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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: 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 www.veandle.co.uk

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: 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


I am repeating this to make it very clear.

Please bear in mind that I only have two more BB’s 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.

We have had a kind donation of a Pentium laptop, which will be available for the next editor to use for the BB.  We are also gradually getting enough money together from the sale of the second hand computer spares and the old computers that have been kindly donated by members, to get a zip drive and hopefully soon a scanner as well.  Keep the unwanted bits coming, they may be of no use to you, but you never know someone might want them!  All monies made from this are going into the 'editors fund' (this is not my beer fund!!) to help make future editors jobs easier by supplying the equipment that is needed for the job.

If we don't find another editor then there will be no BB after October!!

There are other possible solutions that may lighten the load: - job sharing, reducing the number of BB's, having a separate journal maybe twice a year and a short monthly/bimonthly newsletter, etc.

I know at this stage, we have no one who has expressed any interest in taking over the job. Remember that the BB is the primary form of communication for many of the club's members, and is a vital part of the club's existence.

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

Stop Press - Scotland '99 BEC/GSG

ANUS Sump 4 has been passed by Simon Brooks and is now on Sump 5.  Also after a major digging effort on Rana Hole, a streamway can be heard rumbling below from the bottom of the dig.  More information and photos will be in the articles in the next BB.

BEC Working Day and Barbecue

This will be held at the Belfry on 19th June 1999.  There are many tidying up and cleaning jobs needing attention at the Belfry, so please come along and help.  BBQ free to those who work for at least half of the day.

The Barbecue is open to all, but please advise a member of the committee if you are planning to come to just the barbecue and not the working day, so we can gauge an idea of how much extra food is required.  Barbecue will start at around 7:30pm.  There will be a charge for non-workers to cover the cost of their food.

See Belfry or the Hunters notice board for more information, or contact the committee.

St. Alactite's Day

(This appeared in the post, sender unknown!!!  (I didn't recognise the handwriting on the envelope?) Thanks for the info, whoever you are!! - Ed.)

Amid all the ballyhoo surrounding the fact that we shall be writing the date of next year as 2000; a much more significant date is liable to be overlooked.

St. Alactite's Day (according to the preamble to song No.19 in 'Alfie's Manuscript Collection of Mendip Cavers' Songs') falls on the fifth Tuesday in February - an event which only occurs once in every twenty-eight years.  It so happens that it will next occur on Tuesday, February 29th, 2000.

If any Mendip cavers happen to be looking for a chance to get completely paralytic at a reasonable interval after New Year's Eve next year - here is a ready made excuse!


Photos are still required for the photoboard 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.


Burrington Cave 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 as soon as possible as I would like to go to print with this over the summer months.   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.

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 Belfry's 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.

Exhibition at Axbridge

An exhibition illustrating the many ways Cheddar Gorge has been presented to the public is on display at the King John Hunting Lodge at Axbridge.  Various archival items have been lent by Kevin Wills (ACG) and Dave Irwin. Admission is free and runs until late September 1999.

Caving Logs

Dave's Irwin and Turner have just completed scanning the BEC Caving and Climbing logbooks - a long, boring but necessary task.  Checking the final result it appears at least eight (yes, 8) logbooks have been lost. If any member has them in their possession will they please return them soon so that they too can be scanned and stored in a safe place.  It is known that the 1950-c.1955 climbing logbook is in the possession of a club member.

The intention is to put all the files onto CD-ROM in Adobe Acrobat format, copies of which will be available for a tenner to members inc. P&P and £20 to non-members, the profit going to club funds; only Luddites will be unable to read them!  They will also include copies of Belfry Bulletins 1-99 in the same format.  If you are interested in a copy please contact Estelle (Ed); we are trying to gauge interest at this stage, there is no release date as yet.

It is vitally important that this form of club documentation is stored electronically and widely circulated amongst the membership and other club libraries.  If, like the 1949-51 caving logbook, they are lost, then the history of the Club and work carried out by members will have gone forever.  Wig

How to do it without trying!!!

The Wessex Cave Club is planning to publish a detailed Centenary report on one of Mendip's famous caves - Swildons Hole.  It is hoped to be published on or around the 16th August 2001, 100 years after the date the cave was first entered by Troup and Hiley.  The content is expected to include a history of exploration, geology, geomorphology, hydrology and bibliography.  Les Williams is the mastermind behind the idea and has almost achieved the impossible.  Of the sections mentioned above only the geological chapter is actually being written by a WCC member!  The BEC are supplying the history (Wig) and hydrology (Roger Stenner) sections, the UBSS/ACG (Andy Farrant) the geomorphological chapter and the Mendip Cave Registry the bibliography.

Wig St. Cuthbert's Swallet Newssheets.

We are missing No. 8 from the Club collection.  Does any member have a copy?  Photocopies will do quite nicely.  Anyone with a copy would they please contact either Dave Irwin (01749 870369) or Dave Turner (01373 812934) as we wouldn't want to be flooded with copies.  Also missing from the club library and general collections is BB 341, if anyone has a copy of this, could they please contact either of the Dave's.  

A Gentle and Polite Reminder

Several items from the Club Library are still out on loan.  Will all members note that 'Jake' and 'Wig' are cataloguing the library during May.  To do the job successfully requires all items to be in the Library, seen and checked. Please return your loans NOW.  Wig

Gonzo displays all

In association with Cheddar Showcaves, Gonzo has been able to hold a two month exhibition of his painting and pastel work in the restaurant next to the caves museum.  His work includes scenes from Mendip, Derbyshire and South Wales caves.  For those of you building your 'national gallery' collection of cave paintings most, if not all, are for sale - the bigger the canvas - the greater the price!!!  I understand that the other budding 'Turner' is REG and he will be displaying his 'all' during the autumn.

Update of recently paid up members for the membership list

1079     Henry Bennett, London
1183     Andy Newton, Shipham, Nr Cheddar, Somerset
731       Bob Bidmead, East Harptree, Nr Bristol
1088     Nick Gymer, Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1110     Gwyn Taylor, Keighley, West Yorks
1170     Andy Sanders, Gurney Slade, Nr Bath, Somerset
1230     Clive Stell, Bathford, Bath
1231     Tim Chapman, Fareham, Hampshire
862       Bob Cork, Wells, Somerset
868       Dany Bradshaw, Wells, Somerset
1057     Mark Lumley, Stoke St Michael, Somerset
1014     Chris Castle, Shepton Mallet, Somerset

Austria Expedition '99

There will be an Austria expedition to the Dachstein during the first two weeks of August, if interested please contact Pete 'Snablet' MacNab on 01334 xxxxxx.  Other contacts for this are Rich Blake and Tony Jarratt.   (Snablet has prepared an article on Austria, which will be in the next BB if you want an idea of what to expect - Ed.)


Scotland 99 - A Taste of Things to Come!!!

Photos by Pete Glanvill

Article next BB - (I hope!! - Ed.)


Left: Derrick Guy near Thundergast Falls in Alt Nan Uamh Stream Cave

Right: Derrick Guy at the Bottomless Pillar Pool in Claonaite


Swildons Hole 11th July 1968

By B.E. Prewer

In BB 498 I wrote a short note about the Great Flood of July 1968.  After a lot of rummaging through about 500 caving slides I managed to locate a few pictures that I took on the trip down Swildons the day after the flood, 11th July.  Unfortunately the slide quality was really poor - a mixture of camera and flashlight pox (that's my excuse).  However, high level technical talks with Eric Dunford and Dave Turner revealed that it might, with a dose of modem technology, be possible to enhance the pictures.  Well after much fiddling Eric came up with some improvement, so it was then over to Dave for another dose of technology. I never imagined that a near black and white and out of focus slide transparency could suddenly have colour and clarity.

Here are the results of much labour - two pictures (black & white I'm afraid) both taken in the Old Grotto.  Notice the amount of hay hanging from the roof.  On that first day the hay was still green, within a few days it had turned black and had begun to smell - a few weeks later it had practically all gone.


As I said previously, with few exceptions, every passage in Upper Swildons had flooded to the roof and the large stalactite above the 20' Pot also had hay hanging from it.  In 1968 farmers still cut the grass for hay and in this case the grass had just been cut and had been left to dry.  The storm of 10th was accompanied by strong winds and it was this wind that blew the hay into the entrance of the cave.  The hay may also have been responsible for a temporary blockage and water build up at the entrance.  It is known that the whole swallet filled with water at some during the day.  The probable cause of the dramatic backup of water in Upper Swildons was the restriction in the streamway below the 20' Pot at the Shrine followed by the bursting of the plug at the bottom of the old 40'.



Tales of Nigel’s Drysuit Part 5


Song: The Butcombe Blues

By Mike Wilson

Having drank all night at the Hunters
And managed to stay standing up
You find to your horror some punters
Gone and purchased a barrel to sup.

So you stagger to the bog in a stupor
And manage a fumbling pee
Then back to the bar for another
Is this twittering wreck really me?

Last orders are called and the lights flash
Finish your pint at a push
Chip in for the barrel with hard cash
Then nip out for a lift what a rush!

In the Belfry it's heaving
All alcohol song and sick being the norm
Watch the proles hastily leaving
Pursued by Willet in beer monster form!

The nights not finished till morning
You crawl out of your pit looking grim
Climb over the debris still yawning
Having indulged in alcohol's whim

Short of cash and totally exhausted
Let's go down to the caff for a bite
Last night couldn't really be faulted


My apologies to Jude for this one!!! - Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson.


Stock's House Shaft~ Chewton Minery - Another Lost Cave Rediscovered.

By Tony Jarratt

Situated at NGR ST 5487 5138 is a large, grass covered mound which the writer identified as the spoil heap and "collar" of an infilled lead mine shaft, one of the most distinctive of the hundreds of overgrown workings located in Stock Hill Forest and some 50 metres SSE of the Cornish Shaft entrance to Five BuddIes Sink.  It was thought possible that it could have been one of Thomas Bushell's twenty shafts, sunk around 1657 in the search for a natural cave or "swallow" from which to drive his drainage adit to unwater the deep, flooded Row Pits mines nearby, and thus worthy of investigation.


The shaft “collar” from the road.  Photo – A. Jarratt

The doughnut-shaped heap indicated possible collapse of the "ginged" top section of the shaft, leaving a shallow depression - nicely camouflaged by brambles - and digging commenced on 25th July 1998 in order to ascertain if this was correct. Four sessions during the summer failed to reveal any stonework so the site was left alone while work continued in Five Buddles.

On 19th October flooding of the latter drove us back to the shaft and operations started in earnest in November, eight sessions being recorded that month.  We were surprised to find solid rock not far below the surface - the shaft being sunk in a spur of dolomitic conglomerate some 2 metres above road level.  The infill of rocks and clay also contained a goodly amount of wildlife!  Frogs, newts, toads, lizards, slow worms and, to Malcolm's distress, a large adder were removed from the dig and transferred to safer ground.  The now obviously rock-walled shaft was roughly square and about 2 metres across and a temporary lid was fitted to discourage passers-by from falling in.

Work continued throughout December (16 sessions) and the depth increased to 7 metres.  An ancient drum winch (last used 35 years ago!) was borrowed from the U.B.S.S. and a scaffold tripod erected.  This brought us to the attention of the Forester who, while reasonably happy, was somewhat wary of yet another hole appearing and insisted that permission to dig was confirmed with his superiors in the Forest of Dean.  The relevant paperwork and insurance cover was accordingly sorted out - a year after our initial application had been sent to them (!) and at a cost of £35.  The shaft had now developed an oblong shape and the lack of shotholes kept us hopeful that it was a 17th century working. RSJ s were installed 2 metres down and a section of concrete tube later concreted in place with the surrounds backfilled.  A particularly aromatic session occurred one Wednesday evening when Trevor's cat piss soaked digging bags blended with the writer's dog shit coated wellies - not nice in a confined space!  During the Christmas week two more pipes were added and more backfilling was done; to the entertainment of hordes of walkers, "dog emptiers", Hunt followers, etc. who were infesting the area.  Possible side passages off the shaft all turned out to be mere alcoves but were useful hiding places when full bags of mud and rocks were heading skywards. Despite lots of effort right up to New Year's Eve we failed to get a breakthrough and win the Digging Barrel (a draw).

During January 1999 the shaft was further excavated over the course of 18 visits.  Hundreds of spoil bags were removed but no rubbish or artefacts found as in the Cornish Shaft.  At a depth of some 8 metres we were disappointed to find a distinct shothole section proving that the working was more recent than anticipated, though this may merely indicate that the shaft had been enlarged by later miners. At least 17 shothole sections have been found to date.

On 20th January, Trevor Hughes, digging at around 12 metres depth, shouted up the shaft for the surface party to be quiet - an unusual request from "Biffo"!  His excited bellow that he could hear a stream flowing below him caused astonishment and disbelief in those above and a couple of winch men were sent down to confirm this unexpected development. The tedious shaft excavation now took on a different aspect and enthusiasm ran rife.  During the next couple of days another 3 metres of spoil was frantically hauled out and on 22nd January open passage was entered at a depth of 15 metres - yet another "hopeless" dig vindicated.  A 3 metre long, 1 metre high and 2 metre wide streamway with a strong flow of water running from west to east had been breached by the Old Men on the south side of the shaft.  Two streams entered from an impassable rift and a low bedding passage and the combined flow entered a choked downstream sump.  It was thought possible that, being 1 metre lower than the streamway in Five Buddles Sink, this could have been the downstream continuation but testing with flourescein disproved the theory.  The stream probably sinks in the swampy miners' reservoir on the opposite side of the road, a ditch marked as "stone drain" on the c.1860 Chewton/Priddy Mineries map undoubtedly providing a good supply of water in flood conditions. (This was dry on 17th March so could not be tested to the still active streamway.)

On 24th January Dave Speed kindly delivered two larger sections of concrete pipe surplus to requirements at His Lordship's Hole dig.  These were intended for use as the top pipes on both Stock's House and Cornish Shafts.

Throughout the rest of January and February digging at shaft bottom and in the streamway continued sporadically due to the miserable weather conditions and escape of various diggers to Meghalaya and the Millennium Dome.

In March the roof of the downstream sump was blasted to give us some working space and digging below the water level continued.  The fourth and final concrete pipe was emplaced and more backfilling done.  With drier weather in April banging continued downstream and some excavation of the silt in the upstream inlet was also carried out. This is the current position but when water levels drop a major assault is planned.


The original name of this working is not known and so it has been named after Stock's House, a cottage immediately across the road, of which only the foundations remain and which seems to have been associated with the Chewton Minery/Waldegrave Works since at least 1860.

The construction of the concrete piped shaft top. Photo - A. Jarratt

J.W. Gough (The Mines of Mendip, revised edition, 1967) records the following complicated history of this immediate area in the chapter on the final phase of the lead industry.

1859 - 1866: Lease held by Edward H. Barwell & Co. with "Captain" F. Bray.  (Captain being the Cornish term for mine manager).

1868; Edward H. Barwell's lease (of Chewton Minery) was acquired by "The Waldegrave Lead Smelting Company" of St. Austell, Cornwall which had five Cornish directors. The chairman was the Rev. E.J. Treffry; secretary - T. Kinsman and mine manager - Captain F. Bray.

1869-70; The latter two formed the "Mendip Hematite and Lead Mining Company" which was licensed to open mines on the Waldegrave estates.  This company went into liquidation some five years later and Captain Bray, in partnership with James Brock, continued buddling at Chewton Minery under the name of the "East Harptree Lead Works Company Ltd." of S1. Austell.  They also mined iron ore at All Eights, Wigmore Farm.  This company became defunct in 1875 and seems to have been in existence for less than a year.

1879-80: Thomas Willcox was managing the St. Cuthbert's Lead Works for George Ball; later, John Edmund Watts/and finally James and Marion Theobald.

After 1897 this concern was taken over by a syndicate who had hopes of renewed deep mining: -

" the firm acquired a lease of a considerable area in Chewton Warren (now Stock Hill Forest - A.J.) where they excavated cuttings and constructed a tramway about half a mile long to convey the produce to the works.  (The track from the Forest to Mineries Pond and the ruined St. Cuthbert's Works. Stone "sleepers" can be seen all along this. - A.J.).  They also sank some shafts at several places in the hopes of striking lead-ore, but found scarcely anything; "(Gough, p.202).

Later the "New Chaffers Extended Mining Company (1903) Ltd.", with manager Mr. Parry, were active in the area and the St. Cuthbert's Works finally closed in May 1908.

From the evidence of shotholes found in the shaft and the above information it is suggested that Stock's House Shaft dates from the 1897 era and was sunk by "the syndicate" in a vain search for fresh deposits of galena; though it could also have been previously worked by any of the earlier companies and may even originally have been one of Bushell's twenty "cave-hunting" shafts.

Note:    To confuse matters further Burt, Waite and Burnley (Devon and Somerset Mines, 1984) give different names and operating dates to these companies!

The Diggers.

Jake Baynes, Stuart Sale, Malcolm Davies, Rich Blake, Boo Webster (Orpheus C.c.), Tony Boycott, Toby Limmer, Bob Smith, Trevor Hughes, Robin Gray, Chas Wethered, Martin Torbett, John "Tangent" Williams, Gwilym "Taff' Evans, Pete Hellier, Mike "Quackers" Duck, Ivan Sandford, Davey Lennard, Rich Long, Martin Selfe, Helen Skelton (Camborne School of Mines C.C.), Simon Brooks (Orpheus C.c.), Tim Lamberton, Rob Harper, Graham "Jake" Johnson, Roger and James Marsh, Richard and James Witcombe (A.T.L.A.S.), Andy Smith, Ian Matthews (Frome C.C.), Ben Wills, Becca Campbell, Sarah Timmis, Tony Jarratt.

Valued Assistance.

Jeff Price, D.B.S.S., Forestry Enterprise, Roger Dors, Dave Speed.



The Mendip Newspage

By Andy Sparrow

Resin Anchors in Rhino Rift

On the 20th February Rhino Rift was, at long last, re-bolted with resin anchors (P-hangers).  The operation was organised by CSCC equipment officer Les Williams who arranged for a generator and extension leads to be provided ensuring there were no power supply problems for the drilling of holes. Ivan Sandford and Paul Brock arrived by Landrover at the cave entrance together with the generator and bolting kit, while Dave Cooke and myself walked over from Longwood Farm with the necessary ropes.

The military precision of this operation was short lived when, meeting at the cave, neither team had remembered to bring a key.  A group descending nearby Longwood (same key) saved the day and the operation was soon underway.

The objective was to bolt the traditional direct or left hand, route.  Mendip being Mendip we often struggle to find ideal placements owing to the soundness of the rock and, especially in this cave, abundant flowstones. The other big problem is the frequent lack of an ideal position to give a user-friendly free hang.


Kit arrives at Rhino Rift - Now, who's got the key?

The First Pitch proved fairly easy and the resin anchor placements are pretty much identical to the old 'spit' bolts.  Halfway an anticipated problem was the rebelay.  There is a lot of flowstone here, which is not generally recommended for any type of anchor placement. After close examination a good buttress of rock was spotted about 3 metres off the line of descent and an anchor was placed here.

Drilling on the Second Pitch

Cookie drilling above the Second Pitch

The Second Pitch started easily but the rebelay at -3 metres was problematic.  There was a good solid overhanging wall around the comer into which one anchor was placed.  We decided to place the second one out on a nose of rock simply so that it would be visible and would then lead the rigger on to the second bolt (rebelays this close to the pitch head should always be on double anchors.)

On down to the Third Pitch which proved very easy as expected.  We placed two anchors at the bottom of the Second Pitch to try and lead cavers over to the right hand wall and away from the highly dangerous rubble slope.  At the head of the Third there is a simple two anchor Y hang for a straight hang.

So how is the newly P-bolted Rhino?  Dave Cooke tried out the route the following weekend and reported that all the anchors seemed to be sound.  Another group already in the cave had missed the new offset rebelay on the First. This is likely to be a common occurrence until people are advised of where to look. Cookie says that this anchor also works fine as a deviation - which is handy.  The other group had not correctly interpreted the placements at the second and had deviated from the anchor on the 'nose' (no doubt making it bloody hard to pass!).

Busy with the resin gun on the First Pitch

One thing that does excite me about the new route is the position of the First Pitch rebelay. I've yet to try it but it seems almost certain that a hang from this position will easily pick up the bolts from the more technical Right Hand Route.  This would allow some excellent combinations of the two descent routes. There are no current plans to resin anchor the Right hand route because the bolts are all in pretty good condition but eventually it will happen.  If anyone finds stripped bolts on the route let me know and it may precipitate some action sooner rather than later.


