when the hole was opened up.  What can be seen of the way on appears to be mud a choked bedding plane.

O.F.D. Survey.

The latest news I have of the publication of the survey and report is that it will be published sometime on November.  More details when received.

That CHAIN on the Swildons Forty!

The latest issue of ‘Descent’ contains a letter from the Tamesis Caving Club admitting that they installed the chain that disappeared late in August, at a cost of £4.  The greater part of the letter quotes your scribe from his article published last year in the July B.B. on the great Flood.  Then I wrote ‘The changes in the Water Rift have increased the chance of accidents.  Cavers entering the system will be encouraged to go further than they had previously….The lack of tackle….will produce dangers…..The Water Rift… should be treated with extreme caution under wet conditions’.  Well, these lads took my words to the limit and fixed a chain on the six foot climb at the bottom of the Forty Foot Pitch.  Unfortunately I didn’t mean to INSTALL fixed aids but that cavers should use their common sense and if the water conditions looked as though it might get worse, then they took in their OWN TACKLE for the duration of the trip. Further, if the water was already high then there is no earthly reason why one can’t carry 35ft. of ladder to the head of the Forty and place this in position as a safety factor.  It’s only 300ft. to the entrance.

SHATTER HOLE  ( Fairy Cave Quarry)

The original CRG Grade 1 survey of the cave showed it firstly running due south and just beyond Tor Chamber the remainder of the cave swung round to the east.  The new survey to C.R.G. Grade 6 being produced by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club shows the whole system running due south, actually entrance to end boulder choke gives a general bearing of 188.5o.  Just shows how wrong you can be!  The S.M.C.C. are also digging in a small side passage that leads down towards a stream – what happens next?

One hundred years ago, on the 4th November 1969, was born a man who was to in later life be the backbone of Mendip caving for many years.  Founder of Wells Museum; Discoverer of Swildons Hole, Eastwater Swallet and an ardent searcher for great master cave of Mendip – his name Herbert Balch.

To celebrate the centenary of his birth we are publishing a series of articles which collectively will outline the man’s achievements throughout the next twelve months.  The first now follows:


A Man of Mendip

by Alan Thomas

Cavers who never knew the late Herbert Balch are often apt to scoff.  I am putting these few recollections of him on record in the hope of showing what an essentially delightful character he was.  Some of his theories may be long since outdated and many of his exploits less heroic by modern standards but a human being he was larger than life.

He was, of course, an old man when I first knew him.  As a freelance caver at the end of the nineteen forties I used to call in at the Wells Museum to find out what was going on.  He was always willing to chat about the current caving scene and knew everybody connected with it.  In one such occasion he told me of the death of Pat Browne. Apparently a week or so before he was killed Pat told him of a cave he had discovered  on Eastern Mendip and had offered to tell him in strict confidence the location of it but Mr Balch had said, “Don’t tell me until you are ready to tell everybody.”  And so it was the cave was lost.

Later I knew him regularly on Saturday afternoons at the Badger Hole, his archaeological dig at Wookey Hole.  Mr Balch sat at the sorting table in the cave entrance whilst the rest of us dug and carried out buckets of material.  Many splendid finds were made.  Once one of the diggers brought a fragment of human skull with him and concealed it in one of the buckets.  The old man saw it, smiled and threw it into the spoil heap.  Asked how he knew it was not a genuine find, he said he had seen it before!

Once, in 1953, I went on the bus to Wells from Bristol to ask Mr Balch for a testimonial.  “Schoolmaster!” he said, “I’ll show you some schoolmastering! These boys from the Blue School came here yesterday.  They wrote their names all over my visitor’s book and stuffed pieces of paper into the slot of my little stop model.  The chief culprit is coming to see me shortly.  If you’re still here then you’ll see some schoolmastering!” Presently a boy of about twelve arrived and said “Mr Sellers sent me Sir.”

“Oh, you’re the boy who played about with my slot machine and wrote his name all over my visitors book. And not only that wrote it so badly that I can’t read it.  Go on read?”

“Roger Dors, Sir.”

