Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor (722)
Joint Treasurers: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary / Hut Bookings : Fiona Sandford (958)
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (1306)
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett (1234)
Tackle Officer: Tyrone Bevan (1276)

Non-Committee Posts

Acting Editor: Dave Irwin (aka – Wig)
BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
Librarian : Graham Johnson (aka- Jake)

Club Trustees: Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Nigel Taylor and Barrie Wilton

Cover photo: Picture postcard of Fingal’s Cave, from the Marvels of Nature series published by Lombard Chocolate, Paris c.1900. (From Dave Irwin’s collection)


The Club urgently needs a BB Editor. Dave Irwin is currently Acting Editor. The BB not only informs members of the fine work currently being undertaken by the members it is also the medium through which the Committee can inform the membership of its actions asnd other club news.  So, where’s that budding editor?  Pay is low but the work is extremely rewarding!



Ten years ago this week I penned a “From the Belfry Table” article, gleefully explaining that we had just celebrated our Sixtieth Dinner and had been only 2 persons short of the magical 200 number. Well, ten years on and I can only comment that we were only 2 short of 150 dining members at our Seventieth Dinner.  Sadly many faces are no longer with us, however, many old friends were ‘arm twisted’ into coming, and, with little exception, a good night was enjoyed by those who did attend. 

Member Number 1, Harry Stanbury sent a personal message wishing the Club well, and stated that being only 92 years of age, he still hoped to make it to the 75th!

Members will also be concerned to hear that Roger Dors was rushed into Bath Hospital a week after he and Jackie attended the Dinner. I will not make ill informed comment on his ailment, but I am sure that everyone will wish him a speedy return to good health, and extend any support to Jackie and the family that may be needed.

Jayrat and team continue well at Rose Cottage Cave, once again he has written some excellent accounts of his endeavours in the BB for all to see.

A “Burns Night Supper” will be run at the Belfry towards the end of January 2006 to raise funds for the Extension and all are welcome, details from the Committee.

Dave Irwin has done it again, The massive “Mendip Cave Bibliography 2nd Edition” has been produced. This two volume work was a mammoth undertaking, over 520 pages, 25,000 references and 1.1 million words, is a worthy addition to all caving club libraries and any caver’s bookshelf.

Starting in the spring, we intend to run a series of “Little known Mendip Cave” visits. These will be for the benefit of enthusiasts and novices alike. The actual locations are still to be decided, more details will appear later.

Due to the absence of a regular BB, I believe that members have been kept generally in the dark about what has been happening, or was about to happen on the Hill. It is my intention therefore to work closely with the BB Editor, committee, and the general membership to produce a “From the Belfry Table” newsletter in times of BB sparsity. If this is to succeed, I shall need regular and up-to-date snippets of caving and Club info to bring before the membership, PLEASE HELP.

Those who attended the Annual Dinner will recall that Roger and Jackie Dors, together with Les Davies MBE (Senior Warden, Mendip Hills A.O.N.B),were our joint Guests of Honour. Roger and Jackie were presented with a Welsh ‘Davy’ lamp as a measure of thanks and the esteem in which the BEC hold the Dors family for present and past generations. Roger in reply, warmly thanked the Club for the gift, which they both accepted also on behalf of their family.

Les Davies has written a letter of thanks, from which I quote; “....Would you be so good as to thank everyone from the BEC for a splendid was a great pleasure to spend the evening with you all and to be able to share in your 70th. Anniversary....” He continued; “Caving and Mendip are inseparable...I do consider you all to be pioneers, whom each year make more discoveries and unlock more secrets of the Mendip Hills. Long may you all continue ”.

The Secretary has suggested  to the Committee that we pursue a pro-active approach to raising the interest in Caving locally. He put forward a plan to write not only to local papers, but to contact Young Farmers Clubs and other Youth groups to ascertain local interest. Whilst a minimum age restriction of 16 exists within the BEC, these persons will obviously be the 16 to 25 year age group worth targeting to offer an insight into caving, and what the BEC has to offer in particular.

WORKING WEEKENDS: Just so that you can plan to be away from Mendip if you want to miss the Working Weekends, the dates are: 8th/9th January, 9th/10th April, 9th/10th July, and 24th/25th September, 2006. On the other hand we need you and your skills, if you haven’t got any, well maybe you could turn up and learn some from others for free!!.

Well, for the time being, its time to get down from the table, regards to all,

Nigel T
Hon Secretary.


Vale – Steve Tuck

Some Memories of Steve Tuck:

Matthew Tuck had a father! He was Steve Tuck who joined the BEC in the late 50’s and caved and climbed and rode motor bikes and drank beer (and rough) and sang songs and was a generally all round good bloke.

Steve has just died at Plymouth leaving two lovely daughters, Beth and Jessica, his son Matthew and his second wife Lorraine.

Steve was one of the crowd who joined the BEC from the National Smelting Company. He shared a flat in Bristol with a couple of other BEC members. A feature of their flat was a large astronomical telescope set up to view - horizontally? All was revealed when it was explained that if you turned your head upside down to make sense of the inverted image you could see the nurses living opposite! 

He was an enthusiastic person and very good fun to be with on the long trips in the early exploration of Cuthberts. He came on climbing meets but became more careful after falling off a VS in the Avon Gorge. Many years later I visited him in Devon and we did a climb on The Dewerstone where he chatted happily all the way up.

I have an excellent photograph somewhere of him hurtling past the Belfry on an underpowered OEC; an antique motor bike. Steve maintained that this stood for Old English Contraption. And not just motor bikes he liked bicycles as well. Three of us, Lin. Steve and me, had a really good week bike touring along the coast of Brittany camping in tiny tents with Steve as a first class bike mechanic when things fell off. He could mend anything.

Latterly we shared long walks and interesting conversations when we could and I shall miss that.



Vale - Joan Bennett

Joan Bennett is no longer with us. She passed away on the 1st September in Axbridge after a long illness. The club has lost a member who was staunchly protective of the BEC and who undertook many tasks requested of her with total commitment.

In her ‘teens she was involved with YHA and that is how she made her connection with the BEC.  She met and married Roy Bennett, and because of their common interest in skiing, climbing and caving they slotted into the BEC’s wide ranging interests in these sports during the 1950s and 1960s.

She not only caved and climbed regularly in the UK. She climbed in The Alps and was an active member on the two Austrian caving expeditions in 1965 when she descended the Hirlatz and in 1966 joined an international expedition to the Raucherkarhohle where, with a party of BEC members, she camped underground for over two days. On the way out Roy and ‘Wig’ wanted to get photographs of the huge chamber, ‘Gigantedom’ and so they began setting up the cameras when Joan caught up with them. After two days at near freezing conditions she threw a wobbly and threatened Roy with a divorce if he didn’t make a move towards the cave entrance. So ended a great photographic trip! She and Roy were strong members of a BEC expedition to the deep potholes near Balague in the Pyrenees liaising with Kangy and Georges Jauzion in 1970.

In 1967 she was caving in Ireland and helped survey the Aille River Cave first explored by Roy and ‘Wig.’ It was a gloomy  place and one could frequently feel ‘nasties’ swimming against the wet-suited leg in the 250m Long Canal. Roy commented that he hadn’t known her to be so quiet, for so long, before! Joan was the first woman to enter St. Cuthbert’s II in1969 and she helped Wig on a number of surveying trips in the cave.

She and Roy were inseparable. They were immensely loyal and supportive of each other so much so that they were referred to as “the Bennetts”. When Roy took up pioneering hang gliding she often helped and on one occasion they carried a 70lb machine to the top of Skiddaw. Roy flew down in a few minutes while Joan trudged down resignedly hours later!

After Roy’s death in a mid-summer skiing accident near their retirement home at Newtonmore Scotland, Joan returned to Mendip inconsolable after her loss. However she built a new life in her new home at Draycott where she had a fine collection of books and, interestingly, caving paintings. Latterly she had several trips to the Antarctic which she spoke about with great enthusiasm.

 Joan had a fine mind, was a vigorous debater and held a number of posts in the club. For many years she was librarian, then auditor and lately a trustee.  Whatever the task required of her she always gave it her full attention and commitment. She leaves a large sized hole in our lives.

‘Kangy’ and ‘Wig’


Vale - Albert Francis

Another loyal friend and Life member of the BEC has passed away.  Albert joined the BEC on the 3rd. July 1958. His introduction to caving was through Mike Palmer’s dad enabling him to meet Herbert Balch at his Badger Hole excavations. He then met up with the ‘3 Mikes’, Mike Baker, Mike Palmer and Mike Wheadon at the Wells YMCA

In the early days he helped on several building projects at the Belfry site on the ‘Stone Belfry’ and the Carbide store.  For this he was elected an Honorary Life Member.  Following the destruction of the Belfry in 1969 Albert spent much time with others on the fabric of the new Belfry, notably installing the electrics.

Albert was involved with several discoveries in Fairy Cave Quarry but his main claim to fame occurred in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and Manor Farm Swallet.  Albert was on the trip that entered the September Series in St. Cuthbert’s along with Mikes Palmer and Wheadon, Brian Prewer and Tom Neill.  He and Kangy were later to be the first team to make the connection with Rabbit Warren Extension and High Chamber, via Catgut Series and the notorious Cross-Leg Squeeze.  Wig remembers being the first non-UBSS members allowed into Bat Passage and Great Chamber with Albert and Prew to view these fine passages..

For many years Albert was one of the mainstays of the NHASA digging team, working at North Hill Swallet, Double Back, Twin T’s, Lodmore and Chancellor’s Farm Dig but he declined working at Templeton as he said ‘it wasn’t his scene!’

Nigel T remembers that in Manor Farm many happy hours were spent digging with him.  The work culminated with the hoped for breakthrough leading to NHASA Gallery. A feature in the cave was christened in his honour “Albert's Eye” for it gave him grief on the first time he tried to pass it. . Once retired from active digging he could be seen enjoying a half in the diggers company on a Wednesday night at the Hunters. Albert was a gentleman with a twinkle in his eye to the last!

Kangy, Mr. ‘N’, ‘Prew ‘and Wig


On Surveying the World’s Most Famous Cave

by Tony Jarratt

"Wait till you see Fingal's Cave properly. That's the entrance to it there," said Alistair, breathless with pulling.

Jane drew in her breath sharply. "It's magnificent! ..."

"To-morrow I'll show it you from the inside. You'll understand then why people say its like a great cathedral. That other great opening in the cliff is the Boat Cave. Just round the little headland here, is MacKinnon's Cave. ... There are more caves further up the coast."

"Gosh!" exclaimed Jane. "What fun to explore them all."

 "Do you happen to have brought provisions for a week?" Alistair teased her. " Staffa's just riddled with caves.     

Fingal's Ghost  1947

When, at the Grampian Speleological Group's annual dinner, Bob Mehew mentioned that he had a cunning plan to survey the sea caves of the isle of Staffa I was immediately captured. My last (and only) visit was on July 5th 1976 in a 12 seater RIB  which took 45 minutes to cross from Ulva Ferry on the island of Mull. Since then I had accumulated a great deal of books, postcards and pre-1900 engravings of Staffa and its caves and was itching for a return visit.

"Off the west coast of Scotland lies a lonely little island which has probably won more world-wide renown than any other natural feature of Britain. This famed islet is Staffa. Foam-girt by stormy Hebridean seas, it rises serene, presenting colonnaded cliffs and caves, amazing not only in size but in form and symmetry. Since the island was "discovered", in 1772, its most imposing rock structure, Fingal's Cave, has ranked among the foremost of the natural wonders of the world."           Staffa 1975

Once privately owned Staffa is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland and is looked after by Scottish Natural Heritage. Bob's well thought out proposals to them, his professional risk assessment (he is a safety inspector for Sellafield) and his general persistence persuaded them to allow a group of six of us to camp on the island for several days in order to survey the major caves and undertake scientific work on the columnar basalt pillars and marine flora and fauna.

The only published survey of Fingal's Cave found is that in the first edition of MacCulloch but this is not drawn to scale though it has many detailed measurements. All the main sites have been frequently measured over the last two hundred years but the dimensions differ as much as the enthusiasts themselves. Ours would be the first surveys done by cavers as opposed to travellers or naturalists. Our "bible" for this mini-expedition was to be " Staffa" by Donald B. MacCulloch (MacCulloch, 1975).  Earlier editions of this erudite and encyclopaedic volume were titled "The Isle of Staffa" and "The Wondrous Isle of Staffa". MacCulloch mentions the following caves of note:- Clamshell (Scallop) Cave, Fingal's (An Uamh Binn, An Uamh Bhin - Musical Cave, An Uamh Mhor - the Great Cave), Boat Cave, MacKinnon's Cave, Cormorants' (Scarts') Cave, Goat Cave, Gunna Mor (Big Gun, Gun, Thunder Cave, The Cannon) and a cave on the western coast which "hardly deserves this term". He dismisses other possible caves as of little interest. The 1:10,000 Ordnance Survey map shows five named caves (MacKinnon's being incorrectly located), seven unnamed caves and a natural arch - totalling thirteen sites. Due to lack of time not all of these sites were visited but they are almost certainly all caves from a speleological point of view and two others, Gunna Mor and Horses' Cave are not indicated on the map at all. At least one more cave in the north west of the island can be added to give a total of sixteen sites of interest to a caver. Also, Goat Cave is in fact two separate and parallel caves - but let's not push the point.

This project created surprisingly little interest in the Scottish section of the Grampian though two prospective expeditionaries unfortunately couldn't make it due to work commitments - poor Dan Harries having to earn a crust diving off the Galapagos islands - bless. Only Edinburgh based John Crae (GSG) was a true native and the rest of the team were trawled from south of the border. Bob Mehew (GSG / SMCC), Tony Boycott (GSG / BEC), Vern Freeman (GSG / BEC), Duncan Butler (BEC / RUCC) and myself (GSG / BEC). Also, a brief guest appearance by Canadian professor Stephen Morris gave us a bit more scientific credibility. Our esteemed photographic team of Descent's own Chris Howes and Judith Calford were also, alas, unable to attend but generously provided photographic equipment and advice.

For the Mendip contingent the expedition commenced, as is traditional, in the Hunters' bar on Tuesday August 16th. Next day the four Sassunaichs drove north to meet Bob and John in Auley's Bar in Oban from where the car ferry was taken to Craignure on Mull. In atrocious weather we drove across the south of the island to Fionnphort and set up camp in driving rain at Fidden Farm. To dry out we were forced to sit in the Keel Row Inn where plans were made for the next few days.

Luckily next day was dry, bright and sunny and, as arranged, we boarded the good MB "Iolaire of Iona" - deeply impressing its skipper, Chris Kirkpatrick, with the mountain of equipment piled up on the harbour side! Chris had a load of tourists on board but was very laid-back and we were soon on the high seas admiring seals, guillemots, kittiwakes and cormorants on the one hour voyage to the "wondrous isle".

Landing at the concrete jetty near Clamshell Cave was the start of the first epic as the pile of kit was unloaded and painfully dragged up the stairway to the island plateau out of the reach of the rising tide and sea spray. The caving kit was dumped and the rest ferried to the centre of this mile and a half circumference grass-covered rock where we set up camp. Outstanding views of Mull, Iona, the Treshnish Isles, Gometra and Ulva surrounded us and once the tourists departed our only companions were the birds and insects. As to the latter we initially thought that we had got away with it until the breeze stopped and the fearsome Scottish MIDGIES rose from the greensward to devour our lifeblood!

Once set up we immediately set off cave-hunting and Dr.B. quickly found the obscure entrance to Gunna Mor situated in the basalt pillars a few metres above sea level on the north side of Port an Fhasgaidh inlet. This peculiar cave, later surveyed to a solid end at a mere 5.07 metres, is somewhat of an anomaly on this basalt island. Inclined upwards at 35 degrees it resembles a 1 metre diameter phreatic tube and theories on its formation abound. A small "rockmill" pool at the entrance apparently once held a large round stone weighing 5 lbs which was violently agitated in storms to give the cave its name. A legend states that the stone was pinched before 1800 by Irish tourists.

With the island now devoid of visitors we followed the cliff top around to Fingal's Cave where the tide was rapidly rising. My Russian rubber dinghy - the Battleship Potempkin - was inflated ready for next day and Bob, John and Duncan commenced their separate tasks of measuring the basalt pillars around the entrance of this stunning cavern. After a meal at camp most then recced. the cliffs on the north and west sides of the island.

Friday 19th turned out to be another fine day with a few showers. The surveyors continued with their projects while Tony, Vern and I concentrated on crossing the sea inlet to Fingal's Cave. Tony swam across and I followed in the Potempkin with Vern hanging on behind.

"Leaping into the boat, he seized the oars and skillfully pushed out into the eddying sea; then, waiting an instant for the reflux of an enormous wave, he was carried right in front of the cave. Here the boat was nearly upset, but with a dexterous movement of the oars, Oliver succeeded in keeping her straight. Had she been caught amidships , she would inevitably have been capsized."..."A cry of horror came from the spectators, for it seemed that the boat must inevitably be dashed against the rocks to the left of the entrance."         The Green Ray  1885

120 years later and nothing has changed! All exciting stuff due to the swell and a certain inability on my part to swim. A rope was rigged across the inlet and later used as a tyrolean (even more exciting!). The NW wall of the cave was pegged and a length of handline installed for future use by photographers and surveyors.

Now feeling cocky we carried on round the base of the cliff to see if we could gain access to the permanently flooded Boat Cave before which was a very rough sea inlet with a small and horrifically floodable cave at the end - later to become labelled Horses' Cave. In crossing this we all had epics; getting smashed onto barnacle-covered rocks and almost being swept out to sea to eventually become malodorous seawrack on the shores of Newfoundland. Considerably wiser we eventually relaxed in the much calmer water of the Boat Cave inlet then took the Potempkin into the attractive and smoothly sculpted tunnel ending in a slope of huge cobbles after some 50 metres. Compass and clinometer readings were taken but the lack of a tape or laser measurer precluded the survey from being completed. Photos were taken before a hasty retreat was made to Fingal's. It was noted that Boat Cave is formed in the yellow tufaceous ash layer with the lower columnar basalt layer forming the ceiling. This was also later found to be the case with Horses', Cormorants', MacKinnon's Caves and the sea-filled lower section of Fingal's Cave.

At Fingal's we met Professor Steve who has done much work on the cooling processes of lava to form hexagonal pillars and was luckily holidaying in Scotland from his temporary base at Cambridge University. He had arranged with Bob to meet up and exchange ideas. Back at the camp he was impressed enough with our Wilkins' Cider to ask for a second mug! (Our thanks to Roger Dors for the supply of this elixir which certainly prevented scurvy amongst the team). Unfortunately the midgies were also attracted by the nectar so Vern, Tony, John and I scuttled off down the eastern cliffs to Goat Cave - actually two parallel, short sea caves - and the adjacent Natural Arch, a c.8m tunnel which Vern swam through. Rushing into Goat Cave to avoid the midgies we disturbed thousands of sand fleas which were almost as bad. Several wrens were flying around in the cave apparently feasting on these unpleasant bugs. The cave was surveyed and photographed and a short, blind cave nearby examined. These caves are located in the slaggy lava bed above the columnar zones.

The evening working trip to Fingal's was almost an overnight one as the causeway to the cave was partially flooded by the tide on the surveyors' return and the handlines inside the cave were underwater - as were Vern's only trousers!

Saturday 20th was yet another day of superb weather and having previously worked on the Hebrides I was thoroughly amazed. The noise of breakers hitting the cliffs or surging into the caverns seemed particularly noticeable today, as was the screeching of the sea-birds. At Fingal's we found a great deal of carved graffiti whilst searching for the inscription "J.B. 1772". This had been noted by a Miss Barker of Cumberland in 1928 and it was suggested that the initials were those of Sir Joseph Banks, the island's "discoverer" and populariser. Eventually I unearthed "J.B." but could not confirm the date. Many other dates, including 1776 and 1801, were found but most of the inscriptions are difficult to decipher due to sea erosion and a thin algal film. A separate visit to record many of these using brass rubbing techniques would be an interesting historical project before they completely disappear. Not being allowed to chisel proof of our visit I emplaced the ubiquitous "Bertie" sticker but suspect that it was quickly removed by the Shepton element (good job he missed the second one).

Dr.B. donned his diving gear and swam the length of the cave to report that there was no possible way on at the end - another legend de-bunked. The shingle beach noted by MacCulloch had gone and been replaced by large cobbles. Apart from a few small fish and crabs the only items of interest in the depths were sections of the old iron handrail. The depth of the cave floor was noted at several points as he swam back and out to sea. Here he swam into a shoal of mackerel but missed the nearby seal and basking shark which we had been admiring from the shore.

Bob captained the Potempkin, assisted by Vern, in order to make a photographic record from the NW wall while John and Duncan persevered with their measurements despite the growing crowd of tourists milling about. Being redundant I went off on a solo trip to Cormorants' Cave, shedding my trousers to pass the knee deep pool in the strongly draughting connecting passage to MacKinnon's Cave. Here I was amazed to see Tony and Vern silhouetted in the entrance. Tony joined me to complete a through trip whilst high on the cliff top above a couple of tourists admired my shapely legs. (They were lucky - I had intended to go for a dump!). This fine cave is almost as impressive as Fingal's and far more colourful, being decorated with pink algae, light green and orange sponges, purple sea-anemones and white dog whelks in abundance. There is an inaccessible high level passage which almost certainly connects back to Cormorants' but would need bolting equipment to reach. The cormorants in residence may not take kindly to this.

Meanwhile Vern pushed the, at that time, unnamed cave between Boat and Fingal's for some 35 metres, taking advantage of the low tide to avoid being pulverised by breakers. He reported it as still passable for another 5 metres or so but discretion proved the better part of valour and he retreated. The son of the boat owner David Kirkpatrick later told us that he knows this as Horses' Cave due to the "white horses" formed by the tidal surges. Chris Kirkpatrick knows it simply as "The Blowhole" but agreed with us that the former name is more suitable and has indeed now added it to his tourist spiel.

In the evening Bob photographed along the SE wall of Fingal's, including some of the graffiti and Duncan and Tony swam to the end of the cave, the former getting a good wave-bashing for his pains - and indeed, causing them.

Before settling down for the evening cider, wine and whisky a team planted stakes at the top of the west cliffs ready for an attempt on the unnamed cave below next day.

Sunday 21st saw normal Hebridean weather at last as a forecast front arrived with damp, overcast and breezy conditions soon turning to continuous rain but at least keeping the midgies down. 15 metres of ladder hung over the cliff gained access to a sloping, grassy ledge leading directly into the SW end of this crescent-shaped cave and Dr.B. drew the short straw. Duncan and I joined him and this pleasant but short cave was surveyed by taking 14 separate legs from a base station. Two side passages were relatively well decorated with calcite "cave coral". Huge amounts of driftwood and fishing floats lined the back wall and gave us the field name of " Float Cave" - the finding of part of a plastic doll almost resulted in "Baby's Leg Cave" but this was sadly rejected. A Meta merianae or Meta menardi (?) orb web and a large marine "woodlouse" were observed in one of the decorated passages and at the other end of the cave, just outside the drip line, three fat and fluffy gull chicks screeched at us from their nests.

While Tony and I surveyed Duncan traversed the base of the cliffs to the north to reach a triangular cave entrance which Chris later told us he knew as " Gunshot Cave" due to the noise of breakers entering when the swell is from the west. This could not be entered due to high water but an adjacent cave was partially explored by Duncan for some 40m before a bold, wet step curtailed his progress. On the O.S, map only one cave is marked at this point. Another visit using ladders from the cliff top is needed. We now had to take advantage of the tide so all set off in dribs and drabs to Cormorants' Cave where Tony and I surveyed through the strongly draughting connection passage into MacKinnon's Cave. Bob, assisted by Vern, completed a photographic record of the system.

With plenty of time left a one leg survey of Gunna Mor (five minutes) was accomplished followed by an identical operation in Clamshell Cave. Being thoroughly soaked we gave up the idea of lunch and Tony, Duncan and I pressed on to survey Fingal's starting at Duncan's EDM position and using a laser distance meter for the final leg to avoid a watery grave in the maelstrom below.

"Before them opened a spacious lofty cave, filled with a dim, mysterious light. The space between the two sides of the cave, at the level of the sea, measures about thirty-four feet; to the right and left the basaltic columns, wedged one against the other, like those in certain cathedrals of the latest Gothic period, hide the main supporting walls. From the top of these columns spring the sides of an enormous pointed arch, which at its key-stone rises fifty feet above the average water-mark."     The Green Ray, 1885

A few extremely bedraggled tourists heralded the arrival of Iolaire of Iona so the opportunity was taken for a weather check with Chris who informed us of force 9 winds forecast in two days time and suggested that we leave Staffa the following day  to avoid an extended and doubtless miserable extension of our holiday. We were happy to agree and sloshed our way back to camp to dry out and fester for the rest of the day.

We awoke on Monday 22nd to a glorious day, possibly the best yet, but were not going to be conned by the vagaries of Highland weather. Everything was dried out, the camp packed up and all our kit portered back to the jetty. Tony and I returned to Fingal's for one last trip in order to check for magnetic anomalies by taking compass back bearings. None were found. The others continued with their separate projects and Vern assisted Bob with his short photographic survey of Gunna Mor before racing back to the jetty to join Tony and I who were taking the first boat back with most of the kit. A pleasant journey o'er the sea to Mull and the joys of unloading all the equipment and packing it in various cars only added to our salt-spray induced dehydration and before long we were installed in the Keel Row and on the outside of some welcome McEwans 80/-. The others arrived at 5pm to join us in the pub for some real food and a few more swallies. The weather had now deteriorated and once again we set up our tents at Fidden Farm in the pouring rain.

We returned to Oban on the 23rd and the Mendip contingent  were back in the Hunters' that evening sampling the first decent ale in six days.

This expedition was very successful in the amount of work, some unexpected, that was achieved in such a short space of time. Unfortunately the loss of a day prevented some of the planned work being finished and coupled with the realisation that the island is more cavernous than expected will almost certainly result in a second visit next year. Bob is planning to write up various scientific reports, including one for Cave and Karst Science. The G.S.G. Bulletin and Descent will also have write-ups. I would like to express our thanks to Bob for the inordinate amount of work he put in on this project and for the privilege of becoming temporary inhabitants of the, truly, Wondrous Isle.

"To those who have set foot on Staffa on fine summer days, the friendliness of this tiny island remains with them for ever, and keeps a place in their hearts, even if they may never return."      Fingal's Cave   1961



Anon,  April/May 2005, Fatalities at Fingal's,  Descent (183), p.28.

Fidler, Kathleen, 1947, Fingal's Ghost,  John Crowther Ltd.

Jones, Rosalind, 1997, Mull in the Making,  R. Jones.

Oldham, J.E.A, July 1974, Fingal's Cave, Staffa - by Air,  British Caver,  vol. 62, pp.75-78.  A. Oldham.

Oldham, Tony,  January 2004,  The Caves of Scotland a Bibliography,  A. Oldham.

Oldham, Tony, 2004, The New Caves of Scotland,  A. Oldham.

Scott, Thea, 1961, Fingal's Cave,  Pandora Press.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1927 (1st edn.),  The Isle of Staffa.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1934, 1957 (2nd and 3rd edns.),  The Wondrous Isle of Staffa.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1975 (4th edn.),  Staffa,  David & Charles.

Verne, Jules, 1885 (reprinted 2003),  The Green Ray,  Wildside Press.

de Watteville, Alastair, 1993,  The Island of Staffa - Home of the World Renowned Fingal's Cave, Romsey Fine Art.


Bob Mehew for the initial idea, thorough organization and a great deal of hard work.

BCA and DCA for the loan of the Disto laser measurer.

BCRA for a grant to assist with the hire of the Total Station.



I thought as my 70th celebrations and the BEC’s and fifty plus years in The Club nearly coincided I’d send a climbing article to cause some editorial consternation.    


My birthday was actually last year and on the 5th May last year Janet and I stayed at her Club Hut the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club “Black Rock Cottage” in Glencoe. We had the intention of climbing Buachaille Etive Mor by way of the North Buttress. We woke up to the dreary sight of clag down to roof level and the bottom of the Buttress covered on snow. So we went to the ‘Ice Factor’ the big climbing wall at Kinlochleven instead. It was warm indoors but hardly a celebration. We asked for and got an OAP discount.

This year, suddenly, we had free time and a spell of good weather and at the beginning of August had lovely sunny day climbing the 1000 ft North Buttress from the bottom to the summit.

Taking the Lagangarbh path from the road we got to the buttress easily in a half an hour. The route, my old guidebook says, was first climbed in 1895 following the line shown in the photograph.

”Start at the centre of the buttress and climb to the foot of the steep section Traverse right to the Great Gully and take the easiest line above.”

After the initial scramble through heather and rocky bits we romped up nice easy angled slabs until the buttress wall loomed.

The ledge we were on was in sunshine, it was 12.30 and so we munched lunch.    

Janet can be seen on the lower slabs silluetted against the steep section of the climb. The route tends to the right hand edge and then jags back to climb steep cracks in the centre.

Rucksacs were repacked, crumbs wiped from sticky fac

es and the intriging move to the base of the next section started. We peered into the void of the Great Gully. Lovely We moved rightwards along a narrow gangway which was beautifully exposed. Rounding a corner we found a perfect belay below the next section; the vertical chimneys. Three of them as it turned out.      

Happily it was my turn to lead and I enjoyed the good holds, the interesting position and the feeling of being on a real mountaineering route, Janet did the next slab pitch to another chimney. This one was partially blocked by a large boulder. I heave-hoed over it. Janet was subtler and found a better and more graceful way of climbing it. After that we happily wandered diagonally left until the ground became less steep and we could see the Crowberry Tower which is near the top of Stob Dearg.

Ten minutes later we had arrived on the only summit in the area free from cloud. So we decided that it was our 70th Birthday Climb and we dedicated it to my favourite Club.


Happy Birthday BEC.

From Kangy

Membership Fees are now due for RENEWAL

If you pay before 30th November 2005 the discounted rates are:

Single membership - £30;  Joint membership - £44

For those requiring caving insurance there is an additional charge of £15 per head

After 1st December 2005 the rates are:

Single membership - £35; Joint membership - £49

Caving insurance as above

All Membership Fees should be given or sent to:

The Membership Secretary :  Fiona Sandford, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

Do not put in with the hut fees or leave in The Belfry – there is no guarantee it will get to me!


Digging for Cheese

By Prof.  Will Shrabbit, Dept of Comestibles, University of Bath [arranged via J’Rat]

I remember as a small boy, the excitement of the first lunar landings. NASA had managed to propel a tin can full of people to the moon and back using less computer power than an average modern mobile phone.  This “small step for a man” was not only a “giant leap for mankind”, but analysis of the rock samples collected enabled scientists to dispel an age-old myth. The moon, it turned out, was not made of cheese!  This of course came as no surprise to geologists.  Cheese, being of sedimentary origin, could not possibly have formed in the water-free lifeless lunar environment.

Here on earth, cheese is normally found in association with limestone rocks, Wensleydale and Gloucester are among the best known examples. The West of England is particularly well blessed with cheese, with two of the largest outcrops occurring in the Mendip hills, these being at Cheddar and in the area immediately west of Frome.  Cheese has been extensively quarried in Cheddar since the iron-age leaving the huge excavation now known as Cheddar Gorge as an impressive monument to the cheese quarrying industry.  Now silent apart from the wind and the birds, it is difficult to imagine that this was once the workplace of hundreds of “cheesemen” and the source of around sixty million tons of Cheddar cheese.

The other, less well known source of Mendip cheese was the area west of Frome around Whatley, Mells and Leigh-on-Mendip.  The large workforce who worked the quarries included a number of French immigrants whose experience of Brie borehole drilling was invaluable.  It was from this French connection that Frome received its name. “Frome”  being derived from “fromage”, (French for cheese).  All known deposits have now been worked out and the parent carboniferous limestones are now worked on a large scale.  The only permanent reminder of the cheese quarrying industry in this area is the Frome cheese show, which is now in its 128th year.

Early cheesemen were aware that the Cheddar deposit was a finite resource and would eventually become exhausted.  A great deal of effort was devoted to finding a sustainable substitute and it was eventually discovered that cheese could be produced from grass. The process makes use of cows, which eat the grass, producing milk.  The milk is then allowed to rot in controlled conditions, producing a slurry.  The aqueous component of the slurry is separated, and the retentate is stored at ground-rock temperature (often in caves to mimic natural geological conditions). The resultant material becomes cheese after a period of hardening and maturation.  Cheese produced in this manner is virtually indistinguishable from quarried cheese. Most modern cheeses are produced by this process.

Cheese quarrying probably peaked around the seventeenth century, and slowly declined until around 1840, after which, few (if any) quarries remained working.  As the quarries became exhausted, many were abandoned and the cheese barons switched to the production of cheese from grass. Other cheese barons were quick to respond to the growing demand for road-metal and limestone aggregates which occurred around the same time as the demise of cheese quarrying. They converted their quarries to limestone production and many of these quarries are still working today.

Although there is undoubtedly plenty of cheese left in the Mendip hills, there are now no working quarries.  Cheese can still occasionally be found in stalagmitic forms in Mendip caves, sometimes in the form of straw stalactites, (probably the original “cheese straws”).  Formations are now protected by law and must not be removed or defaced.   Cave-cheese would have been a magnet for hungry prehistoric animals. Banwell stalactite cave for example still contains fine examples of stalagmitic cheese, whereas the nearby Banwell bone cave was almost completely stripped of cheese by hyenas and brown bears. Many animals became lost or suffered falls underground in their quest for cheese, and the bones of these unfortunate creatures can still be found throughout the cave.  Shallow surface-deposits of cheese are occasionally found by farmers who have right of ownership by ancient charter, to any cheese found on their land.  These deposits are usually quickly quarried away for home consumption, and the news only reaches the cheese geologists long after the event!

While most of the evidence of cheese quarrying has now been obliterated, one may still occasionally find artefacts and snippets of cheese quarrying history.  Pubs in the Somerset levels often adorn their walls with what they claim to be “peat cutting” tools.  These are more often than not, the very tools that the cheesemen of Cheddar would have used all those years ago.  A few phrases in our spoken language also reflect this bygone industry:  To be “cheesed off” for example, now refers to being unhappy. This derives from the days when a cheese quarryman would be laid off for the day because of bad weather, and would therefore earn no pay. Another phrase worthy of note is “hard cheese”, meaning “bad luck”. This derived from the time when a quarryman would hit a harder patch of cheese in the quarry, and would have to work longer hours to extract it.

The phrase “as different as chalk and cheese” probably derives from one of the first skills that a cheeseman would have had to learn.  It was essential (although not difficult) to tell the two apart in a cheese and limestone quarry. (Limestone is often referred to as “chalk” by quarrymen; chalk is a variety of limestone).  While both are high in calcium, nobody likes too much limestone in their sandwiches!

The geological origin of cheese is thought to be similar to that of coal, coal being the fossilised derivative of carboniferous forests.  Cheese is of a far more recent geological origin, and would have been formed from the fossilisation of the Cretaceous grasslands.  The grass would have decayed to a viscous fluid (as in the modern cheese making process) and flowed into hollows and fissures in the country rock, where it would have hardened and matured at the ideal storage temperature.

What of the future of the cheese quarrying industry now that all the known larger outcrops have been worked out?  Extraction of the remaining deeper deposits would require large-scale overburden removal or shaft mining techniques.  Extensive pumping operations would be necessary to extract sub-aquifer cheese, which would be prohibitively expensive and environmentally unacceptable. Now that cheese making from grass is so cost effective, it is unlikely that cheese quarrying could ever again become economically competitive.  Small scale cheese prospecting has resulted in periodic attempts to open small cheese workings, but planning applications are generally refused on environmental grounds or simply not taken seriously by the planning authorities.

‘Cheddar in a Cheese’ - From an old postcard in Wig’s collection

Gaping Gill Meet - A Way Of Life.

Mike and Tobias Wilson.[VSB]This year I decided to attend the Craven meet in August.  Originally the plan was to spend a week on the Gill camping and caving on my own. To make up for spending the last 3 years struggling with knee problems and a gallstone op. this all changed when my Grandson, Hilary, and Kath said they would like to visit the cottage and do some walking as well .

Eventually Tobias decided he would like to attend the Meet for a few days to see if he liked it!! Pete Gray kindly offered me the use of his tent [to save my knees] and this made it possible for me to arrange a carry within my capabilities. Many thanks to Pete who made the trip possible; I hope you enjoyed the rental!!

Vsb and I decided to walk up to the Gill on Friday morning.  Tobias became Vsb because it has many differing interpretations, e.g. very small boy, very smart boy, very stupid boy, ad infinitum. His father had packed his rucksack and it seemed quite heavy to me, but before we got away there occurred a small mishap. I locked the car in the Craven PC car park, went to clip the keys onto my belt for safety and missed dropping them to the floor and lo and behold straight down the only drain in the area!! [as Sean would say ‘what a to do’!!]

First we used a broom handle to find the depth of the drain whilst dodging cars and motorbikes. It was very deep. Then we tried to lift the drain cover but it was glued in with tarmac. So we borrowed a crowbar from the dig store and prised the cover up. Luckily, by stripping off to the waist and diving full length into the drain, [Cath held my feet] I managed to grope in the foul sludge and find the keys.!!  Vsb was volunteered to be lowered in by his feet but he refused to co operate!!

And so onward to Clapham and upwards. Vsb struggled with his heavy pack but with a modicum of assistance from the rest of us he did very well to make it the Gill. We settled into Pete’s tent which turned out to be a trick one. If you open the wrong end you can’t get in!! A brew ensued of course and Vsb reported the following conversation across the Beck. “Neville we have got your burgers.” Neville replies “How much do I owe you?”  The answer was holding up the empty packet “Nothing, we have eaten them all!!” 

I introduced Tobias to the intricacies of meet life and signed him and myself up for disc duties that afternoon. He had great fun selling postcards to the tourists and the odd poster after we found them cunningly concealed in a tub. Just to add to the fun we had a superbly indecisive grockle who wanted to take his family of 6 down, but wasn’t sure how much time they had!! Having held the queue up for some time with ponderings over the 2 hour wait, plus the 25 min guided tour and a guesstimate wait for the return, he bought 6 tickets and was given his discs. A large queue and 1 hour or so later he came back and asked if he could possibly have a refund. We complied and breathed a sigh of relief. I used to be indecisive but I think I am ok now!!

Later that evening Vsb and I decide to go to the Trenchfoot Arms, and try the toxic daddy longlegs plus the excellent Marilyn beer. There is so much to do on the hill!  Tom asked me to spell him at the bar for an hour so Vsb learned very quickly how to pull pints, to the tune of “that’s a short pint lad.” and other kindly comments. He passed the test fairly well !!

Neville very kindly aimed his telescope at the Moon which was full and extremely bright [a fantastic sight] and then apologised for the fact that we could not see the American Flag that night. We think Osama Bin Laden has hidden it!!

All weekend the weather was very bright and sunny, with bright moonlit evenings. A wonderful sight when urinating at 3 o’clock in the morning!

Saturday dawned with the arrival of the tractor. A certain member, Nellie, was given the Bell Award - to be worn around the neck all day - for having a large cool box break on him spilling all the tins everywhere. Vsb and I had a lazy midday looking for crinoids in the Beck and then did a spell guiding in the Gill. Vsb’s first time. At the end of our shift we had to search for 2 missing tourists who had strayed from the main chamber. We checked Sand Chamber and back to Bar Pot.  That was far enough for VSB. Luckily the other group found them in the region of  Mud Hall.

That night it was back to the Trenchfoot Arms for copious amounts of beer. There was the usual sneaky filching of food served by the beer fairies; onion bargees very tasty! Brian the role model dog, the complete opposite of Eddie autobark, followed me back to my tent, whereupon he snuggled up to Vsb and fell asleep much to Vsb’s surprise the next morning when he woke up with a hairy muzzle in his face!

Just a comic note from Cath : by order of the 3rd Reich when using the toilet tent [for a big jobbie] you can only use 2 sheets of paper per person you can use both sides of the paper YUK although with permission of the leader 3 sheets can be used if you have a particular problem .[ I guess that this means the leader has to inspect your glutimus maximus before issuing you with a personal 3rd sheet .This definitely caused a fit of the Gaping Gill Giggles.!!

Having come off the hill we retired to the Crown that night. Has this pub become a repository for foreign labour? Cath went up to the bar to order a round and asked for a packet of pork scratchings. The barman said “Pork scratchings, vass ist thees?  He then looked along the shelves and asked “Is it a viskey?” much to the amusement of the few drinkers there. We spent the rest of the evening making up pork scratching jokes. In spite of only limited time underground due to my knees we had a great time with a lovely crowd of people; many thanks to them all. The pub incident was a great end to our Yorkshire trip .

This article is not intended to be a hairy blow by blow account of tough Yorkshire caving ,more an insight into the spirit of caving meets .

PS Eddie autobark is a real dog who has been adopted from a rescue centre .He is a lovely well behaved mutt but cannot resist barking at everything .Brian is a stuffed full size toy Labrador who has been adopted by Neville Lucas and most other people ,he is so lifelike that when he is sat by the tent with his drinking bowl people have been seen patting him !!


Dates for your diary, 2005-6


Club Committee Meetings : [First Friday of each month commencing at 8 pm.]

CSCC Meeting at the Hunters’ Lodge Inn – 3rd December, 10.30am

Caving Events Week. Charterhouse Field Centre, 12th – 16th December, all at 7 pm. 

Costs shown in []

12th : History of Swildon’s Hole – Dave Irwin  [£4];

13th : Film : A Rock and a Hard Place [£2] ;

14th : Mendip Rescue Organization [£4, donated to MRO] ;

15th : Cave Diving – John Volanthen [£4] and

16th : Try Caving ! [5.30 – 8.30 pm [£13.50]]


Working Weekends : 8th/9th January, 9th/10th April, 9th/10th July, and 24th/25th September, 2006


The Caves on Brean Down

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Brean Down is a limestone promontory jutting out into the Bristol Channel just south of Weston-S-Mare. It is some 3.5km long and no more than 0.5 km wide. The limestones dip at c 40 degrees to the north.  Apart from Reindeer Rift (Barrington and Stanton, 1977) no other caves have been described.

There are numerous sea caves – rifts and bedding planes formed in washed out Neptunean dykes and mudstone bands - averaging between 20 – 30 feet in length. They are so numerous that only two sites are of special interest. There is only one phreatic cave.

All the caves are located in the sea cliffs on the north side of the down.

1. Half Tide Rock Cave.

Length 31m, VR >6m

At the east end of the down near Half Tide Rock (NGR 30215892) Inclined bedding cave with an entrance 5m wide and 0.8m high. A fine traverse across the bedding for 31m leads to a second entrance in a cove to the west. The second part is rather restricted but some flowstone and a crab infested rock pool adds interest.

2. Battery Cave.

Length 54m, VR >15m

Located in a major embayment in the cliffs directly below the WWII gun emplacements (NGR 29655895) 

At the back of the cove is a double entrance to an extensive bedding cave, bisected by fallen blocks. (Dipping 40degrees N). The left hand section (to the east) is 19.5m long, 0.6m high and at least 6m wide before the bedding pinches in upslope. The traverse passes some extensive red flowstone slopes with ribbon formations on the roof in places. Near the end an easy squeeze over jammed footballs reaches the ‘terminal’ grotto where there is a group of small but attractive stalactites.

The right hand section is more extensive. A similar traverse westwards in a passage 10m wide and 0.6m high reaches a dead end after 25m. There is more flowstone, ribbon formations and a few small stalactites (<0.4m).

Part way along the traverse daylight enters through an 8m rift forming a third entrance. These formations came as a complete surprise to us – one does not expect to find stal grottoes in a sea cave.

3. Fiddler’s Bay Cave.

A proper phreatic cave! 15.9m long over a vertical range of 6m. (NGR 28755915)

A superb inclined circular entrance 4.5m wide leads after 8m into a 5m high chamber displaying a profusion of phreatic solution hollows. At the back of the cave and in the roof of the chamber is a rift choked with ochre and Pleistocene? gravel. The deposit must have once filled the rest of the cave and been washed out by the tides as some gravel remains welded to the back of some of the solution hollows. Note the limpet scouring marks on the entrance ‘kerb’. This cave is almost certainly more extensive and has the appearance of a fossil resurgence.

Note: Brean Down Resurgence

50m or so to the west (along the cliffs) is an interesting feature. A small patch of red brickwork blocks up a hole about a metre up the cliff face. This has been done to divert a flow of fresh water through an adjacent crack into a natural rock basin below - from which small stream flows down the beach. It fails in dry weather. This brickwork probably dates from the time when there was a short-lived attempt to build a harbour on the north side of Brean Down.

Acknowledgement : Thanks to Mark Helmore for his snaps, much appreciated!


Further Work in Rose Cottage Cave

Tony Jarratt

Continuing the saga from BB522.

Further Digging 22/6/05 – 5/10/05

       On the hot and insect-infested evening of the 22nd June Phil Coles and Ben Ogbourne did a magnificent job of hauling out 48 skiploads dug from all three phreatic tubes in Paul’s Personal Project. Pete Hellier also brought out one newt. Several gallons of brackish water poured into Bored of the Rings reappeared (at least partly) halfway down the corkscrew wriggle to Aglarond. On the morning of the 24th the writer took advantage of imminent heavy thunderstorms to insert the leat pipe into the entrance then rushed to work to flog wellies to Pilton Festival goers! Returning on the 26th with Fiona Crozier it was found that surprisingly little floodwater had entered the cave (it being realised later that the leat was blocked). A dozen or so bags were filled and stacked but further work was prevented by a large boulder in the floor. This was banged by the writer next day and Tony Audsley hauled out 23 loads which Rich Witcombe emptied. The debris was cleared by a seven man team on the 29th when about another 40 loads came out.

     July digging commenced on the 4th with Fiona excavating down through boulders while three old gits hauled back the spoil. Even more old gits hauled 51 loads of it to the surface two days later, including a few bags from Pete’s Baby and yet another grateful newt. 20 more loads emerged on the 10th and another 8 next day. It was now apparent that the dig below the connection point – henceforth known as Connection Dig – was potentially unstable and would require shoring before further work could be done. On this trip some 5m of new passage was explored by the writer, assisted by Estelle Sandford, above the most southerly point in Aglarond 1 and is probably where water sinking in the original dig site enters the cave. An interesting choked bedding plane was earmarked for future investigation. Tony A. and John Noble assessed the hanging death in Connection Dig, Rich W. constructed a new spoil heap wall and surface workers Bob Smith and Ian “Slug” Gregory cleared out the leat and washing pond to enable the stream to flow freely.