A Training Facility for Cavers


Picture: The Wall

As previously reported here Mendip cavers are to acquire a purpose built indoor training facility. Wells Community Education has been granted a lottery grant for the construction of a new sports hall at the Blue School in Wells.  This is part of a wider policy to promote and encourage sport in the community and included in the grant were funds for the building of a climbing wall in the old school gym.  Since the gym has been regularly used for caver training events it was felt that a facility for cavers should be included.  This was conceived and designed jointly by the climbing wall company and myself.  The good news is that the facility is finished and ready for use. 

The next stage is to discuss times, costs and conditions of usage, which will be published at http://www.ascaveservices.demon.co.uk/newsoae:e.htm shortly and in future BBs.

Left: Chris Castle on the Wall
Right: Beryl Hearn in one of the chimneys on the wall
Digital images by Andy Sparrow 


Scotland ’99 – Derick Guy in the Connecting Crawl in Claonaite

Photo – Pete Glanvill


The Belfry Fifty Years Ago

By Tim Kendrick

If you see an old geezer wandering wistfully around near the Belfry some weekend, be tolerant, please. It may be one of us, who were once like you, back for a look.

I'm told things haven't changed at all since I spent Easter there exactly half a century ago, but I don't believe it.

In fact, much must have changed, but I hope everyone still finds the same warm welcome there, starting friendships that last a lifetime, as I did.

The Belfry I knew is half a world and half a century away from my present home in British Columbia, but the memories are strong.  So, at Estelle's request, I'll try to pass on some of the flavour of holidays at the Belfry in what must seem like ancient times to most readers.

First a disclaimer: Others have been active in the club for decades and know much more of its history than myself.  I am presuming to write this only in the hope of reviving some memories and maybe prodding others into doing the same.

Easter 1949 was sunny, we had a great time, and I've got the photos to prove it.

Like many there, I was young.  Chafing at the restrictions of school, home life, first jobs, university or the armed services, the Belfry seemed like a different world to many of us.  It represented freedom.  There were few rules.  Males and females slept in the same room - a novelty at a time when Youth Hostels were segregated as strictly as nunneries.

Wartime restrictions and shortages still lingered in England, and few young people had cars.  The BEC was a motorcycle culture.  We fixed our own bikes and we didn't wear crash helmets. Mucking about with machinery was called "festering" for some reason - a term peculiar to the BEC, I think.

There were no speed limits on country roads and little traffic.  Nobody worried about police traps or being caught while driving under the influence, which was common after visits to the Hunters or other pubs. Most of us smoked like chimneys and nobody bugged us about it.  Escaping real life, I rode down from the Midlands whenever I could, always trying to beat my previous time to the Belfry.  Setting off before dawn and riding wide open on empty roads with more wildlife than traffic, I once hit a big rabbit with my footrest - we had good stew that night.

We're all old farts now, those of us still around, and some may shake their heads at the way young people behave these days, forgetting we used to be the same, if not worse.

Anyone remember "Foulmouth" McKee, notorious for getting the club banned from a pub in Priddy after using the "F word" to the landlady?  The locals must have loved us!

Thanks to the Internet, I'm happily in contact again with Dizzie, Angus and others from those days after a fifty-year gap.

Back then, Angus did Evel Knievel stunts off a plank ramp outside the Belfry and still remembers a drag race we had after unlawfully posting sentries to close off a straight mile of road near the Belfry.  He rode an ancient but extremely potent racing bike and I a modem Triumph T100 with megaphone exhausts and a satisfying roar.

We caved hard, drank cider hard and soft, and quaffed beer by the gallon under the wary eye of Ben Dors, Hunters Lodge landlord, who saw us as a very mixed blessing.

Back from the pub, on good evenings we sang raunchy songs and downed more ale around huge campfires. When finally zonked, a circle was formed and the fire ceremoniously peed out.  Ladies were often present.

Maybe I'm looking back through the rose-tinted glasses of time, but I recall no accidents or anyone getting sick apart from some monumental hangovers.  There were no fights and few hard words.  Drugs and pot weren't even an option.  We were a happy lot, having the best of times, and it shows in my photos.

The Belfry itself was nothing like the brick building I see on the BEC Web site today.  Originally it looked like a big, beat-up plywood crate that would be at home in any Balkan refugee camp.  By 1949 the BEC had moved house a few hundred yards and had built a new wooden sleeping annex, but my overall memories are of grunge and a comfortable chaos.

The only electricity came from the rattling, smoky little four-stroke "Genny".  There may have been running water, but it seems to me that we did most of our post-caving cleanups in Mineries Pond.

The outhouse, or "detailer", was definitely of the gross variety.  A terrible tale was told about the guy who forgot to check the level, and sat down dangling into the caustic chemical goop designed to keep the contrivance approachable.

I'll leave caving epics to others, but the "in" cave that Easter was Stoke Lane, its sump newly penetrated by the BEC. Going through that black and stinking sump rated as one of my scariest cave trips to date, right up there with being lowered 365 feet into Yorkshire's Gaping Ghyll.

Swildons was popular - an easy "Top of Swildons" used to clear hangovers without too much strain.  Some believers had started to dig in a small way at nearby St. Cuthbert's Swallet, but few were hopeful of it going anywhere.

Caving gear was primitive, most of it army surplus.  Cave divers, all pioneers in those days, used dangerous re-breathing gear with caustic chemicals.  Imagine life with no plastic: no Ziploc bags to keep stuff dry in caves, no neoprene wet suits, no nylon ropes, no glowing Spandex or Nikes.

Ropes and ladders were of the hairy variety in every sense.  Wire ladders were being made by a few skilled cavers, but they were expensive and required a new climbing technique.  Many didn't trust them - they looked far too flimsy to bear the weight of real cavers.

I can't recall seeing or using karabiners or other mountain hardware.  I don't think Jumars and the like had even been invented.

Like many other BEC members, I was a keen photographer, and still am, but cave photos were a challenge.

Electronic flash was still a dream so we used flash powder, a semi-explosive mix with a magnesium base. This was heaped on a small device with a metal tray then held well away from the face and ignited by a spring-driven flint wheel.  Maybe this is where the term "flash gun" originated.

Large cave chambers called for large loads of powder.  These took a bit of courage to set off by hand.  With all caving lamps doused, and the camera shutter opened on "Bulb" setting, big piles of powder went off with a huge "Whooff", followed by mushroom clouds of white smoke rising above the sometimes-scorched photographer.

But where have all the really good photos gone?  I just had an old folding bellows Kodak, but some more senior cavers actually had good jobs, fine 35mm cameras, and were already skilled photographers - Don Coase, for example.

It's tempting to ramble on sentimentally for pages, but I won't.

As I write, an old photo album is propped open against my computer.

There in front of me in 1949, young friends are at ease, sprawled in the sun outside the Hunters, the year 2000 impossibly distant.  In the photos they are caving, eating, drinking and enjoying life to the full, so it's hard to face that many are dead and the rest are old in body if not in spirit.

To the current generation I can only say - you should be so lucky!

Email: teekay@[removed]

More photos and history at Tim's Website at: http://www.netidea.com/-teekav/caves.htm 

The following photos were taken by permission from Tim’s Website, hopefully they will bring back memories for many amnd maybe stir up some more stotries form the past.

If anyone can identify persons in any of the pictures, please either contact me (editor) with the details or e-mail Tim direct.




A Scottish Winters Tale

By Kangy King

That day we'd planned to go to Cairngorm to ski because there have been early dumps of snow on the hills and skiing has been quite reliable.  Friend Greta phoned at 07.00hrs to say that she had contacted the Ski Station and because gale force winds were forecast had decided to save her day off and forgo the pleasure of arctic skiing.  Janet and I were sceptical that the winds would be worse than we'd experienced the day before on Cairngorm, when despite little visibility, we'd skied on good snow.  However, there it was, we'd had our fun the day before and we decided no Greta, no ski.

Sunshine lit the Strathconon Hills which gleamed white in the distant view from our front door.  So out of ski stuff into hill stuff and off to a good start.  The drive was punctuated with flurries of snow.  The main roads were clear.  We arrived at the Braemore junction and drove carefully along the Poolewe road which hadn't been cleared completely until we arrived at our start, the gate to the Fannichs. Nowhere to park except in deep snow. We drove further, to a layby. This too was inaccessible. I executed a 48 point turn and slid back to a wider part of the road where we had a coffee, decided to leave the car as far over as possible, and go for it.  No sooner had we picked up our rucsacs when a snowplough stopped just behind us. The driver stepped down from his cab. "Ye canna leave it there.  We'll ha' tae push it off the road.  Have ye no heard about the blizzards coming?"  We were too embarrassed to argue and drove off while the plough followed uncomfortably close.  Janet studied plan B on the map; to go for Beinn Enaiglair.  There was a large car park at the junction a few miles down the road and if possible we could try it from there.

The car park was accessible. The stalkers path through the estate was not.  A notice told us that the route for hill walkers had been relocated and could be found over the stile to the East.  We found it easily enough but there was no path to be seen under a foot of snow. The first few steps told us that the snow was powder and the ground not frozen.  Oh dear.

We struggled along the fence to the end of the plantation and with the prospect of picking up a well-marked path once we'd joined the original route, Janet struck up the hill. It was only a short time before she walked into a deep bog hidden under the covering of snow.  Stuck almost up to her waist in freezing water she could hardly move until I was able to give her a hand to pull her out.  She was soaked to the skin.  Without discussing it further we turned and retraced our tracks back to the car.  With luck we could get back home in time for lunch and wait for a better day.


Vale: N (Tommy) L. Thomas.

By Dave Irwin

Following a long illness 'Tommy' Thomas died on the 5th April 1999 aged 71.  'Tommy' joined the Club about 1965 when he had a new round of caving activity.  He started caving in the late 1940s and was a founder member of the SMCC.  Working near Norwich and family commitments prevented regular visits to Mendip.

However, when I first knew him, the Marble Hall area of St. Cuthbert's Swallet had just been opened up and he was frequently with us on the exploration/photographic trips.  His interest in cave flora and fauna helped to identify a sub-species of Niphargus in the Maypole Series of the cave.  He also collected specimens from Swildons Hole and Cuckoo Cleeves.

In 1949 Tommy was involved with the removal of the human and animal bones from Bone Chamber in Stoke Lane Slocker.  Using hydrochloric acid he managed to retrieve a human lower jawbone partially buried in stalagmite.  Last year I was in contact with him on a number of occasions relating to the Stoke Lane exercise and he was extremely helpful partly aided by his remarkably clear memory; he also supplied further information to Bryan Ellis who has contributed to the forthcoming history of the SMCC.

'Tommy' kept up his membership of the BEC to the end. Molly, his wife died in 1998.

Our condolences and sympathies go to his daughter and his brother, our very own Alan Thomas.



The Priddy Connection

- A history of Priddy Green Sink and its implications on downstream Swildons Hole, 1957 -1974 By Dave Irwin

At the northern edge of Priddy Green, close by Fountain Cottage, is the location of the village fountain; the water that feeds it having been piped from Priddy Spring - also the main source of the Swildons Hole stream.  The fountain was in regular use by the villagers until 1955 when mains water was laid on. (note 1)  Waste water from the fountain sank close-by into a small swallet and had been observed by Herbert Balch in the early days of the exploration of Swildons Hole.

Balch thought that it was possibly the same small stream that he saw emerging from a small hole a short distance upstream of Sump I in Swildons Hole.  The date was the 1st August 1921 and the inlet eventually became known as Priddy Pool Passage. (note 2)  However, in the 1950s, the water flowing out from this point was shown to be water coming from Black Hole Series and not in any way connected with the water sinking at the swallet at the northern edge of Priddy Green.  Mike Thompson described the location of Priddy Green Sink and other sites of interest in the vicinity of Priddy Green. (note 3)

... In the immediate area of the Green there are at least two other sinks. One in the farmyard  (note 4) by the telephone kiosk the other by the council houses.  The latter can be said to be active in that it takes most of the local sewage.

Between 1950-1962 activity in Swildons Hole was intense and extremely rewarding. (note 5)  Though the CDG Somerset divers were full of hope of passing Sump III, MNRC cavers searched for a possible high level route over the sumps off the Swildons Two streamway.  The Black Hole Series (1949-1950) was discovered. However it was not the hoped for high level bypass to Sumps II and III. (note 6)  The belief that Cheddar was the resurgence for the water flowing through Swildons was still prevalent at this time and hence it was thought all the major passages would be heading west.  The discovery of St. Paul's Series, in 1953 by MNRC and WCC, came somewhat as a surprise; it was a 900 ft long passage heading south!! For some time, work progressed at the First Mud Sump - it was trending west.  The second mud sump (now the Mud Sump), at the southernmost extremity of the series, was known to occasionally open and from it emerged a strong draught; this site was ignored for over a year.  Eventually, partly because of the difficulties of progressing through the First Mud Sump and Dennis Kemp's insistence that the second ought to be attacked, Oliver Wells moved the diggers' attention to this point. The breakthrough into Paradise Regained (1955) followed eventually leading to the opening up of the U Tube into Shatter Passage (1960) and the other high level passages in this area, S.E. Inlets.  At the western end of Paradise Regained lay the infamous Blue Pencil Passage where a large stream could be heard at its lower end; many who heard it thought that they were heading out into the Swildons II streamway - even though Kemp had surveyed the St. Paul's Series and Paradise Regained passages!!  Sheer bloody mindedness caused him and his faithful band of followers, mainly from the Westminster Speleological Group, to blast and dig their way through 30ft of constricted passage  - involving 'continuous' work for two and a half years!  In June 1957 success was theirs and before them lay the streamway of Swildons Four with its wonderfully varied scenery. (note 7)  The pundits were astonished!  Doubt was now forming in the minds of the 'boffins' and quite lengthy arguments commenced as to where the Swildons water resurged - Cheddar or Wookey. This was finally ended by the 1967 water tracing of the Central Mendip swallets. Swildons stream flowed to Wookey Hole.  Persistence, mainly by WCC and SMCC, paid off and during the next few years, 1958 - 1966, large extensions were made in Swildons Hole opening up most of the passages that are known today

At the time of the discovery of Swildons Four the water flowing down Cowsh Aven had been correctly guessed as having come from the Manor Farm area - many of the clues were frequently seen and smelt in the Swildons Four streamway!  To effect a 440ft deep entrance from Priddy Green itself was a dream held by many which would avoid the 'long drag' through St. Paul's Series, Paradise Regained and Blue Pencil Passage. (note 8)  More seriously, the discovery of the Four streamway presented a potential problem.  Cave diving aside, (note 9) to reach the Four streamway was one of the most severe undertakings on Mendip at that time; it was regarded as a 'super severe' trip and cavers ventured into this region with caution.  Many people commented on the feeling of isolation (some still do) when in the passages beyond Blue Pencil Passage.  Those who regularly undertook the trip into Four realised that the 'traffic' was on the increase and they became concerned about the potential rescue problems.  From both a divers and cavers point of view any opening up of Cowsh Avens to the surface would be a quicker. (note 10)

... easier, less dangerous access to Swildons IV, facilitating the further exploration of V and VI .... [and the) possibility that high level passages may be found to by-pass the present obstacles to V, VI, or both ....

During February 1958 the first attempt to climb Cowsh Aven was made by Len Dawe, Mike Thompson, Frank Darbon, Jerry Wright and Ken Dawe, who, variously, were members of the SMCC and WSG.  The WSG members treated Cowsh Aven as one their great prizes and when they heard that the Sandhurst cadets were going to Jump on the band-wagon Ralph Lewis and Darbon of WSG, manufactured a special maypole, each section being only 2 feet long, to enable the poles to be manoeuvred through the bends at the bottom of Blue Pencil Passage.  They succeeded in getting up Cowsh Aven and encountered two more, the first, Great Aven was at the time particularly wet with a heavy stream falling; the second was christened Wright's Aven after Jerry Wright had climbed it to confirm that it closed down to an impenetrable crack.  Having met an impasse, though they had returned again on the following weekend (23rd February) they made no further progress.  A short series of acrobatics by Thompson and Ken Dawe opened up the roof level oxbows above the Swildons Four stream way leading off from the top of Cowsh Aven. (note 11) A follow-up trip on 28th September attempted to cross what had become known as Mike's Horror  (note 12) but due to excess mud and the stream way 40ft below the attempt was called off.  With great difficulties now being encountered in the avens work concentrated again on the active stream way and downstream sumps and the Shatter Pot and S.E. Inlet area.

Water tracing:

To help contain the ever increasing number of unsightly carbide dumps that were appearing in the new sections of passage, Fred Davies, (note 13) Alan Fincham and Keith Robins took two tins down the first being left in Breakfast Chamber (the small chamber at the head of Blue Pencil Passage) and the other taken into Swildons Four and left on the ledge opposite the exit from Blue Pencil Passage.  Moving downstream on a quick sightseeing tour the party could not fail to notice the odour  (note 14)

... of pigsh or cowsh.  Found very powerful stream, heavily polluted, pouring down the aven.  This was causing the smell. Must be small flood sink somewhere close to a farmyard and almost above us.  This muck caused fantastic foaming on the sump. Changed carbide, ate chocolate, then out as fast as possible.  Came up Wet Way for the hell of it.

The observation prompted an attempt to prove the water connection between Priddy Green and Swildons Four. This work was carried out by W.J.R. (Wally) Willcocks  (note 15) of the SMCC in November 1958 in association with Oliver Lloyd during a CDG event in Swildons Four.  Because much of Mendip water is used for domestic and farming purposes conventional water-tracing techniques could not be used.  Willcocks came to the conclusion that copper sulphate would do the job.  Thus 71b (3.2kg) of dissolved crystals was poured  (note 16)

... into "Cowsh Swallet" ... just prior to the entry of the cave .... Dr. O.c. Lloyd took spaced samples of the water flowing down the relevant aven .... '

The results showed conclusively that the two points were connected by the water.  In November 1959 Davies summed up the enthusiasm that followed  (note 17):

Following the evidence obtained by "Wally" ... Jim Hanwell of the Wessex approached Mr. Main and obtained permission to dig the swallet in the hope of entering Swildons IV and so providing an escape route from those distant parts of the cave. (note 18)

Hopes were high when work was started at 5.30 a.m. on Wednesday 26 August. By nine that evening vast quantities of soil and rock had been removed ...

Digging progressed at an unashamedly enthusiastic pace, as Jim Hanwell commented at the time  (note 19)

... work has been carried out on every weekend and some weekdays .... we held the optimistic view that we would soon "see where we were going" ... (note 20)

After a few false starts it was realised that there were no identifiable signs of a discrete passage and so it was decided to uncover the pipe laid by the Mains which discharged near the swallet.  The idea was to follow the waste water  (note 21)

... as it soaked away.  The task was not an enviable one, but we were greatly assisted by excellent weather, and some 40 willing helpers (representing most of the Mendip caving clubs) to whom we are extremely grateful.  In this way we had soon opened up a third shaft, which extended to enclose the area excavated by the previous two

The fine weather that had been in the diggers' favour could not hold. Indeed it soon broke but not before a shaft, six foot square and ten feet deep was shored with a prefabricated wooden structure. (note 22)

... Despite a small setback when the shoring collapsed work has now started on the installation of permanent concrete pipe as shoring since we are confident that this will go, although it may need much chemical persuasion ....

The twenty-eight inch diameter concrete pipes were placed on a solid limestone-concrete footing producing a solid seven-foot deep shaft - such were the diggers' confidence of success. It was not long that good progress had been made reaching a depth of 30ft.  The enthusiasm for this project was reflected in various club journals. Even the Belfry Bulletin caught the infection and prophesied that something would be found there! (note 23) A surface survey to establish the altitude differential of the entrances to Swildons Hole and Priddy Green Sink was carried out on the 9th September 1959.  Both sites were found to be within one foot of each other. (note 24)

The work now took on a serious turn, chemical persuasion was frequently used which tended to slow the digging operation.  However, by Easter 1960 a significant stage was reached - open passage had been found. The blasting that had opened the initial section of the cave made the way through narrow joints but during the Easter break a hole [The Window] was breached entering a passage formed in fault breccia through which an active stream was running [Fault Plane Passage]. (note 25)  This discovery was a sizeable T shaped passage, twenty feet long and gradually descending, which led to a squeeze between boulders. (note 26)  This obstacle was cleared and a further short section of passage and small chamber entered which ended at a silt-choked passage. (note 27)

... Removal of spoil and debris is now a very difficult job but it can truly be said that we have now entered real cave and are not simply excavating an artificial one ....

Some 100ft of passage, reaching a depth of 80ft, had been discovered.  Lloyd arranged that the 'sewer boat' be brought out of the Swildons Hole Priddy Green Passage dig in the hope of easing the movement of spoil within the dig but it proved too big to be of use (8-10 July 1960).