“Well, Roger Dors….Dors? Dors of Hunters Lodge?  Oh, I know your father and your grandfather and, of course your poor cousin, Francis.  Well, Roger, there are things in this Museum…..”

Another incident occurred about this time that sticks in my mind.  Peter Bird of the Bristol Museum went to see Mr Balch on business.  Whilst he was there he was shown some pieces of new red sandstone containing a vertebrate fossil – “the oldest in the world and the first pieces ever found.”

“ I saw them about a fortnight ago” said Peter.  “Alan Thomas got it from an old man in a pub at Cheddar.”

“Now I know that your are mistaken, said Mr Balch.  “Alan Thomas is a nice boy; he doesn’t go into pubs.”

One final anecdote before closing: not many years before he died the B.E.C. invited him to the Annual dinner and received a very nice letter declining to accept and signed “Herbert Balch, 84 Not Out”.


Just Out

Northern Cave Handbook 1969.  Published by Council of Northern Caving Clubs. Obtainable  from J.R. Sutcliffe, 16 Ryelands Grove, Heaton, Bradford 9, Yorkshire.  PRICE 4/-

C.N.C.C.  Meets Secretaries are:

…for Leck Fell and Casterton…

F. Croll, 6 Byron Avenue, Bolton-le-Sands, Carnforth, Lancs.

…for Penyghent, Fountains and Mongo Gill…..

E.A. Shaw, Sough Lane Farm, Guide, Blackburn, Lancs.

Cavers Bookshelf

by Martin Webster.

CAVING by James Lovelock, published by Batsford at 25/-. 144 pp and photographs.

Yet another in the line of the nondescript books, attempting to put the novice caver on the best lines of safe caving.  In this capacity it is reasonable, although not outstanding.  It has some interesting suggestions and quire useful advice.  If you were to take all the equipment caving that Mr Lovelock suggests, however, at least a team of donkeys would be required!

Many of the ‘tackle’ illustrations have appeared in previous publications and one feels that the photographs could have been selected a little more carefully.


The 1969 Annual Dinner

By ‘Jock’ Orr

This year, for several reasons, the Club Committee decided to change the venue from the “Cave Man” in Cheddar to the Wookey Hole Restaurant.  The result was a sell out, and upon the date arranged, approximately 150 people descended upon the restaurant and proceeded to generate that special blend of B.E.C. conviviality that guarantees the success of any occasion they attend, wherever it may be.

Most of the diners announced their satisfaction with the catering arrangements, layout of tables, quality of food, access to the bar; and commented favourably on the more intimate atmosphere engendered by the dim lighting.  But, as usual, speed of service, the performance of the wine waiter, depending on, it would seem, where you happened to be sitting, provoked an element of complaint within the general cordiality of the occasion, accompanied by protest over the price of 25/-.

In fairness to the restaurant management, the cost of preparing, organising and staffing an event of this kind is not quite the same as providing an ordinary day-time meal service to the general public.  Very few, if any, establishments will provide a dinner at standard prices and include several hours use of the premises into the bargain!  In short, the price is for the function; and not just for the Dinner.

On a more cheerful note, the Pete Franklin Show gotr an enthusiastic reception from the audience, who joined in the last chorus and expressed their appreciation with typical B.E.C. Gusto.  Alfie Collins’ lyrics were great!  ‘Zot’ Harvey, John Riley, Barry Wilton and Oliver Lloyd gave outstanding performances as the leading characters.

Having by now become elevated into a mood of jovial sociability, everybody supplied everybody else with liberal quantities of brewers lubrication and proceeded to the main business of the evening, while the Hon. Sec. took up his customary stance on a table and blared his voice across the heads of the assemble company cajoling all present to support the nefarious activities of Barry ‘The Artful Cadger’ Wilton who was busily filling up his hat with money.