     Shoring of the Connection Dig commenced on the 13th with Tony commuting to the surface to cut timber then repeating the operation when it didn’t fit! He was assisted by Ben. On the same evening the writer, John and Gwilym Evans started work in the Aglarond 1 high level dig (A1 Dig) which seems to be at an horizon of ancient phreatic tubes and has a steady draught. A couple of hours of awkward digging gained some 2m of descending passage which desperately needed enlarging and making safe. Our impression was that it lies on the line of the main fault and heads SE, above and parallel with Aglarond 2. Two days later a charge was fired to break up three large, loose boulders in the dig and the resulting debris was cleared on the following evening when access was gained to a steeply descending tube on the north side of the dig. A vocal connection with Aglarond 2, some distance below, was established. Sunday 17th July saw three diggers hauling a large slab and many bucket loads of spoil from the dig until the cold draught drove them out to the heat-wave above. Even more came out next day when the bucket was replaced by a skip and the crawl to the dig face enlarged. Eventually Fiona was able to squeeze down into some 2m of pleasant, flat roofed bedding passage running back under the crawl and having a floor of calcited boulders. This became “Fi’s ‘Ole” after the following enthusiastic invitation was issued:- “In a minute you can all ‘ave the joy of lookin’ at my  ‘ole”! Meanwhile, somewhere above, Tony and Mike Wilson emplaced a second pit-prop in the Connection Dig. An attempt to trace the draught from A1 Dig to Connection Dig using a joss stick failed. Digging continued in A1 Dig on the 20th and on the 22nd four long shotholes were drilled in obstructing boulders and a 40gm cord charge fired, the debris from which was cleared next day when another four hole charge was fired to remove more large slabs blocking the route towards a tantalising void just visible ahead.

     This void was entered on the 25th after much clearing of rock, clay and cobbles by the Monday morning team; today Vern, Tony A, Rich W, Estelle and the writer. It proved to be another section of “passage” with a solid left wall but boulder ceiling and right wall. The novelty was that it had taken a sharp left turn. After a couple of hours enough spoil was cleared to give us some 3 metres of progress – not much but as Richard would say, “Not without interest!”. Another c.3m was gained on the 27th when John N. pushed forwards under the hanging death to enter a small boulder chamber with a relatively solid left wall and a potential dig in the floor. At least we could now turn round at the end. Many bags of spoil were hauled out by Pete H. and stacked in Aglarond 1 and these were taken to the foot of the Corkscrew climb by Andy Norman and Ernie White on the 29th. The writer and Chris Batstone cleared more spoil from the entry to the terminal chamber on the 31st and after some tentative digging at the end it was decided that the place was too unstable to push further. Indications were that drainage was back towards Fi’s ‘Ole and that this should be cleared out in an attempt to find a bedding passage below A1 Dig and above Aglarond 2.

     August 1st saw work recommence at the Connection Dig where John N. revealed the start of a low passage descending back under the floor of Bored of the Rings. Estelle and Rich W. hauled out 15 loads from here and the writer returned in the afternoon to bang the lip of this passage. He cleared the spoil next day and on the 3rd further work was done here and another charge fired to enlarge the passage entrance. Also all the spoil from the foot of the corkscrew was hauled to surface – 24 loads in total – plus the obligatory newt. Following further sessions on the 5th and 7th August it became obvious that the way on in the Connection Dig was not over large. Directly above the drop down to this dig an initially promising site was cleared of the usual clay, gravel and cobbles with 22 loads out on the 7th  and another 29 out on the 8th  when it was established that this was merely an alcove with several tiny phreatic inlets. Tony A. did some token digging in the P.P.P. upper phreatic tube but decided that the rock-breaker was needed to make life easier. In desperation a three shothole charge was fired in the floor of the Connection Dig. The resulting 12 loads of spoil came out on the 10th (along with a frog) and another three holes were drilled and fired. Digging, hauling and stacking also took place in the A1 Dig. Two days later the spoil from the last bang was bagged and stacked. Fi's 'Ole saw teams on the 17th, 21st and 31st and then regularly throughout September and into October with lots of tedious bag hauling, particularly up the Corkscrew. 98 more loads had reached the surface by the 5th October. Hannah Sarjent of Sussex University undertook CO2 testing in the cave as part of her dissertation - with negligible results. Work has also continued sporadically at the Connection Dig but this now has little promise.

Additional diggers

Andy Watson (MNRC), Ian “Slug” Gregory, Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson, Amy Cork, Andy Norman, Ernie White, Toby Maddocks, Sam Batstone, Henry Bennett, Hannah Sarjent (Sussex University), Carole White, Nick Gymer, Kev Gurner; John Wilson, Alan Richards, Jim Lee, Rob Norcross (MOLES).


“Slopperations” :  a note on recent digging activity below Pewter Pot, Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink

By John ‘Tangent’ Williams

Since the initial major discoveries made in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink during 2003,  potential dig sites located in the deepest parts of the cave have remained flooded. This resulted in the diggers attention turning firstly elsewhere within the cave, and ultimately  elsewhere on the Hill. The long period of dry weather experienced this year has enabled digging to be recently resumed in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink.

Digging efforts are being focussed upon the formerly flooded Slop 3 site, located at the base of the Pewter Pot Pitch. Slop 3 was first examined in late 2003, by  Trevor Hughes who had viewed the site in low water conditions and reported a passage described as a canal continuing beneath a roof of uncertain quality. It was not pushed at the time , as the rest of the regular diggers were away in Scotland. Since that time the site has remained flooded, the only other notable visit being by Fiona who undertook a practise dive, in approximately 5-6m of water.

Recent digging trips have concentrated on bailing the site dry(ish), which takes approximately 30 minutes. The water is disposed of down Slop 1, and does not return to refill Slop 3 (at least during the duration of digging sessions). Spoil is being removed in buckets, then stored  in large bags at the base of the pitch. The occasional large rocks which are found within the slop are being used to build a wall to hold back the spoil, and also help stabilise the slope running down to the dig site.

It is intended to install a small bilge pump to make the removal of the standing water more efficient, and with the progress during recent digging sessions it should be possible to continue digging into the winter months.

Hair of the Dog Sump (now completely dry), located beyond Slop 1 enroute to Brown Ale Boulevard, has also  been investigated. Digging has been  undertaken amongst mud, gravel  and large boulders which will need banging if further progress is to be made there.

Digging sessions are taking place on Wednesdays / Sundays.

All welcome, although visitors beware that the insitu ladders are both old and a little too short!

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Mad Phil for banging a large boulder blocking  the route through Slop 1. Thanks to all the ‘bailiffs’ & ‘sloperatives’ who have worked at this site to date.


William Eggy-Belch

The man and his orifices. Being a brief history of one of the lesser-known gentlemen of Somerset caving history of the 18th century.

(A result of half a dozen requests)

By  Nick “ Hawkins *” Harding

Ed. Note : Nick presents the last in the series.

Author’s note: William Eggy-Belch has often been mistaken for one John Aubrey of Chippenham due to their almost simultaneous altering of their nomenclatures. William Eggy-Belch was born Jonathan Aubrey while John Aubrey was born Aaron Henkels Electrometer.

Contemporary image of William Eggy-Belch complete with familiar egg mess on his left breast.

In his liberating and little known book The Sounds My Feet Make, William Eggy-Belch the one time sand yachting Epicurean vicar of Bridgwater often made it clear to his erstwhile flock that humour, particularly that of a flatulent nature, was the key to a long and richly fulfilling life. His oft quoted mantra ‘Tis a pour arse that canst nay rejoice’, has now entered into Somerset ignominy. Indeed no gentlemen’s excursion that he attended was complete without his gaseous exuberance. He could often be heard ‘letting one loose’ in Wookey Hole where his ‘boisterous reports echoed full long and hard’ sounding, as highlighted in one contemporary diary entry by his colleague and fellow caver Isiah Komputer-World, like the ‘blasted, concussive and thunderous eructions of some sulphurous goblin.’ 

Peter St John Being, his roommate at Cambridge, who remained a lifelong friend, often regaled the fellows of the high table with stories of the ‘industrious colonic machinations’ of his Somerset friend, manufacturing a reasonably faithful facsimile of his rumbustious privy noises, as punctuation, during after dinner speeches made by the Dean, who history recalls, ‘as the most persistently tedious dullard in all of Christendom’.    

After studying theology Eggy-Belch returned to his beloved Wells, via a brief detour as a man of the cloth in Bridgwater (little is known about his activities there except that he mastered the fine art of sand yachting), where he took on the task of restoring the biblical compliance of the local heathenish miscreants of that parish. Realising that a fire and brimstone attitude would push them further away from a life of pious worship Eggy-Belch introduced a humorous element in his sermons through the use of bodily gas. It was reported, although one is led to think that it is nothing more than a mythic nonsense, at least apocryphal guff (no pun intended) that he could quote Psalm 23 in one rude out-blast of air. What is not clear is which orifice he was using.

Eggy-Belch would often address his congregation sporting a varied selection of in-season fruits, stitched to his vestments while regaling his rapt audience with tales of his derring-do in the privies of the county in which he would often wait for an unsuspecting party to utilise the adjoining convenience then let slip the fogs of warmth, usually on the back of a thunderous outpouring of noise. 

While travelling in the area to administer his priestly duties he could often be seen furiously bouncing down the lanes of Somerset on his ‘font-astic’ a pogo-stick, of his own creation, fashioned from a stout ash pole with a small ewer of holy water with which he blessed anyone who happened to be passing. He always sported a smear of egg on his coat from his ‘excessive haste consuming his morning comestibles in the form of breaking his fast with the fruits of the chicken.’ (Isiah Titty, Memoirs of A Somerset Git 1848)

Sadly his clerical existence was brought up short after badly bruising the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Jeremiah Alternating-Whippet, with a desperately mistimed biff to the hooter, the result of which was a dramatic bout of public defrocking not ten feet from the walls of Wells cathedral. Despite Eggy-Belch’s skill with a mitre, soundly thrashing his opponent in under three rounds, it was not long before the Bishop saw to it that the man was swiftly frightened out of the county by a gang of hired Shipham ruffians. Half an hour later Eggy-Belch crept back into the Wells area, having spent ten minutes hiding in a cave in Burrington (which one is not known), deciding that what he really wanted to do was explore the inner world and subterranean levels of the Mendips and not tour as a member of the ecclesiastical comedy outfit the Crazy Croziers. They had been touring the area with their production of “More Tea Vicar?” (Described by the Gentleman’s Magazine as – “Two beastly hours of noxious vapours, bookended by four of ghastly anal ineptitude.”)

Fortuitously for E-B his spinster aunt Regina Stiffbits Belch passed noisily away one afternoon leaving the young man a country estate near Shepton Mallet and a handsome inheritance. For a short time he administered to the running of a large country house and the estate with its numerous staff, servants and general layabouts. But the young William was restless and in need of ‘orificular stimulation.’ He was not a businessman but was a peripatetic individual who often took to exploring the hills to escape the ‘yawning and bowel squeezing dullness of bookkeeping’. After that almost mistimed visit to Snapcock’s Wig Emporium (See The Wig in Caving, Belfry Bulletin Summer 2005, Vol.54, No. 2 Number 522), E-B came into possession of the famous Devon Loafa and never looked back. 

With no experience of such subterraneous activity E-B sought immediate council with a local old soak who had great experience digging numerous mines in the area. This fellow, whose name has slipped from history (although evidence has lately surfaced in Wells Museum that the individual might have be none other than Jedediah Fridge, inventor of the cave swing) told E-B to find the muttering waters of Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole (now lost), which sounded like ‘the drunk ramblings and frenetic utterances of a Glaswegian ne’r do well’. Why this particular hole was chosen against the easier Wookey for instance is beyond the ken of cavers to this day. Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole is, as we know, but only according to legend of course, a ‘super severe’ especially in the long pitch and all too tight muddy crawl that was its fabled entrance. Whatever the reason E-B took to it with firm enthusiasm. Knowing that this cave’s furthest reaches were as yet unplumbed and its overall length unknown he decided that his mission would be to discover all that he could about it. 

I didst find myself as if a turd in a privee outflow yet reversing said journey back into the bowels of the Earth. I was ever surrounded on all sides by malodorous and foetid doings the cause of which I dared not consider.   After an hour up to his lobes in filth E-B popped out, rather unceremoniously into the First Great Chamber, which Catcott described in I Like Holes as a ‘numinous cavern of certain cyclopean magnificence, except for the little bit at the end shaped like a job.’   Here E-B was met with his first proper view of the subterranean world. Or he would have done had he brought something to light his way. It was a rather embarrassed E-B that surfaced several hours later none the wiser for his vigorous activities underground.

Keen to put that obvious mistake behind him E-B sought further council from the Old Men who promptly pointed him the direction of Voluminous Titty, ex of the Somerset cheese police and grandfather of the famous biographer of some of Somerset’s greatest explorers Isiah Titty. (Isiah Titty would become famous for his Memoirs of A Somerset Git 1848, in which he describes various conversations with himself).  Voluminous Titty was no stranger to underground exploration but preferred the armchair variety to actual descent into the caves of the Mendips. 

In his own book Voluminous Titty describes his first meeting with E-B while experimenting with his ‘Titty’s Patent Gentleman’s Field Stilts’, ‘a brace of poles two and half fathoms in height for the execution of continuous and swift perambulations across ye levels of Somersetshire.’ A means of travel that he swiftly dispensed with after trying to walk home to his residence in Oakhill from an excess of libational behaviour at the notorious Pump and Glottis, a well known Inn on the Shepton Mallet to Wells road. Titty spent nearly two weeks hopelessly lost in a field. This hilarious incident is recorded in Underground Adventures with Dr Pleems, a children’s book from the 1930’s and also makes an appearance in the Ladybird book, What To Look For In Stupid People, 1966.   

Titty had had many conversations with Catcott about subterranean activities and was thus able to introduce E-B to a variety of illumination devices – a number of different length candles, a bag of gas and some odd device of Titty’s with which Catcott had been experimenting.  What that odd device was no two modern scholars of caving can agree on except that E-B was suitably unimpressed by it. ‘Inserting the hose is deemed unworthy of a gentleman and one is sore dashed if it is decent for one’s favoured servant to do likewise.’ But it had nonetheless planted a seed E-B’s mind. 

After vigorously thumping Titty for being a prize arse and chastising Catcott for continuing with the man’s ‘device of rude magnitude’, E-B decided that the best way was further experimentation. Keen to return to Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole E-B opted for a device of his own.

On June 14th  1761 visitors to the Wells area would have been witness to a bizarre sight. Lined up in Augustus Dildee’s top field were numerous prize heifers ‘a few short of a herd’, more than a handful of E-B’s servants and ‘several rugose gentlemen of the vicinity’.  E-B’s servants were unwinding a thick hose down the entrance of TCMH in slow deliberate movements. With ‘a system of winches, pulleys, weights and brass constructs’ the hose had been connected to three cows at a time. From these ‘bovine reservoirs much illuminatory gas was drawn to the satisfaction of all’.  E-B spent many hours exploring the system until around three in the afternoon there was a ‘loud report that issued from the depths thus causing the ground to oscillate in undulations of a rude nature.’ Shortly afterwards it is said, two cows both ‘sporting demeanours of incredulous and mistimed surprise eructed in violent detonations as if struck by several broadsides of artillery.’ E-B was never seen again and it was not long after, a week or so, that the entrance to Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole was sealed due to the collapse of the very dangerous pitch near the opening now highly unstable as a direct of the subterranean explosion.

A week later EB’s singed and muddy Devon Loafa popped out into daylight in the river Axe having obviously found a route from TCMH into Wookey.   

*Due to an inability by Richard Whitcombe Esq. to get my name right.


2005 Annual Dinner. Were you there?

- a selection of piccies from Pete Glanvill’s Memory Lane.



The Last Word

Compiled by J’Rat and Wig

ERRATUM; BB 522.   Meghalaya 2005.   Computer problems caused the deletion of the following. From the bottom of page 43 it should continue:-

“… us through the tight bit after an hour of hammer and chisel work – fair play to ‘em. For one of the gentlemen (who shall remain nameless but he said “feck” a lot) disrobing to his shreddies was necessary and had the secondary benefit of reducing the girlies to hysterical laughter as he cursed his way through. They were suitably impressed with the extensions so we left them brewing up and admiring the place while we headed out to our beer supplies stashed in the cave entrance where we intended to bivouac until morning. With tongues hanging out we sweated up the 100m of rope only to find that the local kids had snaffled most of the ale – bastards. Luckily Greg had extra supplies and a couple of rum-filled Coke bottles were unearthed from the depths of tackle bags to quench our alcoholic thirsts. A fire was lit outside and Greg cooked soup as the others gradually emerged from the depths to the night sounds of the jungle. Honorary thin man Brian M, relieved to have escaped from the jaws of the squeeze, produced a bottle of Courvoisier and the mini-party got into full swing before we retired for a few hours draughty kip.”    

Reprint of Rutter. [DJI]  Bibliophiles in the Club will be interested to know that John Rutter’s famous 1829 book, The Delineations of … N.W. Somerset, has been reprinted under the title ‘Somerset. ’  The new edition has been produced as a softback and was brought out by Nonsuch Publishing in April, 2005.  The price is £16 and is available at any bookshop; ISBN 1 84588 070 6.   For those wanting a bargain can get the book from Amazon for £6 + £2.85 p&p – this price has to be a mistake but the company accepted my money!  The original, depending upon which version, small cut, large page, various bindings, etc., can vary from £100 - £350.

Ben Barnett has been in contact with Fiona Sandford and he has told her that he is travelling around Indonesia and is currently in Bali.

70th BBQ photos. [DJI]  Several people have asked who took the photos on the back cover of the last BB. Guilty I’m afraid.

Gibbets  Brow Shaft. [ARJ]  In the summer of 2004 Alan "Butch" Butcher of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club was shown a stone-capped, 8 metre deep lead mine shaft in the field across the road from Lamb Leer entrance and located strategically between the Great Chamber and the Pond Rift aven in this currently "out of bounds" cave. Work commenced to clear the shaft and by June of this year the Shepton diggers had unfortunately bottomed out at 20m depth but with a tiny, draughting side passage at 16m. Madphil Rowsell was sub-contracted to blast this to "Butch-size" and had made some 7m of progress before leaving for Austria and handing the contract to your scribe. One further bang allowed the Shepton to explore some 17m of snug phreatic tube forming an L in plan and with potential digs at both ends. Matthew Butcher also found a too tight but open rift in the floor with larger passage visible below. Six banging sessions were necessary to allow Matt to drop into 10m of 2m diameter phreatic tunnel choked at both ends with clay. This very fine section of passage is still some 20m above the highest points in Great Chamber and Pond Rift but each end is heading towards one of these voids and digging is easy. Not so removal of spoil which is a chore. Poor air can also be a problem. We wish the Shepton team the best of luck with this important project and hope that free access will soon be regained to the fascinating underworld of Lamb Leer.

Ogof  Cwmwl Ddu   ( Black  Cloud  Cave). [ARJ]  Situated on the eastern slope of Blorenge mountain, south west of Abergavenny, this extremely promising dig was located by Henry Bennett, Pete Bolt and Rich Blake and many other B.E.C. members and friends have been dragged across the Channel to assist. It is being dug in collaboration with Charles Bailey, Chris Brady and others from the Brynmawr C.C. Chris and the writer have banged it a few times resulting in some 50m of steeply descending and well decorated passage well endowed with sticky clay. On the night of 29th September the top of a c.3m pot was opened up but not descended due to bang fumes. This cave may connect with the remote regions of Ogof Draenen but there is some 1.5km of virgin limestone between the two. It is also dead handy for the Lamb and Fox! Watch this space...

Fiona's 'Ole saw teams on the 17th, 21st and 31st and then regularly throughout September and into October with lots of tedious bag hauling, particularly up the corkscrew. 98.more loads had reached the surface by the 5th October. Hannah Sarjent of Sussex University undertook CO2 testing in the cave as part of her dissertation - with negligible results. Work has also continued sporadically at the Connection Dig but this now has little promise.


Many thanks to Tyrone and his mate Mick who have continued to work on the Belfry extension. This is the situation on 25th September. Not only have made great strides when one compares the photo in BB 522 but still manage the occasional smile when well meaning observers offer advice !

Photos Wig


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Greg Brock

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Fiona Sandford
Editor: Greg Brock
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (aka – Bobble)
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineer: Paul Brock
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
Floating Member: Bob Smith

Non-Committee Posts

BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

Club Trustees: Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Nigel Taylor and Barrie Wilton

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

Because of other commitments, Greg Brock has not been able to produce this BB.  Wig has stepped in and assembled this edition and will also be producing the next issue, A Celebration of the BEC, containing a photographic record of the Club during the last 70 years. The material has come from a number of sources.


A brief round-up of some committee decisions and general club doings

from Vince Simmonds. Hon Secretary

In this year of our 70th celebration the club is very fortunate to have been donated items of memorabilia from a well known Mendip and, in particular, records of club business during the late 40’s - early 50’s.. The documents include minutes of early Committee and AGM meetings and some original cartoons. This material is being scanned before binding and placement in the library takes place.  At this time the family have requested privacy.

The resignation of Joan Bennett and the passing away of Alan Thomas meant that two new Trustees of the club were needed.  Dave Irwin and Nigel Taylor have ably filled these positions, the other club Trustees are Barry Wilton and Martin Grass.  The Secretary is in the process of sorting out the Deeds of Appointment with the club solicitors, Harris & Harris in Wells.

The work on the extension has been slowed down this year mainly due to the purchase and installation of a new boiler.  Tyrone has a builder/brickie who owes him a favour and he is going to do some of the building work.  Some materials need to be purchased before work can be continued.

Nigel Taylor has been busy organizing the Annual Dinner for this year.   It is to be a celebration of the Club’s 70th year.

One interesting item the committee had to deal with was an electricity bill in excess of £39,000 (this is not a typing error). Thankfully the bill was revised to a more realistic £267 - both Mike Wilson and Fiona Sandford had prolonged conversations with the electricity company.

I will take this opportunity to remind people that consideration towards next years committee is essential for the smooth running of the Bristol Exploration Club both now and for the future.  As has been said on many occasions it is the membership that make a club.  Members input into the club and its running is paramount to its survival.

The base of the Belfry Extension - Photo: Wig

The reappearance of the original Bertie Bat

Recently Vince has received a batch of archival material from well known Mendip caver. Among the items is the Club’s first committee minute book dating from 1943-1946, a 1950-1952 expedition card and a booklet of cartoons by JAD which it is hoped to reproduce in a later BB.

Of immediate interest during the Club’s 70th Anniversary is the original drawing of Bettie Bat, the club insignia which has mutated somewhat during the 60 years since it was first conceived.

The reappearance of this ink drawing could not have come at a better time for I’ve adapted the 70th anniversary logo incorporating this version of ‘Bettie’. It has been  used throughout this issue as well as being on the front cover. Perhaps the Club will consider adopting this version again as its official logo.  We wait to know the answer …  [Wig]


Morton’s Pot – The Final Solution

By ‘MadPhil’ Rowsell

March 04 saw Jake and myself return to the end of Pointless Pots to evaluate the prospects of continuing the dig. On our last trip down there the previous winter, we had been chased out by rising water just after breaking into the 2nd Pointless Pot (Ref:- Belfry Bulletin 519 – “The Trials and Tribulations of Eastwater”). From memory the way on didn’t look too inspiring. The memory wasn’t wrong.  It did look pretty grim but we decided to blast along the rift a little way in hope that the passage would open out a bit. After a relatively short distance of awkward blasting the rift broke into very immature canyon passage 1.5m deep, and too narrow to pass. Only by selective blasting could progress be made.

Progress was painfully slow, Jake had started work so it was pretty much a solo project with the odd guest appearance by Tony Jarratt to boost morale and observe the progress. Humping up and down the club’s aged drill and Clansman batteries proved particularly awkward and frustrating. To make matters worse the batteries started randomly playing up, whereby one would often get down to the dig site with one not working or only allowing several seconds of drilling before cutting out for a period of time. Nightmare.

Salvation suddenly came on two fronts, one from Charlie Adcock who came up with a supply of free bang (saving me personally a huge expense on bang) and the other from Jeff Price who supplied a 36V Hilti drill. What sanctuary!! Compact, effective and a delight to use. Couple these together with a newly attained Hilti bar (courtesy of Gadget - Nick Williams) and good progress was made. By using a combination of first Hilti-ing to gain some sort of access, followed by retro-blasting to make the passage workable, more passage could be yielded per blast. 

With new enthusiasm I continued the painful task. Just when morale was waning again, a small chamber was intercepted. Just beyond this chamber a low “round window” gave access to a very narrow immature passage. Things didn’t look too good again. Why wouldn’t the place roll over and give up!!. There was somewhat astonishment when the following trip revealed that the blast had broken into negotiable passage and some 22 metres were jubilantly pushed to a too tight corner, with open passage the other side.  The subsequent trip gained another 15m or so to a 4m pot. Exploration was halted here to give Kev Hilton and Emma Heron some reward for their efforts surveying down in Southbank. The following trip, we managed to push through a very awkward and entertaining rift passage for another 15m to an impassable squeeze, again open passage beyond. The survey showed the passage was 60m distance from Lambeth walk.  A nice reward before the dig was shut down for Austria.

On my return,  I was desperate to push this passage through to Lambeth walk  before going away again to Peru in two weeks time. Initially progress was good, rapid progress with Hilti-ing, but after a series of short pots, the passage degenerated to immature and it was back to blasting once again. It was quite demoralising returning to the slow progress through a particularly nasty section, the trips being even more gruelling having to take the drill through what was now called the “Technical Masterpiece”! Weekends were always good as Kev and Emma would be around to help, greatly boosting morale. Despite a relentless effort involving many trips no break through was made. The last trip however did give some hope as after passing a very awkward and tight squeeze “Hells Gate”,  the rift height increased again giving  more hope of passable passage.

After the joys of Peru it was back to reality once again and painful drill and blast. The surveys showed the distance to be around 25-30m to Lambeth Walk. As each trip yielded more tight rift, I began to wonder how much survey error there would be. You would head down each time with high hopes of recognising the Lambeth Walk window, only to be totally demoralised with another tight rift. A subsequent survey indicated the passage to be only 10m or so from Lambeth. With the passage seemingly heading off into the distance, we even took a trip down the old route and up Lambeth Walk to see if this would shed any light.  Sadly this gave no clues away either. Morale was at an all time low!

It was with some relief when after another 4 blasts I surprisingly recognised the window into Lambeth walk. It would need one more blast to get in, but the ordeal was over. The following night I sat alone in the top of Lambeth Walk for almost half an hour, partly elated but partly dumb struck with wondering what was I going to do now? The obsession was finally over!!

The break through had been on a Friday night. Kev and Emsy weren’t around until Saturday and then Tony refused to close his shop on Sunday, so I had to wait the whole weekend until Sunday afternoon (17/10/04) before the inaugural round trip could be completed. A great trip.  (Ref - Journal of the Wessex Cave Club, Vol 28 No  294 April 2005 “Eastwater – Backwards and Feet First” by Kev Hilton)

Figure 1 shows the general layout of Eastwater and the position of the new passage and its connection into Lambeth Walk. The survey is a compilation of both some old survey drawings supplied by Trevor Hughes (grey dotted lines) and recent re-surveying work by the team.

Credits Due

A big thanks has to go to both Kev Hilton and Emma Heron, who towards the end came on trips to help whenever possible, greatly boosting morale. Furthermore, they were often subjected to my frustration paddies when Hilti’s were failing or drilling conditions very awkward and cramped. I am glad I have some good friends. A big thanks also has to go to Tony Jarratt, who also came to the call for help when needed, sacrificed his need for bang at his dig when times were short and helped with much of the surveying.  Both Charlie Adcock and Jeff Price provided services without which this passage would have never been completed. Graham Johnson who helped push much of “A Drain Hole” and the upper end in Pointless Pots. I hope one day he will find the enthusiasm to see what he has helped create.

Finally while being thanked in previous articles, all those who have helped in the digging of Morton’s Pot & “A Drain Hole”, both during  both the two attempts I was involved in and those in previous attempts, as without these people’s help in the relentless hauling out of sacks, the Drain Hole would have never been cracked. It’s the end of a 100 year plus saga, including the Jepson/Morton’s dig. Long may it rest in peace!

Warning: While being a classic bit of cave passage, most of the passage is a very immature stream canyon, being both tight and awkward. It is only really suited to slim experienced cavers. Once in the Technical Masterpiece, rescue is not an option. The passage also takes the whole of the Eastwater stream.  While the majority of the passage is unlikely to flood to the roof, certain sections (particularly some of the squeezes e.g. Hell’s Gate) would not be the place to be caught in a flood pulse. It does happen, I have been caught twice now.

The Aftermath and  The Dawning of a New Era

The hope of the dig was that some fossil passage may be intercepted, but alas this was not the case. The passage was a direct but awkward connection to Lambeth Walk and Southbank. It did however give a slightly shorter, but dry access to Southbank meaning digging here will be less of a chore.

With the addition of “the Apprentice” (Andy Smith) to the team (a superb con job by J-rat) led to the formation of the Eastwater syndicate (alias The Eastwater Appreciation Society), who’s goal was to push the depths of Eastwater further. A short break from the continual body battering gave renewed enthusiasm and it was decided that the Pea Gravel dig would be  first priority as it was thought it could  possibly yield a by pass to the Terminal Sump. Several trips were made down to dig this, however water tended to plague the dig. Interestingly in wet weather water flows into the dig from a hole on the left further along Tooting Broadway but the dig however stays at the same level i.e. flows off somewhere. 

Previous work we had conducted at the terminal sump (Ref - Journal of the Wessex Cave Club, Vol 28 No 293 Feb 2005 “Eastwater – Southbank Work on the terminal sump by Emma Heron) had shown the Terminal Sump level could be dropped 1.5m or so by bailing. In hope that this might also cause the Pea Gravel dig to drain, (the two being only 4m or less away) , the Terminal Sump was bailed. Despite being able to hear digging activity and tapping at the Terminal Sump from the Pea Gravel Dig, surprisingly no change in the water level was seen. The Pea Gravel Dig was eventually pushed under a lip to a small chamber, but with no further obvious digging prospects. The dig was abandoned. No obvious drain off point was found.


Attention was turned once again to the terminal sump.  Several attempts were made here in late Nov 2004, but were plagued by a leaking dam and stream volumes too high for the dam capacity. The dig was abandoned for the winter and a foray to warmer climates - Tasmania. With my return in April, the dig has been resumed with a more serious nature. Since water volume was a problem in the last attempts, a plan was devised to wall off  ¾ of the sump and back fill it to reduce the amount of water in the sump. It would require a lot of material etc to be brought down through the Technical Masterpiece, but the reduction in water volume required to bail would have great benefits. After a number of carry trips, the wall and back filling construction proved surprisingly easy and was completed in one session. The following weekend the sump was bailed virtually dry  to approximately 1.6m  vertically. It revealed a small, well washed 10cm dia tube heading off parallel to the sump. 2m further along this tube it seemed to constrict further. With the dam at full capacity any further evaluation had to be curtailed.

While the 10cm dia tube is not the most encouraging find, the bailing of the sump dry does indicate that it must be relatively short, with possible open passage (air space at least!) the other side. As shown by Figure 2, the relationship between the Terminal Sump and Pea Gravel dig is even more confusing, being so close and similar height but are not hydrologically connected. Plans are afoot to return to the Terminal Sump and dig along the wall to ensure this tube is the only exit point (current or fossil). This will only be achievable in very dry conditions with the stream virtually dry, so that once bailed a reasonable time period is available for work.


Credits Due

A big thanks has to be extended to both Emma Heron and Andy Smith (the Apprentice) both who have spent many long sessions, both carrying down kit and spending hours doing engineering work and bailing. Kev Hilton also needs a special mention, who has sadly been missed recently due to injury – hopefully he will be back to full strength soon. A thanks also to Duncan Butler and Tim Ball who have also rallied at times to the call for help.


Early broadcasts from Mendip Caves

By Dave Irwin

Activities of Mendip cavers are sometimes thought important, or sensational, enough to warrant time on the airwaves. During the past half century broadcasting of caving events has mostly concentrated on cave rescue reports and the special interest programmes including those made by leading BBC reporters including Hugh Scully and Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. In more recent times broadcasting has widened to include reporting of relatively minor discoveries.  General programmes relating to the pastime have also attracted producers to make films of individual caves.  During the autumn of 2004 a series of six programmes relating to caves in the Bristol region were broadcast by HTV; some the caves featured include Otter Hole, Swildon's Hole and the Banwell caves.

Earliest recorded broadcasts

Almost from its inception in 1922 the BBC (note 1) divided the country into zones for local interest broadcasting and for the innovative outdoor broadcasts from the Mendip caves were usually limited to one or two regions. The writer is indebted to Dr. Steven Craven for information relating to broadcasts from caves in the north of England. The records shows that a broadcast related to Gaping Ghyll was relayed on the 13th October 1927. Jack Puttrell, the Peak District pioneer, was interviewed in the studio.  Another studio broadcast occurred on the 15th June 1929, again with Puttrell supplying the information. The Craven Pothole Club, Gritstone Club and the Leeds Cave Club were also involved with regional broadcasts during the 1930s.  See the appendix for Steve's list.

Wookey Hole

The earliest known broadcast from a Mendip cave took place as a 20 minute live transmission from the Third Chamber [or Witches’ Parlour]  in Wookey Hole on the 9th September 1930.  The event may be the first live broadcast from within any cave in the British Isles. Before the planned date a trial broadcast was carried out a month before on Wednesday, 5th of August.. A short report of this appeared in the Wells Journal which was published on the following Friday and was entitled ‘Radio from the depths’ and detailed the elaborate arrangements necessary for such a venture. 

... Elaborate test were carried out  ... in Wookey Hole Caves, near Wells, in preparation for the broadcast which is proposed to take place there early next month, when it will be relayed to all stations.

The Wookey Hole Male Voice Choir, which is to give a varied selection over the microphone, sang for thirty minutes, and the effect was both astonishing and tuneful.

B.B.C. Engineers present expressed great wonder at the acoustic properties of the Caves, the voices being lent a charming mellowness.

Mr. H.E. Balch, F.S.A., M.A., of Wells, and Capt. Hodgkinson, the owner of the Caves rowed to the extreme end of the river which flows through the caves and then slowly proceeded back.

The object was to record the splashing of the oars against the water while the choir sang, growing gradually in volume.

It is hoped to broadcast this novelty.  Mr. H.E. Balch then spoke into the microphone the speech he intends to broadcast.  Altogether the broadcast will occupy twenty minutes.  ...  (note 2)

Unlike today's broadcasting where much of it is 'canned' until a suitable slot can be found for its transmission, programmes were broadcast live to the growing numbers of listeners to the 'wireless.'  The only medium for ‘canning’ material was to cut a 78 rpm gramophone record on a 24” dia. disc giving some 8 minutes of recorded sound.  Clearly to take the bulky electrical paraphernalia into a cave was hardly a practical solution.  These fragile shellac discs were used in the cinemas as the sound source for the early ‘talkies.’   Later an optical sound track was added one side of the 35 mm film adjacent to the photographic images.  As with the cinema, broadcasting soon became an relatively cheap influential information-entertainment source.

The first Mendip cave broadcast took place on Tuesday, 9th September 1930, the choir, conducted by Conrad Eden and Balch’s oration went well.  ' Wookey Hole speaks to the World ... ' was the headline to the report that appeared in the Wells Journal on the 12th September 1930.  A joint coupling with the studio in Cardiff and live effects from the cave itself illustrates the complexity of external broadcasting at this time. (note 3)

... My first impression on entering the Witch's Chamber was of a voice, in cultured tones, calling on Cardiff on the telephone. Then a confused jargon of technicalities in connection with broadcasting - "How is No. 1 mike doing ?" "Fade in and out when I tell you."  "Better alter that earth, I think " - and so on.

Then a sound as of monks chanting in the distance - silence - and a well known voice - Mr. Balch unfolding the story of the Great Cave of Wookey Hole - but this was a rehearsal.

Finally the zero hour came and a dead silence.  One of the B.B.C. Men took up a conductor's position and controlled his forces with a wave of the hand.  I am told that the "Green Hills of Somerset" was played from Cardiff; then the splashing of oars from a boat in the Cave.

Mr. Balch, M.A.., F.S.A., the greatest living authority on Mendip and its caves, commenced to speak into the microphone.  He told of the construction of the Cave, of the mass of rock with the river breaking out at its base.  Then the conductor with another wave of his hand introduced the sound of the water rushing out of the Cave, picked up by a microphone near the water's edge.  Mr. Balch was "faded in" again and referred to the miles of unknown caves which the eye of man had never seen.

At this point in the proceedings the choir sang a musical arrangement of Metcalfe's poem 'The Song of Wookey Hole.'  The 'enchanting melody' was composed by the choir's conductor, Conrad Eden of Wells Cathedral. The reporter continued his romantic description of the event and was obviously overwhelmed by the magic of broadcasting.

...  [The] story resumed with the history of the finds in the Cave and the industry of the ancient Britons, in silver, iron, bronze, and in agriculture. ... The choir took up the theme by rendering an old Somerset Folk song, "A Farmer's Son so sweet." which was most tuneful, but in a lighter vein.

Mr. Balch spoke of the known existence of cannibals; of the Witch of Wookey; and the Hyaena Den, one of the earliest homes of primitive man of some thirty thousand years ago.

In conclusion he referred to the growth of man and the struggles and triumphs of our ancesters [sic].  The Choir brought the story to a fitting close by the singing of that all-inspiring "How sleep the brave," by Bantock.  That was the end, as far as Wookey Hole was concerned.

I had what was, perhaps, a unique experience in hearing the actual broadcast for half of the programme in the Cave, and then hurrying down to the village of Wookey Hole and hearing the remainder from a loud-speaker. I am afraid I dashed into a home with very little ceremony to hear how the broadcast "came over." I found the members of the family and friends grouped around the loud-speaker to hear the voices of their friends from the Cave.

It is several years since I last heard the Wookey Hole Male Voice Choir, and I want to hear it again. Will they come to Wells and give a concert ?  Mr. Eden has undoubtedly taken great pains to bring the choir up to such a pitch of perfection, and I can definitely say that it has lost none of its old skill and gunning-cunning, I should have written ! There were twenty-six members singing in the Cave, and it was a pity that the official programme led listeners to believe that a Welsh Choir would render the songs.

The whole broadcast was a great success, and the British Broadcasting Company are to be congratulated on their efforts.  Capt. G. Hodgkinson, who was present, and Mr. P. King, his manager, are to be commended on the very excellent arrangements made for the broadcast in the Cave.

We cannot say too much about Mr. Balch, whose life has been given up to the development of Wookey Hole and other Caves on Mendip, and his inspiring address through the microphone deserves the highest praise.

Abundant congratulations have been received from all quarters by letter, telegraph and telephone.

So successful was the event that the BBC planned another on the May 15th 1931.  The Wells Journal announced that (note 4)  

... west Regional listeners who heard the singing relayed from Wookey Hole Calves [sic] last September will look forward to another broadcast from the caves on Friday, May 22nd, when several songs will be contributed by the Wookey Hole Male Voice Choir during a West Country Variety programme at 9.35 p.m.

The BBC technicians and producers setup their paraphernalia in the Third Chamber and a reminder and outline of the broadcast was published in the Wells Journal on the day of the broadcast itself. (note 5) As before the choir was conducted by Conrad Eden. (note 6)

In 1933 the choir made their third broadcast programme from the same chamber. The event was considered of sufficient interest that editors of local newspapers considered it to be front page news. The prominent headline announced of the Wells Journal for the 16th June read:

Broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves
Male Voice Choir's programme to be relayed.

The report stated that the broadcast would take place on the 7th July commencing at 8.30 p.m., that the choir and its conductor would be located in Wookey Hole Cave some 500 ft below '... the earth's surface. ' Conrad Eden would again conduct the choir and (note 7)

... visitors to Wookey Hole will be reminded of the grandeur of these Caves when they listen to the singing of the Choir in extraordinary surroundings. This is the third occasion on which a programme of part songs etc., by the choir has been relayed in the cave.

On the day of the broadcast the Wells Journal, then published on Friday of each week,  reminded their readers of the transmission that evening - now given at 8 p.m. - a time change from the original announcement. (note 8)

Local News. Cave Broadcast.

Many no doubt will tune into the West Regional Station this [Friday] evening at 8 p.m. when the Wookey Hole Male Voice Choir will give a broadcast from the Wookey Hole Cave. The choir will be conducted by Mr. Conrad Eden, and a boy soloist, Leslie Stear, of Clifton, will sing with male voice choir accompaniment. ...

The thirty minute transmission went out as planned on the West Regional Station of the BBC. The Wells Journal gave a lengthy report on the broadcast for the benefit of its readers who did not yet own a wireless set. (note 9) To open and close the programme Captain (later Wing Commander) Gerald Hodgkinson opened and closed the programme by playing on the hunting horn. At the start of the programme Hodgkinson played 'Gone Away' and closed it with 'Going Home.'

In addition to the choral works, two accompanied solos were sung by the 12 year old boy treble, Leslie Stear of Clifton, Bristol.  One of the solos was his father’s own arrangement of  'Ye Banks and Braes' where the choir sang a humming accompaniment. This seemed to have pleased the reviewer who commented that it ' ... sounded well over the wireless.'

Herbert Balch broadcasts, 1933 and 1939

Early in 1933 the BBC West Regional Station broadcast a series of programmes entitled 'Unexplored England'. The third of this series, broadcast on the 8th February 1933, was entitled 'The Caves of Mendip' during which Herbert Balch gave a twenty minute lecture. The Wells Journal reported that Balch had  (note 10)

... many vivid stories of adventures to tell of the exploration of Mendip.  He has been digging in the Caves for 45 years and knows more about Mendip than any other living man.  He spoke for twenty minutes and referred to the baffling difficulties at Swildon's Hole and at Wookey Hole.

In January 1939 a regular BBC feature programme 'Western Magazine' invited Balch to take part, a report of which was featured in the Wells Journal shortly after. It seems that ' ... Mr. Balch told many stories of his explorations in the Mendip underworld. ... '   (note 11)  

Wookey Hole, 1935

Perhaps the most famous of the radio broadcasts from within British caves was that from Wookey Hole on the 17th August, 1935.  The Wells Journal announced that there will be a   (note 12)


Once again the B.B.C. has chosen Wookey Hole Cave for a novelty broadcast, and this time their relay will be one of the most thrilling and daring ever attempted.

On the night of August 17th a man in diving suit and helmet, will walk along the hidden bed of the underground river Axe for the first time in history, in an attempt to find the great subterranean cave believed to exist many feet below the level of the river. ... The search is due to commence at 10.30 p.m. and will be broadcast over the National wavelengths. ...

Following the failed attempt by Graham Balcombe to pass Sump I in Swildon’s Hole it became Jack Sheppard’s turn to think up a method of getting through this obstacle that had prevented further exploration of the cave since 1935. 

It had become apparent that the snorkeling design devised by Balcombe was never going to work and was potentially lethal so it was agreed that Sheppard should have a go at devising some sort of breathing apparatus that would enable the obstacle to be passed.

At that time Sheppard was living in London, studying for his engineering degree, where he became aware of the internationally famed manufacturer of diving and rescue apparatus, Siebe, Gorman and Co. Ltd. It was to them that he made an approach for information relating to underwater breathing.  Sir Robert Davis, the managing director of the company took an immediate interest in the young man’s ideas - not least because it might just lead to ideas that could be adopted by the company!  Having been made aware of the challenge Sir Robert promised that he would consider the plans that Sheppard had submitted which was a pump operated one piece submersible suit.  In the event Sir Robert considered the matter but he did not fully understanding the nature of the passageways through which the gear would have to be transported.  However, he offered Sheppard the use of their standard hard hat bottom walking gear used in mine and tunnel rescue. The deal included tuition by Charles Burwood, the company’s chief instructor.

It was immediately obvious to Balcombe and Sheppard that though it was not practical for use in Swildon’s Hole, the equipment would be well suited for work in the large flooded passages beyond the Third Chamber of Wookey Hole.  Balch and Frank Brown [Wookey Hole caves company secretary] were approached and they negotiated a programme of events with Gerald Hodgkinson, owner of the Wookey Hole show cave. However, though he gave his permission to allow diving activity in the cave it was conditional that their activities should not interfere with the running of the showcave business. It was agreed that the operations should take place during the closed hours. For several reasons, not least the complaints from the villagers that their domestic water supply was always cloudy on successive Sunday mornings, the series of operations was brought to a close by the 5th September.

The way was now clear for a breakthrough in caving exploration techniques.  As Balcombe noted that the idea of exploring Wookey Hole was agreed upon but (note 13)

... work elsewhere, and a certain diffidence about working in a commercially operated cavern, have all combined to defer until 1934, the decision to start an expedition. ...

The programme of dives, extending over an eight week period, located and reached the surface of Wookey Seven. 

The day of the broadcast had arrived and the Third Chamber was full of technicians setting up the equipment for the transmission which was due to be relayed at 10.30 p.m. but this was left fluid so that the broadcast would be made when Balcombe, the man of the moment, was actually progressing with the dive.  Penelope [Mossy] Powell described the scene in the chamber in the Log of the Wookey Hole Divers. (note 14)

... We arrived about 9 o’clock at our destination , the Third Chamber of the Home of the Witch; where the B.B.C. Was in attendance with coils and coils and coils of wire everywhere, myriads of microphones, wreaths of cigar smoke, a wealth of gents’ natty suitings, fortunes in cuff-links, in fact the only thing missing was adhesive tape, which Mossy provided off an Oxo tin, and a sock to put into a loudspeaker.

A public address system was installed for the

... benefit of the general mob.

Through the smoke, one caught occasional glimpses of the ample stern-piece of the B.B.C., more coils of wire pipe and rope, sometimes even a diver, and on rare occasions, the River Axe itself.

Teething troubles overcome it was time for Balcombe to enter the water.  Progress was monitored by telephone communication with the intention of relaying it through the public address system.  This failed miserably even though it had been claimed that the acoustics of the Third Chamber were perfect.

A single event that was to happen later that evening is virtually all that is remembered today by most cavers eclipsing the real achievement of the whole series of diving operations.  The back-up diver accompanying Balcombe was 'Mossy' Powell and both progressed into Chamber Six. Communication with base control was via the telephone linkup. The broadcast began at 10.30 p.m. when Balcombe and Powell entered the water at which time a background commentary was being given by the BBC announcer, Francis Worsley, sited in his own box at the side of the chamber.  A Wells Journal reporter noted that Worsley [editorial notes are given in square brackets] (note 15)

... started to speak to the many thousands who were listening to what must have been the most thrilling outside broadcast ever arranged.

To describe what took place next can best be done by using his words.

He said, " Here we are, 600 feet underground in the famous Wookey Hole caves.  The sounds you hear going on mean that the exploration party is getting ready to try out this daring feat of exploration. Where we are standing now is the third chamber. You enter the caves at the foot of a big cliff, pass along an up-and-down passage in the rocks which widens out in high chambers full of pools and stalactites and on the right is the River Axe, which is of great importance as this is the river the divers are going to follow.

"This is as far as the public can go, but the caves and river go on for a long way beyond. In one corner is a very low arch, which is either just above or below the water level according to the state of the river. When the water has been low people have been through on a raft to a fourth chamber and then on through another arch to a fifth. Beyond that on [sic] one has never been and only divers can get there.  That is the object of this exploration.

"I am not going to try to give you any details of this as I hope to get Mr. Balcombe to talk to you before he descends." continued Mr. Worsley.

"Diving is not a simple matter and a very large number of assistants are required to work the air pumps which I expect you can hear already, and to let out the lines the divers use for air, safety, telephone, etc.

"The two divers are going down and an interesting thing is that the second one is a woman, Mrs. Powell.