The end chamber had been entered early in August 1960 and called, somewhat tongue in cheek, Great Chamber.  During one of the digging sessions in Anniversary Rift beyond Great Chamber cavers working there (Thompson, Ellis, Hanwell and Davies) had been warned that it had started to rain. (note 28)

We did not realise the need for haste and were settled at the top of the aven (note 29) when, preceded by a steady roar, a wall of water rushed through the squeeze and into the aven.  This did not make the exit from the cave any easier.  Mike Thompson was carrying his Oldham accumulator whilst traversing the squeeze, he let it go and the water carried it, plus his helmet, to the bottom of the aven.  The cave would appear to flood rather rapidly .... re-entered the cave when the rain had stopped, recovered Mikes helmet & lamp, buried under 6" of rubble ...

A topic of great import reared its head and was discussed by Davies in the Shepton Mallet Caving Club journal - it concerned the name of the cave.  Cowsh Swallet had become generally accepted among the diggers but Davies wrote: (note 30)

... Cowsh Swallet was I believe, first coined by Alan Fincham and I for the hypothetical swallet which fed cowsh down the aven in Swildons N.  Now that this has been shown to be the same as that known for years as Priddy Green Swallet then surely this name should stand. "Cowsh" however, is now accepted by many cavers, and, if W.S.G., who were responsible for its exploration, have no objection, I would suggest that this now be transferred to the aven, i.e.  The water of Priddy Green Swallet enters Swildons IV via Cowsh Aven.

Though Priddy Green was retained it became 'Sink' instead of 'Swallet' - a pity.

However, digging continued and stacking of spoil was somewhat eased by the slightly spacious nature of Great Chamber. Hanwell wrote (note 31)

A very tight awkward squeeze past a pronounced boss led into another small chamber, and the removal of the boulder floor gave access to a short aven terminating in a gravel choke.  As this was on the eve of the first anniversary of starting work we felt justified in naming the latter 'Anniversary Rift'.

A low grade working survey was produced by Hanwell, Davies and Thompson and published bearing the date at which each significant point was reached.  The cave was now 100 feet deep. (note 32)  However, by the end of 1960 enthusiasm had died away and little work was being done.

The diver’s activities in the active streamway and the spectacular discoveries in Shatter Series (note 33)

... put the dampers on the green and robbed it of its former popularity .... Without doubt the Green is one of the most important digs on Mendip and to admit defeat now would ... be most unfortunate.  In spite of the great advances already made using the conventional route, the advantages of a backdoor to Swildons cannot be too clearly emphasised, bearing in mind the almost terrifying result of the rescue practice in Blue Pencil Passage. Not only does the grim prospect of an accident in Series Four grow with the ever increasing population of the caving world, but the journey to the 'coalface' of exploration gets even longer.

'Jim' Giles had summed up contemporary thoughts in a nut-shell.

Following the divers successes in the opening up of Swildons VI and VII the idea of a quick way into the cave via Priddy Green Sink and Cowsh Avens became an even more attractive proposition for, and what is now generally forgotten, the logistics and sheer slog of transporting bulky diving gear, masses of dry clothing, cooking facilities and other sundry items down through PR into Swildons Four required large sherpa parties. (note 34)  Thus in 1962 Mike Thompson suggested resurrecting the work in Cowsh and giving it another try.  Mike Boon judged that.

... spectacular discoveries from this direction would obviously spur diggers at Priddy Green to face the worms and green slime with some degree of hope

Further expansion of Swildons Hole

In the intervening period little work had been done at the digging face of Priddy Green Sink. Following the enormous effort put in during the eighteen months from August 1959 and through 1960, digging effort decreased to a sporadic activity during 1961 and the subsequent four years. Work had ceased, not because of lack of interest but because the variety of operations being carried out within Swildons spread the limited number of diggers and divers too thinly. (note 35)

The divers, Steve Wynne-Roberts, Boon, Fred and Philip Davies, Thompson had progressed downstream opening up the cave as far as Sump VIII. (note 36)  In 1961 Boon broke the twenty five-year old stubborn impasse at Sump III by successfully passing it from the downstream end.  He also made history in that the passage through the sumps and airbells shortened the 'carry' distance and now enabled standard lengths of scaffold tubing to be transported into Swildons Four and also because he used lightweight personal diving equipment now coming in common usage it meant that divers in the future would be able to travel through the cave without the need of huge support parties.

Elsewhere in the cave the Shatter Pot 'U' Tube had been passed and Shatter Passage entered. Wynne-Roberts and Bob Pike had climbed the South East Inlets, Double Trouble Series explored, Vicarage Passage was opened up and eventually connected to Double Trouble Series forming the now popular 'round-trip'.  The exploration did not end there; in fact this phase in the history of Swildons Hole was not to end until 1966 following major discoveries including Swildons IX - XII, Victoria Aven, North West Stream Passage and those climbing epics recounted in this paper.  A period in the story of Mendip caving that cavers now dream about.

1962 Cowsh push

Since the initial investigation of Cowsh Aven Series the place had been largely ignored because the 'pickings' had been easier and more profitable elsewhere.  Between 1958 and 1962 came the short-lived but energetic digging of Priddy Green Sink and by the end of 1960 this too had run out of steam. Though a little work was carried out in Priddy Green during 1961 it was not until 1962 when Boon suggested that an attack at Cowsh Avens was in order in the hope that if they had success there it might just get another push underway in Priddy Green Sink.  And so, though many thought this effort would not be forthcoming in a committed way for it would spread the limited resources too thinly on the ground, a party was assembled from members of MNRC and SMCC and the date set for 20th May 1962.

The Hensler Maypole that had been used in Vicarage Passage was transported from Swildons Two to Four via Sumps II and III, which in itself was a considerable benefit, not only did it reduce the length of the carry but also standard six foot lengths of maypole could be used instead of the 2ft lengths required to transport a maypole through Blue Pencil Passage.

Among the cavers involved from the MNRC were Dave Turner, Bob Craig, and Ron Teagle, Pat Mellor, and, Shirley Drakes and David St. Pierre from SWETCC and Boon who, in his graphic style, recalled the method of attacking Great Aven. (note 37)

... The base of Great Aven is shaped like a boat in plan, with the stream falling straight down the sharp end. We raised five of our maypole sections without much trouble, but by the time we had fixed the sixth it had become very hard to raise and was under considerable tension.

The upper tip of the pole was snagging on the underside of small ledges jamming its upward movement as each successive length of pole was added.  In the end the party located the pole by swinging it and as it swung pushed upwards hoping that it would miss the ledges!  They were successful and Mellor put his life in the hands of the others for now the top of the maypole was lost in the general gloom and spray. He reached a ledge at 32ft but not the main ledge reported earlier by Noel Cleeve who had free climbed to the 40ft ledge.  Boon and two others joined Mellor and they assessed the situation.  Free climbing was out of the question for the next eight-foot section was a smooth cylindrical wall; it required that the maypole be drawn up. However, events controlled the next action!  When the bottom of the maypole had been lifted 20ft from the floor of Great Aven, the lower sections of maypole tubing decided to separate and fall back to the floor; the bods at the bottom having to scatter in all directions to escape the metallic bombardment.  Boon reported' …. no one had been brained.'  The maypole stripped, reassembled and ladder attached was pushed upwards but the inevitable happened.  It had jammed.  However, when the maypole was free the ladder had attached itself to some projection. A further four sections of maypole were assembled and Mellor climbed this to free the ladder.  As he did so  (note 38)

... a torrent suddenly discharged itself from the aven so we left the maypole in position and retreated from the ledge, with Mellor muttering 'wetter than the wet pitch in Lost John's' ....

The upshot of all this was there had been a thunderstorm on the surface; thus ending a 15 hour trip. (note 39)

Three weeks was long enough to get over the worst feelings of the last trip and a strong party made its way through to Cowsh Aven (9th June).  A mixture of MNRC and SMCC members consisting of Boon, Davies, Ken Dawe, Turner, Craig, Thompson, John Letheren and Teagle.  Back at the ledge in Great Aven a rawlbolt was eventually positioned some 20 ft above the ledge and a ladder attached.  Dawe suggested someone should free climb up from the top of the ladder he wasn't - he was a married man!  Boon was nominated or volunteered and found himself about 8 ft above the ladder climbing on slimy rock. (note 40)  He required extra protection and his eye

... cast around for a crack to take a second running belay ... The most obvious chance was a large upturned spur of chert like an oversize coat-hook on the left-hand wall.  I tapped this gingerly with a piton hammer whereupon it promptly cracked across the base, but stayed in position .... By now I found that staying on my greasy perch was becoming an effort, and I asked for one of the 'expansion stemples' ... to be sent up on the second line.  In an unguarded moment I leaned my hand on the coat-hook whereupon it broke off and fell uninterruptedly for 27' until it struck the middle of Mike Thompson's back as he hunted for a stemple.

Thompson left the cave with Dawe, leaving Boon to carry on although there were shouts to come back down. Boon couldn't get down from his current stance and could only progress upwards.

Using a combination of slings and pitons he worked his way up from  (note 41)

... the deadly little cluster of running belays on sloping ledges for a further 10' to the top of the aven ... The aven narrowed considerably in this section and a tight passage carrying the stream entered on the line of the main axis. The squeeze into this was exceptionally tight, but as the passage ahead seemed dead straight, 1 decided to force it, and after a few feet emerged into a good chamber.

This was 35 feet above the ledge plus the 42 feet from the ledge and they had succeeded in adding a further 77 feet upwards towards Priddy Green Sink.  Boon was followed by Teagle, Turner, Davies and Letheren, and a short ascending passage halted any further progress by ending at the foot of yet another aven - Main's Aven named in honour of Albert Main of Manor Farm.  Davies attempted to climb Main's but only made about 15 feet when it became clear that free climbing to the top was not possible. (note 42)  The sections of maypole could not be passed through the squeeze at the top of Great Aven and so it was decided to strip all the equipment out of the avens leaving only a couple of abseil slings.  This was regarded as the limit for upward exploration from the Swildons Four streamway and  (note 43)

... work has re-started vigorously on the Priddy Green Sink above ....

New Discoveries. Priddy Green Sink, 1962

Following on the heels of the Great Aven epic, work recommenced within Priddy Green Sink.  A variety of clubs now became interested and helped out with the general slogging work.  The SMCC Hut Log for 1962 includes the following entry by Boon dated 29th July  (note 44)

... These months saw a revival of interest in P.G. the work being done by Wessex, Shepton, BEC, MNRC, etc, and by some powerful newcomers to the scene, the RAF Compton Basset boys. Work has concentrated on the end choke, where the water appeared to sink indeterminably into a slit cum boulder floor beneath a rock arch ....

Digging trips resumed including a number made by Thompson and Turner to the terminal choke.  But the 'great' breakthrough came from the newcomers in the form of the largest feature yet discovered in the cave - a chamber about half way down the cave, RAP Aven [Chamber] - the point where the 1995 digging commenced. Boon on his first visit to the new chamber commented that it was  (note 45)

... huge compared with anything else in the system, a water splash formed pothole broadening with depth and choked with big boulders. It is in fact a small brother to the great avens below.

Digging at the lower end of the cave continued until 1965 but conditions were really dicey several diggers experienced near misses - John Cornwell in 1962 and Tim Reynolds in 1965 both narrowly missed being decapitated due to falling boulders.  Below Anniversary Rift a boulder ruckle was encountered where the excavators had to work below it.  The diggers became extremely frustrated for each time they removed a boulder another slid down to take its place!

On 27th July 1963 William Stanton, aided by Bryan Ellis and Fred Davies, surveyed the extension (note 46) and commenting later in the WCC Journal (note 47) the surveyor suggested that digging in the new chamber might be a better prospect than persevering with the lower dig and its potential dangers.  The two points were in close proximity with each other and digging from the chamber would mean moving down through the boulders rather than working under them. (note 48)

Sporadic digging continued into 1964-65, mainly by SMCC.  Late in 1964, on 6th October, Thompson and Roger Biddle returned to RAP Aven [chamber] (note 49) and located a possible dig site in the floor, but the way on was blocked by a large boulder. (note 50)  This was removed a few days later resulting in a disappointingly too-tight bedding plane.  Not to be defeated at the first attempt the following day, 11th October 1964, Biddle attempted a new site at the far end of the chamber but again the boulders were too big to move.  The final attempt was on the 20th October when Thompson, George Pointing, and Biddle were heaving boulders and banging with little to show for their joint effort.

Enthusiasm was flagging and though there were a number of SMCC, WCC and SVCC mixed 'banging' and digging trips during 1965 work at the site was effectively at an end.  Caver perception had formed the opinion that prospects were not good and added to that working conditions could be abominable. (note 51)

Went to Cowdung Swallet with Roger Biddle and Pete Smith.  While Pete sorted out the bang and dets Roger and myself descended to drill a suitable hole for a charge.  Upon arriving at the end we found that a large amount of krut had fallen from an aven onto the working face.  After a cursory examination and dig we decided no banging could be done, and as the place was smelling violently [sic] we packed up and left. By far the worst conditions I have ever seen down the Green, with liquid 'krut' running down the walls and great hoardes [sic] of worms and flies.  And so back for a wash .....

The concentration of effort moved back into Swildons Hole culminating in the three year epic push principally by Davies, Ray Mansfield (UBSS) and Brian Woodward (SMCC) between 1970 and 1973. (note 52)

1964 SVCC Extensions

For a period of two years exploratory work in the Cowsh Avens was at a standstill; the top of Main's Aven had not been reached.  Work too in Priddy Green Sink had also ended due to the difficulty of digging. The divers, having reached Sump VIII had re-generated sufficient interest to keep the idea alive of bypassing the sumps.  WCC diggers were achieving great results in Shatter Passage in their attempt to by-pass the downstream sumps - though this was generally regarded as being highly unlikely as a result of the Ellis - Davies survey which had shown a considerable displacement of the two passages.

In 1964 -1965 a renewal of interest to seriously assess the possibilities of by-passing Sump IV by a high level route came from two sources, a joint WCC/SMCC venture and from a relatively new Mendip club who had several extremely good climbers amongst its membership - the Severn Valley Caving Club.

During a visit to Swildons Four, late in September 1964, a party of SVCC became intrigued by the climb up Cowsh Aven.  Bob Lewis, knowing of the WCC/SMCC interest in the area, attempted the climb but 'rotten' rock made life difficult and he inevitably peeled off landing in the stream! Not to be defeated he tried again but eventually, the others, now cold and irritated, brought Lewis down again. On the 4th October, Lewis was back with Ken Higgs, Mike Wooding and Mike Tait.  Collecting the scattered sections of maypole left by the MNRC and SMCC teams following the previous attempts in the Cowsh Avens, Cowsh Aven was scaled and the team found themselves faced with the daunting task of scaling Great Aven. (note 53)

... This is very impressive, being about 90 feet high and 25 feet by 10 feet at the bottom.  Our feeble lights could not pierce the darkness to show the top.  Magnesium ribbon failed to reveal the rumoured ledge at 40 feet, and after I had climbed a little way up at each end, we retired thoroughly impressed ....

A few days later, whilst the honest members of SVCC were ensconced at their work places Wooding and Keith Hanna (UBSS), being students having plenty of spare time on their hands (1) made their way back to Great Aven.  Sweating and heaving they succeeded in getting the maypole back up to the base of the aven and the fabled ledge was reached.  At that point the ladders and maypole sections were brought up enabling Wooding to make the top, though not without some excitement when the maypole was about to collapse, he having to free climb the final 20 feet  (note 54)

... The remainder of the climb was free and quite easy, though a little exposed.  I reached the roof and was about to curse our sources of information, as there was no apparent way on, when I noticed the stream emerging from a small hole.  This was gratefully entered, although it was necessary to remove slings and hammer before I could get through.  A short scramble led to the base of Main's Aven, again, the top was invisible.

On the next full trip, 11th October in order to make life more comfortable and escape from the spray at the bottom of Main's Aven, the SVCC built a temporary polythene shelter which, though good in theory, proved of little use in practice.  An attempt to climb the aven had been made on the day before by Wooding who had not succeeded.  On this occasion, Wooding absent, the climb was abandoned but Paul Allen noticed a hole in the side of the aven not seen by previous parties. (note 55)

.. , Spurred on by this discovery Paul made an attempt to climb up to the opening, but it was left to Bob to finally make it. A very thrilled party followed by ladder, up a step in the passage, to a small chamber, at first sight a cul-de-sac, but with two inconspicuous fissures in the roof.  One of these was noticed by Paul, who failed to get through; Ken, however, had very little difficulty in passing this tight vertical slot and entered a high level mud passage one end of which led back into Main's Aven, the other continuing via a fairly lengthy crawl to the top of a large shaft.  The passage was appropriately named Ken's Crawl. ...

As in the case of Barnes Loop, which could, but for chance, so easily have been named Baker's Loop, Ken's Crawl could so well have been Paul's Crawl! That's life.  Having smelt success SVCC arranged their next trip for the 17th of October.  Wooding was to meet Lewis, Allen and Higgs on Priddy Green but overslept at the UBSS hut at Burrington.  Late though he was he eventually trudged the seven miles across Mendip to Main's Barn where he met

... Bob Lewis, missed Paul and Ken, in the rush to get underground to miss ... the seething hoard of Imperial College Caving Club members ....

Wooding, impressed by what he was shown, soon climbed up to the small chamber and, having stripped off, was able to pass both squeezes, one gaining another chamber, the second to Ken's Crawl. Joined by Lewis they moved forward along Ken's Crawl to the head of the pothole Bladder Pot. (note 56)

... After half an hour we gave up an attempt to drill a bolthole and instead arranged a belay of two "manky" pegs and a "thread" for the ladder.  Firmly life lined I descended the ladder to a ledge, and by chance noticed that one side-wire had been cut clean through by a falling stone.  The rest of the pot was climbable however, so I continued down to the floor, over peculiar rounded stalagmite formations, to the top of a vertical slit behind a large stalagmite beehive.  A stone cast through this gave indication of a further pitch, so a retreat was called.

This was Boss Pot. Exiting from both the new extensions and the cave itself proved interesting.  The explorers experienced difficulty descending Great Aven because of the damaged ladder but that wasn't the end of it - some kind, thoughtful,  person had coiled their ladders for the 20ft and 40ft neatly at the top of the pitches! Wooding phrased it rather gently but with feeling' ... the journey out was one of those things one likes to forget… '. It had been an eleven-hour trip which had almost resulted in a rescue call-out for they met a party on their way across the fields to the cave.  Keeping the pressure up, on the following day, Wooding, Brian Roach, Allen, Lewis, Higgs, Lloyd all moved to the head of the BP, having had to fight their way through the regular overcrowding of Swildons One.  Lloyd and Roach broke away from the party before Blue Pencil Passage, the former donating his usual well stocked food supply to the intrepid explorers as they moved off to unknown territory. (note 57)

No trip seemed to be free of problems.  This one was no exception; the abseil rope on Main's Aven had jammed and so the ladder could not be pulled up; Wooding attempted to prussick but failed after several attempts.  Finally everything rested on the climbing ability of Lewis. Eventually the ladder was in position and all were at the top of Bladder Pot. Wooding and Lewis descended and moved down the vertical slit arriving at a small chamber with an obvious exit, requiring a 12ft ladder, giving way to a vadose canyon at the lower end of which Wooding stopped just before a

... big black hole.  I ventured nearer with difficulty and tossed a stone in.  This fell free for about 30 feet and landed in water; we could hear a stream flowing somewhere below us ..  By now, however, I was fighting a losing battle with the mud to avoid falling over the drop, so we turned back ...

The following Wednesday Hanna and Wooding returned to survey the extensions.  Commencing from Main's they continued through Bladder Pot to the drop over a streamway.  Early the following morning, 2.30 am they had the figures worked out and plotted; Wooding noted that  (note 58)

... it was obvious that the furthest point reached was very close to the "Four" streamway just upstream of "Cowsh". Depressing news perhaps, but the top of Bladder Pot was half-way to Priddy Green Sink, so the continuation off the top of the shaft, opposite Ken's Crawl, seemed the most promising place ....

Shortly after the SVCC cavers and Barry Lane (BEC) and Bob Craig (MNRC) re-examined the Dawe- Thompson Traverse followed by an investigation of a side passage at the top of Great Aven by Wooding. This was eventually pushed to a side aven that now bears his name. (note 59)

Oliver Lloyd paid the SVCC a great compliment in his regular WCC Journal Mendip Notes on their fine achievement. (note 60) The top of Bladder Pot is at the same height O.D. as Main's Aven. (note 61)

Fault Chamber extensions. 1957-1960

The possibility of further extensions from Fault Chamber to by-pass Sump IV had been noted by a variety of the Paradise Regained explorers soon after its discovery.  WCC members, Joe Candy and Chris Hawkes, noted and investigated various spots close-by and in 1957 members of the UBSS observed the high level development in the roof of Fault Chamber which became their particular interest, although sporadic, for the next three years.  It also involved the first serious underground climbing, without maypole, in Swildons Hole and together with later events in Cowsh Aven Series during the mid-1960’s was to raise climbing standards to unprecedented levels.  The UBSS, known often by their nickname 'The Spelaeos', (note 62) brought in one of their climbing members, David Tyrwitt, who made it up to a prominent ledge some 30ft above the floor of the chamber on the east wall. This was on the 14th December 1957. (note 63)  A further nine trips between 1957 and 1960 took place  (note 64) some actively encouraged by Oliver Lloyd who was there to keep the momentum going. Some typical entries by Lloyd in the UBSS log  (note 65) indicates the tedious nature of the work

Saturday. 31st October. 1959
Oliver Lloyd, Gerry Witts, Kit Eaton & Barry Perrott to Fault Chamber in Swildons Hole.  Work on this site has been slow for the past year, while Jerry, Kit & Bernard crept up the walls of G.B., hammering in bolts at the rate of two an hour.  Even when parties had visited Fault Chamber the rate of rawlbolt fixation was only one in two hours.  Flushed with success, Jerry & Kit approached what was to them a new problem with confidence ... When they saw the situation at the top of the climb, however, gingerly tapping rocks & generally getting a hollow sound, they appreciated more fully the fact that there is no place under Mendip quite as dangerous as this one ....