Later on, the Hon. Sec. was observed chatting to various people about the acquisition of a set of priceless photographic prints, and the Artful Cadger was up at the bar negotiating further contributions out of change from rounds of refreshments.  Their combined efforts and the generosity of the subscribers brought in a collection for the new Belfry fund much to the surprise of the Hon. Treasurer and the A.G.M. Chairman (Sett) who both expressed their delighted satisfaction with the response from the Club members.  To round off the evening, and at the invitation of Alan Thomas, many people returned to the burned-out shell of the Belfry and held a farewell barrel-party-cum-wake which continued with due ceremony and honour to the memory of the old ‘shed’ until the early hours of the morning.

Altogether, one of the most successful BEC dinners ever, and one which will set a high standard for the forthcoming season!  And last, but by no means least, congratulations to the ladies for their decorative and charming company.


Address changes and additions

address changes = +

+A. Kennet, 92 West Broadway, Henlease, Bristol.

7123 D.A. Byers, 301 Cressex Road, High Wycombe, Bucks.

+704 D. Metcalf, 5 Caryer Close, Orton, Longueville, Peterborough, Northants.

436 J. Hill, 14c High Street, Lower Cam, Nr. Dursley, Gols.

619 K. Barnes, Officers Mess, 17 TRC regt. R.A., Woolwich, London.


Photographs of the Belfry, taken the day after the fire, are available to members at £1 a set of 11. These were taken by Dave Turner and the profits from the sale of these sets will be added to the Hut Fund.  The various pictures show views both inside and outside the building and the extent of the damage is clearly shown.  The boxed ‘Bertie’ on the door, which was extensively damaged, is also subject of one of the photographs.  Members wishing to purchase a set shout contact Dave Turner, 12 Westbourne Place, Clifton, Bristol 8 as soon as possible.  Separate prints available at 2/- each.


If events work out as the Committee hope, then the new Belfry can be built by Christmas but details elsewhere.  We shall need a considerable amount of furniture and internal fittings.  If you have anything at all which will be of use please let Alan Thomas know fairly soon.  As most people will know by now that Alan has bought a cottage in Priddy and he has kindly offered to store any items of furniture in his large shed there. If you are not able to bring the material to Mendip then it might be possible for someone to come and collect it. The more important items that are required takes the form of tables; dining chairs; wardrobes; crockery, eating irons, and bathroom fittings that would be suitable for the showers.


The conversion of the changing rooms into a temporary Belfry is almost complete and members will be able to move in within the next few weeks.  The accommodation holds nine people, cooking facilities; electric lighting is now on thanks to Doug Parfitt who came up during the week after the Dinner and rewired the building, the roof has been waterproofed by John Riley and his team of helpers and in addition Jock with his Scots determination has demolished the wooden Belfry ready for Fred Owen to move in when the lights switch to green.  Walt Foxwell has been asked to have his new track in operation by 20th October and the cattle grid at the entrance to the Belfry car park will be laid.




Black Shiver Pot – Success!

By Martin Webster

Following our two ‘reconnaissance’ trips earlier this year, it was decided to have another go at bottoming this rather notorious Yorkshire Pot during the August Bank Holiday. After several evenings at the ‘Shepton’ sorting out the men from the micromen, and as there were no applicants, as a result of the ‘advertisement’ in the BB we eventually ended up with a team compromising of Roy Bennett, Martin (Milch) Mills, Bob Craig, Bill Tolfree and myself, all of which we agreed had a reasonable chance of negotiating the entrance passage, which is, to say the least, rather tight.  So, after much thought the dates and times were set and the dreaded day drew near!

So it came to pass, on the morning of Saturday 30th August 1969, a small team of budding ‘Black Shiverites’ could be seen staggering up over Black Shivers Moss with great unwieldy loads on their backs, heading over, what was by then a well trodden route for some of the group.  A little while later Roy and Joan Bennett appeared.  Roy having stopped to don his caving gear.  So the caving team and the surface party (Joan) were both complete.  The tackle was sorted into reasonable looking loads, and after a quick check of personal gear, one by one our intrepid band disappeared down the ‘pot’.

The 10” high entrance crawl only had some 4” of water in it this time.  The first problem came when the 11” high rope bag refused to go through, but after a hefty kick, and a few curses, we managed to crush it into the slightly longer passage beyond.  The 7” high squeeze was not quite as hard as we thought because with someone lying in it most of the tackle could be passed through.

