BEC digs

Search Our Site

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Mike Alderton
Hut Engineer: Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Editors bit.

First an apology to the bright eyed who spotted that there wasn't an article about Veb by Tony Setterington.  I apologise to Tony for not putting same in.

I should like to thank all those stalwart members who have sent in articles, pictures and other material. I would like to apologise once again for all the lost credits to pictures, articles not published and so on. Your magazine is to be edited by a much more active caver than myself, Adrian Hole, who will doubtless put his own stamp on the thing.  He will still need stuff from you so, keep on sending it in.  If you want to e-mail it to me, I have agreed to pass on any bits.

See you in the pub, Martin

I received a letter of commendation from a member with regard to the last year's secretary's report. I have transcribed it and include it here.

Dear Martin,

As the last of the "Original Five" who founded the B.E.C.  I would like to endorse Nigel's comment at the end of his report in BB 511.  It was never anticipated that, in those early days, the fledgling B.E.C. would become one of the countries leading Speleo organisations.  I feel justly proud to have been associated with the club for so long.

Keep up the good work.  All the best to all members. Harry Stanbury (No 1)


A picture of this year's Priddy Bonfire for all of those who missed it!


Vale: Simon Knight

On the 5th of October a large crowd of relatives, friends, musicians and cavers gathered at the Hunters' to celebrate the life of this superb melodeon player, shove ha'penny expert and long time caving song exponent. Simon was a staunch Mendip Caving Group member in the 60s and 70s and I am sure would have been very satisfied with his "send off" and the amount of ale consumed!

Yet another great Mendip character will no longer enliven "that fine old flagstoned bar" with his presence.  For a full obituary see the Pub notice board.


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink

by Tony Jarratt

Work continues on drilling and blasting along the immature rift at the end of the dig, following the route taken by the wet weather stream.  We are now some 10m from the base of the entrance shaft and are just inside the field south of the Pub.

The surface walls, lid and fixed ladders have been completed and a superb ceramic "Bertie" plaque sculpted by Ben Holden and generously donated to the dig - has been cemented in position inside the wall at the top of the shaft.

Our thanks once again to Roger Dors for his forbearance, interest in the project and unstinting generosity.


Report Of The Hon. Secretary 2000/2001

It probably ranks as one of the worst years in the history of the Bristol Exploration Club.  A sweeping statement some may think, however I refer to the direct and devastating effects of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) which has swept the United Kingdom this year.  FMD also had a major effect on both the Club as well as the financial security of several members.  It further prevented any of the active caving element from getting underground on Mendip from February until June, and at the time of writing, "Swildons Hole" still remains closed.

To show a responsible attitude to local Landowners - upon whom Mendip cavers rely for goodwill and access permission - The Club Committee made a difficult decision to initially close the Belfry to all Guests on the 20th February, this was followed by Government action to close most footpaths on the 21st February.  The Belfry was subsequently closed and sealed off to all but a few local residents who were to keep an eye on its security.

The Committee moved all monthly meetings to the Hunters Lodge, and the Club should be grateful for Roger and Jackie's permission to hold several meetings there.

The closure was reviewed on a fortnightly basis, with much advice sought from both locals, Langford House Vet College and the now defunct "M.A.F.F".  Whilst several members including Tony Jarratt at Bat Products, and Roger and Jackie Dors suffered an overnight drop-off in visitors, and thereby income, most members were left looking longingly around their caving bookshelf.

The Club also has suffered in two major ways, a massive downturn in Hut Bed nights and sadly a non existent income in new membership applications.  It may take several years for both factors to recuperate. Unusually, I have received virtually no email enquiries at all this year, and, it is the first year ever that I have not received any BEC membership enquiries by letter.

I suspect that partly this is explained by the existence of the excellent BEC Web-site produced by Greg Brock and his team.  I imagine that this has caused much interest amongst prospective members, and answers most of their queries.  I feel the club owes Greg a big vote of thanks for his work online.

The Closure of the Belfry, also has meant that little or no maintenance works or working weekends could be held at the site, this must sadly be the first time in many years.

Yet again, the BEC also owes a great big "Vote of Thanks" To Fiona Sandford (Nee Lewis) who steadfastly and efficiently carries out the role of Hut Bookings Officer, but now at last is deservedly on the Committee!  Again as last year, but more restricted by the "FMD" Both Vince Simmonds and Bob Smith have been energetic in their roles as joint Hut Wardens, and Roz Bateman has worked hard in chasing-up late payers and bringing out another Members Handbook

Those of you who attended the Annual Dinner in October will recall one of the few Highlights of the Year, when it gave me great pleasure to present on behalf of the BEC, Honorary Life Membership to Tony Jarratt.  He also has had further success this year in the discovery of several hundred feet of passage, primarily at one of his two digging sites at Stock Hill Woods.

The FMD prevented the Committees stated intention last year to make a start in 2000 / 2001 on the proposed extension to the Belfry as a start in construction must be made under granted planning permissions within a five year period.  It is hoped that this will be very much on the cards in the year ahead- 2001/2001.

Despite the ravages of "FMD", The BEC remains united in a healthy position, in this it's 66th Year, but please support as many Club fund raising events as you can, in order that we can revitalise our finances, and strengthen our membership with new members in the year ahead.

Nigel Taylor
Member 772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club, 2000/2001
Sunday 19th August 2001.


Editors report (not given at the AGM) 2000/01

Thanks once again to all who have contributed and have enabled the magazine to go to press when there might otherwise have been a shortage of material; please keep articles coming in for the new Editor (see address on front of cover).   I shall still be around and about on Mendip and happy to accept articles which I shall pass on to the new Editor.  See you at the Hunters? 


Treasurers Report 2000 /20001

This has been a very unusual year for this club mainly due to foot and mouth disease forcing people to make very difficult choices regarding caving, climbing, walking etc. I feel that all B E C members have managed remarkably well to keep the peace with local farmers and not get into conflict with their fellow club members.  Financially we "the committee" have tried to keep expenditure down to a minimum this was agreed earlier on when foot and mouth was just beginning to look like being an epidemic.  The fact that we now do not have to pay rates.  (Mega thanks to Blitz the outgoing treasurer) has helped tremendously.  Also we have received a modest income both from members and guests who have stayed at the shed in the periods when it was open.  These factors combined with a membership who have paid their dues and stayed loyal to the club have all combined to ensure that this financial year will not be a loss.  Whilst I do not have a final figure at the moment of writing, the annual accounts will show a strike even / modest profit result.  All the committee members are looking forward to a healthy year 2002

With the club moving on financially and actively, I will do my utmost to improve the financial base of the club and build up both the Cuthbert’s Account and the Ian Dear Memorial fund. I wish to take this opportunity to thank Blitz for his help this year especially with the phone bills - also Vince and Roz who have kept excellent records thus making my task very easy.  Finally, my floating assistant Hilary who has sifted through all the various bills and statements in my absence.

Mike and Hilary Wilson


Cave Diving Adventures in the Dordogne.

By Greg Brock

After joining the CDG Foot & Mouth on Mendip prevented any diving training taking place so weekends were spent cave diving at Dan-Yr-Ogof and other sites still open in Wales.  It was then that Martin Groves (SWCC) was planning a trip to the Dordogne region of France.  When asked I immediately said yes to the chance of going cave diving in one of the world's best regions for such a sport.  All I had to do now was beg and borrow as much equipment as people would let me have but most importantly obtain some vague diving skills.  Thanks must go to Sean Parker (BEC/CDG) for helping me out on both these very important points.

The few weekends left before we departed for France were spent with Martin and Krisha at open water sites across the country, namely Stoney Cove, practising with bigger cylinders and buoyancy control.

The date soon arrived and we were soon heading off to France in a car rather overloaded with diving kit. The journey went smoothly and we eventually arrived to excellent weather, which was to continue for the rest of the week.

The first days diving was at the Trou Madame, which didn't quite go as planned, as like most of the things I do.  High water levels meant the lakes/airbells between the sumps had flooded.  If only I had known this before I started the dive. 800m of diving later I still hadn't surfaced and had reached thirds on both cylinders so decided to turn back. After a 71 minute dive Martin was very relieved to see my exhaust bubbles as I exited the cave.  By far the longest dive I had ever done but at least I was in excellent surroundings.

A more gentle day was had the day after.  The Fontaine du Truffe was embarked upon and excellent visibility was had.  Martin and I dived to the end of sump 3 after noticing a pressurised airbell at -6m depth.  After a relaxing tourist dive in the Truffe it was clear this wasn't going to last for long and the next day we had an adventurous day in a rather intimidating place, the Emergence Du Ressel.  We dived here with 2 x l5Ltr and 1 x I2Ltr cylinders.  We dropped the 12Ltr stage tank at the start of the loop (150m from base) and continued to the top of the outstanding 50m shaft with twin 15's.  We then completed the loop by going out on the shallow route, I was just hitting 1/3s on the 15's as I reached my stage tank!!!  Martin indicated we should look for the airbell, off the deep route, but I was not convinced as I was becoming over powered by the size of this place (boulders similar to the Time Machine in Darren) so we headed out rather relieved to see daylight and air.  Later that week we returned, laid a line off the main route and located the airbell.

Other dives included a 600m dive at -20m in the Source de Landenouse, after kitting up in the water in the bottom of a well 10m down.  We also had to squeeze in some caving while here, unfortunately the Goufrre L'oule was chosen.  The 1km walk down the side of the valley with diving kit proved extremely hardwork. After so many hours of caving / diving we then had the task of walking back up the valley with cylinders, wetsuits, caving kit, SRT & rigging kit, bolting kit as well as all the other bits of diving stuff needed.  Once back at the car we were very dehydrated and tired.

An excellent week was had overall, with lots of new skills learnt and experienced gained.  A bit of a jump from using single sets down Swildons as was the case a couple of months ago.


Caving in Crete by Emma Porter

Crete has a very agreeable Mediterranean climate with a flourishing agricultural economy, several thriving towns and a wealth of history.  It is the largest of the Greek islands with the majority of Crete being limestone and hosting about 3000 caves. There are three distinct mountain ranges, in the west is the Lefka Ori (or the White Mountains) in the central region is the highest peak in Crete, Psiloritis (or Mount Ida) at 2456m situated in the Idhi Ori and to the east, Dikti Ori (or Lassithi Mountains).

Crete can be a fairly cheap holiday, particularly if you choose a package holiday rather than just a flight. Mike Clayton and myself went out there for a week in mid October 2000 with big plans to explore the mountainous limestone terrain.  We flew from Manchester to Heraklion and had pre-booked a hire car (which are notoriously expensive, insurance excludes the underside and tyres) and to our horror, we were faced yet again with those two dreaded words 'petrol strike' - suddenly, all our plans had gone to pot!

We had carefully chosen our base (within the package holiday restrictions) on the north coast of the island between the White Mountains and the Psiloritis massif so that we had easy access to both mountain ranges.  Driving to our base of Rethimnon, which sprawls for miles, we were constantly watching the petrol gauge. We had just half a tank of petrol, every petrol station we passed had redundant pumps and we had only just left a petrol crisis at home!

Sunday was our first full day and in order to conserve the little petrol we had, we made a fairly late start and opted to take a taxi from the centre of Rethimnon, heading to some nearby caves.  We suffered first hand experience of the Cretan driving (it has one of the highest accident rates in Europe) as our taxi driver dashed through winding country lanes so that we could reach out destination, Kournas Cave.  We got out the taxi, sorted our belongings out and as the driver disappeared into the distance we realised that our first caving destination was five kilometres from Kournas Lake, the tourist spot we had just arrived at!

Not to be defeated, we headed up the hillside in the midday sun and after a fair uphill trek, the map indicated that the cave should be on our right.  We continued heading up, unable to see it and arrived at a bar which had a large sign outside which read 'The famous deep cave of Kournas'.  We immediately went inside and attempted to find out where the cave was, but the woman in there spoke no English and proudly produced cave photographs for us to see.  In the end, we thought we would try and find it ourselves and set off using the map we had. About ten minutes later, we heard the same woman shouting at us and waving her arms.  Not understanding a word, we started heading back and two tourists who had been drinking in the bar met us.  Speaking in broken English, they explained that we had to pay the equivalent of £1 to enter and that the lady's husband would take us into the cave.  Her husband appeared and on seeing our helmets, nodded and said 'speleo'.  We were led down a rickety wooden ladder, descended an easy climb during which I received a lot of unwanted attention.  Every foothold I took down, the heavily perspiring Cretan man had his hands all over my legs - a problem women travellers are warned about. Fortunately, he left us once down the climb to explore what was only a large chamber with a few old stal.  We had a quick look around and conscious of the time, we headed on out with what was to be an epic walk.

We walked from village to village, enjoying the sun and the scenery but not covering any substantial distance on the map.  Four o'clock came and went, then 5, then 6 and still we were walking.  As we passed a sign with Rethimnon 20km, there was only one thing for it, to hitch.  But of course, we saw very few vehicles and the ones we saw were either full of people or sheep and did not stop.  We were becoming very demoralised and were wondering what we could do for the night when a car stopped and a big, friendly German got out, who spoke English and offered us a lift and yes, he was going to our town!  He left us on the very outskirts of our destination and we hobbled our way back along the 4km of coastline to our accommodation.

The next day, there was no rest for our feet.  We left our accommodation at 6am as we had pre-booked a coach trip costing about £20 to take us to the most popular destination in Crete, the Samaria Gorge.  The gorge begins in the Omalos plateau which nestles in the Lefka Ori ( White Mountains) and it is in this area that the French have discovered deep caves, one being over 1000m in depth.

It was extremely cold when we arrived at Omalos, we had breakfast and the coach took us to the start of the 18km gorge which is the longest in Europe.  The walk starts zig zagging down, plunging 1000m in the first 2km.  The abandoned village of Samaria lies about halfway along the walk, a ghost town now as its inhabitants were relocated when the Samaria Gorge National Park was established in 1962.  The path levels, the walls of the gorge close in, passing a huge area strewn in cairns, occasionally crossing the stream until the Iron Gates are reached where two rock walls rise sheer for a thousand feet. Once through this the gates widen, the valley broadens and you arrive in the village of Ayia Roumeli for a cold beer and to cool your feet in the sea.  Every hour or so, a ferry arrives at the village to take the tourists to their waiting coaches at Hori Sfakion.

On the Tuesday, we opted for a lazy day deciding to look for petrol and Gerani Spilia, finding neither.  The cave of Gerani is sign posted in the village of the same name supposedly near the bridge on the main road. Like many of the caves here, it has been a place for archaeological finds with local cavers exploring caves searching for bones or Minoan artefacts.

As there was still no petrol to be found by Wednesday and the White Mountains were just too far away to chance, we were up at 5.30am, heading for the closest mountain range, Idhi Ori which contains the highest peak in Crete. We had come prepared for staying out in the mountains with a tent and sleeping bags (but unfortunately a brand new petrol stove!) and our destination was Psiloritis taking in one or two caves on the way if we could.  We started from the village of Kamares which like a lot of Cretan villages is very traditional, with all the women we saw dressed in black and the most popular mode of transport being the donkey.

We followed what started off as a well signposted route (the signs looking like they were bus stops) and red paint marking the path.  The scenery was fantastic as we ascended up the limestone.  The side of the mountain range we were using, was reported in a SUSS expedition report to be 'almost devoid of caves except for the known showcave Kamares'.  We too saw no other caves.  As we reached the plateau and the shepherds' cottages of Alm Kotila our map did not seem to coincide with what we saw.  Guidebooks warn of the inaccuracy of maps and as Geoff Newton states in his article this is due to the fact that 'Good scale maps are considered to have a security value by the Greeks who are still nervous that the Turks or Libyans will invade'. This was no help to us.

We spent about two hours wandering on the plateau between the rough dry stone walled mitatos or shepherds' huts trying to establish the way on.  We had seen no one all day and almost on the brink of turning around and heading back down, we met an old shepherd.  With none of us understanding the other's language, we eventually determined which way the mountain was by gesturing and drawing in the dusty ground.

We reached the summit at about 7.30pm just as night was drawing in.  On the summit is a small chapel called Timios Stavros (which is the local name for the peak).  We did not stay long, it was quite cold and we needed to lose as much height as possible. We headed down in the moonlight for as long as we could before switching to electric light.  We backtracked our route on the GPS, passing the points we had inputted in.  We passed one of our potential bivy sites but chose to aim for the second which was lower down still.  We put our little mountain tent up in the shadow of a huge rock and what seemed to be a goat or sheep hangout.  All night, we could hear gnawings, and I convinced myself, that we would wake up with no tent left!

After a restless night, we rose again at 5.30am, rationing our water out as we had passed only one watering spot.  As we descended the peaceful mountainside, we passed the shepherd and his three dogs once more.  On the way down, we diverted to Kameres Cave which the SUSS report described as 'a huge boulder ramp followed by two chambers with all ways on blocked'.  Of apparent archaeological significance due to a huge cache of elaborate pottery being discovered, from a speleological point of view, it was not worth the hour or so lost in the mist and the diversion.

We arrived back in the village of Kameres, with aching feet and that wonderful exhausted feeling.  On our journey back, I left Mike in the car whilst I aimed to explore a large gash in the landscape not far off the road.  However, my journey was cut short as I met a drunk Cretan man and his donkey. He had introduced himself to Mike and came up to me and grabbed me by the face and kissed me on my cheeks three times.  As he attempted to do this again, I jumped in the car and shouted to Mike to 'go' as I very angrily fought him off my legs trying to shut the car door.  This was the only aspect of Crete I did not like - the so called 'liberated' image the local men have of Western women.

During our drive back on the Thursday evening, we managed to obtain that scarce commodity, petrol.  As it was our last day, there was only one thing for it but to see how many showcaves we could cram in during the day. The first one we headed for was Melidoni Cave, near Perama.  We followed the track up to some impressive gates and walked up to the buildings.  We paid a small entrance fee, were given a leaflet and left to our devices.  The entrance is past a small white church and in a depression.  This cave is home of the mythical bronze guard of Crete, Talo but is more remembered for one of the most horrific atrocities in the struggle for Cretan independence.  In 1824, 370 local inhabitants mainly women and children, took refuge in the cave from the advancing army.  The army demanded that they come out and when they did not, an attempt was made to suffocate them by blocking the cave entrance.  As this did not work, they piled combustible materials in the entrance and set them alight, asphyxiating all. Inside the cave is a tomb to commemorate the dead.

Our next destination was Sfendoni Cave which was only in its third season of opening and a lot of work had gone into making a raised platform to walk around the cave and to be able to see as much as possible.  Like many other caves, it is of archaeological significance with many skeletons discovered, in particular one of a young boy.  We spoke to the guide afterwards, asking him about other nearby caves, chatting about our different attitudes to caving and he found it extremely amusing when I referred to caving as a 'sport'.

In the afternoon, we headed to Hania and to the Katholiko Monastery aiming for the Katholikou and Gouverneto Caves.  The Rough Guide states that 'The few visitors here and the stark surroundings, help to give a real sense of isolation that the remaining monks must face for most of the year'.  With this description in mind, we were extremely surprised to see hordes of people bumbling around dressed in their Sunday best suits and black dresses. We left the monastery as we followed the path down leading to the craggy shores, hoping to escape the crowds.  Our hopes did not last long as also heading in our direction were the crowds, from babies to the elderly.  We headed for the cave in which St John the Hermit was said to have lived and died and so did the crowds.  We wandered bewilderedly into the cave which was lit with candles and heavily scented with incense, passing a white altar.

Mystified, we headed further down near the ruins of the Katholiko Monastery, following a parade of people.  We followed them into another cave, each had a candle and were struggling up and down climbs between stals in their black dresses or suits, their posh shoes, the very old and the very young.  It took us about 40 minutes to reach the end of the cave due to the sheer number of people in there.  At the end of the cave, prayers were being chanted and each person who had just arrived would kneel down and kiss a picture of the Virgin Mary.  We did not stay long, not wanting to impose.  Once outside, we tried to find out what was going on, but no one spoke English.  We can only guess that it was the saint's day Anna Petrocheilou refers to in her book.

That incredibly bizarre caving trip signified the end of our holiday which did not go quite according to plan but was extremely enjoyable.  One piece of advice, don't go there during a petrol strike!

A big thanks must go to Don Mellor and Ric Halliwell for finding us so much information.


Books: FISHER, John and Garvey, Geoff 1995 Crete - the Rough Guide

PETROCHEILOU Anna The Greek Caves 1984

WILSON, Lorraine Crete - The White Mountains 2000 Cicerone

Journals: FAULKNER, Trevor March 1988 Kera Spiliotsa, Vryses W Crete The Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin Second Series Vo15 No 4

FELL, John Western Crete - Omalos to Askifou High Magazine October 1999

GRAHAM Nigel Crete 1991 - or how not to go caving in karst country Craven Pothole Club Record No 25 January 1992

GRUNDY Steve, Sheffield University Speleological Society Expedition to Crete BCRA Bulletin Caves and Caving No 15 (February) 1982

HITCHEN, David May Sheffield University Speleological Society Central Crete Expedition BCRA Bulletin Caves and Caving No 28 1985

JARRATT Tony The BEC Get Everywhere - Crete The Journal of the Bristol Exploration Club Belfry Bulletin Vol 39 No 6 (No 432) December 1985

JEFFREYS Alan L Caving in Crete The Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin Vo15 No3 (March 1973)

NEWTON Geoff Speleological Reconnaissance in Eastern Crete Part One Wessex Cave Club Journal Vol 21 (No 232) February 1992

NEWTON Geoff Speleological Reconnaissance in Eastern Crete Part Two Wessex Cave Club Vol 21 (No 233) April1992

OLDHAM JEA Melidoni Cave The British Caver Vol 59 July 1972

WEBSTER Martin Omalos Cave Journal of the Bristol Exploration Club Belfry Bulletin Vol XXVI No 2 (No 292) February 1972

WHALLEY, JC 1979 Wanderings in Crete Journal of the Craven Pothole Club Vol 6 No1

WORTHINGTON Steve SUSS Expedition to Crete 1981 SUSS Journal Vo13 No 2

Expedition Speleologique en Crete Spilia 94 Groupe Speleologique Scientifique et Sportif

Speleologique en Crete Spilia 92 Groupe Speleo Scientifique et Sportif

Visite dans l' antre du Minotaure ... Speleo No 28 October -December 1997

Maps: Freytag and Berndt Crete Hiking Map 1 :50 000

Harms IC Verlag Crete Touring Map (Western and Eastern) 1: 100 000

A copy of this article has appeared in the Craven Record.

Emma Porter 2001

Emma Porter at the Entrance to Katho/icos Cave

Massive stalactite formation in Kournas Cave


Going to the Caves!

By Vince Simmonds.

2nd to 9th July 2001

Andy and Ange Cave have been settled into their home in Rigal, about 1 km from the Gouffre de Padirac, for nearly 2 years and we decided it was about time that we visited them.

Caught an early ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre and, on a very hot day had a very leisurely drive south arriving at the Caves house at 01:30 the following morning. Andy and Ange greeted us with some very welcome cold beers and food.  The following day was a do-diddley day although in the late afternoon we strolled down to the local open-air pool for a dip.

The next day Ange volunteered to look after Callum so that Andy, Roz and myself could go caving. This was to be a gentle trip to prepare for a longer trip later in the week.

Grotte du Jonauille (Causse de Correze. north of Cressensac)

Jonquille - from Narcissus jonquil/a, a bulbous plant with small clusters of yellow flowers.   A difficult cave to find without local knowledge, the entrance is a manhole cover out in scrub oak woodland, luckily Andy had been here before.

A narrow drop lined with oil-drums leads to the restricted top of a 35m pitch, which opened up after about 5m and drops into a dry fossil passage.  Up-dip, leads to the loose, original entrance and has some fairly decent formations, if a little mucky.  Down-dip the passage continued over some large gour pools, passing lots of black-stained flowstones and formations before a 3m climb down to an active stream passage.  Downstream was immediately sumped, the way on is upstream.  Initially progress is made by traversing the stream past some rather deep pools and fast flowing water for about 200m, eventually the passage shape becomes more elliptical with the stream flowing gently past sand and pebble banks - very mellow!  The stream length is approximately 1 km and the return is by the same route, the trip lasted a steady 4 hours.

That evening we all decided to go down the road to a local restaurant to eat.  As we were enjoying our meal it started to rain - very hard! The owners lent us a table umbrella to get back to Andy and Ange's place, the rain continued through the night and through the tent, in fifteen hours 250mm of rain fell.  The next day we went over to the Gouffre de Padirac, which was now closed, peering over the edge of the 10m chasm the water could be seen, swirling around and disappearing like water down an enormous plughole, down the steps that lead into the cave.  The extreme water conditions meant that our caving plans were binned and the day was spent diverting streams of water away from the house.

By the next day the rain was more constant drizzle, Andy and Ange kindly looked after Callum so Roz and myself could go caving.

Grotte du Fennett (Assier - Lot) 563.68(x) 263.04(v) Series Bleue 2237 O

Situated in a doline just a short walk down a track off the road and with a map not difficult to find. A low entrance leads almost immediately to a walking size fossil passage.  After a short distance a small climb up over some flowstone leads to a 10m drop over a large calcited flow into a decorated chamber (the lead up to the 10m drop is quite slippery so a traverse line from the top of the climb is a good idea).  From the chamber another 10m drop leads into a large decorated chamber with a calcited, bouldery floor with a couple of digs.  Halfway back up the 10m drop a climb around the chamber wall leads to a continuation of the passage which unfortunately was rather short (take care-muddy and slippery on the traverse around the wall).

Roz and I then went in search of a sink marked on the map Perte D' Abois 564.910(x) 263.900(y) which turned out to be a short walking size entrance with muddy walls and a fair amount of debris and closed down after about 10m.  There is a river cave just a couple of fields away, which we did not look for, where the water from here re-appears.

As a consequence of all the flooding a farmer just along the road from the Caves reported losing a horse in a hole that had opened up in his field and which took a lot of water. Local cavers were soon on the scene and further investigation and some digging revealed space amongst rocks and a stream could be heard and the farmer was quite happy for them to continue digging.

We left the Caves and made our way north but made a detour to look at some grottes marked on the map near to Saumur in the Loire valley, and of course the weather had improved. We found a campsite next to the Loire river at Montsoreau and I ventured off in search of grottes while Roz was tending to Callum.  These grottes turned out to be wine cellars tunnelled into the valley walls and were rather impressive.  There were several old horse-carts at various places in the tunnels and some evidence of major collapses.  Along the front small houses were carved into the stone and were still inhabited although some of them were being held up by lots of pinning - good views of the river though!  The following morning we all returned to have a couple of hours wandering around before setting off to the ferry port at Caen.

Top:  The Wine Cellars, Montsoreau, near Saumir, Loire valley
Bottom L and R:  The entrance to Jonquille


Stock's House Shaft - The Breakthrough and Latest Developments

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BBs nos. 502, 504 - 511.

On the 15th of July 55 more loads were hauled out on a double pulley system by "human winch" Mike Willet.  Next day saw "Mad" Phil Rowsell and visiting novice Canadian caver Jeff Harding, on his second ever trip (!) digging at the end following a pumping session. Phil was tentatively poking at the horrendous choke in Rake Chamber when the bar suddenly burst through into open space. Jeff was despatched to summon the writer from the surface where he was sunbathing, spoil dumping and generator guarding.  After about half an hour of clearing spoil and propping up the worst boulders he was magnanimously allowed to be first into the thirty feet or so of walking sized level which could be seen ahead while the others stood by in case of collapse.

A rapid but extremely careful crawl and slide down a wedged boulder pile was made into the level where another, partly silt filled tunnel was immediately found on the LH side (Silt Level).  Above the entrance to this passage an area of Old Men’s hand picking was noticed in the roof of a lead vein crossing the level at right angles possible evidence of earlier workings intercepted by the drainage level.  These are the first recognisable signs of ore mining found so far. He then went to the first bend in the passage before retreating to allow the others some fun - but not before the well chilled Champagne, kept underground for over a year, was fervently polished off!

Phil and Jeff explored a further two hundred feet or so of atrociously muddy, partly silt filled levels, leaving at least four ways on for the Wednesday night team.  This included the main Downstream Level which regained a reasonable height and bored off round a comer to regions unknown.  Well chuffed, our heroes spent the rest of the day imbibing suitable alcoholic beverages.

A rough survey trip on the 17th saw 227.54 feet (69.35m) mapped from the end of "Exploration Level" back to the breakthrough point after Phil had dug through a silt choke c.40 feet before the end.  This level stops abruptly at a solid wall with descending shothole sections from the Old Men’s final gunpowder charge.  It was named partly to honour the B.E.C. but mainly as it appears to be an exploratory level driven forward from the drainage adit to test the lead veins at depth. The other possibility is that, having made a drainage tunnel, this level was being pursued towards Broad Rake in order to de-water the rich and flooded workings there.  Unfortunately no graffiti or artefacts were found but these may be buried in the ubiquitous mud.

Wednesday 18th saw the long hoped for night of the "Big Push" with ten diggers turning up, doing a brief bit of bag hauling in the Downstream Level then heading excitedly into the unknown.  Various injuries and afflictions such as a badly cut foot, sore back, the squits and general mental instability were not to stop these men but later resulted in the naming of the extension!

At the Exploration Level junction a presumed collapsed shaft meant that a squeeze in the muddy streamway was necessary and the previous day it had been enlarged to Chris Castle size. Just beyond it a crawl over fallen boulders gained the way on and here Phil spotted a bent iron bar buried in the rubble.  This is the handle of a kibble or bucket used to haul in the shaft and was photographed in situ.  The kibble itself may be of wood or iron and will be carefully excavated and removed in the future.

Some thirty feet further the level split - straight ahead, after twenty feet another shothole riddled blank wall, or forefield, showed where the Old Men had again abandoned their drive.  To the left about fifteen feet of level ended in a heavily silted sink with assorted bits of inwashed wood blocking a view into a partly flooded and immature natural stream way below.  Amongst the wood an iron bound rectangular section was revealed as one side of a small skip or tub.  It was cleaned off, photographed and carefully moved to a safe place to allow the passage to be examined.  It is too fragile to recover and will be left underground.  In the walls and ceiling nearby a distinct dolomitic conglomerate / limestone boundary was noted.

The very narrow streamway in dol. cong appears to have been followed from the surface by the Old Men who eventually ran out of money or enthusiasm.  It now seems likely that these are the 1774 workings of the Bristol adventurers, messrs Underwood, Riddle and Shapland - with possible later extensions - and have no connection with the century earlier adits of Thomas Bushell.  This leaves the question of just where is Bushell's adit and cave? After almost exactly five years of regular digging in Five Buddies and Stock's House we can at least state where it is not!

The breakthrough team after consuming the cooled Champagne

Meanwhile Pete, investigating Exploration Level and various side passages, unearthed a rusted iron object which was later identified as a wedge.

A tourist trip on the 22nd saw Nigel Bums photographing the workings and artefacts.  The kibble handle was further exposed and the "skip" measured.  Pat Cronin dug into a c.30ft length of hand-picked vein workings opposite Silt Level which are assumed to pre-date the adit.  Silt Level itself was the focus of attention next day when Phil, Alex and the writer spent three disgustingly muddy hours dragging rocks and tailings from its western and southern branches.  The first became apparently blind after c.15ft and the second ended in a collapse of clay and boulders which, if dug further, may provide a by-pass to the breakthrough choke.  The draught issuing from this level was found to come from a narrow and waterworn natural rift in the ceiling which may have some connection with the tiny, draughting natural passages in the adjacent Five Buddies Sink.  The southern branch was again dug, by the Newcastle University lads, on the 30th July while the writer moled his way towards the same area from the west side of Rake Chamber, just before the breakthrough point.

The Morwellham Quay Wheelbarrow – photo A. Jarratt

Meanwhile, on the 25th, Prew and some of the redundant N.H.A.S.A. digging team arrived to undertake a radio location exercise with Phil and Adrian dragging the loop transmitter underground while the Cornish and Clevedon contingents dragged full bags in the opposite direction.  Five separate points were located despite having to battle with the undergrowth and midge population.  A surface survey was later done to tie in these positions with the underground survey.

During the rest of the month further work was done in Rake Chamber and the Downstream Level where the floor was deepened.  Everything downstream of the shaft was resurveyed and lots of redundant digging gear was removed to the Belfry.  The kibble handle was disinterred and taken out for cleaning and measuring (see illustrations) leaving the supposed wooden bucket presumably still buried in the floor. It will be excavated once the immediate area is made safe but this may not be for some time.  Some work was also done below the Cornish Shaft in Five Buddies Sink.

The Geevor Mine Wheelbarrow Pic. A. Livingstone

Ben, Bob and the writer took the opportunity to visit Morwellham Quay industrial museum near Tavistock to examine and photograph the miners' wheelbarrow which was found to differ little from our reconstruction - mainly in the angle of the sideboards (see photographs).

Alex and family also visited Geevor Mine museum in Cornwall where yet another original wheelbarrow was examined and photographed.  This differs slightly from our reconstruction and appears to have been used in the surface dressing operations.

Winching recommenced on August 27th but only 32 bags were hauled out when operations were curtailed by problems with the rope snagging in the machinery.  The reconstructed wheelbarrow was lowered down the shaft for future experimentation which briefly occurred two days later when a few bags and rocks were moved with it.  It fitted well in the Downstream Level and three full bags was found to be a reasonable weight to move if loaded towards the front.  It was found that if a 'barrow had been used in these workings it would have been shorter than our reconstruction.  This trip also saw the collapsed boulders in Pipe Aven, Upstream Level banged.  Much of the resulting debris was removed with the barrow on the 3rd of September when access was once more regained to the further reaches of the Upstream Level where little change had occurred over the last few months.  Another 79 loads were winched out on September 5th when a new static rope donated by Lyon Equipment was rigged in the shaft and on the 10th another charge was fired on fallen boulders as well as further clearing of the Downstream Level.  Two days later the spoil was cleared from the last, excellent bang and many full bags were moved from both Up and Downstream Levels to the shaft.  A Wessex team took several photos for the forthcoming BCRA Conference.

The Treasury and Upstream Level were re-surveyed by Phil and the writer on the 14th when the "Rupert II" boulder at the end of the latter was blown up in a fit of vengeance. 65 bags were hauled out on the 19th of September and on the 30th, 4th and 15th of October the stubborn "Rupert II" was again banged - (told you it was a big bastard!).  An even larger boulder apparently floating in mid-air just beyond was also strategically bombed - twice.  Much general tidying up has been done throughout the workings in preparation for the wet season.

The 24th of October saw Mad Phil, Friendship and Andy Heath successfully making the connection between Rake Chamber and Silt Level so those working in the further reaches will feel safer in future. Restoration operations are planned to continue over the winter months.



The handle is from a presumably iron-hooped wooden bucket (elm?).  The word "kibble" is derived from 16th century German. " ..... secondhand kibbles varied from 7d to 2/6d each at mines near Eyam in 1746." (J.H.Rieuwerts - Glossary of Derbyshire Lead Mining Terms).

This example was made from forged iron bar, flattened, pointed and perforated at the ends and bent from the horizontal at the 380mm point.  Unlike many contemporary kibbles there is no extra bend in the centre of the handle to prevent rope slippage.  It was obviously knocked up by the local (mine?) blacksmith for a specific purpose in these workings.  A nineteenth century kibble would probably have had a sheet iron bucket like the one used in Lamb Leer and now displayed in Wells Museum, and illustrated here. It is smaller than our example, with a sturdier handle 400mm wide by 365mm high and has the extra bend for rope location.  The bucket is made from four bent iron sheets and is 380mm in diameter by 370mm deep.

The square headed, square section iron nail was found in a stemple in the Exploration Level.

Pete's iron wedge was at first thought to be a "hack" or hammer/pick due to the shape but on cleaning there was found to be no hole for a wooden handle. It would have been used for hammering into cracks in the rock following blasting in order to clear the loose walls.

Additions to the Digging Team

Pat Cronin (Pegasus C.c.), Nigel Bums (P.C.C.), Jim Smart, Ewan Maxwell ( Newcastle .C.C.), Katie Livingstone ( Canada), Andy Shaw, Nick Mitchell, Phil Collett (S.M.C.C.), Ron Wyncoll, Tyrone "Bev" Bevan, Mark Friendship, Andy Heath (Cerberus S.S.).

Radio Location Team

Brian Prewer, Phil Hendy, John Miell, Brian Sneddon (N.H.A.S.A.).

Photographic Team

Mark Helmore (WCC), Vem Freeman (WCC), Mark "Bean" Easterling (WCC).

End view of reconstruction diagram of wooden skip


Dimensions of the reconstructed skip:  diagram by A. Jarratt


Tony Jarratt in Cripples Canyon examining the mud choked natural sink.  Photo “Mad Phil”

Looking upstream to the collapsing base of the blocked Kibble Shaft.  The kibble handle is at bottom left.  .  Photo “Mad Phil”

Trevor Hughes recovering the wooden skip.  Photo “Mad Phil”


A Commercial Cavers View

by your retiring Editor

I had been working freelance at the Charterhouse Centre, taking groups around the nature reserve and introducing young people to the local ecology.  The Head of Centre, John Baker, knew that I was a keen caver, and had asked if I would like to do my "cavers ticket."  I remember being in J.Rat's shop and posing the question to him, "What good would it do me?"  His reply, sensible and immediate was, "If you can earn money doing it, then do it!"  So shortly afterwards I enquired into how to go about registering with the NCA and started training in earnest.  Actually, I asked Butch and Sparrow, then logged my 25 years previous experience, and started accompanying groups down Goatchurch.  The first thing I learnt was that my experience as a teacher was very useful to me in how to talk to children of differing ages.  Put simply says it all - do not get too technical and assume they know nuffin (I blame the teachers you know).  This was certainly an important part of my training that I didn't get from a course.  After passing my technical and group training days, and with the experience logged at Charterhouse, I began as an officially approved LCLMA part 1.  It took 2½ years to get the paperwork through though!  Now don't go thinking that this is a passport to work, it is still possible to make a huge cock up taking adults or children caving and blow the whole thing.  Yes, it has been done before.  It's easy. Here's how!  Terrify the teachers, get them stuck in a squeeze, intimidate the kids or adults by spending 3 hours down Swildons etc, and you won't get much work. "Why not," you ask. Well, the basic employment in the area is a small number of companies, all of whom are in close touch with one another.  On any particular day during the season of work - April to October, if you are lounging around at home, the phone is likely to go, and it is (usually) someone DESPERATE for a caver.  Ah, you think, I can do as I want with the clients!  Well yes, but don't piss them off, frighten them, get them lost, wet or terrified or you won't get another call.  Now the easiest way to do all these things is to take the group on one of "your" trips.  Basically, if you are still having to do trips for yourself whilst with clients, forget about being a cave leader.  Also, forget about doing a different cave, it's nearly always the same one- Goatthingy. Wear on the inside of your boiler suit a large clear message as follows "it may be your thousandth trip - it's their first.  Don't louse it up for them!"  Bearing in mind these simple rules, I have probably done 1000 trips there, but every one has been different and I have learned something each time.  Here are some tips for aspiring cave leader LCLMA part 1.  (muggins)

1.                  Get to know Goatthingy well, and believe me, there are parts of the cave that are COMPLETELY unsuitable for novices unless very closely supervised.  There is a whole range of different variants to the basic trip, usually in the main entrance, down the Giants stairs, along the dig past Bloody Tight, round the Maze, down the mini stairs to the Boulder chamber via the Dining room etc.  It is rare to take primary groups down below the Coffin Lid, although one often encounters lost scout groups wandering around below this point looking for the way out.  Older groups and fit adults sometimes get as far as the drainpipe, but in reality, an excellent trip can be had without going down this "classic".  I am always amazed at the (poor) level of fitness of youth today (and not so youth).  Many of them seem to have no idea what power there is in their legs (or might be, in many cases).  Still, things can go wrong even on the simplest trip and it is always worth taking careful note of the physical well being of groups before they get to the cave. Asthma, wooden leg, half- wit etc.

2.                  The walk up to the cave is the usual sorter.  It is very easy to spot a FLUB (fat, lazy useless bastard) but not so easy to spot a blubber.  The flub is simply going to get stuck everywhere and have to be hauled out of one of the entrances in a state of lardiness, covered in slings, ropes, krabs and being pushed, pulled etc to remove them.  What is best described as "a hatpin job."  It's a shame no - one uses carbide lamps today, they ALWAYS effect a removal!  Not so the blubber!  These lose all ability to propel themselves once 5 metres into the Tradesman's and totally Xuck up the trip for all!  The blubber will lose all limb co-ordination and body control until you drag them to the Giant's stairs.  Usually once down these they miraculously recover and may even enjoy it.  Ignore all pleas from anyone who says they are claustrophobic, this is just plain ball tightening fear, blue funk or call it what you will.  Explain to the group it is normal for humans to fear the dark- survival in the deep unconscious mind of the pre-man - (some run close to this condition today) and you might get away with it, otherwise get them close to you and pretend your light won't work.

3.                  Adults are far worse than kids.  You only need one completely phased out adult to effect all the kids in a virus like manner - shoot them first or hit them with a rock and bury them just inside the entrance so you can use them next week as an exhibit.

4.                  NEVER offer to take "special needs groups" without at least one staff member per child, especially those naughty ones who are training for a course at HMP.  These ones invariably run away as the prospect of being lost/rescued appeals to their sick minds and they are just trying to Xuck you up.  Best policy here is again to bury them - a rock fall in the water chamber is probably the best spot, followed by a hasty retreat.  Tell the staff who blanked off the trip and who are waiting at the surface that you will have to call the rescue and they will go and get them for you rather than suffer the ignominy of a newspaper report.  (you won't get any more work after this, but you will feel good).

5.                  Final tip. Don't tell any of the cavers you drink with what you do to earn money.  Likelihood is that one of them will berate what you do since you are destroying caves etc.

Anyway, to continue, if at the end of 5 trips in a day down Goatthingy, you still fancy a caving trip at the weekend you are bloody fit or stupid or just plain caving mad and I cannot help you.

Now, although Goatthingy is sneered at and avoided by the elite of the clubs etc in the same way as no climbers ever do grades below E10 8c when they deign to talk at you, a surprising number of cavers DO NOT KNOW WHERE THE BLOODY ENTRANCE IS!!!  Worse, it is likely that many of them, having not been near the cave for years (or probably never, or struck it from their student log or had electroshock therapy to forget its presence) will not know where they are once in the entrance!  These same cavers are probably the ones who sneer mightily behind their pints when us commercial cavers enter the pub!  So, next time someone is called to do a rescue from the "smartie tube" or the "worm hole" or even worse "the cracks of doom", call the commercial caver!

There follows a series of pictures of the nether regions of Goatthingy, but where?  Answers next issue- thanks, Martin.

Somewhere in the roof of Goatchurch

Dropping into?

Emerging from a squeeze in?


Mammoth Cave National Park Airport - USA

I received an email recently regarding a proposal by business and Government to build a 4000 acre Airport and industrial park on top of the Mammoth Cave eco system.

For those who do not know the system [and I have never visited Kentucky] the Mammoth cave national park contains the world's most extensive cave system with approx 300 miles of known passages with probably more not found yet!  The lower system of passageways are still being formed by streams and rivers.

This huge system is already being threatened by river borne pollutants and the 50 species of cave creatures are also under threat.

Above ground, there is an extensive system of graded trails for hiking and walking and I presume that a fair number - if not all of these routes - will fall foul of the development. The underground guided tours are numerous and seem to cater for almost everyone, requirements even listing rest rooms on some routes.  These tours run from 50 minutes in length up to 6 hours for which you pay the princely sum of $35.00.  No doubt this includes the rest room!

I personally cannot believe that anyone in their right senses would even consider throwing away this natural resource, once lost never to return.  On a smaller scale imagine building an airport on the Mendip hills with all the accompanying infrastructure. ( Bristol? - Ed).  We can only hope that the population of Kentucky and the lobbyists manage to persuade the authorities to build on one of the alternative sites.

If anyone wishes to express their views on this subject they can email

Mike Wilson


New EEC Regulations On Climbing

As we all know due to the recent outbreak of foot and mouth caving has taken a big knock on effect due to the closures of most of the caves, so instead a lot of cavers have dusted off their rock boots and headed to any available open piece of rock. This act has increased the population now climbing to a level, which has attracted the attention of the Eurocrats. The upshot of this was a hastily formed subcommittee (who's expenses no doubt exceeded their budget) coming forward with a new regulation (section 42 subparagraph 6 of the safety in sports act) "All climbers undertaking a climb that is to exceed 6 metres on a gradient of greater than 1: 1.235 must now equip themselves with a parachute (BS 5926)".

This is due to be put forward to the European Parliament on 01/04/2002, anyone wishing to object to this ridiculous infringement of our personal freedom should write to their local MEP.  This is quite important as they might start to regulate caving next.

Dave Ball


Caving Vet Safely back from Peru

Article and photographs courtesy of The Wells Journal



In the News

Tony Jarratt in the news again, although despite the recent discovery of new passage, his "ultimate Goal" wasn't there!  Diggers are always welcome at any of the club digs. Contact the diggers at The Hunters' Lodge or call at Bat Products in Wells.


A still picture from a film being made by Andy Sparrow of the discovery of Fairy Caves. B.E.C. member (your Ed) was part of the "props" dressed here as an "Edwardian Caver"


Your members get everywhere!


Cartoons by Chas.


Well folks that's it for me. Any comments and articles to the new Editor please.  I have enjoyed producing the magazine although as any past Editor will know it isn't all easy.  The magazine is your magazine you go caving the members are out there and get this magazine.  It should reflect what you are doing. Please keep the articles coming especially the ones with photographs.  All the best for the coming year of "disease free caving"  Martin


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith, Mike Willett
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee
Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert


At last - this is my last one!!!!

Good luck to Martin or whoever the new editor is in the next year and I hope everyone will give them as much support during their duration as editor as I have been given.  Despite the hard work involved in producing the BB, I have enjoyed most of the job!!  Thanks to my main helpers: Dave Irwin and Tony Jarratt.

Keep the articles corning, the next editor will still need them!!


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.

This could be the face of your new Editor:  Martin Torbett

Well folks, I thought that I should write a few lines about myself so as those of you who don't know me shall continue to do so and those who do will be able to cast ribald comments across the pub about me.

I began caving in the late '60's as a member of Portsmouth Poly cave club. Most of our visits were to the Mendips and I have fond memories of the horrid Cerberus Cave Club cottage aback to Hobbs Quarry.  Other misty memories exist of all the then "delights" of Mendip, Contour cave, Eastwater, singing in the Hunters and throwing up outside.  Also trips to some of the good Welsh caves.  I became much more sober after that and drifted away from caving in the mid  70's,

then working as a teacher. I didn't really get back into the scene until I moved to Cheddar about 6 years ago.  Due the unfortunate circumstance of knowing Robin Gray it seemed like a good place to live.  I am still here and work mainly at the Charterhouse Centre, where I do-guess what- many trips down Goatchurch!  I hope to get to know many more of you as you send in those articles for publication.


BEC in bat at the Annual Cricket Match against the WCC - photos: Fiona Lambert


Caving and BEC News


This will be held at the Belfry at 10:30am on Saturday 2nd November.  If there is to be an election at the AGM for committee posts there will be a voting form inserted in this BB.  (The BB will be at the printers by the time we will know if there is going to be an election - at the time of going to print there is no election, there is more likely to be problems with filling all the posts!!)  Please try to attend this year

BEC Annual Dinner

This year the Annual Club Dinner will be held at "The Bath Arms Hotel" at Cheddar on Saturday 2nd October, 1999.  As usual the coach will be arranged to leave the Hunters at 7pm prompt.

BEC v Wessex Cricket Match

On Saturday 17th July at 2:30pm the Wessex Cave Club won the sofa ashes by most of an innings.  It was very noticeable that the BEC's game gets worse as more beer gets drunk!  See pictures on previous page for some of the action.

Tim Kendrick's photos in the April BB.

Sett has given me some information regarding the names of people in some of the photos.  The below lists the caption under the photo from the April BB, plus any additional information:

The Belfry 1948? Tony Setterington, Pongo Wallis?