Saturday 20th February. 1960
Double Fault Chamber (Swildons) Expedition
First party ... made Fault Chamber by 5.10. We got the ladder up to the top rawlbolt, which was just short of the 9" layer of stalagmite.  The next, which we inserted was about 3½ up & to the left in some stal, over rock (fairly firm).  Jerry moved the ladder onto this & then climbed the gulley for 10', where he put in 4 pitons & let himself down, having the lifeline up through the pitons.  The job we left the second party was therefore to consolidate by putting a r. bolt up by the pitons .... Fault Chamber is getting safer the higher one climbs. not that that is saying much. O. C. Lloyd

The last trip was on the 22nd April 1960 when C.J. 'Kit' Eaton completed the climb at a height of 90ft above the floor of Fault Chamber, leading off directly above the 30ft ledge. The UBSS Logbook entry reads that he reached a point where' ... the aven bent over to the right like the crook of a walking-stick and closed down into a pool ... '

Fault Chamber Avens. 1965

Early in 1965 Severn Yalley CC took up the cudgels again following their epic in the Cowsh Avens. This time Paradise Regained was their target.  High level holes were known to exist there and so on 10th January they were back in the cave intent on carrying out a systematic search.  Eventually their investigations took them into Fault Chamber. Having received unsatisfactory answers to their questions relating to the high level climbs, Tait and Higgs (SYCC) were back at the site on the 24th January 1965.  It was not long before they were at the ledge and noted the series of rawlbolts progressing higher up the wall for the next thirty feet or so. Higgs followed these and found another set progressing about thirty feet higher still.

To the left of the ledge was a traverse leading past loose boulders to an open passage which was left for another occasion.  Intrigued by what had been seen, Lewis, Higgs and Bob Holland returned a week later (30th January).  Lloyd had heard of their interest and informed them that no serious attempt had been made on the traverse. (note 66)  The way across had a (note 67)

... fairly smooth face tilted at a little more than 45° from the horizontal, with 50 feet of nothing below, and several tons of loose grand-piano-size boulders above!  Admitted, there is an opposing wall quite close at hand, but it is overhanging, has no hand grips, and only one foothold.

A limited amount of gardening had to be carried out to expose a foothold and then Lewis started across, belayed by Higgs. Holland wrote (note 68)

' ... it was positively electrifying, especially when half way across, where the vadose trench opens onto the traverse, 'Lew' tenderly put his 'size ten' on a rock and asked us to tell him if it moved much. He got his answer quickly - it slid down about a foot, and so did everything backing it up .... '

For the second half, a jug hold in the roof and 'swing' and Lewis was in the rift passage.  Although he disappeared from sight his vivid description of the size, nature and stability of the passage was ' ... dotted with Anglo-Saxon colloquialisms ... ' to add emphasis to his remarks about stability nearly every move he made created a new avalanche.  On the way back to keep his mind 'occupied' Lewis contemplated the name 'Lew's Traverse', but later, in a calmer frame, of mind eventually settled on Churchill Traverse. (note 69)

A week later, 7th February 1965, Lewis and Higgs were back at the site.  At the far side of Churchill Traverse Higgs spotted a tight continuation at the limit previously made by Lewis.  This led to one of the major discoveries to have been made in this part of the cave.

The passage continued upward increasing in gradient as they progressed until, suddenly, they were at the foot of a 40ft high vertical aven.  A passage could be seen a short way up in the wall but' ... in spite of further promise of further extension this was not seriously attempted ... ' This discovery became known as Severn Aven. Back at Churchill Traverse, Lewis, elated by the significant discovery, attempted the vadose trench that opened out above the mid-point of the traverse. (note 70)

... This passage soon became less steep, although the risk of a tumble was accentuated by the extreme instability of the rock.  It ended in an awkward climb which, in the circumstances, it would not have been wise to try - even so, The Trench .. , has given us some 50 feet or more of passage.

A subsequent maypoling exercise on 10th October 1965 was a joint attack on the terminal point of both Severn Passage and The Trench.  The result of both attempts were inconclusive.  Although much time and energy placing rawlbolts to get the maypole into position in the upper aven of Severn Passage left what happened at the top unresolved. (note 71)  The party retreated to Churchill Traverse and The Trench - now regarded as one of the more horrific places to be found under Mendip.  Allen described it as ' ... this frightfully loose piece of cave passage ... '  (note 72) and Mills (SMCC)


' .. the whole of The Trench is terribly loose and unstable - one literally daren't touch the walls or roof and tread warily.  All the time the heaps of boulders and the very steep passage falls away and your second is advised to keep close. Some boulders fall and ricochet down to Fault Chamber at least 200' below .... '  (note 73)

Blue Pencil Aven

This, the third of three sites that were pushed hopefully to connect with Priddy Green Sink or by-pass Sump IV was looked at by WSG in 1956.  During the 1956 August Bank Holiday, Kemp and Andrews spent the whole of that weekend  (note 74)

.. , working on Blue Pencil Passage, and looking at a few other small passages.  Among these was the up-stream continuation of Blue Pencil; turning right from P.R. rather than dropping down to the left into Blue Pencil .... After a short crawl, we entered the bottom of a high, rough walled Aven.  We climbed this easily for an estimated 20 feet, but then the climbing became more difficult ...

They were also in a location that no one else knew and if there had been trouble help would not have been easily forthcoming.  The next known attempt was on the 17th October 1964, also by a member of WSG, Henry Oakeley who, with his twin brother Christopher and a friend Tim Watts, all from St. Thomas Hospital, made their way to the base of the aven. The Oakeley's made the climb to a ledge at the 40-foot level and though the going became more difficult the chimney narrowed but was sheer.  Oakeley wrote  (note 75) that his brother reached to within 12 feet of the top by a bunch of orange coloured crystals.  A way on at the top could be seen and was thought to be passable.  By chance, a chat with Mike Thompson drew Roger Biddle's (SMCC) attention to the existence of the partially hidden Blue Pencil Aven. However, Biddle must have known of the Oakeley's attempt for there were two WSG members on the inter-club party he raised for a trip to the aven on Sunday, 22nd November 1964. (note 76) Somewhat disingenuously Biddle failed to acknowledge their achievement except for a passing note in the SMCC Log Book that the 40 foot ledge had already been reached. (note 77)

... Here I found a line and crab which had been left by a previous climber (who failed to finish the climb). (note 78)

Biddle reached the ledge and before Mills attempted the final section of the climb the lower pitch was rigged with ladders.  Mills  (note 79)

.. .found this section to be fairly easy, it being possible to back-up, or straddle, most of the way to the top.  "Below", shouted Martin as a boulder of no mean dimensions whizzed past my ear and crashed within a few feet of those at the bottom of the aven. After a few more boulders fanning my face a worried voice came from above  "I'm holding up a very large boulder, but can only support it for about five minutes whilst you get clear".  My feet did not touch a rung as I descended and then shot through the squeeze to safety.  The boulder whistled down slicing twice through a nylon rope and coming to rest with a resounding crash at the bottom.

Further ladders were hauled up by Mills enabling Biddle to reach the top where they then explored about 80 feet of tight passage floored by gours and pink flowstone [Milche Passage] opening up at the end, a cross-rift and boulder choke.  The stream entered the shaft via an impassable fissure just below the top. A survey of the discovery was made by Biddle and Mills on the 5th December 1964

The Cowsh Epic. 1970-1973

During 1970 Davies and Mansfield frequently took to caving together looking around the often frequented sites on the look-out for possible digs.  On one such trip in Swi1don's Four, Cowsh Aven was the last to be viewed; it had been eight years since Davies had been up to the then limit of Main's Aven.   Both wanted to view the SVCC extensions and so on the 20th June 1970 a party comprising Davies, Mansfield, plus Tony Knibbs (MCG), Mills and Woodward made their way down to Swildons IV.  Pegging their way up Cowsh Aven the top was eventually reached.  The follow-up trip on the 27th June was a familiarisation exercise in order to assess the potential digging sites.  As a result of this work they noted a number of sites first having made their way across the Dawe-Thompson Traverse with the aid of a fixed rope and on up to Bladder Pot, hence into Ken's Crawl to Main's Aven.   This was Davies' first view of that shaft from the top.

An abseil trip down Great and Cowsh Avens got the party back into the IV streamway.  Davies noted that the exit from Main's Aven into the top of Great Aven was not an easy manoeuvre for it  (note 80)

... entails wriggling through a tube tighter than the Goatchurch Drainpipe and debauching over a 35' drop to the ledge .... (note 81)

The potential sites would, in Davies' words

... give us some interesting caving for a few months.  At that time we did not really known what a ''few months" meant. ...

Mansfield entered the following comment into his personal log-book, 27th June, 1970  -  (note 82)

... A bloody good trip. Further trip next week - have we ideas up our sleeves?

The way up through the SVCC Extensions was the first of what was to become a regular route for an extended push in the Cowsh Avens lasting over three years.  Early Sunday morning trips were to become a regular event, entering the cave at 9 am, progressing up the SVCC Extension and abseiling back down Great and Cowsh Avens to the Swildons Four streamway and out by early afternoon, having successfully fought the hordes in the Swildons One streamway on most occasions.

A couple of weeks later, Davies, Mansfield and Bob Mehew (SMCC) intent on examining Wright's Aven never actually reached the Swildons Four streamway but found

... some poor lost creatures in Brealifast Chamber and had the task of escorting them out.  That's the drawback to being underground by 9.00 a.m. - you pick up all the previous day's debris! (note 83)

However, Mansfield, Mehew and Davies were more successful on the 12th and 19th July when they first looked at the continuation of Ken's Crawl at the top of Main's Aven but progress of six feet showed that the passage reduced to an 8" tube and the site was abandoned for a slit in the side of Bladder Pot that indicated enlargement a short distance beyond a squeeze.  This was banged and on the 26th the Bladder Pot hole was large enough and a small chamber entered with no obvious way on.  On the same trip Reynolds and Stanton produced a survey of Great and Wright's Avens.

Having gained a majestic extension of 10 feet Davies and Mansfield felt that better sites could be investigated and so they moved to the top of Main's Aven. (note 84)

Close examination of the roof above Maine's [sic] Aven showed it to have a narrow crack running approximately north/south. Water flowed out at the north end where it was about 3" wide. At the south end it was 6" or 7" wide and a lamp seemed to light up a well stalled enlargement 4' or 5' up.

On the 21st September, after seven 'banging' trips, each charge enabling progress of about 6 inches towards the widening, Davies was able to

... squeeze up past a large block detached by our last charge and into a man-sized opening above. I was facing west, my head turned to the left, and could see only a continuation of the crack less than 3" wide all round. With a feeling of disappointment I carefully turned preparatory to climbing down ... As my head turned towards the north - the rift is narrower than the length of my helmet - a great sight came into view.  A horizontal enlargement led off to the north and the sound of falling water ....

Encouraged by the prospect of further open passage a charge was laid and another on the 27th September. They returned with Woodward on the 4th October, and all except Woodward were able to crawl through ten feet of passage to the base of a two-foot diameter, seven-foot high tube.  Davies noted that' ... a cursing Woodward pleaded that we should not go too far .... ' The floor was covered with sand and a mass of ' ... writhing red worms, whilst an 8" diameter hole in the roof gave us a limited view of a continuing vertical aven ... '  More bang and the hole was passed on the 11th October, 1970. (note 85)

The three, Davies, Mansfield and Woodward, plus Alan (Satanic) Mills (SVCC), Tony Jarratt (ACG) and Webster (BEC) were able to move up through the hole into the 20ft high 'aven' above which was even smaller in horizontal section; the stream entering at floor level from a 2 inch crack.  Lesser mortals might well have given up long before this point but a 6-inch diameter hole some ten feet up the wall proved of interest to the team.  A black space and, again, the sound of falling water gave the team renewed encouragement and, as Davies commented, work re-commenced with enthusiasm!  Breaking their way through this hole was not to prove easy for it was formed along a vein of calcite and this material tended to absorb much of the impact of the explosion.  On one occasion 3lb of plaster was used giving a progress of one inch, consequently progress was extremely slow.  It was not until December 1970, after a number of trips before they could claim success was theirs.

On the 3rd December it was agreed that there would be two trips that day to get the maximum effort from a couple of 'bangs'.  Mansfield and Knibbs descended in the morning and duly fired their charge not knowing that the way through into the space beyond was now open and the luck to explore the continuation fell to the Davies' party comprising Webster and Woodward. Their reward was an 18ft high by 10ft diameter aven which became known as El Krapitan.  Davies noted that

... Water cascades down its north wall and sinks in the boulder floor, but one's lamp does not seem to light much as the black greasy rocks reflect very little light.  Our point of entry was 7' up the south wall.  After several abortive attempts I succeeded in reaching the top.  A crack, amid the falling water, gave most help for the first 10', and as the aven then narrows down it is possible to reach across and obtain friction grip on the opposite face.  The climbing does, however, follow the general pattern of Cowsh climbs, best tackled by bridging facing out.  Strange but true.

At the top of El Krapitan a 15ft long low crawl over gravel led into a confined space just large enough for two men to work, the stream issuing from a small hole a few feet above the floor in which a 3ft long pool was found, floored with stinking ooze - this became known as Shit Sump.  However a rift in the wall on the north side was the preferred route - it was obviously cleaner!  A succession of 'banging' trips, in the same manner as the many before it lasted until the 24th January 1971 when success was theirs again!  Joined by Wynne-Roberts, the trio, Davies, Mansfield and Woodward cleared the debris from the last bang making a way sufficiently large enough for the 'midget' of the group, Mansfield, to get through to yet another aven.  Climbing this for 15ft he eventually found himself in the largest feature yet discovered in the Cowsh Series. The remainder got through and became puzzled - they were in the cleanest part of the series indicating that the contaminated water from Priddy Green Sink did not enter this region.  Shit Sump had to be the inlet for that water - or so it would seem. Davies commented that these upper avens would not lead them to Priddy Green Sink - if not, where were they going? They had reached some 300ft above the Swildons IV streamway, but according to the Stanton survey some 200ft south-west of ' ... that promised land .... ' Their thoughts relating to Cowsh Avens were firmly driven from their minds for on the way out they intercepted a rescue in progress - that of Dudley Soffe who was trapped in the Oxbows; few, if any, involved that day will ever forget the event!

A period of consolidation followed this incredible series of trips. (note 86)  Firstly a series of water tracing attempts were made, each doomed to failure.  Certainly the flourescein did not show at Shit Sump where Davies and Mansfield waited those long shivering hours.  Later, on 21st February 1971, Mansfield and Mehew went up to the sump again and waited whilst Rhodamine was poured in at the entrance of Priddy Green Sink by Kay Mansfield - again a negative result.  Not to waste time a charge was set off at the lip of Shit Sump in an attempt to reduce the water level in the sump. Continued banging at the sump resulted in a sizeable spoil heap which required dumping through the approach crawl and out into El Krapitan - quite a job in itself as the crawl is low and twenty feet long!

By the 10th April 1971 matters came to a head.  The sauce boat used by Oliver Lloyd in Priddy Green Passage dig near Sump One was taken to Shit Sump on 18th April by Davies and Alan Mills and a further charge set off at the sump.  In fact a number of charges were set off in the hope of breaking through Shit Sump but enthusiasm gradually waned

... as the hard rock absorbed shock after shock and only a few cubic inches were brushed from the surface .... There were several possible sites that could be pushed; perhaps radio location would help us to decide upon the best.

During late 1971 Brian Prewer had improved his signalling device and had already checked the Irwin-Stenner survey of St. Cuthbert's Swallet in 1969 with good results and so it was felt that it could be used to locate the Top Avens of Cowsh Series with some confidence.  So, on the 29th January 1972, 'Satanic' Mills, Woodward and Webster set up the aerial in Top Avens and the following weekend, the 6th February 1972, Mansfield, Woodward and Webster took the transmitter but it had been damaged on its way through the cave.  Work had now all but ceased and it was not until about June 1972 that things got under way again.  Davies and Mansfield had reviewed the situation and Shit Sump had by this time been passed to a disappointing continuation that did not seem promising.  Mansfield proposed work commence at a double rift that branched away on the route up to Top Avens.  This was done resulting in a short route known as Mansfield's Hole.  In parallel with this work Shit Sump was also pushed as far as possible.

An unexpected check was to interrupt events.  Speleo Rhal members based at Southampton became interested in the work at Cowsh Avens and knew of the problems relating to the attempt to radio locate the area.  Mike Haselden asked if it were possible to take the gear to the upper regions of Cowsh Series for a trial.  The offer was gratefully accepted and on the 22nd July 1972  (note 87)

Davies and Mansfield met the Speleo Rhal lads Haselden and Dave Davidson in Swildons Four at three in the afternoon.  It was the beginning of one of those trips where nothing goes right; a double event, one of which could have created a serious situation had it not been for the positioning and ingenuity of the members of the party.  Mansfield and Haselden had passed through the low crawl into Top Avens followed by Davidson who was moving through the crawl on his back. At one point he pulled a flake in the roof to ease his onward movement when a large 4ft  long by  12" and  12"  boulder settled downwards from the roof and rested on the lower part of Davidson's leg. Davies, following up as 'tail-end-Charlie' could communicate with the other two in Top Avens.  Manhandling the boulder proved fruitless but eventually a sling was positioned about the boulder enabling a simple hoist to be constructed.  This arrangement lifted the boulder sufficiently so that some of the stones and gravel, under the trapped man, could be scraped away.  This worked and he was able to continue the crawl into the relative safety of Top Avens. (note 88)  The boulder then settled leaving plenty of room for the others to crawl over the top of it. (note 89)  Not to give-up entirely a transmission was made by the remaining pair but, in the event, the transmitter's signal was not received on the surface and a totally demoralised party exited from the cave. (note 90)

... The incident of Dave's Knee had a more profound effect than we had at the time realised.  Ray and I did not feel like returning to that region to push harder on the hole which we were attacking, fearing further loose rocks.  We therefore decided to attack Shit Sump again ....

Undeterred, they were back at Shit Sump on the 20th August 1972 where they found that the bang had caused the water level to drop by some three inches.  An intensive effort was made on the site throughout the remaining months of 1972 but progress was painfully slow and the passage was getting progressively tighter. In the end it was felt that more profit might be gained by attacking Mansfield's Hole and at the upper end of Top Avens. (note 91)

... Perhaps time had soothed our jagged nerves.  So back we went ....

Speleo Rhal made a further series of transmissions with improved equipment from Mud Sump, Double Troubles and then Main's Aven  (note 92) and later in the year, in October 1972, (note 93) they transported the transmitter, this time, through Dave's Knee to Top Avens; the operation was a success carried out at 2 am to ensure minimal electrical interference. Though there were some discrepancies between the various transmissions it showed the Cowsh Aven Series diggers that the lateral distance from Priddy Green Sink was considerable in caving terms and that Top Avens was only a few feet in altitude below the lowest point in that site.  Faced with the fact that the horizontal development off the Cowsh Series was always notoriously tight and under-developed it was argued that even if they didn't meet up with Priddy Green Sink it would get closer to the surface and possibly open up new cave if they continued at Mansfield's Hole.  Woodward argued for continuing' ... 'cos it was there ... .' ; and so they did. By early February 1973 another aven could be viewed from below and on the 25th Davies, soloing from El Krapitan, returned to Mansfield's Hole to view the damage from the previous 'bang'; on the 11th March 1973 when Davies, Alan Jeffreys (GSG), Mansfield and Woodward returned a way could be seen to yet another aven but was separated by 6 feet of narrow rift that required widening. Another series of trips, now more erratic due to other commitments, carried over into 1974. In the NHASA log book Davies summarised the events as follows: (note 94)

Feb 1974 Swildons Hole - Cowsh Aven Series. Activity in this region has been rather erratic ... However, a hard core, Brian Woodward & FJD supported at times by Paul Hadfield, Ray Mansfield, & Mike Roger have kept the business progressing

Slowly the horizontal squeeze has been enlarged, progress not eased at one point by a clumsy operative dropping our only crowbar down a 3" rift 30 sees after stating "I must be careful not to drop the crowbar here".