"In the second part of the broadcast we hope that Mr. Balcombe will speak direct to us from under the water when he reaches territory where no one has ever been before.  He has a special microphone in his helmet and will communicate with a telephonist on the shore, telling of his needs.  The telephonist can reply to him and I expect we shall hear some of the conversation.

"It is rather a strange sight, all these people working busily in the glare of the arc-lamps in this ancient cave," he said.

"One doesn't expect to see diving gear right under the earth ! A contrast is the domestic touch in one corner where a lady of the party is making coffee on a spirit stove.  Yes, it is very cold here, the temperature of the water being 52 degrees all the year round, and the mud is cold to the feet. I'll get into touch with Balcombe before he enters the water."

"Hullo, Balcombe," he calls.

"Yes," came back the voice of the leading diver.

"Tell everyone about your 'gang.'  They have been working very hard."

There was a little difficulty in hearing Mr. Balcombe, at first, but when he did come through he told of what his assistants would be doing and of the difficulty of making his way through the underwater passages.

Mr. Worsley asked why he need two divers and Mr. Balcombe replied that there might be some difficulty in getting his air pipe and lines round the corners so the second diver would come down after him and assist him through.


The fifth chamber, he told us, is floored  by a great sandbank, and seemed to be a great expanse of green water.

"We want to get to the surface through the green water. Having done that we get as far as we possibly can."

"Well good luck to you, Balcombe.  I hope you won't meet any brontosauri."

"That is hardly possible as no man has ever been here before and no animal could possibly get here."

This ended the first part of the broadcast and the second part was transmitted when Balcombe and Powell reached the sixth chamber. This was at 23.09 hrs.  Worsley commented that the two divers were still safe and that Balcombe had reached a point 168 feet [50 m. Approx] from base. The commentary continued thus:

"...Balcombe has got to the entrance to the sixth chamber and hopes to find that it is a real chamber, that is one that has air space above the water, but we shall not know anything until we hear from him. We are going to try to get through to him now and get him to tell us from the actual site what he has found. You will probably find there is a bit of bubble owing to the air pump. He can only stop the pumps for about 20 seconds. You will hear people getting instructions to change over the pumps.

Balcombe described the scene from the sixth chamber and then after a short interval put out a running commentary with the telephonist. Balcombe continued

"... We have passed through the sixth, which has a large water space but only a small water surface.  Ahead of me I can see a further air surface which looks promising. We had arranged a form of trapeze to get to the surface in the sixth chamber but we have been unable to get it tried so far. Perhaps we can make better use of it here.  Heave hard on the pumps !"

A second or two later came an S.O.S.  "Heave faster on the pumps, " we heard.  And then "May I speak to the officer in charge, please ?"

"Well you can see what sort of thing is going on, " breaks in the commentator, and the broadcast was brought to a conclusion.

This has to be the polite form of what Balcombe actually said. Legend has it, together with Mossy Powell's poem related to the Waldegrave Swallet excavation, (note 16) that Balcombe yelled 'Pump you buggers, pump !'  This was strong language for the BBC standards of the day and so the plug was pulled on the broadcast.

An hour later the two divers returned to base where Balcombe commented that they were on the borders of great things but could not add to what he had described from the limit of the dive. He then thanked the pump operators.  Herbert Balch was present during the dive and was full of praise for the operation with a particular note regarding 'Mossy' Powell.

... "Mrs. Powell's willingness to make the journey was the pluckiest adventure I have ever seen undertaken by a woman," he said to me as we watched them rise from the water. ...

Gough's Cave, 1936

The first broadcast from Gough’s Cave was made on the 2nd March 1936 and was entitled “ A Cave Tour” in which Lord Weymouth, owner of the caves, Thomas B. Gill, the cave manager and Mr. W. R. Pavey all contributed to the general broadcast.  Lord Weymouth outlined the history of the cave whilst the others described the more outstanding features. Gill made special mention of the plans to reconstruct the ‘Cheddar Man’ skeleton, a task undertaken by Professor M. Rix of Oxford University under the watchful eye of Sir Arthur Keith.

Between 1927 and 1935 the development of the amenities at Wookey Hole and a series of radio broadcasts from the cave brought the owner considerable publicity. At Gough’s Cave following the transfer of control of the cave from Arthur

G.H. Gough to the owner, Lord Weymouth, in 1933 a considerable investment was made at the cave entrance building an office, museum and restaurant complex that was opened to the public on the 23rd June 1934. 

C.H. Hayes had completed a new survey of the showcave during April 1935. On it Hayes had suggested that there appeared to be a connection between Pixie Forest and St. Paul’s Chamber. This would not have been too difficult to confirm for the passage from the St. Paul’s end would have been open and ready for a simply exploratory trip. With this knowledge, Thomas B. Gill, manager of the cave from 1935-c.1950, employed workmen to clear the sandy deposit at the foot of Pixie Forest. By the autumn, having cleared some 6,000 tons of spoil, the workmen located the lower entrance to the passage. Lord Weymouth, Gill and the head guide, Victor Painter, crawled 216 feet from the new entrance to visit the chamber at the upper end that contains a group of formations, Aladdin’s Grotto, adjacent to St. Paul’s Chamber. Gill announced that other formations in this chamber were so beautiful as to eclipse anything else to be seen in the cave.  It was the intention of the management to open this chamber to the public by Easter 1936 connecting it with St. Paul’s Chamber.

To combat the ‘free’ publicity generated by the Wookey Hole management, the authority at Gough’s Cave continued their widespread publicity campaign well into the early months of 1936. All this peaked with a radio broadcast from Gough’s Cave on the 2nd March 1936. During the run-up to the event regular news items appeared in the national daily, regional and local newspapers creating the widest publicity possible.

As the broadcast drew near a number of reports announcing when and how it was taking place were published in various newspapers. On the 22nd February, 1936, the News Chronicle, headlined its report :

Skeleton in Cave Broadcast
He lived 10,000 year ago
Cheddar Carols to be sung underground

Beside a skeleton over 10,000 years old, by an underground river in caves occupied by man from the Palaeolithic age, a broadcast is to be made here during the West Regional programme on Monday evening, March 2.

It will be a tour of Gough’s Caves, Cheddar, during which guides will talk through eight microphones installed at regular points in the cave.

The programme will be introduced by Lord Weymouth, owner of the caves, and atmosphere will be provided by a party of local singers.

From the immense chamber known as “ St. Paul’s,” where the sides are coated with beautifully coloured stalagmite, they will broadcast Cheddar carols.

Listeners will hear the history of the caves and of recent explorations from Mr. T. Gill, the manager. They will hear how the skeleton known as “The Cheddar Man,” more than 10,000 years old, was discovered in a fissure leading to the underground river.

The Western Daily Press announced  (note 17)

“Cheddar Man” may get lost on the ether

Secrets of the Earthly Home of a Ghost

The Bristol Evening World reported on the 28th February, 1936 that 

Cave Explorers Rewarded

Two new Wonder Chambers at Cheddar

... Which surpasses any of the caves the public can see at Cheddar today. ... Telling the story of the discovery of the new caverns to an “Evening World! Reporter, Mr. Thomas B. Gill, manager of Gough’s caves [sic], said : “The party consisted of Lord Weymouth, the head guide, and myself. We set out to crawl through a passage that was only two feet six inches or three feet wide.


“Instead of crawling, however, we could only wriggle, and it was with relief that we found ourselves at the end of the passage.

“Here our lamps revealed a cavern which is superior to anything the public can see at the moment.

“The most striking feature was a wonderful curtain 12 feet long .  This is one of nature’s masterpieces. It was gleaming in wonderful colours, a sight of incredible beauty.”

To open the way to these wonderful caverns 6,000 tons of silt have had to be removed. ... The subterranean river holds secrets which may never be revealed, so deep are the dark waters. Soundings have been taken, but every time the line has been dropped to 70 feet the swift underground currents have snapped it off, to disappear into the unknown. ...

The opening of the ‘two chambers,’ of course, never happened.  But the discovery of the passage and chamber was only one part of the publicity notes issued by the cave management. Late in 1935 plans were announced that the skeleton of ‘Cheddar Man’ was to be rebuilt by Professor M. Rix of Oxford University under the general direction of Sir Arthur Keith. (note 18)  It was claimed that the skeleton was now complete following a further excavation in the Skeleton Pit. The mystery of the underground stream route too was highlighted by Gill.  He stated that it was impossible to determine the depth of the water flowing under the cave in the Skeleton Pit.  It had been found that the force of the water was so great that it snapped the string and so losing the plumb-bob ! 

So, on at 7.30 p.m. On Monday, 2nd March 1936 the first broadcast from this cave took place. The News Chronicle’s report of the event commented that one of the (note 19)

... wonders of modern science was being used amid stalactites and stalagmites which had been accumulating for centuries. ... The listening public heard for the first time of the recent extensions.

The caves now extend for a distance of two miles.

The commentary was broadcast on the West and Scottish Regional wavelengths.

The Western Daily Press account was minimal but included two large photographs as did both the Bristol evening papers. (note 20,21,22)


Swildon's Hole, 1937

The issue of Radio Times, for 23rd April 1937, announced that a live twenty minute broadcast was to be made from Swildon’s Hole at 9.00 p.m. on Saturday the 1st May. (note 23)  The programme was entitled ‘Mendip Cave Crawl‘ which also served as the title of an introductory article in the same issue of the weekly paper by Herbert Balch. (note 24) The transmission was to be relayed on the airwaves to the BBC southern and western regions. The Wells Journal deemed this information to be worthy of front page headlines for their 30th April issue.  (note 25) As the weekly paper was then published on Friday it was to act as a reminder to the Wells citizens to tune in to the Wireless or news to the many nonreaders of Radio Times. Such magazines were luxuries that many people were unable to afford.

The programme was subcontracted to a local company to setup the broadcast and on Monday, 26th April, their engineers descended the cave to install electric cables, microphones and illumination to and from the Old Grotto. It would seem that the technicians were led through the cave by Jack Duck and his caving associate, Austin Wadsworth; the pair operating under the auspices of MNRC and Herbert Balch. The fact that Balch had written a preface to the broadcast clearly shows he was involved in some way with the programme. From the Gerard Platten letter reproduced in Hendy’s notes from Bill Weaver’s Logbook in WCC Journal No. 288 it would seem that he, Platten, was also associated with the broadcast in association with Duck and Wadsworth. Fortunately two photographs taken by Wadsworth of the technicians in the Old Grotto have survived and are in the author’s photographic collection.  Jack Duck is certainly in one of these pictures.  Two other photographs of the event are to be found among the Luke Devenish collection of glass lantern slides now housed in the WCC Library.  Both glass mounts have been badly damaged but the images, though out of focus, have been restored by the writer using computer enhancement techniques.

The identity of the company who arranged and produced the broadcast is unknown and no record exists except for details of various payments made by BBC. (note 26) The commentary was by one H. Gordon Bird for which he was paid the handsome sum of £15 - 15 - 0. (note 27) It is possible that this was the same man, who as a member of UBSS, assisted Balch during the exploration of Swildon’s One in 1921.

No follow-up article has been found in the local newspapers of the broadcast itself but from photographic evidence, the Radio Times and the content of Platten’s letter there is no doubt that the event went ahead.  There is a very good reason why the relay was not reported in any of the local papers that I have checked. An important national event took place during the following week and because of this the various editors of local papers took the view that  ‘there’s too much of this event to publish rather than wasting valuable space reporting the cave broadcast.’

The event, of course, was the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth [the late Queen mum] on the 6th May 1937. Coronation fever swept the country; special events and concerts, street parties and beacons were lit giving both the national and local newspapers plenty to write about.  The Wells Journal and the Weston-super-Mare Gazette and Mercury were full of reports of all the events taking place in this region.

The WCC Committee responded to the announcement of the broadcast in a short statement in the April, 1937 Circular. (note 28)

'B.B.C. Broadcast May 1st. The Committee wish it to be made quite clear that this Club has nothing whatever to do with this event.

Publicity was considered undesirable and release of information to the Press about caving activities was frowned upon for   (note 29) is an understood thing amongst all decent cave men that reports of cave activities are not given to the press nor is the Club's name to be mentioned except with the Committee's approval.  Members who desire to give publicity to their activities are advised to consult the Hon. Secretary.'

This introverted view was in vogue well into the 1960s and one held by most of the major Mendip clubs. Publicity regarding caving was considered extremely poor taste. Further it was likely to increase the numbers of cavers and introduce the 'undesirable' element. It was also argued that caving required a certain quality - initiative. Thus if a person wanted to go caving it was assumed that he would find the necessary contacts himself. How things have changed!  Finally, Platten refers to the possibility of a further broadcast beyond the Forty Foot Pot, possibly recording someone [‘Bill’ Weaver] free diving the sump.  It is thought that this never took place for no evidence has been found in the local newspapers published during 1938 and 1939. The Radio Times has not been checked - any volunteers?

Overcrowding of the popular caves has resulted in major destruction of the finer details and in some cases the rock has been worn so smooth that at times the conditions are quite dangerous. At the time of writing there has to be a strenuous effort made to preserve much of what remains - and in places not much - before the desecration is total.

G.B. Cave, 1941

During the early days of exploration in G.B. Cave the cave received considerable publicity. Rodney Pearce [of Rod’s Pot fame] and Francis Goddard [the ‘G’ of G.B. Cave] spent some time preparing a manuscript accompanied by a sketch survey for publication in Illustrated London News (note 30) and, later that year, in Nature. (note 31) During this work a couple of broadcasts (note 32) were made for the BBC relating to the cave, one of which was a recording made on site.  Goddard detailed this trip in the UBSS Logbook entry for the 9th July 1941. (note 33)

... Met Jean Bussell of B.B.C. With 1 recording car at 2.45 (only 15 mins late). ... [obtained] Farmer Young’s permission to  go into field with car  I then started down cave. Made a recording at the entrance, in first grotto, in double passage and just before the entrance - where the cable ran out. Bussell was thrilled with the cave.

The 'canning' technique was the cutting of a 78 rpm shellac disc up to 24 inches in diameter though during the latter stages of the Second World War, wire tape recorders were being developed.

Trevor Shaw’s complete, but unpublished history of UBSS gives very brief details of these events which were later edited out of the published version. (note 34) BBC recorded sound effects in the cave on the 20th February 1968 - BBC copy tape in UBSS Library, included sounds of typical caving activity - laddering a pitch, stream - close, medium and far distance, water drips, group of cavers walking, climbing, tired cavers, tired caver, whistle blasts, hauling up ladder etc. 23 bands of varying sounds were made.

Wookey Hole, 1946

Not long after the formation of CDG plans were laid to broadcast part of their activity from Wookey Hole. The producer, Desmond Hawkins intending to produce a feature programme on the cave gave a provisional date of the broadcast as being 29th May 1946. CDG's contribution was to be the 'Climax' of the Programme. (note 35) However, this appears not to have been broadcast for it was announced in Radio Times that the programme was postponed because of the producers' other commitments in the Channel Islands. (note 36)

The broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves by "frogmen" some 600 feet below the ground, which should have taken place last week, had to be postponed. Mr. Desmond Hawkins, the B.B.C. producer had to go to the Channel Isles. Further technical research will be carried out before the actual broadcast

The author has not found any reference to an actual broadcast.

Axbridge Caving Group

During 1952, the group’s secretary, Major D.C. McKearn was contacted by the BBC with an idea of producing a short item on caving. This was to have been included in the popular Saturday evening radio show "In Town Tonight" that was hosted by Brian Johnston and transmitted on the Home Service [now Radio 4]. However, the programme never went further than the outline planning stage. (note 37)

Later in 1954 and 1955 ACG were again involved with the BBC for their "Under Twenties" programme. On Easter Monday, 19th April, 1954 the technicians recorded the sounds of    (note 38)

 ... blasting in the [Banwell] Stalactite Cave ... Pat Knights and Gordon Griffiths (with Bob Price giving technical advice) were 'on the air'.

The ACG crew must have impressed the BBC producers for a year later, in 1955 and again during the Easter weekend, and for the same programme, they were 'on the air'. This was a twelve minute edited version of a recording made in Axbridge Ochre Cavern some eight months before. (note 39)

Swildon's Hole - 1949-1952

Another broadcast from Swildon's Hole took place during 1949 but the date has yet to be investigated. A report is said to have appeared in the Wells Journal at the time.

An 'internal broadcast' was made by the BBC in 1952 in which BEC members were involved. A full report was given in BB No. 58.  The programme was made for the Light Programme [now Radio 2] in a slot called 'Summer Parade' and it was first announced in the Radio Times published on the 20th June 1952. The commentary was to be given by Hugh Falkus. (note 40)

The BEC Belfry Bulletin under its then editor, Harry Stanbury, received a full report from three members who had assisted in the underground activity on the 15th June. Mike Jones, Merv. Hannam and Dave England

 ... were inveigled into making a broadcast in Swildon's Hole, in company with some members of Woking Youth Club. The story of this epic event started when one Hugh [Fatso] Falkus arrived in a dilapidated Ford V8, followed by Jack [Slim] Singleton in a three ton truck with an army of Teenagers, all with a pronounced (and disturbing) London accent. (note 41)

A short note of the broadcast was published by the Wells Journal in its Local News Section. (note 42)

A further broadcast was recorded by Trevor Shaw in his unpublished history of UBSS that took place on 1st June 1955.  It is stated to have been live broadcast, programmed as 'A Hole in the Hill’ and the commentary given by Raymond Baxter. (note 43,44)

1954 - Stoke Lane Slocker

In 1954 James Kirkup joined members of UBSS on two caving trips on Mendip on the 29th and 30th May. Kirkup, a literary man, composed a lengthy poem of his experiences underground titled : The Descent into the Cave being an account of an underground journey in the Mendip Hills of Somerset. (note 45) The work was dedicated to the members of the UBSS. Trevor Shaw noted that the work, a free verse narrative poem, was based upon a visit to Stoke Lane Slocker where the author’s experience of diving a sump is given some prominence.

At that time John Morris [not the entertainer, Johnny Morris] was Controller of the BBC Third Programme [now Radio 3] and it was he that compiled an anthology which included the first publication of Kirkup’s poem. The poem was broadcast on the Third Programme on the 26th September 1954, animated with vocal contributions by well-known broadcasters, Robert Reitty, Felix Felton, Peter Cloughton and John Stockbridge. The broadcast was repeated twice more on the same channel in 1955 and 1956.

Kirkup's own anthology was published by OUP in 1957 (note 46) when the title of the caving poem was reduced to The descent into the Cave but still with the dedication to the members of UBSS.

Though not relating to Mendip caves in 1963 the Third Programme planners requested a play from Louis MacNeice.  MacNeice had considerable experience in writing radio plays and produced a script entitled Persons from Porlock in which the hero, a failed artist, ends his life in a pothole. To gain the atmosphere of the underground MacNeice joined the BBC engineer who was recording various sound-effects in a Yorkshire pothole. He caught a chill that developed into pneumonia from which he died on the 3rd September 1963 a few days after the play had been broadcast. (note 47) The Victorian melodrama still lives ! 

Another curio was the announcement by Harry Ashworth of the MNRC in the 1957 newsletter of a field event relating to dowsing being organised by Peter Stewart and at which the BBC were going to make a programme which was to be broadcast sometime during August of that year. (note 48)

Since that time innumerable broadcasts and reports of caving activities have been transmitted. The latest being the discovery of bones in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink and a new series of six programmes that was televised during the 2004 Autumn; one being devoted to Swildon's Hole with footage taken by Gavin Newman.


The writer would like to acknowledge the assistance of the archivist at the BBC Archives, Reading ; to Dr. Steven Craven (CPC) for details of early broadcasts from the Yorkshire Dales and High Peak caves ; to Phil Hendy, WCC librarian, for use of photographs from the Devenish collection, Alan Gray (ACG), Ray Mansfield, for drawing my attention to the MacNeice play, and Tony Jarratt for proof reading the paper.

Dave Irwin, Priddy.  20 February 2005


Compiled by S. A. Craven

DATE:                        13 Oct. 1927; 1900 hours

SUBJECT:                  Gaping Gill

BROADCASTER:        James W. Puttrell

CLUB:                        Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club et al.

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Radio Times 07 Oct. 1927.

                                 Sheffield Daily Telegraph 14 Oct. 1927.


DATE:                        15 June 1929

SUBJECT:                  Caves of Yorkshire; recent discoveries at Ingleton (i.e. probably White Scar)

BROADCASTER:        James W. Puttrell

CLUB:                        Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club et al.

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Radio Times 31 May 1929.


DATE:                        29 March 1934

SUBJECT:                  Potholing

BROADCASTER:        Ernest Edward Roberts

CLUB:                        Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Craven Herald 30 Mar. 1934 p. 6.


DATE:                        30 March 1935

SUBJECT:                  Potholing

BROADCASTER:        Arnold C. Waterfall

CLUB:                        Craven Pothole Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              West Yorkshire Pioneer 05 Apr. 1935 p. 4.

                                 Craven Herald 05 Apr. 1935 p. 8.               


DATE:                        18 June 1936

SUBJECT:                  Weathercote Cave and Gaping Gill

BROADCASTER:        Reg Hainsworth

CLUB:                        Gritstone Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              West Yorkshire Pioneer 19 June 1936 p. 2.


DATE:                        25 June 1936

SUBJECT:                  Caves and Waterfalls of Ingleton

BROADCASTER:        Reg Hainsworth, H. Wilson Midgley

CLUB:                        Gritstone Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Field – at Weathercote Cave

AUTHORITY:              Leeds Mercury 12 June 1936 p. 8.

                                 Lancaster Guardian 26 June 1936 p. 10.


DATE:                        02 July 1936; 0910 – 0924 hours

SUBJECT:                  Potholing – a descriptive tour of Lost John’s Cave in Yorkshire

BROADCASTER:        Robert M. Brench

CLUB:                        Leeds Cave Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Leeds Mercury 12 June 1936 p. 8.

                                 Radio Times 26 June 1936 p. 55.

                                 Manchester Guardian 02 July 1936.

                                 Yorkshire Post 04 July 1936 p. 7.

                                 The Listener 15 July 1936 pp. 112 – 113, 182.

                                 The Listener 12 Aug. 1936 pp. 317 - 318.

                                 The Listener 19 Aug. 1936 p. 361.


DATE:                        02 April 1938; 1905 hours

SUBJECT:                  Alum Pot

BROADCASTER:        Robert M. Brench

CLUB:                        Leeds Cave Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Radio Times 20 – 26 Mar. 1938 pp. 14, 86.

                                 Hull Mail (date not stated).


DATE:                        08 April 1938; 1400 hours (repeat of 02 April 1938)

SUBJECT:                  Alum Pot

BROADCASTER:        Robert M. Brench

CLUB:                        Leeds Cave Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Radio Times 01 Apr. 1938 p. 63.

                                 Daily Express 08 Apr. 1938.


ADDITIONAL NOTE : (Scott H.J.) (1940) Yorkshire Dalesman 2(1)4 tells us that:  "Mr. (Norman) Thornber is secretary of the Cave Rescue Organisation and has broadcast several times on potholing in Yorkshire."


1.                  As the privately owned British Broadcasting Company.  It received its Charter in 1927 when it became the British Broadcasting Corporation

2.                  Wells Journal, 8th August 1930, p5, c5 : Radio from the depths.

3.                  Wells Journal, 12th September 1930,  p4, c.6 : Wookey Hole Speaks to the World. 

4.                  Wells Journal, 15th May 1931, p.5, c.1, Local News. Another Wookey Hole Broadcast.

5.                  Anon, 1931, Wookey Hole Cave [broadcast reminder] Wells Journal 22nd May, p3,c3

6.                  Anon, 1931, Broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves.  Wells Journal 29th May, p4,c6

7.                  Wells Journal, 16th June 1933, p.1 : Broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves.

8.                  Wells Journal, 7th July 1933, p.5, c.5 : Local News. Cave Broadcast.

9.                  Wells Journal, 14th July 1933, p.1, c.1 :  Broadcast from Wookey Hole Cave. Clifton Boy’s Solos. 

10.              Wells Journal, 10th February 1933, p.1 c.3 :  The Caves of Mendip. Broadcast  by Mr. H.E. Balch. 

11.              Wells Journal, 20th January 1939, p.5, c.1, [Broadcast]

12.              Wells Journal, 2nd August 1935, p.1, c.1-2 :  Thrilling Broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves.

13.              Balcombe, F. Graham and Powell, Penelope M, 1935, The log of the Wookey Hole exploration expedition 1935.   Ascot : F.G. Balcombe   [p.3]

14.              Balcombe, F. Graham and Powell, Penelope M, 1935, [as above], p.76

15.              Wells Journal, 23rd August 1935, p.3 c.2-3 : Thrilling Adventure in Wookey Hole Caves.  Divers Brave The Depths of Hidden Waters.  New Caverns Discovered. Successful Broadcast by B.B.C. 

16.              Irwin, David J., 2000, Waldegrave Swallet ... a brief history.    BEC Bel Bul 51(509)25-39(Dec), illus, surveys, figs OR BCRA SHG Jnl (6)9-22(Aut), illus, surveys, figs

17.              Western Daily Press,  25th February 1936, “Cheddar Man” may get lost in the Ether.

18.              The skeleton rebuild was completed early in 1937.

19.              News Chronicle, 3rd March 1936, Broadcast from Underground Cave. [illus]

20.              Western Daily Press, 3rd March 1936, p.9, c.1-5 : Last night's broadcast from Cheddar's famous caves. [illus]

21.              Bristol Evening World, 3rd March 1936, Microphone "Tour"  [illus]

22.              Bristol Evening Post,  3rd March 1936, Wonders of the Cheddar Caves explained to visitors during the radio tour.  [illus]

23.              Radio Times, 23rd April 1937, Regional Programme. [p.75]

24.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip Cave Crawl.  Radio Times, 23rd April, p.8, illus

25.              Wells Journal, 30th April 1937, p.1 c.5 : A Broadcast from Swildon's Hole

26.              Anon, 1937, Programme as Broadcast from the West of England Region. Saturday, 1st May, 1937. Sheet 1. [from BBC Archive, 1996]

27.              For those not familiar with the old LSD [pound, shillings and pence] system this sum equals £15.75.

28.              Anon, 1937, B.B.C. Broadcast May 1st.   WCC Circ. (23)1

29.              Anon, 1937, Publicity.  WCC Circ (27)1

30.              Goddard, F.J. and Pearce, R.A.J., 1941, Romantic Discovery ...    The Illustrated London News, 9 Aug., p.185-188, illus, survey

31.              Goddard, F.J. and Pearce, R.A.J., 1941, G.B. Cave, Charterhouse on Mendip.  Nature, 4 Oct.,  148(3753)394-396, illus

32.              Pearce, R.A.J., 1968, The Wartime Years. Some Reminiscences   MSS, typed, 4f [held in UBSS Library]

33.              UBSS Camp Log Nov. 1939 to June 1943.   MS 91 pp , surveys.  UBSS Library, Bristol University, Bristol [p.41]

34.              Shaw, T.R., 1968, History of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society.    Bristol : UBSS, Typed MS  61 + vpp [p.40]

35.               Bristol  Evening Post, 1946, 19th March, Divers' plan in Broadcast from caves. [Wookey Hole]

36.              Radio Times, 1946, (7 Jun) p.5, c.1 : Local News Caves Broadcast.

37.              Sec [pseudo : D.C.  McKeand], 1952, Group News. B.B.C.   ACG Jnl 1(2)8-9

38.              Anon, 1954, Report on Excavations in the Banwell Bone Cave   ACG Jnl 2(2)7-8(Sep)

39.               McKeand, D.C., 1955,  Group News. Caves.      ACG Jnl 2(4)3-5(Sep)

40.              Radio Times, 1952 (20th Jun);  Going Down [no other details recorded]

41.              Jones-, M., Hannam, M., and England, D., 1952, Actually Caving.  BEC Bel Bul 6(58)5-6(Jun)

42.              Wells Journal, 1952 (27 Jun), p.5, c.3 : Local News

43.              Shaw, T.R., 1968, [as above] [p.40]

44.              Wells Journal, 1955 (10 Jun), p.2, c.4-5 : BBC broadcast from Mendip - A Hole in a Hill.

45.              Morris, John [ed], From the Third Programme a ten years' anthology imagination argument   London: Nonesuch Press, x + 339pp

46.              Kirkup, James, 1957, The Descent into the Cave and other poems.  London: Oxford University Press, viii + 109pp 

47.              47 Carpenter, Humphrey, 1996, The Envy of the World.  London: Pheonix Giant, 431pp, illus [p.213]

48.              Ashworth, H.W.W., 1957, MNRC. Field Programme.  MNRC Ntr [2](May)


The Wig in Caving

By N. Harding Esq.
With certain reminders by N. Richards, both residents of the Parish of Weston

During a conversation at Townsend Cottage on Sunday May 15th 2005, Messrs Irwin, Richards and Harding in attendance, the subject of the history of caving wigs was brought up due to the reference in Ye Somerset Life Magazine of Catcott removing his wig while entering the fabled Loxton Cavern. What follows is a brief history of said apparatus in respect to that reference. 

 “Fleas are not lobsters, Dash my wig!”   Butler, Hudibras

Wig:     A shortened form of periwig, from Fr. Perruque. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

In the early days of cave exploration the development of special forms of wig became a staple of any subterranean investigator’s equipment. Limited as that burgeoning kit was; a few candles, muslin bags of boiled sweets, and a sturdy pair of pantaloons, the cave wig became essential dress for the gentleman explorer. 

The Bath wig makers Messrs Absolom and Loftus Racketts of Protozoan Road became the cavers’ emporium of choice. Within its wainscoted boudoirs a voluminous collection of assorted caving paraphernalia could be found, albeit mostly of the false hair variety.

It is known that local cave aficionado Dr Catcott often frequented the shop on his way to swap tales of derring-do with other local men of an exploratory nature in the region’s coffeehouses. Catcott himself preferred the Dorset Fancy for walks but opted for the heavier, indeed sturdier Pentland Thunderer (not to be confused with the whistle of the same name) for subterranean activities. With its thicker inner weave it afforded a certain higher level of protection than the Frobisher Light, a wig often used for inspecting holes in the Mendip region. For at least two generations the Frobisher had been de rigueur in Somerset for men out inspecting cavities, natural or suspiciously man made alike. Its blend of horsehair, weasel and Haart’s Wildebeest allowed the wearer to keep his head warm and reasonably waterproof in a brisk squall. But, as the user’s manual suggested in the most adamant of terms, the wearer should seek shelter at the first opportunity. A side effect of a sudden downpour was to shrink the wig to embarrassing dimensions, forcing the owner, unless he himself was lacking in the hair department into offering the headgear to friends and fellows with less atop. In many respects and at that stage it mirrored the ‘scratch wig’; one whose sole purpose was to cover bald spots.  

A similar side effect could be seen with the ‘Dorset Fancy’, a light summer wig mostly used for those seeking Marsh Fritillaries, and indeed other members of the Lepidoptera family, for their gentlemen’s collections. The wig itself was even issued with its own collecting jar while the hair piece itself, due to its gossamer construction, was delicate enough to be used for catching all kinds of ephemeral insects. But because of its lightness it could easily be forgotten that the wearer was sporting such apparel. As the Hon. Sir Hugh Bending-Slow wrote in his ‘The Wig, It’s Uses, Non Uses and General Abuse of Said Hairpiece Usually in the Manner of Whipping Servants, Book Four’: 

“It beist unseemly for a man to wear his Dorset Fancy for anything other than the most convivial of summer excursions. It beist a moral outrage and devilish invidious behavior if said headular investment be espied on evening occasions.”

It was not uncommon for ladies to swoon and or duels to be fought over such insidious social faux pas, the results of which were that many a cobbled street beyond the doors of inns, taverns and lodges were littered with trampled and crumpled insubstantial head adornments, the fall out, in a manner of speaking, of bellicose activities. The Dorset Fancy thus assisted (some say the sole contributor, see Albert Lamellibranch’s The Revolutionary Wigs of Britain) to the illegal wig trade that was common throughout the period, producing such fabled characters as Dave the Wigger, Headpiece Jack, or Wigboy John, gentlemen of the shadows who would lurk in side alleys until enough battered wigs had collected on the streets. They would then spend the following hours collecting as many of the fallen items as darkness would allow. It was also around this time that Burke and Hair became famous for digging up the corpses of unsuspecting members of the aristocracy and relieving them of their head wear. The recently freed hairpieces were hastily smuggled to the backrooms of numerous rival wig-making facilities so that their intricate weaves could be studied and analysed.  

But it was not until the introduction of the ‘Devon Loafa’ that certain characters interested in underground activities, other than those of a revolutionary nature, realised they could push further into the recesses of dark vaults as a direct result of the sturdy weave of the new kid on the head block. The Loafa had a thicker, more voluminous appearance and had been created by Abraham Snapcock whose shop was situated near the Inns of Court in London. From his premises he had observed that judges and their kind had taken to a peculiar sport, one that ‘took the form of fancy and elaborate gesticulations and head butting’ (Chap 874 of Snapcock’s Diary). He had initially mistaken these peculiar activities as the recognition rituals of a new secret society but having seen heavy wagers laid down on the cobbles he cottoned on to the fact that it was more a series of sporting events and had nothing to do, at least superficially, with the clandestine machinations of some back room anti-Catholic movement.

With an almost limitless number of wigs on sale none were sturdy enough to support such ‘uncivil behaviour’ so Snapcock decided to remedy the situation. After several minutes study he produced the test version of the wig that would eventually evolve into the ‘Thunderer’. At this stage it was simply called ‘Old heavy’ until it was christened the Devon Loafa by an itinerant Vicar from Barnstaple who narrowly escaped death when a weather vane, ‘struck me rudely about the head as if a vagabond were attempting to rummage in my vestments’, and missed braining the man of the cloth by a whisker.  

With caving not a pursuit to be seen in and around the streets of the capital the heavier wigs were adopted by those pursuing criminals. Footpads, cutpurses and those with equally low moral fibre often fell victim to a well-aimed wig launched from the hand of a practiced member of the King’s militia. During the Riot of Idioblastic Street many a miscreant Londoner was brought to book with the use of a ‘fair volley of head pieces thusly followed by explosive detonations of wig powder that besmirched the walls of the parish.’ (Quoted in Lamellibranch’s The Revolutionary Wigs of Britain, chapter 2).

William Eggy-Belch, a gentleman from Wells was a frequent visitor to London and on one such journey fell unceremoniously into Snapcock’s wig merchants after one too many libations in the Gasometer Arms a few doors down from the purveyor of flamboyant head gear. This in itself was a fortuitous happenstance because Eggy-Belch had earlier that day suffered at the hands of some jobbing actors who had ruffled his ‘Boston Hose Pipe’ in a badly executed rendition of Samuel Johnson’s The Metamorphic Aureole.   In need of a new wig Eggy-Belch had somehow found himself in the right place at roughly the right time.  Snapcock ushered his wig boy out into the storeroom to retrieve the latest fashions, one of which being of course, the Devon Loafa. Eggy-Belch took to the item with ‘ unreserved and unashamed gusto!’ He promptly bought eight on the spot.

Returning to Somerset Eggy-Belch handed out five of the wigs to his estate labourers who often complained of thick headaches after long sessions repairing the roof beams of sheds and barns. Headaches due in part to the ‘lack of a well sought ability in these rude mechanicals to avoid falling timbers thus loosed from the rafters of the buildings I had sent them to repair’. (Isaiah Titty, Memoirs of A Somerset Git, 1848).

It was in the Bulbous Whim, a now demolished Inn in Tucker Street, Wells, the site of which is interestingly enough now occupied by a purveyor of caving and camping equipment, that Eggy-Belch fell into derisory conversation with one Dr Catcott who was hobbling around the city after an unceremonious accident caused by a vigorous bout of country dancing in the parlour of his lodgings.  Catcott was abroad in the area investigating various orifices, cavities and caverns in the Mendip Hills for a book he was writing called ‘I Like Holes’. The Bristol Reverend was also having unending trouble with his own wig which as he said ‘ afforded me no comfort in any shape or form, being troublesome and nefarious to the point that I assumed it to be possessed by one of Satan’s noisome imps.’ The Dorset Fancy was soon to be cast aside by the wandering scholar in favour of the Devon Loafa, a welcome gift from Eggy-Belch.

Back in Bristol Catcott had the Loafa further enhanced by his favourite Wig merchants, Jonah Deleterious and Sons, (a site now occupied by a waste bin in Broadmead), who set about tightening up the weave and adding additional layers to the hair to give it extra protection. There was also a retractable thick wire pin on which a candle could be mounted allowing the explorer hands free illumination while the whole hair-piece itself was coated in a velveteen lacquer to keep it from ‘becoming bedecked with ferrous soils and fudgy particulates’. The ochreous wig was now a thing of the past.  The Loafa had become the Thunderer and it would be this overdeveloped wig that would take Catcott into the heart of the Mendips. 

During his descent of Loxton Cavern Catcott had further redesigned the Thunderer to accommodate a team of rescue marmosets, something he had read about in an Austrian Tabloid called ‘Der Richtig Flugel Knauf’ In the article rescuers in the Dachstein had used small primates, sporting a bag of boiled sweets around their necks, to search for lost explorers.  Catcott, ever at the cutting edge of exploring technology opted to utilise this system.  In ‘I Love Holes’ he describes having to remove his enormous wig due to heat and the constant chatter of tiny primates, ‘an irritant beyond the strength and fortitude of mortal ears’.

Other caving wigs of the period: The Utter Bastard, Overblown, The Nonsense, Fatty’s Nuisance, Rowsell’s Scaffold, The Priddy Monster, Dandruff Talus, The Doline, The Beer Soaked Flatulent, The Sump, Johnny Absorbent and the Nasty. 

Ref: Further popular wig names of the period (non caving, all genuine): The Artichoke, bag, barrister’s, bishop’s, brush, buckle, busby, bush (buzz), woodsman’s favourite, chain, chancellor’s, corded, Count Saxe’s mode, the crutch, the cut bob, the Dalmahoy (a bob wig worn by tradesmen), the detached buckle, the drop, the Dutch, the full, the half natural, the Jansenist bob, the Judge’s, the ladder, the long bob, the Louis, the pigeon’s wing, the rhinoceros, the rose, the scratch, the she-dragon, the small back, the spinach seed, the staircase, the Welsh, the wild boar’s back, the wolf’s paw.   

Annual Dinner

Arrangements by Nigel Taylor

1st October 2005

Venue to be announced

200 tickets available at about £22

Two coaches will leave the Belfry at 19.00 hrs

Further details later by circular to all members


Digging Behind the Belfry – the Discovery of Rose Cottage Cave

by Tony Jarratt

"The estimated time of breakthrough is constant at six months for the first year up to the abandonment of the dig"   -  Alfie's Digging Law

Preliminary survey of Rose Cottage Cave


     Many years ago Geoff Selway of Rose Cottage - our neighbour at the end of the Belfry drive - excavated a large, doughnut-shaped pit in the field behind the Shed, and on the line of the Priddy Pot Water leat, with the intention of creating a scenic pond complete with central island. The water for this was derived from the leat, having come from Fair Lady Well via the Belfry washing pond. For about three years the pond was a success and contained about 1.5m of water and a selection of ducks until, following a night of heavy rain, the lot disappeared down a hole in the NW corner - ducks excluded. It then remained generally dry until the rescue of November 13th 2002 after Vern Freeman peeled off in Maypole Series, St. Cuthbert's Swallet. In atrociously wet conditions the Wells unit of Somerset Fire Brigade, using two Coventry "Godiva" pumps, raised 2,500 litres of water per minute from Cuthbert's depression into the pond - now briefly resurrected! The pumping continued for over four hours  so at least 600,000 litres (132,000 gallons) were shifted and your scribe was very worried about possible flooding in the village. This didn't happen as all the water sank away, not to be seen again until its presumed reappearance at Wookey Hole.


The St. Cuthbert's Swallet report (Irwin 1991) states on p65 that the Coral Chamber stream is likely to be derived from the marshy ground to the west of the Belfry. A recent visit to Coral Chamber by Vern failed to find any evidence of the pumping operation so it is possible that there is some stream divergence in this area which only direct exploration will prove. Could the sinking water be the supply for the enigmatic Lake Chamber, either as the Coral stream or in a discrete conduit? If this cave is an ancient inlet to Cuthbert's it is likely to intercept the NW-SE Gour Lake fault, which forms the SW boundary of the cave, at around 60-70m depth and over 30m upstream from known passage. Vern, Pete Hellier, Paul Brock and Sean Howe are checking leads in Cuthbert's which head in this direction. A connection with Cuthbert's would add at least 300m to give the system a length of around 7,100m and an extra 8m or so depth making it some 153m deep. It would also provide a problem-free entrance for adventure centres, management training operatives, mineral collectors and frustrated Sump 2 diggers!

A further point of interest is the existence of a Roman lead mining settlement immediately to the north of the site (Williams 1998). It appears that some waste water from this operation would have sunk in this area.

Finally, the recent Unlucky Strike extensions in Eastwater Cavern (Rowsell 2004, Long 2005 and Rowsell 2005) reveal that this part of the system is trending towards the series of shallow depressions located between that cave and the dig. Could we have a potential Eastwater-Cuthbert's link or is it a separate, parallel system?

Digging Operations  10/10/04 - 10/1/05

With three of the Club digging projects finished or in abeyance it was time to look for a new project and thanks to Ivan Sandford permission was gained from Geoff to excavate this site.

Work commenced on the 10th October with some three tonnes of earth, clay and stones excavated by hand and bagged up. Two "rabbit holes" were followed down to bedrock at c. 2m depth. A further c. 3 tonnes were removed next day and a waterworn rift was followed down the dip of the pavement-like limestone floor. Tea was provided on site at this very civilized dig and has since been delivered from both the Belfry by Rob "Bobble" Lavington and from Glenview by Fiona Sandford. The 13th saw a Wednesday night team digging beneath powerful overhead lighting provided by Ivan and yet another c. 3 tonnes out. Two days later work continued and on the 18th a more interesting section of the floor rift was reached by tunnelling beneath the clay overburden. Unfortunately, a couple of days later, a major collapse was found to have occurred and it was realised how potentially dangerous the dig was. After much of this collapse was cleared a "board meeting" was held and a decision taken to backfill the hole and try again some 4m to the SW. Being fed up with manual labour we requested Nigel Taylor to have a go with his mini-digger, "Sampsone".

Nigel, and a large crowd of onlookers, turned up on the 7th November and with great finesse he excavated a 2m x 2m x 3m deep hole through the clay overburden to the bedrock. The following day he finished the job and tidied up. Our grateful thanks for this excellent piece of work. The clay sides were desperately in need of shoring and this was partly accomplished on the 10th by Gwilym Evans, Ben Ogbourne and helpers who used three old wooden doors and some wriggly tin to construct what appeared to be a sunken outside bog. Despite its rickety appearance it did the job and hand digging continued to reveal the top of a possible rift in the bedrock.

This rift began to take shape on the 17th when lumps of laminated calcite and large sandstone cobbles came out with the spoil. This gave cause for some enthusiasm as it was obvious that a large stream had once transported these cobbles to the site. Two days later this pleasant site was cursed, as usual, with the "Reverse Midas Touch" and digging became somewhat squalid. The Sunday afternoon of the 21st was spent by a team of four digging ankle deep in "baby shite" but very excited by the development of the rift into an obvious, steeply descending cave passage. The next week saw diggers on site every day and several metres of passage cleared of infill. A small airspace with a stalagmite coated

wall was revealed at one point but work became difficult due to the narrowness of the passage. This problem was resolved on the 29th when a five shothole charge was fired to enlarge the working space . It also resulted in a text message from an irate Fiona Sandford who was convinced that her kitchen would collapse! This could be a good indication of the direction of the potential passage. Rich Witcombe and Jake Baynes commenced work on the drystone base in readiness for concrete pipes being organized and delivered by Dave Speed.

December 1st; Fiona's kitchen was still in one piece but not so the rift walls. A large amount of broken rock was cleared and some surface tidying was done with more next day and a brief but energetic burst of work on the evening of the 3rd in preparation for the arrival of the pipes on the morrow.

Dave arrived promptly on the 4th with the three pipes on his tractor trailer and together with Rich, Jake B. and Phil Coles worked extremely hard on clearing the entrance and building up the drystone base upon which the pipes were emplaced by Alan Quantrill with the aid of a massive JCB. This was a magnificent, professional job which only took about three hours and was much admired by the onlookers (for the record it cost the Club £255 - a bargain).  Phil recorded the event on camera and some digging was later done underground.  (The great contribution of the A.T.L.A.S. digging team must be acknowledged at this point or we will never make Descent again...).

More photos were taken on the following day by Pete Glanvill. Some twenty loads of spoil came out including a large boulder hefted by MNRC caving sec. Darryl Instrum who was on his first dig. A two shothole charge was fired.

A strong Monday team on the 6th hauled out over thirty loads of broken rock and clay and yet more snaps were taken by Tony Audsley. The project instigator, Vern, arrived to assist and most of the surface spoil heaps were tidied up.

It was by now pretty obvious that we had an ongoing cave so the provisional name "Belfry Dig" was dropped and the site named after the adjacent cottage. Some considered this name to be a bit "twee" but the Two Nicks pointed out that "Rose Cottage" is apparently Weston General Hospital speak for mortuary and Chris Batstone assured us that it is also naval slang for pox clinic so we all felt better about it.

Banging and clearing trips continued daily from the 7th - 13th December, the last of these being a five shothole sequence charge laid by Charlie Adcock, the staggered acoustic effects of which much impressed the onlookers. Ambrose Buchanan operated a seismometer to measure the amount of noise - effectively zero. Thirty one skiploads of the resulting spoil were hauled out on the 15th and another charge fired in the LH wall/floor.

The clay and cobble filled sloping rift became more horizontal but was a bugger to dig due to the compacted nature of the fill. Banging and clearing trips continued on the 17th, 18th, 20th, 22nd and 23rd in a range of interesting weather conditions including very heavy rain (when the pond partially re-filled) and thick snow with frozen ground. On the last visit the writer and Charlie laid and fired an eight shothole charge which rippled the bathwater that Ivan was lying in at the time!

Work continued daily over the festive season with much spoil hauled out and one more bang until, on the 28th, the writer and Darryl opened up a small hole which draughted so strongly that it sounded like the wind on the surface above - indeed it may well be affected by the weather as was the draught in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink. On looking into the hole a low but superbly decorated grotto was revealed and we now definitely had a new Mendip cave. Excavation of possible by-passes to this grotto continued daily over the holiday. Having won the 2004 Digging Barrel competition we were in no rush to break in but, just to rub it in, a discovery on New Year's Day was hoped for. The surface was also tidied up and a drystone wall built SW of the entrance. Some of the leat water was diverted undergound in an effort to clean the place up. The final bang of the year took place on the 30th but, alas, January 1st came and went without the hoped for discovery.

A vast amount of work had been done though by many Club members and friends. Jake Baynes had opened up a mud and rock filled rift to the right of the grotto - now very dangerous due to poised boulders and to be strictly avoided. Duncan Butler learnt this having nearly received a broken neck from a fallen lump of heavy clay. There is a good chance that this collapse will "crown " through to the surface to reveal that this may be the original main entrance.

