Any views expressed by any contributor to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of officers of the club, do not necessarily coincide with those of the editor or the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, unless stated as being the view of the committee or editor.

Club Headquarters

‘The Belfry’, Wells Rd., Priddy, Wells, Somerset.  Tele: WELLS 72126

Club Committee

Chairman:         S.J. Collins
Minutes Sec:     R. Bennett
Members:          R. Bagshaw; D.J. Irwin; M.J. Palmer; N. Jago; T.E. Large; A.R. Thomas; R. Orr.

Officers Of The Club

Hon. Secretary: A.R. THOMAS, Allen’s House, Nine Barrows Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Tel: PRIDDY 269.
Hon. Treasurer:  R.J. BAGSHAW, 699 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.  Tel: WHITCHURCH. 5626.
Caving Sec:       T.E. LARGE, 39 Seymour Ave, Bishopston, Bristol.
Climbing Sec:    N. Jago, 27 Quantock Rd, Windmill Hill, Bedminster, Bristol 3.
Hut Warden:      R. ORR.  ‘The Belfry’, as above.
Assit H.W.        N. TAYLOR, Whiddon, Chilcote, Somerset.  Tel. WELLS 72338.
Hut Engineer:    M. BISHOP, (Acting)  Address to follow..
Tacklemaster:    M.A PALMER. 27 Roman Way, Paulton, BS18 5XB
B.B. Editor:       S.J. COLLINS, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Nr. Bristol.
Librarian:           D.J. IRWIN, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.  Tel: PRIDDY 369.
Pbs. (Sales)      C, Howell, 131 Sandon Rd., Edgbaston, Birminham.
Publications:     D.J. IRWIN.  Address as above
B.B. Post:         Mrs. K. Mansfield, Tiny Kott, Little London, Oakhill, Bath, Somerset.

MENDIP RESCUE ORGANISATION.  In case of emergency telephone WELLS 73481


 

Editorial

The I.D.M.F Show

This B.B. contains, amongst other things, the minutes of the second part of last year's A.G.M. - that dealing with the proposal to change the rules governing the Ian Dear, Memorial Fund Committee.  The rules as finally amended have not been re-published in this B.B., because they have already been published.

It was, of course, tempting to think about putting out this section of the minutes as it was displayed for some time at the Belfry - all in rhyme - but that would hardly do for the official account.  I should, however, like to draw the attention of club members to the Minute Taker's Note at the end of these minutes, as they were extremely difficult to get on to paper at the time.  I hope that they will not lead to too many amendments at the next A.G.M.

Tackle

Talking of A.G.M.'s - as we are bound to as the time for the next one approaches - there is always one subject which is guaranteed to provide talking space for a whole meeting to itself, and that is the subject of tackle.

This year, almost certainly, the question of what is to be considered as the accepted usage of caving tackle will be brought up.  Should lifelines be used for prussicking?  If so, under what circumstances and how does one decide when a club rope has had enough?  Is abseiling on club lifelines O.K.? - and so on.

There are people who think that any technique which involves the deliberate placing of one's entire weight on to a single rope should only be carried out on a rope which is the personal property of the man involved.  Others have other views.  Some prussicking devices are said to be far from gentle in their treatment of a rope. Should these be classified, with some being approved and others not?  What about the use of comantle ropes?  These are a few of the questions which seem to require answers.  Time is, as always, likely to be too short for a full debate on these questions to be conducted at the A.G.M. itself.  Perhaps it would be a good idea if as many people as possible could thrash out some of the points involved beforehand.  Needless to say, the pages of the B.B. are open to anyone who wants to make points on this subject, so that their ideas can be put before the club in time for others to hear about before the A.G.M.

“Alfie”

Don’t Forget

.. that the A.G.M. will be held at the Belfry on Saturday, on Saturday October 6th at 10.30 a.m. The Annual Dinner will be held that evening.  Details will be published in the next B.B.

New voting forms will be sent to all members and, under the new arrangement YOU CANNOT GET A SPARE FORM so make sure that you send the form you get back to Alan, or that you bring it with you to the meeting.

Any resolutions should be SECONDED and either sent to Alan in advance or brought with you to the meeting. This does not prevent you proposing a resolution at the meeting, but helps the chairman to know what is coming up if you make sure he gets it by the start of the meeting.

Finally, don’t forget that only PAID UP members are entitled to vote!


