Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas. Allens House, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Homeleigh, Bishop Sutton, Bristol

Editorial

The Last Straw?

A friend of mine, a member of the M.N.R.C., went down Shatter last weekend, being particularly anxious to see the erratics for which this cave is noted.  He did not find them, and was told by the Cerberus that they had, unfortunately, gone in the way of the ‘streaky bacon’ curtain in Rod’s; the Golf Clubs and Bulrushes in Balch; the erratics in the First Grotto of G.B. and many other fine calcite formations which user to decorate Mendip.

A certain amount of ‘natural’ wastage of delicate formations is probably inevitable, And part of the price we must pay for the sheer number of cavers on Mendip today.  Nobody is perfect, and even the best caver may occasionally do a little unintentional damage.  It is said that a drowning man will clutch at a straw, and likewise a man who has lost his balance might well be excused a little damage in avoiding a nasty accident. The requirements of explorers must also from time to time conflict with the need to preserve the decorative features of our caves.

The damage which has been done in the past to some of the most interesting of Mendip cave formations cannot, unfortunately, be explained away by this reasoning, and deliberate vandalism or a degree of carelessness inappropriate to good caving become the only explanation possible.  I can remember a time when it was proposed to destroy a not very good formation in a very minor cave in order for further exploration to become possible.  Not until the formation had been photographed, and the prints considered good enough was the destruction actually carried out – and even then, with care.

If we are to have anything better on Mendip in the years to come than a series of muddy holes in the ground, without any relieving features, then steps must be taken now to conserve what we have and to protect any future discoveries from the word ‘go’. The diminution of interest shown in cave photography may well be due to the narrowing range of worthwhile subjects. At the rate we are going, it may soon be the rule that unless the photographer is lucky enough to get in on the original exploration trip down a new hole, he will know that it is probably not worth taking a camera down on subsequent trip.

Until somebody comes up with a better solution, the only answer seems to be rigorous policy of restricted access coupled with an efficient leader system since it must regretfully be assumed that the average party will contain at least one ‘couldn’t care less’ type.  Now that the spotlight has been focussed on the subject of pollution and of conservation of our environment, could we not include the preservation of cave scenery as part of this drive?

The B.B. Handicap

We are able to report progress on this race.  Delays due to the sudden and tragically unexpected change of Editor, and to the change of the printing arrangements have been overcome.  The next move was to get sufficient material to allow the B.B. to catch up.  This has now been done.  From now on, it is important that the B.B. comes out on time, as we have the A.G.M. beginning to loom up.  This can, and will be done with the B.B. at its present size of greater providing that you continue to send in material.

Regular Features

Readers will notice that ‘Monthly Notes’ and ‘Just a Sec’ are both absent from this issue.  Also, the feature on the Belfry has not yet appeared in a proper form.  Wig is in the states, but the ‘Monthly Notes’ will re-appear as soon as his substitute gets going.  Alan reports that there is insufficient material for ‘Just a Sec’ this month, and the Hut Warden is going to contribute to the feature on the Belfry.  Meanwhile, we start another regular feature – a monthly crossword.  Supplies are in hand for several months to come, but if any members wish to contribute, the required form is a 9 by 9 square puzzle, of symmetrical or skew-symmetrical design with clues mostly connected with caving or climbing and of ‘cryptic’ form.


 

Letters

8 Linden Road
Redland
Bristol 6

Dear Sir,

I wonder if you would allow me to insert an appeal in the B.B.?  I am collecting information about the lead workings in the Priddy area, and already have several old photographs including one of the interior of the Cuthbert’s works and a photograph of the Chewton Minery.  If any reader of the B.B. has access to any old photographs, etchings, etc. of these or any other local lead works, I would very much like to borrow them.  The same applies to old large scale maps of the area or to any other unusual references. All material borrowed will, of course, be treated with great care and duly returned to their owners.  Please contact me at the above address if you have any material which you think might be of interest in this connection.

                        P.A.E. Stewart.

21 Bradley Road,
Patchway,
Bristol

Dear Sir,

Is anyone in the B.E.C. interested in acquiring a penny-farthing?  I have a genuine 1890 Singer’ Challenger’ which is in very good condition apart from its having no tyres.  Please get in touch with me if you are interested.

                        John Ransom.

June Committee Meeting

Arrangements for the fitting out of the Belfry continued to be the main business of the meeting.  The barn has now been sold to the S.M.C.C. and we have the money.  Arrangements for the showers and wiring continue.  Mike Palmer reported on the progress made on the club exhibition at the City Museum.  The date for the barbecue is fixed.