Can you name them all? Belfry 1950:  Pongo Wallis, Woody, Betty Shorthose with young Mary, Don Coase, Rod Setterington, Jack Waddon, Sybil Bowden-Lyle, Dan Hasell, Johnny Shorthose.

Five on Tony Jay's motorbike: Tessie, Tony Jay, Jean (or Di Beaumont), Alfie Collins, Johnny Bindon, (or possibly Ron Gollin)

The Mob, Easter 1949: Paul by the car.  Back row L-R: Johnny? Angus Innes, Geoff Ridyard? Tony J. Middle Row: Tony Setterington, Postle, Sybil BowdenLyle, Campbell McKee, ? Front Row: Dizzy Thompsett-Clark, Ron Gollin, Tim? Tessie, Alfie Collins, Don Coase? George Lying down, Jean, Angus Innes and Sett with Tim's Bike, Dizzie and George on George's bike.

Ladies Washing up: Dizzie? Campbell, Jean? Ron, Postle.

New Years Eve 1950: Possibly! Half Pint? Margaret, Angus?

"Willie" is in Shepton Mallet museum or moved to Bristol.

Dolphin Pot, Cross Dig and who is with Half-Pint, I don't know, but definitely Angus Innes with Dan Hasell.

Biker Molls!  Sybil and Betty Shorthose.  Paul but in what cave?  August Hole Series, Longwood Swallet.

BEC Getting Everywhere!!  Steve Prewer (Brian's son) has just returned from working in Kosovo and Macedonia with NATO and while there was privileged to be allowed into a US NAAFI. There on the counter was a BEC sticker. Anyone admit to this one????  If anyone can shed any light as to how this BEC sticker may have got there please contact the editor.

Mendip News

The Axbridge CG have had a breakthrough into some 60ft of passage in a mine near Loxton, Western Mendip. Various artefacts have been found.  Full details should appear in their newsletter and Descent.

New Members

We welcome new member Annie Audsley to the club.

New St Cuthbert's Leader

Roger Haskett has recently completed his 15 trips required for his St Cuthbert's leadership and after his final proving trip with Nigel Taylor has been accepted by the committee as a leader.  I gather Nigel found the cave had shrunk slightly since the last time he visited the cave and had to remove his undersuit to get back up the entrance rift!!!

Members News

Congratulations to Martin Grass and Nicola Slann who are getting married on 29th August.

Pakistan Visitors

Several members recently acted as guides to six cavers from the Chiltan Adventurers Assn. of Baluchistan, Pakistan - friends of Simon Brooks and Orpheus CC associates.  After visiting Derbyshire and North Wales they were delivered to Mendip to sample the delights of GB, Swildon's, Shatter, the Hunters', the eclipse, etc. and all action was recorded by them on video for Pakistan national television.  They had a great time, cooked us superb Afgan food and played Shove Ha'penny with previously undreamt of techniques!  An especially good night was had when they taught the BEC to play Carrom in the pub and almost drank Roger out of Kaliber - he was very impressed.  Also impressed were the good people of Upper Milton when they saw what was apparently Saddam Hussein and five camouflaged guerrillas yomping through their hamlet en route to invade Wells - so much so that a bobby was summoned to intercept them!  On being questioned they informed him that they were the Pakistan National Caving Team and heading for Bat Products.  He bid them a relieved farewell and no doubt drove off muttering about "bloody cavers".  If he'd met them in Baluchistan they would have been carrying Kalashnikovs as a matter of course!!  Anyone visiting Pakistan would be made extremely welcome by them Contact:-

Hayat Ullah Durrani Khan, Chiltan Adventurers Assn. 6/9/283B SEm AZAM ROAD, QUETTA, PAKISTAN Phone:- 0092-81-xxxxxx

C.A.A. Visitors

Malik Abdul Rahim Baabai, Hayat Ullah Durrani Khan, Atta-Ur-Rahman, Abdul Ghaffar, Salauiddin, Muhammad Rafique.


Burrington Cave Atlas

I have a reasonable number of photos now and a few promised, which I should have soon.  I will get on with working on the Burrington Cave Atlas as soon as this BB is out.  Hopefully it should be out before the New Year.


Millennium Celebrations

The BEC committee is looking for ideas for celebrating the Millennium We have had ideas about T -shirts/sweatshirts etc., but need a design.  If anyone has any design ideas or any other ideas for celebrating the Millennium (also our 65th birthday) please contact a committee member.


Caving Logs and Bulletins CDROM

The CDROM containing most of the logs and the 1st 100 Belfry Bulletins is about to be cut to CDROM. We are cutting the first 50 to be ready before the AGM and dinner.  If you want a CDROM please contact Estelle (Ed.).  The cost is £10 to members and £20 to non-members.

Notts Pot, Yorkshire

The NCA have forwarded a message regarding the entrance to Notts Pot being on the move again.  They have stated that this could well be in an unsafe condition.  If you were contemplating a trip, think carefully before descending.  If you have a permit for Notts over the coming months and decide not to descend as a result of the condition of the entrance, the permit will be good for one of the other holes on the fell, provided you do not go down the hole where the other permit has been issued, etc - as this will cause all sorts of problems.

Robin's Shaft, Derbyshire

Also forwarded from the NCA is a report that on the 15th and 16th August, bad air was reported by Mike Salt & Alan Rowlinson in Robins Shaft, Ham, Derbyshire.  There was no smell and Mike and Alan experienced no headaches or nausea but they became very breathless and report that when matches were lit they went out as soon as the head had burnt out.  There was no draught.  Trials with the same box of matches in the car after the trip produced perfect results. Sounds like high CO2 concentration.

Your last chance to book tickets for this years club dinner!

This years annual club dinner is being held at 'The Bath Arms Hotel' Cheddar on Saturday 2nd October 1999.  Our guest speaker will be Andy Elson who will be talking about his 'round the world balloon attempt' earlier this year.

To avoid missing out send your booking form [enclosed with your last bb] and a cheque to cover the cost of your tickets to: Ivan Sandford, Priddy, Somerset.  Any queries tele.  Ivan or Fi.

Unlike in previous years there will be no tickets available after Saturday 25th September.  Also we will not be ringing round chasing those who may have forgotten to book.  So to avoid missing out book now!


Much Wittering on the Moors

By Peter Glanvill

1999 was the tenth anniversary of the Mendip invasion of the Assynt region.  Little did we know back in 1990 what we were to start when Brian Johnston, Tony Jarratt and I arrived in the old shed at Knockan at the start of a gloriously sunny week.

Ten years on we have the longest caves in Scotland, the most beautiful caves in Scotland plus the largest chamber in Scotland and it's been a privilege to be around when most of these discoveries were being made.  In the course of the weeklong trips over the last decade I have made many new friends, climbed many new hills and sunk many, many pints of 80 shilling.

It has to be said during the same period of time that many members of the Grampian Speleological Group (not sputum article society as my dictation software would have it) have devoted their lives to construction of the magnificent new hut Taigh nam Famh which has turned at least one person into a caving softy.

It is always sad to leave those distinctive hills behind in my rear view mirror as we drive south until the next time we can return.  My great satisfaction  is  the huge library of photos I have built up over the last ten years. This year, I took the opportunity of donating to the GSG four compact discs containing a collection of my best photographs of the four main systems in the limestone of Assynt. Copies are available at £10 a throw.  These contain 25 MB TIF files which will comfortably enlarge to A3 or bigger.


The high waterfall- photo: Pete Glanvill

This year was a quiet year with no major discoveries being made.  However we enjoyed some magnificent weather, did some exciting diving and I was very pleased to come home with yet more satisfying images of those remarkable Scottish caves.

This report has been delayed by my deciding to use dictation software to compose it.  The original reads like Finnegan's Wake - if bits of that creep past the corrections forgive and (perchance) enjoy.  In fact you can play spot the error for the next few thousand words.  No prizes will be awarded though as I have made it easy by putting the dictated errors in italics!

This year Peter Rose decided to subject the Grampian's theological group and also the rest of his family to more of his wittering so they, Quackers and myself were the vanguard of the Mendip invasion for 1999. At the start of the week I had only one objective which was to gain access to the tantalising Holland roof which had been seen by me on my first trips into the Farr series of ANUS cave.  The said hole in the roof lies a few feet back from sump 4 and could only be reached by maypoling.  So it was that on the Sunday morning a small party consisting of Crackers? (well, why not it's what my mum thought he said when he answered the phone once) Derek Guy a new Grampian member and old caving friend made our way up the ANUS valley along with the Rose family and a number of maple sections up to the entrance of Abbas? cave.  A number of rather poor Terry Toby Chuck tub beat jokes (what did I say to the machine really folks) were made with regard to the way I happened to have carried my sections - namely protruding in an ungainly fashion from the back of my rucksack.

We had planned to climate Bray bag (that one's easy) but it remained obstinately shrouded in cloud for most the day (that's climate for you) and accordingly we changed our objective to the bluff overlooking the Bone Caves (the pronunciation of which would have caused the dictation software to develop a stutter).  En route we visited the sink for Abbas (OK - ANUS) cave which is currently almost completely choked such that a stream poured continuously over the waterfall above the cave for the entire week.  Once we were on the summits of the bluff the clouds began to clear and we got some terrific views towards Quinn Alec, other Charlie Gill Filey (Christ knows what I said there) as well as the cloud shrouded Conical.  At this point Derek and I split away from arose (The Rose) family and examined the limestone areas of the moor as we headed back towards the salmon farm. Several very interesting depressions were found although nothing resembling the famous cave of the more of the wild builder is (easy peasy that one).

Derek, who is working at Lochgilphead as a Jeanette assist (say it fast) for asylum brooding operation (something fishy) then struck up a conversation with those running the salmon farm and we were taken on a brief tour.  In the evening Crackers and I headed off to Kylesku where we had a short dive examining the famous boy Montenegro (this has nothing to do with the Balkans but more to do with drowned cars) and its steady deterioration.  Quackers vanished as usual in the course of the dive. Pete Rose very kindly bought us pints as we crawled from the water at the end of the dive.  After a meal at the hotel we headed back for home.

The next morning dawned reasonably beautifully and we decided that some air should be obtained. Shortly after this I discovered that I had a bit of a problem as I had locked the keys in the car and it's central locking.  An hour later a friendly AA man from Lochinver was demonstrating how to break into centrally locking cars using guess what - they caves hangar as well as big man monitors cuff and surpass the wages (come on, come on you're too slow).

J'Rat and the strange mud formations in Upholes Passage - Photo: Pete Glanvill

When all had returned from Lochinver it was decided that we ought to attack Abbas cave again and charged uphill ahead of the recently arrived other Mendip contingent which consisted of Tony Boycott, Rich Blake, Tariff (who he - guess) and Tony Jarratt.  They couldn't resist the magnetic attraction of the Allt as they drove past so it was that I found myself and a pile of maypoles behind the wittering Rose in the connecting crawl leading to the Farr series. After a few minutes order was re-established and steady movement continued through the rather loose environment around Sotanito chamber inexorably towards sump four.  In the process I took the precaution of re-belaying the rope on the climb out of Sotanito chamber to a somewhat larger boulder than that to which it had been belayed previously.  I don't like the idea of relying on something lighter than myself!   A wave of beer fumes and some cheerful shouts  indicated  the presence  of  the  Alps contingent who rapidly overtook us grabbing maypoles Willie nearly as they passed us so that we  quickly  arrived at  the  base of the famous hole in the roof where the maypole sections were hurriedly fitted together - in fact so hurriedly that the final product ended up as two sections which we couldn't connect!  After a few minutes Rich Blake and I scrambled to a ledge which we hurriedly gardened and managed to prop the maypole across the passage and then just get it securely into the base of the hole.  The this point we had a fold of then tried ride on more Pol if we couldn't freeze the remaining pieces brackets clout role always use Greece on maple in future clothes brackets in. (God knows what that means - I can't remember.)  However Tony Jarratt had other ideas and as we both screamed "Don't do it! Don't do it!" he disappeared up the ladder like a, well, rat up a ladder out of sight into the roof in a sort of Indian rope trick (well he had just come back from Meghalaya) but unfortunately he reported that the hole narrowed down and any further progress would anyway need further maypole efforts.

After a lot of pissed mutterings most members of the party seemed to disappear leaving Derek and I to explore those bits of the Farr series that I hadn't seen before.   We were soon to discover why Goon had seen fit to describe the cave as a vertical maze when I started to drop down a slot in the floor and found I had descended something like fifteen or 20 m before I got anywhere near the stream.  In fact I dropped out of the roof with Derek closely behind at the upstream end of sump 3, right beside the diving line.  A dull roar ahead indicated that we were near the base of fund aghast (another easy one) falls and a short crawl took us towards them.  The falls certainly are impressive and after some scrambling around and examination of a funny little hole in the wall beside the falls (and a mysterious rope dangling from the ceiling) we returned to the falls and completed the roped climb up the side.  The route then led past some small cascades and wallows until we found ourselves just downstream of sump four.  After completing the photography Derek and I left the cave, ate some of Angie's famous apple cake and headed downhill.  Unfortunately we had the car keys and the wittering from Rose could be heard half a mile away as we came over the hill.

Thunderghast Falls, ANUS Cave - Photo: Pete Glanvill

The next morning started unpromising with grey cloudy skies and the original plan to tackle Suilven was scratched in favour of a walk to the highest waterfall in Britain.  By midday we were ready to go and while Tony B,  Tony Jarratt and Co attacked Rana Hole (it is now known as Six Buddles). Derek, Crackers, the Roses and myself started along the track  to the  waterfall - in brilliant sunshine. Crackers         disappeared early on his track having decided that he didn't want to sacrifice the 700 feet required to view the waterfall.  This caused certain noises from Rose which diminished steadily as we disappeared downhill towards the waterfall.  The waterfall is certainly an impressive sight as it plummets into Glen Coul although from the top one cannot see right to the bottom but I suppose at the bottom you can't see the water going over the top!  After a quick picnic we then started up the long track back over the Col and down towards the Inch.  At times the shout of the lesser spotted Rose could be heard calling to its straying offspring.  We passed a pair of ptarmigan as we climbed up high into the col amidst some wild scenery.  There are splendid views down into the Glen Coul area dominated by the massive Stac of Glencoul. Tiny lochans dotted the landscape.  A long plod downhill past more lochans eventually brought us within sight of the Inch and the prospect of a welcome pint or three.  The diggers had got somewhat ahead in the drinking stakes and decided that Pete's glow role (eh) was not to go diving this evening.  However he had other ideas and set off towards calcium with Crackers.

As we approached Kylesku we noticed to see Mr (the sea mist actually) rolling in up the loch so we crossed the road bridge and around the corner. Some entertainment followed when I turned the car in the middle of the road just as the only other car we saw that evening came roaring around the bend. We then took a series of pictures of Mr rolling around the basic rheumatic (some times known as Quinag) in the most spectacular fashion.

Derrick Guy in Knockers - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Shortly after I started kitting up for my dip in the harbour Jake and Becky arrived and Becky proceeded to jump into a kayak and disappear out into loch Glencoul not to be seen again for some time.  Pete surfaced with a few scallops and he and Crackers departed leaving Jake not a little concerned still waiting for Becky in the gathering twilight.

The next morning Derek and I headed off to do some shopping in Lochinver and obtain air from doom (Jim) Crooks.  After the usual crack with Jim we wandered back via the tourist office (where is the cave at Kylesku? (- the cave at Kylesku (Uamh Ruaidhridh) apparently dropped into the sea many years ago and has not been seen since! - J'Rat) and pie shop and then later on in the afternoon I decided to introduce Derek to the joys of clan light (this is a cave not a beer - think about it).  I think we must have chosen one of the driest spells I have ever visited the cave which made the trip a lot more pleasant in dry gear. After a rapid trip to Sump 3 we slowly made our way out taking pictures as we went.  We also undertook the opportunity to have a peek at the Capital series that I am ashamed to say I had never visited before.  In the evening we had an excellent Scott male (not cannibals - think shellfish) which rounded the day off very nicely.

On Thursday I decided to join Tony Jarratt and Rich in the new dig at ANUS Cave. The dig houses the prospects of passing over sump four and lies in Upholes Passage.  It was dubbed Anus Horribilis by Tony Boycott and Co.  After taking some photographs of very delicate mud formations hereabouts Peter amused himself mainly by stacking spoil while the smaller dimensioned Tony Jarratt and Rich Blake continued to excavate a mud filled bedding plane which apparently draughts if you're feeling optimistic

ANUS Horribilis with J'Rat and Rich Blake - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Back at the hut we met up with Tony and Crackers for a planned drift drive underneath the Kylesku Bridge.  Tav decided to go fishing, which was a bit sad, because the weather started to deteriorate somewhat and certainly underwater was the best place to be. Eventually Tony, Crackers and I were sitting on the bank directly underneath the bridge.  Tony and I submerged and descended to about 20 m which seems to have been a good depth to be at rather than where Crackers was which was more like 15m and meant battles with kelp.  In fact Crackers emerged a couple of times convincing Peter Rose and Co that they were watching a particularly clumsy otter.  Tony and Pete found themselves on a wall literally smothered in dead men’s fingers and as they moved along in the currents and around the point so the underwater encrusting fauna altered to that seen nearer the fairy slept (come on, come on).  Navigation could not be easier because as soon as the wall finishes and you are on the sand the ascent leads straight to the base of the ferry slip (okay now).  This is a very exciting scenic dive and well worth it if you are in the area.

Derek, who'd been on a tour of salmon farms the previous day, returned that evening and so, on the Friday, I decided to initiate him into the delights of the Traligill valley. After a leisurely start we arrived in the company of Quackers (dictation software off from now on) (Thank f**k for that!!!  J'Rat aka proof reader!!) for a speleological ramble starting at Knockers.  As we prepared to kit up by Glenbain a soft spoken gentleman and a young lady appeared.  They were leading the Oxford Uni. Geology field trip staying at the Inchnadamph lodge.  For a) presumably intelligent people, b) geology graduates they asked some amazingly gormless questions of the "How far do you go in?" and "How much is unexplored?" variety.  I found the male of the pair amazingly effete (Quacker's blunt comment: "He's a prat") so decided to spice up their lives with some caving education and a short trip into the stream chamber in Knockers.  I hope they were suitably impressed and educated.

Derrick and I knocked off Knockers in an hour or two taking in the worms by Boycott's sump plus some of the Rabbit Warren and took a few snaps on the way before emerging for a stroll to the bottom of the Water slide and visit to the sump.  J-Rat's dig there still looks promising with the inlet stream emitting a healthy echo from beyond the currently constricted end.

After a brief poke at Uarnb an Cailliche Peireag we bimbled down the dry streambed to Lower Traligill. Derrick was well impressed.  A peep was taken at Lower Traligill and Tree Hole and Disappointment were left for yet another day before we wound up eventually at  Firehose  also admired from afar.

Hens - Tav and Colin Coventry - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Down at the Inch the diggers were in full swing when we arrived closely followed by a hen party. It all seemed reminiscent of that old rugby song except for the absence of virgins (from Inverness or anywhere). Some of us left to return to the cottage where we were later rudely interrupted by Tav and Colin Coventry dressed as Saxon and Viking hotly pursued by hens waving frilly underwear.  The brave duo then vanished into a minibus packed with women out for a good time in Ullapool.  I have a note here about a duck anybody who can enlighten me let me know!

The next day was the great diving and curry day.  Tav had persuaded Murray at the Kylesku Hotel to take us out in his boat (for a reasonable fee) so all assembled at the Hotel about midday.  Tav looked slightly wrecked and as the day progressed tit bits of his nocturnal adventures trickled out.  Apart from pouring vast quantities of whisky down his neck he did manage to recall running around Ullapool in the early hours pushing a wheelbarrow.  We decided to try diving on the site of the Duke of Westminster's yacht mooring on the far side of the loch.  Rumour had it that antique bottles could be found.  Murray got us to where he thought we had a good chance of finding something and after some cramped kitting Estelle, Fraser, Quackers and I plopped into the water.  We all appeared on Murray's fish finder, - Estelle and Fraser as a shoal of pollock, me as a shoal of wrasse and Quackers as a .... whale!

On the bottom there were bottles galore!  We shovelled them into our goodie bags with gay abandon and struggled back clinking into the boat.  I was quite chuffed by relocating one of Estelle's ankle weights in 10m below the boat - search for known object completed.  After a brief lunch break the dive party shrank to Estelle and I although everybody got to watch the seals.  We emerged after our dive with enough scallops for a good couple of meals and headed back to the hut ready for the great curry evening.

When we arrived at the Alt near sunset a crowd of Meghalayan tribesmen seemed to have arrived.  This turned out to be J-Rat and Co. in appropriate costume for the theme night.  The meal was terrific - thanks to Eric and team and the evening ended in a slide show with suitable heckling.  A strange board game was played and more beer was drunk.  I ended up making two journeys to the hut due to a pissed communication breakdown but we will pass over that!

Sunday was my last day's caving so I decided to give Fraser and Simon Brooks a hand sherpering into ANUS where an assault on Sump 4 was planned.

Seal watching - Photo: Pete Glanvill

Both divers found the sump low and silty but everything was set up for what turned out to be a successful later push to a large airbell by Simon.

Quackers and I returned south the next day. Next year could be the year of the Rana/Claonaite exchange.

P.S. Regarding those bottles.  I took them to our local bottle expert - Nick Chipchase, a week later.  His comment "See that bottle bank there - put 'em in that". Apparently the collectors only like hand made bottles and these are too modem.

Peter Glanvill August 1999

Curry Night at the Allt - Photo: Pete Glanvill


Eastwood Manor Mines

By Vince Simmonds

In a small disused quarry (576551) 100m south of Eastwood Manor, East Harptree are found two mines.

Mine No. 1

Length 10m.

Located in the south side of the quarry about 50m from the road gate.

Low, wide arch leads to fairly comfortable passage 10m long and in places 3.5m wide.

Mine No.2

Length 90m.

Located 40m north of Mine No.1 in the western face of the quarry.

Small entrance leads down a slope of deads to more sizeable passage and a choice of two ways on.  To the right through a window the passage quickly goes to walking size, up to 3.5m high and 4m wide ending after 20m at a 3m long pool.  From the entrance the passage to the left runs parallel to the quarry face and several former choked links back to the face are passed.  Passage size is mainly stooping/walking height and about 1.5m wide, it is 45m long with some loops and there are some small side passages that are insignificant.  It is muddy in places and the end bit has been frequented by Badgers who have, at times, used it as a latrine.

Both mines are horizontal adits.

Possibly worked for barytes.






Stock's House Shaft - a Small Cave Becomes a Large Mine.

By Tony Jarratt

This article follows on from that in BB 502.

After waiting three months for the stream in this dig to dry up work recommenced on 25th June 1999 when AJ fired a charge in the shattered ceiling above the downstream "sump". This was partly cleared on 4th July by BS, assisted on the surface by Roger Haskett (Dig Chauffeur).  Bob was excited to hear glooping noises and to watch the ponded water rapidly drain away after inserting a bar into the mud choked crawl.  AJ continued clearing the next day and upon chiselling out the banged ceiling was able to enter some 10ft of mud and tailings floored crawl ending in an almost complete silt choke.  A solid rock rib on the right hand wall was drilled and a charge laid to the accompaniment of peculiar rumbling noises echoing down the shaft.  This was not a passing lorry or helicopter but an approaching thunderstorm!  Having already attached the detonator (with the firing wires trailing up the shaft) and with three previous lightning strikes to his credit, AJ rocketed up the ladder to rapidly fire the charge - much to the bemusement of a couple of "outdoor adventure" instructors.

John "Tangent" Williams and AJ cleared this next day and a large Wednesday night team (including new man to the site Andy Elson) continued the good work - hauling 80 bag loads to surface.  It was now realised that what we had originally assumed to be a flat out natural stream passage had been entered and enlarged by the Old Men to walking sized mine levels heading off in three directions downstream, upstream and a dry side passage parallel with the upstream level.  Shotholes in all three galleries were evidence of their being blasted from the shaft outwards.  The downstream level draughted strongly and obviously takes a large amount of water at times.  The diggers were much encouraged and a decision was made to push this as much as possible before the next heavy rains made conditions miserable.  The presence of bad air in His Lordship's Hole also provided them with an excuse to concentrate work on this site.

Bob Smith at the entrance of Stocks House Shaft - Photo: Alan 'Goon' Jefferies

10 more bags came out on the 8th July and during the following weekend another 110 reached surface due to the efforts of enthusiastic diggers including Simon House, Alan "Goon" Jeffreys (Grampian S.G. - and paying his debts for the Rana Hole epics!) Rick Stewart (Airedale C.C. ) and Wendy Ripley (Craven P.C.).  Monday 12th July saw another 40 bags up to the midge-infested Hell of the forest above. Another 80 came out over the next three days.  Plans for a good push the following weekend were wiped out by various parties at the Belfry and the presence of hordes of "hedge monkeys" attending an illegal rave in the Forestry car park.  After setting fire to a car, upsetting everyone for miles around and stealing the belay bolt, krabs and 20m SRT rope from the Shaft they were finally evicted by the police on the Sunday evening.  Things improved on the Monday when TL, AJ, JW, Mike Alderton, Nick Squire and Ben Wills hauled up another 105 loads.  Both upstream and downstream passages were now 20-30 feet long and adding up towards the Digging Barrel score!

During the following week another 151 loads reached surface and probably 200 were stored underground ready for removal.  Guest diggers were Alex Loftus and Ollie Metherall (Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club) Harvey Lomas (Yorkshire Ramblers Club) and "Sweep" the world's shortest collie dog!  The upstream level was cleared for some 30ft and is heading out under the road towards the Waldegrave Works ruins.  The dry parallel level has been partly cleared for about 15ft but may be left as a good winter dig and the main priority, the downstream level, pushed for some 60ft to a choke on a sharp LH bend where the first section of open passage was entered on 27th July (see below) - a year and two days from the commencement of the dig.  The latest additions to the team are Ben "Eat at Alley Cats Bistro, Wells" Gingold, Ben Holden, three Newcastle Uni. lads, Annie Audsley, Mike Willett and the MRO (not by choice!).  The Shaft has also been deepened by a few feet and the intention is to totally clear the whole of the workings - a steady job for which there are plenty of vacancies, especially after the following incident:-

The Breakthrough and Rescue Incident

" .... if any man by this dangerous and doubtful occupation do take his death and be slain by falling of the Earth upon him the workmen of that occupation shall fetch up that dead body at their proper costs and charges (although he lye threescore fathome under the Earth) and shall bury him in a Christian burial. "  - Mendip Mining Laws and Forest Bounds - J. W. Gough 1931

John Williams heading for the pub - photo: Simon House

On the evening of 27th July AJ, J"T"W, SH and BH went into the downstream level to dig into the open passage seen the previous day but not entered due to the exhaustion of the diggers.  While AJ dug into some 10ft of passage on a sharp bend the others cleared spoil from behind him and dragged full bags back to the Shaft.  Some very delicate redistribution and chocking of conglomerate boulders was then necessary to reach the large open passage some 12ft ahead.  Rocks could be carefully pushed forwards into the void but to reach them properly AJ had to get both legs around the bend and after accomplishing this was unable to reverse the manoeuvre due to an injured knee. After turning on his back he could see a big black space above which was accessible by pushing over some poised boulders balanced on a fridge-sized rock to one side.  On squeezing up into the space this rock suddenly and noiselessly settled onto his left side at the same time as a foot square "Floyd Collins Special" landed on his right welly.  Unable to move he shouted to Tangent to call out the MRO - foreseeing a major problem ahead but rationally, and surprisingly calmly, expecting to be slowly crushed by the offending boulder and/or simply smashed to bits by the 20 ton or so of bigger boulders that he now realised were perched directly above him in a collapsed shaft or stope and apparently slowly moving! Luckily he was able to reach some small rocks which he wedged between the descending boulder and solid wall giving him time to notice yet another large boulder on which his back rested. With thoughts of "shit or bust" this one was laboriously nudged into the void and, by dragging his foot from a fortunately mud filled welly he was able to scramble the last few feet to the haven of the ongoing level.  He was now interred with one welly, no fags, a compass and a miraculous mortality extension (thanks, God). The news of

Streamway - photo: Simon House

his survival was shouted to the departing callout man and a request for shoring materials (and fags) made. As a long wait was expected he set off hopping down the level to look for possible shafts to surface, to take a compass bearing and have a crafty exploration.  The level was fairly free of tailings and ended at a muddy sink after some 60ft.  Shotholes were present in the walls and a few rotten stemples noted but no easy way out. He returned to the choke to find a loquacious Quackers venting his wrath on all digs, but this one in particular! The MRO had appeared with remarkable speed and soon Vince was digging from one side while AJ meticulously rearranged boulders into a supportive drystone wall. Andy Sparrow, John Walsh and the digging team meanwhile dragged all the full spoil bags back to the Shaft and received scaffolding, timber etc. lowered from surface by a very strong support party too numerous to mention.  Dr. Andy Newton stood by in case of the worst but was thankfully not needed.  (The trauma unit of Weston General Hospital were also on standby and there were plans to obtain a mobile drilling rig from Cornwall.  Though seemingly "over the top" it was only by a miracle that both were not required and they should be again seriously considered on future incidents of this nature).

The attempted crushing!

With the use of a short crowbar and a length of rope the "Floyd Collins Rock" was removed and, after the welly was liberated, dumped in the level enabling the trapped one to make a rapid escape before the Pub shut.  He is eternally grateful for the prompt response of those present and has never before been quite so pleased to see the motley buggers!  Thanks are also due to Roger and Jackie for allowing everyone to replace their lost body fluids at a late hour.

Work will continue on clearing the levels and ideas for removing or stabilising the choke toyed with. Apart from this short section Stock's House is a stable and fascinating working with lots of potential for both natural and mined passages.  This extension has also, in theory, made the new edition of Mendip Underground out of date on the day before it was published!!!  (They wont be any cheaper though ..... ).

Additions to the Digging Team

Roger Haskett, Andy Elson, Simon House, Alan "Goon" Jeffreys (GSG), Rick Stewart (ACC), Wendy Ripley (Craven PC), Mike Alderton, Nick Squire, Alex Loftus (EUMC), Ollie Metherall (EUMC), Harvey Lomas and dog (YRC), Ben Gingold, Ben Holden, Vince Simmonds, Andy Sparrow, John Walsh, Ben Langford (Univ.of Newcastle CC), Mike Richards (UNCC) Dave Coulson (UNCC), Mike Willet and Annie Audsley.

Streamway (now a 6' high mine level) - photo: Simon House

Additional Assistance

M.R.O, Jackie Dors, Jim Lewis ( Cornwall Heritage Trust) and Weston General Hospital Trauma Unit

A.R. Jarratt (49, not out) 16/8/99


Where is the Veb?

By Tony Setterington

There is evidence of Roman mining for lead, and other metals, at many sites on Mendip.  Until recently the main area of extraction was assumed to be at Charterhouse where much of the excavating has been done and, of course, most of the artefacts discovered.  Gough includes other sites and further indicates that Medieval and post medieval activities have removed and reworked many of the surface areas originally exploited by the Romans.

Since the reign of Henry VIII some 20-lead ingots have been unearthed in southern Britain with others on the continent.  Many of these have been lost or melted down but four dug-up on Rookery Farm, near Green Ore, were described and interpreted by Palmer et al. and are now preserved in local museums.  In varying degrees of clarity, each of these ingots has BRIT.EX ARG.VEB; (from the British silverworks at VEB) cast on one side.  By analogy with ingots from Derbyshire, where LVT or LVTVD refers to the known production site of Lutudarium, VEB must be a Mendip smelting site.

A recent paper by Williams, summarising information on the Roman mining in the Priddy-Green Ore area, indicates at least 100 hectares of surface mining or occupation sites, probably more than at Charterhouse.  Since ingots with the VEB inscription have been found both at Charterhouse and Green Ore it must apply to both of these sites and, since no other inscription has been discovered it is assumed that VEB covers the whole of Mendip.

There are four places, and possibly others, that include two of the three letters of VEB in their names. Rookery Farm has been renamed Vespasian Farm, while Velvet Bottom, Vobster and Webbington probably derive from old English names.  The most likely, but far from proven, is Webb plus more modem endings.

Although we can conclude that we now know where VEB is the question of the whole Roman name for the area remains.  We will only have an answer when a gravestone with the complete form is found or historians read it in a shipping manifest or similar document, perhaps they already know and don't realise it.

Gough, IW., The Mines of Mendip. (Newton Abbot 1967)

Palmer, L.S. et aI, Four Roman Pigs of Lead from Mendip. In Proc. SANHS Vols. 101 and 102. ( Taunton 1958)

Williams, R.G.J., The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. In Proc. UBSS, 1998,21(2)


Mendip Lead Mining (Chewton and Priddy)

By R.A. Setterington

Lead net weights were recorded from the Iron Age sites at Mere and Glastonbury.  Although technology at that time, early 20th Century, was not sufficiently advanced to prove that the source of the ore was the Mendips it is a reasonable assumption.

Until recently Charterhouse was usually thought of as the centre for Roman lead mining on Mendip, however in the field centred on ST547503 during the early 1950s, a Roman 'villa' with quantities of lead and lead ore was excavated and more recently the area of Roman occupation and mining has been shown to extend at least from Swildons to the top of Stockhill.  It is possible that other sites, both Roman and Preroman, remain to be discovered.

In 1461 Sir Richard Choke, the Lord Chief Justice, was sent by the king to sort out disputes amongst the miners and smelting sites on Mendip.  Reading between the lines of his report it is clear that there had been a code of rules for a very long time and it was only necessary to add a formal recognition of this code.  It is clear that Mendip miners were an independent group, which was able to enforce its own laws, and resented outside intervention.

The earliest dated history of the Chewton Minery is at least as early as 1550.  These early smelting sites under the four 'Lords Royal' peaked in output between 1600-1670 when in 1608 Chewton produced 30 tons and the rest 34 tons between them.  The earliest reported 'incomer' was Sir Beavis Bulmer who, in 1580, had an agreement with the miners to drain Rowpits (Chewton Warren) for a half of the ore raised. By 1586 the miners realised that this was a bad bargain and Sir Bulmer was complaining of "Divers disorders in Mendipp mynes especially at Brode Rake".  Later his agent was accused of selling off Bulmers pits and, not too surprisingly, he was working elsewhere.

In 1658 Thomas Bushell obtained an order 'For carrying ye Water in Row pitts.  He planned to dig a drift 16 fathoms deep as a Common Shore (sow or collecting drain) from the concaves of a natural swallow 20 fathoms deep.  His main object was to reopen the Broad Rake" for there are men yet alive who will justifie that the forebreast of Sir Beavis Bulmars work was nine foot wide and three fathoms high in oar."  The rule that half the ore raised by the local miners to be paid for the draining was again agreed and again not obeyed and the works were eventually abandoned.

Although blasting powder came into the West Country about 1689 this did little to help the miners who had worked out most of the shallow ore and were still troubled by water. During the first eight years of the eighteenth century the output from the Chewton Minery varied from four to ten tons, small figures when compared with the 34 tons in 1608.

The smelting of lead from ore continued to decrease until by 1850 it was virtually extinct, however the possibility of re-smelting the old slags and reworking the old slimes and tailings revived the Mineries, the scale of capital required involving the use of venture capital by floating companies.  A doctor of medicine, named Benjamin Somers was working at Charterhouse from 1824 until he died in 1848.  In the 'thirties and 'forties he turned his attention to the vast heaps of refuse at the Chewton and Priddy Mineries.  In 1850 Barwell was working at Charterhouse but turned his attentions to Chewton in 1854 when he entered into partnership with T.S. Wright.  Their efforts were slow to develop until they attracted some Cornish mining engineers.  More modem buildings were erected with modem machinery, including reverberatory furnaces and round buddles.

In 1857 Nicholas Ennor obtained the mineral rights for the Priddy Minery to the annoyance of Barwell and Wright who built a dam at the downstream end of the Chewton site thus stopping the flow of surface water to the Priddy Minery.  Ennor protested and his men entered Barwell's land and cut holes in the dam.  Not surprisingly this lead to free fights which continued, on and off, for two years until, in 1860, the case came up for trial, eventually ending in Ennor's favour. Meanwhile Ennor was joined by Humby and proceeded to construct six buddles in 1858 and two more in 1859.  He was almost immediately in trouble for water pollution in a case brought by Hodgkinson of Wookey Hole.  Ennor gave up and in 1862 a new company, The St. Cuthbert's Lead Smelting Company was formed, under the management of Horatio Nelson Hornblower of Gwennap, to buy Ennor's interests.  Because of the water problems Hornblower experimented to smelt the debris without dressing and in a small scale trial obtained 13 tons of pig lead from an input of 200 tons, thereby making a profit of just over 100%.  Five new furnaces were installed in 1864 with a proposal for more efficient blowing and a condenser working by spraying water but they eventually adopted longer flues.  In 1849 there were 40 men employed but the works were soon abandoned, eventually to be bought by Julian Bernard.  There was no output recorded for ten years, even after much of the existing plant was pulled down and new machinery installed it was not worked. Bernard soon disappeared leaving debts, the plant was to be sold to a Mr. George Ball but in 1881 he died before the purchase could be completed and the buildings fell into disrepair.

Meanwhile, at the Waldegrave works, Barwell and Wright obtained a new licence in 1864 but in 1881 smelting was abandoned although two out of the three sets of buddles were kept working until 1883. Between 1881 and 1890 St. Cuthbert's was run on a small scale by Watts as owner with Willcox as a working manager. The plant was again sold, to a Mr. James Theobald MP but the fluctuating price of lead fmally stopped production in 1908 and the plant was dismantled in 1910.

Williams, R.G.J., The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. In Proc. UBSS, 1998,21(2)

Gough, J.W., The Mines of Men dip. (Newton Abbot 1967)


A Glossary of Commonly Used Climbing Terms and Phrases from Tom Patey's book 'One Man's Mountains'

From Kangy King

  • A solo climber - One man falling alone.
  • A roped party - Several men falling simultaneously.
  • A novice - Someone (often dead) who should be kept off the mountain at all costs.
  • An experienced climber - Someone whose death was unavoidable.
  • An Alpine Club member - Someone who never dies but slowly fades away.
  • An alpine veteran - Someone who has been to the Alps.
  • A careful climber - A slow climber.
  • A cautious climber - A very slow climber.  A climbing nut - A reckless climber.
  • A climbing leader - Someone who is expendable.







A Night to Remember - Thirty Years Ago ...

Monday 15th September 1969

-A brief note by Dave Irwin


Above: - The Belfry, 1961. Photo: Mike Baker

Right: -Cover of belfry Bulletin No. 259 that was published a week later informing members of the disaster.

It seems only yesterday that the club faced one of the worst crises in its history.  The old wooden Belfry caught fire and suddenly the Club was 'homeless'.

It happened one wet Monday night when a group of visitors were sinking their beer at the Hunters. 'Jock' Orr was also staying at the Belfry but was spending the evening in Bristol supping coffee with Wig and Tim Reynolds. 'Jock' left Bristol about 11.30 pm and arrived at the Belfry to find the Fire Service in attendance.  Dave Searle who lived nearby had already switched off the main electrical supply to the building but the firemen had another problem - how to get the gas cylinders out of the building safely.  However, the fire was contained within the building and little external damage was done either by the fire or the firemen.  Within a short space of time the fire was out but the building was gutted internally.

'Jock' returned to Bristol and woke Wig about 2.15 am who took the whole episode as a bad joke!!  But when Jock produced a hand full of coins that had been retrieved from the building it was all go.  Bob Bagshaw, the club treasurer, was woken a half-hour later and told of the occurrence and who, later, contacted the insurance company and assessors. Meanwhile, Jock and Wig carried on to Chew Stoke and woke John Riley and his brother, after all, if Jock and Wig were up why shouldn't everyone else en-route.  Eventually all ended up in the Belfry car park at about half-past three. The weather was pretty foul, heavy drizzle and the usual Mendip low cloud and when the Belfry came into view - the whole scene looked pretty dismal to say the least.  The building was still smouldering in places and the air was filled with the stench of wet burnt wood.  Nothing more could be done so it was back to Chew stoke for coffee and eats - courtesy of John Riley; then back to Bristol to change and off to work! That afternoon, a group returned to the Belfry to sort out salvageable gear and personal belongings of             members which was passed to Bobby Bagshaw for safe keeping.

Within the next couple of days a group of 'club elders' met and decided the next move and what was needed by the Club AGM to be held as usual in early October.

Fortunately, plans for a more permanent building had been in being for some time and at that time a number of regular Belfryites had been paying a quid a month for a period of three years - quite a lot of money at that time.

General view of the Belfry on 15th September, 1969.  Photo: Roy McR. Pearce

Though many people on Mendip were spreading 'malicious' rumours and rubbing their hands with glee that the BEC had burnt the Belfry deliberately and in any case this event would be the end of the BEC they were to a shortly disappointed.  At or about the time of the AGM, Bob Bagshaw announced that combining the Belfry fund, various anonymous donations and the insurance money, the Club was only some £700 short of the £3,000 to commence the building work.

Added to that the collections and fund raising devices arranged at the Annual Dinner, and subsequent further donations, that shortfall was raised in the coming months.  The upshot was that the Belfry was up and running and officially opened by Mrs Shuter, the retired landlady of the Waggon and Horses at Redcliffe, Bristol, in May 1970.

What happened in between? Well, the stone Belfry, now the tackle store and MRO store, was converted into a temporary bunkroom and living quarters for the intervening winter - it was tolerably comfortable but no real substitute for that which had been destroyed in the fire.

All the photos accompanying this note are being published for the first time.

Top and above:  In daylight – 15th September 1969.  Photos: Roy McR Pearce

Above:  Another view of the general scene after sorting member’s valuables from the wreckage. Photo: Roy McR Pearce

Below:  Phil Davies (right) then Hon. Secretary of the Wessex, offering his condolences.  Also in the picture, Alan Thomas (left foreground) and John Riley (extreme left).  Photographer unknown.


The Odd Note

By ‘Wig’

Wookey Hole inscriptions.

Casually glancing through Balch's book Mendip - The Great Cave of Wookey Hole - I noted a passing mention of inscriptions close to the cave entrance.  Referring to the entrance gallery, Balch recorded.

... Here and there in this entrance gallery, inscriptions lightly carved in the stone show that visitors of 200 or 300 years ago had much the same regrettable habits as those of the present day ..  One of these inscriptions "W.A.W. 1625," (in later editions the date was corrected to 1605) near the bottom of Hell Ladder is the earliest I have so far located in the cave, though there well may be earlier ones, as I have not made an exhaustive search, and there are many undated ....


Characteristic I and W, probably 17-18th c. inscribed into stalagmite, Wookey Hole. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

So arrangements were made with the cave management and keys were made available for Chris Hawkes, John Williams and myself to have a look and see what inscriptions remained.  On the night the party was augmented by J'Rat and Simon House.  A rapid search was made and numerous clusters of markings were found, though only a few in the entrance gallery and Hell Ladder area.  Isolated groups were seen in the 1st and 2nd Chambers but the largest cluster was to be found in the end of the Second Chamber and the lowish connection with the 3rd Chamber.  Mostly the markings were in white chalk, some of them dated (18th century) but there were a small number of 'engraved' examples.  Several examples of the early form of 'A', '1', 'M' and 'W' commonly found in documents of the 16-17th centuries were also noted (photo 1).

1706 cut into stalagmite, Wookey Hole. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

1706 is the earliest date so far recorded (photo 2).  No dated 19th century inscriptions were seen though modern additions were also seen, some unfortunately covering earlier markings.  None were found in the vicinity of The Witch formation.

The 1625 or 1605 inscription wasn't found.  In the 3rd edition of the             'Wookey' book (1947) Balch adds to the extract below

... Recent work has destroyed this inscription ....

You can't win them all! The intention is now to go back into the cave and photograph all the markings and collate them into a catalogue format so that they can be quickly located in the future.

Other specimens are known to exist in the Fourth Chamber.  These were last seen by non-divers during the Tratman directed archaeological dig in 1974.

Photographic collections.

During the last ten years or so I've been searching a number of items known to be kept at various establishments.  On enquiry, all but a couple of items have gone missing / 'walkies'.  In some cases it is known that items have been thrown into the waste bin.  This has occurred at the Cheddar show caves offices and at Wells Museum among other sites.

As a result the writer has been recording, and collecting, where possible, full details of any ephemeral material published by the Mendip show caves.  Also, since 1995, he has been digitally capturing the photographic collections housed in the Wells Museum and other places including those amassed by Mike Baker, Bob Davies, Graham Balcombe, Molly Hall, and J. Harry Savory. The scarce first 100 Belfry Bulletins have also been scanned and, in association with Dave Turner, all surviving logbooks have been copied and the digital information transferred to CD ROM. Hopefully copies of this CD will be available to members later this year at a small charge.

George Bowen

Many older members of the Club will remember the activities of C. Phillip (Bill) Weaver; he died in May at an advanced age.  Weaver is best remembered for his caving activity both before the Second World War and with the CDG and SWCC in the years immediately after.  He was particularly involved in the then newly discovered OFD.  In fact it was he with Peter Harvey who opened the lower entrance to OFD 1 when the CDG were attempting to enter through the resurgence.


George Bowen and his wife at the Hunter's Lodge on the 24th June 1999. Digital photo: Dave Irwin

George Bowen made contact with 'Prew' and 'Wig' and  the pair met him on the 24th June for a drink and general reminisce at the Hunter's.

Never a member of a caving club he went along with 'Bill' Weaver as a mate and explored a number of caves and mineshafts on Mendip.  Now well over 80 George could not remember much detail of their activity.  Nor did he keep a diary.  But it was not surprising to learn that the general caving gear was the oldest clothes that one could muster and that their main light source was the humble electric torch.  He didn't recall ever using carbide lamps.


A rejuvenated photo from Wells Museum photo after J. Harry Savory

Their combined successes included the discovery of a now long lost mineshaft leading to about 500m of natural passage at Ores Close near Hillgrove.  The entrance to this shaft may have become blocked when the area was levelled the area by Luke Devenish in the early 1950s.  They also opened up the now well known Weaver-Bowen Series in Eastwater Cavern.

Rodney Weaver, 'Bill's' son, is sorting out his father's photographic collection which will be made available for digitising and placing on a CD-ROM in the autumn.

... and finally ...

Those who believe in metamorphosis will be well repaid by taking a close look at this early Savory print found in the Wells Museum attic.  The classic photograph by Harry Savory was found badly faded and covered in dust on one of the shelves.  From the time it was taken, said to be 1911, the photograph has undergone some drastic changes ...  Look for yourselves ...  It must be a family tradition or he's older than you think or ageless!


Dive Report - Le Grande Souci. St. Vincent Sur L'Isle. Dordogne, France.

By Clive Stell

Over the Easter holidays this year divers from the Wessex (another caving club on Mendip) and divers from the BEC joined forces to dive the deepest cave in the Department of the Dordogne in France.  Although the depth of this site is relatively modest compared with some of the extremely deep sumps in other parts of France, it is still significantly deeper than any British site.

Since the mid seventies when a French diver descended to a depth of 40m there had been no diving at the site until members of the British CDG showed an interest in the mid nineties. During the past few years, as more cave has been found, the terminal depth has slowly increased.

The Souci appears to be a small pond approximately 15m by 8m in a hollow, shaded by trees on flat farm land adjacent to the village of St, Vincent: an unlikely looking spot for a deep dive.

The cave drops vertically for the first 40m, passing through a 1.5m wide slot at a depth of 6m and then slowly widening.  At 12m depth, a large chamber is entered through the roof and the walls are lost in visibility that never exceeds 2m.  The steeply sloping, debris covered floor is reached at -40m.  During the past few years divers have continued down the slope in an attempt to find ongoing passage and moving water but due to the silt on the floor and the resulting atrocious visibility the attempts were destined to fail.

In 1998, Malcolm Foyle and Robin Brown laid a diving line from the shot line at a depth of 37m out into the unseen void. After 10m a wall of the chamber was found.  At this point the wall was undercut, so the line was continued in this direction following the junction of the steeply descending roof and the wall.

