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A copy of B.E.C. Caving Report No.4 – The Shoring of Swallet Cave Entrances was found at the Downs end of Parry’s Lane in Bristol. The copy was returned to Bryan Ellis via his old address at North Petherton and on to Combwich.  No name was given of the sender with the note inside – who ever it may be I offer on behalf of the owner my sincere thanks.  It would appear that relations between caver and general public are not as bad as many would make out.

Should any reader think that this may be his copy of the Caving Report contact Dave Irwin.

Thinking of Christmas Presents?

When you are working out how much you are going to spend on Christmas presents this year why not included on your list a Christmas present for the New Belfry Fund?  Remember the appeal that went out in early October for £700 – well we still need about £400 - £500.  Come on give a few more shillings – they all count towards the final sum.

Remember, when the plan was first passed by the 1967 A.G.M. the idea of a new Belfry was £3,000 away – and never likely to materialise – NOW IT’S ONLY £400 - £500 away - £2 per member instead of about £15 per member.  If you can’t afford money why not contribute something to help furnish the building: - chairs, wardrobes, knives and forks, cup, plates, etc., etc.

‘Tratty and the Twenties’

The U.B.S.S. Presidential address was address of fascination and amazement to many who were present; carrying of half-plate camera, tripods, flashpowder guns, 40ft. ladders weighing 56lb., well dressed in as much woollen clothing as possible, cloth caps and carrying a candle with the free hand!

Professor Tratman gave a superb picture of caving in the ‘20’s’ and accompanied his lecture with slides showing not only rare photographs of Swildon’s Hole but many illustrating the work carried out by the Society at the time; digging at Tynnings Swallet; the first party emerging from Read’s Grotto; archaeological work in Read’s Cavern among others.  Pity Peter Johnson missed these!

At the time of the formation of the U.B.S.S., there were only two other caving organisatrions in the whole of the West of England; The M.N.R.C. and Sidcot School where most of their caving was carried out in the Burrington Coombe area – Goatchurch in particular.  One of the problems at the time was public attitude to cavers – at best they were never considered one of the community – particularly when they were seen dressed in muddy clothing on a Sunday morning.  Transport was another problem; push bikes and train service to Banwell. It appears they cycled to Mendip laden with their gear; and when Swildon’s was open for a trip ladders had to be carried out as well!  The ladders were rope and wooden rungs, the rungs being lashed to the rope sides of the ladder.  Lifelines were always used and the smallest size rope available to them was 1½” hemp (sisal and manila not being available at the time).

Early work carried out by the Society was inevitably based at the nearest point to Bristol, particularly when one was cycling carrying all the gear including digging implements and Tratty described his adventures in the first descent of Read’s Cavern and the difficulties of the tight rifts found in Tynning’s Farm Swallet which he explored with ‘Bertie’ Crook.

The attitude of cavers in those far off days were a revelation.  It was a regular thing to attempt to get out of the cave without a light; with candles as the only form of illuminant they had the annoying tendency to go out fairly often – particularly when climbing the 40’.  As one caved under these conditions so various schemes were put into operation to overcome these problems that might befall you. Candles, for example, were left burning at strategic points in the system.  Listening to Dr. Tratman one would think that caving standards are lower now than they were in those far off days – and I think he’s probably right considering the number of people that need pulling out of the Mendip caves because they feel cold!  What if there were no M.R.O.?


“Who seeks adventure finds blows”  -  Herbert.