Finally however BW & FJD were able to crawl out through the hole on Sat 16 Feb into an AVEN/RIFT. About 3-4 ft wide 15 ft long where entered, the floor 20ft below, and the roof? Well we just kept climbing, it got narrow & thrutchsome but still kept going up - we enthusiastically estimated 100ft - to a chockstone and tight comer, but could be seen to continue.

This shaft named GRAVEL PIT from vast quantities of that material that abounds


Another couple of bangs and they were past the right angled bend.  Davies made the following entry in the NHASA Logbook: (note 95)

Sun 10 March ... Some gardening needed on climb of Gravel Pit but comer now easily negotiable.  Tight tube up for another 20ft before a flake protruding from wall made it too tight. BW managed to hammer this off & progress another 4ft to CLAY ROOF

Though the upper end by the clay choke had been open a side rift was also worked on but to little avail. Thus effectively ended the Siege of the Cowsh Series - a marathon 3-year effort.

The Main family were told, in detail, of the result of their labours and they were kindly permitted to enter the fields behind the barns for a radio location.  The actual event took place on Monday 22nd July 1974 and no-one appeared too enamoured with the prospect of taking Prewer's heavy gear to the highest point in the Cowsh Aven Series.  However, once set-up and the transmission started, the surface gang with the receiver, pin-pointed the site fairly quickly.  It has been estimated that Cowsh Aven Series reaches to within 50ft of the surface but some 200 feet from the known section of Priddy Green Sink. (note 96)

Acknowledgements:  The author wishes to acknowledge the helpful comments, criticisms, information, and loan of reference material not in the BEC Library from Tony Boycott, Hon Librarian UBSS, Paul Allen (SVCC), Fred Davies (WCC), Ray Mansfield (UBSS), Tony Jarratt (BEC), Mike Thompson, Janet Woodward, Hon. Librarian SMCC, and Brian Prewer [BEC] for the loan of the NHASA Logbook.

Dave Irwin, Priddy, 20th February 1996

Entrance Covers to Priddy Green Sink

Originally the entrance cover was made of concrete then in 1964 [Mendip Caver No.5 [Tony Oldham Ed.] September issue, page 2:

... Concrete cover on this dig has been replaced with a metal one.  The handle to lift this cover can be obtained from Farmer Maine ...

Very few people visit the cave and it becomes a notorious site for its disgusting condition. Eventually the cover becomes dangerous and for safety reasons Fred Davies replaced the old heavy cast iron lid with a pre-cast 4" thick concrete slab placed over the shaft, this being covered with about 12 inches of soil.


Re-opened in 1993 - local flooding about the green in the area of the sink saw Prew and Butch raising the lid and clearing the obstruction. 

Adrian Hole and Tony Jarratt are preparing a note of the more recent digs and subsequent breakthrough into Swildons. (1996)

Maine's have installed a slurry tank, which should free the cave from its odours.


  1. The water from the spring was used for many years after, the pipes being connected directly to the mains water supply. The spring is still used for domestic water supply in times of drought.
  2. The name Priddy Pool Passage was not coined by Balch.  It appears to have come into common usage when it was realised that the water which outflowed here was the same as that that entered Black Hole Series near Fool's Paradise. However, both Oliver Lloyd and Oliver Wells referred to the site as Priddy Green Dig (or Passage) and often used the abbreviation PG Dig.  This is closer to Balch's intention . The earliest use of the name Priddy Pool Passage, seen by the author, is in the 2nd Edition of Caves of Mendip [p.67] by Nicholas Barrington, Dalesman Publishing Co., 1962, based, no doubt, on the hunch that the surface water feeding this rising came from Priddy Pool in Nine Barrows Lane.  Whether Barrington had the right to change an already accepted name is open to question.  It's worth noting that in the first edition of Barrington the name was Priddy Green Passage [p.64]. Ref. also: Witcombe, R.G., 1992, Who was Aveline anyway?  WCC Dec Pub Series 2 No.1, p.66.
  3. Thompson, M. M., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink WSG Bul 3-5(Apr)
  4. Now a cluster of stables
  5. During the 1950s Swildons Hole was one of the most popular trips on Mendip - particularly a trip to Sump III - a 'full Swildons'.
  6. This was later to rnaterialise itself in the form of the high level Vicarage Passage and Trouble Series. Trouble Series explored 1961 and linked with Vicarage Passage on 4th August 1962
  7. At this time a trip to Swildons Four was regarded as one of the most severe undertakings offered by any Mendip cave.  This fact is not surprising - lighting was basically carbide with rudimentary electric lights whose batteries were encased in semi-dry metal tobacco tins attached to the back of the helmet; the relatively fragile goon-suit was the standard waterproof by the end of the 1950s (the wet suit did not come into common usage until c.1964) and the problems of rescue from Swildons Four and beyond had not been solved.  Rescue of a severely injured person from beyond Blue Pencil Passage was considered almost impossible; Sump III had not yet been passed.  When Boon successfully passed Sump III minds were then focused on the possibility of rescue back through Sumps III- 1.  Added to all that and not least was the fickleness of the Water Rift and the Forty Foot Pot in wet weather conditions.  Although the Forty Foot Pot no longer presents the problems it once did, rescue of a seriously injured caver from any point beyond Blue Pencil Passage or Sump II is still a major unproven problem for the MRO; cave divers have developed techniques for passing an injured caver through Sumps 2 and 3 it still remains an event which MRO hope will never happen for they do not have all the answers to guarantee a successful rescue.
  8. There were a number of problems besetting these explorers that made the dream of an entrance to this part of the cave from Priddy is extremely attractive.  The notoriously fragile goon-suit was the only available protection against the cold and wet; the wet-suit was still 4-5 years in the future.  In the cave the variability of the water levels in the Water Rift above the Forty-Foot Pot and the water levels in the Mud Sump meant that there were times during the year when little work could be carried out.
  9. Wells' enthusiasm for the downstream sumps resulted in the opening up of Swildons Five and Six paving the way for the next generation of divers in the early 1960s who pushed on to Swildons Sump VIII.
  10. Hanwell, J.D., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink. WCC Jnl 6(76)4Q-42(Nov. 1959 - Mar. 1960)
  11. Boon, JM. and Thompson, M.M., 1963,  The Avens in Swildons IV. SMCC Jnl 3(5)3-14(May) and Biddle, R. and Ellis, B.M., 1970, (as above) p.31-32, entry by Ken Dawe, 21 June 1958
  12. Now known as the Dawe-Thompson Traverse
  13. Unless otherwise stated Davies = Fred Davies
  14. Biddle, R. and Ellis, B.M., 1970, (as above), p.36, entry by Fred Davies, 24th August 1958
  15. Also known to some as 'Black Wal'
  16. Willcocks, [W.J.R] Wally, 1959, Water Testing on Mendip. SMCC Jo1. 2(1)4-6(May)
  17. Davies, Frederick J., 1959, Priddy Green Swallet. SMCC Jnl 2(2)6(Nov)
  18. August 1959
  19. Hanwell, J.D., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink. WCC Jo1 6(76)40-42(Nov. 1959 - Mar. 1960)
  20. This was the first time that such intensive multi-club digging had taken place on Mendip.  In fact during the 1960s several 'digging teams' emerged such as the 'Tuesday Night Dining Room Diggers', NHASA and later, ATLAS.  Such groups are commonplace today.
  21. Hanwell, J.D., 1960, [as above]
  22. Davies, Frederick J., 1959, [as above]
  23.  ... hoped that this dig will lead fairly directly into the aven in Swildons IV, but even if it doesn't, it looks fairly likely to lead somewhere and will doubtless increase the underground knowledge of the area .... '   Anon, 1960, Digging News. BEC Bel Bul 14(143) 6-8(Jan)  In fact from the author's records at least 46 working trips were made at the site up to the end of February 1960; a quite exceptional effort for this phase of Mendip caving.
  24. Biddle, R. and Ellis, B.M., 1970, (as above), p.Sl : survey carried out by Brenda Willis and N. Humphris
  25. Hanwell, James D., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink WCC Jo1 6(77)77 -78(Mayl Aug)
  26. Thompson, M. M., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink part II WSG Bul 2-3(Oct)
  27. [Davies, Frederick J.] led], 1960, Priddy Green Swallet SMCC Jn1 2(3) 12(May)
  28. Ellis, B.M., 1990, Extracts from the Hut Log Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964: 1960 SMCC Jnl 8(10) 360375(Autumn): 25th August entry by F. Davies.
  29. Anniversary Aven
  30. Davies, Frederick 1., 1959, [as above]
  31. Hanwell, James D., 1960, The Priddy Green Sink SMCC In! 2[4] 12-17(Nov), survey
  32. Hanwell, James D., 1960, [as above]; it should be noted that a similar version of the same survey may be found in SMCC Hut Log Volume Four, entry dated 26th August 1960, reprinted in Ellis, B.M., 1990, Extracts from the Hut Log Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964: 1960. SMCC In! 8(9)369(Autumn)
  33. Giles, P.M. (Jim), 1962, Digging 1961 BEC Bel Bul (167)3-9(Jan), surveys
  34. The use of mountaineering terms such as 'Tigers and 'Sherpas' came as a result of the 1953 Everest Expedition that finally conquered the 29,000ft. high peak.  Other examples, on Mendip, of the Himalayan connection will be found in St Cuthbert's Swallet and includes Everest Passage and Kanchenjunga
  35. Not only was exploration taking place in Swildons.  Fairy Cave Quarry discoveries were beginning to be made including Balch Cave; Long Chamber Extension in St. Cuthbert's Swallet; diving in Stoke Lane Slocker sumps, Pinetree Pot and Ubley Hill Pot and many other sites were opened between 1960 and 1963
  36. This was the 'new' generation of CDG divers.  The 'older' group had dispersed in a variety of ways : Balcombe had retired, Coase had tragically died in 1958, and Oliver Wells and Robert Davies had emigrated to the United States of America
  37. Boon, 1M. and Thompson, M.M., 1963, [as above]
  38. Another rapid flooding of the series was observed in 1973 when Davies, Alan Mills, Dave Causer et a1 were ascending the SVCC Extensions. Reference:  Davies, Frederick J., 1974, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again. Part V WCC Jn113 (156) 135137 (Dec), survey
  39. Turner, David P., 1995, [per comm.]
  40. Boon, 1M. and Thompson, M.M., 1963, [as above]
  41. Boon, 1M. and Thompson, M.M., 1963, [as above]
  42. Top of Main's Aven was reached by Severn Valley Caving Club in 1964 and not by the MNRC and SMCC party as stated in Pictorial History of Swi1don's Hole and reprinted on the latest version of the Swi1don's Hole survey published by WCC (1995).
  43. Cheramodytes [pseudo a.c. lloyd], 1962, Mendip Notes.  To Swi1don's VIII. WCC Journal No.85, p.71
  44. Ellis, Martin (Ed), 1992, Extracts from the Hut Logs Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964. - 1962 SMCC Jn1 9(2) 117-127 (Spring) surveys.
  45. Ellis, Martin (ed), 1992, [as above]
  46. Ellis, Martin (Ed), 1992, Extracts from the Hut Logs Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964. - 1963 SMCC Jnl 9(3) 162-168(Autumn), surveys.
  47. Stanton, W.l, 1964, More of the Dam Place. WCC Jnl 8(94)38-41(Mar), survey [survey notes]
  48. Ellis, Martin (Ed), 1992, Extracts from the Hut Logs. Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964. - 1963 SMCC Jnl 9(3)162-168 (Autumn), maps, surveys
  49. Although known to Biddle as Bassett Hound Chamber or B.H. Chamber
  50. Ellis, Martin (Ed), 1993, Extracts from the Hut Logs. Volume Four: July 1960 - December 1964. -1964 SMCC JnI9(4)184-196(Spring), surveys
  51. Allen, Paul, 1965, Caving Dairy, 1965. Vol.3, p.25-26
  52. All further references to Davies refers to Fred Davies unless otherwise stated.
  53. Wooding, M., 1965, Cowsh Aven Series SVCC Jnl (1)21-24
  54. Wooding, M. 1965, [as above]
  55. Wooding, M. 1965, [as above]
  56. Wooding, M. 1965, [as above]
  57. Roach had fallen off Greasy Chimney and left the cave with Oliver Lloyd.  This may seem amusing by today's cavers but the chimney at this time was 'greasy' - it being coated in a liberal coating of mud that made climbing extremely difficult in wet boiler suits.  A short section of ladder was placed there for a few years by which time the mud had been 'worn-off' making it the easy climb it now is.
  58. Wooding, M., 1965, [as above]
  59. Not named on the 1995 WCC survey of Swildons Hole.
  60. Cheramodytes [pseudo O.C. Lloyd]. 1964, Mendip Notes. Above Cowsh Aven. WCC Journal No.98, p.174
  61. A comprehensive description was published by SVCC to counter inaccurate descriptions prevailing at that time. Lewis, Robert G., 1965. A Brief Description of the Cowsh Aven Extension. SVCC Ntr 3(2)1-2, table of tackle requirements
  62. UBSS members were known as 'Spelers' at their Summer Camp at Burrington, 1919. both names derive from Spelaeological.
  63. UBSS Logbook Vo19 [p.1l-12.]
  64. 5 in 1958,2 in 1959 and 3 in 1960
  65. UBSS Logbook Vol. 10: 13 September 1958 - 21 February 1960 [p.91 and p.1l8]
  66. Lewis wrote: ' ... We had been informed by Oliver lloyd that no serious attempt had been made on the traverse - yet we had also been assured by various other persons that the whole area had been thoroughly investigated; one more example, is it not, of people who don't bother to look properly?....'  Lewis, Robert G., 1965, Recent Extensions in Fault Chamber, Swildons Hole. SVCC Jnl (2)6-9
  67. Holland, R., 1965, Fault Chamber, Swildons Hole. SVCC Ntr 3(4)2-3(March)
  68. Holland, R., 1965, [as above]
  69. The grand old man having died in January 1965
  70. Lewis, Robert G., 1965, [club trips] SVCC Ntr 3(4)23 (Mar)
  71. Severn Aven was finally maypoled to the top by Keith Glossop and Bob Lewis (SVCC) on the 27th April 1968.  No new passage was found.  Allen, Paul, 1968, Caving Diary, Vo1.6, p.14
  72. Allen, Paul, 1965, [trip report, 10th October 1965] SVCC Ntr 3(8)[3-4]; party comprised Lewis, Allen, Mills and Doug. Macfarlane.
  73. Ellis, Martin [Ed], 1994, The S.M.C.C. Hut Logs. Volume Five: January 1965 - September 1968: 1965. SMCC In! 9(6)252-264
  74. Andrews, Tom, 1965, That Aven Again!! WSG Bulletin (1)36-37(Jan-Feb)
  75. Oakeley, Henry, 1965,[Blue Pencil Aven] WSG Bulletin (l)36-37(Jan-Feb)
  76. The party comprised R. Craig (MNRC), Martin Mills, Philip Romford and Biddle (SMCC), Barry Lane (BEC), and two members of WSG, J. Warren and Jon Gulliver.  Gulliver, Jon, 1965, Discovery in Swildons Hole. WSG Bulletin (l)35-36)(Jan-Feb)
  77. Ellis, M., 1993, Extracts from the Hut Logs. Volume Four:  July 1960 - December 1964. - 1964 SMCC Jnl 9(4)184196(Spring),surveys
  78. Biddle is less forthcoming in his report published in the SMCC Journal which states 'On the ledge 1 found a sling and 'crab' presumably left by some previous climber.'   Biddle, R., 1965, Blue Pencil Aven. SMCC Jnl 3(9)1317(May), survey
  79. Biddle, R., 1965, [as above]
  80. Davies, Frederick J., 1974a, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again. WCC Jnl13(152)32-34(Apr), survey
  81. In fact Great Aven is about 80 feet high, the ledge is about 40ft from its floor.
  82. Mansfie1d, R.W., 1971, [Personal logbook] Vo1.5. Jan. 1968 - May 1971. [now housed in the UBSS Library (1996), p.84]
  83. Davies, Frederick J., 1974a, [as above]
  84. Davies, Frederick I., 1974b, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again. Part II. wee Inl13(153)57-60 (Jun), survey
  85. Jarratt, A.R.,1970, [personal log book]
  86. It should be noted that most of the diggers involved with this project were also involved elsewhere on Mendip, e.g. North Hill Swallet, S1. Cuthbert's Swallet and Twin Titties Swallet
  87. Fred Davies' date given in Part III of his articles (ref. below) is not correct - it should read Saturday 22nd July, 1972: it should also be noted that Mansfield's Logbook is also in error for it gives the date as the 23rd July 1972.  Davies, Frederick J., 1974c, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again. Part ill WCC JnI13(154)78-81(Aug)
  88. Davidson's humorous account outlines some of the finer detail: ' ... We were joined in Swildons 4 by Fred and Ray and the job of ascending Cowsh Aven began.  Ray went up first with the rope and life-lined the rest of us to the top of what turned out to be an interesting climb .... When you get to the top, you get the feeling that you are nearly out in fresh air again. Well, no such luck!
    'We eventually arrived at the pre-selected spot for transmission ... Ray entered the final chamber first, with Mike close on his heels, then I followed, well tried to!  In fact it took just over half an hour for me to squeeze through about 10 ft of fairly easy passage.  Well, it was like this: I had just got my head and shoulders through, when a rather large rock took a fancy to my legs.  Now this rock was fighting in the heavy class, and was not very keen to let go.  Fred produced a crowbar and hammer from somewhere or other, and started chipping at one end.  Mike was in the middle with an improvised winch of slings and waistbands, whilst Ray and myself tried to dig out the loose rocks from the other end.  After a lot of pushing and pulling I got through.'

    Davidson, D.W., 1972, Radio Location - Cowsh Aven Speleo Rhal CC Ntr 2-3 (Aug)
  89. Fortunately Davies was on the 'home-side' for he could, if it had become essential, leave the cave and call the MRO.  In the event this was not necessary but Davidson found later that he had suffered a broken kneecap but made his painful exit from the cave unaided.  The approach crawl to Top Avens was then christened 'Dave's Knee'

    Davies, Frederick J., 1974c, [as above]
  90. Davies, Frederick 1., 1974d, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again.  Part N WCC Jnl13(155)104105(Oct)
  91. Davies, Frederick 1., 1974d, [as above]
  92. Haselden, M., 1972, Da Da Oit '0' for Goal. Speleo Rhal Ntr 3-6(Aug)
  93. Davies, Frederick J., 1974d, [as above]
  94. NHASA Logbook, September 1970 - December 1991 [includes great detail of several excavations and discoveries during the period covered by the logbook] [currently in the possession of Brian Prewer, St. John's Cottage, Priddy, Somerset]
  95. NHASA = North Hill Association for Speleological Advancement
  96. Davies, Frederick J., 1975, Not Now and Again, but Again and Again and Again.  Part VI WCC Jnl13(I60) 224227(Aug), maps  [Prewer carried out a repeat transmission in 1995 and obtained the same results.]


B.E.C Life Members Questionnaire

By Roz Bateman

I would like to thank the enormous response to the questionnaires sent out to our 40 life members in October/November last year.

Not only did the exercise help to update the life members addresses or iron out incorrect names or post codes but also aid in bridging the gap between the current active members of today with names of the past.

A small comment section in the questionnaire lead to some interesting reading.  I have selected a few quotes which I hope will not only reflect the general view of the BEC by its founder members but also shows thanks and encouragement to those who's efforts are noted towards the club.  So please keep digging, travelling/caving abroad but most of all keep those caving articles coming not only will your efforts be noted down in history but many fellow members old and new can also enjoy your adventures and caving successes or experiences.

Reflections on the BEC, quotations by our life members.

The improvements in the BB during Estelle's editorship is most noteworthy.  Long may this improvement continue - will try and dredge up some memories from the neolithic layer!!! !(HS)

Many thanks to all the committee members for all the work they put in on behalf of the club (JR)

Best series of BB's ever - congratulations!!!  Steer clear of non-caving jokes - I've heard most of them (Another Internet browser ??). Plenty of Mendip news please. (KK.)

For the last twelve months the Belfry Bulletins have been excellent, congratulations to Estelle on a first class publication that I have actually looked forward to reading. Probably the best the BB has ever been and certainly the most interesting and generally informative of all the current Mendip caving journals (and I am including the UBSS) .... (BE)

Estelle will be a hard act to follow - I left the Belfry on 3/12/77, never to set foot in it since I am not a suitable person to write for the Belfry Bulletin although I continue to read it with interest and wish it well (AC)

We older members are grateful for the chance to comment on the contents of the BB.  Old codgers weekend 24th - 25th May, if you think an evening gaffering during this visit is worth while then choose a date and I will oblige (TS)

I would like to congratulate the committee and especially the editor on the high quality of the BB and range of interests/topics now reported (MH)

The BEC still means a lot to me although I have in effect lost contact with the club itself, but the friendship I formed in the early days of the BEC are very important to me.

