Local Services

Search Our Site

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: Rich Blake
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee

Thanks to Chas for the ‘Xmas Bertie’


Hi and welcome to the Christmas Bulletin.  This particular Belfry Bulletin is not meant to be setting a precedent for the size of the Belfry Bulletins for the rest of my term as editor – the trees can’t cope!! Even so, if people send me lots of articles, there’s no reason why we can’t keep it a reasonable size.

Cut off for the Next BB is the 31st January, 1998.  The BB will be available a week later.  If you give me articles too close to that date and they are not on disc or e-mailed, I will not have time to put them in, so please try to get everything to me as soon as possible.  I do have a few things left over for the next BB, but I still need more.

Many thanks for all the e-mails, letters and comments regarding the last BB, at least I know you’re reading it.  All complaints should be accompanied by an article, after all if you don’t like something, I need something to replace it with.

If you received you BB by post last time, this means you’re on the postal list.  If you are likely to be around Mendip near to the availability date, can you please contact Bat Products, and Tony Jarratt will hold your BB for you.  We need to do everything we can to try to reduce the postage costs of the BB (The Treasurer’s going to lynch me for this one!)





Reciprocal Clubs

We have a reciprocal arrangement with the following clubs:

Chelsea Speleological Society

Bradford Pothole Club

Pegasus Caving Club

Wessex Caving Club (for the vertically challenged)

South Wales Caving Club

Grampian Speleological Group

Craven Pothole Club

Northern Pothole Club

Orpheus Caving Club

Shepton Mallett Caving Club (Tea drinking society)

Caving and BEC News

White Pit - In accord with the access agreement, and spurred by a recent "break in", the fixed ladder has been removed from the entrance shaft, as has the small steel ladder further down.  A 10m wire ladder is now needed, which will reach the full length of this pitch.  The rigid ladders now grace Five BuddIes Mineshaft entrance.

There have been several complaints from ex-directory members, regarding the membership list in the last BB.  If you are ex-directory and do not wish to have you telephone number published in future BB's.  Can you please contact Roz Bateman and she will amend the membership list accordingly.

Roz has indicated that she is short of completed membership forms.  Some of these may be with previous Membership Secretaries or others. If you have any completed membership forms, can you please send them to Roz.  (Address in the front of the BB)

There have been 2 cave rescues recently.  The first was a young girl, who had lost the will to move through cold and fear, in Swildons.  A large team of rescuers brought her out of the cave, and after a soak in Butch's tub, she was none the worse for wear.  The second was an overdue party in Eastwater, who had under-estimated the length of their trip, and were met near the entrance.

We are trying to add an e-mail list of BEC members to the current membership list.  If you are on e-mail then please e-mail Estelle at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  I already have quite a lengthy list of BEC members, e-mail numbers, which is so much easier for communication.

Our Internet web page is imminent.  We will keep you posted.

Talking of e-mail; I received the below e-mail from Tony Boycott regarding his recent Pakistan trip:

"Good time in Pakistan extended one cave to 1 km, with passages that contained more bats than air!  Also evidence of lynx.  Some of the caves have porcupines, wolves, leopards, bears and hyenas but we managed to steer clear of all except the first (ask Daniel).  Simon had a snake fall on his head (helmeted) and writhed around at his feet (in sandals).  Both departed rapidly, luckily in opposite directions.  A bit too much travelling for my liking also an awful lot of dicking about. 

They're not known as the "midnight caving club" for nothing! Excellent experience nonetheless.

Also, the reply to the question  "What were you doing on the night of the GSG dinner, Simon?" is "Driving across the desert in a 4WD with a kalashnikov between my knees eating a pomegranate"

"Isn't that dangerous?"

"Yes, it's difficult to get pomegranate stains out of your shalwar qamiz!"

Hopefully we should have an article next BB.

I also received an e-mail from Phil Kingston from Australia; he has requested I put his e-mail address in the BB as he finds it a much better way of communicating.  His e-mail address is:  Phil. Kingston@[removed].au.

Caving - Andy Thomas is caving most Sunday mornings, and also Tuesday evenings.  If you want to go along, give Andy a call - any levels of caving ability can be accommodated on these trips.  Also contact Andy if you are interested in running trips, anywhere in the world or even just Mendip!

Andy has plans to book some Yorkshire/Derbyshire/Wales trips for next year; if you want any specific trips, please let Andy know.

In case you didn't notice in the front of the BB, Andy is moving house on 17th December, to 52 Leigh Road, Street, Somerset.  His new phone number will be available on the Belfry board, or from any other Committee Members as soon as it is available.

On the weekend of 22nd November, a group of BEC and Wessex spent an enjoyable few days in a castle in Belgium.  This would make a fantastic location for a BEC trip next year, so if you are interested, please contact Estelle.

As I'm sure many of you are aware Andy and Ange Cave have moved to the Dordogne to run a Holiday Gite/B&B/Camping hostel.  There are plans afoot for a BEC invasion next year sometime - we'll keep you posted. If you are popping down to the Dordogne for your hols, and want friendly BEC faces to stay with, they can be contacted at Le Grand Bost, 24410 Servanches, Dordogne, France.


For those who are not aware, as part of the Adopt-A-Cave scheme, the BEC adopted Eastwater Cavern and St Cuthbert’s Swallet.  We are making plans for several organised weekend next year to have a clean up of these caves.  Let a committee member know if you are interested.

MRO Activities

31st December, 1997 - A 'Hands On' Equipment familiarisation at the MRO Store/Belfry.  10:30am

24th January, 1998 - Resuscitation Workshop.  Hunters Lodge backroom. 7:30pm

BEC v Wessex Skittles Challenge.  Yes this clashes with the Axbridge Stomp.  So come along to the Skittles Challenge early, enjoy a pint, and play skittles before going up to the Village Hall.  See advert in BB for more details.

New Members

The club would like to welcome two new members so far this year:

Roger Haskett Bridgwater, Somerset (Our faithful Tea maker for 30 Yrs) and the Shepton's only active caver.

Steve Heape, Bournemouth

And the rejoining of Fiona Lambert, Castle Cary

I would like to thank all members who have paid their 97/98 membership fee already and I look forward to receiving the fees from the rest of you before the end of the year. (Don't forget the fee increase by £4 on the 1st January 1998.  Roz Bateman (Membership Secretary)


Photos are still required for the photoboard at the Belfry




Diggers Corner

From Mike Willett

The BEC has four digs going on at the moment, one of these being Five BuddIes Sink, run by our very own Tony Jarratt.  This has been the most work intensive due to the nature of the dig, and is our biggest club project at the moment.  I lend a hand over there myself occasionally and I can tell you that it's a most satisfying two hours work standing over a slippery hole, with a slippery rope, hauling buckets that Martin Torbett fills with more crap than your average elephant could shit in a few months.  There is a report on that particular dig in this issue of the BB, so needs no further mention from me.

Jake (Graham Johnson) has turned his attentions to Eastwater Cavern lately along with Gonzo (Mark Lumley) where they have been digging in Boulder Chamber and discovered a chamber set in solid rock about ten feet square.  They have also been digging in the roof of Boulder Chamber where Gonzo had a twelve foot long dig in clay, which broke through into an aven that Alex Gee had broken into earlier this year, by climbing above Kentish Cairn.

Hunter's Hole has also seen plenty of digging activity from John Walsh, Andy Thomas and Shaggy.  They have a few sites within the cave that are receiving attention, but their main dig is in Dear's Ideal, where they have a passage which ends in a muddy sump pool.  On a recent trip John pulled some boulders out causing it to drain.  They pulled out as much muck as they could at the time, but on their last visit it had refilled. Their work continues.

Some of you may have heard Nick Mitchell and myself talking about Hazelnut Swallet.  You'll find this in Biddlecombe Valley, the foot of which lies just outside of Wells, and rises past West Horrington.  It can be accessed at the top on the opposite side of the road from Pen Hill Mast.  This is a worthwhile walk because of its beauty and geological, etc. interest. Our dig is situated about halfway down-valley just past West Horrington in the left-hand bank; it has a grill over the entrance.  With our last efforts at this dig we had achieved some twelve foot of low, wet and ugly passage, which, via a calcite squeeze, broke through into a body-length section of passage with a small grotto on the right.  The way on is straight ahead and is going to need enlarging again, so it looks like more low, wet and ugly passage to come which Nick and I will be getting on with shortly.  I'll keep you posted.


Above are some members of the digging team just about to go digging!!!!

(For those who don't recognise these guys:- L-R Ivan Sandford, Guy Munnings, Richard Blake, Tony Jarratt and Nick Mitchell)



Wookev Hole

Dear fellow BEC Members

You are all probably aware of the fact that at this years Annual General Meeting, Rebecca Campbell and myself resigned from our committee posts and walked out of the AGM.  The reasons for my resignation (and I wish to make it clear that that I do not represent Becca' s views here) were as follows.

1.  The proposal that the club have a second rescue team leader:- I thank the club for endorsing my continuing in the post, but I feel that with such a post it is essential to have a clear leadership direction (and I know both myself and Andy have differing views on rescue matters) and having two separate leaders that differ in fundamental philosophies will only create confusion, and have an adverse effect on the effectiveness of the clubs rescue training.

•    In addition I feel that by instructing a professional caver to be the clubs rescue team leader we could be opening a can of worms in respect of Insurance, health and safety legislation, etc and perhaps beginning to undermine the amateur ethos of rescue teams generally.

2.  The Club Secretary's motion that all proposals for individual expenditure above £500.00 should have the approval of the membership.

•    I whole-heartedly agree that the committee should be accountable to the membership for its actions. I think that some sort of consultation process for large capital expenditure by the club is a good idea.  As I said at the time all that is needed is for the committee to consult with the treasurer on the availability of funds and notification for feed back purposes, to be published in the Belfry Bulletin (obviously there would not be time for consultation if there were an emergency the committee had to deal with).

•    What angered me greatly, was I feel that the motion was proposed, not with the interests of the club in mind (a limit of this kind has never been needed in the past) but was just a petty, thinly veiled attack on the integrity and abilities of last year's committee.  Arising from a disagreement with the decision to renovate the bunkrooms and a refusal to let matters rest.

•    Renovations that along with the other works carried out at the time (several members including myself took a week off to carry the work out) have been well received by the majority of guests and members alike and were carried out in what the committee felt were the best interests of the club.

However at the Annual Dinner both Becca and myself were asked by several members to reconsider our position and as no one had expressed a contrary view to as at the time, we agreed to withdraw our resignations.

At the committee meeting of the 14th November 1997, we were informed by the Club Secretary that he had received a few complaints about our behaviour at the AGM from some members. After some discussion by the committee arising because there was no precedent for this situation, Becca and Myself in a spirit of conciliation (despite having withdrawn our resignations) agreed to submit ourselves to a vote by the committee.  The committee voted in favour of our continuing on me committee and we agreed to the condition set by the committee that we would apologise to those members that had been offended by our actions at the AGM.

So to those members that felt offended by me not following the correct procedure for resigning my committee post, I unreservedly apologise.

Cheers Alex.

Rebecca Campbell
Belfry Hut Warden

To the Members of the BEC

Resignation at the AGM

I am writing to offer an official apology for my resignation at the AGM.  The resignation was rescinded during the course of the evening. However, the remaining committee did hold lengthy discussions at the first meeting as there had been some complaints over my behaviour from you the membership.

I regret any confusion that the situation may have caused and look forward to serving the club to the best of my ability for the remainder of the year.

Yours faithfully

Rebecca Campbell


Charterhouse Caving Company Limited

Extracts from the Director's Six Monthly Report - May to October 1997

A number of items concerning the Company's caves have been dealt with, or brought to our attention over the past few months.  These are therefore being circulated to all member clubs in this report.

G B Cave

  1. The p-hangers and associated chain have now been placed on the Ladder Dig climb as per the instructions of the AGM.  The remaining two petzl steel bolts and the old rawbolt and chain have been removed.
  2. Cleaning activities have been continued; mud and graffiti have been cleaned from the area near the Bridge by members of UBSS, and TCC have been working at the far end of Great Chamber.  Modifications have now been made to all pumps and they are available to any member who wishes to join this work.
  3. The lock gave trouble in October.  The spare has been fitted.

Gruffy Field Mine Shaft

After a site visit with SWT representatives, this was dug over the summer, mainly by members of Cerberus and UBSS.  No breakthrough has yet been made and work will recommence next summer.

Longwood Swallet

We would like to float the possibility of placing p-hangers at the head of Swing Pitch with the membership. These would be placed to facilitate rigging from the Christmas Crawl approach, avoiding the main force of the stream. We would appreciate feedback as to how most people rig this pitch.

Longwood Valley & Velvet Bottom

Negotiations are underway between Bristol Water and SWT for the purchase of this land by the latter body. These are, as yet, at an early stage and nothing concrete will occur for some considerable time to come.  It is envisaged that the Company will take a lease on the underground from SWT in the same way as has been done for Gruffy Field. This should cause us little in the way of problems.


Any comments on the Longwood Swallet pitch rigging suggestion should be sent to the BEC Committee to ensure that the Club Representative supports the views of the members they represent.




Stoke Lane Slocker - 50 years ago

a note by Dave Irwin

Having been persuaded by Estelle in her new post as Editor of the BB I've promised to supply a page or two from time to time relating to events of historic importance from the long history of cave exploration on Mendip and occasionally from elsewhere. In addition most members have accumulated books, photographs, booklets and leaflets (ephemera) and at times I hope to be able to discuss some of these collectibles.  However, to kick the series off I intend to sketch an event which involved club members some fifty years ago taken from various notes that I have lying around the place.


During the years following the end of the Second World War cave exploration rapidly reached a peak on Mendip - culminating with vast extensions in Swildon's Hole and elsewhere.  The years 1945-c.1965.  In fact it was also to prove one of the great periods of cave exploration in the British Isles.  In Yorkshire Gemmell, Myers and Comes were among many that opened up now popular cave systems in the Yorkshire Dales including Lancaster Hole and Easegill. In Derbyshire Giant's Hole was its 'Jewel in the Crown'.  In south Wales the newly formed South Wales Caving Club were pushing OFD in an effort to push the likely sites in the area since access to Dan-yr Ogof was barred to all caving activity.  At the time of SWCC's formation the CDG came into being at the same camp meeting held during Easter 1946.  The latter sprang into action with a succession of diving meets at Wookey Hole and in the sumps of OFD.

Throughout the war years students at Bristol University had limited time to continue the work of the society at Burrington and Charterhouse making several new discoveries.  East Twin Swallet extended, Rod Pearce and others opened up Rod's Pot.  All this was in addition to a full exploration of G.B. Cave and the preparation of a survey. Pupils at Sidcot School also played their part as members of Sidcot School Speleological Society (SSSS).  Willie Stanton, Chris Hawkes and other SSSS members were carrying out limited work on Western Mendip.  Sidcot Swallet had been extended by the discovery of Paradise.  In 1944 SSSS began work at the active swallet in the Longwood Valley.  They opened the cave but when they reached the head of the climb into Main Chamber they decided that it was too dangerous to continue alone.  The Stride brother invited members of UBSS and WCC to accompany them to complete the exploration.  This was in early April 1945.  When Stride left the school for Bristol University, work was carried on by the Speleological Society eventually opening up August Hole - a misnomer if there ever was one!

On Mendip, caving club memberships were increasing and various parts of Mendip were being pushed in a way never before experienced by the cavers of the pre-war years.  WCC and MNRC members were re-examining Eastwater Cavern which was to eventually lead to the exploration of Primrose Pot.  The same groups were also examining the far reaches of Swildons Hole that eventually led to the opening up of the Black Hole Series in 1950.

The BEC located at The Belfry, initially near the Beeches and then transferred to a new site - that currently owned by the Club.  Digging in the St. Cuthbert's Depression was at first sporadic, but eventually St. Cuthbert's Swallet was entered in 1953 - the largest single discovery ever made on Mendip


Eastern Mendip was the 'Cinderella' area for cave exploration.  No doubt its distance from Wells was a contributory factor.  Though there was a bus service in the 1930s, bicycle or pony and trap was the main mode of transport in the earlier decades of the century.  Time and money was at a premium and though Balch was well aware of the swallets in the area he made little attempt to exploit any of the sites.

The St. Dunstan's Well resurgences and Stoke Lane Slocker were well documented since c.1880.  The earliest known exploration of the Slocker took place sometime during 1905 by cavers from Downside Abbey.  The cave ended at what today is known as Corkscrew Chamber.

Fifty years ago the discovery of Browne's Passage, in June 1947, was the great break through that began the real exploration of the cave.  Previously the cave had been simply considered an alternative wet trip to that offered by Swildons Hole.  F.B.A. Welch, the well-known geologist, explored the cave in August 1930. The cave ended at a terminal sump, where the water flows under the choke at Corkscrew Chamber.  It was impenetrable and further investigation of it had to wait until after the second world war before the 'younger generation' came along to find a slot in the caving work being carried out on Mendip.


Pat Browne, from Frome, joined the BEC in 1946 and living on the eastern fringes of Mendip it was natural that his main interest lay in caves and potential sites located in the now classic east Mendip area - Stoke St. Michael and Oakhill.  It meant that he could cycle easily to Stoke St. Michael and the surrounding villages to fully explore sites that could be found.

Berman of the MNRC reported in the 1947 Report (note 1)

An outstanding discovery due to Pat Browne, of Bruton School, and members of the Bristol Exploration Club, is a large and important cave system at Stoke Lane. When examining the old "slocker" cave of that valley, he discovered an extension of the streamways from Stoke Lane to St. Dunstan's Well, leading into an unexpected upper system, following the steeply dipping Carboniferous Limestone, which passes under the Radstock coalfield. Its approach is made difficult by a highly polluted sump or trap in the streamway, and efforts are now being made to open a dry approach from the surface not far distant.  There are human and animal bones in this cave awaiting excavation, and there are very fine stalactite formations.

Pat Browne wrote of his success to Balch and in his account he catalogued the sequence of events. (note 2)

The series of expeditions which have led to the discovery of a vast system of subterranean wonders.
? May 1946 Leader P. Browne Party A.J. Crawford
Old cave fully explored. About 800 feet from entrance of cave, beyond the point at which the main river is seen for the last time, a small stream was noticed to be flowing in the opposite direction to that of the main one. This stream disappeared amongst a pile of massive boulders covering the floor of a small chamber. Suggestions of a cave system beyond were made but nothing found.

It was to be another year before Browne returned to the cave and on May 31st 1947 he descended with two companions D. Sage and J.H.H. Mead all from Bruton School. (note 3)  They returned to the boulder pile and gave it another close inspection.  A short period of digging removing a boulder (note 4) and a way on was found. Browne squeezed down into it and found that the passage continued:

…..for about 250 feet. The way led through a series of low water tunnels, and encrusted grottoes, the passage ("Browne's Passage") ends in a water trap.(note 5)

In fact it was the significant breakthrough that had been required to focus attention on this cave for further exploration despite the fact that it was extremely wet, muddy, subject to severe flooding and most of all it was some distance from the centre of Mendip caving activities. In the days of restricted transport a visit to this cave required prior arrangements with fellow cavers who were lucky enough to have personal transport.

Thrilled by the new discovery he immediately contacted two BEC members to form a strong party to descend the cave the following weekend, 3pm on June 7th, Roger (Sett) Setterington and Don Coase readily agreed and joined him for the descent.

On the appointed day the stream level was high following heavy rain during the previous four days. The normally dry entrance was now taking a high volume of water. Browne recorded: (note 6)

... but that day the water was thundering over the boulders and pouring into the narrow opening, and on into the darkness beyond.  All being in readiness for the adventure I abandoned all thoughts of personal comfort for the following four hours and crawled into the uninviting gateway to the strange world under the hills.  Within seconds I was forming an admirable substitute for a leaky drainpipe, with the icy water pouring up the legs of my boiler-suit & emerging by means of vents above the knees!

Moving on down the through the entrance passage with it's once leech infested pools the party met the fast flowing streamway.  A unanimous 'mud please' was the reply to Browne's question at the Duck - partial submersion or mud via the oxbow?  A re-inspection of the 'old cave' found several points of potential extension, which was to eventually become Ridyard's Link and Fingertip Squeeze. (note 7) From there they moved on into Browne's Passage. Browne wrote:

... D. Coase found a mud aven leading from 'Cairn Grotto'.  A by-pass to the Nutmeg Grater was discovered by P. Browne, who also found a large tooth in the "Cairn Grotto".

Pat Browne was to later to comment upon the notorious squeeze. (note 8)

... we crept along a narrow, arch-shaped tunnel for a considerable distance until we were suddenly faced with the 'Nutmeg Grater', a very nasty squeeze. On the return journey we found a by-pass to this section of the tunnel, but unfortunately this afforded us no greater degree of comfort than the 'N.G.'

Arriving at Cairn Chamber, Browne's limit on the first trip to this section of cave, it was noted that there appeared to be two possible ways out of it. (note 9) The first was an ascending muddy tube ending at a small muddy grotto, obviously prone to prolonged flooding. The second was a narrow, wet, rift, having three foot depth of water.  Browne chose to investigate the rift (note 10)

.. . I dropped into the icy water, beyond a low arch called 'Disappointment Duck', under which I was forced to submerge to my neck, the tunnel suddenly turned to the left and I found myself in small chamber in which the water was about 5 ft. deep.  A short distance beyond this the walls closed in and the roof dipped below the surface of a dark & horrible pool.  Spluttering and cursing, I made my way back to my two companions in 'Cairn Grotto'.

The move into the end chamber before Sump 1 intrigued Coase, who at that time was busily involved with the activities of the recently formed Cave Diving Group.  Here was a challenge the potential for extension seemed great and so a meet at the cave was arranged for Sunday 22nd June.  Pat Browne was able to be present, but the strong party of Coase, Harry Stanbury, Miss F. Hutchinson, R. Woodbridge (all from the BEC) and Graham Balcombe, then one of the countries leading cave divers, set off to investigate the sump.  The carry of the cumbersome diving equipment took some time, particularly through the end section of Browne's Passage, a series of low tunnels and the notorious squeeze 'The Nutmeg Grater'. (note 11)  Hammering away an awkward projecting flake of rock in Disappointment Duck Coase made his way to the sump. He noted later: (note 12)

... I then went on to the trap which is a miserable hole, a rift 6ft. high by 2ft. wide with water 3ft. deep.  After paddling around I found a very jagged hole just under water on the left-hand wall. By immersing in the water up to my neck I managed to put my arm through the hole and wave my hand around in an airspace on the other side.  With the aid of a stick, I extended my reach and confirmed my earlier impression of there being enough room the other side to get my head above water.  As I had only an acetylene lamp with me, Balcombe came through the duck with an electric torch ....

Balcombe's description of Coase passing the Duck and approach to the sump is more 'spicey' and amusing. (note 13)

... Then Don Coase, leading adventurer, went forward, squawking vociferously as the cold water rose above his belly then his armpits, and he disappeared round the comer.  We waited rather anxiously.  After a few moments he called back for an underwater light and another 'bod'.  I happened to be next in line and, regardless of my protests that I was only a guest, I was pushed in.  I found him standing up to his neck in the pit and with a grin of glee from ear to ear.  He had found a hole and thought he could feel surface at the other side. Yes, he was sure of it and struck the wall on the other side with the lamp.  It rang low and clear ....

Coase continued his account thus; (note 14)

.... Just as I was going to take the plunge Balcombe suggested that it would be advisable to use the chinstrap on my helmet in case it came off.  Doing so, I started off but hardly got under water when the helmet jammed against the rock and the chinstrap nearly strangled me. Coming up spluttering, I discarded the helmet and had another try, this time having better luck.  Once under water I slowly pushed myself through the jagged hole & rose above the water on the other side.  One nasty moment was when the back of my boiler suit got hitched as I started to come up, but luckily it tore itself free.  Shining the torch around I expected to find myself in a poky [sic] little hole like where I had started from, but no, this was a chamber about 15ft. across with a low roof & water waist deep.  The Main stream, which disappears from sight just before the beginning of Browne's Passage, comes in on the right under a low arch over a gravel bank and on the way down a 6ft. high rounded tunnel stretching into the distance! ...

Stoke Lane II

The downstream side consisted of a deepish pool in the 15ft wide chamber.  From the right the stream that disappears before Pebble Crawl makes its reappearance (note 15) and flows downstream into fine, beautifully scalloped, 6 ft. high tunnel heading into The Sewer.  The Stoke Two stream continues for several hundred feet before encountering a high rift feature and Sump II.  Coase returned through the 'trap' as it was known at the time and called to Balcombe and Stanbury to follow him through the 2ft. long sump.  Their excitement of the possibilities overcame the cold from the freezing water and the intrepid explorers made their way into the water course.  The passage continued, dropping quite rapidly causing the stream to flow through a combination of cascades, boulder piles, large chambers, a high rift before the passage swung to the left and a boulder pile was encountered.  An easy climb over the boulders soon regained the stream and the second sump was reached.  At the first boulder fall a large chamber, Main Chamber, was noted but not explored at this time; neither was any attempt made to force the upstream section of the active streamway which gives way to Sand and C.B. Chambers. (note 16) The party made their return to rejoin their two comrades in Cairn chamber. (note 17)

... Then "full speed ahead" for daylight, where brilliant sunshine greeted us ....

An enthusiastic party reached daylight and anther trip was arranged for the following weekend to follow up the leads they had seen.  On this occasion, happily, Pat Browne would be able to join the party.  Had a fairy godmother told them of what was in store on that trip they would have just laughed!

Pat Browne's account of that trip is perhaps the greatest understatement of that decade

June 28th, 1947
Leader: P. Browne (1st halt) D. Coase (2nd halt)
Party - G. Lucy, J. Pain
Browne and Coase dived the trap and made their way into "a gigantic series of caves far superior in size and beauty to anything as yet seen beneath the Mendip Hills".  Boulder choke broken through, cave ends in trap. 6 main chambers were discovered together with the fragments of a human skeleton were discovered by P. Browne (also charcoal)

A consolidation trip was held on the 29th June but nothing noteworthy was found.  However, on July 6th, another BEC party consisting of Browne, Coase, D. Gommo and Angus Innes further investigated the new chambers including Bone Chamber, discovering a human jawbone and a connecting passage between the two large chambers.

The discovery created much enthusiasm in the press, a detailed account was published, together with some of Coase's (note 18) superb photographs, in the Bristol Evening Post (note 19) Browne also kept Balch informed of progress at the site and in August 1947 sent him a sketch plan of what had been discovered. (note 20)

Above Main Chamber the explorers moved through a succession of chambers until they finally dropped into the magnificent 'Throne Room' bearing two large stalagmites 'Queen Victoria' and 'The King'.  The chambers discovered contained some of the finest formations ever seen in a Mendip cave and the then contemporary cavers were struck by their beauty and were admirably described by Stan Treasure of the BEC in 1949 (note 21):

 ‘…..There are about eight chambers of immense size, with pure white banks of stalagmite cascading towards the cavern floor ... and in some of the caverns the floor, walls and ceilings are completely covered with stalactite and stalagmite formations .... The "Throne Room" is an impressive sight, the chief feature being two huge stalagmites which have been likened in appearance to Queen Victoria confronted by a pageboy.  Making our way across the slippery floor studded with "candlestick" stalagmite formations we came upon a charming grotto - a real gem of the cave system.  The whole cavern was just as a child would imagine fairyland to be, with banks of "Snow" and hundreds of little "icicles", and the floor covered with stalagmites of many hues .. , '

Today sadly, a mere fifty years or so after the chambers were first entered - I wonder how many visitors gain the same impression as Stan Treasure did in 1949?


During the Autumn of 1947, Coase, Stanbury, Geoff Ridyard and Browne surveyed the cave to CRG Grade 2. From what can be gathered at this time interval the survey was never published.  Though a low grade it was using the grading system later used in a publication on the topic published by the Cave Research Group. (note 22) Later, at the end of July 1949, Coase with the help of Ratcliffe and Ridyard, undertook a resurvey of Stoke Lane One to CRG Grade 4.  This replaced the original 1947 survey of the same set of passages. A mock-up survey of the CRG Grade 4 Stoke Lane One and CRG Grade Two surveys was pieced together from two separate dyeline prints but never redrawn to that standard.  For whatever reason the survey was never published.


1.                  Berman E., 1950, Report for 1947. MNRC Rep (40) in WNHAS Report for 1947-49, 9-11.

2.                  The report was duly pasted into Balch's Badger Hole Diary, now housed in Wells Museum Library, and he, Balch, added at the top of the page "Pat Brown's Account of his important discovery at Stoke Lane May June July 1947 and of persons contributing to the work.' Browne also sent Balch a second, more detailed, report (undated) after the main exploration had taken place. This report too is in the Badger Hole Diary

3.                  All were students from King's School, Bruton, Somerset

4.                  In the floor of Corkscrew Chamber.

5.                  The water trap was not Sump I but the outlet at Cairn Chamber. 

6.                  Browne, Patrick M., 1947, Stoke Lane Slocker BEC Bel Bull(5)1-3(July) also reprinted in the following:
      Browne, Patrick M., 1949, Stoke Lane Swallet, on Mendip. Brit Cav 19,35-37
      Browne, Patrick M., 1959, Stoke Lane Slocker BEC Bel Bul Digest 1(1)3-7(June)
      Browne, Patrick M. and Hasell, Dan H., 1974, Stoke Lane 1947. BEC Bel Bull(317)47-52(Mar) [History reprinted from Bel Bul (5), 1947]

7.                  So-called following the discovery of a circular route, the two ends were separated by an impossibly tight squeeze which allowed cavers to tough fingers but not pass through

8.                  Brown, Patrick M., 1947, [as above]

9.                  Brown, Patrick M., 1947, [as above]

10.              Brown, Patrick M., 1947, [as above]

11.              In the early 1950s post winter floods slowly modified the stream route. Though it disappeared at the start of Pebble Crawl, it began to reappear at the start of Stoney Crawl, during the post winter high water levels it gradually began flowing towards Cairn Chamber giving the caver a thorough wetting when passing the 'Nutmeg Grater'.
Cheramodytes [pseudo O.C. Lloyd], 1956, Mendip Notes. WCC Jn l4 (55) 40-43 (Mar)

12.              Coase, Donald A., 1947, Stoke Lane n Brit Cav 17, 43-45

13.              Balcombe, F. Graham, 1987, [as above]

14.              Coase, Donald A., 1947 [as above]

15.              Since that time the Bailey-Ward Series, 600ft of extremely low and wet passages have followed the missing section of the stream course. Only passable in low water conditions. Originally dug into by Avon Caving group in 1971 and pushed to its limit by West London Caving Club in 1974. A through trip is not possible.

16.              This led to a small sandy floored chamber, Sand Chamber and above it the C.B. Chamber [CoaseBrowne Chamber], another connection with this chamber is via the 'Changing Room' a small dry alcove a little down the active streamway an ideal place for the early explorers to change into more comfortable gear

17.              Coase, Donald A, 1947, [as above]

18.              Don Coase was not only an outstanding cave diver of his era but was also well-known for his photographic ability.

19.              Hucker, William, 1947, Most Beautiful of all Mendip Caves /I With Skeleton of Primitive Caveman and This is New to You.  Bristol Evening Post, 9th July [Stoke Lane Slocker -Stoke 2 discoveries; photos of Coase, Innes, Browne]

20.              Balch, H.E., 1949, Badger Hole Diaries, 1942-1953

21.              Treasure, S.G., 1949, Can you find a Better Hole'.  BEC Belfry Bulletin 3(25)2-4 [July,1949]

22.              Butcher, Arthur L., 1950, Cave Survey. CRG Pub. (3)


Bats Off To A Life Of Luxury


By Nigel Hawkes

BAT-LOVERS may soon be winging it to Johnson City, Texas, where the world's largest artificial bat cave has been built in a ranch belonging to J. David Bamberger, the former boss of a fried chicken chain.  Mr Bamberger, an unashamed bat enthusiast, told The New York Times, "Bats are going to overtake dinosaurs in popularity."

The cave consists of a series of linked igloo-shaped enclosures made from a framework of steel reinforcing bars covered in a form of concrete called gunite, whose nobbly texture evidently suits bats.  It is likely that the bat hotel, or chiroptorium, will be occupied by Mexican Free-tail bats as soon as it is finished as they already colonise virtually every building in the vicinity.  More than a million roost under a bridge in nearby Austin.

As a further temptation, Mr Bamberger - who has spent $250,000 (£150,000) on the cave's 22 tons of steel bar, 10,000 square feet of metal lath, and 250 square yards of gunite - is providing a temperature-controlled environment and a layer of bat guano on the floor.

Mexican Free-tailed Bats

Chris Smart

The following is reprinted from the "Science Briefing" of "The Times" newspaper of November 10 1997.  Grateful thanks are due to the original author, Nigel Hawkes and to Mike Murphy the Managing Editor of News International Internet Publishing for permission to reprint.

It concerns the insectivorous Mexican Free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) that is sometimes known as the Guano Bat, a fast flying member of the Molossidae family. According to the Bat Conservation International, Inc., a bat conservation body of the USA, there are approximately 1.5 million Mexican Free-tailed bats in Austin, Texas where they provide a spectacular fly past every evening in summer.  However, this number pales into insignificance against the biggest bat colony known, the reported 20 million Mexican Free-tails from Bracken Cave at San Antonio, Texas which consume approximately 250 tons of insects every night.

World-wide, bats are the most important natural enemies of night-flying insects and it has been calculated that the huge population of Mexican Free-tailed bats in Texas may account for more than 6,600 tons of insects per year.  They apparently will sometimes fly up to two miles high to feed or in order to catch tail winds that carry them over long distances at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour (> 100kmlhr).

Mexican Free-tailed bats are born furless and have to cluster together for warmth.  The pups are born with their eyes-open and feet-first. They have been observed as apparently beginning to groom themselves with their feet even before they have fully emerged from the birth canal.

In the neighbouring state of New Mexico the well-known Carlsbad Cavern is famous for its colony of 300,000 Mexican free-tail bats.  In summer, at dawn and dusk, visitors are treated to a display of huge flocks of the bats that dive and swirl in their daily hunt for food. Their exodus from the cavern can last as long as two hours, with huge columns of bats spiralling out of the darkness.




A Weekend In Belgium

By Chris Harvey (Zot)

I suppose it was my fault really for getting up late, but wouldn't you if you had been drinking Trappiste the night before with this set of crazy Dutch alpinists who were posing as cavers for the weekend.  Anyway, when I finally emerged from the bunkroom of the hostel where we were staying, there they were all arguing and sometimes raising their voices, but all the time giving me black looks.

When I asked them what was wrong they just told me to go to the galley and fix myself some breakfast, which I did with not the greatest of enthusiasm!  But then nor would you if you had drunk as much Trappiste as I had the night before, anyway, I went away and cooked my breakfast which later proved to be inadequate.

When I had finished it I went back to see how the shouting match was getting on and I found to my surprise that everyone was smiling and happy and it had all been sorted out.

When I asked what was wrong for the second time that morning it turned out that the leader of the party thought it was too late to 'do' the cave we had planned to do, and he thought it was a very poor show if grown people could not go to bed and go to sleep like any other normal people, I think he was forgetting one important fact, he had a member of the B.E.C in his midst.

Actually it was not all my fault, because we all went to the bunkroom in really high spirits and the majority of us really did not feel like sleeping at all.  So, when we got to the bunkroom, all hell broke loose and we did not get to sleep until about 4 in the morning.  Everyone started playing around with the lights and then someone said they were hungry, so we had to try and break into the galley, that was locked when the staff went to bed, but this proved too much, even for a B.E.C. member, and so we all turned in around 4 am.

The next thing I knew, through the veils of a alcoholic haze someone was shaking me and saying in an urgent voice, “Please get up Chris, its 10 o'clock and if you don't Henk will be very annoyed."  But I really did not feel like getting out of my nice warm sleeping bag, but then nor would you if you had a little man inside your head with a jack-hammer seeking liberty, so that was how it all started.

It was an hour's journey to the cave and we started out in two cars about 11 am.  Travelling in the first car were Ron Hoogstadt, Edmond Stamm, and Henk Van Dyke, while I travelled in the other car with Willy Stamm, Agatha Van Dyke and Kees Hoogstadt, who sadly, is no longer with us.

We had been on the road to the cave for about 50 minutes, when suddenly we pulled on to the forecourt of a transport cafe.  Kees then left the car to speak to the driver in the other car which was being driven by his brother Ron.  After about five minute’s discussion and pointing at a map, Kees came back to the car and said. "We think we know where the cave is, but since we were here last, they have built some new roads and it all looks very different, but I am sure we will find it eventually".  So, off we drove back in the direction we had come from, then about half a mile further on we left the road and took to the hills and that's where our troubles really started.

Well, it wasn't troubles really, it was just that our intrepid leader and the rest of the party could not agree as to the proper way to the said cave.  We came into a village and they decided to ask some of the locals the way to "La grot" and there was much pointing and nodding of heads, then they all shook hands, got back in the cars and we shot off down the road again.

A little way down the road there was a sign saying "TO THE CAVE" so we set off to the cave, down an unmade road that made the Belfry track look like the M6, then they decided "this is not the way", so we had to turn around again shoot back the way we had come, back through the village and out the other side.

Then we stopped at a farm to enquire the way.  To my surprise the whole lot of them got out and went to the farm and again there was much nodding and waving of hands and lots of pointing, then finally they all came back to the cars and off we sped again.

We had to turn around once more, go back though the village and down the valley to the bottom of the hill, along the valley bottom for about 1 kilometre and then up the next valley to a little village called" Mont-Sur-Meuse " where we stopped for a cup of coffee at a local caver's pub called "AU SPELEO".  When we had finished the coffee, having read all the dirty postcards that covered one of the doors and having discovered the right route to the cave we sped off once more.