 

Shafts – and all that

By Martin Webster

The Eastwater weekend must have been quite quiet Mendip, as vast hordes of Mendip cavers abandoned their native caving area and converged on the Yorkshire Dales, with its abundance of excellent caves.

Our small group was no exception and, together with a party of NHASA members, we spent a wet but very enjoyable four day’s camping at the Hill Inn.  The first day saw a team of seven striding out in the direction of Car Pot, which is quite close to Gaping Ghyll.  Unfortunately, however, the dreaded Baptistery Crawl took its toll and only four of the thinner members managed to bottom the pot.  Saturday was spent on the Langdale Pikes in the Lake District.   This proved quite entertaining as it was snowing quite hard.  The night at the pub, some of the team for our Sunday trip down Long Kin West, elected to go down Gravel Pit diving (as there were tales of vast sumps) which left our party a bit low on the hauling side.  However, the Sunday dawned and eventually, after some misgivings, as team of five assembled at Newby.

The long hard trek up into Newby Moss was conducted in thick swirling mist and, after searching for the elusive hole for some time; we parked our loads by a convenient shake hole and spread out across the moor.  Eventually, by luck rather than skill, the long slit-like entrance was found, so we raced back to collect the tackle.  On trying to find the hole again, we found to our embarrassment that once again we had lost it.  After much swearing and cursing, the hole once again appeared out of the mist and we were son busily pouring vast amounts of ladder down the two hundred and eighty five feet of entrance pitch.

Long Kin West is a pothole in every sense.  It has recently been extended by the Kendal Caving Club to a depth of five hundred and ten feet, the pitches being the entrance pitch already noted, a twenty foot pitch and a hundred and sixty five foot pitch.  The whole pothole goes vertically downwards except for one short section at the bottom of the twenty foot pitch.

The big pitch of two hundred and eighty five feet has been descended by Mendip teams on many occasions, mainly as ladder practice, but today we were going to attempt to get right to the bottom of the new extension.

As only two of us had got changed, we were naturally expected to descend first, so the end of the lifeline was thrust into my hands and I soon found myself at the bottom of the abyss, looking up at the dwindling thread of ladder leading up to the two spots of light which marked the surface.  Little time was lost, and soon a large bundle of ropes and ladders came hurtling down the shaft on the end of the life line.  Unfortunately, it was accompanied by a large rock.  I leapt into a corner and meditated on the folly of potholing!

Bob Mehew (S.M.C.C.) soon joined me, and together we climbed down the obvious twenty foot pitch and then on down to a tight rocky passage which doubled back on itself and led into a low passage with a large slit in the floor.  This marks the head of the hundred and sixty five foot pitch.  We soon located a belay point, which looked as if it might hold with a bit of luck, and set to work lowering the ladder into the gulf.

The first difficulty was encountered when, after descending about fifty feet, I found myself standing on a ledge waist deep in a mountain of tangled tackle.  This was easily overcome however, by dragging the whole mountain of ‘writhing beastie’ to the brink and hurling into the void.  The rest of the climb went unhindered and after a quick prod about at the bottom, I returned and Bob leaped off down the pitch to have the dubious honour of seeing the boulders at the bottom.

The whole pitch is quite sizeable, being about six feet wide and some fifty feet long at the bottom. The walls have some excellent scallop formations – all in all, a very fine find by the Kendal.  If the final choke could be forced, it might easily reveal quite a length of large streamway, as there is still about two hundred and fifty feet drop to the rising.  This would prove a very good trip indeed.

Bob soon arrived back from the bottom and we returned to the big pitch, where I started on the long climb to the surface.  The hauling team was by then getting g quite cold, and they didn’t seem at all keen on getting changed to go down.  Eventually, Martin Mills (S.M.C.C.) decided it would be probably warmer down the cave anyway and valiantly disappeared into the next shake hole, soon to reappear in his caving ‘grot’.

He quickly joined the by now despondent bod at the bottom of the big pitch and so Bob Craig (S.M.C.C.) Martin Hauan (B.E.C.) and I sat and waited.  The mist hung low and the wind howled unmercifully round our aching limbs; the rain and sleet poured down, and the chattering of teeth grew louder and louder.