I last went caving - a full GB - in Aug 1981.  Unfortunately I came off a 500 cc motor bike avoiding a dog the next day and broke my collarbone.  That's life for you.  Very best wishes to you and the club. (DC)

In 1953 I started caving on Mendip.  Being London based I was a member of the newly formed W.S.G. We camped and used the Belfry facilities as guests.  I did this for several years before joining the BEC.  This was because it was believed you could only be loyal to one club. A quaint point of view by today's standards.  Later I responded to the call and became a life-member.  In 1960 I got married, started a business, stated a family and then moved to Derbyshire.  From then on my visits to Mendip became few and far between.  From time to time I stayed at the Belfry with members of my local Matlock based club.  Most of the time this was fine and I was glad of my B.E.C membership in organising these meets.  However it was not always so.  Sometimes things did go wrong.

There was a time when a group arrived at 2 AM on Saturday morning making a great deal of noise. When I asked them to quieten it down a bit, I was threatened with physical violence.  The following night after the Hunters shut, this group came in very drunk and performed 'The dance of the Flaming Arseole!'  This involved taking cushions from the Belfry furniture putting them between their legs, setting them on fire and jumping all round the Belfry.  My great regret is that they did not keep them in place long enough.

However the BEC has served me well.  Overall the club has provided me with what I wanted and still does today.  Although I am now a geriatric of almost seventy and no longer have either the levels of energy or the physical strength I used to have, I am still caving today.  Be it a rather more gentle level than I used to.  Although I have not stayed at the Belfry lately, it is always there should I want to.

Estelle is doing a magnificent job.  She is going to be a very hard act to follow.  What I enjoy most is news of Mendip in general and the BEC in particular. I like to read about caving activities, be it original exploration in far away places or just fun and sporting trips on Mendip, they are all of interest to me.  I am also interested in MRO callout accounts. Historic events - yes indeed - I might even have been involved.

I sent two original pictures to Jingles a long time ago.  I presumed he received them, the post office has not returned them and to the best of my knowledge they have never been published.  Both were taken in Cuthbert's in the early 1950's - one of Norman Petty using the telephone to the Belfry and the other was of formations. Does anyone know anything about these photographs?? (LD)

Started as a caver in 1949 I took up climbing and then mountaineering Pyrenees 1951, Alps 1952, Iceland 1953, Spitzbergen 1954, Greenland 1957, had included peak in France, Xmas day 1953.  Climbed masses on mountains and volcanoes in East Africa and Old Belgian Congo.  Took up geology as a career in 1983 on study trips all over Britain, 5 trips for 3 or 4 weeks to the ---- Alaska.  Travelled in 75 different countries returning from China 2 weeks ago.  Too old to care at 76 but still very interested and still an active foreign traveller (TF) have you met this incredible caver on your travels?? Lets hope he remember his BEC stickers to leave a mark of respect.

The Belfry Bulletin is extremely important for the club.  Not everyone is lucky enough to live on Mendip and often members have to move away or even live abroad.  News from Mendip and peoples trips aboard continue to be read not just by the people who drink in the Hunters but at present Belfry Bulletins are sent to 10 different countries including Africa, Austria, Belgium, Australia, the States and to members in 26 counties across the UK - ' The BEC get everywhere' continues to stand.

Memories of Belfry days can be good or different, trying to reason with a Drunken Belfryite can have limiting effect.  Much work has been carried out in the Belfry over the past year the quality of the facilities now available is continuing to improve.  An improvement to some may not be welcomed by all.  However life goes on at the Belfry and whatever rumours of it having a bar or a new fire may not appeal - many an inquisitive member has disapproved in concept but in reality has been amazed by the high craftsmanship and the homely and welcome atmosphere of a hot fire and the Belfry Bar.


In The Wake of Shackleton

By Joan Bennett

I have always been interested in the Antarctic and envied ex BEC members like Graham Phippen, Zot and Ross White who were able to go there in the course of their work.

I always preferred Shackleton to Scott in any debate about the personalities of the two British explorers, so when the opportunity to go on a cruise to the Antarctic, labelled "In the Wake of Shackleton" it seemed to be just right for me.  The ship was originally a Russian Polar Research vessel and carried less than 50 passengers, the Expedition leader was Tony Soper (the birdman) and Lady Philippa Scott, widow of Sir Peter Scott, was a guest lecturer.  Cruises such as these are becoming more popular, concentrating on wildlife and going to out of the way places.  There is a panel of experts and lecturers, and landings are made in inaccessible places by Zodiac semi-rigid inflatables.  The atmosphere is very informal, no nonsense about dressing for dinner, and such like.


Pack ice and tabular berg - Weddle Sea

The cruise itself started at Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, past Cape Horn, across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula, weaving through passages and islands around the Peninsula, visiting various scientific bases, and landing at interesting places.  Next call was Deception Island (a volcanic island).  We then crossed north of the Peninsula and penetrated the western part of the Weddle Sea.  It was here that we picked up the route of Shackleton after he lost his ship Endurance. We went as far south as we could, then made for Elephant Island, which was his first landfall after leaving the ice, and where 22 men spent four months living in upturned boats.  After that to South Georgia, following the route which Shackleton sailed with 5 others in the lifeboat, the James Caird.  After several days we sailed to the Falkland Islands, and returned to Ushuaia nearly three weeks after we had left.

Shackleton was of course a great explorer.  His exploits in the Antarctic are legendary.  When the Endurance was caught in the ice in 1915 the conditions that year were very bad.  When we were in the area, we went through lots of pack ice, very exciting with the ice grinding and cracking along the sides of the ship.  It was only a short while before that a large area of the Larsen Ice Shelf, which was attached to the Peninsula on the western coast of the Weddle Sea, just south of where we were, had broken free, so that there was a lot of pack ice.  We were very lucky in that we met up with the Royal Naval survey ship - also named Endurance which had a helicopter aboard.  They took off to see if there were any leads which we could follow, but the pack was extensive, so we turned north, towards Elephant Island.

Left : Elephant Island
Right:  Shackleton's grave, South Georgia

We left the Weddle Sea at about 17.00 and arrived off Elephant Island at about 6.00.  We were hoping to land on the spit where the ships crew spent the winter months awaiting rescue by The Boss, but the conditions were not good enough. Just to see this tiny piece of beach was quite instructive.  It was the only landing place which we saw as we sailed pass all the steep cliffs and glacier snouts.  We left Elephant Island at mid-day on Saturday arriving in South Georgia on Tuesday morning.  The crossing was quite rough, winds gale force 6-7, but at South Georgia they were up to force 10.  Many of the passengers were somewhat ragged around the edges, glasses in the bar went careering down the tables, and meals were not well attended. We arrived at Grytviken in the early morning, cleared customs, and landed on the island to visit the remains of the old whaling station, the museum and the restored museum and the restored Norwegian church.  We also paid our respects at Shackletons grave (he died here in 1921) drank a toast in his favourite brandy, and sprinkled libations over the grave.  Here we also met a marine sergeant who had just crossed the island, following the route taken by Shackleton.

We went to the barracks, and were told about the start of the Falklands War.  (Shades of Ross White).  After spending the day sailing to and landing in one of the remote bays, that evening we had dinner with the harbour master and his wife, and a couple who were sailing around the world, and have spent the last 5 years in South Georgia (they gave us a super lecture on S. Georgia, where they have spent much time mountaineering and skiing).  I ate with the CO of the garrison who is also the local magistrate, and we were later joined in the bar by the Ghurkas who make up the army complement.  Politics raised its ugly head here, as the chef s assistant, who was Argentinean, was not allowed to land in S. Georgia or the Falklands.

We saw quite a lot of wildlife, starting with the sighting of a condor whilst in Tierra Del Fuego, several types of albatross many petrels and shearwaters which followed the ship, cormorants, skuas, gulls, terns, and on the Falklands the rare striated caracaras, night herons, and kelp geese.  We saw 5 species of penguin, 5 of seal, and 8 of whales and dolphins.

On the whole we were lucky with the weather, having mostly good visibility, although the swell meant that we could not always land where we wanted.  The scenery was magnificent, and the glaciers were really awe-inspiring. We sailed along glacier snouts several kilometres long, we sailed past tabular icebergs, castellated icebergs, decayed icebergs, bergy bits, brash ice, pancake ice.  We watched, and felt, glaciers calving, looked into, but did not go into ice caves of gigantic proportions, and the deepest blue imaginable. Many of these sights were seen from the zodiacs, and we also went into the pack in these small boats.  A glaciologists paradise.  We also experienced strong katabatic winds in South Georgia, which blew up out of nowhere, luckily before we set out in the zodiacs.

Stromness Harbour, South Georgia

The effect of the geology on the scenery was very interesting, ranging from the continental Andes, and the fjords in well-wooded, Tierra Del Fuego; the black volcanic ash of Deception Island, with a caldera about 8 miles long and which compares well with Santorini.  The last eruption was in the 70's.  The granite and gabbros of South Georgia, which forms such beautiful mountains, very steep ridges, and shapely peaks, like the Isle of Skye, and the Falkland Islands, an extension of South American, being on the continental shelf, and which are very like Dartmoor, treeless moorland areas with low tor-like hills.  There are still a lot of landmines here, areas where people cannot go, but the sheep and penguins find a safe haven.

In December 1997 a protocol was passed by all the interested countries to stop all mining and oil exploration on the continent - this was one good thing to come out of the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.  We visited a number of the scientific bases and I was horrified to see the mess and degradation of the areas around some of the large bases.  On Prince Edward Island where we dropped off some Russian scientists, there were bases run by Russia, Argentina, Chile, and China, and there was also an airfield.  The only justification for tourists is to keep the scientists in check.  To prevent further pollution we were not allowed to dump any rubbish either on land or in the sea south of the Antarctic Convergence.

Certainly a trip to remember.  Trouble is I am now hooked, so in 1999 am heading north to Iceland, Jan Mayen Island and Spitsbergen.


NCA Policy on fixed Aids


Policy on fixed aids.


With the introduction of the Anchor Replacement Programme, British cavers now have the benefit of a properly controlled and managed programme of installation for fixed aids intended primarily for SRT.  However, in many caves in the UK, SRT is not an appropriate technique to use and over the years many other types of aid (for example, iron ladders, chains and Rawlbolts) have been used.

The purpose of this policy is to formalise the use of these aids in order to provide the same level of protection for the users and for the installers as now exists under the Anchor Replacement Programme.  Within limits necessarily set by the need to maintain adequate controls, this policy has intentionally been drafted so that it may include aids which have already been placed in caves prior to its introduction (subject to an appropriate adoption procedure) and so as not to limit the selection and installation of fixed aids to a small and specially trained clique of personnel.


The aim of the NCA under this policy is to provide fixed aids that are tested or inspected regularly, and where appropriate remedial works or replacement carried out.  The number of aids covered will be kept to a minimum, and where possible alternatives are considered.  Where using other routes is safe and practical, consideration should be given to the removal of aids.

The aim of this policy is to make caving safer and to provide protection for those who place fixed aids on behalf of other cavers. It is not the aim of this policy to make caving easier.


1.1        Cave means any natural or man made underground cavity used by cavers.

1.2        Fixed aid means artificial fixtures or fittings placed in a cave for the purposes of safe access, progress or egress for regular use or for rescue, excluding those items covered under the Association's separate policy on anchor replacement.

1.3        Fixed aid does not include parts giving structural strength to cave walls or supporting roof structures etc.

1.4        Constituent Body means a regional council, member cub or specialist body of the Association.

1.5        Maintenance shall include, where appropriate, testing and replacement.


2.1        To safely provide and maintain fixed aids within caves, potholes and mines.

2.2        All aids shall be in caves open to NCA member clubs, as controlled by the constituent bodies of NCA.

2.3        Installation or adoption of any aid under this policy shall first be approved at a committee meeting of the relevant constituent body.

2.4        Co-ordination of this policy is the responsibility of the association's Equipment Committee.


3.1        Prior to fixing any new aid or replacing existing ones, consideration will be given to conservation, both with regard to the immediate area of the aid, and also to those areas to which it provides access.

3.2        The constituent body officer responsible for conservation shall be consulted prior to any new or replacement aid being installed.


4.1        The British Cave Rescue Council shall be the final arbiters of any matter relating to rescue.

4.2        Fixed aids covered under this policy shall neither hinder or impede any potential rescue efforts.  If necessary the aid shall be readily removable by the rescue team.

4.3        Prior to removing or replacing any aid, consideration shall be given to the potential of the aid to cause a rescue.

4.4        Consideration when installing or replacing aids shall be given to such factors as flooding, e.g. where a ladder would be better than a chain.

4.5        In cases of doubt with relevance to rescue, the local team must be consulted.


5.1        The selection of the fixed aid system shall be a matter for discussion by the relevant constituent body, taking account of nationally agreed guidelines.


6.1        A programme of regular inspection and, where necessary, maintenance, shall be established.

6.2        Inspection and maintenance shall be properly documented in accordance with section 7 of this policy.

6.3        Persons carrying out inspection and maintenance shall be adequately competent.

6.4        Inspection and maintenance shall be in accordance with nationally agreed guidelines

6.5        Any recommendations resulting from an inspection are to be carried out within a suitable time scale.  Failing this, the aid is to be removed from use until such time as the recommendations can be fulfilled.


7.1        Adequate records must be kept by the relevant constituent body for each fixed aid.

7.2        Records shall be sufficient to clearly identify:

- the location of the aid in the cave;

- the type of aid;

- the date(s) upon which the aid was placed and last inspected;

- the details of any maintenance work carried out;

- the names of persons carrying out installation and/or maintenance;

- that the type of aid selected is appropriate for the application;

- any pre-installation testing and evaluation performed on the aid.


8.1        Any individual or group authorised to work on behalf of the association under this policy will be indemnified by the association's insurance in so far as they are acting as officers of the association.

8.2        Any works or inspections carried out as part of this policy will be covered by the Association's insurance.


9.1        Nothing in this policy shall be taken to absolve the responsibility of an individual using any fixed aid to check that it is fit and safe for its intended purpose.

9.2        Only aids which have been installed fully in accordance with this policy shall be considered to be within its scope.

Draft 1 (based on DCA Draft 4 and discussions at the Equipment Committee Meeting of 13 June 1998).

Draft 2 agreed at the Equipment Committee meeting of13 February 1999

N. Williams


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

28030/5/99                 ISSA Meet, Bradford Pothole Club Gaping Gill Winch Meet - ISSA

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns Day

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

16/6/99                      June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Punch Bowl Inn, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

19/6/99                      Working Day and Evening Barbecue at the Belfry. All Welcome to the barbeque - The Committee

30/6/99                      June Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

2-4/7/99                     ISSA Meet, Dan yr Ogof - ISSA

7/7/99                        Open night, Floyd Collins (Musical). The Bridewell Theatre, London

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

29/8/99                      OFD Columns Open Day

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

31/8/99                      Ghar Parau Foundation Grants applications deadline

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

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


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 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


Good news

We have a prospective editor in Martin Torbett.  For those of you who are not familiar with Martin, he can be regularly found in the Hunters on a Wednesday night as part of J'Rat's digging team.  He lives in Cheddar so should have no trouble in hassling the regular cavers for articles.  I hope everyone will support him in the way that most have supported me and keep the articles coming.  Any editor can only be as good as his/her articles, so that's down to you – the membership – to keep them coming.


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

Two Discoveries in Two Days!

His Lordship's Hole, Red Quar

Following a prolonged drilling and banging epic in the 20ft long, low crawl below the two chambers discovered on 19th June (The Gentlemen’s Urinals) a breakthrough was finally made on Wednesday 16th June into another 10ft of crawl leading to a free-climbable drop into "The Screaming Lord Sutch Memorial Chamber" - tastelessly named in the "aristocratic" theme which this cave is developing.  About 10ft in diameter and 12ft deep, this will be a handy place to stack spoil from a future dig in a silt choked bedding streamway in the floor.  Bad air due to bang fumes and the current high atmospheric pressure prevented more than a cursory investigation.  Total extension length, including the banged bits, is about 40ft.

Hazelnut Swallet, Biddlecombe

Mike Willett and Nick Mitchell’s dig here has also seen considerable drilling and banging recently. Following the winter lay-off work started again in April and by early June the top of a pitch could be seen ahead. This was made accessible on 17th June and an ecstatic Mike feverishly descended a ladder to find it reaching a choked sump 15ft below!  He was "not amused".  It’s a nice pitch though, with some fine fossils, and further work here will be undertaken when the inlet stream from Biddlecombe (Knapp Hill) Swallet has been diverted on the surface.  Total length, as above, about 30ft.

Tony Jarratt

BEC Annual Dinner

This year the Annual Club Dinner will be held at "The Bath Arms Hotel" at Cheddar on Saturday 2nd October, 1999.  Early booking will be essential, as places are limited to 100 people.  Tickets will cost £19 to include a glass of wine/orange juice or pint of beer on arrival, plus a bottle of red and a bottle of white per table of eight.  The bar is open until 1 am.  Bed and Breakfast accommodation is available for those who wish, at a discounted rate. Details will be included, with the menu which will be with you soon!

As usual the coach will be arranged to leave the Hunters at 7pm prompt.

BEC v Wessex Cricket Match

On Saturday 17tb. July at 2:30pm the Annual Cricket Match for the Sofa Ashes will be held at Eastwater Farm.  All are welcome.  There will be barrels of beer at reduced prices to lubricate the players and spectators, and no doubt enhance the quality of the game!!!

Committee changes

Due to Jake and Becca moving to Scotland for the summer months, Becca has resigned from the committee leaving the post of Hut Warden vacant.  Fiona Lambert very kindly stepped in to take over the hut bookings (see address in front of BB) and at the last committee meeting it was decided that the post of Hut Warden would be better spread between several people to make life easier.  Bob Smith has been assistant to Becca for some time, and along with Vince Simmonds and Mike Willett, will be taking care of the Hut Warden's job until at least the AGM!

New Members

We have two new members joined at the last committee meeting.  Simon House and Andy Elson.  Andy's claim to fame is that he has the deepest BEC sticker in his balloon's gondola, which now lies at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific just of Japan.  Unless anyone can prove different, we think he also has the highest Bertie in this atmosphere (we know there is one on a satellite somewhere!!)

There could be an article in the making here - anyone who knows of any interesting locations for BEC stickers over the years can they please forward this information to the editor.

Tim Kendrick's photos in the last BB.

I have a reasonable amount of information regarding identities and locations from many of the photos in the last BB.  I have an article promised which hopefully will make the next BB.

Just after the BB was released there was an 'Oldies' week at the Belfry and many of the people who were at the Belfry were in the last BB in those photos.  It was great to see so many of them at the Belfry.  Maybe next year we could plan an 'Oldies' week and publicise in advance as I have had several people say that if they had known they would have visited as well.  Maybe a slide show or other entertainment could be arranged.  Feedback from the older members to the committee on this would be gratefully received.  It is really nice to see that so many members from around 50 years ago or more, still have an interest in the BEC.

Albert's photos in March BB

My apologies, I forgot to give you the locations of Albert's pictures from the March BB.  The first of the pictures on the page is Rods Pot, while the other three of the pictures were actually taken in a tunnel in Wells, which is somewhere under Southover.


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.


Burrington Cave 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 as soon as possible as I would like to go to print with this over the summer months.


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

There is still no sign of the missing logbooks.  It is a shame that BEC history is being lost in this way.  If anyone has any idea where any of the logbooks may be can they please contact either Dave Irwin or Dave Turner.

St. Cuthbert's Swallet Newssheets.

We are missing No. 8 from the Club collection.  Does any member have a copy?  Photocopies will do quite nicely. Anyone with a copy would they please contact either Dave Irwin (01749 xxxxxx) or Dave Turner (01373 xxxxxx) as we wouldn't want to be flooded with copies.


BB 341

This was reported as missing from the club library as well; it is hardly surprising as it was never published!  See p.5 BEC Caving Report No 22, "An Index of the Publications of the BEC 1947-1987" by DJ Irwin!


A Gentle and Polite Reminder

Several items from the Club Library are still out on loan.  Will all members note that John 'Tangent' Williams and 'Wig' are cataloguing the library during the next few months.  To do the job successfully requires all items to be in the Library, seen and checked. Please return your loans NOW.


Austria Expedition '99

There will be an Austria expedition to the Dachstein during the first two weeks of August, if interested please contact Pete 'Snablet' MacNab on 01334 xxxxxx.  Other contacts for this are Rich Blake and Tony Jarratt.