Some 200ft. of rather demoralising crawl later we emerged in the first sizeable passage and were soon at the head of the first pitch.  The ladder was hung though a small hole on the left and belayed round a convenient boulder.  Although this made an awkward take-off it prevented us getting a soaking as quite a large stream flows through the cave ensuring all the pitches are very wet. The first drop is about 28ft. but a 45ft. ladder is used so the next pitch of 17ft. can be done as well.  The second pitch has to be reached through a tight slit which again makes the take-off difficult.

The huge mound of tackle was soon ferried down the two pitches (care should be taken not to lose any in the rather deep pool at the bottom) so Bill and I raced on to ladder the next 31ft. deep Blood Pot.  The passage between the pitches mainly takes the form of a tight rift in this part of the system, so the transportation of gear tends to be a little arduous!  Blood Pot again had a nasty step onto the ladder, and care had to be taken not to knock the belay off the precarious ‘perch’ it had been hung around!  This again was in two stages of 18ft. and 13ft. and leads into a slightly larger passage at the bottom.  Little time was wasted and we were soon at the next 13ft. pitch.  Here the stream pours down into what is known as Black Dub, a murky looking pool some 25ft. across.  This pool is surprisingly deep, as Bill found out when he fell off the ledge we were traversing along to avoid plunging onto the pool.  Again tackle would be very difficult to find if lost here.

At first the way on is not obvious but on closer inspection a low crawl in water can be found at the far end of Black Dub.  This was followed to the head of Thunder Pot, a 17ft. drop.  At the bottom of which we could see a platform, and beyond this a huge spray swept abyss, disappearing into the darkness – the Black Rift.

Once again, the great pile of ladders were uncoiled and threaded, one by one, through a crawl to the left of the platform, to a sloping stance called the Eagles Nest.  Only 80ft. of laddered initially so that we could descend to a series of ledges and re-route the ladders thus allowing a reasonably dry climb to be made.  The pitch as far as the ledges is quite good, being against the rock all the way and with the steam thundering down some 20ft. to the left.  The take-off at the top was once again tricky as the ladder tended to stick into a crack, making the first 5ft. a climb on the belay, rather than on the ladder.

The ledges were soon reached and after an easy traverse out to some large crumbling boulders, which were bridging the gulf, the ladders were pulled across and threaded through a hole between them.  As no reasonable belay point could be found the ladder was temporarily pulled back up enough to make the 80ft. pitch ‘free’ again enabling Bill to descend to the ledge. The final 180ft of the Black rift was a very fine climb, being free hanging all the way, with finely scalloped water washed walls some 5ft. to 10ft. away.

Bill soon joined me at the bottom and together we set off along the spray swept vault, under the main waterfall and through a low duck at the end of the rift into a high passage beyond. The streamway continues on the left at this point and much of the 250ft. to the next 25ft. drop has to be done on hands and knees.  Some of the formations in this passage are quite exquisite, being in the form of straws and helictites.  The beautiful clean appearance of everything was ample proof that few people have yet ventured into this superb cave!

The pitch was quite wet and led into the only chamber in the cave, which had a mud slope to the right and a precarious looking boulder pile leading to a high continuation on the left. The stream flowed on beneath the rocky floor, re-emerging in a passage on the far side of the chamber.  From here the streamway becomes larger and several small waterfalls were climbed until at last the final canal was reached and we had the honour of scribbling our initials in a mud bank at the far end (later to be obliterated when Roy climbed all over it!).  Halfway back along the canal Bill noticed a hole in the left hand wall below the waterline, which is most likely the way on for anyone who would like a 200ft. + dive into Meregill!

By the time we had reached the top of the 280ft. pitch Bob had decided not to bother going to the bottom of the cave as his ultra thin wet suit, which he had worn so he could get through the 7” squeeze, was not keeping him particularly warm.  So while Bob, Bill and myself lifelined, Roy and Milch started off to the bottom.  After what seemed an age they arrive back and after a great amount of shouting, of which little could be understood due to the roar of the waterfall, the two offending articles were hoisted to the top (apparently, someone had forgotten the whistle code!!).

