BEC digs

Search Our Site


My note in the Personal column of the last BB has brought a storm of protest from the fathers of sons born prior to Johnny and Betty’s! I bow my heard in shame and admit not one mistake but more than one. Sorry John and Betty, there are others before you. If possible, I will try to give you a list, but there are at least two others with an earlier claim.

Thanks are due to those members who have already sent in articles for publication, but there can NEVER be too many, so let the trickle become a flood! If you don’t like the BB write and tell me what it is that you dislike, and I will do my best to alter it. Likewise, tell me if you approve as only by the reader’s reaction can I gauge if I am doing my job successfully.

Caving Report

Hon. Sec., Assist. Hon. Sec., and three others did an “Upper Swildon’s” on Sunday 6th July. Photographs were taken and two misguided persons came out the Wet Way. There were no casualties.


Climbing Report


Exploration of the Nether Regions        by Trevor C. Rhodes

Recently the writer of the following article did his first trip underground and as a result has burst into print.

I first contemplated a speleological foray after a singularly unsuccessful expedition to the Ponsford branch of the National Coal Board, of which the sole beneficial results appeared to be a generous coating of coal-dust and a full appreciation of the difficulties that a British mine-worker has to endure. Fully convinced that such subterranean conditions could not exist elsewhere, a caving trip appeared to provide an answer to this conviction.

A trip was arranged, and upon nearing Swildon’s Hole, where the initiation was to be made I was surprised that the topography gave so little evidence of the cave systems beneath. Apart from an occasional swallet hole, which was usually obscured by vegetation, there was no indication of other than solid ground beneath us.

We arrived at the barn that is used as a changing room, and although it was unpretentious, it was admirable for its purpose, as was evident upon our return, when wet clothes were cheerfully squeezed over the floor by all and sundry. The five of us changed into our assorted gear, which ranged from battledress to old flannels and pullovers which the dustmen had apparently rejected. We filled our carbide lamps, which are extremely efficient and then set off for a cross-country trek to the cave opening.

The entrance was a little surprising, and one wonders after seeing the system itself how the latter could have been formed by water coming through such a small mouth. The initial stage was a little disconcerting, extreme physical (and mental) effort being required to worm ones way between boulders which persist in barking ones shins, and trying extricate oneself from holes which appeared to contract as further progress, was essayed.

The number of positions which the average caver has at his disposal is really amazing, (48, 49, or 5O?? Ed.) for my confederates travelled feet first, head first, and in several most unorthodox attitudes, which appeared however to get through gaps like glorified mouseholes. As we went deeper the tunnel grew larger and eventually opened out into a fairly large chamber. A little previously, two of my hydrophilous (I think that perhaps scrofulous would be more appropriate Ed,) companions disappeared down a hole to rejoin us later in the grotto. It was interesting to see one’s school theories converted into material facts and thus demonstrating the diversified routes which exist in a limestone series, the faulting being especially apparent.

Below us, considerable drops occasionally invited the unwary, and proceeding with extreme caution, we eventually emerged into a chamber that was larger than any visited before. Here the party halted to recuperate from its exertions, and to take photographs from positions which appeared to impart to the more experienced of us, a, peculiar glee at having accomplished the well-nigh impossible !

This trend of achieving the impossible became more evident later. The man in front proceeded with the utmost vigour, frequently punctuating his journey with a most assorted collection of expletives and waving his legs in a really amazing fashion, until upon reaching the end of a particular climb, would sit upon the nearest vantage point and gaze on me with a triumphant air, giving the impression that progress is easy when one knows how.

After leaving the chamber a tunnel somewhat like that at the entrance was encountered. Progress was at first hampered by the writer’s refusal to admit the inevitability of getting wet. All was well until one of the aforementioned mouseholes barred our passage. Here further progress became impossible and a strategic withdrawal was effected, and I announced that I could not proceed. Thereupon, the information was volunteered that a way through underneath existed. My informant added with considerable satisfaction, that about a foot of water flowed through as well. I arrived at the other side spluttering and considering the advisability of a swimming costume.

The passage was very interesting, showing various forms of deposit and ended in the Forty-foot Pot, which appeared to me to be a considerable climb. After a brief pause we commenced the return journey, with little reluctance on my part for lunch was assuming enormous proportions in my mind. The hole in which I had previously stuck presented no difficulty; indeed I did not recognise it until I had passed though it. If I had I should probably not have attempted it.

Three of our number decided to return the dry way as they had photographic equipment, but myself and one other elected to pursue the wet route. This stretch was to me the most thrilling, consisting of a subterranean watercourse Here in one place there was a 20 foot waterfall between walls of rock approximately two feet apart. For perhaps the first time, my carbide lamp had to accede to the electric torch, which itself proved of little use in the sheets of water. My colleague disappeared into the torrent, and I was left, with rather mixed feelings, contemplating the ascent in a relative humidity of 99 per cent. It was one of those rare occasions when a caver is literally by himself, and taking my courage in my hands I crossed the Rubicund and started the climb. By the time I was half way up, practically all the breath had been driven out of me, and I eventually reached the top with a triumphant gasp. My companion gazed at me quizzically as if inquiring if I had been exerting myself.

The top was only a very short way away and we reached the surface without incident, and after a quarter of an hour’s wait for our colleagues, we returned to the barn.