In September 1998, Jonathan Edwards and I continued MSF and RABs' exploration, reaching a depth of 70m. At this depth, divers experience nitrogen narcosis, a condition similar to being drunk, caused by the nitrogen in air becoming toxic when inhaled at depth.  Due to the narcosis, it was not possible to safely belay the diving line and it was therefore removed back to a depth of 60m.

Any further exploration at the Souci was going to be logistically more difficult as the divers could not breathe air at these depths.

As plans were made for the next trip, Tim Chapman arrived back in Britain and rejoined the team after not diving the Souci since 1996.  Unfortunately Jon was unable to get to France due to work commitments but a strong diving team was still assembled and all the necessary kit for a series of mixed gas dives was prepared.

For the deep dives this Easter the divers breathed Trimix (oxygen, helium. nitrogen) to reduce the narcosis and make the dives safer.

The first dive fell to Robin who checked the condition of the lines laid over the previous years. He reported that all was well and that the visibility was the usual 2m.

Over the following days the deep line was slowly extended with the cave continuing to descend at a steep angle.  As the dives got deeper and longer the amount of gas required for each dive increased. For the final dives, 6 cylinders with 3 different gas mixes were used.

The first two deep dives extended the cave to the same depth as reached during the summer of 1998.

The following deep dives then continued the cave horizontally in what appeared to be the roof of another chamber but due to the poor visibility nothing was clear.  At a depth of seventy metres and with no clear way on I decided that it was time to drop into whatever was below.  After descending for six metres, and without a wall or the floor in sight, the maximum dive time was reach and the line was reeled back to seventy metres.  The surface was regained after a total dive time of over two hours.

Other areas of the cave were also looked at.  Tim decided to explore a small pool adjacent to the main site. Over the years it had been thought that this would simply drop into the main chamber.  Due to the uninviting nature of this second site, until now, no one had been willing to test the hypothesis.  The first dive was spent clearing rotting tree trunks and various items that had been dumped over the years.  After the entrance was cleared sufficiently for a diver to enter the cave, slow progress was made, in near zero visibility, to a point approximately 20m from the entrance and at a depth of 12m.  With no obvious link with the main chamber, in ongoing, but very awkward passage, the site was abandoned to concentrate on the main site. Meanwhile the diving continued in the main pond.  At 35-40m depth, lines had been run out from the shot line and around the walls of the main chamber.  All the lines were then surveyed including the deep line, down to a depth of 70m. During the following evening, whilst drinking heavily, the survey was drawn up.  This gave a good impression of the size of the main chamber around the shot line and also indicated other areas which needed further examination.  The line survey confirmed the large size of the main chamber, which due to the poor visibility has yet to be seen.  The survey also indicated that the line around the chamber was now 3-4m from the deep line after going right round one side of the chamber.

During the next dives it was confirmed that the line did in fact goes right around the right side of the chamber and the line was joined to the deep line.  A further line was laid around the left side of the chamber in an attempt to circumnavigate it; this line has yet to be completed.

Plans were being made for the final attempt on the end of the system.  By now the tanks of helium brought over from England were getting low and the gas mixes that we could achieve were not ideal.  This resulted in much worse narcosis for the final dive than is ideal.  We already had the deepest site explored by British divers in Europe but the pressure was still on.  The sump had allowed us to go deeper than the previous year but we knew that the site continued downward and this was our last opportunity to get further as there was no more helium.

All of the kit required for the final dive was assembled and the various cylinders were staged at the pre-planned points in the cave.  It was time for the final dive.  As I left the surface my mind was eased by the now familiar line which led me past my two deco tanks at -9m and on down through the unseen chamber to my travel mix bottles hanging above the floor of the chamber at -35m.  Everything was going well.  I continued along the horizontal part of the line leading to the wall of the chamber then on down into a steeply descending section decorated with roof pendants.  The line then started to level out and I arrived at the final belay at -70m.  I had decided to make a vertical descent from this point and expected to reach the floor within a few metres of the depth reach on my previous dive.  I picked up the line reel and slowly sank; the minutes raced by on my dive computer and the depth gradually increased.  To my surprise, I reached both the end of the line on my line reel and the maximum depth for my decompression tables. Still the cave continued downward.  I swam forward for a metre or so and made contact with the wall.  Finding a large knob of rock I tied the line off but moments later, in the now zero visibility, I felt something hit my fin.  The belay had broken off.  My maximum time had been reached and with no time to belay the line properly.  I clipped a small block of lead to the end of the line and retreated to start the long decompression.

The maximum depth of the cave found so far is 93m from the ground level with 87m of this underwater making this both the deepest dive in the Dordogne and the deepest cave.

A return trip with more equipment is planned.

The Divers were:

Robin Brown, Tim Chapman, Malcolm Foyle & Clive Stell.  Thanks to Fish and Lizzy for surface support.

During the decompression the divers all noticed strange occurrences including; falling rocks and flying zebras, on reflection, this could be why the French named the site "the Big Scary One."

Many thanks to Andy and Christian Kay for all their support and hospitality.

In response to requests from several members, this article expands the recent BB article on the hydro-chemical studies in Wookey Hole.  In particular, it is important to note the fact that the work is going to be published as a paper jointly by the authors listed below.  They are the three divers who collected the water samples, myself, and a non-member, Alan Knights.  Alan will probably not be known to the readers.  He works at the Inorganic Chemistry department of Bristol University, and made an invaluable contribution to the analysis of the Wookey Hole samples.  To provide proof of the accuracy of the analyses, it is necessary to make a complete analysis of all ions present in the samples, and examine the balance between the total concentrations of positive and negative ions.  Two ions, sulphate and nitrate, are notoriously difficult to measure.  With his expertise in the use of an ion chromatograph, Alan has analysed samples for these two ions with great precision, and at the same time checked that no other unsuspected negative ions were present in the samples.  Since 1994 he has cooperated with me in the St. Cuthbert's stream studies by making similar analyses for the same two ions.


More Notes On Water Studies In Wookey Hole Cave, Somerset

T. Chapman, A. Gee. A. V. Knights, C. Stell and R.D. Stenner

The plan of the cave.

The plan shows the location of the sites where water samples were collected.  The plan was based on Trevor Hughes' 1982 drawing, which he compiled from unpublished surveys made by several members of the Cave Diving Group. The plan included here was made by scanning a large drawing in six sections.  A grid was drawn separately on one layer in an AutoCAD file.  The scanned sections were moved to their correct positions on the grid, trimmed, joined up and cleaned up until a print could be made at the final scale.  Using this print, a plan was traced in ink, and scanned to produce an Adobe PhotoShop 4 file.  This file was edited and text was added.  A draft was printed, and approved by the Wookey Hole management to be used to illustrate the present water studies.

The location of the sample sites is shown in the Figure 1.  A collection was started on 30.11.96, but after collecting samples from Chambers 3 and 9, the trip had to be abandoned.  Samples were collected on 14.12.96, and 25.01.97.  Water levels in November and December were extremely high. In January the water level had fallen, but it was still high.

The results from the samples collected in December 1996 and January 1997 were utterly unexpected, and the possible implications were intriguing.  A high priority was placed on collecting a sample from upstream of Wookey 23.  After many attempts between March 1997 and July 1997 failed, samples were collected on 20.07.97 from the same sites as on 14.12.96, with the addition of a sample from Wookey 25, immediately before the long descent into the 25th Sump.

The analytical techniques used will be available in detail elsewhere.  Ion balances are included in the tables of results.  They show where analyses have been satisfactory, and where analyses have been adversely affected by high levels of suspended calcium carbonate in the water.  These "colloids" made it impossible to analyse samples for total hardness calcium and bicarbonates with the usual accuracy.

Standard errors have been calculated (as 10 x 10-5 Molar, - ppm as CaC03):-  total hardness, calcium and aggressiveness to CaC03, 0.8; alkaline hardness 3.0; Non-alkaline hardness, 3.8; magnesium, 0.46; sodium, 3.0; potassium, 1.2; chloride, 2.6; sulphate, 0.3; nitrate, 0.23.  The reliability of the recent analyses is indicated by the cation/anion balances.

The units chosen in this study was 105 x Molar.  By making this choice, the data for the species associated with water hardness are numerically identical (to within analytical precision limits) to parts per million (ppm) as calcium carbonate, the unit widely used by limestone geomorphologists.  Using a unit based on Molarity was especially suitable when calculating ion balances.



Table 1. Data for samples collected 14th December 1996. Units: 105 x M (as specified; non-alkaline hardness di-valent, ion balance mono-valent).  Total, Mg, Ca, alkaline hardness and non-alkaline hardness figures are identical to concentrations in ppm as calcium carbonate. "Coll." represents the estimated concentration of "colloidal" calcium carbonate.  The accuracy of figures in italic script is seriously lower than usual because of analytical difficulties caused by high concentrations of colloidal calcium carbonate. The errors in the figures in parentheses are the result of titrating colloidal calcium carbonate as alkaline hardness, confirmed by large ion imbalances and impossible non-alkaline hardness data.








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22













S.Sump W 23














Table 2. Data for samples collected 25th January 1997. Units and symbols as in Table 1








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22B













Sump 22













S.Sump W23














Table 3. Data for samples collected 20th July 1997. Units and symbols as in Table 1.








































Road Bridge.













3rd Chamber













9th Chamber













Sump 20













Sump 22













S.Sump W23













Sump 25













On 30.11.96, the River Axe was very high and cloudy.  The analysis of the samples was very difficult because of high quantities of suspended calcium carbonate.  Filtering the samples did not remove the suspension.  The "colloidal" calcium carbonate interfered seriously with the total hardness and alkaline hardness titrations, making an alkaline hardness titration impossible, and seriously reducing the accuracy of the total hardness titrations.

The water in the Axe was completely clear by 12.12.96, but in spite of the complete absence of any visual warning of a likely problem, every sample still contained large concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate.  This once again made reliable alkaline hardness determinations impossible, and reduced the accuracy of total hardness titrations. To make the nature of the problem caused by colloidal calcium carbonate clearer to the reader, Table 1 contains the alkaline hardness data which were obtained. Because negative values for non-alkaline hardness are impossible, the results are clearly grossly in error, the alkaline hardness figures being too high.  Titration of the sample from the Wookey Hole Road Bridge with HCI to a final stable end-point provided a minimum estimate of the concentration of "colloidal" calcium carbonate; 41 ppm CaCO3.  The initial value of the alkaline hardness was probably too high. The ion imbalance suggests that it was 60 ppm too high, but the non-alkaline hardness figure suggests a lower figure; approximately 49 ppm too high.  Therefore the true concentration of the colloidal calcium carbonate is likely to have been 89 or 101 ppm as CaCO3.

Samples from 25.01.97 contained small concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate (1.5 to 3.8 ppm as CaCO3. The alkaline hardness, in which the dissolved and "colloidal" calcium carbonate species were titrated together, was corrected by subtracting the value obtained in the total hardness for the "colloidal" calcium carbonate.

Samples from 20.07.97 were free of "colloidal" calcium carbonate, with the single exception of the sample from Wookey 9, in which the "colloidal" calcium carbonate concentration was too high to permit the determination of total, alkaline or calcium hardness.

Comments on the results from 14.12.96

1.                  At every site, large concentrations of "colloidal" calcium carbonate were present.

2.                  At every site except the Static Sump in Wookey 23, magnesium concentrations were very similar (N.B. within the ranges of concentrations found in the present study, and within the range of pH in the water, although magnesium can be added, its natural removal is not possible).

3.                  Concentrations of chloride, sulphate, nitrate, potassium and sodium at all sites (including the Static Sump in Wookey 23) were similar.

4.                  At the Static Sump and chambers 20 and 9, calcium values were very similar.

Comment 2, above, will be examined in more detail.  The precipitation of magnesium as magnesium hydroxide will not take place from a solution containing 50 x 10-5 M Mg when the pH of the water is less than 11. This pH is far above the range which can exist naturally in the subterranean River Axe, so removal of magnesium by this means can be safely ruled out.  Indeed, laboratory measurements made after shaking natural waters with powdered limestones and dolomites have in every case led to an increase of magnesium in solution, rather than a reduction (Stenner, 1971, ibid, Table 1 p. 290, Table 2 p. 292).

There is evidence of the ability of magnesium carbonate to pass into solution by the incongruent solution of dolomite, but no evidence to suggest the removal of magnesium from solution.

Despite the analytical difficulties, the results show that the explanation of magnesium variations in the Axe which, prior to this study had been considered by Stenner to be most likely, was completely incorrect.  There was no magnesium gradient in the River Axe between Wookey 23 and the Entrance.

The outstanding feature of the result from 14.12.96 was the low magnesium level in the Static Sump in Wookey 23.  At the same time, the concentrations of many constituents in the sample were the same as in the other samples from the River Axe.  It seemed possible that water in the Static Sump had the same origin as water in the Axe, except that the latter water had dissolved a considerable quantity of magnesium.  Because there was a remote possibility that the similarities in the other hydro-chemical characteristics could have been a coincidence, another set of samples was needed.

The higher Ca contents in Wookey 22 and 3 samples were thought to have caused by inaccuracies in the total hardness titrations.  It is possible that the fraction of very small particles in the "colloidal" calcium carbonate was higher in these two samples, and a significant quantity of this fraction had been included in the rapid titration to the first unstable end-point.  A further set of samples was needed to resolve the uncertainties.

In conclusion, the very first set of samples had produced very exciting results.  There were uncertainties caused by the unfilterable suspended calcium carbonate.

Comments on the results from 26.01.97

1.                  Except at the Static Sump at Wookey 22, magnesium concentrations were very similar, but significantly higher than on 14.12.96, when the flow had been substantially greater.

2.                  Concentrations of calcium, sodium, potassium, sulphate, nitrate and chloride were very similar at all sites.  The data sets for sodium and sulphate on the two dates were different.  The data comprehensively supported the suggestion from the 14.12.96 results; that water in the Static Sump in Wookey 23 had the same origin as water in the Axe.  While there had been a remote possibility that the similarities on 14.12.96 could have been a coincidence, there is no possibility whatsoever that the different results from 26.01.97 could also have been a coincidence.

3.                  The sample collected underwater in Wookey 22, from where the river from Sting Corner enters the sump through boulders, gave results which were indistinguishable from those from the surface of the sump pool.

4.                  Because concentrations of suspended calcium carbonate were low, alkaline hardness data were more reliable, and total hardness and calcium data were much more reliable.  The increase of magnesium between the Static Sump and Wookey 22 was accompanied by an equal increment of alkaline hardness (within practical limits).  The conclusion is that magnesium from MgCO3 in dolomite or dolomitic limestone had dissolved as Mg(HCO3)2.  There was no change in calcium in true solution in the water.

Comments on the results from 20.07.97

The most important result was from the sample from Sump 25.  Results from this sample were similar to those from the main flow of the River Axe at all points downstream, while the magnesium, alkaline and total hardness results from the Static Sump were once again significantly different from those in all other samples.  This result had a considerable consequence on the understanding of the hydrology of the cave. Some of the minor abnormalities in the data from the Static Sump are likely to be the consequence of the static sump having been "stagnant" for several weeks, during which time several parties of divers had visited the site.


The hypothesis is that in December 1996 and January 1997, water in the Static Sump in Wookey 23 did indeed have the same origin as water in the River Axe.

The following paragraph describes the position after examining the results from December 1996 and January 1997.  Following directly from the hypothesis of the origin of water in the Static Sump, there must be an "Unknown Junction" yet to be discovered, at some point upstream, where all the water in the Axe had a composition similar to that in the Static Sump.  From this "Unknown Junction", a small fraction of the Axe flowed into a route leading to the Static Sump.  The majority of the Axe flowed through a different route to Wookey 22, and in this route it entered a zone of dolomite or dolomitic limestone.  Here, the physical conditions (such as turbulent mixing) were such that the water dissolved the substantial concentration of magnesium carbonate seen in the results.

The results show that on 25.01.97, the water dissolved a higher concentration of magnesium between the "Unknown Junction" and Wookey 22 than on 14.12.96.  However, on both occasions, no change in magnesium was detectable in the considerable distance from Wookey 22 to the Entrance. These are very important observations, for which there are three possible explanations.

1.                  The "Unknown Junction" is a very large distance upstream of Wookey 22 (much farther than the distance from Wookey 22 to the Entrance).

2.                  The distance upstream is not crucially important, the most important factor being that the main body of the Axe flows through a zone where the physical conditions especially favour and maximise the solution of magnesium from the dolomite. This possibility presents a problem. When, in higher flow, water arrives at Wookey 22 with lower levels of magnesium, it follows that it must arrive there with a capacity to dissolve more magnesium.  Yet from Wookey 22 to the Entrance it fails to dissolve any more magnesium, in spite of contact with dolomitic conglomerate from Wookey 12 to the entrance.

3.                  (This is a modification of the second possibility).  Downstream of the "Unknown Junction", a part of the Axe flows through a dolomite zone where physical conditions encourage rapid reactions between water and rock, becoming saturated with magnesium to close to the low-flow value of approximately 50 x 10-5 M Mg.  As flow increases, this water is mixed with an increasing proportion of low magnesium water over-flowing from the route to the Static Sump.  This would explain the variable, flow-dependent concentration of magnesium in the Axe arriving at Wookey 22.

The results from the samples collected on 20.07.97 added nothing new to this particular aspect of the study.  Whichever explanation turns out to be the best explanation, results in the present studies have implications.

1.                  Water from the four major separate sources of the Axe (Swildon's Hole, Eastwater Cavern, St. Cuthbert's Swallet and - by far the biggest source - percolation water) must have coalesced upstream of the "Unknown Junction".

2.                  Important new information provided by samples collected on 20.07.97 concerned the location of the "Unknown Junction".  The results proved that the "Unknown Junction" lies beyond the present known limits of the cave; i.e. upstream of Wookey 25.

3.                  The possibility of making important discoveries in a route from the Static Sump to the "Unknown Junction" is very real.

4.                  There must be a zone of dolomite, dolomitic limestone or dolomitic conglomerate upstream of Sump 25, between Wookey 25 and the "Unknown Junction".

5.                  Where water from the "Unknown Junction" encounters the zone of dolomite, solutional activity will have caused considerable localised cavern enlargement (which could be masked by massive localised cavern breakdown). This is a direct consequence of the large quantity of magnesium carbonate being dissolved by the large river in a localised zone of the underground river system.

The water in the Static Sump will not always have the same chemical characteristics as water in the Axe, apart from elevated magnesium bicarbonate.  On the first two sample dates, the flow of the Axe was high, and it is possible that as flow falls, a level might be reached when water from the "Unknown Junction" ceases to flow to the static sump.  Water in the static sump will then reflect the levels of salts in the Axe the last time it flowed to the pool, and not the current levels in the river.  This will not negate the conclusions drawn from the results presented here.

The present article describes the present state of the understanding of the hydrology of the Wookey Hole system.  There are opportunities to refine this understanding before an attempt is made to explore this part of the cave.  The survey shows that there are four more several static sumps in Wookey 23, an intriguing one in Wookey 25 and another one in Wookey 20.  In the near future it is planned to analyse samples from these additional static sumps (together with a sample from Sting Comer).  It is also planned to analyse a selection of mud samples from Wookey 23 (because only those samples deposited in the last two thousand years by the St. Cuthbert's Swallet to the River Axe system will have a high lead content).

A summary of the earlier data is presented in Table Al in the Appendix, for comparison with the new data.


1.                  On any occasion, there was no variation in any measured hydro-chemical component of the River Axe from Sump 25 to the Entrance.  In particular, there was no magnesium gradient in the River Axe.

2.                  The points of confluence of the tributaries which make up the River Axe are all upstream of Sump 25.

3.                  The Static Sump in the 23rd Chamber contained magnesium concentrations which were significantly lower than those in the River Axe.

4.                  Concentrations of magnesium and alkaline hardness were lower in the Static Sump, by an equal quantity, than those in the River Axe, while those of calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulphate and nitrate were the same, proving that they shared the same origin.

5.                  There is a considerable possibility that exploration of the Static Sumps will result in the discovery of important extensions.

6.                  At an unknown distance upstream of Sump 25, the River Axe is a single unit with a composition similar to the Static Sump in the 23rd Chamber.  The physical conditions in which most of the River Axe acquires varying concentrations of magnesium bicarbonate are not known.

7.                  At times, analysis of samples for total, calcium and alkaline hardness have been made difficult by the presence of large concentrations of suspended calcium carbonate.


1.                  Atkinson, T.C, Drew, D.P. with High, C. 1967 Mendip karst hydrology research project, phases one and two, Wessex Cave Club Occ. Pub. Ser 2 (1).

2.                  Gee, A. 1996 Recent exploration in "Wookey", Belfry Bull., 48(1), 7-10. 4.

1.                  3.   Hanwell, J.D. 1970         Digger meets diver, J Wessex Cave Club, 11(128) 34-9.

3.                  Hughes, 1982 1982 A sketch plan of Woo key Hole Cave. No grade, approximate scale, unpublished

4.                  Heathwaite, A.L., Knights, A.V. and Stenner R.D. 1998  In preparation.

5.                  Rose, L. 1983 Alkalinity, its meaning and measurement, Cave Science (Trans. B.C.RA.), 10(1),21-29.

6.                  Stenner, RD. 1969 The measurement of the aggressiveness of water towards calcium carbonate, Trans. C.RG. 11(3), 175200.

7.                  Stenner, RD. 1971 The measurement of the aggressiveness of water Parts II and ill, Trans. C.RG. 13(4),283-295.


Table A1.  A summary of hydro-chemical characteristics of the River Axe at Wookey Hole between 1966 and 1978. Most of the samples were collected from the 3M Chamber.
























































































































































Table A2.  Results of analyses of samples collected from the River Axe at Wookey Hole Bridge in 1996 and 1997.

































































































While most of the hydro-chemical characteristics of the Axe have been stable over the period of more than thirty years, there is one exception.  A single sample, collected on 21.08.68, was analysed for sulphate, chloride and total anion content.  The results showed the water contained a nitrate content that was too low to be detected.  This conclusion was supported by a good anion/cation balance for the sample. Although this was the result of the analysis of a single sample, there is an identical situation at the Cheddar Spring.  A single sample, collected from the Cheddar Yeo spring on 8.10.68 was analysed for sulphate, chloride and total anion, and in this sample the concentration of nitrate was also too low to have been detected by this method.  At this spring, nitrate concentrations are also much higher now than the detection limit for nitrate in the methods used in 1968 to 1970. They are now in the range of 22 x 10-5 to 42 X 10-5 M.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support given by the management of Wookey Hole Caves to members of the Cave Diving Group in their work in this cave, and to thank them for giving permission for this article to be published.

The following pictures are taken from The Great Cave of Wookey Hole - H.E. Balch, reprinted thanks to Robin Gray and Wells Museum.  Original photographs were taken by Harry Savory.

Plans of Wookey Hole from Balch's book 




The BEC Nicknames Database

Chris Batstone             Batspiss

Corruption of surname.

Bob Bidmead   Trog

Bob started caving when he was 12, with his grand father (Ted Roberts) and then the school club (BGS affiliated to that other lot - Wee sex or something) and Scouts.

The Senior Scouts gave him the nickname "Troglodyte" when he was 16 and started instructing younger boys, and it got shortened to "Trog" by John Dukes one day down St Cuthbert's when he picked me up by the belt and carried me up the Arete bodily.

The name never really caught on with BEC, but was used by the Avon Scouts right up until last year when he retired as the Avon Scout Caving Adviser.

(Due to some rule that you had to be under 50 to lead adventurous activities). It's still in family use.

Rich Blake       Gobshite

Because he is (especially when drunk)

Alan Butcher    Butch

Shortened surname

Ian Caldwell    Wormhole

Was given the name Wormhole by Trevor Hughes because he had a propensity for digging small holes and because he was a womaniser (which I suppose is another way of digging small holes).

S.J. Collins      Alfie

Name used in school days that carried on.

Bob Cork and Dany Bradshaw             The Uglies

Painfully obvious!

Pat Cronin       Stumpy

Is so called for obvious reasons

Bob Cross        Cross Bob

The homesick nomad

Garth Dell        Kermit

Had frog like 'Ping-Pong ball' eyes

Mike Duck        Quackers

Gwilym Evans Taff

He is not Scottish!

Pete Franklin   Spangle Bollocks


Rachel Gregory           Bob

Came from the Black Adder character.

Rachel Hale     Penfold

She wore small glasses and looked like the character in Dangermouse.

Rachel Hale and Debbie Walsh

Swindon Wendy's         

Chris Hall         Snogger Hall and Evening' all

Called as a description of his behaviour.  On joining the police force he became known as "Evening' all"

Chris Harvey    Zot

Was so named when he was first seen on Mendip, he had a puke-coloured (and occasionally puke- covered) Consul with a mascot suspended from a spring which he was in a habit of pulling.  As it flew up to the roof he exclaimed: Zot

Mark Howden Shaggy

Trevor Hughes             Biffo

No Comment necessary.  Name given by Batspiss.

Dave Irwin       Wig

Short for a corruption of Irwin. (Earwig)

Tony Jarratt     J'Rat

Mike Jeanmaire           Fish

Because he was declared by the DHSS to be temporarily unsuitable for anything except diving

Graeme Johnson         Bolt

Looked like Frankenstein's monster.

Graham Johnson         Jake

Named after a character from the Blues Brothers.

Ron King          Kangy King

Is a corruption of King - invented at school (not Hindu for shit!)

Davey Lennard            The Boy

Young BEC Morris dancer.

Mark Lumley    Gonzo

Called after one of the Muppets, whom he resembles

Stuart McManus           Mac and MacAnus

Is know as Mac usually, but occasionally MacAnus for obvious reasons

Peter MacNab (Sm)      Snab

When he was in the RAP there were so many Peters that every Peter had to have a nickname.  He called himself Snab to avoid being called MacScab.  It was obvious that his son would be called Snablett

Peter MacNab (Jm)      Snablett

See above

Mike MacDonald          Trebor

After an impersonation of a newsreader done by Lenny Henry.  The newsreader is called Trebor MacDoughnut

Dave Morrison             Tuska

Because he used to wear Oxford bags and looked like an elephant.

Richard Neville-Dove   Mongo

Because he resembles a character in "Blazing Saddles"

Brian Prewer   Prew

Colin Priddle   The Pope

A drunkards attempt to say his name.

Arnold Rice      Sago

Sago is a type of rice.

Andy Sanders Andy Eyebrow

and Same reason as Matt Tuck Eyebrow 2

Tony Setterington        Sett

Obvious ... When collapsing during a speech at a Vintage Dinner someone shouted "Do not adjust your Sett!"

Rod Setterington         Titch

Because he was.

David Shand    Wobbly

For reasons that became obvious on Saturday nights

Chris Smart      Blitz

Because he was struck by lightning in Austria

Richard Stephens        Dickfred

Enough said.

Robin Taviner Tav

Shortened surname.

Gwyn Taylor (nee Timson)       Boncwyn

Also known as the Cardiff Wendy's along with Jane Clark, and Sarah Cook?

Sally Shand (nee ?)     Shagwell

Nigel Taylor     Mr Nigel (often shorted to Mr N)

So called by Gordon Tilly because when he first became a member he called everyone Mr.

Alan Thomas   Hoss and Big Al

Named Hoss by Ken Kelly on the Provatina expedition, 1963.  Hoss was a character in "Bonanzo" - a TV western.

Matt Tuck         Eyebrow

Obvious reasons when you meet him!

Dave Turner     Twittering Turner

Try having a conversation with him!!

Brian Van Luipen        Loopy

Obvious reasons

John Watson    Quiet John

During a Dan yr Ogof trip John was nominated the job of waking everyone else up, but he was too timid to wake everyone up and they missed their trip.

Niel Watson     Bardic Nonsense

'cos he was Welsh.

Carol White     White Meg

Her tackle bag bore the legend White M.E.G. (Mendip Exploration Group)

Mike Willett     Mousetrap

One of the many things he tried attaching to his manhood!!!

John F. Williams          Tangent

Try having a conversation with him!!

John Williams Jingles

When he first turned up on Mendip he wore a long pointed hat with a little bell on the end.

Mike Wilson     Mr Wilson

Hilary Wilson   H and the War Office

(well that's what Mike calls her!!)

Graham Wilton-Jones Bassett

Because his surname was said to resemble Wooton Bassett

John F. Williams          Tangent

Try having a conversation with him!!

Dave Yeandle  The Boy and Pooh

He was for a time the Belfry Boy, a tradition that most BEC members will be familiar with.  After being the Belfry Boy for a few years he ran away to Leeds only to be given the nickname of Pooh by a caver called Minitrog. It should be pointed out that this name has nothing whatsoever to do with bottoms!

He was named after Pooh Bear because Minitrog could imagine that he would have lots of silly adventures like the "real" Pooh.

Pooh has had bits of cave named after him without having to have died first! Puits Pooh in the PSM and Poohs Revenge in Pippikin.  As if this was not fame enough his friend Kevin has named his cat "Yeandle" after him.  The reason for this was that Yeandle (the cat) "Couldn't climb either" when he was a kitten.  Rob Harper was very confused when a cat called Yeandle turned up for treatment at his Veterinary Practice. Yeandle (the cat) has recently learned to climb.

? Tilbery          Bucket

?          Slug    

This list was compiled with reference to a Nicknames article by Alan Thomas in BB May 1990 (no.454 Vo1.44 no.2) and with help from the individuals, and also regular residents of the Hunters' Lodge.  We tried, but we are very sure we have missed many and also have unfinished stories in this database.  If anyone has any information regarding any BEC member's nickname, please contact the editor.


The Curtain - Fernhill Cave, Fairy Cave Quarry.

The photograph was taken shortly after Femhill was discovered in 1960.  The Cave was closed about 1965 by quarry tipping, although currently there is audible connection to Fairy Cave.

Towards the end of this year it is hoped that the entrance to Fernhill will be relocated and excavated allowing access once again to Curtain Chamber with its outstanding formations.


Photo: B.E. Prewer. Model: T. Dredge.


Information on Knotlow Cavern/Hillocks Mine and Caving on Mynydd Ddu

The following information was forwarded from Alan Wood: National Caving Association

Update On Pollution in Knotlow Cavern/Hillocks Mine

By John Gunn, Limestone Research Group (LRG), University of Huddersfield

In a previous report it was noted that, as of 24 February, there were no problems with 'bad air' anywhere in Knotlow and no visual evidence of water pollution apart from some pink growths in the level between the base of Fourways Shaft and what will henceforth be called the Knotlow Farm Engine Shaft to avoid confusion with other 'Engine Shafts'.  The LRG are retained by English Nature to provide a 'rapid response' capability whereby we visit the site as soon as possible after a report of pollution and repeat the air, sediment and water sampling.  However, the contract allows for a maximum of five visits which means that we have to have a definite reason to undertake sampling.  During April and May there were conflicting accounts from visitors to the system, some reporting no problems, others 'bad air.'  Following these, on 20 May, Paul Hardwick tested the oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane concentrations in air by lowering a meter down the three shafts:

  • Climbing Shaft
  • Chapel Dale Engine Shaft (also known as the 210' of simply as 'the' Engine Shaft)
  • Fourways Shaft (also known as Crimbo Hollow Engine Shaft)



No evidence of 'bad air' was obtained, and oxygen levels were >19%.  This was confirmed by a party who visited on 31 May and reported 'no smells' although visitors on 4th & 6th June reported 'bad smells'. This presented us with some difficulty as the air monitoring equipment, without which we cannot undertake any visit to the mine because of Health & Safety considerations, costs £120 to hire in, and it was decided not to undertake a full sampling visit until there was a certainty that there was a pollution problem.  This visit was made on 29 July by John Gunn and Dave Nixon when we also hired in a carbon dioxide meter which proved to be extremely useful. As on 20 May, the oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane, plus carbon dioxide concentrations in air were measured by lowering the meters down the three shafts with the following results:

  • Climbing Shaft: oxygen> 20%; carbon dioxide <0.5%
  • Chapel Dale Engine Shaft: carbon dioxide >0.5% @ -20m & >1.0% @ -35m. oxygen >19% to base.
  • Fourways Shaft: carbon dioxide >0.5% @ -20m & > 1.0% @ -25m. oxygen> 19% to base.



The lids of the two deep shafts were left open to aid ventilation and we descended the climbing shaft making continuous measurements as we proceeded.  The carbon dioxide meter has two alarm levels, the first at 0.5% and the second at 1.0%.  The first alarm level was triggered while descending the 2nd pitch into Pearl Chamber (S2) and the second between Pearl Chamber and 'The Chain' (S3) oxygen levels were declining and the alarm level of 19.0% was triggered at S4, the junction between the level which continues through two low, wet squeezes to the Bung Series and a series of climbs down to the Waterfall Pitch.  At this point there was also an intermittent bad smell but after due consideration we decided, somewhat reluctantly that a relatively swift trip down to Waterfall Chamber was justified both to measure the gas concentrations and to obtain water samples for the Environment Agency.

However, the risks involved in a trip down the north crosscut to the base of Fourways Shaft were not considered to be justifiable and a rapid exit was made.  The following day [30th July] a return was made with breathing apparatus and David Nixon descended Fourways Shaft.  The 1evelleading to Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' was found to be grossly polluted but the Chapel Dale Level was essentially pollution free so that at the foot of 'Fourways Shaft' the oxygen concentrations were slightly higher and the carbon dioxide concentrations slightly lower than in the upstream part of the mine (Table 1).  Hydrogen sulphide and methane concentrations were zero throughout the mine.

Our current thoughts are that polluted water, with a high content of organic material, is entering the mine from the Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' and from a bedding plane near the top of the Waterfall Pitch.  One litre water samples were collected from a number of sites and are being analysed by the Environment Agency.  Officers from the Environment Agency are visiting farms in the area in an effort to determine where the pollution is coming from and it is hoped that the results of the water analyses will provide an indication as to whether sewage or silage is the major constituent.  However, it is important to understand that the derogation of the air quality is an indirect result of the water pollution since it appears to be due to oxidation of the organic matter which is deposited in the cave.  Hence, although the pollutant inputs may be sporadic the foul air will be more persistent, a factor likely to be exacerbated by the poor natural ventilation in the mine.  Consideration is being given to how the organic material may be flushed out of the system more rapidly and to how ventilation might be improved as well as to the question of the ultimate source of the material.

Given the low oxygen and high carbon dioxide cavers are strongly advised not to attempt to enter Knotlow until further notice.  The Environment Agency has posted warning notices on all entrances, including the entrances to Hillocks and to Whalf Mine as a precaution although no direct measurements have been made in these parts of the system.

Caving on Mynydd Ddu

The following was published in a South Wales Caving Club Newsletter, which you might find of interest. The area concerned is that over and beyond Dan-yr-Ogof and has a real potential to yield many miles of as yet undiscovered (not for want of trying) cave.

Access for Caving on Mynydd Ddu (The Black Mountain)

An open letter to cavers

This letter is being circulated widely in the caving community.  The National Park Authority wishes to agree with cavers; access and conservation arrangements for Mynydd Ddu and its caves.  This letter, which is intended to stimulate debate, outlines the legal requirements for managed access and suggests how this might be delivered. Comments from individuals and organisations are welcome, and should be sent to the address at the end of this letter. Every person or organisation submitting comments will be invited to attend an informal meeting towards the end of the year.

The Area

Mynydd Ddu is the area of upland lying broadly between the Upper Swansea Valley, in the east and the community of Trap in the west.  It extends to almost 15,000 hectares, and includes an important limestone outcrop, an area which must provide one of the greatest opportunities for cave exploration in Britain.

Survey work completed by local cavers in 1997 identified 296 sites of speleological significance, three quarters of which were visited, photographed and described.  Twenty five of these were recorded as being in a dangerous condition, most of which are abandoned digs.  The Park Authority is now obliged to undertake works to these to render them safe.  Offers of assistance from cavers - particularly if you have a guilty feeling about some of these digs - are invited.

The same survey has also collated a very comprehensive bibliography, and made many recommendations to improve access and conservation management.  Paper copies of the survey are held by the South Wales Caving Club and National Park Authority.  This should prove to be an important exploration & conservation tool, and arrangements will be made for its transfer to digital media to make it accessible and maintainable.

Ownership and Management

The whole area is 'common land' - land over which 'commoners' have rights (such as grazing) which they share 'in common' with others.  There are several graziers associations that represent the interests of many of the commoners.

The National Park Authority owns about 12,000 hectares of the area and manages a further 2,000 hectares on behalf of Dwr Cymru.  This letter relates to land that is owned and managed by the National Park Authority. The Authority manages the area according to its purposes set out in the 1995 Environment Act.  These are: to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of the Park's special qualities.

It is also relevant to note that as landowner the Authority has a duty of care to all users of the area, and an associated liability if it is negligent in exercising that duty. Being a publicly funded organisation the Authority must manage its liabilities so as to protect itself - and the public purse - from damage claims.  Most of the area is designated under the Wildlife & Countryside Act as a "Site of Special Scientific Interest" SSSI, and this requires the landowners to ensure that the interest of the site is not damaged.

Caving is formally recognised by the Authority as an appropriate activity in the Park setting, and the Authority therefore has a duty to promote the enjoyment and understanding of caves.  It must also look after the interests of commoners, and exercise a duty of care to visitors.  Finally it must ensure the conservation of the area, and ensure that the SSI is not damaged.


Legal rights of access are provided by public rights of way.  ‘De facto’ access, or that of long standing tradition or custom, is also established.  The National Park Authority as a matter of policy allows open access on foot for quiet, informal enjoyment.  ‘De facto’ access does not extend to access for caving or digging, and these activities are only lawful if conducted with the consent of the landowner.

A New Approach

Historically the Park authority has made a number of false starts in trying to manage the issue of cave access and conservation, and is aware that some cavers view its motives with suspicion.  The following arrangements satisfy the remit of the National Park Authority, maximise accessibility, minimise bureaucracy and recognise the critical role played by cavers in the management of cave exploration and conservation.  The new approach should form the basis of a more productive relationship between the caving community and environmental organisations.

The National Park Authority proposes:

To declare a “standing permission” for all cavers to visit (on foot) all sites of speleological interest on Mynydd Ddu, on condition that:

i.                    Cavers follow the NCA advice and code of conduct regarding conservation of the cave environment.

ii.                  Cavers have their own 3rd party liability insurance, and undertake all such activities entirely at their own risk.

iii.                 Nothing is done that damages the rights of commoners.

To make widely available (at least possible cost to users) the Mynydd Ddu Cave Survey, and to put in place and fund arrangements for its maintenance by cavers.

To declare a ‘standing permission’ for all cavers to conduct exploration activity in caves and on the surface, on the condition that : I, 11, 111 – As I, ii, iii above.

iv.                 That digging and other exploration activity is recorded at the outset with the Mynydd Ddu Cave Survey (details may be held with restricted access if requested) and the survey is regularly updated through the duration of the activity. Detail of location and persons responsible will be needed.

v.                   ‘Between visits’ any works are left entirely safe and secure, and pose no threat to people, stock or other animals.

vi.                 When complete the site is left permanently safe and secure.

To annually review the impacts of exploration activity, to ensure that legal requirements of the SSI designation are not being breached.

To hold an open meeting do that the success of these access and conservation arrangements may be discussed.

Subject to views of the caving community and other interested parties, the National Park Authority intends that the new approach should be effective from 1s January 2000. Please forward comments to:

Jon Young – Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Brecon, Powys


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

10-12/9/99                  Hidden Earth ’99 BCRA Conference, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

1-3/10/99                    Cave Survey Group field meet, Bull Pot Farm, Casterton Fell, Yorkshire

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner

3-30/10/99                  Brush with Darkness 2 Wells Museum - Robin Gray

8-10/10/99                  ISSA Meet Indoor Workshop with Robin Gray, Mendip - ISSA

2-3/11/99                    Cave Art exhibition by Robin Gray, Explorer’s Café-Bar (Gough’s Tear Room) Cheddar - Robin Gray

13-14/11/99                DCA/NCA Caver’s Workshop, Pindale Farm, Castleton, Derbyshire.


Final Tales of Nigel’s Dry Suit





The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith
Librarian: Alex Gee
Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general


Club News and Views

Members will receive a new Membership handbook with this issue which has been produced by Roz Bateman.  A lot of thought and work has gone into this small book.  New members especially will be able to draw on club history, leaders and a wealth of other useful information.  Well Done Roz!

All members are entitled to a yearly permit for Charterhouse Caves.  This permit must be renewed and signed every October.  I know, like me, there are many of you out there who have a permit but its 3 years out of date.  Your committee insist that all cavers using Charterhouse caves MUST have a signed permit yearly.  Sorry about that but YOU are NOT indemnified from claims otherwise.  Ed.

If you have not paid your subscriptions by 1st April this year, you will cease to be a member and will have to re-apply to the committee to join as if you are a prospective new member

Recent Break in at the Belfry

A mentally challenged person or persons thought that breaking in to the club house would yield something for the pocket.  A small amount of money was taken, the showers were wrecked and the overall effect is that you will have either NO showers - too dangerous electrically, or free showers - no coin box.  Please note- if a notice asks not to use the showers DO NOT USE THEM.  Hut Warden.

Withyhill and W/L caves are now open for visits. Please use the same procedure as for other caves in this area- contact Martin Grass before your trip.

Apologies to John Williams for not publishing his article about GS cave in the last issue- it arrived too late for printing.  You may have already read a similar article in Descent. John was able to go on this trip due to funds made available to him from the Ian Dear Memorial Fund.

The Ian Dear Memorial Fund offers financial help to cavers who wish to go on expeditions abroad, but who may not be able to foot the bill. Currently there are still funds available. Contact a committee member for further details of how to apply.

Mendip 2000 event - see later article - The club will be promoting open days during the weekend of 9-11 June, specifically for visits to St. Cuthbert's Swallet cave.  It is hoped to run a series of tourist trips into the cave and there will be a display in the Belfry relating to the cave.  Further details later.  Ed


Dachstein Caving Expedition 1999 Eisturen Hohle (G5)

By John "Tangent" Williams
Photographs by Joel Corrigan

Over the first two weeks this August, 11 cavers from various places based themselves at the wonderful wooden Weisberghaus (a bit like the Hunter's except at 1883m).  The main objective of this trip was to continue pushing Eisturen Hoble (G5) towards the Sudwestem series of Hirlatz Hohle in the hope of making a connection.  A quick look at the survey will show that no connection was made this year.  However, the cave was extended to a depth of approx. 520 m., with potential for further discoveries next summer still remaining very good indeed.  Several other cave sites were explored also, however, I'll write about those another time. This was my first trip to the Dachstein area, and my first time caving outside of the U.K.  What follows are some impressions of G5 and its caving.

"If it holds its own weight up it must be safe"

John and Chris Lloyd at the Entrance of G5

Chris Lloyd and I made the first visit to the cave of the trip.  A ladder was fixed in the narrow entrance and down we went.  The ambient temperature of the cave felt shockingly cold. I was surprised by this.  It was an entirely new experience.  Once off the ladder we moved down a short climb and then into a twisting rift.  Presently we found the way on at floor level blocked by ice.

A handy rock was found and the ice plug was slowly broken up.  The dry creeping cold that emanated from the ice began to gradually penetrate through my caving gear.  Lying sideways in the rift on a floor of ice, occasionally moving backwards chunks of ice that Chris had chipped away, I tried to distract myself from the chill by looking at the rock.  It was mostly a yellowy white colour with hints of orange in places, it appeared to be very crystalline, and was spikily sculptured by lots of small scallops. The way it reflected my torch light as I lay there it seemed almost to glow with cold.

Soon we were on the move again, and at a pitch head which we would rig and then call it a day.  This bit of passage was like Eastwater meets Wigmore, except on ice.  After passing Chris various bits of ironmongery he thrutched his way forward whilst I moved along behind to stuff the rope through a hole up on our right.

"Rich sure did a job on this one!" (vertical guru speak) exclaimed Chris as he moved backwards and forwards trying to move to near where the bolt hole was.

"John, why don't you try this instead ... " said Chris as he reversed from the passage for a rethink, which seemed to involve me.  "I haven't got my harness with me Chris, besides I haven't a clue how to rig stuff" I replied.

Chris tried the move again, "I'm thinking of Pacific beaches ... " (more vertical guru talk).

Meanwhile, I searched the passage walls for an alternative belay point.  Picking up some rocks I eventually persuaded one to become a chocks tone in the rift, a plan was formed.  With less ice than in previous years, an alternative approach to the pitch head was possible lower in the rift.  The rope was belayed to the newly created chockstone, another small rock was tied to the end of the rope to help us swing it, and grab at it as it went past the hole we were trying to thread.  I thrutched back up into position whilst Chris slid along on the ice below towards the pitch head.  The cowboy bit was done with the rope and after a bit of "Go, go gadget arms!" I caught hold of the line and passed it back to Chris to do some vertical guru knot work.  After some half hearted ice chipping in the approach to the pitch we made our way back out.  I returned to the surface certain that the next two weeks were going to be very enjoyable indeed (which they were!)

"My kingdom for a carbide rocket pack"

Huw Jones on the entrance Pitch of G5

On the next trip I finally had to put my rather theoretical S.R.T. skills into practice.  Waiting at the base of the "Action Reaction" pitch for my turn on the rope, time seemed to just stand still.

Once I'd managed to take most of the stretch out of the rope, and was left hanging just above the ground, the clock began ticking once more.  The passage of time was nudged forwards by the bounce of the rope as I slowly pulled away from the ground.  After a while the motion became routine and I found myself hanging in the harness kind of adrift.  I sat there spinning in the void barely conscious of the increasing exposure anymore wondering how long it might take to reach the top.

Occasionally I was jerked back to semi reality when my Croll would slip back down the rope, and I would have to pull the slack through the device.  Near to rock once more, I pulled a flake of ice from the wall and sucked on it. Feeling refreshed by this, I suddenly for the first time became acutely aware of where I was.  Far below me now I could see the faint flicker of a carbide lamp amongst some boulders.  All around was both the awesome and sickening panorama of rock, ice, and blackness, being briefly disturbed by the feeble glow from my lighting.  After looking about, I decided to hurry on upwards. Time jumps ahead a little at these moments. 

An insane worm or Gecko in G5

Then a rebelay loomed ahead. As it approached, the world I had briefly glimpsed shrank back to become just the few inches of rope in front of my face, as the procedure for a changeover flooded back into my mind. Time stood still once again, whilst I concentrated on completing the changeover, and then to my surprise shouted, "ROPE FREE!"  I had learnt a few things on the ascent and time had made another jump forward.

The Cast of Characters

(In order of appearance)

Chris Lloyd (the token Canadian a.k.a. Vertical Guru), Pete 'Snablet' MacNab (the one responsible for this gathering) Joel Corrigan, John 'Tangent' Williams, Rob Garrett, Mike 'Quackers' Duck (as surface support 'cos TSA don't make oversuits large enough anymore) Ian Wilton Jones, Peter Wilton Jones, Chris Densham, Huw Jones, & Peter Hubner.


John Williams relaxing after his trip

Thank you very much indeed for the hospitality and support of Wolfgang & Alfi at the wonderful wooden Weisberghaus. "PROST!" to Pilz Robert for flying the B.E.C. flag, and sharing a drink or two with us.

The Ian Dear Memorial Fund for helping me get there in the first place.

Plan survey of G5 – I have only printed this part of the survey as the complete A3 survey would have been too small on reduction.  Ed.


Passages Named Pooh

by Dave Yeandle

During the summer of 1972 I spent several weeks caving in the Pierre St Martin in France.  At the time it was the deepest cave in the world.  Our Expedition planned to make it even deeper.  One day Dave Gill, Paul Everett and I were pottering around near the bottom of a series of shafts called the Maria Dolores.  These shafts were completely separate from the Puits Parment series of shafts, which led to the deepest point in the cave.  Our plan was to push the bottom of the Maria Dolores to below the depth of the Parment and become "The deepest men in the world".  On an earlier trip Dave had found a pitch in amongst some nasty boulders at the bottom of a 35m pitch called Puits Sauron.  On that occasion he did not have sufficient ladders to explore further. As Dave now prepared to descend the new pitch I decided to have a look around the boulder choke.  I found that I could do a tricky, traverse over the new pitch and reach a continuing rift.  My carbide light was very dim by now so I stopped to fettle it.  To my mild surprise I soon had a lovely bright light and could appreciate the nastiness and exposure of the traverse I had just done. I was glad I had had such a poor light earlier as I seriously doubted whether I would have made it into this continuation had I appreciated what I was actually doing.  Still, new cave beckoned so I set off to explore.  After a few metres I reached another pitch.