The entrance to the Trou Bernard is in a depression approximately 5 metres deep.  To my surprise the entrance was not gated and there is a plaque dedicated to the lives of two cavers who died of exhaustion in the cave in 1963.  The first pitch is of 10 metres depth and is just 2.5 metres into the system.  Henk laddered the pitch and asked me if I would like to go first so I said OK, having descended for about 5 metres into a very solutional tube 1 metre across.  Deciding to look to the bottom of the pitch I discovered that the ladder was too short by at least 5 metres.  I don't think Henk believed me when I called back up the pitch and told him. "Stay there" he called to me "and I will come down and look for myself," so down he came and had a little look.  When he had satisfied himself that it was too short he decided that we would have to put a rope down and use our descenders.  After I had finished on the rope Henk lowered the ladder down the pitch which was to be used on another pitch further into the cave, and then the rest of the party came safely to the bottom of the first pitch.

The translation of "Les Chicanes" is "The Tricks" and it lives up to its name by the tricks you have to perform to get out of the bloody place as you will learn later, after "Les Chicanes" comes the "Passage Superieur" which means upper passage and is quite small, not dissimilar to the Drainpipe in Goatchurch in size and length.

At the end of the upper passage we came to the top of the"Salle du Bassin ou des Cherunees" or "room of the basin or chimneys", which is a 10 metre pitch, where again we used S.R.T.  Then we had to negotiate an awkward little squeeze at the head of another 10 metre pitch, which was duly laddered as we had used all of the short lengths of rope we had with us, and we descended into "Salle du bec ou de la Vierge" or "Room of the beak or the Virgin".

On crossing to the other side of this chamber and climbing up around a big boulder, we came to the head of a 40 metre pitch called "Ie nid d'aigle" or " The Eagle's nest."  Grand Puits ou, The Big hole, or "Salle de la Cathedrale".  "The Cathedral Room," as it is in English, and I can assure you it is really as big as its name sounds.  Henk was to go first, followed by myself, then Agat, Ron, and Edmond, with Kees bringing up the rear.  Henk clipped the rope into his descender and with a cheerful "see you downstairs" he was gone, it was quite a while before he shouted back to say that he had landed safely.

So it was my turn, as I clipped the rope into my descender and looked at the Belay.  (Did you know that over there that nearly all the belays are bolts, and over there, when they are doing a cave with a pitch in it, they always have to carry a spanner and a flimsy little piece of bent tin to hang the ladder on, not like wot we got over here: nice chunky hangers, well that's what it looked like to me anyway.)

The worst bit, if one could call it that, was going over the edge, but once I had got that over with I just laid back and enjoyed myself.  I don't suppose it took more than a minute to make the decent, but it certainly felt longer, but I can't explain why.

I landed a few feet below Henk, who was standing behind a big boulder, so I unclipped and joined him. After we had all landed safely on a big wide ledge I noticed that the rope continued on down for maybe another 6 or 7 metres into the beginning of the "labyrinth", which is another part of the cave that really lives up to its name.  Apart from going round in circles it’s bloody tight that is why I declined the offer to look at that bit of the cave, cos I ain't as small as I used to be.  I think the other three went to the sump, at least I assume they did from all the grunting and talking in Dutch that was going on.  When they all came back from the sump we had a quick look round, decided there was no more to be seen and it was time to be heading out.

So there I was 2 feet off the ground at the start of this 40 metre pitch hanging in these bl**dy prussic loops that I knew already to be to long and to make things even worse I hadn't ever done any S.R.T. up before.  (Oh yes, I can hear all you young tigers sat back in your rocking chairs laughing and spilling your beer all down the front of your pants but this was just not funny.) As I started upward all these crazy things started going through my mind.  "What if the rope breaks?"; "What if my harness breaks?"; "My slings are to long?"; "I could do with a drink"; "Its hurting"; "What if my lamp fails?"; "I could still do with a drink"; "What if I want a piss?"; "What if ?"  Then all of a sudden I was staring at this little piece of bent tin that was holding everything up.  I was never more glad to see a piece of bent tin in all my life.  So off the top of the pitch I got and flopped back against the smooth limestone wall to let my pulse rate go down a bit.  When it had settled down, I called back down the pitch that everything was alright and I was clear of the top of the pitch so all the rest of them came up safely.

But that was not the end of the epic.  If you can remember on the way in, we passed a place called "Les Chicanes". Well, we still had to negotiate that yet, and it's more difficult getting out because you have got to climb up it in the bottom of a phreatic trench, and it's just a little bit awkward and not to mention the tightness of the beast!  Well it's not tight really, but you see I had this chest harness on, and try as I would I just could not get up the bl**dy thing with it on.  I had about half a dozen attempts, I just could not make it even with a handline looped around a natural belay, so off came the chest harness and it was a piece of cake after that.  All the time I had been messing about in this thing which was quite a while, like about half an hour.  All the rest had been talking in raised voices to Renk, who was leading at this time, saying that they were getting cold and why couldn't this crazy English caver get his arse in gear and get a move on out of the bl**dy place, then we could all go and drink some more Trappiste!

At long last I was clear of the obstacle and then I sat at top to watch the others up and it did seem strange to me that they did not seem to have as much trouble as I did.  Then when they were all safely up I suddenly realised why.  When they had seen the trouble I was having by keeping my chest harness on they had seen the good sense in removing theirs.

When we were all up ok, we stopped for a snack and for a stock check of our condition and well being, and it turned out that we all seemed to be alright, despite the fact that when we started that morning we were not in the best of health.  Still I would hate to be a Teetotaller because when you wake up in the morning you realise that's the best you are going to feel all day!

The rest of the trip out was quite uneventful, except when we arrived at the entrance pitch, I was quite surprised to see a ladder hanging there.  Apparently what had happened is that when the people at the back of the party had heard that the ladder was too short had gone back to the car to get some more, which I did not know was there, and had dropped it in without me knowing.  We had a ladder and a rope on the pitch, so we were able to self-lifeline up the entrance pitch.

And so that was the end of a most enjoyable trip but only just the beginning of another memorable evening in the local hostelry on the stuff that vaguely resembles Guinness but does twice the amount of damage!

(I can vouch for the damage - While editing this article I was enjoying supping a bottle of Trappiste I brought back from my Belgium trip - Ed!!!)

Chris Harvey 1992

It has taken me about 18 years to finish this article, and hand it to the Editor so I hope its been worth waiting for.


A To Z of The Bristol Exploration Club

(This was compiled in the Hunters, by a selection of members, on one drunken Saturday night!!!!)

A          Aroma (See Q) Also Jake & Gobshite + most cavers after a trip!

B          Beer/Barrel/Belfry (All Related)!

BB        Belfry Boy!

C          Carnal Knowledge -The Vetting of Young Members!

CC        Crockery Cricket!

D          Digging (See J) Destroyer of Roads!

E          Explosions (See Q)!

F          Fire Breathing on Request!

G          Gonorrhoea-Goitre-Gout!

H          Hunters Lodge - The Only Place To Be!

I           Ignite - e.g. Furniture, Farts, etc!

J           Jarratt's Roadslide (See D)!

K          Kounterfeit Kondoms - Issued On Request!

L          Lockheed Tri-Star (Quackers) Wide Bodied With Jet a Engine at the Rear!

M         Members (No Women) Only Members!

N          Noxious Gas (See Q & F)!

O          Open All Hours!

P          Anywhere You Like!

Q          Quackers - Glutinous Maximus Emissions!

R          Rugby - All Donations Of Sofas Greatly Appreciated!

S          Sex and Travel!

T          Temperance At All Times (At The Shepton & Wessex)!

U          Underwear - Complete With Skidmarks!

V          Violation (See BB)!

W         Willie - See Mike Willett!

X          X-rated - Average Saturday Night!

Y          Yawn - As In The Technicolor Variety!

Z          Zot - QUOTE "There's Nothing Wrong With Nudity Fellas!"



Wookey 1997

By Clive Stell

Throughout 1997 Tim Chapman, Jon Edwards and Clive Stell have been exploring the end of Wookey Hole. The current end is formed by a chamber at a water depth of 50m and a low bedding continuance leading down to -70m or more.  The last advance was achieved by Rob Parker in 1985 when he push through the Martyn Farr's limit and attained a water depth of 67.5m in a tight inclined bedding with a dangerously lose gravel floor.

During the early months of the year the team undertook a number of Air and Mixed gas dives in the terminal sump and attained depths of over 60m.  It was decided that operating at these depths on air and in such a trying environment was not safe due to Nitrogen Narcosis, a drunken effect caused by breathing air at depth, therefore a series of mixed gas dives were planned for the summer months.

On 29 June the task of moving equipment into Wookey Hole and on to the advanced dive base in Chamber 24 began.  Approximately 30 cylinders were carried through to Chamber 24 with a total weight in the region of 300 Kg.

The plan was that each diver should make two Trimix dives during the third week in August.  For the dives into the terminal sump two side mounted 7 litre cylinders of Trimix 19/35, a chest mounted cylinder of Nitrox 50 and a hand carried cylinder of Nitrox 80 were employed.  The Nitrox 50 was used as a travel mix and breath down to a depth of 18m and then clipped to the line ready to be picked up on return. The divers then switched to the Trimix which was breathed below 18m.  When returning to the surface the divers switched back to the Nitrox 50 at 18m and started the decompression.  At -9m the divers started breathing from the Nitrox 80 cylinder which had earlier been staged on the line.  The uses of the Nitrox mixes resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of decompression required.

The emphasis throughout was on reducing the kit to a minimum.  Each diver had a relatively short bottom time (between eight and ten minutes), but it was hoped that with streamlining the equipment each dive would make progress though the tight bedding plan.  A relatively lean mix of Trimix was used, thus enabling the divers to use the Trimix to inflate the drysuits without causing the cooling effect of the helium to become unbearable.  Decompression was extremely chilly, but this did not represent a serious problem.

After the completion of the main week of diving and the removal of the kit the divers have continued their exploration and will carry on, when the weather permits, through out the winter.

The following log represents our years diving at Wookey Hole:

22nd Jan

Climbing in Chamber 25 and carrying Tanks into Chamber 24 for Trimix dives.

9th Feb

Two air dives in the terminal sump achieving a max depth of 61.7m.

22nd Feb

Looking for possible ongoing passages out of the chamber at -50m in the terminal sump.

5th April

Cylinders for Trimix dives carried through to Chamber 24.

12th April

Two Trimix dives in the terminal sump.  The squeeze reached on previous air dives was passed.

13th April

Equipment left on previous dive was removed.

Due to the Wookey Hole Slide Show and the Witch Magic Cavern being set up in Chamber 9ii the following dives were undertaken either from Chamber 3 or at night.

29th June

Equipment dived from Chamber 3 to 22.

12th July

Equipment dived from Chamber 9ii to 22 (evening).

13th July

Equipment moved from Chamber 22 to the advanced dive base in Chamber 24.

19th July

9ii re-opened to divers.  More cylinders taken into Chamber 24.

20th July

Three air dives to the next squeeze in the in the terminal sump were planned.  Only two dives were undertaken due to a dry suit getting ripped and flooding in Chamber 24 which resulted in a very wet exit.

27th July

The third air dive was undertaken with a repaired dry suit.

2-3rd Aug

The first of the Trimix bottles were taken through to Chamber 24.  One diver had to abort when the A-Clamp on an old regulator became dislodged from the bottle and dumped all the air.

10th Aug

Photographic trip.

16-17th Aug

Remaining Trimix bottles taken through to Chamber 24.

Trimix Dive;
The Diver hit the squeeze and examined two possible window slots.  The line leading to the main route forward was embedded in deep gravel and was not passable without substantial digging.  A low arch to the right was tightish and looked to continue in a similar fashion. On the left was a slightly more open squeeze, beyond which the roof appeared to rise.  The diver spent a few minutes tidying up the line and tying on a new line reel.  He then kicked a way through the gravel in the left hand squeeze and exited leaving the reel for the next diver. A return was made to the surface after a dive of 43 minutes.

19th Aug

Trimix Dive;
The diver followed the line down to -40m in very poor visibility, being only half an hour after the above dive.  At -40m the water cleared.  After considerable digging the diver had cleared sufficient gravel from the left hand slot to allow access through the squeeze. He backed though and realised that there would be no possibility of securing the line on the other side.  The Moving gravel floor and the smooth ceiling did not offer any belaying opportunities.  The diver regained the surface after a dive of 43 minutes.

21st Aug

Trimix Dive;
On reaching the squeeze the diver backed through the slot and picked up the line reel.  The speed of the descent and the lean trimix left the diver experiencing rather unpleasant nitrogen narcosis.  Backing down the bedding the way on became unexpectedly tight.  The lack of possible belays was also causing concern.  It was noted that as the diver passed through the slot that gravel from above moved down filling the space thus making it necessary for the diver to dig his way out. In the low visibility caused by digging and with the possibility of the line moving because of the lack of belays the diver considered the probability of trying to dig out through an impassable slot.  A safe exit was then made with the narcosis subsiding at -40m.  The total dive time was 45 minutes.

21st Aug

Trimix Dive;
The diver laid a further section of line past the squeeze proceeding sideways down the slope until the route became too tight to continue.  It was felt that the line was now at the wrong side of a roof projection.  Again the diver was concerned that the line was moving down the bedding plan into tighter areas.  A careful retreat was made in low visibility with a dive time of 45 minutes.

23rd Aug

Further Trimix dives were planned but due to the loss of a bag, between 9ii and Chamber 22, containing the decompression schedules and a dive computer the trip was postponed. The bag has now been found.

30-31st Aug

Photographic trip.

25th Oct

Trimix Dive;
Due to valve failure in the terminal sump, the decompression mix was unavailable to the diver.  The Decompression was therefore reassessed (guest) and a shallower dive was made to examine the chamber at -50m.  On reaching the chamber the diver tied off a search reel and ascended to a dark slot in the roof.  The diver passed through the slot into a small chamber above the main chamber but no way on could be found.  The diver broke the surface after 40 minutes and showed no ill effects after the guest decompression on the wrong gas mix.

2nd Nov

Trimix Dive;
The final dive of the six Trimix dives planned for the summer was made.  After the dive on 21st Aug Mendip had unseasonably heavy rain, which resulted in numerous postponements of attempts on the end.  The diver was surprised by the changes that had occurred at the end during this time.

9th Nov

Moving empty cylinders from Chamber 24 back to Chamber 22 and general tidying after the summer flood.

15th Nov

Cylinders taken out of cave from Chamber 22.

Now as the winter draws in and the weekends when the conditions are suitable for diving are fewer, we start to plan for next year.


The BEC Song

Tune: Sweet Lass of Richmond

Author: G. Weston

A local bloke from Rodney Stoke
More fond of beer than labour
Was recommended by a friend
To go and be a caver
He said, “Your thirst is not the first
Of such capacity.
I know a crown who’ll do you proud
Go join the BEC.”

Go join the BEC, go join th BEC
That boozy crew will do for you
Go join the BEC

The M.C.G. brew splendid tea
Which makes them rather merry.
The Speleo’s look down their nose
At tipple less that sherry
The Shepton brood are rude and crude
When drinking at the local.
But worse by far, the Wessex are
Exclusively teetotal.

Go join the BEC, go join th BEC
That boozy crew will do for you
Go join the BEC

Each Friday night, we all get tight
As soon as we are able.
By half past eight we lie in state
Beneath the Belfry table.
By nine o’clock, our knees may knock,
We stagger out despite ‘em.
By half past ten, we’re sloshed again
And so on ad infinitum

Go join the BEC, go join th BEC
Whatever is worth doing, we will do it to excess.


Beer Quotes

•           You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline-it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. --Frank Zappa.

•           Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk.  That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. --Ernest Hemmingway.

•           Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me. --Winston Churchill.

•           He was a wise man who invented beer.--Plato.

•           Time is never wasted when you're wasted all the time.--Catherine Zandonella.

•           Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink. --Lady Astor to Winston Churchill. Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it. --His reply.

•           If God had intended us to drink beer, he would have given us stomachs. --David Daye.

•           Work is the curse of the drinking class. --Oscar Wilde.

•           When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading. -- Henny Youngman.

•           Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. --Benjamin Franklin.

•           If you ever reach total enlightenment while drinking beer, I bet it makes beer shoot out your nose. --Deep Thought, Jack Handy.

•           Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza. --Dave Barry.

•           The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind. --Humphrey Bogart.

•           Why is American beer served cold?  So you can tell it from urine. --David Moulton.

•           People who drink light "beer" don't like the taste of beer; they just like to pee a lot. --Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI.

•           Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world. --Kaiser Wilhelm.

•           I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer. --Homer Simpson.

•           Not all chemicals are bad.  Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer. --Dave Barry.

•           I drink to make other people interesting. --George Jean Nathan.

•           They who drink beer will think beer. --Washington Irving.

•           An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools. --For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemmingway.

•           You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on. --Dean Martin.

•           All right, brain, I don't like you and you don't like me - so let's just do this and I'll get back to killing you with beer. --Homer Simpson.

•           Beer makes you feel as you ought to feel without beer --Henry Lawson.

•           For a quart of ale is a dish for a King --Shakespeare (The Winter's Tale).

•           The track o' life is dry enough, an' crossed with many a rut, but we'll find it longer still when all the pubs is shut. --Henry Lawson.

•           A man who exposes himself when he is intoxicated, has not the art of getting drunk. --Samuel Johnson


Meghalaya 1997

By Estelle Sandford

The state of Meghalaya lies in Northeast India, south of Assam and north of Bangladesh. Anglo-German-Meghalayan Adventurers teams had undertaken four previous trips.  The first two were very restricted, as Meghalaya had a Restricted Area Permit applied to it, which involved a lot of paperwork to get in. By the third trip this permit had been lifted, and a team from the Meghalayan Adventurers joined the expedition.

These three trips had explored the state as a whole, to find the best limestone areas, as the state gradually became more accessible.  A short fourth trip concentrated on the Jaintia Hills area of Lumshnong. Lumshnong had already been identified as a major caving area, so our plans were to concentrate mainly on this and the surrounding areas for trip number 5.

The Team

British: Simon Brooks, Tony Boycott, Estelle Sandford, Tony (J'Rat) Jarratt, Paul Edmonds and Andy Tyler.

German: Daniel Gebauer, Georg Baumler, Samm Uwe Scherzer, Richard (Ritschie) Frank and Werner Busch

Meghalayan Adventurers: Brian Kharpran-Daly, Kaiman C. Hiwol Passah, George Lyngdoh, Donbok Syiemlieh, Colonel Fair-Weather Mylliemngap, Nicky Thapa, Spindro Dhkar, Raphael Warjri, Roilang Lyngdoh, ThyWilIBeDone, Marcos Mukhim, Spirit Lamare, Worlin Lamare and Anand Jamatia.

Saturday 8th February

Expedition fever is setting in. The kit is all packed and we assemble in the Hunters for our last night. A good quantity of ale is drunk, so as we don't forget what it tastes like!!

Sunday 9th February

Final sort out of kit, a fax sent to book our rooms in the Astoria in Calcutta, and it's off to Bristol to meet Simon and Jenni.  Graham Mullan and Jenni gave us a lift to Heathrow, where we met Paul.  We were lucky we turned up early - our Air India flight was overbooked and we might not have got on if we were much later.  We picked up 2 bottles of Jamesons at the duty free - 1 for Brian and 1 for the first km.

Monday 10th February

Arrived in Calcutta at lunchtime.  Offloaded our kit into the Astoria hotel, and off to the Khalsa Punjabi restaurant for lunch. Simon rang Brian and was advised that there was a Bandh (strike) in Shillong and the borders were closed for the next 2 days.  We had a choice: keep our original flight to Guwahati, Assam, and spend the next 2 days there, or change our flight to Thursday and stay in Calcutta.  We decided on Calcutta, on the grounds we know it has a reasonable nightlife!

Tuesday 11th February

Went and saw Mr Khrishna at the Indian Tourism office.  Steak in The Park lunchtime, and Thai in The Oberoi for evening.  Got locked out of the hotel and Tony B. had to climb in to get them to let us in.

Wednesday 12th February

Took in most of the tourist spots in Calcutta, including the site of the Black Hole (which isn't advertised as such!).

Thursday 13th February

4:30 start to catch the Guwahati flight. Caught the bus to Shillong - I think we will be paying the extra next time for a taxi!  Arrived at the Embassy Hotel and met up with the 5 Germans.

Round Brian's for a party later.  We all had too much to drink and Andy put a new meaning to the phrase "Fancy an Indian?"!!!  We got locked out of our hotel again and had to wake the staff up.

Friday 14th February

Loaded up all our kit into minibus and trailer and went to Lumshnong, to a bungalow that was to be our home for the next couple of weeks.  14 of us plus our cooks made our little bungalow very cosy!  Sampled several bottles of the local beers.

Saturday 15th February

At last - Caving.

Split into four teams. Estelle, Georg and Ritschie went to check out potential high level passages in Krem Urn Lawan above the streamway. A 900m maze was found after an easy climb up from the Urn Lawan streamway, with most of the passages ending, over-looking one of the stream passages.  One of the passages was named Cauliflower passage, due to the resemblance of the formations to said vegetable.  Spam, provided by Ritschie was much appreciated at lunchtime.

Simon, J'Rat and Tony made the first connection in the attempt to link up Krem Kot Sati to Krem Urn Shor and Krem Urn Lawan, when they succeeded in connecting Krem Kot Sati to Krem Urn Shor, by J'Rat's Mendip style, boulder pile disassembly from the bottom, method!  The connection added 150m towards the total.

Paul and Andy went to try to push the downstream end of Krem Urn Lawan; they descended a 10m pitch, but they were soon prevented from making any further progress by a large collapse, which absorbed the entire stream.

Daniel, Brian, Samm and Werner were checking out some streamway leads, they found and surveyed 400m.

Our total for the day was well over the first km, so we smugly drank the Jamesons.

Sunday 16th February

Estelle, Georg, Ritschie, Daniel, Werner and Brian went fossil passage hunting again, this time at the top end of Urn Lawan streamway.  The area was very collapsed and only a small amount of passage was found today. Some of the Shoulder Maze was also surveyed.

Simon, J'Rat and Tony made the second connection when they joined Krem Urn Shor to Krem Urn Lawan. The passage totalled about 500m, and consisted of a lake which they used the inflatable boats for, a duck, more streamway, and joined Krem Urn Lawan near Put Lyer entrance after descending a 10m pitch.  The Lumshnong System was now some 13 km long.  Paul, Andy, Samm, Kaiman and George went to Thangskei to a cave called Krem Labbit and surveyed 800m of reasonable sized passage.

Monday 17th February

Estelle, J'Rat, Tony and Paul went to a cave at Thangskai, called Krem Malo.  About 5 years previously, a coal lorry carrying 7 people had fallen down the entrance.  The locals had built a bamboo ladder and had brought out the bodies and the useful bits of lorry.  This must have been some feat, as once we had descended the shaft; we discovered that the pitch was 50m.  (We had experienced using bamboo ladders in Siju cave in previous trips, and they feel extremely precarious at 10m, so it would be almost unimaginable what they would be like at 50m!)  The lorry was neatly located the right way up in a chamber that it fitted perfectly into; it was still just about recognisable as a Tata.  We explored the largest passage off the entrance chamber, and soon found a streamway and a maze of dry passages.  Realising that this was probably going to be quite a big system, we split up into twos and went exploring, hoping to find an easier, alternative entrance, so we could return at a later date with a larger team. After exploring for some time we decided we had better do some surveying and exit the cave.  We surveyed only the main streamway and the entrance chamber, but still managed nearly 500m.  There is a lot of work left in here for a future trip.

Andy, Samm and George went back to Krem Labbit and the cave finished after less than 200m Simon, Daniel, Georg and Brian went to investigate the Lukha valley, which is one of the areas, where Krem Urn Lawan water might resurge.  They found several small caves, but not the cave that the locals were reputed to put the logs into in the monsoon season and they come out in Bangladesh!

Tuesday 18th February

Estelle, Tony, J'Rat, Simon, Brian and Paul went back to Thangskai village to try to find some more caves.  Looked at a large depression with choked entrances all around its edge (Krem Thangskai) but no ways on.  We went to twin depressions with 2 caves (both called Synrang Skei) several coal mines and a waterfall which came out of the cliff about half way down in one side. The cave that took the waterfall was small, wet and full of frogs (and where there's frogs there's snakes!) it is probably one of the sinks for Krem Malo.  The second, complete with a large number of big trees in the entrance passages, was big, dry and ended in a drop with a choke at the bottom; it was 50m long.

The other depression had quite a lot of entrances, all but one choked.  This one was called Krem Urn So, and had a spectacular entrance with trees wedged in the wall 15m above the entrance.  Paul went on as scout, while Tony, J'Rat and I surveyed our way in. Paul came back reporting a sump 30m beyond, and then went on out to join Simon and Brian.  We continued and found the sump, complete with the high-level sump bypass, named Lost Opportunities in respect to Paul.  The cave was quite big; it followed one main passage for most of the way, occasionally finding pools and streamway.  We surveyed 600m and left our kit (ready for tomorrow) at a big 3-way junction.  Simon, Paul and Brian didn't find anything else around the Thangskai area.

Daniel, Ritschie and Samm found 400m in the canals in Krem Kot Sati.  Georg and Andy checked out several local sites and found nothing significant or worth pushing.

Wednesday 19th February

Estelle, Tony, J'Rat, Simon and Paul went back to Krem Urn So.  We arrived at the junction from yesterday and Simon realised he'd forgotten to bring a tape!  We took 10m off the sole tape so they could do some surveying, even if the legs were a bit short.  Estelle, Tony and J'Rat went through a big collapsed chamber and found a big streamway, named The Dream Stream, which continued for some way before sinking into a small hole in the floor, just beyond a 25m entrance shaft.  A crawl followed and after much protest from Estelle and Tony, J'Rat disassembled another boulder choke and we continued along a streamway; this one ended in a spidery boulder choke, probably near a resurgence entrance.  The ceiling was a mass of legs and green eyes, so we didn't hang around for long! We went back to the starting point for today and met Paul and Simon, just going off up another passage.  We started on out, checking all of the small question marks from yesterday.  One small passage soon opened up and revealed 2 very well decorated, 25m+ avens, named them Gemini Silos.  Between us we surveyed about 800m in total in Krem Urn So.

Georg, Brian and Andy failed to find any thing at Musianglamare village, as they couldn't find a person to tell them where the cave was.

Daniel, Ritschie and Samm found 500m in the Western Inlets area in Krem Kot Sati.  It is now Western Inlets bypass as they connected it to the canals at the halfway landing point.

Thursday 20th February

Estelle, Paul, Tony and J'Rat had a day off and did a tourist trip!  We went in Lake inlet of Krem Urn Lawan, up Virgin streamway, up the pitch, taking the ladder as we went, through Krem Urn Shor (nice duck - you meet some interesting rubbish in the streamway!) on through the boulder choke and into Krem Kot Sati.  Nice swim/stroll through there and finally the 270m swim up the canals to Synrang Taloo (top sink entrance).  Excellent through trip; it took us 4hr 20mins to do approximately 4½-5 km of classic cave; we were very grateful for the life jackets in the canals.

Simon, Georg and Brian experimented with a bamboo maypole, with a wire ladder attached to the top; it worked brilliantly and they found 350m today with prospects of many other high level leads.

Andy, George and Spindro found a cave called Synrang Pamiang at Musianglamare and surveyed 350m with going leads.

Daniel, Ritschie and Samm found 200m in the canal area of Krem Kot Sati.

Friday 21st February

Estelle, Simon, Paul, Georg and Brian went Bamboo maypoling in Virgin Streamway in Krem Urn Lawan, and found 250m.

Colonel, Nicky, Samrn, Daniel, and Andy went back to Synrang Pamiang and surveyed another 700m; it still has lots of going leads.

Tony, J'Rat and Ritschie went back to Synrang Skei and pushed it to its entirety, all of 50m deep, to a Mendip digging session. They also went into Krem Urn So and tidied up a couple of leads we had left.

Saturday 22nd February

Estelle, Simon and Samm went back into Krem Urn Lawan to Virgin Streamway.  We looked at Dalmot Dome and decided our Bamboo pole wasn't long enough, so we continued upstream to one of Daniel's question marks, which he had pencilled in as joining Dalmot Dome.  This was not to be; we surveyed 750m heading back towards Urn Lawan streamway, nothing went anywhere near Dalmot Dome.  We named our find Georg's Dream Series, as it was everything Georg looks for in a passage! (Big, dry, fossil passages).  The formations were exceptional; there was a lot of gypsum crystals and beautifully coloured stal, some of which had obviously suffered earthquake damage, judging by the directions which they were choosing to grow. Georg and Colonel found a new, big cave just down the road from the Urn Lawan system (One for tomorrow.)

Tony, J'Rat, Daniel and Ritschie found a small amount in Krem Kot Sati, while after the trip our intrepid doctor tried to cut his finger off with a Leatherman (available from Bat Products!!) he failed, he only managed to cut down to the bone!

Paul, Andy and Brian went on a photographic trip in Krem Kot Sati.

We have discovered the reason for our food being so late each night.  Brian brings out lots of beer first and they won't feed us until we've drunk it all; we try our hardest, but it is hard work when the Germans mainly drink rum and the locals drink whisky, so it's down to us Brits to drink it! !

Sunday 23rd February

Estelle, Tony, J'Rat, Georg, Daniel, Brian, Paul and Colonel went to the new cave, Krem Urn Khang.  It was nicknamed porcupine cave after the presence of a rather smelly dead porcupine.  Krem Urn Khang has 2 main entrances off the big passage.  The rest of the cave appears to be mainly full of collapse.  J'Rat used a 'knotted rope in crack' technique to climb up into a high level passage, which he, Georg and Paul then went off to survey.  This passage continued seemingly forever in the unpleasant 'Austrian style', and then came out in a doline with several other entrances, known as Krem Urn Kharasniang.  They explored some of the other entrances and discovered that several met up, but left several needing pushing.

Simon, Andy, Samrn, Kaiman and Ritschie went to Synrang Pamiang again and surveyed another 600m; it's still going.

Monday 24th February

Estelle, Tony, J'Rat and Kaiman went on a relatively unsuccessful jungle bashing exercise for an hour, followed by a dig (using a crowbar) in Krem Urn Kharasniang.  The dig broke through very quickly and we soon found ourselves back by a smelly porcupine.  Tony had lost the pencil so we couldn't survey the cave today, so we photographed the musical stal in one of the other entrances and went and had tea.

Andy, Simon and Brian looked at a new cave in Lumshnong, just behind the church, called Krem Liat Rati. The story behind this one was, a few years ago; an elephant had fallen through the ceiling.  (Rati means elephant.)  It consisted of a cave that went into a coalmine, then went into another cave - Krem Mawiong (coalmine cave), which ended in a pitch.  The pitch was left for another occasion.

Simon, Georg and Brian then went into Krem Urn Lawan 2 (not connected to rest of system as yet) with a bamboo maypole.  They found an easier way in and some passage with leads.  Daniel, Samm, and Ritschie went into the canals in Krem Kot Sati and found about 200m

Tuesday 25th February

Estelle, Tony, Kaiman and Samm went back up the bamboo maypole into Georg's Dream series in Krem Urn Lawan. We found a connection to the streamway at Steel Drum Bypass.  We found a daylight shaft in Desperation series, which was about 10m and had a large sandstone boulder perched precariously in the top.  We also looked at a 5m pitch we had left and found that connected to known passage in Georg's Dream.  We surveyed about 300m and then we used our short cut out to Steel Drum Bypass, to Virgin Streamway.

Simon, Ritschie, Georg, Brian and Raphael went into Krem Urn Lawan 2 and connected it to Krem Urn Lawan near Surprise exit.

J'Rat, Andy, Spindro, George and Paul surveyed 200m in Krem Pohshnong at Lumshnong and looked at other local sites.

Wednesday 26th February

Estelle, Tory, Kaiman and J'Rat went to Urn Satad village, walked to Urn Stein village, and then on to a cave.  The cave was called Krem Wah Stein, where we surveyed about 80m of passage, christened Arachnophobia, due to the large number of dinner plate sized spiders, whose green eyes stared at us the whole time we were in there.  We found a boulder resurgence, near to the dry riverbed known as Wah Lariang (or Wah Tharang, dependent on which village you speak to). There is a chance that the resurgence could be from Krem Urn Lawan, but due to the general direction of Krem Urn Lawan, it is more likely to be resurging in either the Lunar or Lukha Valley. We saw several small sites on our way back, but nothing significant.

Paul, Simon, Andy, Brian, Samm and Raphael went into several of the Lumshnong caves photographing and checking out the odd lead.

Daniel, Ritschie and Georg went into Kot Sati to try to scrape together 200m to make the caves total up to 18km; they just about managed that.

Thursday 27th February

Simon, Paul, Georg, Ritschie, and Samm left for Shillong and home.

Tony, J'Rat and Brian went to Krem Urn Sahi and Krem Urn Kharasniang to try pushing the extremities to connect to Krem Urn Lawan.  They found several ways off, but nothing to connect to Krem Urn Lawan.  They found a big shaft, which they got really excited about until Daniel told them it was Rift Pot entrance to Krem Urn Lawan, and also found a large shaft behind the garage.

Daniel, Andy and Kaiman went to Chiehruphi and surveyed 250m in Krem Pyrda.  There may be fewer of us, but we're still expected to drink the same amount of beer.

Friday 28th February

Estelle, Tony, J'Rat, Brian and Spindro went into Krem Urn Khang chamber entrance and pushed every conceivable hole to try to connect it to Krem Urn Lawan and got nothing.  We looked at Krem Urn Kseh, and Tony and I'Rat went into Krem Nianglartham (scorpion cave named after the resident at the end of the cave).  We then went into Lake Entrance of Krem Urn Lawan with a 10m bamboo pole; there was nothing before the lake, but we found a few nice sites beyond the lake. Unfortunately none went any distance, so we went to the bottom of the cascades to a boulder choke and then went out. Rift pot was a bit interesting; the quarrymen use it as a rubbish dump for their unwanted rocks, so we had to dodge the flying boulders as we went past.

Andy, Daniel and Raphael went to Krem Urn Synrang at Musianglamare and surveyed 840m.

Saturday 1st March

Estelle, Tony, J'Rat, ThyWillBeDone and Marcos went down a 10m entrance pitch at Garage Pot.  The boulder floored pothole had a pitch off each side; we went for the easiest, a 5m pitch with ongoing passage, after another 5m pitch we found a streamway that resembled Urn Lawan stream, and then found the nail varnish, which meant the Germans had already put their towels here! We had connected it to passage near surprise entrance and Krem Urn Lawan 2.  Back to the entrance chamber at Garage Pot and we descended the other pitch; this one was 15m and a bit awkward, but it didn't take long to recognise Desperation when we saw it; I'd recognise that sandstone boulder anywhere. We had connected to Desperation series in Georg's Dream.  We went back into Desperation and surveyed some passages we had left in the area with a sandstone roof; these were superbly decorated with gypsum crystals, large areas of black crust gypsum and wonderful coloured formations and we surveyed 400m.

Daniel, Brian, Raphael and Kaiman surveyed 200m in Krem Urn K wu in Lumshnong.

Andy, George and Roilang surveyed a further 300m in Krem Urn Synrang at Musinglamare; it still has going leads.

Sunday 2nd March

Tony, J'Rat and Andy went down to the first pitch in Krem Mawiong, which was 15m, only J'Rat descended the pitch, the other watched the coal pillar belay point!  J'Rat found another pitch, which he didn't descend as it was breakfast time, and they were stopping the coal-miners from working. The first pitch was rigged from a pillar of coal in the mine and they couldn't get their trucks past the rope! The mine has about 50m of 1m high passage, mined only by using picks and chisels and candles for light.

We had been told about a cave just behind the timber yard.  Just behind the timber yard turned out to be about 2km behind the timber yard. The cave was called Krem Urn Rymphoh. Andy, Raphael, Spirit and Wodin went down the two pitches, to pools and then low wet passage, which then got too tight to follow.

We walked back to the tea shop and then split into 2 teams; one went photographing in Lake Entrance and one went walking to check out surface areas near to where the end of Krem Urn Lawan should be.  On the way back we were shown 4 entrances, all called Krem Urn Lawan, and all unknowns to cavers, at this stage.  One choked, and the other three had pitches just inside the entrances.

Monday 3rd March

Raphael, Anand, Kaiman and George went on a photography trip into Krem Urn Khang.  We were leaving Lumshnong with Krem Kot Sati/Krem Urn Lawan as the longest and deepest in the Indian sub-continent at 18.67km long and 200m deep, thus establishing India as a worthwhile caving area in comparison to the rest of Southeast Asia.

We packed our kit up and waited for the jeep to pick us up.  Eventually we left Lumshnong for residency in the circuit house in Jowai.

Tuesday 4th March

Early start and it's off to Krem Lashing at Pdengshakap.  We had two main leads in the cave, so we split into two teams and went surveying. Estelle, Daniel, Brian, Donbok, Raphael and Anand went to the area which Daniel, Simon and Chris had left in 1995; it went for about 160m and ended in a boulder choke.

Tony, J'Rat, Andy and Kaiman fared better, they went through the boulder choke which was where we had stopped in 1995, and found a streamway and more big passage.  They surveyed until the water got chest deep and time was running on anyway.  We had our last tin of Spam, on puris; German Spam tastes far better than the stuff you get in the UK.  The local shower, a split water pipe, was much appreciated; must bring the soap tomorrow.

