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Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston s Mare, Somerset.
Hon Treas: - R.J. Bagshaw, 699 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.
EDITOR:  D.J. Irwin. 23 Camden Road, Bristol 3.


…and for your Christmas reading we offer the largest Belfry bulletin ever published – some 40 pages containing material from all quarters.

Accounts of this years visits to foreign parts including Austria, Ireland and France.  ‘Alfie’ concludes his series on the Route Severity Diagram and adds his usual Christmas contribution which is in competition with ‘Jok’ Orr’s piece of fiction ‘A Season of Goodwill’.  Jok tells me in passing that he had to do ‘one ‘ell of a lot of swotting for this piece of work – the auld cool!’  And for Mendip readers an account of the discoveries of Cuthbert’s 2 fills the exploration and new work – also an article by ‘Prew’ on the exploration of Shatter Hole – the latest of the big finds in Fairy Cave Quarry.



A letter from John Riley (page 183) raises an important point for discussion.  If a group of cavers are working a site of caving interest and are rewarded with a discovery small or large, do they have sole right of exploration?  This problem has not been with the Mendip community since the discovery of Nine Barrow Swallet.  In that particular instance cavers other than the digging teams explored the cave before the others had a chance to get to the cave.  Arguments put forward by some of the ‘trespassing’ explorers were ‘Well, I dug here in 1962’ (six years previously) and ‘Oh, well no-one seemed interested in pushing the place’.  Now with the discovery of St. Cuthbert’s 2 all and sundry are prepared to invade the place and push like ‘hell’ under the guise of ‘just having a look round at what you have found’.

Ever since I have been caving on Mendip, the B.E.C. above all has always attempted to keep to a high standard set of caving rules including the one that goes like this, ‘If you have found a new cave or extension then it’s your good luck – let me know when I can go and have a look’.  Unfortunately, even members of the B.E.C. are appearing to be above the law and pushing passages in the new section of St. Cuthbert’s 2.  I can only add – give the team a chance to ensure that the passing of the sump (Sump 1) is safe for tourist parties and push their discovery to its limit.  This will take most of the winter but please be patient; and above all it is hoped that the rest of the Cuthbert’s leaders will show the high standard of caving ethics that is expected of them.

It’s on the way up!

November 12th 1969 proved to be another landmark on the History of the B.E.C. for on that day the much talked about, much planned and much sweated for NEW BELFRY foundation trenches were dug. Members will no doubt be regularly visiting Mendip to inspect the building during its various stages of erection and to see just what they are getting for their money.  By close inspection of the plans and seeing the size of the ground plan it appears that we shall have nothing less than a very fine club ‘hut’.  A ‘hut’, although costing over £3,200, that will be both comfortable and functional. A ‘hut’ where there will be plenty of room for everyone to carry out his own personal requirements without falling over everyone’s feet.  As with all improvements they cost more to keep up.  The running costs of the new Belfry is likely to double those of the wooden building and so it is essential that the fullest possible use is made of the place in the future.  All one can add to this is ‘As a member of the B.E.C., why not spend an occasional weekend at the Belfry and meet the current crowd on Mendip – it hasn’t changed much and is just as friendly!  (For further details see ‘Just-a-Sec below.)

Finally Christmas is near and members will be whooping it up but the B.B. doesn’t close shop for any holiday but this is where I pack up and Mike Luckwill takes over – the best of luck Mike – and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers.



Just – a – Sec.

With Alan Thomas.

At last we have the news we have been waiting for.  The erection of the new Belfry has begun.  The builder was given the go ahead on Tuesday 11th November and work begun on the 12th.  The reason for the delay was because we could not go ahead until we had a definite answer from the Pearl Insurance regarding the claim on the old Belfry.

The fact that work has begun does not mean that we have raised all the money needed but the difference has been guaranteed in the form of loans from certain members.  If we need to take up these loans they will have to be repaid and this could keep the Club short of money for a few years.  I expect most of the promises made at the dinner have now been paid but if there are any outstanding Bob will be pleased to receive them.

Pete Franklin is in charge of fund raising.  One of his schemes is a ‘Stop the clock’ competition which will require all of us to sell tickets to our friends.  We must all have a go ourselves – we might win a wrist watch – if we don’t we’ll get a new Belfry.  Anyone else with money making schemes should contact Pete.

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Despite one or two shortcomings this year it has been decided to book next year’s Dinner at the Wookey Hole Caves Restaurant and try to iron out problems with the management. If you have any complaints about this year’s Dinner let’s hear them.

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We now have copies in the Library of the Cambrian Caving Council Handbook.  Members who may wish to purchase their own copy may do so from N.S.J. Christopher, Crial Lodge, Gentle Street, Frome, Somerset at 2/6.

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Similarly the Southern Council’s Handbook is available from Dr. O.C. Lloyd, Withey House, Withy Close West, Wetbury-on-Trym, Bristol at 2/6.

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The B.E.C. has recently been elected as a Club representative on the Committee of the Cave Research Group.

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When the erection of the New Belfry commences there will be weekly committee meetings at 8.00pm on Thursday evenings at Wig’s flat.

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Bob Bagshaw has a number of Club ties for sale at 17/6 ea.  And at £1 if you wish to donate a further 2/6 to the Hut Fund.  Unlike the other Club’s ties that lose their emblems after washing the B.E.C. ‘Bertie’ is guaranteed to stick like other good commodities.

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The next part of the report on St. Cuthbert’s Swallet – the complex Rabbit Warren will be published during December 1969.


November Committee Meeting

Somewhat naturally, the business of replacing the Belfry continued to dominate the business of the Committee.  Unfortunately, no reply in writing has yet been received, and thus the building was not able to start on the 20th October, as originally hoped.  However, a modest start has been made in having the cattle grid installed and the remains of the Belfry demolished.

In spite of continually rising costs, the Committee have still authorised the start of building during the month if the insurance offer comes through.  If there is no reply before the next meting, then the position will have to be reviewed.

The Hut fund continues to rise, although rather slowly.  The Committee are considering every possible way of making money, and ALL SUGGESTIONS FROM MEMBERS WIIL BE GRATEFULLY RECEIVED.  One scheme will be announced shortly.  On the brighter side, it appears that the Committee will be about able to fit out the new building at considerably less cost than it had been feared.

It has been agreed that, while the actual building is going on, the Committee will meet EVERY WEEK so that decisions can be rapidly taken as required.

Alan Tringham, Geoffrey Moore and Martin Bishop were elected to membership of the Club.

S.J. Collins,
Minutes Secretary.

Address Changes and Additions

Alan Bonner, 14 Monkseaton Drive, Whitley Bay, Northumberland.
718       A. Tringham, North Longwood, Beggar Bush Lane, Failand, Nr. Bristol.
719       M. Hauan, 24 Elberton Road, Sea Mills, Bristol, BS9 2QA.


Sorry to have to remind you all but your subscriptions will be due on the 31st January 1970.  Please make a determined effort to get them sent in on time – every penny counts.  Please enclose your membership card with your subscription and preferably an S.A.E. so that Bob has no excuse for a quick reply!  Subscription 15/- still one of the cheapest on Mendip when one considers that 12/6 is the actual sub and the other 12/6 is for the building fund; a levy that will be removed sometime in the next few years. Come pay and look cheerful!


Odds and end…

Cuthbert’s leaders meeting: Flood drainage to be improved at the entrance.  Maypole Series to remain closed for ‘bug’ collecting – helpers required.



Its out at last!!!

THE LONG AWAITED Part 1 of ‘Alfies’ S)P)E)L)A)E)O)D)E)S) with cartoons by ‘Jok’ Orr.