John "Tangent" Williams and others favoured engineering a route below the grotto while Paul Brock commenced a rival dig just below the entrance shaft. Bob Smith and Duncan did much useful surface work in clearing out the leat, damming the stream and constructing a breeze block bridge and stile. Several hundreds of skiploads of rock and mud were hauled out, John Noble, Nick Richards and Nick Harding working particularly hard at this onerous task. Ivan and Graham "Jake" Johnson made life easier by collecting the Barrow Rake Swallet dig tripod and winch and replacing the man-hauling system.

The 2nd and 3rd January saw charges fired at the end of Mt. Hindrance Lane (the entrance passage - named from a liberated Chard road sign left at the Belfry by a well-wisher) in an attempt to get under the grotto. The well-wisher was later revealed as 80 year old but eternally youthful Tony "Sett" Setterington. Paul's Personal Project also got a dose of 40 gramme cord.

The Club interest over the holiday period was so great that even Nigel Taylor and Pete Rose were seen underground and both Stuart McManus and Dave Irwin threatened to don their caving gear!!! Duncan, though, managed a drunken, pre-dawn trip without gear and got thoroughly soaked in the process as the introduced stream had flooded the cave to within 2m of the entrance shaft. He returned some twenty minutes later to find it had drained away. Delayed tsunami effects? This did indicate that the main way on was at a high level.  The convenience of the cave's location was emphasised when mugs of tea were again delivered to the diggers - this time by Jeff Price and underground!

It was noted that if the stream was piped into the NE end of the original dig it didn't appear in the known cave. If piped into the SW end it rapidly entered below the concrete pipes. Water sinking in the current shallow pond to the S of the entrance was also not met with but almost certainly will be (it was - see later). The general direction of the cave so far is 250 degrees - towards Fairlady Well Cottage.

Normality soon returned and on Wednesday 5th the bang spoil was cleared to reveal two narrow open rifts ahead. Another 100 or so skiploads were hauled out. Next day the rock barrier between these rifts was banged and Paul continued with his Project. The 7th, 8th and 9th were also clearing and banging days with Fiona Crozier starring as lead groveller and using up some of her boundless enthusiasm and limitless supply of "Wicked"s. During this weekend a view had been gained into open, man-sized passage some 2m below the grotto and hurling a powerful wind into the diggers' faces.

The First Breakthrough 10/1/05 - 18/1/05

The "Monday Club" team - today comprising Fiona, Jake B, Phil, Vern, Rich W, Ivan and the writer, with observers John Noble and Tony Audsley - assembled for the guaranteed breakthrough on the morning of the 10th January.

While 15 loads of spoil headed for the surface Fiona and your scribe cleared the bang debris and crept through into a small chamber formed in a heavily calcited boulder choke situated behind the grotto. In one place what at first appeared to be a curiously regular line of helictites is actually the remains of an eroded stal. curtain. To the south a less calcited section of the choke was entered to reach a boulder blocked rift in the floor. The stream was diverted into the cave and observed to sink in gravel below the grotto but could then be heard flowing away in the depths of the rift. After everyone had visited the 10m or so of new passage a three shothole charge was fired on the largest boulder blocking this rift. The explorers retired to the Hunters' to both celebrate and drown their disappointment at the meagreness of today's find but being Mendip diggers should have known better anyway! Later that day Paul and Bobble found the banged boulder in pieces but now blocking the rift further down. A brief visit next day by Ivan and the writer confirmed their findings and provided an opportunity to plan the next operation.

An eleven strong Wednesday night team removed some 70 loads on 12th January and cleared out much of the entrance passage. Two rocks in the choked terminal "rift" were drilled and banged in order to gain access to a draughting and calcited hole in the floor visible beyond. One of the slabs of rock brought out from this area was observed by Tangent to

be scored by slickensides and this may indicate that we have reached the north-westerly extension of the Gour Lake Fault. The heavily waterworn and overhanging NE side of the ongoing passage is opposed by equally waterworn massive boulders with much evidence of plentiful ancient stream deposits in the form of rounded sandstone cobbles and pea gravel. An original swallet entrance to the NW is postulated - perhaps taking the forerunner of the Eastwater stream long before the present Eastwater Cavern was developed.

The 14th saw Jake B. and Paul competing to make the entrance passage into an Eastwater Traverse lookalike by excavating the floor of the rift while your scribe blew up more boulders at the end. The floor of Paul's dig was also modified to give more working space.

Lots of spoil was shifted from the end on the 15th and a short length of open passage entered - unfortunately completely choked and not large enough to turn round in. A head-sized sandstone cobble was recovered from this area for display in the Belfry. Fluorescein, put into the stream sinking at the original dig, was not seen in Lake Chamber, St. Cuthbert's by either Vince Simmonds (three hours later) or Graham Johnson (one day later).

The 16th saw a strong team getting about 80 loads to surface and clearing out most of the cave and this work continued the following day when a great deal of rock was removed from the boulder choke. 27 loads were hauled out by Tony A. and Ray Deasy got his annual "nip over from Queensland" digging trip in!. Both Jake B. and the writer opened up side passages on the RH side which gave views into the same open passage - both being blocked by immoveable slabs. A tiny stream entered from a passage on the LH side and the noise of a larger stream below indicated that we were about to regain the water from the original dig on its way to regions unknown. A higher level route through the choke could also be seen but again was boulder-blocked. A return was made in the afternoon to drill and bang a total of six obstructive "Henrys".

The Second Breakthrough  18/1/05 - 30/1/05

Desperate to see the results of this bang your scribe returned after work on the 18th and after an hour spent clearing broken rock from the two RH digs was able to wriggle between boulders in the furthest one and enter a roomy section of passage. His impression was of being at the head of a large and steeply dipping, seriously waterworn canyon but well choked with precarious and very spiky boulders. The similarity to Eastwater is marked but the stability seems far worse! Some rearranging of the ruckle was done before a tactical retreat was made for a celebratory pint, clutching a sandstone cobble with a very fine fossil imprint. This extension was only some 5m but the potential of the cave had now increased enormously - as had the problems of exploring it... Several of the team visited the extension on the following evening but despite a good poking about were unable to get much further. Digging continued in P.P.P. and another 47 loads were hauled out.  The fossil-bearing cobble caused much bemusement in the Pub as it seems it should not exist! Luckily Jim Hanwell thought otherwise and tentatively identified the cobble as being a fine grained sandstone from the upper end of the Old Red Sandstone (near the contact with the Carboniferous limestone) and the fossil as a possible strophomenid (Brachiopod).  This is a rare and relatively important find. Dr. Willy Stanton thought otherwise and suggested it was weathered chert from the Jurassic Harptree beds with a variety of "cockle". Geologists from the Shepton Mallet C.C. favour the sandstone theory.

Ivan and the writer were back at the choke on the 21st and after a couple of hours of very selective boulder bashing were able to gain a view into ongoing passage. The relatively stable LH wall was banged the next day and the spoil cleared on the 23rd when the way on was entered but found to rapidly choke and will need more bang. A rare underground sighting of Chris Batstone was the highlight of the day!

Interest was then transferred to the stream sink below the grotto with 40 loads coming out on the 24th and various draughting holes appearing in the floor. Digging was curtailed when a very large rock slab, unknowingly undermined by the writer, slid onto him (like they do) necessitating removal by Jake B. and Tony Boycott. He was miraculously unharmed and got his own back by blowing the rock to bits and returning in the afternoon with the late Martin Bishop and Phil Romford to clear it. The latter also studied the cave geomorphology and removed cobble samples for identification. Work continued here and at Paul's Personal Project on the 26th when 53 loads came out and more boulders were banged with another 14 loads out two days later. The crawl below the grotto became awkward for skip hauling so was blasted on the 30th when another 56 loads came out.

Further  Digging  1/2/05 - 4/3/05

Throughout February the team worked hard on both Paul's Personal Project and the Grotto dig. Well over 212 loads of spoil were hauled out as, apparently, was Phil Coles - though in the Belfry Log Book he fervently denies this! Paul almost  had to be regularly hauled out as his steeply dipping dig went vertical. He has started a "J.Rat's Pump Fan Club". Sean recorded all this with his digital camera and the excellent results can be seen on his web page. A slump of the infill around the concrete pipes caused a few problems but was later made good.

March 1st saw Paul and his Makita breaking up stubborn rock at the bottom of his dig. 42 loads were hauled out and next day Jake B. started a new dig at the junction near the terminal choke dig. He was to hit the jackpot.....

The  Third  Breakthrough 5/3/05  - 15/3/05

On the 5th he returned with Tom Clayton (Birmingham U.S.S.) and Phil C. to continue work at what became known as Dig 2b. Some lengthy and dedicated digging brought them to open voids between dodgy boulders, one of which actually pivoted when touched (a great feature but now dropped for safety). Tom got the short stick and pushed on down into standing sized passage with superb formations in abundance. Jake joined him and they explored some 20m to a too

tight calcited slot. A large column-topped stal. boss, a very long straw and many helictites were only some of the stunning "pretties" in Aglarond (a Tolkienesque Elvish word meaning "glittering caves"). To quote Jake: "The best caving trip for me so far. Tom and I were first in ever in human history - or any history. FANTASTIC". Pete, John N. and Phil C. visited this wondrous extension next day in an attempt to pass the squeeze - knowing full well that your skinny scribe was returning from Meghalaya that day. Alas, they failed and the writer duly took up the challenge on the 7th when, honed to pushing perfection by three weeks of constant hard caving and a rice diet, he easily slid through into another 10m of even more well decorated passage (Aglarond II) ending in another impassable slot but with a bigger open void ahead from whence issued the sound of the stream. Ivan photographed Aglarond I and most of the formations were taped off.

The following evening a steel mesh was bolted in place near the squeeze to protect adjacent vulnerable formations. Unfortunately in the process the longest straw got broken but may be repairable. The squeeze was enlarged with Paul's 110 volt Makita hammer drill and the next calcite barrier attacked with same to get a good view into roomy and well decorated passage beyond. Ivan photographed Aglarond II.

On the 9th much of the cave was cleared of spoil - over 120 loads reaching the surface where Ivan built a dam to divert the sinking stream into the pond. A drystone retaining wall was built by Jake and team above  the latest breakthrough point and the writer continued chiselling at the end until the chisel bit snapped in two (sorry Paul). A return was made on the 11th March when almost three hours of "micro-blasting" - using single detonators and 3mm and 5mm detonating cord failed to fully open up the slot. Clearing took place on the 12th when several diggers visited the cave throughout the day. Red drain dye poured into the surface collapse sink at 8.15am was not seen in Coral Stream, St. Cuthberts three hours later and Vern also reported that at 1pm Lake Chamber was also uncoloured.

Water problems in the cave were hopefully solved on the 13th when Ivan and Bobble constructed a valved dam on the course of the Fair Lady Well stream and diverted it into the St. Cuthbert's depression. Alex Livingston and John N. widened the breakthrough squeeze to enable the more portly diggers  to reach the end.

Much micro-blasting experimentation was done at the end next morning and at the entrance Rich W. started walling up the rift below the concrete pipes. In the afternoon Ivan and the writer returned for another excruciating four hours of rock-breaking ending in frustration and the laying of a 40gm charge. The diggers vowed to look up the Elvish for "Bastard". Totally convinced that the squeeze was now wide open they returned the following evening for yet another two hours of cramped misery followed by a "final" bang. At least, the lower half of your scribe had been into Aglarond III but the upper half decided not to push his luck. Rich, meanwhile, continued with his walling project before a visit to the working face where he compared the formations with those in Charterhouse Warren Farm Swallet.

The Fourth Breakthrough  16/3/05 - 2/4/05.

Wednesday 16th March at last saw the squeeze passed after more chiselling. Once through the writer was able to assist from the far side with further enlargement enabling Ivan to join him an hour later. Aglarond III consists of a sloping "bedding chamber" some 5m wide, 1m high and 10m deep with a flowstone floor, hundreds of straws, helictites, curtains and many other formations. A tiny streamway at the bottom becomes too small and is blocked with straws while above it a tall, rift-like feature may be the best way on but is almost completely blocked by pure white columns and other formations. The extension was photographed and taped. The bruised and battered explorers returned to Ben "fatarse" Ogbourne in Aglarond II for celebratory, or in this case commiseratory, Champagne before heading out with the redundant drill and assorted rubbish. Meanwhile Pete, Phil and Jake hauled out 70 loads of spoil and one newt from the Grotto Dig area thereby tidying the place up ready for a renewed assault in an attempt to bypass the Aglarond chokes. The draught at this point is noticeably much stronger than at the current end.

Work recommenced here on the 19th March when a boulder in the floor was banged and cleared on the morrow allowing entry into some 4m of clean-washed boulder choke with a voice connection through to the head of the climb down to Aglarond. Further work in this part of the choke would be pointless and dangerous. Also on this trip Sean photographed Aglarond I and II using Alys and John N. as models.

The morning of Monday the 21st saw Rich W. completing one side of his cemented entrance wall and much tidying up on the surface. The return of "Madphil" Rowsell from Tasmania prompted the long delayed survey of the cave on the 23rd when the first task was to traverse from the St. Cuthbert's entrance pipe to that of Rose Cottage with the intention of continuing on to Eastwater in future. The cave itself was surveyed from Aglarond III to the entrance and a Lexica DISCO laser distance meter was used instead of a tape to take side legs in the areas of vulnerable formations. A total of 61m length and 29m depth was recorded - not as long as estimated but a good start for the next Digging Barrel! Meanwhile Paul's Personal Project kept the vociferous diggers amused and 41 loads were dug out and dumped. Two days later Paul returned to dig alone in peace and quiet while the surveyors continued the surface traverse to Eastwater Cavern. 65 loads came out during the next few days and other work included the completion of the entrance walling and digging and blasting in the Terminal Choke Dig where a couple of metres progress was made at high level. Further work here is following the dip of the waterworn limestone into the floor. Paul's dig was also enlarged with explosives to create more working space.

Further Digging 2/4/05 - 20/6/05.    

April commenced with 49 loads of spoil out over two days and lots of digging at both Paul's Personal Project and the Terminal Choke Dig. On the 4th Rich drystone walled the NE face of the Grotto Dig and most of the redundant steel shoring was removed. Further work was carried out in P.P.P. and a wire ladder installed to aid exit. The 5th and 6th saw more work here and another 53 loads out with a spate of showery weather making conditions below a trifle damp. Another 39 loads came out on the 10th and 11th, a good percentage of this being bang debris from blasted out roof pendants whose removal was necessary to create working space in the rapidly dwindling phreatic bedding plane. During the following week 55 loads came out and several blasting trips took place to remove a stubborn bed of hard limestone which bisected two of the three diggable phreatic tubes in P.P.P. Much tidying of the surface was also done. Another bang in the central phreatic tube on the 16th was later cleared of 33 loads of spoil by the able-bodied diggers while your scribe was reduced to the role of dig historian following an unfortunate incident involving tap-dancing officianado Mike Willet, several libations, a pair of steel-shod Lancashire clogs and a flagstone kitchen floor. This mix resulted in a fractured fibula and much frustration.

Thirteen more loads came out of P.P.P. on the 27th when Paul reported the phreatic tubes to be looking more promising after the limestone bridge had partially gone. A spell of wet weather and the necessity of flushing out the squalor in this dig caused some ponding problems and so, on the 4th May, Pete commenced a new dig in the small boulder chamber at the lowest accessible part of the main choke before Aglarond 1. To avoid the confusion of a numbering system "Pete's Baby" is proposed as the name for this site ("I don't know what it's called - it's Pete's baby" - Sean ). 16 loads of spoil went all the way from here to the surface due to the presence of eight keen and efficient diggers.

Thanks to the much appreciated assistance of Stu Sale the writer was able to abseil down to P.P.P. on the 9th of May to drill two long shotholes in the LH wall of the upper phreatic tube and lay a 40gm cord charge. This was later noisily fired from the surface following a delicate prusik out. SRT digging comes to Mendip. Two days later 20 loads and two newts were hauled out from this site, mainly from the two lower tubes. Paul filled ten skips on the 13th providing space for Tony Boycott to drill and bang the limestone bridge in the middle tube a couple of days later. On this trip the writer started clearing the upper tube and continued this next day while Tony Audsley bagged the middle tube bang debris. Another charge was then fired in the latter. A strong Wednesday night team cleared 64 loads from this area on the 18th May and did a modicum of work in Pete's Baby.

A week later 18 more loads were hauled out with another 40 removed on the 29th when superb bank holiday weather lured a large team of diggers and onlookers to the site. June 1st saw 19 loads (and a newt) reaching the surface following much spoil breaking by Paul and Ben in the middle tube during which they opened up a tiny airspace with some mini-formations. Pete then drilled two holes in a floor slab and the writer charged these with 40gm cord. A resounding bang heralded the removal of the slab (and the mini-formations!). Sean, alas, was the next regular digger to suffer enforced retirement having been bitten by a possibly rabid Spanish mugger while enjoying a dirty weekend in Barcelona. This resulted in a plastered arm and an even better excuse to avoid winching than the writer's! The bang spoil was removed on the 5th June when another 12 skiploads came out from the rapidly enlarging middle tube - sometimes affectionately referred to as "Bored of the Rings". The diggers were eventually driven out by headaches attributable to both bang and booze.

On June 6th the upper tube was dug separately by both the writer and Alex and more work here was done by Paul next day when he pumped out the middle tube with a smaller submersible electric pump. This allowed 40 loads of spoil to come out on the 8th when reports from the working face indicated easy digging and loading conditions. Paul dug solo again on the 11th resulting in 43 loads coming out next day when, towards the end of the session, John opened up a draughting hole with open passage visible beyond. Exultation soon turned to disappointment when it was realised that this passage had already been entered from Mt. Hindrance Lane above - Bored of the Rings having popped out in the floor below the first grotto to create a short but entertaining round trip! Fortunately there was also ongoing, diggable passage to the right of the connection where water apparently sinks. More work was done here on the 13th by Alex and the writer on separate solo trips.

The opening up of the connection continued on Wednesday 15th June with digging in B.o.t.R. and digging/rock breaking below the grotto. 40 skiploads of spoil eventually reached the surface despite a poor turnout of regulars. An obstructive rock slab on the grotto side of the link was banged next day and several skips filled. The bang debris was cleared by Paul two days later when many skips and bags were filled at both ends of the loop and the "round trip" was eventually completed by Fiona and the writer. The latter two continued digging and stacking full bags on the 19th. A healthy 80 loads were removed on the 20th June and work continues following the now vertical floor of B.o.t.R. down the side of the main choke.

The Digging Team and Acknowledgements

Just about everyone who visits the Belfry has been involved at some point. In addition to those mentioned above other stalwarts are Andy Smith, Ben Selway, Jack Lambert, Lee Stackett, Graham, Chrissie and Sam Price (CerSS), Luke Baynes, Greg Brock, Justine Emery (CSS), Martin Smith (OSCG), Rich Gulvin, Dave Sutherland, Ian Barker and Mark Craske (all MNRC), Ros White, Alys Mendus (SUSS), Mike Willet, Martin Grass, Alan Gray (ACG), Martin Peters, Steve Chitty, Jason Wilkes, John Walsh, Mark "Shaggy" Howden, Martin Ellis (SMCC), John Christie.

Our grateful thanks to Geoff and Carol Selway, Ivan and Fiona Sandford, Nigel Taylor and Dave Speed for services beyond the call of duty. Alan Quantrill for expert JCB manipulation, the BEC committee, John Sheppey (Somerset Fire Brigade), the Wig - for thought-provoking theories, Sett, Alfie Collins for his quote, Jim Hanwell, Willy Stanton and assorted geologists for cobble identification, Chris Binding (CheddarCC / CSCC) for conservation tape and the loan of a laser distancemeter.


IRWIN D.J. et al 1991 St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Bristol Exploration Club

WILLIAMS R.J.G. 1998  The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society. 21(2). p.123-132.

ROWSELL P. (Madphil) 2004 The trials and tribulations of Eastwater. Belfry Bulletin No.519, Bristol Exploration Club. 53(5). p.9-20.

LONG R.  2005  Mel-low digs and Russian Woman Hands. Belfry Bulletin No.521, Bristol Exploration Club, 54. (1).pp18-21.        

ROWSELL P. (Madphil) 2005 Morton’s Pot – the final solution. Belfry Bulletin No.522, Bristol Exploration Club, 54(2).pp18-21





The Rise and Fall of the B.E.C. Membership (1943-2004)

By Andy MacGregor

EXPANSION – 1943 to 1951

The members who existed in September 1943 numbered 14 as one might well expect in the middle of the war. In contrast, their staying power was better than average which, again, one might expect from those people who effectively started the club going again.  Much the same remained true of the 1944 (18 members) and the 1945 (17 members) batches.

Thus, by the end of the war, the total number of club members was 47 as 5 had left, but their staying power meant that losses from these groups would be low in future years, and would thus help to keep numbers up.  Members who are still seen from time to time from these batches include Harry Stanbury (Number 1) and Bob Bagshaw (Number 20).

In 1946, with the war now over, new members started to arrive in large numbers. Some were friends of B.E.C. members who had been in the forces with them and who were now demobbed. Others had been students during the war. 'Sett' (Number 78) is an example of the latter group.  Although the staying power of the 1946 batch was only average, its large number of new members, plus the low loss batches, pushed the total up.  By the end of 1946 we had 69 members, only 15 had left from the list started in 1943.

From 1947 to 1950, an even greater expansion occurred.  Very large numbers of new members joined in each of these years.  The membership by the end of 1950 was 129.  Among this ‘intake’ of new members were a number of well known personalities including Pat Ifold (number 150); Jill Tuck (number 157); Norman Petty (number 160) and Roy Bennett (number 214).  Derek Targett's father - Fred Targett - was also a member at about this time.

BAD PATCH……(1951 to 1957)

In contrast with the expansion shown above, the club actually - and steadily - DECREASED in size from 1951 to 1957.  At the start of this bad patch, the club had 129 members, while at the end of the bad patch, it had sunk to 116.  The decrease in membership was simply due to the fact that greater than average losses occurred in nearly every year.  In other words, members suddenly began to leave the club earlier than one might expect, and this did not depend on how long they had been members.  For some reason, the club had stopped keeping its members happy - old and young alike.

In 1953, the club discovered a major Mendip cave right on its own doorstep AND negotiated an access agreement which, in those days, virtually meant that any caver who wanted to explore Cuthbert’s regularly had to be a member of B.E.C.  One might reasonably expect that this would have given membership a boost, but IT HAD NOT THE SLIGHTEST EFFECT.  Indeed, the year following the discovery of Cuthbert’s was the worst of the whole period.


In the five years from 1957 to 1962, the club quite suddenly and dramatically expanded again at a rate nearly equal to its post-war growth.  From a situation in which the club seemed to have saturated at just over a hundred members it suddenly leaped into a position where it had nearly twice that number of members.  All this happened without any external factors like the ending of the war to account for the large growth.  It is thus a very remarkable occurrence.  At the end of 1962 we had 189 members.  After 1962, the increase levelled off.

What happened in 1951 which suddenly caused members to be less satisfied with the club, and what else happened (or what stopped happening) in 1957 which so dramatically reversed this trend?

In 1951, Harry Stanbury - the founder of the B.E.C. and the then current Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer, resigned from the club committee and all his offices.  Dan Hassell also resigned at B.B. Editor. Reading the B.B. before this date will show that it contained a great deal of news of club members and of social and other events on Mendip as well as caving news.  In other words, the B.B. formed a strong link between the club on Mendip and in Bristol and those members who could only appear at infrequent intervals.  Members thus tended to hang on to their membership so that they could find out what their friends were doing and what was going on 'on the hill'.

After Harry's resignation, his posts as Hon. Sec. and Hon. Treasurer were ably filled by the (then) young Bob Bagshaw.  The B.B. proved more difficult to get anyone to take on and for a year or so it was actually run from London by Don Coase and John Shorthose.  Even when Harry was persuaded to come back and edit it again, it was not the same. As Secretary, he had previously run features like 'From the Hon. Sec's Postbag' - which he could no longer write. Even members addresses were not published over most of the period 1951 to 1957.

In 1957, the B.B. was handed over by the A.G.M. to a group of active club members who produced most of the 'chat' which members said they missed and also gave the B.B. a facelift.


The period of time covered by this part is that stretching from 1962 to 1985.  This is the longest stretch covered in our review.

If you look at the graph which should have appeared in the preceding BB and can be seen below, it appears to reveal a very slowly growing club until this period, when the membership numbers hovered around the 200 mark, which when all said and done, should have remained around that figure.

The sudden boost in 1989 is due to a sudden increase of 30 new members with an average decrease. Most years previously we had an increase/decrease of approximately 17 members annually.  In 1990 the annual new members dripped back to the average of 17 with hardly any members leaving.  In 1992 we see the opposite and by 1993, the membership is back to around the 200 mark.

From 1993 to the present day we see a decline to 130 members for 2004.

The drop in 2003 can be explained by the fact that all life members were contacted to see if any of them were still around, and a few were either not interested in keeping up with the club, or had vanished.

Could the drop from 2001 to the present day be the same as for the drop from 1951 to 1957, which was attributed to the lack of a regular appearance of the BB or when it did appear, there was not much news about people and any new discoveries?

The drop from the peak of 1991 to 2001 can be attributed to the steady decline in this country of people wanting to go caving, coupled with the fact that the finding of new caves has become increasingly scarce/difficult.

2001 did not help with the Foot and mouth epidemic, in which many country side sports suffered and never recovered to the previous membership numbers.

If the BEC wishes to keep at least on a steady level of membership, the BB needs to be at least issued bi-monthly in order to keep the non-Bristol area members interested. [Any comments ? – Ed]



A note from Mike Wilson,      Hon. Treasurer

As you all should know by now we [the club] have been trying to set up an insurance scheme with the BCRA and all other clubs to remedy the fact that the old insurance company just ran away from us .

Last year was a bit messy but now the system has settled down and we all anticipate that it will run for many years to come .

As far as the BEC is concerned there are no problems. The extra cost is not excessive and the coverage remains the same as before [I keep a copy of the policy if anyone wishes to check it out].

With regard to payment it is vital that everyone pays their dues before the end of January so that we can submit a list of insured members to the BCA. Anyone paying late will make it very difficult for us, as the list has to be submitted at the latest by the date above. This system is far superior to the earlier one as each member is listed  and logged to be either insured for caving activities, or insured with another club, the people who have not requested insurance are not covered  for any caves requiring permits in the UK or abroad, digging activities on private land, or operating as guides or cave leaders. THIS MEANS ALL CUTHBERT’S LEADERS MUST HAVE  THE BCA INSURANCE !!!!.

Anyone who is a probationary member or has joined in the middle of the Club year can, if they wish, pay a proportionate sum to be insured i.e. 6 months into the club year 50% of the premium.

The BCA Policy is available on the net at , for anyone who wishes to keep a copy for landowners etc.

We would like next years subs payment, [due next Oct /Jan 2006]  to include the insurance payment if required, at this moment in time the BCA state that the cost should be the same  i.e. £15.00 on top of the normal subs .This would assist Fiona and myself as we have to sort out the membership forms and pay the premium by the end of January.

Please note that you are covered for worldwide caving activities but not USA and CANADA. Also this is not a travel policy IT DOES NOT COVER MEDICAL EXPENSES OR RESCUE!!!!!!!! The indemnity limit is £2,000,000 and there is an excess for any claim. At the time of writing it is £2.500 .for normal caving incidents. I hope that this helps everyone understand fully the extent of cover which has been a bit vague in the past. 


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Digging Update

By Tony Jarratt

Continued from BB 519

July 4th saw a tidying up trip to Slop 3 where recent heavy showers had raised the water level over a metre. A steep slope was created from the spoil dump at the bottom of Pewter Pot to the current pool surface.

Next day a 15 shothole charge - using 12/100gm detonating cord - was fired at Stillage Sump. It was noted that the recent rains had caused water to flow into Hangover Hall via the squeeze located some 2m above stream level - possibly due to an inwashed 25 litre plastic drum blocking the lower passage. Our next clearing trip here was on the 12th when an eight shothole charge was fired. An identical charge was fired on the 14th and cleared on the 18th when Duncan Butler and the writer came out from the sump by "braille", both of their lamps having failed at the same time. Next day a thirteen shothole charge was fired and this was partially cleared on the 21st when nine holes were drilled and the four diggers got a dose of "bang head" from residual fumes. Five of these holes were charged with 100gm cord on the 26th and noisily fired.

The previous day more clearing work was done at Slop 3 where much higher water levels prevented forward progress - by August 1st there was only a slight drop here so no digging was done. A possible high level passage above some fine formations halfway along Barmaids' Bedrooms was investigated but was found to be calcite choked.

The 28th July saw another banging/clearing session at Stillage Sump when the remaining four holes were utilised and the spoil was cleared on the 2nd August when visiting Hungarian caver and au pair Andi Vajdics worked hard in the doubtful air conditions. As a reward she was taken to see the bone deposit where a calcite coated bison molar was recovered for future scientific investigation - H.L.I.S.47. More clearing of the sump floor was done on the 4th. The water level at Slop 3 was still too high on the 9th so the writer probed the two dry dig sites beyond the bone deposit. Both were found to require banging to gain access to possible open passages beyond. This was accomplished on Wednesday the 11th August when a large team, diverted from other dig sites by heavy rain, assembled at the spot. The debris from both bangs was cleared on the 13th and the higher site found to soon close down in a massive boulder choke. The lower passage looked more promising and so another charge was fired here to knock off a corner. Escaping the horrors of Priddy Fair a small team returned on the 18th to push this to a boulder blockage where a large bison(?) vertebra was found. It was decided that due to lack of space and the size of the choke more thorough investigation of the area should be done before further banging.

August 15th saw a nine hole bang at Stillage Sump and some preliminary geomorphological investigation by Toby Maddocks (U.B.S.S.). Clearing, spoil stacking, drilling and banging continued on August 23rd with a surprisingly large Monday morning team who all got damp on the way out due to heavy rain. Three more trips this month resulted in over forty bags of spoil being dug from the sump floor and the survey of Old Peculier Aven completed. Another dozen loads were excavated on September 1st and ten more on the 6th when the sump walls were widened by blasting and the calcited ceiling choke banged on the suggestion of Vince Simmonds. The cave booze theme has transformed this into Simond's Choke after the famous, defunct brewery.

A spell of fine, dry weather caused the water level in Slop 3 to drop several feet and further work was done here on September 8th along with tidying up digs at both ends of B.B. and the discovery of a superbly preserved reindeer (?) tooth. It was noted on this trip that the long stalactite in Happy Hour Highway, painstakingly mended by Messrs Glanvill & Rose, had been once again partly smashed off by an unthinking and incompetent visitor. In this case it is known to have been broken on a Wessex tourist trip - as was its even longer companion destroyed some months ago. There are no plans to mend these formations but there are definite changes in access procedure being considered.

A large turnout on the 15th saw lots of spoil from S.S. dumped in the rapidly filling Hangover Hall and some small progress at the end. Four days later the dam was reinforced with concrete and a new wall of "deads" commenced above it. More digging was done in the choke which was left to "dig itself". This continued next day with the aid of a 2m steel rod until discretion proved the better part of valour and a retreat was made. A little more work was done here on the 22nd but it was judged to be too dangerous to continue without banging a boulder acting like a plug in a giant egg-timer. This was done two days later when a dozen tiny toads were rescued and added to the rapidly expanding community in Andy and Pams' pond. Sixteen more came out on the 27th - the day the choke was passed after some decidedly adrenalin producing digging. Unfortunately, after a couple of metres, this promising site turned into a massive choke of calcited boulders with no feasible way on. The last dig of September, on the 29th, removed all the fallen spoil from the choke and a few more loads from the sump floor. There was now not only a lack of air but also of enthusiasm. After many months of hard and exasperating work this area may now be abandoned, at least for the winter.

A tourist/conservation trip on October 1st saw yellow plastic tent pegs emplaced to emphasise the formation tape.

On the day after the club dinner an enthusiastic Fiona Crozier dived in both Hair of the Dog Sump and Slop 3 as a training exercise. Although, in the latter, she was unable to get under the "downstream" lip she was inspired to return next day with the writer as surface controller. She spent over fifteen minutes digging underwater and intends to continue this project as there is now no way that this sump will drain this year. On this trip a stream was actually flowing down Pewter Pot. Her co-diver from Leeds, Debbie Feeney, unfortunately lost a contact lens on the way down Pub Crawl and aborted her trip.

A tourist trip to Pewter Pot on October 6th found Slop 1 to be sumped and thus Hair of the Dog and Broon Ale Boulevard inaccessible and others on the 11th and 25th proved this to still be the case. On this latter trip Guy Munnings and the writer were almost caught out at RRR by the very sudden appearance of a "Swildon's-size" stream. Many of the team now turned their attentions to the new surface dig behind the Belfry with a brief session for some at Rana Hole in Sutherland. On November 3rd all the 110v cables, the bang wire and the pump were laboriously removed from the cave and the twenty-odd 25 litre drums transported from RRR to HHH as the lower levels were abandoned for the winter.

A Wessex tourist party informed the writer that BBB had become inaccessible due to a large slab having slid into the Slop 1 crawl from the RH wall. This problem will be resolved this summer.


Dr. Tom Higham of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit reported that the Bison priscus bone sent to Oxford for radiocarbon dating had been proven to be over 55,000 years old. Dr. Roger Jacobi identified and returned HLIS 47 (Bison priscus - right M2) and HLIS 48 (Rangifer tarandus - right M1/M2). Tangent gave a short lecture on the cave at the "Mendip Hills AONB Strategy for the Historic Environment Seminar" held at Ubley on 23rd October.

More diggers and acknowledgements.

Duncan Butler (Newbury & District C.C./B.E.C.), Frome Caving Club (donation to the Bang Fund), Dr. Tom Higham (Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit), Lee Stackett, Bob "Bobble" Lavington, Andrea "Andi" Vajdics (Papp Ferenc Barlangkutato Csoport - Hungary), Toby Maddocks (U.B.S.S.), John Noble, George Cheshire (Bradford P.C.), Vanessa and Sean Hedley, Emily Davis (Helderberg Hudson Grotto, N.S.S., U.S.A.), Nick Gymer, Kev Gurner, Debbie Feeney, Mike and Ruth Merrett (SMCC).


Meghalaya 2005 - Discoveries in the Jaintia and West Khasi Hills

By : Tony Jarratt


BB 516 and 519. G.S.G. bulletins, fourth series, vol 1 nos. 4 and 5, vol 2 no. 2. Meghalaya Adventurers' Association (soft bound history of MAA and overview of Meghalayan caving available from BEC and GSG libraries)

Personnel :

UK - Simon Brooks (OCC/GSG), Tony Jarratt (BEC/GSG), Mark Brown (SUSS), Tony Boycott (BEC/GSG/UBSS), Jayne Stead (GSG), Fraser Simpson (GSG), Graham Marshall (GSG), Dan Harries (GSG), Joanne Whistler (OUCC), Lesley Yuen (OCC). Eire - Brian MacCoitir, Robin Sheen, Quentin Cooper (all BC). Austria - Peter Ludwig (LVHOO). Germany - Georg Baumler (HHVL), Christian Fischer (AHKG), Rainer Hoss (HFGN), Christine and Herbert Jantschke (HFGOK), Thilo Muller (AHKG). Switzerland - Thomas Arbenz (SNT), Julien Oppliger (SCI), India - Brian Kharpran Daly (MA/GSG), Gregory Diengdoh, Shelley Diengdoh, Dale Mawlong, Teddy Mawlong. Ronnie Mawlong, Sheppard Najier and others (all MA), Raplang Shangpliang (Shnongrim guide turned caver!), Pradeep Gogoi and his film team ( Assam).

     Adison "Adi" Thaba (camp manager/driver), Bung Diengdoh (driver/organizer), David Kimberly Marak (driver/organizer), Shamphang Lyngdoh (driver/cook/betel addict), Vinod Sunar, Alam "Munna" Khan (cook), Myrkassim Swer (head cook), Bhaikon Hazarika, Pulin Bara, Kamal Pradhan (cooking assistants), Mr. Sukhlain (Doloi or "king" of Nongkhlieh Elaka), Carlyn Phyrngap (were-tiger), Pa Heh Pajuh, Menda Syih, Shartis Dkhar, Heipormi Pajuh, Evermore Sukhlain, Moses A. Marak, Ramhouplien Tuolor, Boren G. Momin, Roilian Nampui, (village headmen, guides and local characters), Grewin R. Marak, Blaster Jana, Tobias Syiem, Mr. Roy (Meghalaya Police), Pambina A. Marak, Josbina N. Marak (cooking assistants).

     The BEC/GSG contingent - Dr.B., your scribe, Fraser and Graham - flew from Heathrow to Kolkata (nee Calcutta) on the 3rd February to meet the holiday-making Jayne at the ever popular Fairlawn Hotel where our first Indian beers were gratefully quaffed. On the following day's internal flight to Guwahati the soft southerners were upgraded to Club Class and the heathen Scots left in the back with the plebs. Obviously offended by this they mutinied in Assam and buggered off to the heavy snow and street gunfighting of Darjeeling for a relaxing few days. The Mendippers continued by taxi to Shillong to meet Brian K.D. and family and the first wave of our cosmopolitan colleagues. Beer once again featured strongly in the evening's programme.

Jaintia Hills

After a day in the city sorting equipment and shopping we all left for the Jaintia Hills on the 7th arriving at our superb bamboo camp in the late afternoon. Here we were welcomed by the locals and camp staff and settled in for a few more beers - around the campfire for a change.

With local guide-turned-caver Raplang some of us investigated several new sites on Khloo Rasong, the NW side of the Shnongrim ridge a couple of kilometres from camp, the primary aim being to gain access to the Krem Um Im 5 section of Krem Liat Prah. Of these Krem Urle 1 (cave in the mudslide area) was later to provide some painful caving in an essentially flat-out, boulder and cobble floored stream passage entered via 100m of well rigged and attractive pitches and becoming too narrow after 0.8kms. Only a considerable amount of squeezing and digging enabled us to get this far. Shelley's fondest memory of the place was her unintentionally using a large freshwater crab as a handhold! Two sections of large, dry fossil tunnel failed to yield any easier overhead routes. The general direction of the cave was towards the ever growing Krem Liat Prah system but a dye trace was not detected due to the time scales involved and the logistics of getting observers to the predicted connection points at the right time. This was to prove a problem with several other attempted traces and future work should involve detectors which could be collected and checked when convenient. Also, even in the wettest place on Earth, there are times of low water flow and February is one of them. Several other caves in this area looked promising but soon became choked or too small.

Having failed to find an easy way into the extremely promising Ratbat River in the Krem Um Im 5 section of the Liat Prah system we bit the bullet and returned to the horrors of the crawls, boulder chokes and crab-infested streamway (Shnongrim Sewer) of this cave. The long duck at the end of the Sewer had luckily dropped by a metre and Tony, Jayne and I were soon in the unexplored Ratbat River itself. Downstream was surveyed for 40m to a deep canal, later surveyed for another 137m of swimming to a probable sump. Other members of the expedition were to make some hard won advances in the stunning resurgence cave of Krem Wah Shikar and they were also stopped by a sump. The computer generated surface map, the "Big Picture", shows this to be heading towards Ratbat River and divers may be needed next year to attempt the connection and hopefully add Wah Shikar to Liat Prah to give a length of over 20kms.

Upstream Ratbat River produced some fine phreatic tunnels but after 300m and an awkward dig through boulders we were stopped by a classic Shnongrim Ridge boulder choke - huge and impassable. What we assume is the Krem Urle stream emerges from beneath but for us "cave finish".

This year there was an almost complete absence of bats as opposed to the hundreds seen in 2004. Also absent were the "Lilliputian monkey-coloured people" who Carlyn assured us frequent the cave entrances in the Um Im area (or has there been a secret Wessex expedition?).

Other work in the Um Im area involved digging, pot-bashing, re-surveying and recce. The re-survey of Krem Um Im 7 added 226m to Liat Prah but other promising sites closed down. There is still a great deal to explore in this heavily forested area but each year gets easier as the jungle is cleared for cultivation.

With our first two big caves concluded work concentrated on the amazing Krem Synrang Ngap, left fallow last year due to the pressure of other discoveries. The traditional 100m of entrance pitches were again superbly rigged by Mark and team and parties then set off through the downstream crawls and ducks and a couple of kms of scrambling over huge calcite bosses to reach a major junction. Downstream a huge boulder choke soon loomed up and a possible way through was left for a thin men team next year. This may be beneath the oppressive Krem Bir. Just back upstream from this a massive inlet tunnel became the focus of attention for those not minding a cold 5m swim. With a rope and life jacket installed we were soon harvesting the metres beyond. Brian M, Gregory and I were continuing the survey on the 19th February when the impressive draught dropped as we entered a smaller section of passage ending in too tight rifts. On heading back Brian noticed a side passage with a severe looking squeeze through hefty formations from whence the gale emerged. Being the skinniest I got the job and was soon sprinting up 100m or so of very attractive potholed galleries with cave pearl-like sandstone pebbles in the floor that were identical to the local kids' catapult pellets. This became "Thin Man's Inlet" and another, larger passage back downstream "Fat Man's Inlet".

On the 23rd, after three days of "easy" surface recce, a return was made to enlarge the squeeze and survey on upstream. Quentin, Greg and I were the most anorexically designed for this operation and were soon clocking up the metres again until a chest deep pool, twin 30m avens and a complicated series of crawling passages temporarily held us up. Greg finally hit the jackpot after crawling down the "Gravel Grovel" into a magnificent stream passage stretching into the distance - the "Great Straight". We were ecstatic but confused as we were now obviously heading downstream after having travelled upstream for several hundred metres!

Scooping 30m tape legs we marched enthusiastically onwards to intersect a fine phreatic bore tube containing impressive columns and curtains. This, in turn, broke into the side of an even larger passage which immediately sumped to the right but continued to the left as a large canyon with its higher level in the form of a wide fossil tunnel. We climbed up into this for ease of surveying and Greg, leading with the tape, scrambled up a steep mud slope into a black void above. Cries of astonishment from this normally quiet Meghalayan caver spurred us on to ditch the survey and join him in the huge, mud and sand dune floored chamber that continued to the left and ahead as 8m wide phreatic tunnels. The sound of a large stream emanated from the distance so, with time running out, we rushed off for a look at the large phreatic river passage crossing under the chamber from right to left and heading for regions unknown. We assumed that we had reached the stream from Krem Synrang Labbit and had actually left Krem Synrang Ngap to enter a completely different drainage system. In recognition of Greg's discovery the huge void was named Meghalayan Adventurers' Chamber. With a total of 455m surveyed we were more than happy to stagger back to the surface which we reached after a 9 1/2 hr trip - knackered but elated.

A couple of fruitless days were then spent trying to reach the new extensions via undescended potholes in the jungle-covered pinnacle karst above. This very difficult terrain was thoroughly scoured by Quentin and Greg and three short but sweet vertical caves discovered, unfortunately all closing down before breaking through into the "master cave" below. Peter and I spent one day on this project then diverted to Krem Synrang Labbit to put flourescein into the downstream river in the hope of proving the connection.

A large "shit or bust" team" entered Krem Synrang Ngap on the 27th February with Quentin, Greg and I being the thin men. Mark, Brian M, (less anorexically challenged), Shelley, Lesley and Jo headed for Fat Man's Inlet in an attempt to bypass the squeeze. We followed the huge M.A.Chamber to a conclusion at a mud choke above a steep, slippery and hazardous mud "mountain" with large boulder chokes below from which issued both the main stream and a healthy inlet stream with clearer water. This was particularly noticeable as we were all convinced that the larger flow had a distinct green tinge to it from the dye inserted in Krem Synrang Labbit the previous day. A couple of ways on here need to be checked next year in the hope of passing the upstream chokes. Downstream yet another huge boulder choke curtailed our progress but again there are possible routes through it. Time had run out for further pushing as it was now past 10pm. The sound of voices heralded the arrival of the more rotund team whom we assumed had bypassed the squeeze. We were suitably chastised when it was revealed that their inlet had soon fizzled out and they had followed us through the tight bit after an hour of hammer and chisel work - fair play to 'em. For one of the gentlemen (who shall remain nameless but said "feck" a lot) disrobing to his shreddies was necessary and had the secondary benefit of reducing the girlies to hysterical laughter as he cursed his way through. They were suitably impressed with the extensions so we left them brewing up and admiring the place while we headed out to our beer supplies stashed in the cave entrance where we intended to bivouac until morning. With tongues hanging out we sweated up the 100m of rope only to find that the local kids had snaffled most of the ale - bastards. Luckily Greg had extra supplies and a couple of rum filled Coke bottles were unearthed from the depths of tackle bags to quench our alcoholic thirsts. A fire was lit outside and Greg cooked soup as the others gradually emerged from the depths to the night sounds of the jungle. Honorary thin man Brian M, relieved to have escaped from the jaws of the squeeze, produced a bottle of Courvoisier and the mini-party got into full swing  before we retired for a few hours draughty kip.

Fraser, Brian K.D. and Graham woke us at 10am and helped sherpa the kit up to the road. We had been underground for 20 hours but had another 800m in the bag after a classic Meghalayan caving trip. A resurvey trip in another part of the cave later brought the total length of this sporting system up to 4.17kms with plenty more to be found. A physical connection upstream to Krem Synrang Labbit may not be easy but downstream is more promising with the sound of the river emanating from beyond the choke. The probable resurgence for both this and the original main stream is Krem Iawe, situated several kms to the WNW. Pushing trips will require underground camping to be viable unless other ways in from the jungle covered slopes of Khloo Krang south of the cave can be found. If Krem Krang Maw and/or Krem Krang Wah are the feeders to Krem Synrang Labbit then the whole system, if connections could be established, would be over 20km long. Time will tell.

My last trip of the expedition was to the awesome system of Krem Umthloo  - my "baby" - in an attempt to smash up a hanging boulder preventing access to a 10m high inlet which could be seen beyond. This lay at the end of International Schweinehund Passage and not too far from the boulder choke entrance to the cave. Unfortunately my colleagues, Quentin and Raplang, were not in the right frame of mind which made for a frustrating outing. This was probably Raplang's first proper caving trip and he had to be restrained from carving OUT, with accompanying arrows, every few metres. Quentin was pretty burnt out from three weeks of extreme caving and decided to sit it out just before the dig site was reached. Not having been able to scrounge any explosives I was armed with a hefty hammer and set to on the rock which was calcited into the ceiling of a low crawl. Suddenly the whole boulder dropped out with an earth shaking thud which roused Quentin from his lethargy. I was just able to shift it enough to squeeze past into the big stuff beyond and the others eventually followed. Sod's Law then decreed that this fine passage soon ended at a calcited aven with an unpleasant crawl to one side which became too tight. It also became too toxic after Quentin inadvertently set fire to the tape with his lamp! Raplang was by now totally mind blown by the curious antics of the Ferengis and we, in turn, were equally mind blown by the noise of what could only be described as loud snoring emanating from a low duck at the base of the aven. The source of this weird and somewhat disturbing phenomenon will have to wait another year to be discovered but is doubtless related to siphoning water or an intermittent draught. It just begged the name of Snoring Duck Aven.