After what seemed an eternity (actually about an hour and a half) the merry chirp of a whistle wafted up the huge shaft and we started the job of bod extraction.  We quickly completed this job and midst the jangle of ladders and creaking of bones, we were soon fighting our way down the fell against a fierce headwind.  On the way back, we stopped at Ingleton, only to find that the shop of the greasy ones was closed, so we struggled back for a night on the beer after a satisfying day of ups and downs!


 

The Northern Caving Scene

By Mike Yeandle

During the last five years, an explosion of activity in the dales has yielded an impressive array of discoveries.  It is the purpose of this article to outline some of the major events of the last year.

In the spring of this year, The Happy Wanderers Cave and Pothole Club unearthed an important system in the previously insignificant Pippikin Pot on Leck Fell.  A tight entrance section gives access to a fine streamway which ends in a sump.  Well decorated high level passages form the greater part of the system.  One such passage has been named Gour Hall, and it about a hundred feet long and full of large gours.  The system is about two hours long and three hundred and twenty feet deep.  Its furthest reaches are nearing Upper Lancaster Hole in one direction and Gavel Pot in the other.  The Wanderers hope to find an easier entrance to the cave and work with this in mind is the progress in the Easegill Valley.  The other discoveries made in Leck Fell by this club are the Gavel Extensions, the high level series in Lost John’s and Peteram Pot.  The Gavel Extension is very well decorated and about half a mile long. The high level series in Lost Johns is about fifteen hundred feet long and about a hundred and fifty feet above the master cave.  Peterson’s Pot is now four hundred feet long and a hundred and twenty feet deep.

At the moment many conflicting theories are being put forward in an attempt to explain the Leck Fell drainage.  The main uncertainty is the point of resurgence of the Leck Fell water.  The two possibilities are Leck Beck Head (along with the Lancaster-Easegill water) or in the numerous small cracks in the Easegill Valley.  The uncertainty stems from the level of Leck Beck Head not being accurately known, and the same applies to the level of the Lost Johns sump.

Soon after their discovery of Pippikin, the Wanderers modified an impenetrable crack somewhat. The result was the discovery of Burdle Moss Pot – a huge rift five hundred feet long and three hundred feet and twenty feet deep.  The main pitch is in two ninety foot sections and rivals even Juniper Gulf in quality.  Burdloe Moss is between Gaping Ghyll and Newby Moss and its existence poses some interesting questions as to the geology of the area.

The first major ULSA discovery of the year came this May in the White Scar Cavern.  This extension is a large inlet taking a small stream.  It is reached after a climb through extreme loose boulders.  The passage is generally large, sometimes dropping down to stream level, the formations are reasonable and there are several short side passages.  There are two large avens, one of which has been climbed to a height of fifty feet, at which point it began to close down.  A sump at the end of a bedding plane type passage marks the limit of exploration at present.  The series is a mile long and is heading towards Boggarts Roaring Hole on Newby Moss.  Exploration is finished at the moment due to some access problems.

Work continues in the Allotment.  A recent visit by ULSA to Marble Sink uncovered a continuation a hundred feet in length to the streamway below Fissure Pitch.  The end is, however, completely choked.  A promising dig at the bottom of Marble Pot gave access to a muddy chamber choked with boulders with no apparent way on.  The resurgence of the Marble Sink – Marble Pot water is probably Austwick Beck Head, a large accessible system could well exist in the area. A sobering thought is that this water might conceivably go under Ingleborough and resurge along with Chapel-le-Dale water.  A silly thought is a Black Shiver – Marble Sink through trip!

Some diving is beginning to get underway in the dales.  Recently Mike Wooding dived Clapham Cave for a distance in the order of a thousand feet. He carried on to find eight hundred feet of fossil passage, ending in an area of collapse.  The end of this passage and that of Mountain Hall in Far Country cannot be separated by much, so the G.G. – Clapham Cave link is beginning to look like a reality.  It is also rumoured that Wooding has been diving in Keld Head recently.

While on the subject of the Kingsdale Master Cave, Carrort Passage has now been extended a further hundred feet by ULSA to a very bitter end.  The passage has become hopelessly tight and further digging is impractical at present.  Recently, a B.E.C. – Shepton party dived Penyghent.  This I believe is shortly to be described in rather more detail in the B.B. Grey Wife sump has now been dived by an ULSA member and was found to close down to a tight bedding plane after about twenty feet.  Also on Newby Moss, the Kendal Caving Club have extended Long Kin West to a depth of five hundred and ten feet.  (This pot is described in this B.B. – Ed.)  Another addition of the strictly pothole type, is the Mohole on Cragareth – an ULSA find which was dug into and refuses to go deeper than three hundred feet. This is disappointing as it is well placed for the conjectural Kingsdale Master cave – Marble Steps link or the Three Counties System.  Further digs in this area have yielded little.