4/-  + 9d.  p &  p.

includes the tales of: -

Freddy Fry who attempts to dry out Stoke Lane

Kenneth Lyle and his Caving Machine

Sammy Smayle and his cider drinking exploits.

Limited edition so order as soon as possible and make sure of your copy.

PART TWO expected early 1970 and includes tales of Walter Wade; Gilbert Grough; Gordon Gripe and Jimmy Truckles. Place your order now. More details on the January issue of the B.B

Caving Reports

No.13. Part A.  St. Cuthbert’s Swallet (a B.E.C. best seller).

“Discovery Exploration”  photographs and 38 pages of text.  Price 6/-. (only a few left - and that’s a fact!).

No.13. Part F.  St. Cuthbert’s Swallet – Gour Hall area.

Complete description and survey.  Photos and survey notes.  PRICE 3/-.

No.13. Part E.  St. Cuthbert’s Swallet – Rabbit Warren.

Complete description and survey.  Photos and survey notes.  PRICE 5/-. (Published mid-January 1970).

Further details of new Caving Reports in next issue of B.B.

Caving Reports and Belfry Bulletins available from Bryan Ellis, Knockauns, Combwich, Bridgwater, Somerset OR Dave Irwin, 23 Camden Road, Bristol 3.

Cavers Bookshelf

by ‘Kangy’

“From Sea to Ocean”, by J.M. Scott published by Bles at 30/-.

I bought this book, just after publication this year, before my holidays.  It describes walking along the Pyrenees and that was were I went.

I fact it wasn’t much use as a guide and I don’t recommend anyone buying it for that purpose.  It was however of great use as a piece of inspiration and have read and reread it before and after visiting some of the places the author describes.  It is not a profound book, the author’s mountaineering limitations prevent this, but a humorous and sympathetic book.  A book which makes it easy to go and see and appreciate.

“ Palaeolithic Cave Art” by Peter J. Ucks and Andrew Rosenfeld (of University College London and the British Museum). Published by World University Library in paperback for 14/-

My immediate impression, substantiated in practice was a fatiguing layout.  The figures and illustrations are all over the place giving the book an attractive appearance and inviting browsing.  In fact browsing is hindered and understanding limited because the figures are neither in one place for ease of reference nor next to the relevant text.  This is serious because frequent reference is made to the figures.  In addition the book is difficult to use because of the method of binding.  It will not stay open.  Reading is a fight.  The index does not help.  A larger format would help to display the many beautiful illustrations to better effect.  Better binding and a larger format would make a book costing many times more but it would be well worth while for, in spite of my strictures, the book is remarkable value for money.

Previous books I have read on the subject have been full of naïve wonder and far fetched speculation. Ucks and Rosenfeld have read all these and more and after clear analysis makes common sense of the whole thing, presenting what seems to be all the available evidence and pointing to a conclusion in a very reasonable way.

They are constructive in their criticism and indicate many possible lines of research.  For example, they draw attention to the need for exploration of known important sites.  Scarcely any accurate surveys exist!  The necessity for surveys is made obvious in the text.

They are rightly cautious on the use of ethnographic parallels.  After reading “The Naked Ape” I’m influenced enough to be even more cautious about drawing conclusions from ‘primitive’ peoples but their conclusions are fair.

Perseverance with this book is easy in spite of the obstacles caused by the production of this book.  The contents are excellent.


Ahnenschacht 1969

By Alan Thomas

We realised that there was little the advance party, consisting of Colin Priddle (Pope), Ian Daniels and myself, could do as we would have no gear.  In the event, however, the advance party was found to be useful as well as enjoyable.

To begin with we found that our friends, the Koglers, were no longer in charge of the Höchkogelhütte – though we managed to spend an enjoyable evening with them at their flat in Ebensee later.  It was then necessary to make friends with the new management as it seemed in doubt at first whether we would even be allowed to cook.  We soon found however that our new host, Gridi Hörhager was prepared to dispense with hospitality in the manner in which we were accustomed.

On Wednesday (30th July) the weather had changed for the worse and after a morning spent at the Hut we set out to investigate a hole on the path some distance below which I had noticed last year and which might be a lower entrance to the Ahnenschacht.  We soon found that though there were several holes from which powerful cold draughts emerged most of them were too small to get in. It was not long before Pope found a much more promising group of holes a little further down.  We pushed into several of these but were not able to do much at the time through lack of gear.

A large number of holes in the area have been noticed by the Landesverein für Hohlenkunde and their national catalogue number painted by the entrance.  Not all of these numbered caves have been explored and some of them are very small indeed.  It was rather surprising, therefore, that there were no numbers painted on the holes that Pope found as they were very close to the path.  Two possible explanations occur: first that they are not easily seen form the path and that secondly that people coming up the path are on their way to the hut and not really casting about looking for holes.

On Saturday 2nd August, Pope and I walked to the top of Grunberg and in the wood immediately opposite the Hut and before reaching the slope of Grunberg we found another group of holes from which a cold draught could be felt.  Further investigations of these holes on subsequent occasions led to nothing.  We no longer have a great faith in a lower entrance but I think it is more likely that one of these holes would repay a Mendip-type pushing.

On Sunday, when we were walking to Hangercherkogel, we were met by Helmuth Planer and Walter from Linz.  Back at the Hut were Helena, Helmuth’s wife and Judi, his four year old daughter, they will be spending the week with us.

On Monday morning we were joined by the others from England who has some trouble with the ford transit.  Six journeys brought all our gear to the top and the tent which Robin had donated to the club was erected as a store house.

On Tuesday everybody carried gear up to the Ahnenschacht.  A party comprising Helmuth, Robin, Dick, Brain, Dave Yeandle, Colin Dooley and myself spent four hours laddering the Sinterterasse and taking some other gear down in preparation for the next day’s party.  Robin put in 5/16” red heads on the awkward entrance pitch to break it into two and on the pitch below where the belay was unsatisfactory.

Mike calibrated the compass and the rest looked further into the possibilities of a lower entrance but without success so far.

On Wednesday, whilst Derek and I accompanied by Gidi and his two children, went to Grunden with the transit to have it repaired, a party went down the Ahneenschacht with the intention of laddering all the way to Schachtgabel.  The party consisted of Pope, Ian, Martin, Brian and Bob Criag.

They had a seven hour trip but did not quite succeed in their intention.  They managed to get the ladder as far as half-way down the 250ft. pitch from Shuppenstuffe.

On Thursday, a party consisting of Dave Yeandle, Derek Harding. Martin, Dick, Colin and myself went down to complete the laddering.  We put in a ¾” red head in on the ledge of the awkward 170ft. pitch thereby making it into two pitches but both life-lined from Sinterterrasse. Martin wet to the bottom of the pitch to make sure it was free all the way down.  A five hour trip.

We were now ready for the first big push.  A party of twelve (including Helmuth and Walter; excluding myself and Derek who went to fetch the Transit back) left the Hut at 7.30am.  The large party took some time descending the pitches.  Mike was first to reach Schachtgabel and Martin soon joined him.  By now it was mid-day and as Bob Craig was at the bottom, Mike and Martin went into the horizontal to ladder the first new pitch, when they came back, Dave Yeandle had arrived and by 2.30pm the ‘deep’ party was completed by the arrival of Brian. Marin and Bob had already left to descend the ladder, which had been placed in the small tube descending beside the big pitch and entered a horizontal passage.  The rest soon caught up with them in a large muddy chamber about 20ft in diameter.  This was explored, surveyed and an extension followed until it met another pitch.  On returning to the main passage an 8m climb down a mud fill allowed Martin to discover another 80m of descending passage which ended in a shaft and then the party made its way to the Waterfall and taking the right hand fork the Main Shaft was soon in sight.  This shaft is an awesome sight; perhaps 120m deep and 35m in diameter; it is formed in white limestone and surrounded at the top by steep and treacherous mud slopes.  Threading its way through a chaos of collapse chambers to the right of the shaft the descending rift was reached; this is very heavily decorated and contains some excellent cave flowers, following this to the bottom of the large chamber in the mud series was again reached, thus completing the first round circle of the cave. Two thirds of the way down the passage parallel passage was entered which swung round to the left and entered a long rift some 20m deep.