 

Langstroth Pot

An account of this pot by Buckett Tilbury.  The manuscript arrived with a pencilled comment that it had been checked by Graham Wilton-Jones, which makes it the O.K.  High Wycombe account!

The entrance to this fine pot is best found by leaving the road opposite the ancient stone circle, and climbing the fell which takes the caver gradually into a shallow gully. Follow this gully up until a small stream is encountered sinking near a tree.  Just down the gully from this sink is an insignificant slot in a hollow of rock.

To enter, it is best to go feet first on one's side, and as the feet slide over the edge of the first climb, feel for the holds.  This is an easy climb of twelve feet into a small chamber.  The guidebook calls this the first pitch but no ladder is required. From the chamber, slide down by a flake of rock to the bottom of a small rift passage.  The floor of this passage drops to an awkward wallow in a deep pool under a boulder.  The rift continues round a couple of bends until the roof suddenly drops to give a flat out crawl on one’s side.  This section of passage is about seventy feet long and about half way, the floor gives way to a small slot, which means that one is traversing as well as crawling. The passage emerges on to a ledge in a walking size passage with an inlet from the right.  Turn left and walk along ledges to climb back to stream level. A short walk leads to where the stream drops down a tight slot under a stale bank.  This is the duck.  Go down the slot into a deep pool under the stal bank with about a foot of airspace. Follow the stream as the floor rises and the passage is a flat out crawl in a small canal.  This ends as the stream goes over a small drop.  Follow the stream or crawl on the ledges to a large boulder.  Emerge either from under or over the boulder into good walking size passage with the stream in the floor.  It is fairly easy going over or round boulders until the stream disappears in the floor and the boulders meet the roof.

The next section is an involved and intricate series of crawls and squeezes until one enters a small chamber with an inlet on the right.  A short climb to the floor of the chamber and a tiny hole is observed in the left hand corner.  This is the Slot.  If you are of slim build, you just stick your feet in the slot and slide gently down to rejoin the main stream in a tight rift passage.  If, on the other hand, you are like most of us and suffer from too many visits to the Hunters, you stick your feet in and get somebody to jump up and down on your helmet, which has the effect of pumping you through.  Getting back up the Slot is extremely difficult. The length of the Slot is about six feet.

From the bottom of the Slot, turn right and climb to the top of the tight rift and traverse along to a slight widening of the passage at the top of the Second Pitch.  The belay is a large flake of rock in the left-hand wall. A ten foot tether and forty foot ladder is just right.  The take off point for this pitch is awkward and tight, but after the first few feet, it opens out into a large high chamber.  The pitch is broken by a ledge and the pitch is wet.  From the ladder, cross the chamber and pass under or over a group of boulders to a smaller chamber with a large ledge and some good straws in the roof.

The Third Pitch follows quickly and there are plenty of good belays with a sling belay and a forty foot ladder.  The climb is dry and down into another chamber.  Leave the chamber, following the stream into a high narrow winding rift passage.  This passage is superbly decorated with helictites along its length - some up to five inches long.  Luckily, most are above shoulder height and so avoid damage.  This passage is a terror to boiler suits and wet suits as it is covered with sharp projections.  The rift ends with a sharp turn left and changes to a bedding plane with a canyon in the floor.  The formations of this section are good, and as the roof lowers the canyon disappears until it becomes flat out crawling in the stream.

The floor drops away in a gulley and the top of the Fourth Pitch is encountered.  A good belay on the ledge on the left is used for the sling belay and a twenty five foot ladder.  A nice climb against the wall in the stream brings one into a circular chamber where the colour of the rock has changed from a dirty black to a soft grey. There is a short section of easy passage leading to the top of the Fifth Pitch.  A flake belay on the left can be used for a sling and twenty foot ladder. This pitch is also wet, and lands in a chamber similar to the last pitch.  The stream is then followed over some small cascades to the top of the Sixth Pitch.  This pitch needs no ladder as it is a ten foot easy climb.  If the water is high, a rope may be useful for the return climb. This pitch can also be bypassed by traversing over the top and climbing back to the stream about thirty feet past the pitch.  A short section of cascades past a large inlet on the left brings one to the top of the Seventh Pitch.

The inlet starts as a high rift passage up which one climbs to a small chamber.  There is no obvious way on from here, but if a short climb is made up the right hand wall, a small rift is found.  Following this rift, the method of progress ranges from hands and knees to flat out crawling in water, as there is a small stream.