Wednesday 5th March

Estelle, J'Rat, Tony, Daniel, Anand and Raphael went back into Krem Lashing and continued surveying. The main passage ended in a big boulder choke, so we went back and surveyed the inlet and outlet passages. Centipede passage was named after the nasty looking 20cm purple centipede in the start of it.  One of the outlet passages was very deep water, but we were all right with our buoyancy devices!  Total surveyed was 500m.  We clambered up the entrance 'mountains' and came out and washed of and went to Charles Slong's place for dinner. (the ex-head man who was very helpful in 1995.)

The rest of the team had been prospecting all day and had not found much.  Our total cave to date = 19km

Thursday 6th March

Back to Shillong, to bad news, that Brian's 16 year old nephew had had a cardiac arrest and died after a swimming accident.  Went to Brian's for tea and to say farewell to the rest.  Raphael gave us a video of us caving, which he'd taken during the last 2 weeks.  Andy disappeared with his young lady friend.

Friday 7th March

Taxi to Guwahati airport (minus Andy - he's catching us up at the airport tomorrow) we got our flight and into Calcutta.  We opted for staying at the Fairlawn Hotel, which was owned by a very English, old couple called Mr and Mrs Smith, and had not had any major changes since before the Raj lost India to independence.  The rooms were very quaint with all the English luxuries; real beds and a bath went down a treat.

Saturday 8th March

Went to India Museum and then to the Hogg market, where J'Rat had a beard trim, in which he lost most of the hair on his head and also got a massage.  Went to airport and met up with Andy, and waited for our flight. Midnight, four hours after we were due to leave, we were told the Air India plane wasn't going to turn up, and were ushered off to the Airport Hotel.

Sunday 9th March/Monday 10th March

We endured 2 days of indecision from Air India, stuck in the hotel, apart from a brief trip into the city, to give the Air India office some grief.  Finally, on the Monday night we were taken to the airport and put on another Air India flight.  This one went smoothly and we actually arrived in the UK 5mins early; but 52 hours late!

Tuesday 11th March

Back home and back to reality!

Daniel, Brian and Lindsay (Brian's son) have since spent a further 3 weeks in the Cherrapunjee area and the Douki area where he surveyed 2 more significant caves.  They surveyed 2.75km in Krem Lymput, near Douki, which apparently has China Caves sized passages.  Krem Lawkhlieng, 6km North of Cherrapunjee yielded another 2km of passage. The total for the February/March 1997 expedition totalled 25km, with 14 new caves surveyed and extensions in 2 existing systems (taking Krem Kot Sati/Krem Urn Lawan system as one cave now).

This makes the total caves explored in Meghalaya to 85 and the total length of mapped passage to 69.8km, and as all the people who have visited this wonderful part of India will vouch, there is plenty left to do.

A return trip is planned for early 1998.



Unfinished Business in Daren Cilau

by Gonzo

By the mid 90's the Rock Steady Crew had been pushing the far reaches of Daren Cilau for nearly a decade. Underground camps had been going on for most of this time on a bimonthly basis with a nucleus of diggers remaining underground for several days at a time.

The Crew's primary objective (apart from having riotous subterranean orgies, gang raping local resident's sheep***, flashing at passing hill walkers and crapping through letterboxes!) had always been to extend the system rather than to connect with other known caves in the area.  The group had considerable success in this, with Spaderunner and Dweebland arguably the most remote dry locations in British Caving.  However, with most of the sites available at the end of the cave having been dug to a reasonable conclusion, the number of regular diggers dwindled as did the frequency of the camps.  Activities beneath Llangattock were further hit with the discovery of Ogof Draenen taking more people away.

There were still, however, a number of enticing blank areas on the survey with associated sites in Daren that could be hit quite hard on one day trips from the surface.  Of most interest to me was the triangle between Big Chamber Nowhere near the Entrance, The Cliffs of Dover and Eglwys Faen. This area could also take in the water sinking at Llangattock Swallet and open up the system in a variety of levels.

I decided to have a go and started off with a day’s solo digging in the region of Eglwys Passage (just beyond Big Chamber).  Although I only found a few metres of tight crawling I was encouraged by the lack of attention that these sites had received.

A number of digs ensued in the Big Chamber area, sometimes solo, sometimes with the welcome company of Tony Boycott, Henry Bennett and Charles Bailey.  Most sites soon choked, but on one occasion, on our third visit to a site, Charles broke through a loose choke with Henry and I hot on his heels to a chamber with passages going off in all directions.  A celebratory war dance by myself was suddenly halted by the realisation that we had actually rediscovered Man in the Roof!

Mutiny ensued - back to the solo digs.  I investigated the inlets on the right hand side of Approach Passage (leading up to the 65 ft. ladder) but never got more than 50 ft. before coming up against a boulder choke on a fault line.  Tony Boycott and I then looked at the last inlet, just beyond the ladder.  There were one or two slight clues that this could be a better site - the howling draught, the booming echo, the fact that it is 60 ft. high and heading into no mans land.  Tony gave the formidable choke a good talking to (hmm….interesting) and on the next visit Charles and I were able to wriggle in to a few body lengths of brown trousered, brain off passage.

This really is a promising site but it requires a lot of scaffolding to make it safe.  (Bars over 4'6" don't fit through the entrance crawl, I've tried it).  Negotiations are currently under way with gullible aquatic colleagues to bring the bars in through the sump.

Up the ladder to our next site where with Charles, Henry, Estelle Sandford and friends * we gained 40 ft. of passage, the last 10 ft. of which was an amusing game requiring a crowbar tied on a rope, hands that don't shake too much, a rectal cork and blind faith, - "if I die I'll come back and haunt you Gonzo you bastard."

Over the last year Henry, Charles and I made 60 ft. of progress** in a passage by the rope traverse, despite the unwelcome overtures of a particularly nasty piece of cave fauna known as the Daren Tool Thief.  This specimen delights in squirreling away crowbars, chisels and trowels that don't belong to him, trashing supplies of drink left in situ and scrawling 'bollocks' on the wall above the dig.  It has raided our supplies at least 2 times and will get a nasty surprise if it tries again.

A few months ago, Henry and I gained about 100 ft. of passage after a short dig in Eglwys passage.  More recently, Henry, Tony and I broke into a tight rift opposite the rope climb in White Passage where a trapped Henry did a convincing impersonation of the 3 legged Manx motif in a frantic attempt to extricate himself from a tight squeeze.   So there you have it.

After years of digging we have got absolutely nowhere.  The mountain is still ahead on points and we continue to dig optimistically, in the hope of finding that elusive lucky breakthrough that will open the system up. In the meantime I'm hoping for a major advance in skeletal surgery as, after 100 trips through the entrance crawl I've got a left hip bone you could use to iron shirt collars!

* All names have been changed to protect the innocent.

** Survey details are a bit vague because we couldn't be bothered to do any.

*** The author would like to point out that with regard to the sheep it was just kissing, and no tongues at that.


Five Buddles Sink -- A Lost Cave Rediscovered -Part 1

"Dedicated to the Old man*"


In BB 481 the writer outlined plans to excavate the shallow, partly walled depression adjacent to Wheel Pit, Chewton Minery (ST 5481 5138).  The possibility of this site being Thomas Bushell's "lost swallow" (see appendix 1) was put forward as was the theory that the name Wheel Pit originally applied to this intermittent swallet and not that named by Willy Stanton for Complete Caves of Mendip.  The following article sums up the digging progress to date, the breakthrough into the Old Men’s cave/drainage level and documentary research which helps support the latter theory.  It is intended to be updated and published as a separate Caving Report when the dig reaches a conclusion.

A Brief History.

Lead has probably been worked in the Stock Hill area (Chewton Minery) since pre-Roman times but the main period of exploitation was during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Between 1657 and 1674 the renowned mining engineer Thomas Bushell attempted to drain the flooded Row (Rough) Pits and Small Pits - now well hidden in the forest - by means of an adit level driven from the "Concaves of a natural swallow twenty fathom (120ft) deep".  This scheme apparently failed due to the antagonism and vandalism of other miners.

The area was still being worked in 1709 when mining, buddling and smelting were in progress and a map published in 1782 has the name Wheel Pitts prominently marked (see below).

Between 1859 and 1910 the Minery was the scene of buddling, smelting and occasional investigative mining by a confusing series of small companies - notably Edward H. Barwell and the Mendip Hills Mining Co. Cornish miners and techniques were used and most of the visible remains date from this period.  The lead was smelted at the Waldegrave Works just down the track towards the rival St. Cuthbert's Works in the adjacent Priddy Minery.

In 1860 a case came up for trial between the two Mineries concerning water rights and a map probably dating from this event clearly shows the buddIes, labelling them "washing works" and shows the "swallet hole" at their NE end. There are indications that these buddIes were out of use by the mid 1870s.

c.1930-1945 saw the filling in of the shaft in the edge of the (now) forest opposite the sink entrance.

Old batteries and rubbish were tipped into the wheelpit (sink) entrance, probably in the 1950s.

In 1996 the B.E.C. arrived to dig it all out again!

* Old Man - A metalliferous mining term for previous generations of miners and their workings in Derbyshire:- "T' owd Man"

The Dig:

Permission to excavate was obtained from Nigel Pooley, estate manager of Chewton Farms, on 29th July 1996 and with the added blessing of the tenants, Somerset Trust, work commenced the same day with the fencing off of the depression and proposed spoil dumping area.  Digging started on 25th August with a six man team spending three hours clearing spoil, rocks, lead slag, bricks and rubbish to reveal a parallel mortared wall 6 feet SE of that visible at surface.  The following day a large team reached a depth of some 6 feet to uncover two lines of sloping red bricks laid on top of rotten wooden beams.  Four segments of a broken, bevelled iron gear wheel and a possible short segment of iron water wheel rim were recovered along with other unidentifiable objects.  Much of the spoil was transported to Waldegrave Pond for use by Somerset Trust workers in repairing the dam.


MHMC Share certificate signed by Edward H. Barwell. 

Davey Lennard at the Sink in February 1995. All the ponded flood-water; sinking at his feet. Wheel Pit is to the left of the Landrover, Waldergrave Swallet is behind the central group of trees and Snake Pit Hole is to the front to the right of the Landrover.

Photo A. Jarratt

The stone-lined pit was soon revealed to be 6 feet 6 inches wide by 13 feet long and by the end of the month a water washed sink was being excavated at the N.E. (roadside) end through a filling of cans, bottles and the remains of 1950's accumulator batteries - as used at that time by legendary cave digger Hywel Murrell at the nearby Miner's Arms!  The excellent weather and impossibility of actually getting underground ensured a continuous supply of keen dig gets and hordes of visitors.  Detailed logs were kept of the work as was a regular photographic record.

By the 1st September we had uncovered a culvert running from the SW wall halfway across the pit and capped by the beams and bricks found earlier.  This appears to have been roughly constructed on top of many feet of lead tailings filling the SW half of the pit.  Unfortunately as depth was rapidly gained the unstable nature of the N.E. wall became frighteningly apparent and on 6th September £80.00 worth of railway sleepers were purchased and installed as shoring.  More unidentifiable artefacts were exhumed as we progressed downwards and a steady draught began to flow from the hole under the unstable N.E. wall.  On 12th September a flat, consolidated rubble floor was reached below this wall at a depth of 18 feet below the N corner of the pit.  This was the base of a timber-lined and floored tailings pit some 6 feet square occupying half the area of what we now assumed to have once been a wheelpit.  In one corner a 6" square block of wood may have been the sawn off base of an upright support beam and a 26 1/2" long forked iron rod found nearby was possibly used as a handle to raise a sluice gate to flush water from the tailings pit into the cave beyond.  The similarities to the tailings pit found in the entrance of Blackmoor (Upper) Blood Swallet, Charterhouse (Stanton 1976) were noticeable - hardly surprising as they were probably constructed by the same "slaggers", the Mendip (Hills) Mining Co. Ltd. around 1860.  This firm also used Waterwheel Swallet as a tailings disposal site (Stanton 1987).

Digging and shoring continued throughout September and at a depth of 18 feet an apparently collapsed "level" was opened up leading from the tailings pit under the horrific N.E. wall.  By the end of the month construction of a cemented stone shaft had begun within the confines of the wheelpit walls and across the end of the culvert.  Luckily bedrock had been uncovered on both sides of the pit to which the shaft was keyed.  A motley assortment of frogs, toads, newts and lizards were regularly liberated from the bottom.

October and November saw the team gradually building up the shaft walls and removing the shoring. Cement and concrete were mixed at the Belfry and transported to the site in large plastic buckets donated by the Wessex Cave Club.  Many people, either knowingly or otherwise, donated sand and cement to the cause and their generosity is hereby acknowledged.  In the background research was being carried out at Taunton Records Office and elsewhere by the "white collar workers" of the team.

By December the shaft was almost complete, the road hadn't collapsed and all the excavated rock had been re-installed.  The closest of the five buddle pits had been cleared out to reveal a central pit and a cast iron wall block with the word FLOORLINE in attractive raised lettering - this item later causing some embarrassment to a passing tourist who was enthusiastically explaining to his friends that the circular stone pit was a Romano-British hut circle when it was gleefully pointed out to him!

With the onset of wet weather a small stream was found to bubble up from the base of the shaft and flow on into the dangerous boulder choke behind the N.E. wall.  The "level" was built up and cemented for some 15 feet into this choke.

At last we were underground and we celebrated this by pulling out a couple of the Old Men’s iron bars protruding from the choke.  As tons of rock rained down we realised why they had been put there in the first place! Work then concentrated on concreting up loose rock in the roof of the level and digging in the floor where a vertical step down appeared to be the edge of a second tailings pit - as was found in Blackmoor Flood Swallet.

The SW end of the wheelpit was excavated for several feet below culvert level through pure tailings (on which the culvert rested) but no obvious inlet was found so it was back-filled. The culvert was partially reconstructed, slabbed over and covered with some 6 feet of spoil. It remains accessible from the entrance shaft.

Throughout the winter the solid wall on the left hand side of the level was followed in an attempt to get around the choke. Various collapses had by now "crowned" through to the surface leaving a large crater within 10 feet of the road edge and so the writer deemed it advisable to contact the County Council and own up. Luckily they were not at all perturbed and just asked to be kept informed of any likely problems.  Wise diggers, though, drove on the other side of the road and parked well away from the site.  The collapse was later infilled and grassed over following grouting of the choke, a handy supply of material being available from building operations underway in the writer's backyard!  Underground, a buried wooden wall, held in place by a large horizontal timber, was partially removed and replaced with concrete facing as we steadily worked our way around the left side of the choke.  A smoke bomb was fired at the choke and Snake Pit Hole was checked for a possible connection.  There was none and the smoke had been rapidly sucked into the choke, never to be seen again.

During January hundreds more bucket loads of tailings were hauled up to the surface and the continuously collapsing choke was probed further - not without a couple of narrow shaves when the digger became partially entombed in rock and earth!


Over £80 worth of timber was installed so stop the collapse of the NE wall. 

Photo: Paul Stillman 

The winter weather and Meghalaya expedition then curtailed our activities and in early May a 5 inch deep stream was observed flowing from the culvert into the shaft!  There was no significant backing up.

On 4th April a hinged steel tube lid (ex R.A.F.) was installed on the shaft top and much work was done on concreting and tidying up the entrance area throughout the month. A possible collapsed mineshaft just behind the fence on the opposite side of the road was prodded with an iron bar but was not thought to be particularly inspiring.

Sporadic digging and shoring trips occurred over the next month or so and on 7th June a party of visitors was escorted around the site following a brief talk by the writer at the B.C.R.A. regional meeting.  One of those present was dowser John Wilcock who, after a perambulation with his bent welding rods, declared that a breakthrough should be imminent. (See appendix 2).

The Breakthrough:

Two days later he was proved correct when, after a couple of hours work at the choke the writer was able to gingerly creep through, below lots of "hanging death", into some 50 feet of dry stream passage ending in a choke and adjacent, partly mud-filled, crawl.  The remains of two of the Old Men’s shot holes (8" x 5/8" and 12" x 1 1/2") pointing back towards the wheelpit showed that the passage had been enlarged to walking size - probably from a second entrance.  Thankfully the ceiling was relatively solid throughout as the cave passes directly under the road at a shallow depth.  Old timbers littered the floor and in places protruded from the dolomitic conglomerate walls.  Occasional wooden wedges in the roof were presumably placed there about 130 years ago to hold up loose sections.  They now have the consistency of a wet Cadbury's Flake and should be left severely alone!

Later that day the writer returned with Tony Boycott and Quackers Duck and digging commenced in the crawl through thick, soft, grey and no doubt highly toxic tailings mud. Conditions started as squalid then deteriorated as the B.E.C.'s "reverse Midas Touch" curse struck again (everything we dig turns to shit).

On 11th June Trevor Hughes, the writer, Jeremy Dixon-Wright and Pete Hellier continued work here, the blancmange-like spoil being dumped in the main passage.  The sticky mud and confined nature of the dig ensured that this was exhausting work but eventually Jeremy forced himself around a comer for 15 feet or so to report that the passage went downwards and more digging was necessary. Quackers photographed the shotholes and timbers and the breakthrough choke was stabilised with "Ker- Plunk" scaffold shoring!

A solo dig by the writer on 13th reached some 6 feet depth at the end to a small open passage which needed more clearing to enter fully, two teams almost accomplishing this on 15th when the passage was found to contain a pool or sump on the right hand side. More work was done here on 17th by Vince Simmonds and Jeremy while the writer used the Grunterphone transmitter for a radio location fix of the terminal choke by Brian Prewer who was in the edge of Stock Hill Forest above.  The final location point was 4 feet NW of the possible collapsed mineshaft across the road from the entrance thus supporting our theory of a second entrance and adding weight to the possibility that this shaft could be Thomas Bushell's twentieth trial shaft - sunk to discover the swallet from which his adit would be driven (Gough 1930).  Gunpowder having supposedly been first used on Mendip around 1683 (Gough 1930) the shothole at the base of this shaft is obviously of a later date when widening of the original shaft, if that is what it is, would have been deemed necessary.

The writer, Trev Hughes and Pete Hellier dug and hauled spoil again the following day, having little success in the lower passage where the pool apparently sumped and three other possible ways on were thoroughly choked with tons of incredibly gooey lead tailings and old timbers.  At the base of the choked shaft Pete spotted a "pig's tail" like iron hook sticking out of the mud.  Careful excavation revealed it to be one of the haulage hooks of a 16" x 14" x 10" deep wooden skip or sledge lying upside-down on a flat wooden board.  It was in superb condition and after a decision was taken that an in-situ photograph was unnecessary it was very carefully exhumed and removed to the surface for cleaning in Waldegrave Pond.  It was apparently dragged on two wooden runners and judging from its condition has seen little heavy usage. Its actual purpose is not yet known but it may have been used to clear tailings from the low natural passage, remove broken rock from the main passage enlarging operations or, indeed, as a digging skip for dragging spoil from the sumped area - exactly what is now happening with the use of a similar size polythene object!

Vince and Jeremy continued working the lower passage but the wet conditions of June and early July ensured that the place was temporarily left alone.  The writer concentrated on the main choke above.  A series of short digging sessions - each lasting until major collapse threatened when the place was left to "dig itself.  The solid RH wall partly arched over to the left as half of a phreatic tube meeting loose boulders and clay.  The choke directly above was gradually brought down and the surface collapse in the edge of the forest also dug out for some 4 feet depth without revealing solid rock or miner’s ginging (stone shaft lining). Throughout July, August and September work continued at the choke - both below ground and on the surface.  Bags of mud were painfully dragged out of the cave only to be carried across the road and stacked ready for dumping back down the shaft as infill.  Several large boulders were "popped" to enable them to be removed and a selection of old Bovril jars, broken Codd bottles, Brasso tins and other rubbish was despatched to the surface.  Much of the broken rock was temporarily stacked underground and should not be confused with miner’s walling.

Following heavy rain the stream began flowing at the base of the entrance shaft on 2nd September, creating a 15ft long pool before the breakthrough point.  The stream was next seen some 20ft from the end choke where it then poured into the lower (choked) passage without backing up to the high level.

From 5th September work progressed on the surface excavations of the shaft.  Many gallons of water were poured in to loosen up the fill and digging eventually resulted in revealing the solid rock walls of a typical Cornish 7ft diameter shaft (Stanton & Clarke 1984).  RSJs were wedged across some 6ft down and a section of concrete pipe installed on these.  Concreting and back-filling were rapidly done and the team became International with the assistance of cavers from U.S.A, Australia, Vietnam, Mexico and Germany. On 17th September Quackers and Rich finished off the shaft top and emplaced an official looking steel inspection cover.  A week later serious digging in the shaft began with the spoil being distributed around the forest in the manner of a Colditz escape project!  The roadside wall was rebuilt with rocks from the dig - many of these having probably been part of this all in the past.

Over the next two months the shaft was gradually emptied of it's infill of rock, clay and rubbish. Avid diggers kept a lookout for "stone" ginger beer bottles and other "collector's items." An, unfortunately broken (but later repaired) gallon jar from a Wolverhampton "botanical" brewery bore the imprinted date 1928 proving that the filling of the shaft has occurred since then.  This has been confirmed after research by Robin Gray on the dates of many of the glass bottles found suggests that infilling took place between the early 30s and mid 40s.  Other rubbish taken out and distributed around the wheelie-bins of Priddy included old tyres, milk churns, hundreds of assorted bottles and various bits of rusted metalwork.  Following the removal of many tons of spoil and the demolition of the occasional bigger lump, the shaft reached a depth of over 20ft and by the beginning of November the open passage below could be seen through a hole in the floor.  Official permission to dig was requested from the Forestry Commission (apparently now Forest Enterprise) at the request of the local Forester.

On 19th November, a voice connection was established to the cave passage below and five days later a strongly draughting hole was opened at the shaft bottom, giving a view of the digging tools in the active streamway below.  A rigid steel ladder, removed from White Pit, is being installed in the shaft and a surface/underground survey will soon be undertaken for the next BB.

On 1st December, the mineshaft was physically connected to the Five BuddIes Sink stream passage. This was strongly flowing with no sign of backing up.

Work continues here to completely clear the shaft in the hope that there is a continuation beyond. If not then we will still be able to dig the lower natural passage.  There is no evidence yet of Bushell's adit but the mined passages discovered so far are of historical interest and leave us with many questions to be answered. The writer would be grateful for any additional information on this site, criticism and suggestions.

Adrian Hole and Guy Cummings working below the SW wall in August 1996.  The original exposed stonework is above Guys back and the starting lever of the dig can be seen by grass level on the left.

Photo: A, Jarratt

Andy Tyler inspects a broken bevelled gear while Martin Grass (left) holds what may be a segment of waterwheel rim.  These items we found just above the level of the brick lined culvert – just visible in the centre of the photo.

Photo: A. Jarratt.

Looking down the exposed wheelpit, September 1996, showing the culvert terminating halfway down. The draughting way on under the unstable NE wall can be seen on the RH side

Photo: A. Jarratt.

Timber showing in place to hold up the NE wall.  In flood the stream overflows from the RH side and also bubbles up from the pit bottom. A workman polishes the overseer’s sandals!

Photo: A. Digger

Some of the artefacts recovered from the site including bevelled gear wheels, water pipe and flow adjusted (centre) nails, pieces of iron gratings, bricks and forked lifting handle.

Photo:  A. Jarratt

The completed entrance shaft showing the tailings pit floor.  The culvert is on the RH side (where the plank is resting).  The entrance to the level and cave is on the LH side at the bottom.

Photo: A. Jarratt

Harry Savory’s photo labelled:

“Wheel Pit Swallet Priddy Mines Aug (1912)”

The Name.

Five Buddles Sink was named as such by Willie Stanton in the early seventies.  He also recorded the large swallet just to the north as Wheel Pit on the advice of an older MNRC caver, Clement Richardson (Barrington & Stanton 1977 and Witcombe 1992).  On the Day and Masters Map of 1782 the annotation "Wheel Pitts" is shown on the other side of the road but this may be due to the mapmaker’s use of available space.  It may also have, by this time, developed from a descriptive to an area name.  The main evidence for the application of the name to our project site comes from the diaries of Harry Savory (Savory J. 1989). On the 25th August 1912 he " .... photographed Wheel Pit and Priddy mines swallets, the latter was encroaching on the road badly.  The third swallet in this group, 'the little swallet under pines', was choked by another small fall of earth with little water running away.  "The latter is the present Waldegrave Swallet."

"On 27th (August 1912) they cycled to Wheelpit Swallet,..."

"30 August 1916." "Down on the road, the Wheelpit Swallet was dry, the big one running a little but was dry a week ago."

"3 August 1921." "Then on to the minery round the ponds to the Wheel Pit and Road Swallets."

Thanks to Martin Torbett the original glass lantern slides have been tracked down in Wells Museum and copy negatives have also been made during conservation work by Chris Howes. The photograph taken on 25/8/12 shows a site "encroaching on the road badly" - Priddy Mines Swallet, the current Wheel Pit.  It is the "big one" of the three "in this group" and could also be described as the "Road Swallet."  It is therefore proposed that the site now called Five BuddIes Sink is the original Wheel Pit or Wheelpit as indicated by the mortared stone pit and associated artefacts recently excavated.  The slide actually labelled as Wheel Pit Swallet, Priddy Mines shows a healthy stream pouring over rocks but does not reveal enough of the swallet to make it identifiable as Five BuddIes.

The information on pp 90-91 of Rich Witcombe's "Who Was Aveline Anyway?" is incorrect in that apart from the name being applied to the wrong site the waterwheel pit was, in fact, associated with Chewton, not St. Cuthbert's (actually Priddy) Minery.

I suggest also that the wheelpit contained a broad bladed waterwheel used to operate a set of bellows in an adjacent slag house (smelter) around the mid 1700’s.  It was later adapted by the M(H)MC as a tailings pit for their line of buddIes.  This will only be proved by archaeological investigations.

The "Road Swallet" (now Wheel Pit) has a tunnel at the bottom with a tramway rail roof. This would appear to have been constructed during the repair of the roadside collapse - post 1912 - using material available locally.

The Team: Diggers, Researchers, Photographers, Advisors, etc

"Quackers" Duck, Rich Blake, Tony Jarratt, Jake Johnson, Adrian Hole, Guy Munnings, Jon Attwood, Mark Curry, Nick Mitchell, Martin Grass, Kate Lawrence, Andy Tyler, Estelle Sandford, Trevor Hughes, Mike Willett, Paul Brock, Robin Gray, Ben Ogbourne, Jeremy Dixon-Wright, Chas Wethered, Pete Hellier, Ivan Sandford, Dominic Sealy, Emily Davis-Mobley, Brian Prewer, Martin, Ed and Jim Torbett, Davey Leonard, Vince Simmonds, Pete Bolt, Jeremy and Nick Gilson, Stuart McManus, Karl Friedrich, Simon Brooks, Roz Bateman, Phil Collet, Andy Pringle, Paul Craggs, Andy Nunn, Alex Gee, Bob Smith, Roger Haskett, James Calloway, Steve Milner, Dr. Vu Van Phai, Nick Hawkes, John Williams, Jake Baynes, Jim Smart, Dave Breeze, Roger Dors, Mike and Rachel Thompson, Chris Howes, Dave Walker and Wells Museum Staff, Dave Irwin, John and Jenny Cornwell, Ray Mansfield, Roger Stenner, Maurice Hewins, Jeff Price, Dave Morrison and Dave Speed of the Wessex Cave Club (Building Materials Dept.), Nigel Pooley, John Boyd and Somerset Trust officers, Sally Allison, Frank Jones, John Wilcock, Roger Stenner, Willie Stanton, Dave Irwin, Anne Oldham and Dave "anyone for spoof?" Bennett - provider of continuous advice and bailer twine.


On Thomas Bushell and attempts to unwater Row Pitts, Mendip. Mercurius Publicus, 22,340-341 (May 1662). Anon.

Briftol May 26.

We exceedingly rejoyce to hear the long lookt for news that his Majefty hath given the Royal Affent to the Bill confirming Agreements between Tho. Bufhel Efquire and the Miners of Row-pits in the County of Somerfet for recovering thofe drowned and deferted works. It feems that Act paft among other Acts of Parliament the 19 of this inftant May, by virtue of which fupreme Authority all men have a firme foundation to proceed on, fo as we doubt not by God's bleffing to make it manifeft to the world, that thefe Mendippe Works will be what the People themfelves ufually ftiled them, the Englifh Indies for Lead Ore; and we defrre that the honour of this great work may redound to God's glory, and the Lord Chancellor Bacon's Philofophicall Theory in Minerall difcoveries, which (tis confeft) did light the frrft candle to thefe and all other Mines of like nature.  Thofe who faid Mr. Bufhel was poor in purfe, doe now begin to perceive why he refufed all Partnerfhip in that affair, being confident from the practick of his own experience to repair by this the ruine of his fortunes fufteined in thefe laft broken times, and prove a fufficient fupply to perfect his enterprize of difcoveries in foraign Parts; which we can confIdently fay, although this Work of Row pits was generally reputed to have been the overthrow of forty rich Families that went before him in the same enterprife, and were efteemed able Artifts in Mineralls.  This we doubt not Mr. Bushel will accomplifh, fInce we never knew him to undertake any defigne, but what was accounted defperate in the judgement of others, and yet at the end reache his own defrres by the fame means he now proceeds in this, which none will deny when they remember the erecting thofe Groves and Grottoes at Enftone in Oxfordfhire, all in one year, to entertain the late King and Queen the next, and that as perfectly as if they had been planted 20 years before: His cutting through five Mountains in Cardiganfhire at the loweft Level, to recover rich Minerals out of the deferted Works, which induced his late Majesty, as a reward for that action to grant him a Mint to coyn the filver he had already got, and fhould get hereafter:  His carrying aire through the Mountains by pipes and bellows without the vast charge of frnking Shafts; His faving wood by melthe lead Ore with turffe and fea (coal charko?); His c10athing the Kings Army at Oxford with the fame Minerals procede and bringing the faid Mint to ferve his Majefties prefent occafIons in that Royall Garrifon, when his other Mint in the Tower of London was denied him, with divers other fervices, all which we have feen attefted under his late Majeftie's hand and feal. Thefe particulars are well known to the Miners and others who have read Mr. Bushels Rememberance to his now Majefty; fo as his own experience in Minerall affairs forraign and domeftick ought to be cherift by all good Subjects, as it hath already been by his Majefty and both Houfes of Parliament, efpecially fince the Honor and Staple Trade of this Nation doth fo much confift in profecuting the recovery of thefe Works, as well for a Precedent to the future, as for the prefent publick good.


Hypothetical Drainage Routes in the Priddy Area by John Wilcock.

Based on fifteen years of dowsing observations the appended map shows parts of the following drainage systems:

  1. Windsor Hill / Little Crapnell / Thrupe Lane / Slab House (two routes via Wells Hill Bottom Farm, and via Haydon) to St. Andrew's Well, Wells.
  2. Hillgrove Swallet (possibly also Windsor Hill / Little Crapnell / Thrupe Lane / Slab House via Wells Hill Bottom Farm) and Rookery Farm Swallet via Cuckoo Cleeves and Stockhill Fault to the Waldegrave area.
  3. Waldegrave area via St. Cuthbert's to Wookey Hole, and via Priddy Fault to Rodney Stoke.
  4. Swildon's Hole, Eastwater Cavern and St. Cuthbert's feeders to Wookey Hole.
  5. Sherborne spring catchment.
  6. Tor Hole Swallet, Wigmore Swallet / Attborough Swallet, and Greendown Farm via All Eights Mine to the region of Bowery Comer Swallet then near Lodmore Hole to Velvet Bottom and Cheddar.

John believes that the dowsing phenomenon is due to some as yet unexplained physical field (perhaps electromagnetic or electric in nature) which is detected by the human body, affecting the central nervous system and causing twitches in the arm muscles, which in turn are mechanically amplified by whatever rods are in use.  (He uses bent wire from dry-cleaning hangers, certainly a cheap method).  The thick black lines on the diagram are the mapped dowsing reactions.  The width of these reactions may be related to depth, to the strength of the field, or to the actual width of bedding planes, for example.  He believes that faults, flowing water in caves, and large dry caves (but not small dry caves) are all detected.

AH        Alfie's Hole
AEM     All Eights Mine
AS        Attborough Swallet
BRS     Barrow Rake Swallet
BL        Bishop's Lot
BCS     Bowery Comer Swallet
CFS      Castle Farm Swallets
CS        Cross Swallet
CC        Cuckoo Cleeves
DC        Dallimore's Cave
EC        Eastwater Cavern
EAC     Eighteen Acres Cave
FF        Fairman's Folly
FBS      Five BuddIes Sink
FP        Flower Pot
FP        Frog Pot
HR        Hallowe'en Rift
HS        Hillgrove Swallet
HLH      His Lordship's Hole
HOS     Hollowfield Swallet
HH        Hunter's Hole
HYH     Hymac Hole
LD        Limekiln Dig
LH        Lodmore Hole
NBS     Nine Barrows Swallet
NS        Northill Swallet
OR       Orchid Rift
OCM     Ores Close Mine
PS        Plantation Swallet
PB        Priddy Borehole
PGS     Priddy Green Sink
RF        Rookery Farm Swallet
St.CS   St Cuthbert's Swallet
SAH     Sandpit Hole
SLPH    Sludge Pit Hole
SPH     Snake Pit Hole
SHMC   Stock Hill Mine Cave
SH        Swildons Hole
TH        Tankard Hole
THS      Tor Hole Swallet
TTC      Twin Tittie's Cave
US        Unnamed Sinks
WGS    Waldegrave Swallet
WGS    Welsh's Green Swallet
WP       White Pit
WS       Wigmore Swallet
WOH    Wookey Hole



The methods of the Mendip Mining Company included the re-working of the old black slag, of which great heaps remained, and which, it is said, had already been smelted twice over, and the treating of metalliferous earth, especially from the Town Field. In the latter process this earth was thrown into large circular pits, lined with masonry, and varying from about twenty to about thirty feet in diameter, many of which are still to be seen. In each of these, which were supplied with water which in some cases was brought a long distance by means of a wooden aqueduct, there was a sort of vertical paddle-wheel turned by a horse walking round and round on the grass at the edge of the pit.  The earth and water being thus thoroughly stirred up, the heavier and more metalliferous particles sank, while the lighter and less valuable portions were swept away with the overflow, which disappeared down a swallet-hole, coming out again at the lower end of Cheddar Gorge.  This "mindry-water," as it was called, although not holding enough lead to be thought worth recovering, contained quite sufficient to poison the fish in the streams below, which it did all the time that the works were in operation.

When one of these slime-pits was full of solid matter, the wheel was stopped and the water shut off. The contents of the pit, after having been left for a time to get rid of some of the moisture, were dug out and carted to the blast-furnaces, whose fan was worked by the driving wheel of an old locomotive engine.  The resulting lead was run into moulds and cast into pigs, while the smoke from the furnaces, heavy with lead vapour, was conducted through stone galleries, on whose roof and sides it condensed in a solid and stone-like and very heavy deposit, which was chipped off from time to time and re-smelted.

F.A. Knight - The Heart of Mendip. 1915.  (The above refers to the operations at Charterhouse by the same company, who used similar methods at Chewton Minery).

APPENDIX 4A (by Robin Gray)

Further thoughts on the Five Buddies Mineshaft

Diggers at the filled in mineshaft excavations, across the road from the original Five BuddIes shaft have unearthed numerous artefacts.  These are important as they can be used to pinpoint when the top of the shaft was filled.  Making life difficult for all concerned were a large number of rusty and tangled barrel hoops.  It has been suggested by some that the barrels were dumped into the shaft in order to fill it and thus make it safe, the wood having long since rotted down. However this can be disputed since there is no evidence of rotten wood associated with the hoops.  Much other rusted iron has also come to the surface. This gives little clue as to age, since iron reaches a stage in decomposition which remains fairly static for many years.  Dump diggers will confirm that old iron artefacts from tips of the 1870's are very much like those from dumps of the 1930's!  It is difficult without much effort to say what most of this iron was. However, a few metal items have come to light which are worth a mention.

The lower half of a Spelter baby wearing a nappy was unearthed.  These baby boxes date from Edwardian times and it is probable that it was thrown away because the top portion had been broken.  A well preserved turf cutter was brought up on Wednesday 29th October and Pete Hellier who found it is conserving it.  This traditional peat cutting tool has been in use long before Victorian times and like the baby cannot be used to date the filling of the shaft since they would only be dumped when no longer of use.  Not so the bottles.  The oldest bottle so far unearthed is a stone "botanical" beer bottle found by J'Rat and dated 1928.  Another old type was the lower half of a Codd bottle.  Codds patent globe stopper bottles were introduced in the 1870's.  The fizz in the mineral water held a glass marble against a rubber ring in the neck of the bottle thus sealing it. These bottles were in use until the 1920's, however, and in some remoter parts of the UK until the 1940's!  Unfortunately then these two finds are also of little help in the dating.  Just take a look around the tool shed.   Many of the jars and tins used to hold oils, nails and screws are 20 or more years old. Thus our 1928 stone "botanical" beer bottle merely proves that it didn't go in before that date.