With little time to spare the party then went to the end of the Wind Tunnel.  The 20m pitch into the rift chamber was not descended and the descending passage in the other direction soon became impassable without a hand-line.  On return to Schachtgabel soup was prepared and at about 8.00pm the party ascended and all were out of the cave by 1.00am and soon returned to the Hut for soup and sleep.

A party consisting of Derek, Dave, Martin, Bob and I went into the cave at 10.30am on Sunday.  We went as quickly as possible taking food, photographic gear and extra tackle into the horizontals.  First we followed the Wind tunnel to its conclusion.  A small hole gave access to a large rift chamber via a 3½m ladder.  At the end of the climb was a meandering rift passage whose walls were covered in carbon coated bot. stal.  This was followed for 33m but became impassable.  Derek looked at a side passage just before the chamber.

Returning to the junction we followed the Descending Passage.  At the end of this Martin and I went down a ledge to the bottom of a chamber. The ledge seemed unstable so we suggested the others came on the rope.  Derek did this O.K. but as Bob came down the place where the rope was began to collapse.  Dave stayed above.  The whole of this chamber is very unstable and in places a large pot cane be seen underneath.  Further progress in the direction of the passage was prevented by a pot of some 100ft. A rift on the right hand side of the chamber could be descended for a short distance but it came out into the side of the pot a drop of 80ft. would still have to be negotiated.

After we had been to the end of the Descending Passage we returned to a small sand floored chamber near the entrance of the horizontals where we tried to sleep for two hours with little success as we were extremely cold.  We were, in fact, glad to get up for a rest.  (At about this stage I succeeded in cutting my head open when I banged it on the roof.  I keep telling people to jeep their helmets on – that must be why).  After the abortive attempt at sleeping we explored a small labyrinth on the right hand side, just below our sleeping chamber, which led to the mud series.

Martin took 30 pictures of different parts of the cave.  We felt that we had adequately explored the lateral system but of course we did not give it the full Cuthbert’s treatment (what’s that? – Ed.).

We had been long aware that Ahnenschacht (meaning Ancestors Shaft) was no longer descriptive of the cave as a whole.  Derek came up with the idea that what we had been referring to as the ‘horizontals’ should be named ‘Cave of the Ancestors’.  As well as matching the name Ahnenschacht it is descriptive of the dead world of decaying stal. and churt covered rock to which it leads.  About this time, too, we decided, by mutual agreement, that the ‘Boy’ should hereafter be known as Dave Yeandle.  As you know he was the recipient under the terms of the Ian Dear Bequest and I feel sure that Ian would have considered it money very well spent.

We now began the long journey to the surface.  We had been unable to examine my head properly (?  Ed) and so it was decided that I should go out as soon as possible with the view of going to the doctor.  I set off up the 250ft. pitch gladly thinking of a rest on the ledge half-way up whilst I hauled up the bags of tackle.  Unfortunately I was denied this as my light went out and I was unable to find the ledge and was forced to keep going until I reached the top.  I was very grateful to Pete and Brain, who were life-lining there, for the pull they gave me.

I then went half-way up the 170ft. pitch where I had to wait to clear the life-line for the next person. The others soon climbed the 250ft. pitch and worked like Trojans to get the tackle up.  It was over an hour before Derek joined me on my ledge. Unfortunately I had dozed off not long after getting there and never nearly got warm again.  I went on up the Sinterterasse at the top of the 170ft. pitch where Dick, Colin and Robin had hot soup prepared.

As soon as Derek and Martin were up we proceeded to the surface which we reached late on Monday afternoon very pleased to see daylight after over thirty hours underground.  The support party did more than support – they got all the tackle up as far as Sinterterase.

The next day everyone rested; some went to Offensee swimming and I went to the doctor (he somewhat surprisingly told me not to take my helmet off underground).

On Wednesday, a party went down and finished de-tackling and we carried everything back to the Hut.

A couple of days previously the Seilbahn had broken down, the hauling cable having snapped immediately enmeshing my car and the Transit in cable, but no damage was done.  Faced with the alternative of carrying all our gear down to Mitteroher where the vehicles were, we were rather pleased that it was repaired by Thursday and we were able to bring our expedition to a successful conclusion.

We think we have explored the Cave of the Ancestors part of the system pretty thoroughly and know where all the main passages go.  The shafts remain of course, and they will have to be descended. Time is a great healer and already I am thinking about those shafts.

Bob, Dave and myself remained for another week.  The weather was terrible and we were forced to drink beer instead of going out but this did allow Dave to discover and explore his cave.



-------------------------------------------------MANY THANKS----------------------------------------------------


Pursuit of the Dining Room Stream

By John Riley

As mentioned in previous B.B.’s, Cerberus Rift has been a site of interest for several months and after Dave Irwin, Mike Luckwill, John Riley and Dave Turner had dug out the gravel choke from which the Dinning Room Stream ran, a small chamber was discovered, back in June. The gravel choke has since showed itself to be one of the most ‘orrible’ places in the cave, being slightly reminiscent of the Mud Sump in Swildons! Perhaps it is fortunate that the dig did not go anywhere very much otherwise it may have been necessary to visit it more often!!

In the ‘chamber’ most of the Dining Room Stream enters through gravels by the left hand wall, although some flows down over a stal. flow to the right of this.  The flow was ascended using a maypole and a knobbly dog and was found to lead to a ‘T’ junction.  The left hand passage is blocked while the right hand passage leads over stal. to a very tight squeeze. It was found impossible to penetrate this and since at times a strong draught was emitted it seemed worthwhile ‘pushing’ it. Roy Bennett appeared on the scene complete with bang box but failed to open the squeeze sufficiently to get through.

A second go with bang on 5th December by Dave Serle open a hole sufficiently for John Riley to get through on the 6th only to find after turning left, following the passage for 12ft. over a small pool and a 6” fractured stalagmite, the passage was again blocked with stal.

Further pushing doesn’t really seem worthwhile as the second blockage will require a great deal of effort to remove.


Extensions above Cerberus Rift.


A Spherolithic Saga

Once again it is Christmas time.  (Actually, it is a stinking hot day in the middle of summer, but articles have to be written in advance).

Imagine, if you dare, a meeting of the Belfry Bulletin Literary, Historical and Scientific Research Committee trying to decide what cultural pearl to cast before readers of the Belfry Bulletin 1n 1969.  In years past and at great expense, they have unearthed hitherto missing portions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Obbs; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Beowulf.  They have made collections of valuable scientific laws; they have revealed most of the history of the B.E.C.  What else can there be possibly left to do.


Consider these erudite gentlemen sitting quietly frustrated and surrounded by an aura of learning, old cigar smoke and beer fumes.  At last one old fellow emits a cackle and shakes in nervous excitement and the D.T.’s. “What we want”, he chortles, “Is a ball.”  There is a collective sigh.  “I mean,” he explains, “A crystal ball – for looking into the future” he concludes somewhat unnecessarily.