This June has seen much ULSA activity in Rangcliff Pot.  This challenging system has a potential depth of nine hundred and fifty feet and is of the order of five miles long.  The first for a series of trips down this pot established over a thousand feet of new inlets to the system.  One of these is approximately six hundred feet long and still going.  Perhaps inlet is the wrong word for this passage, as it takes the main stream.  The passage starts at the downstream end of the Boulder Crawl and goes upstream.  The other inlet which has been surveyed is six hundred feet long and is heading towards Thunder Pot.  Also on this trip, a way on was found into the continuation of the main stream beyond the end of the old cave.  Further trips enabled the downstream end of the cave to be pushed a further eight hundred feet or so to a very disappointing sump, which can be seen to have blocked up to a height of forty feet.  However, after this setback, a dry passage of fine proportions was entered and followed for about fifteen hundred feet to a large chamber.  This passage is the first dry one of any length to be found in Langcliff – its friendly nature makes a pleasant contrast ot the hostile wet crawls which form so much of the cave.  In the chamber there are some excellent formations, including a white cascade of flowstone.  A further trip into this new series enabled a large passage containing deep gours to be entered.  This passage went for about half a mile to the junction with the stream.  Ten feet down this stream was a sump.  Upstream, a waterfall was climbed and a passage followed for about six hundred feet.  This passage ended in a seemingly impenetrable boulder choke.  This is still the situation at present.  The source of this new stream is not known. A survey has already been started and further trips should uncover much interesting passage.  As for the way on, this will take much time and effort.

For further reading on the areas discussed in this article, the reader is recommended to see ULSA review numbers 1 to 6 and the ULSA exploration journal.

Notice!

Our Hon. Sec. has changed his address.  It is now: -

Alan Thomas
Hon. Sec. B.E.C.
Allens House
Priddy
Wells,
Somerset


 

Progress Report From Cuthbert’s Two

By Tim Large

Since the breakthrough into Cuthbert’s II at the end of October last, the sump has flooded and silted due to the winter weather conditions.  The digging team, which consisted of Bob Craig, Roy Bennett, Martin Webster, Martin Mills, John Riley, Alan Butcher, Bob Meyhew and myself worked throughout the winter to re-open the sump.

This was accomplished by building a concrete and boulder dam in the sump passage and piping the water through the sump.  By this method, the sump pool could be bailed and the passage kept open with about six inches of air space.  This work was completed on April the 11th.  At this time, the ‘soak away’ in the sump was still taking some water, thus draining away any percolation that entered the sump area.

Now, the sump open, the team – joined by Ray Mansfield and Pete Rose – could get down to some serious digging.  Initially, the ‘soak away’  hole in  the sump was dug to a depth of about three feet below the general sump level. This only succeeded in blocking it, so that the sump flooded again.  Thus, on May the 9th another plan of attack was put into operation.  The sump was bailed to a passable level and a hundred and twenty feet of hosepipe was used to siphon the water out of the sump.  It was set up so that it would siphon continuously, thus keeping the water level in the sump constantly low.  Thus it has been done very successfully ever since.

As the bottom of the ‘soak away’ was now continuously under water it was decided to dig in the side passage just downstream from the sump.  This was begun on May the 9th.  To make digging easier, the passage was dug out to walking size.  The first minor breakthrough came on May the 19th when a drought was located blowing out from the dig from a four inch high airspace above the mud infill.  From this pointy, the dig went upwards and over a mud and gravel infill which was interlayered with stalagmite false flooring – some two inches thick.  The team were now burrowing a passage which followed the roof, and the airspace could be seen to get bigger a little way ahead.  The further the dig progresses, the more glutinous the mud became, until everyone was walking up to their necks in it.

The Whitsun weekend saw a hive of activity at the dig when Bob Craig, Bob Mayhew, Martin Mills and myself put in fourteen hours digging and dug the final thirty five feet that led to the breakthrough.