Of more interest are the many other glass items unearthed. These glass bottles and jars can be viewed as zone finds which will date the filling of the shaft to a period of 10 years. Among the bottles unearthed were numerous meat extracts such as OXO and Bovril.  These jars were sealed with a metal "crimp top" between 1905 and the 1930's when the closure was replaced by an external screw thread moulded into the glass.  Both closures are in evidence together suggesting that the containers date from the changeover period.  Stone jam jars as used by Robertson's for Golden Shred were phased out in the mid 30's to be replaced by half pound and pound glass jars.  Both types are in evidence but with glass jars the more common. Also present are numerous round top (corked) "inks'.  These little bottles also held Carr's Gum and it is astonishing just how much gum seems to have been used during the 1930's and 40's!  The sauce bottles and Camp Coffee have both cork and external thread closures.  Again this changeover took place about 1935.  Little bottles of lemonade powder "Eiffel Tower" brand also show both top types with screw thread bottles pre-dominating. Again change over date mid 30's.  By far the most common find, were potted meats and pastes by such well known firms as "Shiphams".  These "treats" were very much a speciality of the late 30's 40's and early 50's as older members will, I am sure, remember from Sunday School treats. They lost their popularity in the 1950's.  Among these paste jars is one of note, namely a potted meat by Bordin of Paris.  It would seem unlikely that this jar would have been around during the War years as it most likely dates from the 1930's and French imports were supposedly non existent during the Occupation.  If these finds point to a time immediately prior to the outbreak of War it would then seem reasonable to suggest that the upper portion of the hole was filled sometime after 1986 but before 1950. Styles changed markedly in the 1950's with the introduction of plastic tops, aluminium caps and more durable closures which one would expect to find.  A ten year period of between 1935 and 1945 would seem a fair estimate.  At present the bottles and iron have given way to rocks which may well point to earlier attempts to fill in the shaft. Settlement would have caused the shaft to open again by the 1930's thus accounting for the lateness of the top filling.

References: Robert Opie Museum, Gloucester.

The Art of the Label: Robert Opie.

Collecting Old Bottles: Fletcher.

R.E. Gray


Photo: R Gray

APPENDIX 4B - By Tony Jarratt

The three "stone" bottles in my possession are labelled:-

•           Prior and Co. Midsomer Norton. Mineral Waters and Cordials. Absolutely Pure. (Stamped Price, Bristol)

•           Sherwood & Morris Botanical Brewers, Cartright Street, Wolverhampton, 1928. (Stamped Price, Bristol)

•           Allen's Superior Ginger Beer Works, Evercreech. (Stamped Powell, Bristol. An enamelled Car Badge bearing the following:- Supplied by L.A. Lower. Phone 153, Portway Garage, Wells. Lubricate this car with Texaco Golden Motor Oil.

Scores of assorted glass bottles have been left outside the tackle shed at the Belfry for junk devotees to "Pick their Own".


ALLISON C. (ed) 1996 Upper Flood, Exploration to 1996, Mendip Caving Group Occ. Pub. 4. (Tailings pit in entrance, digging notes and photos).

ANON. 1662 (May) Mercurius Publicus 22,340-341. (On Thomas Bushell and attempts to unwater Row Pitts, Mendip. Reprinted here as Appendix 1).

ANON. 1860 Mining Law - Right of Water. Wells Journal 30th June 1860 (The Ennor v. Barwell case).

BARRINGTON N. & STANTON W. I. 1977 Mendip, the Complete Caves and a View of the Hills. Cheddar Valley Press. (Wheel Pit, Waldegrave Swallet and general mining information).

BURT R; WAITE P. & BURNLEY R 1984 Devon and Somerset Mines. University of Exeter. 126, 132-133. (Ownership and re-working details of Chew ton Minery and Waldegrave Works, 1860-1881).

CALVERT J. (date unknown) The Gold Rocks of Britain and Ireland. Goldpanners' Assn. (facsimile reprint). 95-98. (On T.Bushell and the unlikely possibility of his having mined for gold on Mendip).

GOUGH J.W. 1930 (reprintedI967). The Mines of Mendip. 2nd edn. David & Charles, Newton Abbot. (The main reference work on Mendip lead mining and resmelting history. See particularly; Bushell's adit pp 157-166 and Barwell's workings pp 181-205).

GOUGH J.W. 1932. The Superlative Pro dig all, a Life of Thomas Bushell. Bristol.

GOUGH J.W. (ed) 1931. Mendip Mining Laws and Forest Bounds. Somerset Record Society Bristol. vol 45. 68, 75-77, 88-91.(Row Pitts, Small Pitts and Bushell's adit. A reprinting of the original 17th century Minery Court cases).

IRWIN D.J.; STENNER R.D. & TILLY G.D. 1968. The Discovery and Exploration of St. Cuthbert's Swallet. B.E.e. Caving Report 13, Part A 5-8. (General information on the Mineries and Ennor v. Barwell case).

JARRATT  A.R. 1995. In Search of Thomas Bushell's Lost Swallow - a Proposed Dig at Five BuddIes Sink, Chewton Minery. Bristol Exploration Club, Belfry Bulletin 48, 481,49-50 (and also 21-25 -- The Snake Pit Hole Dig - 1969-1995).

JARRATT  A.R. 1996-date MSS Log Vol VII. (Complete diary of the dig).

JARRATT. A.R. et al. 1996-date MSS Log:- Kept at Hunter's Lodge Inn. (Complete diary of the dig).

KENNY. H. 1985. Caving Log 1942-1950. Wessex Cave Club occ. pub. Series 1,3. ("We fIrst visited the Priddy Lead Mines. The Last Swallet was in action and also the neighbouring BuddIe Swallet" . November 24th 1946).

KNIGHT F.A 1915. The Heart of Mendip. Dent. London. 509-510. (Describing the buddling methods of the Mendip Mining Company at the Charterhouse works - see appendix 3).

MOOR C.G. 1928. Tin Mining. Pitman, London. 62-63. (A good description of contemporary Cornish buddling).

MORGANS T. 1901. Notes on the Lead Industry of the Mendip Hills. Trans. Fed. Inst. Min. Vol. XX 478-494. (Re-working of slag, Chewton Warren, etc:- particularly on p. 491; "At one or two points, the company have exposed the underlying Conglomerate and begun testing it for lead-ore by means of shafts. Some lumps of galena have been found.  The ground is hard and requires powder").

PAGE W. 1911 The Victoria History of Somerset, Constable & Co. London. Vol. 2, 375-376. (Bushell's adit).

PALMER M. & NEAVERSON P. 1989. The Comparative Archaeology of Tin and Lead Dressing in Britain During the Nineteenth Century. Peak District Mines Historical Society Ltd. Bulletin 10, 6, 316-353.

PEPPIATT P. 1997 Descent magazine 137 p12.  (Mendip news report and photograph of entrance).

SAVORY J. (ed) 1989 A Man Deep in Mendip. Alan Sutton, Gloucester. 52, 54 108,126.  (References to visits and photographs of Wheel Pit, Five BuddIes Sink and Waldegrave Swallet but under different names;- Priddy Mines Swallet, Wheelpit Swallet, Road Swallet and "the little swallet under pines",- undertaken by Harry Savory, Herbert Balch and others between 1912 and 1921).

STANTON W.I. 1976 The dig and deposits at Blackmoor Flood Swallet. W.C.C. Jnl.14 No.167, 101-106.

STANTON W.I. 1981 Some Mendip Water Traces. W.C.C. Jnl. 16 No.185, 120-127.  (Including positive, negative and doubtful traces at Five BuddIes, Wheel Pit and Waldegrave Swallets).

STANTON W.I. & CLARKE A.G. 1984. Cornish Miners at Charterhouse on Mendip. Proc. Univ. Bristol. Spel. Soc. 17, 1, 29-54. (Re-working slags at Charterhouse by Mendip Hills Mining Co. and the Ennor v. Barwell case).

STANTON W.I. 1987 Waterwheel Swallet, Charterhouse-on-Mendip. Proc. Univ. Bristol Spel. Soc. 18, 1, 3-19.  (The excavation of the wheel pit, waterwheel and tailings pit in this cave).

WILCOCK J. 1997 The Mendip Caving Scene, 1997. Caves & Caving mag. 77, Autumn 1997, 36-7. (History, dowsing and breakthrough).

WITCOMBE R. 1992 Who Was Aveline Anyway? pp 90-91.

WOODWARD H.B. 1872. The Lead and Zinc Mines of the Mendips. Mining Mag. and Review.  March 1872 196-202.  (Mentions active re-working of slag at Stoke (sic) Hill, etc.).

1782 DAY AND MASTERS (Shows Wheel Pitts in what is now Stock Hill Forest).

19??  (Section of Chewton and Priddy mineries, Mendip, showing “Mouth of Swallet by Opening near Stocks House” and map detailing the water courses of the two Mineries and delineating the washing works, buddle pits and the swallet hole at Five Buddles.  This may have been made for the Ennor v. Barwell case).

Photo: M. Torbett

Digging in progress in the “Cornish Shaft.”

Depth at this point: 20ft.


Photo: M.Torbett

Mention should also be made of the collection of glass lantern slides held at Wells Museum and the following maps:


Rolling Calendar

31/12/97                MRO ‘Hands On’ Equipment familiarisation.  MRO Store/Belfry.  10.30am.

2/1/98                   BEC Committee Meeting.

3/1/98                   BEC v Wessex Skittles Challenge, New Inn, Priddy.  7.30pm start

3/1/98                   Cavers Stomp, Priddy Village Hall organised by Axbridge Caving Group. Tickets from Hunters/Bat Products £5 in advance, £6 on the door. Gwen, Cindy ,Andrea

24/1/98                  BEC Practice Rescue. Cuckoo Cleeves 10am. Alex Gee

24/1/98                  MRO Resuscitation Workshop Hunters Lodge 7.30pm.

25/1/98                  St. Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting Hunters Lodge 2pm. Andy Thomas

6/2/98                   BEC Committee Meeting

7/2/98                   CSCC Meeting.

7/2/98                   BEC STOMP Priddy Village Hall Roz Bateman

7/2/98                   CSCC Meeting.

6/3/98                   BEC Committee Meeting.

3/4/98                   BEC Committee Meeting.

1/5/98                   BEC Committee Meeting.

15-17/5/98             NAMHO field meet Nenthead Village Hall, Nenthead, Alston, Cumbria

16/5/98                  CSCC Meeting.

5/6/98                   BEC Committee Meeting.

3/7/98                   BEC Committee Meeting.

4-5/7/98                 Cavers Fair, Mendip.

7/8/98                   BEC Committee Meeting.

4/9/98                   BEC Committee Meeting.

3/10/98                  BEC AGM and Dinner.


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: Rich Blake
Deputy Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee


Hi. Oops.  I made a booboo in the last BB.  Several in fact!

The first was with regards to the song at the back of the BB, several people noticed that I had printed the chorus wrong in verse 2 and 3.  I am assuming that only three people mentioned it, either no one else knows the song or are not reading your BB properly! (Please look out for future tests of your reading of the BB!!)  My apologies for this (I was copying it at 3am so was obviously too tired, but I admit this is no excuse) and you will note the corrected version appears in this BB.

The second was with regards of the two letters of apology.  I forgot to put the disclaimer in, so here it is.

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

The third was also related to the letters; I forgot to put in a brief note on the reason for their inclusion.  These were in the BB in relation to a committee directive that Ale and Becky were to apologise to the membership for their actions at the AGM, as part of the agreement to co-opt them back on to the committee.  The AGM minutes are included in this BB (thank you Nigel) should you required further explanations if you were not at the AGM. Nigel and Andy still reserve the right to reply, pending further discussion at the next committee meeting.

Anyway, enough of the apologies.

The cut off for the next BB is 4th April.

I need articles, so come on everyone, get writing.

Also, now that I can produce reasonable quality pictures in the BB, if you have photos that relate to your article please free to send them.  I will do everything I can to make sure any photos are returned after I have finished with them in the BB.  (I am also quite happy to receive scanned in photos or picture via e-mail or on floppy disc.)


Meghalaya Photos


Krem Kot Sati in Meghalaya
Photo: Raphael Warji

Nasty looking caterpillar in Krem Lashing (purple in colour and that was the closest any finger was going to get to it!)                 Photo. Raphael Warjri


Caving and BEC News

Caving - Andy Thomas is caving most Sunday mornings, and also Tuesday evenings.  If you want to go along, give Andy a call - any levels of caving ability can be accommodated on these trips.

Also contact Andy if you are interested in running trips, anywhere in the world or even just Mendip! There are quite a few trips listed on the notice board at the Belfry.

Andy has plans to book some Yorkshire/Derbyshire/Wales trips for this year; if you want any specific trips, please let Andy know.

In case you didn't notice in the front of the BB, Andy has moved house to Street, Somerset.  His new phone number is 01458 xxxxxx.

White Spot Cave - the following appeared in the Bristol Evening Post on Tues. 16th Dec, 1997:

Man faces Ban from Bat Cave.

People are set to be banned from a cave in Cheddar - to prevent them from scaring the bats.

A metal grille could be going in at White Spot Cave, which houses a colony of Greater Horseshoe Bats.

Heating could also be installed for the Winter.

There are thought to be only 6,000 of the creatures left in Britain.

Hugh Cornwall, director of Cheddar Showcaves, has written to English Nature seeking formal permission for the barrier. Mr Cornwall said: "If the bats are disturbed from their torpor at any time during a cold winter it could cause the entire gorge population to 'crash' ."

The latest on the situation at White Spot Cave is that the ideas have been thrown out due to complaints from cavers and White Spot will not be gated or have heaters installed.

Cheddar Caves Access - The general access to caves in the Cheddar Gorge area has now been restricted to 'out of Bat season' - access is only available between 1 st May and 30th September.

BEC v Wessex Skittles Challenge.  There was a good turnout for this from both sides. Last year the BEC had problems fielding a team and we had to borrow members of other clubs to make up the numbers. This year a lot of the BEC turned up late, so as it was assumed we may have the same problem as last year, we ended up with a large group of MCG helping us out and a lot of BEC sat on the sidelines!! After a closely run match of three rounds, the Wessex won by 10 points in the end.  (We never wanted a gnome anyway, it would be too short for the BEC!!!)

GB Cave - Someone has dumped a load of used hypodermic needles and condoms around the car parking area by the gate at GB / Charterhouse.  As many as could be found have been cleared up by the Mendip Wardens, but the obvious warnings about needles still exist as there may still be hidden needles in the undergrowth there.

Speleoscene No 31 - This is available from caving shops.  (Free - but how about a donation to you local Cave Rescue Service.)  This issue contains a BMC report of the dangers of 'figure-8/karabiner combination' and 'maillon/Petzl Stop' problems. Information of Access and Conservation round the Regions.  A Training Bulletin, giving details of emergency kits to take underground.  Also a booklet on Interpreting the NCA Rope tests.

New Members.  The club would like to welcome Martin Selfe, Redruth, Cornwall as a new member, and the rejoining of Gwyn Taylor (Timpson) Ingleton, N. Yorks., Via Carnforth.

Ratified Member.  Congratulations on ratification to full membership to the following: Anette Becher, Tim Chapman, Clive Stell, Jeremy Dixon Wright and Ben Ogbourne.

I would like to thank the majority of members for paying their 97/98 membership subs before 1998.  All outstanding subscriptions please send to me A.S.A.P. so the Belfry Bulletin No. 494 and your new membership card can be issued.

I would also like to thank all members who have donated money to the B.E.C funds this year.

I hope you all like your new waterproof membership cards and I look forward to seeing you all at the BEC stomp next weekend (7tb Feb) SUPPORT YOUR TACKLE STORE.  Roz Bateman

Old Members News.  For those of you who knew them when they were members, Wobbly and Sally are parents.  They have adopted a 12 week old baby called Callum David Shand.  Parents and baby are doing fine.

Alan and Kirsten Turner are also parents; they have a baby boy called Robert David Turner.

Reminder - Photos are still required for the photo-board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.

If you haven't visited the Belfry for a while, you will notice as you walk in next time, an informative notice board with a Cuthbert’s survey and photos of the cave, courtesy of Jake.

BEC Website - will shortly be available at www.mendipnet.co.uk/BEC

E-mail - From messages I have had from various members of the club, it has become apparent that a lot of the members who have e-mail, are on a works e-mail address, so do not want it publicised. For this reason we will not actually be publishing an e-mail list at this time.

One thing I am finding with the e-mail is that when I e-mail to say the BB is out, I am getting a lot of responses requesting me to hold their BB until they are down next time.  If you think this would be a helpful service to you, e-mail me and I can let you know as well.  (If you request that you do not want me to publicise your address, I will not forward it to anyone, without your permission).

Letter from India - This is part of the letter that was received by Tony Jarratt from Brian Kharpran Daly of the Meghalaya Adventurers Association on 15/12/97:

"After you all had left we had some more caving with Daniel, and of course there was nothing to beat Krem Lymput.  We have surveyed 2.75kms and it is still going on and on.  She really amazed me every time I visited her.  Big, spacious and simply fantastic.  We have not yet explored all the big passages, so we never had eyes for any crawls.  I know you will love her even if there are no crawls."

"The Indian Air Force (Eastern Air Command) - Adventure Wing, have affiliated themselves to our association, and they are very eager to go caving with us.  You know what, the next time we go caving and we need a helicopter for aerial survey, etc. we have one.  How about it!"

Sound like they're in for some fun during the expedition in February.  We look forward to an article.  See the photos on the preceding page and the next page. They were taken by Raphael from the Meghalayan Adventurers last February.

Stop Press - THAILAND 98

Tony Boycott and I spent 8 days in the Tai Romyen National Park in Surat Thani Province in Southern Thailand in company with Dean Smart (ex Orpheus and now working for the Royal Forest Dept.)  During that time 2.7 kms of caves were surveyed with another cave of >2kms left un-surveyed.  Most of the caving was either horizontal active stream passage or high level big abandoned fossil passages (usually stunningly decorated).

Rob Harper


Some of the misfits that ended up in Meghalaya, February last year!

L-R Rear: - Tony Boycott, Daniel Gebauer, Anand Jamatia, Brian Kharpran Daly, Andy Tyler, Kaiman C. Hiwol Passah.  Front: - Tony Jarratt, Estelle Sandford.

The Meghalaya Expedition found the most cave of any foreign expedition last year at 24.7km.  The photo was taken on the last day at the Circuit House in Jowai by Raphael Warjri


Recent New Caving Books

Below is a list of caving books which have been released in the last year. If any members have purchased any of these books, perhaps you would like to do me a review for publication in a future BB.  The list is compiled by Tony Jarratt, and he has advised me that all these books are available from a little caving emporium in Wells!!

The Complete Caving Manual - By Andy Sparrow  £14.99

Selected Caves of Britain and Ireland - Des Masshill and Donald Rust. £11.95

The Cave Rescuers Manual - Speleo Secours Francais  £6.50

Speleo Dans Le Vercors (New Edition) - Serge Caillaut et al £10.95

Darkworld - Martyn Farr  £15.95

Speleological Bibliography of South Asia - Daniel Gebauer et al  £30.00

The Caves of Fermanagh and Cavan - Gareth H. Jones et al £15.00

The Caves of the Isle of Portland - Mike O'Connor & Nigel Graham  £10.00

Cave Guide to Slovenia - Ian Bishop  £9.00

Speleo Guide Chartreuse - Jean Louis Fantoli  £15.00

Joke - Courtesy of Sett

What are bats most afraid of?


(from the Greek 'dia' meaning through and 'rhoia' meaning flow!!)


The BEC Song

Tune: Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill
Author: G. Weston
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol XV No 10 Oct 1961

A local bloke from Rodney Stoke
More fond of beer than labour
Was recommended by a friend
To go and be a caver
He said "Your thirst is not the first
Of such capacity.
I know a crowd who'll do you proud.
Go join the BEC".

Chorus:          Go join the BEC
                     Go join the BEC
                     That boozy crew will do for you
                     Go join the BEC

The M.C.G. brew splendid tea,
Which makes them rather merry.
The Speleo's look down their nose,
At tipple less than sherry.
The Shepton brood are rude and crude
When drinking at the local.
But worse by far the Wessex are,
Exclusively teetotal.

Chorus:          We are the BEC
                     Down with sobriety
                     Throw out your chest cry "Beer is best",
                     And join the BEC

Each Friday night, we all get tight
As soon as we are able.
By half past eight we lie in state
Beneath the Belfry table.
By nine o' clock our knees may knock
We stagger out despite them
By half past ten we're pissed again
And so ad infinitum

Chorus:          We are the BEC
                     And this we must confess
                     Whatever is worth doing
                     We'll do it to excess.


Tackle Store Report

From Mike Willett.

Before we go on to the tackle store, I am obliged to inform the membership of the recent change.  Richard Blake, who was voted to be Tackle Master at the AGM, is working in Egypt at the moment.  Before leaving, Richard asked me if I would run the tackle store, because of the length of time he was going to be away.  I said I would, and with the committee's approval, I am now Deputy Tackle master.  I'm just waiting for my shiny badge!

The contents of the tackle store at the moment are as follows. –

  • 2 x ten meter ladders.
  • 1 x eighteen foot ladder.
  • 1 x St Cuthbert’s entrance ladder (for that purpose only).  Tagged.
  • 3 x Spreaders.
  • 3 x Wire Belays
  • There is no lifeline, or it hasn't been booked out.
  • There is a stock of 8 exploration ropes ranging from 18 - 40meteres in length but these are over seven years old and have not been tested yet.  They will be, and any that fail can be used for digging purposes.

According to the last entry in the tackle masters logbook (beam me up Scotty) there are 11 ladders missing and 8 in various digs.  This has been the state of affairs for at least a year now.  The ladders in digs, I am accounting for and collecting.  I pulled one out from the bottom of Gladman Shaft in Eastwater Cavern on a recent trip, but it has to be destroyed because of its condition.  I suspect this will be the case for the majority of the 8 ladders that have been used in digs.  The general feeling on what to do about the 11 missing ladders is to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch, so that's what is going to happen.  However, as far as the missing ladders go, I'll just say this. -  If you have one put it back please, the key to the tackle store is in the key cupboard!  If you have one and you don't want to give it back, then you're a shit!

The tackle store for now will have to tick over with 3 ladders in stock.  This shouldn't be a problem if everyone books out his or her ladder and spreader, and return it to the tackle store. Preferably straight after their trip, and tick the book to say they've done so.  If everybody does this, then the tackle store should run itself.

As you all know the BEC Stomp is on the 7 February and the proceeds are being used to restock the tackle store.  Rope is what we are most in need of, along with materials for ladder making. A list of all money raised and tackle purchased will be included in the next BB tackle store report.  Let’s hope everyone has a thirst on that evening.

PS. While I'm here I'll take the opportunity to thank Jake for all his help, and also thanks to Mike Wilson for his encouragement and advice.


Where to in Wookey?

By Pete Glanvill, January 1998

Although I haven't dived in Wookey for several years I still retain a healthy interest in others activities and wish the 25 pushing team the best of luck. However in the push to the end I feel that a number of leads have been neglected and as a number of finds 15 years ago were made after perusal of old diving reports I thought a run down on sites of interest throughout the system might generate some enthusiasm.  I have given some references but they are by no means complete.

Starting at Chamber Nine, I wonder why nobody has ever examined that soaring wall above the sump.  OK, everybody assumes that the old water exit to the surface was found by John Parker in 1970 and the water entered via the current 20-9 route.  But what if water flowed in from a higher level at some time? A bolt climb straight up that wall to its highest point would provide a conclusive answer.  There are plenty of climbers about capable of doing it and with current aids to bolting it wouldn't take long.  Whether the show cave management would like it is another matter entirely!

(A route across the top of it was started from the highest point - about 90ft up - some years ago but not completed - A.J. - See Appendix 1)

Between 9 and 20 there is very little hint of development not already found. I have examined 12 and 13 and Clive Owen forced the only going lead from there to a definite conclusion back in the mid to late '80's.

The 20th chamber still offers opportunity for extension.  An intimate inspection of the roof between 19 and the lake area on the 'upstream' side needs to be done sometime (see later description of Edmund's Chamber prospects).  Then, just beyond the lake, there is one of the most tantalising side passages in the system.  A short climb on the left hand side of the passage facing the way on into 20 enters an extensive and well developed series known as the 2 W's series after its explorers Woodward and Whybro.  It is little known, having been visited precisely four times - once partly by Brian Woodward and John Parker in 1970 then explored further by the 2 W's in 1983 (note 1) then visited by Chris Milne and Paul Whybro (note 2) and partly by Brian Johnson and myself (note 3).  The partly refers to a very tight bedding squeeze not far into the extension which acts as a formidable barrier to many individuals!

The 2 W's extension, about 50 metres beyond the lake in 20 is reached by a 3 metre climb (best done using combined tactics and a ladder although there used to be a doubled rope on it).  A nice stooping height tube ascends to a 4 metre scramble up a roomy fluted rift. The passage changes character here becoming a wide low decorated sloping bedding.  There is a challenging squeeze after 4 metres which Brian couldn't pass and which required me to remove my wetsuit to get through (although that was so unpleasant I managed to get back wearing it!).  Whether Chris Milne got through here on what was supposed to a surveying trip is debatable according to what Harpic told me.  Our trip was to photograph and survey it and somewhere I have some crude notes made on my solo exploration (the photos are a bit uninspiring - nobody in them of course).

Beyond the squeeze one can descend the bedding to a stony crawl in an area of breakdown.  There is a definite draught here and in fact the whole of the extension is draughty. Beyond the shattered section another roomy bedding crawl leads to a roomy aven chamber in limestone.  On the opposite side of the aven is a squeeze over boulders into a 2 metre diameter tube.  At the start of the tube is an interesting boulder run in which is a potential dig site and the quite well decorated tube slopes down to a mud choke - again diggable.

The aven itself has been climbed once by Woodward and Whybro who got to 15 metres height where a ledge and low arch gave access down a ramp into a chamber 4 metres across and 15 metres high.  They noticed several potential digs - a choked rift in the floor, a choked horizontal passage at the base of the chamber and an inaccessible tube 5 metres up the wall of the chamber.

This extension is, without doubt, the most significant in 20 apart from the short series of tunnels at the end which trend towards 24.  I do wonder if this near series is heading towards 20 - a dry link perhaps or another inlet? The draught hints at something and the passages are fairly large.  After 10 years perhaps the extension deserves its 4th visit, to be seen by more than the 3 or 4 people who have been there so far and to be surveyed properly!

The end of 20 has been well and truly dug since Jim Durston and I first had a prod many years ago.  It still offers a good chance of a dry link to 24.

The next port of call has to be Edmund's Chamber.  This was relocated by myself in 1984 on a dive with Clive Westlake. I couldn't believe I had entered virtually a new chamber in Wookey after all the diving that had been done beyond 22. That rediscovery is the raison d'etre for this article because there is only a 2 line reference to its original discovery, the diving that time being focused purely on getting upstream.  It was only my puzzlement when browsing through the Somerset Sump Index and seeing this reference that led to my diving exploration (note 4).  There is an unpublished Descent article about the ascent of Edmund's Chamber so I won't go into details except to comment that not all the above-water leads in Edmund's have been played out and that Beyond the Thunderdome, the high level passage off it, runs straight towards 20 and can only be 50 metres or less from it where it ends in breakdown - it is also well scalloped suggesting significant flow in the past.  This could be one of the sites to examine for a dry link between 20, 22, 23 and 24.  If you do go there don't use the rope on the final chimney climb.  It has been there for over ten years and is belayed to a single bolt!

22 has now been well explored.  The roof climbs are virtually completed and offer a link with Halloween Rift while in one corner is the side passage off which the dry link to 22 goes - Cam Valley Crawl where Trev Hughes and Rob Harper pipped me to the post all those years ago (gnash! gnash!) (note 5)  Jim Durston and I got the crap deal of surveying it which was grim I can tell you! It has also been surveyed to Grade V (appropriately on 1.4.84 by Clive Westlake, myself and (for the horrid bit at the end as revenge) Rob Harper) and the survey published in the CDG NL although I cannot remember which one!

There is no obvious dry route between 23 and 24 but the sumps are very short and shallow.  24 still offers scope for exploration and digging but as Rob Harper and Trev Hughes never surveyed (or drew sketches of ) their finds and they called them all 'Pleasant Valley - whatever day of the week that came into their heads nobody else has a clue what is really there - if you don't believe me you try reading the reports  (note 6). All I know is that the finds were made in the Oxbow Extension, apparently draughting, and possibly head towards 20 at a variety of levels.  I am quite sure there are other locations in 24 that haven't been examined such as the rift above where the stream can be seen for the final time before reappearing in 22 (and that is another mystery which Mike Barnes has started addressing).

So what needs to be done in Wookey?  Well some accurate surveying and publication of the finds made since the mid eighties would be useful (especially if used in conjunction with a mole phone).  Trebor and Pat Cronin supposedly started doing this in May 89 (note 7) - so where is it Trebor?  As regards survey notes I have used Willie Stanton in the past as a repository for these. This could usefully be followed up by looks at the leads I have mentioned. Food for thought is that Cam Valley Crawl, Beyond the Thunderdome (note 8), the Oxbow extensions in 24 and possibly 2 W's extension are all on the same level suggesting they are all part of the same development - but then I'm not a geologist.

Appendix 1 - By Andy Sparrow

Regarding Wookey Hole Chamber 9 - I had the same ideas about high level Wookey 9 and together with Brian Murlis bolted partially across from the landing at the top of the chamber a couple of years back.  We progressed about 15 feet and got a good look at the prospects. Straight on the rift closes down and the only possibility is to climb upwards into the roof but this appears to pinch out too.  There is still a chance there, but looking down into the chamber the walls are covered in huge scallops and there seems little doubt that the shaft/aven/chamber has been formed by phreatic uplift.  We abseiled down from our furthest point (a fabulous 25m pitch) on the traverse and had a look at the other rifts in the roof.  Again there are possibilities but only vague ones that would probably not justify the huge technical problem of bolting into them. Having said that, if anyone feels like returning and pushing to a conclusion give me a shout.


  1. CDG Newsletter 68 page 26.
  2. CDG Newsletter 69 page 17
  3. CDG Newsletter 93 page 34
  4. CDG NIL's 39.20 and 74.38
  5. CDG NIL 71.12
  6. CDG NIL 69.17,94.30,108.27, 113.40
  7. CDG NIL 92.25
  8. Survey in CDG NIL 92.25


The Eifel Volcanoes of Germany

By Mike and Hilary Wilson

While Hilary and I were in Germany with Helmut and his family, we took the opportunity to drive south from Solingen past Bonn to the Eifel Region, approximately 100km from Solingen.  For anyone who is interested in geology and walking, this area must be one of the most geologically compact areas in Germany.

Do not expect to see large towering volcanic cones or huge lava flows because this is not the case.  The area has to be explored 'on foot' to uncover the secrets and appreciate how time, man and climate have managed to erode and conceal what must have been a spectacular landscape millions of years ago.  Don't worry though, the overall effect, although very 'soft' is still there.

The best base point to use would be an old town called Vulkanstad.  Here there is a volcano information centre here and several 'wanderwegs' (footpaths) radiating outwards.  Probably the most interesting one is the 'Laacher See' - a large volcanic lake, which again is not what it seems at first glance.  It is possible to walk around the lake on two levels: -

1.       Lakeside

2.       A higher level around what was the peripheral volcanic rim

Route 2 is forested and requires good route finding and a map (Wanderkarte 1/25,000 Osteifel mit Laacher See).  The whole area is good for walking and has the advantage of not being crowded like the Pyrenees.

The rest of the Eifel Plateau consists of some more volcanic lakes known as 'Maare'.  These are near the town of Daun.  Beyond these lakes, is the Mosenberg Volcano, with its four extinct craters.  It is about one hour hike from the road (don't expect a massif, it's only 1,800 foot high now!)

There are two more good reasons for staying in this region, one is the Numburgring Miric is very near and two the Mosel Wine region is only 50km away.

So go and find it for yourselves, we have managed several walks ourselves.


Village in the Eifel Region. Photo: Mike Wilson


Goodness me.  Has it been that long?

Swildons Hole's Sump 12 - as she now lies an account of the present position

by Trebor McDonald

Goodness me, has it been that long?  Nearly 33 years Messrs. Drew, Savage and Wooding reached Sump 12 on the 20th March 1965 and after 33 years it has still not been passed.  This just will not do.  There are 30 odd logged dives in this most stubborn of sumps and many man hours of work but still no luck.  With very few realistic sumps to work on in the Mendip area, this one needs to be sorted.


On the 6th March 1965, Mike Wooding passed sumps 9 and 10 quite easily to stand up in the impressive Swildons 11 streamway, only to be hit with an awkward-looking duck.  He returned to the right side of 9 to join the others.  Dave Savage then had a go, reaching the duck in Swildons 11 to find a muddy high level by-pass to the duck which descended into the streamway just before Sump 11.  Another muddy tube could be seen ascending at this point with running water audible on the other side but a return to base was made. Sump 12 was subsequently reached by the trio on the 20th by by-passing sump 11.  Since then all efforts in sump 12 have produced a blank. Wooding, Savage, Drew, (John) Parker, Boon, Cobbett, Collett, Reynolds, Moody, Palmer, Solari, Farr, Fairburn et al., have all had a poke but with no success.  The main problems encountered were an unsureness of the way on, no indication of the layout of the sump, restrictions and silt, the place is full of the stuff.  In February 1969 after the great floods of 1968, Reynolds and Standing carried out an inspection of the streamway to assess flood damage and a quick dive in sump 12 revealed no indication of it having been opened up.  Most divers were merely doing one-off dives in the sump at this time and there was no concerted long-term effort.  As a result nobody was really getting to grips with the place and nobody really knew the layout of the sump.  As part of a request by me when up-dating the Somerset Sump Index in 1990/1, Pete Moody and Rob Palmer made the following observations:

"The two trips written up (Moody and Parker, 1972)….. do not give the whole picture.  The first squeeze mentioned by JP at 80ft did not really exist; however; the second one was pretty extreme.  Not only did you have to de-kit but it was a considerable struggle for a few feet before it opened out again.  I would not fancy doing it with twin kit.  The bang of the 27th Feb ('72) only removed a few chert nodules and did not have any effect on the squeeze.  Beyond, the passage at maximum depth choked out however but a rift to the left can be followed and a very brave person with a lump hammer might be able to force a route upwards.  What was so exciting about JP's find was that he definitely, absolutely and certainly had the whole of the Swildon's flow going through the squeeze which was a rock letter box off to the right of the main tube.  I cannot believe that Solari (1.6.74) or Palmer (20.2.82) were in the same place as us, unless it had silted up further back.  The problem is that everyone who has dived in there since Wooding and Drew have either done one-off dives or explored just a single underwater passage.  I do not think anyone really knows the layout in there.  From all the conflicting reports I wonder whether the flow actually changes over time with deeper routes silting up end then being scoured out by floods."

Pete Moody, 1990.

Rob Palmer was sent the above account by me for comment and his reply was:

"My recollection of the place pretty well matches Pete's.  The pool drops away pretty steeply over a muddy floor with a bit of a trench in it, sloping down to the right as you go in.  At the bottom there is a rock-roofed slot in the right wall, about 6-7" high. with a pebble/gravel floor that seems to take all the flow.  This is probably Parker's' "second squeeze".  As Pete says, the first squeeze does not exist - I think he must have wriggled through a mud constriction at the side of the trench, very possible if he was following the left or right walls.  The last time I went there with Julian Walker (1985), it looked the same as in '82 being too tight to pass through.   At the other side you can feel a cross-rift, not too big, continuing up.  It has probably silted up since Parker and Moody and only the flow keeps a bit of it open."

Rob Palmer, 1991.

From all the odd distances, depths and descriptions set out in the various dive reports the above accounts are considered by me to be the closest to the opinions held by myself and Mike Barnes with the advantage of having carried out many dives in the last few years.  Some of the depths and distances mentioned above are very optimistic but that is not unusual.

We consider that we now know more about the sump than anyone else and as far as we are concerned the sump is roughly as shown in the survey sketches. From the reasonable-sized sump pool the approximately 2m wide and 1m square, mud-floored passage descends quite steeply at about 45deg for about 10m to a mud-covered end wall blockage.  By following the right hand wall however a gravel-bottomed trench/tube, a little larger than body size, bears off to the right. This restricted trench is about 2.5m long, perhaps a little longer, and has a definite solid right hand wall. The left side is a little more confused but there is a definite roof. At the end of the trench a squeeze comes into feel (not "view" as you cannot see diddly) corkscrewing down and to the right a little.  This is at the deepest point -7m.  By taking one tank off it is possible to wriggle through to stand up in a cross-rift, the squeeze effectively being behind you down by your heels.  The rift is perhaps 2.5m long and only 1m wide - you can touch the other side of the rift as you stand up from the squeeze. To the right the rift closes down quickly and there is believed to be a bubble connection with sump 12a from here. To the left the rift pinches out also. The way on is definitely vertically up (the lump hammer banging referred to by Pete Moody) and the muddy water can be seen swirling up past your face mask. However, the rift soon narrows due to nodules and ledges and the intention is/was to try and knock off these nodules to force a way up to the surface.  By clambering up the rift a short way, a depth gauge on an outstretched arm reads -1m, so not far to go.


Over the last two years Mike Barnes and myself, and earlier Pete Bolt have been trying to consolidate the squeeze. Although we had already got through the squeeze on a few occasions it was a real wriggle and not very nice.  We knew it would always be a problem and if banging and hammering work was to be carried out in the ascending rift beyond we wanted to know that there would be a fair chance that our retreat would not be blocked. So in late 1997, when we thought the squeeze might be big enough, we decided to pass through to try and bang the nodules off the rift the other side. We thus spent a few weekends further digging out the squeeze and the trench that led to it leaving it nice and tidy for the appointed day when we were going to blow the hell out of the rift, like you do.  On arriving at the sump I set up the charges and Mike offered to lay them in the squeeze. Two minutes later an irate diver returned complaining that the squeeze had completely silted up again and he could not get near enough to lay the bang.  We had insufficient air to dig out the squeeze and then lay the bang so in a fit of pique the stuff was laid on the right hand wall of the trench and .... wallop.  "Too much bang methinks," I said to Mike before we turned and ran for the safety of sump 10.