At once, life comes back to the old gents.  At dead of night, a slow precession creaks its way into Cuthbert’s.  Old wooden ladder is carefully unreeled.  Candles are lit and, deep in the secret recesses of the cave (not shown in B.E.C. Caving Report 13) a giant Sphereolite is carefully crystallised.

The results of this work have been so astonishing that we hesitate to make them generally known. Indeed, like our History of Mendip Caving, it may not be believed at all.  All the same, we feel that this report should be presented to the public at large (whatever that may mean)……

The 1970’s were a frustrating period for Mendip Caving.  The number of cavers continued to rise while the number of caves stubbornly refused to increase.  North Hill Swallet was, of course, continued and even caves like Alfie’s Hole were opened in sheer desperation.  23 new caves, it is true discovered in Fairy Cave Quarry during the 1970’s, but over the same period, 24 were quarried away – a net increase of minus one.  The B.E.C.  Long Term Planning Committee were still confident of obtaining a grant for the New Belfry.  Meanwhile, permission was obtained to erect two temporary huts on the site.  By 1976, there were over 300 caving clubs on Mendip and clubs visiting the area that year were estimated to be over 600.  By 1977 the situation had got so bad – with clubs as far a field as the JOCC’s (John O’Groats Caving Club) visiting every weekend, that the M.R.O. was forced to introduce traffic regulation into all Mendip caves and to organise the C.T.P – or Cave Traffic Police – to enforce them. Very few cavers in those dark days escaped without at least one endorsement on their caving licenses.

Even worse were the queues. On popular weekends, the queues for Swildons and Eastwater would overlap somewhere near Priddy Stores and the suffering of cavers waiting on bitter winter days to go underground were indescribable.  Many cases of exposure and exhaustion were treated every weekend on this most gruelling part of any caving trip.  Cuthbert’s was not much better off.  The introduction of clearways – like the one from the entrance down to Mud Hall – helped a little, but a worn out caver entering Mud Hall on his way out knew that he must go on or face the chance of an endorsement or even have a suspension of his license.  In vain, some pleaded that they were engaged on important work in the cave.  This cut no ice with the dreaded C.T.P. and thus further exploration was discouraged.

All the clubs tried to find ways out of this dilemma, which was threatening to put a stop to caving entirely.  In some caves, even breathing became difficult owing to the vast numbers of cavers in the cave.  Some clubs invested in breathing equipment.  Others installed ventilation in their caves.  Over 500 diggers were recruited to dig North Hill Swallet, and 3 to enlarge Alfie’s Hole.

In 1978, the B.E.C. Committee decided to lend the entire Hut Fund (which had been growing at compound interest) to finance the production of a cave locator designed by Setterington, Prewer and Price.  In return, the club held all patents.  At the 1979 A.G.M., many irate speakers questioned this action by the Committee as being unconstitutional.  In reply, the treasurer blandly pointed out that the 1968 A.G.M. had given him powers to invest the money’ as he thought fit’.

By 1981, this locator had passed its preliminary tests (locating the Belfry sceptic tank) and had found three new caves.  The Committee, being urged by the Bennetts to recover the money spent on it, began to prowl round Mendip with the device, quickly buying or leasing known cave bearing land.  In 1983, a B.E.C. company called Rentacave was floated, and became an immediate success. In 1985, the club began to drive bargains with clubs in other caving areas, taking them over in return for discovering new caves in their areas.  Thus, by 1988, club membership stood at 13,200 and the profits from Rentacave not only paid back all the money to the Hut Fund, but enabled the club to buy more cave bearing land and to put up a further 5 temporary huts on the new expanded Belfry site.  The place for the New Belfry was, of course, left empty as the Long Term Planning Committee now had every confidence that the Government loan would soon be forthcoming.

In 1989, it was proposed at the A.G.M. that the title of Tackle Master be abolished and that Norman Petty should be known as Tackle Lord.

The continued profits from Rentacave, plus the membership fees from its 21,730 members in all parts of the country were wisely invested until the B.E.C. Portfolio became a legend in the City of London. It is an open secret that the knighthood of Sir Robert Bagshaw in 1992 was a consequence of his helping the Government of that time out of a nasty financial hole.

In 1993, the Long Term Planning Committee announced that the chances of obtaining the grant were now greatly increased, particularly as two club members were now standing for Parliament. The Committee approved the erection of 11 more temporary buildings in the meantime.

The passing of the Limitation of Drunken Travelling Act in 1994 made it an offence to consume alcohol at a distance greater than 1 mile form ones residence.   This led to a wholesale closing of pubs – the Hunters being one of those affected.  Brewery shares tottered.  At a general meeting of the Southern Council of Caving Clubs, the Wessex Cave Club agreed to convert the Upper Pitts into a pub in return for free facilities for all Wessex members at the Belfry site – so that they could sleep within one mile of Upper Pitts.  In addition all B.E.C. members were to join the Wessex so that they could drink st Upper Pitts. By 1996, all other Mendip clubs (with the exception of the Shepton) had joined the B.E.C./Wessex.  Membership figures in 1996 were: - B.E.C. 25,292, Wessex 21,187, Shepton 19.

In 1998 Parliament passed the first Hoverway Acxt and (largely through the efforts of the five B.E.C./Wessex members) the chosen route for this 300mph hoverway was South Devon – Mendip – South Wales – Derbyshire – Yorkshire, thus making it easier for all club members to visit their favourite caves.

In the year 2000 the Wessex Catering Club (as it was then known) laid on a Millennium barbeque on the 100 acre field.  This was attended by over 30,000 Cavers.  In preparation for this event, the B.E.C. erected 27 new temporary huts on the Belfry site.   The Long Term Planning Committee assured the club that the grant would soon arrive. Many old club members were present on Mendip now again for this event.  Alfie and Sett, for example arrived from their respective retirement villas in Spain.  The climax of the evening came when a resolution was passed to abolish the title of Tackle Lord and to crown Norma Petty Tackle King.

By 2007, in spite of efforts to repeal the Limitation of Drunken Travelling Act – breweries continued to fail and a series of amalgamations took place.  This only left two combines – Courage and Worthington.  In reply to a question raised in the House, the Home Secretary said that both of these concerns had been bought up by the Wessex, who had changed their name to the Worthington Courage Caterers.

At the A.G.M. of 2009, it was agreed to change the name of the B.E.C. to the British Exploration Club, since it was now the only caving club in the country (with the exception of the Shepton, of course).  At the next year’s A.G.M. the two surviving members of the Long Term Planning Committee said that since the club’s name had been changed, it would have to re-apply for the grant.  This was agreed and the Committee authorised to erect a further 39 temporary buildings.

In January 2011, the last member of the Long Term Planning Committee died.  Two days later, the long awaited Government grant arrived.  This sum, due to inflation, now represented 1% of the sum required for one temporary hut (of which the club now had 137) and by unanimous vote of the Committee, it was agreed that the site for the New Belfry should never be built on and that the grant should be used to erect a single plaque on this ground to mark the work done by the Long Term Planning Committee. A decision to erect a further 130 temporary huts to mark the occasion was carried amid cheers.

In 2014, a question was asked in the House by the member for Shepton Mallet ( ind) on the subject of the one mile residential limit.  He pointed out that the temporary huts at the Belfry site now stretched past the Shepton Hut on all sides and that many were more than a mile from Upper Pitts.  The Home Secretary replied that, although both these sites now occupied several square miles each, they were still listed as one residence each, and their centres were less than one mile apart. The member for Shepton said that it appeared the Government was being run by the caving lobby. 