I set off back to Dave, quaking a lot this time on the traverse.  By now Dave had laddered his pitch and set off down.  I quickly followed and we explored several short, sporting wet pitches to a rift that became too tight.  Still keen for more exploration we rushed back up the pitches and over the traverse to the new pitch.  We hung a ladder down and I set off.  At first it was tight and I thrashed around to make downward progress. Soon though the rift widened and I excitedly zipped down the ladder for 20m to a fair sized downward sloping passage. The walls of the cave were clean white limestone and decorated with pretty cave flowers and calcite crystals. I was very pleased with myself and scampered off downwards.  Soon I came to another pitch, but I had run out of ladder and that was it for the day. This was great, a wide-open cave that was obviously going to go deep.  The icing on the cake for me was that we would not have to carry all the ladders back out as we would clearly be returning.  Unencumbered we could make a rapid exit to our wonderful little world of campsite, sun and cheap wine.

Back at Saint Engrace, word soon got around that we had broken through in the Maria Dolores. Soon a group of most of the cavers in our rag tag expedition were gathered around to hear our tale.  I felt really chuffed for amongst this group were some of my caving heroes; Dave Brook, Mike Boon and Mike Wooding.  I gave a dashing account of our explorations and announced that the word depth record was going to be ours.  This produced a round of cheers.

"Hooray! Well done Pooh" exclaimed Mike Boon.

"We'll call the new pitch, Puits Pooh," announced Dave Gill.

"Good old Pooh, Puits Pooh!" the whole group shouted.

Caver in PSM

All a bit over the top really, but that was how we used to carry on and we were happy enough!  Guess what, we didn't actually break the world depth record.  In fact it all went a bit pear shaped and ended in epics on dangerous, but not deep enough pitches and silly grovellings in passages that refused to go.  At one stage Boon ended up lowering me over the edge of a 30m pitch on a rope because we both thought that we were only above a short drop.  This caused me great alarm and it took a while to sort the problem out.  Boon thought it hilarious.

It was a good expedition though and we had many caving adventures, found quite a lot of new passage and kept getting very drunk and falling over in the field in St Engrace. Apart from that there is a little bit of France that will forever be Puits Pooh.

In 1975 I dived two sumps at the bottom of Pippikin Pot.  These dives happened as a result of a heavy drinking session I had at the Hill Inn with Tony Boycott, Bob Churcher and Tessa Pearse.  After too many pints I had mentioned that I would like to dive these sumps some time in the future.  Somebody outside of our group must have overheard me and started a rumour. Imagine my surprise when later in the evening a guy came up to me and offered to help me carry my bottles on my diving trip down Pippikin the following morning!  The conversation went like this.

"Are you Dave Yeandle"

"Afraid so"

"Can my friend and I come on your trip down Pippikin tomorrow.  We'll help you carry your gear"

This was shocking! " Thanks mate, but we haven't got enough ladders to do the trip"

(Relief an excuse!)

"We have plenty of ladders, don't worry we'll ladder it for you"

Very worried, "Oh great, see you tomorrow"

In the morning I managed to scrounge a line reel off Bob and eventually we got going.  The party consisted of the two guys we met in the pub, Tessa, Tony and myself.

I think our two new friends (J Fox and J. L Preston) were a bit disappointed by the disorganized nature of the venture they had so kindly become part of.  In any case they set off to Leck Fell ahead of us to start laddering up the tight entrance series.

After a large breakfast in Bernie's Cafe; Tessa, Tony and myself drove up the road to the Lost Johns car park and staggered down Leck Fell to the entrance.  We were laden with diving gear and wondering how on earth we were going to manage it all underground.  We were very pleased to find our new friends at the entrance who informed us that they had teamed up with two other cavers.  They did not know who they were but they had volunteered to help.  These new people had gone on ahead into the cave and were laddering it up.  So now we had five of us to carry the diving gear and the ladders for the lower pitches. This trip seemed to be just happening on it's own.  All I had done was to say I was going to dive both sumps at the end of Pip.  People were so willing to help me that it was now actually getting done.

We just seemed to zip down the cave and the diving gear was not a problem.  I suppose we were young, fit and on form.  It was all going rather well.  At the junction with Ratbag Inlet we caught up with our new members and made our introductions.

"Pleased to meet you Pooh, I'm Dave Savage"

I was astonished. "Not the Dave Savage, who pushed Wookey Hole!!"

"Well yes, I haven't done much caving for a while, I fancied a look at Pippikin but we didn't bring enough ladders; it was lucky for us we met up with your party."

I was getting even more amazed now.  Here was one of the cavers who along with Mike Wooding had been first to Swildons 12. He had been one of my schoolboy heroes. Now he was helping me to do a dive and he seemed to be nearly as disorganized as I was; and also a really nice bloke.  Upon reaching the final pitch we discovered that we were still short of one ladder. Dave Savage was still above the previous pitch and agreed to stay where he was and lower a ladder from that pitch, to enable us to reach the dive sites.

I decided to dive downstream first.  The sump was tight and wide and becoming disorientated I did a U-turn and started to swim back the way I had come.  I surfaced one metre away from where I had entered the sump.  I did not know this though as my friends upon seeing that I was coming back had hidden and turned out their lights.  My light was a bit dim and I did not realize what was going on. Even so I could hardly believe that I had broken through so easily so I tentatively called out, "Can anybody hear me".  After the inevitable merriment at my expense I dived again and found the way on into an apparently large underwater passage, which I followed in poor visibility for about 100m.  I turned back before reaching the third margin in my 40 cubic foot bottle, in order that I would have sufficient air for a dive in the upstream sump.

The summer had been dry and water levels in Pippikin were low.  This helped with my second dive of the day as the upstream sump started much further along the inlet passage than it had back in 1970 when I had been with a party exploring this part of Pippikin.  When it did sump, it did so decisively and I easily followed a small but comfortable sump, in good visibility.  I passed two air-bells in mounting excitement and reached a slight upward constriction, about 50m from where the sump had begun.  I had now almost reached the third margin of a bottle that had been well depleted on the previous dive.  A desire for self preservation now started to dampen my urge to continue.  I felt very strongly that I was about to break through into something big and yet I knew I would be taking a big risk going into what may turn out to be an underwater squeeze, with a low air supply.  My explorations were usually like this, an almost schizophrenic battle between two personalities; one needing comfort, safety and an easy life. The other needing massive adrenaline hits, success and adventure.  Pooh version one won this little battle and I turned back.

I returned to base, I think in retrospect, near hypothermic but then feeling weak and despondent at having turned back.  I gave an account of my dive to my excellent supporters.  Tessa gave me some of her food and a hug and we set off out; everybody but myself well pleased with our efforts.  We made a short side trip on the way leaving the narrow streamway and climbing up into the spacious Hall of the Ten.  This is the place where my mates from the Happy Wanderers had realised that they had hit the jackpot with Pippikin Pot.  While resting, I told my newer friends some stories about the Wanderers and my adventures with them, underground and on the surface in the Dales, in Europe and in Asia.  As I spoke it dawned on me that I loved this crazy game called caving and that I was soon to combine this with my passion for world travel.  In a few days time I was finally leaving for New Guinea as an expedition member.  I now felt not so bad for having turned back in the sump.  New adventures beckoned.

It was three years in later, in 1978 that I returned to England and I was fortunate enough to get involved with the filming of the Yorkshire TV film, The Underground Eiger.  Better know to us as "The Keld Head Film"

During the period we were involved with filming in Kingsdale exciting discoveries were being made by the Northern Pennine Club over in Easegill.  They had dug open a shaft in Easegill Beck and dropped into a large passage that they rapidly explored to the top of Echo Aven in Lancaster Hole. Meanwhile other passages in this new cave they had named Link Pot were being discovered and some of these were heading towards Pippikin Pot.

Andy Eavis had a few years previously climbed Echo Aven and if at the top he had only entered a hole over the other side he would have found Link Pot.  Not wanting to miss out in a similar manner I felt I should return to Waterfall Chamber in Pippikin and do another dive in the upstream sump. This dive kept on getting delayed partly because I was busy with the filming and partly because I had trouble getting enough helpers.  I knew I had probably left it too late when I heard that Bob Hryndyj had dived at the end of a passage called Easy Street in Link Pot and got through to an underwater passage which sounded from his description to be the same place I had been in 1975.

One Saturday morning, shortly after hearing about this imminent connection between Pippikin and Lancaster / Easegill / Link, Geoff Yeadon and myself were in our sleeping bags at Henpot's caravan.  Once again Henpot had given us accommodation after a night in the Craven Heifer pub.  I was not feeling well and things got even worse for me when Bob Hryndyj unexpectedly burst into the caravan and said to the already arisen Henpot:

"Hey Henpot, can you lend me a line reel?  I need it to clinch the connection from Link to Pippikin before Pooh has a chance to do it the other way, upstream from Pippikin".

He then noticed to his surprise that the very same Pooh was glaring at him from a horizontal position in a sleeping bag.  Somewhat embarrassed at this discovery Bob for once was lost for words.  Unlike me Henpot was most amused and was laughing too much to reply to Bob's request.  I could hear quiet chuckling coming from the direction of the Yeadon pit.

"Go on, let him take it Henpot", I said in ill humour.  "I'll get my revenge on you Hryndyj," I added in frustration. "Now get out of here and leave me to die in peace".  I concluded illogically in reference to my unmanageable hangover.

Bob made the connection that day and I never did "Get my revenge".  A few years later Geoff pushed the downstream sump in Pippikin. The one I had dived immediately prior to doing the upstream sump.  He broke through to a dry passage and named it "Pooh's Revenge."

I hope that some of you readers enjoy reading these adventures.  If you think you can put up with more of this sort of thing, why not visit The Adventures of Another Pooh Website at

Left A photograph of the EDF hut which is inside the tunnel bored by EDF to harness the waters of the underground river- they don't use the tunnel apparently! !

Right La Vemain in PSM


An Excursion To Harptree Combe And Mines

O/S EXPLORER MAP 4 (Orange series)

By Vince Simmonds

Start in the village of West Harptree.  Take the footpath (5614/5684), next to the local shop, in a south-easterly direction to the combe.  Follow the path through the combe, taking note of some very good outcropping of dolomitic conglomerate, until reaching the aqueduct beyond which is an obvious fork. Take the left-hand path (towards Proud Cross) follow for approx. 200m where Mine No.1 is located in the right-bank approx. 20m from the path at the base of a large beech tree.

Mine No.1 (5619/5566)

A short mine of approx. 11m (4.5m of which is open gully).  It is 1m wide and up to 1.6m high.  There is a vein of dog-toothed spar, which has been blackened, and some small geodes of calcite.

On the way up to the mine a series of sinkholes are passed these are most probably linked to the line of works that run down this valley.  There is a gated conduit that flows into the main combe where the two meet near to the aqueduct.

Back at the fork follow the path up-valley for approx. 200m where Mine No.2 is located, in the right-hand bank approx. 10m above the combe floor.

Mine No.2 (5603/5576)

Twin Passage Mine

Two parallel passages approx. 7m in length 0.75m wide and up to 1.75m high.  At the end both passages are joined.  The most southerly passage has a pool of water and ends in boulders.

To the south and above the mine is an open rift approx. 20m in length.

Directly opposite Mine No.2, in the left-hand bank, are Mines No's.3,4 and 5.

Mine No.3 (5606/5574)

Rift Mine

This is the largest of the mines and is approx.30m in length although the first 10m is an open gully where the earthen roof has collapsed.  The single passage is 0.75m wide and up to 6m high.  The roof through most the mine consists mainly of earth. It ends at a large chamber with obvious workings and along its length shot-holes are visible

Mine No.4

10m south of No.3 another rift mine approx. 11m in length (5m of open gully) with a solid roof

Mine No.5

10m south of No.4. Single passage approx. 13m in length 1m wide and up to 2m high.

Mine No.6 (5603/5568)

70m south of No.5 and 25m up left-hand bank.  Follow steep gully upwards, the mine is just below the top.  It is 5m long, up to 1.5m and 0.75m in width.  The roof is entirely made up of earth and numerous roots.

Between Mines No's 5 and 6 a footpath up the right-hand bank (west) leads across fields to a track. Follow the track to where it meets Ridge Lane turning right into the lane (downhill) will take you back to West Harptree.

Alternatively you may wish to explore the rest of the combe or take the path to the left (east) of the mines and look around the site of Richmont Castle before heading back.  The Castle has some interesting sites that look to have been worked at sometime.  It is possible that some of these excavations could date back to the mid-1500's when calamine was used in the brass industry, a valuable commodity being used for arms in the war against Spain.



Haines - Nutt. R. Frank & Mulvey. Christopher

1963 Not in Barrington - or Oldham

WCC (Jnl) 7(90)199-207(Jun)

Hendv. Philip G.

1967 Mines of East Harptree Combe

SVCC Newsheet (9)(3-4)

1968 Analysis of rock samples from mines in East Harptree Combe

SVCC Newssheet (2)(2)(Feb)

1971 Qualitative analysis of rock samples from E.H. Combe

SVCC NIL (9-11) (Dec 1970/Jan 1971). Map

Oldham. Anthony D.

1963 Mines of East Harptree Combe I Richmont

SVCC NIL 1(2)3-4(May)

1963 Mines of Harptree Combe, with a brief reference to Richmont Castle, the animal life in these mines and the geology of the combe.

MNRC Jnl. 1(1)14-17(Jan)

Budd. Jon

East Harptree. Times Remembered Times Forgotten


Caves At Branscombe

Rob & Helen Harper

Branscombe, which is between Seaton and Sidmouth in Southeast Devon, is the most westerly place that chalk sea-cliffs occur in England.  In the chalk and the calcareous sandstone of these cliffs there are a number of short sea caves.  Most of these are the result of enlargement of faults or fissures and none is of any great length, at least so far!  This article is the result of a spare afternoon during a week's break last May.


Although these caves may have local names we have just numbered them from west to east.  These are just the caves at beach level, there is another small rift system on the cliff above as well as numerous extensive stone mines in Beer.


NGR SY225879

The first obvious cave at beach level when walking west from Branscombe Mouth.   Large oval entrance followed by an inclined shingle floored rift which quickly becomes too narrow for further progress.



NGR SY225879

Low entrance approx.1.0 x 0.5m about 50m west of Beer Head leads to a shingle floored rift with dimensions approx. 0.6 x 1.8m quickly narrowing to end after 20m.  All level and on a bearing of 005 deg.


NGR SY226879

20m west of Beer Head an obvious large entrance at the top of a 3m rubble slope next to a sewage pipe. Sandy floored chamber with two rift passages leading off both of which quickly narrow.


NGR SY228879

An oval opening in the cliff face on the point of Beer Head approx. 1m above the high water mark. The 1.5 x 2m entrance leads into a small chamber with another smaller entrance on the right.  Straight ahead is a 'T-junction' at a rift approx. 1m x 4m. To the left a short climb goes up to another entrance and to the right a scramble down leads to yet another entrance with or without a pool depending on the state of the tide.


NGR SY228880

A large rift approx. 50m east of Beer Head.  The impressive entrance soon lowers to a crawl after 10m and becomes too narrow after a further 4m.  Shingle floor throughout.


NGR SY228884

The most interesting of all these caves.  About 80m east of Beer Head next to an obvious cliff fall a slightly inclined shingle floored rift about 2m high and between 0.5 and 1m wide leads after 10m to a boulder pile in a small breakdown chamber.  The passage continues beyond this boulder pile as a crawl with a very strong draught.  This has not been pushed to a conclusion.


NGR SY229884

Walking east along the beach from Cave 6 pass through an obvious rock arch and the entrance to Cave 7 is easily seen at beach level in the next point.  A short section of shingle floored rift (another low entrance on right) leads into a rock floored walking sized passage with a pool in the floor. Just beyond the pool a short (2.25m) aven leads to daylight.  Straight ahead is a three-way junction.  Right leads out to the beach through a low shingle floored arch and straight ahead leads via a constriction to a small shingle floored chamber with no way on.


NGR SY229886

Obvious entrance about 3m above beach in cliff approx. 40m east of cave 7.  A level tubular passage in rock initially 1.0 x 1.0m becomes too narrow after 8m all on a bearing of 349 deg.



Surveys have been attempted of all of the caves whose termination could NOT be seen from the entrance.  A grade of 2b has been claimed for the surveys.  Compass bearings were measured using a hand held "Silva" walking compass measured to the nearest two degrees.  Distance was measured to the nearest 5 cms. using a fibron tape. Inclination was estimated.  The notes were written at the time of surveying. Subsequently centre line and passage wall plots were drawn using "COMPASS" survey software. These plots were then imported to Corel Draw and the detail added.


Shatter Cave - Exploration Fever

Pete Glanvill and John Walsh both write about different discoveries in Fairy Quarry that occurred within a few days of each other.  Ed

On Sunday November 7th 1999 a rather large and optimistic party assembled outside Shatter Cave.  It comprised Pete Rose Nick Chipchase Martin Grass Jonathan Chipchase Nigel Cox (Pete G's brother in law) and Ken Passant.  We still hadn't established a name for the new series we were about to enter, nomenclature having varied from the topical (Viagra Rift) through the descriptive (Halloween Rift, Shatter Pot) to the memorial (Ellis Pot).  I felt it would be nice to commemorate Brian Ellis in some way by naming a bit of cave after him.  He was instrumental in expanding my knowledge of Devon Caves when I was a callow schoolboy by indicating where they were and how to visit them.  He also supplied me with all my original cave surveys and exchanged notes over the exploration of Holwell Cave.

Intrepid caver entering new rift

Anyway back to the 7th of November and the top of the new rift.  After Martin had driven in a bolt and some gardening had been done it was decided to let Nigel descend first - the more sensible assembled having relatively little enthusiasm to be first down a shaft possibly overhung with boulders. After a short interval some mutterings from the base of the 5 metre pitch confirmed our fears.  After a short look over some boulders one way and a peep the other Nigel decided to return leaving the indestructible Chipchase to descend closely followed by yours truly.

The rift drops over jammed boulders to a mud floored boulder pile sloping downstream to a roaring streamway all of 2 metres long.  Although the stream seemed to be entering a sump, one could see and hear by lying full length in it that the passage was an impossibly constricted duck beyond which it continued - presumably into Conning Tower Cave where intriguingly there is, at present, no apparent flow.  Below the entrance climb and beneath some nasty looking hanging death boulders the rift continued upstream and the muted roar of the stream could be heard from its depths.

Peter Glanvill cautiously weaved his way over and under the dodgy boulders and slithered the 6 metres to the bottom of the rift where the stream could be heard under a low choked phreatic arch.  After some desultory digging his glasses steamed up and after a worrying thrutch he managed to re-ascend the rift without rearranging the boulders.

Back at the cave entrance a council of war ended with PG re-descending armed with a bolt kit and a crowbar, moral back up being provided by Chipchase.  A decent belay for a ladder was then constructed to avoid the really hairy boulders before Pete got back to the digging face.  Ten minutes work enabled him to slide feet first into another 2 metre long stretch of streamway.  Downstream the water gurgled into the boulders while upstream a very constricted duck/sump would admit a boot.  There might be scope for a dig here as the floor of the stream consists of loose boulders.  Skinny cavers with a resistance to hypothermia should apply.  The streamway is very immature with little signs of sculpting by the water at stream level.

Exploration completed we removed the ladders but left the bolts and hangers in situ.  Prospective visitors please note that if you visit the new series first you can forget about doing the rest of the system unless you have a complete change of kit.  A trip to the bottom coats you in a nice layer of mud.

So there you have it. Shatter Cave now has 2 - 6 metre pitches and 4 metres of streamway!

Peter Glanvill November 21 st 1999.


Another Breakthrough in Fairy Cave Quarry

by John Walsh

Tuesday 16th November.

Myself, Andy Thomas and two prospective BEC members, Helen Hunt and Mat Davey were exploring a muddy little tube on the right side of Bullrush Way in Balch cave.  After moving a large rock in the mud floor, I managed to squeeze through into a six foot long mud wallow.  I reluctantly crawled through only to come up in the quarry!!

Friday 19th

Mat and myself returned to have a look at Erratic Passage.  Halfway down on the left hand side a small slot under the wall looked interesting. After moving some mud and rock we could see a drop. I threw a pebble down- it sounded like a fair drop.  We were unable to proceed due to lack of equipment.

Tuesday 23rd

With the aid of pick and bar, and Andy's sweat and blood, we opened the slot enough for me to squeeze through.  It dropped straight down a sloping twenty foot water worn chute into a small chamber. On the right was a phreatic tube about three feet in diameter running down dip for about one hundred feet, with a lot of shattered formations in the floor.  About half way down the tube there was a twenty foot pot with a jammed boulder halting progress.  On the opposite wall of the small chamber a hole at floor level presented another surprise - a forty foot deep water worn pot about ten feet in diameter.  Due to lack of tackle and time, we retired to the Hunter's to celebrate.

Sunday 28th

Helen, Mat and myself descended the forty foot pot to find a mud floor taking water- no way on there yet.

At the bottom of the tube there is a slot.  Through this there is a flat out crawl at floor level that needs to be dug; also, an S bend with a ten foot climb at the end to a small terminal chamber.

John Walsh


No chance of metrication in Fairy Quarries it seems. Ed


Bats and Basques in America

by Rich Long

If anyone is expecting a lot of technical information on caves and caving techniques from my trip to America, YOU DON'T KNOW ME VEWWY WELL!!

If you have ever had to catch an early morning flight from Heathrow you will already know that the booking in hall and seats were designed by the Marquis de Sade and his even more degenerate chums.  By three o' clock in the morning and check in time I was completely crippled.  My neck was now stuck at a ninety degree angle, my right knee had become disjointed and had taken on a life of its own, locking up or giving way as it wished.  Hobbling along slumped across my dribble soaked luggage and attempting to steer my little trolley, with one half closed bloodshot eye my fellow travellers were strangely quiet and gave me a great deal of room.  Even the kind baggage lady asked "Would I like some help to board the plane and would I care for a wheelchair?"

"Nooo, Nooo, Fank you!"I said from numb, slobbery lips as I limped away to the next wait in the departure lounge, behind me I heard one of the passengers say "Oh, isn't he brave to attempt such a trip alone, in that condition. " I turned to see who she was talking about but there was no one there, our eyes met, well her eyes met my one open eye and she waved.  I returned the wave and grinned; she gasped and fell back against her husband who said "Christ!"

We boarded the plane, I got a nice aisle seat near the toilet, I find you suddenly get an enormous bladder problem if you are blocked in at a window seat.  My next seat traveller turned out to be a young lad about 8 years old who took great delight in telling me all about Jumbo jets, while his Dad snoozed, until we hit an airpocket somewhere over Newfoundland.  We dropped like a stone, the cabin crew all fell over.  Some prayed, some wept, I did both of these and cursed with every swear word I had ever heard at the top of my voice.  This seemed to work as the plane suddenly ascended as quickly as it had fallen.  There was silence for several minutes after this as all of us adults came to terms with a near death experience.  I came out of this quite quickly as I am used to caving with Zotty on a regular basis.

So, we landed in Dallas. I collect my baggage, a rucksac as big as a small bungalow and phone Jay Jordan, the guy-I have been e-mailing for about 2 months- the phone doesn't answer!  No matter how many times I ring he is not there!  (The BEC reputation has gone before me?)

Nothing for it, book into a Motel, sleep, eat and see what turns up.  Two days in Dallas and I am going insane, it is mobile phone land, get out NOW!

Well the trips in Texas are dead, so New Mexico here I come!

Flew into Carlsbad and the lady at Hertz rental was so nice she actually shut up shop and took me into town to find a Motel, American hospitality or what!

I got to Carlsbad Caverns and met Stan Alison and Jason Richards, who sends best wishes to you all, they remember some of you, you know who you are!

Now my luck started to change a little.  I met a great guy called Curtis Perry, who is a lighting technician, climber, caver and store owner and he invited me to go on a filming trip to Cottonwood cave.  I had to understand that I wouldn't be in it, as he said they were only making a nature movie and not Return of the Living Dead IV.  I would just be carrying batteries and lights but I would meet some of the top cavers in the U.S. and get some more trips from there.

Next day, Curtis brings his friend Gus Widen- a man who, I found out later, could climb up glass. Gus was so good at climbing they had him try to escape from the bear compound in the Living Desert Zoo.  This was because the bear himself was a bit of a Houdini and he kept getting out and raiding the local cabins.  Well the keepers would drag him back and lock him in and then he'd get out again.  They put up an electric fence, he still got out.  Well, they stuck Gus and a few other local climbers in and Gus got out. So did Aaron, another human fly, but the rest were captive along with the bear.  So, a second electric fence was put in and up to now the bear hasn't escaped but, I watched him study those fences and that wall, it's only a matter of time!

Anywhoo, back to the story. That day was the weekend for hunting so everywhere along the road across the desert and up into the mountains were guys with red hats and big guns, Texas hunters.  Some just sat in their trucks and let fly at anything.  Not too many ramblers about that weekend!

On the journey to the cave we were unfortunate enough to hit a cattle guard and bust one of Gus's bearings on his pick up- just what you need on rough mountain roads.  We limped up to the mountain top and met the film crew who were doing the interviewing of the principal players.

Eventually we got to enter the cave carrying huge packs, the entrance was about 30 feet across and an easy zig-zag path down into it.  The formations started immediately at the entrance, huge stalagmites 40 to 50 foot high, massive flowstone.  I was off but Tom Zane, the director, soon advised me of my position in the scheme of things.  Alright, I am a Limey but I do know who both my parents are!

The filming went great, there were even some Mexican long tailed bats still flying in to roost, so we had to be very careful not to disturb them.  Everything was over by about 8 pm and watching the huge lights illuminating the formations was a magnificent sight.  We exited the cave to look at a star studded sky with no light pollution - it was absolutely fantastic.  Then we sat round an old Apache mescal pit and had a barbeque. Whereupon, my new found friend Gus and I managed to demolish some tasty American beers and a litre bottle of Chivas Regal between us before we both nearly did headers into the fiery pit. It was decided bed was the safest option!

Now, there is a saying in New Mexico," you can tell when an Englishman has had enough to drink, you can smell his skin burning! "

Next day after finding all my clothes and boots which seemed to have been scattered all over the clearing we headed out to Sitting Bull Falls, my new mountain home.

To be Continued.  Ed


Armchair Caving for the Alcoholic

by Tony Jarratt

The Editor's request in the last BB for more cave theme beer labels inspired me to delve into my collection of "speleobooze" ephemera - both subjects being dear to my heart. I came up with the following and I know that there is a vast amount more available worldwide.  Serious students should consult the pages of the Belgian published bulletin Collections (now defunct).  To keep in with the current interests of some members I have included mines as well as caves.

Beer - Cans and Labels

Canned Anchor Beer, Archipelago Brewery Co., Malaysia.  The can bears a tourism logo (Mystic Sarawak) including a tiny picture of a cave scene and the words "The Sarawak Chamber, Mulu National Park".

Liquan Beer, Guilin Brewery, China. The label has a coloured photo of Elephant Trunk Cave, Guilin.

Belfry Brew.  The blue and gold label commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the BEC and sports a gold "Bertie Bat" .

Rescue Ale (Morland's Old Speckled Hen).  The label has a Balch drawing of Eastwater boulder ruckle to celebrate the British Cave Rescue Council Conference, Priddy, 9-10 July 1994.

Association of Bottled Beer Collectors, August 1989, Hunter's Lodge Inn, Priddy.  The back label bears an old engraving (c.1750) entitled "A View ofOkey Hole".  (This society was run by the writer's brother, Dave Jarratt and the above two label designs were suggested by the writer. Barrie Wilton produced the end results).

Le Casque (The Helmet).  Biere artisanale naturelle. Brasserie La Binchoise, Binch, Belgique. The label has a blue caving helmet and Petzl carbide unit.

Krugman, Attendorner, Hohlentropfchen. Sauerland.  The label bears a small coloured photo of a grotto - presumably in a show cave.

Canned John Davey's Cornish Ale, Redruth Brewery, Cornwall. Carries two small, identical logos of a Cornish engine house.

Shakemantle, Freeminer Brewery, Forest of Dean.  Label has a drawing of an iron miner.  The beer is named after the deepest iron mine in the Forest.

Freeminer Bitter, ditto. Label shows the famous mediaeval Forest iron miner logo.

Deep Shaft Stout, ditto.                                    ditto.

Slaughter Porter, ditto.  (I have no label for this beer - named after Slaughter Stream Cave - as the name was changed soon after due to its unfortunate appearance at the same time as the infamous Fred West murders!) It is now back on draught with the original name.  Freeminer Brewery produces other mine inspired tipples - see the Good Beer Guide 2000, p.472 for more details.

Pick Axe Pale Ale, Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, Colorado. The main label of this American micro-brew shows a working gold miner (or a "Tommyknocker" - a fairy miner) and the neck label sports a miner enjoying his ale!

Beer - beermats

Jenolan Caves Resort, New South Wales, Australia. Shows a stalagmite and stalactite, the Cave Hotel and visitors admiring parakeets.

Miners Arms Brewery, Own Ale, Brewed in Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset. Has a drawing of a miner's safety lamp similar to the model lamp hanging on the end wall of the (now defunct) Miners' Arms restaurant, Priddy - original home of this (also now defunct) brewery.

Tinners Ale, St. Austell Brewery, Cornwall.  Two different beermats bearing drawings of Cornish engine houses.

Beer - beer cooler

Shades of Death Cave, Murrindal, Buchan, Victoria, Australia. A neoprene "tube" cooler with a bat logo.  (Essential Australian caving equipment!).

Whiskey - label

Mammoth Cave Brand. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Stitzel-Weller Distillery, KY. This 1940s label has a superb coloured drawing of the cave entrance.

Wine - labels, bottle and cork

Clamouse 1987 Shows a b/w photo of this fantastically decorated show cave.

Clamouse 1993, Two labels bearing coloured photos of different scenes in this cave

Cotes du Vivarais, Orgnac, The label bears a coloured photo of the immense stalagmites in this famous show cave.

Cotes du Vivarais, Orgnac, Cuvee de la Speleologie Robert de Joly.  A 1.5 litre bottle with coloured, stencilled wording and a b/w photo of the stalagmites on the reverse.

Cuvee du Centenaire de la Speleologie 1988.  Shows a drawing of two cavers on one SRT rope!

12eme Congres international de speleologie 1997 La Chaux-de-Fonds.  The label design appears to show an antique statuette of two men enjoying their wine. Helmets, lamps and a bat have been drawn on for effect!

Cuvee des Grottes, The main label shows a scene in the Grottes d'Arcy-sur-Cure show cave ( Bourgogne) and the neck label has a small drawing of a cave guide with an instruction to "follow him".

Vin du Pays du Caverne, Perigord. The label shows stylized prehistoric cave paintings.

Chateau de Lascaux.  A stylized Lascaux horse is shown on both the label and cork.

Equus.  The label shows a stylized horse cave painting.  (Available from Tesco!).

Grotte du Grand Roc.  Shows a photo of helictites in this show cave at Les Eyzies, Perigord.

Cuvee des Grottes Petrifiantes.  Bears a photo of the show cave (ancient underground stone quarry?) at Savonnieres.

Carlsbad Caverns.  The label has a very fine reproduction of a painting of formations in this immense New Mexican show cave.


Bisonte.  A Spanish brand with a coloured drawing of a bull cave painting from Altamira on the packet.

Zhijintiangong.  The packet has a coloured photo of a Chinese show cave scene.

and for the driver:-

Naktigone.  A very unpleasant Lithuanian soft drink with a "Bertie" type bat on the label!

Endless Caverns Premium Mountain Spring-Water, Shenandoah Valley, New Market, Virginia.  The label has a tiny drawing of a cave pool.


Well, that's enough of that - I'm off down the Pub!!!!!  Cheers,         J.Rat

ADDENDUM: It seems that B&T Brewery of Shefford, Beds., produce both "Black Bat" and "Old Bat" winter beers.  Plans are in hand to sample this brew.


Stock's House Shaft - A Winter's Tale

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BBs nos. 502, 504 and 505

"Failure is not an option."
The film "Apollo 13"

Enthusiasm for the dig tailed off as winter approached and surface hauling became a bitterly cold chore. During November 1999 a total of 166 loads were winched to surface.  Some half-hearted dowsing was done above the conjectured courses of the three stream passages but the results of this will only be known when they have been excavated and followed underground.

The Parallel Upstream Level was cleared of Old Men’s backfilling for some 6-7metres (20ft) to a blank wall and the recently uncovered passage (Loop Level) opposite the Treasury of Aeops partly emptied of its fill of sandy tailings and backfilled to rejoin the main Downstream Level after some 5 metres (15 ft) - see updated plan. Along with these projects continued clearing of the Shaft bottom area took place.  In the Treasury itself a boulder blocked rift in the ceiling was banged and cleared to reveal some 4 metres (12ft) of natural passage, becoming too tight.

On 29th and 30th November the end of the Downstream Level was attacked after the water had been pumped back behind the 2nd dam.  Digging conditions were atrocious but eventually enough tailings were cleared to produce an airspace and strong draught.  Considerable amazement was felt when the apparent noise of a falling stream was heard ahead!  This was when the Five BuddIes stream was not flowing and the Stock's House stream was dammed.  Could it be the Wheel Pit water?  More banging and clearing was done in the Rat Trap and plenty of full bags stored awaiting removal.

December started optimistically with a strong team digging at the end and 232 bags were hauled out by the 8th.  The "lawn mower winch" was deemed to be not man enough for the job and was replaced with the M.C.G. power winch - unfortunately proving to be inoperable and resulting in the continued use of the man-powered winch.  A third dam was constructed in the Upstream Level and a fourth just downstream of the 2nd dam.  Being ridiculously optimistic that we could cope with lots of water we took a bottle of "champagne" down to cool ready for the big breakthrough! Needless to say the weather conditions at the end of December were the worst for months with much of Chewton Minery flooded.  There was some 4 metres depth of water in the Wheel Pit depression.  Despite this the Stock's House stream only backed up a couple of feet.

In the meantime work continued in the more accessible passages.  On 10th, 12th and 13th the Rat Trap was further cleared to reveal a gallery heading south.  This was named Greg's Level and was emptied of backfill for some 3 metres (10ft) to a blank wall.  On 15th another 130 bags were hauled out and clearing continued.  P.B. found a 3" long curved metal spike that may have been one of the prongs of a rake.  More clearing of the Rat Trap was thwarted when, on 26th, a minor roof fall was found here with a large boulder almost blocking the level at the 6m aven just beyond. This was unfortunately the "shape of things to come" with a whole series of collapses caused by floodwater washing out clay seams in the fault above - exacerbated by the shock waves from bang used to break up large fallen boulders.

On 27th the Parallel Downstream Level was the next to be cleared of miners' backfill.

Yet again a blank wall was reached after some 3 metres (10ft) and this very short level may have been blasted out to act as a "manhole" or refuge for the Old Men when they fired their black powder charges further downstream.  A tiny trickle of water bubbled up from the floor at its end.

The following day discouragement reached a new height when another major collapse was found in the Rat Trap and the writer had to beat a swift retreat as a further one occurred while he was clearing it.  One load was winched out that day and another 100 the day after when the Wednesday Night Team were treated to "Major Dick White's Levant Mine Punch". This concoction was based on a Dorset recipe involving Jamaica rum, cognac, Benedictine, lemon, sugar and boiling water and was distributed to the Adventurers at the Count House dinners at this famous Cornish mine in the 1890s - " .... so potent that the smell of it a quarter of a mile away would knock any man blind drunk".  Our two new Wessex recruits were suitably impressed. Another 22 loads reached surface the next day.

The last day of the 20th Century saw a boulder banged near the 6m aven.  It was revisited on 2nd January to find the bang had done a good job - too bloody good in fact!  Just beyond this point was now a blank rock wall where the Downstream Level should have been.  A massive roof fall had completely blocked off the last 30ft of this passage but the stream was still gaily flowing on underneath it.  Utter despondency soon gave way to the realisation that this lot would otherwise have eventually fallen on its own - with probably fatal results.  Resigned, the diggers started to clear the collapse .....

Throughout January work was concentrated on this problem.  As the huge boulders slumped down they were blasted at floor level (seven bangs) until an 8 metre (25ft) high chamber resulted.  This was so impressive that it earned the name Heinous Hall (from the climbing cartoons of Canadienne Tami Knight).  A total of 325 loads of rock and mud were hauled out during the month and lots more remains underground awaiting removal.  WARNING: High in the ceilings of both the Rat Trap and Heinous Hall are several huge and suspect boulders apparently defying the force of gravity!  DO NOT HANG AROUND IN THESE AREAS!!  It is intended to construct some form of protective roof here using RSJ’s once the level has been cleared.  On 30th January the continuation of the level was re-entered and found to be in good condition

Work continues and the Champagne bottle is still unopened (but perfectly chilled).

Thoughts on the Hydrology.

Willy Stanton considers that all the swallet streams in this area (Waldegrave, Wheel Pit, Five BuddIes and Stock's House) feed the Cheddar catchment via the dolomitic conglomerate filled basin or valley containing the Wigmore Swallet drainage.  He suggests that this is partly proven by the Chewton Minery streams not having polluted Wookey Hole during the period of the washing and smelting.  At this time Cheddar Risings were permanently polluted - partly by drainage from West Minery (Charterhouse).  It is hoped that U.B.S.S. will soon conduct a series of water tracing experiments to solve this for once and for all.  Volunteers to test the risings at Cheddar, Wookey Hole and Rodney Stoke will be required. Collection of samples every six hours over several days will be needed.  Anyone interested please contact the writer.

The 1874 drawing of a Charterhouse lead miner (BB 505) is one of only a small number of representations of the Old Men.  Here are a few of them taken from various publications.  There are others in the small but excellent Mendip mining display at Weston-Super-Mare Museum.


From a Somerset map of 1612.  A spade wielding" groover" opening up his rake

From Thomas Bushell's "ABRIDGMENT Of the Lord Chancellor BACON'S PHILOSOPHICAL, THEORY IN Mineral Profecutions." 1659.  A 17th century miner with pick/gad, leather (?) helmet, breeches and unknown object (ore sample?).

From a 16th century map of Mendip

1) Three working miners with pick, hammer and borer

2) Miner with pick

Additions to the Digging Team

Paul Warren, Tim Large, Jesse Brock, Guy Munnings, Anthony Butcher (SMCC), John "Tommo" Thomas (WCC), John Williams (WCC),

Additional Assistance

Dr. Willy Stanton, Chris Richards ( WSM Museum),

Tony Jarratt, 27/1/00

The Editor writes please can you let me have articles for the next issue of the magazine as soon as possible.  This issue is a bit thin and if material is not very forthcoming I will have to write a boring article about how the Bulletin is produced and why it seems to take so long.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

19/2/00                      A night out with the MRO -  Priddy Village Hall 8pm

26/2/00                      MRO Resuscitation workshop -  Hunters Lodge Inn 7.30pm

03/3/00                      Committee meeting -  Belfry 8pm

17/3/00                      MRO General meeting -  Hunters Lodge Inn 8pm

25/3/00                      MRO lecture Casualty Care -  Hunters Lodge Inn 7.30pm

7/4/00                        Committee meeting -  Belfry 8pm

15/4/00                      MRO Lecture-Use of Molephone -  Hunters Lodge Inn 7.30pm

5/5/00                        Committee meeting -  Belfry 8pm

6/5/00                        Underground rescue practice venue to be arranged - this date is subject to change

2/6/00                        Committee meeting -  Belfry 8pm


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith
Librarian: Alex Gee
Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert

Any alterations, additions or mistakes are entirely due to copy spacing-Ed


Hullo folks, welcome to the first issue produced by your new editor.  Not many changes you may say.  Well, I discussed changes with a number of people and finally came to the sensible conclusion that there is little point in changing things when the previous Editor produced such a good magazine.  All that I can try to do is to produce a similar quality product and that is surely what you want.  However, I cannot do this without articles from YOU the membership.  So, please send in those pictures, write up that report, or jot down that anecdote.  If you can send it to me on disc with a hard copy, so much the better.  I can be E-mailed but my line is usually busy with other users so replies may take a few days.  Articles can be dropped off at the Hunters Lodge or at Bat Products if that will help you.  I can scan pictures if you wish to put an article on disc and include pictures that you cannot scan yourself.  I am aiming to produce issues in March, June, September and December with a deadline for issues about the 20th of the month before e.g. Jan 20 for publication about February 15th.  If you send me enough material there will be another issue, so your help is needed NOW!


Cuthbert’s leaders- An appeal to younger members out there who may wish to become leaders.  Some of the current leaders are wearing out their weekends doing tourist trips. Others are withdrawing into the warmth of the pub for the winter season.  The club relies heavily on the goodwill of a few to keep this superb cave accessible to visiting cavers.  If you think you might be able to get up to leader standard soon, please let the Rich Long/ Mike Wilson know.  Also new leaders for Welsh caves needed. -Ed

A cartoon inspired by a conversation between the old ed. Estelle and the new ed. in the Hunters one night


I have had a request from a Mr. Teagle of Wells.  Phone 01749 xxxxxxx.  He says a member has borrowed some of his photos of caves and caving and not returned them. This was a few years ago. Anyone out there got them?

Stop press -Barrel Assured! 150 ft passage found in Balch cave by John Walsh

Finally, have a good Christmas and lets have those articles please- especially those of you who roam now you no longer work!!- Martin


Club News and Events

Conservation conversation at the Hunters Lodge

The evening of November 20th saw an interesting event held in the backroom of the Hunters (with thanks to mine host Roger).  Speakers Dave Irwin and Graham Price presented separate views to do with caving and conservation.  Dave spoke about the Mendip Cave Registry first implemented in the 1950's and which continued until about 1968.  Its task was to record all the Mendip sites of caves and karst features, which were currently known.  By its cessation this quest had resulted in the production of 12 copies of a complete cave registry.  This was all done in the days of pre-computer when everything to be copied had to be laboriously done on Gestetner stencils - resulting in the impressive and highly valuable document known as the Mendip Cave Register.  (Costing £70 then).  He went on to discuss developments in the Registry which came about by his own research from 1995 onwards whilst compiling information for the production of Mendip Underground.  By then technology had advanced to the point where computers were a valuable tool.  He now uses the power of cross-referencing databases to store and correlate the mass of data needed for a new registry. He has now restarted the Registry and already produced and published a bibliography of cave references compiled from the press.  The registry has been widened to include Wiltshire, Devon, Bath and Bristol. A number of areas have already been completed with regard to known cave features and this work continues.  As well as the mammoth task of recording cave features, the survey work done by all the major caving clubs on Mendip either as survey sheets or in club magazine is to be cross-referenced with the registry. This will be produced on CD-ROM within the next 2 to 3 years.

Questions followed and then Graham Price spoke about cave conservation and the work done by the NCA in association with bodies such as English Nature and Scottish Nature.  He has been conservation officer for 16 years. In 1986, it was agreed within the NCA to increase people's awareness of cave conservation.  A policy for cave conservation was worked out to enable statutory bodies to "measure conservation".  (My words-ED).  A number of initiatives were proposed including a cave conservation handbook, an educational pack and a film- the lost caves of Britain was made by Sid Perou.  He discussed the problems that had to be overcome to enable the production of a cave conservation policy.  A cave conservation handbook has been produced which should help other conservation officers and interested people to produce their own conservation plans for particular caves.  Guidelines for many associated activities such as camping, digging and walking and including how to look after the flora and fauna in the area near to a cave have been produced.  Graham talked widely about the conservation handbook and how it could be used.  He talked about the work of the NCA as a co-ordinating body for cavers working for the good of cavers.  This was followed by a short break and then an open forum under the chairmanship of yours truly took many interesting questions from members of the audience.  A good discussion followed this lively debate with all retiring to the main bar at 10.15 p.m. Many thanks go to Vince Simmonds who organised the whole event, Dave Irwin and Graham Price for their time. Let us hope that we have other similar events in the future.

Fairy Quarries

Pete Rose writes the following account of his exploits leading up to the discovery of the new passage in Fairy Quarries.

On the 21st September I drove Pete Glanville up to Mendip, via Tesco's Chard for some batteries for his flashgun. We collected the keys from Prew.  The trip was marred by the usual incidents ... I had brought two left boots with me - I used my walking boots instead.  We opened up the grill over the entrance ... swore we could hear a stream there.  By Diesel chamber Pete's light failed.  At Tor Hall we detoured for piccies.  The first flashbulb went off in Pete's face, the 2nd in mine, the 3rd in mine when I strategically placed a slave gun on a ledge.  The 4th in Pete's hand- burnt fingers.  After a count of 9 bulbs going off by themselves I took some pictures of my own.  I led him back to the entrance, hear that stream again Pete?  He then fell on me while I was locking the grill - fell off a rock and damaged a thumb.  I told him not to buy lottery tickets for a while, as his luck was out (ask him about car engine warning lights sometime ... he ignores them!)  He rang me the following day ... Lucky he had forgotten to put a film in the camera he said.  The 10th of October loomed .... I was leading the Orpheus down Shatter. Pete G. took Nigel Cox (brother in law) and some Orpheus, I took my nephew Jonathan and some Orpheus.  We all stopped at the entrance .... Stream rumbling somewhere.  Pete took photos that worked.  I bet he bribed everyone to tell me that! We returned on 31st Oct. to look for digs, with Nick (nine lives) Chipchase and Mark Faulkner and Martin Webster.  Yupp, same stream at the entrance.  We went to Tor Hall and beyond.  Nick scrambled up a rift to look at 20 ft of passage trending back to Tor Hall, and then Chippy proceeded to attack the entrance chamber, while I looked around the next chamber.  He could hear the stream all right.  A rift opened up while he was sitting on it.  Pete G. had a homemade light on a cable to lower (he thinks it works most of the time) - definitely rifts measureless to man.  These things tend to become smaller on subsequent visits so we thought 20 ft deep would be O.K. to taunt people with.  We could have descended but for a ladder.  I had a rope to lower Pete G. on.  (It was an early rope from the 70s and I tow the car from time to time with it).  He thought a few feet lower down and decided against it.  The top of the rift certainly was loose.  We could always get Nigel or Martin Grass down it next week! As it was 4 ft or less from the entrance, we thought of the next party disappearing down one by one ... you sit down in the entrance and back into the cave and slide ... so we put a small sheet of corrugated iron over it.  That stream certainly roars at you!  It must head towards Conning Tower (but there is only a small stream in there) but what was upstream?  Next Sunday and a bolting kit would solve it.  Pete G. can write the descent up.  (Or down).


Exciting new dig in Shatter, very recently opened by Pete Rose, Nick Chipchase et al. Warning.  The dig is very close to the entrance.  Don’t fall in.


The picture below shows the actual rift descent – decent eh!


The Undergrounders

By Rich Long

Well, here we go again on another trip to wonderful Yorkshire - and not learning from previous experience I took Zot again!  No, honestly, only joking!

The last time we went it was only Zot, my chum Tommy and myself on the trip and everything was planned to split second military timing.  Unfortunately, when we got to Zot's house, only five minutes after speaking to him on the phone and telling him we were coming, we were greeted by the distinguished Mrs. Harvey who said "Sorry, Chris has just gone to Camerton to water his tomatoes"!

Well, who can argue with that?  It was a great trip though, with the help of the solid and imperturbable Mr.Wilson - who, with whatever Fate throws at him, conquers all (even me and Zotty descending on him asking for a trip).

So this time I used a cunning ploy.  Instead of going on Friday evening we went early on Saturday morning and this time I was late - Zot actually phoned me and wanted to know where I was!

Well: Zot snuggled down in the back of the van and slept like a baby (you know, breaking wind and dribbling) until we almost got to Settle where we stopped for the traditional Lottery ticket purchase, breakfast and a leisurely visit to Alum Pot - then all of the pubs that we could think of in the area.