After changing into civilised clothes an indefinable sense of contentment pervaded one’s being, and I wondered if it could be attributed to having accomplished what few have done, and in an atmosphere unclouded by commercialism. My doubts about caving had now been completely dispelled and several ideas had succeeded them. Of these, one fundamental was clearly isolated from the others. This was the universal bond between lovers of caving; their appreciation of their hobby, and their interdependence. Truly may the maxim “one for all and all for one” be applied to caving. Never did I more fully appreciate this than when my companion ascended the waterfall, and I was left so briefly to my meditations. In few other pursuits is such a dependence existent and I trust that this bond may not be corrupted. This, however is unlikely, foe with all my varied pursuits, I have seldom met such thoroughly likeable and dependable fellows as my companions. Perhaps the conveniences of the Barn were not all to be desired but this merely adds to the thrill; It is irrelevant if tea is found in the sugar tin, or if shrimps wriggle in one’s tea. The writer concludes by saying that he has seldom enjoyed a day more than this “Expedition” to the subterranean regions, and eagerly looks forward the next trip.

T.C. Rhodes

I’ve got a Grotter

Pongo has burst into verse?????? with the following:-

I’ve got a Grotter,
Always muddy: and wet.
Look around and you will find
Every stal. is calcite lined.
The lamp will shine,
Although the batteries an old one.
I’ve always said to myself, I’ve said,
“Cheer up, Pongo, you’ll soon be dead,
A short cave and a cold one”

With apologies to Lionel Monkton (I think)


The marriage of Roger Cantle and Miss Judy Puplett took place on 28th. June. A little bird tells me that the date was altered when the lads started making plans to assist with the honeymoon.

Johnny Menace Morris is being very secretive about his matrimonial plans. The Old Detective Agency will have to snap into gear!!

Are Squirrels Bat-eaters?

In reply to the constant need for material for the ‘B.B.’, perhaps this incident may be of interest to those members, who, like myself, take notice of bats.

The other day I was walking in a small wood at Barrow Gurney when I saw a large bat fly away from a maple tree about 12 feet above me, and land on the trunk of a nearby ash.  Sitting on a branch just above it was a grey squirrel which immediately went into action, leapt on the bat, killed it, and made off with it.  All this happened too quickly for me to observe which type of bat it was; but, the question is: - Do squirrels make a habit of preying on bats?

J.W. Ifold.

Stop Press

The marriage of John Menace Morris and Miss Jill Oldland took place at St. Peter’s Church, Henleaze, on Wednesday, July 9th.


I have been told that there seems to be a tendency for young married and engaged couples to drift away from the club.  This is a great pity, as in very many cases the original meeting of these couples was a direct result of their Club activities.  Is it that interest suddenly evaporates, or is it that more important things crowd out that interest?   Probably the latter.  Therefore, you stalwarts of the present and the future, don’t forget that the club needs you even if your need for the club has lessened.  Looking back through the years it is surprising how many couples have drifted away.  What is the answer?  Is it a ‘Husband and wife’ subscriptions at reduced rates? Possibly; I feel that such a scheme would offer some inducement to married couples to remain within the fabric of the club.



‘UNDERGROUND ADVENTURE’ by Arthur Gemmell and J.O. Myers.  ‘The stirring story of the discovery of underground Yorkshire’.  Price 15/- (15/9 post free) from Dalesman Publishing Co., Clapham, Via Lancaster.


This is not the original page scheduled, but owing to a set of circumstances that have risen since it was started, I feel that an alteration is essential.

I have received a letter which appeared to have been sent with the approval of the Committee threatening me with dire consequences if any error creeps into the BB.  One is amazed that a letter sent by a person not on the Committee can threaten another member with anything; consequently I am, next month, publishing the letter in full, together with my answer for it.  If this letter was not sent with Committee approval I look to them to take immediate steps to ensure that there is no repetition; and it is because that I am sure that they know nothing about it that I am taking the trouble and the member’s time in printing that which would naturally be thrown contemptuously into the waste-paper basket.

As Editor I welcome criticism at all times either destructive of otherwise, as it is only  with such, that I can build up the BB, but when letters over stepping the grounds of common decency and common sense then the sooner the Club knows about them and their authors the better.

Will the person (who is presumably still a member) take this as an intimation that I have received this letter, as I do not intend wasting the Club’s money on a stamp to acknowledge it in any other manner.

T.H. Stanbury, Editor B.B.


Overheard in G.B.

“Mad things, these helictites, aren’t they?”

“Yes, so would you be, if you had been here as long as they have!”


R.J. Bagshaw,            Hon. Sec. 58, Pensford Road, Bristol. 4.
K. Dobbs,                   Hon. Assist. Sec. Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4.
J.W. Ifold,                   Librarian, Leigh House, Nempnett, Chew Stoke, Nr. Bristol.
M. Hannam,               Caving Sec. 14, Vyvan terrace, Bristol. 8.
A. Setterington,          21, Priorwood Road, Taunton, Somt.
M. Jones,                   12, Melton Crescent, Bristol. 7.
R. Cantle,                   Climbing Sec. 48, Cherrington Road, Bristol. 8.
T.H. Stanbury,            Hon, Editor, 74, Woodleigh Gardens, Whitchurch, Brisol. 4.


Apologies and thanks.

Apologies are due to all for the mess that was made of the last page of the July issue. A different type of stencil was used, and I made no allowance for it. Sorry, gents (& ladies). I hope that this issue will be more reliable.

A very big "thank you" to all those persons who have so far sent in contributions for publication." Thank you", too, all those of you who have sent me letters of congratulation and good wishes. I do appreciate them very much and such things makes the effort worth while.

A letter of apology has been received from the person whose ire was raised against me, and who sent me the letter mentioned in the last issue. In view of this I shall not publish the original as promised, and as far as I am concerned the matter is now closed. I should like to say, though, that any future letters of a similar nature will be handed to the Committee so that appropriate action can be taken.


To Henry and Jo Shelton, on July 13th, a second daughter, Hilary Clare.