On exit the previous weekend we were faced with a mega thunderstorm and no doubt, dear readers, you can imagine two knackered wet suited divers lying in the grass, as far away from the tanks as possible, hoping and praying whilst lightning crashed all around.  We thought then that that storm had caused the silting in the sump but now we consider that any flooding in the cave causes no change at all to the sump.  The sump just silts up naturally from week to week as already described.


a.          As you may have guessed from the above, the main problem is a combination of restriction and silting.  In a way, by widening the trench leading to the squeeze, we may have inadvertently caused our own problem.  With a wider trench the water flow through the squeeze is now greater.  The silt-laden water thus hits the far wall of the rift, stops dead and thus dumps its load effectively blocking the squeeze. The Swildons flow is not great enough to drive the silt through the sump, vertically up the 7m rift and thus on down the cave.  From Sump 2 onward the streamway is essentially horizontal and with numerous sumps and restrictions along the way any flood water that may make its way down the cave is greatly slowed.  So, by the time flood water reaches sump 12 it is merely a trickle and thus has no scouring action at all. Furthermore, the sumps and streamway are all quite heavily silted so the progressive movement of silt down the cave will always occur.

So, for practical, common sense and peace of mind reasons it will be necessary to widen the squeeze further, preferably in conjunction with some silt-prevention measures.

b.          A second problem is cold and wet suiting.  An ordinary caving wet suit is pleasant to cave in down to 12 but hideously cold whilst digging in the terminal sump and hanging around generally during a 7-9 hour trip.  A diving wet suit is nice in the sump but too hot to cave in!  We thus have to cave down to 12 with the top of the long-john rolled down to the waist making it a little awkward.

c.          Sump 12 is also a remote place and a little daunting and the slog out is unpleasant if not fully fit.

d.          Tank size is a big problem also and as usual there has to be a trade-off between tank size, portability and the need to make every trip as productive as possible. Taking two large tanks in every time is a nightmare so we have found the best compromise is to store a small 3 litre bail-out tank on the friendly side of sump 9 to use as a reserve through the longish sump 9 and while digging in 12.  We then take in and out a high pressure 7 litre tank each trip to use in the sumps to 12 and whilst digging in 12 as well.  This obviously gives us relatively limited air but dragging two large tanks in and out each time does not bear thinking about.  By free-diving most of the sumps, or judicious breathing, little of the air is used up on the trip down allowing maximum air to be used whilst digging.  Anyway, digging for 7 litres worth of air usually coincides with the onset of hypothermia and fedupness.

e.          Poor, invariably zero visibility is a big headache.  It is almost certain that the sump would have been passed years ago if divers could have seen what they were doing.  This is always the problem with downstream sumps.  In this case we have managed to see a little by one diver charging through sumps 9 and 10, to stay ahead of the silt generated, running down the passage to sump 12 (a comical site in full gear) and then charging into sump 12 and poling like mad to get a glimpse of the work place before the mists stirred up on the way down blots out everything.


There are various solutions that we have devised, not necessarily in the following order (nay, definitely in this order!)

a.          Retire from diving.  Seems very sensible to me!!

b.          Give up and let some keen young blades with stamina, resilience and no brains have a go.

c.          Build a silt trap in the natural arch that spans the streamway some 10m back from the sump to try and prevent further silt from entering the sump itself.  This however does not resolve the problem of the ton of silt already in the sump.

d.          Blast the squeeze to Hell and see what happens.  However, with indiscriminate blasting you are never sure what hanging death there is.  We are still not sure of the damage from the last blast.  In zero viz. it is not nice blundering about in tight trenches and squeezes in the knowledge that there may be all sorts of nasty Henrys hovering above you.

e.          A combination of a) and b) or c) and d).

Finally, we have had half a mind (wags will say we cannot spare it) on what happens above the water line the other side of the sump.  With a tight ascending rift festooned with nodules and ledges, there is no reason to suppose that the rift will suddenly widen into nice ambling passageway (with Cafe!) directly above the water line.  If the rift continues tight up above the surface, we can envisage a frustrated diver surfacing with his helmet jammed tight in the rift looking down a long, bleak, narrow watery fissure for how long?  5m, l0m ... 50m?  We'll cross that bridge when and if we come to it.

Ho hum Happy Caving.



The Mines of Le Saut, near Meribel, Les Trois Vallees, Haute Savoie, France.

By Chris Smart

Last summer Blitz and family took off to Meribel, in the French Alps for a well-earned three week holiday.   Meribel, in the picturesque les Allues valley, in the Three Valleys area is situated close to Albertville, the site of a recent Winter Olympics. Some of you may know the area for its world class skiing and the thousands of tourists that it attracts every winter.  In the summer however, the area is much quieter and the lower mountain slopes are carpeted with a profusion of Alpine flowers.  There was a mention, in a book of local walks, of an old abandoned lead mine some hours walk from Meribel and I decided that this could be incorporated into an interesting days walk for myself.  It would also make an excellent winter's ski excursion using the profusion of winter ski lifts to gain easy access.


In the les Allues valley, the road ends at Meribel-Mottaret (1681 metres) and the Nature Reserve of the Lac de Tueda begins almost immediately.  I followed the rough jeep track alongside the main feeder stream for the lake up a series of switchbacks alongside thundering waterfalls and cascades.  After 200 metres of climbing one enters the broad flat floored Vallon de Fruit, a high (2000 metres altitude) Alpine meadow complete with the obligatory cows with their mixture of tinkling, clattering and booming cow bells.  It is also where you enter the Parc de la Vanoise.  This National Park is well known for its protected wildlife and the Aiguille de Fruit rising steeply to a height of 3051 metres on the left-hand side of the path is, according to the local guidebook, the home of wild Chamois.

An hour and a half after leaving Meribel-Mottaret I arrived at the Refuge de Saut (2140 metres) a private Alpine hut with limited accommodation.  There is now very little to see apart from some small spoil heaps and one entrance to the mine, a short climb up the rocky slope behind the hut.  The Mines of Le Saut were worked between 1758 and 1773 by a combination of up to 25 Germans and 25 men from the Piedmont area of what is now northern Italy.  According to the local walks guidebook, the mines produced the equivalent of 200,000 worth of gold French Francs from both Silver (11%) and Lead ore (18%).

The book suggests that the initial sorting and processing was carried out on site on site before a preliminary smelting in a wood fire.  The partly smelted ore was then transported to the north, on the backs of mules, to be further refined in the valley of Notre Dame de Brian~on, a few kilometres north west of Moutiers.  However the intense over exploitation of the forests to the north for heating the Salines Royales (Royal Baths) in Moutiers meant that the initial smelting on site was very soon not possible and the unrefined ore was then transported to the south.

This southward route was particularly difficult as it used the part of the Maurienne Path that leads eventually to the small village of Fourneaux, close to Modane on the River L' Arc.  It climbs up the valley from the mine, across the rocky moraines of the Glacier de Gebroulaz, which is often snow covered in summer, up to the Col du Souffre (2,819m = 9,229ft) before descending to the Refuge de Peclet Polset, now a Club Alpine Francais climbing hut at 2,570m.  Another ascent followed for the next hour, up to the Col de Chaviere (2,796m) before the long descent in the Chauiere valley to Fourneaux.  An early example of the economic dangers of the over exploitation of our forests?

As can be seen by the dates the undertaking was relatively short lived but there are some spoil heaps, the ruins of an inclined plane and two entrances remain open.  A local information board says that there are 400 metres of pitches and galleries.  The local Tourist Information Office in Meribel advises that entry to the mines is extremely dangerous without their accompaniment but despite this danger they will organise visits in the summer if enough punters can be found!  I had a short venture in the obvious entrance and was met with a howling gale of very cold air.  The initial passage almost immediately entered a small chamber with extremely friable walls and roof and a floor covered in fine gravel, representing the frost breakdown debris.  A low squeeze giving access to the rest of the mine has obviously been dug in the recent past but I chose this point to reconsider the sunshine outside.

The sunshine was however, to cause me a problem on the next section of my walk after I had retraced my steps back to the base of the Aiguille de Fruit.  A poor and little used footpath climbs steeply for the next hour and three-quarters before one arrives at the Col de Fruit (2516 metres) with its excellent views into the Courchevel valley. This was not my destination but opened up the possibility of a ridge walk.  As it turned out the ridge soon became very narrow, more of a cross between Crib Goch and Sharp Edge with a few isolated snow hollows.  It ended all too quickly close to the ski lift station for the Sommet de la Saulire.  This wasn't running and the next hour and a half's long dusty slog back down to Meribel was mind numbing.  If you want to repeat this walk I would suggest a day when this ski lift is working and then use it for the descent.

In conclusion - an excellent day walking on the hill.  With half an hour for lunch the complete circuit took 7 hours and for about a half of that I had the paths to myself. 


Welsh's Green Swallet - The Survey

(Or The Mud-pile Strikes Back)

by Trevor Hughes

20th July 1979 - Graham 'Jake' Johnson started dig (from surface!)

May 1989 - First breakthrough (into Washout Passage) - 190m

29/10/92 - Breakthrough - 61m

30/10/92 - Breakthrough - 23m

October/November 1992 were very successful months for diggers on Mendip. White Pit was finally going after an intensive effort by a host of diggers from many clubs, including a trip that included three German folk dancers!  Geologically speaking the most important breakthrough was the next set of extensions to Welsh's Green. Graham Johnson and team's initial entry into the 'Washout' section of the cave seemed to hold out the prospects of more discoveries but the breakdown section at the end, past the second aven, took nearly 3½ years and a lot of effort to pass.  The next extension of 60m was first entered on 29th October 1992, was actually predicted in the Hunters (where else!) on the night before.  A further extension of 23m was made the following day and since then approximately 10m of hard fought, torturous progress through an area of extensive block-fall has been engineered. Incidentally the White Pit diggers, of which I was one, had only to wait until the 4th November for their breakthrough into the well decorated upper series of that cave.

The prospect of surveying, not only the United Kingdom's longest Blue Lias cave but also one of Mendip's muddiest loomed.  My first trip into the cave was a couple of weeks after the May '89 breakthrough to explore and to dig the end.  My caving log states: "(a cave) .... of such muddiness as is hard to imagine".  For those of you who have not been down this cave, the rear cover of the guide book, co-authored by that well known spelling mistake - Mr. Jarrett, shows Nick Williams at Compost Comer, his chin appears connected to the blob that was once Pete Bolt's wellie!  The mud, nay sludge, level has somewhat diminished with the winter streams, but this picture will give the reader some idea of the conditions met with when surveying.

Initial survey work commenced on the 18th June 1989. Lisa Taylor, with myself as assistant, levelled the shaft collar from the OSBM on the Old Wells Road at Milton Lane.  I will not embarrass Lisa by mentioning the size of her vertical misclosure but suffice it to say that later Blitz and I repeated the exercise, double levelling across the fields and back (- 1km) with an 8mm misclosure.  This fixed the shaft collar at 168.00m A.O.D.  A theodolite surface survey of the entrance area was started but the thick undergrowth prevented much from being achieved.

Underground survey work commenced on Wednesday 3rd November 1992, hot on the heels of the latest breakthrough.  On that evening trip Graham 'Jake' Johnson and Rich Blake dug the very end.  Estelle Sandford, Vince Simmonds and the author started surveying back from the start of the terminal breakdown area.  The stream flowing down the cave enabled Estelle, recording the figures taken by Vince and myself, to keep the plastic survey pages clean.  The tight breakthrough point of 30th October had the double complications of deep water and steel scaffolding. Judicious use of forward and back bearings minimised the potential for magnetic errors but did little for the bodily warmth of yours truly.  The end of the 3½ year dig, the breakthrough point of 29th October, is a tight, ribcage wrecker, but carefully siting the survey stations we were able to avoid the squeezes and the considerable amounts of scaffolding holding up the roof.  We finished work at the passage junction to the second aven, 94m of passage surveyed, the longest leg being nearly 16m along the perfectly straight section of the extension, notable for the distinct vadose trench in the floor.

The White Pit breakthrough on the 4th November failed to hold up progress. On Sunday the 8th the Welsh's morning shift had fired a cortex charge at the end, the afternoon shift of Estelle and myself carried on with the survey.  It was slow, cold work with only two, but we managed 16 survey legs, a total of 75m of passage, to complete work as far as the Dripping Aven. My wetsuit zip bursting on the way out didn't much help the warming up process.

The MRO stomp and associated hangovers plus heavy rain delayed the next trip until the 18th November, again on a Wednesday evening.  Vince, Jake and myself surveyed 97m of passage that evening. The Compost Corner legs were most remembered - Vince managed, most successfully, to ensure that for virtually every survey station, to read the compass, I had to bung my somewhat hirsute chin into the mud, revenge I suppose for making him do all the outward trip backwards.  For those of you who know the Welsh's mud the results are not hard to imagine.  The last underground survey trip on the following Wednesday evening (25th November) was the wettest of the four, but starting at the first aven and working back through the dug section to the entrance, we made the Hunters with time to spare.  Tonight was Rich's turn to cave backwards finding the stations and taping up, Jake was the recorder.  In the course of two hours work we had surveyed 105m of passage.

The survey plan was computed and plotted fairly quickly.  The next stage III the proceedings was a radio location exercise and surface levelling.  This was carried out with the help of Nick Williams on the 29th December 1992.  Roz Bateman and Ivan Sandford drew the short straws and went to the end with the transmitter.  I plotted the end of my survey on the surface and marked it with a ranging rod.  J'Rat and myself then levelled the surface every 10m - following the strike (dug) passage to the first inlet and then the general line of the cave to the end where Nick was engrossed with his gadgets and gizmos, wandering around muttering to himself like the best of tribal witchdoctors.

The surface levelling combined with the cave survey gave the depth to the roof at the radio location point as 29m. However because of the strength of the signal and the limitations of the molefone, we were unable to check this. The very good news was the position of the radio location fix - less than 3m away from my pre-plotted point - later Ivan and Roz confirmed that their transmitter was not actually at my end station but 2m or so away in the same direction as the surface mismatch. This very accurate tie in was a most pleasing and fitting reward for the 27 'man' hours of underground survey work.


Beyond the Grade 5 survey, there is a sketched Grade 1 section, drawn in by Jake and J'Rat. This section is a flat out crawl under breakdown, leading to a too tight to follow section of passage.



Cartoon – the Undergrounders



Dragged from Cuthbert's

- some background notes on rescue routes and aids by Dave Irwin

Fortunately, rescue of an injured caver from St. Cuthbert's Swallet has been a rare event during the forty-odd years since the cave was opened.  A full carry has never been necessary - all have got themselves out of the cave with the minimum of assistance.  Those that have occurred have been from sites never suspected of potential rescue.  So, what's new - they never are!  Practice rescues can be attempted from difficult points in the cave but never at the place of a real event.  A summary of important rescues is given elsewhere (note 1) and the formal accounts can be found in the MRO Annual Reports.

However, to estimate the practical problems of some of the more difficult areas of the cave from which to extricate a severely injured person I, as caving secretary at the time, initiated a number of local or mini-practices. They were (i) Catgut Rift (Cross-Leg Squeeze was patently impossible to manipulate an unconscious victim unless blasting was resorted to - and that is most undesirable!) September Ruckle and Coral Chamber.  The latter site is tantalising for it has a large number of entries/exits none were stable enough for the movement of a carrying party manipulating an immobile victim. Only one point was deemed suitable and that is very unstable at one point.

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet – The Cascade.  Photo Dave Irwin
St. Cuthbert’s Swallet – The Cascade.  Photo Dave Irwin

Before 1965 severe flooding of the depression was a regular occurrence and the writer developed an idea that had been circulating for some time.  The plan was to lay a series of pipes which would allow the overflow water to flow into an open drain. The water would rapidly flow through the entrance passages and Entrance Rift and avoid the ponding of the water in the depression.  Up to that time the cave was frequently closed for long periods during the winter months.  Also, severe summer storms could cause the water to rise rapidly when the ground was very dry and hard.  Run-off quickly filled Mineries Pool, though the retaining dam prevented a flood-pulse racing down the depression causing the havoc so regularly encountered in caves such as Swildon's Hole.  The dam meant that the stream flow remained high for some time after the other cave streams had returned to normal levels.

However, the water escaping from the Mineries Pool increased the flow along the surface of the western edge of the depression, being at high level the stream flowed into Plantation Swallet.  In so doing the water saturated the local area so causing seepage and breakthrough along its route allowing it to run down the sides of the depression augmenting the stream flowing down the depression from the Mineries Pool dam. One such escape route from the Plantation Stream is located above the South Swallet [or Maypole Sink] known to some as the Overflow Cutting; water flowing down this can clearly be seen in Roy Bennett's photo in the St. Cuthbert's publication although the original picture was slightly out of focus. (note 2)

Flooding at the entrance caused two major call-outs, both in 1960, when, following heavy bouts of rain, parties were trapped below the Entrance Rift requiring the need for the fire service to pump away water from the flooded depression. Accounts and comment can be found in various articles. (note 3,4,5,6,7) At this time the Entrance Rift had acquired a certain reputation and for some it could be 'an illuminating experience never to be forgotten. Remember too, that carbide lamps were still widely used; the wet suit and rechargeable battery lighting system was still some 4 - 5 years away.


Laying the land drains - 1965. Mike Palmer getting his hands dirty! Photo.: Dave Irwin

The trench. 1965 - Mike Palmer inspecting the work! photo. : Dave Irwin

Carbide lamp flames would soon be extinguished under the slightest shower of water and several ingenious devices were 'invented' to avoid this problem. One was a shield clipped to the reflector and another was an emergency lighting system driven by a small battery encased in a water-proofed tobacco tin attached to the rear of the helmet. This latter system became a requirement for Cuthbert's Leaders.  This system gave sufficient light to allow the caver to get out of most Mendip caves safely.  Even so without the full protection of water proof suits, though the goon-suit was becoming popular, climbing the Entrance Rift in spate was far from pleasant. Today, because of the surface drainage system, the rift is not often seen in heavy water; however, one of the checks of selecting a Cuthbert's Leader is that he/she is able to free-climb the rift under adverse water conditions and operate the surface 'water-works'.

The land drains were installed from a location near the natural sink to the base of the 'new entrance' pipes, work commencing in April 1965 and completed by about June of that year. (note 8) Since that time the cave has remained opened throughout the year.  However, there is one disadvantage to this method of draining the depression that ought to be kept in mind.  Though the flow of water is moving quickly through the entrance passage and the rift it is also flushing out the mud and gravel between the large, shalely boulders at the bottom of the Entrance Rift extending across to the roof level of Arete Chamber.  Any increased erosion in this area will eventually advance the risk of collapse. It appears that little water is going into the 'natural sink' and all the stream flow is permanently entering the cave through the land drain.  This has happened since the 'sluice' was modified during the 1980s.  The current leaders should think seriously about modifying the drainage pattern ensuring that when the stream flow is at its normal level it should all be flowing into the natural sink.  The change in stream pattern when passing through Pulpit Passage or Ledge Pitches will just be a redistribution of water volume.  In the case of Ledge Pitches the Showerbath will decrease a little; in Pulpit Passage there will be noticeable increase of water flowing down the bedding planes in the left hand wall making Pulpit Pitch agreeably wet.  The Entrance Rift and the boulders beyond will be relatively dry.  The land drains should be considered over-flow pipes and not a permanent way for the stream to enter the cave. This can easily be done by lifting the inlet pipe level at the 'sluice' dam.

Practice Rescues

The first practice rescue took place in June 1963 when exploratory techniques were tried in the Entrance Rift.  None worked satisfactorily (note 9) and required a complete rethink.

The first in a miniseries of rescues were aimed at studying problems from localised but difficult parts of the cave.  The first was from Catgut Rift on 1st May 1965.  There was no way anyone was going to get an injured person through 'Cross-legs Squeeze' and the only way out was up through the not too stable boulders above Catgut Rift at the beginning of the September Boulder Ruckle. (note 10)

Chris Howell's comments when stuck in the "Z' Bend of the September Ruckle, taken from B.B. No.294

Here I remained firmly stuck for some ten minutes or more - though it seemed like an age.  The final straw came when it was discovered that there was some difficulty in moving the carrying sheet back for another attempt.  Now, I have never suffered from claustrophobia, but at this point I must admit to becoming distinctly worried

However, a hiatus was reached at the narrow vertical ‘S’ bend which occurs beyond an inclined slab and is met some fifty or so feet into the ruckle from the High Chamber side.  Due to the constricted room at the front end, only two persons were able to get a purchase on the hauling ropes, and they were unable to provide sufficient pull to get the sheet round the vertical corner.

The first full-scale practice was on 26th June 1965; the victim was located in Beehive Chamber. (note 11)  The practice was a great success but for the fact that the Entrance Rift became the stumbling block again.  However, it should be pointed out that although the 'victim' was hauled half-way up the rift before his helmet jammed.  The tired hauling/carry party, who had already hauled the victim up Arête Pitch and transported him through the boulders before trying to get him up the Entrance Rift, were not in a condition to organise the hauling.  All of these events contributed to the 'failure'. In addition to technique, logistics became the name of the game.

Following the rescue of a caver with a dislocated shoulder from the September Series (note 12) it was decided to continue the mini-rescues to develop the techniques in addition to brawn and pulling power.

Route of the victim through Catgut Rift. Reprinted from B.B. No. 207.

The next mini-rescue took place shortly after and was arranged to study the feasibility of getting an injured man up the Wire Rift. This worked reasonably well provided that the 'victim' was not too seriously injured. (note 13) Thus later that year when a full-scale rescue was organised Wire Rift was the chosen route out of the cave.  On this occasion the carry did not go entirely smoothly for two basic reasons - too long a carry, the parties becoming very tired and poor positioning of the carry team in the Wire Rift making movement of the victim difficult. On the plus side the victim was successfully moved through the cave and, apart from problems in the Wire Rift, hauled up the Entrance Rift and out to the cave entrance. (note 14)

One of the more difficult areas from which to effect a rescue is Coral Chamber - all of the approaches / exits from this impressive chamber are tight, or through unstable boulder ruckles.  There is only one route open to would-be rescuers - and it is the safest of the dicey exits from the chamber.  The route is to take the victim to the bottom of Coral Chamber and out into Rocky Boulder Chamber.  From here the only way out is up the 'half-pothole' in the north wall, through large loose boulders and on up a further 5m pitch into Boulder Chamber. This was tried in April, 1968 - the attempt was a success even though a few bouncing boulders added to the entertainment! (note 15)

A Challenge!

One of the most popular trips in the cave is to the September Series and, in particular, The Balcony formations.  There has already been one accident in the area - a dislocated shoulder, though not pleasant, the man was able to move through the cave on his own. Someone else may not be so lucky - so what if?  What if you have to get an unconscious victim out through the September Boulder Ruckle? Its been tried on two occasions and both attempts failed at the 'Z' bend just up-slope from the September Squeeze. (note 16)  Among the current clutch of leaders there must be a few wanting to make a name for themselves, perhaps they could gain fame by organising a trip, with a willing victim, a carry party complete with carry/drag sheet and solve this long outstanding problem.

Rigid stretchers

Several trials have been carried out in various Mendip caves but in general the carry (drag)-sheet has remained a firm favourite over the decades.  On one occasion the Paraguard stretcher was tried in St. Cuthbert's.  The route between Lower Mud Hall and Water Shute was chosen.  It had a couple of narrow and twisting sections.  It was possible to manoeuvre the stretcher, complete with victim, but was extremely awkward and it took longer than if the carry-sheet had been used. (note 17)

What resulted from all this work?

As a result of all this work several aids were put in, a specialist piece of equipment developed and the best routes determined for ease of carry and comfort to the victim.

Entrance Rift

Hauling up the Entrance Rift was always likely to be problematic.  The early success was by attaching ropes to the carry sheet's upper loops by the victim's shoulder and two men hauling with the use of a pulley slung from an iron bar fixed in the south wall of the rift.  However, this led to another idea and the 'baby-bouncer' came into being.  (note 18)This was constructed by the club and kept in the tackle store.  Therefore with the use of the baby-bouncer, hauling rope and pulley two men can easily get the victim to the top of the rift with the minimum of effort.

Pulpit Pitch

The New Route is the preferred route for an 'immobilised' victim.  Two rawlbolts have been positioned at the head of Pulpit Pitch to enable pulleys and hauling ropes to be attached (left hand wall facing the pitch). The bolt in the right hand wall should be used for rigging the ladder so that a man is climbing alongside the carry-sheet and keep it free from snagging.  When the victim reaches the top he is brought up via the stream channel low on the left side.  The ladder climber will have to manoeuvre his way over the 'rocking boulder' - a delight, especially if the ladder has jammed between the boulder and the rock wall !!

Catgut Series

No special equipment or hauling equipment is required here; just the drag-sheet and hauling ropes.  Movement through the rift is best done high-up and pass the victim across knees of bridged rescuers [See figure].  Once out into the sizeable opening just beyond the start of the rift [High Chamber end] a simple route through an eye-hole leads via a rift feature out into the bedding plane on the route back into High Chamber.  This way avoids the September Squeeze.

Coral Chamber

Hauling ropes laid down through the 'half-pothole' in the north wall of Rocky Boulder Chamber.  No pulley can be rigged and ropes drag over boulder edges.  Great care required.  Hauling takes place in the 'bouldery' chamber above Chockstone Rift. A second 5m pitch is slightly twisting and needs guiding but is an easy way to get the victim up into Boulder Chamber. A hole can be found in the wall, a metre above the head of the pitch, capable of taking a 1/2" Rawlbolt. Pull can take place out in Boulder Chamber provided a couple of men are placed on the ledges to guide the stretcher past these and the boulder wall.  All exits from Coral Chamber are either too tight (e.g. Coral Squeeze) or too unstable (e.g. boulder ruckle route to Long Chamber Extension) and the route described above is really the only practical route enabling a victim in a carry sheet to be successfully removed from this area.

Traverse Pitch

There are no particular problems associated with this 10m pitch.  It is on the standard 'rescue route' and is a quick way of transferring the victim down into the roomy streamway passages in the New Route.  Bolts have been placed on both sides of the passage a few feet back from the pitch head.  Again a ladder slung alongside the victim will enable a rescuer to prevent the uncomfortable spinning of the 'victim'.

The Basic Routes

Rescue from St. Cuthbert's Swallet is fairly easy if the site of the accident is on the main tourist routes of the cave [the exceptions having been discussed above] and movement of the carry party is through the 'centre' section of the cave.  The route from Boulder Chamber / Upper Traverse Chamber area to the entrance is fairly self evident.  To take the patient up through Boulder Chamber to Pillar Chamber and up the Wire Rift is not really practical for it is a route that contains a succession of tight sections, let alone the difficulty of carrying through the Wire Rift. Transporting through the short upper section of Ledge Pitches is not exactly straightforward. (note 19) Further, use of the Wire Rift is best left for transportation of equipment.

The obvious route from Boulder Chamber / Upper Traverse Chamber is to lower the victim down Traverse Pitch into Lower Traverse Chamber and on up the spacious, relatively straight-forward New Route.

If New Route is being used to carry an injured man/woman/person (whichever is politically correct!!!) then Traverse Pitch becomes the focal point for most routes from the upper passages.  Routes from the bottom of the cave, Plantation Junction and beyond, would be through the Rabbit Warren to Railway Tunnel and on through Harem Passage.  An alternative route and in many ways easier for all concerned including the victim, is to leave the Rabbit Warren by the 2nd Stal Bank and descend to the streamway just above Dining Room bringing the victim up through the spacious Everest Passage, Boulder Chamber and into Upper Traverse Chamber.  Personally I prefer the latter route in the case of a badly injured person.

Times can be important. Generally, once the carry is underway, the time required from Plantation Junction to the cave entrance would be about 3½ - 4 hours; 2 hours of which would be for the carry from Traverse Pitch via Pulpit Pitch to the cave entrance.

No mention of radio / telephone communication problems has been made as the technology has moved on and use of the Molefone has obviated the need to a wire laying party - thank goodness!

Since the time of the mini-rescues, several full-scale practices have been organised but for the caves sake unless there is an over-riding reason for carrying out a practice in the cave then all requests, including MRO, to hold general purpose practices should be refused.


Grateful thanks to B.E. (Prew) Prewer for his helpful comments and criticism.

Dave Irwin, Priddy, 31st July, 1997

Additional Note on a previous article: If Dave Irwin needs to fill in some details of the early exploration of Stoke Lane I suggest he talks to some of the other people who were around at that time.  It is 50 years since I was last down there and memories are fading. I think I understand from Brian Ellis that the Shepton Caving Club was formed to forestall the BEC in removing the bones.  How did Sybil's back get bruised?  Where are the bones now?

(Editorial Note: The article in the last BB from Dave Irwin was a 50 year anniversary of the passing of the sump and was also a preview to a future Caving Report on Stoke Lane. If anyone does have any information, stories or old photographs from Stoke Lane can they please pass them to Dave and he may be able to use them in the Caving Report.)


  1. Irwin, David J. et ai, 1991, St. Cuthbert's Swallet. Priddy, Somerset, Bristol Exploration Club. ii + 82pp, map, illus, surveys (Oct)
  2. Irwin, David J. et ai, 1991, [as above]; photo no. 5
  3. Marriott, c.A., 1960, Cuthbert’s. BEC Bel Bul 14(144)2-5(Feb)
  4. Pritchard, Llew, Ellis, B.M. and Nash, Alan, 1960, Swildons and Cuthbert’s. BEC Bel Bul 14(15 J)3-7(Sep)
  5. Baker, Michael and Prew [pseudo B.E. Prewer], 1960, Mendip notes. BEC Bel Bul 14(154)15-16(Dec)
  6. Lloyd, Oliver C., 1961, This cave is liable to flooding. WCC Jnl 6(79)205-208(Apr)
  7. Rollason, Jill, 1961, Letter to the Editor. WCC Jn16(80)242-243(Jun)
  8. Irwin, David J., 1965, Rood Water Control. BEC 81. Cuthbert's Newsheet (4)[2](Apr)
  9. Franklin, Keith, 1963, A practice rescue in 81. Cuthberts, with a note by 8J. Collins. BEC Bel BuI17(184)1l-12(Jun), fig
  10. Irwin, David J., 1965, St. Cuthbert’s practice rescue in Catgut Rift. BEC Bel Bu1 19(207)7-8(May), fig
  11. Franklin, Keith, 1965, June mock rescue in St. Cuthbert’s BEC Bel BuI19(211)2-5(Sept)
  12. Franklin, Keith, 1966, Cuthbert’s rescue. BEC Bel Bu1 20(226) 1 09-11 O(Dee)
  13. Franklin, Keith, 1968, [Practice rescue in St. Cuthbert's] BEC Bel Bu122(239)26(Feb)
  14. Franklin, Keith, 1968, St. Cuthbert’s Practice Rescue. BEC Bel Bul 22(248)169-170(Nov)
  15. Irwin, David J., 1968, St. Cuthbert's practice rescue. Coral Chamber - Boulder Chamber.   BEC Bel Bul 22(242)79(May)
  16. Howell, Chris, 1972, Never mind the patient - watch that stal. BEC Bel Bul 26(294)80-83(Apr)
  17. Wig [pseudo David J. Irwin], 1975, Round and About. [MRO- Paraguard Stretcher]. BEC Bel BuI29(330)82-84(Apr/May)
  18. The 'baby-bouncer' well-known to modem cavers is a quite different piece of equipment. It is basically harness made of webbing used for general hauling.
  19. Irwin, David J. et al, 1991, [as above], p.79


Notes And Queries On Five Buddles

Roy Anthony Setterington (Tony Sett not Roger)

Following a discussion at the 'Hunter's with J-Rat when he postulated that the wheel in 'Wheelpit' was overshot, I checked with a copy of Harvey's 1884 catalogue.


Although they have chosen an impressive 50ft wheel for advertising purposes the basic design is common to all sizes and we have the evidence of the recovered plates from the sides, undershot wheels only have paddles.  (In a catalogue mainly devoted to beam engines I suppose the Freudian slip in the typesetting is excusable).  J-Rat calculated that the wheel was 10 ft + in diameter.  Since a range of wheels were available it would be sensible to have patterns for, say to, 12 and 15 ft sizes and go up one size, turning it into a high breast shot wheel.  Undershot wheels usually produce less than one HP which would blow a small forge but wouldn't run a set of 5 buddIes.  A 10 ft wheel 30" wide would generate around 5 HP given an adequate water supply. Did the other two sets of buddles on the Chewton Mineries site end in a waterwheel?

Five buddles?  There are 5 smaller circles on the map and two larger on the roadside site.  The other two sets on the St Cuthbert's Lead Works have 10 smaller buddles which makes me think they were running in parallel.

The photocopies from McMurtrie remind us that there was a perpetual problem on Mendip of too much water underground and not enough on top.  Gough enlarges on these problems (p157-166) when it appears as if mining on Mendip was so marginal that a toll of one half of the ore raised was excessive and the traditional miners revolted against the incomers.  I make the point that if Bushell planned to drain pits which were already 5 fathoms deep into Chewton minery swallet it would have to be deeper (Gough, p161 - 'by pursuing a Drift as a Common-Shore, from the Concaves of a natural swallow twenty fathom deep').  Some protracted digging will be required if Bushell's swallow is the same one as drained Five Buddles and is now full of rubbish.

AT A MYNERY COURT, holden at Chewton the Fifteenth day of October in the Year of our Lord God 1658, it is ordered by John Radford & his Fellows as followeth.

90.  For carrying ye Water in Row pitts. – WHEREAS there was a Complaint made unto us of this July of this Jury for ye Waters drawing in Row Potts to have ye Workmen to work for the publique good of ye Lord and workmen, wherefore we of this Jury do order, and make this decree, that ye Partners and Owners of Several Grove there, Shall be at ye Charge of carrying their Water in Sufficient Stream, where they do ye Same to ye Main Stream, or Streams which runneth to Chewton Minery, at their own Self and particular Charge, upon pain of fourty Shillings, the One half to the Lord, ye Other half to ye Party grieved, ye Shall justly prove ye Same and no man Shall deny him or them to carry or convey ye Same away under ye like Pain.  And we do further Order that ye Main stream or Streams Shall be Sufficiently repaired, at ye Charge of ye Lord and Workmen, according to ye Judgement of ye Jury, for ye time being as they Shall Order and appoint, and unto this we all agree and have Subscribed our hands, ye day and Year first above written.

AT A MINERALL COURT holden at Chewton ye 8th day of July, 1671, I was contended and approved of as followeth, by us whose names ar hereunto Subscribed.

97.  Mr. Bushell’s Order for water works. – WHEREAS Thomas Bushell Esq hath (not long since) to his very great Charge and Expence, endeavoured by his Audits and Swallets, to draine ye deserted Works of Sr. Bevis Bulmer, in Rowe Pits near Chewton Mynery in ye Forest of Mendip, which by reason of inundations, and breaches of Waters into ye Said Works they Yield not the Tenth part of ye Profits, which otherwise they might not have done, & whereas for his better encouragement to persist in ye Carrying on of So expensive and dangerous a work, the King’s most Excellent Majestie in ye 14th Year of his Reign, together with ye Consent of ye Lords Spiritual and Temporall assembled in Parliament, did then and there Enact, that the Said Thomas Bushell, his Excec’s Adminis’s and Assigns Should have the full power to make Audits and Swalletts, and all Such Groves, as he or they Should thing fitt, for ye draining of ye Said Sr Bevis Bulmer’s deserted works in ye Lead Mines in Row Pitts, and Green Oare in the Said Forrest of Mendipp in ye County of Somersett.  And undertakings of dreining ye Said Works or any of them by Audits Swalletts, Suffes, Draynes, or by any other Means, whatsoever, So as ye Respective Myners, any work, and draw Oare without any Charge of draining & Clearing the Water, and Shall be So adjudges by ye Minerall Grand Jury Court, belonging to ye Jurisdiction wherein ye Said Mines So drayned Shall be for ye Respective Miners for Time being, & that by his and their workmanship, the Said Myners are and Shall be freed form ye inundation of their Waters, he ye Said Thomas Bushell, his Exectrs Administrs and Assigns, bearing half ye Charge of Digging ye Said Oare, Shall have take, and receive one full moietie, of all ye Oare that Shall be drawn, and Landed, by all and every ye Respective Myners, and Undertakers there, and in all and every ye Respective Shafts, Cross-Rakes, By-Rakes, or other Mines within ye Said Mines of Rowe-Pitts & Green Oare, with Liberty to work ye Said Mines from time to time, for Raising and getting ye Oare therein, and to drive through and Sink shafts, in any Such Rakes of Ground, delivering all the Moiety of ye Oare gotten in all or any ye Said Drifts and Shafts unto ye Owners thereof, they ye Said Owners paying ye full Moiety of ye Said Charge; And whereas Sev of ye ,ost concerned Adventures there, have heretofore (for ye like encouragement) Subscribed their Assent to ye performance of ye premises, as by writings under their hands may appear, And whereas ye Said work hath hitherto proved not only Very Costly and Expensive but also very ineffectuall and unprofitable; Yet notwithstanding ye Said Thomas Bushell together with Sr. Edmund Wyndham, Knight & Marshall &c. Purposing and intending, by their Ingenuity and expences to Carry on ye Said work accordingly; We of this Minerall Grand Jury Court for ye Liberty aforesaid for ye time being together with ye Consent, and approbation of Sev of ye Adventurers there whose Names are or Shall be Subscribed as aforesaid, do really conceive & hereby declare & allow, that from henceforth they ye Said Thomas Bushell, & Sr Edmond Wyndham, their Exectrs Administrs & Assigns, Shall have, Receive, take  and Enjoy (bearing halfe the Charges as aforesaid) One full Moiete of ye Oare, that Shall be drawn, and Landed, by all and Every ye Sev & Respective Miners and Undertakes, there and in all. By rakes or other Mines, within ye S Liberties, & precincts of Rowe Pitts and Green Oare where, and in Such places only as they ye Said Thomas Bushell & Sr Edmond Wyndham, their Exectrs Administrs & Assigns, Agents or Workmen Shall make it appear to ye Said Minerall Grand Jury Court for ye time being, that they by their Ingenuity, Labour and Expences, have drained ye Same; And further We seriously Considering ye Premises and ye Work in question being (by God’s blessing) brought to be Effectuall and that ye advantages thereof will then redound, and accrue, to a generall Good; We therefore (So much as in us lyeth) do declare, allow and Confirm, unto the Said Thomas Bushell, & Sr Edmond Wyndham, their, and either of their Exextrs Administrs, One full Moiety of ye proffitts aforesaid by and under ye Terms and Conditions aforesaid And Shall br ready to give them any lawfull Encouragement and Assistance theirin.