The belay for the Seventh Pitch is a bolt low down on the right hand side.  The twenty foot ladder climb is in the stream and against the wall all the way down and the landing is in a deep pool of water.  If the stream is normal the pitch can be made dry by somebody with a large rear end sitting in the stream above the cascade and damming the water to the pitch.  This just gives enough time to get up or down the pitch, unless the person doing the damming has a warped sense of humour, in which case you receive a deluge on the head. From the bottom of the ladder, follow the stream passage, which is mostly easy walking, past some fine arrays of formations on both sides of the passage.

At one point here, the passage enlarges to form a chamber which is filled across the floor with a loose gravel and boulder fill.  This fill is falling from a huge choke in the roof, which is probably the bottom of a large aven.  The water from here on is almost waist deep in places and there are several gravel banks to negotiate.

A change of passage to a series of cascades indicates the approach to the last pitch - the Eighth. A short climb down to a blank wall, a short step to the right, and one is looking through a large 'V' shaped opening into a large chamber.  The belay is a bolt on the right hand wall and the pitch is wet.  A forty five foot ladder lands in a shallow pool in which lie some lengths of old maypoles.  Round the corner from this chamber, one comes face to face with the sump pool.  This sump has a line through it but it is not recommended as a free dive.

On the last pitch, we operated a 'two up, two down' system which did away with the need for a double lifeline.  This pitch can also be made reasonably dry by the same procedure as that described for the Seventh Pitch.

Double lifelines were used on the Second and Third Pitches with a follow-through line on the rest. It is very difficult to get the line to the bottom of the Second Pitch from the top.

This is a fine sporting pot with excellent formations to reward those who make the effort to get past the first difficult sections which make the carrying of tackle very arduous.


 

Minutes of the 1972 A.G.M.

….being the minutes the second part of the 1972 Annual General Meeting.

The adjourned meeting reconvened at the Belfry at 2 p.m. on the Sunday.  By 2.10, a count revealed 26 members and the Chairman declared the meeting open.  To allow further members to arrive, he said that he would take a member's resolution first, before dealing with the Ian Dear Fund rules.  Thus, a resolution proposed by Alan Thomas and seconded by Dave Irwin that "The expression 'full' and 'Junior' membership should gradually be dropped, but that we continue to charge younger members less" was put to the meeting.

Alan Thomas explained that the word 'Junior' was objectionable to some younger members. Jock Orr said that he had not found this to be the case.  In reply to a question as to whether the intention of the resolution was to modify the subscription for younger members, Alan said that this was not the case. There was no further discussion, and the Chairman put the resolution to the vote.  It was defeated (2-12) with the remainder abstaining.

The proposed changes to the rules for the Ian Dear Memorial fund were dealt with next.  The Chairman put a general resolution by Joan and Ray Bennett to the meeting that "In order to save time, discussion of the proposed changes to the rules shall consist of firstly the submission of formal amendments to any of the propositions, followed by discussion and voting on the amendments.  Finally, the whole set of resolutions, amended or otherwise, shall be voted for en bloc."  This resolution was passed by the meeting with no discussion with 24 in favour and one against.

There were no amendments proposed for rule 1.

In rule 2, Dave Irwin proposed the deletion of the word CERTAIN and the substitution of the word YOUNGER members in line with Ian's will.  Bob Bagshaw said that, in fact, the will mentioned 'Junior' members. Dave replied that he would therefore accept 'Junior' and Bob seconded the amendment as now worded.

A discussion then took place on the subject of what Ian might have done had he been with us to-day. Amongst the points made, Alan Thomas said that Ian's intention was that the money should be used for the purpose he specified and that we must therefore arrange to use it, even if this meant altering the conditions to suit changing circumstances which Ian could not have foreseen.  Dave Irwin maintained that once we started to put words into Ian's mouth, as it were, there might be no limit to this process and that in any case; the money was always there to be used in the way that Ian specified if the right circumstances arose. After this discussion, the Chairman put the amendment to the meeting, and it was carried by 19 votes to 11.

Joan and Roy Bennett tabled an amendment to Rule 3 as follows: “The fund will be administered by an Ian Dear Memorial Fund Committee of five members.  This will consist of the Hon. Treasurer, the Caving and Climbing Secretaries and two other members who will be elected annually at the same time and by the same procedures as the General Committee.  The previous year’s ordinary members would be automatically nominated and would carry on in office if no other nominations were received. The aforesaid committee will report to the Annual General Meeting.”  This amendment was carried without dissent.