We very much regret to announce that we have had to vacate our room at St. Mary's Community Centre. On 4th and 11th of September, we shall be meeting in the FOLK HOUSE, College Green. Members will be notified regarding further arrangements as soon as possible, but in the mean time the scouts are out looking for another hall that will be suitable.

Club Library

There are two new books in the Club Library. They are:-

West Virginia theological Survey Vol. XIX by - W.E. Davies, and
Transactions of the C.R.G. Vol.2-;. No.1.

J. Ifold.

Caving Report. June - July.

Although there has not been a great deal of original activity, a number of trips have been undertaken.

One party entertained some B.E.C. types in Swildons and several "Full" and "Top" of Swildons were carried out.

Eastwater was descended on several occasions by various parties and Stoke Lane was enjoyed by some people.


Climbing Section News

Roger Cantle has resigned from the position of Climbing Sec., and his place has been taken by Pat Ifold. I haven't a clue about Pat's address as yet, but you can reach him via John Ifold at Nempnett.

For the last two Christmases the Climbing Section have had a most enjoyable time at the Holly-How Youth Hostel at Coniston, Lakeland. It is proposed to repeat the dose this year and since booking is open three months in advance, will members who wish to attend please send in their names and dates to the Hut Warden. This meet will be open to all club members who are, or who become, members of the Youth Hostel Association.

It is proposed to start an organised training programme for members interested in climbing. A weekend or two on Churchill Rocks and some of the cleaner climbs in Cheddar. The climbers can then graduate to a weekend on the Dewarstone near Plymouth ,and then to North Wales. Will members who are interested send their names to the Hut Warden who will notify those interested when the dates have been arranged.

R, A Setterington

Belfry News

The old Belfry js now locked. The key to the New Belfry is kept in the Old Belfry. Anyone who “breaks in” will be severely dealt with.

R .A.S.

Motor-cycle and Car Rally.

If sufficient members are interested a rally for cars and motor-cycles will be run probably sometime late in August. It will consist of about 100 miles entirely on metalled roads at an average speed of 28 mph and will have some simple driving tests involved. Details to be worked out later. Names to Tony Johnson or the Hut Warden.

(Ed’s note. This seems a bit late for August, but send in your names anyway doubtless the date will be put forward. Put down my name anyway, Sett. Plus The ancient Ford Ten.)

We Also Suffer who only Stand and Shiver (with Apologies)

The recent article by Trevor Rhodes re his first caving trip, has brought the following article from another member of that same party:-

I .feel I must correct the false impression which may have been created by the account of Trevor Rhodes of his first caving trip. (A full Top Swildon’s described in the July BB). Be

warned, Readers !! Mr. Rhodes is only trying to make others make the same mistake (of going caving) in order that he can enjoy a good laugh. I speak not as the Scribes and Pharisees, but us one who also made the same trip.

Mr. Rhodes said nothing changing of the draught in the barn used for changing. These icy blasts cut one in half. I am glad he admitted that the walk from the barn to the cave is a cross-country trek; it is! He did not, however, mention the hazards of the walk, which included a field full of bulls which were only prevented from attacking us by the fact that they had already exhausted themselves chasing a previous party,

The average caver says Mr. Rhodes, has an amazing number of positions at his disposal. Lies !! He is forced to adopt many painful and ungainly postures, in addition to some which are actually impossible, Mr. Rhodes was fortunate to be able to recuperate in the Old Grotto. I had to sit on a cold, wet, hard rock, and try to enjoy a damp, battered cigarette. The bright lights used for photography merely showed up exactly how unstable the roof is.

The leader of the trip and Mr. Rhodes returned the wet way. A nice way of putting it!! They deserted us to avoid helping to get the photographic equipment out of the cave. Slackers ! Our hazardous return to the surface was at last ended, only to find that the grating which covers the entrance (or exit) had been carefully placed to ensure that we tripped over it. We duly changed in the draughty barn only to find that the pub was closed. a tragic ending to a ghastly trip.

Signed in haste. In Vino Veritas (or, the truth MUST be told)

PS Dear Editor,

I think that “scrofulous” should have been spelt with a final “e” as in louse.

A Continental Master Cave System

by Jill Rollason,

Having nothing better to do recently, I have been reading Lyell’s “Principles of Geology”, an came on some very interesting information. He said that during the boring of artesian wells in , the drills often slipped down through vertical cavities at depths of more than 150 feet, and brought up shells and vegetation which had not been more than 3 to 4 months in the water. He mentioned that the same thing happened in , and also in , where fish were spouted up, and puts this forward as a proof that water travels tremendous distances through the rock. The vegetation in was supposed to come from mountains 150 miles away.

I found more examples of these cavities in C.R.G. Newsletter no. 4.. Drills making a well 10,000 feet deep in Florida, slipped through open spaces of 18, 5, and 13 feet between depths of 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

But what surprised me were the numerous cases of fish spouted up from over 175 feet in the Sahara Desert. They were alive and possessed eyes in perfect working order. This so far, is fact, but on reading it I remembered a story told to me by a reliable person some years ago, to the effect that some fish found under the Sahara had no living relatives, except some caught in Loch Ness. Nobody knew how they got in such peculiar places, but it was suggested that there was an underground passage from to Africa.

Jill Rollason.


It is to be assumed that the Saharan fish must have been the lonely Kipper. I believe that they are Scottish, and is about the only fish that could be spouted up in cases from under the desert.

In Bello Kipperas. I wot!