Members moving.

Henry Bennett and Antoinette have moved to Bathwick Hill, Bath

Swildons after 1969 floods, (accidentally lost by the printers from the last BB) by Brian Prewer.   See his article in the last BB for more information


BEC vs Wessex Cricket Match


Saturday 17th July 2:30pm Eastwater Farm


Fairy Cave Quarry Caves - Stoke St Michael, Mendip

By Brian Prewer

After being closed for over a decade, the three most spectacular caves in Fairy Cave Quarry has been reopened to cavers.

Lengthy negotiations between the quarry owners, English Nature and a newly formed management committee have finally been concluded with a management plan being put into place with the agreement of all parties.

Due to the fragile nature of the three caves, Shatter, Withyhill and W/L, access will only be open to bona fide caving clubs by writing to the committee.  Party size is limited and no novices are allowed.  For the three caves named above a leadership system is in place.  A trip fee of £1 per person will be charged to cover maintenance and general conservation. Full details will be given when applying for a leader.

Shatter, Withyhill and W/L have long been considered amongst the finest stalactite caves in the UK. Shatter is over 1000m in length, containing many beautifully decorated chambers and grottoes whilst Withyhill, although shorter at 700m, is equally well decorated.  W/L is shorter again at 150m and contains some unusual crystal formations. None of the caves is in any way physically demanding and are regarded as a photographer's paradise.

Great care is needed in all these caves to protect their unique nature and for this reason tight access controls are required.

Other caves in Fairy Cave Quarry may be visited with permission from the management committee but without the need of a leader.  It is hoped that all the necessary work of re-taping and clearing entrances will be completed soon.

For further information write to the Fairy Caves Management Committee at "Bryscombe", The Quarries, New Road, Draycott, Somerset, BS27 3SG

On behalf of the FCQ Management Committee.

21 June, 1999

(Also printed in the Craven Record)


Elephants Trunk Chamber, Withyhill Swallet


Observation on the Growth of Flowstone in Fairy caves

By Brian Prewer

In the mid 1980s the caves in Fairy Cave Quarry were closed by the owners, Hobbs Quarries.  Prior to that led parties had been able to enter Shatter, Withyhill and W/L.  These three caves represented probably some of the finest stalactite caves in Britain. Each of these caves contained a profusion of stalactites, stalagmites and most other forms of flowstone, in fact in some chambers bare limestone was hard to find.

During the time when the caves were open, taping of vulnerable formations was done by the Cerberus S.S.  The tape used was thin coloured nylon tape.  In places this tape was wound around stal bosses or strung between stal and boulders.  During the years the caves were originally open inevitably, due to the profusion of flowstone, footprints were left in mud and in a few places on stal floors. These areas were part of the route followed through the cave.

Today, nearly two decades later, stal has started to re-grow, in particular, on nylon tape around stal bosses and over muddied flowstone.  In places some tapes have been completely sealed over while in others small stal curtains hang off horizontally strung tapes.  New crystal growth can now be seen in footprints on the floor and fresh mini gour pools cover some of the older darker flowstone.

It is clear that in Shatter Cave stal growth is very rapid - a couple of centimetres in a decade!  Of course this is exceptional but one has to wonder if the Show Cave guide is right to tell the public that stalactites grow at the rate of one centimetre in 10,000 years.



Vale - Bryan M. Ellis~ 1934 - 1999

An appreciation by Dave Irwin


Bryan, December 1998 - photo. Dave Irwin

Bryan died on the 21 st May 1999 at the Bristol Royal Infirmary after an illness that had plagued him for nearly five years. In his passing the British caving world has lost a figure who was held in high esteem by all who came into contact with him.  For myself his passing is all the more poignant in that I have lost a very close personal friend.

Bryan's achievements lay not in his caving prowess but more in his organisational abilities.  During the 35 years I knew him I found him to be interested in many aspects of the caving world, some of which caused him to be at the centre of great controversy.  When his mind was made up relating  to a particular topic  he  would fiercely  argue and defend his cause however great the opposition. 

Whatever ones personal views of the arguments, and on many occasions I argued fiercely with him from the opposite side of the fence, I was always left with the impression of a man with great conviction and for that you admired him greatly.

Bryan became interested in caving as teenager and when his training took him to London in the early 1950s he became a member of the WSG and in 1955 he joined the Shepton Mallet Caving Club.  He also joined the BEC and when the various membership options were devised he became an Associate Member which he retained until his death.  For several years he was the editor of the BEC Caving Reports. After joining the Shepton Mallet Caving Club he soon became involved with the running of that club in which he held many positions including its President and Newsletter Editor and in recent years was its Librarian.  His last major contribution to the SMCC was his involvement in the arrangements for their 50th Anniversary events in May and their special edition of the Journal dealing with the club's history.  During National Service he explored a number of caves in North Wales with Fred Davies and their work was published as a SMCC Occasional Publication.  He later, together with Roger Biddle, produced an abridgement of the SMCC Hut Logs. During the period before commercial outlets Bryan served the Mendip caving community well by providing an outlet for the sales of caving club publications and the rarely published caving book.  The boot of his car was packed with such material and cave surveys and when at the Hunters he would 'open up his shop' or hawk his material around in a large cardboard box in the pub itself.  During the 1960s Bryan's interest in cave surveying found him involved with the Mendip Survey Colloquium and he was partly instrumental in the creation of the Mendip Cave Survey Scheme which still exists in a greatly reduced way today. The first version of the St. Cuthbert's Swallet survey was compiled by Bryan from earlier work and his own of the Rabbit Warren Extension and published as a BEC Caving Report.  He was also involved with the survey of Holwell Cavern in the 1960s. The Mendip Cave Registry was also another interest and for some time he was its Hon. Secretary during to the 1960s up to the time of its demise.

Following the formation of BCRA Bryan took a keen and active part in the promotion of the new body and since that time held many important posts including Chairman.  In 1977 he prepared the first of two books on cave surveying that he was to write, a topic that was of great interest to him.  Later he became the first paid Administrator of BCRA that involved him in its day-to-day running and for several years he operated the BCRA club and travel insurance service often dealing with a request for cover the following day!

When Bryan agreed to undertake a project that appealed to him he would fully commit himself to the topic and pass his enthusiasm on to others to ensure that the end result was of a fully professional standard. He will be sorely missed.

On behalf of the BEC I would like to offer Pauline, Kerry and Martin our deepest sympathies.


The Priddy Connection - Part 2

- The final phase of digging in Priddy Green Sink and the breakthrough to Swildon's Hole, 1995-1996

By Adrian Hole and Tony Jarratt

"Through this a cave was dug with vast e pence;  The work it seemed of some suspicious prince." Dryden

Following the re-opening of Priddy Green Sink in December 1993 a brief flurry of digging trips to the extremely unpleasant end of Fault Plane Passage took place.  Those involved were B.E.C. members Adrian Hole and Ivan Sandford with Mike "Quackers" Duck and John Attwood. After several digging and blasting trips in the worm-strewn "cowsh" sump the enthusiasm for this site deteriorated and other options were looked at including the upper level R.A.F. Aven - abandoned by the S.M.C.C. team on 20th October 1964 and Shit Sump in Cowsh Aven Series.  It was considered by the previous diggers that the boulder choked crawl leading off R.A.F. Aven would connect with Anniversary Aven above the foul "cowsh sump".

Cowsh Avens

The summer of 1995 saw Ivan, Adrian, Alex Gee, Becca Campbell, Mike Willett and Guy Munnings, with members of the London Guildhall club and others, re-climbing the Bladder Pot route of Cowsh Avens and leaving fixed ropes in place which were later to prove of great benefit.  Top Avens were radio-located by Brian Prewer and found to be, as expected, just beyond the barn at Manor Farm.  Several potential dig sites were investigated here but enthusiasm for this remote site soon waned.

Return to Pretty Grim Stink

In Priddy Green Sink, Adrian, Ivan and Mike spent some time during August digging a small hole on the RH side of Fault Plane Passage, only to enter a body-sized chamber.  This site was abandoned and they moved upstream.

They were not convinced by the R.A.F. Aven theory and lured on by a strong draught in a 2" high, descending and decorated bedding plane, together with the relatively pleasant nature of the site, they put in a lot of work with plugs and feathers splitting rocks and clearing the crawl until stopped by a large boulder.  An attempt at moving this was made using the "Mike fetch!" method - usually highly effective - but in this case even The Willett couldn't move it.  Tony Jarratt was invited along on 26th November 1995 to pulverise this obstacle, little realising that this was to be the start of six months of body-wrecking misery - albeit with a happy ending!  Another bang the next day solved the problem and on 28th they pushed through the crawl to enter a 12ft square breakdown chamber with an aven, possible but loose dig in the floor and ongoing choked crawl.  The length of the extension was some 60ft.

Pottering with purpose

The next eight trips were all clearing and banging missions - once three times in one day! Light relief was provided by John A electrocuting himself. On 12th December the impassable rift at the end of the crawl was enlarged enough for Tony to squeeze down into a sloping passage ending at an undescended rift pitch. This area was called Hanwell's Hall in honour of Jim Hanwell (W.C.C.) pioneer Priddy Green Sink digger and 60 years old this week. That night the pitch was free climbed for c.20ft by Ivan and Adrian to reach a tiny phreatic tube heading down dip. The former almost broke a rib getting up the banged rift so both this and the tube were destined for enlargement.


Photo: Looking down the 20ft rift below Hanwell's Hall by Martin Torbett - 13th December 1995

Serious pottering

Unfortunately forty-six trips (!) were necessary, thirty-six of which were drilling and banging epics before the next breakthrough was made.  "This dig is getting monotonous ... "  The 30ft of tight, descending tube (with the Siren's lure of an intermittent stream in the distance) became affectionately known as the Blasted Bastard as drilling had to be done head downwards in severely constricted conditions and clearing was a nightmare.  As this took place during all of January and early February it should have been warmer underground than on the surface but the increasing draught made conditions decidedly chilly and bang fumes began to chase the diggers from the cave.  The cold did not affect the smell of the cave though and occasionally snuff was taken at the entrance to ward off the stench.  As the diggers approached an open cross passage - "A couple more bangs should do it" - Adrian sarcastically remarked that he expected to find "Four naked virgins and a barrel of beer" around the comer.

From Bastard to Virgins

On 8th February 1996 Rich Blake dug through into some 25ft of small passage going off to the left (The Virgins) and straight ahead (Barrel Passage).  Both of these ways on surprisingly needed banging and many sessions were done on them until on 17th February Rich passed a tight horizontal squeeze in the Virgins to reach the head of a pot with the Priddy Green stream pouring down another pot below.  As this was a solo trip he had difficulty in making his colleagues believe him!  These became known as Virgin One and Virgin Two, "The connection is now a real possibility".

The following day a strong team descended these 30 ft of climbs to reach a blocked crawl which was excavated and led to Virgin Three, a 15ft climb followed by another crawl and the final Virgin Four, a 10ft climb.  A low and squalid streamway led on and this was named Bar Code Crawl following the discovery of a laminated paper "bar code" bearing the legend "MAIN R J + PR/K".  A length of 120ft and depth of 70ft had been added to the cave and the diggers celebrated with fags and champagne in the worm-infested surroundings of Virgin Two. Everyone was delighted, " ... a bloody good reward for the time, money and effort involved by the B.E.C. team, built upon the several years of hard work put in by the combined club diggers of the early sixties".  A dangerously loose boulder series above the Virgins was later pushed up towards the floor dig in the breakthrough chamber below R.A.F. Aven.  The stream entering in this area comes via an aven from the "cowsh sump" at the end of the old cave.  It is another worm-infested, unpleasant place.

From Virgins to Clitoris

Banging then commenced in earnest in Barrel Passage until, on 13th March Rich was able to pass a committing squeeze (Clitoris Crawl - "'cos its a bit of a .... '') to reach a T-junction with standing sized passage and another 180ft gained. "We must be bloody close to Top Avens at this point".  To the left was a 50ft long aven series and "downstream", around a corner with small cave pearls and an aven was yet another choked crawl.  This was banged in conjunction with Bar Code Crawl over the next couple of weeks to reach an attractive, 60ft high aven named Stoned Bat after a "Bertie" shaped lump of limestone and the substances necessary to imagine it as such!  It bore a remarkable similarity to the upper Cowsh Avens.  A silted crawl below it was dug and blasted for a time but later abandoned when Mike found a better prospect at a slightly higher level.

Meanwhile in the foul and flood-prone Bar Code Crawl work was progressing with difficulty.  Both Carl Jones (S.W.A.G.) and Tim Francis (M.C.G.) had managed to thrutch a fair distance along the crawl but enlargement was needed to make digging feasible.  Its marked resemblance to Shit Sump in Cowsh Aven Series was a strong clue as to its destination and on 11th March 1996 Adrian emptied a small amount of flourescein into the foetid stream - to be seen 15 minutes later emerging from Shit Sump by Tony and Rich.  On 1st April the "cowsh" filled end of Bar Code Craw I was reached and pronounced just too grim to dig.

From Clitoris to euphoria

All work then concentrated on Mike's dig near Stoned Bat Aven - later to be called Tin Can Alley. Mike himself was temporarily absent from the dig as he was attempting to pass off sclerosis of the liver as Weil's Disease!

Throughout April and May the struggle continued (some seventeen trips) until, on 3rd June 1996 Tony once more returned to Cowsh Aven Series, this time accompanied by Alex. At Top Avens they could distinctly hear Mike shouting in Tin Can Alley - at a higher level and seemingly about twenty feet away.  "We were then the first people to hold a conversation between Swildon's and Priddy Green Sink .... a tremendous achievement after some 37 years of intermittent digging in the Sink and 38 years of sporadic climbing and blasting in Cowsh Aven Series".  That day the end of Tin Can Alley was banged three times!

The following day another bang sent debris crashing onto an empty Coca Cola tin and "Bertie" sticker left purposely in Top Avens and Rich's dangling legs were soon the first bit of human (?) anatomy to enter Swildon's from a second entrance.  The Big Trip was planned for the next day.

Photo of the connection and first exchange trip team by Paul Stillman (M.N.R.C.) - 5th June 1966


On having climbed the "Twenty" an uneven number of times*

*With apologies to Mike Wooding (1965)

At 6.35 p.m. Ivan and Tony entered Swildon's.  Soon after Rich, Mike, Adrian (S.M.C.C. and specially invited to represent the Cowsh Aven team of 'descended Priddy Green Sink.  Ivan continued via Blue Pencil to meet Tony in Four after the latter had been forced to frantically free-dive down the streamway due to faulty diving gear. Five minutes later the others abseiled out of the roof and much handshaking and imbibing of Amarretto (the nearest thing to liquid gelignite if only in smell alone!) was indulged in. Brian then free-dived out while Mike, Adrian and Rich went "overland" and the others began the long slog - almost 500 feet vertically - up Cowsh Avens to emerge on the Green after a surprisingly short (2¾ hours) trip.  Apart from the fresh air they were also extremely pleased to find the bottle of champagne hanging on the entrance ladder!  Both teams were met with camera and booze-wielding reception parties and the night was suitably finished off in the Hunter's in company with Jim Hanwell, Fred Davies, Dave Turner and other previous diggers - without whom the connection would never have happened.  Someone pointed out that we had increased the depth of the Swildons system by one foot so we were forced to celebrate even more!  We estimate that this phase of the connection cost about £400 in explosives alone and that over the last 38 years the total cost in bang would be about £1,000 at today's prices - about £1.00 per foot!!  There were over 115 digging trips in six months and 100 separate charges fired.  Was it worth it?  Yes! As Oliver Wells stated in 1960 " .. it will be a great day when a connection can be made."  It was!

Other trips involved surveying (still not completed!) and tidying up.

The Diggs. Photographers, Surveyors and Bolting Team etc.

Adrian Hole, Mike Willet, Mike "Quackers" Duck, Ivan Sandford, Jo ?, Guy Munnings, Jon Attwood, Tony Jarratt, Pete Hellier, Nick Mitchell, Martin Torbett, Estelle Sandford, Ken Dawes (S.M.C.C.) Becca Campbell, Graham "Jake" Johnson, Pete Glanvill, Brian Prewer, Nigel Taylor, Jeff Price, Dave Ball, Alec Smith, Stuart Sale, Tim and John Haynes, Helmut, Michelle and Anette Potzsch (Ziloko Gizonak), Andy Thomas, Nick Gymer, Rob Harper, Dave ?, Mike Wilson, Rich Blake, Sean Chaffey, Paul Brock, Vince Simmonds, Sean Howe, Andy Sparrow, Dominic Sealy (W.C.C.), Pete Bolt, Henry Bennett, Roz Bateman, Dave Shipton, Dave Bryant, NickBurcham, Paul Stillman (M.N.R.C.), Carl Jones (S.W.A.G.), Tim Francis (M.C.G.), Anthony Butcher (S.M.C.C.), Chas Wethered, Trevor Hughes, Ben Ogboume, Jeremy Dixon-Wright, Anette Becher and Pete "Snablet" McNab.


Irwin D. The Priddy Connection, Belfry Bulletin, 502,Vol. 50, No.9, May 1999

Jarratt T. Caves be where you make 'em Descent, 131, August/September 1996

Jarratt T. mss Logs, Vols. VI (1994-1996), VII (1996-1998) (Quotes in italics above are from this source).

Assorted snippets in Descent, BBs and various diggers' logs.

The Priddy Green Song (P13 BB 499) and A Winter's Tale (see below)


Robin Main, Priddy Parish Council, Alan Butcher (S.M.C.C.).


A Winter's Tale

Tune: The Keeper. Author: G. Weston.  Source: Alfie

Two cavers they did caving go,
As cavers will through rain and snow,
Why they do it, I don't know,
They must be ruddy keen-o.

Chorus: Any joy? Bastard,
            Doing well? Ruddy hell,
            Way down, go down, very smelly down,
            Beneath the Priddy Green-o.
            To my lay down, down,
            To my low down, down,
            Stay down, slow down, very smelly down,
            Beneath the Priddy Green-o.

The farmer's wife doth early wake,
And rise before the dawn do break,
To feed the cows on cattle cake,
Till grass again grow green-o.

But Mister Maine, I greatly fear,
Must surely be distressed to hear,
That all his cows have caught diarrhoea,
The worst he's ever seen-o.

Now picture those two sons of toil,
Full fifty feet beneath the soil,
Sharply showered with Linseed Oil,
Their language was obscene-o.

So follow this advice of mine,
Observe the cattle as they dine,
And dose them up with kay-o-line,
Or wait until they've been-o.


A Summary of Exploration in the Dachstein ( Austria) 1992 – 1997

By Pete 'Snablet' MacNab


The Dachsteingruppe is a spectacular limestone massif rising to 3000m.  It is located about an hour's drive south east of Salzburg.  We stay in the Wiesberghaus - a pleasant mountain hut with a bar, food and accommodation.  The Wiesberghaus is located on a large limestone plateau; there are caves literally next to it.  The plateau is about 1800-2000m high and completely covered in caves, many of which reach depths of around 700-800m (including BEC/NCC finds: Barengasse-Windschacht, Jager Hohle and Orkan Hohle).  The caves we have spent the last few years looking at are about 1.5 - 2 hours walk away.  We put some tents up near the entrance as an advance camp or emergency camp in bad weather. At valley level, near the picturesque village of Hallstatt, a master cave "Hirlatz" has been explored by the local Hallstatt caving club to over 85km with 1041m depth range, currently 14th longest and 49th deepest in the world.  We are based on the plateau above it.


The Wiesberghaus - photo by Mike 'Quackers' Duck

Summary of going leads left after 1991:

Eisturnen Hohle (GS):

101m deep, a crawl led out of (what was thought to be a terminal) chamber to a passage which led to a pitchhead.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7):

166m deep, the cave descended an active shaft series. Exploration was left at the head of an approximately 60m deep un-descended pitch.


Promising entrance in a new area.


Promising entrance in a new area.

Verborgene Hohle (Hidden Cave):

250m deep.  This cave found by the NCC in 1990 was left at a pitch head.  Unfortunately, the cave lives up to its name, and we have been unable to locate the entrance, since.

(ref: BB & Canadian Caver article by Chris Lloyd-1991 British Austrian expedition report).


Eistumen Hohle (GS)

The route that Rich Blake found in '91 proved to be a winner.  The cave was pushed down several pitches where it intercepted an active streamway in a lofty meander.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7)

Due to the horrendous nature of Razor Blade Alley, a higher level alternative route was sought.  The route was found, which in turn led to the discovery of a second much bigger shaft series, which turned our focus away from the 91 route.  The second shaft series was partially descended to an airy rock bridge (The ability to swing).  Huge inlets joined the shaft at this point.