Lots of other trips and projects took place during the three weeks of field work. Mark pushed his own "hot tip", Krem Wah Ser, to discover one of the finest caves on the Ridge with 3.26kms of superbly decorated passages entered via c.40m of pitches and with a resurgence exit. New girls Jo and Lesley were very impressed with the cave but took some time to get used to the monster spiders that seem to be even larger than normal in this area. An upstream sump in this cave possibly connects with the 1.8km long Krem Muid, itself being adjacent to the 13.5km+ of the Krem Umthloo system.

Robin's dedicated recce. and exploration of totally obscure sites led to the discovery of Krem Brisang and it's connection with Krem Wah Shikar, itself being greatly extended by Mark, Peter, Jo and Thomas after some inventive and entertaining aid climbing to pass dodgy boulder chokes. Tom, despite suffering bouts of illness, was keen to see his particular "baby" develop to its current length of 2.56km and also sorted out lots of survey and computer problems with typically calm Swiss efficiency. He also tidied up question marks in Krem Liat Prah and aided by Peter, taught Rainer to understand British caving eccentrics! This worked so well that Rainer became an honorary one. On Tom's return to Switzerland he slaved away over his computer to produce two superb "Big Picture" area maps of the Ridge - one with added landscape detail. The map appended is updated from these.

Georg, Rainer, Thilo, Christian, Herbert and Christine spent a few days continuing with the long standing survey of one of India's most stunning cave systems, Pielkhlieng - Sielkan Pouk, to bring it up to 10.3km with many more km left to explore in the future. This one is the "baby" of Georg who is convinced that it will be India's (if not the Earth's) longest and is already the best in the Multiverse. Photographs of this cracking system would seem to prove him correct! They also surveyed 580m in Saisi Dungkhur near Moolian village and reported the cave to be ongoing.

In the temperance zone of Semmasi Krem Tyngheng was extended from 3.75km to 5.32km by Simon, Greg, Tom, Julien, Tony B. and Jayne and many leads remain for next year in this labyrinthine system.

Mainly assisted by Graham, Fraser once again spent lots of time videoing the caves, coal mining operations and local colour. He also sub-contracted to Pradeep and his Assamese team who were making a documentary on Meghalayan caves and cave life. Dan, Christian and Julien also became briefly involved in this as they were engaged in intensive speleobiological research throughout their stay. Dan and Simon were also able to arrange a future collaboration with several eminent professors from the Dept. of Zoology at the North East Hill University, Shillong.

Brian K.D. spent much time being interviewed by the press and we were all captured on film or caught by the papperazzi (nasty) at some point. The reason for all the press interest was the growing confrontation between environmentalists, cavers and locals and the recently much more mechanised cement industry which has begun to encroach on India's current longest cave, Krem Kot Sati / Umlawan, and other important karst / hydrological areas including the Shnongrim Ridge.

West Khasi Hills

On Sunday 20th February the West Khasi Hills team eventually left Shillong after a series of delays due to bureaucracy and arrived at the riverside village of Ranikor at 6pm. Next day, with a bodyguard of three armed policemen, they drove on to Maheshkola, encountering more delays at the Border Security Force post. A third day of delays due to tyre punctures and having to repair road bridges before using them finally saw them reach their destination - the Rong Dangi village school - where the local kids were perfectly happy to get a surprise holiday in return for accommodating the Ferengis. The caves of Panigundur and Mondil Kol were connected by Simon, Georg and Julien after a survey of 242m and another 339m added in the latter cave by Dr.B, Christian, Thilo, Herbert and Christine. The 23rd saw the team adding another 1.16km to the system. Videoing and biological studies were also undertaken here.

Rong Dangi Rongkol was extended by 680m next day and Morasora Kol by 431m. On the 25th the fine river sink of Gurmal Janggal Rongkol was descended via a series of short, free-climbable pitches and connected to the growing Mondil Kol master system.

Things took a turn for the worse the following day when a failed rock belay followed both Jayne and the rope and sling she was using to the floor 5m below, leaving the expedition doctor and a paucity of ladders at the top of the pitch! More tackle was fetched and the injured one recovered and carried piggy-back to the accommodation by the good doctor (who I gather was glad she was a featherweight). After her last broken leg epic all were relieved when a badly sprained ankle was diagnosed - though it unfortunately curtailed her caving for the rest of the expedition. Despite this accident another 470m was in the bag and more biological work was done by the scientists.

Morasora Kol was added to the system on the 27th and over 400m surveyed. Next day Morasora Bridge Pot joined in the fun with 248m of passage, an excuse to do a photographic through trip by Christine, Herbert and Thilo and a good reason to re-name the whole 5.8km system the Morasora River Cave.


To sum up: yet another enjoyable and successful expedition with great company, food, beer and superb sporting caving. Despite initially poor weather - gales, fog, wind, heavy rain and low temperatures - and a couple of earthquakes - everyone enjoyed themselves and contributed towards piecing together the fascinating undergound jigsaw puzzles of various bits of Meghalaya. Our thanks to Brian K.D. and the Meghalayan Adventurers, the Ladies of Shillong and all the helpers and locals who helped make it work so well. The overall surveyed length in all the areas visited this year was just over 19km. Not bad considering the nature of the new stuff under the Ridge and the travel logistics to reach other areas. We were unable this year to visit the "vulture cave halfway up a 1000m cliff" or the "cave with clouds in" due to insurgency problems but there's always next year. Probably more important this year was the interaction with the locals, press, scientists and environmentalists - hopefully just in time to preserve some of the planet's finest caving areas from destruction. Apart from the above major caves many smaller sites were explored and surveyed and scores of new entrances visited in both areas so there is no fear of these marvellous expeditions winding up in the foreseeable future!

As an aside, and an example of the Indian sense of humour, Dr. B. informs me that the painted advice "Use Dipper at Night", often seen on the back of lorries, has been collared by the National Aids Control Organisation for their new condom - the "Dipper". Likewise another popular slogan - "Horn Please". They should sell like hot cakes!



The Last Word

Compiled by J’Rat and Wig

The Mendip Cave Bibliography and Newspaper Catalogue. [DJI] Publication of the 2nd edition, by the Mendip Cave Registry, of this compilation by your temporary Editor [Dave Irwin] will be at Hidden Earth to be held this year at Churchill. The whole work is in two volumes, 517pp and 1.1 million words and includes all articles, books, papers, manuscripts known to me from 883 AD to 2005 – which approaches some 25,000 references to caves in the Mendip region.  It is divided into three main sections. The first covers Cave Sites; the second Cave Topics [archaeology, hydrology etc.] and the third being the writers’ catalogue of newspaper reports since 1797.  Available at about £25 in hard copy only.

Anyone wanting details of published information relating any particular cave site are advised look in this work first. For example there are nearly 1,300 references to Swildon’s Hole; 232 items for Goatchurch Cavern, 429 for Eastwater Cavern and 540 for St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.

It is eventually hoped to publish the bibliography together with the cave registers on a web page and in CD format.

10 Years in the Making ! [DJI] Another Hollywood spectacle ?  ‘fraid not.  It’s the latest edition of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs Handbook and Access Guide, February 2005. The first for ten years.  Still, it serves a very useful purpose for it not only details the multitude of access arrangements in the area but it contains notes on the organisations and accommodation on Mendip as well as a host of other useful snippets. The 36pp booklet, edited by Dave Cooke, is widely available for £2.  Those not regularly in the Mendip area can obtain a copy through ‘Cookie’, 3 Starrs Close, Axbridge, Somerset. BS26 2BZ or Bat Products for £2 + 50p p&p.

Wookey Hole. [DJI]  CDG divers have recently dived the terminal Sump 25.  A serious undertaking at any time but the extension found a little above the bottom of the flooded passage at -70m has been pushed and Rick Stanton and John Volanthen have reached a phenomenal depth of -90m.  Work at this level makes the dive a really serious undertaking.  Best of luck to them and their ‘sherpas’ on their next trip which is planned in the near future.

Two old stalwarts [DJI] have returned to the fold and are enthusiastically resurveying Ludwell Cave with Fiona Crozier.  They claim boulder movement in the submerged chamber has occurred during the past thirty years.  Pete Eckford and Ken James have found a ‘second wind’ as well as other names from the past, John Noble and Phil Coles.  Welcome to all.

Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink. [ARJ]  Alex Livingston, on a solo visit, noted that all water levels are still too high for work to recommence and that the boulder blocking Slop 1 definitely needs banging.

Gibbet’s Brow Shaft. [ARJ]  ‘Butch’ and his Shepton team are still digging this mineshaft in the hope of entering Lamb Leer Cavern.  The main shaft has reached a solid bottom at around -17m but they are following a natural side passage with the chemical assistance of MadPhil.

White Pit.  [DJI] Tony Jarratt reports that the air in the cave has a dangerously high level of CO2.

Templeton Pot. [ARJ]  The latest from Tuska’s team is that they are now down about 35m and still going in the hope of beating the divers to the glory which must await below!


Committee Members

Secretary:                       Vince Simmonds
Treasurers:                     Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary:    Sean Howe
Editor:                            Greg Brock
Caving Secretary:            John Williams
Tackle Master:                Tyrone Bevan
Hut Warden:                   Roger Haskett
Hut Engineer:                  John Walsh
BEC Web Page Editor:    Estelle Sandford
Librarian:                        Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings:                 Fiona Sandford
Floating Member:            Bob Smith


Welcome to the AGM edition of your Belfry Bulletin.  Within this BB you will find the committee member’s reports for the outgoing club year – I wish to thank all the committee member’s for their time and effort in getting me these reports as quickly as possible so as they could be published in this BB.  The vast number and quality of the reports within this BB demonstrates just how hard and determined the outgoing committee have been – for which we are all extremely grateful.

As you will have noticed the time between the publication of the last BB (Nr 519) and the publication of this BB is very short.  The reason for this is at the 2003 AGM the committee said that a BB would be published prior to the AGM and would contain the Committee Members Annual reports so as they could be read prior to the meeting.  The previous BB (Nr 519) could not wait any longer as we had lots of articles that were waiting to go to print.  Therefore, in order to meet the print deadlines we had to compile, edit, proof-read and print this BB (Nr 520) as quickly as possible so as you could have it before the AGM in October.

I’m sure a number of BEC members have been to nice exotic locations throughout the summer months. I therefore look forward to producing the next BB which will hopefully contain a number of articles, photos and surveys about overseas expeditions.

Recent Committee Business

I have included this section so as to keep the BEC membership updated with what the committee have been up to in the recent months:

  • Concrete will be ordered for the new extension – This will fulfil our planning obligations.  Many thanks to everyone who has helped out on this project through resources, time, materials etc.
  • A “mail shot” to all members has been sent re “Nominations for Committee” & Outstanding Caving Insurance Premiums.
  • A new flue pipe for the Belfry Stove is needed and also a new electric/gas heater for the kitchen.  These are currently being sourced for as cheaply (Free??) as possible.
  • Two BEC members, Nick Richards & Nick Harding, approached the committee regarding a request by Loxton Parish Council in respect of a Leadership System for Loxton Cave because of its Historical importance.  It was agreed that a system would be set up whereby each of the major Mendip clubs could have a leader.  In the short term the two Nicks would act as interim leaders.  A secure gate to include access for Bats would be arranged along with the leader system.
  • Mendip District Council will be putting a “Step Through” on each of the styles either side of Walts Track.  Also a Timber Crossing & Handrail would be built across the Gulley on the path up to The Mineries Pond.  This is following persistent complaints from Dog Walkers.




Hon. Secretary Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

There has been some small response to the request for nominations for election to the committee for the club year Oct. 2004 – Sept. 2005 and, at the time of writing (07.08.04), two people have come forward and offered their assistance for the coming club year.  Unless there is a mad rush in the time leading up to the AGM I cannot envisage a ballot being necessary considering there is provision for up to 12 committee members.

Here follows a brief summary of some of the issues dealt with by the committee in the past club year:

The main areas of business during the committee year have been the matters of insurance and the continuing work on the extension. 

Mike Wilson deserves a big pat on the back for his efforts in liasing with Nick Williams and finally securing a satisfactory outcome regarding the insurance.  There are, however, still some people who have asked for caving membership of the scheme and have not paid the required premium. It was necessary, in the first instance, for the club to pay all the money up front and it is not for the club to subsidise those members who have not paid.  We will add the money due plus a surcharge to the coming years subscription. I will take this opportunity to point out to those members of the club that are St. Cuthberts leaders that a valid insurance is a necessity of that leadership agreement and that the ‘green card’ is the only one that will be recognised.

Roger Haskett has continued with his sterling efforts to cajole and coerce various members of the caving community to contribute to the Belfry extension and his, and their, efforts are to be applauded.

Greg Brock has taken over from Adrian Hole as BB Editor and has published his first efforts maintaining the high standards we, as a club, have come to expect.

Fiona and Ivan Sandford have continued to put in a considerable amount of work regarding the hut, its bookings and maintenance, and assisting the efforts of the Hut Engineer, John Walsh.

During May there was a tree planting ceremony and barbecue to commemorate the memories of Jock Orr and Frank Jones organised by Nigel Taylor and Roger Haskett.

The BEC, as a result of a request from Loxton Parish Council, have agreed to administer the access to the recently re-discovered and historically important Loxton Cavern (not to be confused with Loxton Cave).  We are in the process of arranging access and leaders for the main caving clubs on Mendip.

Mendip District Council approached the club, following some complaint regarding the footpath access and they are to provide some step-overs to the stiles and some clearance work etc. along the path.  There will be no cost to the BEC.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those people who during the past year have made up the committee and the non-committee posts for volunteering their time and effort to the administration of the club.  They are Mike Wilson, Fiona Sandford, John Walsh, Roger Haskett, Greg Brock, Graham Johnson, Tyrone Bevan, Adrian Hole, John Williams, Sean Howe.  Thanks also to the small band of helpers who have endeavoured to work on the extension and many other tasks around the Belfry.

The Annual Dinner is at The Bath Arms Hotel, Cheddar on the evening of the 2nd October 2004.  There will be a coach from the Hunters/Belfry around 19:00 and returning from Cheddar at around midnight.

On a sadder note this year has seen the passing of another long time club member Alan Thomas, remembered by many as Big Al’, I’m sure his memory will linger long.

Vince Simmonds Hon. Sec. 2003 – 2004


Treasurer Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

This Year has been financially very stable for the club, we continue to reap the benefits of zero rating which has allowed us to concentrate on improving other areas in the club.

The extension has cost us very little financially, due to the generous donations of materials and time by various club members.  I would like to thank all those concerned with the project.

As you all well know the committee had to make some pretty swift decisions regarding the club insurance situation.  My hope is that the membership will agree to run a two tier subs system this coming year, in line with the system we cobbled together during 2003/4.

I feel that the subs should include the new insurance cost for those who wish to be insured by the BEC plus a parallel rate of subs for those who do not wish to be insured by the club [for whatever reason].

The uninsured rate should be close to the current subs paid per annum.  Hopefully this system will prove to be fair to all club members.  Please note that all Cuthbert Leaders must be insured!!

I am happy to continue as treasurer for another year.

Mike Wilson.  

BB Editor Report June 2004 – Sept 2004

I will keep this report brief as I have only held this position for four months and have therefore not got much to say.

Firstly, I will thank Adrian Hole for all his work in producing the BB’s over the past couple of years.  Only when you have done the job as BB editor do you realise how much work goes on behind the scenes to produce the end result that you all see.

I have noticed while compiling the BB’s that a number of the articles are coming from the same people. Obviously I still want to encourage these people to carry on producing articles for inclusion in the BB but it would also be nice to see some articles from other people.  With the vast and varied membership the BEC has throughout the world I’m sure there are plenty of members out there doing exciting things that other members would like to hear about.

The BB is our club journal and does not only need to contain articles relating to exploratory caving. I’m happy to receive articles about anything that club members are up to i.e. Caving, Mountaineering, Climbing, Canoeing, Walking, Running, Cycling etc.

I’m happy to stand as BB editor for another year should the club wish me to continue.

Please send in your articles – Contact details are at the front of the BB.

Greg Brock

Hut Booking Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

There is really not very much to say where Hut Bookings are concerned.  Actual bookings remain at a very low level compared with before Foot & Mouth, we have a reliance on the same groups returning, of whom, many members of these groups, are now actually BEC members.  It must be a sign of how times have changed that what bookings we do get are now a very last minute affair and the majority of those booked on the Monday have very often been cancelled by the Thursday for no reason other than they have found something else to do!  It would be fair to say that the majority of people who now stay at The Belfry just turn up on spec or are directed to us through Bat Products. 

I am prepared to carry on taking the Hut Bookings for the forthcoming year should the club so wish me to do so.

Fiona Sandford
8th August 2004


Membership Secretary Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

BEC Membership Secretary’s Report for the Club Year
4 October 2003 to 1 October 2004

Membership Renewal

A principal responsibility of membership secretary is to hold an up to date record of member’s details. This has been my quest but it needs your co-operation.

To help you know what the club holds about you, each renewal form was personalised and contained your contact details (e.g. Name, address, telephone number(s), email, etc.). This gave you the opportunity to check your details, correct any errors or add additional information.

Included in the renewal form was a section for preferences. The purpose of the preference section in the renewal form was to select want you wanted to receive and reduce the work load. You could select by ticking the appropriate box to receive such items as a membership card, members address booklet (printed or electronic by email). Some of you failed completely and used a cross instead of a tick.

I must apologise for those that requested a Membership card as I have not been able to produce these this year due to a change in my circumstances which has affected the availability of resources.

Having an option to receive a printed version of the members address book reduced the number to be printed compared to the previous year by around fifty copies, obviously a saving.

In my continued quest of holding the correct information in the BEC member’s database I gave you a second opportunity to check and amend your contact details in your personal membership renewal acknowledgement letter.

I also asked all Life members to re-affirm their wish to receive Belfry Bulletins and correspondence for the club year. We do not want to send out correspondence to those that do not wish to receive it.

Generally I think this all worked quite well.

Members Updates

During the club year a few people made contact to inform of updates (e.g. changes of address and email) but I am sure this is not all of them. However, this was more than the previous year so may be you are becoming more organised.

I must stress it is essential that you keep the membership secretary up to date of any changes. For example, the address details are used in the distribution of the Belfry Bulletins and club correspondence.


There were a number of donations, in the main from the Life members, in the form of stamps and a total of £230 in money. Many thanks to those persons.

The Figures

92% of people, 107 out of 116 continuing paying members from 2002-03, renewed before the end of November and were eligible for the £5 discount off their membership fee. This compares with 101 for the previous year. So you are getting better, well done.

With the remaining 8%, one paid as late as May compared with February the previous year. Could do better.

Please pay promptly and before the end of November.

                                         Chart of Members Payment over the club year.

Just under twenty members declined to renew their membership. On the positive, a change from previous years with an increase in joint membership, ten out of eleven of last years probationers rejoined and are now full members, three members rejoined and we have eleven probationary members.

The paying membership has reduced by three and three Life members have been removed from the distribution list. Our total number of members is 160.






(to 2002/3)





















Sub Total




















Total Members





Membership Summary Table.

Figures correct as of 16 August 2004.

The following charts show the percentage of the membership class between the club years 2002-03 and 2003-04. It is clearly seen that the Single class percentage has decreased by 7% due to increases in both the Joint and Probationary classes.




I would like to thank Mike and Hilary Wilson for their support of some Membership tasks, such as collecting and depositing the subscription and insurance monies.

Furthermore, thanks must go out to Tony Jarratt for his encouragement of new members to the club and the re-joining of lapsed members.


I will be standing down from the role of BEC Membership Secretary and may I wish my successor well.

Sean Howe (16/08/2004)
BEC Membership Secretary 2002-04


BEC Web Page Editor Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

Editor – Due to Estelle’s other commitments this report has been a combined effort between both myself and Estelle.  The Statistics I have taken directly off the website to give you an idea of how many visits we get and where they are coming from.


Since the new website was uploaded in September 2003 The BEC’s presence on the internet has grown. For those of you that haven’t visited the site yet it can be found at:

Anything sent in has been uploaded as soon as possible, usually within a couple of days max.  The website could do with a bit more accuracy maybe on committee posts and contact details.  If any of the committee members want to write some detail on their jobs to freshen things up that would be great.  Any articles, pictures and related links always welcome.  Please send any articles you have to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The BEC website is constantly monitored by a Web Analysing programme and has given us the following statistics:

As you will see from the graphs below there was an unusual number of hits on the website during the month of March – this was due to Hunters Lodge Inn Sink (HLIS) being on TV in during this month.

Generally speaking the website has about 550 visitors in the month, which on average is about 20 per day.

One of the most common routes of finding the website is people searching for the words “Club Songs”. Other commonly visited pages are the introduction page and the page about the belfry.

Summary by Month













Daily Avg

Monthly Totals






















Aug 2004











Jul 2004











Jun 2004











May 2004











Apr 2004











Mar 2004











Feb 2004











Jan 2004











Dec 2003











Nov 2003











Oct 2003











Sep 2003































Hut Engineer Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

Due to everyone’s diligence, maintenance was kept to the odd light bulb or handle, for which your engineer is extremely grateful.  Special mention to Ivan and Jake who do so many jobs around the place.  

Although perhaps not such a high achieving year as 2003, progress has been made.  The new extension is plodding onwards.  Thanks to everyone who worked on it, made tea or shouted encouragement. 

Recognition to all who helped this year.

As for next year, I feel I should stand aside and let someone else take on the role of Hut Engineer. I would also like to thank Vince who always gives advice and support where it is needed.

John Walsh

Tackle Master Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

This year in line with directions from the floor at the last AGM we have purchased three ropes.

They consist of a 20mtr, 30mtr and 40mtr lengths and are kept in the store for use by members. We have also replaced the St Cuthbert’s ladder and belay with a commercially purchased ladder and belay.

The club has condemned a number of old ladders and they have currently been destroyed. The plan is to replace all the ladders removed from service and the current old ladders with new over the next 18 to 24 months.

The end of 2003 introduced a new style of club tee shirt and tie. A large number of members are seen wearing the shirts with pride at the Hunters but would be nice to see more.

With regards to the equipment remember the kit is for to use of members and if they require the kit or think of any new kit we need just contact myself or any other committee member.

Tyrone Bevan

Hut Warden Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

Members and visitors nights are slightly up on last year (figures at AGM).  Thanks to John Walsh and Ivan Sandford for keeping the hut running.

We seem to have a problem with the water heater; I hope to solve that before the AGM.

I would stress the importance of keeping the hut clean and tidy at all times.  As first impressions often count for prospective members, and regular visitors (we need the money).  There are no excuses.

Roger Haskett
BEC Hut Warden

Caving Secretary Report Oct 2003 – Sept 2004

The Caving Sec. offers his apologies to the club for being absent from Mendip for very nearly the entire year due to unexpected overseas work commitments, and so has had very little to do in the way of club business.

In consequence the Caving Sec. regrettably has nothing to report, other than making the observation that the insurance difficulties experienced at the beginning of the year, limited caving activity somewhat.

Lastly the Caving Sec. feels it would be more appropriate for another person to take on this post, one who is more certain of being regularly out and about on the hill.

Yours sincerely,
John ‘Tangent’ Williams

 Mine sites on Churchill Knowle

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

South-west of the village of Churchill is a wooded hill where a number of east-west veins have received the attention of miners. In one case a small natural rift was intersected.

Knowle Mine.

Half way down the north-east slope at NGR ST 4386 5928 is a mound bounded by low dry stonewalling. In the centre of the mound is a vertical mineshaft (1.4m by 0.9m in section) descending 6m through loose hillwash into the bedrock.  Here there is a small chamber with galleries leading east and west (at this point ochre deposits can be seen in the walls).

The roomy east gallery extends some 7m to a dead end where pick marks are much in evidence. The passage is over 2m high and 1.5m wide in places.

To the west a 45-degree slope down (for 4m) through a very tight squeeze in collapse debris (note the highly unstable roof) leads to another gallery at a lower level than the first. This passage is about 4m long, 2m high and a metre or so wide. It displays a small stack of ‘deads’ in an alcove and numerous phreatic solution hollows. A calcite vein is particularly prominent in the roof.

The calcite vein can be traced throughout the length of the working and it seems that the miners have followed this in search of ochre or lead; certainly there is plenty of ochre, which occurs as masses associated with the vein fissure.

The landowner told us that the shaft had been explored by the A.C.G. some years ago.

Knowle Cave.

Near the top of the wood at NGR ST 4390 5923 is a large pit some 6m by 4.2m and 1.8m deep at its north-east corner. A small phreatic arch here was dug out in the late 90s with a more concerted effort in 2002. An east-west rift was encountered running under the north wall of the pit. It measures 7m in length, up to 2m high and up to 0.7m wide.

A massive calcite vein follows the rift and quantities of ochre are present. This rift is separated from the pit proper by a thin skin of bedrock which has been breached in two places, evidently by ochre miners, for a couple of boulders were found with shotholes through them.

A dig in the pit itself revealed undisturbed sediments resting on a smooth ochreous bedrock surface funnelling in towards the centre. Therefore, the pit seems to be a wholly natural feature, which has been modified by ochre mining.

30m to the west and down the hillslope from Knowle cave is another pit- Calcite Shaft. It is an old mineshaft dug at the intersection of two massive calcite veins, probably in search of lead ore. The east-west element of the vein is directly in line with the vein seen in the upper pit  (Knowle cave) and minor collapse, animal burrows and calcite debris in the soil mark the line between the two.

The shaft is 2m by 2m in section and 4m deep when found. An excavation in the late 90s through miners spoil proved 6m depth before terminating at a dead end. The miners also followed part of the cross vein to the south for 2m.

The old miners knew that the intersection of two veins is generally a promising environment for ore, but no lead or ochre is present and the affair must have been given up.

At the extreme Southeast corner of the wood at NGR ST 4392 5907 are three or four infilled mineshafts, again aligned east-west and along a strike length of 15m. The westernmost pit is associated with a large spoil heap, which spills over into the adjacent field. Some specks of galena in calcite were found here.

Many thanks to the landowners for allowing us to explore these sites.

The Rediscovery of Loxton Cavern

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Photos By Martin Grass, the authors and…er…one taken by Tony J

Made weak by time and fate
But strong in will, to strive, to seek
To find and not to yield…


“You buggers, I’ve been looking for
that cave for thirty years…”



After a three and half year search – some may actually say “two hundred”, we would like to announce the rediscovery of Catcott’s Loxton Cavern and its welcome return to the collective consciousness that is Mendip Caving and indeed the world stage such is the importance to cave science that this system represents.

What follows is a condensed version of around eight months digging time that followed several years of false starts, the discovery of a small system and the location of various potential sites for further excavation (more about these at a later date). 

No longer lost.

Loxton Cavern was opened in 1757 by ochre miners and was visited not long after by Dr Alexander Catcott of Bristol who described the system in his diaries. C.J.Harford followed some years later and wrote about the cave for a gentleman’s periodical called The Gentleman’s Magazine (1794). The cave came to the attention of Cornish miners in the 1790’s where certain ‘green veins’ were tried for copper. These veins upon assay contained no copper and the whole affair was given up. The miners removed the best stalactites for sale or as gifts The cave was lost sight of in 1807 then in late 2003 was rediscovered by BEC 1st Formers Nick Harding and Nick Richards (Aka The Pair of Dirty Nicks)


Having scoured the hill above Loxton for a number of years we decided that our options had come down to one of two sites in which to dig and having tossed the proverbial coin chose an area that best seemed to fit the (reassessed) clues given in the descriptions by Catcott and Harford. In March 2003 the first sod was turned. At this stage let us just say that confidence was not high but well founded in that our searching had so far been in vain but not without discovery. We had found a few small systems (reports to be filed at a later date) but nothing that in any shape or form fitted the descriptions in Catcott’s report but our enthusiasm was little dented or expunged.

Immediately the top layer of soil was removed we found ourselves confronted with a draught seeping up through the boulder back fill and our wild, possibly even schoolboy enthusiasm was fired up. This was fuelled by tales from a Mr Raymond, a nearby resident who, when attending his pigeons could hear the ground boom like a drum as horses made their way up the track.  

Digging down over a number of weeks – using a bedrock wall for guidance we pursued the illusive cave. Then one afternoon Nick R moved a stone and saw a void beyond. We then back filled our progress to date and broached the ground further down slope to afford an easier access point to gain entry.

We had in fact found a small rift back filled with spoil that led to a low arch and then on into a small stal lined room and the first hints of the “Green veins” described by Catcott. Pausing at this stage to consider a route, we began digging downwards in this rift, fashioning, over a stepped structure, a slope of tin sheeting (discovered not far from the entrance - the area was an obvious dumping ground and tip for household waste) – facilitating an easy haul of bucket after relentless bucket to the surface.   

Over the next few months we extracted several tons of material (felt like about a hundred tons to be honest!) from the ever deepening rift to a point where the walls pinched in. Having, seemingly, exhausted this direction we moved our efforts back to where the rift widened and here a small arch was discovered and more importantly miners’ tally marks in a small phreatic hollow. This was indeed a major clue and a welcome sight after months of work. We felt now that we were on the right trail and that maybe, just maybe Loxton Cavern lay not far beyond.

At this stage we decided to abandon the small phreatic rift, back fill that, collapse the material down slope and start again from the top, shoring up the walls as we descended. Before we had had no real target to aim for and in a sense we were just fishing for some obvious way on but with the discovery of the arch and the tally marks we had, at last, a focus for our efforts.

Into the hill

This arch proved, after much work to be the roof of a chamber with a fine vein of green clay – indeed, more clues. Heading down and in, we removed more material (Lum!) – the small abandoned stal lined room being used as a spoil dump until that was replete with boulders.  Driving on down the slope of this new chamber we came across an arch at the bottom through which a heavy draught permeated – a cool strong wind that can only come from underground (or a group of hung over Eskimos). Our hopes were now high – the highest they had been throughout the entire search (nay, quest!). Pausing in the dig briefly for Mad Phil to entertain us with some blisteringly marvellous scaffolding work we then dug on and cleared out the arch that had, for a while been obscured due to the machinations of the impish deities of the ‘down hill dig’.

November 2nd 2003 – Mid-afternoon.

Barring the way on was a large boulder; a limestone Cerberus that had to be dealt with in a terse manner due to its objections about being moved. Lacking Dr Nobel’s remote shovel – perhaps a touch OTT on this instance (absolutely!) – it was disciplined with some rigorous and unsubtle hammer work. Then somewhere between 2 and 3 o’clock – the time and importance of the hour somehow lost in the excitement we slipped through and discovered that the arch opened onto a ledge with a deep rift below us. To the left, i.e. the West, there was a looming darkness that could mean only one thing – Cave! It was not quite Howard Carter and his famous phrase of “I see wonderful things” but we shared his sentiment. In the excitement Nick H uttered the immortal words “It’s somewhere to dump spoil at least” (about two hundred feet of dumping space!) having misread the geography (I assumed the way on was down the rift – honest!)  That’s one for the Big Bumper Book of Humorous Spelunking Quotes… along with “Mind that apple…”, “I strained myself blowing some moorhen’s eggs” and “Careful with that ferret, Savory!”

Anyway moving swiftly on…

The Cave.

There then followed an exploration of the system and all the time there was the growing realisation in the pair of us, to the accompaniment of plumber-style sharp intakes of breath that we had found the place that had so long been sought; that this was the very cave that Catcott and Harford had described two centuries before. It was an extremely emotive experience to say the least.

It took us a short while and some considered debate as to the geography and the lay out of the cave from the description given but very soon all doubts were removed as we stared upwards in the Hall through which Catcott had descended from the original entrance over two centuries before; dribbling candle in hand and powdered wig in disarray. 

The exploration continued and it was soon obvious that the miners had done ‘great mischief ’ with most of the more prominent, colourful and well-formed stal formations being smashed and broken up. Corduroy impressions were found in mud (Corduroy Passage) as well as two clay pipes forcing us to feel that they had been dropped there only the day before. We found pick marks in the green veins of “marl” that had once confused the miners into thinking that they contained workable amounts of copper and hammer blows on numerous walls and formations. More oddly (is that correct grammar?) there were a few incidents of graffiti – including a series of birds and a group of triangles. The overriding impression though was a wonderful sense of time falling away and a powerful feeling that the miners had only just left, repairing to the nearest hostelry, falling under satiric observation, to replenish their animal moisture.  


Reluctantly leaving the cave that evening we were both in that euphoric reverie that grips you when the events of a unique day sink in, one later topped up and further fuelled by a few libations at a nearby hostelry. Not long after a swift phone call to the Hunters was made to inform Master Jarrett of the discovery. (There was a rumour that he was unable to come to the phone that evening due to his early entrapment in an awkward rift situated in a perilous wall of beer filled mugs, the MRO later being called out to rescue him)

Shortly afterwards (i.e. some days later, as the crow flies) we returned with Chris Richards (a relation) who could barely contain his excitement about the cave and he was given the grand tour and shown everything that we had learned about the place so far. Another spectacularly happy man left the system that afternoon but not before telling us that we were looking at the “Eighteenth Century mind”  (there’s probably a quip due here utilising the words empty, damp and grubby in places…) when we looked about us.

Still puzzling over the geography it became evident that the eastern half of the cave described by Catcott was missing. However, we pushed on down the rift which dominates the entire system and made the discovery of a lower chamber (Glisson’s Chamber) not described in any account of the cave. Our cup had begun to run over. In the floor by an enormous boulder that sported a shot hole we found a tight squeeze into what looked like another chamber below. This was not breached until Master Tony J, now the forth set of eyes to see the cave in two hundred years volunteered to push his frame down into further mysteries, in a visit not long after.  He found a lower chamber (Firmament Chamber), much choked and with marks on the walls suggesting a fluctuating water level. He then set off eastwards along about 7 metres of passage to have a sniff about. Disrobing down to a fetching pair of pale purple Y-fronts, he once again forced the squeeze back up to rejoin us and to crack open a bottle of Champers on the surface. (Good man!) 

Go East Young Men.

With the initial euphoria still washing about us we then realised that we would have to strike east and find the rest of the system  - starting, and according to Catcott, with an impressive cavern. But where was it? He described coming along the narrow passage and straight into it. We had the narrow passage but it ended in the entrance chamber we had dug out and descended. The dark shadow of a “downhill dig” with its attending gremlins loomed over us and our spirits soon started to scrape noisily along the floor. We had come so far only to be thwarted by another six months of digging and trying to find somewhere to dump the spoil. (I had a suggestion, remember? NH)

We agreed that if we were to go east we should go east – not as daft as it sounds (actually no, that does sound daft) as the entrance chamber is angled sharply down in northeasterly fashion. An initial play was made for the eastern wall but we then realised there was a mounting slope of spoil above our heads and that something would have to be done about it. After fashioning a balcony out of scaffolding and tin sheets we constructed a spoil dump and divided the entrance chamber in two. Then the hard work could begin again (damn!)

Joining the fray at that point were the redoubtable John “Tangent” Williams (with assorted non working Heath-Robinson-esque illumination devices) and Mark Ireland whose combined sterling work in the early days of December allowed us to crack on down slope and on the 10th December Tangent found himself staring into the void. The following day all four of us entered the large Eastern chamber (Catcott’s Chamber) that we thought would be out of our grasp until at least the New Year, (04 that is – anything later would have been mildly depressing).

We spent the next few hours exploring this chamber avoiding the dis-articulated bones of sheep (no! pigs as Dr Roger Jacobi of the British Museum reliably informs us) that had “fallen” down an upper eastern gallery that obviously connected with the surface. In amongst a talus of boulders there was much detritus in evidence including pottery, boot leather and a flask, while Mark, in a vigorous ferreting session found the remains of a frying pan or skillet. What he intended to do with it was anyone’s guess but he was happy, for a short while, to entertain us with a bad facsimile of the sound of frying eggs – this of course could well have been his hearing aid on the blink, as, like so many things in life no one can really be certain about the true nature of anything in the dark. 

At the base of the north wall of the chamber the rift was in evidence again and pushing on down we came to the room described by Catcott as ‘the Dungeon’ once more showing signs of human visitation – including boot marks - numerous in number and candle mark initials much in evidence on the walls, “JH” being much in evidence.

At the western end of the Dungeon, Tangent, intermittently illuminated, over squeezed himself through a number of orifices to find further ways on that, with some removal of material, may allow further exploration in those directions.

In the following weeks a number of visits were made this time with Mad Phil who sported various cunning and modern surveying devices around his neck with which he marked and measured his way around the system, the result of which accompanies this article. This alarmed Harding because he has successfully avoided anything to do with mathematics for a good many years and indeed took up caving to avoid long division.  Several trips were undertaken over the next few months in which various likely dig sites were pursued. This included a passage heading off from Harford’s Balcony, the ‘North West Passage’ which for a short while held great potential (as they always do!) but narrowed down to a too tight squeeze. But there may be something beyond…

And on….

At present we are looking for a twenty-foot crawl to an easternmost chamber described by Catcott. In short another 70 feet of cave has yet to be found.  We will of course keep you posted with any developments in that area. There are also a few places that might well offer up potential digging sites. One or two have been pushed but these have subsequently proven to be false leads (despite exhibiting powerful draughts). One ambitious idea is to try and link Loxton Cavern with Loxton Quarry cave – in reality they cannot be far apart, perhaps only a few metres at most and should that ever be achieved would undoubtedly put the wind up the Axbridge Johnnies (Hoorah!).


So there it is. Catcott’s cave rediscovered with the flag of the BEC, with its sable bat rampant guardant, waving proudly above its peaks (um?).   There’s still a bit of work to do in there but for now we are awaiting permission to dig in Hutton where another lost cave described by Catcott awaits rediscovery so further exploration in Loxton Cavern will have to wait for a later date.  We are also hunting the South Cavity said to be 30 yards south of Loxton Cavern.  

Vale! And remember: “BEC perveniunt ad loca omnia.”
                  Champers all round – Cheers Tony J!

The Pair of Dirty Nicks

Great blessings be upon the following:

Tony Jarratt
Mad Phil
John “Tangent” Williams
Mark Ireland
Martin Grass
Chris Richards
Keith “ Action-Jackson” Jackson.    
Adam “Adders” Whydle


BCRC Conference July 1st - 3rd 2005

British Cave Research Council
July 1st - 3rd 2005
Eastwater Farm. Priddy

Hosted in 2005 by the Mendip Rescue Organization the 2005 conference will look at various aspects of cave rescue, with demonstrations and talks from other cave rescue organizations from around the UK.  Recent developments, new techniques & equipment, rescue practices, workshops etc., together with the ever-popular Rescue Race!

Many activities will be hands-on, and underground where practical. Delegates are expected from overseas and interested parties are welcome from all caving clubs and further afield.

The venue will effectively be a 'tented village' with conference facilities, bar and food available.

There will be a live band/stomp on the Saturday night.

Access will be by ticket only. More information will be available shortly. For more details and advance bookings contact Bob Cork, MRO Secretary.

Mark Lumley


Pete and Annette McNab on the birth of their son, Peter Hugo, on the 15th August 2004.


Andy and Ange Cave on the birth of their daughter, Jasmine, on the 16th August 2004.

Dates for your Diary

25th & 26th September 2004        BEC Working Weekend
2nd October 2004                        BEC AGM & Annual Dinner
23rd October 2004                       Rescue Practise, Eastwater
5th November 2004                      20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting
3rd December 2004                     20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting

Annual Dinner

At The Bath Arms Hotel, Cheddar, Saturday 2nd October 2004 at 19:30 ‘til midnight.

Coach will depart Hunters/Belfry at 19:00   


(A) Thick Italian minestrone soup topped with Parmesan cheese


(B) Prawns with Rose-Marie sauce served on a bed of salad


(C) Roast topside of beef with Yorkshire pudding, thick beef gravy


(D) Breast of chicken wrapped in bacon served with a cider sauce


(E) Vegetarian nut roast


All served with seasonal vegetables, new & roast potatoes


(F) Apple pie & cream


(G) Cheese board

Coffee and mints

COST: £15:00 each, COACH: £5:00 each

Return completed form with payment to: Fiona Sandford, Glen View, Priddy Rd., Priddy, Somerset, BA5 3AU.  The cut-off date will be the 17th September 2004.

Accommodation is available at a 20% discounted rate and should be arranged directly with The Bath Arms Hotel.  Telephone: 01934 742425

Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope for the return of dinner tickets


Committee Members

Secretary:                       Vince Simmonds
Treasurers:                     Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary:    Fiona Sandford
Editor:                            Greg Brock
Caving Secretary:            Rob Lavington (aka - Bobble)

Non-Committee Posts

Tackle Master:                Tyrone Bevan
Hut Warden:                   Roger Haskett
Hut Engineer:                  Paul Brock
BEC Web Page Editor:    Estelle Sandford
Librarian:                        Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings:                 Fiona Sandford
Floating Member:            Bob Smith

Club Trustees

Martin Grass
Nigel Taylor


As we had two BB’s (No’s 519 & 520) in quick succession I waited a little bit longer before publishing this BB. 

It is good to see that this BB contains a number of quality articles with good pictures and high quality surveys.  Long may this continue as it carries a good reputation for the club.  A number of articles included within this BB are from people who haven’t written articles for quite some time.  I’m always grateful for articles from any BEC member so hopefully these articles will inspire some other members to get typing.

 ‘The Belfry Dig’ is well and Tony Jarratt has an article which will appear in the next BB.  This will include acknowledgements of all those involved in doing the fantastic job of placing the concrete pipes in the entrance.

Well done to Phil ‘Madphil’ Rowsell and everyone else involved who have made the breakthrough and done the first roundtrip trip in Eastwater from Morton’s Pot to Lambeth Walk. It should be noted that this is a serious and committing trip and advice should be sought from those involved in the connection before attempting to do the trip.  Madphil will write an article on his return from Tazmania, which will hopefully make the next BB.


Recent Committee Business


Further to discussions at the AGM and at recent Committee meetings I would like to remind all members that no club ladders are to be used without a lifeline.

BEC Membership

Renewal Forms have been either sent by post and/or e-mailed to all members.  As with previous years if you want to take advantage of the discounted renewal rate of £30 single/£44 joint membership excluding public liability insurance cover (see next item!) please let me have your money by 30th November 2004. After this date the membership fees will be £35 single/£49 joint membership excluding public liability insurance.

“Public Liability Cover”

Please can all members requiring “Public Liability Cover” for Caving under The BEC’s Insurance please notify me by the 15th December 2004 in order that we may furbish The BCRA with a list of all members requiring cover.  As with last year, an additional premium will be payable - to be notified.

Next year the renewal form will be altered to include a space for this information!

Sybil Bowden-Lyle(145)

Sadly Sybil Bowden-Lyle passed away on the 25th October 2004.  A memorial service was held in Calne on the 6th November 2004 at which the club was represented by Sett.

Eric Towler

Of interest to older members we have been informed of the death recently of Eric Fowler.


Thank you to Life Members Mike Baker (392) and Ken Dobbs (164) for their donation towards BB distribution and as always Dizzie Tompsett-Clarke (74) for her ever useful donations of stamps!

Annie Audsley(1266)

Annie is at present in Poland teaching English.  She can be contacted via her e-mail which is in the printed BB.

Matt Tuck

No longer a member but for those of you who want to stay in touch Matt is now in Canada and his address is in the printed BB.

Members Hut Keys

All members are entitled to a key to The Belfry these are available on payment of a £10 deposit from Vince Simmonds (Secretary) 

Club Members Websites

I have now uploaded my new website.  It contains lots of photos and reports from various caving expeditions and trips as well as photos of the various other activities I get up to.

The address is

If there are any other club members with personal websites who would like the rest of the club to know about it please contact me.


Membership Statistics

Graphs produced by Sean Howe

Ed –     I’m sure all those at the 2004 AGM will remember the comical Membership Secretaries report comically delivered by ex Membership Secretary Sean Howe.  For those of you that were not at the AGM and also for those who need reminding of what Sean said here are some of the graph’s Sean produced at the AGM.

Note:    All information contained in this article has been gleaned from the Belfry Bulletin since it was first published.



A Statistical History of the BEC

By Andy Mac-Gregor


Five apprentices from a well known electrical contractors decided they wanted to go caving.  They were Harry Stanbury, Tommy Bartlett, Cecil Drummond, Ron Colbourn and Charlie Fauckes, who began a series of trips to Mendip and the formation of the B.E.C.

They had, at first, no intention of forming any organisation, until tackle became a problem. They heard of another group of enthusiasts who had recently formed themselves into a "Caving Club". The secretary of this club was located and Charlie Fauckes was sent to see if they could join.  He came away a disappointed man after a point-blank refusal to even consider "your sort" as members.

They held a meeting and it was decided, in June 1935, to form their own organisation.  Their initial membership was about a dozen which included the five originals.  At this inaugural meeting they drew up a constitution which has virtually remained unaltered through the years.

Membership did not increase greatly in the following years.  They were not keen, anyway, on having too many members at first as they felt they did not have sufficient know-how or facilities to hold them after they had joined.  The outbreak of war in 1939 found the club in a strong position although the membership was still only fifteen.

As the war progressed, most of the older members were called up, so that if they hadn’t been for one fortunate circumstance the club would have had to close down, as did other Mendip clubs, for lack of active members.  There were only two left, Harry Stanbury and Cecil Drummond.  They were fortunate to absorb the Emplex Cave Club. The E.C.C. membership comprised members of the staff of Bristol Employment Exchange who had formed a club for similar reasons.

1940/41 the number of new members usually equalling those called to the forces, but 1942 saw the most severe crisis in the club's history.  There was a massive call-up, the result of which left only about half-a-dozen active members, all of whom were actively engaged in the war effort and so had very little time for caving.  As all members in the forces had their subscriptions waived during the duration, the club was badly hit financially.

For six months they struggled on and then came salvation.  A number of persons of fair caving experience applied for membership. It is mainly through the hard work and support of two of these men, Dan Hasell and Roy Wallace, that the club was put on the way towards the prominent position it holds in the caving world today. The club was revitalised and it is from this time that the Membership numbering system began, in 1943, which is why most of the original members do not have a number.

During the Blitz years, one of our members, John (Jock) Kinnear, offered to write a history of the B.E.C.  All the original records, logs, etc., were posted to him; they never reached him and as a mail train was blitzed the same night, it is reasonable to assume that they were destroyed with the train.  As a result of this loss, there is no early record of Club activities prior to 1943.

For further reading on the history of the club, refer to Harry Stanbury’s article in BB number 429 in 1985.


In 1946 it was felt to be time to consider having a headquarters on the Hill.  Our first temporary H.Q. was the stone hut across the valley from the present Belfry site.  It had room for just six bunks and although it was completely inadequate for a club membership of 80, it was at least a toe-hold.  Shortly after this an old cricket pavilion on Burdown became available and this was purchased, transported and quickly erected on the original site across the valley, in time for the terrible winter of 1947.  It was later moved to the present site, in 1948 (for an account of the move, see BB14).  The hut became too small as the club increased, so a new one was found at Rame Head in Cornwall, bought, dismantled and transported to the site in October 1948.  After many months of work this became the third hut.

In 1953 an extension was added to the Belfry, which became the women’s sleeping quarters and made possible an enlargement of the kitchen.

In 1968, the hut suffered severely in a fire and had to be demolished.  The hut was cremated one Saturday by club members, after all the insurance had been settled. (See BB 259 for details of the fire).  For approximate 18 months, the Belfry consisted of the tackle store, which was temporarily converted to house six bunks.

A new stone/brick hut was erected on the site and is the headquarters we know today.