There seems to have been a large bright spotlight focussed on caves and caving recently, occasioned by the peculiar spate of accidents both here and. on the continent. Let us all, as members of one of the oldest and largest Mendip Clubs, do our bit to make sure that there are no accidents in any party that we go underground with. To the younger members I say, “be careful” don’t do foolish things; make sure your tackle is adequate and safe, don’t show off to your novice pals!.' To the older hands I say “Keep your eye on the youngsters and encourage then to take care”. As an organisation we have always been remarkably accident free. Let us remain that way.


A Large Austrian Cave.

by John Monson.

One of the largest cave systems in the Western Zones of is the Eisriesenwelt, which lies in the Tennenge birge near the village of Werfen, which is some 40 kilometres south of Salzburg on the main railway to Innsbruck. There is a Youth Hostel in the village.

The entrance lies 5000 feet above the valley floor on the east side. The guidebooks recommend about 3 ½ hours for the climb up to it. We did it in just under 2 hours and 20 minutes, being hotly pursued by an American speaking Viennese who claimed to have just bettered two hours! There is – oh joy – a mountain hut well stocked with excellent food, about half a mile below the entrance, from which the expedition starts.

The system comprises in all, some 25 km of chambers, which were first explored about 1920 though the existence of the cave was known some years previously. The entrance itself is about twenty feet square, forming a cold gash at the bottom of a cliff. Just inside the entrance and still well in the daylight the floor is covered by a dirty grey material which on close inspection is seen to be ice. The terminal moraine of the glacier which in fact runs the full length of the main series. The reason for the late exploration of the cave soon became apparent, as at about 100 yards from the entrance and in a chamber of the order of the size of GB one comes to the foot of an ice-fall. This must be some 80 ft. high and not far off the vertical - such as would be a feat in step-cutting for the experienced in daylight, let alone in the dark. However, there is a wooden ladder up it today.

Once the top is reached the glacier continues only slightly upwards, and one is surrounded by grottoes of red-stained rock, through which rush frozen torrents and many stalagmites and the things that hang down - all in the finest greeny-blues, and which look superb against the browns and the pure white of the floor. In one place one walks beside the bottom of the glacier with it towering up 30 ft. and showing year lines every 8 inches or so in the blue ice. In another place there is a narrowing, so that the cave is only 4 ft by 6 ft; the draught blowing through so strongly as to put out a lamp The place where this current of air enters the cave has not yet been found. The main series extends some two miles from the entrance, the rest being made up of upper passages.

To those unused to large quantities of’ ice in caves, and those used to being unable to walk upright this cave offers something - if only a stiff neck.

The guide only allows the taking of photographs if h e doesn‘t see one take them; interesting thought that!

John Monson

Speleology in North Wales by L.J. Thompson

One of the lesser known carboniferous limestone districts of the country is that extending from the Great Orme, North Wales, down to the vicinity of Oswestry. Lead mining has been carried on in this area from Roman times and at the present day the Halkyn Mine near Flint is one of the most productive mines in the country.

Derelict workings abound, but unfortunately for the caver access is usually by a shaft, and that, almost invariably, a very deep one. There are, however, some workings that it is possible to explore, and due to the violently contorted nature of the rock, features of more than usual interest are frequently present. One such feature I have in mind is in the Belgrave Line, near Mold - a small area of calcite undulating and striated, but nevertheless; polished like glass due to faulting.

An indication of the rate at which stalactites may be formed is to be seen in a four foot straw in the Holway Boat Level Holywell. This level would be called a Sough in Derbyshire – was driven for drainage purposes in 1774.  There are in the same mine red, green and blue flowstone deposits and a quite unique sub-aqueous growth of coralline calcite.

Mining records tell of large caves, known as ‘vughs’ being broken into during the course of driving this and many other similar levels. The Geological memoirs describe numerous springs and swallets also.

The foregoing may well lead one to expect something out of the ordinary in the way of caves, too, but, unfortunately, from bone-hunter’s, discoveries have been disappointing.  All the same, since the territory is almost virgin to the pot-holer (to coin a phrase) hope will keep springing, despite a strongly developed propensity for saying authoritatively and whilst still dry and un-clayed’ It won’t go’.

The only cave that has made anything of a name is the Ceriog Cave near Oswestry, described first by Baker, with a subsequent account by P. Wild and R. Wallis in the B.C.  The first reasonably accurate survey was made in 1960 by T. Capper and L. Davies and the total length fixed at just over 600 feet.  The other caves (passages, is a more accurate description of most) are the Maeshafn Cave, near Mold; 800 feet, dry. Old foundations, with a small stream, Roman trinkets & human bones at the end after a 100 foot 30 degree downhill wriggle.  Afou y Meirchion, near Denbigh; a cave of debauchment, accessible only in very dry weather – euphemistically sporting.  The Gop Cave, Prestatyn, about 250 feet, was described years ago in the B.C. – again a dry cave.  The are innumerable smaller caves of varying degrees of interest, many of them discovered and entered in the last ten years or so by a small group of speleological exiles supported by local aspirants to that masochistic art.

Blasting, digging and damming have been carried out with a zeal that can only be compared with that displayed by the mediaeval monks of Bangor-ys-Coed, who bred their celebrated hock-haired horses thereby to manufacturers their incomparable horse-hair shirts.  To date, only one pot-hole has been discovered near Holywell – a vertical of about 45 feet between narrow walls of crinoidal limestone to a clay choked sump at 60 feet below the surface.  This hole achieved notoriety by de-bagging, on the ascent, the first lady speleologist to explore the cave.

In order to correlate and organise activities and also for the purpose of keeping proper records, it has been decided to form the North Wales Caving Group with headquarters probably at Holywell or Prestatyn.  Any further information will be supplied gladly by the author or the N.W.C.G. Secretary: - Mr P. Wild, Tunstead, St. Asaph Road, Byserth, Flintshire.