The tackle was soon retrieved and a start made for the surface.  While the others went ahead with a tackle I stayed behind to de-tackle each pitch as we came to it.  In this way rapid progress was made and we were soon at the ‘hole in the wall’ which marks the start of the long crawl.

By now the pace was slowing and we were all glad when the final corner was turned and the low water filled entrance arch came into sight, and so after 10½ hours of excellent caving we scrambled up the final ‘pot’ under a star-studied sky and out onto the rolling Yorkshire moor bathed in moonlight.

Technical Note: -

This cave should only be tackled by people capable of at least 6½” on the Shepton ‘squeeze machine’. They should also be capable of climbing 200ft. wet pitches reasonably easily.  Throughout the cave there are signs of very rapid flooding (the Leeds University exploration team became trapped, when, within 5 minutes the whole cave became impassable.  Luckily they were in one of the few safe spots in the cave when it occurred.  They were, all the same, trapped for 18 hours!).  WHISTLES and KARABINERS are essential for Black Rift.

Ladders Needed: -

1st. Pitch--------46ft.

Blood Pot-------31ft.

Black Dub------13ft.

4th. Pitch-------17ft.

Black Rift------26ft. with 300ft. lifeline.

6th Pitch--------25ft.

A travelling lifeline is needed for lowering tackle.  An assortment of belays should be taken.  Up to 10ft. lengths are useful.  NOTE If cavers respect this system and use their common sense a very fine trip can be had.  DO NOT leave anything to chance!

REF: - U.L.S.A. Review No.2.


Half a Minute

(An account of the Annual general Meeting taken from the Official minutes)

This year, a new departure from the usual arrangements was made, by the circulation in the B.B. of as many of the club officer’s reports as were available previous to the meeting. The intention was to cut down the lengthy business of having each club officer read his report to the meeting. The method seemed to work well, and it is planned to extend it next year to include all the officers’ reports.

In view of this, the writer felt that perhaps a corresponding change in the way that the A.G.M. is written up in the B.B. might be equally a good idea, so this account will be found to be on less formal lines than previously, and to deal with what actually went on, rather than to include such details as who proposed and who seconded each motion, the general idea being to make the account a trifle more readable.

The Chairman (Sett) – after the usual call for ballot papers, members’ resolutions and the election of tellers for the ballot – was thus able to take most of the club officers’ reports as read and dispense with most of the preliminaries.  The remainder of the reports were dealt with in the usual way, and all reports were open to discussion of members present so wished.  In fact, the reports from the Hon. Sec., the Caving Sec., the Tacklemaster, the Hut Engineer and the Hon. Librarian aroused no comment.

The main features of the discussion which arose from the Hon. Treasurer’s report centred on the way in which the clubs financial position was presented to members.  Some members said that it was not easy to obtain a picture of the position of each facet of the club’s activities.  For example, the Belfry appeared to have been operated at a considerable loss, as did the caving publications, yet the officers responsible assured the club that this was not the case.  Items like the Ian Dear Memorial Fund did not appear, and so on.

The Treasurer said that he was well aware of the position, and that he was taking steps to improve the presentation of the club’s financial state.  He reminded members that it was not easy to do this, because many of the items came in too late to be included.  To quote the earlier examples, he has received monies from both the Belfry and Caving Publications and it was true that both these activities were in a better state than appeared on the accounts.  Subscriptions also tended to come in late, and this appeared to be a tradition of the Club.  The Chairman said that all club officers must co-operate with the treasurer if any meaningful accounts were to be compiled, and that the tradition of being behind with subscriptions was a thoroughly bad one, which all members should try to eliminate.

The Hut Warden came in for some criticism, to which he replied with some spirit.  It was, however, generally agreed in the discussion which followed that the absence of recorded Belfry attendances; receipts and expenditures was not in line with past practice or with good accounting technique.  After a further lively discussion the report was adopted with the rider that ‘The Committee ensure an effective Hut Warden, bearing in mind the comments of this meeting!’