This produced a spirited reply from the opposition benches.  Clive Price pointed out that the so-called Government had by no means a monopoly of B.E.C./Wessex membership.  He was himself a member and his father had been one of the inventors of the Cave Locator.  As Shadow Foreign secretary he could assure the House that policy in all matters would continue to be in line with that of the B.E.C./W.C.C. Committee whichever Government was in power.  He sat down amid loud cheers from both sides of the House.

In 2016, the U.S. and Russian caving expeditions to the moon set off.  In reply to a written question as to why the British Government had made no move to send a task force, the Minister of Technology, the Rt. Hon. Julian Setterington, said that it have never been the British way to spend vast sums of taxpayers money on what could be accomplished more cheaply by a little careful thought and planning.  He announced to a hushed House that two years previously, his department had sent an instrumental satellite to the moon containing the B.E.C. Cave Locator.  He was now able to state that there were no caves on the moon.  Moreover, during the last five years, when every American and Russian caver had been occupied in preparing for this unnecessary expedition, it was pleased to announce that the B.E.C. has been active in these two countries discovering new caves and forcing amalgamations of local caving clubs. Already, it was rumoured that the entire N.N.S.S. had joined the B.E.C. and that the W.C.C. had taken over Hilton Hotels throughout the world.  He said that it was no secret that both the U.S. and Russian economies had been strained to the limit by the expense of the moon expeditions and by the money poured out of both counties to the B.E.C. and W.C.C.

In 2019, the Congress of the U.S.A. tabled the Declaration of Dependence being “A humble petition to be re-admitted to the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Shepton Mallet.

At this point, one member of the B.B. Literacy, Historical and Scientific research Committee became so excited that he spilt best part of a pint of rough cider over the Sphereolite. As the acid ate into the surface of the crystal, the pictures from the future faded out – as the author of this nonsense has every intention of doing so at this stage.



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.


Ireland 12th - 19th July 1969

By Roy Bennett

The party consisted of Steve Tuck, Dave Irwin and Roy Bennett, and the main intention was to more thoroughly examine the Fergus River Sink and the surrounding area.

The Saturday was spent in travelling from the ferry to County Clare with various diversions.  To begin with a sink shown near Kilkenny on the ¼in Bartholomew map was visited.  This is west of the town about a mile S.W. of Castle Blunden.  The shale limestone boundary in this area is obscured by drift and most of the drainage stays on the surface.  There was a sink roughly at the point indicated however, but the water disappeared into holes in the gravel and earth, with no solid rock exposed and no possibility of entry.

Feeling like visiting a real cave, the party descended Dunmore Cave which is large and impressive, with formations.  It is arranged in a semi-show cave with concrete steps down the entrance, but no guides or lights.  Some caving clothes are preferable if the inner recesses are to be penetrated.  The general area is one of potential caving interest as it has extensive shale limestone boundaries, but these are so thickly covered in drift that very few sinks occur (Coleman).  Dunmore Cave appears to be something of a freak, and bears little relation to present topography which shows little sign of cave development.

On reaching County Clare the party were again persuaded to investigate things speleological, in this case the hydrology of the Quin area.  This is mentioned by Coleman, where it appears from the map to be a possible subterranean cut-off of the Rine River. None of the sinks and risings mapped appeared to pass much water (? Ed) and this could all be local percolation. The relief is rather low, but there could well be some small caves in the area.

Sunday saw the team established in the Fergus River area.  A repeat inspection of the sink was made and it was concluded that no site looked as promising as the rift which was dug abortively the previous year (B.B. 1968, Vol. 22 No.2, page 96).  The shale limestone boundary to the north produced only small seepages until Lemech Castle is reached.  Here there is a small sink, where cattle are watered, with some holes just to the west of it (6” map ref. Clare sheet 16 N2.8 E8.8 O.D. 180ft.). The site could repay a little digging, but any cave is likely to be low and rather organic.  The water presumably resurges into the Fergus River about 40 – 50ft. lower.

Monday saw the team struggling over the High Burren in (almost) sub-tropical heat.  The interest lay in the area south of the Carran Polje. This closed depression, several miles across is perhaps the most spectacular feature of the bare limestone uplands of the Burren.  It is drained by the Castletown River which sinks at one end, the water having been traced to Ballycasheen Cave resurgence four miles to the south (Caves of Clare p.218). Tratman has pointed out that there is a syncline running from the polje in the right direction to guide the water. The dry valley which follows this was looked at, but yielded only a small cave some 40ft. long near a small spring. (6” ref. Clare 10  S10.3, W10.4).

The Castletown sinks itself was most remarkable with the river meandering across the marshy bottom of the polje to disappear into an ‘island’ of boulders surrounded by low lying ground.  There were thin calcareous deposits to be seen on the rocks and vegetation and little solution of the boulders appeared to be taking place.  This indicated a low capacity to dissolve limestone and form a new cave, so that most of the cave between sink and rising is most likely to be impassable.  It clearly cannot be entered from the sink end.

After this a visit was paid to the Gort area where the vast sinks and risings to the south of the town were looked at.  The limestone here is rather low lying but could be of interest to divers.  It is well worth a visit to look at the supra-terranean speleological scenery, however.

Tuesday was a fateful day on which our leader became ill, recovering only fully by the end of the week (lies! –Ed).

Wednesday saw the depleted party photographing in Pollnagollum and finding that 20ft, of tackle is required to get from Branch Passage Gallery to Branch Passage.  This is not clearly stated in either Caves of Ireland, or Caves of N.W. Clare.  Our leader redeemed himself by his fishing!

Thursday saw the whole party subverted to this sport but this was followed up by a look around the area to the south of the Fergus River Sink.  The area to the S.E. if the sink is low lying and floods when the river is very high.  There is a permanent sink at the lowest point called Poulnargralle (6” map ref. Clare 16 N9.9, E7.4).  Just to the E. of the active sink a small hole walled up with stones gave access to a rift some 20ft. long with at least 6ft. of water and eels at the bottom.  Both ends of the rift were solid and the whole is rather similar to the passages at the rising, Pollaboe, which also does not go (B.B. 1967 Vo. 21 No. 7). The land surface between the main (Fergus River) sink and the rising is low and is likely that all cave development consists of small, mainly flooded, rifts such as theses.  This could quite well be the case if the flow is very near the surface, where there would be a multiplicity of open joints, and no gradient to direct the water into a few favoured channels.  Thus conditions are not the same as those in well drained limestone of the main caving area with cave systems often running close to the present shale limestone boundary where joint opening would be more recent. It was concluded therefore, that chances of finding open cave were not good.  To round off the immediate area two further sinks to the south were looked at.  One by a former Constabulary hut (6” map ref, Clare 16 N11.9, E7.1) yielded nothing, while the other, a vertical sided depression in shale called Poulnaloon (6” map ref. Clare 16  N11.6, E7.5) had a small hole at the bottom.  A little digging in evil smelling mud soon proved that this did not go.

Heavy rain prevented the planned caving trips on the Friday and Saturday saw the team travelling home, stopping only to visit Michelstown show cave and to take a brief look at the nearby Tincurry sink.

We did some drinking as well of course.


Coleman J.C.                             The Caves of Ireland..

Tratman E.K.                             The Caves of North West Clare, Ireland.


Letter to the Editor

27 Roman Way,
BS18 5XB

25th Sept. 1969

Dear Dave,

Members may be interested to know that besides the courses run by the University of Bristol Dept. of Extra Mural Studies, mentioned by Alan Thomas (October B.B.-Ed) there are one or two others run in conjunction with the Central Somerset Evening Institutes as follows: -

Lead Mining on Mendip – P.J. Fowler and J.E. Hancock.  (Kings of Wessex Secondary School)

Introduction to Archaeology – M.G. Habditch, J.H. Drinkwater and J.E. Hancock.  (The Museum, Wells)

The courses mentioned are not the only ones available but are most likely to appeal to members.