In discussing rule 4, Dave Irwin pointed out that the same argument which had been put forward in the case of rule 2 applied here also, and that logically, rule 4 should now be deleted in its entirety.  A discussion on the lines already reported took place, with George Honey, speaking as an old friend of Ian's, coming out in favour of altering the conditions in line with present day requirements.  Dave Turner proposed that the conditions should include members under 18 years of age or full time students.  This was seconded. Dave Irwin said that this would be contrary to the will and reiterated his point that rules 2 and 4 were now incompatible.  The discussion reached a deadlock.

The Chairman pointed out to the meeting that the amended rule 2 specified the word 'Junior' which, in our club, had a specific meaning and thus any attempt to alter this by rule 4 could not be done.  Furthermore, because the meeting had accepted an arrangement whereby it had confined itself to carrying or defeating the entire set of rules en bloc; if it wanted a rule 4 of any sort, its only course of action now open to it would be to vote now on the rules as they stood, reject them en bloc, and start the procedure again - this time being careful to avoid any incompatibility between rules.

Dave Turner then withdrew his amendment and Bob Bagshaw proposed that all discussion be terminated. This was seconded and carried unanimously.  The Chairman then called for a vote on the proposals en bloc.  This was then defeated unanimously and Jock Orr then proposed Roy and Joan's original proposal again.  This was seconded and accepted by the meeting.

Discussing rule 2, Dave Irwin said that he still felt it should specify 'younger' members.  A further discussion took place on the lines previously reported.  Dave Irwin maintained that the will must in all cases be adhered to strictly, while George Honey was in favour of any changes which would make it more easy to administer.  Dave Turner suggested that the definition of who can benefit be left to be specified in rule 4, while rule 2 merely mentions 'members' who would then be further specified in rule 4.

Dave Irwin said that he had no objection to this as long as the conditions of Ian's will were adhered to. Dave Turner said that rules 2 and 4 could be regarded as being mutually unnecessary.  A vote was finally taken on and it was passed with 28 in favour and 1 against.

Rule 3 was accepted unanimously with Roy's amendment as previously.

On rule 4, George Honey suggested that the definitions of the exceptions should come out.  This was seconded by Peter Lane.  Dave Irwin suggested that this could still leave rule 4 open to interpretation. After a short discussion, the chairman put the amendment to the meeting and it was carried with 25 in favour and 5 against.

No amendments were suggested to rule 5.

Mike Palmer tabled an amendment to rule 6, that "The maximum amount of monies allocated in anyone year shall be left to the discretion of the I.D.M.F. Committee. The maximum amount allocated to any individual is unlikely to exceed twenty pounds per trip."  This was seconded by Dave Turner and carried by the meeting.

An amendment to rule 7 from Joan and Roy Bennett read “The fund to be invested in a building society or similar scheme and the interest retained within the fund.”  Alan Thomas suggested that the investment should be left to the discretion of the treasurer but agreed that the interest should be retained within the fund.  Roy and Joan then withdrew their amendment in favour of Alan's, which was seconded by Joan Bennett.  The amendment was carried with 7 against.

Mike Palmer then proposed an additional rule 8.  "The elected chairman shall give a report as directed from time to time by the A.G.M." but the Chairman ruled that this was already covered by rule 3 and Mike Palmer then withdrew.

The amendments en bloc were then put to the meeting, and carried with 3 against.

The Chairman now dealt with the remaining member’s resolutions, the second of which was proposed by Alan Thomas and seconded by Dave Irwin "That nobody should be able to propose or second membership applications until his own /membership has been ratified."  Bob Bagshaw asked whether a resolution of this type was necessary, pointing out that the committee could always refer a form back if it thought the proposer or seconder inadequate.  After a short discussion, during which the proposal was agreed to amount to a constitutional change, it was proposed that the matter be brought up at next year’s A.G.M., with the committee looking into it meanwhile, as the subject hardly warranted a special committee investigation. This was carried by the meeting with 3 against.

