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Belfry Keys

In order to make the Tackle Store more easily available to members, a box now exists near the Belfry front door which contains the key to the Tackle store and itself has a Yale type lock.

It is intended to replace the present Belfry door keys with locks which use the same key as this box, so that any member having a new key will be able to get at the tackle store key.

Members having either type of present Belfry key will be able to exchange it for the new key by seeing or writing (enclosing the old key and a stamped addressed envelope) to MIKE PALMER.  Members who want a new key but have no key at present will be required to pay a 20p deposit on the new key.  Mike will be at the Belfry as much as possible during the changeover period. (4th of March is the official day).


'Sett's' talk on winemaking will be backed up by a practical course on the subject, if a sufficient number of members are interested.  It is suggested that the course, which will occupy a number of sessions on Saturdays, would start on March 3rd.  Would those interested please get in touch with Sett (R.A. Setterington, 4, Galmington Lane, Taunton, Somerset.)


As expected BOB CROSS’S letter on the subject of club trips to other areas has aroused a number of replies.  The first is from TONY JOHNSON who was for many years one of the most active members of club both in the caving and climbing activities and who was also one of our most successful Belfry Engineers.

Dear Editor,

I am uncertain whether I have met Bob Cross, but as an older and once active member, I feel that some comment is needed on his letter in the Christmas B.B.  While his overall objective - more club activity - is right, parts of the letter disturbed me and some things horrified me.

Unless one is organising, say, a summer holiday trip with a very relaxed schedule, large parties or parties with a wide variety of primary interests and skills should be avoided - at least until one becomes very skilful in organising them.  Far better to start small.  As groups of regular travellers emerge who know each other's habits and wishes, new members will join them and the gradual increase can be happily absorbed.

Stay in one spot, together - yes~ that’s important but again, remember that a large camp can very easily produce conflicting habits and practices; can fragment the trip, or can delay it and discourage it so that in the end little is achieved.

Try and make trips regularly.  This will overcome one of the problems of organisation and notification, as people will become aware subconsciously.  With the B.E.C., this is particularly important.  Any organisation requires tact, and with the individuals who form the backbone of the club, the subconscious approach is often the only way.

Perhaps the monthly North Wales climbing trips of the early '50's best exemplify this approach.  These weekend motor cycle trips, up the old A38 and A5 went on winter and summer, with the regulars usually joined by a small group of casuals.  Never large in numbers, these trips remain probably the most successful and ambitious (by the standard of the day) long series of trips in the club's life.

Now for my worries. Surely B.E.C. types have always been proud of their self sufficiency?  What they hadn't got, they begged or borrowed, or saved for and bought - and for most people, money was scarcer tharn it is now.  To suggest that the club should now subsidise members by the purchase of tents, primuses etc. is wrong.  I fear that we should have subsidised transport next.  With the high upkeep and running costs of a potentially excellent H.Q., now more than ever is the time to re-kindle the old self help attitude which seems tragically to have died with the old Belfry.  Believe me, it can give one quite a sense of achievement to do or to obtain something which at first sight appeared to be beyond reach, by one's own efforts.

What really frightened me about Bob's letter though is the reference to ‘bargain eggs’ and ‘burning half the furniture.’  They may have been jests, but they didn't read like it.  Now the B.E.C. may have had a reputation for being 'sharp' and 'on the make' where reasonably possible; but to my knowledge never at the expense of the people whose area we had come to enjoy - whether this was Mendip or elsewhere.  The friendly relations we had with the majority of local people on Mendip did not just happen.  They were the result of long conscious effort, and some reprimands.  Please remember this.  If it wasn't for our ability to have been able to talk to Tim Cunane and others against this background of friendship, you would not now have your access to Cuthbert’s - neither the entrance nor the cave.

Unless you treat local people with fairness and respect you can too easily finish up with the sickening relations that have developed in parts of the North.  These are the warning signals for Mendip - so beware! I know that you often need to wear stout boots, but please remember that such boots can often cripple the wearer - the club.  Leave your jackboots in the cupboard and think as you travel about, particularly about some of the folk you meet who, for some reason or other, cannot be as mobile as you.

Yours Sincerely,            Tony Johnson.

Our next letter on this subject is from TIM LARGE - our Caving Secretary - who also has some firm comments to make…..

I have read with interest the letter from Bob Cross in last month's B.B., but have to disagree with him on several points.  He says that in his opinion the lack of club trips off Mendip is due to the apathy and lack of skill of the Caving and Climbing Secretaries.