I have further details about dates and times and will be only too glad to supply them to the interested.

                        Yours sincerely,
                                    Michael A. Palmer.

Since receiving Mike’s letter I have seen the U.B.S.S. winter evening lecture programme.  These meetings are open to anyone and so members might like to take advantage of the following series of lectures: November 3rd – Caving in Rumania (Gilmore).  Geomorphology of D.Y.O. (Coase), Dec 3rd:  Jan 19. Cave Rescue (Appleing). Held in the Geography Dept. Little Lecture Theatre, University of Bristol. 8.

Bryant’s Winter Lectures 1969/1970

Monday 17th November 1969. CHRIS BONNINGTON – ‘The Blue Nile Expedition’.

Monday 16th February 1970. JOHN CLEARE – photographic ‘Mountaineering Assignments’

Monday 16th March 1970. JOHN EARL and NED KELLY of the B.E.C. present their outstanding mountaineering films.

Lectures start at 7.30pm in the Y.M.C.A. Hall, Trenchard Street, Bristol.

A few details of St. Cuthbert.

St. Cuthbert, the uncorruptible saint, died in Lindisfarne in 687 A.D. after an exhausting illness lasting three weeks.  After his death he was embalmed and laid in a stone sarcophagus. After 11 years the tomb was re-opened and the body found to be ‘incorrupt’ and was revested.  In 875 the tomb was opened yet again and the body transported to Northern England where it was carried round for all to see.  The embalming was so good that it was still intact in the 16th century though by 1827 the remains had reduced to a skeleton.


Route Severity Diagrams

by S. Collins

Part 10 cont. from p. 88.

We can traverse along a rift if it is sufficiently narrow, by striding it, by doing a ‘back and feet’ traverse of it, or if it very narrow, by crawling along it with our body horizontal.  In all these case, we are not on the floor of the rift and so exposure signs are in order. However, the normal exposure sign means that you can’t touch the wall which is dotted, so we denote this form of traverse as under: -


Rift traverse above the floor – straddling or ‘back and feet’


Narrow rift traverse. The danger is not from falling but from slipping down and getting stuck.

PART 11.  Streams, pools, waterfalls and sumps.

By using the ‘black and white’ technique, we can make our basic sign for water indicate all the things in the title of this part.  The thing to remember here is that the WHITE constriction sign shows that the passage may be narrow , but is HIGH.  Thus, the WHITE water sign indicates that water is coming down from a HIGH place on to the caver.

The BLACK constriction sign shows that the passage is CLOSE TO THE FLOOR and thus the BLACK water sign shows that we are dealing with water ON THE FLOOR of a passage.

Again, like constriction, water signs come in two sizes and, again, one is half the passage width (all passages are always shown as being the same width) while the other is the full passage width it is reasonable to expect that the deeper signs for water indicate that there is more water about.  With these remarks in mind, the following should be self-explanatory: -

Heavy drip from above. Enough to endanger carbide lamp or camera.

Falling water.





Stream too deep to wade through.


Pool too deep to wade through.


Sump free-divable under normal conditions.


Sump.  Non free-divable.



PART 12.  Boulders, passage ends and entrances.

A little more on boulders completes our detail.  Boulder strewn floors entailing clambering over the rocks are shown thus: -


                                                …..while unstable boulders on roof or wall are shown hanging in a menacing fashion like this: -


                                    ….and of course, an unstable boulder ruckle becomes: -


It may seem odd to leave entrances until last, but the subject also covers passage termination in general.  We have: -



Pothole open to entrance.


Passage ends in solid rock.


Passage ends in boulder choke.

Passage ends in impassable rift.


Passage ends in impassable rift.


Passage ends in impassable sump.


Passage ends in unclimbed pitch.


Passage ends in unclimbed aven


The Grand RSD Competition

Quite fine detail is possible on an R.S.D. by suitable and intelligent combination of the R.S.D. symbols. In order to popularise this form of describing a cave, the author is prepared to give a prize on ten bob’s worth of beer to the reader who provided the best and most complete description of the imaginary cave illustrated by R.S.D. below.  The 10/- has already been deposited with Ben, and the arrangement is that the Editor will tell Ben who to supply with booze when the time comes. Closing date January 31st 1970.

The R.S.D. is on the following page.  Signs used inside pitches denote type of tackle.  Depths outside.  Some features of the cave may be inferred from the R.S.D.


All entries to be in to the Editor by the end of January 1970.


The new Year issues of the B.B. includes articles of great interest.  Diving in Little Neath River Cave and Care and Maintenance of Nife cells.




Mike Luckwill

Members will be shocked by the tragic loss of Mike Luckwill who was killed 2am Friday 5th December 1969, on the Snowdon Horseshoe.

His work for the Club and for caving and climbing generally are well known to readers of the B.B.

Our deepest sympathy to Val and Sally.

A New Cave in Fairy Cave Quarry

By P.E. Prewer

With at least 14 caves discovered in the piece of Gruyere cheese called Fairy Cave Quarry it could not be long before No.15 appeared and sure enough on April 9th., this year, it was found.  Shatter Cave was discovered by three members of the Cerberus C.C. on the early hours of the morning after 6 hours of digging.  The presence of a cave was suspected after a strong draught was detected emerging from between boulders piled at the floor of the quarry face. The digging party started during the evening of April 8th. and consisted of R. Saxton, P. Conway, K. Crowe and B. Prewer. 

At 9.00 B. Prewer left in disgust with the words, “I don’t give it much hope but if it does go come and get me out of bed.”  At 1.00am three muddy cavers got B. Prewer out of bed!  They had found the first four chambers of Shatter Cave.

The first four chambers gave the cave its name for they lie roughly parallel to the quarry face and extensive damaged has been caused to the chambers and formations, despite this there are still some very pleasing formations including a fine pagoda like formation in the second chamber.

On the second trip into the cave the third chamber emitted a strange colour – it was soon pronounced to be that of diesel fuel.  This was coming from one of the shot holes on the top of the quarry which must have broken through the roof of the chamber.  Diesel Chamber was thus named.

How the way on was missed on this trip is hard to understand but it was; it was not discovered until a few days later when Gerry Lewis noticed it.  The way on, now called Helictite Passage, led past a cluster of superb helictites on a ledge.  This concluded Stage II of the exploration.

Stage III began when ‘Willie’ Stanton spotted a small space beneath a pile of boulders at the end of Helictite Rift. He crawled through and found a large chamber, Tor Chamber.  As the quarry were due to blast the party could go no further.  The following day a large party including the North Hill Consortium descended and found the crawl at the end of Helictite Rift.  The party pushed on through Tor Chamber and found Pisa Chamber.  The area of the cave was well decorated and outside the area of blast damage.  The tail end of the party noticed some small chambers off Tor Chamber.  The front of the exploration party had arrived at ‘Z’ Squeeze and was soon passed even by a well-built bearded gent!  A small, relatively undecorated chamber named Piccadilly Chamber was entered.  The obvious way on was a low arch straight ahead. At this point the floor changed from mud to calcite crystals and for a short way it became impossible not to tread on them.  At this stage enthusiasm could not be controlled for up in front could be seen the dim outline of what appeared to be a huge calcite column.  On entering Pillar Chamber it became difficult to know where to look first, straight ahead was a white pillar some 8 – 9 feet in height and whose base was 5ft. across.  The floor in front of the pillar was covered in rows of semi-transparent calcite crystal flowers.  This must be the finest chamber found on Mendip yet.  It was many minutes before the party decided to move on.  The way forward was not obvious but soon a strong draught was located coming from a small heavily calcited hole behind the pillar. Here progress for the day halted – a bit of mechanical persuasion would be necessary.  On the return journey the bypass to ‘Z’ Squeeze was found leading off Piccadilly Chamber.  It led, after a 20ft. crawl to a chamber some 20ft. across with fine stalagmite bosses covering the floor – Roundabout Chamber. The bypass was completed by following a well formed passage some 5ft. high from Roundabout Chamber and connection, at high level, to the dry stream passage before ‘Z’ Squeeze.  Several other side passages were explored by various groups of people.  It was with considerable annoyance that it was noticed on that first trip, that although nearly everyone kept to one route around the left hand side of the crystal floor in Pillar Chamber someone had left behind four muddy footprints in the middle.