The club also held meetings, which started in 1943 and met on Thursdays nights, initially at Harry Stanbury’s house, which also housed the library, but when this became too small for the increasing membership, the meetings then took place in St. Michael’s Parish Hall, Redfields in 1949.  These moved to the St. Mary Redcliffe Community Centre in August 1950.

By 1957, many members were going to the Waggon and Horses pub at Redcliffe first, rather than going to the hall, and this slowly became the meeting place on Thursdays, though the library stayed at Redcliffe Hall and the hall was also used for the A.G.M.  By 1952, the meeting room had moved to Old Market Street, Bristol, though this didn’t last long and they reverted to St. Mary Redcliffe, though the A.G.M. was still held in Old Market.

During 1948 we absorbed the Clifton Caving Club and 'Shorty' formed a London section of the club.  This continued until 1953, by which time most membership had moved away from London.

In 1968, the meeting room at St. Mary Redclife and to be vacated and the Thursday meetings were move to the Old Duke, Kings Street, opposite the Landogger Trow.

In 1969, the Waggon and Horses pub was closed, and all Thursday night meeting were then held in the Old Duke.

The last notice is that the Bristol meeting had reverted back to the Seven Stars, by Bristol Bridge.  Whether these are still continuing, is unknown by the author.


Records which exist first began in 1943, when members were allocated numbers.  The only surviving member from 1935 was Harry Stanbury and he became number 1.  There were 14 members all told in 1943, and from the graph opposite, one can see the rise and fall of members for any particular year up to 2003.

From 1943 to 1945, the numbers increased gradually until 1946 when 37 new faces became members. The same year our dig at Cross Swallet brought us in contact with The Bridgwater Caving Club, the majority of whose members became members of B.E.C. - Sett, Alfie, Postle, Pongo, Don Coase, Shorty, Dizzie and Freda Hutchinson to mention a few by name.  We also absorbed the Mendip Speleological Group and became, individually, very active in the formation of the Cave Diving Group.

During the war, all members who were serving with the armed forces were given free membership, but this was revoked in 1948, as the issuing of Belfry Bulletins by post to members who had not been heard of for a while seemed a waste of materials, money and time.

From 1951 to 1954, the membership numbers declined from 129 to 126.  This was mainly due to more members leaving rather than joining.

From 1948 to 1980, the average numbers of persons applying for membership and becoming members for at least one year was an average of 25.  From 1981 to 1995, the average yearly increase was 15 and only 10 since then. The largest increases for any given year were 41 for 1949, 39 for 1963 and 1976, 37 for 1946 and 2967, 36 for 1947 and 35 for 1975.  The lowest increases for any given year were 4 for 1974, 5 for 1992, 6 for 2002, 7 for 1996 and 2001, 9 for 1983, 1986, 1997 and 1998, 10 for 1981 and 1982, with 11 for 1987 and 1999.

It can be seen that the level of memberships dropped remarkably from a peak of 249 in 1990. This is when mountain bikes started to make an appearance.   Many sports, just not caving, have lost members to the new sport of mountain bikes in their various forms.  The outbreak of foot and mouth in 2002 did not help matters.

The number of members the B.E.C. have had in total stands at 1298 at the time of writing this article. 298 only stayed for one year, presumably left when they found out that they had to pay an annual subscription. 192 lasted 2 years, 133 lasted 3 years, 110 lasted 4 years and 81 lasted 5 years.  Here the average levels out with an average of 35 lasting between 5 and 10 years.  These periods are the average time that a person stays with the club.

Most members leave because they stop caving and are not interested in the sport anymore.  A few leave to join other clubs as they move out of the area.  Some, unfortunately, have died whilst members of the club, and we even had one member, Mike Foxwell, murdered at Suez in 1951.

1968 saw the majority of Life Members appearing.  This was due to a form of raising money quickly to re-build the burnt out Belfry. At the moment we have 27.  At the peak we had 54 life members.

In 1956 the first full list of Club membership was published.  It contained 117 names.  The membership list in 1967 contained 217 names of which only 41 names are on both lists. The membership list in 1977 contained 201 names of which only 94 names are on both 1967 and 1977 lists, whilst there were 34 names from the 1956 list.  About 14 of the 34 names were not on the 1967 list, but have returned to the fold.


In 1946, the committee posts were elected and allocated at the A.G.M.  In 1950, this was dropped in favour of the elected members to the committee being sorted out amongst themselves in order to shorten the length of the A.G.M.  In 1978, the committee posts were once again selected at the A.G.M.

The committee has always consisted of the following posts from 1947:-

Honorary Secretary

Harry Stanbury (1947 to 1950); Dan Hassell in 1951; Bob Bagshaw (1952 to 1966); Roger Stenner in 1967; Alan Thomas (1968 to 1974); Dave Irwin in 1975; Mike Wheadon (1976 & 1977); Tim Large (1978 to 1983); Bob Cork (1986 to 1988); Mike McDonald in 1989; Martin Grass (1990 to 1994); Nigel Taylor (1996 to 2001); Vince Simmonds (2002 to present).

Honorary Treasurer

Harry Stanbury (1947 to 1950); Bob Bagshaw (1951 to 1973); Barry Wilton (1974 to 1978); Sue Tucker (1979 to 1982); Jeremy Henley (1983 to 1986); Mike McDonald (1987 & 1988); Steve Milner in 1989; Chris Smart (1990 to 2001); Mike Wilson (2002 to present).

Caving Secretary

The Caving Secretary first appeared in 1951.

Mervyn Hannam (1951 to 1954 & 1957 & 1958); Alfie Collins (1995 & 1956); Roy Bennett in 1958 & 1967;  (1957 to 1963); Mo Marriott (1960 To 1964); Dave Irwin (1965 & 1966 & 1970); Andy MacGregor (1968 & 1969); Tim Large (1971 to 1973, 1976 & 1977); Dave Stuckey in 1974; Andy Nichols in 1975;  Nigel Taylor in 1978; Martin Grass (1979 to 1983); Stuart McManus (1984 & 1985); Mark Lumley (1986 to 1989); Peter McNab in 1990; Jeff Price (1991 to 1995); Andy Thomas (1996 to 1999); Rich Long (2000 & 2001); Greg Brock (2002 & 2003); vacant in 2004.

There was an Assistant Caving Secretary in the following years: Alfie Collins in 1953 & 1954; Mike Palmer in 1964; Keith Franklin in 1965 & 1966; Andy MacGregor in 1970; Tim Large in 1975.

Climbing Secretary

The Climbing Secretary first appeared in 1950 but had disappeared by 1976.

Roger Cantle (1950 to 1952); Pat Ifold (1953 & 1954 & 1956); John Stafford in 1955; Kangy King (1957 to 1963); Roy Bennett (1964 to 1966); Eddie Welch (1967 & 1968); Malcolm Holt in 1969; Fred Atwell in 1970; vacant in 1971; Nigel Jago (1972 to 1974); Gerry Oaten in 1975.

Hut Warden

Doan Coase (1947 & 1948); Tony Setterington (1949 to 1954 & 1957 to 1963); Alfie Collins (1955 to 1958); Tony Setterington (1959 to 1963); Gordon Tilly (1964 to 1960; Phil Townsend in 1959; Jock Orr in 1970 & 1973; Keuth Franklin in 1971; Dave Irwin & Jock Orr in 1972; Nigel Taylor in 1974; Colin Dooley in 1975; Christ Batsone (1976 to 1979 & in 1985); Garth Dell in 1980; Dany Bradshaw in 1981; Mike Dick in 1982; Phil Romford (1983 & 1984); Tony Jarratt (1986 & 1987); Andt Sparrow in 1988; Peter McNab in 1989; Chris Harvey (1990 to 1992); Extelle Sandford (1993 & 1984); Angie Cave in 1995; Rebecca Campbell (1986 to 1999); Bob Smith (200 & 2001); Roger Haskett (2002 to present day).

There was an Assistant Hut Warden in the following years: Tony Setterington in 1948; George Lucy in 1952; Alfie Colins in 1954; Spike Rees in 19955 & 1956; Kevin Abbey in 1964 & 1965; Keith Franklin in 1966 & 1970; Dave Searle in 1967; Bob Cross in 1969; Nigel Taylor in 1973.

Hut Engineer

The Hut Warden and Hut Engineer was a combined post until 1955.

Mike Jones (1955 & 1956); Spike Rees in 1956; Brian Prewer (1958 & 1959); Spike Rees (1960 to 1962); Garth Dell (1963 &1967); John Ransom in 1964; Alan Thomas (1965 & 1966); Phil Townsend in 1968; John Riley (1969 & 1970); Pete Ham in 1971; Pete Stobart in 1972; Rodney Hobbs in 1973; Martin Bishop in 1974; John Dukes (1975 to 1977); Martin Bishop in 1978; Nigel Taylor (1979 to 1982 and 1990 to 1992 ); Phil Romford in 1983; Dany Bradshaw (1984 to 1988); Nigel Sprang in 1989; Tim Large (1993 & 1994); Any Cave (1995 & 1996); Nick Mitchel (1997 to 1999); Toby Limmer (2000 & 2001); Neil Usher & John Wilson (2002 & 2003; John walsh today.

Equipment Officer

Doan Coase (1947 & 1948); Tony Setterington in1949 and as Assistant Equipment Officer in 1948; George Lucy (1950 & 1951).  Renamed Tackle Officer in 1952.

Tackle Officer

Mike Jones (1952 & 1953); Ian Dear in 1954; Norman Petty (1955 to 1965). Renamed Tacklemaster in 1956.


Norman Petty (1956 to 1971);Bill Cooper in 1972; Maike Palmer in 1973; Graham Wilton-Jones (1974 to 1978); John Dukes (1979 to 1983); Bob Cork in 1984; Tim Large in 1985; Steve Milner (1986 to 1988); Stuart McManus (1989 to 1991); Mike Wilson (1992 to 1996);Richard Blake (1997 & 1998); Mike Willet (1999 to 2001); Mike Alderton in 1992; Tyron Bevan (2003 to present day)

Honorary Editor

Dan Hassel (1947 to 1949); Jon Shorthose and Don Coase in 1951; Harry Stanbury (1952 to 1956); Alfie Collins (1957 to 1967 & 1970 to 1977); Dave Irwin (1968 & 1969, 1978 to 1980); Graham Wilton-Jones (1981 to 1983); Robin Gray (!984 & 1985); Dave Turner (1986 to 1988); Ted Humphreys (1989 to 1992); John Williams (Jingles, 1993 to 1996); Estelle Sandford (19997 to 1999); Martin Torbott (2000 to 2001); Adrian Hole (2002 & 2003); Greg Brock in 2004.

Honorary Librarian

The Librarian was on the committee up to 1951, when it became an ex officio post.

Angus Innes (1947 to 1951); John Ifold (1952 to 1960); Sybil Bowden-Lyle (1961 to 1964); Joan Bennett (1965 to 1967); Dave Searle (1968 to 1973); Dave Irwin (1974 to 1979); Chris Batsone & Tony Jarratt (1980 to 1984 with J’Rat carrying on until 1989); Mike McDonald (1990 to 1992); Dave Turner (1993 to 1995); Alex Gee (1996 to 1999); Graham Johnson (2000 to present day).

The following posts have not been a constant feature of the club between 1947 and 2004.

Membership Secretary

The Membership Secretary first appeared in 1976, but prior to that there was an Assistant Secretary from 1948 to 1956.

Assistant Secretary: Jim Weeks in 1948; Pam Richards in 1959; Frank Young in 1950; Ken Dobbs (1952 to 1955); Alan Sandall in 1956.

Membership Secretary: Angie Dooley in 1977; vacant (1978 to 1980); Fiona Lewis (1981 to 1984); Brian Workman (1985 to 1087); John Wilson (1988 to 1992); Nigel Taylor (1993 & 1994); Richard Stephen (1995 & 1996); Roz Bateman (1997 to 2002); Sean Howe 2003 to present day.

London Representative.

Don Coase in 1949; John Shorthose from 1950 to 1952.

Ladies Representative

Sybil Bowden-Lyle in 1950; Jill Rollason in 1951; Clair Coase in 1952 & 1953; Judy Osborn in 1954; 1955 & 1956.

Committee Chairman

Dan Hassell in 1950; Tony Setterington 1951 to 1960?); Alfie Collins (1961? to 1967 & 1971 to 1977); Dave Irwin (1968 to 1970 & 1978 to 1980). No mention is made of this post after 1980.


This post has never been a committee post.  It was filled by Joan Bennett from 19?? to 1986 and then Barry Wilton from 1986 to 20??.  The dates are a bit vague as a period of about 10 years the AGM was not reported in the BB, and from 1994, only one has appeared, the 1999 AGM, which appeared a year later.

Other Officers

From time to time there have been other posts within the club, namely: - Minutes Secretary (Committee); Editor Caving Reports; Producer of Caving Reports; Postal Person.

Comments From Various Club Officers

Librarian.  Whenever there is a new Librarian, their first report invariable states something along the lines: - “I have spent the first year cataloguing the library.” 

Caving Secretary.  Whenever there is a new Caving Secretary: - “Does anybody know who are the Cuthbert’s Leaders.  The list does not appear to be up to date or it has been lost.”

Tacklemaster.  Whenever there is a new Tacklemaster: - “Most of our day to day tackle is missing.” “Can everybody please return the tackle they have to the tackle store.”  “It appears that most of the tackle in the tackle store is not ours.”

AGM and Dinner

The AGM and dinner were held on the last weekend of January up until circa 1960, when they were transferred to the first weekend of October.

1967 was the first year in which the AGM was started in the mornings as a 2.30pm start invariably did not allow enough time for members to change before the Dinner, or to fully discuss member’s resolutions.

Also to speed up the proceedings, the reports were published in the BB prior to the meeting, rather than having to be read out on the day.  This was first started in 1969.

Belfry Bulletin

In 1947 the Belfry Bulletin was first published and its success can be judged by the fact that after 57 years it still appears.

In the first year, the BB was published in foolscap (13” x 8”).  It changed to quarto (10” x 8”) after the first year, then to Sixmo (8” x 5”) in 195?, back to quarto in 1968, then A5 (8¼” x 5⅞”) in 1973 and finally A4 (11¾” x 8¼”) in 1977.

In 1947, 7 issues were published, increasing to 11 in 1948 and 12 in 1949.  It became monthly issues up to 1980, with a few hiccups on the way. Each year also represented a volume, so that by 1980 we were up to volume 34.

1951 saw the first hiccups when only 8 issues were published.  Combined issues 46/47 and 49/50 appeared.  Issue 49 had a few partially printed issues, but was never published and all articles bar one appeared in issue 49/50.

1956 saw the next hiccup when only 8 issues were published again, with a combined issue 101/102.

1959 and 1967 only had 11 issues, and this was mainly due to printer problems.

1970 saw a jump in issue numbers due to a counting error by the editor, so numbers 263 to 269 inclusive never have existed.  Volume 24 No. 1 was issue 262 was January 1970 with February 1970 being Volume 24 No.2 being issue 270.

1971 has 11 issues and so did 1975 and 1977, mainly due to shortage of material.

1976 was another hiccup year with only 8 issues being published and issue 341 being typed, but never issued due once again to printing problems.

From 1981 to 1985, no more than 8 issues were ever published.  In 1981 and 1982, the numbering system was carried on for each month, so there were a fair number of double numbered issues, namely; 393/394, 395/396, 398/399, 402/403/ 404/405, 406/407, 408/409, 410/411 and culminating in 412-415.  After this, the BB reverted to single numbered issues and ceased to be a monthly bulletin.

Volume 37 only had 6 issues and it covered two years, 1983 and part of 1984.  1984 had 4 issues; 1985, 6 issues; 1986, 6 issues; 1987, 5 issues; 1988, 4 issues; 1989, 5 issues; 1990, 5 issues; 1991 5 issues with 1992 having only 4 issues.  Volume 47 covered two years, 1993 and 1994, with 8 issues in total.  Volume 48 had 6 issues.

Volumes 49 and 50 had six issues each covering two years each (1996 to 2000).  Volume 51 also covered two years but only had 5 issues. 2002 had 2 issues, whilst 2003 had 3 issues.

One of the jobs of the editor is to ensure that all articles are free from spelling mistakes.  One cannot rely on a spell checker, so all article need to be read through slowly.  Relying on the spell checker can produce inaccuracies as can be seen from the poem below.

Eye have a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plane lee marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong or write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee four two long
And eye can putt the error write
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its litter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

For the last few years, the BB has had a lot of very good articles, but unfortunately very little or even no news items at all.  Most BB’s up until the late 1980’s, had a varying amount on news and notices concerning new discoveries and what was going on in the caving world.  As an example; I only knew of the existence of Slaughter River Cave in the Forest of Dean, by watching a programme on the television, concerning extreme archaeology.

Now we have a web site, the possibility of putting news on the site on a monthly basis would help to impart news to members who live away from Mendip.  This was the original intention of the BB, to inform distant members of occurrences in the caving world, especially on Mendip and affecting the B.E.C.  The news could then be transferred to the BB, when it is published, and the web site wiped clean, so as not to build up a large amount of outdated information, and the news kept for posterity in the BB.


Peru Caving Expedition 2004 Yauyos District of Central Peru

By Greg Brock

As we stepped out the hired/borrowed 4x4 trucks at 4378m above sea level the effects of the altitude and lack of acclimatization finally hit us.  Suddenly a young and fit international expedition could hardly move from the confines of the trucks.  It wasn’t long ago that we were all fighting our way through various international airports and then risking our lives in a cab journey from Lima airport to Nick Hawkes (BEC) house. Unfortunately our first bit of exercise was up at 4378m as we had sat in trucks up until this point.  We headed down Sima Pumacocha 2 (SP2) to rig the first pitches before heading back down the valley to recover.  It somehow took us 4 hours to rig 80m of cave.  The locals were very keen that we drunk coca(ine) tea, which is apparently their cure for altitude sickness.

Sima Pumacocha (The Cave of the Mountain Lake Lion) was one of our main objectives for the trip. Explored to a depth of 638m to a sump in 2001 & 2002.  It was hoped that an ascending muddy passage (Road to Certain Death) down near the sump would bypass this sump and previous limit of exploration.

The next day, 7th September, we headed back down SP2 to continue rigging the pitches.  Today I was feeling a lot better which was probably a combination of being better acclimatized, the coca tea and diamox tablets (prescribed altitude drugs).  While these activities were going on in SP2 others were rigging the huge entrance shaft of SP1 and also the higher entrance of Qaqa Mach'ay.

We had now rigged down to the x-files ledge and the trips were starting to get longer so we decided it was appropriate to have a day off and visit the San Valentino Mine.  All the bang fumes, lorry fumes and wine at high altitude on our tour round this mine meant that most of us went back feeling worse from our day off than if we had been caving.  The mine was protected by heavily armed guards and after a conversation in Spanish between Nick and the guard we were allowed in.  We were shown a very impressive selection of rock samples and geological maps from the mines and given samples to take with us. We were then provided food in the Café where we were treated like royalty.

After recovering from our rest day Pete Whitaker , Chris Densham & myself headed back underground to carry on with the rigging of SP2 (10th Sept 04).  Chris insisted on taking his newly acquired video camera on every trip and as it was kept in a yellow pelican case he soon got the nickname "Yellow Peril Productions".  With lots of rope, Drills, Batteries, Rigging Gear and more Hangers than we knew what to do with we headed very slowly into the cave with our train of gear.  Once at the X-Files ledge Yellow Peril Productions kicked into action and wanted to film us rigging across X-Files and down into Cascade de Don Jesus.  This was protested greatly my Pete and myself. However we soon made it to the bottom of the big pitch where we reached the "Horizontal bit".  This consisted of a steeply inclined passage full of house sized boulders.  From Here we rigged to the bottom of Rolling Thunder before a shortage of gear, battery power and enthusiasm prompted a return.

After a hard slog up all the ropes we reached the surface at 3am and was greeted by a freezing cold night. A great contrast in weather to the boiling hot day we left when we entered the cave.  By the time we reached top camp our gear was beginning to freeze so it was a case of getting changed quickly eating some food and going to bed.

After a few hours of shivering sleep we headed back down the mountain to try and regain some energy. 12th Sept 04, Snablet and I reached the previous limit of exploration and started bolting up an ascending muddy tube which was hoped to be a sump by-pass (Road to Certain Death). Unfortunately this was not the case and it dropped straight back into the sump pool.  After some looking round for other leads we headed out.

Further trips into SP2 were done for photography and then the de-rigging commenced.

Meanwhile SP1 was connected via a 282m pitch to “The Shining Path” in SP2 making a fantastic exchange trip.

Further details can be found from the expedition’s website that Ian McKenzie and the rest of the 2004 team set-up:

More Photos and surveys can also be found at

By Greg Brock




Pete Glanvill’s Navy

By Pete Rose

About 20 years ago Nick Chipchase and myself visited the Taunton/Ilminster canal tunnel. The entrance was off the A378 Taunton to Langport road at NGR 312 222 and on the north side of Crimson Hill. We walked into a limestone blocked tunnel in a south direction, in ever increasing depth of mud. There were stalactites hanging off the roof, and after a few hundred yards we were thigh deep in goo. We promised to come again with a variation on a snow shoe, but never did.

This autumn Pete G was contacted by the owner of the southern entrance, over at Beer Crowcombe to come over and investigate his part of the tunnel. “Oh, and bring some inflatables”. “Minty” the inflatable sheep came to mind, but Pete G  “the man for all scottish lochs” and his one-oared self -sinking devices was on top of the situation.

One Sunday in Nov. Pete had arranged to meet me at Hatch Beauchamp with Ken Passant. I duly then followed him all over Crimson  Hill(Alt 280ft)  looking for Beer Crowcombe, eventually arriving at a cottage with a large cutting in the back garden (NGR 324 207). The owner showed us some steps cut into the bank leading down to the edge of the tunnel and several feet of water. We retreated to Pete’s  new Ford Ranger…(tonka the diesel evaporator).  Here the boot revealed two inflatables…one was a kids paddling pool type, in blue with flower patterns on it, the other a yellow 3 man “ row to your cruiser”. The owner looked on as Ken blew….. and blew, and …blew,  and Pete stomped… and stomped  and stomped on his foot pump. There were two gentle hissing noises coming out of both!.  The poor fellow went away and returned with a compressor. This succeeded in producing louder hissing noises, so some gaffer tape was produced and stuck to the inside of the yellow dinghy. Ken decided to rush off with the blue one while it was still ok and was seen 20 yds up the tunnel in no time, complete with oars and light. Pete. G and myself arrived next .I was holding the tape on until Pete got in the dinghy( I did tell him to hold onto the tape). He  managed a yard or so before the rapidly deflating boat shipped muddy water and he abandoned it. Pete managed to struggle over to Ken , in waist deep mucky water, where  there were large straws hanging down from the ceiling…6 feet long or so.  Camera in hand Pete G was flashing away, helectites in the alcoves, so Ken decided to make a dash for the distance parts of the tunnel. As he disappeared from sight, on a slight curve, we could hear the gentle hissing. “ I ‘m coming back, either swimming, or paddling “ shouted Ken.

  There was a lovely echo

 “O.K.  Dinsdale, We know you’re in there an you got da money, Hand it over now  or you wont be coming back”!

   Ken eventually returned, and the blue paddling pool was re-inflated for a 2nd attempt. I now managed to kneel in the boat and carrying various flashbulbs, floated 20 yds to the stal. I managed a few bulbs before I scraped the side of the boat on the wall, which made the hissing louder, and the retreat even quicker. This signalled the end of the tunnel exploration.

We then packed up everything, with Pete showing the owner some good digital piccies, and had a look up the road at a collapse in a field. The tunnel appears to have been filled in from the field or maybe there was a route down to the bottom originally (unlikely).This collapse is half a mile up the road ,and the tunnel must have been a mile or so long .So well worth a look, but take canoes, short ones, cos you wont be able to turn around ! Merry Xmas.

Pete Rose.


Caving in Zanzibar, A Pathetic Attempt

By Pete Rose

The Rose family holiday this year  was a safari to Africa, arranged by a friend in Crediton. David Wendover was working in  Dar-Es-Salaam as an agricultural advisor to the Dutch Govt. and asked if we would like to visit, together with his wife Nita, and go on safari. Etc.  I visited J-Rats in August to see if there were any books on caving in Africa and unfortunately the Speleo club of Berlin’s Report  was not available. I then resorted to the internet and only found mention of caves in Tanga in the North of Tanzania and some in Zanzibar .I managed to hint at the wondrous possibilities of a week in Zanzibar on the beaches etc , and only a ferry boat away from  Dar. This did the trick and the ladies, Sue and Nita were already lining up a visit to the spice plantations etc. We arrived in Dar early Sept ,still the dry season and  taking the mozzies seriously with anti malarials/deet repellent etc

David and Nita drove us 400miles  west of Dar to the Ruaha National Park for the first week, via a one night stop with Sven ,a nutty swede ,all alone, no beer, running a campsite. There was an obligatory stone throwing contest at a large rogue baboon who was stealing food   .Wow! This is a superb Park and rarely visited as everyone goes north to the Serengeti/Mt Kilimanjiro area. The Camp was run by  the  English Fox family from Tavistock  and consisted of stone bandas (huts) along the Gt Ruaha River which was barely flowing .Only  30ft from the edge ,we were constantly watching elephant  ,hippo,  giraffe ,crocodile, babboons, fish eagles ,Kudu,  Impala .The lions were roaring away at night, with hyaena(cunning buggers) replying ‘whoop,whoop’, just behind us. We managed  a bottle of wine every night to get to sleep, as there were feet padding around outside and there were no windows, just nets , and the lights went out at 10.30.We had guides each day, and opened the windows of the Nissan, to take piccies. ,carefully, to avoid tsetse fly, who seemed to arrive at 30mph provoking panic. (n.b. avoid dense bush, and the wearing of blue/black clothes).We didn’t want to leave, and t’was a 12 hour drive back, with the first 50 miles or so on dirt tracks ,avoiding the ‘never ending road’,so named, and now the quickest route,to Irringa. .                                                                      

Back in Dar  there was no sign of any postcards, or travel details to caves in Zanzibar or Tanga so ,with David working the 2nd week, we left on a ferry  to Stone-town with a light and walking boots .The ferry was an hour and a half of bliss in flat calm conditions and was a modern  fast- type complete  with “mind  your head” in english. One  noticed all the road signs were ex-british   in Dar!”  In Stone-town port we queued to show our passports  and found a taxi  to  Mtoni Marine  a few miles north . Nita had stayed here before and we dined on the beach  that night…..curry night! The next day  I asked about caves and  the island was full of them (reef limestone),but where?. Everyone recommended a tour of the former slave caves combined with a spice plantation tour. The first full day there was a trip to the north east by taxi, to Msembe, costing  thirty US. dollars for the day .Wow ,beaches of white shell material ,emerald green/blue seas. I looked at a map and there was the magic word  ‘cave’.

Mangapwani   . There it was on the local map…Coral cave and Mangapwani  cave close together, maybe linked? Only 10 miles up the west coast from us. Mtoni’s arranged a  day trip with a group tour  to a plantation and  the caves for only 11 dollars each including lunch.

We were picked up by an open 12 seater  at 10am and off to the plantation for a long walk. lunch  was Ugali…rice and meaty gravy. At the end we were sold various spices and given coconuts to drink/eat. Finally we headed off to the coast to the cave. The entrance,nr a beach  , was a concrete stairway down to a large chamber where slaves were stored for transportation. There was a pool of fresh water and a muddy pathway . the chamber was about 80mtres by 25 wide and 15 high. I produced my led light  and wandered off  from the main group ,much to the surprise of  the guide, who didn’t really like being underground. His torch was as dim as my 4led light, but he followed me north along a wide but not very high passage, muttering about bats. There were no formations and the sticky mud was quite slippery. I guess we went several hundred metres until the passage dipped to some low crawlways and a wall with hanging bats, quite small bats.( I whispered  that the B.E.C were kind to bats ) .The guide was glad to turn around here and as the others were waiting I couldn’t get to do the southerly route from the entrance chamber. This  apparently leads to a large pool that can be traversed to a tight climbable second entrance nr the beach, although the direction seems wrong if the coastline is already n-s. My knees were rather muddy  so the coach drove off to a deserted beach and we swam for a half hour. A local lad sold me some beer from a cool-box…500 tanzanian  schillings for a beer ,normally 200 schillings.(one US dollar to 1000 schillings). I gave him a dollar and waited for 20 mins for the change. .he was expecting  a tip , so I said I would take another beer as change which  confused Him.

Next day we went to Stone town to look for postcards and gifts. I searched for an hour and finally found two types of postcards for the Mangapwani caves . I bought up the remaining stock at 100schilling each…offers to…!    The return trip on the ferry was grim as the weather had changed and the sea was choppy. In fact we were stuck on the open top deck of the ferry for 2 hours with waves crashing over us. The locals had sussed this out and were down below, which was difficult to get to down some slippery steps .We got soaked. Our last few days were spent in Dar and at the yacht club, a few hundred yds from the house. We went out on David’s boat, which was memorable for Sue and Nita’s swim to the shore,  and farther away than they thought .An anxious glimpse, as they both crawled ashore through large waves..

At the Caving Conference in Kendal  I spotted the Speleo Club of Berlin’s stall and bought a copy of the report.. Tanzania 19994-2000,with a nice discount for a Mangapwani   postcard. Thus…….

Mangapwani Cave ,  located at 6deg00’08’,3’’ S .  039deg11’28,6’’E ,Alt 16mtre

Length 300metre,16metre deep .formed in reef limestone.(survey completed)

MWERA River Sink, reported to be under a waste site on the east coast

Haitajwa Hill cave. (Chomowan). nr  Dimani village ,a large hill with a cave and pumping station

Machomvi  Ndogo .a rock shelter, 1km from Haitajwa, with 4mtre high,5 mtre wide entrance leading down to a pool of water

Machomvi  Kubwa  80mtre sw of Ndogo .on one side of a doline of 20metre diameter, a walk down to a pool and rock shelter 8mtre high,12 metre wide

Pango Ya Kivuli  Jambiani.(east coast).car track to the north leads 2km to water tank. cave entrance20 mtre south of the car track,250mtre to east of water tank  .doline leads down  one side to 1.5metre high,7 metre wide entrance.35 degree slope down to10 metre by 4mtre wide     deep water pool. Abri-formed ceiling covers a room 20x8 mtres wide.

Pango Kumbi  Difficult to find ,roughly from south  Jambiani ,about 2,5km to west and same distance south on a track navigable by car .first entrance reached sloping down  12metre from a doline.  Tunnel is 10metre high ,20metre wide, with daylight openings The main tunnel ends at another entrance  Total  length 150mtre,with pool.

All references by Speleo club Berlin, Tanzania 1994-2000. thanks and  acknowledments.

Other ref. Halliday. W.R .. (1974).Caves and Karst of Zanzibar ,an initial reconnaissance-Cascade Caver,13(3)p5-6.

Tanner.B.(1982) .Zanzibar Caves -Spelophant Bulletin-Cave Exploration Group of E.Africa,6,p22; Nairobi.

p.s. I don’t think there are crocs on Zanzibar  but don’t take  my word for it, having watched lots of pairs of orange dots every 10 feet along the Gt Ruaha river at night . “Akuna matata”…… worries.

Pete Rose.


The BEC in Daren Cilau 2004

By Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley

A lot of work has been done by a small number of BEC and Chelsea cavers over the past 12 months in the Hard Rock Extensions.

Things were kicked off by a long clean up camp at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe for Jake (Graham Johnson) and Mad Phil (Rowsell).  The place was gutted and it just remains for 30 plus BDH's of rubbish to be taken out of the cave, and a mountain of mouldy sleeping bags to  be disposed of before we are left with a manageable, lightweight bivouac site! Gonzo (Mark Lumley) and Mad Phil did a couple of 48 hour camps at the

Hard Rock Cafe, pushing the choke beyond 12 o' Clock High (Chokes Away) for about 10 ft. This is a strategically magnificent site, being perched above the San Augustin streamway just before it terminates, tantalizingly close to the terminal sump in Agen Allwedd. Found originally by Peter Bolt and Nick Wall the site has been dug over the years by many of the Hard Rock regulars and extended by about 50 ft along the right hand wall of a strongly draughting boulder choke. Next camp we were joined by Henry Bennett, NikNak ( Wessex) and Charles Bailey and Adrian Fawcett ( Chelsea). An extension of about 15 ft was gained. Unfortunately the site degenerated once again into an unstable choke requiring drill, bang and spare pants! Work continues.

On the next 2 day camp Gonzo, Charles and Adrian revisited Chokes Away and then started digging beneath the north wall (see attached drawing)  of the low section of the Oregano trail, just before climbing up into  12 o' Clock High (a site pointed out by Phil on the previous camp). A  low, wide passage was revealed with a promising draught and pushed for  about 6 ft. The passage is almost completely packed with sand and  fallen blocks of roof (reminiscent of the dig through Acupuncture  passage, for any veteran Daren diggers reading this!). Since then we have returned for a 48 hour and then a 72 hour camp and extended the dig to about 30 ft.

Bizarrely we seem to have lost the draught at the very end but will persevere as the passage seems to be trending upwards at long last and will hopefully pop up into air...

The logistics of a remote site like this make the 3 day camps infinitely preferable as we can then put 2 long (8-10 hour) digging

shifts in and make significant progress before slobbing out back at  camp. Meanwhile, Duncan Price and some of the other divers have been diving in 6ft scaffold bars for us. We intend to use these on a number of  sites including the massive choke at the end of Aggy Passage (flyovers). Anyone keen to join us can just contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Next camp will be Jan 14-17 followed by further camps throughout 2005 every 6 weeks or so.

We tend to head in Friday afternoon/evening. You'll need dry clothing  to sleep in but there are plenty of sleeping bags. Gonzo


Mel-low digs and Russian Woman Hands.

By Richard Long

The lure of the digging session has never been very high on my agenda as far as caving goes. I had a few moments of madness in America, brought on by spicy food, huge amounts of Mexican beer and Chivas Regal. Although, I soon came to my senses when I got back on the Hill.

This is a dreadful affliction of hard work; too thin holes, loose rock and worst of all having to carry heavy bags of things!!!Apparently you are expected to haul big batteries, drills, and drill bits, not little normal drill bits! Nice little bits that normal folks use, the people who will spend the weekend knocking up a pretty coffee table, a set of bookshelves or a DRINKS CABINET, something useful. No, not these, these drill bits are the ones that could be used as full size throwing spears to bring down one of those big old woolly Mammoths.

You know the ones, they used to wander around in the Hunter’s car park with several disreputable elk and a couple of rhino and then end up down hunters sink. Probably after overdoing it a bit on an excess of some sort of ancient dodgy alcoholic brew and a game of sofa rugby.

As you have probably guessed, hard work and I are not comfortable bedfellows. However, working as a tutor, they actually force you to take days off, lots of days, lots and lots of days off, well someone has to do it.

So, I threw myself into my forced vacation, lots of reading, some painting, trying to learn german, as I had just been there and loved it. Started to do a bit of sculpting in wood until my arms got tired and then decided I should begin taking Dorothy Gibbons dog, Ben, for long walks! It was a lot easier on the arms.

Well, it fell to pass that I met the good man, Jake, on one of my travels. Foolishly, I allowed him to lull me into a false sense of security. We fell into conversation about Unlucky Break, well I hadn’t been there, fancy a bit of a trip?

Little voice in head saying, “Run Forrest! Run like the wind!!”

 “Going to pop in with a bit of bang, interested?”  the smooth-tongued digger went on.

 “Don’t listen, don’t do it!!!” the voice screamed.

For ages I have grinned broadly at Mad Phil and Jake and turned down the attractive offers of helping them out in Morton’s. Of course, that was when I was sane. I was the Lord of Laziness, the King of Idle, the Sultan of Sloth. Oh no, I listened to him; I was seduced by the magic of explosives and loud bangs. Oh, a bit of clearing as well, not much mind you! The die was cast. I was trapped. I was even excited!

I sat there at the entrance of Eastwater, the sun was shining, God was in his heaven, and all was right with the world. Jake turns up with a couple of bags and in we go. It’s dark!! I quite like Eastwater, however due to my manly physique, there is places I have difficulty with. As Tony Jarrett will confirm on my attempt to get down the Primrose Path, fat buggers, consider thy diet, as Chaucer once said. Or it could have been some other chef on daytime T.V.

Any way we get through the Woggle press, have a bit of a nice slide, straight across the crossroads and into uncharted territory for me. Bit of a wriggle and out into a nice wide rift and then a bit of a grim greasy climb. Lots of heavy breathing, cursing, praying, twisting and eventually I reached the top. Just so that I can bend myself into the shape of a pretzel, a sort of American biccy for the uninitiated, and go down the other side into Unlucky Strike.

The chamber requires an abseil and a scramble and then a more or less blank wall. There is a duck on the left, which Mad Phil has investigated and then typical Mad Phil style has to be dragged out by his back legs. To the right a bit of a slot and an aven, which doesn’t appear to go anywhere, but in between is a nice little cubbyhole, with possibilities. This doesn’t matter, because we’re going to bang it anyway! A good reason to be a caver, alcohol and explosives! Not necessarily in that order.

We have a bit of a nice mellow scrabble about in the loose stuff, cooo, it moves, its not to bad. Whack it a few times with a lump hammer, it breaks and the little cubbyhole gets bigger. Do you know what? We can feel a little draught. I am almost excited again.

Well the pubs open, we’ve cleared a few buckets and Jake is making a fantastic wall in the aven, so drill it, bang it and beer. Now we’re back to the drill, the drill is fine, the bits ok, the batteries, well, they need a little bit, that’s not meant to be a pun, to be desired. Seeing as Stu Sale rescued them from a bin in the army depot where he was stationed, I suppose we shouldn’t grumble.From then on it’s drill a bit, change the batt’s, swear, drill a bit more until the jobs done.Out we go and it’s a successful, brain shaking, stomach churning, leg wobbling bang, lovely.

Jake and I go in a few more times, nice and relaxed, more airflow, bigger hole, it’s good. We are joined by our new little chum Rob, just joined the BEC, but keen. He went at the rock like a mad dog! Should have brought him before.

Well, we dig when we feel like it, no mad rush; it’s been there for a while, its mellow, and really relaxed. Gradually, the hole gets bigger, deeper, just Jake and me, more and more draught, now we can see little formations and the start of a phreatic tube. We are really excited. Soon Mad Phil returns from Austria, where he has been with HARDCORE Russian cavers. So for the next few days we all speak in very bad Russian accents, this is grown men, sad or what?

On Phil’s return the wonder of his Hilti bar comes into action. What a fantastic piece of potentially dangerous kit. I love it, you can bang and stay right there and carry on scrabbling. Well, a couple of trips more and the tube is more or less big enough to drop down through, in theory. Jake and Mad Phil offer to let me go in first; this is a fantastic honour for me. Well I get in to the tube, not even greased up, and begin the trip through the birth canal. Little bit of a problem trying to get my ample buttocks through a tight bit, but some howling, cursing and squirming and I’m through into a widening phreatic.

Swivelled around onto my back and I can see it opening up, pretties ahead very low, its taped now and hopefully they will survive. Then out onto a sloping ledge and there is a big rift chamber and a good bacon style curtain. The chamber stretches ahead about ? But, below my feet it drops away down into a widening rift, not to be attempted on the rope we have. In comes Jake and Phil to join me in the new chamber, we like it!! Many thanks to my chums for allowing an idle geezer, with hands like a Russian women to enter the new bit first.

I’m almost hooked.

Nurse, bring the medication, QUICK!!!



Loxton Sand Quarry Caves

By Nick Harding & Nick Richards

A small overgrown quarry located just west of the Loxton – Christon road at N.G.R. 37475605 contains a number of minor caves.

The quarry is in strongly dolomitized limestones where discrete beds have degraded to fine sand. Small-bore cave labyrinthine cave passages (generally three-quarters full of sand) have been intercepted. These passages were excavated over the period 2000-2001in an early attempt to find Loxton Cavern.

Site 1. The main cave

The main entrance is near the road in the south-east corner of the quarry. A 2m slide into a low chamber leads after 4m to an upward crawl for 3m to a second entrance in an open pit just above the south face of the quarry. Just before the crawl a tight passage on the right affords access to a third entrance in the south face of the quarry. From the pit a further crawl for 5m gains yet another entrance in the extreme south-west corner of the quarry. The cave is about 22m long and in no place over a metre high. There are numerous impassable side passages.

Site 2.

Above the quarry and on the north-west corner of the quarry plot is a small chamber. Excavation in the floor allowed a 2m slide down a bedding plane to a lower entrance. The bedding plane was separated from the surface by a ‘skin’ of rock only 30cm thick. One or two other impassable side passages were found.

Site 3. The badger hole cave

Just over the west boundary of the quarry plot is a defunct badger hole. Probing ascertained that the hole was a rock tube. Excavation in sand down to 3m reached a solid rock base passing many impassable passages and tight bedding planes.

Near the top of the hole a crawl was followed west for 3m to a small bedding plane 3m by 2m with a large fallen slab on the floor. All this part of the cave was filled in.

At the entrance hole a crawl northwards for 4m leads to a right angled bend and tight squeeze in sand to a tiny chamber where it is just possible to turn around. A choked extension is visible.

Site 4. The truncated chamber

In the east face of the quarry is a recess some 3m by 2m and 2m high evidently a chamber truncated by the quarry, it was probably filled with sand.

Site 5.

Above the back of the quarry on an overgrown ledge is a small slot in solid rock. It is impassable after 2m.


The sandy nature of the rock and the lack of structurally coherent passage indicate caves formed by the reduction in volume of the limestone during dolomitization. Digging would reveal passage of similar nature but it is unlikely any major cave lies in this area.



Loxton Sand Quarry Cave – and it’s environs

The Two Nicks

Being the early exploits of the two Weston gentlemen in the search for the Lost Cave of Loxton in their pre BEC days.

Loxton Sand Quarry is on the Christon-Loxton road just before the road descends into the latter village. It is a small overgrown place that contains further evidence for Loxton Hill being half decent cave country. The Two Nicks dug here but to break the monotony did some digging at Hatley Rocks on Worlebury hill where the beginnings of another small cave system seem to be manifesting (more on that in a future BB).

Much like the Star Wars movies we’re telling this tale somewhat back to front because the more exciting adventure of our Loxton Cavern exploits produced more startling results than our initial forays in the area, some four years ago, which are described in the following brief descriptive account of the discovery of a small cave system in the sand quarry that lies adjacent to the road into the village of Loxton. 

Way back at the turn of the new millennium your two heroes began noisily ferreting around in the undergrowth of Loxton Hill with the sole purpose of finding Catcott’s Lost Cave and drinking some beer afterwards…Our two reasons being the hunting of Catcott’s Lost Cave, drinking some beer and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope – amongst our reasons…I’ll come in again…Caves – Beer, what else is there?

Akin to the methodologies of the Spanish Inquisition there was much jabbing in odd holes around the quarry face, which revealed little of any value as 6 inch wide gaps are not the best place to start digging for missing caves or indeed the extraction of wildly implausible confessions. In June of that year we had fallen upon a low arch in the South East corner of the quarry and decided that that would be our first dig site as it looked the most promising.

The quarry itself was small and overgrown sporting a lush almost tropical feel in the summer months. Large fronded ferns gave the impression we were pipe smoking, tweed wearing adventurers digging in an exotic location such as Manacapuru in Brazil or Mushenga in the Kasai-Occidental, (steady on!) accompanied by the monotonous ‘tweep’ of some ridiculously ornate bird. The arch itself had once been the entrance to Mr. Brock’s house so we were a little wary that the striped gentleman and his boisterous cohort might still be at home. But it was long abandoned (except for the fleas and a small tuft of hair much akin to a badger’s wig!) Digging began in earnest (who took umbrage and left – bad gag! But kept in for reference purposes) and the arch was widened. We also began to remove the rotted stump of a long since retired tree that was sort of, kind of barring the way. Well it wasn’t but we just wanted to waste a few digging sessions to check out the lie of the bedrock.

When the entrance was wide enough – after a number of visits – we took it in turns to slide in and have a sniff around removing spoil as we did so. The entrance opened into a low flat chamber, thick with sand and badger bedding. On numerous visits afterwards this packing was removed without incident but not before a guest digger nearly cashed in his vinegar soaked chips when a large boulder thumped unceremoniously and somewhat belligerently into the spot where his head had been only seconds before – or so he claimed. In truth, we believe it was probably a boast to make him sound more windswept and interesting and cursed ourselves for not thinking of it first.  

An examination of the surroundings proved to be worthwhile, as there appeared to be a number of ways on and plenty of enticing arches, recesses and cool blasts of air (the source of one being Nick H pumping one off near a packet of freshly opened Fox’s Glacier Mints during a lunchtime break). Digging in the fill to hunt for the floor of the chamber we found an egg and promptly named the chamber - (quelle surprise!) - The Egg Chamber.

We spent numerous visits clearing out the fill – mostly of a sandy nature to reveal a reasonable little system – not Optimisticheskaya or Fisher Ridge admittedly but it lifted our hopes in our quest for the big boy. With hindsight of course this was woefully misguided but hey, that’s the nature of the beast. Any hoo, we cracked on apace, working occasionally at the surface further up the quarry face. Not as dramatic as it sounds – where we were working it was only about twenty odd feet up a generously relaxed slope.

We widened what turned out to be a bisected chamber back filled with a good deal of spoil. This was subsequently removed (to an extent – the lazy genes kicked in along with the ancient call of the pint) to where it connected with the rest of the system down slope. We called this the Cave of Emus – (absolutely no idea why – it just sounded silly and was therefore fully justifiable).   At the base of the Cave of Emus was a small rounded ‘room’ called Aunty’s Chamber and this too connected, in a semi-roundabout sort of way, with the rest of the small system. At the base were other tight little holes in which hands and arms were thrust in best veterinarian manner but alas, to no avail.

At the top of the Cave of Emus we dug out the Tunnel of Glove (sadly no small boats, pink heart shaped stal or cheesy music) a comfortable crawl to a small chamber in the corner of the quarry.  During a semi-vigorous ferret Richards found an old glove – hence the name. The corner chamber opened out back into the quarry through a low arch with a number of small recesses and holes that hinted at monstrous caverns beyond. Actually they didn’t but one can dream. 

On the back wall of the quarry were the remains of another bisected chamber filled with large boulders. Various orifices were probed but nothing was discovered by way of further passage, although there was obviously a connection with the corner chamber just below the surface. The small system in essence had come to a stop, which was a bloody shame but there we go.

If there are any ways on we don’t know of any. Not that we checked every square inch (lazy genes again) but it was soon evident that this had nothing to do with Loxton Cavern and as that was our goal we felt we had given about as much time as we could to this little project.

On odd occasions, between digs, we had sniffed about the rest of the quarry looking for other holes to jab things into – sticks mostly but the odd finger and elbow were also employed along with the Richard’s excuse for a fag – the draught test using a lit cigarette. There were a few recesses but nothing that fired the schoolboy enthusiasm beyond a desultory umming and ahhing and the odd ‘bugger…’(as in the expletive that is)


In the North west corner of the quarry, just below its upper reaches level with the field we discovered the remnants of another small system and what looked like evidence of a small drive as the limestone wall looked too straight to be natural. This we thought might relate to the ‘cutting’ made by the old boys in the early reports by the usual suspects. But nay verily, twas not so.