The Chairman said that a number of proposals had been given in which all affected voting methods, and asked those who had proposed them if they would agree to have them taken together. A discussion arose as to whether changes in the constitution would be necessary.  Alfie proposed that a committee be set up to investigate.  If no constitutional changes were required by their findings, the changes in voting procedures could be implemented by the General committee in time for the next election.  If changes to the constitution were required, then this would count as the year's committee stage required by the constitution and the changes could be voted on at the next A.G.M.  This was agreed to by the meeting.  Bob Bagshaw asked if the committee could have directions from the meeting, and mentioned specifically whether the meeting wanted a secret ballot or not.  In order to get the feeling of the meeting, Bob proposed that the ballot be not secret. This was seconded by Tim Large and defeated (9-20).  The Chairman reminded the meeting that this was advice, not direction.

The Chairman said that another set of resolutions all affected the A.G.M. and Dinner, and asked if these could be taken and discussed en bloc.  The meeting, after a short discussion on whether the A.G.M. and dinner should continue to be held on the same day; day this or these should be; and where they should be held, Alfie proposed that the A.G.M. should be held at Belfry at 10.30 a.m. on the first Saturday of October; followed by the dinner the same evening.  This was seconded by Mike palmer and carried (30-7).

The Chairman then took a resolution by G.E. Oaten, seconded by Brenda Wilton "It is proposed that a check shall be made at each A.G.M. on the persons present to determine who are fully paid up members and entitled to vote."  Dave Turner said that anybody can point out strangers on a point of order at present, and what does 'any sum in respect of membership' mean in clause 41 of the constitution?  Joan said that it only meant subscriptions.  After some further discussion, the chairman ruled that clause 41 should be enforced but decided that a resolution to this effect was not necessary since the constitution already assumed that it would, in fact, occur.

The next resolution was from Mike Palmer, seconded by Nigel Jago, "That all members co-opted to the committee in any year of office shall not automatically be considered as nominated for re-election to the new committee."  The, chairman said that this was undoubtedly a change to the constitution and suggested that it would, with the agreement of the proposer and seconder, be easier if it was minuted as a recommendation to the committee.  Mike said that he now wished to withdraw the proposal.  Tim Hodgson then said that he would propose it himself and his proposal was seconded by Nigel Jago.  A vote was taken and it was defeated (3-20).  A suggestion was then made that, since we had had a chairman's ruling that the proposal should be minuted as a recommendation to the committee, should it not now be minuted as a recommendation against this course of action, since the meeting had defeated the proposal?  The Chairman put this to the meeting informally.  The meeting decided to drop the entire matter.

A resolution by Barry Wilton, seconded by G.E. Oaten "That any committee post which becomes vacant should be advertised in the B.B. so that every member has the opportunity to offer his services" was taken next.  A short discussion followed and Alfie proposed an amendment to add the words 'wherever practicable' after 'B.B.'  This was seconded by George Honey and carried unanimously.

A resolution by Mike Palmer, seconded by Pete Franklin, that “The 72/73 committee consider and report on the effects of adopting the following as an amendment to the present electoral system:~ That any member who serves on the committee for three consecutive years shall retire automatically for one year before standing again for the committee.” was taken next.  After a very short discussion, the motion was lost by one vote (15-16).

The next resolution was "That the committee shall, in future not accept for membership anyone unless they are reasonably sure that he or she has been caving or climbing with the B.E.C. for at least six months."  This was proposed by Alan Thomas and seconded by Dave Irwin.  Joan Bennett said that this is one of the reasons why we have a probationary membership.  Sid asked how effective this was in practice.  Alan said that nobody had, as yet, been refused ratification. Joan pointed out that in some cases ratification has been postponed.  Dave Turner said that a new member must make himself known, but Dave Irwin said that such an arrangement had no teeth.  Joan disagreed and said that the power was there.  The Chairman called for a vote, and the proposal was defeated (6-19).

The next resolution, proposed by Alan Thomas and seconded by Tim Hodgson was "That the committee should investigate and report to next year's A.G.M. on the possibility of forming a B.E.C. Special Branch of the British Sub Aqua Club."  This was put straight to the vote and carried by 13 - 7.

Another resolution by Alan Thomas, seconded by Dave Irwin "That future Officers' Reports should not be published in the B.B. or, alternately, the B.B's containing officers' reports should be restricted to club members."  A short discussion followed in which it was argued that by having the reports in the B.B., time was saved at the A.G.M. and that the reports did not become lost.  On the other hand, it was sometimes politic not to publish to strangers all the matter of an officer's report.  The Chairman said that he felt this was something which could be worked by the general committee if the meeting so wished.  A was taken, passing the resolution in principle but referring the actual mechanism whereby the best arrangement could be obtained to the committee. (25-3)

A resolution limiting life membership in certain circumstances was withdrawn after a Chairman's ruling that the Secretary should write to all Life Members once a year at their last known address asking them to confirm this and, on getting no reply, should cease to communicate with them.  The meeting endorsed this ruling and, there being no further business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed at 5.10 p.m.