M.J. Thompson.


The Belfry Bulletin is still, as always, in urgent need of material suitable for publication.  Don’t be discouraged if the article that you have slaved over doesn’t appear at once.  I have to try to aim at a ‘balance’ in each issue and have to try to build a reservoir of material to carry the B.B. over ‘lean years’.  Therefore a certain number of articles are selected as being suitable for future issues and are put to one side for that purpose.  Send in your articles to Hon. Editor, B.B., 74, Woodleigh Gardens, Whitchurch, Bristol. 4., or pass them on to Bob Bagshaw or Ken Dobbs who will see that I eventually receive them.



Although of a very different type to that which normally we expect from Merv, the following article, will, I am sure, appeal to quite a large percentage of our members.  If you like this type of article let me know and we will have more.

Belfry Birds

By Mervyn Hannam.

The following article has no relation to caving, but might interest those speleos who occasionally leave Orpheus in his lair and take a jaunt over the surface of Mendip.

Birds can be roughly divided into four grouped: -

  • Permanent Residents;
  • Summer Residents;
  • Winter Visitors;
  • Passage Migrants.

The Passage Migrants pass through the country in the spring and autumn, but do not stay for than a few weeks.

Some interesting resident birds can be found in the vicinity of the Belfry and the Mineries Pool.  Coots, which are black, duck-like birds with a white patch of the forehead, can often be seen swimming across the pool in company with the moorhens that live there. The harsh quacking call of both these birds is probably familiar to all visitors to the pool. Occasionally some wild duck may be flushed from the surrounding reed beds, but two well known water loving birds, the heron and kingfisher have not yet been seen by the writer in this area. Amongst the smaller birds to be seen in a walk around the hut or pool is the stonechat, a rather uncommon but strikingly marked bird that nests in the gorse bushes on North hill.

A larger and well-known bird is the kestrel, which can be seen very frequently hovering over any part of the Mendips which it searches for the mice and large insects on which it lives. Other predatory birds are the sparrow-hawk and the buzzard, The latter is not often seen, although during recent years it has spread its breeding ground to the wooded slopes of Mendips. When seen, the buzzard is usually circling with motionless wings spread out and the ragged ends looking like a hand with spread fingers. The owls also come under the predatory category and although dusk is the accepted time for them a large white barn owl could frequently be seen quartering the fields near the Belfry in broad daylight although it has not been seen recently. The tawny owl, with the well known “tu-whit-tu-whoo” call, and the little owl are both quite common. Many other birds could be included in the list of residents, but space will not permit it.

Summer visitors are the next largest group and they are well represented in North Somerset. The cuckoo, chiff-chaff, swift and swallow are well known but some of the more uncommon birds can be found near the Mineries. Firstly, the Grasshopper Warbler, a small drab brown bird, recognisable by its song which is similar to the winding of a fishing reel, A number of these warblers nest in the reed beds and may be hard singing in pitch darkness as well as during the day. Another summer migrant with a peculiar purring cull is the Nightjar, a large brown bird that can frequently be seen flitting low over the gorse and grass tussocks between the pool and Stock Hill. The nightjar nests on the ground where its plumage blends perfectly with the dead sticks and leaves. During the twilight of late summer evenings the birds can be seen at their most active period.

Most of the summer migrants depart for Africa and the continent during September although a few, the chiff-chaff and blackcap stay until October.

Winter visitors are mainly Fieldfares and Redwings, two thrushlike birds which come to this country in great flocks from Scandinavia. They can often be heard “whistling” as they fly over at night during November - February.

The Passage Migrants include some very rare birds, but the only one to be seen near the Belfry is the Wheatear. This grey-backed bird is rather bigger than a sparrow and can be recognised by its white rump and black tail feathers. The Wheatear is a summer resident also in some districts.

Besides the birds mentioned in this article, many other birds live on Mendip and the reservoirs of Cheddar and Blagdon are a paradise for numbers of ducks and wading birds.

M Hannam

Have You Got The Right Equipment ? asks Pongo Wallis

These notes are written with two objects in view; 1, Because the Editor is always shouting for articles for B,B, ( Pongo is one of the good souls that can be depended upon to help fill an empty page. Ed..). and 2, as a help(?) to the Very New Caver.

Assumptions 1, There is no point in going caving if you can’t see the cave when you are there. Therefore you need a light, (my discovery of the year). But you wouldn’t guess this from many Cavers lamps, as more Heath Robinson contraptions that many people cook up have never been seen.

You can use a candle (but Don’t). It gets in the way, it dazzles you, doesn’t give much light, it drips hot wax over you, and goes out at the slightest provocation and won’t relight. Carry one as reserve by all means, (I do), but DON’T use it as your main light.

Acetylene lamps are very good and deservedly popular. They are reliable and give a good light, while carrying a small reserve of carbide enables you to stay long underground, But don’t expect it to work well without attention. How many times have I seen someone empty out the old carbide immediately before starting on a new trip! Do it as soon as the lamp is finished with. People whose lamps give trouble are a pain in the neck, and the majority of them are those who don’ t clean their lamps. EVERY time you should empty out the carbide and thoroughly wash and dry the lamp in all its recesses—it is far easier to do this outside rather than fiddle round underground.

Electrics. Some people can make dry battery lamps work well—most can’t. If you must use them remember that electricity doesn’t like bad contacts—make sure yours are good. Floppy wires are a menace as they get caught and out goes the light. If the battery gets wet you must dry it thoroughly if it is to last a second trip. Remember that torch bulbs are flimsy and always carry a spare.