Small chambers were cleared out but to little avail. We even stuck out along the back wall in an effort to look for ways into the hill but again – nothing.  On return visits it was quite satisfying to see the grass and earth slope that we had undermined sagging gently like an old matted carpet. If Loxton Hill collapses at any time we will not be held responsible because we will have run away.

Realising that this too was a dig that was going nowhere we repaired to a local hostelry, as one is prone to do on such occasions, to give considered debate between mugs of foaming brew as to what to do next.

Our trips to the quarry usually meant parking up and making the journey, without small wiry Sherpas to carry thermoses (what is the plural of thermos?) and sandwiches through the woods and down to the Sand Quarry from above. At the top by a wire fence, if you can use fence as a broad optimistic euphemism for a single line of knackered barbed wire, was a hole – or rather the long abandoned home of the striped one. No confusion should be drawn between the tunneling Okapi of Compton Bishop just across the way.

Checking to see if Mr. Brock was out of town, long gone in fact, we started a dig there and soon some discoveries were made. At first we headed down and at about five or six feet came up against a narrow bedding chamber to our right and further down some interesting chambers and sand filled passages the latter of which were somewhat precarious.  One small chamber behind us may have led on down slope i.e. eastwards into the quarry but was somewhat small to negotiate. We scraped together a theory that it may have connected to the Sand quarry cave down below but that, although pure speculation may not be beyond the realms of possibility.

The hole at this point was now around 10 feet deep but there existed no strong evidence that we were on the right trail (remember we were still looking for Ye lost cave at this point). Nobody had been this way before.   We back filled and set off into the hill, as a large roomy chamber seemed to be looming behind a large boulder barring the way.

Several digs saw us working our way over and around this beast until we were finally able to manoeuvre it out of the way. Beyond was indeed a small chamber – not too high but large enough to fit a pair of Nicks into. The chamber itself was sloping roughly north east by south west – not exactly but near as damn it. The northern section of this chamber was filled with rubble, to the west there was an undercutting and to the south it dipped away filled with sand and soil. Again much probing was done here but sadly nothing seemed to be happening.

Just near the entrance beneath the tree that stood atop the hole a low crawling passage headed northwards which was pushed a few times to a flat out crawl that turned west. Digging here proved to be tricky – only because it was so flat with just enough space to move around – the floor is filled with sand and with a bit of flipping of the fins one could do a reasonable imitation of a turtle laying its eggs in the sand of an equatorial beach. The passage then turned west and pinched down to a too tight and very narrow (shameless tautology) crawl. Further digging may reveal developments in this direction.

This area is worth further investigation but as with the other digs we knew that no one had been this way before. Despite the new discoveries we were keen to crack on and find the Loxton Cavern that still lay two years ahead in its rediscovery – and you all know about that one now.


Club Rules

These rules are nothing new they have just been slightly amended by the 2004/2005 committee.

1.             The Charges for Members and Guests staying in The Belfry or Camping in The Snake Pit are displayed in The Belfry Foyer or can be obtained from The Hut Warden.  The Charges are applicable to all persons staying at The Belfry and must be paid promptly before departure.

2.             ALL Members and Guests are expected to do their fair share of cleaning before departing The Belfry.

3.             Caving Equipment and Attire must be confined to The Belfry Changing Room.

4.             All damage to The Belfry must be repaired or paid for by the persons responsible.

5.             It is expected that between the hours of Midnight and 8am Members and Guests show consideration to those wishing to sleep. Members and Guests must sleep in the bunk room not in the Lounge, Library or Attic

6.             The last person to leave The Belfry must ensure that services are turned off as appropriate, and that The Belfry is left in a secure condition in accordance with notices displayed and/or common sense.

7.             The Hut Warden is appointed to control The Belfry and site and in any dispute his/her decision is final.

8.             Any member who brings or invites any visitor to The Belfry is responsible for the conduct of that visitor.

9.             The use of “Controlled Substances” in The Belfry is prohibited.

10.           Members and Guests shall be responsible for writing their intended trip up on the notice board including an ETO. Whilst on the trip no rubbish is to be left in or around the cave and no damage should be intentionally done to formations.  On returning the trip will be erased from the notice board before embarking on any other activity. Members should write up a report of the trip in the Club Log Book.

11.           No excavations are to be undertaken in the name of The Bristol Exploration Club without approval from The Committee.

12.           The rules governing access and use of the Club library should be strictly adhered to.

13.           The membership of any individual who fails to pay his annual subscription by 31st December following the AGM in October shall deem to have ceased.

14.           The Bristol Exploration Club or any individual member there of will not be held responsible for any accident caused through any fault in ladders, ropes or any other cause whatsoever whilst the person concerned is taking part in any activity organised by The Bristol Exploration Club or it’s individual members.

15.           It is expected that the name of The Bristol Exploration Club be upheld.  Any member whose behaviour falls short of this in so far as to bring disrepute upon the club or to cause endangerment or distress to other members and their guests and/or members of the public and their property shall be summoned to appear before the Committee to explain their actions. It will be The Committees decision on the appropriate action to take after all the evidence has been considered. This could range from a warning, to suspension of membership for a period of time or dismissal from The Bristol Exploration Club. The member concerned would have right of appeal to The Annual General meeting.



The committee have decided on a new logo to celebrate this years anniversary. We are having a number of tee shirts printed for sale.  The price is the same as the old tee shirts £8.00 each they are in blue only.


If you are interested please contact Tyrone Bevan:

Dates for your Diary

25th & 26th September 2004       BEC Working Weekend
2nd October 2004          BEC AGM & Annual Dinner
23rd October 2004         Rescue Practise, Eastwater
5th November 2004        20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting
3rd December 2004        20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting


Committee Members

Secretary:                            Vince Simmonds
Treasurers:                         Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary:    Sean Howe
Editor:                                  Greg Brock
Caving Secretary:              John Williams
Tackle Master:                   Tyrone Bevan
Hut Warden:                       Roger Haskett
Hut Engineer:                    John Walsh
BEC Web Page Editor:    Estelle Sandford
Librarian:                            Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings:                    Fiona Sandford
Floating Member:              Bob Smith

Note from your new editor

As you may or may not be aware Adrian Hole has had to stand down from his post as BB editor due to other personal commitments.  Thanks were given to Adrian by the committee for all his hard work as BB editor over the past years.

I have now taken over the job as BB editor for which I need your help.  The BB is a journal for all BEC members and is written by BEC members. Therefore if you have said things like: Why haven’t we had a BB for ages? Why is there not much in them?  Why aren’t they coming out on a regular basis? The answer to all those questions is because you haven’t written an article to put in it.  So all those budding journalists out there can now put pen to paper and send your articles in.

I would prefer all articles be sent to me by e-mail.  If you do not have access to e-mail then you could always send me a 3½” floppy disk, by post, with the article on.  Failing that your handwritten work can also be posted to me for inclusion into the BB. Any photos or surveys you want to include within the BB can be posted to me and I will ensure they are sent back to you as soon as they are put into the BB.

Remember that this BB is not possible without your input.

I look forward to receiving your articles.


Greg Brock

Have you visited the new club website yet?

It is full of all the latest events and information as they happen.  Keep up to date with the latest progress down Hunters Lodge Inn sink by seeing what you are missing in the photo gallery.

Thanks to Estelle Sandford who has put a lot of effort into designing, creating and regularly maintaining our website.

If you have anything to add to it please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Your Club needs YOU

Sean Howe will be stepping down as the club’s Membership Secretary at this years AGM.  We have yet to find a replacement!  Please contact a committee member if you would like to be next years Membership Secretary or if you would be interested in holding any other Committee post.

On the same note: Nominations for the 2004 - 2005 committee need to be with the Secretary by the end of August 2004.  This is so that a ballot can be arranged if necessary.  It should be noted that it must be ten years or so since we last had a proper election and that some key positions need filling i.e. membership secretary to name but one.

Remember: You don’t have to live locally to the club to hold a committee post.  There are a number of committee positions that can be undertaken away from the area.

Mendip Mega Stomp

This happened with great success.  The money that the BEC raised out of the event, the committee decided, will be passed onto Tony Jarratt for purchasing explosives etc for the club.

Tony Jarratt: Received with thanks.  The money has been spent on a 24mm drill bit.

Are You To Blame !!!!

Extracts from a recent BMC Summit Magazine

By Mike Wilson

I recently had a magazine passed to me because the walker thought that the comments were very relevant to our [Caving] activities!!!

In fact the article made very interesting reading and generally verified what a number of us have suspected for years ,that groups of people partaking in any dangerous sport will not find it easy to claim against a fellow caver /climber/hill walker .This is due to what legal eagles call The Standard of Care.

According to the article “and it appears fairly obvious “ that the standard of care owed to a novice is far higher than an experienced person .Therefore it is very important to make the novice fully aware of the risks.  Apparently in USA it is the norm to keep documentation to this effect !!!

The important part about the standard of care will be, in the context of a group, the standard of care owed to others will be higher for the more experienced member. From a practical point of view this means that while you would not routinely check your partner’s buckles and knots harness etc you would be expected to do so for a novice who does not know the ropes!!!

The law is about fault, about the consequence of actions [this is called the chain of causation] so if your actions have led to actual damage to another it is possible that you are at fault and then you may be liable.

Luckily it is not as simple as that and there are all sort of criteria that have to be satisfied before you panic .For a successful claim for negligence to be made the claimant has to demonstrate firstly that a duty of care was owed .That the duty of care has been breached, and that actual damage or loss has been sustained as a result of that breach of duty of care.

One of the first defences apparently is the BMC participation statement an experienced Climber [Caver, Walker]? would find it hard to show that he/she is unaware of the normal risks associated with outdoor recreation.  Most important [and I have typed this verbatim]a willing person cannot be injured!!!

This defence that is linked with the BMC Participation Statement is the principle of “volenti non fit injuria” literally a willing man cannot be injured –this is a very old common law principle.

It was passed as a defence by the Occupiers Liability Act [1957] which does not impose any obligation on a landowner or occupier to a visitor who willingly accepts risks .This act was amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act [2000] to remove occupiers and owners liability for anyone injured as a consequence of the natural features of the landscape, such as falling down a cliff, POTHOLE, or waterfall.

Knowledge of this act may help us in future negotiations over access to new caves digs etc.

The www link is      which gives anyone further details of the CroW act.

The chain of causation means that the loss or injury has been caused by the act or omission in question .In a negligence case, the negligent act must have caused the injury. If there is some other factor, such as the action of another person [or the person injured] which caused the injury then the chain of causation between the alleged negligent act and the injury is broken and the person who committed the alleged negligent act is not responsible for the injury.

I have tried to cut the article down to readable proportions in the hope that it will not prove to be mega boring .Personally I hope that common sense will always prevail and no one will ever break the unwritten code of caving conduct,ie the risks are shared by all and No One should ever claim off a fellow caver .!!!       

The Original article came from the Summit Magazine issue 23.  

In the light of recent events, this article becomes even more important because due to the fact that the BCRA have had their insurance scheme dropped by their insurers at short notice [thereby dropping them in the proverbial] it leaves most cavers without insurance cover.

Sadly the various caving bodies have been forced to close all caves under access agreements to protect the Owners / landowners etc.  This has not affected the Derbyshire Caving Association who have their own insurance.

I would like to add that the Wig informs me that the French insurance runs to £100.00 pa at the moment lets hope that we do not arrive at the same figure.  Currently all the relative caving bodies are trying desperately to resolve the issue!

Mike Wilson

Editor: This has now been resolved.

From the Past

What was going on in the BEC 30, 40, 50 years ago?  Some of you may be able to remember and some of you (like me) were not even born!!  I have included a section in the BB called ‘From the Past’  where I have gone through the BB archives and re-printed some of the interesting articles of what the club was doing all those decades ago.  For some this will jog memories of what happened in the past and for others it will give them a deeper insight into the history of the BEC.  

History of the BEC by T.H.Stanbury

Extracted from BB Vol 1, No.3 – April 1947

The first notes will, I am sorry to say, will be very sketchy as all the earlier records were lost in the blitz.  They were posted to me from Keynsham and never arrived, so I have only my memory to assist me.

In 1935 a group of my fellow-employees approached me and asked if I would be willing to take them to Burrington and other places caving.  Most of these lads had had a little experience of Caves and Caving, and as my own experience was little better than theirs, I was extremely diffedent about the whole arrangement, but agreed.  The following Saturday I took them to Goatchurch, and the trip turned out to be a great success.  The next four week-ends we were similarly employed and then many difficulties loomed large before us.

How could we get to the larger caves?  How could we get equipment?  Would the owners let us into the deep caves?  There were two solutions.

The first and most obvious was that we join one of the recognized and established Cave Clubs of the district.  This was debated at length and it was decided that in view of the fact that we were a group of working class men and that there were a number of points in the existing societies we did not care about, that we should not associate ourselves with any body already in existence.

The second course open to us was to form an entirely new caving club, and after many misgivings the Bristol Exploration Club was duly formed with an initial membership of about a dozen.  If we could have foreseen all the difficulties and troubles that beset us, I very much doubt if the project would have been launched.  At the inaugural meeting a set of rules were drawn up, and although they have been modified and added to, to meet changing conditions, they were essentially the same as are in use today.

For a time all went smoothly; our subs enabled us to buy ladders and ropes etc.  We familiarized ourselves with all the smaller caves and then turned to the larger ones.  Here, too, we were successful, and our first year concluded with the knowledge that we were still in existence, and if not exactly flourishing, we were holding our own.

Membership did not increase very much in the following years, we were not keen on too many members at first as we felt we did not have sufficient knowledge to hold them after they had joined.  We preferred to move slowly, consolidating our position as we went, so that when the time came, as come it would, when members started to roll in, we should be in a position to offer them something good.

The outbreak of the war in 1939 found the BEC in a stronger position than ever before, although membership was still only 15 we had suffered one bad loss, our Treasurer, who was also our Photographer, had been stricken with an affliction of the eyes necessitating his withdrawal from all club activities.  The last trip that he came with the club was to Lamb Leer, where we went as guests of the UBSS.

The older members were called up, one by one, so that except for one fortunate incident, we should have had to close down, like other Mendip clubs for lack of active members.  We were fortunate to absorb in the BEC the Emplex Cave Club.  The ECC was composed of employees of the Bristol Employment Exchange and had formed a club on similar lines & for similar reasons as the BEC.  These men have since done, and are still doing, yeoman work for the club, although they are only able to be present when on leave.

1940-41 saw us jogging along as before, a number of new recruits always balancing those called to the forces, but 1942 saw the most severe crisis in the history of the BEC. There was a very violent call-up, the result being that we were left with only about half a dozen active members, all of whom were actively engaged in the war effort.  As those in the forces were all made honorary members during their term of service, we were hit badly financially.  For six months we struggled along, and then came our salvation.

A number of persons of fair caving experience applied for membership and from that moment our worries vanished.  It is mainly through the hard work of two of these men R.Wallace and D.Hasell, that the BEC is where it is today.

In 1943 a forty foot duraluminium and steel wire ladder was constructed, followed later by a similar one twenty feet in length.  These ladders were our answer to the problem of transporting tackle to Mendip on push-bikes.

During 1943, 44, 45, certain “persons unknown”, instead of following the orthodox method of obtaining the key, broke into certain Mendip Caves and we learned later that we had been blamed for this vandalism.  We were not responsible, and we managed at least to convince others of this.  During these three years our membership increased by leaps and bounds and we emerged from our obscurity to take our place among the most active clubs of Mendip.

The year 1946 was a monumental one, our membership rose to 80 and we were able, through the generosity of a certain person, to purchase a large hut as Mendip headquarters.  Our dig at Cross Swallet brought us into contact with the Bridgwater Cave Club, whop have since been our guests at the Belfry for their 1947 Easter meet.  We absorbed the Mendip Speleological Group, and became, individually, very active in the Cave Diving Group.  Besides that we became members of the Cave Association of Wales and also of the Cave Research Group.

We look to the future with every confidence, and we still claim, as we did in 1935, that the Bristol Exploration Club is unique in that it is a’ personal’ club, wherein everyone, whatever their age and standing is welcomed, and is encouraged to take an active part in the running of their club.

by T.H.Stanbury

Extracted from BB Vol 1, No.3 – April 1947


St Cuthbert’s Sump II - Where do we go from here?

By Stuart McManus

Summary and Short History

Ever since the discovery of St Cuthbert’s by the BEC in 1953, the major efforts to discover new passage along its streamway have always been fraught with difficulty as the mud and lead tailings that choked the sumps have prevented divers from pushing through in to the passages that lie beyond. The usual method employed on these occasions required the construction of dams and the bailing of the water back into them to drain the sumps to enable the removal of the build-up of silt and mud by diggers.

Since the breakthrough in sump I on Halloween night in 1969 by diggers during a dry spell, and the discovery of over 275 metres of streamway that is Cuthbert’s II, and which terminates in Sump II there have been numerous attempts to pass the sump both by digging and diving but to no avail.

The basic problems with Cuthbert’s II Sump are similar to Sump I, in that the sump is heavily silted with lead tailings from the washing ponds from the old mineries used by the lead miners of old and muds/silt brought in by the streams as well as the continuing erosion of silt banks within the cave. The water retained within the catchment area is far greater than can be drained by damming the Mineries pond and therefore stored on the surface.  Here is an excerpt for the last push made on Sump II from 1982 – 1985.

In 1982 the attention of Butcher (SMCC) and McManus (BEC) returned to Sump II.  Ideas were discussed and plans were afoot to repeat a similar exercise to that of 1967. Rock drills had been used several years previously, but new attempts were made in 1982 to blast a way across the top of the sump.  This very slow procedure forced the diggers to re-consider the situation.  The conclusion reached was that the most effective way to overcome the problem was to bail Sump II and remove the infilling.  The number of dams in the cave was reassessed.

The 1977 dam used for draining the sump remained at Sump II but an additional one would be required. So, in April 1982, the sand-bag dam was built doubling the storage capacity to about 4,000 gallons.  Trial digs were attempted; the Mineries dam would be inserted some three weeks before the event and the Plantation Stream diverted into the St. Cuthbert's Depression, allowing the water to flow down into Maypole Sink and overflow into the floor of the depression.  The surface dams prevented most of the water flowing into the cave entrance.  The general idea was to drain the 'spongy' ground over which the surface Plantation Stream flowed.  However, as on previous occasions, this storage medium held far too much water and, although Plantation Stream had been diverted from Plantation Swallet and was flowing into the valley, too much water from the 'sponge' was flowing into the cave at Plantation Junction long after the dams had been put in.

With the dams operating in the cave holding back the water draining into the system, the sump bailing teams were able to empty Sump II to the infill level.  When the stream is prevented from flowing into Sump II the sump partially drains itself reducing the water level by some 1.5ft indicating that this sump is a true siphon draining through gravels at the downstream end. It took a dozen cavers about eight hours to drain the sump of water. All this effort allowed an inordinately short time for digging.  It was realised that the greater the volume of infill removed, the greater would be the volume of water to be bailed on subsequent occasions.  Continued digging pushed the choke face still deeper. 

To make matters worse bad air formed because of the large numbers of cavers working in such a confined space.

The ingenuity of Mendip diggers never fails to amaze the onlooker.  To overcome the problem of bailing the sump and reduce the volume of water, hundreds of plastic bottles were obtained and placed in the sump making the place look, to quote one caver, more like a "Moroccan bazaar than a cave passage".  The use of the bottles and two 1500 gallon double diaphragm hand pumps gave some success but the actual digging time was still only an hour or so.  With only a couple of men operating the pumps the foul air problem was considerably reduced.

A 'big-push' was arranged for the summer of 1985.  This time, ideas of driving a 110 Volt  submersible pump took shape. 3,000ft of cable would be required.  With this in mind, all the dams were refurbished, both on the surface and underground and a 5ft third dam – “The Kariba” was built close to Sump II, designed to holdback a further 4,000-5,000 gallons of water!  By the autumn of 1984,the Mendip Rescue Organization was preparing for the 1985 National Cave Rescue Conference to be held on Mendip.  Suggestions were made that it might be possible to borrow sufficient fire hose from the Somerset Fire Brigade to convey the necessary air to drive a submersible centrifugal pump at Sump II.  The Chief Fire Officer, Nigel Musslewhite, agreed and the tremendous task of transporting 60 fire hoses into and eventually out of the cave was a major task in its own right.  The logistics for the event were considerable and included the setting up of kitchen facilities, laying of telephone cables and the transportation of the pump. McManus wrote:

 “With everybody keeping an eye on the weather the Mineries dam was inserted ... to reduce the water retained in the catchment area ... The operation was probably the biggest pumping operation that had been carried out by cavers at that time, a case of the BEC 'doing it to excess' again”.

Suffice to record the air-driven pump worked successfully on 18th May 1985.  The pumping capacity was extremely high (more than 16,000 gal/hr) and the sump was drained in less than thirty minutes!  Digging now commenced within an hour of the start of pumping! On the first day over eighty cavers went to the dig site in teams of six.  The initial task, once the sump had been drained was to remove the hundreds of plastic bottles that had been placed in the sump during the course of the previous year.  This took a couple of hours though it had taken a year to put them in!

Once the water had been pumped out digging commenced.  The infill being removed consisted mainly of lead tailings from the washing operations of the miners.  Water was continually draining back from the downstream end of the sump.  Consequently it was necessary to keep the pump running in order to keep the digging face reasonably free of water.

So successful was the weekend's activity that it was agreed to repeat the entire operation weekly until the sump had been passed.  However, though great strides had been made the choke was not cleared.  By the middle of July 1985 digging had to come to an end when the borrowed pumping equipment had to be returned.  However Sump II had been excavated to a depth of 25ft and 65ft in length but still with no indication of the roof rising.

A further 10,000 gallon dam “The Aswan”, was constructed during 1986 – 1988 though this has still to be used in a successful pumping operation at Sump II.

Future Operations

The pumping exercise of 1985 demonstrated that the use of compressed air provided the best means of pumping the sump, for two reasons. The use of compressed air as the motive power, rather than electrical power, enables a relatively low weight submersible pump (DIP 25 Atlas-Copco) for its pumping rate can be used when compared with the equivalent weight of an electrically driven pump. Air also allows for flushing/purging of bad air that always accumulates at the sump area due to the number of and time that cavers need to spend there during the pumping and digging operation.

What’s required For a Further Push?


Since 1985, Sump II has refilled with silt and mud and the dams will need to be refurbished, though this should not constitute a major problem since additional capacity in the Aswan dam is available. The dams at the Beehive and Gour Hall will  need refurbishing as will the other smaller dams dotted along the active streamway. The major expenditure here will be cement.

Pumps & Equipment

The ideal system would be the loan, or purchase of an Atlas Copco air driven submersible (DIP –25) pump direct from the manufacturer – sponsorship would be quite attractive. The obtaining of over 1,000 metres of standard fire-hose from Angus Fire Armour again by sponsorship would also be desirable. The major expense with the fire hose is the couplings that connect the 15 metre lengths of hoses together. The use of longer lengths could be considered, though this would need to be assessed from any offer.

The final piece of kit would be the standard 7 barg road compressor that would be needed to drive the pump from the Belfry car-park. The diesel to drive it costing some 25p per litre.


I would consider it possible to muster sufficient cavers and volunteers to work on a six week-end period to re-establish the sump to its 1985 condition, once the dams had been refurbished and there was a definite dry spell. These dry spells are normally early spring and early autumn. The autumn is more favorable as summer flows into the cave should be somewhat lower than the early spring.

Stuart McManus

The trials and tribulations of Eastwater

By Madphil Rowsell

This is a collection of three short articles, updating the work/progress in Eastwater Cavern that has been made during the last year or so. It includes; another attempt on digging Morton’s Pot; a chance find of some new passage (‘Unlucky Strike’) and the surveying of Southbank.

Part 1: - Morton’s Pot 2003-2004

In the summer of 2001, Adrian Hole and myself had made yet another attempt at digging Morton’s Pot (BB 153 –“Life, the Universe and Eastwater Caven”). While attaining the deepest attempt yet, its flooding had resulted in the dig being aborted. It had been left abandoned ever since. In April 03, I returned from Tasmania with the sole intention of tidying up Morton’s Pot as it would no doubt be in a real mess.

My first trip down was pretty disappointing, the sack dams we had left for silt traps had all washed through leaving ripped up sacks strewn everywhere. I couldn’t even get into the chamber above ‘A Drain Hole’ for the debris. Demoralised, I started the clean up operation, a fatal mistake!! After a while, I finally made it into the little chamber and looked down ‘A Drain Hole’. I was really surprised to see that it wasn’t full of water. What was more we had only lost 3 of the 6 metres to fill.  With this, I headed out with crazy ideas of trying to get the dig going again!!! After another clean up trip I was hooked again, but finding takers to dig the place was the same old problem.

A miracle then happened. Graham “Jake“ Johnson (a Morton’s Pot veteran of 15 years ago)  decided to come on board.  I felt quite honoured! With both Jake and I unemployed at the time, we could hit the place pretty hard. We would dig most days if not twice a day.  We soon had the old seilbahns up and running again, the slit traps and  the debris cleared.

Together we formed a pretty good team. Jake had some great ideas of losing the spoil, a problem that had always plagued previous digs. I had just picked up a good shuttering technique from (Gadget) Nick Williams on a recent visit to Assynt. This would be a winner for applying in ‘A Drain Hole’ and keeping it stable. It  looked like we were on for a good attempt this time.

Finally it was time to go on a recruitment drive.  With suggestions of a digging charter to ban the loading of the dig site with sacks, and insurances that  everyone would have  a fair go at digging, we hit the Hunters’. Amazingly some more of the old Morton’s Pot veterans stepped forward; Pete Hellier, Paul Brock, along with some new additions to, Sean Howe and Nick Mitchell. Even Tony Jarratt appeared on odd occasions.  With this number we could shift the sacks from the dig site right out to the top of the 380ft way. Finally we could make real progress. During the week, Jake and I would sort out the shuttering and back fill as much as possible. On digging nights, the team would come,  dig and pull the bags out.

It worked pretty well and good progress was made. Things took a turn for the worse after about 2 m of digging when we dug into water. Worse still it didn’t seem to be draining. After several sessions of digging wet bags things were pretty hopeless. I had noticed a worm hole at the top of ‘A Drain Hole’ during the 2001 attempt that seemed to take water when in flood.  We managed to bail some water into here for a bit but then it blocked! To make matters worse bad weather had completely flooded the dig again. It looked like the show was over once again.

On a failed last ditch stand to solve the water problem we used the good old survival bag dam technique. I decided to have one last  look for the possibility of another drain point. Scratching about in the mud on the opposite wall I miraculously found another worm hole heading off in the mud. Man did the water disappear down here! It gave a lovely burping noise when the bucket was empty. Winner, the show will go on!! The dig was soon bailed and digging resumed.

By now we had uncovered the rib of rock that had been exposed in 2001. Previous speculation was that  this was forming a perched sump with the water draining off behind the rib. In 2001 the dig had flooded before we had had the chance to remove it. After a number of bangs, the rib and rift unfortunately narrowed down and pinched out, so it was back to digging on down.

Progress was slow during July and August.  A heavy flood coupled with the lack of comrades (I had headed over to Austria)  had left Jake a hard task of clearing up the dig. A new digger appeared on the scene – Lincoln Mick (Mick Barker) which gave Jake some salvation.  By September we were back to siege techniques again. At the end of September we were down 8m in ‘A Drain hole’, 2m past the 2001 last attempt.

At 8.3m, we surprisingly saw our lovely 1m wide pot narrow down to 10cm across the dig face. Quite stunning!! An attempt to dig under the remnants of the rib of rock yielded the same results, with it narrowing down to 10cm. Nightmare! The only other place was to dig back under the shuttering. Again after a metre or so under here the narrow floor was still there. What a disaster; all this effort to see our dig site narrow down completely to 10cm!!! Totally dejected and lacking enthusiasm we decided to put the dig to bed for the winter and see what the wet weather might do.  It was mid October. What a waste of time and effort!!

In mid November, during a trip down to Southbank, I was stunned to find a piece of wood down at the terminal sump along with some blue strops. These had only come from one place. I even knew where in the dig   the wood had come from! How cruel could you get; a piece of wood this size could get down but we couldn’t.  It did, indicate however that there must be reasonably open passage to Southbank. We must be missing something at Morton’s Pot.

The next day I headed back into Morton’s to have yet another good look around.  I checked every nook and cranny on the way down but nothing. I finally headed down to the bottom of the dig and was amazed to see a badger sized hole had been blown through and I could see about 6ft to a little chamber. This would explain now how the wood got down to Southbank. May be there is a cave god after all!!

It took a bit of convincing to get Jake to come down, I think he thought I was pulling his leg!! We enlarged the badger hole enough to get through and squeezed down to the small chamber. It was full of spoil but there looked like a way on into a rift. The echo in there was amazing.  It was bang job, but no more bag hauling!!!! Whooppee!!

The next week saw a frantic session, virtually drilling and banging around the clock. Our thanks have to be extended to Tony Jarratt for sacrificing his need for bang, to allow us to continue when supplies were running low. (Many thanks). We finally broke into a small rift  like feature (a mini 13 pots). This was it, we were finally off. We only got about 4m around the corner where another small rift headed off to what looked like a pitch. More widening before we entered a small pot 5 metres deep with another tight rift heading off to yet another drop. Again, a great reverberating echo.

With deteriorating weather it was almost a race against time. The increased levels of water were also making life exciting as the small breakthrough chamber had now become a nasty little duck. It also didn’t do one of the drills too much good either – sorry!!! More awkward blasting finally gained us access to the drop, only to be disappointed once again, dropping into another pot with another narrow rift heading off.  The prospects here didn’t look good either, another big banging job not being very inspiring. With water levels becoming critical we retreated. It was late November.

That was the last trip down to the pointy end until recently, a combination of water levels being too high and lack of enthusiasm!!  We did over the winter however undertake a number of clean up trips, capping spoil, taking out the remaining old sacks and rubbish from the dig. Even the seilbahns and the old metal silt traps have now been removed, leaving the Morton’s dig site looking more like cave again rather than a bomb site!!

In mid March 04, we finally got the chance to head back down and survey the new passage and contemplate our next moves. The duck required a bit of clearing but otherwise the place was pretty clear and open. Even the final rift looked more promising with a possible widening/corner further down. The survey showed we had made a total of 25m.

With renewed enthusiasm we decided to continue and widen the rift to the potentially more open passage we could see and have another evaluation, neither of us were really keen to undertake a major mining exercise. After a few sessions the rift surprisingly broke into a very immature tight rift/canyon passage, just too narrow to allow easy passage. Progress is only possible with selective widening, yielding a metre or so more of very awkward passage each time. The use of a recently made Hilti bar will hopefully make progress more rapid. To date a further 12m has been gained, it will be interesting to see what further passage is found.

The passage is very reminiscent of the lower Lambeth Walk passage and definitely not the place to be caught in a flood!

 Graham “Jake” Johnson hauling sacks up from the base of Morton’s Pot.
Photo: Sean Howe

 Madphil looking down ‘A Drain Hole’ standing on the back filled shuttering. The scaffold bars held into the rock by a 6” rebar pin at each end drilled 3” into the rock.
Photo: Sean Howe



 Pete Hellier pulling sacks up the 380ft way with the ‘scrap heap challenge’ skip.
Photo: Sean Howe

 Jake sat demoralised at the bottom of ‘A Drain Hole’ before the break through. His left foot on solid rock, his right in the now 10” wide rift!
Photo: Sean Howe





The recent surveying of Southbank and Lambeth Walk (see later article) has indicated that there is about 70m to the junction in Lambeth Walk where it is now known the Mortons Pot water flows to. The surveying also shows that a “big pitch” (as previously speculated in the previous article BB153) is now unlikely, and the passage will probably continue to follow the bedding plane down to Lambeth Walk. How the Soho rift fits into the scheme is also now confused.


Firstly my full gratitude has to be extended to Graham “Jake” Johnson, who has equally put a lot of time and effort into this dig over the last year or so. During the course of the dig we have worked really well as a team, having a good laugh, but also sharing disappointments, despondencies and madness! His conviction to leave the dig site as free from debris as much as possible is commendable and one I fully support. We have had many sessions clearing debris and while not completely finished the dig is well on the way to being returned to normal cave passage. Its been a good session, and long may it continue – many thanks.

We also need to thank all the other diggers not mentioned in the report who have put trips in to help dig (pull bags out from!) Morton’s Pot.  Thanks also goes to Sean Howe (the team photographer) for taking and allowing the use of his photos.

Finally thanks to Tony Jarratt for his support during the widening phases often sacrificing his need for bang to allow us to continue. Most commendable.


Pete Hellier looking up from the base of ‘A Drain Hole’ now some 7m deep. Photo: Sean Howe 


Part 2:- Unlucky Strike

With Morton’s Pot being too wet, Jake and I were in the market for a new dig. We discussed several options, but decided to have a look around the Rift Chambers on the Eastern Side of Eastwater Cavern. There were several dig sites around here. On this recky trip, we decided we would have a go at Becky’s dig, a very tight tunnel half filled with mud. The next day we headed in (with Mick Barker) and spent several hours digging in very tight conditions until the roof came down and prevented progress without chemical widening.

As we still had some time left we went for a look around the 2nd Rift Chamber, one place I had never had a good snoop about in.  Just after standing up in the 2nd Rift Chamber, instead of heading straight on up the climb, I had a look back and saw the rift continuing on in the other direction. Being inquisitive I headed up to have a look. It headed back  into a tight chimney which broke out into a small rift. One way headed back and looked down into the 2nd Rift Chamber. The other way was blocked by stones but draughted and had darkness beyond. The stones rattling on down the other side sounded pretty good!! Mick confirmed they weren’t heading back in to the First Rift Chamber. Looked like this was a winner!

I managed to push most of the stones out of the way, but I couldn’t shift a big one blocking the way. Shouted to Jake that reckoned I had something good here and needed a hand. After some persuasion (no doubt another of my “great leads”!) he came up and we managed to push the boulder over the edge and clear a path into the unknown. Man did it rumble down a slope for a long while!! Even Jake was excited now.

After a short crawl, a large rift chamber was entered with a 4m climb down. Halfway down the chamber the rubble slope changed to calcite flow with a huge calcite curtain (inch plus thick, 20-25ft high) stretching down to the floor like a big door. The only disappointment was that there was a small chunk taken out of the bottom. The damage looked fresh and was probably the result of my bowling attempts breaking in to the passage.  This gave rise to the name, finding a lucky strike but unluckily damaging a bit of formation. We did search around for the fragments but didn’t find any so may be it had broken earlier. Who knows?

The passage continued on down through nice stal and flowstone to end in a calcited choke. Didn’t look too promising but it did take water from a pool on the left. This pool turned out to be a tight duck. The other side leading to a short low calcited passage turning up dip but becoming too tight.  Heading back out the duck proved somewhat difficult and I had to be pulled out by my feet! (The following day surveying, I had to be pulled out again – be warned it is an awkward return!). We had a quick look at a rift heading up but didn’t seem to do much. We headed out, pleased with our find. It was poetic justice for all the hard work that we had put in to Morton’s.  It also couldn’t have happened on a better day either, the BEC diggers’ dinner!!

Jake and I surveyed what we had found the following day and discussed digging options. We put several bangs into the end where the water sinks but it doesn’t look promising. During one session Jake had another look at the rift climb and spotted a chamber through a narrow rift high up with a good echo. After one bang a small rift chamber with a small aven heading up was entered but no way on.

A small phreatic tube in the right hand wall was also found on this climb up, both of us missed this one several times!  After a small amount of digging this yielded a short passage heading down into a little chamber but with no going leads.  All leads have been essentially exhausted, but the orientation of Unlucky Strike heading off into an unknown blank area of Eastwater Cavern may warrant a further look and a more determined dig/ bang effort at the sink at the end of the chamber.

The survey of Unlucky strike is shown. Approximately 74m of passage was found, along with some reasonable formations.


Part 3:- The Surveying of Southbank

During the 2000 digging attempt in Morton’s Pot, an effort was made to correlate all the survey data for Eastwater Cavern into an electronic format, to better understand the cave’s layout. The resulting computer model indicated that the position of Southbank (particularly Lambeth Walk) was of some significance to the Morton’s Dig and a new find in Soho. Both indicated a probable connection. (This was the subject of the previous article “Life, the Universe and Eastwater Cavern” by Phil Rowsell, Belfry Bulletin 153)

While most of the cave had been surveyed over the course of time, Southbank (beyond Waterloo) discovered in the late 1980s had never been surveyed by its explorers. All that was available was a sketch map in a Wessex Log Book by Pete and Alison Moody. The accurate positioning of these lower passages would be of prime importance to the Morton’s and Soho digs and hence its need to be surveyed.  It would also be fitting that a complete survey of Eastwater Cavern be finally published!

Trying to find willing accomplices to survey Southbank however was a difficult task. I did manage a trip with Alison Moody down to Tooting Broadway pushing that to its conclusion, a sump.  (Phil Short later attempted to dive this and the terminal sump to no avail) but progress on the survey front was non existent. I guess no one relished the thought of spending hours collecting data in squalid conditions. In September 03, I finally managed to persuade two of the BEC Austrian Exped lads (Tim Lamberton and Ollie Gates) to do a trip down and we managed to survey from the start of Tooting Broadway back to the Terminal Sump. A great start but unfortunately the lads were unwilling (too busy!) to head down again.  Nightmare - back to square one i.e.  no progress.

Thankfully salvation finally came from Kev Hilton and Emma Heron ( Wessex) who were keen to see what all the hype about the West End was. Our first trip down was a guided tour but it resulted in a 2”x 2” x 6” piece of wood being found at the Terminal Sump. The wood was recognisable to have come from Morton’s Pot, indicating that a connection was present. (This find also resulted in the surprise fact that the Morton’s Dig had broken through!). Most of our subsequent trips down have been highly productive and most of Southbank and its side passages have been now surveyed to Grade 5 accuracy. At the time of writing only the far reaches of Tooting Broadway are still outstanding. In addition to surveying some water tracing was also undertaken.

Observation from the survey

The survey from Charing Cross is shown and the updated computer model is shown in Fig 1 & 2. It shows several interesting facts:-

  1. Morton’s Pot - Lambeth Walk Connection
    The piece of wood and strops at the Terminal Sump proves that a connection with Morton’s Pot exists. Furthermore during the surveying of Lambeth walk a digging sack was seen in the initial deep trenched part indicating that Morton’s Pot does connect with Lambeth Walk and not some other known or unknown passage. It is highly probably that the connection will be found by continuing up the deep trench which branches off from Lambeth Walk halfway up but is currently too tight to follow. The upper parts of Lambeth Walk actually head up towards the water inlet between Gladman’s and Lolly Pot. – see survey. The survey indicates that missing passage is some 85m.

    Also of note is that the angle of Lambeth Walk seems to indicate that the passage will continue at the same angle along the bedding plane and that a “big pitch” in line with the other pitches in the cave as previously hypothesised – see BB – is doubtful.  Only further digging at Morton’s Pot will establish this.
  2. Results of the Water Tracing.
    A new rabbit hole up from the entrance has developed and now takes  most of the stream in low water. This water re-appears at the drinking fountain in Ifold’s then flows on to the Soho rift. It also appears in the Strand. This water then finds its way to the inlet between Gladman’s/Lolly, and then…………..

    onto the sink in the Chamber of Horrors via Blackwall Tunnel. It also find its way to the small stream that appears just after ‘Never Hurry a Murray’ which flows to the Terminal Sump. A separate test showed that some Soho water does flow to the Gladman’s/Lolly inlet. While not proven, it is believed that some of the Soho water also flows to the stream seen in the top part of Lambeth Walk and is the feed for the stream just after ‘Never Hurry a Murray’ that continues to the Terminal Sump.

    This may also indicate that the Soho rift may not connect with the Mortons Pot/Lambeth Walk Passage as previously suggested.
  3. Chamber of Horrors and the Terminal Sump.
    From the survey it can be clearly seen that the deepest part of the cave is the base of the Chamber of  Horrors at 155m deep and that the Terminal “perched” Sump (and hence the whole of Tooting Broadway) is some 10m above (145m depth).

    With the Chamber of Horrors being the deepest part of the cave the sink is of great interest as possible stream passage can be seen, but widening will be necessary. Several other “drainage” points near the Chamber of Horrors are also of interest in accessing possibly this lower streamway.

    The fact that the Terminal Sump is perched is also very interesting. Water backs up here in high water to a head of approximately 1m, judged on flood debris. This may, as was previously concluded, be due to the rest of the cave sumping up (the Chamber of Horrors having flooded from the base on one known occasion) but could also be perched due to a flow restriction. This again offers some opportunity to potentially access the lower “Chamber of Horrors” streamway past the Terminal sump or from Tooting Broadway. Some tests are currently planned to observe the volume of water/backflow in the Terminal Sump to see if digging is possible. The far end of Tooting Broadway also now warrants another look for digging possibilities.
  4. Pea Gravel Dig
    Again from the survey it can be seen that the dig is only 4m in plan distance from the Terminal Sump but more significantly at the same height. This would explain the account of the dig suddenly flooding, the diggers having breached the sump water. In light of the above, if the Terminal Sump proves only to be of relatively small volume this may provide a better digging site to by-pass the sump.

Further work

  1. Work will continue at both Morton’s and Lambeth Walk to see whether the connection can be closed and to see what fossil passage may be intercepted. The parties involved however do not envisage “mining” a connection for connections sake.  Only if reasonably long sections (humanly passable) of natural passage are intercepted will the connection be sought.
  2. The survey of the far reaches of Tooting Broadway will be (if not having been done by publication) surveyed as well as the tidying up of several side passages/leads.
  3. A number of dig sites have been identified and will be perused over the coming month.
  4. Once the survey of Southbank is completed a full survey of Eastwater Cavern will be issued.

Credits Due in the surveying of Southbank.

  1. Without the help of Tim Lamberton (BEC), Ollie Gates (BEC), and particularly Kev Hilton ( Wessex) none of this work would have been achieved. All have done long trips, surveying in particularly poor conditions to collect this data.  My sincere thanks.
  2. As credited in my previous BB article, I would also like to thank all the other people who have given me survey data (or partook in its collection) for the cave. It has allowed the development of this computer model and the correlation of a complete survey.

    The nature in which the survey data was freely given is of great credit to those who gave it and shows what can be achieved by the pooling of data. This is in stark contrast to what seems to be the usual disaster scenario that seems to plague many of our cave systems with data being withheld from the caving fraternity by individuals with a variety of incomprehensible or petty reasons!! In keeping with this open spirit the computer model and the full survey will be issued shortly and available to those requesting a copy.


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Summer Season at Stillage Sump

by Tony Jarratt

Continued from BB 518:-

During the rest of April and early May work continued at both the Cellar Dig inlet and the left hand wall dig in Hangover Hall. The former was abandoned after some 4m of blasting. This low ascending crawl is some 6m long to a too tight, choked connection with Lower Bar Steward Passage. The latter dig was hoped to bypass Stillage Sump but after a couple of metres of digging the solid LH wall veered round towards the sump and so this site has also been abandoned. The sump itself was re-dived by Jon Beal, assisted by other Frome C.C. members, and confirmed to choke after about 1.5 metres at a depth of 2 metres. Quackers rightly pointed out that the name is incorrect and the descriptive word needed was "ullage", the stillage actually being the wooden firkin rest. As it's too late to change now the next shitty feature will bear this name.

A new site at the top of R.R.R. was treated to two blasting trips but closed down after some 4 metres in huge boulders located beneath the floor of H.H.H. The use of joss sticks, a flashing red light and a radio rendition of "Five Live" failed to provide a nasal, visual or aural link to either H.H.H or B.B. so this site has also been scrubbed.

On the 13th of May the survey was continued from R.R.R. for 18.35 metres to Stillage Sump and a concrete dam was constructed over a short section of plastic pipe inserted into the base of the H.H. spoil dump. Four days later an experimental baling trip proved that the system works and that in an hour or so the sump can be drained of the couple of hundred gallons of water which it contains by emptying it into the abandoned LH wall dig. On this trip the sump was not completely emptied and no digging was done due to a shortage of manpower but we were much encouraged by the ease of the operation and by the discovery of a stubby stalagmite on the floor of the calcited passage. The now redundant submersible pump was painfully removed from the cave on the way out so that it could be cleaned and serviced.

Two days later we regretted this as after a three hour baling session it was realised that the pump would make life a whole lot easier and would have to be, again painfully, brought back down! About a metre of depth had been gained in the narrow sump pool to reveal a calcited left wall, more stalagmites on the floor and a shallow bedding alcove on the right. Thick silt blocked the apparently even narrower way forwards and the proximity of closing time called a halt to proceedings.

The 21st of May saw Sean Howe, the writer and Grampian digger Martin Hayes dragging cables, hoses and the skip-encased pump back down the cave where it was all set up for future operation. Two days later more Grampian members transferred drums from H.H. to R.R.R. in the morning and in the afternoon Trev, Jake Baynes and the writer pumped out the sump and removed seven bags of silt and rocks before blasting off the top of the bedding plane on the R.H. side to give more working space. Next day a return was made by Jeff Price, Tim Large, Jake and the writer to find that the bang had done a superb job. The remaining bang fumes drove the wiser Jeff and Jake to the surface while the two other idiots drilled and set another charge. They were later to much regret this as they struggled out of the cave feeling like death. Having recovered and left the fumes to clear for a couple of days a return was made on the 26th for another pumping, clearing, drilling and banging session. The "calcite" filling the top half of the fault-guided passage was thought to be possibly aragonite. Fearing the accumulation of fumes the next visit was five days later when much of the water was pumped back into a dozen or so 25 litre drums at R.R.R. and the rest stored behind the dam. This was meant to improve the air conditions by keeping the passage open longer but the prevailing still weather meant a lack of draught throughout the cave. Tim suffered worst this time as fumes released from the bang spoil got to him. Despite this another 8 hole charge was fired and a very unlucky leech sent to the big artery in the sky! Communications between H.H. and R.R.R. were by Motorola walkie-talkie. This site was now becoming a bit of a problem and it was decided to leave gaps of a week before revisiting it.

The next visit was a full week later when draughtier conditions prevailed and the air was much improved. The usual pump, drill and bang operation took place but we were spurred on by both the opening up of a narrow, clay filled rift, which may be the drain for the sump, and the recent discovery of the main way on in Wookey Hole by Rick Stanton. Another repeat performance took place on the 14th when a 110 volt drill was used to place four 24mm shotholes to take gelignite sticks. A week later we returned with the battery drill for yet another banging session. On this trip Tim noticed possible rat droppings in Pub Crawl so visitors should be reminded of the risks of Weil's Disease in this cave.

On the 25th June, during the clearing of spoil from the last bang, a distinct draught was felt blowing into the top of the narrow rift above the sump and it was decided to blast upwards following this. This was done on the 28th using 100 gramme detonating cord. A lucky toad got a lift back to the surface on top of Jeff's head - under his helmet. Our guest digger today was Boyd Potts of the Orpheus.