Minute Taker's Note: 

Parts of this session of the meeting became very difficult to follow and record. I have made every attempt to reflect the feelings and conclusions of the meeting but those who attended will realise why I ask that some allowance be made in reading what I found very difficult to write.

S.J. Collins.


 

Zulu’s Cavelet

Nigel Taylor sends in a Grade 1 survey of this modest addition to the Caves of Mendip.  One imagines that, since the cavelet is described as being in the working face of the quarry, it will only enjoy a brief existence, and this may therefore be the only description of it to be published.

The Cavelet is in Cloford Quarry, and was surveyed by Nigel in December 1972.  The Grade 1 survey is shown below.


 

The Problems of Cave Conservation & Access and the Encouragement & Control of Novices from Non Caving Club Organisations

Ian Calder sends in this article in response to the recent one on the future of club caving.  He points out that there is a large measure of agreement and says that 'any comments would be gratefully appreciated'.

There is no doubt that, at the present time, there is an ever increasing number of people entering caves in this country on caving trips, and consequently there is a large number of people descending a cave for the first time.  It is also becoming more evident that especially (but not only) in open access caves, a lot of unnecessary and permanent damage is being done, as well as an awful lot of temporary spoiling in the form of leaving litter, carbide and dirtying formations.  Finally, it also appears that there is an increase in call-outs for Rescue Organisations, especially from non-caving club organisations such as scouts, schools youth clubs and so on.

The first point to decide is to what extent there is a link up between these three developments.  It seems reasonable, and in many ways inevitable that the more a cave is visited the more likely it is to be damaged or destroyed.  Indeed, any visitor is almost bound to move stones, leave footprints (even digging equipment and fuse wires) touch formations etc. and thereby damage the natural state of the cave.  Potentially, however, I am sure that the novice caver is more likely to do damage than the experienced club caver for the novice is more likely to move awkwardly and stumble over formations; miss tapes marking off grottos; leave litter and carbide behind etc.  One has only to consider the difference between Swildons Hole and St. Cuthbert’s Swallet, the first with open access and frequently visited by novice or semi-novice cavers, and the second gated and operated on a leader system which tries to exclude novices from the cave.  However cavers ought to be reminded of the damage which has been done in gated caves like St. Cuthbert’s, Shatter Cave and Balch Cave before laying all the blame on novice cavers.  Perhaps each caving club ought to run its own programme for its novice members to try to ensure that these members develop a conserving, exploratory and considerate approach to caving rather than a competitive approach (on the increase at the moment) which makes them bash on regardless of people or formations fun order to achieve their objective.  It seems reasonable to say, then, that the more a cave is visited the more it will be damaged and the more it is visited by novices to a greater extent it will be further damaged.  One can only assume therefore that if novices or non club cavers were prevented from entering caves, then such caves would either be preserved for a longer period or be considerably less polluted.  Whether this be true of all caves is debatable, for example - Porth-yr-Ogof, Goatchurch Cavern or Eglwys Faen all seem to me to be caves where no more damage could really be done and where club cavers are as a result not worried about their open access.  On the other hand, there are still a number of caves such as Swildons or Little Neath, which still have a great deal worth preserving and which also have open access.  If we wish to preserve the features which are left in such caves, it seems that some sort of limited access must exist.  This implies gating such caves unless there is a particularly hazardous entrance as may be found in Little Neath Cave or Eastwater Cavern which would, in fact, prohibit visits by novice cavers.  Such caves are few, and even these may be argued not to have really effective barriers and we are therefore left with gating as the only effective system of control. Two main problems now arise:-