McMurtrie J. Notes on the Forest of Mendip, its Mining Customs and Ancient Laws, London and Newcastle, 1900.

Gough J.W, The Mines of Mendip. Newton Abbott, 1967

A Map surveyed in 1884, published in 1886, showing the Five Buddles Sink Area.

1.                  Probably a holding tank.

2.                  The Five Buddles by Five Buddles Sink Entrance.  (The square is probably a workman’s hut)

3.                  Snake Pit Hole

4.                  The Waldegrave Pond

5.                  The Cornish Shaft entrance to Five Buddles


BEC Cave Leaders


Chris ‘Blitz’ Smart

Craig y FFynon (Rock and Fountain)

Martin Grass

Dan yr Ogof/Tunnel

Martin Grass, Mike ‘Trebor’ McDonald, Tim Large, Graham Wilton-Jones, Rob Harper

Ogof Fynon Ddu

Martin Grass, Graham Wilton-Jones, Brian Prewer, Greg Villis, Tim Large

Pen Park Hole

Jeff Price, Mike ‘Trebor’ McDonals

Reservoir Hole

Jeff Price, Martin Grass, Graham Wilton-Jones, Dave Irwin.

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet

BEC Leaders

Ian Caldwell, Chris Castle, John Dukes, Peter Glanvill, Martin Grass, Pete Hellier, Jeremy Henley,  Dave Irwin, Kangy King, Tim Large, Mike ‘Trebor’ McDonald, Stuart McManus, Mike Palmer, Brian Prewer, Estelle Sandford, Chris Smart, Andy Sparrow, Nigel Taylor, Dave Turner, Greg Villis, Graham Wilton-Jones, Mike Wilson, Brian Workman.

Guest Leaders

Graham Price (CSS), Malcolm Cotter (MCG), M Barrington (MEG), Jeremy Gilson (MCG), Mark Sims (SMCC), Anthony Boycott (UBSS), Ray Mansfield (UBSS), Ric Halliwell (CPC), Vern Freeman (WCC).

If you wish to go on a trip to any of these caves (or any other caves) please contact your Caving Secretary - Andy Thomas, Street, Somerset.  Phone No. 01458 xxxxxx


BEC Membership Reciprocal Rights

The list of clubs with whom the BEC held reciprocal rights for accommodation is inaccurate and I apologise for this error on behalf of the Hut Wardens past and present and hope that it has not caused any embarrassing situations to BEC members over the past few years.

The revised list of Reciprocal rights is as follows: -

Bradford Pothole Club

Bracken Bottom
Horton in Ribbledale,
North Yorkshire

Contact: Martin Baines

First night £2.00
Each additional night £1.00

Chelsea Speleological Society

White Walls
Llangattock Escarpment
Nr. Abergavenny, Wales

Contact: Arthur Millet

Each night £1.50

There are many other clubs with whom we have no discount.  We have listed some of them below for Membership information:



Fee per Night (£)

Craven Pothole Club

Steve Pickersgill


Grampian Speleological Society

Peter Dowswell


South Wales Caving Club

Ian Middleton




(camping 2.50)

Northern Pennine Club

Andy Goddard


Orpheus Caving Club

Jenny Potts


Rebecca Campbell, Belfry Hut Warden


Membership List - Paid up members at 31/1/98

20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Henton, Wells, Somerset
1145 Roz Bateman                    Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset.
1227 Anette Becher                   St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
1079 Henry Bennett                   London
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Draycott, Somerset
1122 Clive Betts                        Clapham, Bedfordshire
731 Bob Bidmead                      East Harptree, Nr. Bristol, Avon
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                          Cardiff, S. Gamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                  London
201 John Buxton                       Flitwick, Beds.
956 Ian Caldwell                        Redland, Bristol, Avon
1214 Rebecca Campbell            Wells, Somerset
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
1197 Tim Chapman                   Stubbington, Fareham, Hampshire
1197 John Christie                     Brompton, North Allerton, North Yorks
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Draycott, Somerset
727 Bill Cooper                         Knowle, Bristol
1233 (P) Paul Craggs                Uffculme, Cullompton, Devon
870 Gary Cullen                        Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 British Columbia, Canada.
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
1229 Jeremy Dixon-Wright         West Pennard, Glastonbury, Somerset
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
829 (L) Angie Dooley                 Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                  Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
830 John Dukes                        Street, Somerset
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
1218 Stephen Flinders               Burrington, Somerset
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Staffordshire
469 (J) Peter Franklin                Staffordshire
1159 John Freeman                   Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1182 Alex Gee                          Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset
835 Lenard Gee                        St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Basingstoke, Hampshire
1006 Edward Gosden                Twyford, Winchester, Hampshire
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Draycott, Somerset
1155 Rachael Gregory               Pentir, Nr., Bangor, Gwynedd
1089 Kevin Gurner                     Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             Semington, Trowbrdge, Wiltshire
1186 (J) Helen Harper                Wells, Somerset
999 (J) Rob Harper                    Wells, Somerset
1234(P) Roger Haskett              Bridgwater, Somerset
1235(P) Steve Heape                 Bornemouth
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnett Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol, Avon
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet
952 Bob Hill                              London
1221 Mark Howden                    Street, Sometset
1219 Sean Howe                       Bradley Stoke, Bristol
923 Trevor Hughes                     Holcombe, Bath, Avon
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Buxton, Derbyshire
1111 Graham Johnson               Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
958 Fiona Lambert                    Castel Cary, Somserset
667 (L) Tim Large                      Brislington, Bristol
1199 Alex Livingstone                Clevedon, Avon
1180 Rich Long                         Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jnr)        St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
1071 Mike McDonald                 Bath
1195 Struan McDonald              Devizes, Wiltshire
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                 Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
704 Dave Metcalfe                     Whitwick, Leicestershire
1044 Andy Middleton                 Hardington-Mandeville, Somerset
1194 Nick Mitchell                     Priddy Somerset
1210 Guy Mannings                  Croydon, Surrey
1183 Andy Newton                    Shipham, Nr Cheddar, Somerset
1232 (P) Andy Nunn                  Uffculme, Cullomton, Devon
553 Bob O’Malley-White            Wells, Somerset
1228 Ben Ogbourne                   Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Rich Payne                       Orpington, Kent
1134 Martin Peters                    Wells, Somerset.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1193 Emma Porter                    Witmore, Wolverhampton
337 Brian Prewer                       Priddy, Wells, Somerset
886 Jeff Price                            Knowle, Bristol, Avon
481 (L) John Ransom                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
985 Phil Romford                       Shepton Mallet, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                          Hookway, nr Crediton, Devon
1208 Stuart Sale                       Romsey, Hampshire
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
1170 Andy Sanders                   Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1173 Estelle Sandford                Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   Cote D’Azur, France
1236(P) Martin Selfe                  Bosleake, Redruth, Cornwall
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Taunton, Somerset
1036 (J) Nicola Slann                 Draycott, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                          c/o The Belfry
1203 Bob Smith                        Havant, Hampshire
823 Andy Sparrow                     Priddy, Somerset
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Bude, Cornwall
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Warkworth, Northumberland
1230 (P) Clive Stell                    Bathford, Bath
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Weston super Mare, Avon
1187 Mark Tanner                     Fishponds, Bristol
583 Derek Targett                      East Horrington, Wells Somerset
1110 Gwyn Taylor                     Ingleton, North Yorkshire via  Carnforth
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
1224 (P) Andrew Thomas           Street, Somerset
571 (L) N Thomas                      Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
1216 Martin Torbett                   Cheddar, Somerset
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Bognor Regis, Sussex
1023 Matt Tuck                         Plymouth, Devon.
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
635 (L) S. Tuttlebury                  Farnham, Surrey
1096 Brian van Luipen                Wick, Littlehampton, West sussex
887 Greg Villis                          Weston super Mare, North Somerset
175 (L) D. Whaddon                  0
1220 (P) John Walsh                 Glastonbury, Somerset
1185 Chas Wethered                 Axbridge, Somerset
1118 Carol White                      Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chillington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                     South Horrington, Wells, Somerset


Minutes of the 1997 B.E.C Annual General Meeting, Saturday 4th October .

The meeting was started late at 10.55 am by the Hon. Secretary (Nigel Taylor) and is customary, he called for the handing in of any outstanding Ballot Forms. The Hon. Secretary noting that 32 members were present, then called for nominations for a Chairman, there being one nominee, Bob Cork was duly elected.

Bob Cork being duly installed as Chairman, then called for the election of Tellers, three being appointed they left the room to count the ballot papers.

The Secretary had received apologies from: Alison Cooper, Andy Cave, Angie Cave, Tim Large, Nick Gymer, Kevin Gurner, apologies were given from the floor for: Jeff Price, Trebor, Dany Bradshaw, Martin Torbett, Tim Chapman, Angie Dooley, John Freeman, and Clive Stell.

The attendance sheet however was later destroyed by the Chairman's enthusiasm by handing it with the ballot forms for destruction in the Belfry stove by a pyromaniacal Mike Willett.

Item Five, Minutes of the 1996 AGM:- The Hon. Secretary reminded the meeting that the 1996 AGM has been mostly inquorate, and that this meeting had now to ratify that meeting.  That the minutes of the 1996 AGM be taken as read was proposed [P:] by Rob Harper [RH] and Seconded [S:] by Ron Wyncoll [RW], carried 32 For, 3 Abst.

Item 6, Matters arising from the Minutes: - The Secretary pointed out that these had been printed in the BB directly after last years AGM, and there being only one question from the floor regarding St. Cuthbert’s, to which he replied that there was nothing to report.

Item 7, Hon Secretary's Report: - Nigel Taylor had published this in the B.B.  There was surprisingly no debate upon this, and the report was carried nem.con. with two abstentions (34 For) P: Rich Blake [RB], and S: Chas Wethered [CW]

Item 8, Hon Treasurers' Report: This was read to the meeting by Chris Smart, and much talk ensued involving Trevor Hughes, Rob Harper, Mike Jeanmaire, Rebecca Campbell, and Nigel Taylor.  Trevor Hughes [TH] wanted an appraisal of the clubs assets to be shown in the accounts, and he then made a formal proposal for this, and Mike Jeanmaire [MJ] seconded this, voting: 13 For, 14 Abst, 9 “Don't knows” No vote or abst.  The Treasurers report was then voted on: P:TH, S: Mike Wilson [MWN],25 For, I Against, 2 Abst.

Item 9, Hon. Auditors Report: Barry Wilton then discussed this with the meeting.  Voting then was P: MJ, & S: John Buxton [JB], 27 For, 0 Against, 3 Abst.

Item 10, Caving Secretary's Report: was read to the meeting in absentia of Jeff Price who had sent his apologies.  No discussion being provoked, P:RH, S: RB, and carried: For 29,0 Against, 2 Abst.

Item 11, Membership Secretary's Report: This had been published in the BB by Richard Stephens [RS] Again no discussion prevailed, and voting: P: Chris Smart [CS], S: Roger Stenner [RS] Voting: 23 For, I Against, 6 Abst'.

Item 12, Hut Wardens Report:  Published in the B.B. NT asked the Hut Warden [Rebecca Campbell RC] if she felt that a resident hut warden would assist the situation if there was such an assistant or person in residence at weekends at the Belfry.  He added that it was strange that both the Shepton [SMCC] and MCG always seemed full in contrast to the Belfry.  Andy Sparrow [AS] complained that two parties that he had recommended to stay at the Belfry had been insulted and not allowed any sleep at night.  NT asked AS if he had a solution.  RH suggested that a resident Hut Warden would instil the discipline that was apparently lacking.  RH then went further and suggested that the late-night curfew was re-introduced.  NT spoke strongly of the Bunk room changes of which he was against - albeit he admitted that he had offered to assist in when persuaded that the committee had fully endorsed the plans - and his concern that the abolition of the separate members room might scare away newer guests whom he saw as potential members.  Andy Sparrow agreed with him, Rich Blake countered this and expressed his view that it was a good change.  There was both approval and disapproval for these works amongst the floor of the AGM.  Alex Gee [AG] thought that the increase in Hut fees was a very badly conceived decision. NT pointed out that most members of less than five years membership in the club had not known an increase, and that the Committee had acted responsibly in raising the Hut fees, by effectively the price of a half pint of beer or less, in order to protect the interests of the club, and further, that previous AGM's had directed that the Belfry generally ought to run itself at a profit.  JB commented that the hut figures had been falling over several years, and asked what the committee was doing about it.  Bob CORK [BC] expressed his view that these were real problems which needed looking into.  The Chairman then called for a vote upon the report: P:RB, S: JB, 32 For, 0 Against, I Abst.

Item 13, Hut Engineers Report.  This had not been published, and Ivan Sandford [IS] was asked by the Chair to present his report to the AGM.  Ivan declined to do so.  The meeting felt that it was unfortunate. There being no report, RC ruled there was therefore no discussion, and no vote.

Item 14, Tackle Masters Report:  Published in the B.B. Rob Harper [RH].  Asked about going back to the easy access system MWN repeated his 1996 AGM comments and advised that restricted tackle introduced at the 1995 AGM had not worked, and he wondered again if we should revert to our open access arrangements of former years.  This was roundly supported by NT, who spoke fervently for the right of open access to tackle by each and every member as their entitlement, and he asked the AGM to reconsider.  NT noted that Martin Grass [MG] had expressed the view to him and that Martin who was not as yet present at this AGM asked it to be mentioned, NT asked if the AGM agreed? A proposal for an open system for tackle was then put to the AGM: P:CS, S:NT, 5 For, 17 Against, 10 Abst.

A further proposal was that "A system of limited 'open-access' be set up. P: Peter Hellier [PH] And S:CS, Voting: 22 For, 1 Against, 9 Abst.  In the turmoil, Mikes report was not voted upon!.

Item 15, B.B Editors Report:  Published in the B.B. The report was then taken: P:MWN, S:MJ, Voting: 14 For, I Against, 14 Abst.

Item 16, Librarians Report:  Published in the BB.  Alex Gee added that he would welcome new additions, and hoped to improve the Library next year if re-elected.  Voting: P: NT, S: RB, 32 For, 1 Abst.

Item 17, Ian Deer Memorial Fund:  Already Presented to the Meeting with Caving Secretary's report.  The Treasurer again suggested no transfer of funds into the Fund this year to top up. This proposal was voted on: P:CS, S:RH, Voting: 32 For, 0 Against, 2 Abst.

The Hon. Secretary then excused himself from minute taking in order to prepare the AGM lunch, and Chris Smart stepped into the minute takers position:

Item 18, Result of Ballot:  The under mentioned were then duly elected, unfortunately the Chairman again erred in handing the voting figures to Mike Willett's furnace, albeit the names of the 52 members who voted were recovered just in time from where they had been abandoned safely in the Library by the Tellers. In alphabetical order those elected were:

Roz Bateman, Richard Blake, Rebecca Campbell, Alex Gee, Nick Mitchell, Estelle Sandford, Chris Smart, Nigel Taylor, and Andy Thomas.

Item 19, Election of the 1996/7 Committee: As is customary, this was done from the floor of the meeting, and Nigel Taylor declared a possible 'conflict of interests' to the meeting prior to any vote.  He stated that his explosives business was working in Limestone areas, and although he had turned down a large contract because it would have caused damage to caving systems, he was aware that it could be a conflict of interest. The AGM declared this laudable, and agreed that they did not see it as a conflict of interest.  Voting for the posts then followed:

Hon. Secretary: Nigel Taylor.
Hon. Treasurer: Chris Smart.
Tacklemaster: Rich Blake.
Hut Warden: Rebecca Campbell.
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell.
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman.
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas.
B.B. Editor: Estelle Sandford.
Hon. Auditor: Barrie Wilton.
Non-Post Holders: Alex Gee - Librarian (Purists will comment not normally a Committee Post, but filled by one of the new 9 strong committee)

Peter Franklyn was reaffirmed in the position of the post of Club Archivist. P:NT.S: IS nem.con.  Barry Wilton was also reaffirmed as Auditor, P:NT, S: RH, nem.con.

There was then much discussion on the question of Club Rescue Team co-ordinator. It was known that both Any Sparrow and Alex Gee were keen to undertake this role.  This culminated in the proposal that they could be joint co-ordinators, P: MW, S: NT, this was put to the vote and carried unanimously.  Alex Gee P: TH, S: IS, Andy Sparrow, P: Roz Bateman [RBN],S: Peter Hellier [PH].  In view of the earlier proposal, no vote was taken and both accepted the post, Andy declaring his "Professional Caver/Business interest" The AGM again had no problem with this.

Item 20, Destruction of Ballot Forms: P:TH, S:RH, carried nem.con.


Item 21, Members Resolutions:  A proposal by NT and seconded by CS as follows:

"That any unusual club expenditure in excess of £1000 should be referred over two monthly committee meetings for full discussion, or, to an Extraordinary or AGM".

This caused considerable discussion, with Alex Gee, Ivan Sandford, and Rebecca Campbell speaking very strongly against the proposal.  RC accused NT of raising the motion because he was against the December 1996 committee meetings democratic decision to rip out the bunk room in order to improve the Belfry facilities with an Alpine Bunk.  This view was supported by IS and AG.  Nigel agreed that he had been forcefully against the decision as it was raised in his annual absence (Holiday abroad) and also that of the Treasurers.  He agreed that he also tried to make the committee reconsider with caution their decision which he had regarded as hasty and lacking financial costing.  However he added that whilst strongly against that scheme, he offered at the January meeting to assist in the works, and was told that his offer was not needed as those persons required had already offered their skills.  Nevertheless, he was at great pains to assure the meeting that his proposal was to protect the club from any future 'quick decision' and the consequent risk of financial problems, and not as Alex, Ivan and Becky were now accusing him of 'sour grapes'.  He did admit however, that he was concerned that no final accounts of that particular expense had been given to date, despite his and the treasurers requests. Both IS, RC and AG felt strongly that his proposal was a bad one, as it would both 'Tie up the committee' and further implied a very unfair 'Vote of no-confidence' in the outgoing committee. Despite NT's protestations that this was not the case, and that he just wanted to ensure a responsible line was set by the AGM as a future guide to future committees, it was apparent that primarily these persons still felt strongly that Nigel's motives were suspect. Accordingly, before any further discussion could take place Nigel withdrew his motion stating,  'That it was not his intention to upset or hurt anyone, and as this obviously aroused some strong passions in a few members, he felt he had to withdrew it, in order to preserve harmony within the BEC.'

Babs WILLIAMS [BW] then re-proposed the above motion and lowered the limit to £500, adding that: "Any such expenditure must go before a full committee, with full costing, and consultation with the Treasurer, and with one months thought going into the matter (i.e.: over two committee meetings" The Chairman decided that sufficient debate had already taken place, and he intended to put this to a vote, P:BW, S:RW, voting: 21 For,8 Against, 1 Abst-(Hon. Sec)

Ivan Sandford then proposed an amendment that "except in exceptional circumstances.” This was then put to the vote: P:IS, S:CS, 2 For, 20 Against, 6 Abst.

Rebecca Campbell and Alex Gee stated their total objection to this AGM decision, and forcefully walked out of the AGM announcing their immediate resignations from the Committee as they left the room.

NT then withdrew an unconnected proposal that he had submitted at the start of the AGM, and raised his third resolution, which the Chairman reminded the meeting was a Constitutional change approved and passed at the 1996 AGM, and therefore it had to be raised as per our constitution at this AGM.  The proposal being: "That prospective members joining at any time in the year pay on a quarter basis of the full subscription, and not as present on the monthly basis."  This having been P:NT, and S: The 1996 AGM, It was Voted upon, 26 For, 0 Against, 2 Abst.

Colin Dooley [CD]  Then proposed that" Committee members attendance records be published." Peter Franklyn [PF] added that this had been done in the past and queried why it was not done nowadays.  NT explained that figures had been collated with this in mind, but two members hotly disputed their alleged low attendance, and therefore as no firm or accepted figures could be agreed upon, he certainly had not intended publishing disputed attendance records.  The proposal was voted upon: P:CD, S:PF, 26 For, 1 Against, 1 Abst.

Hon. See NT then resumed minute taking from Hon Treasurer CS.  Brenda Wilton [BrW] then proposed that Guest Clubs should be given Two Guest Dinner tickets per club, this was S: Angie Dooley [AD].Both members spoke strongly upon this motion.  NT tried to counter the proposal by warning the AGM that this would impose at least an extra £2 per ticket, i.e.; £4 per 'couple-purchaser'. He asked that this not be accepted, and pointed out that the single invite system had been fully endorsed by a previous AGM.  The motion was voted: 25 For, 6 Against, 0 Abst.

Item 23,Any Other Business:  Trevor Hughes then voiced his anger and concern at what he saw as an abuse of use of the BEC Club Logo by the 'Belfry Boys'.  He went further by stating that he felt that the BEC should ask them for money for royalties of their use of the club logo. Much banter then ensued, and it was hard to make much sense in the clamour, so the Chairman put it to the vote, P:TH, S: Roger Stenner [RS], Voting: 2 For, 22 Against, 2 Abst.

The Treasurer then started to intimate that he felt subscriptions could remain the same for 1997/8, but TH Proposed, and NT Seconded that an increase of £2.00 per member be levied to keep pace with the cost of living.  Some confusion arose due again to banter as to the true voting figures of 21 For, 5 Against, and 3 Abst, the Chairman requested a recount, and these figures were: 19 For, 4 Against, 1 Abst.

NT then spoke warmly of the efforts and commitment undertaken by Mike and Hilary Wilson who were stepping down from the committee, and he proposed a 'Vote of Thanks', this was seconded by Chris Smart, and was given total support by the AGM.

RW expressed concern re the non-fireproof state of the Belfry, especially the new bunkroom, and fire signs which required up-dating to the 'Running man' Symbol.  He offered to supply some signs for this.  The meeting noted his concerns and the Chairman asked that the new Committee take this on board.

Nigel Taylor as Hon. Secretary announced the details and date of the 1998 AGM, as 10.30 am, Saturday 3rd.October 1998 at the Belfry.  Bob Cork as Chairman then declared the AGM closed at 3.24 pm.

Minutes recorded by Nigel Taylor and Chris Smart, and later typed: Nigel Taylor Hon. Secretary, Saturday 3rd.October 1997.


From the Logbook

Nice to see a bit of fresh input into the BEC logbook – here are some snippets from the digging in Eastwater:  (the Five Buddles work goes in a separate logbook which I will take snippets from next time)

1/11/97 Eastwater – Gonzo

Solo trip to breakthrough at Kentish Cairn to assess boulder choke on ledge at top of aven.  Chickened out, then looked around Baker’s Pit.

2/11/97 Eastwater – Gonzo

Solo return to rift next to aven by Baker’s Pit (or what people call Baker’s Pit). Hammered up tight, friable rift for a couple of body lengths.  Progress would require a drill, but you can see a way up with an encouraging echo.

22/11/97 Gonzo and Graham Johnson – Eastwater, Boulder Chamber.

Big Breakthrough into chamber, big enough to squeeze 4 people in at a shove.

7/12/97 Gonzo and Jake  – Eastwater. Dig above Kentish Cairn/Boulder Chamber.

Took down the Grunter phone.  Dug about 45 mins (like prodding an epileptic poltergeist!) then set up phone to locate dig with Brian Prewer and John Attwood on the surface.  The dig threw itself at the aerial throughout.

A stable new entrance is there for the taking if it’s wanted, but the main dig looks as though it’s heading for the depression further over the field.

11/12/97 Gonzo and Jake  – Eastwater dig.

Last bang brought down 5 tons.  Mostly shifted into Boulder Chamber now.  Placed another charge in base of mud wall.  Can’t find crowbar which is still buried.

17/12/97 Gonzo and Alex Gee  – Eastwater dig.

Alex climbed most of the aven, then we cleared over a ton of spoil.  About another 5 tons down from last bang waiting to be shifted – easy digging.

17/12/97 Gonzo and Alex Gee  – Eastwater.

Fire hose positioned through entrance choke and Woggle Press to redirect stream to wash silt and mud through dig (bottom of boulder Chamber – far right hand side).

Fire hose 30ft shorter than required.

Dam constructed in stream above entrance to funnel water down the pipe – further work required.

21/12/97 G. Johnson  – Eastwater – Boulder Chamber.

Took down more pipe and further work required.

14/1/98 Gonzo and Jake  – Eastwater.

Diverted stream into slot on left of entrance.  Comes in at rift dug by Gonzo and J’Rat above Woggle Press.

Checked dig above Boulder Chamber; there has been a major collapse.  Sorted out pipe to dig below Boulder Chamber and exited.  Checked Molefone peg above dig on surface.  Whoops! – There’s a surface collapse corresponding exactly with the dig! (First fence post down from SW corner).


Rolling Calendar

6/2/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

7/2/98                        CSCC Meeting

3/3/98                        The Cheddar Gorge Lecture,  Bath Arms, cheddar.  7.30pm Martin Torbett

6/3/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

26/3/98                      Become a better naturalist, Wells Museum. 7.00pm Martin Torbett

3/4/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

1/5/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

15-17/5/98                  NAMHO field meet Nenthead Village Hall, Nenthead, Alston, Cumbria          

16/5/98                      CSCC Meeting

5/6/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/7/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

4-5/7/98                     Cavers Fair, Mendip

7/8/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

4/9/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

18-20/9/98                  BCRA Conference, Floral Hall, Southport

30/9/98 – 14/11/98      ISSA ExhibitionSt. David’s Hall, Cardiff, ISSA

3/10/98                      BEC AGM and Dinner

18/11/98 – 28/11/98    A Brush with Darkness – Paintings of Mendip’s caves.

Wells museum.          ISSA

26/11/98                     Undergroud painting techniques/demonstration, Wells Museum 7.30pm Robin Gray


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

1996 - 1997 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Ivan Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Estelle Sandford
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Librarian                  Alex Gee
Floating                   Hilary Wilson



Well it’s been some time since the last edition of the bulletin.  This is largely due to the fact that once again I have been short of articles.  I can see little point in publishing a very small edition or inventing stuff myself to pad it out.  At the AGM I indicated that I would aim to produce at least four copies during the year, a target I am well on course for and will probably exceed.  So my message to those of you out there complaining that you don't receive enough BBs is ... Write something. Simple eh?  As I have said many times before the BB is only as good as the articles that are supplied to the editor, whoever that may be.   There are those that feel a change of editor would solve this problem, personally I am not convinced but there you go. Anyway thanks to those of you that have contributed.

For anyone who hasn't been there recently the Belfry has had a facelift this year and now boasts an alpine style bunkroom in place of the two separate bunkrooms of yore.  The work was done largely by local club members and is of a high standard.  The kitchen has also received quite a bit of attention and now has a pretty solid floor covering complete with 'Bertie' logo ..... a nice touch.

Sadly we have had three recent deaths in the club: Dan and Stella Hassell (see separate article) and Brian Murliss (see Belfry Table).  I'm sure we would all pass on our condolences to the respective families.

On a different note I have stood down as director for the Charterhouse Caving Company.  This was due partially to my feeling somewhat overcommitted but also the fact that other committee members felt I had a conflict of interest.  This has not been explained to me so I am still rather confused about it.  Suffice to say that Becca Campbell represented the club at the AGM of CCC after my resignation.  The BEC no longer has a director on the board of CCC as John Bell of SBSS was voted in, in place of me.  I may choose to air my views on this at a later date but do not wish to say anything until I am aware of all the facts.

'Tusker' of the Weegies informs me that there is to be a midsummer caver's bash at Crapnell Farm in June ... further details will be available from myself or him .... only a telephone call away folks.  Also Jeff East of the Shepton tells me that there will indeed be a Wessex Challenge type event in the autumn probably called 'The Mendip Challenge', this is to be hosted by the Shepton and I will announce details when I have them.

Swildon's 13 is once again under attack by Mike Barnes and Trebor.  I also know of several other divers who have expressed an interest in this project.  This is an extremely arduous undertaking as the dive is very remote indeed and 13 lies on the far side of a particularly nasty underwater squeeze.  Preliminary investigations lead the team to believe they are but one metre from air ... albeit one rather impassable metre at present. Best of luck guys.

Well reckon that's about it for now, once again apologies for the delay in publication ...... perhaps one or two of you will be spurred into literary action .... who knows??

Anyway regards to all, particularly those I have not seen for some time.

Cheers and good caving .... Jingles.


Tony Williams would like to invite members to his birthday celebrations at:

The Ring Of Bells, Hinton Bluett. Saturday May 17th all are welcome. Irish Band and P*ss *p!!


From the Belfry Table

I begin this page with sad news yet again for the Club.

It is with deep regret that I must inform the Membership of the recent deaths of Stela Hassall, and even more recently, of Brian Murliss.

Many of us shaken by Dan's recent demise will be further deeply saddened by the news of Stella following him so soon.

Brian Murliss, a keen digging member of the club and MRO Warden died tragically in early April. Although perhaps not even known to each other, both these people had a deep warmth of character, generous in heart and humour, both of them enriching  the  lives of those who knew them, each will be sadly missed by their many friends.  To their respective families we send our thoughts and heartfelt sympathy at this dark time.


A BCRA One day seminar, to be held at Priddy Village Hall on Saturday 7th.  June 1997, must surely be excellent value for £1.  The event opens at 9.30 am, and runs all day until 5.30 pm, Rich Whitcombe will speak on new finds in the Thrupe area, Tony Jarratt on Five Buddles dig, Dave Irwin, Maurice Hewins and others will give contributions throughout the day. Liquid refreshments are planed! Further details from the Belfry notice board, or Dave Irwin.

The MRO together with the Explosives User Group will host another technical day, hopefully at Westbury Quarry, the following day, Sunday 8th. June 1997.  The intention this time is to pride several different rock types, such as (Draycott] conglomerate, [Box Stone] Sandstones etc, to show their diverse natures as regards bolt fixation, stability, and susceptibility to effective explosive attack! It is hoped that matters covered in the two previous technical days can be built upon constructively at this one. Further details from NT.

Travelling to Penwylt or Ystradfellte?  If you fancy an alternative to the M4/132/A470 route via Aberdare/Mountain Ash/Hirwaun, especially on a busy Saturday morning, try staying on the M4, come off at J43, and shoot up the new dual carriageway, coming off at Glyn Neath instead.  It is longer, but can be much quicker, with fine scenery in the Vale of Neath.  In the last eight months I have tried several routes, except the newly opened one, on a daily basis, and I recommend it!

A new Mendip Cave Bibliography is being published by Dave Irwin, it can be seen at the BCRA event, at over 250,000 words, it is destined to be an informative work, and a must for any research into Mendips karst systems.

MRO activities & lectures dates coming up are: -

Saturday 17th.May. Box Stone Mines practice Rescue, Details Martin Bishop.  Sunday 18th.May MRO Wardens {Only} Meeting

MIDSUMMER BARBECUE?  The longest day [21st June] actually falls on a Saturday this year, plans are rumbling amongst the Wessex for a do of some kind this year, bear it in mind!

Roger & Jackie Dors have another grandchild, I expect the regular Belfyites are eager to help them wet the babies head! Congratulations to Helan & Nigel & Brother William!  Born on 6th May, a baby girl Alice Rose, she shares her birthday with her older brother William!  Some members were wondering earlier that if it was a boy would Helan & Nigel consider calling him Bertie, as we already had a BEC(ky).

BELFRY HUT FEES, have been sensibly raised recently, these haven't been raised for several years, and nearly half the present committee can't recall any previous rate!  The increases have been kept as low as possible, but reflect the view that the Belfry must be run economically, any excess profit if made, can therefore be ploughed back into further improvements and facilities.

FIVE BUDDLES DIG, now has a resplendent locked gate, to compliment its equally fine draft!  Tony Jarratt, Trev Hughes, Quackers and others are working hard on this site. Other members are hard at work at BARROW RAKE DIG, on a recent digging session here, Jake and Rich Blake believe that they heard Alex Gee diving at Wookey recently ....... no I jest.

BEC DINNER & AGM, Saturday 4th.  October 1997.  Details still to be finalised, but BOOK THAT DATE.

Remember to write that article for the BB, you keep thinking about it.

CHARTERHOUSE CAVING AREA.  You must have a valid permit, if you don't have one, ask any committee member and obtain one straight away, they are free to paid up members.  You haven't the right to lose what others have worked for.

C.S.C.C AGM, 10.30 am, Saturday 17th.May 1997, at the Hunters Lodge Inn.

SNAKES ALIVE!  The recent warm spell has seen a spate of adder sightings, watch where you put your hands and feet most especially in gruffy areas, leave them well alone, they are a protected species, and they will normally leave you alone, but in case of being bitten Wells and WSM Hospitals carry Serum, stay calm and don't panic.  If your dog gets bitten, again kept it calm, and contact a local vet or Bristol University Vet School at Langford House, Langford who also keep suitable anti-venom treatment.

THEFTS FROM CARS, these are again being committed in beauty spots, don't leave valuables in your vehicles whilst caving! Burrington, and Charterhouse and Priddy pool areas are under constant attack, alternatively perhaps keep a pet snake in the car?

On that note, definitely time to leave the table!

Regards, Nigel. Taylor, Hon. Sec.   Thursday 1st.May 1997.


A Method for Reversing the Downward Trend in Membership Numbers of the BEC.

By Alex Gee.


At the 1996 AGM a concern as raised by Andy Sparrow over the decline in membership numbers of the BEC. This was generally agreed to be a common problem in caving in particular and not just confined to the BEC.  The feeling of the AGM, being that we do something about it: thus this is my proposal. ..


The local diving club, of which both my brothers are members, hold 'have a go' diving sessions several times a year.  These not only bring in revenue for the club but also attract considerable numbers of new members (on average 20 - 25 new members per annum).  Some sort of variation on this idea is what I propose the BEC adopt.


That the BEC hold a number of 'have a go' caving days per year (depending upon the success of the first one) to attract new members and to promote the club and its activities.


1)                  We hold the days on a Saturday; to attract the maximum number of potential participants.

2)                  WE offer each participant 2 novice grade trips, one a.m. and one p.m. of 1.5 - 2 hrs duration depending on the fitness and aptitude of the participants (to be determined by the party leader on the day).  To help continuity the same leader to stay with each party for each trip wherever possible.

3)                  The leaders of such trips to be BEC members and competent to take parties underground.


4)                  That we charge each participant £5 for the day: ... to include lamp hire and the use of Belfry facilities.  Participants to provide their own clothing and suitable footwear.  This fee will discourage those not genuinely interested as well as cover costs.

5)                  After the trips, a display of the clubs activities could be on show in the main room along with an opportunity for a chat with club members about caving and the club.


Obviously the proposed caving days cannot go ahead without the following ...

1)                  The support of the BRC membership.

2)                  The support of the Committee.

3)                  Adequate Cover/Insurance: Hopefully our current policy will cover it

4)                  Enough members willing to give up a Saturday to take parties underground, clean the hut, mount displays. etc.

5)                  Enough serviceable tackle being available.

6)                  Adequate advertising for the day.

7)                  EFFICIENT running on the day, as long delays in trips starting will cause nothing but disillusionment amongst participants and nullify any advantages to be gained from our efforts.

As well as the above, I feel the following minor items, if attended to in advance, would enhance our prospects of attracting new members to join the BEC.

1)                  If the Belfry is cleaned the day before and left in a tidy state, as well as the general Belfry environment.

2)                  To ensure enough lamps are available on the day we hire them from either Tony or Andy, or both.


This is only an idea and it is open to discussion and amendment.  Finally if the committee sees fit to approve the idea I am willing to undertake the organization.

Cheers .... Alex Gee.


Priddy Folk Fayre

This year Priddy folk Fayre is on 11'h 12'h and 13th July.

Acts include Friday:

Old Rope String Band,

Fred Wedlock,


plus dancing to: Eunice & the Red Hot Bayou Band.

Saturday features dance displays, craft fayre and the ever popular

'Festival of Mendip Talent'

(featuring many local musicians)


John Kirkpatrick, Eddie Upton, Chucklefoot, The Belfry Boys,

Jug  O’Punch, Macannabba, Humphrey's Flail, Andy James.

Plus more.

This event proved highly popular with attending members last year ... Don't miss it!!

Tickets and info from Jingles. Or Bevis/Jacky


Dan and Stella Hasell

The death of a friend leaves a void in the life of those left behind.  Just occasionally there is a personality so great that whilst the physical presence is missing, the character lives on.  It is really as if (as the words of comfort say ... ) "They have moved into another room."  This applies to Dan and Stella Hasell dying within a few months of each other towards the end of 1996 and the beginning of 1997.  As Dan would have said, Stella always took longer to get ready for a big occasion than he did!

Cavers and divers all over the country knew Dan and Stella and are familiar with their contributions and advice they gave to organizations like the BEC and cave diving group, as well as with the stories and memories of exploits underground.  But there were other sides to Dan and Stella which with the caving and diving fraternity are probably unfamiliar and maybe they would like to hear about the courtesy Uncle and Aunt I knew for thirty seven years.