A miners electric lamp is rather heavy and tend to get in the way, but they are reliability itself (they have to be), They are expensive to buy in the first instance, but cost nothing to run thereafter.

My own choice—acetylene for general purposes and a miner’s “NiFe” lamp on other occasions.

Assumption 2. Bare feet and sharp rocks were made to be kept apart. If your main object in life is to break your neck, wear gym-shoes or gum boots in a cave. Otherwise well nailed boots. And “well-nailed” doesn’t mean bags of nails. The object is not to provide an iron sole, but projections to grip the rock. Hob nails are quite good enough for most caving; climbing nails are generally not worth the extra expense. Some people go to great trouble to make their boots waterproof; others cut holes in theirs, But water can get in round the top and constantly changing water is cold. So leave your boots as they are, but oil them well or the leather will go hard and crack.

Assumption 3. A cold caver is a bad caver. Your clothes have two functions; to keep you at the right temperature and not to prevent you getting through tight places. Waiting at the top of ladders is a cold pastime so you must have sufficiently warm clothes. Conversely, crawling through tight places can be very warm work. Your clothes must combine these functions. I confess I haven’t solved this problem to my own satisfaction yet.

The outer layer must be smooth. Those capacious pockets which are so useful for all the odds and ends (which probably ought to be left outside) are there for the purpose of getting you hung up on a sharp corner. Cut them off !! Two piece garments are all very well by the sea, but in a cave they also leave the midriff bare. This is uncomfortable and the exposed trouser waist-band acts as a wonderful hanger-up. It is not widely known but the original name of the boiler suit is a Caving Comb, ( at least that’s my story; and if you have ever been in a boiler you will know that it is like a very tight cave with lots and lots of sharp projections, so the said suit is designed for the job).

Lastly, Hats (no assumptions). Hats protect the head and carry lights. If yours does both and is comfortable at the same time it’s OK.

Good equipment cost very little more than bad – but it may save your life one day and every trip is more enjoyable because of it.

R.H. Wallis

A Caving Review of the Coastal Area around Bude, Cornwall

By T.H Stanbury

It is proposed in this brief survey, to give of a short account of places of interest to Cavers in the immediate vicinity of Bude.

It will be found that, although the area is not one of either limestone, or of the massive slate deposits around Trevena (Tintagel) there are a considerable number of places where caves can be found, although most of these are very small.

I propose to start at the North, and work my way down the coast. It must be remembered that throughout the entire area the cliffs are open to all, and that if for no other reason than the enjoyment of the scenery, a walk along the cliff paths is well repaid.

The first place of real caving interest is at Northcott Mouth, where there are situated two caves. The first, No 1 on the sketch plan, situated under Menachurch Point, has the remains of the wreck of a coaster as a sign-post. This wreck although about 1½ miles from Bude, can easily be identified from there on the ebb of the spring tides. The cave, situated in the point of the headland directly to the rear of the wreck is not extensive, but has a comparatively grand entrance. It runs straight for about 60 ft., and then terminates abruptly. There is a large pool just inside the entrance that is full of seaweed and looks shallow but woe betide the unwary explorer who ventures to step into it, as there is a considerable depth of water under the masking weed.

Making our way across the sandy cove of Northcott Mouth for about ½ mile we see in front of us another headland. In contrast to the cliffs around Menachurch which are crumbling and broken, Maer Cliff stands out as a sheer face of rock running out to sea.

Almost at the point where the headland joins the main cliff is “Smugglers’ Hole”, No.2 on the sketch. This cave has already been described by the writer in “British Caver” Vol.12. , and a survey was published in BB 4, A weekend trip was run to Bude in August last to excavate “Smugglers Hole”, and a further penetration of six feet was achieved The perfect weather and sea contributing in no small measure to the small amount of progress made and the excessive amount of swimming etc. indulged in.

Just south of Maer Cliff is “Earthquake”. Here the cliff is shattered and large crevasses extend parallel to the cliff face up the considerable slope up the beach to the cliff top. The impression is that the existed under Earthquake a very considerable cave, the roof of which has collapsed, causing the whole level cliff top to subside. That the subsidence is not recent is shown by the fact that there once existed on the hilltop a monastery or other religious foundation, all traces of which have long since vanished.

From this point the best way is to follow the cliff base. This is much more strenuous than either the cliff top or the sands, but the added interest makes up the extra energy expended.

Along the base of the cliff from Earthquake to Wrangle Point, a distance of about ½ a mile, there are a number of small caves, the entrance of which, at certain states of the shingle, are completely hidden. Most of these are insignificant, but a couple of them are worthy of the trouble needed to find them. As well as the caves, there are here some very interesting climbs, due to the protusion of vertical rock faces from the general line of cliff. If the route along the sands is taken instead of following the cliff face, there are one or two interesting rock arches to be seen, with deep pools beneath them.

From Earthquake to Bude the strata are vertical but beyond Wrangle Point it becomes almost horizontal until Efford Downs are reached.

From Wrangle Point to Bude Harbour there is nothing of interest to the caver except a small hole looking like a cave in embryo on Summerleaze Beach between the Bathing Pool and Mentone. This is purely artificial and I have no reliable information as to why it was made. I presume that it was for work in connection with the drainage system.

Crossing to the Breakwater, chapel Rock, so called from the Chapel that used to adorn it, used to boast of a smugglers’ cave according to the old guide books. No trace now remains of either the chapel or the cave, and I fail to see what good to a smuggler such an isolated hideout would have been, as before the Breakwater was built Chapel Rook stood. isolated on the sands of the Haven.