1.                    Who or what is going to control the access to gated caves?

2.                    To what extent will non caving club organisations be able to enter them?

At the present time we have a National Caving association and a number of regional bodies formed in the main to present a united front to fight for access rights to some of the more important caves, especially in Yorkshire.  At first sight it would seem reasonable that such a national body should control the arrangements for all gated caves so that there would be one organisation fighting both for access rights and for the interests of caving in general.  This, however, could lead to abuse, and in this connection it is interesting to note that the Northern Council is denying access to caving clubs who will not join them.  Is this in the interests of caving?  Are they not trying to bring cavers into line, as it were rather than fostering the best interests of the caving fraternity?  The N.C.A. has the power of distributing government grants and thus there is a danger of sponsoring some aspects or clubs more than others and ultimately of being able to dictate to caving clubs.  It is interesting to note that, in the last allocation of money, the British Association of Caving Instructors (B.A.C.I.) received £200 while the Southern Council received £10.  This surely means that the N.C.A. supports and wishes to promote the work being done by B.A.C.I., who are themselves strongly promoting their scheme, especially amongst Local Education Authorities for teachers and youth workers. Like the Mountain Leadership Certificate is now, the B.A.C.I's certificate will soon be a requirement for teachers and youth workers (whether they be cavers or not) in order to take non club caving trips.

So much for the present situation, but let us consider how this could progress.  If we have a national body, it is bound to be the body consulted by the Department of Education and Science; but it could also become the body empowered by government, or having government backing, to bring every cave in the country under its control.  From this position, the easiest way to administer such control would be to demand that every trip was led by someone with a certificate in Cave Leadership.  Hence I foresee regimented caving being dictated by some remote body AND I CONTEND THAT THIS IS WHAT THE CAVING WORLD IS LEAVING ITSELF WIDE OPEN TO.  I would also contend that even the administration of gated caves on a regional basis would be open to some sort of misuse.  WE MUST REALISE THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES BEFORE WE GIVE POWER TO SUCH BODIES, FOR AFTERWARDS IT MAY BE TOO LATE.

The sort of system of control I would advocate would be one by which particular clubs administer particular caves with other bona-fide clubs having either a key or some form of easy access to the caves.  The onus would then be on the club involved to run its cave or caves the way it thought best.  This way, there would be little room for power politics and a far greater chance of a club being able to develop good relations and agreements with land owners. This way, a much better feeling would exist between cavers and landowners from which only good would come. The only real problem would concern novices.  If they were from a caving club then obviously that club would be responsible for that trip, but what about trips from non caving club organisations? There seem to be three possibilities. (1) You ban them and thereby cut down the number of novice cavers considerably.  (2) You allow such trips if the person leading is a member of a club holding a key to that particular cave.  However, being a good caver may not ensure being a good leader of novice trips.  For example, cave divers or hard sporting cavers may not be the best people to run such trips.  Experience may not of itself make a good leader, since experience may be good or bad.  We may remember that Einstein could not teach elementary physics and therefore we must not fall into the trap of thinking that the leader needs only to be experienced. (3) You allow such trips if you know that the adults in charge are competent and will conduct the trip in every way as well as it would be conducted if it were a novice club trip - that is, with interest, safety, exploration and conservation being the factors involved. The problem is how one assesses this to be the case.

Whether such trips are going round easy, un-gated caves such as Goatchurch or Eglws Faen, or not, what qualities would we expect from the leader or organiser of such a trip?  I believe there are basically three factors involved.  (1) That the person in charge should know a fair bit about caves in general and have the sort of approach to caving that I have already mentioned.  (2) The person should know the various techniques involved in caving and in the particular cave he is intending to use and (3) the person concerned should be a good leader.  The second factor and much of the third can be learned over a period of time and if necessary by going on courses specifically for this purpose.  The third factor, and having the right approach is extremely important and, as most people will agree, impossible to assess in a course type situation.  However, a teacher will have spent at least four of five years learning about and being with young people and, I would suggest, is the best sort of qualified person to have these vital qualities.  Ideally, then, the person in charge of such trips should be a teacher and either an experienced caver or have spent some time interested in caving and been on some recognised course where he could learn the relevant techniques.  Would cavers and Local Education Authorities be prepared to accept the sort of proposals I have just mentioned?

Whatever happens, the number of people visiting caves is going to increase.  Such a scheme as I have outlined would have several advantages. Firstly, responsible and interested people would be in charge of such trips, leading to safer caving and some possibility of keeping our caves in a better condition.  Secondly, such trips could only take place in certain suitable caves.  Thirdly there would be no need for any sort of national body to administer a certificate or have any other such power thus halting the present advance towards regimented caving.  Finally, courses for teachers would have to be run in conjunction with the local caving clubs.  Would caving clubs be prepared to help caving in this way?  If so, the burden of responsibility would lie fairly and squarely with Local Education Authorities and could not be shelved behind the stalactite curtain of a certificate which NEITHER ENSURES ACCIDENT FREE TRIPS NOR AN EDUCATIONAL APPROACH TO CAVING.