In Broon Ale Boulevard climbing has recommenced at the three remaining avens. That partly scaled by Nick Mitchell   (now named Old Nick Aven to keep with the booze theme) was pushed some 4m higher by Eddy Hill on the 9th of June and a bolt placed. Two days later the writer, supported by Ernie White, gained another 7m to reach a narrow and muddy passage at a height of 15m heading up-dip but needing enlargment. This was done by Trev Hughes on the 13th and the writer was able to squeeze into a larger section of passage which quickly terminated in several impassable inlets and a too tight hole in the floor. On the 16th this was surveyed and bolting commenced at the final aven(s) in B.A.B. (Old Peculier Aven). Five more bolts were put in on the 23rd by Tim, your scribe and Nigel Strong of the Eldon Pothole Club. At the furthest point Nigel gained a view of "walking size" passage heading off down-dip and continuing vertical development above. Trev placed the final bolt on the 27th and reported that both ways on soon closed down though another visit is necessary to confirm this and to survey the aven.

The first, blind rift, previously climbed by the writer, was eventually surveyed and retrospectively named Old Fart Aven.

At the bottom of Pewter Pot the rapidly drying out Slop 3 dig saw a lot of attention on the 20th of June when Trev, Ray Deasy and the writer cleared and stacked mud and rocks from the unstable slope leading to the ongoing passage.

This report will be continued in BB 520.

Bone identification

Bone identification - updated - with the usual thanks to Dr Roger Jacobi for his time and effort. He has closely studied and measured the diameters of seven antler bases from the twenty fragments recovered in the large selection of reindeer and bison bones making up sample HLIS 28. These are 17.1 and 14.8mm, 8.4 and 15.8, 20.6 and 19.2, 25.2 and 22.8, 23.5 and 24.2, 20.2 and 18.1 and 19.6 and 14.4. "... they all appear to be from females or juvenile males supporting the idea that the area above the cave may have been a calving ground." This sample also includes the first evidence of Brown bear (Ursus arctos) from the cave.

27         Bison priscus          Right scapula.

28(1)     Unidentified             Various fragments.

28(2)     Rangifer tarandus (reindeer) – Mid-shaft portion of juvenile right femur.

28(3)     Mid-shaft portion of left metatarsal.

28(4)     Distal shaft fragment of left metatarsal.

28(5)     Distal shaft fragment of right metatarsal.

28(6)     Proximal right tibia.

28(7)     Partial left innominate.

28(8)     Distal right humerus.

28(9)     Mid-shaft portion of juvenile right humerus.

28(10)   Fragment from anterior margin of right scapula.

28(11)   Five rib fragments.

28(12)   Fragment from anterior face of left metatarsal retaining part of proximal articulation.

28(13)   Mid-shaft portion of right tibia.

28(14)   Distal right tibia.

28(15)   Antler. Nineteen pieces (including five bases).  All potentially female/young male.

28(16)   Proximal phalange.

28(17)   Distal left femur.

28(18)   Diaphyseal fragment of left tibia (posterior face towards proximal end).

28(19)   Diaphyseal fragment from internal face of left tibia.

28(20)   Shaft of juvenile right tibia.

28(21)   Distal shaft fragment of right metatarsal.

28(22)   cf Bison priscus      Eight rib fragments.

28(23)   Fragment from spine of left scapula.

28(24)   Incomplete cervical vertebra 4.

28(25)   Ursus arctos (Brown bear)   Fragment from lower shaft of right radius. "It is a large bone and, given that the bone is juvenile, the adult would have been of some size. The bones at Banwell are noticeably large and, as you know, I think that the fauna there may be of about the age of yours. Interesting!"     R.J.

29         Microtus oeconomus (Northern vole)   Incisor and two molars.

30         Rangifer tarandus       Right tibia.

31(1)     Distal left tibia.

31(2)     Proximal right tibia - gnawed at proximal end.  Distal epiphysis lost.

32         cf Bison priscus         Right M3.

33         Rangifer tarandus      Left P3.

34         Distal right humerus.

35         Bison priscus        . Horn core. "An important find   which confirms your bovine as Bison priscus rather than wild cattle - Bos primigenius."     R.J.

36         Right naviculo-cuboid.

37         Rangifer tarandus     Distal right tibia.

38         Bovini cf Bison priscus     Proximal left metacarpal (unfused distal epiphysis lost Slender).  Smaller range of Isleworth.

39         Distal left tibia? Gnawed at proximal end.

40         Rangifer tarandus     Shaft of left humerus.

41         Antler fragment.

42         Base of shed antler. Female? 18.2 and 16.8.

43         Mid-shaft of left femur.

44         Base of shed antler. Male? 18.8 and 17.8.

45         Shaft of juvenile right humerus.

46         Antler fragment.

All the above have been deposited at Wells Museum with the exception of numbers 35, 37, 39, and 42 which will reside at the Hunters'.

Additions to the team and acknowledgements.

Gordon Coldwell (CPC), Ryan Jackson, James Daly, Julian Herbert-Smith (all FCC), Christian Degen (Germany), The B.E.C. Committee and Chris Falshaw for their generous donations to the Digging Fund, Charles Adcock (Event Horizon Pyrotechnics), "Yorkshire" Dave Hodgson (GSG), Andy Chamberlain, Fiona Crozier, Nigel Strong (Eldon PC), Boyd Potts (Orpheus C.C.)


Photo by Sean Howe


Photo by Sean Howe


   Tony Jarratt in Hangover Hall

Of Boulder Chokes, Bats and Irish Musicians - Meghalaya 2004

by Tony Jarratt

A BEC/GSG member's view of this year's expedition to NE India. Refer to Belfry Bulletin 115 and GSG bulletin October 2003 for background information.

"U Ramhah died on the hill-side alone and unattended, as the wild animals die, and there was no one to regret his death. When the members of his clan heard of his death they came in a great company to perform rites and to cremate his body, but his body was so big that it could not be cremated, and so they decided to leave it till the flesh rotted, and to come again to gather his bones, but it was found that there was no urn large enough to contain them, so they piled them together on the hill-side until a large urn would be made. While the making of the urn was in progress there arose a great storm, and a wild hurricane blew from the north, which carried away the bleached bones of U Ramhah, and scattered them all over the south borders of the Khasi Hills, where they remain to this day in the form of lime-rocks, the many winding caves and crevices of which are the cavites in the marrowless bones of the giant." Rafy, 1920    (Pinched from Daniel Gebauer's magnificent South Asia Cave Registry, without his permission but with grateful thanks.)

February 6th saw the Mendip contingent - Tony Boycott (BEC,GSG) Jayne Stead (GSG) and the writer joining Simon Brooks (OCC,GSG) for the flight from Heathrow to Calcutta via Amman and Bombay. In Calcutta we met Joe Duxbury (GSS) and Jonathan Davies (GSG) before flying on to Guwahati where we were met by Gregory Diengdoh (MA). A Sumo ride to Shillong followed and here we found Peter Ludwig (LVHOO-Austria), Thomas Arbenz (SNT-Switzerland), Brian MacCoitir, Robin Sheen and Quentin Cooper (BC-Ireland), Damien Linder (SCJ-Switzerland) and the Meghalayan Adventurers; Brian Kharpran Daly (MA,GSG), Shelley Diengdoh, Dale and Ronnie Mawlong, Brandon Blein and others, plus their relatives and friends. Beer, Chinese/Indian food and more beer set the seal on the start of the expedition.

On the 9th several of us hired a Sumo jeep and headed for the village of Shnongrim in the Jaintia Hills of eastern Meghalaya - scene of past glories and with more to come in the next three weeks. Tents were set up on arrival as our purpose-built bamboo camp, like a Spanish hotel, had yet to be constructed.

Our caving started in earnest next day with the discovery of an extensive pothole system only some four minutes walk from camp! Krem Krang Wah (lower sloping ground cave) was a fine series of Yorkshire-style pitches and canyon passages with a miserable streamway at the bottom. Brian M. and Quentin undertook the rigging and did a grand job, their skills being honed to perfection by the end of the expedition. The adjacent Krem Krang Riat (upper sloping ground cave) was tied into the system and the impessive 80m deep Tiger Mouth Pot - part of Krem Krang Wah - also connected to eventually yield 2252.22 metres of sporting and attractive cave. Thomas and Peter, later in the week joined by Simon and anyone else that they could "press", recommenced work in Krem Synrang Labbit 1 and 2 (bat shelter cave) eventually surveying 4332.56 metres to give a combined system length of 5986.45 metres..


During the next few days more of the team arrived at camp including Imogen Furlong (SUSS), Andy Harp and Nicola Bayley (RFODCC), Mark Silo (OCC) and Danny Burke (BC).

On the 14th some of us had a "rest day" and were driven to the base of the ridge to visit an ancient, dry resurgence cave recently discovered near Lamyrsiang village by the locals and featured in the Meghalayan media. Krem Bam Khnei (rat eating cave) was surveyed for 738 metres to a massive and impenetrable boulder choke. Many of its beautiful flowstones and gours were covered in Hindi graffiti and rubbish was strewn everywhere as, due to its ease of access and lengthy, roomy galleries, it has become a subterranean religious shrine for immigrant coal miners working nearby. It must once have been a stunning system of deep and clear canals but now, alas, it is doomed. We were glad that the terminal choke was impassable but were very impressed by the speleological potential in this area. Despite the mess we were filmed and interviewed in this cave by a team from Doordarshan Kenora - the Indian government cable TV network - and so I had the dubious privilege of appearing in both British and Indian caving documentaries filmed just a few weeks apart.

With Krem Krang Wah finished we dropped the impressive 20m pot of Krem Bir (mud cave) in the hope of entering the continuation of the ongoing Krem Synrang Ngap (bee shelter cave - see BB 115 & GSG Bull. Oct. 2003). This latter, extremely promising cave never got visited this year due to other projects so has been left for the 2005 Grampian contingent. Krem Bir unfortunately dropped into an enormous, unstable boulder choke - part of which was pushed into a short section of ancient fossil tunnels ending in more awesome chokes which were left well alone. A strong, misty draught indicated big cave below but there was no safe way to reach it. This was a muddy, gloomy, uninspiring and quite frightening cave which we were glad to leave. One of its few redeeming features is a mini gypsum chandelier. The surveyed length was 332.4 metres

The 18th was spent in glorious sunshine on a reconnoitre of the ridge and catchment area above Krem Wah Shikar and the finding of Krem Mulieh 1-4 (soft, white rock which cures diarrhoea cave!). 1 and 2 were connected via a 40m pot but the promising passage below degenerated into a wet crawl which even the redoubtable Quentin was indisposed to push, even with his helmet off. In this cave I was climbing a large rock pinnacle to establish a good survey shot when the top 1.5m started to topple backwards. By a miracle I managed to regain balance and avoid falling for 4m, feverishly embracing half a ton of spiky limestone! This was a sharp reminder of the perils of virgin cave. The other Krem Muliehs also bottled out but at least we could now write them off. On the walk back from these a local showed us several caves in the Um Im (living or permanent water) area which were later to provide the main focus for the expedition. With no local names they became Krem Um Im 2-5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. The previously partly explored and locally named Krem Um Im became number 1. This latter cave was soon to be connected with the 9km long Krem Liat Prah which the main explorer and surveyor, Michael Laumanns, had written off as "finished". Absent from this years trip he was destined to soon receive many smug communications informing him that his "baby" had now grown into a teenager and was very likely to get bigger next year! Jonathan, Brian M. and Robin made the first connection with the Liat Prah streamway after surveying 200 metres of canals at the bottom of the vertical Um Im 1 system. After this refreshing swim they surveyed upstream Liat Prah along an inexplicably previously missed passage for 313 metres, again mainly swimming, to a boulder choke from below which the stream emerged. The nearby Laumann's Pot was descended down 27m and 43m pitches to provide an easier way in and lots more passage mapped.

Krem Um Im 2-5 is an interconnected system of attractive passages on several levels. It is adjacent to, and connects with in two places, a superb jungle-filled doline which became known as the "Lost World". A pleasant 30m pitch could be by-passed by descending the equally deep doline and entering a low and narrow streamway at the bottom. This was followed to where it became a wide, low bedding plane which eventually debouched into the side of walking sized canyon passage leading to Craggy Island. This large, oblong collapse chamber heralded the start of yet another horrific boulder choke where Quentin's talents once again came to the fore as he pioneered a complicated route through it for c.50m to an echoing area. The writer, scouting ahead for the survey, got to push the last bit to reach the head of a 20m pitch into what appeared to be huge, dry canyon passage. Having no tackle we left a 10m tape hanging down in the hope that this would be found from the newly discovered and adjacent Krem Um Im 6, the entrance of which was only a few metres away from 2-5 and also in the floor of the Lost World doline.

In this cave, once again, an enormous, frightening boulder ruckle had to be pushed and the good Dr. B. got the short straw on this one. He wormed his way downwards between boulders as big as the Hunters' until a lack of ladders to descend the gaps between them curtailed his exploration. These were eventually provided and the ruckle pushed to a depth of some 35m to where it opened up into solid cave at a stepped 30m pot. Quentin rigged this with one of the world's most frightening take-offs; the hanger being in the underside of a boulder weighing hundreds of tons and not only forming the ceiling of the 30m pot but also holding up all 35m of choke above!!! This was a classic hang which caused much ring-clenching on the prussik out.

Below the pot a large, active and beautifully decorated river passage bore off downstream to reach yet another boulder choke after 274m. Valiant attempts to pass this initially failed but by a stroke of luck we had a jar of fluorescein with us and some of this was chucked into the stream - mainly for the benefit of the video. Next day a party finishing off the survey were amazed to hear voices and then even more amazed as Mark and Jonathan emerged from the choke having pushed upstream from Krem Liat Prah. They had seen the green water and this inspired them to greater efforts - a marvellous and superbly timed stroke of luck. Um Im 6 (and by definition Um Im 2-5) were now part of the rapidly expanding Liat Prah system. Also on this trip, and at the suggestion of your dig-fixated scribe, an obscure hole at the base of the 30m pot was cleared by Quentin in the hope of passing the upstream sump in this cave. Sure enough open but decidedly squalid passage was entered and left for another day.

When that day came a couple of hundred metres of filthy and unpleasant phreatic tunnels were surveyed and the main way on desperately searched for. It just had to go. Our last chance was a tiny inlet canal with thick mud under the water and a definite "collector's item". With nothing left to survey we went for it and after 30m of misery the passage improved slightly in that we were no longer scared of disappearing forever into the quicksand of "Shit Creek". A good echo hinted at better things ahead and suddenly we gained a view of black space as we entered a 15m high bore passage at right angles. We had hit the jackpot again! A massive dry tunnel bored off upwards to the right. This was later mapped for several hundred metres and contained some stupendous formations. A huge side passage turned out to be an oxbow to the main drag and provided an airy balcony for the video team and some awe-inspiring views of the river passage below - this being reached by turning left at the initial entry point. This 15m high by 8m wide tunnel carried the main stream which was soon found to issue from an impenetrable choke on the RH side after 200m. Ahead the passage increased in size and gained height to form a gigantic, breakdown-floored square tunnel which we surveyed in a straight line for 390m to a point where the boulder floor met the ceiling. The heat and lack of draught indicated that a way on was unlikely but a wristwatch altitude measurement indicated that "The Grand Trunk Road" was not far from the surface. On the way back a small but interesting inlet, "Shnongrim Subway", was found which may well be explored further next year, our lesson on not ignoring the obscure passages being well and truly drummed home after this discovery! Krem Liat Prah had now entered the big league with some 14km of passage and looked quite likely to become India's second longest. This was confirmed after Brian, Jonathan, Shelley and team, who had meanwhile been dropping Krem Um Im 7 and 8 and connecting these to the main system, pushed the total surveyed length to 15118.01 metres. (There is some doubt as to the actual connection of these last two caves to the main system but if they are ignored the overall length is still 14828.90m). Michael's response to all this was;- "..... your discoveries make my nice speleogenetic model of the whole area totally OBSOLETE. Arrghhh ^'**uu!=)=!?=/!"S$%/()=!!!!!"

A selection of seemingly ancient bovine jawbones, limb bones and a horn, found in Um Im 6, have been given to Tony Audsley who will attempt to identify them.

With no sign in 6 of the tape left hanging in 2-5 a return was made to the latter cave with 20m of ladders for the pitch. The nature of the place precluded dragging full SRT kit through and the last section of choke almost precluded us as a highly dodgy "spiral staircase" of loose Henrys had to be negotiated to reach the pitch head. At the base of the pot the huge, dry canyon had metamorphosed into a grotty little stream passage well endowed with crabs, crayfish, assorted cave fish and bats aplenty. Having got there we were then obliged to survey "Shnongrim Sewer" so set off downstream in a healthy draught. After 200m of mud, bats and gradually deepening water most of the team mutinied when it reached chest height - or in Jayne's case eye level! With the alluring draught and echoing nature of the passage the writer just had to look a little further and after only c.50m of not unpleasant ducks he emerged into the side of a 6-8m diameter river passage. Once again a grotty lead had led us to the big stuff and we wondered how much had been missed over the years by people only exploring the "holiday sized" passages. To the left the water got deep and there may be a sump, judging by the ample mud deposits in this area. To the right it was wide open and well populated with bats, who almost certainly did not enter via the low streamway. The passage bore a distinct Jamaican feel and so was named Ratbat River as their patois would have it. Only a cursory glance was had before the writer retreated with Dr.B and team to the surface, well pleased at having found what we believe to be the continuation of upstream Liat Prah beyond the choke. Ratbat River is located below Shnongrim village and heading straight for the Krem Wah Shyngktat (prawn stream cave) system (alias Krem Synrang Moo/Pineapple Pot). A dye test should confirm if the downstream sump in Shyngktat is the main feeder of Ratbat River and thus Liat Prah. A connection to this fine system, plus a link through the downstream boulder choke into Krem Umtler, would make the complete "Megha-system" over 19km long.

Thinking to find an easier, safer and more direct way in we decided to revisit Krem Shrieh (monkey cave), located on the north side of the ridge but known to have a large bat population and an unpushed streamway heading in the right direction. The previous, obviously soft and wimpy "explorers" had chickened out when the undergound wildlife had become too much for them in a walking sized (just) streamway called "Half Bat Half Fish". Full of confidence Robin, Quentin and I descended this truly spectacular doline and 60m pot to the bat-infested depths where the very air consisted of bat piss and ammonia, plus the odd falling parasite and selection of guano. As we approached the unpushed streamway the airspace became less but the bats became more. With our upper bodies taking up most of the space scores of these black and somewhat loathsome little buggers were bouncing off us and the walls and dropping into the stream. Not content with decently drowning like nice, cuddly British bats these monsters then took off from the water or swam rapidly to the walls (or Quentin) to gain height for their next dodgem flight. Several actually took time off for a quick shag within inches of our heads before resuming their frightening antics. Meanwhile, below water level, huge blind fish smashed into our legs and lower bodies and almost certainly the crabs and associated fauna at floor level were also up to some dirty tricks! It then dawned on us that one of the last people here had been Martin "Lump" Groves - a man not renowned for his wimpishness so we hereby apologise for our preconceptions and would like to state that the original explorers did a magnificent job in actually surveying this horror story! Anyway, we pushed on into huge passage and were about to take off our face protection and heave a sigh of relief when Robin noticed the rope hanging down the entrance pitch - bugger. Needless to say this cave did not provide an easy route into the Liat Prah system but it is obviously part of something much bigger and needs further investigation next year. A possible, draughting dig may pay off and the undescended pot in the floor of the doline should be dropped. Apparently the locals are very impressed by cavers who visit this place as it is a well known venomous snake habitat!

An attempt to join the resurgence cave of Krem Umtler to the lower end of the system was also doomed to failure due to the immense size of the intervening boulder choke where fears of getting lost forever seriously gave us the frights. A better thought out attempt may be made next year as a connection would considerably extend and tidy up Liat Prah as stated earlier. It is potentially India's longest cave.

Not far away the superbly named Krem Bun (sorry Daniel) eventually yielded a pitch system of 209.15m to Thomas, Shelley, Imogen and team. This cave was not jokingly named but in honour of their local guide, the diminutive Bun Sukhlain. His mate's name was Never Full so it could have been worse.

Most of our exploration plans for this year never got done as the sudden growth of this system overshadowed all else. A whole new area was also opened up at Semmasi (0r Samassi, Sem Massi, Sammasi, etc.*) village where the superb river cave of Krem Tyngheng (wide open mouth cave) yielded 3752.41 metres and Krem K'dong Semmasi (Semmasi corner cave), 902.75 metres. With at least nine more known caves there is a lot more to do in this hardly touched area despite it being a bit too Christian and heavy on the TEMPERANCE!!! Apparently our colleagues were the first westerners most of the villagers had ever seen so the headman, Bikin Paslein, took lots of photos of them - a nice role change! Other caves were explored near Daistong and another new area to the south, beyond Tangnub village was briefly investigated. There are tales of large caves here so roll on February 2005!

Nicky, assisted by Andy and Jonathan, recorded much of the expedition on video in the unlikely event of surpassing her excellent production from last year. Many people took a comprehensive selection of photographs and images, some of which accompany this report - with thanks to their owners.

Long, hard days underground were balanced by the usual evening entertainment and every night the traditional bonfire was patronised by the cream of European and Meghalayan socialites. Quentin and Danny, our professional Irish musicians, did us proud with fiddle, mandolin and guitar sessions and most of the locals were also accomplished musicians, particularly on the guitar. One memorable night saw the real "Shnongrim Combo" in action with Carlyn (harmonica), Pa Heh (guitar, drum), Heipormi (guitar, vocals), Menda (guitar, vocals and hymns) and other passers-by playing traditional Jaintia festival tunes. Plenty of beer kept the troops happy and Carom and Cribbage were popular with the intellectuals. The re-employment of Myrkassim Swer and his Muslim cooking team was much appreciated as was the excellent job done by Bung and Addie in organizing the camp and driving us around. Addie's new found fame as a submarine jeep driver may last some time! The people of Nongkhlieh Elaka and Semmasi were once again superb. Special thanks must go to local guides Raplang, Pa Heh, Carlyn, Heipormi, Menda, Bikin and Bun - and others - who actually found the caves for us to go down.

The finale of the expedition was a party held at Donbockwell "Bok" Syiemlieh's farm, between Shillong and Guwahati, where a bamboo bar, bunkhouses and stage were laid on and a local rock band provided. The evening was much enlivened when the month-long unwashed Quentin, looking lika a poor man's Alice Cooper, joined them on stage to play some superb rap and blues on electric guitar, much to both their and our astonishment and delight. Our very grateful thanks must go to Bok and his staff, the Ladies of Shillong (Barrie, Dabbie, Maureen, Rose etc) and everyone else who helped make this trip yet another magnificent epic. Only 10 months to go...

Top Tips for Pushing Meghalayan Caves!!! Check everything accessible and don't worry about a lack of draught. Tight squeezes, ducks, grim boulder chokes and short digs are all worth a go and, as this expedition proved, often pay off big time. The presence of Heteropoda spiders may indicate routes to the surface above or nearby and plenty of "Snotgobblers" (web-building fly larvae) invariably are a good sign of lengthy, draughting passages - they are an excellent indicator of routes through boulder ruckles. Very few Meghalayan caves are "finished", or ever will be.

 (*I have adopted the spelling favoured by Carlyn Phyrngap and Daniel Gebauer and apparently appropriate for the place name "Cowshed" - many other spellings are used by locals, mapmakers and visitors.


Lodmore Hole - When You’re In A Hole… Keep Digging

by Phil Hendy

Lodmore Hole is located in a fenced depression in a field some 200 metres east of East Wood on the Yoxter ranges at grid reference ST 5354 5343 and altitude  260m AOD.  The field is level, but covered in patches of gorse and bramble, with many shallow pits and depressions.  Some of these are natural, but others are the traces of old mines.  In 1872 East Wood (or Lodmore Wood as it was then known) and the surrounding area was extensively mined for iron ore.  The shallow cuttings can still be seen in the wood; although some crevices in the lower parts of Lodmore Hole were filled with red ochre, there are no traces of mining in the cave, and it is believed to be entirely natural.

What set this depression apart from others in the field, apart from its size, was the outcrop of rock in the lower northeast part of the pit.  Jim Hanwell had noticed the depression some years ago, but in 1988, Ros Bateman, then living at nearby Lodmore Farm, obtained permission to dig from the M.O.D. through the Brigadier in Taunton and with the agreement of Mr. Cook, the then Yoxter range warden.  Interest in the area had been stimulated by a letter written to Ros’s father by Dr. J.D. Wilcock of Stafford, detailing the results of his dowsing results in the Yoxter area in December 1987.  Ros had accompanied Dr. Wilcock around the fields, and relates that he was quite eccentric – following his dowsing line by taking a direct route, even through hedges. 


Digging commenced in May 1988, with cavers from E.M.I. in Wells.  Digging tailed off towards the end of the year, although the team had uncovered the two main walls at right angles to each other.  At about this time the BEC expressed an interest in the dig, and obtained permission to work there.  In November they fixed netting to the sides of the dig and secured the shoring. By April 1990, the dig was about 25ft deep, and plans were being made to pipe the entrance shaft.  A month later, the first side passage had been found and enlarged, but it did not look promising, and the way on continued downwards.  Measurements made at the time showed that the surface depression was 13ft deep; the shaft to the platform was 25ft deep, with a further 5ft excavated below that.  The dig here was 3ft wide.  The side passage (5ft below the platform) was 16ft long.  However, by the summer of 1990, some slumping was occurring from the bottom of the shoring, and interest was waning. Over the three years that Lodmore Hole was dug, the EMI/BEC team had excavated under the outcrop, exposing a steep bedding plane wall on the east side, descending at an angle of approximately 85o from the horizontal. The north wall appeared to be gently undercut, and the rock was tantalizingly fluted and water worn.  The dig seems to have been abandoned by August 1990.

By 1992 NHASA had been forced to leave its dig at Twin Titties Swallet, just when it was becoming promising.  The diggers heard of Lodmore Hole, and arranged to help with the dig.  Access was reaffirmed with Ron Dawson, who had by then taken over as warden at Yoxter, and arrangement was made with James Bateman, the farmer at Lodmore, to park in his yard, and walk through his farmyard onto the ranges.

NHASA started digging on August 26th, 1992.  It was decided to make the excavation NHASA-sized, an option which would allow a proper look at what lay below the surface, and minimize the chances of missing any way on. Over the first few weeks a stile was built over the fence, a shelter was erected over the surface winch, a path was leveled down to the site hut, and existing spoil heaps were stabilized.  The original shoring was dug out, and the new shaft was made about 4m square.  The old chain-link fencing was laid around the steep unprotected earth bank to the east of the shaft; as vegetation grew through it, the slope was prevented from slipping into the hole.  As the shaft became deeper, it was decided that the usual shoring of angle iron and boards would not be strong enough (having found this out the hard way in Twin T’s) so a cemented stone wall was decided upon.  Of course, it was not possible to build this in the traditional way, from the bottom, because the bottom of the dig kept moving downwards. Therefore, a method was developed of building from the top downwards.  The wall was built in a quadrant for strength, abutting each end of the two natural rock walls.  Side passages were left open by building arches over them.  The fill was mainly stones and mud, with some larger rocks. Cement was usually carried over, but stone dust was transported by vehicle. Dust runs were not without their incidents.  In March 1994, the weather was atrocious, with torrential rain.  Dave Turner’s vehicle became bogged down in the mud, and when we pushed it clear, I found that my boots had sunk into the mud.  The 4WD surged forward, leaving me off balance, whereupon I fell full length into the mire.  At that point, the rain began to fall as near-horizontal hail, which drove straight through the fuzzy bush I was trying to shelter behind.  Dave himself became bogged down, and had to be towed out by tractor.  Pug (Albert’s technical term for mortar) was mixed in an old car roof; water was collected from the hut roof and collected in barrels.  The pug was lowered down the shaft in buckets.

By June 1993, the shaft had been built down to -5m, and old shoring was still being taken out.  Spoil was winched out using a tripod; the buckets were then transferred to an inclined cable, up which they were hauled to be tipped around the sides of the depression.  As we went deeper, a series of dry stone retaining walls were built around two sides of the depression, to provide a series of terraces for tipping. A wooden gantry was built over the side of the shaft opposite the winch, from which buckets could be handled.  The fixed steel ladder was moved to the wall at the foot of steps adjacent to the top winch. All ladders in the dig were of rigid steel; this allowed safe rapid descents, though towards the end, ascents were much slower!

By December 1993, it was reckoned that we were no more than 1m above the point reached by the original diggers.  The side passage to the left of the dig (westwards)was re-opened.  It was nothing more than a gap where rocks had settled under the overhanging wall.  This passage descended as a crawl, about 3.7m long, with a sloping roof on the right, and an unstable-looking boulder pile to the left.  It was not dug seriously, but was left open, just in case.

The first pitch was about 10m deep; at this point, the dig area was quite large, so the opportunity was taken to reduce the area by building a platform.  Another winch was bolted to the wall, with the rope running over a pulley to the back of the shaft to allow a better hang for the bucket. All winches were car back axles, converted by Fred Davies, with a handle fitted where the transmission formerly entered the differential.  The drum was simply a car wheel hub, sometimes with extra sections welded on to increase the rope-carrying capacity.

Digging continued, and by July 1998, a second ledge was built about 4m below the first.  The shoring wall was being constructed as vertical as possible, but the back wall was receding, thereby increasing the working area.  This back wall showed thin near-vertical beds of limestone, with a 5cm band of chert adjacent to the main bedding wall.  We were now well into unknown territory.  A second side passage was revealed on the left (December 1994); it was similar to the first, and just as unpromising.   Some air spaces began to appear under the back wall, but they proved to be no more than settlement gaps.  The depth reached 13m, and digging continued.  Now the back wall became very unstable, and a concrete lintel was cast under it.  The decision was taken to build masonry under this wall as well.  To decrease the working area yet again, due to the cutback of the far wall, a third platform was laid 3m below the second one.  This platform was L-shaped, with a narrow section running along the left hand wall.  The fourth ladder was fixed below this.  A third winch was then bolted to the wall. The fill was still mainly mud and stones, but with some clay pockets.  At times, there was a heavy drip, but there was no sign of any running water.  This surprised James Bateman, who expected us to hit water as he had a 40ft deep well at the farm, at about the same altitude as Lodmore Hole.  Even at our maximum depth (37m), there was no trace of water backing up the hole. Mixed in with the limestone we found odd pieces of chert, and some rounded old red sandstone cobbles.

As the fourth section of the dig was deepened, excitement grew as what appeared to be a half-tube began to be revealed in the bedding wall, adjacent to the platform. However, at 3m, the ‘half-tube’ ended, and proved to be no more than an alcove.  The bedding wall continued relentlessly down, thus widening the dig area to the right, although as we were building a wall under the back face, it was not being extended in that direction.  Five metres down the fourth pitch we decided to build another platform, really more of a ledge, with a fixed ladder bolted to the wall. 

By August 1997, we had a measured depth from the top of the main shaft of 83ft (25m).  It became difficult to drag buckets up from below the third winch, and in June 1999, a length of conveyor belt was hung down from the fifth ledge to smooth the way.  On the 23rd June 1999 we were digging as usual, although some members of the team were beginning to become disheartened, having dug so far with no result. Jonathan Riley completed building a section of wall, and then I began to dig.  Suddenly I felt the floor move and heard a rumbling sound from below.  I moved back smartly, and then began to grovel in the floor.  By pulling stones and mud out of the way, a 25cm triangular black hole appeared.  To the right was a chert band, matching that in the back wall of the dig.  Lying against this at an angle was a slab of rock, some 50cm square and 15cm thick. Looking down the hole, I could see a drop of about 3m, appearing to widen as it got deeper.  Only one side (the bedding plane wall) was solid, the rest was loose stone.  There was an obvious cold outward draught, and what looked to be walking-size passage leading off at the bottom.  Time was getting on, so after everyone had looked down the hole, we covered it, changed and returned to the Hunters’ Lodge for our usual debrief session.

The following week there was, not surprisingly, a good turnout.  Some spoil was removed in buckets, and then the big slab was raised using the winch, and carefully laid to one side.  A short length of rigid ladder was fixed in the hole, and Jonathan gingerly wriggled down a steep rubble slope and into the slot.  We found that our masonry wall at this point was only a short way above solid rock.  The drop was about 2m, landing on a boulder slope in a rift about 60cm wide.  At roof level, leading upwards for about 3m with the bedding wall on the left, and heading under the third platform that lay above, there was a steep crawl-sized passage in rubble.  It did not lead anywhere, but was left open, once the jammed stones supporting the floor had been supported with cement.  The boulder floor under the drop sloped steeply down for about 2m back under the present floor of the shaft.  It was not possible to enter it; the ‘walking-size’ passage was an illusion.

It was decided to carry on digging out the floor of the main dig, to intercept the cavity below.  This was done, revealing a large jammed block to one side of the floor (south).  It was immovable, so was left in situ.  We uncovered solid rock opposite the main wall and descending at the same steep angle, so we found we were digging in a fairly narrow rift.  As we went down, the main wall became undercut where slabs had become detached.  Some unstable looking ones were levered off, partly for safety, but also to increase working space.  Eventually, the solid block was completely exposed, and was left bridging the rift.

We continued working most Wednesday evenings (the traditional Mendip digger’s night) except for when the ranges were required for the defence of the realm. On one memorable occasion, RAF troops covered in camouflage paint and firing blanks unexpectedly surrounded the diggers as they walked to the dig after they had unwittingly walked through their tripwires, setting off thunderflashes.  The strangely-dressed cavers did not deter the RAF, although later it was found that they were exercising on the right night – but at the wrong place!  Aerial attack of a more natural (though much more threatening) kind occurred when the team ceased work early due to a massive thunderstorm.  They were chased off the field by lightning, with strikes hitting the ground behind them, and advancing as they fled.  One night, a heavy snowstorm caused an early withdrawal from the dig, causing a few route-finding problems on the way back to the farm.  We also had a few problems finding our way through the thick Mendip mist.

The floor of the dig was now rapidly being lowered as the working area decreased in size.  Several large slabs of rock, which had become detached from the bedding wall, were broken into more manageable pieces by using a sledgehammer, but one resisted all attempts to crack it.  On 17th November 1999 Aubrey Newport was asked if he would do the necessary.  Four 25cm lengths of Cordtex were inserted into the holes, and the charge was detonated from the surface.  Fumes prevented examination of the damage until the following week, but then we found that Dr. Nobel’s Magic Rock Remover had done its stuff, with no collateral damage. The fragments were removed, and digging continued.  Some sideways development was now occurring as the main wall was undercut, and in early December, a space was revealed beyond a large vertical slab.  By squeezing over it, a low crawl was entered, with a possible continuation to the south – under the boulder pile, which we had been carefully stabilizing with copious amounts of pug!  The slab was dug around and smashed, and we continued to lower the floor, being careful to preserve the continuation of the crawl. Jonathan bravely wriggled into this and reported what looked like a pit at the end, approximately 3m deep but largely choked with boulders.  We hoped that as we carried on digging the main shaft we would find a safer way to this pit, but it was not to be.  Some metre and a half lower, we found that the two solid walls of the shaft had converged to the point where further digging would be extremely difficult if not impossible.  There was no chance of reaching the pit at a lower level.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it now appeared that what we should have done was to remove the massive boulder pile found on 23rd June.  This now loomed nearly 2m above us, and would present a real challenge to break up and remove, thanks to our generous grouting.  There was no option but to engineer the crawl under these boulders. Between June and August 2000, Jonathan Riley gradually worked his way into the crawl, carefully removing some stones, and cementing in the others.  At least the left hand wall was solid.  A level floor was laid, and at the end, where solid rock with a chert band was again encountered, there was just room to turn round.  The crawl was about 2m long, and there was still an encouraging draught.  In September, work was started on digging out the pit.  We removed several large stones, which quickly increased the working space.  Much of the debris was used to backfill the bottom of the main shaft to within half a metre of the crawl level.  The pit was found to be about 1.5m deep, with a further metre visible descending steeply along the line of the crawl.  Once we were in the pit, spoil hauling became a real problem, as it was impossible to drag full buckets along the crawl without leaving most of the contents behind. The old Twin T’s technique was brought in, whereby mud was placed in bags, tied with a tape strop using a lark’s head knot, and dragged out of the crawl. Eventually we entered a short section of natural open passage.

Digging continued along and downwards. The solid rock we had found at the end of the crawl did not extend very far down, and we soon realized that this wall was merely the downwards continuation of the boulder pile.  The roof, however was solid, and showed some small half-tubes.  Some joints in the left hand wall were filled with red ochre, and there were a few short stalactites.  The floor was mud and stones, but as we progressed, the mud became a deep thick glutinous mass, with large rocks in it.  Eventually, the roof dipped to the floor, just above which there was a small phreatic tube, and digging in this direction ceased. However, gaps began to appear in the right hand wall, which ‘windowed’ into the base of the boulder ruckle. This appeared to offer a continuation sloping downwards, offset to the right.

Being fully aware of the mass of boulders lying above, we carefully began to remove the base of the boulder ruckle.  It appeared to have some solid roof, but it was decided to try to cement a wall at the top end of the space, supporting everything with a framework of scaffolding until the cement had set.  This was started in January 2001, but it was very slow work.  Enthusiasm was beginning to wane, for a variety of reasons.  The death of Richard Kenney, our stalwart top winch man, in December 2000, and soon after the withdrawal of John Ham for personal reasons robbed us of two valued members of a workforce, which was diminishing just when more people were needed.  To dig and remove spoil to the surface now required at least seven men, but due to the slow rate of progress caused by the need to carefully support the boulder ruckle, many diggers just stood around idle for long periods of time, and were fast losing enthusiasm.

The outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in February 2001 hastened the decision to pull out.  For six long months digging had to cease, which gave us plenty of time to consider the options over many pints in the Hunters’. We decided it was time to move on. When access was again permitted, we would remove our tackle and make the entrance safe.  We had a certain amount in the kitty, and with a small legacy from Richard Kenney, we decided to build a cap over the shaft – after all our efforts, it would be criminal, indeed almost impossible, to backfill it. However, in August that year Brian Prewer and I met John Locke, the Army land agent and his assistant Nigel. We showed them the site, and descended the hole.  John was very keen to preserve the hole, possibly as a training site (?!!!), and suggested that the Army maintain the perimeter fence and shaft, provided that we left the fixed ladders.  We gratefully accepted the offer.

NHASA returned on August 22nd.  It was realised that the dig at the end was too dangerous to allow access for non-cavers, and so with great regret the entrance to the crawl was sealed with a thin wall of cemented stone, leaving just the main shaft of four pitches and six ladders.  It would be easy to reopen this crawl if necessary.  Once this was done, we began to remove the winches and other equipment, and stack it on the surface.  The next problem was to get it removed.  Luckily, we were able to do a deal with the Priddy Friendly Society.  In exchange for paying for two of its members to attend a firework training course (to allow safe running of the November bonfire and firework display), they agreed to provide transport to take the gear away.

On November 14th 2001, we met Steve Sparkes, Chris Winter and Fred Payne of the Friendly Society at Castle Farm, and with permission granted from Sharon Brown crossed her fields with 4WD vehicles and trailers.  It was a drizzly day, but it did not take long to load everything up, and take it to Upper Pitts for storage.

All that was left was to say goodbye to NHASA's longest dig.  On October 14th seven of us walked for the last time across the muddy fields to the dig.  There was distant lightning in the south.  We assembled on the second platform, where we celebrated our achievement with sherry, champagne and Brenda Prewer’s famous cake.  A last visit was made to the bottom; it was a gloomy place now that the tackle and electric lighting had been removed.  We exited, and made our way to the Hunters’, releasing on the way an amphibian which had taken up residence.  We rescued many frogs, toads and newts over the years, and on one occasion a small adder that had fallen down the shaft.  Thrushes nested in the entrance shaft, and swallows raised families in the shed.  They were very tolerant of being disturbed by the diggers and our noisy generator once a week.  So the Lodmore Hole dig came to an end.  Others may take up the challenge in later years, but for us it was time to regroup and move on.  Chancellor’s Farm Dig was waiting.


The cave is located within a fenced area, entered via a stile in the northwest corner.  Steps lead to a path around the shaft to a wooden viewing platform.  This was beginning to deteriorate (April 2004) and should not be walked upon.  The shaft is partly protected by a scaffolding fence.  All pitches have fixed ladders (safe in 2004).  The first entrance pitch of 10m is roomy, with the near-vertical bedding plane wall on the left, and a joint wall, with thin exposed beds at the back. There is a band of chert in the angle between the walls.  The rest of the shaft is a curved wall, built to retain undug infill – the complete extent of the shaft is not known.  The ladder is a little short of the bottom, but it is easy to reach the first platform, where No. 2 winch (‘John Ham’s’) was bolted to the wall.  A low 3.7m crawl under the hanging roof extends to the left. It was enlarged from a low passage, where infill running in from the left had settled, leaving a gap under the roof.

The second 4.5m pitch leads to a slightly larger ledge, with a side passage on the left similar to the one above.  The bottom of the third pitch (4m) is another ledge, where the third winch was located. There is a scaffold bar cemented in place above the main pitch below, and just below the lip on the far wall, a concrete lintel can be seen.  This was built to support some unstable-looking rocks above.  Down to this point, the natural rock can be seen to the right and ahead, but below the lintel, all but the bedding wall was constructed of masonry, as the far (joint) wall became very loose and needed supporting.

The next 16m pitch is descended by using three ladders.  The first, 5m deep and leading from the left of the 3rd ledge, ends on a narrow platform. Opposite this point, and slightly lower, an alcove can be seen in the bedding wall.  From there, three ladders (5, 3.5 and 2m) are fixed to the back wall.  Halfway down the second, the shaft begins to become restricted, and the jammed boulder, discovered on 23/6/99, is passed.  The bottom ladder ends on a very small ledge, from where an easy climb of 2m ends on a backfilled boulder floor. From the foot of the final ladder, the opposite wall is a cemented boulder ruckle.  By ascending this, under the jammed block, a loose passage ascending for 3m along the bedding wall to the south, can be seen. It lies under the ledges in the main shaft.  The loose floor has been stabilised by cementing the stones at the bottom of the passage, but entry is not advised.

To all intents, the cave ends at the infilled floor, but there is a continuation, now sealed, alongside the bedding wall, running to the northwest.  Behind the seal, a low 2m crawl, dug through the boulder ruckle, leads to a 1.5m drop into natural passage.  There is little space to turn at the end of the crawl, and most diggers chose to enter this feet-first.  The drop leads via some built steps into a passage some 7m long and 2.5m high.  Some rock has fallen from the beds on the left, which makes this a roomy place.  There are a few short stalactites and small areas of flowstone, and red ochre fills some of the cracks in the left hand wall.  At the end, the roof has some phreatic tubes; it narrows and descends to a mud floor.  Although at the beginning the passage wall on the right is solid rock, it soon gives way to the base of the boulder ruckle.  This is loose and unstable, but a view is possible of a space through the boulders, descending to the left, slightly offset from the passage.  This space was never entered, and marks the end of the dig. The depth to the foot of the shaft (from datum, 2.7m below field level) is 33m.  Total depth is 37m.

Few formations were found in the cave, although some white flows and short straws are developing as lime is leached from the cemented walls.  Lodmore Hole is an unusual site, in that the bedding was nearly vertical. No significant lateral development was seen, and we can only speculate about what the hole would look like if it was completely excavated, as is currently happening at Templeton.  The cave appears to be fault-related, and although the depth achieved is something to be proud of, the logistics of spoil hauling did not allow us to come to a satisfactory conclusion.


Over the years, members of the digging team came and went.  The main clubs represented were EMI and NHASA, with members of the BEC and WCC, and several non-club diggers.  There were too many to be named here.  On any one night between three and 24 diggers could assemble, in all winds and weathers.  Any interclub rivalries were set aside, though there was plenty of leg pulling and in-jokes.  On one occasion, I asked for a bucket of small stones for backfilling the wall, and was sent a kit – a few large rocks and a lump hammer.  Woe betide anyone standing at the foot of the entrance shaft when Albert Francis was in playful mood – they might receive anything from a snowball to a bunch of nettles, depending on the season.


Permission must be obtained from the range warden at Yoxter, and a telephone call to Lodmore Farm is necessary to ask to park in the farmyard.  From the yard, walk to the right of and behind the farm buildings, and cross a stile into a field (part of the ranges) by a pond.  Turn left, and follow a cattle track through gorse bushes to a gap in the wall leading to a field on the left.  Head roughly south to a gate into the next field, then southeast to the fenced depression.  Alternatively, at the gap in the wall, follow the left hand fence to the field corner (this field is roughly triangular) and crawl under the barbed wire fence.  Walk to the nearest M.O.D. range notice, and continue straight on to the depression.  WARNING:  although live firing does not occur on the ranges, apart from at the butts, the area is often used, day and night, for training exercises.  Do not enter the ranges without permission, especially when red flags are flying – and keep an eye open for RAF cadets lurking in the bushes!

Thanks are due to Ros Bateman and Vince Simmons for help putting together the early history of the dig. The survey data was compiled by Kathy Glenton, and the survey was drawn with help from Brian Prewer.  Photographs are by Brian Prewer and the author.  A more complete description of the dig is available, together with a collection of photographs on CD-ROM.



Cave Rescue Practices

Mendip Rescue Organization Training Programme 2004
(These are also included in “Dates for your Diary”)

23rd October – Rescue Practise, Eastwater

Including an evacuation from the bottom of Dolphin Pitch to the top of the 380ft way and beyond if time permits.

As with last year’s Thrupe Lane practice this will be run by the Caving Club team leaders and just overseen by MRO wardens.

A series of First Aid courses (First Aid in the workplace certificate) are being planned for this year. More details will become available as we have a clearer idea on how many people wish to attend. If you would like to take part please contact me on the number below.

Further details can be obtained from:

Gonzo (Mark Lumley)
MRO Training Officer

WBCRT Cave Rescue Training Programme 2004

For those of you who live in Wales or want to go for a weekend the below information may prove useful.

4th September - Technical Training Day.

Multiple workshops to cover pitch rigging, tyroleans, stemples, etc. Venue is the SWCC headquarters at Penwyllt. Meet 10.00am prompt.

4th December - Big Rescue Practise in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu or Dan yr Ogof.

This will be another large scale practice in a major cave system. Details will be finalised later in the year.

If you have any training queries or requests from West Brecon Cave Rescue Team then please contact Jules Carter on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tel. 02920 844 558.

Bertie Bat Enamel Badges

Available soon - Bertie Bat enamel BEC badges.

To enable us to afford them send a cheque for £4 (to include postage & packaging) made out to BAT Products, 6 Tucker St, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2DZ or give J.Rat £3.50.

All profits to the Club

Consequences of Beer

The picture below shows the consequences of drinking too much beer.


Hint: Look at it upside down.

BEC Working Weekends

Your help is needed on the following dates.  The more people that turn up the easier it is for everyone.  Please put these dates in your diary and make an effort to attend. You never know you might enjoy it!!

3rd & 4th July 2004
25th & 26th September 2004

Dates for your Diary

6th August 2004            20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting
3rd September 2004       20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting
2nd October 2004          BEC AGM & Annual Dinner
23rd October 2004         Rescue Practise, Eastwater
5th November 2004        20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting
3rd December 2004        20:30 – BEC Committee Meeting