A few days later saw a party armed with hammer and chisel back at the hole in Pillar Chamber.  The hole was enlarged to allow the first and thinnest member of the party though.  The hole was further enlarged as each larger member of the party arrived at the hole to push through.  Beyond a short crawl led to yet another well decorated chamber – Four Ways Chamber. Two side chambers led nowhere but straight ahead a short sandy passage and a climb led to a very fine crystal pool. Onwards the way ended in a large chamber with a large suspended boulder in the roof with a matching one immediately beneath partly filling a large hole – the Plug Hole.  A short passage was found leading off the bottom of the Plug Hole which closed down only after 20ft. or so.


A week later another party (members of the Dining Room Dig Team) found a second passage at the bottom of the Plug Hole which yielded a further 200ft. or so of passage – the first section being very well decorated with fine pink gours.  At the end of this passage a strong draught may still be felt at times but so far no way on through the boulders at the end has yet been found.

The most recent progress in Shatter Cave (August) was the discovery of the notorious streamway.  It has been locate at the end of Helictite Passage down a rather unpleasant muddy tube. At the moment it can only be heard and a little clearing is needed.  This streamway is thought to be the upstream part of the old Balch Cave streamway.

On October 12th two intrepid explorers decided that Conning Tower Cave, capped over a year because of dangerous boulders, ought to be revisited.  They found themselves in the Balch stream and duly arrived at the duck.

Shatter Hole Survey

The Survey of Shatter Hole has been adapted by Dave Irwin to suit the B.B. page format and is based on the new survey to C.R.G. Grade 6 currently being produced by C.S.S. & S.M.C.C. and has been published with kind permission of the C.S.S.


Monthly Notes No.30

by ‘Wig’

Herbert Balch Centenary is being celebrated is being celebrated by the Wxssxx C.C. by publishing and occasional paper on the life and work of the great man of Mendip.  The publication is being published sometime during November; originally planned to be published at their Annual Dinner but postponed due to late delivery from the printers.  The publication is edited by

Dr. William Stanton and many of the well known caving names of Mendip have contributed to it.  It also includes several important photographs previously unpublished together with a full bibliography of his written works complied by Ray Mansfield.  Price about 10/- & 12/6.  Whilst on the subject of the Balch Centenary – the B.E.C. contribution is the publishing of John Etough’s book of photographs of Balch Cave in Fairy Cave Quarry (now largely destroyed).  This publication is due sometime during mid-1970.

GARGILL POT (!)  formerly Twin Titty.

As was mentioned in my last set of notes the Thompson organisation commonly known on Mendip as N.A.A.S. (for the uninitiated – North Hill Association for Spelaeological Advancement) drove a 25ft. deep shaft near the site of their original dig during the Autumn Bank Holiday.  Within a few weeks they met as certain amount of success.  A small hole at the bottom of the shaft was forced and they entered some 150ft. of sizeable passage.  The game of draught chasing began again but apparently the choking is substantial and too many points that can be dug.  The site of the dig is particularly interesting (for the benefit of older members – it is situated very near the Don Coase dig at Cross Swallet).  The present trend of the passage is northerly and may well be following the large Cheddar River Valley towards Cheddar Gorge.  A sketch survey by A.D.O. is reprinted from Mendip Caver with thanks.


CUTHBERT’S TWO – important notice.

Because of the unsettled state of the first sump we cannot guarantee any trips into the new series for the immediate future.  The sump soak away is at the moment far from stable and only after a considerable amount of work will it be safe for tourist parties.  It would be appreciated if intending parties would refrain from asking to visit the new area for at least three months.

At the time of writing the water flowing into the sump has been piped through and allowed to continue down the Cuthbert’s Two passage.  Various moves are being made to clear the constriction in Sump 1.  When this is complete and the sump is been passed as being safe work will commence on Sump 2.  In the meanwhile the many high level passages will be ‘pushed’ and an interesting site, just downstream from Sump 1 is being dug.

In the case of an emergency, The Gour Rift Dam together with three other dams (Mineries Pool Outlet on the surface; Traverse Chamber and Main Stream Dams) can be used to reduce the water level in the sump should the pipe burst whilst cavers are on the downstream side.  The 1st Sump is far too constricted to allow free diving.  Even if the sump were to be cleared deep enough for possible free diving there are two dangers that rear their heads.  The first is that the approach to the sump and the floor in the sump is of gravel and choking will inevitably occur and secondly the dive will involve a fairly sharp bend along the caver’s path.

The continuation of the new St. Cuthbert’s Survey is being started almost immediately.  So far, the surveyed length (from very rough and ready survey carried out on November 1st with a calibrated compass and tape) is 850ft. along the main passage and another 100ft. along a steeply ascending rift just inside the first sump.  The depth has been estimated at about 30ft. but may be considerable more bringing the total depth of St. Cuthbert’s to about -435ft. from the entrance.

From time to time sketch surveys will appear in the B.B. of any new finds in the area based on the accurate outline now being produced for the St. Cuthbert’s report.

Now that Cuthbert’s 2 has been discovered the Index of the report of St. Cuthbert’s Swallet will be increased and, provisionally, Part P will include full details of Cuthbert’s 2 and its side passages – if any!  Part ‘O’ will be revised in the very near future and will include details of the whole cave known at the time of publication.

For the benefit of St. Cuthbert’s leaders not involved in the new discovery several tourist trips will be arranged so that they can see the area for themselves and any snags that may arise and the precautions that should be taken.

In the event of a party being trapped in ‘2’ an emergency box including food and first aid equipment is being installed – details later.


The Discovery of St. Cuthbert’s 2

Roy Bennett

The passing of the original sump and its conversion into ‘The Duck’ by Don Coase and John Buxton in 1957 lead, not to the large extension hoped for, but to a much more formidable problem.  This second barrier, soon called just ‘The Sump’, appeared heavily silted up and no further progress was made until 1963 when Mike Thompson, Steve Wyn-Roberts, Fred Davies and John Attwood, diving and digging under very difficult conditions penetrated about 14ft. straight in.

Interest waned after this, and various alternatives were conjectured and worked on.  Further inspection of the roof of Gour Hall and Gour Rift revealed no possibilities except for a small hole which could not be reached.  Digging at the lower end of the Gour Rift appeared a logical alternative, and much work was done by John Cornwell.  This was finally defeated by water penetration, leaving as a useful memento a bypass to the Duck.

The challenge of the sump was taken up again in 1967 when Phil Kingston, Barry Lane ands Colin Priddle penetrated some 12ft. inwards by some 8ft. to the right.  This started with the ‘Great Sump Digging Weekend’, which though defeated by flood waters, was followed by a steady progress.  The divers had reached a point at which the sump appeared to be opening up, when possible success was dashed away by the ‘Great Mendip Flood’ in 1968 and the sump reverted to its primitive choked condition.