Under Compass Point are three caves. The first of these, No. 3., is small and is on the north side of the headland. The second and third, Nos. 4 & 5, are parallel to each other and. look west at the point of the headland. No. 4. is the larger, and has recently become partly unroofed by rock falls. A large pool on the floor at the entrance adds to the fun of penetrating to the end, about 90 feet in all. The entrance is about 5 feet wide and 30 - 40 feet high, with vertical or slightly overhanging sides. To enter, the explorer has to manoeuvre along a ledge about five inches wide and great fun is had in the return journey as this necessitates a climb up over a rock face overhanging the pool.

The second cave, No.5 is approached around the southern wall of No.4, and is a very different place. The actual cave is at the end of a long gully with vertical walls 100 feet or more in height, and only about 8 feet wide. The gully has a floor of large boulders and at one point a large mass weighing many tons has jammed across it at a high level, the person passing underneath wondering if it is going to choose that particular moment to finish its descent. Beyond this hanging mass, the boulder pile lessens and a climb down over slippery rock brings one to a sandy floor with a few boulders sticking out of it. The cave is about 50 feet further up the gully. It is only small, with an entrance about 6 feet square, and in about 40-50 feet it peters out. Where .the boulder pile ends there is a small hole in the north wall through which a caver can squeeze. If he has enough energy to do this he finds himself back in No, 4. Although the hole looks easy I have found that there are few that are not cavers that will attempt it.

These two caves are only accessible at low water, the neaps, not allowing any entry, and the sea being too boisterous to allow swimming.

Here again the strata are vertical, but after this the most amazing contortions of rock that I have ever seen take place. The rock has been twisted and crushed so that in some places there are zig-zags and invertions that seem incredible to those who see them for the first time.

An Interesting scramble over the rocks brings us to Efford Beacon. Here a finger of rock runs out for a considerable distance. On the far side of this is cave no.6. This cave has in the last few years been almost entirely eroded away, but enough remains to see that there was once a considerable arch. The back of the cave is discoloured red and violet from the dripping of mineral impregnated water.

From here a climb down over a 40 ft. vertical rock face brings us to Efford Ditch, where there is what appears to be a cave entrance across the cove. On approaching we find that this is merely a depression in the cliff face, but upon getting nearer still we see a cave mouth close by. This cave,no,7., is much visited and has had names and initials cut into its walls for many years. The entrance is triangular and at its apex is about 7 ft. high. Running up into the cliff for about 100 ft. It gets smaller and smaller until it is too small to penetrate further.

From Efford Ditch to Upton Cliff a number of rocky points jut out, and amongst these can be found other small caves of a similar nature to those between Earthquake and Wrangle Point. These too, are extremely well hidden, and great care has to be exercised in this area as the points of rock are further out to sea than the beaches and to be caught under the vertical cliffs in the region of the Wheelbarrow, during the spring tides necessitates a particularly bad climb to safety. Many years ago the writer was caught on this beach whilst looking for firewood, and both he and his companion never wish to repeat the experience. An almost vertical shale gully 100 ft. high being the only climbable spot from the beach and at the head of the gully, the only way on being over a pile of loose overhanging boulders for another 150 ft.

These notes although very brief, will, I hope, enable the caver who is staying in the area to indulge in his favourite sport during his sojourn there,


Thanks to G. Platten for two books for the library :-

Irish Cave Exploration by JC Coleman, and,

Gower Caves by  E. E. Allen & J. G. Rutter with photographs by A. G. Thompson, B.Sc and M. I. Strust.E..

Also to R.M. Wallis, “Pongo” to you, for “The Specialist” by Charles Sale. This should be read, marked, learned and inwardly digested by all detail constructors.


North Border Caving

by A.C. Johnson

Running north from Welshpool along the border to the west of the coalfield is a broken ridge of limestone between 2 and15 miles wide. Much of the land is low lying and so the prospects of large caves are confined to a few areas.

Travelling north from Welshpool, the first high ground is LLanymynech Hill. The east and south sides of the hill have been extensively quarried and in one place a quarry has been driven into the hill and covers a circular area of some 14 acres. The cliffs are anything up to 250 ft. high and provide climbs of all grades up to the impossible The quarry went out of business in 1920 and so the rock has weathered and become stable; some parts are the equivalent of natural cliffs. In all there are about 5 miles of cliffs. The strata are horizontal and in places there are some very natty ledges running along the face. The two caves are on the top of the hill which is used as a golf course. The first cave whose entrance is a fairly large chamber is in the south side of a huge amphitheatre, which might turn out to be an overgrown swallet depression.

The walls of the chamber are covered with a green transparent jelly which sticks to your clothes like glue and makes a hell of a mess. The place stinks of sheep, so they maybe the cause. There are several very small holes high up in the walls but there is an obvious way on through a rectangular hole about 3 ft. high at the far end of the chamber This leads to a second chamber with two or three tunnels leading off. I have explored up one of them but as I only had a baby torch I did not go very far, but to my surprise I found myself at the bottom of an aven about 3 x 2 leading up to the surface. Search on the surface revealed a wired off area containing a natural shaft which by its position should be the right one. This cave has a number of legend attached to it which are stlll current in the village. One is that the cave connects with a passage running from the River Vyrnwy under the pub and up to natural chambers under the hill where illicit drugs,etc. were stored before being distributed to the Midlands. This is not so impossible as it may seem because the cave is completely dry and as there is no high ground in the neighbourhood the cave, cannot very well be flooded. Also the line of the cave is towards the pub. So what about it blokes? There’s booze in them thar’ hills! perhaps. I might as well tell you the other legend, which originates from the people over the hill and that is that the cave is inhabited by badgers There are badgers on the hill but I don’t know if they are any In the cave. I didn’t meet any. Whilst on the subject of the cave, when the quarry was continued into the centre of the hill a large tunnel some 20 ft. square was knocked through the rock separating it from the track to the canal, to take the lines to carry the rock out. In the walls of this tunnel high up are two open ends of what appears to be natural caves, one large with a small one in the opposite wall. I think that these tunnels form part of the cave system as they are in the right line. The other cave on the hill is about 1/3 mile north of the first one under some hawthorn bushes and just inside the entrance is a stream which disappears down what looks to be a very promising tunnel. According to locals there is always water there but no one has explored it. At the base of the cliffs at the southern tip of the hill is a cave entrance which has been blocked; some 10 ft. in as the sheep use it as a shelter. In all these caves there is only a little formation that I have seen and is mostly white with slight brownish streaks.