Halstatt from the Wiesberghaus. Halstatt in the valley, hidden under clouds. Photo: Anette Becher

Eistumen Hohle (GS)

Exploration continued down the meandering streamway, The cave was starting to produce quite a lot of horizontalish (approx. 45 degrees) development, unusual in recent years of British Dachstein caving.  Lots of short stretches of passage interspersed with short pitches. The exploration of the cave again ended at a pitch-head.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7)

Exploration focused on descending G7's second shaft series.  We were successful, but disappointed.   The cave proved to be solidly choked at -304m deep. However the cave contained an extremely impressive and daunting 220m deep (multi-pitched) shaft.  The cave should not be totally written off, as it still contains a number of un-descended pitches, most notably at the bottom of the 91 shaft series.       Although it may just prove to be an inlet to the 92 shaft series, it may on the other hand be another multiple shaft series cave which are so common in Austria (e.g. Orkan Hohle, Kanichen Hohle).  (see BB article, Vince Simmonds caving diary).


Eistumen Hohle (GS)

Exploration continued along and down several pitches following the streamway. The going got tricky through a tight section of rift/meander but continued the other side to another pitch-head. The cave so far has been surveyed to -208m deep and 554m long, the cave has been explored down several more pitches for approximately another 100m depth.  It is still going!


The Griinkogel, peak under which the Hirlatz Hohle lies Photo: Anette Becher

Magnum Hohle

This cave was explored and surveyed down to a lake in 1987 (see BB article: Dachstein 87, Mark Lumley).  After several failed attempts to gain permission to dive the sump at the end of the Wilder Western series in Hirlatz to see if it would head to G5, about a km to the south west, we decided in our best wisdom to have a go at Magnum, as a dress rehearsal for diving the bottom of G5 should we hit a sump.  If G5 is going to connect with Hirlatz we would certainly have to dive the Grnkogel sump at the end of the Wilder Westen series.  So Magnum was duly rigged again, bottles and gear ferried in. Unfortunately much to our dismay the sump had dried up leaving a thick mud choke.  On the bright side Magnum Hohle is now 40 foot deeper.

Other developments in Hirlatz Hohle

The local Hallstatt caving club dived the sump at the end of Wilder Westen series in Hirlatz and discovered large amounts of passage (Sdwesten series) including the largest passage and chambers in the cave.  Since the original trip a sump bypass has been found. This is very significant for the exploration of Eisturnen Hohle (G5).  Hirlatz is now only approximately 250m away horizontally from the surveyed end of G5 and possibly as little as 360m below the actual end of G5.  There is every possibility that G5 is a small stream inlet to the Hirlatz system.


Austria 1999

We are going to mount another expedition to the Dachstein in the first two weeks of August. Our objective is to try and bottom Eisturnen Hohle (G5), with the hope it will connect with the Sdwesten series of Hirlatz Hohle. If this is achieved it will make Hirlatz Hohle the fifth deepest cave in the world and third deepest through trip. If it is not connected, we will still have a superb cave in a spectacular location on our hands.  There are many other caves in the area which need paying close attention to, especially G8 and G9, which are still requiring pushing, both with un-descended first pitches (these could be good projects for those who don't want to go deep to find virgin cave).  There are currently 14 people who have expressed an interest in coming along this summer (some from as far away as Mexico).  If you would like to come along, you are more than welcome, and there are plenty of caves, climbs and walks etc. (the beer's not bad either).  Anyone interested please let either Rich Blake, J'Rat, or me (Snablet) know and we will provide you with more details.






Causse Du Gramat Easter 1999

By Vince Simmonds

Those present:

            Vince Simmonds
            Roz Bateman
            Ivan Sandford
            Fi + Jack Lambert
            Pete Bolt
            Rich Blake

The place:

Situated in the South West of France, South of Brive-La-Gaillarde, and lying between the Dordogne and Lot rivers.  The area has long been popular with British cave divers; there are a great many resurgences along the valley bottoms.  On the plateau there is a variety of caving trips available from classic stream passages, older fossil series - many very well decorated to vertical with a range of difficulty.  Also in the area there are many show caves, some better than others, again with mixture of types including some fine painted caves.

The Journey


At 6pm Roz, Vince, Ivan, Fi, Jack and Rich set off for the midnight ferry from Dover, Pete and Debbie were to join us later in the week.  A fairly uneventful journey, most of the traffic was going the other way, so we arrived early and managed to catch a ferry at 10-45pm.


On disembarking we decided to make our separate ways to Gramat. Roz and Vince spent the night and most of the day driving and catching a rest now and again.  Arrived at the campsite at 6.30pm to find it wasn't open until the next day and no sign of the others.  When at a loose end go shopping.  On arrival back at the campsite we were met by Ivan and co. who had sorted out a Gite at very reasonable rates.

That evening we met up with some friends from Oxford Uni.C.C. who gave us some useful info, this was their last day.  A pleasant relaxing evening was had by all.

The Funtime:



Vince, Roz, Rich, Ivan

Located by following the N140 from Gramat to Montvalent road, take a right turn onto the D70 (Goudou). Stop at (T) junction and follow rail track south along path to large doline which is Roque du Cor.

This is an impressive site, a massive doline probably 100 metres across and 50 metres deep.  A descent to the left of a waterfall, handline useful, leads to a stream and low, wide entrance.  Passage continues as stooping size before opening up to walking size.  It's a shame the cave is only 750m before it ends in a sump.

We spent some time looking around the base of the doline where there are some remnants of cave and what would be some interesting dig sites.

GOUFFRE DE PADlRAC (553,68/284,41)

Not a difficult place to find as it is very well signposted.

All went over to the showcave but only Roz and Vince went for a trip.  A very worthwhile place to visit and excellent value for money.

Steps or a lift take you down the 70m deep chasm to a leisurely stroll along a large rift passage with stream before reaching a flooded section and a boat trip.  Then follows a guided tour around the well-decorated "Grand Dome".  A good hour and a half trip.


GOUFFRE DE REVEILLON (546,89/280,80)

Rich, Roz, Vince, Ivan, Pete

After finding Pete and Debbie in Gramat and hearing tales of forgotten passports, dumping their kit at the Gite we went caving.

Location along the N140 Gramat to Montvalent road turning right onto the D673 (Alvignac) before taking the first road on the left.  Stop just after an obvious valley to your right.  Follow the well-used footpath down the valley side to the gob-smacking sight of the Reveillon entrance arch 40m x 40m and home to a great many Jackdaws.

Followed the main stream passage until we came to a sump and no bypass.  We decided to try the Upper entrance, higher up to the left of the main arch.  Followed a stooping, crawling sized passage to a 15m pitch (ladder).  From the bottom of the pitch a crawl, with a fine yellow and black salamander, led to a large chamber with some formations - "Salle du Livre".  From the bottom of the pitch a climb up led after a left turn back to the top of the ladder.  We eventually found the way to "Salle Bernard" (turn right not left) but did not have the kit with us to go further (2x10m ladders).  Still a very enjoyable trip.



Ivan, Vince, Roz, Pete, Rich

Location, could not be simpler, N140 Grarnat to Montvalent road after turn for Roumegouse.  Park in tree lined lay-by with stile leading to cave entrance.

This is the cave to visit if you only have time for one trip; it is a real classic streamway

You may have to avoid some French cavers trying to stay out of the water, wear a wetsuit and enjoy yourselves.

Follow the path down to the entrance and easy going to an old fossil passage where the way to the stream is on the left.  There are some pools to cross and I've seen people using boats to cross them, they are not quite waist deep.  Eventually a wet passage that is easier to swim through leads to the first of the climbs and the streamway proper.

The amount of tackle required varies on the water conditions.  We took six 10m ladders plus slings, tapes and ropes/handlines and never quite made the end.  BEWARE! some of the small drops look easy on the way in but are an absolute bastard on the way out especially with a bag full of kit.  Look at the larger pitches.  Some of them are free-climbable depending on conditions.

All said and done this is a fine streamway, just like a long Swildons', with some good formations.

Be prepared for a long trip of 6-8hrs.


IGUE DE LA CROUSA TE (551,53/269,26)

Rich, Roz, Vince


Located on the D14 Gramat to Reilhac road, 2.5kms before Reilhac stop in track on left before section of very straight road.  Follow obvious path, roughly north west, to cave entrance.

SRT trip.  Easy passage leads to traverse and drop (I5m rope) which leads to head of first pitch of 26m (30m rope) and then almost immediately to the second pitch of 39m (40m rope).  At the end of the cave is a piddly little dig in a trickle that has seen some half-hearted attempts at digging.  Once these pitches would have been well decorated but overuse and an extreme case of overbolting has resulted in the destruction of the cave formations. The cave has obviously been used as a training ground probably by the outdoor pursuits centre down the road. Maybe it should serve as a warning to all.

Afterwards we followed the road from Reilhac to Caniac-du-Causse (D42) and the Foret du La Braunhie, which is reputedly the site of 150 gouffres, grottes and igues it does, however, have the daylight shaft of ...

PLANAGREZE (546,55/259,56)

which has a large notice board near the entrance complete with survey.

A 74m shaft with a ledge at -30m drops into "La Salle de la Castine."  The way on is through a slot and another pitch.  We did not descend the cave but all the info we have is here.


            One 80m rope
            Two 60m ropes
            22 hangers and a tape

From the bottom of the 2nd pitch is a 60m river ending at a sump that has been passed to further sumps. There then follows a sloping pitch to a lake at -184m.  According to the board on the surface this lake is up to 70m deep.



Roz, Rich, Ivan, Vince

552.60/287.60: Line of Gouffres on map (2136 ET) near town of Magnagues. 4 Shallow dolines with inter-connecting passage up to 10m wide by 6m high all ending as chokes although there are a couple of through trips, one particular passage leading to the middle of a briar patch much to Vince and Richs' chagrin.

550.48/288.78: nr. Noutary. Single gated entrance by side of track.  Again sizeable passage but short and choked.

548.20/282.64 & 548.36/282.22: 2 Gouffres nr. Alvignac(Cantecor) 1 a low wide arch inhabited by critters.  1 was an old dig site.

548.92/284.30: Perte nr. to Miers. Stream sinks in conduit under road.

550.36/284.16: Muddy sink by side of road.  2 sinks Nr. Padirac.

551.94/284.00: Nr. Village of Goubert, 1 mucky sink described as another Bowery Comer with small cave above that had been modified.

552.86/283.16: 1 site in small valley below the last house in Andrieu looked a good spot with a friendly farmer.

The sink marked on the map wasn't all that inspiring until the farmer took us over to see his gouffre, a clean washed entrance 3m deep by 1.5m wide and a good flow of water.


THEMINETTES (559.84/271.12)

Roz, Rich, Ivan, Vince

Located in the town of Themines on the N140 between Gramat and Figeac, very obvious river sink.

Arrived at the entrance only to find lots of water disappearing into a flood prone cave decided to give it a miss.  We decided to head over to THEMINETTES (561,64/268,05) to locate the sink there. After a little driving/walking about we managed to locate the entrance-very impressive!  The river pours into a hole 2m x 2m and disappears into a rift too wet to attempt to follow it.  Across the entrance is a gate made of sleepers and telegraph poles to stop the debris.  We walked up the river valley where there are several lesser sites of interest.

Took a drive along the Cele valley where we looked at a couple of things but nothing worth a mention



Vince, Roz

Cracking day just right for a stroll.  Followed the GR6 path from Grarnat to Rocamadour through the Alzou river valley. The gorge is quite spectacular with high cliffs of limestone and several old ruined mills.  The paths and maps are of a high quality, this walk there and back is 25kms.  Rocamadour is a place you must see if visiting the area with its Chateau built high on the cliffs and narrow medieval streets, and a good place to have a beer break.

The return:


After tidying the Gite we again decided to make our separate ways back to dear old Blighty.  All managed to catch earlier ferries and made the Hunters for drinks Sunday lunchtime.

On the journey to and fro' we passed through an interesting little town called Loches, south of Tours on the N143 to Chateauroux.  Each house that was built into a hillside, seemed to have its own stone mine.  Some of the houses were built into the rock complete with windows and doors.  It merits a stop and a look maybe to break the journey.


Serie Bleue 2136ET (top 25) Rocarnadour-Padirac

Serie Bleue 2137E Grarnat-Rocarnadour

IGN (Institut Geographique National) 2236 Ouest; 2237 Ouest; 2238; 2138 Est; 2136 Ouest; 2137 Ouest; 2138 Ouest.

These were the ones we used most of all but it is a large area and other maps may be required. Maps can be purchased in the Superrnarche (Leclerc at Gramat) or in the Tobacconists (Tabac).

Some other caves:

Igue de Toulze

564.28/245.64: From Figeac take the D19 to Grealou and on towards Carjac, after lkm turn left towards Cadrieux.  4km further, turn into the path on your left.  The cave is 300m further at the top of the hill.

6m entrance leads down a slope to a 10m pitch.  From the bottom of the pitch a large passage ends at an 8m drop followed by a 20m ledge. A 15m lake starts here, which according to the French description requires a boat.


60m rope; 15m rope; 40m rope; 10m rope; and a boat!

IGue de Viazac:

547.82/261.10: Take the D42 Fontanes to Caniac road. 3km before Fontanes, turn left at the football ground.  Go on and do not take the path on the right.  100m past a 90-degree turn path on your right, cross a fence on your right, and follow the path southwards.  Take a small path to the left that leads to an open area, where you will find the cave (hopefully!).

Start from the south of the hole.  The 65m pitch is divided into two sections.  At the bottom of the pitch, the rope used as a line is followed to a 15m pitch and a 6m step leads to the Martel passage and hole.  A ledge crosses the Martel hole up to the top of the 81m Echo pitch.  At the bottom of this the Mud Room leads to a 24m pitch.  Climb down the rocks until the pier, you can cross the lake up to the landing stage.


90m rope for the 65m pitch; 70m rope for the line and 15m pitch; 50m rope for the ledge; 100m rope for the 81 m pitch; 2x60m ropes up to end of the trip; 16 hangers and 2 tapes up to Martel passage; 15 hangers and 2 tapes for the 81m pitch; 20 hangers and a deviation from the 81 m pitch up to the lake

The previous two descriptions have been taken from a French translation (Speleo Club de Figeac ).

There are of course many other caves in the region, i.e. Igue de St. Sol (539,54/282,71) with a fine 75m entrance shaft and superb formations, Grotte de Combe Cullier (539,06/283,13) bit of a grovel but worth a visit if you're at St. Sol and the showcave at Lacave (bit naff, too much lighting) that are well documented in various club publications.

More information:

Taviner, R. Wessex Journals

Simmonds, V. M.C.G. journals

Speleo Club de Figeac, Website (try caving links)

Weather: 08 36 68 02 46


Rock Anchors Using Resins

By Kangy King

With Reference to BMC Equipment Investigations

"BMC Summit" issue 4 page 12 has a report on placing staples in rock with resin.  Three incidents of staple failure were discussed in the report.  Two caused injury and all of them involved staples which were pulled out easily.

Hedbury Quarry, Swanage.

The climber lowered her weight onto the staple which although seemingly secure pulled out.

Tram Station Crae, Pen Trwvn

The brand new looking staple was pulled out preparing to abseil.

Lone Wall. Cheesedale.

The staple came out preparing to abseil.  Five others on the crag were pulled out easily.  It was found that the hardener had not mixed with the resin.

Each incident was investigated and advice given.

The report should cause some concern because some of the advice given may not be safe.

R.S. King and G. Bevan had a telephone conversation with the BMC editor and made the following points which are given here in the interests of safety. The comments were made from a perspective of many years engineering use and practical experience of resin systems, metal to metal bonding and composites and apply both to industrial use and direct life support systems involving resins.

Strength of resin bond.

A reasonable strength resin would not be expected to cure at less than room temperature.  All work should done on a dry day in summer.  (And not at all in a cave!)  Setting times to cure to full strength will be extremely variable under these conditions.

The recommendation that a blob of processed resin should be checked is excellent.  But not by taking to a warm dry home!  It must be left in the same environment as the work. Putting the test piece onto a piece of metal or at least on paper put into a plastic bag and tying it to the staple would be better.  Please note that hardening of the resin is a good indication that it has been mixed correctly but it is not an indication of attainment of full strength.  Even a week or more may not be enough to achieve this and at low temperatures it may never happen.

Cleanliness of the hole is indeed vital.

It was suggested that rather than flush the dust out with water, which will be difficult to remove and will prevent a good bond, the dust should be blown out with a tube.  There will still be moisture from the breath but this is not so serious as a wet surface. An intimate contact can be achieved, see below Reason i).

Mixing is vital.  The best strength is obtained by stirring the correct proportions both clockwise and anticlockwise. Better still use a commercial mixer.  Discard the first 50mm of resin expelled.

BMC Reasons

Reason i)

Seems to be a feeling that a rough surface will give a better joint than a smooth one.  A smooth surface will in fact bond to another surface if the correct resin and process is used.  The essential is that both surfaces should be dry and clean.  In particular the surfaces must not be contaminated by grease. If a staple has been handled with unclean or bare hands this could be enough to destroy any chance of a good bond. Mechanical abrasion of the surfaces increases the surface area and removes some contamination, however it could make complete decontamination more difficult.  The best DIY way to clean a smooth staple might be to lightly abrade with Scotchbrite and alcohol and wipe with a clean dry cotton cloth.

Reason ii)

The process of spreading the resin so that it makes intimate contact with the bonding surface is called "wetting".  It is an essential part of a good bond.  Rotating a rod in a hole is not good enough; using a rod to rub resin into the surface of the hole would be better.  Both contacting surfaces should be completely wetted.

Reason iii)

"Not advisable to drill two holes close together."  Agreed.  A minimum distance between holes depends on the state of the rock.  Our experience in drilling rock is that a near second hole can damage the rock between the two and another site is needed.  For a hard rock free of flaws a minimum distance of 6 times the diameter of the hole is a reasonable working rule.

BMC Conclusions.

"The legs should be not be smooth and should ideally be bent"

Bent legs should not be necessary.  Presumably they are intended to introduce a mechanical resistance to removal.  They would prevent a tight fit between the metal and rock.  Cleanliness is more important than roughness.

Commonly people make mistakes in mixing (Hardener with hardener! wrong proportions, insufficient mixing; great care must be taken.)

"Remove all dust from the hole, if necessary flush out all dust with water".  Cleanliness and freedom from grease is essential. The surface must be dry.  Flushing with water may do more harm than good for the reasons given above.  Note that some sealants are intended for use in water; adhesives are usually not.

"Place a blob of resin on paper take it with you (see above) and check after 24 hours". Always check that the resin and hardener have been mixed properly by making a test piece.  A mechanical test specimen is used in industry to give confidence in the quality of the process.

Resins both uncured and cured deteriorate with age and have limited lives.

BMC Broad Conclusions

Cheedale; agreed that the hardener was not mixed properly.  The staple at Swanage was probably greasy, perhaps through handling rather than "smooth and straight".

Specialist Advice

Pay attention to care with: -

The correct materials stored in sealed packages in a cool dry place and not used past the sell by date.

Cleanliness, particularly no grease.

A good fit between components and a good joint geometry for maximum expected load direction, usually this is at right angles to the axis of the hole.

A correct cure with regard to mixing, temperature, pressure, low humidity and time.

To cure: -

Following the manufacturer’s instructions closely.

Sacrificial test samples, if the anchor itself moves, destroy it!

My own recommendations are not to use resins for this purpose.  They are not foolproof.  It is insisted that the metal must be a good fit in the hole.  This will make a great difference to the shear strength of the joint.

For large holes with a poor fit, set lightly corroded steel in high strength cement (with PVA) and clean sand.

Better still use corrosion resistant Mechanical fasteners which may be removed for inspection and replaced.

All anchors must be inspected regularly.  Give them a bloody great yank along the hole axis (out of the hole) before use.  This will be far less than failure load and should do no harm, except to an unsafe anchor.  Think about third party claims if that helps and go for it.  If the load is normal to the anchor - and you don't leap about - you may not need glue because the staple acts like a hook - but I wouldn't recommend it!

Comments by

L.G. Bevan, International Aerospace Composite Committee (Diver) R.S. King, M.Sc. M.Phil. M.R.Ae.S. C.Eng. ( Bristol Exploration Club).


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

2-4/7/99                     ISSA Meet, Dan yr Ogof - ISSA

2-4/7/99                     BEC Meet in Yorkshire Bradford PC, Brackenbottom, Horton-in-Ribblesdale - Estelle Sandford

3-5/7/99                     Cavers Fair, The Rock Centre, Chudleigh, Devon - NCA – Tony Flanagan

7/7/99                        Open night, Floyd Collins (Musical). The Bridewell Theatre, London

17/7/99                      BEC v Wessex Annual Cricket Challenge for the sofa ashes.  2.30pm Eastwater Farm, Priddy

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

29/8/99                      OFD Columns Open Day

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

31/8/99                      Ghar Parau Foundation Grants applications deadline

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

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.