Dan and Stella lived in an old Somerset farmhouse in the village of Moorlynch, a few yards up the lane from the cottage where Stella was born.  She had lived in the village all her life but was far from being an introverted country lady.  Like Dan, her appreciation of current affairs was wide.  With no television, they listened to the radio and read newspapers and were able to comment on any political situation anywhere in the world. Dan. was probably the best read man I have ever met - able to comment and give advice on any part of English Literature, History, Maths, Physics and many other disciplines including the social structure of the miners in the Somerset coalfields where he worked underground for a number of years.

Dan was a mechanic. Most people on Mendip will be aware of that - but how many know that he was probably the finest diesel fitter in the south west of England?  Fleet owners had to join a queue if they wanted Dan to work on their lorries.  He worked with my father in a garage in Bridgewater, where he was reckoned to be better at tuning petrol engines than the 'new fangled' Krypton machine.

The couple were prominent members of the Burnham on Sea Motor Club and Stella always accompanied Dan on events.  She was not just there, as most wives were, for the dinners and parties, but took the trouble to turn out in the middle of the night to man checkpoints on all categories of events from small twelve car jaunts to major restricted rallies as well as hill climbs, sprints and circuit racing.  Speaking from both a navigator's and driver's point of view, it was reassuring and comforting to find Stella and Dan waiting in a sunken Somerset lane to stamp your card on a cold, wet muddy winters night.  Dan and Stella competed as well, with Stella navigating on daytime events.  I sat in the Hotseat for him one night and was greatly amused at how he drove - he talked to the car just as if it were a horse.

Both Dan and Stella came from country backgrounds, Dan spending much of his early life on his Uncle's farm in Herefordshire where he learned to work horses and the penalties involved if you if you brought them in late.  "You missed your dinner" he once told me.  "I was sent back to the yard to cool off and rub down Uncle's cob when I'd brought him home in a hurry so that I wouldn’t miss my meal. But then horses were much more valuable than boys!"

That was probably the attitude to life that made Dan and Stella so great.  They never put themselves first. I don't think they were ever happier than when they were seeing other people enjoying themselves or making something of themselves.  There are many young (and not so young) housewives who owe most of their cooking skills to Stella and successful businessmen, academics and mechanics have all benefited from Dan's advice and teaching.

You might think from this erudition, that Dan was a model child at school.  He wasn't.  He was educated at Dr Morgan's school in Bridgewater, but according to his stories, he seemed to have spent more time on the docks, messing about amongst the coastal trading vessels than he ever did behind a desk.  Probably he learnt more from the old sailors he met than he ever did from a schoolmaster and maybe it was from them that he got his first taste for adventure.

He could not up sticks and head for Valparaiso, but he did head underground and he did travel the country on his cycle.  Stella did too.  Dan was a competitor in road races and it was Stella who ferried the spare cycles around for him, perched high above the crossbar and pedalling up and down hills that would daunt most of us.  They competed together in tandem events and always maintained an interest in cycling. Dan was still challenging people to ride his old racing tricycle until a few years ago.  He advised people to cross their hands on the handlebars so as not to fall off on the comers!

Dan and Stella had no children of their own, but had scores of honorary nephews and nieces, my own children included.  They were always assured of a welcome at Moorlynch and were treated equally, there being no room for favourites in their philosophy as they sat beside the warm Aga to be fed with currant buns and teas.  If it was early in the year, visitors were encouraged to collect green walnuts to pickle and if it was late autumn, hard nuts went home with you in a plastic bag.  If you were very lucky, Dan would pick you a ripe fig off the tree that grew just outside the back of the house.

Sitting out on the front lawn on Summer afternoons, both Dan and Stella would tell tales of skating into Bridgewater across the frozen fields of Sedgemoor in the good old days when the moor was allowed to flood to improve the quality of the pasture, and in November, children would be treated to bonfire parties that they will never forget.

The stories about Dan and Stella are legion.  Dan was the one that you thought was in control, but it was Stella that would come quietly up with the solution to a problem, as she did when we had dinner at Harvey's in Bristol and were astounded by the bill and Stella bailed us out. Nothing ever fazed her.  I have a sneaking feeling that even at the last, it was Stella who got it right.  She always said that Dan was in too much of a hurry!

Keep them in your memories. Talk about them and laugh.  They would want you to do that.  After all, as with all great people, they and their influence are still very much with us.



Ramblings In The Philippines

January 1997


The trip this year was mainly a consolidation visit trying to finish off the Odessa-Tumbali system first looked at by Speleo Philippines '92 and extended ever since.  Odessa is in the Penablanca region of Cagayan Province in northern Luzon, not far from the provincial town of Tuguegarao.  In 1996 a few more passages, sinks, resurgences and other related features were encountered at the bottom end of the system so it was decided to go back and finish all these off so the cave could be knocked on the head once and for all.  If this was carried out and no huge leads were found then a detailed article for "International Caver," complete with photos and surveys, could be produced.  Furthermore, a very large resurgence was found in 1995 some 2kms around the escarpment from the Odessa resurgence indicating another system in the same plateau. It was hoped to push on into this to see if it connected, or had anything to do with, Odessa.  As a side show it was proposed to dive a large resurgence down in Antique Province, Panay Island poked at last year with goggles and a rubber ring.

I've produced this article in diary form, the verbage taken verbatim directly from my own day-to-day Log.

9th January

After a day or so collecting and fettling diving gear on the coral island of Boracay, just off the coast of Panay, we set off in Vince Villarosa's "Company car" to have a poke at this big resurgence at Malumpati near Pandan, a small town on the Panay mainland only 50 mins drive from Boracay.  A spine of reef limestone mountains runs down this particular seaboard of Panay (already attracting interest from marble quarriers) and the resurgence is at the junction of the mountains with the coastal plain.  I was joined by Matts Johncke, a Swedish PADI dive instructor, and his girlfriend Jessika who were friends of friends on Boracay and who secured some gear for me.  They fancied a few days off and came along for the ride.

From Malumpati (three huts and a sari-sari store) an idyllic amble alongside the river through butterfly-infested coconut groves leads after 2kms to a spectacular 40m diameter crystal resurgence pool fringed with palms.

The dive was intended to be only a recce using two small 6ltr. tanks and no buoyancy.  It was naively expected that the gaping hole in the pool bed would go down for a few metres or so and then flatten out into large passage boring off into the hillside to emerge in mega-dry passage that I could skip and dance up for 25kms. to a 50m entrance shaft.  Chance would be a fine thing.  The beautiful 5-6m diameter fluted shaft just kept on going until a vast boulder slope loomed into view and I alighted on a load of big Henry's at exactly -30m.

A large wedged coconut tree provided a convenient tie-off point.  Ahead of me lay a big black void. With small tanks, no line and no buoyancy it seemed sensible to retreat for a beer.

The team (Fred "Amigo" Jamili, Jaylin Thorman "Geek" Salazar, John "Snake" Delleva, Venus Guadalupe, Matts Johncke, Jessika Swahn and I) thus returned to Boracay for a day to get some 12ltr. tanks from Matts' dive place and also an ageing, rusting, hulk of a portable compressor held together with string, gum and a prayer.

11th January

The shaft was rapidly descended the next day in a wonderful free-fall.  Tying on I set off down the boulder slope only to encounter a big wall at -40m.  A little puzzled I searched to and fro and realised I was in a large domed chamber full of mega boulders.  A circular sweep of the place revealed no obvious way on.  Reasonable sized holes amongst the boulders may have been a route but with mounting decompression on the computer, big tanks and common sense I decided not to poke around them too much.  A retreat was made with pleasant 15 minute deco stops at -6m and -3m in a sunlit shaft.

With some air left I invited Matts to have a swim around the pool and to look at the top of the shaft but as he was enjoying himself and quite obviously very competent he went to the bottom of the shaft on his first cave dive.

On return to base at Malumpati village we found the locals had chopped a big green evil-looking snake in half and curled it up on our compressor.  Very droll.  A nightmare 4 hour pump of the tanks ensued on the apology of a compressor which hopped around the village trailing the tanks after it.  Surprisingly the air was quite clean and tasty with not a hint of petrol or exhaust.

12th January

The compressor gave up the ghost at 175 bar so with slightly low tanks we returned to the pool to have another look around.

To the side of the main pool is a smaller 5m diameter static pool, clearly a flood overflow.  I thought this may drop down beyond my limit in the main shaft.  Matts used a mask and fins to duck-dive down and see what was what but he only found a muddy bottom with a small passage leading off.  With a single tank he investigated this passage only to pop out into the main shaft about 13m down.

I then made a detailed investigation of the main shaft, spiralling my way down with powerful lighting but nothing of interest was found.

I can only assume that the flow wells up through the bouldery floor.  As the chamber is large and the January water levels quite low the flow cannot be felt.

13/14th January

A while was spent wandering around in the hills above the resurgence dropping various shafts to see if there was a top way in to the system.  As is usual in the Philippines, all the shafts were blocked with run in, boulders and trees.

Monday 20th January

Arrived in Tuguegarao in Northern Luzon for my main project in Odessa to be met at the airport by my host and partner, Jun "Criminal" Ocampo.  He said "I have a surprise for you". Thinking he meant cases of cool beer we wandered across the car park.  Over yonder in an airport-side bar was Mr James Smart Esq.  Stanley had met Livingstone after all.  He had been up in Sagada in Mountain Province for a month or more and decided he had enough time in his schedule to mozey across to meet up for a chinwag.  He had a superb time.  Sagada is a wondrous place apparently, rather like the old Raj hill stations in northern India.  A completely different country than the rest of the Philippines with pine trees, pine-clad lodging rooms, air you can cut with a knife, mist rising at dawn and a blanket required at night.  Lots of well known caves there but the French in general and Monsieur Mouret in particular seem to have done all those back in the 80's.

In the pm myself, Jun Ocampo and Efren Munoz packed up and made the arduous 30km trip to base camp at Tumbali.  Normally the trip would be made easily by jeepney but the pesky October typhoon had knocked out the road which was only fit for mad dogs, Englishmen and water buffalo. The jeepney got so far and then we had to hoof it.  A kindly village Kapitan lent us his buffalo and sledge so we buffalo-taxied the rest of the day at a gentle plod.  We had temporary respite from James as he had visa problems so made the overnight 'bus trip down to Manila to sort it out, hoping to join us later on.  True to form he asked us to transport his gear to Tumbali.

On arrival at our host's house, Segundino Tuliao, at Tumbali we found his bamboo house had been destroyed in the typhoon.  He had re-built the salient parts but the outbuildings, piggery, knife-sharpening area, kitchen and gin-drinking parlour had not been attended to.  We thus just set up the Ginebra (Filipino gin) operation in the courtyard adjacent.  As last year, locals began appearing out of the shrubbery to swell the circle to a dozen or so for a celebratory arrival session.

The plan was to look at, survey and finish off the resurgence end bits of Odessa and drop the shaft found last year which may connect with Odessa.  Depending on what happens, to then go around to Noodle Doodle (looked at by Blakey and Henry in '95) above the other resurgence to try and get down the pitch into the main river the other side of the resurgence sump.

Around the gin table tonight was renewed talk of the mythical "16 Chamber Cave". Our host, his sons and locals all talk of this place but nobody seems to know how to find it.  It almost certainly exists but where is it?  Fingers point in the vague direction above Noodle Doodle - anything in this area is of great interest as it may drop down behind the Noodle Doodle resurgence sump and thus into the system that undoubtedly exists in the plateau.  Last year we looked at a huge collapsed doline feature up on the hillside used for some years as an NPA guerrilla hideout.  I wondered if they thought this was 16 Chamber Cave?

Tuesday 21st

Visited the Alum Pot-type shaft already referred to, locally known as Bittu Cave.  The area had changed for the better since last year as the October typhoon had knocked a large tree over part of the shaft allowing a decent belay point.  One of the problems last year was a lack of safe belay points due to rotten rock and calcite but even now we had to use some outrageous deviations and "Expedition rigging" to get down safely.  The shaft dropped into a fine 10m wide chamber via a small ledge two thirds of the way down and then into pleasant walking passage, with several wet bits.  After 200m or so a 4m pitch was met with a small lake at the bottom.  With no ladder and the Filipino's calling for lunch we had to call it a day.  This was an exciting prospect as the cave seemed to be heading towards Odessa.

On the way to lunch I persuaded the guys to detour for an hour to check out one or two things I wanted to see.  It seems caving in this place is controlled by the stomach.  I am looked at with incredulity when I say I don't want anything to eat.  Trips can never be more than a few hours long.

In the pm Fred Jamili arrived from Iloilo City down on Panay Island.  He is boss of a Western Visayan group of cavers and had been with me during the diving at Malumpati.

Wednesday 22nd

Intended to carry on the exploration of the Bittu shaft descended yesterday but a change of wind direction brought in cooler wetter air.  I even had to sleep in a sweat shirt of all things.  A bit of rain that night and a cloudy morning persuaded me to leave Bittu alone.  It clearly flooded to the roof but I had no idea how it reacted to water.

So, we decided to try and get down the pitch in Noodle Doodle which Rich and Henry got to in 1995. Last year I did not have enough gear but the prospect looked exciting with a big black gaping void and a lake visible at the bottom.  I knew last year it was the other side of the huge resurgence sump that can be seen from the outside but obviously it was upstream we wanted to go.  However, I was also a little concerned that I could not feel a decent draught or hear running water.

We took loads of tethers and tapes and in the end fashioned a safe enough belay to descend the slightly awkward 13m pitch straight into out-of-depth water.  This place was wonderful - a 30m long lake (the upstream pool of the resurgence sump) with a lovely cascading river dropping into it. Myself, Mark Dia and Jun Ocampo thus skipped up this streamway for 50m until three large circular lakes were met. Swimming across these I found myself faced with a big blank wall in every direction.  Swimming through a small hole I popped out into two more lakes but with no dry way on.  Half an hour searching for a way on revealed nothing.  Another crashing disappointment.  The way on is obviously underwater, hence no draught felt at the top of the pitch?  This would make a really great diving project though.

On the way back to base we stopped on a grassy knoll to ponder the escarpment before us and conclude that the only way into the undoubted system that exists in there is either by diving or by searching the top of the plateau for a shaft or top way in, as with Odessa.  Its forest and thick scrub up there and would be hard going but that's what has to be done. Our host, farmer and guide thinks he knows of a cave some locals used to go bird nesting in but when you ask him about the next day he's forgotten.  We'll have to grab him during one of his lucid moments.

Fred Jamili, on arrival here at Tumbali from our diving exploits at Malumpati, said two of his caving group went down the submerged shaft at the risings after I had left, the first two Filipino cave divers.  They were competent sea divers and regular cavers so thought it safe to just go down the shaft and back.  They both survived.

The wind had shifted back to its normal position and the day was clear and hot so we decided Bittu cave was safe enough today.

Fred Jamili, Jun Ocampo and I descended to the previous limit and dropped the 4m pitch into a nice lake with a very pleasant white flow stone marking an inlet on the right, a change in the rock type and some nice marbling.  The passage turned 90 degrees to the left, away from Odessa unfortunately, reduced to low wide bedding and ended in a filthy sump pool 50m further on. Another disappointment.  The unknown leads in downstream Odessa are all wettish with flowing water but this cave was dry apart from static pools and canals so God knows where this one goes.  Dye tracing required again.  We surveyed out totalling 450m or so of nice cave but it really hadn't added to Odessa. On return to the pitch we noted with amusement that our rope had disappeared.  Efren, our erstwhile companion and observer from the DENR (Dept of Natural and Environmental Resources) who looked after the rigging had pulled it up to adjust some rope protection and the end was lying on a little ledge.  Much shouting and toing and froing eventually retrieved it.

Friday 24th

Now that most of the Odessa resurgence area loose ends had been tied up we turned our attention to the hill and plateau above Noodle Doodle.  Our Wednesday descent into the main cave beyond Noodle Doodle confirmed the obvious presence to a sizable system.

Segundino, our host and guide, suddenly announced last night at supper that some years ago he had gone bird nesting in a big cave on top of the hill above Noodle Doodle and it had a river in it.  We said “that'll do nicely” and he said he would take us.  However, having experienced his memory before we were not entirely confident.

An hour's hike in the hot sun (even at 8.30am) reached the welcome relative cool of the forest and then the fun began.  I was told we were on an old logging trail but I was damned if I could make it out. After 30mins of hacking up this “trail,” Segundino said “Tarry a while my good fellows, I'll go and find the cave", or words to that effect.  So we sat down for a breather in dense undergrowth and waited, and waited ........... Two hours later we were getting a little worried.  We had no idea where we were and each way looked the same. Not much we could do really, get lost or wait.  He probably thought he had only been gone 10 minutes.  After another hour matters were getting ridiculous so we slowly headed off in the direction we thought he had gone and after a few hundred meters came across our lunch sitting in a clearing.  Segundino had obviously dumped the bag to wander off unhindered.  We thought this was a reasonable place to wait and have lunch so a bit of leaf litter and a few sticks of valuable hardwood were thrown together and the rice billy was soon puffing away.  The smoke also drove the mozzies away.  A rather bizarre sight dear readers - one BEC, three Filipino cavers and a DENR goon sitting lost in a gloomy sweaty little clearing covered in anti-mozzie smoke brewing noodles and rice.  Not only that, but the iron pot to cook in, two cans of pork and beans, five tin plates and cutlery .... and the kitchen sink.  Unbelievable these guys.

A crashing of undergrowth, a swish of a machete and a few oaths in Tagalog heralded Segundino's return out of a bush just in time for lunch.  He had not found the cave.  We asked him when he had last been bird nesting there and he said 40 years ago. No wonder he couldn’t find the place, he normally has trouble working out what he did yesterday.

So, a hot trudge back to base.  On arrival, one of 'Dino's sons said he knew where the cave was.  We nearly throttled him.

Saturday 25th

A local bloke (but not from Rodney Stoke) said he knew of a doline/wide shaft-type thing with a more or less horizontal entrance.  This was more like it, if it was true. Anything vertical in these parts is likely to be choked, a la Dachstein snow plugs, so what we wanted was a horizontal entrance at the bottom of a wide shaft or depression which was less likely to be filled, as with Odessa main entrance.

Off the intrepid team set at 9am to beat the worst of the heat, up on to the plateau through quite difficult terrain zapping with poison ivy.  After two hours of numerous choked shafts our guide confessed he could not remember where this fabled place was either?  Amnesia seems to be a local trait.  Again out came the rice pot, noodles and Pork & Beans and a pow-wow was had amongst the smoke of the fire (to keep the mozzies at bay).  You can picture the scene no doubt, dear readers. I said shaft bashing was OK as far as it went but I did not want to make a habit of it as 99% were going to be choked. From past experience we could have been there all week but I knew just as well that you have to force yourself to do as many as possible as that last one may just be the way in.  After a few more shafts were called it a day and retreated.

We reached base Camp to find that James had arrived from his Visa exploits in Manila, three days late. He was rapidly told that caving here had finished and we were re-locating back to Tuguegarao in the morning for R & R, fresh clothes and regular food and drink.  He was not too disappointed.

The other team had gone back up on top of the hill above Noodle Doodle with Segundino's son who had said the evening before that he knew where this birds nest cave was, you know the one with the big river in it.  Apparently they found this place but it turned out to be a squalid little hole 5m long with a fetid pool at the end.  A typical Filipino caving occurrence this.

Tuesdav 28th

Jun Ocampo had heard about cave potential a little further north from Tumbali in the Baggao area. This area was also on the western flanks of the Sierra Madre and in fact only 20kms or so north of where we have just been in Tumbali.  However there were no passable roads north from Tumbali so we had to make a two hour regular 'bus ride to Baggao from Tuguegarao.  We eventually ended up in the nice little town of San Jose.  A friend of a friend of Jun's lived in San Jose, Edilberto "Chit Chit" Herrero, and he knew something of the area so we descended on him for a chat and some grub before tricycling the 5km or so to the even nicer little village of San Miguel nestling beside the huge Pared River at the foot of the mountains.

Wednesday 29th

A kindly Sari-Sari store owner put us up in San Miguel, which pleased James as it had a good stock of liquor, and over a beer we planned to make a quick recce to a known river cave nearby.  The very impressive Pared River runs out of a gorge and on to the San Jose flood plain at this particular point, although at this time of year the flow is well down and only about 1/4 full, just nice enough to wade across.  The river bed is actually about 300m across, an awesome sight in the rainy season.  On the far side of the river from the village an impressive resurgence issues out of a 30m high limestone cliff.  A short swim across a crystal pool and through the entrance arch leads to a magnificent enclosed doline 40m high, ringed with trees and encircling a sunlit area of limestone boulders and clear pools.  The cave-proper starts immediately in a 30m wide and 20m high passage.

As it was mid-morning and the guys did not want to start work straightaway we just went in for a short way for a look before starting serious work on the morrow.  After 300m or so the dry land disappeared and we were faced with a 5m wide canal running between soaring cliffs, most of it out of depth.  Captain Speleo (as I became know for some reason) swam off trailing Filipino's behind, it was too difficult to resist.  After 100m or so of swimming we alighted on a large jammed tree only for a few of the guys to say they were getting cold.  It seemed nice and warm to me!  Then Jun got cramp, then a non-swimmer started to sink ........ Things started to look a bit dicey so I ordered a retreat and we limped out in varying degrees of cheerfulness. I had my pecker up by now and wanted to make a start so after lunch.  Fred Jamili and I returned to start surveying and sketching the entrance doline and first section of passage to the canal.

Thursday 30th

It did not seem necessary for all five of us (plus the guide) to proceed upstream so Captain Speleo, Fred Jamili and Efren Munoz intended to carryon surveying upstream from yesterday's work whilst Jun Ocampo, James and Mat Batang, our guide, were going to hike up the hill to look at the top entrance and hopefully cave downstream to meet us.

As I suspected, on reaching the canal it became very obvious that surveying the out - of - depth canal would be a nightmare, especially as Fred could not swim.  Although Fred had a good buoyancy jacket and Efren had a 1 gallon gasoline can strapped to his bulk, bobbing around surveying was a lot different than merely swimming.  So, we decided to abandon the surveying for the time being and just go exploring. Capt. Speleo and Efren thus assisted Fred through the watery bits by Speleo swimming ahead to provide Fred with a beacon to aim at and Efren swimming alongside him.  Good fun was had by all and Fred even got to learn a bit about swimming.  Around several corners we espied daylight, half-illuminating the passage we were swimming up 30m high and 10m wide with lovely banded limestone - Tiger Limestone as Efren poetically put it, a brilliant description which should be entered in the Karst dictionary toot - sweet.  The daylight marked another doline collapse, again some 40m high and 15m in diameter.  This also coincided with a nice little waterfall and was a good place to rest after the swimming exertions and to re-charge the carbide.

Whilst Capt. Speleo was standing in the doline sketching, a "yoo-hoo" from the upstream darkness heralded James's arrival, his unmistakable silhouette ruining the lovely curves of the passage.  Speleo waded across to say hello (Stanley always seemed to be meeting Livingstone) and it was clear he was on his own, Jun and the guide not fancying the swimming after the previous days wetting.  We thus continued surveying out to the entrance where we met up with Jun and the guide.  A very pleasant lunch was had on a massive boulder sitting in the huge sink entrance, darkness beckoning on one side and sunshine on the other.

The upstream section of cave actually continues here; the river water takes a dive to the downstream left further up the valley to gouge its way through a smaller section of cave before entering the large main passage downstream of the existing dry entrance.  This was looked at but time forced a retreat until the morrow.

Friday 31st

The six-man team decided to go back up to the sink to survey and investigate further.  A nice day up in the river gorge with lunch, lounging about on boulders and doing a little caving and surveying seemed an ideal way to spend a Friday.

Various activities were carried out; I and two others continued surveying the cave and also a surface traverse to link the various cave features and entrances together, whilst others did some photographing and one or two lay about on the rocks.  A leisurely lunch was had amongst the boulders and a doze in the sun. We shuddered to think what this gorge must have looked like in the October floods.  James's caving sandals broke so he caved barefoot for a while.  Never a dull moment with Speleo Philippines.

In the pm your correspondent and Jun went to look at another large entrance a little further up the valley, obviously once connected to Dubba.  A vast dry sandy and guano tunnel bored off into the hillside, our guide announcing as we left there was a little stream at the end ........... After an hour's surveying we came to this "stream", a thundering river obliquely hitting the dry passage and then sumping.  Knowing we did not have time to survey it I followed this upstream for 10 minutes whilst Jun waited.  What a place - superb stream passage that just seemed to go on and on. Out of time we just continued surveying the main dry passage for another few hundred metres to a large dry overflow entrance, daylight and some very angry bats.

On the way back Jun ran out of water for his carbide so my wellies that everybody laughed at came into their own.  Imagine dear readers this quality hunk of British caving manhood lying on his back in the guano while his companion filled his carbide from the water and urine mix pooling in his left wellie.


That was it for your correspondent, end of holiday.  A few chores and enquiries in Manila were required and then Lufthansa beckoned.  A return was made to Tuguegarao as some of the others had to go back to work and see families.  I then returned to Manila by the overnight 'bus (never again, now I know why I usually fly around) with Fred "Amigo" whilst the others stayed in Tuguegarao.  They were planning to go back to Dubba a few days later to finish exploration and surveying.

Once in Manila, Fred and I tried to find a) a source of Flourescein and b) a tame Geologist who could enlighten us further.  I have come to the conclusion that you can spend a lifetime caving in the Phils but 90% of the time down Caribou holes. or grotty places with not much depth or length. You can find caves virtually everywhere but what I am after is the big one.  It therefore makes sense to identify the type of limestone that is capable of sustaining decent cave systems ego Dubba, and then look for areas in the country where that limestone predominates, just to give us a head start. The majority of the reef limestone is like clinker and seems unable to span more than 4m or so.  The more I see the more I think the Odessa-Tumbali system was just a fluke to be where it is amongst generally naff limestone.  You thus find lots of breakdown, blocked shafts and small caves.  We thus went up to the University in Quezon City, Manila but the Geology Department was deserted.  Some local cavers will be continuing on the search for a Geologist.  A source of Flourescein was found via a Chemist somebody knew so that looks like a project for the guys for next year.

As far as reports and articles are concerned I have a busy three months ahead of me writing up recent data and finishing off various reports already in production.  Various reasons combined to delay the Speleo Philippines 95 expedition report so I've decided to convert the draft of that expedition on my Word Processor into a weighty tome covering all caving activities between the end of the inaugural 1992 Expedition and 1997.  This will cover recce work by Alex, Rich et al in 1994, the 1995 Expedition to Mindanao, my solo trips in 1996 and 1997, and those wanderings made by James Smart over the aeons.


B.E.C. Membership List as at 8/3/97

1212 Julian Aburrow                  Southampton, Hampshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Henton, Wells, Somerset
1150 (J) David Ball                     ConeyHurst, Billinhurst, West Sussex.
1145 Roz Bateman                    East Harptree, Bristol Avon.
1151 (J) Ruth Baxter                  Coneyhurst, Billingshurst, West Sussex
1227 (P) Suzanne Becher          Churchway, Ifley, Oxford, Oxfordshire.
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Draycott, Somerset
731 Bob Bidmead                      East Harptyree, Nr. Bristol, Avon
1125 Rich Blake                        Priddy, Somerset
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                          Cardiff, S. Glamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Bradshaw                  Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                  London
1196 Dave Bryant                      Salford, Bristol, Avon
201 John Buxton                       Flitwick, Beds.
1214 Rebecca Campbell            Priddy, Somerset
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
1062 (J) Andy Cave                   Gurney Slade, Nr Bath, Somerset
1142 (J) Ange Cave                   Gurney Slade, Nr Bath, Somerset
1197 John Christie                     Brompton, North Allerton, North Yorks
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Draycott, Somerset
1204 Julian Collinson                 Pemboa, Helston, Cornwall
1175 Ali Cooper                        Goring on Thames, Treading, Berks
862 Bob Cork                            Pen Hill, Wells, Somerset
870 Gary Cullen                        Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 British Columbia, Canada.
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
1229 (P) Jeremy Dixon-Wright    West Pennard, Glastonbury, Somerset
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Exeter, Devon
829 (L) Angie Dooley                 Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                  Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
830 John Dukes                        Street, Somerset
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
1218 Stephen Flinders               Burrington, Somerset
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Staffordshire
469 (J) Peter Franklin                Staffordshire
1159 John Freeman                   Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1182 Alex Gee                          Swindon, Wilts
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Basingstoke, Hampshire
1006 Edward Gosden                Twyford, Winchester, Hampshire
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Draycott, Somerset
1155 Rachael Gregory               Pentir, Nr., Bangor, Gwynedd
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             Semington, Trowbrdge, Wiltshire
1186 (J) Helen Harper                Wells, Somerset
999 (J) Rob Harper                    Wells, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnett Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol, Avon
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet
952 Bob Hill                              Port Gentil, Republic de Gabon
373 (J) Sid Hobbs                      Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
736 (J) Sylvia Hobbs                  Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1221 (P) Mark Howden              Street, Sometset
1219 (P) Sean Howe                  Frampton Cotterell, Bristol, Avon
923 Trevor Hughes                     Holcombe, Bath, Avon
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Paek Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
1111 Graham Johnson               Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
667 (L) Tim Large                      Brislington, Bristol
1199 Alex Livingstone                Clevedon, Avon
1180 Rich Long                         Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1057 Mark Lumley                     Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (nr)         Iffley, Chrchway, Oxford, Oxfordshire
1071 Mike McDonald                 Knowle, Bristol, Avon
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                 Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
704 Dave Metcalfe                     Whitwick, Leicestershire
1210 Guy Mannings                  Croydon, Surrey
553 Bob O’Malley-White            Wells, Somerset
1228 (P) Ben Ogbourne             Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset
1226 (P) Stephen Ostler            Nailsea, North Somerset
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1134 Martin Peters                    Wells, Somerset.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1193 Emma Porter                    Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
337 Brian Prewer                       Priddy, Wells, Somerset
886 Jeff Price                            Knowle, Bristol, Avon
481 (L) John Ransom                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
985 Phil Romford                       Shepton Mallet, Somerset
1208 Stuart Sale                       Romsey, Hampshire
240 (L) Alan Sandall                  Nailsea, Avon
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
1170 Andy Sanders                   Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1173 Estelle Sandford                Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
1178 Ivan Sandford                    Priddy, Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   Cote D’Azur, France
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Taunton, Somerset
1036 (J) Nicola Slann                 Draycott, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                          c/o The Belfry
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Bude, Cornwall
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Warkworth, Northumberland
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stephens              Wells, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                      East Horrington, Wells Somerset
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
571 (L) N Thomas                      Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
1216 Martin Torbett                   Cheddar, Somerset
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Bognor Regis, Sussex
1023 Matt Tuck                         Plymouth, Devon.
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
635 (L) S. Tuttlebury                  Buck Hors Rd., Farnham, Surrey
1096 Brian van Luipen                Wick, Littlehampton, West Sussex
887 Greg Villis                          Weston super Mare, North Somerset
175 (L) D. Whaddon                  0
1220 (P) John Walsh                 Glastonbury, Somerset
949 (J) John Watson                  Wells, Somerset
1019 (J) Lavinia Watson             Wells, Somerset
1185 Chas Wethered                 Axbridge, Somerset
1068 John Whiteley                   Heathfiled, Newton Abbot, Devon
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1087 John Williams                   Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chillington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley


Extracts from the BEC Logbook

11.1.97 - Goughs Cave                         T Chapman, P Bolt, Alex Gee, Clive Steel

PB & AG went to Bishops Palace.  PB had no buoyancy.  AG had gear problems, so PB & AG carried TC & CS's bottles to Sump 2, then TC & CS went to Shepards Crook.  Then CS went to 36m in sump 3 and TC went to 40m.  Time: AG & PB - 3 3/4 hours.  TC & CS - 4 3/4 hours

11.1.97 - Swildons                    Estelle, Nick, Guy, Mike Willett

Swildons to sump 2 with the reprobates.  Passed a few wee-gees on the way.  Very dry even the wet way.

11.1.97 - Eastwater                   Jeremy Dixon-Wright, Ben Ogborne

Dolphin Pot - 13 Pots - West End Series.  Nice ice formations near entrance, smell of sewerage Harris Passage, very loose rock at top of free climb above Dolphin.

12.2.97 - North Hill Swallet                   Mike Willet & Goblet (Anthony Butcher)

No bad air because cave was very wet, so we were able to get to the end.  Nice sporting trip.  A good worthwhile dig at the end, if some sort of silt trap installed and if air breathable.  Would make good winter dig.

Jan - Feb 1997 - Dominican Republic              Rob Harper, Helen Harper

1 .        Cuevas los Patos - Los Patos, Barahona

Caves in cliff above river resurgence at beach level.

Large entrance and passage approx 30m in length leading to second entrance and several low crawls all ending in bat guano chokes.

Rift entrance above comes into roof of left about 10m in from 1st entrance

2.         Marble Cave, Cabo Samana

Single large chamber, approx 20x20x15m, easily visible from track. Possible high level extension over stal. flow approx. 10m up.  Needs ladder bolt.

There are other small caves in the area

3.         Los Haitises National Park

Three caves entered on standard tourist trip.  All stunning and well worth revisiting.

4.         Cueva del P***t, Parc Nacional del Este

Follow the track until it is no longer negotiable except on foot.  Then follow the only path and the wooden signs to the cave.

Entrance leads to 15x15m well decorated fossil passage to second entrance. Side passage to another entrance.

There is a continuation of the cave on the other side of the entrance depression.  All in all about 500m.

 (Transcribers note - apologies for any spelling errors, writing style most interesting)

09.02.97 - Wookey Hole                        Tim Chapman, Clive Steel

CS & TC carrying tanks to 24, TC dived terminal sump to 51.7m to gravel choke.  Time 5 % hours.

22.02.97 - Manor Farm                                     Nick Guymer, Mr Wilson, Mick Wilson

Trip to NASA Gallery dig. Quite wet. Formations in good condition.  Farmer still in charge of entrance fees.  Time 2 % hours

01.03.97 - Stoke Lane Slocker              Becca Campbell, Mike Willett, Guy Mannings, Nick Mitchell

Water fairly high and f . .f . .f . .freezing.  Formations stunning.  Secca's first trip down and Mike Willett very helpful in sump.  Especially when he tried to drain it for her!  Very good trip, enjoyed by all.  Time: Approx 2 hours


Interim Hut Warden's Report


Submitted to the Members of the Club by Rebecca Campbell

I have decided to publish this report to the members of the Bristol Exploration Club on the grounds that there have been significant changes within the first six months of the club's current financial year.

January 1997 saw extensive work undertaken on the hut.  The floor was painted throughout.  Alpine bunks were installed in the bunkroom.  The kitchen gained a new sink and work surface, together with tiling around the sink area.

The response to this work has been very promising.  Visitors have commented on the comfort of the new bunks and the changes to the hut have instilled a greater degree of cleanliness in its users.

I must offer my thanks to the individuals who gave up not just 2 weekends, but in some cases long hours during the two weeks the work took to complete.  Special thanks go to Richard Blake, Ivan Sandford (Hut Engineer), Nick Mitchell and Alex Gee (Librarian), who painted the Bertie Bat.

The Hut Engineer and myself intend to continue improving the hut, throughout our terms of office.  We would be grateful if any club members can procure the following items:

Kitchen work surfaces for completion of the kitchen Microwaves

Fridges of standard size for fitted kitchens

Shelving wood for constructing a large rucksack kit storage unit in the bunkroom

Dry stone walling stone

Large wall mounted water heater

Please contact us if you have any of the above and we can arrange collection, if necessary. Suggestions by all members for improvements to the hut are more than welcome. (Tel: 01749674795)

Ivan Sandford mentioned the withdrawal of visiting cavers from Mendip generally in his annual report last year.  To add to this dilemma our active Mendip caving members have continued to move into the immediate area, which as can be seen from the table below has had a fairly catastrophic effect on the income from Members.





























Day Fees







CCC Permits







Cuthbert’s Fees








71. 04













Fig 1. Table displays hut usage during the first 6 months of the 1996/97 period together with comparative figures based on the hut usage for the first six months of 1995/96.

In the circumstances, the committee made a decision to raise Hut Fees by more than the R Dors Index. The new rates are:

Members (sleeping indoors or outside)                 £ 2.00

Non-Members - Indoor accommodation                £ 3.50

Non-Members - Outdoor accommodation             £ 2.50

Reciprocal Club Members                                   As per BEC Members

These new fees will come into effect as of Sunday 9 March 1997.

I know that this is a large increase, but there has been no increase in the level of fees for some years and inflation alone accounts for much of the amount.

I should also like to take this opportunity to request that more of the more mature members, and that means all of you, considered staying at the Belfry instead of driving home and abstaining on the booze at the weekends.  To bring the current level of income up to last year's totals, I (being a very sad accountancy type person) have calculated that we need to attain an average level of 15 member nights per week and 11 guest nights per week, for the last six months of the year.

On the other hand, I must stipulate that the hut will remain, as in the past, a cavers' caving hut. Children under 16 (actually, not mentally) are not welcome without prior arrangement with myself.

I am in the process of addressing the hut's marketing strategy and although I can guarantee that this will remain a bad year for the Belfry, I hope to increase the property's future prosperity significantly for the 1997/98 season.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

1996 - 1997 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Becca Campbell
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Ivan Sandford
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Librarian                  Alex Gee
Floating                   Hilary Wilson

                               Estelle Sandford



Hello again, and a happy new year to one and all.

Well the cold weather is here again and Mendip has been rather quiet of late, of course that might have something to do with everyone being skint after Christmas though.  So consequently there's not a lot of news or gossip.

Congratulations go to Trevor Hughes and his new wife Kate, who were married on 21.12.96.  The event (??) was well attended by the caving fraternity and everybody got drunk what a surprise.  A brave woman it is indeed to attempt to tame the 'Biffo' good luck Kate.

As you will see from the previous page I have now moved to South Yorkshire (Gurney Slade in fact) and can be reached at that address.  I am also contactable via email..... as is the club, as those of you who surf the web will already know.