It came on may 24th, when a passage five feet wide and six feet high was entered.  Everything was coated with mud, the floor being a foot deep semi-liquid mud lake.  At the far side of this chamber there was a bedding plane about six feet high at the top, rising steeply and trending back up towards Gour Rift.  Dotted along the passage were some fine and unusual stalactite formations.  All were inactive and appeared to be very old.  At the top of the bedding plane, the passage sloped upwards over boulders and stal flows to a squeeze over a flowstone floor.  This led to a small well decorated chamber.  Most of the formations were inactive and in the process of disintegrating, thus producing some peculiar and interesting shapes. From the nearside of the chamber a way on could be seen, but this entailed crossing the chamber and damaging some of the formations.  It was decided to wait until the chamber had been photographed before continuing. This has since proved to have been a wise decision, as the chamber has suffered unavoidably from the passage of cavers.

On May 26th, the chamber was photographed.  The survey was begun by Martin Mills.  Afterwards the chamber was crossed by squeezing under some fine curtains to an obvious exit on the right.  The passage turned sharp right and was even more finely decorated – white sparkling stal adorning the whole passage and dry gours full of crystals on the floor. After twenty feet, the passage turned sharp left down of a stal slope about five feet wide to a rift which appeared to be about twenty feet deep.  From the top, it located is if the passage continued in both directions.

During the trips along the bedding plane, a strange noise could be heard.  This was eventually traced to a small hole halfway along the passage.  Aural connection was established between this hole and one of the holes in the roof of the sump passage.  The noise was that of the water entering the pipes from the sump passage dam.  This connection was later proved by pouring water down the tube.  The unfortunate watcher received a full face of muddy water!

The new extension, although not getting us any nearer to Wookey, has possibly provided an answer as to where the Dinning Room dig would come out.  It will be seen from the survey that the end of the new passage is heading straight for the Dining Room dig and bears the same characteristics as the dig.

As well as digging, there has been much other work done in Cuthbert’s II.  A thorough exploration of the roof, looking at high level routes has been undertaken, but nothing has been found.  About six sites were maypoled in the area of the Ten Foot Pot, but were all just high level continuation of the sttreamway.  Just below the pot, the stream passage is about seventy feet high.

The next digging site is at present uncertain.  There are three possibilities.  The first is a return to the ‘soak away’ which has now been completely rained by increasing the rate of flow from the siphon.  The second possibility would be to dig at Sump II hoping to break into Cuthbert’s III.  This would involve building a dam just upstream if sump II and possibly using techniques similar to those which enabled Sump I to be broken through and drained.  Finally, Dave Turner and Colin Clarke have started a dig at the end of the Gour Rift which is making steady progress.

Some work has already been done at Sump II which has encouraged the diggers.  When the dams are put in, Sump II drains very quickly, thus enabling us to get twenty feet into this sump before rock meets water and the sump continues amid a floor of liquid mud.  The sump was dived, incidentally, on the 15th of February this year by John Parker in very bad conditions.  He reported that the sump went down about fifteen feet to a tight hole.

Despite the many setbacks, prospects still look good for extending the limits of Cuthbert’s yet again.

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Most readers of the B.B. will know that the prize for the ‘Stop the Clock’ competition was won by Kay Mansfield.  We have recently received a letter from her expressing her thanks for the prize money of £25, which she used to buy a diamond ring.

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A survey of the new discoveries in Cuthbert’s II which formed the subject of the article concluded above will be published in the NEXT ISSUE of the B.B.  The survey has been held over to enable this B.B. to be got out as quickly as possible.

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Next month’s B.B. will include articles by Martin Webster on the Lost John’s New Roof Traverse, the resumption of ‘Monthly Notes’, and an article on the Swinsto-Kingsdale link by Roy Bennett.

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We need more articles, letters, bits of information etc. for the B.B. – can YOU help?


 

Monthly Crossword – Number 1.

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

9

 

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

13

 

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACROSS: 1. A.C. Cased in Cuthbert’s (7).   6. Do this in survey productions or hydrology (5).   7. Neck and Neck? (3).   8. Cell with two elements (4).   10. See 3 and 11 down (4).   12. Found in the nearest pub (3).   13. On top of too much beer, Vimto could become this (5).   15. Some think it pretty (4,3).

DOWN:  2. Reference Level (3).   3. Found in cave neighbourhood (4).   4. First move in caving? (5).  

5. Highest point in Cuthbert’s (7).   6. Deepest point in Cuthbert’s? (3,4).   9. Alf at last (5).   11. Sounds like a wet 3 down or a type of 10 across (4).   14. Sump or escalator (3).

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Stencils completed 24th July 1970.