We had been advised to go to the Gamecock in Austwick by Big Roy - which we duly did.  However, the landlord's manner was very similar to that of Basil Fawlty.  When asked by a chap along the bar from us "Could I order a meal?" he looked up, glanced around the totally empty restaurant and said, "If you haven't reserved I will see if we have a table".

I looked at Zot, then at the tables with serviettes and several sorts of cutlery and said, "I don't think so Chris".  He heartily agreed and we left Basil to his one customer and empty restaurant.

However, it didn't take Chris long to upset a poor little waitress in the Golden Lion who had unfortunately brought him the wrong end of a chicken for his tea.  "I specifically asked for a wing, not a leg. Kindly take it back!"  She did and I am sure that I could hear her sobbing in the back room for hours.  When our food came we quickly checked it for spit and broken glass but none was found and it was excellent.  Next day my party set off for Gaping Gill for a nice trip on the Craven winch meet and Chris jacked up a trip to Swinsto, taking Toby and Guy with him, and I believe a great time was had by all.  I am not saying that they had difficulty gaining access to Swinsto again (perhaps you read the previous article on our Swinsto trip) but I think it was beneficial for all concerned that Mr.Wilson just happened to be passing on his way to the Three Men of Gragareth.  Mr. Harvey, however, vociferously denied being lost, and I believe him - (tee heel).

So, in the evening it was the landlady of the Crown whose turn it was but she won the contest with Zot hands down.  I believe that she has had her sense of humour surgically removed.

In the pub tales were filtering back of the Craven members' outrageous behaviour towards the Ingleborough slug population.  Last year they were competing in the amount of slugs that could be balanced on their heads - I believe that 27 was the winner - and at least the poor little chaps could slither away to enjoy whatever slugs get up to.  This year the Craven had begun to devour the cuddly little creatures between hunks of bread!  Apparently several have been reported seeking asylum in Kosovo. Wow - what seven or eight days on the fell does to people!

So, once again the trip was a great success and we all lived to tell various versions of the same tale - and that is a success in my book.

P.S. Thanks to Estelle for her excellent BB’s (ooh, er) and her editorship of the Belfry Bulletin (!)

A Bounced Czech! Tomas Svoboda e-mailed to say that he is home in the Czech Republic due to a sprained ankle received after jumping down the first waterfall in Claonaite, Sutherland.  He is hoping to arrange a two-week trip back to Mendip, S.Wales and Yorkshire next year along with his fellow club members. He sends his regards to all, especially Roger Haskett, J.Rat, Mike Wilson, Jim Smart, Keith Savory Gary Cullen, Joel Corrigan and little John (who he?).  His Internet address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rich Long and Zot's adventures continue next issue -Ed


Stock's House Shaft - Part the Third

By Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series of articles from BB’s nos. 502 and 504.

Ten digging trips during the last two weeks of August '99 saw the Shaft bottom and all four levels being further cleared of tailings and 526 loads of spoil reaching the surface. On one memorable occasion Mike Willett winched up 183 in one session!  Lots of new diggers were recruited and others assisted in a variety of ways.  A rough survey was done by the ex -Camborne School of Mines contingent to establish the position of the downstream choke - named by Trevor "the Rat Trap". Here the fridge¬ sized boulder which had slid onto AJ was demolished after four shot holes packed with cord were fired over two trips.  Revenge is sweet.

The smaller choke some 25ft along the Upstream Level was cleared to allow AJ access to an apparently natural aven some 15ft high with the choked level continuing beyond.  (It would seem that all the open spaces above the level have been formed by relatively recent collapse along natural rifts or joints due to the failure of the Old Men’s stemples.  These obviously did a magnificent job when first installed but time has caught up with them!)

The whole of the Shaft bottom was gradually excavated and Jake Baynes was inspired to dig the tiny stream inlet adjacent to the Upstream Level.  This turned out to be yet another (short) choked level in a calcite vein with a boulder choke above.  After some careful but exciting digging this was passed to reach a 15ft high by 15-20ft long collapse chamber.  A couple of possible ways on were dug at a later date - see below.  Jake's earlier fervid rantings about an imaginary lost cavern called the "Treasury of Aeops" gave it its name! (Sad in one so young .... )

September started well with 200 loads hauled out in the first eight days and lots of press-ganged new diggers.  The Rat Trap choke was banged several times and on the 6th September some "brown trouser" inducing work with a long crowbar saw the whole lot collapse with a mighty roar!  It was then possible to look up into a large, c.20ft high chamber and not the expected collapsed shaft. One more bang was fired to clear the access point.  A Wessex team took photos of the mine for use in a Mendip digging talk at this year's B.C.R.A. Conference.

Due to a constant trickle of water from the Upstream Level a foot deep pool now covered the floor of the Downstream Level making digging and hauling more unpleasant than usual.  This problem was solved on 7th September when RL and AJ took down a hand operated diaphragm pump and got it working on the first attempt (a miracle).  The ponded water was pumped forwards through the choke and into the level beyond. Further clearing of the boulders gained access to the 20ft high chamber but a lack of shot holes or other signs of previous visitation led to the conclusion that this wide rift was formed by yet another collapse of the walls of a natural joint into the Old Mens' level below.

The level beyond the choke was re-entered on 8th September after TH had been allowed to play with a 10lb sledgehammer for an hour or so.  Unfortunately he was slightly too big to pass the boulder squeeze beyond and had to be content with watching AJ ambling down the classic mine gallery ahead and admiring its single remaining stemple wedged across the passage while he counted the adjacent shot holes.  The point previously reached on 27th August was re-examined to find that the sink hole in the floor was merely a step down through banks of grey mud which partially block the level.  Tonight the draught was strong and blowing inwards and this, combined with the natural look of the passage ahead, shows great promise.

Between the 12th and 20th September there were seven more clearing trips with banging operations at the Rat Trap choke, the partial choke just beyond and the heap of large boulders in the Upstream Level aven.  Another 91 loads of spoil reached the surface and a vast amount more was stacked at the Shaft bottom.  On the 19th some dismay was suffered when two streams were found to be entering the mine from the Upstream Level and Treasury of Aeops, resulting in the Downstream Level being flooded to within a foot of the ceiling as far as the Rat Trap.  The debris pile here was lowered a foot or so and the stream gaily plunged forwards to the end of the level where it flowed onwards to the huge cave system, which doubtless lies beyond.  There was no sign of it backing up.

With no hope of the place drying out until next summer it was decided to take advantage of the high water to assist in spoil removal.  After failing to get a too large orange lifebelt (H.M.S. Defence) down the entrance pipes a 2' x 1'4" blue grot bin was successfully taken to the Downstream Level and tied to the centre of a 60ft rope.  Wet-suited diggers then shoved two full spoil bags/boulders inside and rammed on the lid.  Non-wet-suited diggers then towed the "Semi-submersible Skip" back upstream with considerably more ease than the dragging methods previously used. On the 22nd some 40 loads were shifted in an hour or so.  Even Trevor was impressed!  More clearing was done here on 29th with Paul Brock joining the team.

Two days later AJ, on a solo trip, dug in the floor of the Treasury of Aeops (continuing on from a previous dig by TH) to reveal the ongoing level below

This was followed upstream on hands and knees for 30ft to a collapsed shaft.  The stemples had rotted here to leave the stone ginging hanging wedged together with large boulders filling the shaft centre above.  A large stream poured down the shaft that had been flourescein tested to come from the flooded gully across the road.  This gully also feeds Five Buddles Sink. Further work here will require major shoring and ideally dry conditions.  It may be too close to the road for comfort but is still 20-30ft deep.

RL and AJ were back downstream on October 4th and after filling and dragging back many bags of mud they used these to form a temporary dam around a Cuthbert's type steel valve. The stream way could then be turned off at will to allow drier digging at the end.  When the valve was closed the sump at the end of the level rapidly drained with encouraging gurgling noises.

On the 6th a large team hauled out another 100 bags and dug at the end and the following day a second dam was constructed near the end of the Downstream Level by AJ and Jake (Johnson). This was made from a 6ft length of 6" diameter plastic drainage pipe with an adjustable pipe bung and was found to be more effective than the first dam, so much so that the steel valve was later replaced by another pipe and bung system.  Water levels had dropped slightly due to drier weather in the middle of October so a fair amount of digging was done at the end.  A grade 5 survey was also started which revealed that the downstream end is situated beneath the deep rake 75ft NE of the Shaft. The positions of the two upstream passages can be seen on the enclosed surface plan.  Both may lead to buried entrances across the road (HGV drivers take note!). Roger Stenner took water samples from these streams for analysis. The end of the Upstream Level was banged to reveal a 2ft long extension and miniscule sump!  It will be looked at again in dry weather as it may be diggable.

With the onset of winter and disappearance of light-fingered low life from the area it was time to install a powered winch.  Bob and Greg retrieved Alex Gee's "lawnmower" winch from the temporarily abandoned dig at Hallowe'en Rift and it was ensconced in its new home. By 27th October it had lifted 127 loads out - slower than man hauling but a lot easier.  The whole site was fenced off to stop tourists garrotting themselves on the cables.

On 25th October a third temporary dam was begun at the mouth of the Upstream Level utilising the steel valve and three days later a clay pipe bowl was discovered amongst spoil on the surface.  (Tentatively dated to c181O-more information to follow) Work from November onwards will be documented in the next BB article.

Left: Looking up the 50 foot entrance shaft.  Note the shot holes


The almost complete bowl of a clay pipe was providentially found on top of a surface spoil heap, having been partially cleaned of mud by recent rain.  It obviously came from underground but the exact location is unknown. Robin suggests that it is from 1865-1870 and further opinions will be sought on this.

Amongst the piles of crushed and rotten wood at the base of the Shaft was found a 350mm X 90mm X 178mm lump of timber with a wrought iron bracket-like attachment.  This is thought to be the top section of one of the "stillions" or windlass supports from the Shaft top.  (These are also called "stillings" or, in Derbyshire, "stows").  They were in general use from at least the 16th Century up to the 20th essentially unchanged - and can still be found on some wells.  There is a more modem, single example of one of these in a west Mendip ochre mine and the windlass from the stillions used on the miners 1880 Lamb Leer exploration is in Wells Museum (a photo of this in use can be found as plate 16 in H.E.Balch's "Mendip - Its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters" and on p.97 of "A Man Deep in Mendip").

"Two timbers a little longer than the shaft are placed beside it, the one in the front of the shaft, the other at the back.  Their extreme ends have holes through which stakes, pointed at the bottom like wedges, are driven deeply into the ground, so that the timbers may remain stationary. Into these timbers are mortised the ends of two cross-timbers, one laid on the right end of the shaft, while the other is far enough from the left end that between it and that end there remains suitable space for placing the ladders.  In the middle of the cross-timbers, posts are fixed and secured with iron keys.  In hollows at the top of these posts thick iron sockets hold the ends of the barrel, of which each end projects beyond the hollow of the post, and is mortised into the end of another piece of wood a foot and a half long, a palm wide and three digits thick; the other end of these pieces of wood is seven digits wide, and into each of them is fixed a round handle, likewise a foot and a half long. A winding-rope is wound around the barrel and fastened to it at the middle part.  The loop at each end of the rope has an iron hook which is engaged in the bale of a bucket, and so when the windlass revolves by being turned by the cranks, a loaded bucket is always being drawn out of the shaft and an empty one is being sent down into it.  Two robust men (or one Willet!) turn the windlass, each having a wheelbarrow near him, into which he unloads the bucket which is drawn up nearest to him; two buckets generally fill a wheelbarrow; therefore             when four buckets have been drawn up, each man runs his own wheelbarrow…..and empties it.  Thus it happens that if shafts are dug deep, a hillock arises around…the windlass. "

Geogius Agricola, De Re Metallica, 1556 (1912 translation)

In the sides of the solid level, just before the Rat Trap, the observant John Williams noticed a fine set of stemple hollows cut in the opposing walls.  These are identical to those noted by Willy Stanton in Grebe Swallet Mine, Charterhouse (Stanton 1991), who refers to them as "egg" and "slot" hollows, dating those he found to the 1750s.  The circular "egg" depression measures 50mm in diameter and is 25mm deep, the "slot" is 120mm high by 50mm wide and also 25mm deep.  A wooden stemple (in our case 755mm long) had its pointed end inserted in the "egg" and the other, squared off end was beaten down into the "slot".


Stanton experimented to find that a simple hollow could be battered into limestone in about five minutes. Those in Stock's House Shaft are in softer (?) Triassic conglomerate.  There are more of these in the downstream level beyond the Rat Trap.

Shotholes in the workings have been measured at c.20mm diameter and up to 300mm deep (long) compared to those found by Stanton in Grebe Swallet Mine which he measured at 23mm diameter with lengths of up to 480mm (Stanton 1983).  He also dated them to the late 18th century.  (Those interested in Mendip mining should read all of Stanton's exceptionally well researched papers on the subject).

ADDENDUM:-  The picture shows Trevor demonstrating some mid-air Morris steps to a confused Gwilym while Tangent entertains Simon with an obviously fascinating conversation (wow).  Above, Bob asks Toby where he should drop the full airsick bag and in the background J. Rat gets his revenge.


STANTON W.I. 1983 Shot holes Containing Lime in a Mendip Lead Mine.  Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, 16 (3),185-189

STANTON W.I. 1991 The Habitat and Origin of Lead Ore in Grebe Swallet Mine, Charterhouse-on-Mendip, Somerset. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, 19 (1), 43-65

AGRICOLA G. 1556 De Re Metallica (1912 translation, re-published 1950 and reprinted c.1980)

Additions to the Digging Team

Matt Head, David Blayshaw (Australia), Mark Smith (Macclesfield), Ryan Moor (CSMCC), Chris Morris (CSMCC), Phil Massey, Stuart "Mac" McManus, Dave "Wig" Irwin, Greg Brock (ESCC/BEC), Kevin Tomlinson (Essex Scouts C.C.), Jonathan Driscoll (E.S.C.C.), Paul Brock, Bob Lewis (Tone Valley C.C. - Doncaster), John Renner (T.V.C.C.), Paul Johnson (T.V.C.C.), Alex Livingstone, Anthony Marsh, David Loefler, Tom Chapman.

Additional Assistance

John Cornwell (Bristol Mining Archive), Peter Burr ( Germany and ex-ULSA), Mark Helmore, Dave Edge, Mike Holmes (W.C.C.), Roger Stenner, Alex Gee (unwittingly!), Tony Oldham, Jim Smart.

Research and article by A.R. Jarratt



Mendip Mines of Long Ago


Further material on mines in the Mendips was researched a while back and passed on with the editorship post.  This I am now printing as it bears relevance to Tony Jarratt's excellent article on Stocks house and many others previously published in this magazine.

Being extracts from the Agreeable Historian, or the Complete English TRAVELLER: by Samuel Simpson, GENT. from LONDON, printed by R. Walker, in Fleet Lane, 1746.

Now quitting Cheddar Rocks, again we rise
On Mendip Hills, and breathe serener skies

THEY are called in old records Moinedrop, from the many knolls or hilltops there, and the steepness of their ascents.  Leland calls them Minerary Hills.  They stretch out a great way, both in length and breadth, and are the most famous in Britain, both for lead and coals.  They were anciently a forest, till, as Bishop Godwin writes, they were disforested at a great expense, by Ralph de Shewsbury, Bishop of Bath and Wells. As for their lead mines, any Englishman may work in them who has not forfeited his right by stealing any of its ore.  The Grooviers (for so its miners are called, as the pits they sink are called grooves) living at some distance, leave their ore and tools; open all night upon the hills, or at least in a slight hut.  If any of them be found guilty of theft, he is shut up in a hut, which is surrounded with dry furze, fern, etc., and set on fire; when the criminal, who has his hands and feet at liberty, may therewith pull down the hut, and make his escape through the fire and begone; but he must never have more to do there.  And this they call burning the hill.

Those employed in melting the lead, if they work in the smoke, are subject to a disease that will kill them, as it does the cattle too that feed thereabouts; for which reason the owners set persons to keep them off.  And Dr. Beaumont writes that they who live near where the lead ore is washed, cannot keep either dog or cat, or any sort of fowl, but they all die in a short time; and that children some times in those houses have did suddenly.  When the miners have got the lead ore, they beat it small, wash it in a running stream, and sift it in iron rudders; then they set a hearth, or furnace, in the ground, made of clay or firestone, and on it put some young oaken Gads, which they light with charcoal, and blow with bellows that are worked by their feet.  When the fire-place is hot they throw the lead ore upon the wood, from whence it melts down into the furnace; and then, with an iron ladle they take it out and throw it upon sand where they cast it into what form they please.  The veins of some of the mines have been known to run into the roots of trees, which, neverthe¬less, look as well at the top as other trees.

The air here is moist, cold, foggy, thick, and heavy; the soil is red and stony, and the stones are either of the nature of firestones or lime¬stones with not the least of clay, marl, or chalk.  The trees near the mines have their tops burnt, and their leaves and bark dis¬colour'd and scorched, and grow to no bigness.  The stones that are washed by the brooks and springs are of a reddish colour, and ponderous.

Snow, frost, and dews stay upon Mendip longer than upon any of the neighbouring grounds, except near the mines, where snow and frost melt quickly; and thunderstorms, nocturnal lights, and fiery meteors are more frequent here than elsewhere.  Sometimes when a mine has been very near the surface, the grass has been yellow and discoloured.  Damps are seldom met with in these mines.  If in sinking, they come to a Moorish earth, they expect a jam, i.e., a black thick stone that hinders their work, and to be closed up with rocks.

Their grooves are supported by timber, a piece of which is no bigger than a man’s arm, will prop up ten tun of earth and last a long while.  For a supply of air they have air boxes exactly closed, of about six inches in the clear, by which they carry it down above twenty fathom.  They make use of leather bags of eight or nine gallons apiece to draw up by ropes to free the water, and if they finds a swallet, i.e., a quantity of water breaking in upon them, they drive an adit, or a new passage upon a level until it is dry.  When they can’t cut the rock they anneal it with a fire made of wood and coal, so contrived that they leave the mine before it begins to operate and take not to enter the groove again before it is quite clear of smoke, by which some have been killed.

Their beetles, axes, wedges, etc., unless so hardened as to make a deep impression upon the head of an anvil, are not fit for their use; and yet they sometimes break them in an hour, other last three or four days as it happens.  They work in frocks and waistcoats by light of candles of 14 to 15 to the pound that will last three or four hours if they have air enough, which if they want to keep in the candles the workmen can’t stay there.  A vein being lost, they drive two or three fathoms in the breast, as the nature of the earth directs them.  White, yellow, and mixed earth are the leaders to the country, as they term it; changeable colours always encourages their hopes.  They go sometimes 12 fathom deep before they meet with stones.  A black stone they reckon a bad sign and leads to a jam, the nearness of which they also guess at by short brittle clay.  They carry out their materials in elm buckets, which hold about a gallon and are drawn by ropes.  Their ladders are also of ropes.  The ore runs sometimes in a vein, at other times it is dispersed in banks and lies many times between rocks.  Some of it is harder and some softer.  There is spar and chalk about it and another substance they call crootes, a mealy white stone, marled with ore and soft.  The spar is white, transparent, and brittle like glass; the chalk is white and heavier than any stone.  The clearest and heaviest ore is the best, and 3,600 of such of ore may yield a tun of lead.  The hearth for melting the ore is about five foot high, set upon timber, to be turned as a windmill to avoid the inconvenience of smoak upon a shifting wind. It will hold half a bushel of ore and coal.  There’s a sink upon the sides of the hearth into which the lead runs, that holds about one hundred and half.  They have a bar to stir the fire, a shovel to throw it up and a ladle made red hot to cast out the melted metal, which, when formed into what the miners call sows and pigs, is conveyed to Bristol, and form thence exported elsewhere…… On the highest part of these hills, which is a flat of some length, there are several swamps, very troublesome and dangerous to man and horse; and in some places are grooves, into which drunken fellows sometimes fall.

As to the coal mines, of which there’s the greatest plenty with five miles of Stone-Aston, we shall make use of the words of the learned Dr. Beaumont, who was born there, lived amongst the Mendip Hills, and made such frequent visits to the dark worlds in the caverns of Mendip, that no man upon earth was better qualified to satisfy the curious with respect to these mines than he was.  About two miles to the S.E. of Stone Aston at a place nearly bordering on the Mendip Hills, begins a running of coal of several veins, which extends itself to the east for miles.  There is much working in this running, and fire damps continually happen there, so that many men of late years have been killed, many others maimed and a multitude burnt.  Some have been blown up at the mouth of the works.  The turn-beam which hangs over the shaft has been thrown off its frame by the force of the blast.  The middle and most easterly parts of this running are so very subject to these fiery damps that scarce a pit fails of them.  To prevent mischief, the colliers keep their air very quick and use no candles in their works but those of a single work, 60 or 70 to the pound, which, nevertheless give as great a light there as those of 10 or 12 to the pound do in other places; and they always put them behind them and never present them to the breast of the work.


Drawing photographed at the Charterhouse Centre – original believed to be in Weston Museum.


Caving in Burrington during the 1960's

I was living in Hengrove during the 1960's and was lucky enough to hang around with a reasonably adventurous group of people.  Transport was always a problem.  Basically all of us were on poor money; some of us were apprentices (including me). None of us could afford a car, so we cycled everywhere or thumbed lifts where possible!  One of our more bizarre stunts was to regularly race from the Bali Cafe in Union street Bristol (the IN place to be) to Piccadilly Circus in London starting when the cafe closed at midnight.  The idea being to get there by walking and thumbing lifts.  The last person to arrive would have to stand a round of beer in the White Lion pub at midday (in those days quite a dive).  My friend and myself never managed to arrive first but we used to run to the BRS depot in Bedminster and cajole drivers to take us as far as the infamous Golden Arrow cafe on the A4 in their clapped out lorries (quite an experience and mega uncomfortable!)

Back to the Combe!  We had very little money, but possessed a 1 inch to 1 mile ex army map of Somerset, a grotty cotton tent, and an American Army sleeping bag which my Uncle Bob had brought back from the Korean War.  We carried our rag tag camping kit in an old rucsac - the canvas and leather type.  One Friday night my pal Gary Moulder and 1 decided to thumb and walk to Burrington Combe and find the caves marked on the map.

By the way I still possess the aforementioned map (sadly I have mislaid my early Caving Log.)  We were forced to walk up the main Wells road as far as Whitchurch but just beyond the humpback bridge two men, who were going out drinking gave us a lift to Blagdon - which was rare luck in those days. Stopped for a beer in the Live and let Live (it's still there but much cleaner now) then walked the rest of the way to Burrington past the Cafe which in those days was just a grubby shed with dirty windows. Past the Rock of Ages and up towards Goatchurch, making camp on level ground partway up the valley near the stream. By now my shoulders were sore due to the pack straps rubbing and Gary had blisters on his heels.  Having brewed up I climbed into my luxurious sleeping bag while Gary, muttering about jammy buggers, rolled himself up in a grey blanket complete with blanket pins (Who remembers those?). Dawn arrived with a frost covering everything.  We cooked breakfast over the highly dangerous meths stove and drank our tea which was real leaf tea and sweetened tinned milk (I still have a soft spot for this kind of milk probably because it can be spread on bread and eaten while it drips down your arms).  Warning. My brother, a few months later tried to refill the same stove while it was still alight (hard to tell the difference in daylight ).  The pint bottle of meths erupted burning his hands, he dropped the bottle inside my tent and the lot burnt down in about 11 seconds flat.  Luckily we were outside trying to cook a meal.  All that was left was two charred tent poles, some metal eyelets, one half burnt guy rope and some partially burnt sleeping bags (they were probably damp which saved them.)

Back to the trip ... We caved in grots in those days - dirty old clothes and the lighting consisted of two old Raleigh cycle battery tubes with 3 U2 batteries in.  These were connected to cap lights by thin cable.  We were lucky to have 2 very battered Miners hats which a neighbour of mine had given us.  He was going to put them out for the dustman!!

Three spare U2 batteries in the combi jacket pocket and off we go.  Combat jackets had just arrived in the surplus stores due to the end of the Korean War.  They were very cheap and if you bought one with holes in which could easily be sewn up they were dirt cheap.  Gary said he knew the way to the cave so we walked up the streamway which was quite overgrown in those days looking for a cave on the left.  It took four attempts at climbing up the left hand bank before eventually we found the lower entrance.  Luckily we then walked up higher to find the main and what used to be a tourist entrance complete with some steps and a hand rail - now missing.  Pull on an old pair of trousers over the good ones, put on an old pullover tie light tube to belt with string, spare batteries in pocket and in we go.  What an adventure!  Reaching the bottom of the tourist bit we slid left into the cross passage and cautiously went right onto the end then ascended left and to our surprise emerged into daylight at the tradesman's entrance.  My first round trip!  Bloody Hell said Gary, have we tramped all this way just for that!  So we sat and had a fag (I smoked in those days).  While we were debating whether to go down again and risk getting lost in the huge labyrinth a man arrives with 2 young lads.  He is a youth leader from Bristol at the old Co-op Hall behind Redcliffe Church. Nice guy who kindly offers to show us the cave proper so we go underground again and discover the coal chute the maze the coffin lid water chamber etc.  On the way back down the valley he shows us Sidcot swallet and describes Reads Cavern.  We thanked him for the trip and brewed up at the tent then decided to walk to Reads Cavern on Saturday afternoon and locate it.  This proved to be a question of thrashing about in undergrowth until the stream way was located.  From then on it was simple to approach the rock wall and find the cave.  The main chamber was explored and a note was made of the passages leading off but we decided to explore it properly at a later date. Pottering back to camp we packed up and walked down the Combe to the main road.  As it was opening time we decided that the Plume at Rickford would do and then we would walk as far as we could that night.  Lo and behold! a van stopped and offered us a lift to Chew Magna. What a piece of luck!

So we ended up at the Crown at Chew - quite hard to find near the old Gas Works.  Wobbling out of there just before closing we walked through Chew Magna to the cricket ground and crashed out there in our respective bags - Gary still using his grey blanket with blanket pins.  The wall was an ideal place to sleep unobserved from the road. Woke up at dawn cold and damp brewed up tea with no milk.  It was common practise in those days when walking to liberate milk from doorsteps but only if there were more than two bottles as this implied that the occupants were probably stinking rich.  Sadly the milkman was late that day.  Nipping over the wall we tramped back to the Happy Landings on the Wells road in time for last orders midday.  Home Brewed or Simonds being the popular brews.

Having caught the Bug we returned many times to the Combe and eventually met Zot who took me on what was a big trip in those days down Swildon's via the 40 foot pitch to sump 1. On the way back I really struggled on the 40 trying to climb up in grots and a large waterlogged mohair sweater my wife Hilary had spent hours knitting.  This magnificent article of clothing unfortunately reached my knees -Zot was not impressed with my final feeble thrust to the top (because he had been standing in the dreaded hole soaking wet to his waist lifelining me. Still it was the beginning of a lengthy friendship and we have caved off and on for a long time now.

We had great fun in those days and some of us are still having fun now.  I hope that my modest meanders on Mendip have not proved too boring for all you tigers in the club.

PS. Meths stoves are still dangerous nowadays despite soothing noises from the manufacturers.



Mr. Wilson refers to past days within memory, but Robin's cartoon below needs some small explanation, so for all of you tigers who haven't read "Ten years Under the Earth" by Casteret, here is a small clarifying extract.

... Being hardened to cold water and to the negotiation of difficult underground passages, I did not hesitate to pursue the watercourse on its way under ground. Undressing completely (clothes hold water, catch on projections, and are hampering and dangerous in caves) I slid head first into the descending fissure which swallows the brook.


Past exploits of a (not very bold) caver

by your Ed.

Like many other people, my first experience of caving was at college, when 1 decided to try a taster course from one of the many sport and club activities on offer to freshers.  It was with some trepidation that I joined the hard men of Portsmouth Poly cave club and braved the journey over to the Cerberus SS cottage in East Mendip.  Along with a number of other students-long hair, old boiler suits and a pair of ex¬army boots from Sams we were shown the delights of caves such as Hillier's and Conning tower in the quarry, with a trip down Swildons Hole on the Sunday.

(See pic at end of article for definitive student wear).  My memories of the first few trips are vague, but 1 soon found myself caving with the likes of Rose, Price and others from the Poly.  It must have been 1968/9 and Eastwater was the cave to be in.  I think I did a large number of trips into the cave but cannot ever remember my way through the boulder ruckle.  I clearly recall sliding across the traverse with an old NiFe cell strapped to my waist, pursuing some incredibly slim and lithe leader who seemed to vanish into a hole. Who he was I do not recall.  My caving continued for by now I had got the bug, bought a lead acid Oldham and risen to the heights of equipment officer.  This largely involved getting your fingers all soft and gooey as you checked the alkaline cells and neutralising them when you serviced the Oldham.  It was better this way round!  I had also purchased at great (student) expense, a plan and neoprene sheet and glue to make my own wet suit.  With a fellow student, Paul Buckley (where is he now, I wonder?) we put together two suits and bootees.  I chose Paul because he was the same size as me and we could measure the cut but unglued sheets alongside each other.  I upset the landlord of my digs here, not because of the glue on the carpet but more because it had a back panel shape cut out of it where the Stanley knife bit through the neoprene and into the carpet below.  (Actually he didn't discover it for quite some while). Having constructed two grand suits, it seemed that caving took on a new (warm) dimension.  I recollect quite clearly my first time going down through sump one in Swildons.  Standard wear apart from the articles mentioned earlier was a pair of old jeans and a woolly sweater.  The trip out (and in for that matter) involved balancing on ledges above the streamway and the water at the junction above the well was always knee deep at least. The old 40 had gone just before I "arrived on the scene" so I have no recall of that but I spent at least thirty minutes at the twenty pushing a motley collection of people up the ladder.  The way out was always via the letterbox and then the zig-zags - which I was usually quite glad to see.  Although I never really suffered from a right soaking and chilling, the new wetsuit was a marvel.  My status in the club reached dizzy heights now for with a few Swildons trips logged I was now a "leader".  This largely consisted of taking the best looking birds down the streamway until they began to quake and then assisting them out with appropriate après cave gratitude and pints in the Hunters Lodge.  Yes, I had discovered the dread drink and really went to town caving weekends with Rogers roughest cider, which was about all I could afford (I drank too much).  Memories of the pub come over very strongly on the side of masses of singing and getting pissed on 8 pints of beer for a quid.  We were still resident at the decrepit Cerberus hut and it was now winter. A dreadful "genny" supplied the light in those far off days.  One of the first jobs on arrival at the hut was to set about the "genny" with spanners, bits of pipe and so on in an attempt to make the bugger start.  It usually took to its task once the carb had been stripped down, the plug warmed in the fire or someone's car.  It was started (laugh) on petrol and you had a two way or was it three way tap to change it to paraffin.  Often a "new boy" would be set the task of subduing the genny and they would spend hours trying to start it on paraffin.  It certainly warmed you up pulling the cord which ALWAYS broke and skinned your knuckles on the shed door.  Two particular experts were Trevor? (now deceased) and Tony - he was the lithe thin one.  Another great expert caver, raconteur and drinker was Tony Powell, whose father owned a pub in Portsmouth (the Volunteer?).  Perhaps someone reading this will know him.  The other way of staying warm was to gather wood locally and get the f**cking awful useless stove to light and bum.  This produced much smoke.  Had it produced even equal amounts of smoke and heat it would have been bearable, but no. Finding the axe and chopping wood was one of the other first jobs you did.  There was also trying to get the water to work but I am vague here.  Our nearest non driving pub was the Jubilee Inn - called something else then and now.  Coming home quite pissed and wobbly with a few other reprobates one afternoon and finding the stove OUT (a great sin) I recall someone took a swipe at the bloody thing with the axe.  This bounced off the stove and bit a large hole in the back wall.  On trying to remove the axe - pissed and with the usual precision of the drunkard - the bit of wood panelling got ripped out to reveal a very old, dirty but highly serviceable range which was lurking behind the panel.  Someone cleaned it up and we never saw the old stove again.  I believe I may have a photograph of same.


     Note interest in fire- desperately lacking in old one! Ed.

Back to the caving. There was always someone attempting to push a tiny slit of an entrance called St. Dunstan's Well cave, although I can comment with hindsight that even then when I was a bit slimmer could never have got into it.  I needed bigger caves.  Since they were so local, I delighted in the quarry caves.  Shatter was absolutely stunning and I suspect that it is due another trip by me soon now access has been re¬granted.  Although strictly forbidden for some unknown reason, I still have somewhere a set of slides of this very beautiful cave.  The originals were lent to someone.

There was one particular incident that I remember well-very lucky at the time.  I was down Swildons with two or three others on a trip to the Black Hole.  The water was quite high and necessitated care at the lavatory pan.  I was wearing my new wet suit so didn't mind being the bung for a while.  I passed through a ladder and two ammo boxes then moved on to negotiate the quite tricky duck that it was.  Forging forward on the held back water I was rammed through the hole and firmly wedged under water in the streamway.  My companions were a little way on and didn't immediately see my plight.  Finding myself under water wasn't too much of a problem for I was an excellent swimmer but the wedgedness of my situation demanded action which I performed in the way of actually twisting myself out of the vice like grip of the rocks.  In doing so I severely damaged my sacro iliac joint (where the back joins the pelvis I think) and widened the cave slightly.  At the time it didn't hurt and my companions helped me up and asked how I was.  I said OK and carried on.  A few minutes later, I asked them if they wouldn't mind stopping as I needed to empty the water out of my boots and proceeded to unlace one boot. Very wisely they both realised the gravity of the possible situation and helped me out back to the entrance via the short dry way.  On reaching the surface it took me nearly half an hour to walk across the fields doubled up with pain.  An evening of blurred liquid painkiller followed.  On getting back to Pompey, the doctor declared all was well and gave me pain killers which I was on for 6 months.  I only discovered the extent of my injury some 15 years later when it seriously flared up again.  It nags a bit now and then but what should I expect?  Daft bloody caver!!  I hope to bore you with more reminders of the past next time.  By the way, we used to get the key for the cottage from a Brian Prewer, I wonder if he is still around?!

      A trip down Eastwater sometime in the late 60's



An overview by Dave Irwin

It has been sometime since anyone has published a review of the lost caves of Mendip - that is, in my definition, sites that have been recorded in the past but whose location is now unknown.  Some sites are well known because of their inclusion in the commonly used references such as guide books, but others are new to caving publications, details of them only recently coming to light as a result of researching early documents and publications.  It is worth noting that records relating to some of these sites deserve a more detailed examination in the hope that the odd fact might just give that lead necessary to 'home in' on the entrance location.

There has been surprisingly little written on the subject, most seemingly contented to accept what has been published, mainly writings associated with Balch.  The only other person to write on the subject was Howard Kenney of the WCC. (note 1) His coverage of the topic was superficial and fearing to upset Balch failed to analyse the topic any further than that taken by him.  John Beaumont in his letters to the Royal Society during 1676 and 1681 said that he knew of many caves, excepting Wookey Hole, on Mendip but the largest of them all was to be found on Lamb Hill. (note 2)

Our Miners in digging daily meet with these Caverns, which are of different widenesses, some of them being very large, but the most considerable Vault I have known on Mendipp hills is on the most Northerly part of them, in a hill call'd Lamb, lying above the Parish of Harptry ...

Only five of the lost caves are truly legendary: Maskall's Wood Cave which is said to lie in the wooded area between Cheddar and Draycott; Elborough Cave near Banwell, Rickford Lost Cave and the lost caves in Burrington Combe and Ebbor Gorge.  As far as I am aware there is no written evidence that these legendary caves ever existed, only reports based on local 'hearsay'.

Tales, which are related to the 'shaggy dog' stories that suggest that Cheddar caves are connected to Wookey Hole, or Ebbor Gorge to Wookey Hole, are not discussed in this article.

When the author commenced this paper it was thought that there were a dozen or so sites that came within the definition set above - however, surprise, surprise the number almost trebled!

Burrington Combe and neighbourhood

Blagdon Fissure

A bone fissure excavated in 1872 and located (note 3)

‘ ... near the top of Blackdown ridge, above the village of Blagdon .... '

Miners, searching for iron ore, accidentally broke into the fissure at a depth of 40ft.  Pleistocene bones were removed from the site but the entrance has since become blocked and its exact location is now unknown.  E.K. Tratman of the UBSS searched for it but was unsuccessful. (note 4)  Shaw suggests that it may be one of the fissures in Swancombe Wood and Morecombe Wood. (note 5)  References to the archaeological finds are given in the UBSS Proceedings for 1953-54, 1964 and 1988. (note 6,7,8)  The site is also mentioned in BSA Caves and Caving. (note 9)

Burrington Hole

Previously listed as an unidentified BEC dig during 1945 - 1946.  Now shown to be Lionel's Hole, Burrington Combe.

Snogging Pot

The earliest reference to this site may be an entry in the BEC log for the 31 st March 1946  (note 10) and was simply recorded by R.A. Crocker as 'Burrington Hole 2'.  At this time Crocker, D. Howell and Chas Lloyd made' ... a strenuous attempt on the large boulder blocking the way ahead .... '  The only other reference to this site is to be found in the same caving logbook and the visit dated 11th May 1946.  Don Coase made the following entry:

A trip to Swancombe  (note 11) for survey followed by a [?] to Burrington.  Snogging Pot was examined also the U.B.S.S. Dig.  D.A. Coase & THS examined entrance to East Twin Swallet. ...

UBSS Burrington digs at this time were scattered around the Burrington and Charterhouse area.  They included Bath Swallet and Plumley's Hole so little help from the location of these sites.  A further dig was made later in the summer.  The log entry by Don Coase is headed 'Burrington Hole, Snogging Pot, Sidcot Swallet & the Tunnel in W. Twin Valley.  Sun. 18th Aug 46' .

... The Snogging Hole was inspected.  Hasell getting stuck & after various manoeuvres he retreated. Coase & Pain went down & came straight out with emphatic ideas of what to do with the 'ole ....

Harry Stanbury, the founder member of the BEC in 1935, is sure that Snogging Hole was named after H.S. 'Snogger' Hawkins, a post-war club member who was known to be a misogynist!

Guy Hole

An unpublished manuscript housed in the county archives at Taunton by John Strachey, c.1736, tells of a cave lying below the fortifications at Dolebury near Burrington Combe.  He wrote: (note 12)

... under this fortification is an hole or Cave called Guy Hole, altogether as remarkable as that at Woky but the former being near a City & this remote from any place of Entertainment is not often visited by Travellers ...

A discussion, with extracts of Strachey's work, was published in 1987 and shows that Guy Hole was known to him as early as c.1720. (note 13)  It is difficult to place this site but in the view of the author it is likely to be Goatchurch, for it lies below the Dolebury fortification, i.e. at a lower level, and travelling up the West Twin Brook valley would have been the most direct approach to Dolebury itself.  Further it was compared with that of Wookey - and not unfairly for the entrance passage with its stalagmite deposits and the immediate lower chambers which would appear quite large in poor light.  No other record of this cave has been found.

Further, Williams, in his discussion relating to the this site, and another known to Strachey as Goechurch, came to the conclusion that both names were alternatives for the same site, that which is known today as Goatchurch Cavern.

Dolebury Cavern

There was extensive mining activity on and around Dolebury; several mining sites and shafts may be seen close to the hillfort.  In 1830 the Reverend John Skinner recorded in his extensive diaries (note 14) details of a lead mine adit at Dolebury.  This site may subsequently have been called Dolebury Cavern.  Today the mined tunnel, half way up the valley from Rowberrow, is known as Dolebury Levvy.

Knight in Heart of Mendip records a deep mine shaft midway from the fort to the eastern end of the hill which he thinks was opened up for lead. (note 15)  He also outlined the horizontal gallery driven during the period 1829-1831 and infers that at the time of writing (1915) the entrance to it was blocked.  This is probably the same site referred to by Skinner, i.e. Dolebury Levvy.

A tiny cave was found, c.1975, on the hillside above the adit, whose very small entrance had been walled up.  This was explored by Chris Richards and the writer.  The total length of this site is barely 50ft and the floor is covered with thermoclastic scree.

Lost Cave of Churchill

There have been rumours of a lost cave at Churchill but the writer can find no evidence that such a cave existed, excepting those that lie on Dolebury itself.  There is a 20-30ft long cave in a little quarry at the rear of the houses that line the edge of the A38 at the Churchill cross- roads. This is known as Churchill Cave. (note 16) A small cave, whose entrance was once closed by an iron gate, was mined for brown ochre and pyrites about 1865. (note 17)

Lost cave of Burrington - 1: the 'famous' one!

The 'lost' cave of Burrington is a superb example of researchers relying solely on secondary sources thus perpetuating the errors.  However, Boon and Donovan, carried out independent research and arrived at the same conclusion.  The standard references commonly used for information relating to early cave discoveries are Balch and Knight.  In the case of the Burrington 'lost' cave these authors used Rutter as their principal source.  Several cavers have written about the lost caves of Mendip, notably C. Howard Kenney, in the 1950’s but most seemed to have spent more time in the field rather than inspecting the written evidence which changes the picture dramatically.

Rutter outlined the discovery of Aveline's Hole and then makes the, now well-known, statement: (note 18)

... About half a mile distant another of these curious places of sepulture was discovered, which was calculated to contain not less than one hundred skeletons; and higher up the Combe, not far from Goatchurch, is


but little known.  Its entrance on the side of the hill is small...

If one reads this note carefully it becomes clear that Rutter is not inferring that the other burial site is higher up the combe as assumed by Balch and others.  He is simply changing his subject matter and point of reference to another part of the combe called Goatchurch and the cave entrance that exists there - today known as Goatchurch Cavern.  Note the all important semicolon that divides the topics.

During their researches, Boon and Donovan located a copy of Seyer's Memoirs of Bristol  (note 19) which included an account of the discovery of Aveline's Hole and a reference to the source material is given.  The result of their research is reported in the 1954 UBSS Proceedings. (note 20)  An independent search for the 'lost cave' was carried out by Lennon of the Wessex CC and he arrived at the same conclusion quite unaware that the answer had been found some eight years previously. (note 21)

Lost cave of Burrington - 2: Axe-head Cave  (note 22)

Shortly after the discovery of Aveline's Hole in 1797, (note 23) not 1795 as stated below and in a number of other publications, (note 24) a second site some 50 yards away was explored and a bronze axe-head was found on one of the side ledges.  Reference to this site, now lost, was given in Mr. Urban's column  (note 25) in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1805. (note 26)

The instrument was found in a natural cavern, 28 feet below the surface, on a ledge in the rock at Burrington Coomb [sic], in Somersetshire, about five miles from Stanton Drew.

Within 50 yards of it, in 1795, was found in another cavern, 80 feet deep, an ancient catacomb or interment of the dead, consisting of near 50 perfect skeletons lying parallel to each other, some of whose bones were petrified.

It is of Corinthian brass, and weighs full 8 1/7 times its bulk in water, and I apprehend was an interment of war.

Yours, &tc. H.W.

This reference is of particular interest in two ways.  It records an unknown cave site and illustrates an important bronze tool. Who found this and where the instrument is currently stored is unknown.  The location of the cave clearly indicates it not being Aveline's Hole or Fairy Toot but another site that was probably located in the zones of the two quarries that were worked either side of the promontory in which Aveline's Hole is located.  One wonders why Aveline's was not quarried away - possibly a requirement placed upon it by the landowners of the day, Whalley and, later, Somers.  There are fragment caves in the immediate area such as Pseudo Aveline's - a small vertical feature at the top of the quarry face immediately east of Aveline's Hole entrance.  It is highly unlikely that Pseudo Aveline's is the 'lost' site as cave explorers of this period would not have penetrated such a small feature; their principal use of caves was for the purpose of discovering bone material which might be associated with the Diluvian ideas of the late 18th century. Further, it is not Plumley's Hole for this cave was not opened up until December 1874.

Lost cave of Burrington - 3: Mystery Cavern

In 1948 H.S. Hawkins published an extraordinary article on a new 'lost' cave of Burrington. (note 27)  Entitled 'New Mystery Cavern in Burrington Combe, Somerset', Hawkins claimed to have unearthed a previously unrecorded site, the details of which were embedded in a paper published by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1864.  The paper was written by William Boyd Dawkins entitled 'On the Caverns of Burrington Combe' (note 28) and in it Dawkins described the work carried out by W. Ayshford Sanford and himself at four Burrington caves, namely, Aveline's Hole, Foxes Hole, (note 29) Goatchurch Cavern, and Whitcombe's Hole. (note 30)  Hawkins wrote two papers dealing with the 'mysterious' elements of west Mendip caving and patently did not know that there were two Plumley caves in Burrington Combe. The upper, Foxes Hole [Plumley's Den] and the lower site, Plumley's Hole - the cave where poor Joseph Plumley met his untimely end. (note 31 32)

Hawkins failure to realise that there were two caves named Plumley created his illusion of a lost site and so his argument that Dawkins had used the name Plumley's Den, in error, for the upper cave which he, Hawkins, knew as Foxes Hole falls apart at the seams.  He further argued that Dawkins and Sanford's Plumley's Den could not be Foxes Hole for the latter had three chambers, whereas the site described in the SANHS paper had only two. There is a low extension off to the left of the first chamber, which undoubtedly Hawkins classifies as the third chamber. However, the Dawkins survey is an elevation, which shows the chambers in which he had excavated.

Lost cave of Burrington - 4

To the south (left) of The Link, leading to the Plain, lies a shallow valley.  In it a cave was said to have been opened and filled almost immediately.  It is thought that the information relating to the site came from the late E.K. Tratman. No other details are known.

Lost cave of Burrington - 5

In his well-known ' Swallet Caves ... " Balch in his delightfully vague manner discusses the probability that the famous lost cave of Burrington was not in the Combe but in the valleys.  However, his final thoughts on the matter related to a thirty foot deep hole - but is described without any definite point of reference.  However a clue is gained from the preceding paragraph where he explains that the lost cave of Burrington might be located in the Twin Brook valleys.  Balch wrote: (note 33,34)

There is a hole, however, on the other side of the Combe, in solid rock, with evidence of much wear by passing of feet, which might expand below its present depth of 30 ft., if some clearing were undertaken ....

If this assumption is right and that the 30ft deep cave is on 'the other side' then the hole could be one of two mined shafts  (note 35) that can be located east of Foxes Hole: Toad's Hole and Lizard Hole.  Both of these are 'opposite' the East Twin Brook valley. J. Harry Savory, in 1911, also refers to a site opposite Ellick Wood. (note 36)

It is three quarters way up cliff opposite Ellick Wood just above S curve above E. Brooklet.  It shows a bush of yew and some bare rocks from the road.  After zigzagging up to it over loose surface scree we found it to be a vertical drop slightly inclining in to the cliff, avo 5-6 ft diameter all the way down, silted up at the bottom, resembles Plumley's Den but larger, 30 ft deep shown by reflected sunlight, shows promise of further galleries from one or two recesses now choked, a little work might clear these ....

One wonders whether Balch had the details of this site from Savory - the descriptions are too close for comfort!

Lost caves of Burrington - 6: Boyd Dawkins' Hole

J. Harry Savory noted the following in his diary -  (note 37)

Balch had told me of Boyd Dawkins' hole on opposite side of W. Brooklet to Goat-church.  We looked for this and found a promising crack among loose boulders and in the nettles 15 ft above foot of path leading to Goatchurch, could see but a few feet in here and there, imperfectly examined by B.D., might get in by excavation. Took photo but it wants a distant one taken with morning light from other side of stream.  We then took immediately below this the swallet at present acting for W. Brooklet.  When this cannot take all, there are one or two subsidiary swallets further down W. Brooklet gorge.  We took higher road to Morgan's and had tea.  We were looking for Squire's Well and M [Morgan] reported this to be beyond lake at Rickford, but we could only find a dry trough, which takes drainage of wood on W. of Blagdon Combe.  Still to do swallets behind Mendip Lodge Wood and Squire's Well.  Found no other signs of caves.

In all probability this was the jumble of boulders that now mark the entrance to Sidcot Swallet.  The path to Goatchurch gently ascends from a point on the east side of the valley today cavers generally take the 'direct' route further up-valley.  A photograph, taken by Ralph Reynolds in 1925, clearly shows the Sidcot site before excavation began. (note 38)

Rickford Lost Cave

A cave has been rumoured to have been open in the area.  No other details are known.  It is possible that the site is one of those recorded near Blagdon.