Meanwhile, buck up-cave, the Dining Room Dig, started years previously, was being dug regularly and intensively by a combined B.E.C. and S.M.C.C. team.  The ultimate objective was to bypass the Sump and much work was done by Dave Irwin, Bob Craig, Martin Webster, Brian Woodword, John Riley, Dave Turner, Derek Harding and many others revealed a completely choked passage along a fault going in the right direction.  Ultimately work on this slowed when a distance of some 150ft. had been (mainly) excavated and problems of spoil disposal were becoming acute. It was time for a reappraisal. Sufficient of the fault had been uncovered to enable an accurate projection down cave to be made, and this showed that it should intersect the know Sump passage at a point where a choked side passage pointed in the right direction.  It was decided therefore to leave the dig pro-tem and, the now rather depleted team augmented itself and transferred its attention to the Sump itself.

The plan was to implement a scheme mooted by various people and pushed by Dave Irwin to dam the stream and pump out and excavate the Sump.  Dams had already been built at the Mineries and by Bob Craig, Martin Mills, Alan Butcher, Jok Orr and others, and in the Main Stream Passage, but the crucial one in Gour rift was only just above stream level.  Work was started to make this into a strong, reliable structure as a failure would be very dangerous to any one working in the sump. The foundations were dug down to the stalagmite gours over the complete width and thickness and the dam built up using concrete throughout. This was made up using grave, sand and stones available on site.  Even though the stream levels at the bottom of the cave was very low, it was thought that the opportunities afforded by the dry summer had been missed, and the dam system would only be operated the following year.  This situation was completely altered when there occurred a stroke of luck of the kind that comes rarely.  After a dam building session, two of the team had a look at the sump, and found to their great surprise that the sump pool had disappeared, leaving the stream to flow down a gravel slope to vanish where this met the roof.  This was a most remarkable and sudden change in a sump that previously had been quite stable, even when the stream had been dammed up completely.

Two great uncertainties accompanied the opportunity.  Firstly the unusually dry weather could not be expected to continue for long (it was already the 30th of September) and secondly the change in the sump could not perhaps be permanent.  The first was countered both by continuing work on Gour Rift dam at the same time as digging the Sump, and increasing the number of trips.  Nothing could be done about the second.

The dam finally rose to some 5ft. high, tapering from 5ft. thick at the base, and to some 2ft. at the top. It was furnished with an 8in. diameter pipe in the base with a removable plug that could be used as a butterfly valve to let the water out gently.

Initial progress at the Sump dig was very rapid with the water providing no hindrance.  Late on stream flow had to be cut off to enable work to continue, firstly using a temporary dam in the Sump Passage, and later using the concrete dam as well.  The water level varied erratically, hampering work at times. The Sump refused to empty on one occasion, causing great despondency, but the soak-away gradually re-opened over the following week.  The dry weather miraculously held, however, and the team (Roy Bennett, Bob Craig, Tim Large, John Riley, Martin Mills, Martin Webster and others) pressed ahead with trips of increasing frequency and duration.  The roof of the sump sloped downwards to an arch with a slight rise beyond, and then levelled off with the stream going to the left.  All traces of the previous excavations appeared to have vanished in the 1968 Flood and nowhere was there more than a few inches of space between the gravel and roof.  The rift encountered by the second diving team was not found and it appears they went further left again, probably following the pre-flood stream course.

The diggers eventually reach a point where the roof started to lower again, and the stream disappeared in a choked-up hole in solid rock.  At this point a draught could be felt, and when the stream was cut off the water in this hole disappeared with sounds of violent bubbling and rushings or air. This was the situation on Friday evening 31st. October, when the dam building party had gone out, leaving only Martin Mills, Martin Huaun, John Riley and Roy Bennett at the dig.  To obtain more working a gravel bank on the right of the dig was cut out back to where the roof appeared to rise a little.  To the surprise of the diggers, the roof continued to slope upwards in its direction and soon Milch could say “I can see 10ft. along a bedding plane, about 30ft, into a chamber.”  Cuthbert’s 2 was open, and after a quick look at the dams the party set off moving quite rapidly.


The ‘chamber’ turned out to be the beginning of a high rift passage with a slippery floor obviously occupied by the stream.  Near the Sump the passage was quite wide with a ‘tide mark’ of red mud about 5ft. high. Everywhere the wall were coated with thick deposits of soft brown mud which could only have been left by standing water,  The dullness was lighted by various stalagmite deposits.  A decorated hole in the roof attracted attention because of the odd watery noises emitted, while further down the passage a stal. Barrier allowed just enough room to crawl under.  The rift was narrower further down, but remained high most of the way. A 10ft. pot was reached and climbed down, and the passage continued narrower again until a mud coated stalagmite barrier was reached.  The passage clearly continued further, but it was decided to turn back at this first check to easy progress because of the lateness of the hour and the risk of being cut off.

A much larger party entered the following day when Bob Craig, Martin Webster, Martin Mills, Brian Woodward ands others found Sump 2 a little way beyond the stal. barrier. They were joined by the rest of the Friday Team, and various things we looked at.  A very tight rift going back up cave from near Sump 1 was pushed to about 100ft. by Martin Webster.  A dig was started in a hole near this point on the left hand side of the main passage.  This was of great interest as it may well connect with the steam leaving Sump1via the soak away.  A little way downstream from the 10ft. pot, a climb was made up the right hand (W) wall to a point at which a scoop in the wall containing mud formations could be overlooked.  Nothing leading off was found, but the climb could easily be continued with some protection, and there is a good air circulation at this point.  The second sump was found to be constricted, but the level could be reduced by a little bailing.  Dave Irwin and Mike Luckwill joined the party and did a quick Grade 4 survey, which showed the passage to be heading south.  This was unexpected and suggests that the water has now left the Gour Hall fault line and is on its way to Wookey.

One further exploration trip has been done to date (15-11-69) when Brian Woodward used diving kit in Sump 2, finding it heavily mud chocked.  More progress could be made without kit by digging and bailing and the sump does not appear to be very deep.

Further exploration work was inhibited by the risk of being cut off.  Initially it was hoped to clear the sump out and lower the level sufficiently to make it a free dive, and much work was done to cut out a trench and remove the bank on the downstream side.

The inevitable end of the dry weather meant less and less time being available before the dams overflowed.  A rope had been fixed through the sump but it was still too constricted to be free dived. Trips were done by leaving one person on the near side to release the dammed water, and seal it off again to let the party out.  This procedure relied entirely on the continued functioning of the soak away, and there were some alarming underwater incidents as the stream level kept on rising.

Eventually the sump could not be drained at all and Cuthbert’s 2 was closed for a time.  This problem has been temporarily solved by conducting the stream through the sump in a pipe.  This was made possible by joining 5ft. sections of 8in. diameter fibre glass pipe with polythene sheet secured by aluminium strips.  The pipe was only got into position when the stream levels in the bottom of the cave were reduced by means of the surface dams at the Mineries Pool.  The increased water flows through the sump have caused rapid silting, and it appears unlikely that it can be kept open as a free dive.  Other alternatives are being worked on and it is hoped it will soon be possible to continue exploration, free from fear of being cut off.

The chances of further progress are fairly good with more than 100ft height difference to Wookey Hole.




‘As Her Majesty is not doing her Annual Christmas broadcast this year I thought I would wish you a Merry Christmas and a drunken New Year’

Alan Thomas