Also on the same hill are 2 open lead mine shafts about 80 ft. deep. They are, circular about 4 ft. in diameter and the walls are built up with dry stonework. There are a lot of small depressions filled with loose stone which may be covered in mine shafts as they have the same appearance as the open ones.

At the other end of the limestone belt in Flintshire there is considerably more high ground. The lead mines there were once the chief local industry, and were operating until fairly recently. The shafts were quite as common as at any place on Mendip. Ordnance Survey maps of Halkyn Mountain show 90 shafts in an area of about 6 square miles. (There is a map in the club files which shows the Halkyn Mining area, the shafts and the veins of ore. Ed.) The method of mining in the district was to drive horizontal levels into the side of the hill and use the shafts for ventilation. An old book of the Halkyn district speaks of a level 1000 ft. long, which was flooded to a depth of 2 ft., so that punts could be used for transport, which went straight through the hill. Many entrances to these levels, could probably be found by systematic searching. There are a number of small ravines about that might have contained the entrances. Just to the north at Holywell there is a healing and petrifying well fed from the mountain. At least it used to be, but one day the supply was cut off when foundations were being dug, so the owners of the well, not to be beaten, tapped the town supply which also comes from the mountain, and the well functions to this day. Now who says Bristol water is hard? I don’t think this is generally known in the district, I found out very much by accident from some old records.

Attention all Forces Members ! ! i


If we do not hear from you BEFORE FEB 29th  We shall assume that you are no longer interested and discontinue your membership.

The Following Members (some since demobbed ) Have Already contacted us :-

A. Atkinson,                  R.A. Crocker.                J. Hull ,                         G.A.R.Tait

D, Bessell.                    P . Daymond .               D.W. Jones.                  J.C. Weekes .

R. Brain.                       F. A. Edwards               C.H. Kenney.                 T. White

R. Cantle,                      S. C. W.Herman..          J.V. Morris.                   P. Woodbridge.

Will the rest please note that they will receive no further information from us unless we hear from them ????


The BEC's series of caving reports cover a wealth of knowledge and experience.Most of these were written many years ago but still contain very pertinent information covering many aspects of the clubs activities.


Been down St Cuthberts? Buy the report and get a free survey!

Less well-known than many of Mendip's other major cave systems, St. Cuthbert's Swallet offers much to those whose interest extends beyond mere sporting activity. Not only does it contain fine pitches and streamways but it has numerous large chambers, some beautifully decorated, intricate phreatic mazes and up to seven distinct levels. It is without doubt Mendip's most complex cave system and, not generally realised, it contains perhaps the finest and greatest variety of formations in the area. Among its displays are found magnificent calcite groups such as the 'Curtains', 'Cascade', Gour Hall with its 20ft high gour, 'The Beehive', Canyon Series and the 'Balcony' formations in September Chamber, all of which are without peer in the country. There are also superb mini-formations including floating calcite crystals, over twenty nests of cave pearls, and delicate fern-like crystals less than four millimetres long; a variety that few other caves can boast.

Access is strictly controlled by the Bristol Exploration Club. Conservation was the prime reason for wishing to control access to the cave. To achieve this aim it was decided by the BEC at their 1955 Annual General Meeting to introduce a leader system. St. Cuthbert's Swallet was one of the first caves in the country to be so protected. This action has often been the centre of controversy. However, the fact remains that, after thirty years, the cave is essentially still in pristine condition and proven justification for the leader system.

The St Cuthberts report was written and compiled by D.J. “Wig”  Irwin with additional material by Dr. D.C. Ford, P.J. Romford, C.M. Smart and Dr. J.M. Wilson. Running to 82 pages and containing a vast array of photos and a wealth of information this doesn’t just deserve to be on every cavers bookshelf, you should get one for all your friends too (well maybe).

Copies can be purchased from the Belfry or Bat Products for a very reasonable sum.

Also Available as a PDF download from the downloads section from the publications menu

The monthly newsletter will remove ‘internal’ members items from the regular Belfry Bulletin and hopefully be able to update our members more frequently on news, BEC events, local caving related events, any internal stuff members may like to know, dig updates, gossip, etc. etc. It will also contain a rolling calendar which will list both BEC and member events and any other cavers related events on Mendip and the wider community where appropriate.

The newsletter is totally internal to BEC membership and will not be distributed outside of the club, unlike the BB which is exchanged with other clubs and  eventually published publicly on the website.

{loadmodule GoogleCalendar}

{module [570]}

The Belfry Bulletin is the journal of the Bristol Exploration Club.

The current editor, always welcomes articles and pictures as this journal is what the members make it by sending in contributions. As well as his postal address published in the Belfry Bulletin, he can also now receive articles by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The entire archive of back issues is available here entirely due to Andy Mac-Gregor. Over a period of four years Andy has scanned and converted to text via OCR every single issue. When you consider that most of these were printed on a Gestetner duplicator you'll appreciate the scale of this achievement.