Swancombe Hollow Dig [Hole] (note 39)

Active diggers of the BEC were working at a small site in Swancombe Hollow, near Blagdon.  Members, including the late Dan Hasell worked at the site on 22 December 1945, 10th February and 11th May 1946.  A survey was made on the latter date but this has not been located; the exact spot of the entrance is unknown.

The area was extensively mined and a number of sites have been recorded by Stanton  (note 40) including Swancombe Hollow Hole - it could be this site and may also be the lost cave of Rickford.

Central Mendip

Cheddar Hole

The first note of a cave on Mendip is to be found in the many versions of the book Historia Anglorum by Henry of Huntingdon who wrote his work, in Latin, about 1135. (note 41, 42) The famous description of the cave at Cheddar occurs in the section dealing with the four wonders of England; Cheddar Hole is listed considered the third wonder

Tertium est apud Chederhole; ubi cavitas est sub terra, quam cum multi saepe ingressi sint, et ibi magna spatia terrae et jlumina pertransierint, nunquam tamen ad finem evenire potuerunt.

The English translation reads:

….The third is at Chedder-hole, where there is a cavern which many people have entered, and have traversed a great distance under ground, crossing subterraneous streams, without finding any end of the cavern ...

Recorded as 'Chedre Hole'  (note 43) in the Domesday Book it is also the 12th century name of the modem village of Cheddar.  The earliest reference to this site in caving literature was in Balch's 1935 Cheddar book (note 44) and since that time it has become known as the 'Lost Cave of Cheddar' - a purely 20th century invention.  There are no caves in the Cheddar area that fulfil the 12th century description and, though there is a sizeable stream flowing from the risings near Gough's Cave it is quite impossible to follow any stream underground, except by diving the underground river at Gough's Cave, this having been first explored in the mid-1980s.  It is most unlikely that Henry actually visited the area, let alone the cave but gained his information from an earlier unknown source or by word of mouth.

There are many interpretations of his writing, but two of them are worth mentioning.  Willie Stanton suggests that the description given may have referred to the Cheddar Gorge.  Before the Enclosure Act in the 1790s the gorge would have been so overgrown and full of scrub that it could have been quite dark and cave-like before goats and sheep were allowed to roam freely removing most of the vegetation. Jim Hanwell, on the other hand, has suggested that building of the waterfall by the hotel, at the time of it being a grist mill, has artificially raised the stream floor between it and the risings by some 10ft or more.  If the stream were lowered to its original level access to some of the river passages in Gough's Cave may well be gained.  However, these explanations are really 'shootin' from the hip' without any serious investigation of the historical evidence.

The Wonders as written by Henry, were plagiarised / copied into many other manuscripts of the 12th - 14th centuries.  These include the 40-odd copies of Historia Anglorum, now in the British Library, and also in a miscellaneous collection of manuscripts collectively known as the 'Wonders of Britain'.  These were written at various dates mostly in Latin, but some were also written in Norman French and Welsh all of which include details of the Four Wonders including the Chedre Hole reference. Shaw has summarised these documents in Mendip Bibliography Part II. (note 45) Polychronicon (Many Chronicles) by Ranulph Higdon (1327) was copied / published in a number of editions.  The first English translation of Higdon (1480) by John Trevisa was the earliest printed reference to an English cave. (note 46) 

The final reference to list the Wonders is to be found in William Harrison's  (note 47) contribution to Raphael Holinshed's The First and Second [and Third] Volumes of Chronicles, 1577.  The Wonders were not repeated again in any topographical book of the 17th-19th centuries; excepting of course 19th-20th century reprints. Why did such a famed site become lost to local memory, let alone its claimed national importance, so suddenly? During the course of the 16th-18th centuries many travellers kept private diaries of their tours of the country - very few of these had any contemporary influence upon other travellers as their notes were not published until much later, generally during the 19th century.  Significantly none of the travellers who had visited Cheddar and its Gorge make any mention, let alone describe, the Wonder cave'.  Further, the earliest note of caves having been explored in Cheddar Gorge is to be found in the letters to the Royal Society by John Beaumont in 1676 and 1681. Possibly earlier than Beaumont, John Aubrey of Chippenham described and prepared a map of Long Hole, c.1670. (note 48)

(note 49) In the early editions of Camden's Britannia, first published in 1586, there is no mention of any caves at Cheddar or in the gorge.

Coincidentally as the demise of Henry's cave came about an increase in the available information relating to Wookey Hole is to be found.  William of Worcester  (note 50) visited the cave in 1478 and outlines the cave features and that guides were available.  The names of the three principle chambers are as we know them today; permission to enter the cave though had to be obtained from 'Mr. Porter', an upright stone at the cave entrance!  The fact that the cave appears to have been a place of tourist interest for some time and that it had in the 'dark ages' been used as a place of sacrifice and burial would imply that the cave was well rooted in local memory and that its fame had spread far and wide before William made his visit at the end of the 15th century. All of the diaries and topographical books of the 17th and 18th centuries relating to Somerset have a description or at least a mention of Wookey Hole (in all its various 'ancient' spellings).  I have long held the view that it is more likely that Henry was referring to Wookey Hole, a mere five miles away and that a cave in Cheddar Gorge does not exist.  The large wide passages and river would fit his note that many:

... have traversed a great distance under ground, crossing subterraneous streams, without finding any end of the cavern ...

Further, Henry admits that many visitors had visited this site prior to the production of his book for he says:

... there is a cavern which many people have entered ...

Henry does not mention Wookey Hole at all in his manuscript,

Daccot's Hole

Alexander Catcott, 1725-1779, a Bristol vicar in his later years, amateur geologist and brother of George Symes Catcott of Pen Park Hole fame, made a lifelong study of geology and in particular the formation of caves.  He recognised that the caves had been formed by water action and concluded that they were formed during the rising and draining of the waters of the great flood of Noah.  Catcott was a supporter of the Diluvian ideas, outlined by Hutchinson, and he summarised his field work studies in his book, more so in the 2nd edition that was published in 1768. (note 51)

Catcott had spent much of his time wandering the Mendip Hills and explored the, then, newly discovered caves in the Bleadon and Hutton ochre mining area, fully describing them in his Diary of tours. (note 52)  On the 10th August, 1756 he, accompanied by Mr. Gore of Charterhouse  (note 53) visited Blackdown after which he wrote a long description of the hill, (note 54) the valleys descending into Burrington Combe and the mining area then known as Pits Close, today best known to cavers as Groffy Field.  In August 1757 he revisited the area with a ' stranger' to show him the wonders of Cheddar Gorge and the local hills.  On this occasion he met a miner by the name of Will Hares who was at that time digging for ore in the caves that had been opened at Pits Close. The cave was briefly described stating that water was met with and that the caves' depth was about 40 fathoms (240ft). Catcott wrote:

…. One Will Hares told me that he was digging for ore in Daccot's Hole in Charterhouse Mineries .. , he came to a spring of water, in which they threw all the rubble, which so muddied the spring at Cheddar, that it could not be used ...

Of the three caves known in Gruffy Field could Daccot's Hole be one them?  Both G.B. Cave and Charterhouse Cave show signs of being worked by these miners.

Dick Turpin's Cave

A fabled cave said to exist on Shute Shelve.  A friend of John Chapman's father, named Faulkner, living at Axbridge, remembered when as a child playing in a cave (c.1900) which they knew as Dick Turpin's Cave. Its exact location is unknown.

Green Ore Cave

The single reference to this cave is in a travel guidebook first published in 1856. (note 55)  The cave is mentioned in passing and is said to exist on Green Ore Farm.  In the vicinity of the farm a number of mineshafts have opened up and have been recorded from time to time; all are now effectively capped.  The lost site may well have been one of these.

Lost cave of Axbridge

Miners recall that in the 1920s a cave was opened with a chamber as large as Axbridge Square. Members of the ACG accompanied one of the old men in order to locate the cave.  This resulted in the opening of Triple-H Cave in 1952 and Large Chamber Cave in 1954; both of these sites were shown not to be the site of the lost cave.  However, in 1992, the ACG systematically searched Shute Shelve for any possible sign of the lost cave.  One particular site, at the base of an old ochre working gave good results leading to a cave with large chambers and signs of the 'old man' - Shute Shelve Cavern.  This discovery is now assumed to be the lost cave.

Maskall's Wood Cave

A rumoured cave said to exist in Maskall's Wood [ST/470.537], east of Cheddar.  No written evidence has been traced of this site.

Priddy Lead Works Shaft

During the August Bank Holiday week, 1944, members of the UBSS commenced digging at Plantation Swallet. Though they achieved little they managed to investigate another site - its location was not recorded.  The log entry for the 7th August, 1944 contains the following note:

… The shaft opposite the old mine workings was also examined and found unpromising ....

Can anyone offer any information?

Rift Cave, Compton Martin

A general account of the 1921 UBSS Christmas holiday activities, appeared in the Wells Journal for the 12th January 1922. (note 56)  Twelve members were present and on one occasion they went on a cycle ride visiting a number of cave sites including inspection of Lamb Leer Cavern entrance, which was then in a poor state and was blocked.  Embedded in this account is a visit to a quarry owned by a Mr. Bath at Compton Martin where a number of holes had been exposed.  One of these emitted the sound of a running stream.  It would appear that the UBSS worked at this site for the next five years, how frequently and what results were obtained is unknown for their logbook covering this period was destroyed in the Bristol blitz early in the Second World War.  It can reasonably be supposed that not very much was achieved for no mention of the site was made in the Field Work notes that appeared regularly in the UBSS Proceedings during this period.  The only reference to establish the fact that members of the Society actually worked at the site is recorded in their Logbook Volume 4 1927. (note 57)  Which quarry is unknown but it is likely to be one of the group to be found at the lower reaches of Compton Combe on its western fringe.  The writer is carrying out further research.

Rowpits and Small Pits

In the forested area of Stockhill lies the Chewton Rabbit Warren.  This area was extensively mined for lead in the 16th and 17th centuries. Between 1657 and 1674 Thomas Bushell sunk up to 20 shafts in the area but regular flooding severely hampered work. In order to drain the water, an adit level was driven out from a natural passage at the depth of 120ft.  Currently, the BEC have opened a site on what Stanton thinks is the lower edge of the working area in the hope of entering this lost swallet.  A report of the current situation has been published. (note 58, 59) (see also the recent series of articles on Stock House Shaft in BB’s. Much of this is natural cave enlarged by the Old Man -A. Jarratt)

Site near St. Cuthbert's Lead Works found and closed by miners, c.1900

C. Howard Kenney in his article on the lost caves of Mendip written in 1953 suggests that a cave had been found by the miners at about the time they had excavated Plantation Swallet around 1900. He wrote:

... It seems that the miners at the old Priddy Lead Works discovered a cave or chamber, but owing to the lawsuit Nicholas v. Ennor, (note 60) restraining the miners from polluting the Axe at Wookey Hole, they were anxious that its discovery should not be known. and they hastily concealed it. ...

Kenney's source material came from Balch's Swallet Caves of Mendip  (note 61) and there we find that the location of the site is fairly well described.

The miners had regular problems of flooding in the floor of what is now known as St. Cuthbert's Depression. About 1900 they opened up Plantation Swallet but failing to excavate a successful drainage path for the water overflowing from the Mineries Pool they turned their attention first to the South Swallet [now commonly known as the Maypole Sink for it is the stream sink of that which flows through the Maypole Series in St. Cuthbert's Swallet] and then to the lowest part of the depression.  This section of the depression still floods in wet weather conditions to the east of the present entrance to St. Cuthbert's Swallet. After clearing out the lead bearing mud a collapse occurred revealing a passage or chamber.  This was quickly filled for fear of infringing the High Court Injunction granted at Wells in 1863.  Two collapses have occurred here since that time. (note 62)

Ubley Farm Rift

In his wide ranging paper on the bone caves of Mendip, the Reverend William Jones outlined the frequency of bone bearing fissures opening up in various parts of Mendip.  He wrote that in some cases  (note 63)

... the fissures are open and on the surface.  An instance of this kind occurs in a field on Ubley Hill farm, on the Eastern side of the range.  A stone dropped into the hole may be heard for several seconds in its downwards course ....

The site location was not given except that it was not far from the farm buildings but an indication of what Jones had observed may be related to an exploration by the MCG close to Ubley Hill Farm.  In November 1984 Tony Knibbs et al explored a 5m deep shaft that had opened up and found that it was part of an open rift aligned 15° - 195°. Knibbs wrote that the ‘…. magnetic bearing of the rift corresponded to surface indications of a filled-in rift and it was concluded that the hole had been caused by slumping of this infill ....’ (note 64)  Similar occurrences of this type may account for the 'lost' caves of Blagdon and Rickford.

Eastern Mendip

Emborough Cave

The only reference relating to this site is to be found in an article written by E.E. Roberts in an early British Caver published in 1943, entitled 'Legends, Dead & Alive.'  (note 65)  It appears to have been brought about by a prank played by Platten on Devenish and Roberts.  No other reference to the cave has been found.

Fairy Slatts

These natural fissures were first recorded by Collinson but can hardly be considered caves. (note 66) Partly natural, partly mined, open fissures said to be up to 21 ft deep.  They were partially filled about 1860 to protect livestock.

Poking Hole

John Strachey records a cave at Great Elm the so-called Poking Hole. (note 67)  This appears not to be natural for, he writes, ‘... but made with hands ... '  The description indicates that it is on the north side of the Wadbury Valley. Williams has suggested that it could have been one of the Clinker Caves, but this seems unlikely that such a small feature would have been recorded for such a publication as Strachey's planned 'Somersetshire illustrated.'  (note 68)

Stoke Lane Fissure

Balch noted in the 1907 Netherworld of Mendip  (note 69) that he had been notified of a potential bone fissure above Stoke Lane Slocker and that it might possibly connect with the cave below.  The slocker cave had been first explored about 1905 and its extent known.  In 1909 Balch and Troup recorded that an excavation had been carried out at the spot but no bone remains had been found. (note 70)  Its location is now lost though it is possible that it is Stock's Hole opened by MCG in 1961. (note 71)

Western Mendip Bleadon Cavern

This cave has been rediscovered and is currently open to cavers.  It was discovered by Beard and Williams in 1833.  They originally entered the cave via an entrance on land within the Hutton Parish boundary.  Instability problems forced the excavators to sink another shaft nearby but within the parish boundary of Bleadon - this is the entrance open today.  Once the 19th century excavations were complete the entrance collapsed and was lost until being reopened in 1969.  At first it was thought to be the lost Hutton Cavern - 1 but later proven not to be.  A full report on this and other sites in the area has recently been published with a bibliography and so no further discussion is required. (note 72)

The Gulf, Sandford Hill

The earliest record of this site is to be found in two letters from the Rev. David Williams of Bleadon to the vicar of Shaftesbury - William Patteson, dated 4th January and 16th February, 1829.  Rutter used the latter letter as the source for the information relating to the lost cave in his book. (note 73)  Summarising the sites found by the miners at Banwell and Hutton Williams continued:

... The mouth of the largest, which the miners call the "Gulph," lies, they say 80 fathoms, or 480 feet below the plane of the Hill.  They also affirm they have let down a man, with a line, 240 feet deep, but that he could see neither top, sides, or bottom. Miners, like other men in their station of life, are very superstitious and wonder-working, when they meet with any thing like this fissure, which they cannot fathom ....

Though so well known surprisingly little has been written about this site.  Various ideas have been proposed as to the likely known sites that may be the whole or part of the lost cave.  The most persuasive argument put forward has been that of Stanton which states that the dimensions must be wrong or that the rift feature in the Levvy might be part of the lost cave. The plane of Sandford Hill is only about 420ft OD and the water table only some 20ft below the lowest part of the valley beyond where it is near sea level. Therefore there must be something wrong with the figures!  However, in 1981 the writer, accompanied by Marie Clarke of the ACG, surveyed the hill using the Williams' measurements in the way in which they were intended to be interpreted.  Oh ! you may well say - if the entrance lies 480 feet below the plane of the hill and the height of the hill itself is only 420 feet how can you mistrust the Stanton argument?  Simple.  Up to and well into the early 19th century the height of a hill was commonly measured by the distance you have to walk up it!!  Hence Blackdown is about one mile high, though today we would say it was some 1000ft vertically above OD.  During the earlier centuries a vertical measurement is frequently referred to as being 'in the perpendicular' .

Using this rule of measurement, the late Marie Clarke and the author surveyed the hillside and found that Mangle Hole was 470ft from the edge of the plane of the hill - measured down the slope of the hill. However, that still leaves the 240ft of line used by the explorer.  Letting a man down on a 240ft long rope does not necessarily imply that was the vertical range of the descent - it could also mean that the man penetrated into the cave that distance.  A full discussion will be found in an article on the subject published in 1984. (note 74)

Hutton Cavern - 1 and Hutton Cavern - 2  (note 75)

The lost Hutton Cavern -1 has been searched for since the 1930s by a number of societies including ACG, UBSS and WCC.  None found the elusive cave.  However an intensive period of digging by the ACG between 1970 and 1974 produced some good results, Hutton Caverns -3 and -4.  They succeeded in reopening the lost Bleadon Cavern [q.v.] and two other natural sites, both of which had been worked by the ochre miners of the 18th century. (note 76)  Alexander Catcott became aware of Hutton Cavern -1 being a source of bone material in late 1756 but it was not until 10th June, 1757 that he actually visited the site.  There are three accounts of the cave, the first written about 1761 in the form of a letter to an unknown recipient. (note 77)

From the 16th February, 1829 letter of Williams to Patteson we know that the cave was lost and it was not until a miner pointed to the spot that workmen were hired and excavation work commenced.  The cave was re-entered in 1828 and the results of their work reported in the letter. Since that time location of the entrance has been lost.

Not so well known is the second site, Hutton Cavern - 2, explored by Alexander Catcott - it lies some 40 yards west of the Hutton Cavern - 1 entrance.  But until Hutton Cavern -1 has been rediscovered this site, too, remains lost.  It could have been the second of the two ACG sites, Hutton Cavern - 4.

Lost cave of Elborough

The background to this site was given to the author by John Chapman of Cheddar.  He recalls, when a lad, that a man living at Canada Combe, Charles Ponsford, told him of a cave that was said to exist near Elborough ' ... which goes back under.'  The cave is supposed to lie close or in Benthill's Wood.  Mining activity was undertaken in the area in the early 19th century; it is possible that the cave was an old mine working.

Loxton Cavern

There is often confusion between the lost cave and the cave known today as Loxton Cave.  However, there are two caves known to exist on Loxton Hill, the second, quite different, site being the lost cave - Loxton Cavern.  The cave was famed in its day for its copper stained formations.  For the record the lost cave was first recorded by Alexander Catcott in 1757. (note 78)  The second, that open today, was found by quarrying in 1862 and its discovery was widely reported in the local press; it bears no resemblance to the lost site.

The lost cave was found by miners associated with William Glisson of Loxton and who accompanied Catcott on his visit on May 19th, 1757.  An outline description of the cave is to be found in Catcott's Diaries The cave was still accessible as late as 1794 when C.I.H. [name unknown] made a descent. His account of experiences and an outline description of the cave was published in the Gentleman's Magazine. (note 79) Accompanied by the farmer on whose land the cave entrance lay C.I.H met the guide who cleared the brambles spanning over the entrance.  Once done and a rope belayed to a stake, the party commenced the descent.

... Our guide (whose father was the discoverer of the cave about fifty years ago) went in first; and, as I had been told there was no difficulty or danger, I readily followed; and, having slid down a steep slope for about six yards, found myself at the mouth of a very awkward black-looking pit, down which I was to swing by means of the rope.  I got down a few yards more, where, fixing my feet in the crevices of the rock, I stood astride the gulph; and there I thought I must have given up the scheme.  I could see nothing but a dark chasm, which appeared to be bottomless .... [At the bottom of the shaft] we then lighted our candles, and followed the guide, who carried us along an narrow passage towards the West. The sides of the rock were here covered with beautiful stalactites, very similar to what I have seen in a cavern at a village in Italy called Palo, near Folingo, but much more delicate.  Having explored the passage for some yards, we turned aside into a small chasm, just large enough to admit my body with a great deal of squeezing, and which, as we advanced, did not permit me to go on all fours. I was obliged to crawl like a snake, and could not have proceeded much further, as I found my breath getting short from the fatigue and heat of the place; but was at last relieved by reaching a large arched room most beautifully covered with sparry incrustations. The rock (a limestone) was so hard, that our tools were unequal to procure me the specimens I wanted, and I was sorry to find those we saw had been much defaced by Cornish miners, who, in trying for copper a few years ago broke off the finest pieces to send to their friends.  For the satisfaction of your readers, who delight in the Quixotic and marvellous, let me assure them, that I here saw the Magician of the Cave, in the form of a bat, clinging to the cieling [sic] of his crystal palace.  That our return might be prosperous, I would not suffer him to be disturbed .

... Our descent was difficult; our return neither arduous nor dangerous; perils once known are half conquered. However, I made a firm resolution never to make another attempt to explore the place, in which I was joined most heartily by the farmer, who by no means liked crawling ten fathoms underground. we visited the other branches, diverging in different directions from the main shaft; they contained petrifications more or less beautiful, and of different colours, as tinged with iron or copper, of both which there are veins in the cave.

Having been buried alive for more than two hours, I was glad to revisit the regions of mortality, though completely bruised and battered in every part of my body.

Rutter's account is based on a transcription of Catcott's Diary made by David Williams.  From the past tense in the account it would appear the cave was closed at the time of publication of

'Delineations' in 1829. (note 80)  Neither Williams nor Beard are known to have visited the site.

Sandford Bone Fissure

This site was opened by William Beard of Banwell on 29th January, 1838, having been, no doubt, prompted by the knowledge that bones had been found there in the 1770s.

Beard had his men, Robert Brown and William Cuff, working for him removing bone material until the 29th May, 1838. For this they were paid 1I6d. a day (7Y2p). (note 81)  The site was still open in 1863 at the time of James Parker's visit.

There are many trenches and mined features along the plane of Sandford Hill that it would be difficult to identify the actual pit, many of which were worked as late as the mid-20th century.  Some persons claim to have identified the site but this is far from proven.

Lost cave of Worlebury Hill

Sometime during the late 1940s a local caver recorded that he had explored a cave on Worlebury Hill which contained stalagmite formations.  The note is to be found in the Local History Library at Weston-Super-Mare.  Although an intensive search has been made the cave has not been found.

Somerset - general

Cothelstone Hill Cave.

Not far from Holwell Cavern lies Cothelstone Hill Cave.  This, it is reported, was an inhabited rock shelter. (note 82)  Recent work in the area by Pete Glanvill and Trevor Knieff have uncovered a small cave (ST/1866.3199) but it does not resemble the lost site. (note 83)

Dodington House Cave

During the late 18th century Cornish miners migrated to the Mendip area in search of work.  A mining agent, William Jenkin left a wealth of mining records including details of work in the Somerset area.  Among his records is a reference to a cave in the Quantocks ' ... a little above Dodington House.'  A selection of Jenkin's records was published in 1951 edited by AK. Hamilton Jenkin in which the following extract of a letter may be found.

Extraordinary Somerset Cavern.

To Scrope Bernard Esq. 19th Dec. 1795

The surprising cavities and large caverns we have discovered under the beech grove a little above Dodington House are beyond my power of describing.  One in particular which is about 28 yards in length and from 4 - 12 yards high and wide, the top of which is 14 yards below the surface, strongly indicated that this spot must have undergone some wonderful convulsion, and the cracks and fissure we find in the walls of the cavern are no less wonderful, through which fissures come strong currents of air, to the great refreshment of the labourers ...

Oldham noted that the cave must be located in the area on the seaward side of the Quantock Hills where there is a small outcrop of Devonian Limestone [ST/173.405] at an altitude of 400ft. (note 84) Oldham continued:

... The beech grove mentioned still remains above Dodington House.  At the western end of the grove is an old quarry (probably excavated after the account was written), the greater part of which appears to be off the limestone.  At the eastern end of the grove is an old copper mine building, probably constructed after 1795, which also appears to be just off the limestone. The easternmost end of the quarry appears to have bisected an old shaft in the limestone ....

No doubt the idea of rediscovering one of these lost sites will intrigue cavers for many years to come. However, to do so will entail many hours of researching old records lodged in county collections and archives.  The very best of luck!


Many thanks to Ray Mansfield, Chris Hawkes, John Chapman and Chris Richards for their helpful comments.

Dave Irwin,


Originally published in Shepton Mallet Caving Club Journal Series 10 No.3 (Spring 1998) and BCRA Speleo-history Group Journal No.2 (revised version, 18th August 1998)


1.                  Kenney, C. Howard, 1953, "Lost" caves of Mendip. WCC Jn12(39)12-14(Apr)

2.                  Beaumont, John, 1681, "A Letter of Mr. John Beaumont Jun, giving an account ofOokey Hole and feveral other Subterraneous Grottoes and Caverns in Mendipp-hills in Somerfetfhire, etc.", Phil. Collections, [Royal Society], No.2, pp 1-8; extract from pp 4-5

3.                  Anon, 1876. Geological Section. Proc Bristol Nats Soc., Ser 3 1,137-140(1874-1876) pp137-138

4.                  Tratman, Edgar K., 1945. University of Bristol Spelaeological Society Field Work Log. Bristol: Quarto MSS, 2 vols., surveys

5.                  Shaw, Trevor R., 1972. Mendip Cave Bibliography. Part II Books, pamphlets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to December 1968. CRG Trans 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

6.                  Donovan, Desmond T., 1954. A bibliography of the Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol area. Proc UBSS 7(1)23-24(1953-1954)

7.                  Donovan, Desmond T., 1964. A bibliography of the Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol area. First supplement. Proc UBSS 10(2)89-97(1964)

8.                  Mansfield, Raymond W. and Donovan, Desmond T., 1989. Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol areas. Recent bibliography. Proc UBSS 18(3)367-389(Nov)

9.                  Jackson, J. Wilfred, 1937. Schedule of Cave Finds. BSA Cav Cav 1(2)48-51

10.              BEC Caving Log, Volume I, 1943-1946

11.              The survey has not been located.

12.              Strachey, John, c.1736. Somersetshire Illustrated. MSS held at the Somerset County Archive, Taunton. Ref .. No. DD/SH.I07 (1-2) and DD/SH. 108 (1-3)

13.              Williams, Robert G. J., 1987.  John Strachey on some Mendip caverns and antiquities in the early eighteenth century. Proc UBSS 18(1)57-64(Nov)

14.              Skinner, Rev. John, 1788-1832. Journal of Travels and Parochial Matters. Quarto MSS, 98 vols., maps, illus. BM Ref.: Add MSS 33717 Vol. 85 ff182a

15.              Knight, Francis A., 1915. The Heart of Mendip. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xvi + 547pp, maps, illus., figs [p.2IO]

16.               Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William 1.,1977. Mendip: the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

17.              Knight, Francis A., 1915. [as above] [p.2IO]

18.              Rutter, John, 1829, Delineations of the North Western Division of the County of Somerset. Shaftesbury: printed and published by the author., xxiv + 349 pp, map, plans, sections, illus. [p.118]

19.              Seyer, Reverend Samuel, 1821-23, Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol and its neighbourhood. 2 Vols. Vol. 1 : xx + 535pp, maps, illus. [Published 1821] : Vol. 2 : 603pp, maps, illus. [Published 1823]. Bristol: Printed & Published by John Mathew Gutch.

20.              Boon, George C. and Donovan, Desmond T., 1954. Fairy Toot: the 'lost cave of Burrington' Proc UBSS 7(1)35-38(1953-1954)

21.              Lennon, I.G., 1960. The lost cave of Burrington. WCC Jnl 6(76)28-30(Nov. 1959/ Mar 1960)

22.              So named by the author.

23.               Bristol Mercury, 16th January, 1797, page 3, column 4, Vol. VII, No. 360 [account of the discovery of Aveline's Hole]

24.              Irwin, David J., A History of Aveline's Hole. [in prep]

25.              The equivalent of the modern ' Peterborough' or Aunt Agony column that appear in newspapers and magazmes.

26.              H.W., 1805, Mr. Urban. Gentleman's Magazine Pt. II, p.408-409, illus. ; reprinted in Gomme, George Laurence [ed.], 1886, The Gentleman's Magazine Library. Archaeology. London: Elliot Stock, 2 volumes [Vol. 1, p.22-23]

27.              Hawkins, H.S., 1948. New mystery cavern in Burrington Combe, Somerset. Brit Cav 18,29-31

28.              Dawkins, W. Boyd, 1864. On the caves of Burrington Combe, explored in 1864 by Messrs. W. Ayshford Sanford, and W. Boyd Dawkins. SANHS Proc 12(2)161-176(1863-1864), surveys

29.              Foxes Hole was known to Dawkins as Plumley's Den - a name that has fallen into disuse because of its confusion with Plumley's Hole, a short cave located at the bottom of Burrington Combe.

30.              It was Dawkins who named this site. Who Whitcombe was is unknown.

31.              Plumley's Hole was not discovered until December 1874.

32.              Dougherty, Alan F., Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1994. The discovery of Plumley's Hole, Burrington Combe and the death of Joe Plumley. Proc UBSS 20(1)43-58(Dec), illus., table

33.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937. Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 21lpp, illus. figs, surveys [p.121]

34.              Balch, Herbert E., 1948. [as above] [p.97]

35.              Howell, Christopher, Irwin, David J. and Stuckey, Douglas L. 1973. A Burrington Cave Atlas. BEC Cav Rep (17)35pp(Jul), map, illus., surveys

36.              Savory, John. 1989. A man deep in Mendip. The Caving Diaries of Harry Savory 1910-1921 Gloucester: Alan Sutton, xviii + 15Opp, maps, illus., figs, surveys. [p.15-16]

37.              Savory, John. 1989. [as above], [p.16]

38.              Howell, C., Irwin, D.J. and Stuckey, D., 1973. A Burrington Cave Atlas. BEC Caving Report 17, 35pp, illus., surveys, maps

39.              Hasell,D.H., 1947, Swancombe Hollow [Dig]. BEC Belfry Bulletin 1(2)3(Mar) 40Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William I., 1977. [as above]

40.               Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William I., 1977. [as above]

41.              Henry of Huntingdon, c.I135. Historia Anglorum.

42.              Forester, Thomas [trans & ed], 1853, The Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon, comprising the history of England ... London: Henry G. Bohn, xxviii+442pp, illus. [first translation in English]

43.              There are many different ways in which Cheddar has been spelt in the past. For the purposes of this paper only one version has been used - that used by Thomas Forester in his translation of Henry's document in 1853.

44.              Balch, Herbert E., 1935, Mendip - Cheddar, its Gorge and Caves. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., Ltd. The Cathedral Press. 177pp, illus., figs, surveys [p.23]

45.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972. [as above] [877]

46.              Trevisa, John [Higden, Ranulph], 1480, Policronicon ... descripcion of Britayne according to the translacion of Treuisa. [ Westminster] : William Caxton.

47.              Harrison, William, 1577, An Historicall Description of the Island of Britayne ... [in] Holinshed, Raphael, 1577, The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande ... London: John Harrison

48.              Boycott, Antony, 1992, Cave References in John Aubrey's Monumenta Britannica. BCRA SHG Newsletter (OS) (4)2-5(Aut), illus.

49.              Irwin, David J., 1992, A thought about the John Aubrey Long Hole survey. BCRA SHG Newsletter (OS) (4)5(Aut)

50.              William of Worcester, c.1478. ltinerarium sive liber rerum memorabilium. Cambridge MSS Corpus Christi College, no. 210. [Refer to Shaw, Trevor R., 1972 for details [see above]]

51.              Catcott, Alexander, 1761. A treatise on the deluge ... London: Withers, xiii + 296pp, illus. ; Two editions and a supplement exist, 1761 and 1768. Full details of each and the Mendip cave content in Men Bib Pt II, No. 169A & B, 170.

52.              Catcott, Alexander, 1774. Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5 cm [1748-1774]. Sheaf1138p, sheaf 5 44ff : Bristol Ref.. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3. A bound photocopy is available for general inspection.

53.              Mr. Gore lived at Lower Farm, Charterhouse. His coat of Arms may be seen above the front door.

54.              A transcript of the Blackdown description is given in: Richards, Christopher, 1979. Early observations on the Cheddar catchment at Charterhouse. BEC Bel BuI33(372-373)24-27(Apr/May)

55.              Anon, 1856, A Handbook for Travellers in Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire. London: John Murray, 1st ed., [iii] + 235pp, map. At least five editions of this book are known published between 1856 and 1899.

56.              Wells Journal, 12th January, 1922; page 8, column 3. Mendip Caves // Underground Stream near Compton Martin.

57.               University of Bristol Spelaeological Society 1927, General Log IV: 19th April 1927 [p 58 - 59] and 8th May 19/27 [p 67]

58.              Jarratt, Anthony R. et ai, 1997. Five BuddIes Sink - A lost cave rediscovered - Part 1. BEC Bel BuI50(494)37-63(Dec), map, illus.

59.              Jarratt, Anthony R. et ai, 1998. Five BuddIes Sink - A lost cave rediscovered - Part 2. BEC Bel BuI50(500)39-45(Dec),illus., survey

60.              This is an error - should read [Nicholas] Ennor v. Hodgkinson.

61.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937. Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211 pp, illus. figs, surveys [p.170-171] AND
-- 1948. Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. London: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., 2nd ed., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus. [p.135-136]

62.              Irwin, David J. et ai, 1991. St. Cuthbert's Swallet. Priddy, Somerset, Bristol Exploration Club. ii + 82pp, map, illus., surveys, (Oct)

63.              Jones, William Arthur, 1857, On the Mendip bone caverns. SANHS Proc 7,25-41(1856-1857); p.33

64.              Knibbs, Antony J., 1984, Ubley Hill Farm Rift. MCG Newsletter (174)8-9(Dec), survey (elevation)

65.              Roberts, E.E., 1943. Legends, Dead & Alive. Brit Cav (10)95-97

66.              Collinson, John, 1791. The history and antiquities of the County of Somerset, collected from authentick records and an actual survey by the late Mr. Edmund Rack ... Bath: R. Cruttwell, 3 vols. : Vol. 1 : Iii + 45 + 277pp, Vol. 2 : 507pp; Vol. 3 : 650pp; maps illus.

67.              Strachey, John, c.1736. [see above]

68.              Williams, Robert G. J., 1987. [see above]

69.              Baker, Ernest A. and Balch, Herbert E., 1907. The Netherworld of Mendip. Bristol: J. Baker, Clifton, xii + 172pp, illus., map, index

70.              Balch, Herbert E. and Troup, Reginald D., 1909. Report on cave research MNRC Rep (3)23¬27

71.              Cowley, Alan, 1962. Stocks Hole. MCG Jnl (3)58-59, survey

72.              Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997. The Bleadon and Hutton Caverns, West Mendip - a reassessment. BCRA Speleo-history Group Jnl (l)14-23(Autumn), illus., surveys.

73.              Rutter, John, 1829, [as above]

74.              lrwin, David J., 1984. 'The Sandford Gulf A new look at an old problem. BEC Bel Bul 38(426)3-7(Oct)

75.              The numbering system is that adopted by the Mendip Cave Registry to identify the four different caves each known as Hutton Cavern! Refer to Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997. [see above]

76.              Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997. [see above]

77.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Discription [sic] of Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by C.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology, Keele University. 66ff 4to, illus. MSS belonged to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.  The location of the Catcott original letter is unknown, presumably lost.

78.              Catcott, Alexander, 1774. [see above]

79.              H[ ], C.I., 1794, [Loxton Cavern exploration] Gents Mag 64(1)399-400 [author is possibly C.l. Harford, a geologist]

80.              Rutter, John, 1829. [refer above], p.163

81.              [Beard, William], 1824-1865. [Manuscript Note Books on the caves at Banwell, etc.]. Taunton: Somerset Record Office. No. D/PIban/54/C1l93

82.              Page, John Lloyd Warden, 1890. An Exploration of Exmoor. London: Seeley, [ii] + xv + 318pp, map, illus., index

83.              Irwin, David J., 1997. Howell Cavern, Merridge, Somerset. BCRA Speleo-history Group Jn1. (l)1-13(Autumn), surveys, illus.

84.               Oldham, Anthony D., 1968. The Mendip Caver. Men Cav 4(7)9pp(Oct/Nov)


Belfry Extension

Planning permission has been granted for the clubhouse extension.  Ideas for fundraising are required (not stomps)  The target is a cool £8000 which would allow a margin for equipping with up to date utilities.

Completely Bats Beer


A sensible name for a beer that all Belfryites should liked-e-mailed by pete Rose.

Can we have some more please – Ed.  (pictures of cave theme beers that is)


My Photographic Off Day

I hadn't been underground for some months so rang Pete Rose who organized a 2-man trip into Shatter Cave.  The night before I started hurling flash bulbs and guns into my camera box and checked out my nicads.  Then came my new pride and joy - a genuine Firefly bulb flashgun and the insertion of its new battery.  Pete arrived at the appointed hour and after a trip to Tesco's for more batteries and a detour via Clarke's Village in Street for Pete's new shoes we were heading for Bryan Prewer's.  Bryan handed over the keys with detailed instructions and drawings as to how to open and lock the gate securely.  Twenty minutes later we were getting changed by Fairy Cave quarry.  During changing (when Pete found his usual boots were missing) various witticisms were exchanged about my light - which I ignored even when he pointedly put a spare Petzl zoom into an old carrier bag before leaving for the cave.

After a trek past a pond complete with bull rushes and through the evolving wood which is now Fairy Cave Quarry we arrived at the gated entrance which lies beneath a cliff which has been threatening to collapse since it was last blasted 30 years ago.

This was Pete's first visit for many years and he was certainly savouring it.  First a bit of comparative gynaecology was needed to persuade the cave to open its portals.  After some fiddling with the key the padlock's metaphorical G spot was hit and we were able to coax the bolts back and slide into the welcoming darkness.  The distant musical gurgle of a stream could be heard somewhere tantalizingly below the boulders that smothered the floor.  After a false start we entered the First Chamber and, first mistake, dumped the spare light.  A detour was made to West Chamber beyond Diesel Chamber for Pete to show me a potential dig (incidentally a couple of weeks later a turn of the century ginger beer bottle was found in here suggesting a surface connection at some time in the recent past) before we scrambled on past Diesel Grotto into Helictite Chamber en route to Tor Hall.

As everything went dim in front of me a voice behind said 'Well at last it made half an hour' with an accompanying Rose-like snigger.  I switched to pilot, cussed and we headed into Portcullis Passage for our photo session.  The pilot got dimmer.


At the end of the short tunnel cameras and guns were extracted from boxes and the serious stuff started. The new Firefly was given to Pete and the shot set up.  The slave refused to fire and after various fiddlings a disgusted Rose handed me a bulb with a pink spot and we started again.  A case of premature bulb ejaculation then turned the air blue and Pete blind.  2 attempts later I gave up that particular shot.  The next one was framed.  I pressed the shutter - 'Click' - no flash - no nothing.  The camera batteries had picked that moment to die. 'Oh well' I thought (you wouldn't want to read what I actually said) I'll go onto manual. Several Rose sniggers later and the tally was: successful shots 2, prematurely ejaculated bulbs 4, and burnt fingers.  I gave up and let Pete try.  He was having a good day so after a few images had been collected by him we set off back to Tor Chamber where after more attempts I realised my light had packed up pilot and all.

Pete wandered off into Pisa Passage while I sat grumpily in the dark.  There was a dull thud from Portcullis Passage - god knows what that was! Rose appeared and we left the cave, Rose snapping pics and me attempting to do so.  Back at the first chamber Pete dug out the Petzl- not a flicker - time for me to snigger.  We signed off and left.

We popped out of the cave no doubt scaring the living daylights out of a group of kids mountain biking in the twilight.  I completed the day's proceedings by falling on the gate while Pete was locking it and succeed in bruising my thumbnail.  Rose continued to snigger in the pub but that wasn't the worst of it.  Three days later I realised I hadn't put a film in the camera!

Peter Glanvill October 1999


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

12/12/99                     Redcliffe caves trip - Vince Simmonds

7/1/00                        BEC Committee meeting

4/2/00                        BEC Committee meeting

5/2/00                        CSCC meeting - All at the hunters Lodge 10.30

20/2/00                      Deadline March BB – Editor

3/3/00                        BEC Committee meeting

7/4/00                        BEC Committee meeting

8/4/00                        CCC AGM - 10.30 AM Hunters Lodge

6/5/00                        CSCC AGM - Ditto

1/1/2000                     Columns open day OFD

14/1/00                      ISSA meet Derbyshire - Robin Gray

31/1/00                      Deadline Ghar Parau grants


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee


We had a great time in India as you can see from the article later in this BB.  I'm sorry if you have given me an article recently and it is not in this BB.  Most of the articles were ready to go before I went to India and I have had very limited time since I got back. I  will endeavour to get the articles ready for the next BB in about a month's time.

Apologies to Trevor Hughes for the failure to get one of the surveys from Five Buddles in the last BB - don't know what happened to it, it must have got lost somewhere in the printing as it was perfectly OK in my final draft!!!  The surveys are reprinted in this edition.

The mystery photos in the last BB were all taken in Swildon's by Pete Glanvill and the exact locations are as follows: 1 - Carl Jones in North West Stream Passage.  2 - North West Stream Passage Pitch.  3 - Ken Passant at The Landing.  4 - Tate Gallery.  5 - Alan Hobby in Shatter Passage Duck.  6 - Brian Johnson in Sump 9.  No-one actually got them correct so there are no winners!  There are more mystery photos later in this BB - answer next BB.

Cut off for the next BB is April 14th, not the 7th as published as I decided it was too quick after this one.

Please bear in mind that I only have three more BBs to do then it will be someone else's problem!! We need to find a potential replacement editor(s) fairly soon as there is NO WAY, with my other commitments, that I will be able to do another year.

All BEC members should have a pull out addendum in the centre of the BB on the AGM minutes and accounts; this will not be in the BBs that go to reciprocals or are sold to non-members.  If you do not receive one please let me know.


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match - 2nd January 1999

As per previous years the Wessex won again!!  The BEC started well, but by the third round we seemed to miss more skittles than we hit!! The Golden Gnome mysteriously disappeared after the event with a message left that it had 'gone south on holiday' .


Photos are still required for the photo-board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin. Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  All slides or prints will be returned if requested.  The photo board has had the same set of photos on it for many months now so it would be nice to see some changes.

BEC Stomp

The BEC held a stomp on 30 January 1999.  The theme was The Wild West and despite the original band cancelling two weeks before, a new band was found and the evening was a great success.  Well done Roz Bateman and her helpers.

BurringtonCave Atlas

I still desperately need photos for the Burrington Cave Atlas.  The text is ready to go, but I am seriously lacking in photos (or pictures). Please can anyone help me out on this???   Ed.


I have had some response to this, but I know there are many more of you out there who have nicknames, so come on tell me how they came about.  Ed.

BEC Computer

There is a working 486 computer with a CDROM in the BEC library.  Thank you to anyone who donated bits; I have sold some and used some in the BEC's computer.  The final remaining profit from any sales will go towards an external Zip drive as this is an important piece of equipment for the 'new' editor for moving larger files around.  Ed.

"Berties Sink"

Six "Bertie stickers" with a 'Cable and Wireless' balloon attached, were unfortunately forced to ditch in the sea off Japan in early March due to bad weather. Congratulations to Andy Elson, Colin Prescott and their team on having at least captured the ballooning (an indeed nonrefuelling aircraft) endurance record.

It's up to the Breitling Orbiter 3 now.   J'Rat

Millennium Celebrations

The BEC committee is looking for ideas for celebrating the Millennium.  We have had ideas about T -shirts/sweatshirts etc. but need a design. If anyone has any design ideas or any other ideas for celebrating the Millennium (also our 65th birthday) please contact a committee member.  Ed.

BEC History

Dave Irwin has suggested a Millennium publication of the history of the BEC.  He has said he would co-ordinate the data but needs other members of the club to work on editing chapters of the club's history.  The areas that have limited information are 1935-1960, with regards to the Belfrys and the digs during this period - if anyone has any information or photographs, please contact Dave.  More details on the plans for this will be available over the coming months.  The plan is to try and release it as a special BEC publication at Christmas or early next year.

BEC Library Acquisitions

  • The Caves of Fermanagh and Cavan
  • ClassicCaves of the Peak District
  • Selected Caves of Britain and Ireland
  • Grand Travesias  - 40 Integrales Espanolas and Surveys:  High quality publication detailing classic through trips throughout Spain.  A superb 'holiday caving' guide!



Thanks to Joan Bennett for the donation of numerous climbing guides and a very comprehensive collection of O/S maps covering most of Scotland at 1:50,000


Dave Irwin and Graham 'Jake' Johnson are planning to catalogue the BEC library soon.  Can anyone who has books out from the BEC library please return them before the end of April.


A polite notice from the ladder making consortium:

If just by chance you are in possession of a BEC ladder (it doesn't matter how old or useful) could you please drop it back to the Belfry as we could do with the rungs and 'C' links to make new ladders.

Now for the Grovel:

If anyone out there could help with rung scavenging it would be a great help.  Requirements are:

a)                    Pillar drill and a good 'N' point drill bit @6mm

b)                    Time and patience.

c)                    Ability to switch brain off and/or a drink or two

Yet more:

Could anyone help with 'C' link manufacture, another mind numbing operation I'm afraid, but we do need them.  Lengths of chain available to take away at the Belfry.   Graham Johnson

CSCC Meeting News

Split Rock - Training bolting has been in place on Split Rock for some time.  The CSCC has directed that no further bolts should be placed.  This policy has been required as climbers also use the site and have complained that fixed aids were not on their route maps.

Training - The NCA still has lots of money to give away in the form of training grants.  Unfortunately these tend to be 50% grants and not total freebies.  All members are reminded that they are entitled to approach the BEC committee if they have training programs/events that they wish to pursue/attend.  If members want structured training weekends then they can be arranged by the committee, however the club may require costs to be met by the participants.  Please advise us of any help you need - we are not psychic!

Time Team TV Programme - Following the slanders on the character of cavers in general, as 'irresponsible, reckless cavers who mindfully destroy precious artefacts, the CSCC and NCA feels duty bound to write to Channel 4 in complaint.  The main reasons for this were:

  • The allegations were fabrications made up to sprite up a dead boring program, adding intrigue and deviltry into an otherwise uneventful shoot.
  • The dig was declared not of sufficient archaeological significance to worry about' when cavers approached a leading archaeologist over a decade ago (source: Graham Mullan)
  • Cavers do not wilfully destroy artefacts as has been illustrated by the recent, careful exploration of Five BuddIes.
  • Young prospective cavers must not learn that caving and destruction go hand in hand.  Calcite formations which so many fight to preserve may suffer.






CSCC AGM - will be held in the back room of the Hunters Lodge on 15th May 1999 at 10:30am.

Rebecca Campbell

Members News

Congratulations to John Christie and Judith Mellor who are getting married on the 20th March.

Also congratulations to Andy Thomas and Clare Marshall who are getting married on Easter Saturday.


The Mendip Newspage

By Andy Sparrow

His Lordship's Hole

A consortium of cavers from BEC, Wessex and Cotham recently organised the excavation by Hymac of this site close to both Attborough and Wigmore Swallets.  Attempts to gain cave here by traditional methods had yielded nothing but the mechanical digger quickly uncovered a promising rift.  This was too tight for immediate entry but a way on was visible, so work focussed on laying pipes, back-filling and restoring the swallet to it's original contours.

In the days that followed members of the consortium enlarged the head of the rift to reveal a vertical pot a few metres deep.

This was descended on the 31st January to reveal a narrow inclined streamway leading on for a few more metres before becoming too tight.

A choked fossil passage was also found providing two possible options for future digging.  It seems likely that the water sinking here will join the  Attborough stream before entering  Wigmore via the upstream sumps.  Cave passage is not easily won in this geologically complex area but the prospect of a Lordship's-Attborough-Wigmore system must be a long-term possibility.