To summarise, one has first to decide between open access and conservation.  Is gated or restricted access too high a price to pay for conservation?  If so, can we do any thing to educate people to go to open access caves and treat them in a reasonable and conserving way? If not - we have all the ensuing problems of restricted access - to whom it is restricted and who is going to do the actual restriction.  A careful and detailed study must be made here to ensure that the answers to these questions do not interfere with the spirit of caving as an exploring science and as an interest which brings together people from all walks of life.

Editor's Note: Well, I did ask for contributions on the subject!  Apart from going down caves, the problem of how we manage to preserve our way of life on Mendip is the most important thing cavers can think about.  It is interesting to see how much general agreement there is between this article; that published recently in the Wessex Journal; my recent one on this subject, and what went on at the recent meeting of the Southern Council.  Given luck and good management, there seems a good chance that cavers on Mendip have woken up to the threats them and are prepared to act together - with a bit and take - to meet them.

For the benefit of Ian and others, the problem of what to do about the increasing requirement from Local Education Authorities for caving trips for novices was raised by the Wessex Cave Club in their Journal, and their proposal for a scheme based on the caving clubs was put to the C.S.C.C.

A booklet on safety recently issued by the Department of Education and Science mentions the BA.C.I. Certificate in its section on caving, and it was pointed out by some of the educationalists present that although the booklet did not suggest that this was the ONLY qualification; because no other alternative was quoted, an impression would be formed by its readers that the B.A.C.I. were the only body which could or would grant some sort of cachet in this field.  The acceptance of the Wessex scheme by the Southern Council would have the advantage of getting this scheme into future issues of the booklet as an alternative based on existing caving clubs.

The Southern Council were in favour of this basic idea, but thought that the alternative scheme would carry more weight as a Southern Council scheme rather than one from a particular club. The scheme is at present being looked into by a small committee who will report to the next meeting of the C.S.C.C. at which, hopefully, the scheme will be passed.  Local Education Authorities will then be able to deal with caving clubs on a cooperative basis in the sort of manner that Ian suggests.

While we don't want to bore members with too much of this sort of thing in the B.B., it must be emphasised that the present time is one in which Mendip cavers are faced with a number of problems which can be solved but which, if left to solve themselves, will result in a state of affairs which will not suit the vast majority of cavers. It is thus very important that the B.B. plays its part in keeping these matters in front of its readers because otherwise, the days of the B.B. and the B.E.C. itself could well be numbered.


 

A Pressing Point

(For pressing on in Pressing Water!)

Some useful advice sent in by Nigel Taylor, who we hope will not mind the slight tidying up of the scansion!

Since the Great Flood of July sixty eight
We all can do Swildons at much greater rate
No longer at Forty do we have to wait
As down to the Twenty we travel on straight.

Yet this happy change ought to make us all pause
For unlucky weather could give us just cause
To worry if floodwater once again roars
And a powerful jet from the new Eight Foot pours!

Because if this happens it may be too late
To know of no way to get back past the Eight
And have to remain till the waters abate
Or succumb to some dreadful and watery fate.

So therefore all cavers, I really must urge
By means of this short but appropriate dirge
That to make an escape from the floodwater's surge
Learn to free climb the forty - and live and emerge!


 

Monthly Crossword – Number 36.

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

6

 

 

 

 

 

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

 

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Across:

6. Under the church in Stoke Lane? (5)
7. Place tackle. (3)
8. Behold. (2)
9. Feature of caves…. (5)
10. ….which this explains. (5)
12. …excess. (see 8). (2)
13. “….straight on.”  Is the U.B.S.S. motto. (2)
16. Appropriate word. (3)
17.Mistake much discussed in cave surveying. (5)

Down:

1. Climb. (5)
2. Always old fashioned. (3)
3. Makes injured caver longer? (9)
4. Cuthbert’s 12 across. (5)
5. Hunters pot less a direction is long time past. (3)
10. Fills up….. (5)
11. …..these formations. (5)
14. 1 down is an attribute of this. (3)
15. Long and Short Swildons Ways. (2)

Solution to Last Month’s Crossword

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B

 

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N

 

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L

 

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