I am currently writing a BEC page for the WEB so that we will be visible via internet.  The Wessex beat us to it unfortunately, but what with all the revamping etc ... we will have something worthwhile to put up there.

Once again I am short of material for the BB and any contributions would be welcomed.  I recently heard a rumour that people are unwilling to supply articles as they feel that they are over edited.  I would just like to state that this is not the case, the greatest lengths I have ever been to is to correct speleling and grand mar when it are dun rong!!!  Given that as usual nobody says anything to me, I can only take this with a pinch of salt, but please rest assured it is not the case.

Jeff Price informs me that there is to be a regular series of 'led' club trips.  These will be publicised in the BB and also posted at the Belfry.  The Committee would encourage any members, particularly newer ones, to participate in these events.  A common complaint is that the BEC never goes caving .... just digging. (Okay okay I know we are an exploration club and all that. .. but we can still go caving.)

Alex Gee has now moved to the area, the latest in a long line of 'immigrants' to Mendip .... who'll be next we wonder. I believe he has set up camp in the Library at present! ! ! ! ! !! (NOT!!)

Guess that's it for now ..... see Y'all around ..... Jingles.


Temporary Belfry Closure.

The Belfry will be closed to members and visitors from Saturday 18th January to Sunday 26th January due to refurbishment. During this period there will be no access to the premises. Alternative arrangements should be made with the Shepton or Wessex clubs.

These refurbishments to the hut are to improve the standards therein.  Ideas for alterations were taken from members who expressed a willingness to participate in the work.

The hut floor is to be coated throughout with a tough epoxy resin designed to withstand farmyard conditions.  (Which is probably quite appropriate given the number of 'animals' there are in the BEC .. !!!)

The aim is to improve the general atmosphere of the hut by joining the two bunkrooms into one and including alpine style bunks in order to increase the bed capacity.  In the past we have lost bookings as there have been insufficient bed spaces available and thus we have been unable to accommodate. Three single bunks will remain for those that do not wish to sleep in the alpine bunks.

Finally the club now possesses a spin dryer which extracts most of the water from wet kit.  This will be installed in the changing room. We hope these measures together with the planned alterations to the kitchen will make the hut more welcoming and successful in 1997 and beyond.


From the Belfry Table

I start by wishing all members and their partners a happy New Year 1997!

A further welcome to two new members, Ben Ogboume, and Jeremy Dixon-Wright, both of whom, fresh from Wells Cathedral School, are off to Imperial College and Manchester Universities respectively.   Hopefully in turn they will encourage further new members!

Alex Gee has presented the Committee with an interesting "Discussion Document" Which follows on the AGM theme of New members and what can be done to attract them to the BEC.

Hopefully Alex will publish this letter in the BB. Here is a valid point, we must all try to come up with workable suggestions on this, or better still, each one of us should try to introduce at least one new young prospective member to the Club.  All caving clubs appear to be in the membership doldrums at this time, but as we embark upon our next sixty years, let us at least try.  Abusing a well known expression, "It will have been better to have tried, and not to contemplate failure, than not to try at all."

Five Buddles Dig:" Not such a sylvian scene", more a sinking feeling?  Jayrats valiant efforts to open cast the Miners Arms to Hunters road are progressing well.  Tony has just effected some smoke tests between this site and the Forestry Dig, I suspect the fumes were more correctly attributed to a motor car being swallowed down into his netherworld as it drove past the dig!  Seriously careful where you park!

The Christmas mail brought a cheerful newssheet from Bob & Mariyka Hill and family.  They are now living in Gabon, and mail can be sent via: "Mr. & Mrs R P& M Hill, Shell Gabon, ODE/12, P.O Box 10235, London, SWI9 3ZN.  They send their regards to all who remember them, and extend an open invite for "An African Experience".

On behalf of the BEC, can I also thank several Life members and most especially Merv Hannam for their (and his) most generous donation to club funds recently received.

The Belfry will be CLOSED From Sunday 19th. to Saturday 25th. January 1997, in order to effect a major revamp and tidy-up of the Hut.  No caving or use of the Hut will be available during this period.  I have been told that Alpine Bunks are now the rage, and that you all want them, and so the Female bunk-room which has doubled as a members bunk room for several years is to be demolished, thereby creating one large bunkroom.  I ask, is this Deja' vous?

Committee Meeting Dates for 1997 will be at 8.00pm, on the First Friday of each month.  No departure from this schedule is planned.

Unfortunately Rob Harper has resigned his post as Club Rescue Team Leader, and accordingly, if you are interested or can suggest someone else who fancies this position, please advise Hon. Secretary so it can be discussed at the next available meeting!

Similarity, Chris Smart has stated his intension not to stand again as Treasurer, so interested parties should make known their interest now.  Please take both of these notices as the" Official Club Notice"!

Jake-the-Rake?  Well, Jake of Barrow rake dig, reports with misty eyes that his dig is going!  Well, at least it is going down the dip, but perhaps the application of Dr. Nobels Linctus is the main culprit?

Regards, Nig. Taylor, Hon. Sec. 12th.January 1997.


Life After Reynolds?

I'd heard it described, of course.  And shivered disinterestedly in the way that you do when you hear a horror story that's exclusively someone else’s.  A comparative novice is safe from that sort of thing.  No one would dream of asking you even if you wanted to go.  It didn't occur to me to want to want to.

A bright spring day, a mini bus bouncing along the lane Charterhouse, and I'm hugely looking forward to the famed extremity.  Andy Sparrow, two chaps from Swansea and myself to survey Upper Reynolds and then Andy and I intending to follow Pete and Alison Moody and Richie Websall as they survey Lower Reynolds to the end.  Apart from hopefully establishing 'the deepest on Mendip' there's also a chance that the end, banged the previous weekend, might be wide open into the oft-imagined 'caverns measureless'.  Despite Richie's modest description of "the hardest trip I've ever done •••• I felt the bones creak ••• " I'm completely sumped with unwary enthusiasm.

My first visit to Longwood. Straight down to the bottom end of the streamway with P and A long invisible in front.  We arrive there so quickly that parts of my mind are still up on the surface with the sheep and the clouds and the sunshine.  Start to survey next to a sign saying 'DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DIVERT THE STREAM OR YOU MAY DROWN PARTIES BEYOND'.  Upper Reynolds is naturally awkward and I've hardly settled down before our clyno packs up.  Andy and I are perfectly happy to leave surveying and go after the other three. A few feet above the vertical slot known as Fanny's rift (the end of the cave before P and A's four year effort. Before that there was only the famous story about the Portsmouth midget.  What a fine imagination someone has) the Swansea types decide that this isn't their particular brand of masochism and leave to seek the rest of their party elsewhere in the cave.

Leaving our survey gear and the traditional Mars bars at the top Andy and I slide briskly down the few feet into the larger space below.  Vague surprise to see two helmets left at the bottom but press on keenly; head first, right hand side into a slot a foot or so wide at the bottom and two or three high.  Slightly downhill and narrowing from the top so we're soon lying down; quite easy progress despite the bang debris.  In the widest places it's just possible to lie flat.  Overall getting steadily tighter but friendly surveying voices are not far beyond.  Harder to turn my head to see the Sparrow wellies a couple of feet in front and it's beginning to feel like a serious undertaking.  The sunshine well forgotten by now but just another caving trip; after all, I expected it to be tight.  Andy’s taking off his cell; do the same when I’m in a wider bit.

Up with the others and Richie says he thinks he'll give the end a miss this week.  (Afterwards I'm to wonder, quite seriously, how on earth he managed it the first time.)  We pass Richie by wriggling over him as he lies out flat in one of the 'wider' stretches. Anywhere else it would be funny as our noses meet but nobody laughs.  Richie smiles but then he faces towards out.  When he's clear from under me I take off ~~ helmet and put my cell in it; it's unlikely that my head will go into the next stretch otherwise.  In the narrowing crack above the mud covered bang wire mutely reminds the imagination that the whole passage floods to the roof.

Fifteen feet away Andy is just reaching the first duck and beyond Alison’s voice offers cheerful suggestions.  As far as I am concerned she could be on another planet.  To turn my head and look back would be impossible.  Confidence is evaporating and determination is being forced to work hard.  Four inches is a good pull and I suddenly realise that I'm panting stertoriously through hard gritted teeth.  It's not important.  Moving about a foot a minute.

Not really a duck at all but enough water to remember the mud in the roof.  Nonetheless an almost comfortingly large space; on through and into the slot in front.  Arm aching from pushing that cell along and I'm wishing fervently that I'd left the helmet back with Pete and Alison's that we so casually passed by.  The cell keeps falling out frustratingly and I’d leave the helmet here and now if I'd then be able to pass it.  Impossible to reach back and put it behind me.  Continuous squeezing for up to twenty feet at a stretch and the wider spaces between would pass for a squeeze anywhere else.  I'm pressed on both sides like the fly between the two sheets of glass and fighting down the panicky feeling that I can't move, that I'm trapped, and I keep telling myself that I can move, I am moving; I wriggled in there and I can wiggle out.  Panic rises again and I force it back firmly.  Andy's a little further ahead of me now and I do not want to be left behind.  Andy's voice carries genuine anguish and he obviously feels much like I do. "Bloody cell.  Bloody cell!"

Another lifetime and another twenty foot squeeze.  Inch by inch sharp edges tiny fossiles just in front of my eyes.  Having a helmet with me seems utterly ridiculous; I couldn't move my head enough to bang it even if I could get the thing on.  Sheep, clouds; even our Mas bars have ceased to exist except as a dim memory.  My whole being taken up with the next six inches.

All nightmares come to an end eventually and from somewhere in front I can hear Andy reaching the larger section at the end.  I'm downright angry with him for getting there first and leaving me still stuck in here. Except that I’m not stuck of course and finally at last I'm up to the squirt where a neat spout of water pours down on my head as I drag myself out of the horrible into the huge.  It's far from huge; twenty feet high and at the most about eighteen inches wide.  The stream foams away along the floor and would indeed carry off my cell if I let it. I've dropped my belt somewhere but I couldn't care less.  A few feet of semi-crawl under some jammed boulders to the angled constriction known as the Slot.  Andy's standing up on the far side but despite my determination to be stood next to him the slot proves very awkward and even more narrow.  (Here Richie heard his bones creak; Pete and Alison had to pull him through.)  For me breathing out does the trick and I'm finally standing next to Andy, the rock still very black, very sharp and very muddy right up to the roof.  He looks pale but his eyes are bright; he has to raise his voice above the noise of the stream. "If it goes anywhere after this they ought to call it 'Life after Death Series'.

The rift is still too narrow for us to pass one another.  There doesn't much point in crouching down and being climbed over so we shunt along to the end, Alison leading.  A very sharp left hand turn and there's Pete banging about with a lump hammer. Below, a sump pool in the width of the rift; above, a broken edged hole blocked by rocks and gravel beyond.  Any attempt to dig would bring the whole lot down on the digger so we shunt back round the corner to catch our breath before the return.  Upper Reynolds is two hundred feet and over an hour away.

I'd just through the slot when P and A decide that they'd like to go back first to survey the bit we missed and establish a depth.  They ask us if we'd take the lump hammer back with us but we politely refuse.  They don't press the point.  The next moment they're through the Slot and overtaking me by going above the jammed boulders through a hole I've just discounted as being too small.  They're so relaxed that the place ceases to look awkward even in my eyes; I feel much happier about it all now anyway having done it all once.  Even so, I take a deep breath to 'gain composure' and the hole I have to force myself into hasn't actually got any wider.  Pete and Alison are disappearing into the distance at a pace that's difficult to believe.  At that moment Andy calls out from behind that his cell has failed, and a few moments later that he's suddenly realised how ill he feels.  No wonder he looked so pale just now.  I wriggle on to a point where I can hold my light up and shine it back towards him, and then rest happily until he's almost up to me; moving on each time so that he can rest in the 'wider' bit. After seventy feet or so like this I can actually look back towards him when I'm holding my light up.  Despite the problems things are far better than they were on the way in; one interesting moment when I drop my cell into the duck pool and it disappears completely.  It's easily found again by feel and the retreat goes on.

The wide open spaces of Fanny's rift and the sound of Pete, Alison and Richie surveying comes from above. Our mars bars are the immediate target; it's over two and a half hours since we left them and we've moved a total of about four hundred feet.  We spent about ten minutes at the far end.

Slowly behind the others as they survey back to the stream, and then the rest of the cave just like part of the walk back to the car except that by the time we reach the surface I'm flailing away like a man asleep.  In the back of Richie's mini-van Andy and I are virtual zombies.  Good hot shower followed by food; I'm still exhausted but completely on top of the world.  I might even want to go again.  If asked.

This article was written by Andy Cave .... quite some years ago.  As I recall it was about his third proper caving trip or something similar. Talk about a baptism by fire.

The lad evidently hasn't learnt the lesson yet as he still insists on jetting off to parts foreign in search of ever more life threatening situations.  Still I guess it beats the hell out of growing old gracefully.  Why bother when you can do it disgracefully.


Knots and Stuff

The Bowline

The Bowline Knot is one of the most used loop knots.  This variant is most used in the world.  Probably due to its simplicity, security and its relationship with the Sheet bend. Keep the cross point in step A between a finger and thumb and make a clock-wise turn with your wrist.  Without the loop between it is the same knot.

If the loop is expected to be heavily loaded the bowline is in fact not secure enough.  There is a rule of thumb which states that the loose end should be as long as 12 times the circumference for the sake of safety.

The Dutch Marine Bowline / or The Cowboy Bowline

Only the Dutch Marine uses this variant of the bowline.  And, of course the Dutch Marine sailor says this one is superior. The loose end is not so easily pushed back by accident, they say.  Until I see a proof in favour of one or the other, I think it is just a difference in culture.

The Dutch also tie this with a loose end as long as 12 times the circumference for safety.

Double Figure-of-eight loop.

Double eight is a knot used by climbers.  It is easy to tie and safe as the bowline.  There is a discussion if there should be a stopper at the end of the loose end or not.  Speed of (un)tying is a safety factor itself.

The first way of tying is equal to the way of tying the Flemish eight, but now in a double rope. The 'loose-end' is the loop.  This way is only applicable when the loop is 'empty' during tying.

The Double Figure-of-eight loop

If the loop is to be tied round something (your self for instance) you first tie an eight then lay the loop and double the eight.  It is important to have enough rope for the loop.  It requires experience, so start practising.


The figure-of-nine knot can be used as an alternative to the figure-of-eight.  It is very similar to a figure-of-eight with just an extra turn before finishing the knot.  It is a little bulkier than the figure-of-eight but has greater strength. Strength: 70% (normal), 55% (abnormal)

Caving Knots


This can be used for tying a rope around a belay but is most often used for tying the end of a safety line rope around a person when belaying them up a climb or ladder.

This knot does have a tendency to loosen and can come undone so it is a good idea to use a half hitch to secure the "tail" of the knot to the loop. Strength: 50% (normal)

Yosemite Bowline

This is a variant of the basic bowline which gets around the problem of the knot loosening itself by taking the end of the rope and threading it back through the knot.  This is a neat alternative to using a half-hitch to secure the end of the rope and the resulting knot has the strength of a figure of eight.

Alpine Butterfly

A good knot for rebelays or for tying rub points out of a rope.  Its main advantage is that the two strands of rope emerging from the knot are at 180 degrees to one another rather than emerging in the same direction as in a figure-of-eight for example.  This makes it a good mid-rope knot and good for rebelays because it has greater strength than a figure-of-eight if the rebelay fails.

Double Figure-of-eight on the bight

This double loop knot is most commonly used for rigging V-belays.  The nature of the knot means that it is reasonably easy to adjust the loops by moving rope from one of the loops to the other.

Prusik knots

A classic prusik knot is shown on the left, and a Kleimheist prusik knot on the right. Either of these, along with other prusik knots, can be used to prusik up a rope.  The rope used for the prusik-loop should be a fair bit thinner than the rope to be climbed.

The Constrictor Hitch

The constrictor knot is important as temporary whipping and as permanent binding from which you need more than on in a row, but not in line (when you should use the strangle knot). Laid well, it is virtually impossible to untie without tools (needle or knife).  Never use it if you need to untie it. It is almost the strongest among the 'simple' hitches. Only the double constrictor is stronger.  Because the constrictor may be tied in a bight, it is often preferred over the strangle knot.

Laid in the bight, it is possible to use the constrictor virtually everywhere where a permanent hitch is needed. In fact, it is my favourite permanent hitch.

One of the best applications for this knot is the temporary whipping of rope strands during marlin spiking. With one yarn, you easily can whip more than one strand at the time.  Once tied, you pull them strong all at once.

When you cannot place the knot around the object after the knot is formed, you have to tie it round the object.  This may be difficult if you did not leave enough room to put the end through.

For tying a fence rope, you can tie the constrictor in this interesting way. It allows working it up with to one end while you maintain a limited force on the other end.  So, you easily make a straight rope fence (As long as your posts stand firm)

The Constrictor Knot

The Transom Knot

The Transom Knot (Constrictor)

Tied this way the constrictor is an excellent cross knot, called the Transom Knot. (I used it for my kite when I was a kid).  If you want to secure it, use two closely laid overhand knots in both ends, or simply use a good kit or glue.  An extra knot above this knot does not have much effect. If more strength is required, tie another Transom Knot on the back.

The Transom Knot (Marlin) 


Tied this way the Marline Hitch is an even better cross-knot as the previous version of the Transom. It is not possible for the half-knot to work itself between both rods where it is not held by the overlaying rope. Therefore, it is a better cross knot than the constrictor-version of the Transom.  (Thanks for the comment!  I wish I knew this as a kid.  On the other hand I did not have any trouble with the constrictor version.  But I agree this is better.)

The Noose

The strangle-knot is an excellent knot to be used a running knot for a snare.  The pull is easy adjusted.  The more force is applied from inside the loop the more firmly the running knot prevents opening of the loop.

The Scaffold knot or Gallows Knot.

The third noose is based on the Multifold-Overhand-knot.  As its second name already suggests it has a dark history. It is also used as a knot to tie angles to fish line.

Never play hangman. It can really kill.

The Scaffold knot or Gallows Knot.

The Hangman's Knot.

This knot is used for the gallows as well.  The force to close it is adjusted better as with the gallows knot.  And because it is bigger in the neck it is believed to break the neck more easily.  That would make it more merciful as the gallows-knot witch kills by strangling. The Hangman is also used as a knot to tie angles to fish line.

Never play hangman. It can really kill.

The Hangman's Knot

The Reverse Eight-noose.

This is (so far) the only 'wrong' running noose I know.   Applications for it to tie a package and ... for tying YoYo's.  Experts use one loop to make it possible to let the yoyo spin on the end and to call it up with a little firm pull.  The yoyo has to spin fast and the noose has to be trimmed carefully. Starters use two loops and tie it firmly.

Use eventually an overhand-knot on the cross-marked ends.

The Reverse Eight-noose

The Multifold-Overhand-knot

If you make more than two turns in the overhand knot it will be fatter.  (But hardly stronger.)  In twined rope it is important to work up the knot very carefully.  (It will not only look neater, it will prevent ‘kinking’ which will weaken the rope even more!)

The (Flemish) Eight

This knot is larger, stronger and more easy to untie than the overhand knot.  It does not harm your rope as much the overhand knot does.  So therefore sailors use this knot in most cases. (! not for bend support, where the smaller overhand is used, or in rope, a permanent small stopper).

Knots on the end of a rope or yarn.

There are a lot of situations where you need a knot like this.  Every application has its own special demands for knot properties.  So you have to choose carefully.  You can use a stopper to prevent a rope or yarn from unfolding, but please do that only in cheap rope/yam.  Use a proper whipping in all other cases.

The Overhand Knot

The Overhand Knot or Half Knot

This is the simplest knot. Therefore probably the most used. The knot is very useful to support knots in yarns.  The loose ends become a bit thicker.  When this support makes the total bend too bulky you have to look for another bend. The overhand knot is not strong, so you do not use it in situations where you might expect great force.  It also reduces the strength of the rope or yarn by about 50%.  But as an "anti-slip-knot" it does not have to withstand a lot.

The Double Overhand knot

The double overhand knot is beautiful, thicker than the common overhand knot, but not any stronger. Only use it with caution.  The double overhand knot is also called the blood knot if it is used at the end of a whip.  This knot has several ways of tying and in principle two ways of working up. Both ways of tying shown here also show both results.    The blood knot shown in the middle is the preferred way of working up the second way of tying marked with the crosses.  The blood knot is very hard to untie after it has been under stress.  If you put an object through the cross-marked hole the knot will work up as the strangle knot.  It is useful to learn this way.


Blasts from the Past

Some entries from club logs of yore!!...in no order at all!!)

24.3.63 Goatchurch  M. Palmer

Mike and three weegies, spent a very pleasant afternoon thrutching around in Goatchurch!?!?! - found one stray dog (presumably not a weegie??) - which was escorted to Wells Police station.

17.2.79 Swildon's 9  C. Batstone, A Jarratt.  4hrs 50mins.

Intentions were to dive to 12 and attempt to re-climb Victoria Aven.  Sadly the fair.  (What???) Batspiss was struck by Pox at the 20 and exited honking and farting.  AJ continued in lonely fashion;  deposited 100' of rope and diving kit and free dived back out, suffering light pox from sump 1 to entrance.  Lost diving knife somewhere beyond 1.  (Reward).

Millions of evil shrimps lurking in the stream way FROM 4 onwards.  Incidentally it takes 20 seconds to free dive sump 3 and also 20 seconds for sump 2.  Interesting porn photo in St John's Bell!!!

5.8.72 Swildon's Hole   M. Waller, McAnus, J. Durston, Bazza. 1.5hrs

Down to sump 2 leaving Martin and McAnus there.  Bazza and myself went through sump 2 for the first time.  It is about three miles long and takes about 10 hours to pass!!! Excellent trip.

13.8.72 Stoke Lane Slocker   J. Durston & 3 PCG.  2 hrs.

Gentle wander down to see Queen Victoria, diving the renowned crystal clear waters of sump 1 en route.  Most enjoyable.

P.S. Can anyone recommend a good grot removing shampoo??!!

26.11.72   Coral Cave   Tim Large, Nigel Taylor, Basset, Chris Howell.

This must rate as THE outstanding official club trip of the year because ...   a) six persons other than the leader actually started, b) we actually DID go caving!!!

25.8.88 Wookey Hole Trebor, Stumpy, P. Brooke, 

Wookey 20.   Looked at 20.   Looked Okay!!   Nice one.

22.11.80 R Payne. Swildon's Hole   Quackers, Batspiss, Biffo, D. Glover, E. Gosting, P. Crawley, 40' and 20' pots ....

The above people having nothing better to do decided to go down the dreadful Swildon's via the forty and watch the weegies.  Descended the forty in the classic manner with the requisite amount of Anglo Saxon expletives.  Went downstream to the twenty where we met Don Vesper & Bill Matthews who invited us to the MCG for beer. This curtailed any further thoughts of serious spaeleology - which wasn't the original intent anyway.  Returned back up the forty and out via the old grotty and long dry way - much to Pete's disillusionment as this lovely piece of passage seems to have grabbed his parts that other passages don't reach!!!  Time 1.5 hrs .... Bring back the forty!! !

From the frontispiece of the '60 - '61 logbook ....

"Why write illegibly in this log, when with some care, you could be .... BLOODY INDECIPHERABLE??

26.8.61 Nine Barrows Swallet   P.M. Giles, P. Franklin,  'MO'

.......... SHORING!!  (Ring any bells Jarratt?????)

6.8.88   Lionel's Hole  Brian Hippy, Stuey, Steve, Jingles.

The 'Try to find the round trip' trip.

Great muddy fun on a sunny day.  Got to end of Bishops Bypass after countless wrong turnings and dead ends.  Steve, having no oversuit (he'd had an oversuit oversight!!) was soaked, cold and very pissed off.  So we turned round and went out again ... not realising it would have been easier going to carry on!!!

25.8.88 Swildon's Hole. Trevor, Snab, Dave Shand & a multitude of Germans.

A scattered ramble in the vague region of Swildon's 1 as far as the sump, Barnes Loop and other such places ... trying to explain that we were meant to be going round Wookey Hole.

4.5.89 Daren Cilau  Gonzo, Tony Boycott et al.

A 'Doctor's opinion of rescue possibilities' trip to the sump with an overnight stop at Hard Rock. Verdict....  Don't break a leg or you won't come out....But we knew that already!!!

11.2.60 Lamb Leer Cavern  G. Pointing, D. Paddy, J. Giles

Photographic(!) (Without side lighting) to the cave of falling waters.  Met a party of MNRC tribesmen who put on the winch for us, exceeding the 30m.p.h. limit!!!!

11.6.61 ACHTUNG!!

This page is reserved for Mr F. Darbon’s account of the Swildon's II OP Jun 17 1961 (later added in pencil) ... Well .. We’re still waiting!! (There is no further entry on this page)

12.12.82            Swildon's Hole Batspiss, Edric, P. Hodgson.

Sunday afternoon bimble down to sump 1.  Cave was a trifle aqueous to say the least.  Edric was quite impressed with his new wetsuit - even to the extent of going through sump 1, which was covered in a layer of evil shitty foam ...... ???????

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams 

1996 - 1997 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Becca Campbell
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Ivan Sandford
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Librarian                  Alex Gee
Floating                   Hilary Wilson
                               Estelle Sandford



So .... here is a rush release BB for you all. Some of you will have only just received the previous two issues, for this I apologise as there have been problems with the distribution which, touch wood, are now sorted out.

I have had various problems this year but will be able to keep to if not better my intended target of 4 issues as minuted at the AGM last year.  What would be nice is some help from people instead of the constant criticism and hindrance that I am coming across with monotonous regularity.

Publishing the BB is a very time consuming excessive ... as next years editor will no doubt discover. This is made no easier by members sitting on articles as I know some are doing.  Even less helpful is the backbiting that's been going on.

Well I can put you out of your misery by announcing that I don't wish to continue as Editor next year.. .. Full details will be in my end of year report and I will see to it that there is at least one more BB this year even if I have to write the whole thing myself.

The people I am referring to here know who they are .... a shame the majority of membership doesn’t…my message is simple…..grow up!!!   Enough said.

There are plans for a tidying up / working weekend in the early part of August details to be confirmed at the next committee meeting.  The shed and general area are in need of some care and attention to say the least so all help will be appreciated.  I daresay there may be a pig roast or piss-up of some kind afterwards.

Its been fairly quiet at the Belfry recently and I understand that bed nights are down so the Club could do with the presence of some of you .... be nice to see some faces we haven't for a while anyway.

Lastly, sadly for those that don't know Rob Palmer passed away as the result of a diving accident recently.  Although not a BEC member Rob was known to many of us and had often visited the Belfry over the years.

Our condolences go out to his family.  See also article within.

That's it for now as I have to run to the printers now ...

Take it easy ...... Jingles.


From the Belfry Table

An Apology

I start with a full and unreserved  apology to David IRWIN.

In my last BELFRY TABLE article I sought to give publicity as requested by Dave IRWIN, to a new Mendip Cave Bibliography.

In error, I misinformed the readership by stating that the work was being published by Dave IRWIN.  From our conversation, I cannot explain how I came to assume, that as he was a major contributor to the work, he was indeed the Publisher, a title which I meant purely as a loose description to publicise the work in the space available in my article.  David has telephoned me recently and strongly pointed out my error and advises that the work is published by "The Mendip Registry", and it is to these persons that I also apologise for giving the credit to the wrong person. I am sorry for the distress.  David has apparently suffered, and did not realize the sensitivity attached to this issue.

Nominations For The 1997-1998 Committee:-

As Secretary, I now formally call for nominations in writing for candidates for the election of the 1997-1998 BEC Committee, for the AGM on Saturday 4th. October.

Nominations must be in writing, and be seconded by another BEC Member.  Only paid-up members are eligible, and to make it clear as I have often been asked, probationary members are eligible to stand.   Nominations must be received by the Secretary by Friday 5th September.  (Also this is the date of the Sept. Committee meeting).  To both comply with the Constitution and enable me to organise and circulate any ballot papers if an election is required. [Canst:5bl]

 (Jeff PRICE our Caving Secretary is the only member standing down, and all the remaining members automatically are re-nominated to stand again).

AGM & ANNUAL DINNER, Saturday 4th. October 1997:-


The DINNER this year will be held at Bristol University Vet School, Langford House, Langford.  Just a short hop from Burrington Coombe for those of you who are lost off the Hill!  Details to be published later, or speak to me.


Congratulations yet again to Jay-Rat and his team, now well across the road and under the Forestry at Five BuddIes, Well Done!


At time of writing, White Pit is about to go again albeit foul air is causing a major problem to the small band of diggers.  There is some talk on the hill that the increased use of P.E.T.N cords being responsible [See article}.


Andrew Sparrow is to be congratulated for his professional and most excellent latest work. Published by the Crowood Press Ltd, and written by Andrew this valued book runs to 192 pages.  He obviously has put much work and great effort into this volume, and its contents start with 'The Formation of Caves' through the varied subjects of getting started and trip preparation, equipment, techniques, hazards, emergencies, leadership, exploration, mines, cave diving, photography, etc, and end with a chapter on where to cave, further reading, bibliography, glossary and index.

The articles are well depicted in the line drawings of Annette Findlay, and in the main, the photographs of Paul Stillman with contributions from Chris Howes and Clive Westlake.

The book is written in an authoritative but readable manner, and avoids the dryness of many other manuals. My only comment, and I appreciate cost had a bearing on this, it is a shame that it was not printed in a hard back edition, perhaps when he re-prints?

A nice touch is Andrew’s generous acknowledgements to those who assisted him, and his dedication of the book to his wife Joanna.

Available from good bookshops and Bat Products at Wells, "The Complete Caving Manual" Copyright Andrew Sparrow, is available as a soft bound edition and retails at £14-99. Published by The Crowood Press Ltd, ISBN Number: 1 861260229.


This event postponed from May will now be held at Westbury Quarry, courtesy of Pioneer Aggregates Ltd, on Saturday 19th.July 1997.  Starting at 10.00, numbers will be limited, for further details contact Dany Bradshaw or the organiser Nigel Taylor.  The technical day, intends to cover the placement of anchors in other types of rock, such as Box stone sandstones, and Conglomerates / Draycott stone.  These will later be attacked with explosives to give the users an idea of the effective quantities required for such work. A special non-explosive rock breaking device will also be demonstrated by a commercial firm. Offers of assistance will be welcomed.

Please Note: Hard Hats & Suitable safety footwear mandatory.


Same date as above, and starting at 3.00pm, this should run on after the Westbury event, so there is no clash, why not attend both, details of course from the Little people, to whom I extend my condolences in advance!


The Committee depressed by the dilapidated state of the Belfry and site will host a clean-up on the above date.  WILL YOU HELP? IF NOT, WHY NOT? NO HELP ... NO MOAN!!!!!.

Well at long last, that's all for this month, can I leave the table now please?

Nigel Taylor, Hon. Secretary, 1996/7.  Belfry Table No. 20, Saturday 5th. July 1997.


Swimming! in St Cuthbert’s.

Over the past year various trips to Lake Chamber have been undertaken by myself, Mike O'Driscoll, Pete Mulholland and Adrian Hall.

The object of the exercise was to re-examine the passages and terminal sump on the other side of the lake.

What was surprising was the amount of flak and piss taking this has engendered.  Yes we may well be reinventing the wheel here ... but so what. People still climb Everest...and go to the North Pole ... "Because its there!" ... so why not us .... besides you never know .... you might find something.

About a year ago Mike, Pete and I went down and laid a dive line through the lake in order to belay high up on the far bank to assist the climb on that side. It is steep and very muddy so with a hand line is accessible in low water conditions.

I returned a couple of months later when the water was low and was able to free dive/duck through without tanks and got into the high level series on the far side. The ascent is very muddy and tube like.  Ascending 15 odd feet up past a loose squeeze round a boulder into a small chamber. There is an aural connection to the passages on the other side of the lake but this is very tight indeed and also quite pretty so I wouldn't try it.  Heading off to the left along the obvious route a narrow rift is reached. This time I turned back here as I’d only gone down to pick up my bottle anyway.

I returned twice over the next few months and made some experimental dives but made no further progress, then again I wasn't really trying I was playing with kit configurations and this seemed a good excuse to go for a swim.

Nothing happened for some months then as I was away in Yorkshire and then had hassles that prevented much activity.

Late in June this year myself, Pete and Adrian returned along with a couple of others to do some photos and get to the end.  The water was surprisingly high and very cold but we got through the lake and de-kitted. It's a bloody awkward place to remove diving kit even with single rigs so much swearing was done.  We trogged up to the chamber and to the rift where I squeezed through a higher bypass and gained entry to the last rift.  Ten feet along a very muddy passage ... tight too it opened out on the left to a descending rift 15 feet wide by 6 feet across and about 25 feet deep down to the water surface.  A great site ... a beautiful blue green sump pool; clear enough to see ten or so feet down into.  We all agreed it had "dive me" firmly emblazoned across the surface.

Up until now I have been unable to ascertain whether this has been dived before .. .it is recorded in the Cuthbert’s Report and looks like it was surveyed in the early seventies. I can't remember the names of the two concerned offhand but nobody seems to know what happened to them (any info gratefully received).

We plan to go back in the near future and dive .... even if only to have done it.

Looking down on the sump pool and at the survey it appears to go down then off to the right and depending on water levels my guess would be a depth of about 5m ish.  We will need to have a double rig for the diver for safety reasons but it’s not too bad a kit hump anyway.

As I said at the beginning we are not really fussed if someone has been in there before as its great fun anyway .... and it keeps you in practice.

I'll write some more up when we've done the next dive ...... .Jingles.


"Foul Air in Cave Digs. in which Explosives cords are used as an excavation agent"

As mentioned in my earlier "From The Belfry Table" Article, WHITE PIT diggers are experiencing considerable foul air problems.  There has been talk upon Mendip that cave exploration techniques involving explosives may be a contributory factor to this problem.

Foul air has long been a diggers nightmare, on Mendip, digs such as North Hill swallet, or Sanctimonious Passage in Hunters Hole and other such sites have produced large volumes of carbon monoxides, often exacerbated by the ingress of cowsh and sewerage giving rise to C02 and other noxious gases.  So the problem is not new, but, has some other activity now brought further hidden dangers to the cave-digger?

Are the plastic coated Explosive detonating cords now in regular use amongst the 'Bosch drill' brigade of cave diggers contributing to a new off-shoot of the problem?

These, detonated in the dig at White Pit at regular intervals may perhaps be the cause of plastic coating residues or gases combining with the muds in the dig spoil, and leaving residual gases other than standard Carbon Monoxides and Dioxides. It has been sensibly suggested by Vince Simmons that someone from the scientific side of the sport might make a worthwhile study of this problem.  I am not aware of any commercial knowledge or data regarding this, other than that given below, and I also agree that such work is worthy of support. PETN itself is Cardio- Vascular depressive, and I wonder if this could be adding to the user’s problems?

Certainly the chemical compositions of the polymers often left exposed from their shotholes might contain benzenes and other such material, and the quantities being fired at two or three strands per hole, giving larger M.I.C (Maximum instantaneous charge) than the older method of single strand cord in smaller diameter shotholes, obviously gives a greater amount of such exposed material, in addition to the greater explosive content in grams/metre.

Detonating cords contain PETN as their explosive agent, Pentaerythritol tetranitrate [PEIN] is wrapped in polypropylene countering yarns, which is then overlaid by plastic sheathing.  The common such cord used in caving is a white coated 12gr cord made by ExChem Explosives, and sold by them and through ICI Explosives (Dia: 5mm, +\-0. 2mm,6, 500 m/sec).  It used to be of 10gr content but now this is not readily available.  It is also the industry "Standard" against which LEDC and HEDC are further classified.  HEDC, High Energy Detonating Cord, is encountered as 20gr, 40gr, 80gr and 100gr.  These weights being the actual explosive content of the particular cord in grams per metre LEDC  [Low energy detonating cord] is found as Pentaflex 6 cord, however this contains 3.5gr/metre and not 6gr!!  When initiated by a detonator, the cord achieves a V.O.D [Velocity of Detonation] of between 6,000 and 7,000 metres per second.

Generally on Mendip 12gr cords were the norm.  In recent years licence holders have been able to obtain both 20gr [Red/Blk],40gr [Brown,8.2mm dia+\-0.2mm, 7000m/sec] and 80gr [Yellow/Green dia: 11.2mm+\-0.4rnrn, 7000m/sec] weights.  Often two strands of 20gr and a strand of 12gr are used in the same shothole, giving a 52gr/metre MIC.

ExChem Explosives give advice in their excellent range of product literature as follows:

"When explosives are detonated in circumstances other than those recommended by the manufacturer, unacceptable levels of other noxious gases including Carbon Monoxide and the Oxides of Nitrogen may be produced"

The ExChem 'Safety Information Sheet EXP6 [Update 1.7.1993] states:

"Avoid contact with other materials, in particular acids and bases & organic & inorganic, powerful oxidising or reducing agents, ammonia, nitro phenols, sulphur, gunpowder and other mixtures containing divalent sulphur, which may cause decomposition of the explosive core".

And further under the heading VAPOURS':

"Vapours-No vapours, but excessive exposure to P.E.T.N powder should be avoided, since inhalation or ingestion could lead to headaches".

This last paragraph however to my mind suggests that this refers to pre-detonation and not post detonation.

I shall shortly confer with ExChem Explosives regarding the subject, but would welcome all and any comment on this important safety issue, and now seek to generate discussion and research on it as suggested by Vince Simmons.

Nigel Taylor. Bristol Exploration Club, and MIExpE [Saturday 5th. July 1997].