Above: The newly excavated entrance to His Lordship’s hole (Rich Blake and John Williams)

Left: Preparing to enlarge the constriction (Rich Blake and John Williams)
Right: Job Done! (Rich Blake)


The entrance pipes - set at an entertaining angle

Digital images by Andy Sparrow

Stock's House Shaft

Meanwhile Tony Jarratt and the BEC, having been defeated by the winter flooding at Five BuddIes, turned their attention to yet another infilled mine shaft just a stone's throwaway. An obvious spoil heap here identified the site and digging quickly commenced.  This shaft proved to be cut through solid rock and was just over a metre square - a much easier proposition than the large collapsing shafts of Five BuddIes where much engineering had been required.

The dig descended rapidly amid disparaging 'why bother with another mineshaft' remarks overheard in the Hunters'.


The newly excavated Stock's House Shaft

Tony had the last laugh when, at nearly 15 metres down, the shaft met flowing water.  An impressive stream was revealed flowing in a short section of natural passage.  Work continues and further finds are eagerly awaited.

Access Again to FairyCave Quarry

Yes!  It really does seem that there is to be a new access agreement for these excellent caves after what must be over 15 years.  The larger systems of Shatter and Withyhill will be subject to a leadership system but the smaller caves, FairyCave included, will enjoy fairly unrestricted access.  The system is not expected to be in operation for a month or two to allow time for conservation work.  Further details to follow.

 (Late breaking news on access: The contact for information regarding any news on access is Martin Grass.  The current information is that Shatter, Withyhill and W/L will be leader systems with 15 leaders across the Mendip caving fraternity and keys to be held centrally on Mendip.  FairyCave and Balch's Cave will be gated but access will be fairly unrestricted.  As this is a quarry there are security guards on patrol at times, so if you wish to go into any of the caves in this area, even the ungated ones, you MUST inform Martin Grass of your intent so they can inform the security.  A list of leaders and final information on access arrangements will be in the next BB.

Please be patient and respect the ongoing access arrangements as it would be a shame if a few reckless idiots stuff this up for everyone else. - Ed.)

Rhino Rift - Late report

Rhino Rift is due to be P-anchored on Saturday 20th February.  The plan is to use a surface generator to power the drill which should ensure the whole of the direct (left-hand route) can be completed in one day (but please avoid the cave on the Sunday in case work is continuing and to allow testing of the new anchors.)  Subsequent conservation work is planned to remove and fill the old anchor placements, which should restore much of the cave to its pre-bolted condition. There are no current plans to P-anchor the alternative Right Hand Route but this is likely in the longer term as the spit placements begin to fail.



A Note on Early BEC!

In BB 499, Kangy's article on climbing triggered very ancient memories!! - The reason why we are an "Exploration Club" and not a "Caving Club".

In our inaugural meeting in 1935 we had no idea that what we were proposing would become one of the leading cave clubs.  If I remember correctly, we cast our net quite wide in the quest for "Adventure".  The idea was to form an organisation that would reflect the various tastes and inclinations of the inaugural members.  We drew up a "Constitution and Rules" and the sentiment we stated - "The exploration of caves and mines, rock climbing and other such activities that will from time to time meet with the approval of the BEC committee"

As a result of this, one of our lads, who lived in Bath and was interested in the supernatural coerced us into spending a night in mid-winter waiting to see a "coach and four with a headless driver" come galloping down from Beechen Cliff - how the BEC has changed since then!

It is a pity that the "Climbing Section" is non-existent, perhaps Kangy's article will cause a revival.

Harry Stanbury


A Brush With Darkness - WellsMuseum.

Hot on the heels of their exhibition in Cardiff, a Brush with Darkness at the Wells museum provided ISSA with yet another successful show of cave art.  The exhibition ran from Sunday 15th.  November to Saturday 28th November and was visited by many Mendip Cavers.

The private view was well attended and several major sales were made.  Artists included Robin, Chas and Gonzo with Chrissie Price completing the Mendip set.  Her watercolours of caving teddy bears caused a lot of interest and 'discussion' - you either love them or you hate them.  Also showing were Ceris Jones whose drawings of cavers and cave divers are widely enjoyed, David Bellamy, Jenny Keal and Bud Hogbin who showed some near abstract paintings of Gough's Cave.

Chas had his, by now famous, Five BuddIes Sink mugs on sale and several changed hands at the opening. (As seen on the Big Breakfast Show)

Many of the senior members of the BEC turned out to support the event and it is good that Mendip is prepared to back and also invest in its cave artists.

WellsMuseum was well pleased with the show and has agreed to stage A Brush with Darkness 2 during October 1999.  The date for your diary is 3rd to 30th October with everyone invited to the opening for wine and nibbles.  Any artist who has a picture to exhibit in this next show should contact Gonzo, Chas or Robin. It would be good to include other local picture makers who sometimes use caves and cavers as inspiration.


Roger Hasket reporting form a fishing division!!


Pestera in Padis, Barlanes in Budapest

By Emma Porter

Our trips to Hungary started in November 1996, when Cara Allison (MCGrrSG), John Christie, Sean Howe and myself made a trip to the beautiful city of Budapest. On that occasion, five days before travelling to Hungary, I received a phone call from a caver in Budapest informing me that he had organised free accommodation and caving trips for every day in different regions - this was to be the start of a great caving friendship.


Team photo (LR) in Budapest, Hungary.
Top: John Allonby and Pete Gray.  Bottom: John Christie, Jude Mellor and Emma Porter. Photo by Moha

The summer of 1997 saw our Hungarian friends working in England for several months, and of course, caving (but not managing a trip down to Mendip) and it was this summer that we made our return trip to Hungary, and also travelled to their neighbouring country of Romania.  The team for this trip consisted of five members of CPC: John Allonby, Pete Gray, John Christie (BEC), Jude Mellor and myself (BEC).

We had already been travelling for hours as we approached the Hungarian/Romanian border.  We'd left Pete's house at about 5am to get the plane from Manchester to Budapest, caught a taxi to our Hungarian friend’s house and awaited the arrival of the hire car.  Feeling exhausted, we looked at Moha and Andi in amazement as they told us we were setting off in two hours for Romania.  Negotiations began as the hire car arrived but it was pay a £1,000 deposit for the car, or no car, we had little choice.  (People are very wary about taking vehicles into Romania, as the Romanians are desperate for car parts and guide books even tell you to remove windscreen wipers!)  It was an uncomfortable ride to the border with five cavers, camping kit, food and wine.  Our Hungarian friends had warned us to take enough food for our duration out there as food would be difficult to obtain, so we had done a quick trolley dash before departing, making the most of the amazingly cheap prices.

It was about midnight when we stood at the border paying our £22 for a visa to enter Romania,  surviving the awkward custom officer,  and then our trip into the

John Christie and Emma Porter in Szamosbazar Aragyasza, Romania. Photo by Jude Mellor

unknown began.  The road quality rapidly deteriorated as we left the border, and tracks became riddled with potholes and combined with a blowing exhaust we could see our deposit dwindling away before us.  At 4.30 am, we arrived at our destination where tents were quickly erected and we crashed out.

The heat and daylight woke us from our deep slumber.  I was quite amazed when I emerged from my tent to see we were in a very forested area with lots of tents clustered around both sides of the stream and with horses grazing - this was to be our base for the week, the Padis Plateau, a classic karst area, with large cave systems and great potential at a height of about 1000m.

Our first day there began with a gentle introduction to the area in an attempt to recover from the tiring journey, visiting the cave Szamosbazar Aragyasza.  I was surprised at what a popular tourist attraction this is, as we met quite a few people visiting this cave.  Only equipped with wellies, we walked through this not very lengthy cave with its roughly made bridges with several daylight entrances in the roof, into a small but beautiful gorge.  After spending some time pottering around, we headed back for the pub in the pouring rain.  We stayed longer than intended, but had an extremely adventurous walk back in the pitch black with about ten drunken campers, following one of Hungary's orienteering champions - no wonder they don't win much, we went round in circles before stumbling along the several miles of rough ground descending to the campsite.  We fell asleep listening to the beautiful sounds of a saxophone in the distance.

The next day, was the start of many mornings of waking up to rain.  However, not to be put off the Hungarians said that we should do Pestera Neagra de la Barca ( BlackCave) part of an extensive cave system.  We agreed, assuming that as they knew the area we wouldn't go down if it was affected by rain.  The cave consisted of five relatively short pitches  which  John A. and Pete rigged, adding spits were necessary.       (The Romanian cavers have only just really been able to obtain Petzl equipment (those who can afford it) and so many of the caves are not bolted for SRT). Once at the bottom, we ventured along the fine stream passages to the sumps.   Unfortunately, our exit from the cave did not prove to be as smooth as our entrance. 

Unknown to us, it had been raining quite heavily all day and the pitches were beginning to take quite a lot more water.  For one of our Hungarian friends with us this brought back terrifying memories of spending thirty hours hanging from his harness in the Berger when it was flooding, which had been almost two years to the day.  Our supposedly two hour trip turned into eight and a half hours, as each pitch was re-rigged until we ran out of spits and then natural belays had to be hunted down to avoid the water.  By half eleven at night the cave was de-rigged and it was the most fantastic feeling looking out of the cave into the torrential rain, knowing we were all safe and no longer in danger of the flooding cave system.

From then on, each day we woke up, the rain pounded on our tents, so we left the caving and instead walked around the area.  The Padis area is extremely popular for hiking and there are many marked trails, one of which leads to the largest cave entrance in Romania.  A descent via wooden ladders, steps and a rope climb leads one to the river, which must be crossed in order to reach the 70m-cave entrance.  The torrent of swirling brown flood water put all but John A. off crossing the river, though it was entertainment enough watching his antics

The largest cave entrance in Romania. (Cetatile Ponorolui) Photo by Jude Mellor    

The following day, John C, Jude and myself, escaped off the mountain where we were camping to drop one of the Hungarians at the bus station in Beius.  We left John C. guarding the car as we didn't want it being stolen, knowing no one would try as John looked so dodgy and out of place.  We used this opportunity to get some fresh food, however, this turned out to be quite a trial.  We went into various shops and I was surprised to see just how empty the shelves were.  I had expected the shops to be basic but I didn't anticipate them being this empty! For example, one shop we went into, we bought them out of cakes, and we only purchased three!  The market was also an experience, one woman trying to sell ten withered carrots, the next the most deformed and squashed tomatoes ever and washing powder boxes looking like they had come from the 1950s.  I also tried to make a phone call from the post office - fifteen attempts and half an hour later I was informed that a line was now available, not surprising really, when you think that in Romania there is a sixteen year waiting list to be connected!  The weather had been fantastic down in the town, but as we returned up to the top, the cloud was lingering around.  When we reached the camp, Pete and John A's tent seemed to be at a rather alarming angle, and on closer examination, their tent had been bitten into by the horses after bread and all that was left were crumbs - and I had been worried about the bears!

Left: John Christie in Focal Viu Ghetarul Barca, Romania. Photo by Jude Mellor
Right: Emma Porter looking over the typical forested mountains, Romania. Photo Jude Mellor

That evening we had a wander to one of the local ice caves, Focal Viu Ghetarul Barca.  On descending the rickety steps, the temperature change was very noticeable and thick ice covered the floor.  At the far end of the cave, huge thick ice stalagmites guarded the continuing passage, where we were prevented from going further due to a steep icy drop.  It was the best ice cave that I have seen but that was to be our last cave in Romania.  The weather continued to deteriorate and we experienced a fearsome storm that night as lightening and thunder seemed to bounce around the mountain for hours, and I'm sure I heard something growling.

The next day was spent in the pub, too wet and dangerous to do anything (though it's a great feeling spending money in Romanian pubs, as you can't get rid of your money).  We decided that the following day we should evacuate.  But nothing is ever easy, especially as ten of us had arrived in two cars and now there were six of us and one car.  The only thing to do was for John C to drive two people just across the Hungarian border (as Romanian transport is not reliable) and then to drive back and collect the rest, meeting up in a caving region in northeast Hungary.

It was one of the longest, coldest and most desperate days ever as three of us sat in the tent waiting for John to return.  My hair had been wet for about three days without drying, and the atmosphere was so damp that we couldn't even feel the heat from a stove.  The camp was a muddy mess, and it was an effort to do anything but try and get warm in your sleeping bag.  It took forever for John C to return but seven hours later it was an amazing feeling to eventually get out of the damp, into the car and heading to Hungary.

John Allonby, John Christie, and Pete Gray - John C. showing off his beer belly!! Romania.  Photo by Emma Porter


After fleeing from Romania, the weather became hot (30 degrees) as we headed to a karst area in the northeast of Hungary on the Slovak border, known as the AggtelekNational Park.  This area is one of the most popular caving areas, containing the longest cave in the country.  After an uncomfortable journey we arrived at Josvafo, a little village we had visited in '96, which thrives on its cider industry and cave tourism.  As before, we stayed at a hostel, often populated by cavers and about £1 a night.  We met Moha and John A. in the local pub, making the most of the 20p a pint beer. After exchanging our stories of the mountain evacuation, we set off on a long awaited trip underground.

For years, speleotherapy has been utilised for asthma treatments in Hungary, and Boke Barlang was declared the first cave health resort in 1965, after many experiments in the 1950s.  One enters via a manmade entrance, descending down many steps until reaching the second longest streamway in Hungary.  For a non-caver entering this mysterious world for medical treatment it must have seemed very daunting!  The cave entertains a superb streamway; the walls draped with stal and is a great trip. The following day, Moha, John A and myself were the only underground venturers, crossing the Slovakian border whilst doing Also-hegy.  In the evening, the same three visited the 1.4km Kossuth Barlang, the entrance of which consisted of a wet tunnel, with metal bars and a traverse rope installed to keep out the water (not to be advised after drinking wine as it is hard to keep one's balance!).  The others had spent the evening in the pub, so not to miss out on the drinking time we ended up gate-crashing a local caver's 50th birthday party and had a great time.  In fact, I didn't know where to begin drinking, as I was given three drinks - red wine, champagne and the 'ladies drink', as much food as we could eat and were given a copy of the latest caving book hot off the press 'The Caves of Aggtelek Karst'.

Our last day in this area was spent doing a through trip of the longest cave in Hungary, Baradla Barlang (25km) which stretches into Slovakia.  The route we followed took the main branch of the cave for 7km from Josvafo to the village of Aggtelek.  It is an easy walk along, spectacular in places and caters for everyone, even having picnic benches half way along.  My most memorable part of the cave was the Concert Hall, and because of its wonderful acoustics is a regular music venue, complete with stage and seating.  Pete couldn't resist but to stand on the stage and try the acoustics which sounded fantastic with Moha on lighting, until all of a sudden he stopped, at the bottom of the hall appeared what seemed thousands of tourists on tour of the cave - we quickly scarped!  That evening we headed back to Budapest, Jude and myself volunteering to take the train. An experience I don't wish to repeat as we hardly saw another female but found ourselves the centre of attention with the soldiers on the train.

It felt like being at home again returning to the beautiful city of Budapest with all its interesting architecture, lively streets, sprawling over both sides of the Danube.  And as far as caves go, Budapest is quite unique, having the highest density of thermal caves anywhere in the world.  We stayed in the same location as our previous visit, in the BeverleyHills part of Budapest, in a caving hut above the prettiest cave in Hungary, Joseph Hegyi.  Of course, our trip would not have been complete without a trip down here, sometimes described as a mini Lechuguilla.  John A, Pete and myself visited several of the other caves in Budapest, Ferenc Hegyi and Matyas Hegyi all labyrinth like and very warm (so warm, we all took to wearing no undersuit, just oversuit and underwear).  We had an interesting explore around the largest cave in Budapest, Pal Volgyi which is part show cave, and then met some of the local caving clubs who meet at the bar of the show cave on a Thursday evening.  Our last trip under Budapest took us to the show cave Szemhegyi.  Above this showcave is a small memorial garden to cavers who have died. It is a beautiful setting, with a piece of limestone and plaque for each caver.  The guide allowed us to wander around and explore in the cave, and on leaving the showcave, to my surprise I bumped in to a caver I know from Gloucester SS.

Our last weekend was spent to the west of Budapest at a caving hut near a village called Tes in the BakonyMountains and we were joined by Antony Butcher from Shepton Mallet CC.  The cavers were very welcoming but spoke little English, though we entertained each other by singing caving songs and lots of actions.  We ventured down one of the longest caves in the area, Alba Regia, notorious for bad air and rather Mendip like and ended the evening in the pub. Then it was back to Budapest, where we ended up at our favourite restaurant, eight of us eating and drinking as much as we could for £30.

Our favourite restaurant in Hungary. Photo by Moha

That was the end of a great holiday.  Romania, though extremely wet and poor, is a very beautiful country.  There is great potential in the area we visited if you have good weather!  We only spent £10 each for the week; drinking every night and filling the car with petrol twice, though it's a good idea to take as much food with you as possible.  Hungary was the other extreme, very hot with shops containing almost everything you could want and still cheap!  However, in Hungary the access to caves is quite restricted, many of them being locked.  We could not have seen as much as we did had it not been for our Hungarian friends, who as in our trip in 1996 went out of their way to help us, and special thanks must go to Moha.

Emma Porter

(This article has also been published in The Record (CPC) Number 51)


A Transcript Of The New Answering Service Recently Installed At The Mental Health Institute.

"Hello, and welcome to the mental health hotline.  If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.

If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you.  If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6.

If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want.  Stay on the line so we can trace your call.

If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship.

If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press.  If you are a manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press - no-one will answer.  If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969.

If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the hash key until a representative comes on the line. If you have amnesia press 8 and state your name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number and your mother's maiden name.

If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, slowly and carefully press 000.

If you have bi-polar disorder, please leave a message after the beep or before the beep.  Or after the beep.  Please wait for the beep.

If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.  If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.  If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.

If you have low self esteem. Please hang up.  All our operators are too busy to talk to you."



Meghalaya 1999

By Estelle Sandford (taken from the IB Log)
(Photos by Estelle Sandford)


British: Simon Brooks, Tony Boycott, Tony Jarratt, Estelle Sandford, Tom Chapman, Fraser Simpson, Andy Tyler.

German: Daniel Gebauer, Ritschi Frank, Georg Baumler, Thilo Muller, Christine Jantschke, Herbert Jantschke, Christian Fischer.

American: Mike Zawada

Meghalayan: Brian Kharpran-Daly, Kyrshan Myrthong, Babha Kupar 'Dale' Mowlong, Adora Thabah, Zuala Ralsun, Neil Sootinck, Betsy Chhackchhuak, Alfred Vanchhawng and VanIal Ruata (Mizorarni and adventurers), Badamut Hujon, Shron Lyngkhoi (bus driver), Asif (cooks assistant), Raphael Warjri.

A 6 strong British and 6 strong German team left their respective countries on the 31st January for a month of caving in 'The Scotland of the East'.  After several days travelling and picking up Daniel Gebauer and Brian Kharpran-Daly on way, we arrived in Lumshnong in the Jaintia Hills to start the caving.  The main aim was to consolidate previous years' work and tie up as many loose ends in the Lumshnong area.  The two main systems in this area being the KotsatilUmlawan System and the Synrang Parniang system.  Other areas, which were given attention from smaller groups, were the LukhaValley area and Cherrapungee.  We were well equipped at the Lumshnong base with a minibus, a generator and also catering and washing staff to make life easier.

Wednesday 3rd February

Tony, J'Rat and Thilo, went surface walking with a GPS near Synrang Parniang to try and find the coal mine entrance (noticed from inside about 40m above the river level in 1998) to cut the trip down by about 5hrs and Ritschi, Tom and Christian went down Synrang Parniang to survey some passage near the entrance.  Simon Brooks, Georg Baumler, Daniel, Brian, Herbert, Christine and Fraser met Zuala and left for the Lukha valley just after lunchtime; they were lucky enough to find a house to stay in.  Tony's team found the coalmine, known as Cherlamet, plus 4 other new caves and Ritschi's team made Synrang Parniang the second longest cave in Meghalaya by surveying an extra 80m.

Thursday 4th February

We decided to experiment with a different route to Cherlamet starting from Thangskai.  We found a couple of interesting sites on the way, which included Krem Mutang, which has an Alum Pot style shaft, but ends in a coalmine, there are a couple of possible holes there that need a ladder. We continued along the path, past a monolith and the track came out right by the Cherlamet Coalmine with the hole in the bottom. The hole had appeared while blasting about a year ago and fortunately no one fell down it.   The locals had lowered a man down 80ft to look at the roof of the area they are mining.  J’Rat and Tom rigged the entrance, and then disappeared for a planned 6 hour survey trip.  Tony, Kyrshan and Estelle wandered back down the hill via checking out Krem Diengiong, which ends in a choke, and checking out the bottom end of the stream by the coalmine. Tom and J'Rat came back at 9.30pm having surveyed a further 900m and still going.  This takes the length of Synrang Pamiang to about 8km


Cherlamet Mineshaft Entrance to Synrang Parniang, with the miners busy clearing the rock to reveal the coal beneath.
The hole that had appeared made an excellent spoil dump for them.
The mountain inside was pretty impressive!!

In the Lukha, Daniel, Georg, Brian, Fraser, Herbert and Christine took a day trip to Sielkan Pouk. Georg, Daniel and Fraser survey 870m downstream, Brian, Herbert and Christine survey 170m of side passages.

Friday 5th February

Tony, J'Rat, Tom and Estelle walked from the IB to a track on the right on the way to Lumshnong by the Lalit entrance.  We located a cave and hacked our way to the cave entrance, cave was called Krem Plat ( CatCave?).  We continued the walk along the track to the next obvious dark space in the jungle; there was a drop needing a ladder to a possible canyon style passage.  There was also a similar looking cave on the other side of the track.  Continued along the track looking for other sites, there were many other possibilities as there are many dark areas in karst behind the jungle cover.  The next main hole was located on the right of the track and was a big hole right next to the track.  Need a rope for this one!  Continued walking to the village of UmLong. We asked about Krems and no one appeared to understand, but one man said about nine Krems and beckoned us to follow. He took us along a wellused track to the village's washing area.  The cave is known as Krem UmRiang, it is a resurgence cave with many entrances.  The man from the village also took us to their watering hole, which was a sump just inside a cave entrance, in daylight view. The next one was a drop requiring a rope, with water in the bottom looking promising.  This may be the Krem UmLong that we have been told about but with no translator it is hard to tell.

Lukha - Local guide organised and Fraser and Simon spend a frustrating day on hillside opposite (South) of Khaddum looking for WindCave.  Guide clearly did not know where the cave was and only one small dry cave was explored. A 6.8m free climbable shaft leads to 40m of dry rift passage.

Daniel and Herbert went to VillageCave in the centre of Khaddum and explored 50m of grotty passage.

Georg, Brian and Christine went into Paltan Pouk and surveyed the remaining wet passages and find 120m.

Saturday 6th February

Estelle and Tony B went to Krem Plat.  Surveyed first upstream through limestone pendants to a duck which was followed almost immediately by a sump.  Downstream continued to a boulder pile with a large frog.  Climbing around the boulder pile got us back into the stream again, where it got spidery and lower and eventually we could see daylight through a boulder choke.  J'Rat and Tom attacked the boulder blockage in Porcupine passage in Krem Kharasniang to try and get through into Urn Lawan, but failed; they gained about 20m of passage - this needs explosives!!

Our chef cooked us roast beef for tea tonight!

Lukha - Daniel, Herbert and Simon went to Pielkhlieng Pouk and surveyed 460m in the missing section of main stream between fossil bypass and large chamber.  They then survey another 400m upstream of 1998 limit. Georg, Christine, Brian and Fraser to lower section of Pielkhlieng Pouk and survey 600m of side passages off of boulder choke.

Sunday 7th February

Tony, J'Rat and Estelle went into the lower entrance of Krem MaLo and into a downstream part that had not been pushed or surveyed.  Surveyed 250m up 2 passages and then Tony and J'Rat went up to have a look at H Stream. They found 50m of really nasty passage beyond the previous end, but were so unimpressed, did not survey it.

Tom, Betty and Neil went to Krem Mutang and found nothing significant below the big shaft. Ritschi, Thilo and Christian went to Krem Labbit and found not a lot.

Simon, Daniel, Georg, Brian and Fraser returned from the Lukha valley with lots of cave found, but no supplies left.  They came up for a freshen up, clean clothes and a square meal, and also to get more food and supplies to take back down.  Christine and Herbert stayed down the bottom in the cottage they were now living in at Khaddum.  They have 2 main caves in progress, which still need several days work so most are going back tomorrow to carryon.

Monday 8th February/Tuesday 9th February

Thilo, Ritschi, J'Rat, Fraser and Estelle went to Cherlamet mineshaft at 6pm for an overnight pushing trip in Synrang Parniang, as it can now only really be accessed at night so as not to disturb the miners working.  The miners had finished work by the time we got there, so we immediately started rigging the pitch.  One of the miners turned up with two steel 'jumper' bars to put in the drilled bang holes as a back up belay. Thilo and Ritschi went off to survey some upstream stuff in side passages and J'Rat, Fraser and Estelle went downstream to continue the main survey.  We arrived at the final point after about 1½ hours of slippery boulder and stream passage. The cave is a massive rift passage maybe 50m high, with a stream in the bottom; there are no side passages in the lower section so far.  We continued with the survey and the cave entered a deep section of water, fortunately the lake didn't go over chest deep, so we carried on.  We named the lake, Loch Assynt and a later lake we found Loch Borralan. We turned a comer and into a big bouldery section, which shortly after started draughting in the other direction, and was very cold.  This probably indicates another entrance, particularly as the main stream way disappears under a very large boulder collapse.

Tom rigging the pitch at Cherlamet Mineshaft, while Fraser, Ritschi, Andy and the miners watch over.

We surveyed a stal section to the right of the collapse, but that got too small to sensibly follow.

We left a side passage on the left, which was possibly going to take us past the boulder pile but was too awkward to follow at that time of the morning!  We backtracked to the comer where we found an inlet passage, draughting strongly and with debris, so there is probably a way out of this as well. As it was 1:30am, we decided we had had enough and went back upstream to the large pile of rubble that is where the mineshaft is.  We were about an hour early so we rested before going up the pitch.  Just as we were getting ready to go out the Germans turned up having surveyed 900m.  We had surveyed 550m.  The pitch is 33m free-hanging in a chamber about the size of GG main chamber.  When we were all up, we derigged and started walking back having done 12 hours 15 mins of caving/surveying.  The bus and Tony met us at Thangskai at 7.20am.  Back to the IB, we had tea and breakfast and then went to bed.

Lukha - Herbert and Christine found two small resurgences in LunarRiver. Simon, Georg, Daniel and Christian return to the Lukha with supplies late Monday.

Tuesday 9th February

Tony, Tom and Brian went to see if they could find the end collapse of Synrang Parniang from the surface, but failed, they found more new caves though and looked at some of the caves that had been recced at UmLong.

Lukha - Daniel, Simon and Herbert go to Pielkhlieng Pouk and after 600m connect cave to Sielkan Pouk. Surveyed inlet and find another 500m.  Georg and Christine surveyed 400m in Sielkan Pouk and find a new entrance.

Wednesday 10th February

Tony, Fraser, J'Rat, Brian and Estelle went searching for a partially surveyed system called Krem Mahabon Four.  This is near the road just above the coal depot above Thangskai.  We had a bit of trouble locating the cave, but after bashing through the jungle for a short time, J'Rat found a recognised entrance to the cave.  We kitted up and went into the cave to Cauliflower Junction, where there was a section unsurveyed.  Tony and Estelle worked in this section, while J'Rat, Fraser and Brian carried on to the other entrance in the cave where there was a couple of 3-4m pitches that needed to be descended with a ladder.  Tony and Estelle initially surveyed the higher dry passages, before going back to the start of our section where there was an awkward climb down into a small stream.  Upstream was too small to follow, so we opted to follow the downstream section.  This started off at almost walking/almost crawling size passage and increased and decreased at regular intervals.  This was not anticipated to be as long as it turned out to be so Tony was using electric rather than carbide; we had to stop 1/2 way and go back to the entrance for a change of light.  On our way back to the end of our survey we heard voices and realised that J'Rat and Co. were very close by.  They were separated by some very small sections.  At our last survey point before the break, they were able to come across and link in.  They had been surveying very small passages!  We continued our survey along the stream, and they went back into the dry cave they were surveying and we carried on into deeper water until the cave ended in a pool followed by a boulder choke, which seemed very close to the surface.  There were quite a lot of beasties in this cave, including, spiders, small frogs, millipedes, crickets and small shelled snails (strange creatures that looked like slugs with useless too-small shells!).  We surveyed 500m between us.  Ritschi and Tom went to Urn Synrang and surveyed some inlet passages.

Lukha - Christian, Herbert and Simon went on a photographic trip into Pielkhlieng Pouk.  Daniel, Georg and Christine surveyed 400m of side passages in Pielkhlieng Pouk.

Thursday 11th February

Market day in Lumshnong and J'Rat bravely opted for a quick trim at the barbers, which includes a head massage and he came back a little shorn.  After market we had a bus journey down to Sonapur where there is a big bridge crossing the Lubha, which is the Lunar and the Lukha rivers combined. Tony, J'Rat, Fraser, Tom and Brian went to survey Krem Wah Labbit which is in Lumshnong village by the Kot Sati entrance.  They came back after 3 hours having surveyed 440m of large dry passage.  Lukha - Daniel, Simon and Christian survey another 400m of side passages in Pielkhlieng Pouk. Zuala, Georg, Herbert and Christine survey 400m of rift passages in Pielkhlieng Pouklet to connect to main Pielkhlieng Pouk cave.

Friday 12th February

Tom, Ritschi and Andy were going to survey an inlet passage in Synrang Pamiang, via entering the mineshaft and coming out the original entrance.  Fraser and I went up with them to take the rope and SRT kits back. Tony, J'Rat, Brian and Thilo went back to Krem Wah Labbit in Lumshnong and also went to look for other caves unsurveyed in the village.

The Synrang Pamiang team set off from the MaLo track and after an hour were at the entrance; we had to wait while they blasted it before going into the mine.  They have now reached the coal seam and are able to mine coal after that blast.  The entrance had significantly changed and the extra length of rope was required to back up to a bar in a shot hole.  They stopped throwing spoil down the hole whilst Tom, Ritschi and Andy went down the shaft, Fraser derigged and pulled up the SRT kits and we walked back to Thangskai. Fraser and Estelle sorted out kit and met the others in Lumshnong.  We all then went to Krem Wah Labbit, partly as a tourist trip for them who hadn't been down and partly for J'Rat to have a dig in the boulder choke.  Nice cave but the boulder choke didn't go.  Earlier the Lumshnong team had resurveyed by accident the forest entrance of Kotsati as far as the main stream before realising it was a bit familiar.  After we had finished in Krem Wah Labbit we went to look in another doline for more caves and found a cave with nail varnish marks on the wall, which none of us knew which cave it was but it had obviously been surveyed before!!  The cave turned out to be Krem Pohshnong.  We finished the day with a videoing trip through from Krem Umsynrang Liehwait (forest) entrance of Kotsati to the Lalit entrance.

The Synrang Pamiang team found another entrance up the side passage (Colourful Inlet) they surveyed 375m in.

Lukha - Daniel, Zuala and Simon investigate springs in the LunarRiver valley. Georg, Herbert and Christine survey 800m below 7m pitch in Pielkhlieng Pouk.

Saturday 13th February

Tom, Tony, J'Rat, Andy, Ritschi and Thilo went prospecting in the UmLong area.  They split up and Tony and J'Rat surveyed Krem UmRiang, and the others looked at possible sites but found nothing significant.  Fraser, Brian, Bok and Estelle went to Khlierhiat to try and get the camcorder battery charger repaired; it had blown a capacitor when it was given 495V when the generator was faulty.  The Lukha team arrived back having connected Sielkan Pouk and Pielkhlieng Pouk and totalled the cave to 9km, which makes it No.3 in India.  Ritschi, Thilo and Andy turned up from their walk having surveyed Krem Charminar.  The rest of the UmLong recce teams arrived back at dusk with Krem UmRiang surveyed to 350m and lots of possible area/sites for future.

Sunday 14th February

After voltage problems with the generator, Simon had a look and found the problem.  With the generator now up and running, Daniel, Simon and Estelle took the opportunity to catch up on the data inputting on the computers.  After a lazy morning playing Caroms, Fraser, Tony and J'Rat went along the UmLong track to one of the sites that Tom had pointed out, but hadn't been to.  They hacked through the jungle and found an entrance and followed the cave for 200m before they were stopped by a flake that needs a hammer to get past.  They named the cave Krem MaTom, which means 'Mr Tom's cave'.  This needs a revisit with a hammer.  Georg, Andy, Brian and Adora went looking for a reported resurgence near a track that runs directly from Lumshnong to Khaddum.  They had no luck.  The rest of the team went to Krem Umsynrang on a photographic and pushing trip. There is a climb in a very muddy passage there; that Anette had looked at last year, but no-one had been up yet. Tom climbed up using a piton to get there and found more mud about chest deep, which continues, unsurveyed.

We are now on three course evening meals, with tonight's being tomato soup followed by sledge hammered chicken followed by chocolate mousse!

Monday 15th February

Apart from Georg, Brian, Christine and Herbert, everyone went to Krem Musmari, which is the new entrance off Colourful inlet in Synrang Parniang.  The above team went to a new cave Krem UmPeh which is not very big! They surveyed 524m in there.  The Synrang Parniang teams were split into J'Rat and Tom trying to pass the boulder choke at the end after the overnight trip, Tony and Andy having a good look around the boulder pile by Loch Borralan, Simon, Fraser and Estelle taking photographs in the inlet and main passage and a final team of Ritschi, Thilo and Christian, surveying more inlet passages in Colourful inlet and Swabian inlet.  We caught the mineshaft entrance at the right time with a spotlight from the sun shining in onto the wall as a beam of light.  Ritschi and Co. surveyed 230m of side passages.  At 9.15pm the rest of the Synrang Pamiang team came back in smug mode, they had passed the ''Terminal'' Boulder Choke and continued surveying for a further 400m finding more streamway of same size and larger than the passage before the choke and also climbed up into a fantastic upper series passage, 40m high, 15-30m wide and fantastically decorated.  They followed it in the upstream direction for 100m, and didn't even look in the downstream direction.  There were loads of cave pearls and formations all over. They named it Titanic Hall, as there is a large ship's bow-like boulder in there.  Tony and Andy had climbed to the top of the dodgy boulder pile at Loch Borralan and found a big passage, which they surveyed for 750m before running out of time.  They followed the last of the passage and found another entrance.  This new entrance involved a tricky climb, but fortunately they had Tom with them and he climbed it and rigged it with what slings, short bits of ladder and other kit they had.  They got out into the jungle and fortunately found a freshly cut path from the cave entrance; it passed a coalmine and continued out of the doline. They were able to get a GPS fix about half way up and found they were only a short distance from the monolith on the track to the Cherlamet mineshaft - all this in the dark!

Tuesday 16th February

Time for a major Synrang Parniang pushing team!  After pancakes for breakfast (well it was Shrove Tuesday after all!!!) 8 of us climbed into the bus and went to find the new entrance of Synrang Parniang; it was named Krem Eit Hati, which means elephant pooh, as they had found elephant pooh at the top of the doline which was the only distinguishing feature of the area at the time of night they came out!!  Tony, Fraser and Estelle surveyed from the entrance to complete the survey to where they had got to yesterday and also surveyed two side passages.  We carried on and joined the downstream team of Tom and J'Rat.  The boulder choke that they had found a way through was full of interesting looking ‘henries’  followed by a low

A few of the cave pearls in Titanic Hall, Symang Pamiang.

sandstone section of stream, then opened up into passage similar and sometimes bigger than the passage before the boulder choke.  We followed the passage and met them at a comer where they had just been a little way up a side passage and found cat (?) footprints.  No obvious signs of an entrance though!?  We left them surveying and continued downstream to find a suitable section about 200m further to start a leapfrog survey.  Unfortunately, the passage deteriorated into a short free-climbable pitch followed by some grotty passage, followed by another pitch.

While we were changing our carbide, J'Rat and Tom caught us up, so we sent Tom down the next pitch to find out what happens and see if the rest of us can free-climb the pitch.  He came back reporting another bigger pitch. J'Rat went down to join him and they decided they needed 50ft of ladder to descend the next pitch.  The pitches were named 'The Wet Nightmares'.  We all turned round and after a quick tourist trip into Titanic Hall to look at the cave pearls and formations and also a successful fishing trip for blind cave fish (caught two)  in Gour  Passage, we came back out of Krem Eit Hati entrance.   Simon,  Thilo and Ritschi had gone up into Titanic Hall in Synrang Pamiang and surveyed downstream direction for 400m to a boulder choke.

We also had arranged two guides for today so Brian, Andy and Daniel went with the guide Spding Dkhar to Wah Umso, just above Thangskai and were shown to 3 caves, all goers which need revisiting.  They also looked at the sink of Krem Labbit (Cherlamet), but this is impenetrable.

Strange formations in Titanic Hall, Symang Pamiang
The other group of Georg, Adora and Zuala went to Krem UmTyrngei, south of Lumshnong. We had roast pork for tea and lots of beer.

Wednesday 17th February

Most people were absolutely knackered after the long Synrang Pamiang trip yesterday and had decided on a easier day with a long bus ride to a new area north of Lumshnong called Sutnga and found out some useful leads, with 12 named caves.  Fraser, Daniel, Andy and Adora went back to Wah Umso to continue looking at the caves there.  Neil turned up with some explosives and slow burning fuse for J'Rat to blow up the boulder in Kharasniang.  Neil then took a couple of local people down Synrang Thloo for a tourist trip and found a snake just inside the entrance; he came back to  tell  us,  so Tony,

Tony Jarratt and Asif (cooks assistant in the boat) in the canals at Krem Synrang Thloo entrance of Krem UmLawanIKotsati

J'Rat,  Tom and Estelle decided to get our kit sorted quickly and take a boat as well so as to take Asif (the cooks assistant) from Synrang Thloo to the main Kotsati entrance.

We found the snake just before the deep section of the canal.  It was not a cave racer as we had first thought it would be, so we were fairly careful around it.  It was about 3-4 foot long and very bright green with a diamond shaped head and was later identified as a bamboo pit viper - instant paralysis and death in 30 minutes!

Andy, Fraser and Daniel went back to Wah Umso and surveyed 630m in Krem Umda 1/Umso and Krem Umda 2.

Later Tony, J'Rat and Neil went to bang the boulders in Kharasniang and got a misfire.

Bamboo Pit Viper about 100m in Krem Synrang Thloo entrance ofKrem UmLawan/Kotsati

Thursday 18th February

Fraser, Andy, Adora and Estelle went to survey the northern end of Titanic Hall in Synrang Parniang and take some photos and video footage.  Simon, Tom and J'Rat also came to Krem Eit Hati with the tackle to rig the Wet Nightmares.  Titanic Hall was surveyed upstream to a very terminal looking boulder choke (the Iceberg), just after the Titanic Boulder.

Simon and Co. rigged the pitches at the end which went to a big chamber, which they named Trainspotting Chamber, due to J'Rat wearing an anorak to keep dry on the pitches. After hunting around for leads as most were well choked, Tom noticed a rift and climbed out of  there and came out of the resurgence, Krem Khlieh Trai Lum.

Neil Sootinck and Tony Jarratt with the small selection of explosives that were to be used to try and further progress in Krem UmKhang/Kharasniang.

They surveyed 60m to end, but more side passages to do.

Ritschi and Daniel wallowed in the Muddy Waters at Krem Umsynrang and surveyed 280m to another climb.

Tony, Zuala, Brian, Herbert, Christine, Christian, Georg, and Mike went to do the through trip from Synrang Thloo to Urn Lawan, but the boulder choke has moved at the Urn Shor/Kotsati connection so they came out at Kotsati into Spindro's Back Yard and went back in Urn Shor to complete the through trip.

We were informed on arrival back at the IB that a certain green snake from Synrang Thloo was resident in a lemonade bottle in the kitchen.  Alfred and Ruata, who had arrived from the Mizoram Adventurers, had gone into the cave and caught it; how they got it's head through the lemonade bottle I will never know!!!

Friday 19th February

Before breakfast Mike, J'Rat, Tony, Kyrshan, Neil, Alfred, Ruata, Badamut and Shron Lyngkhoi (the bus driver) had a successful bang trip to Krem UmKhang/Kharasniang; this time the charge went off.  They videoed and photographed the whole experience, then came out via a tourist trip in the rest of the cave and came out of Urn Khang entrance - someone had built a house over the path so they had to climb out under the floor, much to the locals amusement.  The driver is dead keen on the caving, maybe next time he'll take a light and helmet!!

Simon, Tom, Fraser, Estelle and Tony walked up a hellishly steep path from Umstein village which was where they came out yesterday from the resurgence of Synrang Parniang. Interesting walk, Krem Khlieh Trai Lum entrance was successfully GPSed and was found to be 500m south of Krem Plat. Tom and Simon went in Synrang Parniang to derig and complete the survey of the lower sections.  We made our own path through the jungle to arrive at Krem Plat and the Lumshnong/UmLong track.  When we arrived back to the IB we found J'Rat already back - he had managed to lose Andy, Alfred and Mike somewhere in Krem MaTom, but they appeared later.

Georg, Ruata, Christian, Thilo, Zuala, Neil and Ritschi went to Synrang Pamiang original hunting side passages that may connect to Krem Umsynrang.  They found some holes high up that could do with a bamboo maypole!! They then surveyed Krab Inlet to a boulder choke.

Simon and Tom entered Synrang Pamiang via Krem Khlieh Trai Lum resurgence entrance.  They surveyed and detackled the cave apart from the entrance ladder.  They also checked out the boulder chokes at both ends of Titanic Hall.

Saturday 20th February

Neil, Betsy, Alfred, Ruata, Tony B and J'Rat went back to Krem UmKhanglKrem Kharasniang for another pre-breakfast trip.  Yesterday's bang had done an excellent job.  The spoil was removed and another half stick charge laid and successfully fired. Betsy saw a 2m brown/grey snake near the entrance.  Midday J'Rat, Tony B and Neil returned to clear the debris and lay the third and last charge.  An open strongly draughting crawlway lies below and they will be in on the next trip. They then went to the end of Anglo-Sikh Series in Urn Lawan and spent a couple of hours hammering the flowstone blockage; they now have roomy passage visible above, a bit more work and they will be in on the next trip.

Simon, Fraser, Kyrshan, Badamut, Mike, Brian, Betsy, Alfred, Ruata, Christian and I went to Synrang Pamiang Krem Eit Hati entrance.  We managed to hitch a Shaktiman as far as the monolith. Kyrshan and I went in the front and the rest rode on top.  It was a brilliant experience, the guys on the back had great fun holding on, while from the cab it feels like riding in a caterpillar type vehicle; the driver only used 4-wheel drive once on a really steep bit.  We continued the walk and on the way into the doline, Ruata and Alfred cut 2 bamboos for maypoling entrance side passage for on the way out.  We started in the inlet, which was quite amusing as the Mizoram boys spent the whole inlet traversing to stay out of the water until one of them fell in!!  Eventually we arrived in the streamway where we had to complete the survey and Simon, Fraser and Mike stayed to take some photos whilst Estelle took the rest of the party to Titanic Hall. Christian and Estelle left the Meghalayans to explore, and went back to the streamway.  Fraser and Mike then went to Titanic Hall to organise sightseeing, video and photos while Christian, Simon and Estelle surveyed the unsurveyed section of streamway.  When we had completed this part of the survey we went back to the inlet and to the side passage by the entrance where Simon put up the bamboo maypole and climbed the ladder into a passage bigger than the inlet!  The passage went 40m to a climb down which will need a revisit with either tackle or a stronger climber.

Tom Chapman, Zuala Ralsun, Thilo Muller went walking near Umstein searching for Wah Lariang resurgence and caves in this area.  They confirmed that the river valley that Synrang Pamiang resurges into is Wah Lariang.

When we arrived back at the IB there was a group of the ladies from Shillong; we had a brilliant night's singsong and lots of beer and rum.

Sunday 21st February

J'Rat, Neil, Alfred and Ruata went to Krem UmKhangi Kharasniang and checked out the last bang and also did about an hour's digging. The Mizoram boys are dead keen on the digging and J'Rat had a job to persuade them it was breakfast time!

After breakfast the party of ladies from Shillong were kitted out and taken on tourist trip into Krem Lalit accompanied by Brian, Tom and Andy.

Fraser, J'Rat, Thilo, Tom, Mike, Kyrshan, Badamut and Estelle left for Shillong for a night in the Embassy Hotel before going to Cherrapungee.  The rest are staying on to continue work in Lumshnong.  The water was off at the Embassy so we had to wait for a bucket of hot water for washing and they had to supply us with water for flushing the toilet!  Later the electric went off as well!!

Monday 22nd February

We left early for Cherrapungee and fortunately were able to stay in the Circuit House there, so after settling our kit in we kitted up and went caving.  We managed to get all 8 of us in an Ambassador taxi to the limekilns and then split up.  Fraser, Thilo, Raphael (who had replaced Badamut) and Estelle went to Krem Mawria after obtaining permission as this is the water supply and has pipes and dam in entrance.  Nice cave with meandering passage, which eventually loses the stream up a smaller side passage and ends in a boulder choke.  We surveyed 630m to the boulder choke; 'side passage' which has the main stream remains unsurveyed at the moment.

Tom, J'Rat, Mike and Kyrshan went to Krem Soh Pang Bniat and surveyed 270m of passage.  The entrance and small passages had been looked at but not surveyed, so they followed down to the streamway and then finally came out of another entrance at the bottom of a cliff.  As they could not tell where the entrance was in the dark, they had no choice but to go back in the cave and come out of their original entrance. Kyrshan did all this in his only set of clothes with his video camera in a shopping bag.

Lumshnong - Tony Boycott, Neil and Alfred went digging in Anglo-Sikh and got back into the original passage.  They also went back to Krem Urn Khang, banged dig passage, dug out and passed for 15m in 0.5 x 0.3m tube to too tight squeeze for Alfred to follow.  Ritschi, Ruata and Daniel trying to climb at the end of Muddy Waters without success so they went and surveyed a side passage instead. George and Zuala had a trip to Lunar valley and visited/surveyed Krem Shong Skei, Krem Mih Urn, Krem Urn Peh. They also released the Bamboo Pit Viper; there were conflicting stories on the release!!!   One was that they had opened the lid and thrown the bottle away as hard as possible as the snake was halfway out of the bottle and the other was they put the bottle at the side of the path and the snake had gone by the time they came back!!!

Tuesday 23rd February

Fraser, Tom, J'Rat and Estelle went into Krem Soh Pang Bniat entrance and followed the right hand passage surveyed by Daniel just before Xmas last year. We split into two survey teams and surveyed some of the maze that exists in this cave.  Total surveyed approx. 500m.  Fraser and Estelle walked back in daylight from the new entrance (Krem LumsWan 1) and found it was not that far from the limekilns.  Tom and J'Rat went back into the cave and surveyed a connection into Krem Rong Urn Soh.

Mike, Raphael and Thilo surveyed 600m of side passages in Krem Phyllud.

Lumshnong - Daniel and Ritschi did a surface survey on the Cheruphie plateau surface above Umsynrang and Synrang Pamiang.

Simon, Brian, Andy went to UmSynrem and surveyed 70m and collected info on other local caves and survey 6 x 4m in UmShor Washing place caves

Entrance of Krem Phyllud, Cherrapungee

Wednesday 24th February

Fraser, Mike and Estelle went to into Krem Phyllud and completed the survey of the areas worked on yesterday. Surveyed to two different entrances and also a side passage off one of the entrances, total surveyed about 250m. Tony, Tom and Kyrshan went into Krem Lumshlan 1 + 2/Krem Soh Pan BniatlKrem Rong Urn Soh.  They had gone in via the walking sized Krem Lumshlan 1 and surveyed downstream past Putrid Pool to a duck.  Tom went through to find another entrance - Krem Lumshlan 2. They surveyed upstream inlet finding it to actually be downstream Krem Rong Urn Soh.  They had actually surveyed part of this streamway 3 times! - Once last year and once yesterday!  They then went on and surveyed White Woodlice Way and 100m or so of the large upper level bat roost passage until time ran out.  Left at least 100m of the passage unsurveyed.  Thousands of bats in residence.  Lots more to do in this system.