Let's take the bit about apathy first.  While I have been Caving Secretary, I have regularly advertised club trips both on and off Mendip.  Some have been successful while others have had to be cancelled owing to lack of support. Still others have been run with very poor attendance.  A few of the trips looked like this on the day:-

7.11.1971          Cuthbert’s, photographic trip.  Arranged at the request of club members.  Nobody turned up. Sorry, One person did.  A Wessex member!

12.12.1971        Cheddar caves, requiring prior arrangements which cost the club money. Two people turned up.

15.4.1972          Stoke Lane Slocker.  Three people attended out of a club which has 200 members.

Bob refers to the apathy of the caving sec.?  Surely he is wrong somewhere!

More recently, on October 14th 1972, a club trip to G.B. was arranged - again no support was forthcoming and the trip was cancelled.  If it is not possible to get support for local trips, what hope is there for getting support for trips further a field?

In the November B.B., I wrote an article which laid out briefly the problems I have been faced with regarding club trips, and also a list of the various access arrangements to help members who are interested in caving.  I also asked for suggestions for trips etc.  From our entire membership I have received ONE reply!  Do you still say the apathy is on MY side, Bob?  As for the bit about skill, I'm not sure what Bob was referring to, but I dare say he will clarify that some day!

ALL the club trips I have organised have been advertised WELL IN ADVANCE in the B.B. and the Belfry with details and my address, so that anyone who was really interested could get all the information for the trip.

To quote Bob’s letter on another point.  ‘It is not good’, he says, ‘to have a little elitist group going off in twos and threes.’ In any club, there will always be a small group of very keen bods, who become more competent and fitter than the average club members and who naturally tackle the more difficult caves. Why should they, of all people, be discouraged?  On the contrary, we should be doing all we can to foster the true spirit of adventure – the desire to ‘see round the next corner.’  Isn’t this what started the Shackletons, Scotts and Hilarys of this world?

In any case, all club trips are normally aimed at the average club member.  In cases where this has not been so, it has been stated.  I do agree with Bob on one point.  All trips should be well planned, but here we are up against that nasty word again – APATHY.

As for Bob's mention of transport; camping, cooking etc. there is really no problem here for a group of keen lads with plenty of group spirit.

As Caving Sec., I see my role as that of somebody who collects all the various bits of information together on things like access arrangements, sorts out a caving programme – and leaves the rest to YOU.  After all, for most members, caving was the thing that they joined the club for, so they should get on with it.  I am not going to spoon feed anybody.  By the time that bods join the B.E.C. they should have got past the stage where they need a nanny so if members want club trips, then it’s up to them to pull their weight.  That’s what belonging to a club is all about – helping one another; mucking in; whatever else you may like to call it.

On looking through the caving log, I see that the majority of the caving is done by the same handful of people - and I understand that this is usually the case.  These people probably fall into Bob's definition of 'elitists' but they would probably be the only people fit enough to do some of the strenuous caves elsewhere in the country.  They do such caves by organising small private groups and they are usually opposed to the idea of including everyone on their trips because such people might not be fit enough or competent enough to take part.

So if people want to cave off Mendip, they ought to cave locally as well so that they can maintain the necessary fitness and expertise.  In any case, there's plenty to do on Mendip if you look around.  I don't expect there is a single member of the club who has done everything on Mendip, so what are you waiting for?  As Bob says, 'Get deep down to things.'


Tim Large.

Our final letter is on a rather different point, and comes from ‘Mr’Nigel Taylor.

Dear Editor.

A considerable amount of time has been spent at the last few committee meetings in discussing Belfry security and also the Tackle Store and its associated costs.  I have an idea that I should like to put forward.  Why not spend the estimated and proposed £60 on flooring the Belfry Attic?  This idea has several advantages:-

1.                  It would make a good dry and damp proof storage area for the club tackle.

2.                  It would bring the tackle under the same roof as most of the other club activities.

3.                  Access to tackle would be to B.E.C. members only, as the rules dictate and only one key would be required.

4.                  It would bring tackle-making into the heart of the Belfry.

5.                  It would already be in line with a proposal to floor the attic.

6.                  An attic tackle store would add to the insulation of the Belfry with consequent saving in fuel bills.

Howver, I must stress that this should not result in the old Belfry (Alfie's stone hut) being allowed to deteriorate, as it is the base for the M.R.O.  The present tackle shed could be used for fuel storage and for storing construction and digging gear.

"Mr" Nigel.

Editor's Note:     As Nigel knows since he wrote the above, the dilemma of the locks and keys has now been sorted out, and the £60 has (or is highly likely to be) cut down to £30 for the lockers.  However, thoughts such as these on improving our resources are always welcome.