A vote of thanks was recorded to the retiring Editor of the B.B. (Dave Irwin).  On the subject of the B.B. and of Caving Publications, the Editor was able to announce that all sales records had been broken and that the entire club publications were within a few pounds of paying for themselves, even including the B.B. postage.  This effort is obviously of great help in the Club’s present financial position.

A vote of thanks was also recorded to the Hut Engineer (John Riley) who continues in office and faces an even more difficult task than the one he has performed so well.  A vote of thanks was also recorded for Alfie’s preparation of the new constitution.

After the reports, the Chairman dealt with Committee and member’s resolutions.  The first of these – a proposal to widen the Cuthbert’s Leader system to include clubs all over the country – was referred to the 1970 Committee.

The second – to pass the new constitution, including a few minor amendments, was passed after a short discussion with voting 32 -2 in favour.

A resolution defining the position of the Editor of the B.B. was, after some discussion, taken in an amended form.  It was agreed that ‘The Editor of the B.B., if not a full member of the Committee, be automatically co-opted as a non-voting member!’  This was carried 26 – 13.

A resolution that ‘This club deplores the proliferation on national and regional bodies concerned with caving’ was carried by 40 – 4.

Finally came the item that most members had been waiting for.  The plans for replacing the burnt-out Belfry.  Alfie began by recounting the history of our grant application and concluded that our efforts were not going to succeed and that money from this source should be discounted.  He drew member’s attention to the broadsheet ‘After the Fire’ which had been circulated at the A.G.M.  Contained in this was a Committee resolution to be put to the meeting.  The Chairman said that this was all good background information, and that a full discussion should now proceed before this – or any counter resolution be put to and voted on by the meeting.  A long discussion followed, centred mainly on the club’s present and expected financial position.  The resolutions were broken into to separate resolutions, but both were eventually carried, the first non. con. And the second by 28 – 2.  The resolutions were: -

“Provided that the Committee is satisfied that the club has received a sum from the insurance and from further donations to a minimum of £1,600; it proceeds forthwith with the erection of the building as agreed at the 1967 A.G..M.”

“Alternatively, a special committee be set up with the following terms of reference: ‘To examine the situation arising from the destruction of the Belfry by fire and to produce for the future accommodation of the B.E.C. at the Belfry site, bearing in mind the best interests of the club in both the short and long term. This committee is instructed to publish his findings IN WRITING to all club members by a date no later than the first of April 1970 and to arrange their proposal to lie within the financial limits as determined at the time by the 1970 committee’”

A discussion as to whether we should borrow the Ian Dear Memorial Fund for financing the Belfry resulted in a resolution to do this being carried 19 – 18.  In view of the closeness of this vote, the Chairman called for a recount in which the voting was 20 – 20.  The Chairman used his casting vote in favour of the resolution with the rider that interest is to be paid back as well as the capital and that all applications for grants under the fund continue to be granted where applicable.

The meeting was declared closed by the chairman at 3.00pm.

S.J. Collins, Minutes Sec.


October Committee Meeting

The 1970 Committee got away to a business–like start on the day after the A.G.M. at a meeting with all members present.  Officers have been elected (see page 128) and ‘Fred’ Atwell co-opted as Climbing Secretary in the absence of any other member to do this job.  Full minutes are being sent to each member of the Committee – together with definite actions, which all have agreed to treat very seriously. The 1970 Committee have also agreed that they hold a collective responsibility for the discharge of all the duties of their members.  They realise that they are faced with what could well be the most difficult year in the Club’s history and are resolved that, at any rate, they will not fail through any lack of organisation.

John Carter, Graham Wilton-Jones and Gordon Rowels were elected to membership of the club.

Most of the Committee’s time was, somewhat naturally, taken up with plans for the new Belfry.  In brief, the financial position now looks possible – although there must be no slackening off in efforts from ALL MEMBERS to contribute in every possible way and, providing we get the insurance offer to GO AHEAD and start building on Monday the 20th October 1969.  The Committee position, which will of course include the position of work on the new hut, will be reported to all members monthly in the B.B.

S.J. Collins, Minutes Sec