Thilo and Raphael went to Krem Mawria to survey the main stream inlet passage and surveyed there about 120m in crawly passages.  Some? are left, but not very inspiring.

The Sumo that we had arranged wasn't there when we arrived at the road and 1 hour later, there was still no sign, so we got a taxi to the falls at Mawsmai and found it there; the communication must have got confused as it looks as though he assumed he had to meet us there and had been waiting for a long time, wondering where we were! We took the Sumo back to the IB and packed up the kit.  The driver had no idea of loading on roofracks so Tom got up and did the business. We were soon loaded up and on our way to Shillong.

Lumshnong - The team packed all the kit onto 2 buses and a jeep and trailer and headed back to Shillong to meet the rest of us at the Embassy Hotel.  Between us we had found a total of 20km of new cave in the last few weeks.

Thursday 25th February

Sorted out kit and took a trip to Brian's to drop off any kit we are leaving behind and any kit of theirs we still had.

We had a birthday party at Diana's on the other side of town as our last night’s entertainment - we discovered He-Man beer which did a very good job on most of us!!!

Friday 26th February

We left the hotel long before the hangovers had a chance to set in and walked up the road to Police Bazaar to meet the bus.  We were very glad when the bus stopped for us to have breakfast about ½ way.  We arrived at Guwahati airport in plenty of time and after going through the usual rigmarole of immigration, we settled down in the restaurant for beer for breakfast, well for those of us who could take it!!!!  The Germans flew Jet Air and left 20 mins before us.  We were soon boarded and on our way on our Indian Airlines flight. After collecting our bags we made our way out to the few taxis that were running, as there was a band (strike) on. We managed to fit everyone (6 of us and 4 Germans) in 3 taxis and made our way to the Fairlawn Hotel, in Sudder Street, Calcutta.  We had our evening meal, which was typically British, then sat in the beer garden until they refused to serve us any more.  They stop serving at 9.30 pm and turn the lights out at 10pm!!!

Saturday 27th February

We had a traditional English breakfast and then it was time to go shopping.  We spent the afternoon with 3 taxis doing a 'tourist trip' round the sights of Calcutta. Back at the hotel later we had a mass repack to try and fit everything in!  Evening meal was steak on a stone - excellent!!

At 1am we left the hotel and went to CalcuttaAirport to start the long journey home.

Sunday 28th February

Unfortunately we are all home and have to get back to reality!!!


Song - At Our Belfry On The Hill

Tune: Much Binding in the Marsh
Author: Dizzie Tompsett-Clark
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol 2 No 8 December 1947

At our Belfry on the Hill,
The purity campaign has really started,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
From swearing and bad manners we've departed,
We're fixing up a swear box on the table by the wall,
And Don must pay a shilling if he lets his fig-leaf fall,
In case the Bristol Brownies should decide to pay a call,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
Politeness is the order of the day there,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
In fact it's really quite a strain to stay there,
Our dear old maiden aunties could not blush at what is said,
And fairy tales and fables are the only stories read,
At night we say our prayers and then we toddle off to bed,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
We used to talk of motor bikes and caving,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
But now we're concentrating on behaving,
You can bring your little sister and your favourite blonde up too,
They wouldn't mind out language, but they mightn't like our stew,
But if they start complaining, well, they know what they can do,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
We're sure you'll like our tablecloth and flowers,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
We sit and knit to pass away the hours,
Quite early Sunday mornings we go off to church in twos,
But first we clean our teeth and comb our hair and shine our shoes,
And if we're offered pints of beer, we graciously refuse,
At our Belfry on the Hill.


Water Studies In WookeyHoleCave. Somerset.

A brief report by Roger Stenner.

A full report on this study has been submitted to the B.C.R.A. for publication (with joint authors Tim Chapman, Alex Gee, Alan Knights, Clive Stell and Roger Stenner).  This paper will contain full experimental details, including analyses for sulphate and nitrate by ion chromatography, by Alan Knights of the Inorganic Chemistry Dept. of Bristol University and a discussion of problems given by colloidal calcium carbonate.

Between 1966 and 1975, many samples from the River Axe from the 3rd Chamber 3 of Wookey Hole were analysed by Stenner.  Magnesium concentrations in the samples varied very widely, and there was no pattern to the results.  In August 1974, there was more magnesium in a sample from the 5th Chamber than in a sample taken a few days later from the 9th Chamber.  There were two possibilities.  There may have been a gradient in magnesium from Wookey 9 to Wookey 5.  Alternatively, the data could have reflected general changes in Mg levels between the two dates, with no magnesium gradient between the two sites on either occasion.

According to Hanwell's survey of the cave, the River Axe flows from limestone into Triassic conglomerate at Wookey 12, approximately only 50m upstream of Wookey 9.  Also, in 1975 it had relatively recently been shown that when hard water which is low in magnesium, with zero aggressiveness, is shaken with powdered dolomite, magnesium from the dolomite will dissolve in the water (Stenner, 1971).  The two facts led Stenner to think the first explanation was more likely to be true. A study of water samples from deeper in the cave would be worthwhile, and might explain the data from 1974.  In 1996, when Alex Gee was regularly diving to Chamber 22, "pushing" the aven which trends towards the surface (Gee, 1996) he agreed to collect some water samples on some of these trips.  As the study progressed, Colin Chapman and Clive Stell joined the exercise.

The first attempt was called of because the cave was in flood.  On the next trip, on 14.12.96, the water was still high, but the results were amazing, in spite of analytical problems given by colloidal calcium carbonate in the samples.  Samples were collected from the tops of the major loops of the River Axe, at Chambers 3, 9, 20, and 22.  At Wookey 23, samples were taken from the huge Static Sump shown in Alex Gees B.B. article, already mentioned.  At Wookey 22, the sample was taken from Sump 22 above the point of entry of the main stream (coming from Sting Comer).

Chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels were, within experimental limits, the same in all the samples.  But whereas magnesium was 32 to 35 x 10-5 Molar in all the main stream samples, it was only 9.8 x 10-5 Molar in the Static Sump.  The similarities could have been a coincidence.  Remote, but just possible, and the next batch of samples was awaited eagerly.  They came on 25.01.97, and this time, although the river was still high, there was no problem with colloids.  This time, calcium, chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels were the same in all the samples (within experimental limits) and this time magnesium in main river samples were 42 to 43 x 10-5 Molar, and 13.6 x 10-5 Molar in the Static Sump.  Bicarbonates in the static sump were less than in the main river, the decrease balancing the magnesium difference.  Now there was no room for co-incidence.  The water chemistry of the static sump was the same as that of the main river, except that it had less magnesium bicarbonate.

The results from the first two sets of results meant that somewhere upstream, the river and the water in the Static Sump had been the same, with the same chemistry.  Either the water flowing to the Static Sump had lost magnesium, or the water in the main river had gained magnesium.  With the pH range possible in the water (and the measured range of aggressiveness to calcium carbonate) there was no mechanism by which magnesium could be removed selectively from the water.  However, water low in magnesium can dissolve magnesium selectively from dolomite, at the same time producing solid calcium carbonate from the calcium component of the dolomite (and there is plenty of solid calcium carbonate in the silts of the cave, and in suspension in the water of the Axe).

So, this is the picture. Somewhere upstream, the Axe had chemistry like the Static Sump.  Then the river splits.  One branch flows through a bed of dolomite, dissolving magnesium carbonate from the dolomite as magnesium bicarbonate, to become the main River Axe, the smaller branch flowing to the Static Sump.   From the river in Sump 22 to the entrance, the chemistry of the river did not change. This has another consequence.  The location of site(s) where the four main sources of the Axe (St Cuthbert's, Eastwater, Swildons and percolation water) join, must be upstream of the main stream/Static Sump junction.

There was a word of caution about future results.  The flow to the Static Sump could be intermittent, so the link in the chemistry between the Static Sump and the main river might not hold as the size of the river falls (the Static Sump water chemistry would then be linked to a previous water chemistry in the river).

The next question, with a good distance between Wookey 22 and Wookey 25, was whether the junction where the flow splits was within the known cave.  After a few false starts, a set of samples was brought out on 20.07.97. Samples were collected from the previous sites, plus a sample from Wookey 25, where the river wells up from Sump 25.

The results from the samples collected in December 1996 and January 1997 were utterly unexpected, and the possible implications were intriguing.  A high priority was placed on making another collection, including samples from upstream of Wookey 23.  A series of attempts to collect a set of such samples was made between March 1997 and July 1997, all of which failed for a number of reasons.  At last the gremlins were defeated, and a third collection of samples was made on 20.07.97 from the same sites as on 14.12.96, with the important addition of a sample from Wookey 25, immediately before the long descent into the 25th Sump.  Water levels were low.

The results from 20.07.97 were positive.  The water chemistry from the Wookey 25 was the same as that in the rest of the river, the magnesium content being 33 to 35 x 10-5 Molar.  The content in the Static Sump was 11.9 x 10- Molar.  As had been predicted, the links between water in the static Sump and the main river was no longer as close as in the previous samples, when the flow was high.  Chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels in the Static Sump were now significantly different from those in the main river, certainly because the chemistry of the main river had changed since the water had last flowed into the Static Sump.

The July 1997 results push the junction (and the Dolomite zone where magnesium dissolves) upstream of Wookey 25.  It also follows that the water in the Static Sump has come from upstream of Woo key 25. As the drawings in Alex Gee article (referred to earlier) show, the Static Sump is huge.  It has not been thoroughly explored.  As soon as the route through to Sting Comer, and on to Wookey 25 had been discovered, the Static Sump was seen as rather irrelevant. There must obviously be some caution here, because a huge flow of water can flow through fissures far too small to be passed by a diver, but if the water comes to the Static Sump by a route which by-passes Sump 25, this route must be worth looking at again. With such a long distance, there must be a very good potential for making worthwhile discoveries here.  In fact, there are several static sumps in this part of the cave.  The next stage will be to collect samples from all of the static sumps between Wookey 20 and Wookey 25, to discover more about their water chemistry.  The amazing sequence of floods since last summer has delayed this exercise, but watch this space!


Gee, A., 1996.  Recent exploration in "Wookey", Belfry Bull., 48(1) 7-10. 4.

Hanwell, J.D., 1970. Digger meets diver, J Wessex Cave Club, 11(128) 34-9.

Stenner, R.D., 1971. The measurement of the aggressiveness of water Parts II and III, Trans. C.R.G. 13(4),283-295.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support given by the management of WookeyHoleCaves to members of the Cave Diving Group in their work in this cave.


Notes on photographs

1. Photographs from Tankard Hole, 18th January 1959.

The photos were taken after finishing the survey of the cave, with Roger, Pete Miller and Dave Dolan, on a Dacora 2¼" folding camera on 200 ASA film, PF1 bulb.  Pete took the photo of me in the final chamber.


The second (on the next page) was about 100ft beyond this chamber, to record the fossil, with the boot to give the size.  Eight photos were taken, one of which no longer exits.  I remember that several people in the club were angry that we should go ahead with the trip in such a “dicey” cave, the day after a fatality in Swildons.

2. The day of the flood, 10th July 1968.

Three of five photos taken in Bedminster by Roger at about 9.00pm while rain continued, and flood water was still raging.  There was no way of getting out of Bedminster.  I don’t know of any other photos taken during the storm.  The photos show:

1.         Raging water at the beginning of Whitehouse Lane, from underneath the railway bridge near Bedminster Railway Station (and the road to Sainsbury’s supermarket).

2.         St. John’s lane, Bedminster.  Water shooting up after blowing the lid off the culvert carrying the old stream from Claney’s Pond to the Malago Stream.  The pub is the Engineer’s Arms (for a while some foreigners called it the House that Jack Built).

3.         St. John’s Lane, Bedminster.  The walker had turned back after failing to get much further, with the water level above his waist and rising, and the water ahead raging.  The Engineer’s Arms on the right.

Taken with Exacta Varex IIb SLR, 50mm Tessar le4ns, Ilford FP3 (125ASA0 flash.



By Kangy King

At the back of my mind I've been aware of two mountains in the Pyrenees which I'd always wanted to climb when I lived near Toulouse but had never found time.  And then I met Janet again and suddenly it was the right time to attempt the Pic du Midi d'Ossau and the Balaitous.

Pic du Midi is nearly 3,000m high and Balaitous is well over that meaningless criteria.  But at least the height gives some sort of idea of the size of these impressive mountains.  Both are at the western end of the Pyreneean chain.  From here, the mountains of the Pyrenees Oriental decline gradually in height until they meet the Atlantic Ocean.

The Pic du Midi - in the OssauNational Park - is a sensational peak; isolated, steep, set in a breathtakingly beautiful landscape crowded with wildlife.  It simply cries out to be climbed. Fortunately the ordinary route to the top is not easy.  It has three steep sections which require rock climbing skills and which add interest to the usual slog over boulders teetering at precarious angles.  The main problem with these pitches is that lots of aspiring alpinists tend to bounce all over them at the end of ropes held by very strong guides with infinite patience.  Which causes queues.  However, I admit to not complaining on the way down when a delightful young woman being lowered out of balance and right at the end of her tether rotated gently and sat on my head.  She apologised profusely.  I was most polite and did not laugh.

The Pic du Midi d'Ossau is a day's climb, about four hours up and down from the first rock pitch and very satisfying.  The Balaitous by contrast hides itself coyly in a wilderness of high peaks.  Just getting to it is an interesting technical problem.  The first to the top, the respected surveyors, Peytier and Hossard in 1825, had a hard time finding it.  Their first attempt on Balaitous finished on an adjacent mountain, the Palas, another shapely 3,000m summit from which they saw to their disgust (or delight perhaps) that they'd climbed the wrong mountain!  Balaitous is one of the great peaks of the Pyrenees and a mountaineering challenge because even the ordinary route needs careful route finding.  The actual dangers are the difficulties of moving quickly over shattered terrain, and higher on the mountain the ever-present risk of stone fall.

We were already installed at the comfortable campsite at Bious-Oumettes and when we studied the map to plan our route we saw that our preferred ascent line would mean driving for best part of a day to get into another valley.  So we decided to carry a bivvy to the Club Alpine Francais (CAF) refuge at Arremoulit.

It was not meanness that caused us to ignore the comforts of the Refuge but practicalities.  Such is the demand on limited resources that during the climbing season the CAF Refuges are invariably fully booked and it was most unlikely that there would be spare places.  Booking is done by telephoning the Refuge and making a reservation just like booking a hotel.  Members or affiliated members of the CAF pay half price.  So prudence determined that camping near the Refuge with its facilities was the best option.  We took Janet's single person bivvy tent.  This much-loved lightweight shelter had given sterling service on cycle trips.  It featured a low height and required a somewhat inconveniently large area to pitch it.

We left the car on the roadside at the Caillou de Soques at about 1,400m on the way to the Col du Pourtalet.  From here we had to climb to the Col d' Arrious at 2,260m and drop down to the Refuge d'Arremoulit (2,305m).  Then up to the Col du Palas, then down to Lacs d' Arriel, then up to the summit of Balaitous, then return.  Well that's what a detailed reading of the map and guide indicated.  What it didn't reveal was just how difficult the ground was. We had to be careful in good visibility. It would have needed very careful attention to detail in poor visibility because picking the right col from below to avoid finishing up in another valley was not easy.

The long straight walk up a vee-shaped valley to the Col d'Arrious should have been delightful with flowers, butterflies and birds to distract us, but it was very hot and gravity tugged at our big bags.  Placing one foot in front of the other, slowly, got us to a narrow false col with a clear stream and a picture postcard view of the Pic du Midi.  Here we drank, ate and recovered from the heat.  Getting to the Col d'Arrious took a little longer.  Eager to shorten the work we chose to take the Passage d'Ortaig, an alternative route, which was not recommended if you were carrying a large pack because of its 'passage difficile'.  This turned out to be a splendidly irregular narrow ledge, climbing across and incised into the vertical face of a wall, over a very large drop.  It was safeguarded by a thick cable detached at several intended anchor points.  They were right about the large packs.  It did make things awkward especially with the exposure nagging away at the mind.  The sun shone, we arrived above the Refuge, and soon discovered that flat spots for tents were not easy to find.  The best we could find, admittedly romantically situated on a narrow strip of grass between the edge of the Lac d'Arriel and a boulder in the lake, meant that each end of the tent hung over water with the guys tied off to stones in the water - very ingenious.  We kept things cool by immersing them at one end while a small beach at the other served to shelter the cooker.  The bit in between was just long enough to lie flat.  It was enough.  We were content.

At about 6.0 o'clock the mists came down just after we had identified the right Col du Palas (LH) as opposed to the wrong Col d'Arremoulit (RH).  We walked a little to be sure of the path to take for an early start.

The stars that night were amazing.  We were both concerned about the mist, which might cause problems, and during the night, waking together, we lay with our heads outside gazing at the astonishing crystal clear phenomenon of a glittering Milky Way while attempting to identify the greater stars.  Superb.

The morning was clear too. We breakfasted efficiently, packed a small bag rapidly, and were pleased to get off to a good start.  After an hour's steep walk up a good track we crossed the Col (2,517m) and eagerly sought the next stage.  We identified Lac d'Arriel 300 metres below.  And then we looked for the start of the climb to the Balaitous. There was no obvious path.  It was a long way down even to get to the next uphill bit.  The ground was rocky and crossed large scree.  It looked terrible.

The next hour was spent picking our way slowly on a downward diagonal line across to the foot of a cascade. Concentration was essential both to pick a reasonable line and to be careful on treacherous loose rock.  It felt like a trap because should the mist return it would be hard to retrace our steps.  A herd of Izard making light work of the terrain raised our spirits.  There wasn't much other wildlife apart from the whistling of marmots.  Nearly off the rough stuff we could soon stop to work out the next moves.

From the cascade mentioned in Kevin Reynold's Guide we had an interesting time fiddling up gullies and ribs to reach the Gourg Glace at 2,400 m.  And now at last we could get to grips with Balaitous.  A path appeared.  We were back on a regular route and the next fix, the Abri Michaud, a small but useful shelter at 2,698m, gave us confidence to climb the easy but dangerous gully above which seemed filled with large loose rocks.  This gave onto a pleasant grassy area, the beginning of a ridge. We'd had enough of loose rock and continued sticking to firm rock ribs until we were forced out onto the true ridge which gave wonderful views, stimulating exposure and no hope of continuing without a rope.  Reluctantly we skirted several gendarmes before admitting that we were off route. A friendly shout assured us that it was 'easier over here'.  It might have been easier but once again it was depressingly loose only made bearable by being in the mountains shadow, out of the fierce sun.  We'd got so high on the ridge that we had to traverse across the face below the summit to get to the final gully.  It took ages.  Eventually we sat on the long anticipated summit of Balaitous at 3,144m.  Rock climbers appeared and chatted to us.  We knew that theirs was the better way.  One commented that it was rare to see a couple on a mountain (of our age he implied!) because the woman usually stayed at home and grumbled.  Had we done much climbing he asked?  I missed the opportunity to say that we had climbed the Aneto, the highest in the range, 42 years before.  But you always think of the perfect reply too late.

The descent was slow and the required concentration tiring.  A single lapse disturbed a stone which after a slow trundle suddenly accelerated and mercifully missed a pair of climbers a hundred metres below - very frightening.  However, now firmly back on route, having missed it on the way up, we climbed down and across the face following the large fault line called 'La Grande Diagonale'. This finished enjoyably by traversing an exposed ledge which led back to the grass at the start of the ridge.  The ledge was similar to the Passage d'Ortaig which went to the Refuge, but lacked the comfort of a security cable.

The return climb up to the col from Lacs d' Arriel was tense too.  Constant attention had to be paid to unstable rock.  Gradually the slope eased, the green oasis of the Col du Pal as arrived and then and only then we felt as if we had climbed the mountain. A very unforgiving one.


Harry Bamforth

 - A pioneer cave photographer.

By Dave Irwin

Though many photographs of cave scenes were made prior to 1900 few were taken by the active caver of the day.  Those that were published widely had been photographed by house photographers of well-known publishing companies or resident photographers of the major show caves. Those of importance include Francis Frith of Reigate; Ben Haines (USA); Kerry of Sydney, Australia and McCarthey, resident photographer of the JenolanCaves.

Interior views of caves first appeared in Britain about c.1886.  Frith's of Reigate had samples of their products on sale at Cox's Cave at about this date.  By 1890 interior views of Gough's OldCave were also available, some possibly by Frith and certainly those of Stanley Chapman of Dawlish.  The contemporary handbills make known the fact that a wide range of photographic prints were available on the premises.  These  early photographs were later used for illustrating picture postards c.1902 in Britain though mid-European cave photography views were on sale as early as 1895.

Early caving expeditions seemed to be as well equipped with the latest up-to-date gear as any modem equivalent.  The golden years of cave exploration were rigidly organised by men with great leadership qualities such as Simpson and Puttrell.  In Derbyshire, Jack Puttrell, a house painter and decorator from Sheffield, lays claim to being a pioneer of cave exploration in the HighPeak.  Explorations took place at Castleton in Peak Cavern, Blue John Mine and Speedwell Cavern. The earliest photographically recorded expedition appears to be the successful expedition to bottom Eldon Hole in 1900.  A year later a strong party led by Puttrell explored the Bottomless Pit in Speedwell Mine.  Similar exploration work was being carried out in Blue John Cavern and Peak Cavern. Some of these exploits were fully documented in Wide World Magazine and local newspapers.

The emergence of caving as a scientific pastime brought together not only the skills of the archaeologist, climber, surveyor, biologist, geologist and botanist but also that of the photographer who often recorded original officially record the events as they exploration as it occurred.   In fact, expedition leaders, taking their example from the surface expeditions, sought willing photographers to officially record the events as they occurred.  In Britain, during the first decade of the 20th century, several photographers emerged, though most are now forgotten or remembered for other reasons.  Their names include Balch, Baker, Burrow, Hastings,  Savory, Simpson,  Stringer and later Sergeant and Evens

Among those active during the golden age of cave exploration in Britain was Harry Bamforth.  During the years 1900c to 1905 he appears to have been active on Mendip and in Derbyshire.  A member of the Kyndwr Club, he met and befriended Ernest Baker. The two caved and climbed regularly both in Britain and on the Continent.  The photographic evidence would imply that his main field of activity was Derbyshire and Mendip but Baker also records Bamforth being present on an early exploration trip into Stump Cross in the Yorkshire Dales.


Biographical details are sparse - even from his descendants.  Harry Bamforth was a son of James Bamforth, an adventurous businessman who developed the publishing company of Bamforth at Holmfirth. James Bamforth was a son of a painter and decorator and he became interested in photography in the 1860s.  By 1870 he had started a company producing lantern slides promoting the entertainments of the day.  During the 1890s Bamforth had entered the race to produce early cine films but the southern based companies eventually won the day, largely because of the generally better weather conditions that prevailed in the south-east.  However, printing being the main form of business led him to the production of picture postcards in 1902.


1 - Speedwell Cavern. First descent of the 'Bottomless Pit' by Puttrell, 4th May 1901.  Note the use of multiple light sources.

2 - Bamforth Song card set: Please Miss, Give me Heaven. [Harry Bamforth is 'acting' the part of the grieving father]

Today the company is still a major producer of picture postcards principally the saucy seaside comic cards.  During the early years of this century (1903) and on to the end of the First WorId War, the Bamforth company's fame rested on their 'Song and Hymn' cards, depicting a scene or scenes of popular songs or hymns, and usually published in sets of three or four cards.  Each scene was staged and local inhabitants, enthusiastic to dress-up, took part for a small fee.  Children rewarded with sweets.

Later during the 1914-1918 war they created cards expressing the sentiments of parted families, loved ones leaving home, grieving parents and lonely graves - a style that appealed to the contemporary emotions of the British public.  The modern public would be appalled at the deliberate 'tear-jerking' products - or would they?

3 - Harry Bamforth. [Enlargement of the first song card illustrated]

Harry Bamforth was born into this hugely successful family and eventually became involved in the operations of the company.  His privileged position in society enabled him to travel and become an active rambler, climber and caver.  His period of caving activity in Britain was to span the years 1900 - 1905 for about 1906 he was sent to New York, to manage the American branch of the company.

Bamforth married and had one daughter.  He died in the 1930s.

The only known commercially published photo of him is on a set of three Bamforth Song Cards entitled "Please Miss, Give Me Heaven".


From the photographic evidence and Balch's reference to him in the text of "The Netherworld of Mendip" (1907) his visits were wide ranging both on Mendip and Derbyshire. In March 1903 Bamforth accompanied Baker and Balch on his first extended exploration of Eastwater Cavern when the Rift Chambers and Traverses were discovered. The difficulty of moving through the cave meant that his cameras had to be left at the head of the 380ft Way. 

A similar event took place in Swildon's Hole in December 1904 when his cameras had to be left at the Well, in the Wet Way, when progress became difficult and he feared that the water would cause damage to the equipment.  The object of the visit was to attempt the first descent of the Forty Foot Pot but the strength of the water made this impossible. Another seventeen years was to pass before  the passage beyond could be explored and it was left to another photographer to record the discoveries J. Harry Savory. However, the 1904 trip wasn't a waste of time; Baker successfully explored the Short Dry and Long Dry routes in search of an alternative to the wet and uncomfortable stream route, connecting the Long Dry Way with the entrance bedding chamber.  Meantime, Bamforth went back to The Well and transported his camera equipment to the Old Grotto and took many photographs of the chamber and its side passages.

4 - Swildon's Hole, Old Grotto - No. 5763 - photo. taken on 27th December 1904.

5 - Swildon's Hole, Old Grotto - No. 5766 - photo. taken on 27th December 1904.

6 - Peak Cavern. Jack Puttrell at a new entrance in Cave Dale.  1st March 1902.  From Wide World

7 - Speedwell Cavern, Castleton, East Rift. Exploration party on 4th May 1901

8 - Lamb Leer Cavern. Life-lining at the cave entrance. I - r : E.A. Baker, H.E. Balch and H.J. Mullett-Merrick. Easter, 1903

9 - Eastwater Cavern entrance. No. 5760. Note the spoil heaps. Easter 1903

10 - Speedwell Cavern, Canal. [No. 5705].  Taken on the Bottomless Pit expedition, 4th May 1901.  Note the double flash lighting.

11 - Peak Cavern, The Vestibule, c.1902. No. 5723


The visit of Martel to England in 1904 included Bamforth as a member of the host party in the company of Balch, Baker, Puttrell, Troup and others.  It is probable that the photographs of Gough's and Cox's Caves were taken at this time.  Other Mendip caves were photographed by Bamforth and those recorded include Lamb Leer (note 1), Goatchurch, and the Great Rift Cavern ( WhiteSpotCave) in the Cheddar Gorge.

During the period 1900 - 1903 his photographic record seems to be limited to Derbyshire, though a number of postcards have been found of villages in the Yorkshire Dales, probably the result of hiking in the area.  Examples of his Derbyshire work appeared in the Wide World Magazine in 1901 and 1902.  A friend of J. W. Puttrell, Bamforth was invited to be the official photographer on a number of Derbyshire expeditions.  This work resulted in a number of interior views of Peak Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Blue John Mine and Reynard's Cave in the DovedaleValley.  Surprisingly, none have been found of Dove Holes.  Historically his photographs of the Puttrell led expedition to the 'Bottomless Pit' are the most interesting.  This took place in May 1901.

Bamforth developed new lighting equipment for the trips and further used new innovations for obtaining his photographs.  In one case he developed a spot-light that is seen used in Photo - 1 and he seems to have been one of the first to use multiple lighting sources: see Photos 1 and 10.    The spotlight was also used to pick out features of the cave particularly in large chambers as in Peak Cavern.

In addition to his contemporaries, including Croft and Wrightman, Bamforth had the advantage of many later photographers in that his work includes the activity of cavers on original exploration.

During the course of Bamforth's activities in the United States, the Bamforth company published three photographs of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, taken by Ben Haines the resident photographer at the cave.  All of these photographs had been published previously by H.C. Ganter the then owner of MammothCave. Whether Bamforth ever visited this or any other American cave is unknown.

Bamforth's work exists in three formats: books, photographic prints and picture postcards. Collectively the photographs form an important record of caving activity in Britain during the first decade of the 20th century. Successive photographers of these early years, Holt, Hastings and later Savory, continued the task of pictorially recording the known British caves.

Identification of Harry Bamforth Photographs

Bamforth photographs published in the books and periodicals listed under references are usually credited by an imprint at the foot or in the acknowledgements at the end of the article. The early releases of the postcards (c.1903-5) and photographic prints are more difficult to identify as only a few include any form of imprint.  The commercially printed 'real photographs' and officially published by the company, Bamforth of Holmforth, generally bear the imprint on the back of the card. These were published about 1920. In the case of the 'reprints' the title layout and the letter character style is quite different.  Usually they are hand inscribed italic capitals whereas the early releases have a crude but very distinctive, hand-written title, in capitals, on the negative.  It is the original releases that are being discussed in this section.


BSA     BSA British Speleological Association

CC        CC Caves and Caving. Published by British Speleological Association

MCC     Moors, Crags and Caves of the HighPeak and Neighbourhood. E.A. Baker. John Heywood Ltd., Deansgate and Ridgefield, Manchester. 1903

MSC     Mendip - Its SwalletCaves and Rock Shelters. H.E. Balch. 1st. ed. 1937 Clare, Son & Co., Wells, Somerset

N          Netherworld of Mendip, E.A. Baker & H.E. Balch, Simpson, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., London. 1907

P          Photographic print

PC        Picture Postcard

S          Les Cavernes et les cours d'eau souterraine des Mendip Hills, Somerset, Angleterre (Explorations de 190 1­1904). H.E. Balch. Spelunca No. 39 (December 1904)

WM      WellsMuseum (Savory Collection)

WW      Wide World Magazine

[]          Number of reference

(§)        With or without number

(+)        No number or title on image

(#)        Number only on image

Recorded Photographs

The list of photographs fall into four categories:

1          Numbered photographs (two digit number inside parenthesis)

2          Numbered photographs (three digit number)

3          Numbered photographs (four digit number)

4          Un-numbered photographs

List 1

(51)       The Cliffs, Cheddar   PC

(52)       Cheddar Cliffs, Horseshoe Bend.   PC

(58)       Peak Cavern, Castleton. [same photo. as 5723]   PC

(66)       MiddleCave, Wookey Hole, Somerset.                                PC; P-WM

(67)       Peak Cavern   PC

(68)       Peak Cavern   PC

(75)       PeakCastle and Castleton.   P

List 2

659       Cavedale Castleton             PC; WW[6]

669       Entrance to Blue John Mine Castleton        PC

List 3

4576     Reynard's Cave, Dovedale   PC

5695     Blue John Mine, Castleton                                                             PC(§)

5697     A Lord Mulgrave's Dining Room, Blue John Mine, Castleton.  PC

5698     The Passage, Blue John Mine, Castleton.   PC

5699     Lord Mulgrave's Dining Room, Blue John Mine,  Castleton.  PC

5700     Variegated Cavern, Blue John Mine, Castleton.          PC(§); P

5702     Crystal Waterfall, Blue John Mine, Castleton.           PC(§); P

5703     The Fairy Grotto, Blue John Mine, Castleton.           PC(§); P

5705     Canal, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.   PC(§);WW[3]

5706     Halfway, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.       PC(§);MCC

5707     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.         PC(§); MCC; WW[3]

5709     Entrance to Canal. Speedwell Mine. Castleton                PC(§)

5711     Going down Bottomless Pit, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.  PC

5712     Waterfall, Bottomless Pit, Castleton.  PC(§); WW[3]

5713     Speedwell Cavern, Castleton.    PC(§); P; MCC; WW[3]

5714     Peak Cavern.  PC

5718     Arches and river, Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC; P; WW[6]

5720     Devil's Cellar, Peak Cavern, Castleton.                 PC(§)

5721     Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC; P; WW[6]

5722     Arches, Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC(#); WW[6]

5723     Peak Cavern, Castleton. [identical to (58)]   PC

5726     Approach to Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC

5727     Looking down steps, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.               PC(§)

5728     Eastwater Cavern, Boulder Chamber               P- WM

5731     Descent to Speedwell Mine, Castleton.   PC

5742     Gough's Cave, Mendip Hills.                P-WM

5743     Entrance to Goatchurch Cavern, Burrington Coombe.         PC(+); WM

5744     "The Grill", Wookey Hole.  PC(§); N(p58)

5746     Entrance to Lamb's Lair.            N(p.136)

5747     Mr. Puttrell entering Peak Cavern by ... new entrance P(#); WW[6]

5749     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.     P

5750     Gough's Cave, Mendip Hills                p.WM

5751     Lamb Lair, Harptree, Mendip Hills.                          p.WM

5753     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.                  P(#)

5757     Loading the Collapsible Boat after visiting Cliff Cavern    CC[7]; P(#)

5758     Lamb Lair (roof of Great Chamber). Harptree.              P- WM 5759 Beyond the "Bottomless Pit" - A rock- arched passage     CC[7]; P2

5760     Entrance to Great Cavern Eastwater Swallet and Cave, Mendip Hills           P-WM; N(p.59); WM

5762     Beyond the grottos, Swildon's Hole, Mendip Hills  PWM

5763     Stalactite Chamber, Swildon's Hole. N(p.80);               P-WM3

5764     Swildons [sic] Hole. Mendip Hills. 4                 P-WM

List 4


Cox's Cave:

In Cox's Cavern, Cheddar               N(p.92)

In Cox's Cave, Cheddar, Mendip Hills [Transformation Scene]      P-WM

The Font, Cox's Cavern, Cheddar                P- WM

Eastwater Cavern:

Eastwater Swallet                 S(p.8)

Eastwater Cavern [head of 380ft Way]    PC

Gough's Cave:

Gough's Cave, Mendip Hills [View of Solomon's Temple]    PWM

Great Rift Cavern [Whitespot Cavern]:

Great Rift Cavern, Cheddar Gorge         PC; N(p.93)

Lamb Leer Cavern:

The "Beehive" Chamber, Lamb's Lair N(p.1l8); S(p.22)

Stalactite Wall, Lamb's Lair               N(p.1l9)

Entrance to Great Chamber, Lamb's Lair    N(p.120); WM

Stalactites in Entrance Gallery, Lamb's Lair              N(p.122)

The Beehive, Lamb Lair          MSC(p.79)

Above Beehive. Lamb Leer. Mendip Hills                 P-WM

Swildon's Hole:

Swildon's Hole - The Pagoda Stalagmite                 P-WM

Entrance of Stalagmite Chamber. Swildon's Hole               N(p.78)

Stalactite Curtains. Swildon's Hole                                      N(p.79); WM

Swildon's Hole in 1901                                                        S(p.17)

Wookey Hole:

Wookey Hole. Stalagmites in the New Grotto                   S(p.29)

Wookey Hole. The Witch                                                  S(p.28)

The Subterranean River. Wookey Hole                             S(p.26)

Hyaena Den and Badger Hole. Wookey Hole                    N(p.23)

The Great Swallet of Bishop's Lot                                      N(p.28)

In the First Chamber. Wookey Hole Cavern                       N(p.49)

New Stalactite Grotto. Wookey Hole                                   N(p.57)

The Source of the Axe. Wookey Hole                               N(p.59)

Wookey Hole [view of resurgence]     PC

Wookey Hole [view of canal]     PC

Wookey Hole. Looking into the 1st Chamber [man in white clothes] 5      P-WM

Ebbor. Nr. Wookey     PC


Blue John Mine:

Crystal Cavern. Blue John. Castleton     PC

Passage. Blue John Mine. Castleton [2 men in passage]     PC

[Party outside Blue John entrance - cabinet card]        P

Blue John Mine [man in passage with light in background]        P

Peak Cavern:

CottagesNr.Peak Cavern. Castleton     PC

(no title visible - photo. of Ropewalk)     PC

Mr. Puttrell ...prepares to descend the newly-discovered entrance WW[6]

The members of the party                                                              WW[ 6]

Arches. Peak Cavern. Castleton [no man in picture as on 5718]   PC; WW[6]

High up in the Victoria Aven                                                         WW[6]

"The Five Arches." ... [similar to 5722]                                          WW[6]

Entrance to Peak Cavern [low level view of Ropewalk]    PC

Speedwell Mine:

Speedwell Mine. Cliff Cavern. Over 100ft high      P6

Speedwell Mine. On the way to Cliff Cavern                              P; CC[7]

Speedwell Mine. Cliff Cavern. Stream at low level              P; CC[7]

Through this cottage one gains access to the tunnel       PC7; WW[3]

.... explorers. with their impedimenta ...               WW[3]

Canal. Speedwell Mine.   PC8

Descent to Speedwell Mine. Castleton     PC

Entrance to the Winnats [includes entrance to Speedwell Mine]     PC

First descent to "Bottomless Pitt"                                          PC9;WW[3]

Mr. Puttrell sets out to explore the mysterious lake                WW[3]

The party after the descent ... at the bottom of Speedwell Cavern        WW[3]


Yorkshire Moors Nr. Langsett     PC

Hepworth [general view]     PC

Cathedral. Wells     PC

Church and Cave. Woodhouse Eaves     PC

[unidentified resurgence]        P

Burrington Coombe [Rock of Ages]    PC

Cave Dale. Castleton [view of valley]     PC

Cave Dale. Castleton [view including castle]    PC

Castleton from the castle     PC

PeverilCastle and Cave Dale    PC

Wookey Hole [village showing church and cottages]     PC

Russet Well. Castleton     PC


1)                  Anon1901 Exploring the Speedwell Cavern. Manchester Evening News 15 August 1901

2)                  Anonl936 [2 photographs of exploration of Bottomless Pit] News Chronicle 12 Nov. 1936

3)                  Baker. E.A. 1901 The descent of the "Bottomless Pit" Wide World Magazine 8(43) pp 49-55. iIlus [dated 1900 in error]

4)                  Irwin.D.J. 1982 Early cave photographers and their work. BEC Belfry Bulletin (406-407)10-21

5)                  Ford. T.D. 1982 Pers. Comm.

6)                  Puttrell. J.W. 1902 The Secret of the Peak Cavern.  Wide World Magazine 9(54) pp 544-551

7)                  Puttrell. J.W. 1938-39 The "Bottomless Pit" and beyond. BSACaves and Caving (2) pp 44-47; (3) pp 85-88; (4) pp 125-126


The article was originally written in 1985 and has been in the stockpile ever since in the hope that more biographical details may become available - none have.  The lists have been updated and modified.

[Update July 2014]  Information recieved on his sons, Jack and James, who died in WW!.  Interered at Hillside CemeteryCortlandt Manor, Westchester County, New York, USA
Plot: Evergreen Section, Lot #196

Jack Bamforth was a student at Farmingdale State College which was then known as the New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island.   Hi is listed on a passenger list for a ship called the Campania, sailing from Liverpool to NY, Nov 11, 1905.

The list shows Harry Bamforth travelling on business, and lists his occupation as a photographer. He is travelling with his sister Frances, wife Mary Lydia, and 3 children—Irene (age 8), Jack (age 6) and James (age 5).

Jack Bamforth was in the Marines, and died in France in 1918.

There were ship lists for many sailings that included the young Jack, I guess he travelled a lot with his father.


Acknowledgements : The author would like to thank Drs. Trevor Shaw and Trevor Ford for details of photographic prints in their collections and to the Trustees of Wells Museum for use of photographs. nos: 4.5 and 9. from the Savory collection.

Dave Irwin. Priddy. 2nd December 1998.


  1. Baker, E.A., 1903, A forgotten stalactite cavern.  The Standard. Saturday April 11th



In the last BB. No. 499. p.27. an error occurred regarding the listing of the photographs in one of Arthur Gough's booklets.  Revisions to the relevant sections of GCB 060 is given below.  One of the problems of copying and pasting on a computer !! Thanks to Don Mellor. librarian of Craven Pothole Club and Pete Rose who both raised the query.

Ref. No. : GCB 060

Sequence of photographs:

page     title

2          The Pinnacles. Cheddar Gorge

3          Rising of Cheddar Water at foot of caves

6          The lion Rock. Cheddar Gorge

7          The Diamond Stream

10         The Fonts

11         A Group of Pillars showing wonderful variety of form

14         Stalactite drapery

15         The Archangel's Wing. a stalactite curtain 15 feet long

18         The Cascade in St. Pauls

19         The Niagara Falls

22         In Solomon’s Temple

23         The Fairy Grotto

26         In Solomon’s Temple, a magnificent column 11 feet high

27         View of the boulders

30         Hartstongue Fern growing in the cave

31         Skull of the Cheddar Man

Cover: buff card with red and black text and black sketch of 'Reflected group' all inside red. single line. frame.

Ref. No. : GCB 070 is unchanged.

Many apologies.

Dave Irwin. 2nd.

December 1998


Five Buddles Surveys




Five Buddles Sink, Chewton Mendip (Provisional)

ST 5481 5138 BCRA Grade 5d. June 1998.

Original Scales 1:100, 1:200

Photo reduced for BB

Surveyed by: T. Hughes, C. White, T, Jarratt

Drawn by: T. Hughes.


Guess the Cave





There was a time when the owner of Swildon's Hole would lock the cave and refuse access if he considered the water levels to be hazardous. This was back in the pre-neoprene and fibrepile days and the death of a caver ffom hypothermia in Swildons in 1959 (plus another in Longwood four years later) was no doubt a factor in continuing this practice. Sometime in the '70s this restriction ceased and it became a matter of judgement for the caver to assess the conditions and to decide if descent of the cave was advisable. With the 'Forty' gone, and with the advent of specialist clothing, it was soon discovered that the Streamway could be negotiated reasonably safely in almost any conditions and a new 'wetter-the-better' attitude prevailed.

October this year saw some of the highest water levels since the great flood 30 years ago. Saturday 24th October began with torrential rain which continued steadily throughout the day. With the ground already water-logged and stream levels high the level at Swildon's rose steadily. A number of vehicles on the Green, including a minibus, testified to the presence of several parties in the cave. By mid afternoon the water submerged the upper pipe and by anyone's definition the cave was in spectacular flood. Fortunately everyone emerged safely from the system, all the parties being well equipped although there were adult novices included.

A week later on Hallow'en saw even higher levels. By midmorning the upper pipe was submerged and the level was still rising. By early aftemoon the water was flowing over the lip of the blockhouse door. Even these levels did not deter several groups of cavers who entered the cave (despite being strongly advised not to!). The slightly more cautious of us waited until later that night, when the levels were clearly dropping, before going underground. The biggest surprise in the cave was the volume of water over-shooting the Showerbath at the head of the Wet Way and flowing into Binney's Link. Jacob's Ladder is not an all-weather escape route - and an inexperienced or tired caver would have great difficulty under the conditions we witnessed. Down at the Forty the eyehole at the head of the wet climb was half submerged. It was very hard getting back through against the force of water - again this would prove extremely difficult for the tired or inexperienced. At the Twenty the usual ladder hang was under a deluge sufficient to sweep a caver off the ladder and traversing across to a safer area was necessary. The short crawl just beyond the pitch (approaching the Shrine) was easily passable downstream but proved much harder against the flow.

The trip illustrated graphically two facts about Swildon's in flood - it's a great trip, but it's potentially very dangerous. We have to remember that a misjudgement under these conditions will have very serious consequences. There is a serious risk of being swept off waterfall climbs, or being struck by dislodged rocks propelled by the current. The cave environment is extremely hostile in these conditions - the combined spray and draughts would quickly combine to induce hypothermia, even in a well equipped caver. Rescue would become increasingly difficult imagine the aggravated problems in carrying a stretcher through a cave in flood - and the effect that repeated torrential soakings would have on any casualty.

So please take care. Enjoy Swildon's in the wet - even in flood - but treat it with the respect it deserves. Be very selective about who is suitable for this type of trip and that their personal kit is adequate. Cavers should be free and able to make their own judgements on safe water levels for themselves, and for their party. Let's show that we can.

Andy Sparrow

GB Cave

Following a recent 'rescue' when the hasp had to be sawn off of the door, the cave is temporarily secured by a wire strop and padlock. Please operate the lock with clean hands and more importantly with a clean key, as this would appear to be the cause of most problems. Anybody who has problems with the lock should report it to the place where they obtained the key and to Graham Mullan the Secretary of CCC Ltd address overleaf.


Lectures / Training Friday 11 th December Orthopaedic Trauma 7.30 PM at Hunters Lodge inn. Further lectures in January February and March but no dates confirmed yet apologies but some lectures have to be on Fridays due to lecturer commitments


The new CSCC financial year begins on 1st January 1999, following last AGM's approval to move it from springtime. Member clubs are due to pay 1999's subs in time for the start of the year. So I have already put in the post the invoices for your club's 1999 subscription to CSCC and, where you pay via us, the National Caving Association 1999 sub. Both subs are £ 10 each. You may issue one cheque for both subscriptions if you wish, payable to CSCC. We shall receipt both, and forward the NCA sub to that organisation.

Send the sub to me, at Bridge House, Wanstrow, Somerset BA4 4TE, or bring it to the next CSCC meeting at the Hunters Lodge at 10.30 on Saturday 5 December 1998. I shall be grateful if you will pay promptly, as NCA has advised us that under further revisions to Sports Council funding, there are currently no national grants for regional expenditures. This means that CSCC is wholly dependent on its members' subscriptions.

I am also requesting subscription arrears for 1998 from a few clubs. The following are currently overdue and have not advised me that the money is on its way:

Avens Cave Exploration Group (CSCC & NCA 1998)

Avon Outdoor Activities Club (NCA 1998)

Border Caving Group (CSCC & NCA 1998)

Mendip Exploration Group (NCA 1998).


Hon Chairman                                  John Dobson

Hon. Secretary                                 Dave Cooke

Hon. Treasurer                                 Jon Roberts

Conservation and Access                  Martin Grass

Training                                           Andy Sparrow

Equipment & Newsletter Editor          Les Williams

NCA Representative                         Graham MulIan


Welcome to the Cheddar Caving Club, a new local members club, based on the Mendips, who joined us at the last meeting.

CSCC Controlled Caves

AII the padlocks for the various caves controlIed by CSCC have been replaced with new locks. All existing keys should still work although some people have had problems. These have since been rectified and no further problems are anticipated, although anybody experiencing problems with these locks should contact the C&A officer, Martin Grass.


This cave is now locked with the standard CSCC padlock. Keys are available for any member club of CSCC and from the C&A officer Martin Grass.

Dates to remember

15th Dec           CSCC Meeting Hunters lodge inn

16th Feb           CSCC Meeting Hunters lodge Inn

19th March        MRO Annual Meeting Hunters Lodge

20th March        NCA AGM

10th April          CCC Ltd AGM Hunters Lodge

15th May           CSCC AGM 10:30  Hunters Lodge inn

10th to 12th SeptemberBCRAConferenceLeedsUniversity


Views contained in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the Editor, the CSCC. or its officers.

Any relevant news items should be sent to the Editor either on a 3.5 floppy disk as a TEXT file, in the body of an E-mail, as a TEXT file attachment to an E-mail or alternatively Phone or write, address below.

Best wishes for the new Caving Year.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

26/3/99                      Robin Gray Painting underground demonstration at WellsMuseum, 7.30pm - Robin Gray

4/4/99                        OFD Columns Open Day

9/4/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

10/4/99                      CCC Ltd. AGM, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CCC Ltd.

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Cut off - Editor

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Out - Editor

24/4/99 – 9/5/99          BEC/GSG Meet in Sutherland, Scotland - Tony Jarratt

2/5/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/5/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

15/5/99                      CSCC AGM Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns Day

2/6/99                        June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/6/99                      June Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

24/7/99                      Mendip Challenge, based around Priddy Stomp at Priddy Village Hall in evening, with the Cheddar Blues Band – details to follow - John Dobson, ECG

28/7/99                      August Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

31/8/99                      Committee members reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

10 – 12/9/99               Hidden Earth ’99 BCRA Conference, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner

3-30/10/99                  Brush with Darkness 2 WellsMuseum - Robin Gray



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.